Joe Casey has built a hell of a career out of putting words in the mouths of superheroes, but now — perhaps more than ever before — he’s deconstructing them in an effort to re-assemble them in a more proper way and, perhaps, take them back.
Catayst Comix is the delivery system Casey’s sliced and diced take on the most hallowed of all comic book institutions, but in the end, the book reads more like a celebration and a love letter to their promise and not an exploration of their failings.
An entertaining and thought provoking read, Casey coupled his three loosely connected stories — featuring some of comicdom’s forgotten heroes — with three artists (Dan McDaid, Paul Maybury, and Ulises Farinas) that infect the material with their unique styles and tastes.
The overall package could very well be the start of something quite grand, and lucky ducks that we are, we got a chance to interview Casey prior to the start of the fireworks, and we asked about superhero tropes, bringing back Titan, and what the former Superman comic writer thought about The Man of Steel.
Check it out after the jump.
What made these characters ripe for a reboot or a reintroduction, why go that route and not tell these stories with a new slate of characters, and have you gotten any feedback from people like Barbara Kesel and the original creatives?
Joe Casey: No feedback yet. But these characters are fundamentally no different than any other IP’s owned by a publisher… every so often, it’s always good to take them and try to refashion them for a new audience. I’m assuming everyone that contributed to the original CGW line knew the score at the time, as I do on a WFH gig. Barbara in particular does get a “created by” credit in the book, though, for the characters she had a hand in conceptualizing.
You’ve got three interesting artists spread out on this book — Dan McDaid on The Ballad of Frank Wells, Paul Maybury on Amazing Grace, and Ulises Farinas on Agents of Change — what made each one right for their respective book?
Casey: Well, first of all, I think their talents are pretty undeniable. They’re all amazing artists and they’re killing it on this book. And it was definitely a case of “casting” each artist for the right strip. Paul and I were interested in presenting a strong female superhero lead, Dan wanted to draw some over-the-top action comics, and Ulises has a unique set of chops that were tailor made to tackle a strip involving quirky team dynamics between a bunch of weird super-characters.
The stated plan is 3 books with Titan as the main story and then you’re going to rotate to highlight the B stories like Amazing Grace and Agents of Change, will other throwback characters pop up and earn a chance in the spotlight? Is there a chance we’ll see a Barb Wire appearance? Is Arcadia part of this new shared world and is a Ghost crossover a possibility?
Casey: Not Barb Wire, but we dive pretty deeply into the CGW universe over the course of the series. A lot of characters that might’ve only had a brief appearance in the old comics get pulled out and given the star treatment here. As far as crossovers, I’m not doing anything particularly overt, but according to Mike Richardson, this is all the same world.
On the big screen we’ve seen these huge battles where the hero fights this seemingly unconquerable force that is tearing up a city and causing tons of collateral destruction. The Avengers and Man of Steel immediately came to mind while I was reading this book, though due to timing, the latter obviously couldn’t have influenced this story. I wonder, though, in those things, and several comics, we just see the hero act. There is no moment of contemplation, no place for expressed fear. That’s their bright shining moment of altruism, and isn’t that a bit boring and ready for an end?
Casey: I think there’s plenty of emotional expression on display in Frank’s story. And not just from him. There’s a reason we included those inset panels of the innocent victims of this kind of carnage. There’s a toll that’s taken on human life in general that we wanted to include as part of the story. It’s the kind of thing that we — as creators of this kind of over-the-top material — take for granted. And, in the story, neither does Frank.
Can you talk to me a little about deconstructing superheroes and why we see it with indie books and so little of it from Marvel and DC? As someone whose worked on both sides of the street, is it just commerce and brand management over creativity, or do you feel that at the core, there is a value in keeping some of the legacy characters sacrosanct in that way?
Casey: The big, corporate publishers are in the business of maintaining their IP’s. These are huge (or potentially huge) franchise characters… and so artistic expression through the medium of comicbooks is the least of their concerns at this point. And that’s fine. Over their long histories, both Marvel and DC have done plenty of groundbreaking books… work that did help propel things forward, creatively. But that’s just not where they’re at anymore. That’s not their function. Now it’s time for the other publishers — the ones that might not have those heavy corporate concerns — to step up and do those next-level comicbooks that really point the way to the future. In terms of superheroes specifically, I still think they’re an important part of the comicbook landscape… they just have to be as good and as exciting as we can make them. The readers who still enjoy superhero stories deserve that kind of effort.
I have to ask a Man of Steel question, because there is such a coincidental contrast between when Frank looks at the rubble of his city and when Superman shares a heroes victory kiss with Lois while standing in a crater that used to be a city block. As someone who had hands on the character of Superman for as long as you did, how did you feel about that moment? Was it out of character for Superman to not be crippled by that destruction?
Casey: I’m not much of a film critic, but I think those kinds of big, blockbuster movies are only capable of providing fairly thin characterization in general… and to expect more is maybe expecting too much from these things. So to contemplate whether or not something or someone was “out of character” is a fool’s game. Comicbooks are much better suited to giving an audience deeper insight into a character… even one as simple in design as Superman is.
Catalyst Comix #1 is available at your local comic shop and on Dark Horse Digital.