To link to this column, use this link (right click and copy)
"It's been a story I've had in my head for a little while," replies Osborne when asked about the genesis of FX. "FX started out as a character in a group book I was thinking about doing. Originally, he was an adult character with the mind of a child who would pretend various actions, like flying or shooting a blaster. And what he pretended, would happen. I had some trouble thinking of a good name for him though. I considered and rejected "Pretender" and "Play Boy" for obvious reasons. One day, FX just popped into my head and that was that. But I guess all the time I spent thinking about him and his name pretty much killed the group book idea. He dominated the stories in my head and so I dropped everybody else and made it all about him."
When did he decide he wanted to get the idea out of his head and onto the page? "When John made the offer on his forum that he would do a commission comic book, I figured I might as well put my money where my mouth was, so to speak, and do this story and see what happened."
Was Byrne surprised when Osborne approached him about doing the book? "Surprise is maybe not the right word. The idea for this goes back about 30 years. When a copy of Marvel Comics #1 sold at auction for something like $20,000 dollars, Roger Stern observed that it was crazy to spend that kind of money on a comic book - that for a sum like that you could (then) have gotten Stan Lee and John Buscema to create a comic just for you, and you would be the only one who had it. Over the years since, I have put this idea out there from time to time - for a sum of money I would do a whole comic, pencils, inks, script. Ernie Chan has done something similar, I understand. I expected some rich fan to hire me to do an issue of X-Men, or Batman vs. Iron Fist, or something of that nature, if and when it ever happened. Instead, Wayne was the first to take me up on it, but he wanted his own characters."
What is FX about? "Remember when you played pretend as a kid?" asks Osborne. "That's what I used to do all the time; if I was alone, I'd just go out in the back yard with a stick or something and pretend I was sword fighting like Conan or John Carter. Sometimes I would be Tarzan or use a garbage can lid and be Captain America. Make a cape out of a towel and grab my Dad's shop hammer and be Thor. When I got with friends (obviously, my fellow geek friends), we'd all do silly stuff like that. FX is a kid who has a "mysterious accident" and now; whatever he pretends, actually happens.
"I hate to release any spoilers for the story. Most of the questions you might have after reading the first issue will be answered in the six-issue mini-series. I like origin stories. By the end of issue 6, you'll know his origin."
How did the rookie Osborne and the veteran Byrne work together on the series? Did Byrne offer any pointers along the way? "The first thing I did was convince him to do it 'Marvel style' - plot, art, script," says Byrne. "That way I was able to bring those years of experience to bear without being overbearing! I think it's worked out well, as I was able to contribute some ideas, and smooth out some of the bumps - which, by the way, were remarkably few in number, for a first timer. I have worked with 'seasoned professionals' who make more mistakes in writing a comic than Wayne did."
"I like the changes he makes and the suggestions he makes," adds Osborne. "He's brought some good ideas to the story and it's improved it. John sends me the pages as he does them. And so far, about once or twice an issue, he'll do something a little different from how I plotted it or add something extra and it makes the issue better. His changes make me think and script in new directions. And that's always a good thing. It's been a very educational process and a fun one too."
"I'll be honest - when Wayne said he wanted to do his own characters, and that he wanted to write it himself, I fully expected to earn every penny of my fee!" Byrne confides. "Instead, it's been a lot of fun. Wayne knows how to write fun comics."
Another important member of the creative team, especially since sound effect play a large part in the story, is letterer John Workman. How did he become involved? "When we decided to do the first issue, John said let's do it all the way old school and have the letters on the board," Osborne replies. "I said great. He suggested someone else, I think Jack Morelli. He couldn't do it. I said 'What about John Workman?' John said 'Let me check.' He could do it, and so that's what we did. And I was very pleased with how it turned out."
Now that the creative team's in place and things are moving forward, how did FX end up at IDW? "I took copies of the first issue to San Diego and showed them to various publishers," says Osborne. "I knew John had a Star Trek book at IDW, so they were currently working with him. I showed it to them and the president, Ted Adams, really liked the story and said he wanted to do it while I was still at the Con. The day I got back from the Con, he called me up and said that he still wanted to do it. I had some other people that were looking at it also, but I felt like IDW had the most enthusiasm for the project and seemed to be very eager to do it. I wanted somebody to do it that really wanted to do it. So that's why I went with IDW."
If the book does well, Osborne would like to continue the adventures of FX. "I'd love to do more with him. I've got a few more story arcs in mind.
"As corny as it sounds, this is a dream come true. Growing up reading comics, John was my favorite comic artist. If you could go back in time and talk to yourself when you were a kid, young Wayne wouldn't believe I was doing a comic with him. I think that's really a cool thing.
"When I ditched the group book and concentrated on FX, I made other changes that made this a more personal story. It's basically a love letter to my childhood and all the things I liked when I was a kid. How I used to play, the books and comics I used to read, the movies and TV shows I used to watch, it's all in there. I'm trying to throw everything in there that I can because this might be my one and only shot.
"I think most readers will see this project as kind of a curiosity. Somebody commissioned this comic and it's actually going to be published. What's it like? I like to think that the story is solid enough to stand on its own after the initial curiosity is satisfied. Maybe the more personal and nostalgic elements I put in it will resonate with people out there. And I hope these people will come back to finish the story because they liked it. But at the end of the day, I'm proud of it. I think it's a pretty good story. I think John's doing a great job on the art. And hopefully the readers will stick around because it gets even better as the story goes along and he connects more with the characters and starts to enjoy the story himself and begins bringing more of his ideas to it. I've got the art through issue 4 already and it's really, really nice.
Finally, I hope that kids will read it. I've got a 12-year-old daughter. I wanted her to be able to read it without having to explain anything, or saying "Don't read that part," or have her ask "Daddy, what's this word mean?" So far, all of her friends that I've shown it to, and their parents too, have liked it. That kids read it and enjoy it makes me feel good about the book."