Mark Waid Interview

Mark Waid is one of the most popular comics writers today. His work on DC’s Flash and Kingdom Come and Marvel’s Captain America and Ka-Zar have been popular with both fans and critics. This month Waid begins the 12-issue JLA: Year One from DC and returns to Captain America at Marvel. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor, Roger Ash, recently talked with him about these two projects.

Westfield: What can you tell us about JLA: Year One?

Mark Waid: It’s a dream project. It’s a close examination of the five original Justice Leaguers - Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Black Canary - and what turned them from five powerful heroes into one unbeatable team. It wasn’t just a matter of them all deciding, "Hey! Let’s be a group. My Grandma can make costumes and my dad’s got a barn. Let’s be a super team!" We’ve gone back and taken a look at it and made it a little more complex than that.

Westfield: You said this is a dream project. Why is that?

Waid: Because I get to write Barry Allen. I get to write Hal Jordan. I get to write these heroes in what I consider their classic forms and I can do it without really any sort of an encumbrance of modern day continuity. I don’t have to worry about one of the characters suddenly losing his powers or dying in the middle of his own series and suddenly have to make some sort of course correction in our series. This is set ten years in the past.

Westfield: You’re co-writing this with Brian Augustyn. How do you two work together?

Waid: It depends issue by issue. But mostly we’re knocking ideas together. I may do an outline and Brian may do a plot based on that outline and I can handle dialog. It depends on who has the ideas and how hot either of us is and how cold either of us is on any given day.

Westfield: Do any other heroes appear in the series?

Waid: We have quite a few guest stars. We have some of the Justice Society members blowing through, to kind of give the nod of approval to the new Justice League. Superman and Batman make appearances because, even though according to current DC continuity they weren’t founding members of the JLA, they were around at that time and the question becomes, why aren’t they members? As a matter of fact, one of the gags we have going for the first six issues or so is the Justice League keeps a chair at the meeting table for Superman, but they’re all afraid to ask him to join, because he’s like Bono and they’re a garage band. We have a two-issue guest appearance by the Doom Patrol, which are going to be the most fun issues to write because the Doom Patrol at that time was a very dark, grim, underground team of misfits, and they play real well off the Justice League who are now the media darlings. The JLAers are the first public heroes in the DC Universe for many, many years. So we get to play the light and the dark. It’s going to be a lot of fun. We get to play with little connections there too. Like, Negative Man, as Larry Trainor, was a pilot, does he know Hal Jordan? Yeah. Did Barry Allen study under the Chief when he was in college? Probably. We also see all throughout the series other DC heroes and we culminate in the last issue where you will see every single DC hero active at the time joining forces with the JLA to battle back a massive alien invasion.

Westfield: Aside form the alien invasion at the end, who are some of the villains that they face?

Waid: There’re not as many as you might think, because frankly, as stalwart Flash readers know, I’m not a big fan of the "every issue, a new villain" approach. I’m not a big fan of villains. It’s more interesting to me to write the heroes interacting with each other. But that said, there will be villains. Vandal Savage pops up in #2 deciding to stamp out the new Justice League before they begin and he puts together a pretty nasty team of his own - Clayface, Eclipso, Solomon Grundy, and the Thorn - to take these guys out. We will see T.O. Morrow kind of redesigned and completely retooled as a guy who commits crimes so technologically and medically advanced that there are no laws against them yet. We will see the Brotherhood of Evil, which are the Doom Patrol villains, and we’ve got a couple of new villains salted throughout as well.

Westfield: Will this have any ties to the current Justice League?

Waid: It will actually. We’re working with Grant Morrison to set up a link between what happens in issue #12 and then what might play out hopefully about that same time in the ongoing JLA series. No guarantees, but it’s something that Grant and I are talking about. It’s nothing that would make either of them necessary reading, but it’s a nice little continuity tie for those who did read both series.

Westfield: Also this month, you start working on Captain America again. How does it feel to be back on the book?

Waid: It’s a little intimidating, but it feels very natural, I’d forgotten how natural it would feel. I know Ron Garney is equally as intimidated but he really oughtn’t be. I think Ron is twice the artist he was a year ago and he was great then. It feels terrific.

Westfield: Will this be picking up pretty much where you left off?

Waid: In spirit, not necessarily in actual storytelling. At the end of the Heroes Return story that Peter David and Salvador Larocca are doing to set all this up, there is a mystery to the final fate of Cap and the Avengers and Iron Man and the FF. Our first issue will be picking up on that mystery in terms of where Cap is. Cap has vague memories of his time in the other universe, as do the other heroes, but nothing that’s going to torture them day and night any more than they torture me [laughter]. We’re asked frequently are we actually going to use things from the Liefeld series, and the answer is not necessarily. We won’t be using the new Falcon because there’s a Falcon here; we won’t be using the female Bucky because, well, that was taken from Dark Knight. But the time spent in that pocket universe, the things that happened there, are going to help Cap redefine his role in the Marvel Universe.

Westfield: What can we look forward to in Captain America?

Waid: Kurt Busiek and I have confabbed to play our plans a little close to the chest. The advantage that Lee and Liefeld had when they took on these books, besides the fact that they had #1s, was that they had the element of surprise on their side. Anything could happen, all bets were off. We’re trying to give you that same sort of excitement on our end, so that’s why we’re not saying Cap just picks up where he left off or the FF just pick up exactly where they left off. We want to give people the knowledge, the certainty, that things will be different, hopefully in a new and exciting way. One of the things I can tell you is this: Kurt and I have been talking about villains for the Avengers and Iron Man and Captain America and we’ve talked about Batroc, and Kang and the Mandarin and the Kingpin, and all that is to say, you can never really tell where these villains are going to show up. Just because Batroc is a Captain America villain doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to show up in Cap. Just because Kang is an Avengers villain doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to show up in Avengers, he may show up in Captain America.

Westfield: Do you have any other upcoming projects you’d like to mention?

Waid: The Life Story of the Flash. That’s something I’m working on now with Brian Augustyn and we’re pretty excited about it. It’s a hardcover 96 page graphic novel in the truest sense, because it is a mixture of illustrated text and comics pages telling the life story of Barry Allen as related by his wife Iris. The art is by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer.