Beat reporter Alexander Añé caught up with Mark Waid at the Baltimore ComicCon and asked him about his current work, from Daredevil, which has been hoovering up every comics award in town, to Insufferable, Waid’s webcomic currently running on Thrillbent.
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Q: First off, congratulations on getting your 3 Eisner awards in San Diego, and then landing 3 more Harvey Awards last night.
Waid: I gotta say what a night. Actually 4, if you count Joe Rivera who won an award for Best Inker on the book [Daredevil]. It was quite the sweep. 2 more and I will have enough to finish my machine.
Q: Daredevil has been going gangbusters and your next Marvel book is The Indestructible Hulk. I attended your Marvel Now! Panel and you had people go up to read Indestructible Hulk and they had so much praise for it. I also caught your hashtag, #WhoFightsTheHulk. So who was the winner of that? Was it Sandman?
Waid: I think Sandman may have been the winner of that, although Ultimo was also a really good suggestion, so I could go either way. I think what’s cool about that is that I had a few good ideas I would intend for brawlers that Hulk normally doesn’t trade punches with. And so in the grand spirit of letting the fans do my work for me, I went on Twitter and solicited a bunch of suggestions and I got some great ones. Some of them were already on my list, like Gladiator and a couple of others, some of them were kind of inspired but I think Sandman was one of the ones that was suggested and I think that was the hands down winner of my favorites. He can hit but Hulk can’t hit him.
That said that’s just the fight scene stuff, which I honestly don’t care as much about. What I care more about with Hulk is getting back to core principles. Which is the Hulk is a creature of rage, the Hulk is a force of nature that is out of control and trying to figure out a way to reconcile that with the idea that he’s also an agent of SHIELD. I wasn’t quite sure what to do until we hit upon the notion of Banner going to SHIELD and saying, “I will do X, Y and Z for you as a scientist and in return you have the Hulk. In return don’t think of Hulk a bomb, think of Hulk a canon you can aim and when you have a problem somewhere in the world, when you have something where subtly and fineness is not really an issue, that’s when you drop the Hulk in and he does your dirty work and then scope him up and bring him back to the lab and I go back to work again.” That’s the mission statement of the book now and I really like what we’ve come up with.
Q: Why the title change from Incredible to Indestructible Hulk? I was kind of curious about that.
Waid: First off because we kind of wanted to plant a flag in the sand that says something new but beyond that to make sense of the title. It’s not arbitrary, it actually does work, because part of what’s going on with Banner, for reasons you’ll see as we get into in issue 1, come to believe the Hulk identity, the Hulk half of him, is something he’ll never get rid of no matter how hard he tries and therefore he sort of began to view the Hulk as indestructible within as well as externally.
Q: You’re retooling Hulk in a way, sort of rethinking him, does this relate to your work with Daredevil and how you’ve rethought and reevaluated Matt Murdock?
Waid: It does, because the mission statement given to me by Marvel was we want you to do Hulk and replicate what you did with Daredevil in terms of whatever that certain something that worked. The problem there was that the obvious solutions gave me headaches. One of the things I was able to do with Daredevil was add a sort of sense of humor to it. But the Hulk is not necessarily a funny character.
Q: Aside from purple pants, not really much of a punch line.
Waid: No, so to speak, so that’s hard. The Hulk has always been a very tortured soul, and it’s all about anger and rage and these very destructive emotions. So I gave it thought a lot of thought and what I finally circled around was this idea that, one of the things that we did in Daredevil that seems to have worked and gotten the best response was that we took Matt Murdock from where he was at that time as a character to the next evolution of him as a character we removed him from a guy who is self-destructive and a guy who is a miserable tormented soul and have him wake up and realize I don’t want to be that way anymore. It’s a very proactive way of living your life and a very heroic way of living your life, not being a victim of circumstance and instead deciding to dictate your own circumstances. We were able to do that with Matt Murdock why not be able to do that with Bruce Banner? Why not have Bruce wake up one morning and go, “I’ve spent 50 Marvel comics years in the same basic position with the same basic struggles, is there some other way of approaching this problem?” That’s what give it that same feel as what we did with DD but not making it feel like a throwback.
Q: Speaking of DD and trying to change his outlook on life, what can say about the big reveal in one of the latest issues about what was in the box?
Waid: About what was in the box? I think that one of the things we’ve been playing at for the latest year and half is that matt is already convinced that he is mentally healthy and has everyone else convinced he is mentally healthy but Foggy has from issue one had his doubts as to whether or not denial is the best tool for Matt to conquer his demons. Now that we’ve seen what’s in the box, now that we’ve seen what Matt has been apparently keeping secret in his office, even though Matt seems to not realize that was in there, even though he thinks he didn’t know what was in there, from Foggy’s point of view his theory has borne out, Matt’s cracked up. And he’s worried about his friend but even if you love somebody like they love each other like brothers you can only go to bat for them before you say, “I can’t do this anymore. I think you’re crazy, I think you need help, if you let me find you help I will be here, but if you will not let me find you help, and I think you need help, then you got to go.” And it’s tough, it’s tough love but Foggy has been pushed to that point and now that the two of them have fractured their friendship it’s going to take a long time if ever to see if they ever get back together.
Q: Speaking of partnerships that have gone sour, your Insufferable webcomic has been taking off despite some technical difficulties. In recent times, how would you say that relationship between Nocturnus and Galahad is related to the Matt Murdock and Foggy relationship?
Waid: If you’re going to do comics, if you’re going to do things in a visual medium, the best and most interesting relationship are the ones build on tension or a degree of tension. Otherwise it’s just everyone’s happy ever after and you’re not invested in what happens next. With Nocturnus being the Batman figure, being the adult super hero, and Galahad his sidekick growing up, he can experience what we can all relate to at some level. The idea of, whether you’re a super hero fan or not, “stop treating me like a child, stop treating me like a little boy.” That becomes the crux of their explosive breakup before the strip even starts. The idea that the sidekick and mentor broke up a few years ago because the sidekick got tired of being like treated like a sidekick. Now they are thrown back together again because the mystery of whatever happened to the wife and mother has suddenly sprung up, we don’t know what happened between them. What kind of stories does that lead to and how does that throw them together and how are they having to coup with the fact they don’t like each other anymore?
Q: When I read the comic, I always try to figure out who is on which side.
Waid: If I am doing it right, what I love is you’re not sure. One of my favorite TV shows of all time was Picket Fences, which was ten or twelve years ago maybe longer, it was a David Kelly show. It was an ensemble show, but what I loved about the show was that every week it was someone else’s job on the cast to be a jerk. Every week was a different character and yet we all liked the characters, they are all good people in town. Every episode was someone else’s turn to be the jerk. The way that worked it made people real, because everybody at some point or another is a jerk to someone else without meaning to be but sometimes you’re the back guy. So that’s more realistic than someone’s always right and someone’s always wrong. I don’t believe that for a second.
Q: Last month you started Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom. You often bring up these themes of tension, anger, and frustration through your books. How do you intend to bring them to the Rocketeer?
Waid: That was again about relationships, the thing I am having the most fun about the Rocketeer isn’t the Rocketeer stuff and not the cargo of doom stuff. It’s the fact that the way the paradigm works Cliff Secord is the sad sack of a guy who has Betty as his true love and she treats him like crap. Clearly they are in love but she’s always putting her career first , putting other things first, always giving him the brush off when a good looking guy comes her way. I want to flip the paradigm and introduce a third angle to the triangle, so we’ve got Peevy’s niece who’s a rambunctious tomboy of a girl and mechanic but she loves Cliff. So she’s the Betty to the Betty, Veronica, and Archie triangle. So now Betty for the first time gets to be jealous. Betty for the first time starts to wonder whether or not she’s making the right moves. For me that’s the fun of it, that’s the tension of it.