How do you follow up near perfect comics such as The Vision and Mister Miracle? Well, if you’re anything like Eisner-award winning Tom King, you find one of the most talented directors in the industry right now and write a script for DC’s highly anticipated next film.
King, the self-proclaimed “maker of crying,” has been working with Ava DuVernay to craft the script for New Gods, which will undoubtedly incorporate at least one very dynamic character (he assures us, “I don’t imagine you’d have a Barda that’s smaller than Scott”) from his acclaimed Mister Miracle series.
Meanwhile, at Marvel, another character close to King will make his debut on the small screen. A WandaVision show featuring—you guessed it—Vision and Scarlet Witch, is in the works at Disney+. And still, back over at DC Comics, King is busy.
He’s leaving Batman after #85, hitting stores later this month. But it won’t be long until another King book arrives on shelves: Strange Adventures, an Adam Strange story with art form longtime collaborators Mitch Gerads and Doc Shaner, is set for an unspecified date in 2020.
So yes, there was a lot to talk about when King joined us in our studio at New York Comic Con in October. Below, you’ll find our full interview, edited lightly for clarity.
Kelly: What lessons did you walk away with coming off widely recognised stories like Mister Miracle and The Vision?
Tom King: Be ambitious. You can’t hold anything back. There is an instinct in comics to be safe and just throw something easy down the middle because that way you’ll always do well. You can keep hitting singles, but you have to aim for the fences once and a while.
Gizmodo: So what’s exciting to you about Strange Adventures?
Kelly: It’s about Adam Strange. It’s a book that sorta comments on comics, but it also comments on our current society and where we find ourselves right now, in the middle of the utter chaos.
So Strange Adventures itself didn’t feature Adam Strange. Isn’t that confusing enough? Adam Strange actually debuted in “Mystery in Space.” There were two sort of space adventure books back in the early 60s, late 50s; Strange Adventures had Captain Comet. Later in the 70s they used Strange Adventures for Adam Strange books, but in the debut of it, he was in Mystery in Space.
So, Adam Strange is like your basic, I mean, he’s unique and cool, but he’s a rip-off copy of John Carter of Mars and Flash Gordon and Tarzan, to some extent—sort of these pulp heroes from the early 1900s that were these guys who were ordinary people in their own land or wherever they were, and then they went somewhere mysterious and kooky and crazy and they became gods and kings there. And of course it’s all a metaphor for colonialism. You know, this idea, like the second son who can’t inherit the wealth goes off to India or Africa and finds himself a king because, I mean, there’s an inherent racism to it all, right?
What we’re doing is we’re taking that concept and we’re looking at it in a modern light and seeing if we can use that to talk about where we are now, the difference between the dream of you and the real you. And that’s why we have two artists, we have Mitch [Gerads] who draws the real better than anyone in comics, and we have Doc Shaner joining us, who draws the dream better than anyone in comics. We’re looking at the legend and the truth and the fiction. And so that’s what it’s all about.
Kelly: You explore similar themes in a lot of your writing—there is an emotional intelligence there. Does the idea of people expecting that from you affect you creatively?
King: If I could write the perfect action comic book that had no emotions in it and sold eight million copies to break Jim Lee’s record, and put none of myself in, I’d do it in a second. But when I try to do that, it turns out crappy. I’m trying to make good comics so I put myself in them. It’s all trial and error.
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) July 27, 2019
Kelly: What have you learned from Ava DuVernay while working on New Gods?
King: I’ve never written words anyone has to say out loud, so when I write dialogue, I write it for a reading experience. Whereas her whole career, she’s written beautiful words that beautiful people have said. So just learning that, and how to make actors comfortable with what you say, I’m learning from her. And also how her story structure, she’s a master of story, and how she thinks of, you know, how you get from beginning, middle, to the end. It’s completely different than how we do it in comics. So, yeah, I’m learning a ton from her. She’s brilliant. I’m so lucky to be working with her.
Kelly: What are your thoughts on the possibility of certain elements of The Vision being incorporated into WandaVision?
King: Disney has taken over the world and they should pay their creators more.
Kelly: What’s changing in the comic book industry right now?
King: Comics are in a total revolution right now. Raina Telgemeier’s Smile hit comic books as hard as Watchmen did in ‘86. I think we’re gonna look back in three years and look at Smile as as big an event as that was. Or even Maus or something, where it just redefined the entire genre.
When I look at my kids [going] to school—and, when I was a kid, to read comics, you snuck that behind your teacher’s back and she yelled at you—my kids get graphic novels in every one of their classes. Whatever genre she’s [Telgemeier] created is the biggest thing, and I feel it’s gonna wash over this entire generation, change how they think. I think she’s the big change element in comics right now.