Back in the glory days of INFUZE (may it rest in peace) I had the opportunity to interview the writer and artist from a new comic mini-series, entitled The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury. It was conducted in January of this year for the on-line mag, but never saw fruit – until now! I was waiting for the next step in INFUZE’s journey to take place, which unfortunately never happened, before I published it. Miranda was a genuinely fun book however, and I say was, because due to some recent restructuring at the publisher, Archaia Studios Press, this was one of the books to be put on the back burner. The first issue (numbered #295) is still available and is a groovy read for all ages, while presenting the world with a great heroine in some fantastic sci-fi adventures. The second issue will hopefully see print sometime soon. When it does, I’ll certainly let the world know. For now, take a peek in to the creative process of Miranda’s birth, and go here for a preview of the first ish.
Is there any particular woman, or women, that you’ve based Miranda on?
Brandon Thomas: Not really a particular woman, but probably an idea of women, and how they are and aren’t normally portrayed in modern comics. There are certainly some shining examples spread all over the medium, but just like I’m often alarmed by how minority characters are represented in superhero fiction, this deficiency (or lack of imagination) also extends to the so-called “fairer sex.” When this whole thing was developing, it was very important that Miranda Mercury not exist as the female version of another well-established character, but a complex, nuanced character in her own right that isn’t destined to become the victim in her own story. Even with her life rapidly coming to an end, Miranda isn’t going out without a major fight and she won’t be weeping in any corners, asking for someone to swoop in and save her. It’s a balance definitely, where we have to put her life in danger, but do it in a way that doesn’t make her appear weak or reliant on much more than her strength, wits, and junior partner to get things done.
Attitude-wise, she’s probably based on all of the strong women I’ve known in my life—mother, grandmother, cousin, etc. Take-charge, take-no-crap females from all walks of life should find something in common with Miranda Mercury.
Lee Ferguson: For me…honestly, it doesn’t seem as much like we’re creating something new as taking care of a character who has been around for almost 300 issues. I know that’s just one of our conceits, but…it’s so fitting. From the first time B and I talked about this, I have had a very clear picture of Miranda’s world, and I find myself reading the new scripts as they come in and KNOWING that, yes, that’s exactly how Miranda would react in a given situation. So while I can’t say that the way I try to portray her is based on anyone else, I can say that with both Brandon and I there seems to be an innate sense of what makes Miranda Mercury tick.
What do you hope readers will get from this series?
Brandon: The love of comics storytelling injected into their veins. The excitement of discovering something new that you never even thought to ask for. The possibility of experiencing stories that could only be contained and delivered by the comics medium. New heroes to root for. New villains to root against. New visual styles to be exposed to.
More than enough reasons to come back for the next installment.
Lee: A sense of what comics can be. When I was a child, I would go to the library and check out these old, beat up hardcovers that collected all kinds of comics from before my day. And it was mind-blowing to read stuff like Stan (Lee’s) and Jack’s (Kirby) Fantastic Four, absolutely mind-blowing. So many crazy new ideas introduced, utilized and discarded as they made their way to the next new thing. THAT’S very much what I want this to feel like. Not as in ‘retro’ or anything like that, but in that mad flood of ideas.
You’ve both worked with the icons at Marvel and DC in various capacities over the years. What is it about superhero comics that lends themselves to parody so well?
Brandon: I don’t think what we’re doing is necessarily parody—it’s more taking what elements of superhero comics that are exciting and fantastic, and finding a different axis to spin the stories around. The wonder is there, the action is there, the drama, etc. but the landscape and the backdrop make this more of a sci-fi adventure than anything else.
Every story is going to introduce some new planet or some new adversary for Miranda to come up against, and just when you get used to what we’re showing you, it’s gone and we’ve moved onto the next story. The only way this property works is when new material in fired into the well constantly and that will be a natural function of all the stories being self-contained. You know that every issue is going to have a new set-up, character, and locale to dig into and explore, and we’re assuming this will naturally lend itself to somewhat experimental avenues of storytelling. Don’t stop moving, don’t stop thinking—so whatever of that vibe that owes itself to superhero fiction, so be it.
Lee: Yeah, I don’t see this as a parody in any way. I think, if anything, it takes what’s GREAT about superhero comics and shows that those things can work in many different ways, and in genres other than capes and tights.
Much has been made about Miranda being a rare African American lead in a comic, even debuting in Black History Month. Was that something you sought out or did you find yourselves receiving a lot of unexpected attention from the African American community?
Brandon: Well, Miranda being a black space heroine was a significant part of the original pitch and like it or not, this does make her and her book somewhat different from the majority of comics on store shelves. What we hope people realize is that “somewhat” does not mean “completely,” as it’s generally understood that books or movies that feature predominantly black cast members are classified as “black” products and looked upon as impenetrable to people that aren’t black. Which is hopelessly silly, but you have to acknowledge that feelings like this exist if you want to break down barriers. Miranda is designed to service anyone who enjoys high adventure, and if the fact that she is a strong, black female allows it to mean more to a certain neglected segment of the fanbase, then we’ve done our job.
Miranda launching at the end of Black History Month wasn’t something that was planned from my end, but it probably figured into Archaia’s publishing plans, and I think they’re anticipating a certain amount of interest from mainstream audiences and people that don’t go into comic shops every Wednesday. Who they suspect would be very interested in this if they could only find it. So ASP is investigating new avenues to get this in the hands of any people that would like to read it.
Lee: It’s funny. I sometimes, in my ignorance, forget what this book could mean for other people, other companies…readers. I’m a pasty white guy from rural America. I tend to like whatever is good, and ignore whatever isn’t, and I just generally assume that’s how everybody else operates. Then I’ll get a question like this and realize how foolish that can sound!
How do you hope this will inspire other comic companies to create more minority characters?
Brandon: That they go out and do it, without being afraid that the audience and the sales won’t support it. Launching anything that isn’t a known quantity is a substantial risk anyway, but people have been saying for years that “black books don’t sell,” or that “books with female leads don’t sell” and we want to present an avenue and a circumstance where this isn’t the least bit true. As with anything, only one of two people have to do something before it gets copied by everyone in sight, and I have no qualms with Miranda sparking a new resurgence by major companies to broaden the type of audiences they’re serving. And really, who can even predict something like that at this point. We hope that Miranda Mercury sells and we hope that if it does, people acknowledge what this just might suggest.
Lee: This is a copycat business. Look at all the zombie craziness that’s been going on. All it took was one book to set that trend off…so if Miranda can start a similar trend for minority characters, that wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. All that has to happen is for us to have a little success.
Brandon, you’ve been a columnist for a number of years in the comics community. Is it a struggle to write as a story teller and as a columnist simultaneously?
Brandon: Heh, it is recently. Now that the column is running at Newsarama, I’m back on the weekly grind and I keep telling people that weekly columns are a young man’s game. Only Augie over at CBR has continued to disprove this, but writing 2000 or so words of material on a weekly basis around a dayjob, whatever various scripts and press I’m working on, not to mention that ever necessary personal life, and it seems the minute I get one done, I have to start thinking about the next one. That said, there is a certain rhythm and momentum that soon develops, and the column is quickly becoming just another thing I do every week. If things go well for me in the coming months, I imagine I’ll only get busier, giving me much more fodder for the column, but less time to prepare it in. That’s the way it goes, so it’s best to just roll with it.
Lee, I have to ask you about the Black Canary Wedding Planner. That’s a pretty big deal. How did that come about exactly?
Lee: I think Jann Jones just got tired of sending rejection letters my way! She had actually been looking at my stuff over the years, and then it seemed the thing that really started to turn her in my favor a bit…were some Miranda Mercury pages I sent off just to show. I wasn’t even necessarily looking for work at that point, but the pages made it to Jann, and she started pushing my stuff around the DC offices a bit, showing it to other editors. And then, when this project came to her, she said I was the first guy she thought of, which I’m extremely grateful for. Honestly, that was a lot of fun. I got to work with Jann and J Torres, who is a great guy, and a really talented writer, so the experience was really, really positive, and is a big reason I’ve had the chance to do a bunch of Supergirl work lately.
Brandon, you’ve been documenting the development of Miranda for the past few months. It seems like quite a brave decision. Did you find you had a lot you needed to get off your chest as a writer making it in the comics industry? Or was it more of a case of letting other writers out there know what the entire process involved?
Brandon: A little of both. Ambidextrous started as something to help me break into the industry, while also serving as a chronicle of the overall “journey.” For years, this meant relating stories and experiences from trying to push my way into the Big Two by any means necessary, but now, it’s serving what I now understand is a greater good: letting people know exactly what it takes to put out a comic book. From the outside it looks fairly simple (at least it did to me). Someone writes a script, someone draws it and inks it, followed by colors, letters, etc. But the actual creation is only one element of the game, and neglects the marketing of the project, the promotion for the project, or any other of the numerous issues and concerns that’ll have to be addressed and accounted for.
My brief time in comics has only made me appreciate the process more, especially when it results in good comics, because there are so many things and people involved that it’s easy for something not to develop as well as you’d hoped. Doing it creator-owned has only intensified this appreciation. The potential payoff is much, much higher, but that’s something that seems well-deserved when weighing the amount of work and care that’s put into it.
Do you have any plans from Miranda beyond the initial 6 issues?
Brandon: Absolutely. If enough people are willing to support the book, then we’re willing to keep making it for them. Starting at issue 295 gives us the latitude to advance both backwards and forwards across the different ends of Miranda’s life and there are extensive plans for both. Once we get a couple months into the game, Archaia will know a lot more about how retailers and fans are responding to the material and we’ll have a better answer to this. But yeah, there’s no way that six issues are enough to contain Miranda Mercury…
Lee: Brandon and I have had a lot of conversations about what’s come before, and where this is all going, and I’m more excited about this book than ever. Plain and simple, no one’s taking this book from me. As long as there are Miranda Mercury comics, I intend to be the guy drawing them…