This is Leave Your Spandex @t the Door, packed neatly every week for your enjoyment.
And THIS is our special 100th column since our rocky start more than 5 years ago at 411comics! To celebrate, I’m happy to welcome my #1 favourite writer, Peter Milligan to talk about his return to superhero comics with INFINITY, Inc #1 for DC Comics.
(for our regularly scheduled features check back on Wednesday or tune in our daily blog)
Infinity, Inc. started off as an â€˜Earth-2′ title, starring the children and heirs of the Justice Society of America, and ran for 53 issues before its cancellation in 1988. The name was resurrected in last year’s weekly comics hit â€˜52′, with Lex Luthor buying the copyright of the team name and the old members names to use for his own super-group: comprised of teenage boys and girls whom he had imbued with super-powers through his Everyman project. In the end he double-crossed the kids, by pulling the hidden â€˜off’ switch on their powers, resulting in a New Year’s Eve massacre in New York.
The new title, written by Pete Milligan, with art by Max Fiumara, follows the lives of the remaining members of the Everyman project a year after these tragic events.
Manolis: Welcome Peter! Let’s start with some basics. What was your pitch for this series? What is the high concept which sets this title apart from the flock?
Pete Milligan: I was interested in creating what you might call a ‘psychological superhero’ book. Using a lot of Freudian imagery and ideas about who we are, what makes us tick, and where our problems come from. This opened up an incredibly rich area. Even the’ powers’ that a lot of the characters display have their roots in the world of the psychological. Most of the characters in this book have behavioral, psychological or mental problems. The trick of course is to trawl this rich ocean of possibilities… without getting drowned in a sea of miserableness. There’s a lot of fun in the book, a lot of weird stuff. But there’s raw emotion too. That was the crux of the pitch–and it’s also what makes this book a bit different from the other teen superhero books out there.
Manolis: How far have you been allowed to push the envelope in terms of adult content? Are there some things you wanted to do with the title but weren’t allowed in terms of keeping the title PG?
Pete: What can I say, It’s a PG book. But I think we’re probably pushing things as far as they can go, and touching upon some areas that aren’t usually approached in these books. That said this isn’t a competition to see what I can away with. The limitations of a PG book mean you sometimes have to find creative ways of saying things. Of course the book would be different if it were Vertigo. The same subject matter would probably be handled in a very different way.
Manolis: Were you given any specific guidelines about what DC wanted out of this series?
Pete: Some of the characters who were in Infinity Inc had to be in it. This is their story. But crucially, because some time had elapsed, and because all the kids had been through pretty rough times, their characters could – and are – changed. So that left me a lot of freedom.
Manolis: Let’s go through the cast as they appear in the issue and comment on them:
STEEL: Why is J.H. interested in reaching out to the old members of Infinity Inc? He never had the best encounters with them in the past. At what point is he psychologically right now? Is he still an active superhero?
Pete: His niece is going through a bad time. He thinks he might find the answer to some of her problems by getting in touch with her erstwhile superhero colleagues. Compared with a lot of the other characters in the book Steel is something of a rock, psychologically. But this is put under sever strain by what happens to Nat, his beloved niece.
Manolis: STARLIGHT: Natasha is plagued by waking nightmares. Should we be paying particular attention to some elements in her dream? What is her relationship with her uncle after the events of 52 that drove a wedge between them?
Pete: You should be paying attention to every panel in the book! When
the story starts there’s what you might call an uneasy truce between
them. But that all changes very quickly as Nat tries to understand the
cause of her shocking nightmares.
Manolis: FURY: Eric is the most reserved of the three former heroes. Since the loss of his powers, he has gained a lisp and filled his walls with Infinity Inc posters and mementos. As he’s the only one not bearing his soul to a therapist this issue, can you help us understand what is going through his head at this point?
Pete: Erik is something of a tortured soul. He’s become a bit of a loner. The fall-out from the Everyman project and Lex Luthor’s machinations has affected them all differently–and in ways that expose the characters’ deepest and sometimes most shameful desires and weaknesses. Erik is slowly coming to realize where his own unusual problems lie…
Manolis: NUKLON: Gerome has severed any ties to his old friends who would remind him of his glory days, and developed narcissistic tendencies. What made you choose to go down this route with the character? And what’s up with that hair?
Pete: Simply, it was my take when reading this guy. Some form of twisted
narcissism seemed to lurk within Gerome’s character–and I was interested in dragging that out, twisting it further, and seeing where it took him. The hair? What’s wrong with the hair?
Manolis: I won’t get more into that! Moving onâ€¦ By the end of the issue, most of the teens have found themselves in some veryâ€¦ supernatural situations. Are these occurrences linked to the appearance of Kid Empty or a by-product of the Everyman project? Will the kids be getting back to their familiar identities and powers or can we hope for some new and interesting surprises?
Pete: This is all to do with The Everyman Project. If by ‘their familiar identities and powers’ you mean, how the kids were portrayed in 52, no. This is the new reality, as far as the kids are concerned. This is who they are…but they’re all due for some interesting, challenging, and stimulating surprises.
Manolis: Kid Empty/Dale is a new character debuting in this issue. It’s safe to assume that he is the catalyst for bringing the disparate ex-teammates back together?
Pete: Well, he’s one of the things that gets them together again. The key thing is that Dale was on the Everyman Project.
Manolis: He’s looking like a fascinating case, both as a character and visually. What were the guidelines you had given to Max in regards to the character design?
Pete: I described how I saw him to Max. Max produced some brilliant
sketches, we threw some more ideas around and the character as you see
him now emerged. I think he looks great.
Manolis: Do you find it hard to negotiate the superhero elements with your more realistic psychological approach to the characters, i.e. create these realistic troubled teenage characters that would then turn around, strap on some spandex and fly off to risk their lives to save the world. What drives these teenagers to become superheroes?
Pete: at the moment, they’re not wearing spandex, They don’t even have outfits, a name, a team. They’re just a bunch of kids in some kind of trouble, with some things in common, trying to get through. I think making these characters negotiate the heavily land-mined terrain of superhero-genre expectation is less hard than interesting. And I don’t think they sit back and say, okay, let’s be a superhero today.
Manolis: A year has passed since we last saw these characters.
Pete: Yep. And a year can be a long time at these characters’ ages.
Manolis: Why was this time jump necessary in narrative terms?
Pete: From reading the above you’ll have gleaned that I enjoyed the freedom and the character possibilities thrown up by it being this long since the heady days of Everyman and 52. This period allowed things time to have ‘percolated’.
Manolis: What have these characters been up to since we last saw them?
Pete: Drinking coffee, starting difficult novels and not finishing them,
thinking about sex, seeing their therapists.
Manolis: Luthor was the running force behind the team’s return in the events of 52, and is referenced in the title of this first story. Should we expect him to have an involvement in the future affairs of his old proteges?
Pete: Luthor’s great bulk casts a baleful shadow over much of the action…though he’s not making a personal appearance, at least in the first arc.
Manolis: Will the team’s ties to the rest of the DC universe be felt in the series? Issue 2 is featuring an appearance by Superman, can we expect to see more guest-stars in the future? Any members of the past incarnations of the team?
Pete: Yes, if and where appropriate.
Manolis: What has the working relationship been with your artist Max Fiumara. Do you communicate while working on each issue or do you work on full script?
Pete: He’s a darling. Yeah, we communicate all the time, he emails me sketches of pages, we discuss all aspects of the book. It’s a real together thing.
Manolis: Do you have long-term plans for this title? How far ahead have you plotted out your stories?
Pete: I like to keep a degree of fluidity but I do have several arcs mapped out, within which I have the scope to allow my characters room to surprise me.
Manolis: Thank you for your answers, Pete, I’m eagerly waiting for #2! Also thanks to DC Comics for providing us with the review pages from the upcoming issue.
That’s a wrap for this week! I’m waiting your comments and feedback through email to Manolis@gmail.com or through the site’s comments feature
If you self-publish your own comics or represent an Indy comics company, add me to your press release list, and I will run your news in this space every week.
a.k.a. Dr. Dooplove