Last week, CBR News brought you first word of writer Bill Willingham's plans to launch a new fantasy-based superhero series at Dynamite Entertainment now that his exclusive contract with DC Comics had wrapped. Today brings word on the Eisner Award-winning scribe’s partner in crime on the project: Acclaimed "Manhunter" helmsman Marc Andreyko.
"Marc approached me because in addition to being a skilled and talented writer, he was an 'Elementals' fan from way back,” Willingham told CBR. “I was familiar with his writing but had not met him. He was pretty new, and I really became familiar with him with the 'Manhunter' stuff, which I thought was excellent. His love of 'Elementals' caused me to start paying more attention to Marc's work and so a mutual respect for writing ability grew out of that. That was again a situation that became, 'We've got to do something together some day.' At some point, [Dynamite Publisher] Nicky [Barrucci] mentioned that he knew Marc too, so it slowly slid into a conversation of 'Why don't we combine the whole thing into one big extravaganza?'"
Andreyko relishes his role as support to Willingham, who he professed a longtime admiration of as a comics reader. The writer told CBR, "I had been reading comics since I was about four-years-old, and I was working at a comic book store from the age of about eleven on. One day I saw the 'Justice Machine Annual' #1 with that great Michael Golden cover introducing the Elementals. And I had been a fan of Bill's predating the Elementals. I was a fan of his art in the old TSR Dungeons and Dragons ads he was doing in comics – much to his embarrassment whenever I bring that up. He's like, 'Don't talk about that!' and I say, 'Bill you're a great artist!'
"I think when I was [a teenager,] I got to live in the golden age of writers. We had Alan Moore doing 'Swamp Thing' and 'Watchmen,' Frank Miller doing 'Dark Knight Returns' and Bill doing 'Elementals.' That was one of the first books I remember reading that felt mature and sophisticated but wasn't porn. Back in the day, 'adult comics' were a little bawdier, but his stuff was mature in the best sense of the word. It assumed the reader had a brain, which was great. But the combination of the art and the iconic structure of what the Elementals were is what made me a fan of his."
All of those factors will come to play in the new Dynamite series. "The kernel of the idea was from Bill, and we've been bouncing ideas back and forth and putting it together,” Andreyko said. “It is a mixture of the superheroic and the fantasy worlds in a really interesting way. And it does lead to something, but that is so far out time-wise that if I told you now what you're going to get for Christmas, you wouldn't appreciate it when December roles around."
While details remain scarce, Marc Andreyko said that he's working strongly to make sure that his first foray into a world populated largely with wizards and knights won't feel rote or clichéd. "As far as fantasy writing goes, I don't really think of the genre I'm writing in while I'm writing in it. I used to direct a lot of theater – it's what my degree is in – and whenever I would direct a show, especially something like comedy that was very stylized, I would never think of directing it as a comedy. I would think about it in terms of being honest to the play. Because when you're doing a comedy or Shakespeare or a mystery, if you think too much about the genre you get caught up in the tropes of the genre. All that stuff's already in your head. So I'm excited to be delving into the fantastic. I'm a huge fan of King Arthur and Mallory and all that stuff. It's really not that different from superheroes. It's like the same bread with different toppings."
Dynamite told CBR that plans are in the works for two big name artists to kick start the as yet untitled book on covers, but announcements couldn't be made until closer to Comic-Con International in San Diego. Whoever the final artists would be on both covers and interiors, Andreyko explained that when it came to putting his two cents in on how the characters (who will be designed by Willingham) look, he won't shy away from his end of the collaboration. "I'm certainly not a shrinking violet when it comes to the art. I might not draw, but I certainly will let my opinion be heard if there's something I love or something I really don't think works. I try not to be a turnkey in situations like that."
Ultimately, Andreyko expressed gratitude for the chance to team-up with one of his idols, but also said that when it comes to breaking down story beats, his role will remain the same as when he co-wrote the Elliot Ness mystery "Torso" with another (then unknown) scribe, Brian Michael Bendis. "When Brian and I worked together, Brian wasn't 'Brian Michael Bendis, Copyright, Trademark,'" Andreyk laughed. "The sales on the original 'Torso' comic book would shock you with how low they were. Now I'm more established and working with someone like Bill who's at the top of his game is a little different, though a lot of it is the same. It's very collaborative. It wasn't a matter on 'Torso' of 'What is my part?' and 'What is Brian's part?' And I'm sure it'll be the same with me and Bill. It'll be an ensemble. That's what's exciting to me: to have someone with a clear creative vision to bounce ideas off of and shape the concept. I like to shake things up and collaborate occasionally because writing is such a solitary thing, and it's easy to get what I like to call kind of 'Unabombery.' To work with different people who bring different things to the table, I learn while expanding the things I write.
"Like I said, I've been a fan of Bill's for about 25 years, and I got to meet him through my work at DC and express my admiration for him because I also think his current work is fantastic. I think 'Fables' is possibly the most consistent work Vertigo has ever published. Every issue I read, I'm like, 'Damn, this book is so good. Why do I not always remember that this book is so amazing?'
“But I had mentioned to Bill over the years that I would love to something with him some day if the opportunity ever presented itself, and luckily he had mentioned a while back that Nick and he were talking about something so I said, 'Well, hey...if it's looking like a thing where you want someone to co-write on an idea of yours...' Then when it got revealed that I was going to be co-writing with Bill Willingham, I was like, 'Oh my God. One of these things is not like the other.' When are they going to realize that I'm two Little Rascals standing on each other's shoulders and not an adult? But the chance to work with Bill is a dream come true. If I could go back in time and tell my 13-year-old self that I would be writing a book with Bill Willingham, my 13-year-old self would probably have a stroke."
And while readers wait to see the final product that Willingham and Andreyko unleash, both writers will remain hard at work on their regular comics gigs including the new adventures of a certain fan favorite lady lawyer. "Manhunter is back in 'Streets of Gotham.' It's great. I'm having a lot of fun working in the Bat Office,” Andreyko confirmed. “I kind of lucked out. Not only am I going to write something with Bill Willingham – this character I had a hand in creating is getting put into the Batman universe. That was a huge vote of confidence from DC to put the character that has this loyal, small fanbase and put it there. A bunch of us are all going to be breaking bread in San Diego and talking about stuff as well. It remains to be seen when the Manhunter feature will directly crossover with anything, but Paul [Dini] will be writing Kate in 'Streets of Gotham' because she's also the D.A. And her being the D.A. of Gotham and a superhero and having the former D.A. of Gotham being a supervillain...I mean, come on! They have to at least have lunch."