What if expectant parents, instead of getting ultrasounds to check their unborn children for birth defects or illnesses, could scan to see if their child had the potential to posses a super power? This is the basic concept of "45," a new one-shot comic book offering from the newly relaunched Com.X.
In order to tell his story, "45's" creator and writer, Andi Ewington, enlisted the help of 45 separate comic book artists, each one illustrating a single page in the comic, which offers brief glimpses into the lives of 45 different super-powered individuals as presented through the eyes of a single journalist. CBR News caught up with Ewington to discuss his first comic book work, the unique challenges and rewards of working with such a diverse cast of collaborators , and what potential projects lie in the creator's future, in the comic book field and out.
CBR: Andi, let's start with the genesis of "45" - where did this idea come from?
Andi Ewington:Really, what started this was, [my wife and I] did a 12 week scan of our unborn baby, and at the time, it was a mind blowing experience. Really sort of earth shattering, what we were doing.
I've always wanted to write. It's always been something that's in me, to try and get published in some form. And I was more drawn to novel writing, rather than comic books. But really sort of, because I worked with Eddie [Deighton] over at [ad & design agency] An.X, I knew about the other company called Com.X, that they did comics.
I really sort of thought to myself, "I could potentially push an idea of mine towards Ed that could be worked as a comic." I love comics - I wouldn't say I was [always] a fan, but I am now. It's something that's seen a sort of renaissance. As a kid you sort of enjoy them, but don't appreciate them. And now, Ed pulled me back and made me understand what comics are.
So, I needed to find something that I could push towards Ed. And at the time, I was deeply into the maternity stuff, learning about the different sort of pain reliefs and such, and I had all these feelings going on about what the child would expect. I am a little bit of a creator anyway, because obviously in my role, I am a designer. So I am always thinking outside the box.
In my creative ideas, I would think to myself, “You know what would be cool is if the child is born with super powers.” And it was just at that point that I got the spark. I was reading "World War Z," by Max Brooks, and I loved the way that the whole book was done in transcript form. The way you just go and zip through the pages, then stop. Read that chapter. You don't need to read it from start to finish. [At this same time,] Ed, at Com.X, pushed me towards "Marvels," which told the story from a journalist's point of view. All these things were pushing around, with the birth of the child coming up, of my own son, coming towards a resolution, so to speak. I had this idea that you have a guy in a similar position, but rather than a test to determine if it was a male or a female, you have a test to determine if the baby was super-powered or not.
So, [the main character] is a journalist, and he decides that, rather than have the test, he doesn't want to know. It's his right, and his wife's right, not to know. He'd rather wonder, if the child was born [with powers], what to expect. You know, there are lots of things, the pressures that are on the family, the pressures that are on the children, the pressures later in life. So he starts to interview a whole spectrum of different types of superheroes, and he starts with a couple that just had a child that literally flew from the womb. And then he slowly works his way through different age groups, [from birth] all the way through to your Captain America style superhero that is on his death bed.
Are these all successful superheroes, or are some of them not successful?
Yeah, it's a real mix. You've got superheroes that are like your Batman and Robin style. How would Robin cope with Batman dying? And, in this instance, this superhero couldn't get to grips with the fact that his mentor has died, and he couldn't do anything to save him. He couldn't avenge him, the guy that did it has disappeared. So he's turned to drinking. He's given up, almost. There's lots of different aspects.
I noticed in the preview that you gave away at the Long Beach Comic Con, that you have the graphics on one side, and then you have interview-style text on the other side. Is that how the comic itself is going to be presented?
Yeah, that's right, and that's how the idea was presented. When I was talking to Ed, I had this idea that it would be a transcript with a piece of art. And it was Ed who actually turned around and said, "You know what? We could get a different artist to illustrate each page." And, obviously, being a graphic designer, I love graphics, and I loved the concept that we came up with – that we could literally coax people like Jock and Liam Sharp [to contribute to the book]. And I think because of Com.X's great reputation, it made it a lot easier for us to approach and commission work from guys like Jock and John Higgins, who have good relationships with Com.X. I think it was a nucleus of about five: Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard, Jock, John Higgins, Liam Sharp. Once we had that nucleus on board – [guys] who were all up for it, loved the concept, loved the transcripts that were presented to them – others were really quick to get on board. Because it was only a one page commitment, which is really low. You know, it wasn't as if they had to do a whole one-shot. They had one page and free rein.
I imagine that, if you're telling forty-five artists to get one page done, you can get everything done within a relatively short period of time compared to one guy doing forty-five pages.
In theory, yes. In practicality, it still took…let me see now. November to...I literally finished the last chapter and the last story on my son's birthday, his actual birth, which was June 7. I wrote the last chapter seven hours after. So you had from November to June that I was writing. From June, to now, I've been getting pieces of art. And, I think we're pretty much there on the pieces of art. So, it's taken a long time, because I had to wait for slots. I've had to wait for people to become available. In theory, I've had days where I got three pieces of art and I went, "This is fantastic – three pieces!" And then you have the period of like two months where nothing happens.
In working with forty five different artists, many of which I assume you haven't worked with closely before, did you find your scripting style to be very descriptive, or was it more trusting?
A bit of both. I would examine portfolios of the different guys., obviously under Com.X's watchful gaze. They would advise, I would do a bit of research. We'd look at it and think to ourselves, "Yup, I love the style, it doesn't really matter which interview they'd pick." I gave [the artists] a list and let them choose what resonates.
For example, look at Dan Brereton's page. Obviously, [the journalist] is not interviewing the baby - he's interviewing the parents. Normal parents, and they weren't really prepared for the eventuality of this. And really it's their emotions, and how they are trying to cope with the news. Obviously, they are very excited - they are more interested in coming up with a name for him than thinking about the practicalities. They are lost in the sort of romantics of it all.
[My description to the artist] would be a very very short little line. I would say "Here are the different interviews. Interview one is a couple that just had a baby that flies out of the womb. Interview two is about a child. He's got super powers, and the father is just about to send him off to school." Maybe I'll give you three lines that says "I'm in a park, and I am standing next to [the name of the character]. And we are just watching him play on the slide. I would give the artist that, and the rest of it would be up to them.
I imagine you get some interesting stuff from the artists that you wouldn't necessarily expect. Did you get anything that was not quite what you were thinking at the time, and had to be re-done?
Not really. We were pretty much fairly trusting on the pages. Each artist pretty much has a free rein. [The page assigned to them] plays to their strengths, because they will always work to their strengths. It's not as if they are shoehorning their style into something else. It's their style that is almost…I'm struggling for a word…it's the key piece, you know? I's their work that's really important.
Creating 45 new characters that have never been seen before – that's the job of creating an entire new superhero universe. Is coming up with unique names pretty difficult?
Yeah, it is. And I've got a big Dungeons and Dragons background, I've done Middle Earth. I mean, I loved all of that as a kid. I was reading all the fighting fantasy books, the sorcery books, and they were a huge inspiration. I am an only child, and I tend to make my own worlds up quite easily. So it wasn't too hard. The names were the hardest. The powers and the names were the hardest. We tried to be original as possible, but you cannot help sometimes to get a little bit close to other characters. It's going to happen. Also, I thought it'd be nice, too – because it's based in the real world – [actual, published] comics exist in the real world. I made very slight references to the fact that Marvel owned all the rights to certain names. [Marvel's characters] don't exist physically in their world. They are just comic books, as they are comics in our world. [Consolodated two questions and answers into one ‘graph]
Is there a timeline that "45" follows?
Yup. As you start to go through, you're actually going through the ages of man, basically. [At one point], we're at the 19th year of somebody. And the next one will progress, and now we're 20 years old. And it's a different set of superheroes. And we're going for different regions as well. It goes all around the world.
When you create 45 different characters or sets of teams, you've got a tremendous amount of intellectual property to draw on. There's potential value in that. Was that intentional?
Yeah, definitely. I can see it translating well into other mediums, if people were so inclined. You know, way, way, way on the horizon, I'd like it to be a TV series. But, so does everybody. So, I will concentrate on the book. I will concentrate on developing maybe the one-shots, and see how things land, really. See how it develops.
Do you have in your mind a full background for each of the characters before you've written the journalist's interview, or did you develop each one as you got the art?
I'm just exploring it. I have a sort of a semi-background, enough for me to make it a believable character, so that people can go, "Yeah, I get the character straight away." And some of them, their backgrounds are actually developed by other characters. So you see what happened to them, as told by somebody else.
[The journalist] discovers things as he goes along, but he's trying to be as impartial as possible. He hasn't got too much information. He probably has just enough, what's in the public domain. So he hasn't got any secret knowledge that would only be available to some sort of top secret organization or something. He has files that only he has, [because] he has done his research, as a journalist would. A little bit deeper than the average joe would go.
Is "45" kind of serving as an incubator for Com.X, for new artists?
I'd like to think so, it would be really cool. Obviously, it has happened in the past with the likes of Trevor Hairsine. It tends to be that other publishers see the potential and snap them up. I believe that's the way it works. It would be great to think that I discovered somebody that goes on to be the next Jim Lee, or something. That'd be brilliant. Because then we could say we found him, you know, and gave him a break.
What are the future plans for "45?" Where can it go from here, and where do you want it to go?
Where I want it to go is, hopefully, people will love "45," really get into it and develop into enough of a fan base that people would like to see "45+1" – which isn't "46." It is "45" again, but a year later. And we pick up the threads a year later and see what has happened and see what has happened to the interviewer. There is obviously an ending to this story, which I can't say too much about. But it's enough to say that there is enough for a second book. On the flip side, I'd like to do one-shots of different characters. [cut a question here] There is plenty in there. I mean, I think every story has a thread that hasn't been completely tied up, but is left there purposely for somebody to go, "You know, I'd like to know what happened there." And I'd love to be able to have enough backing and enough interest from fans to really say, let's develop this a little further.
Do you think some of the artists from "45" would be on board for another issue?
Oh, absolutely. I mean, ideally, I would love to pay back each artist who put their artwork and time commitment into this by giving them the one-shot with their different character. I think that would be the best thing, really. But, you never know. It all has to do with timing, and how well it is received. You sort of hope that you make enough money to cover the costs! You know, that's really what I would be happy with at the end of the day.
You've come to the end of this project quite recently, after working on it for about a year. Do you have any ideas for your next comic book projects?
I have signed up with Com.X to create a second book, which I can't say too much about. It is a one-shot. It is something I am aiming to co-write with Eddie from Com.X. So that's something on the horizon. I've also written a fantasy novel – a comedy fantasy novel, which you would enjoy. It's called "Limpit Muskin & Company," written with my best friend Dennis Johnson. But it never got published. It's an unpublished finished piece.
Are there any hopes of turning that into a comic?
Oh, I'd love to. But, it's 250,000 words. It's a beast, so it would have to be a full-on novel. I don't think I could turn it into a comic. I don't think I could turn it into anything other than serialized volumes for release. But, to be honest, it's so huge, and it's such a beast, that I think it will be something that Dennis and I can look back on and think, "That was a lot of fun." It took three years to write. It was "Black Adder" meets "Lord of the Rings." What if Frodo got mugged half-way through "Lord of the Rings?" What would happen? So that's pretty much it.
"45" is scheduled to hit comic book stores on December 9, 2009.