Marvel Comics continues to prepare readers for its upcoming month of Marvel NOW! launch titles this week with a series of press conference calls focusing on the newest books to join the Marvel line. So far, readers have heard from Si Spurrier on "X-Men Legacy", Jason Aaron on "Thor: God of Thunder", Mark Waid and Leinil Yu on "Indestructible Hulk" and Brian Michael Bendis and Nick Lowe on "All-New X-Men". Today, the publisher presents a slight offshoot from the X-Men universe as writer Brian Posehn, artist Tony Moore and series editor Jordan D. White discuss the new take on "Deadpool," which sees the Merc with a Mouth taking on a vast array of undead United States presidents.
James Viscardi, moderator and Sales & Communications Coordinator, started the call off asking Duggan about his research for American Presidents.
"Some of it I had from memory," said Duggan, "but there is, on my office wall, a printout from Wikipedia, of all the presidents in chronological order." The writer stated some have x's through them and others have notes on their plans for them. "It looks like the start of a secret service investigation."
Duggan went on to describe Gerald Ford in the book as a "stumblebum" and that JFK still has a weakness for the ladies.
In terms of the inception of the book, Duggan and co-writer Brian Posehn put together a bunch of pitches, but the zombie presidents pitch was the one they hoped Marvel would say "Yes" to, especially considering the timing would be near to Halloween. "We thought, 'People are going to be sick of the election, here's a way to have fun with the presidents that wasn't political.' There was something delightful about Deadpool taking on our nation's leaders."
White's initial reaction was that it was awesome, but he didn't think anyone would be brave enough to let the book release. As it turns out, that wasn't the case. "It's going to be a blast," said White.
The first issue of "Deadpool" will hopefully allow new readers to find an entry point that's not challenging, but still allows Deadpool fans to open the issue and see the character they love. "There's always that challenge with a new number one -- we're not reinventing the wheel, but we did want to reestablish him and reintroduce him to hopefully new fans," said Duggan. "We knew that Tony [Moore] was going to be a part of the book pretty early on. We wanted to do something that's his fastball, so to speak. I'm biased but it's my favorite stuff I've seen Tony do. … Mixing that with the comedy -- hopefully it's going to be a special thing that people don't see coming."
Moore spoke a bit about the redesign of Deadpool's uniform, saying he tried to logically look at the uniform and take the iconic parts of the suit and "streamline them a little bit," and transform it into something "a guy who kicks ass would wear." Moore upped the ninja influences, added some black and some practical tactical gear. "I tried to keep it fairly real-world type stuff. He has a bajillion pouches. I brought back the leg pouches from the Liefeld days, because, why not?" said Moore. "It's almost like he can summon whatever he needs for any situation out of these pouches."
The artist further stated his favorite dead president to draw was Teddy Roosevelt, who appears in issue #2 as the big game hunter that proves a challenge for Deadpool.
Duggan spoke about the balance of comedy to action and writing a comedic book.
"It's tough. I'm not trying to cheat on the question because so much of that comedy writing is, 'Hey, did you make yourself laugh? Did you make your writing partner laugh?' If you did, you're probably on the right track," he said. "There's a lot of that writing that's intangible. For us, the key has been to send the scripts off to Tony who absolutely has it in his DNA to translate that comic timing on the page. I don't think everybody can do that. We're very lucky to have him. When the art comes back, we'll sit around and see if we can beat that joke." Duggan referenced a quick joke in the first issue where someone misses a birthday that he describes as "a funny line out of nowhere," and a lot of the goal of the process was to not be content with the joke that was written initially, but try to top it."
While Deadpool won't really be affected by the death of Professor X following "AvX," Duggan noted "that will be an event that will really reverberate everywhere."
The writer noted as an aside that not many cosplayers portray Deadpool with a scarred face. "I'm giving away a free signed copy of 'Deadpool' #1 that comes up to me at a con with a scarred-face Deadpool," said Duggan.
Duggan described the dead presidents as "Ghostbusters"-level threats, specifically noting they tried to steer clear from politicizing them in the afterlife. "Although, Reagan finally gets to enjoy a little Star Wars later in the run," teased Duggan.
"They all come back with their special skills," said Moore. "They're not like the X-Men," but each has a special skill.
George Washington's teeth will be a plot point and Duggan said readers should look out for a special dentist.
The creative team stated they were going to try to give every president a moment where they are returned from the afterlife. "Some on a bigger stage than others," said Duggan.
Whenever possible, Duggan and Posehn work together in person and when it's not, they work in a Google Doc. "We'll either script together like that or we'll take away a script and each go work on it and then come back. We re-write it together before it goes into Jordan. Jordan makes it better, we'll take Jordan's notes and do a polished pass before passing it to Tony." Duggan said there's a final rewrite after they see the art.
Deadpool is known for breaking the fourth wall, and Duggan said the experience is "exhilarating," while White said the creative team "was able to find the right places to do it" and "it's going to be pretty funny when it does." Moore noted it's been used sparingly.
Moore gets to draw Ben Franklin, who is not a president, as a ghost. "Ben's got a lot going for him," said Moore. "He's a scientist, he's a ladies man. I can't really think of anyone who thematically ties in so well as [Ben Franklin]."
As for Deadpool's interaction with the larger Marvel Universe, Duggan states "people will help him because the situation demands it, but they don't want to be seen doing it."
"If we can paint him in that position that he's so uncharismatic that even Thor doesn't want to be seen with him, we got some [fun] interactions with that," said Duggan. "I'm not saying that Deadpool is over his head, but he gets a little bit of help from Doctor Strange in issue #3 and it's also very much the same thing. When he knocks on the door, it's 'How fast can we get you in and close the door?' But there will be other guest stars, too."
One of the reporters brought up an old Marvel story where Doctor Strange got his girlfriend stolen by Ben Franklin, which Duggan was previously unaware of. "It's hard to say, maybe you've just changed the course of Marvel NOW! Deadpool," said Duggan, saying he might try to explore it in a "Deadpool Annual."
For a supporting cast, Duggan said there will be characters introduced. "That doesn't mean we're not going to go back and meet some of his pals," said Duggan, but noted they wanted to take the opportunity for a new #1 to introduce new characters. "We want a group around Deadpool. We think it's more fun."
The creative team also discussed jokes that hit the cutting room floor, which -- according to Duggan -- were not all that numerous.
"There's a Jodie Foster reference in the Reagan issue that I hope is going to live. It really made us laugh," said Duggan. "There was one joke that Jordan said no to, but it was the right answer. It was nothing we had to fight for. It was more for Jordan to say no. We wanted to see his mustache spin."
White recalled there was one joke that was supposed to come when Doctor Strange first appears. Doctor Strange was going to make himself look like the Silver Surfer and Wong would transform into a surfboard. Strange would jump on Wong and fly away. "That's how unpalatable being around Deadpool is to these guys," said Duggan.
The writer stated his pride in the issue and that many people who have read the issue in advance feel they're on the right track. "We're so grateful for the opportunity Marvel has given us. They've given us Tony Moore and Geof Darrow and Val Staples," said Duggan.
"I don't think people realize these guys have been born and raised on comics," said Moore. "Brian's written plenty of stuff before. Gerry's written stuff. Gerry was up for an Eisner with 'Infinite Horizon.' He's not exactly a slouch, either. We're putting together, I think, some of our best work yet and hopefully people will look further back in the catalog, too."
To wrap up, Duggan answered a somewhat odd question -- "Who would win in a fight? You or Brian?"
"Brian's got the reach and the height," said Duggan. "I've probably got him on the weight. I think he takes me because he's got that secret craziness. I think I'd have him and then he'd do something crazy and eat my face. … The two of us together, it's over. Nobody's getting in our way. We're like Hammer and Anvil together. Old Marvel reference!"
"Deadpool" #1 goes on sale November 7.