These days, Dark Horse is getting deeper and deeper in the universe-building business. And while the publisher has built lines of books, from Hellboy, to Star Wars, to Buffy, it's making it clear that it's attacking the concept differently than fans have traditionally seen in superhero universes.
But today, both publisher and writer are taking another step forward, announcing exclusively with CBR that Williamson is also writing a new "Predators" series as part of a push designed to unite the classic sci-fi film franchise with the worlds of Ridley Scott's "Alien" and "Prometheus."
Williamson spoke with CBR News about "Captain Midnight" -- whose first arc wraps with this month's #4 before introducing soon to be solo star Skyman in its next major adventure -- and "Predators." The writer revealed how his trio of teammates for the Golden Age hero has expanded on Midnight's persona and world, shared what universe-building at Dark Horse means for him and provided some early teases of the bounty hunters who will join the future of "Predators."
CBR News: The very first "Captain Midnight" stories you did, which comprised the #0 issue, were seen through the eyes of modern day characters discovering this time-lost superhero. From #1 of the ongoing, we've been getting more inside Jim Albright's world, in a very direct way. How has building this modern cast around the hero helped you get into his head and define him?
Joshua Williamson: One of the earliest things that [Dark Horse President] Mike Richardson and I talked about was that he wanted Midnight to have a life and people around him -- which to me was perfect, because I love stories like that. I've always found people who are around super heroes to be incredibly interesting. Lois Lane, Alfred, Foggy, Mary Jane etc. So much of how we define ourselves is by the company we keep, and it's no different with super heroes.
Getting into Midnight's head has always been the trickiest part of writing "Captain Midnight," so in the beginning, I wanted to create that cast and start seeing Midnight through their eyes. Take Rick Marshall, for example, the pilot from the zero issue, and Captain Midnight's #1 fan. Marshall has this idealistic view of Midnight and only sees the hero. He insists he can do no wrong, but Agent Jones sees the security risk, and Charlotte Ryan sees an outdated brute. Developing their personalities and how they each saw Midnight helped in developing his voice.
Midnight is brash and stubborn and is the kind of person that doesn't like to admit that he needs help or that he likes having a team of people around him. He only sees the world in black and white. Part of what we've been building with the series is that Midnight has a very cut and dry, black and white view of the world. On the writing side, a lot of that came from his interactions with his supporting characters. As the series goes on, I hope people see how much work we put into his supporting cast.
I get the feeling that you wanted "Captain Midnight" to be a retro book -- I mean, it's about a guy who dogfights planes against Nazis -- but not too much of a throwback. With the resolution to the opening arc and the new stories and villains to come, what's the piece of the proceedings that best modernizes the character?
We did want "Captain Midnight" to be a retro book. I'm a big fan of the Golden Age and of pulp heroes, and doing a book like this, with this take has been a blast. "Modernizing" Midnight is actually part of our narrative -- how Midnight sees this new world in front of him. Midnight doesn't want to be modern. He wants to stay "retro."
But I think for readers, the thing that they can relate to is getting older and realizing the world isn't quite what you expected. You can never go home again, and you can't turn back time. There are a lot of modern themes that we are trying to explore in the series.
In issue #3, we saw got a showdown between the Captain's unlikely partner Charlotte and the creative team's favorite arctic killer, the polar bear. What do you view Charlotte's overall role in this series as, and how will the showdown with Fury set up the dynamic that you want to play with moving forward between her and Midnight?
Charlotte is our "grey area" character, the "realist." Marshall is such a fan boy and Agent Jones is so by the book that we needed a character that could ask questions and take everything in stride. Charlotte is funny to me because she always seems like she wants to roll her eyes at everything Midnight says. Charlotte doesn't want to be there; she is only there because she promised her grandmother (Joyce Ryan, Captain Midnight's old flame from the '40s) that she would watch out for Midnight.
With Fury, she wants revenge, but she wants it to be a long, drawn out one. She doesn't want Midnight dead. She wants him to suffer and see that he can't save the world. Fury is going to be a character in the background for a few issues, but when she returns, it will be a big deal.
At the same time, Rick and Agent Jones (who is different from the mysterious Mister Jones) take unique roles in the crew. They seem to cover the mystery side of this series a bit more so far. What's the most important idea you're digging at with these characters and the "whodunnit" angle of the books?
From the beginning, "Captain Midnight" has been a book full of intrigue. Agent Jones' focus will continue to be the mystery angle. It's not really the "who?" but the "why?" that's been important to me. They are a blast to write because they are such opposites.
One of the things that I haven't talked too much about is that Charlotte, Agent Jones and Marshall each represent a piece of Captain Midnight. Agent Jones is the stubborn obsessed side, Marshall is the risk taking adventurer who loves to fly and Charlotte is the genius side. It's helping Midnight learn more about himself as the series progresses and them all being around each other will have some positive effects. But also some negative.
"Captain Midnight" is the first ongoing series to carry the "Project Black Sky" branding that will also be gracing superhero books like "X" and "Ghost." What can you say about Project Black Sky as a concept? Any chance it connects to the incoming return of Skyman?
Skyman will be featured in "Captain Midnight" #4 and 5 before spinning off into his own miniseries by Josh Hale Fialkov.
Project Black Sky is crossovers done right. It's our plan for a larger mystery that is being unraveled. And the first real key to that was in "Captain Midnight" #3. If people have been paying attention, they might have already figured a large chunk of the plan out.
Albright Industries seems to be a major unifying element to that shared fictional space. How do you view your role in that loose set of connections between books? Is there an element of this shared universe idea or characters from the broader world you're interested in developing over the course of the series?
I've always been a fan of shared universes and crossovers, so for me, this as been a very interesting and fun experience. It's tough to really get into the larger plan without giving too much away. It's awesome planting seeds in "Captain Midnight" that I know will pay off in a big way further down the line, in my book and in others.
Honestly, I have an idea for Captain Midnight and his role in the much larger Black Sky plan, but it's way too early to say. Captain Midnight has this mission to make the world a better place. To save his "better tomorrow." And it will be interesting to see the lengths that he will go to make it happen.
And it appears you're expanding your Dark Horse workload soon as you're going to be taking part in their planned comics relaunch of the whole universe of stories stemming from Ridley Scott's classic "Alien." What can you say at this point about your part in that now franchise-filled world?
I'm going to be writing the "Predators" miniseries! I'm extremely excited to finally be able to talk about this. How it ties into the Ridley Scott universe is going to surprise people. It's a great project that Dark Horse has brought together in a unique way.
We've been working in a "writer's room" with editors, writers and artists building a story that stands alone but is also part of something much bigger. It's been an amazing experience working in a room full of talented people and bouncing ideas off each other and taking what worked, what stuck ,and turning it into a great new line-up of books.
At first, I wasn't sure which book I was going to be writing, and during the meetings, the story beats, tone and theme we decided for the Predator series was amazing, so I was super happy when I was chosen to execute it. It's going to kick ass.
From the claustrophobic original "Alien" film to the beefed up action of the first "Predator" and through all their different sequels and crossovers, what do you think is the guiding theme that unites these various versions of "Man Vs. Extra Terrestrials"? What are the best kinds of stories to tell in this world?
It's interesting that you say "Man vs. E.T." since I've always felt like the best versions of these stories are when these forces of terror turn into "Man vs. Man." They bring out the heroes, but also the worst in people. Even though a lot of these movies features alien monsters, they bring up very natural, primal fears inside us. One thing I'm glad that we're doing is working on keeping the horror elements of both series.
There is a character in my series named Galgo who is right out of an old Western. A man with no honor, no code, who would shoot his best friend in the back for the right amount of money. Or, if it meant surviving. I love writing jerk characters, and Galgo's interactions with the Predator in my series have been really interesting to explore. The Predators are killers and hunters, but they also have a code. It's awesome seeing the two of them trying to kill each other.
Of course, any time a major new piece of a puzzle like this is added to the mix, it changes how you can approach the comics. With "Prometheus" having shed some light on the early days of the "Aliens" universe, what new kinds of things do you think Dark Horse can pull off that maybe weren't possible before?
It certainly gives new stories to tell. It gave us a new "vision" of sorts on that world and with this group of creators. A stronger voice and visual for the kind of books we wanted to do. For the "Predators" series, it didn't shed too much light, and we didn't want to get too far away from what works with the classic Predator films, but this allowed us to get a bit deeper with the mythology and the themes. It's allowed us to do something very different from what people are expecting.
One of the things that was said during the meetings Dark Horse held was, "the larger the world, the smaller the story." That has haunted me since the meetings as something I didn't want to lose sight of. Yes, I'm telling a story about aliens, far off in space, but I still wanted to make sure that it was grounded and relatable to our readers. To make sure that it was actually about something. And so far, that's what we've been able to do. My Predator story is about regret, obsession and being careful what you wish for.
Our Predator is on his last great hunt. Trying to kill the one thing it never could.
What the Predator is hunting is a mystery.
Stay tuned to CBR for more on the future of Dark Horse's "Aliens" resurrection and the superhero world of Project Black Sky.