Inside Look: Irredeemable #3

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Mark Waid takes you behind the scenes on his favorite issue of his bad superhero epic, BOOM! Studios' Irredeemable.

This is the issue where a lot gelled for me in terms of characterization. It was also the first time that the characters really surprised me by doing things I hadn't planned--which, honestly, is the sort of thing that keeps me going. It's always fun to feel the characters almost looking back at you from the computer screen, going, "No, if I'm going to stay in character, I think I'll do THIS intead." To wit:


One of the most frustrating true things about writing is that every time your editor or artist doesn't like a sequence, even if it's one you're totally sold on... well, you can walk around angry and rave out loud that No One Understands The Genius Of Your Vision for days and days, but in the end, the "fix" you have to come up with is ALWAYS BETTER THAN WHAT YOU HAD.  I hate that this is true. It's not fair. But it's always the case.

My original opening for this issue was far different when I sent it to Peter Krause, my collaborator and artist. In the earlier draft, it really was the Plutonian making love with (what looked to be) Bette, high in the clouds over the ocean. He still has his "say it" moment (boy, I'm proud of that--figuring out what the super-hero equivalent of "Who's your daddy?" would be), but then he lost control and accidentally snapped Bette's spine, killing her. Rueful for only a split-second, he then drops her coldly into the ocean far below, and during her fall her wig comes off and we realize it's not really Bette, just a surrogate.


Pete really, really did not like this. It make him uncomfortable, and he felt it was a little too "Women In Refrigerators"--cold violence towards a woman without any real consequence. And he was probably right. I hated that he was probably right, because the scene did exactly what I needed it to do, but he just couldn't wrap his head around it. It just felt to him like something too morally bankrupt to draw.

On the one hand, I found this vexing. On the other hand, I have boundless admiration for anyone who stands by the courage of his or her convictions and wasn't about to pick a fight over three pages. I spent, literally, three solid weeks trying to come up with a solve, but every simple fix robbed me of the point of the scene--that the Plutonian had reached a level of power that now prevented him from enjoying a very basic and very necessary form of human contact.

Pete went on to start drawing the issue with page four, and twenty-one days later, right about the time Pete was gonna run out of work, the surrogates became the obvious answer. And it's a better scene. And darker. And creepier. And most critically, it underscored even better and more poignantly and surprisingly the point I was trying to make. And it did so without gratuitous violence.



The twins begin to surprise me. All I needed was to show them sneaking in. I had to split them up for the payoff of the issue to make sense--they couldn't both be on the scene downstairs because then they wouldn't be able to talk to each other or to Qubit without being overheard. By dividing them, I realized at about the last minute, I could make one the vocal conduit of information and still maintain downstairs silence, still get that "Oh, my God, he's a zebra on the veldt" suspense.


Only after I decided to divide them physically did I decide to split them emotionally, as well, by implying a rift between them with the "She WOULD have chosen YOU if you'd just spoken UP" line. It's always good drama when the last words between loved ones are angry ones and then one goes and (SPOILER!) dies before they can make up.


Pete and I discussed what Inferno's sleeping quarters would be like. He had the money to make them sumptuous, but I liked better the idea that this was a vigilante so dedicated to crimebusting that he'd deliberately carve out a more austere, Spartan existence for himself to maintain his hard edge.

I just now noticed for the first time the PC on his desk. This cracks me up--the thought of Inferno walking out of the room with the billion-dollar supercomputers in it to come in here and check his e-mail.

PAGES 14-15

Pete nailed this, as did colorist Andrew Dalhouse (and the underrated letterer, Ed Dukeshire). I wanted Plutonian to carry that air of imperious casualness. Or casual imperiosness. Whatever. Even if you had no idea of this guy's power levels, it's clear from the art and coloring that he's the lion in the room.



Man, these villains are idiots. This was an important moment--to demostrate that Plutonian has no more use for his old enemies than he does for his old friends.  Less use, actually, because he does have a use for his old Paradigm teammates, as you'll see in an upcoming...oh, wait, I've said too much. Never mind.


This page in the script, originally silent, d called for Plutonian to pull the wig (from page two) out of his cape pocket and present it to Encanta. Once more covering another moment of Waid idiocy, Pete called and gently, tactfully reminded me that "evil" Plutonian DOESN'T WEAR A CAPE. (I am really beginning to regret not asking for this guy to have pockets. Plutonian, not Pete.)

After punching myself in the head that I'd momentarily misremembered the costume of THE MAIN CHARACTER IN THE BOOK, a character I, MYSELF CREATED, I blundered into the fix--having Plutonian ask "I wonder what you'd look like in a wig...?", which was a thousandfold more elegant a solution than, say, having him pull the wig out of some brown paper bag he'd been walking around with for the previous ten pages.  Thanks, Pete.

Irredeemable is a monthly ongoing series from BOOM! Studios. Issue #6 was released on September 2nd.

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  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Sep 16, 2009 at 3:22am

    Wow, some nice insights there into the writing process, one of the best Inside Looks I've read.

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