The Unknown Mark Waid

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It seems that in the last few years writer extraordinaire Mark Waid has been giving himself the kind of rejuvenating makeover he’s applied so many times to endless characters over the years, such as The Flash, Captain America and Fantastic Four. Crafting superhero epics with meaningful characterisation became his forte, but now he appears to be stepping out of the spandex shadow. Since becoming the Editor In Chief of publisher BOOM! Studios in 2007 he has spearheaded the company’s diverse output and has written a few titles himself, such as the crime drama Potter’s Field, the dark superhero tale of Irredeemable and now, The Unknown. The latter series focuses on Catherine Allingham, the smartest person alive, as she attempts to discover the world’s greatest mystery, ie, is there life after death?

BROKEN FRONTIER: Are you just as happy with your EIC duties as when you’re writing?

MARK WAID: They both bring different levels of joy.  (And agony--"Writers! The happiest people on Earth!"--but mostly joy.) The writing is more "selfish" in that it's not about directly teaching others. The EIC position is, ideally, about mentoring.

BF: How satisfying is it for you to see fresh, young talent come through BOOM!’s doors?

MW: That's the best part of the gig, by far. All our editors and staffers have a real eye for talent, and between the guys I bring in and the ones brought in by managing editor Matt Gagnon, editors Ian Brill and Paul Morrissey, and other Boom guys working under me, it's great to see young talent being able to level up 

BF: You’ve been on the other side of the desk facing frustrating choices from editors. How do those experiences inform your choices now that you’re the man in charge?

MW: To my credit--or detriment--I've always tried to be sympathetic to both sides of the desk, so it's not like I'm often running into situations as an editor where the freelancer part of me has to rethink how I've been approaching the relationship. But the gig definitely underscores how little time in the day remains, after dealing with the Big Stuff, to massage egos, and I have no end of respect for the editors who can do that AND get their books out.

BF: With your work on Kingdom Come through to Empire and now Irredeemable you seem to be presenting an off-center look at superheroes. Will there ever come a time in the industry where we’ve said all we can about superheroes?

MW: I've shaken my Magic Grant Morrison and the message in the window says "Not anytime soon."

BF: Looking at the changes that are going on with Captain America and The Flash are you curious, or do you close the door once you’ve finished writing certain titles?

MW: You kinda have to, which is really a shame. The stages of being a fan-turned-pro are (1) dying of curiosity over what's gonna happen next with your favorite character each month, (2) writing that character and thus being the only person alive who CAN'T be surprised by what's coming up, and (3) turning it over to someone else to shepherd and finding that revisiting that world as a reader is like hanging out with an ex--it's never totally comfortable.

BF: The Unknown seems to be an intriguing mix of ideas involving science, the supernatural and detective elements. How will you be tying all these things together?

MW: With the art of future Eisner-Award winner Minck Oosterveer. Seriously, that's the central question of the book--how to meld the scientific and the spiritual. That's the engine of the story.

BF: Is The Unknown a culmination of concepts that have been brewing in your brain for a while?

MW: For a long time, yes. I've been reading and researching life-after-death investigations for a long time now, as (like the heroine of The Unknown) I have a hard time wrapping my head around things that can be explained only through faith. I keep wanting to apply the scientific method. Somehow. In my heart, I know that faith trumps all, but in my head, I  can never escape that little voice that says, "The human brain is clever enough to solve any mystery, even life after death."

BF: Assuming that the Irredeemable ads are true, what is the most evil thing you’ve done?

MW: Dude, for the last time, those harpseals were already dead when I got there. I don't care what the natives say.

The Unknown #1 is on sale now from Boom! Studios priced $3.99


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