Does Mark Waid know what he's saying anymore?
AVC: You’ve done superheroes as political allegory in Empire and Fantastic Four. Right now you’re doing them as a celebrity allegory in Insufferable. In general, what does the concept of a superhero mean to you?Then why did he ever go out of his way to produce a mind-boggling book like Irredeemable in the first place, with its shoddy depiction of a would-be superhero who even turns to slaughter? That's not cynical and worse? Yet he says this is about the age of the Web, and doesn't reference the really chilling parts of Irredeemable and the hero Plutonian. Even if this was his own stand-alone story, the problem is that it's still contributing needlessly to the growing list of cynical stories being told about superheroes, or even adventure tales one would think are about heroism. Speaking of which, Adam Strange, one DC protagonist who's not a superhero per se, was a victim of this trend, which may have originated in the pages of Swamp Thing in 1986, but really came to a head with Richard Bruning's 1990 prestige format miniseries that set up the premise that Sardath used the Zeta Rays to teleport Adam to the planet Rann so he could serve as a breeding stud with Alanna, who was needlessly killed in the miniseries, while her father was turned into a crackpot. It was Waid himself who undid the dingier elements of this story a decade later in the pages of JLA, amazingly enough. Yet later with Irredeemable, he fell victim to what he says he doesn't think belongs in superhero comics.
MW: What it means to me is something I’m sort of protective of on an emotional level. A superhero is someone who, at some point or in some way, inspires hope or is the enemy of cynicism. Even if you bog it down with political allegory, or even if you’re doing celebrity allegory, or in the case of Irredeemable, it was very much an allegory of how the Internet and social media and celebrity conspires against the famous, and how that shapes us in this day and age. You still need to take the cynical out of it. I think there’s plenty of room in comics for cynical stories and cynical storytelling, and that’s a perfectly valid way of approaching your work, but I don’t think it belongs in the superhero comic, because I don’t think superheroes are cynical. I think superheroes are about flying. They’re not about moping.
On universes, he says:
AVC: You’ve worked with or spearheaded a couple of start-up comic-book companies. What did each of those different experiences teach you, with CrossGen and then BOOM! and now going to Thrillbent?The only real mistake with Crossgen was made in the end, when they attempted a crossover not unlike the big two's overabundant crossovers (not to mention chairman Mark Alessi's inability to file for Chapter 11 early on if he was really short on wages for their contributors). His assertion that the DC universe's cast co-existed for decades "before meeting" is also inaccurate since the Justice Society was one of the first places where the original heroes met way back in the Golden Age, and even if they weren't all by the same creators, they did meet up in the same book and gradually came to work together.
MW: The biggest takeaway from CrossGen was… [Laughs.] Don’t create a universe. That’s the biggest mistake you can make, man. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and don’t create a damn universe. Just concentrate on doing good comics that make sense, and the stories are good, and don’t worry about servicing some overall, artificially created shared reality between 22 different series. You’re asking too much of your readers at that point, and also, it’s a lot for anybody to bite off and chew at this point. The Marvel universe works because the Marvel universe grew organically, and it grew out of the creative vision of Stan [Lee] and Jack [Kirby] and Steve Ditko and Larry Lieber and a small, small, small handful of guys. All right? Whereas other universes tend to be very ad hoc. That’s why the DC universe is never going to be as strong a shared universe as the Marvel universe, because the DC universe—and it’s not to pick, it’s just a statement of fact—the DC universe was created out of properties that coexisted for 50 years before they met. Frankly, there’s not a whole lot of difference between putting Green Arrow and Captain Marvel in the same story as there is putting Calvin and Hobbes and Mary Worth in the same story because they’re both comic strips. Whereas the Marvel universe, they created organically. At CrossGen, they tried to jumpstart it organically, but still, it was with an idea toward creating some sort of mega-universe you had to invest tons of time and money into as a reader to get all the nuances out of it. And even then, it only lasted a couple years. That universe never paid out. And where are they now? That was the big takeaway from CrossGen.
And while the Marvel universe did grow organically years before, is Waid aware that it's also tragically deteriorated since Joe Quesada and Brian Bendis took over, tossing much of the universe and continuity into a pointless jumble, with Spider-Man and Wolverine appearing in more books than need be, the universe drowned in far too many crossovers and the Spider-marriage erased? And the latter is something he sadly approved of in contrast to when he tied the knot between Wally West and Linda Park in 2000. And if Waid's going to go willingly along with Quesada's destruction of Peter and Mark Jane Parker's marriage, then he's only made himself part of the problem.
Waid's main problem is that he hollows out the good points he could've made simply by playing along with editorial edicts by the big two's staffs, and by not being very honest about what Irredeemable was about.