Mark Waid checks his chute before jumping. When an assignment takes him to an altitude that is familiar only to the great ones like Will Eisner and Dave Stevens, he approaches something like The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction (MAY130295) with respect and patience. An avid fan of Eisner and Stevens, such a writing gig meant he would be walking in shoes once worn by the titans—and he knows it. But who doesn’t like walking in shoes worn by the big guys? In this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive, Mark tells us how he eased himself into those shoes because he takes his colleagues' legacies very seriously.
PREVIEWSworld: Here's what we've been told: the story for The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction takes place in the Spirit's Central City, as well as Los Angeles. Here's what we haven’t been told: why you've said that this is one of the "scariest assignments" you're accepted. What's up with that? What's got you riled? The fact that it’s a crossover book for DC Comics and IDW Publishing? Or that you’re trying to work it in with all your other work?
Mark Waid: Neither is soothing, but that's not the scary part. The scary part is trying to honor the work and memory of two of comics' greats, Will Eisner and Dave Stevens. That's a daunting task. Without Paul Smith at my side, I'm not sure I'd even have tried.
PREVIEWSworld: What kind of visual funk played out in the first sketches from artist Paul Smith? I'm sure it wasn't a picture of Cliff Secord and Denny Colt sharing an espresso at a coffee shop. What did he initially see happening between the two characters? Did it make you want to follow through an idea that he had already, or did you get to thinking about another approach to the book?
Mark Waid: Initial sketches were just two-man action character pieces, real stirring stuff that showed one or the other shoving his "partner" out of the way or reacting to some battling. Terrific stuff, perfectly capturing the looks of both classic characters. That's what sold me. C'mon...Paul Smith....!
PREVIEWSworld: Does this story in any way play off events in The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom? This isn’t the first time you’ve played around with Dave Stevens’ character, but I haven't known you to walk around the gritty streets of The Spirit's Central City. What’s the time frame for how the clock begins to tick in this story’s continuity?
Mark Waid: It does, in fact, play off events in Cargo of Doom as the villain of that piece is joining forces with a classic Spirit villain to cause nationwide trouble and horror, and Spirit and Rocketeer must put their differences aside to fight both menaces.
PREVIEWSworld: Cliff is the senior partner in his team-up with Denny, who is just coming into his own as The Spirit. Why doesn’t Cliff feel comfortable? What in his past, or in his current maturity that has him so unsure about how to move forward as part of a team with Denny?
Mark Waid: Cliff doesn't feel comfortable just in the fact that he's not a natural Leader Of Men. Moreover, he's not too keen on this Spirit guy right off the bat, particularly after Betty practically throws herself at him. But it is interesting to me that, as of 1940 (the story's timeline), Cliff does have more field experience than Denny Colt!
PREVIEWSworld: You’ve regarded Dave Stevens and Will Eisner as “heroes.” Men who were very good at what they did. How do you honor those men in The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction? Is it by creating chance meetings between supporting cast members? New opportunities to establish a “crossover”? How does one play in this sandbox, and do it with grace?
Mark Waid: It's all those things. It's taking the heroes and their supporting casts out for a spin, letting them interact, and working hard to keep their voices and personalities bang-on while at the same time giving each of them a chance to bring out new sides in the others. How one plays in this sandbox, I think, is to be respectful of the characters and get the voices right while telling as thrilling and action-packed an adventure as we can envision. Fingers crossed.