On November 28th Dynamite Entertainment will deliver a crossover that’s nothing short of a ticket to the time machine. Golden Age pulp/radio characters that were also stars of weekend serial adventures have been brought together by Chris Roberson and Alex Ross for the 8-issue mini-series Masks. Publisher Nick Barrucci was kind enough to put us in touch with both Chris and Alex so that we could ask them a few questions concerning this new title.
PREVIEWSworld: Masks looks to be the most ambitious crossover series Dynamite has attempted, as it not only involves characters from the Dynamite universe, but characters from the Golden Age of Radio. Chris, you’ve claimed to have read a lot from the pulp era, but—as Alex has expressed his affection for radio shows of that era — did any of the radio shows for characters like the Shadow and Green Hornet play into your own plotting/dialogue for the Masks storyline? Or were the print adventures better inspiration?
Chris Roberson: I’ve been researching for Masks since I was eight years old, and have devoted huge portions of my brain to pulp magazines, old time radio, film serials, Golden Age comics, and on and on. When Dynamite approached me with the idea of doing a crossover featuring all of these characters, I naturally used it as a perfect excuse to do “research,” but that was largely just so I could go back and revisit some of the pulp novels and radio shows that I’ve enjoyed over the years. These characters have appeared in countless adventures in a variety of media over the years, and I’ve tried as much as possible to do justice to the characters as they’re best known.
PREVIEWSworld: Alex, as everyone knows you like to use photo references, did you by chance use any stills from the old serial movies when designing your panels? Or were there particular books you consulted?
Alex Ross: So far, the only movie serial material I’ve looked at related to the Green Hornet and Kato. I wanted to show the right kind of clothing for Kato, particularly for his civilian identity, and what kind of car he should be driving. The movie serial of the Spider affected his redesign that I did for his own series a year ago. The movie serials were also a clear influence on John Cassaday’s redesign of Green Hornet, which I’m following. Most of the rest of the characters like the Shadow, I consult everything from the comics to the pulps, and he in particular is a character I want to paint the face accurately to what artist George Rosen did with him eighty years ago.
PREVIEWSworld: Chris was there any continuity issues or character profiles you’d keep handy when developing the story for Masks? Or did you decide to approach your story from an “alternate reality,” where you were given the liberty to make up new rules and backgrounds for those fighting the fascist police state?
Chris Roberson: I have a pretty heavy reference shelf of pulp materials, and consulted it often. And of course the Internet is an incredible resource. With our main characters, I’ve tried to remain as true as possible to the versions of those characters that readers have been following since their earliest appearances. There are one or two supporting characters that we have re-imagined a bit, but even there the key elements of their origins and characters are still intact.
PREVIEWSworld: Alex, you’ve said that “more characters from that era will continue to come into this grouping as the series progresses.” Does that mean that while you won’t be doing fully-painted interiors, you will be co-plotting the series with Chris?
Alex Ross: We’ve got a pretty full cast of characters as it is, and I’d always encourage more to be added, but the brakes have to be put on that at some point, I’m sure. Chris has incorporated many of the ideas that I’ve contributed to this point, and I’m very happy with the story collaboration.
PREVIEWSworld: Black Bat, Miss Fury, Black Terror, and Green Lama are some of the characters said to be lined up to appear in future issues. What do you think these characters have to offer a generation of readers who may have never heard of them before? Is it the moral compass that they carry inside them that can act as inspiration? A return to old values? Or something else?
Chris Roberson: Well, in terms of what inspires them to act, those four characters all come from very different backgrounds, and have chosen to put on masks and fight crime for very different reasons. I think that too often in recent years the motivations for heroic characters have been reduced to little more than personal tragedy and revenge. A character loses a loved one through violence, and is forced by circumstance to go out and fight crime. We’ve seen new origins retroactively inserted for any number of heroic characters to force them into that paradigm. And to be perfectly frank, I’m more than a little tired of it. Returning to some of these lesser-known characters from the “Golden Age” gives us the opportunity to shine a light on characters that chose to oppose injustice simply because they can. Not because they HAVE to.
Nick Barrucci: Let me add that first and foremost these are great characters that need the limelight shown on them. This is a really big series, and fitting in the right characters for the long term is very important. The essence of the characters will be the same, but there will be some changes to allow them to excite today's readers. Chris and Alex are doing a bang-up job, and this series should breathe new life in to all of the characters.