The Life and Times of Savior 28 #2 hits the shelves today from IDW Publishing, and writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Mike Cavallaro talked to Blog@Newsarama about some of the finer points of the issue, and to give a bit of a “creator’s commentary” on the book’s events.
Blog@Newsarama: I guess we can start with the cover! Mike’s, mind you, not the variant by Kevin Maguire. Was there a decision besides marketing made to have Savior 28 in the costume on the cover, even though he made a point of not wearing the costume to the front in the book?
Mike Cavallaro: Well, I wouldn’t call it a “marketing” decision. I’d call it a “narrative” decision. Not only is S28 in costume, but he’s in his “modern day” costume, not what he would have worn in the mid-40′s when that scene takes place. It recognizes the fact that we’re on the second issue of a comic featuring a new character, and the costume is too important an identifier to do without at this stage. So, it’s a “symbolic” cover. I think you could get away with putting Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, or maybe Steve Rogers on a cover in their civvies, but not someone as new to readers as Jimmy Smith is.
Blog@: When did this introductory sequence occur to you? It’s pitch-perfect for the story, but I feel like, had this been the introduction of the stories you were originally pitching in the ’80s, it could have been ludicrously controversial!
J.M. DeMatteis: No, this sequence wasn’t part of the 80′s pitch. That original idea was just a template, this version has taken on a life of its own, growing way beyond that template. The suicide attempts would never have worked with Steve Rogers, anyway. It’s not in his character. But James Smith? Absolutely.
Blog@: Will we ultimately get the “answer” to the question of how these bullets managed to pierce S28?
JMD: Yes. There’s the first hint of an answer in S-28 #4 and then the definitive answer in #5.
Blog@: What motivated the decision to make the concentration camp sequence black and white, and was that yours or Mike’s idea?
JMD: That sequence is so powerful, and deals with such heart-rending historical material, that I knew we had to treat it with incredible respect and care. It really needed to be set it off from the rest of the issue and my script suggested we do the sequence in black and white—stark and disturbing—as if each panel was a photograph or a frame of film taken at the liberation. I think Mike did a spectacular job on those pages: they are indeed stark and disturbing…and deeply moving.
MC: You’ll also notice there’s no copy or dialogue in that sequence, except for that first caption box. So it was a decision to strip away some storytelling elements for a couple pages, and just let the images do the job. “Mood,” in a word. That was entirely JM’s idea, and was established in the script.
We did a good deal of photoreferencing for that sequence, although it all gets filtered through the S28 art style. I was struck at how, no matter how much Holocaust photos, documentaries, books, etc., you’re exposed to growing up, they never lose their impact. It’s always upsetting to look at.
Blog@: In terms of panel structure–those pages are wide open, giving it a little bit more of an epic, cinematic feel. Is that just my imagination, or was it by design?
MC: It’s definitely a defining moment in the story for our main character, Jimmy Smith, and JM wanted to make it a spotlight sequence. Again, I think the fact that there’s no caption boxes or word balloons gives the drawings more of an opportunity to breathe, which was the intent, and I think you’re picking up on the contrast between this sequence and the rest of the issue.
Blog@: Seeing S28 in the army green reminds me a little of the footage of Elvis when he was drafted; is that the kind of impression you were going for?
JMD: That’s a funny thought, and, in some ways, accurate. Elvis was a larger than life hero suddenly reduced to “everyman soldier,” and so is Savior 28 in that sequence. There’s an almost desperate need for anonymity, to be “just one of the guys.”
MC: That definitely crossed my mind. I’m a huge Elvis fan. No, seriously. I really wish we had had 6 more issues in which to explore more of S28′s experiences throughout the 20th century. After first reading the synopsis, I was hoping we’d have the opportunity to have S28 meet The Beatles. And Nixon’s meeting with Elvis could have been a great story element. Maybe we’ll get the chance some other time.
Blog@: A lot of the costumes in the Savior 28 universe seem very Kirby-inspired to me–so do a lot of them in Hero Squared. Is that intentional, and if so what are you trying to do by evoking that feeling?
MC: It’s certainly intentional. First off, I love Kirby for too many reasons to go into here, and of course I’m not the only one. There’s an exuberance and, perhaps, an innocence to Kirby and Sinnott’s Silver Age work. Their heroes unquestioningly embraced the idea that they knew best, and that their cause was just. This attitude is shared by S28 for most of his career. The effort is to evoke that mentality by hip-checking the design work associated with it, so that we can then contrast that world view with the realities of today. Let’s face it, the superheroes of yesterday are basically cowboys with heat vision. That’s a lot of fun to read until your real world leaders start adopting the same attitudes. It doesn’t translate so well to reality. So setting those design elements into a different type of story is one of the ways at our disposal to make that point.
JMD: I’m a total Kirby geek—there’s no better costume designer in the business—so I was always referencing him when I described the new characters to Mike, to evoke that feeling of classic 60′s and 70′s comics. Mike had been immersing himself in 60′s Kirby before we even started this project so he was completely on the same wavelength. I think he totally nailed it. As for Hero Squared, Keith, who is as much a Kirby Nut as I am, designed all the costumes. I don’t think it’s necessarily that it was a conscious choice on Keith’s part, I just think he’s been breathing in Kirby his whole life and his sense of design has been so impacted by Kirby’s work that things naturally come out that way.
Blog@: It’s funny–I can almost see Superman and Batman having the conversation that ends with Blackrat telling Savior 28, “This is who you are.” It’s interesting, though, that nobody–NOBODY–sides with Savior 28 when he flies off. Did you ever consider giving anyone doubts?
JMD: No. I think what 28 is saying is so out of left field to them, so totally against their collective “violence is the answer” mindset, that they really couldn’t even fathom it…let alone consider it seriously or agree. But we will see some shifting of that super hero mindset as the story evolves. By the way, the basic idea for that sequence was in the original Cap outline. Can you imagine that scene with all the heroes of the 1980′s Marvel Universe?
Blog@: Do you see this sequence as being emblematic of some of the stories that come out from time to time, politely decrying the state of American superheroics, change the tone of the debate for a minute and then are forgotten? I’m thinking here of something like “Kingdom Come.”
JMD: It wasn’t in my head, but I see what you’re saying. The bottom line is no matter how far you push these characters away from the slam and bang, they always, inevitably, snap right back to it. I know that I’ve been in that position as a writer, scripting the adventures of some Major Icon, taking that character to a place where he could really evolve and become something very different…and then realizing that I can go only so far. You can’t fundamentally alter a franchise that needs to be around long after you’ve stopped writing it: Batman can’t go to therapy, work through his childhood trauma and hang up his cape. And even if I did take it all the way, do something like that with a major character, someone else would come along once I left the series and put that character right back where he started. From the point of view of the owners/editorial custodians of that character it has to be that way. That’s certainly what would have happened had I done the Cap story years ago. That’s why it’s so liberating to do something like Savior 28 where Mike and I can create our own universe of characters and do whatever we want with them. No one can tell us what to do with them or how to resolve the story.
Blog@: Does Dennis McNulty keep an empty pistol in his desk? It’s an automatic, but the “click” when he pulls the trigger suggests to me there’s nothing in it. This isn’t like Russian Roulette with a revolver. So is there symbolism there? Or just a gaffe between you and Mike?
MC: Yes, you’re right. It seems like Russian Roulette, but the fact that it’s an automatic weapon is a dead giveaway that it can’t be. I’m not sure “symbolism” is an apt description of what’s happening here, but it’s closer to the mark. There’s no gaffe here, though. Future issues will reveal all. Good catch!
JMD: Yes, the gun is empty. But that sequence has meaning for the larger story. Of course I’m not going to say anything else because I don’t want to give anything away!