Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Two elements of Stuart Moore and Gus Storms‘ new Image Comics series EGOs make me exceedingly eager to read the first issue: the flawed marriage at the heart of the title (automatic fodder for great drama), and a foe that’s a living galaxy.
To get a better understanding of EGOs, which debuts Jan. 15, I pelted the creators with a series of questions. Moore has a grasp of the comics medium (and its unlimited potential) in a manner few others possess, so to say it was a delight to chat with him and Storms is an understatement. How strong is EGOs? As noted in our discussion, it has Saga writer Brian K. Vaughan as its guardian angel. What more needs to be said? Well, I’m a sucker for any series with a broken-down cyborg. I needed to say that.
Tim O’Shea: The threat that brings the EGOs team back together is Masse, the Living Galaxy. How challenging is it to portray a galaxy, both in terms of a script and visually?
Stuart Moore: Gus can answer this on the visual end, but I knew it would be the trickiest part of the book. Masse’s exact scale is a bit … fudgy? He does contain stars, nebulae, and (TEASER FOR ISSUE 3) “tadpoles” inside him. The important thing is: He’s BIG. (We actually discuss this further in the Issue 1 text page.)
Gus Storms: Buuuhhh, it’s pretty tough all around. From the limited input I had on the story itself, Masse seemed like the hardest “character” to pin down. How do you extrapolate human cognition/intention onto the mind of an all-living, impossibly tired giant made of stars? These are questions Stuart has to answer; I just draw the guy. What’s required on that end is the simple disregard of every principle of physics and proportion in lieu of making the action snappy. Lots of energy blasts, very little science.
What was it about each other’s work that made the two of you want to work together?
Moore: Gus took a class at the School of Visual Arts taught by my business partner, Marie Javins. In addition to being a comics editor and acclaimed travel writer, Marie is handling some of our production and co-editing the book with me. She showed me Gus’ work and I immediately loved it. His storytelling is flawless, and his art has a slightly European feel that sets it apart from most American comics. I’d written the first EGOs script and was looking for an artist co-conspirator, and Gus’s sci-fi-flavored work was absolutely perfect.
Storms: As Stuart mentioned, he tapped me right out of school, so the decision was simpler on my end. That said, Stuart’s mix of char-driven scifi and considerable comics pedigree made joining up an easy choice.
Stuart, in a recent CBR interview you said you were aiming for HBO-style characterization with this project. Can you elaborate on what you mean — and, visually, how is Gus essential to pulling off that style of characterization?
Moore: EGOs started off as a story about a longtime marriage — a flawed, contentious marriage between two people with very big, uh, egos. Deuce used to be a pretty-boy costumed hero. Now he’s getting older, but he’s desperate to stay in the spotlight. So he uses an imminent threat to the universe as an excuse to reunite the team he belonged to years ago … knowing that the only device he can use to do that will drive a knife through his wife’s heart.
The trick to modern drama — and this is where I had Mad Men and The Sopranos in mind, even though the story’s setting and trappings are completely different — is to have people whose motives and actions aren’t immediately obvious. In fact, often those people are oblivious to their own motivations. Deuce and Pixel, his wife, play out a psychodrama on a galactic scale, drawing lots of other people into their web. But it’s all about them, really, about a weird little dance they’ve been doing for a long, long time.
Gus is great with expressions and body language; I couldn’t have pulled off the drama without him. But where he really excels is at character design and settings. He kept designing characters I KNEW I wanted to kill off — but couldn’t bear to, once I saw them. So we made some adjustments along the way.
And the futuristic setting is as important as any of that. I didn’t approach this as hard world-building sci-fi; the background is a fairly standard interstellar future, with FTL [faster-than-light] travel and a large group of worlds loosely affiliated with Earth. But I did want it to hang together, to look and feel real, and to not violate any more laws of physics than required by long-honored comics tradition. Gus is into all that, and he pulled it together beautifully. Even as we were planning Issue 4, we were still working out some of the tech that the new team will use as they evolve.
Gus, when designing a world with a futuristic costumed adventure look, what are the keys to developing an engaging and exciting, yet not absurd design for the series?
Storms: The future we’re dealing with in EGOs is still a familiar, human-centric one, ruled by a UN-style world government with a lot of energy bent towards propaganda. The EGOs program in particular is a thing of carefully manicured triumph. The ship walls are white, the lights bright and the hero-celebrities attractive. At least this is what they try and present to the world, so most of the design reflects that intent. A sort of Stepford space program.
Do you work in some flashback scenes to explain why the team dissolved in the first place?
Moore: There’s a brief flashback in the first issue, explaining who the old team were and which members are carrying over to the new one—and setting up some elements that will become important when you least expect it. We don’t show how the old EGOs broke up, but Pixel pretty much spits it in Deuce’s face at one point.
Gus, are you coloring yourself on this project? If so, can you discuss your approach to that project aspect?
Storms: I color it fo’ sure. As I mentioned before, I wanted the space to be superficially inviting so I threw a lot of Technicolor and florescence into the color scheme. A blown-out version of space that only ever existed in 60’s comic books.
How much did it mean to you two when a preview of EGOs ran in Saga #15? Have you noticed more inquiries once the issue was released?
Moore: Oh, that was amazing. We couldn’t have asked for a better launch. Brian K. Vaughan is my guardian angel on this project; I can’t thank him enough. Plus, Saga is my favorite comic right now.
Storms: It was craaaazy. I mean, getting picked up by Image is itself already a dream, THEN to be previewed in the biggest, best book going is quite a victory for a no-name like myself. Not to mention I’ve been a big Vaughan fan for as long as I’ve been reading comics. So yeah, I was downright tickled.
What do both of you think will be the elements of this story that will engage and interest readers?
Moore: People talk a lot about whether comics should “grow up” or remain as innocent, children’s entertainment. I think the trick with any kind of pop culture genre is to keep the things we all loved about it in earlier times, and layer more sophistication onto it—without being cynical or contemptuous of the original. The success of the modern revamps of Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica prove that. The Doctor is still funny and hyperactive and winks at the viewer; nu-Galactica was full of exciting space battles. But they both added new levels onto the respective shows’ basic templates, and that made the revamps fresh and exciting.
In the same way, EGOs is unashamedly a costumed hero story. More specifically, it’s a big-cast team book. If we’ve done our job right, it should have all the same excitement of an Avengers/X-Men team-up or a Legion of Green Guardians book, with crazy costumes and action flying everywhere. But it’s also grounded by this strong, volatile core relationship.
There are plenty of odd characters orbiting Deuce and Pixel too. We’ve got a cocky young girl who can travel through 11 dimensions; a broken-down cyborg who keeps shorting out; a pair of evil brothers who can control the basic subatomic forces; and plenty more. Plus, Pixel’s mother is a supervillainess, which makes things awkward at the holidays.
Storms: I feel a little presumptuous answering this but … lasers? High-profile, Brangelina-size marital drama? Sentient stellar systems with a god complex? Hmmm.
On the day the first issue is released, Jan. 15, Moore and Storm will be signing from 6 to 8 p.m. at JHU Comic Books, 32 East 32nd St. in New York.