Idolizing Idolized – An Interview With David B. Schwartz
Earlier this week Speak Geeky To Me had the chance to chat with comic writer David B. Schwartz about his upcoming series from Aspen MLT, Idolized. Back in June, Idolized #0 gave fans a sneak peek at the new superhero title set in an American Idol-esque reality TV series. The critically acclaimed zero issue was just the tip of the iceberg, however, as Idolized #1 prepares to hit comic shops across the world tomorrow. Check out the interview below to learn more about the series and remember to pick up your copy of Idolized this Wednesday.
SPEAK GEEKY TO ME: First of all, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us about Idolized. Now, for those less familiar with the concept of Idolized, can you tell us a little about the series?
DAVID B. SCHWARTZ: Sure! IDOLIZED tells the story of girl with super-powers and a tortured past, who seeks revenge, and ultimately finds redemption, over the course of competing in a televised super-hero competition show. Essentially, it’s “True Grit” meets “American Idol” with capes. And, while this massive TV show gives us a very broad and overwhelming backdrop, at heart this series is a really personal and focused story about what this young woman is going through.
The series has gorgeous art by Micah Gunnell (“Shrugged”, “Executive Assistant: Orchid”, “Dellec”) and colors by David Curiel (“Executive Assistant: Orchid”, “Dead Man’s Run”). Plus, covers by some of my absolute favorite artists, including Art Adams, Joe Benitez, Humberto Ramos, Keron Grant, Oliver Nome and more. I’m just unbelievably thrilled to be working with such an amazing crew. Even if my script is complete drivel, at least the series will LOOK spectacular.
SG2M: Having already read the first issue, I can easily say your script is anything but drivel. In fact it’s quite amazing and filled with some awesome concepts. So, how did you come up with the idea for a Superhero TV series and had you plotted out all the trials, rules, and eliminations for the show, Superhero Idol?
DBS: Well, ever since the end of my first series, MELTDOWN from Image Comics, people have been asking me if and when I’d be writing another superhero book. I’ve definitely wanted to, as I love the genre, but I really wanted to wait until the right concept struck me. I knew it had to be something unique, compelling, emotional and exciting, and rife with opportunities for social commentary. A tall order.
So, one day several years ago, I was reading an article about the astounding success of the “American Idol” zeitgeist, and the tremendous amount of drama that the kids on that show go through; the fear, the desperation, the crushing blow of a bad performance, the elation of a great performance, the feeling that their entire future could be riding on every choice they make about their clothing and hair, every word they say, every note they sing.
Love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny that It’s a tremendously pressure-filled, high-stakes situation. And I was thinking, if there was truly a superhero world like the Marvel or DC universes, would there be a show like that, with that level of human drama and intensity, but for superheroes? If so, what would it look like?
Out of that grew the idea of a comic book series about a TV show where super-powered teens and 20-somethings are competing for the ultimate dream-prize: a guaranteed spot in that world’s top super-group, The Powered Protectors.
Guaranteed entry to the Protectors is huge. After all, it wouldn’t be easy to become a legal, sanctioned, paid superhero (as opposed to a mere illegal vigilante). But, if you get to start off by winning “SuperHero Idol”? Well, it’s like you’ve instantly arrived, and can write your own ticket from there on out. The chance of winning offers fame, fortune, massive endorsement deals and, of course, a chance to actually save the world. Kids who dream of being worshiped as the next Superman or Wonder Woman would be falling all over themselves to get on — and perhaps even win — the show.
And, from there, I fleshed out the idea for IDOLIZED as the story of this specific girl who starts out seeking revenge, and ultimately finds redemption, over the course of competing in this televised superhero competition show.
As far as the details of the story, and the “Superhero Idol” show within that story, it’s changed a bit over the course of scripting it. Originally, the series was going to be very dark, and gritty, and take place mostly off-stage. But, once Micah came aboard, I changed it all up and went with more of a light, fun feel for the book. Micah’s got such a unique, whimsical look to his work, that it really inspired me to lighten up and to have more fun with the competition itself than I had originally intended. After the dark, deathly morose work I did on MELTDOWN and Fathom: Blue Descent, it’s a nice change! Still trying to bring some big ideas, personal introspection and commentary to the work, particularly in the last issue or two, but overall just having a bit more light-hearted fun with it.
SG2M: While we are talking about the superhero TV show backdrop of the series, Idolized was announced some time ago, but before it hit shelves another book of a similar sounding concept released, America’s Got Powers. How did you react to that news?
DBS: At first I was upset about it. I’d been developing IDOLIZED literally for years. I think I had first pitched it to Aspen back in 2009 or 2010. So, it was certainly disconcerting to see a somewhat similar project hitting the market just ahead of us.
But, once I stepped back and thought about it, I realized that it’s actually not a bad thing at all. Sure, the backdrop for the series is similar, but, from what I understand, the characters, and the story, are vastly different. And, after all, the reason we read comics, or any form of entertainment, really, is to get wrapped up in the characters and their journey. I’m sure that AGP is a great – but very different – series, and it may actually be fun for readers to pick up both series and compare and contrast them.
SG2M: Indeed, the two series do look quite different when compared side to side, and both read great. But Idolized seems to focus more on Joule than the actual reality TV series, so how big of a role will Superhero Idol have in Idolized?
DBS: It plays a pretty big role in issues 1 through 3; less so in the subsequent issues. As I mentioned, I originally planned to focus much less on the show, but that changed a bit as I worked through actually getting the ideas out of my head and onto the page. At the end of the day, though, it’s still definitely about Joule and her point-of-view as she goes through her quest for revenge, and ultimately, hopefully, finds redemption.
SG2M: Much like the contest feel of Superhero Idol, you’ve done some incredible, fan involving contests to promote Idolized early on, such as the contest to decide what costumes each character would show up in the comic wearing and even one where a fan became a superhero in Idolized. Were you at any point disappointed that the fans might have chosen a costume you didn’t ideally want or a character that was difficult to include in the series?
DBS: You know, all of Micah’s designs were so much fun, that no matter which ones were chosen, it’d still have looked stellar. So, no, I wasn’t worried at all!
SG2M: Just as there were so many options with the superheroes’ costumes, there were also so many options for superheroes and powers in a reality TV show about superheroes. What is your favorite superhero or super power you designed for Idolized?
DBS: Wow, turning the tables on me, eh? <grin> There are actually quite a few of the “Superhero Idol” finalists that I just adore. I tried to come up with powers, that could be both fun and controversial. Then, I tried to place those powers into characters that would be unique and interesting, and would give us the most opportunity for drama.
For instance, Mindfull can control minds. It’s a tremendous power – but in a competition where you’re being judged, how can anyone trust that you’re not secretly influencing the judges and voters? And Carter Bergstein, the character who has that power, is a kid who’s somewhat lonely and desperate for affection, so it’s a question as to whether he will – or does – use that power for less-than-moral means. And, each of the characters has some kind of issue or quirk like that that’s equally rife for drama.
Unfortunately, though, there’s only so much of that back-story we can show in this first volume of IDOLIZED. Frankly, in this first volume, because we focus on Joule, we really just scratch the surface of all these other great characters, so there’ll still be lots of depth to explore in future volumes.
SG2M: In the back of issue #0 of Idolized you ran a feature called Super People, an in-universe style magazine detailing the lives of superheroes in Idolized. Do you have any intention to continue this feature in future issues?
DBS: Absolutely! Every issue of IDOLIZED will feature bonus materials like those. As I was alluding to, I can’t bring nearly as much depth and detail as I’d like to in the 20 story pages we’ve got in each issue. I’ve got pages and pages of back-story for each of the characters and for the world this series inhabits, but only a small sliver of that can fit into the story pages. Having these bonus materials is an opportunity to really flesh out the world of IDOLIZED, and to make sure that readers get more of the full picture of who these people are, and what’s really going on in their world. Yes, much of it will unfold in future volumes, but I still wanted to at least find inventive ways to pack as much as I could into this first volume.
SG2M: Speaking of packing things into this volume, in the opening issue of Idolized you and Micah have already hidden a few easter egg like moments in the comic. Notably in the first few pages of Idolized #1, keen eyed fans can spot some of the staff of Aspen MLT and Dev from Micah’s Aspen series Shrugged. Are there any plans for more of these keen little teases and comic easter eggs in future issues of the series?
DBS: Absolutely! We have several easter eggs hidden throughout the series, so Aspen fans should keep their eyes peeled! For instance, in issue 3, when the Superhero Idol top ten finalists are taken to a big movie premiere, the movie they’re seeing is “MELTDOWN”, which was the first comic series I wrote. And (shameless plug alert), for those folks who haven’t read MELTDOWN, Aspen is releasing it digitally this week!
There was one easter egg in particular that we had originally intended to do, but it never made it into print. So, this is some secret, behind-the-scenes info for ya. Towards the end of issue 1, when Leslie is signing up to audition for Superhero Idol, the folks behind her in line were supposed to be other Aspen characters, like Aspen, Kiani, Grace, Lady Mechanika and Iris. We may still throw them into one of the later issues somewhere…
SG2M: Many of the issues of Idolized feature incredible photo covers of the stunning Victoria Secret model, Rachel Clarke. How did you guys come about bringing her on to the project?
DBS: My little brother Mike is an uber-talented fashion photographer. If you check out his site at www.michaelschwartzphoto.com, you’ll see exactly what I mean.
We’ve been wanting to work together for years. So, when IDOLIZED started moving forward, I immediately called him to see if he might be interested in doing some photo covers. He was really excited about it, and knew exactly the model to call.
Rachel had been a friend of his for years, and she’s also a huge comic book fan and World of Warcraft player. She jumped at the chance to actually suit up in superhero spandex to play Joule, and I couldn’t possibly be happier with how those photos turned out. They give IDOLIZED a truly unique, gripping, stunning look. Mike and Rachel did an absolutely amazing job. In fact, we have so many great photos – 1400 shots were taken in all – that we’re considering putting out an IDOLIZED photo book at some point.
SG2M: Earlier you mentioned future volumes. Have you currently plotted ahead into any future volumes or spin-off stories set in the Idolized universe?
DBS: I’ve been batting around a few ideas with the Aspen team, and we’ve definitely got some great ideas cooking. Stay tuned!
SG2M: Finally, as you’ve already asked your fans this in the contest to be included in Idolized, if you were on Superhero Idol, what would your superhero name be and what powers would you have?
DBS: Great question. My wife says I’d be “Abrupt Boy”, because I keep getting up and walking away in the middle of conversations in order to head back to the computer and write!
SG2M: Once again, thank you very much, David. I’m sure now everyone is looking forward to Idolized #1, which hits stores this Wednesday, August 8th.
DBS: My pleasure! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me about IDOLIZED!
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