The collected edition of Wednesday Comics was released to comic book stores last week and hits stores everywhere this week. Wednesday Comics was perhaps one of the most innovative ideas to come out of comics in a long time and it was exciting to see it come from DC. During 2009 for 16 weeks, one page serials by 15 different creative teams hit comic shops in a folded newsprint edition. Though it was looking back to the roots of comics in Sunday newspaper strips, it was an incredibly forward-thinking idea out of DC.
The man responsible for the idea was Mark Chiarello (pictured above with the book), the Art Director of DC Comics. Though a lot of you may have never heard of him, or recognize his name but can’t attach anything specific to it, now is the time to commit it to memory. Chiarello is responsible for some of the best things to come out of comics in the last 20 years. Aside from being the colorist on Hellboy: Seed of Destruction (“I’m the guy that made Hellboy red, that’s sort of my claim to fame,” joked Chiarello during our interview), he’s the guy who brought Darwyn Cooke into comics, he put Batman: Black and White together, the idea for the DC Solo series was his, he teamed up Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee for their epic run on Hush and he’s produced some of the coolest Star Wars art in recent memory.
When I had a chance to talk to him about Wednesday Comics, I jumped on it and we had a really great discussion about the genesis of the project and how it came about.
So what was the genesis of Wednesday Comics?
Mark Chiarello: I was very close friends with one of the great old time comics artists, Alex Toth, and he was one of the masters, up there with Jack Kirby and Howard Kurtzman, and he was a real big fan of the old Sunday strips, Prince Valiant and Terry the Pirate and all that stuff. And for me growing up in the late 60s and early 70s, comic strips were a real shadow of their former self. It was mostly humour stuff by the time I got to it, but being over at Alex’s house one time, he took out all of his old Sunday funnies of…he had clipped all of his Terry the Pirate and he had all of them. They were so gorgeous and enormous and the color was still vital and vibrant and he and I had a conversation, could he and I do this with today’s comics, with modern characters. When somebody asks me where I came up with such a good idea, the answer’s pretty simple, I just ripped off the 1930′s. It was pretty easy.
How did you go about picking which characters you would use and which team would be with which characters? Did you have a wish list? Did you ask for volunteers? Did you have an editorial direction in mind?
I sat down and had a wish list of who I wanted to work on this thing, I called them, and each and every one of them said yes. And it was like, okay, be careful what you wish for. With the majority of the creators I asked them which character they wanted to do. You know, Neil Gaiman said Metamorpho and he could have said anything really and of course I’d say yes. A couple I specifically asked, I asked Azzarello and Risso if they would do Batman. And it’s funny because Azzarello has a real jones to do Aquaman one day, which I can’t imagine but, you know, maybe we’ll take him up on that sometime. And obviously, Joe Kubert, I wanted to put him and his son Adam together on Sgt. Rock, that was a no-brainer.
There’s something about the size of the book that’s really alluring, but how did you arrive at exactly how you were going to put it together.
A lot of trial and error. I made a lot of mock-ups and dummy copies. I wanted to go as big as humanly possible. If I could have done poster one-sheets I would have, but there was a limit to how big we could get. But the key to this entire project was the immersive, colorful fun reading experience. Purely, the only reason to do this was for the reader to have fun.
Are we going to be seeing more Wednesday Comics? Did it sell well enough to warrant more? Because I really think the interest is there.
Yeah. It did very well financially and creatively. I… I sort of… It was so labor intensive to put the project together that I’m having a ‘Nam flashback just thinking about it. But I think the machine is built now so it would be easier to do a sequel.
And I’m sure you have other artists of similar calibre interested in doing it, too…
You know what is funny, is when the first series started coming out, so many great artists called me and said when you do another one give me a call, so I have that list. I would definitely be able to tap into some of the great names.
So the short answer is maybe we’ll see more?
Yeah. I think the real key is that we’d only do it if it could be as good or better than the original series.
What was your favorite moment working on it and putting it together.
I really loved seeing Superman, our flagship character, in the newspaper, in USA Today. That was really cool. It’s great to be able to get outside of our world a little bit, the comics world, and you know, share these characters with the real world, with the real public. I know I’m grasping at saying it, but Superman is a real special character and it was nice going back and knowing the country was going back and opening their paper and seeing a full color Superman story. It was cool.
Though I’ve limited the transcript to our discussion to Wednesday Comics, we talked about many other things, including how much everybody likes Deadman and how at some point we might see a Deadman monthly because so many people love him (“I’d like to see that.”).
Hopefully, we’ll hear more from him soon and we’ll be able to talk to him about more upcoming projects he’s got on the backburner. As the Art Director for DC Comics, he’s got his hands in a lot of pies and, like I said, he’s responsible for some of the coolest things we’ve loved in comics in the last 20 years.
Having said that, do yourself a favor and pick up the collected Wednesday Comics. It’s an incredible compilation. I know I’ve read most of the stories twice since I’ve had it and I can’t stop poring over the art. And with it being as big as it is, it makes a perfect coffee table book.
You can get it on Amazon by clicking the link, or by hitting up your local comic book store.