Interview: Mike Carey on working with Alex Ross and The Torch
by Drew Bittner
Review by Drew Bittner
*Interview ISBN/ITEM#: INTMCarey&ARoss
Date: 30 July 2009 /
He's one of Marvel Comics' original superheroes--but say his name and most people would think of the guy from the Fantastic Four. But Jim Hammond was around a LONG time ago--before the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, or Spider-Man.
Now Mike Carey and Alex Ross are bringing him back in The Torch, an eight issue miniseries from Marvel Comics launching in September.
SFRevu interviewed Mike Carey recently about this brand new comic book project.
SFRevu: Mike, who is the original Human Torch and why is he important to the modern Marvel Universe?
Mike: The original Torch was an android, an artificial man, created in 1939 by inventor Phineas Horton. He was never intended to have super powers; it was just that his body's cells were meant to turn oxygen directly into energy, in order to allow him to move and function – and they did the job a little too well. Awakening into consciousness, and then bursting spontaneously into flame, was a traumatic process for the Torch; he escaped from Horton's lab, creating terror and panic in Manhattan. But ultimately he went back to Horton, learned to control his flame powers, and fought alongside US soldiers in the Second World War as one of the Invaders.
The Torch "died" some time ago, in the pages of New Invaders, but for a synthetic being, death isn't quite the same sort of proposition as it would be for us.
As to why the Torch is important, he was one of the first Marvel superheroes ever created, and I think the first ever to appear on a cover. He has this huge, iconic status as a character who pre-dates the plethora of new superhero titles in the silver age: a character born in an era when New York had no superhero community, when there were no Avengers, no X-Men, no Fantastic Four. The stories in which he first appeared had a very different dynamic and a very different feel to them.
SFRevu: Even though Jim Hammond is a legendary figure in the Marvel universe already--the Initiative named their Connecticut training facility for him, after all-- lots of modern readers really don't know much about the Golden Age heroes. This seems to give plenty of opportunities to "reintroduce" classic characters like the Torch. (Or so I'm guessing...) So what is it about the Human Torch that speaks to *you* as a writer?
Mike: I think the fact that his humanity was something that he had to earn - or perhaps learn - for himself, rather than a given. I like inhuman heroes: paradoxically, I think they can tell us more about the human condition. Their heroism has to be reasoned rather than impulsive, and there's a sort of tragic isolation inherent in their situation. The Torch was pretty much the first hero cast in that mold, and many, many others followed him. He created a template.
SFRevu: What was your research like for this project? Did you sit down with a pile of Golden Age comics...?
Mike: I sat down with Alex Ross! Seriously, his knowledge of these characters and these stories is encyclopedic, and the conference calls we had before we started planning in earnest were hugely enjoyable explorations of ancient and modern continuity. Then, yeah, I got hold of some old books (some of them, again, lent by Alex) and delved into the backstory. It's a dirty job...:)
SFRevu: How did this project come about?
Mike: It originated with Alex, who has wanted for some time to bring the Torch back into current Marvel continuity. He had some very strong ideas for a story that would do exactly that. Marvel Universe senior editor Tom Brevoort and Dynamite CEO Nick Barrucci introduced the two of us with a view to turning those ideas into a miniseries. I jumped at the chance, or rather both chances - to work with these characters and to work with Alex.
SFRevu: What is it like working with Alex Ross?
Mike: It's pure pleasure. He's a generous and insightful collaborator, with a strong sense of where the main character beats should be placed and what the central themes of the story need to be. He brings a lot of ideas to the table, but he also responds really positively to the ideas I come up with. Really, it's great.
SFRevu: Given the chance, would you want to do more stories about the original Torch in modern times?
Mike: I'd like there to be more stories, certainly. The way we leave the Torch, it's wide open for him to come back into current continuity. If I were asked, yeah, I'd take that gig on like a shot. But if I'm not asked, it would be cool to see a Torch series come about with someone else at the helm. Maybe Alex could both write and draw it...
SFRevu: Are there other Golden Agers you think could get this kind of spotlight/"resurrection"?
Mike: Well there's the Golden Age Vision (no relation to the former Avenger of that name). He's a very cool and enigmatic character - a cop from another dimension with powers that border on the supernatural. He plays a peripheral role in our story, but there's certainly lots more you could do with him. He originally came to Earth because he was scoping out worlds to use as jailhouses for exceptionally dangerous prisoners. I like him a lot.
SFRevu: What other projects are keeping you busy these days? You're a novelist, comic book writer, full time dad... how do you manage without being able to stop time?
Mike: I have no idea. Sometimes I reach the end of the day and think (in the words of David Byrne) "Well, how did I get here?" Other times I'm full of anguish because it feels like I haven't gotten enough done.
I'm a twisted, driven personality, obsessive and neurotic and workaholic to a fault - a great role model for my kids.
SFRevu: And lastly, is there anything on the horizon that your readers should watch for?
Mike: Yes. Four big horsemen with sinister names.
SFRevu would like to give a great big thanks to Mike Carey—keep an eye out for The Torch, coming to comic book stores soon, as well as for DEAD MEN’S BOOTS, the most recent chapter of his Felix Castor series of novels.