An Ordinary Interview With Rob Williams

Superpower and comics are pretty synonymous in most people’s minds and when you look at the industry as a whole there are a ton of super powers. So what if everyone had a power of some kind? That’s kind of the premise of Ordinary from writer Rob Williams and artist D’Israeli, but the catch is that their main character is the only person on the planet without superpowers. Ordinary is out now, but sit back and enjoy our interview with Rob about his new Titan Comics series and check out the preview of the issue as well!

DUSTIN: What’s about Ordinary makes it stand out from other stories that have had a similar premise of a world full of super powers with the exception of one man?

ROB: I think there's an emotional core to our story which is pretty unusual for a comic filled with an enormous amount of super powered action. The scale and the spectacle of the power 'plague' allows us to have this incredible, colourful canvas to play with - no capes or masks, every individual getting a power specific to their character, and it's an 'action movie' style comic as a result - but at the heart of the story Ordinary is about a man struggling to be a father. Michael, our protagonist, is divorced and rarely sees his son when we first meet him. He's a man who won't allow himself to take responsibility for anything or anyone and his life has descended into shit as a result. He's the most ordinary man alive regardless of these powers that everyone now has. Michael's journey is to try and save his son, who is trapped on a cut-off Manhattan, but ultimately it's to deal with being a father. That's something anyone who's had a kid can relate to.

DUSTIN: Why did you pick New York for the setting? Does it play a part in the story or was it because so many other superhero stories take place there and it made it ripe for commentary and humor?

ROB: It was largely to undercut the whole idea of super powers and superheroes. New York is the home of super-powers, really. But when our powered plague hits, people don't put on masks, start fighting crime and having mottos like 'with great power...' They act the way ordinary people would if they were given powers. They do really stupid things, or really selfish things, or really mundane things. Part of the fun of Ordinary is pricking the superhero bubble. This is a story where the central character is a plumber, after all.

DUSTIN: How did you go about picking powers for characters and will we see any classic homage towards established characters?

ROB: No. No homages was one of our mantras. That would've been too easy. The core idea with the powers was that, when the plague hit, the individual gained powers that was specific to aspects of their character, either obvious or sub-conscious. The challenge that presented us was coming up with a power for each disparate character. But that's part of the fun of the book. You have The President of America who says one thing but everyone can see what he's thinking in a tiny thought bubble that appears by his head. His main generals have been transformed into a dove and a hawk. Those are the comical examples. For others they powers might be their fondest wish, their greatest nightmare. You get to enter a world with a vast array of disparate characters, and part of the fun is what D'israeli has done with all the background characters. There's loads of easter and just inventive things going on. A man with slugs for hair, a Skyrim obsessive who's turned into a dragon etc. It's a colourful world.

DUSTIN: With the main character Michael I didn’t feel sympathy for him, but I do want to know his story. Is that about accurate to what you were going for with the character or are you waiting to see how the audience responds?

ROB: Well, when you meet him he's not the most sympathetic character. He rarely sees his son, lets his business partner down. Drinks too much. Lives in a complete mess. He's a nice guy but he lets people down. He's someone who needs a redemption tale. And that's what he gets the chance to do, as long as he can survive it. You've got to give characters an arc. If your lead is the sympathetic guy at the start, and the hero throughout, where's the stakes? Michael has to change here, in the most extraordinary circumstances. I hope that the fact that he has to try and be heroic when he's the biggest underdog in the world - the only guy without super-powers - will make the readers come with him on his journey and root for him.

DUSTIN: The art plays a tremendous role in the storytelling, what was it like collaborating with D’Israeli on the project?

ROB: It's a joy working with D'israeli. We've worked together for a good few years now on Low Life for 2000AD and he's wonderful for a writer because he can do the big, wild spectacle stuff so brilliantly and also the small, quiet, emotional beats too. I've said it before but my favourite things about his work is how he gets such brilliant acting performances from his characters. That's manna from heaven for a writer. Suddenly you can write subtext. The dialogue might say one thing but you can see the character is thinking another. That's rare in comics. And also, with the world of Ordinary, he's so great at imaginative visuals. A lot of the background powers in the book, which are part of the fun, weren't in the script. That's down to him. It's part of why this is a creator-owned book and we don't have a 'script by, art by' credit on it. He's contributed to the story too. It's his world as much as mine.

DUSTIN: Last questions since you’re writing a book about super powers I figured it would be fitting to ask what your powers would be if you were in this crazy mixed up world?

ROB: I would choose the power to answer this question in a stunningly witty and original way. Or I would banish the song 'Let it Go' from Frozen from humanity's collective memory. I would be a force for good.

I would be lying if I didn’t wish for that same power. We’d like to thank Rob for taking the time to sit down with us and talk about Ordinarywhich ended up shipping early and is out now (5/21/14). Be sure to check it out at your local comic shop or at an online retailer.