Interview: David Schwartz Writer of Idolized!

Welcome to our interview with writer David Schwartz the creative mind behind Meltdown and this year’s Idolized from Aspen Comics. We had the chance to email some questions to David about the new series and surprise, surprise the new contest that will be running with the series starting today! Big thanks to Aspen for setting up the interview for us and giving us the heads up on the contest before the big announcement. Comic Bastards) I've heard Idolized described as many things, in your own words how would you describe the series?

David Schwartz) First, thanks for taking the time to interview me, Dustin! I'm excited to be able to talk about this series. I'm having an absolute blast working on it, and I'm hopeful that your readers will find out about it here and give it a shot!

IDOLIZED is Aspen's first-ever superhero series. It tells the story of girl with super-powers and a dark 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 give us a very broad and overwhelming backdrop, at heart this series is a really personal and focused story about what this young woman's is going through.

The series has explosive art by Micah Gunnell ("Shrugged", "Executive Assistant: Orchid", "Dellec") and colors by David Curiel ("Executive Assistant: Orchid", "Dead Man's Run"). The first issue should be hitting the stands in June.

joule-figure-final21CB) I like the idea of American Idol with superheroes, is there an interesting story behind the concept of the book?

DBS) Well, ever since the end of my Image Comics series MELTDOWN, 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 just being an illegal vigilante). But, if you get to start off by winning “Super Hero 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 worshipped 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 our protagonist, Joule; her quest for revenge; and the lessons she learns along the way.

IDOLIZED-AspenComicsCB) Something that I don’t enjoy about American Idol and spoofs of AI, are the judges. Are there going to be judges in Idolized and if so will they be following the standard of “stern” judge, “modest” judge, “loves everything” judge? And if so will their dialog be meaningful to the story?

DBS) I completely understand you're feeling that way. They've become almost parodies of themselves at this point, haven't they? In terms of telling our story, they were definitely necessary. But we do use them sparingly and hopefully to good effect. They're part comic relief, but more a vehicle for moving the story forward. Eventually, they may help Joule to learn a valuable lesson or two, and they'll turn out to be much more well-rounded than simple parodies of real-world judges.

CB) The contest to pick the character designs was actually pretty smart for the marketing, but who is the main character? Or is that reveal coming with the first issue?

DBS) Thanks for the kind words. We really had a lot of fun with the character design voting, and we loved that it gave our fans a chance to really get involved with the series, to interact with it and shape it.

Our main character is Joule, and she's a pretty dark, angry person.

She went through something fairly horrific as a little kid, which she blames herself for. She’s spent the last decade since then working madly to become a superhero. She’s determined to atone for her failure; to save other lives in order to make up for the lives she let slip away, and to exact revenge for what befell her. When she hears about this new "Superhero Idol" show, she thinks that, by winning, she may be able to get close enough to the man who caused her all that anguish that she'd actually be able to exact her ultimate revenge upon him. So, despite how ridiculous she finds the show to be, she sucks up her pride, gets on-line, and stands before the judges to audition.

What I love about her is that she's really a study in contrasts, a person who's internally at war with herself. She desperately wants to do good things, to help atone for what she sees as the sins of her past, and help change the world. But, at the same time, she's filled with anger and loathing and wants to kill the man who wronged her. The interplay of those two sides of her - one half wishing to be a do-gooder, the other half ruthlessly seeking to draw blood - gives me a lot to play with, and makes for a great, dramatic character arc over the course of the series.

IDOLIZED-Aspen-Comics-WIN1CB) What’s it like working with Micah Gunner and what is his art style bringing to the story?

DBS) Micah is really a brilliant, brilliant artist.

Obviously, the first thing you notice about any artist is their style, and Micah's work is truly gorgeous stylistically.

But for me, what's most important isn't style so much as having someone with great visual storytelling ability and innovative, exciting layout and design choices. If you've seen his work on books like Executive Assistant: Orchid or Shrugged, you know that Micah's incredibly innovative in terms of his layouts and design work. He brings an insane amount of energy to every page, and helps to tell the story in clear and inventive ways.

I truly believe that once folks see the mind-blowing work he's doing on Idolized, he's going to be thought of as being right up there among the biggest and most valued names currently working in the industry. In fact, even if folks absolutely detest my writing on Idolized, they should still pick up the book just for Micah's art alone.

CB) I don’t think it will come to that, but that is a very funny alternative pitch to the book.

CB) This is Aspen’s first superhero book, other than the concept what is going to make it stand out from the rest of the books on the market?

DBS) There are a bunch of things we're doing that I think are interesting and different from a marketing perspective, but, ultimately, we're just trying to do everything we can to create a truly high-quality product. I'm not really thinking about trying to make it stand out, I'm just trying to deliver the best, most gripping story I possibly can, and to provide an interesting, compelling journey for our protagonist over the course of the series. At the end of the day, if I can succeed in that, then I'll be thoroughly happy.

CB) Whose the first character that’s getting voted off the comic? Or will fans once again be allowed to choose?

DBS) Initially, we had hoped to be able to let fans choose, but we're producing the issues far in advance of their actual publication (in order to help ensure that all of the issues ship on time), so it's just impossible to achieve that type of real-time interaction. But, honestly, the actual competition is just a small part of the series. We go on an emotional journey with Joule that begins before she enters the competition, and that continues well after TV show is completed. So, while there are some really ... interesting ... reasons why certain characters get kicked off, I wouldn't get TOO caught up in that aspect of things. This series is much, much more than just going behind the scenes of a TV show.

Even though we couldn't give readers the opportunity to vote for who to kick off, we still wanted to find ways to allow readers to interact with and participate in the series. First, we had the character design voting. Now, starting on Monday, we've got a contest where fans can actually win the chance to be a character in IDOLIZED. The winner gets to be one of the superheroes auditioning to win the coveted title of “Superhero Idol”.

We're inviting fans to simply tell us what super-powers they would have if they were a superhero, and why. The entries can be purely text, or can include drawings and/or photos of the entrant as the super-hero they’d dream of being. Entries just need to be posted on and/or tweeted with the hash-tag “#Idolized”.

IDOLIZED-Aspen-Comics-WIN2Aspen will choose their five favorite entries, and the public will then have the chance to vote among those five finalists to choose the ultimate winner. That winner will be drawn into issue #2 of IDOLIZED, and their name and likeness will appear in multiple panels as they join in a large-scale superhero battle.

And, as if actually being a superhero in a comic book wasn’t enough, the winner will also receive a page of original art that they appear in, and all five of the finalists will receive copies of each issue of IDOLIZED, signed by me and Micah.

I think it's going to be a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of truly creative entries folks come up with!

CB) Of all the character designs that fans picked, which one did do you like the best and the least?

DBS) You know, it's funny, but in almost every case the fans picked the design that was my favorite. I think that Mindfull is the only character that I had a different preference on, but that's ok. I like that the fans were able to have their say, and I'm totally cool with running with their design choice.

Well, again, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me about IDOLIZED. It's been great, and I look forward to chatting again soon!

CB) Once again we’d like to thank David Schwartz for talking to us and the best of luck to him and Aspen with Idolized. I know that I’m looking forward to reading the book and hopefully you are too! Don't forget to check out the contest and win some kick ass original art work from Micah Gunnell. As a reminder Idolized with be out in May of this year.