This will be the first in a series of columns detailing the production of The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury, launching early next year from Archaia Studios Press…
The type of chronicle I hope this turns into is something I’ve intended for this column since day one, an almost exhaustive journal of the entire creative process that ultimately results in a finished comic hitting the shelves. Fortunately, I’ve been able to post some process related articles that focus exclusively on the writing end, but given this is creator-owned and my influence extends a bit further, so too will the commentary. Don’t be surprised if co-creator and artist Lee Ferguson drops by a few times with his thoughts on exactly how I should die after asking him to draw a two-spread with more than forty panels on it, or if our recently signed colorist (whose name I don’t think I’m supposed to be dropping yet but the clue’s somewhere in this column) wants to visit. Essentially, if they have anything to do with the upcoming Miranda Mercury takeover, then it’s likely you’ll be hearing from them.
So, it’s best that we begin this thing somewhere near the beginning.
Back in probably the middle of ’04, an artist and I were shopping a project around called The Takeover that had some trouble finding a publisher…basically because the package we’d put together really sucked. This particular situation was where I learned that you never just arbitrarily submit your first five pages of story, always submit the five that best indicate the tone and direction of your overall premise. Sounds incredibly simple I know, but this was the ultimate lesson gleaned from pitching The Takeover to a couple places. After our initial failure, I tried salvaging the whole thing by pinning on a new opening sequence that I’m really disappointed I hadn’t thought of before, but there was an element in it, an act of violence against a minor more specifically, that really took the interest of my artist away, who seemed to be losing interest in comics anyway. That left me with only The God Complex in active development, and so I started a series of notes that gradually became Miranda Mercury.
The entire series is all about the challenge of it. Launching a purposely insane and unconventional sci-fi book on the back of a black female lead would be the main challenge, even though it shouldn’t be. Couple that with the format, which calls for nearly all of the stories to be completely self-contained, a prospect that I’ve always found somewhat terrifying, and there was no question this would be incredibly difficult to write on a monthly basis. The only thing that would help was setting the book within an environment where literally anything can happen; where strange civilizations, strange villains, and stranger heroes all crash into each other with such frequency that it appears almost commonplace. It calls for things to be created and then jettisoned immediately by the time the next story begins. Miranda is meant to never stop moving, never stop trying to change, and somewhere in the middle of all this, I realized that it would probably be me writing all this craziness.
And process junkie that I am…I thought it’d be interesting to see the very first “pitch” that was ever typed up for Miranda. It’s intentionally light on content, mostly because I was somewhat wary of where I was sending it, but the basic elements and beats are all present. This became the skeleton for every version of the MM proposal that ever existed, and no I will not tell you how many there were…not this week, at least. Still, check it out and enjoy the bit of commentary that follows it. Thanks.
Pitch by Brandon Thomas
She’s defeated the Time Raiders of Xaxium. Braved the wonders of The Glass Planet. Survived the Perils of Yor, and fought the Infinity Class to a veritable standstill. But now, Miranda Mercury, the galaxy’s greatest adventurer, faces an enemy that perhaps even
she cannot defeat. Miranda has only one year left to live…and this is the chronicle of her final adventures.
While the idea of the science fiction comic is one that the more “mainstream” companies are allowing to travel the path of the dinosaur, I contend that the universal themes of discovery and high adventure are ones that can still resonate with both fans and retailers. In the same way that horror books blazed a trail through the industry, becoming another creative outlet for sequential storytelling, The Adventures of Miranda Mercury is designed to stand on the front line of an offensive against the flood of superhero titles, borrowing enough from them to make it instantly recognizable, but spinning the entire package around something slightly unique.
From a visual standpoint, the character of Miranda is intended to fill a specific void in comics, that of the strong black heroine, which is one that unfortunately is incredibly lacking in today’s comic landscape. It is incumbent that someone takes it upon himself or herself to do what they can to increase the sense of representation, and despite it becoming a frequent topic of conversation, no one seems willing to go out there and make it happen. I have a very personal interest in this, naturally, and the trick is not in creating arbitrary multi-racial characters, but writing strong and relatable personalities that can transcend the gap, who just happen to have a different skin tone. Miranda Mercury is sitting within the infinite tapestry of a futuristic, speculative universe, which can provide any number of dynamic stories. It’s a world without limits, and Miranda is out there, with her faithful assistant and transcriptionist Jack Warning, proving it each and every day.
Our presentation will also bring a few unique twists, starting with the covers, that consciously disavow the more ‘static’ images that seem to be the standard these days, instead harkening back to Silver Age sensibilities in which covers told a story in their own right. Miranda will not lure people into picking up this book by glaring directly at them, while the camera stares directly at her. Each issue will also tell a complete story in 22 pages, with very few exceptions. When the fans see that a Mercury tale will creep into more than one issue, they’ll know it’s justified, and something to get excited about. In addition, every issue will include a full text piece written by sidekick Jack Warning, who records all of the many adventures of Miranda Mercury, and secretly hopes that the next strange planet or civilization will contain a cure for the alien virus that threatens to bring a lifetime of discovery to a premature end.
The greatest adventure awaits…
Honestly, I didn’t know what all of that stuff in the lead-in even was. Most of them were just simple concepts at that point that would later become major elements down the line. Once I blocked out the first Miranda script, everything changed and I realized what the true potential of the series was. On paper it all sounded great, but once I had the opportunity to write Miranda and Jack together, and found a natural chemistry between the two, did I truly realize the possibilities of these characters serving as anchors in this bizarre and hopefully unpredictable world. The longer I’m at this, the more I really enjoy working the mechanics and dynamics of interpersonal relationships, which used to always lose out to whatever ridiculous threat or high concept the good guys were facing. Sure that was a product of my main influences at the time (Dixon, Ellis, Morrison, etc.) but now character rules all and rightfully so.
Miranda and Jack are at an important place in their partnership. One of them is keeping a huge secret from the other and how that all plays out is what the first arc is all about. It may appear that it’s about samurai genies, glass planets, time raiders, inter-dimensional superheroes, and giant torture machines, but really…it’s about Miranda Mercury and Jack Warning facing their greatest adversary yet. It’s about this incredibly strong relationship going through an emotional test that’ll ultimately prove whether or not it’s as strong as advertised. Both of them want the same things, but how they’re willing to get it is what makes them different and will serve to put everything they’ve ever worked for in jeopardy.
The other major element in this pitch that underwent some alteration involved the cover designs. What started as a relatively simple way of distinguishing the book on the stands became an infinitely more complex manner of storytelling that I should probably hold back on revealing until we’re closer to the release date. What I can say is that it makes writing the title even more challenging. Yeah, there’s that word again…something that would continue to be an overriding element of this experience until the eventual arrival of artist Lee Ferguson…whose level of superior artistry made even me look good.
More on him when this feature returns, but until then, please enjoy a preview of the Black Canary Wedding Planner,
(http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=128072) which features his first published DC work, and as an added bonus, what I’m sure will be the first in a series of Miranda Mercury postcards, designed by production maestro Matty Ryan (click on each to see the images full size). If you’re going to be attending the upcoming Baltimore con, please be sure to stop by the ASP table and pick one up.
Hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday, and I’ll be back in around ten days.