All of us at Geeks Unleashed.Me are really looking forward to Aspen Comic’s first Superhero comic – Idolized.  The preview issue #0 came out recently, which got us even more excited. I recently got a chance to catch up with the Idolized creator to find out more about what we can expect from the title and after the interview, we’ve got some preview pages for you from issue #1 which hits all good comic book shops tomorrow.

MARK: When you pitched Idolized to Aspen how did your pitch go and what kind of reaction did you get?

DAVID:  When I first pitched IDOLIZED, it was the first time I had really pitched anything to them.  Before that, all of the work I’d done for Aspen, on Ember and on Fathom, had been worked they’d asked me to do.  So, I wasn’t entirely sure what they’d think of something entirely new and different.  I thought I might have to pitch them several different concepts before I finally landed on one that they’d like.  Thankfully, though, they really loved IDOLIZED immediately.  I had given them a 2 or 3 page treatment as my pitch, and they jumped on it.  The series has changed quite a bit from that original pitch, but the heart of it is all still just as it had originally been conceived.

MARK: Issue #0 has recently been released and highlights and teases the main story. Once issue one is released will you be expanding and going back over the moments mentioned in issue zero?

DAVID:  Yup.  Zero gave us a tease of what happens in issues 1 through 4, but now we get to see all of that actually play out, and I get to play with all of these fun characters that are competing to be the Superhero Idol.  Then, in issue 5 (and on) we get to really blast away at things that go well past what we teased in the zero issue.

MARK: Idolized takes a unique spin on the popular reality television programs which have been occupying our televisions over the few years. What inspired using the using this twist?

DAVID:  Well, ever since the end of my first series, MELTDOWN from Image Comics, 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 a mere illegal vigilante). But, if you get to start off by winning “SuperHero 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 this specific girl who starts out seeking revenge, and ultimately finds redemption, over the course of competing in this televised superhero competition show.

As far as the details of the story, and the “Superhero Idol” show within that story, it’s changed a bit over the course of scripting it.  Originally, the series was going to be very dark, and gritty, and take place mostly off-stage.  But, once Micah came aboard, I changed it all up and went with more of a light, fun feel for the book.  Micah’s got such a unique, whimsical look to his work, that it really inspired me to lighten up and to have more fun with the competition itself than I had originally intended.  After the dark, deathly morose work I did on MELTDOWN and Fathom: Blue Descent, it’s a nice change!  Still trying to bring some big ideas, personal introspection and commentary to the work, particularly in the last issue or two, but overall just having a bit more light-hearted fun with it.

And, by the way (shameless plug alert), for those who’ve never read MELTDOWN, Aspen is releasing it digitally this week, so please give it a look!  I’m incredibly proud of it.

MARK: Did you have and difficulties or challenges while writing this?

DAVID:  The biggest challenge for me is always trying to make everything fit into the space allotted.  My inclination is to allow things to play out over a long period of time, in order to make sure we have opportunities to really develop deep and well-rounded characters and situations.  Unfortunately, in a six-issue first volume, and in 20 pages per issue, there’s really just never enough room to let everything breathe the way I’d like.

So, in order to help lend that depth to the characters and to really flesh out the IDOLIZED world, we’re including several pages of bonus materials in each issue.  Those bonus materials include fake magazine articles, newspaper clippings, classified documents, and other items that give us the opportunity to expand on what we can fit into the actual story pages.  I’m having a lot of fun with those extra pages, and I hope that they really add to the readers’ enjoyment of the series.

MARK: The star of Idolized is Leslie, aka Joule. How would you describe her character and her powers?

DAVID:  Leslie has the power to control energy, in all of its various forms.  She can use her powers for blunt force or, as we’ll see in IDOLIZED #1, she can also use it for extremely precision-oriented maneuvers.  She’s a girl who really beats herself up, who feels like a complete and utter failure in life.  IDOLIZED, then, is her journey towards potential redemption.

MARK: Does Joule have a unique origin story?

DAVID:  She does, and it all plays out in IDOLIZED #1.  I don’t wanna spoil it for you!

MARK: The prize of “Superhero Idol” is to join the Powered Protectors. How would you describe their kind of super team? Are they something to aspire to or do they have their own secrets?

DAVID:  A bit of both, actually.  They provide an iconic example of purity and heroism for the world to look up to.  But, behind closed doors, they’re human as well, and they’ve got their own issues, fears and foibles to deal with.  And, they’re none too thrilled about having an untested child TV-star join their ranks and head into battle with them…

MARK: What kind of working relationship do you have with the artist of Idolized; Micah Gunnell – How did he first hear about his work? How much input does the he have in the story?

DAVID:  Micah is incredible.  He brings a truly unique, whimsical viewpoint to his work, which still maintaining a style that’s action-packed and gripping.  His grasp of emotion and characters is unparalleled.

Initially, I was thinking that the story probably lent itself to a dark, gritty, sketchy style.  But then when Aspen asked if I’d be interested in working with Micah, I pretty much leapt out of my seat and said “yes” immediately.  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” orShrugged”, 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 first met Micah back in 2004 when he was a competitor in the first “Comic Book Idol” artist competition. Given the storyline in IDOLIZED, that now seems pretty ironic. I saw his work there, really thought it was uniquely smart and original, and contacted him about potentially working on MELTDOWN. Even though we didn’t end up getting to work together on MELTDOWN (other than an amazing pin-up he generously contributed to the trade paperback), we’ve always talked about finding a project to collaborate on, and I’m thrilled that we’re finally getting that chance.

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.

Given Micah’s style, I’ve moved to a lighter, more action-driven manner of telling the story on this series, trying to give him more room to let the art breathe and explode off the page.  It’s now a much lighter-hearted, more whimsical series than I had originally planned on writing, but I’m glad that it is.  I think the fans will really like the results.

MARK: Also I was really interested by the way the character designs were decided – Aspen getting readers to decide on which looks the characters should have, from a choice of 3 designs by Micah Gunnell. Did this affect the way you approached the characters at all?

DAVID: I actually already had extensive biographies for each character written before we came up with the idea for the voting.  So, it didn’t really change my initial approach to the characters.  But, now that I can actually picture the characters in my head while I’m writing, it’s definitely allowed me to get a better feel for them.  It makes them much more real for me, and allow me to more easily give them each a unique personality and point of view.   The look and feel that the readers helped determine do fit each character perfectly, and truly help bring them to life, and for that I’m extremely appreciative and grateful to all of our wonderful fans.

IDOLIZED #1 is on sale tomorrow 8th August
(W) David Schwartz (A) Micah Gunnell (CA) Art Adams
Publisher: Aspen Comics
Price: $3.99
Product Id: JUN120827

Published by Mark Brassington

Father and Husband. Works in Corporate Banking. Loves Books, Comics, Cycling, Music, Games, going to the Gym and Writing.

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