Writer Mark Waid, whose Legendary Comics graphic novel Shadow Walk hits stores on November 27, is arguably as busy as he is respected in comics these days.
The writer (for now) of Marvel Comics's Eisner-winning Daredevil, Waid also co-owns a pair of comic book retailers in addition to his digital comics publishing house, Thrillbent. He writing series for Marvel and Dynamite right now and into the near future, in addition to his ongoing digital-only series Insufferable and side projects like Shadow Walk.
That series, which he co-wrote with Max Brooks from a concept developed by Waid, Brooks and Legendary founder and CEO Thomas Tull, revolves around a mission to literally infiltrate the Biblical Valley of the Shadow of Death. Waid joined ComicBook.com to talk about the series.
ComicBook.com: Now, you're going into the Valley of the Shadow of Death...but to a lot of readers, that's just going to reinforce that you're the guy who wrote Kingdom Come and played with biblical imagery quite a lot.
Mark Waid: That's true! I guess I hadn't thought about it because KC was almost 20 years ago so I felt like it was okay to go back to the biblical well at this point. even though that's the basic wellspring of the story, though, it has so little to do with what we did in KC and the approach is just so much different. This is much more a story about aith and what f means to so many people and what it can accomplish or what the lack of it can also accomplish given the right tools and the right mindset.
ComicBook.com: Obviously, this kind of project differs in a number of ways from doing work-for-hire at the Big Two. One big thing is that you've got this beautiful Shane Davis art coming back and since it's gone straight from your head to script and there's not fifty years of comics to look back on, you don't really know what to expect until you see it, right?
Waid: Yes, that's exactly it. This is not predicated on anything that we normally know; there's no reference for it in existing comics and beyond that, the way the story is paced it's just much different not having to hit 20 or 22 pages and then hit a cliffhanger and be structured that deeply into it. When we started to block out the gn we figured on around 100 pages or so but as we got into it Legendary was very good about letting us take whatever space we need. That changed the way we worked; I was still getting the full script to Shane in Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, going back and changing and tweaking, but it was a lot more in-depth. Shane in particular had to live in this world for a year.
ComicBook.com: This kind of has an almost Terminator or Predator look to a lot of the art. In spite of being very spiritual and almost horror-driven, there's not a lot of organic stuff here; it looks very sci-fi.
Waid: That's a good observation; it really was sort of intentional. Thomas Tull's thing about the project all along is that if you're going to send messengers into the valley of death you'd damn sure better make sure they're wearing cutting edge armor and technology and Shane took that to heart.
I like the friction of science fiction warriors marching around in a very organic, horror-filled world.
ComicBook.com: Were there any big surprises in the creative process along the way?
Waid: I actually had a much stronger idea going into the story as to who was going to walk out of it thnen actually ended up walkign out of it. but that's the fun of writing is the voyage of discovery as you go.
ComicBook.com: Is one of the best things about working on a project like this instead of work-for-hire your freedom to define the universe you're playing in?
Waid: And it's nice! That's the best, it's a different role with something like Shadow Walk because that was such a definition from the get-go. There's a difference between defining in terms of setting up the world and the characters and springing off of established canon and finding things that worked before.
This is not too far afield from that because remember Max Brooks deserves all the props in the world because this is a thing where Max's job was to go and create this amazing mythology and back story for this world--and the history of this milieu. That made my job so much easier because he had already thought out a lot of the science and mythology about the valley so I was able to draw off from that.
Waid: The biggest challenge in finding a tone here was that in the midst of all this horror and panic and darkness, I really don't have it in me to write a relentless, 128-page story with no humor in it. So you have to pick your moments and you have to find a way to balance it so that what moments of levity there are in it don't in any way undercut the gravity of the situation but just accentuate it.
I think it's just a matter of finding that beat and the only secret I can tell you of it is you always have to bear in mind that the characters come first and whatever clever lines or witticisms you want to write as a writer, you have to be willing to abandon them if they're not in service of the character.
ComicBook.com: Can you see Legendary going in the direction of some of these more feature-rich, backmatter-filled books like you see from Valiant's digital exclusive copies or DC's directors' cut books? I remember reading those DC solicitations a while back and thinking, "Hey, didn't Waid do that with Sentinel of Liberty?"
Waid: I don't know. "Director's cut" also kind of implies that there's material on the cutting room floor and the way I tend to write, it's all in my head until it comes out on the page so there's not a lot that goes to waste. But I'm a big fan of that process blog mentality.
I think, yeah, Legendary could do well to make that kind of book--maybe not with this specifically but certainly with something down the road.
ComicBook.com: Obviously we've talked a bit about how different it is working with these guys versus the Big Two. If they came to you with Pacific Rim or some other licensed property, would you entertain it?
Waid: If it were a strong enough character or something I was interested in I'd be interested but honestly that's part of the appeal of Legendary--is taking something from nothing and building it from the ground up.
ComicBook.com: Now that you're apparently leaving Daredevil, what are you going to do to fill those few rare moments of downtime in your schedule?
Waid: Now that I own a store on top of everything else I thought maybe learning sculpture...! Now, I'm kidding. All I really want is to work smarter and not harder in 2014 and focus my energies. The Legendary guys have certainly made it abundantly clear to me that the door is open to me to do more there if I wish.