Talking Superhuman Resources With Ken Marcus

In the years since Ken Marcus and Justin Bleep's Super Human Resources hit the market, the idea of [...]

Super Human Resources 1 cover a Justin Bleep

In the years since Ken Marcus and Justin Bleep's Super Human Resources hit the market, the idea of alternative takes on superhero stories has once again started to take hold in comics.

SHR hit at a time when Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis's Planetary Brigade had just about run its course at BOOM! Studios and big event comics were starting to reassert themselves as such a dominant force that tongue-in-cheek looks at superheroics seemed less likely to be a long-term business model.

Still, with strong reviews and a lot of fan support, SHR became one of my favorite indie books in years and was enough of a hit that many fans have wondered why it took Marcus seven years to get back to it.

With volume two currently being solicited for this summer at Action Lab Entertainment, caught up with Marcus to ask him that and more...!

The second volume is a lot more complex, in terms of how much is going on and how many storylines and characters are at play, than the first one was. Is that just a factor of having a publisher behind you and knowing a little bit more of what you've got coming up?

I guess I probably know what I'm doing a little more. For our first volume, I was basically learning on the job a bit in terms of how a comic worked. I was very lucky in that my first comic in stores was literally the very first comic I ever wrote. I know what I'm doing a little more now. Using page turns as "edits." Laying out a page and dialogue. Developing an actual…I don't know…plot. I feel like our second volume has a much better story without sacrificing any of the fun we're having with our concept.

I like the fact that in the time since the first volume, Tim hasn't stagnated. What went into the decision to make him more confident and capable, versus going back to the original formula a little bit more?

In our first volume, Tim was just a temp. Your textbook fish out of water. But now he's definitely more comfortable in his job in the HR department of the world's greatest super hero team. Well, as comfortable as one can be surrounded by all of these weirdos with capes, masks and claws.

Is there ultimately going to be a connection between Plasmarella's parents and Devastator's team -- the two big threats we're seeing in the first issue?

Not really in terms of story. But in theme definitely. This sounds odd, but our second volume of Super Human Resources is ultimately a story about the relationship between fathers and daughters. And poop jokes. Lots of poop jokes. I've always admired Simpsons shows. You had a main plot, but then a secondary plotline that was typically more interesting than other shows' main plots.

Can you give us an elevator pitch for the series, for those who haven't read the original?

Our name is pretty much the pitch. Super Human Resources is about the HR department of the world's greatest super team. All the people who work behind the panels to keep your favorite heroes up and running. All the folks who file the paychecks, process the expense reports, order the web fluid and pay out the legal claims. You don't really have to read the first volume to "get" the second one.

Our first volume of SHR just explored the workplace dysfunction of super heroes. Which is pretty universal for just about everyone to understand. For our second volume, we take that idea off-world and run with it. To the outer rim of the Milky Way and to the dark, netherworld headquarters of our interstellar conqueror, Devastator. It turns out he has some billing problems of his own.

Speaking of which -- is the original miniseries still in print, or do you have to go scour Amazon or eBay?

Perfect opportunity for a cheap plug. I'm thrilled we're reprinting our first volume through Action Lab Entertainment. In stores May but in Previews now. MAR16 0995. The originals are pretty hard to find. I've seen 'em on eBay for like fifty bucks. Weird.

Final cut-off for order for Volume I is next week, I believe. So let your store know if you want to grab one.

What went into the decision to get a new artist? Clearly it's not that you aren't still fond of working with Justin, who's on covers.

Yeah, our original artist Justin Bleep wanted to pursue other interests. Not to mention it took me like six years to finish the scripts. Justin's actually a designer at Lego, which takes up most of his time. Lego is really his passion, not comics. But yes, I'm thrilled we can keep his distinctive, angular style for our covers. Our new artist, Armando Zanker, is pretty awesome his own right. He brings a bouncy, animated feel, which works well with the fun, over-the-top vibe of our second volume.

How does your day job influence your take on the white-collar world?

I'm a writer in advertising. I'm pretty lucky. My job is pretty fun and creative. Not soul-crushing in any way although, I've my share of those jobs. So I'm well versed with the banality of corporate life.

You're behind some of the most popular ads in a long time at GEICO. Any chance we'll see a cave man join the gods, aliens, and zombies in this series?

Yeah, I've worked on the Hump Day camel, The Final Countdown, Salt N Pepa…all those "It's What You Do" spots. It's a fun day job, for certain. It allows me not to have to worry about making comics a "career." That's actually not a bad idea, Russ. Maybe I can talk GEICO into a cross-marketing opportunity with the caveman or the gecko. They'd probably go for it.

How much of this is taken from exaggerated versions of actual stories you've heard from people in HR?

Yeah, you'd think HR is boring. But HR is where all the crazy shit happens. All the hush-hush stuff no one is supposed to talk about gets brought to HR. All the complaints and hastily-settled lawsuits. The truth is, workplace dysfunction is pretty universal subject matter. All the same freaky stuff happens no matter where you work. Even at the Hall of Justice or Avengers Tower.

Action Lab is an interesting venue because. they seem to be like half kid-friendly and half horror these days. What's it like being a kind of PG-13 adventure book in that environment?

Yeah, they've carved out a unique niche for themselves in the indie world. With great all-ages titles like Princeless, Action Lab, Hero Cats and Awake. But also you have the horror side with their Danger Zone books. We're threading the needle. We're not a "kids-friendly" book but we're a little more general market.

I like to think we have the same level of "adult" material as an Adult Swim show like Venture Brothers or Robot Chicken . Not really "mature readers" but really not an all-ages book either. Again, there's nothing you wouldn't see in our book that you wouldn't see on The Simpsons or Family Guy.

How can folks get a copy of Super Human Resources?

Super Human Resources II #1 is in Previews now. From Action Lab Enterainment.

Please ask your store if you want to read more. We're out smack dab in the middle of the launch of DC Rebirth and Civil War II. So you want to see something different, you have to tell your store.

Cover A: APR16 1132 (Justin Bleep cover) Cover B: APR16 1133 (Gabriel Hardman variant cover)