DC Art Director Mark Chiarello Explains ‘Wednesday Comics’
“Wednesday Comics” has arrived. Literally, the ambitious experiment in bringing DC superheroes like Batman and Superman to a Sunday-sized comics page is hitting shelves in comic book stores as we speak, and anticipation is running high.
Not only does the project boast top tier talent like Neil Gaiman (“Sandman,” “Coraline”), Dave Gibbons (“Watchmen”), and original “Sgt. Rock” creator Joe Kubert penning the tales of the WWII army hero once again, but it also landed a plum spot for its Superman strip in “USA Today,” where it will be serialized every Wednesday — and available now online. Although the first issue has barely arrived, response to preview images was so strong that there are already rumors that “Wednesday Comics” could become a recurring summer institution for DC.
Each weekly, fold-over edition contains 15 full-page stories about characters ranging from Batman and Superman to lesser known favorites like Kamandi, the last boy on Earth. ComicsAlliance talked to DC Art Director Mark Chiarello, the man who masterminded “Wednesday Comics,” about bringing the over-sized Wednesday page to life, and why new fans will find the format irresistible.
ComicsAlliance: Are you hoping “Wednesday Comics” will bring new readers into the world of comics?
Mark Chiarello: Well, certainly USA Today has been an incredible move in that direction, but the bottom line for me has always been the reading experience. For me, comics aren’t about collecting; they’re not about speculation; they’re not about what a comic book is worth. They’re about the reading experience, and if you can put together a project like this and get guys like Neil Gaiman, who’s now a household name particularly after “Coraline,” and Dave Gibbons, who’s coming off the “Watchmen” movie, it does invite new readers in.
CA: Was it difficult to get such a high level of talent signed on to the project?
MA: It was kind of neat because I built a list of 30 people, knowing that I had slots for 15 stories, because I figured that not everybody’s would take the gig. But the first 15 people I called jumped right on board. So it was like I built my wish list and got my wish list. They understood the possibilities of working in this format right away.
CA: How did you decide which characters to assign to which creators?
MC: I totally opened it up to the writers and artists and asked them which characters they wanted to work on. Obviously I knew it wouldn’t be a tough sell to get people to do Superman and Batman, but I was a little taken aback when Neil Gaiman said, ” I want to do Metamorpho,” because he’s not a top-tier character — or when Paul Pope wanted to do Adam Strange. But I thought it was cool that they could have fun with a character that you don’t see every day.
CA: Was it hard to sell DC on the idea of putting its heroes into a completely new format?
MC: I think any time you pitch an unusual format or unusual project to any publisher, there’s a period of wrapping their heads around it, and I think that was the case here. So what I did was I went back to my of my office and I built a version of it — full-color big-sized comp, and when I showed that to them, they got it. It was much easier to explain visually.
CA: Will the “Wednesday Comics” strips tie-in to current DC comic books, or are they out of that continuity?
MC: They are all out-of-continuity. They don’t go against continuity, but they all embrace who we think Batman is and who we think Superman is, without getting too mired in the comic book continuity.
CA: Have you always been a big fan of comic strips?
MC: I grew up a comic book fan, and growing up in the 60s and 70s I’d always read the Sunday funnies, but they were mostly humor-based — Charlie Brown, the Wizard of Id, Dennis the Menace. And when I became a comic book fan, I realized that there was this whole other world in the 30s and 40s, these really cool adventure strips. So I started collecting that stuff. It makes me sad that the daily strip now are so tiny when you compare it to the history of the medium, and the size of things like ["Little Nemo" by Winsor McCay] that are so gorgeous.
CA: What do you think makes superheroes a good fit for a Sunday-sized comics page?
MC: Well, superheroes are kind of larger than life, and I don’t mean to be corny about it, but the tabloid [paper] size is so large that it seemed like a natural fit for these big, colorful adventures.