Christopher Hastings Saves Longshot In ‘Longshot Saves The Marvel Universe’ [Interview]
The luckiest guy in the Marvel Universe has finally landed a solo series! Debuting in November, Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe will be penned by Dr. McNinja cartoonist Christopher Hastings and drawn by Jacopo Camagni, best known for his work on the all-ages Marvel Adventures line.
Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe marks the character's first solo outing since his 1985 premiere in an eponymous series written by Ann Nocenti and drawn by then-unknown Arthur Adams, launching a decade of unprecedentedly dubious hairstyles in the Marvel Universe. Since then, Longshot has been been a semi-regular in various X-Men series, Exiles, and, most recently, Peter David's X-Factor.
Although he usually runs with the mutant crowd, Longshot's from another neighborhood entirely: Genetically engineered to serve as a slave/gladiator/movie star in the media-obsessed Mojoverse, Longshot rebelled and escaped, eventually finding his way to Earth and the X-Men. In addition to his “luck powers,” which alter probability in his favor as long as he's acting altruistically, Longshot sports four-fingered hands, psychometry, hollow bones, and nigh-irresistible charm (in one memorable issue of X-Men, he flirted away an alien invasion).
Despite his dark origins and a memory that's been wiped almost as often as Wolverine's, Longshot is a lighthearted character -- an oddity in an era when most superhero comics are grounded firmly in the dark and gritty -- and after Nocenti and Chris Claremont, writers have never seemed quite sure how to handle him.
Will Christopher Hastings fare better? We sat down with Longshot's new writer to discuss the character, the series, and how you challenge a hero when the odds are fundamentally stacked in his favor. And more crucially: how you update his haircut.
ComicsAlliance: There have been a lot of different versions of Longshot over the years. Some of that's been deliberate, within the story; more has been the result of changing creative teams. For folks who've been following the character since the start -- and for new readers coming in -- how would you sum up the Longshot you've been writing?
Christopher Hastings: I'm kind of taking it from the original miniseries he debuted in. He's really cheerful -- he just wants to help. And of course, his luck only works when he's helping somebody else out. He can't use it for selfish ends. So, I'm really going to that. That's what I find most appealing about his personality -- he's just really cheerful and optimistic, and sometimes he's also sort of swashbucklery!
We're not ditching any of his powers so they may be, well, layered and complex, with the psychometry, having four fingers, hollow bones, from another dimension -- we're trying to reintroduce all of that to new readers.
CA: Longshot is a happy-go-lucky, swashbuckly kind of dude at a time when superhero comics have taken a turn back to the dark ‘n gritty. What's it like to write a character who's defined by optimism in that climate --narratively and commercially?
CH: My understanding is that I was specifically brought on because I like to write comics that are fun. My editor, Jordan White -- this was his idea, this book -- is a huge Longshot fan, and brought me on because he thought the book should have a fun tone.
Obviously there are stakes that are serious, because it is a superhero comic, but this is a totally fun book and I'm happy to get the opportunity to do it because those are the comics I like to read. I think comics should be fun. I mean, I like serious comics, too, but there are a lot of those already.
What I'm doing here, most of all, is exploring narratively what it means for a character's main power to be luck, and playing that against as many guest starts as I can.
CA: One of your trademarks as a writer has been the brick joke -- incredibly complex, kind of Rube-Goldbergian causality, built up very far in advance. Has that been useful when it comes to writing a character who's overwhelmingly luck-based?
Hastings: That's been the most challenging part of writing Longshot, but I think also the most satisfying. Longshot has luck powers. I don't necessarily want every single occurrence of his power working to just be "he throws a knife and it lands where it's supposed to," because all superhero characters are supposed to be extra competent, so if a guy lands a lucky shot... well, they're all lucky. The only difference with Longshot is that sometimes someone says, "Wow! That was a really lucky shot!"
I didn't want that, and I didn't want things to just work out for him and seem easy, like a string of Dei Ex Machina. So I have a lot of things that happen where I've set up things early on that then set off other stuff that sets off other stuff that will ultimately end with things working out well for him. It's been tricky to play out, but so far, so good. I've tried to set up stuff that'll pay off at the end of the series, and stuff that pays off within each book.
CA: So how do you challenge a character whose power is that things work out his way?
CH: I'm playing a lot with what's perceived as good luck versus bad luck; the idea that one person's good luck might be another's bad luck, and situations in which what initially looks like good luck might lead to bad luck and vice versa. And it's challenging for him to understand whether something that's happening will work out well for him, or won't. Throughout his history, Longshot has struggled with how his powers work, and they haven't always been stable, so we're playing some with the idea that his luck is fickle. Sometimes, too, he might act selfishly without even realizing it, and then that'll screw things up for him a couple steps down the line.
CA: How would you define "acting selfishly" for purposes of his powers? I mean, he's a nice guy, he doesn't like seeing people get hurt. Is saving someone a selfish act if it's something he knows will make him happy?
CH: Exactly! He struggles with this concept in the series. It's confusing for him sometimes. "Well, if this works out for me, and I like that, is that selfish?"
CA: Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe and Has Existential Crises?
CH: Yeah, but they keep getting interrupted by action!
CA: You mentioned guest stars earlier, and of course, the title of the series is Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe, who else can readers expect to turn up?
CH: Let's see. The first issue mainly focuses in on Longshot, but we've also got Tony Stark and Reed Richards, as well as the still-mysterious villain whose identity will be revealed in the second issue. And then, I've also got Doctor Strange in the second issue, and we'll have Ghost Rider, and Scarlet Witch, and Deadpool, and a certain ex-lover of Longshot's shows up. Things'll be awkward there.
CA: I realize you probably mean Dazzler, but Longshot's been around the Marvel universe a time or two. I mean, this is the guy who once stopped an alien invasion by being sexy at it.
CH: His super-attractiveness definitely enters into play, but not those specific aliens, unfortunately. There's only room for so many threats to the Marvel Universe.
Jacopo Camagni, the artist, is so perfect for this book, because he draws really, really pretty men, and Longshot is the prettiest man. He even got a new haircut for this book!
His original haircut was, I think, based on the musician Limahl. That was in 1985, and I guess Art Adams said, "Well, that's a haircut that's contemporary, and that I don't see on any other comics character!" And I think we've got that again. Jacopo actually cuts hair for his friends sometimes -- he's a very hip dude -- and if I remember correctly, he actually based Longshot's new haircut off one of his friend’s. In the spirit of the original, it's hip for the time and may well look ridiculous in twenty years.
CA: Longshot is originally from the Mojoverse, and it figured heavily in his solo series and most of the arcs focused on him since then. Are we going to be seeing more of that here?
CH: I can't really go into why, but I was advised not to get into Mojoverse stuff. So, no. It's acknowledged that he's from the Mojoverse, but we couldn't use any of the other Mojoverse characters.
CA: Aside from the mechanics of the causality, what's been the hardest part of writing Longshot and saving the Marvel Universe?
CH: The biggest challenge was coming up with the biggest threat I could to throw him against and then figure out a way for him to stop it.
CA: So, it's not a sardonic title? He's actually going to be saving the Marvel Universe.
CH: Yep! This isn't Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, it's not Marvel Zombies. This is the Marvel Universe proper, though we may be bringing in characters from other universes! It could be Longshot Saves the Marvel Multiverse! But it's not.