Comics We Love: The Day-Glo Sci-Fi Adventures of ‘Miranda Mercury’ [Interview + Preview]
Sometimes a comic comes along that knocks your socks off. A few years back, The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury #295 did that to me. Granted, there were no actual issues #1 through #294, but we were lead to understand that those (as yet) hypothetical comics charted the rise of Miranda Mercury as she grew from a kid into the foremost adventurer in the galaxy. The conceit that was actually a long-running series and not a brand-new one allowed creators Brandon Thomas and Lee Ferguson to hit the ground running and deliver an instant measure of mystery and prestige for their titular character while delivering clever science-fiction action and a few warm character moments.
After a couple years of trials, Miranda Mercury is hitting comic shops again this August as an original graphic novel from Archaia, The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury: Time Runs Out, and we've got an interview with writer Brandon Thomas and an entire chapter and a half from the comic, free to read below.
ComicsAlliance: Brandon, you've got two main cast members, Miranda Mercury and Jack Warning, a boy genius. What can you tell us about Miranda and her history? Can you tell us how she's viewed throughout the galaxy, in terms of stature or infamy?
Brandon Thomas: Well, Miranda is pretty much the $#@! as far as much of the universe is concerned. She comes from a proud (and storied) family of science heroes and adventurers that have made quite a name for themselves over the last several decades. A lot of people she encounters in her adventures have either met her as a younger junior science hero or heard a few things about her and the impossible things she's done.
So because of that she has a bit of a chip on her shoulder and has spent most of her adult life attempting to distinguish herself from her famous family. To prove ultimately that she's the best of the best, and in many ways, she's succeeded...but she doesn't seem to think so. Her drive and her determination to see justice done and lives saved is something that's defined her for almost her entire life and because of that, she's not very popular with the bad guys.
CA: Judging by the preview you sent over, Miranda Mercury is going to be a remarkably day-glo sci-fi comic, with a color scheme that's very flashy, rather than being neo-noir or realistic. Is that a fair way to describe the book? What kind of story did you sit down to tell with Time Runs Out?
BT: That's a great description of the style and tone of the book, though we probably will do a Noir type story somewhere down the line. And I wanted to tell a story that while exciting and action packed had a strong emotional core for people to latch onto. It's about relationships and the things we unintentionally do to damage them, about the legacies we leave behind, and how we preserve our identities in the face of daily compromise. Miranda is dealing with all of these issues simultaneously but with entire worlds and countless lives hanging in the balance. Does she save them today or does she fight to ensure she's alive five years from now to save them?
It might not be possible to do both and this fundamental question is underlining every story in the book. Vega could've infected her with something that would kill her instantly but he didn't, because he knows that for Miranda the only thing worse than failure is compromise. And that even the possibility that searching for a cure will allow a bad guy to escape what's coming to him, or result in the death of an innocent person, is unacceptable to her. But she wants to live and in some cases needs to live so that's what this first batch of stories is about: What's the best way to secure her heroic legacy in the face of certain death? And is she the best person to ultimately determine that?
CA: Early in the book, Miranda commands an entity to "make the word impossible actually mean something." Is this the idea of the impossible something that runs throughout the book?
BT: Absolutely. The impossible is what makes comics an exciting and vibrant medium and it's one thing that I believe comics should never have enough of. Forgive the familiar spiel but Miranda Mercury is everything that I've loved about comics since I was introduced to them in the seventh grade. The kinetic storytelling, the unexpected twists, the intensely complicated partnerships, the crazy villains and gadgets, the imagery, the morality-but more than anything else really, the possibility. Nothing is impossible in comics, and this romanticized notion is at the core of the Miranda Mercury concept...if anything can and will happen, why the hell isn't it?
Because of this, we put ourselves in the position of having to continually up our personal games to keep pace with the material. Every script of this series teaches me something about writing comics, and that's why it's both challenging and incredibly rewarding. I hope that the effort and the passion being poured into the book is evident, along with an increasing confidence in our storytelling that poses the question, "I wonder just how good this book can get?" Hopefully, we can all find out together...
CA: Jack Warning is "The Boy With the Golden Brain." Why does he hang around Miranda? What does he bring to their relationship?
BT: They're best friends and their relationship going forward is the emotional crux of the entire book. The revelation that Miranda is dying and the fact that she kept it from him is a real turning point for them both, and when we say things are never going to be the same again, we mean it. Jack is going to have a very difficult time reconciling what he sees as a fairly major betrayal and this plays into this whole notion of Miranda always feeling like she has to prove herself.
The rest of the world might think Miranda Mercury is the greatest thing to happen to the universe ever, but the person that knows her better than anyone is still incredibly hurt and a little angry with her. Lies were told, secrets were kept, and I think it's interesting to watch him struggle with that on top of his unwillingness to sit back and watch Miranda die. What does it mean for a boy genius if he can't figure out how to save his best friend? And if he does do the impossible again, what will it cost them both? Will things ever be like they were before? In short, I think Jack grounds her for the audience a bit, and helps show that despite the incredible things she's done, she's human and she makes mistakes, even with the relationships that mean everything to her.
CA: You've been in the comics industry for a fair few years at this point, as both a columnist and a creator. Can you give us a recap of who you are and where you've been for the people who might be new to your work?
BT: Yeah, I've been writing about comics since 2001 and was fortunate enough to sell my first official comics script two years later. Since then I've done books for Marvel, DC, and Arcade Comics, writing stories featuring popular characters like Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Robin and Youngblood. The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury is my very first creator-owned project. Ambidextrous, the column which helped me break into the industry as a professional writer, and also documented nearly every major setback and success, continues on my personal blog The Fiction House. This whole thing started with a VHS copy of Star Wars and a childhood obsession with books and Saturday morning cartoons...
BT: Well, thanks for that. Ellis was an extremely important writer to me, especially when I was starting out. Don't know if anything is ever "too sci-fi" for us, but I do try to establish some ground rules in the course of particular stories regarding the tech and weapons, and like you said, without any real emotion or conflict also present, everything is window dressing. But Lee and I have always considered the revolving tech and subtle costume changes as examples of Jack attempting to improve their gear on the fly, and I really like that Bond feel where every time they go out in the field, they're carrying tech specifically designed for the current mission.
And as long as the stories are honest and about something, I think we and the characters don't have many limits. Some of the coolest weapons and gadgets are in the story that was written slightly after Hurricane Katrina and I think people will find that element and sentiment more compelling than Jack's giant gun. hich is not to say that Jack's giant gun isn't pretty cool, only that it'll never be the main focus. Just another little element to add layers to the stories and the characters.
CA: How conscious were you of your influences while writing Time Runs Out? Did you have to make an effort to push specific series or shows out of your head so as to avoid accidentally cribbing from them?
BT: Yes and no, as there is probably one Star Wars homage or wink in almost every issue. I mean, without Star Wars, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be a writer, or certainly not the same one I am today, so I won't even try to hide that particular influence. I think it's pretty obvious and it's nothing obtrusive, but there is some imagery here and there that most folks will recognize and hopefully smile at. How the separate chapters are titled (ex. "Miranda Mercury and the Great Escape!") also owes a little to old school sci-fi/adventure characters, including more modern examples like Indiana Jones. So some of those core influences are on full display.
That said, I did go out of my way to avoid a lot of comics' current sci-fi output. For example, been hearing great, great things about the "cosmic" division of the Marvel Universe for years, spearheaded by Abnett and Lanning, whose Legion run is criminally under-rated by the way, but I've only read about an issue of the Annihilation stuff just because I didn't want any of it in my head while I was figuring out exactly what Miranda Mercury was going to be. Once I feel we've established ourselves a little more, I'll probably go back to some of this stuff and it's a shame really, cause I hear it's fantastic.
CA: An odd question, but possibly an interesting one: what music do you suggest readers listen to while reading? Is there an album, genre, or song you mentally associate with Miranda herself?
BT: Man, when people see the answer to this question, they're going to think it was a plant! But yeah, music is a massive part of my life and my "creative process" as it were. Ever since high school, I go through these musical phases where the majority of stuff I listen to for a stretch of years is produced by one or two hip-hop producers, and for the last several years, my personal soundtrack has been supplied by 9th Wonder. Pretty much since I heard his classic remix of God's Son, I've been pretty obsessed with his work and that shows no signs of fading out anytime soon.
I'm also pretty attached to film and TV soundtracks, so I have a great playlist on my iPod which is a strange amalgamation of works by 9th Wonder, John Williams, Kanye West, Michael Giacchino, J. Dilla, E.S. Posthumus, Pete Rock, Mark Snow, Madlib, Hans Zimmer, Timbaland, Don Davis and a host of others. Since I've been picking at the series for quite a while now, a lot of the above artists have contributed background music or got me in the right state of mind at some point. Two of the most recent albums that I think really approximate what a Miranda movie would sound like are E.S. Posthumus' Makara and the glorious Tron: Legacy soundtrack from Daft Punk. Those are two things I can really put on from start to finish and all of the songs just sound like Miranda Mercury to me.
A few of the other songs that were on permanent loop when we were finishing the book up these last several months are things like---"Power" by Kanye West. "Mombasa" by Hans Zimmer (Inception soundtrack). "Tarawa" by James Newton Howard (Snow Falling on Cedars soundtrack). "Honda Accord (Still Can't Afford a Maybach remix)" by Rapsody, "Huh" by Sean Boog, "Let's Go", "Buzz Lightyear", and "Dig It" by Actual Proof.
That last bunch there is all produced by 9th, as is the song whose title closely describes my mood the closer we get to release..."I'm Grinnin'" by Thee Tom Hardy. Been a long road and I'll breathe a huge sigh of relief once I get my hands on the book, and then another when everyone else does...
(print this out and bring it to your comic shop.)
CA: Time Runs Out arrives in September. What do prospective readers need to know going in, whether in terms of storyline info or Diamond order codes?
BT: This initial story arc, Time Runs Out, begins as Miranda Mercury enters the final year of her life, due to an alien poison put into her bloodstream by archenemy Cyrus Vega. The 176-page hardcover is almost wall to wall comics and collects eight self-contained (yet interconnected) chapters that will feature Miranda and her best friend/partner Jack Warning doing the impossible over and over again on a number of different planets packed with new allies and new adversaries. It never stops moving and never stops thinking of how to make things better and is really a very public love letter to the comics medium. This is everything we love about comics splashed loudly across almost two hundred pages and if we have our way, this will be the first of many volumes.
Our Diamond ordering code is JUN 0832, our ISBN is 9781936393152 and we encourage anyone who's interested to pre-order the book through your LCS or online bookseller.