@’s by AfterShock Writer Adam Glass!!!
Currently, he writes two titles for AfterShock Comics, ROUGH RIDERS and THE NORMALS. Adam took time out of his busy schedule (he’s currently on the new Shotwime drama THE CHI) to speak with me about those books and more. Here’s that interview. Enjoy!
JUSTIN BURKHARDT (JB)t: In addition to comic book writing, you’ve also been a writer/producer on TV shows like Cold Case and Supernatural. Can you describe the difference and similarities between writing for TV and for comics?
ADAM GLASS (AG): Much like a TV show, every issue of a comic book is an episode. So I think that’s something very similar. An episode is really like an issue of a book, especially in terms of pacing. When you get to the end of an episode I think it’s very similar to the end of an issue of a comic, in terms of a cliffhanger.
I think the difference is, in comic books there is no budget. I have to think when I’m writing a TV show, “Oh can I afford to do that?” Your imagination can really run free when you’re writing a comic book. When I write about the World’s Fair in 1903 in a comic book like ROUGH RIDERS, I probably couldn’t write that in a TV show. They would be like, “We can’t afford that. We can’t do that.” I think that’s once again where the difference is really helpful and good.
JB: Before your two AfterShock titles (ROUGH RIDERS, THE NORMALS) you worked on titles like SUICIDE SQUAD and DEAPOOL. What’s it like working on AfterShock in comparison to Marvel and DC?
AG: I loved working for Marvel and DC, and it was great to play with these big pieces. I think the biggest difference is that you’re tied into a continuity universe. You have to think about the world more.
The great news about AfterShock is it’s a brave new world, and that world doesn’t necessary tie in to your continuity. I only have to worry about my universe and not the 20 other universes. It was such a dream come true to work for DC and Marvel, and if the right opportunity shows itself I’d do it again.
In the meanwhile, I’m really enjoying working with AfterShock and really enjoying working on content that’s your own that you’re super inspired to do. I think that for me, is the big difference.
JB: Your first comic at AfterShock is ROUGH RIDERS, a historical fiction piece. Can you tell us a little about the series? What type of readers would like this series?
AG: The idea is a basically a really simple one. I’ve always loved history and much like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen does with fictional characters, I do with true historical characters.
I’ve always been a fan of these characters individually. I’m a big Teddy Roosevelt fan, a big Harry Houdini fan. I’m a big boxing fan so I love Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world. Monk Eastman was the first real famous gangster of his time. And Annie Oakley, who I didn’t know much about but have become a giant fan of the more I learned about her. Not only did they all live at the same time, a lot of them did know each other. I’m also leaving out Thomas Edison, who was the Steve Jobs of his time.
So I put all these historical characters together because there’s a big threat and Teddy is the leader. In the first arc the Spanish American War was really an alien invasion, and the second arc deals with the assassination of President William McKinley, which was in true history done by anarchists, so it’s the Rough Riders taking on the anarchists.
What I do in all these books, and I feel I do it well, is to be as historically correct as possibly. The Spanish American War wasn’t an alien invasion (or was it haha), but the characters and where they are in their lives around this time are all historically very true. I’ve actually had teachers come up to me and say. “Hey I’m using your books to teach history.” I’m showing kids that it can also be entertaining.
I think the book is for everybody. What I love about the book, and I didn’t have a chance to do this with my others books like SUICIDE SQUAD and DEADPOOL, is that the books can also be for younger readers as well. Adults will also enjoy it too because there are also steam punk elements, history, inside jokes, and it’s a lot of fun.
JB: I’ve seen Ken Burns’ documentaries on Jack Johnson and Teddy Roosevelt, and I think ROUGH RIDERS is a fantastic mash-up of history and wild crazy fiction.
AG: Since you saw those, you can see that I’m keeping to who those characters really are, especially Roosevelt. I got into him in high school and the deeper I got into him I realized he’s the original Bruce Wayne. He’s this rich kid who really fought for the underprivileged. His mother and wife die at the same time, and what did he do? He moved to the badlands, disappears for four years, and reinvents himself and becomes a cowboy. Almost like Wayne’s journey through the world, there are so many comparisons in the best of ways. I wrote Batman once in a JLA annual, and in some ways Teddy has been my chance to write a different version of Batman.
Jack Johnson too was way ahead of his time. He was who he was and he just didn’t care. One of the things I loved about him, Annie, and Houdini were that they were all outsiders during this time. A black, a jew, and a woman were looked upon as second class citizens. The three of them really add an interesting aspect to the book which I love and feel really modernizes it.
JB: I’ve also read the first three issues of your other AfterShock series, THE NORMALS. That book really has the pacing and structure of a TV Show. Did you find that necessary for an ambitious Twlight Zone-esque series that asks the question “What if everything knew was a lie”?
AG: I just thought it worked. Rough Riders is different because it’s like a big movie and a fun adventure. This is getting a little deeper and getting into questions about humanity, and about who we are and our programming. And where does that programming come from? In our case it’s in our DNA, and in their case they were programmed by somebody.
People have asked me, “This is so different from Rough Riders. What made you write this?” I think that most writers will either write about things that inspire us or about things that scare the hell out of us. And this is definitely what scares the hell out of me. If you’re lucky enough, like I’ve been, to have some success and a beautiful family, then your nightmare becomes losing that family. So I put that through the lens of a sci-fi story.
JB: Were you a big Twilight Zone fan growing up? I definitely see some inspiration there in THE NORMALS.
AG: Absolutely, giant fan as a kid. It’d be my dream job to re-do that show, though BLACK MIRROR is doing a good job of it. That’s a modern day Twilight Zone. I not only loved the episodes, but all the actors who show up like Burgess Meredith and William Shatner. So yes, big heavy influence.
JB: Being a TV writer/producer, what are your thoughts on seeing a ROUGH RIDERS or THE NORMALS television or movie treatment?
AG: We have to make a good comic book first and foremost, but if it becomes something else that’d be awesome. ROUGH RIDERS is so big that I think it’s a more of a movie than a TV series. If we’re ever fortunate enough to get somebody to be interested in that level, I think it’ll just play nicer that way.
I totally see THE NORMALS as a TV series. I know where it’s going and I think I know how it could play out. It could eventually have that Walking Dead thing, where it’s really the story of them on this journey and who they come across. Instead of zombies, it’s robots.
JB: I have to ask, what was it like working on show with such a big following as SUPERNATURAL?
AG: It was absolutely amazing. I joke with my wife that if I die tomorrow it will say “Supernatural writer passes away”, and I wear that with pride. I was a fan of the show before I went on it… I remember an NCIS show wanting me and I remember telling my agent that I’m going to go to Supernatural and they were shocked that I wanted to go to a show on the CW over a show on CBS. I told them it was just a better show for me personally and what I wanted to do as a writer.
I got to SUPERNATURAL and got to meet the whole first generation of writers who really made the show what it was like Sera Gamble and Ben Edlund. I sort of became part of the second wave with folks like Robbie Thompson and Andrew Dabb. There were so many great writers that came through there that I had the pleasure of working with.
I lucked out myself too. Andrew Dabb and I created the Men of Letters. I created the character Abaddon and I also got to play with Garth and so many other characters that I loved. I still get a lot of love from it. People look at my twitter and say, “Wow you’ve got a lot of followers” and I say its all Supernatural fans. We are all friends, the actors and writers. Amazing experience and I’ll always be proud of my time on the show. I joke that Supernatural is the show that built my house. I love it and my kids love it too. My son is a giant, giant fan as well.
JB: You’re also known as the guy who put Harley Quinn in the SUICIDE SQUAD with your run in the New 52. She then became a big part of the Suicide Squad movie as well. What are thoughts on this?
AG: I’d love to sit here and say, “Oh I knew”, but in reality I just always liked Harley Quinn. So when I got the chance to do Suicide Squad, I knew I wanted her to be part of that world. And I had to fight for it. At first, I don’t think everyone saw it. Mike Marts (now EIC at AfterShock) was in charge of the Batman family at the time and is a unsung hero of this story. Marts and my editor Pat McCallum both started to see my vision and fought to get permission to use her.
I always thought that Harley was more than just this sidekick character who was in this abusive relationship. I kept saying that this is her solo album and what if you got her away from Joker and if she was with a different group of people. We got really lucky and people picked up on it and liked it. She became the centerpiece of not just the Suicide Squad, but Jim Palmiotti and his wife Amanda Conner’s great run with her now.
I’m just blown away and feel incredibly lucky to have been a small part of the chapter in that story. I’ve met Paul Dini and I met all of these folks, and they’re the real heroes behind these characters. I was just lucky enough to be able to utilize her and it worked out.
JB: So what writers inspired you?
AG: I feel really, really fortunate to have grown up in the late 70’s/early 80’s with great some comic books. Neil Adams and his Batman books were a giant influence on me. Marv Wolfman’s Teen Titans was a giant influence on me. The Judas Contract I think is still one of the best series I’ve ever read in my life. Chris Claremont and Jim Lee were influences too.
And obviously John Ostrander, I was a big Suicide Squad fan as a kid too. DC came to me with a list of books and I remember Suicide Squad wasn’t on there. I asked what about Suicide Squad and they asked me what I’d do with it. I told them and they said hmm yeah maybe we can do Suicide Squad.
When I first did Suicide Squad I said something like “Always mad respect and love for John Ostrander. The only difference I think is that my book will be harder, faster, and stronger”. Everyone thought I was throwing shade at John Ostrander, but I wasn’t. I was just trying to say it was a different time. The tones were different. He had 24 pages and his book was much more political in the best of ways. I was told I couldn’t do those stories, so I had to be a faster and looser suicide squad.
When I see the movie all I see is Ostrander. It’s such his creation. I had the pleasure of watching it with him and seeing the tears in his eyes, because it was his happy…I’m just really happy to have had the chance to put Harley in the squad and I’m glad it’s worked out. I can’t wait to see more.<br
JB: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
AG: I always say that writers write. If you’re someone who really wants to be a writer, you can’t stop writing. Do you remember the movie Ratatouille where he says everyone can cook? And all the chefs get pissed? Well I believe that everyone can write, it’s just who has the discipline to write.
Everyone has a story to tell, but there are few people who have that discipline. I will die before I write everything that’s in my head. If you just keep doing it, it is a craft you’re going to get better and better. No one can stop you from writing. Most things you need permission, or money, or whatever to do, but not writing. Writers write themselves out of stuff.
I grew up with a single mom in the Bronx. I was raised by my mom and grandma, and we were on welfare. I went to a city college, and I didn’t know a f*cking soul. I didn’t have any connections in the business, so I wrote myself out of my situation. And I continue to do it. Every time I need something in my life I sit down and my computer and say, “Ok Adam. Write yourself out of this.”
It sounds like a really simple thing, but it’s true. Write, and keep writing. Write more, and don’t stop writing. Learn your craft and just keep doing it.
JB: And finally, what future projects do you have in the works that you’d like to tell us about?
AG: I’m working on a show for Showtime called “The Chi”, which is about the south side of Chicago, which everybody knows, is a place that’s unfortunately on the news a lot for its violence. We’re trying to show the human side of things. It’s not just about the violence, but about the people every day here who are living their lives and trying to raise their children. It stars Jason Mitchell, who played Eazy-E in Straight Outta Compton, who is a great actor.
As far as comics, I’m hoping there will be a third arc of ROUGH RIDERS. There’s a 4-arc story that I want to tell, and I hope I get to tell every version of it. I’m passionate about and I love it. I know where the book ends I just need 12 more books to get there. As far as THE NORMALS, we’ll see how that goes. If there’s more great, but if not I’m glad I got to tell that story as well.
To be honest with you, there are only one or two more independent books I want to do. I’m going to pace myself and eventually tell those stories. I’ve been fortunate enough that there has been a couple things that have come up through the majors, but nothing that I was like, “Oh yeah I’ve gotta go do that.” But I’m hoping the right opportunity eventually shows itself and I’m able to do that too.
JB: Thanks, Adam! You can pick up ROUGH RIDERS II and THE NORMALS from AfterShock Comics here and at finer comic book shops everywhere!
Find Justin Burkhardt @justinburkhardt on Twitter!
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G