“I’m trying to capture nostalgic feelings in a very modern way.”
Ask Arrow showrunner and frequent comic book writer Marc Guggenheim if he ever has time to sleep, and you’ll probably receive a laugh. One of the entertainment industry’s busiest and most productive creators, Guggenheim does everything from write and produce a hit television show to create interesting and original comic stories, such as his upcoming sci-fi series The Infinite Adventures of Jonas Quantum. The monthly six-part series kicks off Sept. 16 from Legendary Comics.
“This is actually an idea I’ve been kicking around on and off for about 15 years now,” Guggenheim tells EW. “And it’s something where I really started not with the concept, but rather with the character of Jonas. My thought process essentially was thinking about how I kind of grew up with Indiana Jones and thinking about how rare it was even 15 years ago — but I think the situation has only gotten worse — where are the new characters? Where are the new concepts? And I was thinking, I don’t really think there’s been anyone since Indiana Jones that was sort of a new character that had sort of come on the scene and ignited people’s imaginations.”
And he certainly ignited Guggenheim’s. “I started musing on the idea of what’s an evolution path to Indiana Jones? And one of the things I’ve always appreciated about Indiana Jones is his intellect,” he says. “So it just got me thinking about intelligence, and that led me to the idea of what if there was a guy, and he didn’t consider himself a superhero, but his superhero was essentially his intelligence? And that was really the key moment, the jumping off point: what if I do a story about an adventurer who wasn’t the world’s strongest man but was the world’s smartest man?”
Guggenheim is quick to point out the differences between Jonas and Indian Jones, though. “Jonas is to Indiana Jones as Indiana Jones is to James bond.” And knowing that he had a specific vision of both his character and the kind of style that would define his book, Guggenheim turned to an old friend in collaborating, DC visionary artist Freddie Williams II (Justice League America, The Flash, Robin.)
“Freddie and I had worked on Justice League from DC Comics a number of years ago, and we really enjoyed working together and just kept in touch over the years,” he explains. “I started talking about this idea with him because I knew I wanted a real sort of big visual vision behind it. Part of the conceit of the book is that it’s this love letter to the Silver Age and Bronze Age comics that I grew up with, and the thing about that era is that the art was so big and bombastic — I’m thinking of like, Jack Kirby. It’s a book of big ideas and it needs big visuals to sort of sell them, and Freddie comes to play. He absolutely brings 110 percent to every panel.”
Guggenheim credits Williams’ talent and style with setting the stage for the book. “Freddie and I spent a good chunk of time just at the outset talking about who Jonas was, and how that would inform what he looked like,” he says. “And what Freddie brought to the table, in addition to his prestigious talent, is that he brought a real clear vision. That includes the look of his face, to the look of his outfit… and I gotta give a lot of props to Chris Sotomayor who is our colorist. I’ve been a longtime fan of his work, and he just nailed it. He and Freddie collaborate remarkably well together and it’s actually one of the most gorgeous books I’ve been involved with in 10 years of writing comics.”
“Because we’re doing this with Legendary and we’re not limited to the traditional 22-page issues, we really can push the panel per page ratio. There’s much fewer panels in each page,” he continues. “Which gives a lot more room for these crazy nuts-o visuals that I ask Freddie to draw. And it gives that book a very big widescreen sort of summer movie feeling.”
In the official synopsis, Jonas is described as “a maverick hyper-genius.” But trust Guggenheim, who has written for characters such as Oliver Queen and Barry Allen, to turn that positive trait on its head. “What’s always really interesting about ‘superpowers’ is the notion that a superpower for any character is their greatest strength,” he says. “But it’s also nice when you can make that strength their greatest weakness. And in thinking about his intelligence, I gravitated towards this notion that this would actually be a huge barrier to human connection for him. People ask how he’s different from Reed Richards or Tony Stark…first of all, I think he’s smarter than Tony Stark or Reed Richards — I know that’s sort of a high bar,” Guggenheim admits with a laugh. “But more importantly, he doesn’t have that ability to connect with other people the way Tony and Reed do. I always imagine what Reed Richard’s first date with Susan Storm was like — how does Reed make conversation with her? And obviously, he managed to, and obviously, Tony Stark has no problem talking to other people.”
Although the book isn’t exactly serialized — their self-contained nature will allow readers to pick issues up out of order if they choose — Guggenheim has planted one specific serial element that will reward regular readers, should they choose to indulge in it: the evolution of Jonas’ personality. “If you were inclined, as I hope people would be, to read every issue, you’ll see with each issue some new piece of information about Jonas’ character and some new dimensions of his life is revealed,” he explains. “So if you’re reading every issue, you’ll start to see these different sides of him, and we’re sort of peeling the onion on him slowly but surely.”
Despite his many projects, it’s clear that Guggenheim is devoted to Jonas. “I grew up reading the pocket book editions of the early issues of Fantastic Four, and one of the things that was so enticing to me about those early issues was the fact that every issue just contained some new surprise. And you never knew what you were going to get when you started reading a new issue,” he says. “I wanted to recapture that feeling of anything can happen, that I literally don’t know what I’m getting myself into when I open up the book. Much like the same way that Indiana Jones was a homage to the serials of the 1930s but still felt at the time thoroughly modern, I’m going for the same thing with Jonas, where I’m heavily inspired from the books of the Silver Age and the Bronze Age…but hopefully it comes across to the reader as a really modern book that’s written in 2015.”
The Infinite Adventures of Jonas Quantum is available Sept. 16.
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