When SECOND COMING was first announced at Vertigo, my first thought was "I can't wait to read this". The premise of Jesus teaming up with a superhero was inspired and hilarious.
Over the course of the next few months of the announcement, there was an uproar in the Christianity community over the use of Jesus. Was it unfounded, yes. Did they completely overreact, hell yeah. The outcome was Mark Russell and Vertigo mutually parting ways.
You can't keep a good idea down though, SECOND COMING found a new home at AHOY Comics. Now Mark and artist Richard Pace will be given the freedom to tell the story exactly as they envision it, which means we'll all be getting one hell of a story.
COMIC LOUNGE: The concept behind SECOND COMING is both interesting and hilarious. Can you talk a little bit about the book and where the idea for the story came from?
MARK RUSSELL: It actually came from two different ideas. I had an idea for a story about Christ coming back to Earth only to be bewildered by what has been done with Christianity and I had an idea for a story about a superhero coming to terms with the fact that his superpowers were useless against his own problems and most of the problems people deal with every day. It occurred to me that both stories essentially carried the same critique at their heart... that fetishizing power and violence prevents us from looking at issues honestly.
CL: Originally this book was to be published by Vertigo, but do to backlash was canceled. What made you decide to cancel it over there? Was there to much editorial interference?
MR: The editorial team at Vertigo was great. They cared about getting this right every bit as much as I did. But, for one reason or another, we were facing delays in publication and increasing requests for changes from above, so we all kind of realized that getting it right would probably entail taking it elsewhere.
CL: You found a new home at AHOY Comics. What made you decide to publish through them?
MR: They're a young company, but they've already got a great track record with titles like Wrong Earth and Edgar Allan Poe's Snifter of Terror. I'd worked with them before and had really enjoyed it. But most importantly, they seemed really focused on making the comic as good as it could be. It wasn't just picking up a title because they thought the controversy might make it easier to sell. They really took this project seriously as a story and I think it will show in the finished product.
CL: Your working with Richard Pace on the book, how collaborative has your relationship been on this project?
MR: It's definitely becoming a lot more collaborative now that we have signed on as co-creators with Ahoy. We both want the story to look and feel right so we've spoken a lot about the tone of the series, because it would be so easy to just do something wacky and offensive to capitalize on the controversy, but that's not what either of us want. It's a comedy, sure, but it's also a serious story based on a lifetime of reflections on religion and superheroes and how they get co-opted by institutions.
CL: Has making the move to AHOY, given you and Richard more creative freedom?
CL: Having Jesus as a main character, how deep into religion will the story delve into?
MR: Pretty deeply. I think a lot of the controversy started up because the FOX News article gave people the false impression that Jesus is just there as a cheap gag. Sort of a bumbling farce. And while Christ doesn't like flying and doesn't adjust well to Sunstar's violent approach to the world and its problems, he really is the hero of the story. It's about how the solutions he'd suggested two thousand years ago... empathy and immunizing ourselves against greed and fear, are actually far more relevant solutions for the problems of the 21st century than say, drop-kicking someone into a volcano. Though drop-kicking someone into a volcano still has its place.
CL: Most writers say that they write what they know, or put a little bit of themselves into their work. How personal would you say this story is to you?
MR: This is perhaps the most personal story I've written since I've started writing comics. It draws upon misgivings about my religion I've been harboring since I first started having doubts as a teenager.
CL: What are your longterm plans for the book?
MR: Ideally, I'd like this series to go about 18 issues and move on from just being an unlikely duo story to a rounder, more developed exploration of a universe where our two national theologies-- Christianity and superheroes co-exist.
CL: Is there anything else you want to say to entice readers to pick up the book?
MR: I've probably said a lot to make this sound like a weepy and dry tome on modern Christianity, but it's anything but. It's first and foremost a funny and off-the-wall look at how much our relationships with other people are what really matter in the end.