Action Calls: The Return of the Captain

A comics interview article by: Jim Beard
A new call to action!
One man trying to reclaim a world… for a world that might not want him to.
One man trying to reclaim his sense of self… while impersonating others.
One man trying very hard to become the very thing he's avoided his entire life…

So reads Moonstone Comics’ intro to the newest adventures of Captain Action, due out in April of ’08 with a zero issue. I sat down with writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Mark Sparacio to "get a little action" going.

Jim Beard: Fabian, how much of this new Captain Action project will rely on "retro", and how much "retro" do you feel that potential readers can stand?

Fabian Nicieza: We are not approaching this as "retro" anything. We decided to approach this as a character living in a world that has a coherent, consistent history. The character of Captain Action was an undercover superspy first active in the 60's and used to fight a covert threat to not just the U.S., but the world. He accomplished his mission, and as a result, there were lots of changes to the planet, including the creation of limited numbers of superhumans. Now, decades later, we pick up our story.

JB: What's your honest current opinion of DC's 1960s Captain Action series? What was valuable about it, if anything?

FN: I haven't read the original DC series since... well, most of those issues originally came out! I don't even know if my brother and I bought all of them, though I know we had a few. I lost those issues in a "housecleaning" move back in the 70's, so I can honestly say they have no bearing on what we are doing now, for good or bad. I mean, Shooter, Kane and Wood were involved, so I wanted to buy the run on eBay way before I even got the assignment to write CA, but I thought the prices were too high. :-)

Mark Sparacio: As a fan and collector, I have the entire, original, five-issue run of D.C.’s Captain Action comics and I love the old Gil Kane and Wally Wood art. They were both great artists and honestly, two of my favorites. Both had very dynamic, realistic styles and they both were fantastic story tellers.

JB: Does Captain Action, as a character, work better as a solo hero or part of a team? Why?

FN: He works best as a solo hero and as part of a team. :-) You'll have to read his continuing adventures to find out how.

JB: Playing it coy, I see. Well, one would expect a lot of action from Captain Action – how much of this first story will rock the house?

MS: There is a lot of back story to cover in this issue, so it’s not like an old “Hulk smash!” full out, battle issue. There are some cool action sequences where Fabian has set up how the new Captain Action will handle himself. Also as an artist it’s my job to make the parts of the story that aren’t action oriented sequences, exciting to look at and a good bridge to get you to the action. Hopefully, I’ve succeeded.

JB: What is CA's particular brand of action like?

MS: I think the new Captain Action’s “brand of action” is going to be full out and non stop. Thanks to Fabian’s very cool new universe, Captain Action has new villains, new problems, not too many friends and a whole unsuspecting world to save.

JB: In a perfect world, what's the one reason why you think a potential reader will pick the new CA book up?

FN: Because they think it looks great or they heard it was a fantastically fun read? Seriously, the audience buying the book based on their recollections and fondness for the original toy will be minimal just based on the law of averages, so our main intent is to provide a story that they will enjoy, but mostly to create a story in a fascinating world featuring a fascinating character with excellent art that people are interested in reading about. That's the mission and I think we've accomplished that with our one-shot, and hopefully, in future issues as well.

JB: Fabian, what specifically, looking back at your career to date, do you feel you are bringing to the new CA?

FN: I would have to say being the editor of Barbie most certainly has helped me the most, because she would change her clothes as often as Captain Action did, so, you know, there's that...

JB: What's it been like working with Mark? Characterize your working relationship as writer and artist.

FN: Mark has been great. He is enthusiastic and excited in ways that make me feel old and tired. His art style is perfectly suited to the tone of the series we're going for, that "James Bond meets Astro City" vibe we're trying to hit requires someone who can do photorealistic art but also understands how to exaggerate those conceits for maximum dramatic effect.

We're talking a lot about the pages, trying really hard to make it the best showcase for his art that we possibly can. I think people will be very drawn to his work on these issues. It's real eye-catching stuff.

JB: Mark, your turn. How would you categorize Fabian's Captain Action script, in regards to others you've worked on?

MS: You have to remember I haven’t done a lot of professional sequential work yet in my short career in comics, but Fabian’s Captain Action script has been similar in the format to other scripts that I’ve worked on. He writes a full script as did Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti for my Jonah Hex story that I’ve penciled. For Liberty Girl, Dennis Mallonee wrote more like the old Marvel style, basically writing pages synopsis and letting me run with it. The two part story that Richard Martin and I have co-plotted for Liberty Girl 4 and 5, was written by Rich as a full script. All the guys who have written the full scripts for me all say the same thing: they basically write it that way and I can change it when I am laying it out, either by adding or subtracting panels to make the story flow better.

What I really like most about Fabian’s script is that he had to take a character that had his roots in the nineteen sixties and modernize and update him in a way that made sense. He has created the “new” Captain Action to be accepted by the old hard-core fans and the new readers who know nothing about the old incarnation. Obviously back in the late sixties when the Captain Action- action figure was popular, Ideal Toys had acquired the rights for the Captain to “transform” himself into other popular heroes of the time: The Green Hornet, Superman, Spiderman, etc. That was a pretty cool concept for the time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to be the case with the “new” Captain Action. So what Fabian did was to create a whole new universe for Captain Action: a new back story, new super villains and new characters for him to interact with. It is an already very complex and textured universe and I give him a lot of credit for being able to get about 50 years of back story brought up to the present day in a very short amount of pages.

JB: Okay, then, what's the best thing about working with Fabian on this?

MS: The best thing about working with Fabian on the Captain Action project is that Fabian brings a lot of comic experience to the table. Again, I am a novice in the comics industry so being able to work with somebody like Fabian and pick his brain has been invaluable to me. We’ve spoken a lot about story telling and what can help make my artwork work better in the context of telling the story. I’ve spoken to a lot of my friends in the industry who are artists about story telling and layout, but it’s great to get a writer’s view point on this as well.

JB: Any qualms about tweaking a "legendary" design like CA's? Walking on any old school fan's memories?

MS: By far the most challenging aspect of the Captain Action project was to make the new look of Captain Action accessible to both the old school fans and the new readers who know nothing about him. Anytime you are asked to change an iconic look of a legendary character, you are not going to please everybody. It is a little daunting. But thanks to the invaluable input from Captain Action co-owners Joe Ahearn and Ed Catto, Moonstone Comics publisher, Joe Gentile and Fabian, I think that we’ve come up with a look that has a modern flare, but has some of the sensibilities and reverence of the old Captain Action costume.

JB: What do you feel you are bringing to the project, artistically?

MS: What I hope that I am bringing artistically to the Captain Action project is a new and different style to the sequential art that people will get excited about. I am doing highly rendered pencils that require no inker and go directly to the colorist. Jim Brown is the colorist that we’ve chosen and he is doing a terrific job making my pencils look almost like my painted work.
JB: What's it been like working with Joe and Ed, as far as this is their property, etc.?

FN: Everyone has been great, from Joe and Ed as licensors to Joe as the editor at Moonstone, they've all be easy to work with and very receptive of all my holier-than-thou posturing about how I know best. I think I've rewarded their trust with a foundation that could serve Captain Action for years to come.

JB: If asked, are you prepared to tackle more Captain Action after this first foray?

MS: Actually, we have already started discussing the possibilities of me doing more issues of Captain Action after the zero issue. There are a couple of things that need to be worked out, but I am hopeful. I really like the character and the new universe that Fabian has created for this story. I also really enjoy working with Fabian. There are a lot of positive things here, so we’ll see.

To see some great Captain Action art, please visit Moonstone’s CA page:

And to get a look at Mark Sparacio’s fantastic art, click on:

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