Before I started writing The Indestructibles I found myself digging into archives of comic books to try to help me set the tone. I thought about looking at other popular Young Adult novels, but approximately 250 words into Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games told me it was a better idea to avoid those stories until my own manuscript was finished.
I found two books in particular extremely helpful in helping me realize not the tone I wanted to use but rather the type of story I wanted to tell: the early years of Brian Michael Bendis' and Mark Bagley's Ultimate Spider-Man run, and complete rung of Warren Ellis' and John Cassaday's Planetary.
The former is one of many retellings of the Spider-Man origin story, which is told and retold at least once every generation. I revisited it because, to be completely honest, I once reviewed the series for a now-defunct magazine many, many years ago and I said at the time that if I ever had a child, this was the Spider-Man origin story I would want to give him or her. I was curious if the mind of a mid- to late-thirties man would be as receptive to it as the same brain was at twenty-two.
I revisited Planetary for an entirely different reason. Where Ultimate Spider-Man was intended for a young audience, perhaps new to comics, putting a fresh face on an old story, Planetary was a deep dissertation on the art form itself, layering deep thoughts on where stories come from and how they evolve over time, how they cross cultural lines, and how they are told. Planetary was a comic book about comics and pop culture and all that is weird in the world. I I knew I could not write The Indestructibles without giving credit to the stories that inspired me, and few have done the sort of deep dig found in the pages of Planetary.
Together they represented a lot of what I hoped to achieve in my own story--approachable, modern, smart young heroes alongside a deep, informed awareness of the past. They represent a lot of qualities I consider the best parts of the medium.
Were there comic book stories or arcs that inspired you more than others? Which stories stuck with you long after you put the books down?
Here's a little Sunday night/Monday morning lightheartedness: which Indestructibles hero are you? Click the link below or you can also copy and paste the URL directly into your browser:
I was talking with a fellow writer a few days ago about the state of the film industry and the topic of superheroes and their dominance at the box office came up. We both have backgrounds in independent films, and have both written and directed low-budget projects in the past.
"This can't last forever, right?" he says to me.
Selfishly, I think, I hope it does last forever. Not just because The Indestructibles is a book about superheroes and my own little love letter to comic books, but because over the past few years I've let my old love of superheroes become a part of me again, and I'm enjoying the renaissance. Comic book movies make me happy.
And I found myself thinking--will it last? Is it sustainable? And I thought: well, like any good superhero, it'll last as long as we need it to.
"We need these kinds of stories right now," I say back to him. We're living in a hard, harsh time. Everything's a little more, or a lot more, challenging than it used to be. The news tells us every day about something awful happening to someone somewhere. I know that personally, on a Friday night, I crave escapism to wash the week away. I want to see a hero in red, white and blue stop a nefarious plot or a teenager find himself cursed with amazing powers he can use to save the day. Because while superheroes sometimes are born in tragedy, they always leave the world better than when they found it.
We're living in hard times. And that means we need our heroes a little bit more than we used to.
I hope our heroes stick around for a while. I really do.
Thanks for stopping by. This will be the space for updates on the book, speaking engagements, and upcoming events. I'll also write a bit about pop culture, YA literature, comics, and more.
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Looking forward to talking with you!
Matthew Phillion is the writer of "The Indestructibles," part-time actor, occasional filmmaker. Currently on the lam in Salem with his trusty dog, Watson.