- The Further Adventures of Nick Wilson Takes Him from the Pinnacle to the Pit [Feature]
feature by Sam Stone, originally published in IMAGE+
As Bruce Springsteen famously warned us, glory days will indeed pass us by. For Nick Wilson, the title character of THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF NICK WILSON by Eddie Gorodetsky, Marc Andreyko, and Steve Sadowski, those golden days of youth were spent as a beloved superhero saving the world from all sorts of nefarious threats and living large—the caped equivalent of working hard and playing harder. After suddenly losing his powers, Nick is reduced to making appearances at children's parties and living in a marijuana-induced haze, occasionally swapping stories with old friends about the good old days as he tries to live under the radar in his old hometown. With this new series, Gorodetsky, Andreyko, and Sadowski deconstruct the superhero genre while exploring how we all can find that second wind in life when we inevitably feel like we've passed our prime.
EDDIE GORODETSKY: Nick Wilson was an average guy. He’s an average guy again. But for a relatively short period, he was anything but. In a world much like our own...hell, let’s just say our own, Nick suddenly found himself with a full complement of superpowers—flight, strength, invulnerability, vision powers, the whole gamut. He used and abused them for two or three years. He saved people, he was an inspiration, and he partied hard. And as fast they came, the powers disappeared.
His climb up the ladder of fame was swift and smooth, but Nick felt the tumble down every rung. He tried to hold onto some semblance of fame, embarrassing himself on reality shows and in low-rent projects trying to keep some shred of celebrity. But it was no use. He was yesterday’s news, not even a good joke. Never the type to save for a rainy day, Nick was that horrible combination—barely famous and poor. When we pick up his story, he is a bit of a lost soul, posing as himself at children’s birthday parties to make ends meet and incapable of any physical intimacy, afraid he will be unable to satisfy any woman who expects a superman between the sheets.
STONE: How did this project come together? Had you all been wanting to work together for a while and now was your best chance?
GORODETSKY: I’d had the basis of the idea in my head for years. I had wanted to do a story about being out of your job and the culture but to do it without it being about old people, in the same way EC comics and Star Trek used to do racial stories without them being obviously about race. Also, coming from a television background, I had seen people age out of the system by age 12. I liked the idea of early obsolescence and no plan B. I love comic books, and I always got mad at TV adaptations of comic book ideas because they always made them too big, and then they just got bigger.
I’m a huge fan of the radio comics Bob and Ray—Bob Elliott is Chris Elliott’s father. I’ve always been obsessed with tapes of their old shows. And one of their core concepts was always big stories small, and small stories big. Comic books are already so big, and I think what scares non-readers away is the size of the premises. I wanted to tell a tiny story. I learned a lot from working with Chuck Lorre. A show like Big Bang Theory, which I was around for at the beginning, is the kind of show with a big concept that easily could have burned out in a year or two like Mork & Mindy or Gilligan’s Island. But Chuck and the other folks there very wisely started making it smaller—giving the guys relationships, making them even more grounded and real instead of giving them grown babies in eggs from outer space. The crazy premise falls away quickly, and it ultimately has to be about people.
But writing a comic book is different than writing a TV script, and I didn’t know a lot of the nuts and bolts. I had met Marc Andreyko over at my buddy Paul Dini’s house, and we hit it off—we disagreed enough that it didn’t seem like I was just going to be writing something by myself, and he knew the language of the medium, so I asked him if he wanted to write it together. To be honest, I went into it just wanting someone to teach me the tools, but Marc is such a good writer that I couldn’t help but use a lot of his stuff. He’s the one who pointed out that Nick is like a college football phenom who gets recruited for a multi-million dollar contract and gets their knee blown out in their first game and spends the rest of their life trying to make sense of that tiny period when they had it all. Marc gave us Cleveland, the dysfunctional triangle between Clive, his gay son Xavier, and his protege Daryl, and introduced us to our amazing editor Shannon Eric Denton, with whom he’d previously worked. Marc did what any good collaborator does—he asked hard questions and helped keep the storytelling honest.
ANDREYKO: I just need to add that I was flattered and intimidated when Eddie proposed collaborating . He is such a pro, having written everything from Batman: The Animated Series to co-creating Mom (which I adored before I knew Eddie), that I was just hoping not to screw up. And I learned more about sitcom writing and crafting jokes from a few months writing with Eddie than I would have in a graduate program!
And the best feeling ever was Eddie telling me, “That’s a good joke.”
STONE: Marc, you've written mainstream superhero comics extensively over the years. What made you want to subvert the genre a bit with this series?
ANDREYKO: Eddie’s core concept is so strong, and the idea of “what do we do for a second (or third or fourth...) act?” is a question all of us face in adulthood. Wrapping it all in the metaphor of superheroics just seemed like a masterstroke and made this specific story incredibly universal.
STONE: Eddie, while this isn't your first foray into comic writing, you come from a predominantly television background. How have your experiences been working with this medium?
GORODETSKY: It’s fascinating. I’ve been reading comic books my whole life, and I think I’m able to write scripts mostly because I can break them down into storyboards in my head from years of reading them. But the process of writing one is a totally different deal. You have to write economically, and you don’t have the real estate for long speeches. It’s like sending a telegram where you’re paying for every word. You have to infer a normal conversation, but you don’t really have room to write one. But you do have the art and working with great artists like Steven and Ian (in issue four) opened my eyes to how much can be conveyed without words. I knew that from working with actors, where you are constantly taking away redundant dialogue. A good actor can convey a lot with an arch of an eyebrow or a cock of the head, but it was fascinating building a rapport with an artist and creating a visual language for the book.
STONE: Steve, in this series, you're both evoking classic flights-and-tights throwback sequences and grounded sequences set in working-class realism. How do you balance that dichotomy creatively?
STEVE SADOWSKI: I'm doing what I always try to do and bringing a sense of realism to every scene, whether it's a fight scene or a coffee shop. I've been blown away by the characters and their diversity. As much as I love a good slug-fest, my favorite stuff to draw has always been the subtle character moments, and there's been many in this!
STONE: Nick relies on his past fame to make ends meet when we first see him. Is there a lot of resentment with living in the shadow of his glory days or does his angst come from a sense of missing it?
GORODETSKY: I don’t think it’s a single thing. He’s been through all the stages of regret—he’s been angry, he’s given up, and he’s at the point when we find him where he’s just getting high and trying to go from day to day. Sure, there’s resentment, but it’s more complicated than that—he didn’t plan on being a superhero. He didn’t plan for the future when he was one, and he didn’t plan for not being one. Like a lot of people, he’s gotten away with being aimless, but on a larger scale, as you get closer to 30, it really starts to get old. And a strange offer from an old adversary comes at a particularly vulnerable time.
ANDREYKO: As Eddie said, Nick’s past brings up a lot of emotion for him. Like the Kübler-Ross “stages of death,” Nick has been through anger and resentment, fear, and even a little acceptance. So, he’s not a bitter guy. He’s just trying to find out who he really is.
STONE: What are some of the big themes across this opening arc for both Nick and the story itself?
GORODETSKY: I always thought the reason the big guns in the comic book world stuck around was that they tapped into major themes—Superman was created by a couple of scared Jewish kids exploring the fears of displaced aliens. Batman was all about the protection of children—what happened in Crime Alley would never be repeated, and no matter how visually arresting the first Tim Burton Batman movie was, it cheapened the myth by making the Joker origin a grudge match, making him the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents instead of having Batman inspired by random violence.
In NICK WILSON, it’s a smaller theme but hopefully one as universal—how do you get up on your feet after failure or public embarrassment? Nowadays, all of us are under constant scrutiny—social media and hand-shaking security cameras have our every record. There’s not a poorly thought-out email that won’t surface at some point to bite us in the ass. And God forbid there’s an embarrassing picture anywhere, because you know it’s just a matter of time before it becomes a meme.
Nick suffers from a horrible public embarrassment. It is so bad that it emasculates him to the point of impotence. He is a forgotten man, and when not forgotten, he is instead mocked relentlessly. How does he find a way back to any form of self-respect? How do any of us in this modern world? That’s the story at the core of NICK WILSON. Sometimes it’s easy to be super. It’s harder to be a man.
STONE: Why does Nick keep a guy like Hudson, his selfish and self-proclaimed manager, around?
GORODETSKY: Personally, I don’t think he chose Hudson. If you’re in a boat on a river, the only way you know how fast you’re traveling is if there is a tree or a rock or something on the shore you can measure against. So many people I know who were druggies or drunks talk about knowing how fucked up they were by who they woke up with at some point. You just blunder through your life sometimes and look around and realize, “Uh oh, I’ve made some really bad choices.”
When OJ Simpson was breaking football records, I doubt he was thinking about Kato Kaelin. Hudson is one of those bad choices, and I think part of this story is Nick trying to extricate himself from bad choices like Hudson. But that isn’t always easy. And even if he does, Hudson will show up in a later arc trying to sell an embarrassing tell-all book.
ANDREYKO: Nick was in a bad place when he met Hudson. They became “friends” (for lack of a better word) out of necessity when Nick was at his lowest point, and Nick, now finding his way out of the depths, has to cut loose this seemingly harmless but toxic guy from his life.
STONE: Every superhero has his or her own set of supervillains. As Nick is unable to escape his past, will he have some old enemies come out of the woodwork gunning for him?
GORODETSKY: Yeah, but not in the ways you might expect. Obviously there’s Clive, and we introduce his old partner Jumping Jack, who is more of a marketing tool than an actual partner and now has some real resentment problems. And in issue four, someone else comes back from his past, but it’s kind of unexpected. And that’s how I want us to approach it—it’s about Nick moving forward, but his past definitely impacts his life. So, yeah, you meet people, but I don’t want to have issues like, “And now, in the crosshairs of the Living Laser!"
STONE: What makes Jane, Nick's ex-girlfriend, such a great friend and confidante for Nick even years after they've broken up?
GORODETSKY: He can’t lie to her. She knew him before all this happened and accepts him for what he was and what he is. She thought his super-powered self was an asshole. He can relax around her. She wants nothing from him. And all he wants is forgiveness. And she gives him that pretty quickly but still gives him a hard time. It becomes a pretty nice friendship.
ANDREYKO: Because Jane knows the real Nick. She knew him before the superpowers, during the superpowers, and, now, after. She is almost his Jiminy Cricket in a sense. And Nick regrets how they ended, but loves Jane because she will call him on his bullshit as well as push him to be a better man.
STONE: What made Image Comics the right publisher to share THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF NICK WILSON?
GORODETSKY: I’m old enough to remember when Image first started in the ’90s. I never kept track of all the permutations and changes, but I have always kept an eye on their roster. I love folks like Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker. Right now I just enjoyed JUPITER'S CIRCLE—when I like Millar, I like him a lot. I also am loving PAPER GIRLS and SNOTGIRL as well. I love that there’s not a company look. I went real traditional with NICK WILSON—if I could’ve had Curt Swan draw it, I would have, but I feel that works for my writing. I like when other people go more outside.
I also like the way Image does business. I didn’t want to turn this character over to a big company, and I don’t want anyone suggesting that he should suddenly crossover with Snapper Carr or Rick Jones.
ANDREYKO: There was really no place else. Image has been the publisher to go to for creator-owned material, and their audience has been given some of the most diverse, game-changing, and exciting comics out there. Over 25 years, they went from a group of superstars setting out on their own to a ground-breaking publisher not afraid to try anything and everything to expand the medium.
And a lot of my friends are there, too. Win-win!
STONE: What can we look forward to as the series progresses through this opening arc?
GORODETSKY: I have no idea. Will people want to see more? That’s a viable question. There are ideas, but I don’t want to look at it like a movie—I want to look at it like a comic book. Every idea is just a first shovelful of dirt followed by “what happens next?” There are themes to explore and set pieces and sequences, but I want to be like Scheherazade—if I ever get to a satisfying ending of the story, I will probably die.
ANDREYKO: This is just the first chapter in potentially many more Nick Wilson stories. We have some ideas for down the line and would love to tell even further adventures of Nick Wilson. These characters are so real and vibrant to us that we’d all like to see where their lives lead them. And we’re really glad Shannon Eric Denton, Steve Sadowski, Ian Churchill, Pete Woods, HiFi Studios, and A Larger World Studios have been along for the ride!
THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF NICK WILSON #1 debuts 1/17 and is available for preorder now.
Sam Stone is a veritable pop culture guru living just outside of Washington, DC. He is the producer and co-host of the Geek Out Show podcast on iTunes and knows a stupidly unreasonable amount about The Beatles. You can find him on Twitter @samstoneshow but should probably consult a physician first. IMAGE+ is an award-winning monthly comics magazine that's packed with interviews, essays, and features about all your favorite Image comics and your first look at upcoming releases.