I recently had a chance to speak with Brandon Thomas about The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury: Time Runs Out, which was released on August 15th. Thomas and I had a fun conversation about his new book, creating the groundbreaking character, possibly adapting it for another medium, his sci-fi inspirations, The Amazing Spider-Man, how he would reboot Fantastic Four, and the future of super hero movies. Here is what he had to say:
To begin with, is The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury: Time Runs Out a hardcover collection of the first arc of the series or a standalone novel?
Brandon Thomas: Yeah, it's a hard cover. What happened was a few years ago, February 2008, the first issue of the series was published but it was actually numbered as #295. That issue came out and then our publisher Archaia went through some restructuring, so they had to period of time when they didn't put out any comics at all. Once the company got back on track and got new funding they went back to all of the projects that had already signed and renegotiated deals. What has happened now is the story is coming out as a hard cover, as an original graphic novel. So issue #295 that was released a few years ago is included in the collection that also includes the six stories after #295 and a couple other special stories.
Is this the full arc that you had originally intended to write as an ongoing series?
Thomas: Yeah, this was the full first arc. Obviously we hope to do a little more in the near future. But this was the full initial arc that we had planned, its just being released in a slightly different format than we had thought of a few years ago.
I know that this is a character and a story idea that's been floating around with you for a long time; can you talk about the origins of the Miranda Mercury and putting this first story-arc together?
Thomas: We started working on it in 2005. I was just coming off of a brief stint where I was doing quite a few things for Marvel and that was kind of coming to an end. I was working on another unrelated creator owned project and it was just kind of one of those things where I decided to create something new and Miranda Mercury came out of that. I keep telling everyone that the creation of the character owes a lot to the original Star Wars trilogy and Saturday morning cartoons, which was my formative experience as a writer. These are the things that I encountered when I was very young. These are the things that made me want to write. So I kind of sat down to create a series that would challenge me as a writer and that would be difficult to write because I wanted to get better and continually improve. I wanted to just do something a little different and Miranda Mercury evolved out of that, out of my love for sci-fi, cartoons and high adventure. It was one of those things where I wanted to really encapsulate everything that I loved about the comic book medium.
You just mentioned Star Wars and some of those early Saturday morning cartoons, was that the gateway drug to sci-fi for you?
Thomas: Oh, absolutely! Those are the things that made me want to be a writer. That's how my first story started. I used to jot down these little like in-between episodes of my favorite shows. That is basically where I started to ask "what if?" and that just evolved from there. I didn't actually discover comics until I was a little older, I think I was twelve and it was 1992. But even before I really discovered comics, I had already started to write these little short stories for in-between episodes of my favorite shows. Stuff like Voltron, ThunderCats, Transformers, G.I. Joe, and all of the classic 80's material.
Can you tell me a little bit about the character of Miranda Mercury and the adventure that she goes through in this book?
Thomas: Yeah, well Miranda Mercury is a third generation science hero. So her parents were heroes and adventurers, her grandparents were heroes and adventurers, and that was very intentional, I mean the legacy hero is one of the common themes of comics. I also thought it would be really cool to have Miranda be the product of a long line of black explorers, adventurers and inventors. There's always that joke about how black people never show up in future or in space so I kind of really took it in the other direction, where the Mercury family are the premiere heroes and problem solvers in this universe, in Miranda Mercury's universe. What's happening in this current story that the hard cover deals with is that her greatest enemy has poisoned her and she only has a little while left to live. The stories that are in the hard cover detail what she's doing with the time she has left.
There are few female characters that headline their own comic book, and even fewer African American characters; was this concept a hard sell to Archaia Entertainment when you were first pitching the book?
Thomas: It wasn't a hard sell to Archaia, but let's just say Archaia wasn't the only place that Miranda was pitched to. Finding the publisher for Miranda Mercury was an adventure like everything else dealing with the production of the book, but we found a good home in Archaia. So they've been very supportive and I think they really see a lot of long term potential in the project and we're really grateful that they took a chance on us because like I said, they weren't the only company that got the pitch and actually finding a publisher was like I said, it was challenging. They really believed in the character and they believed in us. They thought it could be something unique and something special that definitely fit in with the kind of books that they liked to put out.
Do you feel a great deal of satisfaction now that the book is finally being published since it is groundbreaking in so many ways?
Thomas: Well thank you. Our main goal is that we hope that it sells enough that we can do more stories. That's really our primary goal. I knew when we were working on it that a black female adventurer headlining the book … I knew it was a unique thing. What's funny is that even though we've been working on this character for several years now, it's still unique, which is kind of funny and sad at the same time. When we initially created her back in 2005, it really seemed like something unique to us but six years later it's still just this unique and rare thing. You know, we just wanted to do something different. The book is such a challenge to create visually and conceptually. The fact that all of the stories are completely self-contained, which means there are new planets, new threats, new supporting characters, and new villains in every single issue. We are kind of playing with them a little bit for twenty-three pages, then we put them down and we go on to something else. As I writer, it was something that was really challenging for me and I designed it to be that way. It's tough but it just made sense that this was the perfect kind of methodology and set-up for Miranda Mercury because in her universe, the fact that the greatest heroes in the galaxy are black is a non-issue. It's something that no one mentions and that no one cares about, but its just part of the fabric of her world. We're really proud of the character, proud of the book and anytime we can be part of the solution, that's a great thing. We're really excited that the book seems to be finding a very interested audience.
Do you already have plans for more adventures featuring Miranda Mercury in the future?
Thomas: Oh yes, I have too many plans. We are ready and willing to continue. We have a little more time before Miranda's situation becomes increasingly dire in the way that we set up the series where we started it at issue #295. So we kind of threw people into the middle of a jumping on point of a story that was already in progress. We also have plans to go back and re-do some of the earlier stories. A couple of the earlier stories are actually a part of the hard cover. We've reprinted a short story from issue #1, which is essentially Miranda Mercury's first mission as a ten-year-old junior science hero. Issue #124 is also in the hard cover and that is the story where Miranda Mercury officially took over the book. So she takes over the book from the rest of her famous family and goes out on her own to create her own legend and her own legacy.
Can you see Miranda Mercury possibly being adapted into a film or TV series at some point?
Thomas: Oh absolutely! I think that the way the story is structured with this kind of “lost history” of the character, especially as a young girl, I think would make for a great cartoon. I think there could be some possibilities there and it maybe something we'll explore in the future. But right now we're really focused on making sure the book is a success first and that we have the opportunity to do more because we have more stories to tell. There are a lot of things planned, and a lot more cool and exciting adventures for Miranda. We're hoping that people are going continue to respond to it. So far the feedback has been incredible honestly and you know we hope to be able to continue. Comics need more female heroes and it needs more black female heroes. Like I said, we hope to be part of the solution. If this book makes someone else, any publisher or any creator more confident and more apt to include female heroes in their stories or minority characters, then that’s all the better.
I know that you worked on an issue of Spider-Man Unlimited for Marvel Comics a few years ago so I wanted to ask you if you’ve had a chance to see the current trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man, and if so, what do you think about the reboot and direction that they are taking the character in for this new film?
Thomas: I've definitely been interested by it. I like the costume. Comic fans tend to obsess over little details like that. But I'm excited by it.
They decided to abandon the organic web-shooters established in the Sam Raimi series and go back to the mechanical web-shooters that Stan Lee created in the original comic book, what do you think about that choice?
Thomas: That's cool. I completely understand why they went with organic shooters especially back when they did. The market place was a little different. I don't think it was as accessible to comic properties like it is now. I think this was a perfect opportunity to go back and get those mechanical web shooter fans because we know that's a very integral part to the character of Peter Parker and it's good to see that that's coming back. I think the actor they picked (Andrew Garfield) is a great choice. I'm a little late so I just saw The Social Network recently. He seems like a terrific actor and I'm really looking forward to seeing what they do with the Lizard on screen. It sounds like they're taking some cues to some of his modern incarnations and I think that'll be fun.
You also worked on a Fantastic Four book for Marvel and since there have been rumors that 20th Century Fox is considering rebooting that film franchise, if you were hired as a screenwriter on the project, how would you bring the Richards family back to the big screen?
Thomas: Oh wow, that's a lot of responsibility. I think that obviously what makes that book and that property different is the focus on family, that this is actually a family of heroes. I really think the best Fantastic Four movie to me was The Incredibles from Pixar. I think you need something that keeps that type of vibe, where it's a little serious but a little lighthearted and you can have a balance. I guess some people would say that the two previous films were a little too lighthearted, but I think keeping the focus on the family would be paramount there. The origin is always a little difficult for people to kind of wrap their heads around. I don’t think cosmic rays play in 2011. I actually really enjoyed the take they did in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, the Ultimate Fantastic Four where they belonged to this think tank of young geniuses and their mandate was to create the technology for the future and there was an accident. I think that take is probably something that they could really do something interesting with. You know, the cosmic rays thing I don't think is going to work especially since because we've abandoned space. In the real world we don't care about space anymore so it might have to go in a different direction, but you know I think that there's definitely enough story and character potential there for them to do a great reboot. So we'll see what happens in the future. The more successful comics they release, the more involvement people are going to have. I really think that now the movie studios have learned that it's ok for the different properties to strike a slightly different tone and focus. That everything doesn't need to be Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, which were fantastic, but you know that approach doesn't perfectly translate to every other super hero property out there. You have The Dark Knight, then you have Scott Pilgrim, I mean those are two comic based movies that couldn't be further apart. They were both great adaptations and they took advantage each universe, character and group of characters provided and they did something interesting with it on the big screen. I think as we go along, we're going to see a lot more and I think it needs to be a mix of independent properties that are going to the big screen along with some of the bigger tent poles like Batman and Spider-Man. Iron Man I think really changed the game because it really showed people that with the right approach, with the right script, the right casting, that they could take a second of third tier hero and turn it into a movie that people love and want to go see.
Finally, do you think we are coming to the end of the super hero film era? Do you think the marketplace has become overrun with comic book adapted films or is it like Shakespeare, where there are an infinite number of classic stories to be retold in a different medium?
Thomas: Yeah I think it's a genre. Are we ever going to get to the point where we have too many action movies or too many romantic comedies? At times we do and at times we don't. I think that super hero movies will start to occupy a similar space. They'll just be a genre of movies and sometimes there will be too many of them and sometimes there won't be enough of them. I think in the future they're here to stay. I think they're not going anywhere. I know there's a lot of creativity and there's a lot of artistry going on in comics right now and that's what attracts Hollywood studios to a lot of these properties and I think that's going to continue. As long as there are good comics, I believe that there's always the opportunity to make great movies based on good comics.
The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury: Time Runs Out is currently available in stores or you can click here, to order it from Amazone.com.