THE ORIGINAL PITCH (FEBRUARY 2005)
Brandon Thomas: Naturally, it only makes sense to start at the beginning, which in this case means the very first document that I ever typed up for the series after a couple months of jotting scattered thoughts into a notebook.
Pitch by Brandon Thomas
She’s defeated the Time Raiders of Xaxium. Braved the wonders of The Glass Planet. Survived the Perils of Yor, and fought the Infinity Class to a veritable standstill. But now, Miranda Mercury, the galaxy’s greatest adventurer, faces an enemy that perhaps even she cannot defeat. Miranda has only one year left to live…and this is the chronicle of her final adventures.
While the idea of the science fiction comic is one that the more “mainstream” companies are allowing to travel the path of the dinosaur, I contend that the universal themes of discovery and high adventure are ones that can still resonate with both fans and retailers. In the same way that horror books blazed a trail through the industry, becoming another creative outlet for sequential storytelling, The Adventures of Miranda Mercury is designed to stand on the front line of an offensive against the flood of superhero titles, borrowing enough from them to make it instantly recognizable, but spinning the entire package around something slightly unique.
From a visual standpoint, the character of Miranda is intended to fill a specific void in comics, that of the strong black heroine, which is one that unfortunately is incredibly lacking in today’s comic landscape. It is incumbent that someone takes it upon himself or herself to do what they can to increase the sense of representation, and despite it becoming a frequent topic of conversation, no one seems willing to go out there and make it happen. I have a very personal interest in this, naturally, and the trick is not in creating arbitrary multi-racial characters, but writing strong and relatable personalities that can transcend the gap, who just happen to have a different skin tone. Miranda Mercury is sitting within the infinite tapestry of a futuristic, speculative universe, which can provide any number of dynamic stories. It’s a world without limits, and Miranda is out there, with her faithful assistant and transcriptionist Jack Warning, proving it each and every day.
Our presentation will also bring a few unique twists, starting with the covers, that consciously disavow the more ‘static’ images that seem to be the standard these days, instead harkening back to Silver Age sensibilities in which covers told a story in their own right. Miranda will not lure people into picking up this book by glaring directly at them, while the camera stares directly at her. Each issue will also tell a complete story in 22 pages, with very few exceptions. When the fans see that a Mercury tale will creep into more than one issue, they’ll know it’s justified, and something to get excited about. In addition, every issue will include a full text piece written by sidekick Jack Warning, who records all of the many adventures of Miranda Mercury, and secretly hopes that the next strange planet or civilization will contain a cure for the alien virus that threatens to bring a lifetime of discovery to a premature end.
The greatest adventure awaits…
BT: Honestly, I didn’t know what all of that stuff in the lead-in even was. Most of them were just simple concepts at that point that would later become major elements down the line. Once I blocked out the first full Miranda script, everything changed and I realized what the true potential of the series actually was. On paper it all sounded great, but once I had the opportunity to write Miranda and Jack together, and found the natural chemistry between the two, did I truly realize the possibilities of these characters serving as anchors in this bizarre and hopefully unpredictable world. The longer I’m at this, the more I really enjoy working the mechanics and dynamics of interpersonal relationships, which always used to lose out to whatever ridiculous threat or high concept the good guys were facing. Sure that was a product of my main influences at the time, but now character rules all and rightfully so.
Miranda and Jack are at an important place in their partnership. One of them is keeping a huge secret from the other and how that all plays out is what the first arc is all about. It may appear that it’s about samurai genies, glass planets, time raiders, inter-dimensional superheroes, and giant torture machines, but really…it’s about Miranda Mercury and Jack Warning facing their greatest adversary yet. It’s about this incredibly strong relationship going through an emotional test that’ll ultimately prove whether or not it’s as strong as advertised. Both of them want the same things, but how they’re willing to go about it is what makes them different and will serve to put everything they’ve ever worked for in jeopardy.
The other major element in this pitch that underwent some alteration involved the cover designs. What started as a relatively simple way of distinguishing the book on the stands became an infinitely more complex manner of storytelling that was then combined with other elements to make things even more complex. And a number of those elements came directly from artist Lee Ferguson who joined the project shortly after reading the above pitch…
ENTER LEE FERGUSON
BT: He might not even realize it, but Lee Ferguson is Miranda Mercury’s own personal secret weapon…
Without him, transitioning her from that one page shout sheet to a fully functioning project would’ve been impossible. You see, I once mistakenly believed that I’d figured everything out, but Lee’s input and infectious enthusiasm for Miranda is what really got things together. The ideas always sound good to me in their initial stages, but the real test comes when you put them in front of someone with no connection to the material and see what it all means. From just a few hundred words, Lee instantly understood what I wanted to accomplish, why I wanted it, and unsurprisingly, felt the exact same way.
We’d been doing this dance for years at this point, ever since we were paired together on an ill-fated Luke Cage pitch for Marvel’s ill-fated Epic initiative. From that point on, it was always mutually understood that someday in the near future we’d work on something together and that when we did, we’d make damn sure it was a pretty big deal. Even the trajectory of our careers (if such a word even applies) shares an uncanny resemblance to the other, with both of us being endorsed by one of the creative heavyweights in comics and having the opportunity to have work published by the majors shortly after. This was followed by a lengthy period where we unknowingly contracted a form of the Ebola virus and were not to be touched by editorial divisions with twelve-foot poles.
So while that settled itself out (and eventually it did just that) we teamed up to coordinate the Miranda Mercury takeover, and Lee quickly went from artist to artist/creator. His ideas and input, which included among other things, the whole numbering gag, have made Miranda a much better book. And with him there’s absolutely no ego involved in the creative process, with both of us contributing story ideas, visual hooks, and at this point, it’s difficult to even remember who thought of what first. Almost every single phone conversation we have is followed by a mutual rush of mad ideas, and we’ve been keeping an open file of all the things we want to try over the course of the series for years now and it keeps getting larger and larger. That’s a testament to the sense of collaboration and true partnership that’s he’s brought to the table since day one, and I’m glad Miranda Mercury is the thing we ended up doing together.
Lee Ferguson: I didn’t really know what Brandon and I would do together, I was just ready to try something different. In the time B and I spent chewing over our doomed Epic project, I’d come to realize that we had a lot in common in terms of what we liked and expected from our comics, and I thought we’d make a pretty good team…on something. But that Miranda pitch, when I first got it? Love at first sight. I’d never really even considered doing a sci-fi project before, but as soon as I started reading about Yorian engines and the like, I was sold. I grew up relentlessly checking out the beat up old Flash Gordon collections at my local library, after all, and I must have owned just about every Star Wars figure ever made at one point. How the notion of doing a sci-fi comic had never occurred to me, I don’t know. But it was an easy sell…especially as we started trading emails and IM’s about it…
Going into the design process, I didn’t have much in mind for Miranda. The goggles came along pretty quickly, but I really wasn’t sure where to go with the rest of her. I must have burned through about 15 versions of that suit, and honestly still wasn’t sold that I had it right, even at the point we began pitching this series. But my wife, as usual, saved me. While I was debating colors, thinking more along the lines of a one-color flight suit, she busted out Photoshop and started playing around. Didn’t take her long to hit on the red and black combo, and it was locked in the minute she showed me. Thanks, Hon. That color combo has went on to be the basis for all the Mercury suits, and that nifty logo.
Jack was a little different. I really wanted him to feel like, well…like a sidekick. I was thinking of sort of a futuristic Bucky/Robin thing, I guess. I wanted his suit to look more utilitarian than anything else. The kid is a genius science hero…fashion isn’t really his priority. It needed to look like he just put it together to do the job, but not necessarily win any ‘best-dressed’ awards.
Along those same lines, Jack is the reason you’ll see his and Miranda’s suits evolve throughout this volume. I figure the kid is always working, even in his time between missions…coming up with better gadgets, updated suits, etc. At least, that’s my reasoning when I change things up from one issue to the next. I find myself working to simplify them the longer this goes, trying to get better lines and contours with each tweak…
And speaking of busy sidekicks, my son has been some help when it comes to Jack and his creativity, for that matter. That boomerang bomb Kid Miranda uses in #1? Yeah, that was his idea…so were the Space Ninjas in #298…
THE NUMBERS GAME
BT: For years, I thought the initial idea for our numbering gag originally came from Lee, but after digging through some old files, I found a transcript of an IM conversation between the two of us from way back when. We’re really just spit-balling here, as we tend to do, where I suggested the numbering thing in a very half-ass, conservative way and then Lee just knocked the whole thing over the fence into something that’s now become integral to everything we’re intending for the series. But this is how it always works with us—one of us tosses some little kernel of an idea out there and then the other picks it up and sprints away in the other direction. And no, I don’t know why I thought to even hold onto this and it’s presented without editing of any kind, so please excuse the lack of punctuation, my screen name, and Lee refering to Jack as Johnny. Can’t remember if that was originally the name, or if Lee just thought it was
qblack24 (8:06:11 AM): how the pages comin?
LeeMFerguson (8:07:16 AM): not too bad. i think the ff set will be alright, just bumed i won’t make the x-men ones in time…how’s miranda comin?
qblack24 (8:08:26 AM): workin on your character descripts., becoming a little longer than i thought, go figure
LeeMFerguson (8:10:12 AM): hah … no problem there, i just can’t wait to dive into this thing. gonna be good.
qblack24 (8:10:44 AM): i was thinkin, what if the book doesn’t start at issue 1
LeeMFerguson (8:11:08 AM): ???
qblack24 (8:11:20 AM): like, maybe this one is numbered like 25 or somethin
qblack24 (8:11:45 AM): Miranda Mercury #24, but it’ll be our first issue
LeeMFerguson (8:11:45 AM): and then you go backwards, or fill in the blanks, what..?
qblack24 (8:12:22 AM): forwards then
LeeMFerguson (8:12:26 AM): hmmmm…
you mean just act like we’re picking this up in the middle of a series?
qblack24 (8:12:38 AM): exactly
LeeMFerguson (8:13:08 AM): maybe we should make it #517 or something, then, so it really feels like we’re picking up on what could be the final year of a legend..?
LeeMFerguson (8:14:01 AM): and we could have *caption boxes that say “see Miranda #214″ or something, like they used to do…
qblack24 (8:14:13 AM): that might be a better idea actually
LeeMFerguson (8:14:45 AM): i think people’d really get what we’re doing with a higher number, vs. them thinking they’d missed 23 issues on the lower one…
qblack24 (8:15:32 AM): yeah, i was just tryin to leave space in case we wanted to go and fill in the blanks, but that may ruin the whole trick anyway
LeeMFerguson (8:16:07 AM): yeah, i think if you go with that, go all out and go big. my opinion, anyway
qblack24 (8:18:00 AM): think you’re right
LeeMFerguson (8:18:07 AM): hell, you can refer to johnny warning miniseries, too…
LeeMFerguson (8:18:14 AM):
qblack24 (8:18:57 AM): hmm, that’s an even better idea
LeeMFerguson (8:19:44 AM): dude, seriously, i am up for this. i was thinking we should do a big one-shot and that’s it, but the more we talk, the more i hope we can really make this splash.
LeeMFerguson (8:19:48 AM): and last
qblack24 (8:21:22 AM): think it could definitely be what the people need
LeeMFerguson (8:21:58 AM): heck yeah, like your pitch said, we can re-start an entire sci-fi movement with this puppy…
qblack24 (8:22:57 AM): I already have the opening train scene in my head, just need to put it down
LeeMFerguson (8:23:48 AM): good, good.
LeeMFerguson (8:28:10 AM): hey, we ought to build up to a big issue. like start with #493, and build up to a huge #500. maybe by that time, if we’re still kicking, we can get some guest artists, do a triple sized anniversary issue that ‘reprints’ some of the classic stuff, pin-up gallery, excerpt from johnny’s new books, etc…
LeeMFerguson (8:28:40 AM):
qblack24 (8:29:15 AM): hmm…this is becoming more and more complicated for the hour isn’t it
qblack24 (8:29:18 AM): cool
LeeMFerguson (8:29:41 AM): lol … yeah, it is … but damn, man, i am into it!!!
LeeMFerguson (8:30:41 AM): i really do think we start about six issues away from #500, and play it up as the ‘countdown to our biggest issue EVER’, all that shit…
qblack24 (8:31:24 AM): that would be dope actually
LeeMFerguson (8:32:05 AM): i think so.
alright, it’s getting ready to storm, so i’m gonna have to run, man…
i’m sure i will be online again as long as it’s not storming during my drawing breaks…
LeeMFerguson (8:48:59 AM): alright, so there HAVE been 490 or so issues of The Adventures of Miranda Mercury. thing is, they’ve been published in a parallell dimension/universe. while in our universe, she’s been real. however, after some great dimension altering adventure…
miranda now exists here as a comibook character, while she’s ‘real’ in that alternate dimension, now. so if someone wants to read all of miranda’s adventures, they just need to find an inter-dimensional comic shop.
LeeMFerguson (8:49:07 AM): and taking it a step further…
LeeMFerguson (8:50:56 AM): maybe that’s somehow tied into her illness? maybe the cure is unavailable in the new universe she finds herself, or the dimension-hopping itself is what is slowly killing her? being displaced from her natural home? it’s not harming johnny, maybe, because he’s a sentient android or something, i dunno. i think for drama’s sake, it should still just be miranda who is dying, though, so i dunno. just an additional thought…