KINGS WATCH is a limited series book from Dynamite Entertainment that takes some of its coolest characters, Flash Gordon, The Phantom, and the Mandrake, and has them face off against impossible odds! Writer Jeff Parker (AQUAMAN) answered some questions from fellow writer Gail Simone (RED SONJA, BATGIRL) about this series and its characters.
GAIL SIMONE: Okay, Jeff, you know I am a huge fan of your work already, and I have to say, this series somehow slipped by me, but I got a review copy of issue four and IMMEDIATELY had to track down the rest. I think some people might have missed the publicity for it, because it is absolutely a blast to read…Mandrake, Flash Gordon, and the Phantom all together in one book, I am loving it. First, let me just ask you…what is it about these characters that appeals to you as a writer?
JEFF PARKER: Thanks! I like that there is no way to make them more ‘real’ for a serious approach. That guy is dressed like a magician. That other guy is in purple and wears a mask and punches skulls onto people’s faces. You’ve got to accept them and roll with it, which is what I tried to do. And readers are fine with that.
GS: My favorite thing about this book is that, even though there are nostalgic elements, it in NO WAY feels like nostalgia, it feels incredibly fresh and new. How did you go about injecting life into these characters when so many others have not quite managed it?
JP: I think you have to remember to take the time to show the characters to an audience with the assumption that no one knows who they are, approach it like it’s the first time- you really have to position part of your brain to be the objective reader. And then you immediately are forced to show them doing the very coolest things that they can do, you’re not allowing yourself to coast on reputations. That’s maybe the key now that you made me think of it.
GS: The art by Marc Laming is terrific, it’s clean and dramatic and the GOSH WOW moments are spectacular. I know I’m going on a bit, but I really am a fan of this book. How do you work with him, what is the process like?
JP: The guy is a fiend of productivity, I honestly don’t know when he eats or sleeps. He must, right? But it seems like within minutes of turning in script he comes back with detailed layouts, and soon they’re at the finishing stage. I think we can safely predict Marc’s going to be in huge demand in 2014. And hopefully everyone will know to get Jordan Boyd in there coloring him, they worked together wonderfully.
GS: How did you decide on these specific versions of the characters, what went into the decisions of what to update and what to leave untouched?
JP: Mandrake is the one who seems to have his history somewhat intact, and I thought as the supernatural guy, that works for him. But then again, he’s vague about everything, so who knows? In the last issue you get some backstory on Phantom and where he falls in the legacy line of Phantoms, I wanted to leave him open for interpretation, and there’s a development there that will be an interesting turn for him, trying not to spoil.
Flash I wanted to start from the beginning, as is now clear because we were doing the Flash Gordon book right after this. I like the idea of him being the fresh faced new kid, having to look to the other two for some guidance. It’s all poking around to figure out a dynamic that keeps them from being three leads who don’t need each other. The surprise to me was Lothar, who I was going to have mostly with Mandrake as you would historically expect since he’s from Mandrake’s world. But he hooks a lot of the story together by running into Phantom, and I like the way they played off each other so well, that he kind of sticks with Phantom a lot from that point.
GS: Can you pitch the series a little bit for the uninitiated? There’s a huge group of comics readers who barely know these iconic characters, if they know them at all. What makes them classics worth reading?
JP: Flash Gordon is the adventurer from Earth who goes to the invading planet Mongo to teach them how hard it is to conquer humans. Mandrake is a stage magician/master illusionist who fights all manner of evil forces. Phantom is a jungle-based vigilante who’s ancestor was marooned by pirates, and swore eternal vengeance against such people. There!
Really, these guys are the archetypes that influenced so many comics heroes to follow. If you look at their original stories you’ll quickly be amazed with how many elements originate from them, and from your favorite books. It will give you a greater understanding of this kind of fiction.
Make sure to check out KINGS WATCH #4 from Dynamite Entertainment which is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally.
Also, check out the rest of the the preview for this book below!