In 2003, Mark Waid and Barry Kitson released EMPIRE at DC comics, a book about a man taking over the world. Now, 11 years later, Waid and Kitson have returned, but this time at Thrillbent comics with a brand new volume. Waid talked with us over the phone about this new project and what it has to offer.
COMIC VINE: What is the first volume EMPIRE about?
MARK WAID: It was about "what happens when a world beating super-villain finally wins?" What happens when he takes over the world and there is no opposition? What happens when an armored despot named Golgoth and his hand-picked accomplices manage to assume the entire power of the world, consolidated on one throne. What happens then? What are your goals? What are your problems? What are your challenges? For Golgoth, it's you always knew you wanted to rule the world, but now, you found that by consolidating the world's power under one crown that makes you the most targeted being on the planet. It's not about external threats. It's about "oh my god. I can trust anybody around me." It's science-fiction Game of Thrones, if you will.
CV: This book was originally published at DC, then brought over to Thrillbent. What was the process to bring this book over?
MW: Well, it was always a creator-owned property. DC licensed it to publish in the early-2000s and because of the way licenses work, as long as it was in print, they retained the right to keep publishing it, but it fell out of print for several years, and that allowed us to retain the rights, so now Barry and I have all the rights in perpetuity to everything and now we have a chance to do it on our own and it only made sense to do it for Thrillbent.
CV: What made you want to go back and explore this world, 11 years later?
MW: It's honestly something we've wanted to do for some time. We wanted to do it ever since we were working on the first run, but Barry and I were sort of never in the same place , creatively, at the same time, but we've had notes, we've had conferences, but what made this the right time was the combination of reclaiming the rights, and wanting to launch the Thrillbent subscription service with a huge, heavy-hitter property. This made the most sense to us. If we're going to ask people to pay $3.99 a month, which is the price of one print comic in order to get access to tons and tons of digital comic material on Thrillbent. We wanted to come swinging out of the gate, excuse my metaphor. We wanted to come out of the dugout, swinging hard, with a property that we really knew there was an appetite for.
CV: What's going on in this new volume of the book?
MW: Now that Golgoth has won, he's got a problem. Everyone on the planet Earth has now set their sites on him, and while he's supreme ruler and omnipotent and head of the world, he has two problems. One is that puts him in the cross-hairs of all the opposition and secondly, he sort of has to ask the question "what now?" What is there left to strive for? What is there left to achieve? Barry Kitson and I never made it a secret that we based a lot of the character Golgoth on Charles Foster Kane. And that movie is my favorite movie of the 20th century and I find that idea that you've got an all powerful megalomaniac who's always looking to acquire more power and acquire more things and acquire, acquire, acquire, hoping that maybe it will fill some sort of need in him. We just ran that out to its logical extreme, which is to say "well, now he's got everything." Now what?
CV: As soon as you talked about Citizen Kane and Charles Foster Kane, the first volume just completely clicked for me.
MW: Yeah, exactly. That's what we were hoping for all along.
CV: Golgoth is a very interesting character and one that is hard to feel sympathy for, especially after he's done things like conquer the world and killed his own daughter. What led to the creation of this character?
MW: That's a very good question. When I turned 30, this is a true story, the day I turned 30, I woke up and looked in the mirror and thought "you know what? All I ever wanted to do was write comics for a living and be able to not worry about where the rent money comes from." Everybody has big goals and aspirations but in terms of what I really wanted, sentimentally as a kid, by the age of 30, I achieved it. I really had to ask myself the question "What next? Where do you go from here? What are your goals? You managed to hit them all." That was a profound moment for me. It's sounds obvious in retrospect, but that was the moment EMPIRE was born. What if you're all-powerful and you managed to conquer the entire world and there is no more world to conquer? Where do you set your sights? That's absolutely where that entire series came from.
CV: The last volume dealt with a lot of betrayal. Any reoccurring themes in this new volume?
MW: Themes of loss, themes of trying to reconnect with humanity. Again, like you said, with the death of his daughter, he doesn't have anything that ties him or grounds him to the world around him and that makes his quest even more difficult. If he was doing it for his daughter and his daughter is dead, what is he doing it for now? He's not directionless. He's not weak. He realizes in order to keep the power of the throne, he must keep a strong facade at all times or else the entire house of cards collapses but it's hard to keep that facade going when you don't really have a goal.
CV: Barry Kitson returns on this newest volume, what is it that you like about him as an artist?
MW: There's a beauty of the way he approached the story. There's a subtlety to the way he approached to the story. It's not just about big giant bombastic, people punching each other. Not all the super-hero tropes. Instead, it's about the smaller moments. What I love about Barry is that he captures those big, giant moments, but the faces, the expressions, the body language, its like watching a film on paper, or if you will, on your computer screen. The acting of his characters is just so strong.
CV: Was he as game to jump on this second volume as you were?
MW: Oh yeah. We've been itching to do this for a while. It belongs to both of us. We're both co-creators and co-story tellers. We worked very closely on this. I wouldn't have done it without him and he wouldn't have done it without me. Now that we have our chance, we're going to make the most out of it.
CV: How can the people reading this interview get their hands on EMPIRE 2?
MW: By going to the Thrillbent.com website or by downloading our Thrillbent app on the iPad, either one works. For a $3.99 month subscription, you get access to EMPIRE, which launches tomorrow [Wednesday, May 28th] and you can use every other week, but you get access to 300+ other comics which we on that site, including other creator-owned stuff that I've done, creator-owned books that other folks have done, and if that's not inticement enough, this is volume two of EMPIRE, but if you subscribe now, we'll give you a downloadable PDF of the entire first volume graphic novel so you be fully caught up. That's a pretty good bargain, for the price of one print comic. That's a really good value.
CV: Completely agree. Thank you very much, Mark. It was awesome talking to you.
MW: My pleasure.
Make sure to check out EMPIRE volume 2 from Thrillbent, available through their website and thanks a ton to Mark Waid.