Of Superhero “Baggage” and Relatable Characters – An Interview with CHARLIE McELVY
Comic Book Yeti contributor Lauren Smith welcomed Charlie McElvy into the Yeti Cave to discuss his Zoop Campaign for Milestone. This is a phenomenal book spinning out of the universe of Spider-Squirrel - the Xion Universe! The campaign ends on September 23rd, so don't waste a second and go back Milestone on Zoop here!
However, if you need more convincing, please check out Lauren's interview with Charlie below. You won't be disappointed!
COMIC BOOK YETI: It’s such a pleasure to get to chat with you, Charlie! After the success of your other projects such as Spider-Squirrel, what does it mean to you to continue to make more comics?
CHARLIE MCELVY: Wow, nice first-out question! I’m SUPER-happy to be chatting with you! Thanks for the opportunity. It means the world to me to continue putting out more comics -- I’m SO GRATEFUL that people are enjoying Spider-Squirrel enough to make every campaign overachieve (by 2x!) which helps fund more books (as well as really cool swag). That’s it. I’m just grateful.
CBY: For those that don’t know- what is Milestone? How does it connect to Spider-Squirrel?
CM: Yeah, another strong question! Milestone is a direct spin-off from Spider-Squirrel Volume One (Issues 1-3). Now, the tone is completely different with less comedy and more humanity. I love superhero books, but “superheroes” is just a trapping, clothes for a story. What Vito Delsante is doing with Milestone’s script is just… yeah, I’m loving it as a fan. Deeply human with a great Grant Morrison-esque epicness draped all over this powerfully vulnerable story.
So, yes, it’s connected, but while Spider-Squirrel is the flagship Xion Studios title, Milestone is our flagship COSMIC title. It’s also the first title in the expanding Xion Universe wherein I relinquish writing chores to my co-creators & collaborators. Which, honestly, has me quite excited. I get to read this book as both “father” and “fan”. And yes, I completely LOVE IT.
CBY: Why did you choose to connect Cole Morgan to real-life events, such as World War 2?
CM: Oooh. You’re going to have to read it to understand, haha! Lemme see if I can’t distill that decision without spoilers: Spider-Squirrel opens right into the action and doesn’t look back. Why? Because I wanted it to be obvious (if not a little disorienting) that this is part of a larger, more complex, and deeper universe & timeline. Milestone brings us two more things to that end: alternate universes (which we glimpsed in Spider-Squirrel Vo.1) and a peek into the past. Which past? Whose? Where? Well, you’ll have to read to find out. As for the specific question of “why WWII?”, because we have connections already in that era for those who’ve seen what Vito & I have been working on with another title (and another creator, Carlos Cabaleiro). It’s a nod and hook to something that took place in issues 1 & 2 of Spider-Squirrel. So… did I answer and dodge that well enough? LOL!
CBY: Perfectly, that was great! What interested you in exploring a “new breed of god” on Earth? Do you believe general readers can relate to a god-like character?
CM: Ah, the “Is Superman relatable for readers & writers?” question! Lemme see if I can’t be less verbose in answering this one: yes and no. By the very nature of their powers, gods are completely UNrelatable. They are above. They’re not peers or contemporaries, they’re GODS! Now, that said, what makes many classical myths so enjoyable is just how fallible… how human… they can be. Zeus is a serial schmoozer, Thor is a drunk buffoon (well, often), Brahma is an egomaniac hell-bent on ruining everything to be right, and on and on. That’s both why they were worshiped and why they are not any longer. It’s what makes Jesus so beautiful for millions: he’s both impervious, and vulnerable. So, when you can peel back the layers and demonstrate how sensitive and vulnerable -- how human -- these characters can be they become ultimately relatable. Honestly, it’s the very nature of the Marvel Comics success. Every character is a paragon of some sort, but they all come with baggage -- physical or emotional. That’s what we’re doing here: bringing back the classic superhero “baggage” that made characters like Spider-man, Daredevil, and even Silver Surfer so powerfully-relatable. Failure. Physical inability. Ultimate loneliness. Human characteristics that most (or all) of us have felt or dealt with. So, yes I absolutely DO think readers can relate to these characters when written well -- and Vito has absolutely written a phenomenal plot & script.
CBY: I like how you brought it back to humanity in the end! With that said: is Milestone more of a single character driven story, or a team-up book?
CM: Milestone is primarily solo. We need to focus on him, his motivations, his aspirations, his devotions… Yes, other heroes will show up, but we’ll stay focused on our titular hero.
CBY: You’ve got some amazing creators on this book- Vito Delsante, Ariel Medel, Jagdish Kumar, and Omi Remalante! What was the process like for finding creators to join you on this book?
CM: Thank you!! I love these gents! In reverse order of your ask: Omi was introduced to me by Ross Hughes who helped me find another colorist to take what his schedule wouldn’t allow. And Omi has just lived up to the expectation 100-fold! Jagdish was requested by Ariel, and I’m so glad he did -- Jagdish’s finishes just made Ariel’s linework POP! Ariel, as many have found recently, completed my Spider-Squirrel #3 lines because original series artist D.C. Stuelpner had a scheduling conflict. NO REGRETS! While I LOVE what D.C. brings to my characters (he’s working on a new 10-page story for me right now), I found Ariel through Facebook and I was looking forward to working with him. The SS3 issue was a great opportunity. Vito. I don’t even know where to begin. He’s my bro, my confidant, and my editor. He’s also my co-creator here. There aren’t many people I’d have entrusted this book to, but Vito was indubitably my first choice. We have more coming already, after this series…
CBY: That's amazing! What's additionally amazing is that you could build this entire universe with yourself and an artist/letterer- but you don't stick with just one team. Why do you choose to invite so many other creators into your world?
CM: Because no person is an island and a universal master. Meaning: working alone is just that -- lonely -- and no one person can master EVERY style of story. So, I not only get the incredible pleasure of working with a bunch of other creators, I get to LEARN from each of them. Vito is picking up some of my “paragon” titles (yes, plural), and I’ll likely work with other creators for different aspects, and genres, within my universe as we expand. Dean Haspiel is introducing us to the “weird” side of the Xion Universe. Travis Gibb may help architect the horror/macabre with Anthony Stokes. David Gallaher may bring new life to my original title, WatchGuard. DT Butchino is bringing a new teen title to the fold soon (with Kenan Halilović, Omi Remalante, and HdE). Daniel Kalban & Author Vandersteen wrote my upcoming Alpha-Elite one shot. Russell Nohelty, Morgan Quaid, Kat Calamia, and almost a dozen other creators dipped their toes into some of the expanded parts of my universe for my upcoming Titan-Sized Annual coming early 2023. I want to bring different visions into the Xion Universe similar to how the early Marvel Universe did, and the only way to do this is to collaborate. A singular vision is still possible, architecturally, but the engineering, the creation, happens when we get together and build as a team. The sum truly is greater than its parts.
CBY: What is your favorite thing about this first issue of Milestone? Any specific rewards on Zoop you are most excited for fans to see?
CM: I love that I get to be the Grand Schemer while watching a Master Creator like Vito work with his partner-in-crime here, Ariel Medel. The really fun part is watching them collaborate and discuss panel details. It might sound boring to some, but when they go back & forth and then look at me, I’m like, “what?? This all sounds awesome!”, and they go, “you’re no help…”
CBY: This has been fantastic, Charlie; thanks for taking the time to speak with me! Please plug yourself away below- where can we find you and keep up with all your work?
CM: Totally my honor! Thank YOU!! I’m all over social media at @charliemcelvy (IG, TikTok, FB, Twitter) and I respond to most everything when I can. You can also pick up some of my stuff at xionstudios.square.site with my new (coming soon) website www.xionstudios.com almost ready to take over for that Square site. For those interested in my nonsensical rants and crowdfunding promos, as well as a preview of upcoming books & projects, they can follow my FREE Substack here: https://charliemcelvy.substack.com/