Comic Book Yeti Contributor Lauren Smith chats with Nate Cosby about the current Kickstarter campaign for The Daring Double Life of Ace Adams, the surprising influences behind Ace Adams, and being inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions, Nate! As someone who first heard about this campaign as a reader/consumer and backed it ASAP, I couldn’t be more honored to chat with you about The Daring Double Life of Ace Adams! Congrats on being successfully funded!! How does it feel??
NATE COSBY: Hey hey, thank YOU for your interest! It feels RELIEVING to hit the funding mark. And heartening that so many people believe in what Jacob, Kike, Rus and myself are doing!
CBY: I have to say, I think this story couldn’t be any better timed given the environment of superhero storytelling lately. What made you go “you know what this world needs? Another superhero story!”?
NC: I’d stayed away from superheroes for several years, but this one idea just kept scratching around in my head, this fundamental idea of help…what would a person be like if they actually wanted to be a superhero, to help as many people as possible? I don’t think they’d want to stop at the end of the day…I think they’d want to keep it going all day and night.
The timing of it is due to Jacob coming on board as my co-creator. He and I were looking to collaborate on something, and he was itching to do something with superheroes, and I said, “Well, I only have this ONE idea…” and luckily, he dug it from the start, and now here we are.
CBY: I absolutely adore, both as a huge comic nerd and as a former (but not really) Hannah Montana fan, the approach you take with this story. “What if one person has TWO different hero identities, on top of their own? How does it work? How can they be so different yet the same?” Can you tell me what parts of the double/triple-life theme most excited you to explore in this story?
NC: There’s this great bit in Frank Quitely & Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin, where Dick Grayson’s complaining to Alfred about taking on the mantle of Batman. And Alfred tells Dick to think of Batman as a performance. That stuck with me, and it’s the approach Ace Adams takes to both of his superhero personas. When he’s Whiz-Bang, his back’s straight, chest is puffed out, he’s always smiling. As The Black Dog, he hunches, growls, limps around like a wounded beast. Ace not only sees these personas as a means to help, but also as the roles of a lifetime. He’s saving lives, but he’s also putting on a show.
CBY: Based on the Kickstarter page, to me, Ace Adams seems like a character that has a perfection complex, yet is just as flawed as the rest of us. What went into designing him, both physically and personality-wise?
NC: Physically, we started with Gene Kelly. Both Jacob and I love Singin’ In The Rain, and we saw Ace as a guy that’s strong yet graceful, almost balletic when he’s hopping around the city. But we also wanted him to have a magnetic aura, a sense that eyes are drawn to him, even when he’s being still. Sidney Poitier’s one of my favorite actors, and I wanted Ace to emulate the presence and confidence that Mr. Poitier had in droves.
His personality is, for better and worse, based on parts of me…specifically, the way I work. I generally take on more work than I should, because I always feel driven to write or edit or produce…I love being creative, and I struggle to turn that part of myself off, even when I know I should.
CBY: Creating a book, much less a character, is hardly ever a one-person process. You have an AMAZING team on this book with you – artist Jacob Edgar, colorist Kike J. Diaz, and letterer Rus Wooton. How did you all get together as a team and collaborate on this book?
NC: The book doesn’t exist without Jacob. I had the concept, but the characters and the world of the story were done in full partnership with Jacob. His ability to pull from our shared influences, to create something that feels familiar yet new, has been a constant inspiration to me. With Kike, we knew he “got” Jacob’s work, because they’d worked together before, and Kike always brings an exquisite touch. And with Rus…I just had to have Rus, because he’s one of the greatest designers and letterers working in comics. I don’t write that many comics, so it helps to feel that I’m in good hands with a letterer that has an innate feel for placement and leading the reader’s eye across the page.
CBY: How did you all decide on the visuals of this book, especially the color palette? Did you as a writer have a major idea on what you wanted this book to look like, or did you give the team more free reign there?
NC: I knew I wanted it to look like a movie and a comic book at the same time. Jacob and I started with Darwyn Cooke’s work, and contrasting the widescreen art from DC: The New Frontier and Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score. We wanted the daytime scenes to feel huge and sun-bathed, and the nights to feel cramped and noir-tinged. For the color palettes, the idea is Technicolor…absolutely washed in deep, beautiful tones and textures. We all want every page to feel vibrant and alive, full of that “Let’s put on a show!” energy that classic movies have.
CBY: Additionally, of all the times and places, you choose to set this story in Golden Age Hollywood! What made you choose this time period to set it in?
NC: It’s where my favorite films come from! Meet Me In St. Louis, Casablanca, The Third Man, Lawrence of Arabia, An American In Paris…there’s a crackling energy to that time that inspires me, a lack of embarrassment towards trying to entertain people. And it just made sense to me, since our story focuses on the “performance” of a superhero, to set it in a place where the main industry is about performing.
CBY: And yet, in Golden Age Hollywood, you’ve also got atomic robots, “gangsters with magic wands, feral beasts out for blood, and seedy criminal organizations conducting cosmic-powered turf wars”. How did you put these three different genres of noir, sci-fi, and fantasy together?
NC: That’s where my other influences kicked in: The Rocketeer, LA Confidential, Chinatown and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: They were proof that Hollywood is “big” enough to tell lots of different types of stories. But we decided to go even bigger: Our version of Hollywood is more like Disney World, where movie studios have taken over entire neighborhoods and created “lands” devoted to genres. There’s a Western section, a Sci-Fi spot, a Noir area. Then there’s huge parts of town that focus on films by Nigerian filmmakers, a Bollywood land, productions by Egyptian, Japanese, Persian creators. It’s this gigantic melting pot of a place, where people from all over the world come to tell their story. So with all those different genres and voices in place, blending in a superhero story felt pretty logical, and opens up all sorts of possibilities.
"I generally take on more work than I should, because I always feel driven to write or edit or produce…I love being creative, and I struggle to turn that part of myself off, even when I know I should."
CBY: For many superhero fans, I think it’s easy to compare the two masks the main protagonist, Ace Adams, wears to heroes like Batman and Superman. However, are there other heroes that inspired the masks of Whiz-Bang and The Black Dog?
NC: Totally! Every superhero owes a debt to Superman and Batman (and characters like Zorro, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Phantom, that came before them). For Whiz-Bang, we wanted larger-than-life, laughing in the face of danger energy, pulled from Tom Strong, the first Green Lantern, the first Captain Marvel, The Rocketeer and Mr. Incredible. For The Black Dog, he’s based on the Yeth Hound from English folklore…we wanted him to be a hulking, ghostly creature, a haunting danger, so we pulled from The Spectre, the original Sandman, Wildcat and Wolverine.
CBY: The premise of this story lends itself to a big word for me: timeless. Would you describe The Daring Double Life of Ace Adams as a story that could become timeless, once it releases?
NC: I hope so. Jacob and I were heavily influenced by Batman and Superman: The Animated Series, Astro City, Tom Strong and The Incredibles, which all have specific, realized worlds surrounding their characters, but they tell universal stories that’d really fit into any period. That’s what we’re going for, and I’m happy to hear that the intention is shining through!
CBY: Upon fulfillment of this Kickstarter, can we expect anything more from The Daring Double Life of Ace Adams, or is this a glorious one-shot to hold us over for years to come?
NC: I’m throwing every superhero idea I’ve got into these 100 pages, without really planning for a sequel. It’s important to me to see this one idea I’ve got through, to its logical conclusion. But if people seem to like it, and there’s a clamor for more, I’d be up for opening up my notebook, staring at a blank page and mapping out the next chapter in Ace’s life…
CBY: Thank you so much, Nate!
CBY: You can follow Nate Cosby on Twitter at @NateCosby and be sure to back The Daring Double Life of Ace Adams below.