Captain Midnight is back!
Look in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Yup, it’s a plane, but Captain Midnight is flying it! After vanishing in 1944, genius inventor Jim Albright (aka Captain Midnight) recently reappeared near the Bermuda Triangle flying a WWII bomber. The military, apparently unfamiliar with time traveling heroes, detained Midnight briefly before he escaped again. Now he’s running around the modern world, with Joshua Williamson (Ghosted, Masks & Mobsters ) penning his new adventures for Dark Horse Comics. Originally a radio series before turning to the pages of comic books in the 40s (and the silver screen in the 50s), Midnight’s return to mass media after almost 60 years is somewhat unprecedented. Golden age heroes in modern times is a comic book trope, but it’s far less common to reintroduce characters that have been out of print that long. We chat with Williamson about the Captain, and what it’s been like to bring him back.
Joshua Williamson: For the last few years I have been talking to Dark Horse about some projects. Captain Midnight was brought up… geez, nearly two years ago. Mike Richardson had a vision for the character that he wanted to do, and was looking for ways to do. About a year ago I was brought on to write the series. Mike, Scott Allie, Jim Gibbons and I broke the story together and talked about the direction of the series. You have to know that Mike is a huge fan of the original Captain Midnight serials and had a very strong idea of what he wanted. No one knows more about Captain Midnight than Mike, so it was fun working on the story with him. Eventually I was left to my own devices to try to craft a story that worked on a lot of levels.
CGM: How would you describe Captain Midnight to new fans, both the character and the series?
JW: Genius. World War Two hero. Man of mystery. Maverick, but leader. Thinks he is always right and doing the right thing. No nonsense.
Jim Albright was an inventor who thought he’d be better suited aiding in the war effort, so he created the identity Captain Midnight. Midnight fought Nazi’ and saved lives, all while advancing his technology.
CGM: Did you draw inspiration from the original Captain Midnight comic/radio series/movies? What were your favourite elements?
JW: Of course. Watched them all. And borrowed a few things here and there. The Polar Bear thing from issue one? That was from the last movie serial.
I loved how Midnight treated his supporting characters. Everyone was his equal.
CGM: You’ve taken a very iconic archetype from the golden age and put him in a modern setting. What drew you to that concept? What has it been like to write two very distinct worlds in one book, and were there any unforeseen challenges or pleasant surprises? Do you have a favourite era between the two?
JW: One of the things that we decided early on was that Midnight was going to be disappointed by the future. He was going to be like most men out of time where he was lost, in awe or confused. He was going to hit the ground running and be frustrated by… how far behind we are. That’s what really caught my attention. I’m used to writing duel narratives so that wasn’t a challenge. It’s one of my favorite story telling techniques.
Which of the two do I like best? That’s tough. Hm. The present day stuff is fun and where my head is, but issue eight is primarily flashback and writing it was a blast.
CGM: Tell us a little bit about your process for each issue. Is it collaborative with Fernando Dagnino or do you work separately?
JW: We work pretty separate. I mostly develop the scripts with Jim Gibbons and then he talks with Fernando. Thankfully, we get to check out the roughs and layouts. That’s were the magic happens. Fernando has been great to work with. He has added a lot of small touches that weren’t in the script that made pages sing. It’s been awesome.
We’ve planned a lot of the series out in advance. We know the last page of issue 10, y’know? So once we nailed down the story, I started writing scripts. Then it’s a series of back and forth with my editors to nail it down.
CGM: What do you love most about working on this series?
JW: Pulp comic fun. The challenge of making a super hero book different. But at the same time it’s still a book where a guy kills Nazis. How can I not love that?!
CGM: How long have you been reading comics? What comic writers or characters influenced you?
JW: Since I was super young. 4 or 5 maybe? I really don’t have memories without comics being around.
Writers who have influenced me: Peter David, Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, BKV, Garth Ennis, James Robinson, Joe Hill, Rick Remender and Jason Aaron. The two biggest have to be John Layman and Brian Michael Bendis, since I learned a lot directly from them.
CGM: You’ve worked on a very wide variety of books, from creator owned (Ghosted), to franchises (Uncharted, TMNT), to caped crusaders (Voodoo, Legends of the Dark Knight). What is your favourite aspect of each genre?
JW: The characters. I always try to find characters that I enjoy. Each genre offers interesting takes on characters that I can take a stab at.
But aside from Captain Midnight I prefer to write darker books. Grittier. With an edge. You’ll notice in the future I’ll be doing more books with a bite.
CGM: What’s next for you?
Ghosted , Masks and Mobsters and Captain Midnight.
Then there is a ton of stuff that it’s too soon to announce. Mostly work at Dark Horse and Image/Skybound. Lots of new books planned. I somehow found myself lucky enough to be writing books I want to write, and getting paid to do it. Not sure how that happened, but I love it.