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Social issues through comic books special guest Mark Waid

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Mark Waid is considered by many to be one of the most influential writers to come out of the 90s. With a CV that boasts such titles as The Flash, JLA, and Kingdom Come for DC Comics; Captain America, Indestructible Hulk, an Eisner award winning run on Daredevil for Marvel Comics, Irredeemable for Boom! Studios and The Green Hornet for Dynamite Entertainment (and this is only the tip of the iceberg), Mr. Waid is a creative tour de force that continues to thrill fans with his creativity and vision. One would imagine that creating worlds that inspire so much wonder would be more than enough for any individual to keep busy with, but he is also an incredible advocate for the medium of comic books who shares his keen perspective on the state of the industry, where it is going, and what it can be whenever he can. There is one upcoming event that fits this bill to a “T”. The upcoming Social Issues Through Comic Books course with Christina Blanch has signed on Mr. Waid to participate as a guest lecturer where he will be sharing alongside some of the industries’ hottest talent. Gracious enough to take time out of a breakneck schedule, he sat down to share on the upcoming free online course, the role of comic books as social commentary and more in part 3 of our Social Issues Through Comic Books course coverage.

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MT: Comcivine credits you on contributing to the creation of some 1312 issues. With a career that has seen you writing for the big two and telling stories for some of the industries’ most iconic figures, your work has explored a myriad of social issues either overtly or covertly. Since the human condition is a given constant in the course of history, how do you broach the same issues in your work repeatedly and still keep it fresh? How important do you feel it is that our mythology has something of substance to say?

MW: In answer to the first part of your question, I can broach the same issues in my work over the years because, over time, all these are variables: my own point of view, my degree of wisdom as I age, how society views certain social issues and with what imperative, and more. Moreover, not every character I write will approach issues in the same way. With Daredevil, for instance--who is by day a lawyer--he had more to say about the justice aspect of the Trayvon Martin case than Batman (who'd be more focused on getting vengeance) might. If you're doing your job correctly as a writer, even those iconic characters like Superman or Wonder Woman have unique perspectives on social issues, and the fun of exploring them through those icons comes in figuring out what those perspectives might be.

MT: You’ve contributed to Ms. Blanch’s previous online course and are making a return appearance with the upcoming Social Issues Through Comic Books. This time around, you’ll be contributing to discussion on the topic of media, government intervention, and information privacy. Did you get to choose the topic that you will be commenting on? Of your current work, which title runs would you say most accurately share/reflect your feelings on the topic?

MW: I did choose this topic because it's something I'm very passionate about (as can probably be seen in much of my more recent work). The work I've been doing in Daredevil is probably most reflective of my own personal feelings--that information privacy is critical and that trading personal privacy for security is a fool's game. In the first place, in this day and age, there's almost nothing "secure," and in the second place, fear-based decisions are, as a rule, the ones I find most contemptible.

MT: Through the work that you do on your website Thrillbent.com you are at the forefront of working to bring the comic medium to the digital domain. All of the comic stories are free to access in the form of regular page releases. With this upcoming course on the medium being offered for free as well, how much of an effect do you feel these types of efforts have on bringing new readers to the medium? Does a public better educated on the role that comics play in our culture translate into a stronger readership?

MW: I think free exposure to what we do, what we produce, what we have to say is key to broadening our audience. Once upon a time, comics was a mass medium, but over the last few decades we've "successfully" transformed it into a niche market. Ghuh. Exposure means everything--especially since (as Ms. Blanch's courses underscore) comics isn't a genre, it's a medium full of things besides superhero stories. A public better educated on the role that comics play in our culture gets the chance to see that the wide variety of comics being published today virtually guarantees that there's some material out there that anyone can find of interest.

MT: With the success of Ms. Blanch’s previous course; the promise of the upcoming online venture, as well as the explosion of college courses around the country using comic book material as part of their curriculum, do you think that we are witnessing a new attitude of taking the medium seriously or is this just a possible trend? Do you feel it is important for creators to reach outside of their normal medium work to foster such efforts?

MW: I don't think it's a trend. I've been around long enough to see it wax and wane before, this spate of "Comics aren't just for kids!" headlines, but each time the medium gets that sort of attention, the message seems to last. But it's critical for us to reach outside of our normal readership to get that message across. This is where social media comes into play, as well as the free-to-read (or at least free-to-sample) models are essential.

MT: With your full schedule it is hard to imagine you having much free time, but when you do, what do you like to read? Are you reading anything interesting currently?

MW: I love a lot of what Image Comics is publishing--books outside the superhero genre, with unique voices and styles. PRETTY DEADLY, SEX CRIMINALS, and BLACK SCIENCE are favorites.

MT: Both Christina Blanch and Donny Cates were asked this question, so I thought it would only be fair to ask you too. If you could have a super power what would it be?

MW: This is a no-brainer. Super-speed, if only to further my Sisyphian quest to someday reach Inbox Zero with my email.

Thank you Mr. Waid for sharing! Be sure to sign up for the upcoming free online course (starting March 10th) where Mark Waid will be participating alongside other industry powerhouses, bringing knowledge to the masses. It is sure to be both fun and enlightening.

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