This is what makes comics a true art-form.
Every comic I've penned is creator owned. Mack Turner: Slayer of the Dead is my vision of zombies, Steel Creek is an homage to Clint Eastwood and the Westerns that inspired my time studying film at Ithaca College. Patriot-1 is the story I've always wanted to tell - the story about a soldier who simply represents the basic ideals and moral righteousness of an entire nation.
My next graphic novel does indeed utilize a public domain character. But it's one that fascinates me, as I've mentioned. However, the story surrounding this character is entirely original and it will play directly into the universe that's being created now.
Excuse the rather bland logo mock-up... but ExtraOrdinary is something I've wanted to do for a long, long time. I love superheroes and superhero comics, and I'd love to take a crack at some of my favorites... Superman, Moon Knight, Batman and Captain America. But writing for Marvel and DC means you must conform to continuity and editorial planning across the board. That's totally fine and the way it should be, they are very popular, multi-million dollar characters.
But they don't have to be the be-all, end-all of the genre. There's plenty of room for new superheroes so long a you have a good story and you don't re-tread old and overused themes.
To me, Mike Mignola's Hellboy - a book in which I've just now begun to read religiously - is the perfect creator owned story. The same goes for one of my all-time favorites, Dave Stevens' Rocketeer. The original Rocketeer books are so good, and so beautiful, that even now IDW Publishing's current runs simply feel like a tribute. As they should.
ExtraOrdinary is my superhero universe. I've got a specific handful of superheroes that are all super-powered for a specific reason. It's not just going to run amok with hundreds or thousands of heroes. There's only about 8. One of which is actually a legacy version of the public domain character. Yes, the next graphic novel will stand alone just as much as it will be tied to ExtraOrdinary.
In order to pull this off in a new way, I have to do something different. The beauty of this is the freedom I enjoy. These are my characters, my universe and most importantly, my use of the comic book art form.
ExtraOrdinary isn't going to be a typical team book, it's going to be more of a brand. I think I want to tell the stories in a different style. Instead of 22 page issues devoted to a team story or an individual hero, the stories are going to be told however they need to be told. 12 pages here, 6 pages here... However the story needs to be told for the benefit and evolution of these characters. But the main thread is that each of these stories are connected to the overall plot and motivation for this universe.
Moreover, I want to tell superhero stories in the realm of exploring more of a "why are these heroes here." There's also the socio-political ramifications of such heroes that I don't feel are touched on enough in the genre.
The best part is... I can do whatever I want with them. And that's really where creator-owned material ultimately thrives.
I've got a talented young artist on board. Thus far, he's blown me away with capturing the things that are spilling out of my head. One of them being the Superman of this universe... The Challenger, whom I share with you now. (And yes, there is a VERY specific reason he is called "The Challenger")
ExtraOrdinary is a fun experiment kicking off in 2014... which evidently is going to be a HUGE year for me and comics. Keep up with it all at TJComics.com and the TJ Comics Facebook Page.