Continuing on from where we left off, discussion moves onto Adam’s second, and most recent book, Seven Wonders. Set in the fictional city of San Ventura, it tells the story of an ordinary guy called Tony living in a city under siege by the hooded supervillain, The Cowl. Tony develops super-powers and acts to take down The Cowl, however, he finds that the local superhero team – the so-called ‘Seven Wonders’ aren’t as grateful as he assumed they’d be..
I mentioned to Adam, that if I had to guess, I’d have pegged him as more as a Marvel man, because Seven Wonders seems like it is DC vs. Marvel. You’ve got the Cowl who is like the Batman/Joker figure and the Seven Wonders who are like the Avengers with the whole ‘Unite’ vibe.
“Really? I’ve never really thought about it like that before. I mean, the Cowl is an evil Batman with superpowers, and I guess the Seven Wonders are almost like a dysfunctional cross between the Avengers and the Justice League. So yeah, I can see how they’ve influenced Seven Wonders.”
I asked Adam if it was intimidating to step into the world of the big two superhero publishers world, as I had initially found it bewildering with so many continuities, heroes and makers within the comic industry.
“Oh, that’s the problem, I mean, I started reading 2000AD first…! A friend of mine at high school used to get 2000 AD and bring it to school. I remember that and enjoying them but then he moved. But when I was 25, I went into a bookstore and 2000 AD was on the shelf I thought ‘Oh, they’re still making it’ so I checked it out and loved it. But I really loved it – not just the stories, but the whole format, Then I went from 2000 AD to superhero comics because I remembered the Batman and Iron Man comics and the Marvel encyclopaedia I had as a child, so I went into a comics store and bought a selection of stuff, some Iron Man, some Batman which kinda steered me towards DC. As you said, it is intimidating, with 75 years of continuity to get your head around. But what I decided to do was just research my way into it. That’s why I went to DC rather than Marvel; even though both were interesting, it’s really time consuming trying to get your read around the continuities. I thought, crumbs, I’m just going to stick with DC. But I’ve also delved into Marvel quite a bit now though!”
I said to Adam how his prose evokes the double-page spreads of comics, and how colourful it is in comparison to Empire State.
“Ah, one early influence on Seven Wonders is a spread in Superman: World of New Krypton – it’s an Alex Ross painting of a Metropolis street looking up at all the new superheroes of New Krypton all descending against this amazing blue sky. You’ve also got Marvels which tells scenes from Marvel’s comic history from the point of view of a journalist from his point of view. For instance there’s a roadblock, but it’s because there are superheroes fighting beyond it – there are some scenes like that in Seven Wonders.”
I was particularly excited about the crowd perception of the ongoing fight between the superheroes/villains:
“I’m a big fan of Astro City, where there are so many superheroes they’re just ordinary. So the stories are about ordinary, little people and these superheroes without their costumes. It’s completely amazing and a huge influence on me. There’s a collection called Local Heroes which is my favourite. Absolutely genius.”
The book begins with naming the Seven Wonders down the first page, But they don’t appear then until later. The Seven Wonders claim they can defeat the Cowl – there are seven of them and only one of him – yet there is little evidence that they could. You don’t get a sense of their power at this early stage.
“That’s an interesting point. The book begins with this homage to the Silver Age, the ‘amazing and magical’ Seven Wonders, and then they’re not there! There’s the perception and the reality. They’re the last ones standing, the celebrities who defend San Ventura against the evil Cowl and one day they shall defeat him… maybe. And they don’t appear in the book until later on, but from the beginning you’ve got Tony who is so afraid of the city. So… where are the Seven Wonders and what are they doing?”
Adam mentioned earlier that the heroes in Seven Wonders are very sexualised. The spandex, the leather catsuits, the female poses – the ladies especially, but the gentlemen in comics are very stoic traditionally:
“It is one of the things I wanted to talk about in the book. The male heroes are also eye candy, with their ridiculous poses and muscle-defining costumes. So in Seven Wonders, there are very feminine superheroes, but also very masculine heroes too, with deep voices and lots of ridiculous posing! Aurora has his poses and expressions right down, because this is what the people of San Ventura expect, these seven chiselled heroes. Well, six and a robot. They are perfection in the eyes of some people.”
Taking about Tony, the unfortunate soul who is caught up in this amazing adventure, Adam comments:
“It’s like “well, what would you do?” if you woke up in that situation. It goes back to Spiderman and Peter Parker getting bitten by that spider and suddenly he has all these powers – what do you do? With great power comes great responsibility and all that.”
One thing I really enjoyed about Seven Wonders is that I don’t like it when superheroes use their superpowers and bang that’s it, story over. And I suppose that’s where the DC element comes in, Batman isn’t super-powered, and uses his brain. But here, you have a diverse group of superheroes who don’t use their brains and powers to get out of situations, but by and large talk through the solution to a problem.
“There were more meetings in the first draft! But I agree. The Seven Wonders team are very careful what they do and how they control their environment. They are trying to maintain the status quo forever whilst the Cowl is trying to disrupt that. The two sides are balanced.”
I wondered whether Adam thought, or had envisaged developing Seven Wonders any further:
“It’d make a good movie! I’d like to see it as a graphic novel. I’ve been told it’s a very visual novel, like Empire State. It’s the way I write I guess. Of course it would be great, but it goes back into that random world of publishing. Someone has to see it makes a good graphic novel, or movie, but that’s out of your control. You never know what’s going to happen!”
Both of Adam’s books have some particularly stunning covers by Will Staehle. What does Adam think of them and did he have any input?
“Angry Robot are really good in that actually ask you what you want and pairing you up with excellent artists. I send across some thoughts as to the elements I picture on the cover, I saw them as fairly abstract, then Will works his magic. But the thing about the Seven Wonders cover is it’s bright – that orange and yellow! I’ve got a proof of the hardcover dustjacket which is SO bright! Will’s whole use of colour is brilliant.”
“Seven Wonders has that great design where close up it’s the buildings but the further away you get it becomes this orange ‘seven’. So you see it from right across of a book store… yeah, you get it. I’m very pleased to have Will as the artist.”
Looking ahead, Adam has an awful lot coming up to look forward to. I asked him what was coming up and how important the convention scene was to him:
“Well I’m on a four-book contract with Angry Robot, the third book, The Age Atomic [the sequel to Empire State] is out in May 2013 and then Hang Wire in May 2014, and Shadow’s Call from Tor in 2014 as well. I was lucky to have this backlog of books when I signed for Angry Robot. Seven Wonders was the second one, Empire State the third. Hang Wire was also written. The Age Atomic was the only one written to contract. I’m operating two books ahead of myself and hopefully will keep to this buffer.”
“WorldCon was my first big US convention. Especially because Angry Robot have international distribution, and my other publisher Tor and my agent are based in New York, I’m trying to do more US stuff now. There was also the Angry Robot Showcase in Chicago with Chuck Wendig, Kim Curran, Gwenda Bond and me – with so many of us in the same place at the same time, it was really cool!”
Adam Christopher, thank you very much.
Seven Wonders, and Empire State are both available now from Angry Robot books. Adam’s highly entertaining blog can be found here or you can find him on Twitter @GhostFinder. With special thanks to Darren Turpin at Angry Robot.