Marc Guggenheim may be enjoying a good run right now as “Arrow,” which was picked up by the CW for another season and has its season finale Thursday night, but the showrunner/executive producer is introducing another action-adventure series, in comic book form, later this year called “The Adventures of Jonas Quantum.”
Published by Legendary Comics, and with art by Freddie Williams II (Justice League America, The Flash, Robin), Guggenheim introduces us to Jonas Quantum, a “maverick hyper-genius with the power to cure death in the morning, time travel in the afternoon and unlock transdimensional wormholes at night” — as the release goes. Quantum has infinite intelligence, which will make for a very inventive and conceptual book, but will also mean that the character doesn’t play well with others.
Hero Complex caught up with Guggenheim on the eve of the “Arrow” finale to chat about the series, smart characters and his new paper-and-ink endeavor.
When you came up with “Jonas Quantum,” what was the concept behind it?
Just the fun of a book that reminds me of a book like the first 100 issues of “Fantastic Four” where there were just so many wonderful ideas being presented and different characters and concepts. Just so much fun to have a book where there’s really no boundaries. And that’s what this book is about. Fundamentally, it’s about this guy and his intellect being both a blessing and a curse that’s set against a backdrop of unrelenting fun. Each issue is going to be self-contained because I wanted that feeling that I had with “Fantastic Four” where you pick up an issue and you have no idea what you’re going to get. That was a lot of fun for me to think about and write about.
For many really smart characters like Reed Richards and Mister Terrific, there’s a downside to it. What’s the curse of being so intelligent?
The thing about Reed and the thing about Mister Terrific — both characters that I’ve written and both characters that I really like — is that their intelligence has never put them beyond interacting with other people. The Michael Holt version of Mister Terrific used to be married. Reed has Sue and Ben and Johnny. The thing about Jonas, he’s a quantum of intelligence beyond Reed and Holt. He’s so far ahead of everyone else that he finds it difficult interacting with human beings. So that’s the curse and the burden that he’s living under.
You mentioned it being a self-contained book, but it’s still a six-issue series?
We’re doing it as six issues for the time being, but we’re hoping that it is successful enough that it continues. We’re not doing it as a six-issue story with a beginning, middle and end. Each issue has its own beginning, middle and end. It won’t be highly serialized. I wanted each issue to have its own look and feel.
How old is Jonas?
What’s fun about the book is that we’ll jump around to different points of his life. It makes the book different. Because each issue is self-contained,we don’t have to be completely linear in terms of how we’re telling the stories. In a given issue, we’ll jump back in forth through various periods of his life.
What’s an invention of his that you particularly enjoy?
I really like this invention that he has to shrink down, a la The Atom or Ant-Man. The way he uses it is very different. He uses it in a way that The Atom or Ant-Man couldn’t do
Freddie Williams. How does his art make the story that you’re telling come to life?
Freddie is amazing. I worked with him on Justice Society of America, and the work he’s doing here is so outstanding. Without me specifically talking to him about this, he had the same instincts and could render the pages in a very clear, hyper-detailed way. Kind of a little Geoff Darrow and even a bit of Frank Quitely kind of way. It really works for this concept because the concept for the book is itself concepts and ideas. I can only write so much. At the end of the day, Freddie has the burden of visualizing these things. So often in scripts I’m writing things like ‘I’m so sorry,’ or ‘You’ll probably hate me for this.’ He turns in these incredible images, so much so that I find myself really decreasing the panel to page ratio to give him much big panels and a much bigger real estate to play with. Legendary is wonderful about not holding us to a 20- or 22-page length so we really can expand the issue to fit the story and accommodate the crazy visuals that Freddie’s drawing. It’s a wonderful book. Chris Sotomayor is our colorist and he’s just perfect for this book. It’s a real dream team in terms of art. It inspires me, too. ‘OK, you did this — let’s try this.’
Shifting gears. Oliver Queen in “Arrow” seems a lot more physical in terms of problem-solving than Jonas …
Yeah, I think Oliver is a lot less intellectual than Jonas. Jonas is a very in his head kind of guy, whereas Oliver can always expligate a lot of stuff by punching somebody.
What do you hope people take from the “Arrow” finale?
I hope people find it a satisfying end. Obviously we have a lot of questions to answer coming off of the last few episodes. I hope that this episode give people satisfactory answers, and I feel that it does. At the same time, we didn’t want it to be an exposition-fest, so there’s a lot of amazing action it it — that’s a staple of the show — but it also has some of our most emotional scenes. In comparison to season past, this one is far more emotional . I’m really looking for ward to people seeing because I’m really pleased with the way it turned out.
For “Arrow,” what are the plans going forward?
We’ll definitely be doing more crossovers with “Flash.” Barry Allen appears in the finale. With the introduction of the third show “Legends of Tomorrow,” we’ve started talking more and more about world building and the fact that we’re building out this little universe. The trick is always finding the right balance and making sure that each series is standing on its own. It’s a lot of fun to be able to play with different character combinations.
Do you see “Jonas” being adapted in some cinematic way, live-action or animated?
It’s funny … whenever you do a creator-owned book, that’s always the question you get. Can it be turned into a movie, or can it be turned into a TV show? One of the reasons why I wanted to do this character — and I’ve been thinking about this character for about 10 years now — is that it started out as a thought experiment. We tend to regurgitate so much in terms of characters. Everything’s an adaptation or a derivation of another character, and I was longing for a brand new character to play around with. It would be great if James Bond, which started out in novels, ended up as a movie. Same with comic books. It would be great if Jonas found life outside of the comic book pages. but the end game, the goal of what we’re doing is to create an amazing comic book that people want to read. If there’s an interest in anyone’s part to take the character into film or TV or video games, that would be wonderful. But, you got to get the comic book out there.