May 13, 2019

The Wrong Earth: An Interview with Tom Peyer and Jamal Igle

The Wrong Earth is a series by Tom Peyer and Jamal Igle that is published by Ahoy Comics. Dragonflyman, from bright, sunny Earth-Alpha, somehow switches Earths with Dragonfly, from grim and gritty Earth-Omega. This traps them in each other's separate worlds, which are just all wrong for both of them, even right down to how the police treat them! Inspired by the evolution of superhero comics, the comparison of the Silver Age to the Modern Age, and almost specifically Batman, The Wrong Earth is a fun ride and a promising start to an epic saga.

With the first TPB collection coming this week, we spoke to the creators to see how The Wrong Earth came about, the ideas behind it, and where it's going.

DUY: How did the idea for The Wrong Earth come about? Whose idea was it? Who pitched it to whom?

TOM PEYER: I had an idea forming, but it wasn't quite there until Jamal came aboard. He brought a tremendous amount of energy to this, as you can see from the art.

JAMAL IGLE: I actually bumped into Stuart Moore outside of a pie place in my neighborhood that we both frequent. He said that Tom had a project he wanted to talk to me about. So, Tom gave me a call and he told me the basic pitch and I was immediately onboard because it sounded like fun.

It's pretty clear that Dragonflyman/Dragonfly are modern analogues of different versions of Batman. But while Dragonflyman seems to be a direct riff on a very specific version of Batman (Adam West), is there a specific version of Batman that Dragonfly is based off of, or is he a composite of modern versions of Batman from the mid-80s and onwards?

JAMAL: For me he’s an amalgam of a few different takes. I think more than any other version is the Zack Snyder take from Batman v. Superman, in terms of tone. Dragonfly, to me is a guy who’s just tired. He’s been fighting for so long that the line between good and evil is very blurry.

TOM: Part Affleck-Batman, part Punisher and Wolverine and many other characters that have been in comics since the '80s. There have been a lot of heroes since the '80s who would just as soon kill you as look at you. They're all in there. Same with Dragonflyman. From the '30s through the '70s, most super-heroes were Boy Scouts. This is in many ways a Batman satire, and in other ways a look at the ways all super-heroes changed through the ages.

JAMAL: My approach is much more rooted in the mid 2000’s aesthetic of comics like Marvel’s Ultimate Universe and The Authority, but also Jim Lee’s work on Batman: Hush and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween. The more absurd and outlandish elements of those things are what I use as a point of reference.

How do you guys work together? Full script? Marvel method? Does Tom just project a bunch of ideas into Jamal's brain, entrusting Jamal to magically project it onto the paper?

TOM: I write full script. Sometimes we talk things out a bit first.

JAMAL: It’s a full script, but the way Tom writes still gives me a lot of leeway to inject my ideas into the pages. We did talk over the broad strokes of the story but our thinking is very similar in many regards.

Does The Wrong Earth have a definitive end in sight? If so, how many issues or series of miniseries are we eyeing?

TOM: I know how it's going to end, but I like to leave room for improvisation, too. I don't want to say how many issues there might be, because I reserve the right to change my mind.

Around 30 years ago, we saw Crisis on Infinite Earths launched under the premise that multiverses confuse audiences. With the success of movies such as Into the Spider-Verse and TV events such as CW DC's Elseworlds, do you think this maxim is no longer true and that audiences today are more ready for multiple variations of a character than ever before?

JAMAL: I think most people of a certain age remember the "Mirror Mirror" episode of Star Trek or the TV series Sliders. Even if they didn’t have a name for it, the idea of doppelgangers and evil twins has always been a fertile playground in terms of storytelling. I think  it’s more that the whole multiverse thing has been concept has been explored in pop culture since the the 1950’s and it’s just that it’s now been given a name.

TOM: I have to say I never warmed up to the post-Crisis monoverse. I don't like to see comics walking away from imaginative ideas. Frankly, I never bought the "readers are confused" rationalization. It felt to me like they were trying to make DC into another Marvel, which made me sad. We already had a Marvel. Of course, that was a long time ago, and everything gets reused eventually, including the multiverse.

In The Wrong Earth, the two protagonists seem headed into different directions — emphasizing the naivete of Dragonflyman and the more jaded, Macchiavellian tendencies of Dragonfly — you seem to be making a statement about the overall quality of comics in comparison to yesterday. How do you guys view the overall state of comics today compared to yesterday? What could be improved and what has today done better?

TOM: The comics of any decade are usually better drawn and better written than the ones from the decade before, and that is of course great. But there have always been diamonds in there, and ways of approaching material I wouldn't like the world to forget. We're still benefiting from the Phantom Zones and Danger Rooms and Super-Gorillas of the Silver Age, and I think we will for a long time to come.

JAMAL: I think the overall quality of what’s being produced has never been higher. The struggle seems to be shelf space and a print industry in transition. All of publishing is struggling to find a place in a vastly changing media marketplace. We have more companies now than we’ve had in a very long time, since the collapse of the speculation boom, so the dollars to be made are being stretched thin. Couple that with a struggling economy and it can be challenging to gain a foothold in the industry. I think there’s room for growth, but it’s going to have to be outside of the direct market, and unfortunately we’re still trying to keep comic shops from closing while trying to change the business model.

Deuce seems to be a Harley Quinn analogue, except she's on Earth-Alpha, the analogue  of the more naive, Silver Age Earth, and Harley Quinn did not show up until the Modern Age. Additionally, she shows a cruel streak that seems more in place for Earth-Omega. So the question is, without spoiling anything, is it possible that any of the characters we've already met are not actually denizens of the particular Earth they're introduced in?

JAMAL: Well, I see Deuce as more Catwoman/Bonnie Parker than Harley, even though she shows up playing the dumb blonde in issue one. There is a secret to Deuce that will get played out in the second half of the story but I don’t want to spoil things too much. Her insights speak to it more than her being from any particular Earth.

TOM: I suppose anything's possible. With Deuce I was thinking more of the Batman '66 molls, and Diana Rigg on The Avengers, and I think Jamal added some Laugh-In-era Goldie Hawn.

The Wrong Earth, in individual issues, has a lot of backup content, including short comics, short stories, and interviews, some of which have to do with The Wrong Earth universe and some of which don't. Can we expect these to be republished in the TPB?

TOM: The TPB has the backup comics stories by Paul Constant, Frank Cammuso, Gary Erskine, and Tom Feister. Jamal contributed some process pages; a glimpse of my early proposal is in there, as are all of the covers; and Tom Scocca wrote a terrific introduction.

And for fun, what particular episodes of Batman 1966 are your favorites?

TOM: Just about any first-season episode is one of the best, because that was when they were spending money to make it look like a comic book. The first Catwoman episode is a standout, as is the first Riddler. Any Penguin episode. And it's second season, but I love the Liberace one. He really gave Aunt Harriet goosebumps.

JAMAL: I’m more partial to some of the season one episodes like "Hi Diddle Riddle," "Joker Trumps an Ace", and "True or False-Face".

You can get The Wrong Earth here:

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