As listeners of The PREVIEWS Party Podcast will know, we are always excited to update you on the new comic book titles that will be headed your way in the coming months. For that reason, we were excited to chat with Chris Miskiewicz and Palle Schmidt, the writer and artist (respectively) of the new comic book series Thomas Alsop which will be released in June of 2014 from BOOM! Studios. Fans of John Constantine and Dr. Strange will love this new take on the magic-wielding hero who battles demons on the streets . . . and in his own mind. Thomas has money and fame, but also the burden of a being this generation’s occult warrior. Can he survive the battles both within and without?
The PREVIEWS Party: For those who may be learning about your comic book series for the first time, what is Thomas Alsop all about?
Chris Miskiewicz: Thomas Alsop is the current Hand of the Island. A title that’s been passed down from generation to generation of the Alsop family since Richard Alsop was cursed in 1699 by an Indian tribe to become the supernatural protector for all of New York. Ever since that day, members of the Alsop Family have battled against every type of darkness in the service of the Island, a mysterious woman who guides them all, but only reveals herself in their dreams.
In every era of Manhattan, a Hand of the Island has been present behind the scenes, all until Thomas Alsop. Thomas Alsop might be the most eccentric Hand of all. A few years ago his buddy, Marcus Rogers, filmed him on a drunken evening battling a supernatural force that was trying to invade Manhattan. Marcus put the video on YouTube, where it went viral within a week. One month later, Thomas was offered a reality ghost hunter show, Thomas Alsop – Supernatural Detective. Now, Thomas is a national star, filming skits on nightly late night shows, while busting ghosts for your viewing pleasure.
He’s brash, sarcastic, dismissive, pissing off everyone he comes in contact with, and could quite possibly the worst Hand that there’s ever been. All until he uncovers something at the end of the second issue, which literally pushes him into becoming the man he never wanted to be.
Palle Schmidt: For me it’s a story about coming to terms with who you really are. When we meet Thomas Alsop, he is a bit of a douchebag and completely self-absorbed. He’s like a sleepwalker in his drunken celebrity lifestyle! But, what happens in this first arc shakes him awake, and he has to face the harsh realities of his life.
TPP: The first issue has a nice mix of supernatural elements, but with a very modern take. What inspired you to blend these two elements?
CM: We live in a modern world where most people have been exposed to an infinite number of stories. So, in some form, everyone has seen all the major beats that a protagonist is going to take in every type of genre. We’ve seen so much science fiction and occult genres that we just get the language of the genres we’re watching.
Since the story of Thomas Alsop is as much about the other Hands who came before him as it is about his own personal journey, it just made sense to blend his family history into the current time period. He’s a media star, so paparazzi, Twitter, and social media would all be a factor in his every day.
Plus, he uses a wide variety of tools which Richard Alsop built to deal with the supernatural, including all of his family’s journals recounting every case that a Hand ever investigated. Thomas’ own voice-over throughout the series are his blog entries, his case files, his tweets. It’s been a blast world blending the centuries together.
PS: What I love about Chris’ take on the supernatural is that it’s all very grounded. And, he doesn’t over-explain things. Every new trick we see Thomas do is a surprise. And, he’s not overly powerful. I think the sales copy said something like, “He battles demons without and within,” which is very true and very much the appeal of this character. He’s very human, very flawed.
TPP: Thomas isn’t really a great role model or superhero; he has his ups and downs, his good and bad points. What led you to create such a nuanced character?
CM: Thomas is a terrible role model and absolutely horrible as a superhero. (Even though he’s more of a magician/wizard then a superhero.) He’s about as flawed as any character I could think up. He does drugs, drinks, is dismissive to the people around him, and is an absolute joy to write. Personally, I’ve lived my whole life in New York, and Thomas is an amalgam of a lot smart, quick-witted New Yorkers I’ve come across. This is someone YOU could really meet.
That’s kind of my goal with this series. To make Thomas as grounded, real, and flawed as any other person. He’s not pretty, nor looking to impress anyone other than the guy looking back at him in the mirror. He’s not doing his job out of want, but, instead, obligation. The guy would rather be doing anything else in the world than what he has to do everyday. And, he’s quite vocal about it. But, within that, there he is trying to come to terms with his father having done the same gig, and possibly even better than even the legendary Richard Alsop.
Thomas is someone you know who got stuck with the family business, but who never wanted to have to do it. The only difference is that the family business is all about magic, spells, witches, and age-old evil’s trying to get a hold on New York.
PS: From a visual perspective, it took me a while to get the hang of Thomas – his style in clothing, his mannerisms, all that. He’s very much based on an actor friend of Chris’, who we even got to play the part of Thomas Alsop in the live-action trailer!
TPP: There’s also a greater mystery brewing with the history of the previous “Hands of the Island” and a coming threat. Without spoiling too much, can you tell us about what readers can expect from this series in the future?
CM: The big reveal of the series comes at the end of the second issue, so I can’t get too detailed about that until that comes out in July.
But, that said, during the first 8 issues, Thomas Alsop & Richard Alsop are both working the same case 300 years apart. Thomas discovers something terrible that’s been happening in downtown Manhattan for centuries, which causes him to practically destroy his already terrible reputation and go against everyone in his family, the other magical factions of New York, and, of course, the law itself to set things right. That’s the main plot; however, Thomas & Richard Alsop both run into tons of trouble along the way, as they try to solve this in their respective eras. And, there are great bits in each era that we’re peppering in.
PS: Let me just say that drawing 1700s sailing ships, horses, and architecture was NOT my favorite part of the job, ha ha! But, we do get to see a lot of ghosts – perhaps even a record number. I really enjoyed doing different time periods of New York, both the 1700s and the 1990s and the present day. Chris is a history buff, and big parts of the story are based on real locations and real life events, like the slave ship that was discovered at the WTC site.
TPP: The art is incredible, with great use of colors and a very painterly feel to it. Can you tell us a little about why you chose this style and look for the series?
PS: Well, working on my last book, STILETTO, which I wrote and drew, I discovered that I could get a lot more pages done if I did painted art. And, both the process and the result really appealed to me. I like working in this looser style, “inking” in pencil. It’s also more evocative for the reader, since a lot of the backgrounds are merely hinted at. And, when I discovered that big parts of the story took place in the 1700s, there was really no doubt in my mind that painted art was the way to go. It would look weird in Jim Lee-style inks, ha ha! The decision ultimately came down to speed and expression.
TPP: It’s pitch time! Since this is The PREVIEWS Party, where we encourage readers to pre-order comic books, why should readers add Thomas Alsop to their pull list?
CM: Well, if you’re a fan off occult fiction, master magicians, sorcerers, and offbeat underdog heroes who have to rise up and handle insanely large events, then this is the book for you. Same goes for anyone who ever wondered what Dr. Strange or John Constantine did in their neighborhoods after the 22nd page of their comics.
We’re trying to craft a completely realistic 21st Century anti-hero warlock who epitomizes the spirit of the greatest city in the world, drinks his body weight after each adventure that he wants to forget, and then wakes up at 2:22 p.m. the next day to do it all over again. If you’re into that, this book is for you.
PS: I think the book strikes a perfect balance between fun and scary, between silly and profound. And, if people have half the fun reading it as I had drawing it, they’re in for a real treat.