Mark Waid and a team of writers and artists from throughout the comics industry have created a new shared universe, and readers are about to get a first glimpse.
This shared universe is part of H1, a new imprint from French publisher Humanoids aimed at the North American Market. First announced at NYCC, H1’s shared superpowered universe will make its debut in print this weekend during Free Comic Book Day. The FCBD story will set up Ignited, due out June 5. Ignited is the H1 shared universe’s first series, and it’s co-written by Waid and Kwanza Osajyefo (Black, Black AF), with art by Phil Briones.
As Humanoid’s new director of creative development, Waid is helping to lead the creation of all of this. Joining him in guiding H1 are the aforementioned team of writers and artists, dubbed the H1 Architects. They are Osajyefo, Yanick Paquette (Wonder Woman Earth One) and Carla Speed McNeil (Finder, Sensation Comics). Other creators involved with H1 include artists Mike McKone and Afua Richardson.
In other words, it’s all very exciting. For more insight, The Beat recently sent Waid a series of questions. His answers—as well as a couple from Humanoids CEO Fabrice Giger—can be found below, along with preview pages from Ignited #1:
Mark Waid Q&A
Zack Quaintance: First, can I start by asking what are some of the qualities that differentiate H1 from other shared superpowered universes out there?
Mark Waid: You may, yes. Several things. No capes, no costumes–that’s one thing. Some of our characters may elect to throw on masks from time to time, but it’s not a superhero trope so much as a smart move by someone trying to keep a low personal profile. More than that, the H1 books stand out because they’re deliberately designed to reflect the stresses and complications of living in 21st century America (and beyond) and how we can use our own energy to effect change.
Quaintance: So, the term superhero isn’t being used here. Why is that?
Waid: Again, no capes, no masks. No chortling super-villains. No pages-long fistfights. Real people.
Quaintance: Tell me about your team of H1 Architects, how were these writers and artists chosen and what role are they playing in the creation of this new universe?
Fabrice Giger: Our objective was to assemble a diverse and talented group of creators who would bring their respective skills, life experiences, and interests to the table to build a shared universe — its characters, and its mythology — that would be fresh, compelling, and relevant. We brainstormed internally which creators we thought would respond to this challenge and started our outreach. We were then very fortunate to have Carla Speed McNeil (FINDER, NO MERCY), Kwanza Osajyefo (BLACK) and Yanick Paquette (WONDER WOMAN: EARTH ONE) all agree to board this adventure. We all met in New York about a year ago to begin working on what would become the H1 IGNITION universe. Immediately, they made a terrific team and ideas flew hot and fast, and which over weeks and months melded into a clear framework for three series for new creators to develop further.
All three architects remain very much involved as the series and their respective characters come to life, both on a macro universe building and market strategy perspective, but also with each contributing specifically to certain on-going elements (Yanick has done covers, Kwanza is co-writing IGNITED, and Carla is writing the back-up story in each series that will build into something bigger…). They will also be attending the various shows Humanoids exhibits at to promote the H1 and interact with retailers and readers.
Quaintance: Humanoids has a long and distinguished history, specifically within the French comics industry. Is fostering a Humanoids sensibility something that factored into the creation of these new stories about superpowered people?
Giger: Humanoids has long strived for two things: 1) to be an international publisher in all senses of the word, meaning branching out in new territories and attracting readers from around the world, but also in terms of the creators we have and continue to work with who themselves come from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds, and 2) to produce quality content — story and art wise— and present it in the highest quality possible format that fits the title and stands out as a unique product. And we have certainly kept the aforementioned elements in mind when working with creators to create H1.
Quaintance: I really liked the FCBD issue, specifically how it draws from the real world of 2019, with scenes including one of a fringe conspiracy theorist talk show host as well as a follow-up series, Ignite, wherein a team develops powers during a school shooting. Can you tell us about the level of reality readers can expect to find in the H1 world?
Waid: It’s baked into the concepts and it’s foremost in everyone’s mind as they create the stories. With Ignited in particular, given the subject matter, it’s insulting to try to graft superhero solutions onto legitimately deadly problems. Kwanza and I are working hard to allow Ignited the weight it deserves, and that involves a ton of research–much of it heartbreaking, frankly–into the lives of domestic terrorism survivors, especially kids. Hearing their stories, really absorbing and processing them, is what allows us to make Ignited what it can be. Give us the one moment of fantasy in all the H1 books where seemingly random people are granted superhuman powers and abilities and we’ll deliver the very natural, very real consequences those people would face.
Quaintance: What about 2019 makes this an ideal time for stories about superpowers with a more realistic bend?
Waid: Honestly? Everyone creating these books has skin in the game when it comes to what’s happening in the world around us. We want things to be better for us and for our friends and our families. We want there to be things, forces, people who can bring about change. Wish fulfillment at H1 isn’t about flying. It’s about changing tomorrow on a grass-roots level.
Quaintance: There seems to be quite a bit of collaboration on these books. What has the creative process been like on these titles?
Waid: The original architects, under the guidance of editor Fabrice Sapolsky, worked hard to create a bible outlining the world and its characters that was circulated to the writers Humanoids chose (including me). There are a lot of Google docs shared. There are a lot of texts and calls. Our teams are all pulling in the same direction.
Quaintance: Let’s talk about the publishing lineup…there are half a dozen H1 titles slated to roll out between now and next January. There’s a preview of most of them in the back of the FCBD issue, but could you talk a little bit about what readers can expect from the diversity of this line, in terms of themes, genre, and stories?
Waid: Sure. Of the H1 books, only Ignited, Strangelands, and Omni comprise the “shared universe.” The overall imprint is the home to a number of graphic novels and mini-series that run a wide gamut of genres. Big Country is a Texas noir crime story about an unsolved murder and the lengths one sheriff will go to in order to mete out justice. Meyer is a story about the famous gangster Meyer Lansky. Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen is a supernatural horror book. And while there wouldn’t necessarily seem to be a unified theme to all of it, there is: characters readers can invest in, characters our writers and artists are taking great pains to make sure have journeys readers will care about. The theme is humanity. C’mon. It’s in our name.
WRITTEN BY MARK WAID & KWANZA OSAJEFYO
ART BY PHIL BRIONES
Welcome to the H1 Universe and Ignited, Humanoids’ first ever ongoing super-powered series-brought to you by an explosive team: writers Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) and Kwanza Osajyefo (Black AF), and artist Phil Briones (Aquaman), with covers by John Cassaday and Yanick Paquette! It’s the first day back at Phoenix Academy High, but this year there’s no back to school excitement in the air as returning students and faculty are haunted by memories of last year’s horrific attack. So many friends and colleagues were lost, and some of those who survived underwent changes; they Ignited, gaining supernatural abilities they barely understand. Little do they know this is just the beginning!