Just announced from Mad Cave Studios, Underworld is an ambitious upcoming shared universe written by publisher CEO Mark London. Crossing over three disparate series, Underworld is sure to tantalize comics fans with its promise of intriguing spycraft and shadowy figures waiting to be uncovered.

To celebrate the announcement, Comics Beat caught up with London over email. We asked all about composing such a complex sequential graphic narrative, about working with the various creative teams and about what to expect as the shared universe moves forward in the coming months and years. Read on to learn more!

AVERY KAPLAN: First, Underworld isn’t a single title, but rather, a shared universe. Can you explain exactly what Underworld is to our readers? Is it fair to say Underworld is a story that’s inextricable from Mad Cave Studios?

Underworld is a shared universe built around a cohesive narrative connecting specific titles across the Mad Cave library. In the context of Mad Cave Studios as a whole, Underworld allows us to create a shared mythology, connect our characters, and provide a foundational universe for us to explore. Characters from Revolution 9, Hour of the Wolf, and Exit City, with potential for more, can interact and cross paths within the Underworld. While it’s important for us that each title within Underworld can stand on its own, readers who follow along will find additional layers to enhance their reading experience and offer a broader perspective on the world and characters we’ve created.

KAPLAN: What themes do you hope to focus on in Underworld? How does it compare to your previous work?

Since the characters are all so different in Underworld, we’re able to explore a tapestry of themes. In Revolution 9, we explore themes of redemption and salvation. Our characters take responsibility for their actions, setting them on a path toward redemption at all costs. Hour of the Wolf is a horror book on the surface, but below lies a glimpse of what darkness and corruption can do to someone while driving others to fight the evil that lurks across time and space. And Exit City is even more curious in that it explores the depth of the human psyche. How powerful the unconscious mind is. How our desires drive us. And how our pasts shape us. 

Though these themes have always been present in my work in some way, I wanted to raise the stakes here. I tried to interconnect a cast of compelling characters through engaging plot twists and emotional depth to create impactful stories for readers that stay with them long after they’ve finished reading. Overall, I would say Underworld has allowed me to hone in more on the darker side of the human condition.

KAPLAN: What was it like working with the creative team for Revolution 9?

The creative energy that flowed between all of us was nothing short of amazing. Our editor, Chris Fernandez, was fantastic at providing constructive feedback and guidance, helping us to refine the story and ensure that it resonated with our intended audience. Carlos Reno and Jao Canola brought the characters and world of Revolution 9 to life in ways we never could have imagined with their unique styles and attention to detail. They really went above and beyond to make something stunning here. Dave Sharpe added his expertise in the lettering department, adding that dimension we all know can make or break a book. It was truly a team effort, and seeing that first issue come together was incredibly rewarding.

KAPLAN: Can you tell us anything about the other titles that make up Underworld at this juncture?

Of course! After Revolution 9 starts in September, Hour of the Wolf is next in October. It revolves around a slayer named Owen Blackwood, a member of the House of Wolvenheart, which is a major nod to old-school Mad Cave fans. In this series, it’ll be up to Owen to stop a murderous, reality-bending painting from taking the lives of even more people. And finally, we have a story in Exit City coming out this November that will follow two detectives as they track a series of brutal murders across town that ultimately lead them into a deep web of secrets that stretches far beyond anything they could’ve imagined. Needless to say, I am beyond excited to bring these books to the fans and even more excited to reveal how they tie together for the crossover next Summer, Endless Night.

KAPLAN: What goes into writing such an intricate story, one that spans across titles, culminating in the Endless Night crossover in Summer 2025? Is a lot of planning involved? What’s something about working on a project of this magnitude that readers might not realize?

This is why I love my job. I always think, “Go big, or go home.” It’s just the way that I’m wired. Yes, planning a story of this magnitude often requires a clear, long-term vision for the narrative arc, character development, and thematic progression. This way, we can really ensure that each installment contributes to the overall story while maintaining its unique appeal.

Something readers might not realize about projects of this magnitude is the immense organizational effort involved behind the scenes. Coordinating multiple creative teams, editorial staff, and production schedules can be incredibly complex. Additionally, the time required for planning, scripting, illustrating, editing, and publishing can span months or even years into delivering a cohesive and satisfying story across multiple titles.

KAPLAN: How has your experience writing other comic titles informed your work on Underworld?

I’ve been doing this for ten years now, and it never gets easier. I feel like everything has led me here. I’ve written a few different series now, and, with the exception of 20+ Battlecats issues, none of my other books have been as ambitious, let’s say. Thankfully, along the way, I’ve been able to explore many different types of characters, themes, and even worlds! I’ve been able to pull from all of that to develop something really compelling with Underworld. This is something that I’ve always wanted for Mad Cave, and now the stars have aligned.

KAPLAN: Were there any stories (or any other kind of art) that specifically inspired Underworld?

Underworld is a reflection of everlasting stories and strong characters that have stuck with me since I was very young. The complex narratives that unravel around secret societies have always had a major influence on the stories I loved. I’ve always gravitated toward strong characters, dynamic action sequences, and the moral dilemmas faced by the main characters in these stories. Batman’s brilliant deductive reasoning and investigative skills, for example, served as a major inspiration for Underworld. The mysteries the Dark Knight faces, the struggle of being Batman vs. being Bruce Wayne, the expansive rogues gallery, and how the supernatural coexists with the more mundane are key elements that influence the development of the detective character.

KAPLAN: Do you have a personal creative routine while writing?

As a CEO of the Mad House and a writer, I’ve found that my creative routine is all about finding balance and inspiration. I like to start my writing sessions early in the morning when my mind is fresh and full of energy. I also make sure to carve out dedicated time in my schedule for writing, even if it means waking up a bit earlier or staying up a bit later. I find that having a structured routine helps me stay focused and productive, whether I’m leading a meeting or crafting a new chapter of my latest adventure. It’s all about finding harmony between my passions and making the most of every moment. I’ve also found out that a scented candle helps get those creative juices flowing. Ha!

KAPLAN: Are there any comics that you have especially enjoyed reading lately?

I really like what Skybound is doing with The Transformers and G.I Joe licenses. Seeing such beloved franchises get a breath of fresh air has been fantastic. The same can be said for what David Pepose is doing on Space Ghost! Also, I have to shout out what they’re doing over at Ghost Machine. The new Ultimate Universe has been fun to watch develop as well! 

KAPLAN: Is there anything else you’d like me to include?

These initial three titles mark the beginning of our journey into the Underworld. We are already developing two additional titles that will further enrich our ensemble of characters. I can also say that one of those stories will feature a familiar face for fans who might’ve been left wondering what happened to a certain troubled shinobi. The other will introduce a new character who seamlessly fits into the Mad Cave and Underworld universes. It’s going to be a wild ride for sure, and we’re excited to take you with us!

Learn more about Underworld at the official Mad Cave Studios website.