Os­car win­ner John Ri­d­ley re­turns to su­per­hero comic books

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - DAVID BE­TAN­COURT

Academy Award-win­ning screen­writer John Ri­d­ley (“Twelve Years a Slave”) al­ways knew he wanted to re­turn to his su­per­hero/gov­ern­ment/con­spir­acy comic book series “The Amer­i­can Way” at some point. He in­tended to ad­vance the story 10 years from its 1960s start­ing point.

He just never knew an ac­tual decade would pass in real time be­fore he’d have the chance to bring “The Amer­i­can Way” back.

Ri­d­ley is re­turn­ing to comics for the first time since his Os­car win for a six-is­sue Ver­tigo Comics minis­eries, “The Amer­i­can Way: Those Above and Those Be­low,” with artist Georges Jeanty. The orig­i­nal series de­buted in 2006 un­der DC Comics’ Wild­storm im­print. The first is­sue (avail­able now in print and dig­i­tally) de­buted July 12.

“In some ways, it’s in­ter­est­ing be­cause I’m 10 years older,” Ri­d­ley says. “My per­spec­tive has changed by 10 years. I feel like I’ve got that (decade) of wear and tear on me.”

In the new series, Amer­ica’s love af­fair with the Civil De­fense Corps, a ‘60s gov­ern­ment-funded su­per­hero team that was in­tended to in­spire cit­i­zens with hope and Amer­i­can ideals, is over. The ‘70s have brought a skep­ti­cal gaze on the su­per­heroes who re­main, as Amer­i­cans won­der whether they can be trusted.

“There’s re­gret. There is a sense of mat­u­ra­tion among these char­ac­ters, but even at that, 10 years, do peo­ple re­ally change over time or do they sim­ply be­come more of what they al­ways were?” Ri­d­ley said. “When a decade turns you look at your­self and say, what am I do­ing? What am I try­ing to ac­com­plish? Am I a bet­ter per­son, or am I just more of the same. That’s what these he­roes are re­ally look­ing at.”

Ri­d­ley ad­mit­tedly spends most of his time work­ing on film and tele­vi­sion. His re­turn to comic book writ­ing uses the same ap­proach he al­ways de­pends on when be­gin­ning a new project in whichever medium. He looks to the works that have in­spired him most. In comic books, that work is the DC’s vig­i­lante/de­tec­tive series “The Ques­tion.”

“I look back on (“The Ques­tion”) from the mid ‘80s, the Denny O’Neal/Denys Cowan ver­sion, and I just think it’s one of the most amaz­ing series that was ever put to­gether. Very grey. Very of the era. Time­less and timely,” Ri­d­ley said.

Ri­d­ley was work­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously on the ABC drama “Amer­i­can Crime,” the Show­time lim­ited series “Go­rilla” and “Let it Fall,” a doc­u­men­tary on the Los An­ge­les ri­ots, while script­ing his new “The Amer­i­can Way” series.

“There was some­thing very nice about go­ing to my Lon­don ho­tel room, (where I’d) re­lax and then just say I’m go­ing to do some­thing dif­fer­ent” he said. “And to do some­thing that pro­vides me a cre­ative out­let that I’m not get­ting in these other spa­ces.”

Ri­d­ley says comic books give the writer and artist 22 pages to be as vis­ually grand as one has the ca­pac­ity for. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There’s also a de­mand­ing au­di­ence that wants con­se­quence and com­pli­cated char­ac­ters.

“You’re only lim­ited by your imag­i­na­tion. But the ex­pec­ta­tions for sto­ry­telling are as high as in any other medium,” Ri­d­ley said. “I’ve done well for my­self in other spa­ces, but the graphic novel space is as dif­fi­cult and as chal­leng­ing as any space that is out there for a writer to work in.”

, COUR­TESY OF VER­TIGO COMICS

John Ri­d­ley is re­turn­ing to comics with a six-is­sue Ver­tigo Comics minis­eries, "The Amer­i­can Way: Those Above and Those Be­low."

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