The first big panel at C2E2 on Friday afternoon was, fittingly, massive – specifically, it was the Across the Massive-verse panel, spotlighting the family of creator-owned superhero titles from Image Comics including Radiant Black, Rogue Sun, and the newly-launched The Dead Lucky.
“The Massive-verse is our universe of creator-owned superheroes. It’s everything we’ve ever wanted to do on superheroes but been held back,” says Mat Groom, who writes the upcoming Inferno Girl Red title. As Radiant Black writer (and father of the Massive-verse as a whole) Kyle Higgins added later, the line is at once a love letter to everything that the creators loved about superheroes growing up, but also an attempt to push the genre – and, in fact, the medium of comics – forward in some small way, including the use of QR codes and other unusual production tricks to add more to the finished comics than fans would expect.
“Oh, the fun gimmicks that are coming up,” Higgins teases in response to a fan asking if Radiant Black would ever repeat its blacklight issue. “Next year, we’re going to do something no-one in comics has done before.” (Even before then, an upcoming issue of Radiant Black will feature four separate timelines appearing on each page.)
Editor Michael Busuttill said that it’s important not to rely too much on special tricks at the cost of the stories themselves, promising, “We’re not going to become the Image books that do the gimmicks.” Melissa Flores, who writes the recently launched series The Dead Lucky can attest to that: “They said no to our scratch and sniff idea” she joked.
Audiences at the panel got a little bit of experience with some of the tricks firsthand, when a slide on screen featured a QR code taking them to an exclusive website that would connect them with a Massive-verse character (I am Radiant Red, apparently) and give them access to a con-exclusive print featuring all the characters and a tease of future creations, as well.
What's coming up in the Massive-Verse
The hour-long panel was a relaxed one, with the panelists on stage – editor Busuttill, Flores, Higgins, Groom, Rogue Sun writer Ryan Parrott, and Radiant Black guest artist Eduardo Ferigato – spending it talking about their individual titles and teasing what’s coming up.
Parrott said that the first arc of Rogue Sun was a metaphor for a really messy divorce, as 17-year-old Dylan Siegel – “not the nicest of kids,” as Parrott put it – inherited the mantle of Rogue Sun from his dead father, who he didn’t have the best relationship with. Unfortunately, the spirit of his dad shows up every time he puts on the costume. “Think of him as the worst version of Jarvis,” the writer explained.
Upcoming for the book is a Choose Your Own Adventure issue in issue 7 – “I loved those kinds of stories as a kid and I wanted to do them in the comics,” Parrott admitted – before the start of the second big arc with the following issue, which will see Dylan come into his own more, including the creation of all-new villains (Hellbent will be the first villain that Dylan encounters that is entirely disconnected from his father’s career), and some bad decisions. “People come up to me and say, I like the book but that main character’s an asshole, and that’s the point,” Parrott said, explaining that it’s intentional that Dylan didn’t just go from being a jerk to a hero as soon as he put on the costume. Coming up, in fact, Dylan will make bad decisions that will impact the entire Massive-verse… Of course, having teased that, Parrott exclaimed, “I’ve said too much!”
Flores was up next, talking about the recently launched The Dead Lucky. The series centers around Bibi, a soldier who returns home to San Francisco from a tour in Afghanistan a different woman. “She didn’t just come away from her experience with survivor’s guilt and PTSD, she comes away with electrical powers,” Flores revealed. Her powers give her the ability to raise “ghosts” of a sort – and also draw her into a war between sinister tech company Morrow and the Salvation gang, who between the two of them control the entire city. Higgins asked Flores if who and what the ghosts Bibi raises really are is central to the story, to which she replied “Absolutely,” adding that they’ll help her understand not only her powers, but who she actually is now that she’s back home. The second issue of the series, Flores said, will “explain who the ghosts are, how they connect to her, and how they stop her connecting to the real world,” with the series focusing on Bibi addresses her trauma moving forward.
Flores will also be co-writing the miniseries Radiant Pink alongside streamer Meghan Camarena, with art by Emma Kubert. The series, a spotlight on the Radiant Black supporting character of the same name, will push her in a direction she doesn’t want: a world where she has to give up being an influencer, and has to focus on her superhero duties. “Eva aspires to be the best superhero and influencer she can be,” Flores said, which often means that she “goes a little too hard and too fast… a lot.” The series will launch in December.
While we’re thinking about colors, Mat Groom talked about Inferno Girl Red, a three-part series debuting in January 2023 following a successful Kickstarter campaign. The title character is a girl called Cassie who’s had a hard life but gets new start in the utopian Apex City, seeing it as a chance to finally make something of herself… “And that sounds good until an evil cult rips the entire city out of existence,” Groom says. After the city’s seeming disappearance, Cassie will end up with the powers of the legacy hero Inferno Girl Red, but has a fatal flaw: they’re powered by belief, and she has very little belief in anything. If she wants to save the city and save the legacy of Inferno Girl Red, she’ll have to discover just what she believes in the most.
Finally, Kyle Higgins talked about the first book from the Massive-verse, Radiant Black. “I like to describe it as Power Rangers with adult problems,” he joked, teasing that upcoming issues will feature the tech company from The Dead Lucky, as well as a team-up between Radiant Black and Radiant Yellow, where “his powers get a little funky.” The series’ 18th issue will be the origin story of Radiant Yellow, whose secret power is time-based, leading to the afore-mentioned four-timelines issue… one of which will be 2038. “Are we allowed to do that?” asked Groom about the glimpse into the future. “I think we have to,” deadpanned Higgins. The issue will, he said, also feature a character from Rogue Sun and draw together multiple Massive-verse elements.
And after that? “Coming up soon is a new story arc that is simply called the Catalyst War,” Higgins said. The storyline will “explore a lot of the cosmic mythology inside the Radiant universe,” he promises, saying that while the books have all stayed relatively local so far, the Catalyst War is going to “change a lot of perspectives.”
The big picture of the Massive-Verse
One of the most obvious takeaways from the panel is how much fun everyone on stage is having making these comics. “The best part of making comics is collaborating with my friends, and this has been amazing for all of us,” Higgins said at one point, and the feeling was obviously mutual.
“We all collaborate and care about each other, it’s been very organic,” he said. The creators all communicate through ongoing Google chats, they revealed, with editor Michael Busuttill joking that he basically spends his days catching up on what he missed; judging from the interplay amongst the panelists, the remainder of his time is likely spent trying to stop Higgins from coming up with new storytelling and publishing gimmicks to try out. (There was talk on the panel about making an upcoming Radiant Black issue one complete scroll of paper, much to Busutill’s seeming horror.)
“Some of the things that we’ve been doing with the book really are looking to push the boundaries of what a comic book can be,” Higgins said about his own series, with the others offering similarly ambitious aims. Even if the Massive-verse isn’t the future of superhero comics, one thing was clear from the panel: it’s definitely one of the most fun and inventive families of superhero titles published today.
Looking for some other superhero fun from C2E2? Popverse has you covered; check out the 60th anniversary of Spider-Man panel with Skottie Young and Mike del Mundo and swing from the rooftops of Marvel’s Manhattan direct from the Windy City.