Interview: The Resurrection and Temptation of 'Second Coming'
May 09, 2019
by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
In the wake of some online opposition, Mark Russell and Richard Pace's Second Coming seemed to be a tale destined to go untold. The title was originally slated for release through Vertigo in March of this year. However, unwanted media attention against the comic put DC Comics (Vertigo's publisher) in an awkward position. Enter AHOY Comics, an upstart publisher that, amusingly enough, is fronted by Vertigo alum.
But what is Second Coming about? Amid protests, you'd be forgiven if the actual story between the covers got lost in the mix. PREVIEWSworld pushed aside the "controversy" and talked to the two individuals who know the most about the book: artist Richard Pace and writer Mark Russell.
Second Coming #1 (MAY191323) hits comic shops on July 10th!
PREVIEWSworld: Second Coming has Jesus meeting the world’s mightiest super man. What could these two possibly have in common?
Richard Pace: Both are incredibly powerful and horribly misunderstood in very different ways.
Mark Russell: They have both faced the deadly temptation of power. Christ faced his temptation two thousand years ago at the hands of Satan. Ironically, that gave him something of an advantage in seeing the danger inherent in power. If Satan’s trying to get you to do something, you can probably sense that it’s a bad idea. Sunstar, on the other hand, had no one to tip him off about how unchecked power might be dangerous, even for the person wielding the power. In fact, his entire identity and all his positive reinforcement is built around his power and it encourages him to use it in ways he never really bothers to think about. Christ provides him with the benefit of experience. That, in the end, what changes the world is not the power you have over people, but the power you have with them.
PREVIEWSworld: How did this project find its way to AHOY? Did you approach them or visa versa?
Mark Russell: They approached us, but they were on my shortlist of companies to approach when we decided to take Second Coming elsewhere. I’d had good experiences working with them on Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror and I’m a huge fan of Wrong Earth and their philosophy of making funny, accessible, yet edgy art.
PREVIEWSworld: How deep into the series were you when the book had to find a new home?
Mark Russell: I had finished the scripts for the entire first six-issue story arc.
Richard Pace: I had finished pencilling issue 3. Now that it's at AHOY, there's been additional work and the addition of a very amazing artist to the series.
PREVIEWSworld: How did you get involved in the project? Were you onboard from day one, Richard?
Richard Pace: Molly Mahan was my editor for the covers I illustrated for Imaginary Fiends. She really wanted me onboard for this, and I thought it would be a smart thing to continue working with one of DC's best new editors.
PREVIEWSworld: In terms of power, are Jesus and Sunstar evenly matched or will one be teaching the other a few things?
Mark Russell: Sunstar is more powerful in this series, but that is largely because Christ has eschewed his powers, feeling that this is where he went wrong the first time he came to Earth. Once you start performing miracles, he realized, that’s all anyone cares about. Since all religion basically boils down to pain management, Christ has deliberately chosen to live as a mortal man, if only to understand the pain he must overcome.
Richard Pace: Jesus is really the only one with anything worth learning here.
PREVIEWSworld: Mark, you’ve written other books about religion, is this a subject close to you?
Mark Russell: Yes. The Biblical tradition, in particular. It’s the religious tradition I grew up with and as I’ve gotten older and my beliefs have changed, I’ve come to appreciate just how much meaning there is, not necessarily in the answers the Bible’s authors come up with, but in their struggle with the question of what God is and what he expects from them.
PREVIEWSworld: There have been plenty of takes on Jesus over the centuries. Was there any particular look or even actor that you based this version on, Richard?
Richard Pace: I made a pretty deep pile of sketches based on various paintings of Jesus over the years. I stayed away from actors. A real likeness can kill some things and kick the reader out of the story. It makes the comic a better read when no one is going "Hey! That's Guy Pearce!" or, "Man, Pace really screwed up what Guy Pearce looks like in that panel!" I wanted a Jesus that would feel natural to draw repeatedly.
PREVIEWSworld: Issue 1 is 30-pages long. Was this originally the plan or did you create additional material once you knew the book was coming to Ahoy?
Mark Russell: It was an opportunity that going to AHOY afforded us. It allows Issue 1 to more fully explore the premise and give readers a more complete introduction to the concept than they would have had in its original 22 page format.
Richard Pace: There was material Mark wanted in, but it didn't fit. It really elevated the first issue and the series by adding just a handful of pages.
PREVIEWSworld: What do you think people get wrong about Second Coming? Who is Second Coming for?
Mark Russell: The most obvious mistake is the assumption that something about Christ in a comic book format must be blasphemous or some mercenary act of anti-Christian vandalism. It’s actually a very personal story to me and my own struggle with faith and how I think our religious and secular institutions have failed us as human beings. Hopefully, this will be meaningful reading material for anyone who has had similar struggles with their faith or who thinks superhero comics should aspire to deal with the problems that most of us will actually experience in life.
Richard Pace: People think we're attacking Christ, and we aren't. Second Coming is for highly intelligent, extremely beautiful, and shockingly funny people. Everyone who buys two copies gets to be TWICE as intelligent, beautiful, and funny.
Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the Consumer Marketing Editor for PREVIEWSworld. He is also the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comics work includes BAMN, the Glyph Award-nominated Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Award-nominated Magic Bullet.