A Conversation with Mark Waid, writer of Ruse and additional excerpts

We had a chance to chat with Mark Waid,  author of Ruse about the Victorian setting, research, and unique thinking spots. And make sure you keep going after the jump to see additional excerpts from this innovative publication. If you missed Part I of the excerpts, they’re not to be missed.

The setting of Victorian England is not a traditional one for graphic novels, but is so evocative, visually and in terms of dialogue. What drew you to this milieu?

Exactly those traits. I rail heavily against graphic novels that have no strong visual component; if your graphic novel is a story about modern guys in modern clothes living in an ordinary modern world that I can visit on TV, for free, chances are you picked the wrong medium in which to tell your tale. One of the advantages of comics and graphic novels is that they allow the writer and illustrator as many set pieces, “special effects,” and visual popcorn as the imagination allows, all on a limitless budget. I believe in taking advantage of that–and the wonderful milieu of steampunk Victorian England gave us so many great characters and interesting showpieces that I fell in love with it.

One of the most intriguing parts of RUSE is the peek into the Victorian underworld—rat-baiting, gambling, horse racing, can you tell us a bit about the research that went into exposing this less-reported part of English history?

It began with a phone call from my friend and sometimes writing partner Tom Peyer, a renowned author in his own right. We were just throwing ideas back and forth, helping one another out in brainstorming his stories and mine as we do, and he happened to mention that he’d just read a piece on the web about rat-baiting. I’d never heard of it, but when I read about it, I seized upon it and realized it could be the first step in a long chain of gambling-related crimes all intertwined. One word, “rat-baiting,” gave me the whole structure of the series. Thanks, rat-baiters of yore!

The relationship between Simon and Emma is a complex one, they seem to complement each other in unique ways, but also it seems that more feelings might be simmering below the surface. How did you conceive of this partnership and where do you see it going in the future?

If you ask Simon, it’s not a romantic relationship. Simon hasn’t a romantic bone in his body. If you ask Emma, she’d say the same–but that’s largely because she finds Simon maddening. In truth, they both probably do have feelings for one another deep down, but (a) they’d rather die than address them, and (b) I find it dull and tedious and predictable to write about men and women who can’t have a simple friendship. The expectation with male/female partnerships in most pop literature is that they’re simmering a slow romance, but I find it much more interesting to write against that expectation. As to where it goes in the future, I’ve honestly not quite decided!

Simon’s Bathysphere is such a unique detail does it come from history or from your own imagination?

You want the honest answer? I made it up because I myself have the attention span of a toaster and do my own best thinking in silence, without distraction. In fact, I’d be answering these questions in a Bathysphere right now if I could find a waterproof laptop.

Mark Waid has written a wider variety of well-known characters than any other American comics author, from Superman to the Justice League to Spider-Man to Archie and hundreds of others. His award-winning graphic novel with artist Alex Ross, KINGDOM COME, is one of the best-selling comics collections of all time. Currently, he is the Chief Creative Officer of BOOM! Studios Comics, for whom he has created the successful IRREDEEMABLE franchise to great acclaim. He also had a fan favorite run on CAPTAIN AMERICA from Marvel Comics.

Mirco Pierfederici is a relitively new artist, gaining recognition on Marvel’s TRON movie adaptation.