China Miéville talks DIAL H and his superheroic alter ego
We recently announced DC Comics-The New 52 “Second Wave” and DIAL H which will be written by China Miéville with art by Mateus Santoluoco.
I had the chance to talk with China about writing his first ongoing series that will begin this May and what inspires him about the cult classic title DIAL H FOR HERO.
So, China, you’re an established award-winning novelist and now you’ll be writing your first ongoing comic book series. Can you tell us a bit about what that transition is like?
CM: Pretty much, I suspect, as people would imagine. Lots of nerves - because comic fans are appropriately passionate and unforgiving, and because it's a very different kind of writing. I have tended to write at length, I'm a person who likes descriptions and rococo prose, so having to strip that out, or rely on dialogue and so on, has been something I've been very nervous about getting right. All of which said, it's also been an unremitting delight to learn a new way of working. I like doing stuff that's collaborative, too - writing comics, involving very direct and ongoing editing, more than novels (which save it up for the end), working with cover artists, interior artists, bearing in mind everyone else writing in the universe, the history of the world you're writing in, and so on, is much more like being part of a gang than my usual stuff. I think it's gone well. I guess ultimately you have to ask the readers, though.
DIAL H FOR HERO is series with a cult following. What inspires you about the title?
CM: The initial joy that title always gave me was because making up superheroes is so ridiculously enjoyable, it's a basic game that all of us into comics play, it was always part of our draw for the world of capes. I doubt there's many comics geeks who didn't have scraps of papers covered in garish designs and 'cool' superhero names. Dial H is the title above all other that is the celebration of the superherogenerative drive - it's a superhero comic, and a metasuperhero comic at the same time.
Combine that, when I was a little older, with ongoing excitement at how little of the backstory and the universe of Dial H was ever explained, and I find that combination of child-geeky ludic delight and unusually opaque foundations unique in the DC universe, and indeed in any other comic universe of which I know. What I'd like to do is indulge that mystery but also prod at it, explore it, shine a few lights in crevices, without ruining everything by overexplaining. I remain convinced cakes are to be both had and eaten.
What’s it like to work with an artist and see your words and story illustrated, especially the protagonist?
CM: Lovely, of course. It's very good for the soul - you have to approach it with an open and collaborative frame of mind, because you aren't creating these characters alone, you're creating them with someone else, and the thing you create is always a strange combination of your ideas, theirs, and the ineffably generated third element that is sourced from neither of you, but becomes indispensable. I draw some myself, but I am deliberately not relating to any sketches I do as the echt characters, because they must all be joint creations.
What’s the first comic book series you ever read?
CM: Almost certainly one of the British ones, from 2000AD - Judge Dredd, or my beloved Nemesis the Warlock, or something like that. I remember as a kid finding a stash of old Aquaman comics and thinking - I was very very young - that this must be this Superman of whom I'd heard, and being interested that quite so many of his adventures were aquatic.
If you could be a superhero (existing or made up), who would you like to be?
CM: Like all comics nerds, I have, of course, long had my superheroic alter ego. His/my name is Doctor Crisis. I have pictures and everything. Power-sets are determined. I will attempt to retain a scrap of dignity by keeping them in my desk.