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DF Interview: Ed Brisson brings superhero legacy power to The Mantle
By Byron Brewer
The Mantle is a new comic from Image by writer Ed Brisson and artist Brian Level which follows a set of superhero powers that imbues itself onto a hapless drunk teenager, Robbie. He’s hit with lightning and, without one SHAZAM, wakes to find that he’s been chosen as the new host for The Mantle, a power set of unimaginable scope. Robbie’s not the second person to hold the mantle. He’s not the third. He’s the 38th. So you can imagine the weight of such a power set.
To get the 411 on this ongoing book, Dynamic Forces met with scribe Brisson. Here is what he told us.
Dynamic Forces: Ed, how did The Mantle develop as a concept. Is this something you pitched?
Ed Brisson: The concept was something that was born out of a friendly argument that I was having with a couple of friends about legacy-style powers and how rarely we actually see them passed from one host to the next -- something that I think is incredibly interesting, yet never explored. So, I figured, all right, let's build something where that passing of the mantle becomes the central conceit to the story. Where it's always a real, looming threat.
After Brian and I developed it, we pitched it to Shadowline/Image. They were our first stop and, thankfully, agreed to take it on.
DF: Even though an issue or two have already hit the stores, tell us about this very unique superhero book and that great twist!
Ed Brisson: Well, The Mantle is a power set that's passed from one host to the next, moving on once its host dies. The scope of the power is literally infinite. It's WHATEVER the host imagines it to be, which I think opens it up to interesting possibilities -- I remember being a kid and talking with my friends about what powers we'd have if we could, and this really plays into that. The host gets whatever it is that they want. The more they play with it, the more diverse and complex it becomes.
What complicates things for our heroes is that the life expectancy of each new Mantle is short... very short. There've been more than 38 Mantles in the past 10 years! That's a three-month average from gaining the powers to getting killed by The Plague, an intergalactic baddie on a hell revenge mission to kill each new Mantle ASAP.
DF: Was there any particular source from which you drew your inspiration?
Ed Brisson: Not particularly, to be honest. The designs (from Brian) were wholly original. I mean, idea wise, you can see shades of Green Lantern, The Phantom and Captain Universe, but the similarities end there. Even though the powers are imagination based, it's not in the same way with the Green Lantern rings, where they create these crazy ass machines or what-have-you. With The Mantle, it's really that it could be anything -- force-field, super strength, adjusting of size, telekinesis ... literally, it could be ANYTHING.
DF: The Plague as a villain -- at least from the solicitation -- almost seems like a shark in that he perpetually "swims" from Mantle host to Mantle host, constantly on the attack. Is that correct? Is there more than meets the eye to this character?
Ed Brisson: That's a pretty good description! I've been describing him as having Terminator-like focus, chasing down each new Mantle as though their name were Sarah Connor.
But, yes, absolutely, there's more than meets the eye with The Plague and his motivations. I'm not going to spoil anything, though! Just know that he has a very real reason for attacking each new Mantle and it's probably not what you think -- and not that second thing you're thinking either!
DF: Hah! … Robbie doesn't seem like he gives a crap about anything, so how do the Mantle powers choose a host, if that is what they do? Are they like the Green Lantern power rings or the mantle (ha!) of Captain Universe? They must certainly have different choice criteria, if so. Are they just random?
Ed Brisson: They're not random choices. But, the choices are also not for the typical reasons that you might initially think either. It's readily apparent that The Mantle is not choosing the "pure of heart" and that these people are not diamonds in the rough. These are normal people who each have a... unique characteristic that will be somewhat apparent by the time we reach #5.
I apologize, because I realize I'm dancing around some of these answers, but I don't want to spoil anything!
DF: That’s what we do here at DF: So You Think You Can Dance! (smiles) Now … can you tell us about any of the supporting characters and how they figure not the mix?
Ed Brisson: Sure. There's a nameless superhero team that appears pretty early on, consisting of three major players:
KABRAH: A super smart and super strong woman who seems to be the de facto leader of the group. She's the only one who is any good in battle.
NECRA: Necra is able to travel to purgatory and visit with the dead. Something that comes in handy when The Mantle needs to go and visit with past Mantles to get an idea of what the hell's going on. Necra is reluctantly along for the ride and is able to keep her distance from The Mantle.
SHADOW: Shadow is my favorite of the three, only because he's a character I created when I was about 12 years old. I updated the design for this series, but his power set remains the same -- essentially, he's a teleporter. He's able to walk into any shadow or dark place and travel to any other shadow or dark place in the world. He moves about the shadows.
DF: Why is Brian Level the right artist for this? How did he get involved in The Mantle and did he do the character designs?
Ed Brisson: Brian was the ONLY artist for the job. He and I have been talking for years about working on a project together. We'd done a few short stories -- for Murder Book (Dark Horse), In the Dark (IDW) and Liberator (Black Mask) -- and had been itching for something longer. When the idea for The Mantle first presented itself, I hit him up right away and started talking it out with him, planning the first arc.
All of the character designs, except for Shadow's, are Brian. He really knocked it out of the park, just amazing work.
It was through Brian that Jordan Boyd came on board to do colors. The two of them had worked together before and you can really see how well they compliment each other in the book.
DF: Continuing (hopefully) into the future, do you think we might see any other holders of the Mantle powers out there that may come and befriend/advise Robbie, someone the Plague may have missed?
Ed Brisson: With Necra being able to visit purgatory and talk to the dead, this is almost guaranteed to happen! We'll definitely get a chance to see past Mantles and get a greater sense of just how long this battle between The Mantle and The Plague has been raging on for.
As to the possibility of future Mantles, people will have to read to find out!
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Ed Brisson for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. The Mantle #3 hits stores July 8th!
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