|DF INTERVIEW: MATTHEW ATHERTON (FEEDBACK)
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By Beth Delaney
Feedback is a fictional superhero created and originally portrayed by actor Matthew Atherton on the reality television series Who Wants to Be a Superhero?
Everyone who saw the first season of WWTBASH knows that you’re a big Spider-Man fan. In what ways did you look to Spider-Man or other characters when you and Sarah were creating Feedback?Excellent question! Peter Parker got his amazing speed, strength, and agility (and spider-sense!) from the radioactive spider that bit him on that fateful day, but it was the nerdy science student that came up with the web-shooters and spider-tracers. He augmented his powers using his intellect, and that had a huge influence on me growing up. Even though I knew I couldn’t be Spider-Man in the super-powered sense, I knew that I could emulate him a little bit – by studying hard and learning everything I could about chemistry, physics and science. When creating Feedback, I absolutely had to have that aspect built into the character. If Feedback was going to have a chance to inspire people the way that Spider-Man inspired me, I wanted to make sure that Feedback took an active part in turning himself into a superhero.
When it comes to character development, what target audience did you have in mind?I never felt like Stan wrote for kids – he has said that he wrote stories that entertained him. If you write for an educated adult audience, not only do you satisfy your core audience, you encourage kids to look up words that they don’t know and bingo – they’ve expanded their vocabulary! The audience I imagined is the same audience that enjoys classic Spider-Man stories – the conflict, overwhelming odds, action, and ultimately some meaning to be found between the pages of the comic that make it more than just an excuse to have a super-powered slugfest.
Will Matthew Atherton create other characters that will make personal appearances or is Feedback the only one that people will see you dressed as?
Interesting question. I’d feel weird dressing up as another character. Since I was on the show, and people saw me in the costume all the time, it’s very natural to me to wear the Feedback suit and to meet people in it. But if I came up with another creation that people loved, I don’t think I’d dress as him – because the context would be different, as it would most likely be a new comic book character.
Do you ever feel like you’ve lost control of the Feedback character when you see other people’s writings and interpretations from the published Dark Horse comic to the fan fiction?
Control is an illusion! I never had control, so to think that I have lost control would be pure self-delusion. Sarah and I created Feedback specifically for Who Wants To Be a Superhero, and we did it for one reason – so that I would have a character compelling enough that the producers of the show would grant me the opportunity to be tested – to see if I had what it would take to be a superhero if that “incredible origin incident” were to ever happen. But the hard thing is, I really love the character and the potential to see, hear, and read about his adventures. I love what the members of Tech Support (my kick-butt fan club!) have done with the fan fiction and audio dramas! It’s been one of the most rewarding parts of this entire experience. For the Fans:
Your fan club is called Tech Support and everyone there has at least one character they’ve created for the fan fiction. They see their roles as either Feedback’s support system or even as villains. Have you given any thoughts to what path you’d like those characters to take?
There are many Feedback universes out there, and the most involved is definitely the one created by Tech Support! I’ve received excellent fan fiction from many different authors, and they’re all so different. It’s like looking at different parallel universes every time I read them. But the fan fictions of Tech Support are built upon a certain agreed-upon set of reality rules that make all the stories consistent enough to create a cohesive set of stories. The characters that are created by the members of Tech Support, if I have my way, will find their way into the stories that have artwork – I’d love to be able to give something back to the people who have supported me so much over the last year by helping to make their characters come to life.
Is there any word if there will be a season 3 of WWTBASH and will you and The Defuser have any involvement?
I wish I had some good news to share, but as of this moment, I haven’t heard. If there is another season, and they’d like me to be involved, I would literally leap at the opportunity to help others have this amazing experience!
There was a petition online to get a Feedback movie made by Sci-Fi Channel after fans were disappointed by the very brief appearance you had in Mega-Snake. Is there any news on that front?
I did hear directly from Sci-Fi that they were aware of the petition, so it certainly got noticed! My sincere thanks to everyone who signed it and who spoke their mind to Sci-Fi in support of a real Feedback movie. There has been a lot of interest to produce a Feedback film that is not created by SciFi, but all of the licensing issues would need to be worked out before those offers can move forward. The real test will be if Feedback can have an impact as a great character with great stories – Spider-Man had to wait 30 years to get his blockbuster movie, and I plan to be just as patient!About Comics:
Since the first printing of your comic sold out, will there be a second printing or any future books to continue the Feedback story?
At this time, Dark Horse will not be running a second print of the comic, nor will they be making efforts to turn Feedback into a regular series. However, more issues of Feedback are coming – we just need to work out the publishing details, plus we’ve got the great audio drama adventures that are being produced by Alan White, and are available on BrokenSea.com. Sci-Fi never promised that the comic would be an ongoing series, and personally, I would rather have a series come about from the merit of the stories and the character – not as some guarantee. Spider-Man was originally supposed to be a one-off. Let’s see if Feedback can do the same!
A lot of people complained that the San Diego Comic Con has been ruined by Hollywood and has little to do with comic books anymore. Do you think that big budget comic movies are having a negative influence on the printed comic books?
I think you would find many comic shop owners are very happy that Hollywood is promoting our beloved characters, as it brings more people into their stores. (Don’t get me wrong – I’m still upset that Spidey didn’t have mechanical web-shooters. I hate it when they monkey with characteristics that we know and love so well.) But for the avid fan, I myself find that I am less interested in the “silver-webbed” Spidey merchandise of the movie than I am of the “black-webbed” treasures from the seventies and eighties. But movies are a different medium, and often don’t have the luxury of all the rich language and artwork that makes a great comic. Movies are a much more passive experience than comics – and the fact that making comics will always be cheaper than making movies allows us to have a plethora of shared experiences, and to experience the work of more talented artists and writers. And that’s what makes a great character – not just having one great movie, or one great comic – you have to have a body of work – a history, and I don’t think movies can ever replace that. Do they have a negative effect? In my opinion they do not because comics are not competing with the comic-book-related movies, they are competing with the entire spectrum of entertainment that is offered today (including reality TV shows!).
Do you have time to read comics now? If so, what titles are you enjoying?
When I go to the different comic-book conventions, I meet a lot of very talented creators. The two titles that stick out in my mind most of all right now are “Love and Capes” by Thom Zahler and “The Miscellaneous Adventures of Stykman” by Jonnie Allan. I would encourage your readers to seek out comics from independent creators – it’s a ton of work, and the results are often amazing! And of course, I never turn down an opportunity to read a Spider-Man comic! (Or Batman, or Green Lantern, or… any of them!)Advice:
One of the greatest things about the show is that fans were truly inspired. Scattered people across the world hear your stories about dressing up and running around town as a superhero to make other people smile. Many of the fans are compelled to follow in your footsteps. Do you have any advice for them?
Well, apart from making sure you do everything safely and avoid injury to yourself and to others, I would say, make sure you do it with the intent to positively affect others. I’ll never forget when I was visiting Chicago, and one of the bridges there was stuck in an upright position. A guy in a Batman costume thought it would be a good idea to climb the railing (which acted like a ladder in its vertical position) and stand up at the top spreading his cape for the crowd that gathered below. What angered me were the fire trucks and ambulances gathered below who were being distracted from their real jobs in case that idiot hurt himself or someone else. Plus it jammed traffic, and just caused a huge headache. That’s not what superheroes do. We’re supposed to be out there helping people in need, not grandstanding. You don’t need a costume to be a hero (but I have to admit that it’s fun to wear one while doing heroic things!)
Any last comments you’d like to share about anything?
You know what I always think of when I think of superheroes? I think of the ability to react quickly, in the nick of time - to be able to sense a problem, and react to it in a positive way, before others even know that danger is imminent. As a normal person, I feel our senses are not as attuned to danger (probably because we’re not in the thick of it all the time like our imaginary heroes) and to be hyper-sensitive to it would probably be considered paranoia. But along those lines, I wish that I had the ability to know what action to take – quickly – to have the greatest and most positive effect on a situation. And really, I’m talking about having won the show. I couldn’t immediately comprehend it all, and so, I had no idea how to put my newfound celebrity status to good use. My first act was to give the stipend from the show to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but others have argued that I really didn’t take full advantage of what was laid before me. I didn’t see myself doing the whole “get a publicist and become a high-profile celebrity” thing. Maybe I could have raised even more money for my charities if I had tried that, but Peter Parker’s attempt to grasp at fame with his powers resulted in dire consequences, and I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t have felt I was doing my best with this gift if that had been my approach. What I’m saying is… I don’t expect this to last forever, and I understand that one day, I’ll be forgotten by many people. But that’s why I want to do something good with this while I have it. Maybe I can not only raise some money for my charities, but maybe I can inspire some people – to face their fears, to go for their dreams, to live like superheroes in a world that has no compunction about showing us its state of moral decay. To have been on the show – to have passed the tests, and to have challenged myself - that was my dream. To see Feedback become a character that will truly achieve immortality – that doesn’t even come close to my wish that I might, as a human being, leave this world a better place that the one I came into.
For information on the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, the two organizations that I support, please visit www.wish.org and www.rfbd.org. I encourage anyone who wants to feel what it’s like to really have superpowers to seek out a local chapter and volunteer or make donations to the chapter near you! GAME ON!
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