Ed Catto: Captain Kid and Tom Peyer
Way back when, as I was growing up in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York State, I enjoyed The Syracuse New Times. This funky weekly newspaper ran a cartoon by Tom Peyer that often skewered the politicians of the day with its clever, biting wit. It was creative, irreverent, smart and subversively fun.
And then, one day, Peyer worked in an “Earth One/Earth Two” reference. That was kind of like a geek dog whistle – perceptible only to comic fans. I knew I’d be a fan forever.
Tom Peyer went on to a robust career writing and editing comics, with impressive runs on the DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes and L.E.G.I.O.N. His fantastic Hourman series brought characters like Snapper Carr and Bethany Lee to life in such a credible way that, like long lost friends, I still miss them.
Like me, Tom has recently returned to the Central New York region, so it made sense to catch up with him. I knew it would be a lot of fun, but I also wanted to learn about his fascinating new series from Aftershock Comics, Captain Kid.
Captain Kid is the story of a middle-aged guy suffering all the discomforts and indignities of middle age. But he has a secret. And that secret is that he’s really the new teen superhero who’d just burst onto the scene.
Tom teamed-up with his longtime pal Mark Waid on the writing chores. Wilfredo Torres is providing strong covers and solid interior artwork.
Mark Waid urged Peyer to tell this story for years, and when the Aftershock opportunity came about, they jumped on it.
Peyer explained to me that the genesis of this comic series came from his observation that comics aren’t about wish fulfillment anymore. In the old days, characters like Jimmy Olsen, Captain Marvel or Robin were all about young boys wanting to hang out with, or become, their heroes. But today, many comics buyers read stories that are about heroes and protagonists who are younger than themselves. Thus, Captain Kid flips old time conventions upside down.
Peyer also took a fresh approach to the well-worn concept of time travel. It occurred to him that in a culture where time travel is commonplace, certain generally accepted norms would naturally arise. Maybe the norms wouldn’t always be right, but they would soon become baked into people’s behavior.
In the universe of Captain Kid, “obey your elders” is a mantra that the characters embrace. The thinking is that you will most likely, at one point or another, run into a future version of yourself. And it is assumed that they are wiser and should be respected.
As with so many of Peyer’s and Waid’s stories, the secondary characters are as rich and interesting as the lead. Helea, a female black superhero who mysteriously appears, is one such engaging character. Or maybe I should say “characters,” as Captain Kid features both a younger and an older version of this woman.
She serves the role of a mentor figure, Peyer explains, like Merlin or Obi-Won Kenobi. The story gets really interesting as the whole series is predicated on a mistake she made. Helea’s trying to make it right, but because time travel is imprecise, she’s fixing all the problems thirty years too late!
Wilfredo Torres’ art is crisp, clear and imbued with just a drop of nostalgia for sharp-eyed comic fans. Torres deftly conveys big ideas with a character’s expressive body language or simple brush strokes that denote the crinkle of an expression.
Peyer told me a little story about how Torres gave a supporting character an apple to hold. The character was supposed to be just sitting down in a certain part of the story and the apple was a surprise to the writers. Wilfredo explained to Peyer that even when people are sitting down they are never just sitting down.
Peyer just loves this straightforward art. “I used to call over-rendered, over- detailed, hyper-detailed comic art ‘incontinent,’” said Peyer. “But Torres art is just the opposite. I’d call it continent.”
Peyer told me about an insightful interview he had with Chris Simms. After the concept was explained, Simms summarized that Captain Kid was all about hope and fear. Or, more precisely, how we hope for a better future but fear that we can’t protect ourselves from the present.
Issue #3 just went on sale. I’m going to be sure to get a copy from local comic shop. You might want to snag one too!