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Interview: Jeff Parker

Jeff Parker

With the announcement of Kings Watch phans the world over wanted to know more about what to expect from this Defenders of the Earth-like series. So, ChronicleChamber decided to ask writer Jeff Parker to shed some light on the book. Happily, he agreed.

ChronicleChamber: Hello Jeff and thanks for joining us here at ChronicleChamber. You said in a previous interview that you’ve been a fan of the Phantom for a while now. What is it about the character you enjoy?

Jeff Parker: I read the Falk/Barry strips in the paper as a kid and I liked his whole set up; the Skull Cave, his horse and wolf, and his cool belt. And that when he knocks the hell out of you you wake up with a skull on your chin forever.

CC: Before we get into Kings Watch, for those who may not know your previous work tell us a bit about your comics experience.

JP: I’ve drawn comics for a few years, and after I put out my adventure [graphic novel] The Interman a decade ago I started writing mainly for Marvel. I launched books like Marvel Adventures Avengers, X-Men First Class, Agents of Atlas and have had a long run on Thunderbolts and Hulk. Coming up very soon from DC I’m writing Batman 66, a book based on the famous TV show.

CC: So, phans have known Dynamite was planning something Defenders of the Earth-esque since 2011, when it was mentioned just after the end of Last Phantom. Why has it taken until 2013 to see the series come to fruition? Did you have to wait for certain things to fall into place?

JP: I have no idea about that stuff. I only know our book came together really fast after Nate Cosby asked how I might approach putting the three heroes together.

CC: Is the Kings Watch team an organised, consciously put together team such as in the animated series, or do the three heroes just happen to come together to fight a common threat?

JP: The latter; they come together in a natural way in the story because the threat connects them all. They don’t worry about who’s the leader here, they all do what they have to.

CC: The characters of the Phantom and Mandrake in Kings Watch aren’t the “traditional” characters we know from Lee Falk. Was this story driven or did you feel the characters needed a polish?

JP: They’re pretty close to what you understand as those heroes, the only difference I’d say is that we’re not bringing a lot of past continuity into it that you would need to know. It’s still them, just from a fresh starting or jumping on point.strip, or indeed from the TV series, but have been slightly updated.

CC: You’ve said that the Phantom in Kings Watch has been through a lot and is at odds with an idealistic Flash. Are we to assume this is the same Phantom we saw in Last Phantom, Kitridge Walker?

JP: Don’t assume that! I need to hold back some of those details for now for story’s sake.

CC: Even if the Phantom in Kings Watch isn’t the “traditional” Phantom, are there any aspects of the character you explore in the series?

JP: You have to assume there are certain constants in the lineage of Phantom, with everyone through history who wears the mask. I love that he’s the original legacy hero, it’s a rich background and we’re going to explore it.

CC: You’ve also said that you’ve made Mandrake a slightly more mysterious character, that he knows things people probably shouldn’t. Reading this, it sounds to me like this Mandrake is more of a Doctor Strange character, a guardian of arcane knowledge. Is this a fair assessment?

JP: I admit, that may be from how much Marvel work I’ve done over the last decade, and I’ve written Strange in several books. But really Mandrake influenced Strange, just like the other two heroes influenced so many others. He still mostly uses illusion, but he’s also an old hand at real occult magic.

CC: You’ve mentioned that Mandrake’s old nemesis, The Cobra, is in the series. Will any of the other characters’ pasts come into play, such as the past generations of Phantoms or the Singh Brotherhood?

JP: Yes on the past generations, but not the Brotherhood.

CC: Obviously this is a team book and you’ve said that there is a lot of action. Still, with three heroes who fill such different character types as The Phantom (jungle adventure), Mandrake (magic) and Flash (sci-fi) there must be some interesting interactions between the three. Will we see any of this in the series?

JP: Definitely. In our story they’ve never worked together before, and they quickly become pivotal figures in a global event, so they have to adapt to each other’s different ways very fast. But they complement each other well.

CC: Something a lot of people have been wondering; will Lothar make an appearance in Kings Watch, or is Mandrake going solo, so to speak?

JP: Lothar is in it immediately!

CC: So why call the series “Kings Watch” when “Defenders of the Earth” is an established, known name? Did you want to distance yourself from the animated series?

JP: I doubt they have the rights to that name, usually when a licensor deals with a studio to produce a show, a lot of that set up becomes its own thing, an offshoot of a property. It was never offered as an option anyway.

CC: Will we see any other nods to Defenders other than the main three characters, such as Dynac X or the Phantom’s Strength of Ten Tigers power?

JP: Possibly!

CC: Is writing for these classic, pulp-based characters different than writing more modern superhero characters?

JP: I don’t think so, I tend to treat most heroes as adventurers and that’s what our guys are. Really most superheroes trace elements back to them–who had a cave and servant before Batman?

CC: We’ve heard that the story has a lot of supernatural elements. Can you give us any clues as to what we can expect? Those Velociraptor/ human hybrid things in the preview are looks pretty terrifying.

JP: That’s because Marc Laming is incredible, he has a lot of creatures to design for the story but there’s few people better suited. Also Cobra’s men are menacing and mysterious.

CC: You’ve said in an interview that the series will contain “Billy Zane –isms,” referring to the 1996 Phantom movie. What exactly are these? Will the Skulls of Touganda be popping up?

JP: It’s more in little touches. That movie kind of falls apart in the third act, but I still like it a lot. I like that The Phantom enjoyed his role in life. Okay, those skulls might be in here.

CC: The series is a five issue mini. If it does well, will see future adventure of Kings Watch?

JP: I think that’s a safe bet, but maybe a broader launch even.

CC: Are there any final words you’d like to say to the many phans looking forward to Kings Watch?

JP: You can expect a lot of characters are going to end up with little skulls permanently etched into their faces. The Phantom comes out swinging in issue 1 and shows what he can do in a big, big way.

ChronicleChamber would like to thank Jeff Parker for giving up his time to talk with all of us.

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