by Mark Walters

Back in 1992 I began going to school at the Art Institute of Dallas.  It was an interesting time for comics.  Image Comics had just formed, Superman was dying, and books were selling a million copies per issue.  Needless to say times have indeed changed.  While going to the Art Institute I met many people who I've remained friends with over the years.  One of those people was Todd Nauck.  We all figured Todd was going to make it big in comics.  His talent was obvious just from the few portfolio pieces we saw on display in the school hallways.  Oddly enough the Art Institute greatly discouraged going into the comic book industry back then.  They said you'd never be successful, and it wasn't going to be fun.  I think Todd has certainly proved them wrong.  His creator-owned book WildGuard, which was conceived back in those art school days, has now become a popular title at Image Comics.  This week sees the release of a WildGuard one-shot called WildGuard: Fire Power.  I decided to interview Todd to see what all is currently going on, and what we can expect to see coming up.  Here is what he had to say:

Mark: So we've known each other for 12 years now, after meeting at the Art Institute of Dallas. Do you ever miss those days?

Todd: I do, man. That was so much fun. Comics were still moving towards their height of popularity. Image Comics had just formed. I remember you, me, and the rest of the gang going to comic shops, getting the latest batch of comics. I remember the line just to buy the Death of Superman issue. A lot of our inside jokes came from those days. Poking fun at our (and others') creations. Good times? Great times!

Mark: How is California compared to Dallas?

Todd: Well, they are both fast paced when it comes to the lifestyle. So much to do in Dallas and Orange County. The big differences are in the weather and neighborhoods. Dallas has four distinct seasons (which I miss). The OC pretty much has one season with a three week heat wave and a two week cold front. The OC has bookstores and coffee shops lining every street. Dallas has churches and strip clubs.

Mark: Those old AI days were in many ways the origins of your creator-owned series WildGuard. I can't tell you how cool it was to finally see that book get released. Has it been everything you wanted it to be?

Todd: In one sense, it is: a chance to get my characters and stories out there. In another way, it isn't: there are a lot more stories to tell and characters to introduce. It may never be EVERYTHING I want it to be because I'm always thinking of something new to add.

Mark: The initial mini-series seemed to do pretty well. Were you pleased with the numbers? Was Image happy with it?

Todd: I was happy with the orders considering this isn't a Marvel or DC book. But I will always welcome new readers!

Mark: Correct me if I'm wrong, but the first issue sold out right away didn't it?

Todd: It did! In one week! That blew me away. Image over printed by an extra half of the initial order numbers. And retailers kept reordering till every copy was gone. That rocked!

Mark: So this week sees the release of the one-shot WildGuard: Fire Power. Talk a little about the storyline in this book.

Todd: Well, Fire Power picks up shortly after the end of WildGuard: Casting Call (the first six issue mini-series). The team has been cast with the show's producers picking four members and the readers having voted in one member. The team of five superheroes has two heroes with fire based powers, Freezerburn and Ignacia. This one-shot deals with fan, media, and team reaction to having the same power duplicated on such a small sized team. We also get to learn a little more about each character and who they are.

Mark: You had told me you might be working on another WildGuard one-shot for next year. What can you tell us about that?

Todd: I am working a WG story for a release in 2005. Hopefully by the summer. It has grown from a one-shot to a two issue mini-series called WildGuard: Fool's Gold. The team helps out with a charity event and things don't go as planned. That's all I'll say for now. I'm still writing issue #2 but I'm pretty set on how that will end.

Mark: Is WildGuard going to become a one-shot only title, or do you have any plans for a regular series, or another mini-series?

Todd: I'd love to take it to regular series. WG is so much fun to create and produce. It's just a matter of finding enough time and funds to make that happen. I'm hoping to get an idea of the audience we have for WG with the release of WildGuard: Fire Power and the WildGuard: Casting Call trade paperback.

Mark: With "Reality" television being all the rage, it seems like WildGuard is a prefect candidate for a Hollywood movie, or perhaps a faux-reality television series. Has anyone approached you about that? Have you yourself had any ideas how that could work?

Todd: I have met with Cartoon network about a WildGuard cartoon and video game. And I've had two production companies interested in the movie rights. But this is all early stage stuff and who knows where it will ultimately go. I'd love it if it happens but my focus is on creating more WG comics and building up the fan base. It might help a cartoon, TV show or movie get green lit. How I imagine translating the comic into live action or animation is fun superhero stories (like The Incredibles or X-Men) with a COPS/Real World
spin on it. Just like the comic.

Mark: I want to know about the WildGuard: Casting Call trade. When is it coming out? What kind of bonus material can we expect?

Todd: It will be out in February 2005. It's got about 25 pages of bonus material including the very first two WildGuard mini-comics from when you and I were at art school, a six page story I did for the Hero Happy Hour Super Special but in color, a sketchbook, a deleted scene, and a gallery of the alternate covers from the mini-series.

Mark: You've been posting weekly WildGuard strips on your website, which can be seen at right now. Coming from an artistic and creative point of view, is it ever difficult to come up with something simple and effective that will carry itself for a week?

Todd: I started doing these strips to keep WG out there to the fans. I didn't want WG slipping into obscurity as I produced the newest story. They take place in continuity and I post them as chapters. My intention is to
help round out the characters and the world they live in, so I just start creating what I think would be fun to learn about these characters or set up a subplot for the comic. Those that have been reading them will see some things were loosely set up for Fire Power.

Mark: Are you planning on collecting all of those into a book? Was that the plan all along?

Todd: I do plan on reprinting them. It was a definite consideration when I began. Now, I get comments from fans begging for a printed collection to added to their WG comics. I'll probably collect the strips once a year as an annual. Maybe with an original short story. Sound good, peeps?

Mark: I think I speak for everyone when I say this. You must market and sell the "Truck" ball cap.

Todd: You got it, dude!

Mark: People can buy stuff on there too, right?

Todd: I do sell the WildGuard comics on my WildGuard online store. People can get the Casting Call mini at a discounted price. There is a link to the store on each strip and that has really help generate sales. I'm working on some t-shirts to go up in the near future. Maybe I'll get my TRUCK trucker hat up there, too.

Mark: Speaking of online antics, what happened to ? No updates, brutha!

Todd: WildGuard takes up almost all of my time. My apologies to everyone. I really need to take new photos of my LEGO custom mini-figs. I have since doubled my collection. When I get a breather, I'll get right on that.

Mark: Tell the folks about Sweet Pea, and why oh why has he not been used?!

Todd: Oh, Mark. Why you gotsta bring up Sweet Pea. Okay. Sweet Pea was a parody of the "strong guy" type of character of the early 90's: massive muscles and a tiny little head. He appeared in one of my mini-comics and you've been asking about him for 12 years. I haven't forgotten about him. In fact, I've written more of his back story. I didn't wanna just throw him into the running for Casting Call. It didn't seem to be in his character to pursue a media-hyped superteam. I've got him in the wings to make his entrance someday. And when he does, Mark, you'll be the first to know!

Mark: You're still working on Teen Titans Go! at DC. After your lengthy run on Young Justice, it seems like you have a very good relationship with that company. Are there any other characters or teams you'd like to work with through them? Have they hinted at anything coming up?

Todd: I love working for DC. I've made some great friends there. I'd love to work on just about any character in the DCU. Especially Birds of Prey, the Marvel family, or the Flash. They have hinted about something involving the DCU Teen Titans, but that's all it's been so far.

Mark: Any possibility of a WildGuard crossover with DC characters, or would that be too complicated?

Todd: I'd love to do that, HECK, yeah! I should try pitching something. See if they bite.

Mark: Okay, if you had total freedom, what would your dream storyline be? Any characters, from any company.

Todd: I love to draw lots and lots of superheroes. I'd love to do a Crisis/Secret War type story involving everyone from the Marvel and DC universe. I'd like it to be done as a 5 year, 60 issue mega-maxi-series to
allow for plenty of character development with the both popular and obscure characters. I don't know if that would sell, but I'd like to do it. That and more WildGuard!

Mark: It seems to me that the WildGuard characters are excellent designs for action figures. Any thoughts on making some? I know there's a lot of money and company politics involved in that. Who
would be in Wave 1?

Todd: WildGuard action figures would have me doing silly little back flips! Wave 1? That'd be our initial cast: Four, Snapback, Red Rover, Ignacia, Freezerburn, Lily Hammer, and co-producers Dandelion and Cordelia Hardman. Wave 2? Some of the popular runner-ups: Exploding Girl, Human Shield, Shrubling, StrongBot, Wandering Eye, Crimson Phantom Vengeance, Toughlon and Wannabe. Wave 3? Multiple variations of Sweet Pea.

Mark: Hey, how about a statue?

Todd: Sure! What have you got?

Mark: You've been on a few television game shows in the last couple of years. Is it weird seeing yourself on TV?

Todd: Yes! I rarely see the back of my head in real life. I have a heck of a noggin. And my voice sounds so weird. Do I really sound like that?

Mark: You're not going to become the Charles Van Doren of our generation, are you?

Todd: Maybe. It all depends. How much does it pay?

Mark: Several superhero movies came out this past year. What was your favorite?

Todd: Spider-Man 2, Hellboy, and Anchorman. I know Anchorman isn't a superhero, but I'm ready to go there if Will Ferrell is.

Mark: Scott Kurtz and I were talking about this the other day. Is it possible for the upcoming Fantastic Four movie to be any good after The Incredibles?

Todd: We as comic fans HAVE to lower our expectations or we will continue to suffer more disappointments than enjoyments. Comparing the Fantastic Four to The Incredibles will only lead to heartache. I mean, we have to consider, we were discovering The Incredibles in the movie itself. We have 40+ years of Fantastic Four material under our collective belts. We're bringing our expectations of the FF into the FF movie. The Incredibles didn't have that. But with Marvel's movie track record compared to PIXAR's, The Incredibles will probably be the better movie. But we can still have fun with the Fantastic Four.

Mark: I think you should hook up with Brad Bird (director of The Incredibles). I think with your characters and his vision, WildGuard could make an amazing film. Thoughts?

Todd: Sound's good to me. Do you have his number?

Mark: Uh... no. So you'll be back in Dallas on February 12-13 in 2005 for the Dallas Comic Con 5, right?

Todd: You bet! I can't wait. I love coming back to Dallas. It's great to meet the fans there and it's always fun to see the old gang.

Mark: Thanks for your time Todd. Keep up the great work!





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