By:Trent D. McNeeley
Date: Wednesday, January 10, 2001

It has taken more than two years to produce, but Gen13/ Fantastic Four finally hits comic racks today. And you thought waiting for an issue of Battle Chasers to be published was bad.

'I did the project like two years ago,' admits Kevin Maguire, who writes and pencils the 48-page, prestige format one-shot co-published by DC Comics/WildStorm Productions and Marvel Comics. 'It's been so long ago I almost forget how the whole thing started.' [Laughs] 'We had been talking about doing a Superman/Gen13 crossover, but I think there was already one in the works with Adam Hughes. So [WildStorm editor] Scott Dunbier said 'we still owe Marvel a crossover.' We decided on Gen13/Fantastic Four and things just went from there.'

Maguire says he enjoyed working with the Fantastic Four, as they were characters he had not previously worked on professionally. 'Over the last couple of years I have been trying to do stuff that I had not previously gotten to do, like FF. I did the Superman: Created Equal thing, but it wasn't exactly what I wanted to do. I never got to do the Superman/Clark Kent/Lois Lane/Daily Planet story. I did kind of a weird Elseworlds thing. I [have] got[ten] to do X-Men now (with the limited series X-Men Forever written by Fabian Nicieza). But yeah, part of it was the opportunity to do characters I always liked growing up but never actually got to dowhich I can't actually say for Gen13, since I didn't actually grow up reading them.'

Inker Karl Story also marvels at working on Marvel's top team. But he says he was hesitant when editor Dunbier first approached him to ink the book at Maguire's request. 'At the time I was working on Nightwing and felt I had to say no,' says Story. 'I don't use assistants so I don't tend to work on other projects while I'm handling a regular book. But Scott said there really wasn't a deadlinesomething you should never tell me. At that time, Kevin was just getting started on his end, so we decided I could handle a few pages a month, maybe up to10, and we could still get it done well and fairly fast. Of course, it ended up taking a lot longer.'

Lost in New York

The book originally was written in continuity, during the teen-aged Gen-Active team's New York residency. That allows for the youthful troupe to meet up with Marvel's first family. Dunbier says the overall story lays out as a simple attempt at finding out what is happening to Qeelocke, the alien pet of Gen13's Roxy 'Freefall' Spaulding. Qeelocke gets loose, grows uncontrollably and wreaks havoc in Manhattan as another menace is approaching the island. This attracts the attention of the Fantastic Four, especially Johnny 'Human Torch' Storm.

Freefall goes to the Baxter Building to retrieve her pet, which has been corralled by Torch and Spider-Man. But sparks fly between Roxy and Storm, igniting a situation that quickly engulfs both teams. In the midst of it all, the book also pays homage to giant monster movies, according to Maguire. Qeelocke eventually busts out of the Baxter Building to take on the gargantuan menace that is rapidly advancing from offshore, culminating in a final showdown in Central Park.

'I'm a big Godzilla fan, so I had an idea when I was still considering the Gen13/Superman idea where all the Gen13 characters became giant monsters in Metropolis,' recalls Maguire. 'I had this image of Grunge as a King Kong kind of creature on top of the Daily Planet building with Lois Lane in one hand.'

In addition to the homage, Dunbier says the book also features an underlying message. '[It's] basically about how the media embrace violence but shy away from sex,' hints Dunbier. 'Not that it's all that serious a message. It's more cute than deep.'

Maguire admits the message is present, but finds it ironic that Dunbier would point it out since the companypart of the mega-media conglomerate AOL-Time Warnerchanged one line and deleted another that had sexual overtones. 'Knowing that kind of reinforces the point of the story,' laughs Maguire. 'It's all right to show people being crushed, but God forbid you have a double entendre. But I'm sure that's probably the upper management guys who don't want any lawsuits or anything like that.'

Since no DVD version will be available with deleted scenes, Maguire spilled the goods for us. 'The one line they took out was on the first page,' he says. 'The (Gen13) team is walking down 42nd street past the Disney store. Originally I drew Buzz Lightyear and Woody in the window. I understand that for legal reasons they couldn't keep that. Fairchild was complaining about marketing and consumerism. But I had Burnout say something like, 'Yeah, time was going to 42nd street to get a Buzz or a Woody meant something completely different.' That's gone. And Freefall's last line in the book, well, let's just say it wasn't supposed to be plural,' continues Maguire. 'Take off the letter s and you'll get my joke.'

Having been in the business for a long time, Maguire says he doesn't feel boxed in by the standards of the mainstream comics press. 'It's their backyard,' he says. 'It's their toys. We have to play by their rules if we want to use their characters. It doesn't bother me. It's their money. They put up the money for this. Who am I to [challenge] that?'

Fantastic Team

With copies of the one-shot already in the hands of all the involved parties, they have nothing but copious compliments for one another. 'The way Kevin does characterswell, let's just say he's a tremendous talent who will always be welcome at WildStorm,' says Dunbier.

Maguire says he is 'extremely glad' that Story inked his work. 'He did the best inking job on me that I've ever seen,' says Maguire. 'When I got the [photocopies] for this I was like, 'Wow. Oh my God. A book actually looks better than when I handed it in.''

Story got his complimentary copies in the mail last week and finally got to read the whole story. 'I inked before it had been lettered, so there was stuff there that I had never seen before. It was hilarious,' says Story. He added that while he hopes to work with Maguire again, it would have to be after his current assignment ends.

'I want to stay on Batman as long as I can,' he says. 'Ed Brubaker is writing the book now, with Scott McDaniel penciling. I love working with Scott. He's a joy to be around, personally and professionally.' After that, Story says only a chance to work on his favorite book, The Authority, would tempt him.

Maguire says he hopes the next project you see from him will be on the big screen. 'If all goes well, the next thing people will see might be in a movie theater rather than a comic book store. Fabian Nicieza and I are putting together this movie thing and so far it's going well. It could all fall apart in a second, so I don't know how much we should even say about it. But so far it's moving at a good clip. It is heroic fantasy, superhero-esque but without spandex and the capes.'