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'Radiant' writing: Kyle Higgins talks the next wave of Image Comics heroes

Comic Books

‘Radiant’ writing: Kyle Higgins talks the next wave of Image Comics heroes

An interview with the writer of ‘Radiant Black’ and ‘Power Rangers’

Kyle Higgins never ceases to stay relevant. First making a splash with the New 52’s Nightwing reboot, Higgins has since found even bigger career successes with the likes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Radiant Black with Image Comics.

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But he’s still got more to come — specifically the Image crossover Supermassive. Joining with Ryan Parrott, Mat Groom, and Francesco Manna, Higgins has helped pen a one-shot to kick off a massive shared universe that includes Radiant Black and the upcoming Rogue Sun

Ahead of the book’s February 2022 release, Higgins talked with us about this next phase for Image as well as his own humble beginnings, working on Darkhawk, and much, much more. 

AIPT: What started you off in comics? What pushed you into that career?

Kyle Higgins: I found my love of filmmaking and my love of comics both from the same place, which is superheroes. At the time, during the early 90s, discovering things like Burton’s Batman and then Batman: The Animated Series got me into reading Batman comics. And then reading Batman comics got me into reading other comics and trying to learn, understand and appreciate the craft. And as a kid who loved making ,movies, every time there was an adaptation announced, I was over the moon excited.

Then in 2006, as I planned my thesis film, I knew I wanted to work with the material that inspired me to make movies in the first place, which was superheroes. And so I made what became The League, which I cowrote with my best friend Alec Siegel and then I directed and produced. At that time, Iron Man I hadn’t even come out yet. The Dark Knight hadn’t come out yet. So we weren’t in this explosive trajectory of superhero media quite yet in live action, but even then I remember thinking “well, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to make a superhero movie after film school. Might as well take a big swing now.”

'Radiant' writing: Kyle Higgins talks the next wave of Image Comics heroes

Courtesy of Kyle Higgins.

When we finished the short in the fall of 2008, I put it online. I had hired Eric Wight to design all the characters a year or two earlier and we stayed in touch. He really liked how the film turned out, so he sent out an email to like 200 people, everyone he knew in film, TV, and comics saying “here’s this really cool short film…if you like it here’s the filmmaker, here’s his email.” 

And one of the first people that emailed me was Joe Quesada, who was the editor in chief at Marvel. He teamed me up with Tom Brevoort…and I pitched to Tom for about a year before I landed a Captain America one shot. 

AIPT: Coming from a film background, do you write in-depth scripts? 

KH: It depends on the artist and it depends on the project. For something like Power Rangers the approvals process was so rigorous that the script had to be really, really tight and buttoned up before it was sent to Saban/Hasbro. 

But on creator owned stuff, if it’s an artist that I’ve worked with quite a bit and we have a good dynamic, I prefer writing something that’s a little bit more of a Marvel style hybrid. I include some dialog, sometimes I write very specific panel breaks. Other times, I don’t break down the panels. I try to leave things open because sometimes artist like Marcelo on Radiant Black will come back with something very different, but far cooler than what I was thinking of.

I was a trumpet player for many years…and making Radiant Black is the closest thing to jazz in comics that I’ve experienced. Because we make it in real time over Google Chat, like the whole creative team. Its allowed me to experiment and push into more eclectic territories than I think I would have if I were writing fully buttoned up, prescriptive scripts. But on some projects that is what you need to do and that’s the way the artist and editor want to work. So, I do both. 

AIPT: Talk to us about the differences between corporate comics and indie work

KH: What I just talked about as far as full script vs hybrid style, sometimes its Marcelo and I just chatting and I go: ‘OK, Ive got an idea, on 12 and 13, what if we did it like this?’ And he’ll do layouts from our conversation and then I’ll script over it, we’ll tweak, etc. That style of working is really tough to do on a lot of corporate books. 

Creating for Marvel or DC, with characters who have been around for a long time, and need to be around even longer without too much change, also requires different creative muscles. Working on those types of characters scratches a different creative itch than building whole cloth from nothing on a creator owned…where you own everything you create.

At this stage in my career, I’m not as interested in for-hire stuff unless it’s something really exciting. But that’s because the creator owned side is going well right now. That’s not to say making Darkhawk and Ultraman isn’t also incredibly, creatively fulfilling, but it’s different. Darkhawk is not mine. You’re part of a tapestry when you’re doing stuff at Marvel, DC, even Power Rangers. 

It’s fun and exciting because there are parameters. They’re like little puzzles to solve: what do I do with this character now vs what was done a few years ago?

AIPT: You mentioned Darkhawk. What was the inspiration to do a limited series with him? 

KH: Marvel asked me if I’d be interested in doing a new version. Like I said, it’s gotta be a really interesting work-for-hire gig and Darkhawk was that for me. Just the idea of a character who has a fantastic concept, a main character who has a devoted fanbase, and one of the coolest designs in comics from an era where a lot of design haven’t aged as well. 

I just started to think, if I were going to do something, what’s an angle on the concept that excited me? Especially coming off of Ultraman and with Radiant Black going on, he’s another transforming hero yes, but I wanted to find a much different angle on the concept. 

The aspect of Darkhawk that’s always been the most interesting to me is that when he transforms into Darkhawk, he’s actually instantaneously body swapping with an android that’s in another dimension, but the human’s brain is still controlling the android, synaptically. It’s a version of a body swap, and outside of Miracle Man, I had’t seen it very much before. I key in on something like that and I go: I want to explore that. What can I build that will help me do it? 

Darkhawk #1

Courtesy of Marvel Comics.

Add to that, the fact I’ve always been looking to explore a superhero with something like multiple sclerosis. I have friends and family with MS. I feel like a lot of the general public doesn’t have a great understanding of what MS is and this felt like an opportunity to combine those two creative desires. 

AIPT: What were the origins of Radiant Black? What brought on the idea to prominently merge science with this concept of a 30-yearold superhero?

KH: I like to say that Radiant Black is not about me, but there’s a lot of me in Radiant Black and that also includes my interests. I had the idea several years ago for miniature black holes as a source of power for a transforming hero. And I also had the name.

Back in 2016 I went through a really bad break up where I suddenly didn’t have a firm place to live anymore. A lot of that, without realizing it, started to inform some of the things behind the scenes that I was creatively interested in including an early stages pitch for DC involving a 30 year old getting laid off from Wayne Enterprises and moving back home with his parents in the Gotham suburbs. 

That all was stewing for quite a while. So when Eric Stevenson asked me one night: “have you ever thought about doing an original superhero book?” I didn’t hesitate when I said I’d absolutely love to do that. But I never thought there’d be a market for it. When he told me he thought there could be, for the right thing that was contemporary, I said: “I think I have something.” 

AIPT: Would you say contemporary millennial angst is one of the things that sets Radiant Black apart from, say, Spiderman? Why it’s successful despite not being a Big Two book? 

KH: I don’t know if that’s for me to weigh in on. But I think the best way to make a comic in this day and age is to make something with such a confidence, clarity, and presentation of vision that it’s undeniable. 

With Radiant Black, we have certainly found our tenets for what we think makes a Radiant Black story. A lot of that is about the people. It’s as much about the contemporary problems you can punch as well as the ones you can’t. 

Kyle Higgins

Courtesy of Image Comics.

It’s an original book. It allows for us to take the spirit of something like Peter Parker, the archetype of the everyman superhero with everyday problems, and use that to inspire the approach to building Nathan and his cast, as well as his status quo. 

AIPT: What are some comics that you’re into right now?

KH: I just read a ComiXology original from Vita Ayala, Quarter Killer that I loved. Scott Snyder and Francis Manapul’s Clear was one of my favorite first issues. We Have Demons as well from Scott (Snyder) and Greg (Capullo). Oh! What’s the Furthest Place from Here, the new Matt Rosenburg, it’s incredible. It’s one of the best first issues I’ve ever read with some of the most deft, elegant, and evocative world building this year. 

AIPT: What’s some creative advice you’d give to people trying to break in?

KH: You have to make things. The cool thing about comics is that the entry to comics is just making comics. Don’t plan for a 50 issue opus, plan for your six issue mini series. I would go even further: a one shot. I would go even further: five pagers. Start small, make short stuff, put it online, get it out there. If your stuff is good and you’re putting it out there, I do think you’re putting yourself in a position to be found, to be offered opportunities, and to find opportunities of your own. But this only comes once you start making, and more importantly, finish things.

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