Mike Costa Comes Back Home To Detroit

Tommy Zimmer writes:

Mike Costa was seated in the Great Lakes Ballroom at the Adoba Hotel in Dearborn, MI. He sat prepared for the onslaught of people that were bound to come to his table. At the same time, he prepared for a panel he had coming up. Even with the convention craziness as he was back in his hometown of Detroit, MI, he was willing to make time for a local journalist like myself.

So, what brings you back to Detroit?

Well, I am actually originally from here. I grew up here, and Dennis Barger who runs the con was kind enough to invite me here last year. It is one of my favorite cons to do because though it is small, it is still one of the cons that are about comics. It’s my hometown, and I like supporting small local cons especially my hometown.

You grew up in Grosse Pointe, right?

Yup.

You’ve got GI Joe, Transformers and Smoke and Mirrors. Can you talk about your GI Joe work a little bit?

Yah. I started with the franchise when it started with IDW about 5 years ago. I was originally just what was supposed to be a 4 issue miniseries, and I was sort of writing it with Christos Gage. It was popular enough that it ballooned up into two different ongoing series. It is now the Cobra Files, and is probably the work I am best known for. It is one of my favorite things I have ever written. I love the franchise, and Hasbro lets me do whatever I want. That is rare for licensed books because usually the licensers are really involved in what I can and cannot do. Hasbro’s been cool the whole way, and they are some of the best comics I have written.

What would be your favorite character to write?

Well, the star of the original Cobra book was a character named Chuckles who was an undercover agent, and it has sort of become about this character named Chameleon who is a former Cobra agent working for GI Joe. But other than that, I love writing Crystal Ball and the Baroness is always really fun to write. She is like the Joker of the GI Joe universe. She will just kill people at any time. It is really fun.

What’s it been like versus working on Transformers?

It is a bit more science fiction oriented, and writing giant robots. I think it’s easier for audiences who aren’t familiar with the property to get into the GI Joe universe because I try to write it as a gritty and down to earth book versus Transformers where you have to go out into space. It is more of a science fiction thing. It is just exercising two different muscles.

Is it challenging writing robots? Writing intelligence for them?

I actually think Optimus Prime is one of the best characters in the last 30 years, and I think that as an example of the warrior poet character, he is either the best or one of the best examples. There are so many kids that grew up in our generation that looked to Optimus Prime as a paternal figure because he was so wise but also a fighter. Optimus Prime is the heart and soul of the Transformers franchise. I think if you write with that in mind, you have a good handle on who the character is supposed to be.

Can you talk a little bit about your Smoke and Mirrors book?

Smoke and Mirrors is drawn by Ryan Browne, who I grew up with in Grosse Pointe. Smoke and Mirrors came out of my love of sleight of hand in magic. I am a member of the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, and am an amateur/novice card magician. I have wanted to do a premise that hasn’t really been explored properly because most things that are about magicians get the details wrong. So, I wanted to make sure the details in this comic were right. So, I enlisted my friend Jon Armstrong who is actually the chairman of the board of the Academy of Magical Arts which is like the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences that does the Oscars but for magic. So, I brought him into make sure all the details are correct, and also to design magic tricks.

Costa showed me the trick he designed where I had to pick a card, and then he showed how the character took a card out where my card was gone.

You managed that in the art?

Yah. Jon Armstrong, the magician, designed these tricks, and there are 5 or 6 of these in the book. So, beyond getting all the details correct of what a magician does, we have magic tricks in there, and I felt that was really something we had never seen before in comics.

That’s really interesting that you are able to manage that in your writing and working with the artist.

Costa: Yah. I didn’t think it was possible really but Jon is a really smart guy. He works as the Imagineer for Disney as well. He’s good at coming up with stuff like that, and I think it is something that is really unique. That was my goal with Smoke and Mirrors, my first creator owned work, to really make it as unique and as different as possible.

Are you going to be continuing with that universe?

Costa: I would love to but the problem is that Ryan is so busy now with working on Bedlam and God Hates Astronauts, his first creator owned book that is starting through Image next year. So, whenever there is time in our schedules, and I would not be looking to do it without him.

Are you looking to do any work at the big two: Marvel or DC? I know you had a run on Blackhawks….

I would work for DC again. We were talking about stuff earlier in the year, and I don’t know if any of that stuff is going to happen or not. I would love that to. I am working with Marvel right now on a crossover with the All New X-Men, Indestructible Hulk Specials and the Spider-Man special is coming out next week which will be completing it, and hopefully next year, I will be doing more work with Marvel as well.

What’s it been working for IDW apart from the other publishers?

I mean, IDW, I have been working with them since I first started in the industry. I know them really well, and they have been really good to me. But working with Marvel, it has been really fantastic. Nick Lowe, my editor, despite the fact he edits all the X-Men books, is probably reading 20 Bendis scripts a month and his wife just had a kid, is still very attentive to me, the lowest man on the totem pole. Working for Marvel has been really great. I recently am working with Avatar as well, and William Christensen is also a really great guy to work for. Avatar has been a real pleasant surprise at how hands on being available to talent. William is really good at that.

So, you plan on continue working for all of them?

Absolutely, and the book I am working on for Avatar was originally supposed to be a six issue series but it has been expanded into an ongoing.

Tommy Zimmer is an up and coming freelance writer and journalist from
Detroit, MI. He has freelanced for various websites and local
newspapers like the Detroit Free Press and Detroit Metro Times. He
also is working on many comic book projects, his first which is to
self published soon. At the same time, he is still writing for the
Free Press, and is very happy to be with Bleeding Cool, his video
series with Bestow Productions called Creative Continuity and the
website ComicBookSyndicate.com. You can check all of his goings-on at
zimmert101.wordpress.com.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.