Uncovering the Extraordinary in 'Ordinary'
Writer Rob Williams talks about his new creator-owned series in which the entire world is given super powers -- except for one man.
It might have flown under the radar in its original serialization in Britain's Judge Dredd Megazine, but with any luck, the American release of Ordinary -- a wonderful new take on familiar superhero tropes from creators Rob Williams and D'Israeli -- will see far more people take notice of Michael Fisher, a man who may be many things but definitely not a superhero.
"It was inspired by the raft of superhero movies," Williams told The Hollywood Reporter via email. "The basic premise of these things is, 'In an ordinary world, one person becomes extraordinary.' I thought it'd be fun to tip that one on its head. And then, of course, you push it to extremes. If that one person is ordinary, then let's make them the most ordinary person imaginable. In our case, a middle-aged, divorced plumber who drinks and smokes too much and, although he's basically an OK guy, he lets down everyone around him. There's a great character arc to come from that."
Ordinary takes that flipped aspect to its (il)logical extreme. The protagonist, Michael Fisher, wakes up one morning to discover that a mysterious plague had transformed every human being on the planet -- except for him. Some have become monsters, others superheroes, but he remains the man he had been the night before, entirely unaware that it makes him the most important person on the planet.
"The things I'm proudest of in Ordinary are the aspects that, I think, you don't see in the majority of comic books," Williams said. "On one level -- despite the action and the comedy -- it's largely a story about coming to terms with being a father and not being scared of that -- embracing it. I can't think of many comic books that take that as a core theme. For all Ordinary's spectacle and fun, there's a strong emotional core to it."
The spectacle for the comic is provided by D'Israeli, an artist Williams has worked with before on series for the British anthology comic 2000AD. "In terms of storytelling and design work, he's a genius," Williams enthused about his collaborator. "I love working with him. He can do the body language of characters, get real 'acting' performances on the page that few comic artists can match, and he can also do the huge widescreen action stuff too."
That's a good thing, considering the demands of Ordinary. "Every single individual has to have their own set of superpowers that are unique to them, and there are crowd scenes as Michael travels across Manhattan, so you can imagine the headache," Williams explained. "But it's a story about an ordinary guy, living in a one-bedroom apartment in Queens. We needed to make his world seem low-key and tangible and real before the 'plague' affects everyone."
The result is a comic that manages to echo classic superhero comics without seeming bogged down by the past -- as well as something that could end up making a pretty good movie at some point in the future. "This was the type of idea that I immediately wanted to do creator-owned, because I felt the high concept had the potential to transfer to other areas," Williams admitted. "It seems like a great movie to me. We kind of cast the leads in the design of them. I'll be interested to see if people can spot who we had in mind."
Ordinary, a three-issue series from Titan Comics, launches in April and is available for preorder in comic stores now.
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