Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: The Fanboy Comics staff and I were very excited about the recent release of your book, II Crimsonstreak, the second book in a trilogy of comedic superhero novels. For readers who may be unfamiliar with the series, what can you tell us about the trilogy as a whole?
Matt Adams: The short answer: The trilogy features Christopher Fairborne, a.k.a. Crimsonstreak, a superhero blessed with the power of superspeed (think “The Flash” with a modest Midwestern background and a propensity for pop culture references). Crimsonstreak teams up with an assortment of allies, including his flying girlfriend, a smart-aleck butler, a teenage superhero wannabe with a Batman complex, and a confused birdman from a faraway star. Together, they work to save the Earth (par for the course for superheroes) and prevent the destruction of the multiverse (ditto).
The long answer: It didn’t actually start out as a trilogy. I wrote the first book, I, Crimsonstreak, back in 2007-2008. It sat on my hard drive for years. Around 2010, I dusted it off, gave it some polish, and tried to improve it. I got to the point where I wanted to submit it and found a publisher.
The first book was a standalone adventure. I didn’t (intentionally) weave any plot threads into the book that would be picked up in a second or third book. The whole thing started with the simple premise of writing a book about a superhero who ended up in prison and had to escape. Then, I thought, “Hey, it’d be interesting if his father put him there.” So, that’s where the whole idea for the first Crimsonstreak book came from. From there, I added dystopian elements, some supporting heroes, a little alien invasion scenario, and parallel worlds. I also wanted a hero obsessed with pop culture, so Crimsonstreak sees various scenarios in terms of other movies and TV shows.
It wasn’t until I was heavily involved in editing I, Crimsonstreak that I thought about a sequel; that first book really does stand on its own. For II Crimsonstreak, I needed to raise the stakes. In the first book, the fate of the Earth was on the line. That’s standard superhero stuff; you can’t get away with that for a second novel. I had the idea of playing with a storyline influenced by Crisis on Infinite Earths that dealt with the multiverse I’d established in the first book. And, as I kept writing, I realized resolving the plot was going to bleed into a third book.
So, just like that, the series became three books. Because, you know . . . trilogy.
BD: With many superhero tales taking a darker and more adult approach to their storytelling, what inspired you to approach the Crimsonstreak trilogy with a comedic tone?
MA: I’ve had enough brooding heroes. Look, the Nolan Batman movies are great. I enjoyed Watchmen, you know? But, I also enjoyed the first Iron Man film, which showed us you don’t have to be all gray skies and broody all the time. You can have fun with this genre.
So, while it wasn’t a specific decision to run counter to the “gritty” trend in superhero comics and movies, I wanted something that would stand out a little bit for fans of the genre. I tend to like things that make me laugh. I like things that get a little “meta,” so those elements of my personality basically grafted themselves into the DNA of the characters and their world.
At the same time, I like to write memorable characters—people readers will care about. So, in the midst of the pop culture references and general goofiness, you’ve got characters with personal failings and flaws that get in their way. I mean, Crimsonstreak isn’t “damaged” in the way Bruce Wayne is damaged, but he’s got issues with his dad. His mom—a great superhero in her own right—died while Crimsonstreak was in college. His father’s a rehabilitated supervillain. All these elements play into the hero’s personality, but they don’t drag him down like a lead balloon.
You won’t find Crimsonstreak standing in the pouring rain in front of his mother’s tombstone screaming, “Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy???????”
And, if you did find him doing that, he’d call himself out, most likely by renaming himself Bruce Wayne Lite.
BD: How soon may readers anticipate the final installment of the trilogy, III Crimsonstreak? Have you already begun work on the book?
MA: I’ve finished the first draft of III Crimsonstreak and am working on revisions before I submit it. It’ll be approximately the same length as the second book and tie up the plot. The third book’s in a pretty good place right now as far as first drafts go. I’ve got some character moments to nail down and some third act plot machinations to smooth out. I expect a release late summer/early fall next year as long as I get it submitted early enough.
BD: Given the super characters in the novel, have you considered adapting the books in the Crimsonstreak series to a graphic novel format?
MA: If I could draw worth a lick, I definitely would’ve put Crimsonstreak and company out in comic book form.
I’ve certainly thought about it, though graphic novel/comic book writing differs a lot from prose. I’d have to have a lot of guidance to make it work. While I’ve read my fair share of comics, I’ve never written them. Definitely a lot to learn there, though I think it’d be a lot of fun.
BD: Many of your previous works, including The Franchise, Sheridan’s Hammer, and the books in the Crimsonstreak series, have been deeply rooted in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. What draws you to these genres, and do you feel that they offer specific tools as a storyteller?
MA: Well, The Franchise is more of a “serious” attempt at superheroes. I’m getting ready to shop it around. The book has more of a pulpy feel with some elements of Watchmen thrown in there. Sheridan’s Hammer, I’m embarrassed to say, is nowhere close to being ready for submission. It was the third or fourth novel I’d written—and my first attempt at a space fantasy—so I imagine I’ll come back to it one of these days.
To actually answer the question, I’ve been a Star Wars/Star Trek guy for a long, long time. I’ve read so many tie-in books and comics for both franchises. Sci-fi and fantasy are just ingrained in me for some reason.
I like the fact they don’t handcuff me with reality; you can do whatever you want in these worlds you create. I like to read and watch things that set my imagination free. Sci-fi and fantasy have always done that for me. So, naturally, I write the kinds of stories I’d like to read.
It’s a vicious cycle, man.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite novels, comic books, and graphic novels?
MA: I’d be insulted if you didn’t ask!
I read a fair amount, although between writing and working, I probably read a little less than I did a few years ago. I’m a big Star Wars fan and read a ton of those books. The very first trilogy, which started with Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire, remains my favorite. As for a favorite Star Trek novel, I’ve always been partial to Peter David’s Q-Squared. That book really influenced the concept of the multiverse as applied in the Crimsonstreak Universe (or Crimsonverse).
While growing up, I read a bunch of Michael Crichton. You really can’t beat Jurassic Park. I also loved Timeline and The Andromeda Strain. Tom Clancy was also big among my friends, so I’d have to count The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games among my favorites.
For some books actually written within the last ten years, I enjoyed Adam Christopher’s Empire State (the sequel, The Age Atomic, is on the “to read” list) and Michael R. Underwood’s Geekomancy (its sequel, Celebromany, is also on the “to read” list). Christopher mixes noir with superheroes, and it’s fantastic. Underwood hits all the right notes in terms of pop culture references. I also liked Ernie Cline’s Ready Player One, which is a giant bag of pop culture references in its own right.
In terms of comics, a lot of my knowledge comes more from things like Batman: The Animated Series and novelizations of big comic arcs like Death of Superman and Batman: Knightfall. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is incredible, and I’ve enjoyed the Nolan Batman trilogy and Man of Steel.
For comic books, I really read novels more than comics when I was younger, so my comic book database of actual comics is pretty sporadic. I read the Larry Hama G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero run, quite a bit of the various Dark Horse Star Wars series, some X-Men, a little Batman, and some Superman. More of my comics were collected editions of notable arcs. That tells me I enjoy stories that have specific start and ends points, which explains why I favored the novel approach for Crimsonstreak.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you are able to share with our readers?
MA: I’m writing a paranormal novel, which is a first for me. I’ve worked in television news for a long time, so the protagonist is an intrepid reporter who runs into a story he can’t crack. It’s a little more grounded in tone despite the paranormal elements. Expect commentary about television media and some pointed snark in that one.
III Crimsonstreak, as I mentioned before, is getting there. It needs a big revision before I submit it to my publisher, Candlemark & Gleam. I also have to write the appendices (each Crimsonstreak book has appendices, which serve as little extras—I liken them to DVD features for a book).
I’ve outlined a spinoff novel that would tell the history of the Crusading Comet—the actual “professional” hero of the Crimsonverse. The narrator for that book would shift to Mortimer P. Willoughby, the superhero aide-de-camp and butler for the Crusading Comet and his family.
I just finished a fairly wacky sci-fi comedy novel that involves a family vacation to humanity’s first-ever orbiting amusement park. The first draft is finished, so I’m putting it aside for a bit before diving in for some additional revisions and polish.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about the Crimsonstreak trilogy and your larger body of work?
MA: Website plug warning! Check out www.mattadamswriter.com. I blog about what I’m writing, and as an added bonus, give you incredible insight on Indianapolis Colts football. (I’m an obsessed fan.) I’d also recommend for everyone to visit the website for my publisher, Candlemark & Gleam (www.candlemarkandgleam.com). They’ve got a great stable of authors there and something to fit just about every taste in sci-fi and fine fantastika.
You can check me out on Twitter; my handle is @statomatty. I probably should tweet more. Or maybe not. And, I have the requisite Facebook page, as well. Always looking for new fans!