he sun has set on New York Comic Con but ComicAttack.net is still on the front line bringing you interviews that rock from creators that matter. Just before the fall festivities started, we got to get some quite time with Legendary Star-Lord writer Sam Humphries during the illustrious Kabam press junket at the Eventi Hotel in downtown Manhattan. We spoke about his work as head writer for Kabam’s new mobile fighter Contest of Champions as well as his history with comics as an art form and a means of self-expression.
CA: What influenced you to start writing comics and how did comics inspire you?
SMH: I remember one thing that influenced me to write comics is having something to say, having a point of view in the world, I mean I’m not a ground breaking philosopher by any means but as a kid I learned a lot from reading comics. I learned about being a hero and doing things that other people might be afraid to do, standing up for your beliefs and standing up for people who can’t fight for themselves. I feel like it made me a better human being and it’s an honor to be a part of that chain moving forward. The authors I read when I was a kid, they read stuff that inspired them as a kid going all the way back to stuff like John Carter and even further back stuff like The Odyssey. It just been a real honor to be a part of that chain.
CA: So who are some of the guys that are some of the links in your chain? Who are your inspirations?
SMH: Oh man! Depending on how old I was, when I first started reading comics it would have been guys like Chris Clairmont and John Byrne and when I got a little bit older it was Neil Gaiman and frank miller and grant Morrison and then I moved into more European stuff and then I got into some American alternative stuff, like when I first got into Love & Rockets. Both the Hernandez Brothers were super influential on me…man I could go on.
CA: Which comic creators or story lines would you recommend to the as yet uninitiated potential comic book reader looking to get their feet wet?
SMH: Boy! I feel it really depends on what that person is into outside of comics. Let say they’re really into the marvel cinematic universe, I’d probably point them in the direction of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s Ultimates or Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Civil War. If they’re into more of Noir street level stuff then I’d recommend Bendis’s Daredevil or Powers or any of Brubaker and Sean Philips’s work. If they’re into real esoteric stuff and have a twisted sense of humor then I’d probably point them at Fraction and Hickman’s stuff. If they love having their brains expanded and their minds blown while they read stuff I’d point them toward Kelly Deconnick, particularly Pretty Deadly but she also does Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble.
CA: The world we are living in today seems to be experiencing drastic changes and not always for the better; the militarization of the police, climate change, the increasing income gap and the pervasive poverty it produces. What do you think the role of comics in this climate of unrest?
SMH: It’s hard to say. You look at all these problems and they seem so deep and unresolvable some times, sometimes it’s hard to see the role of comics and you can come to a place where you feel like ‘Well there’s nothing to be done. What hope is there for the world?’ but if there is one thing I feel that comics can teach you is that there is always hope. Comics can show high drama and show ways that we can resolve them without being lesser versions of ourselves. Comics helps us believe that we can be the best people we can while changing the world and helping others.
CA: So what do you feel is the ultimate role of art in our society?
SMH: Wow, you’re getting deep on this!
CA: Yeah man, you gotta!
SMH: I feel like the role of art is to hold a mirror up to people and society but to do it in such a way that people don’t realize that the subject doesn’t realize that they’re looking at themselves until the end and hopefully learn a bit more about how they feel about the world. If you can sneak that in there then people have honest responses, if you preach then people put up the wall, you know what I mean? So just really to hold up a mirror, but to do it in a way that is just slightly distorted or disguised in a sense. So you can get people to care, in the context of a story and then realize that they actually care about issues happening in the world around them.
CA: How have you executed that philosophy in your stories?
SMH: Well in the book I did for Marvel, Avengers A.I. and that allowed me to tackle a lot of issues that seem very sci-fi on the surface. Issue like can a computer be considered a person, can a program feel or have sentience but when you tackle issues like that hopefully you getting the reader to think ‘If I can accept that The Vision is a person, then why can’t I accept that homeless man sitting next to me is a person or a person half way around the world who is suffering is a person?’
CA: How would you describe your approach to storytelling.
SMH: I went into it a little already but I always try and remember that comics are a human experience. So if I have a plot or a theme or an issue that I want to tackle, I want to put in the context of someone experiencing it and feeling with the complex emotions. The conflict of how to be a hero in your own way while confronted with these things.
CA: How much thought do you give to race in the crafting of your characters and their motivations?
SMH: I give A LOT of actually! I feel like comics in general don’t give enough thought to race. I feel like it falls in to two camps; either everyone goes ‘Oh, everyone’s equal so race doesn’t matter!’ and you just end up with a cast full of white people or it goes on the other end of the spectrum, where it gets really ham-fisted like ‘Oh man my cast is so multicultural.’ but then you have a Latino character and all they talk about is the barrio and it devolves into stereotypes.
The real solution, I think, is to have all sorts of different people of all sorts of different background, genders and sexual orientations and everything across the board and just treat them like normal people within the story with their own desires wants and agency within their own lives. Not to treat them as side pieces to the plot or the main character. These people are not sidekicks… and this can be said for movies or TV in our society as well. So I just try to pay close attention to that while acknowledging that I’m coming from a place of privilege, I try to always try to double and triple check myself when I do that.
CA: When I spoke to Greg Pak during Special Edition he said something similar in reference to his character Amadeus Cho.
SMH: Yeah and to give Greg a lot of credit he proves through Amadeus that you can counteract stereotypes by making a character that is a full, well developed character.
CA: Okay, last question. Do you want to go out with a heavy question or…
SMH: Heavy question! Go, hit me!
CA: Beauty or truth?
SMH: Augh! God, man….I don’t know…I think you can have both!
CA: …can you though?
SMH: I think you can. I think you can have truth in your life and have your life still be a beautiful thing.
CA: But what if you had to choose?
SMH: …put an asterisk next to this [laughing]. Acknowledge that I disagree with the premise of the question* but… I guess it’s going to have to be truth. I wish I could just sit back, I mean I would love to have a beautiful life and just ignore everything but I don’t think that gets anyone, anywhere good.
*[Editor’s Note: Mr. Humphries disagreed with the premise of this question.]
A thoughtfully cheerful and undeniably talented man, Sam Humphries’ success and acclaim is well deserved but don’t take my word for it. Check out his upcoming tittles Our Love is Real with Steven Saunders and/or Sacrifice with Dalton Rose and definitely pick up The Legendary Star-Lord from Marvel.