The Intrepids

Posted on March 3, 2011 by


Vampires and werewolves have had their time. Now writer Kurtis J. Wiebe and illustrator Scott Kowalchuk are bringing back another classic monster — the mad scientist — in their new five-issue Image Comics miniseries, The Intrepids.

So prepare for an onslaught of over-the-top science projects.

“This is the first series I’ve written where anything goes. Cybernetic Bear? Done! Battle Baboons armed with kitchen utensils? Done!” Wiebe says.

There’s a lot more to The Intrepids (debuting in comics shops today) than just wanton destruction by Dr. Frankenstein wannabes. Like The Goonies by way of the X-Men, the series harkens back to 1960s good-vs.-evil fare with four very different heroes — Crystal Crow, Chester, Doyle and Rose — grouped together by an enigmatic scientist father figure named Dante. That adventurous spirit is tied with modern themes that apply to readers now, Wiebe says, such as family, fitting in, and understanding one’s inner spirit.

Wiebe started writing The Intrepids in the summer of 2009 after being inspired by Gerard Way’s The Umbrella Academy and its use of humor and solid characters. Soon after he started reading that series, Wiebe was waiting at a stoplight one day and found himself engrossed by a young woman crossing the street wearing a leopard-print trench coat and fedora.

“Little does she know, but she became the inspiration for the lead character, Crystal Crow,” Wiebe says. “Visually, I knew Crystal, and I went home and started brainstorming an entire team.

“I find all of them a joy to work with for a wide variety of reasons. I identify with Crystal’s slight cynicism, Doyle’s unrelenting care for those around him, and Chester’s sarcastic view of the world. Rose isn’t in that list, and that’s mainly because she, for me, has been the most difficult to voice, but she’s taken on a very strong personality as I’ve progressed through each issue.”

The writer sent a short synopsis and character details to Kowalchuk, who then drowned them in 1960s pop culture and tech but with a “classic” sense. “What was originally a modern-day narrative became a retro pulp story with ridiculous throwback nods to old-school James Bond films and Steve Ditko comics,” Wiebe says.

The hulking Doyle’s trench coat is based on something Kowalchuk saw on Get Smart once. Crystal’s wardrobe is right out of the Bonnie and Clyde collection. The brainy Chester is a combination of a few different Doctors from Doctor Who. And the jetpack of action junkie Rose is based on a 1950s vacuum cleaner.

“I really hope our series looks like a cross between Kirby’s X-Men and Scooby-Doo,” says Kowalchuk, who promises a nod to The Princess Bride in an upcoming issue.

Dante is cut from the same cloth of Charles Xavier in that there needed to be a central leader for the group but is never that defined, Wiebe says. He and Crystal are tied very much together, and Dante is trying to right some wrongs by stopping a former partner of his named Doctor Koi.

“The Koi/Dante relationship mirrors a lot of those older comic-book rivalries,” Kowalchuk says. “Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom, Charles Xavier and Magneto — those are really sharp confrontations because there is a history between those characters.

“In a lot of ways, developing the individual characters, their personalities and quirks was simple — it was finding a story to properly showcase those eccentricities that was the challenge.”

The tone of the series has changed since Wiebe’s original concept, going from heavy and violent action to a more light-hearted touch, and so has the name. The Intrepids was the creative team’s title from the beginning, but it became Rat Bastards for a while up until there was a “trademark tiff,” which turned out for the better, Kowalchuk says.

That wasn’t the only off-page problem, though. While Wiebe was developing The Intrepids, his marriage was falling apart. It didn’t last the year, and he ended up channeling a lot of the struggle into the series. Wiebe thinks people who know him well will understand the subtext a lot better than the general public reading it, but the theme of family will be hard to miss for any comics fan.

“When I first started to see the realities of my failing relationship, I felt utterly alone in it,” Wiebe admits. “It was a feeling that didn’t last as my friends and family came to my rescue and supported me through the most difficult of circumstances. I quickly came to a better understanding of friendship and family bonds, something I’d never really thought much about before.

“It’s funny, in a way, how each character was an outlet for varying emotions I was experiencing. I was able to laugh at certain realities through Chester, and I voiced my newfound perspective on the role of relationships in my life through Crystal.”

Most of the drama for the Intrepids, however, will come in the entertaining forms of Manbots, the Cyber-Bear, the Battle Baboon Death Squad and other wacky ideas unleashed from the brains of crazed inventors.

“The mad scientist was the best ‘movie monster’ that Universal used back in the 1940s,” says Kowalchuk, who has inked a deal with Oni Press for his next project. “Victor Frankenstein, The Invisible Man‘s Griffin, The Fly‘s Andre Delambre — those cats made for the most interesting on-screen villains. The most vile mad scientist of our series shares a lot of similar character traits to those.”

Could he overtake the likes of Edward Cullen anytime soon? “I don’t know, I’m having a hard time imagining a Twilight romance starring two raving lunatic scientists vying for the affections of a ladybot. Why do I get the sinking feeling that idea is being optioned right now?” quips Wiebe, whose new Image horror mystery Green Wake is out April 6.

“I’m not sure how Scott really feels about mad scientists and his commitment level to their resurgence, but I vow to bring about a full-on revolution. And if there’s resistance, I’ll enact Order 67: Cyber-Bear Armageddon.”