Supervillain As A Day Job: Discussing `Imposter Syndicate’ With Writer Matt D. Wilson
by Tom Smithyman
Imposter Syndicate is one of the latest comic books seeking your hard-earned money via the crowdfunding site Zoop. The story explains how supervillains are able to keep coming back from seemingly fatal encounters with heroes. In an exclusive interview with Comicon.com, writer and podcaster Matt D. Wilson discusses why this idea has stuck with him for 20 years, what has changed since he first had his brainstorm in 2003 and why villains are more fun.
Tom Smithyman: You’ve said that Impostor Syndicate has been 20 years in the making. What took so long to make it a reality?
Matt D. Wilson: It’s been a lot of different things. For several of those years, I just wasn’t connected to artists the way I am now, and it was hard to just ask people to do it out of the blue, though I tried. Then some possible artists fell through or found more pressing work. And I had other projects I was working on. Time can really just get away from you.
Smithyman: Having “edited” books like Supreme Villainy and The Supervillain Handbook, you seem to have a soft spot for baddies. Why are these losers so close to our hearts?
Wilson: They really are, aren’t they? Not to break the illusion or anything, but I actually wrote those books as the character King Oblivion Ph.D. Originally, that was just a pseudonym for me to write comedy pieces online without getting in trouble with my job at the time, but over time I really started building out a history and lore for him. I actually started to care about him as a character.
I think there’s something kind of endearing about seeing these villains lose over and over again, only to try one more time in the face of almost totally assured failure. They’re definitely not anything like role models, but they’re fascinating in their persistence.
Smithyman: I know you had some issues getting the series off the ground. What does Zoop offer you that you couldn’t get from other crowdfunding sources?
Wilson: It’s a more hands-on approach. It gives me more of an opportunity to focus on the creative stuff, which is what I really want to do. Other crowdfunding projects I’ve done have kind of required me to not only be the writer and editor of the project, but the treasurer, the shipping clerk, the inventory guy, customer service, and on and on. And, to be frank, I ended up having to pay for some shipping costs out of pocket by the end of it. Zoop took some of that off my plate, and that’s very appealing to me.
Smithyman: This idea has stuck with you since 2003 and it’s the only superhero comic you’ve wanted to make. What is it about this story that makes it so special for you?
Wilson: I just love the idea of being a superhero and supervillain as a day job. Not that this is the first comic that explores that idea. It wasn’t even when I first thought of the concept, but I think my approach is pretty novel. Somebody wants to make sure these people keep punching each other in the street, and they’re making moves to keep it happening by hiring actors. Honestly, I think my main influence is those old Looney Tunes cartoons where Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog are mortal enemies during the day, then they clock out at night and go home as they have a polite conversation. Who hired them? Why is this a job? Who are the other Ralphs and Sams who they trade shifts with? These questions are all worth exploring, I think.
Smithyman: That’s a great cartoon! You’ve obviously had the idea for a while now, to the point where it precedes the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s dominance of popular culture. Does it feel like our friends at Disney have helped to make your story that much more believable?
Wilson: Without a doubt. That’s another big reason for why the idea has stuck with me for so long. I think it’s only become more relevant as the years have gone on. Superheroes were a fairly important corner of pop culture 20 years ago; now they dominate it.
Smithyman: Rodrigo Vargas draws the book. How did you guys get together, and what does he bring to the story’s visual identity?
Wilson: To answer your second question first, he brings everything to it. He designed all these characters and brings an energy to everything that’s just incredible. It’s a rare case where the finished product is way better than how everything originally looked in my head.
As far as how we met, Rodrigo, who lives in Chile, was a listener of my podcast, War Rocket Ajax. He emailed out of the blue a few years back, and from there, we started working together. Our first project was Everything Will Be Okay, which Caliber Comics published in 2020, and now we’re here.
Smithyman: What are your plans for the series, once you get these first two issues funded?
Wilson: I definitely have a long-term story plan, with a big reveal of the shadowy employers and all that. I’m not sure how I’ll get it out to the world. I’d love for a publisher to see the Zoop campaign getting some buzz and take a chance on it, but even if that doesn’t happen, I’ll try to find a way to finish the story one way or another.
Smithyman: You read and review a lot of comics as part of your podcast, War Rocket Ajax. Give us an unbiased review of Impostor Syndicate #1 and #2.
Wilson: Well, off the bat, Rodrigo Vargas’ art is stunning. I don’t know how this guy isn’t a superstar yet. Hopefully he’ll get some major attention from this. As far as the story goes, I often talk about loving high concepts, and about as high of a concept as you can get in superhero comics. The notion of superhero and supervillain battles as basically a big performance, at least from the perspective of one side of the fight, is a recontextualization of a genre where it’s very hard to do much that’s new. This is clearly just the start of a much bigger story, so I’m definitely invested in seeing where things go. We’ve seen the hiring and training processes, so I want to see more of what this job entails, as well as who’s behind it all.
Smithyman: Seems fair and balanced to me! Good luck with the campaign.