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Ex Machina


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For those unfamiliar with Brian K Vaughan (Runaways, Y: The Last Man), you're missing out on one of comic's great up & coming writers. This title is perhaps the most obscure, but is building to be one of his finest. The idea of a political/superhero tale "in a post 9-11 world" - one that's not going for the Rising Stars or Watchmen angle - left me intrigued.


Newsarama's interview sells it much better that I can, but I'll say this: it's only 7 or so issues in, and if youre not damn interested by the last page of issue 1, then I dont know what to say...






deus ex machina (DAY-us ex MAH-kin-ah): Literally, “god from the machine.” A person or force that arrives to provide an improbable solution to an impossible situation, named after the mechanical device used by Greek dramatists to lower actors playing deities onto the stage.


Or, in this case, a new, monthly series series coming from Wildstorm in June by Brian Vaughan and Tony Harris.


In this case, the setting isn’t the Greek stage, but rather the modern world, and the dues ex machina takes the form of one Mitchell Hundred, a civil engineer and lifelong comics fan who gets super powers after a freak accident.


Where things get into the definition above is what Hundred does with his powers. Not only does he become what would pass as a “super hero” if he were in a world where such beings existed, but he takes things one step further – he puts the mask aside, runs for, and wins the mayor’s race in New York City. Think Bruce Willis’ David Dunn in Unbreakable with a strong civic and social streak running through him.


We tracked down Vaughan for some more on the series.


Newsarama: Just so we’re all on the same page here, this is not the WSU, but rather, our world, or as real as it can be?


Brian K. Vaughan: Yep, like Paul Chadwick's Concrete - which I've been stealing from for years, Ex Machina is set in our world or at least a world one small DNA strand different from our own. This is not the WildStorm Universe or the DC Universe... it's our universe. Initially, there are no superheroes here, other than the ones in the Batman and JLA comics that our protagonist, civil engineer Mitchell, grew up reading.


A mysterious event in our first issue turns Mitchell into something resembling a superhero, though things don't quite work out like they do in the funny books. That said, this is not another one of those postmodern comics that will be "deconstructing the superhero," or simply exploring what superheroes would be like in the "real world." I love good old-fashioned superhero comics - I write like nine of them! - and I don't feel the need to point out all of the things that supposedly make them silly or unrealistic. Comics about comics have become a bit of a self-licking ice cream cone, anyway. We sometimes forget that those two deconstructionist superhero masterpieces of the ‘80s were as much about the politics of the time as they were about capes and tights.


I've always been interested in using this medium to ask questions about contemporary society, but that doesn't mean Ex Machina is going to be a boring polemic. It's a fast-paced political thriller, an action-packed sci-fi drama for adults, with all of the intelligent sex, horror, humor, violence, and shocking twists that readers of books like Y: The Last Man and Starman hopefully know and love.


NRAMA: So where did this idea come from for you? You lived in New York, and, as the solicitation copy says, this is a view of a “post 9/11 world.” Was the seed for this planted in the attacks, and is just bearing fruit now?


Ex Machina #1, page 5BKV: Well, I'm actually suffering in California now - long story, but I lived in New York City for the last ten years or so, and I watched the Twin Towers fall from the roof of my apartment in Brooklyn. Like every writer/artist/human who witnessed that moment, my world view immediately changed and expanded. I think every comic that I've written since September 11th has been colored by that day, especially Y: The Last Man. Hopefully, people haven't noticed too much, though, since I never want the stuff I write to be preachy or didactic. It's just lurking somewhere beneath all the monkeys and feces-throwing, you know?


The specter of 9/11 will initially be a little more overt in Ex Machina, but the book is about New York City more than it's about just that one day. I'm a geek from Cleveland who moved to NYC primarily because of the way it was portrayed in Marvel Comics, and the town never disappointed. Among other things, Ex Machina is my love letter to the Big Apple, to the ways it's changed since that day in September, and to the ways it's stayed the same.


NRAMA: Fair enough. Going back to how you described the world as being with only one super-powered being, Mitchell…what does creating the first/only superhero in a “real” world allow for you, as a creator?


BKV: I always want the books I write to be ones that readers can confidently hand to their significant others, without feeling like they have to give them a history lesson first. You don't need to know ten year's worth of DC or WildStorm or Marvel continuity to understand Ex Machina. If you were able to follow a movie like Unbreakable, you'll be down with Ex Machina from page one.


NRAMA: That said, from the initial information, Ex Machina seems to have a feel of exploring the logical extension of heroes, that is – something which has come up recently in a variety of forms, from Daredevil taking over Hell’s Kitchen to Thor, to The Authority taking over the US in Coup. It seems as if it’s gone from Denny O’Neil’s introspective question of “what can one man do” in Green Lantern/Green Arrow to “what can one superpowered man do?”


In these examples, and Ex Machina included, do you think we’re seeing unconscious (or conscious) responses to a world that seems to be out of control? In a manner of speaking, the hero finally saying, “Screw it, gimme the wheel, I’m driving this thing!” It is a rather curious phenomenon to be seeing here and there…


Ex Machina #1, page 6BKV: Yeah, I thought I was wicked original when I pitched Ex Machina to Jim Lee more than two years ago, but since then, we've seen Iron Man become Secretary of Defense, the Authority seize control of the government, etc. But that's great! Top Ten, Powers and Gotham Central are amazing comics, and while they all explore law enforcement in a world of costumed heroes, they couldn't be more different from each other. Similarly, Ex Machina will prove within its first five pages that it's completely unlike any political thriller out there.


As for why politics suddenly seem to be in the comic-creator zeitgeist, I don't think you need to look any further than Bush in his flight suit, the Terminator being elected Governor of California, Kerry running on his service in Vietnam, etc. This country has been understandably frightened since 9/11, and when people are scared, we like to feel like we're surrounded by--and especially being led by--heroes. But do heroes really exist, or are they just a fiction we create?


Over the last fifty years, no medium has explored that question better than comics, so it's only natural that we're returning to it now.


NRAMA: Story aside for a moment – how did you land Tony for the art?


BKV: It took so long to get Ex Machina off the ground because I only wanted to do the book with a certain kind of collaborator. Tony Harris has been one of my favorite artists since Starman, and I desperately wanted someone like him for this series. We looked and looked for months and months, until editor Ben Abernathy came up with the brilliant idea of actually asking Tony fuckin’ Harris. It's been years since Tony worked on an ongoing series, and he's been offered every major character at Marvel and DC, but much to my amazement, he signed up for Ex Machina about thirty minutes after we sent him the proposal.


Tony is the book's co-creator, and that's not just an honorary title. I've turned minor characters into important members of the supporting cast just because of how brilliantly Tony brought them to life on the page, and his New York City looks and feels like our New York City, which is obviously critical for a book like this one. Working with Tony, inker Tom Feister, and colorist JD Mettler has been one of the coolest, happiest experiences of my career, and I hope our sickening love-in will be evident in the final product.


NRAMA: Ew. Wrapping things up, Mitchell’s a common schlub who gets powers…


BKV: I wouldn't call him a "common schlub." Mitchell Hundred - a thirteenth-generation American whose name comes from Brandywine Hundred, the division of Delaware where his ancestors settled, grew up reading DC Comics like most of us did, but he opted to use his considerable imagination and artistic skills to design bridges rather than draw Superman comics.


NRAMA: Okay, so you explain it, then…


Ex Machina #1, page 7BKV: Will do. Set in our modern-day real world, Ex Machina tells the story of how this civil engineer becomes America's first living, breathing superhero, after [CENSORED BY THE NSA] gives him amazing abilities. Eventually tiring of risking his life merely to help maintain the status quo, Mitchell retires from masked crimefighting and runs for Mayor of New York City, winning by a landslide.


And wait until you see what happens on Page three...


NRAMA: So what are the challenges faced by a super-powered mayor of New York? Super-powered union bosses going on strike? Super-hookers and adult entertainers moving back in to Times Square?


BKV: As an Independent candidate for Mayor of New York City, Mitchell makes countless enemies in the Republican and Democratic parties when he's eventually elected. These adversaries - in addition to a jealous Governor and a bloodthirsty media - prove to be much more dangerous than any of the villains Mitchell faced as his super-heroic alter ego. Catching bank robbers and rescuing kids from apartment fires turns out to be nothing compared to the sex scandals, assassination attempts, and multibillion dollar deficits that Hundred will have to contend with as Mayor.


But honestly, the biggest threat Ex Machina faces is our current marketplace. Obviously, it's extremely difficult for new books about new characters to survive, but the relative success of series like Y: The Last Man and Runaways has given me confidence that it's not impossible.


The money-back guarantee that creators sometimes offer for their new debuts has been a little played-out of recent, and while I'll always make that offer to anyone who buys any of my books, we're going to be doing something very different with the first issue of Ex Machina, which like Y #1, will be an extra-sized 40-page issue for the price of a regular comic.


Retailers have always been hugely supportive of my stuff, but I'm afraid a lot of people are going to underestimate just how great the demand will be for Tony Harris' return to monthly comics. I also worry that everyone who picks up my second Ultimate X-Men issue with Brandon Peterson in June will want to check out Ex Machina #1, too, and I'm concerned that supply won't be there to meet demand.


So to make sure that only the most deserving people get a copy of our first issue, it will only be sold to readers who are registered to vote. Our protagonist is independent, but Tony and I don't care which party you choose to affiliate yourself with, if any, as long as you're registered. It only takes a few minutes of Googling to find out how to do this in your area, and you've got three damn months before our first issue comes out to make it happen, so I don't want to hear any crying from the feedback section down there. And yes, this is open to residents of all democratic, socialist, U.S.-occupied, whatever, countries, just as long as you're registered.


I realize this means that most people under 18, as well as many convicted felons, won't be able to buy our premiere issue, but because this is a "mature readers" series, teenagers probably aren't ready for some of the shit that happens in our first three issues, and felons will just shoplift the damn book anyway, so I'm comfortable with our restrictions.


Retailers and readers with any questions about this policy and/or its enforcement are welcome to contact me anytime at: BrianKVaughan@aol.com





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  • 1 month later...



So, while Vaughan dropped a bomb in this month's Y: The Last Man, he had a helluva issue with this book on # 7 last month.


Mitch (former superhero "The Machine", now the mayor of NY) - or, rather, Vaughan - politically tackles the issue of same-sex marriage, and homophobia/social norms, in the same issue as the darker side/origin of Mitch's powers are hinted at, in one of the cooler, more horrific scenes ive read in a long time. He's really building something here, and I hope more of you get a chance to see it - I'm spotlighting Vaughan & Kirkman as the 2 best writers I came across last year, and everything they've touched so far has been good. You'll hear more about this one.







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Ill tell ya: he's not at the pace of Bendis', with the story decompression and all, but Vaughan does build & move slowly. For instance, last month was Y: The Last Man # 30, and we only just learned why Yorrick survived the plauge. This book,tho last issue was eventful, is in no hurry either.


So whereas you can say some books like Ultimates work great in trade, im not sure Vaughan's work does, outside of Runaways where pretty much the whole series is in one book. If youve got extra $, or a friend you can borrow the next few trades off of, i think reading it like that, in a series of a few arcs, really does something for it - if youre used to the "written for trade" arcs, then youre prolly expecting some kind of climax by the book's end, and i dont believe he often gives them.

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Hmm...youll need CD display, i think its called, a very small comic-scan viewing program that i could host here for a wee bit, and then youll need to check out one of the 4 trackers at Z Cult FM (assuming you know bittorrnet; if not, check out pimp hand), but theyre down till the 8th (tuesday, i believe) - after that, theyre amazing, you can find any damn book you wanna read there.


..not that i support bootleggin durin times of economic hardship, mind ye :D


pm me for details, man

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  • 2 weeks later...

youre goin to make me make a seperate thread for this, arent you?


1) register at Z Cult FM forum


2) scroll down to forums that say "trial cultist tracker (Private)" - they just reopened, theyre gonna revamp again soon


3) for now, tho, Tracker B and C are links to the torrent pages, and some go hidden on A where i cant find them, but read "Newest Submissions" forum down below, and there's direct torrent links to everything new that's added, along with pics & a description.


Now, when they move shit around again on the 25th, you should be able to keep up. :D


ps this month's Ex Machina, # 8...shit's heating up, and its lookin darker than i expected from this book. Cant wait to see where Vaughan is taking it...

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  • 3 weeks later...

Holy shit, this current arc "Tag" is fuckin great. I cant wait to see how it ties up next month....only Vaughn could pull off the superheroics, great look at NY politics, and the horror this arc is building, too. I'm amazed more people arent reading this.


Incidnetally, PopCultureShock has the first five pages of each issue, including this month's. I'm not sure how convincing they are - a big part of this book is the amazing cliffhangers it leaves you on, the delivery the issue leaves towards its end - but you can at least get a feel for it there.

They make it seem like its all dialogue and nothing moving from there, but i assure you, that's not the case.

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  • 7 months later...
  • 2 months later...
  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...

...anyone else manage to check this book out? New Line picked up the movie rights last July or so, and it took the Eisner for best new series, to boot.

I just read the special, looks lke Hundred's got a potential arch-nemesis, should be cool...Wikipedia says the book's scheduled to go 50 issues, so that's that.


DC lets you read the first issue free right here.

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  • 7 months later...

Exactly. that's exaclty what its done for me, too...fucked if i can keep up with the timeline month to month, tho. And im still waiting for it to touch on some plot shit it did a while back (tying into Mitchell's powers) that was scary shit...you read the specials, baytor? they had a cool villian for him.


Just got # 25, lookin forward to it. was fun seeing the murder-mystery with the FDNY.

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  • 1 year later...


Always good to see more Vaughan fans - anyone else check this book out yet? Jumbie, youd fucking love it.

Just noticed this book's a bit behind schedule, unless i just missed an issue....


I'll totally agree to the awesomeness that is this comic and its writer. Vaughn has clearly shown himself in my eyes as one of the soon to be greats.


This comic was also such a nice derailment of whats expected in this kind of scenerio.

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  • 1 year later...

this month's issue (i think it was #41?) was crazy, looks like theyre tying it to the specials that've been introducing his arch-nemesis, and frankly the whole thing's working for me better than i thought it would in this book, but hey, that's what i get for doubting Vaughn.



dude's not running for reelection? i guess that ties in with the one glimpse we've had of him in '05.




also, to cross the streams for a minute with The Wire, i think Carcetti would make a fine Mitchell.



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Amber and I sat down and cast this whole thing one day. I suggested Nathan Fillion for Hundred and we both agreed (and I assure you, the more you think about it, the more it works)


Ron Perlman for Kremlin


Demi Moore for Captain I-Don't-Remember-Her-Name


Tim Meadows as Wiley


I don't believe we cast MacPhearson but I'd pick Zachary Quinto, he's good at playing nutcases. And I can't remember who we picked for Bradbury, I remember half-heartedly suggesting Jack Black and then retracting that statement as it sounded worse the more I thought about it. I don't believe we cast January, Journal, or Hundred's mother.

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