The newest little hero, from Charlton Neo, has big aspirations — and a terrific premise.
My favorite Atom story of all time is from Brave and the Bold #155 — when Ray Palmer goes inside a brain-dead Batman‘s body and manipulates his various functions, sort of like an internal marionette.
So when I heard about Ms. Molecule, I was immediately interested. Ms. Molecule, the newest Tiny Titan, is the brainchild of writer Rene King Thompson, artist Sandy Carruthers, Rene’s comics-journo husband Steven, and Charlton Neo comics impresario Mort Todd.
Right now, it’s a webcomic at Todd’s Charlton offshoot Pix-C Web Comics, which is all sorts of groovy rad. Later this summer, Ms. Molecule‘s going to make the leap to print as the co-headliner of Charlton Neo’s Unusual Suspense #1.
With Ant-Man in theaters this week and the Atom getting so much attention as part of DC/WB‘s TV line, it only made sense to showcase the latest little hero that could.
Dan Greenfield: Right off the bat for readers who are unfamiliar, what’s the premise of Ms. Molecule? What do readers need to know?
Rene King Thompson: Maxi Moilin aka Ms. Molecule was a college veterinary student who developed a devastating non-operable brain tumor which she knew would eventually kill her. At this point the tumor was seriously affecting her balance and she needed to utilize a wheelchair for mobility. As a last resort, she signed up for experimental tests with Dr. Eden Spaulding who leads the Experimental Biology Department. Everything seemed fine until they did an MRI to check the shrinkage of the tumor. At that point, Maxi shrunk and if that weren’t strange enough, in her shrunken state her symptoms disappeared and when she returns to her full size, her symptoms return.
In an attempt to study what has occurred and utilize it, Maxi transfers to the Biology Department and is hired as a research assistant. She lives with another assistant, Oliver, who has a flare for engineering, bad puns and pop culture. Because she is healthier while small, she lives in a miniature doll house in Oliver‘s spare room and has another at the lab where she can study, work and hang out while at school.
She has to cope with the larger world as a person with disabilities while being able to do marvelous, life-saving things in the micro-verse.
What’s the Secret Origin of this project? How did it end up where it is?
The Secret Origin… more like a comedy of errors. The Thompson living room looks more like a pop culture research center. There’s books, DVDs, tapes of old-time radio shows, etc. in here and everyone is on a laptop or desktop.
(My husband) Steven was “talking” to some friends from the comic-book industry about the need for more characters along the line of Ant-Man since the movie was coming out. I think it was Mort that said something about ‘Mr. Molecule’ and that’s when I popped up and said, “No, no, no, Ms. Molecule!” Mort asked what the premise would be and I suggested the premise I just talked about.
Sandy drew a beautiful sketch of her immediately after her first shrink and Mort said, “Let’s go for it!” You have to understand, I WAS NOT a comic writer. Scientific papers for sociological magazines, yeah. Articles for newspapers, no problem. Speeches for other people, sure. I’d even written a piece for Chicken Soup for the Soul. But this was a whole different animal. I initially thought Mort was kidding.
Mort was not kidding.
So, Mort, Steven, Sandy Carruthers and Roger McKenzie taught me the basics of how to write a comic strip and off we went. I could not have had any better teachers.
For a long time, I kind of thought that heroes who shrink are one-trick. Even the new Ant-Man movie is playing with the inherent absurdity of the character. But I’ve really come to embrace the whole idea. What’s your take on all of that?
There’s a benefit to being one trick: It adds drama. Heroes who are nearly omnipotent lack a certain tension. If there is no risk, there’s nothing to pull the reader in. With only one trick, you have to count on the human elements, their brains, their character, their knowledge and their personal foibles to help them deal with conflicts. Especially in an Ant-Man or Ms. Molecule situation, your trick can be a blessing and a curse and it’s how the character deals with that that makes the story compelling.
Sandy Carruthers is the BOMB! First of all, he’s a fabulous artist. He can take whatever I throw at him and make it amazing. And he’s a very caring and compassionate collaborator. It’s like a first-year dance student working with Fred Astaire and yet he has never made me feel like I’m not an equal partner in this.
Right now, those that want to read Ms. Molecule need to go to Google and type in Pix-C web comics. (Or follow this link.) For a donation of as little as $1 a month, subscribers don’t just get Ms. Molecule, they can read 14 different comics by writers and artists like Mort Todd, Roger McKenzie, P.D. Angel Gabriele, Daerick Gross, Paul Kupperberg, Bradley Mason, Jean-Emmanuel Dubois and Steve Ditko. When was the last time anyone was able to get 14 comics a week for as little as a $1 a month?
What’s next? Well, in August, the strip will begin in comic-book form with N.E.O. under the title Unusual Suspense. N.E.O. stands for Non-sequentially Evolving Organism and it’s by Paul Kupperberg and P.D. Angel Gabriele and it’s fabulous!
And for Ms. Molecule, she will be fighting elements she’s never before encountered and discovers that there are consequences to being a hero.