Miles Curtiss time travels, exacts action-rich revenge in his debut comic book
The musician behind Marvin the Robot explores a new artistic medium in ‘The Editors,’ the first issue of which is on newsstands now
Miles Curtiss has long been a self-described comic book fanatic. He named his band Marvin the Robot after a science-fiction character, and he can casually break down decades of comic history in conversation. As a result, Curtiss’ debut as a comic book author, “The Editors,” the first issue of which hit local shelves in late October, is filled with all manner of Easter eggs, including a soda pop named for influential comic book artist Jack Kirby and an apartment decorated with approximations of trademarked cartoon characters.
“That was actually really fun coming up with copyright-safe versions of popular characters. I really love my Pink Panther as a throwaway sight gag,” Curtiss said, breaking into a long, infectious laugh. “I’m expecting the people that are really going to enjoy the book are other comic book geeks, because you sort of half write with an audience in your head.”
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The journey to the first print issue of “The Editors” has been a long one, delayed, in part, by a February robbery that included the theft of computers on which Curtiss had stored much of his work. Even in the immediate aftermath of the robbery, though, Curtiss tried to find a silver lining, embracing the idea that the eventual book would be better as a result of the forced rewrites.
“It’s one of those things where having to go back and do something a second or third time isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” Curtiss said in February. “It’s never not been an improvement to do that, so while it’s wildly infuriating, in a regard, with three or four months of my life going up in flames, I think the final result will be better.”
Prior to recreating the lost work, Curtiss said he purchased a style guide, in addition to reconsidering the amount of text he wanted to include in the book versus letting readers fill in some of the gaps on their own. He also stepped back to look at the bigger picture, which unfolds across six issues and includes myriad time hops and locations. The first issue, for instance, has scenes set in 1816 South Carolina, 2023 Cleveland, Ohio, and 1619, Luanda, Angola.
“It’s kind of like a puzzle: How do I put this all together for the reader so that it makes sense?” said Curtiss, who expects the second issue of “The Editors” to hit newsstands in late October, with subsequent issues arriving around the 26th of each month via Curtiss' Dreaming Ansible Press.
“The Editors” has its roots in the violence enacted on Black people throughout American history, with Curtiss hatching the initial idea amid the tidal wave of emotions that hit following the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin. As a result, the book is part escapist revenge fantasy (it opens with its time traveling central characters porting back to the 1800s to torch a plantation) and part social commentary, allowing readers who are open to questions the space to interrogate their own beliefs. The book also incorporates some “are we the baddies?” energy as the protagonists struggle with the morality of their actions, torn between the potential to alter the course of history for the better and fears of ending up as ruthless and violent as those they’re hunting.
For Curtiss, working on “The Editors” served as a necessary pressure release valve amid the stream of high-profile police shootings of Black citizens that have hit the national media in more recent years. “There were just a litany of tiny things I had been holding in my head, in my body and probably in my cholesterol, and even getting just that first run lettered, it made it to where I could talk to people about these things without getting instantly angry, or having my blood pressure get involved,” he said. “I mean, it’s hard. Obviously solutions [to this violence] are what we want, but even in the comic I’ve got guys going all the way back to the 1600s, so it’s like, how big of a reset do we need?”
In creating the comics, Curtiss worked with a handful of artists across the globe, which led to some interesting dynamics. An Italian artist he contracted, for instance, initially believed that a scene in which an unarmed Black teenager is shot and killed by police was “over the top,” Curtiss said, a perspective that shifted once the social justice protests sparked by the May 2020 killing of George Floyd reached her home in Florence. “I tried to keep it pretty mild,” Curtiss said. “I tried to take everything from actual police reports, and even things that cops have said to me.”
When it comes down to it, however, Curtiss said he hopes that people can first appreciate “The Editors” as “a fun adventure book,” he explained, even if it’s one that happens to fall against the backdrop of a resurgent Black lives matter movement. “I’m trying to give at least a Micheal Bay level of fun action,” Curtiss said, and laughed. “And then if people are like, ‘Oh, man, I should be nicer to Black people,’ or, ‘I should consider how people who don’t look like me get along in the world,’ then dope. And I hope and expect that at least some of that will happen.”