RICH INTERVIEWS: Michael Frizell Writer for Political Power: Justin Trudeau
First Comics News: Who is Justin Trudeau for those who do not know?
Michael Frizell: Justin Trudeau is the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada. But he’s more than that. He’s been a substitute teacher, media sensation, and leader of the Liberal Party in Canada.
1st: What aspects of Justin Trudeau did you try to bring across in your writing?
Michael: Writing about real people is tricky. I want to capture their personality, so readers feel like they know that person. That means capturing their rhythm of speech and digging into their past to see what makes them tick. Why does this person think the way he does? Why is this person famous at this moment in time? When it comes to political figures, that’s tricky. Everyone has an opinion, so my goal is to keep my personal views out of the mix. I want readers to judge Trudeau through a well-balanced narrative, not because I colored it in any way.
1st: What about Justin Trudeau do you admire?
Michael: I’m a fan of anyone who works to change things for the better. I don’t live in Canada, so I’m not experiencing life under Trudeau first hand, but I have many friends who do, and they say his heart is in the right place. He’s trying to make things better. I’m also a fan of teachers. I’m married to a high school teacher, and I see the difference she makes every day. Trudeau was a teacher, and I think that experience influenced him.
1st: Did you do any research on Justin Trudeau before writing this comic?
Michael: Oh, yes. I read hundreds of articles and watched countless hours of footage. When dealing with political figures, I take the time to compare reports from different parts of the world to cut through the hyperbole, too. When I accepted the assignment, I spent about a month gathering and organizing information while writing test scenes to capture Trudeau’s voice.
1st: What do you think of the way Bernat’s art brings out the natural beauty of Canada?
Michael: I wrote the script, not knowing who would be assigned to work on it. It was undoubtedly going to be a challenge for any artist. Canada is a character in this script, and TidalWave needed a well-rounded artist to capture what I wanted. I’ve never worked with Bernat before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As pages started hitting my inbox, I realized that he has an excellent eye for layout and design. He was good at likenesses, too. He nailed the scenery and beauty of Canada. His pages exceeded my vision for the book, and I hope I get to work with Bernat again.
1st: You have written about other celebrities do you have any favorites that you wrote about?
Michael: Like most writers, my answer to this question is usually, “Whatever book I’m working on right now.” While that’s true when I look back at the over 60 titles I’ve written for TidalWave, two stand out. I wrote about Prince Rogers Nelson, and I remember every moment of that script, the process of creating it, and the marketing after it was published and then re-released after his death. Tribute: Prince allowed me to explore my favorite musician and bring something personal to his legacy.
I also loved writing Tribute: Jerry Garcia. The art, by Andre St. Amour, is quirky and cartoony, creating a jarring juxtaposition to some of the scenes I wrote. When I’m feeling down about my career, I’ll read flip through that book and think, “Yeah. I can do this.”
My favorite book is Bender: The Complete Saga. Bender is about a serial killer family active after the Civil War in Southeast Kansas. Illustrated by my brother, it was a three-year labor of love, and I’m proud that it has found a broad audience.
1st: What kind of character is “Ian Glover: Nighthunter”?
Michael: I’d forgotten about that one. I helped the artist clean up his text, so I’m not going to explore it as it’s not my character. I’m not sure if he’s done much with it, to be honest.
1st: What did you most enjoy about working on “Stormy Daniels Space Force”?
Michael: Oh, man, where to start with this question! I’m honored to be part of the team on this one. It’s the collaboration that makes this comic special. I’ve never been involved in a comic that had so many moving parts. Darren Davis and Stormy Daniels cooked up the main plot, but left it to me to fill in the blanks, create a rhythm and flow to the book, and flesh out (pun intended) the characters and their motivations. Andrew Shayde assists with the dialogue, and the two of us punch up the jokes and have a great time doing it. I created a surprise villain ripped from the headlines for issue #2, and Andrew helped me nail down how she speaks.
Then there’s the art. The artist, Pablo Martinena, is at the top of his game with this book. His character designs are fun, but it’s the layout of his pages that grab me every time. I’m astonished whenever I see how he’s interpreting my panel descriptions. He makes it easy to write for him because I know he’s not only going to capture the spirit of what I committed to the page, he’s going to throw some things I didn’t consider into the mix. He even put me into a panel during a bar fight depicted in issue #1. I can’t wait for readers to see this book.
1st: What character would you most like to write a comic book about that you have not?
Michael: Are you asking if I could write any comic, what would it be? Man, that’s tough. I’d love a crack at Star Wars. But since that’s a marquee book, I’d like to start smaller. I have story ideas for X-23 and Cloak and Dagger. I’ve followed Carol Danvers since the 70s, so it’s only natural that I have a story cooking in the back of my mind for her. I also would love a shot at rebooting DC’s Warlord.
1st: What will you be working on next?
Michael: I’m finishing the first Stormy Daniels: Space Force story arc and plotting the second one. Darren Davis, the publisher, gave me a chance to play with all of the great female characters in the TidalWave universe, so we have something special coming up soon. I’ve seen some of the preliminary character designs, and I’m thrilled. I have a one-shot science fiction comic, Communion, coming, and I’m crafting the return of Judo Girl to comics. In between all of the fiction comics, I’m working on a comic about an actor. I’m busy!
1st: What makes a writer great?
Michael: I don’t have a definitive answer to that. My first published work appeared on the letters page of ROM: Spaceknight #40, where I wrote a short story attempting to explain why Marvel couldn’t show readers what Dire Wraiths look like instead of only showing their transitional forms. When I saw my name in print, I thought I was Stephen King! Ha! I used to think readers made a writer a great. I still do, to some degree. But for me, it’s all about pushing myself to be better. I want to tell an engaging story, and having one person say, “I loved this,” makes me feel proud, but I find it startling. I write every day to challenge myself, often forgetting that people are reading my work.
When I was professionally acting, I wouldn’t say I liked curtain call at the end of the show. After the final curtain, actors walked onstage to receive obligatory clapping from the audience. I always tried to skip that. I preferred someone to meet me on the street months later and say, “Hey, I saw you in that play and love what you did.”
If I ever thought I was good at this, I’d quit and find something else to do with my creative mind.
1st: What comics besides the ones you worked on would you recommend?
Michael: Most of the comics I love are science fiction. I’ve been reading since the 70s, and the so-called “Big Two” put out some fun stuff in the Bronze Age. What comics on the shelves right now feel like that magical era? I’m enjoying Big Girls by Jason Howard, Strange Academy by Skottie Young and Humberto Ramos, Amazing Spider-Man by Nick Spencer (especially this Sin-Eater arc), and Captain Marvel by Kelly Thompson. Books with a modern feel I’m currently reading include Black Magick by Greg Rucka and the fantastic Nicola Scott, Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky, and Marko Chechetto, and I’m already into Thompson’s Black Widow. And I love all of Marvel’s Star Wars books. Star Trek: Year Five by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly is fun. The main title is exploring the post Empire Strikes Back era, and the writer, Charles Soule, is doing great work.
1st: How do you spend any free time you get?
Michael: I read a lot. To grow as a writer, you have to read. But when I need to get away from the keyboard, my wife and I love to walk the greenway trails, ride bikes, swim, and, when we’re not in a pandemic, travel. I’ve been to 48 states – I only need North Dakota and Hawaii to complete the set! I’ve also been to Canada, Holland, England, and Scotland.
1st: What would you like to say to the fans of your work?
Michael: Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.