‘Penultiman’ Writer Tom Peyer: The Conskipper Interview

Tom Peyer knows a thing or two about superheroes, having written some of the most famous heroes over his long career. When it came time to examine two of the earliest archetypes in the industry in a unique way, fans knew to expect a fun, intelligent ride from the prolific writer.

Peyer’s Penultiman and The Wrong Earth from Ahoy Comics will certainly seem familiar to readers at the start, but they will also appreciate the new and daring writing that follows in both series.

With Peyer and artist Alan Robinson’s Penultiman trade in comic shops this week, we thought it was the perfect time to speak to Peyer about his new superheroes as well as some old favorites.

What was the genesis for Penultiman?

Tom Peyer: He started with a gag: what if a superhero left his robot duplicate in charge while he went off on a time-travel mission and, while he was gone, the robot solved all of his worst long-term problems? It would be a blow to the ego, right? That one gag suggested a larger story about the hidden self-esteem issues of a person who seems great.

When you approach writing an all-powerful hero like Penultiman, how do you go about determining their psychological weaknesses?

Peyer: His weakness was my starting point. I know that people who seem perfect from the outside are generally revealed to be suffering some inner turmoil. That’s my experience, anyway. There’s no reason for a relatively secure person to project this image of flawlessness. Some of the most admired superheroes do project that very thing, though; I’m thinking of Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman. I know there are others. If they were real, they would turn out to be disappointing. Real people aren’t perfect. Which is one reason we need the fictional ones.

Thoughts on collaborating with artist Alan Robinson on the series?

Peyer: Alan is the perfect artist for this. It’s a story about emotions, and Alan captures them with great accuracy and subtlety. I can’t think of anyone who would have done a better job.

You get to explore a different type of hero in The Wrong Earth with Dragonfly and Dragonflyman.  Does Penultiman have qualities of both versions of Dragonfly?

Peyer: This is a very good question that I’ve never thought about. When writing one series, I don’t think about my other ones. I like to get immersed in the story that’s in front of me. If there are parallels to be drawn between Penultiman and Dragonflyman, maybe someone else can find them. I’d be interested to know.

You have written dozens of comics in your career, but many fans remember your long stint on Legion of Super-Heroes.  Memories of working on the title and your thoughts on futuristic super hero tales?

Peyer: It was fun. I always liked working on the series I read as a child. That’s one of the greatest pleasures of this business. And I was lucky to stay on the Legion books for five whole years. That’s pretty rare. Alien worlds 1,000 years in the future is about as fun a sandbox as you can ever play in.

Thoughts on working at Ahoy Comics? 

Peyer: I’m grateful to have such control over my own material. If I want to write something stupid, there’s no one telling me I can’t. I think what sets us apart from other publishers is humor. That, and the short stories, columns, and poems we run on the back pages. If you spend $3.99 on one of our comics, we’ll entertain you through your whole lunch hour. And of course, I’ve enjoyed working with this set of writers and artists. They’ve all done great work.

Upcoming projects? 

Peyer: I have a couple of writing projects in the hopper that I can’t talk about yet. But there are some Ahoy titles coming soon that I’m really looking forward to. Snelson: Comedy is Dying by writer Paul Constant  and artist Fred Harper is the story of a standup comedian who’s survived long past the time when he was considered cool. You’ve never read a comic like it. And Black’s Myth, by writer Eric Palicki and artist Wendell Cavalcanti, is about a punk-rock private detective who’s a werewolf. ‘Nuff said!

Penultiman Vol. 1 from Ahoy Comics will be available at your local comic shop on May 12 and in bookstores on May 25. Volume 1 of The Wrong Earth is currently in finer comic stores and book shops everywhere (and through Comixology for all those fans of digital comics).

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