Outside of Darth Vader and The Joker, there has been no pop-culture villain quite as iconic as Ming the Merciless. In April we'll learn more about the early days of the Flash Gordon nemesis, as Merciless - The Rise Of Ming #1 hits stands from Dynamite Entertainment.
MTV Geek caught up with Merciless - The Rise Of Ming writer Scott Beatty about the series he is working on with interior artist Ron Adrian and cover/concept artist Alex Ross:
MTV Geek: Has there been any established background for Ming's early life, or is this something you interpolated based on his "official" exploits so far?
Scott Beatty: A little from Column A and a little from Column B, but most of MERCILESS is "whole cloth," ideas that sprang forth from FLASH GORDON: ZEITGEIST and inspiration from Ming's previous appearances in comics and film.
Geek: There's a lot of talk lately about "prequels." What are your thoughts on the phenomenon of prequels in entertainment?
SB: I'm hesitant to call MERCILESS a prequel. It's a story that's tangential to ZEITGEIST, but it's meant to exist in its own right...at least as related to the larger Flash Gordon universe. Obviously, I have a good deal of experience with "Year One" stories, for lack of a better term. You could think of it as an origin tale also, but I see it more as the "legend" of Ming. It's the collective fear of Mongo's peoples based on what he did to get where he is... as least until Flash Gordon crashed into Mongo and threw a spanner in the works.
Geek: Ming the Merciless is one of the biggest iconic bad guys of all time. What is your opinion: was he "born that way," or "made?"
SB: Wow, with that I realize just how easily Lady Gaga would fit in at the court of Mongo. She and Klytus would wear designer clothing made of bore-worms... or the flesh of their enemies. Seriously, though... Ming
is a prince at the start of Merciless. He knows he's destined for fame (or infamy). He just doesn't think he should have to wait for it. I believe Ming was bad from the start, and he's not afraid of exploiting
that image in order to get what he wants... and he wants EVERYTHING.
Geek: Do you feel that "classic" characters like Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless have a relevance to today's audiences, and why?
SB: I've said it before with characters like Buck Rogers or The Phantom, these seminal heroic archetypes that really started the ball rolling for all of our modern superheroes. There's a reason why they endure. We still tend to look at good and evil as absolutes, black and white. We're toppling tyrants and hunting down supervillains in our own time, and we hail the heroes who risk life and limb to do just that. How is that not relevant? The only difference I see is that the classic heroes were a little more stalwart, while the current villains are starting to more closely resemble the antagonists of old? Kim Jong Il? Osama Bin Laden? Supervillains, through and through. Well, the USED to be...
Geek: Without spoiling anything, Ming does some pretty heinous stuff in the first issue. Would you consider these events sort of a crossing the barrier into complete villainy for him? Will we see any aspects of Ming in this series that might challenge what our preconceptions are of the character?
SB: Look at it this way: We see Ming as a despot-in-the-making. We see him plot and connive and threaten and torture. But we also see him as a son and a lover and a father, not necessarily in the best possible definitions of those terms. I've said it before in other interviews. MERCILESS isn't an attempt to sympathize with Ming. Nor EXPLAIN. It's a chronicle of the image of Ming seen through both his eyes and the perceptions of all the diverse races of Mongo under his boot heel.
Ming doesn't choose the dark side. He's already there.
Geek: What is it like working with Alex Ross on this project? What do you think of his visualizations of these classic characters?
SB: Well, not counting another project that's just getting started, this is my FOURTH pairing with Alex. Obviously, we work well together. I'm awed by his talent, and as a writer I'm more than respectful of his great affinity for these classic characters. In many ways he's been the steward for these fictional and heroic icons. Alex's a great partner in creativity because he's very open to new ideas and interpretations while being unafraid to negotiate alternative takes when he disagrees. The medium works best when it is COLLABORATIVE. As for visuals, I'm constantly blown away by Alex's sketches and designs.
I keep hinting at how good the original cover art would look in my office...
Geek: Are there any other cool projects that you are working on that you'd like to talk about or tease?
SB: I just did.
I'm beholding to Dynamite to reveal more, but you could think of MERCILESS as a "prequel" to something more down to Earth, so to speak. I've said too much!
Otherwise, I'd like Amazon Kindle owners to hurry up and download SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE TWELVE CAESARS, the e-novelization of my Dynamite miniseries SHERLOCK HOLMES: YEAR ONE, drawn by the very talented Daniel Indro, who--coincidentally--is the artist on FLASH GORDON: ZEITGEIST.
Fans can also check out my blog for new releases in print and digital or check my catalog of previous
publications and new releases at Amazon.com!