Hospitals tend to be frequent settings for comic book scenes, whether they involve Batman questioning an injured henchman or Peter Parker receiving a page’s worth of treatment before jumping back into action. But it’s rare that they serve as the setting for an entire comic, or that readers see the implications of what it means to be a doctor in a world with super-powered beings.
Written by Matthew Klein, illustrated by Morgan Beem, colored by Triona Farrell, lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou and edited by Heather Antos, the upcoming comic Crashing is about a doctor, Rose Osler, who specializes in “patients with powers” at a hospital in Boston. Rose is also a recovering addict, and a battle between the city’s greatest hero and its worst villain that sends both into her care could push her past her own limits.
Crashing #1 will arrive in September, and it’s the third title from IDW’s new Originals line, following the recent Dark Spaces: Wildfire and the upcoming Trve Kvlt in August. Klein was kind enough to answer some of my questions about Crashing.
How did you and Morgan meet, and what prompted you to decide to start working together on “Crashing”?
We were paired! Well, okay, so I went to the wonderful Ryan Cady with the 30 second pitch for Crashing and wanted to know if he could recommend an artist or two to work with. Ryan’s an uber talented writer and did this kickass webcomic with Morgan called Wolfsbane, which you can read on Webtoon (and for sure you need to go read it after you finish reading this interview, dear reader). Ryan was kind enough to pass over Morgan’s contact info and I reached out from there with my pitch doc. We had a Google Meet to go over the story and she just immediately hooked right into the characters. It was awesome.
We’re getting our first look here at Crashing with a set of preview pages that introduce us to some of the key characters. It’s a very fast-paced, “E.R.” like intro, where the emphasis is on the frenetic pace of the action, but let’s start with the characters — we meet Rose, the doctor, plus her two patients, Rex Glassman and Piper McNally, who are clearly more than just ordinary patients. What can you tell us about the three of them?
I love that you picked up on the “E.R.” vibe! That’s absolutely what I was imagining when I wrote the scene. And Morgan absolutely slays that pacing and energy. Rose is a thoracic surgeon. She’s a specialist. And she specializes also in working with patients who have extraordinary abilities, known in local jargon as the Powered. She’s also an addict who has been seven years sober when we first meet her. Rex is the face of the Powered movement. He’s a wealthy philanthropist who is fighting for Powered citizens to keep their basic rights as citizens in Boston and for their acceptance by the city. Piper is his adopted son. He’s become a poster child for Powered youth, although he didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter. When we first see them though, there’s been a massive Powered clash between Rex and Piper with the most feared Powered threat who we’ll meet a bit later in the issue. They’ve essentially leveled the State House, causing this mass casualty event which overwhelms Rose’s emergency room. So, our “meet cute” is a “meet unconscious” in this case.
Now a lot of superhero comics might start with a superhuman and his ward being brought into an E.R. after an attack, but that isn’t usually the focus of the story — a few pages later, time has passed, they’re healed up and itching for a rematch, and the hospital isn’t seen again. But that clearly isn’t what you’re going for here — this feels like it’s going to be more about Rose than her two patients. Can you talk about the overall direction and why following it was interesting to you?
This is Rose’s story, first and foremost. Rose’s mission is to save everyone, heroes and villains alike. She took an oath to Do No Harm and she doesn’t discriminate between whom she helps. That’s her superpower, saving lives. But she does it with a scalpel and sutures, not with telekinesis or a healing ray. Except in her mission to save everyone, she’s going to be pushed past her breaking point. The question will be whether or not she’s willing to save everyone but not save herself. I love stories about imperfect people because no one is perfect. Superheroes are so often archetypes that you play within the parameters of. What we’re doing with Crashing is we’re following an everyday hero, inspired by first responders who’ve been on the front lines of a very real war with COVID-19. Heroes can need help to. But what happens when an everyday hero can’t ask for help yet she desperately needs to and what are the consequences of that?
Can you say anything about what led Rex and Piper to be in the state they’re in?
You find out in the issue so it’s not a massive spoiler. There’s been a Powered clash at the State House. Rex and Piper were making a speech coming out against the Powered Registration Act which has been proposed by the city government to force anyone with powers into a database. If the Act passes it’ll restrict unregistered Powered citizens from having driver’s licenses, employment opportunities, and even access to public healthcare. While making the speech, Boston’s biggest Powered threat interrupts and in this throwdown Rex and Piper are badly injured, sending them into Rose’s emergency room.
The other thing I’m curious about is the world where this scene is taking place. We’ve all read superhero comics and seen the shows and movies, but this is looking at it from a different angle, that’s more grounded in the realism of a hospital. What does a hospital in a superhero world look like, and what would a doctor have to know? And what kind of research did you do to ensure the hospital in this extraordinary world looked and felt real?
I love that we’re dealing with this subject from an angle you don’t normally see! That was really important to me as we were working on the concept together with our editor, Heather Antos. The main thing we find out in the first few pages is that this hospital does not want superheroes. They are an Anti-Powered hospital. BUT it’s a mass casualty event, they have no choice but to take Piper and Rex in. And you’ll see Rose fighting for these Powered patients to get the treatment they need. You’ll see a bunch of Rose fighting against her own hospital administration for these patients. Morgan and our colorist Triona Farrell have done a brilliant job making this world feel like one you could be seeing outside of your window. And one of the reasons I love that is because we’re dealing with a super serious subject in addiction. And that very real human struggle of Rose’s journey is something the team’s treating with the seriousness it deserves.
This is one of many projects that IDW announced this past spring as part of their “Originals” publishing initiative. How did you come to be a part of that, and how does it feel being in such stellar company?
Honestly, I think we’re just in the right place at the right time. Heather Antos, who I will argue is the best editor in the industry, pitched Crashing to her higher ups at IDW. Next thing we know Heather’s telling us we’re going to be announced along with this Murderer’s Row of talent as part of this exciting new initiative. I LOVE the IDW Originals line. I think this is such a fresh and bold direction for IDW. I got to meet G. Willow Wilson at a one day local con in Trenton, NJ and legit forgot to tell her I was writing one of the IDW Original titles. It’s still so surreal to me!
I’m in awe of Earthdivers, which has one of the best hooks I’ve ever encountered in a time travel story. Meanwhile, Trve Kvlt hits all of my Buffy Season 6 feels. And I’m a sucker for a great heist so Dark Spaces: Wildfire feels like it was aimed at me. To think that Crashing gets to be alongside these other remarkable series and to be one of the building blocks for this new era of IDW Originals is an honor. Each of these books has a voice and this team is making sure what we have to say with Crashing will be heard.