Granting Robotic Life
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden gives us his latest in his series of features on comic stories or series that never happened. This week it’s the turn of David Michelinie’s Freemind …
David Michelinie’s Freemind
Recognised in comicdom and beyond for his outstanding work on Marvel Comics’ Amazing Spider-Man and Iron Man, among others, David Michelinie is probably best known for his fan-favorite co-creations Venom and Carnage. But, at the turn of the millennium, the acclaimed comics scribe looked to the future – Future Comics, that is — with a trio of uncanny heroes, including the android codenamed Freemind.
First off, what was it about Future Comics that appealed to Michelinie as a writer?
“Freedom and ownership,” Michelinie revealed. “Bob Layton and I created all of the characters and we owned the properties outright. We could produce the stories we wanted to tell, the way we wanted to tell them, without any outside interference or restrictions. Plus, if anyone came calling with licensing requests we could make all of the decisions ourselves, maintaining control and assuring a fair share of any profits.”
What’s the secret origin behind the creation of Freemind? Who was the creative team behind this innovative hero?
“Although the character that became Deathmask was the concept that triggered Future Comics,” Michelinie said, “it was decided that Freemind would be our first — and flagship — title. Bob had suggested a character who was a genius but was confined to a wheelchair, similar to Stephen Hawking. Except that this character could transfer his consciousness into the body of an android which gave him super powers. I liked the idea but wanted to add a twist that would give the character more dimension as well as make him different from other super heroes. The genius’s initial goal was simple: he merely wanted to escape his useless body, to be able to walk around and do things his handicap prevented him from doing. But the transfer process unexpectedly freed up that part of the mind that most humans can’t access–hence the project name, “Freemind”–and gave the android incredible powers. Which turned our hero, McKinsey Flint, from one of the most helpless people on the planet to one of the most powerful, creating problems and responsibilities he hadn’t foreseen. When all he really wanted was to be normal.”
What’s a synopsis of the hero’s story so far – courtesy of Mr. Michelinie: “In the eight issues of Freemind that we were able to publish (#0-7), we established the wheelchair-bound genius, McKinsey Flint, and the android he was eventually able to occupy, Edison Wilde. After some awkward first steps, Wilde took on the position as troubleshooter for Flintech, which gave him a way to help protect his/Mac’s company, as well as providing a new identity with which he could interact with society as a “whole” person for the first time. We also introduced the character who was to be Flint/Wilde’s nemesis, Ang Mann. Mann had global aspirations, but not out of monomania. He wanted to be true to his ancestors, and return China to its glory days as the most powerful country on Earth. Which, of course, meant that he’d have to go through Flintech, and Edison Wilde”.
Where was Freemind’s story headed before it ceased publication?
“Issue #8 (“Icarus and Iscariot”) had been completed,” Michelinie revealed, “and #9 (“Loss in Space”) had been plotted and the first half penciled and scripted. The general storyline had Mac Flint discover that one of Flintech’s subsidiary companies had been manufacturing advanced weaponry on the sly. As Edison Wilde investigated, he found himself shanghai’d on a rocket and ejected into space. Fortunately, androids don’t have to breathe, and he was eventually taken aboard a cloaked space station which turned out to be the destination for the weapons: a potential post for Ang Mann’s plans for China to dominate the world.”
How did Freemind fit in the Future Comics’ four-color universe? How did he interact with the company’s other heroes?
“As I mentioned in a previous interview,” Michelinie continued, “Edison Wilde encountered Deathmask in Freemind #0 (which actually takes place between issues #3 and #4). That was the only interaction between Mac Flint and other Future characters. (Although Redstone Research, headquarters for the Metallix team, was also involved in that story.)
“And, as I also mentioned previously, the energy that allowed the mind transfer evolved from the same source that was key to Deathmask and Metallix.”
What is Michelinie’s fondest memory from writing the adventures of this hero?
“I think we had a very deep and rich supporting cast,” the acclaimed writer said, “and it was always fun to deal with the non-super characters and their relationships. I also enjoyed the fact that we were able to address serious and all-too-human themes in the stories, such as one employee’s gambling addiction, Mac having to deal with failure, and the fact that being able to function as a normal human being didn’t solve all of his problems. Dreams may come true, but reality’s always waiting in the wings.”
Did Michelinie have other stories to tell with this character? How far did he plot out the series?
“I recently found a seven-page concept outline I had sent to Bob for issues 10-16,” Michelinie revealed. “Sure wish I’d had a chance to write those suckers! There’s too much to go into here, but the essentials were two storylines, one having Flintech HQ move from Area 51 back to San Diego, where Fevre (from Metallix #4) and Edison Wilde go toe-to-toe. This leads to Wilde discovering the sinister purpose behind the ‘egg’ brought back from Antarctica in Metallix, and McKinsey Flint learning of Ang Mann’s dangerous agenda.
“The second storyline had Edison Wilde traveling to Oregon to check on some odd goings on, as well as to test recent improvements that allowed him to range farther away from his Mac Flint body. Wilde is zapped with some form of energy and loses his memory. He doesn’t know who–or what–he is, but is freaked out when his android powers reveal themselves. He helps the locals and falls in love with one of them. Ang Mann, now convinced that Wilde isn’t human, tracks him down and kidnaps him. After battles between Mann’s powered employees and Flintech security forces Wilde is rescued and his mind is returned to Mac Flint’s human body before it ceases functioning. Mac’s memory is restored but his victory is bittersweet as he realizes he can never go back to the woman he loved.”
Freemind was the only title to be collected in a trade paperback. Were more trade paperbacks planned – and are there any current plans to collect the stories that have already been published?
“A digest-sized collection of the first five issues of Deathmask was planned,” Michelinie remembered, “and a few sample copies printed, but it was eventually cancelled.
“I have been excluded from Future Comics and its characters for the last seven years or so, so I have no idea what’s going on with them now.”
What other projects is Michelinie currently working on?
“I recently finished a one-shot story for Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors,” Michelinie added, “and have plotted my second story for The Living Corpse, this one the first-ever solo outing for Lilith, goth-girl-turned-vampire and major member of the LC’s supporting cast.”
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