Pope said now more than anything he wants to focus on "optimistic work," particularly his ongoing series THB and Battling Boy, an all-ages story set to come out in two graphic novels from First Second, the first set to debut at the 2010 New York Comic Con. Speaking during a brief break from working on Battling Boy in his New York studio, Pope said it's a very personal project "and I just want it to be bad ass."
Battling Boy is set in Monstropolis, a "pre-World War II European capital," type of city, Pope said. The titular character is the son of a god/hero and he's an elite monster-slayer even though he’s still a child. Pope said he set out with the project to make a super hero story for children, a type of project he doesn't see coming from Marvel and DC. He also believes the book is a "brother project" to THB, his much-lauded and much revised science fiction epic about the colonization of Mars.
"I really like this idea of [novelist] Michael Chabon's that a super hero is a wish fulfillment," Pope said. "Jung said something like a super hero emerges when people's consciousness concentrates. So, what's the superman for now?"
The answer Pope came up with was a super hero who would protect children. And the story grew as he combined elements of mythology and Jungian archetypes to craft an elaborate world. Pope will explain the fantasy and mythology of Battling Boy through an index in the back of each book, which he said he hopes will inspire young readers to look into mythology.
"I think kids can handle stuff that's scary," he said. "I think kids realize they're not really safe in this world. So that's kind of the heart of the story. Also it's kind of funny, an indestructible kid destroying monsters." He's also trying to expand on the traditional graphic novel structure, he said, eschewing the three-act format and following the story into "eddies" and breaking the story out into fight scenes that can last as long as 40 or 50 pages.