Marc Guggenheim talks Jonas Quantum, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow

We chatted with Marc Guggenheim about Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and new original comic book The Infinite Adventures of Jonas Quantum.

If you’re into superhero properties, then you’ve almost definitely consumed a TV show, movie, or comic book that Marc Guggenheim has played a part in creating. Guggenheim is the co-showrunner of Arrow, an executive producer on midseason Flarrow spin-off Legends of Tomorrow, and has written for such comic book titles as The Flash, The Amazing Spider Man, and Young X-Men.

This week, Guggenheim debuts an original comic book of his own,The Infinite Adventures of Jonas Quantum, with art by Freddie Williams (who also worked with Guggenheim on Justice Society of America). The six-part monthly comic book series from Legendary Comics tells the story of Jonas Quantum — an uber genius who has no problem curing death or traveling through time, but a much harder time connecting with other human beings and dealing with the fallout from his scientific boundary-pushing.

We had the chance to chat to Guggenheim about the original comic, as well as his some of his other superhero projects. Here’s what he had to tell us about where the character of Jonas Quantum came from, what Jonas does and doesn’t have in common with Legends of Tomorrow, and whether we will ever see Oliver make the Green Arrow’s famous chili on Arrow

Meet Jonas Quantum…

Jonas Quantum may have some things in common with other science fiction protagonists in the pop culture zeitgeist right now — i.e. Doctor Who or even Guggenheim’s own Legends of Tomorrow creation Rip Hunter — but the character is wholly original in a way that is becoming increasingly rare in television, comics, and movies. The character has been kicking around in Guggenheim’s brain since he first moved to Hollywood 15 years ago, coming from the relative void in the evolution of iconic character creation…

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“I was just cogitating on this idea that there haven’t really been any new characters,” Guggenheim told Den of Geek. “Indiana Jones was kind of created by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg as sort of a response to James Bond and, ever since then, there hasn’t been a response to Indiana Jones. It had me started thinking in terms of: if Indiana Jones is an iteration of James Bond, then what is a further iteration of Indiana Jones?”

A Tribute to Silver Age Comics

Jonas Quantum doesn’t just come out of this legacy of cinematic action adventure heroes, but a Silver and Bronze Age comic book history Guggenheim grew up with: “I grew up reading the pocket book editions of Fantastic Four that were reprinted in these paperback-sized books and I just devoured them. The whole Stan Lee/Jack Kirby era where literally every issue had some huge universe-expanding idea behind it and the notion that every time you picked up an issue, you never knew what was going to happen, but you always knew it was going to be something crazy and amazing. I wanted to bring my love of that sort of feel, that nostalgia to this book.”

The Curse of Great Intelligence

Jonas Quantum definitely succeeds in this respect. In the first issue, Jonas cures death, demonstrates the ability to shrink to Atom or Ant-Man-like size, and meets aliens. There are seemingly no limits to this “infinite” universe that Jonas explores with sidekick Eve, a female character of color who seems to be just as much of a badass as Jonas. Their Watson-and-Holmes-like relationship might be the most interesting aspect of the comic so far, and promises to be explored through the course of the series…

“The dynamic with Eve … there’s more to it than that first issue implies,” Guggenheim said. “One of the things that I think is fun about the series is that, while the stories are self-contained and there isn’t any ‘true’ serialization, each issue reveals a little bit more about Jonas and Eve. We’re constantly peeling the layers of the onion.”

Eve seems to be the exception to Jonas’ inability to connect with others because of his hyper-intelligence. In the first issue, we see Jonas as terrible at dating — an aspect of the issue Guggenheim calls “probably the most autobiographical element.” But Jonas’ compulsion to push the boundaries of what is possible manifests in far more problematic ways, as well: “His intelligence is almost like nuclear power,” Guggenheim said. “Once you develop the ability to split the atom, there’s really no going back. One of the things that’s fun to explore in the series is the idea that Jonas has this innate drive to invent and explore the boundaries of science, but that drive is almost his kryptonite because he has to then deal with the consequences of that. We’ll play around during the course of the series with the different ways he has to deal with those consequences.”

Comparisons To Legends of Tomorrow

On paper, Jonas Quantum and Legends of Tomorrow have a fair deal in common. They are both action-oriented science fiction projects with a time travel element. However, Guggenheim says they’re “different sci-fi concepts” that “spring out of the same gene pool” — i.e. Silver and Bronze Age comics from both the DC and Marvel sides.

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Guggenheim elaborated on the similarities between the two projects, saying: “Both are crazy, bombastic, very much widescreen comic book-type projects. The word we just keep using when we work on the [Legends] is ‘bonkers.’ The show is just bonkers, bonkers, bonkers. Both Legends and Jonas come from this love of the comic books that we grew up with. so they very much have that in common. I would say that time travel is much more a part of Legends than it is of Jonas. I haven’t done yet in Jonas a traditional time travel story in that very, you go back in the past, you go to the future, and you change something and you have to deal with it. That’s much more the province of Legends.”

That being said, Guggenheim said that Jonas and Legends’ time-traveling protagonist Rip Hunter have “pretty significant similarities,” but probably wouldn’t get along: “I think Jonas would consider Rip kind of an idiot and Rip would consider Jonas somewhat irresponsible.” For the record, we’re all for that future crossover.

Arrow Season 4 and The Introduction of Mr. Terrific

Shifting gears to Arrow and the further introduction of comic book elements into the show’s fourth season, Guggenheim only had great things to say about the inclusion of actor Echo Kellum as Curtis Holt — aka Mr. Terrific. In the comics, Mr. Terrific is a self-made millionaire, genius, and Olympic decathlete.

“That’s a character that I’ve long wanted to bring to the show and something that we were talking about with Geoff Johns last year. I wrote Mr. Terrific when I did Justice Society, and just had a blast working with him … Echo’s terrific and I’m really excited for people to see him. They got a good glimpse of him in the trailer, but there’s more to come. And if you sort of freeze frame on that little ball that Felicity tosses up in the trailer in front of Curtis, comic books fans might notice a little Easter egg there.”

In the comics, Mr. Terrific uses flying metallic balls he calls his “T-Spheres.” The T-Spheres have such capabilities as creating holograms, forming a laser grid, recording, interfacing with other technology, or even acting as weapons themselves. Basically, Curtis and Felicity are going to be best friends.

Green Arrow’s Chili

One element from the Green Arrow comics that may or may not show up in season 4 of Arrow is Oliver Queen’s chili, famous in the DC superhero world for being one of the hottest entities known to man and generally only being enjoyed by Oliver himself. According to Guggenheim, we’re moving “closer and closer” to the introduction of the chili in season 4. “I’m surprised [and] I think you’d be surprised at how much Oliver’s culinary skills play a role in season 4,” he added. “My answer probably seems weird and stupid right now, but it will all actually make a lot more sense when you see the season premiere.” We’ll take it.

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What Guggenheim Is Watching and Reading

It seems impossible that Guggenheim has any time for watching TV or reading comics at the end of the day, but he apparently does. When asked what some of his own favorite media is right now, he admitted an affection for USA’s summer hacker drama Mr. Robot. On the comic book side, he’s a fan right now of Warren Ellis’ post-apocalyptic horror Injection, calls Secret Wars (for which he’s writing some tie-ins) “one of the better inter-company crossovers that’s ever been done,” and thinks DC’s Bizarro (which includes an Arrow shout-out) is “hysterical.”

The Infinite Adventures of Jonas Quantum #1 will be available Wednesday, September 16th. For more on Arrow season 4, check out our news roundup here. For more on Legends of Tomorrow, watch — or rewatch — the trailer here.