How it Happened: Archvillain

Shortly after my first novel was published, David Levithan (known to you, perhaps, as a YA author extraordinaire) approached me in his capacity as a high muckety-muck at Scholastic.

“We came up with this idea,” he said, “about a kid who’s going to grow up to be a super-villain. And we’d love you to write it.”

ARCHVILLAINNow, understand this: Most of the time, if a company like Scholastic approaches you to write a series for them, your only concern is how quickly you can say “Yes!” But I was worried, mainly because they wanted the series to be funny, and I didn’t think I had the chops. I wasn’t sure I could do the clever, prankster-y humor that the story required. So I declined.

And I kept declining, for about two years, every time David brought it up.

Then, one day, I was thinking about the series. All I had at that point was something like a paragraph from Scholastic. I don’t have it at-hand, but I think their idea was that a meteor shower would come to earth, carrying SuperKid. And the meteors would also give super-powers to our future villain, the Prankster. Wacky hijinks ensue.

I mentioned it to my brother, who said to me, “Hey, if you did this series, you could totally have fun with every super-hero story ever. You could make fun of all of it.”

I happened to bump into David shortly thereafter at a conference. I asked if they had ever decided to do anything with the series, and he paid the high compliment of saying, “We decided that if you couldn’t do it, we wouldn’t do it.”

I asked if I could make some changes to the original pitch document, and was told that I could.

So, the names had to change. SuperKid was too close to Superboy, and Prankster was an actual character from the comic books. And I needed something other than a meteor shower (which had been used in Smallville). I decided to name any significant character with the initials M.M. as an homage to the Silver Age Superman, who had an acquaintanceship replete with L.L.s.1 And I wanted a fun sidekick for our not-hero, so I came up with Erasmus, the snarky artificial intelligence who lives inside an old iPod.

Scholastic was pretty happy with what I came up with and we agreed to start off with three books. The rest is history!

  1. Lex Luthor. Lois Lane. Lori Lemaris. Lyla Lerrol. Lucy Lane. Lana Lang. Linda Lee. Lightning Lad. Light Lass. And that’s just off the top of my head.

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