A decade ago, before John Ridley created the critically acclaimed TV series “America Crime,” before he won an Oscar for the screenplay for “12 Years a Slave,” Ridley wrote a limited-run graphic novel, “The American Way,” which combined many of his interests — history, race, and now a team of superheroes — in one thought-provoking and entertaining package.
That series, set in 1962, told the stories of Jason Fisher, an African-American with special powers who with his race obscured joins the superhero squad Civil Defense Corps as the New American.
And now? The New American and “The American Way” is back, a revival Ridley discussed in an interview at Comic-Con International in San Diego on Friday before heading out to the San Diego Convention Center exhibition hall floor, sure he would find an action figure that would call his name in a booth somewhere.
“I thought it would be very interesting to take a decade-by-decade approach to America,” Ridley said while sitting at a table on the second floor of the DC Comics booth. “After 10 years, and with 10 years in the body of the story, he’s grown and changed.”
Now it’s 1972, and Jason Fisher is dealing with the issues America faced in that decade, still with his superpowers of super-strength and invulnerability, and still with the built-in vulnerability — he can feel pain even if his body can’t be physically broken — of the gene-splicing scientists who created him.
That double-sided edge to his powers is also part of the way Ridley says he hopes the new run of “The American Way” will continue to reflect the speculative elements in comics and the human scale of history.
“It’s not just saving the universe,” he said. “It’s about saving neighborhoods, too.”
His interest in history led him over a decade ago to the inspiration for “The American Way.” Ridley had always been fascinated by the fact that President Lyndon Johnson while vice president to President John F. Kennedy had argued in favor of adding an African-American astronaut to the early space program.
“He thought one of them should be a black man because there’s no better way, as in baseball, as in other fields, to show that individuals are exceptional,” Ridley said.
Jason Fisher, then, became his stand-in for that astronaut that Kennedy decided not to appoint, he said, a nod…