King Oblivion: Featured Image

Twelve years ago, the world first became aware of the greatest super villain who ever lived, when King Oblivion, Ph.D. officially revealed himself. Nearly a year ago, the world stood stunned as they learned the philosopher king was dead.

Or, to take it out of kayfabe, writer Matt D. Wilson created King Oblivion twelve years ago and last year, in the book SUPREME VILLAINY, Wilson wrote the life story of his enduring–but now deceased–creation. Wilson kindly agreed to chat with our Tim Stevens about the King’s beginnings, the three books that chronicled the character’s evolution, and the Doctor’s future beyond the written word.

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ComicsVerse: To start with, what is the birth of King Oblivion, Ph. D.; where did he start? Because I believe, and correct me if I’m wrong, that he did not just start with the first book?

Matt Wilson: He did not start in the books. He started as a way to get out of having to use my real name.

CV: Ahh, ok. That makes sense.

Matt: This would’ve been back around 2006ish, so he’s been around longer than most people even know. I was looking to start my own comedy website after I had spent a few years writing for I was still doing some stuff for Cracked, but I wasn’t doing as much. They were transitioning from a comedy website to what they are now which is an “isn’t that interesting?” kind of website.

I wanted to continue to comedy writing but I was also working at a newspaper. I was writing some stuff that wasn’t salacious or gross but that I didn’t necessarily want to attach my name to because of being a news reporter. Like stuff about the election and things like that.

I decided on this pseudonym and on calling the website “The International Society of Super Villains.” Everybody who wrote for it could have a super villain name if they wanted to write under a pseudonym. King Oblivion, Ph. D. was mine because I’ve always been a huge, huge Doctor Doom fan, and it was my way of being Dr. Doom without being Dr. Doom.

Then, as I wrote more and more for the site, I had more and more of this character’s voice in my head as I was writing instead of my own. That eventually led up to me wanting to write an entire book as that character because I became—the persona became more and more real to me over time.

The cover of the SUPERVILLAIN HANDBOOK, the first book of the King Oblivion cycle.

CV: That first book — that would be the HANDBOOK, correct?

Matt: Yeah, what is now called THE SUPERVILLAIN HANDBOOK. When I first wrote it, the title was HATE YOU FOREVER, which is a dumb parody of the children’s book LOVE YOU FOREVER.

CV: Is that the creepy one where a mom climbs a ladder to break into her adult son’s home and then cuddles him in his bed?

Matt: That seems right. [laugh]

CV: I read that to my daughter once and then silently hid away never to be seen again.

Matt: [laughs] Yeah.

I just thought it was a catchy title. So I wrote it and self published a version of it. If you go look for it on Amazon or somewhere, copies are wildly expensive because there are only 200 copies of that version anywhere.

You can get the exact same book in SUPERVILLAIN HANDBOOK with better design and I revised it for that version to make it better, so [the HANDBOOK] was better. I wrote the original version in 2009, 2010, and then it got picked up and published in 2012.

CV: When you look back at the HANDBOOK now, do you feel like that was the version of King Oblivion that would carry forward from there or did he still evolve for you over the course of the next two books?

Matt: THE SUPERVILLAIN FIELD MANUAL, which came second, was a very direct sequel to the HANDBOOK. I probably started writing it within days of the HANDBOOK’s release because I wanted to strike while the iron was hot and do another thing. The HANDBOOK had done pretty well; it had gone to a third printing before it was even out technically.

Then the FIELD MANUAL—I just picked up and ran with it. That was more of an expanding on topics. I maybe made him a little more human in that one, but he’s pretty similar still. It wasn’t until I started thinking about and had some time to chew on the idea for SUPREME VILLAINY that I decided to give him more of a life. [laughs]

When I put other characters around him, that’s when he became a different thing. The writing of that book kind of even surprised me.

The cover to THE SUPERVILLAIN FIELD MANUAL, the second book in the King Oblivion cycle

CV: With the FIELD MANUAL, it makes sense that you wrote it so soon after the HANDBOOK because it was published less than a year after the HANDBOOK was re-released.

Matt: Yeah, about a year. The copyright on it is, I believe, 2013. I think the HANDBOOK comes out in March or April of 2012 and the FIELD MANUAL was August or September of 2013. They were pretty quick, one after the other, for sure.

CV: The led to, as you well know, SUPREME VILLAINY which is less a how-to guide and more of an autobiography/biography in which you are both an editor and ghost writer in the “world” of the book, correct?

Matt: I am more of a character in that one. I appear several times as myself, writing, explaining the circumstances of that book’s publication.

If people don’t know, it’s published posthumously, after King Oblivion’s death. So the concept is I— having been kidnapped by him years earlier—am trapped in his lair and I’m just compiling all his notes and the stuff he has put together for his memoir previously. I’m putting them together into a working draft of an autobiography, which was all written by other ghost writers because he would never bother to write his own autobiography. [laughs]

So I’m in it. I do like an Editor’s Note in the beginning and there’s a letter from me at the end wrapping everything up. Then, King Oblivion sort of steps out of the fiction of the book to do handwritten editing notes on all the chapters written to his ghost writers who he’s perpetually angry at because they can never do anything to satisfy him.

CV: Yes. As you see over the course of the book, he continues to intrude to make himself look cooler, need people less, be less human, essentially.

Matt: Yeah, he hates the idea of having humanity, having compassion or feelings or being anything but the most powerful fearsome person there ever was. But even with that, things slip through. Like he has this sort of romantic desire for a woman who shows up at his school when he’s a young man—his weird Druidic school on an island.

Then, later, he feels an almost fatherly connection with this character who has these intense luck powers that can cause good or bad things to happen in the world depending on who she’s closest to or has a connection to. At first, his feelings for her are totally selfish. “Oh, I’ve got to get those luck powers.” Then, it becomes more of a fatherly attachment.

That’s something I never thought I would write for him. I never thought I would have that character feel a feeling. But it is sort of hard to write an autobiography without ever having a character feel a feeling. [laughs]

That sort of just organically happened. Especially because part of the reason he is writing this book is to train his heir or his successor on how to be the greatest supervillain on Earth and through that he has to tell the story of the person who came closest to that role earlier in his life.

King Oblivion: SUPREME VILLAINY Cover
The cover to SUPREME VILLAINY, the final volume in the King Oblivion cycle

CV: I noticed you intentionally upended a lot of the conventions of the “Great Man” memoirs along the way. He can’t even tolerate that idea that he had humble beginnings. So this beginning he originally had laid out by a ghost writer, of sort of rising up from being an orphan with almost nothing, he can’t stomach his own arc. He complete undercuts it. I loved that bit.

Matt: A lot of time—if you actually read those autobiographies—you discover that either humble beginnings get downplayed or they get vastly…blown out and made into “my beginnings were so humble they were amazing.”

I kinda tried to do both for him. Where he is talking about how he was born in the midst of a disaster to these pathetic salespeople parents who sold encyclopedias. They’re out on the ocean and he somehow gets rescued by this boat.

Except, obviously, they didn’t actually rescue him according to him.

CV: Right, he did it through sheer force of baby will.

Matt: Right, somehow. There’s a lot of trying to have it both ways for him. He’s an incredibly unreliable narrator which is most of the fun of writing him. Trying to think of the words he would say or not say or got mad at a ghost writer for writing about him.

His beginnings are both the most humble you could have but also these regal royal beginnings even though, at that point, he’s not even royalty yet. As readers’ll find out, he earns his royal title, he’s not born with it.

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CV: Something that came up along the way was, in promoting the various books, you were called upon to become King Oblivion. Not just on the page but in the world, in interviews and appearances. How did that come about?

Matt: Anytime I’ve done it since the first time, I’ve done it by choice. When we did a release party for SUPREME VILLAINY when it came out, I came out as myself. Then, when I came onstage for a reading later, I was wearing a King Oblivion costume. I did a voice. It was fun.

But, after the release of THE SUPERVILLAIN HANDBOOK, I had a publisher tell me she had a gotten an interview on the Mancow Show. If anyone doesn’t know who the Mancow is, he’s a shocking disc jockey—a shock jock—from Chicago. Think Howard Stern but with way more conservative politics.

Wanting to publicize the book, I said, “Yeah, I’ll go on the Mancow show.” Long story short, as I’m waiting to go on the show, I hear Mancow introduce me—fully expecting him to introduce me as myself—and he introduces me as King Oblivion. So I have to immediately adopt a voice and become the character on live radio. So I’m winging it through this whole thing, expecting to speak as myself.

He is throwing me questions like, “Supervillains? Oh, is this a book Obama would read? Who would read this kind of book? What will people get out of it?”

Finally, I’m giving an answer about what sort of the advice is in THE SUPERVILLAIN HANDBOOK. I’m saying, [adopts a super villain voice] ‘It will allow you to crush your enemies and stomp on their faces and turn them into giant piles of multicolored dust.’

[Returns to regular voice] Just as I say—and I remember the last thing I said was “multi-colored dust”—I hear click, dial tone.

CV: Oh man. [laughs]

Matt: I’ve never gone back and listened to the interview. I don’t know if he hung up on me because he thought I was ridiculous or he thought the interview was over or what. But there was no thanks or “go buy the book.” It was just…click. That was me on the Mancow Show.

All the press I’ve done since then has been much much better.

CV: Just a brief digression about Mancow. Are you aware of hs role in the remake of DEATH WISH?

Matt: I’m not. I am not.

 CV: He, as himself, is acting as, essentially, the Greek Chorus of the film.

Matt: He’s through—he’s through the whole movie?

CV: Yeah. It’s gross.

Matt: Oh my goodness.

See, if I had been able to talk to him as myself, you know, we could have struck up a relationship. I could’ve found out all about his role in DEATH WISH. I could’ve talked to him about the very short period that he was a wrestler in WCW. I never got to learn any of that. Because he introduced me as King Oblivion.

King Oblivion: His Writer
Writer Matt D. Wilson nails that bearded artist look in his author’s photo.

CV: Given what I know about your politics and what I know about his, I’m sure you guys would’ve gotten along very well.

Matt: [laugh] Yeah. [laughs]

CV: After that first time, which I imagine was a bit terrifying, has being able to perform as King Oblivion enhanced the experience of creating, writing, and promoting the character or did it feel like more of an obligation?

Matt: I think it depends on the venue. I’m more than happy to play the King Oblivion character. I think he works better on paper than coming out of my mouth though. I don’t know that I do it justice. If I’m trying to do it, it’s just a silly—it’s goofy.

I don’t necessarily want him to be goofy. I want him to seem like the most sincere despot in his own mind, but you as the reader are like, “Ok, he’s kinda full of it.” That’s the reaction I want.

If I’m doing the character, I’m just going to try and do whatever song and dance to make you laugh.

And that’s fine. I like doing that. I’ve done that at conventions and for release parties and other stuff. But if I’m talking about him on the radio or I’m doing stuff like this, I’d just prefer to do an interview  as myself. Whether it is out of character like this or kayfabe as the “character” of Matt Wilson, editor. Like, I’ve done other interviews where I’m “Matt Wilson” who has been kidnapped by King Oblivion and forced to do books for him. Those are pretty fun to do as well.

I don’t mind the performance, I just think the venue makes the difference whether it works well or not.

CV: You referenced that, in the universe of the books, SUPREME VILLAINY was released posthumously. For you in the real world, as a person, is that something you felt good about, the idea of putting King Oblivion to bed? Did you feel any trepidation about it?

Matt: I think it being what it is, there wasn’t a lot of avenues for him to go down.

When I table at conventions and I have the three books in front of me, the easy way for me to sell it is to point to the HANDBOOK and say, “This is beginning.” Then I point to the FIELD MANUAL and say, “This is intermediate.” Then SUPREME VILLAINY and say, “This is expert.” To me, that is the complete picture. Right? Beginner, intermediate, expert. Hitting the expert level means there is not a ton of other places to go. I’ve sort of hit the ceiling with it.

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CV: Right

Matt: And I shot my shot with SUPREME VILLAINY being his entire life. So, at least in books, that’s all I can do with him.

I think—not that I have any expectation that this will happen—in another medium, like a comic or tv or something, that’s a different animal. I could do something else.

Right after I released the self-published version of the HANDBOOK, I got this mysterious call from a talent agency in L.A. saying, “This book is great, we’d love to option it for something. Let’s talk.” Blah blah blah.

I call these guys and we talk. They’re saying, “This part’s funny. Oh and this part’s funny.” I later realized they were mainly just pointing out the captions to the illustrations. They were just buttering me up to make sure they had this IP under their belt so somebody higher up could be like, “Oh, we don’t want this one.” Which is what happened.

For whatever reason though, it got me thinking of different ideas of what I could do with the King Oblivion tv show. Like a sitcom about him. I think that that’s still on the table. Not that there is necessarily any possibility of that happening, but I’ve got ideas for that.

I’ve got ideas for adapting him to comics where it is more granular stories, right? Where it is day to day here’s the adventure of the week king of stories. Or here’s the mundane thing the super villain has to deal with kind of stories. Instead of here’s an entire life in a book.

The character could live on in another medium, if anyone wanted him.

Matt D. Wilson is a mutli-talented chap. Check out part two of his interview to read about his current projects. including the long-running wildly popular comics podcast WAR ROCKET AJAX, the wrestling ranking extravaganza SMARK OF THE BEAST, his two ongoing comic book series and so much more.

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