Super-villain Vordak the Incomprehensible is known to thousands of young readers as an evil mastermind.
But deep down, is Vordak really evil?
Author Scott Seegert of Farmington said that question is raised in "Vordak the Incomprehensible #3: Double Trouble", the third book in a series he and illustrator John Martin of Farmington Hills created. Vordak faces off against his "I'm better than you" nemesis, The Blue Buzzard, who wins a super-villain and son contest.
"Vordak doesn't have a son, so he clones himself as a 12-year-old," Seegert explains. "He finds out his son isn't evil, he's nice, and chaos ensues. He starts doubting his own inner evil."
That chaos is told not only in words, but also in detailed, black and white illustrations. Martin and Seegert collaborate in an office at the Winery/Powerhouse building on Grand River in Farmington.
The partnership started in the stands at a softball game when Seegert's daughter Shannon and Martin's daughter Grace were playing. Seegert was looking for someone to produce a video based on his book, "It's a Guy Thing", about "goofy patented inventions by guys".
"Somebody said, Grace's dad is good at that stuff, so he created that," Seegert recalled, "and when I came up with this idea, I brought it to him." A publisher snapped up "Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World" in 2010, based on an introduction, a chapter, outline and pencil art. A second book, "Vordak the Incomprehensible: Rule the School" came out a year later.
'Here's how I'm going to destroy you'
Team Vordak has their process down to a science, with Seegert getting the manuscript to publisher Egmont USA in September, then going through rounds of editing as Martin works on the illustrations. And sometimes, Martin's illustrations end up inspiring ideas for the story line.
Martin said while the books tend to appeal more to boys, "forty percent of our readers are girls".
"Give or take 40 percent," Seegert added. Both acknowledge they don't have hard numbers, but more a sense of who's reading based on the appearances they've done and feedback Vordak receives from his website. The books draw kids in to the story in a unique way; Vordak speaks directly to the reader, and the reader talks back.
"Some are just, 'Read your book ... ', others are 'Here's how I'm going to destroy you'. I get some of my meanest emails from girls," Seegert said.
Some parents have fired off criticism of the books, which invariably include some scatological humor, along with the sarcasm and insults common to comic book villains. Vordak's threats are along the lines of filling the Grand Canyon with raspberry yogurt, and no one is ever injured in the books.
"Some people get this and some don't," Seegert said. "Kids always get it. They know what's going on."
Martin and Seegert said they enjoy doing school appearances and hope to do more of them. Egmont is also sending them on a book tour that will include stops throughout the midwest. Learn more about Vordak and where to purchase his books at www.vordak.com.