Interview With Charlie McElvy: WatchGuard Creator and OCR Athlete (and about 1000 other things)

I don’t even know where to start with this one. For a lot of reasons. Normally this is where I go “here’s how I’m familiar with so-and-so and why you should want to know about them too” and yeah, I could do that but really I wouldn’t know where to start. If you like cool and/or geeky things, you’ll find that you have something in common with Charlie. Or if you like running marathons, children and presumably anything neat that you can think of- the man is a machine with a diverse array of interests. 
High praise? Maybe. But then again this is one of the two guys that made inspired me to undertake my own creative journey and get off my butt after years of talking about writing comic books and actually DO IT. Charlie sorta has that effect on people, whether he means to or not. 
I’ve been lucky enough to get to know him in the few quite(ish) moments of (somewhat) free time that he’s had and it’s been a pleasure chatting about our mutual interests (New Warriors, beer/ales, other Awesome Things) and he’s turned into one of the biggest supporters of LEGACY and New Guard- which is pretty darn cool- and someone I call friend. Which is also cool.  
1.   Charlie tell us a little about yourself – inquiring minds want to know. Who IS this Charlie McElvy guy and what’s he all about?
Wow. Start off with the narcissism right off the bat, huh? I usually bait people into that a little later into the conversation. 🙂
Well, I’m a pretty simple dude, from my perspective. I love to workout, write, eat, play with my kids, running, reading comics, reading books (in general), teaching, coaching, playing football, playing basketball, designing characters, doing graphics for friends & teammates, yard work… crap, maybe I’m not as simple as I thought!
I was born in Norfolk, VA, but I lived in nearly a dozen states before my thirteenth birthday. I come from a divorced/split home, not military (even though I’ve lived in a military town for most of my life). I met my bride-to-be in high school, but we never dated until after we graduated. I’ve now been married to that same amazing, awesome, hot, and wonderful woman for eighteen years, and we have seven children together. Yes, seven. No, we’re not Mormon. Or Catholic. Or crazy. 🙂
2.   So what prompted you to write and produce The WatchGuard Sourcebook? Why a role-playing game book?
I’ve always had a story, or a thousand, to tell. I’ve loved comics for as long as I can remember, and like most young, creative kids, I still have three or four spiral-bound notebooks full of character sketches, designs, ideas, scribbles, et al., that I’ve just NEEDED to put out there and share with the world. So, it was more of an inevitability, I guess. As for the Watchguard Sourcebook (affectionately abbreviated WGSB), I needed to do something more cohesive than just a bunch of random characters, so I started working on creating a brand-new universe, the WGU, back in early 2007 with my first character from this new universe, Battalion. But, it wasn’t Battalion as he is now — it was actually Sentinel. Originally, I created Sentinel, then named Battalion, mostly as he is now, but the name never quite matched what I was thinking. So, as I progressed through the character creation process, I renamed him Sentinel to reflect the them of WatchGuard (as a group), since he was kind of my centerpiece.
Once I had a few characters, things really started moving and I created an historical timeline, a custom city, my Metropolis, if you will, which I called Summit City. With the help of several comic book artists, most especially my friend Andy Smith, and a few more characters later and I had enough volume to put it all together as my own “Official Handbook”. But, I realized that the comic book market was a bit fickle and finicky, and I realized no one (or very few) would buy a handbook of characters with whom they had no real connection. I needed to establish that connection. That’s when it hit me: I had gained the right to use the M&M license previously under the original Superlink program they ran, and I published two moderately successful characters about five years prior (“Asa”, and Andy Smith’s creation, “Apollo”) for the M&M1e system. DINGDINGDING!!! There it is!!!
So, that was the birth of the idea to build a market platform for WatchGuard: make it a gaming supplement?? BOOM. Then it started coming all together. I’ve always been community-oriented, and I want my big break as most guys & gals do, so I started branching out from the artists I already knew and started commissioning people whom I’d never worked with and had that creative pinache that fit what I was doing. Part of my goal was to help them get a little more established, add more to their published galleries, and provide them another platform for exposure. People like Sean Izaakse (now working with Vito Delsante on “Stray”), Diana Greenhalgh (now working on “The Illegitimates” at Image Comics), and a host of others, all of whom received a brief bio, a link to their personal gallery or DeviantArt page, and any other contact info they wanted to share. That was just my little way of “paying it forward”, as they say.
I think I answered the question, but, to whit, I had published other Mutants & Masterminds licensed stuff before, but never a full-on sourcebook like this one, which was a major undertaking, but majorly rewarding from a creative release perspective. Best thing I’ve done outside of my personal life. Oh, and savvy readers probably noticed Asa was one of my original releases, and he’s also one of the characters you’ll find in the WGSB. He got a little makeover, update, and then integrated into the WGU history, because he’s still one of my favorite creations. More on him another time. 🙂
3.   You’re still releasing one-shots from the WatchGuard Universe- does that mean WatchGuard made a successful debut and has established a fanbase?
To my absolute surprise and joy, yes! I can’t release these fast enough, primarily because I do have such a busy life, but I’ve also been so focused on getting the Kickstarter comic book project produced. That’s been a frustrating nightmare, but I know when it’s all done, it will be my pride and delight. It’ll be a dream finally come true.
WatchGuard has grown organically, to my delight. I’ve seen whole threads on the Atomic Think Tank and other RPG fan forums where fans of the characters & universe are diving deeper into the mythos, building new epic adventures off of that little starting point, and more. It’s SO very fun to watch. I hope the comic book brings as much satisfaction to everyone!
4.   Where do you see yourself headed in regards to your writing/creating? What’s the plan?
As noted above, the comic book is the next big goal. It’s funded (thank you Kickstarter backers!!!!!!!), but I’ve had several hiccups with the already-paid for artists that has given me a new insight into how to run things, for better or for worse. Thankfully, the actual WatchGuard story (there are two books pending) is almost completed! It’s down to a few pages left to be colored, then final edits, and BAM! it’s ready for publishing. I’m so thankful for Andy Smith and the other artists working on that book.
I will publish the Teen Force 5 comic book as soon as I can get it completed — that’s the one that’s been a hold-up. I originally planned to publish them together, but flip-books aren’t very popular a format, and it’d be too expensive for most comic shops to take a chance on it, so I’m splitting them up into two one-shots (although, I have a mini-series planned, if we can gain a publisher ready to tackle this awesomeness. Heh.)
Also, I’m still working on creating new worlds, new characters, and new solo releases. Most recently, I’ve been delving into the cosmic aspect of the WGU, with releases such as the über-popular Regent and Hyperion releases (those are, by far, my most popular males — Jupiter takes the cake, overall). So, more coming there.
I’m also planning a “Master Release” or “Deluxe Edition” or something, which will include updated versions of every character to date, including the popular Les Supérieurs characters, the cosmic ones, as-yet unreleased ones, and possibly even a reprint of the comic book stories contained therein!
Oh, and I’m dying to do a Les Supérieurs story at some point — I’m a huge Alpha Flight fan, and I just want to tell *my* AF story through *my* characters. Some day…
5.   Xion Studios publishes a series written and created by someone other than yourself as well, is that correct? What can you tell us about that? Is that something that you are looking to do more of in the future?
Yeah, so we have an imprint, as it were, called “BrandX” that is used to publish other creators’ works to, again, help promote others and strengthen our community. Currently, BrandX publishes works from SketchPad Studios on The agreement will also extend into collecting and printing/publishing these works on, which is in the works now.
The BrandX agreement is very simple: we’ll get your stuff on the website for no upfront fees, and a mere 10% of net earnings. The other 55% (that is, the retail price minus’s fees) is entirely the creator’s to keep and is paid out automatically by their system. It can be disengaged at any time the creator(s) choose, and Xion keeps nothing of their IP or publishing rights. It’s more of a community platform than anything. If someone has a good idea, and maybe just wants an established publisher to help promote their works, here we are.
As for the print side of things, that doesn’t extend into comic books just yet, but Xion can publish other collections, sourcebooks, graphic novels, and even traditional novels, for the same fees. We’ll provide an ISBN and the publishing concerns dealing with Amazon directly for you. Keep in mind, not every project thrown this way will get published — we have to consider the costs of getting this all set up and getting an honest return on investment. ISBNs aren’t cheap, and time is even more expensive. But, everything can be considered (but, please, no mature audience works at this time — keep it PG13).
6.   Obviously you’re a comic book fan, so what are you reading these days? What are some of the books that you’ve read in the past that you’d recommend to others?
Currently, I’m reading New Warriors, Superior Spider-man, Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, All-new X-men, All-new X-Factor, Thunderbolts, all of the Gold Key Dynamite books (Magnus, Solar, Turok, et al.), and anything cool or obscure that I can get my hands on. Oh, and World War Mob! I can’t wait for more from Midnight Tiger by Ray-Anthony Height, and I’m really looking forward to Stray by Vito and Sean! Oh, yeah, and I’ve been a big fan of the stuff put out by Valiant since their “rebirth”. Most especially, Bloodshot and Harbinger, but I’m really anxious to read Rai when it hits! X-O is pretty good, but I’m not a fan (at all) of Quantum & Woody. To each his own.
Classic favorites abound. New Teen Titans (and every subsequent incarnation), JLA, Booster Gold, classic Valiant/Acclaim, everything that came from Claremont or Byrne or Wolfman or Perez (it was easier than naming series — I’m bound to forget several), Justice League Europe (man, I love those BWAHAHAHA books!), and, of course, Alpha Flight. I really could spend all day talking about books I loved as a youth/kid/teen. Oh, Legion of Superheroes! Love them!! Classic Guardians of the Galaxy (Charlie-27, et al.), Ghost Rider (Mark Texeira-era), and I enjoyed the Image Comics “original seven” for a time. The X-men relaunch by Claremont and Jim Lee was fantastic. I collect a ton of DC Comics Archive Editions and Marvel Masterworks, too. Classic, truly “old school” books. The New Teen Titans era, though, is probably some of my favorite stuff. Crisis on Infinite Earths, Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), The Power of Shazam, JLE, JLI, JLA (including JLA: Detroit), Uncanny X-men… man, I just rambled incoherently, didn’t I…?
7.   One of the other things that I know you are passionate about is OCR (Obstacle Course Racing). How did you get into that and what do you love so much about it?
Haha! Yes, that’s a new passion and it’s not fading anytime soon…!
A good friend of mine invited me to do a Tough Mudder in 2013 — there was one coming locally, in Virginia, and we all signed up as a team. It sounded fun. Why not? Anyway, the day before the race a hurricane came through, and whipped up Virginia a little bit, but enough that the venue for the event was unsafe to continue the Tough Mudder on (they couldn’t safely get their emergency vehicles to every point, and were forced to cancel). I was a little pissed, actually. So, I sat in my hotel and Googled “mud runs”, and Spartan Race came up. I checked it out. The video enchanted me. The idea that it was actually a race both thrilled and scared me (I hadn’t run in years, and never competitively). And it seemed so much more of a challenge than Tough Mudder. It just so happened that Spartan Race hosts these Spartan workouts around the country, and one was coming to my city in a couple weeks! Heck, it was at a gym not 3km from my house!! Ok, I’ll check it out before signing up.
I did the workout in June 2013 with about 70 other idiots. It was over 32ºC all day. We worked out in the sun. On asphalt. For almost four hours. According to my heat rate monitor that I wore that day, I burned over 4500 calories in that time…! And you know what? I was hooked.
I bought a Spartan Race Season Pass, and signed up for my first-ever race in Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Pennsylvania. When I finished, this primal, visceral…thing… hit me. I crossed that finish line wanting to laugh maniacally, cry uncontrollably, kiss someone, hug someone, punch someone, bite someone’s face off… seriously, it was that primal. That awesome. What a feeling.
I competed in, and finished, over a dozen events for the rest of 2013 (that’s almost 2 events a month). I completed my first Spartan Race Trifecta, and pursued (and completed) a second in that span. During this time I got in better shape than ever, thanks to my friend, trainer, and pro-racing teammate, John “Hate” Sales of Hate Mentality Training, and I am now a sponsored racer (I have three sponsors: HYLETE apparel, AL1VE Magnetics, and Titin Tech). My kids run in Junior Spartans, and even train alongside me! It’s become quite the family thing. Great times.
Oh, and I still haven’t run in a Tough Mudder. I will, this year, in Virginia, so I will close that loop, finally. 🙂
8.   How do you find time to do everything you do? Seriously it’s like you never sleep. Do you have a schedule that you strictly adhere to or is it just a matter of making it work through willpower and luck? Time management is a super power that I think any person that writes or draws can really appreciate.
LOL! I don’t really think about it much. I guess I have something of a routine, but I also have an awesome wife and fantastic kids, so it makes things a little easier to manage. My job is really flexible, even if it keeps me very busy and I have to travel often, but the biggest part of it, I guess, is having the passion to do these things. I don’t like to do things half-assed, and really only want to put out quality work in whatever I do, so maybe there’s something to that, I dunno. I once had a bud call me a true “renaissance man”, but I’m not sure that really applies. It’s not for me to judge that about myself — I just want to make good stuff that people enjoy, have a happy and well-loved family, enjoy my wife and our relationship, and kick everyone’s butt on the playing field, whatever that may be. I won’t accept anything less.
9.   Pick six people (other than family) to sit and have a dinner conversation with- real, fictional, alive or dead, and why them? Go!
Zoinks! Only six???? Um… let’s see.
1)     Chris Claremont — I’d really love to hear what he thinks about comics. From the creation of them, to dialoguing, to current trends. Also, discuss WatchGuard with him, and really get a sense of what I’m doing right, wrong, or otherwise with them. There’s so much to discuss, I’d have a blast. He’d probably be bored to tears…
2)     Arnold Schwarzenegger — This guy is an immigrant who truly lives the “American Dream”. He came over with very little, and, through grit, resolve, determination, sheer willpower, risk, luck, and a host of other things, made a life and a name for himself that is known the world-over. I’d want to discuss business, fitness, bodybuilding, acting, politics, family, his youth, my youth…. So much to talk about here.
3)     Albert Einstein — This guy changed the world in so many ways. I’d just like to sit and listen to him pontificate, calculate, or whatever he wanted to discuss. Seriously good stuff to listen to, I’m certain.
4)     Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — I know this one seems trite, or unoriginal, but, really, who in their right mind wouldn’t want to discuss the world, politics, poetry, religion, or anything else with this guy??? Greatness.
5)     Gene Simmons — Another guy who has such phenomenal business sense and has been so successful in many different ways. He’s created a persona, and made himself an enigma, that spans generations, and seems to keep building on itself. I’d love to pick his brain on business, marketing, and the building of an empire.
6)     Mark Cuban — Similar to Simmons and Schwarzenegger, but this guy’s a billionaire and he owns a professional basketball team!!! Mark is both exciting and plain, generous and a complete ass. He’s a living example of a self-made man, and I know he’s got a ton of info to pluck out of that skull of his.

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