a.k.a. Wyatt Cenac is a six-part web series created by and starring Emmy and WGA award-winning comedian Wyatt Cenac, a comedy about a costumed fighter of evil known as the Viceroy. The Viceroy and Batman share DNA in that they both fight without superpowers, have a small yet loyal team of allies, and protect the city they love (in the Viceroy's case, it’s gentrifying Brooklyn). Unlike Batman, however, the Viceroy lacks Bruce Wayne's athletic excellence and funding.
The Viceroy also has more melanin than Bruce, as well as a sharp observational skills that allows him to cannily comment on the results of his work, namely making Brooklyn safe for hipsters. If you've ever seen an artisanal mustard shop — and I absolutely have — you'll see the humor slices right to the bone broth.
We spoke with Cenac about the Viceroy and his web series, which plays like Batman set in Brooklyn by way of Portlandia.
What was your inspiration for a.k.a. Wyatt Cenac?
WYATT CENAC: I was thinking about the type of show I would make if I would make a narrative show. There are shows about comedians being comedians, and it seemed like if I was going to do something, was there a way to try to subvert that genre a little bit?
Is there another job that's like a comedian, where your days are free and who you are in the job is not necessarily who you are outside of it? And people might not fully understand what you do? The thing that came up was crime-fighting vigilante.
To some degree, there's a little bit of my childhood desire to want to play Batman in a movie, which I knew pretty early on was never going to happen. For one, [I'm] not in good shape. The other thing that maybe stands in the way is the heroes tend to be white guys. If there’s anything I know about the comic book devotee, they will flip out about changing characters in the same way that other people flip about taking down Confederate statues.
You know what? I can make my own Batman. So I did it.
So your favorite superhero is Batman?
Batman was my favorite as a kid and probably still now. That may be the character I’m most excited or protective of when movies or any things come out.
I don’t read comics as much as I used to. I still read a few titles from Marvel and DC. I'll read Batman and Detective Comics and The Flash a bit. With Marvel, I'll read Captain America and Thor, The Avengers, and the Miles Morales Spider-Man. I probably read more Marvel stuff now.
If this is a show about crimefighting, why don’t you have a typical origin story?
There's one in my head. I wanted to start this story in the middle. That’s part of the reason why each episode starts with an issue number [Note: The first webisode starts at #841], the same way if you were to go into a comic book store on Wednesday and say I'm going to start reading Batman. You'd pick it up at whatever issue it's currently at.
Does the Viceroy have a thirst for vengeance and/or justice?
"Vigilante" is a little bit like a job. Whether you're Batman or Captain America or Spider-Man, there's a reason you put on your tights and you go out into the world every night. But if you do it long enough, it's a job. After two or three years in, you're not doing it for vengeance any more. It's now your gig.
Will the Viceroy won't his version of Bat-gadgets?
I just wanted to keep [the series] a little more grounded. It's a world in which there are a lot of vigilantes who are Batmans running around, with different levels of financial success.
Again, treating it like a job, there's some people who might have a state-of-the-art [laptop] or an old one that they cobbled together. Okay, he has the tools of the trade, but compared to other people, this might not be as impressive. I tried to treat the Viceroy as a middle-class vigilante.
Click here to see a.k.a. Wyatt Cenac on Topic.com. It's Cenac's particular slice of reality in a surreal hipster world.