1st Mark Waid Interview

Originally published in February 2000. Mark Waid is almost always a great interview. He can be funny and snarky. It’s too bad Gorilla Comics (referenced heavily in this interview) did not pan out as planned. I should note the $400,000 number referenced in this interview came from a magazine article that looked into how much creative people in different industries get paid. Waid was featured for comic book writer and the article said he made that amount of money.

 

An Interview With Mark Waid

 
Mark Waid is known for many successful comics including Flash, Kingdom Come, Captain America and more. In the future he will be taking over DC Comics top comic, JLA and is starting up a new imprint with Kurt Busiek called Gorilla Comic. This month we were able to get plenty of information about Gorilla Comics and his new series EMPIRE! Plus we get some answers about JLA, Flash, Impulse, his short Avengers run, Hypertime and how much money he makes.
 

Mark Waid at 2012 New York Comic Con

Jamie: When I heard the rumors about the Gorilla imprint, it seemed a forgone conclusion that it would be done through Image Comics. What took so long to finally get the deal through?

Mark Waid: It never seemed like a foregone conclusion to US. We had companies vying for the rights to distribute what we published almost from the get-go, and it took us a while to winnow our choices down to the best–the fine folks at Image, who’ll back us all the way.

 

Jamie: The Gorilla line has been called Comics worst kept secret for several months now. Did the news/rumor leaks through Rich Rumblings website bother you in any way?

Mark Waid: Nah. That’s not to say I haven’t been pissed off by a thousand OTHER things Rich has reported, but this isn’t one of ’em. Besides, it was fun to see all the misinformation fly (“Bulldog” Comics?)

 

Jamie: There was a rumor of an editor, specifically Matt Idelson, helping oversee the Gorilla imprint. If there is an editor helping out the imprint can you tell us who s/he is?

Mark Waid: We are in the process of hiring a coordinating editor, but please, no resumes — we’ve already set our sights and are in preliminary negotiations.

 

Jamie: Is the editor you have your sights set on currently working at Marvel or DC?

Mark Waid: No comment. Sorry!

 

Jamie: What books will be coming out through the Gorilla imprint and what are they about? Can you give us details about the book(s) you and your collaborators will be working on?

Mark Waid: By now, you know about Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen’s SHOCKROCKETS; I can’t at this stage really give much information about my own launch the following month other than to say that, yes, it’s the long-promised EMPIRE, by myself and Barry Kitson.

 

Jamie: What is EMPIRE? What’s it about, the characters, setting, etc.. I want to know everything!

Mark Waid: Bone-chilling action coupled with satanic soap opera. EMPIRE is the near-future story of Golgoth, the first super-villain to actually WIN and conquer the Earth. Unfortunately, winning the crown and keeping it are two different things altogether. Now Golgoth must constantly watch out for traitors, for terrorists, even for extraterrestrials who were biding their time until he gathered all the reins of power. It’s also the story of his Cabinet of Ministers–evil and twisted all–and how they interact and scheme to gain the Empire themselves. This is not a bright, happy super-hero story. There are no heroes in EMPIRE. Only villains. Monthly beginning in May from myself, Barry Kitson, and colorist Chris Sotomayor.

 

Jamie: Will the Gorilla line be superhero comics only?

Mark Waid: Hell, no. We’re building a home where we can publish whatever the market will bear, and while I’ll probably never get tired of writing super-hero comics, I’ve always made an effort to write other genres–I loved writing the few Archie stories I had a hand in, and to me, IMPULSE was never a super-hero comic but rather a sitcom on paper.

 

Jamie: Will Gorilla comics be available on the newsstand market?

Mark Waid: No immediate plans, but we’d sure love to get there sooner than later.

 

Jamie: Will anybody be allowed to join the Imprint at a future date or just big name comic professionals?

Mark Waid: Who knows? Let’s just get off the ground first and see what the future holds. There’s no official membership “cap,” though a partnership of 27 isn’t exactly gonna be a Swiss watch.

 

Jamie: Don’t you find it ironic that an “Hot writer” based line is being publishing through a company founded by “Hot Artists”? Especially when some of which didn’t put quality writing as a priority in their own comics?

Mark Waid: Oh, I guess, but to be honest, I haven’t really thought about it much. The broader commonality is that none of us wanted/want to spend forever in work-for-hireland.

 

Jamie: Creator owned comics have a bad reputation for blowing deadlines. Can you give us any assurances that Gorilla books will come out on time?

Mark Waid: Without a crystal ball at my side, no–all I can assure you is that, if you look at our roster, Gorilla is clearly made up of industry professionals who’ve been hard at work for anywhere from five to (hi, George!) twenty-five years. We know what deadlines are, and we know how important they are.

 

Jamie: You and Kurt Busiek are DC and Marvel fans respectively. Will your Gorilla comics have homage’s from those universes?

Mark Waid: Can’t speak for Kurt, but mine won’t; with all due respect to the many talented people who’ve headed that way in recent years with some fun and excellent product, if I read another “homage” series, I’m gonna go postal. If I wanted to write Superman, I’d write Superman. If I wanted to write Dial H for Hero, I’d write Dial H for Hero. If I want to write something NEW, I go to Gorilla.

 

Jamie: Do you have any new work lined up with other publishers?

Mark Waid: Other than Black Bull’s GATECRASHER, nothing at the moment.

 

Jamie: I hear there will be some changes to the JLA lineup when you take over as the titles writer. Can you tell us what the changes are, why you want them and what characters will be in the new lineup?

Mark Waid: I’ve made no secret of the fact that I can’t juggle 14 JLAers without having an embolism. The core seven are what everyone expects, and I think Plas is iconic enough to have earned a slot beside them. That said, expect plenty of guest-shots, as needed, from everyone from Steel to Atom.

 

Jamie: Grant Morrison had a philosophy of JLA being something like The 12 Knights of the Round Table. How you do see the team?

Mark Waid: Like an All-Star baseball team.

 

Jamie: What would you have done with Avengers if your run lasted longer than 3 issues?

Mark Waid: Demanded an artist who could tell a story.

 

Jamie: During the 3 issues you introduced MASQUE and BENEDICT, two plot lines that are still left dangling. Who were these characters and what were they to do or become?

Mark Waid: Hell if I know. Don’t you know the Marvel Marching Drill by now? “I was just following orders.” Jesus, even I don’t remember someone named “Benedict”…guess it’s time to crack open the back issues…

 

Jamie: Do you have any consultation or input in Impulse’s own title or his use in Young Justice?

Mark Waid: In his own title, yes; each month, editor L.A. Williams extends me the unheard-of courtesy of sending me black-and-white advances for my comments, and I’d like to give him his public props for that. I don’t, however, have much TO say–writer Todd DeZago, besides being a good friend of mine, has a terrific handle on the character. And with YOUNG JUSTICE, I trust Peter.

 

Jamie: Some people reading your and Brian Augustyn current Flash now assume Hypertime’s purpose is to write stories that don’t have to adhere to continuity. Is that Hypertime’s purpose?

Mark Waid: Ghaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

No. Hypertime has no “purpose” any more than the color red has a “purpose.” Hypertime was introduced both as a way of expanding the ever-shrinking, ever-regulated, ever-constricting DCU and as a way of tipping the hat to old-time readers who are tired of being told the stories they read and loved “never happened.” It was introduced to remind people that comics aren’t about rules, they’re about flying. And don’t draw ANY conclusions from the current FLASH run yet–there ARE purposes to the STORY, and only Brian and Grant and I as yet know what they are….

 

Jamie: You have been one of the writers credited with digging comic books out of the Grim and Gritty heroes. Then you and Brian write a Flash who is very grim and gritty. Why?

Mark Waid: Just pitching a change-up, man. Gotta stay versatile. Gotta keep you on your toes.

 

Jamie: Hey, last year you made around $400,000! Did you make that kind of money again this year?

Mark Waid: My accountant would be stunned to hear that. If by “around,” you mean “way, way, way, way less than,” then I guess so. Believe me, I NEVER made 400 grand in a year, not even close. I did have a couple or three really good years for which I’m really grateful, but salaries and royalties across the board have been a lot more realistic for quite a while, my friend….

 

Peter David Interview

Originally published in January 2000. I have to give Peter David credit. Around this time there was a big Peter David vs. Erik Larsen war that was being fought both online and within Erik’s Savage Dragon and Peter’s Incredible Hulk titles. I was firmly on the Erik Larsen side and on occasion gave Peter a hard time. Still, I very much enjoyed his run on the Hulk (specifically the Dale Keown/Gary Frank years), Spider-Man 2099 and Young Justice, so I wanted to interview him. I suspected when I sent him the request he would (deservedly) blow me off. Instead he accepted and he’s always been really nice to me in person whenever we’ve met at conventions.

 

An Interview With Peter David

 
If you have been reading Marvel or DC Comics you probably know who Peter David is. If you read Star Trek and other sci-fi books, pay attention to who writes certain TV shows, movies, cartoons, etc.. you also probably know who Peter David is. He is all over the place with his written work and has gained a fan following and an alt.fan newsgroup devoted to him. Today he talks to us about the comic titles he writes and his other media work.
 

Peter David at 2010 C2E2

Jamie: Will the first year of Captain Marvel stories be earth bound or more in space?

Peter David: A balance of both. I think I’ve actually hit upon a way to do a combination of adventures that is going to be rather unique. Most of the time when you’re dealing with a character who is earthbound but with space roots, it’s an either/or proposition. And while you’re busy doing one, people crab that you’re not doing the other. I’ll actually be doing both: Earthbound activities and visits to far off worlds.

 

Jamie: Why is Moondragon in the Captain Marvel series? Was there a particular reason you chose her?

Peter David: I wanted someone with no sense of humor to play against Rick Jones and Genis.

 

Jamie: What villains will be popping up in Captain Marvel? Any chance that Thanos will appear?

Peter David: I’d have liked to use Thanos, but he’s just finishing with an extended stay in Thor. I think if he immediately jumps over to Captain Marvel, it’d be overdoing it. Wendigo is in issue #2, then Drax shows up and his appearance winds up triggering an unexpected series of events. The Hyssta will be back, the Surfer will probably be showing up, as will Starfox. Possibly Terrax. Probably Comet Man, who hasn’t been seen for a while. And Super Skrull would be kinda cool.

 

Jamie: What’s happening with Dark Horse’s SpyBoy? It got very little publicity.

Peter David: Actually, Dark Horse has been promoting the hell out of it. It’s been heavily publicized in the Diamond Catalogue, in CBG. They did a big push for it at San Diego with promotional material, and there’s a website. The problem is that retailers have given it little-to-no support, which is somewhat annoying. Here on the one hand I’ve got fans always saying I should branch out, work for publishers other than Marvel and DC, try characters off the beaten track. And then the retailers order bare minimum. They don’t order it as they would, say, “Young Justice.” They order it like a low-end Dark Horse book.

 

Jamie: We don’t hear too much about your own independent title, Soulsearchers and Co. What is going on with that?

Peter David: Claypool Press doesn’t exactly have a huge promotional budget. Look at your own questions: Dark Horse has been promoting the heck out of Spyboy, and you say it gets no publicity. So here’s Claypool which doesn’t even have Dark Horse’s resources, even though ads run for them regularly in CBG. Trying to get the attention of fans and retailers is a full time job. In terms of the book itself, we’re getting up to issue #40. It really kills me: Fans say to me, “Write a humorous book for a small indy publisher, something you have total control of.” And I say, “Soulsearchers and Company. Been doing it for about seven years now.” And they say, “What’s that?” Retailers swear we don’t exist.

 

Jamie: You would think that Captain Marvel Jr. would fit in perfectly with Young Justice. Why is he not on the team?

Peter David: Too much stylistic overlap with Superboy. But he will become an integral part of the book, at least for a little while.

 

Jamie: Will there be any line up changes in Young Justice after the Arrowettte story is over?

Peter David: Mebbe.

 

Jamie: You’ve mentioned that you have a major Supergirl story arc coming up with issues #45 to 50. Can you give us any information on it?

Peter David: Matters with Carnivean are going to come to a head, leading to confrontations between the three Earth Angels, and a showdown between Carnivean and God with most unexpected results.

 

Jamie: You also let it known publicly that this story could be used for a major company event. Has there been any development on that yet?

Peter David: No, and I haven’t been pressing it. I’m still shellshocked after “Sins of Youth.” If I’m just able to go ahead and tell my story and be left alone, I’ll be a happy camper.

 

Jamie: I have to wonder, was the decision to turn Supergirl into an angel an attempt to get some religious comic readers to try out the title?

Peter David: No, it was an attempt to give the book a unique and different tone and feel.

 

Jamie: Do you plan on keeping Supergirl an Angel for the rest of your run?

Peter David: That would be telling.

 

Jamie: Are you at all worried about Supergirl’s future with the Siegel’s Superman and all related characters copyright ownership legal situation?

Peter David: I try not to worry about things over which I have absolutely no influence whatsoever.

 

Jamie: What is your opinion on the Copyright Termination going on with the Siegel’s and now Joe Simon?

Peter David: Well, I figure writers have little enough protection. If the law is designed in a way that they’re able to use it legitimately to their advantage, go right ahead.

 

Jamie: When the Image founders put out a press release talking about ‘Holding Back’ their better characters for creative controlled work you blasted them. Now that this seems to be happening all over again but with a new set of big name creators, do you still feel the same way?

Peter David: I didn’t blast them for “Holding Back” their better characters for creative controlled work. I blasted them for putting out a press release so badly written that any reasonable reading of it made them look like complete assholes. I also said that friends and business made a volatile mix, and that they should either hire or appointment someone to be the single spokesman. In the subsequent months and years, Image (a) admitted that the press release was not well worded, (b) forced out founding members, and (c) hired a single spokesman. In other words, everything I said was true…but oooo, I “blasted Image.” Gimme a break. As for Gorilla, shock of shocks, their publicity statements and press releases have been flawless. So what’s to complain about?

 

Jamie: Is there any chance you will join Gorilla/Image with your own creator owned series sometime down the line?

Peter David: I have my standards. I would have strict requirements for joining Gorilla. First, they’d have to ask me to join. Second…uhm. No, that’s pretty much it. But they haven’t asked. Never heard boo from them, actually. I figure they probably feel that the last thing they need when launching a new imprint is to have some loudmouth schmuck as a loose cannon associated with them.

 

Jamie: With all your writing in comics and other media you must be a very busy man. How long does it take you to write an issue and how do you write it?

Peter David: Most of the time, Marvel style. Takes a few hours to write a plot. A few more to write the dialogue.

 

Jamie: Your writing often uses many popular media references/jokes. Do you think they’ll ever be a time where the audience won’t find that stuff funny anymore?

Peter David: I don’t necessarily use it for humorous effect. I use popular media references to give the stories–which frequently have a very unreal feel to them–some degree of reality. As for jokes, I don’t think it’s necessarily that what I write is funny. It’s just that so many other books have little-to-no humor in them that my stuff is a contrast. I don’t say that to knock other writers: Whatever works for them, more power to them. But there’s plenty of funny lines and situations in, say, the average “Spenser” novel. No one says, “Whoa, do your read those hilarious Spenser books?” The average Indiana Jones movie has tons of hysterical bits occurring at even the most serious of moments. People don’t consider those comedic. But throw a few gags into a comic and people think the whole book is humorous. Usually I use gags to set up something serious. Hopefully that will never go out of style.

 

Jamie: Something you wrote must be coming out soon. Any comic titles, books, TV shows, movies, etc.. you can tell us about?

Peter David: More New Frontier books, the three books in the Centauri Prime trilogy. A short film that Bill Mumy and I are working on. Berkley Books is rereleasing the Psi-Man books under my own name in the genre of SF, which is how the damned things should have been released in the first place. That should be enough to keep folks happy.

 

Joe Simon Interview

Originally published in December 1999. Joe Simon was the first golden age creator I interviewed. Being a comics historian I was happy to have interviewed him. He was able to clear up a question I had regarding Kirby’s claim of Spider-Man’s co-creation. I did this interview via fax machine, which was a mistake. I sent a list of questions and Joe wrote brief answers in whatever space there was between the questions and sent it back. With one exception (Dave Sim) I never did another interview via fax machine again.

 

An Interview With Joe Simon

 
Hello everyone. I’m back and this month I have an interview with Joe Simon! For those that don’t know, Joe Simon is one of the Golden Age creators that laid the foundation of the comic book industry. He is the co-creator of Captain America and *many* other hot selling titles and characters in the Golden Age. The amount of successful comics he did with and without partner Jack Kirby would take up a monster amount of space. You’ll just have to trust me when I say he’s done some good comics. Anyway, most of these responses were given to us via fax machine. Enjoy!
 
Jamie: Two years ago, the wife and daughter of Jerry Siegel filed copyright papers to get Jerry Siegel’s half of the copyright back in regards to Superman and related characters. In April of this year the copyright office awarded the Siegel heirs, saying they now regain their half of Superman, meaning profits from all new Superman products should be split 50/50 between Time Warner (DC Comics) and the Siegel heirs. As a golden age creator, what is your opinion on this?

Joe Simon: Good for the Siegels!

 

Jamie: Apparently the copyright law for cases like the Siegel heirs are for characters that were created before they began freelancing with a publisher. How often was it that a freelancer created a character and “shopped around” to find a publisher for it?

Joe Simon: I can’t speak for other creators. No one ever offered such a project to me – None that was credible, anyway –

 

Jamie: There seems to be a long standing dispute about you and Jack Kirby getting released as Editors at Marvel back in the 40’s. Has either Stan Lee or Martin Goodman fessed up to how Goodman found out you were working for DC on the side?

Joe Simon: Not that I know of – This was over 55 years ago, Stan told me he can’t remember last week.

 

Jamie: Which editors did you enjoy working with the most over the years?

Joe Simon: Which editor? I can’t think of one editor I worked with as an editor. The various companies did have editors but we always acted as our own editor, so the question has no answer.

 

Jamie: Do editors still ask you to do fill in stories for them?

Joe Simon: No. I get many requests to do articles + reminiscences – I’ve been too busy –

 

Jamie: Today your involved with licensing characters you created. How did you manage to get ownership of these characters considering the time period they were created in?

Joe Simon: Through contractual agreements

 

Jamie: The most famous licensing agreement you have is over Fighting American, which Rob Liefeld uses for his Awesome Comics line. Have you read the Fighting American comics he’s produced and what do you think of them?

Joe Simon: They are pretty exciting, graphically – Nicely printed. Great coloring

 

Jamie: Do you have any other characters licensed out? If so which ones and where to?

Joe Simon: Yes. Several Including the Fly to Batfilms

 

Jamie: What is Batfilms and how will the characters be used?

Joe Simon: Batfilm Productions are executive producers for the Batman films. The Fly is expected to be used as he was in the comic books.

 

Jamie: What is the craziest character you created?

Joe Simon: Craziest character? Jamie, they were all crazy. Who else would fly around in colored underwear? I think the cutest was Angel in Boys Ranch. Did you know that we never got around to revealing or determining the real name of Speedboy in Fighting American. I like The Geek, a rag-doll pretending to be human. The Prez, an adolescent in the White House, just like the current occupant.

 

Jamie: Do you know why Captain America became so successful when the Shield, a similar character appeared first?

Joe Simon: In my opinion, Cap was far superior

 

Jamie: Have you been reading Captain America comics over the years? If so which writer/artists team is your favorite?

Joe Simon: No – Sorry I haven’t been reading them –

 

Jamie: On your webpage, Simoncomics.com you say you created the original Spider Man which was then used by Jack Kirby, and later re-done by Steve Ditko into the character we know today. Can you explain how all this happened?

Joe Simon: It’s in the website. Click on Web Magazine

 

Jamie: Do you believe that Jack Kirby pitched the idea of Spider Man to Stan Lee?

Joe Simon: Yes. He admitted to it – Ditko confirmed it.

 

Jamie: Today comic fans are learning about the behind the scenes politics and editorial/writer/artist disagreements within comic companies, and how they are affecting stories. Was that present back in the golden age as well?

Joe Simon: Constantly.

 

Jamie: In a book called Comics: Between the Panels they have a quote from you where you say all History of Comics are crap. Can you explain why?

Joe Simon: I don’t believe I said that. What I meant was they’re all derived from hearsay and old clippings –

 

Jamie: The Comic Book Makers seemed to be a big success for you and your son Jim. Do you plan on doing any more comic history books?

Joe Simon: Possibly. We may do a second version.

 

Jamie: here are a number of comics with a “Suggested for Mature Readers” label on them, telling non-typical types of stories in them. Do you think this is a good thing?

Joe Simon: We did it first with Young Romance – But it was just a cover gimmick to entice buyers. The contents were very tame –

 

Jamie: What do you think is missing from today’s comics that would really entertain the readers?

Joe Simon: I haven’t read them. Haven’t seen any for years. DC and Marvel stopped sending them.

 

Stuart Moore Interview

Originally published in August 1999. Stuart had been an editor with DC/Vertigo and had recently left. I often try to grab interview with those people because sometimes they’ve got an ax to grind and reveal some behind the scenes info when asked. I also wanted to interview Stuart because he came across as an intelligent guy in my online dealings with him and Vertigo was such a popular line at the time.

 

An Interview With Stuart Moore

Stuart Moore was an editor for DC’s Vertigo books and was also behind the Helix line that brought us Warren Ellis’s Transmet. He has recently resigned from DC and is now working on a new venture. In this interview, we get Stuart to answer some questions about recent Vertigo controversies and get some info about the job of an an editor.

Jamie: What are the differences between editing a Vertigo book vs. a normal superhero comic?

Stuart Moore: I’ve only ever edited a handful of superhero comics, so I may not be the best person to ask. You certainly have to put on a different set of mental filters when you’re editing a “mature readers” book, because different kinds of material are allowable and appropriate. There are all kinds of superhero comics, and I don’t like to generalize about them too much, but certainly the subject matter dictates that there’ll be more action and usually a faster pace than in Vertigo titles. Vertigo books are also almost always written full-script, as opposed to the Marvel-style plot-first method used often in superhero titles.

 

Jamie: Some retailers report that Vertigo gets more female readers than normal superhero comics. Did you plan or foresee this?

Stuart Moore: I’ve always wanted that and worked toward it, and I know Karen Berger has. To be honest, though, I’m not sure it’s true, except for a few books like SANDMAN which clearly have large female readerships.

 

Jamie: Preacher is very far away from typical mainstream comics, how did it manage to get approved?

Stuart Moore: I walked straight into management with the proposal in my hand and four big guys with boards and rusty nails behind me, and I said, “Boys, we got somethin’ to discuss.”

Seriously…it’s an extreme title in many ways, and that was clear from the start. But Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon were coming right off a highly acclaimed and commercially successful run on HELLBLAZER, so everybody trusted them to produce a good book. It’s very much to DC’s credit that they both approved a title like that in the first place, and stuck with it.

 

Jamie: It’s known that Garth Ennis does not use the internet. Does this make things more difficult for an editor?

Stuart Moore: Actually, no. Garth’s an extremely conscientious guy and he faxes most of his scripts in. He’s always accessible.

 

Jamie: Some editors at Marvel have to handle several titles all at once, what do you think is the ideal number a books for an editor to take on?

Stuart Moore: There’s no simple answer to that, because each book takes up a different amount of time (if you’re doing your job right). Rule of thumb at DC is that an editor should be producing about four books a month. That seems right to me; I’ve done more, and it gets a little hairy, but I could handle it when I had a really good assistant who was up to speed on everything, like Julie Rottenberg was for a while and like Cliff Chiang was for a year or so before I left. It’s kind of tricky at Vertigo, though, because the imprint is more heavily weighted toward miniseries than most comics operations — so you can have a hell of a lot of minis in the works for a long time without much actually coming out, and then everything gets published at once.

 

Jamie: As an editor you must get a large number of proposals for new series pitched to you by professionals. How do you decide which ones will become published?

Stuart Moore: Well, obviously you look for something interesting, something with a point, something different. I’ve always liked fiction of any kind — movies, books, TV, comics — where there’s an author showing me something I’ve never seen before, or telling me something I’ve never thought of. Recently I was also trying to keep an eye on what might be commercial, how to establish a GOOD writer as a COMMERCIAL writer, how to get new readers in to Vertigo.

I also place a lot of importance on people who want to work together; if I can see that a writer and an artist are clicking on something, that means a lot to me. Beyond that, Karen does all the approvals at Vertigo, and she has some very specific ideas about what’s appropriate for the imprint, so that was always foremost in my mind.

 

Jamie: How do you deal with the ‘slush pile’; the submissions and proposals mailed in from comic fans?

Stuart Moore: Well, I always meant to be better about that than I was. I instituted something we used to do in book publishing called a “slush party,” where we’d all stay late and go through a big pile of submissions, but in practice what it meant was you’d end up putting aside anything interesting and never getting to it anyway. You always want to be good about this stuff, but in practice it becomes a very low priority because your first job is to put the books out — and that work expands quickly to fill the available time. That said, the internet’s been a big help to me. We never accepted e-mailed submissions at Vertigo, but it sure made it easier to jot off a quick note in reply.

 

Jamie: Have there been any titles published at Helix or Vertigo that came about through mail-in proposals?

Stuart Moore: That’s a tough one…I was developing one, but I never got it together. I’m sure there have been, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

 

Jamie: I know editors don’t read fan fiction, but does doing it and meeting deadlines help writers when looking for freelance work?

Stuart Moore: If by fan fiction you mean prose works about comics characters, probably not (at least in the kind of comics I do). If you mean small press or self-published comics, definitely yes. I always encourage prospective writers to just get something published, even if you do it yourself and even if you’re not working with the best artist in the world. It gives you something to show around that shows you can work in the medium, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to get an overworked editor to read a comic book than to read a script or a proposal.

 

Jamie: Was there any cancelled Helix or Vertigo book that you thought was well above average and should have done really well?

Stuart Moore: Well, most of the Helix line was pretty dear to me. I had really high hopes for VERMILLION — I think the second half of that run, in particular, holds up beautifully — and GEMINI BLOOD was really hitting its stride, too, after a slightly shaky start.

 

Jamie: If you had total control over the Vertigo line, would you have removed the letter pages for more ad space?

Stuart Moore: Well, I understand the move, but no. I think the space could have been made available on a when-necessary basis. But the ads are crucial these days.

 

Jamie: Should the industry move towards doing returnable comics for the direct market?

Stuart Moore: That’s a big question. The direct market’s a funny beast; it wasn’t designed to function under the current market conditions. I think there’s probably a sort of record-industry-style middle ground of partial returnability that might benefit everyone in the long run; but with most publishers scraping by, it’s understandable that they don’t want to give on this. People think the major publishers are short-sighted, but — well, Marvel’s a whole unique, weird situation, but I don’t think that’s a fair description of DC at all, otherwise they wouldn’t be publishing the variety of material they do.

I think it’s probably a better use of everyone’s time to explore alternative distribution and delivery systems than to try to “fix” the direct market. There are a lot of great retailers, and they’re absolutely crucial to comics publishing. But you also need to think about other ways of getting comics out to people. Of course, there are also direct market retailers involved in internet sales ventures themselves, and that’s great too.

 

Jamie: Recently there have been a number of changes on both DC and Vertigo books because of a possible media/public backlash. Would you have made those same changes? (why or why not?)

Stuart Moore: I haven’t read Warren Ellis’s unpublished HELLBLAZER issue, so I can’t really comment on that. I thought the decision to replace the PREACHER cover made sense — it wasn’t exactly a crucial scene in the series, and given the timing, it’s an image that very easily could have been taken out of context. And I’ve said repeatedly, as have the creators, that the FINALS situation has been blown way out of proportion – the editor suggested a change based on how the book would be perceived in the light of the Columbine shootings, the creators agreed, and the creators came up with a scene that worked better for the book.

In a larger sense, though, I certainly wouldn’t shy away from controversy the way DC management does. But they also have pressures on them that I, or a smaller company, wouldn’t. It’s the tradeoff you make for working at, or being published by, a company with deep pockets and a reliable record of actually publishing your work.

 

Jamie: Did the decision to make a 5th week event featuring pre-Vertigo characters as a superhero team influnce your decision to leave?

Stuart Moore: Considering it was my idea, no. Actually, the fifth-week event, V2K, is a series of millennial-themed one-shots and miniseries, of which the book you’re talking about, TOTEMS, is one. (The others are creator-owned.) TOTEMS is great; Tom Peyer really came through on the script, and Duncan Fegredo and Richard Case are doing the art. It’s sort of a gift to Vertigo’s long-time fans. Tom jumped at it, since he was one of the founding Vertigo editors. (And the characters aren’t EXACTLY a superhero team.)

 

Jamie: Some people worry about the fate of Vertigo once Preacher ends. Do you think another key title will be found in time to draw readers to the line?

Stuart Moore: The big gamble about a line like Vertigo is that its success is tied very strongly to specific projects controlled by specific creators. There’s no X-MEN franchise to keep it going once Garth and Steve decide PREACHER is over. That said, Vertigo’s had a pretty strong record, and there are a lot of new monthlies about to start up, so there are a lot of possibilities.

 

Jamie: Can you tell us about what freelancing projects you still have left at DC.

Stuart Moore: I’m working on a miniseries I can’t talk about yet. I just wrote the chapter introductions for the MYSTERY IN SPACE trade paperback, reprinting old DC sf stories. That was a fun little gig.

 

Jamie: You’ve already said the new venture your working on will be doing comics and multimedia, will the comics be similar content to the Vertigo and Helix books you edited at DC Comics?

Stuart Moore: I can’t really talk about the new venture yet.

 

Jamie: What do you think the likelihood is of a Vertigo comic being made into a movie?

Stuart Moore: There are a hundred answers to that. About a year ago, there was a lot of motion on various Vertigo projects; then they all seemed to kind of stall, all for different reasons. But as I always tell people, even when I was on staff at Vertigo, I would usually find out about this stuff from WIZARD or ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.

I do hope Garth and Steve can pull off that PREACHER movie, though they don’t seem too optimistic about it right now. And Warren Ellis has had some very promising interest in TRANSMET. But you never know. If there’s a crazier business than comics, it’s got to be Hollywood.

 

Erik Larsen 2nd Interview

Originally published in July 1999. If you’ve been reading my republished interviews you can probably tell I was big on asking about controversies and conflicts that were going on in comics at the time. One of the reasons being was that Wizard Magazine (the most popular comic magazine at the time) wouldn’t cover those topics, even when the creators wanted to address it. I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of being dependent on big publisher advertising. CollectorTimes was an all volunteer organization and I took advantage of not having those constraints. Erik was one of those creators who wasn’t dependent on the big publishers and was willing to talk.

 

An Interview With Erik Larsen (Again)

 
In April 1998, we kick started Collector Times Online with a short interview with Erik Larsen. It’s 15 months later and boy, have things changed! Erik has gone from just submitting two proposals to Marvel and DC to starting and leaving a couple of titles due to either editorial interference or low sales and he’s picked up Wolverine along the way. This time around we get Erik to discuss good and bad editors, Jim Lee and Image, Savage Dragon, Superman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Nova, Marvel Knights and more!

 

Erik Larsen at 2009 San Diego Comic Con

Jamie: Previously you said that DC editor Kevin Dooley asked you to rip off other peoples stories for Aquaman. Can you tell us what stories?

Erik Larsen: He asked me to do variations on a Batman story where a bunch of kids sitting around a campfire tell stories about what Batman looks like– I refused but he had somebody else write the story anyway for inclusion in Aquaman Secret Files. He also suggested that “we” rip off Frank Miller’s story where Stick gives Daredevil back his powers to give Aquaman back his powers– as luck would have it, he left before I actually had to write that story.

 

Jamie: Over the last 10 years you’ve gone through having normal editors, to having no editors, sometimes being an editor at Image, and then working under some free hand and heavy handed editors. In all what are your opinions on editors after all this?

Erik Larsen: It varies a great deal– I think those editors who actually trust the people they hired to do the job end up with better comics. Glenn Greenberg was great on Nova– he asked the right questions and his input made the story better, not worse. For the most part, however– I can’t say I’m too impressed.

 

Jamie: 6 years ago, in your famous “name withheld” letter you railed against mediocre writers. Now that your writing and dealing with editors and such, do you still feel the same way?

Erik Larsen: Sure. I think people misunderstood what that letter was about– it was in reaction to a writer bitching about artists! My basic point was– geez, guy– we don’t need you– we can do this fine without you. Now, people have taken it to mean NO artist needs to work with any writers but they’re missing the point– certainly there are artists who don’t write– who don’t want to write or am incapable of it– the point is some of us CAN do it and if it’s an option of mediocre stuff from established writers or something from a fresh perspective– I’d like to see that artist given a shot at it.

 

Jamie: What is your relationship like with Jim Lee? Has the Wildstorm split caused any friendship riffs between Jim and the other Image founders?

Erik Larsen: It’s no different than it was. People may get the impression that we always hang out together but in reality, all of the Image partners live nowhere near each other. I see these guys at shows and Image partner meetings– but it ends up just being a couple times a year.

 

Jamie: Some fans felt Wildstorm leaving Image would hurt the company. Economically speaking, what effect has the split had on Image Comics?

Erik Larsen: Each book Image publishes kicks in dough to run the office. Since Jim split, there haven’t been those books to help support the company. That’s about it– we did pick up some new books so it hasn’t affected us THAT much but initially it was a problem because the books were there one month and gone the next with no warning so that we could prepare for it.

 

Jamie: If returnables were a distributing option do you think Image Comics and other publishers would use it?

Erik Larsen: I can’t speak for the company but I’d use it.

 

Jamie: What’s the latest status of the Superman / Savage Dragon crossover?

Erik Larsen: Karl Kesel and Jon Bogdonove’s is nearing completion– mine has barely been started.

 

Jamie: What the status of the Mighty Man mini series? Have you given up on Gil Kane yet?

Erik Larsen: It’s stalled. The thing was written for Gil– if he’s not interested in doing it, I may just have it appear in Savage Dragon instead and do it myself– I’m not that pumped on just getting any guy off the street to do it.

 

Jamie: In both Savage Dragon and Aquaman, you’ve added pregnancies galore. Why do you keep using that as a surprise / story?

Erik Larsen: Planting seeds for the future. In a book like Dragon, which is set in real time, I need to prepare for the future. It may seem like overkill but if you’re that age, it’s not uncommon to have any number of your friends have kids. Since Savage Dragon started, I’ve gotten married, Reuben Rude (SD colorist) has gotten married and Chris Eliopoulos (SD letterer) has gotten married– My wife and I have had two kids, Reuben’s wife spit out one and as I write this, Chris’ wife is a few weeks from having twins– and that’s just people who work on Savage Dragon! I’ve got a number of friends who have popped out kids over the last few years. It’s far from unrealistic but it’s pretty rare in comics, I must admit.

 

Jamie: Many self publishers seem to be having trouble doing a monthly comic book. Yet you kept Savage Dragon monthly or almost monthly for 6 years now. How do you do it?

Erik Larsen: I’m on a roll. It can be mind-boggling at first to set things up but by now it comes pretty easily. You’ve just got to sit down and DO THE WORK. There’s no big secret here– you just have to work on your book rather than play video games, watch videos and screw off.

 

Jamie: With Savage Dragon, the types of stories have ranged from gritty cop stuff to Kirby style sci-fi stuff. What kind of stories will readers see in the future?

Erik Larsen: More of the same– I like getting in a lot of variety on this book– I don’t feel the need to restrict myself in any way.

 

Jamie: Would you do Savage Dragon in black & white if the sales dropped too low?

Erik Larsen: I’d certainly rather not. The next step would be to raise the cover price. Right now, I’m hoping to hang in there for a while longer.

 

Jamie: Do you think Marvel should consider doing ongoing titles in black and white?

Erik Larsen: It’s not my call.

 

Jamie: Spider-Man fans want to know when is the next time you are going to work on him?

Erik Larsen: In Nova #5– I wouldn’t work on one of the regular books unless it was “my” book– I like to do long runs on titles– I’m not interested in doing a story arc.

 

Jamie: In Wolverine #140 we saw ‘you’ as the big thug getting clobbered by Logan. Who were the other people in the scene?

Erik Larsen: That wasn’t supposed to be me as far as I know. The character designs are Leinil’s department.

 

Jamie: What does the future hold for Wolverine?

Erik Larsen: I have no clue– I’m just trying to keep the editors happy– my agenda keeps getting pushed back– I’m not sure when I’ll ever get to do stuff that I want to do.

 

Jamie: How much input do you have on the Wolverine getting his adamantium bones back story?

Erik Larsen: Zero. I told them that it was my priority but the actual story will be done in another book by somebody other than me.

 

Jamie: Nova has made some dumb mistakes in his first couple issues. Will he always make dumb mistakes are will he learn over the issues?

Erik Larsen: He’ll learn– but the book is just going to #7 so there won’t get to be THAT much learning! Obviously, had it continued I’d have the character grow and change but it was taken away from me.

 

Jamie: Who came up with the “Blast it to Buckethead” letter column name?

Erik Larsen: Me. I’ve wanted to use that for years.

 

Jamie: You’ve said Nova might not make it past issue 7. What would readers be seeing if Nova does make it past issue 7?

Erik Larsen: No point in going over it. I’ll try to work some of my plans into other books. We’ll see.

 

Jamie: You mentioned that if Nova does get cancelled, you would probably look for another book to write. If you were asked to do a Marvel Knights title in a super serious fashion, would you accept?

Erik Larsen: No.

 

Jamie: Anything else you want the world to know about?

Erik Larsen: I think Nova’s New Warriors costume is really awful just like the rest of you.

 

Dan Jurgens Interview

Originally published in May 1999. I went a little more fanboy-ish with this interview, but I did ask him some questions about editors and got answers that I probably should have expected.

 

An Interview With Dan Jurgens

 

Dan Jurgens is best known for his work on Superman, but today he is working on other books like Thor, and has just been announced as the new writer for Aquaman. He, along with Jerry Ordway, will also be doing a Fantastic Four/Avengers mini-series. Dan answers questions on all three projects and more!

 

Mike Carlin and Dan Jugens at 2013 San Diego Comic Con

Jamie: When will the Fantastic Four/Avengers mini series be out?

Dan Jurgens: Plans call for us to ship the book in September.

 

Jamie: I’m assuming we’ll see the traditional FF line up, but what will the Avengers line-up be?

Dan Jurgens: Jerry Ordway will be writing and drawing the Avengers book and the line-up will primarily consist of the traditional core group.

 

Jamie: What will the story be about and is it in current continuity?

Dan Jurgens: The story places the FF and Avengers together in an epic adventure featuring a new villain and a fun trip through Marvel’s past.

 

Jamie: Both you and Jerry Ordway are writer/artists. Who will be writing and who will be drawing, and how did you guys decide to divide the responsibilities?

Dan Jurgens: I’ll be writing and drawing a 4 issue mini-series called Fantastic Four: The Domination Factor. Jerry will write and draw a companion series called Avengers: The Domination Factor and the books will intertwine to tell the whole story.

 

Jamie: Erik Larsen and other former Aquaman writers have complained about “creative difficulties” with editor Kevin Dooley, even saying Dooley asked them to rip off other stories. How will you respond if you have similar problems?

Dan Jurgens: I’ll leave the book. Fortunately, I don’t anticipate those problems coming up.

 

Jamie: Will there be any changes to Aquaman’s appearance or his powers?

Dan Jurgens: Not his powers, though I would like to change his hair and costume. Stay tuned.

 

Jamie: You mentioned that you would be creating new villains for Aquaman, can you tell us about them?

Dan Jurgens: Sorry, it’s a bit early.

 

Jamie: What do you plan on doing with Tempest and other Aquaman supporting characters?

Dan Jurgens: Turn them from supporting characters into core characters. Aquaman will be a book about a majestic, royal family. That family happens to be Aquaman, Mera, Tempest and Dolphin.

 

Jamie: Is there a new artist for Aquaman yet? If so, who, and can you describe their work for us?

Dan Jurgens: There will be a new artist but I can’t announce who it is yet.

 

Jamie: Erik Larsen said he’s leaving Dolphin’s pregnancy to the next writer. How do feel about it and what do you intend to do with it?

Dan Jurgens: I don’t think Garth should have slept with someone who is essentially his step mother. His relationship with Arthur would never allow that to happen. But I have no say in that now, it’s done, and I’ll deal with it appropriately.

Unfortunately, it symbolizes the continued erosion of the heroic qualities of DC’s heroes.

 

Jamie: Is there any chance you will draw a fill in for either Aquaman or Thor?

Dan Jurgens: Nothing’s planned but it’s always possible.

 

Jamie: Roger Stern and Peter David reportedly both sent in proposals to become Thor’s writer, how did you beat them for the coveted job?

Dan Jurgens: I honestly have no idea. I don’t know what they wrote and have no concept about how any of their thoughts compared with my own. I consider them friends and talented writers and would have looked forward to reading their work on Thor.

 

Jamie: When preparing for Thor, what kind of research did you do?

Dan Jurgens: Jumped into Norse mythology big time!

 

Jamie: What was the inspiration of the Dark Gods?

Dan Jurgens: Tough question. It started with trying to create a pantheon of gods based on today’s thoughts and values, or lack of them.

 

Jamie: What is it like working with John Romita Jr.?

Dan Jurgens: John’s absolutely brilliant and incredibly well suited to this book. It’s a treat to see what he does each and every month.

 

Jamie: Do you have any plans on drawing a regular series again?

Dan Jurgens: I’d like to at some point. I’m not avoiding it at all. Just seems to have developed into a situation where I’m writing the monthly stuff and drawing special projects.

 

Jamie: What tools do you use when penciling?

Dan Jurgens: I draw on the board Marvel and DC supply me with, using a .05 mm mechanical pencil, HB lead.

 

Jamie: After the Fantastic Four/Superman crossover will you try to get any more comics published in the Treasury Sized format?

Dan Jurgens: I’d love to do a Superman/Thor book in that format.

 

Jamie: Who is the easiest editor you have worked for?

Dan Jurgens: Hard to say, though it should be noted the easiest editors aren’t necessarily the best. I like working with editors with whom I share a vision of what the book should be.

 

Jamie: What caused you to leave the Spectacular Spider-Man book?

Dan Jurgens: Mostly the fact that the editor and I had profound differences on what a good Spider-Man story was.

 

Jamie: What other projects will you be doing in the future?

Dan Jurgens: That covers it for now!

 

Devin Grayson Interview

Originally published in March 1999. This was the first female comic creator I interviewed and I again wince at some of my questions. I was very happy to be interviewing her as all of my previous interviews were with men. For those with short memories Devin was in a relationship with Mark Waid at the time and she was falsely accused of getting and keeping work at DC Comics because of that relationship by assholes back in the day. Devin stopped writing comics after a while and I can’t say I blame her. I hope she’s happy doing whatever it is she’s doing today, she deserves it.

 

An Interview with Devin Grayson

The fastest rising hot writer in DC Comics is here. Devin Grayson has been wowing people with her Catwoman work and has recently gotten more spotlight with her JLA/Titans crossover, the new Titans series, and her upcoming work involving the Batman’s No Man’s Land event. With this interview we find out who Devin is, how she sees things and what she’s up to.
 
Jamie: You’ve said in the past you didn’t get interested in comics until you saw the Batman Adventures cartoon. What did you do before becoming a comic writer?

Devin Grayson: I went to college and took some post-graduate courses in writing while working on a novel which I have yet to complete (I got sidetracked by the comics!) and I had a day job as a project manager in the research division of a large Northern California HMO.

 

Jamie: Before breaking into DC Comics, what comics did you write?

Devin Grayson: None, actually. My interest was pretty limited to the Bat-verse (that is – I didn’t really want to “be a comic writer” I just wanted to write Batman and Nightwing and all of the cool Gothamites), and “Like Riding a Bike” in The Batman Chronicles #7 was my first professional work in comics.

 

Jamie: Did you ever have any association with the Friends of Lulu and do you have any opinions of female focused groups like that?

Devin Grayson: I am not a member of the Friends of Lulu, and don’t intend to become one, nor would I presume to generalize about female-focused groups (they can be assumed to vary widely, both in intent and effectiveness). All I can say is that for myself, personally, there’s a danger in joining such groups. My fear is that instead of actively doing things that challenge gender-bias, I would let “being a member” serve as my “good deed” – that is, I could begin to assume that my membership in and of itself was what I was doing to promote healthy gender politics and – let me emphasize this again — for myself, personally, that’s not the best way to effect change.

 

Jamie: Who are your writing influences?

Devin Grayson: In comics the writers I turn to most frequently for inspiration are Alan Moore, Neil Gaimen, and Frank Miller, though there are certainly a whole bunch of other people I admire and have learned from, including, among many others, Dennis O’Neil, Terry Moore, Chuck Dixon, Scott McCloud, and Mark Waid.

In other media, I’m deeply influenced by Milan Kundera, A.S. Byatt, Stendhal, James Baldwin, Tom Stoppard, David E. Kelly, Steinbeck, Shakespeare, Rilke, Anne Rice, Nabokov, Tori Amos, Terry Gilliam and then also by people like Jung, Joseph Campbell, Thomas Moore, and more recently Buddhist scholars like Pema Chödrön and Thich Nhat Hanh.

Really, though, the lovely thing about writing is that you’re constantly influenced by absolutely everything. My own psyche influences my writing more than anything else, and my psyche is a magpie.

 

Jamie: Are there any particular artists that you would really like to work with?

Devin Grayson: I’ve been very fortunate with artists. I’d love to do more with Greg Land and Brian Stelfreeze someday soon, and there are some wonderfully talented people out there who would be a lot of fun to work with, but I enjoy coming across people by chance – there’s no one in particular that I’m obsessing over right now.

 

Jamie: Are there any characters that you haven’t written yet that you want a crack at?

Devin Grayson: There really aren’t. Again, I’ve just been so tremendously fortunate. The characters I feel most attached to are the Bat-characters and the Titans- characters, and I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to work closely with both.

 

Jamie: Avengers fans are confused as to why a new Black Widow is being created when there is a perfectly good one already in existence. Can you tell us the reason for the new Black Widow?

Devin Grayson: Um… because it’s a story element? Tell you what — a good remedy for being confused about something is to check it out. This would make more sense to discuss AFTER the miniseries comes out, no? 😉

 

Jamie: After reading The Titans it’s pretty clear you really know these characters and how they think and feel. But you’re not a long time comic fan, how did you “catch up”?

Devin Grayson: I read a whole bunch of stuff at once, instead of having to wait for the monthly to come out. It was great! I just brought up all the back issues I could get my hands on, until eventually I had them all, and then I read them straight through (after reading them out of order, actually, which was another thrilling exercise). What I lost was the anticipation of waiting for the next installment to come out, but the end result is that it’s probably fresher in my mind than in yours. You were probably reading The New Titans in the eighties, I was reading The New Titans two years ago!

 

Jamie: Now that the Titan lineup has been revealed, who are your favorite members?

Devin Grayson: Oh, I really can’t answer that, I’d make the characters jealous. 😉 The truth is that it’s a lot of fun to play with all of them, to juggle and watch them have their moments and shine in different stories.

 

Jamie: Comic fans on Usenet have been a hot topic lately, do you lurk on the newsgroups and have any opinions on them?

Devin Grayson: I don’t lurk, I don’t read newsgroup boards, and I have a personal policy against posting. I also don’t coddle professional friends who go onto the boards and then get upset about something they read there, I just tell them to get off the boards. I do have a website (2KComics.COM) where you can get information about what I’m working on, and an active email address that seems to allow people to contact me with relative ease (you had no trouble tracking me down for this interview, for example!).

As a newcomer to all of this, I find it a little disturbing just how accessible so many of the comic pros are, and accordingly, how entitled many fans feel to their attention – you don’t get mad at screenplay writer when he won’t show up in a chat to discuss his latest work, and you don’t demand that novel writers read your opinion of, or riffs on, their stories. I guess it stems from the fact that the majority of comic professionals were once fans themselves, so there’s a slightly more natural mutuality there than in the other media I mentioned, but that relationship also seems to foster some real serious jealousy and nastiness that really is a little bizarre when you step back from it. I think there are a group of pros who really like getting “strokes” from fans, so they put themselves out there, and after awhile that breeds familiarity and expectation. And if it works for them, great, but I don’t want to be held accountable to that. Personally, I don’t like receiving feedback about the work I’m doing while it’s still in progress, except from the editors, whose job it is to guide me and assess my work. I’d much rather do the work than talk about doing the work. And personally, I do find negative feedback hurtful to receive, and positive feedback distracting. Not to mention that so much of it gets so unnecessarily personal – after Wizard magazine ran a picture of me, a well-intentioned friend forwarded me some posts about whether or not I was “doable” and whether or not I needed to lose weight, and whether or not I could possibly actually be in love with my boyfriend. I mean, these were “threads”! And all I could think was, would these people say this stuff to my face? It’s not all like that, obviously, and I feel bad for all of the truly kind, well-meaning fans who get drowned out by this cacophony, but I’ll tell you – if even one person is posting things of that nature, why on god’s earth should I be held responsible for checking it out to “be in touch with my fans”? I absolutely refuse. There’s nothing in my job contract that says I have to be subjected to that. I’d rather do interviews like this, and enjoy the really nice experiences I have meeting fans in person at conventions, or receiving the frequently very kind and encouraging emails and letters they send.

I’ve always felt very grateful for the level of enthusiasm present is so much of comic fandom, but I think that there needs to be some space for fans to discuss whatever they want to discuss WITHOUT fear of hurting anyone’s feelings, and message boards seem like a good place for that. So I give myself the space I need to work and the fans the space they need to comment by staying away from all of it.

 

Jamie: Has your The Weinbergs been given a new title yet? If not what are some of the alternatives being suggested?

Devin Grayson: No, alas, we’re still in flux, and the book has now been pushed back for a December release –which is disappointing for me, since I’m excited about it and I really want it to be out there, but is in the long run a huge show of faith by DC. They want more time to market it, and also, our artist, Yvel Guichet, got the chance to work on a high-profile No Man’s Land assignment (the two-parter which introduces Harley Quinn which I saw some sketches for today – it’s amazing!), so I’m excited for him and pleased that more people will get a chance to see how remarkable his work is before The Weinbergs comes out.

The one other title we played around with was RV5: Relative Velocity, but I think somebody somewhere had concerns about that, so I’m not quite sure where we are now.

 

Jamie: How will The Weinbergs be different than other ‘kids with powers’ book like Power Pack?

Devin Grayson: As much as I enjoyed Power Pack, I don’t feel that the series have anything in common. I’ve been struggling to find an eloquent was of explaining this, but The Weinbergs doesn’t fit into any pre-existing genre I’m aware of. The Power Pack was an utterly charming tale of innocence wading through polarized alien forces of good and evil. The Weinbergs is very human, gently making fun of the superhero genre while absolutely revering and empowering it. The Weinys aren’t kids who find themselves suddenly blessed with magical powers – their powers are their PROBLEMS, they’re unhealthy manifestations of social dysfunction, and to top it off, these kids aren’t particularly good at using them on command anyway. They set off on their mission for all the wrong reasons, pursued by all the wrong factions (including the police, Child Protection Services, and the D.E.O.) and are very much their own worst enemies. Yet I don’t want the story to sound overly dark or, well, grim and gritty. It’s a very personal piece of fiction, and these kids have managed to utilize a lot of my humor and a lot of my pain. The Weinys have powers the way we all have powers – these weird things we can do that we’re not always comfortable with, like manipulating people (Allure), or bullying them (Temper). Instead of having to learn to be better superheroes, these kids really need to learn to be better people. Fighting supervillains may be the easiest part of their day.

As I’ve said in other interviews, in a very real sense, The Weinbergs is my way of using some of my pre-comic-reading-days sensibilities about characters and story-telling to celebrate my newfound love of the medium. When working on JLA/Titans, I was very aware that the project was something of a love-letter to the die-hard fans – it’s not a book I would hand to someone unfamiliar with comics. But The Weinbergs was crafted with my non-comic-book-reading friends and family very much in mind – it’s meant to be accessible to a very wide audience, and it’s the kind of project that really makes me wish there were easier ways to get information about comics out to people who don’t normally read them. It was so excited to “discover” comics in my early twenties, and then to watch my friends and family start to get turned on by them. My mom, a family therapist, now takes comic books to meetings of the American Psychological Association, and reports that they love them there – I just think that’s so cool, and as hard a time as the industry is having, I truly believe that the medium is viable, young, and nowhere near to having maxed out on its audience potential. The Weinbergs is my way of saying, look, this stuff’s not so scary, it’s not all “super” this and “uncanny” that – the stories can be character-driven, you may find you can relate to some of them, and its totally worth checking out. And that this is a DCU book, and I’m able to say all of this from WITHIN the superhero genre, is really exciting to me.

 

Jamie: Your new Vertigo mini called MUN deals with role playing games. Is this something you did in the past?

Devin Grayson: Actually, I had a bad month with titles. 😉 “MUN” is now called “USER.” And to answer your question, yes, I did do role playing in the past, particularly online role playing, which is what “USER” covers. Offline, I had friends who sort of made up their own games – funky amalgamations of different series – so I don’t know what they would properly be called (well, I do, but it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone but my gaming buddies – a shout to all of you Sapien gamers!). Online, I was part of the AOL “Rhydin” community, which I think now has a fancier name, but at the time was basically (and delightfully) free- form.

 

Jamie: Can you give us some details on what the book is about?

Devin Grayson: User is about a mun in trouble. “Mun,” short for “mundane,” is a term online role-playing gamers use to refer to their real selves when they’re IC (in character). For those unfamiliar with the concept, online role-playing is a lot like traditional role playing (Dungeons & Dragons being perhaps the best known example), except that it’s all done through computers, with players using screen names to portray fantasy characters that then interact over the course of fairly unstructured, spontaneous adventures. There are ways to roll dice online to help determine the winner in “combat” situations, but unlike live role-playing games where you play in person with a group of friends, in online gaming you might never know the real identities – the “muns” — behind the other characters you play with.

The story is about a young woman who, when threatened by a dangerous family situation, manages to challenge her own faulty self-preservation instincts through the medium of online role-playing. Though the fantasy world she explores turns out to be easily as fragile and damaged as her day-to-day reality, the ability to learn to honor the archetypal masquerades chosen by herself and the other players in the fictional world awakens her own sense of empathy and competence in the real one. In my time with online RPing a couple of years ago, I was really struck with how creative and powerful some of it is. I mean, yes, there’s also the more obvious flip side about how some people take it much too seriously, and initially the protagonist of “USER” is using it in an unhealthy way for escapism. But she soon learns that slaying dragons is the easy part. It’s making sense of the little evils of everyday life that’s almost impossible.

We have John Bolton on board to paint the “virtual world” scenes, and Sean Phillips to pencil the “real world.” I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

 

Jamie: Do you prefer to write established characters or your own creations?

Devin Grayson: It’s so different, it really is. I guess, from a technical point of view, I prefer my own characters, because frankly, it’s easier. It’s easier politically (no editorially forced crossovers or the like), it’s easier in terms of reader response (fans can’t say you’re “wrong” about your own creations), and it’s easier in terms of not tripping over stories that have already been told. And there is no rush like watching an idea turn into a character right in front of you – that moment when the character transcends the little notes you’ve been scratching onto an index card or whatever, and steps forward and introduces themselves (and then immediately starts bossing you around :: laughs: :).

But on the other hand, comics is a highly interactive medium, and part of the special thrill of the job is getting to work with what I call “communal characters” and icons. The first time I wrote the word “Batmobile” in a script – a professional script I was getting paid for – I had to stop to let an absolute laughing fit pass over me. It was just too cool. And when I was done laughing I sat back and really felt just awed and proud for a sec. I was putting words in Batman’s mouth. That can be pretty heady stuff. I don’t think I could stand to do either exclusively though, so right now I’m really enjoying moving back and forth between the two.

 

Jamie: How much detail do you give your artists when you write?

Devin Grayson: Judging on what I’ve seen of other professional’s scripts, my panel descriptions are pretty detailed. In my first year of writing comics, I spent a lot of energy researching and choreographing fight scenes, and I soon realized that that was actually something a lot of artists prefer to have less direction on, and I was fine with that and I pulled back a little. I think you know, when you’re writing, how important any given detail is. Sometimes a lot of details really are important to set-something up or communicate a plot point, and other times, there’s some room for the artist to come in and let their style shine through. So in any given script I’ll have several dense three paragraph panel description and a page or two full of: “he arches an eyebrow.”

 

Jamie: What comics are you currently reading?

Devin Grayson: One of the downsides of being a relatively new comics fan is that I’m not in the habit of reading titles on a regular monthly basis. More often than not, I let some stuff accumulate, and then read it all in one sitting. So there are a bunch of books I enjoy, but none that I’m reading in the traditional sense of remembering to run down to the comic store every Wednesday and scoop up the next installment. The exceptions are stuff I have to read for work, like the Bat-titles, for example, which I often read in the script or Black and White phase because I have to be current, and stuff my friends do, which they make sure I have.

 

Jamie: I can’t help but think that you and Mark Waid read, discuss, and influence each others work. How much influence do you think you’ve had on Waid’s work, and vice versa?

Devin Grayson: Let me say straight off that it makes me uncomfortable to be asked about my private life in a casual way. I understand that since Mark and I have the same profession, it makes the relationship seem like a part of my working life, and therefore fair game for questions. But actually, the relationship is part of my personal life, and isn’t an appropriate subject for professional or causal conversations. That said, in the interest of clarifying: Mark and I actually have very well delineated boundaries around work issues. We have separate offices, separate jobs, separate editorial contacts, and with one or two exceptions, spend more energy on staying out of each other’s ways professionally than on working collaboratively. We also have very different thematic sensibilities, and are invested in very different kinds of material – I really love the dark, reality-based Bat-stuff, for example, and he’s much more into the shiny, happy side of heroing, which I don’t relate to as well. Obviously, it’s great to have someone around who you can run things by, and we have a lot of respect for each other’s work – I think he’s certainly one of the contemporary masters of story structure, exposition, and clarity – but overall, I think that’s one of the least valuable parts of the relationship, especially when put into perspective with the costs of trying to share a life, and a professional field, in public. Every now and then Mark and I manage to be really helpful to one another – clarifying a plot point, or offering up an observation on characterization or some such, but there are a lot of pros I do that with – and actually, Mark has his own little cabal that he tends to turn to, and I have mine (chiefly Jay Faerber and Brian Vaughan, my 2KCOM brethren), since Mark and I kind of come from different comic-writing “generations.”

 

Jamie: You said you got interested in Comics in your early 20’s, what do you think is needed to attract other adults to comics books?

Devin Grayson: Creative, accessible, contemporary material that doesn’t rely on nostalgia for the medium or the assumption of previous reading experience. Sandman was one of the first comics I became seriously enamored of – by the time I started reading it, it was already partly in trade paper back, so it felt familiarly “book-like” to me, and the story didn’t presuppose that I’d read anything other than the story itself.

 

Jamie: Currently you’re writing Titans and you have Black Widow (Marvel), Mun (Vertigo), The Weinbergs (DC) mini series, and a 4 part Huntress/Scarecrow arc coming out in the Batman books. Is there anything else?

Devin Grayson: Well, “Mun,” as I said, is now called “User,” and I’m also working on a thirty-eight page No Man’s Land one-shot for The Batman Chronicles about Leslie Thompkins and her “hospital zone.” I added a few small contributions to the Nightwing Secret Files, and co-wrote JLA #32 with Mark Waid — one of two exceptions to my let’s-keep-our-professional-lives separate rule! The story deals with the JLA’s response to No Man’s Land, so I came in to that project as sort of a Bat-representative. And I’m discussing a Legends of the DCU story with a couple of different editors, and also still hoping to do a Nightwing/Oracle miniseries, and perhaps more Bat-work down the line.

 

Paul Levitz Interview

Originally published in February of 1999. I did this interview in part because my editor Sheryl Roberts was a big Legion of Superheroes and Paul Levitz fan. After I e-mailed it in she thought I was hard on Paul (brutal was the word I recall) and she told me she e-mailed him an apology for the interview. Every time I re-read this interview I cannot find what I asked that was so hard, except perhaps some industry ‘comics not selling as well as they used to’ stuff and getting him on record on Bill Finger Bat-Man co-creator credit (which I think even Paul is happy has changed for the better). I’m not sure how Paul felt about it and I haven’t bothered to ask him either. I think this was the first ‘online’ interview that Paul did and if I remember right it would be several years before he did another.

 

An Interview with Paul Levitz

For those who don’t know who Paul Levitz is, look inside your DC Comics. You’ll see his name in the fine print beside the title ‘Executive Vice President and Publisher of DC Comics’. So he’s a big chief, but he was also a comic pro – best known for writing the Legion of Superheroes. He talks to us today about the state of the industry, current goings-on at DC, and his former work on LSH.
 

Paul Levitz at 2016 San Diego Comic Con

Jamie: Exactly what does the Executive Vice President and Publisher of DC Comics do? What is your job description?

Paul Levitz: The job is basically to supervise the day to day operations of the company. I spend the majority of my time on our publishing business, and the balance working with our product, promotional and media licensing.

 

Jamie: What was the path that took you from lowly fanboy to VP of DC? What kind of educational preparation did you get and how did you get hired at DC initially, and what did it take to stay there and to move up?

Paul Levitz: The path is mostly luck, I suspect, and being in the right place at the right time. I was going to NYU’s business school while I was working as an assistant editor at DC (two days/wk of one, three days of the other–the work providing the means for me to pay for school, obviously). Joe Orlando had hired me to do his text pages freelance while I was in high school, having decided from my fanzines that I could be a writer before I thought I could be, and later asked me to come on staff. Over the next few years, when more business/editorial opportunities opened up as Jenette arrived at DC, I was one of the rare folks with some knowledge of both.

 

Jamie: What is your opinion on the current comic market? Some people say it’s been niggling upwards since February ’98. Is this true?

Paul Levitz: I think the market’s fairly stable. The better retailers’ sales are rising, but we’re still losing some of the weaker ones.

 

Jamie: What do you think is needed to improve the comic industry?

Paul Levitz: More great comics, more places to buy comics.

 

Jamie: Some people think we need to change the 32 page pamphlet format to something else. Do you think we would gain readers if they were in Archie style digests or in magazines?

Paul Levitz: All depends on where you can offer those formats for sale. For example, the Archie digests are perfect for young girls with their supermarket display space, but I doubt that would work for super hero material…and Vertigo-type material wouldn’t even be allowed in the door.

 

Jamie: How is DC trying to get non-comic readers buying comics?

Paul Levitz: We did a major cross-promotion with Cartoon Network last year, giving away hundreds of thousands of comics and advertising this on tv. We’re also reaching out thru bookstores for our paperback formats.

 

Jamie: Over the last few years we have seen a number of quality books come out from DC like Chase and Young Heroes in Love but they soon get canceled. Do you have any idea why these books don’t succeed?

Paul Levitz: Not enough people think they’re great.

 

Jamie: Looking back on those titles, is DC going to do anything different with Keith Giffens new title Vext?

Paul Levitz: It’s different type of material, and perhaps that will help.

 

Jamie: What new titles and Archives can we look forward to in 1999?

Paul Levitz: I can never keep track of what stage we’re at in making announcements, so I don’t do them. Watch DC OnLine.

 

Jamie: Now that Hypertime is established in the DC Universe, will the Elseworlds label still be used?

Paul Levitz: Yup.

 

Jamie: Hypertime has been called a continuity mistake fixer by some fans. Do you agree with this?

Paul Levitz: Time will tell.

 

Jamie: Continuity has been a hot topic as of late. Some pro’s say it hinders the the industry, while others seem to revel in it. What’s your opinion on continuity?

Paul Levitz: I loved playing with continuity as a writer.

 

Jamie: Will there be any more Kingdom related story lines?

Paul Levitz: Yup.

 

Jamie: Does DC already have something planned for the next ‘skip week’? If so, what?

Paul Levitz: Next one is a JSA stunt.

 

Jamie: Is there any chance Bill Finger will be credited as Batman’s co-creator in the Bat-books?

Paul Levitz: Not likely. Bill was technically Bob’s ghost writer rather than the co- creator, so for a host of legal reasons it’s unlikely to ever happen.

 

Jamie: What titles do you read that are not published by DC Comics?

Paul Levitz: Varies with the month…the new Spirit, Cerebrus, any of the classic Marvel titles when written by a writer I enjoy (I’m dipping into Thor and Avengers occasionally these days).

 

Jamie: What do you think caused the shift from dark/grim hero comics to bright/fun comics, and how long do you think it’s going to last?

Paul Levitz: The tide seems to shift with the mindset of the major writers working at a time. The grim/gritty crew had the tail end of Vietnam and Watergate as their childhood worldview, and that probably showed in the work. I’m not certain what the next generation responded to–maybe Reagan?

 

Jamie: Do you think this shift to bright/fun comics has hurt the Vertigo line?

Paul Levitz: Nope.

 

Jamie: Paul, you are certainly considered *the* writer of The Legion of Superheroes by the majority of fans. Here are some questions related to the Legion: How did you get the writing assignment the first time? How did you get the writing assignment the second time?

Paul Levitz: I was a lifetime Legion fan, and at the time Jim gave up the book for a staff gig at Marvel (1976) I had a fair amount of influence over assignments, and must have begged/pleaded/persuaded Denny to give me the chance.

Second time out, Mike Barr was editing the series and talked me back on when I was between major assignments and the book came open.

 

Jamie: You’re work on the second run is far better than the first run. What changed to make you a better writer?

Paul Levitz: Mostly me. I had the maturity to stick to assignments I could do, instead of overcommitting my writing time and spreading myself too thin (result: fill- ins, sloppy work, etc.). Plus the great advantage of the long collaboration with Keith, at the peak of his fecundity.

 

Jamie: Speaking of writing, who were your mentors and what did they teach you?

Paul Levitz: Joe Orlando taught me the most about comics writing and editing. My creative inspirations as a writer came from Roy Thomas’ work, particularly on the Avengers, and therefore at one remove from Stan Lee’s. Denny was particularly helpful in teaching me how to tighten and edit my copy.

 

Jamie: It was fairly common knowledge in fan circles that you used cards to keep track of the characters in your second stint as LSH writer. How exactly did that work?

Paul Levitz: Never used cards, actually. Probably comes from a remark about using a SCORECARD to keep track. Basically, a column down the left spelled out the plotlines I had in works. Sequential columns were labelled by upcoming issues, and indicated the developments I expected.

 

Jamie: We know that you were for the reboot of the series when it happened. As a fan instead of “The Boss,” what do you think of the post boot Legion now?

Paul Levitz: Couple of good stories–particularly the riff on xenophobia–but I’m a harsh judge because I can’t help seeing it through the eyes of my personal preferences. It’s not a title I can judge objectively.

 

Jamie: What can fans do to show their commitment to the Legion if they don’t feel the current books are worth buying?

Paul Levitz: Write MacAvennie and Carlin, tell them.

 

Jamie: What conditions would have to be in place for you to consider a third stint at writing the Legion books?

Paul Levitz: Never thought I’d do a second run, so I certainly don’t expect to do a third. When I’m done with the day job, who knows…

Jerry Ordway Interview

Originally published in January 1999. I ask some questions that make me wince, but also asked about some controversial stuff that was going on at the time and re-discovered a new reason to not like editor Eddie Berganza.

 

An Interview with Jerry Ordway

 

For years now Jerry Ordway has been known as the guy doing Superman, and lately the Power of Shazam. He was recently fired off Superman, and decided to tell us why and how. He also let us know about his future plans at Marvel and possibly Image Comics. On with the interview!

 

Mike Carlin and Jerry Ordway at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con

Jamie: Where did you get your first break in comics and how did you end up working at DC and Marvel?

Jerry Ordway: My first break came when I got work through a talent search DC did at the 1980 Chicago Comicon! Mark Silvestri, and Larry Malstadt were the other “finds.” DC was first to hire me, so I stayed with them, only leaving twice, to work on Fantastic Four. Now make that three times, as I left them after being fired from Adventures of Superman recently.

 

Jamie: How does one get the much desired job of working on Superman?

Jerry Ordway: I worked my way up, like any job, til I felt I’d earned a shot at either Batman or Superman. Dick Giordano, VP of DC at the time, (1985) thought I’d be more suited to Supes. I also drew tremendous inspiration from the first Superman Movie!

 

Jamie: Why do you think Superman has been so successful for the last 60 years?

Jerry Ordway: Mainly because it’s a terrific character, with a great back story! Partly because DC has a strong vested interest in keeping it going, and the money to do carry it for periods of time when it’s not doing so well. Without a corporate sponsor, it could have fallen by the waysides in the eighties, I think.

 

Jamie: Do you think Captain Marvel-Shazam will ever be as popular as he was in the 1940’s?

Jerry Ordway: I don’t see it happening, for much the reason I used in the Superman answer. Cap hasn’t received the same commitment from DC that Superman has, and they’re not willing to treat it like a staple as they do Wonder Woman,Flash, etc– keeping the title in print through good and bad times. Maybe this attitude is a holdover to the great legal battles DC had with Fawcett, I don’t know. They own this big Icon, and they just don’t push it! It’s frustrating.

 

Jamie: What are your opinions on Rob Liefeld’s Supreme?

Jerry Ordway: Hey, I thought Alan Moore made that book special. Sure it’s a take off on Superman, but what about all the all too obvious clones of the Xmen that are published? Moore invested a personality into Supreme, and made it work.

 

Jamie: You’re best known for your Superman and Shazam work, what else have you done?

Jerry Ordway: I’ve done All Star Squadron, Infinity Inc (which I co-created for DC) inked Fantastic Four, half of Crisis, Co creatd WildStar for Image, plus done characters of my own. Currently I’m writing and drawing 3 issues of the Avengers!

 

Jamie: Are you at all interested in doing another creator owned project through Image or Wildstorm?

Jerry Ordway: Absolutely, though I would rather do it for Image. The problem I have is, I can’t afford to draw several issues for free, and hope to earn a royalty after the book comes out. I’d hoped to attempt that this next year, if I still had the Superman writing gig to bring in some money every month, while I worked on “Proton” a character I created. It’s a liberating experience, working for nothing! Ask any small press guys!

 

Jamie: What about doing some non-superhero work through Dark Horse or Vertigo?

Jerry Ordway: Again, I’d rather do my own stuff,like “the Messenger” which is more sci-fi based, but I have no interest in Vertigo. I don’t need to swear that badly in print.

 

Jamie: There have been some rumors around you and Dan Jurgens being fired from the Superman books. One rumor says two big name writers were interested in doing the books and the new editor fired the two of you to get them. Then the powers that be came down on the new editor and asked him to hire the both of you back. Is this what happened?

Jerry Ordway: Kind of. I was told that Berganza had no authorization to fire me, but did so on his own while Mike Carlin was away on vacation. When Mike got wind of it, he offered me the job back, but by this time, I had already accepted the Marvel assignments, and I didn’t think it would make for a good working relationship to write for Berganza, an editor who wanted me gone. Dan’s exit was apparently approved, as he had been on Superman for like ten years straight, and they wanted new blood. In my case, I’d only been dialoguing Kesel’s plots for a year, and hadn’t been to a Superman story conference in over five years, so they couldn’t blame me for what was going on in the books! I was looking forward to a fresh start on the character, and Cavalieri had given me a year’s commitment, which I think DC should have honored! They offered me nothing in exchange. This, after twelve years being loyal to them (WildStar notwithstanding).

 

Jamie: So if DC offered you work on another one of their other titles, would you take it?

Jerry Ordway: I want an apology from a higher-up there. None has been forthcoming, despite the fact that I was fired without authorization, in some botched scheme of Berganza’s. I know that Waid, who was apparently offered the book, and then had the offer rescinded, got an apology from DC. Why not me? So no, I won’t work for them, until they treat me with some respect.

 

Jamie: We know you’re doing the inks to Thor #9 and filling in for Avengers #16-18. Anything else coming up?

Jerry Ordway: Dan Jurgens and I have got an idea for a project that Jurgens and I would both work on– two separate titles, four issues each, involving the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. Marvel’s probably going to green light it for the fall of 1999. Besides that, I’d like to work on my own characters!

 

Jamie: Speaking of your Avengers fill in, you said you were doing a ‘Marvel Family’ of sorts by bringing in Warbird (formerly Ms. Marvel) and Photon (formerly Captain Marvel II). Will you also be bringing in Quasar and Genis due to their relationship to the Captain Mar-vel name?

Jerry Ordway: Editor Tom Brevoort said I had too many characters already for my 3 issues, so no Quasar or Genis. sorry. Maybe they’ll find their way into the new project? Who knows.

 

Jamie: Did Avengers editor Tom Breevort ask you do fill in for Avengers or did you come up with the idea first and pitch it to him?

Jerry Ordway: I got the call for them to do it about three days after I was off Superman, and it was their idea. I was already committed to do the inking on the Thor issue, so it was just good luck on my part. I’m not a good one to write proposals and such. I just like to have stuff pop up, which I then can pour my energies into!

 

Jamie: Will you also be inking your Avengers fill in?

Jerry Ordway: The Avengers stuff is being inked by my WildStar collaborator, Al Gordon! Al Vey, an old friend, may ink the last one, depending on his schedule, otherwise Al will do that too.

 

Jamie: Are there any Marvel characters you would really enjoy working with, obscure or major?

Jerry Ordway: Daredevil, Spider-man, you name it! I grew up on the core books, and loved them all!

 

Jamie: If you had the chance to do another comic book in the ‘Power of Shazam’ style would you do it?

Jerry Ordway: Probably, even though it would be creative suicide. I like all-ages stuff. I have young children of my own, and there’s very little wholesome stuff for them to read. I’m not a prude, but I think comics in general are way too skewed to the older readers these days. It takes some of the fun out of it for me. I have enjoyed more adult material myself, but I think comics are slowly dying because they can’t appeal to kids– and then if something comes out that is kid-friendly, like Batman or Superman Adventures, they can’t get them into the mass market! Believe me, I love comic stores, but they aren’t as accessible as drugstores were in my childhood.

 

Jamie: Which is a stronger. Your desire to draw or write?

Jerry Ordway: I like to write stories, but the artistic side of me fights to draw them! Really, I’ve enjoyed collaborations in the past, but there’s nothing like having the pressure resting firmly on one back (mine) to get your heart pumping!

 

Jamie: What tools do you use when drawing and inking?

Jerry Ordway: I use mechanical pencils, HB lead in the summer, 2H lead in the winter. I prefer the rougher finish strathmore drawing paper, and ink with a Hunt #102 crow quill pen, along with a Grumbacher #2 brush dipped in Pelikan ink. For my color work, I use Dr Martin’s Transparent Watercolor Dyes, which are increasingly hard to find!

 

Jamie: How do you fix your mistakes?

Jerry Ordway: I use white-out, or sometimes an electric eraser.

 

Jamie: When you write and draw a comic, how much do you put into the writing part? Do you make a full script first or do you make basic plot and go on from there?

Jerry Ordway: I either do a really detailed plot, or break the story down in small layout form. I like to indicate dialogue in my plots, as a way to help me when I dialogue the pages faster.

 

Jamie: As an artist working with other writers, how much detail do you like? Lots or little?

Jerry Ordway: I like a fair amount of description, but hate when the writer can’t rein it in to six panels or less.

 

Jamie: Who are your inspirations as both an artist and writer?

Jerry Ordway: Artistic inspiration comes from everyone who ever put pencil or pen to paper, but especially, Kirby, Wood, Ditko, John Buscema, Alex Raymond, Neal Adams, Byrne, Zeck, Romita– and more! Writing comes from Kirby, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, John Byrne, Mike Carlin, Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and lots more!

 

Jamie: Have you been contacted about doing Marvel Knights or Marvel Tech related work?

Jerry Ordway: I was contacted about a year ago to see if I was interested in doing the Punisher, which I was not. I think Grant and Zeck said the last word on that character.

 

Jamie: Anything you want to say to your fans?

Jerry Ordway: Thanks for the support. This wouldn’t be much fun without an interactive audience! People have followed my work right from the beginning, and I owe my livelihood to them! I hope I can keep them entertained.

 

Kurt Busiek Interview

Originally published December 1998. This is the first of I believe 3 interviews I did with Kurt. He was my favourite writer during this interview. He’s still one of my favourites today.
 

Kurt Busiek 2009 San Diego Comic Con

Kurt Busiek 2009 San Diego Comic Con

An Interview with Kurt Busiek

 
Kurt Busiek is the hottest writer in comics today. Currently his busy schedule includes mega hits like Avengers, Iron Man, and Avengers Forever, the successful new comic Thunderbolts, and his critically acclaimed Kurt Busiek’s Astro City. Now on with the interview.

 

Jamie: I’m told writing Iron Man was one of your dream jobs. How do you think you’re doing on the title so far?

Kurt Busiek: I’m really not the guy to review my own work; I have no perspective on it. I’m certainly having fun, and I don’t think I’m screwing up too bad. I generally see more faults in my own work than virtues, but that’s not a bad thing, since it means I’m always trying to improve. But I’m reasonably pleased.

 

Jamie: Why did you ask Roger Stern in particular to help you with Iron Man and Avengers Forever?

Kurt Busiek: Aside from the fact that he’s a terrific writer, Roger and I collaborate well together, Roger’s sensibilities and mine are close enough so that we’re pulling in the same direction, as it were, and Roger’s got great strengths in continuity and research, which is a big help on FOREVER.

 

Jamie: Out of curiosity, was there a request to have someone (Jerry Ordway) fill in a few issues of Avengers for you and George Perez?

Kurt Busiek: There was certainly pressure from above to get the books back on schedule. Tom and George and I discussed it, and we realized that the only solution that would work swiftly was getting someone to fill in. Tom had been wanting to get Jerry to do something for him, so it looked like the obvious choice.

 

Jamie: What do you think makes Avengers and Iron Man the success it is today?

Kurt Busiek: I would hope it’s that they’re solid, accessible, exciting superhero comics that deliver an enjoyable package in every issue, without making you wait until next month to see if you liked what you just read. That’s certainly what I’m striving for.

 

Jamie: Why did you choose to take Hawkeye out of Avengers and into Thunderbolts?

Kurt Busiek: I can answer that, but not for a few weeks. The story’s not over yet, and I won’t spoil how it wraps up.

 

Jamie: Why did you have Baron Zemo pull the plug on Thunderbolts deception so quickly?

Kurt Busiek: I didn’t see any reason to drag it out until people were sick of it. I thought it’d make more sense to play with the deception for a while, and then change direction when people weren’t expecting it — it’d be more surprising that way.

 

Jamie: What makes Thunderbolts unique from other ‘villain go straight’ comic books?

Kurt Busiek: Depends on the book, I’d say. In SUICIDE SQUAD, they were being forced into it. In LIBERTY PROJECT, they were being reformed by the authorities. In THUNDERBOLTS, what they do is their own choice. They haven’t fully gone straight yet, and may never do so. The book could just as easily turn back into a book about a group of villains, after all — so I think its unpredictability is a big part of it.

 

Jamie: Describe how you write Astro City differently than your Marvel titles?

Kurt Busiek: Well, I write it full-script, for one thing. But beyond that, it’s not an easy answer — not because there isn’t much difference (there is!) but because it’s not something I find easy to articulate. The Marvel titles operate off of the basic question. “What happens next?” ASTRO CITY doesn’t — its basic question is more, “So, how do you feel about that — ?” The Marvel books are the best examples of the superhero genre I can muster, while ASTRO CITY is exploring the genre and its implications, and seeing what can be done with it beyond general genre expectations. That’s not to say that AVENGERS, IRON MAN and T-BOLTS don’t defy expectation — but I’m trying to tell good, fun, involving, exciting superhero stories in those books. In ASTRO CITY, I’m looking to see what else I can do with the superhero as a story vehicle. I hope that makes some sort of sense.

 

Jamie: Why do you choose to write Astro City using unrelated short stories?

Kurt Busiek: They’re all related, in the sense that they take place in the same context and build a history that affects what takes place within it. But I don’t see any other way to do it — if I picked one set of leads and followed them on an ongoing basis, it wouldn’t be ASTRO CITY, it’d be HONOR GUARD, or JACK-IN-THE- BOX, or SAMARITAN, or whatever. Being able to jump from protagonist to protagonist gives me much more freedom to explore the genre through different viewpoints and different conflicts, to tell a variety of human stories by focusing on different humans, depending on the story I want to tell.

 

Jamie: Astro City has a unique perspective on superheroes. How did you develop it and what is your philosophy regarding it?

Kurt Busiek: I thought about superheroes for twenty-plus years, mostly. I’m not really sure what you mean by my philosophy regarding my perspective on superheroes; I don’t know what such a thing would be. But I see superheroes, as a concept, as a rich metaphorical genre in which ideas, conflicts and more can be personified by iconic beings, and the human experiences they resonate with can be played out on a broad, almost fairy-tale like canvas in a way that can’t quite be done with any other genre. This fascinates me, so ASTRO CITY is my way of creating a context in which I can play with that idea and see what can be made of it, without limiting myself to a single character or group of lead characters. It’s an engine of exploration. I don’t think that’s what you were asking, but maybe the answer’s in there somewhere.

 

Jamie: Would you prefer to do Astro City on a monthly or bimonthly schedule?

Kurt Busiek: Monthly.

 

Jamie: Now that Astro City is being done “under” DC Comics will there be any advertising within or changes to the paper stock?

Kurt Busiek: There’s always been advertising in ASTRO CITY; I can’t see why DC would change that. The paper stock has changed several times, too, depending on what paper balances economy and good reproduction best at any given time. Image had its economies of scale and used gang-bought paper over most of its line, and ASTRO CITY used whatever the “standard” was at the time. I assume that’ll be the same at DC, and any changes will be dictated by DC’s line-wide choices.

 

Jamie: Why do you bring back a lot of largely forgotten characters in your Marvel titles?

Kurt Busiek: Why not? I like ’em, and if I have fun stuff I can do with ’em, why not do it?

 

Jamie: How do you feel about writers changing the history of Marvel characters?

Kurt Busiek: Writers have been changing Marvel history at least since Stan Lee retconned Captain America disappearing toward the end of WWII and Bucky dying into Cap’s history in AVENGERS #4. I don’t object to it in principle — I’ve done a bit of it myself, here and there. What matters is what comes out the other end — is it good or bad? And that’s a subjective judgment that each creator, editor or reader is likely to have his own views on.

 

Jamie: Some people don’t think continuity is all that important and should be disregarded in order to get new readers. Do you think maintaining accurate continuity is important?

Kurt Busiek: I like exploring the characters’ histories, so I think it’s valuable for them to have a consistent history to explore. But I don’t see it as a necessity — certainly, there are plenty of great MICKEY MOUSE stories without much story- to-story continuity, and even wild shifts in tone and setting, as Mickey might be a young suburbanite in one story, a daring barnstorming pilot in another and a sorcerer’s apprentice in a third. There are many, many ways to tell good stories, and a consistent continuity is only one of them. I like it, myself, but it’s a choice, not a rule.

I do think that the publisher of a shared-universe line of titles should make a choice as to how continuity will be treated, so that choice can be consistent across the line instead of varying from creator to creator — but then, I guess that, too, is a choice…

 

Jamie: How much research did you do before starting your Marvel titles?

Kurt Busiek: Tons. I filled in the gaps in my collection so that I have complete runs of AVENGERS, AVENGERS WEST COAST, CAPTAIN AMERICA, IRON MAN, THOR, WAR MACHINE, WONDER MAN, THUNDERSTRIKE, MS. MARVEL, VISION/SCARLET WITCH and just about every other series that could be considered part of the “Avengers” family of titles. Then I reread them all, and keep them all close to hand for easy reference.

 

Jamie: In your opinion, what does a story need to be successful?

Kurt Busiek: Define “successful.” If you mean, what does a story need to be aesthetically satisfying, I think it needs to be well-structured, involving, with characters you can be drawn to care about struggling for something that matters, and it should reach a conclusion that seems fitting, even if the characters fail. It should be well-crafted and have some emotional resonance, and should deliver whatever effect the creators intended, whether that effect is instilling a particular theme or intellectual idea, or merely evoking a memory of a particular time and place.

On the other hand, if you mean, what does a story need to be commercially successful, that’s something that varies depending on the audience. Cool poses and lots of detailed inking could be enough one year, and a dismal flop in a later era.

 

Jamie: Have you ever re-read something you wrote and hated it? If so, what?

Kurt Busiek: Sure. I did an Arsenal story in SECRET ORIGINS that I thought was nicely understated in the script, but none of it worked on the page; it’s flat, bland and empty. I think SPIDER-MAN/X-FACTOR: SHADOWGAMES is a wretched mess. But in both cases, I tried my best under the circumstances, and just missed the ball. It happens.

 

Jamie: What comic books do you read?

Kurt Busiek: Tons. These days, favorites include KANE, USAGI YOJIMBO, SUPERBOY, SAVAGE DRAGON, CASTLE WAITING, MAISON IKKOKU and AKIKO, to name a few.

 

Jamie: What do you think is necessary to bring comic sales back to it’s former glory?

Kurt Busiek: I think we’ve got to do good, accessible stuff that’ll appeal to whatever audience it is we’re choosing to shoot for, we have to package that material in a format that target audience is willing to pick up and look at, we have to sell it in places that target audience actually shops, and we have to promote it in such a way that the target audience knows its there. I think this means rethinking the packaging and distribution of comics, as well as the content — it’s no good trying to attract more women by beefing up the romance content in a standard superhero comics and assuming that women will come flooding into comics shops to buy a product they’ve never been interested in and don’t, on the surface of it, have any interest in now, just to discover that there’s some minor alterations to the material that they might like if it didn’t come wrapped in spandex and fight scenes. I don’t see any reason to cling to the 32-page pamphlet, to gear everything for the audience that comes into comics shops first and foremost, or to assume that there’s any one approach that’ll please all audiences. Hundreds of thousands of readers buy FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE and CATHY collections — those readers are just as much comics readers as fans of SPAWN and HULK. And there are more of them.

However, I don’t expect publishers to do the kind of drastic rethinking and retooling it would take to produce mass-market-friendly comics packages; it’s very expensive to do so, and nobody wants to risk that kind of capital these days.

 

Jamie: Do you ever get the urge to write something that doesn’t have to do with superheroes? If you wanted to write within another genre what would it be?

Kurt Busiek: Sure. In the past, I’ve written JONNY DEMON (fantasy adventure), RANSOM (high adventure), WIZARD’S TALE (fantasy), MICKEY MOUSE (funny animals), VAMPIRELLA (horror), ELVIRA (humor) and more. I love superheroes, but that doesn’t mean I’d never want to write anything but superheroes.

I’d like to write all kinds of stuff, from space opera to mystic adventure to slice-of-life human drama to historical comics and more. I like telling stories, and there’s all kinds of stories to tell; why limit myself?

 

Jamie: Not including the artists you’re working with now, what artists would you like to team up with in the future?

Kurt Busiek: There are plenty of them, from Jerry Ordway and Alan Davis to Stu Immonen and Walt Simonson, from Lee Weeks to Alex Toth, Steve Leialoha, Bruce Timm, and countless others.

 

Jamie: Do you like to read novels? Do you have any favorite authors?

Kurt Busiek: sure. I’ve been reading since I was 3, and I’m not done yet. Favorite authors include Nevil Shute, Walter Tevis, Lawrence Block, Dick Francis, Madeleine L’Engle, James Thurber and more.

 

Jamie: Do you have any desire to write a novel or a screenplay?

Kurt Busiek: Sure, someday — not that I have any time at the moment…

 

Jamie: I hear your going to be a daddy soon. When is the baby due?

Kurt Busiek: December 7th.

 

Jamie: Superhero books often shy away from having characters turn into parents, and then having them raise their kids over the long haul. Do you think superhero books ought to explore this area of life?

Kurt Busiek: I don’t think it’s a question of “ought to.” Superhero comics have no particular responsibility to do so, though FANTASTIC FOUR comes to mind as a book that’s dealt with that area for decades now. I think that if writers can get good stories out of it, then great — but if they’re not interested there’s no reason to push them into it. At both of the major, long-lasting hero universes, they have a policy about time crawling along very slowly to keep the characters young, which makes it very difficult for babies to age normally — every year Franklin Richards grows is another year older the X-Men and Spider-Man get, and Marvel would rather keep those characters young, for commercial reasons. So there are logistical problems in the major universes; it might be easier to explore in a continuity that doesn’t have this kind of time policy. I’ve touched on the subject in ASTRO CITY, and I’m sure I’ll return to it in the future; I set the time policy there, after all, so I don’t have to consider the repercussions of my decisions on the stories and series of other writers…

 

Jamie: You used to be a well known letter hack. Has the urge to write a letter and see it printed disappeared?

Kurt Busiek: Pretty much. Writing stories and having them printed is a much bigger thrill.

 

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