Milton Griepp Interview

Milton Griepp at the 2010 C2E2

Milton Griepp at the 2010 C2E2

Originally published in May of 2004. This is another one of my comic business type interviews. One of the most significant events to happen in the comics industry was Marvel buying Heroes World and exclusively distributing their comics through them. That started a chain reaction leading to Diamond having a virtual monopoly on comic book distribution to the direct market. Milton Griepp had a unique view of those events that I don’t think anybody else had asked him about.

 

Milton Griepp Interview

Milton Griepp has been in the comics industry for 30 years as a publisher, distributor, retailer and consultant. He once ran the largest direct distribution comic book company Capital City Distribution. He was involved with the Internet retail company NextPlanetOver.com and is currently running ICv2.com, a pop culture industry news Website. Along the way he has also done lots of consulting on the comic book industry. In this interview we go through his career and he gives us his analysis of the comic book industry. He also examines the effect other media are having on comics and whether manga’s popularity will last.

 

Jamie: Let’s take it from the beginning. I’m sure that like most in this industry you started as a reader. What kind of comic books got you hooked?

Milton Griepp: The first comic I remember reading was a Carl Barks Disney comic and I continued to read those. I also read a lot of DCs. Superboy, The Legion and Superman were probably the three things I read the most. I inherited a collection from my cousin that was mostly 50’s comics, including a lot of DC’s, and I continued buying those until the 60’s. In his collection were things like the Fox and Crow and other funny animal stuff that I read. When I got to college, I started reading Marvels and I also read a lot of undergrounds which were coming out in great numbers at that time.

 

Jamie: When about did you get involved in the business end of comics?

Milton Griepp: From a friend in high school. When we were in college he started a business advertising in shopper papers in northern Wisconsin, buying collections, and taking them to conventions and selling them there or selling them though the Comic Buyers Guide. I started going to shows with him in the early 70s, about 72 and 73, and working behind the table with him was my first exposure to comics as a retailer.

 

Jamie: When did you move into distribution?

Milton Griepp: That experience in the comics business got me a job in 1976 with a company called Wisconsin Independent News Distributors which carried some magazines and books and had a comic department. I was hired for the comic department. So that was my first distribution experience. The territory was fairly limited: mostly Wisconsin, a little of Illinois, a little bit of Minnesota. Then they went out of business and their business got absorbed by a company called Big Rapids Distribution Company, which at one time became the largest direct distributor in the late 70s. I worked for them, also out of Wisconsin.

 

Jamie: I understand you and John Davis teamed up to form Capital City (Distribution). When about did that happen?

Milton Griepp: I hired John at WIND and we also worked together at Big Rapids. When Big Rapids went out of business, John talked me into starting a business that would handle just comics. Both Big Rapids and Wisconsin Independent News Distributors had comics as a small part of the company, along with book and magazine distribution. So the idea that was different was to do something that specialized in comics. That was in the early 1980s.

 

Jamie: I understand at one point a group of smaller distributors all combined to take Capital to a national distributor?

Milton Griepp: I don’t know where you got that impression.

 

Jamie: That never happened?

Milton Griepp: That never happened, but we did do some small acquisitions. Our first location outside of Wisconsin was–we bought a little company called North Eastern Ohio News, which was primarily a comics distributor, based in the Cleveland area. We did some other small acquisitions over the years but most of our growth was by sales efforts one store at a time.

 

Jamie: I understand Capital was #2 going up to #1 competing against Diamond most of the way . . . Were you surprised when Marvel decided to pull out, buy Heroes World and distribute exclusively through them?

Milton Griepp: Just to set the stage, Capital was #1 until Diamond bought Bud Plant. Diamond was #2 and Bud Plant was #3 and the combination of those two companies made them larger than we were. So we were #2 at the time Marvel did their deal with Heroes World.

I guess in one sense it wasn’t a surprise, as Marvel had been making noises about being dissatisfied with the direct distribution system for a couple of years, primarily because they didn’t think they were getting their due as the largest publisher. But primarily I was surprised, because I didn’t think anybody would do anything that stupid.

 

Jamie: At that time, what did you think would happen to the comic industry?

Milton Griepp: Well, it was a very dynamic situation. We really didn’t know what to expect, so we ran the business on several tracks trying to prepare for different contingencies. There was a lot of damage done to the business during that period. Heroes World was really incapable of distributing Marvels nationally, so that was happening. Also, at the same time, the market was declining rapidly after a period of explosive growth during the early 90’s. And other publishers were maneuvering, deciding what they were going to do in the wake of Marvel’s decision. So it was an unpredictable situation, and it required a number of contingency plans for different eventualities.

 

Jamie: Looking back, do you wish you had tried harder to get DC to go exclusive with Capital instead of Diamond, with some other deal you could have made them?

Milton Griepp: Well, DC came to us and other companies and said they were thinking about going with a single company for their distributor as Marvel had. And we did pitch them hard to go with Capital; we couldn’t have tried any harder to do that. We were also trying to convince them not to go with a single distributor, and we felt they could have taken a leadership position with the retailers and distributors and united the rest of the industry against the model that Marvel was developing with the single distributor model. It would have gotten a lot of good will and a lot of support and I believe that would have been a very viable and successful action for them.

In the end I see DC’s choice as the most conservative option, which is not surprising as DC is part of a large company and that creates a tendency towards conservatism. The first instance of conservatism was that they followed what Marvel had done (Marvel was #1, DC was #2) and they followed to a single distributor. The second conservative choice was picking Diamond, as they were larger than we were, and so it represented less risk of losing business to choose Diamond than it did to choose Capital. So they took the two low-risk decisions and that led them to Diamond.

 

Jamie: How do you think the exclusive agreements between publishers and distributors have affected the industry?

Milton Griepp: Well, it’s brought stability and I think that’s had both positive and negative affects. On the positive side, considering the circumstances (this is very important), publishers had a reliable way to reach the market and through a very profitable company that always pays its bills. Given the volatility in what was happening to the smaller distributors at the time, that was a good thing for publishers and ultimately the industry.

It was also good for retailers because they were experiencing the same upheaval in terms of where and how they got their products. So after the transition period when Diamond took over the Capital stores after they bought Capital City, that led to a very reliable system of distribution for retailers. That was a good thing.

On the negative side, the fact that there were fewer viewpoints at the distribution level slowed innovation to some degree. I don’t know how much of that effect there was, but you have to assume that a number of companies all working in that field with a variety of viewpoints would have led to faster change and more innovation.

 

Jamie: After Diamond bought out Capital, did they offer you a position there?

Milton Griepp: They didn’t and I really didn’t expect one. I was a CEO and they didn’t need a CEO and they didn’t need a COO. They had Steve Geppi as the CEO and a very capable COO with Chuck Parker. They didn’t really have a position that fit my skills so I didn’t expect an offer and didn’t receive one.

 

Jamie: After that you started working with NextPlanetOver.com. What was that experience like?

Milton Griepp: Actually that was a while after the Capital sale, and both before and after that I did some consulting in the field.

Well, the NextPlanetOver experience was a unique time and place. It was in San Francisco, and at a venture-funded Internet company at the peak of the dot com boom. That was a really interesting time and place to be geographically, from a business history point of view, and from a technological innovation point of view. It was a really interesting thing to see.

I’d seen a lot of bubbles before in the pop culture products business, you know especially when there is a resale market involved. Like the black and white comics–there was a bubble and then everybody produces them, then there’s too many and then the market collapses. I hadn’t seen a capital bubble of this type, which was that the cost of capital was very low and the money was flowing into all kinds of Internet businesses. So that was new to see, and although there were some negative outcomes, the experience was very positive. I learned a lot about private equity, learned a lot about technology and the Internet.

Capital was a very technologically progressive company; even in the early 90s we were doing order uploads and using electronic communication with our customers. But this was on a different level, because we were on the real cutting edge, at that time, of the development of e-commerce technology. So we sold off the company at the end and that was a negative, but the experience of being there at that time and place and how much I learned was very positive, on balance.

 

Jamie: There was controversy at that time, particularly when they were being located at the same warehouse Diamond was shipping comics from. What did you think about that at the time?

Milton Griepp: Well, it wasn’t really located at the same place. Diamond was doing order fulfillment for NextPlanetOver. NextPlanetOver bought merchandise from Diamond and rather than Diamond doing one big shipment to NextPlanetOver they shipped it directly to NextPlanetOver’s customers. That was a very efficient system in that it gave NextPlanetOver access to a large inventory and allowed the company to offer that to its customers without being in possession before it was being purchased.

It was on the original model that Amazon was built on–an inventory-less model where the product was offered, then acquired from a wholesaler at the time of sale. So from a business point of view I think it made a lot of sense. There was some controversy from the reaction from retailers thinking NextPlanetOver had a special deal that was going to hurt them. But ultimately there was very little threat to brick and mortar retailers from that arrangement. The controversy boomed and then tailed off. It wasn’t unexpected and ultimately didn’t affect our business.

 

Jamie: Out of the whole ordeal what did you learn about trying to sell comic books online?

Milton Griepp: I wouldn’t really call it an ordeal. There were certainly parts of it that were an ordeal, but over-all there were also some positive things about it.

From my first involvement in the company, I wanted it focused not on selling comic books online (periodicals), but on selling graphic novels, toys, apparel–selling the things that customers bought other than comics. Comics are really too cheap to sell through a traditional shopping cart model where you are selling, at that time, a two dollar product one at a time. It just wasn’t an efficient model and ultimately we did change the orientation of the product mix to emphasize the other product lines that Diamond also offered.

The subscription service model that’s been around for many years works well for selling periodical comics via mail order or via the Internet. Selling one at a time is just not a terribly efficient model, which was what I thought going in and that was proven by the results. We did re-orient the mix to focus on some of the higher-priced items and I’d say that was the upshot of the learning experience there–that selling comics like backlist in an “off-the-rack” situation was not a viable business model, but I do think, as other businesses have proven since, selling graphic novels, toys, and the higher-priced stuff works fine.

 

Jamie: During that time you were also doing some consulting work. Were there any clients in particular you could name that you worked with?

Milton Griepp: Well, I’ll talk a bit about the categories I’ve worked with. I worked with publishers, I worked with retailers, toy companies, international consulting firms, educational firms, educational institutions, investment firms. My clients generally prefer that I advise them without revealing their identities.

 

Jamie: When coming up with ICv2.com, why did you decide to go as a Website instead of as a printed magazine?

Milton Griepp: I had just come out of a Web business, and I learned a lot about it, so I had this knowledge base on how to do it. It seemed inexpensive to start a Website as a result of improving technology at the time. When we started NextPlanetOver, for example, the code for the content area had to be all written from scratch. By the time I started ICv2, things like the search function could be acquired relatively inexpensively instead of writing it from scratch. That learning experience of how to develop the Website relatively inexpensively allowed saving a non- trivial amount of money.

The reason I wanted to do it on the Web was to use that knowledge, and I felt the Web was a superior way of delivering news. Obviously it’s faster and more accessible; also it involves the ability to interact with the user, which does not exist in print. I also believed I could develop an audience at a lower cost on the Web than in print so it was a classic business model-driven decision.

 

Jamie: Last year ICv2.com did a printed magazine called the ICv2 Retailers Guide to Graphic Novels. How successful was that?

Milton Griepp: Actually we’ve done a number of magazines; I think the number is over 10, in three categories. We do the ICv2 Retailers Guide to Anime and Manga, the ICv2 Retailers Guide to Graphic Novels, and the ICv2 Retailers Guide to Games.

I started pitching the first magazine at San Diego a year and a half ago and was really surprised at the response, which was that advertisers that were resistant to the idea of advertising online were receptive to the idea of advertising in a magazine. I think it’s just a matter of preference that people have established over the years with certain types of media. So that was a big response on the advertisers’ side.

On the content side, the magazine was also a good fit with our online content. The online content is very fast; we publish daily, with shorter articles, primarily news. The print medium allowed us to take a longer view of things, do more analysis, more features, more in-depth reporting. I think the two media, online and print, are complementary and we really like the way they fit together. I think both are important to how ICv2 serves its audience and advertisers. So online was a good place to start and print was a good place to expand to.

 

Jamie: Despite doing well in bookstores, many comic book retailers are having a hard time selling manga. What do you think retailers have to do to move manga like the bookstores do?

Milton Griepp: Well, I want to push back on the idea that comic stores are having a lot of difficulty selling manga. Obviously they are selling a lot more manga than they were a few years ago and I think that’s going to continue. The thing is, some comic stores are a lot better than others at manga, and I think it’s a matter of how they merchandise the manga line, also what their clientele base is like, and how they retail to their clientele.

The reason bookstores have grown much faster than comic book stores have over the last few years is that bookstores have a larger female audience and a lot of the manga content is directed at female consumers. So a comic store that focuses on superheroes or action adventure material that has a primarily male audience is going to miss out on a lot of manga sales because there is a lot of material that doesn’t appeal to that action adventure audience.

On the other hand, I have seen some comic stores do a very good job with manga. In fact, the best manga stores I’ve seen are comic stores that carry far greater variety than the best bookstores. They also have better product knowledge at the counter than the best bookstores. So I think that comic stores can be extremely successful with manga, it’s just a matter of how they merchandise it, who their clientele is and how they reach out to their clientele–a store that is friendly for consumers of both sexes and all ages (as the manga audience in bookstores is a little bit younger than the typical comic book store audience). So comic stores can reach that audience, but historically comic stores have been a male-supported distribution channel and that presents barriers in some stores.

 

Jamie: ICv2.com has been tracking sales numbers for quite some time. Are there any particular tends you’ve noticed that others in the industry should know?

Milton Griepp: Well, first of all there has been a change a little over a year ago in how Diamond puts out their numbers, how they calculate indexes, and that has affected our ability to do year-to-year comparisons. Between 2000 and 2002, we were able to do year-to-year comparisons which were extremely useful, because it tracked what was happening in comic stores in that period, which was the first growth that had happened in about a decade. That was really a good thing to track.

Now we’re just getting to the end of the first year with Diamond and its new numbers. Once again, the first month we did comparisons for, the market was up and that was a good thing. In the long run, Diamond using actual numbers instead of pre-orders for their index is going to be very positive because it’s a much more accurate snapshot of the market.

In terms of overall trend analysis, by looking at the comic stores and other channels, the biggest growth is graphic novel sales in bookstores. The biggest thing happening there is that bookstores are replacing newsstand distribution, which collapsed for comics in the last five to ten years, as a feeder system into comic book stores. In other words, consumers are exposed to comics in book stores and if they want to find a broader range of titles they’ll end up in a comic store. Before, it used to be that happened from magazine-type outlets and newsstands, convenience stores, those kinds of outlets, where people pick up a comic book and then find their way to a comic store later. I think that’s a huge, huge shift in the comic business.

I mentioned earlier the fact that younger readers and female readers are finding comics in bookstores and that’s a hugely positive trend for the entire industry. Opening up the market to female readers to a greater degree doubles the available pool of consumers.

Getting younger kids reading comics is positive because it will hopefully build lifetime consumers. The comic market has been aging dramatically for the last 10 to 12 years, and this can reverse that trend. Those are really positive things happening in the comics business, the fact that the business in comic stores is also growing, those are positive things.

I think we’re seeing a greater impact of other media on comic sales, specifically movies and television. Obviously the Batman movie had a huge impact on Batman product sales in the late 80s and early 90s, but now there’s a whole plethora of media influences on comic sales just in the last few years. Smaller movies like Ghost World and American Splendor, something like Road to Perdition or From Hell and the mega-blockbusters like Spider-Man, Hulk, and X-men, those have all been really positive events for comic sales.

On television now, not only are there a number of cartoons being done based on American comics but the anime, which is tied to manga, are also popularizing those properties to a great degree. So movies and television are having a much greater impact than they had in the past, which is obviously a very positive thing for the comics business.

There is a bunch of positive trends sort of coalescing in the industry and it’s a good time for the comic business.

 

Jamie: I noticed that movies don’t seem to help the superhero comics quite as much as do the independent comics.

Milton Griepp: Spider-Man and Hulk moved a lot of product through all channels and it lifted Spider-Man graphic novels to the top of the charts. The bookstores moved a lot of Spider-Man product, as did the comic stores, so I think there is a connection. Recent Marvel movies have shown that. I think it doesn’t always work that way, The Punisher, for example. The early indication is it’s not moving product quite as well as Hellboy is. So I think it depends on the combination of the movie and the material.

 

Jamie: How do you see the comic book industry changing in the next 5 years?

Milton Griepp: I see the comic audience growing in a number of demographic groups, including adults that are interested in comics as literature. Certainly there is a pop culture aspect to them, but comics are being taken more seriously as real literature. This has been going on for a while, but for the last couple of years we’ve really accelerated that trend. And at the same time, we see the market for comics growing among younger readers, girls, and women. Comics being reviewed by book reviewers in the literary establishment also opens up an even larger, more serious reading audience of adults. So again we see multiple audiences in which the comics medium is growing. So I think those are very positive trends.

Another aspect that is unlike some previous growth trends of the comic business: none of this is being based on the after-market value, so the risk of collapse in the business due to a collapse of after-market values or overproduction or whatever just isn’t there in the same way as was there in earlier growth periods. That again is a very, very positive trend.

 

Jamie: So you don’t think manga is just a fad then? (laughs)

Milton Griepp: It’s been going on too long to be a fad. The Japanese stuff has been growing since the early 80s, so you can’t take a 25-year trend and say “It’s a fad.”

 

Jamie: yes . . .

Milton Griepp: Certainly there are times where it gets super-hot and then cools off. Pokemon was a huge phenomenon and it exploded, then there was space for a while and shrinks back a little bit, but I don’t think it’s a fad. I wrote something in 2000-2001 that said something to the effect that we’re witnessing a change in world culture, in the sense that more and more pop culture is coming from Asia. You can almost say that as American culture took over from British as the ruling popular culture, now we’re seeing a move towards Asian pop culture.

Hollywood is not going anywhere, American television is not going anywhere, American comics is not going anywhere; but there is a growing influence in all markets from Asian pop culture. Something like Kill Bill is ostensibly an American movie, but it’s got elements of Hong Kong action movies, little pieces of old American movies, there is anime in the first volume.

You can see the Asian influence growing in American pop culture in so many ways. So that’s another reason that I don’t think manga is just a fad.

Ty Templeton Interview

Ty Templeton at 2014 Joe Shuster Awards

Ty Templeton at 2014 Joe Shuster Awards

Originally published in November of 2002. At this point I had dropped all monthly comics and was only reading Graphic Novels. When I made that switch I found I didn’t like reading superhero graphic novels all that much, with the exception of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City. Ty’s Bigg Time had recently came out and I enjoyed it and I thought it was neat that he was relatively local to me.

 

Ty Templeton Interview

Ty Templeton has done a mix of big name superhero, independent and licensed cartoon comics during his career. His latest work is something different: it’s an original, black and white graphic novel published by DC/Vertigo. The book is called Bigg Time and is about something Ty is very familiar with, show business and fame. Ty comes from a very famous family. His mother was a singer with a few hits and his father was heavily involved in show business and politics. In this interview, we talk about graphic novels in general, Bigg Time, politics, his future and more.

 

Jamie: How did you like doing an original graphic novel compared to a monthly comic book?

Ty Templeton: First and foremost, it’s wonderful to have the time to stretch out and really TELL a story, rather than racing through everything in twenty two pages. I get to indulge the characters more, and indulge the pace . . .

This particular graphic novel was originally conceived as a six issue mini-series however, so many of the monthly comic book joys and headaches were all packed into the experience anyway. I wrote it in eighteen page chunks, for instance so I could get a paycheck every couple of weeks. The chapters tend to run to the same breaks that were written into the script when it was intended to be a miniseries . . .

 

Jamie: Did you find yourself trying to put in a cliffhanger every 24 pages or so like a normal comic series?

Ty Templeton: WHOOPS! See answer above! Since it was conceived that way, yup, I did . . . But we knew it was a graphic novel before I’d gotten much farther than the first dozen or so pages anyway . . . so I wasn’t a slave to that format in the end. But there are elements of that, that remained in the finished thing, because they’re in the original plot structure.

 

Jamie: I noticed with Bigg Time, you did *everything* on the comic, some things your not known for like lettering, colouring and separations. Why did you take on all aspects of doing the book?

Ty Templeton: Well, I’m not known for them cause I haven’t done them in a while. But I used to letter everything I drew, and when I worked in the independent comics industry in the Eighties, I had no choice but to do everything, including boxing issues up to be shipped. I even drove comics home from a printer once . . . I also used to colour my own covers on Batman, so I’m used to working with a computer to colour things. I’m very big on the idea that comics should be created by as few hands as possible. That’s one of the joys of the medium . . . I can conceive, write, draw, colour and (should I suddenly wish to lose money) print and publish my own comic iffen I want to. Vive la Artiste Solo! You can’t do that in Movies or TV!

 

Jamie: Did you do lettering, colouring and separations by hand or by computer?

Ty Templeton: Most of the word balloon lettering is done on a computer. All my sound effects letters are done as line art on the boards. I always feel sound effects are part of the art, and ALWAYS do those myself when I pencil.

 

Jamie: Do you think graphic novels are the future of the comic industry?

Ty Templeton: Gosh, I hope so and I hope not. I’d like to see more of them, but only good ones, of which there haven’t been that many over the years. Road to Perdition is a wonderful graphic novel, as is Stuck Rubber Baby, and Maus, and everything Will Eisner ever did with the form . . . but some of the best of the “Graphic Novels”, such as Watchmen, or Sandman, were originally serialized stories anyway. They just happen to collect up nicely. GON, and Asterix, arguably my favorite graphic novel characters, are both in ongoing series, ALSO originally printed in a serialized form . . . But, I still get a kick out of reading Batman or Wolverine’s adventures every month. Guilty pleasure, the ongoing series, who’d like to see that go? And I don’t much agree with the graphic novels that are essentially just long, long superhero stories. There’s been a few Batman or Green Lantern stories that came out as hundred page hardcover books that would have worked far better as four issue mini-series, both in terms of pace, and price. From a marketing standpoint, I’m all for my publisher making money, but the stories that make it as graphic novels don’t always deserve the format. More stuff by Eisner and Kyle Baker and folks like that, hell yeah. Superheroes belong in the monthlies, though.

 

Jamie: I’m no longer a huge superhero lover myself but it’s surprising that you would “write off” a whole sub-genre as not being worthy of a different format. How would you react if someone were to say oh.. Westerns should be off limits to a different format like free digest sized weekly books?

Ty Templeton: I don’t think I “wrote off” a whole sub-genre with the phrase “the (superhero) stories that make it as graphic novels don’t always deserve the format”. That’s more of a judgment about what’s BEEN done with the format, rather than a rule of conduct for future projects. An awful lot of the stuff that gets turned directly into a graphic novel, (rather than a series that gets collected up, such as Dark Knight, etc . . . ) just hasn’t met my particular critical standards. In my experience, the Punisher, Spider-Man, JLA, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Avengers, X-Men “direct to graphic novel” format projects that I’ve read haven’t particularly deserved the high price or high page count. I could mention specific titles, but that’s just needlessly mean to the creators involved, most of whom are fine writers and artists, and often friends of mine. Can you name an original superhero graphic novel published in the last ten years that was particularly good?
Examples of Superhero graphic novels that WERE to my liking include The Death of Captain Marvel by Starlin, Batman: Birth of the Demon, by O’Neil and Breyfogle, Superman vs. Mohammad Ali by O’Neil and Adams. Those were all a while ago, I’ll admit . . . but I haven’t found many that blew me away of late. I haven’t read Catwoman’s Big Score, by Cooke, which I’m told is pretty good, so I may change my mind any day now.
But think through your favorite superhero stories or moments over the years . . . I’ll be surprised if many, or if ANY of those moments come in an original graphic novel format. My favorite moments sure don’t. But some of my favorite moments in comics DO come in graphic novels. Cowboy Wally, Maus, The Building . . . all manage sublime moments of wonder, without a cape in sight. I think pop songs, sit-coms, poetry, candy, liquor, comedy sketches, and superheroes all work best is short doses. I’m certainly willing to watch a four hour Fawlty Towers marathon, or read Dante’s epic poems, because no rule of art and creativity is written in stone. But I don’t think a four hour Just Shoot Me marathon would keep my attention, and consider all the SNL sketch characters who get expanded out to star in HORRIFIC two hour films. But I LOVE the idea of free digest sized Westerns. Who can we contact to get started on that?

 

Jamie: Do you want to do more original graphic novels?

Ty Templeton: I might enjoy writing one. I don’t think the art side attracts me quite so much, unless I get around to actually learning to draw. I have no natural talent for art . . . I’m self taught, and hardly taught at that . . . I’m too much the perfectionist, and I sweat out each line sometimes, continuously dissatisfied with what goes onto the paper. I’m getting less angry at my hands, but I still don’t much enjoy the constant fight that illustrating is to me. I’m much better in short bursts, like single issues, or covers. Writing makes me giggle and smile though.

 

Jamie: Are not artists supposed to be this way? Perfectionists, always unsatisfied with their work, etc . . . ?

Ty Templeton: Not for their own sanity, they’re not supposed to be. I’d rather not spend my days frustrated. I get more of a hoot out of laughing and tickling my children than fighting with my lack of ability to draw. I’m a good writer, and a good inker, and I never seem to sweat that stuff, but penciling is something I’m not basically very good at, and I find it frustrating. I’ve read that Jerry Ordway and Al Williamson are like that too, and they are two of my FAVORITE pencilers in the biz . . . so there!

 

Jamie: With a monthly series, you can get some feedback along the way to what readers do and don’t like about your work. Was it any easier or more difficult to do a whole story without audience feedback along the way?

Ty Templeton: I had feedback working on the book. My wife and a number of my friends read the chapters as I was doing them, and of course, both my editors, Joan Hilty and Heidi MacDonald were good to bounce off of. I may not have had much feedback directly from fans for the story, but the story was fairly personal anyway, and wouldn’t have benefited from too many hands on the tiller.

 

Jamie: I can’t but notice that the book takes place in a very similar Toronto town, even a few blocks from here (the Toronto Expo) is the Bay Street Station. “The Bums Rush” has a familiar looking background. Why did you base this Hollywood story so close to home?

Ty Templeton: As I said, it’s a more or less personal story. If you read the “About the Author” in the back of the book, you’ll find out I’ve been in and around show biz and the famousness business my whole life, which I happened to have spent in Toronto. I didn’t see a need to put it in L.A. or New York, since I haven’t really lived in either city. I actually don’t name the city any of this takes place in, but you’re right, it’s Toronto. Besides, more movies are made in Toronto, and more albums recorded up here, than in any city in North America BUT New York and LA. Why NOT put it up here? We’re Hollywood North, ain’t we?

 

Jamie: Yes, but American entertainment companies often like to Americanize things in order to make them more commercial. Did you choose to not name Toronto so the story would be more universal?

Ty Templeton: Well, I more or less did name Toronto, by not particularly hiding that it was Toronto. T.O. Subway stations, street signs, and the Canadian Prime Minister run about the novel unmolested . . . well, the PM gets molested a LITTLE bit. The name of the town simply never came up in the script, but it was a Canadian town, since I’m a Canadian writer.

 

Jamie: How did the idea of you doing Bigg Time come about? Did you have to aggressively pitch that to DC/Vertigo or did they come to you?

Ty Templeton: While at a convention in Chicago, I pitched Joan Hilty about a science fiction project I wanted to do (and still do, btw). She told me she wasn’t buying anything SF at the time, but did I have something with a magical angle to it . . . ? I mentioned an old screenplay idea that I’d started and never finished a year or so before, and she asked to hear about it . . . liked it, and we went from there. It mutated through a mini-series, to a graphic novel, back to a mini and back to a graphic novel along the way, and the plot underwent a couple of major and a few minor changes from the pitch, but that was about it. There wasn’t much aggressive pitching on my part. Right place at the right time. Plus, the pitch made her laugh . . .

 

Jamie: How Americans do you think will get the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Crouton joke?

Ty Templeton: Believe it or not, the name was actually Chrétien RIGHT up until about a week before the whole thing went to the printer. Literally on the last proofread through, the editor called me up and asked me if Chrétien was the P.M’s real name. “Yeah,” I said . . . “Oh we can’t have that,” said the editor . . . “For legal reasons, you can’t use the Prime Minister’s real name.” So we relettered the balloon so it read Crouton . . . but here’s the best part: No one caught the fact that it was the real PM’s name, because both the editor and the proofreader thought I made the name “Chrétien” up. They thought it was a French spoof on the word cretin.

 

Jamie: Of course you noticed he resigns as Prime Minister the day after your book hits the stands. So that’s obviously your fault.

Ty Templeton: All according to plan. Now if only the Bush people get the secret hypnotic message that’s intended for them, then my work here is done.

 

Jamie: And who would you replace Chrétien and Bush with?

Ty Templeton: I have nothing particularly against Chrétien. I’ve voted for him, and might have even done it again. I’m basically a Liberal or NDP kind of vote, pretty well every election. Paul Martin seems like a fine replacement for Jean . . . I’m fairly sure he’s who we’ll get anyway. As for replacing Bush? Pretty well any creature, vertebrate or invertebrate could do a better job than that smirking frat boy clown. Don’t even get me started on the ruinous car wreck that I find his Fraudulent and embarrassing administration to be. Imagine someone actually usurping the position of “Worst American President of my Lifetime” from Nixon . . .

 

Jamie: Was this book a nice change of pace from doing all those cartoon comics for the last few years?

Ty Templeton: My whole career is a change of pace. Cartoon comics (including Ren and Stimpy, Batman Adventures, Bugs Bunny, the Simpsons) have been a mainstay of my work for the last little while, by my own choice, and as a change of pace from the mainstream superhero comics I did for a while, (Superman, Avengers, Justice League) which were a change of pace from the funky independent stuff (Stig’s Inferno, National Lampoon, Mr. X, etc . . . much like this graphic novel, in fact) that I did for most of the Eighties and early Nineties.

 

Jamie: Are there any particular genre’s and/or formats you want to explore in the future?

Ty Templeton: I’m getting a tickle to work on some more Looney Toons stuff in the future. I may or may not get to . . . but I did a little bit for the 100th anniversary issue of Looney Toons from DC, and enjoyed it greatly, and wouldn’t mind doing more. I’ve got a nibble from a friend of mine to help art direct yet another TV pilot, (making it about a dozen I’ve worked on over the years) which I hope I get to do. Beyond that, I’m focusing on Batman, the Simpsons and the other projects I have actually ON my desk. I don’t get too far ahead of the present . . . I’m a live in the moment kind of guy.

 

Jamie: According to ICV2.com Bigg Time placed #18 in the top 50 Graphic Novels, selling approximately 6,400 pre orders through Diamond. Is that better or worse than you expected?

Ty Templeton: We had a re-order a couple of weeks later that took us up to about eight thousand, I believe. That’s about what my editor and I guessed it was going to do . . . about eight thou . . . It would be nice if it could sneak up to ten thousand over the next year . . . it would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. So it did about what we expected.

 

Jamie: What are you doing in the future?

Ty Templeton: I’m writing a mini series for DC, that’s not yet scheduled, so it’s hush hush time. More or that later. I’m doing a little more Batman work again . . . I just inked an issue, and might be writing and/or drawing a few more. I always loved Batman to work on, so it’s nice to be home with him again. Gotham City is familiar and fun territory. I did a couple of Simpsons/Bongo comics stories . . . a Simpson’s Hallowe’en special that’s just come out, and a Radioactive Man story that’s due out in a few months, I think.
I did a page in the Looney Toons 100th issue special, and had so much fun on it, I promised myself to do more with the Warner Bros characters in the future. Joan Hilty is editing the Warner Bros. comics at DC, and since we worked together on the BIGG TIME novel . . . well, we’re happy to work together again . . . so maybe a Duck Dodgers giant, or something. Who knows?

Max Allen Collins Interview

Originally published in October of 2001. I bought Road to Perdition at a going out of business bookstore sale and really enjoyed the book. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard it was being made into a movie (and became really happy when it was a really good one). Shockingly, DC and parent company Warner Brothers did not realize what they had and let the movie rights slip away. I am really surprised that during this time of ‘republish anything that was good’ era of comics that Ms. Tree remains unpublished, especially with the demographics of today’s comic readers.

 

An Interview With Max Allen Collins

Max Allen Collins is probably the best writer you never heard of. His works stretch from comics to novels to screenplays. He has won a number of awards for his work outside of comics, but inside the industry he’s largely ignored. Among his better remembered works is Ms. Tree done through Eclipse and DC. He recently wrote a graphic novel called Road to Perdition that is extremely good and is going to be coming out in early 2001 as a movie. The movie will star Tom Hanks and be directed by American Beauty’s Sam Mendes and is expected to be a major hit at the box office. In this interview we ask about Road to Perdition, Ms. Tree and numerous other topics regarding his future.

 

Jamie: How long did it take you to research and write Road to Perdition?

Max Allen Collins: The research and writing was spread out over at least a four year period; this was because of the time it took the artist, Richard Piers Rayner, to turn out his precise, detailed artwork (often working from research materials I sent to him) (he’s in England).

 

Jamie: How much of Road to Perdition is true? Which parts did you have to fill in with your own assumptions?

Max Allen Collins: It’s mostly fiction. John and Connor Looney are real, and much of the material involving them has some basis in reality, including the Gabel shooting and Connor’s eventual death…and several lieutenants who felt betrayed by Looney. So the setting and historical underpinnings are fairly real — though Looney’s reign was more in the teens and ’20s — but the story of Michael O’Sullivan and his son is my invention.

 

Jamie: Did you at all contact Michael O’Sullivan while researching his father?

Max Allen Collins: He did not exist; I created him.

 

Jamie: Road to Perdition has a number of nifty lines like “God made Irishmen pale, but not as pale as those priests who came out after papa had unburdened his soul to them.” Where you thinking about a possible movie adaptation when writing?

Max Allen Collins: Thanks — a sort of quiet poetry emerged from the narrator’s distance from the story. As for thinking about the movies, no more than usual — but comics, as a visual medium, has ties to film. As Will Eisner has aptly pointed out, however, there are many differences between them.

 

Jamie: What is the current status of Road to Perdition? Does it have a publisher?

Max Allen Collins: ROAD TO PERDITION will be reprinted by DC in time for the movie’s release. The movie will probably have a limited late ’01 release to qualify for Oscars, then a wide one early in ’02.

 

Jamie: Did DC give you a reason when they didn’t resign the rights to the book back when they had the chance?

Max Allen Collins: They still have reprint rights. It’s just the other rights — movie, sequels, prequels, etc. — that I own. (Actually, Richard and I own the movie rights to ROAD.)

 

Jamie: What was your reaction when you learned that Sam Mendes and Tom Hanks wanted to do Road to Perdition as a movie?

Max Allen Collins: I said I would believe it when I saw it. Having been on the set, and met and talked to both Mendes and Hanks, I believe it now! And I’m thrilled.

 

Jamie: Were you at all involved in the making of the film?

Max Allen Collins: Not really. Visited the set, spoke frequently to Producer Dean Zanuck, and have written a novelization. The script is good — very faithful, though it compresses the material and it’s somewhat less action-driven.

 

Jamie: Does the success of the film concern you at all?

Max Allen Collins: I don’t quite know how to answer that. The bigger it is, the better my future — so, sure, it concerns me! If you mean, artistically, I am convinced this will be a quality picture.

 

Jamie: Do you lie awake at nights thinking about the possibilities of your future if the movie is a smash hit?

Max Allen Collins: Sleep?

 

Jamie: You’ve said in other interviews that you consider Road to Perdition your comic writing swan song. Has that changed?

Max Allen Collins: Possibly. DC has spoken to me about doing a major BATMAN project. I have been working solely on novels and screenplays, however; the moribund status of the industry — and my own disconnection from it, for several years — hasn’t sent me scurrying to comics publishers…or, frankly, vice versa. I thought I would get some calls from comics editors/publishers, after ROAD got this major movie deal…what could be bigger? The only editor who has called is Andy Helfer, who edited ROAD, God bless him.

 

Jamie: There has been a lot of talk lately about how the comic industry should move towards Graphic Novels and movie deals, although not exactly hand in hand. Road to Perdition is a success in both areas but it doesn’t get the praise it should within the comic industry. Does that disappoint you?

Max Allen Collins: That was largely why I walked away from comics. ROAD got almost no reviews, and did not receive an Eisner nomination. If I could do my best work, and get no notice whatsoever…well, it was a bitter pill. Many people followed the lead that Terry Beatty and I took with MS. TREE, and we’ve had zero recognition while lesser, trendier crap gets raves. My attitude was, “Screw them.” To some degree, frankly, it still is.

 

Jamie: Do you think Road to Perdition would have gotten more reviews/praise/nominations if DC promoted it better? I tend to wonder if the lack of response is directly related to the lack of marketing on DC’s part.

Max Allen Collins: DC did some limited promotion, but ROAD was the last of the Paradox Press slate of crime novels, and the others had not done well. So we were lucky to be published at all, and DC can’t be faulted much. Where they can be faulted is that some key high people at DC did not recognize the quality of the work; if they had, they would not only have promoted it, but would have matched the DreamWorks offer for movie rights (which they could have done).

What is truly annoying to me is how DC has ignored Richard and myself, and our work, when this is arguably the biggest comics movie ever…because they are apparently embarrassed to have let ROAD “get away.” If they promoted us, and bragged about a DC project being this big Hollywood deal, the people at Warner above them would ask embarrassing questions…like, why isn’t this a Warner Bros. movie?

 

Jamie: Do you think DC would have promoted it more if they had owned the work, lock, stock, and barrel like they do Batman?

Max Allen Collins: Undoubtedly. But I don’t think they knew what they had — at least one of the top people simply didn’t “get” it. (Let me say that Paul Levitz has been great to me and did in fact publish the book when others in his position might not have.)

 

Jamie: What’s the current situation with the rights to Ms. Tree. I know for a while it was published through DC. Do they still own the character?

Max Allen Collins: Terry Beatty and I own MS. TREE, and we would love to do something with her, after a several year lay-off (preferably a graphic novel). A TV option is about to run out. We’ll see.

 

Jamie: Any chance of putting out a TPB collecting your Ms. Tree work?

Max Allen Collins: Possible. We’re available if anybody’s interested. But I’m not sure where the negatives are. The early stuff we don’t have, and DC controls the rest. I would love to see the DC stuff gathered, as I feel it’s our best work.

 

Jamie: You work in a lot of different storytelling arenas, mainly prose novels, but also in film making and music. What can you do in comics that can’t be done in other forms of storytelling?

Max Allen Collins: That would require a book-length response that neither of us has time for. I would say, however, that one aspect is the manner in which comics fall between film and prose: film is an exterior medium — shows us the story from the outside — and prose is an interior medium — tells us the story from inside. Comics is the only form that can gracefully give us both the interior and exterior of a story (ROAD is a case in point). Words and music, in other words…or rather, music and words. As Eisner has pointed out, the manner in which images can be frozen, in effect…the emphasis and rhythm that is possible, a manipulation of image that is quite beyond film…makes comics a storytelling medium without peer. Unfortunately, for cultural reasons, Americans will never understand that.

We just lost Johnny Craig. Did any newspaper in America cover that?

 

Jamie: You’re best known for writing in the Crime genre, both novels and comics. Do you have any desire to work in other genres?

Max Allen Collins: I have always been attracted to suspense and crime — because of the inherent conflict. (All good stories have a conflict at their heart.) Most genres have these elements — I wrote the novelizations of WATERWORLD, a science-fiction story, and MAVERICK, a western, without even thinking much about the fact that they weren’t “mysteries.” I’ve written quite a bit of horror, for instance, because those same elements are there to attract me: suspense, conflict, crime. There are more mainstream subjects that interest me, too, but I would guess whatever tale I tell, suspenseful conflict…some kind of tension, fear, crime element…is going to be in there.

 

Jamie: Jim Steranko recently called right now the “Kervorkian Age of Comics” saying there is too much violence in comics, linking them to the recent terrorist attacks in NYC. He went as far as to call an upcoming comic called PRO a “Terrorist Comic.” As a writer who writes scenes of violence, what is your response to this?

Max Allen Collins: Well, it’s obviously hyperbole, and Steranko is if anything the master of the grand gesture. My view is a little different. What I don’t like about comics and much of popular culture in recent years is a sort of phony darkness — a juvenile, arch darkness. “Darkness” isn’t tattoos and piercings and discordant music — “darkness” is flying a fucking plane into a building…that’s true darkness, and it’s not terribly entertaining. I feel my work — ANGEL IN BLACK, the latest Heller for example — is more legitimately dark, or anyway noir, than most of this stuff. James Ellroy is the best example, of course…it’s so childishly dark; everybody’s a dog-raping child molester or something. Laughable.
What’s going to be interesting is seeing where popular culture goes. Hollywood is re-releasing fluff like LEGALLY BLONDE and shelving the new Arnold-kicks-terrorist-butt movie…but maybe Americans would like to see Arnold kick some terrorist butt. About now a Mike Hammer novel with a great over-the-top revenge ending might feel pretty good. But I’m relieved to be a historical novelist at the moment — the 20th Century seems like a much safer canvas right now.

 

Jamie: What are you working on now?

Max Allen Collins: I just finished the novelization of ROAD, but I’m having trouble with DreamWorks because the licensing person feels I’ve put in too much material not in the script. The fact that I created this story and these characters does not seem to sway this person. So that’s a small nightmare I’m wrestling with.

And I’m working on THE LUSITANIA MURDERS, another of my “disaster” novels. Then I do the movie tie-in for THE SCORPION KING. Before the end of the year you’ll see two other recent works: WINDTALKERS, a John Woo novelization, and the first CSI novel, DOUBLE DEALER.

Brian Hibbs Interview

Originally published September of 2001. The follow up part was published a month later. What was interesting about this interview is that not too long after it Brian Hibbs would sue Marvel Comics for their refusal to accept returns on late or significantly altered books, as per Marvel’s own legally binding Terms of Service said they would do. Marvel settled the case out of court by giving comic shops credit for those books, which retailers were very thankful of. Shortly after that Brian was one of the founding members of ComicsPro, a trade organization for direct market comic shops.

 

An Interview With Brian Hibbs

Brian Hibbs is a very active comic retailer who owns a comic store called Comix Experience in San Francisco. Lately, he has been responding to public comments by both Editor in Chief Joe Quesada and President of Marvel Publishing Bill Jemas. Recently, Bill Jemas had an interview with GrayHavenMagazine.com in which he gave a number of surprising answers to questions concerning how stores should display comics, the price of Marvel vs. DC books, how quickly Marvel books sell and the very controversial no-overprint policy. In this interview, Brian responds to some of those statements by Bill Jemas and also talks about other topics concerning the industry.

 

Jamie: Tell us about your experience in comics. How long have you been a retailer, what’s your store like and what else you do in the industry?

Brian Hibbs: Comix Experience has been around for 12 years now. Opened April Fools day in 1989, but I’ve worked in comic retail for 16 years, something like that. I worked in another store before I opened my own. I’ve also done a little work in distribution, the only thing I haven’t done is publishing, actually. What’s the store like? We’re primarily a bookstore oriented comic shop. Trade paperbacks and Graphic Novels are our focus. We’ve been nominated and won national and local awards for excellence, that kind of thing.

 

Jamie: What’s different from your store than typical comic stores, I understand you are different in how you rack things?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah, we do genre racking and things like that, but I don’t know what a “typical” comic shop really is. Even among the stores that I would consider my peers and who run excellent comic shops, I don’t think any of us do things the same ways or stock things the same ways. It’s one of the things I like about the comics business, actually.

 

Jamie: Variety eh?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah, exactly. We’re really focused on reading. I guess the biggest difference I can say between us and the “average” store, we simply don’t allow speculation of any kind. You’re not allowed to buy more than two copies of any comic from us unless you tell us in advance that you want it. We’re completely focused on reading. That’s why we’re trade paperback and graphic novel oriented because I tend to think that’s a superior format for the reader, rather than a collector.

 

Jamie: I understand you also have a column?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah I write a… well, it’s not a monthly column anymore. It was monthly for many years there, about 8 years, in Comics and Games Retailer Magazine published by Krause Publications (the people that do Comics Buyers Guide). And yeah, I’ve written a hundred and six of them so far, about a third of them are up on our website if your readers want to check them out.

 

Jamie: That’s at ComixExperience.com right?

Brian Hibbs: Right.

 

Jamie: Are you in touch with a lot of retailers around North America?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah I like to think so, at least (laughter). Most of them are my friends and then there’s also things like some Robert Scott’s Forum on Delphi, which is a message board just for comic retailers, every day. There’s lots of threads going on back and forth there.

 

Jamie: Okay, we’re going to come up to Bill Jemas here. One of the things he mentioned in that Grayhaven interview was that he never read a comic book prior to becoming President of Marvel Publishing. Do you think that is a good or a bad thing?

Brian Hibbs: I tend to think it’s probably a bad thing. Comics is a very idiosyncratic business. We’re not like virtually any other business you can name. The things that work well in the comics field wouldn’t work well in other fields. I talk to a lot of other retailers who aren’t comic retailers and I tell them some of the ways our business works and they go “WhuuuHuh?” (laughter). They don’t get it, you know? But on the other side, I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with having an outsider’s perspective as long as you’re perceptive to the way the business actually works. Jemas, I understand, comes from Sports Cards and my perception has been that he is doing any number of steps that are appropriate for the sports card business but I don’t believe are very appropriate at all for the comic book business.

 

Jamie: One other comment that Jemas made was, “The simple fact is that the vast majority of retailers are doing very well with Marvel and are pleased with our current policies.” Do you agree with this?

Brian Hibbs: I would agree with the former part of the statement, I would very strongly disagree with the latter part. Certainly the retailers I speak to, I’d say only a third or less of them are “pleased” with the policies. Yeah sure, we’re selling more Marvel Comics but that’s a function of the fact that Marvel Comics are good and readable right now, not lack of stock availability. There was a long, long, long period…10 years…when they were just horrible tripe that nobody wanted (laughter). And now they’ve got really good creative teams on them, strong editorial directions. Of course the sales are going to be up in that context, but that doesn’t mean the policies to sell those comics to the retailers are necessarily wise or smart ones.

 

Jamie: Something else Jemas pointed out was that he thought the industry’s problems mainly stemmed from bad books. Do you think it was just bad books that hurt the industry for all those years?

Brian Hibbs: No, not at all. There’s bad books, bad stores, escalating price points, late shipping, inconsistent creators — all of these things play into it equally, I think. I don’t think you really can go, “Oh, it’s just bad comics.” Certainly looking at the sales charts, quality is not always a one-to-one relationship to sales. I’m sure you and I can both name any number of books that are excellent, superb comic books that just don’t sell very well in the average comic shop. I think that a lot of the problem is that most of the retailers do not appear to be stocking the wide range of material that would appeal to a wide range of people. They tend to focus primarily on the collectors and superhero completists. That’s certainly how this business, the direct market, evolved. I would tend to think bad stores are just as equal in the equation as bad content.

The real problem with the comics industry, as it stands at this moment, is there are simply not enough venues for you to buy comics in. There’s what? Three and a half thousand comic shops across this whole country? That’s really not very many at all, and more than that, the majority of them are concentrated in the big cities. There’s whole stretches of the country where you can go a hundred miles and there’s not a comic shop anywhere. Certainly there would be people interested in reading comics in those markets that aren’t being properly served. Even worse though, and this is going to sound a little arrogant and one thing I don’t like about interviews is you can’t see that I’m smiling when I say this, but about a year ago I did a tour of all the stores in San Francisco and went around looking at each one. I was looking for ideas mostly cause good retailers always learn from each other. But I realized that I don’t really have any “competition” in comic shops around San Francisco. Most of the stores here sell DC, Marvel and Image and that’s that, and that’s all they sell. They are much more focused on collectors only, and the stores remain small I believe because of that. Nobody in San Francisco has anywhere near the trade paperback selection that we do, except for Virgin. They’re the only ones that I would call my “competition” and they’re a media store or whatever. You don’t think of them as a place to go buy comic books, necessarily.

So I think the largest part of the problem is that there’s not enough good quality retailers out there. If someone does have an interest in comics that’s spurred by a movie or something else outside of comics, they’re probably not going to find what they want, in an environment that they want to shop in, because the direct market simply doesn’t have enough stores to give that to them. Outside of the direct market, you’re getting more and more venues that are beginning to carry graphic novels and trades, presented in a way that will appeal to people who aren’t interested in walking into a comic book shop every seven days to see what’s new that week. But again, I still think that it’s difficult if you’re a potential new consumer to just find a place to buy comics. When I was a kid growing up in New York, every little corner store had a rack of comics. That’s how I got into comics and everybody I know got into comics. We’ve lost the feeder mechanism to bring people into the marketplace, which is just a terrible shame.

 

Jamie: What sort of feeder mechanism should replace the one that we lost?

Brian Hibbs: Well, I think one of the problems is there is not enough of an incentive for new people to be opening comic shops. We also need the newsstands, there’s no doubt about it. In fact, I would be happy if newsstands went back to being 80-90% of comic sales, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing at all. I don’t know that’s going to happen because the amount of money a non-comics store can make off comics, seems to be generally limited in terms of periodicals. In terms of the perennial, the paperback, I mean obviously every bookstore in America should be carrying comics, some have done very, very well with them. In terms of the direct market, the main thing is to provide more incentives and a better business climate to which to show new entrepreneurs that it is possible to actually make money, to be successful selling comic books. I easily think we could double the number of comic book shops in this country and we wouldn’t even come close to meeting the demand that’s out there. And I think unfortunately, a lot of mechanisms in this business are really not geared towards making retailers any money. I do pretty well running a comic book shop, I’m not rich or anything. I don’t think there is a rich comic book retailer in this country (laughter). But certainly, if people are willing to work hard and really have a passion and desire for the form, it’s a business I would absolutely encourage people to jump into.

 

Jamie: Bill Jemas thinks that the most successful comic shops are the ones that carry the most Marvel Comics. Do you agree?

Brian Hibbs: Well, pretty clearly not (laughter).

 

Jamie: No?

Brian Hibbs: As far as I am aware, as of my last conversation with Diamond on the subject, I am the largest single comic account in San Francisco. San Francisco is one of the largest markets for comics in the country, and Marvel is a fairly low proportion of my business. Marvel is certainly an important publisher, is certainly a publisher that you shouldn’t go, “Agghh… I don’t want this,” but to say that you can not be successful, which is certainly the implication there, without Marvel Comics, is an utter fallacy.

 

Jamie: What do you think the most successful comic shops carry, then?

Brian Hibbs: The most successful comic shops carry a wide and diverse range of material that appeals to both their regular ongoing customers, and to civilians as well. Regardless of who publishes that material.

 

Jamie: Okay. Here is another quote from Bill Jemas from the same interview. It says, “On average, Marvel Comics sell more than twice as fast as a DC book and nearly 3 times as fast as an Image book and – are you ready – Over 10 times faster than the average indy book.” Has this been true in your experience?

Brian Hibbs: No, and I don’t even know where those numbers come from. I saw that and tried to figure out exactly what he was talking about. I think he was talking about average print runs. The problem is, when you’re looking at average print runs in the direct market, what is reported is initial orders only. For example, he said “twice a DC book.” Yeah, that’s probably true if you count all the newsstand-oriented comics DC does. Like the children books, which sell you know, ten thousand or less copies in the direct market because they’re not really geared to the direct market, they’re geared outside the direct market. So you’re really comparing apples and oranges in that case. Certainly in my experience if you believe in a book as a retailer and you are honest and straightforward with your customers, the customers could not care less who publishes that comic book. It makes no difference whatsoever, you know? Do they say, “I want to see a movie tonight and I’m going to see a Warner Brothers movie?” No, they go see a movie they want to see, with stars they want to see in it, by directors they enjoy or possibly even the screen writer that they think is a good one. That… it’s just a silly statement on so many levels I don’t even know exactly how to address it (laughter). I can say that yeah, it doesn’t come out very often, but a book like Eightball we sell probably 2:1, 3:1 on our average Marvel Comic sale. But again, that’s not really comparing apples to apples which is the problem of doing comparative analysis in such a flippant manner.

 

Jamie: Regarding Marvels no-overprinting policy. They say it saves them money and helps the comic industry in a number of ways. I take it you disagree with this?

Brian Hibbs: Well, I don’t know if I disagree with whether it saves them money or not because I don’t have access to their accounting, but I don’t think it serves the comic industry in any particular way at all, no. The direct market was primarily based originally around back issues. The average comic shop had a difficult time getting new comics and it was primarily selling old back issue comics. Most retailers would stock specifically for back issues. In the store I worked at before opening Comix Experience, we would order another case for the warehouse on certain books. Because we knew over time we’d sell them, that just made financial sense. Now of course, comics were only 75 cents then so our unit costs were, oh 35 cents, something like that. So you can stock a whole lot more in that case when the unit costs were so low and the majority of your business is based around the back stock. But that changed. The market completely changed as prices went higher, people stopped buying back issues by-and- large. Or at least they stopped casually buying back issues. It used to be that someone would come into my store with 5 dollars and they spent 3 dollars on new comics, getting a few new comics or whatever, then they’d have 2 bucks left and they’d spend that on back issues, just to fill out a run. As prices escalated, that same 5 dollars only bought you one or two new comic books and people could no longer afford to keep up on all the new books that they wanted, let alone buying any back issues.

So, the tenor of ordering properly meant that the retailer had to become much more conservative in their ordering because there isn’t an automatic pipeline anymore to sell those comics that come off the stands. What I found over the last 6 or 7 years, lets say, if I do not sell the average comic book in the first 30 to 90 days, it does not sell. If I order 20 copies of something and I only sell 18 of them, I will probably not sell the remaining two copies any time in the near future. It may take 3 or 4 or 5 years. So when you look at the business from that point of view, from a historical here-is-where-we-came-from-and-why-are-circulation- numbers-dropping-so-much POV it suddenly doesn’t make any sense for a comic book retailer buying non-returnably to over-stock their store. Certainly an awful lot of stores went out of business in the 90’s because they were drowning in overstock. Some of the best stores in the country nearly went out of the business during the 90’s because their inventory went out of control. Thankfully, these guys figured it out and have reduced their extreme exposure. A no-overprint situation means all the burden is put on ordering and selling that book up-front the first time, even if you don’t have any appropriate information to do so.

I’ll give you an example. Prior to the relaunch with Grant Morrison on X-Men we hadn’t sold, um… lets say 70 copies, max, of any issue of X-Men in like the 5 year period proceeding that. On a Grant Morrison book, I’m pretty sure we never sold more than a 100 copies at any point. Same thing with a Frank Quietly book. So I looked at that, thought, “This book is going to be big and I’m going to order… what the hell, I’m going to order 125 copies, let’s do it.” That, I think, is showing confidence in it. And I sold out of those in two days. Now, I probably could have sold 200, I could have sold 250, I could have sold 300 copies. Who knows? But because there weren’t any re-orders available, I wasn’t able to find out and customers went without that comic book. Now I more than doubled what the previous month of X-Men was and I sold out in two days. I couldn’t get any more. I don’t see how that can be a good policy, by any means.

I suppose Jemas would argue the reason that I sold out so fast was because people thought it would be short printed or something, but I certainly don’t think so. This is certainly not information that we’ve been making a big push of in our store. I think it was just the right book at the right time. But it under-performed to what it could do. You look at something like Green Arrow where we again ordered very strong, we sold out instantly, we called up and DC had some more for us. And when they ran out of those they went and printed up some more…and they printed some more…and they printed some more a fourth time. Green Arrow is my best selling DC comic right now, at least superhero-wise. And that’s precisely because I could keep going back and getting more copies, and more copies, and more copies each time. And of course I learned to increase my order the next time. Going back to X-Men, I saw how fast the first one sold out and I put in an advance re-order for the second one and took it up to 200 copies. The book finally comes in, it’s 5 weeks late, which doesn’t help anything and I sold 125 copies. I got 75 copies sitting there that I’m not going to sell anytime soon. I just took a bath on that book. I just lost money on the second issue of X-Men because I couldn’t get any more of the first one! When you look at it in those terms, I don’t see how I’m not doing everything exactly as I’m supposed to. I’m showing, in fact, statistically more support for a publisher, Marvel Comics, than the average quote, unquote comic shop. The average comic shop went up by about 40% and I went up a 100%. I think that gives me a bit of justification in saying that no, this is not a good policy. You cost yourself sales, you cost me sales, you cost Grant Morrison, you cost the distributors money, I don’t see how anybody is going to be happy with that situation.
The thing is, overprinting isn’t as expensive as Bill would like people to believe.

 

Jamie: Or Joe Quesada?

Brian Hibbs: Well, with him too, I guess.

 

Jamie: I know you had a public back and forth with him on Newsarama about this as well.

Brian Hibbs: Absolutely. The thing is, that when you do an analysis of what it costs you to print a comic book, your initial costs are amortized against your initial print run. So if it costs you X dollars to print, X dollars for talent, and X dollars to ship it out, X dollars for the retailers, then your profit or loss comes out of your initial orders. To flip the switch and have the printers run off another 5,000 copies is costing virtually nothing, it’s costing them 10 or 15 cents a book. You don’t amortize the entire cost back against the increased print run, you see what I’m saying? In other words, instead of costing me $3,000 to print 10,000 copies, if I print 11,000 it’s costing me $3,100. There is a hundred dollar difference there, for the “extra” 1000 copies. It costs you far less to print the “extras” than it does to print the initial run.

So, from any point of view, running an overprint is a very economical and profitable thing. The last statistic I saw from several different publishers was that they only had to sell 1 out of 5 of those overprinted copies to make a profit. As long as you sell 20% of it that’s okay, you can throw the other 80% of it away and you still made more money than you would have made otherwise. So, I definitely don’t think it’s a good plan at all.

 

Jamie: I noticed in the memo that Marvel sent to retailers regarding the no-overprint policy, they mentioned that some of the books found their way into the black market. Did you ever have a problem with that?

Brian Hibbs: No, I haven’t. I seem to think that is much more of an east coast thing because they print them up there, right in Montreal. Right close to the border. And that’s where copies are going through. I know there is… I don’t want to say which retailer it is… but there is one retailer in Montreal who says it was and sometimes continues to be, a massive problem for them. Boxes falling off the truck, or whatever. But I don’t see that as an issue with overprinting per se, certainly the same thing can happen even if you’re not overprinting.

 

Jamie: More of a security issue.

Brian Hibbs: Exactly.

 

Jamie: There are several other things they said in that memo that I know you disagreed with in the past, I guess I’ll get you to comment on them publicly. They say they kept their prices at $2.25 while DC raised them to $2.50.

Brian Hibbs: Well, that’s demonstrably not so. At the time when they made that statement, if you went in and compared Marvel’s list of comics vs. DC’s list of comics, most of DC’s books were still $2.25. DC has any number of $1.99 books to try and act as feeder books. I mean mathematically, at the time, it was not so. But still Marvel prices a lot of books at $2.99 and $2.50 constantly. So I don’t know… I mean… statements like that makes me wonder about the press sometimes, that they just run a statement like that without even going and checking if it was true or not (laughter). When someone makes a statement you should go and fact- check it, before you print it as fact y’know? But that’s just me, I suppose.

 

Jamie: Marvel says as a result of their no overprint policy, they’ve been able to build an inventory of trade paper backs and keep them in print. But I’ve heard Marvel has been having some troubles keeping trade paper backs in print.

Brian Hibbs: Yes, Marvel has been pretty damn bad about keeping trade paperbacks in print. But again, you have to look at the right way of doing the business model on this. You don’t just print for your initial orders and plus an overage to cover for the next couple of months. It doesn’t make any sense to do that. It makes a lot more sense to print a 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 year supply of the books because your unit costs are going to be that much lower. If you go back to press on another 3 to 5 thousand copies or whatever those numbers they are printing on, it costs you so much more than if you increase your print run to 10 to 15 thousand, if you see what I mean. It doesn’t make any mathematical sense. Now, if the argument is by not overprinting single comics then we can afford to print more trade paperbacks, that seems to me to be a fallacious argument on the face of it. Look at the disparity of the cover prices on those. As I say, when it costs oh.. lets say 15 cents to print off an extra copy of a periodical comic book on a 15 dollar paperback you’re looking more at a 2 to 3 dollar cost, lets say. My numbers may be a little off there but you would have to be overprinting by a really, really, really enormous margin to even come close to the math on that working out. Again, the problem is that Marvel has been doing a pretty bad job of keeping trade paperbacks in print, in stock and available. I mean, right now you can’t buy Marvels, the Kurt Busiek-Alex Ross book. That, if anything, is a perfect thing to hand to someone that hasn’t read comics in a long time, and to get them excited about superheroes and Marvel superheroes, in particular. It’s the namesake book of the line and it hasn’t been in print for something like 4 or 5 months! That, to me, is just absurd (laughter).

 

Jamie: A number of people think the no-overprint policy is mainly designed to enhance the collectability of a sold out comic. Does this help you at all?

Brian Hibbs: I don’t think it helps anyone, really. Look, comics are collectible because of supply and demand. Placing an artificial ceiling on the supply is… well, I think it is manipulative to the marketplace. I was always taught that the market itself should decide what is collectible and what is not.

Why would a publisher be in the business of trying to manufacture collectibles? They don’t see any money from that. Marvel doesn’t get a piece of E-Bay action. If the logic is, “This makes the initial orders higher”, well, I really challenge that. Morrison’s first issue of X- Men took a 40% leap (though the numbers went back down by the third one to only 20% above pre-Morrison numbers). I see that more of a function of the talent involved, rather than any false limitation of the print run. Besides, if it really was working then why are the Ultimates all down, across the board, from April to August? Spidey dropped 4%, X- Men 6% and Team-Up a staggering 22%. That wouldn’t be happening if they were truly collectible.

One other thing to take into account, is that Marvel’s plan seems to be to TPB their best-selling books as soon as humanly possible. Often before 30 days has passed since the last single issue. Now historically, TPB release of material deflates and softens the collectible value of the original issues.

 

Jamie: They also mention posting sold out comics on their webpage as a positive thing, do you think that’s good?

Brian Hibbs: Sure, why not? I don’t know that I believe that the experience of reading a comic on the web, especially one with the kind of pop- up pages the Marvels have, is even remotely the same as reading a printed comic, but anything that exposes our material to potential new customers is probably a good thing.

What I’m curious about is whether or not it actually helps drive sales. Like how many hits they get, and if they can point to any information that it is actually moving more units. Reading the sales charts, no, I don’t think it does. At least in no measurable way.

 

Jamie: Marvel has also been focusing on movies, hoping that they’ll increase the sales of their comics. In your experience, does comic movies help the sales of comic books?

Brian Hibbs: Virtually never, outside of a quick aberrational blip. What it can possibly do is translate to a greater awareness of a character or a concept in general… but it doesn’t appear to sell any more comic books. A quick look at the historical sales charts will confirm that.

There are certain exceptions, of course: Ghost World has had a significant impact on sales of that TPB. Our unit sales in that case have increased tenfold over what they were before the film. But that’s a rare exception.

 

Jamie: Bill Jemas seems real big on promoting the Ultimate, especially Ultimate Spider-Man as a good starting on point for new comic readers.

Brian Hibbs: It is a reasonable one. The story is well crafted, clear and easy to follow, and gives a good starting point for someone interested in super-hero comics. The thing is, the average non-comics reader isn’t particularly interested in reading super-hero comics. You’re much better off handing them a Ghost World, or a Maus, something that more accurately speaks to real experiences in their lives. Having said that, sure, I could think of far worse “entry points.”

 

Jamie: Including female readers?

Brian Hibbs: People are people, regardless of their sex. All things considered though, I’d hand a new female reader Ghost World, I think, over Spider-Man. The only real female roles in Spidey are “wife” and “girlfriend.”

 

Jamie: Jemas recommends Marvel-hating indy fans to read Elektra as a date comic. Think that’ll work?

Brian Hibbs: I’m not sure that Elektra is even remotely “indy flavored” (whatever that might mean). It is a decent enough comic, but within the Marvel line, I think I’d give an “indy fan” Morrison’s X-Men, or maybe X-Force by Milligan and Allred. Those seem to me, to be closer to that sensibility.

One thing though, and this is coming from a store where we sell as many “indy” comics as we do “mainstream”… the customers aren’t really that separate. It is very, very, very common for the cat who buys JLA or X-Men to also pick up a copy of Peepshow or Eightball or whatever.

 

Jamie: What books would you recommend as beginner books for males and females?

Brian Hibbs: More things than I could cover in an interview! I’d say it depends on who exactly that customer is. One of the tricks you learn in retail is finding out what a person’s interests are, and then matching a book to that. Comics are wide and diverse enough that I’m pretty confident I have something for anyone who walks in the door. Our massive and continued growth, strikingly above industry norms, should justify that statement.

 

Jamie: Marvel has recently announced an incentive for their TPB line. Saying, if retailers order 14 of their 16 TPB, you’ll get an additional discount going by the amount of books you order. An example being if you order two of each, you get an extra 2% discount. Is this an incentive that most retailers can actually use?

Brian Hibbs: Sure, I think so. The nice thing about this plan is they’ve set their quantities fairly low. That extra 2% comes with only 2 copies bought, and that is, I think, a good tool to use to get the average store to actually stock TPBs in the first place. The only problem with the plan is that they’re mixing in reprints of OP titles into that mix… a few of which had a low enough sales velocity in the first place to go Out of Print.

But anything that encourages more retailers to get into the book side of things is, I think, a very fine idea. TPB sales are the engine that is driving my business, and are a much better business model than non-returnable periodical comics. The reason for this is Just-In- Time ordering. Rather than investing real heavily on untested “floppy” comics, you can stock and restock the periodical. Well, assuming the publisher actually has them available, that is.

When you’re establishing yourself and sell two copies of Watchmen every month, when you sell one of those copies you can order another one. You’re only out of anything for a week, at maximum, at any time and your constantly turning over your cash flow in a real respectful way. This is a good business model.

 

Jamie: Now there were some things that Jemas said that seem to be positive, progressive things like he thinks comics stores should be racking by content rather than alphabetically.

Brian Hibbs: Oh absolutely. We’ve done that for years. Now having said that, some of the smartest retailers in the business vehemently disagree with that. I know Jim Hanley really strongly believes he gets much, much, much more great sales out of racking alphabetically. And I believe that’s true for Jim. As I was saying earlier in the interview, no two stores are really alike. I believe that genre racking is getting me increased sales over what alphabetical racking would. Jim feels differently, more power to him. But yeah, I’m definitely with Jemas on that one. I think that’s a good and smart way to rack material.
[Note: Jim Hanley owns Jim Hanley’s Universe at 4 West 33rd Street, New York, NY]

[Jim Hanley’s store is now called JHU Comic Books and has since moved to 32 East 32nd Street, New York, NY]

Jamie: Bill mentioned Marvel is trying to get new readers by giving away free online comics and giving away free samples. Examples given are the 500,000 Spider-Man comics within a game magazine, free Wolverine and X-Men Comics when the X-Men Movie came out, and in the future the 1 million Spider-Man comics going out through the Buster Brown Shoe Stores.

Brian Hibbs: Well, it’s been in the future for over a year now, so I don’t know (laughter) how much I trust that last one there. I think giving out comics is probably the smartest thing you could possibly do. Having said that, I have never, not once ever, seen anyone come into my store because of the giveaways that Marvel has done. I don’t know if… this is entirely possible that it’s just a regional thing. I do not believe that they gave out any X-Men comics at any San Francisco showing of the X-Men. I mean, I was there opening day and I didn’t see any comics being given away. I’m sure it’s happening somewhere, and I think it’s a great plan, again I think it’s a really intelligent and smart thing to do. The best way is, you know, “The first one’s free, kid,” particularly if the content of what you’re giving away is good quality content. That’s why I think giving away Ultimate Spider-Man would be a really smart thing to do. Giving away some bad X-Men comics could actually hurt you at that point. If someone comes out and says, “That was a great movie, what’s this free comic? Ewww… it’s not very good at all.” I don’t know if you remember the TV Guide X-Men insert?

 

Jamie: Yeah, I don’t think I got it, but I heard about it.

Brian Hibbs: Yeah, it was really, really, really bad. It was everything that was wrong with the Chris Claremont X-Men. Just page after page of people coming in and saying, “My name is this and here is my power!” and you know it wasn’t interesting at all. I’m sure that turned more people off from comics than it could ever have gotten them to come into a store and say, “Hey, this is interesting, lets check this out.” So you have to be very careful when giving stuff away for free (laughter). To make sure it’s good, quality, appropriate material.

Here’s the thing though: if you’re doing these sort of giveaways… shouldn’t you be informing the local retailers so they can capitalize upon it? If they did giveaway X-Men comics at the X-Men movie, I sure didn’t know about it.

 

Jamie: Marvel says their goal over the next 5 years is to double their sales. Do you think they can do that?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah, sure. Sure. I mean, I don’t think they can do it as long as they have a policy in place that’s says once we sell out that’s it, period. You know? (laughter). I don’t think that’s going to happen until they remove the no overprint program. I don’t think it can happen. But otherwise? It’s completely doable, completely doable. It’s just a matter of putting out good comics, supporting the stores, letting people know that the comics exist, getting people excited about the content of the material. Yeah, Marvel’s got no where to go but up right now and I think that’s a good thing. What’s interesting particularly in my exchanges with Joe Quesada, we had a bunch of e-mails back and forth and I was really struck with the impression that they seem to think I’m like anti-Marvel or something. And nothing could be further than the truth, I want Marvel to succeed, you know? I want as many good quality publishers producing good, quality material out there doing as many strong things as they possibly can, in my store. But, I don’t like being called an idiot. I don’t like being told I’m full of self-loathing. I don’t like a policy that is very demonstrably costing me sales. All those things are very negative and horrible things and when I stand up and go, “Hey this is wrong” it’s from that point of view. Not because I hate Marvel or I’m anti-Marvel or something like that. That would be silly, I’m a comic book retailer, it’s my job to sell comic books. When the publisher gets in my way of selling those comic books, then we’re going to have a problem.

 

Jamie: Just out of curiosity, what’s your IQ score?

Brian Hibbs: What’s my IQ score?

 

Jamie: (laughter)

Brian Hibbs: I don’t remember. When I took the IQ test I was like 13, or something like that? But I qualified for Mensa, if that counts? But I don’t know, I don’t care. IQ numbers?

 

Jamie: Sorry, that was just a question I had to ask (laughter).

Brian Hibbs: That was a very ill considered statement on Bill’s part. And I think he made it much worse by issuing the second press release saying, “Yeah, I’m fooling around but oh, by the way, you’re still idiots.” You know, that’s how I read it. I didn’t want to read it that way but that’s… you know, here we are… comic shop retailers work really, really, really, really hard and we don’t make very much money. Not that we’re poor or anything like that, but then to have a some guy go, “Well if you don’t agree with me, than you’re a dope.” You know? Pfft. That doesn’t help anything. That doesn’t help morale. And particularly coming out after getting through the 90’s, morale is an issue that… if I were a publisher, morale would be an issue I would be very, very concerned with. I wouldn’t want you retailers going, “I don’t know if this guy is someone I want to do business with.” It’s just dumb.

 

Jamie: I understand that Marvel recently had another retailer press conference, one that you suggested to Joe Quesada at San Diego. Within this, they openly admitted that they only invited retailers that had the strongest growth of Marvel sales and they left you out of it. How does that color your view of them?

Brian Hibbs: Well, I don’t know the specifics of the statements that Bill or Joe or whoever made at the conference call, so I don’t know what their standard was. I will say though, that their most vocal critics like me, like Joe Field, like Matt Lehman, who were invited to the first retailer conference, were not invited to this one. How does that color my perception? I don’t know, I think it makes them cowardly, is what I think it does. I think that if you can’t have an intelligent conversation about a policy, particularly now that we’ve had some time behind us and we can start to judge if that policy has or has not worked.
I would point out that the SCC filings that Marvel just made as of last Tuesday (from when we are doing this interview) show that from quarter to quarter, from 2000 to 2001 that Marvel Publishing sales have gone down. They haven’t gone up, they’ve gone down.
I would point to the very sales charts from April to August, that every single one of those months, the vast majority of Marvel Comics have dropped in sales from month to month. Nineteen of the twenty-five books that are on all four month’s worth of sales charts have dropped. To me, this says, “Well, this policy isn’t really working is it?” Yeah, absolutely, X-Men has gone up 25%, or whatever and that is a great thing, that is a wonderful thing for them. But Avengers has dropped by 6% and Daredevil dropped by 15% and Tangled Web dropped by 32%. So, I think at this point you should be willing, as a publisher, to look at what the actual impact is. As opposed to what you believe, or what you want to have happen. I think it’s really important to look at those things critically. The smart publishers and the smart distributors (well, which is pretty much Diamond at this point but…) have come to realize that critical thought is a good thing and something that should be embraced. That if we go to them, me and any number of retailers go, “We don’t think it’s a good idea,” they’ll go, “Okay. We’re going to think about it again. We’re going to actually look at this carefully and ask ourselves, “does our plan make sense or does our plan not make sense?” If we still think it makes sense as a publisher than let us go back to the retailers and go “Here’s really why we think it’s making sense and here’s some tangible, provable things that we can point to.” Marvel doesn’t have any of that right now as far as I can tell, besides just blind rah-rah. “No-No, it’s working. Look, X-Mens up!” (laughter)

To me that doesn’t tell the whole story, that tells a very small part of the story. How much would X-Men be up if we could keep going back to the well and keep getting more copies? Frankly, I think X-Men could have done 200,000 copies rather than the 150,000 or so that it did. I really do, I really believe strongly that it could have done 200,000 copies. But we’ll never know now. And if I were a creator, I’d be really upset about that. you know? “Wait a minute, what do you mean? There’s people who want my comic and you won’t sell it to them?” (laughter). That’s silly. So, to sorta back up there, I think it is extremely short sighted to only invite people to a conference call that are there to, let us say, be “positive.” Unflinchingly so. I think it’s always a good thing to have dissenting voices and to listen to them carefully and pay attention to what they have to say. I would love it, I would adore it in fact, if Joe or Bill came into my store, walked around and went “Y’know, we think if you did this, your store would be a better place.” And I would listen to that. I listen every time anybody comes into my store and says, “You know, I don’t think this is right, I think you should do this.” I look at it, I evaluate it, I think about it and most of the time I actually end up trying people’s suggestions. You know, that’s how you get better. You don’t get better by going “Oh, you can’t come because you’re a big meany.”

 

Jamie: At the same conference call with a number of your peers, Bill Jemas referred to you as “Hairy Neck” and kept calling Joe Field’s Flying Colors store “Failing Colors.” How do you respond to something like that?

Brian Hibbs: I’m not sure, honestly. I think it is incredibly juvenile to resort to name-calling, particularly in front of a group of peers. Several of the people involved as participants called me to tell me how ashamed they felt hearing that. I don’t think it is good business to insult your customers.

 

Jamie: Switching topics a bit here, I understand there is a weekly War Machine Comic that’s coming out, part of the experimentation that Marvel is doing. And because of it being weekly it’s very hard for retailers to order it in proper numbers. Can you explain to the readers why that is?

Brian Hibbs: Okay, because we’re basically ordering sight unseen and we’ll probably end up ordering all 12 issues before the first issue even ships. Now this is assuming it ships on time. I’d like to believe that if they’re doing weekly comics they can do them on time. But Marvel has been very, very, very bad on timely shipping recently. When you order a comic you’re… if you’re a good retailer, you keep up to date on what you sell of your comics. So, let’s say for War Machine, I’m going to look at it and go this is going to sell relatively in some sort of proportion, be it up or down or in the middle of, lets say, Iron Man. That gives me a good benchmark to work from. But War Machine is black and white. But it’s weekly, it doesn’t have any of the same creators that Iron Man has, it is a character that has failed in his own series in the past and that people didn’t appear to like very much. So, you look at that and you’re going, “Well, do I order 50% of Iron Man? Do I order 70%? or do I order 110%?” There is no way to know. We’re guessing. Every time a comic book retailer places an order they are basically guessing. They’re educated guesses to be sure, we have data we can look back at. I can show you in cycle sheets where books just take sudden shifts whether it’s up or whether it’s down for no reason. It’s the exact same creator team from month to month, there is nothing that changed about the book, not a character has changed or anything like that, and all of a sudden a third of the customers go, “I don’t want this anymore,” all at once (laughter). And there is just no way to predict these things. Ordering comics is not a science, it’s an art. It’s like trying to see the future. What are my customers going to want 3 months from now? And it’s much, much worse in the case of a weekly book because there are so many issues you have to order in advance. Now, a normal comic book, if we’re lucky, we only have to order maybe two, maybe three issues in advance before the first one comes and we can actually see whether it sold or not. In this case, we’re basically going to have to order all of them. If not, it’s all but 3 and even then you can’t really tell from issue #1 what a series is going to sell for issue #12. You can sorta tell, but not really. I don’t know, is that making sense? I never know how to answer these questions, because for me, comics retailing is so ingrained that do it without thinking.

 

Jamie: I think you explained it as best you could, I understand it.

Brian Hibbs: Okay. Well, if you understand it, hopefully your readers will.

 

Jamie: I know some retailers have been little squeamish on selling some of Marvels non-code approved books to kids. An example being the eyeless Wolverine issue. What are your feelings on that?

Brian Hibbs: I think in an awful lot of communities, retailers really, really, really, really need to be squeamish about doing those kinds of things. Because community standards are the important issue when it comes to the acceptability of selling a book. I am blessed, well not blessed because I’ve very specifically opened my store here, but I’m blessed by being in San Francisco. Not only in San Francisco, but in an extremely liberal part of San Francisco. So those are not particular concerns that I have. But yeah, I would be very concerned if I was in a more conservative area with having that comic or any number of things that have been announced or have come out. Because if just one wrong person sees it, you can lose your store. It’s entirely possible. Just look at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and look at all the retailers that have gone to jail, or who have lost their store or lost thousands of dollars fighting conservative forces. In something that is especially perceived as children’s entertainment by the vast majority of America, IE. Superhero comics, I think that becomes an even bigger issue to be aware of. I would not consciously sell that issue of X-Force or that issue of Wolverine with the eyeball to a child. I wouldn’t do it and I’m in San Francisco. How much worse it must be if your in, I don’t know, Iowa or something like that? Something else of note is that I used to be on the board of directors for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. And at no point was Marvel ever interested in supporting the CBLDF or what it stood for. At the time their reasoning was something very close to, “Well you know, we just don’t produce comics like that.” And now they are producing comics like that and I will be very curious to see if a store does get arrested for selling some of this material, what Marvel will do. I’ll be very curious indeed.

 

Jamie: I wonder if some of this comes from our own ideas of what kids should and shouldn’t be seeing vs. what Network TV keeps showing. Some think we should just follow their lead and just think if they’re doing it, we can do it too.

Brian Hibbs: Well, yeah, maybe. I don’t know I really want to wade into the censorship issue or the appropriateness issue because frankly, I think that’s a decision the parents have to make. The parents need to decide what they are comfortable with their children viewing. In something like that first issue of X-Force, which was an excellent comic by the way, I really liked that comic a lot… but you know, it’s got a character that’s ripped apart by a machine gun and his guts are leaking out of his body. I mean, it’s shown and it’s very visual and I don’t think you’d even see that on Network Television. I think it was really irresponsible, particularly in a comic which had been completely and utterly safe for children for 115, or whatever, previous issues, to sudden have massive eviscerations (laughter). But I really think it’s… I don’t really have a problem with Marvel having their own rating system as long as it’s consistently and consciously applied. I don’t know that it is and that’s my big concern. As far as I understand from reading their press release on it, if I recall correctly the Ultimate Marvel line was supposed to be G rated comics, as it were. And I think there are things in there that are probably not G rated and aren’t being thought about. Things like the Kingpin crushing some guy’s head. Yeah okay, it happens off panel but if I recall correctly there’s a spurt of blood. You know, you feel it and I personally wouldn’t go, “Well, that’s a G rated thing”. Again I’m in liberal San Francisco, so I don’t have to worry about these kinds of things, thank God (laughter).

Hibbs Interview Responses:
Last months interview with Brian Hibbs got a lot of traffic and reactions around the web. We decided to follow up on it by asking for responses by those involved. First we made the offer to Bill Jemas as he was the most talked about person in the interview.

Bill Jemas responded with:
By the way Brian Hibbs is just Paul Levitz spokesmodel – so you could go ahead and attribute his opinions directly to the Sultan.

We talked to Paul Levitz and he replied with No Comment.

Brian Hibbs replied with:
Why do I have this horrible thought of me wearing pearls and high heels, and doing that Vanna White hand-gesture thing?
Geez, I could have lived without that image in my brain!
‘Spokesmodel’? Can’t the man even insult correctly? First ‘hairy neck’ (huh?), now this!
Anyway I have to assume that it is only since Mr Jemas took over Marvel Comics, that he started reading Comics and Games Retailer, where my opinion column Tilting at Windmills runs.

If he had read the column prior to that, he would see that I have strongly criticized the policies of all and any companies (including, yah, DC Comics) that work against the best interest of comic book retailers. And, of course, when DC does dumb things in the future (and they will, such is the nature of things), I’ll be there to discuss their mistakes with my readers.

And, of course, as the older columns continue to go up on www.comixexperience.com your readers (and Mr. Jemas!) will be able to see that for yourself.
I’d like to think better of my fellow man, but it seems to me the reason that Mr. Jemas dismisses cogent and specific criticism with random insults is that he can’t defend his own position in any other manner.

It frustrates me as a comics retailer that the COO of Marvel Comics is determined to follow policies that are pretty demonstrably costing both them, and myself, sales.
It frustrates me as a person that he has to resort to name-calling when faced with rational debate on the subject.

 

Scott McCloud Interview

Scott McCloud at TCAF 2015

Scott McCloud at TCAF 2015

Originally published August of 2001. I think this might have been the first interview I did over the phone. I did attempt to do this interview by e-mail but Scott wasn’t fast at typing, which was funny as he was really championing the internet and digital comics as the way of the future. Doing it over the phone did make for a better (and longer) interview. I probably should have done more interviews that way, but I really dislike transcribing.

 

An Interview With Scott McCloud

Over the last few months, Scott McCloud’s name has been all over the place. Mainly because of his book Reinventing Comics and the criticism that it has drawn. Within The Comics Journal issues #232 and #234 Gary Groth wrote a scathing editorial against McCloud and his views. Scott gave a reply in issue #235, but did not address all of the criticisms. In this interview he replies to those criticisms still remaining from Gary Groth editorials and to others in the industry.

 

Jamie: Over the weekend I read your response to TCJ’s Cuckoo-Land thing, so this interview will be a little bit shorter since you already discussed that.

Scott McCloud: (laughter) Right, yeah.

 

Jamie: I’ll start off with Understand Comics, one of the things you mentioned was Sequential Art. Obviously we know what that is, one after the other. But you didn’t talk too much about political cartoons or single panel cartoons, as if they are not comics. Any comment on that?

Scott McCloud: I think it’s misunderstood that I don’t see them as comics doesn’t mean that they’re some lesser form of art. I think cartooning has every bit as rich a history as comics does: I just see one of them as being a way of drawing and a way of seeing and the other a way of arranging what we create. So they are two different things. Now they intersect all the time, of course. There is a rich joint tradition of cartooning in comics. I just don’t think it’s the same thing. So Keith Haring was a cartoonist for example, but he wasn’t making comics. He did his cartoons on walls and whatnot. If he was doing, you know, the comics in the newspaper then it would be easier to think of him as a cartoonist but he still wouldn’t be a comic book artist. Or excuse me, he would be a *comics* artist. Of course, comic *books* that is a whole nother can of worms. So by making that separation, making a very small subtraction, from my general lumpy conception of what comics are, I was able to draw that boundary much, much larger for many other things, many historical precedence’s and many potential future forms. So even though I cut loose that one single panel exception, I was able to draw my map larger and able to include a whole lot of other things. Seemed worth it. But I think many people misunderstood that exception is somehow a demotion of single panel cartoons like The Far Side or political cartoons or caricature. And it’s not. Some of my favorite artists are single panel cartoonists. People like Steinberg or some of the great political cartoonists, they’re terrific. It’s just not comics, that’s all.

 

Jamie: Moving on to Reinventing Comics. There is a DC Disclaimer that you mentioned before about particular ideas giving some people problems. What particular ideas do you know that set some people off?

Scott McCloud: I think it was pretty clear. Towards the discussion at the end of the product of the book, was the chapter that was most objectionable to some people at DC was the business chapter. The 2nd Chapter of the book, I think, that some people up at DC and Time Warner found my projections for the future of comics distasteful on some levels. But it was really my view of the history of the business of comics that upset some people. To DC’s credit, they honoured the contract that I had with them and did not enforce any corrections for editorial reasons. And I appreciate that, I think they behaved honourably, but it’s not the history of comics as DC would necessarily like to see it.

 

Jamie: There are two versions of Reinventing Comics, one Perennial/Harper Collins and one that DC was publishing.

Scott McCloud: That was true for Understanding as well.

 

Jamie: Understanding, as well?

Scott McCloud: Yeah. It’s a bit of a long history, but in brief Understanding Comics was first published by Tundra. By the time it hit the stands Tundra no longer existed and had been swallowed up by Kitchen Sink Press. Kitchen Sink Press was the company that I first signed up with to produce Reinventing Comics. In fact. I did most of the work on that book while still at Kitchen Sink Press. And when Kitchen Sink Press underwent a great deal of turmoil and it floundered, Dennis Kitchen was forced out. I needed to find an escape route quickly. I didn’t trust the people that were running the company. I didn’t want anything to do with it. DC looked like the safest port in the storm and we needed to make a decision extremely fast. And DC was that decision (laughter). And when we did it, Understanding Comics came with us. As far as the book market, Dennis Kitchen had tried to market Understanding Comics in the book trade and in other comics, obviously. We found it was just not practical so we had partnered with Harper Collins and since 1994 both Understanding Comics and later Reinventing Comics appeared in bookstores under the Harper Collins imprint, specifically Harper/Perennial. So it’s a bit complicated, but basically one company handles it for comic book stores, another company handles it for the general market, the book stores and airports and everything else. And that’s worked out all right. Harper also licenses it to other countries and Understanding Comics is in about 14 languages.

 

Jamie: Wow!

Scott McCloud: I like what Harpers is doing.

 

Jamie: Still, with Reinventing Comics, you mentioned one of the drawbacks to self publishing, specifically mentioning Dave Sim, is doing all the business related stuff. Is that not similar to publishing your own web comics because you have to learn HTML and make sure everything works in both browsers and all the server-related stuff and so forth?

Scott McCloud: Those certainly are challenges for publishing on line but they are radically different in one respect, which is those are creative challenges; challenges in producing the work. The challenge of making that work available to the public is trivial in comparison to making it available in print. It takes enormous, constant, backbreaking work and a huge amount of money to get your work printed, or to print it yourself, to get it shipped, to deal with the distribution system, the retail system, and to get your work hauled all over the country just to make it available to what may potentially be a very small number of customers. If you have 3 people nationwide who want to buy your book, you’re going to have to ship 100,000 copies to make it available to those 3 people because you don’t know where they are. So self publishing is constant, extremely hard and expensive work; whereas the work of publishing on the net is primarily the work of learning how to produce the work. Once you have the business of uploading it to the website, it’s trivial. It’s one of the easiest parts of making a web comic. It’s simply uploading it. And at that point, your work is available to anyone who wants to see it… if they can find you, which is whole nother whole can of worms. Then the expense is 70 dollars to register a website domain for 2 years and on average, probably somewhere between 20 to 40 dollars to have that domain hosted somewhere, a month. And while I don’t want to downgrade the importance of that, obviously for some people that can be a hardship, but compared to self publishing (mutual laugher) those that can’t afford that I don’t see self publishing as viable alternative, either.

 

Jamie: Just out of curiosity, I know you were interviewed in the same Internet comic that Groth did . . . his first Cuckoo-Land piece. I was wondering when that happened, the interview?

Scott McCloud: Are you referring to the Internet issue of Comics Journal?

 

Jamie: Yes.

Scott McCloud: And the question was?

 

Jamie: How long prior to the issue did that interview take place?

Scott McCloud: That was done for that issue. Charles Hatfield and I had been kicking around the idea of an interview for a while. That one was set up with the implication that it would run in the same issue. As to Groth’s review, I should say to Gary’s credit he gave me fair warning that the review was coming and we had a perfectly polite exchange prior to it and although I haven’t spoken to him since, I expect to have a perfectly polite exchange after the fact. We live in a civil society (laughter), Gary’s opinions are as strong as anything you can find in the comics press. I consider him the loyal opposition and it’s all part of the debate and thanks to Gary that debate has become much more pronounced, much more public, and frankly much more interesting. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t consider some of what he wrote to be unfair, but I was given ample opportunity to call him on it and I did.

 

Jamie: My next question was: What was your general reaction to it when you finally read it?

Scott McCloud: It was a Gary Groth Review (laughter). I began reading the comics press about 25 years ago. The Comics Journal was on the scene about that time, maybe a little before. And every time Gary writes just about anything, he just about excoriates it (laughter).

 

Jamie: Scorched Earth is the term I hear (laughter).

Scott McCloud: Yeah a scorched earth review, and even jokingly said in the subject line of his original e-mail that there was a hatchet job on the way. Which ironically, he considered a serious review, but yeah, he’s always been like this. We would expect no less of him (laughter). I think maybe some younger fans that don’t know the history, might be a little appalled at it because Gary has been fairly quiet lately. He hasn’t really been on the rampage much but there is ample history of that sort of thing.

 

Jamie: Okay, I’m going to go through the nuts and bolts of stuff that I didn’t think you address very well or address very much.

Scott McCloud: Go for it.

 

Jamie: I know you went back and forth with Gary over this, but do you think you have been hyping the Internet and web comics a bit too much?

Scott McCloud: Hmm.. It’s problematic, because I think Gary is right, that I haven’t spent enough time addressing the potential for corporate abuse and some of the darker aspects of the Internet. So I think it’s correct that I haven’t done enough on the negative. I don’t think that necessarily means that I’ve done too much hyping of the positive. Because I think the potential of positive change is enormous. In our community, there are still a great number of people who dismiss the Internet out of hand. There are still many that think the Internet is about to destroy everything they love about comics and I can raise my voice to a thousand decibels and could barely rise above the barrier of cynicism or even of apathy. So I keep my voice raised to a high pitch on the issue, because I still think there is a great deal of work to be done on the issue. I still think that to this day, that I’m not done yet. The hyping is one of the unfortunate little coincidences of comics history, in that, since I became obsessed with the potential of comics on the Internet, at the same time, popular culture became obsessed. Well, actually a few years before that, there was a real frenzy of popular culture for all things with a dot in the name . . . probably began in 97 or 98. And it was pretty thoroughly entranced before that. But I would like to believe that my enthusiasm for the potential for the web has very little in common with what was actually being hyped on billboards and TV commercials and talk shows. I wasn’t telling anybody to invest in the stock market and I wasn’t telling anybody that AOL and Microsoft were going to save the world. I wasn’t telling anybody that if they just get a website, they would become a millionaire overnight. The message that I was trying to express and still am, is that there is enormous potential for direct communication between artist and the readers online and there still is enormous potential for creative exploration of comics out of boundaries online. I was writing about the future and I still am. I never promoted the idea that the future is now, the revolution has come, that this is the web today. What I’m promoting in fact, I am very explicit in Reinventing Comics, is that we can be misled by some of the drawbacks in the technology that exists today. I don’t have a product basically. The future I’m talking about is not shrink wrapped, you can’t go and buy it today. That’s not what I’m trying to say at all. One of the statements that I make in Reinventing Comics that Gary misunderstand is this idea: ‘If it’s about the present it’d probably hype, if it’s about the future, no amount of hype can do it justice’. Anyone who has something to sell you now, it’s probably hype (laughter) but the magnitude of the excitement is about the potential of the Internet itself. I don’t think it is at all misplaced and I still think the web is in it’s infancy and we have only seen the tiniest hint of it’s potential. So I’m still as excited as I was in the beginning. It just had nothing to do with the stock market, IPO’s or this week’s product.

 

Jamie: Moving on, Groth thinks you hate beautiful print drawing. True or False?

Scott McCloud: (laughter) False. Okay, one of the interesting fallouts of web comics and digital distribution is the fact that print is becoming visible for the first time. People are able to choose print in a way that my generation wasn’t. We inherited print. If we loved comics, print was the only way to express that. We now have to consciously choose print or the web and in either case, choose it for the properties that plays to their strengths. Now print has enormous strengths . . . it’s just that now we can appreciate it for what it is. It’s no longer invisible because it’s no longer ubiquitous.

 

Jamie: Your Adventures of Abraham Lincoln, you and Groth both admit that it wasn’t very good.

Scott McCloud: (laughter) Yeah. I believe Groth called it a widely derided train wreck.

 

Jamie: Did that give you a pause in using computer technology and comics?

Scott McCloud: No it didn’t, not in the least. How do I explain Lincoln? The best explanation I came up with for that at the time, when people said they didn’t like it: If you can guarantee the results in advance, it’s not an experiment. The notion that I should put it all on the shelf and forget about computers because I have this one disastrous failure in using computers, the only translation I can come up with for that is: if you first don’t succeed, then quit. And that’s not my philosophy. I assume when I fail at something that the failure is mine. That I failed to use those tools to their best advantage. You have to remember that Lincoln really began almost as soon as I had tools in hand and it’s the very first ever thing I did, using just computers to generate. And I choked (laughter).

 

Jamie: Some people think that Reinventing Comics was done just to capitalize on Understanding Comics and that it should have been told in an essay form.

Scott McCloud: That would be Gary.

 

Jamie: Yeah, Gary. So why did you think that Reinventing Comics needed to be told in a comic book form?

Scott McCloud: Well, just about everything I wanted to say could best be said visually, especially when it’s about a visual medium. I’m a comics loyalist. I’m interested in the things can be expressed through comics. I think Gary is right in that there are parts of the book that don’t use comics particularly well. Maybe the parts should have been told in prose. But it’s not a comic because I wanted to capitalize on anything, it’s a comic because . . . because I’m me (laughter). Because I love comics. Because it’s the whole point for me, seeing what comics can do. In Understanding Comics it’s clear that it was the right medium for the book.

 

Jamie: For sure.

Scott McCloud: In Reinventing, it sometimes is and sometimes it isn’t. But I’m exploring the boundaries of non-fiction comics and the only way to find those boundaries is to stretch it. And some cases, to stretch it to the breaking point. I think in some places it broke and in some places it’s solid. But anyone that knows me know why I made Reinventing Comics as a comic (laughter). Because that’s what I’m about. That’s everything that I am, as a comic book artist, seeing where comics can go. I said at the end of Understanding Comics that I wouldn’t do a sequel right away. Understanding Comics was about 7 years of thinking about comics and 7 years worth of ideas. And so it just collected to a point where I needed to put them somewhere, so I put them into a book (laughter). I predicted that it would be another 7 years of ideas before I would want to write another, and that’s what happened. I think it’s clear that starting in ’94, I was heavily obsessed with computers. Anyone on the convention circuit knew that. Well, I had another books worth of ideas so I had to put them somewhere.

 

Jamie: You mentioned that the line work in Reinventing Comics wasn’t quite up to your own standards. Why was that? Was it because of the technology or . . . ?

Scott McCloud: It was my use the technology. It still not quite organic enough. I still think I have a ways to go. I’m still learning how to use a sable brush, too. I think it looks better than Lincoln (laughter). But again, are we going to project the message that I should just quit? Because it’s not up to standards? Because others are using digital technology in a very organic and convincing way? Between Kyle Baker, Demian 5 from Switzerland, all those people have used it to great effect. In fact, I think my work has a warmer organic quality compared to some of the online work that I did, which was done after Reinventing Comics. I never claimed to be a particularly exciting draftsman (laughter) and I really don’t know that anyone else has, either. That was never my strength to begin with, but I want to continue exploring and this is where my passions take me right now. I’d be an idiot just to stop right now just because of a few failures.

 

Jamie: Groth notes your bibliography didn’t include books that criticize the Internet and the possible future it brings. Why didn’t you?

Scott McCloud: Well, what can I say? Groth’s general criticism that I don’t spend enough time discussing potential for corporate abuse is valid. I think, well you know pretty much what I think (laughter). I think some of the objections to the bibliography are a bit silly, especially when he lectures me for not responding to books that were written 9 months after Reinventing Comics.

 

Jamie: Yeah, IBM and the Holocaust.

Scott McCloud: Yeah, IBM and the Holocaust. What can I say? I think he could have made a valid point about that, but he stretches it to ridiculous extremes. Whatever.

 

Jamie: Do you think computer created artwork will one day aesthetically surpass traditionally made artwork?

Scott McCloud: No, I don’t think so. I don’t see a world that would exclude one or the other. I don’t see aesthetics as some demolition derby where there is only one car left at the end (laughter). I would hope that there would be artists making significant and exciting work in all these mediums. I don’t see it as one or the other. For me personally, digital is the most exciting. But that’s just me, this is what I want to work on right now and I assume others will make that choice also. You know, I assume others will make that choice for now.

 

Jamie: One of the problems with your theories is that people will do what you want them to, in terms of either going out and looking for great non-corporate entertainment on the web and by paying micro payments instead of pirating entertainment. Why do you have such high amounts of faith in the masses?

Scott McCloud: I would turn that question around and I don’t know why Gary and some other people have such of an incredibly bleak view of people. In my experience, most people like to think of themselves as being reasonably honest people, reasonably honourable . . . when they’re faced with a very easy way to get something for free, that would cost them hundreds or even thousands of dollars, otherwise . . . That temptation is pretty strong, they usually go for it. I don’t see any system eliminating piracy entirely. One of the reasons I advocate micro payments should it ever become practical, is that I think that if the price is sufficiently low and it’s very easy to get something legitimately for that low a price, I think most people will go for it. Because, well, for a few different reasons. This is such a huge issue. Sorry. I’ve written whole essays about this and it’s hard for me to condense it down to one or two sentences. There are a couple of factors: one of them is the fact that if it’s just a little bit more convenient to get it legitimately, if it’s a little more difficult to steal it, and if it’s just a few cents more, it’s just simpler, it’s just easier and also because piracy to some extent, has a philanthropic character online. People that are uploading songs and making their computers available for others to get those songs, they’re devoting a certain amount of time and resources and they’re not getting rich off it, either. This isn’t like selling pirated CD’s in Times Square. This is something where you’re not making a cent, you’re actually devoting your time and computational resources to giving away this work. Well, if it’s work just available for a few cents and that few cents is actually going to the musician or cartoonist or writer you’re stealing from, then that whole enterprise just seems a little less interesting, a little less worth it for the pirate. Again, nothing will eliminate piracy completely but I think that there are some systems that could make the influences of piracy lower and allow people to look at themselves in the mirror and feel good about themselves and not go bankrupt illegally.

 

Jamie: Your history of the Internet stops just at the time it gets privatized. Why did you stop it there?

Scott McCloud: For one thing, it was pretty recent history when I began writing the book (laughter). It got privatized in ’93, late ’93, and the world wide web hit the mainstream, which would have been ’94, and I started writing the book in ’97. I was talking about the origin of the Internet, I hadn’t expanded from that since the last really big event. Now Gary is right that the Telecommunications Act of ’96 should have been mentioned at that point. I think it was ’96, pretty sure.

 

Jamie: Yes it was ’96.

Scott McCloud: I think he’s right. I think he’s right. That should have been included and I should have gone into a discussion of that. But . . . I think he’s right. Perhaps I should go into a discussion of that now? Maybe I’m a little tired (laughter) of talking about . . . I’d rather make comics for a change. You know, I never see myself as the only voice in this debate. That is one objection that’s subjected repeatedly, by Gary in particular. There is this notion that it is my responsibility to cover *everything*, I mean even Understanding Comics was criticized because it refused to indulge in value judgments.

 

Jamie: You mentioned specifically about not including a chapter on bad drivers.
[Note: This refers to Scott’s reply to Greg Cwiklik and Gary Groth TCJ #211. Saying “If I wrote a book about how cars work would I be criticized for not including a chapter on bad drivers?”]

Scott McCloud: Yeah, (laughter) and I think this is silly because I’m not the only voice and I never claimed to be the only voice and talking about the inner workings of comics is a voice all unto itself. Now, if you want a broad balanced education, you also seek out writers who are discussing aesthetic values of comics or discussing the political context of comics or the cultural context of comics. In the comics industry, all those things are important too. But I don’t think it’s my responsibility to put everything and the kitchen sink in that one book. In fact, I actually visited many of the issues that he felt were missing in Understanding Comics and of course he hated that even more, because they weren’t his (laughter). It’s little hard to win with that standard being applied.

 

Jamie: You also mention the limitations of print comics by having to turn the page and the square size. But how much is that because the industry tends to stick to the same format? Could the limitations be not be so limiting if they played around with different formats?

Scott McCloud: I think they are beginning to do that now, they are beginning to experiment with shapes but they tend to be low run, you know silk screen, fort thunder, things like that. The industry makes it very difficult to experiment with different sizes. I did a large comic called Destroy back in ’85 . . . ’86, excuse me, and most retailers just didn’t know where to put it. It wasn’t even that dramatic of a difference, it might have been 80% larger than your average comic, but this was deeply aggravating to the average retailer because they didn’t have a shelf that size. So it’s systemic, it’s not just a lack of imagination. If you’re a retailer, you’re going to have to build shelves that you can fit your product on . . . (laughter) and I think that’s reasonable and it’s a problem when somebody comes up with one that simply doesn’t fit on the shelves. Of course, that’s not an issue online.

 

Jamie: You also mentioned the infinite canvas and doing web comics, a crazy example given, a comic the size of Europe.

Scott McCloud: That was just a . . .

 

Jamie: Yeah, that’s why I called it a crazy example (laughter). But if you did do a really large web comic, there is a good chance both IE and Netscape would crash, you know. I wonder how infinite is the canvas if you’re stuck to the limitations of the browser?

Scott McCloud: Well no, I talk about that in the book. What I’m proposing is not something that we can accommodate with today’s technology, with today’s browsers. Even with HTML itself, it has all sorts of limitations. I talk about a comic which you can zoom through, where each panel is embedded within the previous panel, you couldn’t do that in straight HTML either, you’d need something like Flash to pull it off. But we have an enormous canvas, so to speak, just as in the average computer game. If you have a comic the size of the landscape you roam through in Tomb Raider (laughter), you’d have a pretty enormous comic. So there might be other programming environments that are more appropriate for comics in the long run. The book about the future. I never claimed for an instant that you can do all these things in IE 5, in the year 2001. That would be absurd. Now there are some people working along those lines, who are doing beautiful concepts, shorter works that still point to the potential of that expanding canvas. And I think it’s on the strengths of those works, those creative explorations going on in even this limited environment, that speaks of potential of that expanded craft. The book is about the future, if it wasn’t about the future, it wouldn’t have been in the book.

 

Jamie: Do you think in the future Microsoft or someone will create a browser that can handle such a large webcomic?

Scott McCloud: I doubt it.

 

Jamie: You doubt it?

Scott McCloud: I doubt that Microsoft will (laughter). I don’t see them charging up the hill in particular. It could be some third party creation. It’s hard to predict. Some very important software has come out of just college kids. Or just working out of the garage, you never know.

 

Jamie: I know you discussed about bandwidth increasing and how that would help with the comics in terms of loading time and so forth. But won’t it eventually get to the point where it’s too powerful, where comics will be not so great in compared to how quickly movies and animation can load?

Scott McCloud: I don’t think I understand, if movies and animation are loading quickly then comics will load instantaneously.

 

Jamie: Yeah, but what happens when movies and animation load instantaneously as well? Won’t most people pass over the comics and go straight to those?

Scott McCloud: No, well I think that’s the great challenge isn’t it? It will take more convincing, personally compelling, especially unique to comics, so that there won’t be a reason to not read comics. And if we have all these movies and videos and animation, not to mention game and virtual reality environments. But that’s what all this is about, that’s what the entire book is about. I see comics as having unique aesthetic ideas to plant and if you allow that idea to grow in a digital environment, you can see something that’s uniquely comics: that is very exciting, something very new that’s very deeply tied to comics, to the original idea and not like movies, not like prose, not like any other visual art. Something that is completely new. I don’t know how to describe it exactly. It’s hard, words fail. It’s an idea comics that can scale. If you see comics as this temporal map, as this idea in equal, equal in time. It’s an idea of scale. The more bandwidth you throw on it, the more wonderful the new forms that can grow out of that idea. They don’t look anything like any other medium. When we begin to mix motion and sound with comics, I think we begin to hit that slippery slope and when we get enough bandwidth where it can all becomes a movie war. I hope it doesn’t turn into that.

 

Jamie: I read your Cuckoo Reply that is coming out in issue #235 of the Comics Journal. Is there anything in there that you now wish you said differently?

Scott McCloud: No, I’m pretty happy with it.

 

Jamie: Pretty happy with that?

Scott McCloud: Yeah.

 

Jamie: Your reply seemed like giving him a taste of his own medicine.

Scott McCloud: Although, well now, I hope it didn’t come across as giving him a taste of his own medicine because . . . I don’t . . . use the same medicine (laughter). I’ve tried to respond on point. I try not to make any ad hominem attacks. I’ve tried to be polite and reasonable and . . . y’know, I hope it doesn’t come across as just more of the same, but that’s up to the readers to decide.

 

Jamie: As of late you have been battling a lot of backlash, not just from the Journal but from Penny Arcade, Bill Griffith and more. Did you think your ideas would cause this much of a reaction?

Scott McCloud: There were some surprises. I didn’t think certain ideas would get people as angry as they did. I misjudged which ones were the hot spots (laughter). Who knew that my little essay about micro payments would set off this scorching brush fire in the online comic strip community? Although really, there was a lot of different issues under the surface, that one wasn’t just about micro payments. That whole period was just over a one week period, most notably by Tycho at Penny Arcade and which was pretty personal and nasty. But I talked to Tycho, I talked to John Rosenberg who does Goats. I talked to Glitch who had written something on her strip, no stereotypes. And in all cases, we had a polite reasonable conversation. Tycho posted his thoughts on the conversation that he thought he misjudged me and it’s done. We’re done now, the flame war is out. Basically, there are no parts of the landscape still on fire, as far as I know. I think it ended pretty amicably. There were a lot of misunderstandings that went into that one, and we dealt with them as well as we could.

 

Jamie: Are you sick of defending micro payments yet?

Scott McCloud: No.

 

Jamie: No?

Scott McCloud: I will continue, but I am tired. I’m a little tired because the debate has strayed a lot from the central issues and much of the time I spend defending it, it is not really so much defending my ideas as it is trying to explain what people think I was saying and it is not what I was saying at all.

 

Jamie: Yeah.

Scott McCloud: That can get a little tiring because that is wasted time. If I have to defend against things like ‘Well, McCloud thinks we should pay 25 cents every time we visit a webpage’ that’s . . . that’s . . . I never said that (laughter). And yet I’ve heard that parroted back to me a dozen times. So that part of it is tiring. But the actual discussion is worth it because there are people out there trying to make it happen, and keeping the public debate alive is one of the ways which that process can be facilitated.

 

Jamie: Yeah one of the people trying to make it happen is Javien?

Scott McCloud: Javien is a Canadian company that’s one of many that is trying to put together a workable micro payments system. I mentioned them recently because they had one or two good ideas that I liked. I can’t predict whether or not they’re the ones who are going to pull it off. I’ve always been careful not to back any one company because I have yet to see any one company that has all the answers. Believe me, I would (laughter,) I would if I thought one company had figured out all of the answers and I was very confident in them. I would back them and I would use their service.

 

Jamie: One of the practical problems I have today is whenever I go to the bank machine, I get dinged with a one dollar service charge. I’m thinking how anyone would make money charging 25 cents, even in the future, when the services charges are so high among the banking industry?

Scott McCloud: Well Amazon and Paypal charge a service fee in that realm and that’s why they are not micro payments (laughter). You can’t charge somebody 2 pennies if it’s going to cost you 25 cents for the privilege. But all along, that’s been the challenge of micro payments. If those transaction fees weren’t so high there wouldn’t have been a problem to begin with. That’s what the whole discussion is about.

 

Jamie: Do you think some company will come in and save the day for you? You know, making micro payments available for a very low amount of money?

Scott McCloud: I don’t know when it will happen and I don’t know who will pull it off. I think the ability to charge small amounts of money directly over the Internet is not an unsolvable problem. I think there are those who believe it will never happen. I think, having just finished the century which we landed on the moon, cured polio and sent our voices and ideas around the earth at the speed of thought, I think this idea that we will *never* solve the technical problems of charging small amounts of money over the Internet is just absurd. It’s not that hard, it’s not rocket science. We’ve done harder things than this. It just may take a little more time and I’ve never been good with deadlines, so (laughter) things never happen as fast as I want them too, but they happen.

 

Jamie: So when micro payments do happen, do you see yourself using them?

Scott McCloud: Sure, sure. Yeah, absolutely. But again, I want to make sure I don’t inadvertently wind up endorsing some particular company that doesn’t get it all right. I’m very cautious about that, because at this point who ever. I even mentioned Javien to Tycho in a phone conversation and now everyone thinks I’m endorsing them. You know (laughter) and that’s a good example of why I’m so cautious.

 

Jamie: In your second episode of ‘I Can’t Stop Thinking’ you mentioned a wide variety of things you can do on the Internet because shelf space is not as limited as it is in the normal store. At the same time, the Internet lets us go directly to what we want and we don’t get exposed quite so often to different things that we are not interested in. Is this a good thing?

Scott McCloud: No, I think we do get exposed, we get exposed by others letting us know about things. We want to dwell on one particular area of interest, we can. But the Internet is such a riot of other options of links, to links, to links, to links. And the opportunity for dozens or even hundreds of acquaintances over time to send you links to interesting works, that I think there is a counter-active trend to that tunnel vision tendency. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a certain vulcanization on the web, I think there will be, but I think within any given community, let’s say the comics community, I think that diversity has the upper hand in the long run. I think that right now, diversity is so thoroughly discouraged by economic systems that we have and by the dynamics of shelf space, that the web has already shown it’s ability to show its direction. The best web comics today are remarkably diverse, compared to what’s on the average comic store shelf.

 

Jamie: In Reinventing Comics, you use that one symbol, the eye open and the eye shut a lot. It’s even on your main webpage. Why are you so fond of that symbol?

Scott McCloud: I just had to pick something (laughter.) Having finished Understanding Comics, I realized I didn’t really have a symbol for comics itself and the little guy with the hat, you know that fellow raising his hat seemed a little bit overly specific. In the end, I decided that, to me, would be the essences of comics; two images of comics first of all, any two images in sequence but in particular the eye open, eye closed because I thought the balance between the visible and the invisible and I don’t know, it just seemed like the best single image I could pick to represent the form because I was going to be using it. I had to use something (laughter) when I was putting together all those diagrams there . . . there needed to be a symbol for comics itself and the tubed hat seemed a little specific to Understanding Comics.

 

Jamie: Are you planning on doing a 3rd ‘Something’ Comics book?

Scott McCloud: Yeah, not right away.

 

Jamie: Not right away?

Scott McCloud: Probably in another 7 to 10 years.

 

Jamie: Do you know what that will be about?

Scott McCloud: Yeah, I pretty much do, but I’m not telling anyone. Or at least not right now (laughter). Because the 3rd book is different from the first two just as the 2nd one was different from the first.

 

Jamie: Is that going to be done through print or is that going to be on-line?

Scott McCloud: I don’t know.

 

Jamie: Have to see what it’s like 7 to 10 years from now.

Scott McCloud: Yeah exactly. I don’t want to predict.

 

Jamie: Are you still open to doing any print comics in the future?

Scott McCloud: Sure, I think there are all sorts of things that are interesting to do in print. But generally speaking, I like to do it for one or the other. If I’m working for the web I want to do something that’s designed for the web. Perhaps I could only work on the web, but I don’t like this idea of repurposing, I don’t like this idea of holding yourself back because you might reuse it in some other form. Only working in black and white, for example on the web because you’re hoping that King Features will pick up your strip. That’s just sad. You’re on the web, use the web. Or if your in print, use print (laughter) to speak to those aspects of print that are most exciting, use that dative quality. You know, use that high resolution and the ability to produce fine line work, use it. Do something that print can do best. I just hate repurposing, I hate castrating your work so that it would be suitable for a variety of platforms.

 

Jamie: Do you have any print projects in the near future?

Scott McCloud: A couple of magazine pieces. I’m doing a 6 page original comic in Wired Magazine, for example. But they’re piecemeal, I don’t have a graphic novel in the works at the moment but I may at some point. If I could just work online for the next two years I would. But I can’t. I have many things I’d like to do online but not because I hate print or anything, but because I’ve been working in print for how long is it now? 17 years? And I’m ready to do some . . . well I have a long list of online projects. I could easily go two years with it, but unfortunately I don’t have that option because the economy that works online is just not mature yet. Maybe someday.

 

Jamie: Do you think because of Reinventing you’re constantly talking about online comics, this hurts your ability to get print books?

Scott McCloud: Mmmmm… No, I don’t think other things have to do with it (laughter). I never really tested the waters that way, couldn’t say. But no, I don’t think a publisher would particularly care one way or another. I mean, if I expressed an interest in doing a book in print then I obviously have nothing against print as far as that book goes. I’ve never told people to stop making printed books. That’s just another weird, distorted version of me that people are trying to sell.

You can get more news and updates on Scott McCloud at ScottMcCloud.com

Stuart Immonen Interview

Kathryn and Stuart Immonen at TCAF 2009

Kathryn and Stuart Immonen at TCAF 2009

Originally published in April of 2001. Sometimes when I got somebody to agree to an interview I’d ask the staff and maybe some friends if they had questions they’d like answered. If I they came up with questions I liked, I’d use them and normally share the credit with them for the interview. Sidra Roberts also did interviews at Collector Times  often filling in for me when I wanted a break. Lonni Holland is a long time friend. I’ve since met Stuart and his wife Kathryn and usually have a short (but delightful) chat with them when I see them at conventions. They are wonderful people.

 

An Interview With Stuart Immonen

This interview was conducted by three people: Sidra Roberts, Lonni Holland and Jamie Coville. Stuart Immonen has been a sought after penciler for many years now doing work on Superman, Legion of Superheroes, ShockRockets and more. This combined interview goes down history lane from his beginnings to what he’s doing today.

 

Jamie: How did you become interested in art?

Stuart Immonen: I’ve always had an interest in drawing, literally as far back as I remember. I’ve also been reading comics for most of my life. I suppose it’s natural that the two would eventually come together in some form, although I did nothing to pursue a career in the industry until I was nearly in my twenties.

 

Jamie: This is your thirteenth year in the business. Congratulations. Where did you get your formal training?

Stuart Immonen: I have no formal training. I pursued a degree in Fine Arts at York University in Toronto, Ontario for one year following high school, but the curriculum and I didn’t see eye to eye, so I left. In hindsight, I probably would have been happier in a vocational environment, with lots of applied studio time. I’ve learned as I’ve gone along, and, I think, am still learning.

 

Jamie: What made you want to draw comicbooks?

Stuart Immonen: It seemed to be the thing to do in the summer of 1988. There was a wealth of independent black and white material on the stands. Writer Kathryn Kuder and I thought we had something of value to contribute. We formed One Horse Leadworks and self-published two titles; Playground, a punk murder-mystery of sorts, and Headcheese, and anthology showcasing local Toronto creators. After three issues, Playground was picked up by Caliber Press, who published an epilogue.

 

Jamie: How did you get the job of drawing Legion of Superheroes for DC?

Stuart Immonen: This is detailed on my website. I submitted samples of my work for a number of years to DC. In early ’93 Neal Pozner saw Ron Boyd and I in his office and liked our samples. I got a 10 page Martian Manhunter story out of him for Showcase, which landed me a fill-in on Legion. Regular artist Jason Pearson was leaving Legion,and incoming editor KC Carlson asked me to come on board.

 

Jamie: Had you ever read Legion of Superheroes before drawing it?

Stuart Immonen: Never. I had no idea who anyone was.

 

Jamie: Did you get tired of drawing all those various characters for Legion of Superheroes?

Stuart Immonen: No, the variety kept it interesting. We ran into trouble when we tried to ease out of the post-hero Giffen material into more action-oriented stories. We tried to do things only half-way, and fumbled a bit. Legionnaires was far more successful. Similarly, Legion Lost has been the shot in the arm that the titles badly needed.

 

Jamie: Everyone has his or her favorite Legion character. Who was your favorite Legionnaire?

Stuart Immonen: I suppose Ultra Boy.

 

Jamie: What led to your Superman assignment?

Stuart Immonen: This is also mentioned on my site. I did a two issue fill-in for Superman, which went over well. When my contract was up on Legion, I wanted to do something different, and Barry Kitson just happened to be leaving Adventures of Superman. I got the offer and accepted.

 

Jamie: How did you like working on Superman?

Stuart Immonen: Very well. I did it for nearly four years. I enjoyed the expanded collaborative process that the closely-knit titles provided. I enjoyed working with the four editors I had. I enjoyed writing. I enjoyed drawing.

 

Jamie: There are a lot of very successful Canadian artists in the industry but many of them move to the states to be close to the big companies. Has staying in Ontario made things harder for you and how?

Stuart Immonen: I don’t know of very many who have moved since the use of couriers became prevalent. Now with fax and internet added, I don’t think physical distance is any kind of barrier.

 

Jamie: So here you are in southern Ontario and there Kurt is in the Pacific north-west. I know you meet at cons but how does the physical separation affect your work? Or are your phone bills just outrageous :)?

Stuart Immonen: The phone bills are, on occasion, enormous. But we communicate frequently by email, which is less expensive. In all the time I’ve been drawing professionally, I have yet to meet a client before working for them. That is to say, I’ve never know it to be any other way, so I find it difficult to tell whether it affects my work or not. Kurt has many other collaborators, and is no closer to any of them than he is to me. I’m sure he feels the same way. It’s just the way it is, and I expect the way it will continue to be.

 

Jamie: There was a double page spread in Shockrockets 2 which was computer produced. How much computer generated stuff do you use and what software are you using for it?

Stuart Immonen: There was a short sequence in ShockRockets 2 which I produced entirely on computer, but the only reason we chose to include it in the story is because we came up with a reason to include it first. This was not an attempt at escaping the drudgery of background drawing, nor was it a control issue. We had an experimental idea, and figured out a way to integrate it. That being said, you can’t escape the influence of computers in mainstream comics– they’re virtually all coloured, separated, or lettered using computers. I would think that, perhaps apart from Alan Moore, they are all written on computers. It’s inescapable. Most of the time the confluence works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

 

Jamie: Speaking of computers… that’s quite a nice website you have. Did you do all of the design work yourself? And if you did have you considered doing any of your animation using Flash?

Stuart Immonen: Thank you. Yes, I designed, coded and uploaded the whole thing. I have a passing interest in Flash, and to my mind, it’s a useful tool for things like animations, but Flash navigation is problematic and more often than not, distracting. I’m working on a few other sites now, including Cryptic Press’ realmsend.com.

 

Jamie: Immonen Illustrations, Inc. has a nice ring to it. Is it all just you so far, and are you planning to add others like Deodato Studios did?

Stuart Immonen: I have had a few interns, but I’ve found that I dislike the company, and am unsatisfied with their work. Clearly, it’s all my fault. I have had a writing partner in Kathryn since the One Horse days and have a studio assistant who has nothing to do with drawing. I don’t think it’ll every grow beyond that. The company was formed for purely legal reasons.

 

Jamie: According to your bio you live in Obscurity, Ontario with your 2 footed and 4 footed friends. Four footed?? Dogs? Cats? Horses? Fellow apes?

Stuart Immonen: Ha ha ha. Two cats, Emmett and Ernest, and a rat named Sweetie are the four-foot types. The two’s are my family.

 

Jamie: Rumor has it that Blockbuster’s computer just can’t seem to get your name right. Exactly how do you pronounce your name?

Stuart Immonen: ???? It’s pronounced EE-moe-nen

 

Jamie: I must say that you and the other apes are looking pretty healthy for a bunch of dead guys. Care to make any comment on Wizards rather premature report of the death of Gorilla?

Stuart Immonen: mmmm. no. There’s still Gorilla material coming out, but the company is basically a non-entity at this point. Tellos will continue to be published by Image, and there may be more from Kurt and myself after Superstar, and Section Zero may yet proceed, but that’s it. For the most part, we made good on the promises we made, even after it became clear that we would all have to do other work to support Gorilla projects, and then that we would eventually have to abandon the idea of Gorilla altogether. I’m pleased with the comics we did. There may yet be more.

 

Jamie: Shockrockets is finished and Superstar is on the way. When can we expect the first issue?

Stuart Immonen: It’s out! Superstar is a self-contained 48 page one-shot. Kurt and I have plans for more but nothing concrete at the moment.

 

Jamie: Is this another miniseries and would you like to tell us a bit about it?

Stuart Immonen: It’s really Kurt’s pet project; one he’s been trying to get off the ground for a long time,and one that’s been percolating for decades. I’m just the latest in a series of artists that have been associated with Superstar, but I’m the lucky one that helped finally get it in print.

 

Jamie: George Perez had a model of the Scarlett Witch’s MG, you had computer models of the Shockrockets ships. Any handy visual aids for Superstar?

Stuart Immonen: Just the usual morgue of photo reference. I have a resin model of Mark Hammill’s head which I use frequently, but I don’t think there’s much resemblance.

 

Jamie: Has Mark Waid’s contract with CrossGen had any affect on the running on Gorilla or is business in the jungle continuing as usual?

Stuart Immonen: see above.

 

Jamie: It’s just been announced that your doing a few issues of Thor. But you are careful to tell people your only doing 3 or maybe 6 issues. Do you have something specific planned after your work on Thor?

Stuart Immonen: I’ve just finished an issue of Rising Stars and one of Fantastic Four. Now I’m doing at least three issues of Thor, and as many as six as far as I know. Kurt and I have another project lined up for Marvel. A big one, but not one I’m prepared to talk about….
Immonen Illustrations, Inc.
http://www.interlog.com/~immonen [that link is now dead. Go here instead.]

2nd Roger Stern Interview

For this interview I went into full fanboy mode. As I mentioned in my last Roger Stern interview, Roger’s was my favourite writer as a kid and I was happy that after many years of not working for Marvel he was writing for them again. I pretty much used this interview to help promote his upcoming work as I was worried that his ‘star power’ had dwindled since the 1980s and his work wouldn’t sell.

 

An Interview With Roger Stern

Roger Stern has been working in the comic industry for a long time, lately he’s been doing numerous special mini-series for Marvel Comics. I had the pleasure of interviewing him back in May of 1998 and decided it was time for an update. In this interview, he talks about what he’s doing now, in the future and what might have been. Enjoy!

 

Jamie: The first issue of AVENGERS TWO starring Wonder Man and the Beast just came out. What was it like working with penciler Mark Bagley?

Roger Stern: Great fun! I’d briefly worked with Mark before — on an 11-page story for IRON MAN #21 — but this was our first opportunity to collaborate on a longer piece. And if you liked the first issue, just wait’ll you see #2 and #3!

 

Jamie: For those of us who didn’t read the end of the Wonder Man series, what was it that Simon Williams did that was so bad and needed cleaning up?

Roger Stern: Well, Simon blames himself for the deaths of a couple of people … there are some other folks to whom he inadvertently gave super-powers (which messed with their lives greatly) … and then, there’s the matter of the woman he was engaged to marry! He died before he could come to terms with any of that. So now that he’s back, there’s just a wee bit of business to settle. But you’ll find out all you need to know by reading AVENGERS TWO.

 

Jamie: My understanding was the original plans for MARVEL: THE LOST GENERATION was to re-write ‘Marvel time’ to fit in to a 7 year period. Why was that scrapped?

Roger Stern: You misunderstood. There’s no need to re-write time. Marvel has operated under a sliding time scale, since long before I first started working there in 1975. In fact, it’s that sliding time scale that made LOST GENERATION possible.

 

Jamie: Where did the idea to turn the Marvel Universe series into a series exploring Marvel’s hidden past come from?

Roger Stern: That was the idea right from the start — Tom Brevoort’s idea, to be specific! — and a pretty good one, I thought.

 

Jamie: Will MARVEL: THE LOST GENERATION have only previous Marvel Characters or will there be some new ones in the series?

Roger Stern: Previous, in the sense that their careers pre-date the origin of the F.F. — new, in the sense that you’ve never seen them before. Unless you go ‘way back and remember the Eternal Brain!

 

Jamie: Okay we know that AVENGERS INFINITY is a follow up to the very successful AVENGERS FOREVER you wrote with Kurt Busiek. So what is AVENGERS INFINITY all about?

Roger Stern: It’s about four issues long. It’s about a select group of Avengers who are specially assembled to deal with a serious threat from beyond the farthest star. It’s written by me, penciled by Sean Chen, and inked by Scott Hanna. And since the first issue won’t go on sale until July, it’s a little premature to say anything else about it … except that it’s never to late to start bugging your favorite comics retailer to carry it.

 

Jamie: Do you think there will be another series after AVENGERS INFINITY?

Roger Stern: You mean, spinning off from the events of the series, the way that INFINITY spins off from FOREVER? Maybe. But that’s really in the future!

 

Jamie: Tell us about this new GREEN GOBLIN mini-series you’re doing with Lee Weeks.

Roger Stern: The working title is SPIDER-MAN VS. the GREEN GOBLIN. It’s three issues long, and Lee will start penciling it as soon as he finishes his DOCTOR OCTOPUS project. And, as it won’t go on sale until the end of August, I’m not going to say much more about it … except that it focuses mainly on Norman Osborn, and it will have some serious effects on issues of the regular SPIDER titles which follow it!

 

Jamie: You mentioned that some of your unused MARVEL UNIVERSE stories were to be used elsewhere. Do you have anything else from the series that can still be printed?

Roger Stern: Yes, there’s a DOCTOR STRANGE story which Neil Vokes has penciled. As soon as I get some breathing space in my schedule, I’m going to script it. Then, it’ll be Tom Brevoort’s job to find some way to get it into print! Oh, and elements of a rough idea I had for a Sub-Mariner/Yellow Claw encounter will be turning up in LOST GENERATION.

 

Jamie: Can you tell us about any proposals that you have given to Marvel for either comic books or novels?

Roger Stern: There aren’t any. I’m lucky to be too busy to turn out proposals these days.

 

Jamie: Have you been offered any titles that you turned down? If so, why?

Roger Stern: Years ago, I was offered POWER MAN & IRON FIST, but didn’t have the time. I was also offered the last six issues of CAPTAIN ATOM at DC; but since I loved the old Charlton series and didn’t care for the DC version of the character, I passed. I was also offered the NEW WARRIORS some years ago, but — as there’d been about fifty issues of the series at the point, and I’d never read single one — I figured that I wasn’t the best qualified for the job. Oh, and I recently had to pass on writing a few issues of PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN … just had too many prior commitments.

 

Jamie: Would you work on a Marvel Knights title if it were offered?

Roger Stern: I never say never. It would depend on the project, the artist, and the schedule.

 

Jamie: Since you and Busiek are good friends, one has to wonder if you’re going to do a creator-owned series through the GORILLA imprint at Image?

Roger Stern: I’d love to, but I haven’t been asked.

 

Jamie: You did the scripts for the original SPEEDBALL series, would you like to do another series on him?

Roger Stern: Gee, that was so long ago. I really haven’t followed the character since I scripted those stories. I hear they changed his costume a couple of times.

 

Jamie: Any changes to the Photon/Captain Marvel name situation? You said you didn’t want her name to be changed.

Roger Stern: I didn’t want her name to be changed from Captain Marvel. I do want it changed from Photon. I have some ideas along those lines.

 

Jamie: I heard that before you left the AVENGERS in the mid 80’s you planned on doing a story with Iron Fist. Is this true and were you going to make Iron Fist an Avenger?

Roger Stern: Couple of things wrong there. I didn’t leave the AVENGERS — I was fired! And my plan was to write a story featuring Power Man, not Iron Fist (who was fairly dead at the time; it was only later that he got better). Whether or not Luke would have become an Avenger, I can’t say.

 

Jamie: I recall reading that your Wife Carmela was writing some Legion stories uncredited when you were doing the Legion books. Does she want to do more comic book writing?

Roger Stern: Actually, Carmela assisted Tom McCraw and me in co-writing LEGIONNAIRES from shortly before issue #50. And I had just about gotten DC to agree to give her a rate and a real credit before there was an editorial shift. If not for her help and support, I probably would have left the series after the Mordru story. She’s pretty busy these days with volunteer work to do much more than proofread my stories, which is a shame.

 

Jamie: Last time we had an interview, you mentioned having a number of pet snakes. How many do you have and which ones are your newest?

Roger Stern: Sixteen, not counting the babies. The newest is actually the oldest as well … a 30-year-old ball python, whom we adopted when his owner passed away. He’s a mellow old gent. We hope he has many happy years ahead of him.

 

Jamie: Who are your inspirations?

Roger Stern: I always liked Roy Orbison.

 

Jamie: What do you do when you’re not writing comics?

Roger Stern: I read, though not as often as I’d like. I hit the health club three days a week, and with the hint of warmer weather in the air, I’ll soon be hitting the pavement more often. (The simple act of walking is one of life’s great pleasures.)

 

Jamie: Anything else you’d like to tell the world?

Roger Stern: Read more and take time to smell the roses.

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.

 

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