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.

 

Jerry Ordway Interview

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

 

An Interview with Jerry Ordway

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jamie: How do you fix your mistakes?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jamie: Anything you want to say to your fans?

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

 

Kurt Busiek Interview

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

Kurt Busiek 2009 San Diego Comic Con

Kurt Busiek 2009 San Diego Comic Con

An Interview with Kurt Busiek

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Kurt Busiek: Monthly.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jamie: What comic books do you read?

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Kurt Busiek: December 7th.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jim Valentino Interview

Originally published July 1998. This is the first of two interviews I did with Jim Valentino. I really enjoyed his Guardians of the Galaxy and his early Shadowhawk at Image. Jim had made an unusual career move of working for Archie Comics. Typically Archie has this weird separate status from the rest of the industry where the writers and artists don’t jump across. It’s only been very recently that this has changed with Mark Waid, Fiona Staples, Chip Zardsky,¬†Adam Hughes and others have done work for Archie. Going the other way Dan Parent has started doing work for non-Archie publishers.

Jim Valentino 2010 HobbyStar Toronto Fan Expo

Jim Valentino 2010 HobbyStar Toronto Fan Expo

An Interview with Jim Valentino

Jim Valentino is always been a daring comic professional. From his autobiographical Valentino, to Guardians of the Galaxy, to Shadowhawk, to a Touch of Silver and now to Sonic the Hedgehog he has one of the most diversified portfolios in the industry. Today he talks to us today about his current work, his past, his opinions and the hows and whys of the industry.

 

Jamie: Why are you doing Sonic the Hedgehog?

Jim Valentino: My 11 year old son, Joel is a big Sonic fan. I started talking to Ken Penders, one thing led to another and here we are. I’m doing it because it’s a lot of fun for me. I’ve never done funny animals before and am having a blast with it.

 

Jamie: What are you doing on Sonic – writing, drawing or both?

Jim Valentino: I’m penciling it. Ken Penders is writing and inking it.

 

Jamie: What will be your first Sonic issue and when will it be out?

Jim Valentino: It’s a Sonic Super-Special (#8, I believe) and it’ll be out in October or November. I have just agreed to pencil a three issue run on Knuckles (#’s 22-24, I believe), also from Ken’s scripts.

 

Jamie: In the past you’ve said you’ve been influenced by Jack Kirby and Robert Crumb. Who’s influence takes over when your doing Sonic?

Jim Valentino: Influences, for me, usually mean a point of inspiration as opposed to emulation. I am influenced by literally hundreds of artists. In the case of Sonic, I have model sheets that I go by. I tend to look at a lot of Spaz’s work–I think he’s absolutely brilliant.

 

Jamie: Do you think you can get typical superhero readers to try Sonic?

Jim Valentino: Hopefully, I think they’d be pleasantly surprised by it. There is a lot of sophistication in the stories and the continuity. But, conversely, I see it as a way to get the younger Sonic reader into super-hero comics.

 

Jamie: For those who’ve never read Sonic before, can you give us a list of the main characters and a little bit about them?

Jim Valentino: I believe this question would be better suited to Ken Penders, he’s the writer and has been for a few years now.

 

Jamie: How long do you think you’ll be doing Sonic?

Jim Valentino: I’m just signed on for this one special. Although Ken and I have had so much fun working on it that we’ve discussed the possibility of doing another.

 

Jamie: Will you be doing any other work besides Sonic?

Jim Valentino: Yes, in all likelihood, although I can’t say what at this time.

 

Jamie: Would you do anything different if you launched The Silverline today?

Jim Valentino: There may have been one or two books that I wouldn’t have signed on (no, I will not say which). Other than that, no, I don’t think so.

 

Jamie: Will you give The Silverline another chance if the industry improves?

Jim Valentino: I hadn’t considered the question before. I tend to look forward rather than behind, but I can’t say at this point. Perhaps.

 

Jamie: If you were in control of the comic industry, how would you get more people reading comic books?

Jim Valentino: Fewer continued stories for one thing. More accessible continuity. You shouldn’t need to be familiar with thirty years of history to understand a character or the situation he’s in. I’d make retail outlets more “family friendly”–that is, get the posters of half naked women and demonic imagery out of the store windows, put in characters that are familiar to the general populace (Garfield, Dilbert, Archie, etc…)

With printing and publication costs being what they are there is no way to lower the unit price, therefore it seems to me that you have to give the reader a full story within the book he’s buying–and you have to give the consumer a friendly atmosphere to purchase it in. We are sorely lacking in both these areas today.

 

Jamie: What kind of pencil(s) do you use and why?

Jim Valentino: I use Col-Erase light blue pencils to do my underdrawing because, as the name implies, they can be erased! And I just use a regular standard #2 pencil to draw with, probably because it’s just familiar and feels right in my hands.

 

Jamie: Do you listen to any music when your drawing? If so what bands?

Jim Valentino: Hardly ever. I usually watch TV when I’m penciling. I never listen to music or TV when I’m writing. If I listen to any music at all when I’m working it’s usually movie soundtracks, the instrumental kind. This is because of the heroic crescendos inherent in them–almost like a Wagner opera–very inspirational. I save the bands for when I’m driving.

 

Jamie: How do you think your art has improved over the years?

Jim Valentino: I think I’ve gotten better, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for an artist to make a self-evaluation like that. I am continually trying to improve my work and I am always studying.

 

Jamie: Out of all the characters you’ve drawn over the years, which were the most fun?

Jim Valentino: Each was fun as I was doing them. I loved doing them all. If I had to choose, I couldn’t. They all satisfied different parts of me.

 

Jamie: You have done both mainstream and “alternative” work. Which of the two do you prefer?

Jim Valentino: Like the answer above, I don’t deal in “favorites”–I tend to enjoy whatever it is I’m working on at the moment. There is a great satisfaction in presenting a more “serious” piece like, A Touch of Silver, but, conversely, it is also fun to play with more iconal creations (such as you’d find at Marvel or DC) again, both fill a niche in the creative process.

 

Jamie: What is the current status of Altered Image?

Jim Valentino: I’m working on the third and final issue right now.

 

Jamie: I hear your a big Avengers fan, what do you think of the Busiek/Perez issues?

Jim Valentino: Absolutely exquisite! I’m a big fan and a personal friend of both George and Kurt’s, so I may be a bit prejudiced in my assessment, but I am greatly enjoying their work on the title.

 

Jamie: Is there any other comic work from you we will be seeing?

Jim Valentino: Save for that mentioned above, there is nothing solid. I have about three or four projects that I’m considering at this point, I am uncertain which of these I’ll actually get to first. The ones we’re sure of at this time are Altered Image, The Sonic Super-Special and Knuckles #22-24. What comes after that only time will tell…and that’s just the way I like it! Every day is an adventure when the future holds so many options and possibilities!

 

Terry Moore Interview

Strangers In Paradise was one of the first non-superhero comics I bought regularly as an adult. It was the first Image Issue, the colour Jim Lee pages interested me and then the rest of it I enjoyed as well. I’ve met Terry (and his wonderful wife Robyn) at several conventions and even got to chat with them outside of a convention in Toronto after a Paradise City Toronto Comic Con convention. This interview was originally published in May 1998. Forgive some of my dumber questions, I still had some growing up to do.

Terry and Robyn Moore Paradise Comics 2007 Toronto Comic Con

Terry and Robyn Moore Paradise Comics 2007 Toronto Comic Con

An Interview with Terry Moore

Strangers in Paradise is a Eisner Award winning book done by Terry Moore. Mainstream comic readers might remember it best when it was at Image Comics, but it is still one of the most successful and well known completely independent comic books around.

 

Jamie: What is your daily schedule like?

Terry Moore: I start work around 10 o’clock and go until about midnight, breaking for lunch and dinner. I do this seven days a week. Most of the work is writing and drawing, some of it is business and email things.

 

Jamie: How much time do you spend writing vs. drawing?

Terry Moore: Most of my waking hours. I go to bed hoping I’ll dream of scenes. I lay in bed in the morning running scenes and setups through my head while it is still uncluttered.

 

Jamie: How many times do you go over your story/script and change it before you begin to draw it?

Terry Moore: Countless. Endlessly. I write and rewrite until I finally draw and ink it and then I change it the next morning. Then I finish the sequence and make changes, then I finish the book and make changes just before I send it to the printer. Then I read the book and think I should make changes and realize I can’t anymore. Then I consider changing it for the tpb.

 

Jamie: Are you completely satisfied with your work when you finished?

Terry Moore: No, never a whole book. But there are panels and scenes and moments that make me very happy.

 

Jamie: What part of the book do you enjoy writing the most? The Poems? Comedy? Drama?

Terry Moore: I love it most when I capture the emotion I was going after, no matter how I did it. The tools don’t really matter. Just, if I can make the reader feel connected to the moment.

 

Jamie: Do you find it easier to write male or female characters?

Terry Moore: They require the same effort, it’s just their perks and mysteries are in different places.

 

Jamie: Will Katchoo ever have a sexual relationship with a female lover?

Terry Moore: She has already had several.

 

Jamie: Since you know women so well, what do us geeks have to do to get laid?

Terry Moore: Well, Bill Gates came up with a good solution. I don’t think he had any trouble getting dates before he got married.

 

Jamie: What’s the latest news about Strangers in Paradise in other media?

Terry Moore: There is no SIP interest or activity outside of the publishing industry. The HBO deal is dead.

 

Jamie: Any chance of a Strangers in Paradise novel?

Terry Moore: Maybe, someday. I certainly have it all outlined.

 

Jamie: Is there an official SIP website?

Terry Moore: Not yet. But we’re building one now.

 

Jamie: I noticed your recent art doesn’t emphasize the more extreme melodrama parts that was in your earlier issues. Are you consciously changing that?

Terry Moore: I think so. I allow the art to morph and evolve freely. I don’t try to conform it to a “SIP look”. I don’t want to be trapped by my own creation.

 

Jamie: What do you have a hardest time drawing?

Terry Moore: Architecture and segway scenes I have no emotional attachment to.

 

Jamie: What advice can you give to struggling indy comic publishers?

Terry Moore: Work under the assumption that all you need to do is make the coolest comic in the world and everything will work out. If sales are low, look at the book and what it has to offer that no other book in the industry has. If you have a genre comic or a new improved version of something that’s already out, you’re going to be disappointed I’m afraid. This industry needs brand new ideas packaged with jaw-dropping gorgeous art.