Mark Bagley Interview

Originally published in October 1999. I was a really big fan of Thunderbolts as I was an old Avengers fan and seeing those Masters of Evil villains come back as heroes in disguise was a big fanboy moment for me. So I wanted to talk to the artist, whom I’ve long enjoyed from his Spider-Man and New Warriors work. I made the mistake of making assumptions in this interview, something that’s gotten me in ‘trouble’ before and since.

 

An Interview With Mark Bagley

 
If you love Marvel, you probably know who Mark Bagley is. His pencils have graced the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, New Warriors and currently, Thunderbolts. This issue we get Mark to reveal his beginnings, weaknesses, where he swipes from, what offends him, and more!
 

Mark Bagley at 2010 C2E2

Jamie: What did you do before you started penciling professionally?

Mark Bagley: Let’s see, I was in the Army for 3 years during which time I had a top secret code word security clearance. I’d tell you what I did but then, well you know. I went to art school for a few years, got married, worked construction for a few years and then got a job at Lockheed doing technical illustration for about three years. All the while I was trying to break into comics.

 

Jamie: When did you know that you wanted a career in drawing comics?

Mark Bagley: I’ve wanted to draw comics since I was a kid. I really think that the first time I picked up a comic I thought, “Man I’d love to do this!” I think I was around 9 years old. I finally got my first break when I was 27 (I’ve always been sorta determined).

 

Jamie: How did you break into Marvel?

Mark Bagley: This is kind of an old story, I won the Marvel Try-Out Contest. I was working at Lockheed at the time and about ready to give up trying to do comics for a living and get on with my life, when the contest came out. I thought that it was just a Jim Shooter gimmick and I wasn’t going to do it. Luckily, a friend of mine who owns the Dr. No’s comic store, Cliff Biggers, gave me the contest book and said if I didn’t do it, I’d hate myself. Well a few months later, I got the phone call saying I’d won first place! Marvel flew me to New York and I met a bunch of editors and one gave me a shot (thanks Mike) and I spent the next year and a half working at Lockheed during the day and drawing funny books until 3 or 4 every night. Just about the time Lockheed started laying people off, I was getting enough work from Marvel to quit and do comics full time. A scary thing when you’ve a wife and new baby, to go freelance, but it’s been 16 or so years and I’ve never regretted it.

 

Jamie: What title did/do you enjoy penciling the most and why?

Mark Bagley: It’s never been the title so much as the people I happen to be working with. Doing Spidey was a dream job, my goal since I was a kid. But New Warriors was a blast with Fabian, and the T-Bolts with Kurt has been awesome fun.

 

Jamie: What art supplies do you use?

Mark Bagley: As a penciler my tools are pretty basic. I use drafting pencils, Pink Pearl erasures, triangles and the like. I think that the only tool I use that may be out of the ordinary for a penciler is a drafting arm instead of a T-square. I first used one at Lockheed and realized how much easier it made life at the board.

 

Jamie: What is the most difficult thing for you to draw?

Mark Bagley: I don’t think that I do crowd scenes, automobiles or women particularly well. Plus I’ve always felt my faces were not very strong. Aw Hell, I think that I could improve every area of my drawing. I may have a lot of people fooled but I always think that I need a lot of work. There are so many guys out there (and I use the term “guys” in it’s non-gender specific aspect) who are so terrific and I see their stuff and go “Man, I wish I could do that”. I don’t get jealous or envious (O.K. maybe a little), but it sure does challenge me to keep working on my craft, and trying to improve my skills.

 

Jamie: What do you do when you get stuck for drawing ideas?

Mark Bagley: I swipe from John Buscema or Alan Davis (Heh Heh!)

 

Jamie: Outside of comics, what are your hobbies?

Mark Bagley: I like to watch baseball, exercise (lift weights, run, hike), I shoot a pretty mean game of 8-ball, I love to read and go to the movies. I’m not a big outdoors type, but I do love rock climbing. Lastly, but not leastly, I enjoy hanging with my homies (my wife and daughter).

 

Jamie: I know you like Pro-Wrestling. You keep adding wrestling references into the Thunderbolts artwork. Which federation do you like the most and who are your favorite wrestlers?

Mark Bagley: I’m seriously not sure what your talking about. I do try to throw some cultural references into my drawing, but I don’t really know much about Pro-Wrestling. Sorry. (though Goldberg is a monster!)

 

Jamie: How are things going so far with Fabian Nicieza with him taking over Thunderbolts?

Mark Bagley: I hate him. If he lived near me I’d kill him. As it is, I’m thinking of sending a couple of my brother-in-laws up to Jersey to rough him up.

 

Jamie: Is there a copy of the original Hawkeye/Moonstone drawing that you had to change because it was too raunchy? If so, can you send it our way?

Mark Bagley: Yes and no.

 

Jamie: With the Thunderbolts, you gave complete makeovers to villains. How did you come up with the different looks and costumes to those characters?

Mark Bagley: Costume design is just a lot of fun. Each character was so distinctive that it wasn’t hard to come up with a look, especially given Kurt’s pretty clear ideas on the direction we were heading. Plus, Kurt sent me a sketch of a possible Citizen V costume which I basically just tweaked a bit.

 

Jamie: Did you have any input into the who the New Warriors and Thunderbolt members would be?

Mark Bagley: Really, no. Both books were pretty much established, structure wise by the time that I came aboard.

 

Jamie: What is your opinion of the relaunched New Warriors?

Mark Bagley: Like the old expression goes, If you want my opinion on that subject you’ll have to beat it out of me.

 

Jamie: Thunderbolts seem to be one of the few new titles launched by Marvel in the last few years that has succeeded without any nagging cancellation rumors. What’s the secret to launching a successful new title?

Mark Bagley: Beats me. Kurt’s a terrific writer and I’m a solid, consistent penciler who cares about his craft. T-Bolts was, and continues to be, a very story driven book with interesting characters and well thought out story’s, but I also thought Heroes For Hire and Kazar were great books. Maybe we manage to keep our readers because no one is yet sure how these guys are going to end up, and the journey there is the real hook that keeps the fans buying the book.

 

Jamie: You were the penciler when the controversial story lines surrounding Spider-Man started. Those being the Clone Saga and the Death of Aunt May. At the time, did you feel that mistakes were being made? Was it difficult to draw those issues?

Mark Bagley: I thought the clone saga was a gamble, but a good one. I think the results would have been a lot more satisfying but for a number of editor changes and some bad decisions upstairs. It lost focus and direction, went on way too long, and just became a mess (and Aunt May is REALLY dead, damn it!). It did become less fun to draw those issues, although I think the stories I did with Mark DeMattais were actually my best drawn issues (damn, but he is good).

 

Jamie: Your best known for your Marvel work. Did you do anything for other publishers?

Mark Bagley: Nope, Marvel been very, very good to me.

 

Jamie: If you had a choice of working a monthly title with any DC character, which would you choose?

Mark Bagley: Probably the big cheese, Superman. He and Batman are the icons. I’ve also always had a soft spot for The Martian Manhunter. Once again, the most important ingredients would be my writer and editor.

 

Jamie: Have you ever thought about breaking away from publishers and doing some creator owned work? (Why or Why not?)

Mark Bagley: Nah, I’m a coward. Besides I grew up on mainstream Marvel and DC, I really do love their universes.

 

Jamie: I hear you are a Georgia Cracker. Is that true? ūüėČ

Mark Bagley: A piece of advice: Much like only a black guy can call another black guy the “N” word and get away with it, so to only one Georgian should call another Georgian a cracker. I’m an Army brat, and as such I’ve lived everywhere from Hawaii to Germany to Korea. But I’ve lived in Georgia for over half my life and I call it home.

 

Jamie: Anything else you would like to add?

Mark Bagley: Nah, it’s 12:35 in the a.m. and I’m getting up at 6:00 a.m. so I’m going to bed. Will just thank everyone for buying T-bolts and sticking with it, you are all very appreciated and Fabe and I hope you will continue to enjoy it.

 

Tom Brevoort Interview

Originally published in September 1999. Around this time I was on an Avengers mailing list with a bunch of other die hard Avenger fans (some of whom are still my friends today). Also on that list was Kurt Busiek (whom I already interviewed) and Tom Brevoort. It is interesting to see that he’s still at Marvel today and how he’s evolved along the way, particularly on the idea of diluting a concept title with multiple similar titles.

 

An Interview With Tom Brevoort

 
Tom Brevoort is one of Marvel’s most respected editors by online fandom. Fans that frequent the usenet rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe group will often see him answering questions by readers and correcting false information. Currently he is editing Avengers, Avengers Forever, Avengers #1 1/2, Avengers / FF Domination Factor, Avengers: United They Stand, Blaze of Glory, Captain Marvel, Heroes Reborn: Doomsday, Marvel Mystery Comics, Hulk, Timely Presents All-Winners, Thor, and Thunderbolts. As you can see he’s a busy guy! I’ve made it my goal to try and get through this interview without any “Wait and See” responses, as online fans know he does so often. Wish me luck!
 
Jamie: What did you do before becoming an editor at Marvel?

Tom Brevoort: I was a college student.

 

Jamie: How did you break into the editing biz?

Tom Brevoort: I started out as a college intern in the summer of 1989, and ended up hired as an assistant editor in December of the same year.

 

Jamie: Did you ever want to become a freelance writer or artist? If so will you ever try again?

Tom Brevoort: I’ve written a number of stories for Marvel, and have no doubt that I will eventually do more in the future. And my background is as an artist–I was an illustration major, though I’m not good enough to do monthly work for Marvel. But I like the structure of a regular 9 to 5 work-week, so I’m not really looking to go freelance.

 

Jamie: Unlike most editors, you hang out online answering readers comments and even debating with us once in a while. Why?

Tom Brevoort: When I was simply a fan, if access to the internet was as easy as it is now, I would have been on those boards constantly. That being the case, it seems like the right thing to do to make my self available, and try to eliminate some of the more egregious misinformation that gets disseminated through the electronic forums.

 

Jamie: Where do you get your assistant editors from?

Tom Brevoort: There’s a company in Iowa–three for a dollar.

 

Jamie: How do you decide on which freelancers will do fill ins or take over a title?

Tom Brevoort: There’s not a formula to it. I determine who’s around who can bring something to the series–either by being similar to the guys they’re subbing for, or by being radically different, or by having some sort of historic connection to the character, or by just being cool–and then I call them. It’s all gut-level instinct.

 

Jamie: Has there been any changes to the writing situation on Hulk and Iron Man?

Tom Brevoort: I don’t edit IRON MAN, but the plan is still for Joe Quesada to take over with #26 in January and do at least 4 issues–more, if things work out to everyone’s satisfaction. As of this writing, there is still no regular writer on HULK–Ron Garney and Jerry Ordway will be co-plotting #9-11, with Jerry scripting, however.

 

Jamie: It’s well known that Erik Larsen really wanted to be the Hulk’s regular writer. Why hasn’t he gotten the job?

Tom Brevoort: I try not to hand out assignments in an off-handed way. Erik has certainly made his desire known, and has sent me a treatment. Whether or not he gets the series depends on what he wants to do, what ideas get pitched by others, where I think the book should go, and how strongly the sales and marketing guys feel about the pluses and minuses of any given approach. But Erik is hardly out of the running, and he’s writing #8.

 

Jamie: I understand that Busiek and Perez were picked for the Avengers before you became the titles editor. If you were the editor first and had to pick a creative team for the Avengers, what freelancers would you have tried to get?

Tom Brevoort: Probably Kurt and George. I wasn’t the one who called George, but I was involved in the discussion before the call was made. And I became involved again when George asked about Kurt writing the series–since we were already working together, Kurt sent me his AVENGERS treatment to get some feedback before it went in.

 

Jamie: Practically all the books you edit have high or stables sales. To what do you owe to your success?

Tom Brevoort: Um…people reading the books, mostly. There are some really terrific people working on those titles, and I’m glad that the audience is enjoying their work. But I don’t think it’s any sort of “golden touch” or anything.

 

Jamie: There was a Great Lakes Avengers (or Lighting Bolts) mini series planned. Is it still coming out?

Tom Brevoort: Not to my knowledge. That was something that Matt Idelson wanted to do with Joe Kelly. Now that Matt is at DC, it seems unlikely that this project will happen.

 

Jamie: Hey, who keeps sticking in the Pro Wrestling references in Thunderbolts? Is it Kurt Busiek or Mark Bagley?

Tom Brevoort: Kurt if they’re in the script, Mark if they’re in the artwork.

 

Jamie: You mentioned that you were interested in bringing back the Official Marvel Universe Handbook in one form or another. Has there been any progress on that?

Tom Brevoort: None to speak of. We’ve got around two and a half issues finished at this point, but the market is simply too weak for us to proceed with it–I don’t want to bring the book out and have it get canceled with ‘L’. Until the market improves, the HANDBOOK is on hold.

 

Jamie: Between The Essential Volumes and various reprint TPB’s you’ve been in control of re-selling Marvel’s past. What other projects are coming up?

Tom Brevoort: I think this is a misreading of the situation, as I’ve never edited any of the ESSENTIALS books (though I do consult on things like mistakes that were made in the MASTERWORKS printings so they can be fixed for ESSENTIALS.) But in the immediate future–October–I’m doing both TIMELY PRESENTS ALL-WINNERS, which reprints the first appearance of the All-Winners Squad, Marvel’s first super-team, in a format like that of the recent HUMAN TORCH reprint, and MARVEL MYSTERY COMCIS, and 80-page comic-book collection of golden age stories. And there’s some initial talk about producing new MASTERWORKS volumes, although it remains to be seen if that’ll work out.

 

Jamie: With the popularity of Avengers, we’ve seen several spin off titles like Avengers Forever and the soon to be published Domination Factor. But we don’t see more ongoing Avengers title’s like Spider-Man or X-men have. Why?

Tom Brevoort: I think regular secondary titles tend to dilute the core concept of a series, so I’m adamantly opposed to there being another regular, ongoing AVENGERS title. We’ll do limited series and one-shots when we have interesting ideas for them, but I think the Avengers are better served by only headlining in one title. One team, one book.

 

Jamie: Why was Black Panther moved from the Marvel Knights group and brought into normal Marvel Publishing?

Tom Brevoort: Jimmy and Joe want to do other things, and there are only so many hours in the day. but PANTHER is still selling decently, so there’s no reason to just cancel it. So it’s moving over to mainstream editorial–which shouldn’t really impact on it too much, in that Priest will remain as writer.

 

Jamie: Who will be the editor for Black Panther when it comes to the normal Marvel publishing? Any idea on if it will keep it’s ‘almost vertigo’ style stories?

Tom Brevoort: Ruben Diaz is editing PANTHER. I don’t expect that it’ll change from what it’s been up till now.

 

Jamie: Avengers Forever #8 was loaded with retcons and changing Marvel History, what was your reaction when you saw the script? Was their any uneasiness? Did you have to request any changes?

Tom Brevoort: First off, I don’t think FOREVER #8 was “loaded” with retcons and changes to history–there’s only one major one that I can think of. And I was involved in the conception of that issue, so I didn’t have any problem with anything that was in it.

 

Jamie: With much of the comic industry news being so glum, how do you stay positive?

Tom Brevoort: There are more good comics available today, from a variety of publishers, than ever before. So yeah, there’s a lot of crap, and sales could certainly be better. But how bad can it be when I can get a hardcover volume of the earliest PLASIC MAN stories?

 

Jamie: Who came up with the idea for the Marvel Militia? How can you gauge if it’s working?

Tom Brevoort: The Marvel Militia was conceived and largely executed by my assistant, Gregg Schigiel. I don’t know that you can tell if it’s working–but doing something is better than doing nothing. And anything that helps bring readers into the hobby is something to be encouraged.

 

Jamie: Where do you see the comic industry 5 years from now?

Tom Brevoort: Hopefully still around, and expanding in new directions.

 

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.

 

Roger Stern Interview

Originally published in June 1998. I was really excited about this interview. The first comic I ever bought was Avengers #276 by written by Roger Stern. The following story line in Avengers (Assault on Olympus) made me a comic fan for life. Back when I first started reading comics I wasn’t paying attention to the credits in them. After I graduated college (and was poor) I couldn’t afford very many new comics, so I did a lot of re-reading of my old ones. That’s when I discovered that I really liked Roger Stern stories and they also held up really well. Roger is one of the creators I’ve not yet met in person, but some friends of mine has (they actually had a sit down lunch with him, his wife Carmela and Kurt Busiek) and they told me he is a great guy.

 

An Interview with Roger Stern

When long time comic readers think of great writers, Roger Stern is a name that always pops up. He has written everything from Avengers to Starman, from Dr. Strange to Legionnaires. This month, we got him to talk about his past, present, and future work. Plus, his life outside the comicbook industry.

 

 

Jamie: Do you remember the first comic book you read? What was it?

Roger Stern: No, I read my first comic over 40 years ago, so I don’t remember which one came first. But it was probably an issue of WALT DISNEY’S COMICS & STORIES.

 

Jamie: Did you always want to become a comic book writer or were you aiming for something else?

Roger Stern: Actually, I set out to be an engineer. But I became disenchanted with engineering school and transferred to Indiana University, where I majored in radio and television. After graduation, I worked at a radio station in Indianapolis for a couple of years, and did a little freelance writing (for little or no pay) on the side. I had actually sold a PHANTOM story to Charlton when the radio gig dried up. (Charlton canceled THE PHANTOM before my story was ever used, but at least I was paid.)

 

Jamie: What kind of formal writing education did you receive?

Roger Stern: Very little. I tested out of the college level composition courses. I did take some journalism courses as part of the radio and television curriculum, but most of my education was on-the-job, writing commercial copy, record reviews, and the like.

 

Jamie: What other jobs did you have before writing comics full time?

Roger Stern: Before the radio job, I worked as a drill-press operator at a couple of small factories and a general worker for a machine shop. And of course, there were all those summers of mowing lawns and painting fences.

 

Jamie: How did you break into the comic industry?

Roger Stern: I got the chance to test for a proofreading position at Marvel in December of 1975. I passed and have been working comics ever since.

 

Jamie: Marvel is going to make your Masters of Evil II / Mansion Under Siege Avengers story into a TPB (Trade Paperback). Do you know if anything else you’ve written is going to be reprinted as a TPB?

Roger Stern: The Avengers story is the latest trade paperback reprinting that I know of. My work has also been reprinted in THE BEST OF MARVEL COMICS, CAPTAIN AMERICA: WAR & REMEMBRANCE, RETURN TO THE AMALGAM AGE OF COMICS: THE MARVEL COMICS COLLECTION, SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN: NOTHING CAN STOP THE JUGGERNAUT, SPIDER- MAN: HOBGOBLIN LIVES, SPIDER-MAN: THE ORIGIN OF THE HOBGOBLIN, SPIDER-MAN: THE SAGA OF THE ALIEN COSTUME, SPIDER-MAN’S GREATEST VILLAINS, THUNDERBOLTS: MARVEL’S MOST WANTED, THE VERY BEST OF SPIDER-MAN, X-MEN VS. THE AVENGERS, X- MEN: DANGER ROOM BATTLE ARCHIVES, and over a dozen Superman Trades.

 

Jamie: Of all your stories, which ones are you proudest of?

Roger Stern: The Avengers Mansion story is up there … along with a half-dozen or so SPIDER-MAN stories, my run on CAPTAIN AMERICA, some DOCTOR STRANGE stories, several Superman stories, and most of my run on STARMAN.

 

Jamie: You wrote the Death and Life of Superman novel, what are the differences between writing a book vs. writing a comic book?

Roger Stern: You have to work harder to sell an action scene in prose. With a comic, you can tell the artist to draw a spectacular explosion, and there it is! Describing that explosion effectively in cold hard type is serious work. On the other hand, I found that long dialogues — which in comics can come off as a series of talking heads (if you’re not careful) — are much easier in prose.

 

Jamie: Are you planning on writing other novels?

Roger Stern: Not at present.

 

Jamie: I hear you and Kurt Busiek are going to change Photon’s name to something else… any winners yet on the new name?

Roger Stern: I’m still lobbying for Captain Marvel, as that is who she was created to be. Unfortunately, someone else is currently using that name.

 

Jamie: What’s up and coming with new Marvel Universe stories and creative teams?

Roger Stern: After the initial Strucker/Invaders arc, there’s a four-issue arc with a quartet of Monster Hunters set in the era of the pre-hero TALES OF SUSPENSE, TALES TO ASTONISH era. After that, we have — in no particular order — a Revolutionary War story (inspired by a subplot from one of Jack Kirby’s Captain America stories), the story of Doctor Strange’s return to America (after his apprenticeship to the Ancient One), maybe a story featuring a pre- FF Reed Richards and Ben Grimm, and eventually (I promise!) the Eternal Brain!! Upcoming artists include Mike Manley, Jason Armstrong, Neil Vokes, and Brent Anderson.

 

Jamie: Other than Marvel Universe and Legionnaires, what else will you be doing?

Roger Stern: I recently co-plotted SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #259-261 with Glenn Greenberg and a CAPTAIN AMERICA/IRON MAN ANNUAL with Kurt Busiek (which Mark Waid will be scripting). I’m about halfway through the scripting of SUPERMAN: A NATION DIVIDED, an Elseworlds one-shot set during the Civil War. And I’m plotting a secret project which I can’t tell you about yet.

 

Jamie: Last year at San Diego Con you said “But there’s just so many of them!” in regards to writing Legionnaires. How do you feel about the big cast of characters now that you have been writing them for an additional year?

Roger Stern: Still too many of them. But we hope to get around this by focusing on subsets of the team … probably to the sounds of wailing and teeth-gnashing from the hardore Legion fans who want to see all the Legionnaires in every issue (and don’t have to write the bloody things).

 

Jamie: How do you feel about the new editorial decision to move Legionnaires to a more action oriented plot lines?

Roger Stern: No problem with that. (Actually, we’ve always tried to put as much action into the stories as we could. It was just hard to see with all of those Legionnaires in the way!)

 

Jamie: I hear you’re a big lover of snakes, can you describe your pets? How many snakes do you have? What kind of snakes are they?

Roger Stern: Carmela and I have a dozen or so … some common Garters, a couple of King Snakes, several Rat Snakes, and a Ball Python. They’re clean, non-demanding creatures who don’t take up a lot of room. They don’t bark and when they shed, it’s all at once. Did I mention that they’re hypoallergenic? If you’re allergic to dog and/or cat dander, you might want to consider a snake. Of course, they won’t fetch …

 

Jamie: Did your love for snakes cause you to change Princess Projectra into a snake? Or was there another purpose for turning her into a snake?

Roger Stern: I -didn’t- change Princess Projectra into a snake. In the new continuity, I introduced a new character with similar powers, a divergent background, and a more serious name. I decided that Sensor would be a snake because — as Carmela has rightfully pointed out — there are too many snake-based villains out there. And, as I was being forced to add some Legionnaires anyway, I wanted to add a non-humanoid to the mix, as well as a member (Umbra) who was -not- white and male.

 

Jamie: Are there any members of the Legionnaires about whom you would like to write a solo series?

Roger Stern: Not off hand, no.

 

Jamie: If you could buy one comic character and do an indy title with him/her, who would that character be?

Roger Stern: I wouldn’t be interested in removing any established characters from their home universe. I don’t see any point in that.

 

Jamie: Do you have any aspirations to become an editor?

Roger Stern: I’ve been an editor. Didn’t like it.

 

Jamie: What did you think of the last episode of Seinfeld?

Roger Stern: I wish that it had been as funny as the rest of the series.

 

George Perez Interview

George Perez – 2003 HobbyStar Toronto Fan Expo

This was originally published in June 2000.

This interview became a wake up call for me. Normally when somebody got some breaking¬†news other sites would mention it and link to the source. It was seen as ethical, without it being formally defined in that way. George Perez leaving the Avengers (which was a top selling book at that time) was major news and it wasn’t announced anywhere yet. When I told Comic Book Resources¬†I was stunned to see that instead of mentioning it and linking to the interview, they instead contacted George, got confirmation and then announced the news themselves as if they broke it. I learned after that to not give them anymore news. The internet comic community, which used to be¬†very volunteer minded, co-operative place was now commercial. The desire to maximize traffic to make money was now more important.

Anyway, I’ve seen George at many conventions over the years and he’s always been super nice to me. He’s generally known as one of the nicest creators out there.


An Interview With George Perez

George Perez has been working in the comic industry for about 25 years.¬†While some hot pencilers come and go, he’s is one of the very few that¬†remains a fan favorite through the years. He has a long list of very¬†popular works behind him both in DC and in Marvel. Among them, Teen¬†Titans, Wonder Woman, Crisis of the Infinite Earths, and currently¬†Avengers. George answers all sorts of questions and gives us some¬†details about when he is ending his run on Avengers and starting his new¬†work Crimson Plague, coming out through Gorilla Comics.

 

Jamie: We have heard lots from Mark Waid and Kurt Busiek about why they formed Gorilla Comics, but we have yet to hear from you. What is your reason for doing comics through Gorilla?

George Perez:¬†The chance to be in full control over my own work is way too¬†tempting to resist. However since I was on exclusive contract with¬†Marvel, I couldn’t work on any new projects until July 2000 when my¬†Marvel contract expired. Except for CRIMSON PLAGUE, which predated that¬†contract With Event Comics seemingly on hiatus while Joe Quesada and¬†Jimmy Palmiotti worked on marvel Knights it seemed the perfect time and¬†place to restart the series. With Joe and Jimmy’s generous blessings,¬†CRIMSON PLAGUE became my contribution to the Gorilla launch.

 

Jamie: Crimson Plague is coming out again through Gorilla Comics (Image). For¬†those that don’t know anything about the series, what is it about?

George Perez:¬†It’s about a genetically engineered woman who was first discovered¬†as an embryo inside a dead woman on a mining colony on one of Jupiter’s¬†moons. As the woman (named DiNA: Simmons) grew to maturity it was¬†discovered that her blood was becoming more and more toxic until it was¬†capable of totally disintegrating any organic or non-organic matter. And¬†since DiNA: is a woman, the scientists learn that her menstrual blood¬†could become an airborne virus capable of destroying an entire planet.¬†She becomes a walking crimson plague– and that plague is on its way to¬†Earth.

The artistic gimmick for this series is that every featured character is¬†modeled and named after a real person. There really is a Dina Simmons¬†(who is now pursuing a modeling career using the DiNA: Simmons spelling¬†of her name). It’s a real artistic challenge.

 

Jamie: After the one shot, will Crimson Plague turn into an ongoing series? If so can you draw both it and Avengers at the same time?

George Perez:¬†CRIMSON PLAGUE is scheduled as a limited series, currently eight¬†bi-monthly issues, although that may change. As for AVENGERS, my¬†contract expires in July and it looks like I won’t be continuing with it¬†as a penciler past Issue #34, another double-sized issue. I just need to¬†take a break from the monthly grind for a while and I’ve been offered a¬†few short-term assignments that I’m looking forward to working on.

 

Jamie: What all happened with that eHeroes.com thing? Fans are still confused.

George Perez:¬†As of now, there are still talks going on and, hopefully, this¬†will all be settled by the end of June. I wish I could be more definite¬†and forthcoming, but I’m just waiting with guarded optimism. Things look¬†promising though and Gorilla Comics will survive regardless.

 

Jamie: Will Gorilla Comics be keeping their TPB’s in print and accessible like¬†DC Comics does?

George Perez:¬†That’s one of the cornerstones of Gorilla policy.

 

Jamie: Avenger fans wonder and worry how long you’ll be on the series. Any¬†definite answer?

George Perez:¬†I think I answered that already. It hasn’t been announced¬†officially, but I see no reason in keeping it mum now. I should explain¬†that this decision has nothing to do with my working relationship with¬†anyone on the AVENGERS team. I love them all. It’s just that, according¬†to my last medical check up, I need to slow down. My blood pressure’s up¬†and my diabetes needs to be controlled better. That means more exercise,¬†among other things, and my current schedule just doesn’t allow that.¬†I’ll still be doing a lot of work; it just won’t be on a monthly title¬†for a year or so.

 

Jamie: If you could add one more character to the Avengers, simply so you can draw them who would it be (excluding the Beast)?

George Perez: Tigra. I love the babes.

 

Jamie: You have done a lot of costume designing for Avengers, do you have a favorite?

George Perez: The Scarlet Witch. I think her costume is a perfect reflection of her character.

 

Jamie: Kurt Busiek is big on creating minority characters and made the amount of them on the Avengers team a major plot line. What is your feeling on minorities and their portrayal in the Marvel Universe?

George Perez:¬†As a member of minority group myself, (I’m Puerto Rican) I must¬†say that the issue never really meant anything to me one way or another.¬†To me a hero transcends racial barriers. It is nice to see different¬†races represented, but I’m more likely to follow a character because he¬†or she or it is written well and drawn well. I do, however, enjoy¬†characters having distinctive personalities and often that is¬†well-served by the character having a unique background that¬†distinguishes him her or it from the other. For example, I always liked¬†what Victor Stone (Cyborg) brought to the Teen Titans dynamic.¬†Ironically, the one Puerto Rican character I am credited for creating,¬†the White Tiger, was actually created by writer Bill Mantlo. I just visualized him, using my childhood as reference. But it was Bill who¬†gave that character his soul.

 

Jamie: There is a rumor floating around that after Avengers you and Kurt are going to do a series for DC featuring their Golden Age characters. Any truth to it?

George Perez:¬†None whatsoever. Besides, I wouldn’t have wanted to compete with¬†the memory of James Robinson’s and Paul Smith’s GOLDEN AGE. I thought¬†that was great.

 

Jamie: You had once penciled a JLA vs. Avengers crossover that never saw¬†print. One side says it didn’t come about because of politics, the other¬†(Jim Shooter) said it was because of bad writing and when the writing¬†got fixed you had found other projects to do. What is your take on that mess?

George Perez:¬†To tell you the truth, this is a very old topic and my position is¬†already well-documented, so I’ll just let it pass. All I can add is¬†that, regardless of statements to the contrary, there was no other¬†project I wouldn’t have dropped if the JLA/AVENGERS project ever had¬†gotten greenlighted.

 

Jamie: Some people had doubts that you could keep a monthly deadline when it was announced that you were penciling Avengers. How do you draw all those details and keep the book coming out regularly?

George Perez:¬†With great force of will and little sleep. Actually, it’s the only¬†way I know how to draw. I love groups and details. I just had to work on¬†my work discipline. Despite my health problems, I’m proud of that¬†achievement.

 

Jamie: Where did you get your art training and how did you develop your popular style?

George Perez:¬†I’m self taught and my style was based on emulating the artists¬†whose work I admired.

 

Jamie: Who are your art influences?

George Perez:¬†This is always a hard one. There are so many. Among the comic¬†artists my first major influences were Curt Swan, Jack Kirby, Neal¬†Adams, Gil Kane, John Buscema, Barry Windsor-Smith, Jim Starlin, Nick¬†Cardy, Mort Drucker, George Woodbridge, Leonard Starr, Murphy¬†Anderson, the list goes on and on, and continues growing. Outside the¬†comics field I’ve been forever inspired by the likes of Norman Rockwell,¬†Alfonse Mucha, N.C. Wyeth, Virgil Finlay, Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher,¬†Bob Peak, Richard Amsel and so many others.

 

Jamie: If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing?

George Perez: Probably interviewing an artist.

 

Jamie: You have been a very popular artist for a long time, while many hot artists turn lukewarm in a few years. To what do you owe your longevity?

George Perez:¬†I haven’t the foggiest idea. I try to maintain a certain level of¬†excitement to my work and never sacrifice storytelling for flashy¬†visuals– although they are not mutually exclusive. I just hope that my¬†love for what I’m doing is evident– and contagious.

 

Jamie: Which of your many projects on are you proudest of?

George Perez:¬†Inking Curt Swan on “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?” A dream come true.

 

Jamie: Are there any writers you have yet to work with that you’d really like¬†to?

George Perez:¬†Yep. If Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Mark Waid, James¬†Robinson, Grant Morrison, Devin Grayson, or Garth Ennis are ever¬†interested in working with me, I’d be proud to be in any of their company.

 

Jamie: As of late we’ve had Siegel’s family, Joe Simon and now Martin Nodell¬†ask for their characters copyrights back. What is your take on these¬†events?

George Perez:¬†I’m all for creators getting all the rights they can and there¬†seems to be little dispute about the validity of the Siegel’s claims.¬†There does appear to be some disagreement with the others, and I’m not¬†familiar enough with those cases to make a valid judgment. Speaking¬†strictly from a moral and artistic standpoint, however, I believe that¬†all these creators were screwed out of just rewards for creating¬†characters that have netted millions for their respective publishers.¬†But then again, business decisions are seldom made by artists and¬†moralists.

 

Jamie: I hear you are involved with a few charities. CBLDF just gave you a DEFENDER OF LIBERTY AWARD for the money you raised for them over the last three years. Can you tell us which charities you work for and what you do for them?

George Perez:¬†I do pretty much the same thing for all of them. I go to¬†conventions and draw like crazy, donating all my commissions to charity.¬†I also boost the amount by printing up some color prints (colored gratis¬†by my friend Tom Smith) of my CRIMSON PLAGUE characters DiNA: Simmons¬†and Shannon Lower and those girls hawk them and pose for photos — all¬†for donations. Among the organized charities I’ve worked for are The¬†Charlotte Firefighter’s Burned Children Fund, The Muscular Dystrophy¬†Association, Make-A-Wish, Florida Hospital Diabetes Association and The¬†Juvenile Diabetes Association. I’ve also raised money to help some¬†friends in dire financial straits and have presided over a few charity¬†auctions as well. Interestingly, the CBLDF is the only charity that I¬†ever have to explain or justify — and that makes it all the more¬†imperative that we never take it for granted.

 

Jamie: I notice you are now posting on the ApeNation.com Message board, but you are very rarely seen elsewhere on the internet. Do you visit any other comic related web sites or gatherings (like Usenet)?

George Perez:¬†No. I browse and lurk from time to time, but I’d never get any¬†work done if I sat and typed answers all day — like I’m doing now. Hmmm.

 

Jamie: Anything else you’d like to say to the readers?

George Perez:¬†Only that I’d better get back to work — or else they’ll have¬†nothing of mine to read next month. Take Care.