Paul Levitz Interview

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

 

An Interview with Paul Levitz

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

Paul Levitz at 2016 San Diego Comic Con

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Paul Levitz: Yup.

 

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

Paul Levitz: Time will tell.

 

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

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

 

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

Paul Levitz: Yup.

 

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

Paul Levitz: Next one is a JSA stunt.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Paul Levitz: Nope.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Paul Levitz: Write MacAvennie and Carlin, tell them.

 

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

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

Jerry Ordway Interview

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

 

An Interview with Jerry Ordway

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jamie: How do you fix your mistakes?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jamie: Anything you want to say to your fans?

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

 

Kurt Busiek Interview

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

Kurt Busiek 2009 San Diego Comic Con

Kurt Busiek 2009 San Diego Comic Con

An Interview with Kurt Busiek

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Kurt Busiek: Monthly.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jamie: What comic books do you read?

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Kurt Busiek: December 7th.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Joe Kelly Interview

Originally published November 1998. Huh, apparently I could occasionally be decent at asking questions to get to the heart of a controversy regarding writers leaving titles. Of course it helps when your interviewee is willing to talk about that stuff and thankfully Joe Kelly was. At this point Joe was mainly known as a comedy writer for his great work on Deadpool. Now that he’s done a variety of more serious/normal comic work he doesn’t gives such jokey answers to interview questions anymore.

 

An Interview with Joe Kelly

The most wild and zany writer on the block has come to Collector Times. Joe Kelly (after some whip cracking) gave us this wonderful interview about Deadpool, the X-men fiasco, and other neeto stuff. Read on!

 

Jamie: How do you keep coming up with the gags for Deadpool?

Joe Kelly: I have vast library of demented childhood experiences to draw from, and a closet full of lines I SHOULD have said when some jerk put me down in High School, both of which serve me well on Deadpool. Also, I watched way too much TV as both a child and an adult, so I STEAL STEAL STEAL from my favorite shows!

I’m not a well boy.

 

Jamie: Are you reminded of the CCA by your editor when writing Deadpool? Does the CCA force you to cut or tone down some things?

Joe Kelly: Absolutely, Matt does a very good job of reminding me that there is a code to be followed, and when I’ve pushed a border unnecessarily. However, we’re not slaves to the code, either. If we have a really good reason to push the limits, he lets he go for it. As a general rule, we don’t need to break the code. There’s plenty of latitude within it, if you’re clever and a little naughty.

 

Jamie: After reading the Deadpool/Death annual, I wonder if you had a crush on Death when you were young?

Joe Kelly: Nope. I’ve always been fascinated by the Death visual- The hood, the bones, scary! However, I’ve never had a crush on death, nor do I support Death as a recreational activity in any of her many forms.

 

Jamie: Will Thanos be angry at Deadpool for his relationship with Death?

Joe Kelly: I hope so! makes for a cool story, no?

 

Jamie: How long before Deadpool breaks away from the “saviour” storyline and starts interacting with the rest of the Marvel Universe?

Joe Kelly: JANUARY! The DEAD RECKONING story arc ends in December, and then Deadpool has a lot of issues to face in the rest of the MU.

 

Jamie: When will we see T-Ray and Typhoid Mary again?

Joe Kelly: We’ll definitely see T-Ray in 1999. As to Typhoid, I’m not so sure… Maybe next year too, but probably not in the same capacity.

 

Jamie: What’s the current status of Deadpool? Heard any news, good or bad?

Joe Kelly: As of this writing, Deadpool’s sales are actually UP, and we are NOT being canceled! Yay! I have no idea how long this reprieve is going to last, but we’ll make the most of it.

 

Jamie: What do you think about John Byrne’s retconing the Concentration Camp out of Magneto past?

Joe Kelly: I honestly don’t have an opinion on that.

 

Jamie: Rumor is you and Seagle quit the X-books because of the editors. Is this true?

Joe Kelly: It was a variety of reasons. To put it concisely, The editors had a certain vision about the X-Men and the way they should be written. We had a different vision. As a result, the final product fell somewhere in the middle, and therefore short for both sides. We left because we didn’t want to do half-baked work.

 

Jamie: What exactly did the editors do to you and Seagle that drove you off?

Joe Kelly: Like I said, it wasn’t so much a matter of what they did to us, It was more a matter of us not clicking as a group. This, coupled with the fact that everyone at Marvel is concerned about losing their job right now, causes people to make bad choices. This got frustrating, so we all agreed it was time for a break. I DO NOT HATE ANYONE IN THE X-OFFICE! Just wanted to make that clear.

 

Jamie: What was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak?

Joe Kelly: Steve and I were told that we weren’t going to be involved in the long term planning and outlining of the next story arc, but were still expected to write the issues based on someone else’s template. If that had always been the case, if we were “dayplayers” on the X-Men from the beginning, this wouldn’t be such a big deal. However, in light of the events leading up to it, it was obvious this was a last ditch attempt to try and “fix”” something that was way too broken, so we left. That being said, I’d also like to clear up another internet rumor- I DO NOT HATE ALAN DAVIS!!! People have been paraphrasing things that Steve and I said in Australia, and putting it in direct quotes. I have nothing against Alan, and wish him all the best on the X-Men.

 

Jamie: Is the problem the same all across Marvel or is just with the X-books?

Joe Kelly: The X-Men is Marvel’s number one franchise, so naturally there is more scrutiny on those books than some of the others.

 

Jamie: Which X-characters did you enjoy writing the most?

Joe Kelly: Marrow, Maggott, Doc, Phoenix, Storm, Wolverine, and Beast.

 

Jamie: Do you prefer to write team books or individual titles?

Joe Kelly: Team books is hard!!! I’d like to try another team book, but not as big as the X-men. Maybe three characters, or four.

 

Jamie: If you had the chance to write for DC, what characters or titles would you choose?

Joe Kelly: Hmmm… That’s a toughie. I’m partial to Green Lantern, maybe Batman, The Phantom Stranger, Martian Manhunter, and the Spectre.

 

Jamie: Writing wise, who are your influences?

Joe Kelly: Kafka, a bunch of screenwriters including Richard LaGravenese, Terry Gilliam, Robin Williams, Frank Miller, Surrealistic playwriting.

 

Jamie: How exactly do you write your comics? How much detail do you give the penciler?

Joe Kelly: I tend to put in a lot of description, but with the intent that it can all be thrown out so long as a) The storytelling comes across, and b) the artist comes up with a cooler way to show something. My scripts are almost full script style, but only because I’m trained as a screenwriter, and that’s more comfortable to me.

 

Jamie: Outside of writing comics, what do you do with your time?

Joe Kelly: Take care of my new house, my new wife, and plan for my soon to be new baby. I do a lot of work around the home, play videogames, read comics, ride my mountain bike. Sometimes, I pretend to be a cop and shake down druggies for needles, which I then make into sculptures of the Eiffel tower.

 

Jamie: What kind of music do you listen to? Who are your favorite bands/singers?

Joe Kelly: I listen to everything. At the moment, I’m into lounge music, but I listen to Nirvana, Sublime, the Doors, Jazz, Punk, PJ, Billie Holiday… Everything!

 

Jamie: What advice can you give to writers trying to get work at Marvel Comics?

Joe Kelly: BE PERSISTENT, BUT NOT ANNOYING. Right now, the entire industry is shrinking. It’s going to be very difficult for new writers to get in the front door at Marvel. So what folks should do is a) Attack smaller companies and try to build a name for themselves, b) Send in Springboards and 1 page story ideas to editors with a SASE for feedback, but without expectations, and c) try to self-publish, so that they can send in a finished product to be read over a script. Write every day, and try to get a job that will support you while you try to hammer your way into Marvel. That way, if the industry collapses, you can give me a job!

 

Tom DeFalco Interview

Originally published October 1998. I was a little more fanboyish for this interview. I think I was happy that Tom DeFalco found creative success with Spider-Girl, enough so that they turned it into a line. When he stepped down from the EIC position I suspected his writing might not appeal to comic readers. His run on Fantastic Four was panned online (although I enjoyed it). So I was pleasantly surprised when he found Spider-Girl clicked with readers.

It’s interesting to think of Spider-Girl as a precursor to modern comics with Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Batgirl (done by Cameron, Fletcher and Tarr), etc.. I suspect if Tom was writing Spider-Girl today it would fit right in with those books.

 

An Interview with Tom DeFalco

Tom DeFalco is a name recognized by Marvel readers. He has been a writer, an editor, and had a long run as Editor in Chief. Today he is the writer/editor of a new line of comics, better known as MC2 or Marvel Comics Two. This month he answers a slew of questions about the MC2 books and the characters in them. He also tells us what he looks for in an artist, and how to save our favorite comic title from cancellation.

 

Jamie: Tell us how and when you got your start writing comic books.

Tom DeFalco: I began my career working for ARCHIE COMICS in 1972. I started as gofer, and eventually started selling stories to them.

 

Jamie: Judging by the first issues, you created a lot of characters. Why did you choose to give Spider-Girl, J2, and A-Next their own books?

Tom DeFalco: The readers demanded that Spider-Girl get her own title. They also wanted to see a future Avengers book and the Fantastic Five…but I figured I could have more fun with Juggie. (Read the title, and you’ll see why!)

 

Jamie: Why was there a #0 book for Spider-Girl, but none for A-Next or J2?

Tom DeFalco: Spider-Girl #0 was a reprint of What If #105…which first introduced Mayday to the world.

 

Jamie: Exactly how many years in the future is the MC2 line?

Tom DeFalco: Somewhere between 15 and infinity.

 

Jamie: I understand there will be another MC2 title. Will Marvel have an official vote for the hero or team to get their own title?

Tom DeFalco: In our January issues (Spider-Girl #6), we’ll ask the readers to vote on who should star in the next title. It could be Stinger, Darkdevil, the F5 or whomever they choose.

 

Jamie: Is there any chance that MC2 will be a part of the same alternative future laid out in Gardians of the Galaxy or the 2099 line?

Tom DeFalco: All alternative futures have the possibilities of intersecting…or not.

 

Jamie: Will we be seeing other long lived current Marvel characters pop up in MC2? Characters like Hercules, Hulk, Mr. Immortal, Wolverine and so on?

Tom DeFalco: Yep!

 

Jamie: I know this is a gruesome question, but did all of Peter Parkers leg get blown off or just a part of it?

Tom DeFalco: Errr…let’s move on, shall we?

 

Jamie: Hey, where did the Green Goblin’s glider go?

Tom DeFalco: Your guess is as good as mine.

 
Jamie: Is there any relation between the Jimmy Yama in Spider-Girl and Zane Yama in J2?

Tom DeFalco: They’re cousins…as we’ll see in the future.

 

Jamie: Will we see the Juggernaut return in J2?

Tom DeFalco: Probably.

 

Jamie: When will we see the full X-People team?

Tom DeFalco: J2 #1 for a cameo…and #2 for an actual story.

 

Jamie: Is the future X-men called X-People for politically correct reasons?

Tom DeFalco: Nope! I just wanted something to distinguish them from the current X-titles, and the pickings are very slim.

 

Jamie: The A-Next team only had 4 memebers! Will you be adding more later on?

Tom DeFalco: Check out A-Next #4!

 

Jamie: In other Alternative futures, those with the name “Mainframe” always ended up being the Vision. Is the A-Next Mainframe the Vision also?

Tom DeFalco: We’ll learn Mainframe’s story…when the time is right.

 

Jamie: Will Stinger be able to shrink like the Wasp?

Tom DeFalco: Yes.

 

Jamie: In A-Next, why did Loki get the Rock Trolls to steal the mace from Kevin when he could have teleported it away (as he did along with the heroes)?

Tom DeFalco: He was busy conjuring, and sent his errand boys to do the dirty work.

 

Jamie: What old Marvel title(s) would you like to see re-launched?

Tom DeFalco: New Warriors, Darkhawk and Silver Sable…all with the original creative teams!

 

Jamie: When hiring a penciler for a book, what in particular do you look for?

Tom DeFalco: Someone who can draw real people with real facial expressions and body language in a real world. And someone who can tell a visual story!

 

Jamie: There are a lot of fans out there trying to prevent or reverse the cancellation of their favorite titles. As a former Editor in Chief, what advice could you give these die hard fans?

Tom DeFalco: Buy copies of your favorite titles, convince your friends to buy copies, make sure your local retailer supports the title by displaying copies on his racks for an entire month, and write to the President of the company.

 

Jim Shooter Interview

Originally published September 1998. In this interview Jim talks about doing a new Legion of Superheroes story but DC had to back out due to a number of DC staff having issues with him working there. I believe this was the first interview where he revealed that this occurred. 10 years later that Jim was able to do those new Legion of Superhero Stories with DC.

Looking back I think ticked off Shooter with some of my questions, which is likely why I got short answers towards the end. This would not be the last time I did this in an interview.

 

An Interview with Jim Shooter

Jim Shooter has been working in comics for over 32 years. He has been a big name writer for Marvel and DC, a writer/Editor in Chief for Marvel, has attempted to buy Marvel Comics on two occasions, and has started up three comic companies in the past. He has made major changes to the industry, whether it was for better or worse will always be argued among pro’s and readers alike. Some people love him, some people hate him. Regardless, the man knows how to make good comics. He’s back at it again with his new venture called Daring Comics. Now on with the show.

 

Jamie: I heard you started writing Legion of Superheroes when you were a teenager. At what age did you start and how long were you on the title?

Jim Shooter: I was thirteen when I wrote my first Legion story, in 1965. I regularly wrote the Legion and other “Superman Family” titles until 1970.

 

Jamie: Have you ever re-read those issues you did? If so what do you think of them?

Jim Shooter: Depending on my mood, I think my old (ancient?) work sucks, or is pretty good for a kid, in the context of the times.

 

Jamie: Would you hire anyone that age to write one of your titles?

Jim Shooter: I’’d hire a newborn Martian to write for me if its samples were good. It’s all about the work, not who or what you are.

 

Jamie: About your titles, you have a new company called Daring Comics and eventually 8 ongoing titles coming out. Can you give us a brief description of what the titles are called, what they’re about and who is doing them?

Jim Shooter: The only titles set so far are ANOMALIES and RATHH OF GOD. I’m writing them and the brilliant Joe James is drawing at least one of them.

 

Jamie: Do you plan on having company wide crossovers in the future?

Jim Shooter: Company wide crossovers? Maybe. The books will all be set in the same universe.

 

Jamie: What will be different and interesting about these characters that you won’t find in other superhero comics?

Jim Shooter: They’ll be different and interesting. Seriously, I’ll bring to these series all my best. Is there any comparison between, say, Harbinger when I wrote it and the average super-hero strip? I think I had something going there, but people who like my kind of comics will like these, I think. People who think I’m a jerk won’t. I’ll give it my best, as always.

 

Jamie: I understand the first issue of Anomalies will have a limited print run of 5,500. Is this do to financial constraints or an attempt to increase the value of the books?

Jim Shooter: Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics suggested this limited print run thing. I don’t know much about small press (though I can run a major blindfolded). I’ve spoken to the only printer I’d ever consider using, Quebecor, and that’s about the limit they’ll do for such a speculative venture, even for me, someone they know well.. Fine. So be it.

 

Jamie: Why did you decide to self finance Daring Comics?

Jim Shooter: Again, Chuck talked me into this whole self-publishing thing. Maybe I could raise money for another comics publishing venture, but after the bad experiences I’’ve had starting on a grander scale with other peoples’ money, I wasn’t willing to go that route again. At least with self-publishing, I don’t have other peoples’ balance sheets dictating my creative decisions.

 

Jamie: What format will the Daring Comic books be in? How many story pages? What kind of paper stock? Will there be outside advertising?

Jim Shooter: Normal format, 32 pages. Advertising? maybe someday.

 

Jamie: Will there be room for creator-owned work in Daring Comics?

Jim Shooter: Creator-owned work? I’m the creator, I own it.

 

Jamie: Given the bleak sales right now, do you think it is wise to start another comic company?

Jim Shooter: Again, Chuck talked me into this. We both think that somebody has to step up to the plate and do something that gets people excited again. Can I? I don’t know, but I can give it a try.

 

Jamie: Some comic pro’s think companies should stop flooding the market with superheroes and start doing other genres. What is your opinion on superheroes Vs. other genres?

Jim Shooter: I think good stuff sells. Genre doesn’t matter, for the most part. If we build it, they will come.

 

Jamie: Have you ever considered writing for another company again? If so, why did you choose not to?

Jim Shooter: I haven’t had any offers to write for anyone, and the few times I’ve inquired, I’ve been told that I’m such a pariah that it would be impossible to give me work. I recently suggested to Paul Levitz at DC that I could do “Jim Shooter’s last Legion story,” a novel length “untold tale” set in the same time as my old Legion stories. He liked the idea, and agreed, but a few days later called me back and reneged. He said that the hatred some people at DC had for me was so great, that to keep peace in his house, he had to back out of the deal.

 

Jamie: Are you disappointed you never got to buy the publishing section of Marvel Comics?

Jim Shooter: Of course.

 

Jamie: If you did get to buy the publishing section of Marvel, what would you have done with it?

Jim Shooter: I would have made it good again.

 

Jamie: Out of all the characters you created for Marvel, DC, Valiant, Defiant, and Broadway Comics, which ones do you like the best from each company?

Jim Shooter: Impossible question.

 

Jamie: What writers and artists impress you today?

Jim Shooter: David Lapham impresses me.

 

Jamie: What comic books are you currently reading?

Jim Shooter: Stray Bullets.

 

Jamie: What is it about today’s industry that bugs you the most?

Jim Shooter: Its dying.

 

Jamie: What do you think is needed to get the comic industry back to it’s former glory?

Jim Shooter: Good creativity.

 

Jamie: Will fans be able to find you be at San Diego promoting Daring Comics?

Jim Shooter: No.

 

Jamie: Anything else you want to say?

Jim Shooter: Goodnight.

 


Note: The Daring Comics that Jim discussed here never came about. Jim revealed elsewhere he was doing it because he couldn’t get work within the comic industry. When he got hired at Phobos Entertainment he shelved it.

John Byrne Interview

I can’t deny that John was probably my favourite artist when I was a young comic fan in the 1980s and early 1990s. I did a couple of interviews with him. This is the ‘good’ one from August 1998, back when he was still working with Marvel Comics.

 

An Interview with John Byrne

What more can be said about John Byrne? Anything that could be said about him has already been spoken. John talks to us about his upcoming runs on Amazing Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, and the new X-men book.

 

Jamie: What will you do with Amazing Spider-Man that is different and exciting?

John Byrne: The main problem presented by the whole Spider-Man mythos in its present state is finding a way to fix something which, for a majority of readers, does not appear to be broken. Those of us who have followed Spider-Man through all the years of his existence remember times when there was something almost magical about the stories, the art, the whole package, and it is that which has, slowly but surely, eroded away, as mistakes were made which, to the people in charge, did not seem to be mistakes at the time. Thus, the best thing we can think of to make Spider-Man “different and exciting” is to press “REWIND”, but to do so in a fashion that will seem a logical outgrowth of all that has gone before, and not simply a massive erasure.

 

Jamie: Will you be creating new villains for Spider-Man or using old ones?

John Byrne: The intent is to use mostly new villains – and, indeed, a new supporting cast in AMAZING. Since the old tried-and-true villains will be appearing at the same time in my “Year One” project, this seems a good way to have our cake and eat it too!

 

Jamie: Will there be more “revamps” of Spider-Man villains (eg. Female Dr. Octopus)?

John Byrne: No such is planned. We would prefer the new villains to be just-that-new!

 

Jamie: When does your run on Amazing Spider-Man start and what will the first story be about?

John Byrne: Howard Mackie and I will begin with the issue of AMAZING that comes out in November of this year. That’s far enough away that, concerned as we are with wrapping up the storylines in the current books, we have not yet given much thought to the specifics of our first stories.

 

Jamie: Would you be interested in doing Alpha Flight again in the future?

John Byrne: Nope. Alpha is a definite case of “bin there, dun that”!

 

Jamie: What are your thoughts on the new Alpha Flight?

John Byrne: I have not read it.

 

Jamie: After many years of the Hulk having some intelligence, how do you plan on making “Hulk Smash” interesting?

John Byrne: The same way it was made interesting in the past-by creating interesting stories, places, people, etc. with which the Hulk can interact.

 

Jamie: What can you tell us about your first Hulk story?

John Byrne: Nothing – it’s not plotted yet. Still several months before Ron Garney and I will be prepared to actually get to work on the title.

 

Jamie: What will be the title of the new X-Men book your working on?

John Byrne: The working title is X-MEN: HIDDEN YEARS. It may be called something else by the time it actually comes out.

 

Jamie: It will feature the original X-men in new stories during the re-print era correct?

John Byrne: Correct.

 

Jamie: Do you know what kind of format the new title will be in? Will it be done “Untold Tales of Spider-Man” style, or like a normal comic?

John Byrne: The plan is to present it as a normal, ongoing monthly series. The “gap” it fills was about 29 issues long, but I am not restricted to that. If the series is a success it could run 100 issues. Not necessarily all by me, though.

 

Jamie: When does the first issue come out?

John Byrne: We’ve been talking about the fall of 1999, though that close to the Millennium, I would not mind seeing it pushed back to January 2000.

 

Jamie: Will we be seeing some X-men villains from the 60’s that we don’t see anymore?

John Byrne: At present I am still in the process of doing the background research necessary to determine who was available, not only in terms of familiar X-Men villains, but characters and villains from other Marvel books of the period. This also requires figuring out if any of the old, familiar faces can, in fact, have appearances during this period, of if established Marvel continuity has made that impossible. Luckily I have already discovered that it will be possible to do a Magneto story almost at once.

 

Jamie: Do you plan on creating new X-villians that could pop up in present day X-men titles?

John Byrne: Possibly. At this point there has been very little discussion of just how my book will impact on the present day X-Books-or vice versa. Clearly, since I am working in the past, it would be difficult, if not impossible to do anything that impacted on the present unless the writers on the present day books wanted it to.

 

Jamie: Will we be seeing a sympathetic Magneto or a pure evil Magneto?

John Byrne: We will see Magneto as he was then-a ruthless megalomaniac with a desire to subjugate humanity to the will of “homo superior”. Xavier’s precise opposite, in other words.

 

Jamie: Out of the original X-men characters, do you have a favorite?

John Byrne: Cyclops has always been “Mr. X-Men” to me.

 

Jamie: Do you think you will find some time to re-start Next Men?

John Byrne: It’s less a question of time than it is of the state of the marketplace. NEXT MEN sold very well in its original run – better than I expected in fact – but during what I planned to be merely a brief hiatus, the whole industry crashed, and now books like NEXT MEN are swept away without so much as a ripple. I would need to see a far greater stability in the marketplace before I would risk a relaunch.

 

Jamie: How will you deal with hostile fans at San Deigo?

John Byrne: The simplest way of all – by not being there. I have no plans to attend the San Diego Con.

 

Jamie: Do you have any desire to become an editor in the future?

John Byrne: Somehow that would seem like a step down. Sometimes I wonder what I would do if Marvel or DC offered me the top spot, the editor-in-chief job, but I think the answer would be “Turn it down”. The bean-counters are running the show, these days, and the job of most editors is to meet their demands. Perhaps this will change, and we can get back the a more creative approach to comics – something not driven by marketing-but until then, it seems as though an editorial position would just be frustrating.

 

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!

 

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.

 

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.

 

1 2 3 4 5