2nd John Byrne Interview

Originally published in December of 2000. John Byrne just had a nasty split with Marvel Comics, one that has kept Byrne from working for Marvel since. It is very likely that John will never work for Marvel again. In short, Marvel’s President of Publishing (and my last interview) Bill Jemas decided to try and strong arm certain creators into working on certain titles by telling them they either do it or they’d not be working for Marvel any more. Another creator who has since gone on record about similar treatment was Mark Bagley, in regards to penciling Ultimate Spider-Man. With Bagley the title grew on him, and with some encouragement from his local retailer & friend Cliff Biggers, he wound up drawing it for 111 issues. This does not excuse that behaviour from Marvel though.

I had more of a back and forth interview with John after e-mailing my initial questions. Since he was in a fired up & talking mood I tried to pry some info about him about other controversies, without luck.

 

An Interview With John Byrne

John Byrne recently announced that he won’t be working for Marvel anytime soon. He was working on a profitable X-Men: The Hidden Years title, but Marvel cancelled it as part of sweeping changes to their X-men line of comics. I last interviewed John in the Summer of 1998 and decided now would be a good time to talk to him again about Marvel, DC, future work, Marv Wolfman and more.

 

Jamie: Did Marvel try to give you another book to do to make up for X-men: The Hidden Years?

John Byrne: No. There was an “offer” to continue XHY through issue 22 if I would agree to do another project (The X-Book with Chris Claremont, which Bill Jemas had already announced I was doing, without having my final confirmation) but I was not in the market for that kind of “deal”.

 

Jamie: One of the big questions X-men fans are wondering is what books are getting cancelled and which ones are not? Can you tell us?

John Byrne: I’m not sure. I don’t think Marvel is sure, either.

 

Jamie: We know that X-men: The Hidden Years ends with #19. Does that end a story arc?

John Byrne: No. Right in the middle of one.

[Note: Since this interview has taken place Marvel and John Byrne have come to the agreement to finish X-Men: The Hidden Years with issue #22.]

 

Jamie: With almost all cancellations there are bound to be subplots and character developments left hanging. Can you tell us what you did and planned on doing after X-men: the Hidden Years #19?

John Byrne: No, sorry. I don’t want another writer reading this and “finishing” XHY for me. Alas, this has happened before.

 

Jamie: You originally said that Joe Quesada gave you an explanation that didn’t make sense. What was that explanation?

John Byrne: Canceling books that are selling in order to make room for books which may or may not sell, in the name of increasing sales, makes no sense to me.

 

Jamie: Joe Quesada has taken a different route than most EIC’s when it comes to conflicts between creators and editors, using Fandom.com to tell his side of the story. Did you expect him to do that and which way do you think editors should respond to conflicts like yours?

John Byrne: The editors are free to do and say whatever they want, of course. Based on the reactions I have seen from posters on AOL, it would seem Quesada has done himself no favors in this case, since he has given a description of XHY which, as fans are quick to point out, in no way matches the actual book.

 

Jamie: Now that some time has passed, can you tell us what happened with your leaving Hulk?

John Byrne: No.

 

Jamie: In the latest Hulk Annual, Tom Brevoort apologized for your Hulk stories and Peter David retconed them out in 3 panels within Captain Marvel #2. How did you feel about that?

John Byrne: No comment.

 

Jamie: Recently Bill Jemas made some statements about making comics worth 20 dollars. Do you think Marvel should encourage speculating again?

John Byrne: The biggest problem with the Suits in charge at Marvel these days is that they have no sense of history. They do not know how the comicbook industry functioned before they came into the business. They think the conditions they found were the conditions as they have always been. Thus, they are convinced the way to “get it back” is to return to the insanity of the speculator market. Rather like “fixing” the Titanic by crashing it into another iceberg.

 

Jamie: I understand you testified at the Marv Wolfman vs. Marvel case in where Marvel won the rights to the Blade and Deacon Frost character. What did you tell the court?

John Byrne: The truth.

 

Jamie: And why do you feel that way?

John Byrne: Truth is truth.

 

Jamie: I don’t think it will surprise anyone if you get some new work from DC, but what about smaller publishers like Dark Horse?

John Byrne: The marketplace is still too soft for me to function in that context.

 

Jamie: Would you work for CrossGen?

John Byrne: I have no familiarity with their company or their line.

 

Jamie: Do you think you’ll ever write and/or draw something that is not superheroes?

John Byrne: In my career to date I have done science-fiction, war, western and humor titles and stories. I certainly expect to do more.

 

Jamie: …And do you want to?

John Byrne: Yes.

 

Jamie: Would you work under the Vertigo imprint or any ‘mature readers’ comics?

John Byrne: NEXT MEN was labeled “Mature Audiences” and dealt with mature themes.

 

Jamie: There has been lots of news around DC lately regarding censorship, comics being pulped, legal holdups and so forth. Have you ever had any problems with this while working there?

John Byrne: No. I understand the rules and find no problem working within them.

 

Jamie: What details can you give about your working with Stan Lee to do the Legion of Superheroes as he would have created them?

John Byrne: Other than the fact that it is planned, nothing. Stan has not yet provided a plot, and we have not talked about what direction we might take.

 

Jamie: You’ve said that the market is too soft for you to go back to creator owned work. This is being debated, primarily among people who say they are making “loads” of money through creator owned work. Considering the amount of money that creators are making through TPB royalties, do you still think Work For Hire is the only way to go?

John Byrne: When have I ever said it was?

 

Jamie: So is there a place between fully creator owned, controlled and financed work and corporate work for hire that you’re able to do? Something like say League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Transmetropolitan?

John Byrne: Of course. There are countless avenues open to any who wish to seek them out. It simply depends on what you want to do, where, and when.

 

Jamie: The comic industry seems to be moving towards a TPB/Bookstore format, do you think this is a good thing?

John Byrne: As with everything else in this business, it will depend entirely upon how it is handled. When Quesada told me this was one of the directions Marvel was planning on taking, I asked what sort of support structure they were setting up — how they expected to get the necessary volumes of material into the “real” bookstores. He had no answer. This is not the sort of thing, after all, one can simply do and expect it to work, as if the very existence of the product will create a demand for it.

 

Jamie: Any last things you want to tell comic readers?

John Byrne: Hang in there!

Bill Jemas Interview

Originally published in December of 2000. Bill Jemas had recently been revealed to comic fans as the President of Marvel Publishing. He had that job since January of 2000, but comic fans in general didn’t look above the Editor in Chief at Marvel. Bill was different as he got very involved in the direction and promotion of Marvel Comics. So when I learned about him I fired off an interview request for him. I think I may have been the first person in the comics media to get an interview with him.

The interview did not go as well as I had hoped. Jemas found some of my harder questions “too chatroomy” and either didn’t answer them or combined them and “answered” with a press release. Still Jemas was an almost complete unknown at the time so even a disappointing interview was educational. I should say that when Marvel started doing weekly Wednesday afternoon conference calls with the press, I got an invitation to join. I suspect Bill was the reason I got that invitation as Collector Times was not really a big name, high traffic website. Also, I discovered I got the invitation to join after they dis-invited Rich Johnston from attending for asking too many uncomfortable questions.

 

An Interview With Bill Jemas

Some of you may not know who he is, but Bill Jemas is a powerful man in the comics industry. He is President of Marvel Publishing, the boss of Editor In Chief Joe Quesada. As of late he has been in the news promoting Marvel Comics and with Quesada, making big changes in Marvel Comics. This interview reveals info about his past, his opinions and his plans for the future.

 

Jamie: What is your work history prior to becoming President of Marvel Publishing?

Bill Jemas: See attachment
(Attachment:)
Bill Jemas Background
Bill Jemas, the former Executive Vice President for MSG Sports, who joined Marvel as President of Publishing & New Media. Jemas originally worked with Marvel from 1992 – 1996, as the President of Fleer Corp. Under Bill’s guidance, Marvel Cards (including Fleer Ultra X-Men and Spider- Man, Flair, and the Overpower card game) became hottest products in the Comic industry (actually outselling Marvel books). Moreover, Fleer’s Entertainment card lineup (including, Fox Kids, MTV Animated, and the Casper, Power Rangers, Batman Movies) captured over 70% of a very healthy entertainment card market.

Earlier in his career, he served as Vice President, Business Development and Business Affairs for the National Basketball Association, where he was a key member of the team that built NBA Properties into one of world’s leading merchandise companies. He brings this wealth of experience to Marvel at a time when the company is re-tooling and looking forward.

 

Jamie: Did you read comics as a kid? Which were your favorites?

Bill Jemas: I never did read comics as a kid, but I was hooked on the Sunday funnies.
My dad gave me an old old copy of the New Yorker comic anthology. I must have read that 50 times in junior high and high school. I was also a big Kliban fan.

 

Jamie: Why do think people buy comics?
What do you think the average age of comic book readers are?
How will Marvel under your supervision, improve the medium of graphic literature?
What is Marvel doing to attract kids and adults into reading comics?

Bill Jemas: See attachment
(Attachment:)
Bill Jemas – May 17, 2000
The Ultimate Marvel comic book line will be our most comprehensive, focused and well-financed imprint. During the next 18 months, the X-Men Movie from 20th Century Fox and the Spider-Man Movie from Columbia Tri-Star will raise Marvel exposure and excitement an to all time high. Marvel plans to leverage the growing demand for our characters into new readership for our comics.

Everybody in the industry knows that this is not an easy task. For the past ten years, Comic publishers have been talking about bringing in new fans. But the cold truth is that the collective efforts of publishers and distributors have failed. Readership continues to drop and stores continue to suffer financially. Marvel is not giving up on comic books. In fact, Ultimate Marvel is on the ultimate industry mission – new customers.
The Ultimates will be great Marvel comic stories.

Loyal comic fans have earned an inside knowledge and insight through five, ten or twenty years of reading. The Marvel Universe is the longest-running continuous story in history, and it’s very difficult, in that context, to do anything new that’s not tied in to that continuity. Lose the continuity and you lose your most important customers.

This is the dilemma. Loyal fans embrace the complexities of the forty-year history, but new fans are baffled by it. This is an industry-wide issue. It is all but impossible for a new reader to comprehend (let alone enjoy) any main line comic from any main line publisher.
Marvel believes that the Ultimate Spider-Man and X-Men lines are the answer. Core comic fans will love these books. The characters are pure and true to themselves. The stories are strong, complete, compelling, and produced by our best artists and writers. But, any new reader can pick up any one of these books and start reading. Essentially, the Ultimates swap out the traditional back-story and replace it with a rich, self-contained, Year-2000 context.

The Ultimates will be marketed to new readers.
Let’s face facts. New readers are not going to find us. We can’t to sit back and wait for a 12 year old kid to wander into a comic shop, drift over to the right rack and find the Ultimate X-Men. Marvel will reach out through aggressive marketing and sampling programs. Our goal is to distribute 12 million sample comics over a 12-month launch period. We believe that the books will hook new readers into the Ultimates line and that they will expand their horizons to traditional titles. We are willing to invest heavily in this program.

Marvel.com will play a major role in the rebuilding of our comic book business. Marvel has developed our graphic and storytelling skills and earned our reputation as America’s storytellers. Now we are putting those skills to work in the on-line environment to reach out to a new generation of readers. Again, the goal is to build comic book readership by introducing them to the beauty of comic book story telling and promoting the purchase of hard copy books at retail.

 

Jamie: What non-Marvel Comics do you read?

Bill Jemas: I enjoy read everything that Brian Bendis and Mark Millar write, and get to as much of the other stuff as I can.

 

Jamie: It’s often debated as to what’s more important in comic sales. Creators or the characters. Which do you think is more important?

Bill Jemas: Just about everything in comics is “often debated” and many of the debates are as silly as this one. Because, when a great creator is working on a great character, the last thing you think about is which is more important.

 

Jamie: Will Marvel publish creator owned & controlled work any time soon?

Bill Jemas: Yes.

 

Jamie: You have been a lot more active in promoting comics online since Joe Quesada has become the new EIC, why is that?

Bill Jemas: Coincidence.

 

Jamie: Will Marvel be using old cover gimmicks like holograms and variant covers?

Bill Jemas: Only if the script calls for it.

 

Jamie: Many people within the industry think catering to speculators (people who buy comics hoping they’ll go up in value) caused the industry downfall in the mid 90’s. What do you think?

Bill Jemas: You mean, “Were gangs of wild-eyed speculators yanking comic books out of the hands of innocent readers, completely halting their life-long love of comics?”
No, not that I recall. What I recall is the industry-wide over-proliferation of really, really, stinky content. Then I recall billions of collector dollars building the beanie babies and Pokemon businesses into huge successes.

 

Jamie: It’s now known that some profitable X-titles are going to be cancelled. Do you think this is wise in today’s market?

Bill Jemas: For 10 years, every single comic book fan has been complaining that Marvel cranks out too many titles that are too similar to each other. They say that they can’t afford to buy all those books, and that they can’t follow all of the complexity. During those years, thousands of readers have voted with their feet and walked away from the hobby. We are facing that issue head-on in 2001.

 

Jamie: Since the X-men movie didn’t do much to raise toy and comic sales, how do you expect the Spider-Man movie to do better?

Bill Jemas: Check the box scores for December, X-Men hold all four of the Comic book spots.

2nd Roger Stern Interview

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

 

An Interview With Roger Stern

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jamie: Who are your inspirations?

Roger Stern: I always liked Roy Orbison.

 

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

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

 

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

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

Gregg Schigiel Interview

Gregg Schigiel at TCAF 2015

Originally published in March of 2000. Gregg had recently left Marvel Comics and I decided to interview him in an effort to get some behind the scenes information about a recent controversy there. Rumor had it John Byrne wrote and drew a Hulk vs. Wolverine story but produced something that he knew Marvel wouldn’t like. His method of trying to get it published was to hand it in so close to the absolute deadline that Marvel would have to make a choice in either publishing it as is, or pay for a costly re-write/draw and publishing it late. As the story goes, editor Tom Brevoort chose to fire John Byrne from the book and pay for the re-do of the issue.

Gregg was professional and didn’t reveal anything when asked, but he did talk a lot about his time at Marvel and the things that he contributed, his love of comics and his future. At this time Gregg is doing a creator owned comic through Image Comics called PIX, which sounds like the idea he describes in this interview. I have since met Gregg at conventions and he’s always fun to talk to and tells me he still fondly remembers doing this interview.

 

An Interview With Gregg Schigiel

Wow, are you in for a treat this month. Gregg Schigiel was an assistant editor at Marvel Comics. You probably know his work from the ‘Fast Lane’ inserts he penciled for Marvel Comics and many other magazines. Others might recognize his work from various What If? issues. In this interview he tells us a lot of information and opinions about comic books, both as a fan and as someone who worked in the industry. He also tells us about the Starfox one shot, other ideas he has and a whole lot more!

 

Jamie: I assume you’re a comic book fan. When did you start reading comics? What were the first issues you bought and titles you got into?

Gregg Schigiel: Yeah, I am a comic fan. I started “reading” comics probably around the time I was seven or eight years old, or thereabouts; hard to remember exactly when. Amazing that I can’t remember the general stuff, but I remember a lot of otherwise insignificant details as you’ll soon see. But anyway, I remember my older brother and one of my cousins were into comics and I used to sort of look on. I definitely remember looking at the old Marvel collections like ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS and MARVEL’S GREATEST SUPERHERO BATTLES. They were these great, big collections published by Simon and Schuster. I still have the copy of SUPERHERO BATTLES and you can see the spine breaks on the stories I was entranced by; the X-Men vs. the Blob being the big one. I thought the Beast was the coolest thing, and Iceman and Angel. They were amazing to me. I mean, to have WINGS!? Are you kidding me? That’s great.

But anyway, I remember looking at those books a lot. I put “reading” in quotes above because I never really READ them. I just looked at the pictures…a lot. For example, I loved looking at the Silver Surfer/Thor fight by John Buscema, and there was a Daredevil/Sub-Mariner story by Wally Wood that really caught my eye. So yeah, I did a lot of looking at pictures.

Before that, I definitely watched cartoons. Cartoons are what probably got me into the whole idea of superheroes, especially Batman stuff. Loved Batman. Watched the cartoon (remember that from when I was a wee tike, round about 2 years old), the Adam West show (ran in syndication everyday after school on WDZL Channel 39 in North Miami Beach, FL), and Superfriends. I loved that stuff.

As I was getting older I got more into comics myself. We used to stop at a drug store before going to sleep at my grandparent’s house and buying two or three comics and some Presto-Magic packs, which I wish they still made. Those and shrinky-dinks. The earliest books I remember buying were BATMAN stuff, GREEN LANTERN and an issue of CAPTAIN CARROT AND THE AMAZING ZOO CREW (vs. the Justa Lotta Animals…it was so cool to me, the superheroes as animals). Eventually I started going to a local comic book store with my brother. And while he was regularly buying Marvels and DC, I used to fish in the 10 cent bins for anything with Batman in it, or any of the Superfriends. I ended up with a lot of BRAVE AND THE BOLD, DC COMICS PRESENTS, and other DC stuff, SUPER-SPECIALS and what-have-you. Really fun, superhero stuff.

Eventually, I started to buy ongoing series. The first books I can distinctly recall consciously picking up and trying out and getting hooked on was POWER PACK. I was really into POWER PACK, it was my little discovery. I picked up the current issue at the time (it had Dragon Man in it, who I didn’t much like) and the first issue. I was hooked. I still love the premise of kids with super powers. It’s almost perfect. POWER PACK and G.I. JOE. G.I. JOE was big.

Anyway, for a time, my brother and I actually fazed out of buying and reading comics. Not sure why, but it happened. Every now and then I’d pick up a book here or there (the new FLASH series being a perfect example), but it wasn’t regular. However, one day I was looking at the newspaper and saw an article about a new comic book that was out that had some controversy. Apparently, characters were cursing, and there was some intense, more mature material in it. I was about 11 or 12 years old at the time and well, that’s all I needed to hear. I asked my mom to take me to the comic store, plunked down my four bucks and walked out with a comic that had (and still does have) one of the coolest covers ever: BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE. I took it home, read it, and was back in the comic book habit. Years later I re-read that book and it actually made sense to me. But man, when you’re 11 and you read that…

My brother and I got back into the comic scene with vigor. We made lists of what we were gonna collect (so as to not double up) and filled our back issue lists. I was buying BATMAN stuff, FLASH, AVENGERS, THOR, POWER PACK, X-FACTOR (the original X-Men…the Beast, for crying out loud), the HULK, the new ongoing WOLVERINE series had just started, and all sorts of stuff. So yeah, we were really into comics. Bought ’em by the bushel and spent summers reading them just as fast. And that was it.

So there’s my probably over-long explanation of my early history with comics. Basically, I just loved superheroes, be it from TV or other exposure, I found them cool, and from there I got into comics. Eventually, that turned into a fascination with the medium itself, and so on and so on. But, let me get to the next question already…

 

Jamie: What did you do before you started at Marvel?

Gregg Schigiel: In the months before I was on staff at Marvel I was in college. In the summer before my senior year I interned at Marvel. I went back to school after that and graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in advertising in May of 1997. Shortly thereafter I tried to get freelance work as a penciler. I showed my work at Marvel, got positive response (but no work) and went back to the boards to work up new samples. Matt Idelson, who was then an editor at Marvel gave me a DEADPOOL plot to work from. I did five pages and sent them in. Kelly Corvese called me the morning he got the samples and offered me an issue of WHAT IF?. I remember that day, hell, that week, vividly. It turned out to be WHAT IF? #104, starring the Silver Surfer and the Impossible Man (What if the Impossible Man had the Infinity Gauntlet?). I worked on that between August and September of 1997. My brother got married in September, and by the end of the month Tom Brevoort called me about an assistant editor job. I started as Tom’s assistant editor at Marvel in October of 1997. 1997 was a big year.

 

Jamie: Did you always want to work in comics or is this something you just happened to luck into?

Gregg Schigiel: Never planned on anything else. I decided I wanted to make comic books when I was in about fourth or fifth grade. Around that age it was a decision between comic books, comic strips or animation. I decided comic books was right for me, for the type of work I wanted to do.

Yeah, I’ve always wanted to work in comics. I love comics.

 

Jamie: How did you become an Assistant Editor?

Gregg Schigiel: Well, as I mentioned, I was an intern at Marvel. I worked in the Tom Brevoort/Glenn Greenberg office. After the internship I kept in touch with people at Marvel, visited when I could fly up from Florida, and generally kept up appearances. I also must have been a pretty decent intern in that Tom called me up an offered me the opportunity for the job. I flew up, interviewed, and within a month I was on staff, hired right smack dab in the midst of Marvel’s bankruptcy. Talk about a career move.

 

Jamie: What duties does an Assistant Editor do anyway?

Gregg Schigiel: Every office breaks their responsibilities down differently, and that could change depending on who the assistant is, who the editor is, etc. The easy answer to the question is, “whatever the editor tells them to do.” But that’s dramatically oversimplifying things.

In general, an assistant editor at Marvel is an editor’s right hand man. You make phone calls, check in and work with talent, work within Marvel and the different departments (Production, Manufacturing, Accounting, other Editorial Offices, Creative Services and Licensing, Legal, Sales, etc, etc.), deal with schedules, run material around, deal with letters pages, and more. You help your editor with whatever, all in an effort to put the best book together in a timely fashion.

In my experience with Tom, I tended to deal more with art related concerns. I worked with the Bullpen (production) putting covers together (picking colors for logos and cover copy, placement of those things, etc), worked with artists on cover sketches, followed work through the production process, and calling a lot of folks a lot of times to check on stuff or just talk shop. It was really quite cool. I learned a lot.

But honestly, I can only speak for myself in terms of what I did. Again, every office has a different breakdown. I was horrible with schedules. I didn’t keep track of them. Tom dealt with the writers more. I spoke to writers from time to time. I speak Spanish, so I worked with Carlos Pacheco quite a bit on AVENGERS FOREVER, and Leo Manco and Jose Ladronn on BLAZE OF GLORY and THOR stuff, respectively. I certainly can’t say that’s something on the list of assistant editorial responsibilities.

And even then, depending on the individual project, responsibilities broke down differently. The work split on AVENGERS wasn’t the same as it was on AVENGERS FOREVER, or AVENGERS 1 & 1/2, or AVENGERS: DOMINATION FACTOR, you know? So, there’s no list I can give you: I did this, Tom did that, assistants do this, editors do that. It’s definitely a team situation. You just work together to get the books done, as best as possible, as much on time as possible. I like to describe the job as the same thing every month, different every day. That is to say, every month the books had to go out (to the printers), but every day brought new challenges or what-have-you to getting that done.

 

Jamie: Spill the beans time, what editor’s office is the most cluttered and who’s is the cleanest?

Gregg Schigiel: By far, without question, without even a doubt in my mind, without ANY second thought, can tell you, in all honestly, that I was most assuredly the winner of “messiest desk and office” award. Ask anyone on editorial row. I many times proposed not even having a desk, because I couldn’t see it anyway, and just working on the floor. I had toppled stacks of paper surrounding my chair…it was like a coral reef. Tom’s a patient, patient man in that respect. But I could find anything…in about five minutes.

The cleanest desk…that’s probably a toss up between Bobbie Chase and Mike Marts. Their offices are kept in nice, clean, orderly fashion. I could never do it.

 

Jamie: Do you know if you want to become an editor or a freelancer?

Gregg Schigiel: Well, seeing as I am no longer an assistant editor, I’m gonna go with freelancer. My last day at Marvel was January 28th. I was offered a job working as an illustrator at Nickelodeon and accepted. It certainly wasn’t an easy decision.
But, even if that weren’t the case, my answer would be the same. I’ve always wanted to eventually do my own thing. I’d love to write and pencil material (and if I ever learn to ink, that too). I always had that in the back of my mind, even as an assistant.
I remember before I started working at Marvel, some of the other folks on staff were telling me not to do it. They thought I’d be throwing my freelance career to the wind. I even made a deal with one of them that if I didn’t get freelance work within a year, I had to quit. And I’m pretty sure I would have done just that…had I not gotten freelance work. Phew! In the end though, no, I have no real interest in being an editor at Marvel.

 

Jamie: Do you have any specific goals for the future? Titles or characters you really want to do, or some self published character?

Gregg Schigiel: Oh, jeez, this is a HUGE question. Honestly, I could go on longer than I did about how I started reading comics.

I have very specific goals for the future. I have a definite career plan mapped out in my head. So far, everything’s going pretty well according to that plan. But this is far-reaching stuff, that honestly, for now, I don’t want to totally get into (if anything because it’ll take too damn long). In the end though, my most important goal as far as this business goes is to do what I can to keep the medium of comic storytelling, sequential art, as a viable, and profitable means of expression, entertainment, and communication. Lofty? Yes. Achievable? That’s what I’m saying. How? I’m working on it.

The second part of that question is easier to answer. If you’d have asked me four or five months ago, the answer point blank would have been POWER PACK. Before I started working at Marvel I’d developed a pitch for them that I’m still very pleased with and proud of. Since then, other folks have taken the PP reins, so my stuff will have to stay in a drawer, or find another outlet.

Beyond them, there are certain characters I’d love to have a chance to work with. I have a take on Ultragirl that I’d LOVE to have see the light of day. She’s a wonderful character with a veritable blank slate. I have stuff I’d love to do there. I’d like to do something with Peter Porker, the Spider-Ham and the litany of Marvel Funny Animals out there (in fact, they’re part of my Ultragirl proposal). I have an Avengers story I’d live to do, moreso as a What If? because it’d literally change the Avengers completely. It would be amazing to work on something with Batman, sure, but I don’t think my take on Batman is in line with the current approach. I have some new characters and stuff I’d like to try out as well. And I’d love to do some humor stuff, and some non-superhero, human drama pieces. I’m very interested in doing DIFFERENT sort of material. I like characters that are otherwise not cared about or paid attention to. Ultragirl being the perfect example. Dazzler being another. These characters get moans and groans or a unanimous “huh?” when mentioned. I like that. It gives you a lot more freedom to do something creative and different. The problem with that, though, is that I’m still pretty green in this business, so I’m not really “bankable”. I won’t get the chance to do much of this stuff, if any of it. But that’s a whole other issue.

And absolutely, I will do some sort of self-published comics work. Yes. I have ideas for formats, content, all sorts of stuff that Marvel certainly would never do, nor DC as far as I can tell, or any of the companies currently publishing, that I’m aware of. So, I’ll do it my way by myself. I know it’s do-able. And you know what they say, if you want something done right…

 

Jamie: Tom Brevoort has credited you with coming up with the Marvel Militia. Where did you get the idea for that?

Gregg Schigiel: First, I thank Tom for that. In the end, he had to say, “Yes, Gregg, go for it.” So I’d like to volley back some credit to him.

But, yes, the Marvel Militia… I conceived the Marvel Militia out of several things, most importantly my passion for comics. Other factors were things like declining sales and what I consider less than stellar marketing strategy in comics. So, taking the “one man against the world” stance, I came up with THE MARVEL MILITIA. The alliteration and all was in the tradition of F.O.O.M (Friends of Old Marvel) and the M.M.M.S. (The Merry Marvel Marching Society). I considered it a modern update thereof.

At Marvel we often talked about what brings people into comics, how we got into them, etc. I know I got into them through my brother and cousin and cartoons. Others though friends, or hearing about them. Comics have for many many years been a grass-roots scene. There are no TV, radio, or print ads for comics as there are for toys, or movies, or soap. People share comics, turn people onto them. The Militia was an effort to remind people of that, to put the power to “save comics” into the hands of those who care enough to do so.

It’s a funny thing, the Militia, in that it totally didn’t get the response I was going for. Just after the first one hit, people were calling it a sales ploy and a gimmick and all this stuff. I could no believe how misinterpreted my words were. I specifically mentioned comics from DC and Image and such in that column to make it clear that it was about comics, not MARVEL comics, per se. Sure, we wanted Marvel books to do well. But that’s not what was at the heart of it. We even got some folks objecting to the use of the word Militia, in that it denoted a military, extreme group. As far as my intentions were, a militia was a group of citizens who rose up to defend themselves, their land, their stake, if you will. I thought the parallel was pretty good. A pretty simple metaphor, I thought.

Then, with other columns, the message got even more distorted. I wrote one in AVENGERS about how that title was the third highest selling Marvel book, and how we could get to number one. That would mean outselling the two main X-MEN titles (at the time we were out-selling WOLVERINE). I even said hey, don’t stop buying X-MEN! But we were accused of being jealous, playa’ hating, all sorts of stuff. Eventually, it lead to a long, fairly dramatic column once again explaining the purpose of the Militia. I call that the “LOVE” column.

Interestingly, my favorite column got no response, and that was my “Summer Movie” schtick. I talked about how with the onset of the summer movie season, comics fans could get people into comics that were similar, if not better than, movies they enjoyed. But yeah, we got no feedback on that bad boy.

In the end though, there were people that got it, and sent us their stories. I printed some in the various letters pages I worked on. I enjoyed doing it, that’s for sure. At least a little part of me felt like I wasn’t just sitting by on the sidelines.

Now that I’m gone I’d like to think that someone might take up the “mantle of the militia”, but who knows. Originally, I tried to make it something that could appear in any letters page for any book. You know, like an umbrella idea. Grass-roots stuff. But nobody ever took it up and joined me. Oh, well. But who knows, the little green camo box is still saved as a digital file, so the Militia could always come back.

 

Jamie: Let me be the first fan to ask this. How do you pronounce your last name? ;D

Gregg Schigiel: The spelling is totally whack, I know, but the Schigiel is pronounced SHEE-GULL. And Mjolnir is pronouced MI-YOL-NIR.

 

Jamie: Hey, you were around when Byrne suddenly left the Hulk. Do you know why that happened?

Gregg Schigiel: Yes, I was indeed around for that, and I do know why that happened. However, out of respect for Tom and John, and how they treated the whole situation, I’d rather not address it. I just don’t think it’s my place, or the right time. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t an amicable working situation, so it was definitely for the best, as far as I’m concerned.

But beyond that, I have a problem with the increased “insider” feelings that a lot of comics fans have come to “expect”. With the ease of information, it’s become much easier for folks to know what happens behind the scenes. Now, while much of it is very interesting and fascinating in many cases, I think it’s come to the point where too many people’s opinions are colored by that information.

I prefer that the material, the comics, stand for themselves. I think any sort of “true story” or muckraking certainly affects fan response to stories.

This was especially clear to me in October of 1998. I had been working at Marvel for a year. I, along with my fellow assistants, had been doing an online chat on AOL, and otherwise having a good time. And then, at the end of the month, a third of editorial, production, and various other departments at Marvel were laid off. Friends of mine lost their jobs. It was a horrible, horrible couple of weeks. I do not recommend such an experience for anyone. So within days, the message boards were abuzz, with such claims as, “why did they fire this one and that one? I hate that one!” And “that one” happens to be a good person, a human being, you know, who wasn’t happy that “this one” got fired. There was a lot of survival guilt in those weeks, and reading this stuff didn’t help. Hell, I heard there was a poster who said one of the people at Marvel should quit their job and kill themselves because the poster didn’t like a comic book they worked on. This is a horrible thing to say, to even suggest. That sort of thing bothers me quite a bit. I don’t purport to get along with everyone, but I certainly don’t say that about people I know, let alone someone I’ve never met or talked to who’s comic book I’m not fond of. Do you see what I mean? The stories that SHOULD be most important are the ones on the page. One day maybe I’ll tell the John Byrne story, but for now, again, I’d rather not. I don’t think it’s my place.

 

Jamie: Right now you’re probably best known as the artist of the Fast Lane inserts. How did you get that job?

Gregg Schigiel: Ah, yes, the FAST LANE inserts…
Very basically, I approached the people in Marvel’s Licensing and Creative Services department about possibly doing some work. I showed them samples of my older work and the current work I was doing and told them I’d love to do something with them, whatever it might be. I did some spot illustrations for them and that worked out, and then I was offered the FAST LANE gig. It was too sweet a deal to say no.

The people in Creative Services were wonderfully accommodating. They let me pick the inker, gave me a wonderful deadline, let me check things out at each stage of production (a definite advantage of being there). It was a great experience. But yeah, I got the job the way you get any freelance work, really. I looked for the opportunity, showed my work, and there you go.

 

Jamie: Some online fans and even Wizard has complained about the Fast Lane inserts. How do you react to that?

Gregg Schigiel: It doesn’t really bother me all that much. I have a pretty good sense of humor about a lot of this stuff. I know it wasn’t ground-breaking. But it wasn’t supposed to be. It’s a public service announcement, you know? It’s a “One to grow on” or “The More you know” bit.

What did bother me was the constant complaints about it from people who refused to just ignore it or tear it out. It’s four sheets of paper! Just rip it out. I know I did. Yep, AVENGERS #1 & 1/2 had it in there, and I ripped it out proudly, and asked others to do the same. Why? It had nothing to do with not liking it or having a problem with the insert. No. Not at all. It just wasn’t supposed to be there. Tom and I tried to get it so that the insert would not appear in that comic book. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and the insert appeared. Now, that book is one I’m particularly proud of and happy with, and I just didn’t think the insert was right for it, so I took it out. I even rolled my copy up and put it in my pocket for much of the day, just to make it as authentic as possible.

But that was the thing that got me most, the constant complaints about it being there, period. That was made even better by the continued complaints when part 2 came along. It was like, “What? There’s MORE?! ARRGGHH!!” The first one ends with a “to be continued…” You’re gonna get part 2, you know.

In the end it just got funnier and funnier to me, to the point where Chris Giarrusso, who does the great Bullpen Bits strips on the Bullpen Bulletins page, and I worked up a gag for the Bullpen Bits. That was a lot of fun to do. I kept intending to call WIZARD as well, to see if they might be interested in putting an insert in there too, you know, something funny, just for WIZARD, but I didn’t.

Only comic book readers get so vehement about such a thing. Those inserts have appeared in various mainstream magazines, GIRLS’ LIFE, BOYS’ LIFE, MUSE, SCOLASTIC, and I’m sure kids either read it or move on. Sure, it’s in the magazine, but you just move on, you know?

But again, at a certain point I do find it all very funny, especially the online stuff, newsgroups and whatnot. People are very fearless and mean and pig-headed when they get behind their keyboard. One of my favorite online posts ever was a review of GENERATION X #51, which I’d guest-penciled. It read, and I quote, “That art sucked. What happened to Dodsen.” Everything about that was funny to me. The pointlessness of it, the lack of genuine opinion, the misspelling of Terry Dodson’s name. People online can be whoever they want, say whatever they want. And that’s fine. I just don’t take it terribly seriously.

 

Jamie: Marijuana is somewhat popular with the Gen-X crowd. There is even a push to get it legalized. What’s your opinion on Marijuana?

Gregg Schigiel: Look at that, GEN X to Gen-X, now THAT’S a transition!
I honestly don’t know enough about the stuff to give a proper, official stance. I know for me, personally, I don’t smoke it or anything else and never have. I know the smell of it makes me ill, so I’m not a fan of that. I also know people who were really into it and I can’t say I was impressed at the effects on those people. At the same time I know people who are perfectly good people, people I like, good friends, who are or were into it, and I have nothing but good things to say about them. I know there are people that feel very passionately about it. Again, I can’t relate, so I’d rather not, you know, put out a position statement about it.

 

Jamie: Did you get any formal art training? If so, where and for how long?

Gregg Schigiel: Now that’s changing the subject!
OK, art training. I’ve been drawing since I was about five years old. I remember drawing Flintstones characters in kindergarten…or at least what I claimed were Flintstones characters (I couldn’t tell you if they were any good). From that point I just drew all the time. I took art classes in junior high school and high school as well, but in a lot of ways that was essentially more practice, you know? However, a great experience in high school was when Ted McKeever came to speak to our art class. As it turns out, he went to the same high school I did. Someone got in touch with him and he came and talked to us for like three hours. It was tremendous…and very encouraging.

After high school I attended School of Visual Arts for a whopping month before I realized it wasn’t where I wanted to be. I wanted the college experience and I wasn’t getting that at SVA, so I left. I ended up going to the University of Florida. I took no art classes there. But I did continue to do artwork, especially for my classes. I took advertising classes and literature classes and tried as often as possible to incorporate art and comics into my work, writing papers in comic form and stuff like that.

Before I started at UF and after SVA I did have one of the most important training experiences ever. I took an eight week workshop taught by Will Eisner. It was fascinating, educational, inspiring, everything I could have ever wanted. I learned so much in that eight weeks about storytelling and the comics medium. I wouldn’t even know where to start. It was amazing.

Then, I learned a great deal as an intern with Marvel, showing work to editors and getting critiques. In fact, critiques were quite helpful to me.

But in the end, at least for me, it’s been just a constant drawing, lots and lots and lots of practice. I draw every day, to this day, continually working to get better.

 

Jamie: Who are your inspirations for writing and art?

Gregg Schigiel: On the art end, there are a bunch of different influences an inspirations. Certainly what I learned in Eisner’s class was major. The first artist whose work I recognized and followed was Alan Davis, and I’m still a huge admirer of his work. Without question, John Buscema is one of my heroes. I got the opportunity to work with him when I was at Marvel and every moment of that experience was a pleasure. In fact, both he and Sal are wonderful, wonderful people, and quite possibly the most professional people I’ve come across in the comics business. Amazing. Anyway, I must have read HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY I don’t know how many times. That book was huge. I still have my dog-eared copy.

Mike Wieringo’s work has definitely been an influence on my work. I remember his work on FLASH and ROBIN and then SPIDER-MAN. I loved it. In a lot of ways it was influential in terms of being artwork I admired. On the other side of the coin, he was being published, and popular, doing the kind of work I did; cartoony stuff. I’ve always had a cartoony style. I love the look of a simpler image. I think it’s more visually powerful in a subdued way, much like Scott McCloud talks about in UNDERSTANDING COMICS, when he discusses icons. Anyway, yeah, Mike’s stuff has influenced me, especially in the past five years. Same with Carlos Pacheco, who as far as I’m concerned, is the best gesture/body language guy in the business, in addition to being a fantastic storyteller.

But, above and beyond that, on the artistic end, I cannot explain how much the work of the Walt Disney Studios has influenced and inspired me. Just in the past year, after I saw Tarzan, I was drawing every acrobatic character I could think of in all sorts of new and interesting poses. It definitely shows, I think, in the FAST LANE stuff, especially the last page of Chapter 3. I was all kinds of Tarzan-inspired. But, beyond that, the work they do, cartoons used to tell stories that people get into and care about. Their commitment to overall design and art. From Pinocchio to the Lion King, the work is art. Not only that, but it’s beloved by the masses. People get attached to these drawings, you know? What amazes me is that if you drew a comic book in that style it’d immediately be dismissed as “kiddie stuff”. And then I’ll watch Beauty and the Beast (again) and note that these are drawings, iconic images, cartoons of people. Gaston. Are you kidding me? He’s not “realistic” by any comic book standard. But in that movie he goes from being a comic figure to a pretty frightening bad guy. Again, this is a cartoon drawing, you know? And we follow him, and his change, and totally buy it. This is a movie that got nominated for an Academy Award! If it got published as a comic and came out in the direct market, (a) it wouldn’t sell for beans and (b) it would be passed off as a kid’s book. That’s a shame. It shouldn’t be that way.

I’ve been trying to slowly make my work more cartoony, actually, more in that model, the Disney way, if you will. But it’s very difficult to convince comics people to go for it. “What? Thor’s chin is too big, his nose too round.” You know? It’s really very screwy, I think. Again, look at Archie. It’s totally cartoony, but totally representative and accepted by mainstream audiences. Peanuts. Look at it. Those kids’ heads are HUGE! But who doesn’t love Peanuts? The world is mourning Charles Shultz, and rightly so. But do you see what I’m saying?

Yeah, I know, I’ve veered off topic. Let me get back to the question at hand.
I’d say in terms of inspiration, well, beyond the people mentioned above, and Disney stuff, I mean, there are people whose work I see and am inspired by. People whose work I’m generally excited by. Mike Mignola’s work, Paul Smith’s LEAVE IT TO CHANCE, STRAY BULLETS by David Lapham, anything by Kyle Baker, Jeff Smith’s BONE, Jill Thompson’s SCARY GODMOTHER books, David Yurkovich’s DEATH BY CHOCOLATE and THRESHOLD, recently the work of Jules Feiffer has been blowing my mind, and MAUS, by Art Spiegelman (in my estimation the best comic ever, for many many reasons). I look at that stuff and get inspired.

And then, as different artists came into my reading world, I certainly was influenced. Basically, anything I read and liked I learned from. I could go on and on and on forever listing names. And then within the past two years I’ve learned more and more. Working with George Perez’ll learn ya quite a bit. And what hasn’t been said about John Romita, Jr., you know? Jerry Ordway, Ron Garney, etc. I mean, without even trying I’m sure I’ve been inspired by whatever I’ve seen. I remember Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee’s stuff being like nothing I’d ever seen, you know? I have old sketch books from junior high and high school where that influence is certainly clear. And then there’s the non-comics influences. Children’s books are surely an influence. Dr. Suess, Lane Smith, Shel Silverstein, Maira Kalman.

Honestly, the artistic influences are all over the map. Heck, Jeff Dee’s work in the Dungeons and Dragons book DIETIES AND DEMIGODS was influential when I was in junior high school. His drawings of the Norse Gods were amazing to me. I definitely remember copying those.

On the writing the end, the influences and inspirations are different. In terms of comic writers, again, I point to any of those mentioned above in terms of writer/artists. Alan Moore’s done amazing comics work, but it seems everyone knows that.

Most of my writing inspirations and influences come from outside comics, though. Outside the genre even. I’ve always admired the work of Mark Twain, with Huckleberry Finn being a wonderful book. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court being another. I’ve really enjoyed the work of Tom Perrotta, and I’ve liked what I’ve read of Kurt Vonnegut.
Television and movies and plays have influenced and inspired me as well. David Kelly’s work, specifically PICKET FENCES, was an influence. That show totally made me re-think the approach to genre and what a story can be about.

PICKET FENCES, for me, showed me that good characters could let you tell any kind of story. I mean, just because Batman’s a detective and a superhero in the archetypal way, that doesn’t mean the potential isn’t there, somewhere in the Batman mythos, to tell ANY story. Even a story about getting old could be told. With characters like Alfred, or Dr. Leslie Tompkins, or even Commissioner Gordon, you know? And you can still make it a Batman story, you know? It just got me to look harder at the potential for characters and stories. A great show.

Plays, especially stuff by David Mamet; that’s great stuff. There’s a musical called Into the Woods that’s amazing, totally fun and original and interesting as a story. The only musical I genuinely like.

Movies have also been big for me. Definitely. When I see a good movie I’m definitely inspired. A good film, a good screenplay. Anything. A good book or play or even a song; these things make you look up and take note of the potential of creativity. It’s a kick in the ass. It’s like someone saying, “HEY, look at what’s been done! YOU can do this! DO THIS!!” Spielberg certainly, the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, Woody Allen stuff, and more recently the films by P.T. Anderson, the good Quentin Tarantino stuff, Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, all sorts of things.

So many things can do that when it comes to creativity. Anything funny, you know, a good comedian or comedy. Hell, a good conversation can do it. The people you spend time with. All that stuff.

Finally, a huge influence on my writing and my approach to stories and the kinds of stories I like to tell has been children’s literature. My favorite book/story ever is ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND. I love it. It’s brilliant. That, PETER PAN, fairy tales, all that stuff. This is the very basics of story. The plots are rich in their simplicity, the characters are full in their seeming lack of depth. There’s so much to them…but that’s brought to the story by the reader. Hansel and Gretl are kids on the run. Now, I’ve never been on the run, but all I need to hear is that premise and I bring those feelings, of being on the run, of being unloved, to the table. I bring that by way of imagination, or finding that feeling within you. It’s the same thing in comics. And then there’s the sense of magic, of fantasy. No one’s explaining this stuff. It just happens. BUT, in the scope of the story, it all makes sense. You suspend all disbelief. You accept it. I love children’s literature. From ALICE and PAN to more modern stuff, like MATILDA or THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, or two AMAZING books by Jules Feiffer, THE MAN IN THE CEILING and A BARREL OF LAUGHS, A VALE OF TEARS. I read this stuff and I get excited to write. I want to be a part of that. I want to create that same feeling I felt for someone else.

I realize I’ve talked about a lot of stuff there, but I did answer the question, right?

 

Jamie: In What If #114, you and Jay Faerber designed a bunch of neato characters that were kids of various superheroes. If you were allowed, would you make those relationships and characters come about?

Gregg Schigiel: First, thanks. I thought those characters were pretty neato, too.
Now, I assume you’re asking if I’d make those relationships and resulting kids actually happen in “real” continuity, right?

Um, probably not. I’m not a huge follower of continuity. I like it when it helps a story. I like it when it’s a special treat for the reader who’s been faithful enough to follow along. But I don’t like it when it forces you to bend a story so it’ll “fit”. I just want to write and read and draw good stories. I think continuity has in some cases taken over these characters’ lives and limited the stories you can tell. That’s not a good thing.

I like the Creeper. I think he’s a wild, interesting character. BUT, if I wanted to do a Creeper story, people would expect me to address what Len Kaminsky did, and what Ditko did, and what happened in ECLIPSO. Why can’t I just tell a story about the Creeper being crazy and creepy, you know?

Only in comics is this the case, too. Arthur Conan Doyle killed Sherlock Holmes…a few times, I believe. He kept bringing him back. How about THAT continuity? I’m a huge SEINFELD fan. I’ve seen ’em all multiple times. I remember in an earlier episode Kramer says he only takes baths. In a later season, he’s got issues with shower water pressure. In another he’s living out of his shower, eating, making calls, etc. The continuity be damned. Why? Because they had a funny bit. I say better to do the funny bit, the better story, then throw it away because in this fictional world, where everything is made up, where creators decide what happens, it was said otherwise by people writing FICTIONAL characters.
Now I’m not saying continuity is evil or wrong. It DOES help build a sense of reality and believability. But after 30, 40, 50 years, well, it can become an obstacle that’s not always worth jumping over.

I remember mentioning Dazzler a few times as a character with potential. And the response, aside from moans and groans, was “how will you explain this, that and the other about Allison Blair?” I was like, why explain any of it? It has nothing to do with the ideas that are currently being proposed for this character. Besides, if our target market is 11 to 15 years olds, let say, they’ve probably never read a Dazzler story. They don’t know that Dazzler’s name is Allison Blair! And for those die hard Dazzler fans, what would they rather see, a Dazzler story that doesn’t explain details that aren’t integral to said story, or no Dazzler story at all? See what I mean? And then there are those who say the character is dated, that she’s a product of the time. That holds no water. What, there’s no music nowadays? She couldn’t have adapted and moved from disco to something else? The Beatles didn’t forever play poppy, sugar-coated stuff and love songs. Look at Madonna! And what, the Fantastic Four, or Spider-Man, or the Hulk, they weren’t products of the time, of a time where radiation was an unknown quantity? People create obstacles. Continuity potentially being one of them.

Anyway, once again, I’ve meandered off topic.To make that story happen, the Secret Wars kids, in this day and age, would require jumping a LOT of hurdles. I liked it as a What If? concept. I think the idea had a lot of potential, but as an alternate world thing, like M2 or Mutant X, you know?. I know my mind was racing with ideas for those characters. But I think the time for those characters, the window of opportunity, has passed. I hope it’s a story that remains as well-liked as it seems to be. I think it’s nice that way, as a simple story.

I do like those kids, though. They are pretty neato. I loved drawing Crusader. She’s a fun character to draw. And I was honored when Carlos and Kurt and Roger included them in the end of AVENGERS FOREVER. That was a nice treat, a good use of continuity.

 

Jamie: You have a Starfox One shot coming out soon, can you tell us about it?

Gregg Schigiel: Oh, sure I can tell you about it.
The first thing I can tell you is that it looks like it might not be coming out after all. Actually, that might be an exaggeration. I’ve just recently learned that the marketing/sales folks at Marvel have decided they “can’t sell” a Starfox one-shot, and that it’d lose money, so it’s been put on indefinite hold. Suffice it to say, I’m not thrilled by the news. It’s a project I’ve been wanting to do for years now and it was happening. Now, it apparently is not. Then again, I haven’t given up on it. I’m still gonna see what I can do with it, see if there’s some way to have it see print. I mean, I’ve talked to Mark Powers about it and he feels the same way I do. We want this thing to happen.

Barring that, I can say that the story is something different, a type of story Marvel hadn’t done in a LOOONG time. A lot of fun. It’ll catch all the online folks by surprise, definitely. I want the people who’ve been talking about it to actually see it, you know? I’ve been reading the posts, I’ve been seeing what people have been saying about how I described the one-shot. I want desperately to read those same people’s comments after this thing comes out…whenever it comes out.

But anyway, just for the sake of answering the question, I can tell you the one shot stars Starfox and Thanos, predominantly. Avengers, X-Men and members of the Fantastic Four appear and play a role as well. But even with all these characters, it’s a very basic, simple story, something I think a lot of people would relate to in some way, and enjoy, even if they don’t necessarily agree with it.

Basically, I look at the character and I think one thing, and that’s the thing everyone thinks of him. I took that one thing and spun a story out of it. Again, it’s a different kind of story. It’s NOT traditional. It’s NOT typical. It’s, well, again, I don’t want to give anything away with it. Within the first five pages though, the premise is well established and all the mysteries will fall away. It’s gonna be a scene, baby, a straight up scene. People will love it or hate it, but this book’s got merit. Now if only the people that can help prove that would get off this “unsellable” kick. It’s not a good thing.

It presumes that something IS “sellable”. Now, I don’t mean to be a pessimist, honestly. I love comics, I hate saying this stuff myself, but here it is. Basically, the claim is that a one-shot starring Starfox won’t sell, or rather, won’t make money. OK, that presumes SOMETHING can sell. I’ve seen the numbers. I know how they’re going. They’re going down, some more drastically than others. There was a time when books were selling, easily, in the multi-100,000 copy range. Heck, books were breaking a million copies sold! Now, a #1 issue opens at MAYBE 50 to 60,000 copies. Even books like X-MEN or AVENGERS have declining sales. It’s a slowly slipping slope, and it’s scary. But the point is that how can one claim to not be able to sell something when there’s not really proof that they can sell ANYTHING?

Kyle Baker did an interview in The Comics Journal recently, a decent interview. But the stuff I found most fascinating was him talking about sales and how it worked over at DC. It’s the same deal. He talked about how the Warner Brothers and Cartoon Network books barely sell. He’s like, that’s Bugs Bunny, you know? Everyone knows Bugs Bunny. He’s on TV every day, he’s in commercials and films with Michael Jordan, but they can’t sell him in a comic book. People will buy him as a salt shaker or a backpack or a toilet brush, but no, his comics don’t sell.

These things do not sell themselves. Just putting a solicitation in PREVIEWS and a blurb in Wizard ain’t gonna do it. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. Distribution, pricing, format, all that stuff. It’s not right.

Anyway, I’m still trying to figure out a way to get this book done. I’m VERY happy with the six pages that are drawn, and I was just putting tweaks on the script which I was having a lot of fun with. Hopefully, one day, folks will get to see all this stuff.

 

Jamie: Is Tigra going to be in the One Shot? What will she be doing?

Gregg Schigiel: Tigra is NOT in the one-shot. She’s got nothing to do with the story at hand. It’s a Starfox one-shot. It’s about Starfox and Thanos. Tigra’s got no place there. The ONLY reason for Tigra to appear is because she was last seen with him in AVENGERS, Vol. 3, #4. That’s exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about with continuity. I have a Starfox story. Tigra’s not involved at all. Her life is totally unaffected by this story. She has NOTHING to do with it. But everyone expects her life and recent travails to be explained. It’s a wrong-headed approach. I’d just as soon not address her at all. I’ll leave her life to another story, or another writer, you know? If I HAD to put her in the story, I’d have Starfox kill her within the first two pages, just to prove a point. Maybe by page three he’d wake up from a dream, or in an intergalactic prison, or in a pool of kitty blood or something. But man, wouldn’t those pages make people stop in their tracks. It’s funny, when Newsarama first approached me to comment on the Starfox one-shot, I told them what I wanted to say about it. I was amazed at how people added meaning and stuff to what I said. They really made some bold conclusions. The best part was that they were getting so upset that I had ideas for Tigra and the aquatic Stingray.

I worked in the Avengers office for over two years. I cannot remember EVER reading a letter or e-mail requesting Starfox or Stingray to show up, EVER. These were characters that as far as I could tell, were as well loved as Gilgamesh, you know? So I come up with this story, and say what I said to Newsarama, and suddenly everyone’s worried about what I’m gonna do to Stingray! Well, here’s a tidbit about my plans for Stingray. I have none. I think the character is funny. He makes me chuckle. I said that to raise an eyebrow or two, to make me giggle when I read the article, and to make people wonder, what could he POSSIBLY have in mind for Stingray?! After I SAID I had plans for him, I DID come up with one idea for the character, and that idea is so far gone that people would lose their minds reading it. Something very existential, Metamorphosis-like in tone and feel. Totally non-mainstream comic booky. The more I think about it, the more I’d like to do it, just to see if it can be done, but that story will never happen, so don’t anybody worry about it. Stingray’s gonna be just fine there in limbo. So everyone that never cared about him can continue not to care about him. It still cracks me up how upset people got about the aquatic Stingray.

I DO have an idea for Tigra, though. And guess what? It’s has .6% to do with Starfox in any way, surprise, surprise. Her adventures with would be mentioned within the first page and not discussed any more, to set up a premise moreso than to establish continuity. The idea I have for her is not about that. It’s about her, as a character. There are no fights of the superhero variety. There’s no jumping over things or crawling under stuff. My premise for Tigra is basically a new-fangled romance book, a soap opera style story, about a woman who’s had an extraordinary life so far who wants to try and be normal. Which would be fine, you know, since she’s a strong-willed woman with set goals. Except, she’s covered in tiger fur and has a tail. How does a woman deal with sexual harassment when she’s always walking around in a catsuit, you know? That’s very interesting to me right now, more so than her fighting, you know, The Dogmen, or whatever. But at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with that sort of thing either. I don’t know if my Tigra premise works for what’s the generally considered target comic audience, young adolescent boys (though I highly doubt that’s the actual market these days). I don’t argue that. I think Tigra versus the Dogmen could be a lot of fun, full of high action and adventure. BUT, that’s not the story I’d like to tell (though, the more I think of it, I would have loved such a story when I was 12).

And before everyone starts saying I have no regard for superhero comics and what they should or should not be, let me say that I DO have ideas for “real” superhero comics, too. You just asked me about Tigra, so I answered. I would love there to be a book called MARVEL HEROES AND VILLAINS, which would essentially be SECRET WARS, the series; a sort of Challenge of the Superfriends starring Marvel characters. No real-world angst, no Peter Parker and the Daily Bugle. Nope, just a group of ten to twelve heroes every month dealing with ten to twelve villains. Superheroes doing cool, superheroic stuff. Flying and blasting and lifting and running. As a kid, that’s what’s cool. Kids like Aquaman and Hawkman. I know I loved Hawkman. But the second I actually read a Hawkman story I was bored to tears. He was in a museum with old stuff and who knows what. Dude, just give me a guy with wings, a mace, and an awesome helmet, you know? I remember this kid, Marvin, from elementary school, who LOVED Aquaman. Loved him. Did he know he was a king whose wife went nuts and whatever? No. He was a guy who could breathe underwater and talk to fish. Superheroes have a great range for stuff. You can tell a story about Aquaman talking to a snapper or you can tell a story about the history of Atlantis, and both can be excellent. BUT, neither of these would sell worth a damn these days. People outside of comics would find stuff about Atlantis interesting. Kids would find a talking fish interesting. But comics folks — nah. I find THAT interesting.

Harry Potter wouldn’t sell as a comic book. Just look at the BOOKS OF MAGIC. Is anyone, kids or adults, lining up by the thousands to have Neil Gaiman sign their copies of that? No. Does Neil get featured in People Magazine? Does Timothy Hunter show up on the cover of Time? No. But Neil does get mentioned in Entertainment Weekly as the “winner of the week.” Why? Because he made a deal to write books and films instead of comics. Because, you know, “comics are for losers…but hey, did you read yesterday’s Dilbert! He’s hilarious.” It’s a funny and tragic and sad dichotomy. Anyway, Tigra does not appear in the one-shot.

 

Jamie: You are both writing and drawing the Starfox one shot. Do you prefer doing one over the other?

Gregg Schigiel: I prefer drawing my own material. I’ve never had anyone draw one of my stories, so I can’t relate that experience, but I have worked off other plots. I found in nearly every case, even though I enjoyed the story, I wanted to change the pacing, the page breaks, suggest dialogue, tweak a scene or an ending. One of the advantages of working the “Marvel Method” was that I got to do some of that, pacing-wise and stuff. But, even so, with just six pages of STARFOX done I think the work is stronger in terms of technical drawing, the storytelling is more cohesive, the facial expressions are “on”, the scripting will be punchy, etc, etc. I think the fact that it’s MY story makes it more fun to draw, more personal. It’s one of the beauties of comics, that you can present an almost pure creative vision. I love that. It’s that sort of attitude that’ll surely get me in trouble one day, though.

I remember just after WHAT IF #114, the Secret Wars story, we were thinking of doing a follow-up. I brought a bunch of ideas to the table, new characters, possible story lines, etc. I talked to Jay about a bunch of stuff and he put his story together. That was still very early in both our careers, but I remember getting a little frustrated by it. These were characters that were in my head too, that I had a take on, but I wasn’t always seeing that on paper, you know? It was being filtered through another mind. But I had the same frustrations as an assistant editor. We’d be working on THOR and I’d have an idea for something, and then Dan Jurgens would come up with something else. Certainly something good, yeah, but there’s still gonna be that frustration creatively. I had a screenwriting teacher in college who called that “killing your babies.” That is, letting your pet ideas, the stuff you’re really attached to, die for the sake of the story or the project or whatever. No one likes to do that, and therein lies frustration. In the end, the sequel What If? project would have been a lot of fun, really very cool, but I think it’s fine as a story in our heads, too.

 

Jamie: Do you have any future work coming up?

Gregg Schigiel: Well, I have a lot of ideas for stuff I’d like to do. I’d love to do some humor comics. I have an idea for an Avengers comedy book that’d be really fun and funny and timely. Right now though, I’m just trying to get some sort of confidence built up about me, something that’ll allow me to do some of this stuff. It’s VERY difficult. I worked at Marvel. People know me there. As far as I could tell, people liked me there. But it ain’t about that, you know? I’m not a name. And these days its names that apparently sell comic books. Garth Ennis could sell Starfox. Warren Ellis can maybe sell X-MAN. It’s a different market these days, a different way of doing business. I can’t say I’m terribly fond of it. But that’s the price of doing business…at least for now.

But I still want to draw stuff. I’d love to get a shot to write something that’d be published. I like doing covers. I’d love to do a cover for BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, just to have done it and been a part of that show in a roundabout way. I’d love to do my Ultragirl stuff. I’d like to draw the Beast, and Batman, and I’d like to draw the Hulk for something. But this is just a wish list, you know? Right now I’m working over at Nickelodeon drawing Spongebob Squarepants a lot. If I can make Starfox work, then that’ll be next. Otherwise, I’m gonna try for this Avengers thing I have cooking. Maybe that has a better chance, you know, in that it’s AVENGERS, which is a name. Only time will tell.

And then, further down the line, like, much farther down, I’ll definitely be doing my own thing. It’ll be good.

 

Jamie: How did you get work at Nickelodeon and what kind of cartoon(?) is Spongebob Squarepants? (and exactly what kind of work are you doing on it?)

Gregg Schigiel: The work at Nickelodeon came from someone over there looking for people to do artwork for their Product Services division. I did some samples figuring it’d be a nice opportunity for freelance work, some extra bread and some new exposure and experience. They guys at Nick dug my samples enough to ask me to come on board full time. They made me an offer, I considered it, and accepted.

Spongebob Squarepants is one of the NickToons which is on Saturday Mornings on Nickelodeon. It’s actually pretty funny. It’s about Spongebob, who’s a sponge, who wears square pants. He’s sort of this geeky, nerdy fellow. His good buddy is Patrick the starfish. His neighbor gets annoyed by him, and he’s got some sort of friendship/relationship with this female squirrel that lives underwater in an air-bubble biodome thing and walks around in a scuba suit thing. Spongebob works at a undersea fast food joint. It’s fun. Give it a watch. It’s very much a Nickelodeon cartoon. If you’ve seen some of ’em, you’ll know what that means.

What I’m doing at Nickelodeon is working with the NickToons team in the Product Services division. That means I’ll be doing illustrations that’ll go in style guides and stuff for use in consumer products, be they lunchboxes, underoos, toy packaging, cereal boxes, whatever. NickToons covers SpongeBob, CatDog, Hey Arnold, and the Angry Beavers. Right now SpongeBob is big stuff, so that’s what I’m working on. I have nothing to do with the cartoon itself, but moreso the licensing thereof. Yeah, not nearly as exciting sounding as the comic book stuff, but there you go.

1st Mark Waid Interview

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

 

An Interview With Mark Waid

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

Mark Waid at 2012 New York Comic Con

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Mark Waid: No comment. Sorry!

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jamie: Will the Gorilla line be superhero comics only?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Mark Waid: Like an All-Star baseball team.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Mark Waid: Ghaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Peter David Interview

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

 

An Interview With Peter David

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

Peter David at 2010 C2E2

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Peter David: Mebbe.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Peter David: That would be telling.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Joe Simon Interview

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

 

An Interview With Joe Simon

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

Joe Simon: Good for the Siegels!

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Joe Simon: Through contractual agreements

 

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

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

 

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

Joe Simon: Yes. Several Including the Fly to Batfilms

 

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

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

 

Jamie: What is the craziest character you created?

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

 

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

Joe Simon: In my opinion, Cap was far superior

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Joe Simon: Constantly.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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? 😉

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.

 

Stuart Moore Interview

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

 

An Interview With Stuart Moore

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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