Marc Fleury Interview

Originally published in June 1999. Most of my interviews had been with well known creators and editors. I learned of a local creator self publishing a comic and thought it would be interesting to get a different perspective. Marc provided that with hard numbers and harsh reality. To my knowledge, only 2 issues of his comic came out and nothing else after it.

 

An Interview With Marc Fleury
Marc Fleury is a familiar name for those of you who read the rec.arts.comics newsgroups. He recently started self-publish an all ages comic series called John & Cori. Marc was kind enough to tell us the nitty gritty details about both his comic book and self publishing.

 

Jamie: For those that don’t know, explain what your book John & Cori to us.

Marc Fleury: Well, let’s see. It’s a humor / adventure comic along the lines of classic Warner Brothers animation. It’s suitable for all ages, but a lot of the gags will go right over a kid’s head. It’s a little like Tintin meets Calvin and Hobbes. Or maybe the Monty Python version of Muppet Babies.

 

Jamie: I noticed in John & Cori #1, you added a prose story, and games for kids (colouring page and spot the difference panels). Why?

Marc Fleury: The target audience for the comic, really, is me. And I enjoy stuff like that. I think that there are a few people out there who have roughly the same interests and senses of humor as I do, so producing a book that *I* would enjoy seems like a reasonable idea.

The prose stories add a little more substance to the book, and the games are just for fun. I tried to make the games a little more interesting than those you see in, say, Archie, because those are pretty boring for us older “kids.” So John & Cori #1 has a game for kids, and a game for experienced puzzle solvers as well. (Nobody has solved the hard one, which is pretty much what I expected.)

 

Jamie: When did you meet up with artist Giorgio Giunta and what propelled the both of you to do your own comic book?

Marc Fleury: The series existed in my mind first. I was interested in publishing a comic, and this one seemed like a fun book to do, so I started looking around for artists. Giorgio was one of the people to send in samples. He had a style that worked well with the ideas I had for the book, and he is very dependable, so I signed him up for it.

 

Jamie: Will you be making John & Cori TPB’s?

Marc Fleury: The short answer is yes. The long answer is . . . I’m not sure that it’s possible to produce John & Cori at a profitable level in the direct market. I have a number of ideas for the future of the series, but most of them involve spreading outside of comic book stores. Right now, it looks like I’m going to repackage it as a children’s book. It will still be a comic, but squarebound, and distributed through stores instead of comic shops. The market is much bigger, and the interest in this kind of material, I think, is much higher.

So, yes, I’ll be doing trade paperbacks, but they won’t be collected editions (they’ll be originals) and they will mostly sell outside of the Direct Market.

 

Jamie: John & Cori is a very kid friendly comic, why did you opt to this instead of more mainstream type comics.

Marc Fleury: It’s just one of my interests. At any moment, I have a number of projects in development. At the time that I decided to take the plunge into publishing, John & Cori was the series I was most deeply into developing.

It seemed like a good idea, because the book was different than everything else out there I figured that I could fit into a niche that nobody else was taking. Unfortunately, it seems like the current comic book market is too small for such a strategy. The reason that those niches are unfilled is that the people who are interested in that material simply don’t read comics.

It’s a bit of a vicious circle. There aren’t enough all-ages comics being published. Those that do start up don’t sell very well, because not many kids buy comics anymore. And those kids don’t buy comics because there’s nothing being published that interests them.

 

Jamie: Will Abdo Entertainment be doing other titles? If so can you tell us about them?

Marc Fleury: Yep. One advantage is that I have many interests, so if something doesn’t work out, I have tons of stuff to fall back on. There’s a comic called On The Lamb that will be coming out through Abdo next year. It’s another odd little book, this time aimed at a slightly older audience — teens and up. It’s about Jesus. If Jesus was a teenager today. It’s a comedy.

 

Jamie: Do you plan on getting another artist for your other titles or will Giorgio be able to do them?

Marc Fleury: I’ll be working with others. I enjoy seeing my writing transformed by various artists, and I’d like to work with as many artists as possible. On The Lamb, though, will be illustrated by me. I used to write and draw a comic strip for a local entertainment magazine, and I’ve really missed that. So I decided it’s time to go back and draw my own stuff. I was just waiting for the right project — I can’t draw very well, so it has to be something where the humor carries the comic. I figure that I can draw as well as Sam Henderson or Matt Groening.

 

Jamie: What are your long term plans for Abdo Entertainment? Do you plan to build it up into a full fledged publishing company or are you hoping to make a reputation as a writer and get work in corporate comics.

Marc Fleury: Both. I’m still working and developing stuff for other publishers. And I also plan (in the long term) to publish the work of others through Abdo. If James Kochalka told me he had a comic for me, I’d publish it.

The company is more than just for publishing comics, though. That’s why it’s Abdo Entertainment and not Abdo Comics. I’m developing a store on the web, I have my Writing for Comics column, my brother and I are making short films (we won some dinky award at some dinky film festival last year), and there’s a bunch of other stuff that it’s too early to talk about. Basically, Abdo Entertainment is the company I set up to deal with all the entertainment-related, hopefully-profit-making stuff that I do. Right now, the main business it publishing John & Cori, but it’s growing.

 

Jamie: Where did you go to find out how to self publish a comic book?

Marc Fleury: Dave Sim’s columns started me off. I asked a few questions on the comics-pro mailing list. I got a book called How To Self-Publish Your Own Comic Book by Tony Caputo.

Actually, it’s pretty easy stuff. There’s not enough to fill a whole book, which is why Caputo’s book has a lot of information that most self-publishers will never use. Everything you need to know is on the web, and anything that’s not clear can be cleared up by asking about it in a relevant forum (the comicon.com boards, the rec.arts.comics.misc newsgroup, or one of the mailing lists for comics creators).

 

Jamie: With the comic market is the shape that it is, why did you decide to do a comic book at all?

Marc Fleury: I’m insane.

Actually, I think this is a very exciting time for comics. I’m glad to be working in the industry right now, because the *real* mainstream is on the rise — comics designed to appeal to the general population. It’s going to take a lot of work, and even more sweat, but I think that the medium will come out of its funk in a few years. I’m thrilled to be a part of the transformation of the industry.

 

Jamie: I understand you had some difficulty getting Diamond Comics to distribute it. Can you tell us about that?

Marc Fleury: Oy. Way back in July of 1998, I printed up thousands of copies of John & Cori #0 — an 8-page promo comic — and mailed them out to hundreds of retailers. In big letters on the back cover, it says “Issue 1 comes out in OCTOBER from ABDO Entertainment”. At the same time, I sent out the solicitations to Diamond.

A little while later, I hear back from Diamond. They aren’t interested in carrying the book. I was stunned, and rather crushed. Not only were they saying that my work wasn’t good enough, but I had just wasted a couple of grand promoting a book that would, essentially, be unavailable to most retailers.

I then recontacted all the retailers that I had originally mailed out the promos to, and told them they could order from Abdo directly.

A few months go by, and then I get a call back from Diamond. It seems that they passed the book on to their retailer review board, and the retailers said they *did* want to carry the book. So Diamond was calling back to change their mind — they’d carry John & Cori after all. They ran it as a February release. Four months after I had announced it would come out. I have no doubt that the low orders on #1 are related to that delay. The retailers that I had contacted were told that the book was coming out in October, but Diamond forced me to ship the book 4 months later.

 

Jamie: I know you are using FM International to distribute John & Cori, how much does smaller distributors help overall sales?

Marc Fleury: For me, a lot. I did an informal survey of some other publishers, and sales through FMI are about 5-8% of those through Diamond. For John & Cori #1, FMI’s order was 35% of the size of Diamond’s. I’m selling seven times more comics than I should be through FMI. It doesn’t make sense. Until you take into account the screw-up with the initial release date through Diamond. It’s not that I’m selling seven times more than I should be through FMI, it’s that I’m selling seven times LESS than I should be through Diamond. I’m certain that, had Diamond been able to see the quality in John & Cori that their retailer review board obviously did, then they would have carried the book when it was first solicited, and the sales would have been seven times what they are now.

Now I have to scramble to bring up the sales before Diamond drops the book for selling poorly.

 

Jamie: You have made a webpage that gives previews and ordering info for your comic. I’ve always wondered how much does that help?

Marc Fleury: Although I have information posted on how to order direct, the real hope for the site is to give people a taste of the book, and then they can order it through their store. Unfortunately, I don’t have any real way to measure the site’s success on that level.

 

Jamie: Promotion and buzz is very important to getting retailers and readers to try your comic. What did you do to try and get the word out about your book?

Marc Fleury: I sent out those promo copies, which turned out to be a disaster. Although, I still think it’s a good way to get the word out (and I got a lot of positive feedback from that issue. I know that some people ordered #1 on the strength of the promo issue). I wish I had made sure that Diamond was carrying the book before printing up all those promotional copies.

Other than that, I try to mention it in relevant discussions on the internet. I would have liked to get out to some conventions, but it’ll have to wait until next year.

 

Jamie: Can you give us an idea of how much it costs to self publish a comic book and where those costs come in?

Marc Fleury: Printing is the big thing. You can shop around, but the best deal I found was Preney, in Windsor Ontario. The paper isn’t great, but I’ve never much cared about that. And they printed my #1 for 50 cents a copy, which includes shipping and taxes. (Those are Canadian cents for you Americans. About 35 cents US at the current exchange rate.)

Setting up your business is pretty cheap. Hiring the talent can be expensive, but if you want to avoid that cost, either draw it all yourself or agree that people only get paid if the book turns a profit. (Put it in writing, so that everyone is clear about what is being agreed to.)

 

Jamie: Can you also give us an idea of how much money one could expect to make by self publishing, and how that money comes in through distribution?

Marc Fleury: You sell the book to Diamond for 40% of the cover price. A $2.95 cover price pulls in $1.18 when you sell it to the distributor. If you figure that it costs a bare minimum of $1000 for 2000 copies after you add in all the incidentals, you see you need to sell 850 copies to make back your investment. Unfortunately, in this market, that’s not necessarily easy.

 

Jamie: What do you think is the biggest barrier in the comic industry for selling indy comics?

Marc Fleury: Retailers are afraid to try new products because they’re non-returnable.

 

Jamie: If you had to do this all over again what would you do differently?

Marc Fleury: A bunch of stuff. Luckily, I *am* doing it all over again, with my next series. I’ll be fixing the problems that have plagued my first attempt.

1) I’ll build the audience for the book before it gets released, by running a strip on the web for a few months.

2) I’ll make sure my distribution deals are in place before sending promo material and

3) I’ll cut down on my costs by drawing it myself.

 

Jamie: Has publishing your own comic changed your opinions about the comic industry?

Marc Fleury: It’s easier to publish a book than I thought it was, but it’s harder to make money at it than I thought it was.

 

Jamie: What advice can you give to people thinking about self publishing?

Marc Fleury: Ask yourself this: Is the publishing part as important to you as the creating part? If designing letters pages and indices, dealing with distributors and retailers, promoting your work and yourself, and handling orders and balancing the books doesn’t give you as much pleasure as writing and drawing comics, then self-publishing probably isn’t for you. You have to be both a creator and an entrepreneur.

That, and make sure you have at least $10,000 to risk.

Click here to learn more about JOHN & CORI [link disabled as it’s no longer active]

 

Dan Jurgens Interview

Originally published in May 1999. I went a little more fanboy-ish with this interview, but I did ask him some questions about editors and got answers that I probably should have expected.

 

An Interview With Dan Jurgens

 

Dan Jurgens is best known for his work on Superman, but today he is working on other books like Thor, and has just been announced as the new writer for Aquaman. He, along with Jerry Ordway, will also be doing a Fantastic Four/Avengers mini-series. Dan answers questions on all three projects and more!

 

Mike Carlin and Dan Jugens at 2013 San Diego Comic Con

Jamie: When will the Fantastic Four/Avengers mini series be out?

Dan Jurgens: Plans call for us to ship the book in September.

 

Jamie: I’m assuming we’ll see the traditional FF line up, but what will the Avengers line-up be?

Dan Jurgens: Jerry Ordway will be writing and drawing the Avengers book and the line-up will primarily consist of the traditional core group.

 

Jamie: What will the story be about and is it in current continuity?

Dan Jurgens: The story places the FF and Avengers together in an epic adventure featuring a new villain and a fun trip through Marvel’s past.

 

Jamie: Both you and Jerry Ordway are writer/artists. Who will be writing and who will be drawing, and how did you guys decide to divide the responsibilities?

Dan Jurgens: I’ll be writing and drawing a 4 issue mini-series called Fantastic Four: The Domination Factor. Jerry will write and draw a companion series called Avengers: The Domination Factor and the books will intertwine to tell the whole story.

 

Jamie: Erik Larsen and other former Aquaman writers have complained about “creative difficulties” with editor Kevin Dooley, even saying Dooley asked them to rip off other stories. How will you respond if you have similar problems?

Dan Jurgens: I’ll leave the book. Fortunately, I don’t anticipate those problems coming up.

 

Jamie: Will there be any changes to Aquaman’s appearance or his powers?

Dan Jurgens: Not his powers, though I would like to change his hair and costume. Stay tuned.

 

Jamie: You mentioned that you would be creating new villains for Aquaman, can you tell us about them?

Dan Jurgens: Sorry, it’s a bit early.

 

Jamie: What do you plan on doing with Tempest and other Aquaman supporting characters?

Dan Jurgens: Turn them from supporting characters into core characters. Aquaman will be a book about a majestic, royal family. That family happens to be Aquaman, Mera, Tempest and Dolphin.

 

Jamie: Is there a new artist for Aquaman yet? If so, who, and can you describe their work for us?

Dan Jurgens: There will be a new artist but I can’t announce who it is yet.

 

Jamie: Erik Larsen said he’s leaving Dolphin’s pregnancy to the next writer. How do feel about it and what do you intend to do with it?

Dan Jurgens: I don’t think Garth should have slept with someone who is essentially his step mother. His relationship with Arthur would never allow that to happen. But I have no say in that now, it’s done, and I’ll deal with it appropriately.

Unfortunately, it symbolizes the continued erosion of the heroic qualities of DC’s heroes.

 

Jamie: Is there any chance you will draw a fill in for either Aquaman or Thor?

Dan Jurgens: Nothing’s planned but it’s always possible.

 

Jamie: Roger Stern and Peter David reportedly both sent in proposals to become Thor’s writer, how did you beat them for the coveted job?

Dan Jurgens: I honestly have no idea. I don’t know what they wrote and have no concept about how any of their thoughts compared with my own. I consider them friends and talented writers and would have looked forward to reading their work on Thor.

 

Jamie: When preparing for Thor, what kind of research did you do?

Dan Jurgens: Jumped into Norse mythology big time!

 

Jamie: What was the inspiration of the Dark Gods?

Dan Jurgens: Tough question. It started with trying to create a pantheon of gods based on today’s thoughts and values, or lack of them.

 

Jamie: What is it like working with John Romita Jr.?

Dan Jurgens: John’s absolutely brilliant and incredibly well suited to this book. It’s a treat to see what he does each and every month.

 

Jamie: Do you have any plans on drawing a regular series again?

Dan Jurgens: I’d like to at some point. I’m not avoiding it at all. Just seems to have developed into a situation where I’m writing the monthly stuff and drawing special projects.

 

Jamie: What tools do you use when penciling?

Dan Jurgens: I draw on the board Marvel and DC supply me with, using a .05 mm mechanical pencil, HB lead.

 

Jamie: After the Fantastic Four/Superman crossover will you try to get any more comics published in the Treasury Sized format?

Dan Jurgens: I’d love to do a Superman/Thor book in that format.

 

Jamie: Who is the easiest editor you have worked for?

Dan Jurgens: Hard to say, though it should be noted the easiest editors aren’t necessarily the best. I like working with editors with whom I share a vision of what the book should be.

 

Jamie: What caused you to leave the Spectacular Spider-Man book?

Dan Jurgens: Mostly the fact that the editor and I had profound differences on what a good Spider-Man story was.

 

Jamie: What other projects will you be doing in the future?

Dan Jurgens: That covers it for now!

 

Devin Grayson Interview

Originally published in March 1999. This was the first female comic creator I interviewed and I again wince at some of my questions. I was very happy to be interviewing her as all of my previous interviews were with men. For those with short memories Devin was in a relationship with Mark Waid at the time and she was falsely accused of getting and keeping work at DC Comics because of that relationship by assholes back in the day. Devin stopped writing comics after a while and I can’t say I blame her. I hope she’s happy doing whatever it is she’s doing today, she deserves it.

 

An Interview with Devin Grayson

The fastest rising hot writer in DC Comics is here. Devin Grayson has been wowing people with her Catwoman work and has recently gotten more spotlight with her JLA/Titans crossover, the new Titans series, and her upcoming work involving the Batman’s No Man’s Land event. With this interview we find out who Devin is, how she sees things and what she’s up to.
 
Jamie: You’ve said in the past you didn’t get interested in comics until you saw the Batman Adventures cartoon. What did you do before becoming a comic writer?

Devin Grayson: I went to college and took some post-graduate courses in writing while working on a novel which I have yet to complete (I got sidetracked by the comics!) and I had a day job as a project manager in the research division of a large Northern California HMO.

 

Jamie: Before breaking into DC Comics, what comics did you write?

Devin Grayson: None, actually. My interest was pretty limited to the Bat-verse (that is – I didn’t really want to “be a comic writer” I just wanted to write Batman and Nightwing and all of the cool Gothamites), and “Like Riding a Bike” in The Batman Chronicles #7 was my first professional work in comics.

 

Jamie: Did you ever have any association with the Friends of Lulu and do you have any opinions of female focused groups like that?

Devin Grayson: I am not a member of the Friends of Lulu, and don’t intend to become one, nor would I presume to generalize about female-focused groups (they can be assumed to vary widely, both in intent and effectiveness). All I can say is that for myself, personally, there’s a danger in joining such groups. My fear is that instead of actively doing things that challenge gender-bias, I would let “being a member” serve as my “good deed” – that is, I could begin to assume that my membership in and of itself was what I was doing to promote healthy gender politics and – let me emphasize this again — for myself, personally, that’s not the best way to effect change.

 

Jamie: Who are your writing influences?

Devin Grayson: In comics the writers I turn to most frequently for inspiration are Alan Moore, Neil Gaimen, and Frank Miller, though there are certainly a whole bunch of other people I admire and have learned from, including, among many others, Dennis O’Neil, Terry Moore, Chuck Dixon, Scott McCloud, and Mark Waid.

In other media, I’m deeply influenced by Milan Kundera, A.S. Byatt, Stendhal, James Baldwin, Tom Stoppard, David E. Kelly, Steinbeck, Shakespeare, Rilke, Anne Rice, Nabokov, Tori Amos, Terry Gilliam and then also by people like Jung, Joseph Campbell, Thomas Moore, and more recently Buddhist scholars like Pema Chödrön and Thich Nhat Hanh.

Really, though, the lovely thing about writing is that you’re constantly influenced by absolutely everything. My own psyche influences my writing more than anything else, and my psyche is a magpie.

 

Jamie: Are there any particular artists that you would really like to work with?

Devin Grayson: I’ve been very fortunate with artists. I’d love to do more with Greg Land and Brian Stelfreeze someday soon, and there are some wonderfully talented people out there who would be a lot of fun to work with, but I enjoy coming across people by chance – there’s no one in particular that I’m obsessing over right now.

 

Jamie: Are there any characters that you haven’t written yet that you want a crack at?

Devin Grayson: There really aren’t. Again, I’ve just been so tremendously fortunate. The characters I feel most attached to are the Bat-characters and the Titans- characters, and I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to work closely with both.

 

Jamie: Avengers fans are confused as to why a new Black Widow is being created when there is a perfectly good one already in existence. Can you tell us the reason for the new Black Widow?

Devin Grayson: Um… because it’s a story element? Tell you what — a good remedy for being confused about something is to check it out. This would make more sense to discuss AFTER the miniseries comes out, no? 😉

 

Jamie: After reading The Titans it’s pretty clear you really know these characters and how they think and feel. But you’re not a long time comic fan, how did you “catch up”?

Devin Grayson: I read a whole bunch of stuff at once, instead of having to wait for the monthly to come out. It was great! I just brought up all the back issues I could get my hands on, until eventually I had them all, and then I read them straight through (after reading them out of order, actually, which was another thrilling exercise). What I lost was the anticipation of waiting for the next installment to come out, but the end result is that it’s probably fresher in my mind than in yours. You were probably reading The New Titans in the eighties, I was reading The New Titans two years ago!

 

Jamie: Now that the Titan lineup has been revealed, who are your favorite members?

Devin Grayson: Oh, I really can’t answer that, I’d make the characters jealous. 😉 The truth is that it’s a lot of fun to play with all of them, to juggle and watch them have their moments and shine in different stories.

 

Jamie: Comic fans on Usenet have been a hot topic lately, do you lurk on the newsgroups and have any opinions on them?

Devin Grayson: I don’t lurk, I don’t read newsgroup boards, and I have a personal policy against posting. I also don’t coddle professional friends who go onto the boards and then get upset about something they read there, I just tell them to get off the boards. I do have a website (2KComics.COM) where you can get information about what I’m working on, and an active email address that seems to allow people to contact me with relative ease (you had no trouble tracking me down for this interview, for example!).

As a newcomer to all of this, I find it a little disturbing just how accessible so many of the comic pros are, and accordingly, how entitled many fans feel to their attention – you don’t get mad at screenplay writer when he won’t show up in a chat to discuss his latest work, and you don’t demand that novel writers read your opinion of, or riffs on, their stories. I guess it stems from the fact that the majority of comic professionals were once fans themselves, so there’s a slightly more natural mutuality there than in the other media I mentioned, but that relationship also seems to foster some real serious jealousy and nastiness that really is a little bizarre when you step back from it. I think there are a group of pros who really like getting “strokes” from fans, so they put themselves out there, and after awhile that breeds familiarity and expectation. And if it works for them, great, but I don’t want to be held accountable to that. Personally, I don’t like receiving feedback about the work I’m doing while it’s still in progress, except from the editors, whose job it is to guide me and assess my work. I’d much rather do the work than talk about doing the work. And personally, I do find negative feedback hurtful to receive, and positive feedback distracting. Not to mention that so much of it gets so unnecessarily personal – after Wizard magazine ran a picture of me, a well-intentioned friend forwarded me some posts about whether or not I was “doable” and whether or not I needed to lose weight, and whether or not I could possibly actually be in love with my boyfriend. I mean, these were “threads”! And all I could think was, would these people say this stuff to my face? It’s not all like that, obviously, and I feel bad for all of the truly kind, well-meaning fans who get drowned out by this cacophony, but I’ll tell you – if even one person is posting things of that nature, why on god’s earth should I be held responsible for checking it out to “be in touch with my fans”? I absolutely refuse. There’s nothing in my job contract that says I have to be subjected to that. I’d rather do interviews like this, and enjoy the really nice experiences I have meeting fans in person at conventions, or receiving the frequently very kind and encouraging emails and letters they send.

I’ve always felt very grateful for the level of enthusiasm present is so much of comic fandom, but I think that there needs to be some space for fans to discuss whatever they want to discuss WITHOUT fear of hurting anyone’s feelings, and message boards seem like a good place for that. So I give myself the space I need to work and the fans the space they need to comment by staying away from all of it.

 

Jamie: Has your The Weinbergs been given a new title yet? If not what are some of the alternatives being suggested?

Devin Grayson: No, alas, we’re still in flux, and the book has now been pushed back for a December release –which is disappointing for me, since I’m excited about it and I really want it to be out there, but is in the long run a huge show of faith by DC. They want more time to market it, and also, our artist, Yvel Guichet, got the chance to work on a high-profile No Man’s Land assignment (the two-parter which introduces Harley Quinn which I saw some sketches for today – it’s amazing!), so I’m excited for him and pleased that more people will get a chance to see how remarkable his work is before The Weinbergs comes out.

The one other title we played around with was RV5: Relative Velocity, but I think somebody somewhere had concerns about that, so I’m not quite sure where we are now.

 

Jamie: How will The Weinbergs be different than other ‘kids with powers’ book like Power Pack?

Devin Grayson: As much as I enjoyed Power Pack, I don’t feel that the series have anything in common. I’ve been struggling to find an eloquent was of explaining this, but The Weinbergs doesn’t fit into any pre-existing genre I’m aware of. The Power Pack was an utterly charming tale of innocence wading through polarized alien forces of good and evil. The Weinbergs is very human, gently making fun of the superhero genre while absolutely revering and empowering it. The Weinys aren’t kids who find themselves suddenly blessed with magical powers – their powers are their PROBLEMS, they’re unhealthy manifestations of social dysfunction, and to top it off, these kids aren’t particularly good at using them on command anyway. They set off on their mission for all the wrong reasons, pursued by all the wrong factions (including the police, Child Protection Services, and the D.E.O.) and are very much their own worst enemies. Yet I don’t want the story to sound overly dark or, well, grim and gritty. It’s a very personal piece of fiction, and these kids have managed to utilize a lot of my humor and a lot of my pain. The Weinys have powers the way we all have powers – these weird things we can do that we’re not always comfortable with, like manipulating people (Allure), or bullying them (Temper). Instead of having to learn to be better superheroes, these kids really need to learn to be better people. Fighting supervillains may be the easiest part of their day.

As I’ve said in other interviews, in a very real sense, The Weinbergs is my way of using some of my pre-comic-reading-days sensibilities about characters and story-telling to celebrate my newfound love of the medium. When working on JLA/Titans, I was very aware that the project was something of a love-letter to the die-hard fans – it’s not a book I would hand to someone unfamiliar with comics. But The Weinbergs was crafted with my non-comic-book-reading friends and family very much in mind – it’s meant to be accessible to a very wide audience, and it’s the kind of project that really makes me wish there were easier ways to get information about comics out to people who don’t normally read them. It was so excited to “discover” comics in my early twenties, and then to watch my friends and family start to get turned on by them. My mom, a family therapist, now takes comic books to meetings of the American Psychological Association, and reports that they love them there – I just think that’s so cool, and as hard a time as the industry is having, I truly believe that the medium is viable, young, and nowhere near to having maxed out on its audience potential. The Weinbergs is my way of saying, look, this stuff’s not so scary, it’s not all “super” this and “uncanny” that – the stories can be character-driven, you may find you can relate to some of them, and its totally worth checking out. And that this is a DCU book, and I’m able to say all of this from WITHIN the superhero genre, is really exciting to me.

 

Jamie: Your new Vertigo mini called MUN deals with role playing games. Is this something you did in the past?

Devin Grayson: Actually, I had a bad month with titles. 😉 “MUN” is now called “USER.” And to answer your question, yes, I did do role playing in the past, particularly online role playing, which is what “USER” covers. Offline, I had friends who sort of made up their own games – funky amalgamations of different series – so I don’t know what they would properly be called (well, I do, but it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone but my gaming buddies – a shout to all of you Sapien gamers!). Online, I was part of the AOL “Rhydin” community, which I think now has a fancier name, but at the time was basically (and delightfully) free- form.

 

Jamie: Can you give us some details on what the book is about?

Devin Grayson: User is about a mun in trouble. “Mun,” short for “mundane,” is a term online role-playing gamers use to refer to their real selves when they’re IC (in character). For those unfamiliar with the concept, online role-playing is a lot like traditional role playing (Dungeons & Dragons being perhaps the best known example), except that it’s all done through computers, with players using screen names to portray fantasy characters that then interact over the course of fairly unstructured, spontaneous adventures. There are ways to roll dice online to help determine the winner in “combat” situations, but unlike live role-playing games where you play in person with a group of friends, in online gaming you might never know the real identities – the “muns” — behind the other characters you play with.

The story is about a young woman who, when threatened by a dangerous family situation, manages to challenge her own faulty self-preservation instincts through the medium of online role-playing. Though the fantasy world she explores turns out to be easily as fragile and damaged as her day-to-day reality, the ability to learn to honor the archetypal masquerades chosen by herself and the other players in the fictional world awakens her own sense of empathy and competence in the real one. In my time with online RPing a couple of years ago, I was really struck with how creative and powerful some of it is. I mean, yes, there’s also the more obvious flip side about how some people take it much too seriously, and initially the protagonist of “USER” is using it in an unhealthy way for escapism. But she soon learns that slaying dragons is the easy part. It’s making sense of the little evils of everyday life that’s almost impossible.

We have John Bolton on board to paint the “virtual world” scenes, and Sean Phillips to pencil the “real world.” I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

 

Jamie: Do you prefer to write established characters or your own creations?

Devin Grayson: It’s so different, it really is. I guess, from a technical point of view, I prefer my own characters, because frankly, it’s easier. It’s easier politically (no editorially forced crossovers or the like), it’s easier in terms of reader response (fans can’t say you’re “wrong” about your own creations), and it’s easier in terms of not tripping over stories that have already been told. And there is no rush like watching an idea turn into a character right in front of you – that moment when the character transcends the little notes you’ve been scratching onto an index card or whatever, and steps forward and introduces themselves (and then immediately starts bossing you around :: laughs: :).

But on the other hand, comics is a highly interactive medium, and part of the special thrill of the job is getting to work with what I call “communal characters” and icons. The first time I wrote the word “Batmobile” in a script – a professional script I was getting paid for – I had to stop to let an absolute laughing fit pass over me. It was just too cool. And when I was done laughing I sat back and really felt just awed and proud for a sec. I was putting words in Batman’s mouth. That can be pretty heady stuff. I don’t think I could stand to do either exclusively though, so right now I’m really enjoying moving back and forth between the two.

 

Jamie: How much detail do you give your artists when you write?

Devin Grayson: Judging on what I’ve seen of other professional’s scripts, my panel descriptions are pretty detailed. In my first year of writing comics, I spent a lot of energy researching and choreographing fight scenes, and I soon realized that that was actually something a lot of artists prefer to have less direction on, and I was fine with that and I pulled back a little. I think you know, when you’re writing, how important any given detail is. Sometimes a lot of details really are important to set-something up or communicate a plot point, and other times, there’s some room for the artist to come in and let their style shine through. So in any given script I’ll have several dense three paragraph panel description and a page or two full of: “he arches an eyebrow.”

 

Jamie: What comics are you currently reading?

Devin Grayson: One of the downsides of being a relatively new comics fan is that I’m not in the habit of reading titles on a regular monthly basis. More often than not, I let some stuff accumulate, and then read it all in one sitting. So there are a bunch of books I enjoy, but none that I’m reading in the traditional sense of remembering to run down to the comic store every Wednesday and scoop up the next installment. The exceptions are stuff I have to read for work, like the Bat-titles, for example, which I often read in the script or Black and White phase because I have to be current, and stuff my friends do, which they make sure I have.

 

Jamie: I can’t help but think that you and Mark Waid read, discuss, and influence each others work. How much influence do you think you’ve had on Waid’s work, and vice versa?

Devin Grayson: Let me say straight off that it makes me uncomfortable to be asked about my private life in a casual way. I understand that since Mark and I have the same profession, it makes the relationship seem like a part of my working life, and therefore fair game for questions. But actually, the relationship is part of my personal life, and isn’t an appropriate subject for professional or causal conversations. That said, in the interest of clarifying: Mark and I actually have very well delineated boundaries around work issues. We have separate offices, separate jobs, separate editorial contacts, and with one or two exceptions, spend more energy on staying out of each other’s ways professionally than on working collaboratively. We also have very different thematic sensibilities, and are invested in very different kinds of material – I really love the dark, reality-based Bat-stuff, for example, and he’s much more into the shiny, happy side of heroing, which I don’t relate to as well. Obviously, it’s great to have someone around who you can run things by, and we have a lot of respect for each other’s work – I think he’s certainly one of the contemporary masters of story structure, exposition, and clarity – but overall, I think that’s one of the least valuable parts of the relationship, especially when put into perspective with the costs of trying to share a life, and a professional field, in public. Every now and then Mark and I manage to be really helpful to one another – clarifying a plot point, or offering up an observation on characterization or some such, but there are a lot of pros I do that with – and actually, Mark has his own little cabal that he tends to turn to, and I have mine (chiefly Jay Faerber and Brian Vaughan, my 2KCOM brethren), since Mark and I kind of come from different comic-writing “generations.”

 

Jamie: You said you got interested in Comics in your early 20’s, what do you think is needed to attract other adults to comics books?

Devin Grayson: Creative, accessible, contemporary material that doesn’t rely on nostalgia for the medium or the assumption of previous reading experience. Sandman was one of the first comics I became seriously enamored of – by the time I started reading it, it was already partly in trade paper back, so it felt familiarly “book-like” to me, and the story didn’t presuppose that I’d read anything other than the story itself.

 

Jamie: Currently you’re writing Titans and you have Black Widow (Marvel), Mun (Vertigo), The Weinbergs (DC) mini series, and a 4 part Huntress/Scarecrow arc coming out in the Batman books. Is there anything else?

Devin Grayson: Well, “Mun,” as I said, is now called “User,” and I’m also working on a thirty-eight page No Man’s Land one-shot for The Batman Chronicles about Leslie Thompkins and her “hospital zone.” I added a few small contributions to the Nightwing Secret Files, and co-wrote JLA #32 with Mark Waid — one of two exceptions to my let’s-keep-our-professional-lives separate rule! The story deals with the JLA’s response to No Man’s Land, so I came in to that project as sort of a Bat-representative. And I’m discussing a Legends of the DCU story with a couple of different editors, and also still hoping to do a Nightwing/Oracle miniseries, and perhaps more Bat-work down the line.

 

Paul Levitz Interview

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

 

An Interview with Paul Levitz

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

Paul Levitz at 2016 San Diego Comic Con

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Paul Levitz: Yup.

 

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

Paul Levitz: Time will tell.

 

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

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

 

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

Paul Levitz: Yup.

 

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

Paul Levitz: Next one is a JSA stunt.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Paul Levitz: Nope.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Paul Levitz: Write MacAvennie and Carlin, tell them.

 

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

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

Jerry Ordway Interview

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

 

An Interview with Jerry Ordway

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jamie: How do you fix your mistakes?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jamie: Anything you want to say to your fans?

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

 

Kurt Busiek Interview

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

Kurt Busiek 2009 San Diego Comic Con

Kurt Busiek 2009 San Diego Comic Con

An Interview with Kurt Busiek

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Kurt Busiek: Monthly.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jamie: What comic books do you read?

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Kurt Busiek: December 7th.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Joe Kelly Interview

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

 

An Interview with Joe Kelly

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

 

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

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

I’m not a well boy.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jamie: Writing wise, who are your influences?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Tom DeFalco Interview

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

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

 

An Interview with Tom DeFalco

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Tom DeFalco: Somewhere between 15 and infinity.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Tom DeFalco: Yep!

 

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

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

 

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

Tom DeFalco: Your guess is as good as mine.

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

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

 

Jamie: Will we see the Juggernaut return in J2?

Tom DeFalco: Probably.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Tom DeFalco: Check out A-Next #4!

 

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

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

 

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

Tom DeFalco: Yes.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jim Shooter Interview

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

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

 

An Interview with Jim Shooter

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Jim Shooter: Of course.

 

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

Jim Shooter: I would have made it good again.

 

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

Jim Shooter: Impossible question.

 

Jamie: What writers and artists impress you today?

Jim Shooter: David Lapham impresses me.

 

Jamie: What comic books are you currently reading?

Jim Shooter: Stray Bullets.

 

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

Jim Shooter: Its dying.

 

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

Jim Shooter: Good creativity.

 

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

Jim Shooter: No.

 

Jamie: Anything else you want to say?

Jim Shooter: Goodnight.

 


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

John Byrne Interview

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

 

An Interview with John Byrne

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

John Byrne: I have not read it.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

John Byrne: Correct.

 

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

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

 

Jamie: When does the first issue come out?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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