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BENDIS DeMATTEIS QUESADA DeFALCO BAGLEY STAN LEE!

1
#
$ 95
5
In the USA
MONA M AG A ZI N E August
2002
will be my greatest
Authorial Triumph
Yet, Leo!

You Bet,
Willy.

i Can Outwrite
This Moron in my
Sleep.

The Magazine
About Writing
For Comics,
Animation, and
Science-Fiction
Number 8, Summer 2002 Hype and hullabaloo from the publisher determined to bring new life to comics fandom Edited by Eric Nolen-Weathington

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Last year we brought you DRAW! and received an In the premiere issue, top professional writers discuss the twomorrows
incredible response. Now were turning our attention practical aspects of their craft. You'll get tips and
to all of you writers out there! You know, an artist insights from interviews with: BRAIN MICHAEL
can show an editor his work and the editor can
evaluate it virtually on the spot. But what qualities
BENDIS, the writer of Ultimate Spider-Man, Alias,
Powers and so many more; JOE QUESADA, editor
Now Shipping!
are necessary to sell writing? What are editors in chief of Marvel Comics, and co-writer of Ash The Jack Kirby Collector #34
looking for? What skills are needed, and what and writer of Iron Manhe's the guy setting the Alter Ego #15
other media can these skills be used in? writing standards at the House of Ideas today; Comic Book Artist #18
This July, find out in WRITE NOW!, a new JOSS WHEDON, creator of Buffy the Vampire DRAW! #3
quarterly magazine edited by veteran Marvel Slayer, the comic Fray, and the upcoming Firefly Xal-Kor the Human Cat
Comics editor and writer DANNY FINGEROTH! It TV series; J.M. DeMATTEIS, writer of Spider-Man,
takes you behind the scenes, into both the cre- the Spectre, Man-Thing and Moonshadow; and to
ative and business processes that go into writing
narrative fiction. Hear from pros ON BOTH SIDES
get an artists perspective on comics scripts, MARK
BAGLEY, penciler of Ultimate Spider-Man, New
Coming This Summer!
The Jack Kirby Collector #35 (June)
OF THE DESK what it takes to write the stories that Warriors and Amazing Spider-Man. Plus theres an
Comic Book Artist #19 (June)
readersand editorswant to read! interview with STAN (THE MAN) LEE! ('Nuff said.)
DRAW! #4 (July)
CBA Collection, Vol. 2 TPB (June)

The VIPs of POV Panel Discussions TPB (July)


Alter Ego #16 (July)
Comic Books & Other Necessities Of
TwoMorrows is proud to present COMIC BOOKS AND
OTHER NECESSITIES OF LIFE, a trade paperback collection Life TPB (August)
of MARK EVANIERs POV columns! It includes Marks best Write Now! #1 (July)
essays and commentaries, many NEVER BEFORE PUB- Comic Book Artist #20 (July)
LISHED, about the state of the art form (as only he can Comic Book Artist #21 (August)
convey it), the industrys LEADING PRACTITIONERS The Jack Kirby Collector #36 (August)
(including Jack Kirby and Carl Barks), CONVENTION- I Have To Live With This Guy TPB
GOING, and Marks old COMIC BOOK CLUB (with unfor- (August)
gettable anecdotes)! Featuring a new cover and interior
illustrations by Marks frequent partner, SERGIO
ARAGONS, this 200-page trade paperback ships in July! Pros and Cons
The convention season is underway and
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nations (for TJKC and CBA), we didnt win a
Cant find those CBA back issues youre missing? The HARVEY AWARD, but our own ERIC
search is over! In June, simply pick up the COMIC BOOK NOLEN-WEATHINGTON did get to be a pre-
Find out how ARTIST COLLECTION, VOLUME 2! It reprints the sold-out
CBA #5 (70s DC) and #6 (70s Marvel) and includes over
senter! Thanks to everyone who stopped by
our booth (especially if you bought some-
their better 20 NEW PAGES spotlighting STEVE ENGLEHART and
MARSHALL ROGERS Batman work, plus DCs ultra-rare
thing)! Next you can find us in Charlotte, NC
for Heroes Con on June 14-16 (visit
halves live! CANCELLED COMIC CAVALCADE! Also included are inter-
views with and unpublished art by BERNIE WRIGHTSON,
www.heroesonline.com for more info), and
the biggieComicon International: San
Will Eisner does what? Dave Sim is NEAL ADAMS, JOHN ROMITA SR., and more! Diego, August 1-4 (where CBA, AE, and
really like that? This August, see
KIMOTA! are up for EISNER AWARDS)!
what its been like living with comic
book creators over the past 60 years, Designing? Buy the book!
with the people who know them If you need to contact the TwoMorrows
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WILL EISNER, ALAN MOORE, STAN quiet? PANEL DISCUSSIONS (our new trade paperback,
LEE, JOE KUBERT, HARVEY shipping in June) is the place to find out! It picks the minds John Morrow, publisher, JACK KIRBY
KURTZMAN, JOHN ROMITA, GENE of the industrys top storytellers, covering all aspects of the COLLECTOR editor (and the one to go
COLAN, DAN DECARLO, ARCHIE design of comics! Learn from WILL EISNER, MARK to with subscription problems):
GOODWIN, and more! In addition to SCHULTZ, MIKE MIGNOLA, WALTER SIMONSON, DICK twomorrow@aol.com
sharing memories and anecdotes GIORDANO, MARK CHIARELLO and others as they share Jon B. Cooke, COMIC BOOK ARTIST
youll find nowhere else, their better their hard-learned lessons about the DESIGN of comics! editor: jonbcooke@aol.com
halves have opened up private files Roy Thomas, ALTER EGO editor:
to unearth personal photos, momen-
tos, and never-before-seen art by the Verily, tis Thors 40th year! roydann@ntinet.com
P.C. Hamerlinck, FCA editor:
top creators in comics! In August, were celebrating the 40th anniversary of THOR in fca2001@yahoo.com
THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR #36! To start things off, theres
two incredible color Kirby Thor covers (inked by MIKE ROYER Mike Manley, DRAW! editor:
and TREVOR VON EEDEN)! Inside, JOE SINNOTT and JOHN mike@actionplanet.com
COPYRIGHT NOTICES: ROMITA JR. weigh in on their Thor work with new interviews, And the TWOMORROWS WEB SITE
Batman, Joker, Phantom Stranger, TM & and we present a never-published 1969 interview with JACK (where you can read excerpts from our
2002 DC Comics. Thor TM & 2002
Marvel Characters Inc. Hellboy TM & 2002 KIRBY, conducted by SHEL DORF! Plus, were featuring 40 back issues, and order from our secure
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M AG A ZI N E

Issue #1 August 2002

Read Now!
Message from the Editor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 2

Alias: Spider-Man
Interview with Brian Michael Bendis . . . . . . . . . . . .page 3

Who let that #@%#&# artist in here?


Interview with Mark Bagley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 21

Still STAN LEE After All These Years


Interview with The Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 32
Conceived & Edited by
But What Does Danny Think? (Opinion) DANNY FINGEROTH
Why Comics Are Not Movies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 38 Designer
CHRISTOPHER DAY
What Editors (Really) Want Transcribers
DEANNE WALTZ and the LONGBOX.COM STAFF
Interview with Joe Quesada . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 42 ANDREW SIMPSON
Publisher
Confessions of a Male Model JOHN MORROW
Interview with Tom DeFalco . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 53
COVER
Penciled and inked by
The Stand-Up Philosopher MARK BAGLEY
Interview with J.M. DeMatteis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 66 (Who knew he was a great inker, too?)
Colored by
TOM ZIUKO

Special Thanks To
ALISON BLAIRE
ERIC FEIN
STEVE KANE
Write Now! is published 4 times a year by TwoMorrows Publishing, 1812 Park Drive, Raleigh, NC
MICHAEL KELLY
27605, USA. Phone: (919) 833-8092. Fax: (919) 833-8023. Danny Fingeroth, Editor. John Morrow, ADAM McGOVERN
Publisher. Write Now! E-mail address: WriteNowDF@aol.com. Single issues: $8 Postpaid in the US ERIC NOLEN-WEATHINGTON
($10 Canada, $11 elsewhere). Four-issue subscriptions: $20 US ($40 Canada, $44 elsewhere). CHRIS POWELL
Order online at: www.twomorrows.com or e-mail to: twomorrow@aol.com All characters are TM & BEN REILLY
their respective companies. All material their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial
matter the respective authors. Editorial package is 2002 Danny Fingeroth and TwoMorrows
JOHN ROBERTS
Publishing. Write Now! is a shared trademark of Danny Fingeroth and TwoMorrows Publishing. RACHEL SILVERMAN
Printed in Canada. FIRST PRINTING. VARDA STEINHARDT
WRITE NOW | 1
READ Now!
Message from Danny Fingeroth, editor

W Gotcha!
elcome to the premiere edition of Write Now!
Magazine. Before we begin, go get the latest draft of
your screenplay.

Admit it. Youve got a screenplay. Or a comics script. Or a


say, our TwoMorrows sister
publications Alter Ego or
Comic Book Artist. By the
same token, WNs interviewees
are storytellers, so there are
novel in progress. plenty of anecdotes about
Everybody wants to be a writer. Its an American national their lives and experiences,
obsession. But its so hard to tell what it takes to be a profes- too. After all, youre not going
sional (that is, a paid) writer. And even if youre a genius, how to sit in a room with Stan Lee
do you get anyone to recognize your talent? and not ask him about his life.
You can look at an artists work and pretty much get a gut Write Now! will also be a place for how-tos by such greats
feeling if its compelling and exciting, even if you cant say as Dennis ONeil, and a place to read opinions by different
exactly why. Drawing can be full of mistakes, yet still be writers, such as my own Movies vs. Comics essay in this
moving. Its a combination of factors that make art or craft issue. And it will be a place where we discuss different books,
good or bad. Same with writingits just that the factors are movies and other works in ways that we hope will inspire, anger,
more subtle. and teach you about writingand perhaps about life, too.
We all write something every day. Birthday cards. Shopping WN will also have interviews with, and articles by and about,
lists. E-mails. Love letters. Complaints to a manufacturer. Most people who are not primarily known as writers. Editors,
of us can express an idea well enough on paper to be at least publishers, executives, agents, and others are intimately
somewhat understood. But how do you judge writing for artistic involved with deciding who gets to talk to the public through
or commercial merit? More specifically, how do you evaluate mass media and who gets to send out e-mails from their
how well a writer tells a coherent story that establishes basement (not that theres anything wrong with that).
beginning, middle, and end, introduces characters and Well also talk with artists (like Mark Bagley in this issue),
conflicts, resolves everything, andoh, yeahtells us directors, producers, and other visual artists. Except in the
something about the human condition? And how do you get case of prose stories and novels, these visual interpreters are
someone in a decision-making position to take the time and key to a writers ideas literally seeing the light of day. Anyone
effort to evaluate your work and give it a yes, no, or even (most who disregards how they think does so at his or her own peril.
maddening of all) a maybe? There probably wont be a lot of discussion of formats and
Theres no single answer to these questions. But clearly, writing software here. Theres no one comics format. Some of
many people do write stories professionally, with varying levels the other disciplines do have pretty rigid formats that you can
of success (however you define success). Write Now!s role is find out about online or at the library. There are several leading
to shed some light on the mysterious process of getting to be screenplay software programs, and theyre all pretty good. As
a professional, or just getting to be as good as you can be, opposed to the playing field of my colleague, former Darkhawk
even if you never want to show your work to anybody outside of cohort, and Draw! Magazine editor, Mike Manley, theres not a
the proverbial small circle of friends. lot of technical stuff you need to be a writer. An artist can tell
Through interviews with people who write for a living, we you about pencil lead density and pen nibs and brush-hairs. To
hope to show what it takes to be a professional. The people write, type your stuff neatly, and if theres no strict format, just
you think of as overnight sensations all started like you. make sure what you write is clean and clear and easy to follow.
Hopeful, talented, driven. Many of the interviews have a similar [I repeat, type everything on a computer or word processor or
format: Whats your background? Why did you decide to even (gasp) a typewriter. Only submit handwritten samples if
become a writer? Howd you make your first sale? Questions you are already accepted as an eccentric genius in some other
like that. The difference in how the subjects answer is what field.] Put the pages in order. A staple or clip would also be a
makes each of their stories unique. good idea. (And, believe it or not, movies and TV scripts have
Even if you have no desire to be a writer, but just want some specific ways theyre supposed to be clipped or stapled.) Oh,
insight into the thought processes of people whose work you and putting your NAME and contact info somewhere on your
admire (or despise), Write Now! is full of choice tidbits. We writing would be a good idea, too, so they know where to send
focus on craft and on strategies for developing talent and the checks. (Write Now! isnt taking any unsolicited submissions,
getting exposure, so were not treading the same territory as, um, right now, however.)
Read Now! continues on page 37

2 | WRITE NOW
Alias: Spider-Man
Interview with
Brian Michael Bendis
Interview by Danny Fingeroth on 03/14/02 would be writing Spider-Man any day. As soon as Marvel
Copy-edited by Brian Michael Bendis sobered up and figured out the genius that is me, sitting in my
Transcription by Andrew Simpson, Deanne Waltz, bedroom at age fifteen.
and The LongBox.com Staff DF: Did you ever bother to actually send anything to Marvel?
BMB: I sent stuff all the time and I was like, Cant they see?

B rian Michael Bendis is, to use an unoriginal but accurate


phrase, the hottest writer in comics today. This overnight
sensation put in close to a decade of hard work before
fame and fortune (or Fortune and Glory, as it were) hit.
Starting out with his creator-owned work such as Goldfish,
Dont they know? Meanwhile, I sucked. It was terrible. It
wasnt writing submissions, it was drawing.
DF: What year would that have been?
BMB: 1984, 1985 or so.
DF: Those were some of my years.
Jinx, and Torso (all of which he both wrote and drew), he BMB: Why wouldnt you hire me? I was the guy who was filling
developed a strong personal style that ably translated Film up your desk full of crap and you couldnt even get to the good
Noir to the comics pages. With artist Michael Avon Oeming, stuff because you couldnt get through the crap.
Bendis then created the acclaimed super-hero-noir series DF: You were the second choice. After John Romita, Jr. it was
Powers. The quality of his work and his tenacious dedication going to be you.
to his craft brought him to the attention of Marvel BMB: If my name was John Romita Jr-Jr, you would have.
Comics. There, in just a few years, Bendis has
spearheaded the successful Ultimate Marvel line,
creating and writing comics that reimagine
Spider-Man and other classic characters in
Marvels pantheon for modern audiences, and
hes also used his skills on the adult-oriented
Marvel MAX line. Now, besides all that, hes a
producer and writer for the upcoming Sony
Spider-Man animated series, which will appear
on MTV. Brian took a significant portion of his
valuable time to talk to Write Now! about the art,
craft and business of writing for comics, film and
television.

DANNY FINGEROTH: Lets start off with your


background. I know you had the yeshiva [Jewish
day school] background.
BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS: Well, not yeshiva, but I
did go to a Hebrew school. I went to the Hebrew
Academy in Cleveland for ten years. I went to a
private school for Jewish boys, but it wasnt very
orthodox. They wanted us to be but if you
werent, you didnt get kicked out or anything. So,
we were really rebellious. Me and my best friend
would sneak off at lunch time and go and eat
barbecued pork at the supermarket. That was
our big rebellion. And I was by far the greatest
artist anyone in my peer group had ever met.
DF: You were?
BMB: Oh, yeah. Of course I was the only one
DF: Did you have a bunch of comics-loving
friends?
BMB: I was the guy into comics. One thing I am
proud of, I didnt pretend I wasnt into comics. I
was very proudly in comics. I still had a girlfriend.
But my comic fixation made me unique in my
peer group. Then I would proudly announce that I From Ultimate Spider-Man #17. Script by Bendis, pencils by Mark Bagley,
inks by Art Thibert. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

BENDIS | 3
BMB: Its an MFA; but its not really. I didnt get it
because I am short one history class and I had already
gotten in comics and the school situation was making
me irritable so I just got on with my life. No one has
asked to see my diploma so
DF: Any inspirational teachers there?
BMB: No. All of em had a very skewed, horrible view of
comics. There was me and a couple of other people in
or around my class that wanted to get into comics.
Dave McKean and guys like that were just breaking out
on the scene. And our teachers did not see any
difference between Bill Sienkiewicz and the guy who
draws Andy Capp. Id become such a pain in the ass
about it because it was getting to the point where I was
getting better with my comics, but when the semester
started, no matter what, Id have to put all my comic
book stuff away. I had no problem learning, I just
wanted to apply it to something I wanted to do. It was
driving me nuts, so finally I got an independent study,
where they go, Here, just go away. Yeah, it looks great,
leave us alone. So I got independent study around the
same time that I started working in a comic book
storewhich I think every comic book writer or artist
should have to do, like a tour of duty. Thats the way to
sober you up for the reality of the business.
DF: Can you go into a little more detail on that?
BMB: You get to see the distribution of comics. I dont
think a lot of people understand it and I do know that it
certainly helped me when I was starting. Right now, I
publish Powers through Image. The knowledge that I
had of all this stuffgoing to Capital [distributors],
putting the boxes in my bosss car. You get to now how
its being done on every level and you really get a clear
idea of how your books marketed to a retailer. People
always like talking to the fans. You gotta talk to the
retailers, man. Theyve got a lot of information theyve
got to disseminate.
DF: And theyre the ones who actually order.
BMB: The buck stops there. So just knowing all that
stuff, and I know it sounds like, yeah, duh, but a lot
of my friends who are very successful always come up
against the wall when they try to publish their own
From Sam & Twitch #17. Written by Bendis, art by Alex Maleev. material and they dont know why. There is just the
[2002 Todd McFarlane Productions, Inc..] basic truth of the business you just gotta feel. Youve got to be
DF: Thats right, John Romita III. in there to feel it.
BMB: I was doing this with no training, because it was a While I was in independent study I created a comic book as
Hebrew school that went from 7:30 in the morning to 6:30 at my thesis. I sold it in the stores and it was the first time,
night. There was no chance for art classes while I was there, outside of my friends and family, I had gotten the work into
so I was self-taught. peoples hands. I created an anthology of material that was
DF: There were no art classes? anything but super-heroes cause the super-hero stuff was
BMB: No art classes. I thought I was the best artist that ever going to get sh*t on at school. I just knew it was. So I did an
lived and I had no knowledge of anatomy or perspective. So I alternative comic book, not even really knowing what one was. I
was quite ready to go. I applied to art school and didnt get in wasnt reading black-&-white comics but I made one. And I
and was shocked. It was a big eye-opener and over that actually thought I had invented something.
summer and my junior year I took a lot of art classes at the DF: Thats the best way.
institute. BMB: Someone goes, You ever read Cerebus? No, whats
DF: In Cleveland? that? So I did my comic and I showed it to people. I got a lot
BMB: Cleveland Institute of Art. I took all kinds of classes and of feedback as part of my thesis and in the feedback, a lot of
I got my sh*t together pretty quickly. I got into art school and I people said, You know, Caliber publishes material like this and
went to the Institute of Art for five years. All five years. Time Fantagraphics publishes material like this, and I said, whats
well needed. that? I sent the book out to Fantagraphics and Caliber and a
DF: So you have a masters? few other places and seven months later to the day, I heard

4 | WRITE NOW
from Fantagraphics and Caliber. Long story short, I went with kind of stories you wanna tell changes. I saw my passion for
Caliber. I liked the feel of it better and I started writing and true crime stories and crime reporting invigorating me, as much
drawing my own stuff. if not more so, than super-hero fantasy. And comedy writing,
DF: You started out as an artist. What made you decide you and other kinds of writing instilled in me a sense of great satis-
wanted to write your own stuff? faction. Then all of the sudden you realize youre creating an
BMB: Its funny, I dont see a distinction as a storyteller. Its alternative comic book, though only in comics is a crime novel
kind of frustrating or invigorating for some of my collaborators. alternative.
But like, in Alias, I do all the layouts. I dont know where the DF: How does writing comedy keep you satisfied?
writing stops. I was constantly sending submissions in to BMB: Im fascinated by it. Its such an ethereal thing. Its such
editors, and it became clear that I wasnt drawing the way that a thing in the air, like, how do you tell a joke? Studying that is
the books were being done. I didnt know how to do it. Instead, fascinating to me. So theres all kinds of stuff like that. That it
I really got into the independent thing. My voice. Instead of was interesting to me as much as comics but I wanted to
waiting around for someone to make me, Ill just do it myself. make those jokes in comics.
Its the way my brain works. DF: You used the word reporting. Theres definitely a journalistic
DF: Is that something to do with your family, your schooling or sense in your work, an attempt at gritty realism, as opposed to
just some innate thing? guys coming down in spaceships or boring into the center of the
BMB: I dont know. I have a lot of friends waiting around for earth.
someone to bequeath them. Im not that guy. I just want to tell BMB: Exactly. I fell in love with the idea. Theres a certain kind
stories; so Ill just tell stories. And I started writing out of of storytelling that people like because its so real that people
necessity. know that its right outside their door. And they want to feel it
My mom instilled in us a pretty heavy sense of self-reliance. I without having to be involved in it. And I like that. Thats what
dont mean she abandoned us. She said, Listen, do it, just do writing crime fiction is.
it smart. She saw just how crazy in love I was with comics. DF: Like a dark side of the everyday world?
She was happy for me. Id be freaking out over Judge Dredd BMB: The knowledge that, if you make the wrong turn on the
and the rest of it. And I wanted to do it. I just wanted to highway, something bad might happen. Its a little different than
publish stories. When I was a kid, I thought George Prez was fantasizing being on board a spaceship. You really know that if
a rock star. There was no difference between George Prez and you make the wrong turn on your way to work, something freaky
Bruce Springsteen to me. I was like, I wanna be a rock star. could happen. I know what that rush is. Its double that when
What it is, is that feeling you get from reading a comic and I youre writing that as opposed to reading it. And theres nothing
wanted to give that feeling. Theres that tactile sensation. like finding a true story and adapting it into comic book form,
Waiting around for other people to let you do it is a
weird thought. Then I started meeting other people
at conventions who were doing the same thing and
who felt the same way. And those people are still
my friends today. I think the Caliber experience of
creating every single part of a comic book made me
the writer I am today.
DF: Now, in telling the story it sounds like this was
the Brian Bendis master plan? Was it?
BMB: Oh, no.
DF: How did that evolve? I think thats the thing that
would be interesting to people reading a magazine
like this.
BMB: Its funny. I dont know how things evolved,
but I knew I wanted to be a mainstream comic book
artist. And in the college years, you kind of grow up.
There are certain fantasies you have for a story you
think youre going to tell. I had this Punisher story
that I would write and draw like fifty times. I must
have rewritten and redrawn it fifty times. As soon as
its ready, Ill give it to Marvel and theyll just
publish it. And then, over time, you kind of grow up
and realize, thats not how it works.
DF: The fact that you had that one story you wanted
to tell fifty times is very interesting. A lot of people
would say they have fifty stories they want to tell.
BMB: There were a bunch of stories like that I
wanted to tell. Whats funny is that I remember
drawing that Punisher story until I got it right. It was
never right. Okay, Ill do it again. This time it will be
right. I think a lot of famous comic artists do that,
dont they? Whats funny is, your sensibility of the Peter Parker meets the Fantastic Four in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #9. Story by Bendis. Art by Jim
Mahfood. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
BENDIS | 5
From Fortune And Glory #1, written and drawn by Brian. [2002 Brian Michael Bendis.]
as with Torso or some of the smaller works that Ive done. And DF: I was reading that you hooked up with Mike Gustovich early on.
it kind of humbles you as a writer, because you realize that you BMB: When I was finishing high school, and then in college,
can pull stuff out of your ass all day, but theres nothing more Mike was there and Mike had actually posted at the college,
interesting than something that really happened to someone. when I was taking those courses to get my act together, that
Thats three times more imaginative than anything you would he was looking for an assistant. And I went, Oh right, I could
have ever thought of. And there is always something true in be his assistant. The truth is, I was not good enough to
everything that I write, including Spider-Man, because you cant be his assistant. But he was so nice. He would let me come to
beat it. You cant beat reality. his house and pick his brain. What I loved about Mike, Mike
DF: Now, why comics? Why not novels or movies right away? had the attitude about comics that I admired the most which
BMB: I love comics. Its weird because Ive had some success was his craftsmans attitude. Which is to say, you know youve
in film, and I would have probably made more money in that got a job to do. Mike was teaching me a lot of things that I
than in comics, even though I havent made big film money. But wasnt actually getting in college and I would go to my college
little money in film is better than the best money in comics. classes, and Id say, Are we supposed to be putting together
DF: Who turned you on to comics? photo reference files? And the teacher goes, Oh, yeah. I
BMB: Ive had them in my life ever since I was little. But I do forgot to tell you guys. I would have never known that. Mike
know that, because I was from a divorced family, I know the said nuts and bolts things about comic book creation.
psychological underpinning of having these people in my life to Eventually, I would get to do some assisting for him. First thing
replace whatever. I ever got published was filling in his blacks or painting on his
DF: Thats why people get hooked on TV shows or whatever else. stars.
But if comics click in your brain at the right age... DF: I worked with him a few times way back when. Whats he
BMB: I love comics. It is a pure love of the thing. doing now?
DF: You were about six when you started reading them? BMB: He was working in advertising in Cleveland. I saw him
BMB: I cant remember not reading them. I cant remember not just before I left Cleveland. I had to look for him because he
scribbling them. I dont remember not doing them. moved a couple of times and I lost track of him. I was just

6 | WRITE NOW
dying to give him the big updates. I know he would just be DF: When one is on the outside looking in, there seems to be an
thrilled to bits that I actually got to do comics. He really invisible barrier to entry into comics. Is there any advice or any
believed in me. anecdote you can give about the conceptual and real impedi-
DF: If you hadnt found him, it sounds like would have definitely ments that keep, amateurs from becoming professionals?
found somebody. BMB: I guess the reason Ive no problem talking about how,
BMB: No, [meeting Mike was] a lucky break. I think theres a even though I was in comics, I was still drawing caricatures, is
reality to the business that a lot of people dont appreciate. that I think its good for people to hear that. I think there are
And that has helped me make some better business decisions. people out there with immense amounts of talent who think
Just knowing how the business works, and so on. And I am that there is something wrong with them. Thats how I felt.
extremely grateful to Mike. Mike lettered my first comic for me Even in independent comics you think that someone else in
as a favor. Cause my lettering sucked so bad that I was never independent comics is doing so much better than you. I didnt
going to see publication. know Ed Brubaker when we were both at Caliber but now we
At age eighteen, I made the bold decision to only make a know each other. Back then, Id say, Screw him. Or Michael
living as a writer or an artist. If its in advertising, greeting Allred was the focal point of a lot of my frustration with myself.
cards, making caricatures; as long as Im writing and drawing I know Mike now and Ive confessed this to him, and I know he
for a living I dont care. So, over the last twelve years, I have doesnt understand it, but he humored me. And I confessed to
done just about everything you can do. That would include him that, because he had yo-yos with his characters on them,
thousands and thousands of caricatureswhich pays and all sorts of other cool stuff, I would focus all my anger at
extremely well. Seventy-five bucks an hour. You can do a couple Michael. This faceless person. But I do think its good for up
nights a week and you can work on your comic the rest of the and coming people to hear, that its a job. Its a great job if you
week. get it all together but it is a job like all other jobs. And if it
DF: Caricatures for what? looks at all glamorous, well, of all the glamorous jobs on Earth,
BMB: For people. Its sickening. comic book creation is the lowest.
DF: Youd sit on the street and do peoples portraits? DF: Lower than radio stardom? Howard Stern says that radio is
BMB: I never did that, cause thats just sitting out in the sun, the lowest rung on the show business ladder.
looking sad. I had an agent and he would get me gigs. I would BMB: My point is, if you want to be in radio and youre not in
go to these fancy parties or bar mitzvahs, and I would just sit radio, it looks like the most glamorous job in the world. If you
there and draw the people. want to be in comics and youre not, same thing. For some
DF: You needed an agent for that? reason being on the other side of a table at a convention
BMB: More like a talent rep than an agent. More like, come to makes this kind of barrier. But its not. Theres a very fine line
Funtastic Entertainment and well get you jugglers and carica- between a reader and a creator in comics. I think a lot of
turists. people know that and I think its helpful. I wish I would have
DF: And this is all in the Cleveland area? known that. I think I would have been better off if Id had a
BMB: The truth of the matter isand this is the reality of better sense of other peoples lives in comics. I think thats
independent comicsId won the Eisner Award for best new why knowing Mike Gustovich was so helpful to me, as well as
talent, but four days later I was at someones bar mitzvah doing some of the other things you pick up over the years. You learn
caricatures. As nice as it is that people liked Torso, no one was stuff. I think, either you are going to do it or youre not going to
buying it. I made no money off of it when it was a mini-series. I do it and nothing should deter you. If you have to work a day
was fine with that. That was just a reality. You didnt hear me job it doesnt mean you cant draw at night. If youre going to
bitch once. I chose the endeavor. But thats the glamour of it. do it, you should do it and it shouldnt matter if someone is
DF: At least you got free food at the bar mitzvahs. paying you or not. You should do it just because you have to.
BMB: And I got punched at one once. Someone was drunk and Its a good-for-the-soul kind of thing. I know it sounds really
didnt like the way I drew her big nose. flaky. People like to pretend they were born famous and
DF: So, maybe caricatures werent for you. talented.
BMB: I also worked at the Cleveland Plain Dealer for a couple DF: Did you have a personal deadline in terms of, If I didnt
years. I did a cartoon in their Sunday magazine. make it by age blank, Im going to law school?
DF: You walked into the Plain Dealer offices and said, Id like to BMB: I didnt have an I give up deadline, but if something
show you my samples? didnt happen by thirty I wouldve been really pissed. The thing
BMB: I tried for five years and finally caught them on a good is, I look back and I realize that I wasnt ready. I just wasnt
day. Anyone who published anything that had offices anywhere ready. I didnt have a voice yet. I was on the right track, but the
near me, I was so up their ass. way I approached it all, a lot of work needed to be done. I had
DF: Now, what made you stay in Cleveland as opposed to going to learn how to pencil and ink and letter to be a better writer
to New York or Los Angeles? and Im so glad that it came to me when I was in my late
BMB: Born and raised, had to stay there. twenties/early thirties, as opposed to my early twenties
DF: But a lot of people dont. because a lot of people who get it in their early twenties,
BMB: There wasnt any way to move. Wasnt an option. By the theyre not fully developed. They might be flashy, but theyre not
time it became an option, Id scrounged up enough ways to fully developed, and theyre gone in two years. There are all
make a living, that losing them would have hurt. A magazine these guys who were bursting on the scene when I was hoping
would hire me, the Plain Dealer was hiring meand that was a to be bursting on the scene and theyre all gone. I dont know
good paycheckand I had a talent broker. To start over again where they went. In relative perspective, Im thrilled with how it
would have been too hard. all worked out.

BENDIS | 7
BMB: Cool. When we were doing the Kraven the
Hunter story in Ultimate Spider-Man, we were faced
with having to try to live up to the greatest Kraven
story ever, DeMatteis Kravens Last Hunt.
DF: You pull off a thing that a lot of people try but
dont succeed at, which is overlapping dialogue. It
reminded me a lot of the way [director] Robert
Altman uses it in his films.
BMB: That is very conscious. Robert Altman, I
worship him. I think the present comic creator that
comes the closest and is probably my biggest
influence in comics is Howard Chaykin. He paved
the way for all horny little Jewish men. Ive gone on
record many times by saying, with Alias, with some
of the controversy which surrounded its debut, I
dont think theres anything that Howard Chaykin
From The Young Crumb Story in American Splendor #4. Written by Harvey Pekar, art by R. Crumb.
[2002 Harvey Pekar.] didnt do twenty years ago. He was creative.
Reading his work was the first time that I was
DF: It worked out quite well. conscious that someone was trying to create natural dialogue
BMB: I was literally having ramen noodle nightmares, I was so as opposed to plot-forwarding dialogue. He would start a scene
hungry. that was already going on. Youd come in in mid-sentence in a
DF: It comes up in a lot of your work, the ramen noodles. scene in Times Square. And usually that mid-sentence was a
BMB: I know, because it haunts me. very important sentence. If you werent paying attention, youd
DF: I have another fill-in-the-blank for you. Talent plus blank be lost. And youd have to read the thing a couple of times to
equals success, however one defines success. get something new out of it. Thats a very big influence on me.
BMB: Luck. I think thereve been some big breaks that Ive What I did that Im proud of is I would go see what influ-
had. Right place, right time. Its all throwing sh*t at the wall. I ences him, and I started looking for my own influences outside
was constantly throwing sh*t at the wall. All my life I was of comics. A lot of guys in comics, they see something they like
always throwing sh*t at the wall. Some of it had to stick. You in comics and steal it. Instead, what you really ought to do is
cant get anywhere not throwing sh*t at the wall. go back to the source. Instead of worshiping Frank Miller why
DF: You cant be afraid to fail. Changing focus a bit, Id like to dont you go back and worship Steranko? Or go back even
talk about some of your creative influences. I see a lot of Harvey further. People dont do that and its so much fun to do. I heard
Pekar in your work, and not just because hes a Cleveland native, a quote from Sting, that rock-and-roll is a bastard art form.
too. That there is no one thing that makes rock-and-roll rock-and-
BMB: Hes not an influence, but hes one of the guys in this roll, that it only really succeeds when somebody makes the
world whos made my life very easy. He sort of broke down a conscious personal decision to pull something new into it from
little wall that made my Fortune and Glory not a hard sell. I outside like jazz, country, or opera. Something vital happens
never really considered him a writing influence or anything. then. I think comics are the same way. There is no one thing
DF: Have you read his stuff? that makes a great comic. Each time someones gone outside
BMB: Yeah. But I read him for the wrong reason. I was a huge of comics and pulled something into it. For their own reasons,
Letterman freak. You ever see him on Letterman? Heres a something really exciting happens. A lot of artists have done
good comic. that, but not a lot of writers. Theres a kind of writing that
DF: I remember when I first read his stuff in the 70s, just mind- excites me by writers like David Mamet or Richard Price or
blowing, unlike anything else.
BMB: I cant even imagine how cool that must have been.
DF: I see a lot of J.M. DeMatteis non-super-hero work in your
work. His Brooklyn Dreams, especially.
BMB: What knocked my socks off by him was Blood. I was at a
very impressionable age as far as the kind of writing I was
going to do. I would say Blood was very influential on me. It
was a big eye-opener to me. Frank Miller and Allen Moore are
real influences, but there were certain people that came
around that surprised me, and Blood was a real surprise.
DF: Did you ever read Brooklyn Dreams?
BMB: Yeah, I did. I liked it a lot.
DF: That influence shows especially in Fortune and Glory.
BMB: Its funny, I never made the connection. I guess you
could see that. Thats an interesting thing. Not consciously, but
I could see that. Im a huge fan of his.
DF: Im sure hell be happy to hear that. Hell probably be in the
same issue of the magazine that you will. [And he is. See the
J.M. DeMatteis interview elsewhere in this issue.DF]
Brians cameo in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #9, story by Brian, art by Jim Mahfood.
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
8 | WRITE NOW
Woody Allen. They create a naturalistic dialogue and are very didnt have words to put them in, and when I saw some of the
focused on language as a kind of music. I just made a people who invented film noir talk about it, it was like a
conscious effort to see if that could be accomplished in religious experience. Im very influenced by the work of
comics. That is my personal journey, which wont end anytime cinematographers and I could laundry list them if you wanted
soon. That, to me, is the big constant. If I bean my head me to. Janusz Kaminski, whos worked with Spielberg the last
against the wall over anything, its about that. six or seven years since Schindlers List. John Alton invented
DF: Im impressed that you pull it off. A lot of people try it. Very the film noir look, all the classic film noir. He invented the
often I say to myself, this guy thinks hes writing a screenplay theory, dont be afraid of the black, be afraid of the white.
but hes not. Hes writing a comic. Not every cinematic technique Gordon Willis, who did the Godfather pictures. Conrad Hall. I
works in a comic. But you manage to make it work. could go on, but the important thing is that they have a
BMB: Thanks. When you see that, they are trying to write a philosophy. Theres another one. No one will really know this
screenplay they either didnt sell or theyre trying to sell it for one but his name is Vittorio Storraro. He did a lot of Warren
the screen to some studio. I think, this goes for everybody, its Beatty movies. Hes got a philosophy of color theory that were
got to be a good comic book. People try to make comics to applying heavily to Daredevil right now that I just value tremen-
sell to the movies and
theyre shocked that it
doesnt work. And it
never works. You always
see these announce-
ments, even some big
names have announced,
about some multimedia
character theyve
created, and it ends up
being successful in no
medium. If someone
likes your comic, great,
good for you, maybe
youll be able to set it
up somewhere. But if
you go chasing it, man,
it never happens.
The same thing with
creativity. Some people
who want to be writers
dont want to read
anything other than
comics. Youve probably
heard me say this in More from Fortune and Glory. [2002 Brian Michael Bendis.]
other interviews. It always becomes like those clones in dously. I believe that Visions of Light is the best documentary
Michael Keatons Multiplicity. His copies are fuzzy. Thats what on making a comic book Ive ever seen. All the applications of
you get artistically and in writing. Artistically its very obvious, visual storytelling are in the movie. The cinematographers job
you see it right there, but in writing, writers see it, but a lot of is to tell a story visually, and any comic book person should
fans, if its with a good artist, they dont notice. As a reader, I see this and study it.
blank right out when I see something like that. DF: Is it rentable or buyable?
DF: I think you bring a fresh perspective. You sort of have the BMB: I have it on DVD. Its out. Its killer. Its so great to see all
best of both worlds. Youre certainly enough of a comics fan to these beautiful images and hear the guys talk about em. I
know what came before, but you have these other sensibilities. could watch it fifty times.
BMB: I will tell you that I take compliments very badly. So I DF: Are you a big Raymond Chandler fan?
dont know what to say when you say that. I crave them so BMB: Im a big Raymond Chandler fan. Im a big Elmore
desperately, and then when I get them I dont know what to do Leonard fan. I tend to lean toward people that, like Richard
with them. Price, even though I know people like Richard Price lean toward
DF: Dont worry about it. Im much the same way. As far as Raymond Chandler, I kind of like Richard Price more because
creative influences, are there any writers, screenwriters, its a little more contemporary and a little more lively. I like that
directorsanybody weve not touched on? a little bit more. Its stuff that excites me to no end.
BMB: Martin Scorsese. And an immense number of cinematog- DF: So now youve got your feet in both camps. The indie camp
raphers that have changed my life. Theres a movie called and the Marvel big-time camp. Pretty neat accomplishment.
Visions of Light. Its a documentary made by the American BMB: I lucked out on the Marvel projects. Ive been very, very
Cinematographers Institute. They made it for themselves and lucky to have Joe Quesada in my life. I always saw myself as a
they released it in theaters and I saw this movie just about the character writer and it was nice that, both Todd [McFarlane] and
time I started doing Goldfish. It changed my life. Because I was Joe, pretty much at the same time, read my stuff and liked it.
working on things in my head, particularly about film noir and I Then Joe suggested to Bill [Jemas] that I would be good for

BENDIS | 9
for a few issues and also waiting to kill Uncle Ben for five
issues. We understand that Uncle Ben is going to die, and
thats horrible for Peter. Thereve been a couple of scenes with
them that build up your anticipation of the horror.
DF: But the themes are timeless.
BMB: The themes, even the wrestling is timeless. Especially
today. I was looking at it and going, Oh, look at thiswrestling
is more timely today than it was when Stan wrote it.
DF: Theres wrestling in all the early Marvels. Its a motif.
BMB: Stan must have liked wrestling.
DF: Well, it was popular. I remember watching it when I was a
kid.
BMB: But I didnt actually answer your question. You asked me
How do you keep it from being repetitious or formulaic? The
key is, even though youre adapting a story that someone else
wrote, the characters new life kinda takes over. They become
different characters. And even though theyre going through
similar situations, the fact that its modern day and the
changes you make kind of change the characters. They kind of
take over. I guess thats how it stays fresh. Gwen Stacey
almost writes herself. Shes based on someone I know and
she always surprises me.
DF: In terms of the format for comics, the traditional pamphlet
versus the trade paperbackwhat are your thoughts on that?
BMB: I have pretty strong opinions on that.
DF: Lets hear em.
BMB: My audience is split right down the middle as far as
comics or trades go. We sell just as many trades for Powers
as we do single copies. Same thing for Ultimate Spider-Man.
Obviously theres an audience for both, so why should we stop
making comics if some people like trades? That seems silly.
Like why release a movie in the theater if half the people like
to watch it at home? I dont care how you read them. Im very
conscious of how much comics cost and I try to cram as much
fun, or entertainment or whatever it is Im selling into the book.
Even in Powers, in the letters columns, just because its a
Ashley Woods cover to Sam & Twitch Book One: Udaku. couple of pages of letters doesnt mean it shouldnt be enter-
[2002 Todd McFarlane Productions, Inc..] taining. Cram the puppy. I do think of the overall arc and what
Ultimate Spider-Man. Talk about luck. My DD script was on the trade collection will be like while Im writing, so Im
Joes mind when Bill asked him for writer suggestions. conscious of both and happy when people buy either one. Its
DF: Ive had projects approved because the editor needed funny, cause sometimes online I see someone saying, You
something to read on his lunch hour. know what? Im only buying this in trade. And I go, Well,
BMB: So you know that feeling, too. You go, Wow, that was a thats not an insult. Youre saying it like youre mad at me. Im
big thing. My life will change because of this little thing that thrilled.
just happened. DF: Well, the paradigm we used to have was the idea that every
DF: So, on Ultimate Spider-Man, you kind of came up with this comic is not only somebodys first issue of that comic, but maybe
new take on the Marvel Universe. What are you doing to make the first comic theyve read, period. Is that still an operative idea,
sure it doesnt become a new formula or repetitious? How do or is that considered pass?
you keep yourself on track with that? BMB: I am a firm, firm believer in that. Even though I have side
BMB: With Spider-Man, you feel like youre taking a classic like stepped it a couple times for the sake of finishing up a story,
a Shakespeare play and youre adapting it. The essential and that always happens when you get to the last chapter of a
stories still hold up because the truths are so honest. When I story arc, sometimes a sacrifice is made. Bill Jemas gave us
got the Spider-Man gig and I really examined the character, I the opportunity to put recap pages in Ultimate Spider-Man and
realized that if his story were told today, it would totally hold now I put them in Daredevil and Alias. Im not the kind of
up. The changes we made were not thematic or character- writer who likes any exposition. It bores me to write, I get
based, but therere a lot of different ways you can tell a story. annoyed when Im reading fill-in-the-audience thought balloons.
Obviously there were more pages available to us to tell the The only person that was good at it was Frank Miller. In
story than Stan and Steve had in 1962, so we were able to Daredevil he always found an interesting way to tell you how
really flesh Spider-Mans origin out in a cinematic wayto use the guy got his powers without sounding like he was telling you.
the most overused term in comics. The recap pages are, I think, a very good thing for the kind of
We had more time to spend with the characters. I think the writing that I do. So, I can go heres the powers, heres what
biggest couple of decisions we made were the lack of costume happened, and now the story continues. I havent heard any

10 | WRITE NOW
complaints in years.
DF: Mark Gruenwald used say that a comic should be a
complete unit of entertainment. I feel thats something you do
well, that a lot of people dont. A reader doesnt want to feel
theyve read a comic, and, Okay, that was $2.99, and I didnt
even get a chapter. I got a scene.
BMB: Im so sensitive to that because I bought a lot of
comics. When I buy a comic and I dont like it, it bums me out.
Thats the worst.
DF: How do you feel about captions and thought balloons as
storytelling elements?
BMB: Thought balloons irk me a lot. Thats just a personal
choice. Thought balloons can be a really cheap out for actual
writing.
DF: You do use first person narrative captions though.
BMB: In Alias and Daredevil. The decision there was that Alias
is a character study first and a plot second. So being in her
mind, a little goes a long way. Thats another lesson a lot of
people dont get. A little in the mindthats enough. And with
Daredevil, because his powers are so sensory, there are a lot
of clever things to do inside of his head that you cant do with
other characters. Peter Parker we do it with, too, and thats the
classic Stan Lee thing.
DF: But really, doesnt a thought balloon serve the same
purpose? I understand that aesthetically its different, but narra-
tively?
BMB: Im talking about the thought balloons as informing the
audience of something plot-wise. That is very cheap. Or when
the art doesnt show it, so you have to tell it. Not a big fan of
that.
DF: Im not advocating doing it badly.
BMB: Oh, I know. Im just saying its cheap unless theres a
damn good reason for it. If there isnt a damn good reason,
then youre probably cheating. Thats a question as a writer
youre going to have to ask yourself. Am I lying to myself Compelling, yet clear, recap splash from Alias #2. Story by Brian.
here? Something that is important to me is the honesty with Art by Michael Gaydos. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
your audience and honesty with yourself as a writer. If youre
lying to yourself, youre not being a good writer and if youre each. Is it a problem or challenge for you and for Marvel? Does
lying to yourself then youre lying to your audience and your it remind people that theyre reading fiction, ruin the illusion?
audience hates being lied to. They know its happening, they Does it confuse Hollywood producers? Do you think the multi-
feel somethings wrong and they start getting pissed. We all verses will have to merge eventually, or would you rather not
just want to be told a story. My life was lousy today. Ive got deal with this altogether?
twenty minutes. I want to sit on the cantake me away. Ill give BMB: Thats a hell of a question.
you my two dollars, just give me something else to think about, DF: I know. Its probably more like five questions.
and dont be dishonest with me, Ive had a bad day. My boss is BMB: To answer the question on the merging of the multi-
an idiot, dont you be one, too. And, really, thats the job. It verses, it isnt a multiverse. Its just the two universes. And,
doesnt get any more difficult than that. And if youre trying to really, its not even that. Its just stories about Spider-Man from
create a movie property, instead of a comic book, youre two different perspectives.
deceiving yourself and youre deceiving your audience, and that DF: Well, it is, but Marvel has a half-dozen universes, although
goes back to what we were talking about before. the main ones are certainly those two.
DF: Something like Spider-Man is a franchise. Do you think BMB: People have no problem seeing the difference between
someone can sit down and create a franchise, or do you just get the movie Batman and the comic book Batman versus the TV
lucky? show Batman. They just want to hear a story. They dont care.
BMB: You just get lucky. Every franchise thats ever been DF: If there are a cartoon, a movie, and a TV show, I think that
created, someone just pulled it out of their ass. Im not saying people understand that those are different worlds. But what if
that Stan pulled it out of his ass. He wasnt thinking that when there were two Batman movies out at the same time, with one
he wrote this. Every movie thats been made out of a book, where Robin was female and one where Robin was male, or
same way. The guy wrote a book about his family, he was just something like that?
trying to get rid of some demons, he wasnt trying to set up a BMB: Even if there were two different movies out, people
deal with Scott Rudin. And it never worked. wouldnt care. They could tell the difference. The same thing
DF: I enjoy your Spider-Man, Brian, and I enjoy Straczynskis. But with the comics. If Ultimate Spider-Man was an online comic
in my mind, I find myself mixing up things that happened in instead of a printed comic, there wouldnt be any question.
Bendis continues on page 14
BENDIS | 11
Michael Avon Oeming's translation
of three pages of Brian's script for
Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl #1.
[2002 Brian Michael Bendis &
Michael Avon Oeming.]

12 | WRITE NOW
More from Powers: Who Killed Retro
Girl #1.
[2002 Brian Michael Bendis &
Michael Avon Oeming.]

BENDIS| 13
talent. People dont even know that, when Ultimate
Spider-Man was offered to him, his instinct was not do
the book because hed had done so much Spider-Man. He
read the scripts and saw that theres not going to be a
whole lot of Spider-Man, but when there is, he said, Well,
what I want to do is every single time we see Spider-Man
on panel, I want to see it from an angle I never did
before, that I havent seen before. I said, Man, thats all
I want to hear. I just got the art from issue #21, just
went over it this morning. Theres big fight scene, and I
never saw these angles before.
DF: Are you guys going biweekly with Ultimate?
BMB: I think the plan is later in the year to start doing
eighteen issues a year. We are ahead, we can handle it. I
cant wait to write them, Mark cant wait to draw them. I
said to him, You wont get burned out? He went, No,
Im good. Im in. I said, All right, lets go for it then.
DF: If you think about it, TV shows are weekly.
BMB: Thats my answer when people give me crap about
writing too many books. I write one book a week. If Aaron
Sorkin can write one episode a week, I can write a twenty
page comic every week.
DF: I want to talk about adapting comics to other media in
general and specifically about the new Spidey cartoon and
your movie projects. Can you talk about the different needs
of other media, and specifically about the new Spidey
animated series?
BMB: The eye openers about the different media I
covered in Fortune and Glory, where I was overwriting my
screenplay of Goldfish. Because comics are novel-like, you
From Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl #1, written by Brian, with art by Michael Avon Oeming.
can veer off in different directions, and if you want to get
[2002 Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming.]
off the A story for a while and follow the secondary
Bendis continued from page 11 There would just be different characters around, youre welcome to do so if youre keeping it
media. And the thing is, just interesting. In a movie, youve got to move the plot forward.
look at the sales on the books. Less is more. Ive talked about the Goldfish screenplay
DF: Theyre both certainly good books. clocking in at 280 pages for the first draft and getting it down
BMB: People arent confusing them. I dont think theres going to 120. Having some pieces of the comic book being lengthy
to be a merging. I just think its the interpretation of the diatribes, just two people yelling at each other, you see it in the
character. I think weve proven ourselves to be honest in our movie script as one line. I was feeling my oats with language.
care, in our quest. And I think weve shaken off those people Sometimes you get carried away. Today I would give it one line.
who are screaming New Universe and Heroes Reborn. I guess the best thing that happened to me as a writer is the
DF: Thats really not the implication I meant. Im just sort of challenge of adapting my own work. It makes you take a fresh
judging based on my own brain where Ill be thinking, I like eye to stuff again. You look at it two months later and say,
Ultimate, I like Amazing, now which book did that thing Im Hmmm, thats an interesting thing I did there, but I shouldnt
recalling happen in? In which one does Aunt May know Peter is have done that other thing. Or you see a better way to do it.
Spidey and in which one doesnt she? DF: Its remarkable that youre able to maintain that control over
BMB: Heres one thing. I think there will always be something your work as far as getting to adapt it yourself. Most people
that confuses somebody. I think that the two books are very dont get to write their own adaptations. How did you swing that?
clearly defined. I certainly dont worry too much about what BMB: I had a great passion for film. I knew I wanted to do it.
studios might be confused about. I do know that my job was to And you know what, when they want what you have, the best
make sure Marvel had a product that would be easily saleable thing you can do is say no. Once you say no, it shocks the sh*t
to people who saw the movie. Now that Ive seen the movie, I out of them, and they dont know what to do. They go, We
feel very good about that. And Sam Raimi has nice feelings wanna buy your book, but you cant write the movie. I go, No.
about Spider-Man as well. It was wild to see, because we were Then they go, No? Then I go, I wanna write it. They go, Oh,
both adapting the same source material for a modern day okay. Its a little more complicated, but thats basically what
audience. So it was cool to see the similarities and the differ- ends up happening. The only adaptation I havent written is
encesand we actually had a little talk over thatto see Powers, because Sony made it clear theyve had horrible situa-
someone else have basically the same assignment that you tions with people doing adaptations of their own work. They did
do, and to see what they do with it. include me as producer and have included me throughout the
DF: Lets talk art a bit. Mark Bagley has always been a terrific process. I do think that will be the last time I ever do not write
artist. I think hes doing some of his best work ever with you. it myself. I could have written it ten times in the amount of
BMB: Im very grateful to Mark. I find him to be a tremendous time its taken them to write the first draft. And in the time it

14 | WRITE NOW
took me to explain myself to the writers and producers, I could BMB: No. First off, its on regular television. There isnt a
have just done it. bunch of swearing and so on. It takes place chronologically
DF: Are all your movie projects based on your own material? after the event in the movie.
BMB: I tend to lean toward taking the offers based on my own DF: Peters in high school or college?
material. Spider-Man, of course, is not based on my material. BMB: Hes in college and trying to balance his life. There will
Were very close to closing the deal for me to write Jinx. Im be some similarities to the Ultimate Spider-Man comic in the
pretty excited about that. Enough time has gone by with that ongoing process of trying to keep the balance, which is the great
where I could really carve into that thing. Carve it like a turkey. Spider-Man story. With great powers must come great responsi-
DF: Tell me about the upcoming Spidey cartoon series. bility is the theme of the show, and he must live up to it.
BMB: Just yesterday, I was recording, my first ever, recording of The cast was made up of my first choices from all the
my dialogue with real actors speaking the words out loud and auditions. We have a great Spider-Man, Neil Patrick Harris who
acting them. To be honest, Im still very freaked out about was Doogie Howser. He is the perfect Spider-Man, hes just
yesterday. really exceptional. I was freaked out. Do I sound freaked out?
DF: Freaked out good or freaked out bad? Im just rambling.
BMB: Good. It went extremely well but it happens very DF: You sound pretty calm. So, living in Portland, youre just a
quicklythe casting and the recording. Theres a lot of devel- hop, skip, and a jump to LA.
opment time spent on the scripts, and then all of a sudden BMB: That was great. As soon as it was over, I got the hell out
they say, We got our cast. Were recording. Come on in. Then of there. When I lived in Cleveland, the few times I did have to
youre there and youre standing in front of a cast. Promises come out, thats a big trip and a long ride home. Its nice
were made to me that it would sound a certain way, that it nowcar to the airport and then back home. You can go home
would sound the way I had hoped. Im not a big animation fan with your soul intact, is what I say.
and I wanted the dialogue to feel theatrical, sort of like real DF: Sounds good to me. Is there anything else you want to say
acting was going on and not over-annunciating cartoon acting. about the show?
They said that was what they wanted and yesterday was the BMB: Its still being animated. Its exciting because it doesnt
first day where yes, its true thats what they wanted and thats look like anything else Ive seen on television. Its the first
what they did. Its recorded, its done, the actors arent coming thing Ive ever had produced. With my screenplays, I dont know
back for a month. Im like, Oh, my God they did it. The actors
were all in the same room. A lot of the time they have them all
do it separately. If you have them do it together, we can
actually get some chemistry between them, hopefully, and it Bendis continues on page 18
can sound like theyre talking to each
other. And dammit, they did it. I was
shocked. People promise this stuff all the
time, but usually no one does anything.
DF: Have they approved a seasons worth
or just a pilot?
BMB: Were doing a cable season, which
is like thirteen episodes. Weve got the
first six laid out pretty good. We have an
arc to the series.
DF: And its going to be on MTV?
BMB: On MTV, night time. Its not for
kids. I think theyre leaning toward The
10 Spot time slot. I think thats what
they call it. I dont have any say in that.
DF: Are you writing all the episodes?
BMB: No, thats not how it works. Im
one of the executive producers. Me and
the story editor concocted the episodes. I
pick the ones I really, really want to write.
DF: Who is the story editor?
BMB: Her name is Marsha Griffin. Im the
guy who knows nothing about animation,
and she knows everything about
animation. So we, with the other execu-
tives from Marvel and Sony, put together
the arc of the series. I wrote the pilot, Im
writing the third episode, and its kind of
a reactionary episode to the pilot. Its a
very not Saturday morning show. Its not
super-villain of the week.
DF: Its not Spawn either, I would imagine?
From Daredevil, v. 2, issue #26. Story by Brian, art by Alex Maleev. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

BENDIS | 15
From the classic Daredevil, v. 1, #171, written and
penciled by Frank Miller, one of Brian's idols. Since
Miller was both writer and penciler, he lettered in the
script on the art boards, allowing him to see just how the
size and shape of his balloons and captions would affect
the finished story. Klaus Janson's inks highlight the mood
set by the script and pencils. [There'll be much insight on
the thought process involved when the same person
writes and draw in the next issue of DFWN, when we
talk with Savage Dragon and Spider-Man writer-artist
Erik Larsen.]
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

16 | WRITE NOW
More Miller-Janson magic from DD, v1, #171. The
nine-panel grid compresses the action dynamically.
Notice how the lettering is an important part of the
page's design. Master letterer Joe Rosen captures the
look and feel of Miller's own lettering, and subtly adds
his own flair, while keeping the text crisp and legible.
And thought balloons give the reader novel-style
insights into characters' minds.
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

BENDIS | 17
Bendis continued from page 15
DF: Do you do the exercises
if theyve ever been read by every day, or just when you
the people whove bought feel like you need a jump
them. [The money I was paid start?
for them let me get] rid of my BMB: If I feel like Im not
student loans that I thought feeling it. Im usually excited
Id have till I was 80 or 90 to work on whatever Im
years old. As I had come to going to work on that day.
terms with the fact that I Another thing I do thats a big
would just do independent part of my writing is Im a
comics and draw my bike rider. In fact, I just got
characters all day, I had also home from my bike ride. I
come to terms with the fact I spend two or three hours on
could write a screenplay every a bike, riding all over town. In
year and no one would read fact I dont even have a
it. Its nice that a project of drivers license. Im just
mine is actually in production. riding my bike. Hours are
DF: Have you written plays? spent blowing through the air.
BMB: My love is playwriting. Any writing problem, whatever
Thats the stuff I try to pull in. the solution, whatever plot
People talking to each other needed crafting, by the time I
instead of at each other. I get home, its crafted better
havent tried to sell my plays. than anything I could ever
I actually do them as hope for. I know its an
exercises for the comics. essential part of my writing.
DF: Do you have other writing DF: Any books or courses you
exercises? Do you keep a recommend? I know youve
journal? mentioned David Mamet.
BMB: I dont keep a journal. I BMB: Theres a book called
have many writing exercises. I Story by Robert McKee.
love writing. Drawing was very DF: Have you taken his
laborious and is still very hard course?
for me to get whats in my BMB: I have not taken it. My
head on paper. I love to do it, wife bought the course for
but its very difficult. Mike me. I have not been able to
Mignola has said that Jim Lee get there. I will hopefully get
can whip out drawings and Bendis and Mark Bagley combine their skills to create powerful, intimate scenes, to take it sometime.
such as this one from Ultimate Spider-Man #22. Inks by Art Thibert.
have a party, but for Mike, its DF: Its worth taking. I think I
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
very hard. Thats me. Its very was the first person in comics
hard. Writing is very exciting. I give myself things to do to explore to take it.
certain things about the character. This is a lesson I learned BMB: Cool. Im absolutely going to take it. The only reason I
from John Totleben, who was someone I knew when I was young. recommend Story, Theres certainly many, many other books on
He did sculptures, his Swamp Thing sculptures, and thats how writing, and theyre all terrible. First of all, theyre boring to read
hed figure out how a painting of Swamp Thing should look. He and I just wonder, If youre such a good writer, then why cant
would literally craft each leaf that went on Swamp Things body. you entertain me right here? Why are you boring me? McKees
He was doing that to get sort of a sense of the character. What book is interesting and it puts into words that you think, but
Ill do is, Ill take two characters and put them in a room and dont know what the words for it are. It was one of those things
start typing. Theres nothing going on. They dont know each where I read it and went, Oh, yeah! Thats right! Thats what
other. Eventually, one of them will start to annoy the other one. its called! Weve all grown up with the three-act story
Youll start writing and the conversation will happen. structure.
DF: Two characters like Spider-Man and Mary Jane or two DF: I think its biological. I think its in humans.
characters you pull out of thin air? BMB: It was fascinating to me before I knew what structure
BMB: Either way. Its an exercise that sometimes will become was. I had written and entire graphic novel that was very close
Peter. If you want to know what Peter and Mary Jane will do in to complete in structure just based on instinct. Thats very
a room, then put them in a room. Write it. Dont worry about fascinating to me. Im not patting myself on the back. Im
the plot. You just write it and theyll surprise you and it shocked.
surprises yourself. Its also good to write not for money. You DF: Mamet, do you still recommend his book?
kind of feel like youre painting. Youre just slopping stuff BMB: Im still recommending his On Directing Film. Its an
around and see what happens. My best stuff in mainstream excellent book.
comics and independent comics is when Im writing like that. [Going back to McKee] theres a movie coming out called
Even when Doc Ock is fighting Spider-Man, youre feeling good. Adaptation with Spike Jonze as the director. Its written by the
It should feel good. It shouldnt feel like youre pulling teeth. guy that wrote Being John Malkovich. [Charlie Kaufman.] Its

18 | WRITE NOW
about a screenwriter being day? Are you torturing an
hired to adapt something. editor? Is that what you are
And hes got to figure out doing today? If youre
how to adapt it. McKee is in supposed be writing, then
it. Its the craziest thing I write. Damn it, you get to
ever read in my life. The write, man. I worked at
main character spends the McDonalds for a summer
first half of the movie trying and at the end of the
to figure out how hes going summer my manager put his
to kill Robert McKee. He hand on my shoulder and
ends up in McKees place said, Brian, you will always
and McKee and him go and have a place here. And I
have a drink. Its really know he meant it as a good
bizarre and hilarious. Youll thing. But every time I pass
love it. If youve been to his by a McDonalds, I always
thing, youll love it. go, Theres a place for me
DF: Any suggested reading in there, and, boy, if that
general? What are you doesnt get you writing!
reading now? What are you DF: Thats the scariest story
embarrassed to be reading Ive heard in my life. Any tips
now? What have you read on breaking in, networking
thats inspirational in general, with other writers and artists,
work-wise, life-wise? or with editors? Any advice on
BMB: The embarrassing convention attendance, that
thing Im reading, but not sort of thing?
embarrassed Im reading it BMB: I am online and
it just sounds so sillyIm at available to talk to [online]
the tail end of Steve Martins and theres a lot of people
Shop Girl. Its the most asking for advice. Clearly
Oprahish thing Ill every from this part of the
come near. Its just interview, I am the last
wonderful. Just a wonderful person you should ask how
little novelette. Im reading it to break into mainstream
thinking that Ive never read comics because, good lord,
a book that came anywhere it took me nine years. You
near this. My favorite book is think Im the guy to ask?
[Richard Prices] Clockers. And when I got in, it was half
Im freaking out on Nick Brian and Alex Maleevs work in Daredevil, v. 2, #28, the Nuff Said silent issue. ass backwards,
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
Hornby. You know what else DF: But you did get in.
Im freaking out about? This playwright whos also a screen- BMB: The only advice, and this is business advice for the
writer now. His name is Kenneth Lonergan. business end of it, youve got to take off your creators hat and
DF: He wrote the movie You Can Count on Me. put on your businessmans hat or publishers hat and youve
BMB: Hes got a couple of plays. Hes written some movies, got to figure a way to market yourself, apart from what you are
too. But, man, can he write. Chills down my spine. If you go to creating. Like, when I was doing Jinx, I would have to write and
a good book store, hes got two plays, one of which theyre draw Jinx as pure of heart as I possibly could and then after
reviving with a big cast and I just love it, love it, love it. that I had to take off the creators hat and talk to people as if I
DF: You dont sound like a guy whos ever had writers block. wasnt the one who created it.
BMB: I keep my rainy day notebooks for the inevitable writers DF: Was that hard for you to learn to do, or was it something
block. I have my little storage chest in case I freak out. There that came naturally?
were so many obstacles in my way for so long that having the BMB: Its just a necessity. I have no budget for marketing or
opportunities that I do have now, its like a floodgates opened. advertising [my independent work]. Youve got to get up and go
You know, while I was doing Torso, I had to draw and letter it, to conventions. Youve got to sell. Youve got to become a
and though I was working just as many hours a day as I do name. Youve got to become a face, even if you just want to do
now, I was only writing for a little part of that time. Now all that mainstream comics or dont want to take the dive into
time is being spent writing. Im way ahead on everything, so publishing your own comic. You have to have a certain type of
that means that whatever Im in the mood to write, I can write. personality to gear up for that kind of abuse. With self-
If I wake up in a Daredevil mood, Ill be in a Daredevil mood, no publishing, everythings against you. The system of distribution,
one needs something else tomorrow. Thats always the best the system of marketsits all backwards. If you want to fight
writing, when Im not cranking for a deadline. upstream, thats a good fight, but youve got to be a certain
DF: Thats an admirable, professional attitude. kind of person for that.
BMB: Thanks. But if you are an artist or a writer and youre not DF: Youre clearly an extroverted person. Were you always, or did
writing or drawing, then what are you? What are you doing all you have to train yourself to be?

BENDIS | 19
of my goals, to be one of those guys. I can look
at what Im doing, and each project gives me the
opportunity to do something else. Daredevil and
Spider-Man couldnt be more different as books
and as far as what can be accomplished with them
and what my goals are for them. The same thing
with Alias and Powers. There are just different
sides of me and different sides of what I want to
accomplish. My personal goals are so much more
than what anyone is expecting from me.
DF: Anything else you want to say in the
realm of advice or guidance for aspiring
writers or to people interested in the craft?
BMB: I said this in the intro to the Powers script
The Hulk and Spidey from the Bendis-written Ultimate book. One of the choices you make is whose advice
Marvel Team-Up #3 (art by Phil Hester & Ande Parks). you take and whose advice you dont take, whose
The Thing from Brians UMTU #9 (art by Jim Mahfood). philosophy you think applies to you and whose
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc. doesnt. There are no rules, and what you
BMB: Im only extroverted for stuff like have to do is clearly decide what it is
this interview, I will now not talk for a day. that you want to accomplish and what
Ive heard interviews where people were kind of writer you want to be and make
boring, so I see that I have to be a little extroverted those decisions for yourself. Theres
right now. no one right way to do everything.
DF: And I imagine you also do it at conventions and Theres no surefire way to make it to the top.
when you have to sell yourself to editors and Theres no map and theres no saying, If I take this class
producers. Is that a self-training process? and apply for this job and I do this right, then Ill be the
BMB: You train yourself to be like this, so Im now president of Marvel Comics. Thats not how it works.
acting like a guy who is selling. But Im not talking Youve just got to make choices, and the hardest are the
when Im writing. Im very, very quiet. Most writers have to career choices, like what gig to take and what gig not to take.
spend a great deal of the time listening. Those are very hard choices and they never get easier.
DF: Do you read your dialogue out loud? DF: And you never know which chance meeting is going to lead
BMB: Yes, but now [since the animation recording sessions] to some big, exciting project and which supposed surefire thing
Im spoiled and I will have to hire actors. That was a big eye- is never going to take off.
opener too. Ill have to buy a troupe. Ill have to have Bill Jemas BMB: Youll never get anywhere not writing. So youre playing
buy me a troupe. video games and drinking beer, someone else has just written
DF: Thats something Marvel will be happy to shell out for, Im your ass off. Do you want to be remembered for your video
sure. Not counting the money, do you enjoy equally doing the game playing, or to be remembered for how well you wrote, and
mainstream, work-for-hire stuff and the personal, creator-owned how you brought something interesting into the world.
stuff? DF: Exactly. Anything to plug coming up?
BMB: None of this is about money for me. I did it for nine BMB: Around San Diego time, I think, we have some awesome
years for no money, so I know clearly its not about money for collections coming out. We have the first Alias hardback. It
me. I know I love working on these characters for Marvel. I love collects nine issues. Im extremely proud of Alias and Im
the opportunities that Marvel has given me, because they are extremely happy about the hardbacks because I love them and
opportunities that, when I was little, I would literally sit in bed I buy them, and now this one I dont have to buy because
and wish for. If I could only write Daredevil and Spider-Man, maybe Marvel will give me one.
that would be cool. Theres that, and then theres the tactile DF: Maybe even two if you ask nicely.
sensation of owning characters and having the freedom that BMB: And what Im doing in Daredevil is a big, big story I hope
gives you. Its funny, because theres me, and a couple of other people check out. Im attempting the impossible with Daredevil,
guys, like David Mack, who got into mainstream comics based which is to do something post-Miller that rocks the book.
on our creator-owned work. Were supposed to bring it all and I DF: Thats a lofty aim.
think I actually treat Spider-Man and Daredevil the same as if I BMB: Im aiming high because I think that book deserves the
owned them. I kind of trick myself into thinking that I own best that someone can bring to it.
them. I think that my job is to give it everything that I have and DF: Cool. My last questionand you can answer for the Ultimate
I know what that feels like because I do it with my own stuff, or regular Marvel Universewhos stronger: the Thing or the Hulk?
so I have to match that feeling. BMB: Ive prided myself on never answering questions like
DF: So it sounds like both personal and mainstream nourish that, and Ill tell you why. Questions like that are why God
your brain and your soul. invented the Internet.
BMB: Ive been taking a hard long look at what Im doing DF: Makes sense to me. Thanks for your time, Brian.
because I never intended on being one of those guys about
who people say, Look how much he can write! Thats not one
BMB: My pleasure, Danny, and good luck with Write
Now!
THE
END
20 | WRITE NOW
Who let that #@%#&# artist in here?
Interview with
Mark Bagley
Interview by Danny Fingeroth on 3/21/01
Edited by Danny Fingeroth fraternal. He doesnt draw, doesnt read much, hes never been
Copy-edited by Mark Bagley married. Ive been married 22 years.
DF: Did your parents, your family, encourage your work, your art

M ark Bagley has drawn comics written by four of the


writers profiled in this issue: Stan Lee, Brian Bendis,
J.M. DeMatteis, and Tom DeFalco. Heck, hes even
drawn a few stories I wrote. He won the Marvel Tryout Contest,
drew most of the first 25 issues of The New Warriors (with
or discourage it?
MB: They were concerned about it because I was so focused
on it. I had wanted to do comics since I was a little, little kid. I
was so focused on it that I let a lot of things go by the
wayside. They were worried about my development.
writer Fabian Nicieza), and many issues of Amazing Spider- DF: But they didnt discourage the art?
Man (with David Michelinie, DeMatteis and DeFalco). From MB: You know, they would get me some art lessons and that
there, Mark went on to Thunderbolts (with Kurt Busiek and sort of thing. Dad was just concerned about my overall stability.
then with Fabian), and today is riding the crest of popularity I love my dad, hes a great guy, but he didnt get comics. Wed
and hipness as the artist of the Brian Bendis written Ultimate fight about how much money Id spend on them. I would be
Spider-Man. With a dance card like that, we figured Mark Hey! You play golf. How much does golf cost every year?
would be a perfect guy to talk about what its like to be on the Come on, come on! And he didnt really have an argument
receiving end of a writers plot and script. What does he look from then on.
for in a plot, in a writer, and in comics in general? His insights DF: Did you have anybody, friends or family who were into
will be an eye-opener for writers and fellow artists alike. drawing, who encouraged you?
MB: I was never a member of a comics community or anything
DANNY FINGEROTH: Im here with Mark Bagley, the world like that. Everybody knew me because I had five brothers who
famous artist on Ultimate Spider-Man as well as, of course, were all jocks and I was one of the best artists in the school
Amazing Spider-Man, New Warriors and Thunderbolts, and the and thats got its own weird little notoriety in school. If they
unforgettable, What if Spider-Man Had Been Possessed by His wanted a mural painted, it was either me or a guy named Mark
Alien Costume? Chapman, who was a lot more talented than I ever thought
MARK BAGLEY: Which was
written by Danny Fingeroth.
DF: Well, yeah, I didnt want to
mention that.
MB: Yeah, you wanted me to.
[laughter]
DF: Let me start off the
official interview here to get
some idea of your
background. What did your
folks do Mark?
MB: My mother was a
housewife with seven kids,
you know, a good Catholic
family. My dad was in the
Army Corps of Engineers. He
was an officer. Im officially
an Army brat. I was born in
Frankfort, Germany and lived
in Hawaii, Japan, Florida a
couple of times, Ohio a
couple of times. You know,
just staying one step ahead
of the mortgage guy.
DF: Where did you fit in there?
Oldest, youngest, middle?
MB: Im the second oldest. I
have a twin brother, very Ultimate Spider-Man #22 with words by Brian Bendis, pencils by Mark Bagley, and inks by Art Thibert.
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

BAGLEY | 21
about being. the school was having some real staff
There were one or two others who, if problems. Within about three months I
something needed doing in the school, a realized that the school was falling
banner or mural or something or other, apart. It has since recovered, and its
they would come to us or we would going strong today. I basically got
work together on it, that sort of all my money back, including the
thing. deposit on the dorm, and went to
Mark was a heckuva lot more the Ringling School of Art. The
talented than I am. The last Ringling Brothers started it
time I saw him, he was because they were patrons of
selling furniture. So, we can the arts. It was a total fine
talk about discipline and arts school, at the time. Very
sticking to it and that sort of little graphics or commercial
thing. art. So, I just took fine arts,
DF: Your parents got you some because I really wanted to learn
art classes, you said? to draw as well as I could.
MB: Every now and then Id DF: You didnt take cartooning? Just
sign up for some summer art took fine art, painting and so on?
courses and I took all the art MB: It wasnt like the Kubert School. You
I could in school. They give us couldnt take comic book art courses. I just
precious little art in schools took drawing and painting and I took
these days, but back then, they sculpting.
were actually fairly well-funded. DF: Did being in the Army affect your attitude
Especially in high school, I had a toward work and career?
really influential teacher who was Spidey and Puma have it out in this detail from the MB: My dad, I think had more to do with us
cover of Amazing Spider-Man #395 by Mark and
funny as hell and weird as hell. Mr. learning discipline, that when you got a job,
Larry Mahlstedt. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
Daniels. He cared about you a lot. you get it done and do it right, that sort of
He was a good guy. thing. I picked a lot of this up from comics, the whole idea of
DF: Did he encourage your comics stuff? with great power comes great responsibility, that sort of
MB: He didnt quite understand it. But he encouraged drawing thing. The idea that, youve got a goal, you reach for it. You
and encouraged art and anything that was really motivating any dont step on somebody while youre going for it and that sort
kid that wasnt giving him a hard time in class. If you were into of thing. I always had a plan of, This is what I want to do and
art and that sort of stuff, he was there for you. You know, this is how I want to do it.
teachers take so much crap from students, especially those DF: Cool.
who were, you know, not interested. MB: But when I got out of art school, I had the typical story.
DF: Well, to have someone like you who was interested must Its tough to find work in the art field, and I had few other
have been great for him. skills. Most of my brothers-in-law are carpenters and that sort
MB: Those few, he would really enjoy and go all out for. of thing, so I banged nails with them for two or three years. I
DF: Now, after high school, what was your education? think every art student, everybody who has a dream of doing
MB: I went just shy of three years to the Ringling School of Art something, should spend a year banging nails in the
in Sarasota, Florida. I joined the Army when I got out of high summertime in Georgia and thinking thats what theyre going
school so I could afford art school. I was in the army for three to be doing for the rest of their lives. Just to teach them, Hey
years and had top secret clearance and all that good stuff. I if youre lucky enough to get a job you love or even a job you
ended up in a top secret compound, doing slide shows and like, dont pee it away.
things like that for generals. DF: What stands out in your memory as far as cultural influ-
DF: So, even in the army, youre still the art guy? ences on you?
MB: For graphics, yeah. My training was Cryptological Traffic MB: For me, growing up, all I read was science-fiction. I illus-
Analyst, but I couldnt do that in the States, so for a year-and-a- trated the Tarzan novels and Edgar Rice Burrow Mars novels. I
half, at Ft. Bragg, I was basically doing slide shows and things. was always illustrating. I never really felt like an artist, I felt like
DF: What is Cryptological Traffic Analysis? I loved telling stories visually.
MB: Basically I would take either voice or code intercept. And DF: What do you mean illustrated?
my job was to break it down for any military MB: I would do five or six pages of panel by panel breakdowns
DF: Code intercept from who? From what? of stories, illustrating them. Or I would do spot illustrations like
MB: Chinese, Koreans, Russians at that time. Like I said, I had Roy Krenkel or Al Williamson used to do.
top secret clearance. When I was stationed at Ft. Bragg, they DF: At what age were you doing this?
found out I was an artist, and theyre like, Okay, you can work MB: Twelve, fourteen years old.
with this one guy in this office here. And we did top secret DF: Nobody suggested it, you just decided to do it out of the
briefings and things like that. Like I said, I did the army stint so blue?
I could afford art school. After the army, I moved to Atlanta and MB: I was always drawing.
started at the Art Institute of Atlanta, which is part of a chain DF: Any TV shows or movies influence you?
of art schools. I paid my tuition, and I never took a dime from MB: Not really. I hated the Batman TV show. I hated the Hulk
my parents after I left the house, which was kind of nice. But TV show. I hated the Spider-Man TV show. A couple of the

22 | WRITE NOW
cartoons were okay. The Spider-Man cartoon show with the DF: How did you get the Lockheed job? Did you just show them
Ralph Bakshi stuff, the first season was decent, and the that you could draw?
second season was an acid trip nightmare and I was thirteen. MB: My sister-in-law worked for Lockheed and said, You ought
It was weird. I dont think anything I watched on TV changed me to apply. I was banging nails for a living and my back was
as a person. Although, I did cry at the end of Brians Song. killing me. I had fallen a couple of times, I could barely bend
Id get up early on Saturday morning and watch cartoons, the over with a tool belt around me. I would come home and go,
old Gladiator movies, if they re-showed them, dubbed real What the hell am I gonna do? I wasnt getting anywhere in
badly. Those were the closest to super-hero movies that wed comics. My wife swears I was working every night practicing. I
ever gotten, so I thought those were kind of cool. dont think it was that extreme. At this point I didnt yet have a
DF: And did you write your own stuff then, or did you work with daughter. She was born the same year, or the year after, I
friends who were writers to do a complete comic? started working at Lockheed. So, I just applied for the job and
MB: When I was a kid, I would write my own stuff. It started off they had this little test: draw a circle, draw an ellipse, draw
with just ten pages of fight, and then when I started finally something very simple. I had never done anything like this
writing my stories, it was borrowed, shall I say, heavily, from before, and my sister-in-law walked me through it once and I
Marvel Comics, that sort of thing. practiced it for like ten minutes, Oh, yeah. Im ready. Its
DF: But you did do your own writing at one point? really an entry level draftsman-type job. Now that works all
MB: Yeah. I had characters with really creative names like the done on computers I was working at Lockheed trying to get in,
Defender and the Night Stalker and maybe that was when I and Marvel came out with a Tryout Book.
realized, You know, I dont think I want to write full time. I I was 27 years old and getting kind of burnt out on trying to
started writing them just as a way to draw, to have things to break into comics, and I swore that I wasnt gonna be one of
draw and to draw different things. these 35 year old guys with a ten-year-old portfolio, walking
DF: And this was at what age? around conventions going, Would you look at my stuff? If it
MB: I started doing this when I was like probably thirteen or wasnt going to happen, it wasnt going to happen. I wanted to
fourteen. have a social life. There wouldnt have been any bitterness
DF: Did you ever hook up with a writer or was it always your own about it. The comics store I go to was owned by a friend of
stuff?
MB: It was basically just my own stuff. And like I said, in the
service, I hooked up with this guy Jay King and couple of other
guys and we actually wrote a Batman meets Spider-Man story.
We turned out like 35 pages. Spider-Man has to fly to Gotham
City because somebodys climbing walls and killing people.
DF: So, from a very early age you knew you wanted to make a
living at comics.
MB: A little kid picks up a comic book and reads it for the first
time, or he looks at the pictures and thinks, This stuff comes
out of the air. Nobody thinks of people sitting down and doing
this. For whatever reason, I always did think that, Somebody
had to be doing this and, boy, Id love to be one of those guys.
From age nine, as I remember it, I wanted to do comics. The
first comic book I ever remember getting was, while we were on
a west coast/east coast road trip in the middle of the
summertime, my dad and me and two or three of my brothers.
My mother had flown with the younger kids. And we pulled into
this store, it was in the southwest someplace, 100 degrees, no
air conditioning in the car. We got warm Dr. Peppers, and the
store had a comic book rack and Dad bought us a couple of
comic books. The first one I read was a Superboy comic where
theres a dragon from Krypton. I remember reading it, thinking,
This is really cool.
DF: Thats when it dawned on you that people made these
things?
MB: Thats how I remember it now. Whether thats true or not, I
dont know.
DF: Your big break was the Marvel Tryout Contest?
MB: Yeah. I was 27. I was working at Lockheed. I had a
daughter and a house. I was doing technical illustration for
Lockheed. At that stage, I was new at it, and was basically
taking black-&-white photographs of aircraft engine parts and
exploding them out. Meaning, if there was a nut that goes into
a washer that goes into a into a lock spring, I would explode
out the parts for a technical manual, so guys look and it and
go, Oh, yeah, thats how that goes together. Gothams protector and Flushings web dude, by Bagley and Mark Farmer.
Story by J.M. DeMatteis. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc. and DC Comics]

BAGLEY | 23
saying, We need someone full time on Strikeforce. You wanna
take it over? So, I did the last eight pages of Visionaries
overnight and then I took over Strikeforce: Moritori.
DF: And then I inherited Strikeforce and also gave you a shot at
New Warriors. Youd also drawn two stories I had written. You
drew a What If story I wrote, and you also drew a Justice story
that never got printed.
Do you think you wouldve made it anyway if it hadnt been for
the Tryout Book?
MB: No.
DF: Wow.
MB: I didnt know anybody.
DF: You knew Cliff. He must have known a lot of people.
MB: At the time, I dont think Cliff was connected like he is
now.
I was just getting tired of trying.
DF: What was Plan B if you hadnt gone into comics?
MB: At the time I thought my job at Lockheed was pretty solid.
Plan B would be, work at Lockheed, raise my kid and take up
some hobbies.
DF: Is there any similar thing to the tryout contest today?
MB: Marvel redid the Tryout Contest recently.
DF: Aside from that, is there anything like that, or is that pretty
much a once-in-a-lifetime thing?
MB: I think its a once in a lifetime sort of thing. For a while it
was much easier to break in, because there was so much work
out there. And now its back to where theres not nearly as
much work, so its a bit tougher to break in. But theyre always
looking for new talent. I think its easier if you can move to the
New York area, move, at one point, to the Chicago area to get
to know people. I was bound and determined not to do that.
DF: Chicago? For what company?
MB: First Comics. And there were a couple of other, smaller
companies out of Chicago also.
DF: In terms of translating someone elses ideas into pictures,
Marks first rush of fame came with The New Warriors, here at the mercy of
their greatest foe, The Sphinx. Inks by Randy Emberlin. Story by Fabian Nicieza. was that exciting, off-putting, scary, challenging?
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] MB: Kind of all of the above. Not too scary, because Id been
working at it for so long.
mine named Cliff Biggers. He publishes the Comic Shop DF: But it sounds like for a long time you did your own stories.
News. And Marvel came out with the Tryout Book, which cost MB: Yeah. In the Army it was more of a collaborative thing, we
20 bucks, which was a lot of money at the time, and I said, all just kind of worked together on our stories, noodled them
Im not gonna buy it, its a gimmick. Its just Marvel taking out. It was good practice. One thing about comics is that it is a
money from the little kids. And Cliff said, Look if you dont collaborative thing, and you need to learn how to work with
do this, youre gonna hate yourself. And he gave it to me. I people on stories, have some give and take. Something else I
won first place. It got me a trip to New York, and I met all the was doing that I didnt mention before, I had started, I was
Marvel editors and I got thrown out of all their offices. The eighteen or twenty, when Marvel was putting out some
last editor I saw on the last day, Mike Higgins, with the New paperback short stories and novels, I would take a couple of
Universe line, was desperate to get people to work on that those and actually turn them into comic books. The one I did
fading imprint. It got me part-time work. I worked for a year- the most of was this Ultron story that had to do with the
and-a-half part time, living on about four hours of sleep a Avengers. I did the entire story. I did 40 or 50 pages of art.
night. I started drinking coffee. About that time, Lockheed was The cool thing was, years later, they actually did a comic book
laying off, and I got laid off. version. George Prez drew it. My drawing wasnt nearly as
DF: The job that that Higgins gave you, what was that? accomplished as his, by any means. But my storytelling was
MB: I did a couple of issues of Nightmask. Its a teenage kid very similar. Different angles here and there, but roughly very
who goes into other peoples dreams. Roy Thomas was writing similar panel breakdown. And that was kind of cool. It gave me
it. For a year-and-a-half, I did New Universe stuff, and then I got the idea that Maybe Im heading in the right direction.
shot at Visionaries, a toy tie-in. It was supposed to be an DF: Who were your big influences?
ongoing series, but it didnt last very long. But before it was MB: Well, as comic artists I think the two biggest influences on
cancelled, I got an opportunity to do a Strikeforce: Moritori fill- me were Gil Kane and John Buscema. Later on, it was Neal
in. I was halfway through issue #7 of Visionaries, and they Adams and I had a big Jim Starlin phase for a while.
said, Oh, were canceling the book. Carl Potts had called me DF: How about outside comics? Who were your influences?
the next day, or the day before they cancelled Visionaries, MB: Andrew Wyeth, some of the other illustrators who Im

24 | WRITE NOW
drawing a blank on right now. go ahead. I didnt change how it ended up. Its just some kind
DF: Sounds like movies werent a big influence. of weird things in the center that didnt make a lot of sense.
MB: Not too much. I never really equated the two that closely DF: Youre a thinking artist, which writers really appreciate, as do
together. The director of a movies got so much more time to editors.
play with, actual moments of time, than a comics artist or MB: Thanks.
writer does. Comics have to just highlight the key moments in a DF: Its an important thing for someone to offer input like that.
scene. Now, as far as Marvel style [plot first, then pencils, then script]
DF: That sounds like storyboards. or full script, any preference in that department?
MB: Yeah, exactly. In fact, the first that I actually related the MB: Brian Bendis does full script. But, once again, he trusts
two was when I was working with Carl Potts on Strikeforce: my storytelling enough that if I want to tweak something out, he
Moritori. He sent me this ream of xeroxes of some doesnt have a whole lot of problems with it. I think hes
moviemaking course in college that either he had taken, or he changed only one panel in my entire 20-issue run so far, to
just ran across this book or something. It was fundamental where I had to restructure something. With a full script, theres
storytelling ideas. less danger of that.
DF: About not violating the 180 degree rule and all that stuff? Needless to say, a full script is fairly detailed. Bendis goes
MB: Yeah, exactly. If youve got a convoy or a caravan of as far as to say camera angle b, that sort of thing, which I
vehicles or camels going left to right, you keep them going left feel fully free to ignore, depending on how Im pacing it out.
to right. You dont turn them around every other panel. Youll DF: My memory is that you used to enjoy looser plots where you
just confuse the eye, that sort of thing. And it taught me about could make more stuff up.
shadows. It was the first time anybody ever taught me about MB: Especially with a team book, Strikeforce, New Warriors,
the idea of using shadows in a comic book page to show
depth, and that sort of thing.
DF: Now, more to the topic of this actual magazine, talk about
how you deal with writers, what you look for in a story you draw.
Do you like a lot of detailed instructions? Do you like loose
detail? Do you like action more than character bits?
MB: When I read a plot or script for the first time, Id like the
thing to make sense. It sounds silly, but every now and then
you run across a story, and youre going from Point A to Point
C, and Point B is just this weird sideways detour. To me, its the
biggest challenge sometimes. And its understandable.
Professional writers have to write so much that, every now and
then, you come across something and go, You know, this just
doesnt make any sense at all. If the editor hadnt caught it,
then the writers got to be flexible enough to go with the
penciler on it, storytelling-wise, and let him change it, or the
penciler has got to call up and say, Hey, something needs
fixing. Ive run across writers who were very resistant to that
sort of input.
DF: Nah, never happens.
MB: Most of them are pretty cool about it. I just got done
doing a four-issue Fantastic Four story arc. Karl Kesel was
scripting it, but Carlos Pacheco and his writing partner were
plotting it. There are places in this four issue plot that I was
saying to myself, What the heck is going on here? That slows
me down terribly. If Im clicking on exactly whats happening,
and then its suddenly not making linear sense, then it really
just takes me out of my rhythm of drawing, because I noodle
over it and I sweat over it and think about it, and I dont draw
quickly at all. Luckily, since Karl was scripting it, I could call
Karl up and say, Hey Karl, Im gonna do this, that, and the
other thing. I wasnt gonna call Carlos. I would call [editor]
Tom [Brevoort] about it. Id say, Hey, Tom, you read this? Hed
usually say, Well yeah, do what you have to.
DF: Was part of that just a translation problem?
MB: Some of it was a translation problem, some of it, I think,
was that Carlos was a little burnt out on the project. I dont
know. Especially, on the last issue, it was like, What is up with
this? No disrespect to Carlos, hes a great artist and hes
written some really good stories on his run on Fantastic Four,
but it was just a struggle. Luckily Karl Kesel, by the fourth
issue, was like, Well, everything youve done so far is great, so From Thunderbolts #1, story by Kurt Busiek, art by Mark and Vince Russell.
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

BAGLEY | 25
Thunderbolts or besides my
New Warriors, and besides
my Amazing Spider-Man
work. Jemas really wanted
me. He was a fan of mine.
He was in charge of the
trading card series I did in
the 1990s. So thats what
got it in his head that he
really wanted me for this
book. I dont know how
Brian felt about it. Im much
more mainstream than
Brians used to working
with. I look back at the first
issue or two and I can tell,
maybe a lot of people cant,
but I can tell that I wasnt
that into it. But it did turn
Here and the next page: From Ultimate Spider-Man #13. Bendis and Bagley team up to get the most from this important scene fairly quickly into this kinda
ably abetted by Art Thiberts inksas Peter reveals his greatest secret to his best friend... [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
guilty pleasure of
Thunderbolts, I feel I have to have more leeway to choreograph redesigning everybody in the Spider-Man universe that I could.
things, because its so damn complicated doing a team book. And the fan reaction to it has just been phenomenal. When the
Working with Fabian Nicieza and Kurt Busiek on those two first issue came out, my friend, Cliff Biggers, once again, he
books, they actually both plot very tightly, and they both have a says, You know, you need to keep doing this book. It looks
pretty good visual sense, but they also give me free rein to do great. Ive always kinda trusted his instincts. I had actually
what I think best, especially in the fight scenes. The more officially said that I was off. I was done; I was drawing issue
character-oriented stuff they were both a little bit tighter about, #5, the next to last issue I had committed to. That afternoon, I
because they like to set it a certain way, and I can understand called back. You know, if its not too late, Id like to stay on
that. Those scenes really reflect on how their writing comes this book, I think.
across. DF: You, personallyand artists in generalwhat do you love to
DF: Back in, say, the 70s, if a writer and artist had a good draw? What do you hate to draw? Im asking this to enlighten
intuitive relationship, you would sometimes see they fight in a aspiring writers in the audience. How does a writer make an
plot, instead of detailed choreography. Is that something you like artist their friend? How does a writer make an artist their
to get? enemy? Based on what you give them to draw, not personal
MB: I never had that. I do kinda like having some input with, differences.
say, fight scenes, cause after a while, you do Spider-Man for MB: Avoid crowd scenes, crowd scenes, crowd scenes.
five years, you can run out of ideas for a new way for Spidey to [laughter] I enjoy drawing girder work. I just had to draw the
whump somebody. Bendis, working full script, hell make me Queensboro Bridge in New York. I love Brian to death, but its
think about it. Hell write something like, Okay, I want Spider- like every time I turn around, crowd scenes full of camera and
Man to flip off this building, coming around and pulling down video equipment and scene after scene like that, which is just
Doc Ocks pants with his webbing, while Spideys also doing exhausting to draw. Or hell throw in this panel Oh, I can
something else. It makes me kinda noodle it out. So I end up quote from the script. Its basically, a limo heading to New
with maybe a different angle or a different take than I normally York City through the Queensboro Bridge. Youre outside the
would have taken. limo, looking across the top of the limo into the city. The sun is
DF: Well, when I interviewed Brian, he was very complimentary going down. So through the girder work of the Queensborough
about your work. Bridge, you have the city behind it and a limo, and you have the
MB: I appreciate that. sun. I didnt have a clue how to start. So I, basically, did a shot
DF: He also said that one of your conditions for coming back of the Queensboro Bridge and then showed a limo. [laughter]
onto a Spider-Man project was that you get to draw angles and DF: What kinds of scenes do you love to draw?
viewpoints that you never did before, that you want to have MB: I love drawing emotional scenes. And I dont get to do
something new in every issue, if not on every page. enough shadowy, moody scenes, although I have a hard time
MB: I dont know if I ever said anything like that. They dragged just adding shadow for no purpose at all. Im always aware of
me back onto Spider-Man. I didnt want to do it to begin with. how much light is in the scene, so I cant just add shadows.
Okay, Ill do the six issues and then Im gone. Then they DF: That issue #13 of Ultimate Spider-Man [where Peter reveals
decided to make it ongoing, and I decided I was enjoying it, and his secret to Mary Jane], I was just floored by how much you
I stayed on. I had never really heard of Bendis, because I dont brought to that. As well as it was written, and it was really terrifi-
read very many alternative comics. I didnt know how good he cally written, I was just in awe of how you brought that alive, I
was at dialogue and storytelling. thought it was incredible.
DF: Was there extra pressure because the president of the MB: Thanks, I enjoyed the hell of that. Something like that, as
company had helped plot it? much fun as it was, it would have been more fun to do if was
MB: I was always looking for extra work besides my just a plot, with a rough breakdown of what Brian wanted on

26 | WRITE NOW
every page. its visual, you can look at it and say, Theres a lot of work
DF: Really? there. But a writer has to think about the story all the time.
MB: Yeah, because it would have made me work a little bit They always have to be coming up with whats going to happen
harder. Brian and I have a little bit different sense of visual six months down the road. Me, I draw for the day, and then Im
storytelling in a lot of ways, because hes very cinematic and done. I go shoot pool, drink beer and flirt. To me writings a
film noirish and I would have broken it down in different ways. I hard job.
enjoyed the hell out of it and it was incredibly well written. I DF: All us writers appreciate that.
dont know if I could do it any better, but I might have done it a MB: I know you do.
little differently. Thats the difference between a plot and a DF: In terms of a relationship between an artist and a writer,
script. how does an editor affect that and, on a broader level, a
DF: Whatever the combination was there, I thought you brought company culture or personality affect it?
out the best in the writing and I thought he brought out the best MB: That really depends on the personalities involved. Tom
in your art. Brevoort is really a hands-on type of editor. Hes involved in the
MB: Well, thanks. storylines and hes always talking to the writers. Hes a lot
DF: What makes for a good or bad artist/writer relationship? more closely involved in the writing process than I think he is in
MB: What makes for a good relationship is if you get along on the artistic process. There are other editors that are basically
a personal level, if both sides realize that its a collaborative just paper shufflers, you know? They make sure the pages get
thing. If the writer understands that, yeah, hes writing the from the penciler to the inker to the colorist to the letterer.
story, but Im visually telling it, and if something visually isnt DF: Do you like having editorial participation?
going to work, hes got let me fix it. And its not that hes done MB: I love having it. Im down here in Georgia, all by myself,
anything wrong, its just that I may have a different sense of and if Im doing something wrong I want to know about it.
how to get it to work. Theres always three or four ways to do Youre so close to your work, and then you dont see it in print
something, but you have to give the artist the right to do it the for three months. I really enjoy when an editor calls me up and
way he feels best. An exception would be, say, J.M. DeMatteis. says, Hey, this is great, youre doing great on this, or if he
When we worked together, every now and then, he would calls me up and tells me theres a specific problem. I dont
absolutely insist on a nine panel grid page because thats a want him to call and say, Youre really screwing this up. Id
storytelling device that he really wanted to bring to the page. say, Why did you hire me in the first place? But if an editor
And Im not going to argue with him about it. I said, Sure. I calls me and says, Youve gotten into this thing of, say a 34
never thought that was the strongest way of doing something, view on a face, the eye on the face thats away from the reader
but hey, theres people who dont like my artwork. Go figure. is always a little low, then thats something that I may not see
99% of the time, theres tons of give and take back and forth. when Im doing it, but I look back on it and I go ohhh. That
So every now and then, when the writer puts his foot down and was always something good about working with you as an
says, Hey, this is really what I want, Im not gonna go, Hell editor. It just lets me know that Im not working in a vacuum.
no. And J.M. was the same way. We ended up, I think, with a DF: Some artists have become identified with one writer, for
good working relationship. I did some of my best stuff in my instance, Loeb and Sale, DeFalco and Frenz. With you, over the
Spider-Man career with him.
DF: Amazing #400 [The Death of
Aunt Mayalthough she later got
better.DF] just to name one. So a
bad relationship with a writer would be
somebody who doesnt take any input
and just wants what they want.
MB: I started out with a bad
relationship with David Michelinie. I
remember, on the second issue I did
with him, he called for a splash page
which just didnt work storytelling-
wise. I did something without calling
him. I split it up into two large half-
page panels, and he went ballistic. I
had to call him and tell him he had to
trust me to tell the story, he had to
let me tell the story visually. I told
him I wouldnt screw him out of his
plot or what he wanted to do, but I
had to have the freedom to visually
tell it. It only took an issue or two
before he finally relaxed and let me
do what I felt I had to do. I have a lot
of respect for what writers have to
do. I swear that theyve got the
harder job. Mine is more in your face,
...who isnt sure hes not pulling her leg. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

BAGLEY | 27
three issues, it was totally gone, because Amazing was
crossing over with the other three Spider-Man books every
month, and when you get other writers in there, our original
ideas just went away. Plus, I think both of us were off the book
by the time they established her history. To me, my job is the
visuals, bringing to the table, the best that I can, the writers
idea.
DF: Any writers that youve never worked with that youd love to?
MB: Id like to work with Mark Waid. Id like to work with Mark
Millar. Id like to work with Chuck Dixon. I really like what he
does a lot. Mark Millar does these incredibly large, violent
storylines. Itd be fun to that cut loose and see how much
blood I can leave on the floor. [laughter]
DF: Ever consider writing for yourself or others?
MB: Nah.
DF: No interest at all?
MB: No, not really. Im an educated person, I can write a story
or two and have a plot and an ending, the whole nine yards.
But I just dont have the drive to be a scribe.
DF: If someone put a gun to your head and said you had to
write a story, what would it be? What character? What kind of
story?
MB: A Superman story. Hes such a big character, I think it
would be easy to come up with a story for him. I think that with
a less iconic character, the harder it might be for me to do
that. I think Id have trouble coming up with a Daredevil story
unless it was, Daredevil is walking down an alley and gets
jumped on. But I like to have something with a little more
depth than that.
DF: What does the story gain or lose by having the writer and
artist be the same person?
Cover to Amazing Spider-Man, v. 1, #369, part of the Invasion MB: If it is a really good team, I think the total package may be
of the Spider-Slayers story arc, by Bagley and Randy Emberlin. better than if its just one guy, unless theyre phenomenally
David Michelinie wrote it. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
talented like Will Eisner or Frank Miller. Unless a guy is
years, when you think of Mark Bagley, you think, Fabian and now phenomenally talented, then theres gonna be a weakness in a
Bendis. story where the writer is the artist. And with few exceptions,
MB: Busiek, too. Im a rare bird in the industry, because Ive people arent that talented.
had long runs, and if you have a long run, especially with the DF: If you had a character or characters that you wanted to
same writer, its inevitable youre kinda connected to them. create and put into a story, would you try to do it? Has that ever
DF: Do you like that? Do like having relationships like that? happened?
MB: Yeah, why not? Especially if theyre people of quality. MB: No.
DF: Do you like to be involved in plotting and character devel- DF: No characters in the back of your mind that youd like to see
opment? in print?
MB: I like to be involved, but most of the things Ive worked on MB: Not really. Sorry, man.
have come to me pretty well fully developed. Theyve decided DF: Ever considered taking a staff job as an artist or art director
on the visual style and they call me and at that point, then Im or, God forbid, an editor?
involved. But plotting-wise, its usually, especially with Kurt and MB: No, I like doing what I do.
Fabian and Bendis, its pretty set up. When it comes to DF: Should aspiring writers try to hook up with artists to get a
character development and that sort of thing, Id love to talk to break and/or to pitch a project?
the writer about it. Fabian and Kurt both, Fabian more than MB: I think so. Go to conventions, or swing by an art
Kurt, would send me sketches. Okay, this is kinda where I was classroom in school. I think people know who around may be
going with this and I would take theadmittedly by involved in this sort of thing. When it comes to breaking into
themselvescrude sketches and tweak the crap out of them. comics, its tough for writers to break in. Its a much more
DF: I guess I was thinking more of the characters personalities, subjective discipline than art is. The advice I heard, which
literally their character development, their own personal story makes the most sense, is if you want to become a comics
arcs, their loves and hates and so on. writer, you get involved in the business somehow, whether you
MB: I dont get that much involved. Like I said I love drawing come at it sideways through self-publishing or come in as an
the stuff, I dont like thinking about it that much, to be honest assistant editor, doing something along that line. Its hard for a
with you. The one time I remember doing that was with J.M. writer just to walk into the Marvel or DC offices and say, Hey,
DeMatteis and the Stunner character in Amazing Spider-Man. hire me.
We had this totally set-up idea of who she was and what she DF: Any major factors since you started in comics that you think
was and what her motivation was, and all this stuff. And within have changed for writers or artists trying to make their way?

28 | WRITE NOW
MB: I think its easier now for writers in just a technical sense. true at all. The longer I do comics, the more I think, Yeah,
Laptops and word processing has made the actual mechanics okay, it should have some visual sense, storytelling sense, that
of writing so much easier. Artist-wise, the visuals have gotten whole sequential art idea. But the words play a very important
to where the papers better and the colorings so much better. place in grounding it. People complain when a scripter will
Aside from that, for writers, comics have become a stepping-off over-script, say, if a guy is jumping in a panel kicking
point to other stuff, whereas it used to be, if you were in somebody in the face and theres that word balloon going, He
comics, thats what you were going to do. There seems to be a just jumped in the panel and kicked him in the face! Thats an
lot more of an open field for moving on, whether writing movies easy thing to complain about, but theres a way to do it that
or TV or product placement ads. adds to the story, whether its with humor, or with irony, or
DF: I guess, over the years, Spider-Man will be the thing youre whatever. I think a really good comics artist is the one who
most identified with. Do you like being identified with one does the visual stuff that tells the story, but also puts enough
character like that? extra of a twist in the work that the writer has to look at it and
MB: Cant hurt. If its a character like Spider-Man, why not? It go, Okay, now what would be really exciting copy to have
has kinda limited me, you know. In the years that I wasnt here?
working on Spider-Man, people were hesitant to hire me to do DF: Thats very cool to hear from an artist. I think it goes back to
certain stuff. Like, I would love to do the Hulk for a while. I that thing about you, in particular, being a thinking artist.
dont know if I could do him for as long as Ive done Spider- MB: Its why I never lay out an entire book before I start
Man, but some people have the impression that I cant do a drawing it, or half a book or a quarter of a book. I started out
big character. Which was kinda of fun doing Thunderbolts, laying out entire books or half of a book before I started
cause I could do a huge muscular guy drawing. But then I realized that, as I
like Atlas, or tiny little girls and every- was working, I was spending so much
thing in between. time on an entire panel, during which I
DF: Is there a typical reader you imagine would be thinking about the next
when you are drawing? panel, and about the panel after that,
MB: This is silly, because I know the and I can always figure out a better
demographics have changed over the way of doing it than I had originally laid
years, but when I think about comic out. So, to me, if I lay out the entire
book fans, I think about kids. I think book, its a waste of time. By the time
how excited I was as a kid when I I get to the end of the book, its not
would get to the comic store and, going to bear any resemblance to what
Man, theres a new Dave Cockrum I laid out.
comic, Theres a new Green Lantern DF: That hold for full script, too?
by Gil Kane. Id get this visceral MB: Usually not.
charge, and Im like, Man, I cant wait DF: I know youre a well-read
to get home and read this thing. Thats gentlemen. You reading anything now
who I see myself drawing for. I dont you want to talk about? What are you
really see myself drawing these for a enjoying reading? What are you most
45-year-old accountant that still reads embarrassed about reading lately?
comics. Im glad hes doing it, but MB: The embarrassing part is that,
DF: Would you ever be interested in of what I read, how much is forget-
drawing a quote, unquote, adultI dont table.
mean pornographic, but an indy type DF: Thats not embarrassing for you.
comic? For the authors, maybe, but not for you.
MB: Yeah, I would. For me, right now, MB: I dont read as much as Id like.
not that its not fun, but I have more DF: Yeah, who does?
fun doing regular stuff, drawing regular MB: I read The Adventures of Kavalier
When Symbiotes Ruled! Cover to Venom: Lethal
stuff like people conversing in hallways and Clay. That was really good. Have
Protector #5, by Bagley and Sam DeLaRosa.
and people sitting down, people having Story by Michelinie. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
you read that?
a sandwich, you know, having emotional DF: Im about halfway through it.
discussions, than I do drawing Spidey punching somebody out. MB: I enjoyed it. It drags, its a little bit long and a little bit
Because right now, its a like of work for me, trying to make wordy. Because its a Pulitzer Prize-winner, they all are. I
sure I come up with at least somewhat new figures. I want enjoyed the hell out of that. What else have I read? Recently I
badly to make sure Im not drawing the same figure. read Science Is a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan. Its a
DF: I wanted to explore a little more how you feel about the helluva book about, talking about how the idea of science as
similarities and difference between comics and the movies, since just this pure thing based on evidence, throwing away the idea
thats a pet obsession of mine. of myths. Its pretty cool.
MB: Like I said, with movies, you have a lot more time, incre- DF: What else are you reading?
ments of time to play with so you can go from scene to scene. MB: Im reading Nelson DeMille. He writes action thriller sort
Comics is a matter of choosing that moment of time that tells of stuff. He wrote a really good thing called the Lions Game,
it either dynamically or as emotionally as powerfully as you can. about an Arab terrorist coming over here and hunting down and
I was always told the axiom you should be able to tell whats killing the pilots who bombed Mohmar Khadafis encampment.
going on in a story without the words, but I dont find that to be This happens just after they bombed the World Trade Center

BAGLEY | 29
the first time, in 1993. He wrote this a just a couple years that somebody aspiring to be a comics artist or writer might be
after that, and I just started reading this after 9/11. That was interested in?
really weird. MB: Ive thought about doing storyboarding. Ive got a friend
DF: Any classes or books you recommend for writers or artists? who does a lot of storyboarding here in Atlanta, and hes been
MB: Eisners Sequential Art book is great. Real basic. How to after me for years to come in and do some stuff. He does
Draw Comics the Marvel Way is actually a really good basic commercials. Hes done some movies and things like that, too.
primer on the philosophy of drawing an action comic. But Ive been so busy with comics. For storyboarding, usually
DF: Think that would be good for writers to read as well? youve got to come in and work three days overnight, and Ive
MB: Probably. Give em a way of thinking visually. Scott just not been able to do it. Id be interested in doing it. I was
McClouds book, Understanding Comics, was terrific. I think a talking to Bendis, and hes doing this Spider-Man MTV cartoon
writer could really get a lot from that. Eisners book is really show. They just storyboarded the first script, and I said, That
good for a writer. The only trouble with Eisner is he does things would be kind of fun to do. They could ask me to do it, hint,
that nobody else can do. They work perfectly well for him, but hint. He said, No, you dont want to do this. That was the
nobody else can do it. Thats true with Kirby and thats true first sequence, which is basically a Brittany Spears-type singer
with a few other people too. in this record store doing an appearance, and then she gets
DF: Have you ever thought about teaching or have you ever kidnapped in a limo, and fights some bad guys. Apparently, it
taught? took, like, eighty pages of storyboarding to do this five-page
MB: Not really. Ive had really weird experiences teaching. Ive sequence. I thought, Man, that would not be fun. And thats
come in for visiting day and taught and talked about comics to why I dont know if I could do animation or not. Unless youre
kids. I had fun with the elementary age kids cause theyre the main guy, just sort of designing the whole thing, I think it
enthusiastic as hell. But I went into a high school class. I do a would be the most tedious thing in the world.
fairly interesting thing for a living, I can make it interesting, DF: I think its a problem-solving thing. You have this story point
standing up there talking. But looking at this sea of about to diagram out or to storyboard out. I think thats how people
twenty just absolutely bored, couldnt give a damn faces I approach it.
couldnt do that every day. MB: Thats kind of how I approach comics. Visually storytelling,
DF: If you were teaching in an art school? how can I do it in the best way. I just watched Atlantis: The
MB: That might be interesting. I was going to say, when my Lost Empire on satellite last night. It got me thinking about
daughter was in high school, she was in an advanced class doing animation, how tough it can be. Theres this one scene
and they were all doing their personal projects. I was my where the characters voice is Michael J. Foxs. Hes without a
daughters personal project, and she brought me in, so I did a shirt and hes gesticulating, and hes talking. Hes animated as
class on comics, and the kids were all sharp and quick and hell and, man, the anatomy is just great. Just the way the
interested, even if they didnt necessarily give a damn about shoulders and the chest and the hips and the neck move.
comics. That was fun. If I could have that sort of experience Drawing that would just be so much fun, having it come out
How selfish of me, I only care about the kids that care. looking that good. But the amount of work that went into
DF: Its just me, me, me with you. Any interest in or advice getting it looking that goodI dont know if Id have the
about animation, storyboarding, any other comics-related fields patience for that.
DF: The future of comics? It will always be
around, I suppose, but do you think its
gonna go more mainstream, or stay a niche
the way it is?
MB: I think its getting maybe a bit more
mainstream. It seems to be coming
around some. There seems to be a market
for a lot of different sorts of comics. Its a
small market, but it seems to be viable.
The hemorrhaging has stopped after the
heyday. Theres always this big pendulum
swing back and forth. You know, my
biggest worry about comics is that there is
so much other stuff out there to spend
money on entertainment-wise. When I was
a kid, if you wanted this sort of
adventurefantasy, science-fiction, super-
hero stuffyou bought comic books.
Thats all you got. But now, between video
games and the movies, who knows? The
movies may be a curse to comics rather
than a boon. This Spider-Man movie looks
so spectacular. Have you seen a trailer for
it yet?
DF: Yeah.
MB: Good God! Its exactly how I envision
More Bendis/Bagley/Thibert dramatic storytelling from USM #22. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

30 | WRITE NOW
Spider-Man in my head!
DF: I still think theres a magic in comics that exists nowhere
else. So, you think comics will become mainstream again?
MB: I hope so. I tend to be a fairly positive person, and during
the implosion that happened a couple of years ago, It was so
bleak and so negative. So many people got out of the
business. Theres a lot of guys who are not working now. Im
talking mainly creators, pencilers and inkers and writers who,
when things were great and there was more work than you
could put your hands on, they would blow projects right and
left. They wouldnt show up, they wouldnt bring it to the table.
When there was work there to be done they wouldnt do it. And
now that much works not there, and theyre scrambling, looking
for work, and they cant find any work. Theyre whining and
bitching and moaning that theres no work there for em. I think
the only reason Im working now is because I kept working
really hard even through the boom years.
DF: And youre really good.
MB: But theres lots of really good guys out there that you
dont hear from em anymore cause you couldnt depend on
em.
DF: Dependability and talent.
MB: Dependability, talent and
DF: And good people skills, I think, help.
MB: Exactly, those are the three things you need. And speed,
too. Being able to do a project and have it get done on time. If
an editor needs a job done really quickly, theyve got to have a
guy they can really depend on to get it done, and when the job
gets printed, its not gonna look like hell.
DF: Youve mostly, or I guess entirely, worked on company-owned
characters. Any feeling or desire to work on something that
youve co-created or thats owned by you and/or a writer?
MB: If Bendis or Fabian or you were to come up with
something that was really interesting, and I had the time to do
itbecause right now, between houses and mortgages and
things like that its hard for me to donate a lot of time if it isnt Bagley and DeLaRosas Spidey from Spider-Man Unlimited #2, the final
paying up frontId be more than willing to look at something chapter of the 14-part Maximum Carnage storyline. Words by Tom DeFalco.
like that and think about doing it. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
DF: If the bottom did fall out of the market, any idea what you MB: If you manage to break in, to start doing this as a living,
would go back to doing? Or start doing? treat it as a profession. I have no time for dilettantes. I have
MB: Id call my buddy up who wants me to do storyboards. I no time for people who, Oh I just dont feel like working
would go knocking on doors at print places. I dont know what today. Everybody has a day or so like that. My respect goes to
Id do. That would be something, at 44 years old. That would people who stay busy, love what they do, and really develop a
be an interesting thing to have to change. I might just live off body of work. There are lots of really, really, really talented guys
savings for a year, go back to school and learn something else. out there that put out one project a year. And yeah, its a really
What that would be, I have no idea. I would love to work at a beautiful project, but you know what? Give me an entire year to
bookstore. I would love to do things like that. I like dealing with work on a project and it will be as good as anything anybody
people. After my daughter finishes college and I get my other else has ever done. To me, thats not what I do for a living.
house sold, who knows what Ill do? What I do for a living is to entertain people every month.
DF: This is going to be coming out around midsummer, around DF: Or now, eighteen times a year.
San Diego Comicon. Is there anything you want to plug that MB: Or eighteen times a year. I think thats one of my appeals
youre doing, that youre exited about, that will be out then? to the fans, the fact that they can look forward to seeing a
MB: What Im doing? Well, Ultimate Spider-Man is going to quality comic from me every month. Its a matter of respect, I
eighteen issues a year. Which is a hell of a compliment to think, from me to them, and from them to me. [laughs] Listen
Bendis and me and the whole team, cause I dont think to me blowing my own horn.
theyve ever done this before with a book. Thats gonna keep DF: And my last question: whos stronger, the Hulk or the
me pretty much busy, at least for awhile, til I get fairly well Thing?
caught up. The nice thing about doing a book like Ultimate MB: The Hulk is stronger than the Thing, of course.
Spider-Man, its a single character book, with a lot of dialogue, DF: So far, everybodys in agreement, so I might have to come
a lot of character interaction, which I draw faster then action up with a better last question.
sequences. I enjoy it also. Its a win, win.
DF: Any other words of advice for aspiring writers or artists?
MB: How about, Is Aunt May dead or alive?
DF: Depends. What time is it? Thank you, Mark Bagley.
THE
END
BAGLEY | 31
Interview with The Man

Still STAN LEE


After All These Years
Interview by Danny Fingeroth DANNY FINGEROTH: Stan, youve been
Edited by Danny Fingeroth / Copy-edited by Stan Lee writing comics for more than sixty years.
How would you say the craft has evolved

S tan Lee started as a writer and editor at Timely/


Marvel in 1939. He was editorial director of Marvel, then
became the companys Publisher and is now Publisher
Emeritus. As a writer, Stan created or co-created icons of
Marveland of American pop cultureincluding Spider-Man,
over the years?
STAN LEE: The difference between
writing comics today and years ago
when I was doing them, theres more
competition now. I think the writer today
the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk and has to be more careful what he writes,
countless others. He has represented Marvel in Hollywood for has to try to be more literary, has to try
the past three decades, helping create the movie and TV to think more cinematically. Because
versions of Marvels characters, among many other projects. there are many people in the field now
Currently, he heads up POW! Entertainment, an independent who are film writers and novelists and
developer of entertainment properties. He is one of the so forth who decided theyd like to do
handful of people in entertainment media who can truly be comics. So I think the quality of writing
called a Living Legend. just has to be better than it was years
Stan gave some of his valuable time to be interviewed for ago. I think that, today, the people
Write Now! on February 21, 2002. He talks about the craft of creating comics are luckier than years
writing for entertainment media in general, and about his own ago. When I was doing them, nobody
writing in particular. His answers are peppered with fasci- ever thought, Oh boy, if I do a good job,
nating stories from his illustrious and ongoing career. The theyll make a movie out of this. Today,
interview was conducted by Danny Fingeroth at Stans Los I think thats uppermost on the mind of
Angeles Pow! Entertainment offices. every writer who creates a new
character. The first thing he thinks of is
how much will I ask for the rights when
Warner Brothers decides to make this a
big budget film.
DF: Will comics themselves, not the
characters, but the medium ever be as
big as it was?
SL: Im not sure comics will ever be as
really big as they were decades ago.
Nothing to do with the quality of the
comics, its just that theres more
competition now. When I started doing
comics they didnt have video games,
there wasnt television, there werent
computers. Now there are so many
other things to attract a potential
readers interest. I do think, however,
that there will always be comics. Theyll
have their highs and their lows as far as
sales are concerned but I think theyll
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

always be with us.


DF: When you write, is there an ideal,
typical reader you see in your mind?
SL: In the movie and television business, Im considered
something of an oddball because all that studios talk about,
and TV networks talk about, is the demographic. We need a
show for this demographic and that demographic. When I wrote
comics and the few times that I still write some, I never think
From Amazing Spider-Man v. 1 #32, by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko. [2002 Marvel.]

32 | WRITE NOW
of any demographic. Frankly, I would just write stories that I ulous that a character like Spider-Man could maintain a
thought I would enjoy reading. And thats the only audience Ive readers interest all this time. Because Im guessing that, with
ever written for. I write for an audience of one, myself. Thats a character like James Bond, if a movie came out once a
what makes it easy. I know how to please myself. month for so many years. eventually people might get tired of
DF: In a lot of your writing, I notice you commenting on the work it.
world in general, and the publishing and entertainment indus- DF: If you were a writer starting out today, what media and
tries in particular, especially in the relationship between Peter genres would you pursue?
Parker and J. Jonah Jameson. Their constant verbal jousting feels SL: As a writer today, I really dont know what Id go into. I
very real, and in ways both older and younger readers could would probably go into whatever I thought I could write the best
relate to. Id love to know if or the quickest. I think
you remember what you were comics might seem too
thinking when you wrote difficult for me. Years ago,
those types of scenes, and Mario Puzzo, who wrote The
more generally your feeling Godfather, used to work at
about the relationship our place. Not on comics, he
between creators and worked on different
business people in Hollywood magazines. But before he
and in publishing. wrote The Godfather he
SL: I dont know what was in really needed some money
my mind when I wrote the and he came to me one day
relationship between Peter and he said, Stan could
and Jonah Jameson. But I you give me a few comics to
think I have always felt there write? I can use the dough.
is always friction between an Well, he was a good writer
employee and an employer. I and I said: Sure, Mario. I
mean, I was very close and gave him an assignment. He
a good buddy with my boss brought it back about two
Martin Goodman who was weeks later. He said, Stan I
the publisher when I was the cant do it. I didnt realize it
editor and art director, but was this hard. The time it
there was still friction would take me to write this
between us. Also, I always damn comic book I could
tried to inject humor in the write a novel. Well sure
strip when I could. I couldnt enough, after that he wrote
think of anything funnier The Godfather. So comics
than to have a guy who he are not everybodys cup of
worked for hate Spider-Man tea and I think if I were
and not know that he really starting out today, I would
was Spider-Man, and even try to write a screenplay or
hate Peter Parker because maybe try to sell a TV
this guy didnt like teenagers series, because its as hard
to begin with. I think Jonah to succeed at one as the
Jameson was just an other. But if you succeed in
amalgam of all of the One of Stans first published comics scripts, from 1941s All Winners Comics #1. TV or the movies, the
narrow-minded adults that I Art by Al Avison and Al Gabriele. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] rewards are just greater.
knew, and I knew many. DF: Youve been living in L.A.
DF: Can you compare how Marvels flagship characters, for twenty or more years now. Do you like the town, or do you
especially Spider-Man, have evolved over the decades compared just feel its where you have to be to do TV and movies?
to say, James Bond, the Hardy Boys, or other longstanding serial SL: Im just fine with Hollywood and I dont mind saying it.
fictional characters? When I lived in New York all I used to read about were those
SL: Spider-Man and James Bond have a lot in common. There wild parties with the stars and the starlets jumping naked in
are a lot of differences, too. The James Bond movies were swimming pools and those mad, wild orgies. Ive been here
based on a number of novels that were written by Ian Fleming. twenty-one years, Ive been to a lot of parties, and theyre more
Now I am no authority on that. I dont know how many novels conservative then the ones we had back home. Now maybe Im
he wrote but Im sure it wasnt as many as a hundred. Probably too much of a square to be invited to the good ones, I dont
less than fifty. Maybe less than twenty five. Whereas a know, but its been a great disappointment. For Gods sake if
character like Spider-Man, ever since 1962, I think, has needed you write this please say He said it with a laugh.
one complete story a month and that was just the Spider-Man DF: He said it with a laugh. So, Hollywood
magazine. There were also all the spin-off Spider-Man SL: You always hear that people in Hollywood are all back-
magazines. So you really cant compare a comic book hero with stabbers, theyre the worst people in the world, theyd shoot
any hero in literature or movies simply because of the sheer their mother for a nickel and so forth. But I gotta say, I guess
volume of the number of stories that are required. Its mirac- maybe Im unusual or Im lucky but I love the people Ive met.

STAN LEE | 33
would lecture at a college or
something, Id mention the
story about Orson Welles
and me being in the WPA
Federal Theatre, and Id
always mention that I wished
that he was giving a lecture
somewhere and he was
saying, Oh yeah, I used to
act with Stan Lee. But I kind
of doubt that he ever did.
When I was in the army I
was part of a screenwriting
unit, and with me were
[novelist] William Saroyan
and [director] Frank Capra
and people like that. Of
course, I dont know what
Thats the Thing talking, in this classic sequence from Fantastic Four, v. 1 #16 by Lee & Kirby. Inks by Dick Ayers. happened to them after the
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] war. [laughter]
Ive made a million friends here. And it maybe is, again, cause DF: I hear youre doing your autobiography
I dont really associate with that many businessmen. Most of SL: That was a very strange thing, that biography. Someone
the people I deal with are artists, writers, screenwriters, was supposed to write it and he did. He interviewed me and he
directors, people like that. Its just like the bullpen back at wrote all my quotes down and when you read your own quotes,
Marvel New York when I was there. Theyre people who are it doesnt sound like you. When youre talking to someone, you
doing the best that they can, they love the work they do, they just give them facts, but when you write you try to put a little
help the guys they work with and I think that theyre great guys style in it. When I read the thing as he had written it, it read so
so I cant think of anything bad to say about the movie or TV dry that I rewrote the whole thing. So it ended up as more of
people whom Ive known, made friends with and worked with. an autobiography than a biography. In fact, I gave it a new
DF: Ive read that you were in the WPA Federal Theater. Is name. Its a bio-artography. Its coming out about the same
studying acting helpful to writers? How about reading dialogue time as the Spider-Man movie comes out. I would imagine its
aloud? one of the best bio-artographies, and one of the most amusing
SL: I was one of the shining stars of the WPA Theatre project ones ever written. Of course, I might add in all honesty, its
back in thegee, I dont knowback in the Forties, Thirties. I probably the only bio-artography on Earth, but that shouldnt
was a teenager, back in those days the WPA Theatre project cloud my judgment. Its called Excelsior. And then underneath
was sponsored by the government. It stood for the Works they embarrass me by writing, the Amazing Life of Stan Lee.
Progress Administration which was started by Franklin Id better do something amazing before I die not to make a liar
Roosevelt to give people jobs because there was a depression. out of em.
So for people in the creative line of work, he started the DF: I dont think you have to worry. What advice would you give
Federal Theatre which was the theatre project sponsored by the aspiring writers on learning and practicing their craft? Any how-to
government. Orson Welles was a member, I was a member. I books? Courses?
love saying that,
cause people think I
acted with him. I really
didnt. He was a
member of one group
and I was a member
of another one, but we
were both members. I
loved acting and I was
damned good at it,
too, but it didnt pay
much. Thats why I
eventually gave it up
and turned to writing.
Ive always missed
being an actor
because, as you
probably know, Im a
real ham.
One thing I used to
love to do when I
Peter Parker wises up in Amazing Spider-Man v. 1, #33 by Lee & Ditko. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

34 | WRITE NOW
SL: I think that just living is the best training for a writer, write them so that, even though they were continued, you had
because every minute of your life you have a new experience. one whole incident that you could enjoy by itself. Today, comics
You hear people talk, you see things happening. And I think you are still that way but a lot of them, as you mentioned, they
kinda have to record them somewhere in your memory, have in mind that this would be a trade paperback later on,
somewhere in your mind. Sure, having acting training is good, and they try writing them as a novel, so that each issue is
but being in anything is good training for a writer. The big thing, really just a segment of a longer story. I think thats fine for the
I think, is to be aware of other people. To notice how they differ people who are following, for the fans who buy every segment
from each other. How they resemble each other. To notice how and who probably enjoy it. It makes it very hard to sell those
no two people have the same speech pattern. I always try to books to the new, transient reader because a new reader picks
write so that, even if you didnt see a picture, youd still know it up and doesnt know what the hell is going on. I dont
who was saying the dialogue because the characters didnt talk condemn it because there is a market for those kinds of

Do ya think he knows? From Stan and Steves The End of the Universe, in Tales of Suspense #41. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

like each other. But of course thats me and Im perfect. things. And if I were writing today, Id probably be doing a lot of
[laughter] stories like that myself.
DF: What are you reading now, Stan? DF: So you think that the comics medium is evolving away from
SL: Thats embarrassing. I havent done any good reading in the pamphlet-model and toward the trade paperback?
years. I used to read everything. I was a voracious reader. SL: I have no idea whether the 32-page book will last or not.
Anything I could lay my hands on. Id read science-fiction. Id Im guessing it will because I think its the easiest type of
read a novel, Id read a biography, a history, anything that was publication to sell at a reasonable price. Now admittedly they
good. I had very catholic tastes but right now I am incredibly used to be a dime when I did them. Now, theyre closer to
busy. I used to have a book or two at my end table. When I three dollars each. But still, compared to everything else,
went to sleep, Id read for a half-hour or an hour. Now Im comics are a cheap means of entertainment.
asleep before my head hits the pillow. The only thing I have When I went to the movies, it used to cost a quarter. Jesus,
time to read now, in the morning when I have my breakfast, I when I think back I remember I bought a second-hand Rolls
read the newspaperif I have time. I dont even read the Royce, years ago. A friend of mine had bought a brand new
whole thing. And I used to read Variety and the Hollywood one. Im going back about thirty, forty years. He paid thirteen
Reporter. I dont have time to read those anymore. I regret thousand dollars for it and my wife and I said, how can he do
that, I just do not have time to read cause I spend all the time that, you can buy a house for that! And then we bought a
reading scripts and proofreading everything Ive written. similar car, but many years later. It was second-hand, and we
DF: In todays hit TV showsBuffy, Alias, 24its clear that the paid about eight thousand for it, and I felt, Im the most extrav-
style you developed in comics has become the storytelling agant guy who ever lived. So things really have changed. Now,
standard, and for good reason. It allows complex stories to be Ive forgotten the question. It doesnt matter. What Im saying
told in a way that both new and regular viewers can enjoy an is probably more interesting than answering any questions
episode. Yet many current comics seem to purposely go against anyway.
that standard. Do you see that as a problem or as an evolution? DF: Thanks for the vote of confidence, Stan. Youve had some
SL: When I was doing the comics we tried to make every story significant Internet experience. Do you think the Internet can
complete in itself. We did have continued stories, but I tried to succeed as a storytelling medium on its own, or will it always be

STAN LEE | 35
computer. Youll probably have one keyboard that will manage
everything. It probably wont even be a keyboard. It will
probably be something you speak into. Then, I think, the
combined medium will be successful. But right now, I dont see
the Internet as a medium of entertainment at all. Its the
greatest medium for communicationand soon for
commercein the world, but I just dont see it for enter-
tainment.
DF: You just wrote all those Just Imagine projects for DC
Comics. Was that as much fun as it seemed?
SL: Ive just finished the tenth, so thank God Ive only got two
more to do and Im finished. What a job this was! Geez. I loved
it, but what a lot of work.
DF: Any new comics work coming up for Marvel, DC or anyone
else?
SL: I loved doing those DC books. If I had the time I would love
to do more of those and any books for Marvel, too, but I dont
have the time. When I took the DC assignment, I didnt realize
Id get as busy as I have. You just have no idea how difficult it
was to sandwich in the time to finish those books. But I do like
them and it was great working with those artists. They were
terrific. I enjoyed working with Mike Carlin, as well as with Paul
Levitz, whos now the president [of DC Comics]. Hes a great
guy. He was very cooperative and as helpful as Jeanette [Kahn,
former president of DC] was. It was a very pleasant experience.
DF: What projects do you have coming up in other arenas, Stan?
SL: Well, theres my bio-artography. There might still be a few
copies left unsold. I would hope everybody will run to buy em.
Also, I have this novel out, which might still be around
somewhere called The Alien Factor. Have you heard of it?
Its been out for awhile. If anybody wants to buy that, it
wont break my heart. If you see these books, go out
and buy em. Just so you can say, Jesus, what
made us think he could write? [laughter]
Then, here at POW! Entertainment, Im
working on movies and TV shows. Im
doing an animated show starring
Pamela Anderson. Were
Stans takes on classic DC heroes from the recent doing motion capture of
Just Imagine Stan Lee... series. Above, her body, so even though
Batman, with art by Joe Kubert, and, on the
its animation it will really
right, Superman, drawn by the late, great
be her figure animated.
John Buscema. [2002 DC Comics]
And shell be doing the
an ancillary medium to TV, movies voiceover. Its gonna be a
and print? great show. Itll be like the
SL: Im always wrong on predic- Simpsons but a lot sexier than
tions so Ill probably be wrong on the Simpsons.
this. I dont think the Internet is as DF: And finally, because the world
good [as the other media] as a wants to know, whos stronger, the
storytelling medium. I know Hulk or the Thing?
Stephen King tried selling a book on SL: Why dont I guess and say
the Internet. Personally, I dont think its that the Hulk is stronger. But
pleasant to read a story on a screen. I know for that doesnt make it official
myself, if I read a book, I want to sit down because, who the hell knows?
comfortably, hold it in my lap, turn the pages. DF: Thanks so much for your
As far as watching movies and things like time, Stan. Best of luck with
that on the Internet, I think that, in the not POW! And thanks for the last
too distant future, your large television sixty years, too!
screen will also be part of the Internet SL: Hey, if you think they
and part of your telephone. Everything were something, just
will all be in one unit. Your radio,
your TV, the phone, the Internet, the
you waitthe best lies
just ahead!
THE
END
36 | WRITE NOW
Read Now! continued from page 2 comics creators and Write Now! mascots William
Shakespeare and Leonardo DaVinci (or Wayout Willy and
I look forward to hearing your ideas on what else Write Now! Laughin Leo, as their fans know them) working on the first
should be covering. After all, if theres one thing a professional Renaissancerific issue of Mona, Warrior Princess!
writer knows how to do, its to have other people come up with
ideas for him. You can reach me at WriteNowDF@aol.com. P.P.S. Special thanks also to publisher JOHN MORROW for
Thanks for checking out Write Now! Well be here every 90 taking a chance on the wacky idea that resulted in the
days, maybe more if time (and demand) allows. Hope you enjoy magazine youre holding in your hands. Hope were both here
the mag and that you learn something from each issue that for issue #100, John!
you didnt know before.
Danny Fingeroth is an editor and writer whose credits include
Write Away! running Marvels Spider-Man line during its all time highest
sales years, and writing hundreds of comics stories. Hes also
published novels and short stories and worked as a development
executive at Virtual Comics and at Visionary Media, home of
Danny Fingeroth WhirlGirl. Aside from conceiving, editing and packaging Write
Now!, Danny is currently writing graphic albums for Platinum
P.S. Special thanks to superstar artist and great friend, MARK Studios and other companies, consulting on various internet and
BAGLEY, for this issues sensational cover featuring famous animation projects, and developing fiction and non-fiction book
projects.

NEXT ISSUE:
YOU'LL GET MORE INSIDE TIPS ON
WRITING FROM TOP PROFESSIONALS,
INCLUDING:

DENNIS O'NEIL
M AG A ZI N E Legendary writer and editor of BATMAN,

#
GREEN LANTERN, and AZRAEL

2
ERIK LARSEN
Creator, writer and artist of Image's
SAVAGE DRAGON

STAN BERKOWITZ
Writer and story editor of Cartoon Network's
JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES

ALL NEW TODD ALCOTT


Screenwriter of ANTZ
COVER
BY ERIK ANNE D. BERNSTEIN
LARSEN! Writer of MTV's DARIA

LEE NORDLING
One of the world's foremost authorities on syndicated comic stripsand
the editor of PLATINUM STUDIOS' comics line.

Plus:
An overview of BOOKS ON WRITING
What's worth the dough, what's not.
Your reactions to our first issue.
And a couple or three surprises.

Seeya in 90 days!
Savage Dragon 2002 Erik Larsen; Green Arrow/Green Lantern & Justice League 2002 DC Comics

READ NOW! | 37
But What Does Danny Think?

Why Comics Are Not Movies


By Danny Fingeroth, editor Here are some factors that I think make comics unique, and
some thoughts on how those qualities are best utilized (in

L ets do a little math.


An average movie costs eight dollars.
An average comic costs $2.50.
A typical cable TV bill is $40.00 a month.
If the movie is two hours long, then it costs an audience
pursuit of creating a mass entertainment experience; artistes
need not take offense, unless it makes you feel good):
TIME
Comics can mess with time in ways motion pictures cant. In
the millisecond between a punch being begun and landed, a
member $8.00 divided by 120 minutes = 6.67 cents per comics character can recite Hamlets soliloquy. In a movie, the
minute to see the movie. most youre going to hear is a syllable. Time in comics can
If a comic has 22 pages of story, then youre paying $2.50 expand as we like it to. Movies carry you along at their speed.
divided by 22 = 11.36 cents per page to read it. If it takes The movie you and the guy sitting next to you are watching
between 15 and 60 seconds to read each pagelets say it takes the same time to unfold for both of you. Find something
averages 30 secondsthen that comic costs about 25 cents a confusing you want to see again? See something youd like to
minute to read. linger over? Tough.
If the average drama TV drama is 44 minutes long (assuming In a comic, the reader controls the pace. You can speed
you TIVO or fast forward the commercials), and you pay a cable through, you can linger, you can reread panels or pages that
bill of $40.00 a month and watch ten hours of TV a week, then you find confusing or engaging. (Note: this does not excuse the
youre paying a dollar an hour (or less than two cents per writer from writing clearly. It just means that if the writer screws
minute) for your TV entertainment! Even less if you watch more up, the reader has a fighting chance to figure things out.) You
than ten hours a week, and I bet you do. can go back to see if the end does indeed make sense. You
Lets see those figures again: can read the story over and over and then you can give it to
TV costs 2 cents a minute. (And if you dont have cableits someone else to read. And the story you see in your head will
FREE!) be yours alone. The next person reading it will arrange the
Movies cost 6.67 cents a minute. images and words to suit their inner brain wiring, probably in a
Comics cost 25 cents a minute!!!!! Thats over twelve times way similar to your experience, but not exactly. Cool, huh?
more than TV. Almost four times more than a movie. INTERIOR MONOLOGUE
Its pretty clear where you get the most bang for your buck. If a movie character speaks in voiceover, it can take a while
I hate to put the above so crassly, but it touches on for the audience to get used to it. In the hands of a lazy writer,
something that I think is a real problem in many comics today. voiceover is just a way to get exposition across. In the hands
Namely, the (mistaken) belief that comics are more like movies of a talented and thoughtful writer, it adds a novelistic aspect.
or TV (that is, moving picture media) than they are like books. You become the character, see things through his or her eyes,
Comics borrow elements from moving pictures as well as from understand things in a way that only that character can.
prose, but they are their own unique medium. And while the In comics, part of the vocabulary inherited from prose is the
financial equation is one way to measure itif a person gets a interior monologue, the voiceover, whether it be as narrative
bigger bang from their discretionary buck from something else, captions or the (currently underused and out of fashion)
why read comics?I do, of course realize that cost is not the thought balloon. After distribution problems, the abandonment
only factor in a humans entertainment choices. of the thought balloon may be the second most serious
That aesthetic area is where I find this confusion of media problem facing comics today. The first? Im glad you asked. It
really troubling. Instead of utilizing comics unique qualities to concerns
tell stories to their utmost, many comics writers, perhaps in an NARRATIVE CAPTIONS
effort to show how cutting edge they are, continue to treat There are writers who philosophically are opposed to the use
comics as if they were movies on paper. (In comedy, this is of narrative captions.* Movies dont have narrative captions,
whats called playing to the banda comedian decides that they say. So go write a movie. Why would you not want to use
his real audience is his fellow performers, and makes his one of the most effective tools in the comics writers chest? I
routine up of jokes that only the musicians in a clubs band dont mean that you should do it badly. Used well, narrative
and other insiders will get. These are people who are often well captions can ease transitions, add dramatic or comedic color,
reviewed and not very popular. The Dennis Millers of the world, emphasize a point, or cover for confusing art, among other
who can play to the band and still make an audience laugh, are things. Some writers think its too artificial. Uh these arent
few and far between.) Comics (the paper kind, not the stand- newsreels. Theyre artificially created stories.
ups) are not movies. They are as much novels or short stories
on paper as they are movies. Actually, theyre not any of those
*This includes footnotes, too, which can be informative and enter-
things. taining. Theyre a great, unique comics device. They spill over from
Theyre comics. Thats why we love them. the magazine part of comics genetic code. Again, a great tool, why
not use it?

38 | WRITE NOW
DIALOGUE effective. Yet many writers continue to insist that artists draw
Unless a given movie is about language, such as a film of them.
a Shakespeare play, theres a limit to how long most movie or FACIAL EXPRESSION
TV dialogue is. Especially in an action film, there are rarely Marlon Brandos face can express a thousand different
more than a couple of dozen words per unit of dialogue. In emotions. His raised eyebrow can mean hes amused, hes in
many scenes, there are few or no words. In a comic, the love, or hes about to have you killed. But there are so many
dialogue can be as dense or sparse as the scene dictates. As subtleties of facial musculature and skin movement, its
with the example of the speech-before-a-punch above, a comics unlikely that such a gesture could be conveyed by even the
character can go off on all sorts of dialogue jags while doing greatest comics artist. Again, many writers still insist on trying.
things that would take a filmed character only a second or two TONE OF VOICE
to do. They can even think those things. A silent scene in a You know what Im going to say here. Its a great element in
movie takes as long as a talking scene of the same length. movies. John Wayne had one tone, but it worked for him. Al
The viewer is (ideally) being entertained and engrossed either Pacino has a hundred. Nearly always backfires in comics which
way. A two minute scene that cuts between a thief silently are, in case you hadnt noticed, silent.
trying to open a safe while the police, sirens wailing, speed MUSIC AND SOUND EFFECTS
toward the scene of the crime, engages an audience for as Similarly, so many things can be highlighted or accented in
long as a two minute scene movies with the right sound-
of two lovers having a track. When James Bond
heated quarrel. This is not enters a room accompanied
so in a comic. Even the by the James Bond theme,
masters of comics cant it sends shivers up your
make their readers eyes spine, even if its George
linger on a textless image Lazenby playing Bond, even
very long, unless the viewer if his dialogue consists of
is admiring the art, in which him hacking up phlegm.
case, he or she is probably Sound can very often cover
not involved (at that for weaknesses in a movie
moment) in the story. scene. In a comic? You get
Theyre, in effect, at a the idea. Same with non-
museum. musical and non-dialogue
This brings me back to my sound. Lots of explosions
rant about time and money and the sound of thundering
that started this piece. You hoofs can make you believe
want to write a comic with something exciting is
no dialogue, thats your actually going on in a
right. Its also my right to movie. In a comic, you dont
read it at the store in 30 have those elements to rely
seconds and put it back on on. Sound effect open
the rack, unbought. If you lettering can serve the
dont think enough of me to same function as real
want to entertain me for a sound. Yet, many writers
decent amount of time, why The FF go Hollywood. From Fantastic Four, v. 1 #9, by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and continue to write as if the
should I fork over my dough? Dick Ayers. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] lapses in their scripts can
Even if you wrote a be saved by great actors or
thousand words in your plot outline so that the artist would put inspired soundtracks. Science says theyre wrong.
a zillion nuances in each panel, the reader has no way of
knowing that. And why should they care? Times are tough. Bottom line: Comics are a great medium with a magic that
There are video games to be bought. You want me to spend my no other form has. I implore the comics writers out there (and
allowance or my salary on 30 seconds of entertainment that I with the editors and publishers who work with them) to be
cant even figure out? proud that they are writing comics. Youre not writing movies or
TV shows. You shouldnt be writing solely to impress your peers
Additionally, writers who believe that comics are movies on with how hip you are. Youre writing to entertain a reader and to
paper seem to selectively forget the advantages that movies make that reader and his friends want to come back next time
have over comics that can never be duplicated. These include, to your (and other peoples) comics. You want to create an
but arent limited to: experience thats pleasurable, habit-forming and entertaining.
GESTURE You wouldnt expect a car to fly. Why do so many writers expect
Whether large or small, gestures say a wealth of things. comics panels to move and talk?
Negotiating over dry goods at an outdoor bazaar or dancing at
a hot new club are broad gestures that can look great in a Agree? Disagree? Couldnt give a rats ass? Send your
movie but, as often as not, look silly in comics. A wiggle of comments to WriteNowDF@aol.com or snail mail them to
fingers or a jerk of a head are small gestures that convey Danny Fingeroth, Write Now! Magazine, c/o TwoMorrows,
volumes in movies, but in comics are generally too small to be 1812 Park Drive, Raleigh, NC 27605.

BUT WHAT DOES DANNY THINK? | 39


On this page and the next: Two consecutive pages from
Darkhawk #37. Todd Smith drew this page from Danny
Fingeroth's plot. Danny then wrote the text, reproduced here,
with the penciled art in front of him. This is what's known as
"Marvel style" (because it was popularized by Stan Lee and
his artists at Marvel in the 1960s) or plot first style. The
script was then lettered by Jim Novak, guided by Danny's
balloon placement indications done on photocopies of the art.
Todd's pencils were then inked by Ian Akin.
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

40 | WRITE NOW
Note the artist's role in the storytelling here. Instructed
by Danny's plot to draw Chris Powell transforming
into Darkhawk, Todd decided that a big, bold panel of
Darkhawk, followed by a moody shot of his silhouette
flying away against a full moon, was the best way to
tell the story. It certainly was effective, but another
artist might have made entirely different choices, such
as, for example: a couple more panels of Chris
agonizing over whether changing to Darkhawk would
indeed kill him, multiple images of the transformation,
or maybe seeing the flying hero through the cables of
the bridge.
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

Even with a full script, where the writer would describe all panels
and dialogue for the artist, there would still be many decisions
for the penciler to make, but the writer does control the story's
pacing to a greater degree. What's lost is a measure of the
spontaneity the penciler would bring. Neither way of working is
necessarily better or worse than the other.
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

BUT WHAT DOES DANNY THINK? | 41


What Editors (Really) Want
Interview with
Joe Quesada
Interview by Danny Fingeroth 3/22/02
Copy-edited by Joe Quesada
Transcription by The LongBox.com Staff

J oe Quesada has done it all in comics. Starting as a colorist


for Valiant Comics, his estimable penciling skills were soon
discovered, and Joe became the artist on DC Comics The
Ray and then on Azrael, a character he also designed.
Moving to work at Marvel Comics such as X-Factor, Joe
became one of the top pencilers in the industry. With partner
Jimmy Palmiotti and few of other folks, including his now-wife
Nanci Dakesian, Joe started Event Comics, whose foremost
character was Ash, the super-powered New York City fireman,
created in stories co-written by Jimmy and Joe, penciled by Joe
and inked by Jimmy. Ash is currently in development as a
feature-length animated film at DreamWorks. While still with
Event, Joe and Jimmy launched the Marvel Knights editorial
imprint for Marvel. Aside from his editorial duties, Joe was
penciler on an acclaimed run of Daredevil, working with
writer and director Kevin Smith. Joes editorial work on that
line so impressed the powers that be, that in 2000, Joe was
elevated to Editor-in-Chief of the entire Marvel line. Since then,
hardly a day goes by when Joe, often in tandem with his
partner-in-crime, Marvel COO Bill Jemas, doesnt grab some
kind of industry headline. As Editor-in-Chief, Joe sets policy
about what does and doesnt get published by Marvel Comics.
So he seems like a person whose inner thinking youd better
get to know if you aspire to write for the House of Ideas, or if
youre just wondering about the philosophy that drives the top
editorial dog at the biggest company.

DANNY FINGEROTH: I thought that you, for the obvious reasons,


would be a good person to interview for a magazine about
comics writing. You have been on both sides of the desk, and
youre now involved in setting editorial policy for the number one
comics company. Cover to Daredevil, v. 2, #8 by Joe Quesada & Jimmy Palmiotti.
JOE QUESADA: All right, man, Im ready. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
DF: The orientation of Write Now! is less towards inside gossip, Although that was taken away from him, he saw the aptitude
although Im always happy to have as much of that as you want in me and was always very encouraging. I cant remember a
to provide. Think of it as Entertainment Weekly meets Writers time when I ever lacked drawing paper.
Digest. DF: Thats cool and pencils, too, I would hope. Those would have
JQ: Me gossip? I never gossip. helped. [laughs]
DF: [laughs] Its always pure fact. The basic structure will be JQ: I drew in blood, actually.
some background on you and your work, some general questions DF: Well, whatever it takes. [laughs]
about the business and breaking in, and some specific questions JQ: There were no pencils in my day. I drew the hard waywith
about craft, plus a few beyond that. So to begin what did blood.
your folks do? Did they encourage creative work? Discourage it? DF: [laughs] Were any of your siblings or friends in school into
JQ: My parents were your basic nine-to-five working folk. My art or comics or writing or things like that?
father was born and raised in Cuba, and he understood at a JQ: I was an only child, so no siblings.
very young age that he had an aptitude for drawing, which DF: Any teachers who inspired or encouraged you?
basically had to be snuffed out because of the fact that he was JQ: Sure, absolutely. Very early on in grammar school, I had a
one of these kids that, unfortunately, at the age of thirteen had teacher who was very attuned to the arts. Mrs. Dorothy Cohen
to go work to be the sole support for a family. of PS 19 in Corona, Queens. We were going to Broadway plays

42 | WRITE NOW
From Iron Man v. 3 # 28, The Mask In The Iron Man story arc, written by Joe, with art by Sean Chen and Rob Hunter. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

in the third grade. We were being taken to things like Godspell it to the client. I think that, again, one of the reasons I
and to real sophisticated stuff at a very young age. eventually graduated to comics was that you get to draw and
DF: You grew up in what part of New York? also to tell the story through still images. I guess, mentally, as
JQ: Queens, New York, 95th Street between Roosevelt and an artist, I was very impatient. Drawing is not as much a
37th Avenues in Jackson Heights to be exact. I was really pleasure to me as it is to some other people. Sometimes its a
exposed to a lot of theatre and a lot of stuff very, very early on very painful act to draw for me.
in my life. DF: Your drawing is very detailed and very ornate. I can see that
DF: But you always drew, and the writing and editorial part of you dont just dash off your drawings.
your brain and attitude came in later? The drawing was your first JQ: I have very little tolerance for my own stuff. So I get very,
love? very bored. I hate doing a cover layout for a project that I know
JQ: The editorial part came in much, much later. Although I did Ive done before and it just torments me. I feel like Im
write a lot of creative stuff in school, I wouldnt have called cheating the reader, Im cheating myself. Ive always been that
myself a skilled writer to any extent, but I did have a very, very, way. Thats why comics, for me, is a painful creative process,
very active imagination and I used to put that stuff down on because I work so hard at the layout stage. I do layout after
paper. I think, inevitably, that was one of the things that origi- layout after layout until I finally realize that Ive got something
nally attracted me to comics when I was a very young child. that is either unique to me, or something that I figure, I cant
Although I didnt necessarily focus on the writing portion of my do anything else but this derivative piece that Ive already done
brain, I was always putting stuff on paper. before but Ive explored every option. Mind you, the latter has
DF: Did you go to art school or major in it in college or anything? rarely happened. I think thats why the writing half of it came
JQ: After high school, it was art school. I went to the School of later for me, too, because I saw so many great people writing
Visual Arts in New York City. I received a partial scholarship such wonderful stuff that, damn it if I cant do anything as good
and basically I went to art school because I didnt really know as Frank Miller is doing, why bother?
what else to do. DF: Then nobody would be in the industry but Frank Miller. Was
I wasnt really 100% sure that I wanted to be an artist it always comics that turned you on, or was there something
because, for me... I know people who draw all day long and just else? Did you know from the time you were a kid that thats
love to draw, but drawing didnt come easy to me. I couldnt what you wanted to do?
just sit there and draw a bowl of fruit. I got bored very easily JQ: It wasnt always comics. It was comics early on, and then it
and I would draw it and say a million people have drawn bowls became girls and sports.
of fruit, and I would always try to draw something that no one DF: So that was the gigolo and professional baseball player
had ever seen. Again, I guess that was the appeal of comics, period?
the fact that you get to draw things, just create them from JQ: Actually, I left comics almost at as early a stage as I picked
scratch, create worlds and characters and things that people them up. I read them for a few years and then I dropped them,
have never seen. And you get to do multiple images on a page and then actually music became my first love. I taught myself
as opposed to one stagnant image that you work on for weeks how to play a bunch of instruments and I taught myself how to
and weeks. This is a lesson that I learned the hard way write music. I performed a lot for many, many years. It was a
because I majored in illustration, and in the world of illus- bigger part of my life than comics. Ive spent more time being a
tration, they ask you to focus on one image and draw that musician than I have in the comics industry.
image and make it as fine-tuned as possible before submitting DF: Were you earning a living as a musician?

QUESADA | 43
JQ: I was earning some money but not enough to support my Sure. So he showed me the floor plan for his studio, and
cocaine habit. Joke! said, Heres where my library is. Heres where my art table is.
DF: [laughs] he said with a smile. Im thinking to myself that this guys an artist. I didnt bother
JQ: Since I was doing nothing but original material, it was very asking what kind. It was none of my business. He said, Ill
tough to earn a living with your sole means of support being a come back next week, show me what youve got then. So, as
musician. But I did it for a long time and fell back into comics Im designing a lighting plan for this guys studio, it occurred to
later in life. Actually, it was in my mid-to-late 20s when I redis- me that I needed to ask him what type of art he was doing. It
covered comic booksprecisely at the same time that would have affected what type of lights I would have put in that
Watchmen and Dark Knight came out, so it was very serendip- area. So the next week he came back in and I said, Listen,
itous for me. Thats what got me back into the comics world. Ive worked out everything except your table-area workspace,
DF: How did you make a living before you were in comics? If it because I need to know what type of lighting to put in there. What
wasnt in music, what did you do? kind of work are you doing? Is it photography? Is it full-color
JQ: Everything from working at the Gap to working at FAO illustration? He said, No, Im in comic books and I was like,
Schwarz, the acclaimed toy store. Retail was my life and hell. Thats hysterical, I just started reading comic books again. He
One of the best jobs I had was working for a company that said, Oh, youre a fan, and I said, Well, yeah, Im a fan of the
designed lighting and sold lighting for residential and museum craft. I really appreciate the good stuff. I used to be an artist
spaces. That allowed me to use the creative portions of my myself, but I dont do artwork anymore. He said, What kind of
brain and it was just a lot of fun, because you are dealing with art do you do? and I replied, Well, I used to do fully painted
people who had a lot of money to play with to do cool things. illustration. By the way, the guys name was Art Nichols.
So that was the last job I had before I threw myself into the DF: Oh, of course. I know Art.
comics medium. JQ: And Art said, Im working for this brand new company
DF: Did you start getting assignments as soon as you jumped were starting up. Its called Valiant and were doing fully
in? Did you know anybody to get your foot in the door? Your painted coloring. Why dont you bring your portfolio in? I said,
teachers or classmates from school? It might be fun, so I did, and I got hired there on the spot,
JQ: Well, no what actually happened was that I knew nobody in and that was really kind of the beginning.
the comics industry because, remember, I was an illustration DF: Were you on staff at Valiant?
major, and this was now many, many years after I graduated JQ: I was on staff at Valiant when they were doing Nintendo
from college. So what happened is that, when I was working at comics, but it was kind of like freelance/staff. I was there
the lighting design store, a guy who came in and said, Listen, I every day. They hadnt even started their super-hero line at that
need some small interior lighting designs for my studio. I said, point. It was just before the comic glut started, and everyone
started getting rich. Actually people were just
starting to get rich at that point, and I came in as a
colorist and I worked in the in-house coloring group
which was about six of us, led by Janet Jackson.
[Not the pop singer.DF] They were paying their
colorists on an hourly basis, and it was an outra-
geous amount of money. So here I was, coloring
four or five pages a day, and we had guys that were
coloring half a page a day. Guess how long that
was going to last?
DF: [laughs] I want that job.
JQ: It was amazing. And then, finally, the investors
at Valiant decided to send in a guy from the bank
to check out how they were doing things, because
it just seemed they were bleeding money and not
making much of anything. The Nintendo stuff was a
huge bomb. The guy from the bank looked and
said, Weve got people here that we are paying on
an hourly basis, this is insane. So we had a big
meeting and we found out that 60% of the staff
had to be laid off and it had to be based on
seniority. People with seniority got to stay, and I
was one of the newest people, so I was laid off.
Literally, I had a month-and-a-half of funds left in
my bank account. I could survive for about a
month-and-a-half with rent and food and what have
you, before I would have to go find a regular day
job. While I was there, I was watching guys come
in, and really getting to see what real comic book
penciling looked like. At that point we had guys like
Rodney Ramos, who is still in the industry, as a
Azrael (designed by Joe) from Batman: Sword of Azrael #4, written by Denny ONeil, with pencils by very prominent inker, doing some pencil work for
Joe and inks by Kevin Nowlan. [2002 DC Comics]

44 | WRITE NOW
us. Youd see guys comics are advertised.
like Rodney and Art We really learned a lot
Nichols and guys like about, and quite
that who are really frankly we wrote the
solid guys. I was book on, how to get a
looking at their lot of promotion with
technique and I was very little money.
thinking, I know I can DF: You guys were
do this. I know I can great at that.
do this. I put together JQ: And meeting,
a penciling portfolio in greeting and talking to
a month-and-a-half, the guys at Wizard.
and Art Nichols We really condensed
hooked me up with a our effort to get a lot
brand new editor at of press. I mean,
DC, a guy named Jim Event Comics was
Owsley, who only had three people, thats all
two books in his it was. We did quite a
stable at that time. I decent business with
went to DC, and he just a few books, and
gave me an inventory books that shipped
cover to do. I came late no less
back with it the next completely my fault,
day. He loved my stuff, Ill take the blame for
and he said, Kid, I thatbut it was a
love your stuff, but cottage industry, and I
Ive only got two think we did pretty
books and youre good at the time.
basically spit out of DF: Before that, youd
luck. But Ill see if never done any writing
anybody else needs or plotting?
any pencilers. Why JQ: No, none.
dont you just wait in DF: What made you
the lobby? So as I decide that writing and
waited in the lobby, I editorial was the
get a call from the direction you wanted
receptionist a little The title character strikes a pose in Ash # 2. Written by Joe Q. and Jimmy Palmiotti. Pencils by Joe, to go in? Part of it was
inks by Jimmy. [2002 Joe Quesada & Jimmy Palmiotti.]
while afterward and a necessity, it sounds
she said, Mr. Owsley wants to talk to you. I went back to his like, with the Event structure.
office and he looked at me and said, and I never forgot this, JQ: It was really more that the people that I really admired at
You know what? You are the luckiest son of a gun in comics. that point were Alan Moore and Frank Miller. Theyre the ones
What are the odds that while youre sitting out there in that whose work brought me back to comics. Alans writing was just
hallway, one of my two pencilers calls me up and tells me to go amazing, but Franks combination of being able write and draw
kill myself? I need a penciler on this book. Do you want it? I the story was really fascinating to me. I felt deep down inside
was like, Yeah, and I have never stopped working since. that I could do that. I could tell a story like that and I could do
DF: That was The Ray, right? that kind of rhythmic pacing. It was just something that was
JQ: No, actually that was a TRS book called Spelljammer. The attractive to me because I felt it was something that, if I was
Ray came afterwards. Ive never stopped working since that going to do comics, its probably they way I was going to do it. I
day, and since that day Ive been the luckiest son of a gun in eventually had writing in mind as a goal. I just wanted to tell
comics. stories that were worthwhile. I didnt want to tell run-of-the-mill
DF: Did you did you do any co-plotting or co-writing in the early super-hero stories. There were way too many people doing that,
days? and I just didnt want to do that.
JQ: Very little, I didnt feel it was my place. Im working with DF: Was there any way you and Jimmy split up the writing duties
guys like Denny ONeil at the time, and then later on at Marvel on Ash?
with Peter David and people like that. Its like hey, man, I know JQ: No. What we did was, we talked to Howard Chaykin at one
my place. Im an artist. Let these guys write me a story. Ill point. Howard had described to us how, when he writes or he
learn as I go along. co-writesbecause he did a lot of co-writingyou sit around
DF: You co-wrote Ash, right? and you spitball ideas, and you use an index card system. You
JQ: Ash was when I first started to co-write stuff, with Jimmy put your ideas on index cards and then you break those ideas
Palmiotti, at the time when we started to publish our own stuff. down into even more index cards. Then, you pretty much know
Thats really where we got sort of a baptism of fire with respect whats going to go into an issue. You figure your standard
to structure, as well as to how comics are solicited, how comic book is 22 pages of art and story, so you pull out 22

QUESADA | 45
index cards. Then you start breaking down that book and you wiped out. We had 20-foot-long rows of index cards all over the
have to make sure it fits on those 22 index cards. When you floor. By the time we were done, we probably didnt really need
are done, you end you with several series of index cards. So the index cards, because we knew the history so well. Then we
when Im ready to draw, I end up with 22 index cards, each one started to break the backstory down into story arcs, and then
basically indicating whats on the page. We had reams of these we started breaking those story arcs down into issues arcs. If
things. We would be in my studio apartment, and wed clear the we had to do it over again, Id re-think it a bit, because we
floor of everything, and we would put the cards down on the wrote this linear story, the story of Ash on these index cards,
floor and plot out the issue. and then we decided to do something that I now see as a very
DF: Can you go into some detail on that process? big problem in the comic book industry. Instead of telling the
JQ: We would start with Whos Ashley Quinn? Whats his storyline early, we decided to tell the story in bits and pieces,
origin? Lets talk about him, his mother, his father, how his time jumps and things like that. Its something that I now fight
mother and father met. Wed have all these index cards going against every day at Marvel. But its something that I fell into
from left to right, and the next row, and the next row and we very early on as a beginning writer. It is a problem that I even
would have his entire family history in front of is. Who his see todays best writers fall into.
fathers friends were and things like that. And then we would DF: Sounds like good editorial training, to take things apart and
figure out the future of Ash and how all the time elements put them together like that.
came into play. So by the time we were done we had the entire JQ: Oh, sure. Again, in retrospect, looking at the Ash story, its
back-story written down. One of things that was also very still a fun story, but we could have told it so much better. It was
important was that I decided early on that I wanted to take the growing pains. Youre looking at two guys who were doing it for
Robert McKee [Story Structure] course. Anybody who is reading the first time.
this interview should make sure that they are very aware of DF: So from that learn while you earn writing, the next thing
Robert McKees book called Story, which is an adaptation of the public knows about you, beyond drawing, is the Marvel
his weekend-long seminar. Knights line. You guys were the editors, not writers. What did you
DF: Its a great seminar. think you could bring to the party that was different?
JQ: Robert McKee is a writer who never really wrote anything of JQ: The first thing that we thought we could bring to it was the
tremendous significance, but as a teacher hes taught some of fact that Marveland we knew this coming from the
the best screenwriters in Hollywood. The best comics writers freelancing perspectiveMarvel was kind of a closed shop.
have taken McKees course. There were people that were working here who were friends of
I heard about it from Denny ONeil. It was a great course. I Marvel, so they got work. We wondered why Marvel didnt hire
had taken it early on, so I had learned a lot about structure, other creators who were out there, who we knew could do good
but I didnt feel I knew that much about writing at the end of it. work on certain books. We could never figure it out, and it
Jimmy and I both knew that we had to understand Ashs world wasnt our job to figure it out. It was just our job to start
before we could write the characters. So we created the world bringing in some of these people we thought were good. The
of Ash, and we studied the world of firefighters, things like that. real surprise to us, compared to the independent publishing
So, like I said, it was comical. People would walk into my world, from Image to Event Comics, everybody was coloring
apartment and Id have to warn then: Be careful where you stuff heavily on the computer. Marvel was still using the color-
step. One false move and a characters entire past could be guide to color-separation-house method, because Marvel had
very a big color separation house over
in Ireland. Marvel was doing a lot of
its production in the stone age, as
opposed to the independent world
where colorists were doing everything
on the computer, putting it on disk,
and ending up with a better product.
So when we came to Marvel to start
Marvel Knights, we noticed that the
whole bullpen area, the production
area, was years behind us, and we
were just a tiny company. A footnote
to this is Marvel has caught up, but
our next of kin competitor DC still
does it like the dark ages. So its
interesting that sometimes the comic
book industry has a hard time
catching up to the rest of the world.
Even as editors, it was a different
world for us, it was something new,
because we were used to editing our
own stuff. Now we were working with
somebody elses characters, so you
have to play the politics of dancing
Daredevil takes to the roofs in Daredevil, v. 1 #227, from Frank Miller and David Mazzuchellis Born Again storyline. here at Marvel becauseand under-
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

46 | WRITE NOW
standably so, I dont blame
people here one second for
thisbut you have to put
this into an historical
timeline. When Marvel
Knights came in, I believe it
was only perhaps a year
after the Image guys did the
whole Heroes Reborn thing
and, although that was a
commercial success, it was a
disaster for company morale.
Editors here hated it. They
had their books taken away
from them! So when we From Black Widow v. 1, #1, written by Devin Grayson, art by J.G. Jones. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
came on board, they looked
at us as more of the same. Here come these guys with their maintaining of the franchises, the icons. You dont want Garth
big swinging egos! So we were very conscious of that, and Ennis to go and turn the Punisher into something that you
that is one of the reasons we asked for office space at Marvel. dont want the character to be. You do have to be a protector
We wanted people to accept us as part of the company, of the properties and, yes, there is the steering, pleading, and
because we werent operating on behalf of Event Comics. If we manipulating of certain story arcs to be as commercial as
were operating solely for the benefit of Event Comics, you possible. If you are an editor who is really on the ball, youll be
would have seen an Ash crossover with Spider-Man very early able to create certain arcs and certain spikes in arcs that
on. We really wanted to work with Marvel because, at the end continue the readers interest, and you are able to help your
of the day, we were all very much of the same understanding writer with that. It all changes from writer to writer. Some guys
that as Marvel goes, so does the rest of the comics industry. If require a lot of babysitting and some guys and gals do not.
this company wasnt healthy, there would never be a healthy Some writers just hand in their stuff and go away and never
Event or DC. The industry could very well have fallen apart and come back, and the same thing with certain pencilers. Some
we wouldnt be having this interview right now. creators really need to hear feedback instantaneously. Its kind
DF: So was it that more than any innate desire to be an editor? of like having a family, and youre sort of the paternal portion of
Certainly, it seems like a big jump to go from heres your pages, that family. You want to keep everyone in your family happy as
give me my check to I want to now be the hub of the wheel of much as possible, and thats really the way Ive always seen my
all the things that go into a particular comic. Was that a big job. Just to give you a really quick anecdote: I always communi-
conceptual leap for you? cated with Joe Straczynski via e-mail, and I sent him an e-mail
JQ: A lot of this was also ego. Who amongst us in the creative a couple of weeks ago, jokingly saying, Joe, Im really kind of
community doesnt play Monday morning quarterback, or who pissed at you because, quite frankly, youre one of the few guys
doesnt play fantasy comic books and doesnt think, Boy, if I that works for me at Marvel that I have never ever met
were in charge of Marvel, I could fix things by doing X, Y, and personally. So gosh darn it, the next time we are together at
Z. We all do it. Weve been doing it for years. Wed all sit the same place we better have lunch or Ill never speak to you
around at a bar and have a couple drinks and say what we again. Id like to have the type of working relationship with
could do with X-Men or what we could do with this or that people where its professional, but its personal, too. Its just an
series. This was an opportunity for Jimmy and I to put our extension of how I ran my business as a freelancer. I want
money where our mouths were. We could get a little piece of them to be aware that the person who is Editor-in-Chief is very
the pie here and try to do something really good with it, and we aware of the work that they are doing and proud that they
were confident enoughand maybe we were egotistical chosen Marvel as the place to do their work because
enoughto assume we could make a difference. I think we ultimately, they have taken a leap of faith, and they have put
did. A lot of it was just controlling our own destiny. Being given their trust in me, and that I can deliver on the things that I
a couple of icons is nothing to sneer at. When they said, promise.
Yeah, you can have Daredevil, I was in. They could have paid DF: When you have that lunch with Joe Straczynski, will you talk
me next to nothing I was already in. about a Spider-Man plot or script, or will you leave that to the
DF: The editors job, in a nutshell, how do you see it and how line editor of the book?
has it changed over the years? If you want to address the Editor- JQ: First of all we did have the meeting. He was in New York
in-Chief job, what had it been, what is it now? and he took me up on it. Basically, I try to let the line editor
JQ: Youre asking me a question that Im not equipped to discuss the direction of a book a little bit more with the
answer because, keep in mind, Ive only been editing for three creator. With Joe and me it was broader strokes. Weve got
years and Ive only been Editor-in-Chief for a year-and-a-half. I you on Spider-Man, what else do you want to do? Lets talk
dont know how the job has changed. I can tell you the way strategy and lets talk timing. Okay, youve got this idea for
that I used to do the job at Marvel Knights, which was basically Spider-Man, cool. Lets try to plan it for sometime this year or
a lot of getting out of the way, especially when youre dealing next year so that we can promote it correctly, and things like
with very, very top creators who really know their craft. If youre that. With Joe, basically all I have to do is say hello to the guy
hiring Garth Ennis to do The Punisher, well, basically, get out of and tell him how much I appreciate the great job hes doing
his way and let him do The Punisher. Then there is the and then get out of his way. Okay, so I did go a bit fanboy on

QUESADA | 47
the guy and tell him what a huge fan I was of Spider-Man, JQ: Things like that dont exist. We try to focus on a certain
Babylon 5, and now [Showtimes series] Jeremiah. Thats my style of covers, but for the most part, anything goes if its an
geek mentality showing. Beyond that, its more of a strategy eye-catching cover.
meeting, more of meeting to find out, Are you cool with DF: I know that Marvel has a policy that says none of your
Marvel, what can we do if youre not cool, give me your general editors can write as well as edit. Obviously, in the history of
impressions, how do you think were doing out there and what comics, some great work has come from editors who write. I was
can we do to make it better? Thats kind of what I speak to wondering what the thinking on the policy was?
Joe about. When it comes to story, he can speak to his editor JQ: Its an absolute policy and just to add a footnote to it, if
about it. If theres ever questionable content in the story or a there is an editor here who feels, Ive got this really great
questionable story arc or a questionable direction, the editor story and I feel the need to get it out there, they cannot get
will come speak with me, and if we need to have a meeting, paid freelance for it. It is forbidden. The covers that I do for
well meet with Joe. The last time this came up was when, in Marvel, I do not get paid for. I dont make freelance money
the most recent issue of Amazing Spider-Man, it was revealed here any longer. The reason for that is that I believe one of the
to Aunt May that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, and we had a bit things that was the downfall of Marvels creative juice for a
of a conference on that. Joe was not includedhe just sort of while was that we became so insular. One editor would give the
put the story out there and Axel and I wrestled with the editor next door to him a job in lieu of another writer, and
possible repercussions and the positive outcomes and where it eventually, when guys like Grant Morrison came here looking for
could all lead. We weigh the options and then we decide, go or work, guess what? Grant couldnt get work because all the
no go. In this particular instance we decided go. books were taken up or just the fact that it was a boys club of
DF: Thats a good, clear rendering of the internal editorial the worst order.
workings. I think its helpful for people to know this kind of thing. DF: There have been editors who are great writers in the history
JQ: With respect to editorial policies, Ive told my editors the of the business. Stan Lee is the most notable example, but there
same thing over and over again, which basically is the same were also Archie Goodwin, Jim Shooter, and Denny ONeil. I
philosophy as the way I ran the Marvel Knights business. If understand your reasoning, but I wonder if you worry about
were hiring Grant Morrison to write X-Men, let him write X-Men. missing potential quality writing from somebody on staff who
This doesnt mean that Grant has carte blanche to go out
there and turn Scott Summers into an axe murderer. These
guys know what these icons can do and where they can go,
and sometimes I encourage editorial to steer the writer onto
the track if they get off track. One of the things that I heard a
rumor of when I was a freelancer was that, if an editor didnt
get what they wanted from the writer, they would just rewrite it
because they had to get it out. I soon found out that that was
the case and not just rumor, as some editors freely admitted to
me. Thats not a policy that we have here anymore. Basically, if
writer X, for example, was to submit something and we thought
it wasnt clear, if we felt that the language wasnt proper or the
character didnt sound like the character, then the first thing to
do is to call writer X and ask them to change it. If writer X
doesnt get back to you within a certain amount of time to
meet the deadline, then we change it. But our creators have
that understanding walking in. Its our agreement with
everyone.
DF: Sounds like its a rational policy.
JQ: Like I said, I was very surprised that the rumor that I heard
was actually true and something that was done at one point.
So we dont rewrite the X-Men books anymore. I often tell my
editors, if we are hiring the best creators, Ill allow my editors
to edit if they allow their creators to create. So I very rarely
come down on an editor and say, You have to hire so-and-so
for this book, I demand it. I will suggest people and I will try to
steer editors in a certain direction, so its a pretty low pressure
situation. The only time Ill step in is if a book is really, really in
trouble and I feel like I need to stick my nose in and give my
observations as to why this book is in trouble, and perhaps
offer suggestions as to how to steer it out. The only place
where I really have a strong visible hand is with art directing
our covers.
DF: Youre a resource. Why should they not make use of it?
JQ: Right, there are no hard and fast rules. I used to hear this
rumor that there was no green allowed in Marvel covers.
DF: [laughs] Thats an old folk tale. A pivotal moment in J. Michael Straczynskis Amazing Spider-Man, v. 2, #35.
Art by John Romita, Jr. and Scott Hanna. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

48 | WRITE NOW
understands the process in a unique way? going on.
JQ: No, I really dont feel like that. I feel DF: And I have many disagreements with
in todays world that its different. Writers your perception, but this is not an
werent making very much money years interview with me.
ago. In todays world, you can very easily JQ: There was a point when Marvel was
support your family on a book or two producing 100 titles a month or so
books a month. My feeling is, if someone DF: 140.
here is really that good a writer, they can JQ: 140. And at that point, maybe they
show me their stuff, and if they are that needed to give some editors some work
good, I will work out a deal for them because there probably werent enough
where they can make a significant amount freelance writers to go around. But its
of money writing for us, so much that they not the way we do our business now.
would not want to edit again. I mean DF: Lets segue into something else.
really, its that simple. Every once and a Someone looking to break in as a writer
while you will get a Denny ONeil who or as an editor today, is there any recom-
happens to be on staff, but keep in mind mended way?
what happened here at Marvel. You ended JQ: If you want to do something while
up with people running the business of youre in college or college age, my
comics who werent businessmen, they recommendation still stands. Come in
were comics fans. People came in as and be an intern, perhaps come in and
interns because they felt that, If I can work as an assistant editor and get an
break into Marvel, I can get a job writing. idea what its like. If you are a good
And for a lot of people that was the enough writer when you do leave the
ultimate goal of editing here. It wasnt to editorial corps, youve already estab-
edit, it was to become a writer. I want to lished relationships here. It would be
separate that. If you want to be a writer, considerably easier to get a job as a
then be a writer. If you want be an editor, writer if youve got good, established
then be an editor. I dont want to have relationships with editors already. The
situations where I have people editing way I see it, there is nothing better than
books who are sort of thinking, If I was working as an intern at Marvel with
writing this thing I would write it this way. respect to getting connections and
Its not going to work and, quite frankly, learning the ropes.
its also a terrible way to run your DF: What about conventions, sending in
company. You cant even budget properly submissions, working in other media,
what the company is earning at the end of doing self-publishing, all that stuff?
the year because youve got people here JQ: All that is all very helpful, if you have
who are working and double-dipping by resources. To be honest with you, one of
making money on the side. At the end of the best avenues is to try to get yourself
the day, think about how many good self-published, or published anywhere,
writers came out of it, and then also how because realistically, when you send a
many terrible books were produced, also portfolio in cold, if youve been published
by internal people. There was a time in somewhere else, its taken a lot more
the comics industry when all you had to More from JMS, JR Jr, & Hannas Amazing seriously. Even if youve published it
know in order to get a good job in comics Spider-Man #35. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] yourself, it shows a that you went for it,
was comics. Also, remember that in Stans you tried. You believed enough in
day, many of the writers and artists werent weaned on comics. yourself to publish yourself, or you believed enough in yourself
They wrote for magazines, illustrated commercially, they had a to go to a small publisher and let them rip you off or whatever.
better grasp of the art of story structure and illustration DF: One of the big issues in comics right now is, who are comics
techniques. They didnt come from a place where all they knew, for? When youve got your creators hat on, is there someone you
lived and breathed were comics. They didnt want to be the write towards? And from the Editor-in-Chiefs perspective, who do
next Stan Lee because that was meaningless to them at the you think your audience is these days?
time and had no historical weight. Flash forward ten, twenty JQ: I think we learned from Stan that you dont write down to
years and you have this new crop of guys coming in knowing your audience because you feel that kids are reading it. Write
exactly how to make comic fans happy, unfortunately it was good stories. Stan wrote stories that worked on several levels.
only comic fans like themselves and not new fans who may They were entertaining enough that I understood them as a kid.
want to join our medium. It all became way too insular and as They were sophisticated enough that I felt like I was reading
much as I have affection for some of the editors that edited something that was meant for my older cousins. That still
and wrote here, it was a cancer on the comics industry. This applies today. Obviously, I think we can get away with a bit
can also bleed into the editing portion if the editor is too mired more edginess than back in the day. But who the audience is,
in the way that comics should be done. its always been a problem. Weve never really done proper
DF: [laughs] Ive been biting my tongue, Ive been very good. demographic research to find out who reads these books. You
JQ: I understand. You were here when that sort of stuff was look back to the 40s and people like to think that there were

QUESADA | 49
like so many kids reading comics. Well I talked to [legendary twenty, but we know for a fact that we definitely have 50-year-
artist and former DC Comics Publisher] Carmine Infantino old readers out there.
recently, and he said, You know, the bulk of our readership, DF: A pet peeve of mine is that I see a lot of comics written as if
was in the 17-20 year old range, because a lot of them were they were screenplays. Whereas, in a movie, because you have
servicemen. Sometimes I wonder if, with respect to super-hero motion and color and music and camera movement, you can get
comicsand I dont mean the quaint old-time Superman-type away with a minimalist approach to dialogue. Ive seen that
stories, Im talking about Marveltheres a misconception that tendency in comics, where the story points dont get conveyed
a majority of our readers were eight- and ten-year-old kids. with those film elements, and also dont get conveyed with text.
When I picked comics up early on, I was handed many Thats my pet peeve. Im wondering if you have any thoughts on
comics from my older 16-year-old cousin who was love with that or thoughts in general on how comics are like movies and
Kirbys Fantastic Four. Its really tough to say, but I think that how comics are not like movies?
Marvel Comics in general are a bit more sophisticated than our JQ: If you are referring to the minimalist nature of some
Distinguished Competition for the most part. comics, I tend to agree. There are some books out there that
I just read this interview with Flo Steinberg in, I believe are critically acclaimed that have this minimalist attitude
towards the comic. They never get around to
introducing the characters. The writer just
assumes that because you are versed in
the language of comic books, you know that
the guy with the black leather outfit is sort
of the Batmanesque character of the group,
and so on. So I understand what youre
saying. If you look at movies and dissect
them, youll notice that the same formula
that we use in a good comic is in a good
screenplay. They introduce the world of the
story. They introduce the characters very
succinctly. Again,a master at doing that
was Frank Miller. There was no one better at
this particular function, when he was writing
Daredevil: Born Again. In every issue, he
introduced Matt Murdock in a unique and
interesting way, where we were completely
unconscious of how Frank did it, yet there it
was. By the time you got to page three, you
knew exactly who Matt Murdock was.
Another artful way of doing it was when
Mark Waid, in his first Captain America run,
managed to do the exact same thing with
introducing us to Steve Rogers. Mark also
really masterfully introduced all the players
From Daredevil v. 2 #12, written by Quesada and Palmiotti, art by Rob Haynes. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] in a way that didnt seem forced. There
werent characters coming on to camera,
Comic Book Artist magazine [#18], and I was surprised to and the character next to them saying, Hey, Thunderbird, how
learn that Rolling Stone actually did an expos on Marvel back are you and how are your powers today?
in the early Sixties. Why, you ask? Well, because Marvel was Now, with all that said there are exceptions to every rule, and
huge on college campuses! Go figure. Maybe weve never really we are adapting with the times, but more on that later.
been a kids medium and thats whats holding us back. I know DF: I think were both saying that the craft should be practiced
for a while there was this attempt to have the Disneyfication of well as opposed to badly.
Marvel which, thank God, didnt work. What a disaster that JQ: Now, I dont see a need for a word on every page if we can
would have been! get the action across visually, which is one of the big, big
DF: I assume youre not including the Vertigo line in this stumbling blocks that new writers have. They like to write in
comparison to DC. caption. A new writer will script: Panel One: Spider-Man is
JQ: No, thats a mature readers imprint. Im talking about the swinging from building to building. His arm is in a sling
mainline super-hero stuff. I think the message of X-Men is because it is broken. And the art will show Spider-Man
much more sophisticated than the message of Superman. swinging from building to building with a balloon saying, Thank
Superman is Superman. X-Men is about prejudice, its about goodness my arm is in a sling because its broken, when its
tolerance, working as a team, its about ethnicity, its about so very obvious to us that the damn thing is broken and in a sling.
many different things. And although these stories can be told I see a lot of those mistakes very, very often, because comics
with enough simplicity for a child to understand, the underlying are the visual medium that they are.
messages are quite complex. Theyre Shakespearean in nature. DF: A lot of comics today seem to be part of a whole, intended
I think Marvel readers tend to be a little bit older. I would to be collected in trade paperbacks. Whats the thinking behind
venture to say that our key age range is probably twelve to that?

50 | WRITE NOW
JQ: We had to make a conscious decision as to how we break themselves and their powers. The second reason is that it
our stories up and how we told our stories. Back when the makes for better trade paperbacks. No matter how much of a
newsstand was a real businessthis has very little to do with master Frank Miller was at recapping, in TPB form, when you
comics, just that the newsstand in general is a dying business, read all those issues together, theres only so many times that
magazines are dyingthe newsstand was the traditional feeder you can read, My name is Ben Urich. Im a reporter, without
system for the direct market. Before there was a direct market, saying to yourself, Enough already! The recaps are wonderful
newsstands were the number one place where comics did their in this fashion because they can be easily removed for the TPB
business. So the theory back in those days, in respect to versions and the stories will read much smoother in the end.
constructing a story, was first of all, a cover with enough cover Weve changed the basic structure of writing a story for the
copy that readers understood that this was the following issue month-to-month comic books, because it does make for better
from the month previous. Number two, page one had an trade paperbacks. The way I see it, bookstores are going to
explosive action, so that when someone turned to page one, replace the newsstands in a few years. Bookstores will become
they knew that they were getting something that would just the feeders for the comics shops. Because what we are discov-
punch them in the face and they had to take that issue home. ering, and actually its a wonderful discovery, is that we have a
And number three, every comic needed a compelling cliffhanger casual fan that really craves the material that we are
at the end of the issue to make sure the reader came back the producing. If youre a non-casual fan, you actually get your ass
following month. This dictated a certain formula in the way the up once a week on a Wednesday and go to your local comics
stories have to be told. So lets say, for example, that I wanted shop. That takes a lot a of effort or it takes a certain mentality,
to tell a story about the Fantastic Four in which they go on a a club mentality. Therere only two things that I can think of
picnic and in the middle of the picnic, Galactus shows up. that most humans do on a weekly basis. One of them is your
DF: I hate it when that happens, dont you? laundry, and the other one is you go to the supermarket. The
JQ: Chances are that as a writer, I would have to do a couple of supermarket isnt a club mentality. Its a survival thing. You
things but in order to get that punch in the face. I would have to go get your food. Its not something that we do on an
either have to have Johnny and Ben getting into a fight during habitual basis because its fun.
the picnic and make that my first page, or I would have to show And not everyone finds going to a comic book shop on a
Galactus landing on Earth, and then have Reed say, Hey, I bet regular basis fun. But a lot of people find reading the product
youre wondering how he got here. Then wed flash back to the is fun. So we are providing for the casual reader who enjoys X-
picnic. So the punchy opening dictated structure, from that Men, who likes the fix, but would get it whenever they go to the
point of view. And then, of course, the cliffhanger ending at the bookstore, which may be once every three or four months. We
end of each issue dictated that we were telling stories in which find that when readers go to the bookstore, they have to have
there was an ending that was so compelling that you had to their X-Men, but those people dont want to be at a comic
get back there next month. But if you put these books together book shop every week. So theyre getting their X-Men from the
as one whole, they didnt really work as a trade paperback. Of TPB section, or wherever they find it. But what were finding is
course, back in those days, who cared about trade paper- that there is the casual fan who says, I cant wait this long for
backs? Our business was month-to-month-to-month, and you a trade paperback. Im going to go to the comics shop [for the
had to make sure that the following months sales were at next regular issue], and thats when they become serious
least equal if not better than the previous months. We dont comic book collectors.
want sales to go down, so make that cliffhanger a killer. DF: It sounds like the whole system of distribution and
Now, as we get into the world of trade paperbacks, we realize consumption of the stuff is evolving. You also dont want to
that that structure does not make for good trade paperbacks. shortchange the person that does go for that monthly or weekly
So we dont have to reinvent the way we write comics. We just fix and have them feel that they are getting just a part of a story.
have to modify the structure a little bit and understand that But you dont want to weigh the paperback reader down with
that the first page is not quite as important with respect to the repetitive detail. Thats got to be a delicate balancing act.
punch in the face as it once had to be. Chances are the JQ: What we find is that no matter what they say, a person who
person who is going into the direct market shop is focusing on is at the comics shop every week to get their books is a
the cover image now more than on the first page. And you have collector. It doesnt mean they are collecting the book for
to realize that the ending, although it could be a cliffhanger, monetary value. Theyre completists. They like to have every
especially a decent enough cliffhanger if youre on issue two or issue. So that reader doesnt care what format they get it in.
three of a six-issue story arc, you have to eventually realize Theyll just as soon read it on their computer screen, a
that somewhere, theres going to be an issue that doesnt end paperback, a handed-down, crumpled up copy from a friend,
with an incredible cliffhanger. It has some sort of satisfying they dont care, they just want to read it. That is the reader.
end. This doesnt mean that you cant have dangling plot lines, There are very few of those in comics shops because the
but you have to solve the macro story. people in comics shops dont like to have the corners of their
Now this brings up the exception to the recap rule I brought comics crinkled. Its a very delicate balanceand now we are
up earlier. What were discovering at Marvel is that, much like getting into the business side of comicsand thats why
TV shows that do a one minute recap at the beginning of their Marvel went to this no overprint policy. What we found is if we
episodes, we will eventually go to recap pages. The reason is didnt give the single issues an intrinsic value, people would
twofold. In our never-ending quest to strive towards a natura- just buy the trade paperbacks.
listic approach to storytelling and dialogue, we find that the DF: Information about the business side is good for aspiring
recap pages help considerably. The fans seem to enjoy them writers to hear. What skills does a professional comics writer
better because it lessens those awkward moments of have to bring to the table, at least in terms of how stories are
characters meeting and having to cumbersomely introduce structured, especially in this evolutionary period?

QUESADA | 51
Quesada cameo from Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #9, written by Brian Bendis with art by Jim Mahfood. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

JQ: What weve done in respect to the at individual TV episodes, and they are better than 90% of the
monthly periodical, is, while other stuff thats in the movies. TVs also closer to a purer vision.
companies are watching their monthly Theres so much money behind a movie that a screenplay gets
periodicals shrink in sales and shrink rewritten by a dozen different people. The ultimate purity of
in value, were seeing an up-trend in that vision is gone by the time it hits the screen. The real art
sales and an up-trend in value and an to screenwriting is to try to keep the vision intact.
up-trend in trade paperback sales as DF: There arent as many comics coming out today as there
well. Readers want their single issues were ten years ago. If somebody has comics writing skills but
and they want their trade paperbacks. they dont make the cut, or they dont bathe enough, do you
DF: Just a few final questions. You have any suggestions as to where they can take those skills and
mentioned the McKee course, the use them if not in comics?
McKee book. Are there any other books JQ: I think the best thing you can do is to try to get yourself
or courses that you would recommend, published, whether its do-it-yourself or going with the smaller
either about writing or just with general companies. Ive had guys who submit stuff who are Hollywood
life-enhancing content? TV writersand it wasnt that they werent good writers, they
JQ: I find that DVDs with directors were writers for TV shows. But they were part of a TV-style
commentaries are very, very helpful. ensemble writing team. Some people work better in that type
And any books that you can find from of an atmosphere, because they werent the idea guys, they
any of the classic directors that talk were the facilitators. Somebody comes up with the concepts
about storytelling are very, very and these guys were the writers that put it down on paper and
important. added the structure to it. So they were looking for work at
DF: Directors as opposed to screen- Marvel, and although their work was sound, it was flat for
writers, or both? comics because the ideas werent there.
JQ: If you can find a director that is DF: The skills dont always translate.
also a screenwriter, thats even better. JQ: Right. So just because you didnt make it at Marvel doesnt
But for me, directors, because comics preclude you from becoming an Emmy Award-winning writer.
are such a visual medium and what Therere a million different roads out there, but quite frankly,
directors are dealing with is adapting a the structure is the same. Learning to write for comics is very
script and turning it into storyboards. I similar to learning to write for TV. The format becomes a little
find that, relatively speaking, when it bit longer when you work on screenplays or stage plays, and of
comes to writers, I would focus less course therere novels which is a whole other world.
on screenwriters and more on TV DF: This will be coming out most likely at the end of July.
writing. This best writing on the planet Anything you want to plug or talk about or put in peoples minds
is currently on TV. Theres no question for that period of time?
about it, because TV is the only place JQ: Nah. Just buy more Marvel comics.
where they have to produce almost as DF: Anything for Joe Quesada personally that you want to plug or
much volume as comics. TV writing talk about?
From Daredevil v. 2 #8, written by can be done as a collaboration, when JQ: Man, I dont need any more plugs. People are sick of me by
Kevin Smith, with art by Joe & you look at people like David E. Kelly, now.
Jimmy. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] for instance, he writes every episode DF: One last questionthis has become my traditional last
of every one of his shows and hes questionwho is stronger, the Hulk or the Thing?
amazingly prolific. And heres a little footnote: he writes it all JQ: The Hulk.
longhand. DF: So far everyones in agreement on that. Ive got to
DF: Wow. come up with a better last question. THE
JQ: He doesnt type. TV writers are an amazing breed. You look END
52 | WRITE NOW
Confessions of a Male Model
Interview with
Tom DeFalco
Interview by Adam McGovern in mid-2001
Updated by McGovern in late 2001 and AM: And you were the architect
by Danny Fingeroth in May 2002 of their digest format?
Edited by Danny Fingeroth TD: Yes. But I didnt create the
Copy edited by Tom DeFalco May 2002 format. I believe that Gold Key
was the first publisher to do

F rom Betty and Veronica to a certain well-known web-


swinger, to the hybrid of all three known as Spider-Girl,
Tom DeFalco is comics jack of all trades, and master of
them all, as well. Well, okay, he cant drawbut hes regularly
aligned with the top artists in the business, including Ron
digest-sized comics. I saw the
format, and proposed it to John
Goldwater, the companys
publisher and one of its owners.
He called me an idiot, and told
Frenz, Pat Olliffe, Al Williamson, Ron Lim, Sal Buscema and me not to waste his time.
Mark Bagley. And thats not even mentioning Toms seven year [laughs] I was convinced that the
stint as Marvels Editor-in-Chief during the companys highest- format was perfect for Archie, so
selling period since the halcyon days of the 1940s! Today, I kept bugging him. He came in
Toms splitting his time between Spider-Girl, creator-owned one day and decided to give it a Tom and Ron Lims creator owned Randy
projects such as Randy ODonnell is The M@n, and his usual shot. Since I had been pushing ODonnell is The M@n #2. Inks by Robert
cryptically-alluded-to secret projects that will make the world the idea, the very talented Victor Jones. [2002 Tom DeFalco & Ron Lim.]
bow before his genius or at least enable him to finally open
that pizzeria hes always talking about.
In this interview with Adam McGovern, we focus on the
writing side of Tom, especially since (a) thats how he primarily
sees himself (when hes not pursuing his true vocation of male
modeling, that is) and (b) thats what this blamed magazine is
about! But, of course, with the unique insiders view Toms had
at Marvel, and before that, at Archie, its impossible to have his
observations of the craft and business of writing not be
informed by his experience as a suitor, at least, as a tie. (I
dont think I ever remember Tom wearing a suit to the office
when I worked for him as Group Editor of the Spider-Man line.
But he did have the most garish collection of ties Ive ever
seen, which he proudly displayed for all to see.)
Best known as a writer for his distinguished stints on various
Spider-Man seriesand generally considered one of the finest
interpreters of the webslinger since Stan Lee himself, Tom tells
it like it was, is, and maybe even how it will be. A lifelong lover
of the comics medium, hes trying hard, on a daily basis, to
figure out how to keep the medium going and growing well
into the future. If youre curious how to work both within and
on the outside of the system to get your ideas to a mass
audience, as well as how to become a professional writer and
have a successful career at it, then Tom has some insights that
you just may find enlightening.

ADAM McGOVERN: Youve had a Zelig-like career as the power


behind a number of pop-culture phenomena that ended up being
much better known than you yourself; for instance, one of
Marvels longest-running editors started at Archie Comics.
TOM DeFALCO: I started working at Archie doing I dont even
know what! [laughs] Working in their editorial production
department. I remember the first thing they told me to do was
open up the mail for Dear Betty and Veronica. Thats how I
Cover to DeFalco written Amazing Spider-Man, v. 1, #260.
started, opening mail, and things just got crazy from there!
Penciled by Toms longtime collaborator Ron Frenz. Inked by Joe Rubinstein.
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
DeFALCO | 53
Gorelick, who is still Archies managing editor, dropped the At one point, Marvel made a deal with Hasbro. Hasbro was
digests in my lapand I was in charge of them until I left the going to relaunch the G.I. Joe toys. Someone realized that
company. there were all sorts of restrictions on advertising a toyyou
AM: And then what route did you take from Archie to Marvel? could only show exactly what the toy could dobut there were
TD: After writing for Archie Comics for awhile, I began to no restrictions on advertising a comic book. So they came up
freelance for Charlton Comics. I was assigned to write stories with this bright idea of getting Marvel to do a comic book: They
for the various Flintstones titles and books like Scooby-Doo, would advertise the comic, and use animation to show all sorts
Hong Kong Phooey, and Wheelie and The Chopper Bunch. of exciting things and special effects. Hopefully, people would
Somewhere along the line, I met Paul Levitz who was an be so intrigued by the comic book, theyd buy the toys. The
assistant editor at DC at the time and he introduced me to the plan worked. G.I. Joe became a best-selling comic book and toy
legendary Joe Orlando, one of the finest editors this industry line. The plan also convinced me that television advertising
has ever seen. Joe used me for a few custom comics and would never for be feasible for the comic book industry. Hasbro
recommended me to the other editors at DC. spent millions on television commercials. While G.I. Joe
I still remember when Denny ONeil called out of the blue eventually became one of Marvels top-selling titles, the profits
and gave me my first real DC assignment. He was editing a never equaled the cost of the commercials. The only reason
love comic, and told me to write a story based on the title I the plan worked was because Hasbro was using the commer-
Wont Kiss That Evil Way! I think I showed up with four or five cials to support a major toy line.
different pitches. [laughs] Denny okayed one, and liked my AM: Thats interesting. I didnt remember that the tie-in had
finished script enough to offer me some other assignments. I predated the actual toys.
eventually showed some of my DC work to the equally- TD: Oh, yeah. Jim Shooter was Marvels Editor-in-Chief at the
legendary Archie Goodwin who was in charge of Marvel at the time. He put me in charge of the creative team for G.I. Joe.
time. Archie gave me an assignment, a five- or six-page story Larry Hama, who is one of the industrys most underrated
starring The Vision. Others followed. Charlton eventually writers, did all of the early character biographies, and basically
stopped making new comics, and I continued working for DC set the standard for all the toy biographies that came after-
until they had their implosion [after the ill-fated DC Explosion, wards.
in late 1978]. AM: I was kind of surprised, actually, when I realized youd been
AM: Did you always harbor dreams of reaching certain points involved with that particular project; looking back, it doesnt
and working for certain companies, or did you just throw yourself seem quite in line with your current characters ideas on conflict
into what you were doing at a given time? resolution.
TD: I only know one way to write: I have to be 100% committed TD: Well, youve got to try a bunch of different things! [laughs]
to my current project on an emotional level, or its like pulling May Parker [Spider-Girls peacemaking alter-ego] has her ideas,
teeth. Youre talking to a guy who can pour just as much enthu- but different characters have others. Part of the fun of being a
siasm into a story with Yogi Bear as one with Spider-Man. As writer is that you get to explore many different personas.
far as my career went, I knew which companies paid the best AM: After that you had some connections in both industries?
rates, and kept hoping that I would eventually be good enough TD: For a few years, I had feet in both industries, and
to get regular work at DC or Marvel. occasionally still do. Hasbro was a small company at the time,
AM: How did you get into things like toy development? and now theyre one of the biggest! We had a terrific
TD: Its more the editorial background of the toy development. relationship with them, and it lasted many years. They were

DeFalco, Frenz and Rubinstein depict a nasty Peter Parker nightmare in ASM, v. 1 #258. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

54 | WRITE NOW
great guys. Im using this in the past tense, but Im sure they President and the like. Is this just a device not to have a lot of
still are great guys! [laughs] wacky predictions thatll be outdated on arrival, or can I take it
AM: And part of the beautiful friendship was that other 80s to be some kind of tacit wish for a parallel present at a less
icon, The Transformers formulaic company?
TD: After the success Marvel had with G.I. Joe, toy companies TD: You can take it however you want. [laughs] When we first
kept showing up and asking us to establish their fictional started working on this alternate universe, or whatever you
universes and write their character bibles. At one point Hasbro want to call it, a bunch of the other creators started getting
asked Marvel to see what we could come up with for a new upsetOh, man. Are they going to use my cast of characters?
property called Transformers. They liked the resulting bible, and Are they going to touch my series? So in the first issues, I
Transformers was a go. basically said, The MC-2 books are just fiction. Theyre all just
AM: Youve also made reference to doing straight fiction in your stories. [laughs] Dont worry about them! They dont really
free time. Is that anything you count. And they dont! But the
typically get published, or is it for truth is that all comic books are
some later lifetime? fiction! [laughs]
TD: As far as comic book fans are AM: It seems that you hit a stride
concerned, Ive written some like never before with the whole
prose stories featuring the Marvel MC-2 line. There were certain
characters and even co-wrote a things beforehand that youd tried
couple of novels. Ive also and seen get shot down, like the
consulted or worked on various introduction of baby May in the
television and movie projects that real Spider-Man continuity; the
involved the Marvel characters. 2099 line, which was another
And Ive also done a few things kind of next-generation thing; and
that have nothing to do with the shuffling of characters
comics, they dont really belong in identities as in Thunderstrike
this interview. I actually exist in [the star-crossed average-Joe
different forms on many planes of stand-in for Thor], which perhaps
reality and manage to scrape a didnt get a lot of attention from
living together. fandom at large. Do you see MC-
AM: Do you still primarily make 2 in general as a kind of culmi-
your living from writing comics, or nation of these things that youd
is it more a collaboration between almost nailed before?
your alter-egos in comics, toys, TD: Well, I dont know if I see it
games, and TV? as a culmination Have you
TD: I make my living as a male talked to my doctor? Have you
model. Everything else is just for heard something? [laughs]
fun! AM: [laughs] Crescendo, let us
AM: Ive long admired the MC-2 say, not culmination!
books [the line that Tom TD: Actually, at the time it was
packaged for Marvel, of which the cancelled, Thunderstrike was
surviving title is Spider-Girl.DF] outselling Thor and The
avoidance of formula, how you Avengers combined! Why was
have this readiness to dispatch Thunderstrike cancelled? The
major characters and scrap plot Mayday Parker realizes that with great power there must also come great
powers-that-were said, You can
devices that you couldve milked responsibility. Art by Pat Olliffe and Al Williamson. only have one guy with a
for years on endlike Mays [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] hammer. Well, thats it; you
parents disapproval of her double- have to let one go.
lifebut are willing to let go of before they get into ruts. AM: If it had been DC, they mightve cancelled the other guy!
TD: Things have to be constantly moving. The dynamic totally Theyve at least shown some courage in having a different guy
changes in every couple of issues of Spider-Girl. You have to with a green ring.
do that, otherwise it gets boring! If youre going to try to aim for TD: Well, you know their attitude might have worked a lot
an illusion of realism, youve got remember that real people are better. Marvel might not have gone bankrupt if they had paid
constantly growing and their reactions change as they get new more attention to what was actually selling, instead of reading
information. In many regards comic book readers are getting reviews.
very lazy. They become locked into the way a certain character [As for Spider-Girl] When we were working on Spider-Man and
should be and how a certain type of story should play out, and discovered that Mary Jane was pregnant, I could immediately
they get very upset if you dont follow all the standard clichs. see a future where Spider-Man would be going out and having
AM: So its clear that those books in particular are a reaction adventures with his daughter. For assorted reasons, that period
against certain kinds of set-in-stone expectations among certain of writing Spider-Man wasnt my favorite, so I spent a lot of
fans. Ive also always found it interesting that even though they time imagining the adventures Id rather be writing! [laughs] At
nominally take place in the future, basically all the references one point, they needed some material for What If?, so I saw
and settings are contemporary except for a fictionally named the opportunity to get Spider-Girl off my chest. Ron Frenz, whos
DeFalco continues on page 58
DeFALCO | 55
This page and the next: Tom and penciler Pat Olliffe work Marvel
style. In this casein Spider-Girl #41there are no captions or dialogue
(besides title and credits and whatever in real life would have text on
itthe newsman's name, for example) because this story was part of
Marvel's experimental Nuff Said Month, where the creators tried to
tell their stories silently.
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

56 | WRITE NOW
Pat excitingly tells the story Tom describes in the plot. In some situations a writer might have
been more specific in the details asked for, especially for a silent issue, but Tom and Pat
have worked together for a long time, and also talk frequently, so they have a generally clear
understanding of each other's thought processes. Inks by the ever-incredible Al Williamson.
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

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DeFALCO | 57
www.twomorrows.com
DeFalco continued model. [laughs]
from page 55 [Interviewers Note: The Paradise X series and the Paradise
one of my favorite X: Heralds miniseries, each featuring Spider-Girl herself, were
collaborators, had announced after this interview was conducted. Tom confirmed
some free time. So that the characters appearance in these series was also news
hey! We figured wed to him.]
get together and But seriously, this leads to an interesting behind-the-scenes
finally tell Maydays question: As a rule, do you find that most comics creators read a
storyand we lot of each others stuff, or more often find their energies taken
thought there would up with their own work?
be one and only one TD: Most comics creators really do love comics! We spend
Spider-Girl story. eight to ten hours a day working on comics, and usually spend
[laughs] Imagine our weekends reading them. I guess its a disease.
our surprise! AM: I was always curious about the legalistic can of worms that
AM: I know. For all the MC-2 stuff opened up in terms of things being adapted from
of the early Marvel older characters. I know that finally on the two miniseries, they
homages that went began to give you in one case a created line [for The Buzz],
on to appear in the and in the other a developed line [for Darkdevil]. How does it
MC-2 books, the all work out in terms of your ownership of these characters, and
weirdest was this royalty issues?
coincidental way you TD: [laughs] Thats so complicated. I I dont know. [laughs]
spawned an Ive always had a really ridiculous attitude about this sort of
accidental hit from a thing, and itll show you what kind of a jerk I am.
story you just had to AM: Ill be the judge of that! [laughs]
get off your chest in TD: Im not that concerned about getting credit for anything Ive
a soon-to-be- done. I just want the company to pay me the amount they
In an homage to Tales of Suspense #39, Ron Frenz and cancelled book, just promised, and to live up to the deal we made. I dont worry
Joe Rubinstein depict the return of Spider-Mans classic like Stans stashing about what Ive created in the past because Im going to create
duds on the cover of ASM v. 1, #258. of Spider-Mans something new tomorrow. A lot of people dont like work-for-
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] debut in the last hire. Well, there are advantages and disadvantages. One of the
issue of Amazing Fantasy decades before. advantages is that doing work-for-hire material generally pays a
TD: This has been an incredible experience. When we were lot better! And yes, there are trade-offs. Like I said, I was never
getting ready to launch MC-2, one of the higher-ups said to me, all that concerned as to who owns what as long as I was
Youll be lucky if you get eight issues out of this dog. getting what I thought was my fair share. Overall, I have no
[laughs] That executive is now working in another industry and complaints.
Spider-Girl is still chugging alongHOO-HA! Its been a lot of AM: Certainly this material is a gray area, because its based on
fun, and Im glad that most of the readers seem to be having existing concepts, even though fleshed out and varied in what I
as much fun as we are. consider to be very inventive ways. I was also wondering if that
AM: Absolutely. Its good to see. From looking at the letters page, caused any reluctance on Marvels part to introduce any
more of those readers than with most current comics seem to characters that werent clearly based on earlier ones, because
be female, which is refreshing nowadays. Im wondering how theyd be afraid of having to pay out. Or is that not an issue?
consciously you go after that audience, because much of this TD: I really dont think its an issue because the Marvel royalty
industry, bizarrely, seems to have written off that 52% of the system is based on sharing of the wealth, if there is wealth. If
marketplace. something goes out there and makes a lot of money, hey! We
TD: Heres more DeFalco stupidity. [laughs] In general, I think all get a share! If it doesnt make any money, hey! None of us
that men want to see what happened, and women want to get anything!
know why it happened. Based on that very simplistic theory, AM: The Titanic principle. The movie, I mean. [laughs]
Ive always thought that Marvel was a much more female- TD: With things like The Buzz, which was something brand-new,
oriented company, because we are dealing with the characters its easy to put created by. For something like Darkdevil, I
and their reaction to why things are going on. I just think of suggested developed by, because he is based on a lot of
Spider-Girl as a typical Marvel comic! Im getting the different pre-existing characters.
impression that a lot of the Marvel comics these days are no AM: At least among your own creative teams, its been very
longer traditional Marvel comics. noticeable how your books take great care to acknowledge the
AM: [laughs] Nuff said! Speaking of one of the other recent co-creation and co-plotting role [shared by] writer and artist.
Marvel comics that I definitely consider a Marvel comic: What TD: I want everybody to have input! Comics are really a team
coordination if any was there between the creative teams on MC- effort. Im not going to walk around and tell you what a genius I
2 and Earth X? There seemed to be an interesting amount of am, that I have this great vision, full of this fabulous stuff. Im
parallelism, particularly with both having a supernatural heir to nothing without the artists who save my butt and make sense
Daredevil and a prominent May/Peter Parker psychodrama. out of my ridiculous plots. A penciler is nothing without an inker
TD: None. I have never read any of the Earth X material, and to clarify that artwork and make it printable. Without the
the creators have never tried to contact or coordinate with me. colorist to step in there and make everything look beautiful and
AM: Thats too bad; Alex Ross could always use another male three-dimensional with colors, a comic book just doesnt work!

58 | WRITE NOW
This is really a team sport! once in a while, a young editor will comment in one way, shape
AM: I understand that in your collaborative process, even the or form that Im getting too old for this stuff, and this exchange
inker has input. will just prove theyre right. [laughs]
TD: I try to have all my comics lettered on the board which Ive reached that age where I have older nephews and
shows you what an old fart I am. Nobody letters comics on the nieces. Since Im the kid whos never grown up, they confide in
board these days! I do it this way so that the inker knows what me all the time and spend a lot of time talking to me. Being a
the storys about while hes inking it. Hes relating to the grandparent is probably the best job in the world, but after that
characters, and getting emotionally involved in the story. I know its great being an uncleespecially if youre the uncle the kids
it works with Spider-Girl, because [legendary EC Comics talk to about whats bugging them, and their problems, and how
veteran and Spider-Girl inker] Al Williamson occasionally calls they cant deal with their parents, and that kind of stuff. Some
me and says, I really dont like what this guys doing here, or, of the conversations that Mayday has had with Peter Parker
I really like this character and I have some ideas for her. Al were ripped cold from situations with one of my brothers and
Williamson gave me some ideas for [recovering villain] Raptor, one of my nieces. Reality is all around us! [laughs] Its all
because he was touched by the character. there! I freely admit that Im basically a journeyman writer. Im
AM: Thats interesting to know. still learning the craft. So, I pick and choose out of real life.
TD: The guys been in the business 50 years. If the story can AM: Another of your central tools is what I might call variety of
touch a guy like that, hey! voice: The different MC-2 books maintain a mix of first-, second-
AM: Even though youve chosen to work mainly in the super- and third-person narration, and in dialogue you have a connois-
hero mold, theres an interesting focus on ordinary people in seurial ear for generation- and genre-specific speech patterns, to
your work. Books like your Thor run were perhaps most distin- always distinct and often hilarious effect. What would you say
guished by their carefully fleshed-out supporting casts, and about this?
youve tellingly answered questions about who your favorite TD: I think you need to get out more.
characters are by listing their secret-identity names. Is there a AM: [laughs] Awright, awright. But I still think youre one of the
frustrated literary figure hiding in the super-hero scribe, or just a five all-time best dialogue-writers in comics, along with Alan
burning desire to
humanize adventure
fiction?
TD: I believe that fiction
is supposed to
illuminate the human
condition, and that
comics should try to
simplify the chaos of
existence into a few
rational pages of words
and pictures. As a writer
its my job to bring
structure and meaning
to life. Real life is very
messy and often
confusing, but fiction is
organized and full of
purpose. And thats why
people like to read
stories and watch Peters symbiotic costume first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #252. Plot: Roger Stern. Script: Tom D. Pencils: Ron Frenz.
Inks: Brett Breeding. Letters by the great Joe Rosen. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
movies.
AM: Do most of your characters have a basis in people you Moore, Mike Allred, Brian Michael Bendis, and Steve Gerber.
really know? TD: To be totally honest, I consider myself to be a student of
TD: Every character I write about is either somebody I know or the craft and Im rarely happy with my own work. I keep trying
somebody I want to know. Mayday Parker, many of her traits to make it better. Every time I think Im getting close to
are based on someone I know. Phil Urich, when I was doing the achieving my goals as a writer, I realize that I just set them too
Green Goblin series, he was somebody I knew. Peter Parker is low.
somebody I wish I knew. Stan Lee did such a great job on AM: Youre an entertainer, but your books can work on many
Peter Parker, I actually feel like I know the guy! [laughs] levels, be it the generational tension in Spider-Girl or the tricky
[Thunderstrike alter-ego] Eric Masterson was kind of a blend of line between fantasy violence and reality consequences in The
me and Ron Frenzall of Rons optimism and all of my incom- M@n and Mr. Right. Are there usually certain themes that youre
petence. [laughs] burning to put into a story, or do you just plunge ahead and
AM: The mention of Mayday points up how youth are a theme realize what was on your mind once it comes out on the page?
and a target audience of your best work. What attracts you to TD: It works different ways. I am not scene-oriented. Every
this subject, and how do you keep in touch with the concerns once in a while, I have an idea for a scene, and its burning in
and enthusiasms of young people? my brain; I sit there and write it out, and most of those times
TD: I know that this is going to come back to haunt me. Every when I finish the plot I have to delete the scene, because it

DeFALCO | 59
doesnt really fit into the theme. Im mainly theme-oriented. I regular comic book story usually runs four or five issues,
usually have something I really want to discuss when I lay out whereas the rest of the mass market entertainment industry
my plot. Most of the time, my first pass at a 22-page story tells a single complete story in every discrete unit. If youre
runs 32, 33 pages. [laughs] watching television, every episode is usually a complete story.
AM: I can believe it. If youre buying books, every novel is a complete adventure.
TD: Then I go back and pull out everything that doesnt Yes, there are exceptions but theyre as rare as a single issue
absolutely fit the theme. The nice thing is that I get the joy of comic book story. The average kid will see three or four
crafting scenes; whether or not the scene makes it into print is complete stories in fifteen minutes on MTV! He is not going to
immaterial to me. Its the difference between a professional wait four months for a single comic book story.
and an amateur. An amateur loves everything he does, and has AM: Its true, some super-hero books are like a sequential
to get it into the story, while a professional loves everything he version of those hypertext DVDs, with everything stopping for
does, but cuts anything that doesnt fit the story. endless exposition and description of abilitieslike youre
AM: Thats his principal loyalty, exactly. reading the back of a toy box.
TD: I owe it to the reader! Ive often thought that these DVDs TD: Youve got to move these stories along. Okay, stories are
with all these uncut scenes are a great way to learn about the all about characterization, but character bits do not necessarily
process of storytelling. Most of the time, if you look at those add up to a story! Many times, I pick up a comic book and I
deleted scenes with a certain degree of objectivity, you can see realize that there is no story here; this is just one extended
why they didnt make the final cut. character bit. The writer forgot to add a theme and a plot.
AM: I know. I cant stand that whole trend, that more is more AM: Its this strange mix of instant gratification and nothing
ethic. happening. [laughs]
TD: Right. I look at some of these scenes and go, Boy, that TD: Yeah! I think a lot of comic books are aimed at an
really slowed up this thing! Another unpopular tack I take is audience that isnt really reading the stuff, that is more
that I think most of todays comic books move too slowly. A admiring the material. Somebody, I think it was Jim Shooter,
once said he feared that the comics industry would
eventually become like operawhere everybody knows
what the story is, they just want to applaud or deride the
performance. In many regards, comic books are becoming
like that, where you know how the storys going to turn
out, and the discussion is just whether or not my version
of the Galactus story is a good or a bad performance. Its
always interesting to me when guys take over a book and
basically run through the top ten villains of that book.
AM: Opera and comicswhen you think about it, the
comparison of shrinking audiences is not so far out. Its like
this recent Simpsons comic where a comic-store guy is
telling Bart, Its people like us who took a mass medium
and made it what it is todaya subculture! [laughs]
TD: Im just a fan of the medium, and I appreciate things
like the Simpsons/Radioactive Man comic book, and the
Archie comic books... I think there should be everything!
I think the industrys made some very bad turns. When I
was 12 years old, comics were all aimed at kids, and
there was nothing for adults. Now the vast majority of
comic books are aimed at adults, and there are very few
you could feel comfortable giving to a kid!
AM: Actually, theres very few that Im comfortable giving to
an adult, either! [laughs] Its for more like adolescents.
TD: I have to tell you something. I maintain that
characters like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, The X-
Menthese characters should really be aimed primarily at
ages 13-16. I used to refer to them as 16-year-olds of all
ages, because thats what theyre structured for. The fact
that Ive grown up doesnt mean Spider-Man necessarily
shouldve grown up with me!
AM: And yet, in one of your own books, he has!
TD: And yet, in one of my own books, he has.
AM: [laughs] What do you say to that?
TD: Im two-faced! [laughs]
AM: Well, in your book, he didnt grow up so much as grow,
which is what the mainline version of the character did
until about 1975 anyway, and I liked it better when that
Maximum Carnage began here, in Spider-Man Unlimited #1. Script by DeFalco. was happening.
Art by Ron Lim & James Sanders III. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

60 | WRITE NOW
TD: If Spider-Man continued to grow
naturally, hed be around 55 now, and
[laughs] his adventures wouldnt be
too interesting! Its funny: For the
longest time we were getting a lot of
complaints on Spider-Girl that Peter
Parker would never retire. Hed be out
there. And I kept thinking, He
already appears in three books each
month. You dont need him here!
[laughs] If there were super-heroes in
real life, they would be like football
players, who would basically have
careers that would extend for four or
five years, at the end of which theyd
be so beat up they wouldnt have the
option of going out there anymore!
Thats what it would really be like to
grow old with super-powers. Theyd be
lucky if they could walk out of their
backyard.
AM: Its interesting that you should be
characterizing it with such humor. One
thing that definitely stands out both in
the MC-2 books and your new The
M@n is the same kind of thing which I
think helped the X-Men movie work so
well for a mass audience: that it slyly
acknowledged the general publics
misgivings about comics and incorpo-
rated them as jokes. And certainly, a
book like The M@n seems to regularly
stop in its tracks to make fun of its
own conventions. Is that a conscious Randy ODonnell does his hero thing in The M@n #2, courtesy of DeFalco, Lim, & Jones. [2002 Tom DeFalco & Ron Lim.]
part of the plan to welcome new
readers? known, Im interested in branching out?
TD: I guess. Im poking fun, but Im doing it in a loving way. I TD: Yeah.
dont want to give the wrong impression, because I love this AM: So these didnt start life as Marvel proposals?
medium! I still read my Marvel Masterworks when I get a TD: Nope! We came up with the ideas after we heard that
chance; I think it is just such an honor and a privilege to be Image would entertain proposals.
able to do comic books. This really is, after being an uncle, the AM: Whats your take on the irony of getting a new lease on life
greatest job in the world. from Image after the great Image exodus happened on your
AM: So what was the genesis of The M@n and Mr. Right? Editor-in-Chief watch at Marvel?
Youve spoken a little bit about what it was that got MC-2 TD: Its funny; I always felt that the Image exodus was an
brewing in your mind when you were working on some of the inevitable evolution. Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Steve Ditko, all of
more mainstream Marvel titles. How did these new Image books these guys became superstars in the industry and, at some
get brewing in your mind while you were working on the point or another, decided to go their own way. I knew that this
preceding stuff? was inevitable. It didnt take me by surprise, and it didnt
TD: I had a discussion with certain people at Marvel who particularly bother me. In point of fact, I thought it was great
indicated to me that it may be time for me to retire from the when the guys went out and formed their own company! These
comic book field. And I spoke to a number of my pro friends are people whod made money in the industry, and they were
who were still working and also finding it difficult to get work, giving back to the industry: Instead of going off and forming
finding doors being closed and such. We felt that we still have other kinds of companies, they were forming a comic book
things to contribute to the industry. What can I say? Im still a company! They basically said to every creator in the industry,
fool in love with the medium. [laughs] I got in touch with Jim If you get popular enough, you can own your own company
Valentino who is running Image Comics. To my surprise and someday. One time I was at some convention, and somebody
delight, Jim welcomed us with open arms. He was just so said, In the comic book industry people can make money, but
supportive. I turned to [The M@n artist] Ron Lim and [Mr. they cant be like Lucille Ball, who at one point formed Desilu
Right artist] Ron Frenz and said, Hey, guys, if we can come up Studios. Well, actually, they could, and they did.
with some stuff, Jimll publish it if he likes it. Things Around the time that Image was created, Marvel lost market
progressed from there! share, but didnt lose profits. In fact, X-Men and Spider-Man
AM: So you didnt shop around concepts first, you just let it be sales continued to go up! In many ways, the Marvel balance

DeFALCO | 61
sheet improved after the Image guys left. I think a lot of that store, because thats where youre going to get the greatest
was because the whole Image explosion got a lot of new diversity of material.
people paying attention to the industry. Okay, maybe a lot of AM: But its got to be out there to make you want it.
these people were speculators who were only going to be there TD: Yeah. It has to be out there, and it has to hook you at the
temporarily, but there was an incredible infusion of cash for appropriate age! I dont believe many people start reading
everybody involved in the industry. Those were heady days; comic books in their 20s. It is a fascinating medium that uses
everybody was doing great. Yeah, that was a bubble that was both sides of the brain simultaneously; we use our conscious
eventually going to burst, but it was the biggest bubble wed side as we read the words, and our subconscious side as we
ever had until then. I maintain that when the bubble burst, the look at the pictures. In many ways, you have to be trained how
industry wouldve been fine if the companies hadnt gone to do that. Most of us dont even know that we slowly learned
stupid. But, unfortunately, certain people panicked and did how to read comic books over a period of time. In my gener-
dumb things. ation, we learned from looking at the Sunday comics; we got
AM: Would you care to itemize any? hooked on the Sunday comics, and eventually went to comic
TD: Oh, Ill name a couple of things. One was pulling away from books.
the mass market and ignoring the newsstands. Some people AM: Thats an interesting way of looking at it. And how would
saw that they could make more profit with the direct market, you itemize the ways in which you see your new Image books as
and didnt see any purpose in dealing with the mass market. addressing the problems you see in the industry, in terms of
With the direct market, your profits are better since youre readership, the mediums general survival, etc.?
printing to order, but the mass market brings in the new TD: Well, my Image books are appropriate for a mass market. I
readers. I think a number of people in the industry are still consider myself an entertainer, and I want to entertain anybody
fooling themselves, thinking the direct market is going to come who picks up these comics. The goal is to hook the hardcore
back; but that wont happen until you get a strong mass comic book readers with material that will also work for the
market presence. Until you get a strong mass market, the mass market because I intend to distribute these comics to
direct market will not come back. the mass market someday. Many comic books today just arent
AM: Exactly. The model I think of is the way that in most super- suitable for the mass market.
markets you now will have at least a little best-sellers shelfbut AM: Absolutely. You have to have read the last 240 issues, or
obviously, its not as if people have stopped going to bookstores; pick up the eight other books that contain part of the plot, such
if they want to find the collected works of Shakespeare or as it is.
something, theyre not going to get it in a Pathmark. And in just TD: This may blow up completely in my face, but The M@n will
the same way, if people want to delve into back issues, thats be complete one-issue stories and each issue will contain all
really what the direct market should be for, and then put the the information you need. Every issue of Mr. Right will contain
contemporary stuff out where people can actually access it. two 11-page stories. I think the direct market will be a little
TD: Its not only the back issues. The comic books racks in a puzzled by my books, but the mass market will probably like
typical mass market outlet can only carry about 24 different them a lot!
titles. If you enjoy the medium, and enjoy those 24 different AM: Yeah. When you were talking before about how every other
titles, youre ultimately going to have to end up in a comics form of mass entertainment is contracting in terms of giving the
most information in the briefest amount of time, I was thinking
about how, at least since J2, your affinity for that kind of short-
story format has been clear. And its funny: Fans seem to have
embraced it since then in Alan Moores Tom Strong and
Tomorrow Stories, but I think J2 went kind-of unsung as the
first comic in a long time to really go out on that limb. So is
that pretty much the rationale behind it, that you think its more
concentrated information for a mass public?
TD: I guess. [laughs] Archie Comics has been doing this for
years, and I think that a lot of people in the mass market
think of Archie when they think of comic books. If Archie can
give you four stories every month in a single comic book, the
least a super-hero book can do is give you twoas opposed
to one-sixth of a story.
AM: Thats certainly how it seemed to work in the greatest
heyday of the medium, the 40s.
TD: Yeah. I think those of us whove been buying comics for a
long time are spoiled. We know where to pick up the next
issue, and how to pick up the next issue. A lot of civilians
dont. So it is incumbent upon us to make it easier for them.
AM: Of course, a big part of making it easy is not just having
something for them to enjoy and comprehend once they get
there, but really getting the stuff out to themexpanding distri-
bution. What inroads have you made with Image in that regard?
Cause obviously they seem to be the better hope for your
More M@nand WoM@nderring-do by Tom, Ron L., and Robert Jones. master plan at this point than Marvel.
[2002 Tom DeFalco & Ron Lim..] DeFalco continues on page 64
62 | WRITE NOW
Remaking Mr. Right
Shortly after this review was projects.
conducted, Tom DeFalcos sophomore AM: Has Randy been well received?
offering from Image Comics, Mr. TD: The people who have read The
Right, underwent a major overhaul M@n seem to like the book. Weve
on its way to the shops, morphing gotten some great reviews, and a lot
from regular series to stand-alone of very positive letters. However, were
trade paperback. Tom and I sat down not breaking any sales records.
one last time to trace a tale of bizarro AM: Were orders higher on Randy
direct-market economics which, while than Mr. Right, or did Image simply
handing his mass market dreams a start to circle the wagons a bit more?
major setback, gave powerful proof of TD: Orders on the first issue of The
his points about the sorry state of M@n were significantly higher than
current comics affairs. AM those on Mr. Right #1, and its kind
AM: The August release date came of puzzling. Ron Frenz and I have had
and went. I guess Mr. Right had a great-selling runs on Amazing Spider-
change in plans? Man, Thor, Thunderstrike and A-
TD: Yes, Mr. Right had a major Nextand we thought our fans were
change of plans. The retailers didnt still out there!
order enough copies of Mr. Right #1 AM: This piques the curiosity about
to inspire Image with any confidence two things: How much time elapsed
about the titles futureso we between the Randy and Mr. Right
decided to try something new. Instead solicitations? (i.e., Did retailers have a
of publishing a regular comic, and chance to see the good response to
eventually collecting everything into a Randy before deciding on Mr. Right, or
trade paperback, were going to start did they just choose between the two
off with a 64-page trade paperback, simultaneously?)
which will collect all the material that Cover to Mr. Right #1 by Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema. TD: There were about three months
we originally planned for issues #1 & [2002 Tom DeFalco & Ron Frenz.] between the twoMr. Right was
2plus some other goodies. solicited the month after the second
I know its kind of a backwards way to go about it. issue of Randy was solicited. It takes retailers a looooong
Unfortunately, the retailers arent ordering new independent while to base their orders on actual sales. They guess how
comics. They wait for the trade, figuring there will be one if the many copies they can sell of a first issue, and cut the order in
series is any good. As a reader Ive kind of fallen into that about half for the second no matter how well or poorly the first
habit myself: Im not buying certain series because I know issue sold. They cut more for the third, and occasionally
there will eventually be trades and I can wait. On the other increase orders on the fourth or fifth if the title has done really
hand, Ive also planned to buy certain tradesand lost interest well. A possible problem with Mr. Right #1 is that retailers
by the time they were published. [laughs] ordered it as if it were the third issue of Randy.
AM: Its funny; I love (Randy ODonnell is) The M@n, but of AM: Also, was A-Next a good seller after all? I know youve
course we all play favorites, and I could tell from the pre-publi- revealed that Thunderstrike was outselling Thor when Marvel
cation proofs that Mr. Rights wrong-side-of-the-tracks atmos- cancelled it for other arcane reasons; was something similar the
phere was gonna make it my favorite of the two. So the retailers case with A-Next?
nixed my tastes even before it came outa new record. TD: I believe that A-Next was selling in the 40,000 to 45,000
[laughs] What do you think appealed to the retailers more about range when it was cancelled, and it was cancelled because of
Randy than Mr. Right? our then-publishing plan to keep rotating the titles.
TD: I really couldnt say. Randy is a wilder concept; theres AM: Is Mr. Right now planned as a series of TPBs, or will they
really nothing else like it in comics or television. Mr. Right, on bring out one and then wait and see?
the other hand, is a much more traditional super-heroand TD: Well come out with one this year, and see how well or
people dont look to Image for that sort of thing. poorly it is received before we start the next one. If it sells well
AM: Do you think this will affect the type of subject matter you enough, well probably come out with one every year.
choose for future creations, or just where you pitch which kind of AM: You had certain distribution ideas for the kind of TPB you
project? originally expected. Do you envision any of them being applied
TD: Probably both. While I am committed to doing all-ages with this one?
material, I also like to do other material on occasion. If the TD: My plans to break into the mass market require a lot more
comic book industry is to survive, we have to reach beyond the material than I currently have at my disposal. So I need some
direct market. I havent given up on that dream. While I enjoy new plans...
working with the guys at Image and have a lot of respect for AM: But nothing to reveal yet, I take it?
them all, Im not sure what the future holds for me or my TD: Thats it for now!

DeFALCO | 63
DeFalco continued from
M@n continuing while
page 62
earlier issues of them are
TD: I applaud Jim Valentino. being repackaged outside?
Ive had a number of TD: Yes. Thats the goal.
conversations with him, and AM: Are you going to try to
he is actively trying to involve other creators in
expand distribution and get your budding empires
into other marketplaces. inventory, or just build up
AM: Hes certainly laid some enough material of you and
groundwork in terms of your collaborators own to
variety. He really seems to get this started?
be committed to expanding TD: I have to start small,
the kinds of stuff thats and build slowly. Step One
produced. is to produce comics that
TD: Yeah. I give Jim a people will enjoyand Im
tremendous amount of really hoping that The M@n
credit. I always thought he and Mr. Right are those
was a sharp guy; hes even comics. At some point Id
sharper than I thought! love to include other writers
[laughs] My plan is to and collaborators, but
produce enough material to thats a few years in the
be able to reformat this future.
stuff, and slam it out to the AM: The Image books will
mass market at a later Why did these kids ever split up? From Spider-Man Unlimited #2 by DeFalco, Bagley, have to run long enough in
date. and Sanders. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] the direct market to be
AM: This gets back to repackageable for the mass
repackaging plans past: Youve said that the MC-2 books were market. If Spider-Girls success is any indication, it seems like
originally meant for nontraditional but high-profile markets like theyll have no trouble doing so. That book must be connecting
department stores. What plans got made and how did they go with a wider audience than most mainstream comics. Who are
wrong? these people, how do you think its reaching them, and how do
TD: Three titles were supposed to be bagged together, and sold you foresee maintaining this momentum for the Image stuff?
at a discount. I know that Marvel had a special distributor for TD: From the letters Ive received, a lot of serious comic book
the mass market, but I have no idea what eventually went readers have given my work to their children or young relatives,
wrong. hoping to foster an interest in comics. Ive also gotten a lot of
AM: And the further details of what you had in mind include the letters from the wives and girlfriends of serious fans, compli-
fascinating story-within-a-story that Spider-Girl, one of the most menting me because they can actually follow Spider-Girl. They
popular books of your career and longest-running books in also like the high school cast because it kind of reminds them
recent comics history, was originally slated for suicide. of an Archie comic. We need to introduce more readers to the
TD: I was guaranteed eight issues, but hoped everything would hobby if we are to survive as an industry, and there should be
run at least twelve. I originally planned to replace all three comics for every type of fan.
titles, but Spider-Girl was selling too well to be cancelled. Since Along with the Image books letter columns, we also have a
I never expected the direct market to support these books, I text feature, a little section on How to Write Comics. Im trying
was totally focused on mass market distribution. I planned to to give back to the craft. I want the next generation to know
release the three titles in bags, produce a maximum of twelve how to do this the right way. I believe the medium will survive
issues, and then repackage each title in a format similar to the and grow stronger over time, although the current comic book
Marvel Essential series of affordable trade paperbacks. Then companies may eventually go away. I think there are a lot of
Id come out with three new titles and continue to build a people who would really like to learn the craft, and I just want
library of my own Essential-style books. In my third year, Id to help them. I even plan to teach them the correct ways to
look at the overall sales and decide if J2, A-Next or Spider-Girl attract an editors eye with their submissions. Im going to tell
deserved a second season or if I needed three new titles. them all the secrets I know. Itll probably take about three, four
Yeah, I was planning way in advance, but thats the publishing paragraphs! [laughs]
biz! AM: So what else is on the horizon?
AM: When you repackage the Image stuff for mass market distri- TD: For the past few months Ive been working on a coffee-
bution, what formats and locations are you contemplating, and table book called Spider-Man, The Ultimate Guide a sort of
what strategies for getting them placed there? Handbook of the Marvel Universe companion to Peter
TD: I am going to be working with a mass-merchandiser who Sandersons Ultimate X-Men book. [The book appeared in
specializes in distributing material to stores like Wal-Mart, K- stores last year, and is still available. Toms now working on
Mart and Costco. I envision stand-alone volumes with a semi- a book called Comic Creators On Spider-Man which will be
permanent shelf life, but the format will depend on each available in July from Titan BooksDF]
clients needs and racks. I really dont care what format comics AM: Coolthatll really put you further on the map. Did they
take in the future, as long as the craft and medium thrive. mean it to sync with the movie? And speaking of promo synergy,
AM: Do you foresee the regular, comic-shop issues of say, The I hope this book does Peter the courtesy of giving some good

64 | WRITE NOW
An Even Dozen Follow-ups for Tom those kinds of things.
via e-mail in May, 2002.
7 DF: Any advice to aspiring writers of comics or anything else
in the current climate?

1 Danny Fingeroth: Whats new and exciting in the DeFacloverse


these days, Tom?
Tom DeFalco: For the past few months Ive been working on a
TD: Write what you love and love what you write, and youll
always be happy! Its very hard to break into the comic book
industry these days, but the world will always need storytellers.
book of interviews called Comic Book Creators On Spider-Man. Learn your craft and be open to any opportunityeven if it isnt
It features interviews with Stan Lee, John Romita, Gerry in the comic book industry!
Conway, J.M. Dematteis, Brian Bendis, Paul Jenkins and a
whole bunch of other guys. It will be published by Titan Books
and should go on sale in July 2002. Ive also done a Phantom
8 DF: Whats right with comics today?
TD: When theyre done well, theyre wonderful. When theyre
done poorly, theyre still a lot of fun.
graphic novel for a company called Moonstone and contributed
a story to one of their horror anthologies called Vampire
Vixens. I also consulted on the new Spider-Man Monopoly
9 DF: Fill in the blank: If I had it to all over again (re: my writing
career), Id:__________________.
TD: Id be a weekend writer, instead of a writer who had to work
game, which was a real blast. And, of course, Spider-Girl is still on weekends.
chugging along. I have to write the plot for issue #52 next
week. 10 DF: What are the top ten books aspiring writers should read?
TD: In no particular order The Stars My Destination by

2 DF: Whats your take on the success of


the Spider-Man movie?
TD: The rest of the world has finally
Alfred Bester A Princess Of Mars by Edgar
Rice Burroughs The Hour Of The Dragon by
Robert E. Howard Legend by David
learned something that we comic book Gemmell Bang The Drum Slowly Slowly by
fans have always knownSpider-Man is Mark Harris The Elements Of Style by
a great character! William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White Story by

3 DF: Did you enjoy it?


TD: I sure did. The are a lot of nits to
pick if youre inclined in a picky mood,
Robert McKee The Facts On File Visual
Dictionary by Jean-Claude Corbeil Fearful
Symmetry: Kravens Last Hunt by J.M.
but I think its a fun film. DeMatteis, Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod

4 DF: Any thoughts about how the success


of the movie will affect comics and
and, of course, Comic Book Creators On
Spider-Man by Tom DeFalco.
comics creators in general?
TD: Im not sure the film will have a
material effect on the industry. While
11 DF: Whats the best advice you ever got
as a writer?
TD: Denny ONeil told me to save my money
civilians may become intrigued with and build up at least a six-month cushion so
Spider-Man, it isnt easy for them to find, that I could afford to take on fun projects
buy or read comics these days. As for and not have to worry about supporting
comic creators, I just know that Ive been myself. Larry Hama told me to remember
pretty busy since the movie came out. that my words become permanent once

5 DF: Whats happening with your Image


projects?
TD: Ron Lim and I are still working on
theyre printedthey will always exist in
someones back issue bin or closetso Id
better believe in everything I write. And, of
Warrior Toads? It doesnt get any better
Randy ODonnell Is The M@N and Ron than that! Art by Lim & Robert Jones.
course, people like Victor Gorelick, Joe
Frenz and I are still working on Mr. Right. [2002 Tom DeFalco & Ron Lim.] Orlando, Jim Shooter and Stan Lee taught
Im still trying to set up a way to me everything thats good about my writing.
distribute this material to the mass market, but things are just The bad stuff is my own fault.
taking a little longer than anticipated.

6 DF: What other projects have you got going onbesides the
modeling, of course?
12 DF: Whos strongerBen Reilly (before he dissolved) or
Chester Reilly (William Bendix or Jackie Gleasonyour call)?
TD: Are you off your medication again?
TD: I plan to organize my old comics, clean out my basement DF: Thanks, Tom. Youve turned our hopes and lifted our spirits.
and paint my deck. Oh, and Im also negotiating to do a few TD: Thanks for being there!
writing projects books, television, major motion pictures,

space to his daughter. AM: Any other last warnings?


TD: The X-Men book came out in sync with the movie, and we TD: I shouldve had a caveat at the beginning of this interview:
were supposed to do the samebut then the movie was These are just my opinions, I could be totally wrong. [laughs]
delayed until next year. No big deal! And yes, Mayday gets a Hey, if I knew what I was doing, maybe Id have a job today!
two-page spread.
AM: Well, good luck with everything, Tom, and thanks for giving
so generously of your time and insights. A self-styled connoisseur of the unfashionable, Adam
TD: This was fun, Adam. I have to ask you to go over this McGovern regularly tries the patience of editors at such
interview and take out all the you knows and yeahsand websites as SonicNet and CDNow, as well as primo print
make sure I talk in complete sentences. [laughs] Im a writer; I
communicate best in second draft.
publications Comicology, The Jack Kirby Collector, and
now, Write Now!
THE
END
DeFALCO | 65
The Stand-Up Philosopher
Interview with
J.M. DeMatteis
Interview by Danny Fingeroth 4/15/02
Copy-edited by J.M. DeMatteis
Transcription by The LongBox.com Staff

B rooklyn-born J.M. DeMatteis has been one of the top


writers in comics, both critically and commercially, for
twenty-five years. This combined success has given him
the freedom to pursue many sides of his creative nature,
writing both mainstream super-hero comics, including Spider-
Man, Superman, Batman, and The Spectre, and personal,
idiosyncratic works including Moonshadow, Seekers Into the
Mystery, and Blood. Along the way, J.M. has also found time
to write for TV series such as Superboy and Earth: Final
Conflict and even to write and record his own music. Here,
J.M. talks to Write Now! about how he has consistently
pursued his creative dreams, even when it would have been
easy to abandon or compromise them.

DANNY FINGEROTH: Lets start with a little bit of background


on J.M. DeMatteis, unless its none of my damn business.
J.M. DeMATTEIS: Im Brooklyn born and bred. I would say
working class Brooklyn, apartment building living, a lower
middle class kind of neighborhood in Brooklyn.
DF: Did your family encourage your creative work, or discourage
it? Were you doing creative stuff early on?
JMD: My fathers thing was always, You should take the civil
service test. He worked for the [New York City] Parks
Department, Good health plan. You should be a teacher,
that was his other thing. Be a teacher and work for the city. It
was always work for the city or work for the state, because
thats what my parents did. My mother was a switchboard
operator. She worked for the state parole board.
DF: The city and state were not likely to go out of business.
JMD: They were not likely to go out of business, true. On the
From Kravens Last Hunt, part 3, Descent, from Peter Parker, The
one hand they were totally clueless as to the type of person I
Spectacular Spider-Man #131. Story by DeMatteis, art by Mike Zeck and
was. When I was a kid, from the time I could pick up a pencil, I Bob McLeod. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
was drawing. Then I was drawn to music and I was playing
music and got into rock-and-roll bands, and then I got into was, I used to work in a place called Barrons Books near
writing. Thats always what I wanted to do, basically, since I was Brooklyn College. Whenever wed run out of money, some of us
little, tiny kid. I knew thats what I wanted to do, if not specifi- [in the band] would go there and get our jobs back and work
cally just one thing, I knew it was going to be one of those there for three months or six months. I dont even know if we
creative fields. I remember when I was fourteen years old, lasted six months. That was the longest lasting thing that I
talking to a friend on the phone, and going, Im never going to had. But a lot of the time, I would just go and get these temp
have a nine-to-five job. I could never do that. I have to do jobs. Theyd put these ads in the paper saying, Get wonderful
something creative. I always knew that, and I always felt very jobs in publishing. Work at Random House. Then theyd stick
lucky and very blessed that I knew that and God made me you at Random House with six crates of paper that you had to
basically incapable of doing anything else. Because every time collate. I had one job that obviously could only have existed
Id get a real job, I couldnt bear it and I would always quit them before computers. It was at some publishing company, and
after fifteen minutes. they published a lot of magazines. They had subscription lists,
DF: What kinds of real jobs? and you had to go through this list and look at every single
JMD: Most of the time I was playing in a band, so we made name. And if I saw Danny Fingeroth on page twelve and I saw
enough money playing. Not a lot, but enough. Periodically, Id Danny Fingeroth on page 362, Id have to go back and check
have to go get some job somewhere. The longest job I ever had and cross out the duplicate name.

66 | WRITE NOW
both colored it. We did the whole thing, and we just grew up
together sharing our creativity. It was good to have a friend who
was also very creative. Growing up in an apartment building, we
had tons of kids in the building. You never had to worry about,
like I do with my kids, play dates, because there were a million
kids. Youd just go outside and there would be 40 kids there
and youd play. In the summer, I didnt go to camp or anything.
It was Camp Ocean Avenue. Wed go outside and play in front
of the building or go across the street to the churchyard, or
around the block. My friend Bob Izzo and I would create these
scenarios, like what youd call role-playing games now. We
would create a plotline, and everyone would get a character,
and we would then act it out. Sometimes wed pick one plotline
and carry it out for the entire summer.
DF: With characters youd invented or characters in comics?
JMD: Characters we invented. And we would just create situa-
tions, and it would be the son of the prince versus the rebels.
The son of the prince joins the rebels and they fight, and it
would go on all summer long.
DF: Did you make Super 8 movies of these things?
JMD: No, we never did... it would be a great thing to see, but
we never did. There was this creativity, and this friend of mine
was a very important part of that growing up. But I was also
the guy that spent a lot of time in his room, just because I
used to like to be in my room and draw or read or whatever it
was. I spent a lot of time in my own head, in my own imagi-
nation. I had a lot of friends, as I said. All I had to do was go
outside and there were plenty of friends. But I was always
someone who would just go off, and I was very comfortable
living in my own head and heart, dreaming. And then I got to
grow up and dream for a living.
DF: Accompanied by a can of potato sticks and a glass of milk.
It doesnt get any better than that.
JMD: I was thinking more of a stick pretzel and an egg cream
The narrator of Brooklyn Dreams, from issue #1. Script by JMD. Art by Glenn Barr.
myself.
[2002 J.M. DeMatteis and Glenn Barr.]
DF: Also good, although the potato sticks had the advantage of
DF: How would you remember it? being fried. [laughs] Any teachers who were inspirational or
JMD: I really couldnt, but I got a great list of names for classes or anything like that?
characters. I would go to some of these jobs and, literally, it JMD: I was not a great student, and by the time I was in high
would be a two-day temp job and it would be two oclock on the school, I was a sullen, cynical, psychologically damaged, and
second and Id go, I cant bear being here anymore. And I frankly, drug-taking angry guy, which is all in Brooklyn Dreams,
would go over to the boss and say, Im sorry but I have to so I dont care if its in this interview or not. So I did not do
leave, and Id just leave. I just couldnt bear it. I did not well in school. In those days there were three types of high
function well in that world at all. Thank God that I had the school diplomas you could get in New York: an academic
talent to keep me going otherwise. But, going back to the diploma, a commercial diploma, and there was the real basic
subject of my parents, on the one hand, my father was like, thing, which was the general diploma. I slowly, in the course of
You should work for the city, you should do this, you should do high school, went from the academic to the commercial to the
that. But they were never in any shape or form negative about general.
my creativity. They were very pleased about my creativity and I dont know if they have that any more, but the point is that
perhaps not encouraging the way Im encouraging with my kids it was a struggle. I also had a lot of learning disabilities which
because its of my life and it wasnt part of their lives, but they made it difficult for me in school. So, between all my own
were very supportive of it. They never understood me going into psychological problems and my learning disabilities, it was
the comic book business, Im sure. They spent so many years really, really tough for me at the time. Which explains the
saying, What are you reading that for?, and suddenly it was drugs. Im not romanticizing drug-taking or promoting it in any
my career. way. I was a kid in pain and drugs provided... or appeared to
DF: Any friends in school that youd hang out with, a bunch of provide... an escape. When I began to get myself together...
kids who did writing or drawing? find my answers, I realized what a dead-end drugs were.
JMD: When I was in grade school, I was the drawing guy. I Anyway, I would be struggling with these dummy classes, but
was the guy you went to for the picture. And actually, my best they put me in Honors English. There was this very weird
friend growing up was also an extremely creative guy. Very dichotomy, and I had one teacher in the 11th grade, Mrs.
smart, very creative. I remember being kids and doing comics Kimmelman, who saw who I wasand that was the frustration
together. We wrote the script, and I did the pictures and we for me, hardly anybody saw who I was. I knew who I was. I

DeMATTEIS | 67
knew what I was capable of. I knew what I could do. I knew my guitar lessons, playing in bands, and I continued to play in
intelligence and my creativity, but I was the guy who sat in the bands well into my 20s. It wasnt a lot of money, but I made
back of the class and just glowered at people. [laughs] She my living out of it, enough to pay one-fifth of the rent or
saw me for who I was, and really encouraged me in that, and whatever it was.
let me know I had something. She was the one who, in senior DF: You were living with four other people?
year, put me in an Honors English class. And it was in senior JMD: In my early 20s, I was living with my bandmates,
year that I had this one teacher who became a real mentor to practicing in the basement and having a great time. It was a
me both creatively, and actually spiritually, as well. He was great life.
someone who really got me, and we would just go and sit DF: Did you go to college at all?
during a lunch break and talk for thirty or forty minutes, where I JMD: Yeah, I went to community college. [laughs] This is going
spilled my guts out. He was the first one who told me to keep to be very encouraging to readers who are total academic
a journal, and that was the most freeing thing I did for myself. I screw-ups. [laughs] Thats why I dont have attachments to this
would just write and write and write and write and write. whole academic thing for kids. Not that I dont want my kids to
Whatever I was thinking or feeling, I would write. I never could do well, but I want them to do well for themselves, not to meet
complete a short story, so I would write these bizarre things someone elses specification of what they are. Essentially, I
that you would write when you were 17. Two pages long, which came into this life knowing who I was and what I wanted to do,
usually ended up with somebody killing their parents or turning and I did it. All the people that thought I wasnt that and told
into a monster and exploding. [laughs] Some hate-filled, me I couldnt do it were wrong; with those notable exceptions
despair-filled, adolescent angst things. It really helped me as a that I mentioned, I had the opposite of people who encourage
writer to just be free and open and put things on paper. you. I had a grade advisor in the 11th grade, and I went to her,
DF: And are you still in touch with this person? and this woman used to just complain. Youd go to her, and
JMD: No, Im really not. I think about him, Benowitz was his shed say, I dont why I took this job. I got kids of my own and
name, and I obviously wrote about him in Brooklyn Dreams. He I cant stand it. Shes probably long dead by now. But what a
was a great guy. disservice, what a crime, to treat young people that way. But
DF: And you were doing music at the same time? thats all she did. I went to her one time, and she said to me,
JMD: Yes, and like almost everyone else of our generation, I So what do you want to do when you get out of school? I
also loved music. And when the Beatles showed up on Ed said I either want to go into art or writing. Look at these
Sullivans show when I was in fifth grade, it was like, Oh, my English grades, she said. Forget being a writer. Go into art.
God. My little mind was blown. By sixth grade I was having [laughs] I always wanted to find her. Take a look, lady. Take a
look.
What was the question before that?
DF: Had you gone to college?
JMD: I went to Kingsborough Community College, and then I
went to Brooklyn College, but I never finished there. I took eight
months off, and then I actually went to a school called Empire
State College, which is not the same school that Peter Parker
went to. Although I guess Im the only Spider-Man writer who
can claim that he went to Empire State. Its part of the State
University of New York. Its a university without walls.
DF: Mustve been very drafty.
JMD: It was very drafty, but it was very good, especially for
somebody like me, who had a lot of credits and knew what I
wanted to do. I had a wonderful mentor there, his name was
Mel Rosenthal. He was a left-wing radical, really into Castro
and that kind of thing, but he was also one of the countrys
foremost authorities on Herman Melville. I would meet with him
once every couple of weeks. Wed go over my writing and we
would read Melville and Dostoevsky, and things like that.
DF: Interesting. I took a Melville course in college and with a guy
named Rosenthal who was not named Mel. I wonder if he...
JMD: I wonder if the whole family is Melville experts? He was a
great. But that, to me, was the most valuable academic
experience I ever had. Rosenthal really helped me with my
writing. He helped me shave off a lot of the bullsh*t and to
focus, because by that point I was in love with guys like Tom
Robbins and Richard Beautigan, and all their smarmy, quasi-
poetic, weird, hippie prose. I would ape the style of their work,
but I hadnt gotten my basic skills together, and Mel really
helped me shave away the bullsh*t and really understand what
I need to do as a writer. That was a very valuable experience.
DF: What were you doing fiction or nonfiction?
From Brooklyn Dreams #4. By JMD and Glenn Barr. JMD: I was doing fiction. At that point, I would play in the band
[2002 J.M. DeMatteis and Glenn Barr.]

68 | WRITE NOW
would go with my father, and hed buy a paper every night.
Wed walk downstairs after supper. Wed go to the candy
store, which is a phrase that I dont think means anything to
people any more, what a Brooklyn candy store is, and he
would buy a newspaper and he would buy me a comic book,
just about every night.
DF: Ten cents a nightthats seventy cents a week.
JMD: And then it went up to twelve cents, and it was really
expensive. I remember walking into the candy store when
they went up to twelve cents and my mother and the lady
that owned the candy store were just shocked.
DF: I remember being shocked. That was a 20% price raise.
JMD: They had been ten cents for 30 years.
DF: It was like the candy bar size reduction thingthe price
stayed the same, but the number of pages got smaller and
smaller.
JMD: Anyway, I just always read comics and I always loved
them. There was just something about them that I adored,
and as a little kid I remember reading everything from the
Harvey Comics to Dumbo and Hot Stuff and Casper to Sad
Sack. Of course, when we were kids, there were so many
different types of comics. There were comic books
based on TV shows and movie stars. I have very
fond memories of reading Jerry Lewis comics and
Bob Hope comics. I loved those. I would love to go
and get a stack of them and really see what they
1980s adaptation of the movie Xanadu. JM had were like, because as a kid I thought they were
the unenviable task of translating a musical to
great. Someone should do Jim Carrey comics, in the
comics. Art (printed from the pencils) by Jimmy
Janes and Co. [2002 Universal Studios.] style of those old Bob Hope comics.
DF: I can only imagine that the contracts with those
at night, and during the days, very guys were maybe half a page long. You could only
often, I would be up in my room imagine what a star of that magnitude today would
writing bad short stories that I demand, even if it wasnt money, just the complexity
would be sending out to magazines, of the paperwork would probably be insane.
and getting rejections. Sometimes JMD: The Bob Hope comic ran for like 15 years, 20
very encouraging rejectionsbut years, and the Jerry Lewis comic started out as
rejections nonetheless. I still have a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis comic.
lot of them in a folder somewhere, DF: Did it really?
all my rejections from 1977, 1978, JMD: Im almost positive. Dean and Jerry broke up
I spent a lot of time writing. Even as so I guess there couldnt be Dean Martin comics
a kid, I remember being in the 5th any more. [laughs] Imagine doing a comic in the
grade or 4th grade, and deciding to write a novel, and going to 50s starring a womanizing guy drinking martinis.
the yellow pages to find a publisher. Random House, theyll DF: And singing. You pioneered singing in comic books with
do. I dont think I ever wrote the novel, but I enjoyed fanta- Xanadu. [laughs]
sizing about it. JMD: I loved the Dell Comics, and of course the DC super-hero
DF: Want to talk about which comics you loved as a kid? comics, I totally loved. We took it for granted that everyone
JMD: Ive said this before, and its true. I dont remember ever loved Superman and Batman but then you had your special
not reading comics. I dont remember exactly who turned me favorites. Mine were the Justice League and Green Lantern.
on to them, but I do remember I had a cousin who used to give Even in the days when nobody knew who anybody was I
me comics. And I remember there was this couple who lived in somehow knew the name Gil Kane and I knew John Broome
my building, the kind of adults you would find reading comics in and Mike Sekowsky. Even if I couldnt pronounce it.
the 50s and early 60s. [laughs] Smiley, rotund people, and DF: Green Lantern was great for a kid to fantasize being. All you
they had comic books and they used to give me comic books. needed was some sort of a ring, and you could pretend you
But I also remember my cousin giving me all these comic were Green Lantern.
books. Just laying them out on the floor, and I used to enjoy JMD: Its the simplicity of the idea, the simplicity and the
staring at the covers as much as I liked reading the comic elegance of the idea. You just think it, and you make it so. And
books. I dont know if you had the same experience as a kid. I Gil Kanes artwork was extraordinary. Before I discovered Kirby,
would just stare at them. Gil Kane was the guy, more than anybody, whose work made a
DF: The garish colors have a soothing quality. big impression on me.
JMD: And the word balloons, the whole thing. My parents, DF: More than Carmine Infantino? Carmine was the big pre-Kirby
whatever their faults, they were very generous people. We one for me.
didnt have a lot of money but I never felt materially deprived. I JMD: Kane was it. I used to draw the flying figure of Green

DeMATTEIS | 69
Lantern, the way he had it with have a clue about what Stan
one leg cut back so it looked like created. Forgetting about who
it was amputated. [laughter] did what in the stories, even if,
DF: He didnt have to draw the hypothetically, Kirby plotted
bottom of the leg. [laughs] every single one of those
JMD: I love his stuff so much. stories, Stan created the vibe
DF: When Marvel came along, was and the mythos of Marvel. He
that a big deal for you? created it with cover copy and
JMD: People now do not have a the bullpen page, the footnotes,
clue how different that Marvel and the style of the captions.
stuff was, because the DC stuff As weve discussed before, you
was pristine and sculpted and had really felt like you were entering
a real shine to it. And then you into this special little world that
look at the Marvel covers, was tailored just for you by this
especially in the early days, guy Stan, your pal Stan, Uncle
everybody in a Kirby story looked Stan. It was a great thing. It
like a monster, even the regular was a wonderful feeling.
people looked like monsters. The DF: I even felt he was talking
covers had colors that seemed personally to me in the Bullpen
positively lurid, and there were the The Man of Steel from Superman: Where Is Thy Sting? by JMD and Bulletins.
word balloons with the big, thick, Liam McCormack-Sharp. [2002 DC Comics] JMD: It was very personal, and
black borders around them, and it had a great sense of humor.
Stan was writing these big, screaming captions. It was like, You layer all that over these wonderful stories and this extraor-
What is that stuff? It looked dangerous. I remember going dinary artwork, and it was an amazing thing. There was nothing
out one day, and I bought Avengers #1. It was scary and fasci- like it. It was very magical. I remember coming home from
nating at the same time. And then I read Marvel Tales Annual junior high school, and I knew Tuesday was when the new
#1, which reprinted stuff from the year before, with the origin of comics came out in the candy store, so Id get off the city bus
Spider-Manimagine a young mind accustomed to Curt Swan a stop early, and it didnt matter if it was pouring rain, youd get
and Wayne Boring encountering Steve Ditkothe origin of Hulk. off the bus and youd go. I remember at the beginning of the
I remember reading the Hulk and thinking that Thunderbolt month, the only thing that would come out would be Millie the
Ross must be the Hulk, because he looked like a grotesque Model and Thor and the Rawhide Kid. Youd buy Thor the first
monster, the way that Kirby drew him. I think, at that point, I week and each week youd buy a few more, because there were
couldnt take the Marvel stuff. It was too intense for me. I got only 12 or 15 titles then anyway.
fascinated that one day, and then I put it aside, and I still DF: Not even that, I think it was maybe eight for a long time.
remember throwing out a box of comics when my mother told JMD: And maybe the second week you got Tales of Suspense
me to get rid of some comics with Avengers #1 in it. or Tale to Astonish, but finally, by the end of the month, you
DF: Thats why theyre worth money now. got Fantastic Four and Spider-Man.
JMD: I think I was in 7th grade, and this Marvel mania started DF: And if the guy hadnt snapped the wire on the comics
sweeping through junior high school, and you were looked down bundles yet when you got to the store, it was really... youd go
upon if you still read Superman, which I did. It was like May or nuts.
June of 7th grade, and I remember going out and buying JMD: You were standing there salivating. You took it for granted
Fantastic Four #54 and Daredevil #19 and Spider-Man #39, that everyone loved Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, but then
which was the second part of the Green Goblin story. you had your special favorites. I loved the X-Men, the original,
DF: The last Ditko and the first Romita. early X-Men. The first back issue I ever bought was an X-Men
JMD: The first Romita is what Im talking about. I remember #1, and it cost me three dollars. Which was, for me in the 8th
the month before, seeing the cover of the Green Goblin grade, like $300. Even just talking about it brings back
dragging Spider-Man through the city, and he didnt have his incredibly warm feelings. It was very nurturing. Stan nurtured
mask on. You never saw that in a DC comic. us. He nurtured our imaginations and nurtured our spirits.
DF: Except for Superman, who never wore a mask. [laughs] While my life was going on with rock-and-roll and all the other
JMD: Spider-Mans identity was exposed, and the villain knew things that I was reading and investigating, I never let go of the
it, and it was there for everybody to see, and I just sucked the comics. A lot of people grew out of it, but I didnt. I was talking
Marvel comics up. I liken it to religious conversion. Overnight, I to my daughter about it this morning, because we were talking
was religiously converted to Marvel Comics. Part of it was peer about basically following your passion, and that it doesnt
pressure, because everyone was into it, but the quality of the matter what people think. I know that, by the time I was in high
stories and what they did to me was totally real. school, some people must have thought I was a total nerd.
DF: Did you drop the DCs at that point? Im sorry, I have to go to the candy store and get my comics.
JMD: I pretty much did, but I would still have to go back and DF: For me it was around sophomore or junior year of high
sneak a peek every once in a while, and not tell anyone I had school where I pretty much stopped reading them for a number
read a Justice League or Superman or Green Lantern. of years.
DF: I dropped DC purely for financial reasons. I couldnt afford to JMD: I just never did, because I always loved them and they
buy the Marvels and the DCs. always fed my soul in a very unique way. So while I was being
JMD: Basically, I fell in love with Marvel, and kids now cant this drugged-out rock-and-roll guy in the streets of Brooklyn, I

70 | WRITE NOW
also had a comic book in my back pocket. [laughs] we were the same guy. Then one day Mr. Benowitz walked in
DF: Speaking of being a drugged-out rock-and-roll guy, what and tossed me this book, Ill never forget, he just tossed this
about underground comics? Were you influenced by them? book across the classroom to me, and I looked down in my
JMD: In high school, maybe the twelfth grade, someone turned hands and it was The Brothers Karamazov. And I went home
me on to Zap Comix, and my mind exploded. There was only and just devoured it. Dostoevsky was like nobody else in the
one store that carried it, and it was probably 2 or 3 miles away, universe, the way he got into me. The other writer who affected
and I would walk to it to get these underground comics. What I me that way was Ray Bradbury. If you had to type him, he
discovered is that I really didnt love all of them, but anything would be science-fiction writer, but hes not a science-fiction
R. Crumb did I totally loved. And to this day one of my favorite writer. Hes not a fantasy writer. Hes just Ray Bradbury. So
comics stories is Meatball. Remember that one? beautiful, so poetic, and so full of emotion...
DF: Of course. DF: What in particular of Dostoevskys work did you love?
JMD: The story is just these meatballs falling out of the sky, JMD: If I were to pick one book, Id say that Brothers
hitting people on the head and enlightening them. Karamazov is It: one of the greatest novels ever written. For
DF: And the meatballs are accompanied by a disembodied cry of Bradbury, itd be Dandelion Wine. Its not fantasy. Its just a
Meatball! before they hit the person. [laughs] summer in the life of this kid, but its written with eyes that see
JMD: That was really great. I grew up and comics grew up with that the world truly is, in its natural state, the most magical,
me when, in the 70s, the Gerbers and the Engleharts and fantastic place there is. I love J.D Salinger. Franny & Zooey is
those guys came in. Roy Thomas came after Stan and one of my favorite books of all time. Lots and lots of other
expanded the parameters a little bitdeepened the characters writers, too. I wouldnt say that Melville resonated in my soul,
and the universeand Gerber and Englehart came in and really but I think he was one of the greatest writers I ever read. I
started to twist it, which for somebody like me, in their late dont think there is anything by Melville that I ever read and
teens/early 20s, was great. I dont know how great it was for didnt go, Oh my God, thats incredible.
the industry. It was probably the beginning of the end by trying DF: Did you ever read Omoo?
to make super-heroes adult, but for me at that point, it was JMD: No I didnt.
just great. I really loved Steve Gerbers stuff. I totally fell in love DF: Typee? Im just showing off
with it, and it resonated with me the same way that Stans stuff JMD: Did you read Baterbly the Scrievener?
didit was the quality of emotion that his work had in those DF: Sure. What about Moby Dick?
days. His writing got more intellectual as he went along and, at JMD: Moby Dick, you read it, and sometimes youre in the
least for me, lost the emotional element. But in the beginning, middle of reading it, and you go, Why am I reading this? Hes
it was very emotional, rip-your-heart-out, the clown crying in the spending 60 pages talking about the clam chowder.
swamp kind of stuff. Man-Thing was an incredible comic book. DF: I was captivated by Moby Dick.
I totally loved that. The early 70s was an explosion of all this JMD: And I was, too. Because, suddenly, it would turn around
interesting stuff, and then I got back to DC again. Kirby went to and become something else in the next chapter. And then he
DC, so I figured it was okay for me. [laughter]
Although it took me a while to realize what Kirby was up to.
This is a Thor knock-off. This sucks, was my first reaction to
the New Gods. But then I had to go back the next month and
buy it, and the next thing I know, the Fourth World stuff became
some of my favorite comics of all time. His scripting was
problematic, sometimes he couldnt even write a sentence, but
it didnt matter. His vision, his storytelling, his passion, totally
sold you.
DF: There was a cross-pollination between the undergrounds
and even the old, established, mainstream guys like Kirby. What
were some of your other influences outside of comics? In
movies, TV, books, drama?
JMD: I always loved to read. I was this huge science-fiction/
fantasy reader when I was in high school. But the writer that
totally stole my soul, when I was a senior in high school, was
Dostoevsky. This one teacher who was a great mentor to me,
Mr. Benowitz... we were reading Crime and Punishment in his
class, and it so spoke to who I was at that point in my life, and
the pain that I was in with my obsessions and delusions and
my spiritual quest. I couldnt read more than a chapter at a
time. I would lay there in bed, overwhelmed.
DF: Like Dostoevskys characters were.
JMD: Exactly. They talk about how Dostoevsky takes the uncon-
scious and makes it conscious with his characters, and thats
why they are so over the top and hysterical. But in my house,
everybody acted that way. [laughter] Everybody was a
Dostoevsky character. Me and Raskolnikov, we could have been
the same person. I didnt kill the old pawnbroker, but otherwise
More from Superman: Where Is Thy Sting? [2002 DC Comics]
DeMATTEIS | 71
would write the next chapter like it was a play. It was like a read it in years, but its the Vonnegut book I read two or three
fever dream, and I dont think anyone, including Herman times. Its just such a wonderful book. As the years go on, you
Melville, has a clue what that books about. [laughter] dont necessarily follow any writer all the way, and there was a
In one of the editions I have, they have reviews of the book certain point with Vonnegut where I thought his work had
when it came out. Its hysterical. No one had any clue. No one exhausted itself, and his stuff had gotten so cynical, if not
knew what was going on, and I dont know if he did. You can lethargic, that I just said, I dont want to read this. But
project whatever meaning on Moby Dick that you want. Its an Slaughterhouse Five and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, those
amazing book. Theres a writer named Knut Hamson that I two I especially like. But Ive read them all, Sirens of Titan,
really, really like. Theres a Cats Cradle, Mother Night
Swedish writer named Par and all those. Loved them.
Lagerkvist. He wrote The But I like God Bless You,
Holy Land, Pilgrims At Sea, Mr. Rosewater because
Barrabas. Very beautiful, theres an incredible sense
strange, mystical novels full of compassion in that
of suggestions where book. That was the one
things arent really spelled where Rosewaters big
out. The kind of writer advice to the universe was,
where the books would be Damn it, youve got to be
very short but you felt that, kind. Hes all drunk and
between each word, there barges into the science-
was meaning and mystery fiction convention, do you
resonating. He was a really remember that?
amazing writer. And Phillip DF: Now that you mention
K. Dick, who, like Bradbury, it, I do. I havent read it for
was typed as a science- 25 years.
fiction writer... but was so JMD: It would make a great
much more. He was just a movie.
great novelist who used DF: Did they never make
that form. Even to call him one?
a great novelist is not JMD: No, they never made
accurate, because he didnt that into a movie.
always write that well. What DF: I think somebody tried
he had that was unique to do something. We can
was the ability to actually look at IMDB, but not right
alter consciousness this second. [laughs]
through his stories. I felt JMD: In a weird way its
like his books changed my kind of a Capraesque story,
consciousness. I would right up to the ending
read a Phillip K. Dick novel where he gives his fortune
and it would be a like a away to the entire town
drug, a deep meditation, because they are trying to
literally shifting my prove that hes insane like
consciousness and [Frank Capras] Mr. Deeds.
perception of reality. His And Rosewater basically
best work often reflected adopts his entire town and
how I felt about the world, they get all his money.
about so-called reality. DF: Back to the focus of
An outstanding Mark Bagley interpretation of one of JMDs nine-panel pages.
Because by the time I was the magazine...
From Amazing Spider-Man, v. 1, #398. Inks by Larry Mahlstedt.
17, I had begun my own [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] JMD: What magazine?
spiritual path. Id had, for DF: [laughs] This is for
lack of a better word, an awakening, and my spiritual life and House and Garden. I want to talk to you about your interior
my relationship with God... ultimately with God in the form of decoration.
Meher Baba... really became, and still is, the most important JMD: My wife takes care of all that stuff. Ill put her on the
part of my life. The writers that I really loved in whatever way, phone.
whether its Salinger in his neurotic New York Zen way or DF: [laughs] You loved to read, loved your music. What made
Dostoevsky in his Eastern Orthodox way or Phillip K. Dick in his you decide to make writing your life as opposed to music?
acid-drenched parallel universe way, all reflect that. JMD: I dont think it was opposed to, I think it was just the way
DF: Are you a Vonnegut fan? the universe worked it out.
JMD: Yes, I love Vonnegut. I forgot about that. [laughter] Totally DF: When you started out, didnt you do journalism?
enjoyed Vonnegut and ate all that stuff up. JMD: Yes. I was playing in bands and I was doing record
DF: He was originally typed as sci-fi writer. reviews, concert reviews, and interviews for a variety of smaller
JMD: God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater still amazes. I havent papers across the country. It was a great gig because I would

72 | WRITE NOW
go to the Bottom Line [a still-existing New York music club] and JMD: I would rather be in that position, one way or another, and
see a show, and get a free dinner, and a free ticket to the putting my own creative self into the universe. I learned as a
show, and Id write about it, and then theyd pay me five bucks reviewer that, on any given day, if I was in the right mood, I
for a review. could say something nice about anything I wanted to. I dont
DF: How did you get the assignments? care if I didnt like the album, unless it was so morally repre-
JMD: I sent samples to publications, and there was this one hensible, like if Hitler had put out and album. Beyond that,
paper called Good Times that you may remember. It was given theres no reason to be negative like that and nasty. You can
away free at colleges across the country. I did a lot of work for be critical in an intelligent way, and for the most part I would
them and they sent me all these free albums. I got to see free always try to come up with something positive, even if I didnt
shows, and usually there was a tab, so I got a free meal. What like the album. Even that Grateful Dead album, I found
more could you ask? something positive to say about it, but it made me realize that
DF: Nothing I can think of. this is not who I am. This is not what I want to do, and I
JMD: In the meantime I was also still playing in the band, and I basically stopped after that. Not that Rolling Stone came
had all my rock-and-roll dreams. If that would have come running after me asking, Why did you stop? So it wasnt like,
together, then that is what would have happened. But things Oh, my God, weve lost one our most beloved writers. I was
came together the way that they have, and I have to say in just this guy on the fringe anyway, and I just stopped cold. They
retrospect, obviously I didnt want the music career as much. sent something else to review, and I never reviewed it, and they
Because if I really wanted it, I wouldnt have stopped it at that never asked, and that was it.
point, you know what I mean? Because I didnt stop knocking DF: You said something a few lines back: I was doing stuff at
on the door with my writing. But at certain point in my early DC then. I think that would be key to the focus of this magazine.
twenties, maybe mid-twenties, I decided Im going to focus on JMD: Along with all this other stuff in my life, I knew since I
the writing instead. So I was playing in the band and doing the was a kid that I wanted to do comic books.
writing. And then, what happened was, and Ive told this story DF: Comic books, as opposed to novels or screenplays?
before, I sent some of my stuff to Rolling Stone, and much to JMD: I had dreams of doing the other stuff, too, but I think,
my surprise they said, This stuff is great, why dont you do along with rock-and-roll, my overriding passion, creatively, was
some reviews for us? So I started doing reviews for them, and comics. I think I always knew I would do other things and write
at one point in 1979, 1980, somewhere around there, maybe other things, but I was in love with comics and I really wanted
earlier, maybe a little later, I did a review of a Grateful Dead to do them. So I made several aborted attempts. Probably the
album. My ex-wife was a Dead fan and so were some of my first I ever did, I sent into Marvel when I was 18. I had no idea
friends, and I hated the Dead. Less actually hating the Dead what a comic book script looked like, and I wrote some awful
than hating all the shtick around the Deadhead thing, which thing, sent it in and got back a fairly nasty letter from Don
makes comic book freaks seem like sane, balanced, non- McGregor. [laughter] Im sure that he was just having a bad
obsessive people. In retrospect, big deal, it made them happy, day, but it was like, If you really think this is creative, why
so why do I care? But I was much more judgmental then. So dont you try to sell it to a fanzine. And I think I actually did. I
they sent me this Grateful Dead album to review, and I used it hooked up with some fanzine and actually wrote a comic book
as an excuse to be smug and smarmy and pick it apart. It was story for it and somebody drew it. It might have been Arvell
a short review, but it was just obnoxious. The weird thing about Jones, who went on to actually do some comic books.
doing the thing for Rolling Stone was, you and I can sit and DF: With Marvel.
have a conversation and we can have our opinions and be JMD: Was it with Marvel? We did this thing called The Seeker,
obnoxiously opinionated. It doesnt matter, because were just about some guy seeking out the ultimate meaning of the
talking. When you put it in print, as we know from reading universe, floating around in a bubble looking for truth. You
critiques of our comics work, it takes on another level of could probably find the seeds of Moonshadow in that story. I
meaning, and people take it very seriously. So they sent me a think I wrote one story for a fanzine, and then DC had this
stack of mail that they got about this review. Id never gotten apprentice program. I was about 19, and they were getting
any mail on any other review I wrote, and it was just filled with people to submit their work, and they would critique it, and
the letters from these Deadheads and, Danny, it was as if I had then they were going to pick a group of guys that they were
written an article about your mother and said nasty things going to make their DC writers apprentices. I think thats how
about her. [laughs] [David] Michelinie got into the business, through that program.
DF: And I wish you hadnt written that article. Mom was very But I wrote a Justice League script, which is funny in retro-
upset. [laughs] spect, what an easy thing to do. Team books are very
JMD: I put in the apology. [laughs] It really shocked me and difficult for me even now. Im working on a JLA project now and
upset me because these people were genuinely hurt by what I Im still struggling with it.
wrote, which was not my intention. It really made me stop and DF: Do you have any sense of how many people applied to be in
reconsider what I was doing, and I think I was probably doing that apprentice program and how many were accepted?
some stuff at DC then. I just felt, I dont want to be the guy JMD: No, the person I dealt was named, if Im remembering
putting this kind of energy out into the universe. As much I, to correctly, Val Eades. I had no idea who they were, or even if
this day, still love reading reviews, especially if its a reviewer they were male or female. Probably male, because it was comic
who is intelligent, I dont want to be doing that. I would much books and, especially in those days, a woman was a rare
rather be the guy who is creating and getting picked on, and creature. They would send back a critique of my work. Nothing
God knows that has happened. came out of that, but in retrospect it was a great experience
DF: Or rather be the guy getting praised as opposed to be the just to have anybody on the other end give me some feedback.
guy getting picked on. DF: Thats incredible that they did that.

DeMATTEIS | 73
JMD: Really incredible that buy Superman scripts from
they did that. Maybe Val guys that weve never
Eades was a pseudonym heard of, but Paul Levitz is
for an editor. I dont know. looking for material for
DF: Im sure somebody House of Mystery and
reading this might even be Weird War Tales, and all
Val Eades. those anthology comic
JMD: I would keep trying books that were out then
and knocking on the door that Id never read. I went
and a couple of things right past them on the
happened. I knew this guy stands. I didnt give them a
from Brooklyn College second look because they
named Warren Reese. He looked atrocious. So I went
was on a TV show with and bought a whole stack
Carmine Infantino [then DC of them, and read them,
Comics publisher] and and started sending Paul...
Stan Lee and basically who was maybe all of
spent the entire time saying twenty-one at the time...
DC sucked and Marvels plot outlines for these
great, so very quickly he stories. I still have the
had a job with Marvel letter from the first batch
working in the production of outlines I sent to him,
department. So through and he tore my stories to
this guy, I kept submitting shreds and then went on to
stuff to Marvel, outlines or tear my typing to shreds.
plots, scripts, whatever. [laughter] The last line
Nothing ever came of the was, Feel free to submit
stuff I submitted through more but either type more
him, but one thing that did slowly or get a typing
happen is that Warren service, because this stuff
wrote some stuff for Crazy is just atrocious. And it
magazine [Marvels answer was, because I was not a
to Mad.] Warren very careful typist. I would
encouraged me to submit cross things out and then
some samples and editor write things over them.
Paul Laikin bought DF: These were the pre-
something of mine. I had computer days.
no interest in writing for JMD and artist Sal Buscema teamed up to produce this dramatic page from JMD: These were the pre-
Crazy, I had no skills in Spectacular Spider-Man #189. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] computer days. Im sure
that arena, but I wrote a someone, somewhere,
few sample things and he bought one of them. This was might have had a computer but I didnt know about it.
probably 1976, and I got a check for the job with Spider-Man Although, soon after, I bought an IBM Selectric Typewriter for
on it. It didnt get me in with the comic book side of Marvel, $2,000. [laughs] It was discontinued the next year. It didnt
but at least it allowed me to say that I wrote this thing for matter all the horrible things Paul said, because he also said,
Crazy. I think I sold them a couple of pieces, and to this day I Feel free to submit again. So I submitted again and I
dont know why Paul bought itbut God bless him. It was really submitted again until finally I made an appointment to go in
watered down Mad Magazine stuff. I didnt even save the and see him. This is sometime in 1977, and he bought
magazine, thats how little I thought of my work. something and that, to me, was a huge, huge event. He said,
DF: What was the premise? Do you remember? Go home and work on this and come back, and I realized,
JMD: I did a few of them What if Comic Strip Characters Were Wow he wants me to go home and write this story.
Real People? Kids in the neighborhood tying Dondi up and DF: It was a House of Mystery story?
beating him senseless. [laughter] JMD: It was a House of Mystery story called The Lady Killer
You Shouldnt Have Said That was the name of another Craves Blood. It was based on the Son of Sam thing. The
premise. Someone says something stupid and the next panel killer kills this woman, not knowing that her husband is a
shows why, You shouldnt have said that. Awful stuff. vampire, and then the vampire hunts down the serial killer.
DF: Im laughing. Actually, its not a bad idea for a movie, a vampire hunting
JMD: I can tell youre laughing, but youll laugh at anything. down a serial killer. Regardless, it was a weird little story, eight
DF: Thats true. pages long, and I still have the little piece of paper with all the
JMD: So right around the same time, I started sending some notes Paul gave, saying things like: No more than 5 panels
more samples to DC. I sent them a Superman sample, a per page, no more than 35 words per panel, clear transitional
Plastic Man script, a Red Tornado sample, and I got a letter captions, dont forget your splash panel. Because I turned in
back from somebodys assistant saying, Were not going to the first script without a splash panel or credits. Then I wrote

74 | WRITE NOW
another draft and then he bought it. He shook my hand and he liked him, and I started, along with the short House of Mystery
said, Welcome to the business. stories, I started doing, I, Vampire and Creature Commandos. I
DF: Wow. also did my first super-hero story, which Paul edited, an eight-
JMD: Wow. I didnt need the D train. I could have floated back page Batman story. I wrote Hawkman. I did Red Tornado. I did
to Brooklyn. Then I started selling stuff to Paul regularly. It was Black Lightning, which were really atrocious stories. Do you
mainly to Paul for a few months in 77. But then they had the remember the Black Lightning character? When he became
great DC Implosion. In those days, I had a page rate of Black Lightning he talked in pseudo Black lingo. [laughter] I
thirteen dollars per page. That was my starting rate. But I was too dumb to realize that you could change these things so
didnt care. That was great money back then. Between the $50 hes like, Sho nuf, motha. It was that type of dialogue, which
a week I made playing rock-and-roll and what Id get for writing was embarrassing, awful stuff. But it was still great because,
a comic book script, it was great. So I was writing for House of hey, I was in the business. It was a very, very quiet time in the
Mystery and the anthology books, and then they had the DC comics industry. The big changes hadnt happened yet, and DC
implosion and everybody that was on the fringe lost work. We was a great place to work, the trains ran on time and they were
were out. We were gone. I remember the day when that axe nice people to work with.
fell. I had just written my first full-length story and I got a check DF: And the big change was?
for $300 and change that I lived on for the entire summer. It JMD: Somewhere during that period is when I started working
bought me my pizza, got me into movies, and somehow paid with Shooter, doing fill-ins and everything. Jim, to his credit,
my share of the rent. I dont know quite how that happened, was also extremely nice to me. He took an interest in me. He
but it did. Somewhere in there I wrote a letter to [then Marvel liked my work and when he didnt have comic book work, he
Editor-in-Chief] Jim Shooter saying, Ive submitted stuff to had me do work at the Marvel offices. I spent two weeks at
Marvel and no ones ever answered me. Ive been working for Marvel helping him with a lawsuit. Marvel was suing the
DC. He actually called me up and said, I had you mixed up makers of a Spider-Woman or Spider-Girl cartoon. I think it was
with somebody else, which actually I dont think he did but a Spider-Girl cartoon. It was some kind of Spider-somebody
thats not important. So at some point, and I dont remember cartoon. I had to watch all these cartoons. They put me in
the chronology, it might have been during those months that I Stans office, watching cartoons and writing up similarities
wasnt getting any work from DC, I went in and spoke to Jim. between Spider-Woman or Spider-Girlwhatever she was
He gave me his writers lecture. Jim was a very, very smart guy, called Webwoman!thats what she was calledbetween
and his technical skill about story was, in those days, second Webwoman and Spider-Man for the lawsuits. He had me come
to none. He understood the blueprint of what made a good up there, and he paid me really well for it. For those times, for
story and he spoke to me about story in a way nobody had the money that I needed to survive, it was nice money. Then I
before. I think my first Marvel story was an Iron Man fill-in. I spent a week up there writing character bios. I dont remember
did fill-ins for Marvel for six months. Them sometime after the what they were for, but I had to write bios for all the characters.
DC Implosion fallout settled, I started getting a lot of work from I dont know where they went or anything, but they paid me to
DCI think the Shooter connection actually came a bit later do that. Jim would always be throwing me jobs, and you can
and I got work from Paul again. I also started working for Jack imagine what fun it was to be sitting in Stan Lees office
Harris, because Time Warp came in, which was a DC science- watching cartoons and getting paid for it. At a certain point, I
fiction anthology. Jack kept me busy with that, and it really kept started getting a little more work up there. I got a Marvel
the money coming in for me, and thats when Len Wein came Team-Up that I did for Denny ONeil and a Star Wars that I did
on staff and I stared doing work with Len. Len became my first for Louise Simonson and Danny Fingeroth... which Danny
real mentor in the business. Len was editing House of Fingeroth will never forget... that I took my name off of. [Danny
Mystery, House of Secrets, and a bunch of other stuff. I Fingeroth never will. Lets just say that a novice editor
created I, Vampire then for House of Mystery and Creature became a tad over-enthusiastic in his editing, and a large
Commandos for Weird War Tales. Len was the first guy who movie company became a little unreasonable.DF] Then I got
made me feel like that I
wasnt just another one of
the faceless guys coming
into the business, that I had
something unique and
special. He really took an
extra interest in me as sort
of a protg. The encour-
agement that he gave me,
and the attention that he
lavished on me, to use a
clich, you cant buy that.
Ive never forgotten that. It
was like watering a flower
that really needed watering.
So I was working for Len. I
was working for Paul. I was
working for Jack Harris, who
was a wonderful guy. I really A scene from Moonshadow, one of JMDs first creator-owned projects. Art by Jon J Muth. [2002 J.M. DeMatteis & Jon J Muth.]

DeMATTEIS | 75
Conan, which you and Louise were editing. Then Jim offered Moonshadow. I was in at the beginning of Epic and Vertigo and
me a contract, and at the same time Jim was offering me a Paradox, where I wrote Brooklyn Dreams... which is maybe my
contract, Len offered me a job as his assistant. If a year all-time favorite piece of work. The joy for me is that Ive gotten
before, someone had told me Id be choosing between Marvel to work on both sides of the creative fence.
and DC both wanting me! It was an amazing thing and if it DF: There are a lot of people now who work both sides of the
was just about the work I would have gone to DC and been fence. I think you were really one of the first people to do that.
Lens assistant. But around that same time, my son was born, JMD: When I started doing it, I dont think anybody else was.
and the choice became: do I stay home and help raise my son DF: I think the thing that still makes you pretty uniqueif thats
or do I have to go into work and be away from him every day? even possible grammatically, to be pretty uniqueis that a lot
DF: Thats interesting. This is something Ive never heard you of writers and artists in the industry now came from the
discuss before. independent world and theyve been recruited into the
JMD: Thats the reason I made the decision that I made. mainstream super-hero world. You went the other direction. You
DF: It would seem like almost a no-brainer between being an took your experience and reputation from the super-hero world
assistant to somebody or being a full-blown writer with a and went to do your autobiographical and your fantasy stuff.
contract. How was that even a choice? JMD: The difference is that, then, all that stuff was just
JMD: Because I was very interested in working with Len and beginning. Epic was just happening, and these alternative
learning the ropes of the business from that side. It would publishers were just popping up. I remember looking up in the
have been a very different track, and who knows where that mid-80s and seeing Camelot 3000 at DC and Ronin, and I
would have led me as an editor? But it really wasnt about that. remember thinking, I dont want to only be writing Captain
The choice became about my son, and that was why I chose to America and The Defenders. I had this idea for Moonshadow,
be a freelancer and work at home. I had this nice contract, and and I believe my contract with Marvel was up, and I had spoken
Jim was always very, very generous financially. Whatever else with Karen Berger [at DC] about Moonshadow, which she
may have been going on, he was always at the cutting edge loved. She was all ready to do it. Heres a really interesting
with rates. Whats DC giving you? And then hes come up story. I was going to go back to DC, and Karen wanted to do
with something that was astronomically higher, or at least Moonshadow. Len Wein offered me Swamp Thing, which, if I
seemed so at the time. had taken it, Alan Moore wouldnt have gotten the gig, and an
DF: And the contract was open-ended? entire era of comic book history would have never happened. At
JMD: I think it was two- or three-year contract. least not in the same way. I forgot what else they offered me...
DF: Its funny, most people you would think would say, I now maybe even Justice League... but I had these discussions with
have a kid, so I need something dependable, so I took the staff DC, and then I went to Shooter. I said that I had a couple of
job, and not, I took the freelance gig. things that I wanted to do if I was going to stay at Marvel,
JMD: Either way, they both equaled staff jobs because the because I wanted the freedom to do other things than super-
contract gave me security. heroes. The two projects were Moonshadow and Greenberg
DF: That would be a big difference. the Vampire. Id done Greenberg as a black-&-white story in
JMD: I now had health insurance. I got vacation days. I got [Marvels] Bizarre Adventures, but I wanted to do a graphic
paid for, like, a weeks vacation every year, and it was a good novel. Jim had said no at one point, but then over the course
thing. That completes my journey into the business. of contract negotiations, they said, Sure, the Moonshadow
DF: And youve been doing this now for how long? thing sounds like an Epic comic. And then I found myself in
JMD: Full time since 1979. the midst of the beginnings of Epic, and thats the thing that
DF: Full time since 1979, which
is rather remarkable. And
doing, of course, everything.
Spider-Man, most notably, in a
couple of different periods, a lot
of Batman stuff, Spectre.
Name some of the others.
JMD: Justice League, Captain
America, Defenders. I did a
million things at Marvel over
the years and a million things
at DC. I think I hit almost all
the major characters.
DF: Ever do the Fantastic
Four?
JMD: No, thats one of the
things at Marvel that I never
got to write, and I love the
Fantastic Four. And then, of
course, I got to do all this
other material like the Vertigo
stuff and the beginning of the
From Kravens Last Hunt, part 3, first seen in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #131. Art by Zeck & McLeod.
Epic line of comics with
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]

76 | WRITE NOW
really helped me to become, for good or ill, who I am as a sane and continuing in the business, its just what youre
writer today. talking about. The fact that I was able to be working on both
In the early days there was this mindset that I had: Im Spider-Man and Daredevil and Seekers Into the Mystery, to be
writing Marvel Comics... youve got to write them this way to be doing some mainstream thing and be doing Brooklyn Dreams. I
Marvel Comicsand my natural inclinations werent that way. havent done one of those personal projects in a few years,
My natural inclinations were far left of center, and yet I kept and thats been a source of great frustration.
trying to write the center. You look at my Defenders stuff, DF: Aside from the different genres and types of comics, youre a
especially, and you can see all my weirdness desperately trying guy who has been involved a lot in the TV, movies, Hollywood
to come out. I just didnt have the craft to express it. I hadnt world. Whats the appeal of that? Is it strictly financial?
developed my craft well enough yet... or at all!... to tell the JMD: Not at all. The financial rewards are wonderful, of course.
kinds of stories that I wanted to tell, and Moonshadow, what it In Hollywood the lousy financial rewards are wonderful for
really did for me was, it meant I wasnt writing Marvel Comics those of us who live in the real world. Ive had a number of
any more. I was just writing a story and I could write it as if I projects, and they havent paid me the big bucks likeI have
was writing a piece of fiction... sitting at home working on an friend who is an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, and
idea for a book or short story. That was the most liberating they pay him astronomical sums of moneyso they dont pay
thing that happened to me. And I was lucky enough, through me that, but the money is still excellent. But thats not what its
Dan Green, to meet Jon J Muth, to have this extraordinary about. I just love movies. Just look at the number of people we
artist who was doing fine art, not comic book art. I had talked reach in comics on a good day, let alone now, with the
to a number of comic book guys about drawing it. It would have shrinkage of the audience, and you look at the television and
changed the tone of the whole series. I was now able to be in movie audience. You can reach so many more people.
a position where I could react to Js gorgeous painting. In the DF: Talk a little bit about how you got into the TV stuff.
beginning, he saw the story even better than I did. He JMD: The first thing I did was a Twilight Zone. That was in the
intuitively understood what I was working toward and reflected late-80s when they revived Twilight Zone. I read an article
it in his initial sketches and character designs... which in turn about it that said that an amazing writer, and an extremely nice
helped inspire me to reach a level of craft, and art, that I never guy, named Alan Brennert was the story editor. I knew he had
had before. I went off and just wrote, and I wasnt comic book done comic books, so I wrote him a letter. I pitched him a
writing, I was just writing, and that totally changed me as a bunch of stories until I sold him something. That was the first
writer. I was then able to step back into the super-hero stuff thing I ever sold... and God bless you Alan, wherever you are.
and do something like Kravens Last Hunt, which I did shortly Then I did an animated Ghostbusters that Joe Straczynski was
after that, because I had liberated myself from the comic book the story editor on. Hollywood seems to wax and wane in my
mindset. Today, it doesnt seem like a big deal, because there life. It went away for a few years after that... and then I got the
is such cross-pollination between what is called alternative gig on Superboy (live actions series) in the early 90s. Mike
and whats called mainstream. Carlin and Andy Helfer plugged me into that one. I ended up
DF: But, generally, not the way you did it. What seems to happen writing five episodes and doing a brief stint on staff, as well.
now is, somebody who has a made a name in the independent But it wasnt until the mid-90s that I got really busy with
world will then be called in to work on a corporate character. But different movie and TV projects.
for you to have started with the mainstream stuff, then gone into DF: You did a couple of Earth: Final Conflict s.
the personal stuff, and to continue to go back and forth between JMD: I did Earth: Final Conflict, and I worked on the Daredevil
themthis may be part of the reason for your career longevity. movie for Chris Columbus, and I worked on a movie, an original
You have been doing this full time since 1979. You are one of of mine that I sold on a pitch, called Straight On Till Morning
the few people who has done it without a break. There are for Chris Columbus. I wrote an animated feature for Disney,
people who have gone in and out of fashion, and maybe now are and I worked with Caleb Carr, the guy who wrote [the novel] The
being rediscovered but you really just kept on going. Alienist, on a science-fiction series that he created for CBS
JMD: For the most part, yes. Ive had my periods of going in that never got on the air. We had a great time with that. Ive
and out of fashion or having a year here or a year there where done a lot of fun things over the years. To me, its just theres
things were really difficult. It may not appear that way because something magical about movies and TV. Like with Superboy.
stuff keeps coming out. I know that 1986 was a really rough Superboy was an obscure, low-rated syndicated show that
year. Things got a little weird with Shooter. I was doing probably reached three or four million people on a bad day.
Moonshadow and I couldnt even step into the mainstream Compare that with the numbers we reach in comics. I wrote
Marvel books without getting riddled with bullets. It was really some stories for Superboy that I totally loved and was very,
tough, and it got tough financially, before I finally went back to very proud of. Stan Berkowitz, who is now an award-winning
DC, and then I had a year at the end of my last Marvel contract animation writer, was the producer and the head story guy on
a few years ago where it was really, really bad. Superboy. [Look for an interview with Stan Berkowitz in the
DF: That was the balloon popping for the whole industry, so I next issue of Write Now!DF] I had a great time on that
think a lot of people found themselves in that boat. show. Stan was a great guy to work for and he was, and is, a
JMD: For the most part, even now, things in the business just first-rate writer. I look at some of those episodes and I think,
are not what they were, even for me, but I look around and I Well gee, that hit three million people, thats not bad.
see talented writers and artists saying, I havent done work DF: Was your comics background generally helpful in opening
for years. So I consider myself very lucky. doors in Hollywood? Do people take you moreor less
DF: Do you think its anything that you consciously did thats seriously?
responsible for your being regularly employed? JMD: What I found is, it certainly helps to get people to talk to
JMD: I cant explain that, but I can say that in terms of staying you. Now I see, more than everI was just out there a couple

DeMATTEIS | 77
able to meet with the people that matter, not with their fourth
assistants third cousin.
DF: Was it tough to make that transition in mindset from comics,
where everything is usually one-on-onewriter-to-editorto this
type thing, where everything is done through intermediaries?
JMD: Yeah, although comics started getting more and more like
that. [laughs] And it continues to be more and more like that.
As the comics business continues to shrink, you have more
and more opinions in the mix on your stories.
DF: Im talking about the idea that everybody who is a writer in
TV and in movies has an agent, and comics people dont.
JMD: Its just different. Ive used an agent on rare occasions in
comicsa great guy named Allen Spiegleon projects that
have needed special care, like when we bought Moonshadow
back from Marvel and sold it to Vertigo, but in the normal
course of events, I really dont need one for comics.
DF: Was it hard to adjust to that change in approach with the
Hollywood process?
JMD: Not really, because, for the most part, Ive worked with
really nice people. Right now, the agents that I have are really
good guys, and of all the guys that Ive had to work with out
there, they are also the smartest story guys that Ive ever
worked with. I just finished this spec script which is out and
making the rounds right now, and these guys really worked with
me from the story angle. A lot of agents are just like, Give me
the work and well sell it, and these guys are really, really inter-
ested in the stories, how they can take this and make it the
best that it can be before they give it to anybody.
DF: Which segues us into some questions about craft. Is there a
typical reader that you imagine when youre writing?
JMD: I write for myself first and foremost. I want to please me.
If Im not pleasing me, I dont care who else its pleasing. It
doesnt matter. Obviously, you want to please your editor,
provided you like your editor, and in most cases I do or I dont
From Soul of the Hunter, the sequel to Kravens Last Hunt. Story by JMD. continue to work for them. Theres this hypothetical reader out
Art by Zeck and McLeod. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] there whos like me. Someone who really takes the work to
heart. To me, its a big chain. I read stuff, and it inspires me
months running to meetings for a weekthere are more and provokes me to thought and feeling, and then makes me
people out there into comics than ever before. They are very want to go create. I feel like I want to send this stuff out there,
hot for comics properties and material like that. But Im the too, and provoke somebody, touch them and inspire them, so
same way with movies as I am with comics. The kind of stuff they end up being the person then creating something for the
that I want to write and the kind of stuff that I pitch really isnt next person to get inspired by. I dont write just to write. I write
comic book oriented. If I pitched some high concept super-hero to communicate feelings and ideas, and I want to reach
thing, it would probably be easier, but I like smaller, more people. If Im not going to have an audience, I dont want to do
personal stories. the art. I couldnt be in a garret just writing for myself. It would
DF: Do you think that, if you went in there with a high concept help me. It would be good therapy. But then I could just keep a
super-hero, you would be the one to write it, or would they say, journal. In terms of putting stories in the world, I want them to
Lets get a real Hollywood writer? go out and touch people, and over the years Ive felt really
JMD: I think thered be a good chance that they would let me blessed by some of the responses Ive gotten. I do sometimes
write it. feel like Im a cult item in a cult industry, though. That over in a
DF: Agents, managerseverybody says they are crucial to little corner are the people that get me and get what Im writing
getting writing work in Hollywood. How hard are they to get? about.
JMD: You really need two things: a good writing sample... and DF: But youve written million-selling comics.
someone who can personally plug you in to a good agency. Ive JMD: I still see myself as a cult flavor in a cult market. But
had a few agents and one manager over the years, and its when I get those letters or e-mails and they say, I was reading
nice to have both an agent and a manager working for you. But this story and it made me think in a different way, it changed
the manager isnt as necessary as the agent. That said, the my life, or It touched me so deeply, to me thats the reason
first thing that I sold, I sold just writing letters myself. But for doing any kind of writing.
overall, in terms of the business, you need someone with a DF: Any books on writing, or courses, that youd recommend for
reputation, with the right logo on top of the cover letter, to get people?
producers to look at your work and take it seriously, and then JMD: Theres a book that my wife turned me on to ten years
also to set up meetings with the right people. You want to be ago. Its called If You Want to Write and the writers name is

78 | WRITE NOW
Brenda Euland. Its the kind of book, if you have never written around or rolling around on the floor screaming, Dear God, I
anything in your life, or if youve been writing for 50 years, it is cant figure this story out! is the writing time. On that level,
a great book on writing. Her approach to teaching writing and were writing all the time. Im not one of these disciplined guys
encouraging creativity is very, very compassionate and open, that says, Im going to clock in at nine. Im going to start
and she doesnt believe in teaching through criticism of any writing. Im going to write until four, and then Im going to stop
kind. She only believes in teaching through encouragement. Its writing. It doesnt work that way for me, but somehow it all
just a beautiful book and beautifully written and I think any gets done.
writer should read that, because it will inspire them. Beyond DF: You have all the family obligations, which establishes param-
that I dont know. I love reading William Goldmans stuff when it eters on your time.
comes to screenwriting. I find many of those screenwriting JMD: Yes, it does. It gives me a framework. And there are
courses to be just a lot of garbage. William Goldmans books, certain things that I need to do for myself every day, that if I
especially Adventures in the Screen Trade, I really enjoyed. dont do, I cant really work well. Whether its meditation or Tai
Just reading a good screenplay is inspiring enough, and beyond Chi or playing my guitar for half an hour.
that, just reading great writers. I cant read Ray Bradbury My wife calls that my commute. When you work at home you
without wanting to put the book down and write. I think that the dont have that time in the car or on the train to segue into
writers that we love are going to inspire us to write. your work day. So you have to create that space for yourself.
DF: You mentioned keeping a journal. Do you still keep a DF: What are you reading now?
journal? JMD: I just read a fascinating book called The Aztec Virgin,
JMD: I dont keep a journal on a regular basis. What I do is, about the mystical Aztec roots of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And
the two or three times a year that I may go on retreat, or when my wife and I are reading a book, by Elliot Cowan, about plant-
something specific is going on in my life, I will. I may go on spirit medicine... a shamanic form of healing that weve both
retreat to the Meher Baba Center in South Carolina and write become interested in. I used to read a lot of fiction, but in
50 pages about whats going on. recent years its very rare that I read fiction, except for
DF: Do you recommend that for people, just to stay limber? childrens books. I love reading childrens books. Reading with
JMD: I think thats a really good thing, yeah. my daughter is one of the major highlights of my day.
DF: Any other DF: Can we talk
writing exercises about that? I
like that? know you are
JMD: Im not a very excited by
very form- childrens books
oriented guy. Its and childrens
funny. It takes a comics in
lot of discipline particular.
to be a JMD: Yes, and
freelance writer its been one of
and to do it for the great frustra-
this long, but I tions of my
dont have a lot career that it
of form. I get seems that
up, I do my thing people in the
in the morning comic book
with my family business, at
and whatever least the people
personal and behind the
spiritual things I desks, dont
may do in the seem to get it.
morning. Then I They think
From JMDs current run on The Spectre. From issue #17. Art by Norm Breyfogle and Dennis Janke.
get around to skewing to a
[2002 DC Comics]
working, and I younger
just flow through and back. readership is getting more 20-year-olds to read comics. Thats
DF: Do you have specific work hours that you work every day? pathetic. Five years ago when Joe Calamari was at Marvel, he
JMD: I have a general arc of when it will last. Years ago, when was very interested in doing real kids comics, and thats an
I first started, I would work all night. That stopped a long time obsession of mine. You raise a couple of kids and you see the
ago. I work during the day and I have to get my daughter from industry is skewing older and older and you go, Excuse me,
school by three oclock, so the days over then. Sometimes I once upon a time kids read comic books, not 35-year-olds in
may spend three hours futzing around in the morning and only their mothers basements. [laughter] And when theres
spend an hour working, but get tons of work done in that one wonderful childrens literature out there, whether its Narnia or
hour. Or I may work for four hours and get nothing done, or it Oz or Harry Potterproving the point for this generation of
may suck and I have to rewrite it all the next day. kids. We need to do comics like thatI always likened it to
DF: Do you average out a certain number of hours per week? Moonshadow without the sex and violence, but with that level
JMD: As you know, the thing with the writing time is not just of writing and that level of art, and aim it at kids. Because with
the time at the computer. A lot of the avoidance and futzing the best kids books, as we know, a seven-year-old can read

DeMATTEIS | 79
Matilda or Mary Poppins and be totally transported and a 37- writing, its okay, but there are times when it just isnt going to
year-old can read those books and be transported. The only come. Its taken me years learn that, on the days when its not
one thats not going to be transported is the cynical 16-year-old going to come, I should just honor that and walk away.
who thinks hes too cool for it. DF: But blocks dont last more than a day or two for you, it
DF: What childrens projects do you have in the works? sounds like.
JMD: As I said, Joe Calamari was really interested in a project JMD: They dont usually, and I havent had an extended period
Michael Zulli and I came up with called The Adventures of where I couldnt work. I find that the best cure for writers block
Skylar Orion Across Time and Space, and that was the period is a deadline. No matter whats going on, so-and-so needs
at Marvel where, every six weeks, something would change, pages by Tuesday. Oh look, I dont have writers block.
and everything fell apart. I proposed a whole line of kids stuff [laughter] I may not particularly like what Ive done, but Ive
to DC at that point, and they said it was a good idea but would also discovered over the years that Im not the best judge of
cost too much. Now, what Ive been trying to do is just get one what Ive done. You know, the thing that you really work over
project going. Michael Lark and I are just passionate about can be a piece of garbage. The thing you batted out in fifteen
doing this thing called Abadazad, sort of a contemporary spin minutes could be the greatest thing you ever wrote.
on Ozour own version of that kind of world. Ive got an editor DF: Because youre not making yourself all nuts about it.
at DC whos interested in it. But basically, when we took it to JMD: Ive definitely gone through periods, and I went through
the Powers That Be, I got the impression that, if I jump through such a period a few months back, where I just sit and look at
a lot of hoops, I could get the project done and have it printed. the computer and sayand its more because Ive been doing
But I dont know if they get how important this type of material this for so longI just cant do this. Didnt I write this story
is for the survival of the industry. But it still may happen there. fifteen years ago?
DF: Is it the kind of thing you might want to bring to an Oni, or DF: Thats another reason we need the big turnover in
someone like that? readership, so no one will remember that you wrote it fifteen
JMD: It might very well be, and Michael and I have talked about years ago.
that. Just maybe, its time to do it on our own and then take it JMD: And thats why we always need to go toward projects that
to a publisher or publish it ourselves. It could be that what God are really going to inspire us, because if we dont, we are going
is trying to tell me is, Just write a novel. But I feel like it to keep writing the story we wrote fifteen years ago, or five
would be a wonderful comic book. We owe it to our kids to years ago, or five minutes ago. So if you want to close in terms
provide them with really wonderful, magical nurturing stuff. of talking about writing, Ill go to the Joseph Campbell clich
DF: Amen. and its a clich because its truewhich is, Follow your bliss.
JMD: Who is Superman aimed at? Who is Spider-Man aimed Go to projects that excite you, even if it seems like this isnt
at? Who is the audience for this stuff anymore? Everyone is so going to be the most commercial, lucrative project you can do.
busy trying to prove how hip they are. DC had that promotional Go to the thing that ignites your passion the most, and that
line in the 80s, DC comics arent just for kids anymore, and you really care profoundly about, that you want to bring every-
now its like, DC comics arent for kids anymore. They license thing in your life to bear on. Ive really tried to do that all these
some Cartoon Network things and throw them into the market, years, and maybe thats why Im still around. Because Ive
but God forbid we spend any effort, energy, money or intelli- really tried to put my heart and soul into whatever I do. And
gence on comic books that will appeal to children. Marvel too. when I havent been true to that, its been painfully obvious. Its
Marvel seems bent on the Vertigo-ization of the Marvel line. just not worth it. Better to just walk away.
Lets make this stuff as cutting edge and dark as we can, DF: If you were 24 today, would you still want to break into
because that is our audience. You want to do all that, fine... I comics, or would it be another medium?
mean there are some terrific comics out there right now, Im JMD: Thats a good question. If I was 24 now, with my mind
not knocking the quality of the books DC and Marvel are where it is now, my sense is that I probably would be focusing
putting out... but what about the kids? more on film from the get-go, as opposed to something I
DF: Publishers and entrepreneurs out there, get those check- discovered later. On the other hand, if I had the same passion
books out and start getting ready to bankroll Marcs kids books. for comics that I had thenyknow, there was a period in the
JMD: It frustrates me more than anything, and if something like comic book industry where guys got into the industry because
that would open up, where there was an opportunity to do one there was a big boom going on, and thought they could make a
project or, even better, an entire line... At this point in my lot of money. But most of us got in for no reason other than
career, my interest in doing things other than comics far that we loved it. We werent thinking about making money. We
outweighs my interest in comics, but if I could do smart, were delighted that anyone would pay us anything. [laughs]
literate comics for kids, like this thing that Zulli and I want to Thirteen dollars a page? Wow!! We loved comic books,
do, and the thing that Michael Lark and I want to do, I could period. Thats why we went after it. Love. If I was 24 years old
see my passion and enthusiasm come back ten thousand now and had that kind of love for the form, regardless of the
percent. But it really seems like the companies really dont get fact that the business is dying or whatever, I would probably
it. Once in a while, a good kids project will come out still go for it.
somewhere, but generally the companies are intent on playing DF: Well, we thought it was dying in 1977, too.
to the same group. JMD: I never look at sales charts, Danny. But I recently picked
DF: Writers blockever had that problem? up a magazine and happened to notice at a sales chart in
JMD: Oh, all the time. there, and I saw what the sales are for todays big sellers. The
DF: And what do you do to deal with it? big, big, big, big seller was, I think 125 thousand copies, which
JMD: Bang my head against the wall and get depressed. was what Defenders used to do... and Defenders was pretty
Usually if you push through it, just grit your teeth and start much a borderline book, sales-wise. And the other big hit

80 | WRITE NOW
those things in the works, and Im sure
Im forgetting something.
DF: You seem to be somebody who works
well with editors.
JMD: Ive had my share of problems with
editors over the years... but when you
find an editor that you can work with and
who you like, its a real joy. The audience
is out there, and I can imagine them in
my head, or get the letters and read
them, but the people that you work with
on a regular basis are the artist that
youre involved with and, even more so,
your editor. So your relationship with your
editor is very important, Ive worked with
some very wonderful editors over the
years, and you were one of them. What I
found is that the mark of a good editor is
someone who treats you with respect
personally and professionally. To me, this
is the ideal relationship with an editor.
They respect you professionally and they
like you personally. And they create a
family sense around the work. When we
worked for you on Spider-Man, it was like
From Spectacular Spider-Man #189. By JMD and Sal Buscema. what I imagine it must have been like
[2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.] working on the Jack Benny Show or the
comics have numbers that Jim Shooter would have cancelled Mary Tyler Moore Show. The family sense of the workplace
without giving it a second thought. that you created made it a great joy to participate. All the best
DF: Any tips or advice for anybody trying to break into comics editors that Ive worked with, its been that way. You can work
today? with someone you really respect, but you may not particularly
JMD: I think the biggest tip I could give is If youre passionate, like them personally, and I dont enjoy that. Ive also worked
go for it. Im a great believer in following your dreams. Ive with editors that I liked a lot, but I havent really thought very
seen most of my dreams come true in my life. I wanted to work highly of their editorial skills. Thats an odd one. But when you
in comics and I did. I wanted to write movies and television, I find somebody like you, or the way Andy Helfer was, back in the
did. I wanted to do music, I played music, and then a few years Justice League days, or Shelly Roeberg or Karen BergerI
ago, I went back to it and did a CD of Meher Baba-inspired dont want to start naming individuals, because I will be
rock-and-roll called How Many Lifetimes? Working on that, forgetting so many terrific people. Ive been working a lot with
putting it out into the world, was one of the great creative joys Dan Raspler the past few years, and hes been delightful
of my life. I waited years to do it... but I finally did it and it because we fit from the get-go, I feel like we have a nice
exceeded my wildest dreams. [How Many Lifetimes? is relationship, I feel like Im being treated with respect. Joey
available through Amazon.com] I really believe that, if youre Cavalieri, who Im now working on several projects with, same
passionate about it, if you really go for it with all your heart and thing. Those are the cream of the crop guys like you.
soul, you will do it. You will manifest it. If your heart and soul DF: How about artists? Anything you want to say about the
arent into it, its not going to happen artist/writer relationship?
DF: So you never had a fallback, If it doesnt work, law school JMD: Yeah. When it works, its wonderful beyond words, and
for me? when it doesnt its so frustrating.
JMD: I was not mentally capable of doing that. I knew what I Its a big clich, but it all comes down to the chemistry. You
wanted to do and I did it and I kept at it till I succeeded. can be working with the best artist on Earth and if something
DF: Is there anything you want to plug? This interview should be doesnt click between you and the artist, it doesnt work. You
coming out in the middle of the summer, about the end of July. can have good art and good writing, but if that magic little
JMD: To be honest I have no idea whats coming out. spark doesnt happen, then the book comes out and just lays
DF: What are you currently working on that youre excited about? there. And then you work with somebody else and you dont
JMD: I am still working on The Spectre every month. Its a know what it is, but you put the two of you together and youre
wonderful outlet for my views on life, the universe, and every- just off and running. Ill use Ryan Sook [former artist on The
thing. Keith Giffen and I are doing the return of the old 80s Spectre] as an example, because its recent. We worked on a
Justice League, a six-issue series and Im amazed at how Superman story together, and from the first panel, it was great.
much fun were having. Its like we never stopped. Im doing a And then working on The Spectre together was just effortless.
JLA/Spectre two-part prestige thing, which is a really fun We reached the point where I could just ask him for the most
storyits reconnecting me to my childhood love of the old ridiculous, bizarre, metaphysical hard-to-describe thing, and
Justice League of Americaand a big, two-part 128-page hed get it, and hed draw it, and then he would top what I was
Superman UFO story called The Kansas Sighting. Ive got all asking for. Not that we were on the phone discussing the

DeMATTEIS | 81
stories everyday. We werent. But there was just this intuitive wrote. They created this whole world, and its a different thing
understanding. And then, to go back a few years, you have a than imagining it on paper or dreaming it in your head. Doing a
project like Blood: A Tale where I worked with Kent Williams. comic full script, you are much more in control of the material
We worked very closely, because we lived next door to one and you really are having to tell the entire story visually, and
another at the time, and wed wed be running back and forth having to pace visually. Its just a different kind of mindset. And
from his apartment to mine, discussing the story and the even then, so much depends on the artists interpretation. Its
layouts and the themes we were exploring. Its incredible to a visual medium and, in the end, the artist is either going to
have that kind of collaboration going. drag your vision down or lift it up. But I have to say that I really,
DF: Any preference between working full script and plot-first, the really enjoy both plot-first and full script, and it depends on the
so-called Marvel style? project and it depends on the artist. Some artists really want
JMD: Each is totally different, and each has its pleasures. My you to keep it loose. Some artists want you to be really tight.
plots, even when theyre loose, theres so much information in And Ive changed over the years. I remember when I was
them. But the plot-first method gives you the fun of discovery, working with Sal on Spectacular Spider-Man, and the plots
when you get the art pages, and you look at a page that you were anally tight. It was basically like a full script in plot form,
envisioned was going need a lot of explaining and you look at and then Mark Bagley [with whom J.M. had a memorable run
the page, and you see its all there in the artwork. All you have on Amazing Spider-Manand who is interviewed in this very
to say isnothing. I was talking to [Tom] DeFalco recently, and issue of Write Now! ] came along and he said, Can you loosen
I mentioned Spectacular Spider-Man #200, which I wrote and these plots up a little bit? My plots are probably looser now
Sal Buscema drew, which had the death of Harry Osborn. On than they were then.
the last three pages, Harry dies, and theres this sequence DF: Sal seemed to enjoy the tight plotting. He seemed to thrive
where Spider-Man tells Mary Jane and they get into the on that.
ambulance and Harry passes away. Its this big emotional JMD: He just flew. and I could have given those same plots to
thing, and I thought I was going to write this big shmaltzy thing someone else, and they wouldnt have been half as good.
at the end of the story, and the pages came, and I looked at Thats Sals skill.
them, and I went, Whoa, I dont have to write anything. Every DF: Whats in the future for J.M. DeMatteismore comics, more
single thing that I had intended in the plot, all the emotion that TV, more movies?
I wanted to add later, was there in the pictures. JMD: Ive got to be honest, my future with the comic book
DF: Sal put it all in. business is questionable, and it really depends on what comes
JMD: Sal put it all in. It was all there, and thats that fun of along to inspire me. There are lot of other things in my life,
working plot first, because you get to react to it. You look at a including continuing with screenwriting and going off and writing
character and go, This is what he would say. He would say some childrens books. Id also like to explore writing that has
this, he would say that. to do with the spiritual things that are so important to me in
DF: As both a writer and an editor, Ive always found the most life... metaphysical things. So I dont know. Everything feels
magical times were opening the envelopes when they came in very, very open now, and you may come back in a year and I
from the artists and going Whoa! No matter how you pictured may have 20 comics projects going, or I may not be working in
it, when you see somebody translating it into pictures, its just the business at all. I would not be surprised at either outcome.
magical. DF: Or youll be on the staff of Write Now! magazine. [laughter]
JMD: Its like writing a script for a television show. Suddenly JMD: Going, Here are your xeroxes, Mr. Fingeroth.
theres a set, and there are actors speaking the words you DF: No, no, youd be much higher up on the editorial chart than
that. And you can
call me Danny.
JMD: Oh, thank
youMr. Danny.
DF: Thank you,
J.M. DeMatteis,
on behalf of the
magazine. Now
Ill turn the tape
recorder off and
we can really
talk.

THE
From Soul of the Hunter by JMD, Zeck & McLeod. [2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.]
END
82 | WRITE NOW
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ALL-STAR COMPANION STREETWISE COLLECTED JACK KIRBY THE COMIC BOOK MR. MONSTER
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All characters TM & the respective copyright holders.


COMIC BOOK ARTIST #20: JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR #35: ALTER EGO #16: THE MARVEL
FATHER & SONS ISSUE WITH GREAT ESCAPES! BULLPEN & ALEX ROSS!
THE KUBERTS & ROMITAS! Featuring pages of KIRBYs UNINKED MISTER Color covers by ALEX ROSS and the team of MARIE
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by THE KUBERTS! KIRBY TRIBUTE PANEL with BUSCEMA, ROMITA,
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An extensive conversation with the Junior and Senior GROTHKOPF!
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(Edited by JOHN MORROW 84 tabloid pages) (Edited by ROY THOMAS 108 pages)
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