Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Chat With Comic Book Writer Steve Englehart

Steve Englehart has earned his status as a legend of the comic book industry. He has written almost every important character—if not every important character, period—in the DC and Marvel universes. His books—just for those two companies—include THE AVENGERS, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, CAPTAIN AMERICA, DETECTIVE COMICS, DOCTOR STRANGE, and MASTER OF KUNG FU. He has written for other comic book publishers as well. Also novels, teleplays, video games, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he’s penned a menu or two.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve on the OGR Podcast  January 31, 2012 (all episodes are now offline). He’s a very pleasant guy, candid, smart, and blessed with the patience to politely answer any silly question posed to him.

Note: I conducted the bulk of the interview, but not all of it. I transcribed the conversation during February 2013. For the sake of clarity, I’m using “Q” and “A” to indicate which “side” is speaking. Special thanks to Matt McKee, Brett Dinelli, Matt Toler, and, obviously, Steve Englehart for making this conversation possible. Material used to research this project came from Wikipedia, the Grand Comics Database, editor Roy Thomas’ essential comics history ALTER EGO, and Englehart’s personal website, among other sources.

Q: I want to first ask you about one of my favorite comic books, and I figure you’ll know the answer to this question if anyone does, since you co-created the character. Will Marvel ever reprint the Master of Kung Fu series?

A: From what I understand, they will. The deal on that was, when Jim Starlin and I co-created it [for SPECIAL MARVEL EDITION #15], all we came up with was Shang-Chi. Roy Thomas didn’t feel kung fu was enough of a draw for comics, so he wanted to put in Fu Manchu. Which was fine, but then when Marvel gave up the rights to Fu Manchu, they couldn’t reprint the comic. From what I understand, what I’m told is they’re going to go through and change Fu Manchu into the Yellow Claw, who they do own, and (Shang-Chi) will become the son of the Yellow Claw. And if so, they’ll be able to reprint it. Again, Starlin and I co-created that book, but the main run that everybody remembers was Doug Moench and his various artists, and I’d love to see all that stuff back in print again.

Q: I assume Shang-Chi was based on David Carradine.

A: Absolutely. No mystery about that.

Q: Were you fans of kung fu movies? You were fans of the KUNG FU TV series, I guess, but also the Hong Kong movies coming out at that time?

A: I was only a fan of the television series. The Hong Kong movies I didn’t discover until much later, actually. But Starlin and I both really liked the TV show. We weren’t at all being tricky about it. We said we wanna do our own version of something like that. Marvel at the time didn’t think there was enough of a market for it. Once we started the series, it just took off like crazy for the entire 1970s. Kung fu was such a big deal then.

Q: Later, when Doug Moench got a hold of it [beginning with MASTER OF KUNG FU #20], Shang-Chi became something of a Chinese James Bond with a very rich supporting cast. Was that the direction you were heading in before you handed the series off?

A: No, not at all. I just wanted to do the David Carradine character, the wandering guy. I was writing DOCTOR STRANGE, and one of the things I did when I got DOCTOR STRANGE was try to learn about magic, which turned out to be Western magic. The whole idea of doing an Eastern philosophy as a counterpart was what I was looking at. I only did five color issues and two black-and-white issues (of Shang-Chi), and Starlin dropped off after about the third one, I think. So we knew we wanted to run around with this character, but I had no long-term plan, because I wasn’t really involved in it long-term. I’m 98% sure I wouldn’t have gone where Doug went, but that’s the nature of comics. First of all, there’s no complaint involved in that statement. Doug was very interested in the whole James Bond thing, and so was Paul Gulacy, and so they took it in that direction, and, as you say, turned into this very rich series.

Q: Did you feel there was a challenge in writing a character who was basically a pacifist?

A: No, not really. I was interested in the philosophy. I was not so interested in the fighting aspect of things, although fighting was part of kung fu, at least on television and in comics. And comics, in general, has to have the fighting. I’m not saying I don’t like that kind of stuff too, but my particular impetus was the philosophy and the whole kind of esoteric approach to life. Doctor Strange had it too, but he was more of an action hero, and I kinda liked the idea of somebody who did less action up until the point that he kicked your ass.

Q: People may be surprised to learn that when you started out in comic books, you were an artist, I think doing horror and romance stories. How did you transform from penciling into writing?

A: I did want to be a comic book artist. That was the thing that I thought I was wanting to get to be. I had help from Neal Adams, I had help from Dick Giordano. There were a number of people—Vinnie Colletta, too—who helped me in my struggling days as a young artist. I ended up on staff at Marvel, where I was doing art corrections among other things. And one day Gary Friedrich, who wrote SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS primarily, but also NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. and some other books, had a little monster story that he didn’t want to actually write. He was taking the summer off. Marvel was a bullpen in those days—everything Stan Lee said about that was true in those days, it was a small group of people—and they kinda looked around and said, “You there, Englehart, sitting in the corner. Would you like to write this thing?” I said, “Well, sure,” because I wasn’t gonna turn down any chance at doing work for Marvel.

It turned out, to my surprise—well, not complete surprise, but I hadn’t really thought about being a writer—but I liked the process of writing, and they thought the story was good enough to give me another one. In those days, Marvel had the superhero line, but they also still published romance books and westerns and horror books. Those books were used as a kind of training ground that they could let you write stuff that wasn’t as important as IRON MAN or whatever. You could learn the process of writing. They could continue to evaluate whether you actually could write an interesting comic book story. So I came through that process, and they did eventually give me the Beast [beginning with AMAZING ADVENTURES #12] and then everything came after that. I really was sorta in the right place at the right time. I didn’t plan to go this route.

Q: I love to hear stories about the Marvel Bullpen, especially from the early 1970s when Roy Thomas was the editor-in-chief. It seems like a crazy place where there were no creative limits.

A: There really weren’t. When I started, Stan was still the editor-in-chief, though that was more of a title than an actual function. He knew he was winding up his comic book career, and he was looking forward to getting out to California and trying out movies and stuff like that. In fact, I did overlap him for six months, but Roy was the de facto editor, and then he got the title, in addition to everything else.

This is something I didn’t understand at the time. When you walk into any sort of situation, you scope it out, and you have no idea what was happening yesterday. You just know what’s happening now. Roy and Denny O’Neil, when they had come to work for Stan, Stan had really taken them over the coals trying to get them to write like him. Since he had been writing everything, there was a sound to Marvel books that was very defined at that point. He wanted both Roy and Denny to be able to emulate him. I didn’t know this at the time, but when Roy took over, Roy decided on his own he was gonna let the people working for him find their own voice.

So he did give us complete freedom. You had to make sure the books sold well enough, and you had to turn in the stuff on time—you couldn’t screw up the deadlines—but assuming you did that, he did sort of let people go. When I found out about it later, I was sorta in awe of the balls that it took to say, “We’re gonna let Marvel not have to sound like Stan all the time.” There was a Marvel sound, and we all tried to work around that sound, but it did allow me to do whatever I did and Steve Gerber to go off on his sort-of quirky direction and Don McGregor and other people—Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman—everybody kind of got to do their own version of the thing. The longer we did it, the more we became less a version of Stan and more a version of ourselves. Which I totally thank Roy for allowing us to do.

Q: I love some of the crazy ideas you guys came up with. I remember a series of stories about Man-Wolf…do you remember Man-Wolf?

A: Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Q: Man-Wolf is in outer space, and he’s fighting aliens on the moon

A: Yep.

Q: …and I would just think these are just incredibly crazy ideas. I love the DC comics too, especially at that time, but they weren’t doing stuff like Howard the Duck.

A: No. Howard the Duck was definitely a one-of-a-kind thing. Man-Wolf is an interesting case, because it was one of the things…when we were young comic book guys just a year or so into our careers—me and a whole bunch of other people all sort of came in in the early ‘70s. We were having a discussion one day about how Marvel books always…you’d be sitting around, and a book wouldn’t quite be doing what it oughta be doing. And then Jim Steranko would show up out of nowhere and take over NICK FURY or, y’know, whatever. People said, “Yeah, but Man-Wolf? It’s just such an awful series. How could Man-Wolf ever be anything?” And right after that, George Perez became the artist…

Q: That’s right.

A: …on Man-Wolf. I’m not sure if the stories got any better, but the art certainly did. And Man-Wolf has always stayed with me as this series that looked hopeless. And yet all you really need on any series is energy. You just have to say, “I’m gonna take this seriously, and I’m gonna put my energy behind it.” And whether you’re George Perez getting an early break drawing books or whatever it is, you can turn pretty much anything into a series.

But again, Marvel overall, the thing was, they had the superhero line, they did have monsters, they did have romance, they did have MILLIE THE MODEL, that kind of stuff. And in the early ‘70s, probably because of SWAMP THING across town, but I’m not sure…but all of a sudden, there was Man-Wolf, and there was WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, and there was Frankenstein and Dracula…the whole idea of superhero monsters, y’know?


A: Yes. (Laughs) Yes. Yeah. Well, all that, y’know, you’re back with Gerber, who had his very quirky view of life, in addition to everything else. So all of his books are kind of out in left field in one way or another.

Q: Well, the more outrageous the concept, the better I like it. A couple of weeks ago, we were talking here on the podcast about the old MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE television series, which had some incredibly way-out plots. And that’s what I like.

A: Well, it was a time of freedom in general, whether it was comics or TV or music. There’s a whole genre of movies, the whole ‘70s movies thing when Jack Nicholson was young…it just was a different time. We were lucky to be able to take advantage of it.

Q: I have to ask you about one of my favorite stories. I imagine it’s one you get asked about a lot. You wrote a story arc for CAPTAIN AMERICA about an organization called The Secret Empire that was endangering the United States.

A: Right.

Q: The head of The Secret Empire was a hooded figure known as Number One, and…explain what happened to Number One at the end of that story.

A: Well, Captain America found him in the White House and saw him blow his brains out. That was a Watergate allegory.

Q: And who was Number One?

A: It was Nixon. It was definitely Nixon.

Q: (Laughs) Does that make you a Commie pinko at all?

A: (Laughs) It does, absolutely it does. The whole Watergate thing, again, talking about the ‘70s. The idea that the President would order a burglary was very difficult for a lot of people to wrap their minds around in those days. It was treated seriously. All summer long in ’73, I think it was, maybe it was ’74. But there were hearings being held about this, and America was just riveted to it. Everybody was watching these hearings, where these Senators were investigating the President. It went on all summer, and they’d get close to him, and then he’d block ‘em, and then they’d overcome him, and then he’d…it was like this big novel being shown to America.

I was sitting there writing CAPTAIN AMERICA, and I’m thinking the Marvel Universe is supposed to be the real universe. Peter Parker lives in New York, he doesn’t live in Emerald City or whatever. So I just said, “There’s no way that Captain America could not be affected by this.” So I set out to do stuff… When I first started it, it was more of a superhero kind of thing with the Secret Empire and guys in hoods and Moonstone and all that sort of stuff. But the longer that Watergate went on, the more I got pulled toward what was actually going on. In the end, Nixon in real life was impeached or was going to be impeached, and managed to resign just before they got to that point. In the comic, we settled for something simpler: a suicide in the White House.

Q: (Laughs) Simpler.

A: (Laughs) Well, yeah, ya know, you don’t have much room in comics. And then Nomad came out of that—the man without a country. I was just playing out the whole…again, the approach I generally take to these characters: if Captain America really existed, what would he be like, y’know? To me, Captain America had to be affected by that kind of stuff.

Q: You’re the first person I’ve ever spoken to who has his own personal Stan Lee nickname, and I’ve always wondered what it’s like to have a Stan Lee nickname. You’re “Stainless Steve,” is that correct?

A: That is correct, yeah. Since I don’t work for Marvel anymore, and since Marvel kinda grew up and couldn’t use (nicknames), Stainless Steve is a name I haven’t been able to use for quite a long time. It’s very cool. I’m honored to have received it. At the same time that Steve Englehart was there, Steve Gerber was there, and he unfortunately ended up with Steve “Baby” Gerber…

Q: (Laughs) After the baby food…

A: (Laughs) …so I’m doubly pleased I got to be Stainless Steve.

Q: How did you find out you were Stainless Steve? Did you read it in the book, or is there a memo from Stan?

A: No, no, he just told me.

Q: (Laughs) “You are Stainless Steve!”

A: Yeah.

Q: There was a character you created for MARVEL PREVIEW called Star-Lord [to be played by PARKS AND RECREATION’s Chris Pratt in the upcoming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movie]…

A: Oh yeah.

Q: Two things about that. Number one, are you still into astrology? And number two, what were you planning to do with the character? Because this story is basically a 30-page prologue.

A: Right.

Q: And I’m sure you had a lot of ideas that you never got to explore with Star-Lord.

A: Yeah. As I mentioned earlier, when I got into Doctor Strange, I thought I should learn something about Western magic, and astrology is one of those things that’s in there. So I was immersed in all this stuff that was new to me, and I came up with this idea. The basic idea of Star-Lord was he was a complete asshole.

Q: (Laughs) Right.

A: I mean, he was completely nuts. In the first episode, he was gonna be this totally unlikeable guy, but he ended up falling into the sun, as I recall, or something like that. And what he was gonna do then was work his way out across the galaxy, and each book was gonna be a different kind of story based on the astrological meaning of the planet he was on. So when he got to Mars, it was gonna be a complete war story. When he got to Venus, it was gonna be a complete love story, that kind of thing.

Q: Ah, okay.

A: I was gonna do a story with each one tied to the astrological meaning of the planet as he worked his way out to Pluto and then kept going. But I only got to do the first issue in which he’s an asshole.

Q: (Laughs)

A: (Laughs) I left Marvel at that point, and so we never got to see the grandeur involved in the whole guy. Later, Chris Claremont and John Byrne took a shot at doing other stuff with him, and they didn’t do what I was gonna do, so it was a different kind of deal.

You were talking earlier about freedom and crazy ideas. I said let’s do something about astrology, and they said alright, fine. So I set out to do it. As it happens, I didn’t get to finish it, but nobody was saying, “That’s a terrible idea” or “Do something else” or whatever. You had to sell it. If it turns out nobody wanted to buy this book, then it would be cancelled, and I’d have to go on to something else. But if you had an idea, you could run with it.

Q: Marvel and DC, at least during that period, never had any success with science fiction, outside of superheroes. Why do you think that is?

A: I’m not entirely sure. I wrote an introduction for the latest Captain Marvel Masterworks with the issues that I did. There was a discussion that when Captain Marvel had first been introduced into the Marvel Universe, it was more of a science fiction thing. He was a Kree spy on Earth. And I think there were problems with that—having the enemy be your lead character after we all knew the Kree was a bunch of bad guys, it was a little hard maybe to sell. Real science fiction appeals to a more sort of intellectual side of things, and comics appeals more to a colorful “let’s blow his brains out rather than explain Watergate” approach to life.

Q: That’s mature material though.

A: Yeah.

Q: The Marvel comics of that period were something that kids could read and enjoy, but you also had a college-age audience.

A: There was Killraven, which was science fiction, I suppose. It was popular, but not super-popular. I can say this to you, because we’re talking on a comic book podcast, but going to the other things I’ve done over time, I’ve run through the science fiction community, and it always seems to be that the science fiction community is primarily interested in the intellectual concept. Whereas the comic book community, there’s movement. The stories take place outside of the mind, whereas the science fiction stuff quite often takes place very comfortably in the mind. Which is not to say comic book people have no minds or whatever, but I just find the science fiction approach to be more interiorized than the vibe that makes you put on a colorful costume and go out and punch people.

Q: Do you think there’s no way to capture a cerebral science fiction premise in four colors?

A: No, I don’t say that. But the stuff that I think of—the EC science fiction books and then even later Julius Schwartz when he was doing MYSTERY IN SPACE and things with the Space Ranger. Those things were nicely done, particularly the Julie Schwartz stuff at DC. I think it’s pretty much forgotten now, but those were nice little “half-issue” stories, because they’d have two or maybe three in the book. And they would have nice little science fiction things and very proper 1950s DC art, y’know. Totally unobjectionable and unexciting in many ways, but I liked those books. They actually worked, but they were never a huge thing. Once the Flash and the Justice League came along, MYSTERY IN SPACE (got less popular). Adam Strange was probably the most popular (science fiction) character, and he was always sort of a second-rank character compared to the rest of those guys.

Q: Most of those DC science fiction stories were written by Gardner Fox and John Broome, who also wrote science fiction prose.

A: Right. And Edmond Hamilton. A lot of those guys. Well, Julie had been a science fiction agent before he became a comic book editor, so he knew those guys. He knew what they wanted to do, and they knew what he wanted. In a lot of ways, those 1950s DC comics are kind of ‘30s pulp magazines reworked. But they did work in both eras. You could say STAR WARS was science fiction. It’s not as if you can’t marry the two concepts or find some sweet spot in there. Hard science fiction has never been a big draw for comics. They didn’t sell for EC either.

Q: I want to ask you a bit about your time at Warren. You wrote VAMPIRELLA for awhile. I’m really interested in your interactions with Jim Warren. He was a very colorful guy. Some people got along with him, and some people didn’t.

A: I got along with him great. I liked him a lot. As I mentioned earlier, I was working with Neal Adams when I first got into being an artist. The first thing I did with Neal was a job Denny O’Neil had written for Neal for the VAMPIRELLA book. Not the Vampirella strip in the book, but one of the backup stories.

One of the very first people I got to know in New York in terms of an actual comic book person was Jim Warren. He was a colorful guy. Always wore a blue shirt. Always…I can’t remember if it was white pants or not, but he had a kind of costume or uniform, whatever, but a shirt and pants—wasn’t a costume in that sense. He had a flair. It was fun. The company was so small that it was no problem talking to Jim, dropping up there and seeing people. I really did enjoy working for him.

I was very pleased to get VAMPIRELLA, but I had to do it under a pseudonym [Chad Archer], because I was already working for Marvel. Then Marvel began giving me more and more work, so I had to drop the non-Marvel stuff. But I would have loved to have written VAMPIRELLA much longer than I did. I liked her quite a bit. I liked the artists I had quite a bit. And I liked Jim Warren quite a bit.

Q: I wanna put you in the middle of a controversy we have here at the podcast…

A: Uh-oh.

Q: I know you wrote Green Arrow when you wrote JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, and I would love to hear your opinion: are you pro- or anti-trick arrows?

A: I’m in favor of trick arrows. I like trick arrows.

Q: Specifically the boxing glove arrow.

A: Wellllllll, you know, I mean, uh, I’m not sure how well it would fly…

Q: (Laughs)

A: …but, you know, he’s very skilled.

Q: It has been suggested that it wouldn’t be very aerodynamically sound, but it’s comics, so we guess it would work.

A: Did Kirby come up with that one, do you know?

Q: I wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t know when the first appearance of the boxing glove arrow was. [Turns out it was in ADVENTURE COMICS #118, written by Ed “France” Herron and drawn by George Papp] But…the crazier the arrow, the more I like it. Did you have a favorite arrow? The handcuff arrow?

A: I don’t remember. I don’t think I did too much with the really weird arrows when I was writing him. But as a reader, yeah, I’m right with you, I like the crazy arrows. That sounds like something Kirby would come in and figure out, but I don’t know who came up with those things.

Q: Here at the podcast, we’re huge fans of Dick Dillin, who penciled the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA issues you wrote. Any personal stories of working with Dick?

A: I’m unfortunately going to have to disappoint you in that I did not know Dick Dillin personally. I would write the scripts in advance. They were sent off to him, he drew them, and that was it. I don’t know that I ever actually met him in person unfortunately. I’m right with you in that I was a huge fan of his, and I really thought that if I was going to do the Justice League, of the options that were available at the time, I wanted to do it with Dick Dillin. In later years, DC has not always wanted to reprint the stuff that I did in those days. It’s been a disappointment to me that they’ve never reprinted the JLA run. The last time I talked to them about it, they said, “Oh well, nobody likes Dick Dillin. We couldn’t sell a book with Dick Dillin.”

Q: That’s insane.

A: That’s what I think too. I don’t think that’s entirely the reason, because their relationship with me is prickly. In any event, I was really pleased to work with Dick Dillin.

Q: Did you go directly from Marvel to DC?

A: I left Marvel…I had a falling out with them. It’s part of my M.O. is to…

Q: (Laughs) Make everybody angry and move on?

A: (Laughs) Yeah, that’s right, burn a lot of bridges and piss everybody off. The thing with Marvel, actually, was the other way around. I got burned and didn’t like it and decided to leave. I left Marvel and had no plans to go anywhere else. I didn’t have much of a plan at all, because it was very sort of sudden. I was still mulling what it was I was gonna do next when the publisher at DC called me up and said, “Why don’t you come over here and have lunch with me and we’ll talk about stuff?” I went and had lunch with (Jenette Kahn). She said, “I really like you. You wrote THE AVENGERS and you did all this stuff that really worked out well for (Marvel), and I’d really like you to come over here and write the Justice League for us and revamp all the characters. We want you to give them all characterizations and bring them into the 1970s.”

It was totally true that, unfortunately, DC had treated these guys like statues with costumes on. They really hadn’t done much to give them personalities, and she wanted me to come in and basically redo the entire DC superhero line by way of the Justice League. And I said, “Yeah, I’d love to do that, that’d be great. And, in addition, I’d really like to write Batman in and of himself.” That’s how I ended up doing the Batman stuff too. But the original concept was: come revamp the Justice League. Because of that, it became very clear to me that if I was gonna revamp all these characters—give them all personalities, give them all interactions that we had been doing in THE AVENGERS—and tell a story, it was gonna take more room than a single issue would allow. That’s when I said let’s do every book a double-sized issue. Even DC in those days, if I was willing to go for a crazy idea like that…

Q: The “novel-length thriller.”

A: Yeah, it allowed me 34 pages a month. And Dick Dillin was the kind of guy who could draw that kinda stuff. The 34 pages gave me a change to tell you a story and stop and take a look at all these different characters along the way and do the stuff that would build them into something more long-lasting. After the Ultraverse went away, Marvel bought the Ultraverse and stuck it in a drawer. In around 2001, 2002, they came to me and said, “We want you to bring the Ultraverse into the Marvel Universe. Bring over the top characters and do a series about them.”

That didn’t work out, because Marvel realized that the contracts we had at Ultraverse allowed the creators to get a cut of the profits, and Marvel didn’t want to go there. That’s why there’s no Ultraverse. But while we were talking about it, I said I wanted to do what we did with the Justice League. Explain who all these characters are and put them in context with the Marvel Universe. Give me 34 pages a month. At that point, they just threw up their hands and said, “Totally impossible.” I said, “We did it with Dick Dillin.” And they said, “No, any artist that fans really want to see couldn’t draw 34 pages a month. And anybody who could draw 34 pages a month would be some hack that no one wants to see.”

Q: Oh, goodness. You said you have a “prickly” relationship with DC right now. Is that because of the Batman movies?

A: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. They…really don’t want… DC has never really liked to give credit to the individual creators for stuff. DC likes to pretend that it all was just created by “DC Comics.” It was done work-for-hire. It’s not that they owe me money. The deal was it’s work-for-hire. But they sort of took it beyond that in that they really don’t like to talk about the fact that I was involved with Batman at all. They don’t reprint that stuff. Well, they do, as little as possible. The Joker stories are so popular that they have to be reprinted now and again. But in general… They called it “Strange Apparitions,” so nobody would understand what it was. (Laughs)

The latest thing with not wanting to do any more Dark Detective even before (penciller) Marshall (Rogers) was dead. I’m not looking for a million-dollar paycheck, but I would appreciate a little recognition from them. I think most people who pay any attention to comics from that era know what Marshall and I did and (inker) Terry Austin and so forth and how it played out in movies. I’d like to hear it from DC, and DC’s pretty clear they’re not gonna give me that. So I’d say “prickly” is a reasonable word.

Q: We don’t have a lot of time left, so let’s get into what you’ve been doing since you haven’t been working for Marvel and DC. Tell us about your novel series.

A: Back in the 1980s, I wrote a novel called THE POINT MAN. It was a one-shot thing. I didn’t want to continue it. But when I was kinda wrapping it up in comics, I saw a way to go back and revisit that character, basically by making him immortal. So then the fact that the character was still in the prime of his life, even though in real time as expressed in the books two decades had passed, I thought that was interesting. I thought I could do some stuff with that, and so I did.

There’s a series now of new books—THE LONG MAN, THE PLAIN MAN, and then THE ARENA MAN. In which this immortal character who’s really…the quick shorthand for comic book people is that Max August, this character, is kind of a combination of Dr. Strange and Captain America in that he’s… If you knew, for example, that you were gonna be alive a hundred years from now, or maybe 200 or maybe 500 years, you’d start thinking about the future of the planet, I think. This is not some heavy ecological treatise here. But taking the long-term view sort of goes with being immortal. That then leads you to start thinking about these guys who want to run the planet into the ground for their own personal profit. You don’t like ‘em very much. So it’s kind of a Captain America with mystical overtones through the series. Then it’s also…he’s got a dead wife who’s still alive. (Laughs) And a new girlfriend who’s gotta deal with this. So there’s a weird romance going on.

Q: A weird love triangle?

A: A weird love triangle, yeah.  Mutant love stories. It’s action/adventure, it’s fantasy. It’s the kind of stuff that I like to do. And the good thing about novels is, another thing I say is that it’s kind of like taking six miniseries and cramming them all into one package. Because there’s a lot of characters here who have their own storylines in each book. So each storyline’s got to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and then they all have to fit together. It’s a real interesting set of stories, I think.

Q: Can we get those books at your website? You wanna plug your website?

A: Yes, I’ll plug my website, which is just, but I don’t sell the books. Get them at Amazon. Amazon’s fine. Or get ‘em at your local bookstore, but they’re probably more readily available at Amazon, because Amazon can have anything anytime.

Q: One more question before we wrap up. I’m curious which comic book genre you liked writing the most.

A: I liked them all. I’m not trying to be political here, but…any sort of writing is basically a guy sitting alone in a room. Sometimes, there’s two guys sitting alone in a room, but generally I stood alone. If I’m not entertaining myself while I’m doing this kinda stuff, I’m certainly not gonna be able to entertain you. Plus I’d be bored silly. So anything that I took on, I really tried to figure out how I could make it as entertaining as possible. Most of what I did was superheroes, and I really like superheroes quite a bit. But the oddball stuff like VAMPIRELLA or I did a series that nobody knows for Claypool called PHANTOM OF FEAR CITY. Very much fun. These things that were off in the corners were fun, because I didn’t do them all the time. But anything that I did, I found fun. People say, “What was your favorite character?” and I say, “All of them.”

Q: Like your favorite child.

A: Yeah, well, I pretty much liked everything that I did. Because it was up to me to make sure that I did, so that’s what I tried to do.

1 comment:

Edo Bosnar said...

Just discovered your blog, and have just spent the better part of the morning reading this great interview. Thanks for posting it!