INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
Mark Waid sat down with me Tuesday night for a very long chat where I tried to ask as many reader-submitted questions as I could, but you folks sent in sooo many that there were still a whole lot of questions that I did not get a chance to ask – I guess we’ll just have to do this again in the future!
Anyhow, here is the chat transcript! When a question is in quotes, it is a direct quote of a reader-submitted question!
Mark Waid: Okay, boss. Here I am.
Brian Cronin: Huzzah!
Brian Cronin: Very nice – we got quite a ton of questions
Mark Waid: I can only imagine. Hit me!
Brian Cronin: The most asked question was – “Will we see any more Empire?”
Mark Waid: God willing, someday. Barry Kitson and I know the next chapter of the story. But so long as Barry’s Marvel Comics exclusive is in play–well, he can do (and is doing) a lot of great work at Marvel, but it precludes EMPIRE.
Mark Waid: Someday, though. We’re not done.
Brian Cronin: Here’s one question I can answer myself.
Brian Cronin: “When is Farscape coming out?”
Brian Cronin: I just saw you guys announced that – Christmas Eve, right?
Brian Cronin: A Christmas miracle!
Mark Waid: December 24th! Just barely in time to go under your Christmas tree.
Mark Waid: And it looks great and reads really well.
Brian Cronin: A lot of people were wondering if you’ve been following the Kingdom Come stuff in JSA.
Brian Cronin: Most with varying degrees of pithiness
Brian Cronin: From “Have you been following the Kingdom Come storyline?” to “How do you feel about it being like you were not even involved?”
Mark Waid: Honestly? I’m doing with it what I do with a lot of arc-driven stories–just waiting until it can be read in a single sitting.
Mark Waid: And it is weird not being involved. Not that I’d have had time to be, or necessarily inclination, but you’d think it would be professional courtesy for DC editorial to at least ring me about the stuff. Weird.
Brian Cronin: True.
Mark Waid: But I guess the argument is that I had my turn with THE KINGDOM and this is Alex’s take on stuff. Which is fair enough.
Brian Cronin: Not even a name check, I believe.
Mark Waid: Not a one.
Brian Cronin: That’s the odder part.
Brian Cronin: As Alex certainly was name checked during the Kingdom.
Mark Waid: HA! Not if you know DC editorial.
Brian Cronin: Fair enough.
Mark Waid: I go through periods, genuinely inexplicable to me, where I’m dead to DC. It always cycles back around.
Brian Cronin: A lot of people wanted to know about Boom!’s submission process, or rather, why the lack thereof?
Mark Waid: The first six months I was there, I was very aggressive in finding new talent and new projects. All of us were–publisher Ross Richie, co-Boom-er Andy Cosby, all of us.
Mark Waid: And now we’re just overwhelmed. We honestly have the entire 2009 publishing calendar blocked out tightly, so we have to turn down even established creators who come to us–with regret–but thoughtless over-expansion will kill us dead.
Mark Waid: Also, the lawyers kept flinging big blunt objects at my head every time I said the slush pile was open to anyone anywhere.
Brian Cronin: Scott Koblish wants to know, “If Superman gets his powers from a combination of lower Earth gravity and our yellow sun’s radiation wavelength, then when the sun sets and only the wider red wavelength light gets through Earth’s atmosphere, do the powers he gains from the tighter, higher yellow wavelengths diminish? Likewise, would those powers be weaker before sunrise, or perform to a lesser degree when he is fully clothed, working inside an office under fluorescents that don’t offer a wide spectrum of light?”
Mark Waid: This “Scott Koblish” of whom you speak isn’t taking into account the solar-battery aspect of Superman’s cellular structure. Yes, all those conditions would affect Superman’s powers given enough time–like, weeks– but he’s got enough juice stored up to last.
Mark Waid: Also – Hi, Scott! Fans should know that Scott Koblish is an amazing inker. He worked over George Perez on The Brave and the Bold and we loved him.
Brian Cronin: A reader asked : “I’ve been dying to know ever since your Legion run with Barry Kitson began… was Sun Boy’s costume supposed to make him look kind of like Prez Rickard? The shaggy blond hair, the big red shirt with a round yellowy symbol in the center… I always figured it was either a very subtle in-joke (given this Legion’s meta-love for Silver and Bronze Age DC) or a total coincidence, but either way, it was genius.”
Mark Waid: Genius, you say? Then…I…that is…
Mark Waid: …SURE!
Mark Waid: No.
Mark Waid: But good question!
Brian Cronin: A few folks wanted to know about the Batman suit in the Flash ring. “Was this a story he had planned that was never published or is it something we are yet to see?”
Mark Waid: It’s a story I had planned that I hoped to get to back before everyone in the universe decided my return to Flash sucked. : )
Mark Waid: It involved Batman taking the twins under his wing for one adventure.
Brian Cronin: And I guess your previous “I’m dead to DC” bit would answer all the “Any DC work in 2009?” questions
Mark Waid: Who knows how long the cycles last? Anything’s possible.
Mark Waid: I could be back in favor tomorrow. Or I could be the next Cary Bates. Who knows? Ah, well.
Brian Cronin: Bates’ new Marvel series is good!
Mark Waid: And, yes, go read Cary Bates’ TRUE BELIEVERS!
Brian Cronin: Yeah, it’s a very fresh approach by Bates.
Mark Waid: Cary was probably the most adaptable of the 1960s/1970s writers. Look at how much of a departure CAPTAIN ATOM was from, say, FLASH.
Brian Cronin: True, but what I was more impressed by was the ability to jump right back into telling the story. Usually I see at least a bit of a learning curve in a return like that. I mean, it’s been a long while for Bates.
Brian Cronin: Then again, for all I know, he’s been working on this series for a long time.
Mark Waid: It was a big deal when he came into Tom Brevoort’s office a while back to pitch it. No one loves the Flash of that era like Tom Brevoort.
Brian Cronin: Dan Didio mentioned that they killed Bart sooner than they planned, so did that affect your run, as well? Or were you just contacted whenever they did decide to kill him?
Mark Waid: No, I knew they were killing Bart off way, way before I came back to Wally.
Mark Waid: I was offered the Bart relaunch initially, but then-editor Steve Wacker and I could never come up with a take that DC liked.
Brian Cronin: “What do you think of digital distribution of comics? Is it a viable additional outlet to print comics?”
Mark Waid: No. It’s the future outlet for comics, period. Not tomorrow, not next week, but soon. Which is a shame, and the end of an era, and I’m not necessarily advocating it–I’m just being realistic.
Mark Waid: Paul Levitz had a great quote about digital comics, though. If I may paraphrase– the reason we’re not “there” yet has a lot to do with trying to find the right synthesis of format and delivery. For the first decade of its existence, television was really nothing more than radio with pictures. Everything was still dialogue driven, and you didn’t really have to WATCH it. You could just listen. But then Lucille Ball came along and wedded the visual comedy of vaudeville to the structure of radio comedy, and the whole medium transformed.
Mark Waid: And that’s what we’re waiting for vis-a-vis cybercomics. That ‘x’ factor that turns it into its own medium and not just pictures of comic books.
Brian Cronin: Right.
Mark Waid: That’s one of the smartest things I’ve ever heard, but then, Paul’s really smart.
Brian Cronin: So if we do NOT see that – will digital comics still work as the “main avenue”?
Mark Waid: It’ll limp along. But we will see it. Too many creative people are striving to find a way to make this new format work. Someone will be digital comics’ Stan Lee, our Elvis, or whoever.
Brian Cronin: True, sort of like how Facebook blew everyone’s mind
Mark Waid: Exactly.
Brian Cronin: Of course, Facebook did not explode until a bunch of comic book companies had already committed to MySpace, but, well…que sera, sera.
Brian Cronin: “Who will be the artist on The Incredibles?”
Mark Waid: Marcio Takara is the artists for THE INCREDIBLES, and he’s astounding. Beautifully on-model but imaginative on his own.
Brian Cronin: “Anything more to tease us with the Incredibles?”
Mark Waid: Not without waking up to find a giant mouse head in my bed.
Brian Cronin: Touche
Brian Cronin: “What happened too or what is the status of Boom! Studios ‘Godfather’ title?”
Mark Waid: We’re unlikely to get there anytime soon. The God’s honest truth is that we were ready to go, and then the writers’ strike hit last year–and when it did, during its duration, the licensor we were dealing with went through a big regime change.
Mark Waid: Pity.
Brian Cronin: “The Muppets comics (not to mention the Disney/Pixar ones) have a great chance to appeal to a wide audience…if the wide audience knows about them. What are you going to do to make sure the non-comics-reader knows about the title, or better yet, what will you do to bring the book to where the non-comics-reader shops?”
Mark Waid: Muppets: agreed that if we were doing it just for the direct sales market, it’d be commercial suicide. So we’re in negotiations to make sure it’s in every bookstore and school library in the nation. I wish I could say more on that, but trust me, we’re on this aggressively, and all signals are good.
Brian Cronin: “Potter’s Field vol. 2 is coming out…when?”
Mark Waid: Potter’s Field: Stone Cold, a one-shot by myself and Paul Azaceta, is on the schedule for spring, followed by a trade collection pulling together the whole run thus far plus some unseen material. It looks GREAT.
Brian Cronin: Azaceta did a great job on that.
Brian Cronin: “Who contacted who about your appearance on LA Ink? Did she legitimately meet you at a local con, or was it a more arranged event for the show?”
Mark Waid: What? Are you casting aspersions on the legitimacy and truth-telling of a reality show? I’m offended.
Mark Waid: I’d met Hannah. And I was sincere in my critique–she’s a very talented graphic artist and could, should she elect to move from the high-paying and high-profile life of TV Celebrity to the slave wages of indy comics, do quite well.
Brian Cronin: “Now in your capacity as EIC of Boom Studios, do you find it difficult to write stories for either DC or Marvel given your complicated schedule?”
Mark Waid: Working for DC or Marvel is pretty much a nights-and-weekends job nowadays, natch. First priority goes to Boom! But from the start–and this wasn’t a condition that I put down, it was part of Boom’s approach to me –Ross’s take was that it was fine for me to keep my hand in at DC and Marvel, with the notion that a rising tide floats all boats–any publicity I get out of Spider-Man or whatever gives me a chance to point readers back to Boom!
Brian Cronin: “During your Flash run, years back, you referenced Wally West’s first time travel experience, which was apparently horrible. When do we get to read that?”
Mark Waid: Flash’s first time-travel experience on his own is a story I’ve carried around forever and haven’t yet told. I may have to take it to my grave. But I really love it.
Mark Waid: “When do we get to read that?” Haven’t we already established that I shouldn’t be let back in the Flash universe for a while? : )
Brian Cronin: “When asked how long you expected your Superman: Birthright would remain in continuity, you replied, “What time is it now?” Do you have any feelings you wish to express about Geoff Johns’ Superman: Secret Origin, which will essentially render void your version of Superman’s beginnings?”
Brian Cronin: That last one was a fairly common question, asking what your take on Johns’ Secret Origin was, which I found kinda odd – “How do you feel that they’re re-doing the origin you created?” “I think it’s AWEsome!”
Mark Waid: “Dear Mark: How do you feel about the fact that Geoff Johns is dating your ex?”
Brian Cronin: Yeah, exactly.
Mark Waid: I wish Geoff and Gary Frank the best of luck with Superman: Secret Origin. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad that it was bulldozing over a project that was a lifelong dream, but again, that’s the downside to working at the big two.
Mark Waid: If you think you can leave any sort of lasting legacy, you’re deluded. And I was deluded for a long time. But we live and we learn.
Brian Cronin: I dunno, so far, Wally/Linda looks solid
Brian Cronin: That’s something
Brian Cronin: And Ed Brubaker picked up Sharon Carter big time
Mark Waid: Dude, zero legacy. Zip. Not false modesty. Just reality. Best I can do is just put my head down and keep bleeding on the page and hope someone will still be reading it fifty years from now.
Brian Cronin: “Many years ago there was a proposed Origin story of The Red Skull that would be helmed by you. Due to the nature of humanizing a Nazi, I think it was scrapped. Do you still wish to flesh out a character who could really use a background?”
Mark Waid: It wasn’t an origin story, exactly. It was Captain America #14, which was written, drawn, colored and lettered and then scrapped by Marvel at the last second–literally, the last second, so late that the cover was already printed.
Mark Waid: Which is why my name’s on it. I had time to pull my name from the printed, bowdlerized job, but it’s on the cover.
Mark Waid: S’okay. I have high hopes that someday that run will be collected at Marvel, and the pages of art and color still exist–Marvel could get some mileage out of the “director’s cut,” if you will. Write Marvel.
Mark Waid: Demand it.
Brian Cronin: Here’s another odd one for me, as you’ve worked with co-writers a LOT of times, but: “Mark, it’s seems to me that more and more comic writers these days are collaborating on projects, often times to great success (Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction I’m looking at you). Is there anyone in particular you’d like to try and team up with to write a book, and if so, who and in what genre?”
Mark Waid: I enjoy collaborating. Heck, some of the best work out there with my name on it is stuff where Tom Peyer or Brian Augustyn or Kurt Busiek did the heavy lifting while I sat by the pool. It might be fun to jam with Joe Casey on something. Or Fraction. I can always learn new tricks.
Brian Cronin: “I understand you have been frustrated with some projects that have not ‘hit’ the way you expected. How do you balance appealing to popular taste with good, classic storytelling? Do writers really have to pander, or should they pursue at least the semblance of originality?”
Mark Waid: Everyone’s been frustrated with projects that haven’t “hit.” But, as frustrating as that can be, and as much as that leaves you with a three a.m. fear that you’ve totally lost touch with the audience, it’s still preferable to grinding out sausage.
Mark Waid: All writers are better off swinging for the fences and failing than simply writing what they think people want to read. That’s just a pathetic waste of electrons, the latter.
Mark Waid: There are writers out there who pander shamelessly. And, frankly, they’re all richer and more successful than I’ll ever be. So my word is hardly law. But as a writer, deep down, you know–you KNOW– the difference between work you tell yourself you’re proud of and work you’re ACTUALLY proud of. It’s so easy to convince yourself that you’re not pandering, that you’re not catering to a base or taking shortcuts but you KNOW in your heart. Here’s a big clue: if you don’t, at some point or another with a piece of work, look at it in mid-process and go “THIS SUCKS, I’M A FRAUD,” then you’re probably just pandering.
Brian Cronin: Do you also agree with the notion that you should look back at your older work and think “Wow, I could do that a whole lot better now”?
Mark Waid: Yes, God, yes. If you’re not looking back on older work and thinking, “I could do that better now,” then you should just stop and open up a tire store. Combustion engines will be running off your fossilized remains soon enough, anyway.
Brian Cronin: “How many outfits did Supergirl have during the late 60’s and early 70’s and what did Batgirl’s light do on the front of here batcycle?”
Mark Waid: Supergirl had more outfits in the early 1970s than I have in my closet right now. I always thought the godawful one with the hip boots was tragic. But the one from Adventure 409 got my little prepubescent heart fluttering.
Mark Waid: And the lights on Batgirl’s cycle could, somehow, actually follow TRAILS OF CRIME. I wish I were making that up.
Brian Cronin: Here’s a cute one a reader sent in based on our recent Top 25 Comic Book Battles (the end battle in Kingdom Come came in third, I believe!) – “Mark, can you think of a good reason why Kyle tried to punch Deathstroke in Identity Crisis #3?”
Mark Waid: Here’s a charitable reason: people do weird things in fights.
Brian Cronin: A bunch of readers asked “Would you want to/What would you do if you did” write Superman?
Mark Waid: Superman: Birthright is the best clue of that. There’s a giant essay in the back of that trade collection that pretty much explains my views on Superman from cowlick to boot-toe.
Brian Cronin: Did Bill Loebs and Mark Gruenwald help much with the transitions to your runs on Flash and Cap?
Mark Waid: Both did enormously. Bill because he was a longtime friend. I actually didn’t use his supporting cast, not because I didn’t like them, but because he and I both thought he’d be taking them into his next assignment. But it didn’t work out that way — and by the time he realized that, I’d already sort of set my own tone with the series.
Mark Waid: And Gruenwald was unbelievably gracious. I still have the reams and reams of data he provided me on Cap’s villains, origins, back story, etc. He was SO HELPFUL.
Brian Cronin: You took Linda, though, from Bill. I don’t think he ever got enough credit for introducing Linda. I mean, obviously you did all the romance stuff, but she had a solid base right there in Bill’s run, including the flirtation between Wally and Linda.
Mark Waid: Bill totally created Linda. Bill totally does not get nearly enough credit for how good and how influential he’s been.
Brian Cronin: Speaking of Bill, a reader asked: “Can we have some more work by William Messner-Loebs, his contribution to Zombie tales #5 was amazing. Any chance of an ongoing or mini from him?”
Mark Waid: Bill’s currently doing a four-issue mini for us at BOOM! called NECRONOMICON (with artist Andrew Ritchie) that’s maybe the best thing we’ve put out yet.
Mark Waid: And more from him at Boom! Yes. Door’s wide open. Look for more in the Zombie and Cthulhu anthologies.
Brian Cronin: “Did Avengers Forever cause you to replace Kang with Korvac in your Cap run?”
Mark Waid: HA!
Mark Waid: No. Confluence of rumor.
Brian Cronin: Oh?
Mark Waid: Wait. I misspeak. Hang on…lemme go look.
Mark Waid: Here’s what I was thinking of. The Ka-Zar debacle was first by a nose. I think we acquitted ourselves quite well with the Ka-Zar/Thanos battle, but that was never supposed to have been Thanos. I THINK that was supposed to be Korvac.
Mark Waid: And then, later, Kang was going to be in Cap, and Avengers Forever (I THINK) had us shifting out plan around and yanking Korvac BACK because it turned out there was no reason to have taken him out of Ka-Zar at all.
Brian Cronin: Wait a sec – so Avengers Forever WAS the reason you pulled Kang?
Brian Cronin: I mean, why was Korvac not used in Ka-Zar?
Mark Waid: No. Forever came much later. Remember, that run of Cap relaunched simultaneously with Kurt and Perez’s Avengers. Kurt just asked for dibs on Kang after we had put him in the story, which was his right.
Brian Cronin: Okay, fine, gotcha. So it wasn’t Avengers Forever, per se, but it was Busiek’s Avengers.
Mark Waid: Korvac was allegedly being used by someone else at the time, and I regret to say that ten years later, I can’t remember who. All I do remember is that he was yanked for what turned out to be no reason.
Brian Cronin: Aha
Mark Waid: S’okay. That stuff happens all the time.
Mark Waid: And if you’re lucky, it makes for a better story. Honestly, I am still very proud of the entirety of the Ka-Zar run.
Brian Cronin: So did you catch Starlin’s “Thanos clones” explanation in one of his Infinity mini-series?
Mark Waid: Yes, yes, yes. ZZZZZZZzzzzzz. It’s really easy to say “Well, Ka-Zar fighting Thanos is STUPID!” unless you, oh, actually READ THE STORY.
Mark Waid: Because that was THE POINT OF THE STORY.
Mark Waid: But it’s easier just to be pissy and dismissive.
Brian Cronin: Yep, I have always complained about creators knocking other creators in their work.
Mark Waid: Jim and I already had it out over this in Baltimore one year and shook hands. I saw where he was coming from, he saw my point. All’s well there.
Mark Waid: But see what I’m saying? There’s nothing you can do on non-creator-owned material that can’t be undone by the next guy. And revenge is about the dumbest, least creative reason in the world to write a story.
Brian Cronin: It was a good run – it was really rough to ask Priest to follow that run, especially without Andy Kubert! Although that series later gave us some of Brian K. Vaughan’s first work
Brian Cronin: “Why did Boom Studios change the ‘Fall of Cthulhu’ ongoing series into a “series of mini-series”? I felt as an ongoing series, it had the potential to reach Issue #50 and beyond. Why the hesitancy of doing an ongoing series at Boom Studios?”
Mark Waid: It’s just tough–very tough–to sustain any sort of long-term love from readers and retailers in this market. It’s something we’re aware of at Boom!: the trade-off between the sales upswing you’ll get on a first issue versus the sense of legacy you get by building a long-term hit.
Mark Waid: We take that one a case-by-case basis. And the answer to how any smaller publisher approaches that depends on a lot of factors, not the least of which is which way the wind is blowing that day.
Mark Waid: My guess is that if we were launching FoC now, we’d be more inclined to have done it as a perpetual ongoing because our trade paperback sales are stronger now than they were earlier in 2008 when we made the decision to relaunch. But the landscape is different right this second than it was earlier in 2008. And it’ll be different six months from now.
Mark Waid: 20/20 hindsight in action.
Mark Waid: And let me take the opportunity to plug Cthulhu writer Michael Alan Nelson, and his new series from Boom!, HEXED, which comes out early next year.
Brian Cronin: It’s like JJ Abrams’ Alias meets Hellblazer!
Brian Cronin: Some wise man said that
Brian Cronin: Speaking of rumors, we had another one: “What was your original Onslaught origin?”
Mark Waid: The original take on Onslaught–and whether or not this would have been a good idea is open for debate, because I’ve always been the first to say that I wasn’t a great fit on X-Men–
Mark Waid: –is that it was just intended to be Xavier’s dark side that had been percolating for decades. IMHO, the last-minute decision to shoehorn Magneto into the mix was a confusing misstep. But maybe not. Again, I’m not the best judge of anything X.
Brian Cronin: “Every time my DHL box of comics arrives, my kids want to know just one thing: When is the Wall-E comic book series coming out? Mark, you’ve got to do something, they’re 5 and 7 years old, they are obsessed with Wall-E, and they are MERCILESS!”
Mark Waid: We would LOVE do to Wall-E. Seriously. What a brilliant movie. And what a brilliant property. And what a movie I can never, ever, ever watch again.
Brian Cronin: Hah
Mark Waid: It broke my heart. It hit all the pain buttons in me. It’s the single saddest movie I’ve ever seen. It left me devastated. Seriously.
Brian Cronin: “Do you think that silver age artists, working at the skill level they had back then, would be able to get jobs in comics now?”
Mark Waid: They would be at Boom!
Brian Cronin: “Are you comfortable with the co-authorship inherent in writing, but not drawing, comics? What is necessary to ensure a good collaboration?”
Mark Waid: In my experience–and I stress, this is just my experience–I think the final story is best when, no matter how collaborative the creative process is, one guy does all the typing. Mixing writing styles, even among friends—is a delicate alchemy.
Mark Waid: But what’s absolutely necessary to ensure the best collaboration is to check ego at the door. That, more than anything else, is what made 52 work.
Brian Cronin: “With a little bit of time and perspective, what’s your take on your Legion reboot? What worked, what didn’t and what would you have done differently?”
Mark Waid: Legion reboot. Hrrm.
Mark Waid: I think what worked was a level of energy and enthusiasm Barry Kitson and I brought to the project. And I think the first bunch of issues is still really strong. But–my own failings as a writer aside (and you can look them up on the internet)–what didn’t work was the 30-page structure. It sounded great in theory–but we didn’t get started soon enough, and no way could Barry pencil 30 pages a month at the level he was working.
Mark Waid: So that meant fill-ins. But as the writer, you want the “choice” moments in your story to be told with your regular artist. BUT you don’t want to make a fill-in issue NOT important to the building story. It’s a dilemma. One I didn’t handle well, and one that made our first 12 issues feel like ten issues crammed into 12. There’s some legitimacy to the theory that the story moved too slowly.
Mark Waid: What DID work, I think, is that we DID get a BUNCH of new readers fresh to the Legion, and for every letter I got cursing me, I got one praising us for delivering an incredibly accessible book for new readers.
Mark Waid: Remember, too, at the time we relaunched, “rebooting” to the Adventure Comics days was Not An Option Available To Us. Had we simply done that, I think we’d have been revered. By 30,000 people. Big whoop.
Brian Cronin: Ha
Mark Waid: This is what I mean about swinging for the fences. I wasn’t trying in any way to be dismissive of existing Legion fans–I’m one of the STAUNCHEST Legion fans EVER, second only to Paul Levitz himself–but Legion fans alone were not enough in number to keep that franchise alive. So Barry and I tried to write for people who had never read the Legion. Like it or hate it, our run was at least eminently accessible to new readers.
Mark Waid: But something was off. We didn’t connect. I’m sure Tim Callahan will lecture me at condescending length about why that’s so, were I to ask him.
Brian Cronin: Would you have gone that route [back to the Levitz era] had it been available?
Mark Waid: I don’t think I would have gone that route, no. The Prime Directive was to make it super-abundantly clear that if you’d never read a Legion comic before, you could still pick up our book and BAM! Be in on the ground floor.
Mark Waid: Relaunching instead with a take that dated back to 1988 would never have sent that message.
Mark Waid: It’s working now, for Geoff, but the landscape’s much different than it was in 2004.
Mark Waid: Also, Geoff has DC editorial behind him. We did not. We had to get sandbagged by the goddamned “Lightning Saga” in JLA that, no fault of writer Brad Meltzer’s, was a total surprise to us and made us look like idiots.
Brian Cronin: Could you have not done a take on the Abnett and Lanning Legion that would have been accessible to new readers?
Brian Cronin: Or did the Abnett and Lanning Legion have too much of its own continuity to worry about?
Mark Waid: It’s not even that it had extensive continuity. It’s that all new potential readers BELIEVED Legion was a continuity nightmare, whether or not that was true.
Mark Waid: (Which it kinda was.)
Mark Waid: But even if it weren’t, we weren’t dealing with reality. We were dealing with perception. This is a fact: The perception was that Legion was totally new-reader-unfriendly.
Brian Cronin: But wouldn’t a third version of the Legion help bolster that?
Brian Cronin: If we’re talking perceptions, “Oh, the Legion, it’s so convoluted, they’re on their third reboot!”
Mark Waid: As opposed to what?
Mark Waid: Seriously. You’ve just advanced a total lose/lose scenario. Discuss.
Brian Cronin: But that’s what I mean – why go with what seemed to be a lose-lose scenario?
Mark Waid: Look, I agree, with 20/20 hindsight (again), the smart thing would have been to roll everything back to Levitz days. But Geoff and Gary Frank have an arrow in their quiver that we did not: Superboy.
Mark Waid: So had we done exactly what Geoff and Gary did recently–well, (a) we couldn’t have, because then-Superman editorial would have nixed it, and (b) IF we had, we’d have had to scrap everything the moment Superboy entered Legal Limbo for two years.
Mark Waid: So we would have had to retcon OURSELVES six issues in.
Mark Waid: What a quagmire.
Brian Cronin: Like the 5 years later Legion.
Brian Cronin: What was that – three issues into the new series that the reboot hit?
Mark Waid: Five issues in.
Mark Waid: What a nightmare.
Mark Waid: Look, it’s all timing. And my career is, creatively speaking, a virtual ode to lousy timing.
Mark Waid: Let’s move off Legion. You’re driving me to drink.
Brian Cronin: Hah
Brian Cronin: Sure
Brian Cronin: “I used to read the comics letters pages almost as thoroughly as I read the comics themselves and I was always pleased when a particularly insightful letter writer ended up writing for comics (such as a certain Mr. Waid). Have Marvel and DC lost something by getting rid of their letters pages? Did being able to interact with the editors in that way encourage your interest in writing for comics? Did it help you to get your foot in the door? Conversely, did having to write a letter cause fans of the past to have to be articulate in a way that posters to online forums (other than Comics Should Be Good, of course) often are not?”
Mark Waid: Honestly, letters pages never really encouraged my interest in writing for comics. I always enjoyed reading them as a fan, and wrote a handful of letters. I understand the logic in letting them go a few years back–they seemed redundant given the number of message boards–but I can’t deny, in retrospect, there’s something about them that sends the message “We’re listening.” BUT–and this is a HUGE “but”–what those who were most vocally outraged about the loss of letter columns overlooked or didn’t know was that often–VERY often–it was VERY hard to FILL those columns with anything even remotely resembling well-written comments and critiques.
Brian Cronin: Oh, I bet – if people find that hard to believe, come on, read a message board – the majority of comments are usually going to be weak.
Mark Waid: There isn’t an assistant editor of the time who wasn’t, at some point at 2:00 a.m., faced with a thousand-word letter column to fill and only two letters.
Mark Waid: I’m not saying the increasing lack of letters was to blame–but it was a genuine consideration. But, yes, God almighty, having to write an actual letter made you a THOUSAND times more articulate than NuklonFan988 on some message board.
Brian Cronin: Which is too bad, as NuklonFan956 is quite articulate
Brian Cronin: “How do you go about crafting the antagonists’ end of the heroic conflicts (as opposed to personal or internal conflicts) when writing superhero stories? Do you see the villain as the least meaningful element in a superhero story, that is, as primarily a means to explore the protagonist rather; or do you think of continuing adversaries as ‘full’ members of the story or the book’s cast?”
Mark Waid: Antagonists: The pat answer is to say that the hero is nothing without a villain of equal stature, blah, blah. Yeah, yeah. And there’s some truth to that. But that is never, ever, ever, ever, ever where I start my stories.
Mark Waid: Some do. That’s fine.
Mark Waid: And great villains are gold.
Mark Waid: Someday, I may even create one.
Brian Cronin: Nah, use Abra Kadabra instead.
Mark Waid: Har.
Mark Waid: But when I write, I start with the hero’s internal conflict first. What does he want? What’s in his way? What’s going on inside his head? If there’s a villain who can help me externalize that, swell.
Mark Waid: But if not…well, to me personally, the way a hero defeats a villain is always the dullest part of the story. The choices the hero makes and the sacrifices he makes are far more interesting. And, yes, the former can help structure the latter.
Mark Waid: But you can always write without a villain, and you can never write without a hero’s journey.
Mark Waid: Again, that’s just my opinion. And that’s colored by the undisputable fact that I just simply don’t enjoy writing villains nearly as much as I enjoy writing heroes.
Brian Cronin: Here’s a nice ego-boosting question
Brian Cronin: “You’ve written my favorite characterizations of both the classic Superman and of Captain America. With both you showed heroes with a strong moral center, with a clear vision of right and wrong, and with the will, determination, strength, and the hopefulness for a better tomorrow to fight for Truth, Justice, and, if by it we mean freedom of speech, freedom from tyranny, and respect for the honor, dignity, and integrity of our fellow beings, then for the American Way, as well. These are the kinds of characters that define heroism for me. But they *don’t* seem to be the template for the vast majority of super-“heroes” in titles on the stands today. Have you considered creating your own character in that mold? I’d certainly buy such a character and title.”
Mark Waid: Man, why can’t ALL the questions be like that one?
Mark Waid: I’ve not considered creating a hero like that because I’d rather just write Superman well. Seriously. The heroes I have created and will create for Boom–well, I can’t deny that they’ll always have a strong moral compass — but the challenge is to find some way to create a vehicle for that morality that doesn’t feel grounded in the past.
Mark Waid: There are ways. I have ideas. And a BUNCH of Waid-created Boom properties to come in 2009 and 2010. So stay tuned.
Mark Waid: Did I mention www.boom-studios.com enough yet?
Mark Waid: Everyone go THERE. Free digital comics!
Brian Cronin: www.boomstudios.com?
Mark Waid: hyphen. www.boom-studios.com.
Brian Cronin: Ah, my mistake, I meant to write www.boom-studios.com.
Brian Cronin: No, I don’t think you mentioned www.boom-studios.com enough
Brian Cronin: Okay, for the last two questions – how about your general stance on the whole One More Day situation in the Spider-Man books – are you for or against the marriage, in general terms>?
Mark Waid: My head exploded the day Peter Parker married Mary Jane. Mostly that was because I thought a loser should never win, and part of that was because Gwen Stacy was my first true love.
Mark Waid: But I also understand that for a whole lot of the audience, a married Spider-Man is what they always knew. I understand why they’re upset.
Brian Cronin: I understand it, too, but still…
Mark Waid: I do think Spidey works best as a single man, or at least not married to a hot supermodel, but that’s my opinion.
Mark Waid: I’m very ADAMANT about my opinion, but it’s still my opinion.
Brian Cronin: Hah
Brian Cronin: Nice non-offensive answer
Mark Waid: I’m not going out of my way to be inoffensive. I’m just remembering how much I hated John Byrne’s Superman reboot back in 1986 and how upset I was over it, and remembering that helps me feel compassion for Mary Jane lovers. Seriously.
Brian Cronin: That’s right, you mentioned that in the comments awhile back on the blog.
Mark Waid: Yeah, seriously, it’s like, “Geez, where were all you outraged guys back in 1986 when *I* needed you?”
Brian Cronin: As an aside, the current story – very nice! Marcos Martin is astonishingly good.
Mark Waid: Thank you. Marcos is astounding. Next one up is issue 583, a one-shot by Barry Kitson and myself. It’s gorgeous.
Brian Cronin: Here’s an interesting one to close on (from our own Joe Rice) – “What superhero/genre creator would you like to read a mainstream/art comix project from?”
Mark Waid: Huh. Good one. Gimme a sec.
Mark Waid: I think I’m having problems with this question because it presupposes that there’s something inherently artistically superior to non-genre work. And that’s just not so, not necessarily.
Mark Waid: Or to put it another way, I don’t get the same sense that I might have in the 1980s that there are a bunch of super-hero writers out there who are suffering under the genre and who are just champing at the bit to break out and do “real” work.
Brian Cronin: I see your point, but if you take it as a strict “what creator from Genre A would you like to see work in Genre B” type of deal, rather than a qualitative statement, I think it goes better.
Brian Cronin: Like how Howard Hawks would direct Westerns, Romances, Mysteries, Screwball Comedies, Science Fiction, etc
Mark Waid: Okay, that’s fairer. And I would love to see Grant Morrison tackle a western without any extra-genre trappings. And I think letting Gail Simone write flat-out comedy would be aces.
Brian Cronin: Your second statement, by the way, is basically Brian Michael Bendis’ response to the Kirkman manifesto. That there aren’t creators chomping at the bit to not do non-superhero work – those that want to, do so
Mark Waid: Exactly. I thought Kirkman’s manifesto was just ADORABLE.
Mark Waid: It was so cute.
Mark Waid: I remember when *I* had MY first beer.
Brian Cronin: Ouch
Mark Waid: I like Robert a lot. He’s a good guy. And he’s very talented.
Mark Waid: And I think he’ll bring a lot to Image.
Mark Waid: But….c’mon. There are no absolute answers in the system.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, that was basically my reaction, as well.
Mark Waid: Luck and timing are every bit as important–maybe even more important–than career planning and creator ownership.
Mark Waid: And, like you say, I don’t know anyone who’s “suffering” under the burden of non-creator-ownership.
Brian Cronin: Oh hey, speaking of timing – I don’t think I’ve ever heard you asked this
Brian Cronin: What did you have planned for your Avengers run?
Brian Cronin: The pre-Onslaught one
Brian Cronin: I’m sure it was asked somewhere, I just don’t recall seeing it
Mark Waid: Really? That was never intended to be a run. I knew from the start that I was running the clock out on those three issues. I had no plan. Had I a plan, those wouldn’t be the three lamest issues of Avengers ever.
Mark Waid: No offense to Ringo, who drew 400.
Brian Cronin: Haha
Brian Cronin: See, that‘s why I never heard about the run! There WAS no run!
Brian Cronin: And yes, those were bad issues
Brian Cronin: But come on, those were better than the issues that directly preceded them
Brian Cronin: So at the time, it seemed like a great new start
Mark Waid: But that is not a good comic. In my defense, I was writing those three issues while my mom was passing away, so that wasn’t a great time. But, still…man, my name will be on those forever.
Mark Waid: Pain does not always equal great art. Sometimes pain just equals crappy comics.
Mark Waid: Blurgh.
Brian Cronin: Hey, everything can’t be X-O Manowar
Mark Waid: X-O MANOWAR IS A LOST CLASSIC, PAL!
Mark Waid: Okay, “classic” is strong. But it really is a good run.
Brian Cronin: I think X-O Manowar is going to be Chris Ware’s next story arc in Acme Novelty Library
Mark Waid: We did something there that no one ever caught onto, Augustyn and I.
Mark Waid: And I’m proud of it.
Mark Waid: We deliberately made all the supporting cast members women, because the keynote of the book was “fear and anxiety,” and nothing makes comics fans more anxious than girls. And we made them good, good characters.
Brian Cronin: Actually, seriously, there was nothing wrong with X-O Manowar. I liked your run on it. I couldn’t think of a better story to put in there, and X-O Manowar just sounds hilarious
Mark Waid: There are SO many worse comics you could pull off my resume.
Mark Waid: Any last burning questions?
Mark Waid: Also, www.boom-studios.com
Brian Cronin: With a hyphen!
Brian Cronin: Too many to bother with, so we should just end it at that!
Mark Waid: Also, Russell T. Davies “The Writer’s Tale” is the best book about the writing process I’ve read since college. Mention that.
Brian Cronin: I think you just did.
Brian Cronin: Thanks for the chat – that was a LOT of questions
Mark Waid: Glad to help.
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