Q: Let's start with some background info:
A: I was born in Boston, on September 16, 1960. Grew up in the Boston
suburbs, went to college at Syracuse University in upstate New York. Decided
to become a comics writer while in junior high school, and bamboozled my pal
Scott McCloud into doing some fan-created comics with me (me writing, him
drawing), thus figuring out the mechanics of how to go about writing comics,
and changing the course of Scott's life utterly in the process. By the time
I graduated college in 1982, I'd submitted script samples to DC and gotten my
first pro writing assignment out of it, followed up shortly thereafter by my
first Marvel writing assignment. I've been plugging away ever since.
Q: You've had an interesting year, what with your daughter Sydney being born
and a sinus attack forcing you to be late with most of your writing
assignments. How'd you survive it all?
A: I didn't exactly have much choice. Throughout the period where the sinus
infection was making it hard to concentrate and harder to write, I just
plowed ahead doing the best I could, albeit much more slowly than I'd like
(and of course, ASTRO CITY stopped completely). Things got worse and worse,
and by the time doctors were scanning for possible permanent brain damage,
things were getting pretty scary -- we had a baby coming, no assurance I'd
ever recover, and every indication that things would get worse. Luckily,
that CAT scan revealed the truth -- my sphenoid sinuses were blocked and
couldn't drain -- so they solved that in very short order and I started on
the (fairly slow) road to recovery. But by the time Sydney arrived, I was
mostly back to normal, and that was an occasion of joy. Sydney's been a
dream baby, and I've been getting more and better (I think) work done in
recent months, so things are looking up.
Q: After hitting the Big Time with the "Marvels" mini-series, it seems like
every project you touch is insanely high profile with high expectations. Has
that gotten any easier to deal with?
A: I don't think that's been the case -- my first "big" project after MARVELS
was my creator-owned JONNY DEMON, which vanished without a ripple, and I also
did NINJAK, which vanished with maybe a ripple or two. And then there's
VALOR, NIGHT THRASHER, SPARTAN, VELOCITY, REGULATORS, SHADOWHAWK... I also
did UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN, which certainly won me a lot of fans and got
great reviews, but was never high-profile in a numbers sense. And
THUNDERBOLTS, again, has been very satisfying in terms of reader response,
but has never been expected to be a top-ten book or anything like that.
AVENGERS, AVENGERS FOREVER, IRON MAN and ASTRO CITY, however, have certainly
been pretty high-profile. But there's not much point to thinking about
expectations -- you just do the book the best you can and hope the audience
will want to see the kind of thing you're offering them. Luckily for me,
that's seemed to be the case on these books.
Q: What do you think people like so much about your writing style?
A: Judging from their comments, they like the way I write the characters --
that I try to make everyone unique and interesting in their own way. And on
the Marvel books, they like the way I build those characterizations out of
the character's history -- trying to figure out just what each of them would
be like based on their past, rather than simply imposing a convenient
personality onto the character as if I've just recast them with a new actor.
And I think I win over new readers by making sure to be comprehensible -- if
I'm doing it right, you can pick up any issue of any of my books, even
something as complicated as AVENGERS FOREVER, and you'll understand enough
about who these guys are and what's going on to enjoy the issue on its own,
without having to read other comics to get the information you need to find
out if you liked the one you just read. That's something I've always felt
was Job One in mainstream comics, but it doesn't get done nearly often enough
for my tastes.
Q: Which is your favorite character to write and which is your least-favorite?
A: Of the Marvel characters, my favorite to write is Hawkeye. He's so lively
and so versatile -- I never have any trouble figuring out what he'd do in a
given situation, or making it interesting. As for least favorite, well, it's
probably someone I'm not writing. I can't say I much liked the current
Swordsman, for instance, but I tried to do right by him, at least.
Q: Which character did you never expect to enjoy writing until you actually
started writing him/her/it?
A: That would be Power Man. My first regular writing assignment was POWER
MAN & IRON FIST, and I'd always been an Iron Fist fan, but not much of a
Power Man fan. I started reading the POWER MAN book when Iron Fist showed up
in it, and read it all through their team-up, so I knew enough to start
writing the character. But when I got the assignment regularly, I went out
and bought all the POWER MAN issues I didn't have (a practice that's since
become standard for me) and read them through from the beginning. And to my
surprise, by the time I was done I liked Power Man better than I did Iron
Fist -- Luke Cage is a really well-conceived character, very solidly-crafted,
built cleanly around a simple situation that shapes his power, his
personality, his motivations, everything. Iron Fist, on the other hand, is
an engaging mish-mosh of detail, layering SF concepts over mysticism over big
business intrigue and more -- it means there's always stuff you can play with
in Iron Fist's life, but none of it's terribly strong or focused, like Power
That was my first experience with discovering I'd missed the boat -- much as
I liked the Power Man/Iron Fist team, I realized that I'd probably have even
more fun writing Power Man as a solo character, an opportunity I didn't have
the chance to do. Even now, I think a solo Luke Cage book, while it'd be a
blast to write, wouldn't catch on and would be canceled too fast.
Once this interview comes out, I'm sure I'll get another spate of "Hey, you
like Power Man and/or Iron Fist, so why not put them in the Avengers?"
e-mails. But that's not the point -- it's not that I like the characters and
thus I'd be happy writing them under any circumstances, it's that I like the
characters in a context that allows them to be unique, to show what works
best about them. And neither of them can do that in the Avengers -- where
that team structure allows characters like the Scarlet Witch and the Vision
to shine, it cuts Luke off from the kind of setting and story he thrives in,
and would make him just another super-powered soldier in the platoon. So no
need to ask, guys, okay?
Q: What's it like collaborating with the best talents in comics: Alex Ross,
George Pérez, Brent Anderson, Sean Chen, etc.? Who's your favorite?
A: Whenever I answer this question by saying that each artist has their own
strengths and that there can't be a "favorite," people assume I'm just being
polite, but I'm being absolutely honest. Each collaboration is different,
and I write different kinds of stories for different artists, so the best guy
on the planet for one kind of story isn't necessarily going to be right for
another kind -- and I like writing both.
For instance, I think Neil Vokes, who drew NINJAK, JONNY DEMON and
TEENAGENTS, is a fantastic artist. Whenever I give him a plot to draw, he
comes back with artwork that takes all the characters and gives them life in
a quirky, distinctive way that makes them more than they were in the plot --
and I have to respond to that in the dialogue, bringing through my story
through those facial expressions and body postures in a way that builds on
what Neil's done, and the result is a quirky, fun, more distinctive take on
the characters than I'd started with. But for all that that approach is
fabulous for many kinds of stories, it wouldn't work at all for MARVELS or
ASTRO CITY, where I'm better off working with Alex or Brent. They take a
different approach -- they want to come to a mutual understanding of who the
character is, deep down, and what he's thinking and feeling, so that when
they draw, they and I are pulling in exactly the same direction, right from
the first line. The sort of freewheeling back-and-forth I do with Neil -- or
George, or Mark Bagley -- wouldn't work with them.
And neither approach is "better" -- it all depends on the particular
But I'll certainly admit that it's an absolute joy to be able to work with
artists this good -- Alex and Brent are wonderful, amazing talents, George is
someone I've admired and wanted to work with since I was 15 or 16 years old,
Mark Bagley is relentlessly inventive, Sean started off great and grows by
leaps and bounds, Carlos Pacheco is enthusiastic, dramatic and engaging --
I'm having the time of my life.
Q: What's your favorite story that you wrote? What's your fave story that
you didn't write?
A: My favorite of my own is probably ASTRO CITY #1/2, "The Nearness of You."
My favorite that I didn't write is the entire run of the TERRY AND THE
PIRATES newspaper strip by Milton Caniff -- it's the most fun I think comics
have ever gotten, and an amazingly-rich sweep of drama, action, adventure,
intrigue, romance, comedy and more. Everyone should read it.
Q: Who are you influenced by?
A: In comics -- Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Steve Englehart, Milt Caniff, Archie
Goodwin, Leonard Starr, Frank Miller and others. Outside of comics --
Lawrence Block, Edward Eager, Walter Tevis, Nevil Shute, William Goldman and
a host of other writers.
Q: What do you think is the best thing to happen to comics in the last
decade, and what do you figure was the worst?
A: My major concerns about comics are not creative -- I think there are more
good comics being published today than at most times in the past -- so it
shouldn't be any surprise that my answers are more about business than
writing and drawing. I think the best thing to happen in the last ten years
has been the growing success of trade paperback programs, which is the only
thing, as far as I can tell, that's been significant in getting comics into
new places, new outlets for new readers to see them. Trade paperbacks have
been making inroads into bookstores and libraries, and are our current best
hope, I think, for catching the attention of readers who don't go to comics
As far as the worst thing -- I think the whole exclusivity game with
publishers signing up with Diamond destroyed the healthy competition we had
among the people who actually get comics into the stores, and has been
terrible for industry growth. Comics need to reach out in all directions,
and I don't think one distributor, with no serious competition, is the way to
accomplish that regardless of anyone's intentions. Any more than having one
publisher with no serious competition would be good for creative freedom or
Q: Finally, do you have any predictions on where the comics industry will end
up in the next century, or is it possible to make any predictions?
A: I hear people make predictions all the time -- comics will move to the
Internet, comics will die, comics will change format and go back to being
thick anthology magazines that'll supply a whole afternoon's entertainment --
but I don't think they're so much predictions as they are expressions of what
the speaker is hoping for. I don't know what's coming -- I just hope it'll
be positive, and I hope I'll be able to be around for all of it, good and
bad, for years and years to come.
>>Thank you for your time, Kurt. Have fun!!>>
My pleasure, and thank you.