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Mark Waid Interview, Part 2

Welcome to part two of FANZING's exclusive interview with writer\creator Mark Waid. If you missed PART ONE of the interview in Fanzing issue #13, you can still read it in our Archives section. Otherwise, let's get on wit da gabbin'.


I'm going to start with a few follow-up questions based on the first part of the interview. All right boyz, roll'em!

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1) Recently, in JLA, you did what many people thought was impossible and managed to salvage Adam Strange, a character who was widely considered ruined. So, do you have any way to reclaim Hawkman? Or the Metal Men?

Someone should, but to be honest, I have no real interest in either. Why does everyone love Hawkman? I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.

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2) January of 2000 is the 40th Anniversary of Wally West. Any hints as to what you might be planning as a celebration?

“Celebration” is probably going to be the wrong word.

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3) Do you ever work as an editor anymore? If so, can Fanzing's editor (the world's biggest Elongated Man fan, who made me ask you this) send you his springboard for an Elongated Man special?

Sorry, no editorships here. Honestly, to be fair to him, it’s best I not see it, as I’m working up some Elongated Man ideas myself.

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4) Any chance of seeing a "Tales From Hypertime" series from DC in the next year or so?

Weren’t you paying attention? They’re ALL "Tales from Hypertime "!

Okay. Who knows? Me, I’d rather NOT go that route; as I keep saying, Hypertime isn’t just a cheap excuse to bring Krypton back. It ought to be a way of exploring NEW realms, not just old ones we love.

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5) Issue #2 of The Kingdom seemed rushed in its pace. The KC versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman just seem to plop into the issue. On top of that, no one appears to give a damn about the deaths of thousands in Kansas. I did enjoy the issue but do think that it wasn't as well structured\fine-tuned as others you've done in previous months. Were you scurrying to make a deadline or are you quite content with the finished draft as it was published?

I don’t know. I think it had its moments, but I definitely think the story took a back seat to its revelation. I won’t apologize for that, because I honestly did the best job I could possibly do under the circumstances, but God Almighty, do I wish I’d have had another 16 pages or so. And by the way, I’m ALWAYS scurrying to make a deadline. Whenever anyone asks me “Do you work best under pressure?”, my answer is “How would I know?”

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6) Scott Lobell. Will you guys likely work this thing out at all or is there "too much water under the bridge"? Your comments in the first part of the interview about Lobell are quite restrained in light of Lobell's acidic tirade against you. Many of our readers will wonder how so many quality free-lance writers can afford such explosive exchanges with co-workers in an ever shrinking industry. It "puts off" fans. It has got to affect all you writers and artists, too, in the long haul. Is it a matter of pride that is keeping the status quo or what from? Will things change?

I agree that it ought to put fans off, but it’s Jerry Springer’s world and we’re just living in it. I think the majority of them have come to really dig the feuds in a perverse way. Doesn’t mean we ought to succumb; in a field filled with creative egos, you’ll invariably get sparks and clashes, but the classy professionals refrain from publicly bashing the work or personalities of others. On the other hand, there are some “creators” out there who are actively malevolent and cheat the audience by offering stolen ideas and swindle fellow creators by stealing them without credit, there are executives out there who treat freelancers worse than I treat my Bic Pens, and they deserve to be called on the carpet for their behavior so they’ll knock it the hell off.

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7) Any likelihood you will get in trouble for your comments about Warner in the first part of the FANZING interview? Do they "blackball" DC employees that you know of?

I can’t imagine I’d get in trouble; did I really say anything that inflammatory? Let’s recap: they’re being overly protective of their crown jewel characters, that’s making for lousy stories, but it doesn’t matter because we’re a buggy whip industry and in a few years, probably the only place you’ll see Superman is selling American Express cards or, God help us, Baby Ruth bars. If we hadn’t destroyed the industry over the past ten years, my comments might have sounded more accusatory, but frankly, we did most of the damage ourselves.

Let's get on to some questions about your background, values and life experiences.

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8) Let's say that you could meet any of the following two individuals for a day each. Who would you choose and, assuming that there was no language barrier, what would be some of the questions\issues\ideas you might share with your two choices?

Choices:
Mark Twain Albert Einstein Moses Plato
Jesus Christ George Washington Leo Tolstoy Wittgenstein
Adolph Hitler Mother Theresa Genghis Khan Gandhi
Julius Caesar Ben Franklin Descartes Hemingway

Come on. Who wouldn’t want to sit with Einstein? With all due respect to your other candidates, an aperitif with Albert would allow you to glimpse the answers to the mysteries of the universe--and I genuinely believe that genius is contagious, and I lust after that level of knowledge.

And I’d want to talk to Jesus Christ just to get the skinny on this whole “Son of God” thing. Plus, I figure he knows who really killed JFK and Marilyn Monroe.

Hitler was a close third, though. Despite his evil, he’s inarguably one of the most charismatic men of all time, and I would give anything to see first-hand how that allure evidenced itself. Speaking of which…

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9) Captain America began his career in the storm of World War 2. Though he was out of action for decades (i.e. frozen in a chunk of ice) he would have had to come to terms with the plight of the Jews known as the Holocaust..
Do you have a personal sense of resolve in regards to the extermination of the Jews (and others) and the rape that Hitler engaged in on Europe during WW II? That is, how do we dare presume some sort of social evolutionary progress when this century has seen more people killed, tortured, or martyred by totalitarian governments than the total of the preceding 60 centuries? Do you think God, perhaps, failed to hear or else answer the impassioned prayers of the Jews held in various concentration camps? What do you think is Cap's resolve in these same regards? Isn't it very difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Holocaust has pretty much confirmed nihilism as Lord of our age?

I don’t think God answers prayers period ( *see below ). And, yes, anyone who believes that man’s inhumanity to man ended with the Holocaust lives in a dreamworld. Nihilism--particularly the faction fed by the growing youth belief that there is no tomorrow--sits just as ill with me as it would with Cap, but we’d both be fooling ourselves if we didn’t acknowledge its rise. A world without a tomorrow is a world without consequence or responsibility, and I fear its growing acceptance comes from a generation who’s been repeatedly lied to--by desperate politicians, by parents who learn less about being parents every year, by the increasingly banalized and homogenized entertainment medium we laughingly call “the news”-- more than any other at any other time in history. Is it worth combating? I think so. Is that because I believe in universal truths, or because I can’t face how meaningless the comic-book heroes with which I’ve surrounded myself will be if I DON’T believe in the universal truths they champion? I don’t know. I don’t think I want to know.

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10) It has been bequeathed by the R.A.C. Judicial Council that you are to be teleported to a deserted space colony for having had Superman murdered time and time again in the KINGDOM mini-series and re-creating a "multiverse" again of sorts (heh, heh). What five books\works would you take along? Give us some input on the choices you make.

Well, first off, I’d take 101 USES FOR A DEAD R.A.C.ite, wouldn’t I?

Then, yes, I know everyone says it, but THE COMPLETE SHAKESPEARE and THE COMPLETE DICKENS, the blueprint for Western literature.

If I can lump movies into “Works,” I’d take Terry Gilliam’s BRAZIL, a movie which shows me something new every time I sit through it, which is often.

William Goldman’s THE SILENT GONDOLIERS is my favorite novelette for the sentiment it can wring out of a simple fable, and I can’t go a couple of years without re-reading it.

And if it’s really as completely deserted as you say, probably THE PLAYBOY PLAYMATE BOOK.

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11) Do you own a PC, a Mac, or both?

I work on a Compaq Presario PC loaded with Word 95, AOL, and precious little else, as it is just way too easy for me to be seduced by the siren call of the computer game. A few years ago, I used to give my Nintendos and Game Boys to the woman I lived with and beg her to hide them from me no matter how I pled for their release, because I’d buy a system, sit down in front of the TV, play for 36 hours straight, and then beat myself up for days about the time lost to meaningless, mindless stupidity. When we finally moved, she uncovered three Nintendos and five Game Boys. Quite the bonanza for the neighbor kids. [Editor's note: As a Quake 2 addict, I understand this one all too well!]

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12) You have been quoted elsewhere as saying that you enjoy being a mentor as much as you enjoyed being taught\mentored.. Mentor figures are crucial for healthy growth, maturity, and grounding in all men, women, and children, irrespective of age.
Whom have been some of your own mentors throughout your life to this point? Do you still keep in touch with them from time to time? What do you perceive to be some of your own strengths and weaknesses as a mentor?

I enjoyed being taught, but I never was lucky enough to have a mentor of any sort. At best, I’d cop a quick storytelling tip from Dick Giordano or Julie Schwartz or one of the eight million COMICS JOURNAL interviews with guys like Denny O’Neil or Harlan Ellison. That said, I enjoy BEING a mentor. I’m a good teacher; I communicate clearly and convincingly and with passion, but never with the belief that my way is the only way. My shortcoming is that I have the attention span of a fruit fly and if I’m mentoring you, you literally have to be standing right in front of me for me to be thinking about you and your work, as too many have learned.

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13) Much of the world is embracing and becoming dependent upon computer and Internet technologies… with a sense of Faustian intrepidation, even.. It is increasingly obvious that when we connect online that our personal computers are at risk of being infected with viruses or else being accessed by "hackers" who rifle through our hard-drive stuff.
What are some of your own observations, comments, and concerns about the high tech resources that complicate our lives as much as they do assist us? As a writer, what are some ways in which computer technology is changing your profession?

Computer tech makes the researching easier and the writing harder. Any boob can look up details on Fort Knox on the web, but every minute you’re sitting before your monitor sucking up the cathode rays is another minute you’re not integrating yourself into society and learning about people and life and, oh, THE THINGS A WRITER REALLY NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT. Computer technology and the Internet is cementing the process begun by television of insulating American society. I’m certainly prey; there are times when I realize I haven’t set foot outside my own house for four or five days, but that’s in part because I do my banking, my shopping--even bought my frigging Christmas tree--over the web. That’s a piss-poor substitute for having a cup of coffee with an acquaintance and sharing ideas and life observations.

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14) What do you do on a "bad day" that helps brings you back "up"?

Visit Usenet.

Oh, “UP.” Sorry. I misread.

Retail therapy. I spend money.

15) Take a moment and think back upon your childhood. What are some of your fondest memories? Were these generally "good years" for you in hindsight?

Eh…

First off, as I alluded to earlier, taking “a moment” to think back upon my childhood is a laugh. Better I should take a moment to NOT dwell on my childhood. I’d get more done. Were those good years? Not really. I grew up without a strong paternal role model, suffered the social ostracization of all geeky brainiacs, blew through 12 grades in ten schools in four states in ten years, made no childhood friends other than my beloved copy of BATMAN #180, and left an ugly home at 15 to make my way in the world. And yet…I have no complaints. We are the sum of our experiences, after all, and looking back, there were plenty of fond memories, almost every single one of them involving the protective cocoon that my precious comic books afforded me.

A few years ago, I was driving through Oxford, Alabama and came upon the house I lived in when I was about eight. I knocked on the door; no one was home. After a moment, I began walking around, just drinking in the nostalgia, and I realized as I turned the corner towards the back yard that I wanted something in that moment more than I’ve ever wanted anything before or since. I wanted more than anything to find eight-year-old Mark Waid playing in the backyard so I could walk up to him and tell him not to worry and not to let all the disappointment and heartache get to him…because when he grew up, he was going to have everything he’d ever dream of having.

And that’s how I got FLASH #0, the most personal story I’ve ever written.

16) Would your family go on summer vacations when you were growing up? If so, which trip stands out especially and what about it was so memorable? Where have you gone with your own significant other on vacation lately?

Summer vacation equaled the beach. No argument, no alternative. We just went to the beach--gulf coast, Pensacola maybe. Throw me and my kid sister into the car, stick a comic in my hand, and before I knew it, I was blistering under the sun. Frankly, no trip stands out in particular, and I haven’t been on a real vacation since about 1978, but about the time you’re reading this, I’ll be on a cruise ship in Cozumel, Mexico. Wish me well.

17) What kind of boy were you growing up? Gregarious? A bit of a hermit? The jock? A debater? Quiet? Musically-talented? As well, how would your best friends have described you during those years?

I’ve touched upon this above. First off, I had no best friends until I was in high school. I was the creepy, quiet, bullied nerd in the corner who knew he’d go to his grave never having kissed a girl, but since I was the school brain wherever I went, the bigger kids didn’t beat me up too bad for fear of injuring the cerebellum of the only kid who could explain the math problems to them.

I finally blossomed as a sophomore in high school when I joined the theater department. Despite the fact that my undying inability to shed my inhibitions made me the worst and most wooden actor ever to grace the stage, I found my niche as an entertainer.

18) We live in a postmodern society that has little regard for authority that is not rooted in the self. Many people across the globe increasingly function on a narcissistic and highly individualistic level. Personal autonomy is God in a near-absolute way. Feeling and knowing that we belong to communities and groups seems increasingly elusive. Many young people comment that they experience few adults who take vested interest in their lives.
My question is this. How can we expect the impersonalization of computers and pop-culture, in general, to legitimize and give due attention to mentoring? Is it a lost cause that is relegated to the manure pile labeled "patriarchy" or is there some way that many of us can make a lasting influence as mentors in ways that we overlook? Or are things "screwed" and that is simply the way it is?

The only way to have any influence on the next generation--and this has always been the truth--is to speak to them in their language, not ours, about their concerns, not ours. I don’t mean being a 35-year-old white guy trying to talk street--I mean speaking to the heart, taking the extraordinary effort to listen to them on their own terms and find out what they want rather than what we think they want. But we look at that generation and we feel not compassion, but fear. Fear that we will fail them as we were failed, fear that comes from not understanding them, fear that comes from knowing that they will, in time, replace us. But we’ve gotta keep trying, or else the next generation to inherit the Earth will have gotten all its outside guidance from the Internet.

19) When did the Waids originally move to the United States and where had they come from?

Search me. I’m told we’re Scotch-Irish and that my great-grandfather was a noted horse thief, and that’s the sum total of my family’s interest in or knowledge of its own genealogy. Still, if someone can point me to some resource where I can learn more, please e-mail me.

20) What is a simple item or thing in life that can bring you a great deal of pleasure or joy?

Trying to read white computer type against a light green background. Oh, wait, that’s the simple thing in life that can drive me to INSANITY.

I love to drive. There is no better or more relaxing place in the universe to be than behind the wheel of a car on a sunny spring Saturday morning at about ten, the tape deck blasting hits from 1972. Of course, now that I’ve moved to New York, I get behind the wheel of my Prelude only when I’m feeling suicidal, so that’s out.

Luckily, there’s something else. One of my beloved childhood toys…and, again, note how many of my stories involve the phrase “beloved childhood toy”…was the Major Matt Mason Space Station. Lots of plastic girders and panels and a purple-lighted flashlight beacon to top it. A few years ago, I bought an old one for cheap and started monkeying around with it just to see if I could remember how it fit together--and, buddy, when I put a battery in that beacon and got a glimpse of that odd purple light again for the first time in thirty years, it was like stepping into a time machine. Waves of complete and total contentment and relaxation washed over me as I stared into it, like Frankenstein listening to the violin. Now my girlfriend keeps it on hand at all times for emergency use whenever I get cranky.

21) It is a touchy subject but I will ask anyway (life is far too damn short to skirt around key issues!). What are your religious convictions\beliefs\values and how do they impact your day-to-day choices and lifestyle? Does the idea of a Prime Mover or Creator offend your sensibilities or inform them? Do you have a working set of values\convictions about death and the life beyond (if one exists).

Any real deep sense of spirituality I might have flirted with as a young man was drummed out of me by the fact that I was brought up hardcore Southern Baptist--tent revivals, fire and brimstone, the whole magillah. Kinda gave me a skewed outlook on churchgoing. In short--and all answers are subject to change depending on the direction of the wind, the time of day, or my latest encounter with a Marvel executive--I think there is a God, I think he’s a clockmaker who spends his time building and winding worlds rather than answering prayers. I believe Jesus Christ was a very wise and interesting mortal man, I believe the Bible is a well-intentioned fable grounded in truth but retranslated nine too many times while under absolutely no Divine protection of clarity and truth, I believe that the afterlife is the waystation for reincarnation, and that Hell is either (a) a realm created and peopled exclusively by the selfish until they learn the error of their ways and can thus advance as souls, or (b) being lectured on a script by a 22-year-old assistant editor.

22) Tell us about the loveliest place that you have been fortunate enough to visit. Describe it to us.

The nature preserves north of Sydney, Australia were breathtaking. Never have I been that far from a mall and still at peace. Lush green forests as far as the eye could see. Seaside cliffs that had never, ever been touched by human hands or feet. The sense of purity, of a great, unspoiled garden, was palpable.

23) I recently asked Elliot S! Maggin how he handles all the hours alone so that he can write for prolonged periods of time. Can you write anywhere or do you need a quiet space to "cut and paste' the thoughts in your brain? Tell us a couple of odd places that you have written in or from.

I require a quiet space with--more importantly--as few distractions as possible. Not only do I not concentrate well, but in the time it’s taken me to get this far in this sentence, I’ve gone to the refrigerator, downloaded my e-mail, made a mental list of the CAPTAIN ACTION accessories I’m missing, proofread a copy of FLASH #149, and looked up the word “magillah” in the dictionary just to make sure I spelled it right. I honestly can’t think of an example of me “typing” in an odd place, but “writing”--which, to me, is the fun, thinking part--happens best and with the most productive ideas during those three times I am most relaxed: in the shower, behind the wheel of a car someplace other than New York, and peeing.

24) What do you remember about the first girl that you were "in love" with years ago?

My first love was older, wiser, and more mature than I, which set a pattern that, except for the age part, continues to this day. Debra was bright, eclectic, bizarre, adventurous, and had the mutant ability to find a four-leaf clover within seconds in any patch of grass on Earth. Other than how not to feel intimidated by those more educated than I, I wish I had learned more from her, but that was my failing, not hers.

25) FANZING readers are no doubt curious about your tastes in films or TV programs. How bout discussing one movie that has stood out in your mind the past few years as being exceptional. In regards to TV, is there really an intelligent reason to keep watching the damn thing???


Two words: David Kelley.

26) You have probably attended a few comic conventions in your day. Any amusing stories to share? What about comic convention do you think is positive and what about them do you simply loathe?

Many amusing con stories, but better signing stories. There was, for instance, the case of the store THAT WASN’T. Kid phones me up from Vermont, offers me plane tickets to do a signing at his store--fly up Saturday, fly back Sunday. Light weekend for me, so I agreed.

THERE WAS NO STORE.

I get off the plane, I’m greeted by him and his pals.

THERE WAS NO STORE.

Turns out they took up a collection and flew me up just to have me around for the day.

THERE WAS NO STORE.

My advice is, if the doctor ever tells you you’ve only got two months to live, go there, because a day’s gonna feel like FOREVER. I went back to the Best Western at dusk and sat there watching fishing shows on a cableless TV for the rest of the night and remembering how MISERY ended.

The following words were run by Mark to get his first impression (this is called word association, technically). I thought that it would be a bit different to run these things by him. Here are his answers in italics.

Family: Pain

Postmodernity: Hope

Monica Lewinsky: pity

Bob Kane: liar

Crisis On Infinite Earths: disaster

Innocence: overrated

Pornography: benign

George Washington: father

Chastity: Bono
(I'm sorry. That really was the first thing that came to mind, honest.)

Hope: Charity

Nihilism: Chaos

Children: Joy

Old Age: Terror

Meaningfulness: Truth

Courage: Dan Rather. See? There I go again. I swear. Okay, let me try
again: False

Jerry Springer: unworthy

the KINGDOM mini-series: unlocking

Faith: danger

Rape: fear

Wonder: bread

Banality: majority

TV: Kelley

Love: Valentine

Women: trouble

Prozac: Blue

History: fatigue

Vocation: despair

Mystery: fascination

Ecstasy: bliss

Your girlfriend: bright

Ego: Overblown

Neal Adams: Byzantine

Death: dankness

Longing: childhood

Belonging: solitude

Your kids: Non-existent

Laughter: release

the stars: hope

rest: impossible

piece of mind: impossible

the Law: unjust

Faces: smiling

God: unknowable

War: Rare Earth

Beauty: red

Bill Clinton: white

United Nations: babble

Jesus Christ: superstar

McDonalds restaurant: comfort

Your funeral: ashes

Mark Waid: dope

That's all, folks! How writing us with your own answers to these words. Remember, the very first thing that comes into your mind is the only acceptable answer. We look forward to reading your own responses!

With that we end our two-part Mark Waid interview. Other than that small group of bitter and lonely R.A.C.ers who will rant and rave about being slighted, I am sure all of you have enjoyed various tidbits of Mark's comments. He can be reached at:


speakmymind@democracy.com***

***this is a joke so don't bother sending it there :-)

You are a great guy, Mark. I enjoyed your promptness, friendliness, and forthrightness in giving the interview. Thanks again for the opportunity. Have a great time in Mexico enjoying a well-deserved vacation. Sometime in the future I hope to do a follow-up to see how you are doing.

Very special thanks again to Ray Randell for the "S-Shield" paragraph separator. It is much apreciated. Visit his website at:


KINGDOMS: The Art of Alex Ross

If any of you readers have questions, comments, or points of contention\appreciation, we'll be discussing this interview all month in the Fanzing Forum. Or, just click the image of the flash below and e-mail us! All letters are answered! Take care until next month.

This column is © 1999 by Bruce Bachand.

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