The Mark Waid interview

markwaid
Everyone is talking about this career-spanning interview with writer/BOOM! EIC Mark Waid at AICN. In a comics media drowning in promotional interviews, the long, in-depth interview is a thing of the past (or a TwoMorrows publication) but this one pulls out the stops, and Waid spells out his version of some of the most colorful comics incidents of the past decade, like…Crossgen:

[Mark Alessi's] idea of creative guidance was to; quite literally, scream until he was red in the face that there wasn’t enough detail on the page and that he wanted to see every single blade of grass, Goddamnit! He’d punish guys who drew perfectly well without his help by focusing on some detail or another on one of 22 pages–some face that somehow wasn’t exactly what he saw in his head, whatever the hell that was–by berating them at the top of his lungs and then sending them home for the day, “and don’t come back until you can draw it right!” That, people, is art directing at its finest. Despite his inappropriate behavior, which was deservedly notorious, there were some damn good Crossgen books put out–but I swear to you, none of them were issued by Crossgen so much as escaped FROM Crossgen.


And…the Jemas Years at Marvel:



Bill Jemas, along with Joe Quesada, gets and deserves all the credit in the world for making Marvel Comics vital again for the 21st century. And Joe was always very supportive, is very supportive, of my work. Bill, on the other hand, handed down marching orders pretty much out of the blue to Brevoort that he didn’t like our direction, and he dictated to Tom a whole new concept for the FF–which was to take the “Fantastic” totally out of the series. First off, said Bill, the whole family had to move to the suburbs. Immediately. No explanation necessary. Reed was to be a wacky, scatterbrained inventor who kept coming up with cool stuff (like “waterless fish tanks,” whatever those were) that had no commercial applicability, meaning the family was living check-to-check. Ben was working construction. Johnny was a fireman, and–and this is the best one, please sit down for this–Sue was a beleaguered secretary who would go invisible every time her boss was looking for her. No, no, no, not a super-spy; that would make too much sense. No, a secretary. Oh, and their “super-villain arch-enemy” was the suspicious neighbor next door who thought there was something weird about these people. Gladys Kravitz.


And, the one you’ve been waiting for…the Crisis years:

The biggest challenge was actually, wisely, kept from us by Steve [Wacker, original editor on 52]. EIC Dan Didio, who first championed the concept, hated what we were doing. H-A-T-E-D 52. Would storm up and down the halls telling everyone how much he hated it. And Steve, God bless him, kept us out of the loop on that particular drama. Siglain, having less seniority, was less able to do so, and there’s one issue of 52 near the end that was written almost totally by Dan and Keith Giffen because none of the writers could plot it to Dan’s satisfaction. Which was and is his prerogative as EIC, but man, there’s little more demoralizing than taking the ball down to the one-yard line and then being benched by the guy who kept referring to COUNTDOWN as “52 done right.”


But there are also some happy moments:

I really enjoy teaching and I love working with new talent because–and I mean this honestly and truly–it’s just as important to me to learn from them as it is to pass along what I know about craft.

See, that’s what it’s about. It’s about teaching craft. It’s about being able to explain to newcomers what’s unique about the medium and how best to use its strengths and how to avoid its weaknesses, because I don’t care how big your Hollywood budget is, there are still things that comics can do that no other medium will be able to do–not the least of which is hand the pace at which a story is absorbed over to the reader totally, making comics a subtly but truly interactive experience in a way not often defined.


While many may see the interview as yet another act of bridge burning by Waid, the truth of the matter is that the production of ANY comic book, movie, TV show, or other collaborative widget is a story in itself. Sometimes the stories are real soap operas. Sometimes everyone holds hands and sings “Kumbaya.” In 15 years or so, all of this will be fodder for long interviews in whatever iteration of TwoMorrows exists then.

Bonus: Savage Critic has a rather hilarious cartoon up about the interview.

Comments

  1. Nate Horn says:

    The two things that strike me from that interview are:

    1) I don’t understand guys like Alessi and DiDio. They’re not just in comics, they’re in every business. Horrible, terrible managers who have no idea or desire how to manage people or a business. I had a manager once who would routinely yell at me for using the wrong shade on a spreadsheet but who would turn around and lecture me on professionalism. There’s no reason to ever yell at anyone at work.

    2) Mark Waid is a class act who should be emulated by everyone in their professional demeaner. While it’s a lot of fun to go on the web and play a jerk as a break from real life, in your actual career job, you should be a gentleman or woman to everyone. Waid always is and it’s no surprise he has so many professionals who respect him.

  2. Steven R. Stahl says:

    My most vivid memory of Waid is his response to my criticism, posted on CompuServe, of the depiction of Mantis as a sadist in Marvel’s “The Crossing.” Waid stated that the storyline was going to be terrific.

    I wonder if Waid has ever reconciled the conflict between his roles as EIC of BOOM! and as one of the work-for-hire writers of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

    SRS

  3. Hmmm… so, who have been the best EICs at Marvel/DC?

    (And Mark Waid is a nice guy. Just wish he’d write a book on writing…)

  4. (And Mark Waid is a nice guy. Just wish he’d write a book on writing…)

    After reading quotes like these, I’m beginning to wish he’d write a biography…

  5. I would say that my experience of working with Mark surely falls into the “Kumbaya” category.

  6. Alan Coil says:

    Mark Waid will never work in this industry again!

    ;)

  7. Man, that interview sure burned his bridges at Crossgen. He’ll never be allowed to work for them again!

    Alessi is something we see in comics from time to time – someone who thinks that comics is easy, that all you have to do is apply “real” business techniques to it and bam, it’ll be a success, and that’s what holding comics back is the lack of real businessfolk.

    What they tend to find is that comics is work, that Marvel and DC have achieved what they have through an awful lot of talent and energy and having the momentum to ride out failed experiments, and that the businessfolks in comics, while not generally geniuses, are not particularly worse than in other businesses. Having success in some other business does not automatically confer on you the tools to be a success in comic. This education tends to be an expensive one…

  8. jamesmith3 says:

    @Torsten: Waid is dropping a little science on writing over at kfmonkey.blogspot.com

  9. Are there any good articles on the rise and fall of Crossgen out there? I was about to comment on their stupid comic DVD things and then realized I was actually pretty out of loop regarding what probably killed the company. While I’m sure the stupid DVDs didn’t help, for all I know it could’ve been how CrossGen expanded its line too quickly or any number of other things.

  10. Don’t forget to check out http://www.markwaid.com too!

  11. Quite the media tour for Mark Waid these days.

    Every couple of weeks I seem to be reading variations on his Crossgen exprience and the now-familiar “someone done me wrong” songs of his most recent stint with DC.

    Genial, hard-working guy….but how many more times does somebody have to ask him about Impulse, Superman: Rebirth, or Wally vs. Barry?

  12. Uh, that would be “Superman: Birthright”. I knew it was “birth” something or other.

    (at least I didn’t type “Superman: Afterbirth”…which would have been an entirely different mini-series).

  13. Nat, if I had a dollar for every time I heard somebody say that “in the real world,” people in comics “would be fired in a second,” I’d… Well, I’d have the money to start my own comics company.

  14. Lucky me, then. I bought that “a dollar for every time” policy, and struck it rich when the Internet had everyone explaining that nothing is ever, ever late in any business besides comics. So now I’ve got my own comics company!

  15. Bill Mitchel says:

    Thanks Heidi! Mark was my second interview for AICN and I am working on more. Career-spanning candid interviews ARE sorely missing and was my intent with this and future pieces. I am glad it’s getting such a big response. I lobbed the pitches to Mark but he nailed them out of the park! I can’t thank him and Chip at Boom enough for doing the interview with me.

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