Pergs. & Resps.
Gibi por gibi
ALÉM DOS GIBIS
Interview by: Lucio Luiz
(March, 7th, 2005)
When did you start to work in comics?
Before I work in comics, I worked in a bank and also as an editor for a scottish publisher. In fact, I had a successful career as a freelance writer of girls’ romantic stories long before I started to work in comics. But comics were always my first love, and it was a dream come true when I sold my first story (to a UK comic called Starlord) in 1979. Later that same year, I was hired as assistant editor on Britain’s top comic, 2000AD. I stayed there for about 18 months or two years before I left to go freelance. I started to work with american comics in 1987 in Detective Comics #583, but I prefer comics like 2000AD, which have a much better sense of humor than most superhero comics. Lobo is more like a 2000AD character than a DC character.
The first time you wrote a story with Lobo was in L.E.G.I.O.N. #3. The character also did an appearance in Justice League (a bit different from the Omega Men appearances). Why did you and Keith Giffen decide to use the character in L.E.G.I.O.N.?
It was Keith’s decision, not mine. I’d never even heard of Lobo at that point. When I read the Omega Men, I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was for. Even when Barry Kitson drew Lobo in L.E.G.I.O.N., I couldn’t see that he would ever be a very popular character. It was only when I saw Simon Bisley’s sketches that I suddenly realized how great Lobo was.
Did you and Keith Giffen work together before L.E.G.I.O.N.?
No, L.E.G.I.O.N. was the first time we worked together. Keith had seen my work on Judge Dredd, and thought I’d be a good addition to the Lobo team. We spoke on the phone quite a lot, but it was actually several years before Keith and I met up with each other. He is a very private person, and doesn’t usually attend comics conventions.
Did you imagine all the popularity Lobo reached?
No, not really. We thought it would be an average-selling comic book. But I guess Bisley’s hard-ass art, Keith’s weird storylines, and my dialog combined into something greater than the sum of its parts.
In 1991, for example, Lobo appeared in six comic books in the same month. For some time, Lobo co-starred many stories in many comic books. But, some time after the beginning of Lobo ongoing series, its appearances in DC Universe reduced. Which is your opinion on this?
Firstly, I don’t like to see any other writer except Keith and me writing Lobo. I feel that we know the character best, and that when other people write him, the result usually is not satisfactory. Secondly, both Keith and I argued that it was a mistake for DC to release Lobo on a monthly schedule. We wanted to keep the character to one mini-series a year, with an annual or special to back it up. We knew that to do the character monthly would require us to ‘tone down’ the nastiness quite a bit. But DC told us that if we refused to write it, they’d get someone else to do the job. That’s why I ended up doing it. As for why they cut down on Lobo appearances in other books... well, I have no answer to that. Comics editors (and publishers) do some strange things, and not all of them are logical.
The negative article about Lobo in the Wizard magazine cited also in Lobo #60-62 was really important for the cancellation of the ongoing series?
It was just a joke I used. I was disappointed Wizard chose to down on Lobo, especially as one of their main writers called me at home to say he disagreed completely with the feature.
After you stop write L.E.G.I.O.N., Barry Kitson started to do the scripts alone (he already had written some scripts with you). After him, Tennessee Peyer started to write L.E.G.I.O.N. and they became the R.E.B.E.L.S.. Only after all this, Lobo left the group. What did you think about the development of both writers with Lobo and L.E.G.I.O.N.?
I have to confess that I stopped reading L.E.G.I.O.N. when I stopped writing it. It’s never a good idea for a writer to continue reading something he’s been close to, after someone else has taken over. If Keith and I owned the copyright on Lobo, it would be different. But DC own the copyright, and they can do whatever they want with the character.
What did you think about the “Li’l Lobo” who appeared in Young Justice?
I thought: Bluuuurgh. The REAL L’il Lobo would have killed everybody else in Young Justice, except for the babes.
Do you already see the version of Lobo in the Superman or Justice League animated series?
Yeah, I’ve seen it. They got him almost right, but not nasty enough.
You wrote 100% of the stories in Lobo ongoing series and a lot of mini-series and specials. You also used Lobo in many editions of The Demon. Actually, you wrote exactly 174 comic books where Lobo appeared in some way. How do you feel when you write this character?
I’ve never counted them up before, so thanks for that! I have a copy of every Lobo comic I ever wrote, but they’re not in chronological order. I love writing Lobo. He makes me laugh, and I figure that means he’ll make other people laugh as well. Since DC cancelled the book, I have really missed writing Lobo, even more than I missed writing Batman. But, according to what Keith told me, Lobo is now an official part of the Wildstorm Universe and I think Keith and I will be working (probably with Simon) on more Lobo projects in future.
Who created (and what means) the terms “frag”, “bastich” and “feetal’s gizz” from Lobo comics?
“Frag” means fuck and was taken from the slang of the Vietnam War (“frag” was short for fragmentation grenade). “Bastich” means bastard and came from a script by a guy who called himself Savage Pencil. I don’t know what “feetal’s gizz” means, but it’s the worst swearword in the czarnian language.
Can you tell something about the new Authority/Lobo Special?
Not very much, because I haven’t seen the plot yet. But Keith has written the plot, Simon is doing the art right now, and hopefully I’ll be doing the dialog very soon.
Is it true the DC Comics has some stories they never published?
Yes, it’s true they have some stories they never published. One is called “Gunfight At The OK Co. Mall”. It’s 24 pages, drawn by the british artist Shaun Thomas (who draws the new “Middenface” stories I’m writing for 2000AD). I really don’t know why they never published it. Another one for which they have all the artwork is “The Hand Job”. This was a sort of “sexy” story, where Lobo appears naked; the art was by the now-famous artist Frank Quitely (X-Men, now on Superman). If I remember correctly, “Gunfight” involved a big shoot-out at a shopping mall, where the main villain was (I think) Jonas Glim’s father and “The Hand Job” featured Lobo being hired to find the kidnappers of a Hugh Heffner-like figure, the publisher of the galaxy’s raunchiest porn mags. For about half the book, Lobo appeared naked. The climax of the story featured 10,000 asteroid miners masturbating. There may even be some others which I’ve forgotten about.
You created the excellent character Anarky and wrote many Batman stories which became popular (in Brazil, many editions of Detective Comics and Shadow of the Bat written by you had been published). Why did you stop write regularly both characters?
DC fired me off Batman. I don’t know why, because it was never really explained to me. I wrote the character for a solid 13 years, then got a fax in the middle of the night to tell me I was fired. That’s publishers for you. Anarky came out in its own monthly continuing series, which was a mistake. As with the Lobo monthly series, I argued that DC shouldn’t do it. As a non-super-powered teenager, it would be very hard to find a regular readership for Anarky (especially when Robin already had his own series). But as with Lobo, I was told that if I didn’t write it, they’d find somebody else. It’s a shame, because I really liked Anarky, too. He’s how I wish I was when I was 15 years old!
How is your relationship with fans?
Pretty good, I think.
What do you think about “fanfics” and other things created by fans?
I have no problems with them. I like to see people being creative.
Many children and teenagers read your stories, also some as Judge Dredd and Lobo, that bring violence. Are you worried about this?
No, not at all. Violence in comics and literature very rarely affects the reader in a bad way. It bothers me much more that children and teenagers can turn on their TV any day, and see british and US soldiers killing iraqis, or russians killing chechens, or drug squad helicopters dropping toxic chemicals on the fields of poor peasants. Most of the violence in the world is caused by politicians. I only wish that more comics would point this out to their readers.
Do you know something about the publication of your stories outside USA and UK?
I know that a lot of my Batman, Anarky and Lobo stories are very popular in spanish-speaking countries, probably because the people there have firsthand experience of military juntas. South American people in general have a much keener grasp of politics (and the inevitable corruption that goes with politics) than any US or UK fan. I know from my DC royalty statements that my comics sell throughout Europe, as well as South America, Australia and sometimes (like Lobo) to China.
You are well known in Brazil as comics writer, but your novels were never translated into portuguese. Can you tell a little about your work in this area?
I was originally a writer of text stories (romantic ones). In 1982, John Wagner and I decided to try and break into the books market. We wrote several collections of short stories which were released as anthologies by UK publishers (“The Big Book of Astounding Science Fiction Stories”, “Detective Stories” and other similar titles). But we found that the books paid less than comics work did, so we soon forgot about them. It wasn’t until 1989 that I was asked to write a novel: the kids’ book version of the first Batman movie. I followed this with junior novelized versions of the other Batman movies. I also wrote an original Robin novel called “Facing The Enemy”. That led to a JLA novel called “The Stone King”, aimed at adults. Then I did a Hawkgirl children’s novel, which I don’t think has been published yet. My latest novel is “Final Sons” for Warner Books, 75,000 words, starring Lobo, Martian Manhunter and Superman. In this novel, Lobo has a warrant on Martian Manhunter, and takes him in for trial.
Superman tries to free his martian friend. The villain is the Alpha, an artificial intelligence last seen as Mr. Starr in the pages of L.E.G.I.O.N.. It should be on sale march/april 2005.
Beyond comics and literature, did you already work or have projects in other medias?
No. But now I work for television (I’m the only British writer working on the “Ace Lightning” CGI series for Alliance Atlantis in Canada). I wrote the script for the Action Man “Robot Atak” CGI movie. I’m also co-creator and scriptwriter on a CGI movie called “Dominator” (check out the website: www.rengamedia.com). I’ve also worked on a number of computer games.
For speaking in games, did you have some involvement with the Lobo game that Kemco Games would launch, but cancelled? And about the Judge Dredd games?
No, I had no involvement with either the Dredd or Lobo games. They might have been more successful if I’d been asked to help out.
What did you think about the movies based on characters you wrote, like Batman, Judge Dredd and Tank Girl, for example?
All of these three movies were crap. Batman was beautifully filmed, but had the wrong man (Michael Keaton) as Batman. Judge Dredd had good SFX, but again they got the wrong actor to play the part: Sly Stallone is NOT Judge Dredd. And Tank Girl was just a disaster. The problem is that movie writers have to try to appeal to a much wider audience than comic writers. To do this, they usually change the aspects of the character that made him or her famous in the first place. In Batman, everything was SFX and high technology. In Judge Dredd, they hid the fact that Dredd is a fascist. In Tank Girl, they just made a mess.
And about the project for the Lobo movie?
All of the scripts I saw for the proposed Lobo movie were crap. As with Dredd and Batman, they tried to change Lobo’s character so he’d have appeal to a mass audience. In one version I saw, they even had Lobo become a bounty hunter because he needed cash to pay for his old grandmother’s medication. I wrote to the producer and told him if this was really Lobo, he’d eat his grandmother.
Looking at everything that you made in your career, from what are you more proud of?
Lobo: “The Paramilitary Xmas Special”; Batman: “Tulpa”, featuring Etrigan the Demon, around Detective Comics issues #601-603; Judge Dredd: “Democracy”; Judge Anderson: “Satan”; Anarky: The first 4-issue mini-series.
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I don’t read a lot of comics (or books of fiction) in case I find myself stealing other writers’ ideas. I read a lot about philosophy and science. I climb hills. I work in my garden. I play with my grandkids. My wife and I run an annual comics festival in our village: the Moniaive Comics Festival, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland. We started it 5 years ago, when much of Scotland was hit by foot-and-mouth disease. Overnight, our village almost died as farm workers and forestry workers were thrown out of work. We started the festival to try to bring tourists back to the village. We get an even split. About 600 adults (who pay) and 600 kids (who get in free). We run writing, drawing and animation workshops. Star names like John Wagner, Jason Brashill, Cam Kennedy, and dozens of others turn up, at their own expense. It’s the only comics festival in Britain that gets lots of kids attending. Our next one is September 3rd and 4th.
Some time ago you created a publisher, the “Bad Press”. What happened to this project?
We created Bad Press to publish “Shit the Dog”, with art by Simon Bisley. Unfortunately our distribution deal fell through, so we ended up losing money on it. But Bad Press is still in existence. I do a lot of my ‘joke’ work via Bad Press and later this year we intend to launch a new “adult” comic, aimed mainly at dopesmokers.
Did you already visit Brazil?
I spent 3 or 4 days in Brazil a few years ago, at the Iguaçu Falls. We stayed in an expensive hotel, so didn’t really get the chance to meet ordinary people. We went whitewater rafting instead. I’d love to come back some day.
Entrevista em português / Interview