Comic Relief with Mark Waid

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In Comic Relief, Paste chats with some of the most influential writers and artists in comics about their work and the comics that inspired them.

The first thing Mark Waid told me is that Joe Kubert is dead. I called Waid the morning after Kubert’s death, not realizing the legendary artist was gone, and immediately heard about both his passing and the crass obituary DC Comics initially posted on its website. That obituary disgusted Waid, but he didn’t sound shocked or surprised. He was clearly angry but also sounded almost amused at how a company he is currently at odds with could so publicly and obliviously exhibit the type of behavior that fuels some of his most stinging critiques. Mostly he sounded resigned to the fact that the promise of a quick buck outweighs publishers’ respect for the creators who make their profits possible, even legendary artists responsible for some of the greatest comics ever published.

“They had an obituary that was loathsome, mentioning only Before Watchmen”, he said with contempt. Joe Kubert inked his son Andy’s pencils on Before Watchmen: Nite Owl, a controversial miniseries that is currently being published by DC, the company Kubert spent most of his career with. Despite decades of work for DC, it was the only comic mentioned in the first draft of obituary. The company quickly updated it, loading a more respectful version before my conversation with Waid ended.

“That’s like, ‘oh, rest in peace, Orson Welles, star of Transformers: The Movie”, I said. Waid pointed out that it’s more like ”’rest in peace, Orson Welles of Transformers: The Movie’, if Transformers: The Movie was in theaters that minute, and you could go buy tickets. It reads like a marketing shill. They changed it, though.”

Waid’s never been afraid to speak his mind, but the occasional candid comment or controversy can’t overshadow his body of work. The veteran writer and editor has written almost every major superhero at Marvel and DC, including notable runs on Captain America, JLA, The Flash and Fantastic Four. His best loved work might be the blockbuster Kingdom Come, which he co-wrote with artist Alex Ross, and he was one of the four writers of DC’s popular weekly comic 52 in 2006 and 2007. His editorial resume includes a stint at DC in the late 1980s and early 1990s (where he worked on Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s Doom Patrol, one of the finest comics ever published) and a three-year tenure as Boom! Studios’ Editor-in-Chief that ended in 2010.

At the San Diego Comic-Con this past July Waid won the Eisner Award for Best Writer for his work on Marvel’s current Daredevil series and the Boom series Incorruptible and Irredeemable. Daredevil also took home the awards for Best Single Issue and Best Continuing Series. In November Waid will write the exploits of the Hulk alondside artist Leinil Yu in the new ongoing Indestructible Hulk, and he currently writes Insufferable for the digital comics website Thrillbent. He keeps busy.

First Comic Written
Waid: Action Comics #572, an eight-page Superman story I wrote for [Julius] Schwartz.

Paste: Was that before you were an editor there?
Waid: It was. I was a 23-year-old kid and it was the greatest professional day of my life, to sell to Julie Schwartz.

Paste: How did you contact him?
Waid: I was working for fanzines at the time, interviewing professionals, and because of that… well Julie came up from fandom himself and he was always sort of predisposed to listen to fans and look among fandom to see who would be the next round of pros. I contacted him, but he was amenable to listening to ideas.

Paste: Has it gotten easier or harder since then for fans to contact an editor like that?
Waid: It’s become way too easy, between Twitter and Facebook and blog posts and message baords. Fans can contact editors night and day. Whether it does any good, I don’t know. In that sense it’s become easier to contact editors but at the same time DC and Marvel are owned by corporate monoliths and have no over-the-transom submissions guidelines, so it’s harder to sell your work that way.

First Comic Read
Waid: Batman # 180, one of the first ones to come out after the TV show hit in 1966. I was 3, my father brought it home, and I was entranced.

Paste: What happens in it?
Waid: It’s Batman vs. a guy in a skeleton costume called Death Man, who Grant Morrison recently brought back in Batman Incorporated.

Paste: Did Grant realize that was your first ever comic?
Waid: No. I think it was a lot of people’s first comics, because it was one of the first ones to come out right after the TV show, so the circulation on these things was bombastic. They were selling close to a million copies an issue, if not over a million.

Favorite Comic of All Time
Waid: It bounces back and forth, and my answer could change with the weather, but I think it’s probably Action Comics #500, which is a book-length story of Superman’s origin. It was drawn by Curt Swan. It’s a big 64 page story with all the Superman elements in it and all the Superman mythos and if I could take one comic to a desert island that’s the one.

Favorite Current Comic from a Publisher You Don’t Currently Work For
Waid: Batman Incorporated. I still say I always follow anything Grant does with the mainstream superheroes.

Artist You Haven’t Worked With That You Would Most Like To
Waid: I’d still love to work with John Romita Sr. at some point. That’s the dream. I don’t think that will ever happen because he’s long since retired and very particular about what little work he does do these days but oh my God the guy was phenomenal.

Paste: Did you ever work with Joe Kubert?
Waid: Sadly no. I’ve worked with his sons and met with Joe many times and was a huge admirer but sadly never had a chance.

Favorite Comic Book Movie
Waid: Superman: The Movie. Easily. Hands down. It’s not the best one, but it’s my favorite one, because it meant everything to me and changed my life when it came to thinking about comics and superheroes. The Avengers might be second. I also loved the first Iron Man and Spider-Man 2. Those might be the top four for me.

Craziest Fan Story
Waid: There are so many to choose from. Years ago I was asked to come up to do a store signing in Vermont. The short version is the two younger guys who own the store pick me up at the airport and start driving me around Vermont, showing me the sights and the textile mills and the restaurants, and the punchline is there’s no store. There is no store! They just took up a collection to buy a ticket to have me come up for the day and listen to them pitch their ideas and talk to them and host a comics creator. It was scary. I’d seen Misery, I know how this movie ends. But at the same time there’s nothing I can do about it. By the time I caught on to what was going on it was mid-afternoon, all the flights going back to New York were gone, I was resigned to it and just played along. It was an uncomfortable night. I got back to the hotel by 6:30. I was like an old man at 35 saying “oh it’s 5 we should eat, it’s 6:30 I should get back to the hotel.”

Paste: At least they had a hotel for you and didn’t expect you to sleep at their house.
Waid: There was at least that, although that has happened before, too. An unpleasant surprise. It’s always hard to negotiate those because you don’t want to be offensive. It’s not like people are always trying to skimp out on paying for a hotel, they’re trying to be gracious hosts, but just… ah, no.

Click over to Page 2 to read about Mark Waid’s take on Daredevil’s success, his ideal job within the industry, why he didn’t like the Fantastic Four growing up, and his opinion on the current state of the superhero comic.

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