The New Gods Library
Interview with Walt Simonson
Conducted by Sean Walsh via email, Late 2002
SEAN WALSH: Twenty-five issues. Quite a ride in today's market. If you'd known ahead of time you would only have a 2-year run, do you think you would have done anything differently?
WALTER SIMONSON: The only thing I really have any second thoughts about is the opening of the series. I do wonder a little if I should have started the run with a simpler story and then worked in the somewhat complex subplots afterwards. I chose to begin with several threads that I eventually wound together but there was a degree of complexity right in the beginning and for an audience generally unfamiliar or unsympathetic to the New Gods, I might have begun my storylines in a less challenging fashion. On the other hand, the richness of Jack's creation is one of the real charms of the Fourth World material. And the overall direction of the series and the stories I told wouldn't have been any different if I'd known in the beginning I was going to be doing a two-year run.
I had an idea about telling a story involving Orion's fall and redemption using the Anti-Life Equation, a story that I felt nobody had really told before, and I was very pleased with the way it all turned out in the end.
SW: On a similar note, the most common complaint I've seen online about the New Gods stories has been "I never really liked them before." Did you feel the baggage of prior depictions of the characters made it difficult to attract new readers?
SIMONSON: I think that that was part of the mix. I don't think I felt the baggage of specific prior depictions very much creatively as far as my own writing or drawing was concerned. But I think there is a wariness on the part of many readers regarding the Fourth World characters in general, a wariness I'm guessing that springs in part from the sporadic publishing history of the characters over the years and perhaps from the inconsistencies of the various portrayals I got more than one comment from folks suggesting that the New Gods were 'too 70's' or 'too old-fashioned' or 'too-whatever'. People often seemed to have some reason, however vaguely expressed, for not reading ORION and I didn't seem to be able to give them enough of a reason to overcome that reluctance.
But I did get the occasional comment from readers who remarked that they'd never liked the New Gods before and somehow, they found ORION interesting. That was fun.
SW: Many of the newer generation of comic writers have gone on record as saying the future of comics is in self-contained graphic novels and limited series (as opposed to ongoings). Do you have an opinion on the subject?
SIMONSON: Only that I go back to a era where that wasn't the case and in many ways, I enjoy doing stories that don't fit a graphic novel/limited series paradigm. I've certainly done my share of both but I really enjoy the possibilities of longer, more complex stories that monthly titles offer. I can't think of any way I could have done a 25 issue story, a part of the biography of Orion, in a graphic novel or limited series format. Maybe in a really LONG limited series. The work I did on both THOR and the FANTASTIC FOUR was structured by the on-going format of the monthly comic and I like the intricate but open-ended dance of monthlies.
SW: Detailed visibility into multiple profit and loss statements and ERPs across more than 300 legal entities and nearly 500 ledgers The same creators often deprecate the idea of "work-for-hire" comics, preferring to work almost exclusively in creator-owned or what has become known as "creator participation" works. Do you feel that the industry is heading to a more creator-centric model, and if so, is this to it's benefit?
SIMONSON: I don't know. I see a benefit in terms of business for creators if this is indeed the direction the industry is moving in. After all, creator-owned work that is successful might remain in print, helping to earn a creator income for many years. And if the work continues to find an audience, the income is likely to be greater than that generated by occasional reprintings from any of the major companies. It may be that successful book authors and their work will provide a model in that direction. And of course, creator-owned material could provide a licensing revenue stream to creators well beyond the possibilities offered by a work-for-hire structure.
Deprecating work-for-hire material might be done on a business basis. I haven't seen any real basis for deprecating it creatively. I don't see any substantial evidence that merely because a comic is creator-owned, it is automatically a superior piece of work to work-for-hire comics. I've seen a lot of good and bad material from both models. It may be that in the long run, creator-owned material will become substantially better because of the economic incentives that are possible, thereby attracting more and more of the best talent. I don't think we've reached that point yet.
SW: Alternatively, many comics fans, on hearing of Orion's cancellation, automatically assumed you would pick up another DC or Marvel title, such as Aquaman, or a second run on Thor. Do you feel, at this stage in your career, that this is likely, and if so, are there any characters that you would like to work on (or, perhaps, revisit) if offered?
SIMONSON: At this point, I don't know. I'm not especially eager to jump right back onto a monthly comic. I put a lot into ORION and I think I could use a little time to recover and recharge. For the moment, I think I'll content myself with a few shorter projects and then see where that takes me.
SW: Are there any writers or artists you would give your eyeteeth to work with?
SIMONSON: Eyeteeth? Can't think of any offhand although I would love to draw a story written by Peter O'Donnell some day. (He is the writer/creator of Modesty Blaise and one of my personal favorites.) I think that rather unlikely but it sure would be fun. And there are a lot of other writers/artists I would enjoy working with but at this point, I just sort of take it as it comes. But I am doing something with Michael Moorcock right now and that's a real treat for me.
SW: What was it like working with Stan Lee on Sandman?
SIMONSON: Breezy and really enjoyable. Stan was easy to work with and the soul of cooperation. I made a couple suggestions regarding plot and they were incorporated right into the story. We traded a few phone calls and e-mails during the course of the project and had a good time. It was fun.
SW: I understand your next work will be a issue for CrossGen. Might this lead to further work with them down the road?
SIMONSON: I don't know but it's certainly possible. I enjoyed working for them and as far as I can tell, they were happy with the work that I turned it. I did issue #5 of THE PATH. The coloring that Mike Atiyeh did looked just lovely on the computer screen and in print, I think it was one of the best coloring jobs I've gotten.
SW: How is Weezie doing? Does she have any projects in development?
SIMONSON: Weezie's just finished a couple of juvenile novels for DC, novels based on the JLA cartoon series on the Cartoon Network. One was a Superman novel and the other was a Wonder Woman novel. She's currently waiting for notes to come back on the Supes story. No idea what the publishing schedule is on those books although I think the WW is due out fairly shortly. Supes some time next year I would think.
SW: Is there anything you'd like to reveal about your own future projects, post Path #5?
SIMONSON: I'm just starting a four issue prestige mini-series written by Michael Moorcock that will be a new story about Michael's best known character, Elric of Melniboné. The story will deal with a period during Elric's youth that Michael hasn't really covered before in his previously published novels and stories. And I'm just delighted to be able to help tell some stories about Elric that no one's ever seen or read before! It means I get to read 'em first!
SW: Any chance of seeing a New God or two pop up in your issue of the new "SOLO" series?
SIMONSON: Seems unlikely at this point. I'm arranging writers and stories right now so it'll probably be a bit still before I can answer this question with complete confidence. But I have just done a whole lot of New Gods and wouldn't mind going in a slightly different direction in SOLO. But I'm hoping to draw several stories written by other writers as well as drawing a story I would write myself.
SW: And finally, although I know you don't usually answer "X vs. Y" questions, but I must know....who'd win, Volstagg or Granny? In a pie eating contest, of course. *grin*
SIMONSON: Oh, well, in a pie eating contest...no contest. Volstagg.