LETTERS. WE’VE GOT LETTERS!

From: Chris Thompson (cthompson@froggy.com.au) all the way in Australia:

What do you think of the current revival of 70s and 80s properties throughout the industry?! If we look back it kinda started with Star Wars which returned to comics, then went to G.I. Joe, Transformers, Thundercats, etc. Are these valid books and properties to you?! Are they good, bad or indifferent for the industry?!

Long answer for a short question. Back in the 80s, when I was senior editor at DC, I was the one pushing TV and movie based comics, new stories, not just adaptations. It was my belief then and now that if you’re a comic book publisher you are first and foremost a publisher. A publishers job is to publish material that makes money. Editorial exists to make sure the product they publish is good.

Back then I pushed for DC to do Star Trek and “V,” now a pretty much forgotten SF series that ran for a season or so. In selling them the idea of publishing these books I came up with the term “Hit And Run Comics.” There are properties that would be incredibly popular for a year or so on TV, but if they worked in comic book form, too, the comic could, if done really well, keep its audience for longer. After all, a TV show reaches millions of people and a comic book – at that time at least – a hundred thousand or so. The idea of “Hit And Run Comics” was that we would pay close attention to the sales of the books and as soon as they started to decline, they would be cancelled, probably faster than one would cancel one of the publisher’s own titles.

The audience for TV and movie tie-in comics is very fickle, so you wouldn’t want to stick with a book to the point it loses you money. Get in then get out, but while you’re there do a great job. The reason to do a good job is not only personal pride but because every book contributes to the overall impression a company gives its audience. Just because a comic is a tie-in, that doesn’t give it an excuse to be bad or slip-shod. For many companies, media tie-in comics are books that are reluctantly done with B-level talent put on them. The reason for that is the thinking that if the talent was A-level they should be working on company books. I disagree. Dark Horse, for instance, does a great job with their Star Wars, Tarzan, Buffy and other licensed books simply because they put the best people they have on those comics.

Anyway, I believe in tie-in books. I see nothing wrong with Transformers, Thundercats, GI Joe, or any of them. In fact, they are serving to get people into the comic shops who aren’t reading comics otherwise, which is good. Anything that can get people into the store on a regular basis is good. Will they continue to sell well? Doubtful. Tastes change. But then I’ve worked on various Transformers animated shows for 15 years, on and off, and the interest for those giant robots never seems to go away. So, yes, these are good books for the industry. And, as long as they remain well done – I don’t read them so I can’t talk about the quality – they will attract some audience. Maybe not as big as it has today, but we should all hope that good books find their readership, whether we’re personally interested in those book or not.

From: Jerry Scanlon.

Regarding your column, I disagree with your position regarding those columns that expose the "behind the scenes" workings of the industry. I believe some of them are beneficial and provide a positive service, not just to the fans, but to professionals who otherwise might not have an opportunity to tell their side of a story. In the days of Stan and Jack and Roy, all we ever got was the "official" version of events from the House of Ideas.

Either I didn’t phrase my comments correctly or you misunderstood them. I love the behind the scenes articles. Hell, I’m writing this column, aren’t I? Twomorrow’s Comic Book Artist, Alter Ego, Jack Kirby Collector, Etc. are my favorite publications these days. If you’re not getting them, do so.

What I don’t like is the behind the scenes griping, name calling, personal attacks and complaining that a lot of people do. Talk about the books, movies, etc. Complain about them, etc. All grist for the mill. I just don’t want to see all the personal attacks I often see or read about. It does nobody any good.

From: "Lars Jensen" <lpj@forfatter.dk>Hi Marv.

I seem to recall you in one of the early issues of New Teen Titans had
Doctor Light say that five was the optimum number of members for a super-villain group. Was that just a handy way of explaining why there were only five members of the Fearsome Five (apart from the name, obviously)? Or was it a reflection of your experience from writing teams (be they heroes or villains)? If it was just a handy explanation, then what *is* the optimum number? Is there one? And if there is, does it depend on the format of the book - might a team's optimum number of members be lower if it is slated to appear in, say, a pocket-sized comic book rather than a standard-format one?

I don’t remember why I wrote that line, Lars, except to say that I tended to try to write funny dialogue for Dr. Light who I thought was an incredibly powerful villain, but so mindnumbingly stupid even the Atom was able to beat him up. That said, five is a good number for a group because you can really mix and match powers, attitudes, etc. and no get lost in the process, as it would be easy to with something like The Legion of Super-Heroes, one of the few DC books I never wanted to write. Still, the Titans had seven members and sometimes more than that, and I don’t think we had any problem playing off all of them.

From: Richard Renteria (rrenteria1@social.rr.com)

I have been reading comic books for over 15 years, but abandoned them for the last five due to what I considered poor quality stories and storytelling. Having just returned to the fold - thanks to Joe Q and the gang at Marvel - I would like to know what Marv Wolfman reads and perhaps recommend to this returning reader. Comics aren't my only reading material by a longshot, I enjoy books and the daily paper, but because all my comic preferences are Marvel titles I would like a recommendation for non-Marvel titles. Oh yeah, one more thing, I personally have enjoyed many of your stories and titles, mainly because the storytelling flowed so well, (at my peak collecting - Teen Titans was the only non-Marvel book I read and I got hooked on that thanks to the team-up with the X-Men - and yes I did hunt down back issues after that great story) who taught you how to tell a story properly, is there a trick or do you "just do it"?

Sad to say, Richard, I read almost no comics these days except DCs (and their various imprints). I read a number of DCs collected editions (DCU & Vertigo) and almost all their Archives, which are wonderful. I still follow Superman and a very few other super-heroes. At Marvel, the only comic I buy is Joe Stryczynski’s Spider-Man. I occasionally read other comics, Like Bone, etc. especially when they are either sent to me or recommended by people whose taste I trust. I used to read everything, but most of the books aren’t being written for me (nor should they) so it’s not surprising that I don’t follow them.

As for writing. I pretty much am self-taught when it comes to writing. I spent a lot of time analyzing story structure. I’ve had a few really good editors over the years tell me where things went wrong and what I should concentrate on, but I’ve never had what is called a mentor who guided me and showed me the way. About 14 years ago I took a movie structure writing course, but that only reinforced what I had been doing rather than learning something new. I believe stories should have a natural flow to them, that one scene should lead seamlessly into the next, and I try to construct my stories so, more often than not, that happens. I don’t like stories that aren’t about the characters, so I tend not to do solely plot-driven stories. My basic rules of writing are: characters must drive the plot and, if there is something in your story that does not advance the story and the characters, preferably at the same time, get rid of it.

From: kpierc72@earthlink.net

How did the entire concept of the Teen Titans came about? Was it DC's intention for it to complete with the X-Men or was it a surprise hit? Had you and George Perez always had the idea of Cyborg, Raven and Star fire, back in Marvel? Why did DC not include firestorm within the Teen Titians. Who had come up with the concept of Nightwing?

I will assume you’re asking about The New Teen Titans and not the original group. I don’t know who created that group – it could have been the editors or the writer, Bob Haney. Maybe someone out there knows? As for my group, I was leaving Marvel and coming over to DC (in those days you could only work for one company and not both) and was getting my assignments. My only request was no team-up books, so, naturally, I was assigned to DC Presents and Brave & Bold, both team-up books. Therefore, my first order of business was to get off those titles.

Len Wein and I had written a story or two for the original Teen Titans way back in the late 60s, and I always had a warm spot for those characters, so I asked Len – who at this point had become an editor at DC – if we could revive the title. I went home and came up with the characters, so, no, there was not always a Starfire, Cyborg or Raven. You can read my introduction for the first Teen Titans Archives to see how they came about. Len and I went into publisher Jenette Kahn’s office and pitched my idea. Jenette said she did not like the previous version of the Titans and therefore wasn’t hot on the idea, but we said we’d do it better. Honestly, that’s all we said. Jenette, who trusted us, said fine.

As I fleshed out the characters I ran into Geroge Perez at the Marvel offices. I mentioned to him that I was working on a new version of the Titans and would he be interested in drawing it. George thought the book would last maybe a half dozen issues, and there was a chance he could also draw the Justice League, which was the book he really wanted to do, so he said yes. George then designed the look of each and every one of the characters.
We showed Jenette what we had done and she liked it so much she decided we should do a 16 page original Titans story that they would put in free in DC Presents #26 to get people interest.

The first Titans ads went out announcing the new group. We immediately got in hate mail from the fans chastising us for creating new characters instead of using only the original Titans. They swore they were not going to buy any book that didn’t feature the ‘real’ Titans. After New Teen Titans #1 came out, we got letters from those very same fans telling us we were the best thing since sliced bread. That taught me then and there to always write what I believed was right and not to buckle under pressure. If we had, then Starfire, Cyborg, Raven and the others would never have been created.

As for Nightwing, I always believed Robin should be more intelligent and ‘real’ than he had been portrayed in Batman. So we morphed Robin into Nightwing and allowed Batman to create a new Robin.

Speaking of Titans…

From Peter Milan, (further@further-adventures.com)


Lemme get this straight...there's 80 pages of a Wolfman & Perez graphic novel just lying around somewhere, and DC isn't interested in publishing it? That sounds like quite the easy sell.

Yeah, Peter, you’d think. It’s called “Games,” and George had drawn approximately 80 pages of its 120 or so pages. I always felt we could get someone else to finish it up. I still do.

That’s it. See you in seven.
-Marv

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