Exclusive Danny Fingeroth Interview[Date: May 2007]
By Neal Bailey
Danny Fingeroth was the longtime Group Editor of Marvel Comics' Spider-Man line and has written many comics including "The Deadly Foes of Spider-Man" limited series, the "Avengers: Deathtrap: The Vault" graphic novel, and the entire "Darkhawk" series. He is the author of the books "Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Our Society" and the upcoming "Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero," both published by Continuum, and co-author (with Mike Manley) of "How to Create Comics From Script to Print," published by TwoMorrows. Danny is editor-in-chief of Write Now! Magazine, also published by TwoMorrows, the leading publication about writing for comics, and teaches at The New School, NYU, and the Media Bistro. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Superman Homepage writer Neal Bailey interviewed Danny Fingeroth about "Superman on the Couch"...
The Superman Homepage would like to thank Danny for agreeing to do this interview, and for fitting it into his busy schedule.
Q: You note in your book that a hero is someone who rises above their own fears and limitations to achieve something extraordinary, the best of ourselves. Why do you suppose, in a society that's capitalistic and dog-eat-dog by outside nature, our heroes are so pragmatic and altruistic?
Danny: In so-called real life, people are often forced by circumstances to compromise their ideals and ethics. What we admire about heroes, fictional and real, is that they seem able to rise above the petty concerns of the rest of us humans and do the right thing. What makes such stories the most compelling is when we get to go through the process of decision with the hero so we realize just what the character gives up by making the choices he or she does.
Q: What heroes do you feel best embody the spirit of heroism, and why?
Danny: In terms of superheroes, I'd have to go with the Superman and Spider-Man models. Spider-Man, especially, continually rises above his own personal needs so that he can do the right thing.
Q: Do you have any "heroes" that you feel misrepresent the aforementioned pragmatic spirit?
Danny: When the Punisher and Venom got their own titles--for understandable commercial reasons--despite the fact they were always portrayed as unstable killers, they certainly seemed to be "heroes" simply because they headlined their books and fought villains who were even worse than they themselves were. These headliners were characters who didn't kill just in self-defense, but who did it whenever they wanted to.
Q: You note in your book that a superhero has to have a special power, but it's also quite often a mainstay of a hero book to de-power a hero and show them behaving heroically, in an imaginary or an in-continuity tale. For instance, a few years ago Superman lost his powers in an insane asylum, but nonetheless fought to do his heroic duty. What's more important, the novelty of powers, or the heroic, altruistic nature of the hero?
Danny: They're equally important. But a set of powers and abilities without a person who possesses them is a robot. We like to be reminded that a hero's character is what makes him or her a hero. Of course, in a superhero comic, there then is the problem of how to give readers their regular dose of superheroics while telling such a story. The classic "Battle of the Baxter Building" Fantastic Four two-parter by Lee and Kirby is a classic solution to this problem. In it, the heroes simulate their powers mechanically, and the super-powered Daredevil helps them face the overwhelming forces arrayed against them by Doctor Doom, who has turned the defenses of the FF's own headquarters against them.
Q: Your book focuses on the agelessness and lack of change in the hero myths comics present. Why do you suppose this continues? Do you see it as a good thing, or a bad thing? If superhero comics were to suddenly make death permanent and establish a period of time and age, as many independent books do, do you think it would lead to new heroes regularly, or death of the form?
Danny: It's a moot point. No one is permanently killing the lead character in a multibillion dollar franchise like Spider-Man or Superman. The reasons the movies always go to Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Clark Kent/Superman is because these myths work and are known and loved by people the world over. Look how many characters have been Thor over the years. Look how many Supergirls there have been. The stories of these characters may be better or worse depending on the writers and artists telling them, but there is no real 25 words or less descriptions of who they are and what they're about. And you can bet when and if they do movies of these characters, Thor will be disabled physician Don Blake and Supergirl will be Superman's cousin and her secret identity will be Linda Lee Danvers.
Q: Following up on the holding pattern of character, what do you think of attempts to make comics linear and progressive in continuity, such as the Byrne Superman? What would you say to fans who prefer an ongoing story with ramifications that disallows a return to the status quo?
Danny: As I recall, Byrne's Superman reboot didn't radically change anything about the character. It simplified and streamlined some things and changed some details to his origin and about Krypton. I guess the biggest change was that is established the Kents were still alive. This was an interesting but not radical change. Superman could still be portrayed as an orphan (since Jor-El and Lara were dead) when a story called for it. But a kid could go from a Superman coloring book to a Byrne Superman without getting confused. Which is a good thing.
I'm sorry to sound like a broken record here, but the second part of your question really doesn't apply to the archetypes we're discussing. I think having stories about characters that age and change in real time is a great thing. I think there's an audience for it. But it will never happen with big-dollar franchise characters. Too many people depend on them financially. And, really, it's how the audience wants to see their characters. The audience for the Spider-Man movies hasn't read 25,000 superhero stories. They're not jaded with the archetypes. For them, superheroes aren't an obsession or even a hobby. They're a genre of entertainment they like to periodically enjoy.
Q: In the book, you discuss superheroes, and why they bring people the feeling of stepping in for world events that they can't control. That's a fair point. Superman, however, doesn't mess around in Iraq. He fought World War 2, but he hardly touch and subsequent military conflict. The medium retracts from controversial large fights, but takes on the metaphorical elephant in the room. Why do you think this is so?
Danny: Superman did little or nothing to fight the war beyond the covers of some of his comics in W.W.II. He battled saboteurs on the home front, but never fought in a real country in Europe. (There was that two pager in Look magazine where he defeated Hitler and Stalin, but that was never part of the official canon.) I think the companies quickly realized they had to sidestep the question of Superman fighting in WWII. If he was to participate, then why wouldn't the war be over in two days? Obviously, because Superman isn't real and couldn't stop a real war. Captain America, with more limited power, could fight regularly in skirmishes and battles in WWII because that wouldn't affect the overall outcome of the war. In modern wars which are almost never universally approved of, it's unlikely you're going to see a superhero take sides.
Q: A quick one: Where do you place Superman in the pantheon of superheroes?
Danny: At the pinnacle. He started it all and there wouldn't be a superhero genre, perhaps wouldn't even be commercial comic books without the character. (Art-comics is another story, and even there, the creators of such comics and graphic novels mostly started out reading Archie Comics and superhero comics.)
Q: You note that the general public doesn't think of the deconstruction and decompression storylines now popular in some circles as superheroes. I agree. Do you foresee the current modus in that regard continuing and becoming the standard people are writing in fifty years, or do you believe comics are heading back toward an open, unchanging series of storylines?
Danny: I have absolutely no idea.
Q: Following up on that, do you prefer the "six issue arc" phenomena that is embodied by said decompression?
Danny: I just like good stories that keep me wanting to come back for more. I don't care if they're one page or a thousand. I would say that it wouldn't hurt for there to be more visual recaps from issue to issue when these stories come out in monthly installments. A recap page of visual flashbacks that could then be removed for a collected edition would seem to me to be a good idea.
This interview is Copyright © 2007 by Steven Younis. It is not to be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author.
IntroductionThe Superman Homepage has had the pleasure of interviewing various Superman Comic Book creative people about their work.
Question and Answer Interviews:
- Interview with Christopher Priest about the Superman vs. Deathstroke story in Deathstroke #8 (November 2016)
- Interview with Sterling Gates about the 'Adventures of Supergirl' digital-first comic book series (January 2016)
- Interview with J. Michael Straczynski about Superman: Earth One - Vol. 3 - Writer J. Michael Straczynski talks to us about the third volume in the Superman: Earth One graphic novel series (February 2015)
- Interview with Jim Krueger - Writer Jim Krueger talks to us about his The Dark Lantern story in the Adventures of Superman comic book title (November 2013)
- Smallville: Season 11 Interview with Bryan Q. Miller - Writer Bryan Q. Miller talks to us about his work on the Smallville: Season 11 comic book title (October 2012)
- Supergirl Interview with Mahmud Asrar - Artist Mahmud Asrar talks to us about his work on the monthly Supergirl comic book title (July 2012)
- Superman/Batman Interview with Joshua Hale Fialkov - Joshua Hale Fialkov answers our questions about The Secret 3-part story in Superman/Batman #85-87 (July 2011)
- Supergirl Interview with Sterling Gates - Sterling Gates answers our questions about where Supergirl is headed post War of the Supermen (June 2010)
- Supergirl Interview with Sterling Gates & Jamal Igle - Adam Dechanel chats with the Supergirl comic book team about the Maid of Might (March 2010)
- Behind the Scenes of the Super Friends - Four part indepth look at the Super Friends comic book title with artists J. Bone and Stewart McKenny (February 2010)
- Interview with Landry Q Walker and Eric Jones - The writer and artist discuss Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade (May 2009)
- Interview with Elliot S! Maggin - Legendary Superman writer and novelist discusses his career (January 2009)
- Interview with J. Bone - Artist discusses Super Friends comic book (November 2008)
- Interview with Mark Bagley (September 2008)
- Interview with J. Torres - Writer discusses Legion of Super Heroes in the 31st Century #18 (September 2008)
- Interview with Jake Black (May 2008)
- Interview with Cary Bates (June 2008)
- Interview with Jack Briglio - Writer discusses Legion of Super Heroes in the 31st Century #14 (May 2008)
- Interview with Ken Pontac - Writer discusses Justice League Unlimited #44 (May 2008)
- Interview with Karl Kerschl (April 2008)
- Interview with J. Torres - Writer discusses Legion of Super Heroes in the 31st Century #13 (April 2008)
- Interview with J. Torres - Writer discusses Legion of Super Heroes in the 31st Century #11 (February 2008)
- Interview with Fabian Nicieza - Writer on Superman comic books (June 2007)
- Interview with Danny Fingeroth - Writer of the book Superman on the Couch (May 2007)
- Interview with Jesse McCann - Writer on the Krypto The Superdog comic books (December 2006)
- Interview with Matt Haley - Artist on the Superman Returns comic book movie adaptation (November 2006)
- Interview with Ethan Van Sciver - Artist on Superman/Batman (September 2006)
- Interview with Mark Verheiden on taking over the writing duties on Superman/Batman (April 2006)
- Interview with Matt Idelson on taking over as Superman group editor (March 2006)
- Interview with Jeph Loeb on Sam and Superman/Batman #26 (February 2006)
- Interview with Roger Stern (December 2005)
- Interview with Marv Wolfman (November 2005)
- Interview with Gail Simone (May 2005)
- Interview with Greg Rucka (April 2005)
- Interview with Brad Meltzer [Identity Crisis] (January 2005)
- Interview with Glenn Whitmore (November 2004)
- Interview with Jeph Loeb (September 2004)
- Interview with Karl Kerschl (September 2004)
- Interview with Ron Garney (September 2004)
- Interview with Greg Rucka and Matthew Clark (May 2004)
- Interview with Ed McGuinness (March 2004)
- Interview with Brad Meltzer [Identity Crisis] (March 2004)
- Interview with Mark Millar [Superman: Red Son] (March 2003)
- Interview with Min S. Ku (September 2001)
- Interview with Jeph Loeb (May 2001)
- Interview with Joe Casey (April 2001)
- Interview with Mike S. Miller (September 2000)
- Interview with Denis Rodier (August 2000)
- Interview with Grant Morrison (December 1999)
- Interview with Mark Millar [Part 2] (November 1999)
- Interview with Mark Millar [Part 1] (April 1999)
- Superman vs. Terminator - A Chat with Fight Promoter Alan Grant. (January 2000)
- Superman: The Dailies (1939-1940) Graphic Novel Review.
- The Rebirth of Superman (Part 1) - Superman is reborn... again.
- The Rebirth of Superman (Part 2) - Eddie Barganza on taking the character in a new direction.
- The Rebirth of Superman (Part 3) - Jeph Loeb discusses writing the Man of Steel.
- Lex Luthor For President - Forget Superman. An updated Luthor's new enemies are Gore and Bush.
- Superman: Last Son of Earth - Steve Gerbern Interview - The writer discusses flip-flopping the Man of Steel's origin. (August 2000)
Krypton Club Interviews:
When Lois & Clark started production in 1993, there was an obvious relationship between the comic book people and the Hollywood people.
A trade paperback Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, was published, with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher on the cover. It included reprints of comic book stories that were the inspiration for Lois & Clark, helping to define the characters. Comic's included are: The Story of the Century (Man of Steel miniseries #2), Tears for Titano (Superman Annual #1), Metropolis - 900 mi (in SUP #9), The Name Game (SUP #11), Lois Lane (in ACT #600), Headhunter (AOS #445), Homeless for the Holidays (AOS #462), The Limits of Power (AOS #466), and Survival (ACT #665).
A number of comic book writers and artists had roles as extras in the episode I'm Looking Through You (Season one, episode 4). Their presence was immortilized in the Sky Trading Card #34.
Craig Byrne, president of the online Lois & Clark fanclub The Krypton Club, carried out a series of interviews with comic book writers. The interviews are reprinted with permission of the Krypton Club.
- Interview with Roger Stern (June 1995)
- Interview with John Byrne (June 1995)
- Interview with Mike Carlin (July 1995)