Five Hundred Twenty-One Square Feet Without FurnitureAn interview with Greg Rucka and Matthew Clark on the Upcoming Adventures Run (Among Other Amusing Things)
[Date: May 7, 2004]
An introductory note: A lot of people are very critical of inserting oneself into your work, so if the fringes or the idea of an article and not just "the goods" bugs you, just skip ahead. The interview is very clearly labeled... I just learned a lot from my experience outside of the great words provided to me by Matthew and Greg, and figured I'd shout some of them out.
I'm walking around the Emerald City Comic Con towards the end of February, nervous as hell. I've got this agenda, you see. I'm trying to get a comic published. And I'm failing. As are most who try.
I'm the kind of guy who's nervous around people. I spend a lot of time writing, so it's hard for me to go to a convention center and meet people.
I throw my idea around to a few people, let them see what I'm about, and I'm feeling really down. You get that way when you try to pass your ideas around and people don't enjoy them or don't want to see them.
So I say to myself, "Well, that leaves Greg Rucka."
I had my copy of the first Adventures of Superman in Godfall, and I was already a fan from No Man's Land, so I figured it'd be a good way to spend an afternoon, waiting in line and talking to the guy.
I walk up to the tables in the back where they're signing, and there's a good 100-150 people in line next to Rucka. I'm thinking, "My God." Then I look, and the reality of the matter is that there are 150 people for Brian Michael Bendis, and Rucka is sitting next to him.
I think to myself, "Well, that's oddly disproportionate."
Bendis is a nice guy, the patron saint of the Ultimate line, but I mean, Greg Rucka is writing SUPERMAN! SUUUUUUUUPERMAN.
Why is the line for the writer of Superman shorter than for Brian Michael Bendis?
Well, the same reason that the line to meet Clay Aiken would likely beat the one to meet Richard Rorty. Discernment is marked in dollar signs. Regardless, I knew my line.
I'm one of those guys who gets laughed at when picking up my comics for standing by the Man of Steel and being enamored of the writers and artists that make him what he is, even while critically reviewing them. I cannot conceptualize that Superman comics are low in value, typically, for the last ten years, and that Superman writers and artists are not the most popular in comics.
So I wait through the line, and I meet Mr. Rucka. He's a casual guy in a flannel, laughing, smiling. He signs my book:
It says, "Neal - This is my first Superman signature ever. Greg Rucka."
I have a few cool signatures. I got Brian Michael Bendis to sign 18 pieces while he was in town. I have a Loeb and McGuinness signed Superman/Batman #1. But this comic, this signature means the most to me in my entire, geeky collection.
To the right, you'll find the signature of Matthew Clark.
They did the backup story on this issue, a fantastic introduction of the new character Lupé Leocadio, the new LL on the block.
"You know, Matthew's right over there." Rucka points to the end of the Bendis line."
And then synapses fire as Rucka tells me, "The artist."
I had no idea Matthew Clark would be at the con. Bonus.
I asked Rucka for an interview with the Superman Homepage, and he agreed, handing off an email address. I told him thanks.
So I walk over and meet Matthew, who's also game for an interview. He shows me some of the pencils, and I'm just blown away. This guy does some photo realism the likes of which I have hardly seen in comics. Maybe from the Ian Churchill work on Superman #180, or an Alex Ross without the paint, but not at all in a bad way.
There's good stuff in the works, folks, I ascertain, and parrot as much in my next review.
Matthew hands me his email address, I thank him, and encouraged, I hit two more booths, actually get a few people to take my submissions.
The folks who took my submissions haven't called, but I don't think that's the point.
After a few emails, I've set up a meeting with Rucka and Clark. They say I can meet them both in Portland, during their weekly meeting, and talk with them over lunch.
I arrived with a backpack full of research, a brand new recording device, and a book, Rucka's A Fistful of Rain, which I started reading a few days previous. His style is tight, refined, there is attention paid to the words, conscious or unconscious. Speaking as an arrogant writer who likes to kick out good words in my best style, the guy whups me. Whups me real good. I like that. It's humbling and motivating. You read popular fiction after you've been writing a while, and usually you can see the trick, the failure, the duping the writers use to exploit the reader. Rucka is remarkable in how clean his work is.
His wife met me at the door, a nice lady named Jen. She has a baby on her hip.
"Is this Elliot?" I ask. They have a son.
Turns out she's swapped kids for the day, they're working on Greg's office. Descending, I note with amusement a really cool idea... they've put comics in a newsstand rack, to read at convenience and enjoy. Cool idea. Normal folks.
I'm relieved... it takes some gall to talk to someone you've read, admired, felt a bond with. And there, on his desk, the Tantive IV. Lego. I'm a Star Wars fan, so I say to myself, "Look, moron. NORMAL guy. Get over the barrier, or you won't be able to talk to him."
I think in a little bit of horror of a passage, a fair one, from A Fistfull of Rain, about when people stop being people and turn into fans. The main character has the police at her house for an act of violence perpetrated on her person, and after the investigation is all done, the police change into fans. I didn't want that barrier, and I didn't want to project the vulnerability of being just some fan boy. I wanted to get to the bottom of Rucka, learn him, maybe get a few tips on writing, publication, and the like. Few writers totally impress me, and I had the opportunity to meet one, so I wanted to be able to listen and not be insensate or foolish.
Then Greg arrived, and put me to ease.
And sure enough, after he arrived, he ended up calling the Lego people, because parts were missing. That too, has happened to me. He's a normal person, just like all of us.
I'm a low-level goon, and I work for this website, and I get a lot of mail, a number of fans. I get 60 letters a week, I feel like a celebrity. And sometimes, there are people who write in treating me like I'm that person, that famous person, that they're fans. And I always feel awkward, like, "Why would they think me this cosmic celebrity entity, and not just someone who puts their legs in their pants one at a time, sometimes even trips over them?" So if I, a low level goon, feel that way, how must it feel to be Greg Rucka, I wondered... and how annoying must it be when fanboys act as such?
But he just popped in, smiled, shook hands, and started showing me his house, like nothing. He put me right at ease, and I was able to talk with him right out.
His kid's got good taste, too. He likes Clone Wars, and has a really cool couple of Star Wars posters. I wasn't supposed to tell, but they're planning on turning his upstairs bedroom into a starship bedroom... and looking at the space they have, it totally would work.
We went to Peet's Coffee on the corner of 15th and NE Broadway in Portland, a bustling thoroughfare which reminds me quite a bit of my hometown of Tacoma Washington. Matthew was already there.
On the way, we talked about writing a novel, the shift from first to third person in between books. Stuff that likely would not interest you all, but I have to mention it because one of the reasons I write this introduction is to help you all understand that dynamic of inside/outside, to understand what I was feeling, what perhaps Greg Rucka, Matthew Clark, or maybe anyone whose work is viewed critically experiences.
I've written four books, but I have never spoken with another person who's written a novel for more than maybe five sentences, even in college with professors, if you can believe that. Those ten minutes, though Greg didn't know it, meant the world to me.
We spoke for a while on varying things, I looked over the sketchbooks, then I started up the tape recorder...
We're Not Here to Do It Backwards.Neal: Will the events of Birthright impact your take on the character?
Greg: Well, the announcement's been made, I think Mark came out and said Birthright is now the Canon origin, so of course it impacts.
G: Honestly, I'm not that concerned with it. I'm less concerned with the history than with moving forward. The history is there; it should be honored, it should be treasured. But we're not here to do it backwards. We're not re-writing Adventures of Superman #400. We're writing Adventures of Superman #630. That's not to take anything away from the past, but you know it goes to the continuity problem. That continuity serves... Geoff Johns has gone on about this at length and I agree with him. You should be able to mine the continuity, you should be able to tell people where it's at in the continuity, but continuity shouldn't keep you from telling a good story. And if it's doing that, then continuity's strangling you, and you have to kind of let it get free.
Matthew: It was, too.
N: You know, the more I think about it, 20/20 hindsight for those 6, 8 years, we were trained to want those triangles, to want that ongoing story, and we didn't know what life would be like without it. A lot of people were saying, "Look, it'd be good to just let the artists go." And I just didn't understand at that point.
N: Okay... (Laughs) What's the chance that Wonder Woman will guest star in Superman now that you're doing both (Interviewer's note: I had just been privy to some pictures from the upcoming arc, and one of the biggest and best parts of that viewing was the Matthew Clark take on Wonder Woman's first guest appearance.
(Laughter all around).
G: Well, I think you can actually say, YES, I think it's going to be solicited soon, so yeah. They're gonna crossover in ways that are unexpected.
M: That month, the Dave Hoover/Matt Wagner cover for Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman, he [Greg] did all for the same group doing Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.
G: I think it was either Batman, or... so that month Eddie Berganza and I have been telling Ivan that it's Wonder Woman, meaning that we wanted to do something in the books, and I was like, "Well, I'm using Batman and Wonder Woman that month. I could use Wonder Woman really validly in Superman that month, and I had a reason." I was having dinner with the Wonder Woman artist, and he was just trying to figure out a way of adding Superman into the Wonder Woman, and as a joke I just said, well why don't we just have him fly through, you know, fighting a monster and he just comes through and she's like, "Everything okay?" (URGENT:)"Yeah! FINE!" Yeah, of course they're gonna connect. They need to connect.
M: You don't be in the JLA, and have the writer writing Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, and have them not connect. I'm just glad I don't have to draw her (INTERVIEWER'S NOTE: He means regularly), because she's a hard character... (Laughs) And Greg's vision of Wonder Woman and my vision of Wonder Woman are... not quite the same. (Laughter on both sides.)
G: You know why? (Laughs)
M: Cause you're a writer?
G: Cause I'm writing Wonder Woman!
G: One of the reasons... the thing of why Batman and Superman are selling so well is because these characters belong... they should interact. They shouldn't interact so much in their own books that the books, you know, get taken over. That's why you have Superman/Batman.
M: Yeah, it was something like for years they did a lot of crossovers, so I think that hurt the credibility a little bit.
N: Yeah, they used to do a bunch every year, didn't they used to have some kind of arbitrary cross-over month as an experiment?
G: Yeah, the fifth week events, you know?
M: It was like from about 86... well, maybe 90, until about a year ago, you know, when you got your JLA book filled with third stringers. There was nowhere the three of them could be together.
The pencils for this run are just fantastic.
One of my big complaints on the Superman books of late is that Superman never just stops to regard the things that happen all around him. That happens often and well in what I've seen.
There's a complex dynamic that Rucka and Clark must balance, as a team. The fact that in twenty-two pages, it's near impossible to tell a complex story, and it's hard to entertain the more surly internet fans without degenerating to bash-em-up or gimmicks. Fans have little patience, thanks to television and the constant griping on the internet, to wait and give a run much of a chance.
I remember being an impatient fool once, ripping Loeb's Emperor Joker before I knew what he was about. I remember many times over my 225 some odd reviews where I've jumped the gun, gone nuts without reason, and I constantly remind myself to try to step back and be fair. Imagine the people who never try to step back, read, most everyone else. Most people lack such discretion, and though it might not seem so, the artists are conscious of this, and rightfully annoyed.
They offered me a unique perspective on this. Greg pointed out that people who review tend to editorialize on the future, before they've even seen the run, and I stepped back, and I said, "Damn, man. He's right." We do that.
So I encourage you all, as I will attempt to with my reviews, to offer that chance, particularly with these new teams. Give it a few issues, at least. Realize that good stories take time, and they have 22 pages.
I read Rucka's entire Wonder Woman run at a clip, right after the interview, and I realized, reading it, that if I judged the first two issues, I would have been harsh, but with the eventual realization of what he was setting up, the arc was truly first rate.
Another realization offered is that perhaps, after three years of fighting it, I am realizing that continuity isn't everything. It is, often, but then, it's not all that important, if a good story can be told. The Wonder Woman run was amazing, and it didn't draw heavily on the past. I think the problem is less that the continuity was or wasn't destroyed, forgotten, changed, or however you want to put it, and more that people didn't want to take a chance. I'm willing to take a chance. I just hope it pans out. And if the pencils I saw were any indication, well, as I've said...
The pencils for this run are just fantastic.
President Luthor and The Point of KryptoniteN: There's been no huge crossovers like Our Worlds At War for a while, save Godfall. Are there any major crossovers in the works, even if you can't give us any details?
G: NO COMMENT (Vehement. He said it twice. Think about it. The difference between eh, no comment, and NO COMMENT. Well, okay, maybe I read too much into it.) Ah, there's something HUUUUUUUUUGE coming up, it's ENOOOORMOUS! (Interviewer's note, he was being sarcastic)
N: And all the fans will, like, critique you to death.
G: Yeah, they will. But if DC lets us do HALF the things we're thinking of doing, it'll rock the world.
N: This is a Matt question: You did Vampirella, Wonder Woman and Inhumans... what other projects do you have coming down the pike?
G: (Garbled) is actually the only other thing... actually, I did some stuff in between Vampirella called Pantheon. Other than that, you've pretty much nailed everything I've done. (Looks to Greg, who nods). I did a Secret Files story with um...
N: JLA, right?
G: Uh, no... it was.
G AND M: President Luthor.
M: Just before Wonder Woman I did a four page Lex Luthor... he was being made up to be the recipient on the last page, and he was picking up a disc with the secret to kill all the superheroes, by the DEO, who came up with their list on, you know, how do you kill Plastic Man. You melt him. How do you eliminate Green Lantern, or the Flash? Nanites or something else came out, you know.
N: Like the Batman's files.
M: And at the end this Major, he goes and hands the disk to the President. And in the story there's a shot of the Daily Planet with LexCorp right behind it so you think he's giving it to Perry, you know? And then on the last page, he's handing it to Luthor. So Luthor has the means to kill all the Superheroes. Kryptonite rain was gonna take out Superman.
G: Kryptonite rain?!
G: Not just a regular rock of the stuff?
N: Well, he can run!
G: (Incredulous) What do you mean? It's simple! If I put Kryptonite on him, he can't run away! That's the POINT of Kryptonite.
N: This is where you have the problem with people who are like, "He can still throw it a mile away."
M: That's... that's pretty much my body of work..
Take just a minute and realize, here was a fan boy dream... talking shop with the guys writing Superman.
I imagined being someone around the corner going, holy crap, these are the guys writing Superman talking about it! I also got another distinctive feeling, soon elaborated upon in detail.
These men love Superman, and want to do their best with him.
Ignorance of the Little Big Head ManN: Who's your favorite Superman hero and villain to draw and write respectively?
G: Favorite hero?
N: Yeah. Good guy or gal.
G: (Incredulous) Superman. My favorite character to write is Superman. I mean, he's very difficult for me to write. He's challenging. I'm not going to make any bones about it. These are hard scripts for me to write. I want to get them right. I put a lot of effort into it, and my favorite Superman character to write is Superman. Followed closely by Lois. Those are my favorite characters to write. Favorite villain would be Luthor. Followed by "Little Big Head Man."
N: Little Big Head Man? Who's that?
G: (Looks at me like I'm a dope, and understandably.) Mxyzptlk!
N: Oh! Okay. Gotcha. (Laughs)
M: For me... Superman/Clark. Both. Because, there's such a dichotomy. I like drawing Superman because he's such a good hero, and Clark is such a good geek.
M: Nerd. Otherwise... yeah, I mean it's very hard, drawing one side of his shirt untucked, the cuffs of his jeans stuck in one shoe. And the hair parted to the side.
G: This is exactly what me and Matthew talked about for a long time, which is the effort that Clark puts into "Clark Kent". And at some point we need to do a sequence where he wakes up in the morning, and he'll take a shower, and he's gonna shave, the way he shaves, and actually, I think I already wrote this, but yeah, no, I did write it, so I don't want to give it away (Laughs). So he's going to fake a razor cut, and then he gets himself an orange juice so he has to pour some down his shirt, just to create Clark Kent. You know, the collar isn't right. And then, when he's got it all right, he's like, "Okay. Time to go be Clark."
M: I would imagine, though, you know, after the berating that Perry gives him, you imagine he's like, "Straighten up a little bit!" "WHAT! This is who I am!" (Laughter)
G: It's that Christopher Reeve bit in that first Superman movie. When that mugging happens. "Lois... just give him the purse!" And then he falls down, and she goes to him, and he's like, "I must have fainted!" (Laughter all around) And she's like... she walks off. Then there's a wonderful Reeve moment where he straightens the glasses and just cringes, and smiles and that's the moment where you just see, it's fun... it's fun being able to be Superman... the joy in it. And that's part of it. You lose the joy... everyone wants it to be so miserable. It doesn't need to be miserable. That's difficult. It's not easy to be a superhero. If you make it easy that diminishes the stories. It's not painful. I mean, if it was painful, he'd give it up. But... there has to be joy in the stories. There has to be joy in Superman. And that's one of the fun things about writing him.
G: And it's one of the fun things we're good at.
M: Whatever makes Superman fun.
N: That plays to the whole collective idealism...
M: Villainwise, Mxyzptlk, I like Luthor, I like Brainiac...
G: Uh, the original Brainiac, not B13.
M: I got nothing wrong with B13, it's just I like kind of the classic Brainiac.
N: Milton Fine Brainiac?
M: Actually, I like the original one that they created, with the wires in the forehead. Unfortunately over the last 16 years it's been kind of limited to a few core villains, Luthor, Brainiac, every once in a while Mxyzptlk will come in, Cyborg Superman and Doomsday and stuff like that. I haven't talked to Greg about this, but I'd like to go back to, like, the 40s thing. Just kind of do it, as a fashion, to play with continuity.
(Laughter, both sides.)
G: Who do you want for the villains?
M: Uh, pick the one's you're good at.
N: That makes sense.
M: Atomic skull was a part of every design.
G: The poor schlub!
M: You know, he had this really bad green and yellow costume, typical radiation burns, and then they brought him back, and he's confused, because he always thought of himself as a movie star. But unfortunately, he's got, you know, a skull for a head. (Laughs)
G: It's hard to get far that way... him and Blue Devil should team up. I always pictured Blue Devil as working in Hong Kong right now. (Laughter, both sides).
G: LOOK! LOOK! It's the BLUE DEVIL!
In my research, I came across a number of interviews and articles, many by folks who did a lot of that predicting of the future that I mentioned before, critical of the run before it started. Others very complimentary. One had a rather interesting accusation, provided by Rucka himself:
Removing the "S" from SupermanN: Oh! Here's a good question. I hear on the internet that you have plans to remove Superman's S!
(Laughter all around.)
G: What? (Incredulous)
N: Just a joke... you said that "People are gonna be saying I want to remove Superman's S online."
Sorry. The article had just been so serious so far. And Rucka and Matthew have an addictive laughter, by the by.
Every time a bus would pass, every time my notes would fly through the air, they always had a good sense of humor.
And I can't lie, they bought my coffee.
Oh Look! There's Jimmy! HI, JIMMY!N: I read online about, "The Shack". Can you tell us a little about that?
G: Yeah. The Shack is where the reporters who have the crime beat are stationed. Metropolis' equivalent of One Police Plaza, which is called "The Tower", a great big, ugly, government issue police headquarters. All that, and a parking lot. I said, we'll take number seven, and we'll drop it there. And we'll take a helicopter pad, and that underground garage. The Shack is, the (Laughs), the boiler room. Matt describes it as 521 square feet, and that's without furniture.
(A bus pulls by.)
G: And, there's no way he's gonna get this on the tape. (Laughs)
(I pull the tape to my mouth)
N: UH! That's 521 square feet without furniture!
G: We'll just wait a second.
N: Now see, that's my nightmare, that that's going to be all that survives.
G: That's gonna be the whole article! 521 square feet without furniture!
G: The temperature is constantly 94 degrees down there.
G: The Shack has three reporters down there on the regular crime beat at night. Clark is one of them. And there's someone from the Metropolis Weekly, Jerry, the Eagle, and the Star. Bernie is from the Eagle and the Star, and Jerry, Geraldine, from the Metropolis Free Weekly.
G: And then there's two other papers in Metropolis, but they're not there. These guys are there working their regular hours, and Clark's there because that's what he's been busted down to. Jerry's there because he's just starting out as a reporter, and Bernie's there because he's just a little way from retirement.
N: Ron Troupe in there in any way?
G: Nope. Wanted to bring in some new people. I mean, obviously there's stuff with the old characters, but a lot of stuff... I mean, I really like John Henry Irons, Perry is there. These people are there but you know, we're just getting started. The urge of the fan is always to be impatient. You'll be two issues in and they'll be like "I'm worried!" Well, I only get 22 pages a month. That's not a lot.
N: And you know, I didn't understand that until I started writing comics myself. I'd never written comics before about a year and a half ago, and I had that impatience thing to, then you start realizing 22 pages isn't a whole lot of time.
G: A lot of time you need suspense.
M: A lot of people are wanting to see many characters in many situations.
G: And you don't want to throw them in for no reason. They show up when they show up, and you're like, Wow. You don't want, "Oh, look! There's Jimmy! HI JIMMY!" I hate stories like, "Let's just have a fight! A big fight!"
When I went online, I was surprised to find a lot of nasty words from people, to say the least, about Half A Life, a really well put run on Gotham Central that reveals Montoya to be a lesbian. She is taken out of the closet by a scum with a series of photos taken without her permission, and the story revolves around dealing with family and identity issues while retaining job integrity and catching the bad guy. The run ostracizes her from her family and puts to the reader a series of very poignant issues about sexuality.
It is not a BIFF BAM SOK comic book, but nonetheless, it's a great read.
I couldn't avoid asking about it.
Collective Idealism for the City of TomorrowN: You mention John Henry. Is he going to remain out of his Steel armor, of can you say anything about that?
G: NO COMMENT. I do however have a personal issue with African American characters not doing well in the comics. The major problem is that Metropolis isn't white. Metropolis is the city of TOMORROW, it had damned well not be white. We've come up with Jerry, we've come up with Lupé...
N: That brings up a topic I wanted to talk about... I read your Gotham Central arc exploring Montoya's sexuality.
G: Half A Life.
N: It's a difficult precedent to top in comics, dealing with controversial topics, where a lot of people will really just rip on you. I'm just wondering if you have anything bold like that in mind for Superman?
G: One, I didn't set a precedent, and I will not take credit for setting a precedent. I told a story that I thought was a good story to tell. And that's the governing rule. You tell the best stories you can. You always want to tell the best stories you can. With that in mind... I don't think you can tell a good story, the way I want to tell it, anchored to a real world, without... waiting for the bus to pass!
(A bus passes)
N: This break brought to you by Portland Public Transportation... what do you call that down here? Anyway, there you go...
G: I want our Superman to be anchored in a reality. Superheroes work best when you can believe in them, and what works for me is that I want you to believe in that world. And to believe in that world, to ME, means that not everybody be white and male. Or straight. That we live in a world of tomorrow, and Metropolis is the City of Tomorrow, and Superman is the ideal hero. And our best hero. And the hero for the planet, not just the hero for all these white guys. You can't do it. Nor is he the hero just for Roman Catholics, or just gay Buddhists. He's everybody's hero. And that requires that he be cognizant of what we're trying to show. And see, there's also that you don't want to tokenize it. So I mean, I'm not going to do a story where somebody turns around and says, "Oh, I may be gay!" for the sake of doing that.
N: And it didn't feel like that with the Montoya story.
G: Yeah, the Montoya story was not that kind of story, and people, people got up in arms, they said, "Oh, he's making her gay because it's VOGUE." Yeah, right.
N: This is probably people before they read the story, I'm guessing.
G: A lot of people didn't read the story. And, you know, that's their loss. But, you know, this is something that Matthew and I worked on. Eddie came to me specifically, and said, "You need to create a new head of the SCU.". And I said, "Why?". And he said, "Because you STOLE Maggie!" (Laughter) And I said, "Fair enough." And he said, "And I want her to be a Latina. I want her to be a woman, and I want her to be Latina." So I said, all right, let's look at that. And we went around, because I actually wanted the LL initials, and I found, I know that the Spanish name convention is your maiden name and your father's name and then hyphenate it. But you only use, I believe, the second of the hyphen names. So Lupé's full name is Lupé Theresa-Spedero-Leocadio. But it's Lupé Leocadio. And, you know, it doesn't hurt anything, making use of her name. She's of Spanish extraction. But that's the beauty of it. This guy looks like he may be Korean. That guy looks like he might be African American.
N: And that's the hard part, because if you ever try to work or live that City of Tomorrow ideal, you're accused of-
G: Well, the accusation that you're "pandering", to what, I guess, a Liberal bias or something? I think that's a tiny response, man. What are people scared of?
N: You know, if I had the answer to that, I'd probably be a published novelist.
G: We've actually gotten letters on Wonder Woman for the fact that she was dating a black guy. People were actually offended by it. That's insane! It's 2004! I mean, Jesus Christ!
N: People make everything into too much of a political issue these days.
G: There's this issue right now where Lois is leaving, and Superman tells her, "I can't protect you, where you're going." She's got to decide to go in the first place, coupled with the idea that her security blanket, it's Superman. It's the husband saying, "I can't protect my wife." And she's gotta know that.
G: If you were the President of the United States, you would want to take every photo op with Superman possible. Except Luthor. And Superman, if you're Superman, you don't do that. You don't want to be seen endorsing one over the other.
N: He's absolutely paranoid about that.
G: And you CAN'T do that. Because if Superman sides with someone, he has to be very careful of how he says it. I have a note to myself somewhere, it says if he's ever photographed with a president, he makes it a point to also get photographed with the opposition leader. He will not take a side, unless it's something that's very clear cut. When he absolutely feels that there's moral correctness to what he's doing. And playing in partisan politics is not.
M: There's also that aspect to it that's not present with Batman, where he will...
G: Yeah, if the President asks him to do something, he will do it. Up to a point. But there's always a line. You don't ever want there not to be a line. He just follows what he thinks is right; that's who he is.
I just finished reading Queen and Country, before I finished this article. The comic is a very human piece, with a lot of sexual issues, issues of protecting the populace, terrorism, and even a series of prognostications.
For instance, in the second run of Queen and Country, The Taleban kill journalists, and the team has to recover their intel and stop terrorist plots. People accused Greg of misspelling the Taliban "Taleban", and even of exploiting the events of 9-11 (love those people with the accusations, I think you see a theme in this article, and one not above self-deprecation) but the reality of the matter is that both spellings are correct, and he wrote the issues, according to the introduction on the trade I have, long before the events of September 11th. The man just had his pulse on world news, something rare to find in an America where the intelligence quotient of even your average reading adult is who Clay Aiken is or who Donald Trump fired this week.
Or who the number one selling comic book guy is as opposed to the people writing the stories that hit home. I mean, I like Bendis. I do. But Rucka's not making Wizard's top ten, I notice, despite Queen and Country? There oughta be a law. Or at least a caning.
This series is another point of respect with the man.
Losers WeepersN: Greg, you also write books. I bought one yesterday, myself, it's called A Fistfull of Rain. I identify with the idea of writing books and making comics at the same time. Can you tell us about your novels, and what you would recommend to a first time fan branching out? G: Oh, boy. (Laughs). They're entirely different animals, number one, and I love writing them both. And if people want to pick up my novels, I'd say pick up whichever ones they find first... the new book comes out in September it's called The Gentleman's Game. It's a Queen and Country novel. The characters and the novel fit into the comic series that we're releasing through Oni Press, Queen and Country. The last one before that was A Fistfull of Rain. And before that, there's a five book series that's not over yet. There are people out there who are very worried that I'm not writing the Atticus Kodiak novels anymore. Atticus is still out there, there will be more Atticus novels. If you want to read the stories in order, pick up Keeper. Smoker is the third one, that's a good one. Finder's the second. Shooting at Midnight and Critical Space are the Kodiak books. And then, if you want to read a superhero novel, read Batman "No Man's Land". I'm proud of that book, it's good.
M: There's that whole Finders/Keepers thing.
G: Yeah, I was thinking about it, and I had plan for a whole Losers and Weepers thing. But then I was like, "This is it."
M: When Greg and I were talking about doing Wonder Woman together, way back when...
G: WAY back when...
M: When that didn't happen, he had a bookshelf with Finder/Keeper. I put in one of the books, up on the bookshelf, it was Loser.
(Greg excuses himself)
So Greg gets a phone call, and I say to myself, what about Matthew?
And what about Matthew?
Well, Matthew is an unassuming, fairly quiet man with a great sense of humor, and an equal obvious love for Superman.
When we went inside to get the food before the interview started, I said to him, "You know, I'll probably ask in the interview, but while we're standing here, how long did it take you?"
I ask, because I've been trying to get published for five years, and I like to try and gauge if when I get hopeless I'm just being a pansy.
He tells me that he started drawing seriously, then had to work for a long time, scaling back his hours more and more as he got work.
That's exactly what I'm doing...
"Keep plugging away." He tells me, handing me my drink. "It's the only way. And don't give up."
Greg Rucka's Arm, Matthew Clark's Left Side, and Me Getting Pushed in Front of A Bus.N: Okay, Matt... here's a good one. How did you get the position of Superman penciller?
M: (Laughs) Let's see, that would be last year... 2003. I was an issue and a half into my Inhumans run. I'm sitting at a table with the B team, basically. That was me, Nicholas Bowman, other people from DC, Fletcher, DC Marketing. And he remembered my run on Wonder Woman. And at the show, he came up and wanted to take a look at my stuff. And he saw it, and told me to take it over to the booth and show it to this guy Dunmeer, who in return looked at it and liked it. And I go back to my table, and the next thing I know, five minutes later, here comes Fletcher, he goes, Scott wants you to do Superman. So I'm like, "Okay." Dan Dideo, the big guy at DC right now, and I went over there, and he starts looking at it, and Dan looks to Scott, Scott gave it to Lamont, and he goes, "Oh, what will it take to get you back to DC." And I'm a fan of the characters, I thought, it'd be a pleasure. I'm big fan of Legion of Super-Heroes and Superman. They gave me their contact info, and said, "We'll be in touch." So I was working at Marvel, working on Inhumans stuff. Then I get a call from Eddie Berganza. So I'm going from Inhumans, which, you know, was a GREAT book to work on, to like, the ICON. Superman. It was just absolutely amazing. It's hard to believe that three years ago I was scrapping for work. I was at the point of thinking about getting a 9-5 job. Then I'm just moseying along, doing Inhumans, and then... Superman.
N: So don't lose hope.
M: Nope. If you believe, it'll happen. I mean, an issue and a half of Inhumans got me Superman.
N: It's weird like that.
M: Yeah. I thank my lucky stars, I mean Superman, when I started reading comics, Superman was the bomb. No matter what company I was working for, no matter who would ask me, I always wanted to work for Superman. And so, the next thing I know... I was planning on staying on Inhumans, probably for a year. I'm a bit of a slow artist... I'm usually on time, or maybe just a few days later than they would like. But I figured, I'm 33 right now, I figured I couldn't be on Superman until I was like, 38.
N: You going to go on Superman for as long as you can?
M: I figure I've got... I don't want to be one of those artists who stays on a book for like, five years. I always figure I have a finite number of stories to tell before I start repeating myself. And really, I would like to stay on Superman, probably 2, 2 and a half years. I'd like to stretch it more if possible.
N: How about in the future, do you have any pet projects you really want?
M: Legion of Super-Heroes for DC.
N: Legion of Super-Heroes for Marvel might get a little henky.
M: Yeah, I was gonna say. (Laughs) I'm a big fan of DC characters. And certainly some from Marvel. Legion, after Superman, I'd like to tackle that. I'd like to get the trifecta and get Batman in there somehow. Whether it be a mini-series or whatnot. And I do plan on eventually branching out into a creator-owned book, which I did years ago called Fuzzy Lights. And I'll probably want to go back and do that character. Marvel's Spider-Man. Especially, you know, with the workings of Straczyinksi and Romita Jr.. I figure if I do a creator-owned book I want to do something through Oni Press.
N: I was looking online, and I saw Star Wars posters behind your workspace. Is there a chance you would do Star Wars? Or Star Trek, even?
M: Honestly, I like Star Wars, but not enough to draw it. I would give my eye teeth to draw a Deep Space Nine series. I would give Greg's left arm, and probably most of the left hand side of my body. I am a big Star Trek fan.
N: You'd push me out into the middle of the street...
M: No problem at all with human sacrifice. I'm that much of a fan of the show. Most people have noticed in my work over the last year when it comes to technology and stuff like that. It's very Trek inspired. Even Inhumans... I looked at a lot of the Deep Space Nine architecture. In Superman, it's very Cardasssian.
Greg came out at this point, his conversation finished, and Matthew had to get back to his work. Wednesdays are his Mondays, he told me, which makes total sense, if you think about it. Comics coming out at Wednesday. It helps you get into the mentality.
I told Matthew, when I was talking about scaling back and trying to make it seriously, that I did 10-12 hours a day. I said, "You must understand."
He looks at me and says, "Well, I actually put in 14-16 hour days."
I'm floored. But not surprised.
Look at the work.
After I say goodbye to Matthew, Greg asks me if I have any more questions. I pull out the recorder.
"Greg Rucka, how long are you gonna stay on Superman?"
"Oh, I don't know!"
Which, he went on to detail, meant that he doesn't want to pre-judge his arc before it begins, not that he's apathetic.
That's what I learned here. The writers have no agendas save a good story. They don't want to kill Superman, remove the S, and they're just like we are. Folks who love Superman and want to do well by him.
And that's just it. We ask all these question, we condemn these people before giving us a chance, and the daily comic grind goes on.
Thanks to Rucka and Clark, I got to step back and look at it for a second, and hopefully, that will give me a better perspective going forward of the books I love, and better, the way that I review them.
Here's hoping for a long, well-received run on Adventures.
This interview is Copyright © 2004 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)