Comic Book Creator #4

Page 5

irving on the inside

Irrefutable

Mark Waid & the Future of Comics

The conclusion of Christopher Irving’s interview with the celebrated scribe Inset right: Last issue, Ye ed was late in asking Mark Waid, who was on the road for a good chunk of the summer, for personal memorabilia, but our interview pulled through with flying colors. Here is “William” Mark Waid’s DC Comics employee identification card. Below: Also courtesy of Mark, a photo of the writer (at right) and the late artist Mike Wieringo.

by CHRISTOPHER IRVING CBC Contributing Editor [Previously, Mark Waid described his early years in the comics industry, as an in-house staffer and subsequent freelance writer, as well as early success as the scripter of memorable runs on Flash and Captain America, as well as collaboration with Alex Ross on Kingdom Come. Last time, it was the early part of the last decade, as Marvel was going through some major leadership changes and the new regime looked to writer Waid to invigorate their flagship title, Fantastic Four.] “[Marvel] Editor Tom Brevoort called when he found out I was leaving Cross Gen, pitched it to me, and I wasn’t interested,” Mark Waid revealed in 2002. “I was aware of The Fantastic Four growing up, and had read it throughout the ’70s, but I was never a huge fan of the material. I had respect for the characters, and for

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#4 • Winter 2014 • Comic Book Creator

Photo ©2014 Seth Kushner.

Portrait by Seth Kushner

what [FF creators and longtime respective writer and artist] Stan [Lee] and Jack [Kirby] had done, but I had never really connected to it. “My interest in the assignment wasn’t piqued until two things happened: One was that Tom mentioned that Ringo [artist Mike Wieringo] would be drawing it, and that immediately got my interest; two was that Tom and I started talking about Reed Richards, who was a character with a vast, untapped potential to be likable, but no one under the age of 40 thought was even remotely interesting. That right there seemed to be a worthwhile challenge to me. We started talking about him, then Sue and Johnny and, before I realized it, I was wrapped up in the characters and had more to say about them than I ever dreamed.” Fantastic Four reunited him with the late, great Mike “Ringo” Wieringo, and the results were comics magic. Publisher Bill Jemas, however, had other ideas towards what the book should be, and Waid found himself thrown off the title. Wieringo, out of loyalty to his friend, jumped ship as well. The backlash against losing the Waid and Ringo team was great enough, however, that they were back on the title within issues. Something potentially big was in Mark Waid’s future, and was both a dream come true, and the biggest disappointment of his career. “I know that, say, when it comes to Superman, it’s hard for me to find a unique perspective because Superman’s been in my thoughts pretty much every day since I was six,” Waid had said around 2002. Just as things had changed at Marvel, so had they at DC Comics. Dan Didio came in as Vice President of Editorial, and things were on the cusp of changing. One of Dan’s goals was to put a new polish on their oldest character, and the result was Superman: Birthright, a reboot of the Man of Steel’s origin by Waid and artist Leinil Francis Yu. “I think Birthright is the best long-form thing I’ve ever written in my entire life. I’m as proud of Birthright as I am of anything I’ve ever done. There was one creative misstep, and there were a bunch of marketing missteps, and a bunch of timing things that went kerflooey,” Mark observes. “First off, when we started the process, it was sold to me by Dan Didio and DC as ‘We really want this to be The Man of Steel for the 21st century, and the definitive new origin.’ We unfortunately got lost in a morass of legal stuff (this was when the Siegel and DC lawsuit was going, and there were questions over what characters and elements we could use) that was creatively stifling, but I managed to navigate that pretty well.” At the same time as Birthright’s release, DC also put writer Brian Azzarello and artist Jim Lee on the main Superman comic for a year—a move that stole the marketing muscle