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Bug talks LOBO with Scott Ian
Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with another Q&@. Best known for his thrashing guitar work in the metal band Anthrax, Scott Ian has decided it was time to take some of that heavy metal attitude and bring it to comics. LOBO: HIGHWAY TO HELL is his first comic book effort and it hits the stands this week. I had a chance to talk with Scott for a little while last week about Lobo, music, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Here’s what Scott had to say.
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today.
SCOTT IAN (SI):
BUG: So, I had a chance to check out the first issue of LOBO and it read really well, it was exciting and it seems like you have a good handle on the character. It seems like a really fun book.
BUG: So I take it you’re a fan of comics?
Yeah, I grew up with comics. I’ve been reading comics since I was like 4 or 5 years old.
BUG: Can you remember the first comic you read?
Yeah, I had an uncle who was like ten years older than me and when I was a little kid, we used to go visit my grandparents house and I would hang out with him. He had a big Silver Age collection, it would have been late sixties. So I specifically remember reading early HULK and THOR. He had a really big THOR collection, way back to JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY.
BUG: How about now, do you still read? Do you have time to do that?
I do. Over the years, I would say about six or seven years ago, I started to fall off a little bit as far as going to the store every week or every two weeks to pick up my books. Then I started just following certain writers and following when someone had new stuff coming out rather than every week. Seriously, right now, the only monthly I am following is THE WALKING DEAD.
BUG: Yeah, that’s one of my favorites too. It gets better and better after every month.
Yeah, it first started out and I thought this is definitely a cool take on a zombie story, lets see how long they can sustain it for. And yeah, I feel the same way. I wish it could be a TV series.
BUG: I hear it’s supposed to be adapted by AMC or someone like that. I was hoping for HBO. I hope it doesn’t make things tamer since it’s on basic cable.
Oh, I don’t know. AMC has BREAKING BAD and MAD MEN and they do a pretty good job with those shows.
BUG: So you say you have favorite writers that you follow. Can you tell us some of them?
Well, besides Kirkman, obviously. I love Garth Ennis. I love Geoff Johns. Grant Morrison. Millar and Moore are two of my favorites of all time. But of the current crop, I’d say those guys. And James Robinson too. I loved STARMAN.
BUG: So back to LOBO. How did it all start that you had a chance to write LOBO?
The book kind of fell into my lap. It was kind of four or five years ago. My manager got a call from Jann Jones at DC asking if I was interested in coming in and having a meeting. So he called me and told me about it and I was just a little bit confused. I was like “What do they want me for?” So I went into the meeting, and they were like “Do you know why you’re here?” And I said “Absolutely not.” And they said “Well, we would like to do a book with you.” They wanted to see if I were interested in writing a book. And I was. I mean, this is something I wanted to do my whole life. I’ve been asked questions a thousand times, if I wasn’t playing guitar in a band, what would I be doing, and I would answer, well, I hope I would be writing comics. So I jumped at the chance. So they basically said, “why don’t you spend a month thinking about characters and thinking about a story or come up with any ideas and come back in or just email us and let us know and let’s just go from there.” So I spent more than a month. I spent about two months just kind of thinking about Batman a lot. And what I would do with Batman if I had the opportunity.
Then I went back in for my second meeting and talked to them about my ideas and I kept running into these walls of what you can’t do with the Batman because with that character, there’s a lot of do’s and don’ts in the DC Universe. And I said, “Well, couldn’t I do it outside the DCUniverse?” But at that moment of time, it was something they didn’t want to do with Batman. So I said, ok. Let’s make this simpler. What characters could I use where I could pretty much do whatever I wanted and not have to worry about continuity and the DC Universe or really just fucking with the character. And the first person they said was Lobo. And I say, “Oh, I hadn’t even thought of him.” And they said they’ve been talking about a LOBO book for a little while now and we wanted to do another miniseries with the character and we think you’d be perfect because you already mentioned zombies and you’ve mentioned the horror aspects of it. And they said they were trying to get a horror book out because everyone else had horror and they don’t. So that got me thinking about Lobo and then three weeks later I had a basic outline of what the story would be. They took a look at it and told me to flesh it out and let’s see where it goes from there. And I finished it. They green lighted it. And then everything fell into a black hole. I didn’t hear anything from them for like six months. So I just figured, oh they were just being nice to me and that they really didn’t like what I had given them. But I know how these things work. I’ve dealt with record companies my whole life. So I don’t hear anything forever. And I’m just thinking that they had basically forgotten about it at this point. Then I get an email from Jann Jones apologizing and saying that there was a bit of a shake up and the guy who was my editor was gone now and now I have this new editor and everything is back on track and full speed ahead. I was like, I hadn’t even thought about this, but, COOL! Let me jump back in. And I just finished the tweaks to book two about three days ago. So it’s been amazing.
BUG: What was it like to hear Sam Keith was going to be doing this? Are you a fan of his work?
Yeah, he was the top of my list. I was a huge fan of THE MAXX. The energy that he brings…that’s so clichéd…but really, the energy he beings to a page was something I have always been attracted to. So we were definitely on the same page. When it was time to start thinking about artists, DC said, why don’t you make a list of some of the artists you would want to work with and we’ll reach out to them. And that was like being a kid in a candy store. I was like “Jesus Christ, don’t open this door!” The only person I spoke to as well, and it was because I have a personal relationship with him, was Alex Ross. He’s done three Anthrax album covers and I called him personally, basically, and said, “Hey man, I’m doing a book for DC!” And he’s like, “Wow, congratulations!” and I said, “ I know how you work and how busy you are, but are you interested in doing some covers for the book?” And he said, “What character is it?” And I said, “Lobo.” And he’s all, “Oh, I’m sorry, but he’s my least favorite character in the DC Universe.” (laughs) So Alex didn’t work out for this project.
BUG: Yeah, I don’t remember seeing any Lobo picture at all drawn by Alex Ross. (laughs)
I think maybe in one of those cavalcade or stars posters where he’s drawing like every character in the DC Universe, there might be a tiny Lobo in there somewhere. But other than that, he’s never done it. And I said to him, “Hey, you haven’t read my Lobo, how do you know he’ll still be your least favorite?” And he said, “Maybe it’ll change my mind.” (laughs)
BUG: So what type of research goes into reading a LOBO comic? Did read any of the old Giffen/Bisley books?
I had read all of that stuff already because I was a fan of the character back then. And I was a huge fan of Bisley from JUDGE DREDD, so I think that’s how I initially found out about LOBO because he was doing the art for it. And I was such a huge DREDD fan back then. DC asked if they wanted to give me all of the appearances of Lobo for research. But I told them to let me start without it and we’ll see if I need it while I’m getting into it. Because if I don’t need it for this story, I don’t need it. Other than knowing just a couple of facts about the character, because I wanted it to have some kind of continuity with the character. I wasn’t reinventing Lobo’s whole world. There are characters, or I should say a character in the story who is part of Lobo’s universe. And some of the things that he mentions and things in his past and stuff like that. I wanted the continuity of the character to remain. But I also wanted to be able to do my own thing without being anchored to anything. I really didn’t have to use any of the old stuff to write Lobo. I really started writing him as me. I really started writing myself basically if I were missing, basically the one chromosome that keeps me from going out on a murderous rampage every time I get pissed off.
BUG: Seems like a good way to vent some frustrations.
BUG: Lobo’s been gone for a while. It seems like he hasn’t been around in the regular DC continuity. Were there any guidelines from editorial to make him current and up to date?
No. Lucky for me, because they came to me and asked me if I wanted to write a book. It’s not like I was pitching stories to DC for the last five years. They kind of just let me do whatever I wanted. And that’s what they kept pushing me to do. Most of the conversations I would have with Ian when it came to content and stuff like that was pretty much him pushing me to be myself and do it my way and not worry about how it’s done. I’ve never written a comic before. I had my whole story. I had act one, two, and three. I had it all written out in short story form. I had no idea how to break it down. I never broke a book down and wrote dialog. And that was my biggest fear. I was talking to him about that and he was like “Just do it however it is comfortable to you. Just start writing the dialog.” And I didn’t even know how to do that. I’ve written lyrics my whole life. I wouldn’t know where to start. I’ve never written a play. I’ve never done anything like this. And he’s like, “Dude, I’m telling you, just start writing. Just write it how you would say it.” And all I could think in my head was “God, this is going to sound so fucking cheesy.” And I literally procrastinated for a month once I started getting the pages from Sam because I just didn’t know how to do it. I was afraid I was going to fail and I was afraid I was going to suck. And I finally just forced myself; I had all of my pages spread out on the table and all of these post it notes. I just started writing shit down and sticking it on these pages. Four hours later, I had like forty pages done. I was like, “Holy shit. It’s not as hard as I was making it.” It came really natural and to make a long story short: I’ve written lyrics my whole life. For the last twenty five odd years for Anthrax. Obviously I know what I’m doing and I’m very confident about writing lyrics, but I’ve always found it to be the strangest thing to take an idea I have for a song and literally have to break it down to make it rhyme…literally break it into verse. It’s the most unnatural thing because I don’t walk around and sing all the time. Nobody does. I fucking hate musicals. And the idea of taking an idea and turning it into a song has always been very odd to me. But it’s what I do. Where now with dialog, I was like, “Hey, wow, I don’t have to put my ideas into rhymes, I actually just get to write dialog.” And it actually came way more natural to me than writing lyrics. So I don’t know what I was afraid of. The unknown, I guess.
BUG: There have been attempts to flesh out the Lobo character with teaming him up with Superman on the SUPERMAN cartoon, highlighting how both characters are the last of their kind. And then there’s also the kind of treatment of the character as more of a comically violent character and not much more than that. Which take on the character are you leaning towards more?
Well there’s definitely a lot of violence. He has no qualms with blowing up the entire planet he was living on in the first few pages of this miniseries. Like I said, I was writing him as myself and I definitely think of myself as having a sense of humor, so the humor thing is definitely a part of it. The brutality and the mass murder are definitely a part of it. He’s an interesting character because you don’t ever want to play him off as a hero. I could see how it would be kind of easy to kind of lean towards Lobo being a good guy because of his sense of humor. But really, no, he’s not a good guy. He’s a murderer. So even though he has this moral code and a sense of ethics, he’s still a murderer. Maybe he’s got it in his head that “OK, I have to do this because it fits into my moral code.” And all of the collateral damage doesn’t mean anything to him. I learned really quickly that he’s not a good guy. You can’t turn him into a good guy. It just would make no sense to make him that type of character. He’s just a really, really smart and defective Czarnian.
BUG: It’s great to hear that because it seems like the trend is to make a popular villain into a good guy. To me, that goes against what makes the character cool in the first place.
Right, one thing I stayed with was that the only thing in the universe Lobo cares about is his space dolphins. And that’s what starts the story here. The devil basically throws his weakness in his face. And you don’t just throw something like that in Lobo’s face and not expect him to go on an insane murderous rampage trying to get his revenge. So anything and everything in his way is in danger. Even in hell, where it’s, you know, Hell, he decides to take on the most powerful entity in the DC Universe. It doesn’t matter to him. The devil has to die.
BUG: You mentioned the dolphins. What do you think is behind the whole dolphin love thing?
Well, it’s interesting. He even killed his own dog at some point. When he used to have that dog that hanged around with him named Dog. He’s was into one of those stories with Superman where he actually stomped the dog to death because he grew tired of the dog. It’s interesting that it’s these space dolphins…I guess it’s the one thing in his character that he actually has any feelings for. It’s the one thing…for some reason in his make-up—I guess you’ll have to ask Keith Giffen about that, but it’s the one thing that he has feelings for. You just can’t fuck with them. You can fuck with his family—well he doesn’t have any family left, but when he did, it wouldn’t matter. I guess every character has to have at least one thing that they care about because without that where would the conflict be?
BUG: Lobo kind of has a heavy metal vibe to him. Given your musical history, it seems like this is a match made in heaven here. Is there anything about your musical background that helped you with the comic? Are there any similarities between writing music and comics?
In my world, definitely Lobo is a heavy metal fan. I know he had a band in the past, but I wasn’t going to go anywhere near that. To me, that would’ve been like the cheesiest thing. Oh look, Scott Ian’s writing the LOBO comic and look, Lobo’s playing guitar! That would be terrible. But he definitely loves metal and at one point there was a couple of points in the book where he’s using lyrics from AC/DC or Pantera as background noise like when he’s on his bike or on his ship. But legal wouldn’t let me use it, because they couldn’t get permission to use the lyrics or it was going to take too long to get permission. We were able to make use of that a bit in the first issue. To me, he’s definitely a fan and it kind of goes hand in hand with his character. I don’t really know how being in a band connected me with writing the comic other than me being an aggressive person and playing aggressive music and this character is obviously a very aggressive character. It just fit me very well.
BUG: Are you temped to write something that’s completely different from yourself like…I don’t know…Mr. Tawky Tawny or Dumb Bunny some cartoony character like that or is that just not interesting to you?
(laughter) I-I don’t know. You know, I’m not against trying anything. It’s pretty simple. It just comes down to having an idea. Look at a book like Y THE LAST MAN. Obviously, it’s a much quieter book than LOBO. I think that’s a book I would’ve absolutely loved to have written on. So it basically just comes down to an idea.
BUG: Do you have any music you’d suggest readers to listen to while reading LOBO?
Well, other than the title of the book? Sure. AC/DC goes well with everything. Specifically with Bon Scott. I was having kind of fun with that because I was trying to…especially when he was driving his car through Hell, I was thinking about what are all the best heavy metal and hard rock songs with Hell in it like “Highway to Hell” and “Cowboys From Hell” and even like, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” I was thinking of my favorite devil songs. I would say just make a list of all of your favorite devil songs and put them on loop. If you’re listening to AC/DC or Pantera or Slayer or bands like that, it’ll definitely fit the mood.
BUG: Are there any other characters that you’re dying to write?
Yeah, I grew up with Hulk. He was my favorite character growing up and I would love the opportunity to write a run or do a one-shot or something on that book. I would love to do something with him, but I haven’t followed the character for the last few years, so I don’t know what changes have happened with the character. But I’d love to do the old school green, dumb Hulk.
BUG: You know it’s been OK for the last few years, but lately it’s been getting really good.
Who’s writing it now?
BUG: A guy named Greg Pak is writing it now. And it’s basically Banner is powerless and can’t turn into the Hulk and he’s mentoring his son who is a younger Hulk now. It’s a different take on the character, kind of like Conan meets the Hulk with Banner mentoring him.
Wow, I’ll check that out. Sounds cool. But also I’d love to work with Batman some time. Once again, it’s a case of me coming up with an idea that blows me away because there’s no other reason to do it otherwise. It would have to stand up to what else is out there. With all of the great work that’s been done and is being done with Batman, to just throw out just another Batman story is something I would never do. I would have to have a good idea. I’m not that guy yet where I have like fifty different ideas for comic books yet, I haven’t jumped in that deep yet, although I feel that in a couple a years I’d be more ready for that and be ready to be more involved in it. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to write all of these things I want to do.
BUG: Well, you’re definitely off to a great start. So what about Anthax? What’s coming up for the band?
We’re finishing the record and just going out and doing these one-off festivals. We just finished a festival called Loud Park in Japan last week. And we hope to have a record finished by February/March-ish. And we’re going to Australia for this big festival tour. And then we should have a record out next summer time. That’s the goal at this point.
BUG: So is there anything else you want to tell folks about LOBO?
It’s really good. (laughs) I looked at this from the start as I’m a huge comic fan and the last thing that I would want to do is—and I think I’ve touched on this before, I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t think I was going to be putting something out that doesn’t deserve to be out there. I’m a huge fanboy of comics, movies, horror, television all of these different things. I would never step into this ring if I didn’t think it wasn’t something that deserved to be out there and could stand up with the rest of the books out there in the comic store with everything else. Just because I happen to be a guy in a band and someone gave me the opportunity to do this—I would have never taken the opportunity if the final product wasn’t going to be something I was proud to put my name on. I looked at it from the fanboy perspective from day one. I would be the first guy to walk into a store and go “That guy has a comic book out? Why doesn’t he stick to his day job?” I’m sure people are going to have that attitude towards me, but all I have to say is, just pick it up in the store and flip through the pages. Just don’t make the decision before reading it because it’s definitely worth your hard earned dollars.
BUG: Very cool. Well, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
Cool, man. Thanks.
You can pick up Scott Ian’s LOBO: HIGHWAY TO HELL #1 this week from DC.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for over eight years and one of the original @$$holes. Check out his comic book shorts from Cream City Comics’ MUSCLES & FIGHTS VOL.3 and MUSCLES & FRIGHTS VOL.1 on his ComicSpace page. Bug was interviewed here and here at Cream City Comics and here and here about his latest comic from Bluewater Comics, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER #1-2. Look for more comics from Bug in 2010 from Bluewater, including VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS WITCHFINDER GENERAL, ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS DEATHSPORT, and the just announced vampire miniseries NANNY & HANK..
Bug again. Here’s a ton of previews for you, most of which will be hitting the racks this week. First up is a book put out by a pal of mine, Daniel Crosier, who’s got a great eye for horror. Check out his new book DISTORTIONS UNLIMITED in this month’s Previews and in stores in December.
DISTORTIONS UNLIMITED #1
Writer/Art: Daniel Crosier
Publisher: Bluewater Comics
Order Code: OCT090754 F in this month’s Previews
Release Date: December!
WALT DISNEY’S DONALD DUCK & FRIENDS #347
Writer: Fausto Vitaliano
Art: Andrea Freccero
Publisheer: BOOM! Studios
Release Date: This week!
TYRESE GIBSON’S MAYHEM #3 (of 3)
Story: Tyrese Gibson, Mike Le, & William Wilson
Art & cover Tone Rodriguez
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: This week!
SUPER REAL #6
Story and art - Jason Martin
Publisher: Super Real Graphics
Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Minck Oosterveer
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Release Date: This week!
Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
Ad by Prof. Challenger