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THE ALEX ROSS INTERVIEW, PART THREE: The State of Comics

Here's PART THREE of Harry's epic conversation with comic book god ALEX ROSS, picking up from where we left off in PART TWO.

Also, be on the look-out for more EXCLUSIVE Alex Ross artwork coming soon to AICN, and be sure to visit AlexRossArt.com and catch Alex on QVC Sat., Sep. 9 (check local listings).

Now, back to the interview...

HK: THERE’S A LOT OF NEGATIVITY ABOUT THE WORLD OF COMICS RIGHT NOW, REGARDING LIKE FIVE DIFFERENT COVERS, THE EIGHT MILLION STORY CONNECTIONS WHERE A STORY-LINE GOES ACROSS EVERY COMIC OF AN ENTIRE FRANCHISE, YOU KNOW, OF AN ENTIRE PUBLISHER, THEREFORE CAUSING THE AUDIENCE TO BUY EVERYTHING. WHEN YOU TAKE A LOOK AT THE COMICS INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE RIGHT NOW, WHAT DO YOU SEE AS ITS MAIN FALLACIES, WHAT’S WRONG WITH IT RIGHT NOW?

AR: Too much. Too much for an audience that is barely there for half of it. There’s too much product and obviously not enough variation within that product. I think we do need to be scaled down to the point, almost starved to point of extinction before we can heal properly. We just still have too many people trying to get in on the action. There’s a lot of things that are wrong. Most of the biggest fallacies of the business are on the business end. You have a monopoly and monopolies are inherently not healthy and they destroy the competition that, for one thing, our country’s based on. There’s nothing happening competitively in comics right now. Nobody is showing Diamond [Comic Distributors, Inc.] how they can do it better. Every publisher has signed exclusive to be with that company. Marvel did their one thing to try to go off independent and failed and because of their failure, destroyed everything for everybody else. The market still seems to be damaged beyond repair from that whole incident, and Marvel is still damaged from beyond repair from that incident. They’re one of the most weakly anemic companies right now.

AR: I’ll give you an example. The hardcover that all this [Earth X] package is for, the Graffiti hardcover. You know all the details about it, right?

HK: YEAH.

AR: Well, we found out due to delays in Shining getting the big glass case that... well, not glass, but the translucent case that’ll package the book, the delay on that is going to be so much that it’ll take us to the end of the year to get these things out. So, we’re going to have to resolicit everything. So, our hopeful product release date is going to be around Christmas time. That’s only because of that damn case. The CD is done, the music’s done, the artwork obviously is done, but here’s the problem. Marvel can’t move their trade paperback release of Earth X off of this year because they need to make the 15 grand they estimated it’d be worth to them to get in by the end of the year. They’re looking at that bottom line, end of the year quota of how much money they pulled in for all their different product and what they can show their bosses up high what they were able to generate. Losing that 15 grand is just too much.

AR: So, they’re completely screwing us for the sake of, "Well, we can’t lose out on 15 grand!" Plus, also, they’re not doing a color version hardcover which could have sold effectively as well because they have no ability to long-range anything right now. They’ve had bad luck trying to relaunch any kind of hardcover program with the Marvel Masterworks. I guess somehow that the idea that they’ve already sold those things many times over doesn’t enter into it, but they have had bad luck with that and they’re just not seeing the kinds of returns on these things that they want, so my paperback is being tossed out there with all the love and care of... of... something without a lot of love and care. (Laughs).

AR: The company is in such bad straits at the moment. I desperately wish they had more money because I feel like there’s so much more I could be doing for them and with them. The potential of me actually doing a book with them again, that would be neat, but at this point, they’ve got no money to pay for even good printing, so why do a book that they would print on shitty paper? If they had paintings from me right now, they’d print it on newsprint. Honestly. And they’d probably pay me next to nothing to do it, so it wouldn’t even make any... Marvel's.... (sigh) anyway, you’re hearing me bitch about this.

HK: I DEALT COMICS FROM A RETAILER’S STANDPOINT FOR THE MAJORITY OF MY LIFE BEGINNING AROUND 1974 ALL THE WAY UP TO FIVE YEARS AGO WHEN I STARTED THIS INTERNET THING AND TO ME IT REALLY BECAME MORE ABOUT... TO ME IT FELT LIKE COMICS ENTERED WHAT I CALL THE JUNK BOND TIME PERIOD WHERE YOU PUT A DIFFERENT COVER ON SOMETHING AND TRY TO SELL IT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. IT WASN’T SO MUCH ABOUT STORIES. THEN THE SECOND A CHARACTER BECAME HOT, THEY’D HAVE FOUR OF THEIR OWN TITLES, THEY WERE LIKE QUICK BURNING EVERYTHING. THERE WERE NO LONG TERM STORY ARCS THAT WERE REALLY SIGNIFICANT. HOW CAN THE COMIC INDUSTRY IN YOUR OPINION GET BACK ON TRACK? HOW CAN A COMPANY LIKE MARVEL GET THEIR, FOR LACK OF A BETTER WORD, GET THEIR SHIT TOGETHER?

AR: I don’t know if there’s a company solution. The companies have the big money that they should be applying towards things that would basically put their product out there in different ways, but because of the system that they’re a part of, in some ways they’re actually strangleheld from ever doing that. Again, DC is entirely indebted to Diamond, so DC is never going to have deals where they go outside of the Diamond marketplace to feature their comics, even though they have newsstand distribution, they’re not going to do something new and aggressive that would spit in the face of the comic retailers.

AR: Companies like DC are treating the retailers as if, "No, you guys come first before any other money we can make elsewhere, you guys come first," and yet there might be an opportunity for selling stuff online, for setting up a bigger advertising and sales program related to online sales. That may be in store for the future. Also, advertise in real magazines where people are. Things like Entertainment Weekly. It’s companies with the deep pockets that can afford to do that, not the private individuals. I can’t wait until I see somebody finally put their money towards real advertisement and not tell people...like if you go back a number of years when Malibu Comics was touting their heavy Ultraverse line and saying, "Oh, buy this, buy that, whatever. Buy all these comics, but you’re going to have to go to a comic store to get them."

AR: Frankly, we can’t point people towards a comic store to get their comics at anymore. If that’s the only way they can get them, then yes, we’re going to die out. We have to spread out again. It doesn’t mean comic stores have to die. It means people have to be interested in comics through other channels and have access to them. Most comic stores have not cleaned up their act in the last 10 years. There’s plenty of them that are still left alive that drive women away in droves, particularly when it comes to all the featured porn and all the stuff that’s still just as offensive as it was 10 years ago when we were last complaining about it.

AR: I think that’s one of the things that will also hurt the perception of comics forever is that a young guy, as I was as a teenager, feeling like I didn’t want to talk about my avid comic collecting. I didn’t want to bring comic books to school for heaven’s sake! Good Lord! Can you think of something more embarrassing than that? Why don’t I just go to school naked? That might as well save me the trouble of feeling the greater embarrassment you’re going to have by reading a comic book in class. Comic books are not considered cool. Are superheroes a problem in that? To some degree, yeah. To a big degree, sure, but maybe that’s also because they’re done poorly for the most part.

AR: You know, if you read the things I’ve said before, I pretty much believe in the mythology of superheroes, it’s just the degree of the way they’re handled. I also don’t necessarily think that they have to be the dominant genre of this medium. They may be the most popular genre, but they don’t have to be the most overwhelming. They don’t have to have four monthly titles for Superman. Why do most casual fans of Superman not read the Superman comics? Because there’s too much of it. And, truthfully for all the different writers who have been involved in these things for the last ten years, they’ve run out of things to tell. I’m not saying there’s no new stories to tell, I’m saying basically that most of the talent that's been in here, making this stuff for so long, both artistic and storytelling, they just are as tired as they can be. To get the old Superman writers off of Superman, they had to go to this convoluted firing process that went back and forth and back and forth and they lost a good creative team of Grant Morrison and Mark Millard to the guys that are on there now, who are good, but still... do you follow what I’m saying?

HK: YEAH, I DO.

AR: It’s kind of like... (sigh) The only thing I can see happening is someone privately comes in there with a good war chest and does something dramatic that everybody else can look at and realize, sort of like the Blair Witch Project, they do something so simple, but yet so clever in its simplicity that it wows everybody else and then they decide, "Oh, Okay! We can follow that mold." It probably will never be entirely that easy, but I think there will be something like that.

AR: Imagine if somebody takes out major ads in magazines like Maxim, Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone for a specific comic property and they tell you in the ad, "Go check it out on www.whatever.com" and when you click onto that site, you’re able to see not necessarily the whole comics project, but enough pages to maybe make you excited enough to want to order that product. Let’s say there’s even animation that they offer that you can download, just to get you more interested in the properties that they’re promoting.

HK: WELL, HAVE YOU SEEN THE WORK THAT STAN LEE MEDIA IS DOING? THEY BASICALLY HAVE BEEN ONLINE, BUT I KNOW HERE IN AUSTIN THEY GOT ENTIRE BILLBOARDS THAT ARE ADVERTISING THEIR CHARACTERS. I ALSO SAW SOME COMMERCIALS ON TELEVISION FOR THEM.

AR: Right. Well, that’s definitely the right direction to go is to bring the advertising to the masses, but the problem is what they’re promoting is something you download for free...

HK: AND YOU CAN’T BUY, ABSOLUTELY.

AR: So, they should be selling a comic book. Even if the comic book is complete dreck, God knows by this point, with all the advertising they’ve done, they probably could have turned quite a tidy profit from all the people who would have ordered it out of curiosity, but they’re trying to make their money based upon advertising. What I’ve heard is they’re still hemorrhaging about a million a month. So, they really haven’t found that money to be coming back yet. Also, they’re looking for sales of the properties for film and television and all that kind of stuff, but as far as I know, those kind of money deals are not the level of millions it would take to sort of make up for the millions that were already invested in Stan Lee Media. Originally Stan Lee Media was boasting what? Three hundred million invested in it? If they’re inking away $5 million a month, $1 million a month, that starts to chip away after a while. I would have figured out pretty damn quick how I could make some short term cash off of selling some kind of crap.

HK: T-SHIRTS, HATS, ANYTHING.

AR: Exactly. Why not just print off a comic made up of stuff that’s already online? Like the comic you actually download online is sort of a short form, or a moving form of the still comic you’d be able to get. Maybe it’s the fact, also, that what they have doesn’t necessarily seem stellar both conceptually and artistically. That’s not meant to be a critique of the artists involved, it’s really more that the format they’re working with, Flash... You know what kills me about this fuckin’ Flash animation? It’s state of the art... what the fuck? It’s animatics! That’s what I understood in advertising when they would take storyboards and cut apart, like, "Just draw this figure here and marker up the background and we’re going to move this figure around in the background." It’s an animatic.

HK: YEAH, IT’S AN ANIMATIC WITH REALLY NICE SOUND.

AR: Exactly! And frankly, if the material is so kind of mealy-mouthed and inoffensive, then it’s nothing you can’t get on TV anyway and with better animation. They’re not creating comics there, they’re creating competitive animation. If that’s what you want to do, then just get it in animation. Don’t pass it off as being comic books. Comic books is a still medium, it demands the brain to actually participate with it, I’m quoting Scott McCloud here, but it demands the brain to sort of fill in the movement gaps. I think that’s what comics have to remain. I think that comics has an absolute future, a right to exist. The art form itself, as some people have pointed out, has never been healthier because you have some phenomenal works being done in the comics field. With the works of guys like Dan Clowes [Eightball] and Chris Ware [Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth] respectively, you know who those guys are.

HK: OH, ABSOLUTELY.

AR: The things they’re doing, it’s just like, man! You can’t believe it’s finally gotten to the level of what they’ve been able to accomplish.

HK: I KNOW AS A COMIC FAN, SITTING HERE LOOKING AT THEIR WORK, BEING ABLE TO WATCH WHAT MIKE MIGNOLA’S BEEN DOING WITH HELLBOY FOR YEARS NOW. BEING ABLE TO SEE THE FROM HELL STORY-LINES GET TOLD, THE WORK YOU’RE DOING. RIGHT NOW, I THINK COMICS ARE REALLY HEALTHY AT A CONCEPTUAL LEVEL...

AR: Right.

HK: BUT AS A BUSINESS FORM... I THINK IN A LOT OF WAYS, THE MEDIUM IS A LITTLE BIT BANKRUPT. DO YOU THINK THAT THE REASON EVERYONE’S PURSUING HOLLYWOOD SO MUCH IS THEY SEE IT AS THEIR ONE LIFEBOAT TO KEEP THE ALIVE?

AR: Yes, yeah and I don’t think it can work that way. When I see the X-Men movie and I get really excited about X-Men, I just want to see another X-Men film, I don’t want to go and read that damn comic because I don’t get any of that same feeling off that comic as I do off that film. When I’m going to open up that comic, I’m not going to see Hugh Jackman, I’m going to see the same character that has been annoying me for the last 20 years.

HK: SO, DO YOU SEE... IF LIKE, SOMEBODY MAKES A REALLY GREAT SPIDER-MAN FILM, DO YOU SEE IT AS ALMOST LIKE WEANING THE AUDIENCE OFF THE COMIC AND GETTING THEM HUNGRY FOR THIS NEW TYPE OF HEROIN?

AR: (Laughs) Well, thing is kids are already pretty much into movies anyway. It’s not like it’s a completely new thing. What seems to be kind of threatening is the idea, of course, CD-ROMs and interactive technology completely outweighs the whole comic thing. I have always felt in the last ten years that comics did themselves in and the growing computer technology may not have helped, but it wasn’t the death knell of comics. When you had the bad business management that started to occur with everybody going with one single distributor, I mean, that was the end of everything right there.

AR: Obviously, some of the other things specifically driving the fans away, like the multiple covers, the comics that were just being sold as stocks.

HK: THE INCREASING COVER PRICE AND ALL OF THAT.

AR: Yeah. That was starting to annoy the people who were passersby that came in around the time of the fury over Superman and all the things that were starting to get a lot of attention. We had a good momentum building up with, say, Spider-Man #1, X-Men #1...

HK: AND THEN THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN WAS JUST SORT OF A KICK IN THE BALLS.

AR: Well, it was like the ultimate payoff of all those years building up to it, but at the heart of it, it was empty. That wasn’t the newest Alan Moore project selling in those huge numbers. People weren’t actually being shown the best we had to offer. Still, for the most part, people have not been aware of what the best talents the industry have to offer. They’ve only been exposed to the most mediocre of the comic properties. Many times those mediocre properties, they’re the ones making it to film finally. I mean, they never got around to making a Watchmen film, but God knows what would have happened if that film had come out back in 1990, 1991, when it was originally proposed.

HK: YEAH, WITH TERRY GILLIAM. THE SAM HAMM SCRIPT WAS REALLY STRONG ON THAT, TOO.

AR: Exactly! The script by Sam Hamm was actually going to work better for a large audience than the comic book would. Of course, now with all the time that has past since, where you’ve seen so many epics based upon having somebody go through time to change it just to fix everything and change the entire timeline, now you couldn’t do the same script at all. In fact, you couldn’t do anything with Watchmen these days. It’s starting to be too removed. You know, there is no Cold War to reflect upon here, so it’s empty.

HK: AFTER THE SHAZAM BOOK AND THIS EARTH X HITS, WHAT ELSE ARE YOU WORKING ON PRESENTLY?

AR: Well, let me think... Presently? Well, you’ve got all the Universe X stuff, you got Shazam!, you got still all that same crap I do for Warner Brothers, which isn’t crap... of course. (Laughs) I don’t want to tell all my buyers that they’re just buying crap. No, I mean I’ll still be doing more and more illustrations for them. Probably some more lithographs for Dynamic Forces. God, let me think here...

AR: As far as for what I’m thinking of in the future, I am thinking about an independent project where I may potentially be able to try out some of these business concepts that I have been speaking of. Like, if somebody actually gets the deep pockets to put their money where their mouth is and they’re selling one main thing... I’m imagining that if you’ve got these outlets through magazines and other entertainment areas, like I’ve been told you can advertise stuff with game products. So, say, if you got a part in a game that is selling millions of copies and if you’re advertising something in there, than you’re reaching that many millions of people. Think about how many of them again you’re going to get a runoff for. Is it maybe 10%? Is it 5%? Is it 1%? Even 1% is a powerful percent that would outweigh any of the numbers we’re doing in comics right now.

AR: I feel kinda resentful of the fact that being at the top of my game at this point in history, where I’m about as high as I could have ever imagined... er, I’m well beyond whatever I could have imagined for myself as a younger man... that everything around me seems to be crumbling, that all I get is just a complaint about the current state of things and how it’s just going into nothingness.

AR: I had a conversation with a friend last week, a comic inker I know, who was asking me if I genuinely saw myself working in comics five years from now. Five years! Or even ten years. Can I honestly expect to have anything to be able to do? The truth is, yes I’d love to. I mean, I have doubts based upon the bad business, but the truth is I have so many stories in me to tell, I’d rather tell them in comics than try to get into any other medium to tell those things in.

HK: THERE’S ALWAYS... I CAN ONLY REALLY SPEAK FROM THE FAN SIDE OF THINGS HERE, BUT I REMEMBER WHEN FRAZETTA SORT OF BURNED OUT IN THE 70S AND HE WENT OFF AND STARTED DOING CHURCH MURALS. HE SORT OF GOT TIRED OF 8 MILLION PEOPLE ASKING HIM TO DO A LITTLE SKETCH ON A NAPKIN THAT HE WOULD THEN SEE SOMEBODY SELL FOR $75. THERE BECOMES A CERTAIN CYNICISM THAT SORT OF COMES INTO PLAY HERE. HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR ENTHUSIASM FOR A MEDIUM THAT YOU SEE CRUMBLING AROUND YOU? HOW DO YOU NOT BECOME SUPERMAN LIVING IN THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE WORKING ON A BARN?

AR: (Laughs) Because I kind of am Superman living in the Fortress of Solitude working on the farm. As I’ve obviously pointed out to you many times before, I’m not hooked up, I don’t see all the things that were said about things that were done. When I went by my girlfiend’s the other day and she had something to pass off to me that was like a fanzine about the X-Men that some fans passed on to her that they wanted her to hand off to me, and I was just flipping through this thing and it had an article where I saw there was an image of mine pulled for reference in there. Then I saw that the whole thing was actually railing on me about my horrible indictment of Stan Lee and just how cruel I was and how wrong I was.

HK: THIS BRINGS UP SOMETHING. YESTERDAY, I WAS WITH SOME FRIENDS, THERE’S CURRENTLY A FILM FESTIVAL GOING ON HERE IN TOWN AND I MENTIONED THAT I WAS GOING TO BE INTERVIEWING YOU TODAY AND THEY WERE CURRENTLY MAD BECAUSE YOU APPARENTLY RAILED AGAINST STAN LEE AND THEN, ALSO, AT THE SAME TIME, CAME DOWN ON FRANK MILLER FOR DOING THE DARK KNIGHT WRITING. SAYING SOMETHING LIKE, "OH, THAT’S A STUPID IDEA," OR SOMETHING, RIGHT?

AR: Right, right.

HK: YOU EVER FEEL REGRET FOR THESE THINGS OR IS IT ALL COMPLETELY JUST SHOOTING STRAIGHT FROM "THIS IS THE TRUTH AND THIS IS THE WAY I SEE IT."

AR: Well, I wanted to actually expose people to some of the things that I know they wouldn’t know otherwise. I figured I got a loud mouth and I can take it, but to some degree I can’t take it when I start to hear that people really got pissed off at something I said. In fact, what happened after those first quotes appeared in Wizard, the guy who got them from me, faxed me one of the letters that he received from somebody with angry, defensive stand and an argument with me over my position in this and I thought, "That’s it. I’m not going to do this anymore. I’m not going to shoot my mouth off about this kind of thing because, frankly, I don’t wanna have to hear about it later." I know so many things...

AR: See, when you actually enter into the business and get behind that veil, you start to notice things that the general public isn’t exposed to. I’ll tell you two of those major things right now, both of them involve fucking money, okay? It has nothing to do with the creative aspect. Both these guys are fucking millionaires, all right, and neither one of them are doing this for the love of the game. That’s a crock. Frank Miller, you wanna take a good hard look at what the end success of Sin City has been? There has been no film. That’s actually his fault, I believe. He killed that. I’m not meaning to take apart Sin City, I’m just saying that the guy has need for extra cash. He wanted to relocate to New York City. DC put up that money for him to do so, so they could get this Batman product. He wrote Dark Knight as the end chapter of a guy’s saga. That was the whole reason it was special. If there’s a second part to that, then it’s not the end saga and it nullifies the first work. It’s the same thing as people asking me to do the same thing with Kingdom Come. What are you talking about?

HK: ABSOLUTELY. YOU KNOW, THE SECOND HALF OF THE CONVERSATION I HAD YESTERDAY... YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND I LOVE THE IDEA OF STAN LEE. I THINK STAN LEE 1963 TO ABOUT ‘76 OR SO, HE’S WALT DISNEY. HE’S THIS VOICE AND THIS CHARACTER AND THIS BEING THAT IS TRANSCENDENTALLY PERFECT IN MY MIND. IF YOU SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THAT PERIOD OF STAN LEE, I WOULD GO INTO A RAGE BECAUSE THE WORK THAT WAS COMING OUT OF HIM CREATIVELY AND EVERYTHING ELSE WAS FANTASTIC. THE STAN LEE THAT GOT WOOED BY HOLLYWOOD AND THEN TURNED INTO REALLY QUITE A REMARKABLE BUSINESS GUY. HE CERTAINLY KNOWS HOW TO DRUM UP SUPPORT AND HOW TO MARKET HIMSELF.

AR: The guy is the Ring Master.

HK: HE’S WONDERFUL IN THAT ASPECT, BUT WHEN I SIT DOWN AND I TAKE A LOOK, LIKE, "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE STORY-WISE FOR ME LATELY?" WHAT HAS STAN DONE TO BENEFIT MY ENJOYMENT AS A READER IN THE LAST 20 YEARS? WHY IS MARVEL IN SO MUCH TROUBLE? ALL THAT STUFF GOES BACK TO LATE ‘70S, EARLY ‘80S DEALS THAT WERE BEING STRUCK. THEN THERE’S THE WHOLE JACK KIRBY AND THE TREATMENT FOR ARTISTS AND THEIR ABILITY TO GET THEIR WORK BACK TO SELL. THERE’S ALL THOSE FIGHTS, YOU KNOW. I TALKED WITH TRACY KIRBY AND THEIR PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED THERE AND THERE’S SOME BITTERNESS. I THINK STAN IS THE GREATEST SORT OF LOVE/HATE PERSONA THAT’S BEEN IN THE BUSINESS.

AR: Right. As a guy, and I’ve met him, he’s an okay guy.

HK: YEAH, I HAD DINNER WITH HIM. HE’S REALLY NICE.

AR: But the problem is... again, this whole thing that he’s passing himself off as is, of course, a lot of smoke and mirrors. Part of what I have a problem with is the only reason the guy is doing this thing with DC and the only reason he’s doing this stuff with the web site is because when the changeover happened with... um... what’s his name? The original shareholder owner, Ron Pearlman. When Ron Pearlman lost control of the company to Toy Biz, Toy Biz looked at all the things they had that were worth cutting and said, "We’re paying a contract for life for Stan Lee..." That was like something on the level of maybe $2 million a year. I can’t prove that, that’s just what I heard. But basically, he had a contract for life. $2 million a year and they sit there and go, "No. We’re not going to pay this anymore."

AR: So, all of a sudden his contract for life was null and void and they’re telling him, "We gotta renegotiate this, Stan. Whatever we’re doing with you, and we’ve gotta see something out of what we’re getting for our money, we’re not going to just pay you to live." So, he was suddenly out this wonderful cushion he was on. Now, if he’s been receiving $2 million a year for so many years, I don’t know why he needs to suddenly get so ambitious to make this new money. If I had a couple million dollars, I’m probably not going to be busting my balls all the time.

HK: I’M PRETTY SURE WHAT STAN’S CURRENT MOTIVATION IS. I BELIEVE IT HAS TO DO WITH A DREAM TO BUY MARVEL BACK.

AR: I wouldn’t have a problem if one of the big things he was talking about was that. He could do very well to be very loud in this, to say, "Look, I’m going to restore credit as they should have always been." He could be very loud in that to gain the acceptance of people like myself to say, "Okay, I’m going to make sure Fantastic Four reads 'by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.' Spider-Man reads 'by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee'..."

HK: WELL, THAT WAS ACTUALLY MY FAVORITE PART ABOUT X-MEN WAS ACTUALLY SEEING AT THE END THE STAN LEE/JACK KIRBY CREDIT. I THOUGHT THAT WAS REALLY GROOVY.

AR: That was great! I honestly hold him responsible for not doing what he could’ve and should’ve at the time he was in power to do so. I know he’s been called to the carpet on that so many times and that he’s been honest and open to say, "Look, these guys did this and yes, I only did this part, so yes, they are co-creators." But the thing is, he’s only giving that up at a point where he’s completely powerless and what he says doesn’t even matter. He didn’t take care of that when he was in a position to change that. It is a little case of too little too late. Roz Kirby would never forgive him for what she felt he did to her husband.

AR: Does it mean I want to kill the guy? Hell, no! It means I’m not going to work with him. I’m not going to do for him what those guys did for him. In the case of this project, I talked to one of the artists, who I won’t name, and he mentioned to me for one thing that he wanted to get the hell out of it, that he had regretted that he had actually agreed to it. He thought that him being a Kirby fan, he thought it was chance for him to sort of do what Jack had done originally. Get in there and kind of fix whatever things Stan was handing in and make it better. I kept thinking, "But that perpetuates him, not you."

AR: If the real talent being shown there is gonna be the guys who came in to craft from Stan’s outlines or God knows if it’s even Stan writing the outlines. Honestly, I figure it’s Stan in a room with a bunch of other writers and he talks about some ideas he has and the other guys put it down on paper. I don’t think Stan is actually sitting there in front of that typewriter. I don’t believe it. I do not believe. I don’t think he’s done that in probably 15 years. I...I... (sigh)... I won’t contribute to this.

AR: I’ve been asked for the last eight years of my career, every year or so I would get a call related to something with Stan Lee where Stan had bugged somebody to try and get me to be a part of something with him. Whether that was this current stuff with the web site or... Oh, God... what was it... Actually, Marvel’s first proposal to me after doing MARVELS was to have me work with Stan on some kind of retro thing. I kept thinking, "You know, if you were going to throw Allan Moore at me, that I would understand, but guys... I just don’t see Stan the same way you do. I think that dialogue is fairly dated. I mean, the mind that comes up with character names like Mongor. What do I need to say folks? This guy created Super Pro, okay?"

AR: I don’t hate the guy, but I do hate kind of what he’s representing here, the vacuousness. Also, that the guys who are angry with me, is that I’m tampering with their gods by saying that the emperor has no clothes. Yeah, probably, I should keep my mouth shut so it’s proven for that without my having to say anything. If it turns out, when this DC series comes out, that it all sucks, or that the ideas suck, then that proves my point. But if it’s great, then I’ll be there. I’m going to buy this thing.

AR: All I can say in summation about the fans who are upset with me, I’ve been exposed to different facts that they haven’t... maybe not so much facts as much as information. I have a slightly skewed view and maybe I shouldn’t share that with the public.

*** CONCLUDED IN PART FOUR!!! CLICK HERE TO READ!!! ***

(Special thanks to Quint for transcribing this interview.)

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 1, 2000, 12:44 a.m. CST

    AlexRoss has given a reality to our hero dreams

    by douggie007

    Looking at his work, you begin to see that heroes and villians could resemble and coexists with us mere mortals. His vision just adds a much needed feul to our fire of imagination.

  • Sept. 1, 2000, 12:49 a.m. CST

    Well....

    by Killjoy

    that changes my view of Stan Lee. All the time I thought of him as a gentel person. Now I know why Steve Dikto got upset...

  • Sept. 1, 2000, 1:11 a.m. CST

    Wow. Just ... wow.

    by Revelare

    I'm glad a person's personality doesn't affect my views of their work. Wow.

  • Sept. 1, 2000, 3:12 a.m. CST

    Frank Miller Should Leave Superman Alone.

    by Buzz Maverik

    That's the main flaw with The Dark Knight. Miller turned Superman into a villain and he's going to do it again. Miller is great but DC didn't let him do the things he did to their most famous character because he's great, they did it for the bucks. Lemming-like, nobody had the balls to say ,"Uh, Frank, you get Batman fine, but you don't get Superman at all." Alex Ross actually seems to get all these characters.

  • Sept. 1, 2000, 6:05 a.m. CST

    I've never been a big comic reader but...

    by Cereal Killer

    ...two things were said about the state of comics now that I wanted to comment on. First, comic book prices are ridiculous. When I was a kid you could get a comic book for a quarter. Hell, my mom used to tell me that her and her siblings got a huge stack of comics every month back in the '40's that they would read and then trade with other kids for another stack. In that way she read just about every comic that was out at the time. Now that comics are 3 bucks each, no kid can buy a stack of them and they're too expensive to trade with friends after you've read them. Bring the prices back down to under a buck each. Second, we need to bring comics out of the comic book store. Comics thrive better when they're an impulse buy. If you've got kids with you at Walmart or the grocery store and there's a huge section of comics you're not gonna get out of there without being badgered into buying one. The way it is now you have to already be a comic fan who makes a monthly trip to the comic store (a place just for geeks) to get your comic fix. This is not a strategic way to get more readers. So, the comic companies need to drop their prices and broaden their visibility in the marketplace if they want to survive.

  • Sept. 1, 2000, 10:27 a.m. CST

    Mad respect...

    by StarUnlit

    to Alex Ross... it takes courage to speak the truth in an industry run by such fickle hearts... and zero fuckin respect to the comic industry... overall, It has become a business whose prices are ridiculous. 3 bucks for a comic, or more if you live in Canada like me, is stupid... it basically axes all hope for a little kid to grab an exciting selection of books, and little kids are the reason that the comic industry thrived like it used to. They sell a commodity that in inacessible both in terms of price and collectorship. The multi-title arcs have got to stop... why do we buy them? Does anyone really enjoy them? Or have the Big 3 just made us such mindless completists that we cant stop... Comics were one my favourite modes of recreation, right up there with drinking and rock music. Comic books are how i taught myself to read, and i bet the same is true of many people out there. My collection numbered in the low thousands, but even i had to stop because quality fell as prices rose. Fuck this industry... it doesnt deserve to be doing well.

  • Sept. 1, 2000, 11:19 a.m. CST

    What a great country we live in...

    by Fred4sure

    A total loon can ramble on and on about things he's only half-informed about and people will take it as the gospel. Amen, everybody...

  • Sept. 1, 2000, 12:51 p.m. CST

    The ending to Dark Knight

    by INWOsuxRED

    The Dark Knight _RETURNS_ ended with a "new begining". Just look at the last few pages and it is clear to even the simplest of minds that it was not the end of the story...well, maybe not the simplest. Anyways, Miller has said pretty much since he wrote that one that he always had a sequel in mind...Anyone else annoyed by the Marvel/comics industry is only in it for the money sentiment in the same interview as the Marvel doesn't have enough money to for me sentiment?

  • Sept. 2, 2000, 6:38 p.m. CST

    Buzz Maverik - Re: Frank Miller & Superman

    by Dave_F

    I'm not one of those people who thinks Frank Miller can do no wrong, but I think you might be off in saying Frank 'doesn't get' Superman. You've got to remember that "Dark Knight" was a highly satirical and stylized piece of work, a *deliberate* attempt to shake up the superhero status quo. That Superman was reinterpreted as a government lackey doesn't mean that that's the only way Miller views the character, simply that that was the most interesting way to interpret him for this particular Batman story. Miller's Superman was a reflection of real public concerns over Reagan's hawkish military policies. It was as though the old Superman slogan of "truth, justice, and the American way" had been rewritten as simply "the American way". In a story rife with satire, I think it was a sharp as hell reinterpretation. On a simpler level, Superman's opposition to Batman simply made Batman the ultimate outlaw, an idea keenly important to Miller in showcasing Batman's drive for justice. I mean, when a near-god like Superman wants to take you down and you *still* keep on fighting, that is the essence of righteous rebellion. As for whether Miller could write a strong Superman story with all the traditional altruism of the character...I couldn't say for sure. I just don't think he meant Dark Knight to be his definitive take on the Superman. In fact, I read an interview with Miller years ago where he mentioned a desire to do a full-on Superman story. I seem to recall that he felt a little guilty for making Superman a villain in "Dark Knight", and wanted to redeem himself (and Superman). Interesting. I've seen a few Superman pin-ups by Miller in various places, and if nothing else, he certainly can *draw* a heroic interpretation of the character. We'll see about the writing later. ****** On a related note, I don't think Alex Ross necessarily "gets" all the characters he's worked on either. Take Captain Marvel, for example, a key player in "Kingdom Come". Anyone with knowledge of Captain Marvel's defining years under the legendary team of C.C. Beck and Otto Binder knows Captain Marvel is essentially a humorous character. His adventures were wacky, fast-paced fantasy. And yet Waid and Ross wedged this guy (very awkwardly) into a very serious role in "Kingdom Come". That bothers me more than Miller's take on Superman, because "Kingdom" was clearly not meant as satire, as stylization - it was ostensibly a realistic take on the future of the DC universe. DC in general deserves some blame - they should never have merged the light-hearted Captain Marvel into their "serious" continuity in the first place (same for Plastic Man), but Ross and Waid are still idiots for making him a key player in their quasi-epic story. Ross is a great artist, and he's even got some good ideas, but as I've harped in previous Talkbacks - his word ain't gospel, and he's certainly not the savior of the wounded comic medium.

  • Sept. 4, 2000, 12:15 p.m. CST

    Prices, and simple logic.

    by Zone Zero

    Okay peeps, here is the deal. Comics are high in price, not because of production, but because of the high pay rates for artists and writers, and anyone else involved. The best way to get the most bang for the buck is what the japanese do, make a directory book sized b&w comic, and put it out for roughly 8 bucks an issue, and people might bite, especially if several comics are within. This also eliminates the need for 4 books per title a month!