Since his days as a child actor playing the role of Will Robinson on sixties sci-fi TV series “Lost in Space,” Bill Mumy has enjoyed a wide-spanning career in the entertainment business. A fan favorite on the con circuit, not only for his child actor days but also his role as Lennier on “Babylon 5” and apearances on Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone,” Mumy has also contributed a number of voices for animated series ranging from “Ren and Stimpy” to Steven Spielberg’s “Animaniacs” and served as narrator for A&E’s award-winning “Biography.” An accomplished musician and writer, Mumy has released a number of solo projects, as well as a series of comedy albums as one half of the duo Barnes & Barnes — most famous for their eighties’ hit “Fish Heads.”
His latest project taps into all of these past lives as, following a 12-year hiatus, he returns to comic book writing as the co-creator and writer of Bluewater Productions’ “Curse of the Mumy.”
Released this week, and featuring art by Ron Stewart, “Curse of the Mumy” spins out of the pages of “The Mis-Adventures of Adam West” #10 and stars a fictional (we think) version of Bill Mumy that saves the world one mission at a time, enlisting the services of avatars representing his many past lives from TV, film and music.
On the eve of the series’ launch, CBR News spoke with Mumy, who couldn’t be more excited about his return to comics. A long-time reader and collector of the sequential art form, Mumy hopes to tell a character-driven story in “Curse of the Mumy” in an early Silver Age-style of storytelling with an early Golden Age-style of artwork, all washed with a modern sense of humor and politics.
CBR News: Billy, I just read the first issue of “Curse of the Mumy” and it’s a ton of fun.
Bill Mumy: I’m glad you got a chance to look at it. It’s a fairly large ensemble, so it takes a few issues to really get acclimated to everything, but it’s been a lot of fun.
Is this something you conceived and were seeking a publisher to make happen, or did Bluewater approach you?
The project came completely out of the blue. I hadn’t written comic books for, wow, maybe 12 years, and Darren Davis called me to license my name and likeness for the Adam West/iconic sci-fi/superhero/tongue-in-cheek universe. I thought that was great, because I love comic books.
I said, “Let me get back to you in an hour.” The muse was just tingling, and I came up with the high concept for my own series — basically the first arc — in about 45 minutes. I sent it to Darren via email and called him back and he was blown away. It was just one of those quick, inspiring kind of things. I grew up reading comic books, and my passion for that medium has led me back to the early Golden Age.
What I really wanted to do, and I know this sounds somewhat ambitious, but it was really easy — I wanted to tell a character-driven story in an early Silver Age-style of storytelling with an early Golden Age-style of artwork, and then wash it all with a modern sense of humor and politics. And get some adult relationships in there, too.
It’s been very easy. I really think fans of “Lost in Space,” “Twilight Zone,” “Babylon 5” and Barnes & Barnes, and a couple of other projects of mine, are really going to like this book. I don’t think you have to be aware of my acting past to get into this book after a while. There are certainly characters to get to know, but hopefully, we are introducing that at a proper pace.
If it’s anything like “The Mis-Adventures of Adam West,” this is obviously a hyper-fictional account of the life of Bill Mumy, but it is based on a very real person: you.
Absolutely. My wife is cracking up, I have to say. My wife Eileen and I have been married 27 years. She has seen me before I wrote any comic books and she knows the fun that I have had doing it over the years, but when I said, [Laughs] “I’m going to put you in the book and you’re going to be the Golden Age Lois Lane and you’re not going to take shit from anybody.” She said, “Okay, honey.” But when she saw the artwork, she really liked it.
Along that same line of reasoning, we can assume you don’t have a series of test-tubed avatars of your past roles in the basement, but these characters do represent specific stages in your long and varied career in entertainment, correct?
Yes. Obviously, Space Boy and Row Bot, that’s a wink and a nudge to Will Robinson, but we’re trying to keep all of these characters that are based on characters that I have played in TV and film, these homages, to their own separate identities so we’re not too beholden to what came before.
That said, I will purposely walk the thin line of choosing the iambic pentameter which the characters use to speak [channels Lennier from “Babylon 5”] but he wouldn’t say it this way, he would say it this way. I want to twist it. I want it to be kind of true to those TV characters, but at the same time, these are different characters.
I want to give fans — and I hate to use the word “fans” but — of “Babylon 5” a nudge to Lennier. But the character isn’t Lennier. He’s No’ Lar. I’m not ripping him off.
It’s a bit of a challenge, in terms of having them speak with their own individual voices that are still homage to the television or film projects that came before. But in terms of the plotline and the rest of the story, this isn’t like anything that I’ve been a part of in the past. [Laughs]
For the first arc, I wanted these big mystical, political subjects but I wanted to deal with them with these silly little characters. I have eight issues fully scripted and I asked Darren, “Should I keep going or should I pause?” He just said, “You don’t have to be in a hurry.” I guess we’ll see how the first eight issues do.
I don’t think I am giving too much away here, but as we see in the first few pages, depending on the adventure, you — Mumy in the book — tap into a specific avatar of a past character that suits the specific needs of the mission, you check out and the avatar checks in to save the day.
Yes, there is a mystical reality — I will refer to myself in the third person to make this more sane — there are characters that Mumy brought to life on the screen during different periods of his career and somehow or another — and it is kind of magical — he is able to activate these characters into reality prime.
But, every time he does activate one of these characters, he loses a random bit of himself. That is the curse of the Mumy. He can activate Space Boy to go out into space or Kip the Ghost Boy to fly off to the moon really quick but by doing so, there is a random personal loss. And it could be a very minor loss like, “Where did I put my keys?” Or it could be a very major loss like forgetting one of your loved ones ever existed.
There is indeed a curse that comes with activating these characters and using this power.
This will all be revealed in future issues, but what can you tell us about Shadoman, the man, it seems, giving Mumy his assignments?
I am implying that multiple generations before Bill Mumy, like his grandparents on both sides, infiltrated the Illuminati purposely so that they would one day be inside and able to thwart their plans for a one-world government or whatever the Illuminati’s plans in a comic book happen to be.
To answer your question, Shadoman is a fellow Illuminati insider, who is a double agent, if that makes any sense.
It does and it doesn’t and that’s the beauty of “The Curse of the Mumy.” You mentioned your wife Eileen but will your kids, who are both actors, play a role in the series?
Not yet. Our son Seth, who is 23, and our daughter Liliana, who is 19 today (Tuesday), have decided not to be in it for now. [Laughs] They were like, “Let’s see how it goes, Dad. You can always bring us in later.” They are referred to as the story continues so who knows if they will pop up or not. If they do, I don’t expect that they will be popping up with any superpowers.
You also talked about the art style featured in the book. You’re an actor and also a musician but I couldn’t find any artist credits in your bio. How involved were you in the look and feel of “The Curse of the Mumy”?
Very involved. I have written all of the scripts full script but when you start a partnership with somebody, you don’t want them to feel squeezed to hard. I wrote it full script but I wrote it page by page as opposed to panel by panel. There is a general description of what I want to see on the page and the dialogue that will fit on the page as opposed to panel for panel, full description because I want a partner here. I want someone that feels like they are really contributing and co-creating this project as we go.
Bluewater has given me artist approval. We saw a few people at the beginning that weren’t right for this project and I had to say, “No.” I was very clear in terms of what I wanted to see, and now we have Ron Stewart, who is a newcomer to the industry, and he is delivering the goods. The colorist, Miguel Caraballo, is really delivering too with that 1939-1940 early Golden Age coloring style. I don’t know if you can click with me on that but he certainly is. I really wanted that visual look of the late 1930s, early 1940s.
It is a very short period. Kind of before World War II was officially on and there was a lot of propaganda being released everywhere and the Golden Age characters were really vigilantes but they were really cool too. They were cool, Superman included. And that was the flavor of artwork that I wanted as our tonality and I think Ron is delivering that really well.
In celebration of the show’s 20th anniversary, I see you are attending Phoenix Comic Con next month with the cast of “Babylon 5” and its mastermind, J. Michael Straczynski. Have you ever talked comics with JMS?
I’ve always enjoyed talking comics with writers. That’s actually how my opportunity to enter the business of comic book writing came about. At a convention in 1985, I was talking to Jim Shooter, who really liked a lot of the earlier work that I had done, and I was very well aware of the fact that he started writing “Legion of Super-Heroes” when he was only 13 years old. We shared a commonality of being professionals at a young age and we were having a nice conversation when he asked, “What are you doing right now?”
I had just written an episode for the new “Twilight Zone” television show and had written a few episodes of another show that I was on in the seventies called “Sunshine,” so I said, “I’m writing this and that.” And he had no idea that I wrote but he said, “Why don’t you write a book for us?” That was as easy as it was. I know that some people will be so pissed to hear that because they work so hard waiting for their break but that’s how it happened.
Haley’s Comet was on its way to our neck of the woods and I thought that will be a nice traditional arena to introduce some sci-fi/superhero comic book type stuff so I pitched the project called the “Comet Man” and we ended up selling a half-a-million of those for Marvel. That was a pretty good start into the comic book world. It was pretty easy and this has been just as easy. I didn’t expect it to happen. It was one of those out of the blue phone calls that ended up channelling the muse.
As for the “Babylon 5” anniversary, it is hard to believe that it has been 20 years since we started that project. Time is a bizarre river but I am really looking forward to seeing all of those people next month.
Finally, the “The Curse of the Mumy” is introduced in “The Mis-Adventures of Adam West” #10. There is an awesome picture of you and Adam on your website from, I am guessing, 40-some years ago. Have you had a chance to speak with him lately, specifically about this project?
No, I haven’t seen Adam in probably 10 years. Our paths were crossing every other day in the sixties when he was doing “Batman” and we were doing “Lost in Space” because we were on the same lot. I know the photograph that you are referring to and that was taken at a charity event at Santa Monica Civic College back in 1967 or 1968. Actually, Bruce Lee was there too. But for Adam, while I’ve seen him at conventions over the decades, we’ve really never got into much conversation about anything beyond, “Hey, man. How are you doing?”
So no, sadly, I have no recent contact with Adam but I am looking forward to our characters intermingling in this Bluewater shared universe.
“Curse of the Mumy,” by Bill Mumy and Ron Stewart,” is available now.