After 40 years together, married comic creators Walter and Louise Simonson visited with CBR TV’s Jonah Weiland aboard the world famous CBR Yacht at Comic-Con International in San Diego to discuss their time in the trenches, current projects for IDW Publishing and how they’ve helped each other creatively over the years. Walter explains his romantic notion of all the work he’s ever done adding up to one long drawing, his feeling on Marvel’s female Thor announcement and why it’s so hard for him to read titles he’s written in the past because of his intense emotional investment in the work. Louise discusses the origins of IDW’s Cartoon Network crossover, “Super Secret Crisis War,” and why she’d prefer to stay away from super heroes because of the current state of comics and the world as a whole. Things wrap up with a lengthy discussion of how they’ve each been there for each other as fellow creatives over the years, including how Louise helped Walter figure out how to navigate the times he forgot how to draw and how Walter gives input on Louise’s scripts based on his own strengths as a storyteller.
On how Walter sees his work as one long drawing: “The idea really is that, in comics, if you do comics long enough, you have to solve a lot of the same problems over and over again, by using crowd scenes or problems of scale. So I would look at my old work and try to figure out what I’d done, how I’d done it right, maybe how I’d done it wrong, how I’d maybe rethink how I’d done it,” said Walter. “Over time I began to think of the work I was doing — on different books, different characters, it didn’t matter — it really is one long drawing. And mostly I’m a drawer. I’m a storyteller, but I’m a drawer. I like drawing a lot. I began drawing before I can remember. My mom tells me I was about 4, I had mono when I was 4 years-old, and so you kind of lie in bed — I don’t know about now, but in the old days — I don’t remember it, but you’re in bed for weeks at a time back then. I had done a little drawing before that, I had quit doing it — my mom, of course, was delighted I was doing it, and then she was sorry I wasn’t still doing it. So when I was ill and in bed she brought me some paper and pencils and I began doing more drawing, and then I never quit. I kept drawing from that point on. I kind of see the work I do as a drawing that I began at the age of 3 or 4 or whatever it was, and I’ll just draw until I’m not drawing anymore, whenever that’s gonna be. So all the different drawings I’ve done, all the different books I’ve worked on, the characters, it’s all part of one long drawing.
On how Louise came to write IDW’s “Super Secret Crisis War,” which crosses over all of the company’s Cartoon Network licenses: “The idea was Greg [Goldstein]’s, who’s the [IDW COO], he had this idea. We were out to dinner and he just had this idea and asked me if I was interested and I said sure, not thinking that anything would come of it, because a lot of times nothing does,” said Louise. “I thought it was a great idea, but… And then they called me up and said, ‘It’s a go. Do it.’ They said, ‘Okay, pick out some characters.'”
On whether Louise would prefer to work on more lighthearted comics after so many years working on traditional super heroes: “You know, I kind of do would in a lot of ways. I love super heroes, they’re great, but I’ve done them for a really long time and a lot of that seems so dark now,” said Louise. “And a lot of what’s happening in the world seems so dark. It’s kind of nice to do something that’s a little bit fun. And while “Super Secret Crisis War” has the universe at stake, at least we’re cheerful about it. [Laughs]”
On what Walter thinks of Marvel’s recently announced female Thor: “First of all, I haven’t seen Frog Thor mentioned as many times on the Web as it has been in the last two weeks after the news broke,” said Walter. “My thought about that was, ‘I’m not entirely sure what that says about frogs, and I’m not sure what it says about women.’ I’m not going there.”
“Or comics fans,” Louise added.
“Or comics fans. But as far as the idea goes — sure. I’m pretty much game for any idea because, to me, I’m an empirical guy. You see a lot of stuff on the Web, there’s an idea, and it gets shot down or it starts a flame war or whatever it does. My own feeling is, ‘Well, show me the work. Let me see what the story’s like. I’m not gonna jump in and presume I know what the writer’s gonna do. I don’t know what any writer’s gonna do. I’ve already seen three or four things — I mean, I don’t know what he’s doing — but I saw three or four early things that I know are not happening. So my feeling is, let’s see what the work is. If they like the story, great, if you don’t like the story, that’s okay, but I don’t want to hear about it before you actually have the material in hand. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the idea just as an empirical idea. I gather it’s someone else who becomes worthy of the hammer. I’m not sure, I haven’t studied or tried to find out more about it than that. I don’t want to know any more about it, really. But I just figured, I’ll get around to it, I’d like to read it and see what it’s like, physically and conceptually, in the way it’s executed. And so as far as the idea goes — idea seems fine to me. And then you’re done. Then you’re just waiting to see how it turns out.
On some of the challenges they’ve faced together as creators, including how Louise helped Walter when he thought he forgot how to draw: “Back in the day, Walter would, every once in a while, forget how to draw. Remember?” Louise said.
“Oh yeah,” Walter agreed. “That still happens occasionally.”
“It’s like, ‘Oh my god, nothing I’m drawing looks any good anymore. My life is over as an artist.’ And what I realized, because I was an editor at the time, and had seen a lot of work go past me, was that when you hit this phase where suddenly your stuff, which looks just like it did yesterday, doesn’t look good to you anymore, it’s because your mind has made a leap. Your brain has gotten farther than your hand has learned to do it yet. But eventually, give it a few weeks, keep it up and you’ve made a leap in your own craft.”
“That was a big help because it was so depressing when you realize you couldn’t draw anymore,” said Walter.
“It’s a physical thing,” Louise said. “If you had seen it you would see that he hadn’t forgotten how to draw, but he suddenly could see and understand better how to draw. But his hand just hasn’t learned yet.”
“I still hit these patches occasionally. They aren’t as — maybe sadly — they aren’t as long as they used to be, and maybe they should be, but I still hit them occasionally,” said Walter. “Now when I feel that I’m not as panicked as I was when this would happen in the old days.”