Gone. “The Monolith?” Dead. David’s “Supergirl?” Toast. All the Crossgen books? Decaying. I’ve supported dozens of underselling series over the years and they always seem to end up being cancelled anyway (with the exception of “Runaways” and “Fallen Angel”), so I’m almost afraid to beg you, dear reader, to pick up my new favorite “on the bubble” comic series, “The Thing,” written by the amazing Dan Slott. Dare I tell all you people about this great interpretation of the Fantastic Four’s rockiest member without risking the book being cancelled the next day? Well, I’m praying that “The Thing” becomes one of those rare exceptions, because I can’t remain mum about this gem any longer. Any series that can prompt me to buy a dozen copies of every issue and distribute them to my students has to be good, right? Dan Slott avoided his angry editor’s calls about deadline just long enough to talk up “The Thing” and his other underachiever “She-Hulk.”
Robert Taylor: Hey Dan, how’s life?
Dan Slott: Not bad, sir. Not bad at all.
RT: Before we start talking about the hard numbers, let’s talk about the reception for the relaunch of “She-Hulk” and the new ongoing “Thing” series. Are you satisfied?
DS: Both the fan response and the reviews have been great. On that side of the equation, I couldn’t be happier.
RT: What creative fulfillments can you find on these two books that you can’t find elsewhere?
DS: In the pages of “She-Hulk” there’s this freedom to tell really bizarre and quirky stories (like the time-travel self-defense case from #2, or the current Starfox two-parter). And over in “Thing,” I get to write the kind of comics that I liked reading back when I was a kid. It’s all fun!
RT: Let’s talk “She-Hulk” first. What’s happened so far in the series and give us a couple nuggets of what’s coming up.
DS: So far? Wow, that’s a toughie!
RT: I never promised I wouldn’t be above giving the gritty, hard questions.
DS: We’re cramming a lot into each issue, so even though only six have come out – that’s about four or five “She Hulk” adventures! In the meantime…
All you need to know is that Jen Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk) is a lawyer for a firm that specializes in Superhuman Law – all the bizarre cases that could only happen in a comic book world. To Jen’s chagrin, a new mysterious boss, Mr. Zix, is running the show, her firm has started to aggressively represent supervillains, and right now she’s caught in the middle of a disturbing superhero sexual assault case.
|“The Thing” #6|
RT: Then what is coming up, Mr. Answer Man?
DS: Coming up, readers can expect a major status quo change for “She-Hulk” – spinning out of our big “Civil War” issue in #8! The direct fallout for that will spill into #9… And, not to jinx it or anything, but I think that’s going to be one of our best issues to date.
RT: Damn, you jinxed it! Now, tell us a little about the art teams behind the book.
DS: For our two-part Starfox story in issues 6 and 7, we’ve got the gorgeous art of Will Conrad, the guy from the recent “Serenity” miniseries, as well as “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Red Sonja” fame. And starting with #8, one of my all-time favorite pencilers, Paul Smith comes on board!
RT: How does this volume differentiate from the first?
DS: More people are reading it (laughs).
RT: Indeed! Sales are up over 30% or so from the last volume. Are you pleased with the numbers, and is Marvel?
DS: In a nutshell? YES!
RT: And on that high note, let’s move over to “The Thing.” Give us an update, please!
DS: Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing, is a gazillionaire. Who now owns a giant teleporting dog. And he’s good pals with practically every Marvel superhero.
So, basically, you’ve got a book about a guy who can go anywhere, do anything, and knows everybody. How can you not tell a bazillion stories with that set up?
|“The Thing” #6,
RT: I have no idea. Now tell us about Andrea DiVito.
DS: One: He’s a guy! Can everyone please start getting that right? Two: He’s one hell of a talented guy! He’s just too, too good! Three: He’s a really nice guy! He’s fun to talk to – or email back and forth with. He’s just overflowing with energy and enthusiasm – and it’s very infectious!
Sadly, though, sales on the “Thing” weren’t setting the world on fire, and Marvel wanted to put Andrea on a more high profile project. And so, Andrea was moved over to the “Annihilation” mini.
While I’m sad to see Andrea go, I’m really excited about the “Thing’s” new penciler/inker: Kieron Dwyer!
Kieron is one the best artists in the industry! And anyone who’s seen his work on “The Avengers,” “Captain America,” “Daredevil,” “Uncanny X-Men, “X-Factor,” “Action Comics, “Lobo” or “Batman” should know that these upcoming issues of “Thing” are going to look amazing!
RT: As you mentioned, sales haven’t been through the roof. In fact they haven’t even been through the carpet. What happened?
DS: I think our biggest problem was that we came out of the gate with some pretty low numbers – and this was before fans even had a chance to crack open the cover of our first issue. This is a problem that a lot of new books face. Either you’re launching against a whole slew of other first issues or you’re launching, as we were, in the middle of a number of high profile “event” books. Either way, you’re going to get low order numbers. And being the fifth ongoing “Fantastic Four” title probably didn’t help.
RT: Holy crap it is five now, isn’t it? Are the low numbers a reader issue or a retailer issue?
DS: I think it’s a market issue. This is just the way the market is.
RT: What can we do to change that?
|“The Thing” #6,
DS: Well, fans who get their comics from Local Comic Shops can help out by adding their favorite low-selling titles to their pull lists. The idea behind this is that retailers only order a set amount of copies for low-selling titles. If a fan puts that title on their pull list – if they commit to buying it ahead of time – then the retailer will order their usual set amount of copies plus the numbers of copies that are being pulled. This is the best thing a fan can do in an effort to help increase order numbers.
Andrea and I have actually started up a contest to encourage Thing readers to do just that.
RT: What’s this contest called?
DS: (sighs) “Pull My Thing!” Okay, that’s officially getting old now. Let’s just shorten it to PMT!
RT: Oh come on…it’s not funny unless I make you repeat it a bunch of times in the interview!
DS: (sighs louder) We’re asking fans to spread the word about both the book and the pull list campaign. A winner will be chosen by who we think is doing the best online campaigning – without being too pushy. Basically, we’re going to award the best Pull-My-Thing salesperson.
DS: Okay…no more Pull-My-Thing comm…
RT: I’ll try to stop…What are the prizes for this Pull-My-Thing (laughs) contest?
DS: One of Andrea’s original pages of art. And, on my side, signed copies of the first two “She-Hulk” trades, the third (when it comes out in June), the “Spider-Man/Human Torch” digest, the “GLA” trade, and the “GLX-Mas” one shot.
RT: How soon do things have to change?
DS: Immediately! A.S.A.P.! NOW! Seriously, we need some back-to-press numbers on our current issues! No joke!
|“The Thing” #6,
RT: And on that note…what was your first comic book?
DS: And they say the art of the segue is dead.
RT: I’ve never been known as being very subtle.
RT: Oh sorry…
DS: The first book I ever bought was “Marvel Team-Up #38.” The first superhero comics I ever read were my cousin’s copies of the Galactus Trilogy.
RT: Has there ever been a comic book that touched/changed your life? What was it?
DS: Yes. It was three comics actually. There was a point in my life where I was completely burnt out on comics. It was right after “Fall of the Mutants” and “Millenium.”
RT: The TV show?
DS: The comic.
RT: Oh. ’cause the TV show rocked.
DS: I’m ignoring you. I was in college, money was tight, and I’d bought every single issue of those two cross-overs, believing that they’d all magically tie together to tell two great, big uber-stories. And at the end, I felt totally ripped off. I threw in the towel and decided to walk away from comics altogether.
Cut to a year later, my dorm was having a “Pizza Night,” and I volunteered to drive over to Little Caesar’s and pick up the pies. When I got there, the pizzas weren’t ready, so I stopped into the comic shop next door to kill some time. I told myself I was just looking, and I wasn’t going to buy anything. Eventually, I caved and decided to buy some indies, but nothing from Marvel or DC. I spotted a bargain bin – any three comics for one buck. I picked the ones that I thought had the most interesting covers and went back to Little Caesar’s. Those three books just happened to be: “Mage,” “ZOT!,” and “The Tick.”
They were all so good that I went back the next day and got all of their back issues! And that got me back into comics. And, eventually, back to Marvel and DC. Heck, I even went into back issues and caught up on my “missing year.”
Not long after, I went straight to Marvel and landed my first job. So… If it wasn’t for those three issues, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Which is late on a deadline…
|“The Thing” #6,
RT: Was that a hint?
DS: I’m sure I don’t know what you are talking about
RT: Now it’s my turn to sigh. If you could only write one book for the rest of your career, what would it be?
DS: “Fantastic Four,” “Amazing Spider-Man,” “Marvel Team-Up,” or “Detective Comics.” Any one of those four would be a dream gig.
Though, I have to say, there are also books that if I ever got on them, I would never want to leave – like “Moon Knight,” “Action,” “Captain America,” “Avengers,” “Daredevil,” “Iron Man,” “Creeper,” “Doom Patrol,” and – especially – “She-Hulk.” I’ve invested so much thought, time, and heart into “She-Hulk,” her world, and her supporting cast, that I don’t ever want to walk away from it.
RT: What’s the best comic book movie ever made?
DS: “Spider-Man 2” or the first “Superman.” Though I don’t think enough credit goes out to “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: Uncut Version.” Seriously, that is the greatest Batman movie ever made. No joke. But you have to watch the uncut version. It makes all the difference.
RT: I’ve seen the original version and wasn’t too impressed, I’ll have to check out the uncut version. Now, if you were remembered for only one thing in your career, what would you want it to be?
DS: A Cal Ripken-like run of good, solid comics.
RT: Great, now get your ass back on those deadlines!
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