WHAT'S UP, BRO?
Joe Casey exemplifies All That Is Good And True in Comics, or Joe Casey Is The Anti-Christ Come To Destroy Comics, depending upon your point of view. One thing is for certain: Casey is a talented writer whose work engenders a passionate allegiance one way or the other. Renowned for his work on Cable, Deathlok, Hulk, "Codeflesh" for DOUBLE IMAGE, and WILDCATS, Joe is poised to rip the head off of comics and shit down its neck at the helm of the two flagship characters of the two biggest companies: Joe is writing UNCANNY X-MEN for Marvel and ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN for DC. I wanted to know what's going on in his head, and I figured you would, too:
First off: I have to congratulate you on handling your career so well. Even a talented writer doesn't go from Nowhere to Krypton in six short years without hitting all the right notes. So, it's good to be Joe Casey?
I'm still here, still working, still causing trouble… so that must say something about my tenacity, at least. I guess it's good. What the hell, I don't know any other way to be. What am I gonna say, Larry… that it sucks to be me? Some days it does… most days it doesn't. We're working in comics, for chrissakes! Could there be a cooler job in the world?
Ya got me there. I know you have a unique view of comics, what with writing the flagship characters of Marvel and DC, the high profile WILDCATS for Image, as well as your creator-owned work with DOUBLE IMAGE. What's your take on comics in America right now? Still circling the drain? Or light at the end of the tunnel?
I think the work that's appearing on the stands, the creativity, and the talent involved in comics right now is rapidly outpacing the current -- but somewhat outmoded -- delivery systems. Most of the creators I dig are much better than the backwards-ass industry they toil in month-in, month-out. They deserve better. As a medium, we're ready to stomp all over the bookstore chains if the publishers can get us there. Actually, my optimism is at an all-time high. Maybe it's the drugs, but I'm on the verge of finally doing the types of projects I got into this industry to do, so I'm a relatively happy guy.
Obviously, the Internet has played a big role in helping to get the word out about your various projects. Here's one most of our readers want to hear the definitive answer from you on: what's up with your weekly web column, "Crash Comments"?
The column will be back whenever I damn well feel like bringing it back. Doran and Brady are industry buds, so I obviously feel like they offer up a safe haven for my capricious flights of joyous vitriol and my bitter love letters to this medium. They certainly don't need me… they soldier on undaunted in a way I truly admire. But, the fact is, I'm hip-deep in so much work (some projects not even announced yet, but will be soon) that I had to take a step back and re-prioritize. At least for a little while. It's not like anyone is clamoring for the column's return, but soon enough I'll start missing my little, insignificant soapbox and I'll jump back up on it armed with the latest ICBMs aimed at whatever targets strike my fancy (and there are so many…!). It's the fucking Internet, Larry… who the hell really cares, anyway?! We're just filling space…
Yeah, well, sounds to me the word on the wire is that your opinions are sought after as much as your fiction. Tell us the behind-the-scenes thinking you've done for your work on the X-Men. As corporate-controlled icons, clearly you don't just sit down and start, "Wolverine pops his claws and neatly severs the top of the can of Keystone Light in his arthritic paw. Draining the can in one gulp, Logan proves he's the best there is at what he does."
Sounds like you could be writing the motherfucker, Lar. Or did I send you my latest script? X-Men is Marvel's most unstoppable brand. Dress it up any way you want… those goddamn mutants sell. Being that Marvel has decided to give me a huge degree of control over this very powerful brand, the troublemaker in me cannot stand idly by, simply turn in scripts and look the other way. Sometimes, pissing off the old diehards (and age is not a factor here) is just as valid a statement as delivering Eisner award-winning material. I'm glad May is almost over, so the first rush of hype can die down and we can just start churning out Brand X month after month, breaking taboos left and right whenever we feel like it. Most of my particular thoughts toward writing the X-Men deal in aesthetic choices. Covers that reach out and grab you. Logos that don't look twenty years old. New ways of delivering character information. Cutting back on the endless, tedious expository captions. To me, the soap opera is secondary to simply making the book feel differently than it has for the past thirty years.
Polarizing opinion is one of the perks of this gig. Everyone seems to be watching and I've had a good laugh steering some of them down various blind alleys. Opinions may vary, but I've met too many readers in person who haven't read an X-Men comic in years that picked up our first issue because of that damn liplock cover. And they liked what they read. They'll be back for more. This shit is working. Sales are way up and they seem to be staying there. And, for chrissakes, we're still just at the beginning of this ride. People expected us to blow our entire load in May… they have no idea what's coming! So, for better or worse, I've saddled up to Brand X for the long haul…
How aware of you of your audience? Do you write to please yourself, or the readership? Or is there some middle ground?
The only audience I can really rely on is me. If I'm not digging what I'm doing, how could expect anyone else to? There have been occasions when I haven't liked what I was doing… and it was excruciating, believe me. I've also done work that readers have loathed, but I was perfectly happy with, so what can I say? No regrets there…
What's your ideal for the comic book industry? Answer however you want: creatively, for the business, the retail and distribution side... whatever.
Larry… I could get into a big dissertation here on "how things should be". But the fact is, I just want things to be bigger and better. We're so ready to take over popular culture. There are more exciting comics coming out this summer than there are movies. Who gives a rat's ass about the fall TV schedule? Rock n' roll is dead (and I should know… I'm still in there, humping the corpse). Video games are zombie food. At the very least, these are mediums that base themselves (or rip off, depending on your point of view) on comicbooks, not vice versa (yes, even rock n' roll, too). Obviously, comicbooks are where the action is! The superheroes are more popular than ever, and from their success, a whole slew of genre-busting work will have a wider berth than they've had in years. When the publishers, the retail methods, and the general machinations of the industry catch up with the creative side of medium, which is practically bursting at the seams, we're going to see comicbooks break out in ways that, so far, we've only dreamed about. Our ultimate window of opportunity is rapidly approaching to make that dream a reality. It's not about mass acceptance… it's about worldwide domination.
Can you let us in on the working relationship you have with your artists?
I depend on the artists I work with to raise the level of the work far beyond my personal philosophies on what mainstream comic books "should be". Thanks to Mike Wieringo, I think ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN is one of the most accessible superhero comic books on the stands, a great primer for first-time readers on how the language of comics work (without talking down to them). I offered up my storytelling theories for that particular gig and Ringo takes it to the mountain every month, way beyond my expectations. Thanks to Sean Phillips, WILDCATS is the moody, character-driven, post-superhero book I've always wanted to write. And, we both know that Charlie Adlard is a god on Earth, breathing life into CODEFLESH like no one else I could imagine. I do my damnedest to play to an artist's strengths. So far, so good. I've had ass-kickin' collaborations with great artists like Ladronn, Javier Pulido, Ed McGuinness, Leonardo Manco and Steve Rude. I've had very few mismatches, mainly because I kick and scream until I get the artists I want to work with. And the artists I'll be working with in the future are the guys I feel want to be challenged and, in turn, want to challenge me right back. Those collaborations -- that constant exploration and experimentation with different artistic visionaries -- are the main reasons I do this.
What are your plans for the X-Men and for Superman?
Larry, my friend, this question is so beneath you.
Well, old newsletter habits die hard.
OK, just for the hell of it…
I plan on continuing to twist and contort the biggest icons in the industry to suit my own selfish and perverse needs. When expectations are at their highest, I will most likely throw a curve ball that dashes all hopes. I've done it before. And when no one is looking, I'll be doing some of the most exciting work of my career on these old, dusty characters. I will alternate equally between alienating the core fanbase of each series and then giving them the slickest versions they've ever seen. I'll be reaching out for the next generation of readers and giving the old farts a perfect opportunity to move on. How's that for an answer? To sum up: Blah, blah, blah… hype, hype, hype… buy, buy, buy… sell, sell, sell…
You crass bastard. What conventions are you hitting this summer? Where can people find you?
The big two. Comic-Con International in San Diego and WizardWorld in Chicago. France is a possibility for the fall.
I'll let you have the last word…
Carry on, Agent Young…
It's all right if you love me; it's all right if you don't. I'm not afraid of your runnin' away, honey; I get the feeling you email@example.com
Make sure to swing on by the Loose Cannon Message Board and tell us how you think Joe's doing. Or, you could congratulate Aman Chaudhary on his DOUBLE IMAGE #5 and WHISPER gigs. Or, you could tell David Ivanick how to make his summer comics activism plans more efficient. Or, you could bring something else up that everyone else would comment on. You know how these things work.