LBCC: 56 Questions with Mark Waid

An enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Long Beach Comic Con on Saturday for Mark Waid's 50 Questions in 50 Minutes panel. CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland was on hand to moderate the panel.

"Part of the goal of this panel is that, anyone who know me knows that if you ask me what time it is, I'll tell you how to build a clock," said Waid. "I'm trying to be more succinct."

Ultimately, Waid managed to answer 56 questions during the 50 minute time limit.

Welcome to 50 Questions in 50 Minutes with Mark Waid. I'm Jonah Weiland, the Executive Producer of ComicBookResources.com and I'm going to do my best to help Mark get through 50 questions in 50 minutes.

Mark's one of those creators in comics who really needs no introduction, but I'm going to do it anyway. He's one of comics' most prolific writers, having written comics for both Marvel and DC, as well as a slew of creator owned books. He's currently the Editor-In-Chief of BOOM! Studios, helping develop talent and writing creator-owned books like "The Unknown," "Irredeemable" and the recently announced "Incorruptible."

The idea here is simple - we solicited questions earlier this week from the CBR community for Mark to answer. He swore he'd not look at the forums and doesn't know what is going to be asked of him. After every 10 or so questions here, I'll give those of you in the audience a chance to ask a question. And hopefully, by the end of this panel we'll have hit a total of 50 questions in 50 minutes. Let's start the clock.

The first question is from joneshawkeye: It's been quite awhile since any new "Zombie Tales" issues have been solicited. What is going on with this title? Will there be any new issues or specials coming out soon?

We have a lot of stuff stockpiled. The anthologies started to be a lower priority once we did the Pixar stuff, but I want to do more.

Also from joneshawkeye: BOOM! has done an outstanding job with its licensed titles. Are there any other properties that will be entering the BOOM! fold? If you could get your hands on any five properties, what would they be and why?

If I could get my hands on any five properties, I'd like "Quantum Leap," I'd like "Time Tunnel," I'd like "Lone Ranger" but Nicky's got that. There, that's three.

[Waid is referring to Dynamite Entertainment President, Nick Barrucci.]

From Paul Nolan: Will "Irredeemable" and "Incorruptible's" variant covers both have giant letters on the covers spelling out the series' name per issue? Does anybody in the BOOM! office use them as giant Scrabble pieces?

Yes, as a matter of fact we do have a giant Scrabble board in the office where we can spell out new words.

Any naughty ones?

We're a family friendly publisher. But yes. If you have any other words you can spell with "Irredeemable" and "Incorruptible," let me know!

More from Paul: Are we going to see the "Irredeemable"/"Incorruptible" universe expand, or will it just be limited to these two titles?

For the time being, it's just these two titles.

Paul continues: Did you always intend to do a spin-off series from "Irredeemable?"

No, no. "Irredeemable" stunned us with how well it took off. And it would be dumb not to do something with that. "Incorruptible" came later.

We're doing well. Six questions in two and a half minutes. JimmyDee asks: Can you tell us about a comic you wrote at some point in your career that you wish you really hadn't and why?

Oh yes, "Spider-Man Team Up." I did it because my royalty sense was tingling... I will give anybody their money back for it today.

From MatchesMalone: How do I properly submit a comic book/movie idea?

How do you properly do it? You go the publisher's web page, go to their submissions page and do what they say.

stpatrick67 asks: Do you think a superhero needs a secret identity nowadays?

I think it's much harder to keep a secret identity these days with stuff like Geosync. It would be really interesting if they ran the Google Maps program on Wayne Manor and saw something coming in or out... but no one in the "Irredeemable"/"Incorruptible" universe so far.

The Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh

Mark Waid's "The Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh " #1, on sale now

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What is your background and how did you start in comics?

I've read comics since I was four years old. I never stopped reading them. I went to New York City and talked with Julius Schwartz, who was famous for finding new talent in the industry... I pitched him a story about how Superman comes back to the Fortress of Solitude and everything's gone. I didn't even have anything else - no ending. He bought it anyway. I didn't have any other paid work for five years.

Mwalker asks: Who is an artist you haven't worked with that you would like to?

John Romita Sr. is one my favorite living comic book artists. The closest I've ever come to working with him was when about 10 years ago, Marvel [Comics] had their own in-house comic magazine like "Wizard" called "Marvel Vision."

I did a run on "Captain America" in the nineties, and a feature they had in one issue of "Marvel Vision" was that they had artists draw pages from books they weren't on. So I open up "Vision" one day and saw one of my "Captain America" pages and I thought, this guy's good! Then I saw the signature, and it was John Romita, Sr.

Even for one page, I worked with him. I called him up and asked him if I could buy the art off of him, and he said "pshaw" and sent it to me for free.

From stpatrick67: If DC did a Flash animated movie like the recent Green Lantern and Wonder Woman videos, should they use Barry or Wally, and who would you cast to be the voices of each?

I would like for them to use Wally. They're not going to use Wally - they're going to use Barry. What I like about Wally is that he is the first sidekick who fulfilled a promise. And having heard young Mr. Wil Wheaton in a side project that I can't talk about the other day, I would totally cast him.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Can you talk about the side project?

If you go on my Twitter, you may find clues there.

Altercator asks: With the new decade coming, and after all of the superheroes have been through many deconstructions and reconstructions, what do you envision the new age of superheroes will be like?

Altercator? Really? Wow. OK, let me call Grant [Morrison]. That's a question for Grant. Next!

Lone_Warrior asked: What inspired you to create the stories of "Irredeemable" and "Incorruptible?" Was it the thought of never really seeing mainstream comics take more detailed looks at these concepts, essentially just gleaning over them or ignoring them completely?

It wasn't that at all. There's always room even in mainstream superhero universes. You can't take Superman or Captain America and deconstruct them in that way. What I could do is take the negative lessons that superheroes give in that way, that you can interpret. You can keep secrets from your friends and family, yet say you never lie. I wanted to give the powers of a god to someone who wasn't emotionally ready for them.

Ivan Isaacs asked: Why do you hate Rich Johnston so much?

How much time do we have? Rich Johnston is the biggest rumormonger and bottom feeder in the comics industry. I think he's done a lot of good work for people who aren't paid on time, or at all, by publishers. But it takes eight seconds for [Johnston] to put out a rumor, and he get's revenue for it, but if you're an inker on a third-tier book living in Illinois, and you read on Rich's site that Marvel may be canceling your book, that guy has to spend two days calling his editor to make sure his book's not cancelled to put food on his table for his wife and kids. That artist has just lost two days of work.

And that's all I'll say for now. Get a few drinks in me at the bar later, and maybe there'll be more.

Fair enough. From Jason Long, Current BOOM! intern: What is your favorite beer?

A BOOM! question if I ever heard one! I left high school when I was 15, so I was too young to party. And believe me, I made up for it since then, but I never developed a taste for beer. So the answer is vodka.

From StoneGold: Is BOOM! hiring? If it helps, I'm probably in the audience.

Are you really? [Looks around, a fan stands up.] No, we're not hiring.

We're 19 questions in and we're six and a half minutes ahead, so let's take one from the crowd.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: When are we going to see a reprint of your "Ka-Zar" stuff?

No idea, but I would love them to! We got a minute to talk about this? My house is from The Sharper Image, and you want me to write Ka-Zar the dinosaur man. Unlike Tarzan, Ka-Zar knows what a Big Mac is and what MTV was, and now that he's in the Savage Land and has married a woman from there, he has no use for modern life at all. He's got a Walkman buried in a corner for whenever he needs that fix.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: How does the Marvel thing effect BOOM!'s contracts with Disney?

It's nothing we can talk about. Short news is, it's all good.

From Ilash: I've heard you talk a lot about superhero comics, but quite a bit less about the non-superhero stuff that is the lifeblood of most independent publishers and DC's Vertigo imprint. My question then is, have any non-superhero comics had a big impact on you as a writer and if so, which ones?

As a writer? That's a really good question. Do the "Blackhawk" comics count? Because I really like the "Blackhawk" setup. Kinda superhero-y, where they have black leather fetish costumes. That was a big influence on me. The way you can tell stories without punching in them. Stories that can't be resolved by superheroes punching supervillains. I still worship the "Uncle Scrooge" stuff. I still read "Little Lulu."

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Do you feel like the cheesey, goofy, Silver Age kind of stuff has been ignored lately?

In some of my stuff, like in "[JLA] Year One," its cheesy, funny stuff. I don't feel like it's ignored when I do it. I do get painted with that brush.

Yes, comics aren't fun anymore. It's not because the fans are reacting badly, it's that funny books don't sell.

athanasius77 asked: "Irredeemable" versus Kid Marvelman. They seem pretty similar, all-powerful godlike badasses. How would you compare the two? (Superboy-Prime and Black Adam-when-insane are pretty close too, but let's keep it simple.)

Kid Marvelman always had flaws in him. The Plutonian had to grow into it. Kid Marvelman also has adolescent rage, where we all feel powerless. Plutonian never felt that at all; he's always felt powerful. To be honest, I don't have a better answer and I haven't looked at it [Alan Moore & Neil Gaiman's "Marvelman"] since it came out. While I write "Irredeemable," I don't want to read them in case I take stuff from them.

June asks: Do "Irredeemable," and now "Incorruptible," have a set ending? Do you have a firm idea of where you want to take these series?

They don't have set endings. I have "Irredeemable" set for a year, "Incorruptible" for the next two years and beyond. I can see me telling the stories for a long time. It's not called "The Plutonian," its called "Irredeemable."

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What was it like working on "Captain America" right before Rob Liefeld?

I didn't even know we were lame ducks going into the job, but I honestly don't remember where we were going in that run. In the second run I wanted [Captain America] to start dealing with the American dream. I wanted to have Captain America having town hall meetings dealing with the issues of the day, in great big larger-than-life terms.

From mwalker: Is there an artist - past or present - that you consider intimidating to work with, and how do you rise to the occasion?

Dave Gibbons, who I've worked with a few times, partly because he worked with Alan Moore. I'm always going to be the guy who's not as good as that one writer you've worked with. We worked on the Amalgam DC/Marvel "Super-Soldier" stuff. While it was a fun comic, it wasn't really a chance for me to say something because [the character's] goofy. Dave took over plotting the second run. So when I worked with him on "Legion [of Super-Heroes]," I really wanted to step it up. I did it once; didn't make me less intimidated to do it again.

Ilash asked: Any chance of you doing more work for DC in the foreseeable future?

That is up to DC.

Hunter Lambright asked: With "Incorruptible" on the way, will we see an expansion of the mythos of your superhero universe?

We've got two books now. I was going to see how it goes. I have enough ideas where I could write three more first issues, but then the other books would be late!

Speaking of more books, Kosmopolit asks: How long before we get to "Incontinent?"

"Incontinent?" Hopefully not for another 25 years or so. Unless you know something I don't.

From DHacker615: Looking backward to the Silver Age, did DC and Marvel have distinct identities as publishers? For example, the comic's blogosphere seems obsessed with DC Silver Age. Were those books a result of corporate orientation and Marvel acting as a deliberate contrast? If so, how were they contrasting (i.e. style of art, tone and/or types of plot)?

I think that's probably fairly true. In the '60s, DC was always very white collar and very corporate-run by guys in their 40s and 50s who wore ties every day. And the company stayed very old fashioned. Then the mid-'60s came along-sorry... wait a second, Ghost Rider just walked into the room. Hey!

[A man dressed as a very convincing Ghost Rider walked into the room, waved to Waid.]

OK, so Stan [Lee] comes along and breaks the mold and works against the stereotypes at DC. I could certainly relate to feeling like I was a freak and not feeling like I was the in-crowd. And I still do. As much as I love Superman, his biggest problem is "how do I enlarge the bottled city of Kandor?" Stan said "you [DC] were writing comics for the 12 and under crowd. We're going to do college and high school." It was actually too successful and we don't do 12 and under now.

James McCrimmon asked: Has the over saturation of superheroes in comic books today has hindered creativity or helped force creators to think outside the box?

That's why we [BOOM!] didn't do superheroes for the first three years. The only reason we did "Irredeemable" is that we thought the take was different enough that we could do it. The market is not [geared towards] younger readers, and we're very proud of the fact that we're carving the niche and becoming the leading company there.

Altercator is back and asked: When will BOOM! make comics about sports? It's America's greatest pasttimes that have been explored in movies, novels, TV, etc. so why not comics?

The editor-in-chief has to know something about sports first.

Is that a no?

If you came at me with a brilliant idea for a chess comic, I'd consider it. But chess is not a sport, is it?

Also from Altercator: What about romance comics? We haven't had any in the American mainstream for a long time.

The problem with romance comics is this: it's not that you can't reach the audience. Romance stories are, by their nature, not visually interesting. They're very contemplative, very interior stories. I can't wrap my head around a way to make waiting for a phone call visually interesting. Chris Ware does that well, using comics to convey emotions. I would love to bring that genre kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but I don't see how to do it.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What is the difference between how the real world reacted to Iraq and the economic crisis and how comic book universes reacted?

I have a three-part "Spider-Man" story coming up that deals heavily with the financial crisis. Electro had put millions of dollars into what was essentially Enron 2 and lost it. He steals from the Daily Bugle because they got a financial handout.

The reason you don't do that Iraq War stuff is that you run into the question of why doesn't Superman just come in and fix everything? You can bring up issues and keep comics relevant, and there are good stories about Batman bringing out the problem of gun control. But if they can't fix it, the superhero looks stupid.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Where do you find your inspiration and motivation to write?

I find inspiration and motivation to write in vodka. Me and my collaborator, Jim Bean.

When I teach, one of the things that I keep telling people is to find the technique that works for you. And the first advice you hear is "Write every day." I don't write every day, I can't write every day. But with cooking, I cook one day, and I need a day to recharge. But beating myself up about the fact that I don't write every day and how you're a failure, it wastes energy. It doesn't help you write better. You should only write when you've got something to say. I encourage you not to write every day-do as an exercise. You can try to sit at a keyboard and not do anything else. Eventually, you get bored and write.

How about a question from me! You were part of one of the craziest comics experiments in a long while - the weekly series "52." Since doing that series, DC has had three more weekly series. Would you consider doing a weekly series again, and what did you think of their last series, "Wednesday Comics?"

"52?" With the right people,I would, yes. And the guarantee that the ball wouldn't be yanked away from us on the 49th yard line. Not saying that happened, but with the right people I would.

I loved "Wednesday Comics." Thank God that's the one you asked about. I was one of the biggest skeptics in the world about "Wednesday Comics." My quote was "DC Comics looks to the future, finds newspapers." I sat down with it on a Saturday morning with a big glass of chocolate milk. Some were hits, some were misses, but I really loved it.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Could you tell us about your superhero card catalogue?

[chuckles] When I was ten-years-old, DC Comics published a list of every character they ever created and their first appearance. I took those and I put those together these little three by five cards. And I wrote their origins, and I put together that list. I still have a big file catalogue with all this incredibly obsessive detail about these superheroes and what they're like. I'll put examples on my blog so you can mock me.

JimmyDee again: Will we ever see you and Barry return on "Empire?" Who currently has the rights to publish the comic?

DC currently has the rights to "Empire." I would love to bring "Empire" somewhere else, but if DC and Barry were available, I'd love to do more.

Patrick Klepek, News Editor from G4 wrote to ask: Do you consider yourself a perfectionist? When you finish a comic, does it actually feel "complete," or if you were given the chance, would you simply keep working on it?

No! It never feels complete. I look back over it and say oh my god, I missed that and that and that. By the time I put it down on paper, I've thought about it so much that it's permanent. You'd see me stare at the screen for five minutes, then write a line of dialogue. Then ten [minutes] and another line.

Jason Long, Current BOOM! intern os back: Will "The Unknown" be ending after "The Devil Made Flesh," or are there plans for another mini-series?

I would like to keep it going. It depends on how long our artist [Minck Oosterveer] is available to us. He's terrific. We're fighting the fact that the dollar and the euro keep dropping. He's paid less and less for each issue. But I have a third and a fourth story. And I love it. She's the world's greatest detective, and she's diagnosed with a brain tumor. So she jumps in and says she'll solve the greatest mystery ever: what happens when you die. The hardcover for volume one comes out in one month!

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What was your inspiration for "The Unknown?"

I wanted to do detective fiction. I love it. I love impossible crimes. I wanted to do that, but at the same time I couldn't find anything big enough. The only thing that made sense to me was to go bigger and give her the biggest and most unsolvable problem of all.

We've done 44 questions in 43 minutes. Another one from the audience?

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Are we going to see more "Potter's Field?"

I would love more "Potter's Field." Paul Azaceta, the artist, is also doing my Electro story on "Spider-Man."

AUDIENCE QUESTION: [Referring back to "The Unknown."] What happens when you die?

Look, anybody can write a detective story about a detective that doesn't solve the mystery. A chimp could write that. I only write it because I have an answer.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: With the advent of the "bromance" in the last few years I have to know: who's your man-crush?

Whoa! Wow, wow. Worst question ever.

Open to all eras? Young Robert Redford. Age 25? Yeah. I'd hit that.

James McCrimmon asked: What BOOM! title, not written by you, should everyone go and buy after this panel is done?

If I can only choose one, it is "The Muppet Show" by Roger Langridge. I gotta be honest, Roger's "Muppet" stuff is brilliant.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What's your favorite Hero X versus Hero Y question?

Superman versus Hulk. Heat vision trumps everything.

AUDIENCE QUESTION (in fact, it was Boom! Studios' Publisher Ross Richie.] Anything else you want to pimp?

We have a series of Muppet books, with "Muppet Peter Pan" on the shelves [now]. I have one word for you to make you interested in that book: Piggytink. And, after "The Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson," "The Muppet Show" will continue as an ongoing by Roger.

And of course, "Incorruptible" #1 comes out in December, with art by Neil Edwards and covers by John Cassaday and Tim Sale.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Have you thought about writing a book on editing comics?

I have thought about it. I realized if you put my blogs together, you've got forty thousand words - that's half a book right there. I'd love to do it, because it forces you to articulate what you're talking about, to take a hard look.

Did you have fun today?

Absolutely! I'd do it again.

Sorry, we have one last question from Boom! Editor, Matt Gagnon: When am I going to get the latest script for "Irredeemable?"

Where is my vodka? We talked about a trade. A little tit for tat. Monday! Monday! That's my answer. I didn't say which Monday, but Monday.

Tags: boom! studios, mark waid, irredeemable, incorruptible, lbcc2009

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