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Peter David, Marvel’s Latest Exclusive Writer

by  in Comic News Comment
Peter David, Marvel’s Latest Exclusive Writer

Veteran comics writer Peter David has been moving around this industry for a long time now working for the big two. His twelve-year run on “Incredible Hulk” at Marvel Comics remains as one of the longer stays from a single creator in comics. He’s written DC books like “Supergirl” and “Young Justice” and continues to write “Soul Searchers Company” for Claypool Comics as well as “Spike” and “Fallen Angel” at IDW.

Fans of David’s can expect to see his Marvel output increase as the writer has signed an exclusive contract with the publisher, announced today during the Spotlight on Peter David panel at WonderCon in San Francisco. CBR News caught up with David earlier this week to get the low down.

Allright, Peter, let’s get down to it. You’ve been a successful freelancer in comics for a very long time. Why go for an exclusive now?

They asked me!

That simple, huh?

Yeah. It really wasn’t that much more involved. Marvel approached me and said, “Hey, do you want to keep doing what you’re doing right now, except you’ll have guaranteed work from us and we’ll cover your medical insurance.” What’s not to like? It’s really no more involved than that. They laid out the deal and it was an absolute win-win situation all around.

And once you moved “Fallen Angel” from DC to IDW Publishing, that was pretty much it for you as far as DC Comics work for you.

Pretty much. I really haven’t been offered new work in the DC Universe for, jeeze, going on nine years now, considering my last offer was “Young Justice” #1. Although, supposedly, DC is still interested in working with me, but I’m not going to sit there by the phone waiting to be DC’s Friday night date hoping they’ll give me a call! Especially when I’ve got editors from Marvel Comics coming up from left, right and center.

So, really, it doesn’t change the way you approach your day-to-day work, it simply solidifies things for the next couple of years.

Exactly and it sure as hell simplifies my health insurance. When you have four kids of varying ages and a wife, that’s certainly a consideration.

Right. Over the years it seems to me you’ve worked more with Marvel than DC.

Well, my entrée to comics was the five years I worked as Marvel’s Assistant Sales Manager and then eventually as Sales Manager. And certainly the thing people know me for the most was my 12 years on “Incredible Hulk.” But, I wrote “Young Justice” for five years, “Supergirl” for eight years. I worked on “Action Comics Weekly” way back when. I’ve done quite a bit for DC, just not recently.

What’s the length of term on this contract with Marvel?

Three years.

Obviously this contract has a clause that allows you to continue your work with IDW. Does it have any other clauses?

When Marvel approached me about this I told them there are certain creator-owned projects or certain limited series that I have already committed to that I can’t turn my back on. Marvel said, “OK, name them!” So, I listed them and they put every single one into the contract. So, I’m exclusive except for this, this and this.

So, essentially “Fallen Angel,” the “Spike” mini-series and “Soul Searchers and Company” are exempted– which is great except it looks like Diamond is going to cancel “Soul Searchers” of all things. It’s the first time I can think of where the distributor is canceling a comic book, not the publisher. Go figure that one.

Talk about that a little bit. When you first heard about Diamond lowering their minimums and those changes affecting the viability of “Soul Searchers,” what was your reaction and what did you do?

I was depressed and outraged at the same time. I contacted Diamond and did what I could and, as it turns out, it wasn’t much. It’s just infuriating that we’re in this sort of situation. Everybody is making noise that there should be comics out there that are all ages, but when you put out books that are all ages, you basically get slapped in the face. It’s really kind of frustrating because no matter how small the numbers are, we’re not in a position as an industry to turn our back on any numbers. The days are gone when millions of people are reading comic books. Now, if you’ve got hundreds reading a comic book, well, then you have hundreds! When you have a comic that’s selling 15,100, it’s safe, but if it’s selling 14,900 it’s on the chopping block, well, I don’t know that we can really afford to turn away anything that’s bringing in anybody.

You talked about creator-owned books that were exempted. Marvel, of course, has their Icon line which publishes a small handful of creator-owned books. You also have a number of creator-owned books that you did years ago that aren’t running today. Has there been any discussion of moving any of those projects under the Icon imprint?

No, and to be perfectly honest if Marvel had asked were I interested in bringing “Fallen Angel” over to the Icon imprint I would have said respectfully no. My attitude is that “Fallen Angel” will come out from IDW for as long as they want to publish it. They worked so hard to bring this book back into existence and were motivated by the best thing a publisher can be motivated by– love of the character. They didn’t want “Fallen Angel” to go away for no other reason than they wanted to keep reading the book. Sure, if it moved to Icon we’d probably see some higher numbers, but nevertheless IDW worked hard enough to keep this book going and they deserve to hold onto it for as long as they want to.

There’s something to be said for loyalty in an industry that often doesn’t see that kind of loyalty, well, unless you’ve got an exclusive contract!

There you go! (laughs)

What’s the immediate future look like for you at Marvel?

Everything looks good. Literally, editors are calling me every week saying they want to work with me. It’s nice. I make no bones about it, I’m no spring chicken. It’s not like I’m the new, hot thing. This has been an industry that historically has not always been generous to people who have been around for long periods of time. Really, the number of people who’ve been chewed up and spat out is just monumental. So, for Marvel to essentially say to me, “We love your work. We value your work. We love what you’re doing right now. We don’t want to take chances that you’ll dump us and go elsewhere.” Candidly, elsewhere being DC I suppose. Well, it’s tremendously flattering.

Bottom line I turn 50 this year. The concept that for the next three years I’ll have work coming in and my family’s health taken care of, it’s all a really good place to be. It sounds egocentric I know, but I look at the work I’ve done in the past and I look at what I’m doing now and I feel the work I’m doing now is a lot better. It’s more polished and more professional. It’s more focused. And, apparently, based on the things they’ve said, Marvel tends to agree.

Writing is really a lonely job. People who work in offices have office mates and co-workers to interact with and that sort of thing. I work downstairs, in my office, and generally speaking the only company I have is when my three-year-old comes down and wants to play in the ball pit we have set-up for her down there. She plays in the ball pit, I turn on the TV and she watches “Diego” while I’m writing “X-Factor!” (laughs) It helps to get this sort of validation and I do appreciate that support. I don’t want to sound like I’m at the Oscars or anything, but I’d like to take the time to mention that not only am I pleased that Joe Quesada approved this, but the office of Tom Breevoort and Andy Schmidt has been phenomenal in invigorating my comic book career. Andy and Tom were quite simply big fans of my work and their determination was to get me as much high-profile work as possible. Andy willed the “Madrox” limited series into existence. There was no reasonable reason to produce that thing. None whatsoever! But Andy freaking willed it into existence and the results were so surprisingly strong that, low and behold, “X-Factor” was reborn. Then Tom contacted me and asked if I wanted to do “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.” All of a sudden I’m writing Spidey and X-Factor again, which is great because I was doing that 20 years ago, but on the other hand 20 years ago I was the new hot thing. So, in a bizarre sense, I have gone both backward and forward in one shot! (laughs) I’ve managed to, after 20 years, work my way back to where I was 20 years ago. OK, sometimes that’s a good thing.

Well, it certainly could be a lot worse!

Right. Well, look at it this way. When people are running track and competing in an event like that, isn’t it a good thing to get all the way around the circle? You start out at one point, then when you get back to where you started you’re a winner. I’m OK with that.

One of the things that really underscored for me the validity of going with Marvel full time was that last Halloween – this will sound strange, but it’s going somewhere – I was, as I always do, giving out comic books to the trick-or-treaters, because I’m a big believer of rotting the child’s brain rather than their teeth. I’ve got tons of comics because I’m on everybody’s comp list – curiously enough, not Marvel’s! (laughs)

That’s likely to change soon enough!

One can hope. So, I’m giving away the comics and they kids are enthusiastic. “Oh wow, free comics. Thank you, Mister!” But when I was giving out Marvel comics, the response was different. Rather than “Thanks for the free comics” I got, “Cooooool! Spider-Man! X-Men! Woah, and you’ve got Wolverine! Woahhhh! Oh man, Avengers!” It was a different level of response and I had not really noticed that before, but I very much notice it now.

Plus, after all, you have to love a company where a couple of years ago I walked into a reception that was being given in honor of Stan Lee and when I walk in Stan says in a very loud voice, “It’s Peter David! The greatest writer in comics today!” (laughs) And immediately a dozen people were coming at me giving me their business cards, which was just funny as hell.

DC has been great and I’m very pleased and relieved, bizarrely enough, that they cancelled “Fallen Angel.” Had they not, I’d be in a very tough position because if they were still publishing it and Marvel wanted me to go exclusive, well they certainly wouldn’t have let me keep writing “Fallen Angel” for DC. So, I would have had to make a really tough choice – weigh a comic book I love against my family’s security and health. Fortunately enough I was spared having to make that decision.

Based on this conversation I think it’s pretty safe to say you’re a very happy man right now.

Yeah. The past bunch of years have not been easy. I had a rocky divorce and my personal life kind of fell apart. Then I got into a public pissing match with Joe Quesada, which probably wasn’t the most brilliant move I ever made. On the other hand, it certainly got their attention. Now, here I am, I’m happily remarried. I’ve got what I refer to as the miracle child who’s asleep in my lap right now. The fact that she exists at all is something of a miracle considering everything that had to happen in my personal life for her to come into existence. And then there’s this comic book company, which really was my entrée into the comic book industry, has said that after more than 20 years of association, “Hey, do you want to be a regular member of our team?” “Uhhhh, yeahhhh!” And best of all, my bowling average is above 180 these days! (laughs) So everything’s looking really good.

Thanks for your time, Peter

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