REFLECTIONS #213: Marc Andreyko

"I didn't want to make her a 'woman' character, I wanted to make her a character who was a woman."

Marc Andreyko really made a bad day much better for me. I love it when a good interview does that. I had lost my cell phone, my keys and my computer had crashed twice earlier that day. Then, minutes before the interview, I got rear-ended on the drive home. It was not fun.

Luckily Marc gives such a good interview that he raised my spirits twofold, so yay him!

And then I realized I had to take my mom to "Nancy Drew" for her birthday, and got depressed again.

Marc is one of those phenomenal writers, like Joshua Ortega and Hugh Sterbakov, who has been on the cusp of becoming really popular; who deserves boatloads of praise for his amazing work on the wonderful but low-selling DC Comics series "Manhunter," which has been saved from the chopping block twice now because of fan support. He has this gift at mixing the real with the fantastic that is addictive and touching.

Robert Taylor: So, Marc, how is life going?

Marc Andreyko: No complaints. I'm kind of busy. In addition to the comic book stuff, I'm doing some film and TV stuff out here in Los Angeles. It's very frantic all the time.

RT: Any fun film or TV stories you'd care to share with us?

MA: Not at the moment. Hopefully there will be some big news about "Torso" in the coming months. David Fincher is attached to direct for Paramount.

RT: I absolutely can't wait. Let's first talk about your "Friday the 13th" project.

MA: First of all, "Friday the 13th" was the first rated-R movie I ever saw in theaters.

RT: How old were you?

MA: I was eleven.

RT: How did it affect you?

MA: A couple months beforehand I was at home with strep throat and my mom would go out to buy me a magazine, so I got "Famous Monsters of Filmland," which had a picture of the rotten-faced Jason coming out of the lake at the end. It basically had a whole story synopsis, so I knew everything that was going to happen in it.

RT: But did you still jump at the end?

MA: I knew he was going to, so I watched everyone else jump out of their seats.

RT: A writer at heart.

MA: But I'm really excited about the miniseries. The artist is Shawn Moll. The book is gorgeous and I'm really thrilled with it, and it's going to tell the origin of Mrs. Vorhees.

RT: Let's talk "Manhunter." Congrats on the renewal, by the way.

MA: Thank you.

RT: Now, since there is a gap in months between issue 30 and 31, will there also be a major gap in time or will it pick up right after the cliffhanger abortion clinic explosion from the last issue?

MA: It's not going to be a big issue. It'll pick up where it left off, so it's not going to be One Year Later again.

RT: What's coming up?

MA: The upcoming arcs will be more controversial, but I hate to use that word. They are encouraging me to touch upon some real-world issues in the context of the superhero book.

RT: Hasn't the book already been doing that for some time though?

MA: It's going to be amped up a little, now.

RT: Like Paris Hilton going to jail?

MA: More like the abortion clinic blowing up.

RT: Since you are talking arcs plural instead of singular, do you know how many issues you've been promised?

MA: It's open-ended. Barring monumentally dreadful sales, this isn't like the five-issue extension. I've loosely plotted threads for a number of arcs.

RT: What's the deal with the art team? During the Wonder Woman trial arc, the art became a bit more scattershot than before.

MA: With the cancellation, it caused a lot of rejiggering in the last couple of issues. Javier Pina and Robin Riggs are doing the "Suicide Squad" miniseries, so we are getting a new art team for the new issues.

RT: And you can't spill your guts?

MA: No. But if the artist that is being considered does the book, I'll be very excited.

RT: Let's look back over the first 30 issues. What are you most excited and proud about developing over that timeframe?

MA: I think I'm prouder more of the general tone than any specific incident. I've gone back and reread the whole run of the book, and actually having characters grow and change is meaningful to me. Whether it's comic books or movies, it's always the illusion of change. When it's Mickey Mouse or Superman, it's hard to do it because there are so many licenses and stockholders you are beholden to, but because Kate is a new character and under the radar, there is the possibility of change.

If you read the first issue and issue 30, you'll see definite growth for the character.

RT: Is there anything that you look back on and cringe?

MA: No, not really. There are a couple things that I probably would have executed differently, but nothing that would make me cringe in horror, thank God.

RT: What was your favorite villain to work with?

MA: Merlin was a lot of fun because he is such a dick. Phobia was great because he is so perverse. I liked the Shadow Thief because he wasn't necessarily a bad guy, but a damaged guy.

RT: Pretty much the entire cast of the book had so many layers. No one was completely good nor evil, there were dimensions throughout.

MA: That's how we all are. Evil masterminds don't think they are evil. No one goes out every day and says, "I'm going to commit evil!" People justify and rationalize it in their own mind. No one considers themselves evil. People can embrace their perversity, but that was something they thought was fun.

What is interesting to me is shades of grey. We all have them. If you took events out of everyone's life and listed them, the context would become important. We've all done bad things in our life, but we might not consider them bad due to the context and what was going on around them. Very little is 100% black or white.

RT: Not to stereotype either major company, but your villains seem much more "Marvel-esque" because they have more layers.

MA: Part of the most attractive parts of doing "Manhunter" was to have it in the DCU. When Dan DiDio and I were developing this, I said I really wanted it to take place in Los Angeles. I wanted to have a real city in a book, since DC is known for its fake cities, like Metropolis and Gotham and Opal, whereas the Marvel universe is known for New York City. I wanted a city off the beaten path, and Los Angeles works perfectly because of its celebrity culture. Having crazy supervillain trials in LA is fine, because we have them all the time.

RT: Like Paris Hilton!

MA: She's definitely more of a low-rent villain.

RT: What villains do you want to work with in the future?

MA: I want to have the Joker make an appearance, because that would be incredibly fascinating, especially because Dylan used to work for him and now the Joker knows Dylan isn't dead and is in the witness protection program.

I would love to have Kate kick Dr. Light's ass.

RT: Oh yeah, castrate the ass.

MA: The less said about it the better, but I would love nothing more than have Kate, for 22 pages, kick the shit out of him.

It really depends on the villains serving the story. I tend to like villains off the beaten path because you can do more with them and because I like the psychology of C and D-list villains.

RT: What surprised you most about Kate?

MA: The biggest influences on Kate were the actresses of the '30s and '40s, when the women weren't ladies but broads. People like Bette Davis or Katherine Hepburn. They were in on it, and embraced it. They didn't need men. Also Helen Mirren, specifically her work in "Prime Suspect." Because she was a woman who was a hard drinker and a smoker, it seemed fresh. I didn't want to make her a "woman" character, I wanted to make her a character who was a woman.

RT: On a side note, how'd you like the final "Prime Suspect"?

MA: I haven't seen it.

RT: It's phenomenal.

MA: When it was on, I was not around, and they haven't rerun it on PBS.

RT: How much of a plan do you have for the book?

MA: I have two or three thought-out storylines, and more threads to explore if, God-willing, DC is happy enough with the book to continue it as long as I can tell stories.

Do I have a major endgame for Kate? No. It's not like "Starman." There is definitely an evolution of things that build upon each other, though.

To quote Charlton Heston, they will have to pry it from my cold dead hands.

RT: Did you go onto the book with a set arc that just kept growing?

MA: I didn't go into it with an endpoint in mind. Things just happened to keep folding into things that happened in the DC Universe. The OMAC being part of the technology from the original Manhunter technology, for example. And it was organic, not just "Crisis" syndrome. If a book is going to tie into an event, I want it to have weight.

RT: It's much more interesting when a book ties into the aftermath.

Whose idea was it to bring in Wonder Woman for trial?

MA: Greg Rucka and I had talked about it when he was still doing "Wonder Woman," and then that fell by the wayside because of timing and that sort of thing.

And then the book got un-cancelled and that storyline came up again. And, in one of the many happy accidents of my career, I fell in love with Wonder Woman while writing her character. The same thing happened with Nightwing when I was writing the "Nightwing Annual."

RT: I was shocked I liked the "Nightwing Annual." I'm not a big fan of the character.

MA: Nightwing has so much untapped potential. The whole idea of legacy characters is such a big deal in the DC Universe. Dick will never become Batman, whereas Wally became the Flash and Tim Drake may become Batman, and the fact that Dick won't is really interesting to me.

RT: Take over the "Nightwing" book. Please.

MA: If it was offered to me, I would have some Nightwing stories I'd like to tell.

RT: If "Manhunter" would have been cancelled at #30, would you have still ended it with the explosion in the hopes of following up on it later in another book?

MA: No. It would have ended with the party. The page was added as a segue to the next arc.

RT: How stressful was it writing a book on the brink of cancellation for so long?

MA: I knew it was an issue, but I really didn't think about that. If I would have focused just on getting the sales up, I think it would have become much more gimmicky than it was. I never thought about it, I let the stories breathe.

I always hated that, unless an ending is planned, endings where everything is quickly tied up. Life isn't like that. Unless the character dies, there isn't really a finale. We might not be seeing the character every month, he's still there.

RT: Anything else you want to talk about, specifically?

MA: I want to say that I'm incredibly and eternally grateful to the fans, and to the pros who have been so generous. It's really humbling and flattering and something that does mean a lot to me because I love the characters and every issue the characters becoming more real to me.

I also have to tip my hat to DC for giving this little book all the chances it could and for giving me the creative freedom to do the things I did in the book, like having the Obsidian storyline where there is a gay couple who have the healthiest relationship in the book. Doing stuff like that and trying to bring in real world themes makes me really fortunate.

Joan Hilty, my editor, is great. The book wouldn't be anything near where it is without her input. She is a great sounding board.

I'm proud of the book not because of me, but because of the whole team on it. Everyone played a really important part in shaping the characters and who the characters have become.

RT: Alright, let's talk "Trick 'r Treat."

MA: It's going to be fun fun fun. I'm really excited about it. I've known both [director] Mike [Dougherty] and [producer] Bryan Singer socially because we have a lot of the same friends. I was thrilled to be able to work on the "Superman Returns" prequels and one of the favorite things I've ever written is that Ma Kent issue. Mike seemed to like it, and requested that I do the adaptation of "Trick 'r Treat."

It's going to be a great, fun movie. Scary. Fun. It's a horror movie in the best sense, with no torture porn. [laughs]

The book is going to be weekly for the month of October. The first issue will be out the week the movie opens, and there will be four issues. And I'm just finishing up issue four now.

RT: How do you approach adapting the pacing for the comic book, since it must be so much different than film?

MA: Not really. A six-issue arc breaks down into three two-issue acts, and I try to think about comics in that structure. It's easier when you have six issues. When you have something that is smaller, it's more difficult to write.

Pacing is pacing. It's a matter of hearing out what rhythms feel right contextually. Movies and comic books are first cousins. There is a lot more in common than isn't.

RT: Which was your favorite story to adapt, since the film is supposed to be an anthology, right?

MA: I just like anthology stuff. I'm a big fan of movies like "Creepshow" and, conversely, the movies of Robert Altman where you have sixteen characters woven in together. So I don't have a favorite, I'm just enjoying the process.

RT: So I was walking through Best Buy the other day, and apparently there is a "Creepshow 3" on DVD.

MA: That has nothing to do with the original, right?

RT: And then, of course, I had to buy it.

MA: And then you watched it and now you have a new coaster.

RT: I kind of almost vomited it was so bad.

Ready for the lightning round?

MA: Sure.

RT: What was your first comic book?

MA: I remember reading "Amazing Spider-Man" #136 on an airplane to Boston with my mom when I was three-and-a-half.

RT: You remember three-and-a-half!?

MA: I remember the comic book.

RT: What comics can you never miss?

MA: I read so much regularly, just to catch up, that it's become difficult to separate what I like and what I don't.

I'm loving Ed Brubaker's "Captain America" and "Daredevil." I think Ed's writing the best "Captain America" ever written. I went there.

I just read the "Sinestro Corps Special," and that was weird, creepy fun.

RT: What's your biggest strength as a writer?

MA: My point of view. I try to write all these larger-than-life characters with a toe dipped in reality.

RT: And that's what separates you from the rest of the DC writers. You are, inherently, a Marvel writer working in the DC universe, and therefore bring something different and special with your voice.

MA: I guess I agree with that because I grew up a Marvel kid. I didn't read a DC comic until "The New Teen Titans" #4, and was completely sucked in with what Wolfman and Perez were doing. Between that and the Bryne/Claremont "X-Men," they were the biggest influence on me.

They had a maturity to them. There was adult stuff going on in them, but it wasn't exploitative. If you got it, you got it. If you didn't, it didn't get in the way. I think it's easy to tell stories with a lot of swearing the gratuitous violence and sexuality, and I recoil at the fact that that is considered reading for "mature" readers.

The challenge, as a writer, is to touch on themes and issues that you are interested in, but in a way that won't limit your audience.

I try to write stuff I'd want to read.

RT: What is your biggest weakness as a writer?

MA: Big grand cosmic stuff. I look at characters I like, but would never be able to writer, like Jim Starlin's Captain Marvel or Walt Simonson's Thor, and I love it, but it's not readily available in my wheelhouse. It makes me a little nervous, because I don't know what the in-road is.

RT: Say you were writing a weekly comic book series for a year. Who would your three other writers be?

MA: Brian Bendis, because he is such a great friend. And his name would help the book sell better.

Brubaker, because he is doing so much amazing work.

Geoff Johns, definitely, because he would know all the details I don't.

That's my mainstream weekly book; my alternative weekly book would be completely different.

RT: Kudos for picking creators from both companies.

MA: I'm not a guy that plays one side of the fence only. I know it's great for press and competition, but I'm not strictly a Marvel or DC guy. There are characters and concepts at both places that I love dearly. I deeply respect Brian Vaughan for working for both companies and not falling into the mentality that one company is better than the other.

RT: Favorite comic book of all time?

MA: I really liked the first forty issues of "Spider-Man," I really loved the Byrne/Claremont "X-Men" from #111-143, but if you put a gun to my mouth I would say Alan Moore's run on "Swamp Thing."

RT: What advice do you have for comic writer wannabes?

MA: Write. Have a liberal arts knowledge of life. I've never been a fan of conservatories because they are too insular. A prime example is actors in conservatories, who know everything about acting but nothing about life.

Knowing a little about a lot outside of the comic and genre world is good. As wide of a breadth of knowledge you can. Comic artists back in the day studied fine art and brought other stuff to this instead of just geek culture…which is great, because I'm a huge geek.

But still, it will help inform your work and make your work truer.

RT: If you could only write one comic for the rest of your career, what would it be?

MA: "Manhunter."

RT: Who would be your art partner?

MA: In a fantasy world? Jesus, because he helped create her. But if he wasn't available, Bolland. We'd only see one issue in our lifetime, but it would be beautiful.

RT: Best comic book movie ever made?

MA: "The Rocketeer."

RT: If you could only be remembered for one thing in your career, what would you want it to be?

MA: That I love what I do. That my passion is contagious to the people who read my stuff.

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