MW: Hello, and welcome to episode seven of the DC Community Creator Q&A series. I’m Mark Waid, writer of World’s Finest, Superman/Batman, Shazam, Kingdom Come, and a ton of other stuff–and you got questions? Let’s go.
TheRealDetectiveChimp says, “Firstly, I’d like to say that you are my favorite comic book writer of all time…” Let’s just stop there…Quit! Cut! “…What is your favorite comic you’ve ever written?” It bounces back and forth a little bit, but I would have to say Superman: Birthright. That is my love letter to Superman–as you can probably tell, he’s the main guy for me–and that book holds up really well, I think.
AlexanderKnox goes on at length to say: “Your work presents a clear vision of what you see Superman to be, but with all the classic heroes, the Man of Tomorrow has been interpreted and reinterpreted by a wide range of authors with their own idea of who Superman is. Out of all the varied takes on this character from the last 85 years, which do you find to be the most compelling version of Superman in comics or other media that stands in Stark contrast to your own vision?” I would say the current Superman Lois show…because I come from a place where the marriage is still new to me, and I’m still trying to work out in my own head how that works for me as my understanding of Superman being married. But I think that what they do with it, and I think the stuff with the sons is really compelling, and I really enjoy that show and he’s very good as Superman–really good as Clark Kent.
HubCityQuestion wants to know: “If you haven’t been following them since the Silver Age, how does somebody get into the Legion of Superheroes and what do you think is the key to their specific appeal?” The key to the Legion superheroes appeal is you got to think of them as the Knights of the Round Table of the future, right? The King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable. They’re people from different planets all come together with different abilities to work together for the United Planets to create a common peace. The best place to get in at this moment I would say would be Brian Bendis’s work with Ryan Sook, he did on the miniseries not too long ago. That is our current interpretation of the Legion, and I think it’s pretty open to newcomers. I think it’s pretty open to people who are not terribly familiar with the characters and can leap on there–I think it’s a pretty good jumping on place.
RowHarper wants to know: “Your run on Flash created many characters and creations that change the Flash mythos even after your time on Flash. Did you have any idea how much of an effect your runner would have on Wally and the flash mantle as you were writing it?” I had no clue–and all writers will tell you the same thing. We are just…keep our nose to the grindstone, we keep our heads down, and we hit that monthly deadline and we hope for the best. And every once in a while you get lucky, you’re hitting solid doubles, maybe a triple, but then every once in a while you hit it out of the park. And with the Wally stuff, especially with the speed force, which I give co co-edit creation all the time to Brian Augustine, who was my Editor and best friend at the time, who helped me develop this stuff…that was simply a question, that was simply…okay, he can run faster than the speed of light. What do things look like on the other side of the speed of light to the Flash? And that just sort of opened up a bunch of other stuff and realizing that Jay Garrick’s origin doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense compared to Wally’s origin and Wally’s and Barry’s origins are the exact same by some incredible coincidence. So what do we do to take the coincidence out of that, and make a pattern out of it and turn it into something? So no, no clue that this stuff would go on to fuel so much stuff, but I’m very happy—and every writer in comics wants to be able to do something that has legs and outlives them and is carried forth and put into the mythos forever. It just feels really good.
CKComics: “Looking through your bibliography, I noticed you have written a lot of origin stories…” This is true! “What is the most important part of writing an origin for a well-established character in your opinion?” Remember what they want and what motivates them. That is the most important part, and it should be unique, and it should be interesting. What motivates Batman obviously, is the murder of his parents and trying to make sure that that never happens to anybody else. What motivates Green Lantern is conquering fear on all levels…You gotta boil the character down to one or two sentences and then build it back up. The other most important part is to go back to the source, go back to the earliest stuff that really worked and you don’t have to be completely beholden to it, but you need to look to the author’s intent to begin with, what we’re Siegel and Schuster really trying to do with Superman? What were Bob Kane and Bill Finger trying to do with Batman? Move forward from that, but always go back to the source material.
Storyteller91 wants to know, what my favorite Batman comic is. Easy answer. Detective Comics #500, A story called To Kill a Legend by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano. Best Batman story I’ve ever read.
DatBoi1996 wants to know: “For you, what is the appeal of the DC Universe compared to other fictional universes?” Well, besides the characters, it is the way that these characters in this universe are inspirational. To other people, to other ordinary citizens in a way that characters in other superhero universes or comic book universes aren’t necessarily, that is not to knock other universes, but I think what makes the DC Universe special is that these characters are iconic and the general public realizes them as such. I think that makes them very special.
FelixLeiter wants to know: “When writing a book with multiple characters like Justice League of America or Legion of Superheroes, how do you approach it to make sure each character’s voice is unique and authentic to their history, personality and perspective?” The first answer is read them for 50 years like I have. Fall in love with 'em when you’re six, and then think about them every day for the rest of your life. That is my key…but beyond that, it really gets back to go back to the original characters, go back and look at their individual appearances…and then in terms of weaving them together, my trick is when I’m writing a team book, if I’m writing a specific adventure, I drill down on one or two, pick two characters that don’t normally interact and focus your story a little bit on that. Make that the point of view of the story, and then obviously all the characters play a role, but what do Oracle and Martian Manhunter have in common? What do they have different? What makes them a team? How do they work together? Aquaman and Wonder Woman, how do they function just as the two of them? How do they complement each other? That’s the kind of thing that will bring out the character voices and show you that they are distinct and different.
Farsendor wants to know “What in your opinion, makes the Superman Batman relationship dynamic work so well?” It’s mutual respect. It’s the fact that, as I said, in Kingdom come when you scratch the surface of Batman, he’s like the Superman–he is somebody who doesn’t want to see anybody else die, and that is the core of their binding. I personally, my interpretation and your interpretation may vary, my interpretation is they’ve always worked better as friends if for no other reason, not because of nostalgia, but because of…the idea that Batman is the ultimate strategist. Well, there’s no strategy in making an enemy out of the most powerful human being on the planet or any other superheroes. I think Batman is not one to sit around at the Christmas party with eggnog. I get that, but at the same time, I think that there is percentage beyond the fact that they’re just good people…There’s a percentage in Batman’s mind where why would I not want to have a good relationship with these other characters, especially Superman.
SupermanFan1701…“As you were crafting a story, what are some things that you do mentally to avoid any roadblocks that may come about during your writing process?” Dude, writing blocks…that is the process, right? It’s just finding your way through those blocks. When it comes to being stuck, when it comes to being stuck on a point, when I got a place in my story where I just can’t figure out what happens next, no matter how much time I spend staring at the ceiling, I then step back. I step back and go to the place that the story was really working…and then just turn left! Abandon all my plans, abandon all my preconceptions, and just turn left and see where that leads me. It might lead me to someplace more exciting and more spectacular, but my feeling about being blocked when I’m writing is that that is my subconscious way of telling me, Stop! You’re going the wrong direction. I want to keep you from continuing down this stupid road and steer you a different way.
TheTerrificToyman wishes to know, “I know you have been dying to write Superman for years. True. My question is, which one of his villains would you say you’re most excited to write and why?” When the opportunity arises, I think Brainiac. I mean, yes, there’s been a lot of good Brainiac stories told and a lot of good Brainiac stories upcoming from what I understand from the Superman office. But there’s something about Brainiac that I think is unique. I think that he’s the only villain that Superman is legitimately afraid of. That is he has an intellect far beyond anything, and basically he is, is he’s the symbol of Krypton in a sense, because of his relationship to Kandor, because of his relationship to Jor-El and the explosion of Krypton and so forth…but he’s a symbol of Krypton without any humanity at all. Whereas Superman is a symbol of Krypton with humanity, and Superman just doesn’t know how to deal with that. There is always something about Superman’s villains that on some core level, even Luther, he finds in his mind he thinks this person can be redeemed somehow. There is something in this person’s soul that can be kindled into something good. I think he thinks this is The Parasite, he think he thinks this of Mongol, he thinks of this all of his foes, but that isn’t the case in Brainiac. There’s just no soul there to be kindled into something good, and Superman doesn’t know how to deal with that.
Vroom says, “Do you have a favorite Superman action figure?” I…no, because if you came to my place, it would look like Planet Krypton. My apartment looks like a shrine to all things Superman, and so it would be like picking my favorite child at this point. If you looked at my place, you would understand.
Archer430 wants to know “When you’re writing, you frequently demonstrate an encyclopedia knowledge of the DC universe and you are able to effectively integrate it into your stories…" Thank you! “…as a writer, is There a method you use to manage all of that information or is it all pure recall?” Dude, it is all pure recall. This is what happens when you read them all your life.
BNY08640.60024, who wants to know: “What are your personal do’s and don’ts for writing Batman and Superman, as far as their characterization?” Do remember that they don’t kill. That’s top of the list. Neither of these characters kill…Superman in the case because he cannot afford to be seen as a weapon by anybody in the world because once he’s seen as a weapon, then he becomes a threat. If he can kill this person, why can’t he kill any of us? Batman’s case, obviously, he doesn’t want to relive the trauma of what happened to him as a child. That’s the big “do”. The big “don’t” is don’t get too slangy with them. I know that’s kind of…they have a way of speaking both of them that is not super formal, but they don’t go into colloquialisms as much. They speak a little like your high school English teacher, I think.
Batman0803 wishes to know: “In Kingdom come Booster Gold is the owner of Planet Krypton. If memory serves, he doesn’t make any appearances in the story itself, but I want to ask, if you were to have included Booster as a more prominent character in the story, which side would he take?…” Oh, good question! “…If he did take a side, do you think he would’ve survived the end?” Secondly, second question first: no, he wouldn’t have survived. Skeets, maybe Booster Gold, no. Which side would he take?..I think he would take Batman’s side. I think his psyche is just a little more tuned to the human side–he wants to be a superhero so badly, but at his core, he’s just a regular Joe, and he knows that.
AgentOfCheckmate wishes to know: “What Comic has had the most influence on you as a creator, and what keeps driving your passion to continue to write for the medium?” Easy answer: What comic has had the most influence on me? Action Comics #500. It is a book-length story that tells the entire story of Superman’s life, and it is a story written by Marty Pasco, drawn by Kurt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte. And there is a moment in it that struck me as a reader, as a kid that has always stuck with me…and that is when Superman, who’s narrating the thing, explains the history of Krypto, his dog, and he talks to the audience that he’s addressing and he says, “I was so alone, there was no one else like me in the world.” And then along comes Krypto, and suddenly there’s someone who understands what it’s like to feel this way. What it is like to feel the wind in your face as you fly…and knows the sound that bullets make when they bounce off living flesh. God, that stuck with me. It’s writing from inside the character. It is understanding on a fundamental cellular level, if you are this character, if you have these abilities, whatever they may be, what is your life like every moment of every day, not just when you’re punching stuff, but how do these powers and how do these abilities affect the way you present yourself? And how do they affect the way that you perceive the world around you? How do they filter out ordinary common experiences? How does Superman see the world? How does Green Lantern see the world, given his abilities? That’s the most important thing about writing these characters, to me. What keeps my passion going is that’s what’s the most important thing about writing these characters to me. I just love diving in that pool.
BatBryBo wish to know: “If you could add one series or miniseries to your world’s finest line, who would it feature?” I wish I could answer this, but there are at least a half a dozen, and I’m sure that one or more of them will popping up sooner than later…I could do a dozen. I wouldn’t do World’s Finest Metamorpho, as much as I love Metamorpho, there’s no audience for Metamorpho comics, but maybe there’s an audience for World’s Finest Supergirl. Maybe there’s a world’s finest Supergirl Robin audience. I don’t know–these are not promises. These are just postulations. Keep your eyes open at your local store!
DavidAlle05.81316 wishes to know: “You’ve had a wide category of books that have given you experience writing for individual characters and larger groups of characters. Which do you prefer to write and which do you think makes for the best storytelling?” I think there are a lot of writers out there who can do amazing group stories, and every once in a while I luck into a situation with Tower Babel or something where I seem beyond to something, but at core I like writing the solo characters. I think it’s just easier for me to focus in on one character and really do a deep dive, deep drill on that character and tell the story through that point of view. When you’re trying to tell a story through several different points of view, it’s very easy for that story to become a little complex and a little hard to manage. For me, I can never be Stephen King. I can never tell a story with 14 different protagonists, which he does exceptionally well and which makes my head explode. Solo characters for me are the way to go.
MPerrell91 Says: “I love the issue where Robin and Supergirl go on a date…” Thank you! By the way, that issue exists because in a cumulative 90 years of existence, I have never seen Dick Grayson and Supergirl have a conversation or share a scene, just the two of them. And that is why I put them together specifically. “…What other two characters would you like to write going on a date?” That’s a really good question. We’re going to do some edits and come back to that because that one I don’t have an answer for…
Brubaker wishes to know: “When writing for different characters such as The Flash or Batman, how do you approach each character differently?” Again, getting into who they are, what makes them who they are, what their powers are, and how that influences how they perceive the world. But remembering that each of them has the same goal, which is truth and justice, but they may not always have the same methods by which to achieve it. And remembering this as you go forward. Side tip: when I’m writing a bunch of different characters, especially when I’m writing a team book, my secret is to keep a bunch of trading cards on my desk, one for every character. So they’re like chess pieces for me. This is how I managed to keep characters straight and different, when I’m writing a team book. I pull the characters forward and I’ve written a scene with Wonder Woman and Superman and Batman, and then I realized, oh wait, Aquaman has anything to do for a while. Let’s pull him over here. Now I got Aquaman over here, and again, oh wait, I haven’t done anything with Marcian Man Hunter. He’s over here. So I keep them all in view so I can always make sure that they always get some play. So that didn’t really answer your question, but it’s a bonus answer.
ETR34 wishes to know: “Have you ever regretted a creative decision that you made with a character?” Yes! “…And if yes, can you elaborate on which decision and character?” I will absolutely give this to you. It was a long time ago, probably before you were born, when we did a Justice League crossover. This is way back in the nineties with a character called Overlord, and it was the Justice League book, the Justice League International book, and the third Justice League book, Justice League Europe or whatever it was at the time. And that was the story in which we wanted to give the villain, The Overlord, some giant impact to show what a badass he is. And the way you did that in the nineties was that you had them killed somebody. That was the trope. That was the way it went. And I was the idiot in the room who said Ice. Ice would be the one who would most affect the other Justice Leaders when you killed her. Let’s kill ice. What an idiot. First off, bad call because she’s a great character. And secondly, a choice that doesn’t hold up very well today. I would not make that choice–in fact, I try to stay away from that whole killing characters thing as much as I possibly can because we do it so often in comics that it loses a bit of its edge, and with most of these characters, you know they’ll be back eventually. So where is the suspense? “Oh, no, I’ve killed Robin!” Have you really killed Robin?
I think we got this question about which characters you have going a date…Great question! I think Martian Man Hunter and Harley Quinn. I think romantic sparks would absolutely not fly, but I think of all of the human beings on Earth, I think that Harley would be the biggest mystery to Martian Manhunter… beyond the fact that he’s an alien. I think even if you were an Earthman with that mindset, she’d still feel like an alien to him. I think that would be a great story.
Thanks for joining us here for Episode Seven of the DC Community Creator Q&A Series, and a special shout out to RowHarper who for that question, which was excellent wins, a signed copy of World’s Finest Comics!