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DF Interview: Talking with the legendary Dan Jurgens
By Byron Brewer
From his early work for DC to teaching kids to draw “the Marvel way,” few have had a career as long or having greater impact than Dan Jurgens.
The master of both Superman and Spider-Man, Jurgens’ brand is across many comic book universes. And he is still at it today!
Dynamic Forces considers it quite an honor to talk to this legendary comic book creator. Here is what Dan had to say.
Dynamic Forces: It all started with Mike Grell and his creation, DC’s Warlord, correct? Take us back, Dan.
Dan Jurgens: Yes. Mike created, wrote and drew The Warlord for DC Comics. He had gotten to the point, however, where he was just writing it.
Mike was making a store appearance in the area around that time and I stopped to show him my work. He liked what he saw, mentioned my name to DC and they gave both me and another artist five test pages to draw.
They liked mine, I got the gig and have been hanging around ever since.
DF: While you were primarily an artist at the time, you took over writing Sun Devils in the 1980s at DC in the stead of former Marvel legends Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway. Tell us how you handled this shift of responsibilities. Was it something you wanted?
Dan Jurgens: Roy and Gerry were the writers/creators while I was the artistic creator.
Gerry both wrote and edited Sun Devils. Midway through the 12 issue series, he got loaded down with work and asked me if I’d like to write it through the end.
I am forever indebted to him for giving me that opportunity.
DF: You created fanboy history with the advent of Booster Gold. Tell us about this character and any special affinity you may have for him. I know a number of fans think he is tops!
Dan Jurgens: Yeah, fans do like Booster, which I’m obviously thrilled with.
At that point, DC was a very open place that offered creators a chance to try a variety of different approaches and ideas. I had a brief conversation with Dick Giordano one morning and he got very interested in the basic concept and more or less bought it on the spot.
After that, all I had to do was go home, write it up and put together the character designs.
DF: How did it feel to be a creator on Superman, THE superhero book?
Dan Jurgens: Writing and drawing Superman is one of those special jobs in comics, for sure. However, at that time, not many people really wanted to take it on.
I was first brought on to draw George Perez’s stories. He had to step away from writing the book and editor Mike Carlin asked me if I’d like to step in.
While I wasn’t intimidated by drawing Superman, it’s fair to say that I was first intimidated by the idea of writing him.
DF: Elephant in the room: Dan, talk about your creation of Doomsday and the “Death of Superman” storyline.
Dan Jurgens: We were looking to do a big story that would flow into Superman #75 and that’s what we came up with.
Originally, there had been some thought that the wedding of Lois and Clark might take place there, but we had to put those plans aside.
I walked into one of our creative story sessions, where all the writers and artists got together with editorial and had a yellow legal pad with two notes written on it.
One said “Monster/Metropolis”. I simply wanted to do a story where Metropolis got ripped to shreds.
The other said “Death of Superman”. We had talked about that at earlier meetings and Jerry Ordway and I had discussed it on the phone a couple of days earlier. Seemed like the time.
Eventually, we pooled both those ideas and it became “Death of…”.
DF: You also created Cyborg Supes, who has come back with a fury in the New 52. Thoughts?
Dan Jurgens: The New 52 version of the character is one I don’t care for at all. They basically destroyed him.
However, back then, one of the ideas that really made Superman’s return an adventure was the idea of four different characters claiming to be Superman. The fact that one turned out to be a villain was a rather epic moment of betrayal that no one saw coming. Anytime you can shock a reader that way, you’ve done well.
He had a secure place in the DCU and it was great to see Geoff Johns use him in the Green Lantern books a few years later.
DF: In the mid-1990s, Dan, you jumped from Superman to Spider-Man, DC to Marvel, as writer/penciler for The Sensational Spider-Man about the Ben Reilly iteration. I know there was some controversy and a departure from the title. Care to discuss this?
Dan Jurgens: While I enjoyed being able to do Spidey and got along great with the other writers on the books, it simply wasn’t a good fit. I couldn’t do the book the way I thought I’d be able to and it’s wrong to stay with a project when that happens.
DF: Some folks talk about a “hiatus from comics” you took in the early 2000s, but I don’t recall you gone from the scene.
Dan Jurgens: I have no idea where that rumor ever started, but it’s really inaccurate. I never really took a hiatus as much as I slowed down a bit to catch my breath. But the work was all still there.
I did have to take about a half year away from the monthlies to write and draw the “You Can Draw Marvel Characters” book from DK Publishing.
DF: Recently, you were back at DC working with Keith Giffen, Jeff Lemire and Brian Azzarello on The New 52: Futures End. Does it ever feel like you have come full circle, and can you compare and contrast DC Then and DC Now?
Dan Jurgens: I think the business has changed too much to feel like I could go full circle on anything.
But it’s certainly fun to be working on a project with a tapestry as big as this one. We’re telling a truly big story here, one that will resonate beyond the confines of the series. That’s exemplified by all the “Five Years Later” titles coming out from DC for the month of September.
And it’s always gratifying to work with such talented creators. We’ve all had to learn how to adapt a bit—group writing can do that—but I’ve also found myself learning from them as well.
DF: Looking back, sir, what is the legacy – and a continuing one – of Dan Jurgens to the comic book industry?
Dan Jurgens: Hmm… I really don’t know if I can say!
That’s really for the readers to decide, I guess.
All I know is that I still like to step into the batter’s box and take my best swing.
Dynamic Forces is honored to have talked with the legendary Dan Jurgens and we thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule to discuss his fascinating career with us.
Get your copy of Green Arrow #1 signed by Dan Jurgens here! How about Superman #700? Get that here!
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