Okay, yes, yes,
I know you lot were expecting a Waiting For Tommy with Chris
Claremont, but he's a busy man, got far more important things
to attend to than the likes of little old me.
Waiting For Tommy XXXVI
By Richard Johnston
X/Gus Beezer/Simpsons writer, Gail Simone was on hand
on AOL's instant messenger to chat. So I decided to make a
JONSTON: So, Chris, what did you think of X-Men
liked the bits where Storm was naked. Or maybe that was Monster's
Ball. Was Wolverine
in Monster's Ball?
Yes. Definitely. It's a collector's item now. Sorry, sorry,
um. Who are you again?
GAIL: Gail Simone.
Some of my best-known non-work does not include a legendary
run on the X-Men, and I also didn't create the cult -avourite
Sovereign Seven. You might have enjoyed one of my many novels
I didn't write, as well.
Are you as good as you used to be?
confused even by the part of this interview that I understand.
Oh you should have read the Joe
Quesada interview. Actually, no you probably shouldn't
have. No one should. Hang on, you did that Gus Beezer thing
I did that Gus Beezer thing...that was very close to the fulfillment
of a lifelong dream, doing a kids' book. Something I've gotten
to do a bit with Bongo's Bart Simpson book, but this was my
first chance to create all the characters from scratch.
The thing I've
discovered is that in this career, I'm a complete contrarian.
If the conventional wisdom says it's a bad market to do kids'
books, then I want to do kids' books RIGHT NOW. Even
though it's riskier, I think the rewards are greater. In the
history of comics, the turning points were all against conventional
wisdom... team books don't sell, horror comics don't sell,
Even if the name bore a resemblance to a certain British weekly
kids comic that ran for half a century...
and THANKS FOR POINTING THAT OUT AFTER THE BOOK CAME OUT,
RICH! I'd never heard of the comic Beezer, but I was aware
that 'beezer' is English slang. But there's no actual character
called Beezer previously, is there?
Um... no. Any idea how many kids bought it, or had it bought
for them - as opposed to very big kids indeed, storing it
in long boxes next to their copies of Gusset Girls from Eros
wasn't a big seller overall in the direct market, we know
that much, but a lot of stores did very well with it, much
better than expected. The thing is, you can't have customers
without the appropriate product. You can't invent a kids'
market overnight, and many stores just don't have that many
kids in the client base at this point. You need more books
like Gus, Herobear and the Kid, Zoom's Academy, Leave It To
Chance, the Archie line...you need all of them to have a wide
enough selection of choices to appeal to kids.
A perfect example
is the Sonic The Hedgehog books. These books have this extremely
in-depth continuity that has very little to do with the video
games, as far as I can see, and yet the audience that buys
them--they're completely hooked. They have to have every issue.
They do fansites. That's a serious achievement, one that the
major companies are having a hard time duplicating. But why
not try? Sales figures aren't the only reason to do a book.
They're crucial, sure, but some things are worth attempting
even knowing they're not going to make Wizard's
top ten list. Everyone involved in Gus gave it their best
effort... we felt it was worthwhile.
Mmm. Did you have visions of thousands of forty-year old large
men in just their pants sitting down and reading Gus? Did
that interfere with your creative vision at all?
First, I'm dead sick of the myth of all readers being perpetual
stay-at-home, masturbating, middle-aged white guys. My experience
at the San Diego convention was that (and I'm sure this is
heresy) for the most part, the readers were cooler than we
people on the other side of the table. I think a big portion
of the fan-bashing that goes on is just simple self-loathing.
Second, if a 40 year old guy reads Pogo or Peanuts or yes,
Calvin and Hobbes, we don't really think anything strange
about it, nor should we. Why liking comic strip-style books
is somehow shameful, but liking Green Punch Man isn't doesn't
make a lot of sense to me.
And finally, we
DID receive a great deal of mail from Marvel readers who shared
the Gus books with their families, maybe the first comic books
they'd ever felt they could do that with. That's worth doing.
We have teachers using them in classrooms. Dyslexic kids wanting
to read them on their own when reading for pleasure is pretty
Bizarrely, I used to refer to the stereotype of *thirty* year-old
large men in their pants. until I turned thirty. Now they're
all forty. Forty, I tell you. There was talk that Marvel
was kicking off a young kids' comic line. Did anything happen
there, to your knowledge? Is Gus a comic book John The Baptist?
not sure what else they have planned, but I hope they do more.
It looks like we'll be doing more Gus, for one thing. But
I highly recommend the Mini-Marvel comics, which are funny
and charming. I know they do hope to be doing more things
for a wider market, which Gus was originally intended for.
What's the likelihood of Gus being exposed more to that market?
dang good, if all goes as planned.
Would this be a wonderful opportunity to reveal those plans?
would, but the exact nature of the plan is still a'borning,
so anything I told you would likely be wrong. But Marvel has
been great about this book. They let us do the book we intended,
and the few suggestions they made added a great deal. I have
to say again that I'm crazy about the Jason Lethcoe art. He
really made the book and no amount of credit is enough.
I also have to
say, I talked to a lot of retailers who took a chance and
ordered Gus very heavily. I can't thank them enough, either.
No argument here on Jason. I'll steal him when your back's
turned. So have Marvel always been great about the books you've
worked on, allowing you to do what you intended?
a trickster demon, Rich.
What? Did I mention Agent X? Not me. I'm just talking off
the top of my head.
I had problems with one editor. It obviously became a big
pain in the butt for everyone involved, including him, and
I have to take my share of the blame for that. I don't want
to pretend it didn't happen, because it led to me leaving
a book I thought was just starting to really cook, but on
the other hand, it's in the past, and I'm sure we all learned
from it. But to focus on that one thing is to ignore the fact
that the other editors I worked with at Marvel were fantastic
to me, and very supportive. It's just an isolated thing, happens
to everyone in this business on both sides of the editor/creator
line at some point.
1 | 2
| 3 Continued