Sunday, January 21, 2007

10 Questions: Roy Thomas

This 10 Questions is very special indeed. It isn't often you get to interview one of your heroes but Roy Thomas definitely qualifies for me. Thomas joined Marvel as a staff writer in 1965 and went on to helm books like the X-Men and the Avengers for lengthy runs, creating some legendary characters along the way, including the Vision, Ultron, Man-Thing and Ghost Rider.

Succeeding Stan Lee as Marvel Editor-in-Chief, Thomas continued to write and create, launching titles like the Defenders, What If and the Invaders (about which I've written before here).

Thomas also steered Marvel into new genres and licensed properties, capitalizing on 70's trends with the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu and creating martial arts hero Iron Fist. Thomas also acquired the rights to several properties that flourished in comic form at Marvel, most notably Star Wars and Conan. It has been said, by one of the editors-in-chief that succeeded Thomas, Jim Shooter, that these licensed properties (particularly Star Wars) single-handedly saved Marvel from bankruptcy in the 70's and 80's.

Well, I think I've established why I would want to interview Roy Thomas, so enough from me, let's see Roy's answers to this comic-themed installment of 10 Questions already!

  1. What do you of the recurring trend of “event comics”?

I think they’ve been so overblown, more so in recent years than even in the 80s and 90s, that they are self-defeating. How seriously can any reader take any continuity today when he/she knows that, a couple of years from now, there’s liable to be yet another “relaunch” in which some yo-yo with more chutzpah and ambition than sense tells you that “everything you know is wrong”? Yecch.

2. When I first became a fan of you was on the Avengers. I’ve heard several stories over the years that you wanted Thor and Iron Man to remain on the book but Stan dictated you use lesser known characters like Cap, Quicksilver, Hawkeye and the Scarlet Witch. Is this true? Were you given any line-up dictates? Any dictates at all?

As I’ve oft reported, Stan made me take Captain America out of THE AVENGERS, and wouldn’t let me bring him, Thor, and/or Iron Man back on a regular basis… till after a few years I just did it without asking, and he accepted the situation.

3. Are you doing any comics these days? It seems you’ve been focusing on “Alter Ego” and other works detailing the history of comics lately.

I’m writing ANTHEM for Heroic Publication (#4 just coming out, #5-6 in the pipeline with more planned), which has been a modest success… an alternate-WWII super-hero comic originally prepared for Spain. I’m also doing three multi-issue adaptations of literary classics for Marvel (starting with THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS), and have been invited to write another Red Sonja story for Dynamite, plus a few other offers.

4. What do you see as the future of comics?

As the tail wagged by the dog of merchandising and other media.

5. If you were running a major comic company today, what would you do first?

If I had to compete with other companies coming out now, I think I’d decline… it wouldn’t be any fun for me. If I had my druthers, of course, that would be quite different.

6. You started as a comics fan and went on to become a comics writer. Any tips for writers trying to break into the industry?

Not really, except to write first in another medium… nowadays, editors seem impressed mostly by people who’ve done movies, etc.

7. Before you started at Marvel, you were a fan, what were your favorite comics?

In the 1960s? I liked esp. FF and SPIDER-MAN and AVENGERS at Marvel…the Julie Schwartz books at DC. In the 1940s, ALL-STAR COMICS and related titles, plus CAPTAIN MARVEL & THE MARVEL FAMILY, and the Timely/Marvel heroes.

8. Jim Shooter seems to be one of those comics luminaries that is particularly divisive. Some hail him as a genius, others seem to really dislike him.

I think both views are totally supportable.

9. Joe Quesada really seems to have revitalized Marvel. What do you think of the job he’s done as Editor in Chief?

He seems to have turned Marvel around to a great extent, though I know little of what’s done. Marvel doesn’t send me free comics, and I rarely buy any.

10. If you could return to write a single comic regularly, what comic would you most want to write?

ALL-STAR SQUADRON at DC… or some JSA thing set in WWII. After that, THE INVADERS… and some Conan work somewhere.

I'd like to thank Roy for answering my questions. Heck, I was thrilled he answered my email query to begin with. He's an important figure in the history of comics, a brilliant writer and one of those guys that convinced me to try my hand at this writing thing.

Thanks again, Roy.

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