First Comics News: I usually like to start my First Comics News interviews by asking for some biographical type info, such as: where (and when) were you born, and where did you grow up and go to school?
Roland Mann: I was born in Memphis, TN in 1964. I did my early years in Memphis until my dad was transferred to Jackson, MS., when I was in 6th grade. So, I consider that to be where I grew up. I earned a B.S. in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1988. USM, located in Hattiesburg, is where I met Steven Butler and Mitch Byrd, the guys I broke into comics with. But I also know several others working in comics today, too. I did go on to get an M.A. in English and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, but those came after I ‘left’ comics in 2001.
1st: How did you first ‘discover’ the world and fun hobby of comics, and how long have you been an avid buyer, reader, and collector of them; if you are, that is?
Roland: Comics taught me to read. I’m one of the fortunate ones in that my mom encouraged me to read, even if that meant reading comics. While I have a little memory of some Archies, Hot Stuff, Richie Rich, Batman, and Superman before, none of them resonated with me. What I remember is picking up Fantastic Four #170 and Avengers #150. FF was okay, but I was interested in the characters from Avengers. And while that issue’s story is pretty bad and forgettable, I wanted to know more about Cap and Thor and Iron Man. So I picked up the next issue and was blown away by the writing by Steve Englehart, as the Avengers were taking on the Squadron Supreme. At the same time, I picked up The Amazing Spider-Man #156, written by the late, great Len Wein, and I was also hooked! For the comics historian, these comics were published in early 1976, so I was 12 years old!
1st: Which are your favorite titles and characters in comics, aside from your own?
Roland: I’ve always been a Marvel guy, The Avengers and Spider-Man being my favorite titles. I like the way The Vision was handled by Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart. That’s what made him one of my all-time favorites. Captain America and the Falcon was probably my third favorite as I loved both characters but I never understood why Falcon was not an Avenger. When I got a little older, I discovered independent comics and I loved Bill Willingham’s Elementals. I enjoyed Mike Baron’s Badger. And The Justice Machine.
1st: Same here. I agree with you, and while I bought, read, and collected all of those titles, having bought them all, month in and month out, (and still have them all), I think Captain America and The Falcon was perhaps my top favorite! The 1960’s were great comics, most of them, but the 1970’s, for comics, was also incredibly awesome, in my view! And as for writers, Steve Englehart (and Don McGregor), were tops, among some others! Decades later when it came out, I very much enjoyed Steve Englehart’s The Strangers, since you were speaking of also loving the ‘Independents’ (comics groups.) I also enjoyed Mike Baron’s The Badger, Nexus, Bill Willingham’s The Elementals, and, let’s see, what else? Mike Grell’s ‘Jon Sable, Freelance’, The Rocketeer, and so many others.
Roland: Yes indeed. I have two degrees in it. The funny thing about my degrees, though, is that the teaching was focused on prose writing and not comics. In fact, in my undergraduate program, I dared not even mention comics because they weren’t considered worthy of conversation. My M.F.A. was different. You could talk about it, but most of them didn’t understand comics.
1st: Do you have any other hobbies and interests aside from comics, and what kind of music do you like?
Roland: Several, but it seems like time is too short to do many of them these days. I came close to earning a Master’s degree in history. The idea was that I was going to teach history. I didn’t finish the program, but consider myself now an amateur historian. I have done live history presentations/ historical reenactments, and those are fun. I like sports and have recently joined another softball team (Malibu Comics had a softball team, back in the day). I also enjoy music very much, and I play drums … though I am finally selling my kit … just not enough time to play.
1st: You mentioned in an email that you recently tore your rotator cuff while playing softball. I was darn sorry to hear that. I am hoping that you heal, nicely! Roland, in the 1990s, you edited one of my favorite American superhero titles, The Protectors, from Malibu Comics. The Protectors was a group of U.S.-based superheroes, and most or all of them were redos, in new comics stories, of actual 1940s World War Two era comics heroes, published during World War Two, several decades before you and I were born. These characters included Man of War, Air Man, Gravestone, Arc, Aura, Amazing Man, The Ferret, Prince Zardi, The Mask, Mighty Man, and possibly others, some of whom may have been new characters introduced into that Protectors comics series, and many with new costumes. The stories read almost like Marvel titles, and some of those characters spun off into their own comics mini-series; those that I can remember doing so included The Arrow, Airman, The Ferret, Man of War, and Gravestone. Did I miss any of the spin-off titles? Perhaps the most interesting (and shocking-!) issue of The Protectors was the twentieth and final issue of the series, in which, at the story’s end, the entire planet Earth was destroyed, and with it, every last one of those heroes! Sorry, but to clarify for our readers and me, WHO came up with the idea to end issue # 20 that way, you, or R. A. Jones?
Roland: That was all R.A. Jones, the writer. We had learned that the line would be canceled, and the powers that be allowed us to actually “end” the story rather than just cancel it abruptly, as sometimes happens, especially with independent comics. I came to R.A. Jones and let him know, and he came up with the idea to end it all. Some of it was out of frustration because he had worked so hard to build up the Protectors and their world, and it felt like it was all being discarded because of the Ultraverse. I ran his idea by Malibu’s EIC Chris Ulm to make sure I wouldn’t be fired when R.A. Jones blew everything up, and he was good with it.
1st: Oops, nevermind, ha ha! So it was R.A. Jones’s idea to end it that way! I see you answered that question of mine! Heh, heh. That’s interesting, you spoke to Chris Ulm to get permission to do that, to keep your job. And it all makes perfect sense.
Roland: It seemed kind of fitting at the end, we thought. While I haven’t talked to him about it in some time, R.A. swears he has a way out of it if the universe is ever re-launched, but he’s keeping that all to himself!
Roland: That came later, and technically, it wasn’t Malibu that went out of business, it was Marvel, downsizing. The Protectors were canceled, but Malibu’s Ultraverse was going strong. Not long after, Marvel bought the company in corporate maneuvering (it had nothing to do with the coloring department, despite the long-held internet rumors to the contrary) … and then, not long after, Marvel declared bankruptcy, and shut it all down.
1st: I also followed Malibu Comics’ short-lived Tarzan comics series. I think one of those Tarzan series at Malibu ran just seven issues. Did you buy, read, and follow those? There were several Malibu Tarzan series and some one-shots.
Roland: No, I did not. I was aware of them but did not read them.
1st: All good. I’m also wondering WHY has Marvel never, ever done anything else with ANY of those numerous characters in the Ultraverse. Or, have they, that you know of? It ‘reads’ as if Marvel bought Malibu/ Ultraverse just to shut it all down for the reason that Malibu/ Ultraverse was simply cutting into Marvel’s sales too much. Is that all there was to it? Buy it and kill it? And, I guess those comics ‘dead universes’, as they are called, will never, ever be revived. Would you agree with that? So yeah, this is several questions, in one.
Roland: No, I don’t think Marvel has done anything, nor do I think they will, at least not while anyone who remembers it is still alive… While I can’t speak with any certainty to Marvel wanting to shut it down, I think if Marvel had simply wanted to shut it down, they would have done so immediately after the purchase, instead of letting us go for about two years. So that line of thinking doesn’t make sense to me. No, I think the idea was that our market share would be added to theirs, cementing Marvel as the #1 publisher. But the real reason for the purchase was just to keep Malibu out of DC’s hands, as DC was planning to buy the company. Marvel got wind of that and swooped in with a bigger offer.
1st: Ah! I didn’t remember that Malibu/Ultraverse continued for two years after Marvel purchased the company. I need a new ‘hard drive.’ LOL. I bet if DC Comics had purchased Malibu/ Ultraverse, all of those characters would still be around! The ‘proof in the pudding’ is, I think, that DC Comics did purchase Wildstorm Comics, and those characters, over at DC, are now pretty much as big as ever! Although DC did take a couple of years or more to review them. Wildstorm Partial Spoiler Alert to Readers: Don’t read the oversized DC Black Label’s ‘Waller Versus Wildstorm’ # 3 issue, if any of those Wildstorm characters are beloved characters, to you! Hey, I did say Spoiler Alert, right? If memory serves, didn’t Marvel Comics buy Malibu, and then do nothing with any of the vast Malibu Comics titles and characters, or do I have that wrong?
Roland: Yes, Marvel bought Malibu and everything was okay, until the bankruptcy. The entire Malibu line was canceled as a result. Since then, you are correct in that Marvel has done absolutely nothing with them.
1st: So, is it just that, because of Marvel’s bankruptcy – one of several times that happened, and I believe that Marvel had that particular bankruptcy because Marvel’s comics in the 1990s were (mostly) just plain terrible, and that, after this bankruptcy, the powers-that-be at Marvel Comics just simply …. forgot that they had bought Malibu and The Ultraverse? That seems rather hard to believe, that nobody at Marvel, since the 1990s, one would think, at any one point in time, that had paid all that money for those characters. What do you think? Ann Nocenti came out of that period, and, while she has her followers, I’m not one of them, although the exception is that I DO like Daredevil’s Bullet character.
so… before this time. Funny aside, I was courting Ann to take over writing MANTRA for me.
And no, I think there are folks up there who know. But I think the sale was written so that as long as Scott Rosenberg is involved, they won’t do anything with the characters as they don’t want to deal with him.
1st: I was going to ask you, Roland, as to why, perhaps, Marvel Comics might not want to deal with Scott Rosenberg in terms of potentially bringing back the Malibu/ Ultraverse comics characters (at) Marvel, but instead, I googled it, and found this, over at the comics’ site Bleeding Cool.Com: ” (Tom) Brevoort has stated in the past that the reason Marvel can’t discuss the Ultraverse properties is because there’s an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) in place with certain parties. If you read the original press release where Scott Rosenberg left Marvel and announced the formation of Platinum Studios back in 1997, you’ll find this nugget: “Rosenberg also has an ongoing producer deal for all Malibu Comics properties.”
1st: Of course, this quote, above, doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me, (if) Marvel legally 100% owns Malibu/ Ultraverse Comics, outright. I mean, they either won it all outright, or they didn’t, right? Curiouser and curiouser. Roland, do you happen to know how much money Marvel paid for the Ultraverse, and can you tell our readers that? If you do, I imagine just about everyone will want to read this interview! Ha, ha! And, did they just buy the Ultraverse characters, or also the Malibu Comics comics line and company name? I mean, there’s no sense in buying the Malibu Protectors, since most or all of those characters are in The Public Domain, right? Besides, anyone can revive ‘dead’ characters from comics.
Roland: I do not know that. I’ve heard rumors and hearsay, but that’s all it would be, and I don’t want to further those. I would also like to know for sure. Ha, ha. They bought everything that Malibu owned, which includes Malibu’s Protectors, which were based on Public Domain characters — which they can’t buy, of course. It does not include the bunch of creator-owned titles, like Dinosaurs For Hire, which were never owned by Malibu. You could do your version of the characters, but you can’t do anything that Malibu did with them, because Marvel owns that “take.”
1st: So, perhaps the solution, for readers who loved Malibu/ Ultraverse Comics, regardless of the quote I added above from Bleeding Cool.Com, is simply this: If you loved/ liked / or missed that stuff, write or email Marvel Comics, and let them know! They can’t read your minds, guys, and gals! Was Gravestone a golden age hero, or all-new, at the time?
Roland: If my memory serves me, Gravestone is based on a golden age hero with a different name — which I cannot recall, at the moment. But no one liked the Golden Age name, so R.A. Jones came up with the name Gravestone.
1st: Understood. I looked up the answer, online, because I didn’t remember, either. And this is a direct quote: ‘ Gravestone is an updated version of The Centaur hero Fantom of the Fair, keeping his old story, but with a new appearance and powers (and costume), in the 1990’s Malibu Comics rebooted version of the golden age Fantom of the Fair.’
Roland: Fantoman, I remember now, was the character. Thanks for jogging my memory!
1st: My pleasure. Like I said, I didn’t remember, either, if I ever knew. By the time the twenty issues of Malibu’s Protectors came out, had you, yourself, written any comics up to that point? And if not, what was the first comic that you wrote yourself, who published it, how did that come about, and when did it come out?
Roland: Yes, several by that point. The first comic I wrote and published was CAT & MOUSE. That series was initially published in 1989 by EFGraphics. EFG went out of business, and then Malibu’s Aircel picked it up. The first issue of it came out in 1990 and then ran for eighteen issues.
1st: I remember Aircel Comics. Didn’t Malibu’s Aircel (brand) Comics line also publish some sort of porno comics, or do I have that mixed up with another publisher? I know, of course, that Cat & Mouse wasn’t that type of a series at all.
Roland: I don’t recall any actual ‘porno’, but I know that I, too, used to think that some of the titles published by Aircel were ‘softcore.’ I never liked that Cat & Mouse was an Aircel title, I always thought C&M should have been an Eternity title. The folks who ran Malibu felt the title would sell more as an Aircel book…and so that’s what happened.
1st: I looked into it a little more, online, and it turns out I was wrong, on that score. I was thinking of Eros Comics, and not Aircel Comics. My appologies to Aircel. I never bought any Eros Comics.
Roland: The way that happened, though, is that Steven and Mitch tried to self-publish. We solicited through the various distributors (thirteen at the time, if I am not mistaken), and had orders for 4,400 copies. But we didn’t have the money to print it, which at that time would have been around $2,500.00 And keep in mind, we were still in college! None of the banks in our area would loan us the money, and we tried. One day in our local comic shop (Hub City Comics), Terry Wagers, the owner, told us he knew a new publisher in New York that was looking for content. He got us the information, and we sent them photocopies of all the work we had done. They called immediately and wanted to publish us. The publishers drove to Hattiesburg to meet with me, Steven, and Mitch. We signed the deal with them on the spot!
1st: Wow. They even came to you; you didn’t have to drive down to see them. Awesome! What could be better?
Roland: After EFG went under, we took the printed copy of #1 and photocopies of the next four to five issues we had done, because we continued to work on them, and sent them off to places like Comico, First, Innovation, Now Comics … and yes, Malibu Comics. We sent it to Eternity Comics also, not realizing at the time that Malibu was the umbrella company. But Cat & Mouse was published by Aircel and not Eternity.
1st: I liked and bought wares from all of those companies. Wait. Did Malibu own Eternity, or did Eternity own Malibu? Malibu Comics were slicker, in my view. And, if memory serves, some or many of Eternity Comics had black-and-white interiors, didn’t they? I may be remembering that entirely wrong, of course, and I DO remember some Eternity Comics titles with full color interiors. Twilight Avenger, for one, was in full color, which I did like!
Roland: Malibu Graphics was the umbrella company for Eternity, Aircel, and Adventure. They were all owned by Malibu. I think the majority of titles by all those imprints were in black and white. Color was just very expensive to print in those days, and you had to sell a lot of comics to make it worthwhile. Even the Planet of the Apes mini-series I wrote was in black and white. But I had written several comics mini-series before actually becoming an editor at Malibu. I wrote Miss Fury, Rocket Ranger, Planet of the Apes: Blood of the Apes, She-Devils on Wheels, and Krey, as well as some shorter pieces in anthologies, including a backup story in Nexus.
1st: Issue # 70 (seventy) of Nexus, it looks like. I looked it up. Miss Fury was a favorite 1940s newspaper comic strip that I’ve read in book collections by the incomparable, late, Miss Tarpé Mills. She used a pseudonym, ‘ Tarpé’ Mills, instead of her legal proper name, which was June Mills, in that famous vintage newspaper comics strip (weekdays and Sunday Strips), because she felt that, were it known that this newspaper adventure (comics) strips were created/ written/ and illustrated by a female, it wouldn’t go over well. Ah, such enlightened times. Insert sarcasm, here. I read this in a hardcover coffee table book with a dust jacket about the strip, which included many of the Sunday strips in full color and that’s where I got that background info on her, above. You wrote a new four-issue comic book series of Miss Fury, from Adventure Comics, published from 1991-1992. Regrettably, I never got to see them; they weren’t distributed in my area. Is Miss Fury in The Public Domain? I’m asking because other publishers have since done their versions as well, including Dynamite Entertainment (Comics), which I DID get to enjoy. The Adventure Comics’ Miss Fury series is still on my Want List. You don’t have a PDF of these you could show me, by chance, do you?
Roland: I think I could come up with something for you.
1st: I won’t hold you to it, of course, but if you could, that would be like ***Christmas***! I understand from online, that Adventure Comics was (also) an imprint of Malibu Comics. Was that correct, at the time?
Roland: Yessir — see the answer above. Miss Fury was not in the public domain in the 1990s; we had permission from the creator, Tarpe Mills. I didn’t deal with that at all, Malibu did. Miss Fury is now, however, Public Domain. I am using ‘Ms Fury’ in my comics now. I felt I still had some more stories to tell of her.
1st: That’s great! Tarpe Mills had a very sad death. She died alone in her apartment on the 12th of December, 1988. Before her deceased body was even found by anyone else, someone or someones (plural) broke into her apartment and stole most all of her original Miss Fury art and comics pages, including published pages, as well as most all (except for less than ten pages) of an all-new in-the-works, new at the time Miss Fury NEW graphic novel original art pages, slated for a publisher. I guess the thieves overlooked that handful of pages. Had this Miss Fury graphic novel ever been published in its complete form, it would have been the first new Miss Fury comics-type story in many, many decades. This sad story is related to the over large-sized hardcover (with a dust jacket) book Miss Fury Sensational Sundays, the same source that I hinted at, above, somewhere. It’s an incredible book that I bought when it came out. Stealing, to me, is completely reprehensible. But stealing from the dead? That’s a new low. Those innumerable stolen original art pages are out there, somewhere, in some thieves’ hands. And so, beware, readers, and please report this to legal authorities, if you ever see those pages at ComicCons, or anywhere else! Has anyone ever told you this story?
Roland: No, I’ve never heard that before. Very sad. And yes, Adventure was an imprint of Malibu, as was Eternity and Aircel.
1st: Regarding the ‘Silverline Team Up’ (title) book, is that comics series going to be an ongoing title featuring many of the Silverline characters, ala the Marvel Team-Up title, back in the day? The PDF you sent me of Issue # 1 so that I could read it for this interview, was a great read, both in terms of story and art. And, I liked the pacing! Did you come up with these characters, Roland?
Roland: I did indeed come up with the characters. Champion’s first appearance is in Cat & Mouse Vol 1. …issue #2 or #3, I think (I’d have to check), and Miss Fury is Public Domain. So…the story just started as a Champion story. I wanted to find a way to get him worked more into the Cat & Mouse mythos, something I started way back in Vol 1. of Cat & Mouse; it just never happened. But then, realizing that it’d be tough to get anyone interested in a story about a dude only known to those who read Cat & Mouse, I got the idea to add Miss Fury, mostly because I became aware she moved into the Public Domain, and I’ve wanted to do more with her since her comics mini-series, in the 1990s. I felt that it was a great way to do it: take a public domain character that many already know, pair them together, bring them both to New Orleans where Cat & Mouse is set, and viola! The difficult part came in trying to come up with a title name. Internally, we called it ‘ChampFury’ for the longest time. Thomas Florimonte, the inker, will still call it that! It was Mike W. Belcher who suggested the title, and he only did so, in jest.
Roland: I had asked him to design a logo for Ms. Fury, telling him what I was planning to do (we were going to work with ‘Champion and Ms Fury’ for the title), and Mike sent a logo to me that included the ‘Silverline Team-Up’ portion. The team: me, Tommy, penciller Peter Clinton, and colorist Roberta Conroy all loved it, so we went with it. Initially, it was just a three-issue story. I had it plotted out, but not scripted. During the first issue, Tommy said “Hey—me and Pete want to work on ‘character X.’ I said, but that character isn’t in the story. Tommy replied, “But we want to draw him.” So, I went back to work on the plot, inserted the requested character (going to keep that a secret for a bit longer, if I can), into the opening scene in issue #2, and the three-issue mini-series became a four-issue mini-series. But, not long ago the idea DID hit me “Hey! This is kind of a cool way to introduce some new characters and showcase some others as well, all the while fleshing out the universe of Cat & Mouse.” So, right now, I just put a creative team working on a two-issue ‘Silverline Team-Up’ story. I’ll go ahead and tell you, but it features Ms. Fury and Tempest (from Silver Storm) and it introduces a new character. And, I’m in the process of putting two more two-issue stories into play. It probably won’t be monthly, but I would like to see it out regularly…we’ll just have to figure out exactly what that means for Silverline.
1st: By the way, I have a Miss Fury Sunday Page, framed under glass, in my computer room, at home, from May 1st, 1949, from The Boston Sunday Globe. Let me ask you, what inspired you, at the time, to do a new version of the 1940s newspaper comic strip of Tarpe Mills’ Miss Fury?
Roland: That is VERY cool! I’ve read — I think — the entire run from the 1940s, in reprint form. In the 1990’s, I was simply a freelancer looking for more work. I love superheroes and wanted to do more superhero work, and I called Tom Mason of Malibu, telling him I was looking for more writing. Like any good editor, he said he had nothing, but called me back a few days later, and told me they had the rights to Miss Fury, and that I could pitch him. So, I wrote up a pitch and sent it in. Tom gave me some great notes that made the story stronger, and off we went!
1st: I love superheroes, too! I noticed in a color ad inside your Krey # 1 another title of Silverline’s entitled Silverline Team-Up, in which Tarpe Mills’ Miss Fury teams up with a character that I’m not familiar with called The Champion. How many years had it been since you wrote the Adventure Comics’ Miss Fury before you wrote this team-up story featuring her with Champion?
Roland: Whew… So, the basics of the Champion story go back to the late 1990’s. Miss Fury didn’t enter the picture until around 2018 or 2019 when I worked her into the story. Champ’s story has changed, but the broader concept remains. Funny enough, it stems from an Arrow and Miss Fury pitch I sent to Malibu that didn’t sell. Lurene Haines was working on that with me.
1st: It’s too bad that Malibu didn’t produce your Arrow/ Miss Fury pitch in a series or mini-series. I would have liked to have seen that. But never say never, right? Because I think Arrow is another Golden Age character from the 1940s that I feel pretty sure is in the Public Domain. The original ‘The Arrow’ had an all-red costume, with a hood.
Having read the NEW Cat & Mouse vol. 2. # 1, what made you decide to do a new version (characters) of Cat & Mouse in the new series, instead of a new series, volume two, of the original Cat & Mouse characters?
Roland: Y’know, kinda like the final issue of The Protectors, Vol 1. of Cat & Mouse ‘ended.’ The ending, I feel, was a bit rushed, but it ended. I thought long and hard about it, but it had been 30 years, and I felt I’d mostly be after a brand new audience who wouldn’t know the first volume. Mitch wasn’t interested in being involved, so I just thought I’d leave the old characters where they were and come up with a new duo with the same name, and yet have many of the support staff return. That way, any old readers who returned would recognize the world and it would be familiar — changed, but familiar — and the new readers would get that sense of being on the ground floor. That’s my thinking, anyhow. ha.
1st: Even though Beah (Bear) is a comic story about stuffed animal toys that come to life in the pages of that story, and it seems aimed at younger readers, presumably, I enjoyed this first look of it, in the full-color PDF # 1. What was the inspiration for this series?
Roland: I’m the proud dad to two kids, both of whom are now adults. But when they were little, we watched a lot of Winnie the Pooh. There’s a scene in one of them where Pooh is concerned that Christopher Robin will forget him, and Christopher assures him he won’t, not even when he’s a hundred. That made me start thinking about what would happen to Pooh, the Hundred Acre Woods, and all the other toys when Christopher Robin grows up and eventually abandons the toys, as is generally the case. That line of thought gave birth to Beah. That’s been a lot of fun to write.
1st: Having just read the full-color PDF that you sent me of # 1, Krey is a comics series about a barbarian living with a mutant tribe; he was captured perhaps a decade and a half earlier by a tribe of mutants, who killed all or most of his tribe, and then having to take the human baby, Krey, and raising him as one of their own. Created and written by yourself, Roland Mann, and with art by the amazing Steven Butler as an artist (who did # 1’s cover as well, with cover inks by Jeremy Khan), the series is penciled by Steven Butler with inks by Ken Branch. It was an exciting first issue; will there be more? And, it is a one-shot, a mini-series, or an ongoing title?
Roland: Krey is a five-issue mini-series, and it has some pretty amazing art — of that I’m fortunate, as the writer! The story has an ‘ending’, but there is a single scene in one of the issues in which I drop hints/ clues to what could be a second story if the right artist ever comes along.
1st: I like The Rejects, basically, a sort of ‘loser’ superhero group, in a similar vein as DC’s The Inferior Five (and) The Legion of Substitute Heroes in The Silver Age of Comics, Bob Burden’s Mystery Men (which was made into a movie, itself a spin-off of Flaming Carrot Comics), and, of course, Canadian Captain Canuck back up stories Chaos Corps! There is a lot of humor built into The Rejects, although the Reject heroes that comprise the team frequently say outright that that is NOT the official name of their team; that their team name hasn’t been decided yet, because all the good hero team names are taken! I laughed when I read that. The whole issue was really funny! I enjoyed it. One member, Hot Flash, who is an older woman who presumably has ‘hot (menopausal) flashes, amused the heck out of me! is Snap-On a robot? What inspired you to come up with this team? It’s very amusing reading!
Roland: It’s no secret that I like superheroes. One theme that I find myself drawn to in stories is that of the outcast, those who just don’t seem to fit in. I think Spider-Man/ Peter Parker is a prime example of that. But now, many, many people deal with rejection in a lot of different aspects of their lives. We often think of rejection in the sense of being rejected by a lover. Creative types have to deal with the rejection of various things they create. People are rejected for jobs. We deal with it all the time. So…what about superheroes who are ‘rejected’? Supercape wants to join the Avengers, but… sorry, you’re rejected for one reason or another. And I know this has happened before in stories, but I thought, what if a bunch of rejected heroes teamed up and formed their own — very serious —team? They don’t think of themselves as rejects, they’re just heroes. But the truth is, they are rejected because they’re a bit silly. Yes, Hot Flash is a menopausal woman. My wife would probably make me sleep in the doghouse if we were to go on at length about the inspiration for that character… let’s just say that older women can understand Hot Flash’s problems. Snap-On man originates from my college role-playing days. I used to play Superworld back in the day, and one of the guys I played with was in the auto-mechanic program. Elwin Reed was the guy’s name; he created a character called Tool Master. That character was a bit inspired by Inspector Gadget, I think, as Inspector Gadget came out about a year before we started playing. Tool Master had removable arms that he could replace with different tools. We made such fun of him about the name that he changed it to Snap-On Man. Snap-On, for those who don’t know, is a brand of tools.
Roland: When the idea for The Rejects came, I decided to retool (ha—see what I did there?) the character and make him a part of the team. You’ll note that he drives a van that SHOULD look like an actual Snap-On company van!
1st: With the Teen Beetle PDF, although I like the looks of the cover characters, the PDF pages were far too small to read any of it. With that in mind, what can you tell our readers about the premise of this series?
Roland: Yikes! I’m sorry to hear that. It shouldn’t be the case and I’ll see if I can’t fix that and get you a new one! So, I have to say before answering, that there are elements of Blue Beetle that are public domain. Not everything. DC would be after us if we tried to do ‘Blue Beetle’. But writer/ creator John Crowther (who is a lawyer, so we’ve got that going for us!) came up with the idea that Dan Garret’s nephew recreates the beetle formula, and viola! He becomes a Teen Beetle!
1st: Wouldn’t it be cool if DC put out a Blue Beetle series that had Ted Kord’s new stories as half of the book, and Dan Garrett’s Blue Beetle stories in the back? Those Dan Garrett B.B. stories could be set in the past since the character was killed off at Charlton Comics, in the Steve Ditko run.
1st: What can you tell me about being an editor at Marvel, and at Malibu Comics? How did you get those gigs, and what exactly did your editing jobs entail, there? Can you go into some detail about that? Also, was this all before you wrote any comics, and came up with your comic characters?
Roland: Last question, first: No, I was writing comics for a few years before becoming an editor with Malibu, and then Marvel. For Malibu, I became an editor for them in 1992. I had been working with them as a freelancer for a couple of years, and I had noticed a slowdown in writing gigs. At DragonCon of 1992, I was chatting with Malibu EIC Chris Ulm about it, and he mentioned they were in the process of growing Malibu Comics, and working to replicate an in-house staff, like Marvel’s. I said, “Why don’t you hire me?” Two weeks later, I got a call and an offer to be an editor that I couldn’t refuse. The way I became an editor at Marvel was simply through a corporate buy-out. Marvel purchased Malibu comics in 1994, and overnight, I became a Marvel editor.
Roland: An editor is a bit like a production manager. The primary task is to get the product out the door and to market it, in a timely fashion. Part of doing that is getting to work with creators; writers, artists, and colorists. Corporate comics are produced in assembly-line fashion, and the editor is there to make sure it all runs smoothly. First: Working with a writer to get a good story that becomes a script, from which a penciller can draw. Then, working with the penciller to ensure they are drawing that story in the best possible way. Then the inker, colorist, and letterer. In corporate comics, the editor is the caretaker of the corporate assets. So the Spider-Man editor has to ensure his team is telling good stories that people want to read, all the while protecting Spider-Man so that the creators don’t permanently damage him.
Roland Mann: Eek. A whole bunch. I couldn’t name them all, right off the top of my head. I could name the ones I’ve worked with most recently…for others, I’d have to look back through the comics and remind myself of them. But yeah, it’s been a lot.
1st: How did you first become aware of Tarpe Mills’ Miss Fury?
1st: Wow. Lucky you! I want Tom Mason as a friend. “Hey, Tom-!!” LOL
Roland, I’ve very much enjoyed talking to you at length like this about your career in comics, to the extent that I feel that I’ve kinda gotten to know you. And I’d love to talk to you again, sometime! Thank you very much for this, and have a great day!