FCF:  I’m excited to be talking with one of the legends in the industry– Paul Kuppperberg. When I meet someone for the first time, I like to find out their comic book origin story. What got you into comic books and made you a lifelong fan?

Paul Kupperberg: Oh man, I was born into a household. I had a brother who was a couple of years older. And an uncle who’s only 10 years older than me who lives next door. And just comic books were always around. I was born in 1955.

I was coming in at the start of the Silver Age. And, by 1960 or so, I was just—I don’t know if I was reading them yet—but I certainly had my face in comic books all the time. And I just never left.

FCF: I grew up as a Bronze-Age Baby, and my gateway was 1977 when so many cool things were coming into comic books. We had DC with the Dollar Size and Giants and all these things.

Paul, how did you get your start in the comic book industry?

Paul Kupperberg: In junior high school, which is what we used to call middle school, I met another kid named Paul Levitz, who was into comics. We got friendly and started publishing fanzines. At first, we did these things on Xerox, which were pretty bad. I still have copies of them, and I have threatened Paul with them every now and then.

But then, one day, we saw an opportunity to do an actual fanzine that people would actually wanna buy when there was a new zine called Newfangles, which Don and Maggie Thompson, a mimeographed monthly newsletter run. And they were retiring the newsletter to go have lives and raise children or some crap like that.

Paul and I were 15 or 16 years old. We just saw an opportunity, and we were in New York, and we had access to the publishers to get news and all that. So we started this fanzine, and everything built from there.

Paul eventually got a job in DC. Assisting Joe Orlando. I started writing for Charlton Comics and then DC a few years later. And it was like, man, I’m, I don’t wanna ever have to get a day job. I’m gonna keep doing this.

FCF: First, I want to talk about Norm Bravefogle, who most people know for his work on Batman. People don’t realize that for a while, Norm Breyfogle did some work with Archie Comics, and you wrote some of that stuff.

What’s it like to work for Archie, and what do you have to say about Archie comics in general?

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Paul Kupperberg: They suck! No, they’re wonderful. I’ve not been reading Archie all my life, but I remember when I was about 11 or 12, I traded some kid in the neighborhood with 10 superhero comics, doubles, or stuff I didn’t want for 300 Archie Comics.

It was this massive box of Archie comics. I just started reading them, and I never stopped. I don’t read them. I never read them consistently, but every now and then I dip in and pick up a few issues and just keep in touch with them. Then, when I got the opportunity to start writing them, it was around 2007. I think it was, or so I called Victor Gorlik, who I had known for a long time. I had done a little bit of work for Archie on some custom comics around 1980 or so. There were or were no 83 or 84. Radio Shack used to do these comics to support their personal computer, the TRS 80.

The TRS 80 Whiz Kids. And so I did some of that for them. And anyway, Victor and I started talking, and I was pitching, and I started pitching him Archie shorts. And he was buying them, and it was great. The it was, The first time I sat, I remember the story.

It was Archie who had to get Mrs. Lodge’s poodle from the dog groomer for the dog show. That was the whole story. And, of course, Archie goes through all kinds of stuff to keep the dog from getting dirty and running away and this and that.

And it’s a whole mess, but he finally gets there. And the dog is fine, but Archie is a mess, and the first time I wrote those characters, I realized how well I knew them. They were really like, I’d been reading them for so long, and they are well-defined characters. When I needed to think about it, I realized that the key to Archie is not that he’s a klutz but so anxious to please.

He’s such a good guy. He wants to please so hard; that’s why he’s always tripping over his feet. That’s his fault. He’s too nice a guy. Once you tap into those little clues about each character, the stories write themselves.

FCF: You got involved in this iconic run called Life with Archie. How’d you get involved with that series, and how do you feel about it 10 or 15 years later?

Paul Kupperberg: Yeah, I think it was 2009 when it started. Right around there. Yeah. I got involved and got a call from Victor Gorelick, who invited me. There was an exhibition at the Museum of Comic Book Arts in Lower Manhattan, and he called and asked me to do that, so I went. He said let’s meet up and grab a bite to eat beforehand, and we did. Michael Uslan was there as well. I’ve known Michael forever. He was a DC junior Woodchuck in the early 70s when I was a fan hanging around. He’s an old pal and had written the original Archie the Married Life miniseries in Archie, oh, 600, yeah. Yes. And now they were launching it as an ongoing series. Michael was going to write the first issue but was too busy to write them, so maybe he’d read some of my Archie stuff for whatever reason. I don’t know him, but he suggested I take over the gig.

I think a lot of it had to do with, probably had to do with, the fact that of all their writers. I was the one with the most ongoing serialized storytelling experience. I had been writing ongoing stories in comic books for years.

I was in the seventies, especially the late seventies and early eighties. I was like this go-to guy for fill-ins and emergency dialogue jobs. Because I was fast, I could write decent dialogue in a good clip. So if Roy Thomas or Gerry Conway were laid on, I did a few issues of All-Star, I did some Detective for Gerry Conway, and if somebody needed a fill-in, I was also, I could turn that around pretty quickly. So, I just wound up touching most of the DC characters. I wrote, practically everything from Atom to Zatanna.

FCF: Do you know how Breyfogle ended up at Archie, and what did you think of him?

Paul Kupperberg: I don’t know how Norm came to Archie. That was separate from me. I got there, and he was there. I had nothing to do with any of the assignments, but I was thrilled. I loved Norm’s stuff at DC on Batman, and I don’t think I ever did anything with him before that.

I think I may have worked with him on some custom comics or, in the early 2000s. I think he may have drawn some of the Celebrate the Century stamp album pages we did. But yeah, and I’ve been saying this a lot lately, people talk about what it’s like to work with a certain. I did a super popular TV series in the mid-eighties that Jack Kirby drew.

What’s it like to work with Jack Kirby? I don’t know. I handed in a script, and then I saw pages. That’s pretty much what happened with Norm as well. I was writing this full script. I didn’t see this stuff until it was published.

FCF: And what did you think of his art style?

Paul Kupperberg: Oh, I loved it. I loved it.

I thought he had this great ability to capture the cartoony flavor of the characters but still ground, ground them in reality. There was none of, like Stan Goldberg, who I love, and in fact, he drew my first Archie stories. And it was like, I met him at a convention, and I told him how thrilled I was that it was actually Stan Goldberg who drew my Archie stuff.

And he thought about it, and he went. A lot of Archie writers do thumbnail scripts. They draw little pictures, and they, but I do, I type ’em out full scripts, and so he went, oh, that’s right. You’re the one who uses all the words.

Paul Kupperberg: This is the man who set the color palette for the Marvel Universe.

FCF: That’s, tell this, tell these listeners that are like just turning a little bit, just a little bit more about Stan Goldberg.

Stan Goldberg was a cartoonist and a colorist.

Paul Kupperberg: He worked for Atlas and then Marvel Comics and drew a ton of it, Millie the Model, and other of those kinds of books for Stan. But he was also probably the main colorist around, certainly around Marvel, those early Marvel days.

And when you see credits scribbled in the margins by, blah, blah, blah, and Stan G, that’s Stan Goldberg. So he’s the guy who colored Fantastic Four number one. I loved when I got into the business because I met. And knew men who physically worked on Action Comics.

Number one, that’s going to be amazing. Sol Harrison worked for the separator and worked on Action Comics #1, and later came to DC and became production manager and then president of the company. I knew this guy and the guy who colored the first Marvel Comics. I got into the business in 1975.

And comics were only 40 years old at the time. Three-quarters of the people who created the comic book world, the business, the industry, and the creators were not only still alive; they were still working. They could be in their early 60s and still be active and have been there. I met Shelley Mayer. I met all these guys. It just, it was amazing. It was there’s been like two generations since.

FCF: I don’t often don’t get the opportunity to talk about creators who aren’t as well-known as they should be.

I don’t take away credit from the Marvel Age of Lee, Ditko, and Jack Kirby, but other people and things made significant contributions to Marvel. Millie the Model and those Western comics were part of Marvel’s bread and butter before the superheroes. Creators like John Severin, his sister Marie, and Jack Keller who drew more Kid Colt stories than any other artist. Same thing at DC; those creators need to be better acknowledged for their contributions.

Paul Kupperberg: It was Nick Cardy’s birthday.

So, I posted about that. And somebody said Nick Cardy was so underrated. No, he was never underrated. You just forgot about him. Everybody rates him as one of the best ever. So it’s just out of sight, out of mind.

And that’s what happens with these guys. They’re not. I hate that term underrated.

FCF: Another creator, who I think doesn’t get enough attention, is Bob the artist Bob Brown, who did things like…

Paul Kupperberg: Tomahawk. Challengers of the Unknown. Batman. There was a run of Superboy that Bob Brown did, and Wally Wood did some inking on it.

All of a sudden, if you read Superboy back in the early 60s, you’d be going along, and suddenly it’s like, what happened here? What happened was Woody came in and started. Actually, I shouldn’t call him Woody. He didn’t like being called Woody. He didn’t like that nickname.

His friends called him Wally. His ex-wife, Tatjana Wood, was a brilliant colorist who worked for DC forever. She colored DC comics but was the colorist on the Wonder Woman covers when I was the editor. And she would come in, she was she was from Europe.

They met when Wood was in the service. They got married over there. So she had this very sick accent. She was a cigarette smoker, so she was raspy, and she’d go, “Valles would tell me that…”

FCF: I went slightly off-topic. Let’s go back to Archie!

You wrote that the series for issues 2 through 37. Do you know Archie decided to end the series?

Paul Kupperberg: Yeah, the sales were starting to slip, and it just felt it was time to, to fold that let’s go out on a high note., let’s pick our exit.

And that’s what we did. I was given more freedom on that book than anything I’ve ever done.

FCF: How much freedom did you have in creating the Archie stories?

Paul Kupperberg: I wasn’t working in a vacuum. I’d go every six months. We’d meet with Victor Gorelick, the editor, the publisher, and other editors. And there’d be four or five of us sitting in a room and throwing around ideas. When I came in, for the first dark, and I went, “Is it okay if I kill Miss Grundy?

And they went, “Yeah, sure. Okay.”

FCF: As a creator, that must have been so liberating for you. “Just go ahead, Paul, and do what you want to do.”

Paul Kupperberg: Yeah. I was alone in that universe. It was all mine to play with. And they recognized the fact that none of this was real. None of this was “real”. This was an alternative universe. This was when we started. When we did announce the end, and Archie dies, I was being pilloried in the press.

“How dare you kill Archie!” He’s still alive over here. Don’t worry about it. But yeah, they would let me do what I wanted. And, my history is a comic book serial killer that just played right into it.

FCF: If Archie ever decided to want to revive that series in some format, would you be willing to go back and do some more tales of Archie?

Paul Kupperberg: I would be, but frankly, after that was over, I wrote some more Archie shorts for them, some teen Archie stuff. I was pitching ideas to them, and that just went into a silent vacuum. I think they’re done with me and have been for a while. I don’t know why. I’m still a talented writer.

FCF: Understatement.

Paul Kupperberg: No, I think that the Archie stuff was some of the best stuff of my career. I was very proud of the work I did on that. I love being liberated from superheroes.

That was the best. In the 80s even, when I stopped writing all that Superman stuff I had been working on and started doing things like Vigilante and Checkmate, it was a relief not to have to work in that super-powered world anymore because you kinda lose a lot of the emotional impact of stories in a superhero comic because no matter what, that guy’s gonna get up the next issue. There are no stakes involved.

FCF: What else have you been up to lately?

Paul Kupperberg: I published a few books over the last couple of years of interviews with professionals. And I am currently working on the next book of interviews. And I’ve also been working on  “Panel by Panel, My Comic Book Life.” It’s my comic book memoir.

FCF: That’s like a goldmine of comic lore and history.

Paul Kupperberg: I hope so. I’m about 75,000 words into it. I’m up to the early 2000s, so it shouldn’t be long. The interview book, I’m debating whether or not to Kickstarter them both at the same time, but we’ll see.

FCF: Wow. You should do a Kickstarter because you know you’ve got fans out there.

Paul Kupperberg: The last book, “The Direct Conversations,” I did a Kickstarter on, and I was very relieved that we not only funded it, but we hit 150 percent, and that was cool. So yeah, I’m definitely going to do a Kickstarter on the books. Whether or not I do them one at a time or together is the question.

FCF: So you get the last word. Any final thoughts today, Paul?

Paul Kupperberg: The day we’re doing this happened to be Paul Levitz’s birthday.

And so it’s got me thinking back and how lucky we were and how I was able to find somebody who was a good friend who shared my interest. And we started this very long journey together. And so I’m just, I would have liked to have made more money in my life, but I can’t think of it, I can’t. I’d be hard-pressed to be more creatively fulfilled than the stuff I’ve been able to work on.

FCF: Paul Kupperberg, a man of many talents– thank you so much for the conversation.

Paul Kupperberg: My pleasure. It was a lot of fun.

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