Mark Waid’s career path has taken him from fanzine writer, to freelancer, to DC editor, and then on to become one of the most sought after writers in the entire comics industry. Waid takes time out to reminisce about his career in this retrospective interview. Tracking the rise and further rise of a comics wunderkind: This Is Your Life (in the funny pages), Mark Waid.
First Comics News: You started your comic career off as a reporter and then an editor of Amazing Heroes, how did you get involved with Amazing Heroes?
Mark Waid: I started freelancing for them in 1984 or so with a friend of mine named Kevin Gould, a fellow fan who had a little more fanzine experience than I did. That really opened some doors and led to an editorial gig at Fantagraphics that disintegrated a few months in. [laughs]
After that, I was a temp legal secretary for a few months, after which then-EIC Dick Giordano called me in for an interview. Shortly thereafter, I was made an associate editor at DC.
1st: You were a successful editor at DC with Legion of Super-Heroes,Secret Origins, Doom Patrol, why leave to become a full time freelancer?
Mark: Well, let’s just say it wasn’t completely my idea. =koff= I’m not at my best in an office environment. Just ask Mark Alessi!
1st: As an editor you saw how unstable life as a freelancer was, were you at all concerned?
Mark: Very. But I’ve been insanely lucky since then. There’s not a day that’s gone by since–knock on wood–that I’ve ever had to look for work. There’ve always been more assignments available than time, and I’m very grateful.
1st: So in 1989 you and Brian Augustyn co-wrote the Detective Annual, what was the response to your story?
Mark: Very good, and I know we were happy with it. It was a good collaboration.
1st: Why co-write with Brian Augustyn?
Mark: I repeat: good collaboration. We started on staff the same year, and besides becoming one of my best friends, he and I shared very strong sensibilities about story and the craft of writing. He’s an excellent plotter, still is, and is enormously responsible for all the good work done on THE FLASH.
1st: Brian Augustyn was the editor on the Flash and he had you write a story in the Flash Special, did he have any further plans for you and the Flash at that point?
Mark: Not really, but then, neither did DC. Honestly, I was told the company pretty much expected the book to collapse once the FLASH TV show was cancelled, but that gave Brian a little freedom to hire the “newbie” kid.
1st: In 1991 you were one of the main writers on the Impact Universe, writing both Legend of the Shield and Comet, were you a big fan of the Archie Heroes, or was this just a regular writing assignment and you were going to do your best with it?
Mark: More the latter, honestly. I knew of the characters, but I wasn’t a huge nut for them. Not like I always have been for the DC guys.
1st: In the second year you wrote the Crucible mini-series to re-launch the Impact Universe, what happened, why no re-launch after the mini series?
Mark: Dunno. What’s less well known is that Brian and I wrote three first issues of relaunched series for the Shield, the Black Hood, and theComet, all fully penciled and lettered–but DC just didn’t see enough potential profit there to renew the license.
1st: I actually have read, the American Shield, Wrath of the Comet,Mark of the Black Hood, and Forging Steel. Again you wrote the Shield and the Comet. Were you worried that with the loss of two books in progress that you wouldn’t have trouble getting more work.
Mark: My recollection was that it was about that time that Dan Raspler asked me to do dialogue on L.E.G.I.O.N. and that Marvel started making offers, so I was disappointed, but not crushed.
1st: From Impact you started on an extremely impressive run on theFlash. How did you get the Flash assignment?
Mark: Again, Brian. He saw something in me that no one else did, and despite the protestations of his bosses not to hire “a fanboy,” he took a flyer on me.
1st: Before you got to the title, Wally West wasn’t a very likable hero; did you intend to change that right away?
Mark: RIGHT away. And I think Bill Loebs, my predecessor, had done most of the work, honestly. I just did what I always do–show you why I love the character.
1st: How much difference was there between your Wally West and Barry Allen?
Mark: A huge amount. The biggest difference was that Wally was a full-time professional hero. That was his job. And he loved every minute of it. Why be Wally West when you can run around doing neat stuff all day long?
1st: You stayed with the Flash for 8 years, why did you leave?
Mark: I ran out of stories to tell. Actually, most of the fans who read my last year would argue that I ran out of stories to tell seven years in, not eight, but hey…
1st: You created the Flash, spin-off, Impulse, what made you decide the right direction to go would be a comedy?
Mark: Because, my God, we had to do SOMETHING with it to make it different than FLASH. Otherwise, why would DC be publishing two books about super-speedsters? No, once Brian and I decided to makeImpulse a sitcom, it suddenly had a reason to exist other than as a mere spin-off.
1st: After 27 issues you left Impulse, this was your creation, why leave?
Mark: That time, because Humberto Ramos had left–and it just wasn’t the same without him, with all due respect to his successors.
1st: How do you feel about DC turning Impulse into Kid Flash in theTeen Titans?
Mark: Everything has a lifespan. I miss Impulse tremendously, but I certainly respect Geoff Johns’ reasons for changing Bart.
1st: During you Flash run you also started working for Marvel. How did you end up writing Deadpool?
Mark: I was called by someone who thought I had a handle on the snappy patter that would be required.
1st: Was there any difficulty working for DC and Marvel at the same time?
1st: At this point you were writing Flash, Impulse, Deadpool, Justice League Task Force, Legion of Super-Heroes, Legionnaires, andValor, all at the same time. How many comics can you write in a month?
Mark: Then? Five. Now? I’m lucky to make two. It’s HARD!
1st: Then you took on Captain America. Were you a fan?
Mark: HUGE fan. The only Marvel character at the time I was ever continuously a fan of and the only assignment, at the time, that I would have flipped over–and it was the one they offered.
1st: In the middle of your run, Marvel turned the book over to Rob Liefeld as part of Heroes Reborn. Rob wanted you to stay on, why did you leave?
Mark: Rob wanted me to stay on to dialogue over his plot and pencils. Once I saw the direction he was going, I realized it wasn’t for me.
1st: Before the year was over they took the Cap away form Liefeld and shortly there after they gave the comic back to you, did you feel the fans had demanded your return?
Mark: Not like they did with FF. But the outpouring was nice.
1st: Captain America seemed different from your other work in that he was not as introspective. Was this intentional?
Mark: Absolutely. I felt we shouldn’t be inside Cap’s head as much as we were Wally’s, because by now, after all the years on the job, Cap is more instinctive than introspective.
1st: Over at DC you wrote Kingdom Come. Were you surprised by it’s tremendous success?
1st: Then you were doing both the X-Men and Avengers for Marvel. How did you end up on both their flagship team books at the same time?
Mark: Ha! It’s not the honor you’re making it out to be. Basically, they just needed some poor sap to sit in the Avengers chair for three months and bide time waiting for Heroes Reborn.
1st: You stay with the X-Men was cut short, what happened?
Mark: Creative differences. As in, I wanted to be creative.
1st: After X-Men you launched Ka-Zar. Why Ka-Zar?
Mark: Because Andy Kubert was told by Marvel that he could draw any character, and that’s the one he chose for us. I thought he was insane, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t find a hook, and I’m very proud of that series to this day. Thanks, Andy!
1st: You also worked on X-O Manowar for Acclaim, Ash and Painkiller Jane for Event. What drew you to the independents instead of more work with DC and Marvel?
Mark: The personality and strength of Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti (the Event Comics gurus) and of Fabian Nicieza (over at Acclaim). It was nice to stretch away from DC and Marvel a little.
1st: You followed that by re-teaming with Barry Kitson fromL.E.G.I.O.N., to create Empire. Why self publish?
Mark: Because we felt like setting fire to my savings account.
1st: Ultimately why didn’t Gorilla succeed?
Mark: Because we were much better creators than businessmen, ultimately. That’s what it boils down to. The book sold very well, but we just weren’t as well financed as we’d been told we were by our backer.
1st: At this point you are working on Gatecrashers and JLA and you quit everything your doing to move to Florida and join CrossGen. How did CrossGen convince you to join them?
Mark: You have to remember the time. This was just before Quesada and Jemas took over at Marvel, before Didio landed at DC, and things at both majors were looking VERY grim. The entire industry was in freefall and Mark Alessi seemed to be the only guy looking for a ripcord. CrossGen really sounded like they had a plan to break out of the spiraling-downward market, and it looked good.
1st: CrossGen had a very unique working environment and very stringent contracts. What was it like working for CrossGen, and why did you leave?
Mark: Like being sucker-punched every day. I stayed through the end of my contract, but there are only so many lies and so much insane bullying by a frothing lunatic that any human being can tolerate before he bolts.
1st: How did you get Fantastic Four?
Mark: Tom Brevoort called and offered–simple as that.
1st: First you’re writing Fantastic Four, then you’re fired, then you’re back on the book. What was that all about?
Mark: Heck if I know. The old boss didn’t like my work, the new bosses do. Onward and upward.
1st: Currently you are working on Fantastic Four and Superman: Birthright. What’s next?
Mark: Can’t say–but it involves DC and Barry Kitson and a very, very special relaunch close to both our hearts. Plus, someday–more Empire!
1st: Thanks for your time and good luck with the new series.