In 2000, Lee Weeks both wrote and drew the three-issue miniseries Spider-Man: Death and Destiny, the first full story written by the veteran artist.
And, up until this point, the last. As Weeks explained in an interview with Newsarama, he always intended to do write more, but a project never materialized until Daredevil: Dark Nights, a new eight-issue Marvel anthology miniseries. Weeks is writing and drawing the first story of the series, the three-part "Angels Unaware" that sees Matt Murdock facing the challenge of a brutal blizzard, as he's working to save a young girl in need of a heart transplant.
We talked to Weeks — who broke into the industry in the mid-'80s and has illustrated series including The Incredible Hulk, G.I. Joe and the main Daredevil book — about his Dark Nights story, what makes Daredevil particularly suited to interpretation, and how the story was partly motivated as a response to the moral ambiguity prevalent in much of modern fiction. Courtesy of the artist, we're also debuting black-and-white interior pages from issues #1 (on sale June 5) and #2. (The final product is being colored by another Lee; Lee Loughridge.)
Newsarama: Lee, this is the first story that you've written in about 13 years, since Spider-Man: Death and Destiny. What's it been like picking up that side of the creative mind again?
Lee Weeks: It was fearful and exciting, all at the same time. I really didn't think it would be that long after doing Spider-Man: Death and Destiny, but life took some turns. I had several others stories that I had wanted to pitch, but never got around to it.
It's the hardest thing that I've ever done, and yet that's what makes it the most fun. I love, love, love the challenge of it.
Nrama: Now that you're back doing both sides, is it a little more smoother this time around — do you more of an idea of how you'd like to approach things simultaneously as a writer and an artist, or is it just a totally different experience?
Weeks: I struggled more with confidence the last few years, I think, than just about any time in my career. I went through a strange set of circumstances for a few years; I had some health issues, and it's just been a few years getting back to feeling like I'm up to snuff. Probably in this past year, I really felt a resurgence of confidence.
This story, I've been coming to it, and stepping away from it for a couple of years. It's not been the only thing on my plate, but I've really dawdled with it. This happened with the Spider-Man story, too — there are days I thought I had no story. "What have I done?" Two days later, I think I've got the greatest. [Laughs.] It's a weird roller coaster ride.
Nrama: This story definitely seems a little more grounded — not a lot of over-the-top, fantastical, superhero elements. It's basically Daredevil vs. nature, right?
Weeks: Yeah, and himself. Those are the two co-antagonists. It's a small story in a way, outwardly. It's much more of an internal story. In that regard, it's actually a little harder, storytelling-wise, to do subtle things — because it has to be more precise with the beats and the storytelling.
Nrama: You've noted in a couple different interviews that, at least partly, the story was inspired as something of a response to the more darker, morally ambiguous territory that superheroes — and Daredevil — has gone into over the years. How much has that been a motivating factor?
Weeks: A lot, actually. And it's not just comics, it's the culture in general. Ambiguity is the perfect word for it. We spend so much time saying, "Nothing's black and white." Well, I think some things are black and white, and it doesn't mean that we have to have a love affair with the grey, to glorify it. I do think that there's been some of that, and maybe that makes me a stick in the mud.
I love the stories about good and evil, and to have a story of good and evil, you have to have evil. It's not that I want to see evil go away, I just don't want to see it blurred — the ends justifying the means kind of stuff.
I love intense stories. I think "Born Again" and the Miller/Mazzucchelli stuff was great. I think what happens sometimes, when an art style in comics develops, we recognize something as readers or professionals who admire somebody's work, and we take the element that excited us, and take it over the top, and let that element become too dominate a feature. You can see how an element is taken and run with, and instead of it being just a garnish — a piece of the whole — it starts to take over the whole. Dark elements in a story can be an interesting color in a full painting, but when it starts to dominate the painting, it loses me.
Nrama: And this story seems to be pretty much timeless — not set in a distinct time frame, more standing on its own?
Weeks: Yeah, this should be sort of an evergreen story.
And having said all that stuff before, by the way — this story's pretty dark. [Laughs]. There's a very somber tone to much of it, but hopefully underneath all of it there's a sense of hope and faith. I wanted to delve into his faith a little bit more.
Nrama: You illustrated some high-profile Daredevil stories back in the early '90s — now that you're coming back to illustrate the character, and write him as well, do you find the way he draw him, what informs your take on the character, is still fairly consistent to what it was before, or has the time in between evolved it quite a bit?
Weeks: I'm sure there's a thread that runs through, but I feel like in every aspect, my drawing's so much different 20 years later.
Back then — it seemed like I always followed somebody really great when I got on a series — I made a conscious effort not to make it an abrupt change from the previous person. There's a lot of Romita and Mazzucchelli in my early Daredevil stuff, and I think there probably always will be some, just because those guys had such huge impacts on the character.
I find that happening over again, a little bit. I've actually tried not to look at too much, but there's just been so many great guys working on that character through the years. Paolo [Rivera] recently, the stuff he did — just gorgeous and smart. I'm a big fan.
Nrama: Matt Murdock seems to be a character uniquely suited to an anthology series, like Dark Nights. As a creator with a lot of history with Daredevil, how do you see him as being a particularly strong character, that can stand up to a lot of different types of interpretations?
Weeks: He is a very strong character. I speak with so many other creators; there just seems to be a lot of people who, this guy is their favorite, or one of their very favorite characters. I think a lot of it has to do with the adversity that he's overcome in order to be the guy that he is.
Just visually, it's a beautiful costume, that simplicity. In his personality and in his actions, there's a tremendous amount of grace in him. Visually, I just love to depict him in motion, because he moves very distinctly — and he has to, having to rely on his radar.
I wonder: Was it that way before Frank [Miller] got a hold of him? He was around a long time before then. I think so much of this has to do with the things that Frank built into him that gave him such a depth. I re-read portions of "Born Again" recently, and I was just so moved by it. I can't believe how powerful it still is to me, 25 years later.
There are a couple of characters that have an extra dose of pathos to them. I think the Hulk is one of those, and I think Daredevil is one of those. I'm really drawn to pathos — I'm a fun guy, I like to joke around, but underneath it, there's always been a melancholy tinge in everything that I do.
I think part of it has to do with the glasses. We get to project more of ourselves into that guy, because we don't see his eyes.