Daniel Kibblesmith is a man of many talents, from his comedic writing as one of the staff of Late Show with Stephen Colbert, writing children’s books about Santa and his husband, and getting to take the reins of Spider-Man, Deadpool, Black Panther, and launching a new Loki ongoing this July, he still doesn’t take himself too seriously.
This week's Marvel Comics Presents #4 has a new Spider-Man story by Kibblesmith (with artist Pere Perez), but like a guest on the late night talk shows he works on - that's just the jumping-off point for a longer conversation.
Newsarama: Hey, Daniel! What are you working on today?
Daniel Kibblesmith: Oh, gosh, what am I working on today? I have sort of a free Saturday because my wife and my father-in-law are in a grilled cheese making class. It was a Christmas gift to my father-in-law so they’re there today so I’m really hoping they bring me back something.
It’s like 20 degrees outside so I hope they bring me back an ice cold croque monsieur since it’s several subway stops away. I’ll be extremely appreciative.
Nrama: How’s your week been? It seemed seriously busy.
Kibblesmith: Yeah, you’ve caught me at the end of week where we had a live show at the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and in my downtime, I’m polishing up the last issue for Black Panther vs. Deadpool for Marvel and working on things that...haven’t been announced yet. Anytime I’m not doing that, I’m tinkering away for pilots or personal projects, just anything I can drop two or three pages on then drop in a drawer for the foreseeable future.
Nrama: When did you start for the Late Show?
Kibblesmith: So I applied to the Late Show when they were staffing up in 2015 and arrived in the inbetween stages of the Late Show and the Colbert Report. I was only living in New York for four months and I had a friend who had said she wasn’t applying but I should and I said I agree!
I had managed to get a job at Buzzfeed so I could arrive with New York in a job and so I could support myself until I could get a job writing for late night. I had the idea of staying there maybe two to five years and based on the news lately I guess best case scenario, I would not have made it five years over there. But I was really fortunate that a friend of mine who had sort of the inside track was able to get the submission info a couple of weeks early and after that, the CBS website put up the open call, but yeah, believe it or not I just got it by applying and submitting a packet. I had a pretty good copy resume by then since I had already done a lot of stuff with the Onion brand, and crossed my fingers or sold my soul to the devil and it all worked out.
Nrama: So how did you turn this into getting into comic books? Because even with your Marvel work, you did stuff with BOOM! Studios.
Kibblesmith: Yeah I always wanted to do comics so the BOOM! stuff came after the Marvel stuff, but even before then I was up at Valiant.
I went to film school in Chicago where I was working for a projectionist at the time and the thought was that I would be this unparalleled film buff and just watch thousands of movies. When I got my projectionist chair though, it was almost impossible to watch anything because the machines were so loud and the view was so low. If you wanted to watch something, you’d have to bend over and view it through this seven inch pane of glass while the projector was right in your ear.
What I did end up doing was reading all the trade paperbacks that my coworker let me borrow. I liked comics as a kid, but sort of fell out of them in my twenties and just sort of haven’t thought of comics in a few years until the big things I had missed like Watchmen, Sandman, Swamp Thing, The Dark Knight Returns. I think that might be my favorite era of comics. Just that five minute gap where John Constantine, Superman, and the Endless were all hanging out.
So eventually, they started just dropping all sorts of stuff on me and rediscovered comics as a storytelling medium as an adult. I wanted to do them as badly if not more than trying to write movies. When I finished up school, I ended up getting an internship with this guy named Ken Levin, who was an entertainment lawyer for the big guys like Mike Mignola and Neil Gaiman and at various points Garth Ennis and Alan Moore. Like, I was able to read issues of Miracleman before they became public again because these were used as court exhibits for the Miracleman-related lawsuit.
Nrama: At this point, what was your next step trying to get your foot into the door?
Kibblesmith: I was just putting together sample scripts, and showing them to anybody who would look at them, but since they’re scripts...it wasn’t a lot of people.
Nrama: It’s hard!
Kibblesmith: Right and I understand why! I wouldn’t want to read a script from someone because I feel like there’s not a lot I could do in response to it. “This is good, you should work hard on it” and that’s pretty much the extent of what I could offer in regards to giving advice. Everybody I walked up to at cons was kind and supportive, but there’s only so much you can do with a script and no art.
So I started to make a lot of friends online who could help me with that part.
Nrama: The Internet. So helpful.
Kibblesmith: Yeah! It turns out that like-minded people in a shared social space talking about their passions can be extremely helpful and fruitful in the creative aspects. I mean, it’s probably soul-damaging in the long terms, but if you’re trying to meet an artist or editor or letterer, sure.
Nrama: Living in New York now, coming from Chicago, it’s sort of synonymous with the Marvel pantheon so as a fan, what was it like just getting the chance to write Spider-Man of all characters?
Kibblesmith: It’s pretty thrilling! I traveled to New York a lot visiting friends so I would always try to figure out where the Marvel offices were at that time and just sort of brush by. Just putting it out in the universe or sit across the street from it and eat a muffin and just thinking how do I get inside of there.
Obviously, I grew up reading all sorts of comics, but you know, being a kid in the 90’s, Spider-Man and X-Men loomed the most for it. My dad’s Silver Age collection was mostly Marvel so I think I was more familiar and had most emotional attachment to it.
Nrama: Was there any big moment in comic books that just clicked with you as a kid?
Kibblesmith: Oh definitely, it was sort of based more on timing, like whatever a character was doing at the time I discovered them was all that existed as far as I knew. I was a subscriber back then and the biggest thing as a comic experience was when my dad let me go through his Silver Age collection and I sort of got the fundamentals of the Marvel mythology. I learned all the names, the powers, the romantic entanglements so I wanted to start my own collection, which started with Mark Bagley’s Spider-Man. Then, I moved to Excalibur since my favorite character was Nightcrawler. I went back to Alan Davis’ Excalibur as I was reading the 90’s Excalibur and just marveled at how wildly different it was. It was definitely a lesson in how storytelling worked in the course of a decade.
Nrama: So when are you sending in your Pete Wisdom pitch?
Kibblesmith: Look, I’ll write Pete Wisdom in a second! I was walking down the street the other day just thinking about how I would love to write my favorite DC and Marvel characters together in some kind of theoretical crossover series. One of the combinations I had in mind was Kitty Pryde and John Constantine, but then remembered, oh yeah, they kinda did that, except this Constantine could shoot knives that were as hot as the sun out of his fingertips.
Nrama: I believe the term was actually “hot knives,” yeah.
Kibblesmith: Which is a very 90’s idea that your British spy is almost one of the most powerful mutants on the planet.
Nrama: Well nostalgia circles back every 20 years so do you think we’re in the midst of a 1990’s capital X x-treme revival? Or at least due one?
Kibblesmith: See, that’s where my memory gets a bit fuzzy. I had a lot of friends who were into the Image boom and I liked a lot of the high concepts, but I remember, I was reading comics from the 60s in the 90s so the medium was being defined very differently for me than it was for my friends. So I couldn’t get fully on board with some of the stuff that I’m learning to appreciate more now.
When Age of Apocalypse and the Clone Saga came around really just destroyed my piggy bank, and around that time that video games were kinda stealing time away and I growing out of comics. You look at what was going on with Excalibur then. Nightcrawler looked like he was auditioning for Image Comics and a lot of my guys just didn’t feel or look like my guys. So I’m going to take a little break from this.
Nrama: How would you describe your sense of humor?
Kibblesmith: [Laughs] Oh my God, I have no idea. I’m a comedy writer so the things that I think that are funny are often not jokes or comedy.
The hardest I’ve laughed lately when a fellow writer at the Colbert show came up to me and another writer, who like myself suffers from male-pattern baldness but is taller and a little fitter, and just said we looked like a before and after of me taking the Super Soldier serum and it was so mean, that I could not stop laughing. I was delighted by the balls on my friends to say something so unapologetically cruel. I think that’s what writing comedy professionally does to your brain is that what you find funny is you being insulted belief.
Nrama: So what else do you have lined up? I’m guessing a creator-owned title down the line?
Kibblesmith: Yeah, some of the things I’m noodling with is creator-owned work that I would very much like to put out into the world, but also hopefully something with Marvel down the line, too. Because of the nature of my day job as it’s being a writer for a nightly TV show I can only tackle one or two projects at a time. So I tend to prioritize either something high profile or extremely deadline-driven because I made a commitment I need to keep.
I don’t know if any of the creator-owned works will be this year but I do have comics coming out soon in one capacity or the other.
Nrama: You talk about your love for the Silver Age, but what books that are out now you find yourself pulling inspiration from?
Kibblesmith: Oh, I always choke on this question, but definitely, right now Mister Miracle. I think it challenges the medium that reminds me of the difference between good and great. I think comics are different that movies or TV because you consume them by the stack.
There’s something about people who read comics tend to read a lot of comics. I get a lot of recommendations and follow creators I really like and a lot of the comics I read, I think, are pretty good but every now and then you get something that reminds you what it was like reading Watchmen for the first time.
Kibblesmith: It kind of shakes the dust off of your familiarity with the medium and turns it from less habitual reading into totally absorption. That’s got to be the one that changed the game for me.
Nrama: Lastly, so as you talked about how you wanted to be at Buzzfeed for five years -
Kibblesmith: Yeah [laughs].
Nrama: Where do you see yourself in five years? Do you want to eventually leave TV and work full time in comics, or do you think you could still balance the two accordingly?
Kibblesmith: The short answer is I plan to work at the Late Show as long as they’ll have me. I’m think I’m a highly-trained joke writer and I feel like that should always be part of my career. I’m also a news junkie and obsessed with politics, so this is the perfect job for me, but I think that the less free time I have the more productively I use it so my hope would be to always have a day job. Then, to always be doing something in another medium on nights and weekends to keep my soul rounded.