In the past three days, we’ve talked about the variety of comics work he’s done for the past few years and why he does it. But in Day 4, we talk about his own comics fandom and how he first got introduced to the medium. In our inaugural piece Straczynski talked about his own boyhood love for the Man of Steel in the upcoming Superman: Earth One, but now we go deeper – to Jughead even.
And while we have no qualms with a discussion solely about comics fandom with a writer of Straczynski’s pedigree, there’s also preliminary news of upcoming titles – creator-owned titles.
Newsarama: Talking about comics in general, when were you first introduced to comics – and what were they?
J. Michael Straczynski: The first time I held a comic book in my hand was when we were driving cross-country in the ongoing pursuit of work. I was maybe seven or so, and it was the dead of summer and we were driving almost nonstop, from California to New Jersey in like seven days, no air conditioning, very few stops. It was like a mini-Bataan Death March. We stopped at a gas station, half-dead from heat, and the guy who worked the pump took pity on me and gave me some old comics he had in the back. They were mostly kid's comics, like Beetle Bailey and Jughead, that sort of thing. The characters didn't really jump out at me, but I loved the format, and they kept me alive on the rest of our journey.
But if there was any one source of supplies when it came to my comics, it was my Aunt Theresa. I'd often be sent to her place in Paterson for a weekend or week, and in the time before I got there she'd accumulate comics at the local store, week after week, until the stack was so high I could practically jump in them like a pile of leaves. Her incentive was that it kept me quiet and out of her hair, but I didn't care...I would just sit in the living room or behind the house and read nonstop. When I finished, I'd go back to the top of the pile and start reading all over again.
My father, by contrast, never got it. He thought they were undermining my studies. "Stop wasting your time with comics," he'd say, "you'll never make a living with comics, you know." Wrong, wrong, and by the way, wrong.
Nrama: How have your taste in comics changed over time – do you have any current or recent reads you particularly enjoyed?
JMS: Given the simplicity of those early stories, if my tastes didn't change there would be something very much amiss. I have to say that overall, the sophistication and artistry of what's being done by others these days in the comics field is just stunning. I think future generations will look back at what's being done now as a new Silver Age. Focusing on the writing side, because I'm barely literate on the artistic side, there are so many good writers working right now, turning out challenging, innovative stories that it's nearly impossible to narrow it down to one or two. It would be unfair to those not included. Seriously, it's like all these giants out there right now.
Nrama: Says the giant in the room. [laughs]
When you first got back into comics in the late 90s you did several comics you created from the ground up, such as Rising Stars and Delicate Creatures. That continued with your two Icon books at Marvel. With your several new projects in the work both in TV and film, have you thought of bringing some new concepts to comics?
JMS: Yes. I have a deal in place with Image for a couple of new books which, if I ever got off my ass long enough to find two artists to do them (which is really all that's holding me back), I'd be writing right now. Trying to find available artists who match the tone of the books, and have time, are established, and aren't exclusive...it's a major time-sink and I always come to, well, I could either spend the day finding an artist for this, or write the next issue of Brave & The Bold So I go for the latter. Which is a pain because I have some killer ideas for creator-owned titles. (Waves at the good folks over at Image...I swear we'll make this happen, honest.)
Nrama: Cue artists crawling out of the woodwork to work with you.
Come back tomorrow for the final piece of “Week of JMS” as we talk with the prolific writer about his work in film and potential return to the television screen.
Chris Arrant is a freelance writer that's written about comics for Newsarama, Publishers Weekly, CBR, TOKYOPOP and Marvel Comics. For more, visit his website at www.chrisarrant.com.