A Tribute to the of

This will be a blinding flash of the obvious to anyone whoís been following my feature here at the dear olí Silver Lantern: I love doing interviews. Itís been a real void for me after having the great good fortune to speak to so many creators that things slowed down significantly a few years ago. Iíve tried to keep some momentum going and have had mixed success, but I keep trying and itís always satisfying to learn more from those who contributed so much enjoyment to my childhood and probably yours as well.

So, before getting to the interview for this edition of the Silver Age Sage, (Bonze Age in this instance), letís take a quick peek at a story from DC Super Stars, #14, Secret Origins of Super-Villains with a publication date of May/June 1977 and an on-sale date of February 22, 1977. That wonderful cover (& table of contents) is by Jim Aparo with lettering by Joe Leterese and colors by Tatjana Wood. Weíll be looking at a little 9-pager titled ďLet There be Dr. Light!Ē about the origin of Dr. Light scripted by Paul Kupperberg with art by Dick Ayers and Jack Abel and all under the editorship of Joe Orlando as managing editor and Paul Levitz as story editor.

By the way, I happen to own the entire run of this series, thanks to an enjoyable BACK ISSUE assignment for Bronze Age Reprints in #81. Still available, but only in digital form at TwoMorrows.com.

A quick bit of history, first, though. Doctor Light made his debut in Justice League of America #12 (June 1962) and was co-created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky. This story is obviously set prior to that meeting.

The setting is a large midwestern research facility where one Arthur Light, PhD, who looks a bit like Uncle Sam (as seen on page 2) is following a nefarious agenda. Light has created a device that will capture light waves in time and space which should afford him the ability to see into the future.

It soon begins to work even better than heíd hoped, with a ringside seat to another dimension. He also discovers itís not Earth that heís seeing, but an alien planet and when he zooms in on a laboratory, fortuitously an optics lab, he discovers to his incredulity that he can actually use his viewing screen like Aliceís looking glass and enter this otherworldly plane.

Aiming to do a little technological espionage and theft, he quickly lays his hands on a light wave detection module before being discovered and beating a hasty retreat back to his point of origin.

As it turns out, Arthur Light had taken this advanced alien device from Thanagar and back on this planet, the man who had stopped Light from doing any further damage is reporting what had happened to one of the local lawmen named Katar Hol, the current commanding officer of the district police. In case the name Katar Hol or Thanagar, for that matter, doesnít jog your memory, this is the man who would later become Hawkman, and a member in good standing of the JLA with issue #31 [Sage #155].

Hol decides he might be able to pursue the technology thief via the residual energy left behind from his appearance in the lab. While heís laying those plans, back on Earth, Arthur Light is going full speed ahead with what has obviously been a preconceived plan. He soon dons a uniform of his own design and Doctor Light is born. Light has numerous abilities, thanks in large measure to the stolen Thanagarian technology, including shooting solidified light.

It isnít long, however, until Katar Hol arrives and soon the battle is on with the winged policeman insisting Light cooperate and Light fighting back with everything at his disposal, including a pistol like device that fires some of his light weapons.

Itís nip and tuck for a while with Light using virtually his entire arsenal, creating duplicates of himself to confuse the lawman and deadly blasts from the pistol, until finally Arthur Light beats a hasty retreat through a portable time-space warp where Katar Hol is unable to follow as it would be impossible to know which world Light had entered through the portal. Hol was, however, able to retrieve the stolen module and takes solace in that (page 9).

Doctor Light would, as mentioned, go on to menace the JLA both collectively and individually, always leveraging his light weapons to make him a lethal threat to our heroes. Now, at last, thanks to Paul Kupperberg, we know how it all began.

Speaking of Mr. Kupperberg, I had the privilege and pleasure of conducting an interview with him recently, where we covered his long and productive career, a good chunk of which was spent at our beloved DC comics and he also went into a few details about his new book on writing. I hope youíll enjoy reading it as much as I had conducting it.

Bryan Stroud: Did you and Alan (Kupperberg) ever collaborate on anything?

Paul Kupperberg: We did a few stories together for CRAZY magazine. I wrote a parody of the first Star Wars that he drew. I also wrote an issue of Captain America that he penciled. It was my only Marvel superhero work. Maybe thatís the reason, who knows? (chuckle). And then later on for a brief period when I was feeling benevolent, I was working on some creator-owned ideas and Alan drew some character sketches and designs, but those never went anywhere. Later, when I was an editor at DC, I assigned him a fill-in issue, which was never used.

BDS: Was that the Starman that Paul Levitz wrote?

PK: No, this was in the Ď90s. The Roger Stern/Tom Lyle version.

BDS: I came to realize that youíre part of that long, long line of what I call the Connecticut connection.

PK: Oh, yes. Connecticut is a historic haven for cartoonists and artists due to the proximity to New York. There was Mort Walker and the whole Connecticut mafia. Dik Browne and Curt Swan and so forth. Iím originally from Brooklyn, so I consider myself more of the Brooklyn connection.

BDS: Right. I picked up a copy of Cullen Murphyís book ďCartoon CountyĒ and boy, what a fascinating read.

PK: I saw Cullen at a talk at a local library, got to talk to him afterward. We had a few friends in common, including Curt Swan, and that broke the ice, plus the fact that weíre in the same line of work... even if his was on a legendary strip like Prince Valiant and I was the work-for-hire writer on the Superman newspaper strip.

BDS: Absolutely. Iíve been doing these interviews since about 2007, the first one being with Gaspar Saladino, but it was too late to catch up with Curt Swan and some others, but goodness knows thereís been plenty of wonderful articles and even a full biography written by Eddy Zeno about Curt, so who knows if I could have added anything.

I did get to be good phone friends with Al Plastino.

PK: I only met Al a couple of times, later on when he finally realized that people wanted to see him at comic book conventions, but to show you what a small world it is, in 2006 or 2007 I worked with a cousin of his, Jennifer Plastino on the editorial staff of Weekly World News.

BDS: You pulled off something that arguably cannot be done today as part of that legion of people that made the leap from fan to pro. What was your first paid gig, Paul?

PK: My first paid gig in comic books was writing short horror anthology stories for Charlton Comics. I sold my first story in 1975, to editor Nick Cuti, the co-creator of E-Man with Joe Staton.

I wrote a handful of stories for Charlton. Those six- and eight-page stories were a great learning experience. It taught you a lot about building stories and if you made a few small, or even big mistakes, it was no big deal. Donít like this story? There were three or four others, so if one fell short, it was on to the next one.

I came to that, as you said, through fandom, ďturning pro,Ē as we used to say. People who went from being a fan to a professional, we used to call it ďturning pro.Ē ďSo-and-so has turned pro.Ē But it was a weird time. I donít know so much about Marvel in those days because I never really spent much time up in the offices, other than visiting friends. DC was my turf, and if management kind of knew you, you could go up there and hang out. I mean, if you became annoying, you were gone. Sol Harrison would not stand for any trouble. I was publishing fanzines at the time with Paul Levitz. We started up a monthly news fanzine called Etcetera in high school and that eventually merged with The Comic Reader, which was one of the first comics fanzines, starting in 1960. We were kind of the TV Guide of comic books, news and monthly listings, pre-internet, pre-Diamond catalog. Pre-everything. All we had was a typewriter, a glue stick, and enough cash to cover the Photo-offset printing. So that was a great in for me. We were in communication with DC and Marvel and Charlton and Western and all those other guys to get the news, so that was my ó our pathway in; Paul was hired for a summer job filling in for Joe Orlandoís vacationing assistant, Michael Fleischer, in 1973, and I could cold call Nick Cuti at Charlton about looking at my submissions because we had a pre-existing relationship.

I donít think you can do that anymore, at least not the way it happened in the 70s and 80s. Fans, active, fanzine producing, convention-going fans were coming to New York for jobs at DC and Marvel. In the Brooklyn neighborhood Paul and I lived in alone, our newbie pro neighbors included, at various times, Tony Isabella, Jack C. Harris, Anthony Tollin, Carl Gafford, Mike W. Barr, and Duffy Vohland, each and every one of them with ditto fluid in their veins.

But now... I donít know that that path exists anymore. Nowadays, I think you have to go the self-published/web comic route, create your own graphic novel and get it out there, just like everybody else. It doesnít seem like thereís a place in the comics business to learn the comics business, like those 1960s and 1970s anthology comics I started off writing for. And I know a ton of people making their own comics who I know will never make it to DC or Marvel or Dark Horse, not because theyíre not good, but because nobody knows who they are.

BDS: It seems like the corporate nature of the publishers now has changed the culture completely. I think it was John Workman telling me, much as you said, that it used to be you could pop in up there and say hello and maybe peek over somebodyís shoulder, but now youíve got to have an appointment and an escort and so now itís completely insulated.

PK: Itís true. When I started working for DC, there was nobody stopping you in the lobby asking for ID or calling upstairs to see if youíve got an appointment. You could ride the elevator in 75 Rockefeller to DCís floor, say hi to the receptionist, whoíd wave familiar faces through. Check in with Paul Levitz or Pat Bastienne, whoever the editorial coordinator was at time, to pick up a check and whatever assignments were available. Right down the center corridor were cubicles for the assistant editors, which is where most of us hung out. It was loose, but you didnít barge in on Schwartz or Boltinoff and hang out to shoot the shit. But, yeah, you could just kind of be there. All day.

I havenít been to the L.A. offices, but itís all security, Iím sure... double security, since itís part of the Warner Bros lot, just like it was in New York at 1700 Broadway, post-9/11. Youíre escorted in and youíre escorted out and when youíre done, youíre done. Itís sad. Itís like thereís a pre-Crisis DC and a post-Crisis DC, although for a lot of us who were with the company for a long time, it probably feels more like pre-Levitz and post-Levitz. Paul kept the corporation at bay for years. Paul kept DC in New York. He and Janette kept it more of a family atmosphere. Still, you got the feeling that they knew who you were. Now Iím certain that they donít. (Mutual laughter.)

BDS: A good analogy. Goodness knows that several of the creators Iíve spoken to in the past have sung Paulís praises. In the case of Len Wein, he said, ďSo I come up with this nothing character, a guy in a suit, and Paul insisted I get aÖoh, what is that term?

PK: Equity.

BDS: Yes, exactly. So, Len continued that Lucius Fox became a very big deal, especially in the movies and so he got a pile of money for that recommendation by Paul.

PK. Equity can be huge. If any of my characters end up on film or in a TV show, I get money. Thatís a beautiful thing.

BDS: I was also told by Al Plastino, Mike Esposito and others that thanks to some of Paulís efforts theyíd been getting reprint checks like when the phonebook sized Showcase Presents reprints were coming out.

PK: Itís an interesting business. I always thought that with comic books, it was a little less pressure. If you screwed something up, the most people would be out was a couple of bucks. Not a lot of money. Even if a book tanked, it wasnít a huge loss, but now itís become high stakes. Not the comics, mind you, but the properties. The comic books I donít think matter. I think Disney and Warner would be just as happy not to be spending all that money on publishing, but the characters are of great value.

BDS: Right. That was something Paul Levitz told me, was that the beauty of the licensing game is that you just license your characters out and this bucket starts to fill up with money.

PK: Exactly. I spent a couple of years in the DC licensing department and I dealt with everything from Batman greeting cards to Superman alarm clocks to Wonder Woman Underoos. Anything you could slap a character on I was probably writing the package copy and approving the set up and the design. And the sums of money involved... just the clothing alone was immense. So, yeah. Itís a beautiful thing to own a property.

BDS: It appears to me, as an interested outsider, that the books themselvesÖI would call them a loss leader. Itís a way to keep things out in front of peopleís consciousness and copyrights active, but thatís not where the money lies.

PK: Right and with them constantly repackaging them into the collections, thatís where the money is, in that market. The difference between the monthlies to collected edition model versus the twice a year straight to graphic novel model is more of an accounting trick than a creative decision. The monthlies do make some money, plus theyíre counted in the overall numbers determining ad rates, and if a title is a hit and sells well, thatís an added bonus, and once theyíre published, the creative costs can be written off, meaning the reprint collection can be packaged for next to no cost. Itís been working, I suppose, or theyíd have changed the model by now.

BDS: It lost its novelty pretty quickly, but I was enjoying the experience for a while of going to Walmart to actually buy a comic book with the 100-page books. It wasnít quite the same as the hallowed spinner rack, but I was having fun for a while. But $5.00 began to add up.

PK: It is kind of a shock to the system, but the Walmart books are obviously doing well. They keep adding titles. I donít know if any of them are continuing or just one-shots, but theyíre working. Theyíre someplace other than a comic book shop, although I would love to see somebody do a survey of everybody buying those things to find out how may people also regularly go to a comic shop. For all we know thereís no 12-year old whoís ever picked one of these up and said, ďI have discovered this new art form that I shall devote my life to!Ē More likely itís some existing comic fans with, ďAll right. Iíve got it! Get me some mylar!Ē

BDS: Iím reminded of Len Wein telling me heíd go to some comic shop not far from where he lived in California every year to do signings and he said every year the fans are another year older.

PK: Itís true. The same thing at conventions. I see older people there every year. In this new world of ours, thereís a wide variety of options for entertainment. Who wants to spend $5.00 on a comic book that you read once and in 7 minutes youíre done with it? Instead of buying four comic books, you get one video game that you can play for hours and hours and hours. There is no incentive to read comic books, other than, gee whiz, theyíre fun. But thereís all kinds of things that are just as much fun and quite frankly a passive experience. You press a button and there it is.

BDS: Youíre in good company. Jerry Robinson said something very similar when he said that back when he started, the comics didnít have the competition that they face today.

PK: Exactly. Iím a fan of Jeopardy. Thatís the only TV show I watch regularly and Iíve noticed in the past few years that the younger that a lot of the contestants are, the closer to now, their knowledge sucks. Iíve seen some questions that, for example, the answer was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Who doesnít know that? And thatís cool. Thereís a lot of history out there and not everybody can know everything, but when we were kids, we knew our parentsí popular culture. Youíd watch Perry Como and Sinatra and all that because instead of everyone going off on their individual device, and watching whatever the hell they want, we all gathered around the one television and we were all watching Ed Sullivan.

So, you were watching Ed Sullivan to see the Beatles, and got through the juggler and the plate-spinner and the tango dancer and your parentís pop culture rubbed off on you during the show. So, we were all watching the same stuff. We were watching what our parents wanted to watch for the most part. So, we learned about that stuff. I knew who Al Jolson was. A prancing, terrible, terrible entertainer, but still, he was the most popular entertainer in the world at some point.

Now I donít expect my son to get the references or to hear the explanation of what they are, but itís just such a different situation now. Weíre not all sitting around the campfire telling stories any more. Everybodyís off having their own conversation.

Now in the same breath, nostalgia is a liar. We all have these fond memories of the good old days, but nostalgia is bullshit. Itís a liar. Iíll look back, for instance, as a little kid reading comic books in the 60s and Iíll go back today and reread them and itís like, ďOh, my God, these donít even make sense.Ē A 1960 Bob Kanigher Wonder Woman story did not make any sense whatsoever. Heíd just throw shit in there and it didnít matter because he was writing for 8-year oldís. And Iím five, so what do I know? But a lot of the stuff is terrible. I tried to go back and read what was considered the greatest of these old comic books. The first 100 issues of the Fantastic Four. By issue #19, I was ready to claw my eyes out. Where do you get this? Itís about a bunch of squabbling 12-year oldís. And it doesnít even make sense. I remember one issue that had Reed doing some experiment and heís going on that heíll prove that thereís life in outer space. What? Youíve already met the Impossible Man and these other extra-terrestrials. What are you doing? Oh, and if you want peace and quiet, just lock these assholes out of your life.

Youíve got Johnny and Johnny is just sitting around watching TV. What good is he? Itís insane. And Ben. He canít open a door. You know what, man? You need therapy. This is not working. And so you have this group and this stuff never abated. That kind of silly, childish bullshit. And yes, they were a step above the Mort Weisinger crap, which I love. Again, I read Bob Kanigher at five years old and I was the target audience. Weíre talking a very innocent time when Dennis the Menace was a big TV show. So, it worked at the time. But to still worship this stuff as an adult is kind of like, ah, I canít do this. You have to face reality. With nostalgia, itís like, ďOh, this stuff is great.Ē Well, it was great, but itís not any more. I dunno. Itís the same with TV. When I watch these old TV shows, the only surprise I got was watching the Andy Griffith Show and discovering that it was better than I remembered.

BDS: Shifting gears a bit, Paul, at what point did you become one of the Woodchucks?

PK: Never. I was never a Woodchuck. I knew the Woodchucks. I was very friendly with many of the Woodchucks, but I was never one myself

BDS: Okay. I could have sworn I saw your byline in one or more issues of the Amazing World of DC Comics.

PK: I think my byline in Amazing World was probably for production work. I donít think I did any writing for it. I think I wrote an article for the Superman birthday conventionís program book about comic book collecting.

BDS: Right. Supercon í76.

PK: Yeah, but I donít think I had anything in Amazing World itself.

NOTE: Despite the pages upon pages Paul has written over his career, his memory remains sharp. I went through all 17 issues plus the special SuperCon edition of AWODCC in my collection and Paulís lone byline was in the SuperCon program and he had credits in production in issues #2 and #11.

PK: A few years ago, I was doing at signing at the Archie Comics booth and just as I was finishing up, Michael Uslan came along. Michael was one of the DC Junior Woodchucks, and then Allen Asherman wanders past, and then thereís John Workman, and ďHey! Bob Rozakis!Ē So, there was suddenly a spontaneous Woodchuck reunion in the middle of the floor of this convention. Iíve got a picture of all of us together. I wasnít, by the way, a Woodchuck myself, but I was often Woodchuck adjacent.

Joe Kubert was doing a signing at a booth nearby, so we decided to all trek on over and see him, because about two thirds of us, not me, of course, had been his assistant at some point. He had been my editor for a while, later on, on Arion, Lord of Atlantis. So, anyway, we go over there and approach him from behind and someone said, ďExcuse me, Mr. Kubert, do you think we could make it in comic books?Ē

Joe turned around and sees us and he broke into this big grin. If youíve ever even spoken to him, youíve probably heard that grin in his voice. It was a beautiful thing. Just a wonderful person. He just saw all these old men standing there who used to be these kids when they worked for him and he looks around and says, ďYeah, yeah, I think you guys could do it.Ē

BDS: Wonderful! I donít think Joe had an enemy in this world and just by virtue of his surviving working with Bob Kanigher all those years he deserved a purple heart at least.

PK: They alternated working for each other. There were periods when Bob would be the editor and then Joe would be the editor. Joe and Bob had a mutual respect that, frankly, they both deserved. Kanigher was a bit of a nut and he could be difficult, but I loved him. I thought he was great. I loved his writing. One of the first things I read were his comics, when he was doing Wonder Woman, around 1960. Bob was writing Wonder Woman as sort of a fairy tale, bringing in dragons and genies, all these strange things, like introducing Mer-Boy, and Bird-Boy, and Wonder Tot and Wonder Girl... who were, incidentally, never supposed to be separate entities. They were originally flashback stories about her as Wonder Girl or Wonder Tot, so when he ran out of ideas for that, or had forgotten the original conceit, he brought them all together. It was wacky and silly and it made no sense whatsoever. Bob was the kind of writer who would find himself running out of plot by page 18 of a 24-page story, so he would just pull something out of his hat, like a dinosaur exploding up out of the floor in a Metal Men story. (Mutual laughter.)

BDS: I get it. I was a big Metal Men fan, even though those stories tended to be a bit formulaic.

PK: Yes! Abso-fricking-lutely, that was a great book. Keep in mind that on a Friday they said, ďOh, shit, we donít have a feature for the next issue of Showcase!Ē And on Monday, Bob Kanigher came in with a 24-page script. Now he probably could have written it over his lunchtime, but he was probably busy because it was Friday. But he created those character in a weekend. Wow! He was really an amazing talent. Yes, he could be infuriating, and he was a trash talker and a bullshitter. Heíd get in your face and tell you these tall tales. Heíd corner me and Iíd just take it all in. It was awesome. I always had time to be lectured by Bob Kanigher. And he was just a writing machine. And he deserves being remembered if for nothing else than his run on Sgt. Rock, some of those stories. They were complex. Emotional. Great characters and great situations. It may not have always worked, but it was a lot of pages to fill over the years.

BDS: Unquestionably. When I think of some of the more prolific writers, like Denny OíNeil doing 100 consecutive issues of Azrael, I can only wonder how it can be done and thinking Iíd have run out of material by issue #5.

PK: Thatís why we get the big bucks. I wrote a story, called ďThe Same Old Story,Ē available on Amazon.com, and itís got a lot of pastiche in it. A lot of characters, you know, people in the comic industry and I even managed to get Julie Schwartz in there.

BDS: It wouldnít be complete without him. So, did you have a favorite editor back in the day, Paul?

PK: That I worked for? Hands down, Julie Schwarz. I worked with other editors I enjoyed. Joe Orlando was a pisser, Victor Gorelick at Archie was great. But Julie... I mean, Iíve worked with better editors; when I showed up, he was in his last four or five years of a 40 year editorial career, so he was on auto-pilot a lot of times. Still, not only was I writing comic books for Julie Schwartz, but I was writing Superman for Julie Schwartz. As a fan, to me that had been the pinnacle. And I made it.

Julie was also intimately linked to a formative moment in my development as a comic book fan. My birthday is June 14th and I remember reading ďThe Flash of Two Worlds,Ē in Flash #123, as a reprint a few years after it first ran. That moment when Flash races over the bridge and crosses the vibrational barrier, ending up in Keystone City. Thereís the panel where picks up the newspaper and realizes where he is, but the big reveal to me wasnít the where but the when: the date on that newspaper is June 14th, 1960. The DC Multiverse was born on my birthday!

His titles were my favorite growing up. They were always easy to pick out of the pile. You didnít even have to look at the indicia. All you had to see was Carmine Infantino or Gil Kane on the cover and... gotta be a Schwartz book! So, these were the best comics, at least as far as I was concerned, other than the Doom Patrol, throughout the 1960s and if I was going to write comic books, Julie Schwartz was the one to write comic books for.

BDS: He earned his moniker as a living legend.

PK: Julie definitely knew the value of showmanship.

BDS: Which artists do you feel did the best job of interpreting your scripts?

PK: Oh, man, thereís so many. Itís too hard to say. I worked with Carmine for a couple of years on Supergirl and he did a pretty damn good job. Steve Erwin is good. I worked with him on Vigilante and Checkmate. Heís a really solid artist. He got the characters and the pacing and the whole thing. I got to write a 5-page story heís drawing for a Heroes Initiative benefit and Iím looking forward to seeing it. Norm Breyfogle worked with me on a run of Life with Archie comics, the ongoing ďWhat If?Ē Archie series. He was great. I mean, that was a tough book because it needed to be done in the cartoon style, but it wasnít written as a cartoon. I was writing it like a straight soap opera. There was still humor and the occasional pratfall, but I was basically writing it as a straight book and Norm pulled it off.

There have been just so many people. Iíve been really lucky.

I wrote a Superman/Madame Xanadu team-up for DC Comics Presents, and Julie assigned it to Gray Morrow. Gray Morrow! Gray Morrow almost never did superheroes, but his take on Superman was so solid and realistic. ďYeah, thatís what Superman would look like in the real world.Ē Because he couldnít just draw these comic book characters, he drew real people.

BDS: Oh, yes. Iíve got a copy of All-Star Western he worked onÖ

PK: Yeah, the El Diablo stuff.

BDS: Exactly, and itĎs the issue (#2) that has the characters based on Gil Kane, Dick Giordano, All Williamson and Angelo Torres and itís just such a hoot and so wonderfully rendered. Unbelievable.

PK: Oh, absolutely. He was brilliant. Iíve been so lucky.

Speaking of Gil, I wrote a Green Lantern Corps Annual that Gil drew. George Evans, of EC Comics fame, drew a Weird War Tales story that I wrote.

I was lucky to have about a dozen of my stories drawn by Don Newton. I worked with George Tuska on Masters of the Universe and the Superman newspaper strip. And Jack Kirby! The King penciled a six-issue Super Powers miniseries I scripted in 1985, his last regular series work in comics.

BDS: Your career started in kind of a sweet spot with a good number of Silver Age creators still around along with the newer artists and writers.

PK: Absolutely. We still had a good chunk of the Golden Age creators around. Joe Kubert, Gil Kane, Murphy Anderson, Carmine. These guys invented the industry. I started in 1975 and the comic book industry, which launched in 1935 with New Fun Comics #1, was 40 years old at the time. So, youíve got a 40-year old industry and the guys who created the industry were in their 60s, maybe 70s, so they were all still around. I met so many of the Golden Age greats at one point or another over the years. Even if it was just shaking their hand as they passed through the office or at a convention. I was in the right place at the right time to meet Harry Lampert, Mart Nodell, C.C. Beck, Bob Kane, Will Eisner, and those guys.

I asked the editor Paul Levitz how a legend like George Evans ended up with my crappy little Weird War Tales five-pager on his drawing board and he told me George had called, looking for a short story to fill a hole in his schedule, and my script happened to be on top of the pile.

BDS: Itís kind of hard to feature, but it reminds me of Jack C. Harris working on a book and who does he end up with but Steve Ditko.

PK: Yeah, absolutely. It was a great time to be there.

BDS: As an old Arnold Drake fan, I must ask, was it intimidating at all to take on the Doom Patrol? Did you take any cues from the original series?

PK: I was too stupid and inexperienced to be intimidated, so no, not at all. I was 22 when I wrote that and it was my first series and, a few things I did right notwithstanding, it shows. The model for super-teams in the mid-70s was the Len Wein/Dave Cockrum X-Men, so I followed that route, but the main failing was I didnít know what I was doing. I had no stories to tell other than bad guy vs. good guy; anything deeper than that took a few years to develop. But, had I been aware, I would have known to be intimidated. But I did what I did and it was fine at the time, I guess. Well, no, because it didnít get picked up.

I think I did a better job on the later 1985 Doom Patrol series because by then Iíd had some experience and gained some maturityÖ maybe. Not a lot. But at the time I was more about trying to tell superhero stories than I was about saying anything in those stories. I donít think that really hit until I began to hit my stride on Vigilante and Checkmate.

BDS: Well, thereís something to be said for the confidence or maybe ignorance of youth.

PK: Well, comic books were only a few years out of that era when Superman was fighting guys in suits and Batman was fighting aliens and science fiction gimmicks. There was still a lot of goofy crap being done. I grew up on that stuff. I knew it was what I wanted to do; I just didnít quite know what to do with it. I was not very mature. I just didnít quite know how to go about it other than good guy stops the bad guy. I think if Iíd started writing today instead of 45 years ago, it would be a different story, because I would have grown up in a world that had Sandman and Maus, etc., etc. In my world, there wasnít a Watchmen or V for Vendetta. But it is what it is.

BDS: Absolutely. You use the cards youíre dealt.

PK: Yeah, and again, I was really lucky. I must have done something right along the way somewhere because Iíve published 1400 of these things. Looking back, if I had to pick things Iíd really done right, in comics, it would be a pretty short list.

BDS: Well, the proof is in the pudding. Youíve done syndicated strips, prose, nearly everything under the sun except I couldnít find one thing that several of your peers had done, which was doing writing for video games.

PK: Oh, yeah. Iíve written a lot of bizarre stuff over the years. You take the jobs that come along. Iíve written color and activity books, Mad Libs, non-fiction young adult books for school library sets, like a biography of John Glenn, the history of the New York Colony, the sinking of the Titanic, careers in robotics or as a rodeo cowboy. So, some diverse subjects. Iíve written all kinds of stuff.

BDS: I donít know if youíve read Bill Schellyís biography of Otto Binder, but Binder made this interesting comment that really stuck with me that a professional writer can write anything from a technical manual to a libretto.

PK: Thatís true. I was approached by someone who needed a screenplay written, and even though Iíd never written one before, my job is writing, so, I figured it out. Eventually. But now I know I can write screenplays. But Iíve seen thousands of films in my lifetime, and Iíve read hundreds of screenplays and TV scripts, and the form and format kind of seeps into the brain after a while. It was like the first time I had to write a young adult novel. I realized I had unconsciously absorbed the pacing and structure from a couple of years of repeated listenings in the car with my son of an R.L. Stein audiobook, A Night in Terror Tower that we got with a kidís meal at Chick-Fil-A on vacation in Florida.

One of the few gigs I ever turned down... actually, stalled on until he went elsewhere, was co-writing Julie Schwartzís memoir. That intimidated me, and I regret not doing it.

BDS: That would have been good. Speaking of books, we should chat a little bit about your new effort. What can you tell me about it?

PK: Itís called Paul Kupperbergís Illustrated Guide to Writing Comics and itís a how-to book on writing comics. I couldnít write a third person omnisciently voiced book about how a professional writer works, analyzing the works of famous writers and their famous stories and explaining their methods and motives for the simple reason that I had no clue how other writers write what they write and why.

Why did Stan [Lee] choose to do this instead of that? How did Will Eisner go about creating his characters? Damned if I know! But I do know my methods and motives... most of the time, and I could explain why I did this instead of that. So I focused on explaining the basic steps, accompanied by how I went about doing it, but always reminding the reader that the creative process isnít carved in stone. The methodology that works for me might not work for you, so find your own. You work out the how for yourself. Youíll come up with your own techniques and your own avenues, but at least youíll know why youíre doing this. As it says on the back cover, thereís no right way to write a comic book story. Thereís only your way. That sounds like one of those 3 a.m. commercials. ďThereís no one right way to write a comic book story. Thereís only your way. Operators are standing by.Ē

However, while operators are not standing by, it is available on Amazon.com and it is also available directly from me, signed & personalized, at morttodd.com/kuppbook.html. And you should, because itís good, darn it. I also asked some of my industry pals and gals to contribute words of advice from editors, pencilers, and letterers, the people who have to work with your script once youíve written it. Eisner Award winning letterer Todd Klein contributed a sidebar about how to prepare your script for the letterer, and youíll also hear from Robert Greenberger, Tom DeFalco, Alex Segura, Steve Erwin, Janice Chiang, Rick Stasi, Clem Robins, and others like that throwing in their two cents.

Other examples of my work are available at Crazy 8 Press (Crazy8press.com), which is a publishing hub Iím in with, not surprisingly, seven others and on Amazon. Iím also involved with Charlton Neo Comics (http://www.morttodd.com/Charlton.htmlmorttodd.com/Charlton.html), which published my Illustrated Guide to Writing Comics. Thereís lots more fun stuff there including, Paul Kupperbergís Secret Romances (post-modern love stories that prove ďhappily ever after isnít what it used to beĒ), Lost Jungle Tales: Cat-Girl, Unusual Suspense, The Charlton Arrow, and other titles. And thereís also my own little DIY comics Buffalo Avenue Comics (https://kupps.malibulist.com/2020/07/31/buffalo-avenue-comics/), featuring my writing, my brother Alanís art, and my fatherís photography. Iím keeping these comics all in the family.

Otherwise, you can find me at PaulKupperberg.com, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Crazy 8 Press: Crazy8press.com Charlton Neo Comics: Morttodd.com/Charlton.html Buffalo Avenue Comics: https://kupps.malibulist.com/2020/07/31/buffalo-avenue-comics/

NOTE: Just as a little follow-up, I asked Paul which character he enjoyed working on the most, as heíd made mention a couple of times about his efforts on Vigilante and Checkmate. He replied thusly:

PK: I guess Superman would be my favorite character to work on, just because of my long attachment to him. But Vigilante and Checkmate were, I think, some of my best sustained writing. I had some experience as a writer by then, and a lot more as a person, so by the time I got to writing those titles, I was at a point where I could make use of that experience in my writing. Unlike the superhero stories I'd been writing, "action" didn't always mean shooting and punching; sometimes action could be purely emotional. I also had the freedom to tell stories I was interested in, more down-to-Earth, less capes and Kryptonite, more human stories, and I had the time and space over 30-plus issues in the case of those books to develop themes and characters. Later, I'd have the same experience writing the Life With Archie continuities, which had the added advantage of not having to have people punching one another through walls or saving the planet from annihilation.

I had a great time getting to know Paul and I can highly recommend his new book. You know how to order your own copy, even a personalized one, so do not hesitate. Tell him Bryan sent you.

The webmaster and I thank you for your patronage and invite you to címon back the 1st of September for another installment of this ongoing feature. If you have questions, comments or other feedback, just fire away to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you then andÖ

Long live the Silver Age!

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