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Steve Englehart - Interview
By Michael Essington

Back in the early two thousands I found myself out of work and hunting for ways to make money. I was rummaging through the garage and came across a box of old comic books, one of the first books I came across was a tattered, old copy of the Incredible Hulk. I figured I would pop them on Ebay and generate a bit of money. Well as I started flipping through some of the books I came to realize how much I still loved some of these books and how some of these great writers from the early seventies books are much better than a lot of the writers today.

So, I looked up some of the writers and wrote them asking if they would autograph my books and in the case of Steve Englehart asked if I could interview him for a site I was creating (Web Comics), he agreed. This was my second interview (done somewhere around 2005), so I didn’t pursue certain questions has firmly as I should have (e.g. terrorism, ageism, and Todd MacFarlane) but overall this came out pretty decent for my third try.

I know some readers are going to scratch their heads and go “Why is this on Web Comics?” Well, here’s why, because the themes of being fired regardless of how great your work is, a birds eye view of terrorism and an overall interesting life. Ladies and gents, Steve Englehart!

1. First off, I want to thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Growing up You, Gerry Conway, & Len Wein & Stan Lee were my all-time favorite writers. So, it's an honor to be able to have you as Web Comics’ third interview.


2. I recently read on The American Spectator that you created the “suicide bomber.” How did this come about? And did you think it would evolve into the reality that it has?

I created some guys who were so against the romance between the android Vision and the mutant Scarlet Witch that they attached bombs to themselves so they could approach the happy couple and blow them up. At the time, around 1972, it was just an idea for bad guys that hadn’t been done before. Real bad guys reading AVENGERS and getting the idea from that seems a bit of a stretch; more likely it was just something in the air, since the war against Vietnam was still going on.

3. In the 1970’s you handled all the riskier books, if that’s the right word, Luke Cage, Dr. Strange and even your Captain America run wasn’t the typical good-guy wins/bad guy loses scenario. Was this intentional, did seek these titles out?

Nope, it was just luck of the draw. But if I’d been handed MILLIE THE MODEL I’d have tried to do something memorable with it. Point being, those books weren’t particularly risky until I decided to take some risks. But that was what Marvel encouraged then.

4. Most of the creators who've made a name for themselves are remembered for one key book; Berni Wrightson is remembered for Swamp Thing, with you it seems to be 1970’s Marvel, with an older crowd. How do you feel about that legacy?
I was incredibly lucky to get a chance to be as creative as possible in a time when, as I say, Marvel encouraged that. And I always felt I was doing “comics,” not “a comic,” so I dove into everything headfirst as new books came available. So I’m proud of the way it turned out. But it wasn’t just Marvel; my Batman’s probably my most famous run. And it wasn’t just the 70s, though it became more sporadic after that, certainly; there was SILVER SURFER and GREEN LANTERN CORPS and WEST COAST AVENGERS in the 80s, Malibu’s THE NIGHT MAN and THE STRANGERS in the 90s, DARK DETECTIVE now… So I hope people didn’t miss out on that.

5. Who are your influences, comics or personally? Is there any one particular Writer (or Artist) that made decide to pursue writing as a career?

As a kid, I loved Dick Tracy, written and drawn by Chester Gould, Donald Duck by Carl Barks, and Mickey Mouse by Paul Murry — and Batman. Looking back (because I certainly didn’t know it at the time), the high quality of Gould, Barks, and Murry made comics mean more to me than just a way to pass the time — and Batman was always fun. Then later, the whole Marvel Universe imparted that mystique. And finally, I was knocked out by Neal Adams’ art, and later the man himself. And Neal always looked at his stories with a writer’s eye. So it was really the continuing example of comics people doing great work that built up that feeling in me that that’s what I wanted to do.

6. Do you have a favorite Artist to work with?

Not really. One of the things about comics in the 70s was, you got handed the title and you got handed the artists. So I learned to have fun working with each guy and his way of doing things, and I still like that. These days I’m doing a lot with Marshall Rogers, which is great because it’s Marshall, but I was also happy to be “handed” Tom Derenick for my JLA CLASSIFIED/JSA CLASSIFIED run.

7. In regards to your own work who was your favorite Inker? And your favorite Colorist?

You mean me as an artist? I didn’t do all that much, but Johnny Romita, Sr. has to be my favorite inker, and Neal my favorite colorist. If you mean, as a writer, I have the same answer as above, though it’s always a pleasure to work with Terry Austin.

8. Of all your work do you have any certain favorites? Particular run or issue?

I have to say, pretty much everything. I try to make everything I do the best it can be, which makes it a favorite of mine. I’ve been open over the years about things that didn’t work out, for whatever reason, but every time I try to list my favorite 5 or favorite 10 things, the list just keeps running because most of it does work out.

9. Do you still keep up with the industry?

Yes, but back in the day, people who worked in comics got all the comics for free so I was right on top of it all. Now that’s no longer true, so I miss stuff.

10. Do you socialize with anyone within the comic book industry?

I live in the San Francisco area so there aren’t that many that I see regularly, but sure. Marshall Rogers and I get together for coffee and comics several times a month.

11. Over your career you’ve worked for all the major companies in the industry; from a Writer’s standpoint who’s been the best to work for and why?

Marvel in the 70s, Malibu in the 90s. Both offered complete creative freedom.

12. I interviewed Herb Trimpe in the later part of 2003; we talked a bit about his termination package from Marvel, and what he referred to as “ageism” in the industry. Have you experienced this, if so what’s your take on it?
It definitely exists. The frustrating thing for me is, I sell comics and readers want more, and the way I learned the business, that’s what counts. Especially in a time when companies aren’t doing nearly as well as they could.
13. Your Coyote series for Epic was Todd McFarlane’s first professional work, did you have any interaction with him? If so, how was it?
Yeah, Todd was very green and very humble back then. I even helped him get his green card so he could move down from Canada. I knew he had potential or I wouldn’t have hired him, but I certainly had no idea he’d become a superstar, and then go beyond that.

14. You originally wanted to be an artist. With the looser styles of Frank Miller and Joe Quesada’s take on Daredevil, are we ever going to see you write and illustrate your own work?

I doubt it. I loved to draw but I haven’t drawn for real in years, so looser or no, you probably wouldn’t want to see me do the whole package. :-)

15. What is your next project?

Next is a relative term. I’m doing DARK DETECTIVE III with Marshall, Terry, and John Workman, JLA CLASSIFIED/JSA CLASSIFIED with Tom Derenick and Mark Farmer, the COYOTE COLLECTION trades for Image, a prose story about the pulp hero The Spider for Moonstone, a prose novel sequel to my earlier novel, The Point Man, called The Long Man, for Tor Books. And I hope to do some more BLACK RIDER. That’s what I’m already looking at for 2006, and it’s only March.

16. During time with Marvel in the 1970’s, were you a part of the Mighty Marvel Bullpen? And what are your memories of that time.

I sure was. There was Herb and Johnny, Marie Severin, Stan and Roy and John Verpoorten, the production manager — Holli Resnicoff, Stan’s secretary — Morrie Kuramoto and Stu Schwartz, production guys — and me. It was indeed a small but mighty, and fun, bullpen. I loved working beside those guys, and — to come back to the silliness of ageism — I learned a hell of a lot from guys who’d been in the business before me. Plus, they were more examples of people striving for excellence every time out.

17. Is there a character that you never got to write that you wish that you had. If so who, and what would you bring to this character?

It’s like the artists. Because I learned the business at a time when your assignments were handed to you, I’m comfortable taking any character and finding the cool parts in them — and I know damn well that I don’t get to write any company-owned character unless the company says so. So I really don’t think, “Oh, if I could just write so-and-so,” because it’s not realistic.

18. In a similar question, is there an artist that you never got to work with that you felt would bring another dimension to you writing?

Similar answer. Every artist brings something; why pick one?

19. In all of your writing, the locations and dialogue are highly detailed; what do you use as reference? Vacations, recordings . . . ?

I like my fantasy to live within the real world. That doesn’t mean I’m limited by reality, but I want you to believe that the people and the worlds in my stories are real. So everything that enters my brain is grist for the mill as far as creating those things. As far as dialogue goes, I do take some pride in making each character an individual. No way would I want to develop some “standard Englehart speak.”

20. Thanks again for answering our questions. Hopefully, they weren't all questions you've answered a hundred times before.

Nope. It’s all good.

About Michael Essington
Michael Essington is an American author and poet, most famous for his Mike Check column. Over the years Essington has done dozens of celebrity interviews, as well as hundreds of music reviews. The weekly Mike Check column, which appears on Strange Reaction, has also been printed in The Los Angeles Beat and the very popular Deep Red Magazine. Essington's column is read weekly by thousands of fans from Los Angeles to Denmark. Essington has been writing since his high school days. He is married to wife, Elizabeth, and has two children, daughter, Breana & son Lucas. And has a dog, Max, that Essington suspects may have a learning disability or a general lack of life goals.
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