A Conversation with
Roy Thomas (Part 3)
Part 1 | Part 2
| Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 |
My favorite comic has always been THE AVENGERS. The first comic I ever purchased was AVENGERS # 70. Care to expound on your AVENGERS years?
I wrote about a 70-issue run. I came back and wrote one or two others and a couple of
Annuals after the Kree-Skrull War. That title established me. I was the second writer of the series, after Stan. I inherited John Buscema as the artist pretty early on. Others came on later and did some really nice things. Neal Adams came in for a few issues. As much [of] a living hell working with him was, the books were good.
"Living hell?" Was it just the deadlines that were the problem?
Oh yeah, everything about the experience EXCEPT the deadlines was great. I had to adjust to getting art at 11:00 PM at night that had to be written by the next morning. Then, eventually, I would get the art so late I could no longer complete the writing. I had to replace him, only to have Neal going around feeling he was somehow wronged. Well, if you don't make a deadline, you don't make it the next month, then you don't make it again, you shouldn't be surprised if you have to be replaced.
As a regular reader of COMIC BOOK ARTIST and ALTER EGO, I think you've done a great job of maintaining your professionalism in these "who created what characters" controversies. You take the high road, while still commenting and contributing to the debate. This has been hard for some who lean toward the "bitter tone," typified by Carmine Infantino.
That's funny, because Jon [Morrow, editor of COMIC BOOK ARTIST] is such a big fan of Carmine. He chose the theme for his first issue of CBA because it was Carmine's period: 1966-1974. Jon wants to celebrate Carmine's editorial years, and the first thing he does is get Carmine mad at him. [Laughs.]
During ALTER EGO's flipbook status with CBA, it had to be a tall order to stay above those controversies every issue. You've just conducted yourself with a lot of class.
The only controversies I've been embroiled in are the thing with Neal. I got pushed into that because Neal's interview came out first. I felt I had to respond to it. A lot of what Neal relayed was accurate, a lot of it wasn't. People can take sides if they wish. I never wanted to castigate Neal. As angry as I got in dealing with him, I have many fond memories of him from our working together.
My feelings are mixed. I always liked Neal, even when I was kicking him off the book. I had deadlines, and he was not meeting them. As editor, I had higher responsibilities than just keeping an artist happy. I just wanted to put my view of things out there without denigrating Neal. Most people feel it was handled in a fairly adult way.
Now that that is over with, I'd like to avoid even that much controversy! [Chuckles.]
[Laughs.] That eliminates my next question—
That controversy is difficult to avoid. The second issue of ALTER EGO [VOLUME 3 # 2] featured a letter from Robert Kanigher. In it, Kanigher castigates many people. It was either print the letter or don't print the letter. After asking a few folks, practically everyone thought I should print it. So I did. I'm not really interested in controversy for the sake of it. But whenever you're talking about the creation of something that more than one person worked on, there is always going to be some kind of controversy.
I think Steve Ditko's column that you reprinted in ALTER EGO VOLUME 2 # 4 summed up the thought processes behind those creative controversies very well relating to Jack Kirby's contention that it was he [Kirby] who created Spider-Man.
Yes, I wanted to give that article a wider audience. I personally had a little trouble wading through the philosophical aspects of the piece. To answer the question [of] "who really created Spider-Man": At most, Jack Kirby could be counted as a minor co-creator. That's certainly not Steve's view. That would be the most you give Jack on that.
Getting back to THE AVENGERS, what were your greatest accomplishments on that title?
I created characters like the Vision. The Vision was almost a new character. The design of him, the look of him, owed a lot to the Golden Age character despite everything about his background being new.
Aside from THE AVENGERS or any single character, I am most proud of some of the second-hand continuity that I did for the World War II heroes at DC and for Marvel. A lot of that material has been incorporated into the mythos now. Thanks to my work, there "was and continues to be" an All-Star Squadron during World War II and an Invaders. However, that stuff is no more or less authentic than Clark Kent's parents being alive in Byrne's version [of SUPERMAN].
Regarding those revamps and relaunches, although I enjoy doing them, I don't count any of that stuff as being authentic. To me, the authentic comics are the original ones. If a comic came out in the '40s and had an origin for Batman or Superman—that's the authentic comic. Nothing that I or John Byrne or anyone else who comes along later [has said] really means anything! We're just having fun with it.
This is why I never created a lot of characters. I created or co-created some, but I knew the companies would own whatever characters I came up with, so I wasn't as interested in creating them.
You realized this early on? You mean going into the industry?
I accepted that when I came in. I may have had a natural inclination to take an old character rather than make up a new one. If I don't totally create the character, then I don't resent it as much since I don't own it.
As an example, when I wanted to do the [Adam] Warlock character, instead of making him as a new character, I took the character of Him from the FANTASTIC FOUR. Making a new character would have been just as easy, but I liked the continuity of having him come out of the FANTASTIC FOUR, and I wouldn't resent his use later on. If I had created a whole new character, then I would resent creating the concept, the name, and the whole new character only to have Gil Kane and myself NOT own it.