Written by Bryan Stroud
Marvin Arthur "Marv" Wolfman (born May 13, 1946) is an American comic book writer. He is best known for lengthy runs on Marvel Comics' The Tomb of Dracula (for which he and artist Gene Colan created the vampire-slayer Blade), and DC Comics' The New Teen Titans and the Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series with George Pérez.
I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later. While I enjoyed nearly every interview, a clinker would inevitably show up. Marv Wolfman didn't seem to be all that excited to talk with me and he "lost" my questions a couple of times and flatly refused to answer a couple, which is certainly his right, but this one just didn't go as well as some.
This interview originally took place via email on September 21, 2008.
Bryan Stroud: Len Wein told me that both of you got into the business on the coattails of fandom and that you’d done some fanzines. Did you enjoy the transition?
Marv Wolfman: It's partially why I did fanzines; I felt a need to tell stories and that's what was available to me.
Stroud: They say you were pretty heavily influenced by science fiction. That almost seems like a gateway to comics. Would you agree?
Wolfman: When I was younger I love(d) SF. I don't read it as much these days as so much has gone into fantasy, but SF opened my mind and let me see other possibilities in ideas. SF is something that let's you realize there could be more than just what you can see. It's not a gateway to comics; it's a gateway to letting your imagination run wild.
Stroud: Several of the characters you’ve written for have gone on to big screen fame, like Ghost Rider, Transformers, and Iron Man, to name a few. Do comic book characters transfer well to the big screen? Is it gratifying to see them there?
Wolfman: You picked characters I may have written but had nothing to do with in any way. Blade, Bullseye, Titans, etc. those among others are characters I created that went on to movies and TV. Some characters can transfer well if they have interesting stories to tell as people. Some are better meant to be done in comics because of the strengths of the comics medium. Movies and comics may both be picture and story but that doesn't mean they are interchangeable. Some work as film and some don't. As for any gratification on seeing my work on the screen, there is in that it means I created something that resonates with millions of people.
Stroud: Full script or Marvel method?
Wolfman: I write both plot style and full script, depending. Both have strengths.
Stroud: You became an editor at a relatively young age. Did you feel you were ready?
Wolfman: I started as an editorial assistant, moved up to assistant editor then became an editor. Because I had the very best editors training me at the time, I felt I was ready. Of course, I started full editing at Warren so it made it a bit easier. My strength as a writer is structure so that is good for helping others and knowing the basics of story and helping someone tell their story in a clear, concise fashion.
Stroud: You worked with some true legends over the course of your career. Would you give me some of your recollections of… Jack Kirby
Wolfman: Jack was the King for a reason. An incredible artist, thinker and more important, a dear, dear person. They don't make people like him anymore.
Stroud: Steve Ditko
Wolfman: I was such a fan of his and really enjoyed working with him. He was someone I very much enjoyed talking to.
Stroud: Ross Andru
Wolfman: Ross was incredibly smart and one of the best story-tellers I've ever known. He was great to work with.
Stroud: Carmine Infantino
Wolfman: I grew up a fan of his Flash, Adam Strange and Space Museum stories so it was a thrill to work with him on Nova and Spider-Woman.
Stroud: Cary Bates
Wolfman: A much better writer than anyone at the company realized at the time. We worked together on V and then a number of other projects nobody knows about. A real solid writer.
Stroud: Nelson Bridwell
Wolfman: Didn't really work with him bit I enjoyed talking to him. One of the smartest people I've ever met.
Stroud: Gene Colan
Wolfman: What can I say? Brilliant artist and a real great guy. He was a wonderful partner on so many different comics.
Stroud: Gil Kane on the animated Superman project?
Wolfman: Gil drew a great Superman and we seemed to be somewhat in synch on it. I was a huge fan of his and again it was great working with him on Superman for the cartoons, in the comics and also on John Carter.
Stroud: I think you’ve written for every genre, to include jungle, science-fiction, superhero, comedy, action, western, war and horror. Where were you most comfortable?
Wolfman: I like writing everything so I keep fresh. If I did any one genre I'd be bored in about ten minutes.
Stroud: You’ve written and edited on some iconic titles, such as Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman in World’s Finest. Was your approach different depending on the character? How much research did you do, or did you try to stay true to history?
Wolfman: I re-read everything and try to figure out what made that character work. Then I proceed from that. It’s understanding core concepts.
Stroud: You’re forever identified with the Teen Titans and worked on them for many, many years. What sort of magic did you use to cause them to create such a sensation?
Wolfman: God knows. If I did know I'd bottle it.
Stroud: What involvement did you have with the animated Teen Titans?
Wolfman: I wrote some episodes.
Stroud: You pretty well stayed with the big two publishers. You were even EIC at Marvel. How did they compare?
Wolfman: Both have great characters and as a writer I loved writing both of them. As a creator there were very few differences. Business wise they are very different but I don't get into that kind of stuff.
Stroud: While you spent more time at Marvel than DC, you were tasked with the truly monumental Crisis on Infinite Earths for DC, rehashing and revamping pretty much every single character from half a century. I can’t imagine what you must have gone through, but can you describe it?
Wolfman: I had been reading DC since I was five so I actually spent far much more time with the DCU characters. Crisis was huge but it would take more time that I have to describe it. Suffice it to say it took several years to plot the story so it worked.
Stroud: I suppose you’re aware that it looks like the new Crisis series is resurrecting Barry Allen. I think I read someplace that you left a very subtle loophole in your story that would allow him back. Care to share what it was?
Wolfman: It's on my website under Q&A.
Note: Indeed it is at www.marvwolfman.com:
"So many people actually saw that comment I made in my forward and have asked me how I'd bring back the Flash, that I've finally gotten tired of explaining it. So that I don't ever have to explain it again, here it is now, once and for all. Please remember, this is a very comic booky answer and you can probably blow holes in it somehow (but then nobody really complained how an anti-matter villain could co-exist with a positive matter good guy, so maybe physics isn't anyone's strong suit). This is what I proposed to DC back in 1985. Please note that I didn't think it was a good idea to kill The Flash but those were my marching orders, so I did the best I could to make his death as moving as I could. Here is the given I worked from: Much of the reason the people in charge didn't care for Barry Allen was that he was considered dull. I felt if I could come up with a way of making him vital again while keeping him alive, then perhaps Barry would be given a second lease on life.
I came up with the idea of Flash moving back through time, flashing into our dimension even as he was dying. So, thought I, what if Barry was plucked out of the time stream at one of those moments he appeared? What if that meant from this point on Barry knew that he was literally living on borrowed time, that at any moment the time stream could close in on him and take him to his inevitable death. What would this mean to Barry? 1: from now on the fastest man alive would literally be running for his life. 2: He knew he didn't have much time left and believed (as Barry would) that he had to devote it to helping others. 3: This meant Barry would become driven and desperate to help others with each passing tick of the clock. I felt this new revitalized attitude might be enough to make the formerly dull police scientist into someone who now had to push himself as he never had to before. I was hoping that this would make the character interesting enough to live. Earlier, I said my explanation was comic booky. In many ways it is because none of us knows when we are going to die. But this knowledge would haunt a man like Barry Allen and change him from an unassuming character into a driven hero. At least that was the plan!"
Stroud: Superman is 70 years old now. Has the superhero outlived its run?
Wolfman: Nope. I can still come up with ideas we've never seen before.
Stroud: Have you ever taught a writing class?
Wolfman: I do at conventions and people tell me they really like the class I give. Maybe some day someone will pay be to do so. It's fun.
Stroud: What counsel would you give to an aspiring writer?
Wolfman: Write. Listen. Then keep writing some more.
Stroud: You’ve written animation and television. Do you find there’s much difference in writing for other mediums?
Wolfman: You look at the strengths of each medium and cater to it. That's all. They are different.
Stroud: More than one creator has told me that DC has done better by them than Marvel for compensation for past work or creations. Since you’ve created Tim Drake as Robin, Nova and other characters, has that been your experience?
Wolfman: I'm at DC. That should tell you something.
Stroud: You’re writing Nightwing now for DC. Is it good to be back?
Wolfman: I'm off the book; I was supposed to only do four issues but I did a year and a half. I enjoyed it very much.
Stroud: Your “Homeland” book is going great guns. That must feel good after all the work that went into it.
Wolfman: It was awesome. The hardest work I've ever done and we've gotten many major mainstream awards for it (although no comic book awards). That has been very gratifying.
Stroud: Any other projects in the hopper?
Wolfman: Many but none I can talk about.
Stroud: Len told me that “Almost no 14-year olds are buying comics?” Do you concur? Why do you think that is?
Wolfman: I think the cost is one thing and for most of the country comic shops aren't nearby. Some cities don't even have any. I think if a 14 year could find a comic they might like it.
Stroud: If you were king for a day what would you do to bring the comic book back to its former glory?
Wolfman: Totally change the distribution system.
Stroud: You do something unique at your website by selling scripts. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing that. Is there a big demand?
Wolfman: Not a huge one but I do get requests.