Thursday, July 14, 2005

Tony Isabella Interview

OK, here's one of the longer posts I promised to help regular readers get through my absence... (yeah, like you guys can't go a day without reading something new from me)

Note from Jon: I first encountered Tony's writing in
his heyday at Marvel in the 70s. I particularly remembered his
story in Giant-Size Creatures #1, featuring the Werewolf
by Night and transforming Greer Nelson, AKA the Cat, into Tigra
the Were-Woman. Little did I know then that over 20 years later,
thanks to several e-mail exchanges, that I'd be interviewing him
on his career at Marvel and elsewhere!


The story behind this interview is an interesting one (at least,
I think so). When I started doing transcriptions for CBA
and Alter Ego, I'd already begun the e-mail exchange,
and I asked Jon Cooke if he'd be interested in an interview with
Tony. Silly me, I thought that I'd be able to be prepared and
Tony would have the time at Mid-Ohio-Con in 1999 to conduct this
interview! We ended up rescheduling for either January or February
2000, by which time I'd done extensive research, and sent Tony
an advance copy of the questions I had for him... questions that
are probably way too detailed for a single interview! "The
World's Longest Tony Isabella Interview" was originally conducted
via telephone, but when I got ready to transcribe the five (!)
tapes from the two-day phone call, I discovered my tape recorder
didn't get anything! Tony was gracious beyond belief when I told
him about this, and we agreed that rather than re-doing the interview
over the phone (I couldn't put him through another marathon session
again), we'd re-do the interview via email, which Tony's been
sending me in pieces since then. This was well above and beyond
the call of duty, for which I thank Tony very much! Hopefully,
if I do any other interviews, I'll do a better job of both keeping
the number of questions down, as well as making sure the fershlugginer
tape recorder's working right!


Some portions of this have previously seen print in The
Comics Buyers' Guide
, in Tony's column there, as well as on
his web page, Tony's Online Tips! (http://www.wfcomics.com/tony).
The rest of the interview I'd conducted with Tony sadly appear
to be lost I thought I'd had it saved on my computer somewhere,
but it's nowhere to be found (could be it's on a zip disk somewhere).


Jon B. Knutson: First of all, thanks for agreeing to
this interview. Jon Cooke's referred to you as a long-time supporter
of Comic Book Artist, and he was very happy to print an
interview with you in the book. Let's begin with the first question
that seems to come up in all CBA interviews: Where were
you born?


Tony Isabella: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on December
22, 1951.


Jon: Do you remember how old you were when you first
saw and read a comic book, and do you recall what it might have
been?


Tony: I learned to read from comic books when I was
four. My mother used to bring home three-for-a-quarter bags of
IW reprints, mostly of the funny animal variety. The earliest
comics I can remember would be an issue of Fighting American,
which I probably got from an uncle, an issue of IW's Red Mask
featuring the Presto Kid, and an issue of Superman or Action
Comics
. Unfortunately, I can't pin it down more exactly than
that.


Jon: What were some of your favorite comics as a kid?


Tony: Superman. Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost,
which was probably the first comics I bought for myself. Batman.
Challengers of the Unknown. Cosmo the Merry Martian
. I
bought lots of DC Comics as a kid, mostly those with giant and
not-too-scary monsters on the covers. I really got into the Marvel
super-heroes around 1963 or so.


Jon: What else did you read, aside from comics?


Tony: The Hardy Boys. Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr series.
And all of the science fiction I could get my hands on. I was
had an argument with an elementary school librarian who didn't
want me to take out a book called Under The Harvest Moon.
I thought it had to be a science fiction book; I mean, it had
"moon" in the title, right? But it was actually a romance
novel. I still shudder when I think of reading that one.


Jon: What were some of the other things you enjoyed
as a kid? For example, I know you're a big fan of Japanese monster
movies, like Godzilla. Did that start when you were a kid?


Tony: I think the first giant monster movie I saw was
Gorgo. Our church used to show movies on Saturday afternoons.
Then I saw King Kong Vs. Godzilla on a big screen and
I was hooked. After that, I never missed a chance to see a giant
monster film at the movie theater or on TV. I was fortunate in
that the local TV stations ran a lot of them and ran them often.


I was also into baseball. I collected baseball cards and played
in the Little League. I still love the game, but I'd rather watch
my kids play than watch the Cleveland Indians. I just can't get
past the cruel caricature that is Chief Wahoo anymore.


Jon: When you were a kid, did you create your own comic
characters, and create

homemade comics with them?


Tony: Of course, especially after I met Terry Fairbanks
and Mike Hudak at Frank's Model Shop. Frank's was about a 30-minute
bike ride from my house, but he had a pretty good selection of
old comic books in addition to the model stuff.


I couldn't draw, so I ended up writing all the scripts for
our own bimonthly comic book: Marvel Madhouse. My creations
include Light Wave, a Russian super-hero, and Johnny Bravo, a
non-super-powered adventurer. We even teamed up our heroes in
something called "The M.A.R.V.E.L. Squad." I forget
what the name stood for.


We used to send Marvel Madhouse to Stan Lee and get
these friendly letters back from Flo Steinberg, Roy Thomas, and
even Stan himself. That was an enormous thrill for us.


Jon: When did you first think about a career working
in comic books? Were you thinking about writing then, or drawing,
or both?


Tony: The day I read Fantastic Four Annual #1,
perhaps the greatest comic book ever published. Although I'd
seen the occasional credits here and there in my comics reading,
this was when it hit me that people got paid for making comic
books...and I knew that I wanted to be one of them someday. Having
no artistic ability to speak of, my interest was always in writing
comics.


Jon: Did you have an interest in writing something other
than comics?


Tony: Yes, but my passion was for writing comic books.
If I couldn't make the grade as a comic-book writer, I figured
I would settle for being a world-famous reporter or science-fiction
novelist. And, if those didn't work out, I could write for television.
I definitely had some unique priorities going for me.


Jon: I understand you did some fanzine work before you
started working for comics. In an interview I transcribed, someone
mentioned a Creeper story you worked on with someone that's never
seen print, for example. Do you recall which fanzines you worked
on, and what kind of stuff you did for them?


Tony: I wrote for every fanzine that would have me:
Concussion, Fantastic Fanzine, Yancy Street Gazette, Minotaur,
and dozens more. I wrote opinion and review columns, prose fiction,
comic-book scripts, and weird little comedy pieces starring myself
and other contributors to Concussion. I even won an award as
best fan writer of 1971 or so, the year before I broke into comics
professionally.


As for the Creeper story, that came about because I really
loved the character and wanted his adventures to continue after
his book was canceled. So I wrote DC publisher Carmine Infantino
and asked if I could publish a Creeper fan magazine featuring
new stories of the character. Much to my surprise, he said yes.


I wrote a 26-page story that picked up after the last issue
of the actual Beware The Creeper comic book. It was supposed
to be drawn by a fan artist by the name of Klaus Janson-I wonder
if he ever amounted to anything-but he never turned in even a
single page of artwork. As this was about the same time I was
working my way out of college and starting to work for the Cleveland
Plain Dealer
, I was too busy to pursue the project further.


There was supposed to be a second series in the magazine as
well. It was called "The Yank in London" and was basically
the story of a young writer-not unlike myself-having great adventures
with a beautiful Brit who was not unlike Emma Peel. Dave Cockrum-there
was a lot of talent in the fanzines of the late 1960s-was going
to be the artist, but I never even started writing the first script.
If memory serves me correctly, I was involved in my first serious
romance about that time, which sort of negated the need for me
to get "lucky" in my fiction.


Jon: What's your educational background? Were you originally
progressing towards a different career than comics?


Tony: I was a National Honors Society student at St.
Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio, and then went to John Carroll
University for a little under a year. The latter wasn't a good
fit. I didn't care for the Jesuits, the jocks, the ROTC, or what
laughingly passed for the campus radicals. I did have some fun
writing for the college newspaper and radio station...and I did
have a brief but wonderful affair with one of my teachers...but
college was just not where I wanted to be.


I'd intended to major in journalism anyway, so when I left
college, I applied for a job at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I
was hired as a copy boy and figured I'd work my way up. Well,
that didn't work out either. Even though I did do some writing
for the newspaper, sometimes ghosting articles for "real"
reporters, I never got more than a copy boy's paycheck. To my
mind, I was under-appreciated and underpaid. Between that and
my growing realization that the Plain Dealer was a pretty crappy
newspaper-it did pretty much whatever the local robber barons
and politicians commanded of it-I was more than ready to make
a new plan.


Jon: Okay, now to get into more of the meat of this
thing. How did you break in to comics?


Tony: I'd been corresponding with some of my favorite
comics and editors of the time: Murray Boltinoff, Steve Englehart,
Dick Giordano, and Roy Thomas. When the Plain Dealer went on strike
and our picket lines was subsequently attacked by mounted policemen-sent
to the scene by the publisher's good friend, then-Mayor Ralph
Perk-I was knocked to the ground in the ensuing panic. When I
saw a hoof come down on the ground less than a foot from my face,
I figured it was time to end my Plain Dealer career.


I phoned Roy that night and asked him if there were any jobs
open at Marvel. Stan Lee and Sol Brodsky needed an assistant editor
to work on Marvel's new British weeklies. The qualifications
for the job were meager: they needed someone who could proofread
and write well enough to do letters pages and other editorial
material...and who knew the characters and the stories.


Jon: When did you move from Ohio to New York?


Tony: October of 1972.


Jon: What was Marvel like when you started? Who did
you deal with on a regular basis, and what were they like?


Tony: Marvel's offices were only about a third of the
floor they were on when I started working there. There was a
reception area, behind which was Nancy Murphy and the film/photostats
library. There was a semi-large production room wherein worked
John Verpoorten, John Romita, Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia, Morrie
Kuramoto, Tony Mortelarro, Dave Hunt, Marie Severin, and probably
some folks I've forgotten were there. Across the hall from that
was a very small office wherein lurked Marv Wolfman and Don McGregor.
(I did some time in that office as well.) Behind them was Stu
Schwartzberg and his stat machine.


Also across from Marv and Don were the offices of Roy Thomas
and Stan Lee. Stan had the large corner office; I think Carla
Joseph, his secretary, was in there, too. She married Gerry Conway
a year or two later.


There was a bean counter who had an office around the corner
from Stan, but I can't remember his name. Martin Goodman and
the men's magazines were on another floor.


At the end of all this was an office shared by Sol Brodsky,
George Roussos, Pablo Marcos, sometimes Rich Buckler, sometimes
another production worker, and myself. Thinking back on it, it's
amazing how many comic books and magazines came out of offices
that were less than half the size of my present house.


I dealt with Stan (on the British book covers and Monster
Madness
), Sol and Pablo (on the British books and black-and-white
magazines), Roy (on the magazines and some comics stuff), and
the production department (on all of the above).


Jon: According to the text piece in Astonishing Tales
#22, you began at Marvel assisting Sol Brodsky on Marvel's British
weeklies around Halloween 1972. What exactly did you do with those
books?


Tony: I forget what my title was, but I designed the
covers with whoever was doing the covers at various times (Jim
Starlin, Rich Buckler, Dick Ayers, and others) and wrote the cover
copy...I edited the reprints, which involved breaking them into
5-8-page chapters and writing new splash pages as needed...I wrote
the letters pages, puzzle pages, and other fan pages...I proofread
everything that went into the books...with Sol, I supervised lettering
corrections and the like and the zip-a-tone artists hired to jazz
up the black- and-white reprints...I had long and largely incomprehensible
phone conversations with the British office, who seemed to think
that if we had even one communist villain in the reprints, World
War III would break out immediately.


At one point, just to get relief from those Brit wussies, I
created an entire and entirely evil country called Moldavia or
some such. Their symbol was a lightning bolt in a circle. It
must have been a pretty big country since some of its people looked
like Russians and some looked Chinese.


The other thing I used to have to do with alarming regularly
was speed up the production of the British weeklies to accommodate
the new printers of said weeklies. And there were always new
printers. The press would break down and the British office would
find a new printer in Sweden or something and our deadlines would
be moved up a month. It was hectic, but oddly satisfying.


Digression. Whenever a new British weekly launched, they gave
away some sort of cheap doodad with it. When we launched Spider-Man
Comics Weekly
, that doodad was a Spider-Man mask which would
have certainly suffocated any child that put it on. The only
reason we weren't responsible for the deaths of thousands of British
kids were that the masks were too small and too badly made for
them to actually get them over their heads without destroying
them.


Jon: I understand you also were an assistant editor.
Steve Gerber said that position is really a glorified proofreading
job. Is that true? What books did you work on in that capacity?


Tony: It was hard to keep track of my titles. I was
an assistant editor on some stuff, an associate editor on other
stuff, and, eventually, editor of some black-and-white magazines
and F.O.O.M.


I did a lot of proofreading, but I also did cover copy and
design when Roy was out of the office, as well as some rewriting
when it was called for. There were certain writers whose scripts
needed a lot of work. More often than I would have liked, I was
"asked" to punch up their scripting.


I generally didn't work on the top color comics on a regular
basis because those were being done by writers whose work usually
didn't need much-if any-fixing. I worked on comics written by
out-of- town writers and lots of reprint titles. I enjoyed working
on the reprints more, except when I had to cut pages out of stories
to fit the page count of the book.


After a while, I worked mostly on the mags I was editing (FOOM,
the British stuff, my black-and-white magazines) and the comics
I was writing. I would still pitch in on the other stuff when
there was a deadline problem or something, but, by that time,
we had moved to another floor and larger quarters.


I had my own "office." It was actually just a big
cubicle I shared with Chris Claremont (my assistant) and Michelle
Wolfman, who was Marv's first wife. Michelle didn't work with
me per se-I forget what her job was at Marvel-but her desk had
been in some storage area or something and I let her move in with
Chris and me. She was Aunt Harriet to our Bruce and Dick.


Jon: The first genre you wrote for at Marvel, which
I'm sure will surprise a number of people, were on the horror
comics, and that's the main focus of this part of the interview.
Was this something you wanted to do, or was it just sort of assigned
to you?


Tony: Although super-hero comics are probably my favorite
comics genre, I have always wanted to write all kinds of comics.
I started with horror comics at Marvel because that's where there
were openings at the time. I would have been equally thrilled
to write Sgt. Fury or Rawhide Kid or Millie The
Model
.


Jon: Okay, the first published work of yours that I
could find out about was Dracula Lives number 2. Was that
the first work you did, or was something else done before that,
but published later?


Tony: I'm not sure of the exact sequence of events,
but my first script for Marvel was "Haunt and Run" in
Chamber Of Chills #5. I may have written some earlier
text pieces for the black-and-white magazines, but "Haunt"
was my first comics story for Marvel.


Jon: The basic premise behind Dracula Lives was the
Lord of the Vampires through the ages, and your stories were all
set in the past. Did you know that Jack Kirby had submitted an
idea to DC very much like this? Do you know who came up with
the concept at Marvel?


Tony: I hadn't heard about Jack submitting a similar
idea to DC, but it doesn't strike me as unusual that someone at
Marvel would come up with it as well. Horror comics were doing
well and the Comics Code restrictions on vampires had been lifted.
Dracula was not only the best known vampire, he was also in the
public domain.


The Dracula Lives magazine was already in the works
when I started at Marvel. It sounds like something Roy Thomas
would have come up with. It could also have been Stan Lee...or
even the two of them bouncing ideas for magazines back and forth.


Jon: According to my records, you did quite a bit on
Marvel's Dracula books...although not as much as Marv Wolfman.
You'll have to forgive me, as I wasn't able to track down any
of these comics, and the only reason I've got any detailed questions
on these is thanks to the "Grand Comic-Book Database Project."
There were five issues of Dracula Lives, plus the annual
(which only reprinted two of your other stories) from 1973 to
1975, as well as Giant-Size Dracula #5. The first issue
with your work had an 11-page story, which you scripted over a
Steve Gerber plot, "The Terror that Stalked Castle Dracula".
Was this standard policy at Marvel, to have new writers script
over someone else's plot?


Tony: Marvel didn't have a lot of "standard"
policies in those days. I don't recall why Steve didn't script
the story himself, only that the job was offered to me and I jumped
at it. The "Haunt and Run" story hadn't worked out
to anyone's satisfaction and I was grateful for the second chance.


Ironically, this second chance came about because-between writing
"Haunt and Run" and "Terror"-I had ghosted
a Vampirella story for Len Wein. Realizing from the Vampi script
that I was a much better writer than "Haunt" showed,
Marv Wolfman convinced Roy to give me another shot. I'm sure
Roy would have eventually given me another chance sooner or later,
but, thanks to Marv, it was sooner.


Everyone was happy with my work on "Terror," so I
started getting more assignments. It was an important story for
me.


Jon: You didn't have another story in Dracula Lives
until #5, where you had two stories, "Night Flight to Terror,"
with you scripting over Wolfman plot, and "The Boyhood of
Dracula," a one-page feature you did all by your lonesome.
Then, in issue #6, there was "Shadow Over Versailles,"
which was also completely your own. In issue 9, you only had
a one-page piece, "How To Ward Off Vampires," which
was only one page. Was this a humorous piece?


Tony: No fair. Knutson ask many questions in one paragraph.
Make head of Isabella hurt.


"Night Flight to Terror" was my plot and script from
an inspired idea Marv handed to me. What if Dracula were on
a plane, expecting to reach his destination before dawn, and the
plane got hijacked? I took it from there, aided and abetted by
equally inspired artwork by Gene Colan.


"The Boyhood of Dracula" was one of a couple dozen
one-page "fact" fillers I wrote for all of the Marvel
monster magazines. The idea was that we would slot these in whenever
we came up a page short of our page counts. I bought every "true
stories of the supernatural" book I could lay my hands on
to keep up with this assignment, but the fillers were easy and
fun to write.


"Shadow Over Versailles" is one of the best stories
I ever wrote. I loved the idea of Drac facing the guillotine...I
got to tie it to an earlier Dracula story, which added to the
rich history Marv had created for the Marvel version of the character...and
it was drawn by John Buscema. Definitely a career highlight.


"How to Ward Off Vampires" was perhaps my favorite
of the fillers. It was a goofy idea that amused me greatly.
It may have been one of the last ones I wrote.


Jon: Your pieces for issues 6 and 9 were reprinted in
the 1975 Dracula Lives annual. Did you get paid again for those
reprints? I know this is fairly early in the history of the industry
to start paying for reprints, but...


Tony: No, I didn't, nor was I sent contributor copies
of those annuals. But that was the industry standard at the time.


Jon: Then you were absent from that book for a time...
returning in issue 13 with "Bounty for a Vampire," which
was the lead story in that issue. Just a month before this, you
had a story in Giant-Size Dracula called "Dark Asylum,"
which was your plot, and David Kraft scripting. Given your start
at Marvel, did you see this, in a way, as your "arriving,"
in that you were supplying a plot for a new writer?


Tony: "Bounty For a Vampire" is another of
my all-time favorite stories. I pitched it as "Dracula Meets
Jonah Hex" because I wanted it to be drawn by Tony DeZuniga,
who had just started doing some artwork for Marvel. I got away
from the high concept when I actually plotted the story, but I
think it still retained the gritty feel of the earliest Jonah
Hex stories.


Jon: The next title you worked on, chronologically speaking,
was Chamber of Chills #5, with a story called "Haunt
and Run". You were in pretty good company there, sandwiched
between new stories by Larry Lieber and Don McGregor. Do you
remember what this story was about?


Tony: As mentioned earlier, this was actually my first
script for Marvel. It was about a drunk hit-and-run driver and
his equally drunk wife. Every time they try to exit from the
freeway, they are haunted by the ghost of the girl they struck
and killed. They can never get off the freeway, condemning them
to an existence of endless travel and rest stop food. I originally
conceived it as a black comedy, but that idea went away pretty
quickly when I was told I only had three pages to work with.


The plot was given to Paul Reinman, who had been drawing comics
for DC, Marvel, and other major companies since the 1940s but
who was, at this point in time, well past his prime. I literally
froze when I had to script his penciled pages. It took me over
a week to write them and what I turned in wasn't very good. If
you don't consider how long it took me to do the script, I guess
my work was acceptable. But it was very far from the kind of
work of which I was capable.


Jon: After this, you did an issue of Creatures on the
Loose, scripting a Thongor story over a George Alec Effinger plot
based on one of the Lin Carter Thongor stories. Were you a fan
of the Carter books before this?


Tony: I'm not sure of the exact timeline, but, yes,
I did script most of a Thongor story over a George Alec Effinger
plot. Roy Thomas did the first few pages, then asked me to finish
it for him. I did it because that's the kind of thing you do
for a guy who gave you your first comics job.


I hated the Thongor books. They were pale imitations of Robert
E. Howard's Conan books except without a great character like
Conan and without a great writer like Howard. If you carefully
read the pages I scripted-which I don't recommend-you'll see
that Thongor does a lot of whining. I was projecting my own pain
at having to work on such a miserable character.


Unfortunately, Marv Wolfman and Don McGregor-my comrades in
comics proofreading-used my having written Thongor as their excuse
to stick me with every issue thereafter. It got a little better
when Steve Gerber took over the strip near the end because I could
get away with spending less time on an issue.


Jon: The next title you wrote for that I want to ask
you about is Tales of the Zombie. Was this the same kind
of premise as Dracula Lives, except with stories all about
Simon Garth throughout his history, or were there other Zombies?


Tony: The original Simon Garth story-"Zombie!"-was
written and drawn by the

legendary Bill Everett for one of Atlas/Marvel's 1950s horror
comics. I think it was Menace.


Roy Thomas had either read the story as a kid or discovered
it as an older comics fan, but he made it the basis for the lead
in Tales Of The Zombie. That magazine had a different premise
than Dracula Lives. Each issue would have a 20-page-plus story
featuring Simon Garth and a handful of shorter non-series stories
involving voodoo and other zombies. We got a lot of mileage out
of what seemed on the surface to be a fairly limited premise.


Jon: One thing I've noticed, looking through the listings
of these Marvel Magazines is the number of people who wrote stories
for them...was everyone at Marvel expected to write stories for
these, or was it just a select group?


Tony: No one was expected to write for them. However,
even the writers with regular assignments could squeeze the shorter
tales into their schedule...or enjoy the change-of-pace they offered...or
use that extra paycheck they represented.


Jon: Your first story in Tales of the Zombie
was in issue #2, called "Voodoo Unto Others." That's
a great title.


Tony: "Voodoo Unto Others" was one of several
stories I pitched to Gold Key comics for their mystery books before
the Marvel magazines got rolling. The editor-I think it was Wally
Green-had told me that he wanted stories aimed at pre-teen boys.
So I came up with some stories featuring pre-teen boys. I thought
they were exactly what he was looking for, but he didn't like
any of them. He never did explain why he didn't like them, so
I didn't pursue working for Gold Key any further.


Within a short time, I was writing for Marvel and, at some
point, a script was needed for Win Mortimer, a long-time comics
artist and a really sweet guy. I pitched "Voodoo Unto Others"
to Roy and knew I had a sale when he chuckled at the title. I
wrote the story in one night...full script...and we gave it to
Win, who did a really nice job on it. He even went out of his
way to complement me on my story. Unfortunately, I never got
another chance to work with him, though he did draw Spidey
Super Stories
for a while.


Jon: Then, in issue #3 was "Warrior's Burden."


Tony: "Warrior's Burden" was already completely
drawn when Roy asked me to script it. There was no plot, so I
shuffled the pages around a bit until they made some kind of sense
to me. Then I grafted this "eternal warrior" character
onto the story. I figured that if the concept of a hero being
reborn over and over again proved popular with the readers, we
would have this faux-series that we could run from time to time.


Jon: Issue #4, it looks like you took a little bit of
a break, as "Courtship by

Voodoo" is only one page. In issue #5, you had "Voodoo
War."


Tony: "Voodoo War" was started by Syd Shores,
who died after drawing the first two pages. Dick Ayers finished
the story and did a fine job, but I dropped the ball on the script.
In fact, after the story had been lettered, I pulled it back,
rewrote it, and paid the letterer to re-letter most of it. In
retrospect, it's an okay story, but I could and should have done
better.


Jon: You made a major return in issue #9, with two stories.
"Was He a Voodoo-Man?" was a one-pager, which some
believe was the story of Papa Doc Duvalier. Then, there was a
virtual magnum opus for this book, a three-part story with Simon
Garth. The chapters were called "Simon Garth Lives Again,"
"A Day in the Life of a Dead Man," and "The Second
Death Around." The middle chapter was scripted by Chris
Claremont over your plot. The last issue of the magazine was
#10, and given that I didn't see any multi-part stories in the
same issue before, it looks to me like this story was intended
to be serialized over three issues, but someone knew the book
was being canceled, so it had to run all at once. Was this the
case?


Tony: That three-part Simon Garth story was intended
to be the conclusion of that character's story. Sales on the
magazines had slipped and the issue it appeared in was supposed
to be the last issue of Tales Of The Zombie. Of course, something
went snafu and it turned out to be the second-last issue of the
magazine.


The story was a deadline nightmare for reasons I can't recall.
I wrote the first and third chapters while Chris Claremont, then
my assistant, wrote the middle one. I had stepped down as editor
of the magazines by then, but, when the third chapter suddenly
went missing, I rewrote it in a single day and then supervised
the art and production on it. I think that last chapter was produced
over a weekend at the otherwise deserted Marvel offices.


Even with all the hassles, I thought it was one heck of a story
and always regretted that it got undone one issue later. Had
it been my editorial call, I'd have filled that last issue with
non-series inventory material. Marvel had plenty of it.


Jon: I understand there was a great gag pulled by Marie
Severin when you were working on Tales of the Zombie?


Tony: Every editor has his own, let's call them, "quirks."
One of mine was that I didn't like the "injury to the eye
motif," as it has been so charmingly dubbed it in the Overstreet
Guide. Somehow, one such scene slipped through my editorial defenses.


It was in a Simon Garth story, a fill-in by Doug Moench and
Alfredo Alcala. The scene, lifted from an old horror movie, had
an elderly woman looking through the eyes of a painting from an
hidden passage within the wall. Someone stabs two swords through
the eyes of the painting and into the woman's eyes. The artwork
showed the swords going into her eyes.


I asked Marie Severin to redraw the panel so it showed an extreme
close-up of the woman just before the swords enter the frame.
As the next panel showed the swords sticking out of the painting
from the other side of the wall, which I thought allowed the readers
to imagine the injury rather than see it. Even beyond my distaste
for "injury to the eye," I've long believed it's more
effective to let one's readers/viewers use their imaginations
rather than to push their faces right into the gore.


Marie made the correction as I corrected, doing a marvelous
job of duplicating Alcala's style. However, ever the office imp,
she then drew another panel and lightly pasted it over her correction.


It showed the swords coming out of the woman's eye sockets
with her eyeballs on them. When I saw it, I laughed so hard that
I fell out of my chair. In some offices, the sight of an editor
rolling on the floor clutching his sides might be alarming, but
it wasn't all that unusual for the Marvel Bullpen of the 1970s.


To know Marie Severin is to love her.



Jon: Did you enjoy working on the Zombie stories?


Tony: Yes. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to come
up with new twists on the voodoo and zombie themes which, by dint
of the mag's title, were our stock in trade.


Jon: I know you worked on Monsters Unleashed,
but I haven't been able to track down those issues. What did
you do on that title?


Tony: Monsters Unleashed #1: I wrote a text piece
called "Portrait of the Werewolf as a Young Man," which
was a brief overview of the "Wolf Man" pictures made
by Universal in the 1940s. I remember it was a rush job...and
that I had to work mostly from my years-old memories of the films
as they aired on Cleveland television. I didn't write about Abbott
& Costello Meet

Frankenstein because all that I could recall about the movie was
that I didn't like it. I saw it again a few years ago and now
I can't remember why I didn't like it as a relative youth. Memory
is fickle.


Monsters Unleashed #2: As of this issue, I was listed
as a member of the magazine's "staff" with just about
writer-type who worked in the offices and a couple who didn't.
I did some proofreading here and there, wrote some house ads,
and may have written some of the copy for the photos that introduced
each story.


In addition, I wrote a photo-laden review of Karloff, a biography
by Denis Gifford. The same ish has a text feature by Martin Pasko
on Karloff's portrayal of the Frankenstein Monster. Since Marty
was a friend of mine from our days in comics fandom, I was probably
the one who gave him the assignment. I was buying similar articles
for Stan's Monster Madness magazine.


Monsters Unleashed #3: I was definitely doing more on
the magazine by this point. Besides the house ads, I wrote the
photo intros to the stories and the letters column. I was credited
as co-writer of "The Death-Dealing Mannikin"; I never
met co-writer Kit Pearson, so I have a feeling that what I did
here was rewrite her script before the story was lettered. I'd
forgotten all about this story...and rightfully so.


I'm pretty sure I had a hand in the text pieces by Pasko (another
Frankenstein piece) and Carla Joseph (on Marvel's new Son Of Satan
comic). Carla was Stan's secretary and Gerry Conway's first wife.
I remember her as a good friend who tried to play match-maker
for me once or

twice.


This issue was a "Monsters Unleashed Feature Page"
which has a Don Thompson review of Playboy's Gahan Wilson and
a brief overview of the Man-Thing's history. I'm guessing I bought
and edited Don's review and wrote the Man-Thing bit.


Monsters Unleashed #4: I'm all over the place, which
befit my new title as "Contributing Editor." The inside
front cover is "They Might Be Monsters," one of the
single-page comics I was writing for all the monster mags. The
artist was Pablo Marcos, who worked with Sol Brodsky and myself.
I wrote most, if not all, of the house ads and photo intros...and
the letters column. Chris Claremont and Martin Pasko had text
features in this issue, but I don't recall if those were my "buys"
or not.


I wrote an 11-page Gullivar Jones, Warrior of Mars, story that
was drawn by Dave Cockrum. It was called "Web of Hate"
and it's one of my early favorites. At the time, one of the editors-not
Roy-gave me a dressing-down because he felt I hadn't given Dave
a detailed enough plot. That's when I started doing virtual panel-by-panel
plots for the artists. I also wrote a short "Gullivar Jones:
First Man on Mars" text piece, which gave me an excuse to
reprint one of Jim Steranko's Gully Jones covers in glorious black-and-white
and to beat the drums for more Gully Jones stories. And I wrote
a review of Ray Harryhausen's Film Fantasy Scrapbook, which had
come out the previous year.


Monsters Unleashed #5: I left my Marvel staff position
for a couple of months for various reasons, so I'm not listed
as a member of the editorial staff in this issue. However, I
wrote the cover story, "All the Faces of Fear," which
starred the Man-Thing and which was drawn by Vicente Alcazar.
Another one of my early favorites and it even tied up a bit of
old continuity.


I also wrote the one-page "Peter Snubb: Werewolf"
filler (drawn by Ron Wilson) and the letters column, which include
a letter from Kim Thompson. I may have also suggested and even
assisted Carla Joseph with her "Monsters in the Media"
text feature.


Monsters Unleashed #6: I back on the "staff"
list this issue along with Alan Gold, who was a friend of Marv's
and who would grow up to be my editor on Hawkman. Oddly enough,
while I remember meeting Alan back then, I didn't know he had
done any actual work for the company. I don't know if I was physically
back on staff here, but I did write the letters page and may have
done some proofreading on some of the features. I also wrote
the one-page "Thunderbird" "true fact" story
for the inside front cover; it was drawn by Ernie Chua. [By the
way, my memory isn't really this good. I have these issues in
front of me as I answer this question.]


Monsters Unleashed #7: I was now the editor of the magazine
and it immediately became the best-selling magazine in the history
of the comics industry...or not. Roy Thomas still worked on covers
with me, but I was responsible for everything else...including
using the inventory that had been purchased by Roy and Marv.
There was a lot of that lying around.


I wrote "The Burning Man" for the inside front cover.
It was drawn by Ernie Chua. And this is where I have to digress
to tell you a sad-but-true story.


I inherited a pile of scripts that had been submitted by a
comics writer who had solid credits in the field going back for
decades. He'd written for EC, DC, and Timely. Unfortunately,
none of these scripts were very good and the person who should
have rejected them hadn't gotten around to it. Instead, he dodged
the writer's calls until he could pass the buck to me.


I "bought" one of the scripts because I thought we
owed it to this writer for this shameful treatment. I talked
to him on the phone at length to explain what I was looking for
and encouraged him to try again. Like I said, this man had solid
credentials in comics. I really wanted to buy stories from him.


The first thing he submitted was a proposal for a series based
on "The Burning Man," which he called...the Human Torch.
The saddest thing about this was that he had written the Human
Torch in the 1940s. The next saddest thing was that this was
the best idea he had for me. I never was able to use him.


Most of the issue was inventory, but, as usual, I wrote the
letters column.


Monsters Unleashed #8: Most of this issue is a blur
to me, which is probably explained by the "late-summer cold"
I talked about in my editorial. I wrote "Monsters From the
Sea" for the inside front cover; it was drawn by Ernie Chua.
I wrote the letters column. I got Steve Gerber to write a Man-Thing
prose story. I reprinted the classic "One Hungers"
by Neal Adams.


I also got screwed over by Rich Buckler on what was supposed
to be my second "Gullivar Jones" tale. He was supposed
to pencil it and, instead, handed it over to a very inexperienced
George Perez, who was his assistant at the time. Worse, in laying
out the story, he had changed my plot into a thing of incomprehensibility.
I hated it more than I can express, but, having advertised the
story in the previous issue, I felt I had to run it. Adding to
my problem was that the feature was way behind schedule. I didn't
have the time or desire to script the story by this time, so I
asked Doug Moench to do it. He scripted it overnight, which was
not unusual for him.


Even with Doug coming to my rescue, the story still had to
be inked in a matter of days. The only inker who would take the
job was my friend Duffy Vohland. He was every bit as inexperienced
as George, but he did the best he could on an absurd deadline.
He was a much better inker than this job would indicate.


Monsters Unleashed #9: This was my last official issue
as editor of the magazine. When Roy stepped down as editor-in-chief,
the place stopped being fun for me. Even so, I thought it was
a pretty good issue to go out on.


The cover feature was the Wendigo from the pages of The Incredible
Hulk. I came up with the basic series concept, but Chris Claremont
wrote the story. I liked his writing a lot.


The inside front cover one-pager was "The Atomic Monster,"
written by me, penciled by Arv Jones, and inked by Duffy Vohland.
Other features included the Frankenstein Monster by Doug Moench
and Val Mayerik, a fantasy story by Moench and artist Don Perlin,
the ever- present letters column (with a letter from Ralph Macchio),
and the conclusion of Gerber's Man-Thing prose story.


Monsters Unleashed-and the rest of the monster mags-were
slumping in sales. My planned remedy for this was to go all-series
with MU. The next issue ad promised comics stories of Tigra the
Were-Woman, the Frankenstein Monster, the Scarecrow...and a "War
of the Worlds" prose story. Alas, it was not meant to be.


Monsters Unleashed #10: There were still "traces
of Tony" in this issue. The inside front cover reprinted
the one-page "They Might Be Monsters" from an earlier
issue. The Tigra story was plotted by me, drawn by Tony DeZuniga,
and scripted by Chris Claremont.


Before I had resigned as editor, I had given some assignments
to Korean artist Sanho Kim, whose work I had enjoyed in the Charlton
ghost, war, and western comics. I'm fairly certain the Doug Moench
story he drew in this issue was one of those assignments.


Monsters Unleashed #11: Nothing by me in this issue.


Monsters Unleashed Annual #1: "They Might Be Monsters"
is printed for a third time. Other Isabella reprints include
"All the Faces of Fear" and "Thunderbird."
And, no, I didn't get a dime for the reprints, didn't even get
a contributor's copy.


Jon: Okay, the next title we're going to look at is
your four-issue run on Astonishing Tales with "It!
The Living Colossus." I understand there's an interesting
story behind this series?


Tony: Supernatural Thrillers #1 featured a great
Roy Thomas/Marie Severin adaptation of Theodore Sturgeon's "It!,"
the swamp monster story to which Solomon Grundy, the Heap, the
Man-Thing, and Swamp Thing all owe their inspiration. Jim Steranko
did an equally great cover for the issue and it was a big seller.
Came the word from on high that Marvel should do a regular "It!"
series.


However, since Marvel was already publishing a Man-Thing series
in the pages of Adventures Into Fear, no one thought we
should do yet another swamp monster mag. Roy and I started looking
for something else we could call IT!


Looking over the sales figures for recent issues of Marvel's
giant monster reprint books, we discovered the issues which reprinted
the "Colossus" stories by Jack Kirby sold much better
than other issues which had been published around the same time.
We decided to make the Colossus our new "IT!" and launch
the new series in Astonishing Tales.


Jon: What kind of help did Marv Wolfman and Don McGregor
provide you?


Tony: As I recall, they mostly provided mocking derision.
Seriously, we were usually supportive of what each other was
doing, sort of the comics equivalent of "enabling."


Jon: What did you add to the original Colossus stories
for your own four-issue run?


Tony: My first proposal for the series was much different
from what would actually appear. In that, the special effects
man and the actress from the original stories had been married
for a while and had two kids: a girl, 12, and a boy 10. It was
my intention that any one of them could project their consciousness
into the Colossus statue and bring it to life.


Roy didn't care for that concept, so we went with some tried-and-true
Marvel concepts: the handicapped hero and the woman he loves from
afar. It wasn't blindingly original, but it was a good basis
for the series. After that, it was mostly a question of filling
in the supporting roles: the best friend, the boss, and the vicious
co-worker.


Being a big fan of the Godzilla movies, I also added other
pre-hero Marvel monsters to the mix. I eventually wanted to write
a Marvel Universe version of Destroy All Monsters.


Jon: Dick Ayers drew all four of your It! stories.
What was he like to work with? Were you working completely Marvel-style?
Did you provide a written plot, or was it given over the phone,
or did you work it out in-person with the artist?


Tony: It was a honor working with Dick Ayers, one of
the original "big four" artists of the Marvel Universe.
However, I don't think Dick was at his best here. He wasn't
being treated very well by Marvel and it was showing in the work.
He was being passed over for young artists who, quite frankly,
weren't that much better than him, if they were better than him
at all. All the same, I was and am a big fan of Dick's art-and
love him and his wife Lindy madly-and would relish the chance
to work with him again.


I wrote full scripts for the IT! series. Dick was doing the
full art and the lettering on the stories, so it made sense for
me to do it that way.


Jon: One thing you did with It! very quickly was reduce
him in size from 100 feet tall to 30 feet tall. Why did you do
this?


Tony: So other characters would be better able to interact
with him. I'm not sure I would do that today.


Jon: Before we get into each issue, I've just got one
question...how the heck did the Colossus fly, anyway? He's a
30-foot tall stone creature, no wings or jets!


Tony: Ready for some pseudo-science? When the aliens
who first brought the statue to life merged with it, they created
a sort of "mental" nervous system. That's how a statue
was able to move as if it had joints and such: mind over matter.
They were able to utilize the mental energy which "powered"
the statue in many different ways and flying/telekinesis was one
of these. When the aliens vacated the statue, they left the mental
nervous system in place. That's why Bob O'Brien was able to bring
the statue to life and duplicate what the aliens had been able
to do.


Jon: Okay, issue 21 opens with a great Gil Kane cover
with the Colossus rampaging, then we go inside, and we get that
great "Silver Agey" artwork from Dick Ayers. You introduce
the core characters right away, working at a TV studio on "Star
Lords." Did all these characters appear in the original
Colossus stories?


Tony: Bob and Diane were in the second Colossus story,
though Bob didn't get his last name-a tribute to stop motion animation
genius Willis O'Brien-until the series. The other new characters
and situation were of my creation.


Jon: I've got to ask you about one panel, in which the
main character, Bob O'Brien, tells Dorian Delazny that he's developed
a new kind of special effects similar to those used on "King
Kong," but more advanced. Were you referring strictly to
stop-motion animation, or were you going for something more like
Harryhausen's "Dynamation" process?


Tony: I was going for something non-specific. I figured
that, sooner or later, these special effects would figure into
a story and I didn't want to nail them down until I needed them.


Jon: Bob O'Brien is crippled in this first story, after
being hit by a studio light from his rival Grant Marshall, and
Marshall gets away with it! If It! became a regular series, did
you plan to have his role revealed, and be punished for it?


Tony: Yes. Just before the end of the AT run, I introduced
the character who would have brought Marshall to justice. He
was a seedy-looking private detective. In reality, he was an
extraterrestrial walking among us to protect us from other hidden
extraterrestrials. He was based on a character and concept from
one of the pre-hero Marvels, and also something of a tribute to
the early J'Onn J'Onzz stories in Detective Comics, before he
started fighting crime openly as the Martian Manhunter.


I hadn't completely made up my mind on this, but I was also
toying with the idea that Marshall was an extraterrestrial. I
like having options as I write my stories. I figure if I can
surprise myself, I can surprise the readers as well.


Jon: Okay, Dr. Vault appears here, as he does throughout.
Did you create Dr. Vault, or did he appear elsewhere before this?


Tony: I created Dr. Vault and this was his first appearance.


Jon: Later in the same issue, the Colossus saves some
children from a burning building. Was this a tribute or homage
to Mighty Joe Young?


Tony: I certainly hope so. I wasn't even *trying* to
be subtle with that scene.


Jon: There was no letter column in issue 21, which is
pretty unusual... as I recall, in the anthology magazines, the
first issue of a new feature almost always had a text piece on
the letters page telling a little bit about the creators and the
series, but it wasn't here. Do you know why?


Tony: Since the letters column would have been part
of the editorial page count, my best guess-memory fails-is that
the new story and the reprint didn't leave any room for a text
page.


Jon: In issue 22, you brought back the gargoyles from
Where Monsters Dwell #1, and even used some of those original
story panels in flashback. I've noted that a lot of the monster
titles had a short new story in the front, with a reprint in the
back, but this was something different. Whose idea was that?


Tony: This was my idea. We were only budgeted for 15
pages of new story. By using the reprinted panels, I could expand
the page count of the IT stories while including back story which
would otherwise have eaten up some of those new pages.


My aim was to give the readers as much "new" material
as possible. I didn't get paid for writing the "reprint"
pages and the Marvel production department did whatever art corrections,
lettering, and paste-ups were required on the pages. In retrospect,
I made a lot of extra work for them, but they never complained.
Like me, they all wanted to give the readers the best comics
they possible could within the limitations of the day.


Jon: The Capitol Records building was very prominent
in this issue. Did you plan on this, or was it Dick Ayers' idea?


Tony: It was my idea. It's yet another homage to all
those great "giant monster" movies in which the star
critter would do some damage to a recognizable landmark.


Jon: Okay, in issue #23 you brought back Fin Fang Foom,
probably the greatest of the Marvel giant monsters. Was there
really that great a demand to bring him back? You also used a
few pages from the original story to introduce him, right?


Tony: I really wanted to bring Fin Fang Foom back.
Does that count as a "great demand?" And, yes, I did
reprint some pages from the first Fin story in this issue.


Jon: There's a caption on the first page with Fin Fang
Foom in which Dr. Vault

says "No doubt his actual size has been exaggerated."
Was this statement in

there just to bring him down to It's size?


Tony: Your assumption that Dr. Vault's comment was intended
to bring Fin down to

the same size as the Colossus is correct.


Jon: There's a great full-page shot of It! on page 18,
swinging his fists at the flying gargoyles. I'm reminded very
much of The Amazing Colossal Man in this picture... do you think
Dick used a photo reference from that movie or its sequel for
this page?


Tony: You'd have to ask Dick if he used a photo reference
from The Amazing Colossal Man in drawing the story.


Jon: When Fin Fang Foom enters the battle with It! and
the gargoyles, I was reminded of some of the best of the Japanese
monster movies, with Godzilla joining in with one of his monster
buddies to battle Ghidrah or one of the other "evil"
monsters. Was this what you were going for here?


Tony: Yes. Godzilla rules!


Jon: The story continues into issue #24. Dr. Vault
brings Fin Fang Foom to defeat It!, so he can put his mind into
It's body; any reason why he couldn't have taken FFF's body, aside
from the fact the series was called "It! The Living Colossus"?


Tony: The aliens who originally brought the Colossus
to life created a "mental nervous system" within it
and that's what allowed them to enter and control the statue.
The statue is a mindless receptacle waiting for a mind to occupy
it, which was hardly the case with Fin Fang Foom.


Jon: In issue #24, there was a shake-up of sorts with
the art team, with Larry Lieber helping out Dick Ayers on the
pencils, and Vince Colletta on the inks. Why was this needed?
Was Dick just behind on the deadlines? What did you think of
Colletta's inks? To my eye, Vince's inks really muddied up the
look of It. I didn't care for it at all.


Tony: This story was drawn during a period when Dick
wasn't at his best and the feeling was that IT needed even more
of a Kirby look. So Larry Lieber added considerable detail to
the finished pencils in an effort to achieve that look. Had IT
continued, Larry would have been the new penciler.


Given the nature of IT, I think Vince was an unfortunate choice
to ink the issue. I thought he did a good job, but it wasn't
really the right style for the genre.


Jon: The battle between Fin Fang Foom and It in this
issue; was this your tribute to King Kong Vs. Godzilla?


Tony: Homage-wise, it was about half all those Godzilla
movies where he teams up with Mothra and Rodan to save the Earth
and half a goof on Marvel Team-Up. I called it Monster Team-Up
and I kind of recall that Roy and I had maybe a two-minute conversation
about actually doing a book with that title...teaming up different
Marvel monster characters in each issue...before we realized what
a monumentally stupid idea that was.


Jon: If you'd been able to continue with It! after this,
what would you have done? Are you still interested in writing
the character?


Tony: Next up would have been a three-issue story pitting
the Colossus against one of the Asgardian storm giants and featuring
some sort of guest appearance by Thor. This might have been something
Larry and I came up with together...he because he wanted to draw
Thor and the storm giant, me because I wanted to see if I could
write Thor to Roy's satisfaction. I'm not clear on the details.


That would have been followed by a bout with Goom and Googam,
the father-and-son alien invaders who had appeared in a couple
of the pre-hero Marvels. In typical Marvel alliteration, I would
have called them...the Family of Fear!


Either during or right after these stories, the Grant Marshall
sub- plot would have been resolved. I never intended for that
character to be part of the series indefinitely.


And, of course, I would be interested in writing the character
again. You never forget your first.


Jon: Jumping over to Vampire Tales #3, you had
a one-page story called "Vampires In Time and Space."
Then, in issue #4, you had two stories, "The Drifting Snow,"
based on a short story by August Derleth, and "Lilith: The
First Vampire." Issue #8 had a one-pager by you, "The
Heart Devourer." Finally, issue 9 had another one-pager,
"The Vampire of the Inn." Anything you can tell me
about these stories?


Tony: "The Drifting Snow" was a full-script
adaptation of a short story by August Derleth. It was brilliantly
drawn by Esteban Maroto. In a recent book (British) on horror
comics, it was called the best horror story ever to appear in
Marvel's black-and-white magazines. I'm not sure I'd agree with
that assessment, but the story is one of my personal favorites.


The one-pages were more of those "true facts" filler
pages I wrote for Marvel's black-and-white mags. It was not unusual
for me to write three or four of these in an evening.


Jon: The next title I'd like to talk with you about
is Ghost Rider, which you had a pretty decent run on, starting
with issue #6. Your first issue introduces the second Zodiac,
just two months after the Avengers put away the first Zodiac for
good. Was the second Zodiac the Gary Friedrich's concept? If
not, what was the concept Gary was credited with?


Tony: Yes and no. As near as I could figure from the
penciled artwork-I never saw any written plot for Ghost Rider
#6-Gary's "Zodiac" was some sort of assassin with a
large wardrobe. To be honest, there really wasn't much of a story
going on in those pages.


When I was asked to take over the title, the first thing I
did was to rearrange those pages into what I hoped would be a
more coherent and interesting story. I also decided that the
concluding issue of the storyline would tie this "new"
Zodiac into the group which had been fighting the Avengers.


So, in this case, "concept" means that I used pages
which had been penciled from a Friedrich plot and turned them
into my own story. Both Friedrich's story and my own featured
a villain named Zodiac who used multiple identities for his crime,
but his was "secular" and mine was "supernatural."


Jon: At this point in the comic, Johnny Blaze turned
into Ghost Rider at night, kind of like when Bruce Banner would
turn into the Hulk in the early days of that comic. Did you like
this idea, or were you more interested in changing when the transformation
would occur?


Tony: I thought the "changing at night" stuff
was trite, but I was going to live with it until-much to my delight-the
ongoing storyline evolved and allowed me to get away from it.


Jon: Issue 7 continued the Zodiac story, and the Stunt-Master
is reintroduced from Daredevil. Why did you bring back this character?


Tony: He had things in common with Johnny Blaze-he was
a motorcycle guy with a checkered past who lived on the West Coast-so
I thought he would work well as an occasional guest star. He
also helped me tie the title more firmly to the rest of the Marvel
Universe, which is something I felt would be good for the book.


Jon: You revealed the second Zodiac was just one person,
Aquarius, given the power by the demon Slifer to change into any
member of the Zodiac. What made you choose this Zodiac member?


Tony: I have no idea. I mean, I might have had a reason
at the time, but I can no longer recall what that reason was.


Jon: You had a very clever ending in this story. Slifer
gave the fatally-ill Aquarius a year to exact his revenge using
his new power, but he only gets weeks, because he turns into each
member of the Zodiac...12 signs equals one year. Do you remember
where that idea came from?


Tony: I started with the premise that Satan never plays
fair, as was true with Johnny Blaze's deal, and then figured out
how he could cheat Aquarius.


Jon: Issue 8 starts with Satan making an appearance,
taunting Johnny, but he can't steal Johnny's soul because Blaze
thinks of his girlfriend, Roxanne, who is too pure for Satan to
deal with. Pages later, Satan manages to accidentally cause Roxanne
to tell a lie. This is all part of the Devil's plan to make her
less pure, and he even brings her to Hell, causing Johnny to want
to seek Damian Hellstrom's help (which he never gets around to).
While Rocky's in Hell, Satan shows her some pretty nasty stuff
concerning her father. This is all pretty heady stuff! Did you
take any heat from anybody for this.


Tony: Not really. From the issue I started writing
Ghost Rider, the mail was overwhelmingly favorable and became
more so as I included more Christian concepts and images into
the stories. The first serious objection came from Jim Shooter,
who, sadly, was able to derail a two-year storyline in its final
chapter. But I suspect we'll get to that a bit later in this
interview


Jon: In the same issue, Slifer is transformed into Inferno,
where he confronts the Ghost Rider, and sends waves of fear to
turn innocents against GR. Meanwhile, Satan tells Rocky that he
has her father's soul, and must give up protecting Johnny Blaze
to save her father. The story continues into issue #8, where
Ghost Rider takes great measures to try to keep from harming innocents.
One would think this alone would be enough nobility to keep Satan
from taking his soul.


Tony: The way I see it, Johnny Blaze put himself into
Satan's power when he accepted the devil's deal to save the life
of Roxanne's father. However, as my later issues would prove,
and as my last issue would have made crystal clear had Shooter
not butchered it, it was always in Johnny's power to beat the
devil and gain salvation.


Jon: Rocky renounces her protection as a result of Satan's
handiwork, causing Satan to rejoice. There's a line Satan says,
"I'm the Devil, Miss Simpson. Everything I say is a lie,
including that." Johnny loses his powers and the flame-bike,
but still retains the Ghost Rider appearance. Then, Satan shows
up to personally claim Johnny's soul, and things look bad... very
bad indeed. That's when "The Friend" shows up, and
puts things right. "The Friend" is Jesus Christ, right?


Tony: Depends. In my mind, yes. In Shooter's, he was
a figment of the devil's imagination, a demon sent to torment
Johnny Blaze in spite of all the canonical evidence to the contrary.
You know, it's been over twenty years, but I'm still bitter about
Shooter wrecking one of the best extended stories I ever wrote.


Jon: There's an interesting letter in issue 7 from Neal
Meyer, saying that the only person who could stand between Johnny
Blaze and the Devil is Jesus Christ. Did this letter serve as
an inspiration for "The Friend," or was that already
plotted out before this letter?


Tony: The inspiration came from Steve Gerber. I had
been wondering out loud how I could save Johnny from Satan and
Steve half-joked that I should have God save him. Being a Roman
Catholic and having a couple of close friends who were kind of
born-again Christians, I opted to go with Jesus Christ.


The story was almost certainly conceived before I read Neal
Meyer's letter, but it wouldn't surprise me if I ran his letter
because it foreshadowed what I'd already planned to do. That
would've been just like me.


Jon: When you submitted the story, was it clear to Roy
Thomas who the friend was? Did he have a problem with this?


Tony: It was clear to Roy Thomas, who approved it and
had no problem with it. It was clear to Len Wein, who approved
it and had no problem with it. It was clear to Marv Wolfman,
who approved it and had no problem with it. Three editors, three
approvals.


Jon: I'm missing issue #9. Can you tell me a little
bit about that issue?


Tony: That's the rarest issue of them all. It's the
one in which I first introduced Wolverine, the Punisher, Gambit,
Rogue, Spawn, Pokèmon, and a game show called Survivor
in which Johnny Blaze was voted off the island by a thinly-disguised
version of Jerry Springer. It's so hard-to-find that none of
the guides list its actual contents. The guide publishers are
buying up all the available copies. When they have them all,
they will start selling them for thousand of dollars each. They've
gone so far as to seed the back-issue market with copies of a
bogus Ghost Rider #9, in which Ghost Rider battles Inferno, Satan
tries to grab Ghost Rider's soul, the "Friend" saves
Ghost Rider, and Roxanne Simpson leaves to visit her uncle Homer.


Jon: Was issue #9 the last Jim Mooney art issue? What
was Jim like to work with?


Tony: Yes. He was a solid professional in every way.
He drew well and he told the story well.


Jon: Issue #10 was a reprint of the first Ghost Rider
story. Do you remember why the fill-in was needed?


Tony: All too well. Sal Buscema had done very tight
layouts from my plot for "The Desolation Run" (which
ended up appearing in Ghost Rider #11). I had scripted
the issue and it had been lettered. That's where the problems
stated.


The finisher was supposed to be Bill Draut, a terrific artist
who had worked with Joe Simon and Jack Kirby on Black Magic and
many other classic comics. Most recently, he had been drawing
stories for Joe Orlando's mystery titles over at DC.


For some reason, Draut wasn't getting work or enough work from
DC. He came to Marvel and we all thought his style would work
well on Ghost Rider. What I didn't know was that Draut was going
through some serious personal problems. I won't speculate on
the nature of these problems, but, whatever they were, we never
received even a single page of finished artwork from him. Worse,
he didn't return any of the penciled and lettered pages either.


Out of desperation, I grabbed the biggest assistant editor
I could find-Scott Edelman-and took a taxi to where Draut lived.
Where he lived was some sort of enormous welfare hotel in Hell's
Kitchen. The cab driver refused to wait for us. He said he would
circle the block for ten minutes and then he was out of there.
I was usually too stupid to let stuff like that scare me, but,
this time, it did. When Draut refused to answer his door, we
returned to Marvel empty-handed. I figured a reprint issue was
a small price to pay for my and Scott's lives.


If memory serves me correctly, Mike Esposito, Frank Giacoia,
and John Tartaglione had to ink the issue from Xeroxes of Sal's
layouts and on vellum overlays. The lettering had to be redone
and pasted down onto the overlays. What a nightmare.


We never heard from Draut, but the post office eventually returned
one of the two packages of layouts he had been sent. He had never
picked them up. Naturally, the package arrived weeks after we
had sent Ghost Rider #11 to the printer.


Jon: Ghost Rider #11 lists Len Wein as editor. Can
you tell me the differences between his editing style on the book
and Roy's?


Tony: My good friend Len was way too anal retentive.
I love the guy, but he'd get these strange ideas in his head.
Like claiming Luke Cage didn't have super-strength. Or that
the Gentleman Ghost shouldn't be portrayed as supernatural in
origin even though the character's creator Robert Kanigher had
established that himself. You'll love my Champions/Len stories
when we get to them. (Note: These are stories that if I ever
track down where I saved the rest of the interview, I'll run them.)


The only problem I ever had with Len on Ghost Rider
was more comical than anything else. He was upset that I had
Ghost Rider defeat the Hulk in "The Desolation Run."
Len was writing the Hulk title at that time. To appease him,
I asked Marie Severin to draw a cartoon of the Hulk holding Ghost
Rider's flaming skull and ran it in the Ghost Rider letters
page a few issues later. Just the same, I was really proud of
that Ghost Rider/Hulk battle and how my guy beat Len's guy.


Jon: Slifer/Inferno appears in this issue, too, where
he reveals he's been given the ability to change into human form,
but we never see the human form he took. Was this intentional
on your part, and did you plan a surprise later on showing what
form he took?


Tony: I'm sure I had something in mind, but I can't
for the life of me remember what it was.


Jon: In this issue, you put the Hulk up against the
Ghost Rider. Was this guest-appearance an effort to increase
sales, or did you just like the idea?


Tony: While I certainly hoped the sales would go up,
I had a plethora of reasons for guest-starring the Hulk. He was
a "menace" that needed little explanation, therefore
allowing me to concentrate on Johnny and the other racers. He
was already stomping around that part of the country, so it made
sense to use him that way. And I wanted to tie Ghost Rider
a little closer to the rest of the Marvel Universe.


Jon: This issue was dedicated to Bill Finger... the
giant motorcycle on the splash page should've tipped me off before
the last panel... I take it Bill had died just before you started
work on that story?


Tony: That's correct. My story was a homage to all
the great "Batman and Robin have an adventure with ordinary
people" stories that Finger wrote during his lifetime.


Jon: Issue 12 brings back the Phantom Eagle, who I don't
believe had been seen since his original appearance in Marvel
Super-Heroes
, unless his flashback appearance in The Invaders
came out before then. You were working with Frank Robbins again,
making him the second fill-in artist (Sal Buscema was the first)
since Jim Mooney left the book. Did you know who was drawing
the book ahead of time in these instances?


Tony: Not really. In fact, this story was originally
plotted to be drawn by Herb Trimpe, who'd drawn the first Phantom
Eagle tale and the character's appearance in a Thomas-written
issue of The Incredible Hulk. My story predated The
Invaders
flashback.


Jon: Okay, now for the story in this issue: The Phantom
Eagle has become a real phantom, pursuing Hermann Van Reitberger,
who he'd had a dogfight with during World War I. Von Reitberger
defeated the Eagle back then, and he's getting tired of running.
There's an interesting panel in the flashback in which Von Reitberger
says, "It is the sky who is the killer of us all." That
reminded me of DC's Enemy Ace character. There was no intent
on your part for Von Reitberger to be Enemy Ace, was there?


Tony: No. It was just a friendly tip-of-the-hat to
Robert Kanigher, the creator of Enemy Ace.


Jon: Ghost Rider doesn't really accomplish much this
issue... he doesn't save Von Reitberger, who dies in a rematch
with the Phantom Eagle. So, I've got to ask you... why this story?
Did someone tell you to use the Phantom Eagle, or did you want
to use him?


Tony: Let me answer the first question-"why this
story?"-with one of my own. Does anyone truly win a war?
The hate and loss of war goes on and on. Look at the ongoing
conflicts around the world; most of which involve hostilities
that go back centuries. In our country, look at the continued
display of the Confederate flag more than a century after the
"end" of the Civil War. Battles can be won, but wars
go on and on...and not even a super-hero can win every battle
in which he takes part.


As for the Phantom Eagle, I used the character because Herb
Trimpe was originally supposed to draw the issue. I can't recall
why that didn't happen as planned, but, happily, Frank Robbins
had just come over from DC and was available to draw the story.
I believe it was one of the first jobs he did for Marvel.


Jon: Okay, with issue 13, George Tuska becomes the regular
artist on the book. I've always liked Tuska's work. How was it
to work with him?


Tony: Although George penciled two issues in a row,
he wasn't the book's regular artist. However, he was great to
work with: he drew well and he knew how to tell the story. I
always enjoyed scripting from his pencils.


Jon: Marv Wolfman became editor with this issue. How
would you compare his editorial style to Len Wein's?


Tony: Less anal retentive. Of course, between supervising
the line and writing several books himself, Marv didn't have a
lot of spare time to get too involved with the nuts and bolts
of each title. But, to give him the credit usually claimed by
Jim Shooter, it was Marv who really initiated the fill-in issues
that, while not as preferable as stories by the regular creative
teams, were still preferable to the reprints which had been appearing.


Jon: Early in this issue, Johnny Blaze's transformations
into the Ghost Rider no longer occur just at night. Did this
free you up when writing the book?


Tony: Yes. It allowed for more story structure options,
which is why I made the change. My intention was that he would
eventually have complete control

over his transformations.


Jon: Johnny Blaze gets a job working with Stunt-Master
in this issue, and Karen Page, formerly a cast member from Daredevil,
joins the supporting character roster. Any particular reason
for using Karen?


Tony: Sure. I wanted to build a supporting cast for
Ghost Rider. Since it had been established-in Daredevil-that
Karen was working as an actress in Hollywood and on the Stunt-Master's
show, it made sense to use her in my stories. I'm of the school
that says, "Why create a new character when an existing character
would fill the role just as well?"


Jon: The villain of the issue was the Trapster. Why
the Trapster?


Tony: That was the fanboy in me, pure and simple. The
character captured my youthful imagination when he was first introduced
as Paste-Pot Pete in the Human Torch's solo series in Strange
Tales
and, even more so, when he later made a cameo appearance
in The Avengers. He helped the Avengers find a way to
dissolve Baron Zemo's Adhesive X in exchange for a good word with
the parole board or some such. I thought that was pretty cool.


I also thought it was cool when he upgraded his equipment and
look to become the Trapster. He might have been a super-villain,
but he was clearly determined to become the best (the worst?)
villain he could. You've got to admire that kind of drive.


Jon: Ghost Rider finds replicas of famous landmarks
in the back lot of the studio while pursuing the Trapster, who's
kidnapping Karen Page. All he has to say about this is "Weird."
Was this your idea, or something Tuska came up with?


Tony: It was my idea. I wanted some visual stuff for
Ghost Rider to ride around and even on. Whenever possible, I
tried to work what I hoped would be an interesting motorcycle
stunt into the issues.


Jon: With the new location of a movie studio, were you
tempted to bring in It! or any of the supporting characters from
It! into Ghost Rider?


It was always in the back of my mind, but I knew it wouldn't
happen any time soon. The "It" series was considered
a joke among many of my editor and writer peers and, given its
poor sales performance, I was loathe to use those characters in
Ghost Rider until I had built up that title's sales.


Jon: The Orb returns in issue 14. Any particular reason
why you brought him back?


Tony: Several. He was a cool-looking villain. He had
past history with Johnny Blaze. And, since I was emphasizing
the "super-hero" part of "the most supernatural
super-hero of all," I wanted to give Ghost Rider his own
rogues gallery.


Jon: You have two special guest-stars in this issue:
Wendy and Richard Pini. Were you friends with the Pinis, who were
still a ways away from creating Elfquest at the time?


Tony: Yes. We'd all "met" as members of CAPA-Alpha,
the first and still best of the comics apas. We all loved Wendy
and hated Richard for beating our time with her. Eventually,
we grew to love Richard as well. They were thrilled about joining
Ghost Rider's supporting cast and, contrary to my usual practice
when I write friends into my stories, I didn't kill them horribly.
However, they have had to live their entire lives knowing that
they are copyrighted characters owned by Marvel and subject to
the whims of insane editors and writers. It probably would have
been kinder if I had killed them.


Jon: I wasn't able to track down issues 15 and 16.
Wasn't issue 16 the issue with your "famous" Ventura
Highway spread?


Tony: That was Ghost Rider #15, penciled by Bob
Brown. This was during the period when Marvel was artificially
expanding the page count of its stories by doing the equivalent
of two pages on a single page and blowing it up to fill the two
pages. Nobody other than bean-counters liked this idea, so there
were an awful lot of double-page spreads in the books. This was
one of them.


It was a panoramic shot of Ghost Rider chasing after the Orb
on the Ventura Freeway. Having researched the Freeway prior to
scripting this issue, I proceeded to spend two hours writing captions
which described it in excruciating-albeit brilliantly written-detail.
Then I realized I had managed to bring an exciting chase scene
to a complete and utter stop. So I threw away my brilliantly-written
captions and replaced them with a single shouted burst of dialogue:
"There they are!" Two hours of writing. Three words.


When the editor read the script for this spread, he said something
like: "You sure made some easy money on this one!"


Jon: In issue #17, Katy Milner, who you'd introduced
in issue 14, is possessed, and Johnny looks to Damian Hellstrom,
the Son of Satan, for help. Nine issues ago, he'd thought of
seeking Hellstrom's help, but was distracted by Satan, but he's
successful this time. While waiting for his arrival, Johnny Blaze
thinks about his friends, including "The Friend." However,
this time around, he's stopped wondering who "The Friend"
really is, or no longer suspects he's Jesus Christ. Do you remember
if that was your scripting, or did Marv change that?


Tony: That would have been my scripting. Marv wasn't
a real "hands on" editor in that, once he was confident
in a writer's abilities and that the writer was handling a given
title well, he didn't feel he had to edit just for the sake of
editing. We had our disagreements here and there, but they were
never about the writing.


Jon: The Son of Satan didn't prove to be much help this
issue... in fact, it almost seems like things would've turned
out the way they did without his help. Was he brought in to help
bolster sales of his own book?


Tony: No. If it was logical for a character from another
book to appear in Ghost Rider or any of the other titles I was
handling, and if I could get permission for the guest appearance
from the "editor du jour," then I used the character.
If I had any kind of an actual "sales strategy," it
was simply to write the best stories I could. As master plans
go, it worked fairly well.


Jon: Issue 18 featured the Salvation Run, with guest-stars
galore. The Challenger has Ghost Rider relive his life, through
some of the most important events he experienced, like the death
of "Crash" Simpson, Roxanne's father. During the course
of these experiences, Ghost Rider's able to create his flaming
bike again. It certainly read as though a new direction was being
planned for the book. Was that the case?


Tony: Yes. But, as to the nature of that new direction,
I'll keep you in suspense for another two questions.


Jon: After Johnny battles every super-villain and super-hero
he's ever met, he wonders what all the insanity is going on.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, we find that Stunt-Master has
been behind the stealing of some records, and a new villain, Death's-Head,
commands him to get Karen Page. This was quite a surprise, Stunt-Master
appearing to be a villain! Was this your intent all along?


Tony: Yes. I saw the Stunt-Master as a basically good
man who made some bad choices in his life and, tragically, despite
his success, kept making bad choices. He started out as a villain
in Daredevil, then reformed. I can't recall exactly what I had
in mind for the cross- over with Daredevil-which was intended
to go from Ghost Rider to Daredevil and then back to Ghost Rider,
but I do recall the Stunt-Master wasn't acting completely of his
own volition.


Jon: Issue #19 was your last issue. The Challenger
is revealed as another pawn of Satan, and he tries to get Johnny
to surrender his soul. The Ghost Rider defeats the Challenger,
and returns home. Meanwhile, Stunt-Master has kidnapped Karen
Page, leading to a crossover with Daredevil. But you didn't get
a chance to write the story. Why did you leave the book?


Tony: I left because I had accepted a job as an editor
and writer at DC, but, even if that hadn't been the case, I would
have left anyway after Jim Shooter got through butchering what
was supposed to be the culmination of a two-year storyline. Shooter
changed my story- after it had been completely penciled, scripted,
lettered, and inked because he personally had a problem with my
use of the Friend/Jesus character. This despite my ongoing story
having been approved and supported by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, and
Marv Wolfman...editors and writers whose achievements in comics
easily surpass Shooter's...and despite the overwhelming approval
of the readers at the newsstand and in the letters we received.
Decades after the fact, I'm still angered by the sheer arrogance
of the man and have come to believe that the comics industry is
all the better for his absence from it.


In Shooter's version of my story, the "Friend" turns
out to be some demon in disguise, which, of course, made no sense
to anyone who'd read the previous issues featuring the character.
In my version, Johnny found salvation by accepting Jesus Christ
and reclaimed the soul he had given to Satan. I wrote the scene
as more poetic than religious, but the end result was that Johnny
was now free to begin a new life...and that's exactly what I had
in mind for him.


Had I continued on Ghost Rider, you wouldn't have seen either
Jesus or Satan in the book again. Johnny would have led his new
life according to Christian principles, but without the heavy
religious overtones I'd brought into the book specifically to
bring Johnny to this point. He would have continued his dual
careers: working as a Hollywood stuntman and helping people as
the Ghost Rider. He and Roxanne would have married and had as
normal a life-kids and all- as possible in a super-hero comic
book. I'd always pictured Johnny as a motorized cowboy and this
new direction would have transformed him from Kid Colt Outlaw
to the Lone Ranger.


Jon: Do you have any desire to write Ghost Rider
again? If so, would you be interested in writing the newest Ghost
Rider, or would you bring back Johnny Blaze?


Tony: Sure. Considering how poorly the characters-both
Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch-have been handled over the past several
years, it would be a challenge to do something interesting and
uplifting with either/both of them. And I do love a challenge.


Of course, given the opportunity to write Ghost Rider,
I might also do something completely new and unexpected with the
name and basic concept. I'm nutty that way.


Jon: The next comic you wrote that I want to talk about
is Giant-Size Creatures #1, with Werewolf by Night and
featuring the origin of Tigra the Were-Woman. I really wanted
to track down a copy of this for the interview, but I'll have
to go by memory. I remember really enjoying this when it came
out. I wasn't a fan of the Werewolf, but I did become a Tigra
fan; I even named one of my cats Tigra after her years later.
Anyway, what prompted you to change the Cat into Tigra?


Tony: I had liked the short-lived Claws Of The Cat
comic book and thought it a shame it had never reached its full
potential. I hoped that turning Green Nelson into Tigra would
give her a second chance at stardom. She hasn't made it to that
level, but, at least, she has continued to be a fairly popular
supporting character in the Marvel Universe. The change obviously
did her good.


Jon: You used Hydra in this comic, which I don't recall
you using anywhere else. Hydra's long been one of my favorite
Marvel villain groups. Why did you use them here?


Tony: Because Hydra has long been one of my favorite
villain groups as well. I was leery when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
launched the "Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD" series in
Strange Tales, but I was won over by those green-suited goobers.


Jon: You later did three issues of Marvel Chillers,
featuring Tigra stories. I take it you liked the character, and
wanted to write more. Were you hoping for a regular series?


Tony: It was supposed to be a regular series, but that
was a chaotic time at Marvel. New titles were being scheduled
with the first issues already behind schedule when they were assigned.
The comics market was less healthy than it had been in recent
years, which made it more difficult than usual to launch new titles.
In any case, I'd already decided to leave Marvel for DC, so,
had Tigra continued, it would have been with a new writer.


Jon: Since your last Tigra story, she's been in the
West Coast Avengers, and then on the Avengers animated series.
She's even become an action figure. Did you see any money from
any of this?


Tony: Nope. They didn't even send me an action figure
or copies of any of the comics.


Jon: How do you feel about the way Tigra's been portrayed
since you last wrote her?


Tony: My feelings on her portrayals range from disappointed
to incensed. On the disappointed end of the scale, there are
those writers who can't seem to get beyond the "sex kitten"
angle. Midway, we have the writers who make her a victim or treat
her as less capable than her fellow Avengers. On the incensed
end of the scale, we have Jim Shooter's portrayal of her as a
cowardly slut.


Jon: If you had a chance to write Tigra again, would
you take it?


Tony: Yes.


Jon: How would you write that book?


Tony: Brilliantly? I hate these trick questions.


Jon: In the letter column for Marvel Chillers
5, you dedicated your Tigra stories to Barbara Kepke, "a
Tigress to warm the heart of any Tiger." I take it she's
now Sainted Wife Barbara? How did you two meet?


Tony: You are correct, sir. We met at the wedding of
her Aunt Nora and my boyhood chum Terry Fairbanks. Nora wanted
to fix me up with one of Barb's cousins and sort of badgered me
into asking this other cousin out. I was never so happy to get
turned down for a date in my life because that left me free to
ask Barb out.


Jon: I've also got you listed as writing for Supernatural
Thrillers
9 through 13. These were Living Mummy stories, right?
I couldn't track down any of those, so I'm flying blind here...what
was your take on the Living Mummy?


Tony: I wanted the Living Mummy series to be Marvel's
Swamp Thing. This was back when Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson
were doing the original comic book series. Their book was a nice
mix of adventure, horror, and human interest. Impetuous youngster
that I was, and, in light of the amazing art Val Mayerik was doing
on the series, I thought we could match that quality. Sadly,
at the time, my intended goal was considerably beyond my abilities.
Still, I gave it my best and would be eager to try again...if
I had the right artist and editor backing my play.


I picked up the series from Steve Gerber. My first villain
was the Living Pharaoh, a Roy Thomas creation who had previously
appeared in X-Men. He was followed by the Elementals,
four humans who had acquired god-like powers in ancient times
and were planning to take over the world. Are you pondering what
I'm pondering?


I also added some new supporting character to the series: the
Asp and Oldman. Shamelessly "inspired" by characters
played by Robert Redford and Paul Newman in The Sting, they were
not-very-successful con men who, despite their myriad character
flaws, weren't really bad guys. They were courageous and extremely
loyal to one another. In fact, they were so loyal that I received
a couple letters asking if they were lovers. They weren't, but
I'm glad that the love they had for each other came through in
the comics.


The best issue of my run was probably the one guest-scripted
by Len Wein. I can't remember why I needed the pinch-script at
the time, but Len came through for me and in brilliant fashion.
The plot was mine and involved a desert battle between a female
Israeli soldier and a Egyptian tank. I was real happy with that
one.


I think I did some decent work on the Living Mummy. I got
a little pretentious here and there-I still groan when I recall
the "rat" chapter in one issue-but, overall, there were
a lot of good ideas and writing in those books. Would that I
had been good enough to carry off the story I wanted to tell.


Jon: What about your one story in Haunt of Horror
#4?


Tony: I edited Haunt Of Horror #3 and #4, not
that I had any particular enthusiasm for the title. In fact,
I had to pull out the issues to see what I had done on them.


Haunt Of Horror #3: Most of this issue seems to be inventory
that I inherited from previous editor Marv Wolfman. I believe
the JAD cover painting, probably bought from a European art service,
later turned up as the cover of another publisher's magazine.


The lead feature-Gabriel Devil-Hunter-was this blatant attempt
to cash in on the success of The Exorcist. It was awful stuff
and a real pain in the butt to produce, as witness the multiple
artists on the 17-page story. I probably wrote the "photo
intro" for the story, but it's not very good.


I probably wrote the letters column-the editorial certainly
reads like my work-but it doesn't have that old Isabella zing.
It could be that I had to produce this issue very quickly.


The articles were from inventory. Marv was milking The Exorcist
for all he could. In addition to Gabriel, there are 16 pages
of Exorcist-themed articles. The original comics stories were
also from inventory and there were a pretty sad lot.


In fact, the most memorable thing in the issue is "They
Wait Below" with art by Bernard Kriegstein. It ran four
pages and originally appeared in some 1950s Atlas horror/mystery
comic.


Haunt Of Horror #4: I think I worked with painter Bob
Larkin on the cover of the issue and it ain't half-bad. It showed
Gabriel doing his exorcist thing and pulling a demon out of a
terrified woman wearing a low-cut dress. Prudes that we were at
Marvel, the cover ends where the goodies would begin.


The inside covers of the issue have a Gabriel pin-up by Neal
Adams. It might have been a cover sketch at one time. I don't
know if I bought it or if it was from inventory.


Satana-"the devil's daughter"-moved from Vampire
Tales
to Haunt Of Horror with this issue. It wasn't
my idea, but I didn't object to it either. Like I said, I never
really had any enthusiasm for this particular title.


I wrote "This Side of Hell" mostly to bring some
sort of close to the Satana storyline that had started in Vampire
Tales
. The title came from Paul Kupperberg. I wrote the
story in one evening and, while there's some good writing here
and there, it's not very good. I basically ran over everyone with
a truck and left the story with an ending that the next writer
could either pick up on or ignore. The artist was Enrique Romero,
who would go on to draw the Modesty Blaise newspaper strip. I'll
probably do some time in purgatory for giving such a lame script
to such a great artist.


The editorial was a photograph of me with exotic dancer Angelique
Trouvere, who was the darling of New York comics and sci-fi cons.
She made these incredible costumes and had the attitude and body
to wear them. She's wearing a Satana costume in this issue's
photo. Great costume. Strikingly beautiful woman.


Digression. Angelique and I had planned to do a Satana "fumetti,"
a photo-story starring her as Satana. I wrote the story, but
then discovered we couldn't afford to produce it...even with the
actors working for free. Alas, even the script is now loss to
the ages, having disappeared somewhere along the line.


I think I wrote the letters column, but it's as lame as the
one I'd written for the previous issue. Like the previous column,
this one has a letter from future comics writer Peter Gillis.
It also has a letter from future Eclipse Comics publisher Dean
Mullaney.


The two non-series comics stories were taken from inventory.
One is credited to Jack Younger, which was a pen-name for a guy
named Russ Jones who kicked around the horror and monster magazine
field in the 1960s and 1970s.


There's a Satana prose story by Chris Claremont in the issue,
which I almost certainly bought. Judging from the next issue
ad in this issue, I had assigned the Satana series to Chris.
I thought he was the most promising writer I had.


Finally, there was a Gabriel comics story in the issue. The
story itself isn't much, but I liked the Sonny Trinidad artwork.


Editing Haunt Of Horror was not my finest hour, but
sometimes you have to take one for the team.


Jon: You wrote two issues of Creatures on the Loose
featuring the Man-Wolf, numbers 32 and 33. These were fill-in
issues, right? Once again, you were writing monsters for Marvel.
Did you enjoy writing the Man-Wolf?


Tony: I'm pretty sure these were fill-in issues, mostly
because I can't imagine why I would have wanted to write Man-Wolf
regularly. As I recall, I plotted and scripted one issue and
did something-maybe plot, maybe consult-on the next.


Well, I certainly enjoyed scripting the George Tuska pencils
on the first issue because they were always a joy. Other than
that, the only real enjoyment came from designing the cover and
scenario for the second ish, which showed J. Jonah Jameson pointing
a rifle at his transformed son. To me, that was the only dramatic
element in the series. Unfortunately, JJJ was too important to
the Spider-Man books to play a big role in his son's series.


Jon: Let's talk briefly about Masters of Terror
#1. What did you write for that issue?


Tony: They may have been reprint titles, but Masters
Of Terror
#1 and #2 are two of the best packages I ever put
together for Marvel Comics. I was a sort of "limbo"
editor at the time. I was on staff as a "jack of all trades."
I got a small salary and an office for being available when they
needed me.


Stan, Roy, and Sol all wanted me to keep my hand in as an editor,
so I created and put together these two magazines. They collected
some of the very best comics adaptations of horror stories from
the Marvel comics and mags of the early 1970s. The line-up of
writers was amazing: Theodore Sturgeon, Robert E. Howard, H.P.
Lovecraft, August Derlith, Robert Bloch, H.G. Wells, and Thomas
M. Disch. The comics writers and artists included Roy Thomas,
Marie Severin, Gardner Fox, Frank Brunner, Barry Smith, Esteban
Maroto, Gil Kane, Jim Starlin, Ralph Reese, Jonny Craig, Tom Palmer,
and many others.


For the covers, Gray Morrow and Dan Adkins did paintings based
on Jim Steranko's great covers for Supernatural Thrillers
#1 (It!) and #2 (The Invisible Man). I'm sure there was a good
reason we didn't get Steranko to paint the covers themselves,
but I can't remember what it might have been. In any case, the
Morrow and Adkins jobs were very nice.


The only other original material in these two issues are editorials
by me, an uncredited "Master Pieces" column which offered
mini-bios of the writers, a news/review column by Don and Maggie
Thompson, and a page of monstrous cartoons by Stu Schwartzberg.
The second issue's inside back cover ran a poll asking readers
what they liked about the two issues.


If you can find copies of these two issues, I definitely recommend
buying them. Good stuff.


Jon: You also wrote for Legion of Monsters #1.
Was that intended to be a one-shot thing, or were you planning
to write more issues? What was the concept behind that book?


Tony: The Legion Of Monsters was another of my
"limbo editor" projects. Although we gave the impression
it would be a regularly-published mag, it was a one-shot to test
the market. The creative concept was to do here what I had wanted
to do with Monsters Unleashed: an all-series title. The practical
concept was to burn off some more of the black-and-white inventory.


The Neal Adams cover had Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster,
and a new character-the Manphibian-who looked like the first cousin
of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. With lightning crashing
down in the background and all but Dracula wading in a swampy
stream, I thought Neal did a great job of it. I have this vague
memory of asking Neal to keep Dracula out of the water because
vampires can't cross running water...and of his rolling his eyes
in disbelief at my absurd attention to detail.


The inside front cover is a Frankenstein Monster pin-up by
Pablo Marcos, which we may have used previously. That was followed
by a contents page and my editorial.


Next was a Frankenstein Monster story by Doug Moench, Val Mayerik,
Dan Adkins, and Pablo Marcos. I don't recall why we had two inkers
on the story.


I wrote the goofy subscription ad that followed Doug's story,
but I think it was placed and edited somewhat by other hands.
The ad does indicate Legion of Monsters was supposed to be a
regularly-published mag, but that wasn't my recollection.


The Manphibian was created by Marv Wolfman (who plotted this
first story) and Dave Cockrum (who penciled it). I scripted it
and Sam Granger inked it. It's got some nice stuff in it, but
I think it would have worked better in color and with larger panels.
It was a lot of story for its ten pages.


Don and Maggie Thompson wrote a news/review column for the
issue. They could always be counted on to deliver interesting
copy in a timely fashion.


"The Flies" was a non-series story scripted by Gerry
Conway from art and plot by Paul Kirschner and Ralph Reese. It
was done after Conway and Reese had adapted Disch's "The
Roaches" and I think the two of them had it in their minds
to do an entire series of vermin stories. I may have suggested
one on "editors."


Stu Schwartzberg did a page of monster cartoons. I always
liked to include some humor with the horror stuff.


In Dracula Lives, Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano had been
adapting Bram Stoker's original novel, so that was a logical series
for this new magazine. New Dracula stories would have had to gone
through Marv and he had his hands full with the color comics.
This was the best looking and best-written story in the issue.


To fill the page count, I also ran a three-page "Monster
Gallery" that consisted of a nice werewolf illustration by
Gray Morrow and some sample pin-ups from Hermose D. Pancho and
Pete Lijauco. I'm thinking Pancho and Lijauco were being represented
by Tony and Mary DeZuniga, but I wouldn't swear to it.


There was also a next issue ad in this issue, advertising Morbius
by Moench and Sonny Trinidad, Satana by Chris Claremont and George
Evans, and more of the Thomas/Giordano Dracula serial. But, as
I said, my memory was that the magazine was always intended as
a one- shot to test the market.


Jon: You also assistant edited Marvel's Giant-Size
Chillers
, which I have one issue of. This issue featured caricatures
of you and the editor of the book introducing each tale. Looks
like some of the stories were reprints, and there was some new
material. Can you briefly tell me about this book and what you
did on it?


Tony: I'm a little foggy on Giant-Size Chillers
because I can't find my file copies of one of the two issues I
know I worked on. This was around the time Roy Thomas was stepping
down as editor-in-chief, so it was more chaotic than usual around
the offices.


I do have Giant-Size Chillers #1, which is dated February,
1975. I might have had something to do with the cover artwork,
which was drawn by Larry Lieber, but I don't think the cover copy
is entirely mine. The burst coming from the terrified young lady
running away from a sea monster-and towards a hidden werewolf-is
definitely mine, as is the blurb at the bottom of the cover.


"Featuring more scary stories of macabre monsters and
maddening menaces than you can shake a skull at!" The clincher
is the "shake a skull" line. That was so me back then.


But I wouldn't have given a speech balloon to the werewolf
and the "frightful, fearful 1st issue" blurb isn't mine
either. I'm gonna guess they were added by incoming editor Len
Wein.


Besides the cover, the only material created specifically for
this issue was the two-page framing sequence. I wrote it, Gene
Colan penciled it, and I'm drawing a blank on the inker.


The "new" stories were all from the large inventory
which had been accumulating for the black-and-white horror magazines.
One of them is drawn by Dave Gibbons. I'm fairly sure I wasn't
the editor who bought these stories originally.


As for the reprints, I don't think I selected them either.
But, on looking them over, they were interesting little tales.


I don't think I had anything to do with Giant-Size Chillers
#2, but I'd have to see a copy to know for sure.


Jon: Do you recall whose idea it was to put the two
of you in the comic?


Tony: We're probably talking about Giant-Size Chillers
#3, which must be somewhere in the chaos that is my house, but
I have absolutely no clue where. If the freaking lost ark was
in my basement, Indiana Jones wouldn't be able to find it. Going
from memory, I edited Giant-Size Chillers #3 during the
time when I was a sort of "rogue editor" for Marvel
Comics, working out of one of the back rooms. The issue was to
be all-reprint, but I thought I could generate some good sales
by reprinting more recent "horror" stories by popular
artists and writers


I went to my own files of Chamber Of Darkness and Tower
Of Shadows
, which Marvel launched in 1969 and which were,
to my mind, woefully under-appreciated by the readers of the day.
These were the issues before the titles became, respectively,
Monsters On The Prowl and Creatures On The Loose.
An added bonus was that Marvel would most likely have black-and-white
proofs of these stories at easy access, thus simplifying the production
department's work.


Most-maybe all-of the stories I choose for the book were "hosted"
by various creators. It was a cute twist on the Crypt-Keeper/Old
Witch school of horror comics hosting. I twisted an arm or two
and got the okay to have Marie Severin draw an opening sequence
of poor Tony slaving away in the Marvel dungeons.


I thought it was funny and of a piece with the story intros,
but editor Len thought I was stroking my ego at Marvel's expense
until I included him in the fun. Then it was okay.


I really have to find my copy of that issue.


Jon: Okay, just to wrap up this section of the interview,
how would you characterize your tenure on the horror/monster books?
Did you enjoy your time on those titles? Would you ever consider
becoming an editor again?


Tony: I think I edited some terrific comics magazines
and some good ones and, unfortunately, a few mediocre ones. I
never achieved what I always wanted, which was to hire people
so good that I never had to do any actual work on these titles.
I had my share of professional differences with guys like Len
Wein and Marv Wolfman-I've tried to be fair and honest in discussing
those differences-but I wouldn't want anyone to think I don't
love those guys. I mean, I wouldn't take a bullet for them, but
there are any number of current comics editors and executives
I would gladly push in front of a bullet for them. What are pals
for?


The experience gave me an opportunity to work with many terrific
writers and artists, some of them just starting their careers
and some of them concluding them. Those are memories, both personal
and professional, that I'll always treasure.


Did I enjoy my time as an editor? Yes.


Would I do it again? I cringe whenever I'm asked this question
on account of I know I'm gonna say...yes, I would. I'd want to
do it from my home and I want to be free of the editorial group-think
so prevalent in today's comics, but, yeah, I'd be willing to give
it another go for the right publisher.


Concluding Note: If I ever find where the files on the
rest of the interview with Tony, you can be sure that I'll edit
them together and post 'em here or elsewhere for ya!


Jon

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous5:02 AM

    Zero comments since 2005 on an interview with a very in-the-know guy? Does anyone read your blog?

    ReplyDelete
  2. 2005 was the first year of the blog... even today, with the number of readers I've got, there aren't often many comments -- usually from the same dozen or so people (although that's hard to tell when there's anonymous comments).

    Considering this is just the expanded version of an interview that was already several years old (and previously printed) when I ran this, it didn't surprise me there was no comments.... and I think the sheer volume of posts makes it a major task for newer readers to go back and read what's been posted before!

    Jon

    ReplyDelete

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