By Jason Delgado
If you’ve never heard of him, but if you have read a comic book in the last twenty years, there’s a good chance you know of Mark Waid’s work. Waid has done just about everything there is to do in the world of comics. He started out as an editor for DC Comics in 1987, and since then, he’s been an artist, an Editor-In-Chief, a Chief Creative Officer, and everything in between, but he’s most well-known for his acclaimed writing on the Flash, Daredevil, Superman: Birthright, Captain America, Fantastic Four, Justice League, the Avengers, Archie, Kingdom Come, Irredeemable, Incorruptible, and so much more. If that wasn’t enough, he even owns and operates his own comic book store!
In my opinion, Waid is one of the greatest living comic writers because of the quality and quantity of his work, so I found it quite interesting that he stated during his panels at the recent Long Beach Comic Con that he never even intended to be a writer. He said that he was around so many great writers during his stint as an editor at DC, such as Alan Moore and Frank Miller, that it rubbed off on him and he decided to give writing a shot.
I asked him if there was any character he would still like to write that he hasn’t yet, since he’s done just about every character from both Marvel and DC. Waid said no, except for a longer run on Batman. He has this same discussion often with his editor at Marvel, and struggles to come up with an answer. Waid has never done Iron Man or Thor, and he has no interest in anything mythical. If it has dragons then he’s out, which is why he’s never seen Game of Thrones. He also comically stated that when you start a new run on an established character, you don’t want to follow right after a great writer like Grant Morrison or Kevin Smith, as he declined to do. He suggested that a writer would want to follow after “someone who sucked.”
Mark Waid is no stranger to controversy, and he seemed to be addressing his most recent one when he said that he can understand why big corporations like Marvel and DC don’t want to take a strong political stance. It’s just not good for business. It reminds me of what Michael Jordan once famously said about why he shies away from politics, “Republicans buy Nikes too.” The controversy in question has to do with Waid’s Captain America essay for the special issue of Marvel Comics #1000. The book was about to go to print, when Marvel decided to remove it. They had Waid write a new, less critical, version of the essay, about which he was less than enthused.
Here is a copy of his original version that appeared in a Hollywood Reporter article: “I’m asked how it’s possible to love a country that’s deeply flawed. It’s hard sometimes. The system isn’t just. We’ve treated some of our own abominably. Worse, we’ve perpetuated the myth that any American can become anything, can achieve anything, through sheer force of will. And that’s not always true. This isn’t the land of opportunity for everyone. The American ideals aren’t always shared fairly. Yet without them, we have nothing. With nothing, cynicism becomes reality. With nothing, for the privileged and the disenfranchised both, our way of life ceases to exist. We must always remember that America, as imperfect as it is, has something. It has ideals that give it structure. When the structure works, we get schools. We get roads and hospitals. We get a social safety net. More importantly, when we have structure, we have a foundation upon which to rebuild the American Dream — that equal opportunity can be available to absolutely everyone. America’s systems are flawed, but they’re our only mechanism with which to remedy inequality on a meaningful scale. Yes, it’s hard and bloody work. But history has shown us that we can, bit by bit, right that system when enough of us get angry. When enough of us take to the streets and force those in power to listen. When enough of us call for revolution and say, “Injustice will not stand.” That’s what you can love about America.
Even if you don’t agree with Mark Waid’s views, it’s ironic that a character who only wants the best for America is being censored in the “land of the free.” Adding to the irony, there is a French comic company called Humanoids, under an imprint called H1, that currently gives Mark Waid free range to tackle controversial social issues. His series for H1 called Ignited deals with gun violence, about six teens who return to school after a recent shooting, and use their newfound superpowers for good.
Here is the transcript below of my interview with Mr. Waid:
JD: I love that you’re tackling gun violence in schools with your new H1 series Ignited. What other social issues would you like to explore in other books?
Waid: Honestly, social inequality would be the number one. The rich keep getting richer, and the poor keep getting poorer, and there’s no middle class anymore. I mean even more than climate change, even more than gun violence, it’s probably the biggest existential threat of our times. I would love to tackle that, I just don’t know how to make it visual.
JD: Do you see your new series at H1 as an extension of what Stan Lee was doing in the 1960’s at Marvel (with social issues – i.e. Black Panther, X-men, etc):
Waid: I guess in the sense of trying to be a world outside of your window, or trying to be a little bit more relevant than DC Comics was at the time. I mean, I guess, we don’t deliberately look to that stuff, but at the same time, you’re always standing on the shoulders of the guys who came before you.
JD: Who were your influences?
Waid: Growing up, I came up in the late 60’s, early 70’s, so my influences are Jim Shooter, who I thought was a brilliant writer, and he was a writer at age 13, so screw you Jim. I don’t know what you were doing at 13, but I wasn’t writing comics. And then at Marvel it was Steve Englehart, Steve Gerber, Jim Starlin, those guys because they were the first bunch of Marvel writers who weren’t trying to sound like Stan Lee. Like Roy Thomas did, Archie Goodwin to some degree, they were trying to emulate Stan’s voice, but these were guys who went out on their own and had their own voice, and I really respected that.
JD: Selfishly, would you ever consider writing Iron Fist, since he’s been one of my favorites?
Waid: (laughing) It’s a good character, I don’t really have a feel for it because I mean, I like Iron Fist, but I was never a huge fan growing up. So my taste in characters that I take on tends to mirror what did I really like growing up. The demarcation mark for me is Firestorm. Anything that came before Firestorm, I was a huge fan of, and Firestorm is a great character, but I reached the age of which I wasn’t slavishly following characters anymore. Firestorm is one of the new Justice Leaguers to me. I love what Roy Thomas and Gil Kane did (with Iron Fist), with Chris Claremont and John Byrne later but it’s just not my cup of tea.
JD: Fair enough. What do you think about the Sony dispute with Disney over Spiderman?
Waid: I defy anyone on the planet Earth to say yeah, I’m in favor of that. No one’s in favor of that. Sony is kind of renowned for not always acquitting themselves honorably. I’m sure in a corporate case like this, blame is on both sides. I still have hope that it will iron itself out, and there’s a tiny part of me that hopes this is more a publicity stunt than anything else. Maybe not though, in which case the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. We get FF (Fantastic Four) and X-men back, we lose Spiderman; that would suck. On the other hand, I will say that as much as I’ve enjoyed the Spiderman movies, and Tom Holland is great, it doesn’t feel like Spiderman to me in some ways because Tony Stark has taken the place of Uncle Ben in that mythos. It’s all about living up to Tony’s example, you know, live on for Tony, which is not the case in the Spiderman comics. For instance, Far From Home, I really enjoyed the movie, but I came out of it thinking it didn’t feel like my Spiderman. And that’s okay, everyone has their own Spiderman. It just didn’t feel like mine.
JD: I know you’ve written almost every major character, do you have a favorite? Or is that like picking a favorite child?
Waid: No, Superman is my number one. Superman, Captain America, and the Flash are the characters I could write every day for the rest of my life if I could. Superman is number one; everyone else is a distant second.
JD: What are your favorite comic book, and non-comic related films?
Waid: Number one is Superman: The Movie. Second is Avengers: Endgame. I have a true story, I don’t know if anyone has heard this…. I saw Endgame with the right audience, because I saw it with the Marvel people. So when you get to the final battle, we’re all hooping and hollering, screaming and yelling like it’s the Super Bowl. We’re all going nuts, and the moment where Captain America caught Thor’s hammer, I went so berserk, and this is a true story and I have a photograph to show, after the lights came up, only then did I realize that I literally tore the arm off of the seat. So I snuck it out of the theater now and it’s on my shelf as a reminder of the second greatest thing I’ve seen since Christoper Reeve caught a helicopter. My favorite movies, at any given moment it can shift around but Citizen Kane, as cliched as that is, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Back to the Future are probably the big three.
JD: Do you have anything else you’d like to share with Friends of Comic Con?
Waid: I’m doing Doctor Strange at Marvel, I’m doing an Invisible Woman mini-series, all these things are out right now. The History of the Marvel Universe, which is a beautiful looking book, and it’s exactly what it says, the history of the Marvel Universe from the Big Bang right to the Big Crunch right at the end. We’re halfway through that. Of course I’m doing Ignited over at Humanoids. I want to say there’s something else. I may just be used to doing six or seven books a month, but I’m not right now, which is okay. That’s pretty much it.
JD: I was reading your History of Marvel and I love how you put the prehistoric female Iron Fist on the first Avengers team.
Waid: Thanks, yeah. I’ll be honest with you. I’m getting credit sometimes for things that people are like “oh that’s awesome” when somebody else put it in already, you’ve just forgotten. But there’s a couple of things that we’re sneaking in there. Like every issue I try to sneak in something that is not known, because then it really becomes an important series. There you go sir.
JD: Thank you.
Thanks again to Mark Waid for taking the time out for this interview!