Jim Shooter has had a long and illustrious career in comic books. He began with DC Comics writing the adventures of the Legion of Super-Heroes where he created such characters as Karate Kid, Ferro Lad and Princess Projectra. Not long after he started a much-discussed run as writer and Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics. While at Marvel he wrote the memorable “Korvac Saga” in Avengers, oversaw Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s classic run on Uncanny X-Men as well as Frank Miller’s Daredevil stint and Walt Simonson’s high-profile issues of The Mighty Thor. He was responsible for bringing Marvel Comics into the Direct Market with some exclusive titles only available in comics shops. He eventually left Marvel and founded Valiant Comics where he re-introduced many heroes previously published by Gold Key Comics, such as Doctor Solar, Magnus, Robot Fighter and Turok. Valiant became Acclaim Comics before eventually folding, but Shooter never lost interest in the Gold Key characters. As previously announced, Jim Shooter is now bringing the characters to Dark Horse Comics. Joe recently talked with Jim about what the deal entails and what readers can look forward to.
POP CULTURE ZOO: What makes Dark Horse Comics the right home for Doctor Solar and Magnus?
JIM SHOOTER: I’ve worked at a lot of companies and I can tell you that Dark Horse is the best. The people, from Mike Richardson on down are smart, caring capable, creative and professional. They’re honest, honorable and generous. It’s the right home for anything good. It’s the best comics company. Period.
PCZ: Will the new Doctor Solar and Magnus books adhere to the original Gold Key continuity, the Valiant continuity or neither?
JS: Neither. Mike said he wanted it “all new,” while still being true to the original core concepts. It was difficult, but I think it’s better for the effort. I had to rethink everything. Mike chipped in some great ideas. Senior Editor Chris Warner has been a lot of help, too. I think it’s all coming out very well, but you’ll tell us.
PCZ: Taking a look at the art in the Free Comic Book Day book, I found it interesting that while Dennis Calero gives Solar a clean, futuristic look, Bill Reinhold’s Magnus art hearkens back to the original Gold Key style. Can you talk a little bit about how each artist was chosen for their respective books?
JS: I think Mike suggested Dennis and Chris suggested Bill. They’re both very talented. Fine by me. The Free Comic Book Day Special was our shakedown cruise, the first time we ever worked together, and I believe that Dennis and Bill would cheerfully tell you that my full scripts – always full scripts – are very challenging. But we’ve gotten to know each other a bit, now. Wait’ll you see the number one issues.
PCZ: It has been mentioned that in addition to writing these comics you are also “overseeing” the Gold Key characters at Dark Horse. Can you talk about what that entails?
JS: Mike told me this would be the “most entrepreneurial thing” I’ve ever done. He’s left a lot to my discretion. Mike and Chris help me a lot, though, and consult with me about everything. Chris does most of the heavy lifting with respect to the art and such and backstops me when I have my senior moments. I will be laying the foundation for all the characters in the line and working closely with other writers when we get to the point that there are too many titles for me to write them all.
PCZ: So, there are long-terms plans for Solar and Magnus?
JS: You betcha. You don’t actually think I’m going to spill it all now, do you? Seriously, I write an overview for each arc and a plot outline for each story in the arc before I start the first script. I wrote a forty-page Zero Issue origin for Doctor Solar and a sixty-seven page Zero Issue origin for Magnus before I started on the current continuity, just so I’d have everything solidly worked out in advance. Someday, those Zero Issues will be published, but I really wrote them for myself, to make sure I thoroughly figured out who those guys are and why they’re the way they are. That’s what you do, I think, if you are in for the long term.
PCZ: Are there plans to introduce new stories with some of the other Gold Key characters you’ve worked with in the past?
JS: So far, we have Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom; Magnus Robot Fighter; Turok, Son of Stone; and The Mighty Samson. There are more planned, but I’ll let Mike announce them when it’s time.
PCZ: You brought these characters to Valiant, returned to briefly write them at Acclaim and now are shepherding them at Dark Horse. What is your attraction to these characters?
JS: They’re iconic characters, all of them. Powerful ideas. Magnus, the flesh-and-blood man who battles machines brings to mind John Henry, the steel driving man, the student who stood up to the tank column in Tienanmen Square and the Grandmaster Ludek Pachman who played chess against a powerful computer, and won. Solar is the archetypal atomic, godlike hero, Turok is the very essence of man versus nature gone wild and Samson is the last, best hope of humanity. Wow.
PCZ: Comic Books have changed in tone in dramatic ways over the years since you first began writing. How do you see the state of the industry today and how do you think comics need to evolve in order to continue into the future?
JS: In the sixties, many comics were deliberately playing to younger readers, granted. Stan Lee led the way to changing that.
The state of comics today is that there are many wonderful things being published in a wide variety of genres for all ages. However, there’s also a lot of crap. Many creators these days fancy themselves more sophisticated than their predecessors, but the fact is that too many comics today contain hopelessly confusing non-stories poorly told. Too many recycle the same tired bits and clichés. There are too many Crises du jour, too many over-crossed crossovers, too many trumped-up “events,” too much of what Mark Twain would call “…crass stupidities…played upon the reader….” Many creators today mistake convoluted for sophisticated. There are too many utterly impenetrable books.
Complexity is good. Rich and deep stories and characters are good. Apprehensible storytelling is good. That’s true sophistication.
The way we need to evolve as a medium is for more creators to learn the craft, create better stories and become better storytellers. And be creative more in general.
PCZ: How different is it breaking into comics as a writer today as compared to when you started selling stories?
JS: I wouldn’t say it was easy breaking in back in the 1960’s, but I sold the first thing, and everything I ever wrote. I started out on the top books in the industry—-Superman, Superboy and other “Superman Family” titles. I can’t imagine anything like that happening now, or ever again. I think the competition is much fiercer. I think it’s hard to get noticed among all the clutter. On the other hand, there are lots of small press companies now, easier to get started with, where you can cut your teeth and maybe eventually get noticed by the bigger companies.
PCZ: Looking back at your career in comics, what are you most proud of and do you have any regrets?
JS: I don’t know. I suppose I’m proud that I did some good for creators with regard to rights, benefits, money and opportunity while I was Editor in Chief at Marvel. I regret that I couldn’t do more.
Thank you very much to Jim Shooter for taking the time to answer my questions!