I had the wonderful privilege of sitting down for a quick five minute interview with the legendary Walt Simonson at this year’s Portsmouth Comic Con, here’s what the great man had to say…
Have you been having a good time here so far, how’s it been going?
Yes, we’ve had a great time, we’ve not really seen much of Portsmouth. We have eaten a couple of really good meals, one at a Lebanese restaurant and one at an Italian restaurant, but I couldn’t tell you where they were, all I know is they were within walking distance of the convention centre, or the Guildhall I guess, and our hotel is like two minutes away so it’s been very convenient. The fans have been great, I’ve met a lot of very interesting people, I’ve seen a few oddball books I almost never sign, which is very cool.
You’ve had massive queues all weekend!
Well you know, I do free head sketches, when you do free drawings that attracts a lot of people, but what I do is, I don’t demand this at all, this is strictly up to the fans, I collect money for Hero Initiative, which is a group that raises money for people in my business who haven’t been so lucky, for any number of reasons, older folks or people who have catastrophic illnesses, you know we try and help them out. People have been phenomenally generous as well; you know I’m glad to do them. I am pretty beat today, I will tell you that. We’ve had more interviews since yesterday…I’m tired today!
I’m not surprised you’re tired, but I’d have brought you a coffee if I’d known!
Have you been keeping up with what’s been happening in the Thor universe recently, in the comic world with Jane Foster?
Well, I know Jane, I know of it, I will say that mostly I’ve not seen the book, I just did a cover for I guess her last issue I believe, which is the first time I’ve drawn her professionally, but mostly I found that books that I used to write myself, if I put that much of myself into it, I don’t follow them after I leave them. Partly because I don’t want anybody tied to what I’ve done, and comic books, especially mainstream comics in America, are kind of a social enterprise, or are socially created, so creators come in, take over and do stuff. I kind of liken it to a sandbox, you get to take over your corner of the sandbox, you get to play in it, you get to build your sandcastles, and when you’re done, you gotta turn around and walk away, somebody else is gonna come in and they may kick your castles down and start over and do something else. And that’s the way it should be, but I don’t have to, having done Thor for example as a character, I kinda know what he’s like in my own head and I don’t want anybody else to write him like me, but if they do that’s fine but I don’t demand that.
But it does mean that when I read somebody else’s take on the character, its always kind of in my head where it’s trying to match the stuff together, so mostly I go yeah… It’s okay, I’m delighted, I mean Jason’s done a phenomenal job, and I know he’s very well thought of that and that people have been pleased with his run, which I’m delighted by, and I completely understand making Jane Foster Thor. I am the guy that gave Thor’s hammer to an alien so I do understand the… What you want to do is you want to tell stories that have not been told before and when I was doing the comic it had only been twenty years of continuity, now there’s like forty or whatever Jason had to fight to do.
So I understand trying to find ideas that are fresh and new and different but if you can try and build on ideas that came before which is what I tried to do, so I have not followed the Jane Foster stuff, other than, I read a lot about it on the web, people send me messages, they ask me questions, so I kind of get some of it by osmosis, but I haven’t really been reading the comics, but I was happy to do a cover for the last issue.
You created Beta Ray Bill and Frog Thor, if you were offered the book now, who would you want to give the hammer to?
You know I would probably try and find a different way to go, when I did the book back then I created Bill to be a character who could pick up the hammer, because at that point in the Marvel Universe nobody had, well actually Stan and Jack had Loki pick up the hammer, when he had some extra juice from the Norn Queen, but really that was a lie
That didn’t count!
I totally agree, that didn’t count, I totally ignored that story, it never happened, and so what I would probably try and do is find some other idea, if I could, but that felt like you had not read it before. Because the thing is now, I knew at the time this was letting the genie out of the bottle, lots of people have picked up Thor’s hammer, so that is not a direction I would go in again, I’ve done that, I’ve been there. I will say all the other people that picked up Thor’s hammer, Jane Foster may be excepted although I haven’t read the story so I don’t know, but I know everybody who wanted it, who loved their character, Mark Gruenwald loved Captain America so he had Captain America pick up the hammer, you know Kurt Busiek had Superman pick up the hammer I think in the Avengers crossover, and really those guys are all wrong. I love them dearly but they were all wrong for any number of reasons. Wonder Woman has picked up the hammer, so I would want to actually try and find some other direction; I don’t know that I could after years of the comic, but I would try and find some fresh way to go that would, so at least in the beginning a reader would be reading stories that they wouldn’t know where it was going to come out, where I was going to take it and that would be my, that would be the ideal. I mean in a sense, I do a book called Ragnarok now, I’ve gone back to the Norse myths, that’s my guy (see the picture of Walt’s shirt above), that my new version of Thor.
He’s a big fella!
He is a big fella, it’s a post-apocalyptic world , where Ragnarok has already happened, and Thor wasn’t there so he didn’t die, but all the rest of the gods did, and the bad guys won, and that was story I’ve not read before so I can do that and I can take it in new directions and I don’t feel this ground has been trodden over so many times that it won’t be interesting, so if I went back to a Marvel story, I would try to find something to do with it that hasn’t happened yet, but I don’t know what that would be!