January’s Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy one-shot presented the story of Cyrus Gold, a man murdered in the swamp outside late 19th century Gotham City, only to rise up as the undead monster Solomon Grundy. In the course of the one-shot, Gold was resurrected (now outside present day Gotham), killed, reborn as Solomon Grundy, and then mysteriously transformed back to Cyrus Gold. That’s when the Phantom Stranger and Green Lantern Alan Scott showed up.
Cyrus Gold’s story continues with Solomon Grundy, a 7 issue DC Comics mini-series debuting this week. With each issue corresponding to a day of the week in homage to the 19th century nursery rhyme (“Solomon Grundy, Born on a Monday…”), Solomon Grundy will reveal the origins of the monster’s curse.
Handling both the writing and art duties on the series is Scott Kolins, who since returning to DC Comics in late 2007 has drawn Countdown to Final Crisis, Superman/Batman Annual #2, Brave and the Bold and Final Crisis: Rogues Revenge, as well as covers for many other titles. The last comic book that Kolins wrote? That would be the 2003 B.P.R.D.: Night Train one-shot for Dark Horse Comics.
In this interview Kolins details what readers can expect from the mini-series as well as the anxieties and thrills he’s experiencing as the project’s writer/artist.
Credit Page from Solomon Grundy #1
Keith Dallas (KD): Recently, I read a transcript of a John Byrne interview from 1982, one year after he became the writer/artist on Fantastic Four. He explained that he divides himself into two people: John Byrne the writer and John Byrne the artist, and then he confessed that “John Byrne the writer gets real pissed off at John Byrne the artist.” Do you separate yourself in this way too?
Scott Kolins (SK): Ha! No, that’s not me. I don’t try to separate the two jobs too much. It’s one book. One story. One me. If anything, my artist side is nagging/rooting at my writer side to make sure it’s full of good ideas. My writer side is more nervous – but it’s invigorating too. I’m more stressed about this book, but I’m also more involved and excited! This is what I’ve been trying to get to do since I started making comics. As a kid I didn’t think of the jobs as being separate. I knew people did different jobs, but I always heard about the collaborations. Everyone having fun making the story. So it was always in my mind to figure out the story as well as draw it. And now that I got this chance – I’m enjoying the hell out it!
KD: In all my interviews with you I have never heard you apply the word “stress” to your work. In the past you’ve talked about specific artistic challenges that each project presented you, but you always seemed to tackle these challenges with a confident relish. Now that you’re both writing and drawing Solomon Grundy, you’re labeling your experience as “stressful fun” (seemingly an oxymoron).
Is your stress the product of “performance anxiety”? Are you having concerns about proving yourself as a writer?
SK: Of course! I have 17 years of experience drawing comics, but I don’t have that track record writing. I know I can do the job, but I am “new at this,” so the process is less assured. I had an art teacher who once told me not to figure everything out on the preliminaries before finishing a painting. Leave some things to decide on the final piece to keep it fun and fresh. That’s kind of what this is now.
KD: What part of the writing process is daunting you the most? Plot? Pacing? Dialogue?
SK: They all have their moments for me, but dialogue can be the most tasking. My grammar can be crazy, but at the same time I really don’t want to write dialogue like Bendis or Johns or anyone else out there. Pacing is probably the easiest as that’s directly linked to the job of penciling, and I’ve done that for years. Plot can be tricky as it’s the most important decision up-front. The ending to the story. The twist to the story. Plus you have to be open with the system – because the original plot might change radically once the project starts. Grundy had some major restructuring once it got going. Many of the past projects that I drew had similar changes happen. This is after the book has “started.” Directions have changed, issues have been shortened. Characters have changed. All sorts of stuff. You try to do your best, but you also have to remember that these aren’t your characters. At any moment the rules can change.
SK: Sure, but I’m always reminded that every “problem” can be turned into a solution. It may not be the solution you liked before, but it can be one that solves the puzzle and can be fun to create. As much as I love comics and love drawing comics and all that, this is still my chosen profession. If you get paid for it, someone else is paying you, and they may have different ideas about how to make a comic book or tell a story. True, I usually get hired now because they trust what I do and I have to change very little, but it still happens every once in a while. Like for covers – I usually send in 2 or 3 roughs for editorial to pick from. I usually have a favorite among them and we don’t always pick the same one. Sometimes I’ll try and persuade them on my favorite and sometimes that will work. But sometimes it doesn’t work and I then work with what they want. Same with stories. At first I wrote Solomon Grundy #1 with a completely different villain. [Editor Adam Schlagman] and I talked it through and he convinced me to go with The Demon – which ultimately was the better idea, especially for issue #1. There are all sorts of extra demands on issue #1. It’s really got to sell the whole series as well as tell the story.
KD: How else has Adam [Schlagman] helped you through the task? Or has he just ratcheted up your stress level? [laughs]
SK: Adam’s great. I really didn’t know him that well before this. I worked with him once. He’s has been very helpful and patient. Very supportive – as has Dan and the rest of DC. As nervous as I am – they are very encouraging.
KD: Have you reached out to comic book writers who you’ve worked with previously for guidance writing this series?
SK:No, that I haven’t done. Geoff helped me launch this series and a friend gave me some writing CDs a year ago, but I’m mostly going by gut and from what I’ve gleaned from writers in the past and the comics, books or movies I’ve loved. I constantly talked writing with Geoff all the years we worked together. Now we’ll see if I learned anything.
KD: Has Geoff read Solomon Grundy #1?
SK: I think he has – we did talk a few weeks ago after I sent him the finished art pages for issue #1. He was very excited. I know he read a couple pages of script at that time because I wanted to run some Green Lantern dialogue past him – as he’s the JSA writer. He did really like the dialogue on those pages. Geoff said he was very proud of me. He knows I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.
KD: I think it’s obvious that your hope is that Solomon Grundy leads to more projects that you can both write and draw. Have you made Dan DiDio aware of your aspiration? Or do you plan on broaching that matter with DiDio after you finished this project?
SK: Yes, Dan knows, but he also knows I don’t have to write and draw everything from now on. Especially dealing with the big companies and their publishing agendas – it’s tough to be versatile enough to handle all sorts of projects creating constant work from them. I’ve done that as an artist and I’ll be very happy to take on certain writing projects in the future, but I don’t see myself writing any character or any type of story. It’s still a matter of being in the right place and the right time.
Covers to Solomon Grundy #1, #2 and #3
KD: Let’s turn to some artistic matters. As in the past, you’re coloring your own covers, yes?
SK: You bet.
KD: Were you at all tempted to “do it all” for this Solomon Grundy series: write, draw, color, letter? Or do you think your coloring still needs some work before it’s ready for “primetime” (as you’ve told me in the past)?
SK: The thought did cross my mind to color the whole book, but thankfully we have Mike Atiyeh – who’s doing a fabulous job – and being very accommodating to me. I think my coloring skills are good enough – for quality, but I’m still too slow. We’d never make the deadlines for seven issues. And I’ve never lettered a book or have the programs.
KD: But you get to see the lettered pages now – how does that work?
SK: Yes, I see the lettered pages and ask for corrections or realize something I screwed up. That’s a whole other job to do. Thankfully, I had some great lettering classes back at the Kubert school – with Hy Eisman. I have marked the balloon placements on my pages for years, so that’s not all brand new – but it’s a bit different when they’re your words now. Sal Cipriano lettered the first issue and he did a great job.
KD: Re-reading the end to the Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy one-shot that you collaborated with Geoff Johns on, I got the impression that the Solomon Grundy mini-series was a kind of Green Lantern: The Blackest Night prelude or tie-in. Phantom Stranger tells Alan Scott, “There is an unholy night approaching. As Black as the undead’s blood.” I mean, that’s a pretty clear invocation of the upcoming event, yes?
The solicitations for the first three issues of, however, don’t mention “The Blackest Night” whatsoever. Can you clarify the connection between the Grundy mini-series and the Green Lantern event?
SK: Well, Green Lantern guest stars in Solomon Grundy, but he doesn’t run the show. He’s only a guiding force – or trying to be. Cyrus is a crazy guy who’s got lots of troubles. But yes, Cyrus is supposed to get it together before the “Unholy Night that is approaching”. Ha! How cool is that?! I love that premise!
KD: So is Solomon Grundy a “Blackest Night” tie-in?
SK: I wouldn’t call it a “Tie-in” no, Solomon Grundy precedes that. This is Grundy’s story of what happens to him before “Blackest Night.” It sets him up for his role in “Blackest Night.”
KD: As he prepares the event, has [“Blackest Night” writer] Geoff Johns asked you about how the Solomon Grundy series will conclude?
SK: No, his plans are bigger than mine. The resolution to this Solomon Grundy story was worked into what is needed for “Blackest Night” and what DC wants to do after. I am part of the DC team, not a solo player.
Solomon Grundy tries to get his head back on straight in these pages from issue #1
KD: Alright, let’s get to the series at hand. In Solomon Grundy #2, the titular character battles Bizarro, and then in issue #3, he confronts Poison Ivy. You just mentioned that The Demon appears in issue #1. Is Solomon Grundy structured so that he faces a different super-villain in each issue?
SK: Not every issue but pretty much – though there’s plenty of play within that structure and the match-ups have been organized to work on several different levels of the story, they’re fun and work for the plot as well. The Demon shows up in #1 because he’s supposed to, and it helps define a new angle on Grundy that’s very important to Grundy as a character and to this story and its outcome. Grundy meets up with Bizarro in a traditional quirk for issue #2, but beyond the fun slugfest, it adds something to both of them by the time it’s over – and again will need to be there for the story’s culmination. Using Poison Ivy for #3 is great fun and helps push Cyrus past a barrier that is holding him back. See? I’m more than a pretty pencil! And the next cover will change the pace. It’s not a “villain cover”.
KD: Oh, what’s on the cover?
SK: Grundy smashing something! Shattering really. And it’s not just a building or a car. It’s something he’s wanted to smash for a long time! It was one of my first ideas on this book. Can’t wait to get to those pages.
KD: “Something he’s wanted to smash for a long time.” Hmmn. [thinks] My best guess is Alan Scott’s green lantern ring.
[waiting]… you’re not going to tell me, are you?
SK: Nope. Gotta save a few surprises. Though it should really make some fans very happy!
KD: Alright, let me ask then what kind of book Solomon Grundy really is? I mean, how would you classify it? Super-villain monster book? Super-villain horror book?
SK: I’d say both, honestly. There are equal parts of horror and monster in this book. That’s the beauty of including Cyrus in this as well as Solomon Grundy. We get the best of both worlds! Cyrus brings more of the horror with his killings and the truths revealed about his past. And Grundy brings more of the giant monster fights – but some end pretty horrific! I’m trying to expand on Solomon Grundy! Trying to see all the possi
bilities and bring as many good ones out. So he’s not written off as a one-note monster villain – as he sometimes has in the past. I never got the “dumb monster” angle anyway. My version of Grundy may say some of those same Grundy-lines, but he’s not stupid. He’s scary as hell! My Grundy could figure out how to drive a car – if he needed to. He could shoot a gun – if he needed to. There will be tons of ways to play out Solomon Grundy stories when this book is over.
KD: Are you hoping to be the creator who gets to play out Solomon Grundy’s future? I mean, are you planning on pitching a follow-up Grundy series after this one is finished?
SK: I don’t have a Solomon Grundy pitch right now. It’s a bit early as “Blackest Night” has to work itself through. I would certainly LOVE to work on more Grundy afterward. I’ll probably have some ideas for books in the next few months. I’m still in the middle of Grundy. We’ll see what happens.