ft”>I thought about skipping the cute buildup?the crap you expect to hear before, “And now, without further ado?” and just jumping right in, but I didn’t want you nice folks to feel gypped. People like what they’re used to. A foolish consistency, as it were. So, that said: Walter Simonson is one of my favorite storytellers. He’s one of the few superstars who can really do it all?babble, scribble, color, and letter?and he does most of these tasks better than an assembly line specialist. The following conversation?what was meant to be The Definitive Walter Simonson Interview?took just 52 minutes. It would have taken longer, but Walt was getting hungry and I had to take a piss, and besides, Walt says more in 52 minutes than some guys say in a month. So I decided that holding that piss in any longer wasn’t healthy.
Clifford Meth: First of all, the question that everybody’s asking: Do you think that Latino women with blonde hair look like hookers?
Walt Simonson: [laughing] No?I can’t say the thought ever crossed my mind. We can get that out of the way right now.
CM: How old are you Walt?
CM: And you started reading comics when you were ten, nine, eight??
WS: I started somewhere between five and eight. I had a good friend when I was young?kindergarten or so?and we kind of read comics together.
CM: Do remember the first comic you read?
WS: Not the first one, literally. It’s funny you should ask because there were a couple of comics that I read early on that friends of mine had, and for years I remembered the friends names and where I read them, but I only just recently discovered what the comics were. I remembered the story, but then thanks to Kurt Busiek, I finally tracked down what the comic was. It was All-Star Western #60, which came out in about 1951. So I would have been six when that came out. I also remember reading a Jesse Marsh adaptation of Princess of Mars by Burroughs?I think they adapted a couple of more beyond that but that’s the only one I saw at the time.
By the time I was ten, I was reading comics regularly. Comics shops didn’t exist, but we didn’t have a lot of places that had comics near us, so it wasn’t really a matter of going every month and getting the same title month after month?you just got what you could find and I just read everything. I read Tarzan, Brothers of the Spear by Russ Manning, Little Lulu?I was a big Little Lulu fan without knowing that John Stanley was the reason I was a big fan; I was a big duck fan without realizing that Carl Barks was the reason I was a big duck fan. So I read a lot of comics in the fifties? Classics Illustrated. Really, anything I could afford.
CM: Were you drawing?
WS: I was. I was drawing really from before I could remember. I didn’t try my hand at comics at the time. I didn’t draw sequential stuff. I drew a man climbing across my school notes when I should have been paying attention. A lot of things were happening when I was ten years old?I can remember clearly a lot of things going in right at that moment and I still remember Alex Toth’s “The Land Unknown,” an adaptation of a modest movie but a great comic book that was beautifully drawn? I drew a lot of stuff. I was a huge dinosaur fan from third-grade on. What’s that, eight years old? I’d seen Fantasia and was knocked out by dinosaurs at the end and started collecting all the books on dinosaurs that I could find. And at some point I decided to try doing my own comic. I had the patience to get through about a page and a half before I finally ran out of gas. I was actually typing the captions on my dad’s typewriter. Of course, you couldn’t screw it up?I didn’t know how to fix the lettering if I screwed up. I think it was called “The Origin of Life,” a modest title about the beginnings of the earth and how life got started. I was coloring with colored pencils?so I was trying sequential stuff, but I didn’t really have the patience for it.
CM: Were there any titles that grabbed you and that you had to follow?
WS: There were two actually before college. One was Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. The Cark Barks duck stuff. There were Mickey Mouse stories in the back that I liked?I think it was Floyd Gottfredson, but there were adventure stories of Mickey and Goofy in the back of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. So my parents got a subscription to that book for my younger brother and I. That was the one comic that we got on a regular basis for some years and followed, as long as Barks was doing it.
By the time I was in high school, I had a subscription to Turok Son of Stone. More dinosaurs, so that was fun. Actually, I quit reading comics for the most part in high school. I did see some of the old Mystery in Space with Adam Strange, Carmine [Infantino’s] work. I bought that when I could find it.
CM: When did you become conscious of who was drawing and writing?
WS: On the stuff I’ve mentioned so far, I don’t think there were credits?maybe just in the EC books. It was just “the good duck artist” that we all knew and liked. I don’t think it was until I began reading Marvel comics in about 1965 where I actually got a hold of books that had regular credits.
CM: I remember seeing some of your letters in early Marvel books when I was a kid.
WS: I had four letters published over a four- or five-year period. I discovered Marvel in ’65 when they had about a dozen titles a month and I could afford them, so I bought all the comics. I think I had three letters in Iron Man and one letter in Dr. Strange, which is funny because Thor was my favorite book, but I guess I never felt a need to write to Thor.
Next Week: More Simonson!
© 2004, Clifford Meth