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Walt Simonson


conducted via email December 1999 by Tim O'Shea
CBEM - #242, December 3, 1999
by Tim O'Shea

Tim did a great job in lining up this second interview this week. When he heard we had Walter set to appear locally at THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT in Worcester, MA and that the EMag was running a special trivia contest to celebrate he got Walt to finish up his interview early enough to include it in this special issue of CBEM. Tim wishes to profusely thank Walter for taking the time out of his busy workload to answer these questions.

And we would be remiss if we did not mention that ORION, the new series based on Jack Kirby's New God Characters, will be launching April 2000.

CBEM:  Seemingly foolish first question: What will be the official name
of the title, I've read several different titles and want to clarify
for the record.

WALTER:  The title of the book as it stands now is simply ORION.  It
went through a couple of working titles; hence (I think) the
confusion.

CBEM:  Given that your back-up story for issues 9 through 13 in JACK
KIRBY'S FOURTH WORLD was an origin of Kanto the Assassin, can we assume
that he may play a more substantial role in the ORION book than the
other members of Darkseid's Elite?

WALTER:  I don't think so.  I like Kanto a lot or I wouldn't have done
the story for John's issues but I think the various members of
Darkseid's Elite will be appearing in stories as they are suggested by
the material rather than using them as the starting point for a story
themselves.  Orion will remain my principal focus.  But I do like Kanto
and if I can think of a nifty story in which to use him, I certainly
will.

CBEM:  Orion seems to be an instance where your technology/sci-fi based
art layout (like your Avengers and FF days) could be merged with your
Asgardian mythological layouts. Am I right? If so, is it more enjoyable
or more challenging (or both) to do a book that seemingly draws upon
two of your art styles at the same time?

WALTER:  ORION does appeal to both my SF and mythological interests.
All I can say about the art is that I'm finding my way as I go and
don't expect the style to settle down for at least a few issues until I
see how everything's working out.  But I'm having a blast drawing all
this stuff!  I do expect the layouts to be a little less conservative
than THOR but probably not as over-the-top as the layouts for the
MICHAEL MOORCOCK MULTIVERSE comic I did for Helix/DC.  I don't think my
stories will be quite as close to edge as Mike's.  But I am fooling
around a little with open space surrounding certain panels as a way of
enhancing emphasis on what's happening in the panel itself, playing
with the negative space on the page.

CBEM:  Given the already complicated nature of Kirby's Fourth World,
could you imagine or do you even want hypertime playing a factor at any
point in Orion? You've already had Kanto go back to 1502 without the
assistance of hypertime, so I can't even guess the unlimited potential
(or possible plotting failures and complications) if hypertime was
utilized on this title.

WALTER:  Truth to tell, I'm pretty hazy about the concept of hypertime
and don't as yet see any need for it in my stories.  I tend toward the
Occam's Razor approach to continuity and storytelling.  Simplest
explanations are the best and most desirable.  My feeling is that if my
stories can't blow readers away on their own terms, hypertime is going
to be the least of my problems.  Trust me. 

CBEM:  Again, given Fourth World's complexity, how hard do you think it
will be to attract new readership?

WALTER:  Probably just about as hard as it is for any new comic in the
current marketplace to take root.  And it's not like the Fourth World
material has got 60 years of continuous publication like SUPERMAN!

CBEM:  Is it your hope to simplify continuity by jettisoning all of The
Fourth World previously published baggage, with the exception of
Kirby's 11 issues of NEW GODS in 1971-1972 and John Byrne's more recent
20-issue Fourth World run?

WALTER:  I wouldn't go that far.  I am using John's continuity as a
jumping off point but I don't see any reason to go back and try to
either explain or actually abandon earlier versions.  After all, isn't
that what hypertime is supposed to do?   I only get 12 issues a
year.  Not a lot of room. I don't plan to waste any of it solving past
conundrums of continuity.  That's the fans' job.    And honestly,
despite all the talk about the importance of continuity, I'd be floored
if most the readers who pick up a copy of ORION will have a working
knowledge of Gerry Conway's THE RETURN OF THE NEW GODS or even of the
more recent Evanier NEW GOD's material.  Beyond that, although there
have been a number of `guest' appearances by Darkseid and to a lesser
degree, Orion, I don't see the point in wasting any space trying to
incorporate or justify those appearances in Orion.  Let's do some new
stories.

CBEM:  How will Orion interact with the rest of the DC universe? There
has been much said of the perceived impact on Barda and Orion's sudden
membership in the JLA. Will you try to keep Fourth World characters
sequestered away from the mainstream DC universe? If not, would a guest
shot with such folks as your old title of the mid-1970s--The Metal
Men--be out of the question?

WALTER:  I don't have any real control over this and don't really plan
to address it.  In other words, I'll do Orion in his own book and with
any luck, DC will do Orion elsewhere without fouling up my stories.  I
don't mind Orion appearing elsewhere; it may even be useful as PR. I
just don't want to have to match my stories in Orion's own title to
somebody else's Orion story elsewhere. But I like DC's characters and
it would be fun to use some of them as I go along.  I am using Jimmy
Olsen and the Newsboy Legion in my second issue and I do want to
suggest a sense of the existence in Orion of the wider DC universe.
I hadn't thought about the Metal Men!

CBEM:  Since, in many ways Marvel's Asgard is as much Jack's creation
as his Fourth World, in some ways do you ever think your incredible
stint on Thor may actually have been a warm-up for Orion? In other
words, almost 10 years later, as a storyteller are you able to tackle
this universe better because of the plotting skills you honed while on
Thor (as well as your myriad other projects in between then and now)?
Or am I mistaken and you see no parallels between the two universes?

WALTER:  Actually, it's been closer to 15 years.  I don't know if I
would say that working on Thor `honed' my skills for this book as much
as mined some of the same mother lode of my personal interests.  How's
that for a runaway metaphor?    Certainly, I hope that all the
practice I've had writing in the past, including Thor, will give me a
leg up with Orion.  And Thor may actually be more of a help than other
work because to the thematic similarities with ORION:  mythological
backgrounds, cosmic stories, gods matched against the scales of
mortals, etc.

CBEM:  When will we get to meet Mortalla, Darkseid's mistress and his
right hand of death, who was previewed in The New Gods Secret Files and
Origins? What other new characters will you introduce?

WALTER: Mortalla should be showing up about issue 6.  I've introduced a
new `assistant' to Desaad in ORION 1--Justeen.  And the Suicide
Jockeys, some extremely dedicated assassins, of sorts.  Generally
speaking, new characters will come floating in as I need them but I
definitely want to introduce new ones as I go.

CBEM:  Another Secret Files-related question, in the Orion preview you
had Darkseid provide his last will and testament. Do you plan on
killing off Orion's "dad" anytime soon?

WALTER:  That would be telling.  See issue 5.  

CBEM:  Let's go back to 1982 (on a project your wife, Louise [then
Jones] Simonson, edited), the X-MEN/NEW TEEN TITANS (Marvel/DC)
crossover, Apokolips Now. While Chris Claremont is credited as scripter
and you were listed as penciler, you had co-plotting experience going
back to MANHUNTER with Archie Goodwin in the early 1970s. How much
input did you have on the characterization of Fourth Worlders? If the
answer is "no input," how (if it all) would you have handled those
characters differently? Is the Darkseid portrayed in this book the
Darkseid we will see in Orion?

WALTER:  Most of my input would have been at the plotting stage of
X/TITANS. I may have written border notes suggesting stuff like
dialogue but at this point, I really don't remember.  I liked Chris'
take on the character and thought we did a nice job with him.  I don't
expect my version to be significantly different although Chris and I
don't write alike so whatever differences there are will be the normal
differences found between writers even when they share a relatively
similar view of the same character.

CBEM:  I still crack up at your "tribute" to Gone with the Wind (Orion
in the role of Rhett Butler) on the cover of JACK KIRBY'S FOURTH WORLD
Issue 11. Can we look forward to any other movie or pop culture
references in upcoming Orion covers?

WALTER:  I'm not sure about that yet.  The GWTW cover wasn't my idea.
For most of the covers I did, Paul Kupperberg or John would suggest a
direction and I would run with it.  That was true in that case.  I was
given the concept for the GWTW cover and I executed it.  But it worked
and I wouldn't put it past me to do something like that down the road.
I just won't tell DC's lawyers .

CBEM:  Do you find that when you work as both writer and artist that
your production time and effort is eased or increased, in comparison to
working as a writer with an artist or as an artist with a writer?

WALTER:  Oh, certainly my production time and effort increases.  After
all, writing and penciling and inking are all full time jobs.
Naturally, I won't be writing as much or penciling as much or inking as
much as any one writer or penciller or inker, but it's enough to keep
me busy for a month, believe me!

CBEM:  Given Orion's complex continuity, who will be editing ORION for
DC?

WALTER:  Joey Cavalieri is the editor for Orion.  Paul Kupperberg was
the original editor but he's moved out of line editing at DC

CBEM:  Will John Workman be lettering the title? What would you
describe is the quality to his work that so subtly, yet seemingly
substantially compliments (in my opinion) your stories?

WALTER:  John is lettering Orion.  I think at least part of what
enables us to work together so well is that his work derives so clearly
from graphic elements of both typography and calligraphy, and has a
strong sense of structure.  My work is quite graphic in nature as well
as strongly structured and I think that similarity of approach serves
us both well when we work together.

CBEM:  In previous interviews you have described Orion's character in
pagan terms, while you portray Lightray through Christian attributes
("virtues"). Will Orion have a seemingly more "spiritual" tone to its
characters under your helm? Or am I reading too much into your previous
descriptions of the characters?

WALTER:  I wouldn't say you were reading too much into my remarks but
you may be reading in a direction I wasn't heading.  My reference had
more to do with finding ways to establish in my own mind the basic
complimentary natures of both Orion and Lightray, what makes them
different, how they interact with each other, and how their attributes
allow them to be good friends.  It was never a question of virtue for
Lightray and something else for Orion.  Rather, I was referring to the
virtues implicit in both the pagan and Christian sets of values.
Here're my original notes regarding the two characters:

1.  Orion represents the old pagan virtues-- faithfulness, pride,
heroism, extraordinary powers, maybe even good luck.

2.  Lightray represents the Christian virtues of pity, charity, mercy.
So Orion and Lightray in a sense, together make up a whole or unified
individual.

That's really all there is to it. A couple of notes to suggest
directions to myself in terms of understanding the characters I'm
doing.  I've forgotten where I came across these ideas now but I'm sure
I read something about them somewhere and thought they were
appropriate.

CBEM:  With the obvious exception of Orion, who are your top three New
Gods characters?

WALTER:  Ummmm.  Darkseid, Lightray, Desaad, and Metron.  So that's
four. Sue me! 

CBEM:  What comics (other than your own, understandably) attract your
attention these days?

WALTER:  I'm interested in whatever Weezie's doing so right now, I'm
checking out Galactus and Warlock.  And the one comic I always read the
second it comes into the house is Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai.  Highly
recommended .

CBEM:  While impossible currently, given Marvel's financial situation,
but have you ever considered an Orion/Thor crossover?

WALTER:  I was asked to plot one maybe four or five years ago by DC.  I
did so but they turned down my story.  However, I keep everything on
file so I'm hoping that one of these days, I'll be able to persuade
them to let me go back and do it.  I still like the story a lot.

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