Writer David Michelinie had a brief stint on Aquaman--only eleven stories total--but he ended up writing some Aquaman's best-remembered and historic moments in the pages of Adventure Comics and Aquaman, where he got to work with two of the Sea King's best artists, Jim Aparo and Don Newton.
I had wanted to interview David for the longest time, so I was thrilled when I got the chance just a few days ago:
Aquaman Shrine: What kind of stuff did you read growing up?
David Michelinie: I assume you're talking about comics here, but I also read a lot of science fiction novels and short story magazines, along with occasional adventure or historical novels. Comics-wise, I mostly read DCs and was always drawn to the slightly offbeat characters: Sea Devils, Cave Carson Adventures Inside Earth, Rip Hunter Time Master, as well as science fiction characters such as Space Ranger, Adam Strange and The Atomic Knights. And while I did read a few Superman and Batman stories, when I read super heroes I was generally drawn to the second tier characters: Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkman and--dare I say it?--Aquaman.
AMS: Did you set out to write comics?
DM: No, I set out to be a world-renowned novelist. When I was a little kid there were no credits in comics; that was pretty much started by Marvel in the early '60s. So it never occurred to me that real people actually wrote the things. I didn't think they appeared by magic, but I never really thought about it. I wanted to be a writer since I was about eight years old, but never really considered comics until I rediscovered them when I was in college.
AMS: About half a dozen writers worked on Aquaman's mid-70s run in Adventure Comics. How did you end up with the assignment?
DM: I don't remember the specific details, but I was one of Joe Orlando's stable of writers and Aquaman/Adventure was handled by Joe's office at that time. So I imagine it was a question of an open assignment matched with my availability.
AMS: How was it working with Jim Aparo and later Don Newton?
DM: Jim already had quite a history on Aquaman, and his look suited the character well. Don Newton was a good storyteller and a very nice man who died way too early.
AMS: Was writing the Aquaman series fun?
DM: It was a challenge, but challenges can be fun if you tackle them in the right spirit. Writing the series was more like writing tales of another civilization on another planet, more than writing a super hero on Earth. Aquaman had his own environment and culture, and unique underwater problems to deal with, and this cut him off from the familiar and comfortable trappings of most super hero series. He couldn't hang out at the mall, come across bank robbers while patrolling the city, make pop culture references to movies and such. You had to come up with stories that fit a very specific set of conditions. So it was work, but it was fun when it paid off.
AMS: Whose idea was it to kill off Aquaman's son? Did anyone at DC express reservations about it?
DM: Strangely enough, you're the second person to ask me that question in the last couple of weeks. And I'll have to give you the same answer I gave him: I don't remember. I don't think it was my idea--that possibility doesn't ring any bells. But I can't officially deny it, either. Paul Levitz was plotting the book for a while and I and other writers were doing scripts from his plots. So the most likely scenario is that the death storyline was something Paul was building up to and I just carried it through when I took over plotting the book. You might want to contact Paul and see if his memory is any sharper on that question.
AMS: Aquaman went from his lead in Adventure Comics to his own title again under your tenure. Was this planned before you came aboard or did sales spike while you were writing it?
DM: It wasn't planned, but I welcomed it as it gave me a chance to write my first "super" character when the lead slot in Adventure Comics was taken over by Superboy stories. I don't really know if sales had anything to do with it or not.
AMS: Why did you leave the book?
DM: I have no idea. Probably because some other assignment opened up and I moved on to that.
AMS: What new projects are you working on?
DM: I currently have a couple of prose short stories appearing in paperback anthologies: The Phantom Chronicles and Werewolves: Dead Moon Rising, both from Moonstone Books.
For 2008, I've got a couple of Iron Man projects going at Marvel, for publication around the release of the Iron Man movie in the Spring. One is a four-issue weekly mini-series called Iron Man:Legacy of Doom, which I'm co-plotting with Bob Layton and is being pencilled by Ron Lim and inked by Bob. The other is a one-shot called Iron Man:The End, with Bernard Chang pencilling and Bob Layton co-plotting and inking. I'm also writing a graphic novel for Moonstone, featuring the first pairing of a couple of classic pulp characters, The Avenger and The Spider. It's tentatively titled, The Blood Moon. Thanks fer askin'!
It's always a thrill when I get to talk to the writers and artists who put together the Aquaman comics I read growing up. David was generous with his time and I thank him so much for doing this interview with me. Thanks David!
AquaLink #1: Newest F.O.A.M. member Rian Fike wrote this piece on the UpperDeck website all about the King of the Seven Seas and his Vs. cards, and graciously plugged the Shrine! Thanks Rian!
AquaLink #2: John Zakour and Kyle Miller's online comic Working Daze featured this strip about someone obsessed with Aquaman. No, not me.