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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gerry Conway on Aquaman - 2008

I normally would never repeat content from one blog to another, but today over at my JLA Satellite blog, I have an interview with legendary comics writer--and longtime JLA scribe--Gerry Conway.

At this point on the blog, we're at the moment where Aquaman dissolved the original League and formed a new team, which came to be known unofficially as JLA Detroit.

Gerry was a lot of fun and easy to talk to, and I think it stands as one of the best interviews I've done for any of my blogs. And since the formation of the new JLA remains one of the most important moments in Aquaman's checkered publishing history, I thought I'd post the Aquaman-centric part of the interview here:

JLA Satellite: I specifically wanted to ask about Aquaman, because this [JLA Detroit] was a big moment in the character's history. Here was a character not in the book that much, and here he is taking the reins and taking charge.

When you were scoping out the plans for changing the book, was Aquaman someone you wanted to write more of, and this was the way to do it, or was it more of, "Hey, I have this idea to rejigger the team, and this character, because he's not appearing anywhere else right now, would be the most logical candidate"?

Gerry Conway: Yeah, it was that.

The goal was to have a group of characters who could relate to each other, specifically in this title, and we could do continuity within this title. That's why I started focusing on Red Tornado, say, and Zatanna, for story lines before this because they didn't have series anywhere else. And it made it easier to develop personal conflicts and personal storylines.
It was hard to get conflict between Superman and Batman if they don't have that conflict outside the book.

JLA Satellite: Looking back over your run, I was reminded how much of Red Tornado's story you built up in JLA--you developed his relationship with Kathy, you introduced the orphan girl, his adopted daughter Traya; a lot of the stuff that people would use when they were writing Red Tornado. So I wondered if you were looking to do that for Aquaman.

GC: I really like Aquaman, I really loved the Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo run in the 60s. I thought what they were doing was just awesome.

So I thought he had a lot of potential, it's just at that time--it really makes no sense for an ocean-based character to lead a team that's based on a lake.

JLA Satellite: [laughs]

GC: You know, if you think about it, it's really dumb, but hey! It seemed like a good idea at the time.

If I had to do over again, and I thought about it the way people think about it today, I would've picked a character like Martian Manhunter, but he wasn't as interesting a character as he would become later on.

JLA Satellite: You did that two or three-parter, where Aquaman goes to look for Mera [JLA #'s 241-243], and he quits! He finally says, you know, I need to be with my wife and I'm gonna leave.

That was very abrupt, because he sort of burnt a lot of bridges with this group, saying "You need to have commitment, commitment", dragged them all the way out to Detroit, and then goes "Naah, I'm gonna leave."
I look back on that and realize that was probably wasn't necessarily something that was your idea, because they had the [1986 Aquaman] mini-series...

GC: At that point, I was being told what to do. My autonomy on the book--whenever I had any--probably ended around the time I left the book that first time, and after that I was basically trying to manage my way within the DC system.

I don't think [Aquaman leaving] would've been my goal, leaving a group he had brought together.

JLA Satellite: [laughs] Yeah, I have to say, when I read those issues, I was fourteen or fifteen, I was really mad--"Gerry, you've made Aquaman a big jerk!"

But they had that Neal Pozner mini-series that I really loved, just a few months later, and I eventually I figured, oh, okay, this was probably some edict from DC, saying, we gotta get him out of this book.

When you're a kid, you tend to think the writer and artist are running everything, you think everyone is Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, totally running the show. Later on, you go, ok, I see what's going on.

GC: Nowadays they coordinate things a lot more, and I think it works a lot better. But back then you had a very weak management team at the top of things, and you had editors that have never done this kind of work before.

...Gerry and I talked for quite a while (and I even emailed him some follow up questions), so I showed him mercy and only asked him a tiny fraction of all the stuff I wanted to. He was a very good sport.

So please head over to the
JLA Satellite blog to read the rest of the interview, and check out Gerry's blog, Conway's Corner, to read more from the man himself!


Anonymous said...

The DC Universe Detroit must be different. Detroit is not on a lake! (I know I'm not the first to point that out.)

Good interview though.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I live in the DC universe, then because the Detroit I know is on the tributary between Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. While the city proper may not be on a lake, the greater metropolitan area sure is.