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Friday, March 12, 2010

Aquaman Shrine Interview with Paul Kupperberg - 2010

Before we move from the final issues of the original Aquaman series to his subsequent strip in Adventure Comics for this week's Comics Weekend, I thought it would be fun to talk once again to Paul Kupperberg, writer of the character at the time and longtime booster of The Aquaman Shrine.

I've talked to Paul twice before--once in 2007 and and once in 2008--but, as usual, he was willing to go over some of same material we talked about before, since after rereading these issues, I had a whole bunch of new questions:

Aquaman Shrine: You went from writing the Mera back-ups to the full Aquaman book with #62, which opens with Aquaman and Mera fighting over the death of their child. As a fairly new comic book writer, how daunting was this? In all of superhero comics, I can't think of a grimmer, more serious situation for a writer to have to tackle.
Paul Kupperberg: The whole situation was pretty daunting at the time. I think Aquaman was my first ongoing, regular book. Up to then I'd only written back-up stories, short features, and horror and mystery stories, that kind of thing.

There was continuity involved in some of that work, in the Mera and Aqualad back-up series I'd written, and in the Nightwing and Flamebird feature in Superman Family, but this was my first ongoing series. And while Aquaman wasn't a first-tier hero, he was one of the solid second-stringers and a long-time favorite, so there was reason to be nervous all around.

AMS: Most people generally think Arthur Jr. died at the end of Adventure Comics #452, but its said he has a small chance to recover in the Mera back-ups you wrote, only to "actually" die at the end of the third chapter. Was this pre-ordained, in that he was always going to die in chapter three?
PK: Yep. Aquaman was on track for a major personality tear-down at the time and the idea was to take everything away from him, from crown to kid. I couldn't, 32 years later, tell you whether that was where David Michelinie, my predecessor as writer, had that in mind, but I seem to recall that was the plan on my run. So, David may've left Junior at death's door with the idea of bringing him back, but I was the one who actually planted the kid.

AMS: You say Aquaman was "on track for a major personality takedown"--who decides something like that? Was it Aquaman's then-editor Paul Levitz, or people higher up than that?

PK: In those days, on a character of Aquaman's status, those decisions would have been made by the editor and the writer. It wasn't that radical a thing that we'd have had to run it by any of the higher-ups.

AMS: Aquaman was canceled very abruptly, and you mentioned in our first interview that you didn't even know it was canceled until the last minute. I would assume that meant that the material for the next issue, #64, (and maybe even the one after that) was completed and ready to go. Is this correct? If so, do you recall where you were going with the characters? Or did you use that material for the Aquaman strip in Adventure Comics, which followed directly after the cancellation of Aquaman?

PK: I probably got the word while I was writing #63 so I could wrap up the story. I never wrote a story intended to be the next issue, just the script for the Adventure Comics run.

AMS: Eventually Bob Rozakis took over writing the Aquaman strip during his return run in Adventure. Do you remember why you didn't continue on it? Did you have other ideas for Aquaman and the strip?

PK: I'm sure I had something in mind for the future of the strip but, again, all these years later, those have drifted off with the tide, so to speak.
AMS: In the letters pages of the last couple issues of Aquaman, editor Paul Levitz mentions--several times--an Aquaman Annual, a book that never saw print. Did you have any involvement with this?

PK: Not a bit. Would've been cool, though.

AMS: What projects do you have coming up?

PK: I'll be taking over as scripter on two new Archie Comics titles, beginning with their second issues, Archie Loves Veronica and Archie Loves Betty; these are spin-offs from the recent "Imaginary Stories" by Michael Uslan wherein Archie imagines what it would be like married to the two girls.

Michael's writing the first issues and then I take over, along with penciller Norm Breyfogle. I also write regularly for DC's Scooby Doo and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, do kids books featuring the DC characters for Stone Arch Books, even write coloring books, not to mention short stories for various and sundry anthologies...and I'm trying to peddle an original mystery novel.

AMS: I've asked you before about working with the late, great Julius Schwartz on DC Comics Presents. Is the process of writing team-ups about the same now that you're on Brave and the Bold?

PK: Pretty much. Other than an occasional assigned team-up for some specific tie-in or promotional reason, I'd go into Schwartz’s office with ideas for team-ups and stories and, more than likely, Julie and I would plot out the stories together, especially early on in my writing for him.

On Brave and The Bold, I send editor Michael Siglain a batch of brief synopsis and he picks what he likes. So far, I've written two, one with Plastic Man, my favorite comic character of all time, and another with Guy Gardner, both to be penciled by my old friend and collaborator, Joe Staton. I've also got a few more I'm waiting to get an okay on, including Phantom Stranger/House of Mystery and, because I am a fanboy and a geek, Composite-Superman.

AMS: A Phantom Stranger team-up? Music to my ears! Between the Archie stuff and Brave and the Bold, you're writing a lot more humorous material now. Do you enjoy it, as opposed to all the melodrama that are usually superhero comics stock in trade?

PK: I'm enjoying it immensely. And, just to be clear, while I've written, and continue to write, traditional Archie stories, the two Archie Loves titles are actually pretty melodramatic, in the soap opera sense. It's kind of Archie meets Melrose Place.

And the Brave and The Bold books are great fun! They're one-offs that I approach sort of like 1970s-style superhero comics, with that same sensibility. It's nice not to have to take superhero stories so grim-and-gritty deadly serious again.

I always enjoy talking to Paul, and he is always generous with his time, answering questions for me even when its not for a formal interview. When I come across an Aquaman comic (heck, any comic) that Paul was involved in, it gives me another excuse to hound him for info!

Fans of Paul can follow what he's doing on his blog And Then I Wrote..., and on Facebook, and keep an eye out for future issues of the Archie Loves titles and Brave and the Bold. Thanks again Paul!



IADW said...

Nice Q&A Rob! Imagine being able to change a characters direction, just between you and the books editor!!

Paul Kupperberg said...

Yeah, Dan. That's why they called them the GOOD old days!



Wings1295 said...

Very good interview, a great read. Thanks to both Paul & Rob!

Russell said...

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Paul, and thanks for asking interesting questions, Rob! :-)

Unknown said...

Another terrific interview! Thanks, Paul, and thank you, Rob!

Anj said...

Great interview.

I loved Paul's work on The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl and would love to hear what he had to say about that run too.