conducted by Bradley S. Cobb
What brought you to Impact?
I kind of just stumbled into Impact. I'd been freelancing at DC
since 1975, with the occasional foray into staff positions (I was the
assistant public relations guy in 1978, the head P.R. guy in 1982, and
an editor on at least two occasions during the 80s), and in 1991 I came
on full time as an editor in the Development Group (which was kind of a
catch-all department; as the name implies, it developed new properties,
but we also handled licensed characters and movie tie-ins, as well as
doing some titles that were part of the DCU). Impact was already
underway by the time I came on staff, the creative teams chosen, all the
development done on them, bibles prepared, etc. Once the books were
launched under my group editor, he handed them off to others to carry
Why were you brought on as editor
for the titles you did?
You know, I think it was a case of "eenie-meenie-minee-moe." There
was a tendency among certain people to lose interest in a book once it
was up and running--they were mainly interested in the brainstorming,
the shaping of the concept and all, not in the grunt work of producing a
monthly book. So someone had to run the show on the latest batch of
books. I was the warm body with the lightest workload, being the new
kid on the block at the time.
What's your opinion of the books
I edited BLACK HOOD, THE FLY and THE WEB. To my mind, BLACK HOOD was
the best of the entire Impact lot, beautifully written by Mark Wheatley,
with art by Rick Burchett, who is one of the best storytellers and
artists in the biz. BLACK HOOD could have stood on its on as a title,
without all the rest of the Impact line to prop it up.
Though thoroughly integrated into the Impact Universe, I thought THE
FLY was also a strong title, the best at capturing the atmosphere and
the feel of what Impact Comics set out to do...good comics for an entry
level audience. The writing really caught the gosh-wow wonder of a kid
suddenly endowed with all these cool powers and, of course, Mike
Parobeck was just the best. A sweet guy and a major talent. He really
made that book sing.
THE WEB was near the bottom of my list of Impact favorites. I don't
know exactly why--Len Strazewski did a good job on the book, as did Tom
Artis, but it just never clicked for me. I think it tried to do too
much, be too big for what I thought the Impact line should be, which, as
I've said elsewhere, was to be cool, new and accessible heroes.
What involvement did you have in
getting the artists lined up for the titles?
As far as the initial creative line-up, zippo. Like I said, I came
on board after all the groundwork had been laid. Later on, when fill-in
artists or replacements for departing talent were needed, I made those
decisions as the editor.
This would include Al Bigley (on
the Fly)? What made you choose him?
Al's samples were in the right place at the right time when I was
looking for a fill-in artist on THE FLY. He had a clean, straight
forward style with just a hint of the cartoony to it, very much in the
same school as Mike Parobeck, who he filled in for. Mike was such a
strong and distinctive artist, I was looking for a guy who could match
the FEEL of what he did and Al fit the bill.
Did you have any role in Alan K.
(Turner Alan/Allen) being cast in the role of Comet artist?
Nope. That was entirely Priest's doing. I'd run into charges of
nepotism before by hiring Alan, so I didn't go there anymore.
What can you point to as your
favorite moment in the Impact books you edited?
That would have to be the run of BLACK HOOD. I loved that book,
thought it was beautifully done and was very proud to be a part of it.
Of course, with Wheatley and Burchett doing the creative, I could also
sit back and just let them run with the ball. These aren't guys who
need a whole of editorial supervision, and when you've got the right
people on a project, the editor with any brains whatsoever knows to get
out of their way and let 'em rip!
What involvement did you have with
I was...lurking, I guess would be the best way to describe it. By
this time, Christopher Priest (then known as Jim Owsley) had taken over
the Impact books and was trying to salvage something out the mess it had
become. Priest and I were still together in what was left of the
Development Group and were looking at the revamped/revived Impact books
to be part of a very ambitious publishing plan we were working up (and
which never came to anything, unfortunately). I remember a lunch at
Beefsteak Charlie's near the office with Priest, Mark Waid, Brian
Augustyn, and myself, where a vast majority of CRUCIBLE was plotted out.
So I was there, throwing in my 2 cents.
What was going to happen in the
Steel Sterling stories after the ones that were in the 3 relaunch
No clue. We worked out the initial 3-parter (which was to have run
serialized through the three re-launch issues), and then there was a
wait-and-see attitude, so I never really planned much ahead. I knew it
would involve Steel trying to work his way back into the world that Mr.
Jordan had erased him from and reveal what the "most beloved man in the
world" was actually up to. And there was going to be an emphasis on
Steel's relationship with the woman who HAD been his wife before Mr.
Jordan erased him from history, bringing them together the way they were
fated to be. But beyond those generalities, I didn't have any concrete
Saleswise, do you know which books
were selling the best/worst?
Why, in your opinion, did Impact
Comics get the axe?
Oh, there were a lot of reasons, I'm sure, some having to do with
internal politics, the contract between DC and Archie Comics, etc., but
mainly, it came down to what it ALWAYS comes down to, sales. Books
don't sell, books don't get published.
Do you think, if given an honest
chance, that NEW Impact would have fared better than the original?
The key phrase is "if given an honest chance." Frankly, I don't
think Impact was ever given that chance. I think there were problems
with the line right out of the gate, some well-developed but
wrong-headed thinking going into its creation. This was supposed to be
a younger reader line, an entry-level line for kids who would,
eventually, move on to more "grown-up" comics, like the DC Universe
line, Marvels, whatever. But the Impact line quickly became just
another line of comics, with the same interdependent storylines,
multi-part continuing stories and crossover continuity that every other
comic book line had.
Impact, to my mind, should have kept the stories to single issues,
downplayed the title-to-title continuity, and kept it simple. Our target
audience should have been 8 year olds. Instead, Impact became just
another line of continuity-clogged comics.
Would the re-launched Impact fared better? Impossible to say. It
was very strong, well-written, well-drawn material, but, again, off the
target for an entry-level comics line. But for what it was, had it been
published and given time to develop and catch on, I think it would have
been found an audience. Not the 8-year olds I think we should have been
after, but an audience.
If you had the chance to re-start
the Impact line where it left off, who wold you involve, and what would
you have go on?
Man, answering that involves way more thought than I'm willing to
give it for something that's pure speculation. I think that the Archie
heroes are absolutely great characters; I read and collected the Might
Heroes stuff (lots of stories by Jerry Siegel, and art by Paul Reinman,
one of my all-time favorite cheesy artists!) back in the mid-60s, still
have a bunch of those old books. Like any character, they're loaded
with potential. Like any character, how good they turn out depends on
how you exploit that potential.
Seeing as how I feel comics STILL needs a strong entry-level line for
kids, I could see aiming them at that market...which, of course, would
just be the futile pounding of heads against the wall, since the only
place to find comics these days is in comic specialty shops, places 8
year olds are unlikely to go without their parents...and places most
parents don't want to go into. IF something could be done to market
these things in places kids had access to (like supermarkets, CVS or
Walgreen-style pharmacies, etc.), they could work. The little bit
Archie Comics is doing with the characters in their books is
interesting, but as a fan of the characters, I'd like to see more.
I would probably go for more of a psuedo-manga Pokemon take on these
guys, make them stand-out from other characters. Go back to a simpler
formula, with one-issue stories, or even some multi-story issues.
There's a way to do continuity without a reader having to buy every
issue of every related comic in the line just to keep up and I'd go that
way. When I was writing Superman for him, Julius Schwartz told me, "You
need to tell the reader in every story that Clark Kent is secretly
Superman because every story is bound to be SOMEONE'S first Superman
story." We don't do that anymore. Comics these days assume that anyone
who picks up an issue is fully versed in the background and history of
every character, and that's fine for a lot of what we do, but if you
want to attract new readers and keep them, you've got to give them a
place to start and be brought up to speed. You can do that with every
story in such a way as to not bore or alienate steady readers.
What would you have changed in the
Impact universe if you had the chance?
A lot. I would have simplified the approach from the get-go, made
the books more accessible for the target readership (young kids and new
readers). Let's face it, as good a book as BLACK HOOD was, it was over
the heads of most 8 or 10-year olds. THE FLY is the closest book to how
I would have liked to see the line as a whole go. JAGUAR was a close
second, but even there I think we missed the target.
It was implied by one Impact writer
that there may have been a "minimum" time limit for the Impact line, in
the agreement with Archie/DC. Meaning, 3 years, no matter what the sales
were. Any insight on this possibility?
It's possible but I tend to doubt it. I doubt DC would have gone
into a deal that contractually obligated them to publish a failing line
of books for--in this case--almost two years past the point of
profitability. Again, it could have been the case, but it sounds
unlikely. The three years may have been the length of the first option
on the characters, with options for renewals after it.
Any idea why Len Strazewski was
kicked off the Web for the last two issues? (Len's comments can be seen
Nope, not really. I read Len's comments and I have some recollection
of there being a conflict between him and the editor, but I can't recall
its exact nature. I know Len is a strong-willed individual, as is
Priest (Owsley), so the possibility of those two butting heads on any
number of issues is highly likely. Len's not one to sit quietly by when
he thinks he's been the victim of an injustice. Jim's not highly
tolerant of being aggravated. Putting those two personalities together
is an inevitable recipe for conflict.
As far as Jim getting rid of talent to replace them with his buddies,
that's unfair. People were leaving the books, some due to burn-out,
some to take other assignments, others fired for a variety of reasons,
etc. Naturally, an editor is going to first look to his
friends--provided they're qualified--to replace people who have left.
The editor/creator relationship can, depending on the people and the
project involved, be very close and intense; if you're going to be
forced into the kind of creative foxhole putting out monthly comics
entails, you're naturally going to look towards people you know, like
and trust to be in there with you.
As I recall, I wrote the last two issues THE WEB, but it wasn't like
Len was kicked off it to make room for me. Whatever the reason for his
being fired, however it was handled, we were in a situation where the
books were on the verge of cancellation, there were a couple of issues
left to go of the title, I was there and knew the material, so I wound
up writing 'em. That was expediency, not malice.