Mark Wheatley Interview
Why kill off Sidmonson in the first issue? Especially after the build-up of the Black Hood’s presence in the Impact universe?
Surprised you – didn’t it? The desire to do the unexpected and a way to illustrate the basic nature of my BLACK HOOD which was described in the proposal as, “There is no Hero – only the Hood.” Also – I wasn’t too thrilled about having other creators messing with my characters and story before I was able to present it myself in the first issue of BLACK HOOD. This is a case of me needing to learn to “play well with the other kids.” And it was a way to wipe the slate clean and have a “no baggage” to start on the series. After all the elements fell into place – killing Sidmonson became the perfect solution and allowed me to make fun of the passé PUNISHER take on heroes that was very popular at the time. It was a way to give the fans exactly what they were anticipating and then turn the premise on its head. By the way – the name Sidmonson was my sideways nod to my friend Walt Simonson.
Some people tried to keep some “throwbacks” to the older versions of the characters in the books (example: Joe Higgins/Shield, Jason TROY/Fly), yet the Black Hood series had none of that. Just a personal decision?
When Mike Gold selected me to re-create the BLACK HOOD I asked for some old comics as a jumping off point, since I had virtually no exposure to the character other than two issues of the Archie/Red Circle version by Gray Morrow. And I hadn’t seen those issues for years prior to being offered this gig. Mike told me he’d rather I remain ignorant, that I should start from scratch and create a book I’d like to work on for three years minimum. So I took the name “BLACK HOOD”. From that I decided I had to have some character wearing a hood and went on from there.
What kind of research did you do on the Black Hood before beginning the writing of the series?
I mainly spent a good deal of time attempting to be 12 years old. I was trying to remember what my head had been like at that age. To some extent I was successful. And the effort ended up warping my outlook for at least several years after that!
Is there any particular reason the Fox’s visuals were changed? I ask because he had an entry in the Who’s Who that pre-dated his Black Hood appearance, and the visual on the entry was identical to the MLJ version.
Yeah – I changed him. Just like with the BLACK HOOD, I started from scratch. I have a memory of either Mike Gold or Paul Kupperberg telling me about that single image in the WHO’S WHO – and telling me to, “ignore it.”
Did you get to pick the artists that worked on Black Hood? If not, who did?
Mike paired me with Rick Burchett for this project, for which I am eternally grateful. Working with Rick was a high point in my career. But you have to understand that I’ve always worked on my own projects -most of them have been created by me and owned by me. Most have been produced out of my company, INSIGHT STUDIOS. I am accustomed to taking control and running my projects. BLACK HOOD was only a slight exception. With Mike’s permission and Rick’s cooperation I exerted control over the final art on the issues and even collaborated with Rick on the costume designs. Rich used to joke when he was asked why BLACK HOOD was turning out so nice that, “Mark makes me draw things over!” That only happened a few times, because Rick was pushing himself as hard as I was pushing myself to make BLACK HOOD an exceptional comic book. But Rick’s drive for quality began to slow his working speed and we were soon aware that it was only a matter of time before deadlines would be a problem. Rick is a true professional and he gave me plenty of warning. I tapped Neil Vokes, Tim Sale and Damon Willis and Mike Chen for aid and assistance. And I suggested Leo Duranona and Dave Rawson and Pat McGreal for the annual. Heff Munson was working with me on the TARZAN books around that time and was running our office at INSIGHT. These are all top people who I was already comfortable working with. When Rick let me know that he couldn’t continue on the series I was not happy. But I understood his situation. Fortunately I was able to convince DC to allow Peter Snejbjerg to work from Denmark on a monthly title (largely based on the idea that a guy with two “j”s in his last name had to be good). It was our intention that Peter would be the new regular artist. As it turned out – after all the approvals and arrangements – Peter’s first issue ended up being the final issue of the series.
The final issue of the series was very possibly the most important as far as understanding the character. A couple questions about that issue:
By the time Impact was nearing the end of it’s run, it had all but disappeared from the newsstand shelves. And yet the final issue was important, as I said before. Any comments on this little piece of irony?
Well – I’m still frustrated about the way IMPACT withered and died. It was an important idea, comics aimed at new, younger readers. I’m also frustrated that BLACK HOOD was canceled due to the other titles selling poorly. Up until the announced end of the line, BLACK HOOD was selling very respectable numbers – numbers that the industry would be bragging about these days.
Was the “historical recap” in issue 12 planned to appear at that point in the story, or was it something you did because of the cancellation of the line?
I got word that the series was canceled shortly after I had begun the script for issue 12. IMPACT was promised a three year run, “no matter how bad the sales were.” This was supposed to be due to the need to keep the trademarks active. Cancellation also occurred shortly following our second summit, where we made our plans for the second year. DC spent a great deal of cash and effort bringing together all the creative teams. So I was caught by surprise when the end was announced. I talked to Rick and Peter about it and decided the only fair thing for the readers was to give them some closure. I started over on the script for issue 12 and the result was what was published. Peter did a beautiful job and I was satisfied that I was able to end the series with the quote that had begun my proposal.
You mentioned not being able to get through the first 3-year story arc. What did you have planned for Nate?
Quite a bit, actually. My proposal had plots for the three years. We moved into a new house last year and I’m not sure where the proposal is now. It ran a hefty number of pages and if I find it anytime soon I’ll try to include some of the info. In general, I recall that I intended Nate to have a very long flirtation with the Hood – sometimes he would be the BLACK HOOD and then other periods would pass where someone else would have the hood. The first year was all set-up, introducing characters, concepts and antagonists. We were planning to start paying off on some of this in year two.
What was your thoughts on Crucible, especially seeing that your character was the main guy in the series?
My memory is a little vague on this. What I do remember is that since BLACK HOOD was considered a sales success, the editorial team was seeking a way to keep it going. The plan, as I remember it, was to use CRUCIBLE to reinvent and relaunch IMPACT with three titles. I had helped plot what became CRUCIBLE at the second IMPACT summit. (I think Mark Waid attempted to kiss me at one point for a suggestion I made.) When I heard about the changes in the wind, I went to New York and made a bid to write all three of the new versions of the revived IMPACT books. I wasn’t impressed with CRUCIBLE as it turned out. But I thought it would allow me to start fairly clean with the books. DC had a fair amount of interest in my proposition – but they countered by asking if I’d care to put the energy into developing my own line of comic books. That sounded more interesting and I then spent the next year or so developing the LIGHTING LINE of comic books. It never made it into print, but a tremendous amount of work was done – much by IMPACT guys like Rick Burchett, Peter Snejbjerg, Damon Willis, Neal Vokes, Tim Sale and quite a few others. In less turbulent times than the early 1990s, the line would have been launched, since we had strong interest from several publishers, including DC COMICS.
Do you think Crucible was the way to go to “save and fix” the Impact line?
I think the idea of a relaunch was needed. We had to create an event, a big event, so that we could attempt to grab some attention. But there was way too much else happening at the same time in the comic industry. I also think that long, continued stories are NOT the way to attract new readers. CRUCIBLE was not originally developed to relaunch the line and was warped into that role.
Did you have plans for any projects with Impact AFTER Crucible (had it succeeded)?
I was offered the chance to write a new BLACK HOOD title. But a new editor was interested in directing the title, giving me plots, characters, cross-overs, events. None of that appealed to me and I passed on the offer. I don’t even know if there was a BLACK HOOD title in the relaunch. I didn’t want to see what they were going to do with the character.
What are your thoughts on WHY Impact was canceled?
I wasn’t on the “inside” – so much of what I can say is as unfounded as what anyone might come up with. But from where I was sitting it looked simple. Mike Gold was in a contract dispute with DC at the time and IMPACT was his project. I was aware from talks with folks in the DC offices that Mike had at least two active adversaries in the offices who invested energy in blocking his success. (This kind of activity still boggles my mind.) This combined with poor sales to pull the rug out from under the line. As to why sales were poor – partially I believe it was timing. Comic shops were busy alienating their customers with “collector’s items” and they certainly had not yet come to realize that they needed younger readers to grow into an older audience. It was apparent going into IMPACT that the titles would be odd for many comic retailers. Market reports were telling us that the general public would respond very well to the IMPACT titles. We were just having a great deal of trouble punching through the 1990s IMAGE buzz to create any, well, IMPACT.
To contact Mark, go to his website, http://www.InsightStudiosGroup.com