Bad Grrl Fan CLub EXCLUSIVE interview with Robert Weinberg***************************************************************************************************
Somewhere in April 2001 I encountered a sizzling visage on the Internet. It was the promo to NIGHTSIDE, with an arrogant smiling yet sexy and oh so self-assured catsuited woman, looking at you with a full moon rising from after her and monsters completing the atmosphere. I got intrigued and started looking for more information on the author Robert Weinberg and this Nightside, which would see the light in October of that year according to Marvel. Soon thereafter I discovered enough data to convince me that preordering this beauty would be in my best interest. And I was not wrong about that. Nightside and therefore the artists behind it, delivered. An intriguing story sided with beautiful art by Tom Derenick in a special gray tone, also used by Jay Anacleto (Aria) and Mike Mayhew (Vampirella) which is effectively colored although maybe even better left uncolored.
This is what NIGHTSIDE promised:
"Who says manís the only intelligent species on Earth? No, Iím not talking about dolphins or whales or even those monkeys they taught to play cards and read baby books. Iím talking the real things; beings who walk our streets, ride our cars, work, eat and sleep and do all the stuff that humans do - but that arenít human. Who says?"
"They call themselves the Others. No one knows much about them. Their history is as dark and murky as our own. It doesnít matter. What matters is that theyíre here. They look like us, they act like us, and most people never suspect theyíre not one of us. But, theyíre different. Theyíre not human."
"The Others possess powers no mortal has, and oftentimes they are controlled by thirsts and passions and desires that are totally and absolutely alien. Some of them crave blood; others can change their shape; while still others can suck the soul right out of your body."
"Over the centuries, mankindís developed folklore and legends about the Others - given them names like vampire and werewolf and ghoul and ghost and demon. But, theyíre not so easily categorized. Each of them is different, just as each human is unique and special in their own way."
"Like humans, the Others prefer to socialize with their own kind. So they gather in clubs, in bars, in locations meant for them and no one else. Most of them sleep by day and party by night. They keep a low profile and hide in the darkest shadows. Our world of sunshine and faith and hope, they call `Dayside`. Their world, a place of shadows and darkness and terrors unseen, the world the Others call their own, they know as `Darkside`."
"Sydney Taine, tall, beautiful, sensual, is a female detective who walks on the Darkside. No one knows much about Taine other than she solves crimes that ordinary crime solvers canít. The Others avoid the police and politicians at all cost. Taine is one of the few humans they trust, and some of them wonder about her. A few elders speculate behind locked doors that perhaps Taine is yet a third lifeform, a race called the Players. Could all life on Earth, both Humans and Others, be mere pawns in a vast game for unknown stakes played by a select few like Sydney Taine. When asked, Taine laughs and walks away. But she never answers."
"The new comic deals with Sydney Taine, and her partner, Ape Largo, perhaps the ugliest man alive, as they solve the crimes, conspiracies, and the unnatural disasters that all take place on the Darkside. Good and evil battle in this hidden society, but sometimes telling which is which isnít going to be easy. Nothing is easy on the Darkside."
BOOM: Thank you Mr. Weinberg, for allowing me to have this interview for my Bad Grrl Comic Fan Club at www.boomboom.tk. I am honored. First off, I noticed you have been active in writing for 35 years now, of which 2 years for comics (Cable and Nightside) and both very successful I might add. But why writing and not mathematics, since that was what you were doing until, coincidentally, the year I was born: 1973? What drew you into writing?
WEINBERG: I studied mathematics in college and I have two degrees in mathematics and science. I also taught mathematics for five years in college. However, all my life I dreamed of being a writer. So when I found myself bored with mathematics and teaching, I decided to head off in a different direction - becoming a writer. I probably would have made more money staying on as mathematics professor, but I've been happy writing. And so I feel I made the right choice.
BOOM: Often creative people (writers, pencillers, painters et cetera) talk about their inspirations and rolemodels. Do you have any?
WEINBERG: I've been lucky in my career that I've known many great writers and I've benefited from their knowledge and advice. If I had to pick out one writer who influenced me the most, I would say Dean Koontz. Dean and I have been friends for over twenty years and his advice and help to me not only in writing, but also in dealing with the publishing industry, was extremely important.
BOOM: On your website (www.robertweinberg.net) you give a description or lecture, based on your vast experience, on How To Write, which I find very enlightening. You speak of grammar, new ideas instead of recycling, themes, research, getting ideas, human anatomy ( ;-), dialogue and beginning with the end. What was the reason not behind writing this piece, but putting it up on your site?
WEINBERG: I taught Creative Writing in college for three years and I always get questions from new writers (or people who want to learn how to write) about my suggestions for breaking into the writing field. Instead of sending them short notes giving some advice they might not find useful, I thought it would be a good idea to put up a long article on my website dealing with the questions I am usually asked, thus making it easier for people to find the answers to their questions. I'm always happy to help fans if I can.
BOOM: Often writers have themes or ideas running through their work: love, believe in God, hate for the church, human suffering, children playing or comics like Kevin Smith does. Do you have recurring characteristics in your stories?
WEINBERG: I don't think I have any theme running through my comics other than a desire to entertain. I write stories for people to read and have fun with. Since I change viewpoints from story to story, what I believe is truth has nothing to do with the characters I write about.
BOOM: Why did you change from writing novels, short stories and studies to comics? Did serving as chairman for 20 years at the Chicago Comicon have any effect?
WEINBERG: I was approached by Mark Powers and Pete Franco, editors at Marvel, who asked if I wanted to write comics for them. I agreed because it sounded like it would be fun to do and a change from what I had written before. As a writer, I enjoy new challenges. I've written novels, non-fiction books and short stories. I've also written many non-fiction articles on subjects ranging from advanced mathematics to rare art. So, I looked upon comic book writing as something new and different -- a challenge. I like challenges and I soon found I liked writing comic books.
Serving as the co-chairman of the Chicago Comic Book Convention for twenty years helped keep me aware of what was going on in the comic book field. Also, I knew a number of other writers who worked in the comic book field. So I knew something about the work necessary to write a script and how a comic book was laid ou t and put together. Still, I've never gotten a comic book job because of old ties to the comic book world. I've always been judged (I hope!) by the quality of my work and not who I knew.
BOOM: The first in a new line of creator-owned projects of Marvel. This is what they called Nightside. So far it has stayed with this project, but how did you experience such a proclamation at the time?
WEINBERG: I was very happy that Marvel chose to do NIGHTSIDE as their first creator-owned project. I only wish that more of the comics media picked up on this concept. My biggest problem with NIGHTSIDE has not been writing the story o r getting it published. My problem has been getting the comic book the publicity I think it needs and the attention from reviewers it deserves. That's been an ongoing struggle.
BOOM: How did you get to work with Tom Derenick for this project? What was it that persuaded you to 'go with him'?
WEINBERG: Tom did several fill-in issues of CABLE, which I thought were very good. I especially like his beautiful women and I thought he could do a great job drawing Sydney Taine. Michael Ryan, who I had worked with on CABLE was not available, so I asked Tom if he'd like to try illustrating the comic. He agreed and I've be en extremely happy with his work. Tom just gets better and better. I am sure in a few years, he is going to be one of the top artists in the comics field.
BOOM: How did you two work together? What were the steps taken to get a comic done?
WEINBERG: I write a full script - that is, a script that describes every page and ever panel on the page, and then Tom does thumbnail art sketches based on that. After he is finished, I see the thumbnails and approve them or suggest changes. From there, he does the thumbnail sketches as regular pages. I get to see the finished art and check that. After that, the book is inked (if necessary) lettered and colored. After that, the comic is ready for printing.
BOOM: So you write a 'full script' with plot and dialogue. What was the interaction with Tom and you on that?
WEINBERG: I first have my script approved by my editor, Mark Powers. Then afterwards, Tom gets to see it. If he has any ideas about changes or rewrites, he sends them to Mark and me. Tom has had some great suggestions that have added some important details to the story and the characters.
BOOM: Did you already have an idea how the characters would look like or was this Tom's input?
WEINBERG: I had fairly strong views on how the main characters should look but at the same time, I am pretty easygoing to what the artist feels is the best way to show a character. So, I'd say the look of the characters is pretty much collaboration between Tom and me.
BOOM: Let us talk about Nightside (the comic) for a while. How did this idea develop? Was it intended as a comic, since the characters of Sydney Taine and Key 'Ape' Largo already existed in your writing?
WEINBERG: Nightside was never intended to be a comic book. I had already written a novel about Sid Taine and Ape Largo and a number of short stories dealing with one man or the other. When Marvel asked if I was interested in doing a creator-owned series, I took some interesting but never written Taine ideas and changed them into comic book scripts. Like most writers, I don't like anything I've written to go to waste. Much of what I have written for comics is based on stories I hoped to write as novels or short stories one day.
BOOM: While Sidney was well defined in the comic, Largo was portrayed as a fantastic sidekick. Didn't you find that diminishing for such a character? Or did you intend it this way to portrait the relationship between the two?
WEINBERG: Ape was always meant to be a sidekick. NIGHTSIDE is about Sydney's adventures. Ape comes in handy but the focus is on Sydney and her mysterious background. In the second NIGHTSIDE adventure, Ape plays a very small role in the story. But when he appears, it's exactly when he's needed the most.
I like writing supporting characters and making them somewhat unusual or quirky. But every book needs to have one clear focus of attention. Sydney is the main character of NIGHTSIDE. Ape is along mostly for the ride... If NIGHTSIDE was popular enough, then Ape might get his own book. And then he'd be the focus of the stories. It's a nice dream, but not one that's going to happen for some time, I suspect.
BOOM: In the description of Nightside it says: "Taine is one of the few humans they trust, and some of them wonder about her. A few elders speculate behind locked doors that perhaps Taine is yet a third lifeform, a race called the Players. Could all life on Earth, both Humans and Others, be mere pawns in a vast game for unknown stakes played by a select few like Sydney Taine. When asked, Taine laughs and walks away. But she never answers." Yet this is not addressed in the comic. Did you mean for that to be left out? Will it be addressed in the upcoming Nightside II?
WEINBERG: When I originally wrote the proposal for NIGHTSIDE for Marvel, the comic was scheduled to be a monthly book. So, I planned a number of ongoing plotlines that would be slowly resolved over a long period of time. One of those plotlines was going to be a discussion of Sydney's true identity and the mystery surrounding her past. That's when the original publicity announcement was mailed out.
However, the people at Marvel decided that instead of starting up new ongoing titles they would experiment with limited edition mini-series instead. So, the plans I had for Sydney changed, as my underlying plotlines could not be entirely recorded i n just four issues.
Now that Sydney is going to star in another mini-series, I plan to spend a good amount of time in the story on Sydney herself, her background, and several mysteries raised in the first mini-series. Many questions will be answered, but new ones will be raised!
BOOM: You already told me that Nightside II would have Tom Derenick again, although it was not sure if he would be able to do the artwork until just recently. Do you feel like you have a winning team here? Are there special moments you can remember from this project?
WEINBERG: I've never met Tom as we do all our business via email. I've met my editor Mark Powers only a few times, so most of our working together has also been done via email. Everything worked out with no problems because everyone was anxious to put together the best book we could. My most exciting moment involving the book was seeing the great promotional poster Marvel put together to advertise the comic at their convention booth in San Diego and Chicago.
BOOM: You also told me, in reply to my questions on the open ending of Nightside, that "The ending is a bit confusing, but I wanted to make you think about it, not just immediately know what is going on!". While I like this 'thinking' I keep thinking about it and I was hoping that in Nightside II some things will become clearer. Is there hope?
WEINBERG: NIGHTSIDE II will make the ending of # 1 much clearer. My main concern with the ending of the first mini-series was to make sure the readers would realize that the world of the NIGHTSIDE was not as ordinary as it seemed. And that Sydney Taine was more than just a good-looking detective.
BOOM: Could you already tell something more about it besides the following announcement: "Sydney Taine will return in October 2002, in a second NIGHTSIDE mini-series from Marvel Comics. Sydney battles black magic at the crossroads as she struggles against the devilish Mr. Scratch in a desperate duel for the life and soul of an innocent girl. It's monsters and mojo as the Nightside Detective Agency investigates the death of blues legend, Robert Johnson, in "Hellhounds on Her Trail." ?
WEINBERG: I don't like revealing much about my plots because they are so complicated and filled with unusual mysteries that evolve throughout all four issues of a mini-series. I will say that "Hellhounds on Her Trail," will be a lot more complicated than "Ikkyu's Skull," and that Sydney's going to need all of her skills and secrets to help her survive in her battle with Mr. Scratch. She's going to find herself fighting demonic creatures from the pits of hell, monstrous dogs with near-human intelligence, and a group of very vicious zombies, just to mention a few of her enemies. And, the title of the first issue in the series will be called (I think, as it could still change before October) 'KISS ME, DEADLY'.
BOOM: Looking at some of those amazing covers of Tom and his portrayal of Sydney, I can't help but think this also should fall in the renowned category of 'Bad Girl comics'. Now I have my own ideas about this category (I believe there is much more then just T&A to say but one) but how do you think about that?
WEINBERG: Sydney's more than just a "bad-girl" heroine, but at the same time, she's not stupid to think being good-looking is a problem. She exploits her good looks instead of ignoring them. She dresses wearing sexy clothes because she knows that her appearance distracts most men. And most women who see her (in outrageous clothing) assume she is merely a party girl and not very bright. As a detective, Sydney wants her suspects to believe she's not smart. That's when they make mistakes. I get into this notion in the 2nd mini-series as well. Sydney fights evil with all the weapons she possesses. She uses her good looks like any other weapon.
BOOM: Do you read comics yourself? If yes, which and why do you enjoy them? If not, why not?
WEINBERG: I read a fairly good number of comics. My favorites depend pretty much on the storyline in the particular series I am reading. Thus, I follow authors much more than I do artists. My favorite comic being published these days has to be TOM STRONG. It's always a lot of fun. I like comics that don't take themselves too seriously.
BOOM: What other comicprojects beside Nightside II do you have in store? I read something about "Extinction Event"?
WEINBERG: Later this year, Wildstorm Comics will be publishing a five issue min-series, written by me and with art by Brett Booth. Titled "Extinction Event," it deals with a race of intelligent dinosaurs who awaken after being in suspended animation for sixty-five million years and want Earth, the planet they once ruled, back. It gets pretty wild very quickly and Brett's art for the series is terrific. We're hoping that maybe Wildstorm would want to continue the story in a monthly comic, but only time and sales will tell.
I also have several other proposals in at Marvel and several other publishers about possible mini-series. Until I get a definite word on these, I'd prefer not to mention them, since they might never be published. I also have a new novel coming out in paperback in September called DARK EARTH - THE TORCH and a new non-fiction hardcover, THE SCIENCE OF SUPERHEROES, dealing with the science used in comic book stories, co-written with my friend Lois Gresh. And, I have hopes to write some more horror fiction in the months and months to come.
BOOM: If there was one comiccharacter you could chose to write about, who would that be?
WEINBERG: I was disappointed I didn't get a chance to write the BLADE comic book, as I have written a lot about vampires and enjoy using them as characters. I wrote a Batman story (with Catwoman) for a Batman hardcover book, THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF BATMAN, but I'd like to get a chance to write a comic book thriller featuring Batman as well.
BOOM: Finally, a question I can not go beyond, would you be interested in 'doing' Vampirella? To me it still is and probably forever will be my number one comic and very big names have contributed to this icon.
WEINBERG: I've always enjoyed VAMPIRELLA. Some of the comic book stories have been great, while others have been so-so. It depends on the individual writer and the artist involved.. If I had a chance to write Vampirella, I'd jump at the opportunity. She'd be a fun character to work with.
Look for more information on the artists of NIGHTSIDE at the homepages of
Robert Weinberg (www.robertweinberg.net) and Tom Derenick (www.pmkane.com/tomderenick).
Unfortunately, I was hired when Bob Harras was the Editor in Chief of
Marvel. Though I had nothing to do with the office politics at Marvel
(since I live 800 miles away), I was viewed by the people now in charge, Joe
Quesada and Bill Jemas, as being someone from the previous administration.
Much like political parties. So, when they finally fired the editor I
worked with, Mark Powers, all of my projects with Marvel (I was working on
four of them at the time!) were cancelled the next day. Needless to say, I
was not pleased as it meant I lost a lot of money I was counting on for
income in 2002. And, the same was true of Tom Derenick, who was counting on
illustrating the four comics in the 2nd Nightside series. Tom's gotten some
work from Marvel since then, but once my project was cancelled, I never
heard from them again. It was disappointing but there wasn't anything I
could do, so I've moved on to new projects. But, for now, Sydney is in
limbo, waiting for another publisher to hopefully someday want to publish
her ongoing adventures.
with all best
Hi. Thanks for writing. I hope you are well and in good spirits.
Sixty-five million years Ago, intelligent, flesh-eating dinosaurs ruled the Earth. Now they've returned. And they want their planet back! Read EXTINCTION EVENT by Bob Weinberg & Brett Booth, coming from Wildstorm Comics in 2003.
Unfortunately, I was hired when Bob Harras was the Editor in Chief of Marvel. Though I had nothing to do with the office politics at Marvel (since I live 800 miles away), I was viewed by the people now in charge, Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas, as being someone from the previous administration. Much like political parties. So, when they finally fired the editor I worked with, Mark Powers, all of my projects with Marvel (I was working on four of them at the time!) were cancelled the next day. Needless to say, I was not pleased as it meant I lost a lot of money I was counting on for income in 2002. And, the same was true of Tom Derenick, who was counting on illustrating the four comics in the 2nd Nightside series. Tom's gotten some work from Marvel since then, but once my project was cancelled, I never heard from them again. It was disappointing but there wasn't anything I could do, so I've moved on to new projects. But, for now, Sydney is in limbo, waiting for another publisher to hopefully someday want to publish her ongoing adventures.
with all best