Comics Icon David Michelinie Talks About Some of His Comics Creations And How Cool Elric Is!
With Joe St.Pierre
To me, David Michelinie is easily in the pantheon of the greatest comics writers of all time. He wrote epic runs on IRON MAN, AVENGERS, and the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. He was also involved in the creation of some truly memorable characters in the Marvel Comics Universe, including CARNAGE, the TASKMASTER, SCOTT LANG (ANT-MAN), JIM RHODES (WAR MACHINE), and perhaps most notably, everyone‘s favorite wall crawling villain, VENOM!
My very first job as a penciler was written by the man himself–you can imagine how intimidating that was ;)–We also worked on my favorite SPIDER-MAN job at Marvel Comics together, which included VENOM and CARNAGE. Dave has already scripted a story with one of my own creator-owned characters, CRICKET in THE NEW ZODIAX.
Joe: Let‘s get into some of the characters you created throughout your career. I remember an ad in the 70s for a character you and Bob Layton created called SORCERER, right? Did SORCERER ever happen? What‘s the story behind that?
Dave: That went on forever. I believe we were going to do this graphic novel for a publisher in Michigan, but Bob got very busy and the publisher wasn‘t happy with the delays. We finally bought out the publisher and took the project to Marvel and they were going to produce it. But once again it didn‘t get done and we revamped it when we started Future Comics. The character DEATH MASK became the final version of SORCERER.
Joe: Really? Great that you got to use the idea eventually.
Dave: Yeah. He‘s an American Indian mystic who worked in Vegas. Bob wanted to call him Seneca Blackstone because of the Seneca Indian tribe, and Blackstone the magician. I suggested “How about Seneca Saint Synn?”, because I love that Saint/Sin dichotomy. So we were going to call the book SAINT SYNN, but there is a character out there called SYN by Peter Gillis, so rather than get into a legal hassle, we changed it. Bob came up with DEATHMASK, which I hated, because a death mask is the mask you make of a dead person. But as it went along he became one of my favorite characters, because I came up with the idea of WHY it‘s a death mask: it‘s funneling not only the energy from another dimension, but a personality. An evil personality is riding along the energy. As Saint Synn uses his powers the personality begins to take over a little bit more of him, so it‘s kind of like an ELRIC story.
Joe: Yes we could probably talk for an hour about how awesome ELRIC is (laughs). Especially since you and I had talked previously about how that was your influence when you were developing CLAWS THE UNCONQUERED for DC as well. For me that sounds like a great idea.
Dave: Oh I was so influenced by Moorcock, because we had CLAW THE UNCONQUERED, then there was a series I had created called STAR HUNTERS, which was headed by Donovan Flynn, we had STARFIRE, who was a female sword and science character, and I was going to do a Moorcock shtick like his Eternal Champion (a concept found in Michael Moorcock‘s work whereby all of his heroes were essentially other-dimensional reincarnations of one another). I was gonna put
all three of them and JONAH HEX together as part of the same hero and then bring them all together in a graphic novel or something. But I never got a chance to do that. That‘s how much I was influenced by Moorcock.
Joe: Wow. CLAW THE UNCONQUERED would’ve been a totally different book, going in that direction.
Dave: Oh yeah, sure. If you’re going to steal–I mean, be influenced–it might as well be by the best!
Joe: I enjoyed FREEMIND and I love the concept of METALLIX, where many people wear the same costume.
Dave: Again, that‘s a great example of collaboration. Bob (Layton) came up with the name METALLIX, and he wanted it to be like an IRON MAN character with liquid armor. I took it and said, “Why don‘t we do something different? Why don‘t we make it one suit of armor, then we‘ve got a CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN type of group, and each one has an ability. The armor enhances that ability. That‘s what happens when you get two creative people together, and they start talking; you get lots of stuff to write about.
Joe: I know a bunch of friends of mine are going to want to know about the TASKMASTER, and I think we‘ll have enough material after that. So we ALL love the TASKMASTER and want to see more—Oh, you know, I wanted to ask you about VENOM too, shoot. Okay, let‘s talk about TASKMASTER real quick.
Dave: OK, his name is TASKMASTER, next?
Joe: (laughs) OK onto VENOM!
Dave: I was just kidding! You can talk about TASKMASTER. I just make jokes, not always funny ones–blame my personality.
Joe: TASKMASTER. Again, one of those ideas where one says “Why haven‘t we seen this before? Because this is so. obvious. an idea, but also so great, once you see him in manifest. The guy who trains the henchmen for all of the aspiring world dominators of the Marvel Universe. So, was it just you saying “Why hasn‘t this been done before?”
Dave: That‘s exactly it. When I went to Marvel and started working for them, I wasn‘t that familiar with the Marvel superheroes universe, and I saw two things that I didn‘t understand. One of them was “Why do all these second-string villains, who almost always fail–where do they get the money to buy their guns and stuff? And that led to JUSTIN HAMMER, who finances these guys for a part of the take. Then TASKMASTER is exactly what you said; all these costumed nameless goons, where do they come from? Is there something in the Yellow Pages, like Goons R Us? So I came up with the idea of the TASKMASTER, who had, at the time, what I thought was a unique element: a man with photographic reflexes. Where he could see something done, and then he could do it himself. I won‘t say they stole my idea, but in the second season of HEROES (the TV show), they had a young woman who did that. She could see something and she could do it on her own, and I wondered if any of the writers were AVENGERS fans.
Joe: Oh if the writers who worked on HEROES hadn‘t read comics, I think the world is spinning backwards or something…
Dave: …tomorrow will be yesterday. So anyways, I wanted to make him a little different from other super-villains, so I had him training the henchmen to fight superheroes, instead of fighting them himself–though he usually ended up doing that anyway, of course. So that‘s where those two characters came from. I saw something that I questioned, “How does this happen? Where does this come from?” and I came up with an idea and turned it into a character.
Joe: Do you see TASKMASTER as a spice character or do you see him as a guy who could carry his own comic book?
Dave: I don‘t know what they‘ve done with him. I usually don‘t keep up with characters that I created when I no longer have control over them. Even if someone comes along and tells great stories, they‘re not stories that I would tell and he would be doing things that I would never do, so it would be painful.
Another character, Scott Lang (ANT-MAN). I never got to do him as much as I wanted to. HE could have certainly survived at least a miniseries, maybe once a year or something. He fit so well into the superhero milieu. But TASKMASTER? I don‘t know. As I wrote him, TASKMASTER didn‘t really have that much variety in his motivations. Now, I could write him once a year at least and give him something new to do, but I don‘t know–I would have to put a lot of thought, and maybe make alterations to his situation to make him a monthly character.
Joe: Well said. And these characters are just the tip of the iceberg! It‘s always a pleasure chatting with you!
David Michelinie‘s story featuring CRICKET of the NEW ZODIAX is a stretch goal for the NEW ZODIAX Vol. 1 NEW EDITION, available through Kickstarter right now!