Well, when doing the Marvel GI Joe book, what would
happen when Hasbro would make William "The Refrigerator" Perry
a Joe character and he would have a spiked football?
LH: Yeah, but you also have
to understand that it's a business. They make a deal and they
think it's a good one. Everybody knows the Fridge. They're
not putting on the other hat from my point of view as a guy
who has to keep track of the universe and make the story make
sense. If I could get away with ignoring it, I did. I knew
that it didn't make a difference if he was in the story that
much because the universes didn't overlapped. They could have
their cake and eat it too.
Sometimes they would try to insist
and I would say that it's suicide and that it would kill an
important aspect of the universe.
The Dreadnoks were a good example
of that. Originally, the plan was that the Dreadnoks were
going to be these big furry teddy bears.
LH: They were going to be
plush toys. I said "Why?" It was all because The Return
of the Jedi was coming out and Ewok paranoia was going
on. I said "Don't you understand you can't have the good guys
shooting big, lovable teddy bears?" [Laughs]. It actually
sunk in and, to their credit, we changed to guys on motorcycles.
Speaking realistically, there are
all these other elements involved and everyone has their own
sense of priorities.
DE: Speaking of realism,
is GI Joe still relevant in this post 9/11 world?
LH: I think they are. We
were at war briefly for a few times during the original run
of GI Joe. Grenada, The Gulf War. I think there is
a much different public attitude about it now, because this
stuff has really come out now.
DE: If you have any say in
it would the Joes do something about Osama Bin Laden?
LH: Well, I don't know if
I would do that.
Captain America used to go and punch Hitler in the face during
World War II.
LH: Well, that was a very
different time, and a very different perception of what these
types of entertainments are. You really have to look at it
from two viewpoints. What the comic stories satisfy and what
they are aimed at is very different now than when GI Joe
was coming. The demographic for the comics was even different
than the demographic for the toys.
You are really playing with three
different sets of fantasies, because toy soldiers have been
around forever. They find them in Egyptian tombs. I think
it was George Orwell that said, "Nobody ever made a single
penny from selling little toy pacifists." Little boys want
to act out certain types of aggression with toys. It's not
just aggression as well; there's a very liberal viewpoint
that the object of play has to do with fighting and with violence.
I think that's true to a degree, but I think there are other
elements there in the play structure. Like acting out the
elements of loyalty, which are very strong. I think that is
the underlying elements of the toys and comics. I never thought
of the fighting stuff as very important. It's the drama and
the interaction of the characters that I think is important
and important to the readers.
Most of the feedback that I've gotten
about it isn't like, "Hey, great fight." It's more like they
love the characters. That's pretty telling.
DE: How close did you feel
to the Joe characters after writing all 155 issues
and probably dozens of annuals and specials? Did it hurt when
it was cancelled?
LH: Sure. In order to write
these characters, you have to walk around in their shoes and
extrapolate how they are feeling and what's happening in their
heads in order to make it ring right. To live with these people
for such a long time, then it's gone...it's like leaving home.
Getting back into it recently felt,
well, like you can go home [laughs].
DE: What did you think of
GI Joe cartoon and the cartoon movie?
LH: Well, that's pretty subjective
[laughs]. To tell you the truth, I've only seen one episode
of the cartoon. They never asked me to write one, so why bother.
What was it like when the action figure of you came in? [The
character Tunnel Rat was based on Larry]
LH: That was a lot of fun.
They actually sent the sculptor to take photos of me. He's
the same guy that did a lot of the holograms for credit cards.
He's a miniaturist sculptor. He did the dove for the VISA
card. Once you sort of reduce a likeness to that size, a lot
is lost. It was rather flattering.
DE: With so many characters,
what was your filing system like?
LH: I kept tabs on the characters
with those file cards [Larry wrote all the file cards that
came with each action figure] and had dossiers on them. I
originally wrote little psychological profiles on them, which
turned into the file cards. I realized right away that I needed
to keep track of this.
DE: What is the status of
the Mort the Dead Teenager the movie?
LH: I have no idea. My involvement
stopped after I wrote the comic.
DE: You don't own it?
LH: No. Marvel owns it. But
I did get to write the screenplay for DreamWorks. It's been
rewritten a couple of times.
DE: How did you come up with
Mort the Dead Teenager?
LH: Basically, I was thinking
about how many Marvel comic book characters had been optioned
for film and TV. But not many movies were happening. I went
in and came up with some new stuff that wasn't really a superhero,
that somebody could do fairly cheap. A youth market-type thing.
I came up with Mort the Dead Teenager, and all I had
was the title. They said OK [laughs]. So I had to come up
with a story to fill out the title.
DE: What was your experience
like on Wolverine? I really enjoyed your run.
LH: I think I got Wolverine
because it was in a real slump at the time and they didn't
think I could hurt it anymore. For the first year or so, they
just didn't care what I did. I had this weird amount of freedom,
and I was having fun, then it started to get really popular.
Then, I had to start with all these meetings that happened
once or twice a year and sit down with all the other X-Men-related
writers and come up with an agreement with what these characters
were going to do for the rest of the year. It made things
easier continuity-wise, but at the same time, sort of leveled
DE: Were you required to
unravel everything Barry Windsor Smith did with Weapon
It wasn't just that. There were a few other things as well.
The problem with continuity is that, if you're writing a book
for the long run, how beholden are you to a guy who only wrote
one or two stories, especially if something really drastic
happened? I really liked what Barry did. In fact, I wrote
the introduction to the trade paperback of the Weapon X
mini-series. I think it's a storytelling milestone and he
just went wild with those ideas. Some of the story ideas he
came up with don't quite fit in logically with everything
that was established before, but I could live with that. If
something is good, I would rather go with that than with the
correct thing that is part of the continuity.
DE: Would a book like The
'Nam [a comic chronicling the Vietnam war which Larry
edited] work today?
LH: I think it was at the
right time for a lot of different things. We got a lot of
publicity for it, because it was a book that our PR people
could send to a real newspaper, and the person there could
read that issue and understand exactly what was going on.
Any X-book you give to a civilian, they will go, "What the
hell was this?"
DE: There was the X-Men
Annual years ago with the Impossible Man smashing through
the Marvel office and everyone was freaking out except for
you and Michael Golden. What did that mean?
LH: Michael drew that. We're
sitting there with our feet up on the desk and that's what
we used to do.
DE: Were both of you just
not shocked by anything that happened?
LH: We were both in our own
universes. All the times I was at Marvel, I was in my own
separate universe. I started out doing Crazy magazine
and then, I edited Conan. Then I did The 'Nam,
GI Joe and Savage Tales, stuff that was outside
the Marvel Universe.
DE: Michael Golden is a brilliant
artist, but he has quite the reputation. What is he like to
LH: He's fine, and a good
buddy of mine. My old adage is that anything good comes with
ugly luggage [laughs]. I have my own ugly luggage. I've known
him a long time. I was probably the first guy he worked for
in comics. I gave him a Mister Miracle at DC Comics.
I got him Russ Heath as an inker then Al Milgrom gave him
Bat-Mite. He's also an artist that keeps growing. Also,
he's weirdly underrated, he's an artist's artist. Every artist
I know that's any good refers to Golden. I look at most people's
artwork, most of the time I could figure out how they did
it. I look at Golden's stuff, and I can't fathom how he did
Wizard magazine or one of
these fanzines did a story on the 100 most influential people
ever in the comic book business. They left out both Michael
Golden and Neal Adams. I was amazed. Fifty percent of the
artists they mentioned swiped their stuff from both those
guys. Between those two guys and Jack Kirby, that's everything
DE: Why did you leave Batman?
LH: Talk about hampering.
When you sit own to write a Batman book, they hand
you this 200-page bible, and its all stuff you can't do [laughs].
Then they want you to do some original groundbreaking stuff.
You go, "What?!" I wanted to do some neat bizarre thing with
the Bat-copter, like a stealth Apache, and they said that
he doesn't have that. Everything that I liked about Batman
DE: How do you feel about
your place in the industry right now?
I don't have a place right now [laughs]. The industry is totally
different right now. The market is completely different. When
I was doing very popular books, the demographic was much younger.
I would do a signing and there would be hundreds of 10 and
11 year olds. They lost track of the original mass market
as an audience and got very specialized. I don't know how
to write comics for the brand new market. It doesn't seem
to be quite adult stuff, and doesn't seem to be kid's stuff,
either. I never really thought of myself as writing to a 10
year old. Maybe that's why it had legs. I was writing it to
please myself. I truly believe that Carl Barks [the genius
behind the creation of Scrooge McDuck] didn't write any of
those Uncle Scrooge comics for nine-year-old kids.
I think he was writing them to please himself. That's what
you have to do. I was trying to write what I thought were
DE: What else are you doing?
LH: I've been developing
stuff for Curious Pictures. They worked on Pee-Wee's Playhouse
and they do animation and special effects. Last year I wrote
and storyboarded Wolverine's Revenge [featuring the
voices of Mark Hamill and Patrick Stewart] for Playstation
2 and X-Box. That was a lot of fun, and it took quite a while.
I storyboarded The Seventh Stream [starring Scott Glenn
and Saffron Burrows] for CBS last year. I'm working on a few
movies and novels.
DE: Larry, thank you very
more stills from Larry's carrer
you team up with King Cobra to fight drug dealers? Tell us!
Epstein lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New
York City. He is a contributor to such websites as Gadflyonline.com,
SlushFactory.com, 3ammagazine.com, Hybridmagazine.com, Ifanboy.com
and DavidFincher.net. He is also a former producer for MetroTV,
where he worked on such shows as The Daily Beat, Studio Y
and New York Eats, and has worked on such feature films as
Tromeo & Juliet by the Troma studios and Dinner and Driving.
He loves referring to himself in the third person.