Interview with Roy Thomas
With the seventh volume of the
All-Star Comics Archive
now available, the monthly
comic kicking into high gear in its second year, and the release of The
All-Star Companion, the definitive study of the 'swell buncha guys' that
made up the Justice Society of America, it was time to check in with comics
legend Roy Thomas, who wrote and edited the some of Tomorrow Books.
Mile High Comics: The All-Star Companion is obviously a labor of love for you. For any JSA fan, or fan of comic book superheroes in general, it's a must-have. What is it about the Justice Society of America that you find particularly fun and interesting?
Roy Thomas: I don't want to analyze it any more than I did in the COMPANION. I just loved the idea that these guys knew each other, and they weren't just isolated guys running around. It made the idea of super-heroes real to me at the age of 4-5.
Mile High: With so many artists and writers having contributed to the JSA's backstory over the past 60 years does that plethora of talent make this team unique among superhero concepts? Has even Superman had that many comic book professionals working on his story?
It doesn't matter, because among writers only Gardner Fox, John Broome, and Bob Kanigher count. Only 55 stories really count. The rest, as George Lucas once said to me about everything "Star Wars" except the movies, is just "gossip." Including my own work and the current title.
No opinion, because I don't read many new comics. I'm just glad that they and the JSA title helped sell ALL-STAR COMPANION, and thus helped acquaint some people with the authentic product. Nothing against the talents who produce the mag, though. I'd love to be a part of the revival myself, and I'll admit that I'm a bit annoyed to be shut out-- and more than a few readers seem to agree with me. But that's the editors' decision... and I've certainly contributed along the way.
Is the JSA a true family in the sense that the Fantastic Four is? Do you think that strengthens the team concept?
Not so much a family, as the "Friends" of super-heroes... of course, they were idealized friends in the old authentic days, with few real character traits, but they still seemed real to me.
Who is your favorite JSA character? Why?
Who is your least favorite JSA character? Why?
I'd have to say someone like Mr. Terrific who didn't do much... but I really would like them all. My least favorite JSA characters would have to be new ones that are created now, just because I have no interest in them... but that doesn't mean they aren't worthwhile creations.
Regarding the reviving of Golden Age super-heroes and heroines with modern situations, conflicts and sensibilities: Is there a time when that effort goes too far? In writers' attempts to bring characters up to date do those characters lose some of their charm?
Yes. Again, that's just my own opinion. After all, I did some character things with them, too, just not as extreme.
Can comics recapture some of the sense of fun that went into the Golden Age stories or are writers, editors and readers unreceptive?
I don't think it can be done in the same way as then. "Retro" comics are usually too sterile... and comics going for a current audience have their own flavor, but not what made ALL-STAR great. That's inevitable, I suppose, and no great reflection on JSA, etc.
It was a damn good idea. A great one, in fact.
All-Star Comics was conceived as a vehicle for superheroes who didn't have their own monthly titles. Could a super-team book based on that marketing concept survive today or are the 'heavy-hitters' required for a team book to sell?
Well, it seems to have worked for DC from time to time. But I started reading the book when it was a combination of cover stars like GL, Wonder Woman, Flash, and even Hawkman, and backups like Atom, Dr. MN, and Johnny Thunder. A mixture. It worked either way.
What do you think is driving the current interest in Golden Age characters?
They were better, more basic ideas than a lot of current ones.
It's rumored that there'll be a JSA-JLA crossover not only in the comics but also in the animated series debuting on Cartoon Network this fall. What characters and situations would you write for those meetings if you were plotting them?
I don't want to take time speculating on that. But it would be interesting to see the JSA on TV, after all these years... even though I probably would grit my teeth a bit at the same time.
From Timely, of course, it'd be Torch, Cap, Namor, probably Miss America and Whizzer, maybe my own Union Jack and Spitfire. From the JSA (excluding the All-Star Squadron non-JSAers it would be Hawkman, GL, Flash, Wonder Woman (stupid to exclude her!), Atom, maybe one or two of the guys who were a bit too early for me. Maybe even Black Canary. 'Twon't happen, though... or if it does, it'll be written by someone else. To have me write it would be too fair.
What was the first comic you remember reading?
Specifically? ALL-STAR #25, but it wasn't the first... just the first I remember for sure. I know my mother read Superman and Batman to me early... I thought they were Souperman and Badman and Robber (a couple of crooks, since they wore masks, right?)-- and Captain Marble, as I first thought of him at age 4-5, must've been made of marble and that's why the bullets bounced off. I remember specifically reading the second-from-last chapter of the "Mr. Mind" serial in 1945, because it had some sea monsters in it... but dunno if that came before ALL-STAR #25 or not... maybe even have seen #24, though I suspect I just saw the cover in some house ads. I remember an early Capt. Marvel story in which he's shrunk inside an anthill, but haven't check out how early that is. Anyway, it was in 1945, at age of four.
What was the comic that most impressed you at an early age?
You gotta ask? Come on!
What was the first comic industry job you had?
Assistant editor to Mort Weisinger at DC, on the Superman titles. Lasted one week paid, and one four-day week before that, unpaid.
What was your first writing assignment? How did you get the assignment?
I wrote the final issue of SON OF VULCAN first, then the final issue of Charlton's pre-Ditko BLUE BEETLE. Some of my Marvel work (MODELING WITH MILLIE) came out first, but the Charlton stuff was written while I was still in Missouri, teaching.
What comics do you currently enjoy and why?
Thanks again. I've got a zillion more questions and every time I pick up the Companion I get more but I don't want to take up too much of your time. I very much appreciate it.
Thanks for asking.
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