On November of 2005 we have the opportunity to have a long Chat with Mike Wieringo where we speak about his entire career, it was a delightful moment where he show us that that he was better person that penciller, something which was really difficult.
Know if that so sad moment we would like to share with you this moment publishing the English edition of that interview.
Rest in Pace Mike, we are you sure that actually you are sharing the table with Jack Kirby and other important artists.
Your first professional work was in a miniseries of Doc Savage in DC Comics, I think you do this job because someone of Gaijin Studio help you, Could you explain us how it happen? Which was your relation with Gaijin Studios?
I met the Gaijin guys (specifically Cully Hamner, Brian Stelfreeze, Karl Story, Adam Hughes, Tony Harris and Joe Phillips) in 1991. They were really friendly guys– and I got to know them pretty well right away. They were very encouraging to me and my desire to break into the American comic book market and helped me as much as they could with advice– and in one specific instance, with they helped me to land the gig drawing DOC SAVAGE: DOOM DYNASTY, a miniseries for a small company called MILLENNIUM PUBLICATIONS. Brian and Karl were doing some work for them…. covers and art direction… and they suggested me to Mark Ellis (MILLENNIUM owner and publisher). He liked my work enough to use me on the mini. I owe Brian and Karl a lot for all their advice and help. And I’ve become great friends with Cully Hamner over the years.
Later you did a successful work in Flash where you where joined by Mark Waid, What do you remember from that age? Would you like to repeat your collaboration with Mark and also with Flash one day? What is your opinion about the evolution of Impulse a character you create in Flash? Do you think that maybe one day he will be Flash? Do you think he is prepared for that?
I remember that time well. It was a great thing for me that the first writer that I ever worked with was Mark Waid. His stories were so wonderful and his characters so real seeming that it was very easy to get connected with his scripts at that time. And he was very understanding and encouraging as well– even though I was just starting out and VERY rough around the edges. He was always telling me how much he noticed my improvement. We spoke very often, and he was a great writer to work with as my first regular assignment. I would LOVE to work with Mark on a speedster character again. ESPECIALLY now that IMPULSE has become KID FLASH. KID FLASH was always a favorite character of mine as a kid– and the idea that a character Mark and I created (IMPULSE) would be the new KID FLASH would make me very excited to work with Mark again on that character. I don’t know if Bart will eventually become the new FLASH… but if he does, I’m sure he’ll be ready for it. He’ll more than likely have growing pains in that role, as anyone would… but he’ll be ready, I think. He’s got speed and heroism in his genes….!
In Marvel you did a miniseries of Rogue written by Howard Mackie, Why do you began to work for Marvel? Who offer you? Why you didn’t work more for mutant’s title?
Honestly, I don’t really remember the name of the editor that offered me that gig. It was a woman…. but that’s all I remember. She left Marvel not long after that miniseries to go work for MTV. I was fond, at the time, of jumping back and forth between MARVEL and DC to work for both companies. There were lots of fun characters from both companies that I wanted to work on– and so when I was offered the ROGUE miniseries, I jumped at the chance. I always wanted to work on an X-character… or THE X-MEN in general. I also did an X-FORCE annual written by Fabian Nicieza during that time as well…. but I wasn’t offered any more X-related work after that. Perhaps Marvel thought that my artwork was too cartoony or something. I don’t know– but back then, I would have loved the chance to draw more X-MEN stuff. NOW– nto so much. I’m kind of tired of those characters now.
Then you began to drawn Sensational Spider-Man, in that series Dan Jurgens did a great job but he leave the comic doing only six issues, do you remember why he leave the series? Who offer you to work in Spider-Man? What do you think when they offer you?
I’m not sure why Dan left SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN after only six issues. Probably, that was his initial commitment to the title, and he wasn’t interested in staying beyond that commitment. Some times a creator will just want to get in and get out quickly after doing an initial story arc– especially with a new title– to get the money of the higher selling books from the first issues and then move on. But I don’t know if that was Dan’s motivation. I was offered the title by Ralph Macchio, the editor on the book. When Ralph called me to offer me SENSATIONAL, I was stunned. Frankly, SPIDER-MAN is such a big character, I never thought I’d get a chance to work on him at that time. I was very nervous starting to work on a character as huge as SPIDER-MAN. It was bigger than anything I’d done up to that point, and I was afraid of disappointing the fans. But fortunately, most of them enjoyed my run on the book. I grew into it and ultimately really enjoyed working on that title. And now here I am working on that character again, many years later!
In Sensational Spider-Man you work with Todd deZago, who became a good friend for you, did you know him before or you meet him for first time when you work together in Spider-Man? Would you like to work with him in a near future?
I had never heard Todd’s name before we worked together on SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN. But before we started working on our first issue together, we had a lot of long talks on the phone, and we became instant friends. We had/have a lot in common… and we hit it off immediately. And yes, I would love to work with Todd again in the near future. In fact, we’re talking about some side projects that we’d like to do together right now. So that might be something that happens pretty soon.
In 1999 Todd and you began to prepare Tellos appears a prologue in Gorilla but I think you have problem with that enterprise, could you explain us the problems you found? What do you feel when it is published an author comic book? What represent Tellos for you? And what do you feel when you see that another hands are working in your creation?
Well, Todd and I had already been working on TELLOS before we joined GORILLA COMICS. We saw GORILLA as an opportunity to join with a bunch of high-profile, very talented creators to form an imprint that would hopefully bring even more attention to our book. Unfortunately, the man who was to be the ‘money man’– the guy who was going to finance the line of comics that were to be published through IMAGE COMICS– turned out to be more talk that action…. and money. The funding he kept promising never came to be… and the other GORILLA guys had already begun working on their books. And so when the shock of not having a financial backer wore off, they continued to work on the books to publish them anyway. But unfortunately, the downturn in the American comics market was still happening and deepening, and so the sales on those books– as well as our own book TELLOS– were ultimately very disappointing. TELLOS started out selling well, but the sales dwindled as the book continued– and eventually we were losing money on each issue by the end. And so we had to stop work on it– and I had to go back to freelancing. But working on TELLOS was the most fun and creative time I’ve had in my comics career. I was very, very sad when the book ended and it took me a long time to get over it. I STILL miss it. I don’t mind so much seeing other artists draw my characters– it’s fun to see other people interpret the characters I spent so much time and effort designing. It would have been nice if I was the ONLY artist to ever draw them– but I don’t resent other artists working on them. It keeps the characters in the public eye, even if I can’t be the one working on them.
Also you work in Adventures of Superman during one year, what differences do you find working in Tellos and alter in Superman?
Working on ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN was a great shock after working on TELLOS with Todd. Joe Casey was the writer for that title– and he wrote the book full-script (as all DC comics are), and I was very used to working from plots with Todd. Todd’s plots left a lot of room for me to pace the stories, and that was a great working relationship. I enjoy working from plots much more than from full scripts. But on AOS– not only were the scripts full-script– but Joe also took control of the panel designs of each page. He had a specific look he had in mind as far as the storytelling for the comic we were doing. And for me, that was just too much to deal with. I felt I was going from great creative freedom and cooperation on TELLOS– to almost NO creative input on AOS. So I took the first opportunity to leave that book– and when I was offered FANTASTIC FOUR, I jumped at the chance.
Then you return to Marvel for doing Fantastic Four, the return to Marvel was because Mark Waid was going to write it?
Actually, I was offered and accepted the assignment on the book before Mark was ever offered the book as writer. I think that Tom Brevoort (FF editor) always wanted Mark to write the title… but I also think he used me as being attached to the book as ‘bait’ to get him on board.
Your issues in Fantastic Four where full of surprises and epic moments, if I have to choose just only one it would be when the Fantastic Four must go to the heaven to save Ben Grimm then they found god which is Jack Kirby, who was that idea?
I’m not sure exactly who’s idea it was. It was more likely an idea that Mark Waid came up with– and Tom Brevoort helped him mold it into the great story that it turned into. And I agree that it was an amazing story– it was certainly one of my favorite story arcs from that run. Between HEREAFTER and UNTHINKABLE, those were two really fantastic (no pun intended) story arcs. I feel very fortunate to have worked on them– and especially that it was with Mark Waid.
We were really surprise when we read the conversation between Jack and his collaborator, Mark and you think that the success of Fantastic Four was due to Jack Kirby and that Stan Lee only do the scripts? Do you receive any letter from fans of Stan Lee when this issue appears in the USA?
I didn’t get any fan letters about that particular detail of the story. I did spend a lot of time on the internet message boards reading fan reaction– but it didn’t seem to strike much of a chord with fans that the personification of ‘THE CREATOR’ was Jack Kirby and not Stan Lee. Personally, I’m in the camp that believes that Jack Kirby did the majority of the work and creation of all the major icons of the Marvel Universe. I think that Stan Lee was a clever dialogue writer and had some input in the directions of the characters– but I honestly think that Jack Kirby’s amazing imagination was the major driving force behind the Marvel U. But I think that for the HEREAFTER story— it also made sense that Kirby be the one portrayed, because he’s no longer with us. It was partly tribute, but also partly because of Kirby’s passing, it made it ‘convenient’ to use him in that context.
We read in an interview that Jack Kirby create their characters in base a bible, do you know that when you did that issue?
No– actually I didn’t. It’s possible that Mark did (between he and Tom Brevoort, I think they know every minute detail of the history of MARVEL COMICS and their creators).
In the middle of your stage in Fantastic Four, Bill Jemas try to dismiss Mark Waid but he wants you continue in the title, is this true? Why do you decide to leave the title also?
Yes, that’s true. Bill Jemas had a direction that he wanted Mark to take the FANTASTIC FOUR in (what ultimately became MARVEL KNIGHTS FF)– and Mark wasn’t comfortable with that direction, and declined to write to Jemas’s direction. And so Mark was fired from the title. I was given the opportunity to stay on the title– but after reading the script from the new writer, I just wasn’t interested. It wasn’t the kind of FF story I was interesting in doing. So I decided to leave the book as well– and also as a show of solidarity for what I felt was the wrongful ouster of Mark as writer. I know that it’s Marvel’s right to take their books in any direction they choose… but I thought that the way it was done was wrong. And so I left as well.
Later you and Mark return to the title, why do you return? What change?
I think it was a combination of the huge fan outrage online– combined with the fact that a lot of Bill Jemas’s power was stripped from him. He was demoted, and so it sort of opened the way for us to come back to FF.
Could you explain us how was your relation with Mark Waid in the title? He let you collaborate with ideas? Which is your favourite issue in Fantastic Four?
Mark and I had a great relationship on FF. We would talk often about what was coming up– and what was happening with the current issues we were working on. As far as collaboration– Mark and Tom had the direction for the book set up pretty much completely themselves and there wasn’t much room for me to have a lot of input. Mark DID consult me about a particular scene now and then when he was stumped as to how to make it work visually…. but as far as the overall direction of story and character, there wasn’t much opportunity for me to contribute. But that was OK with me…. the scripts were so strong that I didn’t feel the NEED to contribute. I’ve always loved Mark’s writing, and I know he’s a great steward of whatever book he’s working on… he doesn’t need me to help him out…! As for my favorite issue, I think there are two issues that are tied as my favorite– our FIRST issue, #60…. and issue #67, the DOOM prologue from the UNTHINKABLE story arc. Those two issues were absolutely seminal, in my opinion. With 60, Mark set the tone for the kind of stories he was going to do… stories packed with emotion and character. And issue 67 was just an amazing story to work on. The UNTHINKABLE arc as a whole was groundbreaking…. but the beginning of that story with 67 set the tone and was a brilliant character study written by an inspired writer. I was honored to work on that book.
When you finish your stage in FF in a short space of time Marvel announce that you were to drawn a new series of Spider-Man, it was supposed to be written by Mark Waid but like he firm an exclusive contract with DC he had to leave the project, what do you think when you know that Waid was not going to write Spider-Man? Do you speak with Mark about the new series of Spider-Man? Which was his idea of Spider-Man?
I was disappointed, naturally, that Mark ultimately decided that he wasn’t going to write the book. But I understood his reasons. I think he was more than a little stressed out by his ever increasing workload– and something had to go. Plus, I suspect– although he never said as much to me– that Mark may not have been too thrilled with the idea of the new SPIDER-MAN title launching in the middle of a huge crossover with the other two SPIDER-MAN titles. Mark likes to put his own stamp on the books he writes– give them his own personal touch– and with FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD, he wasn’t going to really be able to do that until starting with issue #5. And so that might also have been a big contributing factor. We honestly didn’t get much opportunity to discuss what was going to be his take on the character and the book before he decided to leave. I know that he and Tom were talking about adding NOVA as a recurring supporting character to act as a sort of foil for SPIDER-MAN because they knew that NOVA was a favorite character of mine. But things never got beyond the initial idea stage before Mark decided to go exclusively with DC. And he’s being given some fantastic opportunities over there– such as having some editorial capacity in overseeing continuity and the like– as well as working on new projects like BRAVE AND BOLD, so I can understand his excitement about working only with DC for right now.
Fortunately Marvel react well changing Mark Waid for Peter David, a writer born to write Spider-Man, what do you feel when you know that at the end Peter Would write Spider-Man?
Peter David has a long history with SPIDER-MAN, having written the character back in the 80’s– as well as creating SPIDER-MAN 2099 for Marvel. So he’s well versed in the character and his legacy…. and his work is well respected and enjoyed by the fans. I know that SPIDER-MAN fans were very happy to learn that he was going to take over as writer for FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN. I, too, had enjoyed Peter’s work on those titles back then, as well as his HULK work– so I knew he’d be a good choice to step in in Mark’s place.
How is your relation with Peter David? What do you think about his work in Spider-Man (recent and past)? Could you explain us something about the things we are going to see in Friendly…?
Well, we’ve only spoken on the phone once during our ‘introductory phonecall’ set up by Tom Brevoort. That and one or two emails is the extent of the contact I’ve had with Peter so far. But that’s in the context of working on this ‘THE OTHER’ crossover. His first issue launched the crossover– with the second issue being written by Reginald Hudlin and the third issue of FRIENDLY being written by J. Michael Strazynski. And now I’m working on the fourth issue, back to being written by Peter– but it’s still the ‘aftermath’ of the crossover event. And so there really hasn’t been much time or room for discussion about the direction that Peter wants to go in after this is all said and done. I DO know that Peter has told me he wants to concentrate on creating new adversaries and challenges for SPIDER-MAN rather than bringing his old rogue’s gallery into the book. There WILL be some of the old villains making appearances– but for the most part, Peter wants to go in new directions, such as his creation of the TRACER character in the first issue.
The first issue of Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man will be the first issue of The Other, World you prefer that The Other arrive when Friendly have more issues in the comic shops?
From a personal creative standpoint, I would prefer that ‘THE OTHER’ crossover not be done at all. I’m not a big fan of crossover mega-stories that flow through several titles in order to get the whole story. As someone who is interested in storytelling, it’s antithetical to my nature to work on something that’s only one-third or one-fourth of a complete story. The irony is that during my career, I’ve been involved in MORE than my fair share of these crossover events. There was ZERO HOUR when I was working on FLASH– and CONTAGION while I was working on ROBIN– as well as several crossovers during my FIRST time on a SPIDER-MAN title back on SENSATIONAL (ironically, one of them called IDENTITY CRISIS). And none of them have been all that enjoyable as a whole. And I can understand the frustration of many fans that they feel they have to buy books they normally would not purchase in order to get the whole story during any given crossover event. Plus, as someone who’s been a comic book fan for 31 years as WELL as a comics professional for the last 13 or so…. I’ve read more than my fair share of these crossover events. I was a huge fan of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. That was a seminal event in comic book history….. but there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing. It’s hard to top CRISIS. I doubt it ever will be. And so all these other events pale in comparison. My personal preference is to work on a book that is isolated and not tied into the events of any other book. I enjoy guest appearances by other characters in the books I’m working on…. but not as part of something that’s a story that runs through other titles. And yeah– I would have MUCH MORE preferred that FRIENDLY have a chance to set a tone for itself and to stand on its own before being pulled into a crossover event.
What is your opinion about the events like House of M, Infinity Crisis or The Other? Do you think that this event limits the creativity of the authors?
As far as events like HOUSE OF M or INFINITY CRISIS– those are self contained major events that haven’t (or didn’t) bleed into the regular monthly titles, usually unless the creators on those titles WANT them to do so. They stand on their own and can be judged as self-contained stories. And so those sorts of stories/events don’t put constraints on creative teams– and can actually be a lot of fun for those folks. As for something like ‘THE OTHER’– as I said, it’s definitely not my favorite thing to be a part of– but I’ve been a part of enough of them that I know the ‘ropes’, so to speak, and I’m used to them by now.
You do feel exhausted when you have to drawn the suit of Spider-Man with all that webs? Do you prefer the black costume?
No, actually drawing the webs on SPIDER-MAN’s costume has become very easy over the years. It’s become something I’m so used to that it’s easy. In fact, I like the webs very much because they help define the contours of SPIDER-MAN’S body. Without them, he’d be kind of blank and bland. I like the black symiote/alien costume– but it’s not something that I’d want to draw all the time. I would get bored drawing it all the time…. and I don’t get bored by drawing the webbed version.
How much time do you think you will stay in Spider-Man? Do you think you will be capable to do every issue of every month? How much time do you spend in doing one issue?
I’m not sure how long I’ll stay on FRIENDLY. It was an exciting opportunity to start with– but with the advent of the ‘THE OTHER’ crossover and the fact that I’m NOT a monthly guy, actually, makes me feel as though I might not spend nearly as long on this book as I did on, say, FANTASTIC FOUR. There’s also something to be said for the old saying that goes «You can’t go home again.» I already had a shot at SPIDER-MAN when I worked with Todd Dezago on SENSATIONAL– and then again with the two issue guest shot he did in FANTASTIC FOUR. With those two issues of FF, I got the chance to draw the character as I would NOW, as opposed to when I drew him back in the late 90’s. My work has matured and changed quite a bit from that time, and it was great to work on SPIDER-MAN again after all that time. A part of me says that I should have left it at that and not taken this new title. I guess I wanted the opportunity to have the chance to perhaps draw the kinds of SPIDER-MAN stories that I grew up with as a child– but I don’t think that will come to pass… especially in light of the crossover event and its aftermath. And no– I’m not a true monthly artist. I don’t have the ability to draw each and every issue of a monthly title. I need to take a break now and then and get skipped ahead to make up for the inevitable time loss that I incur when working on a monthly book. It, on average, takes me about 5 or 6 weeks to draw an issue. Otherwise, I don’t feel I’m doing my best work. But during the end of my run on FANTASTIC FOUR, I did the last 8 issues in a row– which was something I had never accomplished before, that much work. I’m not COMPLETELY happy with those issues… but I’m not UNHAPPY with them either. I’m proud to have done that much work in the time frame I had… and I think they’re strong issues. But as I get older, I don’t feel I can keep up that pace…. and the schedule on this ‘THE OTHER’ crossover even has been very very tight. I don’t have the energy– or the eyesight–to keep up that kind of pace for long.
Do you prefer to work with a team group like Fantastic Four or a title with just only a superhero like Spider-Man? In which comic do you feel better?
They both have their advantages and disadvantages. I used to think that I preferred to draw a single-character book until I did that almost-three-year run on FANTASTIC FOUR. What I learned during that time was that having multiple character teams to draw allows me to keep my interest high. In the second issue of FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN, there were a TON of guest stars, and they were a lot of fun to draw. I think that ultimately, I have come down on the side of enjoying working on team books. There’s a tedium that begins to set in while working on a single-character book. I’m the kind of guy who likes to draw a wide variety of things when I’m working… that helps to keep my interest up. I think it’s in the nature of an artist to want to draw many different things all the time. It’s the unique nature of comic books featuring monthly, recurring characters that requires the artist to draw the same character day-in and day-out… as well as maintain an ‘on-model’ LOOK for those characters. So– to sum it up… I think I’d prefer a team book, ultimately.
How is a normal day in the live of Mike Wieringo?
Every day is pretty much the same. I get up at about 8 a.m…. make coffee, eat breakfast, take a shower…. and get to work about 10 a.m. I work until 5 p.m., when I leave to go work out at the gym (Monday-Friday). Then I come home, eat dinner and get back to work until I’ve finished my page for the day… unless I’m too tired, then I finish it the next morning. That’s what causes my setbacks and losing time in the schedule. Some days, I’m just too tired in the evenings to finish the page I’ve started that day. But pretty much, every day is the same for me.
Which is your favourite Marvel character? And the one you would like to work with?
Actually, my favorite Marvel characters are the ORIGINAL versions of their line. Maybe it’s because I’m headed into middle-age– but I’ve got a great nostalgia for the old, original versions of the Marvel pantheon. I love the original 5 X-MEN characters when they were teenagers. I love the FANTASTIC FOUR when they were first formed. I love the original adventures of SPIDER-MAN and THE AVENGERS and…. well, all of them. I think the kind of projects I would love to do for Marvel would be ‘Year One’ type of projects. The kinds of things that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale have been doing– like SPIDER-MAN:BLUE and HULK: GREY and DAREDEVIL: YELLOW really excite me– and I’d love to do something like that. BARRING doing those kinds of things, I’d love to do a QUASAR series…. or work on THE DEFENDERS. I’m interested in working on characters I haven’t done before.
Who is your favourite writer? And who would you like to work with in a future?
I’ve always wanted to work with Alan Moore. I’ve been a big fan of his work for some time. Heck, he’s written some of the most influential comics in our times….. WATCHMEN and SWAMP THING were both groundbreaking works. And his LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN is just amazing! I’d also love to work with Warren Ellis. I’ve long enjoyed his stark, acerbic concise writing style. I guess there’s a trend…. I’d like to work with a British writer, I suppose. In particular, the two I’ve mentioned.
You have an style of drawn really fresh and positive, for that reason your stories you work are that kind, do you see yourself working in a title more gritty? Would you change your style to work in a project of that kind?
I’d like to do something dark and gritty with a writer like Warren Ellis, yes. It would be good to stretch and see if I could match his intensity with my work. But in all honesty, as I’ve gotten older, the kinds of stories I’ve been wanting to do are more fantasy based, coming-of-age stories. It’s the kind of themes that we were exploring in TELLOS…. the young kid being confronted with magical situations that present him with a confirmation of his/her sense of wonder… and push him to meet the challenges of what he’s (or she’s) being thrust into. Some of my favorite literature are things like HARRY POTTER, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, THE WIZARD OF OZ, ALICE IN WONDERLAND and the like. There’s a sense of wonder and imagination that we have when we’re children…. the idea that anything is possible, and that around any given corner, there just MIGHT be something new and magical. That there’s more to the world and our universe than just the mundane realities of every day life. I think as children, we see our parents toiling to make a living and to have the best lives they can… and we hope that there just MIGHT be more than that to life. All we have to do is discover that ‘something more’. I think that’s why the HARRY POTTER books are so massively successful… that kids have this enormous sense of imagination and wonder, and they have a thirst for something that will confirm and uphold that idea that there might be something magical behind everything in our lives. And I’d love to create stories that would connect with those young folks… because as a creative person, I can still identify with those feelings that kids have. There’s still that kid in my that’s yearning for something more than the mundane realities of everyday life. I suppose my style fits with those sentiments.
Would you like to say something to your Spanish fans?
I’d like to say that it’s an absolutely wonderful feeling to know that there are people in faraway lands (which is a term that had much more meaning before the advent of the internet) like Spain who enjoy my work. Spain is a gorgeous country with a rich and storied history that I would love to one day visit when I have the time. And Spain has also produced some of my favorite comic book artists– like Carlos Pacheco, Pascual Ferry and Oscar Jiminez. And so with that calibre of amazing artist coming from Spain, it’s a wonderful honor and feeling to know that there are fans there who enjoy my work as well. I’ll try never to let you down! Thank you so much!