With Spiderman still in theaters, and Red Hood and The Outlaws one of DC's biggest series right now, I thought that out would be great to sit down and talk with the man who created Jason Todd, killed Gwen Stacy and contributed so many great characters to both Marvel and DC, as well as wrote many popular TV shows AND has penned two science fiction novels.
Enjoy this great conversation I had with Mr. Gerry Conway!
1. When and why did you decide to get into comics?
I decided to get into comics when I was about twelve or thirteen years old. I was a big reader of comics and enjoyed them. One of the comics I enjoyed a lot was the Legion of Superheroes, and it was being written by a thirteen year old kid named Jim Shooter. I was thirteen and I thought, If he can do it I can do it. So I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I started going to DC Comics in the summer of my freshman year in highschool I started talking to different editors and tried to see about possibly drawing for the comics and that that wasn’t going to happen. So I started pitching story ideas. One thing led to another after a persistent couple of years, and I opened some doors and started writing.
2. What writers inspired you to start writing?
There were many writers whose work I enjoyed. and wanted to emulate. In comics, my two favorite writers were Stan Lee and Gardner Fox. Outside of comics, I was a big fan of Robert Heinlein, the science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. I had just read John Steinbeck for school: really enjoyed him. Wanted to emulate the people whose work I enjoyed reading.
3. You actually had a letter published in the Fantastic Four issue #50 Did you ever think that a few years later you’d be writing for Marvel?
I never thought. It never crossed my mind. In fact, it still boggles me! [Laughs.]
4. You co-created Firestorm, a character who actually became a big part Crisis On Infinite Earths (written by Marv Wolfman), which changed the DC universe forever. How do you feel knowing that you had such a big part in doing that?
It always amazes me the recrucissions of stories that one does that, in the moment, you’re just thinking about the story. You’re just thinking about telling a good story, creating something that you’d be interested in reading, or sharing something tat you find fun. And then the idea that that has a ripple effect through the decades is kind of amazing and mind-boggling. A similar thing happened with The Death of Gwen Stacy. We knew that it would be an important story, but never thought it would be as crucial as it turned out to be.
5. You've collaborated with many writers and artists over the years. Is there any that you want to but haven’t had the chance yet?
Other than the ones I've already collaborated with? There are so many that it would be in poor taste for me to single any out and others would go, “Well, why not me?” I think the current generation of artists working in the field are just amazing. Amanda Conner, to pick one person, is someone in whose work I am tremendously impressed. I always felt that I would’ve liked to have worked with Todd McFarlane, to make it completely opposite. The people that I have had the opportunity to collaborate with, like Jose Garcia Lopez and Gene Coleman, I’ve been really, really lucky.
6. You've introduced characters like Killer Croc, Power Girl, and of course Jason Todd. Can you pick a favorite and why?
Probably Firestorm, of the characters I've created. I had the most fun with him. Simply because he sort of distilled the essence of what I liked to read,b what I like about comics. He’s a character that’s both fun and serious. He has, I think, kind of a logical weight to him, not as he’s been done since I left the book, but when I was doing it I think I somehow unconsciously tapped into an archetype that is pretty powerful and I was very happy with him.
7. You've written the sci-fi novels The Midnight Dancers and Mindshifts. Do you have any plans to write more novels in the future?
I’m actually working on a YA fantasy novel set in the Cthulhu mythos world. I’m about three-quarters of the way through it and, assuming I finish it, I hope to have it published next year and it probably will be the beginning of a trilogy.
8. You've written and produced many TV shows, including but not limited to the original Law and Order and its spinoff Criminal Intent. Do you have plans to do it again or have any particular show you want to work on that you haven't?
No plans to do it again. I’ve basically left that part of my career behind. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish and had a great time doing it. I enjoyed the work. Pretty much done with it now.
9. You wrote the comic strip for Star Trek. What is the biggest difference between doing a strip compared with a monthly comic?
Well, a comic strip...there are many technical differences. The main elemental difference is you’re telling compressed story, but the story is both compressed and extended. You’re telling it in small, incremental pieces, but it’s told over a period of time that goes for an extended period. So, a story that might be a ten page comic book, that would be read in five to ten minutes, is told as an extended story that takes six to eight weeks. It's a very bizarre compression and decompression of storytelling. It’s something I really enjoyed doing and I’d love to do it again.
10. You've worked on many numerous characters.Are there any that you haven’t and would like to?
Huh. There are some that I’d like to revisit. I’d enjoy doing another Batman story. I'd enjoy doing an X-Men story. Honestly, I've been very fortunate and I've gotten to do all of the characters I wanted to write. It;s hard for me to think of any that I missed!
11. If you weren't in comics, what would you be doing for a living?
Well, I'm not in comics at the moment, so I'd be doing mostly what I’m doing now! I’m a writer, I'm a storyteller. I enjoy telling stories. When I wasn't writing comics I was writing TV. I think that it’s a part of my nature to like to entertain through telling stories. I’d probably find some way to do that. In another era, I think I would've written pulp fiction.
12. Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
I speak no foreign languages. [Laughs.] I don’t know if that’s surprising! I used to be three hundred and fifty pounds. I’m a lot older than you would think and younger than you’d think given the amount of work that I've done.
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