Steve Englehart – Secret Empire! Defenders! Captain America! JLA!
Today Casey got to sit down with a legendary creator, the man responsible for the Cap vs Nixon storyline in Captain America 169-176 “Secret Empire”, wrote the Laughing Fish episode to Batman TAS, worked on Justice League of America building out character elements and so much more!
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Interview scheduled by Jeffery Haas
Theme music by Good Co Music:
Steve Englehart Interview
[00:00:00] Casey: all right, everybody. Welcome again. To another episode of spoiler country today on the show, we have comic book writer, all around professional guy. He has written so many books, captain America, green lantern. your name, um, you can, you know, pre probably has something to do with it. Steve Inglehart Steve, how you doing, man?
Steve Englehart: I’m good. How are you?
Casey: I’m good. That was a terrible intro. So let’s get down. Yeah, there’s something good.
Steve Englehart: Rest of the quality at the same level.
Casey: Oh man, man, man, it can only see you start at the bottom. And it can only go up. So my, my, my shitty intro ha, has, is going to elevate the content of this just by the fault.
So, How are you doing, man? How has COVID been treating you? That’s what I want to know right now.
Steve Englehart: I’m fine. We I’m out. I’m in California and we did lock downs [00:01:00] pretty early on and we believe in masks and science and so forth. So, I mean, there’s still COVID going on out here, but it’s, it’s been reasonably well contained and I certainly, No, I paid attention to what they said to do.
And here I am. So, you know,
Casey: Well, we’re we’re,
Steve Englehart: I mean, it’s supposed to be, it’s supposed to be a little more wild than Willy down South, right?
Casey: our, our, my ask of the blood of Jesus. So, but luckily our, our governor actually extended the mask order until, November, which shocked me, but, I’m very appreciative and, and hopefully, you know, if I don’t see us getting out of this.
Before that time comes. So, you know, hopefully will prevail again.
Steve Englehart: Well, I mean, I think we’re going to be in it basically till they get a vaccine that people believe in. I mean, not just seen, but a vaccine that people think actually works [00:02:00] and that’s, you know, six months, I mean, who knows? It’s, it’s amazing that we’ve been doing this since March, but, I don’t, you know, I think we’ve got a ways to go to, So you just learned to live with it, right?
Casey: Oh yeah.
Steve Englehart: Yeah. Not getting it. That’s what I mean to say.
Casey: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And w we’ve been doing everything we can on our end to, to not. Catch it, so we don’t transmit it. my, my wife’s grandparents live not too far away from us and, it terrifies me if they get it. So yeah,
Steve Englehart: you gotta, you gotta, you know, if you’re a normal human being, you don’t want to give it to other people.
Casey: so as a writer, because I mean, you, you, I don’t think you’re, you’re writing anything, comic related. Now, but as a writer has, has being, kind of stuck in the same place, like physically stuck in the same place as that has that contributed to [00:03:00] you, making any breakthroughs or, or, or expanding what, what you’re writing
Steve Englehart: actually.
Yeah. I, you know, a number of years ago, I started, I came up with this idea for this. Vast complex story that I thought I would like to tell basically, because doing a bass complex story was, you know, fun as a writer to solve the problems, to do the different characters, all this kind of stuff. It had no deadline, it had no artists, it had nothing other than my desire to, to, you know, to, to write this thing eventually.
But I did it in, I did it in, Segments. I mean, I would write for a while and then I’d travel or I’d go to cons or I’d go see my grandkids or, you know, just, it was, it was not the top of my list to do, but it was something that I could turn to when I, you know, when I felt like doing it. Well with the pandemic, being inside all the time, [00:04:00] I sort of drifted back into like, well, I’m not doing a lot of those other things, but I can do that.
So I’ve been writing this thing, and I’m actually pretty close to being done with it. awesome. Yeah. I mean, I’m real happy with it. It’s it’s just as a writer who likes to write. I’ve been, I’ve been making myself happy doing this thing and working my way through all the different, problems that I’ve set up for myself.
when I get done with it, then we’ll see if anybody wants to draw it. And if anybody wants to publish it, you know, et cetera, et cetera. you know, I mean, I think it’s, I think it’s good. On the other hand, if. Well, all right. So it’s, it’s seven chapters. Each chapter is 60 pages long. It’s basically a mini series made up of graphic albums.
and you know, so we’re talking 420 pages. And if there’s somebody out there who thinks they want to draw that I’m happy to hear from them, you know, but if it, if it turns out there isn’t then fine. I just did it for the writing. [00:05:00] The fun of writing, you know, and, and we’ll worry about the other parts you get done with it
Casey: in, in what genre is it?
Steve Englehart: it’s, it’s got superheroes in it, but it’s about something bigger than superheroes. That’s about all I can say about it at this point. I mean, I like superheroes. I didn’t want to get away from superheroes, but I wanted to do some other stuff that kind of went around superheroes and, That’s, you know, probably a specific as I’m going to get at this point, but, I think it’s a good store selling say.
Casey: Awesome. Awesome. I can’t wait to see it. I really genuinely hope it. you find somebody to illustrate it and get it out there because it’s, I love seeing the projects that, that people do not because, you know, Marvel or DCS some to come and do something, but because they said, I have this idea, and this has been in the back of my head for a long time.
It needs to come out.
Steve Englehart: Yeah. I don’t, I don’t know if any, you know, if other people are doing this because of the pandemic, but I mean, Pretty much [00:06:00] everything that I did over the years was because Marvel or DC or somebody came and said, do this, please. You know, and I’m, you know, fine. That was the rules of the game.
I was happy to go with that. But in fact, I just like to write, you know, so, writing is. Usually a pleasure, for me, you know, I mean, sometimes it’s work sometimes it’s just, Oh God, what am I going to do today? But, in general, you know, I like to write, so that’s it’s, I don’t need somebody to ask me to do something.
so I we’ll see anyway, so what,
Casey: tell me, you’re, you’re having a terrible day. Words are not coming out. What do you do?
Steve Englehart: I ran into that when I, when I wrote my first novel, because I was switching over from comics to novels and there was, you know, novel, it was novels were bigger. They were longer, they were exponentially longer because the longer you go, those sort of wider and higher everything [00:07:00] gets as well.
and I was having to like, Learn all that adjust to all that. And, and what I found was them, there were days when I’d sit down and I go, I have nothing, I don’t have anything I want to say. I don’t feel like it. And I would still make myself write five pages of a novel, which is, I don’t know what that is in comic book terms, but, I knew, you know, fortunately we were, we had.
Achieved computers by that time, or we were actually, we haven’t wait a minute. Let me rephrase that. We hadn’t actually. So I knew that if I, if I wanted to change anything, I was going to have to go back and retype it. cause I, it was on a typewriter in those days, but, but. If I made the five pages that meant, sorry, I had made progress in the book.
So that then the next day when I sat down and I knew that I had, you know, I had achieved something the day before, even if I didn’t like it, even if I thought I’m going to totally rewrite this later. So that’s kind of my [00:08:00] solution. If I, you know, if I have nothing at all to say, I’ll still say something just so that I can say, Oh yeah, I, I made progress.
I did this. Maybe I’ll change it, but at least I have something to work with. So it’s just like, you know, beating a horse, right. It’s just like, just make yourself go out and do something. and I I’ve never found anything better than that. It’s just like, there are some days when you just don’t, you just don’t feel it at all, but you can do something, you know?
Casey: So w when you, you started in comics, what, what comics did you buy growing up? Like what, what turns you on to the, the form?
Steve Englehart: well, I, you know, I grew up, I became a conscious child in the fifties. Right. And the only thing is that we had. As far as superheroes go were Superman, Batman wonder woman in the, and you know, adventure, comics, whatever.
But there was like [00:09:00] DC characters and that was pretty much it. Marvel was not marble yet and so forth, but they did, reprint Dick Tracy strips from the newspaper
Casey: and strips were awesome.
Steve Englehart: They absolutely were, you know? And so that was like really good comic stuff then. And, and that I was able to read and I, you know, and I did read the Batman and Superman and wonder woman and all that.
then in the sixties, I, you know, more, more come, you know, Marvel started up golden keys, started doing things, Charlton. Got it. I mean, there was a lot of, there were a lot more companies sort of trying interesting stuff in the sixties because of the Marvel success. And I bought and read everything. I mean, I, I romance comics, Western comics, monster comics.
From big companies, little companies, you know, it didn’t really matter. I was just fascinated by this explosion of comic material because I’d been, [00:10:00] I had liked what I’d had, but, but, but it had been limited and all of a sudden it wasn’t limited anymore. So I didn’t want to like, you know, just say, well, I’ll only read.
DC comics. And, I don’t want to know what Marvel is doing or, you know, what about gold key? What about Magnus robot fighter? What about, you know, the blue beetle over at Charlton? I mean, there were all these things that I wanted to know about and I, I have been struck over the years. I mean, when I got into comics professionally, I kinda knew a whole lot about comics.
I mean, I knew about will Eisner and bill Everett and, you know, and, and the Ray and all this stuff from, from before my time too. I mean, it just seemed to me, if you were going to do comics, you ought to know about comics. That’s not, you know, and then as comics became more expensive and they, you know, there were a lot more of them and even so, you know, I start to meet people who only read the X-Men or who only read, you know, Batman or whatever.
And [00:11:00] I never could understand that. Exactly. but you know, part of that is probably just comics were a dime or 12 cents, you know, and, it was easy enough. And they were on newsstands. And you, you know, so you could go down to the drug store and you could buy, you know, 15 comics, because everything that was out was, was available.
You didn’t have to go to a specialty store. You didn’t have to spend three 99, four 99, you know, whatever. So, I mean, it was just I’m, I’m just a child of my era. at, in that era, it was very easy to sort of learn everything about comics. Find out everything. Hey, do you,
Casey: do you keep up with anything today?
Steve Englehart: Not so much. the, I I’ve and this is another thing that I’ve found over the years and not just with me. if you’re asked to write a character, then you really well for me, I put myself as far inside that character as I can go and I try to figure out, you know, like, What is this [00:12:00] character supposed to be like, and what should the book be like?
And what you, I mean, all these different decisions that you have to make when you’re trying to do, you know, trying to meet the standards that you think that you’re capable of meaning. And so after you stopped reading, after you stopped writing a character, Then nobody else’s character, exact, nobody else’s version of that character seems it does it.
Doesn’t hit on all cylinders for me. And I have discussed this with the writers and it’s kinda the same with, you know, at least some of us, some other people. so, you know, having gone, having done this for having done this for a long time and then been out of it for a while and all this kind of stuff, you know, people will come in, they’ll go, Oh man, you should really read this book because this book is like really good and I’ll go read it and I’ll go.
It is, but it’s just [00:13:00] not, you know, it’s not working for me and I can afford to do that now. You know, I mean, if I were still in the midst of it, I would read everything and whether I liked it or not, but, and it’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just, you know, I’m not. Hi, you know, I keep saying, but I would do it this way or, you know, I just don’t know that I believe in that thing that he just did and so forth.
So I’ve got that whole secondary, you know, like on DVDs, I’ve got that commentary going on the whole time, you know, rather than just reading the book. it’s because now I see it from the inside out.
Casey: All right. Are, are you able to enjoy like, like a book now? Just like a plain, not like non comic stuff,
Steve Englehart: you mean a prose book with just words?
Casey: Exactly. Yeah. And, and appreciate it for what it is rather than pick it apart. as a writer.
Steve Englehart: Yeah. I, you know, I, I did, I did four novels, [00:14:00] so I had, you know, actually I did a couple more under pseudonyms, but you know what I mean? I had half a dozen novels. so I have been inside that business, but not, not nearly, you know, I mean, half a dozen things.
It’s not the same as. It’s 300 or 500 or whatever, you know, whatever I wrote there. so yeah, I don’t have the same. I don’t have the same. I I’m I’m I am critical though. I mean, I’ll sit there and watch, I’ll watch, you know, a movie on TV and I’ll be making snarky comments about, you know, nah, I dunno that didn’t.
You know, that guy was lazy that day, you know? And I don’t think, wait a minute, how did she know that when we didn’t, you know, so I’ll be doing stuff, I guess I’m doing the artist commentary on everything, but, but if I’m watching on TV, I can’t do anything about it. So I can just say, Oh, well, you know, But with comics.
Yeah. I, you know, I, I feel like I kind of figured comics out and, and [00:15:00] so, I have trouble. I have trouble then getting past that with comics, but with other things, movies, TV, books, you know, games, whatever. That’s all fine.
Casey: I’m glad that you still have stuff to say in comics in that you’re still riding. And, you know, that that creative drive is, is still happening.
Steve Englehart: sorry, the drive to stay on. And the fact that it’s comics is, is a thing to be. I just, I do like the rhythms of comics and I found, you know, it’s fun to write comics for me, you know?
Casey: do you mind if I ask you about, Your your time at Wesleyan and specifically, so in 69 you graduated from Wesleyan with a degree in psychology.
did you, do you think you ever kind of applied that stuff to, to your writing and, and how you develop your characters?
Steve Englehart: Well, in a way, I mean, the reason that I got the degree in psychology was because I was interested in people. I was interested in, you know, what [00:16:00] makes people tick and. By the time I got the degree, I had learned that there are many different theories in psychology.
I was looking for the answer. And, you know, but there’s Freudian and there’s union and there’s Adlerian and there’s, you know, all these different schools where they all go. Yeah. If you take it, you can make a theory out of these things, but then it’s not the same theory as the other guys who made it, who can’t look at it at a different way.
And that was that didn’t give me the answer that I was looking for now, you know, there is no one answer as to why people are, but I was, you know, I was, I was young and stupid and I, you know, I was looking for that. So, but what I did find them was my interest in people came back and writing. I mean, you know, doing all these different characters, the fact that hopefully, you know, my captain America is not the same guy as my Batman is not the same guy as my hell.
Jordan. Who’s not the same guy as my Jon [00:17:00] Stewart. You know what I mean? It’s just like each one of them became, an individual for me to whose head I could get inside. And I liked that and that, you know, so I can see the connection, but I can’t, you know, but, but did I take psychiatric theory and apply it to comics?
No, not really.
Casey: I, so, so when you. When you started working, in comics, you, you were actually a member of the crusty bunker group.
Steve Englehart: Yeah. Which is well before it was such, there wasn’t a group really in the beginning, but yeah,
Casey: you were there at the, at the inception of, of, Neil Adams, little.
Steve Englehart: Yeah, folks.
Yeah. I was the first guy that he took on where he said, Oh, I think, you know, I’ll help you out. I will, you know, I’ll do stuff with you. and I’m sure I’m a great disappointment because I didn’t end up being an artist. but Nia was such a good storyteller. I learned all sorts of, you know, useful things from him anyway.
And, [00:18:00] and, and I do, you know, I do visualize everything I write, which I think is helpful because I can, I can see how it, how it could go on the page. Not that I expect the artist to draw it the way I see it, but I, you know, but I know that I’m not asking you to draw something that can’t be drawn. but anyway, Neil.
You know, worked with me. And then I got launched and, and ended up being a writer and ended up moving to the other coast from where he lives and so forth. And it was after that, that, well, No. I was still in New York when he’s first started, you know, putting other people and it was thing. And then we got continuity studios.
He had a lot of space for people to come and work. And so a lot of people would come to New York and they’d go hang out at Neil’s place. And that kind of built up the whole crusty bunkers thing. So, and I, you know, as I say, wasn’t, an artist at that point. So, so there was me. And then I think, you know, there might’ve been about a year when there was nobody on them.
The crusty [00:19:00] bunkers started coming up from there. But even then, you know, I mean, I, I, you know, sometimes there’d be sort of a general call. Let’s all go down to Neil’s place and, and ink a bunch of pages overnight or some such thing, you know? I mean, so, it was, it was a, it was a fluid time, I guess.
Casey: Do you still talk to some of those cats?
Steve Englehart: Yeah. Yeah. again, I live out here 3000 miles away from a lot of back in the day, you physically had to go to New York, right? I mean, there was no FedEx, there was no internet, so it kind of unwritten, but. But pretty strongly encouraged rule was physically be in the same buyer region. So you can go into the office and hand things to people and pick things up from people.
but I moved out to California. There still was no FedEx internet, but that, you know, we made it work and and now people are all over the country. But, yeah, I, you know, I, I keep in touch.
[00:20:00] Casey: Awesome. Awesome. I, I noticed that, you know, not only do you work with Neil, on Vampirella, but you also got to work with Gardner Fox on the story retribution.
what were they like to work with and what did you, what did you learn from them?
Steve Englehart: Well, Neil was Neil. I mean, Neil was a, was a wonderful human being. I mean, he just, he went out of his way to give this unknown. You know, guy, a chance to get into the business. He made sure that I got a credit on that Vampirella story, even which I mean, nobody ever credited their assistance.
Many people had assistance, but nobody ever credited them. but he made sure that I got a credit so that I would have a credit so that I could go and say, well, here’s this my name’s on this book, you know? Yeah. When you’re thinking about giving me work, you can see, you know, that I actually did work on this other, he was great and, and, and, you know, [00:21:00] just helpful, but, but a really good human being, a nice person to be around.
I don’t know that I ever met Gardner Fox. I mean, because again, most comics stuff was, you would go to the office and they’d say, here’s the script. You know, it was handed in yesterday by Gardner Fox. Right? So, I mean, on the other hand, by being in New York, in those days with pretty much everybody in comics, It was a, it was a subculture within New York and you know, there’s 5 million subcultures in New York, and this was the comic books of culture, so that you would, you know, you would see people at the offices, but you would also go out to dinner with them afterwards.
You would somebody throw a party and, you know, Anybody could show up. I mean, it could be, you know, young guys just breaking in it. Could I, you know, I went to parties with Wally wood and, and, and so forth. I mean, rode home on the subway with Wally one, one, three, four in the morning night. so [00:22:00] again, that was, it was, it was a sort of a magical time.
If you, again, if you were into comics, It was, that was where comics was and it was magical to get into that. but most, you know, I mean, Marvel gave me a chance to write stuff. I liked the writing, they liked the writing, so they started giving me more and then pretty soon they gave me all I could handle.
I mean, that’s how freelancers worked. You can have as much work as you can actually turn in on time. so I got up to the point within a very few months where I was like, you know, doing four books a month or whatever it was. And I was writing, you know, all the time. Which fortunately for me, I liked doing, but you know, I, that didn’t go on into the office that much.
And that’s why I eventually moved to California. I thought, well, I’m not actually going into New York all that much. I’m doing all this by sitting alone in a room. So the room. [00:23:00] You know, could be anywhere. And if I do come out of the room, on, I liked the West coast better. So, you know, that was, that was the thing.
So I, you know, I, I knew, I knew people that I didn’t work with. I worked with people. I didn’t know that that was just part of, you know, It was all assignments. That’s another thing. I mean, in those days, you didn’t go in there and say, Hey, I really want to work with Gardner Fox. or, or by that time being a writer, I didn’t go in and say, Oh, I really want to work with Neil, or I really want to work with anybody.
It’s just, you would go in and they’d say, we want you to write this book, this other person’s going to draw it. You’d go. Okay, fine. You know, that’s, that’s how that went.
Casey: Well, you, you ended up working. Alongside and, you know, taking over projects from, from huge, huge names. did that ever. Like intimidate you or anything like that?
Steve Englehart: No, cause [00:24:00] I was young and stupid, so I wasn’t into being intimidated, but I mean, I’ve, I’ve told the story a lot that when Roy Thomas gave me the Avengers, I felt the need to have to live up to the high standard that he had set and, This again was part of my education. I mean, I tried to write Roy Thomas like stories and was never really happy with them.
And it wasn’t until I started writing Steve Engelhart, like stories that I said, Oh, okay. That’s the stories that I like to write. So I was, I, I wasn’t intimidated by the Avengers, but I just really felt the need to like live up to. The standard that had been set. And I, you know, I think I sort of got there mechanically, you know, I kinda made sure that the stories that I were was writing, you know, hit all the, the, the marks that I thought they should hit, but they weren’t like coming from deep within, they were coming [00:25:00] through a craft that I was just sort of learning on the fly at the time.
I mean, there’s everybody. You know, I think has their own version of that, that you, when you start out doing something, you have goals, your boss has goals for you, et cetera, et cetera. You’re trying to work within that meant, you know, you’re not really, you know, just sort of like letting it fly right at the beginning.
But, if you, you know, hopefully you can get to that point.
Casey: So when going back a little bit, when you transitioned from, from artists to, to writer, was that hard for you? And do you still, do you still try to keep up with the practice?
Steve Englehart: art, not so much. I was, you know, I think I was like on my way to being something as an artist.
But I never went there. So I can’t really say, Oh, you know, I would have been great at this. I can’t also say, Oh, I would have been terrible [00:26:00] at this. I don’t, I don’t really know. I was, I was enjoying the ride of the art. but I found that I liked writing too. And because, you know, you can write many more books per month than an artist can draw.
You know, I got a chance to write all these different characters, which as it turned out was something I really liked to do. So, I sort of let the art, stop at that point. And then all of a sudden it was, you know, 20, 30 years later and, Oh, I haven’t drawn anything in quite a long time. So. I mean, people still come up to me and go, Oh, would you draw something for me?
And it’s and the answer is no, I just, you know, I haven’t done it in so long that, that, you know, it would be, it would be pretty rudimentary at this point. so there was nothing against art that just writing gave me a chance to do more of what it was that I like to do.
Casey: So what, when you started at Marvel, was there anyone there that, that kind of took you under [00:27:00] their wing?
Steve Englehart: Yeah. it was a bullpen, just like they said it was, you know, I mean, it was a small office, As the new guy, I started out as an editorial assistant filling in for Gary Friedrich was how I got in my foot in the door. and so I was sort of the person out front when you came to the office and said, Oh, I’d really like to see Stan Lee.
I would go, well, you know, sorry, but you know, can’t, you know, I was the gatekeeper and in effect, but I was also doing editorial stuff and all that, but right behind me, Johnny Romita, Sr and herb shrimpy, Where our staff artists and, and, you know, they, they were, were very welcoming across from me, was Marie Severin, who was very welcoming.
I mean, it was, it was a friendly place. It was people helping each other turn out the best comics they could turn out. Then, you know, our Marvel in those days was exactly what you hoped Marvel would be, and what they said they were, I [00:28:00] didn’t, I never had, You know, anybody try to get in my way or, you know, I mean, I was doing what I was supposed to do, but I mean, nobody was trying to like, screw me over or, you know, play office politics or do any of that kind of stuff.
It was just, it really was a bunch of people who liked to do in comics and you know, we’re getting to do them. So, I, you know, I did the Hulk with herb. I didn’t do anything. Well, no, I, I actually, when I first started, I did a couple of romance stories and Johnny into one of them. you know, I mean, it was, it was just all back and forth.
Yeah. Yeah. It really was. You know? So
Casey: what, while you were at Marvel, you, You created so many amazing characters at Marvel and obviously at DC, we’re going to get to that too. Don’t worry. see the, the hard part about interviewing you in particular, you know what? It is
[00:29:00] Steve Englehart: too many, too many characters
Casey: you’ve done to everything.
And so, like I had a, I interviewed, Peter David. Not long ago. And as soon as I got done with the call, which it was about two hours worth of interview, I, as soon as I got done, I was like, damn it. I didn’t even ask about Aqua man. Oh, he’s the guy that cut Aquaman’s hand off.
Steve Englehart: So,
Casey: but, there’s so many things that you’ve done.
And, one of those things that you’ve done recently that has made a huge impact on pop culture, what, like 30 years later, hell 40 years later, you created Peter Quill, you created a star Lord. How was that seeing him in the film and, as Marvel taking care of you with that because they should,
Steve Englehart: yeah.
Yeah, they do. That’s part of that. Marvel’s good about that. End of things. Well, I created Peter quilt to be this complete asshole. And what I
Casey: want to do
Steve Englehart: was have him [00:30:00] get, you know, get more of a clue about life over time. And then I left the company, you know, right after I did the first one. So pretty much all of his.
Mellowing was done by other people. but I, you know, I was, I loved guardians of the galaxy. I’ve, you know, I’ve said in public and I’ve said it I’ve said it to, the actress involved that, that the mantis, that they’ve, I’ve said it I’ve said it to, the director James Gunn as well. I mean, you know, the mantis.
Is not my mantis. I’m sorry that she’s not. but I do understand that movies are different from comics and you have to, you know, you’re working with a different rhythm and a different timeframe and all that kind of stuff. And, and, you know, but I have no problems at all with Peter Quinn, coil, sorry, Peter Quinsy character from one of my novels.
No. so yeah, I mean, it was when they first said, you know, when I first heard that they were going to do a movie with Star-Lord in it, [00:31:00] I didn’t believe it. I mean, I thought, I mean, if I had to make a list of, of all the people that I’ve created, who might end up in the movies, He would have been probably at the bottom of the list.
but, but they, you know, those movies were great and, and, you know, it’s unfortunate that James Gunn wrote, some stuff when he was a teenager that he was later, embarrassed by. but, you know, I, you know, Marvel made a mistake by firing him. Then they rectified it by hiring him back. But in the meantime, he gets to do suicide squad and I’ll be interested to see, you know, what he does with suicide squad.
Cause I like, you know, I can quibble, I can, I can give you the, the, the, the commentary here or there about this or that. But I mean, in general, yeah, I’ve been, I’ve been really happy with, That though that those movies, the guardians movies, but basically all the Marvel movies, I mean, you know, they’re, they are replicating, what it was that made Marvel special.
[00:32:00] And of course, DC never can figure that out. So DC is, you know,
Casey: yeah. DC man,
Steve Englehart: those movies,
Casey: I’m excited to see guns take on suicide squad, but everything else with the exception, I really enjoyed this use AMS film. And if you haven’t seen it, give it a try. It was where everything else seems. Relatively joyless.
It had a lot of good stuff going for it.
Steve Englehart: Yeah. Well wonder woman too. Right? I
Casey: mean, I liked parts of wonder woman. I really did. I wanted to really like it. Okay. And, maybe it was the height didn’t, the sizzle that matched this steak. But, I, I thought the third act was pretty cool. The, the world war one scene specifically was, was very well done.
I didn’t like the part where they’re on. I can not say where she’s [00:33:00] from. It’s just a word I can’t say, but, I
Steve Englehart: didn’t like,
Casey: yeah. Yeah. Well, Tara Ms. Sclera or
Steve Englehart: whatever.
Casey: So, that, that part of the film I’ll, I don’t know. I, I think it was more a visual thing. I thought the visuals look bad, but, Okay.
Steve Englehart: I can, I can quibble. Why did they pick up those three guys who then never did anything? I mean, the script was, was off balance in places. I mean, I that’s the commentary, right? I mean, blah, blah, blah. But overall I was happy with the movie. So you pays your money. You takes your choice
Casey: as someone who.
Made the joker, not a, a goober
Steve Englehart: anymore,
Casey: which, if you know listeners out there, Steve was the guy that, that [00:34:00] made the joke or scary. He made him a, a maniac. So, so
Steve Englehart: returned to that. I mean, yeah, no finger made him scary in the first place, you know, but then they forgot then they, you know, didn’t, they. Got worried in the fifties and, and cleaned him up.
And, and, I mean, that’s, I said before, that’s part of what I, you know, took over Batman. I had to figure out what I wanted to do with Batman and, and so forth. But I also, what did I want to do with the book? And part of the book was getting back to that dark scary. feeling that it had, I mean, it was super scary in 1939, but it was dark and it was weird.
and they completely lost that for 35 years or whatever. So, you know, that was part of my. Wanting to be a professional, you know, and I mean, they assigned me this book, so I was going to do what I could do with this book.
[00:35:00] Casey: Did you catch any blowback from, from taking him away from, I guess the, the sixties Batman TV show style
Steve Englehart: villain?
No. Well, that was one of the things Jeannette concept. When she hired me to do it, she said, you know, I mean, Neil Adams, Denny O’Neil, Bob Haney, they’ve been doing. much more, much less campy Batman here, but people don’t know it. People still think of the Batman as the TV series. This is what she said to me in the mid seventies, after the TV series have been on in the mid sixties.
so no, that was one of the things I wanted to do. You know, it was definitively move it away from that image. and, I mean, and again, the guys who had been doing it had been doing a good job, but, but had not really moved the needle. And I, and I do think, you know, kind of making the joke or scary making, bringing back the, the dead of night kind of thing, darkness, contributed a great deal toward people going, Oh, [00:36:00] Oh, here’s the Batman, you know, that will actually pay attention to or something, you know.
Casey: Do you think that because of specifically like the laughing fish and stories like that, do you think that that kind of allow people to, to go a little bit deeper with it and, Take take it in new places
Steve Englehart: just
Casey: by virtue of, of your work.
Steve Englehart: Well, yeah, I mean, you know, because I had sort of re-established where the benchmarks were and, and I mean, if you look at it now, You know, I took the joker from like zero to 60 and people since have taken it up to 6 million, I mean, you know, he’s gotten much scarier and weirder and so forth in various other people’s, takes on it.
but I, you know, I take, I take some pride in being the guy who kind of pointed everybody in that direction, you know? it’s one of those things where in retrospect, you go, well, how come nobody else ever thought of this? And it’s like, well, I don’t know, but they [00:37:00] didn’t. So, you know, but once, once people saw what you could do with it, Then people started doing stuff with it and that’s, you know, that’s the nature of comics too.
Casey: So what separates, what, what your Batman is from the, the people that were coming before? What was that, that ingredient that you added that, that wasn’t present, in the time, right before you, you came along?
Steve Englehart: Well, the real, you know, the pulp darkness, I mean, Neil Adams, for example, Jim, a Paro, for example, I mean, they could draw a good Batman in darkness, but it didn’t have a dark feel to it.
It was, you know, it had that sort of seventies, DC, you know, we’re hip and, you know, but we’re not scary, kind, kinda, kind of vibe to it. but also, I mean, I, that was the, that was the metal stuff, but in the, [00:38:00] in the personal stuff, you know, I, I tried to make Bruce Wayne. An actual person who’s had, I could get inside, you know, not just the costume, but the guy inside the costume and then silver St.
Cloud that nailed that. I mean, by giving him, you kind of nailed that. Well, you know, that was, you know, there’d been. You couldn’t have sex in comics either. And we were still under the code. So the sex is all, you know, off panel.
Casey: You had walk a tight rope, right?
Steve Englehart: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Because you know, you’re writing kids are supposed to be able to read this too.
You don’t want to, you don’t want to scare the children, you know, whatever, but you didn’t want to be tied down. Yeah. I, you know, I, I, it had always bugged me since I read those comics in the fifties. When, you know, when, when women would approach superheroes, superheroes would blush and stammer and, and beg off.
And I just, even as a kid, I’m like, I don’t think that it works that [00:39:00] way. So I really wanted Batman to have a girlfriend that he was sleeping with. I want you, if he’s a Playboy, if he’s a big time operator, then he should do that kind of. Right. I mean, it’s sort of obvious in retrospect, but at the time it hadn’t happened, but I mean, he’s supposed to be this mover and shaker in Gotham city that people pay attention to.
And he, you know, he does big deals and he goes to big party, you know, it’s like, so coming up with a woman who would be strong enough to like, live with that guy, to be with that guy, And then, I mean, all that just made Bruce Wayne, much more of a character, made him much more of a person. and that, you know, a person, if you, if you make somebody more of a person and put him in a scarier environment, you’ve changed a lot from, from what had been the [00:40:00] norm before that.
And you open up, you know, a whole new. Direction for other people would go.
Casey: So you were, you were mentioning, Jeanette Kahn earlier. She fascinates me and. I
Steve Englehart: I’ve
Casey: her and Jim shooter, both are, you, you and you both worked under them, or you, you worked under them both rather. How was your experiences here?
Because I’ve heard a lot of varying stories and, I’m, I’m just curious, how you, how it was working under those people, because they seem to be very, Polarizing to some people,
Steve Englehart: well, shooters, easiest shooters, easiest to answer shooter had rules. Shooter was the guy who kind of like synthesize the comics that he read and tried to make rules, which then he wanted to follow, which.
Was constrictive, but I had already done, you [00:41:00] know, I had, I would’ve been there before he was right. I had, I had had some success with Avengers and captain America and so forth before I came back to Marvel in the eighties. So shooter sort of took a PA a flyer at telling me what the rules were and, well, one was, you never called anybody, a super villain because people in the real world didn’t call people supervillains.
And I said, yeah, but this world has got Dr. Doom in it. And people would invent a word for somebody like him, as opposed to somebody who knocks over the liquor store on Saturday night. I mean, it’s just like you had to kind of come back at him with logic and with logic, he could sort of follow it. And, and, and, and so he.
Then kind of let me do my thing. there were times when he would, you know, try to make something happen and, and as somebody who was working for him, I mean, if he said, I really want this to happen, I [00:42:00] might argue with him in a non-confrontational way, but I’d say well, but it really, what, shouldn’t it be that, but.
If, if he was set on it, you know, okay. That’s kind of, I have to kind of roll with that. so that happened now, and again, with Jeanette, it was kind of similar in that. I mean, I had quit Marvel, blah, blah, blah. And, she, you know, I mean, that stuff happens. and she came and she said, you know, I really want you to do what you do.
Did for Marvel over here at DC. And I said, well, if I did that, I would have to have sort of complete control. Cause that’s how I do it. And she said, okay, you know, and, and again, I was going to do Batman for Julie Schwartz and Julie was not known to be a task master, but he was known as a hands on editor.
He was a guy who wanted to be involved in, in all aspects of the book and. I don’t know. I assume Janette went to him and [00:43:00] said, we’re going to let this guy do what he wants to do. And Julie, you know, he rolled with that. I mean, I never got the impression that Julie was resenting, my freedom or, you know, or trying to put a lid on it or any of that kind of stuff, Julie, you know, wanted.
He wanted good comics and I guess he believed that I could provide them and so forth. So, I’m sure Jeanette, you know, did, did her boss thing now and again. but I didn’t really, I had a good relationship with her as it turns out. That she’s the one who signed me to an illegal contract to work on the Batman movie.
And I don’t know whether she knew any better, you know, or whether she was just, you know, handed stuff by the movie, people that I don’t know. But so, you know, I can’t [00:44:00] say, Oh, she was always a perfect. Person. She might’ve been, but I can’t say that she was cause I don’t, I don’t know, but I, you know, I didn’t have trouble.
Bottom line was, I didn’t have really much, interference or friction or anything from her and, and, and not too much from shooter. I was told after they fired shooter, that he was getting to the point where he was going to start laying down the law to me, which wouldn’t have gone well, tried it. so I, you know, who knows how that would’ve worked?
I mean, I worked for him later at valiance, so, as I say, we, you know, we could, we could co-exist.
Casey: I’ve I’ve heard that when he was let go at Marvel, they, they had a party and burned him in effigy. So I do
Steve Englehart: not know that I do not know that. I mean, there, he, he rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. I mean, I’m not, I, I’m not going to say, Oh, he wasn’t like his image because he was, and you know, there were way too many people who [00:45:00] had chorus stories about, you know, trying to deal with a guy who.
Had rules and didn’t want to hear about any breaking of the rules as a general general policy. but my relationship with him was okay.
Casey: Fascinates me about him is that he started out, you know, as a kid, who liked writing comics came into it and then. Kind of morphed into a guy who understands that, Hey, this is a business and we have to, we’re in the business of selling comics and putting out comics.
So, that, that’s what really fascinates me about, about him and with Janette, I think it’s, it’s more or less the. She came in at a time when you, you really didn’t have, a lady boss that often.
Steve Englehart: Yeah. She had been the, the publisher at a kid’s magazine somewhere else in the, in the Warner’s [00:46:00] hierarchy. And so they’d moved her over probably up to, but I mean, you know, she came, she came from somewhere else in the organization.
but yeah, there were, you know, there were very few people, very few women, as I said, there were a couple of letters, Denise flat, Amir, you know, a couple of cholera’s, there, it was Ramona Fraden was still around. but there really was, you know, hardly any females involved in this. It, you know, fortunately, I mean, I dunno, what can I say it didn’t, I didn’t care.
I mean, she was the boss. She was, you know, fine. She’s the boss, but, she, yeah, she definitely came in at a time when. She didn’t have a lot of, female companionship.
Casey: Did you, I’ve never, worked with, Louis Simon’s son?
Steve Englehart: not with Louise. I mean, I know, I know her, you know, as well as I can from living 3000 miles away from her, but I mean, in the early days when I was in New York, I mean, there was a group of us, Well, you know, [00:47:00] Walton and wheezy and Jeff Jones and Bernie Wrightson, you know, I mean a bunch of, you know, all the young people sort of hung out together and, you know, I had, a fabulous Thanksgiving up at, at Bernie’s, farm, I guess, once and all those people were there.
And I, you know, I mean, so I, you know, everybody loves the wees and I do too. But no, I never, I never did anything with her. Never did anything professionally with him.
Casey: I I’m, I’m fascinated with her as an editor. I th I think that, like she, she’s a great writer as well, but just what she did while she edited the X books back in the day is just.
Almost like a Sisyphean task and she, she made it happen.
Steve Englehart: So I think everybody does love her. And so probably, you know, if she wanted, you know, nobody was looking to like screw her up, I would say, but I wasn’t at Marvel at that time. I mean, when she was an editor, I was probably at Malibu or, or, you know, someplace else.
We didn’t, we didn’t [00:48:00] overlap there. You,
Casey: you mentioned the Batman film, the 89 Batman film earlier. you kind of, I guess, wrote the script for it and, They, I guess they, they screwed you over,
Steve Englehart: but
Casey: for lack of a better, I’ll just be blunt. w what parts of the film did they, did they change? Cause I, I understand they like silver is, is now, Vicky veil.
Steve Englehart: yeah. And boss thorn became boss Grissom. I mean, that’s, that’s just blatant. I mean, those two characters are clearly the characters that I created and they decided that they would screw me over in that regard. but in terms of the film, I mean, they had. Probably around 80. Well, I mean, when the, when the comics came out in 76, 77, Mike useless said, Oh, I see how now, how to do Batman as an adult.
and I’m gonna make a Batman movie. And then they tried for 10 years [00:49:00] and they couldn’t get it. I mean, they, well, they couldn’t get it. And so unlike, 86 Jeanette called me up and said, You know, this is pretty much a direct quote. She said, they, you know, they’ve been trying and they can’t get the ambiance that you did in the comic.
So we want you to come work on the movie. So I came in as basically a script doctor and, and, I wrote treatments. I mean, they showed me, they showed me the scripts that existed and I was trying to steer them more towards. Yeah, because they were still, it was coming out of the Chris Reeve, Superman. They, you know, they weren’t, you, I had to show that if you were doing a comic book movie that you knew, it was kind of silly, so you’d have a silly bill of some sort, you know, you’d have some, some comic relief character in there.
And I was really trying to get it, get that out of there and steer it more toward the more. Straight forward, adult [00:50:00] girlfriend was sex with a scary joker with all that, you know, everything that I had done in the, in the comic, which is what they said they wanted. and so that was kind of a, an ongoing thing and that I would get a script and I’d Mark it up and I’d say, no, let’s take, let’s change this to that.
And sometimes they would, and sometimes they wouldn’t and then they, they came back and they said, well, why don’t you give us a plot for. The movie that you would do, and it has to have the penguin and the Robin in it. And I said, Oh, I, you know, that seems like a lot.
Casey: Yeah. Yes. A lot of moving pieces
Steve Englehart: for opening movie, you know?
but I did it and then they said, Oh yeah, okay. Yeah, we see you’re right. That’s too many people. So then do another one. That’s just the joker with no bar, no Robin and no, no penguin. And I did that. And then, you know, they wrote a script off of that. But it’s still, you know, there was always some contention somewhere, cause I never, you know, wherever [00:51:00] they were making this movie, I was in California, which for all I know they were making the movie in California, but then they were doing it in LA.
So. I, you know, I always dealt with this stuff through Jeanette. I would send stuff to Jeanette. She would send it to the movie people, they would come back and they’d say, well, have him do this. And, and that didn’t seem weird to me at the time. I didn’t know anything about Hollywood and, you know, working for Jeanette was what I was accustomed to do.
But, you know, I mean, they, they did ask for me to come in there and doctor this thing, I did go in there and doctor the thing and I thought, you know, cool. I mean, it’s, it’s not going to be exactly what I want it to be because they, they still want to have, I think the, I forget his name, the Robert. He was an RLS I think on TV.
Casey: Oh yes, yes, yes, yes. I know exactly what you’re
Steve Englehart: talking about. Yeah. That guy, right? Yeah. They wanted him as the, sort of the comedy leavening thing here, [00:52:00] whatever. but you know, I mean, I got done with it and I thought, well, hell, you know, I mean, I got to see my vision. As closely as I could get it, I got to do it.
And then the movie came out and I found out they’d fucked me over. So then it sucks. It’s, hasn’t, hasn’t been all fun and games since then, but,
Casey: you know, To lighten things up a little bit, please tell me the origin that, you know, the origin of the let’s get nuts
Steve Englehart: of the way
Casey: let’s get nuts line
Steve Englehart: in the movie.
Steve Englehart: Yes. Do you
Casey: deny responsibility?
Steve Englehart: No,
Casey: it was such an odd line to say you want to get nuts, let’s get nuts. so you’ve never been shy of adding, politics into your comics. Well, so obviously you. It’s it’s something that, you know, it’s, it’s inherent in the material. did you ever get any [00:53:00] blowback?
Steve Englehart: No. again, marble in those days they gave you a complete creative freedom and they met it.
I mean, awesome. you know, so if, if I was turning the book in on time and the book was selling. Add captain America was, was their number one title, at least a good part of that time. they were like, well, thank you, you know, do what you do, what you do. and then, you know, I didn’t start out to write politics into my comics, but I was doing captain America and Watergate happened and I thought there’s no way if.
These characters are supposed to be living in the same world. We are, there’s no way that captain America doesn’t react to this. And so I felt that I had to do that kind of story. And I did, and I didn’t get any, I didn’t get any blow back. I mean, there were some readers who didn’t like it, you know, whatever, but I mean, from editorial, they were all, you know, I got complete support and, and so then.
Having added politics to my repertoire every once in a while I would [00:54:00] fire that up again, you know, but it wasn’t, like I said, Oh, I’m going to go write political comics. I just, it just seemed like the right thing to do.
Casey: That’s a that’s. That’s awesome. I’m glad you were able to, to add that your voice to that and, kind of, I’m sure it was kind of cathartic in a way.
Steve Englehart: Yeah. Well, I mean, Watergate seemed like. You know, living through Watergate, you go, man, I hope we never have to do that again. And now we’ve,
well, we’re not doing that again. We’re doing, we’re doing worse, but you know
Casey: exactly. Yeah. man, it’s a train wreck and I cannot wait for, I don’t want to say anything in jinx. It, I’m just ready for, for, November to, to happen.
Steve Englehart: Yeah. I keep waiting for us to get to the 21st century. I want to, like, I don’t want to live in like, you know, in the present rather than in the past.
[00:55:00] so yeah, on to November onto January.
Casey: Exactly. Exactly. I will just keep my fingers crossed. I’m taping the debates downstairs right now. So my, I, my. My prediction is that Harris will have some really good, well pointed barbs and Pence will stand around like a stump and maybe say something every now and then a completely different dynamic than, than the last, the last debate.
and I’m ready for it.
Steve Englehart: So, the Lincoln, sorry. that’s still good. No, I’ve no, I was just about to talk politics, but that’s not what we’re here for.
Casey: I love to talk politics with Steve Englehart. I’m not even joking, but Oh my gosh, I got so many questions about green lantern that, my friend Jeff wrote for me and, he’s not feeling well, so, I would feel bad, seeding that time up
Steve Englehart: for.
[00:56:00] I hope I hope he’s just got a cold or something.
Casey: he’s getting a COVID test on Friday, so,
Steve Englehart: okay.
Casey: So what we’re, we’re keeping our fingers crossed and I was actually going to be the guy, interviewing you tonight. But, he asked, Hey, do you know Stephen Gerhard is I say, yes, I know Steven. So, I was super stoked.
he’s a massive green lanered fan. And, yeah, we, we know. So, in Greenland one 88, John Stewart reveals his identity to the world, which was highly unusual at the time. What led to this decision and, was it significant that it was a black character who did this?
Steve Englehart: well, Once again, I came in, you know, like Dick Giordano said, I want you to take over green lantern.
Len Wein and, and Dave Gibbons had been doing it before me. And so I inherited the situation in which how Jordan [00:57:00] had given up being green lantern. John Stewart was being green lantern, and there was some mysterious predator who was. Menacing everybody. And I, you know, I had to think, okay, well, that’s, I’m coming into the middle of that story.
What am I going to do with it? and you know, I’m sure somebody even said it, but I mean, we all understood that how Jordan was going to come back and be green lantern at some point. But. I, you know, from the start, I said, well, why does that mean the John Stewart has to go away again? You know? I mean, why can’t there be two of them when then after having figured that out, I said, why can’t there be three of them?
And then I went out and pulled guy Gardner out of obscurity and, and, you know, Totally reinvented guy Gardner as did Joe Staden on the art. I hadn’t even really thought about it until Joe mentioned it once with guy garners, the first green lantern who doesn’t wear some version of the same [00:58:00] suit. Right.
I mean, Joe and I, you know, had, had a great time. I got in there, but anyway, I just thought John Stewart needs to stick around. And if John Stewart’s gonna stick around, he needs to have a story of some sort. And, and, the idea that he could reveal himself really quickly set him apart from, from, you know, the green lanterns we had known to this point.
and it was just trying to get him rolling on his own. Path to be his own person, rather than just the guy who got to show up whenever, how Jordan decided he didn’t want to do it anyway. I don’t recall. I mean, the cover of that issue was people going, wow, he’s taking off his mask. That’s amazing. But I don’t recall it as even being such a big deal to me. It was just like, just so you know, this’ll work and it’ll set him apart from the other with green lantern and, and, we’ll go from there.
And, and so then I had two of them and then I had three of them and then I [00:59:00] had the, the green lantern Corps. I just, I loved all the mythology, you know, that, John broom and Gil Kane and Julie Schwartz had created probably most of that mythology was, was Julie. knowing how those guys worked. I mean, broom was broom was a good guy as well, but I mean, he worked well with Julie under Julie’s system of, of the, of the editor and the writer sort of working stuff out together in any event.
it’s just, you know, there’s so much more to Greenland and then there is to a lot of the other characters and I loved playing with all of that. That’s my answer
Casey: ensure that, that Stuart was, was a different green laner than Jordan. And I guess we can expand that. And how, how did you ensure that everyone else had their own, you know, uniqueness?
Steve Englehart: Well, I mean, that was kind of [01:00:00] a, I like to do that. I like to make each character unique. But B, somebody said to me at that time, they said, how can you do a group book when everybody’s got the same power?
And I said, it’s not about the power. It’s about the people in the group, which has always been my, you know, my thing. So it never bothered me that they all had a ring and they all could, you know, do what they wanted to with their willpower. because Kellogg was different from a was different from chip was different from Psylocke was different from how Jordan, you know, and.
I had done a bunch of group books at that point, Avengers and defenders and justice league, whatever. so I, I take again some pride and pleasure in making each person in the group. Important to the group, you know, nobody, nobody ends up as just kind of the person standing in back while Superman does his thing.
Cause next issue Superman will be in back and [01:01:00] it’ll be somebody else up front. And that was, you know, so, but with the green lantern Corps, I kind of made use of the fact that they all had kind of a similar that, that they had a similar power and, and were part of a part of one organization and everything.
that was fun to explore. I was just, I was reminded the other day of, where kilowatt decided to join the Russians cause like, He didn’t know anything on earth that it makes sense to him based on his background. And, you know, there was just so much, so many things you could do, in that environment.
So. State that I just loved green lantern. We just, you know, we had such a good time on Greenland.
Casey: Well, one of my earliest childhood memories, by the way, is me reading an issue of Greenland inner her core with my dad. So that was, I don’t want to make you feel old or anything, but that’s what I learned how to read off of.
Steve Englehart: Yeah. So, no, oddly enough, I am, well, I wouldn’t say [01:02:00] old, I don’t feel old, but I, you know, I’ve been around for a while now. and that seems weird when I, you know, you mentioned it before. I mean, a lot of this stuff that we’re talking about, I wrote 45 years ago, 50 years ago, almost. Which is like ridiculous, but, you know,
Casey: it shows the staying power of your work.
Steve Englehart: And, and again, it was a wonderful era for comics. I mean, if you like comics that seventies comics, or, you know, we had complete freedom, we can make them everything that we thought they ought to be. and, you know, and, If you’re, you know, all the Marvel movies, but not all the Martin moves. I mean, they kind of move on, but I mean, it’s just a great era for comics.
I was very, I was very fortunate to be a part of it, you know, to be able to work in that environment. and, and, but yeah, it was a good era. There were good stories and [01:03:00] they stand up. I mean, when people. I mean now I’m just sort of speculating, but I mean, you know, when people,
whatever, whatever means good comic to somebody, they can usually find something to scratch that itch in seventies, comics, you know, So,
Casey: but in going into the eighties with your, with your green lantern and, your West coast, Avengers, all these comics, specifically, I have a question about, a quote, that Psylocke said, we came to protect earth, not subscribed to America.
This points out the division that, that kind of borders in the world create. Was it, was this a commentary on America’s view of their own exceptionalism? what, what was the impetus for you to, to say that is such an amazing, thing for a comic character to say?
Steve Englehart: Well, I mean, it was sort of a [01:04:00] commentary, but not.
That wasn’t the point I was trying to make, I guess, again, the, all these were supposed to be aliens who came from different societies on different planets, and now they’re all here. I mean, if, if, if we all went to another planet that had an existing, society and history and all that kind of stuff, You know, the person who brought you there might say hi, I live in, in Flagyl, Stan, and, and we do things this way and you might go, okay, cool.
But pretty soon, you’d see, you know, Girgis Stan and go. Well, they’re kind of interesting too. And, and, and you wouldn’t have any allegiances. You wouldn’t, you know, you wouldn’t be. You wouldn’t have any history with any of this stuff. So you could kind of look at everything and kill the log came from, from a, basically a sort of communist society.
and so [01:05:00] he looked around the world, sorry. And, Said, well, those guys look more like what I’m used to, and, and there was no reason why not. I, but I, I was exploring kilowatt guy was exploring the dynamics of this team of people from different backgrounds and so forth more than trying to say, Oh, you know, this is a comment on American exceptionalism.
Just just doing characters, just doing characters in and taking the story seriously. You know, I mean, this, these are, these are, these are real characters and they’re in a real world. And how would they react? You know,
Casey: what do you do to kind of step outside of your own, pretenses, your own set? Your own mind and get into these characters heads.
I mean, I, would’ve never thought to, to think like kilowatts or, or Zass or anybody. So, so how, how do you do that?
Steve Englehart: It’s just [01:06:00] something I do. I mean, it is a, it is a skill or a talent or a defect. I don’t know. But I don’t, I don’t have any problems, you know, I get, I get asked the question, well, how do you write the joke?
Or how do you get inside the joke or said, well, I just do, you know, I mean, it’s just, I’m I’m it was that thing about wanting to know why people wanting to know people and being told, well, there’s many different theories than what I took out of. That was there’s many different ways you can skin a cat. I mean, you can look at people.
From all sorts of angles and, and that’s, you know, I mean, I’m a, I’m a, personally I’m a liberal Democrat, right. But I can write, Batman as a, as a more, you know, conservative for very quick and easy distinctive. You know, labels here. and I [01:07:00] don’t feel like, Oh, you know, I’m betraying my inner principles by writing a guy who isn’t like me.
I’m interested to write people who aren’t like me, you know?
Casey: So you really took that skill to, in, into overdrive when you were writing the justice league book. Was there a character that you had particular difficult time finding a voice for?
Steve Englehart: I found an adequate voice, but for everybody, but, taco man has always seemed, you know, this was the, this was the Aqua man with two hands and, you know, I mean, he seemed. Finding something distinctive about him was, was I remember was difficult. I, you know, I wrote him as best I could with as much craft as I could.
And hopefully he came across as a, you know, as an interesting character in and of himself, but I [01:08:00] mean, he was, you know, And the Adam, I would say both of them were, they didn’t give me a lot to work with what they hadn’t been a lot of, interesting things that had happened to them that I could say, Oh, well, that’s the thing that I want to build on or that’s, you know, and I know, I mean, you know, if somebody, if I’d been, if I were gonna write Aquaman and I was going to, and I was, it was normal times when I was going to be there for as long as I wanted to write the book.
I would’ve, you know, I would have deep dive, shall we say a lot deeper into, into him, but I was doing the justice league and I was only doing it for, you know, a year, due to outside circumstances. So I gave you the best document I could give, but I didn’t. I, you know, I didn’t have to, to sustain him over time.
Think of things, you know, I’m I’m I don’t know that I would’ve thought of cutting off his hand, but I mean, you [01:09:00] know, you got to do something, you know, so
Casey: you did a fantastic job on, on making red tornado feel like a real character.
Steve Englehart: He was
Casey: fun. Was he a favorite?
Steve Englehart: Not a favorite, but I always thought it was interesting that Denny in Denny introduced red tornado the exact same month that, Stan introduced.
the vision or maybe it was Roy, it was Roy who introduced the vision, but they, but the two red Androids both showed up at the same month. And I know I’ve never known actually, I’ve never, never bothered to ask whether there was any collaboration or, or competition or anything, you know, unspoken between the two of them.
But, you know, a vision. Was an extremely favorite character of mine, vision, Wanda, I love writing vision and Wanda with all this stuff that was going on red tornado, like any other DC character, I just kind of sat there, you know, he didn’t do much. but, [01:10:00] I, I, he was easy to find a voice for, as I recall, you know, I mean, kind of, kind of diffident but also kind of just.
Certain, you know, everything is very logical because he’s an Android, you know? So, so he tried to, he was very, and, and the end of the, of my run when he unmasked the stars are, and he’s just going well, it was just obvious. I mean, no, I’m just, this happened. This happened, this happened, you know, so I, I understood, that he was fun to write.
Casey: So. I have a few more questions. I don’t want to take too much more of your time up, but, are you credited as a co-creator of kilowatt, which Joe Staton, does, does DC give you this? Correct?
Steve Englehart: Yes. it’s you know, this is again is inside baseball stuff. When, when Joe Stayton and I put in four kilowatts and four guy Gardner, D C said, no, they’re just green lanterns and we don’t, we’re [01:11:00] not going to do anything.
You know, there’s a lot of green lanterns, but they both became big hits. So then the DC came back to us like six months later and said, okay, we’ll give you a kilowatt. Okay. Well, we won’t give you a guy Gardner because he preexisted you didn’t create guy Gardner and Joe. And I said, well, we created this guy guard.
Now we created this guy with a completely new attitude and a completely new look that has no real bearing on the one that was a vegetable before this. Oh yeah. But DC said, Nope. Nope, Nope. You don’t get to have guy Gardner, which is another bone of contention. I mean, I’ve got. I have my bigger bone of contention with Batman, but I mean, that’s Joe and I have never been happy with that.
that thing, you know, that, that approach, I mean, DC’s, DC’s approach in a nutshell is that DC created everything and, and they don’t like to associate. And I like to say, you [01:12:00] know, The angle, heart state, and guy Gardner, or the angle, heart Rogers, Batman. They want to say it’s our Batman, it’s our green lantern, you know, whatever.
so yeah, I, you know, if kilowatt or boss Boston or sober St. Cloud shows up and stuff, I get credit, we get credit. We get, you know, some payment that guy Gardner, no. Don’t get it.
Casey: Are you looking forward to the, the upcoming TV show on, I guess this HPO max,
Steve Englehart: is there a guy Gardner show?
Casey: Oh, no, no, no, no.
The, they’re doing a Greenland or a TV show from what I
Steve Englehart: understand. Okay. Yeah. No, well, I’ll have to see, I mean, in addition to just the general kibbutzing, I might, you know, depending on, on, you know, if they make. Guy Gardner a star. It’s not going to sit well with, with either Joe or me, but, you know, we’ll see, I hear
[01:13:00] I hear ya. And earlier I meant to ask you this. Did you ever get around to watching the joker film? What did you think as somebody who, you know, has put a considerable amount of time writing this character? what w what was your viewpoint on it?
Steve Englehart: well, I tend to think. Then again, see, this is what I say.
You, you, you come to your own conclusions on, so I tend not to be interested in the origin story of the joker. To me, the Joker’s just sort of a force of nature. You know, he’s just, he’s just this wild card, so to speak, that Batman who operates in a fairly logical, buttoned down approach to life. And the joker is obviously his, his opposite.
so I, the arc for me, the access for me is between the most human, Bruce Wayne Batman that I can do. [01:14:00] And this sort of non-human crazy entity. therefore, you know, I personally, I love Alan Moore. I love, you know, I V for vendetta remains my favorite of all those things, but watch what I mean, it’s just, you know, I love Alan Moore, but I didn’t like the killing joke because I don’t want, I don’t, he’s a failed comedian.
I mean, it’s like, yeah, it seems. And you know, and so the joker movie started, same thing. It’s like, I don’t need, yeah. Okay, fine. But I think you’ve kind of missed.
If you think that Joker’s just a crazy serial killer, then I guess you didn’t miss it. But I think he somehow got more of an aura than that, you know? So that’s just me. That’s just, you know, that’s just me going on it. Doesn’t doesn’t I [01:15:00] tried to figure out who that guy was and I came to a different conclusion.
Casey: I hear ya. Yeah. With me, I enjoyed the film in so much as it was a copy of taxi driver, but outside of that, I didn’t like you could have just had it and not called it the joker and it would have been fine. It’s like you were talking about earlier origin films with, with people like that. Aren’t aren’t really that great because you don’t want, do I really want to know why Darth Vader turned into Darth Vader?
I want to see what he does as Darth Vader,
Steve Englehart: right? Of that particular storyline was, was handled terribly. So, you know, you never, you could have, maybe you could have like, made that really work, but not with the actor that they chose and not with the writing that they did for that. well,
Casey: yeah, [01:16:00] it’s funny. I was actually thinking about your run on joker and, It made me think of the scene. I don’t know if you’ve, you’ve seen rogue one, but the scene when they reveal Vader, Towards the end and he is a bad-ass, he, they made Bader scary again, and you’re like, Holy shit, that’s
Steve Englehart: Bader.
Casey: That’s what you did to joker. So, that’s a perfect analog to, to your working in Batman. So,
Steve Englehart: well, and I think that’s a perfect analog in both directions. I mean, you had a really ominous, scary guy. And then you kind of let it become rote, you know, it’s just like, Oh, here he is. He’s scary. Let’s all be scared.
And it took, you know, somebody had to like, say, wait a minute, let’s get back to what really made this guy, what he was supposed to be. you can, you can do that, but a lot, but for some reason, you know, a lot of people [01:17:00] are content to just kinda like. Move the pieces around without trying to get inside the heads, as I keep saying, well,
Casey: I always ask towards the end of the show.
I want to ask, is there a particular comic shop that you appreciate, that you enjoy, that you think other people need to check out
Steve Englehart: uncommon shop?
Casey: Yes. Yes.
Steve Englehart: Well, here, here in Oakland, we have doctor comics and Mr. Games. which was my store, you know, that was a good store and it was the closest one to me.
That’s the one I went to in Berkeley there’s comic relief. or at least there has been, it was for a year as comic relief was run by a guy who, you know, was a real comic book guy. and then he died. 10 years ago now, maybe. I don’t know. And you know, people took it over from there. but it was, it didn’t have the same ambience anymore, but it was a really good store.
And I, and you know, [01:18:00] I actually, haven’t been over there in quite a long time, but, if you’re in the Bay area, I, you know, in the East Bay, Oakland area, Dr. Comics and Mr. Games would be. A store I’d recommend.
Casey: Awesome. Awesome. So you guys, Dr. Comics and Mr. Games hit that place up. If you’re in that area, I, we, we want to keep these places open, which, now is, you know, kind of an impossible task, but let’s, Let let’s do our best because we want comics selling.
We want people buying comics. Do you have anything that you want to promote before we, before we, both get mad at our TV screens?
Steve Englehart: No, I mentioned, I mentioned this, this thing that I’m writing and when I get done with it, I want to promote that. But I, but I’m not there yet. So
Casey: when you get done writing and you want to promote that, I want you to come here and I want you to talk to us about it.
Steve Englehart: Okay,
Casey: because I I’m super stoked to [01:19:00] see you.
Steve Englehart: I can do that.
Casey: Inglehart thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. I am, gonna go downstairs and start drinking and, may, maybe it’ll dull some of the pain, maybe it won’t, but, regardless, Let’s be sure to vote and a mask up and wash your hands.
Steve Englehart: all that it’s, it’s not hard.
Casey: It’s literally the least you can do.
Steve Englehart: Yeah. If you care about other peak, whatever, you know, whatever your deal is, if you care about other people. Where am I ask, wash your hands and vote.
Casey: Exactly. That’s a perfect, perfect. yeah. Very succinct way to put that, Steve. Thank you so much.
Have a good evening. Okay.
Steve Englehart: Yeah, you too. All right. Goodbye. Bye.