Today Casey gets to sit down with legendary creator Tom DeFalco! The man responsible for bringing the black costume into Amazing Spider-Man, creating Spider-Girl, creating Spider-Ham, the G.I. Joe comic, EIC of Marvel Comics, and a whole lot more!
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Tom Defalco Video Interview
[00:00:00] Casey: I want to talk about you don’t wanna talk about your career. I really want to talk about the spider clone thing. Well, I, I had I had several people from that era of Spiderman on already. And one thing that I got out of all of them, Danny finger off who else? Nuts that my, my brain stopped working.
I’ve had, I’ve been up since four this morning and I’ll, I’ll work very early in the morning, but I know the problem. Oh yeah. Yeah. So, one thing out of all the people I’ve talked about that have worked with you and know you, I’ve never heard a negative thing about you. Like shouting from the rooftops.
Oh my gosh, Tom, Tom DeFalco is the greatest dude ever. So, yeah,
Tom Defalco: every time they say a compliment, it cost me five bucks. So I wished I’m fishing.
Casey: You’re hearing the voice of Tom DeFalco. Tom DeFalco has been in the comics [00:01:00] industry for decades. And not only has he created some of your favorite characters, but he’s edited some of your favorite books and had a hand in developing some of the most massive cartoons that eventually turned into a big giant blockbuster films and robots with balls.
So, Tom to Falco, how you doing man
Tom Defalco: so far? So good.
Casey: Just, just briefly When you were in the meeting to discuss the the Japanese toy that eventually became transformers, did you ever conceive of the idea that it would eventually be a multimillion dollar picture and they would have big, giant robot balls on the screen?
Tom Defalco: No, no, nothing, nothing close to that.
You know, I’ll, I’ll give you a secret behind comics, a very boring story, but I think that’s why you want me to tell my boring stories. So, we had worked with Hasbro on GI Joe, [00:02:00] and that ended up to be a very nice, nice success for everybody. And they got in touch with us and they said, we have another project for you.
And they You know, they showed up the guys from Hasbro, they were great guys. You know, it was like a big family reunion. But this time they showed up with a lawyer because they needed us to sign these non-disclosure agreements. So naturally they showed up with our lawyer. We had to call down there and they showed up with their lawyer.
We had pulled down our lawyer and the two lawyers had to decide the nondisclosure agreement. I mean, while the rest of us, we were hanging out having a grand old time catching up on gossip and just, you know, just enjoying each other’s company, because like I said, it’s all family week. Finally, the lawyers get together.
They They come up with a nondisclosure [00:03:00] agreement that both lawyers can can you know, sign off on, which is very real. You’ll find something that both boys can find sign off on. We all signed our papers. They’re all gathered together. And then they said, you know, I want to show you that these these, these toys and they put out a couple of the transformers on the table when they put them on the table, I happened to be sitting across from Larry Harmon and I look up at Larry hammer.
And he looks at me and we smile at each other. So we turned to the tables and we’re going to be back in five minutes. This one, wait a minute. We’re in the middle of meeting. W w w we’re going to be right back right back. So Larry and I got out of the meeting and we, you know, we go down the hall, we’re both laughing.
He runs to his office. I ran to my office. We come back and he lays out three or four of the Japanese transformers. And I lay out a different three or four. And the guys who I [00:04:00] look at them and go, wait a minute, where’d you get those things said, Oh, we want to make this a comic book store called forbidden planet, local store in New York city.
And you can’t have them. You know, th th this is just hot chicken. I said, Oh, they’re selling them to anybody who wants them. And then our lawyer said, wait a minute, if they’re, if they’re selling it to people, those non disclosure where humans can’t be it can’t have any I forget the legal term.
So the guy from Hasbro, a great guy by the name of Bob , who we’ve worked with with GRS, give me all the, give me all the forms. And and our lawyers say, now, now give me, give him the forms. He said, just give it to me. And he gets all the forms and all this legal mumbo jumbo. Let’s just sit down and talk.
Like I said, a boring story secrets [00:05:00] behind
Casey: comics. Amazing though. And the fact that you kind of. Have taken part. And if, if not completely participated at least been a fly on a wall for so many of the, so much of this stuff is mind boggling to me, especially now, today you turn on TV and boom, there’s a property that you were you were involved with and in some way shape or form.
Well, so yeah,
Tom Defalco: my, my, you know, my participation in, in, in, in transformers was, you know, minuscule Bob you know, he’s, he’s the guy that, you know, like 99% of transformers, just like GI Joe, Larry Hama, you know, maybe, you know, 95% Archie Goodwin came up with the Cobra, man. But you know, those, those are the guys that really did the work.
I, you know, I just got back, you [00:06:00] know, the opportunity to sit back and applaud them.
Casey: That’s amazing. So judging by your accent, I think you grew up in rural Georgia on a peanut farm. So no, so T tell me how you got into comics in the first place. What, what was it, what was the spark that, that hit Tom, the Falco and went, Oh my gosh, this is what I want to do.
Tom Defalco: I was always interested in comics. I you know, started reading comic strips and then I, you know, cut out the comic strips for my father’s newspaper. Hopefully. I’d wait till after you read it.
Casey: And I’ve got the approval for that.
Tom Defalco: Hold on to them. Somewhere along the line, one of my cousins.
Cousin, Johnny gave me a Batman comic that scared the hell out of me. I was maybe, you know, nine, 10 years old, this Batman comic, this creature really scared me, but I love the the medium. And then I discovered you can actually buy comic books in the local candy store. [00:07:00] And then from then on, I was hooked.
I was you know, I guess I was kind of outgrowing comic books around the time that I discovered fantastic for number three and four. And those two comic books, I always say changed my life because I fell in love with the medium all over again. And it’s a love that has never gone away.
I you know, always knew that I wanted to be some kind of writer.
Yeah, kind of cursed that way from, from grade school on. And you know, after I got out of college, I had, you know, we’ve done some writing for newspapers, for some magazine sold a couple of short stories, that sort of thing. But I was hoping that someday I could do a comic strip and I sent out resumes to the different comic book companies, hoping that somebody would hire me.
I didn’t realize how stupid that that idea was, but Archie [00:08:00] comics, so my resume and they called me up and they offered me a job, you know, so I owe my career to a gentleman by the name of Mike Michael Silberkleit who was the business manager at who’s in charge of the business stuff in Archie. I forget what his actual title was.
And he told Richard Goldwater, who was the editor in charge of the creative stuff. And Richard put me in touch with Victor Gore. Like it was know my boss for a lot of years. They taught me everything. I know, not everything he knew, but everything I know,
Casey: he, he sounds like every time I’ve heard him in interview, he sounded as if he was completely and totally sold on Archie.
He, he was just in love with the job. He loved what he did. And he really had a lot of good [00:09:00] energy.
Tom Defalco: He, he totally loved the Archie characters. He loved the material he was doing. He, he had. Very little interest in any other kinds of comics, which worked because he was the one Archie cottage and yeah, he had, he had, you know, boundless enthusiasm, a love of the medium and love of the craft.
He, like I say, he taught me so much. I, you know, I, I still here is there here’s words in the back of my ear, you know, constantly you know, any, any, it was just the great again, one of these great people that it was a privilege to know. He passed away a couple of years ago. And I don’t know if if Archie has ever recovered, if, if the industry will ever recover.
We’re losing a lot of our giants as time goes on.
Casey: Yeah. Yeah. Is there anything now that that kind of gives you hope for the comics industry, especially as [00:10:00] tumultuous as it has been even over the past week, what, with the the whole diamond thing and, and penguin random house, what does it penguin?
Tom Defalco: Yeah, I am, you know, like everybody else, I, I, you know, I fear for the industry on a, on a regular basis. And then I remember that I’ve been around for at least maybe three or four times where the industry looked like it faced, you know, no extinction that, you know, basically had a few months to go and then things always happened and it, and it just keeps on going, I think the medium.
Is such a strong medium. It’s been with us since caveman times. So, you know, words and pictures, it it’ll keep on going whether or not, you know, superheroes will keep on going. Who knows, who [00:11:00] cares? Wow. I shouldn’t say
I, I, you know, I enjoy superhero. I enjoy all of it, but my love is more towards the craft and the medium itself, as opposed to, you know, individual characters when I’m writing them. I fall in love with, and you know, you know, the characters that I’ve been privileged to write, I’m like, you know, I just love loved every moment I got to spend with them, you know, Archie Spiderman.
Yup. Spider girls, Thor, whichever character I got that, my hands on it. And, you know, I did a whole bunch of other stories that had nothing to do with super heroes in comics or horror stories and missionaries and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I realized that, you know, if I can you know, hang out till 2022, that’d be [00:12:00] 50 years in the industry.
Casey: God, that’s amazing.
Tom Defalco: I was, I joined at seven 72.
Casey: Wow. So you got, you, were you got into the comics industry through Archie and then you went to DC. Am I correct?
Tom Defalco: I I did some work for Charleston Did a lot of work for Charleston, a couple of stories for I think it was gold key. And and then eventually it got to DC.
Casey: So, and that was all working as a writer or what, what was your position at Carlton and
Tom Defalco: gold key? Those are just as freelance writer as a freelance writer.
Casey: Did you first start getting into like your, the editing side and, and I really want to know, you know, eventually, like, I guess your heart is in
Tom Defalco: writing.
Yeah. That’s what I always wanted to do. I got a job in the production. Like I said, Archie comics hired me. They hired me in their [00:13:00] production editorial department and I was there and my goal was to learn how to write, write comics. And I had I had an incredible teacher, a guy by the name of Frank Doyle who, you know, helped me out a lot.
And as time went on, I started to do some writing for Archie and started to do more writing for Archie and and more writing outside of outside of Archie and, and outside of comics and stuff like that. And I started to cut down the number of days I was working at Archie, I think at the end that was working either two or three days a week, or is editing the digest books and stuff like that.
And then at a certain point I was doing some freelance work for Marvel and Jim shooter offered me a writing contract at Marvel. And I thought, wow, God, it was, you know, it was there was a very nice contract a nice chance to do, you know, [00:14:00] superheroes and stuff like that. And I thought, you know, maybe, maybe I should take them up on that.
So I, so I I was curious in my eyes, I left the Archie comics and became an exclusive writer, a comic book writer for Archie. And you know, I was there, you know, freelance writing for them for about a year or so. And then Jim shooter came to me and said, listen, I’m reorganizing the editorial department.
I’d like you to come on staff. As an editor, I said to him Jim, I, you know, I haven’t worked a full-time job in a lot of years. I don’t even know if I can do it. And Jim said to me, well, you know, I really need the help. And I really like it, you know, to come on. And if it doesn’t work out, you know, it’s a temporary job, especially at least till I get it organized.
So you come on for a few months, if it doesn’t work out, you can, you can go back to full-time writing. So I thought, Hey, that’s, that’s fair. And I I, I [00:15:00] hooked on to editorial my temporary job and it ended up to be a instead of six months, closer to 20 years.
Casey: Oh my gosh. That’s amazing.
Tom Defalco: And in the course of that, I, you know, I eventually became a executive editor and, and then to my surprise, the editor and chief, none of those were things that I was aiming for.
My whole, my whole you know, goal was to get back to full-time writing.
Casey: So did your role as an editor kind of give you more insight into your writing because you had to look at it through a critical, a more critical lens.
Tom Defalco: You know, that’s a chicken or an egg kind of thing. Did my writing help my editing? I’m sure it did. Did my editing helped my writing. I’m sure it did.
Talking to other writers as an editor. I’m sure that, you know, I’m sure I could talk to other writers easier because I wasn’t a writer. [00:16:00] And I think I could you know, understand what they were coming from a lot of times. And I know, all right, I got to work with a lot of writers, certain guys that were very close to me in terms of style and approach and certain guys that were it’s completely alien to me in terms of style and approach.
I, I often said to Mark the Mattis, who’s a good friend of mine and this, you know, a great writer that I admired a lot. And so was sort of a lot of other people that Mark’s style of writing and my style of writing. We don’t belong in the same university, but I can appreciate his stuff and you can appreciate my stuff.
Yeah. Yeah, sadly, he’s much better than I am in that noise. Now
Casey: don’t say this don’t sell yourself short. What, what is it about your styles that are so different?
Tom Defalco: He takes [00:17:00] a, a much more literary approach and he’s approaching it from the focus thematic focus, dealing with big philosophical ideas. And I’m, you know, I approach it from the characters.
I want the characters to be real people and to I want the stories to affect roar on an emotional basis.
I think that’s, you know, that’s the closest I can say is in terms of a difference, his has more, you know, his stories have many more ideas in them. Sometimes my stories have just the theme and no ideas whatsoever, but a lot of emotion
Casey: to me, that’s what Marvel is though, is that the characters, just having solid, solid characters [00:18:00] that you, you can then put into a larger world and make stories around them and put them in.
Tom Defalco: Yeah, I totally agree. I think that when, when Ron friends and I first started working together which was on an amazing Spiderman, we would spend hours and hours on the phone talking about Peter Parker. And
a lot of times. The, the, the story would be like a secondary thing, because once we knew how intimately, you know, had an intimate understanding of Peter Parker, we knew that if this happens, that, you know, that’s how he’s gonna react. And it’s always been the same for us. You know, we’re talking about, you know, Thor, you know, and his relationship with his father, his relationship with this, you know, Eric masters and his relationship with his son, his relationship with, you know, his, his buddy Hercules.
Casey: That was my [00:19:00] introduction to Thor, by the way, the thunder strike and all that. And that really blew my mind as a kid. Good,
Tom Defalco: good.
No, we wanted to create a great rollercoaster to the ride, and I’m glad it did. It had that effect because we were, we were constantly, you know, trying our best to keep twisting and turning and coming up with new ideas and that sort of stuff. And so many times we thought, Oh, everybody’s going to know where we’re going with this one.
And we’re lucky because the people knew where we were headed. They kept the bounced shots.
Casey: That’s awesome. I have a question specifically with you’ve had a few projects that in the onset, there was blow back from fans and like the black costume was Spiderman or maybe even [00:20:00] Eric Masterson stuff like that.
How do you deal with that negative blowback? Do you, do you just put your head down and keep working or do you try to anticipate that in the onset w how do you handle people not understanding where you’re going? Because if it all worked out in the end, you know, you look at a Spider-Man now and that black costume of course brought venom and all that, and people love it.
So it’s all part of the process, but you don’t know that when you’re in the midst of getting hate mail,
Tom Defalco: you know, you, you never know how anybody’s going to actually re react to anything until the comic book is actually in print. You know, comic book fans, you know, yeah, this’ll get me in trouble, but comic book fans are a cowardly and suspicious lot superstitious.
You know, th they are [00:21:00] afraid of what they perceive to be permanent change. The the, the second controversy, big controversy, it was the black hospital. When people heard that we were going to change vitamin costume, we got a ton of negative mail, a ton of negative mail about it. Everybody’s swearing that they were going to, you know, they were going to stop buying Spider-Man that we’re going to stop buying the Marvel comic books.
You know, this is the end, you know, no more. And you know, and they kept swearing that what happened up until the book actually came out and then they suddenly changed their tune saying that if we switched back costumes, they would give up reading Spider-Man they look at the black house, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
And that, and like I say, that was the second big controversy I was involved in the first one. We’re doing a Spiderman annual, I forget what, what number, what issue it was Mark, when will world was my [00:22:00] assistant and what I wanted to do, feature pages have a main story and some feature pages, that sort of stuff, kind of like annuals.
When I was a kid, we had a lot more stuff going on and you know, Mark said, Hey, I got this idea for a two page thing where Spider-Man is going to figure out, you know, he’s going to write characters according to that power level. And he basically pitched me the idea and I thought, Hey, that sounds like fun.
Okay. Yeah, let’s let’s do it. So, I don’t remember. I know more pro did. I think he, I think he canceled it. I think maybe Bob lightning that I really don’t remember at this stage, but in those days before you sent the book out, you had to send it up to Jim shooter to look at it before we come out. So, you know, he w we were, we’re dictating the feature pages done.
We send it [00:23:00] into the production department to get the logos printed and stuff. And suddenly half of the bullpen and half the writers and artists who were in the office kept coming into my office, complaining about. No, no. This character does belong here. This, this one won’t share this. This guy is not on the third level.
He’s on the second level. Oh, how dare you put my character in the fourth glove? At least he’s definitely a top tier guy and all these guys are arguing about where all the characters. And then finally, Jim shooter comes in. I wait a minute, I got to talk to you. This is all wrong. We have the two pages elicit.
Everybody’s got an opinion, but this is spider man’s opinion. Your opinion doesn’t count nobody’s opinion counts. Everybody’s argued about all the characters. We’re not going to come to a consensus. We’re going to send it out as is. And then we got a pile of mail, every fed who read it, had a [00:24:00] different opinion.
And you know, the mail room and the mail room was not happy with me because they, they got so much mail. And, and that was the most we got up until the black costume was coming out. But you know, anytime you did anything, you know, everybody would react. Everybody would be hysterical and then they would calm down.
Casey: I I got to tell Ron Mars about my experience in my middle school lunch room during the Marvel versus DC comics and how upset all my friends were about the outcome of the Wolverine Lobo fight,
Tom Defalco: you know, who won? It should have been Wolverine.
Casey: I think it was. But my argument was that Lobo was such a cartoon character that you can’t beat bugs money because the law of [00:25:00] physics doesn’t really apply. But Again, I’m a grown man talking about a comic book character in a book that was written for children.
Tom Defalco: you know, these, the, you know, when a comic book as well done, it sucks you in.
Casey: Oh yes.
Tom Defalco: And you know, one of the things that Ron friends and I are very proud of is the fact that most of the time, you know, and that’s like 99.9, nine, 9% of the time when people wrote in letters back in the days when people would write letters about our stuff, all they talked about was the the characters.
They never discussed the writing. They never discussed the artwork. They were discussing the characters that they didn’t like, this that happened to this character. Then they liked that add to the characters and they will focus on the characters, which to me meant we were doing our job. Correctly. I’ve [00:26:00] told Ron, and I believe that when the creative people are doing their jobs, you know, at their best level, they are invisible.
If you can recognize your writing style or that sort of stuff, we’re, we’re screwed up somehow.
Casey: Is that something that you you’ve had to kind of check yourself for as you, as a
Tom Defalco: writer? Nope. Nope. I, I do the best I can to submerge myself into the characters
Casey: when you are, because I’ve noticed you’ve done like a few fill ins here and there for people. When you do that, do you try and study what that person is doing and how they, how that characterization is prior to your jumping in?
Or do you just try to write a solid story? That
Tom Defalco: I try whenever I was doing a felon, I would try [00:27:00] to read the previous five issues. At least the previous five issues, just to get a sense of the rhythm of the way the characters speaking and, and, you know, try to make it fit in as seamlessly as possible.
Casey: That’s that’s awesome. So you were, you were kind of instrumental in the clone saga happening. I talked to Terry, Kevin and Howard Mackie and, and Danny finger off. And they couldn’t have said any more nice things about you. They, they were over the moon about you as a person, thought you were a, a great guy to work with.
And I just want to note like. How was your experience on those books? And how, how w was it a hard sell for you? Or was it something that you were like, okay, this sounds cool. Let’s let’s do this.
Tom Defalco: Oh, it was there was a complete hard sell for me. That Danny had told me that their plan that you know, w we’re gonna [00:28:00] introduce the clone and he’s the real guy.
And I said, that’s ridiculous. And I, and I said, no, no, we’re not going to do that. And he said, well, the guys are very excited about it. And I said, well, you know, I, I still don’t think it’s a good idea. And and he said, well, come to the meeting tomorrow and, you know, tell the guys what you think. And I went to the meeting and they you know, these guys, they all know me.
You know, if I was one thing, it was remarkably consistent, which I think as editor in chief, you must be consistent so that these guys all know how, how it was going to react to this thing before I refer showed up. And they, you know, they took it as their job to convince me, to make this clone saga work.
And they will give, you know, explaining to me in very passionate ways why they thought this would be a great thing to do. And I remember sitting [00:29:00] there watching the passion that these guys you know, each of them had, you know, Saudi assemble had been in the industry for 50 years. By that time, you know, talking about how much, you know, you thought this would really, you know, really turbocharged the Spiderman series and everything else like that.
And I thought, wow, if these guys are that passionate, the readers are going to be even more passionate. And that’s what we want, what the readers to be effected by the stories. So I, you know, I said to him, okay, well, we’ve got to figure out what, what, what, what we’re going to do with Peter Parker. Okay. So we’ll hear Mary Jane, you know, go, go off together.
And I said, but why would they go off? Why would they go off? They have to have a reason for going off. And I, and I think I accidentally stumbled. I said they needed region. You know, like Mary Jane is pregnant. And, [00:30:00] and what I said that Mark, the Madison and Howard Mackey’s smacked hands with each other.
Cause they had had a bet that I would come up with the, with the thing that would help them give them the end to the story. So they collected their bed. And you know, and then no, later on I said to Danny finger, I called them up on the side. I said, okay. All right. Yeah. Here’s the basic story that you have.
Ben comes on the scene. You know, we didn’t know we was going to be, you know, called Ben at the time. We find out that the phone is the real guy, the clone takes over Peter and Mary Jane go off to live happily ever after something goes wrong. Peter, Mary Jane have to come back.
Peter has to, you know, save the clone, wait a minute, we got it wrong. Peter, Peter is the real guy. The clone is the claw. And at the end of this, the plan was, [00:31:00] we have the amazing Spider-Man Peter, Mary Jane, and their baby. Because Spiderman is all about responsibility. What is a greater responsibility than having children?
So we’re, we’re adding more responsibilities on Peter’s back. So we haven’t married family, Peter Parker, and then we have a, for lack of a better term, single Peter Park Parker, the Ben Riley County. So those who want single Spider-Man stories, we’ve got that. Although we call the book, the Scarlet spider, those want a married one.
We got that amazing Spider-Man. So the trip we had done with you know, iron man or war machine Thor, thunder strike, just expanding, you know, the, the different you know, story, story structures. And that was our plan. I remember
Casey: being on I’m sorry. I remember being on that rollercoaster. During the, the clone saga and just [00:32:00] being really affected with, you know, thinking about how, what Peter was going through and stuff, because, you know, it was what like 14.
So yeah, that, that kinda hit hard. And it was, yeah, it brought up a bunch of stuff that, that I had not really encountered before. So
Tom Defalco: it was supposed to hit hard. It was a whole question of, you know, who am I? You know, what am I you know, where’s my place in the world, you know, they w there were hard themes not the kind of things you expect in comic books.
We were trying to, you know, deal with these things, you know, in an adult way. But for children. I, you know, I used to say that our audience at that time was 16 year olds of all ages, both people who were not yet 16, but dreamed of the day when they could be that magical age of 16. [00:33:00] And then people who were older than 16, that looked back on that day with fondness.
Casey: Uh that’s, that’s a great way to put it actually.
Tom Defalco: Yeah. So we were just trying to, you know, w we did have important themes, but we’re also trying to detain that we won that a lot of twists and turns a big roller coaster ride. We were hoping that nobody could see what was coming. And, you know, actually we didn’t see certain things that were coming.
One of the things we didn’t see is. Around that, you know, in October of that year Marvel decided to make a change and they fired me, his editor in chief probably a wise decision on their part. And you know, that, you know, kind of change the direction of things then later on, Marvel bought its own distributor.
And when Marvel bought its own distributor they almost destroyed the comic book industry. Sales felt like 60%, half the comic book stores [00:34:00] went out of business. It was just a total disaster. But only two lines of comic books started to recover the X line and the spider line and the spider line was because of the clone sock.
And because the clone saga was selling. The powers that be, did not want it to end that contract should have been over. I think about, I don’t remember.
Casey: I think having an offset. Yeah. Like, like four months or like 12 issues or something like that.
Tom Defalco: Exactly. Maxim, our original plan was maximum phone age would have, would have been the thing that tied everything up and instead you know, halfway through it. W w we were instructed that no, don’t, you can’t tie anything up.
We have to keep on going. The clone shot like too many screaming TV shows the clown saga was stretched out. A [00:35:00] little too low. It looks, I thought it was stretched out a little too long. You know, years later hard Mac and I did this limited series called the real close, real close or something like that. I, I don’t remember that the actual title, Todd knock a droid.
And I had to go back and reread the entire clone saga to remember everything. And I was surprised at how good so many of his stories were which, you know, kind of surprised me. I here’s here’s something that you guys didn’t know about me. I don’t read my stuff after it’s in print. I always warned Ron friends not to look at the printed comics.
I’ve said the printed comic can only depression. Cause you’ll, you’ll see a mistake you made, you’ll see a mistake. Somebody else made you’ll you’ll look at something and say, Whoa, that’s pretty good. Or, wow, that’s [00:36:00] terrible. You know, all I can do is the pressure. Keep moving forward.
Casey: I have a, I have a question kind of related to that after you’re done on a run.
So, like, you know, for Spiderman, do you keep up with those characters or is it something like, why is it hard to, to watch what other people do to them?
Tom Defalco: It’s impossible to watch. What other people do food to them? I do not keep up with them. I when I got off of Spider-Man, I didn’t look at Spiderman for about two or three years and that’s a character I love when I got off of Thor.
I Well, to be honest, I’ve never gone back to read reading for on a regular basis. Maybe an issue here or there. Same thing with the fantastic four. I’m, I’m sure someday they’re going to bring back spider girl and no enough years have passed, but I don’t know if I’m going to even [00:37:00] bother to look at that stuff.
And I think it, I do it for a number of reasons. You know, one, you, the characters become alive if you’re doing it right, the characters become alive to you and you hear their voices in your head and nobody else quite gets the cadence down the way you had it. So, if you’re reading another writers that, you know, interpretation of the character, it.
It doesn’t sound right, because you’re, you’re too personally involved. And that’s being unfair to the writer after you. I know a lot of the writers that followed me and it, that they’re, they’re, they’re terrific. They’re, they’re great writers, but because I was so deeply involved with the characters you know, I wouldn’t have the right, you know, I wouldn’t be reading this stuff objectively as a reader. I’d be comparing it to my own stuff, which I think is just slightly unfair.
[00:38:00] So I’d rather not do it
Casey: when you’re moving on from one project to another. Is it hard to get the previous, the previous project, the characters out of your head or is it is it, is it just starting with the clean slate?
Tom Defalco: Well, Th the character stay in your head for a long time afterwards. But you know, I’ve always been juggling, you know, a bunch of different projects.
I’ve I have a low attention span, so I’ve got to keep busy. So yeah, I’d be doing just a whole bunch of different things. You know, you’ll have a project here you know, a horror project there, a murder mystery here, you know, so I’ve been, you know, always juggling different, different things. And you know, I, when something goes away, something always replaces it quickly enough that I don’t worry about, you know, characters, voices.
Casey: you. So, [00:39:00] because you’ve been in so many different genres and mediums. Is there anything that you haven’t had the opportunity to work with that you want to get a get a chance to try?
Tom Defalco: Not really. Not, not really. I
I’ve been a lucky guy managed to, you know, to find the things I love. I got a chance to spend a lot of time with the things I loved projects that I didn’t love so much. Yeah. I never went back.
Casey: I hear you. Is there anything that you would drop everything right now to return to like a character that you would want to to go back and write?
Tom Defalco: Yeah, I don’t know. I Hello. I have, you know, I, I spent the last third in the comic book feel that time with the, with spider [00:40:00] girl on this MC two universe and that sort of stuff. I really enjoyed those characters a lot. I think that you know, today, if they were going to bring back spider girl that, you know, they probably bring in you know, a woman writer or woman artist or that sort of thing.
And, and probably give it a much more grounded thing that I did cause I was mainly playing a soap opera. But yeah, yeah, I’m more hooked on the medium. I, I I’ve always had a thing for captain America, but the kind of captain America stories that I do would like to do, I don’t know if they’re in Vogue anymore, they’d be, you know, you know who high action, much closer to them, much closer to the movies than they are to the philosophical captain America stuff that people are doing.
Now. That’s not, [00:41:00] I
Casey: go ahead. I’m sorry. There’s there’s always going to be a a call for people wanting that though, that the hula actions that you call it, people are always going to want that. So it’s never going to go out.
Tom Defalco: Yeah. You know, you know, the audience is constantly changing. The tastes are constantly changing.
It. When I was doing comic books, like I said, it was 16 year olds of all ages these days. I think they’re 30 year olds of all ages. I’m not exactly sure. What, what were the audiences? I flipped to a lot of comic books and I see a lot of heads talking and to me that’s a radio script and I, you know, yeah, yeah.
I wrote radios scripts for awhile and I enjoy doing radio scripts, but I took your after it, you know, you’re right. A radio script for radio, but comic books who ha actually that’s, those are the kinds of stories that I like. I you know, I like things that [00:42:00] move along quickly around friends and I realized that With our attention spam, you know, three issues is about, is about as far as we can go on a story and then we gotta, we gotta change the scene.
We gotta do a different kind of bell and we gotta do something else because otherwise we’re getting bored.
Casey: Is that why you have so many people? So sorry, not people, but I guess people characters that are attributed to you because you, you seem like, it seems like you introduced so many people into comics as, as a whole, like so many, like the new warriors re nine Thrasher Benjamin Richards, Parker, Puma, Henry, Pam junior, hope PIM.
I’m just going down the list. Oh my gosh, dude, you have an encyclopedia of people that you.
Tom Defalco: You know, I look back and when the, you know, Stan and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and Stanley, and Steve didn’t go there, you know, coming out with fantastic war every month, they [00:43:00] introduce a new villain. And I thought, well, you know, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.
You know, that the company is paying us to be creative. So let’s create, let’s come up with new things, you know, new situations, new characters, you know, I like to think that I’m supposed to be a creative guy. I want to create.
Casey: So as, as a writer and, and also as, as an editor, what have you learned about working with.
Different personalities. Like, is there anything that, that helped you to navigate the different styles and different personalities that you would come across? Because it seems to me that especially in editing, learning how to communicate to different types of people is kind of like a [00:44:00] key thing.
Tom Defalco: It is, it is very key.
You know, the secret in my day, the editor got to hire and fire everybody. It’s more like being the producer. You know, the, you know, the producer, the director of a movie. And you, you, as an editor, you surrounded yourself with people who all had the same goal. And the goal was to produce the best comic book story we could.
And, you know, I think these days, right, I’ve run across guys that talk about their brand and their ego and all that other stuff. And I’m thinking if, forget about your ego, you check it at the door because the story, the story is the most important thing that you’re doing. And if there’s any way to [00:45:00] make the story better, no, I’ve never seen a writer.
You know, when you, when you point something out to him saying this doesn’t quite work, I know what you’re trying to say, but it’s just not, you’re not getting there. You know, maybe if you did this, maybe if you did that. Mmm. I see. At least the people I always surrounded myself with. They, they would all, you know, go that extra.
That extra distance because you know the story, his boss one editor, I think it was Danny. O’Neil had a sign on his door on his wall saying the job, his boss. I always thought that that was the most important thing that I would, you know, less than that I ever learned. It’s, you know, this story that we’re doing, we’ve got, we’ve got it.
There, there is nothing we can’t do to make this better. We’ve got to do everything we can to make [00:46:00] this better because the readers deserve to get the best story we can produce the time we have to produce it, because, you know, we’re asking readers for their money and even more important, their time, you know, money, they can always get other money, but once, once they waste their time on our story, they can never get that back.
So we bet. We damn well, better be worth their time and their money. You know, we have a responsibility to our readers. That’s why I think every comic book you pick up should be a complete unit of entertainment. Because you don’t know if you’re ever going to get the next dish
standing on a soap box now.
Casey: No, no, stand on that soapbox. I want to hear it. You just re you just said, you don’t know when you’re going to get the next issue, which brings me to a question from a listener. Because you kind of went through a period with, with spider girl where it was, you [00:47:00] had like six issues and then they’d extend it and then it kept going like that for awhile.
How did, how did you deal with that? And did you buy stock in Tums? Because it sounds like that would have been an important part of having a title like that.
Tom Defalco: We, we just treated every issue as if it would be our last. So we wanted to do the best job we could do. And a number of issues we were told would be all I asked.
I’ve I’ve often said to really go back and anytime you see the, the, the story ends out a full-page shot of spider girl. That’s cause we thought it was going to be the last issue. Oh my gosh. There was actually a time trying to remember what issue number was, I think was issue somewhere on 59, issue, 60, something like that, that they told me definitely this time is going to be the last issue.
There’s no hope for, for reprieve. And so we finished up the issue and then I went into Marvel to drop off the last. The last [00:48:00] script and I you know, checked around, I said, Hey, you guys got any more work for me? Oh, well, we’ll see what we can do. We’ll see what we can do, which to me meant. No. So I figured, okay.
Probably less time. I’m going to be a Marvel. So I walked around and I said goodbye to everybody at walked out the door. I thought, okay, this part of my life is over. And about a week later in April fool’s day, April 1st, they called me up and said, a spider go got on canceled again. We need a plot by the end of the week.
Casey: Oh my gosh.
Tom Defalco: Really? Well, April fools. And I hung up on the editor and he called me back. And you know, they, he ended up calling me a few times and I, and I kept thinking. You know, guys, you know, I I’ve been, you know, when these kind of gigs on people for 30 years and then about seven 30 at night, I got a call from Tom , who I can tell is [00:49:00] exhausted.
And he says to me, seven 30 at night. Yeah. The last person I really want to be talking to on the phone, just want to get out of here and go home to my kids. And I said, well, why don’t you tell him? He said, because you won’t believe that spider girl isn’t canceled, it’s not canceled. And we need a plot two days.
Can you come up with something in two days? And I said, sure. And he said, all right, I’m going to have to put down some solicitation, you know, Can you come up with something for me? I said, okay, tell him the story is called Bach for death, because that’s what this book was.
And and then we went for another I think 70, 80 issues. Yeah. Oh my God.
Casey: That is funny. Fantastic.
Tom Defalco: What was going on is, you know, his secret behind comic, the [00:50:00] direct market sales and the direct market only go down, they just go down and I’ll guys figure out, you know, first issue was coming RK. I’m going to order a hundred copies of the first issue.
I want to order 50 copies of the second issue and 25 copies of the third issue. And that’s what they do. And hopefully if the first issue sells out, Some of these guys, you hope that they’re smart enough to know that they should increase the sales for the third issue. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.
Sometimes books are canceled before the first issue comes out because they’re already cutting their selves. The, the, the the dealers. So the correct sales guys, they look at his title, they see where it’s selling and they can pretty accurately can figure out when the title has to be canceled. And this works for [00:51:00] almost every comic book except spider girl.
They would look at it and say, in tennis shoes, this book will be on the ward. We have to cancel it. Okay. Except finishes later, they go back and they look at the sales kind of sales have gone up on spider girl sales. Don’t go up on direct. You know, direct, only comic books in the direct market. And yet it did.
So spider girl was constantly defining all sorts of expectations. People often said, you know, you had a book that was on the verge of cancellation for years. You know, it wasn’t that either the sales department predicted that it would be on the verge, but he’d never delivered. At one point, they came out with those digest books.
I don’t know if you ever saw them that were selling Scholastic. It was selling a hundred to 120,000 copies of those trade paperbacks every [00:52:00] month Spyderco was the best selling trade paperback that Marvel had.
Casey: Okay. So my, my wife is a kindergarten teacher and Scholastic book fairs are King at her school.
She even gets excited when the book fair comes to the school. That’s how awesome they are. They they’re great. Yeah. So spider girl may very well have been so many, like I have two girls very well. May have been some little girls first exposure to superheroes, and first exposure to the medium. You might have instilled a love for comics to, to so many people just who that character.
I mean, it sold well enough through that. What do you think? What about it? Do you, is the, the hook, what do you think hooked people?
Tom Defalco: I think it was just because it was a family soap opera. It was just the family soap opera. [00:53:00] We went out of our way to make sure that you know, a, that we had a supporting cast that everybody in the supporting cast related to, to our main character may day in some way, shape or form in a very specific way.
And then everybody in the supporting cast had their own story going on. So it was just this giant. So Barbara w it was a big web of soap opera.
The stories were all pretty much one issue stories, but, but the soap opera hook people in. And I think that that to me has always been the magic Marvel comic books. You know, when people talk about, you know, Stanley, what did Stanley do? They always say, Oh, created characters with feet of play, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
And all right. Some of that is true, but what Stan really did, Stan’s major contribution to comic book writing was [00:54:00] he created soap opera. He brought soap opera to comics, so that we cared about what was happening to Peter Parker. You know, is he going to get a date for the prom? You know, what’s going to happen to him.
What’s going to happen to the thing, is his girlfriend going to accept them? And she’s going to reject them. It was the soap opera that, that hooked us into all of these characters. That to me is Stan’s greatest contribution.
Casey: So you were at Marvel in the seventies, I’m assuming he was already out West.
When, when you when you started there, correct? Pretty much. Yeah. Did you ever get did you ever run into them or was it a pretty good guy or what was it? Was it interest? Great guy?
Tom Defalco: At one point I was assigned to be a Stan’s liaison with the Marvel comics. So I got to speak to him at least once a week.
And Stan was a fabulous guy. He, [00:55:00] the character of Stanley that hate true believer, you know, that was the real Stanley that, that, that was Stan. Alright. He would quiet down a bit. You know, when he would, when the cameras were off, but he was, he was a real caring person. I, you know, I w when you look at the counters in an amazing Spider-Man, I can see, you know, Stanley is, is Peter Parker.
He is just as insecure as Peter Parker. Stanley is J Jonah Jameson, you know, he’s grouchy. He’s. He’s cheap. He’s boisterous. No Stanley his aunt Mae. He’s very concerned about, you know, are you dressed warmly enough constantly when Stan and I would go out he’d look and go, is that jacket warm? And a few Tommy, did you bring an umbrella?
[00:56:00] It’s raining outside. What are those shoes they’re going to get all wet? That was Stanley. It was all of those characters. I, you know, so many times I look at, you know, I see a character and I see the dialogue, the character saying, and I’m thinking I can, I can hear Stan’s voice. He really was a great, great guy.
No, I was not there for the beginning of Marvel. So I, you know, I don’t know. I know that, you know, people say, ah, Jack created everything or Stan created everything. And I, I think no together, they created this stuff. No Jack, without Jack’s visuals, I don’t know if the Marvel universe would have worked without stand’s personality and dialogue.
I don’t know if the Marvel universe would have worked. [00:57:00] And I don’t mean to lesser the contributions of dressers. Certainly. I don’t mean lessen. The contributions of Steve did go or Don heck or any of the, any of the other guys that’d be, you know, comics are a team sport. And you know, everybody in the team has to be doing their best and if they are doing their best.
You get a great comic book. I think everybody was doing their best in the early days of Marvel or certainly trying to do their best.
Casey: Is there any,
Tom Defalco: what now, what
Casey: that this blowing your hair back, that you think is, is putting out just solid, solid comics.
Tom Defalco: I’m not really up to date on a lot of the current comic posts that come out there, but they’re not made for, for a guy like me. They the [00:58:00] pacing is, is, is different from what, the kind of stuff that I’m, you know, I find it interesting. So, Like I say, I’m just not paying too much attention to the current comics.
It would be unfair for me to say, Hey, you know, I, you know, I like a lot of the guys, but I’m really not paying that much attention to the to the medium at this stage.
Casey: I hear you. I hear you. And I mean, it’s it, one thing that’s awesome about the medium itself is it’s ever changing. There’s always a new evolutions in the, in the medium.
Tom Defalco: it should ever be thus I think that anybody doing comic books that would appeal to me, that’s a dying audience. What are you wasting your time for? You gotta be doing comic books that appeal to today’s marketplace.
Casey: So, what are you reading
Tom Defalco: things outside of comics?
Casey: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But like, is there anything, this, this blowing your hair back that we need to know about?
Tom Defalco: Well, I just finished up a private cathedral by James Lieber, Burke. I thought that was a terrific novel. Let’s see. I think has his first novel coming out waiting to read that.
Casey: Yeah, actually talked about that on the show and it sounded fantastic. Well,
Tom Defalco: good, good. All Fabian. I, you know, he, he went out and he wrote new warriors and did a better job than I am, and I’ve never forgiven him for that. That’s an outrage.
I love that book that he had Bagley did. You shouldn’t have, you shouldn’t have written better than I should, but that’s unfair.
Casey: Fantastic [01:00:00] book. Well, one thing I love about hearing you talk is that you are the consummate team player and you will not waste a chance to, to talk somebody up who is in the field and cheerlead, what is, you know, w what is being put out by, by other people.
And that’s I want to see more of that in the world is it’s been fantastic talking.
Tom Defalco: What’s that? Thank you very much, Casey. It’s, you know, it’s, it’s nice to be heard every once in a while.
Casey: Thank you so much. I I thought that you only existed in cartoon form for a good 10 years of my life. So it is nice actually actually talking to the man and so thank you again, Tom.
Tom Defalco: It’s my pleasure,
Casey: sir. Have a good evening and we’ll get this up soon.
Tom Defalco: Sounds good. All right, you [01:01:00] keep the faith.
Thank you, sir. Bye bye.