Interview With Steve Englehart
(June 1997)

Steve Englehart was originally going to be the writer for Daredevil after Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's 'Born Again' series from #227-#233. What you may not know, is that he did write an issue of DD under a pseudonym. These are questions I sent to him through e-mail and he was kind enough to answer them for me. You can visit his web page that is listed at the end of the interview.

Kuljit Mithra: Can you give some background on yourself and when you started writing comics for Marvel?

Steve Englehart: I was a comics fan as a kid, like most kids (then), but outgrew them when I became a teenager. I was a freshman in college in the spring of 1965 when a friend shoved a Ditko Spider-Man in my face and said "You've got to read this!" I did and discovered comics had gotten better since I gave them up. So I followed them all through college, and when I got out.....I got drafted (this was Vietnam time). But once I got done with the Army, I went to New York and broke in. My first Marvel comic appeared in early 1972.

Mithra: What titles stand out as some of your favourite work of your own (not necessarily for Marvel)?

Englehart: Captain America, Avengers, Dr. Strange, Master of Kung Fu, Detective Comics (Batman), JLA, Coyote, Scorpio Rose, The Djinn, Silver Surfer, first half of my Fantastic Four, Green Lantern Corps, Millennium, Congorilla, Phantom of Fear City, Night Man.

Mithra: You were supposed to write Daredevil after Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's 'Born Again' story from #227-233. Did you want the series or did Marvel come to you? Any initial hesitation to take on the job?

Englehart: I asked for it. Back when I took over the Avengers, I was following the best Avengers ever, but I enjoyed the challenge of trying to get even better (and twenty-five years later, the consensus remains that I did). So since Frank and David had done something special, I wanted the new challenge of outdoing them.

Mithra: You had planned on making Matt/DD move to San Francisco and join the West Coast Avengers. Why?

Englehart: He had undergone his crisis of conscience. Theoretically, he'd become a better person for it...but I'm suspicious of easy conversions. Either way, he had to bring what he'd learned back into the world. I wanted to get him out of the narrow confines he'd fallen into (short-order cook in a small NYC neighborhood)--make him work with other people in a "new" environment (that he'd once enjoyed), in a situation (highly visible superhero--that he'd once enjoyed but now didn't)--and see how those challenges affected the very different man he'd become.

Mithra: What kind of stories did you have planned at that time, since you had to follow the events in 'Born Again'?

Englehart: See above. But also, the Black Widow would have joined the WCA, and they'd have been based in the town where he and she had been happy. Bottom line, I was angling toward DD being with Natasha at work, and Matt being with Karen at home, and seeing what happened. Living in two very different worlds with two very different women...

Mithra: The all-important question: Why didn't you write Daredevil?

Englehart: I had worked all this out but there were to be three fill-in issues before I got started. When I read Ann Nocenti's, I saw that she had had DD and Tasha reestablish their relationship in a different way from the way I had already written in my first issue. I went to my editor and said "You know what I'm doing over the long term, so we have to change her one-shot." And he said "No, she's an editor. You'll have to change *your* plans." Well, as I said, I was up for the challenge of following Miller, but not if I couldn't take my best shot. So I bailed.

Mithra: What makes Daredevil a good character and why do you think the comic has lasted for over 30 years?

Englehart: A lot of what I thought is in my one issue (it's not clear from this interview, but you *do* know it appeared under my pseudonym of "John Harkness," don't you? Number 237.). Blindness, as a fact and as a metaphor for every person's "blind spots," is what sets him apart. (And the red costume doesn't hurt his commercial longevity.)

Mithra: Louis Williams was going to be the artist for your run on the comic. He eventually drew for your 'replacement', Ann Nocenti. Did you ever read any of their issues? Comments on Williams and/or Nocenti?

Englehart: Williams had a lot of raw talent in my issue. He should have become much bigger than he eventually did.

Mithra: I believe you wrote some stories for the New Universe at Marvel. What did you think of the New Universe? Flawed from the start, or just wasn't given a chance?

Englehart: Flawed from the start. It had an obsession with reality, which is not a problem *if* you remember that comics put fantasy characters into reality, *and then reality changes!* I had several discussions with Jim Shooter about that when I came back to Marvel in the mid-80s. He said no newspaper or television station in the comics would use the term "supervillain" because no one in real life used the term. I maintained that in 1962, no one in the media would use it, but once Dr. Doom showed up, real people would find some way to differentiate between Doom and your basic burglar--so reality would change to encompass the new reality. But once the New Universe insisted that comics reality stay exactly like "what was outside the window," the NU was not a living organism.

Mithra: At the present time, you have some projects that are keeping you busy. You have written two juvenile books, The DNAgers and The Legend of Crossbones Key, with your wife, Terry. These stories revolve around twins, Jack and Mary. Can you explain the DNA angle and how the characters are able to become their own ancestors through 'time travel'?

Englehart: Our 13-year-old twins, Jack and Mary, stumble on a way to move back along their DNA line and become their ancestors--then they have historical mystery adventures. The reason they can do it is part of the mystery in the first book. But their family has had a set of twins in nearly every generation, and the family has been an adventurous one, so there are branches of the family in all parts of the world. The ones on the frontiers have often intermarried with people of other races. Thus, Jack and Mary can be just about anybody in just about any time. In the first book they become Jacques and Marie in 14th century France, fighting against a gargoyle cult. In the second, they are Joaquín and María in 17th century Caribbean, shanghaied by pirates. My wife and I make sure the history is accurate, so the books have started to be used in classrooms as aids in teaching History, but they are essentially good, solid adventures.

Mithra: What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing novels instead of writing for comics?

Englehart: Novels don't require an artistic collaborator. That can be either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the artist; I've been helped and I've been hurt by the art in my comics. Comics come out faster and more often so there's a more immediate payoff. Novels stay in print, and are not ghetto-ized.

Mithra: Comic fans might not know that your creation, The Night Man, is coming to television this year. Can you provide some details about it - when it will air, and who is starring in it etc.? Are you involved with it in any way?

Englehart: Night Man is a 22-episode, hour-long, live-action series debuting in October on your local WB channel. It's not actually on the WB; it's part of the same pipeline as Xena and Hercules that fills nights not programmed by the WB. (That's in the US; the show is syndicated around the world through that same Xena pipeline, so check your local listings...) It will generally play as part of a two-hour block with a Gene Roddenberry-created show that *was* called "Battleground: Earth" but has now been changed to something similar because L. Ron Hubbard wrote a book with that title. I am writing for the series. The premise and personality of Johnny Domino are almost exactly what I created for the comic; the main difference, which doesn't bother me at all, is that when Johnny sets out to make himself into a superhero, he gets fancier gadgets on TV. Johnny is played by a new guy named Matt McCall; his father is played by TV vet Earl Holliman (from "Police Woman" et al.); the police lieutenant is Michael Woods; the others are all new. Glen Larson ("Fall Guy," "Six-Million-Dollar Man," "Battlestar Galactica") is the man in charge.

Mithra: How difficult was it to get this project off the ground? Does it appear to be 'your vision' of the character?

Englehart: I wasn't involved in getting it off the ground, except as a writer of proposals, so I don't know all the ins and outs. It is, as I say, very much my vision.

Mithra: With all your various projects on the go, do you have time to check out any comics on a regular basis? If so, which ones?

Englehart: I'm mostly reading kids' books and watching TV these days.

Mithra: What is your favourite comics hero? comics villain? Why?

Englehart: Every hero and villain I ever did was my favorite at the time. Add that to the ones I didn't do but liked and there's no way to pare it down to just one each.

Mithra: Any plans on writing any Marvel or DC comics in the near future?

Englehart: I've completed a three-part Legends of the Dark Knight for Archie Goodwin that'll be out in 1998.

Mithra: You have a web page where fans can get more information about the books I mentioned and the Night Man television show. Can you list the URLs and e-mail address where they can reach you?

Englehart: The URL is www.sirius.com/~ehart and the email is ehart@sirius.com. The thing I love about the internet is that conversations like this can take place so easily; before the net it would have been much more complicated, to the point of perhaps not even happening. As you may or may not know, several months back a group of Avengers fans, talking with each other over the net, decided that they really wanted me to come back and write that series. So, after checking only to see if I'd serve if elected, they organized a massive letter-writing campaign to Marvel on my behalf. Marvel being Marvel, they were ignored, but I was thrilled just to see it happen. That sort of thing is directly attributable to the ease with which people all around the world can communicate now.

Steve Englehart : ehart@sirius.com

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(c)1997 Kuljit S. Mithra
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
http://www.manwithoutfear.com
----------------------------------------------


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