Larry Hama has worked on many titles including G. I. Joe, Conan and Daredevil. Here he talks about writing and drawing his DD issues and what he's currently working on.
Kuljit Mithra: I believe at the time you wrote your issue of DD (#193), you were an editor with Marvel. Can you give a brief account on how you first started in the comics industry and what titles you were involved with at this point in time ('83)?
Larry Hama: I sold my first cartoon to "Castle of Frankenstein Magazine" in 1966. I was still in school, at the High School of Art & Design in NYC. That's where I met Ralph Reese who later became an assistant for Wally Wood. When I came home from the army in 1971, I needed a job, and Ralph set me up with Woody. I wrote, lettered and did "swipe-o-graphing" for Woody on "Sally Forth" and "Cannon", which were two strips for "The Overseas Weekly", a tabloid for servicement. My contacts through Woody led me to studio space at Neal Adams' Continuity Associates, and from there, I got my first penciling job in regular comics at DC. Prior to that first Sinister House of Secrets job, I had already had illustrations published in Esquire, Rolling Stone, and a number of European pubs. I think in 1983, Crazy magazine (I was the editor) had folded and I was editing all the Conan titles as well as Savage Tales and some special projects.
Mithra: After Frank Miller left DD, I'm guessing the editors were scrambling to find someone to do some fill-in issues. Can you recall anybody that editor Denny O'Neil was looking into to take over the job?
Hama: Have no idea. Never paid much attention to that stuff.
Mithra: Can you go over how the issue finally landed in your lap to write?
Hama: They needed something to ship out to the printer ASAP. Denny came down the hall, actually, it was just next door, and asked me if I could help him out.
Mithra: Did regular writing of DD interest you at all?
Hama: Not in the least.
Mithra: You mentioned to me, prior to this interview, that Klaus Janson essentially inked over your breakdowns for this issue. Can you give more details on that?
Hama: I don't even remember if I got credits for breakdowns on that one [Janson is credited as artist]. This was before I owned a computer, so I wrote that script "Archie Goodwin style", that is, I did rough drawings of the storytelling and wrote in the dialogue right on the page in scratch balloons. I had templates that were shot down to fit on an 8X10 sheet of typing paper that were exactly proportional to a comics page. I don't think they were originally meant to be layouts as such, they were just a handy way to script a story, since I could draw a scene faster than I could describe it in words, especially if it was all graphic story-telling. It helped that Denny wanted me to continue along in Frank Miller style, as Frank's style is very cinematic and is all about telling the story with pictures as opposed to stories written by non-artists, which tend to be about WORDS and IDEAS, and not PICTURES. The deadline problem was so severe at that point, (even though I took less than a week to write and draw the script) that they had Robbie in the stat room blow my "script" pages up to page size and had Klaus ink the script on a light box.
Mithra: In that short period of time, how did you come up with the story for 'Bitsy's Revenge'? Any particular influence?
Hama: No idea. It was just something easy that was out of continuity, based on characters.
Mithra: You also did some layouts for issues 196, 197 and also helped out Cary Nord a few years ago. When artists are credited with 'layouts' or 'breakdowns', are they doing what you did for issue 193, namely sketching out panels, or are they doing more (or less)?
Hama: Layouts are much cruder than Breakdowns. An inker can easily do "finishes" over Breakdowns, which is just another name for loose pencils. Layouts, could just be stick figures that get across the bare gist of the storytelling. There was really no difference between the layouts I did for Cary Nord and the ones that Klaus inked.
Mithra: Does this method work best with the 'Marvel method' of writing?
Hama: Depends on who is doing the writing. I can't get myself to "read" most comics written by people who can't draw with the exception of Denny O'Neil, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis and Joe Kelly. I don't even consider myself a "writer." I'm really more of a penciler with a word processor.
Mithra: What's your opinion on the DD character? Any particular favourite stories or creators?
Hama: I liked the Wally Wood and Frank Miller runs. I don't really read comics much. I look at the pictures.
Mithra: You've also written Batman, so I'd like to know what you see as the common elements and differences between the two characters, since many people compare them.
Hama: I can't say I really "wrote" Batman, since the first thing I was handed at DC was a "bible" that was as thick as a telephone book about what I could or couldn't do with the character. I don't see a lot of commonality between the two characters. I think Daredevil works a lot better when he is very human. Batman has always been a cold, psychotic fish.
Mithra: Changing the topic... considering your long-time involvement with the G.I. Joe comic, and the popularity of 80's cartoons and toys, do you know if any comic companies are looking into developing the title again, and also, would you be interested in writing it?
Hama: It pops up occasionally. Everybody thinks they can do it better than me. Good luck to them.
Mithra: What's your opinion on the Marvel 'Silent Month' since fans often refer to the 'Snake Eyes' issue which used the same concept?
Hama: This is the first I've heard about it.
Mithra: And finally, what are some of your upcoming projects?
Hama: I am currently writing the script and drawing the storyboards for Activision's "WOLVERINE'S REVENGE" PS2 game, for 2002 release. It looks to be a real humdinger. Am working on a feature film project in Berlin, a vampire novel, a few tv animation development projects and I just storyboarded some big scenes for the seasons finale installment of "The Sopranos."
(c) Kuljit Mithra 2001
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