Luke McDonnell, who has worked on many titles including Iron Man and the Phantom, talks about his fill-in issues of DD in the '80's.
Kuljit Mithra: Can you give a brief bio on yourself and how you made comics a career?
Luke McDonnell: Born in New York City, raised in New York, Pennsylvania, & California. Came to New York in 1980 with samples. Got my first job from Marvel, Star Trek #12. Stuck around and eventually landed Iron Man, my first regular title.
Mithra: You've worked on many titles, but we'll focus on your few issues of DD that you did. How did the job come about for you? Just an emergency fill-in situation?
McDonnell: The DD job was a fill-in. I believe I also did a fill-in cover (#199). The first version I did was rejected as being too violent. DD was choking Bullseye with his billy club, if I remember correctly.
Mithra: Would you have liked to have done more issues of DD?
McDonnell: I definitely would have liked doing more of them. He was a favorite of mine since the Gene Colan stint back in the sixties.
Mithra: After the cover to 199, you did a back-up story for the assistant editor's month 'feature' of the comic, written by Mike Carlin. Any memories of that story?
McDonnell: I don't remember the Mike Carlin story too well. I'd love to see a copy of it - I do remember having a lot of fun with it. Assistant Editor month was Mike's idea. My favorite thing about the whole bit was the go-go checks he put on the cover.
Mithra: Your full issue was 204, written by Denny O'Neil. If you can remember it, what did you think of the Micah Synn storyline O'Neil was introducing?
McDonnell: I don't remember the Micah Synn storyline too well. I'd have to re-read it. I always liked Denny's writing, though.
Mithra: Do you know what ever became of William Johnson, the penciler of DD at the time?
McDonnell: Have no idea what happened to William Johnson. I heard a story about Denny O'Neil having discovered him on the street, drawing away.
Mithra: Since you've said DD was a favourite of yours, what are your favourite arcs? Favourite creators?
McDonnell: I've always liked DD. He's really more of a Bat-man than Batman is, the way he "sees" with his radar. It's the perfect power, in a way - who would ever suspect a blind man of being a superhero? I'd say Frank Miller's run on it is my favorite "take" on the character. Gene Colan's art was very well suited to the character, the mastery of shadow and light he has.
Mithra: The artist who would follow you on DD turned out to be David Mazzucchelli. What did you think of his early work and then his work on Born Again?
McDonnell: I love Mazzucchelli's work. He has a sort of throwback style, kind of Alex Toth meets Wally Wood. He did a great job on it.
Mithra: I got in contact with you through Ed Rhoades's Friends of the Phantom site. What do you think is the main reason characters like the Phantom and DD have lasted for so long and have a dedicated fan following?
McDonnell: The Phantom (I believe he's the first costumed Hero in comics) and DD, and all the best characters, have a good backstory, a compelling 'raison d'etre'- you have to believe their motivation.
Mithra: What do you think of the current state of the industry?
McDonnell: The business is certainly in the doldrums; I don't know if it will ever come back as strong as it once was. Online comics may revive the form.
Mithra: And finally, what are your current projects (comics or otherwise?)
McDonnell: I've been shopping a few things around, something I've written as well as drawn; no luck yet. The last comic I did, a Dark Knight, was in '98.
(c) Kuljit Mithra 2002
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