Fabian Nicieza, the current writer on Gambit, talks about his fill-in issue of DD#258, the Dead Man's Hand crossover, DD's appearance in Gambit #11 and much more.
Kuljit Mithra: Can you give a brief description on how you began your career in comics?
Fabian Nicieza: Got a job at Marvel in 1985 in the Manufacturing Department. Moved to the Promotions Department and then after a couple of years of listening and learning, I started trying to sell my writing, and slowly, was able to.
Mithra: About 11 years ago, you wrote issue 258, which was a fill-in issue during the Nocenti-Romita, Jr. run on the comic. Was this a planned fill-in issue, or were you brought it to write something as an emergency fill-in?
Nicieza: No, when I wrote it, I didn't know when it would be scheduled. Back in those days, all editors were expected to have at least one inventory story "in the drawer" as a schedule buffer.
Mithra: The Vietnam War isn't something that comes to mind immediately as a backdrop for a DD fill-in story, so what motivated you to write about it?
Nicieza: Well, it was picking up on characters originally introduced in a 1960's Stan Lee/Gene Colan issue. I had a crazy plan to create a series of inventory stories that would be tied in to the Bengal character. My plan was for any characters who had Vietnam War experience to be tangentially affected. Bengal ended up appearing in DD, New Warriors, an IRON MAN/Rhodey story I did, and to tell you the truth, a couple of others I've forgotten! Bengal's story was very much a story about justice and the nature of justice vs. the law, which fit in perfectly with DD's character.
Mithra: If you ever wrote another DD issue, what kind of element would you use? Would you try a straight action story, or a crime story, etc.? What kind of story best serves the character?
Nicieza: Well, I think DD lends himself best to superhero crime noir, so I would tone down the super-villain of the month club and play more off the city and the dirty stories contained there.
Mithra: Who in your mind has written the definitive Daredevil and why?
Nicieza: Frank Miller. Duh.
Mithra: How about artist and why?
Nicieza: Ditto. Double duh.
Mithra: What was it about the Bengal character that interested you the most when you wrote him?
Nicieza: Like I said, when I created him, I purposely crafted a "villain" who would cut emotionally to the moral heart of the superheroes he was opposing. His desire for vengeance was so righteaous, the abuse he suffered so great, that it raised the question in the minds of the title characters: "shouldn't he be allowed vengeance?"
Mithra: Who designed the costume?
Nicieza: I did. I originally designed him in high school, almost exactly as he appeared in print.
Mithra: You used Willie Lincoln in your story, so I was wondering if you went back and read some of the other stories that he was in, or were you a longtime DD fan who knew his history?
Nicieza: I was never a DD fan until I saw Miller's first cover on the racks at 7-Eleven, but I had read various issues throughout his history. I read the Willie Lincoln story, if I recall, in SON OF ORIGINS of MARVEL COMICS trade paperback book.
Mithra: You've written team comics, X-comics, solo character comics... which format of comic do you think is easiest for you to write?
Nicieza: Both have different pluses and minuses. Group books make it easier to plot long-term flow because of the variety of character interaction within the team, but solo books make for a better, more direct, focus to your stories.
Mithra: When the 'Dead Man's Hand' crossover was originally conceived for Punisher, DD, and Nomad (the comic you were writing), can you describe how you collaborated with Chuck Dixon and Dan Chichester to get the story written? Did you all meet for a brainstorm, or do you all work on parts of the story and then consult the editors, etc.? How do writers usually deal with crossovers on other comics?
Nicieza: 'Dead Man's Hand' was my initial idea but I didn't have a mapped out crossover story. It was more a case of, all these characters are in Las Vegas, what would each writer do with their characters. We wanted characters to flow in and out of each other's books not because the stories continued from one to the next, but because their paths happened to cross during the course of events. Dan and Chuck came into the Marvel Offices and along with the editors, we all had a big lunch and meeting, just to outline the story points. In hindsight, I think it was a noble, failed experiment, but it was certainly worth trying at the time.
Mithra: This month's Gambit #11 guest-stars DD. Without getting into details that will spoil the issue, can you explain the basic premise and how DD fits into it?
Nicieza: DD is after Constrictor, who stole something DD wants back. Gambit is stuck in the middle, because he doesn't want DD to have it back, or else he won't get what he needs out of Constrictor. But he also doesn't want to go against DD, because Constrictor misrepresented himself when first obtaining Gambit's help. It's an interesting triangle of three people each with very valid reasons to want what they want and do what they do.
Mithra: Where in continuity does it fit with the current DD series?
Nicieza: It takes place after DD# 8, for sure, but when you read it, you'll see it's kind of a "continuity-proof" story, since it takes place over the course of like 2 hours!
Mithra: What do you think of the current DD series?
Nicieza: I think it's been an excellent comic and it's nice to see the character regain his status as an "important", top-selling book. And if just a few current DD readers check out Gambit #11 and realize how good a book Gambit is, then I'll be more than happy to have been priveleged to guest-star DD in my book!
Mithra: While you were editor-in-chief of Acclaim, would you have considered doing a deal such as the one Marvel has with the Event Comics guys?
Nicieza: Wouldn't have been workable under our operating parameters at the time. I do think it was a smart move and a good relationship for Marvel and for Joey & Jimmy that has benefited both parties -- AND the readers. Win/win all around.
Mithra: And finally, is there any character you haven't written that you'd love to write?
Nicieza: Oh, lots. Superman. Nightwing. Doctor Strange (who I wrote for one inventory story and a Marvel Comics Presents 2-parter, but would love a longer-term shot at). Superman. The Fantastic Four. Hawkman. Robin. Batman. Superman. And did I mention Superman?
(c) Kuljit Mithra 1999
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