John Ostrander has written many titles over the years, including Spectre, Heroes For Hire, Suicide Squad and Punisher. Here he talks about his work on some of these titles, as well as his opinions on Daredevil.
Kuljit Mithra: Can you give a brief account on how you got started in the comics industry?
John Ostrander: I had been an actor/playwright in the Chicago area when a good friend, Mike Gold, was helping start-up FIRST COMICS. He knew I was a comics fan and was interested in what I might do in the comics field. He gave me an 8 pp back-up feature in WARP #1 (it featured Sargon, Mistress of War and was acalled "Rough and Tumble") which was the first comic FIRST COMICS ever printed. And everything went on from there.
Mithra: What's the biggest challenge for you as a writer?
Ostrander: Probably the plot for a given story. Everything has to be there in the plot or you can't fix it later. If the story doesn't work here, it doesn't work at all.
Mithra: While you've written many titles over the years, you have written only a few stories with Daredevil. Last year you worked on the Marvel Valentine's Special, which featured DD. Have you ever wanted to write Daredevil on a monthly basis? What is your opinion of the character?
Ostrander: When I felt Daredevil was written badly, I wanted to write him on a monthly basis. When he's written well, I'm content to sit back and enjoy the character. I've always liked DD. I was one of the (relatively) few people who was reading the book when this upstart named Frank Miller came on the book. I was there at the ground floor. The only time I wandered off was when they felt the need to add armor to his costume. I felt that was pretty silly and no longer the character I knew. But I came back with J. M. DeMatteis.
Mithra: When you were writing Punisher, issue 4 had DD guest-starring. However, on the cover his costume is red, and in the story itself, he's in his yellow costume. I know J.M.DeMatteis (the writer of DD at the time) was planning on having DD in his yellow costume. However, after he left the title, DD was still in his red costume. Was there a mix-up in editorial? Had you written the story before DeMatteis left DD?
Ostrander: The cover is always produced before the body of the book itself is and, between those times, changes were made as to what costume DD was going to be in that month. It was too late to change the cover but we tried to do right with the interior of the book.
Mithra: Overall, how was your experience writing Punisher?
Ostrander: Interesting and, finally, frustrating. I liked the last storyline we were doing the best and it got cut short. My goal was to do something different with the Punisher overall and i think we did that but I don't know how well it was received by the fans. those that liked it, liked it a lot, and the rest stayed away in droves.
Mithra: What do you think of the Event deal with Marvel?
Ostrander: Depends on the quality of the stories that they turn out, doesn't it? I know Quesada and Palmiotti and have a big respect for both of them.
Mithra: Turning to some of your recent work - you've ended Spectre, but will be writing a new Martian Manhunter series for DC. What plans do you have for the series? Are you going to try and focus on stories that don't involve the JLA?
Ostrander: The JLA will certainly be a PART of the Martian Manhunter book ( how can they not be?) but, by the same token, we'll be exploring his life (or lives) away from the JLA as well. It is a given that he has multiple secret identities around the world. We'll be looking at least into some of those. We'll also be giving J'onn his own rogues gallery -- new villains specifically for this book and I think they're going to be pretty cool.
Mithra: Your limited series, The Kents, also just ended. What has the response been to this unorthodox 'Superman' story? What kind of research did you have to do?
Ostrander: The response has been VERY positive. While not setting sales records, THE KENTS did very respectably and everyone seems to think quite highly of it. I read a LOT of books and magazine articles by way of research and a lot of actual history got into the story.
Mithra: Are there any plans to have DD make an appearance in Heroes For Hire?"
Ostrander: No current plans but there are always possibilities.
Mithra: Do you think DD would fit in with a super-team?
Ostrander: It would depend on the team -- the size and make-up of the members. A team that had Black Widow, Captain America, possibly Hawkeye, maybe Electra, possibly Moon Knight -- something like that might work out well. He might fit into H4H, he certainly has worked with the FF, but I don't really see him with the Avengers, do you?
Mithra: At the Toronto Comicon this year, you were sitting with Joe Kelly signing autographs. Had the Deadpool appearance in Heroes For Hire been discussed before or after this?
Mithra: Did you work closely with him to write the character for his appearance?
Ostrander: I think -- I HOPE -- he had a chance to review it before it went to press but we didn't consult over the phone or anything like that. Joe seemed interested to see what I would do.
Mithra: What's your advice for writers who want to submit material to comics companies?
Ostrander: Always present yourself professionally. That means that everything should be typed, double spaced, good margins, and spelling and punctuation DO count. Target the company, book, and editor that you're interested in. I would recommend submitting story ideas for fill-in issues and that means submitting springboards which are one paragraph descriptions of plots. Submit no more than four or five OF YOUR BEST and they should cover no more than two sheets of paper. MAKE SURE THAT EVERY PAGE HAS YOUR NAME, ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER ON IT. Do NOT submit story lines for epic multi-part stories. Do not re-make the character. Do not correct what you feel is a continuity glitch. Put it outside standard continuity; use few of the supporting characters. Tell a complete story and return the character the way you found them. Remember -- the market is tough right now and it's not enough to submit stories that are just as good as the person already being published. That person has a track record and you don't; if you're just starting out you have to show that you're better, that you're fresh, and that you have a real understanding of what makes the character tick. Make that story specific to that character; if it's a story that could just as easily have Captain America or Batman as Daredevil, then it's not really a Daredevil story. And good luck.
(c) Kuljit Mithra 1998
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
Jose Guns Alves
Black and White
Roberto De La Torre
Carmine Di Giandomenico
Tommy Lee Edwards
Elektra Hand Devil
Fall From Grace
Justin F. Gabrie
Devin K. Grayson
John Patrick Hayden
Alex Irvine & Tomm Coker
Mark Steven Johnson
Lauren Mary Kim
Ryan K. Lindsay
Vatche Mavlian &
Shane McCarthy &
Richard K. Morgan
Suzanne H. Smart
Stephen D. Sullivan
Lee Weeks (2)
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