John Rozum has written such titles as the X-Files and Xombi, and here he talks about his Daredevil issue he wrote prior to the Kesel/Nord run on the title. Thanks to Dwayne McDuffie for his help.
Kuljit Mithra: Can you briefly describe your background and how you eventually made writing a career?
John Rozum: I was an NYU film/tv student at the same time as Dwayne McDuffie, which is how I met him. Dwayne was an assistant editor at Marvel (this is back around 1986, or so). Visiting him at work I got to know some of the editors, and actually sold my first story by taking a post-it note off of someone else's script which was signed by Tom DeFalco and said something like "Give this a read." and attached it to one of my own. I never actually intended to get involved in comics, it was more or less an accident; a way to supplement my meager student income. I then did a lot of those fake ads for "Marvel Year in Review" and those dumb half-page "What If...?" stories which were almost always ruined by editor Craig Anderson. I did some stories for "Clive Barker's Hellraiser" then "Xombi" and "Kobalt" for Milestone. After that came the X-Files, Daredevil, a couple other Marvel fill-ins (one of which wasn't written by me, but was credited to me anyway) including this Daredevil issue. After this I've dabbled in tv and film, including some stuff that made it and a lot of stuff that didn't go anywhere. There was some internet animation that never got produced. The company, like many others, folded. I'm now back doing comics concentrating mainly on "Midnight, Mass." which is a creator owned title I'm doing for Vertigo which should be out by late spring, as well as the various Cartoon Network stories. There's other stuff, but it's too early to make any announcements.
Mithra: Prior to Karl Kesel and Cary Nord's stint on Daredevil, you wrote an issue (#351) with art by Shawn McManus. At the time, were you brought in to provide a 'fill-in' issue, or had you hoped there would be more DD work for you?
Rozum: Issue 351 came to me primarily as a fill-in. I was known as somebody who could be brought in at the last moment to deliver a story fast when the regular writer was blowing their deadline, or a hole opened up on something. My instructions were pretty much to reintroduce Matt Murdock/Daredevil, but to make him a little more light-hearted, jokey and swashbuckling. I hadn't read the issues prior to mine (I'm sure they verbally summarized the issues for me). I also didn't know what was coming after me, but am pretty sure they didn't stick to the jokey Daredevil, and I ended up taking the blame for the attempt. I was promised regular work on the book later, and as you know, it never surfaced.
Mithra: Had you been a fan of DD before this? Any particular favourite stories or creators?
Rozum: I was a real fan of the Frank Miller and Ann Nocenti runs on the book, after that I wasn't so enamored of it and stopped reading it. I felt that getting rid of Ann Nocenti was a real mistake.
Mithra: You mentioned earlier that you were told to bring back Matt Murdock. It seems your story was setting up the event, with DD back in his red costume, and 'smiling' while doing his hero thing.
Rozum: The return of Matt Murdock was entirely the editor's idea. I was just given this premise to work with and the new tone approach to the character. That was the most difficult part. Daredevil to me was always in the "dark and gritty" vein. It was weird writing him in a lighter tone. At the time I wasn't too thrilled with it. Essentially, I felt like I was turning Daredevil into Spider-Man.
Mithra: Were you familiar at all with the whole Jack Batlin identity? If so, what did you think of DD's new costume and those stories that came before yours?
Rozum: As I said, I wasn't really reading it at the time.
Mithra: What did you think of Shawn McManus' art? He certainly drew DD with a large smile. How was it to work with him?
Rozum: I thought Shawn McManus's art was great. I'd like to work with him again sometime, though we didn't really work together here. At the time I wrote it, I had no idea who'd be drawing it. Shawn and I have never even met or spoke with each other. I always write full script though, and unlike some other artists, Shawn actually pays attention to the script. I think his artwork was a nice pairing with the story.
Mithra: How'd you come up with the Vice-Agent and what was the motivation behind the character?
Rozum: The Vice Agent came about for a couple of reasons. I always liked the duality aspect of super-heroes, especially with the darker characters. The idea of someone who puts on a costume and runs around seriously beating on people, then returns home to his loved ones and treats them gently with the same hands always intrigued me. This was immediately the theme I chose to show the difference between the old violent Daredevil and the lighter-toned Daredevil; the fist vs. the open hand--two ways of solving the same problem. I wanted to parallel this with a villain, who was allegedly giving a helping hand to common street thugs in order to elevate them into big time criminals, but was really only serving his own needs. Also, in serving the lighter tone of the story, I wanted it to be a less threatening foe than Kingpin, or the Constrictor for example. One of the crooks the Vice Agent was helping was supposed to be Turk by the way. I'm not sure if it comes across. Shawn drew him way off model, but I think if you read it again with that in mind, it's obvious. I thought Turk was the prefect character to include in a lighter Daredevil story, and he's always been a favorite of mine. The character of Dudley in "Kobalt" was patterned after him.
Mithra: Towards the end of your issue, there's someone in a window who sees DD swing by. The person seems to have devious plans in the making for DD. Who was it?
Rozum: I have no idea. It was an editorial decision to put that tease in. I don't think they knew who it was either.
Mithra: Switching gears here; were you still writing X-Files at that time?
Rozum: This was either just before my stint on "The X-Files" or during the first few issues.
Mithra: Do you find writing other people's characters more difficult than your own? I mean, sometimes you may be limited to what you want to develop in the characters etc.
Rozum: It's always harder writing other people's characters because you have less control over them and less imput. I found my work on the X-Files to be almost completely unfruitful for this very reason. I felt like I was writing a series of formulaic fill-ins, which is what they wanted. I could tell you a dozen negative stories about that series, but they're not as interesting as you'd think. But, put it this way, when the time came that I was asked to write for the X-Files tv show, I was too burned out by the experience. I'm having much more fun writing "Midnight, Mass." since I'm the only one who can dictate what happens to the characters. "Xombi" was the same deal, and was the most enjoyable writing experience I've had prior to this.
Mithra: And finally, I know you've recently written a Superman title, and you write some Cartoon Network titles. Anything else we should look out for?
Rozum:The Superman stories were actually written around the same time as Daredevil #351. They didn't run until recently because Superman went through a couple of costume and power changes right after I wrote them, and we had to wait until he was back to normal before they could be run. "Midnight, Mass." is the series to watch for. If you're interested, I'll remind you closer to the launch date.
(c) Kuljit Mithra 2001
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