Interview With Jim Krueger
(March 2000)

Jim Krueger has written many series, including Foot Soldiers, Earth X, and the Nighthawk limited series. Here he talks about Nighthawk's importance to Universe X, the follow-up to Earth X, and why Daredevil is a personal hero to him.

Kuljit Mithra: Are there any specific events or influences that steered you towards a career in comics?

Jim Krueger: As far as comic book creators go, I was influenced by Alan Moore's Swamp Thing probably more than anything else.

Frank Miller's Daredevil run is probably the best comic book series ever done. I think his DD is far more complex than his Batman.

I also think that Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell's Zenith had a giant impact. And finally, Alan Moore and Alan Davis' Captain Britain made me love comics, not for their stories, but for what could be done with them.

I studied Journalism at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, and after two extremely frustrating years as a junior Copywriter at some Wisconsin-based advertising firms, I took a job with Marvel Comics, writing their advertising for them.

I met Alex Ross at Gen. Con in Milwaukee and was promoting Marvels at the time. We had lots of time to talk about one of our favorite heroes - Machine Man.

And the rest kind of came after that.

Mithra: You've written quite a few series, so let's begin with your Nighthawk limited series. It seems like an odd choice for a proposal (since he was supposedly dead), so what was the interest in the character for you? Were you a longtime Defenders fan?

Krueger: Not really. I liked Defenders when Keith Giffen drew them. I liked the Gargoyle Limited Series. And that was pretty much it. But when Tom Brevoort at Marvel asked me to put together a proposal for a 3-issue Nighthawk LS, I did it.

Nighthawk was already dead. And Tom told me that his death had been one of the worst deaths in comic book history. So Tom suggested that I use some of my spiritual upbringing to tell the story of a hero who died, met God, and came back again - now without any fear at all.

(So having THE man without fear showing up seemed pretty necessary as someone new was going to attempt to make the same claim)

Tom said Kyle Richmond could be in a coma or something, and as lame as that may sound, he told me to make it something new - which is what I tried to do.

Mithra: Was it tough to get this kind of project approved?

Krueger: Bringing Nighthawk back was already approved. Tom just asked me to do it. Piece of cake. I think even Tom was surprised by how weird it became, but, in retrospect, it's perfect in light of how the character will be used in Universe X.

Someone at Marvel has also spoken to me about doing a Defenders series in the past week.

Mithra: You've mentioned to me before that Matt Murdock is a 'personal hero' to you, so is this why you wanted to include DD in this series? What is it about Murdock that intrigues you? I noticed that you included Matt as 'Murdock the Blind' in the Timeslip one-shot, and Rags Murphy from Foot Soldiers looks like him too.

Krueger: To a certain extent, I think Matt Murdock is probably Marvel's best hero. He certainly has the most depth.

Here's a character who has been written "crazy" by some of the best writers in comics - and he's come out of it. He's been written like an angel as well. He's a demon sometimes, too.

Where many characters have to shy away from religious and ethical issues, they almost seem tailor-made for him.

He is a contradiction. And I tend to believe that truth shows itself in contradiction. If stuff makes too much sense right away, well, chances are it's too shallow to really be all that meaningful.

As far as Rags from the Foot Soldiers goes, he echoes Matt Murdock a lot more than Daredevil. Yes, he's blind - but he's a beggar with the power to heal those he's been begging from. Again, a contradiction.

What I like most about Murdock is that he seems more real than other Marvel heroes and I'm not talking about his power. He blows it. Big time. He thinks of himself when he should be thinking of others. He's got guilt. He really isn't even a man without fear - but that's part of the mask, part of the disguise. And that makes him exciting.

Like all of us, he has to overcome what others think of him and what he thinks about himself.

Mithra: One theme that runs throughout much of your writing is the concept of what a hero is. What's your definition? The characters in Timeslip talk about hope, Nighthawk is trying to prove to himself that he is one... the characters in Foot Soldiers look within for power amidst a bleak future, much like the heroes in Earth X too...

Krueger: To me, a hero is someone who does something, even though he knows he won't be able to succeed at it - and then succeeds at it anyway.

You see, I think that an act of heroism should be a surprise first and foremost to the individual who performed it.

A hero should always have to him or herself a sense of surprise. That is a sense of "Look at me? Who would have thought that I of all people would be here, doing this, acting this way?"

My feeling is that heroism never comes from within. But is something we put on - like a good pair of boots.

Heroism changes who we are on the inside.

It breaks down our own cowardice and disbelief.

It changes how we see ourselves - and, perhaps, allows us to see ourselves as we really are.

It's not until we come to expect heroism from ourselves that the trouble begins - this, of course, is the back story to the Foot Soldiers.

Mithra: How much of being a hero has to do with faith, to you? What is it that makes heroes believe what they are doing is 'right'? Is it faith in a god? Is it a sense of responsibility? Nighthawk takes his belief to the extreme, and thinks what he does is right, and he murders DD. Are morals part of being a hero?

Krueger: Every act of heroism is an act of faith.

Every time a hero saves another person's life, he is saying that that person's life matters more than the hero's. And, that risking death to save another life is worth that risk.

Now, in a world where faith is considered old-fashioned, this creates a problem.

Open an issue of Time Magazine or the Village Voice and you'll find all kinds of people talking about this very issue. They talk about guilt being a thing of the past, yet shame is a bigger problem than ever before. They talk about motivation as an elusive ideal.

If there is no God, where does our value come from?

Maybe when we killed God we did it with a boomerang.

Faith is considered superstition.

But that also means the traditional understanding of the value of people as eternal beings created for a great and glorious purpose is an act of superstition. As is destiny.

SO the question is then raised, why does a hero save someone else?

If not for an issue of faith, our heroes must face a terrible truth about themseleves. Superman, then, has been tainted and polluted by the ignorance of middle America. Batman's still a child, unable to get over the death of his parents, lashing out at all those who remind him of his parent's assailants. Spider-Man's trying to make up for his own failure.

The answer,I believe, was given by Stan Lee. When Stan talked about the Marvel Universe characters, he spoke of them as modern myth.

Even the staunchest of realists confess a love for fairy tales, even though their world view rejects them as fantasy.

Perhaps we love heroes because we long for someone to value our lives more than their own. Perhaps, despite all our doubts about God and purpose and the future and meaning, it's these stories that suggest a truth that transcends our rational misgivings and the current arguments of our thinkers and scientists.

I'm not trying to tell people what to believe.

But there's a problem with heroes. There's a problem with their motivations. To say there is no absolute truth is to state one.

(Another contradiction?)

I'm not Catholic. Nor am I an athiest - so this next illustration should work.

Imagine Daredevil, a good Catholic, trying to save the life of an atheist from a burning building.

Would the atheist stop Daredevil from saving him and dousing the flames that cling to that athiest's clothes and remind him that all life is meaningless and the only standards of morality that govern us are the mores of society, and therefore, the whims of collective opinion?

Would this atheist push away his only hope of another day of life and tell him that his life is nothing but a collection of atoms that has no meaning apart from this specific combination?

Would the atheist remind DD that the only reason he's even there was due to the weakness of a father's guilt and if DD was not so weak himself, he'd never be here for this rescue in the first place?

No. No one is that stupid. Pain is real. Suffering is real. We hate it, regardless of what we believe.

But hate and preference are qualitative statements. And this is the problem.

Suffering is wrong. We hate it. But it can only be considered wrong in light of a belief that there is right and wrong. That somehow, in some way, we know that there is a better way to go through life.

Heroes operate by faith.

Not necessarily in God or a specific denomination - but they operate by faith.

And it is this faith that people mean something that overwhelms even their doubts and misgivings and all of the "facts" they are told.

All of this could be reduced to wishful thinking on my part.

It probably is. You're probably right.

Maybe.

Mithra: Nighthawk's story parallels DD's journey through Hell, and you touch on this when the fire that DD built in issues 280-282 is used to bring DD to life again. Were you a big fan of Ann Nocenti's work on DD?

Krueger: Yeah. I loved Ann Nocenti's work on Daredevil. John Romita, Jr.'s pencilling her stories didn't hurt either. I mentioned before about how certain things transcend their initial definition. Ann's work did that on DD. Apart from Miller, her run on Daredevil has been the best, to me, the character has ever been.

Mithra: Whose idea was it to represent Mephisto the same as how John Romita, Jr. did in the DD arc, with the long snout and horse-like features?

Krueger: Well, because the Nighthawk LS was a sequel of sorts to the DD in Hell storyline, it made sense to show Mephisto as he was in that series under Romita. Of course, after the LS, I would hope that we could now see that Mephisto could appear any way he chooses.

Mithra: By the end of the series, Nighthawk has defeated his personal demons (I guess literally) and he lets Mephisto know that with his new power of seeing evil before it happens, he'll know when Mephisto is coming after him. He seems quite happy with this turn of events. However, in Earth X, we are told that in the future, he knows that the Earth's destruction is coming and maybe even events after that, and he becomes suicidal. I haven't read the ending of Earth X yet, but I'm guessing Nighthawk knows what's going to happen in Universe X, the follow-up to Earth X. Had you always planned on using Nighthawk in Earth X, or was this just a nice way of bringing him into the plotline?

Krueger: When Alex and I were planning Earth X, Alex brought up the fact that all of his big projects need a voice, a narrator. His initial thought was Medusa. We talked about Reed Richards. And then we laughed at the idea of Machine Man. And then we thought about it. And worked it. And by the end, there was no way it could have been anyone else. Nighthawk and Gargoyle are the narrators of Universe X. And, as we continue to plan Universe X, they have become essential in the same way. It couldn't be anyone else - the reason for this will become clear as the series progresses.

So my answer to your question is Both. It was a way to work them in, and then once worked in, they became indispensable.

The question I still had at the end of the Nighthawk LS was about the future-seeing eyes themselves. Where did they come from? And if the devil had the power to see the future, wouldn't he keep that power for himself?

Some of this will be dealt with in Universe X.

Mithra: We know that Daredevil died, because we see him when the Hulk goes looking for Captain Mar-Vell 'on the other side'. Are we ever going to see how Daredevil died?

Krueger: Not for a while yet. We will see a hint as to how he died in the Earth X #1/2 Wizard issue. DD's involvement in this series will continue to grow.

Mithra: Would you classify the new Daredevil as a hero? He just seems to be helping Captain America just to give himself some cheap thrills by getting into dangerous situations.

Krueger: I don't think the new Daredevil is a hero. I think he's funny. But, I don't think he'll be able to become a hero until he even has the opportunity to really die. Then, he'll have something to lose for the sake of others.

Mithra: Are we going to see any more info on this new Daredevil in Universe X?

Krueger: Absolutely. A lot of people want to know who he is. Many have guessed that he's Deadpool. Others think Johnny Blaze. Or Mr. I from the Great Lakes Avengers. I like Night Raven as a possibility. Or, there was a guy who could live forever that was introduced in the 70s in issue #8 of -

I'm not certain if we're going to find out, to tell you the truth. But, I have his identity in mind when I write him.

Mithra: I mentioned before that the Timeslip Avengers talk about 'hope'. How would you compare hope in Foot Soldiers, the Timeslip Avengers, and Earth X? All three have environments that put huge obstacles in front of the heroes. Or does this tie into faith that we discussed earlier?

Krueger: It all ties into stuff we talked about earlier. Things have to be pretty black for heroism to shine. The environment of the Timeslip Special is actually pretty similar to Universe X.

It's all got to do with war. You see, life is cheap in war. But, its value is also higher than in peace-time. War tends to make us think about what is really of value to us. It's going to do that to heroes as well.

So, the only way to deal with this kind of issue, that is, heroism, in a way that at all is going to ring true, is to deal with it in a war-like situation.

Mithra: Can you give any details on Earth X #1/2? Will it take place in between #0 and #1, or after Earth X: X?

Krueger: Earth X #1/2 will take place between #0 and #8. It's told from the perspective of Nick Fury as a slave in the Skull's army and reveals a lot of the stuff that wasn't covered in Earth X.

Even as a stand alone issue, it works.

It will cover the fate of the Punisher and DD, how the Hydra first appeared on Earth, the fall of the Daily Bugle and the unmasking of Spider-Man and a lot of other stuff.

Mithra: Finally, when is Universe X coming out and what other projects are you working on?

Krueger: Universe X is another 14 issue series. In addition, it has 4 48-page one-shots featuring Earth X characters. That's going to keep me busy.

In addition to this, I have a Batman story I've already written for Batman Chronicles, a possible new series to Wildstorm and more issues of Foot Soldiers, Alphabet Supes and Flyboys to get out by the summer.

I'm also in the midst of finishing a Foot Soldiers screenplay for the Executive Producers of the Batman movies. And, have a second screenplay in the works.

You can check out www.jimkrueger.com for more information if you'd like.

----------------------------------------------
(c) Kuljit Mithra 2000
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
http://www.manwithoutfear.com
----------------------------------------------


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