Interview With Keith R. A. DeCandido
(January 1999)

Keith DeCandido is the editor of the Marvel Novels at Byron Preiss Multimedia. Here he talks about his take on DD and the upcoming DD novels.

Kuljit Mithra: Can you briefly describe how you became editor of the Marvel Novels at Byron Preiss? Are you a longtime Marvel fan? What are some of your favourite comics?

Keith DeCandido: Simply by being the Associate Editor for Science Fiction for Byron Preiss when he obtained the license. As it happens, he got the license about three months after I started in September 1993. I am indeed a longtime Marvel fan, having been one since I first saw Spider-Man on THE ELECTRIC COMPANY when I was a kid. I've been reading on and off since then.

My favorite Marvel comics have varied wildly over the years. I was a =huge= X-Men (and New Mutants) fan during the Claremont era, but lost interest around the 220s of UNCANNY and after Chris left NEW MUTANTS. I've always been extremely fond of the Spider-Man character, though my interest in the Spider-Man =comics= has fluctuated wildly from huge enthusiasm (during the editorial reigns of Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth [first], Jim Owsley, and the first year of Ralph Macchio) to complete disgust (during the reigns of Jim Salicrup, Danny Fingeroth [second], and the current stuff coming from Macchio). My current favorites are AVENGERS, THUNDERBOLTS, and DEADPOOL.

Mithra: What exactly are your duties as editor?

DeCandido: I'm more or less in charge of the program. I hire authors, I figure out the schedule, I hire artists, I work with the authors on plots and manuscripts, I art-direct the covers and illustrations, I hire copy-editors, I deal with the book design, I read submissions for the anthologies, and about eight million other things.

I don't do any of this by myself. The line is supervised by Byron Preiss, everything has to be approved by Marvel Creative Services (two great guys, Mike Thomas and Steve Behling, who deserve a lot of credit), plus we have regular designers (Claude Goodwin for covers, Michael Mendelsohn for interiors), and the production people at Berkley Boulevard.

Other stuff - I do the chronology and keep the inter-novel continuity straight. I line edit the manuscripts. I send out reference material. Some of this is also done by assistants, of which I have had several over the years.

Mithra: How did the first DD novel come about? Did Christopher Golden pitch the idea to you, or did you go looking for an author for a DD novel?

DeCandido: I'd been talking with Chris about doing an X-Men novel, but we didn't have the license to do the X-Men yet. Chris also said he always wanted to do a DD novel, and we had the license to do one and didn't have an author. That led to PREDATOR'S SMILE.

Mithra: Have you ever considered asking any former Daredevil writers to write a novel?

DeCandido: One has - Ann Nocenti wrote an X-Men novel called PRISONER X, and she's been contracted to do a second. Of course, you probably meant a DD novel, so I'd have to say no. At first because there was a period when we didn't have the rights to DD -- and when we got them back, Warren Ellis told me he always wanted to do a DD novel, so I signed him up. Then he got backed up, and I went to Madeleine E. Robins, an SF novelist, who also always wanted to do a DD novel. (Funny how many of them are out there.)

Mithra: Christopher Golden mentioned in an interview with me that the initial story he wrote was basically vetoed by Marvel and he had to change it. Have you had much trouble dealing with sensitive issues in the novels that Marvel doesn't want in there?

DeCandido: Not anymore. Chris's novel was very early in the program, and we were still figuring things out. Now we have a much clearer idea of what can and can't go in.

Having said that, we almost had a problem with CAPTAIN AMERICA: LIBERTY'S TORCH and the use of militias, but we sidestepped that to a degree. The novel lost one or two of its teeth, but still had a sharp bite.

Mithra: How did Golden's novel, Predator's Smile do sales-wise? Did it do better than expected?

DeCandido: It was early enough in the program that we didn't have any expectations, really. It didn't sell as well as a Spidey or X-Men book, but it did better than, say, the Fantastic Four and Hulk novels. So we were basically happy with it.

Mithra: Do you think DD is popular enough to warrant a hardcover release of a novel?

DeCandido: No. We've come to the conclusion that Spider-Man and the X-Men are the only characters that warrant hardcover treatment. The sales on the Fantastic Four and Hulk hardcovers proved pretty conclusively that B-list characters don't work in hardcover, sales-wise.

Mithra: Predator's Smile was obviously influenced by Frank Miller's work on the title. Are you a fan of that part of DD's history or the earlier Stan Lee work? Which version do you think is more accessible to readers in novel form?

DeCandido: Frank's, on both counts. Honestly, until Roger McKenzie took over, DD was always a weak Spider-Man clone. McKenzie started doing more interesting things with it, and then Frank took it to the next level. (Honestly, I don't think McKenzie gets anywhere near the credit he deserves for starting what Frank gets the lion's share of the kudos for.) After Frank's first run, DD became much more -- well, as realistic as a blind guy with "super sense" can possibly be. He was closer to the Bob Kane Batman: an urban avenger, attacking from the shadows. It fit his name and costume, frankly.

I love Karl Kesel's writing -- except on DD. I thought his DD was awful because he was going back to the old pre-McKenzie DD -- y'know, the one that was so unpopular, the book was almost cancelled. That really surprised me -- it's like when they started X-FACTOR with the original five X-Men, conveniently forgetting that the original five X-Men =never sold well=. And within two years, the original five weren't the focus of their own title anymore. On DD, Kesel barely lasted a year before Joe Kelly came in and brought it back to what worked.

Mithra: What kind of story do you think works best for Daredevil?

DeCandido: Well, I think I covered that in the last question. DD is best when it's urban crime fiction. Chris did that in PREDATOR'S SMILE, and so did Madeleine in THE CUTTING EDGE, and so will Warren in NEW YORK UNDERGROUND. That's what McKenzie and Miller and O'Neil and Nocenti (at least until she started getting all metaphysical) and Kelly did, and what Chichester and Kesel didn't do.

Mithra: Which would be more interesting to you - a story about Daredevil or a story about his supporting cast?

DeCandido: It depends. In a monthly comic book, you can jump around in your focus. Here an issue focusing on Foggy, there an issue focusing on Karen, over there an issue focusing on Matt without him being DD. A novel has more space to deal with all of those things. As far as what I want to see in a novel -- if you're doing a Daredevil novel, then the story should be about him to some degree or other, even if he isn't the only person involved.

Mithra: How much of a challenge is it for you to edit books where you have to have the writer balance the fine line of introducing the characters to the new reader and not making it boring for the reader who is familiar with the characters?

DeCandido: A big one. We tend to be more exposition-heavy in the first novel featuring a character than a later one. And even familiar readers aren't going to know everything about a character with 30 years of history. I hope we strike a balance -- only the readers can say for sure, though...

Mithra: Are the Marvel Novels officially in continuity?

DeCandido: No. The closest we've come is THE AVENGERS & THE THUNDERBOLTS, which took place between AVENGERS Vol. 3 #12 and THUNDERBOLTS #23, and which we worked closely with Kurt Busiek on. But Kurt has said he isn't going to acknowledge the novel (though he's not going to contradict it, either).

Marvel =can= acknowledge them if they want to, but nobody's shown any interest in doing so. Besides, with our lag time -- these novels are plotted up to a year-and-a-half before they're released -- being so much shorter than it is for comics, it's impossible to coordinate. We could only do the Avengerbolts because Kurt is one of the few comics writers who plots out his stories a year in advance.

Mithra: Can you release any info on the upcoming novel by Madeleine Robins, like release date, artists, storyline etc.?

DeCandido: It'll be out in May. The interior illustrations are by a talented guy named Max Douglas, who's done some work for Marvel and some independent comics. He also did the illos for the X-Men novel LAW OF THE JUNGLE.

The story takes in the same general milieu of the Kesel/Kelly eras -- before the Kevin Smith stuff (Karen's in it, for one thing). It involves a serial killer in Hell's Kitchen and a real estate takeover bid also in Hell's Kitchen. DD is dealing with the first, Matt Murdock with the second, and they're both connected. They're equally connected to Rosalind Sharpe, which provides an opportunity for some small amount of angst in Sharpe, Nelson, & Murdock.

The novel also makes some small use of some recurring NYPD characters that we've established in the novels, specifically Detective Sergeants Vance Hawkins and Stephen Drew, who've been in a bunch of Spider-Man novels and stories.

Mithra: How about Warren Ellis' novel? Any progress on 'New York Underground'?

DeCandido: Yup. That should be out in May of 2000.

Mithra: Is DD appearing in any other novels as a guest-star?

DeCandido: No plans for it at the moment, though that could change.

Mithra: Will Byron Preiss be branching out with any other projects with Marvel characters?

DeCandido: There'll be a NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. novel in late 1999 and an Avengers anthology in 2000. We're also talking about doing a Captain America/Iron Man team-up novel, based on the success of LIBERTY'S TORCH. And there may be another Avengers novel -- possibly even a second Avengers/Thunderbolts team-up -- in 2000.

Plus, of course, the usual assortment of Spider-Man, X-Men, Generation X, and Daredevil novels.... <grin>

(c) Kuljit Mithra 1999
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear

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