Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mark Waid interview on AICN

Thanks to Murray for pointing this out (and also for pointing out what seems like half of the links I post here nowadays!). Mark Waid did an interview for Ain't It Cool News (AICN) on Monday, in which he speaks at length about the Legion. I don't think there's anything new, as Mark covered it back in December with a CBR interview, but it's still interesting to hear him speak about it. (The Savage Critics, however, call this new interview "pretty much the balls-out closet-opening light-shining festival on the perceived insanity behind DiDio's DC that I've been waiting for.")

Here's a chunk of a very long (and very thorough) interview that pretty much covers Waid's entire career.

Bill Mitchell (BM): Was the LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES a difficult property to tackle given the numerous incarnations and histories involved with the team even though you essentially relaunched the book? Was this a book you had always had your sights on?

Mark Waid (MW): I'd actually already written it for a while back in '94. And next to Superman, it's always been my favorite longtime DC property. Paul Levitz is the only person I'll allow is a bigger lifelong fan of the Legion than I am. I love everything about their history and know it better than I know my own family's. Problem was, that history was badly broken. CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and the John Byrne SUPERMAN reboot and a few other storylines had really wrecked the Legion's continuity beyond repair, and no matter how fast we ran around trying to patch the raft, some other ripple in DC continuity was blowing another hole in it, to the point where Legion history seemed like nothing BUT hasty patches.

The absolute, irrefutable reality was that by the early 2000s, new-reader perception of the Legion was that it was an impenetrable read full of mismatched history that made no sense. You can argue all you like that this perception wasn't fair or accurate, if you're so inclined, but it didn't matter. That was the series' reputation, and it hardened around the characters like cement. We couldn't give that book away no matter how good it actually was. In fact, it's forgotten, but the last time it was relaunched around about 2000 (as THE LEGION by Abnett and Lanning), you could not have asked for a greater promotional push. Wizard Magazine promoted it with giveaways, and they NEVER promote DC. Ads were everywhere, retailer incentives were created...and it was still pretty well D.O.A.

So in 2005, I was asked if I wanted to come aboard, and I felt there were only two ways to go--either try to get back to Silver Age continuity, which was flatly impossible in part because of the ongoing litigation between the Siegel estate and DC over who owned Superboy--or plant a giant flag that said, "Everything starts fresh here, it's all new, it's a total reboot and we're all on the same page, readers and creators." I chose the latter path, for good or ill. Barry Kitson and I worked out their entire world, including origin material you'll never see, and (at the suggestion of writer Tom Peyer) rethought the Legion as less of a super-team and more of a political movement. And we got some mileage out of it, and I like what we did.

But now we're back to what I was saying before--how liquid DC continuity was at the moment. While we were busting our asses to rebuild the franchise (and getting periodic fan notes from Paul Levitz, which were gold to me), a whole different editorial office was allowing Brad Meltzer to undo absolutely all our hard work for one of his JLA stories, which (he'd been told) could star the 1980s Legion, as if ours never existed. I don't blame Brad at all, but boy, was that mismanaged on all levels--because it was deliberately kept secret from us until it was on the verge of being printed. I would have JUMPED at the chance to play along somehow, thus strengthening a new Legion series that were on about issue four or five of, rather than sending a message that our Legion was just some sort of aberrant fan-fiction. (Yes, I'm still pissed.) Barry and I were dealt with in unbelievable bad faith, which I could have endured, but it wasn't just about Barry and me; it made DC as a whole just look stupid and uncoordinated, and I still love DC enough to hate when that happens.

Eventually, long after Barry and I finished our run, Superboy was returned to DC and Geoff Johns now has the opportunity to re-re-re-relaunch the Legion as its Silver Age incarnation, and more power to him. On the one hand, I wish we'd had that chance, but the timing wasn't right and it wasn't in the stars. On the other hand, I have no regrets because I have to work extra-hard sometimes to convince some readers that I'd much rather move forward than backward.


Ricardo said...

It's funny that, when I mentioned in LegionWorld that it looked like DC was trampling over Waid and Shooter, there were lots of people who still believed the LSH teams knew about Dan Didio's mishandling of this situation. And it's nice to know I was right all along... :)
Last time I do that, I promise...

Murray said...

Mark Waid will go on and on in any Legion related interview about how the perception was that the Legion was an impenetrable book... almost as if he repeats it often enough, it will become true.
Legion was no more impenetrable than your typical X-book and they seem to be doing all right. The fact that Legion has been struggling may have something to do with factors other than it's impenetrability.
It also amuses me that he likes to forget the role he played in making the book so impenetrable by being actively involved in at least three reboots of the franchise.
Having said all that, boy was he given a raw deal by Didio.
Check out the interview and see what Waid had to say about Didio and 52. Some very interesting remarks, there (like, "Countdown was 52 done right" according to Didio). Wow. Just Wow.

afob said...

This article was worth it for the link to The Savage Critics alone! The cartoon is hilarious!

Jim Drew said...

Legion may not have been more impenetrable than the X-books, but that's not quite what Waid said. It's the *perception* that they were more impenetrable that caused the problem, that kept people from ever trying the books.

(But let's also be honest here: the first couple years of the TMK era were designed to favor readers who know the history inside and out, who could infer the depth and history inherent in background images and single lines of dialogue. The book was dense and rich -- because they didn't spell things out, they could add more layers -- but that degree of storytelling is experimental in comics and can -- did -- drive readers away who weren't able to handle to interested in that.)

On its side, as well, X-Men had (at various times in the late 80 and early 90s) multiple titles and spin-offs, a cartoon, and the support of the parent company to make it the #1 title out there on a regular basis. (Legion had one, later two spin-offs.) While this could give the impression of there being too much going on and too much to keep up with, it could also give the impression that there was a place in the X-world for every reader, stuff aimed at those of varying interests and backgrounds.

Murray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Murray said...

Legion may not have been more impenetrable than the X-books, but that's not quite what Waid said. It's the *perception* that they were more impenetrable that caused the problem, that kept people from ever trying the books.Oh I know that's what Waid said and I see the distinction. But I don't believe it's correct. Waid can say again and again that there was this perception that Legion was difficult to get into, but I don't believe it. I don't buy into that line of thinking for Legion or any comic, really.