A lot of the superheroes you‘re famous for creating are ordinary people who had greatness thrust upon them.
That’s what heroes are. The average war hero is just a guy from a small town who did something incredibly courageous. You never know who‘s going to be a hero, because it’s a spur-of-the-moment thing. Suddenly an emergency comes up, and one or two or 10 people may run away, and one or two or 10 people may throw themselves in the face of danger to do whatever has to be done.
I don‘t care if a guy is the most super character in the world, I want to know, what does he worry about? What troubles him? What is he trying to accomplish that he can’t accomplish, and why not? And he still has to make a living. That‘s the funniest thing to me. In most comic books the superhero never worries about money! People used to say, ”Yeah, they never go to the bathroom, either!“ I never felt there was any compelling need to show that. I suppose you could have made it a story point. A guy has to go do something -- but he’s got diarrhea! Maybe I‘ll do that in some future story. When I’m drunk!
Have you thought about your own writing differently since September 11?
No. It‘s affected me personally. But as far as the writing, all I do is write about good guys fighting bad guys.
I always thought that your writing in the ’60s was influenced by Vietnam.
If you‘re a writer, I don’t see how you can keep the world around you out of your writing. When I sit down, I may not even be aware of it consciously, but the fact that I read an article in Newsweek or I saw something on television, it‘s there, somewhere, homogenized in my brain.
You’re not trying to make political statements, but it‘s inevitable.
You can’t help it. I‘ve never tried to be political, in the sense that I’ve never tried to say, ”This is the way it should be.“ I don‘t think that’s the duty of a fellow who writes for entertainment. The one thing that I always thought it was my place to say was so general that I felt nobody could argue with it. I always tried to stress, in my stories, the Golden Rule. ”Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.“ If people would just hew to that line, this world would be a heaven -- it would be utopia.
In the last decade or so, the portrayal of heroes in comics has become very cynical. Certain writers, some of the British writers, portray their heroes as pretty unlikable people. Do you think that trend will fade now?
Trends fade if people stop buying the books. I think a lot of writers don‘t want to be thought of as not hip, not up with the times. So they try to get that hard edge in their writing. I have no objection to that. A lot of hard-edged writing is damn good, but I can’t empathize with someone who‘s unpleasant. Maybe it’s because I‘m such a pleasant guy myself! Again, ”He said with a laugh.“