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Interviews

An interview with
Joe Casey

Conducted by Richard 'rc' Caponetti
July 1, 2004

Some writers are easy to follow. Dan Jurgens is easy to follow. Grant Morrison is easy to follow. Neil Gaiman is easy to follow. That’s not to say that their work is necessarily easy to read, however (they can churn out such big boy words and Byzantine plots as to make your head spin), they’re just easy to follow.

Pick up a handful of Jurgens, Morrison or Gaiman books. Tear off their covers and bylines and hand them to any comics-loving friend. He or she (probably he) will still just know that they’re Jurgens, Morrison or Gaiman books, or will at least make the facile guess that the books are all written by the same author. Sure, the authors might switch genres from book to book . . . but their defining, singular, signature writing styles remain constant in all their work: Each has found his voice, likes it very much and will not soon be letting it go.

And Joe Casey? What about his voice? Eh . . . not so much.

Joe Casy ain’t like Dan Jurgens, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman or any other easy-to-identify writer out there. Joe Casey has no voice because he has no style. This is not to say that he has no talent, however. He’s got tons of it. He just has no style . . . he’s got a bunch of them, instead.

Read any story from his three year-plus run on DC Comics’ THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. Now pick up a few issues of his critically acclaimed, but prematurely-cancelled, DC Comics/Wildstorm book AUTOMATIC KAFKA. And scope-out his recent AiT/Planet Lar graphic novel CODEFLESH. Notice something?

Joe Casey

Aside from using the English language and/or showcasing superheroes (which not all his work does), they really don’t have anything in common, now do they? Their styles—their voices—are different. Their moods are different. Their character appeal. Their philosophies. Pretty much everything about them is different. So, if all you know of Joe Casey comes from one title he has written for or one genre he has written in, then all that other stuff just ain’t gonna sound (read, actually) like the Joe Casey you know … or you think you know.

You can’t predict his style. You can’t anticipate his next move to his next book for his next publisher. You can, however, sit him down for an interview. That much is easy. He’s got a lot to talk about, after all—indy comics, mainstream comics, his multimedia work with Man of Action, the start-up shop he began with pals (and former Superman peers) Joe Kelly, Ducan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle. So, while you may not find much in common among Joe Casey’s various books . . . you’ll likely find something in common with Joe Casey himself—something that interests you both. You’ll also find that Joe Casey is a damn likeable guy . . . and that he wants to talk to you. Yeah, that’s right . . . he’s cool, too.

Joe Casey is ready, willing and able to talk to you about pretty much anything comics-related under the sun. And, given his wide range of experiences writing the darn things, chances are that talking to him about . . . well . . . pretty much anything comics-related under the sun will be hella time well spent.

So that’s what I did. Over the course of four days, Joe and I email corresponded on all sortsa comicy stuff: The influence of deceased auteur filmmaker Stanley Kubrick on Casey’s work. The emotions Casey feels—or doesn’t—when his time is cut short on a high-profile title (as it was on UNCANNY X-MEN), or when one of his labor-of-love books are cancelled (as has recently been Casey’s WILDCATS 3.0). And, of course, just why it is that Superman can’t be beat. Not by Darkseid (Can Darkseid beat Superman? Casey: "He’ll never beat Superman"). Not by Doomsday (Is Superman more powerful than Doomsday? Casey: "Yes"). Not by anyone. You’ll see.

That’s right! The fanboy merry-go-round has a-comed around the mountain ag’in, to mix a metaphor, and Joe Casey rides it like Casey Jones throughout this entire interview . . . even when I’m trying to get off the damn thing. To my surprise, Casey has got one of the worst cases of fanboy locomotive breath of anyone you’ll ever meet. He’s pro, he’s cool … so who am I to call it quits and halt his ride? Tell Casey to give it a rest? He just ain’t havin’ it.

"Bring it on."

He said that. He really did . . . numerous times in fact, so don’t blame me. He said it. He said a lot of things, actually.

Joe Casey has a lot to talk about.


Part I: On the Horizon

Richard Caponetti: Joe, let’s start by covering what’s going on in your career right now. What projects are you most excited about?

Joe Casey: I'm excited about all of them, otherwise I wouldn't be writing them. MILKMAN MURDERS [Dark Horse Comics] is a creator-owned horror story. I've never written much—if any—horror stuff so it was a chance to do that. It was also a chance to work with Steve Parkhouse, who's a legendary artist to me.

EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES [Marvel Comics] is a dream job for me since I'm probably the biggest Avengers fan you'll ever meet.

RC: What’s the premise?

Joe Casey: Much like the Loeb-Sale "color" books they've done at Marvel, EMH takes a look at the earliest days of the Avengers, how they got together and how they stayed together.

RC: What about the Avengers appeals to you the most?

Joe Casey: Well, I could spend all day talking about why I love the Avengers. It was my favorite series as a kid and we all know that can have a powerful hold. Any AVENGERS fans reading this don't need *me* telling him how cool the series is. EMH is written for those diehards out there ... written *by* a diehard.

RC: Are you cross-pollinating this Avengers book in any way, e.g., mixing the conventional with the far-out as you did with WILDCATS 3.0, or is this old-school rock 'em sock 'em?

Joe Casey: I respect the Avengers as a concept too much to dick around with it. But I wouldn't necessarily call it "old school", either. I'm just trying to do right by characters that I love. And it's meant to be a commercial book. Marvel wants big sales on this, and so do I ... mainly because I want all things AVENGERS to sell big so it's never in any danger of going away.

I like the character interaction of those specific characters. The classic Avengers (and by "classic", I mean anyone who joined in the first 200 issues) have a certain chemistry that I just respond strongly to.

RC: What is the premise of THE INTIMATES?

Joe Casey: THE INTIMATES [DC Comics/Wildstorm] is... well, it's hard to describe. Needless to say, one might predict that it’s a series very much in the tradition of everything I've written for Wildstorm: experimental in subject matter and storytelling and typically low-selling. But sometimes you just gotta take one for the team. Or, in this case, for art. I think we've got a better-than-average chance with this one, since the Great and Powerful Jim Lee [current SUPERMAN artist] is a co-creator on this. He and I designed the characters together and he'll be doing the covers as well as some interior art for the series. Should be a blast.

Conceptually, I guess THE INTIMATES is about being a teenager ... and we all know what a mind#*@$ *that* can be. It's also about being a superhero. It's two ... two ... two mints in one!

Who Da Man?

Full name: Joe Casey
Age: Over 21
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Sibs: 2
Marital: Absolutely
Hardcore or Vivid-esque: Answer to the question above prohibits me from having an opinion on this one.
More powerful characters, Marvel or DC: DC has the icons, but Marvel has better characters for telling continued stories.
First gig: THE HARVEST KING: 3-issue creator-owned mini-series from the now-defunct Caliber Comics.
First REAL gig: CABLE for Marvel Comics
Currently working on: THE INTIMATES for DC/Wildstorm, MILKMAN MURDERS for Dark Horse, EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES for Marvel, a few OGNs for AiT/PlanetLar.
Kubrick fan?: Huge Kubrick fan.
Favorite authors, musicians, etc.: Comics: Baron, Michelinie, Chaykin, Ennis, Moore, Miller. Musicians: Roy Orbison, Elvis Costello, the Beatles, Weezer, Springsteen, Prince, KISS and countless other flash in the pans and one-hit wonders...
Wins in a fight, Superman or Mr. Majestic: When I was writing MR. MAJESTIC, then Majestic. When I was writing ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, then obviously Superman.
Thoughts on punkass fans: No such thing. Fans are fans.
Atheism or faith: Faith in something, just not sure what yet.
Historical revision or consensus: Both, equally.

RC: How "intimate" is this one-is that teenager the inner you? Is the book, in any way, the confessions of a Peter Pan?

Joe CASEY: Nah ... I just wanted to get back to material that might better connect with what I hope our target audience is: teenagers. It kills me to think that there are *no* kids reading comic books these days. Maybe that has something to do with the content we’re providing, so I decided to try to be a part of the solution for a while, as opposed to part of the problem. No kid was ever going to read AUTOMATIC KAFKA ...

* * * * *

No kid who’s sane, at least. Or not really, really smart. Freakishly … scarily smart, that is. Casey’s AUTOMATIC KAFKA is, as the online comics magazine Newsarama.Com put it, "and this is putting it lightly—out there." Cancelled after just nine issues, KAFKA chronicled the meandering, drug-addicted life of a former hero and cyborg named, oddly and fittingly enough, Automatic Kafka. The book was a feverish reverie of super stoning, super sexing and super soul searching that was brought to life by Casey’s wildest musings and the ever-shifting artistry of Ashley Wood.

Like the craziest of dreams, Kafka’s story was, at times, indecipherable. Below the surface, beneath the story itself, however, is a treasure chest of facile allegory on consumerism, personal identity, the mainstream comics market and Kafka’s twisted relationship with his two personal gods—Wood and Casey themselves. Casey’s views, opinions and feelings on these matters are simple and gripping … once you’ve found them. Like any needle in a haystack, the meaning of AUTOMATIC KAFKA—that life has none—is simple, sharp and solid … and buried under a chaotically-arrayed mountain of straw. So start digging.

The story ends as Kafka’s gods descend upon his world, chew the fat with him and reveal his existence as a mere marketing experiment that largely failed. The scope of the thing is huge, its mood is relentlessly dour, and the mental demands it places on the reader—to find that damn needle—are immense.

As must have been the mental demands it placed on Casey himself. As are all the stories he writes. As I soon discovered. He writes a lot, he thinks even more—subtext and subversion are the heartbeat of everything that comes out his head, including stories for unapologetically commercial titles like UNCANNY X-MEN and THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. In fact, Casey has admitted to having farmed his plot of land in nation-X as the experimental breeding grounds for his ideas in KAFKA; and for using the ideas in Kafka as secret guinea pigs in … SUPERMAN?

Yep, though Casey ain’t telling what them pigs look like or where them’s at. "The great thing about Kubrick’s movies," Casey told me, in reference to his hero—the late, savant filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, "[is that] they’re open to all sorts of opinion. And one thing I’ve learned from studying his work is … there can be deep layers of meaning to even those things that seem completely superficial on the surface. It’s all about what you as an audience member bring to it. That’s when art can become truly interactive."

"In my own work," Casey continued, "there’s definitely some underlying stuff going on, even in my Superman stories, but I wanted readers who were interested in that kind of thing to have to dig for them (and those who weren’t … well, hopefully they could just sit back and enjoy the ride of a good superhero comic book). It’s not me trying to be clever, I just happen to like art that allows for new meaning to be revealed with repeated exposure. That's the gift that an artist like Kubrick gave to all of us, and I guess I'd like to try and occasionally return the favor in some small way, if I can."

This is good. Real good. Too good to gloss over for the Who vs. Who? nonsense I warned Casey about in my initial email. That stuff would have to wait. I was determined to pick Casey’s brain for his personal, intellectual and practical views on writing comics. And I did.

Well … that is until Casey started itching for that hooveehoo stuff. He’s cool like that.


Part II: What Lies Beneath?

RC: Tell Me about Kubrick.

JOE CASEY: Hopefully, Kubrick's influenced me in *everything* I do, because Kubrick was a singular artist. He was an individual and he was his own man, which is all I've ever strived to be in my own work, whether it's something creator-owned or company-owned.

RC: Pop quiz: Kubrick's The Shining—mere haunted house story or secret metaphor for the slaughter of the American Indian and the continued oppression of other minority groups (like blacks, women, children, etc)?

JOE CASEY: I think it had more to do with domestic violence, but that's just my own interpretation.

RC: You're all over the place, man—it seems you don't mind taking chances. I want to ask you about that—whether the shift between traditional hero books and stuff like creator-owned horror (or whatever) comes easy for you, or if it's an intense labor.

JOE CASEY: Well, this stuff happily consumes my life. It's intense as hell but I love my job. Sometimes, writing something with a bit more depth and complexity than your average superhero slugfest comic book is good for a writer's soul. It's good for mine, anyway. I do plenty of research but that's also something I enjoy.

RC: What sort of research does this entail? What does it take to go from an incredible conventional, mainstream book like Superman to something with the grit and deconstructionist impulses of your recent graphic novel CODEFLESH, which is filled with bail bonds, bounty hunters, and strippers: Poring through the stacks at the local library, or merely picking your brain for imagination and memory?

JOE CASEY: Research is just part of the gig. But so is imagination. On something like Superman, you just let your imagination fly (no pun intended). With something more "realistic" like CODEFLESH, you combine extensive research with your own >ahem< personal experiences. I do actually prefer real books over the Internet. Any time I don't have to spend staring at a computer screen is fine with me.

RC: What was your philosophy for working on THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN?

JOE CASEY: At the time I was very much in the mindset of Superman being an entry-level book for new readers. Meaning, Superman is still sold at newsstands and supermarkets. If a parent wanted to pick up a comic book—possibly their kid's *first* comic book—I figured there'd be a good chance they'd pick up a Superman comic book based on character recognition alone. So, in that spirit, I tried to make sure that every issue was as complete and accessible an experience as we could provide, to hook that reader and bring them back again. Crossovers aren't exactly geared toward that kind of casual reader, but I was still set on making each issue stand on its own, even if it was ultimately part of a larger story.

So, that was my thinking during the writing of those OWaW [Our Worlds at War, DC Comics’ 2001 mega-crossover] issues. I wasn't nearly as concerned with how great the crossover would be as I was with how good *my* issues were if you were picking them up cold. Whether that was the correct mindset is obviously a matter of opinion, but at that time, it was just how I felt.

RC: How did you feel about your contribution, and OWaW as a whole, following the story's publication?

JOE CASEY: To be honest, I've never read the complete story, front to back.  Remember, I'm looking at it from the inside, so my memories of it basically consist of the rip-roaring time I had with [Superman books editor Eddie] Berganza, [and writers] Jeph Loeb, Joe Kelly and Mark Schultz plotting the story out and working together. It was without a doubt the best time I've ever had in a franchise situation.  I think the five of us had great creative chemistry and that's the kind of thing I took away from the OWAW experience.

RC: The "self containment" of your stories really started to pick up once the books were "split" following Our Worlds at War. You seemed to break your arcs down into one- and two-issue stories. Was this a conscious effort on your part to reach that youth demographic—or were you simply sick and tired of long-ass Superman arcs?

JOE CASEY: Well, now everyone seems to be jumping on the "anti-decompression" bandwagon but I knew it was coming two years ago and starting in late summer 2002, I was already cramming as much action, drama and general mania that I could in each and every issue of ADVENTURES. And with so many books part of the same franchise, not having that freedom to be as weird and as impactful as I wanted can drive a guy to drink (or to do massive amounts of drugs) so luckily we did have a year where we could tell our own stories. After a year of that, I'd done a lot of what I wanted to do with the character so I was quite happy to exit stage right.

RC: You mentioned the reality of low sales in a recent interview with Variety.Com: The prospect of low sales doesn't seem to bother you. In a previous interview, you've stated that being out of the spotlight, which oft means being low on the sales, can be a positive thing, as it enables you to really stretch out with the characters. Which begs the question: If low sales don’t bother you, what does?

JOE CASEY: I think I've been around the block enough times to let most things roll off my back. I consider myself lucky since I get to pretty much write what I want, even on company-owned characters. Being a cult writer (which is what I am, if I'm anything) works great because at least I know that the readers who pay attention are there for the right reasons, not because WIZARD is telling them to like it. I mean, c'mon, it's comic books... why let *anything* bother you that much?

RC: Aside from Kubrick, what other non-comic figures have influenced your work?

JOE CASEY: As far as writers go, Elmore Leonard's an obvious pick. He's influenced most writers of my generation in the way his depicts characters. A big influence, believe it or not, was Robert E. Howard. Not just for the CONAN stuff (which was undeniably great), but for his other, less well-known stories. There was an anthology that came out last year called WATERFRONT FISTS AND OTHERS, which collected all of his two-fisted "fight" stories. Real pulpy, but in that seedy underbelly of society-way that I love so much.

Other than that, I haven't been reading too much fiction. Because I'm a writer, I tend to want to break away from that when I'm reading for pleasure. So I mostly go for non-fiction, biographies and critical writing.

* * * * *

It was about here that Casey started asking for that fanboy-favorite stuff—Who’s stronger? Who wins? That sort of thing. I warned him ahead of time that fan responses to pro opinions on these matters can get really, really ugly—but, like a soldier, Casey was undeterred. "I gotta warn you," I wrote:

No matter what sort of answers you give me here, I'm going to be accused by disenfranchised fans of brow-beating them from you (by the fans who don't dig your responses); you're going to be accused of either giving me answers that I want, being a coward, or being a facetious prick. Fans can suck like that. I'm probably going to force you to sign a waiver saying that I DID, in fact, beat every answer out of you. I'm Italian, after all, and I have a ton of back hair and a rep to uphold. If you could do me that favor, I'd really appreciate it. Please don't hurt me.

Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. He soldiered on.

Casey’s a real sport, and he’s giving me one hell of an interview, so I whipped up a few fanboy questions based on his work on Our Worlds at War—questions that have been known to spark fiery debate among fans. Ahh … let’s see …

RC: Was Superman KO’d by a blast from Imperiex Prime in ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN 594?

JOE CASEY: Sure. Superman was, as they say, knocked for a loop.

The idea with that scene—if I'm remembering correctly—is that Superman *would've* been incinerated just like Doomsday was… had he not been plucked away at the last nanosecond by a Boom Tube. Since he *was* plucked away, he was damaged but obviously not killed. Some superheroes have all the luck, eh...?

RC: Regarding Superman's second fight with Darkseid in Adventures 595: Was this a fair fight, or were any of the combatants unfairly exhausted by previous events in the storyline?

JOE CASEY: When I pit Superman and Darkseid against each other, I'm picturing both of them in top-form, going at each other 100%. That's the only way to do it.

* * * * *

Good enough for me. The answers to those two questions, plus the two I mentioned up top, were enough for me. And I didn’t want to bog down our discussion with too many childish queries … especially not after he gave me such cool stuff on Kubrick, and literature and the creative process. I felt really sophisticated having such an erudite conversation with a famous comic book author—I didn’t want to lose that feeling, or make Casey feel unappreciated for his intellectual efforts here. Most importantly, I wanted to be a real interviewer for as long as I could.

Casey just wanted to have fun, god bless him! "Hey, man," he wrote to me, "I said you could bring the fanboy Q’s … so bring ‘em on."

Well … I guess we could …

"Let’s get down and dirty with it!"

But shouldn’t I … ?

"Don’t start getting shy on me now!"

That’s it!, I say while feigning anger. That’s all I can stands and I … eh, who am I kidding?

"All right, bro," I gleefully typed back. "You asked for it!"


Part III: Fanboy Bonanza

RC: OK, like you said, depending on whom you are writing at the moment, either Superman or Mr. Majestic is more powerful than the other. What if you wrote BOTH in a fight—who wins, who's stronger?

JOE CASEY: If I were to write a Superman/Mr. Majestic story where they meet, I certainly wouldn't have them fight. How many times can we endure *that* kind of superhero misunderstanding?!

RC: Could your Superman re-arrange his own Solar System, and tear a star apart, as Majestic did?

JOE CASEY: Absolutely. Where do you think Mr. Majestic got the idea in the first place...?

RC: Are Superman's powers more related to mental state than solar energy absorption?

Joe Casey: I'd say both.

RC: What was your guiding philosophy for working with Superman as a character of The Adventures of Superman?

JOE CASEY: I've always seen Superman as this completely over-the-top, fantastic character who has *no* limits whatsoever. He's an icon, an idea, a concept... and I didn't want to spend time adhering to Handbook-style stats when it came to his abilities.

* * * * *

Pardon? Superman has no limits whatsoever? Yeah, right. And he’s "millions of times stronger than Thor," too. I learned my lesson the last time: Pros can be just like fans … in love with their favorite characters and prone to demonstrating that love by speaking in poetic, larger-than-life terms about the objects of their affection. It’s happy, harmless hyperbole—there’s nothing odious about it, it’s endearing, actually. But it’s not to be taken literally, right? I’m mean, sure, Casey did tell me that, when it comes to Superman, "Let's just say Superman gets one helluva power upgrade when *I'm* writing his adventures," but there’s still gotta be a limit, yeah?

I mean, come on … with no limits, Superman would be unbeatable, but that can’t be what Casey meant, can it? I mean, even Casey’s most powerful incarnation of Superman—the one who went mentally AWOL in ADVENTURES 594 and then tore through an army of previously-unbeatable foes "with little resistance"—even that Superman has his limits, right?

So, I started thinking up names—names of characters who, according to this guy or that gal or the hermie over there, could certainly give even that Superman a defeat (even if I, personally, didn’t think so). And then I asked Casey point blank:

"Who can beat Superman when he goes into that unconscious ‘Probe-busting mode’ as he did in ADVENTURES 594?"

And then I threw out the names, and assumed he’d think I was just being silly:

RC: Juggernaut? Doomsday? Galactus? No one short of Imperiex himself?

* * * * *

And then he laid down the law, simple as that.

* * * * *

JOE CASEY: At that point, Superman is unbeatable. Had he not snapped out of it when Doomsday got fried, he might’ve been able to stop Imperiex right then and there.

* * * * *

Take note: I was smiling the whole time I read this. I still am. Rock on, Joe Casey! How can anyone not love a guy who’s this honest and this direct (and who, unbeknownst to me at the time, gives even more props to Superman’s powers than I do)?

Back to business …

* * * * *

RC: Did you basically sneak the pre-Crisis Superman's power levels into your Superman?

JOE CASEY: I never looked at Superman in that way. Whether or not it was pre- or post-Crisis just didn't enter my mind. Superman is simply the ultimate superhero and, under the right circumstances, I just think he can do anything. In my humble opinion, that's the most fun way to write his adventures.

RC: What traditional superhero book has been the most and least fun for you to write (teams and/or solos)?

JOE CASEY: UNCANNY X-MEN wasn't much fun for most of my run, but that didn't have anything to do with the characters or the concept. It had more to do with my level of love, which was admittedly low. The diehard X-fans suffered because of that and it's a mistake I won't make again. That's why I didn't work for Marvel again until I could take on a project like EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES. I'm a diehard Avengers fan myself, so I knew I could speak to that audience on that fan level... which is what a writer *should* do when he or she tackles one of the big company characters.

RC: In your "Cannibal Planet" storyline . . . how the hell did re-heating the Earth solve Earth's heat problem when it was the Sun that needed to be re-heated? And how big would you say the area of CP that Superman froze was?

JOE CASEY: Heh ... that's a good question. Here's my best answer: When Mort Weisinger rises from the grave to explain the pseudo-science of some of his most infamous Superman stories, then I'll explain mine.

RC: Superman flew straight into the Hand of Osiris and blew it apart. He also out-whammy'd the Mxy twins’ mental whacking—you're not a big subscriber on the "magic allergy" for Superman, are you?

JOE CASEY: No, I think Superman is bigger than that. With the Hand of Osiris, I was pitting two ideals against one another... death vs. life. And, as I said before, in a Superman comic book, life always wins. With the Mxy Twins, it was about who could play the best mind game ...

RC: Man, I tell you . . . this interview is going to set the Internet comic community on fire. Don't say I didn't warn ya if the fans start screaming for your blood—if they don't accuse me of milking the answers from you . . . they will definitely be cursing your name. But that's what makes stuff like this fun, yeah?

JOE CASEY: Absolutely. I love this stuff.  Now that I've been writing mainstream comic books for close to a decade, I've finally learned how to relax and enjoy all the great things about the medium and the characters that originally drew me to it as a kid.

* * * * *

Sure, Joe Casey says that now … but I’m a puppy dog. Let’s see how much he likes it when I sic the fans on ‘im!

Release the hounds!


Part IV: Joe Vs. the Fancano

Ryan Brandt asks: Does the Cole Parker Persuader some how wind up as the Persuader of Legion fame? Is that the direction you were hinting at or going in?

JOE CASEY: Absolutely. The plan as far as I was concerned—since there was no real "origin" for the Persuader that I knew of—was that, at the end of ADVENTURES #602, when Cole is sucked up into his own ax-induced time warp, he was thrown into the 30th Century where he eventually becomes the Persuader we all know and love.

Erik Bloodaxe asks: What do you think of Superman's portrayal in the Smallville series and does it live up to the icon/do him justice?

JOE CASEY: I haven't watched too many episodes, but the fact that it taps into a new zeitgeist means that the Superman myth is as powerful as ever.

Captain Nate, a Hulk fan, asks: A Snake? A SNAKE?!?!?!

JOE CASEY: This one'll haunt me forever. This is going back a ways, but I'll try and explain ... I had two things in mind when it came to that particular scene. I’m sure it won’t make a bit of difference to the fans, but since you asked … The first and most important thing was Bruce Banner's grief over the death of his wife. Even when he was Hulked out, I still wanted it to affect him. I wanted both Bruce and the Hulk to be sick with grief. If you've ever lost a loved one then you know that, sometimes, it's an effort to even breathe. The sadness can be *that* crippling. The secondary thing about the snake was ... well, I hate to lay blame, but my good friend, Ed McGuinness, just drew that damn snake too SMALL.

My vision of Princess Python's snake comes from the classic AVENGERS #60 (the wedding of Yellowjacket and the Wasp). In that issue, the great John Buscema drew the snake thicker than an oak tree trunk. It was massive. *That's* the snake that I thought could cut off a GRIEVING Hulk's air supply. Could that snake have taken out the Hulk if he was operating at 100%? No way. He would’ve ripped that thing apart like King Kong in the ’76 remake. But that's not what the situation was. And, unfortunately, Ed drew the snake about as thick as a rope so, naturally, the readers screamed bloody murder. In hindsight, I don't blame them one bit. Unfortunately, my time machine is broken so I can't go back eight years and fix that particular snafu. Actually, if I *had* a working time machine, there's plenty of things I'd have to fix first before I got to anything comic book-related ...

Tenzel Kim asks: Was the experience of writing Superman a lot different from what you had imagined it to be and if so in which ways?

JOE CASEY: No, it was pretty much what I thought it would be ... mostly a lot of fun. I mean, c'mon, I was writing one of the greatest characters ever created. How could I *not* have a good time with it?

Tenzel Kim asks: Did the generally strong editorial input on the Superman titles have an effect on the kinds of stories you could tell?

JOE CASEY: It really wasn't all that strong. Sure, we had one very cool, MASSIVE story scuttled at the last minute, a story that would’ve neatly and effectively solved the debate on whether or not Superman and Lois Lane should be married, but them's the breaks in this biz when you want to play in the big sandbox. But my last year on ADVENTURES was pretty much me left entirely to my own devices. On a character as big and important as Superman, I'm pretty proud of the fact that I got to tell some stories in the way *I'd* always wanted to see them.

Tenzel Kim asks: Was it hard for you to identify or get to the core of the character (Superman) or did the stories come naturally or in other words how did you approach the character?

JOE CASEY: Once I got comfortable with the working atmosphere of writing within the franchise, it got really fun for a while. My approach to the character was all about stretching my own imagination. That's where Heroville, the Hollow Men, the Mxy Twins, Cannibal Planet, the Candiate, the Minuteman, the Anti-Angelica, all that weird, wacky stuff came from.

Bat-Mite asks: What changed that made you start writing the Superman book differently at one point? One minute it was Superman being completely indistinguishable from the other books, and then it was current Superman fighting Golden Age Superman and Superman saving Heroville from the forces of mediocrity. Was it less editorial control or your own choice?

JOE CASEY: Once we knew there'd be a year of no crossovers, I just decided to go wild with it. Personally, I was sick and tired of stories that dragged on and on with nothing ever really happening, so I wanted to cram as much stuff as I could into twelve issues. That's how all Superman comic books should be, imho.

Bat-Mite asks: In your opinion what's wrong with the comic industry that makes revolutionary, critically acclaimed books like WildCATS get canceled due to low sales?

JOE CASEY: We just happen to be in a very conservative retail environment right now. Retailers are very careful with how they spend their money and I don't blame anyone for the cancellation of WILDCATS VERSION 3.0. In hindsight, I'm insanely proud that I was able to take a property that no one thought had any creative life left and tell four years' worth of stories that made a few people sit up and take notice. It was a dream of mine to do something like that ever since Frank Miller did it with DAREDEVIL (which was practically on life support when he showed up to write and draw it)... to take something with a negative expectation and turn it around, creatively. Big sales or not, I think we achieved that goal, at least.

Jorge Martinez asks: What is the first issue of Avengers you read as a kid? What is your favorite run of Avengers, and why?

JOE CASEY: The first issue I remember reading and cherishing was AVENGERS #161. "Beware the Ant-Man" by Jim Shooter and George Perez. My favorite run is probably the Michelinie/Byrne/Perez run from #181 to #202. I don't know if I could say exactly "why" it's my favorite run. Those issues came out when I was at my most impressionable, both as a kid and as a fan so those things just tend to stick with you throughout your entire life.


Part V: Loose Ends, American Capitalist Pigs and Many, Many Thanks

RC: Anyway, I want to close by giving you the chance to speak on the multi-media work you're doing with Man of Action. Anything you can say about the group and its work would be cool. And if you ever see yourself as moving more toward the non-comics side of things at MoA.

JOE CASEY: We're all over the map, but the most recent thing that will hit is the X-MEN: LEGENDS video game we wrote for Activision. Epic in scope, this thing promises to be the most amazing superhero game out there. We've got a few animated series in development, as well. It's not something I talk about much, because I like to try and keep things behind the scenes as much as possible. Deals are made and then fall apart a day later so to speak prematurely about *anything* is never a good idea.

RC: Finally, your last question: What the @#$% is up with that UPC code on [CODEFLESH protagonist] Cameron Daltrey’s face? It looks awesome … but what the—?

JOE CASEY: Besides the fact that it does indeed look really cool? Just a little backhanded commentary on American commercialism, I guess. Isn't everything for sale ... ?

* * * * *

Not Joe Casey’s integrity, that’s for sure. Who else would be so bold to say that Superman can’t be beat? And keep in mind that what you’re reading is what Joe edited! How cool is that?!?

Be well, Joe Casey. Thank you very much. Thank you again. And take care!

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