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An interview with
July 30, 2009
Thank you for taking the time for this interview. How have you been recently?
John Ostrander: All right, all things considered. Been traveling a little too much and had eye surgery on both eyes because of my glaucoma. Others have it worse.
Looking back, what was the hardest thing you had to learn about the comic book business?
John Ostrander: Iíve spent a lot of my career working on characters that OTHER people owned. I should have spent an equal amount of time working on characters that I own.
You had an acclaimed run on "Martian Manhunter." What are some the hardest parts about making Martian Manhunter not appear just as "Green Superman"? And what would you consider your most proud accomplishment in that series?
John Ostrander: Figuring out what made him different besides the color green. Many of the powers were duplicated, so we looked at his CULTURE Ė what would that have been like? That would have helped shape him into who he was. [My most proud accomplishment was] working out that society and background. I also liked how we worked Jemm, son of Saturn, into the mix.
Any thoughts on the death of Martian Manhunter?
John Ostrander: Nobody stays dead forever in comics. Also, heís DCís character, not mine, so they can do as they like with him.
If you could rewrite any hero's or villian's origin, whom would it be and why?
John Ostrander: Deadshotís origin could use a retelling. The original story had him in a tuxedo and tophat with a domino mask and western gun belts strapped around him. Thatís all kind of wonky, especially considering how cool he looks later. And it would be good to incorporate what we know about his character later. Iíd love another look at THE DEMON. Itís gotten a bit muddy and Jason Blood, who really is a cool character on his own, has gotten lost, in my opinion.
You had a Firestorm storyline where he tries to destroy nuclear weapons. Did you explore that story as fully as you had hoped to and what some key essentials into getting working with a character like Firestorm?
John Ostrander: That was a while back but, yes, I think I did [explore things fully]. I remember that, when I first started working on the character, one half of the Firestorm persona, Martin Stein, was dying of an inoperable brain tumor. So I decided to push that to its logical conclusion and take Stein out of the equation Ė at least for a while. Firestorm was always comprised of two people and I liked that.
Let's talk a little about The Spectre. I've read that Dick Tracy was a template for Jim Corrigan.
John Ostrander: In many ways, thatís true. Jim Corrigan was a plainclothes police detective back in he 30s before he was killed and assumed the role of the Spectre. When Tom Mandrake and I took on the character, we were clear on what we wanted to do with him. Our focus was on Corrigan. Our thing was that he was killed in the 30s and, despite how it seemed, never came back to life. Also, he was who he was back then and he would have been pretty hard-boiled. I drew on early Dick Tracy (which was very violent) as well as my knowledge of the hard-boiled detectives written in the 30s and 40s as well as movies from that era. That all went into our concept of who Corrigan WAS.
You've worked in some you theology into Spectre stories. Is that a big influence in your writing?
John Ostrander: Well, specifically we saw it present in THE SPECTRE. The themes of the book Ė sin, redemption, punishment, right and wrong, what is morality Ė all seemed to lend themselves to that book. Iím more of an agnostic these days and I like to work questions rather than answers into my stories. Makes them more interesting, I think.
Sometimes theology in comics is considered a bit controversial. Do you believe writers should have a political objective or take a side in a debate and voice it in a comic?
John Ostrander: I think that's up to the individual writer and to the work they're doing. I mistrust dogma in all it's forms and that includes political dogma.
Who do you like working with the most in the comic industry ala writers/artist?
John Ostrander: I've liked just about everyone I've worked with in the industry. The ones I've worked with the most are Tim Truman, Ton Mandrake, and Jan Duursema so, as you can imagine, I like working with them. Of course, any time I can work with my sweetie, Mary Mitchell, is a treat. There's lots of people I've worked with over the years that were a pleasure. I also like getting the chance to work with new talent as well.
What characters do you find a challenge to write?
John Ostrander: Every character has his or her own challenges. As a writer, I need to identify those challenges and make them work to my advantage.
Are there any characters you have regretted turning down or characters you really want to write?
John Ostrander: Iím not sure who Iíve turned down. Archie Goodwin asked me to stay of Hawkman but I felt at the time that Iíd already written myself out on that character and had nothing left to say, so I left. Characters Iíd like to write? Hmmmm. Superman, for one. Doctor Strange. I always enjoy writing Batman. This may startle some folks, but Iíd like a swing at Aquaman, if I could get free reins. Other than that Ė characters of my own.
What are you thoughts on the "online comic" genre or downloading comics?
John Ostrander: I think thatís where comics are going to go ultimately. Oh, there will still be print books, but theyíll be collections of what is online. The reason why is that the monthly book exists PRIMARILY to cover the costs of TPBs [trade paperbacks] Ė which is where the money is really made. The money is made there BECAUSE the cost of creating the product have already been absorbed by printing the monthly. Now, if you cut the cost of creating the MONTHLY, the TPB makes even more money. Doing books online cuts the costs of printing, shipping, distributing, and retailing a monthly. If you make your costs back via ads, you can give it away. And then the printed collection, the TPB, is ďfirst time in PRINTĒ so itís like a new product. The economics of it just make it inevitable, in my opinion.
Any books you would like to promote?
John Ostrander: Star Wars Legacy, which I do usually with Jan Duursema. Itís as good as anything Iíve ever done, I think. Too many people pass it over because they go ďStar Wars? Licensed book. Canít be any good.Ē Iíve had more freedom doing this book than I have doing some work on franchise characters for DC or Marvel. It has action, adventure, humor, great characters, fantastic art Ė what else do you want in a comic? And if all you know of SW are the movies Ė thatís fine. Everything you need to know is there in the book. BROKEN was the first story line and is out in TPB.
Gotta ask, if only to stir up some stuff: Superman vs. Thor - who would win?
John Ostrander: Thor. Heís a god. But Superman would give him a pounding.
Do you have any upcoming works for DC?
John Ostrander: Yes but I can't talk about it right now. It's a fill-in and, until it's announced, I really can't talk about it. I think it'll be announced in the next month or so.
Finally, any words of wisdom to pass down to your fans?
John Ostrander: Donít follow a book just because youíve always read it. Do you still LIKE it? Buy only what you genuinely LIKE reading. And donít read just one company or another. Find writers and artists whose work you like and then follow THEM.
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