This past winter, I was able to meet author Roger Stern during a signing at Downtown Comics. As a fan of both his novels and comics, I was excited to meet and interview the prolific writer.
SciFiChick.com: I read that you were born and raised here in Indiana. Do you still consider yourself a Hoosier?
Roger Stern: Oh, in a sentimental, nostalgic way. To a great extent, much of the Indiana where I grew up has been paved over. But I still have family and friends in the area, and it’s always fun to come back for a visit.
SFC: What were your favorite comics when you were a child?
RS: Gee, there were so many. At first, of course, I read whatever my parents bought me.
So early on, I read a lot of great Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories…that I later learned were written and drawn primarily by Carl Barks.
But I read just about anything and everything that caught my eye. And I already knew about Superman from watching his TV series, so once I discovered his comics on the drug store spinner rack — remember when drug stores had comics spinners? — I also discovered most of the other DC comics. And then, in my sophomore year in high school, a buddy introduced me to Marvel Comics.
SFC: How did you get into the comics industry?
RS: ‘Way, ‘way back in the mid-1970s, I spent a good deal of my spare time working with Bob Layton on a comics fanzine called CPL. That work led to both of us making contact with people in the industry, and to my getting a chance to test for a proofreading job on staff at Marvel comics. I passed the test, and went to work on staff at the number one comics company in America. Along the way I got further opportunities to hone my craft, and…well, I’ve been writing professionally ever since.
SFC: What are some of the titles that you’re most proud of or enjoyed working on the most?
RS: I’ve enjoyed working on all of them, really. But SUPERMAN, the AVENGERS, and SPIDER-MAN would be among the top three.
SFC: Who have been some of your favorite artists to work with?
RS: I’m not sure there’s enough bandwidth to list them all.
I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to work with Curt Swan, Murphy Anderson, Steve Ditko, Sal Buscema, John Buscema, John Romita Junior — and John Romita Senior! — Joe Sinnott, Gil Kane, John Byrne, Marie Severin, Bob Hall, Michael Golden, Paul Smith, Terry Austin, Jerry Ordway, George Perez, Ron Frenz, Tom Grummett, Paul Ryan, June Brigman, Jeff & Phil Moy, Jason Armstrong, Steve Rude, Bruce Timm…who am I forgetting?
Most recently, I’ve been lucky enough to work with Lee Weeks, Val Semeiks, Paolo Rivera, and Kalman Andrasofszky.
So many wonderful artists! And I know I’m forgetting at least another dozen.
SFC: How did you like writing the Superman and Smallville novels as opposed to comics?
RS: The common subject matter aside, writing novels — or any kind of prose — exercises different muscles. With comics, you have the advantage of an artist bringing your story to life visually. With prose, you’re out there on your own; it’s just your words set in cold type. I enjoy the collaborative experience of working in comics. And I get a lot of satisfaction from writing prose, watching the story take form and the pages add up. Both can be a lot of fun.
SFC: How did you decide to write full-length novels?
RS: Well, that wasn’t wholly my decision. In each and every case, an editor approached me about writing those novels.
Overall, I would have to say that writing the novels has been a very satisfying experience, even though the deadlines have been a bit crazy at times.
SFC: Do you have any plans for writing more novels in the future?
RS: No real plans at the moment, but from time to time, I have thought about writing an original novel of my own. Maybe someday.
SFC: What can you tell us about your new run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN?
RS: I don’t know that it would be fair to call it a “run.” I wrote a one-issue story that appeared in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #580, and more recently, a story for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN FAMILY, and I have another three-issue Spider-Man story in the works…and the promise of another one-issue story sometime down the line.
SFC: What villains will we be seeing?
RS: Here’s a big, fat, obvious clue: The first story in the three-parter is entitled “Something Can Stop the Juggernaut!”
SFC: What inspires you?
RS: All manner of things…a good joke, an old song, a beautiful sunset. Inspiration is all around us.
SFC: Do you have a favorite super-hero or super-power?
RS: No one favorite super-hero…almost all of them intrigue me. But as far as powers go…it would be great to be able to fly, wouldn’t it?
SFC: Thanks for your time, Roger! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
RS: Just that I have stories about to appear in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN FAMILY #7, YOUNG ALLIES #1, and CAPTAIN AMERICA #600.
And I’ll be back in Central Indiana in mid-June for an appearance and signing at the Castleton location of Downtown Comics — 5767 East 86th Street, Indianapolis, Indiana — on Wednesday, June 17, from 11:30am to 1:30pm. Hope to see you there!