By Adam White
As I stated in the current “Imperiled Heroes” column, I recently discovered Marc Andreyko’s Manhunter series from DC and was blown away by the superb quality of every single issue. So, like any burgeoning writer worth his or her salt, I sought out Mr. Andreyko online and unbelievably swiftly secured an interview. Mr. Andreyko generously offered his time in answering some questions about Manhunter and himself in general, so here’s your chance to get a brief glimpse into the genius behind the best new superhero in decades.
Adam White Were you an avid comicbook reader before you became a professional? If so, what were some of your early favorites?
Marc Andreyko I have been a reader of comics since I was 4 years old. I can actually say I remember when comics were a wee quarter....
My favorites as a child were mostly Marvel — Spider-Man, the Byrne/Claremont X-Men, Avengers, Fantastic Four — but as I got older (and started working at a comics shop) my tastes expanded rapidly to things like American Flagg!, Zot!, anything by Alan Moore, Love and Rockets, the Perez/Wolfman Titans... virtually everything since I did most of the ordering.
AW Did anything in particular inspire you to become a writer? Did you pursue writing, or did it just happen naturally?
MA I never thought I would be a writer, let alone making a living at it. I majored in theatre/directing in college and did some professional directing post-university. Writing came about because I had ideas and realized that I like to micro-manage. Knowing that would drive anyone else insane, but I decided to put pen to paper myself and... voila! The rest, as they say, is....
I just try to write stories and characters that interest me and hope for the best. If you try and figure out what you think the market wants or what may be commercial, you usually end up with something so calculated that it is devoid of any personality.
AW How did you first get involved with writing comicbooks? What were your early projects?
MA In college, a lot of great comics pros lived in the town (P. Craig Russell, Jill Thompson, Jay Geldhof) and, after I became pals with them, Craig recommended me for a scripting job on a Marvel Dr. Strange book he was doing. To my surprise, Marvel ok’ed me!
I also co-created the famously unfinished The Lost, which had the luck of coming out just as the Great Comics Depression of the ’90s was starting.
AW Yeah, the piles of rubbish cluttered the industry and killed a lot of things that needed more time to get recognized. Which somewhat segues into my next question, considering the series deserves much more attention from readers out there: How did you initially get involved with Manhunter? Did you pitch the new concept, or were you approached?
MA I was doing a THUNDER Agents book for DC that, due to rights issues, died, and Dan DiDio called me up and asked if I’d be interested in pitching a new Manhunter. One that wasn’t tied to the many, many other incarnations. And one that was a female. I thought about it for a few days and then Kate Spencer was born.
AW What, if anything, inspired the Kate Spencer character?
MA Tough women in film and TV: Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect was the biggest influence. So was the late, great Kate Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, a bit o’ Buffy, some Lara Flynn Boyle from The Practice, and a pinch of Famke Janssen.
AW The “Manhunter” persona has existed in various forms over the years with limited success, yet your current series is outstanding — what “secret recipe” makes it work so well this time?
MA Hell if I know! I just try to write stories and characters that interest me and hope for the best. If you try and figure out what you think the market wants or what may be commercial, you usually end up with something so calculated that it is devoid of any personality (or worse, based on a passe trend). So I try to trust my instincts and listen to my editor’s advice.
AW Perhaps your instincts are the secret. Regardless, whatever it is seems to be working. Which leads me to the other half of the equation: Javier Pina gives the series and the character an excellently distinct look — what level of working relationship have you established with him, and do his visuals or ideas affect the direction of the storylines in any specific way?
MA I actually have only spoken to Javi only once! He lives in Spain and my Spanish is non-existent. I am thrilled with his art and storytelling. I tend to plot in a looser, almost “Marvel” style with bits of important dialogue tossed in for the “acting” of the characters. So, when I get back Javi’s layouts, doing final dialogue is a blast. And don’t forget the great inks/finishes of Fernando Blanco! Or Jesus Saiz, co-creator of Kate, and cover artist extraordinaire!
AW I agree. The art is the total package throughout, and I absolutely love the covers month-in and month-out. In regards to the writing again, how large of an effect did moving the story one year forward in time have on your plans for the series? Was it more of an asset or detriment to the character/series?
MA All OYL actually did was allow me to leap into the middle of storyline I had planned to do anyway. The leap allowed for the changes to seem dramatic and exciting, but all of them happened (and you’ll see some of this) organically. The added press from the OYL event was definitely an asset (although slightly overshadowed by IC).
Readers need to expand their palates and be more vocal to their retailers. If there is a book they want to see and the retailer doesn’t carry it, ask for it. If he still ignores you, go elsewhere.
AW Manhunter is vastly superior to any of the Top 20 selling comicbook titles, yet readers haven’t caught on to it yet. Why do so many readers spend their money on “events” and stunt books instead of well-crafted series like Manhunter? (I’d actually love to be able to figure out the answer to this one myself…)
MA It’s not an easy question. All parts of the food chain contribute to the struggle-filled lives of new titles: the publishers have to choose where to spend their limited ad $$$; the retailers have to wade through a 500 page catalog every month and tend to order on the more conservative and traditional side; and readers need to expand their palates and be more vocal to their retailers. If there is a book they want to see and the retailer doesn’t carry it, ask for it. If he still ignores you, go elsewhere. The only way to precipitate change is to get the book in more readers’ hands (and I have that standing “buy an issue, don't like it? I’ll buy it back” offer to readers).
Pre-orders by fans with pull-lists and/or subscriptions from DC help, too. In fact, pre-orders help a lot, because a book with low numbers like Manhunter needs to show movement upwards. Just waiting for it on the stands is a crap-shoot for a lot of fans. Many smaller stores order only for pull customers and don’t reorder (a whole other problem), so, if a reorder is placed, there aren’t that many extra copies to be had.
This is also the double-edged sword with the TPB: people who started Manhunter late in the game, either because of JSA ties or OYL, are constantly asking me for a 2nd TPB. They simply can’t find a lot of the back issues, BUT the books sales don’t necessarily justify a 2nd trade. AAAARGH! What usually ends up happening is newer readers move on if they can’t get the whole story...! So, pre-order and buy the 1st TPB! If that sells out, the odds for another go up!
Begging/rant done. Whew!
AW I actually had trouble finding back issues myself, which is why I had my brother pick up some in another town, and I ordered the others from various places on the Internet. Took a while to pull together a whole run, but it was more than worth the effort and I suggest that everyone else out there with trouble finding them do the same.
My rant aside as well, what other series, if any, do you think fall into the same category as Manhunter (i.e. should be bestsellers but get overlooked)?
MA There are obvious examples like Dan Slott's She-Hulk and The Thing, Invincible, Tony Bedard’s Exiles, and ones that don’t get a lot of press like Jack Staff, Josh Dysart’s Swamp Thing, Rex Mundi, Godland, Loveless, Concrete — there are a lot of children who need families!
Pre-orders help a lot, because a book with low numbers like Manhunter needs to show movement upwards. Just waiting for it on the stands is a crap-shoot for a lot of fans.
AW Agreed. In fact, I pick a lot of those books up myself, and Slott’s She-Hulk and Thing are at the top of my list with Manhunter.
What writers, artists, and/or series inspire you as a creator? Do you have any particular favorites you would recommend to others?
MA Gosh, a ton — Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Joss Whedon, Bendis, Brubaker is doing the work of his career on Captain America right now. Gail Simone, Alan Davis, Allan Heinberg, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, the usual suspects, I guess. And, boy, do I miss Don Newton (Batman in the 1980s and two issues of Infinity, Inc. before his untimely death). He would have been a superstar — and he did some of the best Batman ever.
AW Are there any particular characters or titles you would like to try your hand at? Any particular creators you would like to work with?
MA OK, now I have to rein in my list or we’ll be here all day. How ’bout a top 10 characters and creators?
Characters: Dr. Strange, Cloak and Dagger, Spider-Man, Batman, JSA/ALL-Star Squadron/Invaders (WWII counts as one!), Ka-Zar, Ragman, Plastic Man, Wonder Woman, and the Demon!
Creators: Joss Whedon, Phil Jimenez, Allan Heinberg, Alan Davis, Duncan Fegredo, those Kubert boys, Mike Oeming, Art Adams, George Perez, and Bryan Hitch.
AW In particular, I would love to see what you would do Cloak and Dagger and Ragman, and I can only imagine how great a collaboration with Perez or Fegredo would look.
Along those lines, do you have any upcoming projects we should be looking for soon?
MA I’ve got two of the four Superman Returns prequel books — Lois Lane with art by a new guy named Wellington Diaz (who is brilliant), and Ma Kent with Karl Kerschel. There’s the last few issues of Casefiles: Sam & Twitch, and, of course Manhunter. Plus, as always, stuff on the burners hoping to get a greenlight...
AW I certainly hope they get the greenlight, and soon, because as much as I enjoy Manhunter I know that there’s plenty more good ideas to come from Marc Andreyko.
As an end note, I’d like to mention that Mr. Andreyko also did Torso with Brian Bendis, and it’s available in TPB, so check that out as well. But your first order of business, dear readers, is to go track down the full run of Manhunter no matter how much effort it takes, because it’s more than worth it. Put it on your pull list, tell your friends, and TELL YOUR RETAILER! Get the word out, because this is one series that should be at the top of the charts.
I’d take a page out of Dan Slott’s book and tell you to “Pull My Manhunter,” but that just doesn’t sound right...