Sunday, September 13, 2009

Seven Questions with FABIAN NICIEZA

Today we have the good fortune to present an interview with none other than Fabian Nicieza. Over the course of his long and storied career in comics, Fabian has written a number of popular series including New Warriors, X-Force, X-Men, Thunderbolts, Cable and Deadpool, Nightwing, Robin and Trinity. He also was the writer for the short lived Hawkeye series, which I didn't ask him about but which I wanted to give a shout out to because I thought it was really sweet. Anyway, enough with the introduction, let's get right into the interview!

1. You’re right in the thick of Battle For the Cowl over in the Batman books. What can you tell us about that story, and what other projects do you have lined up for when it ends?

Battle for the Cowl was a natural extension of the storyline that Grant had planned for Batman R.I.P. and the disappearance/seeming death of Bruce Wayne during Final Crisis. Knowing there would be an aftermath to the loss of Bruce for all the Bat-family made for a perfect opportunity to really shake-up the status quo on every single title in the Bat-verse and editors Mike Marts and Mike Siglain have taken advantage of that opportunity.

I've been lucky enough to be asked to work on some of the titles coming out during this period, which led to the new monthly Azrael title this October, as well as getting a chance to write the Batman and Detective Annuals.

2. You recently spent a year working with Kurt Busiek on the weekly series Trinity. How does collaborating with another writer differ from the usual collaboration you have with your artists and editors? And how does your approach change with a weekly book instead of a monthly book, if at all?

I enjoyed collaborating with Kurt a lot. He is so good at finding the core of every character and finding the right place in a story to utilize that understanding. I had co-written in the past, but never in anything so involved and long-term as Trinity was, and I found it a great learning experience, as well as a fun challenge from the standpoint of pacing, structure, characterization and even the schedule. I think we all rose to the challenge and did a very solid job on the title. It wasn't the greatest comic ever published, but within the context of the parameters of a 52 issue story coming out every single week, I think we did a real good job of making a fun popcorn thrill ride with lots of interesting, unexpected "little moments" as well.

And all this is despite the fact that Kurt is a Red Sox fan...

3. You’ve been under exclusive contract with DC for awhile now after a long tenure at Marvel. I’m wondering if you find writing DC characters to be significantly different than writing Marvel characters. Not necessarily in terms of editorial or the companies themselves, but do the settings, themes and characters – the milieu of the DC Universe as opposed to the MU – naturally lend themselves to a different style or story or a different kind of storytelling? Or is it basically the same game just with different toys?

You know, I haven't given that a lot of thought, since I tend to handle the assignment I have without thinking about such philosphical esoterica. To me, the meanings of a "DC hero" or a "Marvel hero" are really relics of the Silver Age in the 60's. I think through the 80's into today, everyone working on superhero comics has tried to approach their work with the Stan Lee sensibility of giving characters personalities, conflicts, foibles and weaknesses. To that extent, I think the approach to superheroes is uniform across the board. Personally, I think Marvel's universe has become a bit grimmer than DC's over the last few years. I know we have plenty of death and despair at DC, but the grimness from Marvel comes from an inherent specter of the real world being a bad place. "Government can't be trusted" or "authority = evil and coercion," while at DC the grimness seems to stem more from difficult character arcs, i.e. Superman or Batman's current status quo, or overlying "villainous threats" such as the events in Green Lantern.

4. Along those same lines, I know that as a young reader you were a fan of Avengers over on the Marvel side. What DC titles or creators were (or are) you a fan of and which DC properties might you want to work with in the future?

I was a big fan of Infantino's Batman without even knowing it back when I was young. Gil Kane's work on Robin, Dave Cockrum on Legion, Steven Englehart and Marshall Rogers on Detective, Len Wein and Dick Dillin's JLA. As for characters I'd want to write, well, I got to write my three favorite DC characters already in Nightwing/Robin, Superman and Hawkman. I've also gotten to write Ragman, who is a quirky favorite, and I'll be using him in an issue of Azrael as well. That being said, I would never say no to writing Dick Grayson in any way shape or form, whenever I'm asked, and I sure would love a crack at a monthly Hawkman title. No offense to the many very talented people who have worked on him before, but I know I would write the most interesting Hawkman book ever.

5. Recently some of the characters you were strongly associated with at Marvel have had significant and controversial changes, from the New Warriors being scapegoated and disbanded in Civil War to the revelation of Shatterstar’s relationship with Rictor. In this past instance, Rob Liefeld came out publicly against the change. Did either of these stories bother you as a creator or are these sorts of changes just part of working within a shared universe? Or both?

Honestly, I haven't read any of them, so I can't comment on the quality of the work or how appropriate they were to the core truths of the characters involved. I will say that the companies own these characters so editors and writers working on them today are expected to write stories that are just as good -- or just as bad -- or better -- or worse -- as any that came before them.

6. You’ve recently scripted some direct-to-video animated movies, including Hot Wheels World Race and The Black Belt Club. How does writing a script for this sort of project differ from preparing a comic book script? And do you have any more non-comics projects in the works?

Movie or animation scripts require a three act structure that isn't always conducive to comic book structure, so whereas comics are a series of smaller stories in service to a never-ending story, movies should be self-contained stories that have a history and a future built into the tae being told. I do a lot of non-comics work, more than comics at this point, but it's not strictly script-writing. I work with Starlight Runner Entertainment in NYC on transmedia development and content management, caretaking and producing borderline academic dissertations for corporate Intellectual Properties for companies such as Disney, Fox Feature Films, Coca Cola, Microsoft among others. I've also been working for a year on a kids sports/entertainment website and we are almost to the point where we are ready to begin active production towards a goal for a live beta test late next year.

7. Lastly, what’s one specific storytelling technique you use that you could share with new creators to help them hone their craft?

I always try to make sure that the voice you read is that of the character and not of the writer. The words they say should be what THEY believe and not necessarily what you believe, how they say it and not necessarily how you say it. You are using them to tell your story, but never forget it is their story.

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