The CBI interviews comic book legend Jerry Ordway.
Mr. Ordway has been doing comics since 1980, and some of his works include Superman, Batman, oh and CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS! The CBI is proud (and a bit excited!) To present our interview with this comics legend.
Thank you once again Mr. Ordway for taking time out if you busy schedule to answer a few long time fans questions.
CBI – The book Power of SHAZAM! had the distinction of being the ONLY comic to cross over directly with James Robinson’s Starman as well. Was it a challenge to bounce a story between a media friendly book like POS and a more adult oriented title like starman?
J. O. – Well, the crossover was instigated by Chuck Kim, who was associate editor on Starman, after he kept getting requests from fans online, as well as at conventions. As to the actual crossover, I talked with James Robinson, and we came up with a story set mostly in the past, for his title, as a way to not derail the flow he had going on Starman. It’s always a challenge to kind of set aside your main story to participate in a company wide crossover or even a tie in to another book. As to the difference in content between Power of Shazam and Starman, I was not aware of any troubles. Starman sold a little better than Shazam at the time, so we were hoping to gain some of their audience to our book, not the other way around.
CBI – What was the thought process that went into the idea of initially selling the Batman movie adaptation in movie theaters initially?
J. O. – Everyone at DC thought it would be a great opportunity to build the comic book audience, by using this big budget movie as a lead-in. We had a property that looked like the movie, and was printed in a classy looking package, that also carried a decent price, as opposed to a standard comic which was probably 85 cents at the time. Theater owners couldn’t be bothered with a flimsy monthly, but a sturdy square-bound book was an easier sell. Matt Ragone, the circulation guy at DC really worked hard to get it sold in theaters, and we also tried getting it into major drug stores and supermarkets. Unfortunately, the way it worked with those venues, DC would have had to pay money to put Batman movie books in a display at the cash registers, and they couldn’t budget for that. The other thing of note, is that with the theaters, after all the planning and work, Warners Films told DC and theater owners they couldn’t sell the book until after the opening weekend, because they were worried our comic would reflect badly on the film. It’s easy to forget that Warner was not guaranteed that Batman would be a hit.There was no advance ticket sales back then like today, where studios can track audience interest based on the number of presold tickets. Plus, the last superhero film, Superman: Quest for Peace, was a huge bomb. So, we missed the opening weekend, where the film earned 50 million, but we still sold a pile of comics to people who had never seen the inside of a comic store. That was huge. DC had that comic store locator page in the back of the book, to help new fans find stores for more comics.
CBI – Can you allude to any future projects you are working on?
J. O. – I have an ongoing project for Dark Horse, co created with Alex DeCampi, called Semiautomagic, that has been running in Dark Horse Presents. I also hope to do some other creator owned projects soon, featuring both of my characters, The Messenger, and Proton.
CBI – Crisis on infinite earths. One of comics magnum opuses. What was it like working with George Perez on that project?
J. O. – It was an intense amount of pressure and work. Each issue ran 24 or more pages, and each page usually featured hundreds of costumed characters. George did a phenomenal job, under a lot of pressure himself, and I just did my best to keep up! I’ve always kind of regretted not inking the follow-up, The History of the DC Universe, but I only got through Crisis by marking off pages done until the very end of issue #12. But Karl Kesel did a terrific job on it.
CBI – In your own point of view, what do you consider to be your best work, or at least your personal favorite?
J. O. -:Best work and favorite are kind of different to me. From a technical point of view, I think the Batman movie adaptation is “best,” while the painted graphic novel “The Power of Shazam” is my favorite project. But that said, I still strive to improve with everything I do, so I hope to create some new “bests” and “favorites.”
CBI – You also created a comics magazine called Okay Comix! Can you tell us how you came about creating the character “Proton”?
J. O. – Yes, Okay Comix was a fanzine I published while I was in High School. I put the “x” at the end, not because the material was edgy, but because I figured someone had already trademarked the title “okay comics” already! Proton came about because I couldn’t use my other character “The Messenger” because he was appearing in “Tim Corrigan’s Superhero Comics” around the same time. I was a big fan of the 1970’s show, “the Invaders” which had to do with an extraterrestrial invasion of Earth. That was my main inspiration for Proton, as filtered through the super-hero genre. I have started and stopped several relaunches of Proton over the years, each time re-thinking things and coming at it from a new angle, only to have to stop work because of paying work from DC or Marvel.
CBI – Out of all your work relating to the character Batman, can you let us know what your favorite work was with him?
J. O. – Again, “favorite” is a tough call. I believe the work I did on the Superman titles in the 80’s and 90’s, starting with Superman handing Batman Ma Kent’s scrapbook, Batman deducing Clark Kent is Superman, all leading up to Superman giving Batman a chunk of Kryptonite, as insurance against should Superman ever turn on humanity. That was collected as “Dark Knight over Metropolis” recently.
CBI – What story arc touched you the most, what story was the most personal to you? If that’s acceptable.
J. O. – I believe the storyline that was most personal for me, was the one that had Clark propose to Lois Lane. It was originally plotted out that he would propose, and she would turn him down. But when I was working on the issue, Superman#50, I suddenly felt really strongly that Lois should accept Clark’s proposal, as it felt more honest and correct. That she admits to him that she kind of knew he was Superman also made her less of a dupe, and more of a better reporter. My argument to DC was that they could get engaged, but it didn’t mean they had to get married anytime soon. Mike Carlin, the editor, thought getting them married sooner than later was fine.
CBI – What is your take on comic book movies? Have you worked on any screenplays, or have had a hand in any movie projects?
J. O. – I enjoy them. I really liked the Christopher Nolan Batman films, as well as most of the Marvel films. My favorites there are the two Captain America movies. I’m looking forward to Batman versus Superman. As to screenplays, no, I haven’t done any. I have always been an assignment-oriented person, and am not one to write pitches or stories or screenplays on spec. I’d dive in if someone paid me. The closest I ever got to Hollywood was when the Superman artists and writers got to meet with the producers of Lois and Clark several times, to consult on storylines.
CBI – That’s all for right now. Once again Mr. Ordway. You, sir, have inspired a legion of fans to be more than what they are. We thank you for your contributions, and for helping shape comics, and therefore us, into what it is, and what we are today.
J. O. – I appreciate that, thanks. Best wishes, Jer.
Special thanks to contributing editors: Henry Starling, Miles Lee, Raymond Grandville, Brian Lloyd, Heather Cook, and Marcellus Ross.