Are you thinking what I think you're thinking?
  -- Duke (talking to Rock 'n' Roll before playing in the Average Joe Band)
Home Interviews Larry Hama (conducted by Rod Hannah of Zartan's Domain in July 1998) - Part One


Rod Hannah: What did you like to do when growing up? Did you like movies, etc.? Who was or is your hero?

Larry Hama: I never had any G.I. Joes as a kid. What I had was these green plastic toy soldiers that just stood there. I watched a lot of TV and read books mostly. I had subscriptions to Punch (the London Charivari) and Vogue when I was in sixth grade-- I hadn't made up my mind whether I wanted to be a cartoonist or a fashion designer at that stage. I read most of Dickens, Hemingway, Tolstoy and Robert E. Howard by the time I was in Junior High School. My favorite comic book was and still is Uncle Scrooge- (the Carl Barks canon). My fave comics creators are Barks, Eisner, Wally Wood, Hal Foster and Milt Caniff.

RH: Do you support of reject any current issues or problems?

LH: I support certain issues and organizations even though I don't agree one hundred percent with their agenda-- About the same way I feel about my allegience to the United States. I pay dues to both the NRA and Amnesty International and I have bones to pick with both about certain policies, but what the hey.

RH: What gets your goat, so to speak?

LH: The horrible tendency of human beings to band together in groups and invent reasons for hating and killing anybody else who isn't just like like them, or thinks just like them or prescribes to the same system of supernatural beliefs.

RH: What is your best asset?

LH: Adaptability.

RH: If you could let your fans know one thing about you that they'd never expect to find out, what would it be?

LH: My big regret that I didn't move to Paris and become a designer.

RH: If you had to describe yourself in three words, which words would they be?

LH: Hard core procrastinator

RH: What is your martial arts background?

LH: Played Kodokan Judo as a kid. Studied Kyudo (Zen Archery) and Iaido (Zen Sword). Dabbled in Goju-Ryu and various Chinese soft forms.

RH: Do you do anything else besides writing? Anything other than entertainment? Hobbies, etc.?

LH: I play rock and roll, I shoot big-bore pistols, and I still belong to all the acting unions. I used to build an occasional plastic model kit, but all I have done for the past fifteen or so years is continue to buy them and stack them on shelves in my office. I have LOTS of unbuilt kits. Whole sets of them. I just started liquidating some of them. I had all the Hasegawa Egg Planes, the complete set of SCI-FI 3-D, and all the Dr. Slump kits. I just don't have the time to devote to the stuff any more. Been working on an f-18 Hornet model for abouf four years now and all I have done is the cockpit-- (But the detail is amazing).

RH: Are the K-Otics still around? If not, do you still play the old guitar often?

LH: The K-Otics just played the Washington Market Street Fair. We did a full hour set of mostly original material and wrapped up with a selection of R&B faves. I've got a LOT of old guitars.


RH: If you hadn't gotten into the comic biz, what do you think you'd be doing today?

LH: I'd be in advertising. Actually, I worked for years in Neal Adam's Continuity Studios drawing storyboards for TV commercials. I also worked on the very first Nintendo print campaign- (I remember thinking, what a bad name that was and how nobody would remember it!) I was a cartoonist, ad-artist and illustrator before I started writing. I still don't consider myself a writer -- I think of myself as a penciler with a word processor.

RH: What was your attitude toward this business when you got started, how has it changed, and why has it changed?

LH: When I started as a penciler at Marvel, my rate was $23.00 per page. After a year, I got a two dollar raise. There were no royalities and the most I could produce in those days was a page a day. I could have made more money working in MacDonalds. Everybody in my generation who got into comics did it for the love of it. We never expected to make even decent money at it and the idea of getting rich doing comics was LAUGHABLE. Now, the industry is market driven, and that has been the main factor that killed it. The companies went after the ever-narrowing niche markets and cut their own throats.

RH: How do you feel about the changes in the comic industry since you first arrived on the scene?

LH: Everything changes or it stagnates. Change is good. It may not always be what we LIKE, but we have to accept it. Ever since I have been a pro, the mantra of the industry has been that the fans clamor for drastic changes and then they complain bitterly when it happens.

RH: How do you feel about the status that you have reached so far in your career? Don't be modest, you were the writer of Wolverine - one of the bestselling comics of the 90's.

LH: What status? I am not even considered an "A" list writer by the fan press or even by the editors! Getting writing work has always been difficult for me. Even when I was writing the best-selling comic in the country, I couldn't get another editor at Marvel to give me an assignment. I have never been offered an "A" list book to write in my life. (Wolverine was about to be cancelled when I got it). In fact, when I was an editor at Marvel, I was able to prove to the Editor in Chief that I had gone to EVERY editor on the row and they had all refused to give me work-- So I was granted special dispensation to write for other companies!

RH: What are your goals in the comic industry?

LH: The same as ever. Create stories that make sense about characters that I care about. Period.

RH: If you had to, in what genre would you like to classify yourself as a writer? (Action, superhero, war, etc...)

LH: I don't consider myself a writer. I prefer graphic story-teller, at the risk of sounding awfully pretentious.

RH: What type of comic have you not written, but would like to. If it's Uncle Scrooge, how come?

LH: Uncle Scrooge was the perfect comic. Barks was a genius. Right up there with Herriman, Calvo and Herge.

RH: Is there any sort of comic work or genre that you wouldnt' do?

LH: It's not the genre, but how it's done.

RH: Anything in your career you'd do differently given a second chance?

LH: Don't look back.

RH: You've been a writer, an artist, an editor, and even an actor. Is there anything you haven't done which you would like to do?

LH: Not really. I am one of the luckiest boys in the world. I got to live out almost all of my childhood fantasies, I have loyal friends, a loving family and a good life.

RH: What was it like working on TV, if briefly, for M*A*S*H? Would you ever do it again?

LH: I still belong to all the unions. I still work in film or TV on occasion. I did some sword fight choreography in a martial arts film a few years ago. Acting, however, is probably one of the most demeaning professions on the face of the planet.

RH: Do you think the so-called "adult comics" (which really seem to sell purely on the level of T&A and violence) which have been increasing in popularity since the early 90's, are in anyway drigint he more traditional style super hero and war comics down the same road? I noted in the interivew with you mentioned "juvenile" nonsense that some of these titles really are. Do you have any concerns, being a comic writer of today?

LH: This disturbing trend is the main factor in driving away the kid market. The average age a comic store patron is now TWENTY FIVE. What's wrong with this picture??

RH: Do you read any comics these days for entertainment purposes? Or is it all just to keep track of the storlyines running? - For X-ample, in the X-titles.

LH: I read what I have to read to keep up with continuity. I don't like most of it. Of the stuff I read, I like Joe Kelly and Chuck Dixon the best. I don't find most comics very entertaining these days. I don't find the characters very appealing. They lack -- integrity and moral fiber.

RH: Are the big names in comics really blown-up starts that won't speak to fans or are they just as "normal" as us other people?

LH: A lot of "big names" let their egos get out of control. They also take the whole shebang TOO seriously. This is what we do and we love it, but in the scheme of things, the guy who comes over and fixes your toilet and the guy who grows the food we eat and the guy who can reshingle a roof is much more important. I think that a lot of fan-fave types have also had some bad experiences with fans, some of whom can be pretty obnoxious. Wally Wood stopped going to conventions after kids started coming up to him and telling him that his old stuff was better. Hey! If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything! These sleazebags insist that it is "constructive" criticism, but in the end, it is pure meaness.

RH: What do you love and hate the most about comics?

LH: Comics used to be a fast, cheap medium. You could buy a comic for what it cost to buy a Hershey Bar. Now at two bucks a pop, they are priced beyond the budget of most little kids. The industry should have made an effort to provide a product for kids. They have betrayed their trust.

RH: Okay. I get the feeling you've been overlooked a little too much in the comic industry by short sighted editors. Let's pretend for a moment though, if you were to make a comic in which you had full control over everything (scriptwriter, artwork, editior, money-men, etc.), what comic would you make? If you were given "full regin" over a title of your choosing/creation, what do you think that title would be about/like?

LH: I would do "The Ghost of Elvis vs the Killer Bimbos from Beyond the Bermuda Triangle." This is not a joke.

RH: How do you go about choosing a project to work on?

LH: I never get to choose a project. I don't have that luxury. I take what is available and try my best.

RH: On what criteria do you think editor's judge Larry Hama? From those editors who don't spare you a glance, to those that are willing to give you a fair go?

LH: The tendency of ANY editor to judge any creator is by the age old criteriae of "what have you done lately?", and "how well did it sell?". I tend to get a lot better shake from editors who are themselves either writers or artists. They can at least understand what I do.

RH: Do you find any particular aspect of writing difficult for you?

LH: Attacking the blank page.

RH: What aspect of comic making do you enjoy the most? Writing, breakdowns? The fans?

LH: I enjoy doing cover sketches and breakdowns the most. I rarely get asked to do either.

RH: What has been the worst project you have ever undertaken?

LH: Kitty Pryde Agent of SHIELD. The artist completely ignored my plot, pacing and characterization. He was a very good draftsman, but a poor story-teller and he did bad acting. I will take story-telling and acting over draftsmanship any day.

RH: At this point in your career, which project do fans seem to best remember you for, and is it the work you want to be remembered for?

LH: I suppose it is the G.I. Joe work and the Wolverine output that has the most impact because of sheer volume. The work that I am most proud of is Bucky O'Hare and the Nth Man.

RH: In later years, the output of war comics has been sparse at best, but when you got started war stories were numerous and had a stronger following. Do you think war stories have a future or will kind of fade away like westerns?

LH: There were NO military comics being produced when I did the first G.I.Joe. Well, maybe DC was still publishing Sgt Rock, but sales were at an all time low. Sgt Fury was long cancelled at the time. Every genre ebbs after a time. Super heroes come and go. It all depends on whether or not we have a popular war going on or not.

Part One - Part Two - Part Three

Jan 25: G.I.Joe Examined on Podcasts
Jan 25: Buzz Dixon Interview
Jan 25: Paulsen Annie Nomination & Dini on Batman Comic
Jan 12: Sgt. Slaughter Signing in Atlanta
Jan 11: G.I.Joe to Return on G4
Dec 30: Paramount Movie Reviewer Plugs
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