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Home Interviews Larry Hama (conducted by Rod Hannah of Zartan's Domain in July 1998) - Part Two


Rod Hannah: I was re-reading some of the issues of Wolfpack that I still have and I was honestly impressed with some of the issues that this street stories comic dealt with. in particular, domestic violence. I found sharon's dad very reminiscent of one or two people I know, and it was great to see that even he had a heart despite his brief fit of rage for little Malcolm. Where did the idea for the 12 issue mini-series of Wolfpack spring from? What was your motivation behind telling the tale?

Larry Hama: I was a "hired gun" on that comic. The characters and rough situation had been created by the penciler and I was called in to flesh it out and create a back-story. Sort of like what I did for Joe. I thought it would be good vehicle to say things about real issues with an action/ninja framework. It never found an audience.

RH: Regarding Bucky O' Hare being among the work you are most proud of... What drew you towards writing this comic, like G.I. Joe - connected to a toyline and cartoon? It seems quite different, in it's setting as well as it's "anthropomorphic" cast, rather than a down to earth "human" cast with which I think a lot of fans had started to associate with your comics. How did Bucky O' Hare come your way?

LH: Bucky was something I created from the ground up. Originally, it was supposed to be me penciling and writing and Neal Adams inking! Then one day, Michael Golden walked in and we said, "this guy is perfect!" I actually put the whole thing together and designed all the toys around 1978 or so. It took MANY years to generate the art for the first comic.

RH: Any tips for aspiring writers?

LH: Study the good stuff. Eisner, Caniff, O'Neill, Miller-- that Brit guy who did "Watchmen". The best way to get started in the comic business is to write actual PLOTS for actual existing comic books and submit them to the editor of that book. I know of one famous writer who sold his first script when he was THIRTEEN. Write all the time. Keep sending stuff in. You don't get better by wishing, you get better by DOING.

RH: Which are some of your least favorite characters in comics today? why?

LH: I don't like being negative about other peoples work in print. Sorry.

RH: Were your favorite writers or artists influences on your style, or on your decision to take on the comic industry?

LH: The major influences on my writing style are not comic book writers. They are Dickens and Cormac McCarthy.

RH: What's one of your favorite anecdotes from your comic career?

LH: When I first went on staff as an editor (at DC in the mid seventies) I asked the late great Archie Goodwin for advice. He said, "Never lie to the freelancers." I took this to heart. When they walked in the door, I told them the work-for hire contract was a major rip-off and they were signing away rights that should be theirs by law. I told prospective artists exactly what I thought of their work (and tried to help them by pointing out where improvement was called for) and if I thought there was little or no chance for improvement, I said so. Of course, many people cursed me out and stomped out of my office. Much bad vibes. After a few years of this, I related all of this to Archie, who gave me a wry look and said, "I told you not to lie to the freelancers, I didn't tell you to tell them the truth!"

RH: Any dream projects you are still wanting to do? Aside from "Uncle Scrooge"?

LH: The Lord of the Rings. Done right.

RH: What do you think about fandom and fans in general?

LH: A loaded question. I'm a bit of a fan myself, but I don't own a single plastic bag. All my comics are pretty ragged, since I have them so I can read them and look at the pictures. I am not a collector-- of anything. I own a 1913 Luger pistol with matching serial numbers. I take it to the range to shoot it and serious collector types are in shock-- "You're not going to SHOOT that museum piece, are you????" Of course, I am. That's what it was MADE for. It doesn't fullfil its utilitarian purpose otherwise and the core of its beauty is in its FUNCTION. I feel the same way about my guitars. I have a Gibson Korina Flying V, (serial number 34!) and guitar freaks think I'm crazy to actually take it out and play it. For the most part, my fans have been really good to me. When G.I. Joe was at its peak, I was getting upwards of 1200 letters a week. I tried to read every single one of them, and I did my best to send out postcard replies to as many as I could manage. Getting the immediate feedback was immensely valuable. I used to go to signings and sit there until I had signed every book that was put in front of me. Sometimes kids would come up to me with the WHOLE RUN! If time permitted, I did sketches. I never charged a kid for sketch-- I don't think that's right. Generally, if somebody writes to me or e-mails me and they have something nice to say, I write them back. If people write to me and call me dirty names and tell me that my writing sucks and that I should DIE, I don't see why I am obligated to even acknowledge them.

RH: Do you like attending comic conventions?

LH: Not really. I never get invited, so I don't go. The last convention I got invited to was in Northern Spain. It was FABULOUS.

RH: Do you still make the convention rounds?

LH: Nope. Nobody asks me and nobody sends me a flyer.

RH: One thing I hear a lot of is that writers and artists have a kind of bad attitude toward the net. What's your attitude towards it?

LH: They have a bad attitude towards the net, because on the net, you can say things that if you said them in person, somebody would punch you in the face. What ever happened to being POLITE? I have had people e-mail me and say the most EGREGIOUS nasty things-- When I write back civilly, they usually go, "Gee, I really did like your stuff, but I was annoyed at this last thing you did and got a little carried away." One thing I learned from studying martial arts, is that you have to put your anger behind you.

RH: How long have you been on the internet?

LH: About three years or so--

RH: What are your thoughts on receiving fan-email? How much fan e-mail do you get per day?

LH: Sometimes people get on a spam campaign and try to inundate me. The continuity freaks have done this to me about my work on Generation X. I've heard it all before. Everybody said I was destroying the Wolverine character when I took it over. I get an average of two or three fan e-mails a day.

RH: I was wondering just what it's like to get a lot of negative vibes from the fans. Do you read all of them, or do you get to a point where you just have to delete them to save your sanity?

LH: I just don't understand how people who write negative mail to a creator expect and demand a reply. They say, "Hey! I sent you a very polite and civil letter in which I very nicely said that your work sucks and that you should die and I even mentioned that I wrote to the editor demanding that you be fired off the book, so how come you are being such a bad sport and not replying?" Well, excuuuuuuuuuuuuse, me!

RH: What are your reasons for answering your fan e-mail personally?

LH: Why not? Somebody writes to me and they are civil, they deserve a reply. Somebody writes to me and says I am SATAN and denigrates my work-- they can whistle in the wind.

RH: Most celebrities don't really feel an obligation to stay in touch with fans beyond autographs and a handshake, but you're up for personally answering e-mail. Why is that?

LH: I'm a masochist? I don't know-- because it's the right thing to do?

RH: How much of a computer guy are you?

LH: Not much. I have four Macs and I can pop them open and replace drives and upgrade ram and install heat sinks and video cards, but I have no idea how they work. I am not a number cruncher or a programmer and I don't hang out on the net.

RH: How and when did you become aware of the huge interest in you and G.I. Joe from Internet users?

LH: Huge? I wasn't aware of it at all. You're kidding, right?

RH: With advancements in computer/internet applications (such as downloadable previews and movie-clips, and greater communication) what do you think are the implications for the comic industry, as technology progresses?

LH: It is limitless! I just wrote the intro cyber-comic that comes with the X-MEN QUAKE module and that was a whole lot of fun.


RH: What were you're thoughts when "G.I. joe" - the comic - became a success? here you came right from a pretty much unknown writer at the time, probably your first mainstream successes and a title which it seemed marvel placed little faith in, and suddenly you were writing a sellout comic that was to enjoy continued popularity for years to come.

LH: It was pretty hard to believe. Of course, it garnered me absolutely no respect in general comicdom.

RH: There were obviously times when the joe comic was in danger in some way due to pressure from above, but how did you react to this? did it ever get to a point where you had to threaten resignation or anything quite so serious?

LH: I threatened to walk off the book when they wanted to introduce some new characters called the Dreadnoks that were big cuddly teddy bears.

RH: (laughs) Yet I hear it was your genius that turned this situation around and brought us the Dreadnoks we know and love. How could they justify putting teddy bears in G.I. Joe? Perhaps you could have satisfied Hasbro by giving the Dreadnoks toy teddy bears or just as an in-joke. Now that would be funny.

LH: You have to understand that the Dreadnok thing happened about the time that "Return of the Jedi" came out and everybody in the toy business anticipated a big Ewok craze.

RH: If there was one thing you could have done different in "G.I. Joe", what would it be? why? doesn't have to be a serious answer...

LH: I should have put my foot down harder about not killing off Cobra Commander.

RH: Who wanted to get rid of CC, and why?

LH: HASBRO. The G.I. Joe animated feature film was due to be released- (the one with COBRA LA) and at the end of the movie, Cobra Commander dies-- ergo, Hasbro wanted the comic book continuity to match. I protested that CC was a very popular character and that it was a major mistake, but they insisted. My only option was to walk off the book, but I have found that quitting doesn't solve anything.

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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