Saturday, June 4, 2016

Gerry Conway talks about working with Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Marvel's 'writing test' (exclusive interview - flashback part 1)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally posted June 25, 2009 in my now-defunct NORWALK REFLECTOR blog. And since I wanted to share this with my readers, I thought I’d re-post it here. 

Gerry Conway
Photo courtesy of Bleeding Cool
Gerry Conway is one of my favorite comic book writers. I always know when I pick up an issue with his writing credits, I am in for an enjoyable story.

Judging from his IMDb credits, the man is a more prolific writer than my wildest dreams. Conway's comic-book bibliography is even more impressive, especially given how many titles and characters he's written.

Having interviewed him extensively by telephone, my respect for him increased even more so.

Conway was nonplussed at the mess of questions I threw at him.

As I told my best friend Mark Willis (whom I can credit or blame for giving me an even itchier love for comics book than I had by sixth grade), talking to Gerry is like hearing from a wise fan who has vast experience on the way the comic book industry really works. And he isn’t afraid to tell you just how it is, but he’s rather a-matter-of-fact about it. 

CARY'S COMICS CRAZE: What comics writers and novelists do you consider mentors or inspirations and why?

GERRY CONWAY: Stan Lee: “He brought a level of emotion to comics that wasn’t there before.”

• Gardner Fox: “I enjoyed his plotting and overall storytelling”

• Roy Thomas: “I like his use of language.”

Conway shared how he started working at DC Comics, but had met Thomas socially and professionally a few times. When Thomas started looking for a regular Marvel writer, his choice was between Conway, Len Wein and Mike Friederich.

“Of the three of us, I had the most availability,” Conway said, remembering Thomas as more of a “guide” than an editor.

Conway would get his writing assignment, would submit a general outline and ran it by Thomas. More often than not, he said, Thomas’ editing of the final work was minimal.

Auditioning, working for Stan Lee, Roy Thomas

Roy Thomas
Photo courtesy of the DC Database
CCC: Stan Lee wasn’t impressed with your “writing test.” Why? What did that encompass?

Thomas come up the writing test as a way to see if people could write dialogue for Marvel Comics, Conway said. It was five pages from a previous issue with space left for the dialogue.

Conway remembered that Thomas, who in fact was more of the editor-in-chief than Lee, used it more than Lee.

“Stan didn’t think much of me,” he said. “I think his comment, according to Roy … was ‘he was OK.’"

"Roy said, ‘I think he’s great for a 16-year-old.’ Stan said, ‘Why can’t we have someone who writes like a 21-year-old’?," Conway said.

Keep checking CCC for more from legendary writer Gerry Conway. 
Gerry Conway
Submitted to the NORWALK REFLECTOR
by the Gerry Conway

There's more good stuff coming from this lengthy telephone interview I did with the very personable and knowledgable writer. 

Next up: Conway talks about the artists with whom he's worked — and creating Killer Croc, one of the villains in the "Suicide Squad" film, which comes out Aug. 5. Until then, check out my review of the first trailer, which I titled "Of babes and bondage"!

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