Last month, I was interviewed by Rebecca Kaplan (no relation) for the geek culture site Comics Bookcase. During the interview, I talked about my career as a comic book writer and children’s author.
Around that same time, I was a guest on Jeramy Moore’s Storymakers podcast. This was a wide-ranging interview about my writing career.
And, just in case you missed them, here are some other press interviews with yours truly from earlier this year:
For Jurassic June (which happened in – wait for it – June), I was interviewed by Thomas Fishenden for the Jurassic Park Podcast. In this interview, I talked about the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World children’s books I’ve written. That interview was broken up into two parts. Part one is here, and part two is here.
In March, as part of WonderCon 2021, I was on a virtual panel that attempted to answer the question: “Who’s the most neurotic superhero?” The other panelists were Travis Langley, Leandra Parris, J.J. Sedelmeier, and R. Sikoryak. The panel was moderated by Danny Fingeroth.
Also in March, David P. Levin hosted a panel discussion on his Pop Goes the Culture show to discuss the Disney Plus series WandaVision. I was one of the panelists. The other panelists were Danny Fingeroth, Ray Alma, Steve Van Patten, Adam Freeman, and special guest Fred Melamed, who played Vision’s boss in WandaVision.
And last but definitely not least, in February, I was a guest on the MulDiversity podcast, where I was interviewed by Jonita Davis, Mike Majett, Quamani Greer, Avia Knighten, Aaron M. Johnson, and Keisha Malone. During the interview, we discussed my career in comics, my work as a television comedy writer, and more.
The Loki Little Golden Book is my most recent children’s book project. It was published by Penguin Random House on January 5th, 2021, and it was illustrated by Hollie Mengert. This book was great fun to write. But every book tells two stories: the story of what the book is about (in other words, the plot), and the behind-the-scenes story of how the book was written. Here are a few things you might not know about The Loki Little Golden Book:
1) In the book’s opening scene, Loki is in Asgard, fooling a palace guard by conjuring a hologram-like image of Thor. Meanwhile, the REAL Thor looks on, annoyed, in the background. The original version of this scene was quite different: the guard is eating a sandwich, and Loki fools the guard by making it appear that his sandwich has COME TO LIFE. The sandwich had a face and everything! (At least, that’s the way I described it in the manuscript’s art notes, aka stage directions.) But I think that version of the scene was deemed too surreal, so I changed it to the one you see in the book. And that’s fine. But still, part of me longs to visit the alternate universe where Loki’s “sandwich-with-a-face” prank made it into the book.
2) This is a book for very young children, and so the idea that Thor and his family are basically deities is one that I can’t explore in a book for this age group. How do you describe what a god is without getting into thorny concepts like “worship” and “religion”? That presented me with a challenge: how would I describe Asgard, commonly known as the realm of the gods? I brainstormed a few different ways of describing it before I came up with one I was happy with: “Asgard, a mythical city of heroes.” Which is appropriate for the target demo of this book, and also accurate!
3) I wanted the dragon in this story to resemble dragons from Norse mythology. So while writing this book, I found several images of dragons from ancient Norse sculptures and paintings, and I included links to those images at the end of the manuscript, for Hollie’s reference.
4) There’s a double-page spread in the book that shows Loki skulking in the shadows as Thor hangs out with the Avengers. The narration in that spread talks about how Thor “sometimes sneaked to Earth to play pranks on Thor.” Originally the art notes for that spread showed Thor hanging out with the Avengers (on the left page) and Loki using his powers to make himself look like Captain America (on the right page). That was, of course, a reference to the scene in Thor: The Dark World where Loki does the very same thing. However, I figured that the “Loki impersonating Cap” image might be too confusing to small children who most likely hadn’t seen Thor: the Dark World.
5) Most Little Golden Books are either “meet the characters” books or “plot-driven” books. In “meet the characters” books, you meet the main character of a well-known IP and his/her/their supporting cast. The first Little Golden Book I ever wrote was The Doctor Strange LGB, which was a “meet the characters” book. It’s an introduction to the world of Doctor Strange, where you meet Stephen Strange, Baron Mordo, the Ancient One, Clea, Wong, Dormammu, Nightmare, etc. I also wrote an Avengers LGB called The Threat of Thanos, which was a “plot-driven” book: it was a simple plot with a beginning, middle, and an end. Thanos comes to Earth to find one of the Infinity Stones, the Avengers try to stop him, he defeats them using the Infinity Stones he’s already collected, and then when all seems lost, Thor outwits Thanos. It didn’t introduce the Avengers to the reader. Rather, the reader is seeing one of their adventures play out. BUT The Loki LGB is that rarity: a mash-up of both types of LGB. The first half is a “meet the characters” narrative, and the second half (with Loki bringing the dragon statue to life) is a “plot-driven” narrative.
Last month my Avengers Little Golden Book The Threat of Thanos (illustrated by Shane Clester) appeared in a Barnes & Noble ad in celebration of the film Avengers: Endgame! (Click on the thumbnail to see the whole ad)
Star Wars Adventures: Recently I wrote a Tales from Wild Space comic book story called “Majordomo, Major Problems,” which was illustrated by Drew Moss. “Majordomo” is an 8-page backup tale in Star Wars Adventures #23, which comes out on June 26th, 2019 from IDW Publishing.
Now that that’s out of the way, I believe you’re owed a humiliating anecdote about my writing career. And you shall have it:
As a writer, often I really try to get into the heads of my characters. For example, when I was a staff writer on the television series TruTV Presents: World’s Dumbest, I found that in order to write jokes for Gilbert Gottfried (who was one of the cast members), you had to yell the jokes out loud AS Gilbert Gottfried. In other words, you had to do an impression of Gilbert Gottfried, to figure out how he would say a particular joke.
And that’s something I’ve done quite a few times in my career. When I was writing the scripts for the House M.D. video game, I did an impression of Hugh Laurie, in his “Gregory House” voice. As “Hugh Laurie,” I acted out each scene, talking into a digital recorder. Then I played it back in order to see if it sounded like something the character would actually say.
When I used to write Bart Simpson comic book stories for Bongo Comics, whenever Krusty the Clown was in a story, I found that it was really helpful to brainstorm one-liners for Krusty by doing a terrible Krusty impression and ad-lib some jokes while talking into the digital recorder. More recently, when I wrote my LEGO Star Warsbooks for Scholastic, I liked to put a few Emperor Palpatine jokes in each book. And sometimes the jokes were written IN Palpatine’s voice, especially if Palpatine was narrating a section of the book. That meant doing a really terrible, over-the-top Ian McDiarmid impression, and it really helped make the Palpatine jokes and Palpatine narration even funnier.
But what I’m really getting at is that – as I type this – there’s a digital recorder right next to my laptop. On that digital recorder’s files there’s hours and hours of audio of me doing the absolute WORST Hugh Laurie, Krusty the Clown, and Ian McDiarmid impressions. And when I was writing the House scripts, I was also doing impressions of the OTHER House cast members. So there’s audio of me doing awful Omar Epps impressions, awful Lisa Edelstein impressions, awful Robert Sean Leonard impressions. Oh, you have no idea. And you WILL CONTINUE TO have no idea. Because nobody will ever hear those audio files. I guess this isn’t really a humiliating anecdote as much as it’s a POTENTIALLY humiliating anecdote.
But if you ever need something to blackmail me with, just steal the digital recorder, okay?