The following interview appeared several years ago at ComicsVillage.com
What are you working on these days?
Getting more sleep. People don’t realize how important sleep is. I was just having this conversation with Howard Zimmerman the other day. Howard’s the former head of iBooks and an excellent editor. I’d gotten into a dust up with somebody the night before and Howard asked if I’d been drinking at the time and I told him I was sober as a judge but terribly sleep deprived and he said, "That’ll do it."
I meant what projects are you working on?
Why didn’t you say so? I’m working on a few top-secret things for IDW Publishing and a treatment for the proposed "Snaked" film.
I thought I’d read that deal was signed.
It was. "Snaked" was optioned by Richard Saperstein and Elysium Films, but I’m under contract to turn in a treatment and if that flies then I’ll do the screenplay. And if it doesn’t fly, I’ll go catch up on my sleep.
Assuming you get to do the screenplay - or at least the first draft - how hard will it be to let it go to the inevitable Hollywood rewrite and potential bastardisation of your creation?
It’s not like raising children, no matter what Sylvia Plath said. Crazy bitch wrote that seeing her poems edited was like watching her children get raped. What a fucking poseur thing to write! Spoken like a woman with an infertile womb…"Snaked" was a short story and then it was a comic and then it will be a screenplay and then, if the stars are aligned, a movie. Different stages in the lifespan of a creative embryo but it ain’t a child. It’s not even a puppy. Which is not to say I don’t care about it because I do care about it. But by the time anything reaches a big screen, it’s rarely a singular vision. You have to be Copola or Tarantino to get that, so I have no illusions. The "Spider-Man" you see on screen isn’t Stan Lee’s Spider-Man, and it’s 180 degrees from Steve Ditko’s twisted brainchild. But it’s cool.
How has Snaked gone over with readers? As well as you expected? Do people "get" it?
I think readers liked it better than I did. I’m rarely satisfied with anything I’ve written. I still like the poetry section of Perverts, Pedophiles & Other Theologians. I think that might have been my best work. That or Wearing the Horns, which was a novella I did about the divorce culture, or about a man with a tiny penis, depending upon your vantage point. "Snaked" the short story, which preceded the comic by about ten years, was something I’m still comfortable with, but the comic book was an experiment and I didn’t have time to percolate it as long as I like to. Ask me in five years if I like it. But yes, I suppose readers liked it. The first print sold out.
That says something, I guess. Any other books in the works?
Aardwolf is preparing my Comic Book Babylon, which will collect my "Past Masters" columns and some interstitial material. I began that column to help Dave Cockrum get his missed X-Men royalties from Marvel and ended up developing a sort of gonzo, behind-the-scenes look at the comics industry. There’s guest appearances by Harlan Ellison, Alan Moore, Neal Adams and quite a few others. And me getting drunk with Mark Texeira. Stan Lee wrote the introduction.
What’s with you and Harlan Ellison?
What does that mean?
He’s somewhat controversial yet it seems in your eyes he can do no wrong. He seems to be a father figure to you.
None of those statements are true. Harlan is not controversial; he’s a man of impeccable integrity who won’t be pressured by society or individuals or money or terrorists or the unraveling of the fabric of the universe to do things he doesn’t believe in… or to shut up. And I’ve seen him do plenty wrong—he makes the same kinds of mistakes everyone makes, like putting too much sugar in his coffee or eating things that doctors say he shouldn’t eat or taking the wrong exit on the FDR. Don’t kid yourself—those are serious mistakes! But the types of mistakes others might claim he makes are not things I would call mistakes… Harlan isn’t a father figure to me. I had a perfectly wonderful father who gave me the best guidance a father could offer, and a terrific education and unconditional love; a father I adored more than anything in the world, and he was old enough to be Harlan’s father... Harlan is more like a big brother. After awhile, I tend to forget that he’s one of the century’s great writers. He’s just a dear friend I admire and love and find terribly entertaining… But, do no wrong? Of course he does wrong. Jesus did wrong! You think Jesus was happy with himself after he tipped over that table in the Temple? No one wants to go home feeling like a klutz.
Tell me about your children.
The oldest two are already better fighters than most men will ever become.
And that’s important to you?
Of course. That's why I trained them. My boys started in my dojo learning Shotokan, then graduated to mixed martial arts, which is the trend these days, thanks to the UFC.
Is that a good thing?
No—that’s a great thing. MMA was the natural progression for anyone who took competitive fighting seriously. My teacher, Grand Master Richard Sensei Lenchus, always stressed the practical aspects of street fighting in our dojo. If you concentrate on sports fighting—on speed tag for points—you lose the entire reason for martial arts. The arts were designed to protect individuals from attackers, not to win trophies. MMA is serious, real-world martial arts. In a one-on-one situation, you’re almost always at an advantage if you have grappling experience; if you have a ground game. But in a bar fight, where if you land on someone his buddy might clock you in the back of the head with a beer bottle, well you’re a damn fool to take it to the ground. My sons, who are excellent wrestlers, can single-leg or double-leg you in the blink of an eye and you’re on your back before you know what’s flying. Then it’s ground and pound and you’re waking up with a crowd around you. Their years of competitive grappling are the perfect arsenal for one-on-one, even against opponents 30 or 40 lbs. heavier. But my game is stick and move. I was trained to tag the first guy and move on to the next guy before the first one hits the ground. It’s a different approach. One-on-one, my sons can take me down now. Three-on-one, you’d pick me. Even at 47 and out of shape, that’s what my training was all about… So, to answer your question, yes, that’s a good thing. Men need to teach their sons to fight. They need to teach their sons other things, too, but that’s one of them. You don’t teach them to pick fights, but you teach them not to fear fights. Big difference.
It’s almost a taboo subject to broach, but there’s a real feeling among black comics creators that there’s a racist undercurrent in comics, even if subconscious, on the part of readers and bosses. Do you have any feeling or evidence of that in your experiences?
Nope. Talent makes it. Talent gets discovered. Shitty writers get work, too, but there’s no holding back quality.
You often write about Jewish topics.
Sure. That’s what I know so that’s what I write. All writers do that. Your life and experiences create a confluence of material that you draw upon. I’m rock-and-roll culture. I’m 1970s post-Nixon mod. I’m Marvel Comics and New Wave science fiction and 20th Century literature and Beat poetry and baseball and Northern New Jersey. And I’m an observant Jew. Add a little salt, it goes down fine with a good tequila.