Dan Jurgens, best known for his lengthy runs on various Superman titles, usually finds himself on the receiving end of a Q and A session. But the artist/writer extraordinaire who brought us such iconic works as “The Death of Superman” recently took some time out to interview author Clifford Meth, whose new book Comic Book Babylon (Aardwolf Publishing) is raising eyebrows.
Not to be confused with Tim Pilcher‘s recent book about DC Vertigo UK, Clifford Meth‘s Comic Book Babylon is a brutal and frenzied behind-the-scenes view into the lives of many of comics’ most important creators. Artists and writers like Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Walter Simonson, Joe Kubert and Harlan Ellison enter into some of their most candid conversations with Meth as the author also details, for the first time, his historic battle (alongside partner Neal Adams) to obtain royalties for X-Men co-creator Dave Cockrum.
Jurgens: We all have comics we remember because of the impression they made on us in our youth. Might’ve been the story, the art, the character, a combination of all that or the chocolate malt you spilled on it. What’s the one single comic you remember from your youth, the impression it made on you and why?
Meth: I remember my first comic book pretty much the way I remember the first girl I slept with, although the comic lasted longer in retrospect. But the first comic that was important to me wasCaptain America #156, which concluded a story arc that had begun with issue #153. Steve Englehart was a master script writer and he’d decided to explore the conundrum that existed as Cap was frozen before the conclusion of World War II (until the Avengers rescued him in the 1960’s) but nevertheless continued to battle Reds in the red-scared ’50s. The Englehart series, which benefitted from Sal Buscema’s very clean, very enjoyable story-telling, defined Captain America for me. America’s savior had to be beyond politics, impervious to prejudice, not really super-human—despite that Super Soldier bullshit—but ethically flawless. They just don’t make saviors like that anymore.
Jurgens: You’re well noted for your willingness to step up and help some of the greats who came before us. Why? What sent you on the that path?
Meth: I was fairly young when I recognized that standing up to a bully, regardless of the consequences, was the only way to walk through life. That can be applied anywhere from the schoolyard to geo-politics. Men of good conscience can’t enjoy their meals when someone else is starving, but that’s especially true if the starving guy had his meal ticket stolen by a corporation.
Jurgens: If you could be any super VILLAIN in the world, who would it be and why?
Meth: Magneto. Not Stan Lee’s Magneto, who was over-bearing and mad as a fox, but rather Chris Claremont’s Magneto. The way Chris wrote him, Magneto had a moral imperative. Who can fault a man for wanting to protect his own kind? Charles Xavier never gained my partisan loyalty, or even my verisimilitude for that matter. It was always Magneto.
Jurgens: Your ultimate creative team and dream project you’d have them create?
Meth: I would have to pick John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star and create an album, with George Martin producing. The final song would have to be an anthem of some sort, ideally by John, with guest vocalists in the choir, and Peppi Marchello would be there, and so would Phil Ochs. And I would have Jeffrey Jones paint the album’s cover and Roger Dean paint the inside gatefold and Allen Ginsberg would do a broadside insert that Sergio Aragones would illuminate. There’d be a pullout poster by Steranko and portraits of all the participants by James Bama. Martin Scorsese would document the entire “the-making-of” for later release, which Harlan Ellison would narrate. And I’d write the liner notes.
Jurgens: Coke or Pepsi?
Meth: Coke. I never quite got over Peppi's boycott of Israel.
CLIFFORD METH's writings have been teamed with such artists as Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, Jeffrey Jones, Alex Toth, Gene Colan, Dave Cockrum and George Perez; praised by The Who's Pete Townsend, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, Leonard Cohen, Peppi Marchello, Handsome Dick Manitoba, Pat DiNizzio, Stan Lee, Kurt Vonnegut and Harlan Ellison; and optioned for Hollywood films. The recent Meth, Colan & Other Theologians (Aardwolf Publishing) reprised his Barnes & Noble Horror-Pick-of-the-WeekPerverts, Pedophiles & Other Theologians with artist Gene Colan, while his last hardcover Billboards (IDW Publishing) featured an introduction by science-fiction legend Robert Silverberg.
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Eye of the Beholder
Meth is a dangerous writer. He doesn’t seem to care if you like him. - Neal Adams
Meth’s writing is fresh and absorbing—clever and replete with surprises. - Stan Lee
Anyone who can give Barry Windsor-Smith a pissy fit is okay in my book. - Joe Staton
The only thing about Cliff’s writing that makes me crazy is the demented titles he puts on them. For a guy who writes as well as he does, and who thinks as deeply as he does, I can’t figure it out! - Harlan Ellison
Clifford Meth is one of dark fiction's best-kept secrets. - Barnes and Noble
Clifford Meth has the touch. Fantasy dark humour and ravishing detail to his characters. Isaac Asimov meets C. S. Lewis meets Beelzebub. - Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)
Razor sharp dialogue, wonderfully erotic and beautifully said. The meaty characters appear extremely real in front of me. - Jeffrey Jones
Clifford Meth is one of the most brilliant writers of dark fiction out there today.
- Bud Plant Comic Art
The way that Meth carefully controls your expectations,then takes an almost sadistic pleasure in messing withyour mind is, artistically speaking, a beautiful thing. - SilverBulletComicBooks.com
Clifford Meth writes like whiskey bites: Deceptively smooth until you realize he’s put you flat on the floor. - David Gerrold (author of Star Trek's "Trouble With Tribbles" and The Martian Child)
Meth writes in pictures that make me want to draw. This is good stuff! - Joe Kubert
Clifford Meth writes with power and authority. Great stuff and a great read! - Gerry Conway (creator of The Punisher)
What separate Meth from most writers is his courage to take on sensitive issues. I’d read anything he’s ever written. - Gene Colan (creator of Blade)
What can I say that hasn’t been said about Meth’s work except the stories are so interesting and original that I’m looking forward to the next collection! - John Buscema
There isn't a writer in the world I would have preferred to have collaborated with--not even Mr. Ellison. - J.R. (Septimus Orion)
What makes Meth's work special is that it grows out of a unique confluence of outlook, culture, comics and prose. - Walter Simonson
Here's the key: Cliff is actor an audience. - Jim Reeber (Aardwolf Publishing)
Meth is one of the more intriguing writers of short stories to arrive in recent years. A damned fine writer. He does not write the easy stories. - Tony Isabella / The Comic Buyer’s Guide
Meth’s imagination, integrity and insight are touched by a dark, often perverse humor. It’s always exciting to discover new writers on their way up—and Meth’s course is worth charting. - Jim Steranko
I don’t know how much money the Cockrums got, but having a friend like Clifford Meth is worth more than a million dollars. - John Romita
Cliff’s writing has attitude. While his stories are frequently angry or outrageous, they’re all honest insights into the human psyche. - Dave Cockrum (co-creator of The X-Men)
Meth is a unique and exciting voice--funny, twisted, visionary. His insights into character and culture are often startling and his stories, always entertaining. I am a huge fan. - Richard Saperstein, Pres. The Weinstein Company
Clifford Meth sharpens the mundane details of everyday life to a razor's edge. I know of no other experience so simultaneously depressing...and uplifting. - Steve Brown, Chairman IDT Entertainment
You write character dialogue like O'Hara & string words together so effortlessly, kiddo. Kudos to you! Love good writing--the stuff so rare in comics & animation, my two vexing venues...I'm ossified, I'm sure, by actually reading top story work. - Alex Toth
Although they're called dark fiction, there's a "real" quality to Clifford Meth's stories that lifts them up and out of his books. And each successive story remains unique enough to make me start another, wondering what he'll come up with next. - Steve Forbert
Clifford Meth knows things. Dark, dank, nasty things... He doesn't scrape away the barnacles covering the hull of human interaction so much as he lifts up the barnacles, describes what's under them, and then puts the barnacles back and walks away with his hands in his pockets, whistling in the dark. - Peter David Clifford Meth has done more to make the comic book industry better for its creators than has the collective career of many good people working within it. Those who speak much and do little struggle to fathom how some inspire granduer with few words. To them, Clifford Meth is of the unfathomable. - Michael Netzer
[Meth's] work is about the dark side of life, as if he were sculpting beautifully realistic statues while working exclusively in blood and excrement. And then setting them on fire...I'm a huge fan. I read him mouth open and giggling, stunned, amused and aroused. - Bill Messner-Loebs
I love Clifford. He's a mensch. - Harlan Ellison
Read Meth. He is pure humanity, pure emotion, pure smart... And, the fuckin’ guy made me cry. - Handsome Dick Manitoba / The Dictators
Cliff is a dangerously talented writer. - Pat DiNizio (The Smithreens)
I read Clifford Meth because the guy has a unique niche. He doesn't write fiction--he writes punk fiction! - Andy Shernoff (The Dictators)
Meth's writing is dark, relentless and always in your face. It doesn’t make for easy reading, but it is highly emotional and makes you pay attention, which is the best thing a writer can do... He writes from a place others won’t walk. - Marv Wolfman (creator of Blade)
Every Clifford Meth story is a tale of two balls. - Peppi Marchello (The Good Rats)
If you have missed the true, revealing richness of [Meth's] implications, then consider this an urgent reminder--a rap on the knuckles--to read it again. - Robert Bloch (author of Psycho)
Cliff writes very well about very intimate subjects. - Steve Gerber (creator of Howard the Duck)
It's easy to be your friend when there ain't no shit coming down. It's when the nails are being driven into your wrists that you find out whether somebody is a real friend and a stand-up person. And that's Cliff. - Harlan Ellison
Saying good things about Clifford Meth is like giving endorsements to Zorro. - Barney Dannelke
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