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Jerry Ordway Power Hour Interview by Alex Grand & Filippo Marzo

Read Alex Grand’s Understanding Superhero Comic Books published by McFarland Books in 2023 with Foreword by Jim Steranko with editorial reviews by comic book professionals, Jim Shooter, Tom Palmer, Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Alex Segura, Carl Potts, Guy Dorian Sr. and more.

In the meantime enjoy the show:

Jeremiah Ordway is an American writer, penciler, inker and painter of comic books. He is known for his inking work on a wide variety of DC Comics titles, including the continuity-redefining Crisis On Infinite Earths, Power of Shazam and the 1989 Batman film Adaptation.

Alex Grand & Filippo Marzo interview Jerry Ordway for an hour in a co-interview process where the English version is here at Comic Book Historians, and the Italian version is at Comics Reporter. Jerry is asked about his DC Comics career highlights
from the 1980s through the 2000s with All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc with Roy Thomas, Crisis on Infinite Earths with George Perez, Adventures of Superman with Marv Wolfman and John Byrne, artist for the 1989 Batman Film adaptation, his writer-artist period with Superman and Power of Shazam, co-creating WildStar with Al Gordon, Zero Hour with Dan Jurgens, Tom Strong with Alan Moore and Just Imagine with Stan Lee.

🎬 Edited & Produced by Alex Grand, ©2021 Comic Book Historians, Sound FX – Standard License. Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders. Images used for academic purposes only.

Jerry Ordway Power Hour Interview with Alex Grand
📜 Video Chapters
00:00 Intro
00:42 Development from artist to writer | 1980s DC
02:09 Working with Roy Thomas
03:50 Infinity INC
05:18 Working on Crisis On Infinite Earths | George Perez
05:56 Penciling Adventures of Superman | Marv Wolfman, John Byrne
07:18 Becoming a writer-artist
09:23 Batman Film Adaptation 1989 | Dennis O’Neil
13:02 Jonathan Peterson
16:29 Co-creating WildStar with Al Gordon | Image Comics
18:51 Side projects
19:56 Collaboration with Al Gordon
20:51 Time Travel Loop
22:55 The Power of Shazam! | Jonathan Peterson
25:06 Black Adam, Tribute to Indiana Jones movies
27:18 Graphic Novel, Art to the printed page
32:07 Co-creating Zero Hour with Dan Jurgens
36:01 Working on Tom Strong with Alan Moore
37:28 Co-creating Just Imagine with Stan Lee, Mike Carlin | Justice League
42:20 Walking with giants
43:12 Creator-owned work – Proton / Self-publishing Proton
44:25 Relationship with Italy?
49:33 Comics feel very universal
50:37 Exploring other cultures
54:29 Farewell

#JerryOrdway #CrisisOnInfiniteEarths #Shazam #ComicBookHistorians #Superman #Batman #JusticeLeague #DCComics #AlanMoore #ComicBookHistorians #ComicsReporter #CBHInterviews #CBHPodcast #CBH

Transcript (editing in progress):

Alex Grand:
We have a very special structured interview with Jerry Ordway. This one was orchestrated by my friend Filippo Marzo, over at Comics Reporter. He basically asked me to co-interview Jerry Ordway with him, which of course, I said yes. So, we came up with six questions to fit within the limited amount of time that we had. Filippo has the Italian version of this interview on his site and this one is the English version. So, cheers and let’s welcome Jerry Ordway.

Jerry Ordway:
Thank you.

Alex Grand:
After you starting getting into official DC Comics around 1980, the environment of DC, as the 80 progressed, from let’s say co-creating Infinity, Inc with Roy Thomas in 1983 and the environment of DC Comics and you yourself as an artist, as that decade progressed, with inking Perez on Crisis on Infinite Earths, eventually penciling Adventures of Superman with Marv Wolfman, and then actually becoming a writer/artist on Superman after that, can you tell us about your overall development, the environment of DC as it changed, and you going from artist to more of a writer/artist, and then working with guys like Roy Thomas and Marv Wolfman?

Jerry Ordway:
Well, I think when I started, I started in the summer of 1980 and DC was looking to get new talent. They were definitely on a talent search trying to find… I don’t know if it’s the next hot artist or whatever, but I was chosen among a couple other people that summer. I think Marc Silvestri and Larry Mahlstedt, who wound up inking Legion of Super-Heroes, were also chosen from that talent search. And so, it was very exciting for me, because I was new. And it felt like everything, each project I would do, was going to be a step up. I had the enthusiasm of youth. Working with Roy was my first full-time job. And I quit my… I had an art job that I worked in an art studio full-time. And I quit that to go freelance in 1981 on All-Star Squadron, because Roy was like my favorite Marvel writer. He had done the Avengers. The Avengers was really my favorite Marvel book. Just that period of the Avengers that really kind of is used in the movie and stuff. The beginning of The Vision. And just all the conflicts between the characters. So, it was really kind of any amazing thing for that to be my first series.

Jerry Ordway:
While I was on that, he and I co-created characters within Infinity, Inc and we kind of revamped things. And I’d always wanted… I’m not somebody who… I didn’t want to be just an inker or just anything. So, I came from an environment of doing my own comics, not professionally. But I always wrote my own stuff and I always did the full art on it. So, I felt like that was always kind of a goal. I think it was something that took a while to make it happen. I mean, it was kind of hard during the 80s until Frank Miller, and John Byrne, and Walter Simonson started writing and drawing. And Howard Chaykin was another, and Jim Starlin. They were kind of like the guys who blazed that trail to kind of turn that tide, to allow artists to actually write stories, or even co-plot or plot stories. So, it was kind of a journey.

Jerry Ordway:
So, Infinity, Inc became kind of a… we were one of DC’s first direct sales comics, as opposed to being on the newsstand. And the direct sales market is what we now have here, as far as comic book stores, like a network of comic book stores. But it was very new back in 1980. I think that was 1982 that we started talking about it, maybe ’83. And the idea of co-creating something, meant that we would officially own a small piece of it, which is kind of nice. And I think it appealed to me, because it felt like that was a step forward for the comic industry, especially in America, to have artists and people who had been kind of cheated out of credit or money for creations, it felt like a very positive thing. And the whole 80s, that whole arc of the 80s, through to ’89 and ’90 was all about DC, for me, and increasing creators stake in the comic.

Jerry Ordway:
We got royalties for the first time in 1981. We had, again, this creator share, where you’d get equity in a character, if it was used as a toy or if it was used in TV, movies, or whatever. So, all these felt like very positive creator type directions. And my journey through it was that when I worked on Crisis, DC had a definite need. Because Dick Giordano was the inker/finisher on the book. He was also the editor in chief. And he realized, after a couple of issues, that he just couldn’t not ink George Perez on a 27-page comic book every month and still work a full-time job. It just wasn’t feasible. So, they sought me out as one of George’s top picks. So, George kind of must have targeted me somehow. And when I got that job, there was also kind of a soft promise to be involved in the Superman relaunch, which was going to spin out of Crisis. And it didn’t happen right away, but I was at least given an assurance that I would be part of that relaunch. And I was. It just took them a couple of years after crisis finished. It was in ’87 that I started working on Adventures of Superman and trying to pitch plots.

Jerry Ordway:
And that was more successful after Marv Wolfman’s… he was there for a year. He established a good tone, I think, for our book. And then John Byrne took over as the script plotter and he allowed me to co-plot. So, that was another step forward for me. So I felt like I’d always contributed to stories, but artists contribute to stories and ultimately, it really doesn’t get credited, unless you get credited as a co-plotter in the official credits. And I would throw in things into stories from the time I started penciling. I would throw little bits into the backgrounds or actually plot ideas. But until Byrne took over on Adventures of Superman, I hadn’t gotten credited for it. So, I think getting a co-plot credit, it’s basically them building my confidence. That’s what, to me, feels like it led more organically to me becoming a writer/artist. Because when John Byrne left, Mike Carlin asked me, “What writers would you like to work with?” And I gave him a short list of people that I thought would be fun to work with, that I could collaborate with. And he just called me back and he said, “Why don’t you do it yourself?” I was like, “Uh, really? Sure.”

Jerry Ordway:
So, he helped me with the transition, as well. Because he knows the comic book page has specific needs that you don’t really think about unless you have to do it. But how much copy will fit on a page, how much will a reader want to read? I think he found, as an editor, that he made the comment to me after my first story, he said, “Why are all you artists so talky?” Because I had too much dialogue and too much captions and too many word balloons in my stories. So, he taught me how to cut it back so that the art could breathe a little bit of wasn’t overwhelmed by one or the other. And that was a valuable lesson for me. That was kind of an unofficial schooling. And a lot of other editors may not have known enough to actually give me that information that I used from that point on.

Jerry Ordway:
But yeah, it was an organic kind of… I felt like I had a trajectory that was going up. And as the projects got higher profile, I was definitely given more to do. And I was given better projects, clearly with Superman. That was a big project. And then, shortly after that I did the Batman Movie Comic Adaptation, was a very high profile thing, too.

Alex Grand:
And this is perfect where you left off, because that goes into the next question. Tell us about working on that first Batman film adaptation. Because Denny O’Neil scripted it and you were the artist on it. And did you get film clips to reference material? How were those discussions with Denny, as far as construction of that graphic novel?

Jerry Ordway:
Well, I think my involvement with the Batman Movie Comic Adaption really started with I had gone to a comic book show in the UK, in London, called UKAC. It was in 1988 in October. And at that time, Batman was in production. It hadn’t started filming, but they were building sets at Pinewood Studios, just outside of London. So I was able to get a tour, along with other artists and creators who were there. DC was able to get them into a little informal tour of the studio and to tour the sets. And I missed that initial one, because I didn’t arrive into the UK until late at the end of the day. They’d already done that. So, after the convention was over, my girlfriend and I were staying for another week and Jenette Kahn got us little… not passes, but she got us the access to just wandering around the sets. And we got to meet people and we got to meet all the production people. Got to see the costume up close. Got to see the car up close. Hear from the people who designed it. It was very exciting.

Jerry Ordway:
So, I go back to the States. My friends, everybody’s talking about Batman. “Oh, is it going to be good? Is it going to be bad?” Everybody thought Keaton… people that I knew, everybody liked the casting. But Nicholson as The Joker was clearly the big draw. And so, a friend of mine was an editor. He was handed the editing of all the comic book movie adaptations. And he and I always used to hang out and we started talking about how a lot of times these things are done with talent that is not busy in other books. It’s not always that they seek out the best person for the job. It’s kind of like, “Who’s available? Who’s not busy right now?” And that’s who they would get to do the movie stuff. Marvel had some really great movie adaptations in the 70s and 80s, including Al Williamson doing Star Wars, which was terrific. So, we wanted to put that same energy into it. So, I agreed to do it. And Jonathan… I told him I would do it as long as he did as much as he could to get me reference.

Jerry Ordway:
And he was really good about it. And Warner Brothers was really good about it. I got most of my reference upfront, which was a series of film boxes with 8×10 set stills, because again, by the time I started, it was February and they were filming in February. I think they finished filming by maybe March, or the end of February, early March. And Denny O’Neil worked on the adaptation of the movie script. And he was working from the shooting script that existed when they started production. But the movie started immediately improvising. There were scenes that came out of nowhere, some scenes that were dropped. So, Denny did a couple of edits. But at a certain point, Jonathan Peterson asked Denny, who was also a full-time editor, “Do you want to keep re-editing this stuff, or will you just trust us to do it?” Because we wanted to make the comic book look like the movie. We didn’t want to have too many scenes like, “Oh, this wasn’t in the movie, but.”

Jerry Ordway:
So, anyways. From that point on, Denny said, “Go for it.” So Jonathan and I, we would just get on the phone and we would talk practically every day. And he would get some stills from the film or he would get what they call a contact shit. And they’re not really great reference, but they would be basically a filmstrip that somebody had made a photocopy of. So, not picture quality like a photograph of the actual print. It was a photocopy off of a film. And we would look at these things. He and I would talk over, “Well, what scene is this replacing?” So, we were trying to figure out where it would fit in and what maybe got cut from the shooting script. So we were piecing it together and making a lot of guesses. And the whole goal was that by the end of this thing, when there was less reference, because it was all happening on set, kind of in an improvisational way, we wanted to still make sure that the movie ended where the comic would end, so that it would be a good experience for a kid reading the comic, that it would reflect the movie.

Jerry Ordway:
But there were a lot of things we guessed at. And we wound up going to… it wasn’t an exclusive Hollywood premiere, but it was a screening that was done for, I think local comic book fan and DC employees in, I think it was the end of May, that we saw this film. And he and I sat next to each other and every time we guessed right, we would just high five each other in the audience. Because we felt like we actually guessed correctly, the comic was going to match what the movie was. Because we had to finish the comic by, I think it was our deadline was to finish the comic at some point in the first week of April, because there was a longer production time in those days. And we didn’t want to short-change Steve Oliff, who was doing the colors. And Steve Oliff actually did… this was one of the first computer colored… it wasn’t the first. But it was one of the first mainstreamed DC project that was computer colored. So, we had to leave extra time for production. And again, the book printed and shipped on time. And it was just amazing that we actually guessed so many things right, based on small little pictures that you’d have to look at with a magnifying glass to figure out a background or whatever.

Jerry Ordway:
But it was fun. And it was an exhausting process, but it was very gratifying to see the movie and find that I think we did it justice. From the look of the film, for the actors likenesses and all those things, it was very gratifying to kind of feel like we succeeded. And it sold really well, which that was like the icing on the cake, as they say.

Alex Grand:
Can you share with us memories of working and co-creating the Wildstar character with Al Gordon for Image Comics? How was that process? And did you find that your experience as a writer and an artist brought something positive to that character?

Jerry Ordway:
When Image first launched, I knew most of the guys that hard started Image, because some of them, I knew Rob Liefeld when he was a teenager. I knew Erik Larsen when he first got into comics. And I was excited by the idea of Image. I know a lot of people, even within comics, there were a lot of people who were kind of negative about it. But I always felt like the companies held all the cards. The companies were in control. And anybody who did a creator owned project in the 70s Marvel was doing Epic and there were other smaller publishers in the US, like Eclipse Comics, and then Pacific Comics, and First Comics, were doing kind of creator owned things. But they didn’t have the same sales capacity or the sales potential as much. To me, if felt like Marvel and DC kind of had a strangle hold on the industry. So, when Image came about, I was excited for these guys, but I also felt like they were smart in that they took characters that they were known for and they didn’t change them too much, to make them their own.

Jerry Ordway:
So, Todd McFarlane had made his name on Spider-Man. And Spawn was not quite Spider-Man. He was a little bit like Dr. Strange and Batman combined, or whateve.r but the other guys all kind of did stuff that their core audience would definitely buy. They didn’t try to be experimental. So, I liked that. And Al Gordon and I had known each other for years. And Al had said, “You know, we could do one for them.” And I was like, “You know, that would be kind of fun.” Because I thought maybe I could do my Proton character. Or I had characters from my childhood. And the idea of collaborating seemed more fun, because then it also becomes kind of, you’ve got somebody to bounce ideas off of, it’s not just you working all by yourself and hoping for the best. So Al and I started talking and unfortunately… or fortunately, or unfortunately, the Death of Superman, that I was involved in, was happening around that same time. So, I had a lot of different things that I had to do. I was committed to DC to do Shazam! I was working on a full-color relaunch of the originally Captain Marvel’s origin. I had been working on that as a side project while I was writing Superman.

Jerry Ordway:
So, I knew something had to give. And I felt like Wildstar, we had to do that while it was hot, at the moment. So, in fairness, I talked to the DC people and I said, “Look, I’m going to do this Image thing, and I think it’ll probably help in the long run, because I’m still going to do Shazam! But by the time I do Shazam! my profile will be much higher and it’ll probably sell better, because I’ll be more known.” And I didn’t realize at the time that the Superman would actually do that on its own, that it would be a huge, huge hit. So, but Al and I started working. We designed characters, we talked. I mean, Al is a guy who wants to talk all the time. And sometimes you can’t get any work down if you’re talking to somebody four hours a day. But we chatted back and forth, we would do sketches. And I think, as I recall, we had faxes back then. Which if anybody is young, they won’t really know. But a fax machine was basically a way to send a picture through your phone line.

Jerry Ordway:
And so, I had a fax machine and I would draw sketches of these various characters and we would send them back and forth and Al would say, “Hey about this. Here’s a name for a character,” or whatever. And that’s how we worked out the story. We worked it out, between the two of us. We hammered it out. And then I started drawing it and he inked it and he did the scripting on it. So, it was a true collaboration. And it was fun. But I only ever thought of it as, “I’m going to do four or five issues and the story’s going to be done for me.” Because if you read it, my favorite time travel stories, in a lot of ways, are loops. I like the idea of a time travel loop. So, Wildstar kind of starts in a place and it changes, but it does kind of almost loop back to the beginning. And that felt very complete for me. So, anybody ever asks why didn’t I do any more Wildstar, it was really just that I wanted that one experience and I really wasn’t every thinking of it as a long-term project. It felt, to me, like I was doing a novel. The story’s done.

Jerry Ordway:
But it was fun and it was technically the first Image book, outside of the co-owners, the… I guess it was seven guys. We were the first to get green-lit. I don’t know if we were the first one to come out in that, but we actually came out, our first two issues were solicited by Malibu Comics. And then Image took over and published it themselves after that point. But it was fun, it was gratifying, it was really cool to be part of that. But it was weird to have that happen at the same time the Death of Superman did. Because both projects had the potential to make us like The Beatles, you know what I mean? They were successful beyond anybody’s wildest imagination. You just could never have said, “This is going to be this successful.” And that happened twice within that same timeframe. With Superman and with Wildstar.

Jerry Ordway:
But that’s, again, it was fun to do that and it’s something that we, I think fans still refer to it. They still ask me about it. People still ask me to sign copies of it, which is fun.

Alex Grand:
Captain Marvel and The Power of Shazam! You were writer and painter. And I think many fans would agree that you pulled it off. It’s a beloved work that you’ve done. Tell us about putting that together, but also, why is it difficult for a lot of modern creators to capture that character in a way that resonates with fans the way it did in the Golden Age of comics?

Jerry Ordway:
So, if I start out with how I got Shazam!. Shazam! actually has a direct line to the Batman movie comic. Because again, being friends with the editor of that… Jonathan Peterson was the editor of the Batman movie book. He and I, again, we’d get together socially. We would hang out, we would go see movies, we’d talk about comics, comics that we liked, we talked about movies we liked. And he had inherited a Shazam! project. As an editor at DC, they just said, “hey, you’re doing Shazam!” So, he called up John Byrne and John Byrne was going to do Shazam! And John had done, I guess he’d written, or given an overview of his storyline. He’d drawn a couple of pages, and then John quit over… and it was DC politics thing. He was pretty justified in my estimation. So, Jonathan Peterson calls me up in a panic and goes, “Look, I still need to do this. And if I can’t get a good creator on this project to do it, DC’s maybe going to chose somebody else to edit it,” or whatever.

Jerry Ordway:
So, he and I went back to the source, not the comic source, as much as we went to the Republic Pictures serial. We used to watch the serial. He had loaned me… he had it on LaserDisc. And I’d seen it before, but watching it on LaserDisc. And we actually sat together and watched it. And I sat with a notebook and I made notes. And that was kind of what excited me about it, was the idea that you could add in elements from the comics that actually never were done in a chronological way. Like, the comic book introduced Black Adam in the later 40s. And he was a big villain, but he really is only in one major storyline. Yet, when you look at his historical biography in the DC literature, their who’s who, his character ties back to Shazam! To the wizard.

Jerry Ordway:
So I told Jonathan, if we build his story from the ground up, we build is as a parallel story, Black Adam and Captain Marvel. And we tie in… Billy Batson’s parents hadn’t really been seen before in the comics. He was just thrown at the reader as an orphan who follows a stranger into a subway. So, I’d said, “Let’s do this as kind of a tribute to the serials,” but it’s also a tribute to our love of the Indiana Jones movies. And the Indiana Jones movies have this great, rich, very warm color palette. Mainly the first movie is desert stuff. And even the second one, there’s a rich, lot of browns and ochres and sepia colors and stuff. It just gives it a nostalgic feel without feeling cheesy. So, I started researching Egyptology. I tried to fit in, without going totally crazy, because it’s still a fantastic creation of whatever, I tried to fit in things into timelines that worked and built the story out from there.

Jerry Ordway:
But the main thing, which may be a spoiler, but not 30 years later, is that I said, “The one problem I always had about reading about Billy Batson is that he follows a stranger into a subway.” I said, “When I was a kid, you’re not supposed to go with strangers.” So, I came up with the idea that the stranger was actually the spirit of his father and that’s why he follows him. He follows him because he trusts him. The idea of Billy following his father into the subway, kind of solves the problem for me that just felt like nobody had asked me for, maybe nobody cared. But yeah, the graphic novel itself, I kind of had to fight to do it the way I did it, because comic books at that time weren’t really geared towards drawing full-color work on the actual boards. They had different process for how they would do that. It involved print process where you would do a line art page. You would draw your comic in the normal way and then they would create an overlay with the line art and a board that was blue-lined, that you would then hand-color, almost like an animation cell.

Jerry Ordway:
And I really didn’t want to work that way. So, I made it a stipulation of doing the project that I could do full-color art, and then they could deal with how they could get it reproduced correctly. Because again, it was tricky. They just weren’t geared towards photographing a painting, basically. Even though it’s still got line art in it, it was kind of like a watercolor with Prismacolor colored pencils and a lot of mixed media, which nowadays you can scan it. It’s fairly simple. I could scan it and upload the file to the company. Back in those days, they had to figure out ways to reproduce that with the printing presses that they were using, and the color process and everything else. So, they actually had to do a lot of production work to make it look as good as it did. I mean, to transfer the art to the printed page, they had to do a little extra work to kind of make sure that the black lines, or the black shadows stayed black.

Jerry Ordway:
So, the guy who worked on that in DC production, his name was Dale Crain. And Dale went above and beyond his normal job to make sure he proofed everything, made sure all the pages as painted looked vivid, which was another big thing that we wanted. But ultimately, it was very, again, I think it was a successful project. They printed it, I want to say, 18… was it 18 or 20,000 copies in hardcover, is the initial printing. And then it went to softcover, I think six months later. And the softcover kept getting reprinted. I think it went out of print somewhere around 2008 or ‘9. And it had been up to about 10 printings by that time. It sold steadily over that long period. It still sold 500 copies a year, which was good for a back list. Something that they didn’t have to do anything new to. And it effectively became Billy Batson’s origin, which was also good. So, I think it had a longer life, in a sense, past even our comic version of it, the monthly book.

Jerry Ordway:
But monthly book was also something that they talked to me about when I was doing the stand-alone story. And I knew that I didn’t want to draw it and write it, because I had… my wife and I had just started our family. Our kids were little-little. And I wanted to be available and not be on deadline all the time. So I agreed to write it, and I wanted, again, to paint the covers, so that it would have that feel of the graphic novel. And most things that are… they wind up being gratifying because they’re a fight. I had to fight to get a painted cover on a comic, because the standard response was, “We don’t do painted covers on monthly comics.” Yet, they would break that rule themselves of occasion, so. The series was successful and then suddenly I think DC felt that it ran out of steam or something. I still had ideas. I really desperately wanted to get to issue 50. Because issue 50 had a significance to me as a child. My first Spider-Man comic that I bought as a 10 year old was issue 50. And I remember finding issue 50, Peter Park’s walking away from his costume in a garbage can in a foreground.

Jerry Ordway:
But I remember thinking, I’d never heard of Spider-Man before, like, “Wow, it’s up to issue 50. That must be successful.” So, in my mind, 50 issue run would be a success. So, that was my goal with Shazam! And we almost made it. Sadly, not quite.

Alex Grand:
You co-created Zero Hour with Dan Jurgens and really interesting series. And it brought a lot of that early 90s style to an interesting climax with the DC Universe. Tell us about co-creating that with Dan Jurgens and also, since you’re both writer/artists, did that, in any way, create any stepping on each others’ feet or was it more of a synergy that you spoke the same language?

Jerry Ordway:
Well, it’s actually funny, on Zero Hour, I could only say that Dan and I co-created the art. I mean, he did the heavy lifting. That was his idea, his storyline. I didn’t have anything to do with the storyline except for working off of layouts that he did. I’ve known Dan, I think since 1981, was the first time I met him at Chicago Comic Convention. And he’s a Minnesota guy, I was Wisconsin, so we were Midwest sensibility, kind of the ‘aw shucks’ guys. We were both kind attuned to what Clark Kent seems like he should be about. But he actually… he and I’d been friends for so long and Dan actually hit the writer/artist thing before I did, early on when he was doing Sun Devils with Jerry Conway. And then, I think Jerry Conway backed off on writing it and just let Dan write it.

Jerry Ordway:
So, I’ve always been, I think, I’ve never felt really competitive with Dan. Because I feel like we’re both kind of on a similar wavelength or whatever. But yeah, when he offered me the idea of making Zero Hour or doing finishes on it, because I had just finished The Power Of Shazam! graphic novel and I was not really looking to get into any heavy duty, and I knew that the regular series wouldn’t start right away anyways. But originally we were supposed to launch Power of Shazam!… issue one was going to launch in the zero issue wave. So, the first one would have been an issue zero, with artist Mike Wieringo, who would have been great, but Mike dropped out very late into it. So it didn’t happen.

Jerry Ordway:
But anyways, Dan had asked me if I would do finishes on this thing. And he figured it would be a light enough workload for me that I wasn’t worrying about writing anything. I would just… I could still change my kids diapers and get up with them in the middle of the night, all that stuff. And it was a fun project to work on in that way. And Dan’s work is fun. He and I had worked together plenty of times. We did covers together. We worked on Superman, obviously. But mostly separately, sometimes together. And I always liked Dan’s layouts. And when you’re drawing comics, I always hit a point where you’re usually working on your own thing and you get sick of what you’re doing. And it happens. Some people just get bored. I don’t get bored, I just get sick of my own layouts or whatever. So, for me, it used to be a way to recharge was to ink someone else’s work for a month or a couple months. It was just a good way to kind of charge my batteries, to see how somebody else handles the storytelling mechanics. How do you solve problems and things like that.

Jerry Ordway:
So that’s how my association with that came about. And I was thinking about with storytelling, not to extend this too much longer, but after Shazam! I did some Tom Strong stuff with Alan Moore, when he was still Wild Storm, I guess, and then DC. And that was one of those things that kind of always was a dream of mine, because I really loved Alan Moore’s work. And Alan was one of the guys who was mentioned as a possible writer, when I knew I was going to do Adventures or Superman, but I didn’t know who I was going to do it with. And at one point the editor said, “Yeah, Alan Moore’s going to write it and you’re going to draw it.” And I was like, “Wow, that would be really amazing.” Because I was a big fan of him from his British stuff. He did Warrior Magazine. Miracle Man was Marvel Man. I just was a huge fan.

Jerry Ordway:
So, it took me several years after that to work with him on Tom Strong, which was fun. It was very hard work, but very fun, because he just is amazing, as far as his ideas and his view. I mean, he can look at a comic page and see right into the far background. There’s not a lot of improvisation working with him. Everything’s described. And Geoff Johns is a little like that. I mean, Geoff is also a really good writer whose also got a visual style. But anyways.

Alex Grand:
Co-creating that Just Imagine Justice League with Stan Lee, how did that project get started? And tell us about these plotting sessions with Stan. And then, how did that work as far as plotting and writing and dialogue? How was that process going there?

Jerry Ordway:
Again, I had a long association with Mike Carlin and Mike Carlin was technically the editor of that 12-issue series. And the only backstory that I know about it is that during that specific year, Stan Lee was dropped from Marvel as editor emeritus, which basically gave him a chunk of money. I mean, he had a deal that I guess Marvel paid him a million dollars a year to be their spokesperson. And when they went through bankruptcy, they found ways to get rid of things, they cut him from that. And Mike Carlin immediately contacted Stan and he said, “Do a 12-issue thing for us and you’ll cover whatever you lost there. You write 12 issues of this Stan Lee Creates the DC Universe.” So then, Mike set out trying to put what he felt were the best and most appropriate teams as collaborators. Joe Kubert did the Batman one. John Buscema did the Superman one. He had Adam Hughes, he had Walt Simonson, he had Dave Gibbons. I mean, it was a really pretty nice group of people. I think Kevin McGuire, myself.

Jerry Ordway:
My story was going to take place, I think it was the fourth one. I don’t know. It was maybe fourth or fifth one to come out, because the other characters had to be established first. And I was given photocopies of everybody’s work and tried to figure out what the characters were about. And then, in preparation for that, just to a little study up. And then I had some ideas, and then I got on a conference call with Mike, Stan, Michael Uslan, who was also helping out in there. And Michael Uslan is the producer of the Batman movies and former DC writer himself. So, the four of us on the phone start throwing around ideas for what is the Justice League as created by Stan Lee? And I think we had one major conversation. And at the end of it, Stan ends it he says, “Well, I think we’ve got everything we need. And he said, Jerry, you don’t need to me to type up a plot. You’ve got everything right there.” And I’m like, “Uh…” because I wasn’t taking any notes.

Jerry Ordway:
And Mike Carlin, he chimed in and he said, “You’ll be good, because we’ve been taking notes all along. So, we’ve got the notes.” So it was good. I had the notes, they just typed up… Mike had the notes typed up in order of how we described the story and then I started drawing it. And I did it in more layout form so that Stan could have some say in if he didn’t like one thing or whatever, it wasn’t going to be like having to redraw the whole thing. But I laid out the whole book and then I put notes, pretty much just like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko did when they worked with him. Put little notes outside the panels saying, “This is what this refers to.” Stan got that, he went through the whole thing. He typed up his dialogue, he made a few changes, which were minor. And then I got the pages back with the lettering on it. And I finished the pages and that was it. It was super smooth. Very smooth process.

Jerry Ordway:
And again, it was a great project. I had met Stan a couple of times in the 80s when I would do the San Diego Comic-Con. At one point he had asked me about working on a… he was doing an Excelsior project for Marvel, it had to be maybe early 90s. And he and I talked about that at the convention. So, I knew him. He knew me a little bit. Again, his memory was pretty bad, but he was always very enthusiastic. And he had, really until the end, he had that kind of enthusiastic delivery. And everything sounded fun. And he could tell you to go paint his car, to cut his grass, his lawn or something. And you would do it, because he just had that kind of energy to him. And it was fun. Again, it was kind of like this feeling of walking with giants. I was lucky enough to work, and to know Jack Kirby a little bit. And I worked with a ton of comic creators, even before my generation, when I was reading stuff, I got to meet Jerry Robinson, was a super nice person. I’ve been very blessed in that sense, of being able to work with older creators that, again, Wayne Boring was another one.

Jerry Ordway:
I worked with a bunch of them when I worked with Roy Thomas. And then on Superman I got to work with a bunch of people too. So it was just another nice experience to work with Stan Lee, in that sense of feeling like you were co-creating or something with him.

Alex Grand:
What projects are you working on, as far as current and future projects? Is there the possibility of any self-produced projects as well? What do you got going on these days?

Jerry Ordway:
Well, actually I do have… I can even… I’ve been doing a self-published comic with a character that I created when I was a teenager. And I’ve been doing them and selling them mostly at comic book shows locally and in the US. And selling some through a link on my Twitter feed, as well. And that’s pretty much the comic stuff that I’m doing right now. I have a thing that I’m pitching with Roger Stern to Marvel, but nothing’s set right now. So, at this point, I’m doing commissions and I’m keeping busy. But I kind of was trying to get some… I guess it’s hard to get going on your own project, because it’s self-funded as well, which is a little harder. So you have to balance taking on some paid work to keep the bills paid and all that. And then, still have momentum to do the book. That’s the hard part.

Alex Grand:
Filippo’s asking if you’ve had any sort of relationship with Italy, as far as visiting? Any sort of professional relationship or personal relationship with anything of Italian culture? What would you have to say about that?

Filippo Marzo:
Or Italian food, absolutely. Pizza, gelato?

Jerry Ordway:
I love Italian food. I actually… it’s kind of funny, when I was working on Shazam! which is, I guess taking it back, in the early days on the internet, lets put it this way… we used to be able to communicate through message board. And in 1992, my daughter was born. So it was around ’92, I was working, I was trying to maintain normal work hours of being in bed by 10 o’clock or something, in the evening. But my daughter was a baby and she was going through… it’s like when your baby is not able to sleep through the night. It takes a while. So this was the first six months of her life. So, at one point, I would get up with her and I got up at like, four in the morning, my time, Eastern United States time. And I couldn’t get back to sleep. She fell asleep in my studio in a little cradle crib thing. But I didn’t want to wake her, so I was wide awake at this point.

Jerry Ordway:
So, I went onto CompuServe, which was an early message board. It was an early way of connecting on the internet, basically with strangers. And they had a comic book board that a lot of other comic book creators were one. So, at four in the morning, I had a conversation with an Italian fan. And the name will pop in. I remember the first name was very distinctive and now I can’t remember it. But we typed messages back and forth for about an hour. And I remember, it’s one of those humbling things as a comic book person in the United States, it’s always amazing to find that my work is known… maybe I’m not a superstar, but my work is known in places that I can’t even imagine. You know what I mean? The power of something like Superman or Batman or Captain Marvel. These things have a reach well-beyond my territory. And I’m always impressed by that, because DC used to supply us with what… we would get foreign reprints.

Jerry Ordway:
So we would get the editions that were done by… I was apparently fairly popular in places like South America and Brazil and places like that, because I had sort of a realistic style. So, they really loved John Buscema and I felt very flattered that they loved my Superman in the same way that they loved Curt Swan’s, but they didn’t like John Byrne, because his work was too stylized or something. But there’s Italian editions of my Superman comics that I have. And the Batman movie book had been translated in practically every language, including, at the time it was a first, there’s a Japanese edition. And Japan was notorious for not importing work. They would generally create their own version of something rather than bring it in. But because it was a big movie it expanded the reach.

Jerry Ordway:
But Shazam! I think I have Italian editions as well. So, I know that the work has been reprinted in many, many places. And I’m a big fan… I’ll tell you though, I would be hard pressed to name names, but I know… because my brain is like Swiss cheese when I think about names. But I know there’s a lot of really fine Italian comic artists. I couldn’t tell you the names, though. I know I’ve got editions of work. But I always used to got Forbidden Planet in New York City… I moved East to Connecticut in the 80s. And one of the first places that I visited with my exec, he was showing me around, he took me write to Forbidden Planet in Lower Manhattan. And I just started buying Judge Dread, I was buying a lot of the French graphic novels. Again, that stuff inspired me to want to do Shazam! the way I did, because I have a bookcase full of all these really beautiful hand-color, painted… they’re watercolor paintings and pencil… same techniques that I’ve tried for.

Jerry Ordway:
So, I’ve always liked the idea of there’s kind of a brotherhood of creative people, and if you like comics, comics feel very universal. It’s not just like… Superman’s really not American specific. He’s a character that belongs to the world. And in a way, Batman is a character. They become so huge and so recognizable, that they belong to more than where they just started. And the reach of my having worked on these things, again, it’s kind of humbling. I never even though I would be able to successfully get into comics as a kid. And then, I’m seeing my work be reprinted all across the world. It’s weird on one hand, but it’s very gratifying type of thing where you could never had… when I was 13 years old, drawing my own little comics, I would never have thought that was even possible. So, its definitely gratifying. And I like the idea of other cultures, because I think there’s always something new to learn.

Jerry Ordway:
I find that while I work I listen to audiobooks and I’ve caught up on books I’ve always thought, “Someday I will read this.” Like, War and Peace, or Crime and Punishment. Those were goals of mine, but I knew that I didn’t have enough time to devote sitting in front of a lamp, or under a lamp and reading a book. So, while I work, as long as I’m not writing, if I’m just drawing, I can listen to audiobooks and still draw. So, but I’ve been reading a lot of World War II history, World War I history. Kind of the history starting in 1900 even, and moving forward. And you get a sense of how things kind of repeat, patterns repeat and types of problems repeat. But it’s always interesting to read things that you go, “Wait, I never knew that.” Because when we go through school and we hear history or whatever it is, you’re getting kind of the short version of everything. Kind of a concise version that leaves out a lot of detail.

Jerry Ordway:
And I find reading World War II or World War I history really fascinating because of how all the different players are involved and how devastated… I mean, like with Italy, reading about the devastation of World War II, we never had that here. So, that perspective is kind of… I guess you feel it more and you feel the horror of war much more, when you realize that we’ve never really… we haven’t fought any of these World Wars in our backyard. They’re always somewhere else. And the destruction’s always somewhere else. But yeah, I think about stuff like that. I like to be open to the culture. I’ve never been to Italy, but I don’t really like flying. I’m not a traveler. I went to the UK that one time and I always thought it would be fun to go back. But getting on an airplane doesn’t appeal to me at all. If they could teleport me, like in Star Trek, I would go there, I would go anywhere.

Jerry Ordway:
Because I always thought it would have been fascinating to see the Egyptian sites, when I was doing Shazam! and I was reading about the temple at Abu Simbel. I mean, that was really interesting. And seeing pictures, they can’t really prepare you for seeing a 40-foot tall statue with the sun hitting something in a specific way or whatever. So, I do… I’m like an armchair travel. I travel through video. But yeah, so, my long-winded answer is, no, I’ve never been to Italy, but I love the idea of it. And I love your culture. And I do know… I wish I could think of names of artists. I have so many collections of different artists. And it usually is the art, or there’s some appeal within the art that grabs me. And so, I don’t even… a lot of this stuff, I don’t think of it, specifically the country of origin in a lot of respects. I just think, “Wow, this is a different perspective.” And you always, as an artist, you can always learn from seeing how somebody else approaches something.

Alex Grand:
Yup. Thank you so much, Jerry. I’ve had a great time.

Jerry Ordway:
Thank you.

Alex Grand:
I’ve read a lot of your stuff and I love your illustration style. You had some commercial art experience in the late 70s and you had this illustration stuff. You did some Golden Book stuff. And I can kind of see that style kind of linger, because you have an illustrative style with what you do.

Jerry Ordway:
Thank you very much.

Filippo Marzo:
Thank you, thank you, thank you so much, Jerry. And thank you for the opportunity.

Jerry Ordway:
Okay, thank you very much.

 

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