Interview – Paul Levitz of DC Comics

We talk to DC's former publisher on his new book and return to writing.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Interview - Paul Levitz of DC Comics

For anybody involved with comic books, the name Paul Levitz is as well known as Batman or Spider-Man. A long time veteran in the trenches of DC Comics, Levitz started his career in the early seventies and has been a long time fixture working as a writer, an editor and now as Contributing Editor And Overall Consultant for DC Entertainment. I became a fan of Levitz work reading his run on The Legion Of Superheroes and Justice Society in All Star Comics.

 

These days Levitz is back in the saddle writing for The Legion as well as working on a historical book about DC Comics titled 75 Years Of DC Comics: The Art Of Modern Mythmaking. I got a few minutes with Mr. Levitz to ask about his book, The Legion Of Superheroes and a few other questions I’ve always wanted to ask.

 

CRAVEONLINE: A year or more later, how are you enjoying your new position at DC?

 

PAUL LEVITZ: I’m enjoying the writing thoroughly – glad to have a positive reception for most of it, and the reaction to Taschen 75 YEARS OF DC project was astounding. Still challenged by the different work style, but that’ll develop over time.

 

CRAVEONLINE: When you were approaching the new Legion book, how did you go about taking the long history and compressing it into something new readers could enjoy?

 

PAUL LEVITZ: In a post-Google world, I didn’t – my goal was to write the issues so they were enjoyable to a new reader as well as an old one, and if you wanted to know more, these days it isn’t hard to find out.

 

CRAVEONLINE: Who is your favorite member of the Legion to write?

 

PAUL LEVITZ: Whoever’s life I’m changing at the time.

 

CRAVEONLINE: Do you prefer writing team books to single heroes? Why or why not?

 

PAUL LEVITZ: I always preferred reading them and writing them—I like the greater uncertainties (you know in Superman comic the hero will survive; in a team book, the jeopardy is realer), the ability to establish a complex minuet of characters coming onstage and off, and the overall dynamic.

 

CRAVEONLINE: Were you excited to get back into writing the Legion? How did the idea of you picking up the series come about?

 

PAUL LEVITZ: Glad to be back. Dan was looking for a new legion writer at the time I was moving away from the old gig, and I was offered the opportunity.

 

CRAVEONLINE: Your new book 75 Years Of DC Comics: The Art Of Modern Mythmaking seems like a massive undertaking, talk to me a little about the origin behind this book.

 

PAUL LEVITZ: When we began making plans for DC’s 75th, a coffee table book was an immediate prospect…a number of publishers were approached about three years ago, and ultimately Taschen became our partner. Their art director and editor (Josh Baker and Nina Weiner) began working with DC’s Steve Korte to look at the range of available material, formats, and structure. Again, luckily for me, no writer was in place when I became available, and I was able to step in and spend a year working on the book’s written material.

 

CRAVEONLINE: How do you approach something that covers so much history?

 

PAUL LEVIRZ: Carefully. It’s a such a complex story you know good people and projects will be left out inadvertently no matter how carefully you do it (and I’ve certainly had to apologize to one or two friends on that account) but you want to minimize that potential.

 

 

CRAVEONLINE: Did you learn anything new while putting the book together?

 

PAUL LEVITZ: Lots of little tidbits, down to the first DC being printed in my hometown of Brooklyn!

 

CRAVEONLINE: What is your personal favorite era of DC Comics? Why?

 

PAUL LEVITZ: When I was a kid, of course…and I was lucky enough that I came in at the height of the Silver Age, and was still a naive and happy consumer in the magic summer of ’68, when carmine’s first wave of experiments crested. What fun!

 

CRAVEONLINE: As the once editor for Batman comics. What are your feelings on the new Batman Incorporated direction of the series?

 

PAUL LEVITZ: Part of the joy of comics is how each generation builds a new city on the foundations laid by the previous. I hope Matt, Grant and the guys are having as much fun as I did, and leave as lasting a footprint as Denny did.

 

CRAVEONLINE: Since you started in comics, what do you feel are the best and worst changes over the years?

 

PAUL LEVITZ: The best is the fact that talent have a fair piece of the economic action, and thereby have been motivated to do much more venturesome work. The worst? Well, changes in distribution and tastes have led most of comics’ sales to retreat to a smaller core audience, rather than being the universal experience it was when I was a kid. I hope that will change back, and have been glad to see progress on that front,

 

CRAVEONLINE: Your feelings on the digital comic book age. Will it one day replace paper?

 

PAUL LEVITZ: Hope not—I love paper. But whatever form comics take, it’s ultimately the storytelling that creates the magic.

 

CRAVEONLINE: I’m a huge Aquaman fan. Why do you think over the years that Aquaman has gotten such a bad rap and been so hard to find a constant audience for?

 

PAUL LEVITZ: I dunno—I enjoyed writing him, and he was perhaps my first success as super-hero writer.

 

CRAVEONLINE: Is there a Marvel hero you’d like to write for if given the chance?

 

PAUL LEVITZ: Always been a great AVENGERS fan, but I don’t think that day is likely to come around.

 

CRAVEONLINE: Why do you think so many comic book movies seem unable to capture the magic of these characters? Do you think they are a good or bad things for comics in general?

 

PAUL LEVITZ: A good comic book movie is great for comics, be it DARK KNIGHT or IRON MAN, or even on a smaller scale AMERICAN SPLENDOR. There have been so many of them in recent years, and fewer failures, but it’s still hard to move from one medium smoothly to the other, and the things that make comics magical aren’t necessarily the same as make for a good movie (or a commercially successful one).