Monday, August 1, 2011

The Star Wars Daily Strips - Archie Goodwin Interview #2

As we continue along lets take a look at some excerpts from another interview with Archie Goodwin about his collaboration with Al Williamson. This one was conducted in October 1982 by Steve Ringgenberg and originally published in issue #78 of the Comics Journal.
RINGGENBERG: What did you do for Stan Drake?
GOODWIN: For Stan Drake, nothing. For Leonard Starr, I helped him with writing the On Stage strip. I got involved in this through Al Williamson who's been like...well, he's largely responsible for getting me into comics. It was through Al that I wrote my first published comic book script.
GOODWIN: Yeah. And I did that while I was at art school. Al had seen some of the stuff I had done for class and thought I could write. And it's been one of the few flaws in Al's career for quite a while. He keeps thinking I can write.
RINGGENBERG: Evidently he's thought it for about 17 years.
GOODWIN: Yeah, well, I keep fooling everyone. [laughter] But never myself.
RINGGENBERG: How did you and Al start working together?
GOODWIN: A friend of mine in art school named Larry Ivie was also a big EC fan, and a big cartooning fan. He later published and edited a magazine called Monsters and Heroes, which I think predated Castle of Frankenstein and a lot of the fantasy/comic book oriented magazines. Larry was a lot less shy about trying to get in touch with people than I was and somehow through a mutual friend got Williamson's home phone number and called him up and said "I'm an EC fan, and admirer of yours, and I'd like to meet you." Al thought he was kidding. Back then very few people working in comics knew that there were fans; they were like a novelty then. So instead of hanging up the phone, he invited Larry out to see him.
Eventually, Larry got around to bringing Al around to the apartment building where he and I and a lot of other guys who went to school at Visual Arts, were all living. And Larry is a fairly secretive guy, would never let anybody know what he was doing. I came home from school one day and he was sitting out front. And I said, "What are you doing, Larry?" And he said "Well, I'm waiting for a friend of mine." "Oh, is it another comics fan?" And Larry said, "Well, I guess you could say that." "Oh, who is it? Is it somebody I know from school?" "No, he used to go to this school." "What's the guy's name?" "Oh, it's Al." "Well, if you feel like it drop by, if you want to sit around and talk comics." So a little bit later he drops up with this guy and he says "Hello, Archie, this is Al." I figure this guy's a comics fan, let's kid around with him a little. I said, [sarcastically] "Oh, Williamson?" And he said "Yes." And I went, "oublublub." And that's how I met Al. And we've been sort of friendly ever since.
As a result of knowing us, Al got kind of interested in pushing Larry and me to do stuff. He was working for Harvey then and unhappy with his scripts. I guess they weren't paying much for scripts then. But they offered to let Al come up with his own scripts, so Al suggested we try writing some. And the story "Hermit" that I wrote eventually was, I think, drawn by Reed Crandall and Williamson inked it. That was my first published story.
RINGGENBERG: Was this before or after you went to work for Redbook?
GOODWIN: Oh, this was before. And then, after I got out of school, when I quit for lack of funds, I was just desperate to get some kind of work. Through the school I heard that Redbook was looking for someone to do paste-up and mechanicals. I went up and got the job, which was just going to be a temporary job, but after working with them for a couple of months as a temporary, they decided to hire me. So I started out at Redbook, doing paste-ups and mechanicals, and worked up to doing layout and design for them. In the meantime, while I was working at Redbook, I was still friendly with Al and he began working with John Prentice on Rip Kirby. John shared a studio with Leonard Starr. Leonard happened to mention one day that he would like to get someone to help him with the writing on the strip. And Al said, "Hey, I have a friend who writes."
And Al showed him some stuff I had written and Leonard said "This will do." And so I started working for him on On Stage.
RINGGENBERG: How do you cope with what I assume must be a heavy workload—Epic, working with Al on the Star Wars strip...
GOODWIN: Very badly. I cope with it very badly. I'm a little disorganized, and I'm probably a little bit later than I should be on some of the stuff. And that's generally kind of the way I cope with it. I keep plugging at it until I get it done.
RINGGENBERG: Well, what's your work schedule like?
GOODWIN: I try to save writing the strip for weekends. In a good time, I should be able to sit down and write a week's worth of continuities for the strip in...say, three to five hours. If for some reason I'm having problems with it, which sometimes happens, I'll start seeing little plot complications that when I thought of the story hadn't occurred to me. "Oh, yeah, he should have explained that more." Or I may get stuck on something—a tricky escape or exact character-revealing bit—in which case if I won't get it done over the weekend, I'll get up early in the morning and work on it. Same way if I'm doing some kind of comics project, I'll get up early and start on the stuff and then come in from nine to five and do the Epic stuff.
RINGGENBERG: Can you describe how you work with Al, how you break down the work on the newspaper strip?
GOODWIN: With Al I'm doing essentially full script. Since we've worked together for a long time, I don't do a lot of thumbnails or anything like that, and I don't do a lot of panel descriptions. He knows the characters and is pretty good at coming up with backgrounds so I don't have to worry about that. Or giving him really intricate descriptions. If it's on a new planet, I'll offer some suggestions as to what the planet should look like. Stuff like that. But it's actually pretty much straight script.
RINGGENBERG: How much freedom does Lucasfilm give you on the Star Wars strip?
GOODWIN: I think a good deal of freedom. I try to check out the story line with them in advance and let them know vaguely what we are going to be doing. But they don't really sit over each thing. I send them a copy of my script when I'm done with it. But they've been really good about it.
RINGGENBERG: They're not really censorious the way Disney was?
GOODWIN: I think if they felt that we were doing anything really outlandish or wrong with their characters that they would complain. But on the other hand, I don't think that either Al or I are interested in doing something weird with any of the Star Wars characters.
RINGGENBERG: Do you have any idea what Lucas thinks of your stuff? Do you ever hear from him?
GOODWIN: On Empire, when we finished that, I got a letter from him just saying that he liked it and thought it was a nice job, and I think once that Al may have gotten a phone call from him. On the Blade Runner thing, Ridley Scott phoned Al, to thank him for the job he did on Blade Runner. But just that one letter is all I've gotten from Lucas. What kind of amazes me is that he even has time to see this stuff.

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