RV: What did you find most enjoyable about writing Star Wars comics?
Tom Veitch: I loved that George Lucas gave us "carte blanche" to think up new ideas and stories. The first idea we gave him (this was back in 1989, you understand) was that the Empire had preserved Vader's costume or a duplicate of it, and that they would put somebody else inside it, so that "Darth Vader" could continue to inspire fear and obedience among the far-flung worlds of the Galaxy. George said "no" to that. Our second idea was that the Emperor should continue to live, through the process of cloning. George said "yes" to that.
RV: Have you seen all the Star Wars movies?
TV: Yes. My favorites continue to be the original series (episodes 4, 5, and 6). I thought that George dropped the ball on the prequels -- quite seriously dropped it, in fact. In my view he missed a great chance to make Vader/Anakin a truly tragic Miltonian figure, or even a figure of absolute evil similar to Hitler. In George's mind, we are supposed to feel sorry for the guy, who is portrayed mostly as a misunderstood adolescent. But how can you feel sorry for a character who literally exterminates billions of beings whenever he's in a bad mood? My feeling is that there needed to be more moral condemnation of Vader -- not the squishy sympathy for his self-pitying teenage angst. Lucas was caught on the cusp of a typical Hollywood riddle, of course -- how do you get viewers to identify with your main character as a young boy, but still have him come out the other end as the extreme villain we meet in "A New Hope". Clearly, George didn't find the answer to that one!
RV: "Animal Man" at times was strange, is that how you tried to write it?
TV: Sure. The writer before me wrote it as strange, and I tried to keep it going as strange. My friend Karen Berger was on maternity leave at the time, and I ran into a problem with the editor -- Tom Peyer. He was a writer himself, and it took me awhile to realize he was actively trying to undermine my work out of a sense of competition. To resolve the pain I handed the writing over to Jaime DeLano, who, rightfully following his own preference, made the comic quite dark and disturbed. In retrospect I could have just shrugged off the editor and taken the story to a whole other place.
RV: Do you have any story ideas for a comic of your own?
TV: You might not be aware that I wrote The Light and Darkness War -- a creator-owned comic -- with artist Cam Kennedy, for Marvel/Epic. Other creator-owned comics I did are The Nazz, with Bryan Talbot; Clash, with Adam Kubert; and My Name is Chaos, with John Ridgway. Those series were all done for DC.
RV: Which comic book would you most like to write that you have not?
TV: Dick Tracy. :-) Oh, and Blade Runner, as long as we could use Harrison Ford as a model for the character he played in the movie -- Rick Deckard. Here's another good one: I would like to do the Star Wars prequels as comics, but with my own version of what should have happened!
RV: What was it like writing Elseworld tales were you have to change the character?
TV: The Superman Elseworld was easy and fun, since it was Superman as an old man in a post-apocalyptic world. In the early 1990s I worked on a Batman Elseworld that never got finished when my artist -- Andy Kubert -- jumped over to Marvel.
RV: What factor about writing do you like?
TV: Writing is hard work. But it is creative work, and when the ideas start to flow, it's just heaven. I got the impression that the companies don't really appreciate what it takes to come up with good characters and good ideas. They just say "thanks" and run off to trademark your creation. That's an old pattern, going back to the beginning of American comics. In reality, Siegel and Shuster should own half of Warner Brothers! There's a tremendous amount of exploitation in the comics industry. I saw it happening first-hand -- not to myself, but to others. (I have a pretty good business sense.) The young enthusiastic artists and writers are so hyped on doing comics and seeing them published, they don't notice what's really going on, on the business side. Indeed, the artists and writers are the natural resource that is being endlessly strip-mined by the bean-counters. I have even seen them described that way, in print, by a management guy at Warner Brothers.
When I was doing Star Wars for Dark Horse, they paid us fair royalties. And we earned lots of them -- Dark Empire was Dark Horse's all-time best-selling comic & graphic novel. But their lawyer actually complain to me about the fact I was making more money that he was! Like somehow, in his eyes, being a lawyer was far more important than being a silly comic book writer. Heck, anybody can write a comic, but how many people have what it takes to be lawyers? LOL.
Sometimes these jibonies actually try to write comics, they think it so easy. The results are invariably awful.
RV: Have you ever or would you like to write a novel?
TV: Yes, I wrote a bunch of experimental novels, one which was translated into German -- The Luis Armed Story. Another mind-trip I wrote is called Eat This. You can still find copies of these books around. I also wrote collaborative novels with my friend Ron Padgett. We wrote a book together called "Antlers in the Treetops" that I find hilarious to read, even to this day. It was published by Coach House Press in Canada, back in the 1970s. We gave a reading from this book last summer, at a literary bookstore in Vermont.
RV: Do you like attending conventions?
TV: I used to like going to conventions, especially in London and Glasgow. I don't do conventions anymore.
RV: Who has been the most influential person in your life?
TV: I could tell you, but you wouldn't know him. He was an old monk I met when I was a young Benedictine monk, back in the 1960s.
RV: Do you have any projects for the immediate future?
TV: I'm working all the time on various writing projects. I also operate an antiquarian bookstore, here in Vermont. I love old books.
RV: If you could have one super power what would it be and why?
TV: But I do have super powers! Didn't you know? ;-)
Seriously, the best super-power would be the ability to alter atoms so that you could neutralize all the nuclear weapons in the world.
RV: How can someone contact you?
TV: I'm sorry, I don't need to be contacted right now, except by friends. I know far too many people.
RV: Any last words of wisdom?
TV: Sure. Remember there is really nothing out there -- it's all in your own mind!