John Ostrander: An Interview with the Man Behind the Suicide Squad

Jordan sits down with comics legend John Ostrander!

So if you’ve been following me here for a while you’ll be aware of my love for John Ostrander. I started this writing gig with his Suicide Squad and I continue to write about it, which you can check out here. So it was an absolute joy and honour to be able to interview the man himself. Ostrander is one of my favourite creatives in any medium so being able to talk to him was a surreal dream come true. The following is all the questions I asked Ostrander over our session, I hope you enjoy it.

So it’s something of a tradition here at GateCrashers to ask our guests first of all, what is your go-to sandwich? 

Tuna salad sometimes, otherwise roast beef and I’m afraid I’m a white boy so it’s on white bread with mayo. If a hamburger is also considered a sandwich then absolutely.

We’re now amidst the release of The Suicide Squad. So what are your thoughts on the film? Did you like it? 

Oh yeah very much, it’s not just because I’m in it, and I get thanks at the end. I felt that they captured what I did in the Squad without directly using any of the plots. They used elements that I would use and especially the big one for me was that they made sure that we cared about the characters before they killed them. If there’s no involvement with them then what’s the point? 

Do you see it as a continuation of your run? Because I know James Gunn has said as such. 

I don’t know if it’s a continuation of my run or the previous movie, it’s its own entity. I sorta saw it as what if the Squad was being invented for today rather than 20-40 years ago. I know the gore and violence bothered people but I always felt that was implicit in what we were doing, we just didn’t show it and he does and I think that is appropriate to today. 

Do you think it’s as gory as you would have liked your work to be? I assume when you were writing the Squad you had certain guidelines or were you able to go nuts but chose to reign it in? 

No, there were limits certainly. There wasn’t a comics code at that point but there were certainly editorial limits. It was just understood, there were certain things you just didn’t do. It was only after the Squad began that they started doing mature comics so we sorta predated that. So we’re not going to use that same level of graphic violence that is now being used. 

What was the process like for your cameo? Was it cool going onto the set and seeing Belle Reve and this massive production. 

Oh yeah. Tremendously cool! First of all, they paid my entire way down and took care of me down there. I went and got fitted in my costume I was going to wear that day, that was all nice. Then we went over to the studio itself. As I entered the soundstage, James and his crew were there and as I was walking up to them they started going, “we’re not worthy, we’re not worthy.” I said “stop, stop, stop” *laughs*. That was very generous. I got to watch some of the filming being done that day and they fed me and I gotta tell you I ate very well. The chow there was first-rate. I had my own trailer while I was waiting so that was kinda cool you know?  Then I came out onto the set and did my thing and James tossed me a couple of lines. While we were shooting he suggested some lines for me to say because originally I didn’t have any. He kept one line for the film and typical with his eye he chose the best one so I was pleased with that. Then eventually it was over and I went to the airport and went home. But it was a massive massive undertaking. I didn’t get out to see the beach set but from what everyone was telling me it felt huge. 

Yeah, I think it’s definitely a film that benefits from that scope. I saw it on an IMAX screen, it’s great at that size. 

Yeah, yeah I really wanna do that. 

Do you remember any of the other lines you had to choose from? 

Uhhh, one was I was bringing the needle up, I said “this is gonna hurt a little bit.” I seemed to be pleased by that or at least I chose to be. 

I guess you were in a way the real looming threat over the Squad putting those bombs in their necks. 

Yeah! I mean it did strike me that the doctor’s oath, in general, is first do no harm. Well, he was doing harm so he must have been okay with that. 

The Squad obviously undergoes a lot of change, the movie was a testament to that. What are the elements that you think need to stay constant for it to be a Suicide Squad story?

Well, you’re always dealing with a team that is essentially not a team they don’t really like each other very much. There also has to be an element that anyone of them could die. I also like the Mission: Impossible-type plots. Not necessarily the save the world plots, but more of an espionage-based sorta thing, I kinda like that. You also have to get to know the characters a little bit before you kill them off, so you have some sort of connection with them. Oh, and something has to go spectacularly wrong. I call it going sideways. In the Squad almost always something goes sideways. Sometimes that’s because one of the team members, often Captain Boomerang is pulling something. You see that with the first team at the start of the film where someone pulls a double-cross. I think it’s almost necessary. They aren’t nice people, their motivations are not what’s best for the world but what is best for them you know? What works for them? If they get in the way of the mission so be it!

Of course, your run is popular because of its ability to connect us with characters only for us to watch them die. But were there any characters that you were going to kill but came to love too much? I know you’ve mentioned Deadshot was supposed to die but were there others? 

The trinity if you will, the characters I always threatened to kill but never quite were always Deadshot, Boomerang, and Amanda Waller. There might have been situations where I might have killed any one of them and often I would shoot some of them or they would get harmed so you would think that I would. What took care of that fact really was that during the run I killed Rick Flag, who was supposedly the leader of the Squad. Once I did that the readers went okay he’s serious. So that was a very useful death. That I think is a necessary element for the book. It creates that sense of tension automatically into anything that the Squad is doing. You don’t know who’s going to come out of it or even if the mission would be successful. That helped keep the tension and the interest in the book alive. The very fact that we kept on switching up the membership of the Squad, partially because some would leave and some would die. We kept on changing the makeup of the Squad and that kept it fresh I think as well. 

Did you ever get any heated fan mail about the deaths of certain characters? I imagine Flag could have caused an uproar.

I don’t remember any but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t. We all know the word fan is short for fanatic. If you do something to somebody’s favourite then yeah you are liable to hear about it. I know I would’ve if I was reading a book where somebody killed one of my favorite characters. In fact, you could say that’s where Oracle came from. I like Barbara Gordon and I didn’t like how she wound up at the end of Killing Joke. So my late wife, Kim Yale, and I took her and left her paralyzed, and created a new character out of her. 

I think one thing that your Squad does really well, it’s characters evolving and changing. Characters like Bronze Tiger are very different at the beginning and end of your run. 

Yeah, Count Vertigo is a great example, we showed him as having a tendency to commit suicide himself. The last page of the last issue that I wrote had us resolving that with him choosing to commit suicide or basically have someone kill him who was willing to do it. Basically death by Deadshot. By resolving it that way it was an ongoing question in there. One of my favorite storylines, or bits. It’s not even a storyline it was a bit, the pie in the face gag. We kept that running for what, a year, a year and a half or so?

Yeah something like that, quite a long time. 

Yeah, yeah. I basically wanted to see how far I could stretch it out, Kim was in on it too. 

Where did you get the idea for that pie subplot? 

When you have a book called Suicide Squad you look for places where you can have non-lethal humor. What I liked about was who we selected for the one throwing the pies was Captain Boomerang. What I really liked about it was that it’s the second person who gets hit in the face with a pie was Captain Boomerang. We explained that he made the pie kinda into a boomerang so he tossed it just before he entered the room, acted like he had heard something outside, and then took the pie in the face for himself. That way hopefully everyone would think, “well it can’t be him.” Even the fans, it diverted a lot of people. We had an odd sense of whimsy, humor, and goofiness in something that calls itself Suicide Squad. In a book that was largely pretty serious. We had lots of pretty goofy and silly moments. Two characters I loved playing with, Punch and Jewelee were sheer wacky. We managed to stir that in. 

When you were writing Suicide Squad, how did you go about selecting characters? You mentioned Punch and Jewelee and they were very obscure. I know Boomerang was suggested to you, but were other characters suggested to you, or did you largely select them yourself? 

Captain Boomerang was suggested by Robert Greenberger. At first, I thought, “Captain Boomerang. What a silly-looking person.” But when I got in and realized what his character type was like, the fact that..this is a slight segway to make sure to reel me back in. There was a series of books about a character called Flashman, the author was George MacDonald Frasier. Flashman was originally a guy who was originally in this book way back, ‘Tom Brown School Days’ about an English school. Flashman was a rotter in the book, written by a different author in a different era and the character was eventually tossed out of the book. Frasier picked him up from where he’s tossed out of that book and continues in a series of historical adventures and Flashman never changes. He is a coward, he’s a Letcher, a conman and he succeeds!

It was the first Flashman book I read, halfway through I threw it against the wall because he pissed me off so bad. But then I went back and finished reading and I was a big fan of it. Well okay, Boomerang will be my Flashman. No matter how low he could go there was always another level below that he could sink. He knew what he was and he was happy. He was the best-adjusted person of everyone in Belle Reve. Mainly because he liked who he was, he was happy with it. He just does the other stuff so he can stay out of jail as much as possible. 

In terms of choosing some of the other characters, well yeah I deliberately chose more obscure characters because one of my rules was, if someone is joining the Squad I get to keep them. I get to do whatever I want with them. I can extend their character. I can kill them. For me that was important. That I had to have control over characters. Boomerang was a member of Flash’s Rogue’s Gallery but at that time they were remaking Flash and they weren’t using the Rogues Gallery, so he was handed to me and I said “okay but I get to keep him then” and they said yeah at the time. I would go through Who’s Who and look for those who are silly. Well, not necessarily silly but those who were less known.

There is one in particular who was used in the film that even I never considered using and that’s Polka Dot Man. They did a BRILLIANT job with him, Polka Dot Man was very much in the mode of how I would have chosen to use him. Who’s Who was a good place for me to go in terms of searching out characters. I figured the least known characters were the ones they would let me play with. 

Yeah, that’s something I’ve always loved about the Squad, it fleshes out smaller characters. 

Deadshot’s a good example. He originally had a half-page in the Who’s Who and I used him when Marshall Rogers and Steve Englehart were finished with him in Detective Comics I think, it was one of the Batman titles. They redesigned the costume and I thought the costume was really cool and the Who’s Who only had a paragraph on his background so I could extend it further. The main thing I had with Deadshot was Lawton was two things. I had seen a special with a hitman who had been incarcerated, he had the coldest eyes I had ever seen. His whole attitude was “I don’t care if I die so why should I care if you die?” It’s not that Lawton was suicidal it was just that he just didn’t care whether he lived or die. As a result, if his life didn’t mean anything to him, yours didn’t mean anything to him either. 

You’ve hit on something there as well. You started out as an actor and your work has quite a strong focus on character psychology. Do you think your background as an actor fed into your writing? 

Oh yeah absolutely, absolutely. My time in theatre I was an actor, I was a playwright, I was a director, I was a teacher. I’ve done most of the jobs you could think of in theatre, I’ve done tech stuff as well. So I knew theatre very well and knew it to be a very collaborative medium, which is what I brought to the book as well. The idea that it was a collaboration. I told the others, I told Luke, I told Karl Kessel, I told anyone who was working on it, including Bob Greenberger, that if they had an idea I wanted to hear it. I might not use it but if they had an idea for the Squad I was open to listening to it.  We were a band and everyone in the band brings something different to it. All of that definitely came from theatre.

My whole sense of dramatic structure came from actively working in dramatic structure. One of the biggest things I had from my college days at University where I did theatre was a guest teacher who came in for one semester. A brit named Harold Lang. He had been in some films, basically small supporting films but he was also a brilliant teacher, just the best I had in anything, and the fact that he was in theatre was great. One of the things I remember him telling us was “you have a right to fail.” You have a right to try something and have it not work, don’t be afraid of failing just learn from what you do. That and also working with Del Close as a writer taught me to take more risks. It taught me that if it goes wrong it goes wrong. 

You’ve said that you initially wanted to be a priest although I believe you’ve also said you aren’t catholic now. But your work includes a lot of catholic themes and undertones with Father Craemer in Suicide Squad and especially with Spectre. Why is it that you draw on this religious aspect?

Okay, let me explain that real quickly. I went to seminary for my freshman year in high school that came from an overdose of watching Going My Way and not the movie, the television series around at the time. It starred Gene Kelly and Leo G Caroll. I was raised a catholic boy and raised in a catholic school. You may entertain thoughts of being a priest, so I thought I had a vocation. I went off to seminary in freshman year. I discovered girls and that I didn’t have a vocation and left. Going to seminary was an indication that I had an interest in those kinds of questions but it didn’t really inform much of what I did. The interest in those sorts of things was not even because I was catholic but just because of who I am. I had an interest in that to begin with and having done that, that continued to be a part of me. It continues to be a part of me today. I call myself an RC which is Reformed Catholic instead of Roman Catholic. I’m an agnostic in general and an atheist in specific but the questions still interest me so that will be a part of my work I think always. 

I did it in a book I recently did for Kickstarter as well with Tom Mandrake, KROS: Hallowed Grounds where we combined vampires and the Civil War. 

I only learned this recently, that your Suicide Squad used the Marvel method. What was that like creatively? Do you prefer that style of writing? 

It could be a switch. We switched methods along the way. Marvel method is also called plot first and what is called DC method is script first, but both Marvel and DC have used them. Plot first means you just plot it out and hand it to the penciller and they pace it basically and it comes back to you for dialoguing. What I like about that is that it allows me to work off of the art better, the expressions, and what’s going on, it allows things to end better. On the other hand, script first is just what it sounds like. I do the whole script, breakdowns, panels, pages, sound effects, captions, sound effects the whole thing is there on the page for the artist. Some artists prefer that and some don’t. I’ve done both on Squad, about halfway through my run I think DC wanted us to do more full script. 

Were there any moments an artist threw in that surprised you or you thought were particularly good? 

Luke was and is a wonderful storyteller. When I work with an artist I work to what I perceive their strengths and things that they like to do. Luke’s is, particularly as a storyteller. One that stands out to me is Flag goes off the rails and decides to assassinate an American senator who is blackmailing the Squad. Waller has already taken care of it unbeknownst to Flag. She sends the entire Squad out to stop him, by whatever means necessary which is what she says. Deadshot is the one who solves the situation in his own inimitable manner. The way Luke did that was simply stunning. I’ll also say when we did the Deadshot mini-series Luke inked himself and that is where I think we see the definitive Luke McDonnell art. He’s had other inkers who are very very good, no question about it. But there’s something about what Luke inks himself. You ask something sometimes from artists and what they give you is twice what you ask for. 

Your Squad work had a lot of crossovers. Did you find it frustrating to constantly tie into different events or did you enjoy playing the Squad off of other futures in the DC Universe?

I enjoyed some more than others. There was one, I think it was Millenium. It was coming out weekly. There was one week where virtually every book I was then writing was then tied into this one moment. I think it was Engelhart that was writing the center book, he had a vacation and he went off to it. So we had like two sentences telling us what that week was about. So I ended up having to plot the thing over and above that. So that got a little tough. Sometimes some of the tie-ins were more difficult than others. The sheer amount of them was tough. But then we did it to ourselves as well. We did sort of a mini crossover with all of the covert action groups with Checkmate, Peacemaker. We did our own crossover between the books. That I brought on myself. So I have no complaints about it. 

I recently did an article on every death in the Suicide Squad’s history and there are a lot of Firestorm villains in there. Was that just because you were writing Firestorm at the time and you had free reign or did you have some sort of vendetta against his Rogue’s Gallery? 

I was writing Firestorm, it was less complicated using some of those villains. Especially if I wasn’t going to use them again. So I could kill them off with impunity and no one would complain cause I was the writer on Firestorm. You gotta be careful with writing Squad some time though. It’s not about killing the characters, it’s a story in which characters die. But we had to treat it as though there were real deaths. There was only one character I brought back from death and that was Rick Flag. But that was planned, I had the backdoor prepared when I wrote his death. I think now I wouldn’t bring him back, I would just leave him dead. 

Oh interesting. Why do you think that is? 

I think it was more effective when we killed him off. Bringing him back sorta undercut that so now I think “eh shouldn’t have done it.”

Of course, your stories aren’t all about villains. They also feature a cast of regular human characters as well. Not just Waller but Flo, LaGrieve, Briscoe, and John Economos. What made you want to flesh out this supporting cast as much as you did? Do you think they’re important to the dynamic of the book?  

Yeah! One of the things I wanted to do when I did Squad was that I wanted to have a large support team. Any group that’s together like Justice League like Avengers would have to have a support staff, secretaries doing office work, mechanics working on their plane. I mean how does Batman find the time to keep all his gear in working order? Again that’s one of the things that led to the creation of Oracle. We figured at the time that if we did her right she would be very handy within the DC Universe, and other writers would want to use her. Because she helps solve a problem many times. You have a story where the main character has to learn something, the question comes if they do that how do they know to do that? Well instead of spending time in their own story with it, they just put a quick call to Oracle and she digs in her computer, finds it out, and gives it back to ‘em. Boom and you’re off and running, back into the fight scene which you’re ready to do. I think that’s a useful thing to have within a comic book universe. 

Your Squad run is quite political in a lot of ways. Do you think the politics of those stories still hold up? 

Some of it is gonna be dated, it’s the politics of the time so it’s gonna be dated but unfortunately, some of it is still very apt to today. The story we would do, say, with Soviet Russia. Interesting reading. I was just watching part of Hunt for Red October again last night and that’s dated in the sense that you don’t have the Soviet government anymore but it’s still a compelling story and it’s really easy to get sucked into it. Some of the politics on it are still bang-up. In the Squad, we did a story with a character called Willaim Hell, who was using the trappings of being a superhero to basically foment strife between the races. Yeah, I’m sorry to say that’s very apt for today. The very start of the Squad had a sequence that I don’t think I would be allowed to do today. It’s this superpowered terrorist group attacking an airport, right on the first pages. They wreck Air Force One, looks like they kill the president, they kill lots of people in the terminal. I’m not sure that DC would let me do that today.

Soon after your Squad work, you wrote another lengthy run with Spectre. Of course, that’s a character that is a far way away from the grounded black ops missions of the Squad. What was it like shifting from a more grounded series to one about an all-powerful figure? Was that difficult for you? 

Oh not terrifically. The way you can do a lot of different books a month is by making sure each one is different. We have different sides to our personalities. An analogy I heard once that I thought was good was that you hold a diamond up to the light and turn the facet, you see something slightly different in each facet. I think that’s true of our personalities. So the Spectre brought out one side of me, Suicide Squad brought out another. Each book I was doing enabled me to bring out something different in myself and keep me interested.

Spectre was something that I had long wanted to do. There was something about the visuals of that character. Someone kept on telling us that well you can’t keep the Spectre interesting very long. You either have to reduce his powers or you repeat yourself and you’ll be done in a year. Tom Mandrake and I, we talked about and we knew exactly what to do. You have to keep the visuals because that’s what draws people to the book in the first place, the iconography as I call it. 

We said the problem is not in the Spectre. It’s in Corrigan. We had a couple of rules. First of all: different people have brought Corrigan back to life and said he was a host for the Spectre who was an entirely different entity.  We said mmmm no. Corrigan is dead he was killed in the 30s, he’s still dead, he’d been dead all that time. He was a hardboiled plainclothes detective back in the 30s. To know what that is you go back and read early Dick Tracy, you read some of the novels and newspapers at the time of what these guys were like. That’s what we modeled Corrigan on. He was still that. He was still that hard-boiled personality but he had a story arc as a result.

Usually, you gotta change before you die, but in Corrigan’s case, it’s the afterlife that ended up changing him and enabling him to come where he is at the end of the series. Tom and I had that figured out from early on in the run so we knew what we wanted to do and we got a chance to do it. DC said, “the numbers are slipping, so we’re probably gonna end the book in about a year.” We said great. We’ll use that year to wrap things up, which is what we did and they let us do what we wanted at the very end for the character. It made the entire series into one big story, and we’re very pleased with that. 

One thing I like about your work is that you bring in characters from each of your runs. So Tolliver and Zastrow appear in Firestorm and move to Suicide Squad. Father Craemer appears in Suicide Squad and moves to Spectre. Why is it that you shuffle around these smaller supporting characters? 

Because it’s one universe. I respect continuity and I use it quite a bit but I’m not a slave to it. There are those who every period and every comma has to be adhered to. Well not if it gets in the way of a good story. That’s why I would bring characters in, it was one universe and I tried to reinforce that when I can, so much again that it doesn’t get in the way of a good story.

Of course you also wrote the delightful Martian Manhunter series again alongside Tom Mandrake. But after your run, the character hasn’t enjoyed such a lengthy series. Why do you think that is? Do you think he lacks something that other heroes like Flash or Batman have to stand alone? 

Maybe it’s because he’s an alien and he looks alien. This is also the approach when we started work on it. It’s that he started as a green Superman. His powers are very similar. Instead of Kryptonite, he’s afraid of fire. It’s essentially the same thing. So we wanted to explore how he was different and there were a few key ways. The telepathy, being able to phase through things and a few more stuff but also fire had to be a psychological question rather than a physical question.  We wanted to find out how he’s different. Also, another major difference is that Superman was born on Krypton but came to Earth as a baby and was raised as a human. So his values are human, his culture is humanity.  Yes, he has access to Kryptonian culture through the Fortress of Solitude but his values are those of Kansas, the Midwest. That’s how he was raised and that forms him as much as his powers, maybe more.

J’onn Jonzz on the other hand comes to earth as a full adult. He is completely shaped by Maritan society and its way of handling things, we explored some of that. You know if you have a planet of telepaths, what are the rules? How does that form society? You’re not allowed into another person’s mind, except in Crisis unless you were invited. The fact that you can phase through things means that he didn’t have stairways, he would float up and down. He wouldn’t need a door he would phase into the place. We just wanted to think, what are the logical extensions of what we know? A friend of mine, Jim Murdock over in Ireland. Hello Jim! He’s told me he really likes Spectre but he likes Martian Manhunter even more. It’s not so much a fantasy thing, it’s science fiction as Spectre was. 

While you are probably most well known for your work at DC you have also done numerous creator-owned projects like Grimjack. Now Grimjack is being adapted by the Russo Brothers? What about Grimjack do you think makes it prime for film and what are you excited for audiences to see.

Well with Grimjack it goes right back to the beginning, back when I submitted it to First Comics. There was really nothing like it on the market. When it was being evaluated I was told they liked the idea, they liked the concept but it was an older character, could the reader relate? He was grim, he was gritty, that wasn’t the norm at the time. In fact, they told me at first, “well we’re gonna start him off in the back of another book, Starslayer” which was another book I was writing. “In two years maybe three, if there’s enough support we’ll spin him out into his own book.” Well, Grimjack went into his own book 8 months after he first appeared.

Yes, there is a level of violence and brutality again of the anti-hero. I had people who had problems with what they did and Grimjack said “well that wasn’t very heroic.” I said, “I never told you he was a role model.” I considered him to be a compelling character and he was in the hardboiled mode. I like hardboiled fiction a lot, I wanted to combine that again with science fiction, with sword and sorcery in a way. I came up with a hardboiled barbarian. It’s what I call narrative alloys, you take one thing from one genre and something from another genre and patch them together and I think that can be really interesting. One of the Star Wars books I did was at Dark Horse, I melded James Bond with Star Wars, which I think worked out rather well. 

That was another question I had! You’re pretty well known for your extensive catalog of Star Wars work. A lot of it deals with concepts and characters very different from Star Wars as we know it. Did Dark Horse give you a lot of freedom for this or did you have to conform to certain ideas about what Star Wars was? 

With anything that we did and that includes me and Jan and everybody at every stage, it had to be approved by Lucas licensing. So it not only had to go through our editor but also through Lucas licensing and then come back to us with any notes that they had. The thing is, first of all, I had a lot of reference books on Star Wars, I knew Star Wars pretty well. I was a fan before the first movie came out because I had read the first novelization and said “oh this is kinda cool, I’ll have a look at the movie.” And I was floored when I saw it and became a fan. Jan knows Star Wars even better than me. We would put our stuff together, Jan would put the plot together with me because it worked out better that way. Sometimes we would get notes back from Lucas licensing and they said well we would like to change this because of this, this, and this.

We said, “yes we can, we could do that and we can do that if you really want us to but something like this happened in this movie, in this book, in this comic.”  So this we saw as just an extension of what had already been done. Lucas would almost always go and look back and go “you’re right go ahead.” Eventually, it got to the point where they really did trust us to know and love and know what to do for a real Star Wars story. For all, we did we were really running and gunning for the real Star Wars feel to the stories that we were doing. So they ended up trusting us a great deal. 

You’re the creator of Amanda Waller. She’s appeared in so many comics, cartoons, and movies. What do you think the legacy of the character is? 

Well first of all there was no like Amanda before and I don’t think there’s really been anyone like her since. We’re talking about the grey areas, Amanda has vast areas of grey *laughs* things. But also to head the Squad I wanted a woman, I wanted her to be black and I wanted her to be rough to middle age. Because again there is no one like that and there were very few characters of color at the time in comics. She also had to have no powers. Her power had to be her mind and her will, which proved to be more than enough. I think she’s stuck around because there’s not really been anyone like her since then. She has all the ruthlessness of Lex Luthor but she does have a certain moral sense as well. She’s perfectly willing to use these bad guys and send them to their dooms if need be. But she won’t do it gratuitously. Only if she felt it was really necessary.

If she finds some political hack is trying to use the Squad, as does happen, then she gets furious because these are her people. As bad as they are, these are her people and she’s not going to waste them. She’s a complex character because a lot of people thought she was the worst villain in the whole lot. You can love her, you can hate her and you can do both at the same time and that makes her compelling because we know people like that in our real lives.  There are very few people who are just terrific all the time, everybody has their shadows. Letting you both love and hate Amanda lets you explore that within yourself.   

You of course tend to write very flawed characters be it Rick Flag, Spectre, or Grimjack. What is it that draws you to such morally grey figures?

I think it’s truer to life. Everyone I know is a mixture there is no one who is all good and all evil. It’s certainly aspects of myself. I think even if you are writing fantasy you want at least one foot firmly planted in reality so people can identify with it. Again so people can use the dark aspects of it.The reader may go “yeah sure I felt that.” In doing that they can be more open to the character even if the character is pretty fantastic. I mean take a look at Grimjack, he’s working out of a multidimensional city, he has a pet lizard named Bob who drinks and Grimjack works out of a bar. I want people to identify not only in terms of their ideals but in how they live and who they are, by touching up our grey areas. Well, we all have our grey areas. 

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