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A Short Interview With Will Pfeifer
posted January 26, 2008
 

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*****

I knew very little about the writer Will Pfeifer before I decided I wanted to interview him, although what I did know was kind of intriguing. I knew he had a full-time job as a newspaperman. I knew that although he'd gotten his start on the well-liked Vertigo series Finals, he had written nothing like it since. Instead he had become a dependable and respected writer of superhero comics, building a resume from a mix of short runs, one from-the-ground-up project (HERO), and now as an increasingly tenured writer on the Catwoman book. That last assignment has its own challenges: Pfeiffer and his collaborators must operate to the Ed Brubaker-era conceptualization one would guess so as to continue the book's positive aspects from that run, but must avoid directly aping those comics and tiring the audience. Pfeifer also wrote one of the more poorly received mini-series from the recent past, a mini-series called Amazons Attack! where Wonder Woman's countrypeople attack Washington, DC. His good humor in confronting some of that book's many critics and his insistence that it still worked closed the deal, I think. I'm glad I took the time to call. He seems like a good guy, modest and intelligent, a lot like the other newspaper people I know. -- Tom Spurgeon

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imageTOM SPURGEON: One thing that occurred to me as a first question is I was looking at a list of books you've done, and you started with Finals. And then there's nothing on the rest of the list that's remotely like Finals.

WILL PFEIFER: I know. You're completely right. Finals was the first book I did; I did that with Jill Thompson back in 1999. Then, there was a year or two where I didn't do a whole lot else. And then, the door that seemed to open was more of a standard superhero comics kind of door. I'd love to do something else like Finals, but my plate has been full and the opportunity hasn't presented itself since then.

SPURGEON: So were you always interested in working in comics no matter what the type, or were you thwarted from working on projects similar to Finals and just kind of fell into the other kinds of comics?

PFEIFER: I think after Finals, which, to be honest, did OK but didn't exactly sell through the roof, I pitched a few other ideas. I really liked working with Joan Hilty, who was my editor on that book. But nothing caught on then, so I kept in touch. Eventually someone else at DC got my name, and eventually it led to what became HERO. They needed a writer on a superhero book, and I was that guy. I was happy to be that guy. I enjoyed doing it. I'd be happy to do either type of book.

SPURGEON: You've talked in the past about doing small-press comics, so I wondered about your connection to superhero books. When you were doing those early books, was eventually doing mainstream superhero titles part of your conception of what you might end up doing in comics?

PFEIFER: I first started doing small press comics back in '85 or '86 when I was in college. I did them just for fun. I'd always drawn comics when I was a kid, but I really enjoyed that with small press comics that you could do them and get some feedback -- some other people would actually see them. I was a big fan of comics -- I'd read them since I could remember -- but I never really thought I'd write them professionally.

imageWhen I was going to college at Kent State, I was friends -- and still am -- with Jay Geldhof, who did a lot of comics in the late '80s, early '90s. He worked on Grendel on a couple of the runs. He and I had always bounced around the idea of working on a character he created way, way, way back for a Fantagraphics anthology called Threat! called Bob Mercenary. We'd planned out this whole nine-issue series. He was going to do the art, and we were going to co-write it. Because we both had a lot of other things going on around then, it never happened. I had always thought that if I was going to get into comics, it would be through that kind of side door. Looking back, I don't know who we would have sold the book to if we had actually come that far.

SPURGEON: We're talking on your writing day, the day you're not at your full-time job. You're kind of known for having a job that's different from writing comics. It's more of a common thing in strips than in comic book for someone to have a full-time, salaried job. Although maybe you know of other people in your situation?

PFEIFER: I don't really know too many other people. The reason I have the full-time job and have kept it is because I had the full-time job long before I got any kind of regular work in comics. And by the time the comic book worm took off, I had a house, and now I have a kid. And so -- especially with the comics market the way it is -- it would be a leap to give up regular income with health benefits. [laughs] Might not be the smartest move right now.

The plan has always been that when my daughter hit kindergarten age, which will be in about three and a half years, to maybe try and go full time in comics. We'll have to see if the comics industry is still around then. [laughter]

SPURGEON: I read in another interview you saying that you intended to explore that option, writing full-time in comics, and I thought that a pretty confident statement.

PFEIFER: I'd like to. There's been time since I've been working regularly that I've turned down certain jobs in comics just because I wasn't ready to quit my full time job, and I didn't want to take on so much comics work that I'd be blowing deadlines left and right or it'd be crappy and rushed. It's something I still struggle with sometimes, because I'd like to go full time in comics. I just don't think I'm ready for that yet. Especially with my daughter still in day care -- which is more expensive than I ever would have imagined. [laughs]

SPURGEON: Do you think there's anything about having a full time job that orients yourself to the comics writing a bit differently than other people? For instance, maybe you don't press for work, or maybe this allows you to develop more effectively without being overworked?

PFEIFER: I can see what you're saying. On the one hand, it's nice not to be scrambling for work. When I knew HERO was getting canceled and I knew I was leaving Aquaman, I also knew when I went to the Wizard World show that summer that I wanted to talk as many editors as I could to try to get something lined up. But it wasn't that I had to or I'd have no money. [Spurgeon laughs] Having a full-time job does let you pick and choose a little bit more. If there's a project that comes along and you don't think you're quite right for it, you don't have to grab it because it's there and it's something that will pay the mortgage next month. And it's not just money. I work at a newspaper, where I've worked since college. I'm around other people all day. I hear people talk. I think as a writer the more you're out in the world and dealing with other people, it can only help your writing. And with newspaper experience, I can deal with a deadline on a daily or an hourly basis. [laughter] So I'm pretty good at hitting that monthly deadline. That's something that working at a newspaper definitely taught me.

SPURGEON: You know, that's a whole industry worried about decline.

PFEIFER: Yeah, I'm in two industries like that. [laughs]

SPURGEON: Is there any way the two situations compare? There's an almost apocalyptic sense in both fields.

PFEIFER: There really is. The common thread between both of them is that they seem to be pinning more and more hopes on the Internet. Our newspaper has shifted from calling it a newsroom to a quote-unquote "information center." If we get a story, breaking news or not, we'll put it up on the web site, and then at the end of the day we worry about what goes into the print newspaper. It's a good plan, and it's definitely shifting resources to the Internet. But like in the comics industry, the one thing I wonder is if there's any money to be made from that -- especially enough money to pay the salaries of the people working at the newspaper. In newspapers and comics, the two main costs are the same: personnel and newsprint. The prices on both are going up. I do see a lot of similarities. The Internet has hurt both industries but both industries hope it will be their salvation. They're both putting a lot of focus into that area.

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SPURGEON: I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about your Catwoman work. What about your writing previous to that assignment do you think got you that gig?

PFEIFER: The editor when I first started working on that book was a guy named Matt Idelson, and he had worked with Joan Hilty. I think he saw a certain sense of humor he saw in my work, and maybe liked some of the things I brought to HERO about a superhero or somebody in a costume that's out of their element. How they're living in this big DC Universe-type world, and how they cope with it on an individual basis. I think somehow Matt thought that would fit in well with Catwoman. She's sort of a step apart from the rest of the superheroes in the book. A) She's mostly a criminal, and B) the way I see her and the way I think Ed Brubaker tried to write her is that she looks at the craziness of the whole DC Universe with a sideways glance like she can't really believe it. It's fun to write a character with that perspective.

SPURGEON: Is there anything difficult about coming onto a character where you have a recent run that was so well-received? That seems to me quite different than coming onto a book where the reference points are 60 years old. With Catwoman, the character's been around for 60 years, but a lot about what the character means right now hinges on this much more recent work by Ed Brubaker -- by Darwyn Cooke as well. Do you have to have reverence for that recent material?

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PFEIFER: I don't know if it's reverence... I was a big fan of the book. I was reading the book long before I ever got the chance to write it. I tried to take the elements that I enjoyed reading -- the intelligence of the character, the careful plotting that Ed would do, the cast of characters -- those elements, and tried to bring that along in my scripts. I don't know if it was a conscious process, or almost organic, but as I would write issue after issue and plot out story arcs, I would bring in things I liked. I think I had more action, more over the top superhero elements running through my books, maybe a little more humor, maybe a different kind of humor. Eventually, and I couldn't pinpoint how or when, I just sort of made it my book because I was writing what I wanted to read. It is a little tricky to come onto a book that was definitely seen as someone else's book, and especially as Ed's book. It helps that when I came in Pete Woods was the new artist. It's always nicer when everything changes instead of "here's the new guy." Then people don't expect you to be so much like the old guy.

SPURGEON: How important is it to consciously bring in elements that are yours? Or is it all unconscious? Do you need to do put your own stamp on it in order not to become a caretaker for someone else's work?

PFEIFER: I think there is an ownership process. I think you can tell when someone is trying to do over and over again what was done before. When I was writing Aquaman... I only did eight issues. But taking over a book that nine million people had written --

SPURGEON: -- and nobody liked. [laughs]

PFEIFER: Well, yeah. The thing about comics was that in comics he's seen as kind of a joke -- rightly or wrongly. But my Mom knows who Aquaman is. Everybody knows who Aquaman is. You know? I remember I was writing that book and Pete Tomasi, who was the editor, he said, "It's your book now. Write what you want. You're the writer." That was one of my early assignments, so that was a good lesson to learn. When you write the book it is your book, you're determining it. With a situation like DC, there's a lot of continuity that sort of limits what you can do, and there are big events that come along that you have to be a part of. But you're the guy they're paying to come up with ideas to write the book. It's a pleasure -- and it's your responsibility to make it your own.

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SPURGEON: In the One Year Later narrative jump that hit Catwoman and a lot of other DC books, Catwoman had a daughter. And it seems like since then a recurring theme has been baby in danger stuff. I couldn't help but remember that in the not-so-recent past you brought home a daughter of your own.

PFEIFER: Right. It would have been April of 2006 that we brought home Allison from China.

SPURGEON: So was this just a massive working off of baby protection paranoia that you had?

PFEIFER: The timing [laughs] was a complete coincidence. The idea of Selina having a baby came from on high. They wanted something dramatic for the One Year Later jump. At first Matt Idelson and I were like "I don't know..." there's so many cliched situations you end up doing. And then the more I thought about it, the more I saw it as a big step, one that could be fun to write and might show another side of Catwoman's character. Meanwhile, my wife and I were in the middle of the adoption process, which is a long, complicated process. Those things just happened to be going on at the same time. [laughs] But then Allison and Helena arrived around the same time.

imageSPURGEON: Better Catwoman pregnant than Batman, I suppose.

PFEIFER: Everyone thought, "Oh, it's going to be Batman's baby." It never was going to be Batman's baby, and I never thought anybody would ever think it was going to be Batman's baby. Let's face it, if Batman's going to have a kid, it's going to be in the Batman comic books. That's just how comic books work.

SPURGEON: I had Alfred in the pool.

PFEIFER: There you go! That would have been funny. We bounced around who it was going to be. It ended up not being that important. The baby was the story, not the father.

imageSPURGEON: So the baby in peril stuff didn't really play with the worries and fears you have as a new father.

PFEIFER: It wasn't so much baby fears... Allison was nine months old when we adopted her, but a baby relies on you for everything. Not just food and a place to live. But to make sure the baby gate is closed on the steps. Making sure you don't leave a pair of scissors on the floor... I guess it's just more I that realized that for someone in Catwoman's line of work how dangerous it would be for a baby. If before she had the baby she's being attacked by these random villains, then after the baby is born they're going to go for the baby to hurt her. That's where a lot of those situations came up. But I also knew how cliched putting the baby in jeopardy is. I know as a new father how it's almost a taste issue. Put the baby in danger too many times -- I'm not going to say I'd have a moral problem writing like that, but it does start to feel weird. [Spurgeon laughs] To milk the reader's feelings by torturing the baby.

When Selina had the baby, there was never any doubt the baby would be gone eventually. She wasn't going to have the baby forever. But right from the beginning I said I don't want to kill off the baby. I didn't see the point of a dead baby in the book. She was never going to be there forever, but she wasn't going to die, either.

SPURGEON: A lot of your peers have talked with me about superhero comics as a way of examining the notion of responsibility, and it seems this might fall into that sort of discussion, the obligations you have for a child. It would have been odd for her to keep it around.

PFEIFER: I don't know if you read the last issue where she gave up the baby, but to me that was the responsible thing to do. She could have given up being Catwoman -- except for the fact that the book is called Catwoman -- so that wasn't going to happen. [laughter] I tried to establish the idea in the book that even if she gave up being Catwoman, all these enemies she built up for years would always be looking for her, she'd always be looking over her shoulder. So the responsible thing for her to do as a parent was to stop being a parent. And then I saw readers saying she could have left the baby at Wayne Manor, or hired a bodyguard. That's not a way to write a comic book. Write a story. [laughs] If your character has a problem, they have to deal with it, and hopefully in an interesting, emotional way. I guess to get way back to your original question, having my own daughter impressed on me the huge responsibility it is. You always kind of know that in the abstract before you have a kid, but when you have the kid, it's staring you right in the face, 24 hours a day. It would have felt hypocritical to write it any other way.

SPURGEON: One of the things I liked about your Catwoman comics is that the physical stakes are high. In one comic book you have these super-villains that are terrifying because of things a lot of superhero comics take for granted: they can fall off buildings, they can be shot without being hurt... you also did HERO, which also strikes me as the kind of book where like Catwoman you can isolate certain aspects and examine the superhero genre itself. Do you feel like you have greater insight into the superhero genre based on working on comic books like that?

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PFEIFER: Yeah. Especially with HERO, where the first arc was about a guy who grew up living in a world with superheroes. If you grew up in a world with Superman or Batman, especially the heroes with superpowers, would you feel inferior every day of your life? No matter what you did, you're never going to be Superman. You're never going to be Aquaman. You're never going to be the lowest-powered hero. You're never going to be able to do any of that stuff.

To me, the most fun in writing a book like HERO, a book like Catwoman, is that it takes place in this world that is just crazy. People can fly, villains wear crazy masks, aliens are landing every other day. Being a relatively normal person, that to me is what is most interesting. I've always tried, even writing books with big cosmic stuff or battle stuff like Amazons Attack!, I've tried to provide the perspective of a normal person. If everything is cosmic, if everything is super-powered, than there's no way for us to connect with it. If you try to write that normal person's perspective into it, than hopefully the reader can learn what's scary about it, what's funny about it, what's exciting about it. When it comes down to it, that's what I like about writing superheroes. You can explore the way that world works and the way it's different than the average world we live in. You know -- "Earth Prime."

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SPURGEON: Now that you have a little bit of space between you and the series, what do you think the basis was for so many people to have a negative reaction to Amazons Attack!?

PFEIFER: Was there a negative reaction? [laughter]

I think at its most basic, people have an idea about whatever superhero or character they love and have their ideal version of that character somewhere in their head. When you go against that version, some people are going to react very strongly. Amazons Attack! is right there in the title. They kill that guy and his kid on the very first page. People were really upset about that. But it was supposed to be shocking. It was supposed to be upsetting. It wasn't supposed to be a triumphant moment for the Amazons. People who have been reading Wonder Woman for however long they've been reading Wonder Woman -- and some of them have been reading for a long time -- they didn't like the fact that the Amazons were attacking and were evil. They also didn't like the fact that in Amazons Attack! that there wasn't enough Wonder Woman, and that Wonder Woman wasn't driving the plot along. The reason for that is that there's another book called Wonder Woman [Spurgeon laughs] where all that was happening.

I've worked on a few crossovers before, but this is the most closely I've been involved. It was almost a year ago exactly that I went to the DC offices for a weekend. We sort of plotted out the whole six-issue series, and we talked about all the tie-ins and this and that. When you're working on a big crossover like this, a lot of the plotting is just connecting the dots in a way. This is going to happen here, we'll deal with this here, and then over in Teen Titans this will happen, and then we'll deal with this, and then we'll deal with that. Readers may not like it, and in some ways it can be a pain to write, but that's what a lot of modern comic books are. The big ones that sell and the big ones that people seem to like are the ones that have crossovers crossovers crossovers. When you're writing it, the object is to hit those plot points. As a writer you try to work in those human emotions and twists and surprises and fun and action along the way. But you have to hit point A, B, C, and D because in another book, somebody's going to be hitting it.

[laughs] I think there are a lot of reasons people didn't like Amazons Attack! I realize that's a terrible answer.

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SPURGEON: I don't have that affection for DC characters, but it struck me that there was a disconnect. You have this title, Amazons Attack! --

PFEIFER: -- like Mars Attacks!, yeah --

SPURGEON: -- and it had that element of wide-vista, antiseptic action that such a title entails. Monsters. Famous monuments destroyed. All the superheroes teaming up. And then you had this turgid plot stuff and a few gruesome details that seemed to clash with the spirit of those elements.

PFEIFER: I know what you're saying. Sort of the big, '50s old-fashioned violence, and then the brutal, close-quarters nasty stuff.

SPURGEON: There were elements that made it seem like it would have worked well as a classic back-up story, where you'd see Batman helping Wonder Woman one issue and then Atom the next, but there were also these moments of grim-faced seriousness. These confusing plot elements, too... Okay, now I sound like I'm just griping.

PFEIFER: [laughs] That's okay.

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SPURGEON: I guess I was wondering if you feel more comfortable with certain kinds of storytelling over others. The relatively upbeat stuff seemed more in line with your other material, maybe more than the grimmer, or the more convoluted material...

PFEIFER: That's a good point. I will say that the whole opening, where we killed off a guy and his kid, that was my idea. We wanted to start it on a "we're not kidding around" kind of a note, and then I tried not to do too much like that for the rest of the stories. There were moments, but I didn't want it to be a bloodbath, bloodbath, bloodbath kind of thing. This is sort of the same topic, but I was looking through an issue of Wizard where they were profiling the great moments of the year. Virtually everyone was someone killing someone else. Wolverine chops off somebody's head or something. I'm not a big fan of those kinds of comics. I know that comics are getting darker. But I'm not a fan of everything having to be dark and gritty, and it was strange to be writing something where people felt like a lot of that was happening. That wasn't the intention. The idea was to have one of those all-the-superheroes-team-up-to-fight-a-menace kind of book.

I love Watchmen, and I love the original Dark Knight. A lot of that stuff -- the comics that kicked off the darkness trend. But my favorite things coming out today are things like Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman. It's the best comic I've read in years. It's not dark. It's got a hopeful feeling, and it's really emotional. When I write Batman in Catwoman, I try not to make him a dick like he's been in a lot of comic books. I don't connect to that. I don't think that's fun to read. I don't think a guy like Batman would act like that. I don't like comics that are nothing but violence and people acting like assholes to each other. [laughs] So I don't know how Amazons Attack! turned out like that.

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SPURGEON: It seems like a clash between your sensibilities and the demands of modern comics, to a certain extent.

PFEIFER: These big crossovers... there's a lot of different elements working. Like I said, there's a lot of plot points to hit. Some of them are your ideas, some of them aren't, and you work to integrate them as best you can. In the end, I think it was a fun book to read, and there are nice bits strung through it. But do I read it and see things I would have done differently? Sure. But I see that with everything.

SPURGEON: How might you approach the next one differently?

PFEIFER: For a crossover like that, there are so many changes, there are so many things you have to do, it's tough... maybe I would have... maybe just step back from writing it when you're focusing on this scene and that scene and look at the whole thing and see if it's doing what I want it to do. Catwoman is coming up on another somewhat crossover with this Salvation Run DC's doing. They're sending all the villains -- including Catwoman -- to another planet. My editor and I came up with an idea where, as part of the crossover, we can concentrate on Catwoman and pretty much ignore the rest of it.

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SPURGEON: Is the Film Freak character all yours?

PFEIFER: Sort of. There was a character in the '80s named Film Freak, but all I know about him is that his name was Film Freak. I never read those books. I know the whole vibe of him was different back then. So yeah, he was pretty much my creation.

SPURGEON: It seemed like you had fun with that.

PFEIFER: Oh, yeah.

SPURGEON: But it also seems to me the sort of thing to which comics readers might have a negative reaction, perhaps thinking that it was too silly or too playful. Did you have any negative reaction to that character?

PFEIFER: Some people really liked him. People who are big movie fans seemed to like him. Although it's weird that I got some movie fans that said the references were way too obscure, and I got some who said they're way too obvious. So I have no idea what was happening there. Some people thought he was no villain for Catwoman: he doesn't have any powers, he can't do anything. They wanted someone more formidable or famous. But I liked the idea that he was this manipulator. To me he was like a classic Batman villain. He has his gimmick. He commits his crime based on his gimmick. He has a movie in his head that he's the star of. I had a lot of fun writing him obviously, because I'm a big movie fan. But I thought he made a pretty decent villain for Catwoman because he viewed their relationship and his relationship to the world in a completely different way than anyone else. He thought he was the star of his own movie so he could do whatever he wanted.

imageSPURGEON: Now, do you think in terms of subtext when you work with a character like that, either in creation or afterwards?

PFEIFER: I guess when I was first coming up with him I thought it would be a fun thing to do. He was commenting on the idea of the heroes and the villains and the supporting characters in the story. I suppose the idea that everyone is the hero of their own movie, or think they are, when maybe they're just an extra, or maybe they're someone who gets killed in the opening credits or something like that. So there was definitely some of that. Writing him that long, especially a guy who talked as much as he did, I guess this sort of subtext would come out. [laughter]

SPURGEON: Speaking of film, you're on the record as being a fan of Jerry Lewis.

PFEIFER: I am.

SPURGEON: I wanted to nail you down on exactly why. Is it just the nature of his celebrity?

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PFEIFER: I think that's the main thing. That's part of it. I was actually e-mailing back and forth with Fred Hembeck of all people about this. And one of us, I don't remember who said, "He's entertaining when he's being funny, but when he's not being funny he's even more entertaining." A lot of people like Jerry Lewis as a joke. Not me. I think he has a lot of talent and a couple of his movies are legitimately great movies. Not many of them, but a few. It's just the way he has this ego about himself and his place in cinema, and he lives life on this level that I can barely imagine anyone living in, let alone myself.

A few years ago I went to see him in Chicago, and he was doing a book signing and a speech. Five minutes into the speech, these protesters started reading statements. He has protesters -- the Jerry's Kids/Jerry's Orphans thing. Most celebrities would have had the people removed, or talked to them, or walked off the stage; Jerry flew into a rage. And then he just left. I remember thinking "how often do you see a celebrity having a real moment?" It was fascinating. People in the audience were crushed because he was only on stage for a few moments. I thought it was the best thing that could have happened because it was so interesting.

I think when most people hear I like Jerry Lewis they think it's a joke, and that's part of it, but in a weird way I'm legitimately fascinated by him.

SPURGEON: Are you interested in celebrity beyond Lewis?

PFEIFER: I guess he represents that interest. Not like Paris Hilton or Britney [Spears], but a guy like Frank Sinatra or Bob Hope, that were so famous you could barely imagine it. I don't know what fascinates me about it. There's just... something interesting. Boy, that's a great answer. People that lived on that certain level. I know that Sinatra was wildly talented, but he could also be a tremendous jerk. I guess it's that mix of the public and private persona. That's the closest you're going to get to a superhero is that level of fame, people that manipulate their images for whatever reason and then every so often the real person slips thought.

SPURGEON: You talked earlier about Aquaman. [laughter] But there really is a cultural impression that something as silly as Aquaman leaves. Does that interest you as part of your working in comics? Are you interested in being a part of that, playing around with that?

PFEIFER: I think that's part of it, more the playing around with it. People will know who Aquaman is long after I die. I loved writing a book like Finals, and I'd love to do it again. But there's something special about writing one of the big name characters. I still remember the first time I wrote a DC Secret Files that summed up some crossover they did. When I wrote a page with Superman on it, I realized this wasn't me at home playing at writing Superman, I was really writing Superman now. As geeky as it sounds, when I'm writing Catwoman and Batman appears in a scene, there's a tingle in your spine that you're actually writing him. You're not going to change Batman or Superman in any meaningful way, but it's fun to play with these icons.

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SPURGEON: It seems like you see the humor in it, too. You mention in an interview about having to deal with fan complaints over Aquaman's orange shirt. You seemed kind of amused by it, but also resigned to the fact that this orange shirt was important.

PFEIFER: It's true. That was a weird thing. Some people were like, "Oh, thank God they're bringing back the orange shirt." And other people were like, "Oh, no, it makes him look like an idiot." The orange shirt, the orange shirt defines who Aquaman is. If he's wearing it he's one thing, and if he's not wearing it, he's another thing. People care about it. The amazing thing about writing anything is that people really care. People who like it, or people that hate your guts for doing it. They're not kidding around. This really matters to them. Someday, whether Catwoman gets canceled or whether I move on to another book. I may still read Catwoman after I leave; I may not. But these people will. As far as they're concerned, I'm just the guy who's there right now. They were there before me, and they'll be there after me.

It's almost comforting in a way because you can write and people can care so much. But when all people care about is continuity... it's like, "Don't you want a good story? Don't you want to be surprised?" Some people, all they want is for the character to act how they think that character should act and the moment you step over that line they're going to be upset about that. Tim Callahan did a book about Grant Morrison, and he talked about there being three levels of reality. The primary is what the hero is doing -- the actual story of the comic. The secondary level is where the writer shows himself in the comic (like Grant did in Animal Man). The tertiary is where you see the writer at a desk writing a book. That first reality for a lot of people is the most important reality. The characters are doing what they're doing because they're doing it. They know that people are writing and drawing these adventures, but that doesn't matter to them. The characters -- and what they do -- matter the most.

SPURGEON: One thing that struck me looking at your career is that you started out in '99, during a real down period for the industry.

PFEIFER: Oh, yeah.

SPURGEON: And now to hear you talk about maybe going full-time someday, I was wondering if you had thoughts about how it's different now to work in comics than it was eight years ago?

PFEIFER: The biggest change I can see is that people used to buy books for the artist. Now it's almost completely writer-driven. A big-name artist might sell a book, but people follow books because of the writers. People like Ed Brubaker or Geoff Johns or [Brian] Bendis, sometimes you can't say who's drawing it, but you know who's writing. So that puts the ball in my court a bit more, maybe.

Another trend that's more hopeful although it may come around and bite everybody in the ass, is that virtually everything is collected now. I would think if I wrote Finals now, Vertigo would collect it. Catwoman does okay, but it doesn't sell gangbusters. Still, I know I'll be able to pick up a trade in Border's. The most positive trend may be all the book publishers coming out with stuff, I can get Peanuts back to 1950, those new Love and Rockets collections, that seems to be where the explosions are. For a guy who's written mostly superhero comics at DC, it should be interesting to see that when things shift from monthlies to collections, where superheroes fall on that spectrum. Maybe superheroes are just a fad that's lasted a hugely long time. Maybe in ten years or so... Batman and Superman will still be around, but I don't know if there will be that many superhero books. God only knows what I'll do then. [laughter]

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* cover imagery from Catwoman
* cover from the Finals series
* Jay Geldhof's Bob Mercenary
* from Catwoman
* Pete Woods' version of the Catwoman character
* Helena, Catwoman's daughter
* Batman plays with Helena
* imagery feature Helena
* cover from Pfeifer's HERO
* cover from Amazons Attack!
* superhero team-up, from Amazons Attack!
* the civilian death the opened the Amazons Attack! mini-series
* I'd like to ask a question: why would someone want to read about throat-slitting in a superhero story?
* the Catwoman foe Film Freak
* Film Freak comments on film and maybe, indirectly, comics
* Fred Hembeck covers a Bob Oksner Jerry Lewis effort
* that orange shirt on Aquaman; from Pfeifer's run
* (below) cover imagery from Catwoman

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* Amazons Attack!, DC Comics, hard cover, 160 pages, 1401215432 (ISBN), December 2007, $24.99
* Catwoman, DC Comics, comic book, 32 pages, ongoing, $2.99

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image

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