Interview by Chris Gelderd
Whilst our primary focus here at JumpCut UK is the world of film, it’s hard to deny the fact that we are all massive comic book nerds, too. So when we got the chance to speak to Jason Starr – a writer who has worked with both DC and Marvel Comics – we simply exploded with excitement. As well as crafting stories for iconic characters such as Batman, Wolverine and Ant-Man, Jason is also a best-selling, award-winning novelist, and has worked closely with the hit FOX show ‘Gotham’.
CG: Hello Jason! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Now, in relation to your ever successful novels, who – or what – was your biggest inspiration for picking up the pen to start writing in the first place?
JS: It all truly began when I was reading the short stories of John Cheever in college. I just loved the character-driven storytelling, and I love the work of J.D Salinger for similar reasons.
CG: Same question for your graphic novels and comic books; was there a certain author, or moment in your life that made you stop and say “I want to be part of this medium”?
JS: While I always dreamed of writing comics as a kid, writing comics has been more of an extension of my fiction writing. But, around the time I got my first gig, writing ‘The Chill’ for Vertigo, Garth Ennis was a major influence, especially his work on ‘Preacher’ and ‘Punisher Max’.
CG: What did you feel was the biggest challenge when taking on projects set in such rich, established universes such as the Marvel and DC ones? Did you feel intimidated, nervous or apprehensive at all?
JS: The biggest challenge, without a doubt, is delivering to fans expectations, but also finding a way to be original. You have to make sure you know as much about the history of the characters as possible. For example, when I worked on the ‘Wolverine Max’ series for Marvel, I wanted to find a fresh way into the character, but still create a series that would be meaningful to the cannon.
CG: Indeed, it’s a fine line to tread between originality and respect for the source material, but one which you tread with great success. In your work as a fiction novelist, you’ve written with Ken Bruen on four novels. If there was any author out there you could co-write with, who would it be and why?
JS: I loved working with Ken, and it’s been a pleasure to work with him again and again. I’m actually working on a new project at the moment with Jerry Stahl. Jerry and I have wanted to collaborate for a long time, so I’m very pleased to get that opportunity finally.
CG: Awesome, can’t wait to see what you guys come up with! If you could pick any film director, living or dead, to adapt one of your novels for the big screen, who would it be and why?
JS: Probably Martin Scorsese, just because I love his films. But there are a lot of great directors out there that I’d love to work with.
CG: I imagine Scorsese would be a popular choice for many of us; he is truly one of the greats! For ‘Gotham: Dawn of Darkness’, which is released this year, how much freedom did you have in expanding on, what is essentially, a crucial piece of comic-book history in the evolution of Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon?
JS: Well, the book is a prequel to the show, so I had to refer to “future plot points”, but I had a lot of freedom to create the back stories for the characters, especially Alfred, Bruce, and Martha and Thomas Wayne.
CG: Your work has blended many genres such as thriller, super-hero and crime. How hard is it to dip your mind into worlds many of us don’t understand, or can’t imagine, to create something so successful for the masses?
JS: I love doing different things, challenging myself in new ways. Changing genres every now and then is a good jolt for my creativity. I find that once I get my head into a new genre and embrace all the constraints, it doesn’t feel hard at all. It feels natural to me. For superhero novels, such as Ant-Man and Gotham, it helps that I grew up loving this stuff. The writing doesn’t feel like work at all; it just feels like fun.
CG: That’s a great outlook to have! Alright, alright, now it’s time for the big questions. Marvel or DC? And who is your favourite comic book hero, and why?
JS: Oh come on, how can I choose? Both! Wolverine and Batman are two of my favourites, for sure. Aside from those two, growing up I was a big Spider-Man fan; I love that he’s just a regular guy. It’s for this same reason that I really loved writing Scott Lang/Ant-Man. Real people in extraordinary situations is sort of a theme in my fiction writing as well. So I’ll go with Ant-Man as my new favourite hero.
If you want to keep up to date with Jason’s work, give him a follow on Twitter @JasonStarrBooks and keep an eye out for his comic books next time you’re in need of a hero!