Rick Veitch interview

Creator Rick Veitch has worked on many books during his long career in comics. Some of the best known include his creator-owned projects, Bratpack, Maximortal, and Rare Bit Fiends, and his work on DC/Vertigo?s Swamp Thing and ABC?s Greyshirt. His latest project is writing the relaunch of DC?s Aquaman. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash recently spoke with Veitch about this new book.

Westfield: Much has been made in the fan press about your differences with DC in the past. What was there about Aquaman that made you decide you wanted to do it?

Rick Veitch: Before Aquaman was offered to me, DC and I had successfully buried the hatchet over my 13-year-long walk out over the Swamp Thing #88 issue. The opportunity to work out our differences came about because when DC bought WildStorm, they bought my ABC contract and suddenly I was working for them again! My editor at ABC, Scott Dunbier, and Bob Wayne up at DC really went the extra mile to work out things between us and we both sort of apologized to each other and decided to go on. I’d been working on the Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset mini-series for 6 or 7 months, and the first DC editor who called me asking me if I was interested in doing a title was Dan Raspler. It began with an exploratory phone call of like “would you ever work on a DC title again?” I said, “Yeah, yeah. Everything’s all solved between us.” About a week later he called with Aquaman which was like the last character I ever thought I would work on. My immediate response was, “Geez, I don’t know Dan. I think this is the wrong one for me, but I’ll think about it.” And, over the weekend, the ideas started to come and I realized that Aquaman is a DC character who has a huge amount of potential. When I started pitching some of the ideas at Dan, he was very receptive to what I wanted to do with it and from there it just seemed to gather steam and take off.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the set-up for the new series?

Veitch: The set-up comes out of the end of the JLA event, The Obsidian Age. The Obsidian Age is essentially the JLA trying to find and free Atlantis, which was sent back into the past during the Worlds at War crossover. Aquaman’s been disembodied and the Atlanteans have been enslaved by their own forbearers. There’s this group of sorcerers that are running the whole thing. Without giving up too much information, something happens at the end of The Obsidian Age that restores Atlantis to its rightful time. At that point, when Aquaman #1 picks up the story, the citizenry of Atlantis has risen up against Arthur because of mistakes he’s made and they exile him. They have a thing similar to Mercy Reef, where he was left when he was a baby, called Traitor’s Reef, and he’s hung out to dry there. The sorcerers who now run Atlantis bewitch all the denizens of the deep so that any time Aquaman goes near salt water, he’s attacked by fish or crabs or whatever creatures are around. So essentially he’s locked out of the ocean. He frees himself from the reef but is forced to wander inland, crazed and desperate. Near death he has a vision and a metaphysical experience at this lake that’s going to point the new direction for the rest of my run on the series. I don’t want to give too much away but we’re going to tie in Arthurian themes that were always sort of lingering around in the corners of the series forever.

Westfield: Since he’s been banned from the ocean, will you be creating a new supporting cast for him?

Veitch: Yep. He’s going to have a new bunch of friends and foes. We’re going to bring in a new version of the lighthouse and the old lighthouse keeper that was part of his origin. We’re going to bring in a new love interest. Tempest is leaving the Titans, so I think he’ll become a semi regular in the book.

Westfield: So how can we have an Aquaman who can’t go into the ocean?

Veitch: Though he’s banned from the ocean, obviously he can’t ever just give it up. The exile situation means that going in the ocean is now a very dangerous thing for Aquaman, and of course, danger means excitement in comic books! Also, his body must have water and he’s essentially going to have to figure out new ways to restore himself. One of the themes of the book is that he’s going to be exploring fresh water options and dealing with new characters and situations that are based in lakes and rivers and wells and ponds and rain water and underground aquifers and stuff, as well as keeping an eye on what’s going on in the oceans and down in Atlantis as best he can.

Westfield: What can people look forward to in the stories?

Veitch: One of the things we’re going to try to do is change the character of Atlantis itself. It seems like, (and I wouldn’t just criticize Aquaman in this sense, but would also say the same thing about the other undersea characters like Sub-Mariner), when they show the various underwater inhabitants standing and sitting around in Flash Gordon towers with classical Greek columns, the whole thing kind of falls flat. It stops working as a belief-suspending fantasy at that point. So we want to re-create Atlantis more realistically in terms of what would it really be like to live at the bottom of the sea. What would the structures that beings would inhabit be like down there? We want to make it a darker and colder and stranger place. An extreme alien environment. I think, just by doing that, we can really change how people perceive Aquaman as a character.

The other thing we want to do with Aquaman is mature his character. If you go back and read the old stuff, he’s angry and he’s got a bad attitude and he’s always fighting. The stories are basically him being an angry guy having slugfests. This is still an adventure comic so it will be built around action sequences, but I want to mature Aquaman a little bit. I want to make him more like an adult. Make his personal conflicts more recognizable to you and I, and bring him more into tune with the ideals of heroism. All the extreme negative stuff that’s happened in comics in the 90s is pretty much out of gas in my opinion. I want to get away from that and bring superheroes back to their essential nobility again. I plan to do that with Arthur.

Westfield: Something a lot of fans complain about is Aquaman’s hook/harpoon hand. Will you be keeping it?

Veitch: No. It becomes a focal point in the first issue, but I don’t want to give anything away. It’s a really good surprise that I think people will like and it’s going to be the focal point of this new direction we’re sending him off in.

Westfield: You’ve done a lot of work as a writer/artist. Does your approach to how you work on a story change when you’re only doing the writing?

Veitch: Yeah. When I’m writing a script for myself, I don’t have to describe things. I know what’s going in there. Writing for someone else, the script tends to be much more descriptive. The trick is not making it too descriptive and sending the artist screaming for the exit! I’ve never worked with Yvel Guichet before - I think he’s just drawing the first issue now so I’m hoping for feedback from him about how he would like the scripts prepared. Some artists don’t like too many descriptive passages. I like to work with and for the artist because I know that the artist is really the director of the thing in the end.

Westfield: So you haven't had much contact with him yet?

Veitch: No. I’ve just seen the sketches he did and they’re marvelous. He immediately caught the new look for Aquaman which I couldn’t have articulated in a million years, but which he got in the first bunch of sketches. When I saw them I said “That’s it! That’s what we’re looking for right there.” He created a new costume for Aquaman that looked and worked beautifully. And he’s a great monster artist too, just looking through the JLA stuff he’s done. So I’m going to work a lot of monsters in there, because he’s really a monster guy. [laughter]

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Veitch: Just to invite everyone to Steve Conley’s and my website, Comicon.com. And I ought to mention that I’m also getting back into self publishing. I will be publishing and releasing a new edition of the Bratpack collection probably in February or March under the King Hell imprint. Bratpack's been out of print since 1995!

Westfield: Any plans on finishing off the King Hell Heroica?

Veitch: Yep. Someday. Someway!