Updated: Jan 24
Walter "Walt" Simonson is an icon and an absolute legend in the comic book industry. He has worked on some of the biggest characters in the medium. From Detective Comics, Manhunter, and Orion at DC, to X-Factor and Fantastic Four at Marvel.
But it was his work on "Thor" at Marvel, from 1983-1987, that is some of his most beloved work by fans. During his run he also created the fan favorite character, Beta Ray Bill.
He currently has been working on his own version of Thor, in his creator owned series, "Raganrok", over at IDW. Set after the events of Ragnarok and the all hope is lost. If you're a fan of is Thor 'run', then you definitely need to read this book, because this is Thor book that Thor fans deserve.
Comic Lounge: When did you decide you wanted to write/draw comics?
Walt Simonson: I’ve drawn pictures since before I can remember, and I read comics as a child. However, when I went to college in the mid-1960s, I discovered Marvel Comics. I loved them and read everything Marvel published for a few years, but it wasn’t until I was in art school at about the age of 22 that I began thinking about the possibility of entering the field professionally. Originally, I wanted to draw comics; the idea of writing them came after I’d been in the field a few years.
Comic Lounge: Which do you prefer more, writing or drawing?
Walt: I enjoy them both. I like writing my own stories and drawing them, I like writing stories for other artists, and I like drawing stories by other writers. Essentially, I try to keep my approach to comics as fresh as I can, and by changing up the jobs and working with other people from time to time, I hope to be challenged in new ways as I go along.
Comic Lounge: You did an amazing run on Thor in the 80s, what was your favorite thing about working on Thor?
Walt: I loved telling stories that involved Norse mythology in some way. I’d read the mythology as a child, and it was fun to be able to draw on those old stories and try to tell new ones that drank from the same well.
Comic Lounge: How did you come up with the idea for Beta Ray Bill?
Walt: When I took over the Marvel comic, Thor, in 1983, I wanted to tell stories that didn’t feel like they’d been told before. I decided that having someone new lift Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, would be a good place to start. And for me, that meant creating a new character who could do it. Bill was designed from the ground up to be that guy.
If you’d like a more detailed account of Bill’s actual creation, you can hop on my Official page on FaceBook and read my interview here about how Bill came to be.
Comic Lounge: What are your top 3 projects you have worked on?
Walt: Hard to pin down just three. I’d say Manhunter, Marvel’s Thor, Alien: the Illustrated Story, Orion, and Ragnarök. That’s not three but it’s as close as I can get. And there are half a dozen others I could toss in as well.
Comic Lounge: You've seen the industry go through so many changes, where do you see the industry in 10 years?
Walt: I think there may be an increasingly homogenized display of content from the major companies as more and more of the stories they publish are directed editorially from the top down. My guess is that the more daring, and possibly interesting, comics will be found in the independent market, whatever that may mean. But 10 years out is a long time and really, all bets are off.
Comic Lounge: Are there any characters left that would still like a chance to write/draw?
Walt: Not really. I’m sorry I never had a chance to take a crack at the old Iron Man of the post-Gene Colan days. But those days are long gone.
Comic Lounge: Are there any books you're working on that you can talk about?
Walt: I’m producing a comic called Ragnarök that comes out irregularly from IDW Publishing. Two arcs of 6
issues each have come out and I’m working on the third arc now. It’s a tale of my own version of Thor in the days after Ragnarök, when all the gods are dead and the bad guys have taken over. Thor survived the event and is now moving out into the ruins of the Nine Worlds, called the Dusklands, to find the Great and Lesser Enemies and deal with them. The published story arcs are “Last God Standing”, and “The Lord of the Dead”. The upcoming arc is entitled “The Breaking of Helheim”.
Comic Lounge: Lastly, what advice do you have for an aspiring comic book creator?
Walt: Always think about the work you’re doing as storytelling and never lose sight of that fact, use reference, and remember that writing and drawing comics is a lot of work. Good luck!!