Updated: Jan 24, 2020
John Arcudi has been writing comics since the late 80's. He's worked on numerous books based on films, such as Terminator, Robocop, Predator and Alien. He went on to write for both Marvel and DC, on books like Conan, Batman and Doom Patrol.
What he's best know for though, was co-creating The Mask, along with Dough Mahnke. The character was a cult hit and even spawned a feature film starring Jim Carrey. Along with Mahnke, they also created MAJOR BUMMER at DC, that became a cult hit, starring a group of ineffectual superheroes. From there he worked for years in the Mignolaverse, writing countless B.P.R.D. stories, along with Hellboy as well.
He's currently writing RUMBLE, at Image, which has been a critical success. It stars a warrior God living in a scarecrow. John is an amazing writer that can both make you laugh and frighten you with his work. If you haven't read any of his work, I suggest you check out RUMBLE and work your way back, his stuff is some of the best the industry has to offer.
COMIC LOUNGE: When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?
JOHN ARCUDI: I was really young. Probably in 4th or or 5th grade. I wanted to be the next Herman Melville.
CL: Why did you decide on writing comics in particular?
JA: I really didn’t, actually. My plan was to write prose, but when a friend of mine was interviewing for a job as assistant editor at Cracked Magazine, I made a joke about my being a writer and to not forget me if he got the gig (he didn’t). A wonderful, generous, and talented assistant editor up at Marvel, Pat Redding, overheard me say this and asked me to submit a story for their Savage Tales magazine published in the mid 80’s. That’s how it all started; almost accidentally.
CL: You've been in the industry for quite a while now, what have been some of the highlights of your career?
JA: Working with Richard Corben and John Severin are real highlights, but getting a chance to create new books with James Harren (RUMBLE, and BPRD) and Doug Mahnke (MAJOR BUMMER and THE MASK) are right up there, too. Those two guys are not only super talented artists, but they’re incredibly imaginative which makes my job both easier and harder: easier because they make me look so good, but harder because they force me to up my game. As for works I’m most happy with, RUMBLE, MAJOR BUMMER (the worst name for a book, but it wasn’t my idea, okay?) THE CREEP, and A GOD SOMEWHERE.
CL: Anything you wish you did differently?
JA: Oh, yes!
CL: How do you prepare when starting a new project?
JA: Research. Lots and lots of research. not a sexy answer, but if anybody reading this thinks s/he wants to be a writer, this is important to hear. If you don’t do the research, you won’t have enough information to tell the truth, and if you can’t tell the truth, then you can’t convincingly tell the lies you need to tell to make a story work.
CL: When writing your scripts do you describe every scene, or do you let the artist do there thing?
JA: Depends on the artist, some want less information, some more, but my go-to format is full script with panel descriptions and dialogue all there for the artist to use. The artist can, of course, go in a different direction as long as the story is made better, and then I frequently will adjust the dialogue to match that direction.
CL: Have you ever thought of returning to cult favorite MAJOR BUMMER?
JA: Sure, but Doug Mahnke’s DC exclusive contract makes the pretty unlikely. Also I doubt that it would sell well enough for us to make it work, but if we could we would change the name!
CL: I know you're currently working on RUMBLE at Image. Can you talk a little bit about the book for new readers?
JA: It’s the old story of a warrior god’s soul getting stuck inside a modern, living scarecrow. More to the point, the war he was fighting thousands of years ago is over, but he can’t let it go. Like a lot of people out there, he wants his glory days back, only in his case those glory days involve killing lots, and lots of monsters.
CL: What are your long term plans for the book?
JA: Well, sales always determine just how long long-term is, so we’ll just have to see about that.
CL: Are there any other projects you're currently working on that you can talk about?
JA: I’m editing a sort of portfolio of illustrations for Herman Melville’s many stories and novels that will be published right around the bicentennial of his birth. It’s called From Hell’s Heart. That’s been great, and the illustrations are all pretty sweet. I’m also writing another book that has yet to be announced but it’s been a lot of fun so far.
CL: What is the best piece of advice you could give an aspiring writer?
JA: Besides “research?" Well, more of the same, really, which is to say don’t be afraid of hard work, because writing is hard work - or it should be. As Ernest Hemingway said, “Easy writing makes for hard reading.” You’ve got to write every day, and you’ve got to be willing to throw most of that writing away. You need to communicate to your reader, or else what’s the point? And then you need to make it interesting, or else, again, what’s the point? Most writers will be terrible for a long time, but eventually they’ll get better. Eventually. I’m still waiting…