Paul Levitz is an absolute legend in the comic book industry. He's been a writer, editor, and President of DC Comics over his long and storied career. He wrote probably the best Legion of Superheroes story, The Great Darkness Saga. He also co-created Lucien the Librarian, a character that is currently taking center stage in the new Sandman Universe book, The Dreaming. This man helped shape the DC Universe for over 35 years and it was truly an honor to be able to ask him a few questions and learn a little bit more about him.
1. I know your recently wrote a story for the Action Comics: 80 Year Anniversary book, but other than that you've kinda been out of the spotlight. What have you been up to the past couple years?
Well, the stories I did for DARK HORSE PRESENTS were just released a trade: BROOKLYN BLOOD. I also edited that ACTION volume and am finishing another for DC.
On other fronts, I’m on the board of Boom Studios, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Clarion Foundation. And I do consulting gigs.
But the largest chunk of my time goes to teaching—often 4 college and grad school courses a term.
2. You've been in the industry for almost 40 years, you've been a writer, editor, and executive. What would you say was your favorite job in the industry?
I love the lasting effect on my writing on people, and the ways my executive role helped change the course of comics. Hard to choose.
3. You were responsible for hiring some of the biggest names in comics Marv Wolfman, Alan Moore, George Perez, Keith Giffen, and editor Karen Berger. What was it like working at DC during such an exciting time in comics?
Well, that's a bit exaggerated. Other than Karen, those folks were already in comics by the time I had a role in bringing them to DC or working with them (I don't think I ever hired Keith or played a part in his hiring). But the '80s were a thrilling time for me. We were at a real inflection point in comics, changing our distribution to
concentrate on comic shops, starting to address older audiences, and as result making so many shifts in production, marketing and the content itself. What a great time.
4. You wrote arguably the definitive Legion of Superheroes story, The Darkness Saga. When you wrote it did you have any idea it would become such a classic?
Nope. If you'd asked me then if anyone would be reading it three decades later, I'd have laughed.
5. You worked on LOSH many times. Why do you think creators and fans alike are so drawn to those characters? Why do you think LOSH can't sustain an ongoing for very long even though fans love them so much?
I think the vast scope of the world of the Legion and the sheer number of characters is a big part of the joy in it. The tougher part in recent years is that it was originally designed as a kids' comic, particularly its nomenclature. I still think there's a way to do, but either my own limitations or the circumstances didn't allow me to achieve that in my third run. I hope someone else can.
6. What is your most memorable moment in your career so far?
Sheesh...could be talking with a mayor from Bosnia at the White House, listening to him tell me he saw the landmine awareness comic we'd created save a child's life...or being surprised at the Eisner's by winning the Clampett Humanitarian Award.
7. What piece of advice would you give someone trying to break in to the comic industry ? What would be the best entry level job?
Whatever you want to be, don't limit it to comics. If you want to be a writer, write all sorts of things; every day if you can. Send prose stories to places that might publish them, write reviews, articles, and comics too, of course. In a lifetime, you may need to use your skills for many targets, so start practicing.
8. Is there anything you're currently working on that you can talk about?
We haven't announced my next writing project at Dark Horse, but stay tuned. And check out the recently published BROOKLYN BLOOD...I'm very proud of it.
9. In your long career you've seen the industry change so much, where do you see comics in 10 years?
Much more diverse in their content and audiences. Every year we're seeing comics being used for new types of tales, both fiction and non, and I think eventually we may catch up to the incredible diversity of manga in Japan. That's key to building our share of the publishing world in the same way much of the world has seen comics grow.