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Barnes & Noble.com: It's a Bird… is a graphic novel from DC Comics about a comic book writer named Steve who's offered the job of writing "Superman" while dealing with complicated personal problems. How closely do you and the fictional Steve overlap?
Steven Seagle: We share a name and a profession and some life events -- but it ends there! Kind of. I'm describing It's a bird... as "semiautobiographical." There's a lot of my life in it, but more "truth" than "fact" when you get right down to it. In order to link the story of a comic book writer coming to terms with some difficult life events to the entire iconic history of Superman, it was necessary to fictionalize story elements. But they are from the heart and they do speak to issues my family and other families have dealt with. The details have all been changed for story purposes, but I think it's an honest book on all other counts.
B&N.com: How long did it take to write It's a Bird...?
SS: I thought of the entire book, start to finish, while -- pardon my bluntness, but this is semiautobiography -- taking a pee at the artist's house in Denmark. Teddy had asked me what we would do next, and I said, "I don't know." I got up to use the facilities and literally, by the time I was done moments later, I had the entire book. I came out and told Teddy pretty much the whole story, as it turned out.
When I sat down to plot it out and write the proposal for DC Comics, it took about ten minutes. The actual script, though, was tough going, both technically (there's a main story and 20 different short stories in 20 different styles) and personally, and took almost a year. Similarly, it took Teddy almost three years to paint it. I do think the time spent really shows in the work, though.
B&N.com: You've written "Superman" yourself -- is it difficult to come up with new ideas for the character, considering his longevity?
SS: It's nearly impossible. There is so much demand for change in the (superhero) icons, and yet, so much of an edict against change editorially to protect the franchise. In the regular "Superman" books I found it very difficult to accomplish stories of genuine merit. It's a Bird..., though, let me really do everything I wanted to with the man and myth that is Superman, and I'm very grateful to DC Comics for taking an enormous risk and giving me the chance to tell this story this way. I can honestly say this is unlike any other superhero story ever told...if it even is a superhero story in the end.
B&N.com: It seems like graphic novels are being considered "serious" literature more and more. Why has it taken so long for this to happen, given their cultural acceptance in other parts of the world?
SS: To be honest, there aren't that many "serious" American graphic novels produced in any given year. There was a time when we seemed to be making a giant leap into that territory, but lack of content or fear of commercial success caused an equally stunning retreat from the serious graphic novel in the U.S. There are a few each year, to be sure, like Joe Sacco's, but not in comparison to the amount of so-called "graphic novels" that are really just collections of serialized stories.
I can't speak for the quality of our book, but I can say that it was conceived as a serious story to be told in a single volume, and that's a different beast than a compilation. I think that kind of intention needs to be behind more American comics for American comics to really build a base as serious literature.
B&N.com: Is the character of Superman still relevant in today's crazy world?
SS: Superman has been around since 1938. I found a truckload of new things to say about him in this book. I think that speaks for itself.
B&N.com: How did you get hooked up with Danish artist Teddy Kristiansen? How difficult is it to collaborate with an artist who lives in Denmark?
SS: Teddy and I met years ago at a comic convention in San Diego and had an instant rapport. He is the nicest guy alive, and a staggering talent. We worked together on a horror comic called House of Secrets and a painted follow-up called House of Secrets: Facade. Both books were very experimental and really established the style of It's a Bird... in a lot of ways.
In the age of electronic correspondence, working with someone in another country is no different than working with someone in America. A lot of phone calls, a lot of emails, and a lot of JPEGs.
B&N.com: Which comic book writers have been the greatest inspirations to you?
SS: Frank Miller. I don't write anything like him, and I can't point to anything I've borrowed from him stylistically, but his best work just makes me feel like I ought to do more in my work. Or less. I'm not sure which. I really study his structures a lot.
I've always loved Steranko's visual guts. And It's a Bird... owes a definite tip of the hat to Grant Morrison and Dave McKean for doing the Batman hardcover Arkham Asylum. Our book is in no way like their book, but I remember picking that book up in the store, shrink-wrapped, not knowing what it was, but having a feeling that it would change the way Batman was perceived forever.
B&N.com: What's your next graphic novel project?
SS: I'm working on several, but the next one out will be Mechanism with Kelley Jones. It's a very gothic murder mystery with a lot of cool and creepy technology. I've also got an urban political thriller that I'm writing and illustrating myself called Persona. And of course, Teddy and I will be back with our next book to follow up It's a Bird..., but we've just started on that!
Posted July 30, 2005
In a time when most mainstream entertainment is 'visually stunning but ultimately pointless', a work of art like 'It's A Bird...' is a real treasure. As a comic book reader, I have found that most comic books today are marketing towards a young audience hungry for the all of the glorified violence, helicopter explosions, and impossible car chases that exhaust an otherwise promising franchise. Many people these days believe that comics are childish, that they're 'for nerds', or that they aren't 'real books.' After all, why should they think otherwise? Long ago, comic books meant something to people. They provided a genuine hero when people were in need of one. But not anymore. Now they provide vigilantes who would sooner kill and man than escort him to the local police station to await a fair trial. And all of this to please a bloodthirsty audience, blind to how beautiful and uplifting comic books can be. But Steven T. Seagle's 'It's A Bird...' is a refreshing step back from such nonsense. The story takes place in a world where comic book 'heroes' are ignored and those who admire them are thought foolish. A realistic world, indeed. Where is a superhero when you are sick, or when there is a death in your family, or when you feel depressed, angry, suicidal, alone? The main character faces all of these questions and starts an invigorating journey of reconciliation and discovery. This novel will seriously make you think twice about whether superheroes really exist. It is a reflection of our modern world, and, oddly enough, one that is compassionate and inspiring. It is a unique and original work of art, great whether you read comic books or not. Definitely one of the greatest comics I have ever read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 4, 2004
I am not an avid comic reader, but this book was recommended to me by a friend and it really will make me look twice at 'comic books' in the future. If this is what they are nowadays, I've been missing out. This is a very touching personal story blended with thought-provoking side vignettes about Superman in a way that I have not thought of before - how this gigantic fictional character relates to those of us in the REAL world. Brilliant premise, and it holds up for the whole length of the book. I recommend this book for anyone else who enjoyed the comics-meets-life world of Kavalier and Clay, the wit of Charlie Kaufman scripts, the elegance of 'The Hours' - or for any Superman fan who can handle some deconstruction (and rebuilding) of the ultimate American hero.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.