No stranger to crossing over from one audience to another, Anthrax founder and guitarist Scott Ian has made a career of bridging musical genres and multiple media. Not only did the thrash metal giants Anthrax famously collaborate with rap icons Public Enemy on a smash hit remake of "Bring the Noise" in the early 1990s, Ian and his bandmates have also appeared on television shows ranging from "Married... with Children" and "WWE Raw" to "Cheers" and "Ask Dr. Ruth" and Ian himself also had a cameo in the cult classic "Run Ronnie Run."
In perhaps his biggest challenge yet, the long-time comic book fan unleashes his first foray into comics this week with the release of "Lobo: Highway to Hell" #1 by DC Comics.
The two-part series, featuring art by industry legend Sam Kieth, is delivered in prestige format with each issue numbering a whopping 64 pages. DC's blog, The Source, previewed art from the series today. Inspired by modern day stories like "Walking Dead," "Blackest Night" and "Y: The Last Man," Ian is matching the Main Man up against the Dark Prince. That's right, not the Dark Knight, the Dark Prince. You know, Satan.
CBR News spoke extensively with Ian about the mini series, and also shared details of the awesome comic collection he inherited from his uncle, who he thinks should play Lobo in the forthcoming movie and how he himself was almost once cast as a Terminator.
I read that your early passion for comics came from an uncle that gave you his entire comic collection when you were just eight years old. So what were you reading in the early 1970s? And were there any gems in that collection that you still have today or wish you still had?
Scott Ian: My uncle Mitch was only 10 years older than me, so when I used to go visit my grandparents house when I was a kid, I used to hang out in his room and look at his comics and his records and everything else. He had a pretty cool collection of Silver Age, mostly of "Thor" and "Conan," if I remember correctly, and just random other Marvel and DC stuff. But he was really into "Thor" and "Conan." At some point, I guess when he was of the age where comics were no longer cool, for him, I was lucky and he gave me all of his comics. I guess I started off at a pretty early age with a really cool collection of early Marvel stuff.
So was that a trigger for your collecting, or did you already collect comics?
Well, yeah. I was already collecting myself, and that just filled in a lot of stuff that obviously, as a seven-year old, I couldn't go out and buy. I was already buying comics off the rack by 1970, or something like that, so I was already way into it.
What were your favorite titles?
I liked all the major titles. My favorite Marvel titles were probably "Hulk," "Fantastic Four," "Thor," "Spider-Man" and "The Avengers." And for DC, it was "Batman" and "Superman." But that was also the time when basically anything Kirby was doing, I was buying. I got way into his "Forever People" stuff that he did for DC. I was pretty much into everything at the time. But I could only afford to buy X amount of comics, so I would tend to stick to just the biggest titles.
Were you familiar with Lobo before landing this assignment?
Lobo came out in the early eighties – I wasn't a kid anymore. But, I was pretty familiar with Lobo from really early on. I can't tell you when, specifically, the first time I ever saw Lobo was. Probably, the first Lobo stuff I was really familiar with was when Simon Bisley was doing him, because I was a fan of Simon's from his "Judge Dredd" stuff. That probably would have been my first experience with Lobo.
How did you get into writing comics? Did you reach out to DC or did they contact you?
DC reached out to me a couple of years ago. They actually got a hold of my manager and asked him if I was interested in coming for a meeting and I said, "Yes, of course." I had no idea what they wanted to meet with me about. When they said to me, "Do you know why you're here?" I was like, "No. What? Am I in trouble or something?" And they were like, "We'd love to work on a book with you." And I was like, "You know that I've never written a comic before, right?"
So we just started talking, basically. A couple of the people up there were big fans, and they'd been reading stuff that I'd been writing. I had a pretty regular food column on a couple of sites. And they would read my blogs, and they just thought I had an interesting point of view. So they wanted to see if I was interested in trying my hand at it. And I was like, "Yeah. I've wanted to do this my whole life. I've answered the question a thousand times, 'If I wasn't in the band, what else would I be doing?' And my answer to that is always, 'I would have hoped that I would have got into writing comics.'" So I said, "Look, of course, I'll give it a shot, and if I fail, well, at least I gave it a try." And so they basically said, "Go take a month and just think about it. Think about ideas. Think about characters. And see what you come back with." So a month went by, and I asked them if I could have another month. And they said, "Yeah." I just jumped at the chance and, in my head, I got on a one-track mind that I had to write a Batman story. But it was just proving really difficult, because I'm a fan when it comes down to it, and my attitude towards writing Batman was, unless I could do something that deserves to be on the shelves with the best Batman stories that have ever been written, what's the point of even doing it? I don't need to just write some OK story, know what I mean?
So I had some ideas, and I was in New York and I went back in and I started to ask them, "Could I do this?" and "Could I do that?" And there were just a lot of 'dos' and 'don'ts' when it came to Batman. And they basically explained to me [that] with certain characters in the DC Universe, there is going to be a lot of things that you can and can't do, and you're going to have to stick with continuity and so I basically just asked them straight up, "Well, what characters wouldn't I have that problem with?" And the first one they said was Lobo. And it just clicked in my brain, because I hadn't thought about Lobo. And they said, "We've been thinking about doing another Lobo book. It's been a couple of years." And I just said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, hold on. I know it. I know the character. I think I could do some crazy shit with Lobo. Let me think about it for a couple of weeks." Literally, over the next two weeks, I put together my outline. I emailed them the outline and they said, "We love where you're going with it. Flesh it out. Write the whole story." So I wrote the whole story, basically, and got the green light to go ahead and do it. It just clicked right away.
What is about The Main Man that 'clicked' so strongly for you?
For me, it's that people make the mistake of thinking Lobo is a good guy. And he really isn't a good guy. At least not in my brain or my version of Lobo. When it really comes down to it, sure he likes to drink and he certainly cracks a lot of jokes and has a sense of humor, but deep down, he is a murderer. He murders innocent people all the time. So you have to remember that, I think. I think that may be where my take maybe differs. I just really identify with the character. And I ended writing the dialogue... when it got to that point in time, I wrote the dialogue in my own voice, as if I was writing myself. It's basically me if I was missing that one gene or chromosome that would make just murder people every time I got angry. That's who Lobo is to me. He's a supergenius that kills anybody who gets in his way for whatever reason. He does have a moral code where his word is law to him. And he will not go back on his word. And he cares about space dolphins. That's it. So when it came to continuity, I definitely did toe that line with him. I didn't fuck with that, when it came to the character, because if he didn't have anything that he cared about, then it's kind of pointless because then, where's the conflict? Then he's just out there killing people and that would be fun for five minutes.
But yeah, I just wrote him as me. I just put myself in that giant invulnerable body and just thought about 'what would I do.' And that's where it came from.
What can you share with us about the story you're telling with Sam Kieth?
It's a revenge story. It does tie into things that have happened to Lobo and his history in the DC Universe. Obviously, it's called "Lobo: Highway to Hell," so that's gives away some of it.
Lobo decides he needs to exact revenge on the Devil. He picks the most powerful being in the universe and decides, "I'm going to kill this dude because he's pissed me off." He's pretty quick to realize that, as smart as he is, he is picking on the wrong guy. And it just goes from there.
Any cameos from other heroes or villains from DCU?
Just one other character, which I don't want to give away. But it ties into Lobo's universe.
And what has Sam been like as a collaborator?
I had seen his Lobo that he'd done before, and I was already a fan of Sam's, so he was top of the list for both me and DC when it was time to start thinking of artists. So that was a real easy thing to deal with. Because they were like, "What do you think of Sam Kieth?" And I was like, "I love Sam Kieth. So let's do it."
Working with him was amazing. He got my attitude and he got my vibe and I think he took it even further. When I started getting pages, it was just blowing me away because his pages and his panels were so descriptive. They just absolutely told the story. I gave my wife, who has never read a comic in her life, Book 1 without any dialogue and I said, "Does this make sense to you just looking at the pictures?" And she was able to look at it and say, "Yeah, I understand what's going on here." And that was with Sam really going off on his own a few times and drawing pages that had nothing to do with ideas I had even written. I would email him and say, "I'm not quite sure what these three pages are" and he'd go, "Yeah, they don't make any sense at all, I was just inspired by what you were writing, and it would just send me off on these tangents, so either see if you can write to it or we'll lose it." And then I would get so inspired by the fact that he was inspired by me, that I would take this other art that really had nothing to do with my story, and it all started to come together and make sense.
It really kind of takes it out to some places... there is some shit in this book where people are going to be like, "What the fuck?" Which was my reaction... in a good way. Like, "Where the fuck is he going with this?" It was awesome for me as a fan to be getting this shit and be going, "Wow! This is fucking crazy."
This is a two-parter in prestige format, but do you set Lobo up for future stories in the DCU, and if so, would you be interested in writing him again?
Oh absolutely. Yeah, sure. I don't know if it would necessarily be a sequel or just another completely separate story. But DC has already spoken to me about another character that they'd like to see Sam and I do together, so we're just at the really early stages of that. And I'm not going to say who yet until it's 100% a go. I've been working on a couple of ideas, and hopefully I get the green light on that pretty soon.
So this isn't celebrity stunt writing. You're in it for real now.
After I finished Book 1 and I flew to New York with the pages, I was so nervous. I had never done this before, and now I had to sit in a room with my editor [Ian Sattler], and he's going to go over everything – all 64 pages that I'd just wrote. I was sweating. I'd never had to do something like that before. I've had to write lyrics for Anthrax, but I don't have to get them approved by somebody. So it was nerve-racking. And I actually sat there and read the whole book back to him. I did all of the characters. And I did voices.
I got through 64 pages, and he had like two notes. He was like completely blown away. He was like, "You don't understand. I sit in this room with some of the best writers in the world of comics and I'll have like 40 things to go over with them. It's a total home run. You nailed it." And then he gave the book to everyone else there up at DC and he said, "People are just freaking out over what a great job you did." And then he pitched Dan [DiDio] about me doing this other character, and they were like, "Yeah, he knows what he's doing. Why not? Let's do it again."
Do you think fans of yours from Anthrax, that haven't picked up a comic since they were a kid, may pick this up and see what's it all about?
I hope so. I think if you're an Anthrax fan or a heavy metal fan, Lobo is tailor made for that audience. So I think my book would be a great introduction to comics for the non-comic book reader, especially if you're an Anthrax fan. It's going to be right up your alley.
Now that you've worked with the character extensively, if you were casting the forthcoming Lobo movie, who would you want to play the Ultimate Bastich?
There's actually this guy named Matt Willig who is an ex-football player who is an actor now. And he... looks like Lobo. The dude is a fucking monster. And he's actually a good actor, so I think he'd be perfect as Lobo. He's a giant fucking menace of a human being and I think he would be amazing as the character.
You mentioned that DC was talking to you about other characters, and maybe this will give something away, but are there other heroes or villains you would love to write in the DC Universe?
Yeah, besides the one that I'm hopefully going to be able to do, sure, I would love to do a Guy Gardner run. He's always been one of my favorite characters. I think I would have an interesting perspective or take on Guy Gardner. That's one of the first ones that comes to mind. And of course, Batman. Whether they let me take over an existing series for X amount of books or if I got to do my own thing, either way, that's certainly on my list of things I want to do before I die.
Musician, nationally-ranked poker player, comic book writer, food critic -- is there anything else you'd love to do before you die? Maybe try your hand at beekeeping?
[Laughs] The only other thing that I've really never got to do, other than just playing myself on things, is act. It's something I think I have a natural propensity for. I certainly see other people and other people that I personally know, like Henry Rollins, who are getting to do a lot of cool stuff and I'm always like, "Dammit. How come he gets to do all that cool shit?" Look, it would be certain kinds of things I could do. It's not going to be some period piece in an English accent.
What, no "Pride and Prejudice" for you?
Not unless they do a movie of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." I loved that book. If they did that, I could be in that.
Or getting to play some kind of aggressive character on show like "Sons of Anarchy," or something like that. "The Shield" is long gone now, but damn, I wish I could have been on that show.
I actually did try out to be a Terminator on "The Sarah Connor Chronicles," because my friend was the showrunner. He had me in and I actually auditioned, he said everyone loved my audition, they loved it, they thought it was great. The only problem was, the Terminator in the episode had to imitate a military person, he kills a military guy, and then he's dressed in his uniform, and obviously a military office isn't going to have a seven-inch beard on his chin. So my friend Josh [Friedman] was like, "Look, I would never tell you to shave your beard but..." and I think if I would have shaved my beard, I could have played the character. So my answer was, "If it's a recurring character, and I get to come back four or five times, I'll absolutely shave my beard." But he said, "No. It's a one-shot." So I couldn't do it. It wasn't worth it for me for one shot. I was going to be able to play a Terminator and actually kill some people, but I figured I'll have another chance at that some time.