Chat Transcript: Bob Layton

Fri, October 21st, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Brian Cronin, Staff Writer

Brian Cronin: Welcome, folks, to the Bob Layton chat!

Bob Layton: Hi folks.

Brandon Hanvey: What kind of training did you do to become an artist? Are you self-taught or did you take classes?


Khonshu: Didn't you train under Wally Wood?


Bob Layton: Self-taught-- for the most part. However, I did apprentice with the great Wally Wood and had Dick Giordano as a mentor.

Brian Cronin: Will the New York Jets finish last in their division?


Brian Cronin: (had to throw in a football question for Bob)


Bob Layton: Hey-- Vinnie was great last Sunday! If the front line can protect him-- they may get to the playoffs. But they won't win this year.

Stephane Garrelie: I often go to your site. Thanks for all these unpublished issues of Future Comics books you've been putting on-line. And for the various editorials by yourself or David Michelinie, too.


Bob Layton: I really appreciate you visiting the site often. I try hard to make it as entertaining as possible


Brian Cronin: It really is a great-looking site, bob. www.boblayton.com by the way, for those that did not know.


Brandon Hanvey: Nice site, Bob. But you should move your nav bar to the top. It makes it easier to move from page to page.


Bob Layton: Thanks for the site suggestion; I'll look into moving the nav bar.

Petersen: How do you feel about the "specialty" nature of comics today?


Bob Layton: Define "speciality"


Petersen: Specialty: that the average age of comic readers is continuing to move upwards, comics are mainly purchased at a specialty shop, no longer are comics affordable enough for your readers to grab a stack of stories each week..


Bob Layton: Oh-- I understand. I'm saddened by the lack of mainstream appeal that the industry has today.

Petersen: Follow up on "specialty": do you feel that lack of mainstream also leads to a more appreciative and dedicated audience?


Bob Layton: Yes, and smaller and smaller audience

skinnymikec: Have you thought about the number of recreations you are doing. I see that you've done the same "Iron Man" cover five times now?


Bob Layton: I agree that five times is a lot. But who am I to tell someone wants it "no". It's their dime, so to speak.

Brandon Hanvey: What was the most important thing Wally Wood taught you about creating comics?


Bob Layton: The quote that makes me smile the most is: "Never shit on a fan-- because he may wind-up signing your paychecks someday."


Brandon Hanvey: Haha

Brian Cronin: Digital coloring-- I get that there are pros and cons, but if you had to give a "Good for comics" or "bad for comics" answer on it, what would you say?


Bob Layton: Brian: on the whole-- good for comics. My argument has always been with the operators-- not the tools.


Brian Cronin: Fair enough.

skinnymikec: So, if Quesada hates you, why not do some DC or Dark Horse work?


Bob Layton: It's not Joe Q that keeps me out of comics. It the biz in general.


Bob Layton: When I say the "biz" I mean the business side of it, not the artistic side of it


Stephane Garrelie: Do you mean that the corporate side have a problem with your past as Valiant EiC and future comics co-founder?


Bob Layton: Can you elaborate on that question, please?


Stephane Garrelie: The businessmen, the money people, more than the editorial staff? I mean is it that the problem is with the money people seeing you as the ex-boss of two concurrent companies (Valiant and Future Comics) that prevent you to work for DC and Dark Horse, more than a problem with the editorial staff?


Bob Layton: Unfortunately, I work in a business that has some resentment toward authority. I think at times it has been a problem having been an authority figure in the business. You're gonna piss somebody off sooner or later.

skinnymikec: Do you feel more satisfied doing the commission work than being in the mainstream industry. It kinda seems that way.


Bob Layton: Not really, but the pay is about the same.


Bob Layton: And I don't have to work for anyone.

valiantman: Do you have any plans to write a biography? (Did you keep any journals?)


Bob Layton: Yes, I kept daily journals during my entire tenure at Valiant.


valiantman: Excellent! So... how do I get a copy?


Bob Layton: Of my personal diaries?!? :)


valiantman: Sure... what better way to "be there," too?


valiantman: Seriously, I believe it would be fascinating to view the rise and fall of Valiant through your journals. Valiant was #3 at one point, and then it didn't survive "the great crash"... there's got to be a lot to learn about comic books in there.

Petersen: How do you approach story telling?


Bob Layton: Um, at the beginning :)


Bob Layton: Seriously, I always approach story through character, I'm not big on situation driven stories

Brandon Hanvey: Do like to work from a plot or full script?


Bob Layton: I like to work from a plot

skinnymikec: Any desire to do some small press stuff..get back to basics so to speak?


Brandon Hanvey: Join the indie side.


Bob Layton: If the right offer came along, absolutely. I am a huge supporter of indie publishing.


Brian Cronin: Indie publishing has recently become a real boon for creators like Grell, Ostrander and Englehart. It is good to see a market develop for great creators.


Bob Layton: I agree.


Brian Cronin: And I like how these companies have discovered just how relatively cheap it is to produce a comic book.


Brian Cronin: Rather than forcing creators to have to form the company themselves


Bob Layton: When you use "A-list" guys, the art and editorial costs are huge.

Petersen: When you talk about character, who do you see as being the most interesting?


Bob Layton: Do you mean protagonist or antagonist?


Petersen: I mean, who do you find to be the most compelling character you can think of (from TV, radio, movies, literature, stage, real, fictional....)


Bob Layton: Ok. The most compelling character I can think of is King Arthur. Noble and tragic all in one package.

skinnymikec: Bob, other than Iron Man, who are your personal favorite characters in comics?


Bob Layton: Dr. Mirage at Valiant, XO Manowar at Valiant, and Freemind for Future.

JohnThompson: I just wanted to say thank you for the comics I loved best as I was coming of age, like "Iron Man," and I loved your "Hercules" series!


Bob Layton: Hi John, always great to hear from a fellow Herc fan! Oops, I forgot, put Herc on that list of favorite characters!

Brian Cronin: Was your and David's return to "Iron Man" simply a matter of a changing of editorial guard?


Bob Layton: Which time?


Brian Cronin: Second run/first return


Bob Layton: No. David and I wanted to work together again, and when we sat down to discuss what we wanted to do; we both discovered that we had a lot of Iron Man left in us.

Brian Cronin: Do you think it is important to try to keep a character looking current? Just thinking of your "Iron Man" runs, you made the characters' appearance look very timely. Is that something you're a proponent of (as compared to keeping things in a sort of "classical" sense, like Clark Kent basically keeping the same look for 60 years)?


Bob Layton: That's easy to answer.


Bob Layton: My philosophy always has been that technology continues to evolve and streamline. The one thing that Marvel doesn't seem to understand is that. They keep making the armor more bulky more loaded with clunky crap.


Brian Cronin: You mean, Iron Man is not still run on transistors?!?!?


Bob Layton: ROFL


Brian Cronin: How annoying was it, on that note, to have to draw the bulky Iron Man in Bad Blood?


Bob Layton: It pretty much sucked.


Brian Cronin: And Chen's Iron Man was a lot less bulky than some others


Brian Cronin: And it was still pretty darn clunky.


skinnymikec: Yeah, it's not getting any sleeker..


Bob Layton: I always envisioned the Iron Man armor resembling the Silver Surfer by the time it evolved to its peak


JohnThompson: Now that is a direction I wish Marvel would take!


Bob Layton: Look at the difference in iPods from the time they came out till now as an example.


Brian Cronin: Makes sense. Which makes it fairly interesting to note that Ultimate Iron Man has taken the opposite approach, and made the armor bulkier. Interesting, because it is the "ultimate" version.


Bob Layton: Are you saying Marvel has their technology ass-backwards? :)


Petersen: Not to start an argument, but don't you think Iron Man would be a much less interesting looking character if he were sleeker?


Bob Layton: I think that depends on the design and the technology.


Petersen: I like the old bucket head version because it interesting & mechanical.


skinnymikec: But isn't the real point in the character of Iron Man, not how many missiles he can launch from his shoulder?


Bob Layton: Absofrigginlutely

Brian Cronin: How did you and David first get together?


Bob Layton: We met at DC Comics back in the mid '70s. We became fast friends and have been working together ever since. He was even the best man at my wedding.


Brian Cronin: That's right, he was doing "Adventure Comics" for a time, wasn't he?


Bob Layton: Actually he was doing "Claw the Unconquered" and "Star Hunters" with me


Brian Cronin: Gotcha. He did write for "Adventure Comics," though, right? I didn't imagine that, right?


Bob Layton: You didn't imagine it. But I met him after I started inking one of his books.


Brian Cronin: Okay, phew.

gouldie: Have you had any new developments in regards to your Future Comics properties? I know you were working on movie treatments for at least one of the characters...


Bob Layton: Yes, but I'm not really at liberty to discuss.


gouldie: Sweet! I thought the Future characters were pretty cool and wish they had been around longer. I like how you are showing new stories that were not published on your website. I think that is great!!!


Brian Cronin: Agreed, that really is cool, Bob.

Stephane Garrelie: How you get the idea for Bethany Cabe?


Bob Layton: We really wanted to create a companion to Tony who wasn't a damsel in distress.

Petersen: What story or character have you never gotten a chance to work on, but have been itching to?


Bob Layton: Adam Strange and Challengers of the Unknown.

Brian Cronin: Did you guys have any idea Rhodey would be such a mainstay when you guys created him?


Brian Cronin: Or was he always intended to play a strong role in the book?


Bob Layton: He evolved from a small supporting role. I don't think Dave or I knew at the time how big he would become in the series.


Brian Cronin: Did he evolve because of fan reaction, or did you guys just take a liking to him?


Bob Layton: Both. Remember there weren't a lot of strong African American characters in the Marvel Universe at that time

Justin Davis: Whose idea was it to do the alcoholic storyline in "Iron Man?"


Bob Layton: Dave and I wanted to create something that wasn't the heart attack of the month that would be his personal demon. The one thing the armor couldn't fix.


Justin Davis: Do you think you achieved that?


Bob Layton: Achieved what?


Justin Davis: Achieved a storyline that worked out well as his personal demon.


Bob Layton: I would say so, yes.

Justin Davis: Bob, cool, good to hear. Got another one for you. Since you co-created Huntress, how do you feel about her in "Birds of Prey?"


Bob Layton: I love the royalty checks.

Brian Cronin: Hercules? Why Hercules?


Brian Cronin: Was it that he wasn't in anything at the time so you had freedom?


Bob Layton: Pretty much. I've always had a fondness for secondary characters. I always felt that Hercules had more potential than what we'd seen prior.

Brian Cronin: X-factor, were you involved in the creation of the team?


Bob Layton: No, they were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.


Brian Cronin: Haha


Brian Cronin: Touch


Brian Cronin: That's what I get for not saying formation…hehe.

gouldie: I would also like to thank you for doing my Valiant class of 2005 commission. It turned out awesome to say the least!


sonicdan: Yeah, that Valiant Class of 2005 is incredible!


Bob Layton: You're very welcome.


Bob Layton: And my wife wears the Valiant Class of 2005 shirt all the time. She stole it.


gouldie: LOL - I will have to get you another shirt then for your very own!


Bob Layton: LOL - make it a 2x so she can't wear it

Brian Cronin: What's the last Marvel or DC comic that you've read?


Bob Layton: "Ultimate Iron Man."

Justin Davis: Off of comics for a second. What non-comic, television or movie, property are you most proud or happiest to be associated with and how?


Bob Layton: Good question. Let me think about it for a minute.


Bob Layton: I have some Hollywood projects that haven't seen the light of day yet that I am very proud of. "Colony" is the one project that is the current love of my life, creatively


Justin Davis: Can you tell us what it's about? How about if or when we'll see it?


Bob Layton: "Colony" is an allegory to the founding of Australia, set in space.


Justin Davis: Sounds neat. I dig "Earth stories" told in science fiction/space settings.


Cayman: does it have space dingoes?


Bob Layton: Yes, and they're gonna eat yer baby.

Brian Cronin: (Other than yourself), who was the funnest artist to ink on a regular basis?


Bob Layton: Without a doubt Ron Lim and he is a sweetheart of a guy.

gouldie: Mr. Layton - who is the penciller that you most enjoyed inking period?


Bob Layton: John Romita JR.

Brian Cronin: Which character that David created are you most jealous that you weren't in on it?


Bob Layton: Boz.

Brian Cronin: Have you ever asked Paul Levitz for advice about running a comic company?


Bob Layton: I've gotten his advice from time to time. Paul and I are still very good friends. He sends us DC toys. :)

gouldie: Do you own the rights to the Bad Eggs characters? I thought they were kinda funny!! :)


Bob Layton: No, but if I did, Uncle Don and I would be doing it right now!

Stephane Garrelie: One of my favorite stories in your original "Iron Man run is the one with Ant-Man's journey in Iron Man's armor. The artist that you inked on that issue was Jerry Bingham. He did some other issues with you and Dave, too. Who had the idea for Scott Lang guest-starring in "Iron Man?"


Brian Cronin: I would guess David would be the one on that one. :)


Bob Layton: Brian's right, it was David's idea.


Brian Cronin: I really dug how he got to use Scott Lang (and Taskmaster) so many times.


Brian Cronin: Without it seeming too forced.


Brian Cronin: Hard to do that.


Bob Layton: I dug it, too.


Stephane Garrelie: I'd love to see Bob Layton and Jerry Bingham on a project again


Bob Layton: What is Jerry Bingham doing these days?


Brian Cronin: I think Bingham is just doing commercial illustration nowadays


Brian Cronin: Oops! http://www.jerrybingham.com/ he has a website!


Bob Layton: I'm there as soon as we get off of here

Brian Cronin: On Dr. Tomorrow, did you pick the artists yourself?


Bob Layton: No. They wouldn't let me


sonicdan: I loved Dr. Tomorrow. It's too bad Acclaim had to screw up the ending


Bob Layton: Me too. It was the first time I was ever going to be able to do a story from start to finish.

valiantman: Have you seen the finished Solar lithograph from DF? What do you think?


Bob Layton: I think it is OK, although I'm not thrilled with the color.


sonicdan: Do you know of any other plans Dynamic Forces has with Solar or other Valiant related characters?


Bob Layton: I'm supposed to do a Magnus litho, but I've never gotten approval on the sketch.


Bob Layton: I don't know what the hang-up is.


sonicdan: Right on


sonicdan: What's the print run on the signed version of the Solar litho?


Bob Layton: I really don't know. The project was handled through my agent, so I've not had direct contact with DF.


sonicdan: OK gotcha....I figured I'd get the non signed one and maybe have you sign it later. :)


valiantman: DF lists the litho as #2 top seller, currently.

Bob Layton: My lovely wife, who has a day job, is going to bed. Everyone say "goodnight" to Jillian!


sonicdan: Goodnight Jillian!


gouldie: Good night Jillian!


Brian Cronin: Good night, Jillian!


Bob Layton: I'll stay on for a while. She is very forgiving that way.

Brian Cronin: At Valiant, which creative talent are you most proud of "discovering?"


Bob Layton: Without a doubt-- Sean Chen and Bernard Chang


sonicdan: Yeah, both Chen and Chang are amazing artists


Bob Layton: And terrific young fellows as well. I've met both of their families and they are very proud of raising such fine men.

sonicdan: Do you still keep in touch with BWS?


Bob Layton: Unfortunately, Barry and I had a falling out. Too bad. I really admired and respected him. I just don't think he felt the same way towards me, ultimately. I do miss him.


sonicdan: Sorry to hear that, Bob.

Brian Cronin: Steve Englehart brought it up the other day, so I figure I might as well ask for your take on it-- thought balloons in comics. Like them or dislike them?


Bob Layton: I think they have their place-- as do all storytelling devices. I prefer not to use them too much for fear of sounding like the voice-overs in "Dune." :)

valiantman: Did you consider purchasing the Valiant copyrights? What once sold for $65Million more recently sold for under $1Million?


Bob Layton: I couldn't have purchased them if I wanted to. The folding of Future Comics pretty much tapped me out financially.

Stephane Garrelie: I know that it was your birthday last month so happy birthday :)[


Bob Layton: Thanks. Jill took me to a great resort for my birthday-- complete with an ocean view and a massage spa. It was fantastic!

Cayman: Who is your favorite Iron Man foe?


Bob Layton: Dr. Doom. I always felt-- even as a kid-- that he was more suited as an Iron Man villain that any other character in the Marvel Universe.


Ronald Bryan: Because of the armor?


Bob Layton: Oh, no. Not the armor. More because they both were nobility of a sort. Captains & Kings, so to speak.


Brian Cronin: That storyline certainly has held up well.


Brian Cronin: The Doom/Iron Man one reads just as well know as it did then..


Brian Cronin: Heck, yours and David's run as a whole just holds up remarkably well (okay, except maybe Tony and Rhodey's hairstyles from the second run...hehe)


Bob Layton: Gotta love those mullets, eh? :)


Brian Cronin: Mullets and flattops.


Brian Cronin: '80s in nutshell.


MrBlond: I had both.


Bob Layton: Rhodey had more of that "Kid & Play" thing going on.:)


Bob Layton: We actually had a third part of that Camelot saga-- but we couldn't convince Marvel to do it.


Brian Cronin: That makes so little sense. With the third, it would be easy packaging for a trade.


Bob Layton: I know, but this is where my bad politics at Marvel comes in. No one is going to take a chance pissing off Joe by hiring me. Just ask Bobbie Chase.

gouldie: I thought you and Joe mended fences a while back?


Bob Layton: Nope. Last word I got was that he's still carrying a huge "mad-on." Again, as Stephane mentioned, there's always a problem once you've become an authority figure in this biz. I've heard the same thing from Dick Giordano. He still has problems getting people at DC to return his calls. Pity.

gouldie: Who is your favorite inker from the Valiant days?


Bob Layton: Tom Ryder.

Brian Cronin: Do you think that it is important for Tony to be a "normal" enough man underneath the armor?


Brian Cronin: It is interesting to note that both Ultimate Iron Man and the Marvel Universe Iron Man have gone away from that and I wonder if you think that (without, of course, knocking the story in question) sounds like a mistake?


Bob Layton: It's better that turning him into one of the X-Men-- like they're doing in Ultimate. The man on the inside is what makes the armor special, not the electronic gadgets.

gouldie: If you had your choice of working on any title that has been printed (even stuff from long ago and far away) what book would you work on today?


Bob Layton: I'd like to take another shot at Hercules. I still want to do my "fun look at death" run.

sonicdan: Do you have a favorite X-Man?


Bob Layton: Yeah, the ones who are dead. :)

Brian Cronin: Do you think there is anything today that is equitable to the fanzines of the '70s?


Bob Layton: Nope, and that a real shame. But thankfully, there are a few things like Advanced Iron still around. The Internet has pretty much made fanzines obsolete.

Brian Cronin: What are your thoughts on long storylines in serial comics? I note that yours and David's alcoholism story was notable for how short it was. When the story was brought back later and drawn out, I think it really gave the book a bit of a lag when the story was finally resolved, as the ending was too much of an ending. I think the same with Magnus and Rai's big storyline for Valiant. Did you and David ever make a point not to do anything that "big" in the stories? Like "Armor Wars." It ended with a specific beginning of a new story instead of a dramatic "this is the end " moment.


Bob Layton: As you probably know, stories are now being designed specifically for trade paperback repackaging. A lot of them don't warrant six-issue arc. I'm sorry, but that's the truth.


Bob Layton: When David and I were doing "Iron Man," we always aware that new readers were coming onboard and we never wanted to leave them out in the cold on the ongoing storyline. So we kept it as short as possible without sacrificing story content.


Brian Cronin: By the by, speaking of "writing for the trade," I think that was something that was irksome about "Bad Blood" to me. It was like you guys were trying to shoot for that style, while it was so different from your normal way of doing things.


Brian Cronin: And, as we have seen with writers like Chris Claremont, it is hard at first.


Brian Cronin: I think it really made the alcoholic storyline that much more powerful, because of the brevity. I was pretty disappointed with the later, drawn out one.


Bob Layton: "Bad Blood" was a nightmare-- in my personal opinion. That was one of the reasons for my leaving mainstream comics. We really had our hands tied behind our backs by Marvel management.

Stephane Garrelie: There's another important name that I haven't see here tonight yet: Justin Hammer. On many level he was one of the heroes of the series.(even if an arch-villain) .


Bob Layton: Justin Hammer was a terrific villain-- an older Tony Stark, but without scruples. A dark mirror of what Tony might have become if he took a wrong turn.

Stephane Garrelie: The two "Hercules" mini and the graphic novel were great. It's a pity that Shooter didn't let you do that "Red Wolf" mini!!!


Bob Layton: Thanks for the kudos. "Red Wolf" was another one of those forgotten characters I spoke about-- like Hercules. I really wanted to do something fun with that character.

gouldie: Did you ever find the plot to that "Timewalker" storyline that was not published? I would be very interested in reading it if you do... :)


Bob Layton: I haven't found it yet, but I'll post it when I do. I've been really busy with the Hollywood bullshit and haven't had time to poke around the ol' storage area.

Bob Layton: I want to thank each and every one of you for your terrific questions and comments. Feel free to write me at my website and check out the features there. Bye.

 
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