Scribe of Steel: talking with 'Man of Steel' writer Mark Schultz

Tue, March 12th, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

[Superman: The Man of Steel #118]Whether you like the Superman comic books or not, one would be hard pressed to deny the proven talent at the helm of each of the four series. Whether it be Joe Kelly, Jeph Loeb (though he will be leaving in a few months) or Joe Casey, each have proven themselves to be extremely talented writers in their work preceding their Superman writing and at least a few times during their Super-writing. But amid these "big names," one man seems consistently ignored by the 'mainstream' comic book press, namely Mark Schultz, the writer of "Superman: The Man of Steel." Taking a break from his various creative endeavors, Schultz sat down with CBR and talked about the comic book industry, Superman's place in the world and how Schultz broke into the industry.

"Born in 1955 near Philadelphia, and raised outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mark at age six discovered both comics (Dell Comics' 'Tarzan,' and DC Comics' 'Superman,' 'Metal Men' and 'Hawkman'), and, through television broadcasts, classic adventure films, in particular King Kong and the Tarzan series," says Mark of his comic book fan beginnings, quoting his "official" bio. "As a teenager, he was further inspired by the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard, and the illustrators associated with them, in particular Al Williamson, Roy Krenkel, and Frank Frazetta. Upon graduating from Kutztown State College in 1977, Mark devoted his career to producing commercial illustration until 1986, when a long-repressed desire to tell stories prevailed, and he submitted an eight page 'Xenozoic' introductory story to Kitchen Sink Press. Publisher Denis Kitchen showed interest in the concept, and the first 'Xenozoic' adventure appeared in the eighth issue of the anthology magazine, 'Death Rattle.' Reader response was positive, leading Kitchen Sink to offer Mark his own book; 'Xenozoic Tales' premiered in February of 1987. Immediately garnering critical praise, 'Xenozoic Tales' built to a commercial success that saw it adapted, under the name 'Cadillacs and Dinosaurs,' to a CBS television animated series with associated product merchandising. In recent years, Mark has branched out, co-creating and co-writing 'SubHuman,' an underwater adventure series for Dark Horse Comics, and assuming monthly scripting chores on 'Superman, Man of Steel,' for DC Comics. In addition, he continues to write and draw 'Xenozoic' stories, and produce scripts and cover art for various other comics projects, including 'Star Wars,' 'Aliens,' and 'Predator.' The comics industry has honored Mark five Harveys, two Eisners, and an Inkpot Award. Mark's artwork is strongly influenced by his love for classic American illustration, and its roots. Some of the artists he admires and studies include Winslow Homer, Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, J.C. Leyendecker, Daniel Smith, Dean Cornwell, J. Allen St. John, Herbert Morton Stoops, and William Stout. Mark's principal influences from within the comics field include Hal Foster, Alex Raymond, Roy Crane, Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, and Al Williamson. He, his wife (and letterer) Denise, and their two cats currently live in the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania. For relaxation he hikes, travels, watches old movies, and tries to keep current with developments in the paleontological, ecological and environmental sciences."

In addition to having developed a real love for comics as a result of his childhood experiences, Mark explains that his love for comic books isn't just a result of nostalgia: he loves the comic book medium as a whole. "I grew up loving adventure and science fiction and storytelling and the comics are just part and parcel to that. The desire to work professionally in comics is something that grew slowly within me -- mostly out of a desire to tell stories of my own in a graphic -- and affordable -- manner. The best thing about the comics medium is that it offers a relatively great amount of artistic freedom balanced against the ability to reach a mass audience. It's all a sliding scale, of course -- there is less inherent freedom in working with a company-owned property and more in a self-owned property, but you can generally reach a much larger audience working with company product than with your own property (mainstream companies, anyway, can afford to promote). But, as a whole, the relatively inexpensive production costs of the comics industry allow for more creative chances to be taken, than, say, the motion picture industry, where far steeper production costs allow for fewer truly creative opportunities. All in all, I'd say comics are my preferred medium, and I'm fascinated by all the possibilities inherent in it. "

Even though Schultz was inspired by comic books at a very early stage of his life, he admits that it wasn't till he was in his twenties that he felt the call of the comic book industry in his heart. "As a young adult, the single thing most responsible for leading me to the desire to work professionally was the discovery of the classic EC comics. Particularly the science fiction and Harvey Kurtzman's war books. Through reprints, I'd been aware of the EC stuff long before, but I scored a pile of mostly dog-eared reading copies in the early '80's and the physical contact with the original comics just transformed me, inspired me."

Schultz also finds that throughout his writing career, he has been influenced by other mediums and the real world itself. "All mediums influence my work -- thematically, graphically and narrative. Movies and the theater, of course, are a great source of inspiration for trying to develop compelling dialogue. It's been said a thousand times before, but you can never spend too much time with Howard Hawks's trademark banter for learning to mold character through rhythmic, concise dialogue. I try to keep up with all aspects of the biological and physical sciences, as well as history and current events, in the eternal quest to come up with story ideas. There is so much constant information available to us today, it becomes impossible to isolate yourself from outside influence. The 'Man of Steel #103' story I wrote, my personal favorite, was inspired by my interest in the destruction of eastern United States coastal environments, based on numerous articles I have read. I think that story was effective because I have a deep personal attachment to the problem addressed."

[Xenozoic Tales #14The aforementioned transformation propelled Schultz forward into original work like his "Xenozoic" stories and sci-fi adventures like "Star Wars," resulting in Schultz catching the eye of someone at DC who would offer him the job of a lifetime: working on a Superman comic book series. "Joey Cavalieri hired me to work on Superman back in I guess it was 1998," explains Schultz. "He was the editor at the time, and the first published Superman work I did was for the 'One Million' event. I guess Joey was happy with what he saw because I was offered the MOS (Superman: the Man of Steel) book, and I've been there ever since. Immediately prior to that I had been doing scripts and covers mostly for Dark Horse, largely property tie-in stuff -- Aliens, Predator, Star Wars. Joey was familiar with my Xenozoic Tales work and was aware that I was looking for more scripting jobs (I'm too slow to make a living by my graphics alone). Lucky for me he was willing to take a chance on someone coming out of left field. I owe a lot to Joey."

Besides the nostalgic appeal and obvious resume boosting impact of work on the world's greatest superhero, Schultz says that there is an inherent appeal in Superman that makes him an irresistible creative prospect. "Superman is an original -- a truly powerful, lasting concept. Before there were superheroes there was Superman, a great science fiction concept that exploded into an entire genre. There would be no superheroes without Superman. The comics industry may not have survived till now without Superman. Superman is the gold standard by which all other superheroes are judged, even to this day. He is such an iconic, enduring literary creation that he remains -- barring maybe Mickey Mouse -- by far the best know cartoon creation in the world. And he has a fantastically rich mythos, a wonderful supporting cast built up around him. Superman allows you a lot of room in which to play."

"Superman is at heart, a simple, honest, empathetic man who JUST WANTS TO DO THE RIGHT THING. That's so important -- he doesn't have an axe to grind, he doesn't have an agenda. He isn't a thrill-seeker, a mundane adventurer. He is concerned, mature and thoughtful -- he wants to use his incredible powers in the most helpful manner possible. He represents what's best about the human race, which is especially interesting because he isn't a human being. He's an alien migrant -- he is the ultimate immigrant success story."

Schultz has received a lot of positive fan reaction for his depiction of Superman and his supporting cast, which is no doubt due to the clear understanding that he has of the Superman mythos and it's characters. "The relationship between Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane is, of course, the core of any Superman book," explains Schultz when asked to share his perspective on the MOS cast. "Lois is a mortal who has been chosen by a being who is essentially a god -- a being who could probably get any woman, mortal or immortal, he wanted. So Lois must bring something very important to the relationship -- she is Superman's ground. She keeps him in complete touch with the world of average, mortal humans. She keeps him human. And she is our conduit into the world of Superman -- we can identify more with mortal Lois than we can with godlike Superman. Specifically in MOS, I deal a lot with John Henry Irons, aka Steel. I've focused on his talents as a technical engineer and physical sciences researcher more so than his two-fisted superhero persona. He's become Superman's partner and go-to science expert. (Superman may be really, really smart, but he can't know EVERYTHING.) Irons is also troubled by a recent death and rebirth experience, and the sinister Entropy Aegis that may have restored him, but also seems to be exerting an unhealthy control over him. Irons has also exhibited a certain genius for business affairs, having developed his Steelworks into a serious rival to LexCorp over engineering contracts. He chooses to put much of his company's profits into financing worthy scientific research. He's devoted to his niece, Natasha, who (somewhat reluctantly) helps in the Steelworks, and provides him with needed grounding. Although in some ways a typical, self-absorbed teen (although a genius), she is devoted to her Uncle and provides a measure of common sense and reality-check that are sometimes missing in Irons. And she finds no allure in superheroes. They're a pain in the ass, in her studied opinion."

[Superman: The Man of Steel #124]The topic of Steel, an African American character in a superhero comic book universe that unfortunately still features mostly Caucasian characters, is universally considered to be a perfect example of a non-minority writer "getting" how to write a minority character. Schultz admits that he really doesn't know how to respond to the praise lauded on him for this particular aspect of his writing and instead offers up his own philosophy for how he approaches the character of Steel. "I don't know what to say about this. I just write my characters to the best of my ability as interesting people I would like to know. Steel's character and experiences are based on what I know, and I believe all character and experience is LARGELY universal. The surface stuff -- trying to get cute with dialect and making trendy cultural references I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole -- I would make a fool of myself trying to do that. I DO allude to Steel having an interest and perception of his history -- both personal and cultural -- so you can see little indications of that now and then: a reference to the folk hero John Henry, boxing gloves mounted on the wall. I thought Christopher Priest did an excellent job developing Steel's character when he had his own book, I just try to not stray too far from that. Natasha, actually, is tougher -- she should reflect, to a certain degree, current urban teenage slang, and I am not particularly savvy to that. I do the best I can. Less is more, I guess."

Schultz has also helped to bring another cult-favorite character to the forefront, namely the Star Spangled Kid, who also appears monthly in "JSA." "The SSK (Star Spangled Kid) and STRIPE became available when they lost their own book and needed a new home. Primarily STRIPE, because the Kid has JSA. And I needed help in the Steelworks for Steel -- poor guy was running the whole damn place himself -- so bringing in Pat Dugan made sense, and Geoff Johns [creator of the new SSK] was very gracious in discussing the characters with me, offering some guidance. My only regret is that there has been little room to really use STRIPE." Another character who Schultz has "borrowed" from the large DC mythos is Talia Al Ghul, daughter of Batman-foe R'as Al Ghul and nemesis of the Batman. She is currently the head of Lexcorp, while its founder Lex Luthor acts as President of the United States in the DCU (DC Universe). But did Schultz specifically ask to use her, since she has appeared in so many of his stories? "It's just kind of worked out that way," admits Schultz. "I've written several stories that featured LexCorp's presence, and she's the boss at this time. I find her interesting because I believe she has, and I've written her as having, her own secret agenda that appears the be anti-LexCorp. Of course, with my ecological interests, I find her eco-interests fun to play with. She's trying to free herself from her father's dominating presence, which is always fun character stuff. And she's sexy. I have further plans for this daughter of Ras-al-Ghul, heh, heh, heh...."

But what about Lois Lane, the wife of Superman? Readers have noticed that she doesn't play a large role in MOS and Schultz says it is not because he dislikes the character or her marriage to Superman. "I like the marriage just fine -- Lois is the perfect compliment to both Clark and Superman. If we don't see Lois more in MOS, it's only for lack of space -- I feel an obligation to spend time with the Steelworks characters, and Lois is well represented in the other books. We will, however, be seeing more of Lois in MOS in the coming year."

For those of you not currently reading "Superman: The Man of Steel," it may almost seem like Superman barely appears in his own series since the supporting cast is so huge and so heavily explored within the series. "Well, I'd hope that overall Superman doesn't come off as a guest star, but I do know that some readers think he is too marginalized in MOS in favor of Steel," says Schultz of the perception that MOS doesn't quite focus enough on the title character. "As I think I indicated above, John Henry Irons was given to me as a mandate -- Eddie [Berganza, current editor of the Superman comics] and DC wanted him to have a regular presence in MOS. But I've developed a real affection for the guy, I like his type -- he's a career man, totally in love with what he does, which I see as primarily being a scientist and engineer. I see his Steel superhero personality as secondary to what he's really about -- he's the answer man, the cool head who can always come up with a technical solution when needed. AND he's a great character because he's conflicted -- he THINKS about how to use his talents, about where his place in the world lies. And he's a loving parent to his teenage niece who's NOT a goofy sidekick. All these things keep me intrigued with Steel, and YES, I'd love a chance to wheel him out in his own miniseries, because there's never enough space to REALLY center on him in MOS -- no matter that it may SEEM like he's squeezing out Big Blue."

Weaving together all of these elements, a god like man with a scientist partner and ecologically minded antagonist, Schultz has a clear direction for the series. "Simply put, MOS is the designated science fiction book, with a directive to pay attention to Superman's Kryptonian side. Which suits me just fine, because I love science fiction, and I find the alien-on-Earth stuff, and all the trappings that come with that, to be fascinating. I feel I can sink my teeth into it, and Eddie Berganza and DC have been very good about letting me take the stories in a direction I feel comfortable with. I don't know why science fiction appeals to me so much, it just always has. I guess it the fun, the mystery, the awe of newly discovered worlds, and the challenges -- physical, mental and ethical -- that come from that." But this isn't to say that things are always perfect: Schultz admits that the somewhat interwoven nature of all four Superman series can be an issue, though it has its perks as well. "Both the hardest AND easiest part of writing MOS is probably the interconnected nature of the books. Most everything we write must be, to one degree or another, coordinated with all the other 'weekly round-robin' Super-books, and that can sometimes be annoying -- if only because comparing notes and agreeing on mutually acceptable concepts and plots eats up time. However, it IS a gas working with three other creative scripters, all of whom I admire. And having those three other professionals to call on -- not to mention our equally creative Editor, Eddie -- makes it a lot easier to get through story blocks. I've worked most of my career very independently and this is a great change of pace for me."

Another difficult aspect of writing a science-fiction centric superhero story is trying to balance to fantastic elements of science fiction- compounded by the inherent nature of superheroes- without losing the human grounding of the stories either. "I always try to keep in mind that Superman and the rest of the cast must always behave like REAL LIVING, BREATHING PEOPLE, no matter how outlandish the circumstances our little fantasies place them in," explains Schultz of his approach to try and keep a human heart at the core of his stories. "I try to keep their responses, their relationships, as close as I am capable of to how I perceive real people behaving. To cut corners and force the characters to act in an artificial manner because it is convenient to a plot contrivance is one of the worst writing sins you can commit."

[Superman: The Man of Steel #103]Overall, he has enjoyed his time with the Superman series and Schultz does note that there are some moments that have stood out from others. "Well, what comes to mind right now is 'MOS 93' (introducing Nekton -- a good, old-fashioned monster-and-kids morality story), 103 (the ecological ethics story), 111 (Return to Krypton) and 116,117 (OWAW installments, which I enjoy because I feel I solved some tough storytelling problems and pushed some real emotion. I'm not sure how many others would agree with, but they work for ME)." Another highlight of his work on MOS was the collaboration with artist Doug Mahnke, who now pencils the high profile "JLA" with fellow Superman-writer Joe Kelly, and Schultz says that working with Mahnke was a pleasure. "Doug was a dream to work with. Very cooperative, always open to discussing ideas, always able to offer creative solutions. A great sense of humor, and the ability to convey that humor appropriately, subtly in his art. Also, the skill to convey emotion subtly, through small gestures and slight expressions, as opposed to the broad 'over-acting' you see so much of in comics. If Doug would change something in a script, I could be sure that he was improving it. That confidence is not common. I miss him, but he's doing great work with Joe Kelly on 'JLA.'"

Schultz is armed with new artist Yvel Guichet and is ready to tackle another bold era in Superman comic books, but can't quite tell readers what exactly will happen next. "Oh, come on -- this will just get me into trouble! It'll be cool though -- we are very conscious of not repeating ourselves, of trying to push Superman in new directions, of making him MEANINGFUL. No trepidations -- it's time to do another crossover." But one thing has been leaked to fandom is the fact that Schultz will be exploring how Krypton and Earth may be linked: perhaps it isn't just coincidence that Superman looks human. "I don't know how this is going to play out," concedes Schultz. "All I know is that Kal-El, an interplanetary alien, has adapted extraordinarily well to life on Earth -- so well, in fact, that he's presumably sharing completely normal and satisfying intimacies with a homo sapien wife -- and that just set's my science fiction alarms off. I could say that, well, 'that's just comics! No need to explore any further!', but I think there's a cool story here. I just haven't figured it out yet."

As mentioned before, the strongly inter-connected nature of the Superman comics has been quite controversial and recently it was announced that each series would tell separate stories before coming back for a major crossover later in the year. "Well, with multiple writers, if you enforce one 'official' vision of any property or character too strenuously, you get a cookie-cutter, bloodless series," says Schultz in response to perceived differences between how all the writers script Superman. "The writers and artists have to be given a certain amount of leeway to follow their visions if you want to try for superior stories. Hats off, because I thinks Eddie and DC recognize this. There are certain Superman character beats that are rightly engraved in stone and we are expected to hit them, but beyond that we've been given our heads to infuse Superman with some of our own interests and obsessions. What the books may lack in a certain amount of character consistency, they more than make up in creative energy, I think. We are dealing with fiction here, not biography. Both 'linkage' and non-connected stories are good and important in measure. I like the lean toward less linkage, but then it's nice for a change of pace to get the creative synergy of a longer, interconnected story going between four writers."

Another controversial topic is the "Our Worlds At War" crossover that dominated the Superman series- and much of the other DC superhero comics- last summer and resulted in mixed reactions from fans. "I enjoyed it very much," says Schultz of his work on the crossover. "I LIKE big intergalactic doom stories now and then. No regrets on my part." However, he does admit that the long ongoing plot points and unresolved mysteries can make it harder for new readers to enjoy the comic books. "Absolutely. I think we need to simplify if we hope to being in new readers." But so far, he is happy with reader response even if he doesn't let it dictate how he creates his stories. "I'm always interested in others informed opinions, but ultimately, I write stories that make me happy. I feel honored by the overall response I've received."

[Superman: The Man of Steel #119]In this day and age, there are still many comic book fans who vehemently hate Superman and refuse to read his comics, labeling him as a two-dimensional "big blue boy scout." "Unfortunately, Superman is handicapped by being a thoughtful, even-keeled character sold in a market largely composed of teenage males who identify with alienated exomorphs with big chips on their shoulders," explains Schultz of why some may not like Superman. "That's not meant to be judgmental, it's just the way it is, it's just part of being a teenage male. I don't know if anything will make Superman more popular to that demographic. The key, in my opinion is to try to distance Superman from the pack, make him attractive to a larger, more diverse demographic. The world outside comics knows and respects Superman -- we've just got to get them reading Superman comics again." When asked if perhaps Superman is more relevant now as a result of the September 11th tragedy, Schultz says that, "It's up to us creator's to make him more relevant, if that's possible, right? We WILL find ways to make him relevant."

Like Superman, Schultz is also a man of many talents and is quite an accomplished artist. "Been drawing for my own amusement since I was five, professionally since 1978, as a comics pro since 1986," reveals Schultz All my sequential page work has been for my own book, Xenozoic Tales, but I've done cover work for a number of books, including work for Dark Horse, Marvel and Kitchen Sink. "

Schultz also says that working with big name creators like Casey, Loeb and Kelly doesn't make him feel intimidated or ignored. "Ignored? Not at all. I get all the attention I need, though much of it still comes from my 'Xenozoic' work. I'm sure that, coming to Superman without a history in mainstream comics, I am an unknown factor to many superhero fans. As I always have, in MOS I write stories primarily for myself -- the type of stuff I feel I'd like to see if I was the reader, and let the chips fall where they may. The feedback that I do get for MOS indicates to me that those you care enough to voice there opinion are happy enough with the work I'm doing."

So, as someone with such a long and varied career, it would stand to reason that Mark would have an informed opinion on the industry and he does, which is obvious when he is asked about what can be done to increase the base of comic book readers. "Now there's a huge question. One that could fill an entire book. The American public in general seems to be very resistant to comics, and far more savvy marketers than I have tried to reach it and failed. As I said before, comics can be such a bastion of creativity because they are an inexpensive form, but that also means that, compared with other forms -- movies, TV, now electronic gaming -- there is not a lot of money to be made, so you don't see the kind of promotion money available that we'd like to see in comics. As things stand now, the comics industry's hopes have to be pinned almost entirely on grass roots movements to create public interest in comics -- in other words, making comics attractive or "cool" to read is largely out of our control. What we as an industry could and SHOULD be doing is holding ourselves to a higher standard. Too much dreck is shoveled out in the name of occupying valuable shelf space, and too many gimmicks are promoted at the expense of solid content. These marketing ploys may help to hold on to the few hardcore comics readers who remain loyal to mainstream books, but do nothing to attract new readers, or convince old ones to return. We must be able to deliver more editorial diversity -- intelligently and creatively, not perfunctorily -- and have the wherewithal to stick with that diversity through the extended time necessary to allow a greater, non-traditional readership to find us. We can't keep to a next-quarter profit mentality and hope to grow a bigger market. To be honest, I'd say we currently do not have a healthy, vigorous industry, and I do not see any signs to indicate it will get better anytime soon. Our future seems very unclear to me. I try not to become overly pessimistic OR overly optimistic. As we've seen in the past, if the right WHATEVER comes along at the right time, everything can change almost overnight."

Like many other professionals, Schultz sees the superhero remaining a predominant aspect of the comic book industry even though he'd like to see more diversification. However, with the success of series like "100 Bullets" and "Red Star," he believes that the comic book industry can relieve itself of its "superheroes only" image. "Superheroes will always remain an extremely important part of mainstream comics, I imagine, simply because they serve a male fantasy need, and comics do 'em better than any other medium. Even with CGI, movies can't begin to approach the necessary thematic exaggerations of the best superhero work. Superheroes are a CARTOONED medium. Personally, I wish we WOULD see less dominance by superhero titles, but at least in the near future, I sort of doubt it. I don't have figures, but I believe the titles you list above still sell well below most mainstream superhero book numbers. They are 'prestige' books and should certainly be encouraged, but until the industry figures out how to reach a broader market with broader interests, I don't see them threatening the hegemony of the superheroes. But these are the kinds of books (as I pointed out above) that COULD draw a broader readership -- I don't think superheroes are going to do that."

But Schultz isn't quite sure what the next trend will be, partly he admits, as a result of not keeping up with that aspect of the industry. "Y'know, unfortunately and I'm sad to say, I just do not keep up very well anymore with up-and-coming stuff. My loss, and I should get off my fat ass and start searching for exciting new stuff. As far as next big trends -- I don't see one. Do you? Does anybody? I think our current time is remarkable for being such a trend vacuum. Could be good -- leaves room for something big to happen."

[Aliens: Apocalypse #1This of course begs the question: which comic books does Mark Schultz read? "All the Superman, and Superman related books, of course," reveals Schultz. "Mike Mignola's 'Hellboy' continues to be wonderful entertainment, as does Alan Moore's ABC Comics, the 'Tom Strong' saga stuff in particular. And I would walk a continent to pick up any new 'Jack B. Quick' story drawn by Kevin Nowlan. The old independent bellwethers Dan Clowes and Los Bros Hernandez continue to amaze. Anything by Carol Lay. I hate this kind of question -- I'm always forgetting a whole raft of good people."

With so many satisfying moments in his career, Schultz is quite happy with how things have gone though he still has a few more "dream" projects in mind. "This could go on awhile, but I'll keep it short by focusing on my one fondest dream, and that is to get 'Xenozoic Tales' up and running again. The past few years, that has been a financial impossibility, but I am always looking for a way to play the angles and get it going sooner or later. One way or another, I will get back to it. Other than that, I've got a number of self-owned projects I'd like to get off the ground, hopefully in the comics market if that becomes feasible. If not, possibly as prose novels. On a more practical level, I'm hoping that there will soon be a Steel and his Steelworks mini-series with me scripting. There's so much I want to explore with this guy and his circle, but don't have space to in MOS."

So what should fans expect from Schultz for the rest of the year? "Continued MOS scripts, of course. For DC I'm also working on a Flash novel -- part of their JLA paperback series with Pocket Books. I'm also writing another couple of comics projects I shouldn't talk about because they're not 'done deals' yet. On the graphic side of things, I'm in the middle of illustrating a collection of Robert E. Howard's original 'Conan' stories for Wandering Star -- oil paintings as well as brush and ink work in a deluxe hardcover. Illustrating Howard is a project I've dreamed about since I was a boy -- I'm very excited about this. Due out for this Christmas."

For all those who are fans of comics or those who are fans of Schultz's work, he has a special message for you. "If you're a follower of my work going back to 'Xenozoic Tales,' thank you, thank you, thank you for your incredible loyalty and patience. If you are someone who knows my work only through Superman, and maybe you only read superhero comics, give your brain half a chance and open yourself up to some diversity. Not necessarily to my previous work, although that would be nice, but there's a helluva lot of great stuff out there that you're missing. You could discover a lot of unexpected enjoyment if you'd just broaden your focus a bit."

 
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