Rave : 2001 : Spider-Talent 1 - Lee Weeks (Interview)
Lee Weeks has been a comics professional for awhile now and made many great contributions, including a great run on Daredevil. More recently though, his career has lead him to work on Spidey. Besides penciling fill-ins for the core titles, he made his writing debut (and he was the artist too) on Spider-man: Death & Destiny, to critical acclaim and even got a Marvel Online award for best mini of the year! Well, he found some time to answer some questions about his work...
SpiderFan: Here's your chance to plug your stuff. What have you got coming out that you want people to buy? A personal website you want people to visit and buy hand-sculpted "Lee Weeks" statues?
Lee Weeks: I'm working on a story for the upcoming new Spider-man book, TANGLED WEB. The title of the story is GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT and is written by Bruce Jones. It's one of the two or three very best stories I've ever had a chance to work on. I'm hesitant to say this, because I dont' want all the Spider-man fans out there thinking it'll be great Spidey out there kicking some tail. In fact, the stories in TW will focus on other people and how SM affects the changes in their lives. I don't want to give away too much, but I will say it's about a man who finds out he has a year to live due to his cancer and how he faces a moral dilemma with such little time left and how he finds value in a life that has had seemingly very little. It's got a lot of heart and I hope it is read by everybody.
SpiderFan: How'd you get into the comic biz? But, to make it more interesting, tell it like a superhero origin!
Lee Weeks: Lol...I don't know about the origin part (although, for school I did do a "Wizard of Oz" version of my career up to that point), but I'll give you as much of the lowdown as I can.
Born in 1962 in the smallest city in the U.S. at the time, Hallowell, Me, population 2,200. My desire for doing comics first came in the form of wanting to emulate one of my four brothers. By the third grade, it was what I wanted to do for my life, but it would take a few more twists and turns to get there. I always drew, but not a lot of people ran off chasing dreams where I grew up. Places like New York, and even Boston (which was much closer), might as well have been a world away. But after making plans in high school to go on to college to study engineering and play American football, I was in a near fatal car wreck with my best friend. He got banged up pretty good, and they didn't know if I'd live for a few days. And like a terribly cheesy Television movie of the week, with wires and tubes coming out of me everywhere and my Mom standing over me, my first words when I woke up after the surgery that saved my life were,"Can you get me a pencil and some paper?" No kidding. I passed back out, but held onto that idea that I would draw as a way of just having something to hang onto. (this is more than you bargained for, isn't it? lol)
I attended a year at a fine art school right out of high school, but dropped out. It still wasn't comics. After a year of working in a pizza joint, I then ventured off to the land of Oz (New Jersey) to attend the Joe Kubert School of Art. If nothing else, it would put me near New York, where all the big American publishers were. Well, again I had my fill of school after one year where I worked harder than I ever had before. In fact, a bit too hard. I was burnt out and for the first time in my life, I didn't draw at all. Nothing. For almost a year. It was a rough time, but finally, while working in a convenience store, I began scribbling again with a ballpoint pen on a brown paper bag. Soon, I'd graduated to white napkins at the local diner and my appetite was back and as voracious as ever for the medium of comics.
I hooked up with an old pal from Maine and we put together a short story that we pitched to a small publisher on the west coast, Eclipse. And they bought it!!! So at 23, I had finally made it as a published comicbook artist. In a year (1986), I would be working at Marvel, and three years later, would land a gig with Daredevil, which has to have been the most pivotal point in my working to date. It opened the doors to everything else that's come since. Mostly because I had so much energy for that character and it all went right into my work, which took off by leaps and bounds. I studied guys like Caniff in more depth and that had so much of an effect on my work, I can't begin to tell you.
Well, now the 90's have gone by like a blur. I moved around between the companies and worked on the likes of Tarzan, Batman, Superman, and the Predator. For the last three years, I've been back with Marvel, and working almost exclusively on Spider-related projects for the past year plus.
How's that answer?
SpiderFan: You had a sizeable run on Daredevil, and you've said that working with Daredevil was your dream job at the time. What's the difference for you, working on Spidey? And how does Spidey differ in your esteem compared to Daredevil?
Lee Weeks: Well, let's start by saying that both characters are driven by a sense of responsibility -- Spidey's revealed to him through the murder of his Uncle Ben, while DD is in a continual struggle to meet a more spiritual responsibility.
Physically, at first notice, one might say they are very much the same. But when you draw them, you'll find a whole host of differences in their movements. Spidey is more wiry and unorthodox in his movements. Limbs can fly in different directions. DD is more controlled in his moves, as he has to be. He's using radar and must be aware of and totally focused at all times on each detail of his surroundings. So you can do funkier posing with Spidey, where there's more symmetry in DD's moves.
Personality-wise, I think there is a melancholia to each of them. However, Daredevil shows his more, while Spidey has that great juxtapositioning of sides of his personality when he wise cracks in the midst of a battle, ala Muhammad Ali. And again, similar to the great boxer, Ali, I see that as a powerful psychological tool for Spider-man -- one that keeps his opponents off balance and maybe wondering if the arachnid isn't crazy.
SpiderFan: How'd you get your first Spidey gig? (Peter Parker Vol.1 #34 according to our records)
Lee Weeks: wow...I don't think I would have remembered that one! As I recall, that was in issue with the Punisher? If it is the book, then I penciled half that book as a favor to my friend, Bob McLeod, who was the actual artist on those issues. Bob lives nearby and it made it easier to work with him and get the book out and still have it be as good as we could make it. I had a lot of fun drawing for such a good inker, too.
SpiderFan: Death & Destiny was a great story. I think you have a great affinity for the character of Peter Parker. How close are you to this character? On what level do you most connect with him?
Lee Weeks: I certainly connect with aspects of his character. And really,...isn't that why he's endured all these years? Because he has these struggles that we can all relate to in terms of a teen angst that turns over to the "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" thing. It's the struggle to know what's right and wrong, and how our perception of those things change. That's what I tried to deal with in that story. And how it can all be turned upside down on us at any given moment. I also always loved the romantic tension between he and Gwen Stacy. I loved reading all the non-Spidey stuff when I was growing up. I still think ASM was one of the best romance comics of the 60's and early 70's. And those three issues (ASM 88-90) were so great, it provided the perfect jumping off point for my story.
And thank you very much for the kind words!
SpiderFan: You've had a lot of positive response for Death and Destiny (a Marvel.com award & my review for starters). Did you feel at the time you were taking a risk with this story and it wouldn't be accepted well?
Lee Weeks: I knew I needed to put my toe in the water of writing. I'd put it off for years. I was fortunate when this story revealed itself to me. It really came about because I was reading those earlier issues and I noticed that Doc Ock was left on the roof after Capt. Stacy died...and wasn't heard from again for two years worth of issues. And when he WAS seen again, there wasn't a single mention between our webbed friend and the tentacled on about what happened on that roof back there. Surely, there must have been at least a conversation we hadn't seen yet...something that would allow Spidey to put the incident to rest in terms of Doc's involvement.
Writing was strange...and hard. This was my first full-length story and I didn't want it to stink. I didn't want people saying, "oh, look at the penciller who thinks he's a writer." I'll admit it, in terms of wordsmithing, I'm NOT a trained writer. But storytelling is something different. There's so much gut instinct in telling a story, and it's a different animal from prose. I felt like it was a great opportunity to venture a bit deeper into my craft, and try to find the perfect little intersections in a story where the right word lands on the right picture in perfect synchronicity. Working as a team, you can't really have the same precision of storytelling (in most cases). I think that's why Frank Miller's work is so strong, along with other writer/artists.
Specifically to DEATH AND DESTINY, I would think it was pretty good one day, then wonder what the heck I was thinking the next. It's not a typical superhero story with action ever so many pages. I WAS worried how it would be received. I knew that the core idea was pretty good,and that I had a neat and fun way for the full truth of the tragedy to reveal itself to Spider-man. Peter the photographer would show him. In fact, the first scene I was sure of was the end of issue one, where Pete goes rummaging through a drawer to find a hidden box with a canister of film in it that had yet to be developed. Showing the backstory of 88-90 through those pictures provided a good dramatic ending to that chapter.
And heck, I was just so overwhelmed by the response. Honest. At first, I thought people were just being nice (the insecure artist), but then reviews like yours and the award...all from people I'd never met before. Jeeesh....maybe it was pretty good, after all, I thought. In fact, I look forward to trying again soon.
SpiderFan: You've said that Spidey's history is just ripe for stories like Death and Destiny. What Spidey period is your favourite and what other Spidey stories are you just itching to tell?
Lee Weeks: It coincides with when I read the title the most. My favorite storyline is probably #'s31-33, the three-parter that culminated in THE FINAL CHAPTER where he has to lift tons of wreckage off himself in order to get a medicine to his Aunt before she dies. Just great stuff. I love the Death of Captain Stacy story, too. In fact, I think the series from issue #1 right through #122 (Goblin dies...the first time) could be the complete series for me. I love stories here and there that have come since, but the ones I read growing up had such a lasting influence on me.
SpiderFan: Okay, seen the movie High Fidelity? Well, let's do some top 5 lists!
Top five fave comic creators.
Lee Weeks: I'm sticking with comicbook people, knowing that Raymond and Foster and Caniff would dominate otherwise:
SpiderFan: Top five inspirations for your work.
Lee Weeks: (again, I'll leave out the non-comic inspirations, like musician Pat Metheny!)
SpiderFan: Top five comics on the market at the moment, in your opinion.
Lee Weeks: I wouldn't have a clue....honestly. I like 100 Bullets.
SpiderFan: Top five characters you'd like to work on.
Lee Weeks: Fantastic Four
SpiderFan: Top five creators you'd like to work with
Lee Weeks: (Of the list I haven't worked with....)
(who writes and who draws doesn't matter)
SpiderFan: Marvel seems to have just had a changing of the guard, or so to speak. And Spidey's set to take rise in profile (ala Ultimate, J.M. Straczynski and the movie). Where do you see your future with Marvel and in particular, their Spider-man franchise?
Lee Weeks: I wouldn't want to jinx things...lol. It's a rough time in one sense for the industry, but on the other hand, I think we're seeing more sincere putting of the heads together to make better comics than mainstream has done in quite some time. I'm hopeful and excited to play what part I can in the next few years.
SpiderFan: One last question. Picture this. Lee Weeks, crowned king of the world. Well... king of the Spidey corner of the world anyway. What would you do? What continuity would you change? What direction would you send the character in?
Lee Weeks: I'm saving my answer on that one. I have an idea for a new direction for Pete and Spidey -- a new direction that will bring him more full circle into the aspects of his character that I believe have been missing for several years, but a direction that is most definitely forward. There would be no going back for nostalgia's sake.
SpiderFan: Thanks alot Lee for spending the time to answer these questions!