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Sam Kieth
Selected interviews.
You know what they say about a guy that draws big feet...
A chronological listing of Sam's comic, card, and film work.

Sam speaks about life, The Maxx, and his plans for the future.

Sam Stories available only on the Web.

by Patrick Daniel O'Neill
(Originally printed in Wizard #6, February 1992; reproduced by Chris Caughey)

He gets co-creator credit on Sandman, though he gives the credit himself to Neil Gaiman. He followed Barry Windsor-Smith on the Marvel Comics Presents Wolverine feature...and didn't look like a second-hand choice in the process. He's Sam Kieth (I before E, please), and he's a talent with a sense of humor--about himself and about the field he has chosen: comic books.

WIZARD: How did you break into the business?

SAM KIETH: I started working at smaller comic-book companies--all of which have gone out of business since--and worked my way up to the larger companies. Not that smaller companies are down on the name the company, I've probably done at least a back-up story for them.

Boy, this is wandering. Can you make up a better answer? [laughter]

WIZARD: There are lots of places an artist can work--advertising, illustration--why comics? What is it about comics that said to you, "This is where I want to work"?

SAM KIETH: That's a great question.

Probably, for me, it was the easiest thing. Certainly, I've found it easier than the little advertising work I've done or doing art design for movies or any one of a number of other things. Relatively speaking, comic-book artists--and I would assume writers; you'd know better than me--have the maximum amount of freedom, wouldn't you think?

I mean, generally, there's nobody telling you to change something a million times, as I saw happen in advertising. If you are being asked to change things a lot in comics, you probably have the wrong editor. Most editors that are actually..well, mammals, and not serpent-like..won't cause you too much hardship. That sounded really cynical, didn't it? [laughter] Have you seen the Wolverine series I did in Marvel Comics Presents with Peter David?

WIZARD: Haven't finished it, yet...but I'm reading it.

SAM KIETH: There's some little stuff I tried to put in there; I don't know if people caught it or not.

In one of the stories, I put in the bulldog from Rocketeer--the one with a pipe. I'm a big fan of Dave Stevens, so I put the bulldog in the background of one of the dream sequences. Nobody caught it! I was sure Marvel would have taken it out! And later on, sure they would get wise, I changed it to a poodle--and they caught the poodle, but not the Rocketeer dog! "Why does this poodle have a pipe?" they asked. And I couldn't tell them...because they'd take the bulldog out, too.

WIZARD: When you're working one something like Wolverine, did Peter give you a fairly detailed plot?

SAM KIETH: That was odd. Even Peter would tell you that, in the beginning, it was pretty detailed and toward the middle, when he found out I was doing it, it got less so.

You see, when Peter wrote the first two chapters, he thought Todd McFarlane was going to draw it...and when Todd had to back out, I got it...and then Peter said, "If Sam's gonna do this, let's make it really weird." Then he started adding all this strange stuff--and like a fool I kept requesting all these odd things to appear in the story. So Peter had to figure out how to get them into Madripoor; that's where the dream scenario came from. That's the only logical reason for the hot dogs in the story.

Kids keep asking, "Was there a plan or method in doing this?" I'd like people to believe there was. Peter's a talented enough writer that, in the end, it kind of makes sense. I said to him, "You know, I really think this story reads like we knew exactly what we were doing from the beginning."

Did Peter tell you about the eyeball thing?


SAM KIETH: There's a part where Wolverine rips the villain's eyeball out of the socket, puts it in his mouth and spits it out. When Peter told me this originally, he described it very vividly as a very violent scene. I thought he was asking for it to be very graphic.

I made it way too graphic--I forgot that kids are going to read this! Everybody said, "Are you nuts?" And I I changed it.

WIZARD: One of those times when it's good to have an editor.

SAM KIETH: Very much. I had gone into my cynical 24-year-old mode, but there's a lot of little bitty kids who read this.

WIZARD: As you know, there's been a lot of talk over the past few months about the concept of the writer-artist...or artist-writer, whichever way you want to put it. Have you ever given any thought to writing your own material?

SAM KIETH: There are a lot of facetious things I could say that would get me into trouble.

What would you think if I said, "Yeah, I really want to write!" Would you think, "Gee, this guy's getting too big for his britches." Or would you think, "Well, he's ambitious, but probably a little too ambitious for his own good," or "Go ahead, let him write. If he can, great; if he can't, he'll burn his own bridges."

WIZARD: My personal attitude is that if an artist has to show samples before he gets a job as an artist, the artist who wants to write has to do the same. You ought to have to prove your talent before you get handed plum assignments.

SAM KIETH: I'd agree with that. That makes perfect sense. It would be a nightmare--although I know it won't happen to me--if somebody were so popular as an artist that they could say, "I want to write," and things would just form around them to make it happen.

I don't cast aspersions on anybody who's done that, though. I have ideas for stories, and I'm interested in co-plotting, but that's as far as I can go. For the actual words, I'd want to work with Bill Loebs or Neil Gaiman or Peter David, somebody who knew what they were doing. That was the good thing about working on Sandman...Neil let me come up with parts of it. And Peter, too: He thought of the concept of Cyber and let me give it visuals.

That's the strength of an artist-and-writer collaboration. It seems there are certain pitfalls that the writer-artist tends to fall into.

The Maxxis ™ and © Sam Kieth.
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