This weekend at Fan Expo, Marvel Comics historian Jason Shayer was able to sit in on a panel featuring comics legends Walt and Louis Simonson. Here’s Jason’s report!
Spotlight on the Simon sons
Fan Expo 2013
Friday, Aug 23 – 12:30pm
Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, this panel was scheduled for only half an hour. The moderator wisely skipped any introduction or spotlight material and immediately opened the floor to questions.
The first question was about Beta Ray Bill (first appearance in Thor #337, Nov. 1983) which was punctuated by a cosplayer donning an impressive homemade Bill costume. Walt explained that he had carte blanche with the title and wanted to create a new hero who was worthy of the inscription on Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer.
When asked about the reaction to the Thor Frog story line (Thor #364, Feb. 1985), Walt basically said that there was no negative reaction although there were a few letters asking him if what was happening was for real. He also noted that in those days, the majority of fan letters were positive, while now most of the fan reaction online seems to be negative. The Thor Frog storyline was an homage to Carl Barks (creator of Donald Duck and Scrooge) and that he liked the fairy tale twist with the prince (Thor) being turning into the frog.
Walt talked about his upcoming IDW comic, Ragnarok, which will feature his own take on the Norse Myths. The basic premise is that Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods, happened without Thor and the bad guys won. Two hundred years later, Thor returns and is out for revenge.
Louise talked about the Death of Superman in the 1990s and how much fun it was working on such a collaborative group of Superman titles. She praised editor Mike Carlin for his efforts in coordinating the weekly books. She also talked about how it was the Funeral for a Friend storyline afterwards that had interested her more than the Death of Superman.
I asked them what it was like working together and they both agreed that it was a fun experience and that they fed off each other’s creative energies. When co-writing the Wolverine and Havok limited series in 1989, they would each take turns at the typewriter and write until they got tired and the other would take over.
At the top of the hour, the questions kept coming and the Simonsons kept answering. The panel ran over, delaying the Neal Adams panel. When Walt heard that it was Neal waiting, he jovially yelled out “Tell Neal to get lost!”
What came through in this intimate and interactive panel was the approachability and neighbors-next-door feeling that radiated from the Simonsons. Two individuals whose lives have been intertwined with comics for 50 years and clearly still love the medium.