Interview With Christopher Golden
(April 1998)

Christopher Golden wrote the novel Daredevil:Predator's Smile for Byron Preiss Multimedia, and soon will be the writer of the new Punisher series. Here he talks about the novel and what's upcoming for him.

Kuljit Mithra: How did you make writing a career, and how did you get interested in writing for comics and comic related novels?

Christopher Golden: I started writing in high school, and got serious about it in college. I actually began my first novel, Of Saints and Shadows, as a senior in college, in 1989. However, I knew that I had to have a real job while I pursued a writing career, so I moved to New York to take a job with Billboard magazine. I was quickly promoted to Licensing Manager, and after three years of working at the greatest job in the world, working on the Billboard Music Awards tv show, American Top 40 radio and having the best boss in the world, I got my first novel contract (for two novels, actually) and quit to move home to Massachusetts with my wife.

I read comics as a boy, but stopped at about age twelve or thirteen. Then, as a sophomore in college, I lived with two guys who had also read them as a kid, and we stayed up late one night after lights out just reminiscing. Come to find out, one of my roommates, Jean-marc, still read and collected comics. He got me back into it. Daredevil and the X-Men, along with all the Marvel horror characters, were my favorites as a kid. When Byron Preiss Multimedia were putting together their Marvel line, I had a meeting with John Betancourt (who was the editor then) and Keith DeCandido (the editor now, who was then John's assistant) about becoming a kind of consultant for them. Turned out Keith was enough of a Marvelite that they didn't need me, but that meeting did lead to my writing the Daredevil novel. When Preiss got the X-Men license as well, well, I pretty much went into Keith's office and demanded he give me the gig. 'Course, he could have thrown me out on my ass, but I'm very glad that he didn't. I'm very proud of the work I've done on all of my Marvel novels, and I'm grateful to Keith and Byron for the opportunity (though the DD novel was sort of a nightmare).

Mithra: How did your Daredevil novel, Predator's Smile, come about? Did you submit a proposal for the novel?

Golden: Other than as described above . . . yes, I offered them an outline. It really began as a story about child pornography and abuse of children. It was sort of modeled -- in its PURPOSE -- after the work of Andrew Vachss. I wanted to do something that mattered. Well, the people at Byron Preiss and the editors at Marvel, particularly Ralph Macchio (who was Frank Miller's editor on Daredevil) who has since become a good friend, really liked the outline. I got the greenlight and wrote the novel . . . which is decidedly NOT the novel that you all read (if you read it.) Those who have read the original work enjoyed it a great deal, including Ralph and Tom DeFalco. Unfortunately, between the time my outline was approved and the manuscript was delivered, the editorial control of these books had changed hands. It was no longer the editors of the comics who were in charge, but a group called Marvel Creative Services. Somebody up there apparently got it into their heads that the Daredevil novel should not have any of the following: drugs, prostitution, children in jeopardy, references to pornography. Well, as you might imagine, that threw my book as written right out the window. It was also patently ridiculous since all of those things had been done and were being done in the comics already. What hurt even worse was that not long afterwards the then writer of the comic book Daredevil began to introduce a storyline similar to what was in my original manuscript. The story never went anywhere. I suppose he was 'steered away from' the subject matter.
To make a long story short, I ended up rewriting the book (I got paid, of course) to take out all of those things. The worst part was dealing with Karen Page, who had been a junkie prostitute porn star, without mentioning drugs, prostitution or pornography. I mean, how many times can you refer to her 'dark past?'
The end result, however, turned out fairly well. While the original novel was more meaningful in every way -- it really was about something I felt strongly about -- I do think that the finished product actually holds together much better as a novel.
Strange the way things happen.

Mithra: Why Daredevil? It seems like an odd choice for a novel, since he is not as well-known as other Marvel characters. Was it a tough sell? Did the book do well in sales?

Golden: Actually, I have to say that I think Daredevil is a better character to use in novel form, if you do it right, than just about any other character in Marvel's stable. Also, DD has a great supporting cast. I had as much or more fun writing Foggy and Karen and Bullseye and Kingpin and the Widow as I did writing DD. Sales wise, it did all right. It's still in print. It stills sells. But of course, nowhere near the numbers that X-Men and Spider-Man do.

Mithra: Why did you choose to have your story take place between issues 233 and 234?

Golden: I won't say Daredevil has never been done right since Frank Miller left the book, but I will say that Daredevil has RARELY been done right since Frank. I read through all of Miller's work and since it was so tightly woven, the only place for me to tell a story that takes place in that era was to have it take place between Frank's last issue and the first by another writer. There was a convenient lag between those issues anyway, some time had past, so there was room for an untold story.

Mithra: Was it a problem to make your story not affect continuity too much?

Golden: Well, the books aren't really in continuity anyway, but at the time, Ralph Macchio did say that he was treating the story as though it were a part of continuity. I'd love to go back and do it as a comic book, and use my original story concept for it.

Mithra: Was it also a problem to make the novel accessible to new readers without boring the long time DD fans?

Golden: There were a few pages, scattered throughout the book, where I kind of explained how Matt became Daredevil. But I don't think I belabored the point. I certainly wasn't about to do an "origin." I'm not very objective on the subject, but I think I struck the right balance. I hope ...

Mithra: You had some interesting choices of character names and locations... Klaus Miller, Everett the bodyguard, Janson Hotel... was it your way of paying homage to some former DD greats? Who are the writers and artists who define what Daredevil is, for you?

Golden: Oh yeah. Absolutely I paid homage to the creative teams from Daredevil's history. They're all heroes as far as I'm concerned. However, I have to say that the Lee/Colan team and the Miller/Mazzuchelli team were the best.

Mithra: Do you think Karen Page is the best choice to be 'the girlfriend' in the comic?

I think if the people in charge at Marvel were willing to allow Karen to be portrayed as what she is, she makes for a fascinating character. That said, there's no reason she can't move on. Karen could show up again later, or even appear elsewhere. She was also, for a time, involved with Johnny Blaze.

Mithra: Was there a character in the novel that was difficult to write about?

Golden: The most difficult was the character I had to cut out, a twelve year old girl who had been forced into a life of drugs and prostitution and pornography. Other than that, the greatest difficulty was actually showing Daredevil's point of view and not being able to describe the color or texture of anything. He can't see, after all.

Mithra: I've heard there are plans for another DD novel next year. Do you know anything about it?

Golden: I've heard rumors they've talked to Warren Ellis. Warren's an excellent comic book writer, but I don't know if he's written prose. I suspect he'll do a fine job. I just hope he knows his continuity, because for a character like Daredevil, you have to know your continuity.

Mithra: Turning to comics now, you've also worked on the Daredevil/Shi crossover. Overall, what is your opinion on how that turned out?

I think Tom [Sniegoski] and I did a pretty good job with the characters, but I was disappointed with the story overall, and very disappointed in the way the book looked in the end.

Mithra: Earlier this year, you teamed with Gene Colan on a Blade special. What was it like to work with him?

Golden: Like walking on air. The first comic book I ever bought myself was Tomb of Dracula #12. Gene is a god. He was the only artist whose work ever stood out to me as a child. The only one who didn't try to draw like Jack Kirby. Real and flowing and beautiful, and he's still a master. The day I found out Gene was going to be drawing the book, I nearly wept with joy. Truly. I wish we'd had another twenty pages to tell the story, because it's very cramped, but that's my fault for being too ambitious, not Gene's fault. He's a gentleman, and he doesn't get nearly enough respect in this industry for his brilliance as an illustrator.

Mithra: Later this year, you will be writing the Punisher as part of the Event Comics deal with Marvel. I know you probably don't want to go into any details about the story, but what do you plan on doing to make the character popular once again?

Golden: All I can tell you is this: We are not changing one iota of the Punisher's history. Everything that has happened will still have happened . . . but after what Tom and I are doing to Frank Castle, nothing he's experienced since the day his family was killed will mean the same thing to him as it did previously. In fact, I'd have to say that if he was suffering at level ten previously, we're cranking him up to about one hundred.

Personally, my biggest problem with the Punisher was that I never cared what happened to him. Andrew Vachss has said in the past (I'm paraphrasing now) that once a monster is created, no matter how sympathetic you may be to how he got that way, he's still a monster. This is a completely different situation, but I think that rule applies. Frank was a monster. I felt bad for what happened to him, but I didn't care about him "NOW." I think that, if nothing else, this story should change that. Just a little. Just enough for you to say, that poor son of a bitch.

Mithra: How do you find writing novels when compared to comics? Is one easier than the other?

Golden: They're so completely different that it's hard to compare. Not the same discipline at all. However, if you want to ask is one more work than the other, then of course, writing a novel is a far greater challenge, and far more work than writing a comic book could ever be.

Mithra: What other projects do you have coming up?

Golden: Tom Sniegoski and I are writing SHI for at least issues twelve through eighteen. I'm writing a trilogy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer adult novels with my friend Nancy Holder, with whom I'm also writing the Official Companion to Buffy. My hardcover X-Men novel Codename: Wolverine will be out in October, and I really think Wolvie fans will dig it. My third original vampire novel, Of Masques and Martyrs, will also be out in October.

(c) Kuljit Mithra 1998
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear

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