Writer/ artist Walter Simonson is a legend, having been in the comics industry for over five decades now. Making his name on DC’s Manhunter in the early Seventies, he has moved on to work on everything from Marvel’s Thor and Fantastic Four to Elric at DC. With Ragnarök, a creator-owned series he is writing and drawing coming from IDW in July, Simonson returns to Norse mythology, a subject that has seemingly obsessed him throughout his career. We caught up with him to find out why this topic continues to be close to his heart and also ask him how he feels about seeing his older work back in print with the release of IDW’s Manhunter Artists Edition…
Joel Meadows: What was the genesis for Ragnarök?
Walt Simonson: When Scott Dunbier was working over at Wildstorm and this was before Wildstorm was a part of DC, we chatted a lot, off and on. I did a couple of jobs for him there and in the course of our chatting, he asked me if I’d be interested in doing a creator-owned comic book based on the Norse myths. So I said ‘Oh sure’ but saying sure is actually different from actually doing a comicbook. So it sat around for a while, for years really. We would chat about it once in a while. But several years ago now, another friend of mine, Jerry Ma, had a company which produced T-shirts. We were just talking about how much fun it would be to do a Thor T-shirt some day but my own version of Thor. And Jerry said: ‘sure, just do the drawing and we’ll do the shirt.’ So I ended up doing some drawings for it and a shirt came out. It was just me doing a drawing, it wasn’t strictly Norse. It was really just no more than a goof and then literally some time after that, maybe as much as a year later, I had an idea. I think I was at home in the house, I was thinking about that drawing and this really was like lightning striking. I had an idea for what would be a cool first issue or a cool story with this character, what this guy represented. And I’ve also learned the hard way that if I have an idea, I have to write it down. And some time later I was struck by a second bolt. I think actually the second time I was driving, from getting pizza to going to Borders. So I had this idea for a beginning and suddenly I had what was really the key idea for the series. So I drove quickly back to the house, typed for an hour. So honestly, it started about 16 years ago and then developed gradually. I talked to Scott about it and by this time he was at IDW. They were doing creator-owned books and we had a long talk about it and he was game for it to be presented to IDW. And so we worked out a deal and I am working on it now.
JM: Is Ragnarök the chance for you explore themes as a result of your work on Thor back in the 1980s?
WS: Not really. I came across the Norse myths when I was probably in Junior High School. My parents had a small, really lovely library at home. And I remember they had a twin volume set from 1893 which even when I was young was a long time ago and one of them was Myths and Legends of Northern Lands. And it was a kids book, a detailed book of Norse myths with quotes from the Elder Edda, the Younger Edda, illustrations and black and white drawings, which was very cool. So I knew that stuff long before I discovered the Thor comic book from Marvel. When I discovered that, I remember thinking ‘Holy Cow, it’s these guys!’ Apart from the fact that he was blond and wasn’t wearing iron gloves, I didn’t really care as I was not a continuity fanatic. And then a bunch of years later I ended up having the privilege of doing the book for a while, having a great time doing work that seems to be kindly remembered. I had a file of old ideas and if I work on a book regularly for a time, as a writer, then you think about other ideas. I always jot that stuff down and I put it in a file.
JM: What is the concept behind Ragnarök the series?
WS: The gist is that the comic book really begins with the events of Ragnarök. The first thing that happens on the first five pages of the first issue are illustrations and some quotes taken from the Elder Edda. We see the Midgard serpent facing off against Thor, we see Thor’s death and then we cut to the present which turns out to be several hundred years after the events depicted in the opening sequence. It turns out that some of the events in the opening sequence, which is to say the Ragnarök that we understand from reading the Elder Edda, those events don’t quite happen the way they were depicted in the classic literature. A good thing too otherwise I wouldn’t have a comic book. I see the land as being almost medieval. I’m not so specific about the exact timeline. I want it to feel like the old Norse sagas, like Beowulf. I think that would be really neat. The other thing I’m aiming for and this isn’t going to be possible is for it to be like Lone Wolf and Cub, which is eighteen-odd volumes. And it’s a revenge story so it’s in the same vein.
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This article is © 2014 JOEL MEADOWS. All rights reserved.
Star Slammers is TM & © 2014 Walt Simonson. All rights reserved. Ragnarök is TM & © 2014 Walt Simonson. All rights reserved.
Manhunter is TM & © 2014 DC Entertainment. All rights reserved.
Fantastic Four, and Thor are TM & © 2014 Marvel Entertainment. All rights reserved.
Elric of Melnibone is TM & © 2014 Michael Moorcock. All rights reserved.