Steinbeck, Poe and Moench: Six questions with Greg Rucka
Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.
Stepping up to the wheel today is Greg Rucka, the prolific and wonderful writer of Stumptown, Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, Whiteout, Queen & Country, Punisher, Gotham Central and the upcoming Lazarus with Michael Lark and Santiago Arcas, which is due from Image this summer.
Now let’s get to it …
12. What comic (or graphic novel, webcomic, etc.) was your “gateway drug” and made you a comic fan?
There’re two, actually — the initial was the Incredible Hulk magazine, the stories by Doug Moench, with the Moon Knight back-ups. The first one I picked up was essentially the Hulk versus Three Mile Island, and I picked it up because my sister — who’s two years older than me and has Downs Syndrome — was in love with Bill Bixby/Lou Ferigno on the TV show, and I saw the comic and thought she’d get a kick out of it. She couldn’t be bothered, so I kept it and read it and reread it and took it to school and tried to copy panels in an effort to learn how to draw and that just didn’t end well…
Couple years later, I’d fallen in with a cluster of Marvel Zombies, and they got me into the X-Men, but I was really reading the books because it’s what they were reading, if that makes sense. I was in a comic shop one day with them, and I found the first issue of the Miller/Mazzuchelli “Born Again” run, and that was it. There was no going back.
13. Where did you grow up? Tell us something about where you grew up that we may not know.
I grew up just outside of Salinas, California, an area known as “Steinbeck Country,” because it was where John Steinbeck lived, and where he set a lot of his work. In high school, my friends and I would hang out on Cannery Row, and it wasn’t nearly as interesting as it was in the book. Something you don’t know? Salinas bills itself as “The Lettuce Capital of the World.” Neighboring Castroville is “The Artichoke Capital of the World.” Gilroy, about 45 minutes north or so, that’s the “Garlic Capital of the World.”
Lot of imagination going on with the tourism boards there, you can tell.
19. What scarred you as a child, as in something like watching The Shining late night on cable when no one was home?
I genuinely don’t remember the name of the made-for-TV movie I saw when I was, like, 11, but — as I said, my sister has Downs — and I saw this movie where a young man with Downs was, essentially, pursued by a lynch mob after being falsely accused of rape. He hides in a scarecrow costume in a field, but the mob finds him, and murders him as he’s hanging there.
And Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold Bug” scared the shit out of me when I read it when I was 10.
21. Who has been the biggest help or motivator in your career?
As a writer, it would have to be a man named Frank Bergon, who taught my senior seminar when I was at Vassar. He’s the person, more than anyone else, who taught me what a story needed to be for it to work, for it to have merit, and heart.
In comics? It’s a toss-up between Denny O’Neil and Mark Waid. Denny taught me how to work in the form; everything I read by Mark is a lesson in comic storytelling, and in storytelling in general.
30. What hobbies or interests do you have outside of comics?
I enjoy playing video games, particularly RPGs, and as far as that goes, actual pencil-and-paper RPGs, even more. Don’t have much time for them any more, but they still bring me joy.
31. What’s the biggest “missed opportunity” you’ve had in comics–or what project did you not take or start that you wish you had?
I was offered an exclusive with Marvel the day my daughter was born, and there’ve been times I’ve wondered what would’ve happened if I’d gone there instead of DC, honestly. But that’s about as specific as I can get — I’ve been remarkably fortunate in my career, y’know? And honestly, I can’t recall a gig I was offered that I didn’t and later regretted that choice.