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Paul Levitz‘s return to the Legion universe has been under way for the past several months (writing the character’s early days in Adventure Comics and the regular ongoing stories in Legion of Super-Heroes). With a gamut of issues already out I thought it would be a great time to discuss his work. Plus I got an opportunity to find out what it was like to be a student of Frank McCourt, as well as how a journalism class during that era helped strengthen his writing ability. My thanks to Levitz for indulging my questions and DC’s Alex Segura for his assistance in facilitating the interview. This Wednesday, September 22, will see the release of Legion of Super-Heroes 5.
Tim O’Shea: Before our Legion discussion, I would be remiss if I did not ask about being taught English at Stuyvesant High School by Frank McCourt (as mentioned at this Midtown Comics Times Square signing in May 2010). What were some of the major lessons you took from his instruction? Did you stay in touch with McCourt after high school–did he know how successful you became as a writer?
Paul Levitz: McCourt was teaching English, not yet officially Creative Writing, when I was his student. Vivid memories include the range of literature he opened our eyes to—Achebe and Mishima, the examples that still stick with me, and their very different world views and life experiences. He was very encouraging to me about my interests in comics, and my fanzine publishing, which was great. We stayed lightly in touch—I recall sending him the trade of Great Darkness when it first came out, and an email note back—and saw each other several times after he became an author. The best moment was a fund raising dinner for Stuy’s 100th, at which he presented me with an award (predominantly for my work on the 100th Anniversary book about Stuy). The other lesson, from a distance in time, is the power a good teacher has—looking at the long list of writers who came through his classes over the years, and our attachment to him. It’s one of the reasons I’m starting to teach now.