Once upon a time, I wrote comics: the Batman, Captain America, the Justice League, the Hulk, and pretty much anybody else you’ve ever heard of. Now, at that time, writing comics was a very low-class thing to do. Nobody in the non-comics world knew anything about the medium, except that it was trash (much like fantasy in some circles); I admitted my profession with diffidence. But those of us on the inside knew it as a gold mine of creativity, and the perfect way to hone a writer’s skills. I handled a wide range of characters, in four ongoing series, trying anything that seemed like it would be entertaining – and I got feedback in the very short time of three months (typewriter to publication to mailed letters of response). And when I say “anything,” I mean “anything”; Marvel, for whom I worked, gave its people complete freedom. Since it was my first stab at writing for a living, I had no real way to know that that was a rare gift. All I knew was, I was doing what writers need to do, which is write.
I rose through Marvel’s ranks pretty quickly. Then Marvel’s competition, DC, hired me to come over and revamp all of their characters – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern. I did that, while writing a separate series specifically for the Batman. And in the process of revamping him, I came up with a way to sell superheroes not just to kids, but to the mass market – the people who had thought comics were beneath them. Readers labeled my Batman “the definitive Batman,” Warner Bros. set to work making a movie of it, and Batman, starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, launched superhero films for the general public. Within a decade, everybody knew about comics, and I take a lot of pride in that.
Then the next thing I did was write The Point Man, my first novel, for Dell. After that, I designed games for Atari, because I thought I’d said all I had to say about Max August and his world – which I probably had, at that time.
A few years ago, though, I looked back and saw that novel in a whole new light, precisely because I was looking back across time. In The Point Man, Max, a normal guy, discovered that the world is just what we think it is, with one little addition: some people can do magick. What if, I wondered, Max had gone on to become immortal, thanks to one of those magicians? In The Long Man, he would be more or less the same guy, but the world around him would be very different. I had a whole new way of looking at the life an immortal must lead – a series that moved through contemporary time along with Max, with each novel an in-depth snapshot of the world he was dealing with. And he was dealing, because he could remember when the future looked a lot brighter than it does just now; since he may still be here a hundred, even a thousand years from now, he’s determined to rekindle those flames.
Not a bad basis for a series of thrillers, I thought. And this time, thanks to all those superhero films, I won’t have to apologize for thinking so.
The Long Man (978-0-7653-1730-8, $25.99) by Steve Englehart becomes available from Tor on March 16, 2010. For more information visit steveenglehart.com.
From the Tor/Forge March newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.