Ten Takeaways From Walter Simonson At Portsmouth Comic Con

by Oliver MacNamee

Saturday lunchtime and the panel room was packed to hear from a living legend of the comic book world, Walt Simonson, who seemed to be equally as happy to be there as the fans. They really, really don’t make ’em like him anymore, and I was amazed at just how much of himself he gave over the weekend at this inaugural Portsmouth Comic Con in the UK. From talking at length with fans at his table, to sketching (and for charity!) and even speaking with me at the close of play on Sunday afternoon, Simonson was the consummate professional. Here’s what I learnt ahead of my interview with him over his series, Ragnarök from IDW.

  1. Walter Simonson majored in Geology at university where he harboured a dream to move into paleontology because of his life long love for dinosaurs. He was even wearing a t-shirt with a dino on it, and of course we all know his signature is designed purposefully to look like the outline of a dinosaur, right?
  2. He avoided the draft during the Vietnam War due to poor eyesight. Something he wasn’t too worried about!
  3. The portfolio Simonson showed DC, back in the day, was full of sci-fi pages. NOT a good fit, Simonson admitted, but it did get him noticed by then editorial director, Carmine Infantino. He got a few back-up strips was a result.
  4. Simonson’s first full comic book was Manhunter, with Archie Goodwin on writing duties.
  5. Walt and Archie were working on a new Manhunter comic when Archie passed away. He wasn’t willing to work on this title with anyone else, until Louise Simonson, his wife, suggested he did it as a silent story. So he did.
  6. When Simonson was offered Thor at Marvel, it was on the verge of being cancelled.
  7. Simonson was interested in Thor because of a lifelong passion for Norse mythology. That’ll explain his return to the Norse myths in recent years with his IDW series, Ragnarök, which we reviewed here.
  8. His philosophy in his take on Thor was simply to emulate Kirby and Lee. That is to say, give the readers a rollacoaster ride of a comic each and every month. It’s how Beta Ray Bill was created. Unlike other contenders (Thor, Captain America, et.al.) Beta Ray Bill is a warrior! A man of battle ready to kill if needed. Mjölnir is a weapon after all, and weapons are designed to kill. Cap and the other heroes who have since lifted the hammer of the gods shouldn’t have. Heroes don’t kill, but Beta Ray Bill does!
  9. Although, in allowing ANYONE other than Thor to hold Mjölnir he realised he was ‘opening up a Pandora’s box”. And, as we’ve seen since, he did.
  10. Ragnarök was a long time gesticulating. Scott Dunbier had contacted Simonson about 15 years ago with the idea of returning to the Norse myths. 15 years later and he did! With a very different looking Thor. This ain’t your daddy’s Thor, that’s for sure. Volumes 2 and 3 are nearing completion, so not long now I hope. I loved the first collection. Simonson on top form! But then, I can’t remember many times he hasn’t been. Can you?

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