Nancy A. Collins is an award winning horror and urban fantasy writer who has penned a number of best selling novels in recent decades. Not only that, she has also been known to have written an acclaimed comic book or two in her time. She breathed new life into Swamp Thing during the 1990’s and most recently has found success with Vampirella.
At ComiqueCon 2015, I had the honor of being able to chat with Ms. Collins for a bit. We discussed her past work such as her contribution to Adventures of the Batman, her acclaimed Swamp Thing run, and even a few things she has in the works. Enjoy.
DKN: You contributed to a book called Adventures of the Batman back in the ’90s, which was an anthology of sorts. Surprisingly, it’s one I’ve never read, but has received very positive feedback. Your story was called “Fat Tuesday.” I was wondering if you’d like to reminisce on it.
Nancy A. Collins: What I remember of it, the idea is that Bruce Wayne is going to New Orleans during Mardi Gras to look into a crime boss called “Fat Tuesday.” Fat Tuesday is what Mardi Gras translates into, but the crime boss down there is called Fat Tuesday. He’s going down to New Orleans incognito and he’s flying on a regular airplane. However, his bag gets confused with that of another person. So basically, this other guy gets Bruce Wayne’s bag, opens it up, and it has the Batsuit in it.
At first, he’s upset; he had a costume, but this one’s much cooler. So he puts on the Batman costume and ends up being mistaken for Batman for real. He finds himself trapped in the story that Batman was supposed to be in, but Batman does show up later and rescues this guy dressed as Zorro. That was in the guy’s suitcase when they ended up getting their bags crossed, but Batman shows up at the end dressed as Zorro, which is a reference to the original stories about Batman [and] his origin. Zorro was a huge influence on him. He and his parents had just gone to see The Mark of Zorro when they were killed.
DKN: Bob Kane’s original Batman design was rather Zorro influence.
NAC: Yeah. But that’s my story, what I remember about it. I wrote it about 20 something years ago.
DKN: Around that time, you wrote Swamp Thing before and after the inception of Vertigo. Can you describe what it was like to write for the character at a time that was considered to be “cutting edge”? Was there any difference in the book once it switched to the Vertigo imprint?
NAC: Not really. I was brought on to write Swamp Thing, at that time, I had a best selling novel and I was living in New Orleans. I was brought on to give it a kind of verisimilitude and then they decided to add Swamp Thing to what was going to be Vertigo. I was one of a handful of writers: me, Neil Gaiman, Peter Milligan, Grant Morrison, and Joe Lansdale. Vertigo was to showcase works by us and more nontraditional DC characters like Jonah Hex.
My stories with Swamp Thing were kind of unusual anyway, so it wasn’t as radical a shift as Vertigo would later become. The first couple years were a transitionary period away from the superhero DC Universe style of writing. All of us were writing in a very character driven storytelling style anyway.
DKN: Interestingly enough, around that time was when Swamp Thing was probably more prevalent than ever in pop culture. You had the movies, the live action TV show, the cartoon, and a line of toys. Swamp Thing 2 and the cartoon were my first exposures to the character. So what was it like to work on the character at the height of his popularity? And what did you think of the cartoon?
NAC: Well, I never watched the cartoon. At that time, I didn’t have a television set or cable. I was in a kind of transitionary period myself – I had just gotten divorced. I was reading Swamp Thing from when it first appeared in the ’70s and I’d seen both of the movies. The cartoon show I was aware of but hadn’t seen.
Basically, I was brought on to try and lift the numbers on the series because Swamp Thing had gotten to the point where it was on the chopping block for cancellation. But there were so many pop media things tied into the TV show, the line of toys… they had to keep the comic book going.
I think it was around 20,000 [units sold per month]. Back then, you’d get automatically cancelled if your numbers dropped below 40,000. And now they dance a jig if your monthly sales are 40,000. I managed to get it back up to 75-80,000 a month. I was a big fan of the Alan Moore run of Swamp Thing, which was more what everyone had to judge themselves by after that. Alan pretty much did a Pete Townshend and bashed that bad boy on the stage when he left. That was the shadow that was cast over us.
They sent me some of the toys when I first took over and I was like “why is Swamp Thing driving a car?”
DKN: I think I remember that one.
NAC: Yeah, he had a car. He had a swamp buggy. Isn’t that kind of inefficient in a swamp? The villains had cars as well. It was really bizarre. There was one if you put him in water, he’d change color.
There was another one that if you pulled his arm out, it was on this long green string and if you squeezed its legs, it’d snap back in. If you put a sharp pencil in his hand, he’d become a deadly weapon. Unfortunately, my dog got a hold of him at one point because he considered all action figures to be dog toys.
Oddly enough, you’re one of the first to come up to me and say you were first exposed to Swamp Thing through the cartoon as a child. Mostly, I get people my age or slightly younger coming up with the comics. I guess I’ll see more people who were exposed through the cartoon and toy line now.
DKN: If you ever had the chance, would you return to Batman and Swamp Thing?
NAC: Sure, if I had the chance. I’d love to go back and do something with Swamp Thing. I became quite fond of Swamp Thing and his family when I was writing them. And [as for] Batman, everyone should have a swing at the Bat, so to speak.
DKN: Would you like to plug anything you’re working on right now?
NAC: Well, right now I’m working on Army of Darkness; Furious Road for Dynamite Comics. It’ll be out in spring of 2016. It’s tied into the Evil Dead/ Army of Darkness property and set 20 years into the future. [It’s] post-apocalyptic with our hero teaming up with monsters to fight the Evil Dead.
I also have a TV show in development at NBC based on my Golgotham urban fantasy series, Right Hand Magic, Left Hand Magic, and Magic and Loss. We’ll be finding out in March or April whether or not we’ll be going to pilot or series.
It’s an urban fantasy about the supernatural ghetto of New York City and its attempt to keep from being gentrified. It’s got everything from leprechauns and witches to centaurs and dwarves.
Featured image courtesy of Josh Mundy.