BRAD: Hello, Roger, and welcome to the Island!
What makes a person want to write funny books?
ROGER: Ohhhh... I’m on the Island at long last! It IS pretty mysterious here, Brad! So... where’s Mort’s cell? To answer your question, insanity, most likely. And I don’t remember ever wanting to do anything else.
Well, except for being a cowboy...
BRAD: You’ve written some pretty big-gun characters, such as Daredevil and Captain America, but my personal favorite was a beautiful western ginger girl – who not only carried a pistol but fought bad guys by throwing a sheriff’s badge (her father’s) kung fu style!
I recently reread the stories from Weird Western Stories and they really hold up. Please tell us all about the creation of the girl who added spice to the west: Cinnamon!
ROGER: Uh, well, it was back in the late 70s you know. So I don’t remember exactly how it all came about. Other than it was the era of the DC Explosion. (Right before the subsequent DC Implosion.) They were adding titles and characters all the time. So I thought up a western character. And probably kept adding “bits” like using her Dad’s sheriff badge like a ninja star. I do remember the hardest part was coming up with her name.
BRAD: Cinnamon is a great name. I think I'm going to call one of the horses in the Billie the Kid series Cinnamon. :)
Many comic book fans know you worked with Frank Miller on Daredevil, but didn’t you two actually meet up over at DC while working on Weird War Tales?
ROGER: Yes. We did a short "Day After Doomsday" story.
BRAD: Very cool, another treasure to hunt down! Tell us about your run on Daredevil and how that affected the character’s ongoing portrayal as a darker, more formidable, hero. If you hadn’t let that kid, Frank Miller, take over scripting duties, where do you think you would have taken Matt Murdock?
ROGER: My run on Daredevil began with issue #151. I was, of all things, the DC proofreader at the time, but had previously pestered Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief at the time, Archie Goodwin. He asked me if I would like to take over scripting Daredevil and Ghost Rider from Jim Shooter whose editorial responsibilities made it impossible for him to continue writing those titles.
The thing with Daredevil (and later, Captain America) nobody was paying any attention to those characters. At all. So I pretty much got to do what I wanted with them. In DD’s case, it was to make him moodier. Scarier. And an actual part of Hell’s Kitchen. Rather than continue him as a wise-cracking second-rate Spider-Man, I thought it would open new horizons if we explored more of the “devil” aspect. And make him more of an ordinary man’s hero.
Apparently I was right. Where I would have gone with the character/storyline is anyone’s guess.
I didn’t let the kid take over the writing. That was an editorial decision, not mine. I was removed from the book following my Hulk story and the following EXPOSE story where reporter Ben Urich confronts Matt in the hospital, having pieced together Matt’s secret identity.
All I was ever told was that I was being taken off the book because I didn’t contribute anything to it and Frank felt “my” Daredevil was too dark. And should be more humorous.
Make of that what you will. But that was the old regime. With the advent of what appears to be a highly successful Netflix Daredevil series, Marvel is talking to me again and perhaps I’ll be doing a new Daredevil extravaganza for them!
BRAD: I didn't know you rode Johnny's Blaze's cycle! We'll send the cannibals to hunt those issues down. Congrats on re-connecting with DD, though, and wouldn't it be neat to write a TV episode?
Here's an idea: Matt and Foggy switch personalities and Daredevil gets all fat and ... Okay, maybe, that's more of a Superboy plot.
Oh, and please answer this question: What if the Punisher had killed Daredevil?
ROGER: Then Foggy Nelson would have donned the garb of Daredevil, and sought sweet, sweet revenge. Either that, or, I have no clue. Other than, nobody seems to stay dead in comics. He would have returned with a new costume, I suppose. Darker and grimmer than ever.
BRAD: You also did an honorable job on Captain America. I remember being upset as a child when the Captain stopped believing in America and for a short time became the goofy hero known as Nomad. When I came back to the pages of CA, you had clearly taken Steve Rogers in a stronger direction. What is your fondest memory of Cap? Didn’t you come up with the idea for him to run for President? Do you think Rogers would still have a chance in the current political climate?
ROGER: My absolute fondest Captain America memory was seeing Jack Kirby’s version for the very first time, back when I was a punk kid. It was in a Strange Tales Human Torch story. Oh. Wow! From that moment on, Cap was one of my all-time favorite characters! What a thrill it was when I got to script his adventures many years later!
And, yeah. Cap LOVES America. IS America. Fought for America in World War 2. In my mind he bleeds Red, White, and Blue. And that’s the way I wrote him.
Me and Don Perlin came up with the original idea of Cap for President. And got roundly laughed out the office. I did not know it at the time, but plans were already in the works to remove me from Cap. Wasn’t long after that until the new Cap team did the Cap For President story.
BRAD: Would Steve Rogers/Captain America have a chance in today’s political climate?
ROGER: Yes. Because America exists outside Washington, DC. The Real America. I think folks would vote for a Captain America more so now than ANY of the career political hacks prevalent today.
BRAD: Okay, now, more important (to me) than your Marvel duties writing superheroes was of course your script work on Battlestar Galactica. Tell us how you got sent into space!
ROGER: There aren’t a lot of details to tell. Marvel acquired the rights to do a Battlestar comic book and I got picked for the job. They handed me a “working script” for the show and sent me on my way to make it into a comic book script.
The REAL fun came after the adaptation was over and we got to do new stories! Those were fun to do.
BRAD: Even now in the 21st century, the adaptations are fun to read and offer a feel for the show after having not seen it in a very long time. They also provide an interesting perspective on the editorial process in comic books in terms of what to leave in/take out. Anyway, fun stuff!
Now that you’ve been brought back to Earth, you’ve been working with the Charlton Comics revival called CHARLTON NEO. I’m aware of some of the projects as I am somewhat entangled in the madness, but please tell our readers about all the great projects you’re involved with via NEO and why they should read/download/read ...
From The Charlton Arrow, a Facebook group started by Mark Knox, (in his rocker guise of Fester Faceplant!) he wanted to do a fanzine with mostly articles and a comic book story written by Paul Kupperberg. After a long hiatus from comics I had decided to jump back in one more time.
Somehow I found myself on the Arrow page, offered to also write a story which Mark quickly agreed to. The fanzine morphed into an actual full-color comic and from that sprang the company, Charlton Neo. We’ve done 3 issues of The Charlton Arrow, our western; Wild Frontier, Paul Kupperberg’s Secret Romance, and several other titles like Charlton Action and Charltoons (our kids/funny animal book!) are in the works.
We have also launched PIX-C Sunday Funnies. Our weekly webpage comics with new episodes appearing every Sunday morning. I’m writing Spookman (with art by Sandy Carruthers) and my second strip, Knightingales (with art by Daerick Gross Sr.) started its run on 4/12/2015. I have several more PIX-C strips being worked on for the weeks ahead.
I hope fans of fun comic books will give us a look-see!
BRAD: Let’s do a little time travelin’ ... tell us about your childhood. What comic books did lil’ McKenzie read?
ROGER: L’il Rog was a classic comic book nerd. From about 1957 or thereabouts. DC superhero stuff. Superman. Batman. And then Julie Schwartz revived The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, The Atom, and The Justice League!
But then one day there on the spinner racks was a new comic. Something called The Fantastic Four. And I was a Marvel Madman from then on!
BRAD: Did you start off your comic career with Warren Publishing? Tell us something Creepy.
ROGER: Yes. In 1975. I sent a story in unsolicited and a couple of months later got a check in the mail! That was cool!
So I kept writing the horror stories. And (for the something Creepy part of your question) they kept on publishing them!
BRAD: Do you have a favorite story you’ve written, a superlative tale all readers of weird fiction should read?
There are a few. An early Warren story of mine, “Hitter’s Wind” about the old Negro baseball league. A Daredevil story I did for Marvel Fanfare, “Snow” and a Vision/Scarlet Witch story “Rosie” which also appeared in Fanfare are some favorites of mine.
And, natch, ALL the new stuff! :)
BRAD: Being that you’re helping to reshape modern comic books and help retrofit the fun, what do you think of the current take on DC and Marvel’s publishing? Have you read any of the New 52 or Marvel Now? Were comic books simply better back in the day? And why is that?
ROGER: I haven’t actually read any of the 52 or Marvel Now. Personally, I prefer the comics done “back in the day.” But it’s a matter of individual taste. I’m not a fan of all the complexity of multi-universes and constant reboots. Too many gimmicks these days. And not nearly enough variety.
BRAD: When Roger McKenzie is not writing comic books, what does Roger McKenzie like to do?
ROGER: Answer interview questions. Or take a nap.
BRAD: Have you ever been to a haunted house or seen a ghost?
ROGER: I have not, to my knowledge, been in an actual haunted house. I have seen a ghost, tho.
BRAD: Your favorite breakfast cereal is?
ROGER: I don’t eat breakfast cereal anymore. But, if I did, Cheerios.
BRAD: Please tell us what else you’re working on. We don’t wanna miss any of the action!
ROGER: Just keep looking for Charlton Neo publications and become a member of the PIX-C Sunday Funnies! You’ll find me there. And maybe back at Marvel for a Daredevil story.
BRAD: Thanks for all the great words, Roger!
ROGER: Thanks for having me on Mystery Island, Brad! Hey ... you said there’d be a ship to take me back to the mainland. And sunshine. W-Why are you looking at me like that? And ... I never noticed you had fangs before. I—I—NOOOOOOOOOO*
“Roger McKenzie Interview"
by Bradley Mason Hamlin. Edited by Lucy Hell.
© 2015 by Mystery Island Publications. Published: 04.14.15.
All rights reserved.