There are very few comic book creators who have been working as long as Walt Simonson and continue to produce such a high level of work after 40 plus years in the business. This panel was a spotlight on Simonson's career, and there was no better person to moderate the panel than his wife, Louise Simonson — a renowned comic book writer and editor herself.
Walt went straight to the audience for questions. One of the questions led Walt to discussing the letter sections of comics. Walt said that he used to write the letter pages of his books while at Marvel, but he didn't write them as Walt Simonson — instead, he wrote them as if Marvel itself was responding to the letters. He said he would read every letter he received. He found that the crabby letters were the most interesting, and always tried to include one in each column of the letter page.
Walt was asked about the difference on working on Thor and dealing with editors, versus working on Ragnarok where he has control. He said that up until about 1990, editors and Marvel gave more leeway to the creative teams. At the time he took over Thor, it was not doing well — he was told to do what he wanted, up to and including killing the character.
I was able to ask a question, and I asked how Walt came up with doing Throg, The Frog of Thunder. Walt said that he had been a big fan of Carl Barks and had wanted to do something as a tip of the hat to him. At the time, Marvel already had Howard the Duck and there was already Donald and Daffy, so he wanted to do something other than a duck. The Simonsons lived near Central Park and they would often take walks through there. From this and the stories of alligators living in the New York City sewers, Walt came up with the idea for the Frog Rat War. He did it as a satire of his own work; the grand, epic battles. He said the letter reaction was 50/50 at the time. 50% loved it and 50% just wasn't sure what to make of it.
Walt said his love of Norse Myths had come from his parents having a book of the myths in the house when he was a kid. He said he loved the stories. However, his first introduction to Marvel Comics and Thor being part of that world did not happen until he was in college and he found Journey into Mystery 113 with the Jack Kirby cover. He didn't see any more Thor books for a while, until Journey into Mystery 120. After that, he bought all the issues.
Walt was asked whether he had read Neil Gaiman's book, Norse Mythology. He said no, because he has his own ideas in a "drawer" that he doesn't want to be affected — if one of his ideas seemed similar to something he read, it would discourage him from working on his own ideas down the road.
A question was asked about the Mutant Massacre storyline, and Louise said the idea was Chris Claremont's. Once she heard about it, she asked Chris if other books could join the storyline. She said it was an organic comic book event that was done for fun. Louise had also been an integral part of the Death of Superman storyline. She said it was the success of these two stories that caused the businesspeople to not want the fun stories anymore, but to instead want the epic stories that make money.
The question came up regarding money coming from the use of characters in the movies. They said that Marvel gives more money than Fox. Louise created Apocalypse, and according to what she was told, she didn't get a "created by" credit on X-Men: Apocalypse.
Does Walt have Louise read his work before it's published? He said he asks her to read everything, and when she doesn't like something, he gets very grumpy. However, when he calms down he usually realizes that she was right.
Seeing the two of them together was fantastic. Not only watching how they would play off of each other, but also being able to see the true love that shone through their eyes when they looked at each other was heartwarming. A truly wonderful panel all around.
For further musings from Joshua Stone follow him on the Twitter @1Nerdy One.