Comic-book characters that he helped invent or wrote at the beginning of the grunge decade are haunting him like hidden boxes of New Kids on the Block bubblegum cards crawling from the basement. Actually, that doesn't sound entirely implausible as he wrote Kid 'n Play comics, too. But Deadpool, which artist Rob Liefeld co-created together with him, exploded into theaters last year with over $783 million at the global box office. The New Warriors, a group of youthful costumed crime fighters that Nicieza scripted in the early '90s, are headed towards the Freeform TV channel in 2018 as a live-action show.
As a number of writers attempted to adopt the surface gloom and cinematic grit of Alan Moore and Frank Miller once the '80s ended, Nicieza has followed his own path and continues to do so. His run on The New Warriors had a buoyant energy and adolescent innocence to them that provided an engaging, charming alternative to the overly violent and bleak Marvel titles on the market.
Mikey Sutton:You are best known as the co-creator of Deadpool with Rob Liefeld. But lost in the shuffle is NFL SuperPro. How did you end up writing that series?
Fabian Nicieza: Editor asks for a favor. Writer does a favor. Benevolent, munificent writer has to endure decades of torture at the hands of lesser beings.
M:Did you create Phil Grayfield, the title character? Were or are you much into football?
F: No and yes. Months of ground work had been done developing NFL SuperPro before I was ever involved. They were just having a hard time carrying the pigskin over the goal line and the NFL wanted someone involved in the project who was more of a "name." And back in 1991, no one was more of a name than me, mostly because it was unpronounceable.
M:Did you end up meeting any NFL stars or celebrities because of NFL SuperPro? Any exciting or sordid stories to share? I would assume many NFL players thought Grayfield was cool and not the subject of ridicule by regular comic-book fans.
F: No. No. You would assume incorrectly.
M: I have gone to 14 comics conventions and never seen an issue of NFL SuperPro ever at any of them. Is it possible there is a secret growing cult surrounding him?
F: You must not be using my eyes, because I have multiple fans bringing SuperPro issues for signing at every single show I've done for the last two years! I'm sure there must be a cult forming, because you need to be stupid to join a cult and you need to be a little stupid to have bought NFL SuperPro, too, so they go hand in hand!
M: Would a Deadpool/NFL SuperPro team-up be possible?
F: It's pretty doubtful from a licensing rights issue, but it would be pretty funny.
M: What would the plot be?
F: I don't write plots unless I'm being paid (smiles).
M: You were working in promotions and advertising at Marvel Comics in the mid-'80s. How did you get the gig writing Psi-Force for the short-lived New Universe line?
F: I'd been at Marvel for almost two years at that point. Had sold a Spider-Man inventory story that had never been drawn and subsequently killed by a new editorial regime on the titles. I was walking down the hall to show something to an editor for approvals when Psi-Force editor Bob Budiansky came out of his office and asked me if I'd be interested in pitching some inventory stories for Psi-Force. They were that desperate for material and that behind on their schedule that they would ask me! I came up with about 10 single-issue springboards and Bob liked them, asked me to do one immediately, and from there, I just kept typing.
M:Marvel's former editor-in-chief Jim Shooter had a controversial tenure at Marvel Comics. How would you describe your relationship with him back then?
F: As advertising manager, I had no problems with Jim. He was very supportive and very helpful. As a writer, he basically assigned me to my first monthly title after just reading a couple inventory stories. He had deeply rooted issues with a healthy portion of the editorial department and some aspects of upper management, but I can't speak to that first-hand, so I don't. Outside of Joe Quesada, historically, it seems that what makes you a good editor- in-chief the first few years of your tenure tends to make you a bad one in the second few years.
M: Your run on The New Warriors made you a rising star in the early '90s. How did you feel about your years writing that book?
F: It was the highlight of my career, my favorite assignment and the most exciting time of my life. And like most things when investing a lot of emotion and passion into company-owned characters, it was a painful and meek ending. Loved working with Mark Bagley and Darick Robertson, and appreciated Larry Mahlstedt's long, steady run on the book. Danny Fingeroth and Eric Fein were among the top editorial teams I've worked with, passionate, invested -- both holding different opinions and approaches than I had -- which is what made for a fiery, but fulfilling work dynamic.
M: When you were writing Nomad for Marvel Comics, your connection to the character felt personal to me. I could compare it to Frank Miller's take on Daredevil - not in terms of darkness but the character seemed like an extension of the author. If you were a superhero, for instance, I think you'd be Nomad. It seemed personal. Do you have a special affinity for Nomad?
F: I probably just fantasized about having that head of hair, since I wrote the book when I was just starting to lose mine! The book was very personal to me, since it was a character I saw myself writing since my college days and then slowly, meticulously, crafted stories with him in anticipation of having a shot at a limited series, in the hopes the limited series would lead to a monthly series. So that part of the plan all worked out!
M:What was that experience like?
F: It was great and it was awful all at the same time and pretty much every single month. We started out with a great artist who simply couldn't meet a monthly deadline and generate art at the standards to which he wanted to see his work. It's understandable and no one's "fault," but it made it hard to generate momentum and create audience loyalty.
Also the subject matter of the book was such that editor Glenn Herdling and I often had to argue our way through a story with editorial. Marvel was a much more conservative company editorially than it is now, and being an insider, I understood that, but I also always wanted to push the boundaries where and when it made sense. Nomad was the perfect title to do that kind of thing. A low-selling book that was off the radar let me do L.A. riot issues and a cross-dressing issue, but my desire to make Jack HIV positive became a problem because forces outside of Marvel, those who worried about the stock price and didn't understand our marketplace, prevented us from doing that.
In essence, that's when they lost me, both in regards to Nomad and ultimately in my day to day staff involvement with the company.
M:Did you have plans for Nomad beyond what was published?
F: No, I was going to quit the day we were unequivocally told we couldn't make Jack HIV, but Glenn asked to stay through issue #25, knowing, I suspect, that the book would likely be cancelled then.
M:The obvious question: How did you and Liefeld create Deadpool?
F: Other than the fact your question should be rephrased as "Liefeld and you" since the origination of Deadpool completely started with him, I refuse to answer a question that has been asked and answered 70,000 times!
M: How did you feel seeing Deadpool on the big screen?
F: It was fun. It looked good. It sounded right. And they didn't sew his mouth shut.
M:What are your thoughts on the film?
F: I thought it was excellent. A really well crafted bit of low-budget, raunchy action fun. EXACTLY what Deadpool should be!
M: What do you think about the R-rated direction the movie went into?
F: I didn't think it had to be R-rated, nor did I have a problem that it was. For the tone and approach they wanted to take, an R-rating was necessary, but the character has been published as a "PG-13" character for decades, so it could easily have been done that way. Would it have been as successful is an ironic question considering that usually the question is asked the other way around.
M:The New Warriors are about to hit TV in live action. What are you hoping to see?
F: I am hoping to see a fun, funny show about young characters trying to figure out their lives. I don't anticipate this is going to be an action/adventure superhero show, because it's not. It's a "docucomedy" ion the vein of The Office and uses the reality show version of the concept -- which I uniformly despised for the comic, but feel is perfectly appropriate for a half-hour TV format.
Since most of the characters aren't even original members, I have a little bit less of a vested emotional engagement to the material. It's not adapting our original work, so I can let it be what it is, and hopefully it will be very good for what they are trying to do.
M: What are you currently working? Do you have any Marvel projects coming out?
F: Most of my work for years has been outside the comics field. Intellectual property management and franchise branding work for Hollywood studios, video game and toy companies, even governments, universities and charitable organizations. In comics, I have a lot of regular custom comic work for Marvel and DC. The kind of stuff most people don't see since it's not for sale in the comic shops, but things like the General Mills comics inserts or the Best Buy Suicide Squad prequel book that DC did last year, and a LOT of stuff for Marvel.
I will likely also have a creator-owned digital comic announcement soon, but not just yet.
M:Pineapples on pizza. Delicious or blasphemy?
F: Whatever floats your boat. I have eaten ham and pineapple pizza. I survived. It wasn't revelatory, nor was it the equivalent of having a baby Alien in my stomach.