• Interview - James D. Hudnall

    AlphaFlight.net: When you came to Alpha Flight, it was in relief of Bill Mantlo. It was at that time a general consensus that he had come very close to destroying the entire team. What was it like coming in to a book that was in such a shambles?

    James D. Hudnall: Well, it was a mess and I think too much of my run was spent cleaning up after him. He was fired off the book because he had no ideas and kept expecting the editor to supply him with stories. And he was late when he did have one. I guess he was burned out or something.
    Anyway, as soon as I took it over I was given a mandate to change some things immediately. In fact, in my second issue, while I was in the process of writing it, I was told to make Sasquatch into a man again. Well, I was planning to do that two issues later but they said NOW. So, the resulting scene was less than inspired, I'll admit. I regret some of the things I ended up doing on that book because of this kind of editorial "input".

    AlphaFlight.net: Taking over for Mantlo what goals did you have for the book. It
    was obvious that one of the first things you did was to fix a lot of his mess-ups, what else?

    James D. Hudnall: I wanted to make the book more in line with Byrne's vision, which Ifelt was generally a good one. I liked Byrne's run except he was kindof unfocused direction-wise. Probably because he was bored. So one of the things I did was try to give Alpha Flight more of a purpose. And try to make them unique in the Marvel Universe, not just by virtue of their nationality. I also wanted to show off Canada, so I did tons of research. But I was crippled by some artists who just weren't up to the task of pulling things off. If you read my scripts and then saw the finished art you would be shocked by the difference. I was really trying to give the book some cool visual scenes, but most of the artists were not capable of making it work.

    Also, I was asked to make Alpha Flight a horror book like Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. This is kind of a strange request, but I did what I could considering how restricting Marvel was back then on content (this was a code book, after all and at Marvel you couldn't even use the words damn or hell). And, again, the artists dropped the ball.

    I was really happy with Hugh Haynes who did my first issue and my fill in on issue #63, but the editor dropped him in favor of Calimee simply because he didn't like Hayne's work. But John Calimee was _much_ less accomplished at that time. I'll never understand why Carl Potts did that.

    AlphaFlight.net: ( question by: Seng Mah). Did you intend to bring Marrina back to AF (as hinted at it in #72 I think when the Master is told that Marrina sleeps a 'false death' beneath the waves)?

    James D. Hudnall: Yes. I was going to try to restore the team to Byrne's original cast except for the first Guardian. And then, I wanted to take it from there. But I never got the chance. When Danny Fingeroth took over editing the book he fired me for Fabian Nicenza. And the rest is a sad history, needless to say.

    AlphaFlight.net: What was it like to have to work with an artist(John Calimee) who most fans found to be awful? Did you find that it hindered the points you were trying to get across?

    James D. Hudnall: If only you knew. John is a real nice guy, but he was WAY over his head and frankly I was so pissed off 99% of the time with what he did, but he was trying. He just couldn't do what I asked for. I tried to make it as easy on him as I could and that didn't work either. I tell you, if I had someone decent drawing that book it would have rocked. But the other problem was Marcus McLaren (who edited the book) and I did not agree on anything. It was his first editing job and he micro-managed the book to death. He wanted fights on every page and so on, and I wanted to do more character oriented scenes leading up to the action so you cared what happened. Action is meaningless without characters you can feel something for.

    A classic example is the scene where Talisman needs to go to the Eye of the World and her father tells her not to go because he thinks she'll be killed. Now, the way I wrote it originally, he was being her dad, trying to reason with her and she argued with him for two pages and eventually convinced him she was right. He still didn't want her to go, but she went anyway. Well, Marcus thought two pages of people talking was boring so he wanted me to have her blast her dad through a wall in response to him disagreeing with her. We argued over that for what seemed like hours and to this do I regret giving in and doing it. Because to me that is just plain wrong for those characters. It makes them look stupid.

    Marcus and I constantly argued over every issue. He would find things he wanted to change on almost every page. It made it hard for me to really get engaged in the book, when I wanted to do something great. And I asked for a new artist every time we talked. But aside from fill in guys, I never really got one. We did get an inker who made the book look a lot better later on.

    AlphaFlight.net: When you came to the book, had you approached Marvel, or was it the other way around?

    James D. Hudnall: They asked me. Carl Potts hired me to write Strikeforce: Morituri when Peter Gillis left and he loved what I was doing there. When Mantlo became a problem, he replaced him with me.

    AlphaFlight.net: Did you find it difficult to begin working on the book in a story that was already in progress?

    James D. Hudnall: Oh, yeah. And a story that made no sense. I decided to do the noble thing and attempt to turn it into something decent before going into my own story line, but I never got the chance due to the creative differences I had with McLauren. It's not that Marcus was unsupportive of me, I don't want to give that impression. He just had ideas that were in conflict with what I wanted to do and he kept trying to make me do things he would have liked to do if he were writing it. Well, that's not what I wanted to do. If someone hires me to write a book, I want to write it, not take dictation. Especially when the input I was getting was so off base to my way of thinking.

    AlphaFlight.net: ( question by: Seng Mah). I know that you were asked to wrap up the Sorcerer story line post-haste due to incoming write Fabian Nicieza taking over. If you had had the time, how would he have gone on to develop and resolve the Sorcerer saga? Would the roster of Alphans have changed by the end of it?

    James D. Hudnall: I wanted the Sorcerer thing to lead up to issue 100. The Sorcerer would have been a main nemesis in the background, creating problems that the Flight would have to solve. So they would fight villains like the Master who were secretly empowered by the Sorcerer. This way, it wouldn't be a stale story line where they were always fighting the same villain, ala that year long Brood story line in the X-Men or the convoluted Clone thing in Spiderman. The Sorcerer would be sort of the uber-villain working in the shadows. Talisman would know he was doing things, but he would stay ahead of her. The stories would he mostly short arcs in a larger story line. Each story or story line would clean up more and more of the mess Mantlo left continuity-wise, and would have increased the stakes in the big war they were fighting against the Sorcerer.

    At the climax of this the team would have been composed of some new characters I brought in and the classic Byrne characters. If I had stayed on after that I would have come up with another thing for the team to focus on.

    What happened in my last issue was a massive compression of events. The climax would have been a three issue war going on with superhuman/supernatural armies fighting in a battle where some serious events would have gone down. It wouldn't have been simplistic like what was done in my last issue. Some characters would have died or been permanently changed.

    AlphaFlight.net: ( question by: Derek P Robinson). I'd like to know Why? after opening so many plot lines(Zeitgeist, Marrina, Edmonton HQ etc) did you leave the book after only one major story, was this your decision or was it a corporate decision.?

    James D. Hudnall: Like I said, I was fired. All those plots I started were to be future story lines woven into the Sorcerer saga. The Sorcerer would have been behind everything, and it would all be revealed when the team pieced it all together before the final battle. The reason I was fired was because Fingeroth wanted a writer who would do whatever he told them to. He saw how I was basically doing what _I_ wanted and did as little of what the editor wanted as I could get away with. But to my way of thinking, they were the ones who were wrong because I was trying to make the book like it was when it sold the best. When Byrne did it. Only I wanted to put a lot more care and thought into it than even Byrne did. I really wanted to kick ass. But they just held me back at every turn. And then I got blamed for the results. Typical.

    The sales were going down when I took over. Why they didn't get hip to the fact that the art needed to improve is beyond me. And story wise, they just tried to make it another bland Marvel book with meaningless fights and story lines with no consequences.

    If I could do the book my way from the beginning, I would have hired a good artist like Jim Lee or Adam Kubert and I would have made the stories much more focused than they were. There would have been major things happening that would have been as permanent as I could make them in that mess they call the Marvel Universe.

    I'll admit that it was the beginning of my writing career and I did not have the skills I have today. The work is probably my weakest. But the writing would have been MUCH better if they just let me do my thing instead of interfering like they did.

    You saw the results of what happens when some editor takes over and puts a hired gun on the book. It just kept on dropping in sales until they cancelled it. I would check it out now and then after I left and every time it seemed worse and worse.

    AlphaFlight.net: Under Different circumstance would you have like to remain longer on the book?

    James D. Hudnall: Yes. I really wanted to make the best Alpha Flight comics possible. And I still do. If I could go back in time, with the knowledge I have now, I might have been able to improve a lot of things. I made plenty of mistakes, and I was a big lesson to me.

    AlphaFlight.net: ( question by: Michael Bennett). What were your plans for Nemesis II, and the "Battle suit in a weird way" story-line? Who was she?

    James D. Hudnall: I liked Nemesis as a name. Her suit was techno-organic as I recall. The precursor to nano-tech. It was like the X-O armor in a way, but before that book came out. Another good idea someone else got to do instead. Witchfire was a character I really liked. She has a staff she channeled magical energy through that was cut from the tree Ygdresil (sp?)

    AlphaFlight.net: If you had the chance, how would you have further developed the character of Nemesis?

    James D. Hudnall: I'd have to reread the stories to refresh my memory because I forget. But as I recall, she would have become a competitor for the team with her own agenda. Not a villain, but an enemy by proxy. getting in the way, doing what she felt was right but was at odds with the team.

    AlphaFlight.net: ( question by: Seng Mah). What do you think of the current series (if you have read it)?

    James D. Hudnall: I haven't done more than glance at it in the store. I don't want to read it because even after all this time, I still have some feeling for those characters and I know what I would like to do with them. Seeing other people work on them just kind of rubs it in my face. I think a lot of creative people feel this way about books they left. That's mainly why I've stuck with doing my own characters in the years since.

    AlphaFlight.net: What are your fondest memories of working on Alpha Flight?

    James D. Hudnall: Having a monthly book come out. It was selling in the high 70s when I was doing it. That would make it a huge success in today's market. I liked the world John Byrne came up with and I liked being able to play in the Marvel Universe. If I'd been able to stay I would have had more Marvel characters show up to interact with the Flight. In the beginning they had little to do with the main Marvel universe. I liked exploring the lesser known sights.

    AlphaFlight.net: Who was your favorite Alpha character to write?

    James D. Hudnall: It was sort of a toss up between Box and Diamond Lil. I liked both of them a lot. I know I would have had a lot of fun with Puck if I'd stayed.

    AlphaFlight.net: ( question by: Seng Mah). What plans did you have for Zeitgeist, the villain from South America?

    James D. Hudnall: He was a serial killer who only killed superheroes. The Sorcerer was going to lure him into going after Alpha Flight. There was going to be a two part story where he was in their HQ trying to murder them one by one. I think I was going to have him kill one of the team members (maybe Goblin) and almost succeed in killing some of the others before he was defeated. It would have been a cat and mouse type story.

    AlphaFlight.net: If you could go back now, would you change anything

    James D. Hudnall: Yes. I'm a much better writer, so I would have managed to work around the stumbling blocks McLaurin laid for me, and I would have tried to work with him better. I think we could have come to some kind of agreement, possibly. He and I liked each other despite our differences. I just didn't know how to vocalize my intentions in a way way was persuasive to him. I didn't want to have to explain what I felt were logical decisions on my part. I realize now, being a more mature person, that you have to work with people to get anywhere in the corporate world. Which is what companies like Marvel are, after all. Back then I was 29, and I had just come out of ten years of working in company environments. I wanted to be FREE. So I was resistant to playing the game anymore. Unfortunately, you can't escape the game. You have to learn to accept it sometimes.

    AlphaFlight.net: ( question by: Seng Mah). How would you have resolved the Lil-Madison-Heather triangle? Or the Judd-Heather-Madison triangle?

    James D. Hudnall: Lil and Madison were right for each other in my mind, so it would have went that way. I would have come up with someone new for Heather eventually. I kind of liked her not having a complete boyfriend, because she is a leader and in those kind of life and death situations, that often means she can't be too attached to someone. As far as triangles goe, romances are often a lot more complex than they need to be in life. And I think triangles are interesting for character dynamics. When you have a team you need conflict of some kind between the members or it gets dull. New Star Trek shows like Voyager don't seem to get it. You need to have characters not get along completely and have differences because that's the way life is. It also gives rise to stories and emotions that keep a book interesting.

    AlphaFlight.net: Once more, I thank you for doing this!

    James D. Hudnall: My pleasure.
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. mreeez's Avatar
      mreeez -
      Wow, some good stuff in there. When was the interview done?
    1. Ben's Avatar
      Ben -
      We did that interview years ago, so long ago that I no longer have the date...I'm guessing 7 or 8 years ago...
    1. Flightpath07's Avatar
      Flightpath07 -
      That is an AWESOME interview. Sheds so much light on his run and the circumstances of his leaving. Also, the general interference from Marvel was there even back then; all part of their plan to destroy AF completely? I do wonder, however, how his editor (or John Calimee) would respond?
    1. Ben's Avatar
      Ben -
      Quote Originally Posted by Flightpath07 View Post
      That is an AWESOME interview. Sheds so much light on his run and the circumstances of his leaving. Also, the general interference from Marvel was there even back then; all part of their plan to destroy AF completely? I do wonder, however, how his editor (or John Calimee) would respond?
      Tonight I'll post the Calimee Interview.
    1. weaponAlpha's Avatar
      weaponAlpha -
      i've always wondered what that Zietgiest charecter was all about!
    1. Le Messor's Avatar
      Le Messor -
      Quote Originally Posted by James Hudnall View Post
      But to my way of thinking, they were the ones who were wrong because I was trying to make the book like it was when it sold the best. When Byrne did it.
      I've long felt his run was one of the best-written.

      Admins: Is there any way to change the title of this thread to something a little more informative, and a little less identical to the John Calimee interview thread?
      jst axing.

      - Le Messor
      "The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he's in business."
      ~ John Berryman, U.S. poet