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Follically Challenged Productions Presents:






 

ANYTHING GOES: THE TOM PEYER TAPES

THE BACKSTORY:
The Emerald City Comic-Con of 2007 was a watershed moment for my social life. On that weekend, I was inducted into the Seattle Comics Mafia. It’s an illustrious group whose membership includes John Layman, Joshua Ortega, Tom Peyer and occasionally Ed Brubaker (when we can get him out of his basement). There are others – including Seattle Times entertainment pimp Mark Rahner and a hobo named “Wheels” that we occasionally visit under his bridge – but the fine folks I mentioned above make up the core group. I was flattered to be welcomed with open arms.

The club was busted up a little when John Layman left for his new California video game job late last year. We soldiered on and I forged some great friendships with the others. Each one brings his own flavor to the party, and Tom Peyer is no exception: he has the unique gift of being able to talk for hours about a variety of subjects without making you tired of hearing his voice. We’ve had a road trip and gallons of liquor together, and I can honestly say that I appreciate him like few others in my life.
 

Grant Morrison considers Mr. Peyer one of the all-time great comic writers – and he is – but to me, he’s just my pal Tom. As of this writing, he has announced his intention to return to his Syracuse roots. I wish him all the happiness in the world, but I’m really gonna miss the guy.

*****************************************************************************************

BJ: So, let's start with the elephant in the room: I know you're dying to say something nice about me. Go ahead and get it over with.

TP: I love that you moisturize. It makes such a difference when people take the time and trouble to maintain soft skin.

BJ: Seriously, though, you've taken over DC's Flash book. Is this something you lobbied for? Or were you chosen to ascend the mountain by powers greater than your own?

TP: I was chosen. And I still don't know how it happened, or why. Honest. But I'll bet Mark Waid had something to do with it. And thank God editor Joan Hilty had never worked with me before. Nothing like an unburned bridge.

BJ: What is the status quo of the Flash at the beginning of your story?

TP: Wife, two kids. The twins have super-powers; variations on aspects of super-speed. Like, Iris can vibrate through objects and Jai can accelerate his metabolism to bulk up into a super-strong Blockbuster Jr. But their metabolisms are so unstable that their powers could change tomorrow. And, sadly, they age in dramatic bursts. They're really only a couple of years old, but they look and act about 8 and 10. Which means they could conceivably die of old age at any time. So Flash and Linda are trying to give them the fullest lives possible, just in case--even letting them work as super-heroes alongside their dad.

I'm not doing anything dramatic to bust up the status quo. I think it's a good, fresh one. But Mark was taking it in a solid Incredibles/Fantastic Four direction, and it's suggesting different things to me. Mine will be messier; in a good way, I hope. And we'll have more Flash solo action than Mark might have planned. But since I didn't take the charge-in-and-break-everything approach, which I usually hate anyway, I think it takes about two and a half issues for my-approach-not-Mark's to come through unmistakably.

BJ: It's been a few years, but people are still talking about your run on Hourman. Personally, I think if any DC book has the potential to be a distant cousin (or closer!) to that time-and-mind-bending journey, it's the one you're writing now. How do you feel about that? Any connections there?

TP: Now that you mention it. I think the main one is, each of the two books is guided by one simple idea. Don't make me tell you what they are. OK, time with Hourman, speed with Flash. And you can do such trippy things with speed. Also: I hope both books show a lot of character and heart. We've known Flash since he as a kid, now he's a dad, and we've experienced most everything in-between. The writers before me have developed Wally's character so completely that I'd place his pedestal next to that of the greatest, most human super-hero character ever: Peter Parker. Who, come to think of it, couldn't hack growing up and being married like Wally. So maybe Wally's passing him.

BJ: What is the state of the modern superhero comic?

TP: Well, they hired me. That can't be a good sign.

BJ: You're a New Yorker at heart, if not in geographical disposition. How long has it been since you lived there?

TP: Five years. I'm planning to return in the spring. I visited recently--Syracuse, my home, not just NYC--hung out with family, and with friends I've known for decades. I became overwhelmed by this feeling that my own life was happening without me. So I'm going back, for a while anyway.

BJ: What do you miss the most?

TP: Besides friends and family? Pizza. They have something they call pizza here and some of it is good, but none of it is pizza. But I've learned to keep my mouth shut about it. Nobody likes a pizza snob.

BJ: Seattle is, without question, a very different place. Now that you've been here a while, how are you finding it?

TP: It's beautiful. Now that I've announced my return, I'm already having second thoughts. I want it all, damn it. Maybe I can split the year. Know where I can get a 6-month lease?

BJ: For the uninitiated, what is A.H.O.Y.?

TP: Asshole Of The Year. A friend of mine has been taking this poll annually for about 35 years. It used to be the theme of his Christmas party--snark for the holidays--but now he's grown too old and feeble to throw parties, and anyway, who would come? So we've moved the poll to the web. I helped, because he still thinks the Internet is a series of tubes. Here's last year's. Change the 7 to a 6, 5 or 4 and you'll see older ones.

BJ: Let's turn for a minute to a subject that I know is near and dear to your heart: the Yankees. Can you even begin to describe your love for this team?

TP: Yes. It's rage-based. Each and every Yankee has disappointed me time and again, and it hurts. Even during a winning streak, even in the 5h inning of a 15-2 Yankee rout, one of these clowns will swing at some garbage pitch, drop the ball, or trip over his cane, and I'll see red. That's the beauty of baseball. Even its greatest stars will find a way to let you down every day. And I resent it.

BJ: When did it start for you? What was the first moment of Yankees fandom?

TP: Working with Hart Seely on a Village Voice column that became a book, O Holy Cow: The Selected Verse Of Phil Rizzuto. We transcribed the slightly scatterbrained asides of the great Yankee shortstop-turned broadcaster and arranged them into found verse. Seely bleeds pinstripes, and while working with him I got sucked in somehow. He'll never forgive himself, nor I him. Anyway, the book is coming out in a new edition this spring, with a foreword by another Yankee great, Bobby Murcer. Which I'm excited about.

BJ: Blackest day of your devotion?

TP: Well, all of them. But the playoff last year in Cleveland was awful. Pitcher Joba Chamberlain's game fell apart when he was attacked by a swarm of insects -- you could look it up -- and I felt the chill of the grave. Sheer horror.

BJ: Let's end with one of those nebulous questions that we all love seeing in an interview. You've been a writer, a doodler, an editor, blogmaster general and a political commentator for the mighty Slate. That's just scratching the surface, of course, but where does it all come from? How do you know (outside of deadlines) what's going to spill forth when you sit down to work?

TP: I usually work on deadline, so I don't often get to choose exactly what I'll do on a given day. Something like the Slate columns will only happen if I get a current-events idea that: 1) amuses me, 2) I don't believe anyone else will think of, and 3) I can develop into more than a one-line gag. Those three things line up rarely. And as for blogging, it's relaxation, a complete waste of time.

To answer the first part of your question--what was it again? "From what rich soil does creativity bloom?" OK, I know that one. Self-hatred and a creepy hunger for approval. In every case. You, me, Picasso, Radiohead, Melville, the creators of Knight Rider. Self-loathing creeps every one of us. The most magical people on earth. Seriously. We're beautiful.

Brandon Jerwa

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