eSpec Books interviews John L. French, contributor to The Side of Good / The Side of Evil, a Superhero Flipbook anthology, http://tiny.cc/SoGSoE.
eSB: What drew you to this project?
JLF: I’ve always been interested in superheroes.
eSB: Which side are you writing for?
JLF: Truth, Justice, and the America Way, what else?
eSB: What got you interested in superheroes/villains?
JLF: I like stories of crime and adventure. In all of these there are, or should be, good guys and bad guys. This is especially so in superhero fiction with the lines between he two more clear-cut than usual
eSB: Please tell us a little bit about the inspiration for your story.
JLF: Some time ago I was asked to write a story for an anthology about phoenixes and firebirds. As one of my series characters is a pulp fiction hero called The Nightmare I created a story in which he helps a man who’s been cursed by immortality and rescues a phoenix. I like the character so much that I write two more stories about her and this Phoenix trilogy became the last three stories in my collection The Nightmare Strikes. I thought that was the (literary) end of The Phoenix. But as you know, a phoenix cannot die and so when I was asked to do a story I found myself brining her back.
eSB: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and how would it work?
JLF: I would be able to read, speak and understand every language there was, is, and will be
eSB: What would your weakness be and why?
JLF: Poor penmanship
eSB: Describe your ideal super suit.
JLF: That depends on the hero and his mission. Heroes like Superman need something bright, something people can look up to. Heroes like Batman, the Shadow, and (ahem) the Nightmare need something dark so they can blend in with the darkness. I think the best super suit out there today is the Flash’s
eSB: Who is your favorite superhero and why?
JLF: Batman and if you need to ask why you don’t know Batman. My second favorite is anybody from Astro City. And if you don’t know about Astro City, you need to stop reading right now, go to a comic book store and buy the trade. Go ahead, I’ll wait …
eSB: Who is your real-life hero and why?
JLF: In general, it’s the people who keep us safe on a daily basis – the members of the police and fire department. Specifically it’s anyone who’s got the guts to do the right thing no matter the cost. There’s damned few of them these days and none of them hold elected office.
eSB: Who is the villain you love to hate, and why?
JLF: Keyser Söze – if you don’t know who that is, you need to watch The Usual Suspects as soon as possible. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a hero?
JLF: Raymond Chandler said it best – “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.”
Anyone who meets this standard has the makings of a hero.
eSB: In your opinion, what characterizes a villain?
JLF: Someone who cares only for himself without regard to the consequences to the world or those who live in it. There are too many of these people around and, yes, some of them are in elected office.
eSB: What is your viewpoint on Sidekicks?
JLF: I think a direct punch to face works better than a side kick. Oh, you mean people like Robin. Let’s get one thing straight – heroes like Tonto and Kato were not sidekicks (sidekick is what Kato did) they were partners. Maybe they were not always treated as equal partners but they were partners. It’s kids like Robin who were sidekicks. They are good dramatic derives that give the hero someone to explain things the reader need to know as well as gives the hero someone to rescue on a regular basis.
eSB: What is your favorite superhero movie and why?
JLF: I don’t know if this counts but right now it’s Daredevil: Season One. Why? Because they got (most of) it right.
eSB: What other comic or superhero-related work have you done in the past?
JLF: I’ve written two superhero hero stories (Turquoise: The Right Betrayal” and “Hero” that can be found in my short story collection Paradise Denied and which will also be available as goals for this book.
eSB: What was your most exciting moment working in the comic industry?
JLF: My major contribution to the “comic industry” has been buying too many comics for far too long. But other than that, I have been in the three Batman comics written by the late, great C. J. Henderson. I “play” a crime lab technician for the Gotham PD and work for Captain James Gordon. It mirrors my real life job as a crime scene investigator for a large, east coast city. In addition, I am the co-editor of With Great Power … an anthology about people with superpowers.
eSB: If there was one comic franchise you could work on, which would it be and why?
JLF: While Batman is my favorite I’d like to take over either the Superman or Green Lantern franchises. Both of these have gotten away from fighting for truth, justice, etc. and have been too involved in fighting personal battles.
eSB: Fiction or comics, which is your favorite medium and why?
JLF: There’s this Romany fortune teller down the street who pretty good … but I don’t think that’s what you mean. I like books. The kind that come with just words and no pictures. I get to use more of my imagination.
eSB: Please tell us about your non-comic related work.
JLF: I write short stories and edit anthologies. My books include The Nightmare Strikes, The Grey Monk: Souls on Fire, Here There Be Monsters, The Devil of Harbor City, and (with Patrick Thomas) The Assassins’ Ball.
eSB: Thank you for allowing this glimpse beneath your alter-ego. We’re looking forward to more super heroics and evil geniuses to come.