Cliff Interviewed by SBC - 2/23/06
Crystal Meth: An Interview with Clifford Meth
by Adam Volk
Since 1980, Clifford Meth has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the entertainment industryís most prolific writers. His work has appeared in countless publications in the field of comics, science fiction, and horror, with additional articles in magazines from Billboard to Wizard, including syndication with the L.A. Times Entertainment Newswire.
More than 50 of Cliffís short stories have seen print, and in 1997, Barnes & Noble Online selected Perverts, Pedophiles & Other Theologians as its Horror Pick of the Week, where it remained on the Top-10 List for four consecutive weeks. In 2002, Cliff's experimental novella Wearing the Horns was released with an introduction by famed rocker Pat DiNizzio of The Smithereens.
In addition Cliff has written the critically-acclaimed godís 15 minutes, an omnibus that collects his first five books and includes a new Afterword by legendary writer Harlan Ellison. Two stories from this collection were subsequently optioned for the big screen by Richard Saperstein (EVP of the film Seven).
Cliffís latest book is METHo.d., a new collection with illustrations from comic master Jim Steranko. Currently Cliff is working on concurrent film and publishing projects with Neal Adams, Peter David and Dave Cockrum.
Silver Bullet Comic Bookís Adam Volk sat down with Cliff to talk about trigger happy Vice-Presidents and the future of the comic book industry.
ADAM VOLK: Youíve had a great deal of success in numerous genres and mediums. What is it about comic books in particular that appeals to you so much?
CLIFFORD METH: You never forget your first love. I told Stan Lee recently that if it wasnít for his comics, I might never have learned to read. Comics--at least the comics I grew up on--offered a better world than the one I perceived. I fell into comics when LBJ was in the White House and there was terrible turmoil all around me. I was pretty young at the time but I remember the TV being filled with Robert Kennedyís assassination, Martin Luther Kingís assassination; the War in Viet Nam, the onset of a decade of Nixon-Agnew brainwashing and paranoia. Even a child could sense the chaos, the unease; something wrong, something not quite right. Comics were the great escape; they were the one place I was assured that a good little man could beat a bad big man.
AV: Your latest project is METHo.d., a collection developed with legendary artist Jim Steranko. Can you tell us a little bit about the book and how it was first developed?
CM: I donít write stories so much as wait for them. Something out of the ordinary will happen--a flat tire, a hair in my milk, Dick Cheney popping a cap in someoneís ass--and it will spark an idea. But then you sit on the idea and wait for it to hatch. And thereís also a strand of biographical DNA invested in everything; I have to find my way into the story or itís uninteresting to me... METHo.d. was originally called Mean Little Stories because thatís what they were--the mean little stories experienced by someone suffering from a perpetual midlife crisis. But when Steranko got involved he disliked the title and I let him change it. Everyone dislikes my titles. Harlan Ellison wouldnít do the Afterword for my last book until I changed the title so I came up with godís 15 minutes. The original title was The Piss Rainbow which, frankly, I liked a lot better.
AV: Hmmmm... The Piss Rainbow does have a nice ring to it. Speaking of disturbing, Steve Niles, Robert Kirkman and a handful of other writers seemed to have resurrected horror comics as a genre. As a writer whose work often delves into the genre of horror, do you think the horror comic revival will last, or is it merely a temporary fad?
CM: Oh, I donít know anything about fads in comics. I think that good writing brings readers, no matter what the genre is. Maybe I have no idea what Iím talking about. Hollywood tends to follow fads, though, which is why thereís so many shit pictures being made. Everyone wants to be #2 to the partyÖ Horror? I donít particularly like horror. Most of it is as dumb as professional wrestling or golf. What I like is good writing, great writing, and for same damn reason the better writers end up swimming out to that jetty tagged ďhorrorĒ. Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Kafka, Bukowski... certain minds are drawn to that well. We tend to hear the word horror and think ďslash and gash,Ē but the category is very broad. I never thought of myself as a horror writer until Barnes and Noble called me that. Itís not SF, itís not fantasy--it must be horror! But thatís a cop out. What I do think weíll see is a revival of better writing in comics. The market is so beaten right now that only high-quality products have any chance of survival. Unless theyíre manga, of course. People eat at MacDonalds, too, so go figure.
AV: True enough. Speaking of market trends the comic book industry seems to be in a state of increase change these days. Where do you see the industry heading in the next 10 years?
CM: To the web or whatever it is weíll be calling the internet ten years from now. Print media is a dinosaur. I also think that once the comics-to-movies trend stops, publishers will be scrambling for the next big thing. I just hope itís not gay cowboy stories, but it probably will be.
AV: With ďthe Big TwoĒ continuing to dominate the comic book market, do you think itís becoming harder for independent titles to find their way onto shelves?
CM: I havenít been aware of a depreciable decline in sales of my books, but Iím aware of whatís happening. To me, itís a greater concern that thereís only one distributor. Lack of competition is bad for any business. Do you remember AT&T before the divestiture? Talk about your cluster fuck.
AV: The superhero comic continues to be the most prevalent titles in the industry. Do you think there is really anything left original to say in terms of the superhero, or is it more or less a dying genre?
CM: If youíd asked this question 20 years ago, most people would have said, ďThatís it! The wheel was invented! Game over!Ē Then along came Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller proving everyone else ridiculously wrong. I suspect we may not see another superhero universe anytime soon because a company would need deep pockets and long-term vision and most donít operate like that. Valiant did for a little while, but then they got greedy. Nevertheless, comics and superheroes are practically synonymous.
AV: In terms of writing a comic book script and writing a work of general fiction, how do you approach each medium?
CM: Scripts are written for a visual medium, whether itís film or TV or comics; youíre writing directions and shots and dialogue. Fiction, however, relies upon exposition. I prefer fiction despite the fact that I dislike belabored exposition. I tend to write lean. I have little patience for writing or reading expository filler. I want to know what he said and what she said and how it made him feel and what she said after that, so Iím usually rushing forward into the dialogue. Comics, on the other hand, are written from a directorís POV.
AV: Youíve worked in a variety of industries and genres. What would you say has been some of the most prominent influences on your work?
CM: Harlan Ellison, Charles Bukowski, and Kurt Vonnegut are still my three favorite authors. They are all very different from one another. I prefer their voices to everyone elseís. I feel like Iím reading a friend, which, in Harlanís case, I am.
AV: What current comic book artists and writers have caught your attention lately?
CM: The last thing I read that made me green with envy was 1602. What a brilliant book! Magic! I had to call both Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert to congratulate them. I was just blown away... I liked Jordan Raskinís Industry of War very much and think it would make a great film. I love Mark Texeiraís work, Travis Charest, and just about anything that Peter David touches. Thatís as current as Iíve gotten.
AV: What other projects do you have in the works and what can we expect to see from Clifford Meth in the near future?
CM: Iíve finished my first draft of The Futurians for a big studio. The film is based on Dave Cockrumís graphic novel. And Richard Saperstein of The Weinstein Company has several of my stories under contract, so Iím hoping Iíll end up involved in one. Thereís always any number of projects on the table with various publishers, and I talk to artists all the time who Iíd like to work with but letís keep them a secret until something is real, shall we?