Thursday, October 8, 2015

An Interview with 1970s DC horror comic writer Mal Warwick

Mal Warwick is a name that we recently started to see popping up as the writer of stories in some of the DC horror comics in 1975. We tracked Mr. Warwick down and he kindly agreed to answer some questions for bare bones!

bare bones: What is your background and how did you first get interested in writing in general?

Mal Warwick: I’ve been writing ever since I was in the fifth grade and wrote a (very bad) science fiction story. Writing has played a central role in almost everything I’ve done since.

In the 74 years of my life so far, I attended the University of Michigan as an undergraduate and Columbia University as a graduate student in Latin American Affairs; served for nearly four years engaged in rural community development as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador (1965-69); attempted, with little success, to make a living as a freelance writer (1970-79); co-founded and helped run Alternative Features Service, a news and features service for college and community newspapers (1970-73); and worked and sometimes ran progressive political campaigns and community organizing projects in Berkeley and Oakland, California (1970-81).

bb: How did you start writing for comics?

MW: In 1970, Lee Marrs and I and John J. Berger came together to found Alternative Features Service. Soon after that, Lee and I moved in together, and we remained together until nearly the end of the decade. During that period, I was attempting to sell journalistic pieces and an occasional short story. Somehow she and I together decided to write a comic book together, with her doing the art and me doing the script. The result was a title that featured a space opera of some sort. I really don’t remember.

bb: You wrote for DC, Marvel, and underground comix. How did the process differ among companies and who did you work with?

MW: In underground comix, I worked only with Lee Marrs. Later, she introduced me to an editor at DC, for which she was doing some inking (or at least that’s my recollection). I’m surprised to be reminded that more than one of my scripts made it into print in DC or Marvel Comics. I only recall one very short piece for DC, and I have no memory of who I worked with. What I do remember is that I wrote and sold several scripts that never made it into print.

bb: What was it like working with Lee Marrs and did you collaborate in person? Why did you stop writing for comics?

MW: Lee is a brilliant comic artist, and it was an honor and a pleasure to work with her. I stopped writing for comics for two reasons: I found more useful things to do with my time--and I wasn’t very good at the business, anyway.

bb: Did you ever go to the DC Comics offices, or did you mail your work in?

MW: I never went to the offices.

bb: Did you get assignments and write to order, or did you write on spec?

MW: I vaguely recall getting one story assigned—it never saw the light of day—but I believe the rest was on spec.

bb: Did you write the introductions to the stories by the fictional hosts or did the editors write those?

MW: I can’t remember anything about fictional hosts. It seems unlikely that I wrote whatever it was they said.

bb: One credit says that you did the layouts—did you ever draw a story that you wrote?

MW: Good God, no!

bb: What have you been doing since then?

MW: Since the late 1970s, I founded and ran a nationwide consulting business serving issue-based nonprofit organizations and progressive political candidates and committees (1979-2010); played an active role in Social Venture Network, a global community of some 600 founding entrepreneurs, CEOs, and investors in socially responsible businesses; reviewed books on my blog, (2010-); became a partner in the One World Play Project ( to help disadvantaged young people around the world gain sustained access to play (2010-); and invested in other mission-driven companies (2005-). Writing for comics was only a very minor chapter in my life in the 1970s.

bb: Did you stop reading comics when you stopped writing them?

MW: I can’t recall reading more than a very few comics during the period I was attempting to write for them, and never since. 

bb: Did you keep in touch with anyone in the industry?

MW: Only Lee Marrs.

bb: Looking back, are you glad you spent time working on comics?

MW: I have very few regrets. Writing for comics was not one of the highlights of my life, but I’m certainly not ashamed of the work I did, no matter how mediocre it was.

Mal Warwick’s Comic Book Work:

“All a World of Dreamers”
Star*Reach 2 (April 1975)
script by MW; art by Lee Marrs

“The Friedman’s Monster”
Weird Mystery Tales 20 (July 1975)
script by MW

“The Fate of the Fortune-Hunter”
Tales of Ghost Castle 2 (August 1975)
script by MW

“One Man’s Poison!”
Weird Mystery Tales 21 (August 1975)
script by MW

“And Sleep the Long Night in Peace!”
Star*Reach 3 (September 1975)
script by MW; art by Lee Marrs

“On the Shores of Space”
Star*Reach 3 (September 1975)
script & layouts by MW; art by Lee Marrs

“A Reckoning in Eden”
Weird Mystery Tales 22 (September 1975)
script by MW

“In the Eye of the Beholder”
Tales of Ghost Castle 3 (October 1975)
script by MW

“How to Survive Your Education”
Crazy 14 (November 1975)
script by MW

“All Things Green and Growing”
Comix Book 4 (February 1976)
script by MW; art by Lee Marrs

“Hidden Worlds, Hidden Dream”
Star*Reach 4 (April 1976)
story by MW; script by MW & Lee Marrs; art by Lee Marrs

“ ‘All We Are Saying Is . . .’ ”
Star*Reach 8 (April 1977)
plot by MW

[Bibliography compiled using the Grand Comics Database.]

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