As you guys already know, I was a massive Babylon 5 fan as a teenager. I loved that show, and over the years I formed some long standing friendships with other B5 fans. When one of those friends, a talented comic book artist by the name of Ron Stewart, told me he was doing the art for an eight-issue comic book series that Bill Mumy was writing I was ecstatic. Thanks to Ron, I got to sit and have a chat with Bill about his new comic, Curse of the Mumy, and life after Lost in Space and Babylon 5.
Where did you come up with the idea for Curse of the Mumy?
I was sitting here in my studio and I got a call from Darren Davis who is the publisher of Bluewater comics. They do these comics on iconic sixties scifi celebrities, like Adam West, Julie Newmar and Vincent Price. When he called me he said “I really like your catalogue. We’d like to put you in this comic book universe where you’re a superhero. We wanted to license your name and likeness for that.” I’ve been an avid comic book collector and reader since I was about four and I’ve written a lot of comic books, and literally the muse just struck like a shazam Captain Marvel lightening bolt. I said, you know what, give me an hour because I’m getting some thoughts here. I’ll call you back. Literally within an hour I had a couple of pages for the treatment of the arc of this project figured out.
It came very easily to me. I’ve been fortunate to have a career that has spanned half a century. Some of the characters that I’m known for portraying have been in syndication and have been running constantly for that time. So multi-generations are aware of say, a couple of characters I play on the Twilight Zone, or Lost in Space. The basic concept is that I am me, with my wife Eileen, in our house where we live, but somehow in this comic book superhero universe, there is a magical connection to these characters that I’ve created and I’m able to activate these characters to physical reality. But there’s a curse to doing that. Every time you activate one of these characters, you lose a little bit of yourself. There’s a price to pay. That (idea) immediately just jumped in my head.
Of course putting voices to these characters couldn’t be more easy to me as a writer. I know how my wife talks. I know how I tend to speak. I’m certainly in touch with these characters. I’m pretty sure I know how they would react. It’s been really a pleasure to speak through these characters again and at the same time they’ve all been modified. I don’t want to present Lennier. The character of Nolar is a nod and a wink to the character of Lennier.
How comfortable were you writing yourself into the story?
I was totally comfortable because it’s the same as writing a song. If I’m writing a song, I can change the wardrobe so to speak, but I’m writing about myself, about how I feel. If I’m writing about something that’s happening with my relationship with my wife, I can put a spin on it, but I know how to channel that. I haven’t found it difficult at all. I have cracked up writing the scenes with Eileen and I in it. She’s actually a very big character through the arc of the series and she loves it.
The style of Curse of the Mumy, right down to Ron Stewart’s artwork, has a very Golden Age feel to it. How intentional was that?
I wanted to tell a story in that was a somewhat simplistic Silver Age style. I specifically wanted that flavour of storytelling. I wanted it to have the visual of a very early Golden Age comic book. I’m telling a story that has a style of an early Sixties type of book. That looks like a late Thirties early Forties type of a book but that is seasoned with a modern sense of politics and adult humour. I wanted to meld those three kind of eras of storytelling.
Who were your main influences in terms of literature growing up?
I was a big comic book fan before the Marvel age. In those days it would’ve been Curt Swan, Jack Kirby. I loved those D.C. Books from the late Fifties, early Sixties. When the Marvel Age struck us it was Jack Kirby and Stan Lee for a long time. I still bought the D.C. Books and followed those characters. I feel very connected to those characters. But there was a huge difference between the D.C. Books in the Sixties and the Marvel books. The Marvel books just seemed real, and Kirby’s work was so dynamic, they just brought so much humanity and humour to those characters.
Do you read any of the new comics published today?
I read most of them. I don’t enjoy very many of them. But I have a great loyalty to a lot of those characters. I will follow the Batman through thick or thin. I like a lot of the stuff that’s coming out with the classic characters like The Shadow or the Lone Ranger. I think those books are really good. Ed Brubaker is great. His run on Captain America is arguably my favourite run of any comic ever. I actually wrote him a couple of fan letters.
Like JMS, you have also gone between writing for television and writing for comics. Are there certain similarities between the two mediums?
Any story has to have its timing. In a comic book you’re dealing with 22 pages and a half hour comedy show you’re dealing with about 22 pages. So there are similarities there. In a television show there’s many more people adding their two cents worth to everything. I think that the individual voice of the writer tends to be a bit more washed out in a television show in general.
How did you get started writing in comic books?
That was one of those showbiz perks. I was at a science fiction convention as a guest and I was chatting with Jim Shooter who was editor and chief at Marvel comics for many years. He was a fan of my work as an actor. He asked, “So what have you been doing?” I said I’d just wrote a Twilight Zone script. He said, “Oh, you’re a writer.” I said, “Yeah, I’ve written some television.” And he literally said to me, “How would you like to write a book for us?” I collaborated with my friend Miguel Ferrer who is also a Golden Age comic book fanatic. So we created this Marvel comic book character called the Comet Man.
I saw some of the photos Claudia Christian posted on her Facebook page from the Babylon 5 photo shoot last month. You all seem close, even after all this time. Do you get to see each other very often?
Surprisingly, yes. I would say we socialise with each other at least once a year. Maybe twice a year. Bruce was over several times during the Christmas season. Mira and I go to lunch at least two or three times a year. I wish Peter Jurasik was closer because he’s one of the best human beings I’ve ever met. But yes. We are somewhat close, we all do get together, just to get together, without any money on the table. There’s groups that get together for autograph sessions or reunions where you know you’re going to profit from that, but then there’s also those that get together because you like each other. Lost in Space and Babylon 5 both, there’s always been a healthy dose of that.
Do you think you will ever return to the Lost in Space universe in some way?
I would never rule anything like that out. I can see myself returning to that project as a producer or as a writer and I’ll be the first one in line waving his hand going “I’ll be Will.” Honestly I loved being a part of Lost in Space. It’s just such a part of my formative years. I was 10 when I started the project, I was 14 when it went off the air. Those people are really family to me. It’s one big dysfunctional family.
You have been in Star Trek, Babylon 5, Lost in Space, the Twilight Zone…. Is there any franchise that you’re like, “Gee, I wish I could be involved with that.”
I’d love to be in some of these big budget superhero movies. I would love to have done something in The Avengers or the X-Men or Superman. I’m really such a fan of that genre that whenever those kinds of opportunities have presented themselves to me in the past, I’ve gone “Yeah, I’ll do that.” And I like The X-Files a lot. I’d like to have done a guest spot on The X-Files. We were doing Babylon 5 when they were doing The X-Files. I liked the tone of that show very much.
What’s next for you?
I have a new CD coming out soon on GRA. It’s title is Illuminations. I’ve just finished a major tweak of a fantasy novel that I’ve co-written with Angela Cartwright from Lost in Space. We have a literary agent that’s very excited about shopping that. I do a weekly internet radio show called The Real Good Radio Hour that just focuses on music. And I do a lot of voice overs. Also there’s going to be this 20th Anniversary Babylon 5 reunion in Phoenix in a month. Everybody of the surviving cast and Joe Straczynski is going to be at this event. so I am looking forward to seeing a lot of those guys again.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today, and best of luck with the new comic book!