Monsters, super-heroes and conspiracy theories

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Doug had decided that he was too old to read comic books, but the new comic he noticed at the local drug store still attracted his attention.

Years later, he would say that the title and  logo of the comic made it seem like it was a super-hero book. But the cover art seemed to go with a monster or science fiction comic. It was an intriguing mix, and , despite his earlier assessment, young Doug Moench went home that day with a copy of Fantastic Four #1. It was a decision that led to a life-long interest in comics and a career as a comics writer.

Moench’s credits as a writer range from the black-and-white horror comics to the most popular characters in the field– such as Batman and, yes, the Fantastic Four—to his own creations, such as Aztec Ace and Slash Maraud. More  recent credits include the limited series Batman Unseen and two issues of the X-Files comic.

Moench said his first comic book sales came as a surprise. A Chicago resident, he said his first contact with other science fiction  and comics fans came through a writer named Don Glut. “I just had a letter printed in Amazing Spider-Man, and Don contacted me through that. Turns out that he poured through the letter columns of all the comics to find fans in the Chicago area.”

Glut, best known as the author of the novelization of  Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, would invite his new contacts to his house, where, for a small admission charge, they would watch things like the original Captain Marvel serial.

At one such gathering , Glut told Moench that he had sold a story to Warren Publishing, the company that produced the horror comics Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Moench wondered if he could do that, so he wrote five short stories in five days and submitted them to Warren.

He didn’t think much about the stories after that, he said. “I was a hippie. I was busy having fun and doing hippie things—chasing girls and having fun.. “  In time, though, he received a $125 check from Warren. It turned out that the money was for all five stories, not just one. Still, Moench said it was encouraging enough that he thought, “I guess I’ll keep on doing it.”

Moench became a regular contributor, both to the Warren magazines and to Nightmare and Psycho,  black-and-white horror comics produced by Skywald Publishing. “For the longest time, I didn’t have any direct contact with editors,” he said. “Just letters. And since I was working in isolation, I really understand how fast I was.”

However, when editor Archie Goodwin moved from Warren to  DC’s horror comics, that opened up another market for his work.  In time, he was invited to New York City for a two-week tryout as a writer/editor at Marvel Comics.

“I wasn’t sure l could live in New York City,” he said, “(but) I ended up staying there for two years.”

While at Marvel, Moench became known for his work on Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu, with artist Paul Gulacy. He and Gulacy would work together on other science fiction comics, such as Six From Sirius and Sci-Spy. In addition, he was involved with some of the first American comics based on Japanese pop culture, Godzilla and the giant robot comic Shogun Warriors.

He didn’t know a lot about Godzilla and  his back story, but that wasn’t his primary goal with these  titles.“I deliberately wrote these comics in a very different style than my other work,” he said. “They were going to be aimed at younger readers, so  I wanted the stories to be child-like but not childish.”

From Marvel, Moench went to DCs  super-hero comics, where he became one of the main writers for Batman , and one of the architects of the Knightfall multi-title storyline in the early 1990s. (Among other things, Knightfall featured the first appearance of Bane.)

At the same time, he was approached by Eclipse Comics, one of the first of the independent publishers, and asked to create a series, where he would retain ownership of the characters.  He said he submitted three proposals, one of which was Aztec Ace,  a series which combined time travel and conspiracy theories with super-hero action.

“It was very self-indulgent, but it was the one I most wanted to do,” he said.  When the editors at Eclipse said they wanted to publish Aztec Ace,  Moench said he pointed out that either of the other two characters was more commercial.  He was told that because AA was the series he most wanted to do,  it was the one the editors at Eclipse thought he would do the best job on.  The comic lasted 15 issues, and Moench said he is currently looking into getting the issues reprinted.

He said he recently scripted a Treehouse of Terror story for Bongo Comics, but he didn’t know when that would appear.

Moench and his wife Debra have lived in Bucks County, in Southeastern Pennsylvania for over 25 years. When asked if he missed big cities, he said, “I miss certain things about them. I wish there was a teleportation system that would allow me to take advantage of the book stores and restaurants in New York, without actually having to live there.”

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