The idea of me writing a book had not coalesced, despite the revelation that John Michlig and Paul Dini would likely never write my ideal G.I. Joe history. It was still a vague notion. But one day while wasting time on the internet at work, I stumbled across Larry Hama’s e-mail address. I frequented toy and comic book news sites, and someone was announcing Hama’s birthday, or the completion of an interview. Hama wasn’t doing much in comics in the spring of 2001. His brief term as writer of the flagship Batman book the previous year was over, his seven-year Wolverine run had ended in ’97, and G.I. Joe’s 1994 finale was a distant memory. Finding this address was dumb luck, and felt like I was breaking some unspoken rule. This was a famous person, and I was not. Whatever kind of opportunity this was, I had to take it, and I had to ask for an interview, even if I didn’t know what for. I recall mentioning a “research project,” as if I was still somewhere in the limbo between my G.I. Joe Mixed Media issue and this as yet non-existent book. Surely the fan or webmaster who had included this address had done so by accident! I couldn’t just copy and paste it into a new e-mail message and bother the man, could I?
I could and did. Hama responded, which was a surprise. I had only corresponded with two famous people at the time, and the instantaneity of e-mail was still shocking. Moreso how it broke down barriers between fans and pros. A celebrity would not call back by telephone, and paper mail was iffy, but e-mail was somehow different. Hama provided a phone number and asked if I would need his fax, or if this would be an e-mail interview. I suggested in-person. New York wasn’t far and I knew that any interview would come out better if conducted face to face. To my surprise, Hama said yes. It was generous and trusting of him. What if I turned out to be an axe murderer? Or the worst kind of fanboy, digging for dirt and begging for autographs?
Hama had a few trips in the near future, and we settled on a tentative date in June. I sent him links to various toy photos and catalog scans at yojoe.com, thinking that he might need a memory jog. (He didn’t.) And then I asked my friend and future editor Nick Nadel if he could help me come up with questions.
I didn’t want to ask noodley fan questions. The problem was that I wasn’t a writer and didn’t know what made for good questions and what made for bad. All I knew was that the interviews I read in Wizard Magazine were fluffy, while those in The Comics Journal were smart and long, and I needed to somehow keep Hama talking. If he ended up terse or forgetful, the trip would be wasted, and whatever this “research project” was would now lack a necessary lynchpin. Nick looked over my list and suggested fewer specifics like “Favorite issue?” and more process ones, like “Who do you write for?” The day came and I hopped an Amtrak bound for Manhattan.
More next time…