The following is an e-mail interview with WALT SIMONSON, long time writer/artist all over the comic industry. This interview was conducted on August 29, 1998.

JOHN DALTON: What is your earliest comic book memory?

WALT SIMONSON: Probably going over to a friend's house when I was about eight or nine to read comics. He had one in particular, a western with a one-shot character named "El Fuego", that I loved and reread a number of times. And of course, I've never seen it again. As far as I can tell, nobody else has either.

JOHN DALTON: How did you get your first break in comics?

WALT SIMONSON: I took a portfolio of work that I had writtren, pencilled, and inked called The Star Slammers into DC Comics and through a series of happy accidents, ended up showing it to Carmine Infantino who was essentially editor in chief at the time. Carmine liked my stuff and had his editors give me work.

JOHN DALTON: What has changed, for better or worse, since you first began in the comics industry?

WALT SIMONSON: Probably the thing I most bemoan is the apparent shift--and it seems fairly serious to me--from publishing comics for a reading audience to publishing comics for a collecting audience. The collecting audience is highly knowledgeable, very picky, and relatively specialized. This folly reached its height a few years back with so many multiple or enhanced covers, vast crossovers, etc. when there was a lot of speculation in the value of comics, especially new comics. The result seems to me to have been that a great many people who just read comics for fun dropped out of the audience, and I don't think comics have found a way to attract them back. So instead, various ways have been created to squeeze more money out of a diminishing audience but I think in the long run, that's a doomed policy. A major effort to attract readers on all fronts--reconsidering business practices, distribution reforms, and editorial rethinking are essential if the comics industry is going to really grow I think.

JOHN DALTON: What do you see happening in comics as we enter the 21st Century?

WALT SIMONSON: Don't know. Right now, we seem to be on a course to produce smaller press runs for a specialized audience of cognoscenti and I'd kind of like to open comics back up to a wider audience. Whether or not that can be done now remains to be seen.

JOHN DALTON: You have worked both sides of the pencil as a writer and an artist. What has been the best part of each?

WALT SIMONSON: The answer is the same for each--if you really nail a story, either in the art or the writing, you get a tremendous satisfaction from the work. If it's solo work, that's great; If you're working as part of a team, that's great too. Good work is the best.

JOHN DALTON: You have done much great work, but your name is often synonymous with Thor. What was the best part of working on the God of Thunder?

WALT SIMONSON: Probably the combination of working on the first Marvel character I ever read (my personal favorite), and also being able to work on mythological themes out of the Norse myths, also my personal favorites. An additional pleasure was that in the early 80's, Marvel was just a great place to work, and it was a lot of fun both to be working there and to see the kind of competitive good work that other creators around you were doing. Really got your juices going.

JOHN DALTON: You seem to hve a penchant for the epics, the space battles, the gods. Has that been concious on your part?

WALT SIMONSON: I think I just like moving a lot of toy soldiers around on the board. Every so often, the artist in me wonders what the heck the writer in me could have been thinking!!! And on a slightly more serious note, I do like mythology a lot and that plays right into a lot of the themes in comics, especially superhero comics.

JOHN DALTON: What work are you most proud of?

WALT SIMONSON: Hard to pin it down to a few jobs, but Manhunter, Thor, Michael Moorcock's Multiverse would be right up there.

JOHN DALTON: If you could work on a book featuring any characters or situations, what would it be?

WALT SIMONSON: The New Gods -- just about the only characters in mainstream comics I always wanted to do that I haven't done yet. Can't wait!

JOHN DALTON: What excites you about working in comics today?

WALT SIMONSON: Same thing that has always excited me about working in comics -- telling stories. Especially, as I said above, when you nail one!