It's easy to imagine the average comic book fanfic writer as a person between the ages of 14 and 30, sitting in a school computer lab typing out short little snippets of prose or poetry about the X-Men. Fortunately, all those stereotypes are blown once you read DarkMark's work.
DarkMark, who has decided to remain anonymous, writes some of the best prose out there about characters we all should get to know better, characters who have even been forgotten by their creators. You can take a stroll down memory lane with his work, revisiting the greats like the Marvel family, Airboy and even Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu.
Did I forget to mention that he's also written for mainstream comics...?



Now talking in #spotlight
DarkMark: There you are!
Q: Stupid IRC.
DarkMark: Glad I decided to make the check at the top of the hour again. Been reading antique comic books to pass the time.
Trisha activates her virtual tape recorder.
Q: So what are you reading right now?
DarkMark: BATMAN #340 from 1981. A Roy Thomas / Gerry Conway / Gene Colan collaboration. Very fun.
Q: Who's in it?
DarkMark: Batman and a villain called The Mole. It's based on an old MAD COMICS story called "Mole!" by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder. Even has a character based on Woody Allen.
Q: The Mole? Nothing like the Marvel villain called the "Mole" I take it?
DarkMark: Nope, no Mole Man. This Mole digs with his hands through any substance, and goes "Huh, huh, huh!" a lot. You may fire when ready.
Q: <laugh> Sounds like a real winner. Let me start off by asking you this: When did you start reading comics?
DarkMark: Circa 1958. My mom bought me a copy of MOUSE MUSKETEERS and it corrupted me forever.
Q: Mouse Musketeers? What was that all about, and which company did it?
DarkMark: I stuck with funny-animals through 1963, then graduated to super-heroes. Been there ever since, with a five-year layoff. MOUSE MUSKETEERS was a Dell Comic based on some MGM characters. It was Tom and Jerry in Three Musketeers dress and situations, done by a fellow named Lynn Karp.
Q: Ah-hah. Sorta like the MGM cartoons with that white mouse, right?
DarkMark: Right. Tom was M'sieu Poosycat. <wink> And Leonardo Di Caprio was nowhere near the book!
Q: What do you like about comics?
DarkMark: Jeez! What DON'T I like about them? I like the heroism, a quality that seems to have been deliberately downgraded today. I like the imagination, the camaraderie, the alternate universe. The fact that you can become a part of their world, for a while, in imagination by reading their adventures...and by writing about them.
In a way, the heroes were my friends (as I'm sure they have seemed to many others) and helped me through some particularly tough times [in real life].
Q: Can you give an example?
DarkMark: Hmmm. I recall a time in college in which NOTHING appeared to be going right...one of the most depressing times of my life. I went over to a friend's house. I'd been off comics for 5 years. I borrowed about 5 years worth of AVENGERS, my favorite title, and got hooked again. Stayed out in the parking lot of the communications building in my car, reading comics under a streetlight. How's that for obsession?
Q: So in a way, comics have a way of revitalizing the imagination?
DarkMark: I think so, yes. Perhaps bending it in a specific way.
I dislike it when oldsters talk of a particular show or movie as being "impossible". Once you've had your mind into imaginative [literature], you don't think in terms of possible or impossible, but of quality.
Q: What do you mean? Like the Six-Million Dollar Man is "impossible"?
DarkMark: Yeah. I even heard them refer to the 60's TV show "The Avengers" as impossible. These folks never graduated from BONANZA! And I would not confuse the Six Million Dollar Man [with] quality!
Q: <grin> What comics/heroes do you like?
DarkMark: Ah, good question with a long answer. My fave strip of all time, I guess, is Deadman in the original STRANGE ADVENTURES incarnation. Then I have lots of others. THE AVENGERS is my fave Marvel title, but I've been into lots of good stuff...Warlock, the Spirit, Sandman, Kurtzman's war comics, Alan Moore stuff, you name it. I've been reading the buggers for about 40 years now.
I've read practically ALL the Silver Age, a good portion of the Golden Age, lots of Bronze and Eighties. I fall down during the Nineties.
Trisha tries to calculate the math, nicely and discreetly
DarkMark: Yep, I'm old. <wink>
Q: I hear you were around when the first good Silver Age stuff came out.
DarkMark: True, I was in time to catch the wave. The first superhero books I ever bought were METAL MEN #2 and WORLD'S FINEST #134, both from 1963. A few months later I bought my first Marvel, a TALES OF SUSPENSE with Iron Man carrying Cleopatra in one arm. This was just after Marvel started identifying themselves AS Marvel with their little corner trademark. Before that, you didn't know who they were, or even if all their books were theirs. It was as if they were ashamed or something. <wink>
Q: Different question: How long have you been writing fanfic?
DarkMark: OK, that's a good one. I think about two or three years now, and I got into it kind of left-handedly. I'd tried to break into comics writing full-time, previously. I got a handful of stories [published], but no steady gig, really. So, being tired of beating my head against the wall, I fairly well gave up on that.
Q: What stuff have you had published?
DarkMark: Ah, that would be telling! <wink> I've had a couple of stories [published] by Marvel, some stuff for Eclipse, and some for a few minor publishers. It pays good if you sell well, but I wasn't in that bracket.
As to the fanfic, it started with Supergirl, as you probably know. And back before about 1981, if you told me I'd be into Supergirl, I would have thought you'd fallen out of a tree! But I got a hold of some issues of ADVENTURE from 1971 done by Mike Sekowsky, and he actually wrote and drew an interesting take on Supergirl, just as he did on Wonder Woman...
Back in the good ol' days... Q: Why Supergirl?
DarkMark: It's hard to define. Basically, I write a lot about women, or superheroines, because it's a way of building the perfect beast...creating somebody you could almost fall in love with. Self-revelatory enough?
Kara happens to be one of the nicest females in comics...certainly not the best-written, not the best-drawn, but she has that kind of quality I found appealing. And she wasn't as dull as Superman. Then, just as I was getting into her, wham...DC killed her off, and I saw the cover of CRISIS [OF INFINITE EARTHS] #7 in an ish of [Comic Buyer's Guide], and I felt like going to work wearing a black armband. But I didn't.
Q: How are your Karas different from the canon Karas?
DarkMark: Well, for one thing, they're alive. OK, I'll go into the genesis of the Kara project.
Fast-forward to about twelve or so years after CRISIS. There's a lot of onliners who hadn't forgotten about Supergirl, and more than a few sites dedicated to her. Actually, a lot of them used her as a template for erotic fantasy, which is why DC cracked down on a lot of those sites, I believe.
Q: DC actively looks for dangerous sites?
DarkMark: DC looks for sites that may infringe their copyright, especially with unauthorized reproduction of their graphics. I don't use graphics, but that's one of the reasons I prefer anonymity.
Q: Ah-hah. Which is why yours is mainly text-based?
DarkMark: Righto. Anyway, for the heck of it, I decided to do a story for my own satisfaction which was a mild Kara erotica, using her in a wrestling story. Of course, it was terrible!
Q: And it's also nowhere on your site, correct?
DarkMark: Yes. It's on "Kara's Pocket Universe" [KPU], more or less as one of the lesser pups in my litter.
But by the second story, I'd actually begun to get into characterization and storytelling, and it turned out quite a bit better. By the third one, I figured that I'd better tell why she wasn't dead... and that's when it all came together. That one was "Kara and the Dreamsmith", and that's the reason why I'm still writing fanfic today.
Q: A story that wouldn't let you go?
DarkMark: Yep. Actually, a story that turned out so right, from all perspectives, and got enough good reception that it gave me a reason to go on with the series, and then on to other ficts. It also led to TransformerMan giving my fict its first home, on the KPU.
"Dreamsmith" was my way of saying, "We don't have to be bound by the current DC canon. We don't have to accept her death as final, or the destruction of the fine old Multiverse. If you don't want it, we'll take it ourselves!"
Of course, it does give me a great advantage. There's no canonical stories being done of the old DC Multiverse these days, which means I can start in 1985 and build from there.
Q: I guess you could say that a lot of fan authors start when their beloved books come under editorial perusal.
DarkMark: Probably true. I haven't read X-MEN in a long time, but I'm told that the big fanfic thing with them started when other writers did things with characters they didn't like. Right now, I'm playing with a lot of different characters, and I have to deliberately limit myself because I've got too much on my plate already.
Q: "Hellsister" right?
DarkMark: Well, "Hellsister"'s done. I have about nine serials right now in progress, everything from Supergirl to Batman / Outsiders to THUNDER Agents to "Pictopia". I've got a lot more planned, but I've got to wind up a few of these before I can do 'em!
Q: "Pictopia" is perhaps my favorite of your works. Explain how you got the idea for that one?
DarkMark: Hey, thank you. I'm glad you like that one. OK. It began with the Alan Moore / Don Simpson story for Fantagraphics' ANYTHING GOES. This was a very dark, dystopian allegorical story in which all the fun old characters from the 1930's and '40's newspaper strips were being displaced from existence by all the superheroes. The narrator was Nocturno, who was based on Mandrake the Magician.
I'm arrogant enough to take on an Alan Moore story as a basis (Neil Gaiman, too), and the story ended on a defeatist note. But I thought: what happened afterward? What if something fired up Nocturno and his friends to become heroes again? Plus there was all the fun of being self-referential in it: they know they're in a comic strip, at the same time they're performing in it. So it's also a chance to do a take on the Phantom, Flash Gordon, the Spirit, Judge Dredd, Woozy Winks, and others.
Q: Sorta like Subreality Cafe stories?
DarkMark: Exactly. In fact, some of the most memorable scenes in the original "Pictopia" take place in a bar.
A step back into comic history... Q: Why do you think you like Golden/Silver stuff better than current stuff?
DarkMark: Well, I grew up with it. The heroes of your youth will always be your greatest heroes. That doesn't mean I haven't added to my own personal pantheon. I love WATCHMEN, SANDMAN (up to a point), V FOR VENDETTA, KINGDOM COME, etc.
But the fact is, out of boredom and economic consideration, I stopped buying the entire Marvel line circa 1984 and most DC's around '85. I do keep up with certain titles. Back when I started, you could pick up the week's Marvel super-hero titles for a buck, and have change left over. You could keep up with the whole line, and were expected to!
Q: Which titles do you keep up with?
DarkMark: I try to keep up with AVENGERS and CAPTAIN AMERICA. I like whatever Alan Moore's involved with, such as LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN and SUPREME. Beyond that, it's only what I fancy that month. I enjoyed the post-Crisis SUPERMAN, but finally gave up on it. I lost interest in Batman when they wound up the busted-back thing.
But in the Nineties, I made a conscious effort to expand my comics knowledge into the past, rather than try to keep up with everything in the present, which I saw as futile. That's when I started reading tons of Forties comics on microfiche.
Q: What do you like from that era?
DarkMark: My favorite companies would be Fawcett and Quality. Certainly I like the Spirit, but I love Captain Marvel, Captain America, Plastic Man, early Superman, Batman, plus odd here and theres. Fiction House had great art, lousy stories...but if you had tons of bikini-clad jungle queens and [science fiction] heroines around, who cared?
As for Timely (40's Marvel), I wondered in the Sixties why Marvel didn't reprint stories from circa 1943-1949. When I finally read them, I learned why...they were BAD! Relatively speaking, of course.
But in doing research like this, you turn up a lot of characters you can cannibalize for your own use. If I want, I can write about Prize Comics heroes, Charlton heroes, Fawcett, Quality, you name it. The only problem would be getting folks to read them. <wink>
Q: I know why you write DC and some Marvel. Why not the X-Men? I see you have only two X-Stories on your site.
DarkMark: Well, that's a loaded question! But here goes. Basically, the modern X-Men turn me off because the whole thing has become a cult. I was turned off of Star Trek by the similar [phenomenon]. It's not a comic book anymore, it's a religion.
I enjoyed X-MEN when Claremont and Byrne did it together. After John left, it felt to me more or less like what became of Lennon and McCartney when they stopped working together...they didn't compliment each other's weaknesses by their strengths. So I left the book before I gave up on the other Marvels. I haven't read much of X-MEN since 1984, and as for X-fict, there is just...so...damn...much...OF it! <wink>
Also, the problem is, if I wanted to set an X-story in the past, in an era in which I was familiar with, Claremont and company had the nagging tendency to back-and-fill with past-set stories that I wouldn't be aware of.
I felt comfortable with doing that Iceman story ["The Iceman Cometh"], because I figured it wouldn't disturb continuity. And Magneto I really enjoyed writing about.
I'm sure this isn't the Magneto he had in mind Q: So which fan authors do you read?
DarkMark: Not a lot of them, surprisingly enough. Mainly because a lot of it is X-Men, and when I encounter that, I tend to go bye-bye. However, I do like Kielle's TCPs [The Common People stories], a lot of Staff's stuff, Syl Francis's Gotham stories, some of the Legion stuff that's going through OTL, some of Matt Nute's stuff, a few of Indigo's stories, some of Sharon Best's, etc.
I especially liked Staff's [Subreality Café] stories. They've got the right amount of humor to 'em. I'll also mention Em-Spider, who's really a master of the short form.
The sad thing is that the X-writers tend to be better writers than a lot of non-X'ers, but I've got an allergic reaction to mutantism.
Q: You pick and choose according to writing style?
DarkMark: Yes, exactly. I also tend to enjoy TCP stories more than X-stories for one simple reason: I don't have to be familiar with 10 years of comic books that I haven't read to enjoy them. However, the mutant thing may be wearing thin for a lot of fictists, and even Kielle has noted that they're moving onto Batman / Nightwing stories. That's a good thing in a way. But if it only means that we've got Column A and Column B to choose from, we've got a lot of turf left uncovered.
Q: In your years of reading comics, writing comics, and reading/writing fanfic what is your all-time pet peeve among stories?
DarkMark: Oh, boy! All time current pet peeve is, "Why so many X-stories? There are thousands of characters which we could be writing about! Lots of them more interesting than X-Men! Why not try?"
Q: And you have. <smile>
DarkMark: Well, for a long time, Peter David's HULK was t he best mainstream comic around. How many Hulk ficts have you read lately? Most of Marvel's heroes are relatively untouched...Dr. Strange, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, all the rest. And there's always groups like the faux Marvel bunch which do "issues" of all characters, but that doesn't appeal to me.
The bit is, if I'd stayed with just Supergirl, I might seem or be as stale to others as the X'ers do to me. But I found out that I could actually write and publish stories I'd been wanting to do for a long time, get them out there in public, and have folks read them. That was a tremendously empowering notion.
Anyway, what I was about to say: the response from folks who e-mailed me about the stories encouraged me enough to try just about any character I wanted to, and I've tried a lot of 'em so far. And enjoyed it!
The presence of folks like Syl, Sigil, the Legion writer (can't recall her name), and a few other folk (including [Alicia] McKenzie, who wrote a really good Batman story) on OTL is, I think, helping convince the "mainstream" ficters that it doesn't ALWAYS have to be about X-Men.
Q: Who, besides Kara, are your favorite characters to write?
DarkMark: Wow. Well, writing Magneto was a hell of a trip. It was very fun to get inside his head, or attempt to, and write his diary entries. Ozymandias of WATCHMEN was fun for the same reason. One of my other faves is Angela, of Image fame, and her sidekick Hilth. I'll do a sequel to her someday.
Then, of course, there's Tina of the Metal Men...one of my particular faves. And Batman is turning out to be somebody I can work with, surprisingly enough. The bit is, once I get my hands on just about any character, I find undiscovered aspects to him / her that rejuvenate my interest, which is lucky for me.
Q: Who was the toughest to write?
DarkMark: The toughest. Oi... Good question. Lex Luthor is a bit of a toughie, but that's because I'm trying to cast him in a different mold. Usually I have my problems when there are so many characters in a story that I'm hardpressed to give any of them space to do something in. Infinity, Inc. in Power Girl is like that, I hate to say. But I like working with large casts, so it's all my fault.
Q: What was the hardest story for you to write? Either fanfic or original fic or comic...
DarkMark: Probably one which I did set during the Vietnam War, which required me to take a different viewpoint from what I usually had. As for something that's been tough to write, "Blackhawk"...I started that, and have just not been able to pick it up again.
Q: The Vietnam story... what was that about?
DarkMark: I'd been pretty hawkish during the Sixties, but the story required me to do a character who would be similarly hawkish, go over there, and find out that combat wasn't what he was expecting it to be.
Q: Hawkish? Oh... patriotic?
DarkMark: Yeah, basically. Pro-war and all that. Of course, it was easy to be pro-war when you didn't have to go. And I didn't... just barely, I guess.
With Blackhawk, it was the problem of setting up a situation and not knowing anyplace to go with it once it was done. I think I had a good beginning, and a good end. But the middle? Forget it!
There's a lot of things which I just lose interest in, too, mainly because I have so many other things that I'm working on. A story with Blue Beetle, the Question, Thunderbolt, et al., has turned out to be one of those. So that's why a few really good ideas are being left till I get Kara, or Supergirl, or "Batman and the Outsiders" out of the way.
Q: Is it because there isn't a lot of material to work off of?
DarkMark: No, it's because I have too darned much on my plate! I'm pretty good at making a decent purse out of sow's ears, so far.
If anyone mentions the word 'erotica' one more time...
I've always felt that it's not what's been DONE with a character that matters. It's what you CAN do with them. Supergirl, I hope, case in point.
Q: If there's something you haven't done yet, that you want to do, what would it be?
DarkMark: Get a regular gig with Marvel or DC! No, seriously, I've got two biggies planned for next year. Want to hear?
Q: Sure!
DarkMark: The one folks may be interested in is called FIRE! It's an Elseworlds kind of thing which Marvel didn't bite on when they submitted it.
Q: You mean [to say] "you" right?
DarkMark: Yeah, me.
Trisha raises her eyebrows.
DarkMark: Basically, the premise is this: the Marvel Universe really did start in 1961. Everybody aged one year for one year of real time. Now Spider-Man is married with a couple of kids, Iron Man is tired and wanting to sell out to another corporation, etc.
On top of that, we have all the unrest of that period, and a villain who just may devastate the entire nation (as in destroy it) by NOT choosing to wear a funny suit, or operate on the open...and using every extant super-villain of the time to decoy the heroes.
A different kind of Supergirl Q: Kinda like that new DC World's Finest Elseworld? The one that aged everyone until past the end of the millenium?
DarkMark: Yep, though I haven't read that. [FIRE!] was designed to be Marvel's answer to KINGDOM COME.
Q: It sounds absolutely fabulous. And your second idea?
DarkMark: The second one is an adaptation of my favorite failed comic script, the Airboy Saga. You probably are unfamiliar with the character, but he was one of the better Golden Age heroes, and Eclipse's AIRBOY was one of my favorite Eighties titles.
Basically, it continues from the last [issue] of AIRBOY in the Eighties, bands our intrepid heroes together to keep Misery from destroying the world, and hopefully ends up as something like Airboy's version of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. Not too many readers of today, I'm sure, are familiar with Airboy. But I'm good at introing readers to such characters, I think.
DarkMark: Work has started on the Airboy Saga already. FIRE!, I wanted to be certain Marvel wasn't going to bite on before doing it as a fict. That's how good I thought it was. Sorry if that sounds too egotistical, not meant as such.
Q: That's okay. I realize there are potential copyright problems involved. Thank you for letting me take up your time... Oh, some last questions:
DarkMark: Sure, and I don't consider it taking up my time, but using it.
Q: Which work of yours would you recommend to people and which work of other people are your favorites?
DarkMark: OK. My favorite of my own stuff is, and probably always will be, "Kara and the Dreamsmith." But they'll possibly enjoy "Hellsister", the Magneto story, the Watchmen story, and Angela, too. All of 'em are online at DarkMark's Domain.
DarkMark: Other folks? Let's see. Loved Matt Nute's "Captain America" story, Staffie's Magneto story for Arcellino Timeline, his SubCafe stories, Indi's Lois Lane story, Kielle's TCP's, a Sandman Christmas story and a John Constantine story, both in comics script form. Some of Sigil's Nightwing stuff. Also enjoyed, [believe it or not], some of Ali McKenzie's X-stuff, plus most of Em-Spider's shorties.
Q: Whose Constantine stuf?
DarkMark: Oh, golly...it's called "The Great Rock and Roll Swindle", and it's really funny. Don't know who wrote it, but they're good.
Q: Okay, fair enough. Thanks again for your time.
DarkMark: And thank you. Get back with me if you need any more material, okay?
Q: Will do.

Author's Picks:

The Great Rock and Roll Swindle by Barb Lien-- Do you remember that John Constantine was a punk rocker? Barb certainly does. Linked to Luba Kmetyk's "Stories from the Shadows" archive.
Five Minutes Longer by Matt Nute-- A short story about Captain America and one day in World War II. Linked to Matt's "Stories for the Reality Impaired" mini-archive page.
Ghost by Kielle-- Yeah, I know I've profiled Kielle's work before. But this is such a good story, that I've decided to do it again. Linked to the TCP warehouse.
Power and Responsibility by Indigo-- No, it's not about Spiderman. Just read it, okay? Linked to Indigo's "Orbital Anomaly" page.
The "Shanty Town" stories by Seraph-- Methinks our Angel is making a good name for herself by writing about these underdeveloped fictives. There are more stories in the Muse Tales side of "Subreality Central".

Spotlight Picks:

Pictopia II by DarkMark--The reason why I like this one so much is that a) it's full of humor AND sadness and b) it's a fun romp. Good ol' fashioned heroes... what more do you need?
The Iceman Goeth by DarkMark--Way back before he became the resident prankster, Bobby Drake had a normal life. Read all about how that life changed.
Society's Child by DarkMark--Composed for the breakup challenge, this fic dares you not to get a bit weepy.
FIRE! teaser-- One wonders how exactly this would have turned out, had it been picked up by Marvel. Good stuff here.
The Airboy saga teaser-- Parts of this are already up on DarkMark's site. But here's a snippet for your viewing pleasure anyway.

Assorted Links:

DarkMark's Domain-- You can find all of DarkMark's fanfics that are mentioned above and in the interview here. It's very light on graphics, heavy on good quality text.
Kara's Pocket Universe-- You can find more Kara stories here, but right now I can't get in, so I have no idea what the content is like.
EarthAngel: The Legend of Supergirl-- I swiped several pictures from this site. They're also a good resource on all things Supergirl, including a good essay on why the "Supergirl" movie isn't as sucky as many people would like it to be.

You can e-mail Dark Mark at darkmark90@yahoo.com


Back to Main Page