Interview with: Michael Vance,
Writer/Critic/Reviewer of
Suspended Animation!

by Paul Dale Roberts

Question: Tell us something personal about yourself? Your family life, where you were born and raised, what schools you attended? Maybe some details from your resume?

I began to write at the age of eleven (about 1961). I wasinspired to do so because of "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells.This novel changed my life, and has impacted everything that Ihave since written. At eleven, and living in Oklahoma City,Oklahoma, I watched a Saturday morning television show called"The Professor's Story Hour". A professor in a town about sixtymiles from Oklahoma City encouraged his viewers to write storiesand send them in. I did. I won one first place and two secondplace trophies for my stories, and appeared on the show. Thatfirst place story was also published in a little chapbook. Istill own a copy. And I was on my way.

I also published an off-campus paper called "The Shadow" at thecollege I attended in the late and turbulent '60s and early '70.

After college I worked in radio for five years, then publishedmy own weekly advertising tabloid. This lead to my first job innewspaper at The Seminole Producer in Seminole, Oklahoma. Thatnine year stint turned into a 24 year career in newspapers inadvertising sales, as advertising manager, and as an editor andwriter.

I currently work at the largest boys home in Oklahoma.Approaching my sixth year, I am their Communications Director,producing all of their printed materials, writing grants, doingnews releases, a newsletter, and much more.

Question: What was the first comic book you ever read?

I am not sure what comic book first caught my attention. I wasfirst hooked on comic strips, and saved Alley Oop, Superman andother strips out of my local newspaper before I was ten yearsold. In the '50s, I read all of the DC titles; in the '60s, Iadded Marvel from the beginning of their expansion. I also readACG titles, and later wrote a book about the company called"Forbidden Adventures: The History of the American Comics Group"(Greenwood Press) which is still in print and can be found atyour local library (if not, ask; they will get a copy). Myfavorite comics writers in the '50s included Gardner Fox andJohn Broome. My favorite characters were Superman, Green Lanternand The Atom (Gil Kane was a terrific artist and person).

Question: What were your favorite comic books growing up?

My list of favorite comics would also have to include:Adventures Into the Unknown, the first runs of Spiderman, TheHulk, Daredevil, the X- Men and Fantastic Four, the Warren lineof magazines: Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella. Although I didn't getto read them under first publication, I grew to love the EC lineof comics. I still consider them to be the best overall line ofcomic books ever produced. I also grew to love Popeye and Pogo,my two favorite comic strips.

Question: Can you please tell us something about your newcreation called Lights End?

The first Light's End story was a continuity within a comicstrip I created and wrote for five years, Holiday Out. HolidayOut, in turn, was born out of an assignment from Jack & JillMagazine to write an article on Alley Oop artist, David Graue. Iwrote the article and gave Graue a story idea. He bought it. Iwrote Alley Oop for awhile. When that ended, I created my owncomic strip, Holiday Out, that ran in about 40 publications, andthat was, in part, republished by Renegade Comics as Holiday Out#1-3.

My influences for Light's End were and are H.P. Lovecraft,William Faulkner and Ray Bradbury.

Light's End is a fictional town based on a real town relocatedto Maine. These short stories are interconnected, and willeventually become a trilogy. But the stories are also designedto stand alone as complete stories within themselves. To date,the stories span about 400 years, and are horror, fantasy (notthe elfin kind), SF and mainstream tales. I am now writing the21st story; most have been published in various magazines. WhenI did a book signing in April or May of 2001, I did so with thelegendary actor William Windom (more than 50 movies, hundreds ofTV shows including Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Barney Miller; hewon an Emmy in, I believe, 1970 for his tv series "My World andWelcome To It". We hit it off, he liked my stories, and I lovehis work. So we decided to produced an audio tape series to sellat personal appearances. The first tape is out (all 20 Light'sEnd stories have ALREADY been recorded by Windom), and we havealso signed a contract with Plan 9 Publishing. They have alsoreleased the first tape which contains two stories: "A Change ofHeart" and "Cross Purposes".

I read a question in a magazine once that went something likethis: "as bad as it was and is with Hitler and Stalin, andserial killers, and horrible wars, imagine how hopelessly worseit would be if there really were no God.

The town of Light's End was founded to answer that question.

Question: How can someone go about purchasing Lights End?

The first 12 stories or so are available in a chapbook I sell atpersonal appearances. These chapbooks also contain material thatwill never appear in a book (if and when the first Light's Endbook is released) including poems, maps, and photographs. Youcan get that autographed from me for $15 at 1427 S. DelawareAvenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 74104. The first Light's End tape isavailable from www.Plan9.org . Look under "Titles" and then"Lights End". Copies signed by Windom are also available. I mayalso be reached at MiklVance@Yahoo.com .

Question: Tell us about your other projects.

Outside of Light's End stories, and my Suspended Animationreview column, I am no longer working on other projects, nor doI have plans to do so. I might, if approached, write otherthings again, but I consider my Light's End stories my focus forthe rest of my (already) 30 plus year career of writingfeatures, comic books, comic strips, book(s), and about anythingelse you might mention.

Question: Tell us about the history of the Suspended Animationreview column. How long have you been doing this? Where can we find your column?

To my knowledge Suspended Animation is the longest running,continuously published, WEEKLY reviews of comic strips and booksaround. It is read by about 270,000 folks. It appears on about60 different web sites, and has run in many print publicationsas well. It is 13 years old as of Jan. 2002.

I created the column with comic book writer R.A. Jones becausewe believed that comics deserved the same respect and serioustreatment as other art forms. We also believed that there werebooks that adults who don't read comics would enjoy if they onlyknew that they existed. That is why we try very hard to place inin NON-COMICS related places as well as in publicationsdedicated to comics. It runs in your fanzine, of course, and onthe Jazma web site. I have, basically, two "home pages" whodistribute the column for me. Folks interested in carrying it,or just reading it can find it at www.starland.com andwww.digitalwebbing.com .

Question: Who is the other staff member that assists you withSuspended Animation?

Currently, a young man named Mark Allen is writing half thecolumns.

Question: Do you have a website and if you do what is the URLaddress?

I do not have a website.

Question: How can somebody contact you?

I love to talk with folks. They can write me at Michael Vance,1427 S. Delaware Ave., Tulsa, OK, 74104,or email me. They mayalso stop by and chew the fat with me at conventions. I amavailable for convention appearances, and have done so fortwenty years.

Question: If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 things would you bring with you and why?

What: The Bible. Food. Clothing.

Why: Spiritual hunger. Physical hunger. I sunburn.

Question: Your thoughts on the comic industry?

I am not certain that it will survive. I believe it is one ofthe few, real artforms created in America, and has as muchpotential as any other form of literature. I don't believe ithas reached that potential yet. Unless comics publishers beginto publish material that adults will read, and find some way tolet them know those titles exist, the industry will eventuallydie.

Question: Your 3 favorite fictional heroes and why?

Boy, that is a tough question. I just can't limit it to three.Let's try Superman, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes. Pogo (under E.C.Segar). Popeye. Alley Oop (under V.T. Hamlin). Favorite comicsartists: Ingles (EC), Wally Wood, Wayne Boring, Frank Frazetta,Alex Raymond, V.T. Hamlin, Walt Kelly, Gil Kane; the list isjust too long to continue. Favorite writers: William Faulkner,Charles Dickens, Ray Bradbury, H. G. Wells, H.P. Lovecraft,Edgar Allen Poe, Victor Hugo, C. S. Lewis.

Question: Here's an off-the-wall question. Have you everexperienced anything of the paranormal? If you do please explain.

Yes. Jesus Christ is my savior, and, through him, I experiencethe ultimate and only real Paranormal (outside of angels), God.

Question: Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?

I want to reach as many people as possible with my Light's Endstories. I want to still be writing.

Question: Your 3 real life heroes and why?

I really have no "real life" heroes. He who comes closest: myfather.

Question: What cons are you going to?

I will attend Trek Expo in June of this year in Tulsa, Oklahoma.I will attend any other convention that invites me and pays myexpenses.

Question: What movies, cartoons and TV shows are your favorites?

King Kong (the original). Psycho (the original). The Alamo.

Rocky and Bullwinkle. King Leonardo. The Flintstones. TheSimpsons. Super Chicken. George of the Jungle.

The Prisoner. All in the Family. The Twilight Zone. AndyGriffith. Our Gang. Currently: Everybody Loves Raymond.

Question: What books do you read?

I have never stopped reading; I have read tens of thousands ofbooks, I am currently reading the collected short stories ofO'Henry, the Quotable C. S. Lewis, and re-reading Light inAugust by Faulkner.

Question: What are your hobbies and recreational activities?

Writing.

Question: What comic books do you read now?

I read everything that is sent to me for review in SuspendedAnimation. That is quite a few books. I'd like to receive more.

Question: That ends the interview, any last words?

Not until I die.


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