Reading with... Fabian Nicieza

photo: Cyndi Shattuck

Fabian Nicieza is a writer and editor who is best known for his comic book work and as the co-creator of Marvel's Deadpool. He has written more than a thousand comics, including X-Men, X-Force, New Warriors, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Robin. He has edited diverse comics, from Ren & Stimpy to Barbie, and provided story-world development on Hollywood franchises, including Pirates of the Caribbean, James Cameron's Avatar, Transformers and Halo, among many others. Suburban Dicks (Putnam, June 22, 2021), a murder mystery full of skewering social commentary, is his debut novel.

On your nightstand now:

Still Life by Louise Penny
Marvel Masterworks: The Fantastic Four, Vol. 22 by John Byrne

Favorite book when you were a child:

In elementary school it was all about the Hardy Boys. Any of the books in the series, but the one that always stands out for me was While the Clock Ticked. I barely remember the contents of the book, so maybe it was the cover. Frank and Joe tied up and in peril; a grandfather clock pulled from the wall revealing a secret passage and, best of all, an actual old man hiding in his best Scooby Doo, "if it wasn't for you meddling kids" fashion.

By middle school, I entered a ridiculously obsessive Doc Savage phase, reading nearly the entire run of the old '30s pulp series in the Bantam editions that were coming out at the time with glorious covers by James Bama.

But through that all, from before there were even books, there were comic books. They have been a part of my life since I was six years old, helped me learn how to read and write English when I came to the U.S. from Argentina, shaped my thoughts on right and wrong and morality and ethics in ways little else has.

Your top five authors:

In no particular order of preference:

James Ellroy
Stephen King
Tom Wolfe
David McCullough
Larry McMurtry

I had been on a Michael Connelly binge and, based on my wife's recommendation, just starting a Louise Penny binge. Over the last 20 years I've read more nonfiction, but I'd sprinkle "fun" series books in there as well, like Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton and Lisa Gardner.

Book you've faked reading:

Wow, there may be more on this list than I'd care to admit!

Definitely Moby-Dick. I'd already seen the movie when I was a kid so by the time I had to read it in high school, it felt as interminable as being adrift at sea for several years.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Since I find evangelism a bit tacky, let's say these are books I am very enthusiastic about! The Right Stuff, Lonesome Dove and The Stand are probably my three favorite books, and they couldn't be any more different from each other. The one thing they all have in common is an exploration of the "Great American myth."

Book you've bought for the cover:

Every single Doc Savage book when I was a kid! James Bama was my book cover god. And I don't really have a more recent answer. I tend to read novels based on familiarity with the author or strong word of mouth.

Book you hid from your parents:

None that I recall, ever. They never discouraged me or my siblings from reading even if they weren't always thrilled with my choices: comic books, pulp, fantasy, SF.

Book that changed your life:

Some snooty types might take offense to this, but, honestly, to hell with them... it was a comic book that changed my life more than a book and made me realize the power of storytelling and its ability to affect people on an emotional level.

It was The Amazing Spider-Man #90 by Stan Lee, Gil Kane and John Romita. It came out a month before my ninth birthday and in the story, Captain George Stacy, a longtime supporting character, a police captain and the father of Peter Parker's girlfriend, Gwen, was killed while saving a child. Spider-Man was unable to stop what happened, and before dying, Stacy revealed that he knew Spider-Man was Peter Parker.

All of that packed into 20 pages. It was more than my little boy brain could process, but I remember from the day I read that book moving forward, I always wanted to tell stories. Comic books, books, short stories, scripts, didn't matter. I wanted the chance for my words to affect someone as strongly as that had affected me.

And, as a final note, getting to work several times in my life with Stan Lee, and directly on a day-to-day basis with John Romita at Marvel, made me appreciate the gift they gave to me even more.

Favorite line from a book:

I had to look it up because I couldn't recall it from memory, but there was a line from L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy that summarized my worldview about good guys and bad guys and the gray world we all live in.

Captain Dudley Smith says, "Don't start tryin' to do the right thing, boyo. You haven't the practice for it."

It made me think of all the aspirational but conflicted heroes I'd read about growing up and the ceiling of reality they always butted their heads against. It helped solidify the view I have about both my writing and the world: "Don't try to be a good guy, just be a good guy."

And yes, I fall short in that sometimes, but not for lack of trying....

Five books you'll never part with:

This might sound sacrilegious to some, but as I have gotten older, I have become less attached to material things.

Over five years ago, we moved to a new house and I got rid of half of my very large comic book collection. Having purged that, I am prepared to soon get rid of the other half!

I'll probably hang on to some of the paperbacks I bought in the '70s--The Stand, Lonesome Dove, etc.--but I have no idea yet what hardcovers would withstand the purge!

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

I tend to move forward and read new things, but I did recently re-read The Stand. I'd been so disappointed in the new CBS series that I wanted to see the story "the right way" again. The book was longer than I remembered! And I like the idea of re-reading L.A. Confidential; maybe soon.

What was it like having William Shatner give you the Heimlich maneuver in front of 3,000 people:

Well, first of all, it was a pretend Heimlich maneuver, because I was just helping Bill out while he was telling a story during a panel we were doing at San Diego Comic Con.

But I did say immediately afterwards, "Now I know why all the alien ladies loved Captain Kirk...."

So, you know, I got that going for me.

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