Stephen D. Sullivan is the author of more than thirty published books and has twice won the Origins Award (the highest honor for game-related fiction). He specializes in writing action/adventure, fantasy/SF, and detective stories.
Steve’s recent adaptation of the film Iron Man (HarperCollins 2008) continues his work with high-profile licenses—a relationship that stretches back to his days as a game designer/editor and comic book writer. Properties he’s worked on include: Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, Fantastic 4, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Thunderbirds, Spider Riders, Speed Racer, Elektra, Darkwing Duck, The Simpsons, and many others.
The first novel in Steve’s fantasy trilogy, Dragonlance: Warrior’s Heart, was nominated for a 2007 Scribe Award by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. The Detroit Free Press recommended the second novel in the trilogy, Dragonlance: Warrior’s Blood, as a good book for Harry Potter fans to pick up while they were buying Deathly Hallows (DFP, July 20, 2007). The final book in the series, Dragonlance: Warrior’s Bones was nominated for a 2008 Scribe Award.
Steve won his first Origins Award for The Lion, the final book in the Legend of the Five Rings samurai series. His second Origins Award came for his work on the Mage Knight adventure stories—a series which included the fantasy special-forces trilogy “River of Death,” “River of Flames,” and “River of Blood.” (The “Jolum the Fish” trilogy.)
Additionally, Steve has written fourteen Hardy Boys adventures, including Bayport Buccaneers (Simon & Schuster, 2007), as well as the final book in the original HB series, Motocross Madness (HB #190, Simon & Schuster, 2005).
Steve is also the co-host of Uncanny Radio, an hour-long program focusing on the supernatural, which is broadcast every week on WBSD FM and streamed worldwide.
Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
I was born in Moline, Illinois. I grew up in Sharon, Massachusetts. I’ve lived in Wisconsin for nearly 25 years.
Schooling? Art training?
I trained as a Fine Arts major, specializing in painting and art history.
How long have you been working professionally in comics?
I’ve worked professionally in comics since the middle 1980s — over 20 years, I guess. Wow!
What things — both in art and otherwise — have you worked on, besides comics? Are comics a full-time gig for you or part-time?
Comics are only part of my mix of work. I’ve also done a lot of games, a lot of graphic arts work, and — more recently — many, many novels. I have over 20 published books in print.
Talk about how you broke into the business –was it easy? Hard? Ups? Downs? Any interesting anecdotes? When you held your first published work in your hands, how did you feel?
Breaking into comics was tricky — and it continues to be. It seems that no sooner do you get some good contacts than the industry changes and you’re back at the bottom of the ladder again.
Of course, living in the Midwest, away from the major markets, doesn’t probably help in that regard.
There was a time when we had two big comic companies close at hand, in Chicago — but they’re long gone now.
Did you work as an assistant to any other artists? If so, please talk a bit about those experiences.
I’ve helped out friends now and again, but I was never really a full-fledged assistant.
In comics I’ve done a lot more writing than art. (I’m just not fast enough as an artist.)
How did your parents take to the idea of working in comics?
My parents have always been supportive of my career in publishing and the creative arts.
How would you describe your workspace? Is it part of your home, or do you go “to the studio”?
I have a studio in my home.
What job are you the proudest of? What’s your most embarrassing?
My proudest accomplishment would be my award-winning novels and stories: The Lion (novel) and Podo & The Magic Shield (short story).
In comics, I’m very proud of the work I did on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and the related books). The TMNT stories effectively combined entertainment, action, and social conscience. And working for Mirage was a dream.
Which is not to say that I’m not proud of my other work, too. I worked hard on all my comics stuff, especially on my own strip The Twilight Empire (tm), which ran for over 4 years in Dragon magazine .
I’m also really proud of the editorial work I did on Dungeons & Dragons in the early 1980s. We brought D&D into the mass market and made it popular. We helped make it the mythic game it is today.
My most embarassing work… well, I should probably let that stay buried. But, since I did it with Glasshouse’s own David Campiti… I guess it would be Kamikaze Cat. It nearly Kamikazed my career. 😉
What are you currently drawing? Comments on that project?
Not drawing much of anything currently. Been writing a boatload of books. Spider Riders just hit the stands, as did Elektra. And this summer you can read my adaptation of the Fantastic Four movie.
Talk about your Family: Parents, siblings, home situation. Are you Married? Have kids? Anecdotes about married life, how it relates to your busy schedule, etc. If you have kids do they understand your job? What do they say about it? Do they read comics?
I’m married and have two kids. My wife and I have been together nearly 25 years. We’re all great. My mom is doing well, too. Unfortunately, my dad died several years back. My family has always been very supportive about my work. Sometimes the kids have a hard time understanding that daddy is actually _working_ because he’s always “home.” My kids read some comics and comic strips. Both of them like Garfield. My son recently read many of the classic issues of Spider-Man .
What projects do you hope to work on in the future?
I’m happy to work on whatever projects come my way. Having worked on the FF and Elektra (in book form) it would be fun to work on some of the other “big gun” superheroes — Spidey, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’ve greatly enjoyed working on characters and stories I enjoyed as a kid, like Astro Boy and Thunderbirds .
Where do you see yourself in five years? ten?
In five years I hope to have more of my own creations published as novels. And maybe a screenplay or two. In ten, I hope to be well established for my own work — as opposed to work-for-hire — in many areas of storytelling (including those mentioned above.)
What is the interest in comics where you live? Do friends and neighbors know you write comic books for a living? How do they react?
All of my friends and most of my neighbors know what I do for a living. Many of my friends are novelists and game creators themselves.
What’s 1 thing you’ll always find in your refrigerator?
What’s your favorite food?
Seafood — but it turns out I’m allergic to much of it!
What are your favorite interests –Movies? Music? TV? Any hobbies? Sports?
I’m huge in movies. I contributed to Brian Thomas’ Asian film review book. I love music and I enjoy watching sports. I’m thrilled that the Red Sox won the Series, and I can’t believe that the Patriots have won 3 Superbowls! Now, if we could get some more championships for the Packers , the Celtics , and maybe one for the Brewers….
Ever been in a gang?
Well, only if you consider the Alliterates (authors group) a gang.
What’s an average day in your life like? Walk us through a typical day.
I wake up. I eat. I go down to the studio to work. I check my email. I write a boatload. The kids come home. I keep working. My wife comes home. I make dinner. We watch TV or movies or listen to an audio book or something. Then we all go off to bed at various times. Pretty middle-America, really.
Any humorous or interesting anecdotes to tell about the comics business?
So many that none spring to mind. We used to have a ball working on an art jam at the Chicago Comicon (now Wizard World Chicago) every year.
They used to have a benefit for literacy, and every year a bunch of us would get together and draw and ink a huge drawing. One year we did it in four panels. Lots of great people worked on those — like Neil Vokes, Bill Willingham , and A dam Hughes .
Adam used to tick us all off because he could draw anything that he’d ever seen — and do it really well. The year the Batman movie came out he drew Keaton as Batman from memory, with no reference, only having seen the film once.
Do you have any great, unsold projects in your files that nobody’s gotten to see published?
Actually, I have an amazing number of these. Some have gotten close to publication only to have the publisher fold or change directions. Others are just waiting for the right time and place.
Complete list of published credits?
What, are you kidding me? I’ve got 25 years of stuff. I can’t hardly even begin to list things. I hope someday to compile a complete list.
If you weren’t a comic-book artist today, what would you be?
I’d be a novelist or a screenwriter or… Wait! I am those things! Guess I’m right where I want to be.
Have you taught comic-book art or had any assistants?
Yes, I’ve taught comics-related subjects ( both writing and art ) at conventions, museums, and other venues.
In 2004 I taught cartooning at the Kenosha Public Museum.
The single thing you’d most like to be remembered for in your life is…?
Telling great stories; having great kids.
Any closing words for your fans?
Thanks for all your support over the years.
The best is yet to come!
Racing Stripes (with Dave Schmidt)
Legend of the Five Rings books
The Dragon Isles
The Dying Kingdom
Spider Riders books
Shards of the Oracle
Quest of the Earthen
Reign of the Soul Eater
Hardy Boys books (as Franklin W. Dixon)
A Game Called Chaos
The Spy that Never Lies
Crime in the Cards
Trouble in Warp Space
Speed Times Five
Trick or Trouble
In Plane Sight
Wreck ‘n’ Roll
Luck o’ the Irish
Martian Knights & Other Tales
Zombies, Werewolves, & Unicorns
Uncanny Encounters: Roswell (2009)
Plus short stories, anthologies, articles, etc.