Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Congratulations on the recent release of your book, How to Be a Superhero! For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the book, how would you describe its premise?
Mark Edlitz: How to Be a Superhero is a book about superheroes and the actors who play them. In the course of writing the book, I spoke to 35 actors who have played superheroes from 7 different decades.
From DC, I interviewed actors who have played Batman, Superman, the Flash, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Superboy, Batgirl, and many more. From Marvel, I interviewed actors who have played Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America, Cyclops, and Daredevil.
But, I didn’t just interview superheroes. I also interviewed people who have played supervillains like Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Julie Newmar (Catwoman), and Lex Luthor (Michael Rossenbaum), sidekicks like Jimmy Olsen (Jack Larson) and Lois Lane (Noel Neill), antiheroes like Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), and comic book legends (Stan Lee and Joe Quesada).
Because “not all heroes are super,” I interviewed Clark Gregg who plays Agent Phil Coulson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Roger Moore and George Lazenby (who played James Bond), and the late, great Leonard Nimoy who brought great humanity to his interpretation of Spock.
I also spoke with the cast of Roger Corman’s unreleased Fantastic Four film and Adrianne Palicki who played Wonder Woman in the unaired David E. Kelly pilot.
BD: When did your fascination with superheroes begin?
ME: Like many of your readers, I grew up reading comic books. As I grew older, my interest in comics remained, but I started to appreciate them on another level. Adam West’s Batman was one of my first exposures to superheroes. So, being able to talk to him was quite a privilege.
BD: What intrigues you about the superhero genre?
ME: Christopher Reeve said he felt that he was the “temporary custodian” of Superman. Sean Connery said that playing James Bond was a “cross” and a “privilege.” So, I knew that playing a superhero can be career-defining and life-changing moment. I wanted to dig deeper and see who else felt that way. I figured if I spoke to the actors when they weren’t actually promoting a specific movie or TV show, they would be more inclined to reveal a complete picture about their experiences. The performers in the book spoke candidly and humorously about the highs and lows of being a superhero.
BD: With San Diego Comic-Con, the biggest comic book and pop culture convention of the year, quickly headed our way this July, why is How to Be a Superhero a must-have book for convention goers?
ME: I wanted to get to the heart of what it’s like to actually play a superhero. To ask the questions that comic book fans would want to know. Does the actor feel powerful in the costume? Or somehow weaker when they’re not wearing it? Do they regret the decision to play a superhero? Did it typecast them? Did it limit them? What was the best part of being a superhero? The worst? Did it change them as people? I was always surprised by the answers to my questions.
As an aside, I love what John Wesley Shipp revealed about wearing his Flash costume. Because it was so uncomfortable, he began referring to it as “creature.” It’s a wonderful tribute to his show that the producers cast him as Barry Allen’s dad on the new Flash series.
I end each interview with the fan question: Who would win in a fight? I ask each interview subject to pit their character against another hero. Clark Gregg speculates on who would win in a fight between Agent Coulson and Nick Fury. Adam West talks about who would win in a face-off between his Batman and George Clooney’s. Lou Ferrigno makes book on a duel between Hulk and Superman.
BD: The book will feature interviews with the actors and actresses who have brought some of the most iconic superheroes to life on the big and small screens! Are you able to share of these individuals’ names with our readers, as well as the capacity with which they may be involved?
ME: I interviewed dozens of people for the book, so I won’t list everyone but let me share a bunch. From Marvel, I interviewed Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson), James Marsden (Cyclops). Alan Cumming (Nightcrawler) and Lou Ferrigno (Hulk). From DC, Adam West (Batman), Dean Cain (Superman), Tim Daly (Superman), Yvonne Craig (Batgirl), Malin Akerman (Silk Spectre), and Kevin Conroy (Batman).
I also interviewed the original Flash (John Wesley Shipp), the original Captain America (Matt Salinger), the original Spider-Man (Nicholas Hammond), the original Supergirl (Helen Slater), the original Daredevil (Rex Smith), and the original Howard the Duck (Chip Zien)!
I’m honored that David Mamet wrote the foreword and that Richard Donner (director of Superman) and David Hayter (writer of X-Men and X2) gave it advance praise.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from How to Be a Superhero?
ME: I hope readers will feel like they’ve spent a couple of hours talking to the actors themselves. That they’ve gotten a glimpse behind the curtain. I also hope that people go back and check out a movie, TV show, or comic book that they might have overlooked or even dismissed the first time they saw them.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about How to Be a Superhero?
ME: Your readers can find me on Facebook and can get the book through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.