Interview with Max and Rich of Weird Warriors Podcast
Where are you from? What is your back- ground?
Max: I am originally from the mostly uncharted vastness that is referred to as “Upstate New York,” which is a region that can include anything from White Plains to the border the US shares with Canada. In my case, I’m from a blast radius of towns that hover about an hour North of Albany. As for my background, I was what I like to call an “Eventual English Lit Major,” perfectly trained for wandering the Earth like Kung Fu after college, except for the fact that I am not at all coordinated.
Rich: That is true, because I’ve been following him around to all these places since 1989.I still currently live in “Upstate New York.” Originally I’m from Cincinnati, OH. Incredibly, I’m in the US Army Reserve. I have a BA in History that I did practically nothing with until I landed a gig as an archivist for a company that reviews historical documents.
What inspired you to do a podcast on old magazines of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and comic books, especially the bronze age? Why Weird War Tales?
Max: What Inspired me to start the podcast was that I missed having an excuse to talk about comics over a drink with my old buddy Rich. That, and perhaps the fact that a few years previous to floating the idea, I had discovered the Who’s Who podcast on what would later become the Fire and Water Podcast Network, which led to me listening to and commenting on tons of other comic-book podcasts, and eventually being a guest on a few shows. You might say I caught the bug, or was at least watching the bug fly around the light fixtures inside the house.
However, I put off acting on anything, as I had (finally) learned a bit about myself after nearly 50 years of bumbling around the planet. See, I have the kind of ADHD that makes me love to start new things…and then abandon those things to start even more new things! So, knowing this, I was hesitant to start doing a show, as I didn’t want to just put out a few episodes and then disappear.
I was also hesitant to contact Rich about it, as he’s quite the opposite of me in this regard: if he starts something, he sticks with it to the bitter end! I didn’t need that kind of pressure in my life! Or did I?
As for the subject matter for the show, that was easy: Rich and I are old! And, he’s almost exclusively a War comics collector, and I love my Horror comics anthologies, so Weird War Tales was one of the few series that we both had a strong interest in. We’ve found that WWT is a series that’s worked as a “meeting place” for a lot of other readers that way, with War readers getting a taste for Horror books and vice versa when they end up checking out an issue or two.
Rich: Like Max said, I’m a huge DC war book guy. I have about five long boxes of those alone and am only a handful away from having the complete run. I’ve had the honor of meeting some of the all-time greats in the genre: Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Sam Glanzman. I’d never actually even listened to a podcast before Max approached me about wanting to start one. He figured that of all of his friends, I was most likely to keep him on course, and he freely admits that he probably would have wandered off after the next shiny object by now if I wasn’t around to jerk the leash. The literal combination of “weird” for Max and “war” for me was what got us focused on this title.
What was the first comic book you remember reading?
Max: I learned to read in large part from having comics read to me before I went to Kindergarten, so I really can’t say. They were just always there for me, there’s no “starting point” for reading comic books for me. Also, my memory for specifics like that is notoriously terrible. That all being said, some of the earliest books I “seem” to recall are various “Modern Comics” reprints of Charlton titles, as well as various Whitman/Gold Key, Harvey, and Gladstone/Disney comics. A mix of garage sale finds, grocery store grab bags, drug store spinner rack purchases, and so on.
Rich: My grandparents lived close by when I was a kid, and up in their attic there were all the old comics that my dad and his brothers read as kids. Our Army at War 51 and 74 were certainly two of the first, both pre-Sgt. Rock, as was Showcase 57 with a Kubert- drawn Enemy Ace story. I read all those poor books to tatters and have since replaced them. One of the first ones I recall personally buying was DC Comics Presents 10, with Superman and Sgt. Rock. I later got Joe Staton to sign my copy.
What performer or artist/writer inspires you the most?
Max: Jack Kirby is a major muse of mine, for the sheer bombastic purity and force of his imagination. Sergio Aragones is my favorite artist, and Groo the Wanderer is my favorite comic book series of all time. I also hold Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol run very dearly, and the Legion of Superheroes from the ‘70s through the mid-‘80s looms large over my imagination as well.
In prose, some of my favorite series are The Black Company by Glen Cook, Wild Cards by G.R.R. Martin and Friends, and several books by Clive Barker.
Musically, I am most inspired by the like of Ronnie James Dio, Motorhead, Henry Rollins, The Ramones, and GBH.
Rich: I love Joe Kubert’s art, but always appreciated Russ Heath’s fanatical attention to detail. In an era where artists (for example) would draw a Stuka dive bomber when the soldiers on the page are screaming “ME-109!” Heath damn near always “got it right.” As far as writers are concerned, has to be Garth Ennis.
Hands down. I met him at Terrificon in Connecticut this summer and got a bunch of signatures. He’s the only comic writer I religiously follow. Punisher, Hitman, Battlefields, the list is endless. If he writes it, I buy it.
I still love my ‘80s music: Genesis, AC/DC, Billy Joel, etc. I’m a World War II reenactor and have serious joy for big band music like Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman.
What other areas of art are you involved in?
Max: I’ve dabbled in writing and drawing over the years, but pretty much for my own entertainment, or for adding to the burden of those who continue to identify as my friends.
Rich: Max and I actually met in an art class at community college, appropriately enough. I love to draw, but unfortunately don’t do it anywhere near enough anymore. I also used to build plastic models by the dozen, and again, don’t do it often enough. I do enjoy creative writing and have had a couple articles published in magazines. I’ve also got quite the eye for photography and have gotten some great shots over the years.
do you think your environment, where you live, has an effect on the type of art you cre- ate?
Max: Sure, but maybe in not in ways that I’m equipped to understand. I would imagine that mostly growing up in small towns and surrounded by trees and wildlife has baked certain biases into my perspectives, but given that I’ve almost always stood apart from those who were raised around me, I’m not sure what those would be.
Rich: My great grandfather bought a summer house on Lake George, NY in 1922. I spent large chunks of every summer of my youth up there. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without that experience.
Max got to visit several times before finances forced my family to part with it in 2000, and we’d talk all night under the Milky Way and sip some suds. I read dozens of books on the boathouse porch overlooking the lake, which no doubt at least peripherally affects how I approach the show even decades later. The camp was only about an hour away. Whenever life starts getting me down, I still enjoy heading up to the Adirondack Mountains.
What long term goals do you have?
Max: To finish covering all 124 issues of Weird War Tales! With Rich involved though, that’s not likely to be as impossible a goal as I may have thought. He’s always there… waiting… sending me emails.
Sure, I’d love to write something of some consequence that gets read by more than a handful of people, but the odds of that are the kind that Han Solo never seems to want to hear about.
Rich: Unless Max dies (or he kills me to get out of it), we’d like to complete the run. We’ve only recorded out to 35, so we have a ways to go. If we get that far, maybe we’ll select another title!
I’ve written a few short stories. I wrote one based on J. O’Barr’s The Crow that’s set in the American South in the 1930s. Maybe someday I’ll submit it somewhere.
What do you think the popular culture will be like in ten years?
Max: Hopefully something completely different. I don’t think I can take much more of this era of so- called “Fandom.” Social Media have weaponized the worst parts of, well, everything, and it really makes me want to just disassociate from all of this stuff sometimes. More and more these days, I find myself saying “the internet was a mistake.”
Rich: God, who knows. Trying to predict popular culture is like trying to catch rain with a fork. Who could have predicted TikTok ten years ago? Look what Covid inspired as far as electronic communication.
Maybe we’ll be walking around in a virtual reality like in the movie Ready Player One. But all the disinformation and people bathing in the fountain of conspiracy theories really doesn’t give me a whole lot of hope for the future.
What other things would you like to explore as a podcast?
Max: As a listener? Lots! You should see the sheer bulk of queue! As a podcaster? No thanks! Staying focused on this one thing is already pushing me well beyond my pre-existing limits! Besides, in the world of comics right now, it seems like pretty much everything is being covered very well by lots and lots of people from my generation (or so).
Rich: It’s a bit jarring if you listen to the first couple episodes of the show and see how it’s evolved over the years. We’ve introduced segments like “The Intel Report,” where we briefly tease other war/horror comics that are out there, and we crafted that based on listener advice. A lot of the future will depend on where the title goes as time goes on and what cool ideas our fans toss at us. I write 75% of the show’s scripts and as long as Max keeps showing up to do his part, it’s just a joy ride.
What projects are you working on now?
Max: I have a blog, maxreadscomics.wordpress. com, that was my main outlet for throwing stuff at the internet about my comic book nonsense before Rich and I started the Weird Warriors Podcast, but I’ve largely neglected it since. I think one of my main personal projects these days is to actually try to read at least some decent percentage of all of the various books I have accumulated in the diffuse but definitely formidable nerd hoard that is floating in various hiding spots around my house. Because, as the Skeletal Host of Weird War Tales would probably say: “Time is absolutely not on our side!”
Rich: The comics side of the Weird Warriors Podcast will be the main project as the weather cools off. In warmer months, we might do “Road Warrior” episodes where we “hit the road” and find cool comic-related stuff to share with the listeners. We’ve befriended Sue Glanzman, Sam’s widow, and have done some fun stuff with her. World War II reenacting is another major warm weather hobby of mine and I love educating the public on the era. Even browbeat Max to show up at one last year! I have literally hundreds of books on the shelves I haven’t read yet that I’d like to carve into, mostly history or alt-history, but it seems like for every two I read, I get another one. The struggle is real.Thanks for the chance to say our “pieces,” Twisted Pulp.
You can find the podcast on all podcast platforms.
Podcast Art by Bill Walko of The Hero Business