Covering The Flash
by Will Allred (11/13/1998)
I first ran across the name Steve Lightle several years back. And, to tell you the truth, I was a little worried
at the time. Back then Greg Capullo had been doing Quasar for a little over 2 years. As far as I was concerned, he was the
definitive Quasar artist, and here he was getting replaced by Steve. I shouldn't have worried. Steve's first issue knocked
my socks off and made me a fan for life. Unfortunately, he only did an issue and a half of Quasar, but I've made it a point
to follow his work since. Steve had a few minutes (just a very few) to sit down and talk about his work on such stalwarts as
the Legion of Super-Heroes, Wolverine, and how he got his start a few years back.
Allred: Let's start at the beginning. How and when did you get your start in comics?
Lightle: My first professional comic work was in DC's New Talent Showcase #4. This was back in 1983. I was
assigned a three part story written by Rich Margopolis, and I remember that story as fondly as any I have worked on since.
At that point Len Wein came along with a fill-in issue of Batman and the Outsiders. Suddenly it was like a roller coaster
ride. I was offered All-Star Squadron and did a couple of issues of World's Finest, and before my head stopped spinning I
was replacing Kieth Giffen on the Legion Of Super-Heroes.
Allred: Replacing Kieth Giffen on the Legion? That must have put quite a bit of pressure on you.
Lightle: Back in those days DC had two really big sellers, Teen Titans and the Legion of Super-Heroes. They were
head and shoulders above the other DC books in sales. So it was kind of intimidating. Especially when you consider that the
Legion was one of my all-time favorite comics. Oh, and get this.... Karate Kid was my favorite Legionnaire, and I had to draw
his death as my first Legion storyline. Sounds like an omen, doesn't it? But, it was great working with Paul Levitz. It was
clear from day one that he loved the characters and the book's concept. I guess I was pretty enthusiastic about working on
the Legion, and Paul was great about encouraging me. Before long I was suggesting plotlines and designing new characters. It
was a very exciting time. Paul Levitz, Karen Berger and Larry Mahlstedt made it feel like family. People used to ask me if
it was intimidating to collaborate with the #2 man at DC Comics. The fact is, I was hardly aware of it. It just felt like
two comic fans doing what they loved to do and having a great time.
Allred: Since we're talking about the Legion, who's your favorite character and do you have a favorite story?
Lightle: After Karate Kid, my favorite Legionnaire was Timber Wolf. I still think both characters have great
potential. I liked Wildfire a lot too. The Legion issues that stand out to me... I would have to say the Mon-El story where
he learns that he has developed an immunity to the serum that preserves his life. He totally freaked out when he realized
that they intended to put him back in the Phantom Zone. When it occurred to me that he had spent a thousand years trapped
beside murderers and psychos... Able to see history pass in front of his eyes, but unable to effect it, suddenly I had an
empathy for the character. How close might a good man come to losing his grip on sanity in that situation? Wow! That was a
long answer. I also liked the romance bit with Element Lad and Schvaun Erin. Introducing the first non-humanoid Legionnaires
was a big kick too. I'll always have a soft spot for Tellus and Quislet... My kids.
Allred: Your kids? That conjures up an interesting mental picture. Speaking of non-humanoids, quite a few
popped-up in you brief stint on Quasar. I think you know how I feel about ol' Quaze, so what was it like working with Mark
Lightle: Doing a couple of issues of Marvel's Quasar was kind of like a Legion flashback. Like Paul Levitz, Mark
Gruenwald was a wonderful man to work with. Mark, of course, was not just the writer of Quasar, but the #2 man at Marvel
Comics. When you consider that both books were set in futuristic settings, there were quite a few similarities. Quasar and
Legion each had a supporting cast of incredibly strange alien life forms. The challenge with Quasar was to keep it
stylistically different from the Wolverine stories that I was drawing at the same time. I wanted Quasar to be sleek and clean
... while I tried to make Wolverine appear gritty.
Allred: That's just about the best description of your Wolverine that I can muster. He just looked down and
Lightle: In the solo Wolverine stories, I even wanted him to look more raw than I had been drawing him on my
X-Men covers. In those stories, written by Ann Nocenti, I even stopped thinking of him as a super-hero. He was much more
interesting to me as an emotionally tortured man with conflicting loyalties and a stubborn sense of honor. It's always the
human part of a character that is interesting to me. I can take or leave the super powers. They are only important when they
effect the way a character reacts to his world...or as a simple story device.
Allred: Well, we know who your favorite Legionnaire is. Who is you favorite comic character and which one do
you want to work on the most?
Lightle: When I first started out, a DC staffer asked me what comics I would most like to work on. I said that I
would like a shot at the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Doom Patrol or Steve Ditko's Creeper. So far, the Creeper is the only
one I haven't done. At Marvel, I like Wolverine because of the intensity of his personality. My all-time favorite character
would have to be the Batman. Almost any character can be made to be interesting... or uninteresting. It really depends on
the treatment they receive.
Allred: You mentioned the Doom Patrol. I remember buying some of the issues off the stand and was disappointed
when you left the series. What caused you to leave?
Lightle: The Doom Patrol was an interesting experience. There are things about it that I thought worked... But
the unique circumstances that surrounded that job were just too strange. When Dick Giordano first asked me to do the book, he
and I both imagined it as a mini-series. If the editor had kept it that way.... I think it might have been a great series.
The first Stan Drake/Bruno Premiani story was fantastically original. I don't think our version was, though. I have since
come to believe that Paul Kupperburg and I might have come up with something equally satisfying if circumstances had been
different. Paul and I like and respect each other and are enjoying a great relationship on other projects like Flash and
Superboy. Who knows what we might have accomplished on the Doom Patrol had things been different?
Allred: You've collaborated with quite a few writers as well as supplying both the writing and the art on more
than a few occasions. Do you feel more comfortable in one role or do you like to wear both hats?
Lightle: Paul Levitz encouraged me to contribute to the dialogue and plotting of the stories I worked on. Since
those early days I have contributed plots, characters, or dialogue to a wide range of writers, from Stan Lee to Ann Nocenti.
In fact, Ann is one of the most incredible people I have ever worked with. Although she has a strong creative ego, she never
seems to allow it to get in the way of telling the story. She is even generous with story credit, which is very rare in this
biz. I really appreciate that because the more creative latitude I'm given, the more involved I am in the storytelling, the
more I care about the work. And yes, I have written a few things. A Wolverine/Spider-man story, a Gambit story. I wrote,
pencilled, and inked a Steel Raven story that introduced a new group called New Genix. A few years back, I was even asked to
write a Legion mini-series, but at the last minute was asked to make the Legionnaires into clones of the real Legion, so I
canned the series instead. At least not all my work was wasted though, as some of my concepts and characters appeared in the
Legion long after I bowed out
Allred: Can you tell us what you have coming out in the near future?
Lightle: I'm still doing the covers for the Flash, at least I think I am. A few weeks back, I was speaking to
Paul Kupperburg. I had just turned in the inks to that New Gods short story I've been working on, and thought I'd better ask
him about the next Flash cover he should be needing. Nothing unusual yet... he said that he should have the info I would
need in a couple of days. You see, I am usually asked to draw the cover before the script has actually been written, so Paul
needs to find out pertinent details about the story... and from that, I design a cover. The unusual part of that
conversation was when Paul told me that he would soon be taking on other responsibilities at DC, and would therefore be
giving up the editorship of The Flash. So, I'm not sure about future covers, but I am doing a 10-page story for the upcoming
Flash 80-Page Giant.
My pet project at the moment, is a horror series that I am writing penciling and inking. To protect the project
from predators, I won't tell you the title or many story details. Let me just say that I'm very excited about the more
cinematic approach I am using for the storytelling. This project is forcing me to stretch into new areas creatively... and
that is both frightening and thrilling at the same time. Of course, I'm sure I will continue to design toys, book covers,
trading cards and web sites. I have experience in advertising and animation too, but I think it's exciting that there is
still so much unexplored territory within the graphic story medium. I still love comics.
Allred: You know, sometimes it just has to be said. I love comics, too. Thanks, Steve.
For more information about Steve's past work a Steve Lightle Checklist (very much a work in progress) is
available at Steve Lightle Checklist.
Steve also maintains a web site (Steve Lightle's Original Art Gallery) at
be sure to check out his Flash covers every month.
Update: Since this interview was first written, Steve has continued doing covers for The Flash. As well as
designing even more characters for the book.