How did you first become involved with 2099?
Len: Evan called me and asked me
to pitch. I said yes. Then it got complicated.
Now, I gotta lay some background on you: Ghost Rider was the
first of the 2099 books not edited by Joey. After they
released the first four books and they sold like crazy,
everyone wanted a piece of it. The compromise was after the
first year, any new books based on existing Marvel
characters the editor of that present day series would have
first refusal. Until Ghost Rider came up, and Bobbie Chase
Now, Bobbie and I had history, and not the good kind. So I
figured my chances of getting approved could be measured in
microns. So I said yeah, sure! Because at that time Marvel
was actually paying people for series pitches. I then
proceeded to write a proposal for a book I would like to
write (or read), figuring I could change the names and pitch
it as a whole new series elsewhere after it got turned down.
Except Evan loved it, fought Bobbie tooth and nail for it,
and the next thing I knew I was writing Ghost Rider 2099.
What recollections do you have about working with the artists
on Ghost Rider 2099? Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham, Ashley
Wood, Kyle Hotz, Peter Gross, Graham Higgins?
Len: Chris did a tremendous job
right from panel 1. Making Transverse City, the environment
cohesive and seem to extend beyond the panel borders. It was
a sub-universe inside of a sub-universe. He contributed a
lot in terms of the gigantic street-urchin look, all the
buckles, and the liquid metal hand. Wolverine was king of
the hill in those days, so I thought let’s give him a weapon
that’s really ghastly. Let’s give him a chainsaw built into
his arm! That left his other arm neglected and Chris saw to
that by making it a shape-shifting liquid metal hand. I was
like…I’m an asshole for not thinking of that. I can’t
imagine having started that book with anyone besides Chris.
It didn’t look like anything else, at least not in Marvel
Buckingham kicked ass. Both with Chris; and I think he did a
couple of issues all by himself.
Then there was the coming of Kyle Hotz! I really hit it off
with him personally and would have spent a lot of time
drinking beer with him in dive bars somewhere instead of writing
if he hadn’t lived so far away. His was a very different
style from Bachelo’s but it wasn’t jarring. I thought it fit
Ashley, that was a bit of a
goat dance. He was living in
Australia and I was in New York City. Finding a time where
the both of us were not just conscious but could both speak
coherently at the same time was…difficult. I talked to him a
few times. But we really didn’t get a chance to bond. His
pencils were really loose. When I did the arch-fiends, a
cyber-punk riff on Dante, they really weren’t distinct from
each other in the pencils. I write better dialogue if I have
a better idea of what the character looks like. I let the
side down those first few issues. I was spoiled after Bachelo and Hotz. Their pencils had been real tight and every
detail was there. Ash didn’t do anything that hadn’t been
done before, it’s just that I was spoiled. I feel bad to
this day that there’s a run in there where you can see the
writer is treading water. I reached the desperation point of
writing TWO issues of Vengeance 2099! After that, I started
kicking myself in the ass more. I like to think I pulled the
nose up by the time the series wrapped so that people who
had been there since issue 1 didn’t feel ripped off.
On the flipside, Ash's covers were fierce. If I were an
editor I would want to reduce all the copy to12 point type
only and on one edge and just let the covers sell it,
because they were beautiful.
What recollections do you have about working with editor Evan
Len: Evan was a warrior. He fought
every step of the way for those first 12 issues. The only
thanks he got was from me.
Do you recall any stories you wrote
that were not published?
Len: There was one story I
wrote for Joey for 2099 Unlimited. I wrote a 22-23 page lead
that I don’t think ever got as far as an artist. Basically
Ghost Rider 2099 takes a wrong turn on the Transverse City
highway and ends up way down where there is this cult of
“Hills Have Eyes”-like degenerate cannibals which worship
this white-faced, red-haired deity in a building which has
these golden arches up front. I remember discussing it with
Joey, “and then the evil Ronald McDonald robot comes to life
with spinning wheels of death and spikes”…I was walking him
through the basic idea and he’s like “Please God, don’t get
me fired” And I was like “Ok, I just won’t call him ‘Big
Max.’” Which is good because then Marvel would have ended up
with the trademark and Slott and Fry wouldn’t have had their
super hero ape comic.
Unidentified art by artist(s) unknown. Could this be
from Len's unpublished 2099 Unlimited story?
Were you happy with
the change in status
quo and making Ghost Rider a marshal?
I had always intended to do that arc at some point. In some
ways I saw it as a bit of a western, with the Ghost Rider as
the archetypal outlaw. He was not some kind of moody
anti-hero. I wrote him more like one of Richard Stark’s
Parker novels, where Ghost Rider 2099 is not a good guy.
It’s just that the guys in charge are worse. There was one
issue where I was trying to punctuate that this isn’t
Captain America, and Evan tells me “but that would make Zero
as bad as the guy he’s fighting!” And I said to him, “Who
says he isn’t?”
Most of the outlaws of folklore were very bad men. Frank and
Jesse James, Billy the Kid, and the like were all
sociopaths. Commoners may have seen them as fighting on
their behalf, but that was not the motivation. A lot of the
lawmen of the time, Wyatt Earp for example, also started out
as thugs. Just in Earp’s case, he found himself in the
position where he could afford to buy himself a badge.
Therefore if he shot somebody, it was perfectly legal. In
Ghost Rider’s case, I thought this wasn’t him turning a new
leaf, it would be taking it to the next level. He wasn’t
giving up, he was just buying in. I had this strange
delusion that I could throw western tropes in there. I
remember John Carpenter saying that Escape from New York is
a western in disguise.
To anybody who didn’t like the second year…don’t blame Joey!
There were no changes in the series that were not my idea. I
thought this was a good place to take a real sharp left turn
and get people’s attention. I admit the second year sales
“One Nation Under Doom” was a non-crossover cross over. Joey
came up with the idea that all the 2099 books would all be
impacted by the same event. He found a way to have an event
without shoe horning in a cross-over. And I thought that was
very clever. Doom becomes president, shit is going to
What I wanted for the cover to issue 13 was a shameless
swipe of the classic Dredd cover with Ghost Rider 2099
holding a punk by the scruff of his neck saying, “I AM THE
LAW!” I thought that would be good for getting some eyeballs
In an interview with Comics Scene, you
mentioned that you and Joey were talking about a character that
might become Iron Man 2099. Do you recall who this character
It never reached any official capacity. It was more of a
sketch of an idea. Rather than have a fragile fleshy human
in a metal suit, Iron Man 2099 would be an artificial
intelligence in a robot body covered in human skin. Part of
it was inverting the whole Iron Man idea. Instead of a man
in a machine, it would be a machine inside a man. And
somehow we would still end up with a primary color hero in a
suit of armor. That was really as far as we got. A real
basic set of reversal of the expectations. There would be
some secret master plan but that it would not be a villain
behind it all but be in fact Tony Stark. Tony is the Marvel
character who is always closest to death, but never gets
Do you recall what Heartbreaker’s
origin was? What was her grudge against Max Synergy?
I had some bare bones idea of what the back story would be.
There was something terrible underneath the half mask. But
not like Doctor Doom. More like a cross between the
star-brand and that girl from The Ring. Once you had seen
it, your life span was not very long. With the tradition of
masked characters being mutilated, we deliberately made it
look that way so that we could later do a reveal at some
point. I know Joey was trying to find a space on the
schedule for a double-sized special starring Heartbreaker.
Joey had pointed out that we had a shortage of female
characters. But that was not long before things just went
Do you have a favorite issue or cover?
Favorite issue, gotta go with issue 1. The art just looked
so much like what I had in my head. I think it hit all the
right notes. I’m not my own biggest fan, but that is one
comic book I wouldn’t hesitate to point to and say “I used
to do this.”
What do you recall about the
I had sufficient warning to plan the endgame arc to make it
seem almost seamlessly like it was the plan all along. We
may have had an extra couple of months to reach #25 which is
that magical number that means nothing. And then before I
can even turn around, the whole thing was coming down. There
was the great writer’s revolt where everyone resolved to
quit for Joey. And there I was sitting there with the last
issue to dialogue. So I called Joey, ‘boss you tell me. I
will walk with the rest of you if that is your slightest
preference. But he was like ‘finish it.’ I just needed
absolution. But make no mistake, if we hadn’t been
cancelled, that would have been my last issue. What they did
to Joey; that was ass.
How did you come to write 2099: Manifest
Destiny? What recollections do you have about working on that?
Len: Tom Brevoort called me up. Said
they wanted to do a one-shot, double-sized epilogue to wrap
things up. Instead of leaving it with the mess that had
come after the last book ended. Tom and/or others thought the
business deserved a more dignified send off. I said I was
interested. Then I called Joey, again. What does the maestro
say? As far as I was concerned, there would never have been
any success without Joey. I was not going to touch it
without his blessing. And he was all for doing anything to
make the ending suck less. I just felt he ought to have a
say. I wanted to respect him. There isn’t enough of that in
the comics business.
I then took that a step further and contacted the writers of
the other books and asked if there was anything left hanging
that they would like to see settled? Peter David said, he was
really pissed off that they killed Miguel’s mother and that
they turned his brother into the Goblin.
Were the explanations revealed in Manifest
Destiny (how the Heroic Age ended, the invisible barrier keeping
earth shut in) your own ideas, or were they based on ideas
developed prior to 2099’s cancellation?
Len: That was all me. I figured that
it had always been the elephant in the room. The mystery in
the room that was never going to be solved. You couldn’t say
what happened because sooner or later you would catch up,
and if it didn’t happen… But once I was putting a shelf to
it, I felt it was the sort of thing that as a reader ‘don’t
give us a mystery that will never be resolved.’ Something
had to happen to lose or misplace the knowledge Tony Stark,
Reed Richards, etc. had. And I had to finally explain why. I
had the idea of using Captain America as King Arthur. And I
worked everything backwards from that.