Managing Editor of Mirage Publishing Dan Berger was “cowabunga” enough to give Project Fanboy our latest interview.
Steven: Dan, thanks for speaking with us today.
Dan: My pleasure, thanks for the vine.
Steven: Growing up I remember watching the cartoons and of course the TMNT movies until I knew almost every line. Did you always want to get into comic books, or was there something else you thought you’d be doing at this point in your life?
Dan: I wanted to get into comics before I could even read them. Both my parents worked, so I spent a lot of time at my Grandma’s house as a wee little kid. To get me to shut-up, good ole Grandma bought me “Famous Monsters of Filmland “ and whatever comic books appealed to my discerning young eye (mostly stuff like Hulk, Thor and Doctor Strange). I would sit down and draw all those crazy characters and dream of what it would be like to do it for a living. Eons later, I’ve been truly blessed because I’ve been able to do it for the past 20 years thanks to Peter Laird, Kevin Eastman, Ryan Brown and Steve Murphy. Time flies when you’re having fun!
Steven: How did you break into the comic book industry and come to work with TMNT?
Dan: Back in 1985 or so, I worked on an indy comic book published out of Cleveland called “Colt the Armadillo that Won the West” with Ryan. We went to a comic con in Detroit to promote the book and immediately became friends thanks to a mutual appreciation for AC/DC. We were twiddling our thumbs at the show, so Ryan suggested we do a pin-up of the TMNT since Kevin and Peter were at the show. Thus I penciled something and Ryan inked it and we waited in a huge line to meet the Turtles’ creators. When we got to the line, Ryan gave them the pin-up. Kevin liked Ryan’s inks and he later mentioned it in an editorial of “TMNT”. Ryan got in touch with Kevin and was eventually hired as an inker at Mirage. A few years later I graduated from college and moved up to Massachusetts, and thanks to Ryan and Steve Murphy lobbying for me, I eventually got some Turtles work. They haven’t been able to get rid of me since!
Steven: Besides the TMNT titles, are there any other titles that you’d like to work on?
Dan: I’d love to work on characters like Hulk, Thor and Doctor Strange – but I don’t have anywhere near the skills needed to work for Marvel as an artist. I’d love to write ‘em, though. Yeah – me and like a billion other dudes! I also love “The Goon” by Eric Powell, but he sure doesn’t need my input!
Steven: Mirage Studios doesn’t own the rights to the 1987 cartoon series produced by Murakami-Wolf-Swenson Film Productions Inc. which lasted until 1996. What television and movie productions did Mirage Studios have a hand in?
Dan: Mirage has purchased some of the rights to the original toon, but Fred Wolf Films sold many of its rights over the years to various companies, so it’s a sticky wicket that I don’t know all the details of. Currently, Peter Laird is investing 1/3 of the capital needed to produce the animated series on 4Kids TV, so Mirage does have ownership in the current series.
Regarding the films, the rights generally belong to the production studios. I’m not privy to the minutia involved with the Hollywood deals (which is just as well, as that stuff gives me a headache).
Steven: The latest movie incarnation of TMNT was released in 2007. Are there any plans for future films?
Dan: Mirage and Imagi are tossing around concepts for a potential sequel. If all goes well, we hope to have a new flick in theaters sometime in 2010.
Steven: The title in which you joined the TMNT family was “TMNT Adventures”, why was this title put out by Archie Comics instead of Mirage Studios?
Dan: Archie had access and experience with newsstand distribution and mass production of full color comics, things that Mirage Studios had no experience with. Mirage’s agent at the time, Mark Freidman, had also worked with Archie in the past, so it was a good opportunity for everyone involved to create some (dreaded word here) “synergy.” The book was selling over 400,000 copies a month at one point, so it was very successful and is fondly remembered by many people, me included. Dean Clarrain and Chris Allan did an amazing job on that series.
Steven: Reading about TMNT on wikipedia, it looks like it has been handled by several different publishers and producers. Why has it bounced around so much? Even now, it looks like Titan Comics are currently producing a monthly TMNT comic for the UK?
Dan: It’s the nature of the licensing business, where Mirage finds companies that can do stuff in markets that we can’t. Mirage operates on a skeleton staff of three full-time employees, one part-time employee (me) and three artists – so to get a bunch of stuff out there, Mirage needs partners (not to be confused with Mars needs women).
Steven: You seem to be a “lifer” at Mirage Studios, having been with them for 19 years?
Dan: I officially started working on TMNT in August of 1989.
Steven: Is there anything else you’d like to eventually move on to in the future, or are you happy at Mirage?
Dan: I’d be more than happy to retire at Mirage if it became a possibility. I love the TMNT and working for Peter and Mirage CEO Gary Richardson is, to borrow a phrase, totally awesome. I’m completely free to pursue outside projects (something many companies do not allow), so I’ve been trying different things over the years while maintaining my position at Mirage. None of them have panned out, so I’m very fortunate to have Mirage as my main gig! That said, no one would be happier or more supportive than Peter if I found my personal Golden Fleece.
Mirage is a tight-knit group, a second family to all of us, so I’m in no hurry to run off to join the circus. I’ve been able to achieve numerous goals here as well, so I’m extremely happy.
Steven: While doing some research, I found a very disturbing interview you apparently did with, www.dmjincorporatedtv.com. The interviewer, DMJ had some pretty strange questions to say the least, what prompted you to even finish that interview?
Dan: Seemed like he was just trying to have some fun to me – so I was just doin’ the same. I can go with the flow most of the time – plus, there’s no such thing as bad promotion (or something like that).
Steven: In that interview you said that Raphael was your favorite turtle, because you can relate to his short temper and cynicism. Does that still ring true today, or have you calmed down a bit in the four or so years since then?
Dan: I’ve mellowed a bit over the years (pretty much have to if you don’t want to have a brain aneurism), but I still relate the most to Raph. I’m socially awkward, so I understand the “outsider” feelings that Raph has and I still have a healthy does of righteous indignation runnin’ around in my brain.
I’ve always been optimistic about human potential, but cynical about human nature – that hasn’t changed (and being in an election year only intensifies my views).
Steven: What are some other projects you have worked on?
Dan: I self-published a comic called “The Boogie-Man” back around 1987. I self-published a comic called “Gutwallow the Gingerbread Man” for a few years, from around 1995 to 2003. Lately I’ve been drawing some comics for naturalnews.com. Lots of other projects in between there, but unfortunately none of them have made me rich or famous. I’m still tryin’, though – never give up, never give in and better late than never!
Steven: What can you tell us about your site www.danberger.biz?
Dan: Not much! It’s one of those things I thought I needed to do, so I got the domain name and tossed up a site in a couple of hours and haven’t updated it since. I’ll work on it someday (but I’ve been saying that for years now and haven’t… d’oh!)
Steven: Any advice for aspiring writers or artists?
Dan: Learn by doing – that’s the best advice I can give. If you really want it, spend all your spare time doing it, because that’s what your competition is doing. Take as many classes as possible in your desired field to hone your skills and get outsiders’ input. Learn to take criticism and apply it to your work. It wouldn’t hurt to take some marketing classes as well. Be persistent. Learning how to schmooze is a very good skill, too (I suck at it, unfortunately – being an introverted cynic does not pay – unless you’re so damned good people cannot ignore your talent – which is rare, but possible).
Oh yeah – now that I’m sitting behind an editorial desk, one of the pinnacle things to learn how to do is meet your deadlines! By the All-Seeing Eye of Aggamoto, if you plan to be a professional, you must learn the discipline needed to not blow deadlines. I’ve only been doing this editor stuff for a brief time and I’ve already got a list of people I will not call back because they did not meet their deadlines. For wete you well the tide abydeth no man! Words to the wise there, people.
Steven: Thank you for speaking with us today Dan, anything you’d like to add before you go?
Dan: You’re most welcome, thanks for asking me to do it. Only thing I’d like to promote is “Tales of the TMNT” – which is an ongoing monthly comic that features single-issue stories about the Turtles throughout the Mirage universe timeline. It’s a hoot and features every kind of story, from humor to horror. Order a copy or ten today, pilgrims! (I always have to channel Stan Lee when pimping stuff).