Rachel: You’ve been a busy man this last year! From the travel itinerary that takes you to conferences across the country to the sheer output of work you have managed, I seem to find you everywhere! What are you busy on these days?
Nathan: I’m doing a lot of scriptwriting I can’t legally talk about yet because it’s still in production. I’m developing ideas for producers and it takes up a lot of time. I hope to see that bear fruit sometime next year. I’m in the process of working on “Ultimate Iron Man,” which is due out October. There are going to be six of those and I just finished writing a novel. I like to tell stories about a lot of different things and fortunately my work in comics gives me a chance to move the work along fairly quickly. It’s impossible to get bored.
R: You did work with both DC and Marvel comics, the twin giants of the comic industry. What were the experiences like compared to the work you do with on your original concepts?
Nathan: Each experience is different of course but what you find is that, just like in any working relationship, you have to adapt to the unique culture of the company, and the unique editorial styles of your bosses. In the ideal working relationship they want you to write the way you already write and foster that inbuilt creative instinct. That helps you focus on developing the character while still keeping true to a distinct style that you bring to the table.
R: Your collaboration with artists seems really natural, particularly with your original work, “Who is Jake Ellis?” and “The Activity.” What drives successful collaboration and what are some key points for a writer to consider when communicating his or her vision to an artist?
Nathan: It boils down to finding good, raw talent. A good artist knows where to take the work. The better you know the artist, the more effectively you can establish a chemistry and cooperation. Over time, you get to know each other’s style so well that it’s almost like you don’t have to communicate. It’s an organic process and sort of grows from that chemistry.
R: You have an almost obsessive preoccupation with details, it seems. When a reader picks up a copy of “The Activity” or “Jake Ellis,” the accuracy is quite striking and it drives the excitement of your plots. A lot of the material you cover is centered around espionage and special ops which are noted for their secrecy and for many writers, that research can be daunting. What should a writer expect from the process of cooperating with the U.S. military and other official channels for research purposes?
Nathan: Well, we initially contacted the U.S. Army Entertainment liason but the really interesting stories come from the people who lived it; people who have been to Iraq and Afghanistan and have served time in the trenches, so to speak. A lot of people, when they find out that you are looking for stories, want to tell their own stories. Soldiers read the comics and comment on the accuracy and offer to share their own perspectives. It’s cumulative and the stories and research is addictive. Fortunately I am limited to a certain number of pages so I am never allowed to get bogged down by it.
R: You do a LOT of travel promoting your work. Would you say that you are driven by a similar restlessness of spirit as some of your characters?
Nathan: I don’t know. I guess I never really thought about it that way, but maybe. It’s a lot of fun, going to the conventions and meeting fans of the work. It’s encouraging. I’m going to twelve this year. At the San Diego Comic Con for instance, I met television actors who are fans and everyone from academics to hard core comic enthusiasts. The cross section of people who read some of my work is amazing! I do hope to travel less as time goes on. Eventually, as the work anchors itself into the culture, you find that you have to do less promoting and I can already see that happening a little bit.
R: What is one of your favorite cons?
Nathan: Well, each one has its highs, but I really love the one in Charlotte, North Carolina HeroesCon. I was there this year and it seems to have a really good atmosphere for comics. It’s less about gimmicks and more about the love of the work. It’s a great experience.