Getting to Know
Louise Freeman Davis
by Michael Hutchison
Fanzing: I always like to start with the basics. Married? Kids? Where do you live and what do you do?
Louise: I've been happily married to Brian for almost 8 years. We have a little girl, Amanda, who will be three in August and our second child is expected in December. I received my PhD from UC Berkeley in 1995; my specialty was reproductive neuroendocrinology. I've been doing postdoctoral research at the University of Virginia since then, and this summer I will be teaching two neurobiology courses as par of Washington & Lee University's Summer Scholars Program.
Fanzing: Berkeley? So were you some kind of incredible radical? Like, breaking into the dean's office and trashing the place, burning your bra, protesting US involvement in whatever country and censoring the right-wing newspapers, that kind of thing?
Louise: The closest I came to that was counterprotesting when the anti-animal research types staged a demonstration. I wrote for a newsletter defending the responsible use of animals in biomedical research.
Fanzing: When did you begin reading DC Comics? What titles did you read? (I realize this is obvious but I have a list of standard questions!)
Louise: My introduction to comics came in elementary school from a box of comics that had belonged to my cousins that was in my Grandma's attic and which all had belonged to my cousins, all of whom were 10-15 years older than I. I read lots of Silver Age books that way mostly Superboys but also a few other titles: Batman, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane. I surprised my advisor in graduate school by knowing who Bouncing Boy and the Legion of Substitute Heroes were. Somehow I always liked the superhero ones (no doubt purchased for the boys) better than the Archies, Richie Rich's and Little Dots, etc. that belonged to the girls.
I only remember reading one new comic as a kid on a car trip once when my dad bought a Teen Titans (circa-Titans West era) for my brother and some "girly" comic for me.. Little Monsters, I believe. My initial reaction was that Robin just shouldn't be in a comic without Batman, and I wondered how the Flash wound up with two sidekicks (Speedy and Kid Flash.) But it was a long trip at that age I would read anything to fight off boredom and in the end I found that Titans comic a lot more interesting than the Little Monsters.
So much so that when I was stopped by a Berkeley comics store in the late 1980's, saw that the Titans was still being published, I glanced through it, and the rest is history.
Fanzing: What writers do you admire and/or use for inspiration?
Louise: Marv Wolfman and George Perez made magic during their run on Titans. Although I'm not crazy about the current Flash, I think Mark Waid's previous work on that title (The Return of Barry Allen, Born to Run, Flash Year #0) and his early run on Impulse was phenomenal. They're probably the biggest influences on my own superhero writing, both for the fan fiction I do and my original series, which I write for the Superguy list.
As far as current work goes: Todd Dezago, Peter David, Devin Grayson, Chuck Dixon and Phil Jimenez. As far as non- comics authors, my favorite is Torey L. Hayden, who writes books dealing with her experiences teaching abused and disturbed children.
Fanzing: What are your favorite comic books, DC or otherwise?
Louise: I'm pretty picky about what I buy, and currently I subscribe to Nightwing, Titans, and Young Justice. I'm picking up Impulse as of #50 and am thinking of picking up Robin, once No Man's Land is over. Everything else I flip through in the store, and buy only if it looks exceptional. For "big events" (Kingdom Come, The Nail) I wait for the TPB. If I ever read "No Man's Land" it will be in that format.
Fanzing: Oh, so you're the one buying the Trade Paperbacks. You know, there is a NML paperback out now.
Louise: It's out already? Hmmm.. I'll have to evaluate it to see if it's worth it. I only spend that type of money if it looks like the type of story I'll want to reread multiple times. The list of TPB's I own is fairly short: Judas Contract, A Death in the Family,A Lonely Place of Dying, The Return of Barry Allen,The Life Story of the Flash I have Kingdom Come in hardback (not slipcased) only because the week I bought it my shop was having a half price sale and it was the same price as the paperback.
I love comics, but I'm cheap. Hundred dollar Archive books have zero appeal to me, and I doubt I'll ever have one unless I need it for reference material and it becomes a tax deduction.
Fanzing: ASIDE FROM NIGHTWING, who are currently your favorite characters?
Louise: I like Impulse, Robin and the whole Young Justice crowd I guess I've always had a particular fondness for sidekicks and young heroes. Batman is my favorite of the "adult" heroes. Roy Harper and Garth (Aqualad/Tempest) have always been favorites of mine, but the way they've been characterized recently doesn't appeal to me. Gar Logan was one of my favorites from the Wolfman/Perez Titans and I'm looking forward to his mini-series. Damage is a character with a lot of potential, I think, and I hope he will see more development in Titans soon
Did I mention that I really really like Nightwing, too?
Fanzing: I didn't know Gar was getting a mini-series. Back in high school, I really identified with that kid. I always wondered how an old guy like Marv could write a horny, dirty-minded 16-year-old so accurately. Of course, I doubt that's what you got from the character!
Louise: My favorite issues with him were his Grand Canyon origin story (when he finally defeated his ebvil guardian, Galtry) and Tales of the Teen Titans #55, where he sets out to fight the Terminator but winds up chatting in a diner with him instead. Those stories made it clear that there was a lot of complexity, tragedy and pain beneath the dirty-joke facade. I wish there were more comics like that published today. I mean, you never see two characters talking heart-to-heart unless they're fighting nameless thugs on top of a speeding train, blindfolded, or some other such nonsense. I mean, if you want to spotlight an episode with two characters talking have them take a break and actually talk. The conversation should be interesting enough to sustain a reader's interest without a gratuitous fight scene as a backdrop.
Fanzing: What are you doing to pursue getting a job in the industry?
Louise: Although I've made a hobby of superhero writing for 5-6 years now, and have been sharing fan fiction on the net for almost 2, I never really considered making a career of it until recently. After all, a PhD in neuroscience is not the traditional career path of a comics pro. But I've gotten enough positive feedback from people who've read my work, not only comics fans, but a few professionals and would-be professionals, that I'm seriously considering taking a stab at it. If I stay in academia, it'll likely be in a university teaching capacity, but given the timing of my current pregnancy, I'm not likely to be teaching in the coming academic year. I'm hoping to use the time I'll be at home as a chance to get some serious proposals submitted, both to DC and elsewhere.
For instance, two fellow Superguy writers and I have an idea for a young adult series of superhero novels. Our first book, "How to Become A Super-Hero (In Ten Easy Steps!)" has been selected as a finalist in the Bantam Doubleday Dell contest for First Young Adult Novel. Final vote is May 12th I'll keep you posted! And we're working on the second.
Fanzing: We'll all be praying for ya! Be sure to post an announcement in the Fanzing Forum when you find out! So what else are you working on?
Louise: I've also been asked to co-plot and script a new series for Quantum Comics called Cold Steel. Basically, I'm working at getting that all-important first fiction writing credential for my resume. I already have a number of scientific journal articles published.
I'm also attending my first comic convention this summer Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina. I've been reading all I can find about how to best pitch your work, and several comics pros I've "met" online have offered me some advice, too. So keep your fingers crossed for me.
If that doesn't work perhaps I'll take the Berkeley approach and chain myself to the DC corporate offices in New York. :)
Louise: I wish I knew. The outcome I feel most confident in . I hope to be a wife and mother of two! Career-wise, if I can break into writing, I'd love to succeed in that, but it's a long shot. I do have my scientific training to fall back on, and I'm looking forward to my university teaching experience this summer. Ideally, now I think I'd like to teach at a women's college, or a small liberal arts school. I'm also thinking of combining my love for both science and writing, and pursuing a career in science journalism, or perhaps writing science books for children. I'm currently a volunteer on the Mad Scientists Network (www.madsci.org) and there I've answered over forty science questions from schoolchildren around the world. I really love researching and writing those answers.
Fanzing: Of all your stories in Fanzing, which is your favorite?
Louise: It's a toss-up between "Not My Kid." and "A Crown to the Aged." I've always enjoyed the parent/child, mentor/sidekick dynamic and I got to explore that in depth in both of those stories. "Not My Kid" was fun because of the Silver Age feel to it, and the very different relationships all four Titans had with their respective partners. "A Crown to the Aged" was more challenging, because Kingdom Come is such a complex comic, artistically, to read and I would up scrutinizing every page in minute detail, looking for hints as to what the Titans and their kids were thinking or doing behind the scenes. And trying to make up and summarize 20-odd years of backstory for each of them, without having the story take forever to tell. Plus it was really fun going through my Bible and trying to find appropriate verses for each section. My husband must have thought I was going through some sort of spiritual rebirth.
Fanzing: Not that that's a BAD thing!
Louise: Oh, no, it would be a wonderful thing. There's certainly no wrong reason to read the Bible, but there are probably better ones than "I'm looking for quotes to use in this comic book story I'm writing."
Fanzing: What do you do for fun?
Louise: I just told you, I write. Oh, besides that? I like to cook, especially elaborate desserts. I also like needlework, but don't take much time for it anymore. I'm active in my church, and I'm currently taking a sign language class, in the hopes of learning how to interpret for the deaf. My daughter takes a lot of time and energy, of course, so lots of times when I have a free moment I just collapse in front of the TV.
Fanzing: A quick one here: what are your favorite movies?
Louise: I never get tired of watching Amadeus, it seems, perhaps because it's the movie my husband and I went to on our first date. I don't go to the movies much since my daughter was born, though I've seen most of the Batman and Trek movies on opening night. I'm probably the only living American who's never seen Titanic. I guess the best movie I've seen in recent years was Sling Blade.
Fanzing: What are your favorite books?
Louise: The Torey Hayden books I mentioned about she's written 5 or 6.
Fanzing: What do you plan to be doing on December 31, 1999?
Louise: It'll probably be a quiet one for us hopefully I'll be resting at home with a two-week old baby!
Fanzing: Who are your heroes and idols?
Louise: Wow, that's a tough one there are a lot of scientists out there who I admire, but probably no one you've heard of. I'm a loyal reader of Tony's Online Tips, and I really admire Tony Isabella's ability to speak his mind not only about comics, but about the touchier issues of free speech, politics and religion. If I ever make it a a comics pro, I hope I can be as gracious and encouraging of would-be writers as Todd Dezago has been of me. I respect people like Stephen Hawking and Christopher Reeve who can overcome a disability to achieve greater things and inspire others. But for the most part, my "heroes" are the unsung people I know in everyday life people who are extraordinarily parents, exceptional workers, etc., who devote their lives to helping others.
Fanzing: Can you give us some hints about what you're working on for future Fanzings?
Louise: Actually, I'm not sure how much more fan fiction I'll be doing that will likely have to be scaled back as I focus more on getting my own proposals submitted. I hope to have a Titans:TAS series proposal in July. There's also an in-depth Roy Harper story detailing his life on the reservation and early months as Green Arrow's sidekick, which I've been working on for years (now rendered completely irrelevant by Devin Grayson's Arsenal mini, of course). Someday I hope to get that in shape for the Fanzing audience. But in the future I will probably edit more fiction than I write for Fanzing. I still hope to contribute feature articles and columns, though.
Fanzing: Oh, man, that's a depressing way to end this interview! However, I can only sympathize. I, too, am hoping to send off submissions to DC this year as if I didn't have a full plate! But I hope you and I can both find the time to at least contribute to the Fanzing Writing Challenges that are coming up!
Louise: Let me know what it is and I'll be there!
All characters are DC Comics
This column is © 1999 by Michael Hutchison.