10 Questions for Terrance Griep

Terrance Griep has one of the more interesting combinations of vocations and lifestyles. The Minneapolis-based comics writer is also a professional wrestler — and openly gay. He’s also worked as an actor, a radio personality, a reporter, and a columnist.

But, really, it’s that gay wrestler thing that gets people’s attention. He talks about it on his website: “My being an out gay homo pro wrestler has caused some cross-media controversy. The question I get asked most — after ‘What’re you doing after the show?’ — is ‘Why?’”

As for comics, Terrance has written for DC and Image on series including Scooby Doo, Cartoon Network Presents, JLA Showcase, and Big Bang Comics. He’s written characters including Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern, but he’s most known for his stint on Scooby Doo.

He’s also written for magazines including Star Trek Monthly, The Advocate, Instinct, Out, and Lavender.

Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?

I left comics as a reader for a time. When I came back, I read the trades of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, and I was utterly inspired, writer-wise. Then I looked at what was being published and thought, “I’m going to aspire toward this great stuff, but, even if I fall short, I’ll do better than most of what’s being published today.” Comics, I’m happy to report, have gotten much, much better since then. That’s when I decided. I wanted to work in comics since I was three years old — literally, it’s my oldest memory.

Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?

Early on, it was my mother’s father — it’s kind of a dark inspiration, if I’m honest: he’s the most intelligent, talented person anyone who knew him ever met, but he never did much with his gifts, so I aspire to make the most of mine. Later in life, my biggest personal influence was a father-like friend, Jim Eckblad, who taught me, in the nicest way possible, to get over myself. Recently, it’s Josh Madson. I call him my brother by another mother — he’s in Iraq right now, and he’s the bravest and most honest person I’ve ever met. I never talk about him in public because I choke up with worry every time I do.

Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?

On a personal level, Dan Jurgens granted me a tremendous amount of generosity early on, in terms of breaking in. He demonstrated a singular kindness and generosity regarding his time and insights and enthusiasm. Artistically speaking, Alan Moore amazed me, when I first started reading his stuff. I suppose that’s true of nearly everyone who read him, though. One influence on me is his ear for rhythmic dialogue, which is so often overshadowed by all the other things he does so well.

Question 4: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

I have a number of creative interests, in addition to comics scripting: I work as a professional wrestler on the local indy scene; I write magazine articles and books; and I co-host a local political issues program, The Spectator. They all involve some measure of creativity, so switching back and forth helps a lot. And frankly, the reality of deadlines doesn’t hurt, either.

Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.

I usually arise from my satin-padded coffin early in the evening. I love writing at night because I’m most starry-eyed then, plus, I don’t encounter as many interruptions as I would in the daytime. In the early morning, I work out — weightlifting and aerobics — then it’s back to my spider-hole for some more writing, as well as the businessy end of it — phone calls with clients, telephone interviews with nonfiction subjects, e-mails, and the like. In the afternoons, it’s either TV tapings, wrestling training, actual wrestling matches, or more writing, depending on the day. I squeeze that winky-eyed stuff — I think it’s called “sleep” — in around the margins. To paraphrase Heath Ledger’s Joker, “It’s a funny world I live in.”

Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?

Just a standard home computer. I keep debating getting a laptop, but I’ve managed to avoid it up to now. When I travel for wrestling, I sometimes wish I had it, but I think the other wrestlers might consider my moonlighting a bit of an insult. Plus, I’m sure the break does me good.

Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

As far as writing comics goes, it’s seeing the final product. I’m always humbled, amazed, and gratified to see something that started in my right brain hanging on the comics stands where it might make a tiny profit for some besuited beancounter.

Question 8: What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?

I’m not sure that this strictly qualifies as a project, but what’s most rewarding is connecting to people, particularly young people. I’ve fallen off this particular wagon in recent years, but there was a time in my life where, once a quarter, I’d speak at a different local school about comics. By doing so, I increased, in some measure, comics’ readership which is absolutely necessary if we expect there to be any comics projects a generation from now.

Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?

Artist Peter Krause — he’s probably best-known as the artist for Power of Shazam! in the 1990’s — gave me the best single piece of advice I’ve ever heard, and he was quoting someone else, someone whose name I don’t remember. Peter told me, “Make it so good that they can’t say no.” “It,” of course, is your work, and “they” are your prospective clients. Every aspect of breaking in is angled against the aspirant, but you can turn that negative into a positive. All you have to do is convince a publisher or editor that you and only you can make them a profit. The “how” of that is the tricky part.

Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?

“If you don’t want to know the answer, then don’t ask the question.” In these days of Oprah and Doctor Phil encouraging everyone to “confront” everyone else, I’ve found that the opposite technique is most useful. I’m nobody’s wuss, but stealing back the candy you forfeited when you were eight years old or yelling at your mom for not getting you that pony way back when really doesn’t get you anything today. It just makes you a self-indulgent prat.