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A graphic novel idea 

Walter and Weezie Simonson bring 30 years of super experience to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference

During their 30-plus years in the comic book industry, Walter and Louise "Weezie" Simonson have seen ups and downs.

"The popularity of comics goes in waves," Weezie says. "They'll be popular for a little while and then everybody'll say, "Ah ... boring,' and then it drops off."

These days, the demand for comic books is back on an upswing. And Weezie has a theory as to why.

"The people who were reading comics through the last blast of popularity in the '80s and '90s are now old enough to be [making] movies and TV," she says. "I suspect those guys are doing now what they loved then."

Certainly, if anyone can speculate on the industry, it'd be the Simonsones.

Walter has drawn and written for Thor, Batman, Superman and Fantastic Four. Weezie, meanwhile, spent 10 years at Warren Publishing and Marvel Comics, editing comics like X-Men and the comic-book treatment of Star Wars. She's also written for Spider-Man and Superman, among others. Together, the couple has collaborated on projects Wolverine and X-Factor.

It was the sheer volume of the Simonsons' experience that attracted the attention of Chris Mandeville, president of Pikes Peak Writers, to the Simonsons' work. At the 2008 Pikes Peak Writers Conference, the Simonsons will be discussing their experiences alongside the 16-year-old conference's first-ever comic book and graphic novel workshops.

"At PPWC, we strive to stay on top of the trends and keep our members and attendees up-to-date with the marketplace," Mandeville says, pointing out that the number of publishers involved in the comic book genre is growing as fast as its shelf space in major book retailers.

The conference, known for bringing in big names like Nora Roberts, Robert Crais and Jim Butcher, will be the Simonsons' first. But they'll be prepared: Walter spent nine years at the School of Visual Arts in New York, teaching students how to turn comics into graphic novels. Weezie was a frequent guest lecturer.

"We want to let people bring in their ideas and talk to them about how they can be implemented, what might improve them, what might make them more sellable, more interesting to an editor," Weezie says.

Walter's currently writing a 13-issue series based on the online game, World of Warcraft. The complex history of the game, collectively called "The Lore," has offered him the chance to expand on the characters and their histories.

"In a small way, stuff in the comic book will become part of The Lore and known by Warcraft Lore masters from now henceforth," he says.

Weezie, meanwhile, is writing a prequel novel to the new Batman film, The Dark Knight. Loosely based on an upcoming animated film, Batman: Gotham Knight, Weezie's version is set in the time period between the Batman Begins and The Dark Knight movies.

With each new project, the Simonsons say they are able to expand their knowledge base. And that's what they hope to pass along to conference attendees in April.

"Frankly, I'm amazed I'm still in comics," Walter says. "When I got into the business, I thought after three or four years I'd have learned all I can from comics and I'd go on to something else. But it's still an exploration and that's very neat."

amanda@csindy.com

The 2008 Pikes Peak Writers Conference
The Marriott Colorado Springs, 5580 Tech Center Drive
Friday-Sunday, April 25-27, various times
Registration is now open for PPW members and opens Feb. 15 for non-members; for more information, visit pikespeakwriters.com or call 531-5723.

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