Hello and welcome to Comical-Musings and “Interviews With The Industry.” This monthly post seeks to get you a different look at the people who make comic books work through interviewing some of it’s most interesting people. We have a doozy for you for July! It’s professional staff writer for Ifanboy.com and actor, Mike Romo. We say “yes” to him today.
Originally from San Francisco, Mike spent several years working on various stages in the Bay Area before moving to New York, where he appeared in a variety of Off-Off Broadway productions. Now in Los Angeles, Mike has worked on a variety of independent films and commercials, while producing his own talk show for Symantec, where he discusses products and technologies with guests from around the world Additionally, he works as a product manager for Symantec’s consumer business, working on Norton for Mac software, and blogs for the company from time to time. He also has a weekly column for iFanboy.com, covering comic books and related media.
Deaux: Alright Mike, thanks for taking the time to do this out of your busy schedule. My first question is: What is your official place in comic-dom?
Mike: Ha—tough question. I hope that I am an ally of the comic book fan, whose commentary represents what I hope is a thoughtful place in comic book discussion, trying to spur conversation about not only what is going on in comics, but the challenges (and fun) of being a modern-day comic book fan. I figure there are plenty of outfits where fans can debate the finer points of characters and stories, I try to find themes around the characters that I hope people will find interesting, and find what the context of comics is in a world literally drenched in media, from TV to Film to Internet—with genre shows and films becoming more and more every day. What is the role of comics? How do I fit in? I try to be the voice of the reader as well as the fan. I try to write pieces that discuss comics less from a week to week point of view, and more about the impact comics make on not only the comic book community, but in pop culture as a whole. Sometimes it works out — that Superman piece is a good example, as was the piece asking whether or not Marvel could “win me back”.
Deaux: How long have you been writing for Ifanboy.com?
Mike: I was part of the first batch of new writers that the guys brought in. I started writing in May of 2008, Its’ been four years and it’s been an article a week almost every week since then which kind of freaks me out. But I am inspired by the other writers, so it works out. It was me, Paul and Jim that came on first.
Deaux: I always really enjoy your pieces and opinions expressed on the Writer Pick Of The Week podcasts and see you as having a great deal of passion. I have listened to all 350 + hours of Pick Of The Week podcasts, have you?
Mike: I started listening to them in 2007 and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would not only appear on the shows, but actually write for them. My second SDCC was that year and I remember being VERY nervous meeting the guys at their SDCC “party.” I haven’t listened to EVERY podcast—I sometimes get behind because I get behind on my books.
Deaux: That’s cool, I am nervous to do this interview. But you are multi-faceted and act in a various commercials and the Ferris Bueller super bowl commercial. You were on the roller coaster behind Matthew Broderick right?
Mike: (Ha PLEASE do not be nervous!!!). Yeah, I have another spot running, on avail for another commercial now. You can see most of my work at mikeromo.com. Also, I am on a mini series on “bopotheseries.com” which is a political thriller thing. Fun character.
Deaux: Political thriller…I am imagining you gotta’ keep suits pressed…
Mike: Hahaha—I am the campaign supervisor, so mostly bedraggled sweatshirts.
Mike: Very Aaron Sorkin-y, takes place in LA politics. Finally a nice serious role to bite into
Deaux: Good man, get it. Don’t you also work with Norton Symantec during the day?
Mike: Yeah—I am the product manager for a few of the Mac security products. I also produce a 70’s-style talk show where I interview corporate leaders. It’s a really odd show, I have thick glasses and a bad German accent, but people like it. I do a lot of stage stuff for them as well, presenting in conferences, that kind of thing. It’s odd, because my acting background has helped a lot with this kind of corporate gig (it’s not that corporate but you know what I mean).
Deaux: So like Sprockets with Mike Meyers, but with actual Norton sprockets?
Mike: Hahaha—to a “t.” I will send you a picture. I wear a turtleneck and part my hair in a most…unfortunate way.
Deaux: So you are a staff writer for my favorite website, you acted in a commercial alluding to a famous movie that I enjoy, and you are even somewhat responsible on some level for my favorite anti-virus program? Mike Romo…I love you. How do you have time to fit it all in?
Mike: Uhm…well, it’s funny—I get asked that a lot, actually, but honestly, you just kind of “do” it and the time works out. I mean, for the Ferris commercial, I took work off, so you do have to sacrifice, but for a few of my spots, they were shot on the weekend, so that was okay. It’s really a time management thing, but I find that if you have hard limits, you can actually fit a lot in because you HAVE to, you know? But, I mean, there’s just a lot of stuff I NEED to do, so I do it. I can never give up acting, so basically everything else in my life falls into line around that need.
Deaux: I know what you mean. I am a busy guy with two kids and three-ish jobs and I still make the blog so, there you go.
Mike: Holy crap. See—for me, with no kids—that’s the ultimate gig.
Deaux: I’ve got a strong woman.
Mike: Yeah. You make time. You don’t sleep. But, you make time.
Deaux: Helps when kids pee on you, makes it hard to sleep.
Mike: Hahaha! I can imagine…
Deaux: Anyways, When reading your professional blog work for Ifanboy, I see that you love Superman and sci-fi. I’ve only just been getting into sci-fi comics with Prophet and Planetoid, can you recommend anything that has been out before that I may have missed?
Mike: Oh man, that’s such a good question… So, Dan Dare is kind of an interesting throwback that you might want to check out. He’s a British hero and it’s definitely different, but fun and epic in its own way. Paul Pope 100% is one of my favorites. (Read) anything by Paul Pope, really. He writes that sneaky sci-fi, where it’s every day science fiction…but every day in a different era and place.
Deaux: Didn’t Dan Dare just have an omnibus come out?
Mike: That sounds right—I just read the series (6 issue?) that came out a few years ago. But, honestly, I haven’t read a lot of sci-fi comics—which is why I get so thrilled when I find one I like. I loved—LOVED—that recent DC one shot of different sci fi stories. Guardians of the Galaxy, that’s a lot of fun, but I like it a bit harder sci-fi, to be honest.
Deaux: Yeah I read your write up on that. Centaur love doesn’t go hard enough for you? (I missed his comment about Guardians)
Mike: Oh I mean, harder than Guardians. Frolicking Centaurs—that sounds about right for me!
Deaux: Oh, ok. (Play it off like a champ)
Deaux: You come off as being possibly nostalgic, Mike. What is your favorite comic book memory?
Mike: I fight being nostalgic but I can’t help it, you totally got me there. But, memory wise…let’s see… I have really fond memories of old Superman books. Like, when I was a kid, my brother was sick (he’s fine now) and my parents were gone a lot to be with him in the hospital, so I read—a lot. There was a spinner rack in the hospital gift shop and I remember getting Superman Family 200 (I’ve written about this issue a few times)… and I think that’s perhaps why I have a strong connection with Superman. I had the story book records with him in it that I would listen to quite a few times, over and over, and for some reason, I think I found strength in his stories, and a good amount of comfort with the character, like, Superman would make things okay, that kind of thing. But yeah, it’s not about specific issues, it’s more about the characters that kept me company and re-reading stories that I felt some kind of emotional connection to. The Superman Family thing was strong for me—it gave a glimpse into the future (the 90s?) that I felt oddly cool, that Superman would still be there, it got me thinking about what I would be doing in the future, too, and it felt cool that Superman could still be a part of that. So I think that’s kind of where the memories converge, more about a sense of comics as opposed to an issue that really made me a COMIC BOOK FAN, you know?
Deaux: That’s a cool way to be a fan. It’s like appreciating artists and not just singles or albums…
Mike: Yea—great comparison.
Deaux: Superman was your guy…
Mike: Because the songs and the albums change and you appreciate things later that you didn’t at first. HE IS, but he is not, you know? Like, Daredevil—I remember realizing, “what?! he’s blind?” That was HUGE for me. Like didn’t know it, and found myself not believing it. When I started reading him, he lost his sonar power, so he was struggling to “see”—and I had been wearing glasses since I was a tiny kid, so I really empathized. And Flash—I just remember wanting to be able to run and do my homework as fast as him… There’s a thing—you see athletes as a kid, running, and at some point you realize, “I’m not that fast, I may never be that fast,” even as a kid. I can run like hell now, but back then, I wasn’t very sporty.
Deaux: Me too. Except the running fast now part.
Mike: The Flash also was the first time I saw LOSS, like, when Iris died… it was something big for me, even though I didn’t know Iris all that well at the time. I just saw his grief and learned a lot about it.
Deaux: Oh yeah, that was killer.
Mike: Yeah… it was amazing for me, as a kid. I didn’t know about loss at all and it gave me a hint, a powerful hint. So those are some memories—again, rarely specific, but they gave me moments that “taught” me something or gave me an inkling of experiences to come, which, I think, we forget to remember, later. That is the power of comics, because, yes, you can read a book that does all that, but comics are more fun to read as a kid, so they are as important, if not more-so.
Deaux: So comic books were a HUGE part of your development all the way around and like Superman, they gave you a “glimpse into your future.” I.E., the 90s.
Mike: Yeah-like, I didn’t know I would be an actor, but I certainly hoped to love and have a career and all that. All of my heroes had real jobs and they balanced their jobs with everything else they loved and had to do which is, ironically, what my life is like now. All of our lives are like that… we balance it out, and heroes just have different things to balance than us. But we need to be heroes, too. You are a hero—you are a dad… that’s the most “super” of heroes.
Deaux: Yeah man, you’re about to preach me happy on this interview.
Mike: Hahaha. It’s true. Parents don’t give themselves enough credit sometimes.
Deaux: You’ve been called an “Eternal Optimist” and the “Soul of Ifanboy,” why do you think that people respond so positively to you?
Mike: hahaha…..wow. Well…I hope they do, but if they do, I hope it’s because they know I am listening to them and am truly eager—truly eager—to listen to them and appreciate the time they share with me, and, honestly, I am really, truly interested in meeting people and learning about what inspires them: what makes them happy. I am an optimist, and I love people. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to communicate with so many people, week after week. I honestly am grateful for all of it and if someone knows me through the show or the site and wants to talk, well, it’s an honor.
Deaux: Well Mike, in a way you inspire me and this interview made me happy so we are winning all over the place.
Mike: (Mike Laughs out loud) Well—the thing is, you asked! Lots of people never ask—for anything and I am honored to be asked to chat. But re:ifanboy… the fans of the show and the site should know that I was a HUGE fan of the show and the site (first). To be a part of it was a huge rush for me, and I don’t think I have ever forgotten that feeling, which is perhaps why people might say things like that…because they see me in them, perhaps. That optimism of belonging to a creative, fun community… which is a gift, truly. So, yeah, that’s really nice to hear.
Deaux: You’re just happy to be here
Mike: Every day is a precious, man…. and I mean that. Life goes reallllly quickly. As you watch your kids grow, I am sure you can agree.
Deaux: Yessir. Well, I was really impressed by how nice you were to me when I congratulated you, as a member of the ifanbase, in email format for the Super Bowl commercial. You were super cool to me out of nowhere.
Mike: Oh man, you made my day, you kidding? It was such a small thing, total luck thing. All I did was try to “sell” a rollercoaster that is not all that scary that I had to ride like 15 times in a row. So thank YOU for taking the time to say something.
Deaux: I guess that we just get used to personalities in entertainment being jaded and unpleasant… It wasn’t like that when you interviewed Stan Lee though, right?
Mike: That was the most surreal experience I’ve had, ever. I had like 2 hours of sleep because I was…not nervous, I was just…excited and just…it was really unlike anything I had felt before. Also, the interview, like—we had 18 minutes and we were “Done” with the “real” questions in 3, so most of the questions I had were off the cuff. He was SO kind and SO gracious, but honestly, that was dream come true. Not necessarily interviewing Stan, but being onstage at comic-con and getting the crowd going and doing something FUN for people like, making people laugh. To interview Stan—that’s once in a life time and to have it go well???? I am laughing as I write this because I could never have imagined it. Marvel was very happy, we got some great feedback.
Deaux: Oh yeah! The way that it’s touted on Ifanboy, you might as well have won the world series…
Mike: In a way, I did. Life is funny, you know? But the key is to always SAY YES.
Deaux: Mike Romo, “the Yes Man”.
Mike: LOL. That’s me…first rule of improvisation.
Deaux: Did you hate that movie?
Mike: Never saw it. Was it terrible?
Deaux: Never saw it.
Mike: Let’s assume it was funny….or, at least, it suggested that saying “yes” is a good thing. (It’s) Too easy to say “no.”
Deaux: Well Mike, my time is pretty much up and I have really appreciated it.
It’s hard to be starstruck when you speak with an accomplished person like Mike Romo because he makes you feel like the important one. This is simply because Mike may write for Ifanboy, but he is a fan of people. Through the entire process of setting up and conducting this interview he was a gentleman and a scholar. Comical-Musings wishes Mike Romo wild success in anything that he chooses to do in life (possible exception of murder) and I am better for having spoken with him. Everyone should brave the internet and check out mikeromo.com for ways to connect with Mike on twitter and facebook and you can watch Mike tackling a dramatic role in Body Politic at bopotheseries.com. Mike fully endorses: ifanboy.com, saying “yes” as a lifestyle choice, and Norton Antivirus. Thanks for checking out Comical-Musings today and stay tuned next month for when we will bring you an interview from another interesting personality in the world of comics.