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Interview Today's Date:

An Interview With Brad Meltzer, page 2

Suffering the slings and arrows of
outrageous good fortune...
okay, mostly arrows.
page one of the interview

DM: You've got a film adaptation of your first novel, a television series coming out, The Zero Game has already sold to film, you've got Identity Crisis coming out from DC, and you've got a kid. When exactly are you going to sleep in 2004?

BM: All this sugar is just good for me and my system.

It's not like it's curing cancer. We've just had a really lucky year. Things that we put in motion two or three years ago happen to be going now. It makes us look far more organized than we actually are.

My wife and I keep joking about it. This TV show we started working on two and a half years ago. The fact that we got an okay on the pilot this week, right as the book is coming out and all that…it looks good. But I wrote Identity Crisis six months ago now. Obviously, in taking the art, and waiting for everyone to react and everything to come in…well, it's just happenstance.

I wish we had some sort of master plan and we could stroke our goatees and pet our evil cat and do the whole James Bond villain thing, but no. In truth, we're just the right suckers in the right place.

DM: How involved are you in the film projects?

BM: If you mean by "involved" that I get a phone call once in a while, then I'm very very involved. I'm not a producer on either of the films. On the TV show, I'm a producer, and I'm an executive producer on another show that we're working on. It just depends on the project and how much they want me involved.

I have no ego about it. If they want me, they've got me. If they don't, thanks very much and we'll see you in another time and place.

But as Hollywood always is, I'll believe any of them when I see it. Just because they pay a lot of money, it doesn't mean they're making a movie.

Of course, that doesn't stop my mom from picking out what she's going to wear to the Oscars, but that's how it goes.

DM: Can you tell me what the television series is going to be about?

BM: Jack and Bobby? It's about a young boy who's sixteen years old, and he has a brother who's fourteen years old, and one of them will grow up to be the President of the United States. But he doesn't know it now. It is literally The West Wing meets The Wonder Years.

That's basically it. There's a kid right now…you go into a supermarket and you see a kid in the aisle screaming, wanting candy, throwing a tantrum…that kid could be the next President. We just don't know. So the whole TV show is about that theory.

Right now, there's a sixteen year old kid who's going to be President. We don't know who he is, but obviously, he's going through tough times right now. Some good, some bad, some awful, some terrific, some terrible. This is his story - the boy before he becomes a man.

DM: When you're writing, is there a moment when you think, wow, this would make a great movie?

BM: I wish I could say I don't think about Hollywood at all. But I'd be a liar. Every writer at some point thinks in their head, my stuff is better than that crap. You can't help it. There's so much crap out there.

But if you do try to write for Hollywood, that's a disaster. That's a trainwreck to me. I write what I like, and I believe that if you love it, it will show on the page. It will work. If I try and write for what I think Hollywood will buy, two years ago I would have done a giant parody, because that's what was selling then: parody. Two years before that, I would have done a giant earthquake movies, because giant natural disaster movies were selling then.

When you're taking two years to write a book, you can't predict the future. You just really have to do your best and write what you love.

If you haven't yet...
DM: Back to your comics work. In Archer's Quest, you added a stunning and moving twist to Green Arrow's character, that could be taken or left by future writers. Did you do that intentionally, and if you were to return to writing Green Arrow, what would you do with it?

BM: I did that very intentionally. I said to Bob Schreck, I want to leave Green Arrow and Oliver Queen different than how I first found him. And as I wrote in the introduction to Archer's Quest, he nodded gracefully and happily ignored my pretentious rantings.

But the truth was that I did want to say something about the character and do something different to him, not just for it's own sake, but something that really got to the core of the character.

What happens with Connor, to me, makes every future conversation with him completely black in its heart. It takes every nice moment and gives a layer of ruin to it. That's what I love about it.

Do you have to deal with it in every issue? No. Do I think anyone should go in right now and have him say, "oh, my gosh, Dad, you knew. You always knew, you bastard, I hate you." No.

Judd (Winick) and I have had conversations about this. And I think the right writer will deal with it at the right time. I'm a big fan of you don't need to answer everything at the end of the issue. There are plenty of good things that are good and quiet, and they should stay that way.

DM: You've added actual subtext.

BM: You'll see in Identity Crisis; it does the same thing. It's just what I loved about comics when I was little.

I'm a big fan, I'll say this right now, of writing story arcs. I like a beginning, a middle, and an end. I don't like "creatures of the week" that are just hit someone, punch him around and get out of there. There's a time and a place for them, but I don't like every issue being that.

But sometimes when you write for the trade paperback, you lose some of the bigger picture, because you're just thinking about those six issues. In those six issues, I always tried to think, what else is going to be done with this character? What else do we have to say about him in the future? Where can it go from here?

To me, the Archer's Quest is a starting point. It's not just self-contained. I knew full well that Judd was going to be writing it after me, that it was going to be in the hands of one of my closest friends.

I will say that some of the things are going to be dealt with fairly soon.

DM: How much editorial mandate were you given when you came onboard Identity Crisis?
...and the murderer is somewhere ON THIS SATELLITE!
BM: You know, it's funny. I think people always assume that somehow DC has this giant invisible hand that presses the stories into place. It's so much more organic than that.

Dan DiDio and Mike Carlin approached me and said, here's this one character that we want to do something with. I basically went back for a month, couldn't come up with anything interesting, and finally was going to say no.

And then, in a final conversation, we had this real breakthrough. It all happened from there. It wasn't like it was a grand scheme. They didn't even put the word "crisis" on it until after the thing was written.

"Crisis," let's be clear, is a marketing ploy. The only reason that thing is called Identity Crisis is because that will sell more comic books.

I'm happy to have that, because only a fool would not want to try and sell their work. But at the same time it wasn't like let's start this and try to change everything. It just so happened the story I wrote worked out.

Instead of handing it in monthly, because I don't work monthly, I handed in the first four issues together. Then I handed in the last three. They had the entire run within a couple of weeks of each other, because I just sat down and wrote the whole thing.

When they read it, that's when they said, oh, man. You've done something really different here. We've got to get attention for this. That's when they started doing something much bigger with it.

DM: The art we've seen so far definitely features Elongated Man front and center. I don't know if that's the one character DiDio and Carlin had approached you with or not, but the big rumor is that he's scheduled to die. Without confirming or denying that, can you defend the existence of Elongated Man in a Plastic Man dominated DCU?

BM: I can absolutely defend that. And you will see that in Identity Crisis. You will see my take on the answer to that question. That's the better way to see it. If I answered that question, it would reveal everything.

So you'll see. I love mysteries, and I'd be a fool if I let this one get out of my hands.

I think people are really going to be surprised.

With that, Brad had to go to another signing. He is on tour around the country, signing The Zero Game in bookstores. Check his website for the dates and locations. Even better, check it to read the first chapter!

Derek McCaw

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