Life and Times of Judd Winick:
An Interview, Part 1
summer at Comic-Con, the DC booth showed video footage of
writer/artist Judd Winick talking about his latest project.
No surprise there, as Winick had started working on Batman
as well as continuing a successful relaunch of Outsiders.
The surprise was that Judd was talking about a new animated
series from Cartoon Network that he had created.
average adolescent monster hunter...
had to wait almost a year for it to actually arrive, but
tonight Cartoon Network offers a preview of The Life and
Times of Juniper Lee before it settles into its regular
Sunday 7:30 p.m. time slot.
a supernatural action comedy that takes place in Orchid
Bay, a thinly-disguised San Francisco, not coincidentally
Judd's home turf. 11-year-old Juniper has been given the
task of providing the balance between the supernatural world
and her own. If that sounds familiar, well, Judd admits
to that, but you'll find there's much you haven't seen before,
You yourself have pointed out that Juniper Lee is influenced
by characters like Buffy. What makes Juniper different from
Judd Winick: Well, I'll give you
the cheap answer, like you should watch the show.
Fanboy Planet: Yeah, that's a cheap
Judd Winick: Once you do, you'll
see that I'm actually not that worried about comparisons.
They're not actually that much alike. And if Juniper was
a boy, there would be no comparisons whatsoever.
Juniper is a composite of all the stuff
that I enjoy, everything from Buffy to Hellboy to Spider-Man.
It's just sort of your basic hero's tale. I particularly
gravitate towards such stories. There's also parts of Harry
Potter, where there's a kid who seemingly has a normal life,
but they're destined for something else and something larger.
And it turns out "yes, you actually are."
With Juniper, the twist that I enjoy is
that she's a reluctant hero. She'd rather just be a regular
It's its own thing. There are similarities
between it and many shows. I mean, people immediately jump
to resemblances between Buffy, Alias and Xena.
Okay, those are three strong women shows. What else you
I love Buffy as a show, like I love
Hellboy as a concept and Spider-Man as a concept. We've
mixed them into one big ol' messy pot. It's also the beauty
of working with lots of people. Everyone brings their various
influences to the show. We all have our various loves and
interests that get dumped in here.
Fanboy Planet: You've got a heavy
Asian influence on the show...
Judd Winick: No, not really. Only
in that she's Chinese, and loosely based on my wife. But
as far as the "Asian influence," that's about it. She's
just a regular kid. She was born here in the States. She
is like many Asian-American kid, or African-American kids
or kids that are Jewish, what have you. The race is their
culture but it doesn't define them.
Fanboy Planet: So it's just American
Judd Winick: Yeah. She's just a
regular kid. You're not going to find...well, most shows
with Asian characters have these sort of touchstones, like
there's windchimes or ninjas or, you know, discussions of
Fanboy Planet: No ninjas?
Judd Winick: Nooo. No ninjas. None
of that stuff. She really doesn't even necessarily do martial
arts. She's just kind of acrobatic. A lot like Spider-Man,
but kicks the craps out of monsters.
Fanboy Planet: Does it feel odd
to be going from things like Frumpy the Clown, which
newspapers cancelled because it "...wasn't appropriate for
families," allegedly, Barry Ween, edgy books like
Outsiders to an out-and-out children's show? Or would
you call this a children's show?
Judd Winick: Well, I'm not actually
doing a children's show. That's the thing. Myself and everyone
that's doing this show, we kind of worship at the altar
of Chuck Jones and Warner Brothers cartoons. Those weren't
made for kids; those were actually made for grown-ups to
be shown in theaters. Later, when they were put on television
in the sixties and seventies, they became "kids' shows."
People started gravitating toward it, defining it as such.
please come back, Mr. Clown...
I'm pretty much doing a show that I think
is inherently funny. I know moms and dads can sit down and
watch it and enjoy it equally, but also on two levels. There
are jokes in here that are entirely made for grown-ups,
but I know kids will get, they'll just get them on a different
I know when I was growing up and watching
Bugs Bunny, he'd impersonate Edward G. Robinson and I'd
think it was funny. I didn't know until I was a teen-ager
or even later that he was doing Edward G. Robinson. It was
just funny when Bugs talked like that.
We're pretty much doing a show that's fun
and funny and cracks us up. With that being said, the violence
is capped at a certain level, and the language never goes
beyond what a kid couldn't watch. Aside from that, it really
doesn't change too much what we're doing.
Fanboy Planet: A lot of your comics
work has tackled issues that some, right or wrong, deem
controversial. Is Juniper Lee going to be that kind
Judd Winick: No. No.
Fanboy Planet: There won't be a
very special episode of Juniper Lee?
Judd Winick: Nnno. None of that.
Any social commentary we'd have in there would be that if
there are monsters out there that are evil, you should probably
beat them up.
Fanboy Planet: A good message.
Judd Winick: It is. A good solid
message for kids. I'm pretty safe in that one, I think.
Fanboy Planet: Besides getting renewed,
what hopes do you have for this show?
Judd Winick: I don't know. I guess
the bottom line is that we just keep doing it. We're having
a really good time. I've got a sensational crew that creates
the show with me and we really love doing it together. One
thing goes with the other; I hope it becomes a big hit so
we get to keep making them.
Fanboy Planet: Would you like to
create a Judd Winick entertainment empire?
Judd Winick: Working on it. (laughs)
Slowly but surely getting there.
I'm mostly thrilled about all the old chestnuts
about being able to get up in the morning and do work that
I really really enjoy. So far I've been able to do just
Fanboy Planet: And you get to do
that from San Francisco. Is it hard to be producing, creating,
writing and all that from home?
Judd Winick: I go down to L.A. every
week. Or every other week, at least, to work on the show.
There is a ton you can do from here (San Francisco), but
there's a lot of things I need to be there for, so it's
a bit of both.
I'm creator and executive producer, which
means I have to be pretty much involved with everything.
But if you have any brains and talent, you surround yourself
with people that have more brains and more talent. What
the whole object is is that you get together a crew of people
and explain to them and teach them what the show is in your
head, so that each time we go down this road again, they
We've been in production since February
2004. My crew and the people I work with, they know what
a Juniper joke is, they know what a Juniper design is. Even
when I'm designing it, there's not a lot of back and forth
as far as notes. I design a character and it goes off to
Mike Kunkel, designer and comic book artist extraordinaire.
Planet: How did you get Mike Kunkel (Herobear
and the Kid) involved?
got some of the best in the biz...
Judd Winick: I've known Kunkel for
years. When I was developing the show, I actually thought
it would be great if it looked like Mike Kunkel's stuff.
It was actually suggested to me, well, if you know him,
why don't you give him a call?
I wasn't sure if he would do this. While I was thinking
about this, Kunkel had stopped by the office and left me
a note just to say hey. Unrelated; he was visiting somebody
else in the building.
I thought that's fate calling. So I called
Kunkel, we talked, he did some designs for us and the next
thing you know I was able to offer him a job.
Fanboy Planet: Will we get a Juniper/Herobear
Judd Winick: I think there's too
many trademark and rights issues going on for that to ever
happen. (laughs) You live on Planet Earth. You know
how this works...
Fanboy Planet: I do, I do.
Judd Winick: Outside of Mike Kunkel
doing a show for the Cartoon Network, not even WB, the Cartoon
Network, I don't think that will ever happen. Except occasionally
Mike and I will sit down with a sketch pad and do both.
Screw it. You don't need me for that. Kunkel
can just draw them both.
Fanboy Planet: You're Creator and
Executive Producer. It's clear that your wife Pam has been
a heavy influence, but I don't see a title for her. So what
title do you give her on the show?
Judd Winick: Muse.
Fanboy Planet: What's that pay?
Judd Winick: She gets half of everything.
She's my wife. This is California.
Fanboy Planet: You've played a lot
of roles in your career: TV personality, writer, artist,
now producer, public speaker - which do you prefer?
Judd Winick: I'm a cartoonist. That
covers most of it. If I'm writing a comic book, or writing
and drawing a comic book or doing an animated program, at
the end of the day, I'm still a cartoonist.
actually what I tell people. When they ask what I do, I
say I'm a cartoonist. They ask if they've seen my work.
I say, well, I write Batman for DC Comics, and within
a week I'll be able to say I do this show for Cartoon Network
which you might have heard of. That's pretty much my catch-all.
At the end of the day, that's what I do: I write and draw
Part Two, Judd discusses
his work on Batman, a little bit (tease, tease) about Crisis
and how putting that all together prepared him to create
his own show.