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Interview Today's Date:

The Life and Times of Judd Winick:
An Interview, Part 1

Just your average adolescent monster hunter...
Last 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.

We 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.

It's 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, too...

Fanboy Planet: You yourself have pointed out that Juniper Lee is influenced by characters like Buffy. What makes Juniper different from those?

Judd Winick: Well, I'll give you the cheap answer, like you should watch the show.

Fanboy Planet: Yeah, that's a cheap answer.

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 kid.

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 got?

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 culture.

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 Asian mysticism...

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?

The controversial Frumpy...
please come back, Mr. Clown...
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.

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 level.

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 of show?

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 that.

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 know it.

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.

Judd got some of the best in the biz...
Fanboy Planet: How did you get Mike Kunkel (Herobear and the Kid) involved?

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 thought, 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 cross-over?

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.

That's 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 stories.

In 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.


Derek McCaw

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