Life and Times of Judd Winick:
An Interview, Part 2
Part One of our interview,
Judd talked about his new Cartoon Network show The Life and
Times of Juniper Lee.
under that Red Hood?
It could be someone that shakes Batman to the core...
this part, we get more into his comics work, though he remained
pretty tight-lipped about Infinite Crisis, and how all this
prepared him to be an executive producer and creator of
one of Cartoon Network's newest hits.
You're doing something in Batman that not a lot of people
have, and that's explore, sort of, Batman's spirituality.
Batman is having a spiritual crisis with the alleged resurrection
of Jason Todd. What led you to it, or was that an editorial
thing, "revive the Red Hood and it's Jason?"
Judd Winick: Which question are
Fanboy Planet: Jason back from
the dead. Batman exists in this universe with Green Arrow,
Metamorpho, Green Lantern and obviously Superman coming
back from the dead and he's never bothered by this stuff.
So what led you to explore that?
Judd Winick: Well, for me, it's
just thinking about if Jason has come back, we can't not
acknowledge that there's been a ton of characters that have
come back from the grave. And what does that mean? What
is that about? Including the hero that Batman is closest
to, Superman. He's about as close to Superman as he possibly
is to any other hero. You could actually call them friends.
And he died.
There are scores of characters that have
had this. So how does Batman, who is a creature of science,
for sure, and fact and reason and logic and clues, how does
he get any sense of clarity with all this stuff? With people
that have supposedly gone to heaven and back and whatnot?
I think that he's always fallen back on
science. Even magic is just another realm of science; it's
just science with another set of rules. One doesn't have
to actually look towards a higher being when they can sort
of define it that this is a different point of existence
with different rules. I think Batman can take comfort in
If there's any place that the character
takes comfort, it's when he can understand and control things.
He's obviously one of the greatest control freaks in the
DCU. Understanding things, controlling them and having a
grasp of the situation is kind of his life's blood.
When talking about people coming back from
the grave, that's what I knew he would be thinking. But
now, having to be faced with this on such a personal level,
I wanted to explore it. I'm going to continue to explore
it. How much is it going to screw with him?
He's a regular guy - okay, he's not a regular
guy - but he's a human being that puts on this suit and
does this thing. He's surrounded by people who have greater
powers than his and exist on different levels, but he's
been there - to space, to these different realms, to see
these different things, parallel universes...he knows they
exist. They all are answered by some sort of iron-clad rules.
With Jason, I love the idea of the situation
because I knew it would just blow his mind. Now he has to
deal with these things. He wants to know how and why. How
did this happen?
Fanboy Planet: Speaking of blowing
minds, you're a big architect of the coming Crisis. How
does it feel to have grown up and been able to become part
of such a huge event for DC?
cry, Batman. He'll be baaaaaaack...
Judd Winick: It's been awesome.
It gets more awesome every month as we see it coming together.
Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Dan DiDio, Eddie Berganza and I
sat down in January of 2004 and first talked about this
thing. Now that it's sort of happening - not only that,
but all the pieces are falling into place - we see things.
We've been working on this for two years, and now all these
things have taken root and now are starting to produce fruit.
It's an amazing thing.
We didn't know if it was going to work.
It's hard, because we're doing something so large. We didn't
know if it would take hold, it might start falling apart
because of various things. You don't really know what's
going to happen, even if you try and lay it all out.
Everybody has been coming together in such
a big way. This massive design that we put together in January
2004 has really taken hold in most of the books in the DCU.
We are able to step back. We know the scripts
are coming in, the stories are coming in, and can say "look
at that, that thing there is working over there, this thing
here is working over here..."
The whole idea of doing one gigantic story
that we've been leading to for two years is happening. It's
amazing. I think we're happiest when it has gone beyond
Which is one of the nice things about doing
an animated program. When you sit down and create these
things by yourself and they go off and become bigger things
with other people, it's really satisfying.
Fanboy Planet: Tying this all
back to Juniper Lee...
Judd Winick: I did that pretty well.
I wasn't even trying...
Fanboy Planet: Do you ever find
yourself in conflict with other talent? It's different than
sitting down in a conference with Rucka and the rest of
the DC Slumber Party. With Juniper Lee, you're in charge.
You're the executive producer. It must be easier to let
go with the Slumber Party than it is for the TV show.
Judd Winick: Yes and no. I have
to be honest with you. These are friends of mine. Really
good friends of mine, everybody involved, Dan and Greg and
Jeff and Eddie. We were going to sit down and do this thing,
and this was one month before we were going to start production
on the television show.
I had never actually worked with other
people. I mean, really worked with other people. I mean,
I consider that writing comic books is a bit like art by
committee. It's sort of a tenuous thing. You work with the
artists, but the way I've always worked with my artists
is that the scripts I write are kind of like letters to
They go off and do that. I'll see the pencils,
and I think that in the six years I've been doing comics,
I've never had a note. Unless it was something that was
clearly wrong. Like, it's not supposed to be Batman, it's
supposed to be a whole different character.
So it's not very collaborative. When I
write and draw my own stuff, it's just me. Up until January
2004 it's just been me in a room doing my stories. This
is the first time I sat down with others.
It was a really good way to start, sitting
with friends and creating this massive story. Actually,
at the end of the weekend, okay, four days, when we finally
finished and said we've got something here, I realized I
could do a television show.
I was nervous about doing this, but I could
work with other people. I can actually do this. I can sit
in a room with people and make up stories. And that's what
happened with Juniper Lee.
of weeks later I had my first writers' meeting. When I say
writers' meeting, it's me and two other writers. It's not
this big room. Tim McKeon and Marsha Griffin are the two
people I do the show with. I pitched to them, here are the
three stories I want to start with.
We sit in the room, we bang out the stories
and then we divide them up. "You write this one, you write
that one and I'll write this one." When they're done, I
put my polish on it. I bang up the jokes and do my fender
and body work so it all feels like it's one show.
Fanboy Planet: So everything
goes past you?
Winick: Yeah. It's fun that way. I've been really really
really lucky, in the sense that I've surrounded myself,
luckily, I was able to hire, really terrific people. Frank
Squillace, our show runner, did five years with the Jackie
Chan Adventures. He's a master of action/adventure.
Kunkel, who draws just the most beautiful characters in
the world. I've got Alan Bodner doing these unbelievable
backgrounds. When you see the show, you'll see that it doesn't
really look like anything else on TV. It looks old. It looks
like Warner Brothers' cartoons, like old Disney.
Fanboy Planet: Is there one of
those that you would like to tackle? Any property you'd
like to put your stamp on?
Judd Winick: The one I've always
loved and now I'm writing in the comics is Captain Marvel.
I've always had a big affection for him. I'm writing this
four issue mini-series with Captain Marvel called First
Yeah, that would make a hell of an animated
series. For me, a really simple one to do, as far as the
story kind of lays itself out. Actually, it's not that far
off from Juniper. To me, Captain Marvel is a lot
more steeped in magic than the comics have actually allowed.
He's a character that has the power of the gods; he shouldn't
necessarily be stopping bank robberies.
It's a character that I've often loved.
I understand it's in further development as a motion picture.
Right there. It's happening. But who knows? It might crash
and burn and I'll get to come in and do something someday.
It happens. It's been in development for, I think, five
Fanboy Planet: William Goldman
was on the script at one point...
Judd Winick: Yeah. And actually
Bill Goldman stepped forward on that one because he grew
up on Captain Marvel. It's his favorite character in the
whole world. My understanding of it is that they took a
pass on it because it actually felt too old school.
A shame, because I think that's exactly
what Bill was going for. It wasn't a mistake. I think by
design the man was creating something that felt like an
Indiana Jones film. I think they actually wanted something
a lot more contemporary.
It's William Goldman. They should give
him a second shot. He's one of the greatest writers ever.
I haven't read the script. I don't know anything about it.
I want to stay out of any bulls**t fights going on, but
he's the best.
Fanboy Planet: Almost every creator
I ask that question, they say Captain Marvel. So how did
you land that gig? What did you say that finally convinced
DC you were the guy?
Judd Winick: Timing. It's actually
the first story I pitched to DC Comics a million years ago.
Like six and a half years ago, when I was first doing Green
Lantern. (Bob) Schreck said, while we're at it, what else
I said, "well, I want to do this Captain
Marvel story with Superman. I want to do the first time
that they met."
Bob wasn't really into it. It's not one
of those characters he had a great love for; he liked the
character. But he really got intrigued when I told him the
whole story, including the ending, because it's got a real
kick of an ending. And it went through some manifestations
but no one was really biting.
It was years later at San Diego. As it
so often happens, it was at the bar at the Hyatt and I'm
telling Dan DiDio that I really wanted to do this Captain
Marvel. This was when Dan had first started and we had become
fast friends. I told him the story, and then I got to the
ending and he said, "yeah, we have to do this one."
Middleton's art, it's as if it already IS animated...
I asked, "what do I do?" He said, "I'm
going to find you an artist. We're going to sit on this
one until we find the right guy." And that was it. It took
Dan about a year and change, going through a couple of people.
They'd be interested and then they weren't. It finally came
around to Josh Middleton, and Dan said, "I've got our guy."
Dan being the consummate salesman actually
told Josh very little about it. Just that it would be Captain
Marvel, then put us on the phone together. Then it was like,
"what? Superman's in this story?" I told him it was how
they met. Josh said, "that's even better."
Josh and I got to be like boys about this
thing, and that's how it happened. It's a four-issue glorious,
glorious looking mini-series. It's thirty page, prestige
format, four chapters drawn by Josh Middleton. And Josh
does soup to nuts: pencils, inks, colors - the whole thing.
It takes forever for that reason, but it's
And that's how it happened. Getting drunk
at the Hyatt.
Fanboy Planet: You sound like
you're still having a lot of fun.
Judd Winick: Oh, yeah.