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Interview Today's Date:

The Life and Times of Judd Winick:
An Interview, Part 2

Who's under that Red Hood?
It could be someone that shakes Batman to the core...
In Part One of our interview, Judd talked about his new Cartoon Network show The Life and Times of Juniper Lee.

With 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.

Fanboy Planet: 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 you asking?

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 that.

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?

Don't cry, Batman. He'll be baaaaaaack...
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?

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. It's working.

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 us.

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 them.

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.

A couple 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?

Judd 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.

Mike 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.

The World's Mightiest Mortal...
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 Thunder.

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 years.

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 you got?

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.

With Josh Middleton's art, it's as if it already IS animated...
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."

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 worth it.

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.


Derek McCaw

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