Berkowitz, Scribe of The New Frontier
again to Gary Miereanu who helped us play musical chairs
(and at one point, musical rooms) with the talent behind
Justice League: The New Frontier. Because of him, I got
to sit down with a writer whose work has been playing over
and over in my house as I expose my young son to the Justice
you've heard of it...
Berkowitz wrote many classic episodes of that series, and
despite not working in comics, clearly knows the League
inside and out. In person, he's quiet and self-effacing,
asking me politely to try not to make him sound like a little
kid. And yet it's clear that he's very much in tune with
the little kid inside him...
McCaw: I was really impressed with how much you
captured of the graphic novel….
Berkowitz: To me, it really feels like the book
come to life. It really does. When you're writing it, you're
not sure, but the minute I actually saw it in the first
cut, it was the book come to life. Even though there are
differences, the similarities in visual style and so many
of the scenes make it work.
McCaw: What was the biggest challenge?
Berkowitz: For me, the biggest challenge was in
trying to make something that someone who is familiar with
New Frontier would like, and someone who wasn't
familiar would also like.
McCaw: Was there a moment you had to cut that you
wished could have been kept?
Berkowitz: There were a lot of them. But don't
forget, the book was obviously a different medium than film.
When you write something that was, I believe it was a five-part
mini-series, when you write something like that, you know
that your audience will pick it up, they'll read it, a month
will go by. They'll pick up the next chapter.
When you're doing a movie, it's something
you're going to sit through in one sitting. So it's an entirely
different kind of narrative. A lot of changes were necessitated
simply by the move from one medium to another.
McCaw: How did you get to be the guy to tackle
Berkowitz: I'm not sure. I'd like to say it's because
of my brilliant sense of story structure and all that, but
the real answer is that my agents had lunch with the head
of Warners' Animation, and he told me they were doing some
projects. Then I got a call from the development people,
who I knew fairly well. They said they were trying to develop
a couple of them - a Flash story, a Wonder Woman story and
a Justice League story.
like to say it's because of my brilliant sense of
(photo courtesy of Gary Miereanu)
well, I've had the experience doing Justice League. That
seems the most appropriate one.
if your question was, why didn't Darwyn simply do it, that
I can't answer. What was presented to me was either he and
I would do it as a team, or I would write it on my own and
then he would do his own version. At this point, if you
really want to know the answer to that, you should talk
to the people who hired me. Except they've all been fired.
McCaw: When they obviously made a great decision
Berkowitz: I think they made a great decision in
hiring me, but obviously, I'm a little biased about that.
McCaw: Do you have a favorite episode among your
Justice League work?
Berkowitz: A favorite episode that I had a writing
credit on would be "A
Better World." My favorite that I didn't work on is
Terror Beyond." It's the Hawkgirl episode where they
talk about the Thanagarian religion, or lack of religion,
and Solomon Grundy dies in Hawkgirl's arms. That's the favorite
McCaw: You've gone deeper and darker with The New
Frontier, turning out a PG-13 movie that obviously puts
it out of viewing for some younger fans. But you had to
do that with the material…
Berkowitz: It's a whole different thing. It's a
huge, huge gamble on the part of Warner Brothers. And I
have enormous respect for them for being willing to try
As you know, superhero shows, animated
superhero shows, are for very young children. Warner Brothers,
by rating it PG-13, said, "nope, you can't go." We're going
to try and find an audience other than those little kids.
Whether they can do it or not, we'll probably find out in
about a month.
With Doomsday, they certainly succeeded
in that. They did find an audience to make these things
profitable and were still able to exclude their youngest
McCaw: But there's plenty of material out there
for them. These projects seem pretty likely to continue;
is there any one from DC that you really want to work on?
Berkowitz: There are several. The Dark Knight
Returns. I just had a chat with a guy who works for
Warner Premiere and encouraged him to consider that as a
possibility. He said they are considering it, but there's
nothing definitive at this point. If I were a DC executive,
I'd be worried about the light that Superman is cast in
in The Dark Knight Returns, but I love that one.
is key, too...
Mark Waid and Alex Ross' Kingdom Come. I'd love
to see that in animation. Presumably, Mark Waid would write
it. The problem with that of course is finding an animation
style that looks like Alex Ross' work. But I believe that
even now as we speak, and I hope I'm not giving away too
many secrets, there are tests being done to see if they
can find a way to duplicate or mimic Alex's style.
McCaw: With things like Beowulf, it seems they
could, but wouldn't it be expensive?
Berkowitz: I don't know. I'm told they're testing
it right now. I don't know if it would look like Beowulf.
To me the lighting is the key to Alex's work.
One thing, if we can't do it now, at some
point in the future, they will be able to.
McCaw: Are you onto a new project you can talk
Berkowitz: Yes, many new projects. Earlier I was
talking about how rare it is to do PG-13 animation, and
now I'm working on a show for BET called Hannibal…
Derek McCaw: The Vin Diesel project?
Berkowitz: Yes. Hannibal the Conqueror. That's
PG-13 animation. I've been working on that with Denys Cowan
and Matt Wayne. There's a show that I worked on in England
called Friends and Heroes that's for very little
kids. That's Bible stories. They're doing a season two and
a season three that will be out soon.
also working on a script for a feature with Gary Kurtz,
the producer of The Dark Crystal, Star Wars
and so on. That's over in England, based on a children's
book that hasn't been published yet. We're in the early
stages on that one, but again, that's PG-13.
nothing against people that write for children, but the
way I write, PG-13 tends to feel more natural for me. It's
a gift to write for children; I'm impressed by it. No offense
to anyone who writes for children.