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Matt Wayne
Cartoon/Comic Writer
Horror Interview by The Gravedigger

Q: What is your background as a writer? Influences?

It's weird how slowly I came to know what I wanted. If my creative friends hadn't found what I had to say more interesting than my math friends did, I would have been an engineering dork instead of a media dork. By high school I knew I was creative, wrote pretentious skits and directed plays, but still had no clear idea of what I wanted to do. Getting to be friends with Dwayne McDuffie, and watching him make student films back in college (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) kind of opened up a world of well constructed comedy that wasn't highfalutin but was for damn sure art. I soaked up a lot of influences through him, Preston Sturges, Paddy Chayefsky, and Stan Lee among them. Hanging with like-minded media dorks, talking about whatever revival movie we'd just seen... it all adds up to thinking analytically about story. (I also remember analyzing a lot of movies with a young Kevin J. Lindenmuth, who may have since come around to my position on NO WAY OUT.) Dwayne was the first professional writer I knew, and he made it seem possible. We kept in touch and when I moved to New York out of college, he was already writing for Marvel Comics. We started collaborating on a screenplay and BOOM! It's a round number of years later, and almost half of my career's been either working with him or for him.

What a waste. I mean to think, I could have been an engineering dork.

Q: How did you get into scripting cartoons?

My childhood pal, Rich Pursel, worked for John K. on the original REN AND STIMPY show. It was his second job in cartoons, I think. In 1999, he got me in on POOCHINI, a European co-production that never aired much in the U.S. Most of them I recorded off the San Bernadino TV station because they weren't broadcast in LA. Rich was a natural fit for POOCHINI, and must have talked me up pretty good to the story editor, Jim Gomez, because everybody else in that room was all about the funny and I'd only written and edited superhero comics. Rich and I had taken some writing classes around then from Danny Simon, the great sketch and sitcom writer, which helped me through the process of making useful jokes and not just sitting around being a smartass. I wrote as many episodes as anybody, nine or ten 11-minute comedy cartoons. I loved it. I also worked on some early web cartoons for my old New York buddy, Jim Krieg, some comedy stuff that I think is still up on icebox.com. Nowadays I find myself up for jobs and often out to prove I'm not just an action writer. But nobody's ever heard of POOCHINI! What can you do. Anyway, having that made it easier to get a WHAT'S NEW, SCOOBY DOO? from the above-mentioned Jim Krieg, and the above-mentioned Dwayne McDuffie recommended me for some KRYPTO THE SUPERDOG and STATIC SHOCK! And I became full-time very quickly.

Notice how I had no less than three friends who thought I was good, wanted to collaborate with me, and worked hard to get me gigs in TV animation? Not everybody has that going for them. Knowing somebody is crucial, as is being easy to work with. (So is living in LA, I'm sorry to say. On the bright side, I met my wife out here.)

A sad, sad truth is that merit alone might get a writer in, but it probably won't. Animation is a close-knit, unfair business. Breaking in is always statistically daunting and often just damned impossible. I have tried and failed to get a cartoon gig on many, many more occasions than I have tried and succeeded, and the same goes for comics. I've figured myself a washout a number of times between assignments, though I was the same writer fashioning the same inventive, albeit overly-mannered scripts that I am now. And now when I consider this harsh reality, the sheer number of times I almost gave up and enrolled in cooking school or business school or teachers college, I tend to shout "hooray" a lot.

Q: What is your "process" of writing for already established characters, such as in JUSTICE LEAGUE or SPECTACULAR SPIDERMAN?

In each case, the showrunner chose a direction for a story. Then between four and six people sat around in a room pitching ideas for bits until the showrunner was satisfied, and I went home to make an outline. The tone of a show is usually the showrunner's, either made better or worse by the executives that he or she reports to. The process of writing these two shows is similar, but the results are very different. You'd never mistake one show for the other, even forgetting the differences in design. The two demonstrate different ideas of what a scene is, what a sequence is, what's dramatic. It's been fun to work for both, kind of like playing the same song in two different styles.

Q: Did you have specific guidelines with HELLBOY: SWORD OF STORMS?

Very specific ones. Tad Stones and Mike Mignola wrote the story. This was Tad's baby, after all, his dream project. I was pretty much just a Hellboy fan who could faithfully flesh out their 14-page treatment, but I also got to do a lot of research into Japanese mythology and some Kabuki techniques. I also gave a couple shout-outs to Kurosawa in my descriptions, and Phil Weinstein did a great job of realizing these. The B-plot with Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien crashing in the ocean came after my involvement; my two drafts took four or five weeks, and then, as they were producing the animation, the powers that be changed the length of the movie and Tad added those scenes himself. I'm really happy with it, thrilled to have something that isn't a TV show on the resume, and the designs are just amazing.

Q: For LEGION OF SUPERHEROES you created an original character, Timberwolf. How did he come about?

No, actually Timber Wolf's been in the Legion comics for years. I try not to create characters for shows based in "shared universes" unless necessary. If I made up the next big thing, say, the next Hulk or Batman, and then the company got rich instead of me, I'd be kicking myself. There's always some old character lying around that can be reworked, and as a contractor that kind of rehab feels less of a ripoff to me than building a whole new house.

Q: What’s your favorite script(s) that you’ve written? Your favorite types of projects?

I loved doing Tom and Jerry, and Winnie the Pooh, probably because I get to do fewer young, funny cartoons and it's good to remember that not every story needs to end with a fight and a world hanging in the balance. But it's incredibly satisfying to turn in an action script and have Bruce Timm go, "nice work." Lately it's been Dwayne McDuffie or Glen Murakami or James Tucker doing that, but the principle's the same. Anybody I'm impressed with on that level, I'll give myself ulcers trying to give them what they want. And that's where my best work has come from, not coincidentally.

My favorites are still JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED episodes and one TOM AND JERRY TALES I co-wrote with Rich Pursel, but a couple BEN 10: ALIEN FORCE scripts and a MY FRIENDS TIGGER AND POOH that should air soon may finally edge out that old stuff from 2006.

Q: What cartoons/movies do you tend to watch when you’re not working?

I work a lot but try to keep up with what cartoons are out there. I'm a big fan of theatrical cartoons and have a lot on DVD, but I don't really watch them except as a work deterrent. Used to love festival animation but either I've outgrown it or it's all the same these days. Love DR. WHO and TORCHWOOD. Right now I'm completely into BATTLESTAR GALACTICA on DVD. I have yet to get into LOST and got bored with HEROES. In the evenings I either work or I hand the remote to my wife and end up watching undifferentiated crime shows with her, which I find soothing. Liked IRON MAN. haven't seen HELLBOY 2 or HULK yet, but probably will. If I sit down to write and end up throwing bricks, I'll go online and read Steve Marmel's animation writers blog or go to Dwayne McDuffie's board.

Q: What are you working on now?

Story editing my first toy show, or at least my first show driven by a line of toys"as opposed to shows I've been on that also had toys. It's a trip, but also hasn't been announced yet so no details. I'm also story editing HANNIBAL THE CONQUEROR, a new primetime animated show that will air on BET next year. It's kind of exciting, an animated sword-and-sandal epic aimed at an older audience, teens and young adults. Plus, more BEN 10: ALIEN FORCE, more SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, some BATMAN: BRAVE AND THE BOLD. Oh, and the first BEN 10: ALIEN FORCE comic and a lot more comics that haven't solicited.

find information about Matt Wayne at imdb.com find horror stuff by Matt Wayne

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