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Backstage - Interviews - Matt Wayne

First off Matt, for those who may not remember you, care to reintroduce us to you and your body of work?

I was Managing Editor at Milestone Media, and writer of Shadow Cabinet and Heroes for same. I also did the abortive Gross Point for DC Comics, then a lot of animation, starting with Poochini in 1999. In the past few years I've come back to superheroes; I was story editor on the Justice League Unlimited show and currently write for Spectacular Spider-Man and Ben 10: Alien Force, as well as the new Batman: Brave and the Bold show. But Justice League Unlimited's definitely my best-known work.

Now, let's jump right into it! You'll be writing Justice League Unlimited #46, the very last issue of the animated comic series and, for now, the last story to take place in 'DCAU' continuity. Care to drop any teasers for the fans?

It's a Green Lantern story featuring my favorite Green Lantern. I don't want to tell you which GL I like best, 'cause the Hal Jordan Fan Club might egg my house or T.P. my corpse or something. But the story's called "The Dork, G'Nort Returns." Or does that give it away?

A semi-follow-up to the previous question, did you know in advance that your issue, #46, would be the last for the comic series? And, knowing now that your upcoming GL Corps story will be the last in the Justice League Unlimited comic series, are you disappointed the book wasn't allowed to continue to tell more tales that had been discussed by the writing staff on the show? Did you have any ideas for possible future issues?

Well, when I first talked to Editor Rachel Gluckstern, we had an ambitious arc of self-contained stories that nevertheless built to a big blowout issue for #50. My schedule and the publishing schedule failed to mesh, and the title was winding down in anticipation of the new DC kids' line that's coming out now, so we decided to jettison the stuff that didn't fit the hole Rachel had to fill and came up with a few anthology stories I'm pretty happy with. We both thought this was the best of the three, and I was flattered that she ran it at the end for a "big finish."

As for telling tales that had been discussed by the cartoon's writing staff, it didn't really work out that way. There wasn't any serious discussion of what came after "Destroyer." Although Dwayne McDuffie and I did speculate that Tala wasn't as dead as she appeared to be in "Alive," and the big arc I'd planned for the comic would have revealed Tala as the Big Bad. But Bruce Timm and James Tucker certainly never weighed in on that. Which isn't to say we don't all have more stories to tell.

Were there any characters you wished you could have worked with if Justice League Unlimited had been given another season, or another chance or two to write the Justice League Unlimited comic series? Do you happen to have a favorite character?

I would have liked a shot at writing more Wonder Woman. Superman, too, although my work on Legion of Superheroes helped scratch that itch. Flash, too. It's always a treat for me to write people whose inherent decency puts them at odds with the world around them, and when I look back that's what I was doing with Shadow Cabinet a dozen years ago. If everything's badass versus badass versus badass without a moral component in there somewhere it's like music without a bass line. It can be great, but it doesn't feel as fully realized.

Favorite character? Lex Luthor. 'Cause he's such a badass!

Did you notice any differences, or even challenges, when writing for a 20-page comic as opposed to a 22 minute animated series? Did you find yourself coming into similar problems between the two, be it toning down the script, sticking to the established continuity, etc.?

In comics, I was always very mannered (my dialogue hero is Al Capp) and I had to unlearn that when I began to write for actors, especially on a show like Justice League Unlimited that aims for good dialogue. So then I got used to writing for actors like, say, Phil LaMarr, who seems to run separate tickers for the audience's sense of the scene, his character's sense of the scene, and the actual words. When you have voice actors of that caliber, you can have a lot more subtlety when you need it. It was a little bit of a jolt to go back into comics and write dialogue for the eye, not the ear. But then you learn to anticipate the artist the way I'd been trying to anticipate the actors, and it all clears up. Rachel let me have a million lettering corrections after I saw the pages, which also helped.

Now, to back it up completely for a minute, Justice League Unlimited issue #46 isn't your first issue, as you've written some Justice League Unlimited comics in the past, but how did you find yourself writing issues of the comic? What are your thoughts on the entire Justice League Unlimited comic, from start to finish? Any particular issues you'd like to point out, or problems you had with the comic series?

It's a good title, and certainly Adam Beechen's run was great. I thought Paul Storrie wrote a good one (number 20? the Mary Marvel and Supergirl story). One-off stories aren't easy, and aren't at all what comics excel at these days, so it's remarkable that the JLU comic has always been a notable anthology of good ones. As for continuity issues and the like, anybody who studies anything too closely will find sloppy seams and inconsistencies. I'd rather suspend my disbelief.

Are there any opportunities you would've like to have taken advantage of if the series continued, such as expanding and even following-up specific episode events. You wrote Justice League Unlimited issues 37 and 38, which provided some insight into the outfall of the two-part series finale, with nods to Tala and Giganta's crush on the Flash. Were there any further plans to expand on that finale, such as the return of Darkseid, Lex Luthor or Brainiac following the events of "Destroyer"? Are there any other events in the cartoon you'd wish to expand upon in the comic, given the opportunity?

I don't think I did provide insight into the Justice League Unlimited world, I used bits as a point of departure. I already talked about Tala. Dwayne's Giganta-Flash beat was the springboard for me to try an Archie-style story with superheroes, something very different from the show. And I don't have a secret dossier of unused revelations, just story pitches. I mean, I had a story where Ice tests for the female lead in "Viking Prince: The Movie" and the Golden Glider is also up for the role, and it's Golden Glider plus Captain Cold versus Fire and Ice, but now I've told the world about it so whoever's currently on Justice League of Americawill just swoop down and steal it. Thank you, James Harvey.

Although, come to consider it, more space-opera, dimension-hopping, and time-traveling would have been a hoot. And a Titans crossover.

To stay on the topic of continuity for a moment, do you see the Dini/Timm Animated Universe continuity continuing to live on in the years to come, beyond the end of this comic book?

If Bruce places more DC animated stuff in that continuity, there will be more. I don't think anybody else could. Although continuity between series is a by-product of the kind of shows he does, not a goal in itself.

Now, with the Justice League Unlimited comic reaching an end, do you have any particular favorite moments, either scripted by yourself or others, both from the comic or animated series, that you'd like to talk about or mention?

Yes. I would like to mention the shot that reveals the Ultimen at the end of "Flashpoint," and slowly keeps pulling back, revealing more and more Ultimen. That is the purest example of the show that I can think of, and possibly my favorite moment in any cartoons.

I'd also like to recount a memory from the recording session of "Alive!" The actors were giving the script a first read-through, and Juliet Landau, as she (and only she) sometimes did, threw an ad-lib in as Tala that "plussed" the line. Powers Boothe, as Grodd, was frustrated and said "I'm not some monkey in a zoo, throwing my..." dot-dot-dot, at which point Tala was supposed to cut him off with her line. It was a silly reference to something Powers's character had said in Deadwood, only on that show it ended with, um, what John Waters refers to as "the brown word." So he said "I'm not some monkey in the zoo, throwing my..." and Juliet cut him off with "shh!" instead of her line, bringing the joke to a finer point. I just laughed and laughed for about a minute, and not only because she almost said "shit," but also out of pure joy for working on something that good. And I mention it because that was the exact minute my writing career peaked, I think. It's sure the most fun I've had so far.

To the viewers reading this who may are unsure about buying the Justice League Unlimited #46 comic, what would you say to them, right now, to make them run out and pick up that issue when it hits the stands?

Sir, I am an author, not a pitchman. Commercial messages are beneath me.

But if bang-up superhero action like you've never seen before and will certainly never see again is your cup of endless excitement, run, don't walk... better yet, drive to your local comics dealer and reserve your copy of Justice League Unlimited #46 today! It's the Greenest, most Lanternest, G'nortificatiniest, most literally ultimate JLU spectacle-story ever!

And to wrap this up, is there anything coming down the pipeline you'd like to tell us about, or anything you're working on right now that fans might be interested in?

Some more Spectacular Spider-Man; more Ben 10: Alien Force in June and after; Batman: The Brave and the Bold; the animated Hannibal the Conqueror with Justice League Unlimited's Stan Berkowitz and novelist Steven Barnes for BET; and a pet comics project of mine, The Road To Hell, co-written with Dwayne McDuffie with art by Colin McNeil, will be on this summer. Thanks for asking!

The World’s Finest would like to thank Matt Wayne for his participation in this Q & A. Special thanks to ShadowStar and DisneyBoy for contributing questions.

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