Stealing a few moments away from his busy schedule, Young Justice Series Producer Greg Weisman sat down with The World’s Finest to discuss his upcoming role as co-writer for the DC Comics-published Young Justice comic series. He and co-writer Kevin Hopps (The Spectacular Spider-Man animated series) begin writing the comic series, which expands on the continuity of the animated series of which it is based, with issue #7. Continue below for the introductory Q & A.
The World’s Finest: How closely have you been working with the Young Justice comic book? What type of work was involved to make sure it synced up with the animated series?
Greg Weisman: Kevin Hopps, Brandon Vietti and myself have been working very closely with the folks at DC on Young Justice from the very beginning. We suggested story ideas for issues 1 – 6 that fit into the television series’ continuity – right down to our show’s trademark “Timestamps”. Then we reviewed all materials to maintain maximum consistency.
WF: How much input did you have on the story ideas and execution for the previous creative team?
GW: Kevin, Brandon and I suggested the three stories that made up the first six issues. As for the execution, hopefully we managed to stay out of their way. Maintaining consistency shouldn’t mean restricting anyone’s creativity. Prior to Kevin and I coming aboard, Young Justice had some terrific people working on it. We wanted them to feel free to bring their collective creative spark to the book, in story, in dialogue and visually.
WF: You and Kevin Hopps take over as writers for the Young Justice series with issue #7. Break down that first issue for us!
GW: Well, on page one, panel one… Uh. Maybe I won’t break it down quite that much. Basically, this story focuses on the introduction of Artemis to the Team and the series – but this time from her point of view. So we will see events we’ve already seen on television, but in ways we haven’t seen before.
WF: As a semi-follow-up…why work on the Young Justice comic series? What appeal does it bring to the table, to work on both the comic and the cartoon?
GW: In a way, it’s a dream come true – no matter how corny that sounds. We just have so many stories to tell that there’s no way we could fit them all into the number of episodes that Cartoon Network has ordered. The comic gives us the opportunity to give both depth and breadth to the world and the characters.
WF: What can fans expect from your run on the title? Are you in it for the long-haul?
GW: We’re definitely in it for the long haul. The goal is to make the comic book enjoyable in its own right. You don’t have to watch the series to enjoy the book. Likewise, you don’t have to read the book to enjoy the series. But if you consume both, there’s just no doubt you’ll get so much more out of the Young Justice property as a whole (Assuming we do our jobs right.)
WF: How closely will this series tie in with what we see on the series. Will your stories act as sort of…”lost episodes” or just “episodes…in comic form”? For example, can we expect vital plot points to be revealed here that may show up in an episode down the line?
GW: As I think is clear – even from the issues that preceded us – the comic will tie in very closely with the animated series. Some arcs will in fact be so-called “lost episodes” that will fill in the blanks between television episodes. Others will launch their own subplots. And things have already premiered in the comic that will have an impact on the television series down the line. And vice versa. Of course, the hardcore fan of Young Justice can always keep track of exactly where the comic fits into overall continuity, thanks to the timestamps that exist on both series.
WF: How does plotting and writing out a script for a comic differ from that of a television series episode?
GW: Fundamentally, not much at all. An individual issue of a comic book (at 20 pages) can’t quite stuff in the same amount of content as an episode of the television series, which is why we’re currently focused on two-parters, with a cliffhanger in the middle. But otherwise, we break a story down within the overall arc or trajectory of the lives of our ensemble cast. We then break each issue down beat-by-beat and then page-by-page and panel-by-panel.
WF: Much like the Young Justice animated series, do you have a long-term plan for the Young Justice comic, too? What should we keep an eye out for in this series as you start your run? Secrets? Teases? Hints to future episodes, perhaps?
GW: We have more long term plans for Young Justice then we could possibly hope to cover. But we’re going to try. Any character the audience has seen on the series is fair game for the comic. And some may show up in the comic first. But in the near term, keep an eye out for Professor Ivo, Clayface, Ocean-Master and Ra’s al Ghul!
WF: With the comic covered, can you perhaps drop a hint or two about what we can expect when Young Justice returns to Cartoon Network in the fall with new episodes?
WF: To wrap things up, tell us why fans should run out to pick up Young Justice #7 – the first issue of your run with co-writer Kevin Hopps!
GW: So far the comic has focused on the Team’s earliest days. It’s time to bring Artemis into the mix. And it’s time to reveal a few of her secrets as well. Find them in Young Justice #7 – AND ONLY IN YOUNG JUSTICE #7!!
Young Justice #7, the first issue with co-writers Greg Weisman and Kevin Hopps at the helm, and featuring art by Christopher Jones, hits shelves on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011.
Based on characters from DC Comics, Young Justice focuses on team members Robin (Dick Grayson), Kid Flash (Wally West), Miss Martian, Aqualad (Kaldur’ahm), Artemis (Artemis Crock) and Superboy. They operate from an abandoned Justice League cave, are supervised by the android Red Tornado, trained by Black Canary and given their covert assignments by Batman. And as the show develops, this group of six heroes will learn how to function as a team, depending on each other in life and death situations.
The original Young Justice description, released April 2010 upon the show’s announcement, can be found below along with the show’s original opening title sequence.
Young Justice Official Description:
In Young Justice, being a teenager means proving yourself over and over – to peers, parents, teachers, mentors and, ultimately, to yourself. But what if you’re not just a normal teenager? What if you’re a teenage super hero? Are you ready to join the ranks of the great heroes and prove you’re worthy of the Justice League? That’s exactly what the members of Young Justice – Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian and Artemis – will find out, whether they have what it takes to be a proven hero. This exciting adventure series is produced by Warner Bros. Animation and based upon characters from DC Comics. Sam Register (Teen Titans, Batman: The Brave and the Bold) is the executive producer. Brandon Vietti (Batman: Under the Red Hood, The Batman) and Greg Weisman (Gargoyles, The Spectacular Spider-Man) are the producers.
The World’s Finest caught up with Young Justice executive producer Greg Weisman to briefly chat about the Warner Archive release of Young Justice: Invasion, a two-disc Blu-ray title collecting the final twenty episodes of the acclaimed animated series. Weisman answered a few quick questions about his involvement in the bonus material slated for the Young Justice: Invasion Blu-ray release, and also talked about his acclaimed book series Rain of the Ghosts. Young Justice: Invasion, now available for pre-order, will be available starting Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 for $24.95US from the Warner Archive. Rain of the Ghosts and Spirits of Ash and Foam: A Rain of the Ghosts Novel are both currently available for purchase from retail and online outlets.
Please continue below for more from Weisman…
The World’s Finest: Young Justice: Invasion is the first Young Justice home video release to feature proper behind-the-scenes bonus content. Is there any prep work that goes into bonus features (the commentaries and featurette) on your part?
Greg Weisman: Maybe there should be… but no. [Producer] Brandon Vietti and I have pretty decent memories for this kind of thing, and it’s just so much fun to watch the episodes again together and spend some time with great people like [actors] Jason Spisak and Stephanie Lemelin. So we just show up and run with it.
WF: Do you pull out notes and information to prepare yourself for both the commentary and the interviews?
GW: Not so much. We all have more stories than we could fit into the run time of any commentary. We’re not worried about running low and needing crib sheets.
WF: Is it exciting to get to share some of the experience in making this show, and relive it with colleagues?
GW: Very. We had such a blast making Young Justice, and so loved the folks we were working with, that getting to revisit the series in any way is a total joy.
WF: All 46 episodes are now out on Blu-ray. Does it feel like this kind of closes a chapter for you, that Young Justice is put to bed for the moment?
GW: Not at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic that the show is available in full now in a format that does it justice (no pun intended), but I think that Brandon and I would both jump at any chance to work with these characters and in this universe again.
WF: Did recording extras for the second set somewhat aid in that – getting a chance to put your final words on the property…for now?
GW: The key words there would be “for now,” because I’m not a big believer in final words. Never the end…
WF: Outside of your animated work, you’ve been keeping pretty busy with your Rain of the Ghosts book series, with the second installment released earlier this year. With the holiday season upon is, can you tell us why these make some solid gifts ….and particularly who for?
GW: Well, I’m biased, of course, as I’m very proud of these two books, but I think both Rain of the Ghosts and Spirits of Ash and Foam would make fantastic gifts. These books deal with some of the same themes and concerns that series like Gargoyles, The Spectacular Spider-Man, W.I.T.C.H. and Young Justice have dealt with. So if you or your friends or family like any of those shows, I really think they’d like these two books. In addition, they are – technically – YA novels, so if you have kids, teens, etc., (girls or boys) who love a great yarn with interesting and diverse characters, then the Rain books could be just the thing. Finally, any student of mythology should find interest in how I’m taking the myths of the pre-Colombian Taíno people and bringing them forward into a modern fantasy/horror/action context.
WF: The Rain of the Ghosts book have a pretty wide appeal to them, even outside of the marketed pre-teen/tween group. For those who haven’t tried the books because they think they’re “just” for the younger set, what do you say to them?
GW: Again, I always write primarily for myself. It’s the only way I can prove out my passion for a given project. So if you’ve enjoyed my previous work on television or in comics, odds are you and I share a common sensibility. And if so, then you’re sure to enjoy Rain. The characterization, the plotting, the mythology, the backstory, the environment should all work for a younger audience, but I don’t believe in writing down to kids. So there’s plenty of meat on these bones for an older reader to sink her or his teeth into.
WF: Do you have any further comments on the new Young Justice: Invasion Blu-ray release, and anything to add about Rain? The Blu-ray and the book sure would make a solid one-two punch for solid entertainment. Why are both worth checking out?
GW: We’re very proud of Young Justice‘s second season. We told a powerful story, introduced a bunch of new fan favorite characters and took a big step toward adulthood for our Season One cast. Plus each episode is simply jam-packed with content and can easily hold up over repeat viewings. And, of course, I feel the same way about Rain, and am really hoping that more of my Young Justice fans check it out!
For further details on Rain of the Ghosts and Spirits of Ash and Foam, including purchase information and readers reviews, please click on the respective artwork below for each title.
If you want to see further installments of Rain, please support these titles!
Young Justice: Invasion arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment specialty label, and will be available starting November 18th, 2014 for $24.95US from the label. Please note the release then goes wide to all major online outlets starting December 2nd, 2014. The collection is currently up for pre-order through most online retails outlets.
Batman: The Complete Television Series and Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham are both now available to own from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Interactive, respectively. Click on the links below to discuss these new releases!
The World’s Finest caught up with Greg Weisman, co-producer of the recent fan-favorite Young Justice animated series, to discuss his new novel Rain of the Ghosts. Rain of the Ghosts is the first in Weisman’s new book series about an adventurous young girl, Rain Cacique, who discovers she has a mystery to solve, a mission to complete, and the ability to see ghosts. In the following interview, Weisman discusses the origin of his new book series, why fans of his animated work should check it out, and where readers can have the opportunity to meet him and receive a signed copy of Rain of the Ghosts. Continue below for more from Weisman…
The World’s Finest: To start things off, can you give us a spoiler-free rundown of your new book Rain of the Ghosts, and maybe toss in some back-story on what inspired you to write this tale?
Greg Weisman: Rain Cacique is a thirteen-year-old girl, who lives on San Próspero, the largest island of the Prospero Keys – known to locals as the Ghost Keys, or more simply, The Ghosts. Rain’s mother runs the Nitaino Inn, a bed & breakfast; her father, a charter boat service. And Rain, who works for them both, believes her life is destined to remain an endless cycle of making beds and cutting bait for tourists. She feels trapped. The one person who gives her hope is her maternal grandfather Sebastian Bohique, who gives her a precious family heirloom: a golden armband comprised of two intertwined serpents. Unfortunately, ’Bastian passes away shortly after giving Rain the armband, and Rain’s grief is overwhelming… which may explain why she’s starting to see dead people. But soon enough Rain learns (with the help of her best friend Charlie Dauphin) that the armband has granted her the power to communicate with ghosts. She has a destiny and a larger purpose. Not to mention two mysterious new enemies: the Australian mercenary Callahan and the Hurricane-Goddess Hura-Hupia. The former wants Rain’s armband at any cost. The latter wants to put an end to Rain’s quest, specifically at the cost of Rain’s life.
Rain of the Ghosts is a project I originally developed at DreamWorks, right after doing Gargoyles for Disney. It was chockfull of all the ingredients that I love about a concept: a rich, largely unknown mythology; engaging protagonists; dangerous, smart villains; a unique semi-exotic setting, and a driving story. We never got to do it as an animated series, but I couldn’t get the story and characters out of my head. Jeffrey Katzenberg at DreamWorks kindly sold the rights back to me, and over a decade ago I wrote a novel, which failed to sell. But after finishing Young Justice, I revisited the story, did a rewrite and sent it off to St. Martin’s Press. The result is the novel that just came out.
WF: This is the first installment of a planned multiple book series. How far along are you in the development of the ongoing story? Do you know how it’s going to end? And how does that present a challenge in approaching each book, especially when any installment could conceivably be someone’s first?
GW: I know the entire story in rough form for all nine books, and even for the start of a second series of nine books set in the same universe. Having said that, I don’t pretend to have every single detail worked out for books three through nine, and I like to leave myself open to discovering things along the way. I’ve completed the second book, Spirits of Ash and Foam, which comes out in July of 2014, and as I was writing it, two very minor characters began to take on much more important roles. In essence, they were telling me they weren’t going to be minor players anymore. And those kinds of voices – manifesting from the writing process or from my gut instinct or from some kind of parallel-world-telepathy or from wherever and whatever – are voices I always listen to.
It can be a challenge to have to set things up all over again. It’s much easier in a visual medium, where I don’t have to physically re-describe things like characters and settings: they’re just there on screen or on the comic book page for the audience to see. It never feels repetitive, for example, to see Superboy or Spider-Man or Goliath again. But in a prose novel, I have to make sure that someone who hasn’t read the previous book or hasn’t read it recently can get up to speed quickly. And yet I don’t want it to feel repetitive or boring for someone who has just put down Rain and picked up Spirits and doesn’t necessarily want to hear me describe Rain or Charlie using the exact same language from the previous book. But I like to think I found a path to walk that should satisfy all readers.
WF: Can you run us through how you came up with Rain of the Ghosts‘s main character – Rain – and why you thought a young protagonist was key to the story. Do you find it easy to write these young teen characters? Why?
GW: Well, I’ve been writing teen characters for quite a few years now. But Rain’s younger than most of the sixteen and seventeen-year-olds that I’ve been writing in The Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. For Rain, I wanted a character who had all the drama of a teenager, but less of the cynicism. Someone who wouldn’t always feel the need to pretend that the amazing stuff she was seeing wasn’t amazing. In addition, I truly like writing female characters, and I’m a fan of diversity. You don’t see a lot of thirteen-year-old female Native Americans as leads in stories set in the present. This was a chance to try something that felt new to me.
WF: Rain finds herself in very specific, very intriguing surroundings. Care to walk us through why you chose this setting? It definitely falls along the works you’ve done before, a mix of realism and mysticism.
GW: One reviewer referred to the book as magical realism, which I take as a high compliment. The Caribbean is a melting pot in microcosm. So many cultures – dating back to before the Taíno people that were there when Columbus “discovered” America – make up its modern landscape. And much of the mythology of the region hasn’t really been explored in popular culture. Add in the fact that a kid who grows up in an inn, with strangers (i.e. tourists) constantly coming to stay at her home, also felt fresh to me, and the Ghost Keys seemed like a no-brainer.
WF: Whether it’s with Rain of the Ghosts or your assorted projects, how much planning goes into creating the world and its rules. Is it something you’re always conscious of when writing (so and so can’t do this because of this rule, etc.)? Does it help keep you in check and perhaps keep the story as grounded as possible, even with some of the otherworldly elements?
GW: As most folks familiar with my writing know, I’m big on both planning and rules. I have timelines for almost every television series I’ve ever developed (for example, the timeline for Young Justice is nearly three hundred pages long). The world of Rain of the Ghosts is no different. A document that I created for Rain and originally labeled “Cheat Sheet” because it was a single page of “reminders,” is now – after writing Spirits a whopping 169 pages long. It’s loaded with facts about the eight islands that make up the Ghost Keys, details about all the characters (major and minor, living and dead), and rules for how the universe works. Not all of this stuff is revealed in Rain or even Spirits, but, in success, the onion will be peeled away in layers across all nine volumes of Rain’s story.
As for writing each individual book, I plot everything out meticulously on many, many colored index cards. (Spirits of Ash and Foam required 693 cards.) But, again, I leave myself open to serendipity and discovery once I actually sit down to write. You never know…
WF: You stated plenty of times that kids aren’t given enough credit when it comes to understanding and accepting ideas some might see as complex. How does that drive your writing? And does that allow you the opportunity to explore more weighty issues – such as loss here in Rain, for example?
GW: Well, the main thing this belief does is free me up to write about what I want to write about and not worry whether or not my potential readership is going to “get” it. I do write on layers, so I believe that kids get as much as they need to get. And basically, I just don’t censor myself or my characters’ emotions. Death is a biggie, of course, and so are age-appropriate romantic entanglements – both of which can sometimes be difficult to explore in network cartoons. So it’s great to have the freedom to do that here. And even said age-appropriateness is set by the age of my characters, not by any arbitrary Standards and Practices idea of what’s appropriate for my readers.
WF: Rain of the Ghosts‘s narrator provides a genuine mystery to the reader, and is definitely an interesting take on how to tell Rain’s story. Without giving anything away, why did you choose this approach to the narration?
GW: The book is narrated using a First Person Omniscient (or nearly Omniscient) Narrator. That’s fairly atypical, but it seemed like the best way to tell the story. The narrator, whom the other characters know as Opie, has his own point of view, agenda, attitude and interests, all of which gain in clarity with each succeeding book in the series. Yet even here in this first book, the reader gets a few major revelations about him, including the fact that he’s omniscient about the present – the now – with that omniscience extending even to being able to read the thoughts of others. (In contrast, Opie cannot foretell the future, and his knowledge of the past, while extensive, is not encyclopedic.)
As for the why… part of the reason, admittedly, was the novelty of it. But Opie-as-Narrator plays into the mythology of the region and of the series. And he seemed like a perfect vehicle for exploring this new world I was trying to create in all its various facets.
WF: Can you drop any last teases for Rain, and where we could possibly see this story going to with the release of the second installment?
GW: As Spirits of Ash and Foam begins, Rain is on a quest in nine parts. She knows she’s completed the first step, but she has eight more steps to take. The second book begins to explain the rules of the world in more detail, introduces and/or develops more characters, and has a couple of new and dangerous opponents: a child-stealing Taíno mermaid and a murderous Taíno vampire that isn’t like any vampire you’ve seen before.
WF: For fans of your work on Young Justice, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Gargoyles, and even your upcoming Star Wars Rebels show, why do you think they’ll enjoy Rain of the Ghosts?
GW: I think for my fans, the things they’ve enjoyed about my past work includes the world-building of a cohesive and dynamic universe with its own mythology, populated by well-drawn characters that come in all shapes, sizes, races, ethnicities, genders, orientations, etc. Rain of the Ghosts – the book and the series it launches – has all of that and more.
WF: To wrap things up, can you fill us in on all the details for the signings/appearances you’ll be doing for Rain of the Ghosts? When, where – the whole nine yards!
GW: I have two signings coming up in the next few days:
On Saturday, February 15, 2014, I’ll be selling and signing copies of Rain of the Ghosts at Gallifrey One. For $10 you get a signed copy of the book and (while supplies last) signed copies of the original inspirational character designs (drawn by artist Kuni Tomita) for the animated series version of Rain that we developed but never made back at DreamWorks in 1997-98. Gallifrey One is at the Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel, 5855 West Century Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045. And I’ll be signing at Christopher Jones’ table from 2pm-3pm, then again after our Young Justice panel from 6pm-6:30pm in Program Room B. And finally in the Lobby of the hotel from 6:30pm until I’m out of books or folks stop showing up. The 6:30pm signing is open to everyone, even folks who have not paid to attend the convention. For more information, go to http://www.s8.org/gargoyles/askgreg/search.php?rid=1132 or http://www.gallifreyone.com/.
Then on Tuesday, February 18, 2014, I’ll be doing a reading, discussion and signing of Rain at 7:00pm at Vroman’s Bookstore: 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, California 91101. For more information, check out: http://www.vromansbookstore.com/greg-weisman2014.
Rain of the Ghosts, the first installment of Weisman’s new book series, is now available at retail and digital outlets everywhere. Check out Ask Greg! for more details on Rain of the Ghosts.
The Young Justice – Volume Four: Invasion trade paperback collection, released by DC Comics and DC Entertainment, is now available at comic book stores and hobby shops. In this latest collection, the Team adds to its ranks in an effort to battle the impending invasion by The Collector of Worlds and Brainiac. Young Justice – Volume Four: Invasion collects the final six issues of the acclaimed tie-in comic series, issues #20 – 25, written by Greg Weisman with art provided by Jones. Cover price is $12.99. Click on the thumbnail below for a closer look at the front and back cover to the collection, along with the official synopsis for the release.
YOUNG JUSTICE – VOLUME FOUR: INVASION
Written by: Greg Weisman
Art by: Christopher Jones
Cover by: Christopher Jones
It has been more than five years since Dick Grayson and his young hero friends first joined together to help the Justice League, but their biggest battles are still to come. To prepare, the Team has been recruiting. Now, newer heroes like Batgirl, Beast Boy, Wonder Girl, Lagoon Boy and Bumble Bee fight and train alongside veteran members Nightwing, Superboy and Miss Martian. The extra help will definitely be needed when the world’s most powerful super heroes abruptly vanish. With half the Team trapped under a force field covering all of Metropolis and the other half trying desperately to rescue them, Earth’s young heroes are about to face their greatest threat yet … Brainiac!