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Matt Wayne Casts a "Storm" With Hellboy

After you unleash an army of supervillains upon the Justice League, where do you go from there as a writer? Straight to Hell, apprantly. Toon Zone News managed to catch up with Hellboy: Swords Of Storms screenplay writer Matt Wayne via e-mail to talk about his work on the movie, which will air this Saturday.

TZN: How did you get your start in animation and how did you eventually come onto Hellboy?

Matt Wayne: Thanks for asking, I’ve wondered myself how I broke in. It wasn’t part of a plan. I’ve been an animation fan for as long as I can remember. I’ve got this vague early-childhood memory of my mom showing me how to make a flip book on a scratch pad, and an even stronger one of Luno the flying horse saving me from a guy with a chef’s hat and a meat cleaver, while Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion applaud.

[SpongeBob Squarepants story editor] Richard Pursel was my best friend growing up; we made all kinds of clay and cutout stuff with my Dad’s 8mm camera. We kept in touch after he moved to L.A. and I moved to New York, so I got to hear his stories about Tiny Toon Adventures and then Ren and Stimpy. By some coincidence, we ended up editing comics at the same time. I was working for Dwayne McDuffie at Milestone while Rich was editing Comic Book for Spumco. Eventually I followed Rich and came to L.A. after Milestone stopped publishing, while I was writing comics for DC.

My first paying job in animation was on Poochini, a US-German co-production that Rich got me in the door on. I wrote a lot of those, so when Dwayne mentioned me as a writer for Static Shock, I’d had animation credits. My Static Shock credit allowed Jim Krieg, a friend from New York, to put my name in for Scooby Doo and for Dwayne to recommend me to Steve Marmel for Danny Phantom and, ultimately, Justice League Unlimited, where I started as a story editor on the very same day that Rich Pursel started as story editor on Tom and Jerry. And of course it was my Tom and Jerry work that brought me to Hellboy.

TZN: How did the main story of the DTV come to pass and who was involved in it’s conception? How does a story like this make it from the original idea to the script?

Wayne: [Supervising Producer/Director] Tad Stones had been a strong advocate for an animated Hellboy for some time, in fact he’d gotten my name for a Hellboy animated series that never happened. I have no idea how he and Mike Mignola came up with the idea, I only heard about it the day they handed me their outline.

You wouldn't like Hellboy when he's angryTZN: How does the Hellboy animated universe differ from the comic and movie universes?

Wayne: Well, the difference from the movie is intentional. Professor Broom is alive and Liz and Hellboy are just friends. I don’t think there are a lot of continuity problems between the comic and the animated version. Kate Corrigan’s running the BPRD, or at least we present her as Hellboy’s boss. And of course the character design is very different.

TZN: Which of the characters were most fun to write, and which nut proved must difficult to crack?

Wayne: The Rokurokubi, women with long necks, were my favorite, probably because the logic of how they would sound came as a surprise to me. In the second draft I tried modeling them after modern women out together raising hell, and they came to life for me. I think one barfed on my shoes. They only have three or four lines, but personally I’m very proud of those.

Most difficult was Hellboy. At first, I thought Hellboy was a variation on the Kuleshov experiments – that early Russian-cinema thing where the same footage of an actor is juxtaposed with shots of food, shots of a child, and so on and the audience decides from the context that the actor’s conveying hunger, affection, or whatever. But Hellboy’s not deadpan. He’s more like John Garfield, not a talker, but communicating a lot through expression and gesture. So with Hellboy you always need to show his wheels turning through his actions and a few very ordinary words. Which means instead of crafting quotable dialogue, you’re counting on your ability to make a description add up for a storyboard artist and Ron Perlman.

TZN: Broadcast Standards and Practices are notoriously fickle about religious references in cartoons. Did you have a lot of difficulty getting Hellboy past them?

Wayne: Not me personally, Tad told me not to bother with that. The guy’s name is Hellboy; once you’ve cleared that hurdle, there’s not much in the script to object to but the word “crap.”

TZN: What are the advantages and disadvantages of working on a full length feature, rather than a weekly half hour cartoon?

Wayne: In this case, it was like writing three episodes in four weeks. The schedule was tight. But there was only one meeting. On JLU, there were about two story meetings per week.

Autumn falling leaves/Tumble like demons I smash/With my big stone fistTZN: Where there any characters from the Hellboy universe, such as Lobster Johnson or Roger the Homonculus, who you wanted to include in the film but couldn’t?

Wayne: When they decided to make the thing longer, my first suggestion was to do a Lil’Hellboy sequence where he eats too many pancakes and has a vision of Shinto gods that prefigures the story. Tad was right to pass on it, it was kind of a fan-fiction solution that sacrificed drama for unnecessary detail. Lobster Johnson and Roger came up, but instead we added the fun BPRD action opening in a Mayan temple that I absolutely love, and Tad cooked up some very cool additional scenes for the middle.

TZN: How does something like Hellboy differ from writing Justice League Unlimited? Which is more fun?

Wayne: Justice League was more social. On JLU, I got to eat lunch with other people, then run to Tower Records or the comic book store. Cabin fever’s a real concern when you’re working at home. Plus, my wife expects me to do laundry.

TZN: Will you be featured on the film’s DVD when it’s released next year?

Wayne: They interviewed me on camera, so we’ll see.

TZN: With DC’s having previous success with their line of DTVs with the promise of more to come, Marvel/Lions Gate’s DTVs being major sellers and now Dark Horse next in line, do you think the future of comic book animation lies in the Direct To DVD format?

Wayne: I don’t know. I’d love to see more stuff like this, but eventually DVD profit margins will come down and then you’ll have to sell too many to make anything viable that isn’t already a hit somewhere else. If that didn’t happen, anybody could put anything on DVD and make money. This stuff has to start in a mass medium.

Comics companies found out when they stopped struggling for newsstand space and went to the direct-market system that you can cut the engine of an airplane in mid flight and get a much more profitable ride to the ground. Which I guess means no, I don’t pin all my hopes for the future on DTV.

TZN: What are you currently working on and when can we expect to see it?

I just found out that between Legion of Super-Heroes and Tom and Jerry, I have a credit airing every Saturday morning in November. That includes “Prehisterics,” a Tom and Jerry short that was my first shared credit with Rich Pursel since puberty, and a really fine cartoon. And my favorite Legion credit is “Champions,” which airs that month. I’m developing something for Cartoon Network that could be greenlit in by the end of the year, and while Legion hasn’t been greenlit for a second season, Warner is getting a group of writers together to talk about it just in case. Including me. My first comic book in a while, Legends of the Dark Knight #213, is on sale December 20th.

The images in this post appear courtesy of Tad Stone’s Hellboy Blog

Toon Zone News would like to thank Mr. Wayne for taking the time to talk to us. Thanks Matt!

Hellboy: Sword of Storms premieres Saturday October 28 at 9:30pm on Cartoon Network’s Toonami bloc.

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