The most exciting prospect of getting to attend the Ultimate Spider-Man animated release party — besides the Spidey cupcakes, of course — was meeting Paul Dini. The man behind many of the finest DC Comics adaptations, including the widely-lauded Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond, as well as Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Asylum video game and its record-breaking follow-up Arkham City, was recently hired by Marvel to overlook and help script up Disney XD's Ultimate Spider-Man. Dini was nice enough to share a few moments with Comics Bulletin.
Travis Moody for Comics Bulletin: I see we've got Flash Thompson in the mix with Ultimate Spider-Man. With what Rick Remender's doing with the Venom comic, any chance we see Flash going that route in the show?
Paul Dini: Venom is a character with an interesting evolution. You could go any direction with him and that's what makes him so magnetic. I can't answer for now, but having Flash take over the symbiote would be cool. It's possible!
CB: So, there are no restrictions with this Ultimate cartoon? We could see elements from both the 616 and Ultimate universes?
Dini: We're working with an open field. It'll definitely have that Ultimate feel and young spirit of the Ultimate Universe, but [USM] is not defined [along those lines]. We're not strictly adhering to the Ultimate titles or universe, although, visually, it will be comparable. [USM] is a whole different breed of storytelling than the slower, linear formula we're accustomed to. We took a look at reality TV, with quick clips, jumping around, pausing for monologues after scenes. I mean, we didn't just take from that, but take Family Guy for instance — the cut scenes, the quick gags. We wanted to use that bit of technology for this newer audience, and have him [Spider-Man] break the fourth wall.
CB: What's your take on CGI? I know a lot of the other animated series are using it now.
Dini: I find that CGI is hard to emulate unless you're making something along the same lines of quality as The Incredibles every week. I don't see the appeal. Brad Byrd is a terrific director, and he perfected it because Brad took the time to develop the characters into these fleshed-out human beings. And unless you have Byrd helping with direction, it'll probably look too stiff. I prefer 2-D for its kinetic storytelling and just having fun with the film side of things with 2-D, so [USM] will eventually appear like a perfect mesh.
CB: Considering your past animated work and your run on Detective Comics, how do your approaches to writing Batman and Spider-Man differ?
Dini: Well, with Batman, it has its own regulations and rules. He's got a huge cast and fully fleshed-out idiosyncrasies, so it's okay to have a whole Joker-focused episode. Spider-Man, on the other hand, needs to be the centerpiece of this, as Peter Parker reflects the entire Spider-Man attitude throughout. Unlike Batman, who has that whole "lurks in the shadows" even when he's not there.
CB: Sort of how you can focus on any Gotham villain for an issue or episode, like Scarecrow or Two-Face, and you just feel Batman there.
Dini: Yeah, the whole environment of Batman is Batman, where Ultimate has to be all about Spidey. You can't have Wizard and Klaw hanging out for a whole show. Well, I wouldn't mind that [laughs], but you know. Jeph [Loeb] told me, "I get it." This has to be all Spidey. But we'll be seeing Nick Fury and some Avengers which will tie nicely in with the Ultimate books.
CB: And so you're able to use, say, Klaw — who also made a recent appearance in the Daredevil comic — and the obscure villains, because the show focuses so much on Spidey.
Dini: I love Klaw! He's making a comeback. [laughs] The sky's the limit with Ultimate Spider-Man. It was Stan Lee who knew issue #1 would sell and knew that #4 would be great, but, you see, he was smart. He knew issues #2 and #3 needed guest shots.
CB: Because you had the collectors buying #1's and #4 would begin a new arc.
Dini: Right. You could have Howard the Duck sell a #1, but he'd have Spider-Man on the cover of #2 as well, because Spidey just puts over everyone!
CB: Speaking of Stan, did you give him a call to go over his dialogue? Did you meet with him in the studio? Those lines as a janitor were so Stan, I was wondering if he wrote it.
Dini: We wrote him in. Oh, no, we definitely wrote him in. Originally, the idea was to have Stan play the "jack of all trades" — placing him in all these different situations — just like he does in the movies. But then it just didn't make any sense having a supporting character all over the place with Spidey playing that role, so we had Stan play it straight which probably makes it funnier anyway.
CB: Will you be involved in an Arkham City follow-up at all?
Dini: As of now, [Rocksteady] hasn't approached me with it. I have no knowledge of what they're doing. But you never know.
CB: That's a shame, with Arkham being so great. I'm sure you got your hands full now.
Dini: Yeah, I'm taking some official time off from writing comics. DC wanted to go into a different direction, I guess.