Peter David writes comics. He writes a lot of them, and he's been doing it for quite some time, because he's really quite good at it. His work includes a 12-year run on The Incredible Hulk, Young Justice, and numerous Star Trek comics and novels, but is much to vast for us to list here.
Jace Hall was the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment in 2004, founded HDFILMS INC. in 2007, which is best known for The Jace Hall Show, which debuted with over 4 million viewers.
This and the other interviews on our World of Heroes series involved a panel of journalists in addition to our own Jason Sacks.
Question: Give us the elevator pitch for your series.
Peter David: My contribution to Stan Lee’s World of Heroes is essentially a 75 minute movie that will be broken up into 5 minute webisodes. entitled Head Cases. It’s the story of a disaffected, would-be hero who goes by the code name Thunderhead. The reason being is that he can generate ear-shattering blasts of thunder if he slams his head against hard objects.
The downside of this is that his head is not invulnerable.
Consequently, the first time that he endeavors to go into action, he winds up knocking himself unconscious during a bank robbery. The video footage of all the bad guys running past him while he’s lying there out cold goes online and becomes an instant YouTube sensation, and he becomes an instant punch line. As a result, feeling frustrated and having lost any interest in being a hero, he spends most of his time hanging out in a local bar for superheroes and villains called “The D and C.” He hangs out there with his fellow D and C-list superheroes including a hairy Chinese guy who goes by the name the Monkey King, mostly because he throws his poop at people, and a stoned out of his mind psychic whose predictions are notoriously unreliable.
Into the mix comes a young would-be heroine. Young, perky who remembers him from the old days and decides to make it her job to try and bring him back into the fold of heroes.
Head Cases will have a variety of guest appearances by people in the industry including Stan Lee who will be playing the role that he was born to play: Stan Lee. He will be our equivalent of Norm (from Cheers); he walks in, “afternoon, everybody,” “Stan!” That kind of thing.
It's a concept that was first suggested a few years ago by a guy named David Uslan who will be the producer of the show. And ultimately the series itself is co-created by myself and my wife Kathleen. We are tremendously excited to be a part of the world – Stan Lee’s World of Heroes – because I think we can agree that in fact is Stan Lee's world of heroes, and we are just living in it.
Jace Hall: Well, that’s hard to follow up.
David: Oh, I have every faith in you.
Hall: So we produce the television show Fan Wars, and I was recruited to play the judge. Fan Wars is a courtroom that’s designed to actually, legitimately argue out, comic book hero points. Is Superman stronger than The Hulk? Is Flash faster than Superman? Well, all throughout geekdom there’s been these kinds of arguments, just in comic book stories and at home and between brothers and sisters. So the idea is to bring it out of those realms and into a forum that’s sanctioned by Stan Lee. If you’ve ever watched Judge Judy or The People’s Court or something you have people coming in, making their case, and presenting their argument to a celebrity panel that actually determines who made the best argument.
I’m the judge and my goal is to maintain order, keep it moving. Things can get kinda silly sometimes. Things can get really heated because there’s a lot of passion in this sort of thing.
And what we’ve actually found is that there’s a real forum for this. If you watch it, it’s in a really recognizable format. When you turn it on, you know exactly what it is. The first episode actually came out last Monday. You can check it out at World of Heroes, but the audience gets so invested, you know, because there’s a lot of Marvel fans or DC fans.
David: You actually have that type of audience? People sitting in the building?
Hall: Yeah, in the courtroom. Lots of costumed players and just general fans. So, the celebrity panel is basing their decision on how well the argument was presented. So, for example, if you’re a huge Batman fan and someone comes in that thinks Robin is more powerful than Batman, you'd probably think this isn’t even an argument. But if the Robin dude has a much better argument and you see him win, the audience just passes out. They can’t even fathom it.
Q: So it’s not a scripted show?
David: Head Cases is scripted.
Hall: This show is all about determining a winner, and we don't know that going in.
Q: It’s kind of like unreality television, because you’re sitting there having real arguments about things that are unreal.
Hall: Yes, but man, are they’re real to people.
Q: Do you have a comics background or are you just kind of learning as you go?
Hall: No, I'm actually a huge video game nerd. I’m totally not involved with comics; I got recruited into this thing because I'm friends with Stan Lee and because we produce another show that focuses on video game/nerd/geek culture called The Jace Hall Show. It’s more like Curb Your Enthusiasm, though, sort of a romp where the cameras follow me and I bump into all these celebrities doing what I do and we film it.
So that’s a show that’s been very successful; we just launched episode one of the fifth season yesterday where we reconstruct Milli Vanilli. You remember them? So, you know, to give you an idea of the show and how that works is I’m playing videogames with Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite). He starts and loses; we're playing Atari. And he, he starts blaming the Atari for his loss. What do people do? They blame the game. So I start to sing “blame it on the game” like “blame it on the rain” and it turns into a Milli Vanilli music video where actually Vanilli has reprised his role. He comes back to the video. He looks identical like you remember him.
And we go through the video and the video gets cut off because the real singer of Milli Vanilli who you’ve never seen—we found him and he interrupts the music video and he says “no, this isn’t happening again.” So for the first time you see these guys together and at the end of that it cuts and I’m back with Jon Heder and he says, “What are you doing to me, man? Are you singing?”
And then we move through and we look at Diablo and all this video game stuff. But that show—we wound up going to Stan Lee—because I had a Hulk comic book. I had Hulk #1 and I was so excited and I wanted Stan to sign it. And the first thing Stan does when he reaches across the desk is spill a whole cup of coffee across the whole thing, and we got it on film. So Stan just starts laughing and says, “oh.” So we do that and we eventually come back to Stan and try to repair the comic. But he had candles lit for relaxation, so the back of the comic caught fire. So that’s how “I know Stan” sort of becomes “I know comics.” Peter mentioned a comic that he had worked on, Marvel vs. DC, and I knew everything about it.
David: Yeah, he was talking about his show and I was saying how much I love the whole notion of this because a number of years ago I had one of the greatest creative experiences of my life. I was one of the two writers along with Ron Marz on a series called Marvel vs. DC, which was essentially the culmination of fanboy dreams come true, in that it had all the marvel superheroes against all the DC superheroes. Mike Gruenwald and Mike Carlin were the editors on the series and there were four guys—four grown men in our collective early 40s – actively arguing at Mark’s apartment putting the story together and deciding who was going to win and who was going to lose and we’re actively having those arguments.
I mean, we’re sitting around going “could this guy win and how would he go do it and what would be the technique?” And it was incredible because it was a fanboy discussion being held on a professional level which underscored for me the notion that it doesn’t matter how far up in the food chain you come in this business, you’re still always fanboy at heart. Just some of us are lucky enough to wind up at a level where people give you money for it. Which for me is kind of insane because it never occurred to me that this is now how I could earn my living. I can’t believe it.
Hall: It’s how it should be.
David: The phrase that “dreams do come true” is overused, and yet I think this is the kind of thing that really just epitomizes it.
Hall: Well, I just think the channel that’s being set up—it’s long overdue.
Hall: You know, finally now when you’re into this, you have a direct channel to the guy who’s sanctioning all this content and giving it his personal eye. It’s just cool. We’re living in a time where that closeness can be achieved, so it’s good to see Stan reach out and do that and not remain behind an ivory tower somewhere.
David: I think you’re right in that it’s long overdue. I mean, if you look at the top 50 box office movies something like 45 to 46 of them are either science fiction, fantasy, or comic book related. And certainly after this summer, even more because of Avengers and Batman coming back. You know, there’s just this massive amount, and yet for some reason the fans of science fiction and fantasy and comic books are seen as some kind of fringe thing, and I think that’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely ridiculous. This is what it’s all about. This channel—you’re absolutely right—is long overdue. Absolutely.
Hall: Make sure you watch it. There’s some great stuff coming up.
David: Absolutely. Any other questions?
Q: Who are some of your celebrity judges?
Hall: Let’s see. Well, we had Adrianne Curry on there. We had, Ryan Thompson—
David: The actor?
David: No kidding.
Hall: We had Cara Santa Maria, the science girl from Huffington Post. We had Sandeep Parikh who you know from The Guild and Teal from Stargate, Chris Judge.
David: Oh, you had Chris. That’s great.
Hall: Yeah, Chris Judge came in; there’s ten episodes so I’m leaving some out. I can’t remember them all. But, you know, we want to continue to advance the celebrity panel and have guys like Kevin Smith and maybe try to get Geoff Johns to come in.
David: I’m telling you right now—the longer this goes on and the more word gets out about it, “trying to get” is not going to be an issue. You’re going to be keeping people away with a stick.
Hall: I’m really curious to see what you guys think. We really try to present it as professionally as possible. It really looks like a TV series, you know?