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New interview on Cinepresto, where I talk about my background, the biz, Gargoyles, Star Wars Kanan and the Rain of the Ghosts AudioPlay!
Hello, Mr. Weisman.
I had a question regarding the adaptation of original characters from television to their comic book counterparts. One of the more displayed occurrences of the comic book integrating a character from a television series was with DC comics integrating Harley Quinn from the Batman: The Animated Series. Since you had similar experience when the Aqualad character you created in conjunction with Brandon Vietti and Phil Bourassa became the official Aqualad of the DC comics universe, I thought you could answer a few questions on the subject.
1. What is the official process a comic book marketing company must use in order for its writers to begin using an original character? Do representatives from the comic book corporations contact writers from the television program and make negotiate to gain permission from you and other important figure heads on the television program?
2. How long does the process take for the comic book corporation to acquire all of the rights to the character and include the individual in the comic books?
3. How do these companies determine what makes an original character worthy of being integrated into the comic book continuity of these fictional universes? Since the version of the Aqualad character you created became the official one in the DC Comics universe, I imagine that the officials representing the comic book company would have explained what properties stood out the most.
4. Which party retains the copyright stemming from the creation of the character?
5. What are the chances that another one of your original characters from your Young Justice series, Green Beetle, will be adapted for the DC Comics continuity? After seeing the show, I was very surprised to learn everything about the character had not already been adapted from the comic books, but was an original creation on your part. Despite the limited screen time compared to some of the main characters, the character was fleshed-out and well-developed. I thought you had put enough creativity for the character to make a jump to the comic book continuity.
Thank you for your time.
1. I'm not too comfortable answering this generically. I'm sure every case is unique. So I can only speak to examples I've been involved with, specifically - as you mentioned - Aqualad. In that case, the thing to keep in mind is that no one employed on the production has any rights in ANY of the characters we create. It's all being done under a "Work For Hire" contract, which means that Time-Warner, the company that owns DC Comics, Warner Bros Animation and Cartoon Network, owns all our work product outright. So they don't need our permission to use characters they already own, including Aqualad, which (a) was based at least in part on the existing Aqualad that they already owned and (b) they owned from the moment the idea for the new version came out of our heads, pens, tablets and keyboards. Geoff Johns did contact us and talk to us about the details of our version. He then went off and did his own revision on that for DC Comics.
2. See above. They already owned it. So it took NO time.
3. I think Geoff just liked the character - and/or thought he could do something with him - but you'd really have to ask him.
4. There are no parties. There is only one big corporation with multiple divisions.
5. I think it's unlikely, because if it didn't happen back when the show was on the air, why would it happen now?
Need some advice because I just became a screenwriter for a Television series based in Hong Kong. How much should I charger per 24 minute episode?
I'm not sure how to advise you. The short answer is get as much money as you can squeeze out of them.
Animation Guild Union minimums are just over $7K per 22-minute episode, if that helps. WGA minimums are much, much higher.
The Gargoyles Twentieth Anniversary U.S. Tour continues. Stop #5 is MechaCon in New Orleans, LA: http://www.mechacon.com
Here's my schedule for the weekend:
FRIDAY, AUGUST 1, 2014
04:00pm - 05:00pm: VOICE DIRECTING PANEL
Panel Room 1. With Jonathan Klein and Andrea Romano.
06:00pm - 07:00pm: OPENING CEREMONIES
08:00pm - 09:00pm: GOLDPASS MEET-N-GREET
SATURDAY, AUGUST 2, 2014
11:00am - 12:00pm: SIGNING
Signing Room, Secondary Events. I'll be selling and signing copies of my new novels RAIN OF THE GHOSTS and SPIRITS OF ASH AND FOAM. $10 cash for each book, which includes the book and a personalized signature. But if you buy both books for $20 cash, you also get free signed copies of the original development character designs by Kuni Tomita for the television version of Rain that never was. In addition - and by popular demand - I am selling and signing an array of my animation teleplays for $20 cash from such series as Gargoyles, Team Atlantis, DC Showcase (Green Arrow), Men in Black: The Series, The Spectacular Spider-Man, The Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, W.I.T.C.H., Young Justice and even the 2009 Radio Play "The Spectacular Spider-Man Meets Gargoyles". I'll also sign anything else you bring and put in front of me for FREE - especially if you buy my book. ;).
02:00pm - 03:00pm: STATE OF THE ANIMATION INDUSTRY PANEL
Panel Room 1. With Jonathan Klein, Andrea Romano and Steve Yun.
03:00pm - 04:00pm: SIGNING
Signing Room, Secondary Events.
05:00pm - 06:00pm: GARGOYLES TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY PANEL
Panel Room 1.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 3, 2014
10:00am - 11:00am: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN PANEL
Panel Room 1.
11:00am - 12:00pm: SIGNING
Signing Room, Secondary Events.
12:00pm - 01:00pm: RAIN OF THE GHOSTS PANEL
Panel Room 1.
02:00pm - 03:00pm: YOUNG JUSTICE PANEL
Panel Room 1. With Khary Payton (voice of Aqualad, Black Manta, Brick, Black Lightning).
03:00pm - 04:00pm: SIGNING
Signing Room, Secondary Events.
If you're anywhere near NOLA, stop by and say hello!
On a slightly different note...
1. Do you watch/like the TV series "The Big Bang Theory"?
2. As you may know (if you've seen or heard about the show) some scenes in some episodes take place in a comic book store. Now I am not that much of a regular viewer but one time in an episode in the comic book store in the background on the racks was a copy of one of the Young Justice comic books! It must have been from a while back because I believe it was either issue #0 or #2. So I'm sorry I don't know the exactness but if I find out I'd let you know (or do you already know?)
3. I ask because I wonder if you are in some entitled to something because your comic book appeared on a TV show. Do you know if there should be some sort of payment or recognition for people whose work appears in such a manner due to copyright material?
4. Do you know or would you know someplace I could be directed about copyright issues? Like say I want to use the Flash in a comic strip; some people would say it's fine, but does credit need to be given to DC Comics or do I have to get permission from DC to use him? Or say I want to take a clip of the Flash from one of the YJ episodes; again should DC be consulted? Do you think the same thing would go for stores?
5. What's been your experience with issues like these? Say you might have wanted in one of your shows for characters to enter a Starbucks; do you have to ask permission from said company first?
Thanks a lot Greg!
1. Yes and yes.
2. I'd heard, but I hadn't noticed it myself. So I missed seeing the issue/episode.
3. DC owns all that. They don't have to pay me for using it as a prop.
4. Personally, I'd avoid using someone else's property in your work, period. But I'm no lawyer. And, no, I don't know where to direct you to research this.
5. I would pretty much NEVER do that. At most, I'd do a pastiche, like the FOREVER 16 SUBURBAN OUTFITTERS (instead of FOREVER 21 and URBAN OUTFITTERS) that appeared in Young Justice #0.
Do you think if I call cartoon network on a regular and complain about how unfair they are for taking down YJ before we was able to have a 3rd/4th/5th season but yet they have all these other shows like bakugan still coming on.? Im not trying to down play them but seriously. ?! Why that play all the time but yet there is never a rerun of YJ .?? It came on on Saturday and Sunday morning. ..that's it.! I wouldn't blame the ratings if its so low.. who really wakes up at 8 or 9 to watch that show (could have came on at 10, not sure since it been so long) unless they know it was going to play that time.?
And that's another thing.. how is anybody suppose to know is there was gonna be another season if y'all don't advertise it.? I realized that y'all didn't do that for the 2nd season or if you was gonna have one (unless I looked it up on Google or something). There was times were I didn't know if a show was coming on that Saturday morning and I would have woke up for nothing ... just upset and sad.. I think that's another reason why y'all did not have that many ratings... we never really knew when it would come on unless we look it up. Please answer ... I really wanna know
I've lost track of exactly what question you "really wanna know" the answer for. So I'll try to comment on what I can.
I think we can all agree that the series didn't receive as much promotion as we might have liked. Frankly, no show I've ever worked on has ever received as much promotion as I would have liked. None. (Although Star Wars Rebels may be the exception. Lucasfilm has quite the machine up and running to create buzz.) That's just the way things go in a business where promoting an animated series is an additional expense that most networks have decided they can't afford.
Whether you like Bakugan or not, keep in mind it's an acquisition, not an original series. It's considerably cheaper because the U.S. network doesn't have to pay for production, only for a license fee to air it in America.
Calling CN to complain daily does NOT sound like a good plan. Imagine if someone did that to you?
Considering you are part of the TV animation community, has anyone ever tried pitching an animation to a non-kids network ?
Do you think the cable and broadcast networks are too animation-phobic to actually try one out?
I'm not sure if "animation-phobic" is the correct term, but interest is not high.
Hi, Greg, just following up from what you said on twitter. Did you hear the comments Paul Dini made about why shows like Young Justice were not renewed?
Here's a link to the specific clip
And a link to the full podcast in case anyone else wants it
What are your thoughts on this?
For the record, I listened to the clip but not the entire podcast. So if I missed out on some important context, I apologize.
I agree with a lot of what was said, but I don't agree that the executives didn't want girls to watch. (And I'm not really sure that's exactly what was being said, though that's the way it's been reported on that internet thing.) The target audience for Young Justice was ALWAYS Boys 6-11. If we ALSO got girls that was fine. If we got older kids, tweens, teens and adults, that was fine. If we got younger kids, that was fine.
But we had to hit the target: Boys 6-11. And we did to some extent, but not enough to compensate for the loss of our toy line. Anyone who says the show was cancelled because too many people (of any specific demographic) were watching us, is, I think, grasping at straws. It's not that too many were watching, it's that NOT ENOUGH were watching in our target demographic. Even then, if the toys had sold, we would have been fine. But the toy line was cancelled, which took away our financing for the series. And that was that.
You had mentioned that you negotiated with Jeffrey Katzenberg to get the publishing rights for Rain of the Ghosts. Did you attempt to acquire the rights to any other property you developed while at Dreamworks?
I have turnaround rights to pitch a couple of other properties that I developed there.
Now that I've posted all my episode thoughts...(in theory I still plan on doing the same on the comics, but...) I want to say thank you for the series in general. (I'd go into details, but it seems redundant after posting all those responses.) I've thoroughly enjoyed it in all its parts. Well, by the time you read this the video game will be out. [Yep!] I probably will have to sit it out. Pathetic as it is, I have to admit to some motion sickness from a lot of video games. I'm assuming I'll be able to get some pretty detailed descriptions from the good folks here. I hope that there will be other continuations as well. (Also good luck on your new Star Wars series.)
I have to admit to more than a little annoyance that another show I enjoy is canceled, but also some confusion. If I understand correctly one of the major factors, if not the major factor in the cancellation is that the merchandise didn't sell as well as they companies had hoped. Good viewership numbers are almost inconsequential. If this is true, (big if, I admit), I don't understand the business model. Why continue making cartoons targeting the older demographic at all? I know the show aimed for a broad audience, but it aimed for each part directly. A lot of cartoons aim themselves at kids directly, and place bonus references and jokes for the older viewers. I've loved many shows like that. But the complexity of characters and plots in shows like Young Justice is not a bonus for older viewers, it is integral. (IMHO) A relationship like, for example, Guardian and Bumblebee is more relateable to a college or adult viewer than a kid. (I would have gone to Babs and Dick, but that was mainly expanded upon in the comics.) A kid would gravitate to the first season romances, or the M'gan/L'gan/Conner triangle. All the relationships were interesting and important to the show, and none were simple, it's just different parts resonant (from experience or at least plot type familiarity) better to different age sets. (Or for out of YJ examples- In Green Lantern- the complexity of Razor and Ia's relationship- given his past lost love, her resemblance, his survivor guilt and rage issues and her ultimate sacrifice is not something that targets the younger viewers of the show. They'll just accept the two are a couple and enjoy the fight scenes. It was perhaps more integral to the show than any Hal based plot. In Tron the entire looks of the show was aimed older, high teens and 20s would be my guess, and not particularly conducive to action figures to my eye.)
Older fans are less likely to buy toys, (or have toys bought for them), but they also have control over their own finances to buy what is actually advertised during broadcast. Between the 24 hour cable tv cycle and dvrs, grown ups will be watching when kids can't, allowing for targeted ads of the none happy meal/stompies/pillow pet variety. (For the record, my 4.5 year old adores her stompies. ~she's 5 now~) I get that a franchise like DC or Marvel or Star Wars can expect some cross product sales, and even a show not squarely aimed at a small kid can have a cool iconic action figure that sells well. But no one expects Smallville or Arrow to survive on toy and apparel sales, they stays on air based on the number and demographics of viewers, just like Birds of Prey did not last for the same reason. Have cartoons, or at least the beautifully animated ones, become loss leaders for merchandise like comics have become loss leaders for movies? And is that a reasonable burden to place on a show that does not squarely target the audience that will buy those toys? Is a high level video game an attempt to tap into an action figure equivalent of older viewers?
I don't want to turn this into a rant about how annoyed I am that YJ was canceled....er, not renewed. I will admit to being mightily confused why DC Nation isn't aiming to expand into more than an hour of programming. I just assumed it was planned to become a 2 or 3 hour block like the old Disney Afternoon, with perhaps a rotating stable of shows. But I am interested on your more insider insight on what the none creative aims are when a new cartoon is unleashed upon the world nowadays and whether they are reasonable. Thanks,
I think one thing to keep in mind is ratings these days are NOT what they used to be.
Ducktales was a ratings smash. It made it's money by itself. Any merchandising was gravy.
Our numbers on Gargoyles, back in the day, puts the ratings of many of today's quote-unquote top-rated animated series to shame. (And Gargoyles was a hit, but never a home run, ratings-wise. Just a single or double.)
So with lower numbers overall, that means less income is coming in from advertising. Meanwhile, the costs of production have either held steady or gone up. That's pretty simple math, isn't it?
So to pay for the production of these shows, you're counting on other streams of revenue to balance the books - and for an action show that mostly means TOYS.
So if the toys don't sell - for whatever reason - how do you pay for the series?
Whether that's reasonable or not is somewhat immaterial. It's just the cold, hard truth of the situation.
So EVERY show I've ever been asked to produce has a core target that it's trying to reach, and usually that's BOYS 6-11, because the belief is (whether you agree or not) that Boys 6-11 drive toy sales for action figures. Doesn't mean the networks object to other demographics (girls or younger kids or older kids, tweens, teens and adults) ALSO watching. But you still have to hit the target.
Picture it like a bullseye. Concentric circles. You MUST hit the center. But hopefully in hitting that sweet spot, you are also reaching the other demos. Back on Gargoyles, I was farely successful at hitting that target audience AND reaching other demos too. And that has always been my goal on these shows. We didn't quite manage it on W.I.T.C.H. We did on Spectacular Spider-Man. And our success was mixed on Young Justice. Ratings were decent overall (by today's standards though not by any absolute standard at all), but our ratings in our target demo were inconsistent at best. (We could go on forever about why, but it doesn't change the FACT of the numbers.)
Throw in Mattel's decision to abandon their YJ line (again, without going into the reasons behind it), and frankly it's no surprise we weren't renewed.
Because how could Warner Bros afford to make it?
After experimenting for two seasons and 46 episodes of YJ, why wouldn't they take the chance on something new that might bring in more money? Or at least pay its own way?
Frankly, we need a new business model. But the studios haven't landed on one that works yet. So they still chase hits.