Gaming Luminary Writes DuckTales Comic
And no one thinks this is weird?
By James Renovitch,
9:21AM, Thu. Jun. 30, 2011
Normally, the fact that a local man wrote a DuckTales comic book wouldn't blip very brightly on the illustrious screen that is Austin's arts scene. But, when that man is also a legend in the video-game industry you take the time to do an email interview.
A little background for those who don't know Warren Spector: He started in the video-game industry working for Richard Garriott's Origin Systems and founded the Austin branch of Ion Storm. While there, Spector's team created Deus Ex, considered by several sources to be the greatest PC video game of all time. Most people would just go ahead and ride that wave of reputability all the way to retirement, but Spector instead left Ion Storm and started Junction Point Studios which would later be bought by Disney Interactive. Last year they released Epic Mickey for the Wii. I definitely skipped some stuff in there, but we need to get to the reason why this blog exists.
He wrote a DuckTales comic book! Just when you thought Disney had revived every star from its past, they bring Scrooge McDuck back to slap you with greatness. What's more, Spector will be at Austin Books and Comics (5002 N. Lamar) this Saturday (July 2) from 4 to 6pm to sign copies. Ask him to do an impression of Launchpad McQuack (if you want him to give you a confused look and be escorted out of the store).
Here's the interview:
Austin Chronicle: What made you decide to abandon the digital realm (temporarily, I assume) for the printed page?
Warren Spector: Whoa, Nellie! I haven’t abandoned anything to write comic books! Since I signed on to do this for Boom! Studios, I’ve just been doing two jobs. I’m still the GM at Junction Point here in Austin and I still work on a variety of things for Disney out in LA. I write comics on the weekends and when I can work up the energy in the evenings. It’s kind of nuts, actually – Disney Epic Mickey is doing really well and Junction Point is growing pretty dramatically to deal with future projects. Crazy time to try writing comic books. I’m busier right now than I’ve ever been. No way have I abandoned the digital realm, even a little bit!
AC: This comic seems to come out of left field. Is this something you've been thinking about or did you just want to give it a try?
WS: I’ve been a comic book fanatic since I was a kid. Most kids outgrow that, but I never did. And I’ve loved the classic Disney comics forever – Carl Barks, Floyd Gottfredson, Don Rosa, Romano Scarpa, Daan Jippes… those guys were and are amazing. Comics have always been a part of my life. My wife (local writer, Caroline Spector) and I have pitched some comic book stuff to various publishers over the years – she even worked with Bill Willingham for a while - and we met at Austin Books when she worked there. Getting the chance to write new Uncle Scrooge stories is just insanely cool. I think it all came from my constant, foolishly public, reminders to folks at Disney that I wanted to make a DuckTales game. I figure that’s what brought me to the attention of the folks at Boom! Whatever got me here, I’m grateful for the opportunity to live out yet another childhood dream.
AC: Are there more comics coming from you in the future?
WS: We’ll have to wait and see – if the DuckTales book proves successful (signs are positive, so far!), and Disney’s okay with me moonlighting (again, so far, so good), I’d sure like to keep doing this. It’s stretching some creative muscles I haven’t used in a long time and revealing some I didn’t know I had. Completely different sort of work than I usually do. That alone makes it worth doing. But it’s tons of fun. And seeing a new issue every month is a nice change of pace for a guy who’s used to waiting three years between game releases! So, yeah, I sure hope I get to do more comics in the future. Heck, Disney owns Marvel now – I’ve written Marvel game adventures before. I’ve always thought Doctor Strange was an under-utilized character – I’d love to write a Doc Strange book! Or let me at the Thing and I’ll show you a thing or two about Clobberin’ Time!
AC: No judgment, I grew up watching Ducktails and Rescue Rangers and playing their respective video games, but what made you choose the Ducktails franchise over the more recognizable Disney characters?
WS: First, it’s DuckTales, not “tails!” Spelling aside, why’d I choose DuckTales? Well, I’m a huge Uncle Scrooge fan – he’s just a great, great character. And the context in which most people know Scrooge nowadays is DuckTales. Carl Barks may have put the foundation in place for the Disney Duck Universe, but DuckTales brought that world to a whole new audience. Plus, of all the Disney Afternoon TV series of the late ‘80s, DuckTales was the one that spoke to the broadest audience – there was something there for kids and adults and everyone in between. And now those kids have grown up to have kids of their own, meaning the audience was, I thought, ready for the Ducks to make a comeback. That was all pretty appealing. There was also the opportunity to feature Donald Duck, at least in cameo appearances… Just a bunch of reasons.
AC: How hands on were you during the illustration process?
WS: I’m the LAST person you want messing around with the illustration process! Man, am I not an artist. Having said that, I AM a bit of a control freak, so my scripts offered pretty detailed panel breakdowns and descriptions of what I hoped to see in each panel. But having said THAT, I always tried to make sure everyone knew to ignore ANYTHING I said involving visuals if they had a better idea. And, man, did the artists come up with better ideas! I’m really happy the way the books turned out – a great combination of the modern and classical Disney comic art styles.
AC: Does the Disney behemoth have your back on this or are you just publishing it quietly as a kind of side project?
WS: The “Disney behemoth!” Wow… I don’t know about back-having, but they had to agree to let me do it. And it wasn’t too tough a sell. My bosses over there were mostly concerned that it’d be a distraction from my “real” job running a game development studio and managing a franchise and all, but they were still willing to let me get involved with the project. Most of the folks who know I’m doing the DuckTales book seem pretty excited for me, personally. Can’t ask for more than that.
AC: Do you have a tower full of money that you swim in periodically? I've been trying, but so far all I have is a closet with $1.50 in change on the floor.
WS: Heh! I wish I had a money bin I could swim around in. Sadly, I don’t even make the top ten richest ducks in the world list! Would a bucket of nickels impress you? I could probably swing that.
AC: What's next on the Spector to-do list?
WS: Man, what do you want from me? Junction Point and a monthly DuckTales book are keeping me plenty busy! Of course, there’s other stuff in the works, but it’s way too early to talk about any of that… In general terms, I’ll say that one of the remaining things on my life-checklist is producing a movie. I still have to do that, but so far no one’s been beating a path to my door with a pile of movie money!
AC: That's about it, unless you think there's an integral detail you think I'm missing.
WS: The only thing we didn’t touch on is how different comics are as a medium than anything else I’ve ever done. I’ve had a novel published and written some (unproduced) scripts and, of course, worked on a ton of game books and stories. But comic books are really their own thing. They don’t work like movies or novels or games. It’s been really cool (if occasionally frustrating) discovering those differences. I mean, I read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Will Eisner’s work on graphic novels and Peter David and Denny O’Neill on writing comics. But nothing prepared me for actually writing comics. Way harder, and cooler, than I expected. Other than that, I think you’ve covered it.