Last week, we chatted with Paul Dini about his latest Jingle Belle story, “Grounded,” found in the inaugural Top Cow Holiday Special original graphic novel.
Yet when you’re as busy as Dini has been this past year — his live-action series, Tower Prep, just this week wrapped its first season on Cartoon Network; he’s writing the ongoing titles Zatanna and Batman: Streets of Gotham for DC Comics, and in August joined the creative team of Disney XD’s forthcoming animated adaptation of Ultimate Spider-Man — there’s a lot to talk about. So we did, in this second part of our Q&A with one of the main creative forces behind Batman: The Animated Series. There's even a little bit more about Jingle Belle, too, for those still in the holiday spirit.
[Newsarama note: This interview was conducted before the season finale of Tower Prep aired on Cartoon Network.]Newsarama: Paul, your series Tower Prep debuted this year — what was that experience like, building a world in live-action television, versus comics or animation?
Paul Dini: Oh, that was wonderful. Tower Prep was great. That’s been like a two-and-a-half year odyssey since I sat down with the TV executives, and one night over dinner just pitched them the idea and they just went for it. I’m having dinner tonight with the same executives, where we’re talking about some future plans, and we’re all very high on that. I can’t really talk about anything right now, but we always take that as a really good sign, when we sit down and talk about new things. I would like to keep going in that world as long as I can.
With Tower Prep, Cartoon Network wanted to go into a new area where no other kids’ programming was going. There were a lot of kids’ sitcoms on the air, but they wanted to really go with more of like an adventure/drama feel. The fan reaction to Tower Prep has been tremendous. Every day I sit down and get tons of e-mail about how much they enjoy the mysteries of the show, and everything like that.
Nrama: Fans are definitely waiting to hear if there’s going to be a second season.
Dini: I can’t really talk about that now, other than the fact that we all want it to go forward. The actors want it, the network wants it, we just have to sit down and figure out what’s going to happen next. What’s our next planNrama: And another thing you’re working on that you probably can’t really talk about at this point is the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, slated for fall 2011 on Disney XD.
Dini: Yep. That’s going ahead. Having a great time on that, and I’m working with some old friends from the Batman days on that. Coming up with a look for the Spider-Man show, I think it’s really going to take people by surprise. It’s going to take people by surprise as much as the Batman show in the early ‘90s took comic fans by surprise. And yet at the same time it feels very right and it looks very right. And I can’t really say anything more about that or Jeph Loeb will be after me.Nrama: Understandable. And comic book-wise, you’re still on Zatanna…
Dini: Yep. Still on Zatanna, still on Streets of Gotham, going to be wrapping up the “House of Hush” story in probably about two issues. Then I’ve got some new things planned for Streets of Gotham for next year, more Zatanna stuff, and I’ve talked to Gail Simone about possibly doing a Birds of Prey/[Gotham City] Sirens crossover. [Note: DC's March solicitations, released after this interview was conducted, list Batman: Streets of Gotham #21 as the final issue of that series.]
And then just seeing what else comes. I’ve had a very busy year. I actually promised myself I would take December off — and by take December off, meaning I would just write a few issues of Zatanna and Streets of Gotham. That to me is a light month. And then the phone never stopped ringing with other things, to the point where I had to say, “No, I’m not here, I’ve gone away, can’t.” Then I did wind up accepting an assignment for something I can’t talk about that’s for like three years down the road.
That’s the one thing about Tower Prep, it has brought me I don’t know how much work in TV — there’s pilots, and there’s developments and there’s everything thundering at the door. Which is all nice, but give me a week off at Christmas, OK guys? I want to go skiing.Nrama: With the latest Jingle Belle now in stores, do you have any future plans for the character?
Dini: The last two stories that Stephanie [Gladden] and I have done together, the Frankenstein story and the Krampus story, I think are really great. I’ll continue doing Jingle Belle as long as I’ve got a good story for her. I’m not saying I’ll do it every year, but when the time works out right, and Stephanie’s up for it, and the story works, we’ll be back.
Nrama: Now that you’re working on the Ultimate Spider-Man TV series, is there any possibility we might in the future see you working with Marvel on the print side?
Dini: That may happen. I can work on Marvel/Disney stuff for TV, but comics-wise I’m still exclusive to DC. They’re my comics home for the time being.
At some point, I may do that. At some point, I’m going to get around to doing a Jingle Belle animated special.
Nrama: Certainly seems like a natural thing to happen.
Dini: I’ve been up and down and around on that, and I’ve had two offers in the last month to sit down and talk over a movie. I’ve just thought, “No, this always ends badly. Let’s not talk about it.” I’ve done really well by the character as far as her being optioned, but for whatever reason movies don’t get made, and then the rights revert to me.
As far as doing a TV special, I would have to be in control of it. I’d want my own team of animators to work on it. The deals I keep getting are more like, “we just want to cheap it out.” And I’m like, “There’s really no point in doing it, is there?”
Nrama: It’s good to be in a position to say no to that stuff.
Dini: It’s all timing, and it’ll present itself. I just have to tell myself, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer existed as a comic book for 10 years before they even wrote the song, and then it was another 15 years before he got an animated special.” Same thing with the Grinch — was around for years before they made an animated special out of that. There’s one thing I’ve learned in this business, if a deal comes along and just doesn’t seem right, you just shouldn’t take it. Sooner or later, something else will happen.Did you watch the first season of TOWER PREP?