The Spectacular Greg Weisman: Writer and producer uses classic knowledge to create great genre fictionWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Greg Weisman’s background doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the kind of storytelling he’s become known for. The writer and producer has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in professional writing, taught English composition at Stanford and USC, and speaks with passion for the works of Shakespeare and Faulkner.
Superficially, Weisman doesn’t seem the type to make a living as a writer and producer of animation — he is the creative force behind shows like Disney’s classic “Gargoyles” series, the highly praised “Spectacular Spider-Man,” the DC adaptation “Young Justice” and more. What drives Weisman to these kinds of projects?
“My basic lack of maturity, probably,” the 50-year-old Weisman said with a chuckle in an interview with Toledo Free Press. “I just grew up with this kind of thing, whether it was Tarzan or Robin Hood or ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Star Trek’ or any of that stuff. I’m a big geek, you know? I grew up reading comic books and superheroes and sold my first comic book story when I was 19 to DC comics.
“Genre fiction is just always kind of where I hung my hat. I’d like to think I could do other things, but the truth is I have the most fun doing this.”
Actually, Weisman’s knowledge and passion for classic examples of storytelling might make him ideal for the fantastical worlds he trades in. “You see a lot of people in this business, their education is limited to stuff that was made in their lifetime,” he said.
“And what they’re getting, even if they don’t realize it, is — even if they’re looking at the best stuff that was made in their lifetime — what they’re getting is, in essence, the equivalent of the copy of a copy of a copy, you know? In other words, they’re being influenced — which is fine — by people who are being influenced by older stuff and older stuff. And they’d be better served by going to that original material in the first place.”
It was that kind of thought process that served Weisman well when, in the mid-2000s, Sony began looking for a producer for its new animated series based on “Spider-Man.”
“I went in and talked to them about how I saw the character playing, and they seemed to like what I had to say, and that led to a second interview. And then I didn’t hear anything for 10 months,” Weisman said. “So I just assumed the job had gone to someone else — and I think it sort of had. But at some point they came back to me and said, ‘Nope, you’re the guy, you’re who we want.’”
Almost immediately, Weisman purchased and re-read every collection Marvel put out of Spidey’s essential history — years of tales from Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, John Romita and more.
“I was actually on vacation — I’d gotten the job just after December, so I went on a family vacation, to a dude ranch of all places. And just doing a lot reading and taking notes, and just on this one or two week vacation, the whole sort of — the first season arc and most of the second season just started crystalizing in my head.”
The show, “The Spectacular Spider-Man,” would go on to draw incredible praise for its merging of the classic Spidey stories with a modern setting. Pop culture site IGN recently named it the best Spider-Man animated series of all time. But thanks to a transfer of rights between Sony and Marvel, only two seasons of the show would ever be produced. (The complete series was recently released on Blu-Ray.)
It’s an unfortunate trend in Weisman’s animated work that he gains a loyal and passionate audience, but his shows end up ending prematurely — if they even get off the ground at all. Such was the case with his new series of young adult novels — the first of which, “Rain of the Ghosts,” was released last December.
“Book one was very challenging. I’d started novels before and never finished. Myself, [I'm] a deadline writer. I’m pretty good at meeting deadlines, but I’m not too great at creating my own self-imposed deadline.”
The books began as another animated series pitch while Weisman worked at Dreamworks in the 1990s — the story of a young girl who is given a magical armband which gives her the power to see and talk to dead people. It sold to Nickelodeon, but never actually was produced. After Jeffrey Katzenberg sold the rights back to Weisman, Greg began adapting the story into a series of books. The second, “Spirits of Ash and Foam,” is due in July.
“It’s a nine-book series, although I’m beginning to feel like it’s more of an 18-book series,” Weisman noted wryly. “The more invested I get in the world, the more stories come to mind, and I begin to see where this could go beyond the first nine books.”
Tags: DC, Disney, Dreamworks, Gargoyles, Greg Weisman, IGN, Jeffrey Katzenberg, John Romita, Marvel, Rain of Ghosts, Robin Hood, Sony, Spectacular Spider-Man, Spirits of Ash and Foam, Stanford, Star Trek, Star Wars, Steve Ditko, Tarzan, USC, Young Justice