Over the past decade, only one celebrated children’s writer has delivered dozens of stories for DC Comics starring Scooby-Doo and Batman. So when the publisher decided to pair the characters as a new dynamic duo in a monthly series, it didn’t take long for the publisher to sing, “Sholly Fisch, where are you!”
Fisch, former Vice President for Program Research at Sesame Workshop and the President and Founder of MediaKidz Research & Consulting, told CBR News he loves the way in which Scooby-Doo stories are spooky enough to get hearts racing but not so scary it turns children off from reading or watching him on TV. And when you combine the inherent mystery that comes along with Mystery Inc. and drop the world’s greatest detective into the mix, that’s when you get “Scooby-Doo Team-Up.”
The always amicable Fisch told CBR that the series has grown from a one-shot featuring Scooby-Doo and Batman, to a six-issue miniseries, to an ongoing series, which will include other superheroes and villains from the DC Universe, as well as some characters from beyond the DCU.
Fisch kept possible guests close to his chest but did tease the return of the Mystery Analysts of Gotham City, a group of wannabe detectives who met regularly to discuss unsolved capers. First appearing in “Batman” #164 in 1964, the group included Batman, a laboratory sleuth named Prof. Ralph Vern, crime reporter Art Saddows, crime novelist Kaye Daye and Police Commissioner Gordon..
He also shared his thoughts on why Scooby-Doo remains popular 40-something years after his debut, how he channels the iconic cartoon character’s trademark voice in his writing and why Ace the Bat-Hound is a perfect choice for a four-legged sidekick.
CBR News: I think you are a few years older than me, so you may have been a teenager when Scooby-Doo arrived on the scene but do you remember your introduction to the character?
Sholly Fisch: Oh, I’m not quite that ancient — I was a kid when “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” premiered — but, considering how many Scooby-Doo comics I’ve written over the years, the ironic thing is that I could never watch it at the time. Back in those prehistoric days before the internet and home video, Scooby-Doo was only on TV on Saturday mornings, and as a Sabbath observer, I couldn’t watch TV on Saturdays. So, even though the ads left me incredibly curious about the series, I could only experience it kind of second-hand through comics, Viewmaster slides and things like that. It wasn’t until a few years later that “Scooby-Doo” hit syndication and started to air at other times during the week, at which point I finally got to see the real thing for myself.
Why do you think the character has worked for so many years and so many kids (and adults) have connected with him for so long?
I have a funny story about that. When I first started writing “Scooby-Doo” comics, my niece was around eight years old, and in her eyes, it overshadowed everything else I had ever done in my life. I mentioned it to my then-editor, Joan Hilty, who said, “A lot of people who work on ‘Scooby-Doo’ say that. I’m not sure why.” When I recounted the conversation to my niece a few days later, she stared at me in wide-eyed disbelief and said, “Well — does she realize that it’s… Scooby-Doo?!”
That, my friend, is the formidable, compelling power of Scooby-Doo.
While the “Scooby-Doo, Where are You!” cartoons certainly weren’t horror stories, they were as close as I got to the genre for many, many years. Do you think the thrill and mystery of those episodes played into the enjoyment of the character?
Absolutely! Scooby-Doo hits that perfect balance of being spooky enough to catch kids’ interest without being so scary that it freaks them out and scares them away. That’s not always an easy line to walk, but somehow, Scooby has managed it for 40 years. Pretty impressive.
Will your stories play for laughs for the young readers, or will they skew a little scarier than those classic cartoons, because Man-Bat and Scarecrow are, traditionally, pretty scary characters?
A little of both. Back in the 1970s, when Scooby and Batman first teamed up on TV in “The New Scooby-Doo Movies,” the Joker and Penguin were handled very differently than in the comics. I’m treating Man-Bat and the Scarecrow a little more traditionally than that, but of course, I’m keeping everything kid-friendly at the same time. Basically, the two of them are more “monstrous” than “scary,” per se. All of the stories in this series will have plenty of adventure, and plenty of laughs, too.
Anyone who’s read my previous kid comics, like “The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” probably already realizes that I write these comics on a couple of levels. There is lots for kids to enjoy, but I usually work in assorted in-jokes for older, longtime fans, too. Whether you’re an old Batman fan or Scooby fan or both, you’ll find stuff that, hopefully, will give you a chuckle or two.
You have a long history writing comics and books and producing television programs for young children. We’ve discussed similar topics before, but briefly, what are your thoughts on children getting a little chill now and again from a scary monster or situation?
While testing various TV shows with kids over the years, I’ve seen plenty of examples where a show got just a little scary and wound up driving kids quite literally out of the room. Obviously, that’s not what you want, since kids can’t read, let alone enjoy, a comic book if they can’t bring themselves to open it. But, even though “scary” doesn’t work for young kids, they absolutely love “spooky,” as anyone who’s ever seen Halloween knows. Spooky works well for Scooby, and it’s not a bad fit for Batman either, so that’s the route we’re going in this series.
When you write Scooby, do you do your best Don Messick in your head — or maybe out loud — to find his voice?
[Laughs] Sorry to say, my best Don Messick isn’t all that good. Guess that’s why I’m a writer, not an actor. But when I write any animated character, my first step is usually to watch some old cartoons to make sure I have all the voices and speech patterns fresh in my head.
And, yes, there are moments when I head off to write Scooby, and my family and I chime in with a chorus of “Rooby-Roo!”
Will you write Scooby with an “r” at the beginning of nearly every word this time around?
Well, actually, I talk like that in real life, so… No, no, no. The real answer is yes, I do write pretty much every word of Scooby’s dialogue with an ‘r,’ which forces me to choose his words carefully so that they read well on the page. But in “Scooby-Doo Team-Up” #2, you’ll actually get a rare glimpse of Scooby’s dialogue without them. Since his conversations with Ace the Bat-Hound are translated from “dogspeak,” I figured that Scooby would talk like other dogs — namely, without the ‘r’s — when he’s barking. Enjoy it while it lasts.
In the first issue, Scooby and the Gang team-up with Batman and Robin. Can you tee up the first issue for us? How do their worlds collide?
Reports of a giant bat-creature bring Scooby and Mystery Inc. running, while they simultaneously bring Batman and Robin on a hunt for Man-Bat. Now, if you’re a Scooby fan, you’ll probably figure it’s a scam, and if you’re a Batman fan, you’ll probably expect the real thing. Which one is right? Well, let’s just say that, whichever camp you belong to, you won’t be disappointed.
Incidentally, I should also mention that another up side to the series is that it’s brought me back together with Dario Brizuela, who was one of my regular artists on “Super Friends” a few years back, as well as a couple of “Batman: Brave and the Bold” and “Scooby-Doo” stories since then. One of Dario’s great strengths is his ability to adapt to many different art styles, so he’s managed to unify the disparate looks of the Batman characters and the Scooby gang very nicely. After looking at his inks for the first issue earlier tonight, and catching up with him recently at the New York Comic Con, which we don’t get to do too often, since we live on different continents, I’m happy to say that the art looks great, and Dario’s looking forward to this series just as much as I am.
It’s a team-up book, but do the other members of Mystery Incorporated play a role as the series progresses?
Of course! It wouldn’t be Scooby without Shaggy and the rest of the gang. By the same token, you’ll find other members of the Bat-family on hand, too. As early as the second issue, you’ll see not only the first-ever team-up of Scooby and Ace the Bat-Hound, but also the first-ever meeting between Mystery Inc. and the Mystery Analysts of Gotham City. As an added treat for longtime fans, I’ve also expanded the roster of the Mystery Analysts to include a bunch of DC’s classic detective characters. One of them, in particular, is a natural fit for the Mystery Inc. gang, but I doubt anyone will see him coming.
There are lots more surprise guest stars and cameos waiting in the wings for subsequent issues too. Some of them are members of the Bat-family. Some aren’t. And there are some you wouldn’t believe even if I told you, which I won’t.
Is the Batman you are writing here different from the Batman of Grant Morrison or Scott Snyder?
Ha! Just a tad, I suppose. Although, considering Grant’s “black casebook” idea, maybe not so different after all.
It always blew my mind that Shaggy and Robin were both voiced by Casey Kasem. Any nods to that coinkidink in this series?
You noticed that too? Yeah, I’ve been looking for a natural place to work in a nod to it. I haven’t found one yet, but don’t be surprised if, before we’re done, someone comments on how much Shaggy and Robin sound alike.
In the second issue, Ace the Bat-Hound joins the action. For those unfamiliar with the character’s long history — he pre-dates Scooby by 14 years — what do we need to know about him, and does he play nice with Scooby?
Ace is exactly what he sounds like — Batman’s dog, who also dons a cape and cowl to fight crime. How can you not love a concept like that? Of course Ace plays nice with Scooby. They’re the Canine Crusaders! The Dynamic Scooby-Duo! They don’t even fight before they team-up.
According to the solicitations, this is a miniseries. How many issues do you have planned? And it also looks like both Batman and Robin are always along for the ride too. Is that the case throughout the run?
Actually, that answer has evolved more than you’d probably think. Originally, my editor, Kristy Quinn, asked me to pitch ideas for a “Scooby-Doo Meets Batman” one-shot. I sent a half-dozen or so pitches, figuring they’d pick the one they liked the best. So imagine my surprise and delight when Kristy told me, after they saw all the ideas I came up with, the Powers That Be decided to turn it into a six-issue limited series instead. And imagine my even greater surprise and delight when, a while later, it was expanded even further! Now, “Scooby-Doo Team-Up” is an ongoing series that begins with several issues featuring Scooby and Batman, but will then expand to team Scooby with familiar faces outside the Batman family.
Which characters may appear in future team-ups?
Well, I can’t say too much about that yet, because all of the necessary approvals are still being worked out. In the meantime, I can say that my wish list includes some real surprises from the DC Universe — and maybe even a few from beyond the DC Universe too.
Basically, my goal with the series is to have fun with the characters, and throw in enough surprises to keep everything interesting for readers young and old. That is, assuming we can keep the Scooby gang from pulling off Batman’s mask at the end of every adventure. You know, old habits are hard to break!
“Scooby-Doo Team-Up” #1, written by Sholly Fisch and featuring art by Dario Brizuela, lands in stores November 6.