Emmy award-winning writer Zeb Wells spoke with CBR TV about working in both comics and television, the atmosphere in the “Robot Chicken” writer’s room and how one format feeds the way he approaches the other. Wells also looks at the reaction to his President Obama issue of “Amazing Spider-Man,” his desire to eventually dive into the creator-owned comics pool, working with Bryan Cranston on his Adult Swim pilot “Ãœbermensch,” his intention to keep Jeph Loeb’s basic plan in place when it comes to “Nova” and more.
On working in both comics and television: It’s great, now that I can do both of them because they both have their own benefits. Comic books is so much fun, because it is just you, attacking the story, trying to figure it out, getting it done and a lot of your voice comes through. But the negative of that is if you’re stuck, you’re just stuck and there’s no one to talk to and you can just fall into a black hole for a week — weeks at a time.
And then, on the TV side, it’s more active. You’re in there, you know, your ideas have to survive other people’s ideas and it’s more competitive which kind of gets the juices flowing a little bit more than comics do. It’s just fun to go back and forth, ’cause you always learn something over here that you bring over to comics, and you learn something in comics that you bring over to the other stuff.
On whether or not he’d like to show his flare for comedy in his comics: I think when I started writing comics, it was more funny and, I don’t know — I do try tog et a little darker in the comics than even I probably would have thought. Maybe it’s just my brain doing the funny stuff over there and kind of desiring to not do that in the other world… Another reason, which I probably shouldn’t be saying, is: Comedy’s harder. Comedy is much harder to do. If you want to write a page, and you want this page to be full of jokes, you can spend hours and hours and hours on that page. And then, if you fail, the stakes are a lot higher, because if you fail at comedy, I feel like you look like an idiot. Where, drama — I always found it’s just a lot — you know where the binary relationship between good and bad is, happy and sad. It’s easy to just show, oh, this is a dramatic thing that’s just happened, whereas funny is just — it takes a lot more energy.
On the reaction his Obama/Spider-Man story received from the general public: It did kind of freak me out because, you know, what I had written was basically just an old [Hostess] fruit pie ad in comic book form. So it was kind of weird that it was so popular, but then, obviously it wasn’t popular because of my writing. When I went to signings, people weren’t coming up to me and saying, ‘ “Hey — the way you captured Obama in this five-page story…” It was just all about Obama and the kind of groundswell of support that he had gained. It was something that I couldn’t really take credit for, but was just a nice little cherry on top of that year. It was fun.
On taking over Marvel’s “Nova” ongoing title from departing writer Jeph Loeb: I got the job because [editor] Steve Wacker caught me at a point where I had some time off. He had been sending me the “Nova” comics because he was just proud of them, and I had just fallen in love with them. So I’m kind of coming at it as a fan of what Jeph did. Jeph has been great, and we’ve had a few long conversations about the character. I was kind of going down one direction and I had a conversation with him, and he said he wanted to make sure that Nova remains an idiot. [>Laughter He wants it to be clear that Nova’s a 14-year-old kid, he is not competent at what he’s doing — he makes foolish decisions. There was something about him saying that that kind of solidified my take on the character.