Legendary animation writer Paul Dini joined CBR’s Kiel Phegley during Comic-Con International in San Diego to discuss an array of topics, touching briefly on “Batman: The Animated Series,” how he broke into animation and launched his career and his thoughts on the wide variety of animated offerings available for modern audiences. Dini also digs in deep on what has gone into developing Harley Quinn and her current incarnation.
On his long career in writing: My career goes back to almost everybody’s childhood. I’ve been in this business for so long — almost 30 years, I can’t believe it. Writing animation, it was how I got through college my last year. I started writing cartoons for a studio called Filmation and they had the circular title at the end of “Fat Albert” and “Masters of the Universe” and stuff like that. Other kids would get a part-time job working at a coffee shop. I would get a part-time job writing cartoons. So when I went out to L.A. around 1980, I just jumped right into it.
On the spectrum of different animated shows that are produced today: I think you can find shows that have a more dramatic bend to them, and those will always exist. Those will be around mostly for older kids and for longtime cartoon fans, but I also think people are looking toward cartoons as a way of filling in a gap that used to be filled by comic books themselves. Little kids don’t have a lot of options to get comic books outside of a comic book store or downloading in everyday life. They don’t sell them in as many venues as they did when I was a kid. When they watch TV and they watch a show like “Ultimate Spider-Man,” it’s a little more appealing to them because it has more of a humorous take to it. Spider-Man’s on screen a lot as Spider-Man. Not so much the Peter Parker soap opera sub-plots, but I think it’s more where a kid is.
On developing “Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” for Marvel Television and Disney XD: When I met with Jeph Loeb and talked to him initially about the Hulk, one of the things we kept coming back to was that the kids love the Hulk, but there’s a bit of uncertainty. Is he a monster or is he a hero? If he was going to be a hero, how would you show that? We worked pretty hard on that idea and we thought that maybe Hulk is trying to prove to the world that he’s a hero. Actually, Hulk has to be sort of shoe-horned into that by Rick Jones because Hulk, left to his own devices, would rather be by himself. He’s a rhinoceros. A rhinoceros would like nothing more than to graze in peace and not have anybody bother him. But if anybody comes into his territory, off he goes in a rage. Hulk, when we first see him in the series, is off by himself pumping a fantastic amount of weights. Rick, who’s always thought of the Hulk as a brother … really wants to get him out as a hero. He gets the idea of, “What if we do a web-show, a reality-based show, that shows the Hulk in action?”
On watching the evolution of Harley Quinn: I was very happy that Jimmy [Palmiotti] and Amanda [Conner] are taking her over because I like them as creators, I like them personally and I know they have a lot of affection for Harley. When I saw the new look on her, I was going, “That’s cute! That really works!” That’s not only of the moment, it’s also five minutes from now, because roller derby is really growing across the country. Our producer on the Hulk, Henry Gilroy, is actually the coach of a roller derby team. His girlfriend is a roller derby girl. I think it combines a lot of elements of cosplay and rough and tumble action and empowerment and everything. Harley is a natural fit in there. When I saw the look, I said, “I could see her doing that. That’s a lot of fun.”