Seeking Wisdom with BoroughCon Grandmaster Marv Wolfman

Marv Wolfman

Few writers in any medium have reached the heights of their profession to a similar extent as Marv Wolfman, whom BoroughCon will honor as its first grandmaster. His body of work is extensive and ranges across a vast array of genres. Wolfman demonstrated his mastery over writing horror through his seminal work on Tomb of Dracula. His book about an occult team of heroes, Night Force, was a brilliant series, written in a style well ahead of its times in both content and themes.

Wolfman also resurrected the Teen Titans title and introduced to the world the characters of Cyborg and Raven. Both these characters have appeared across all forms of media, Cyborg being voiced in animation by BoroughCon’s own Khary Payton. Cyborg will have a starring role in the upcoming mega-movie, Justice League. Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, based on a story by Wolfman, and featuring another of his seminal creations, Deathstroke, has recently been adapted by DC Animation into a movie. The list of Wolfman’s achievements in the genre of superhero stories is far too long a list to highlight each of his well-loved stories here. Perhaps the story by Marv Wolfman that left the most influential impact on comics as we know them today is Crisis on Infinite Earths. This series not only set the stage for every event series that followed, but its impression is still being felt in the DC universe to this day. There is no one in the industry that does not owe a debt to “Marvelous Marv,” with whom I had the singular fortune speak.

Recently, Wolfman began using Facebook to host live videos about the craft of comic book writing. I asked about his motivation.

I’ve been doing a writing seminar at different conventions all over the world and the crowds wanting to hear them keep getting larger,” he said. “Last year it got so crowded we couldn’t even let in all the people who had been waiting in line to attend… and that was in a triple-sized room. I thought doing a series of smaller, live seminars would be something those people would enjoy.”

Given his immense body of work, which projects surprised him the most with how well they have survived the passage of time?

The reaction to my scripts on the original Transformers cartoon series has been surprising; we didn’t get much reaction back when we did them,” he told me. “I co-wrote the two-part ‘Return of Optimus Prime’ episodes and I think because the viewers who liked them are now older and can send emails, and also because the DVDs are out there to remind the viewers who wrote them, I’m getting very nice comments now. ”

Night Force is one of my personal favorites so I was curious about what inspired it.

“After eight years writing Tomb of Dracula, I wanted to do a horror series featuring a cast that changed instead of remained the same,” Wolfman replied. “That way each story could be unique with real turns and twists, rather than always using the same characters which of course meant they couldn’t die or be changed in some way. The Baron Winters character was there to provide a minimum of continuity. And by the way, I’ve always said Night Force is the favorite of all the series I created. It was constantly experimental and adult before there were other adult comics.”

We’ve all heard about the difficulties of writing for Star Trek or Star Wars or some other universe that someone else created. But what about the creator’s point of view? I asked Wolfman what he thought about changes made to characters whom he created, and if he believed that, when new writers takes over his franchises, they ought to consult with him. His response was characteristically generous.

“I do not believe new writers should have to speak to the previous writers or creators. I didn’t,” he said. “Each writer needs to do what they believe is best for the series. To that end I never read any of the characters I create after I leave the book.”

So, setting our gaze forward, what projects are Wolfman most looking forward to?

“I hope we’ll see more Raven stories,” he said.  “And I also do writing outside of comics: animation, video game writing, books and more. But I only talk about them when they’re about to come out.”

Here’s hoping we have much more to talk about soon.