Creator Profile: Greg Weisman by Jerry Whitworth
An editor, producer, and writer, Greg Weisman has worked in what seems like almost every area of animation save drawing it himself. Weisman has even found time while taking animation by storm to work in the comic book industry, having penned Captain Atom and Young Justice and developed series for Red Tornado and Black Canary that would later be adapted in other ways. It’s hard to say what exactly Weisman is best known for: likely most of his career could be pointed towards his cult-followed Disney’s Gargoyles run, but in recent years he’s also worked to much acclaim on the series Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice (not to, of course, discount his input for W.I.T.C.H., Max Steel, and various other programs). One thing is clear, when Weisman creates a show, he doesn’t make it for children; no, he makes a show for all-ages, something many equate to be one and the same. But, if the results Weisman and company have achieved are any indication, it’s that making a show either an adult or child can enjoy watching is not only possible, but it can be done time and again.
Some of Weisman’s earliest known professional work was writing entries for DC Comics’ Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe before editing for series like Secret Origins and Young All-Stars. It was from here he would co-wrote Captain Atom alongside Cary Bates. It was during this time he made an early leap into animation, writing for the television series Jem. Working as an English teacher, Weisman had a desire to incorporate various mythologies into a single series, a desire realized with creating Gargoyles for Disney. While the first season largely rooted the mythology of the Gargoyles (while slyly implanting themes from William Shakespeare’s plays such as Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream), for the second season we were introduced to the world of magic hidden from the public at large, much like the Gargoyles themselves. It was also during the second season Weisman brought on board Cary Bates from his DC Comics days as a series writer (Weisman largely making a career on close ties with people he has shared a working relationship with). Creating a great story for the series would only be one chief area Gargoyles would be remembered for, for it would also be fondly admired because of its incorporation of Star Trek alumni. People like Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Brent Spiner, known for portraying William Riker, Deanna Troi, and Data, respectively, on Star Trek: The Next Generation became the voices of reoccurring characters David Xanatos, Demona, and Puck. In fact, nine Star Trek actors played characters on the animated series (not including actors who guest-starred on Star Trek and also did voices for Gargoyles). Unfortunately, Gargoyles, which was a daily afternoon program, was moved to Saturday morning with its third season (renamed Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles) and Weisman was no longer involved with the show. This mixture of elements led to the series’ demise with a total of seventy-eight episodes. It wouldn’t be until 2006 new Gargoyles material would emerge, this time in the form of two comic book series published by Slave Labor Graphics and written by Weisman. However, after two years Disney raised its licensing fees and the two series came to an end. Since 1997, there was an annual Gargoyles convention called the Gathering of Gargoyles that lasted until 2009 held in different places across the United States that invited cast members and creators from the series to meet and greet fans.
While Weisman moved on to other projects like Men in Black: The Series, Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Max Steel, Bionicle: Mask of Light, The Batman, Ben 10, Kim Possible, W.I.T.C.H., and DC Showcase: Green Arrow, perhaps his next most critically-acclaimed work came in Spectacular Spider-Man. Coming off of series like Spider-Man Unlimited and Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, it seemed as though fans had given up on a Spider-Man animated series that could hit certain beats they expected from the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. Even the Spider-Man film franchise seemed to hit a wall as the third film premiered to mixed reviews (eventually, the franchise would be rebooted to make way for the upcoming the Amazing Spider-Man film with actor Andrew Garfield portraying the titular character). The while, Spider-Man had spun into two popular franchises in the comics: the original and his Ultimate counterpart. When it was announced Spectacular Spider-Man was in production under Weisman, fans asked which franchise it would adapt. Wanting to make the best possible product, Weisman and his team stated it would be its own story, borrowing elements from both franchises (and the films) to make something old and new fans would love while bringing in another generation of followers. Alongside Victor Cook, Weisman crafted another mythology for Spider-Man featuring the hero who juggled high school, work (at one point, two jobs), and being a superhero. The series largely picks up where the webhead has drawn the ire of organized crime, led by Tombstone (voiced by Keith David who previously voiced the main protagonist of Gargoyles in Goliath) in place of the more commonly known Kingpin (who was tied up with Daredevil’s rights to Fox), employing dirty businessman Norman Osborn to create supervillains to deal with his superhero problem (offering a more plausible solution to why supervillains began appearing after Spider-Man’s emergence). Unfortunately for webhead and Weisman, the show only lasted two seasons of a total twenty-six episodes when Disney purchased Marvel, deciding to drop the Sony-produced series for something made in-house (which became the Ultimate Spider-Man series). Weisman would contribute to the Amazing Spider-Man comic for the April 2010 issue in a touching story about former Peter Parker nemesis Flash Thompson who lost his legs in combat.
Despite the loss of what many consider the best adaptation of Spider-Man to animation, Weisman moved on to something even bigger. Sam Register of Warner Bros Animation wanted to produce an animated series that combined elements of the Teen Titans and Young Justice, essentially a show about the Justice League’s teenage sidekicks. Upon cancellation of Spectacular Spider-Man, Register immediately snatched up Weisman to helm the project. Along with Brandon Vietti, who worked on Batman: Under the Red Hood, a massive effort was undertaken with Young Justice. People often cite Justice League Unlimited as this massive cast that spanned the world, while with Young Justice the world was very much the first season with its second Invasion seemingly taking on the universe itself. Thus far in one and a half seasons, the show has featured nearly 300 unique characters. However, even among this huge ensemble, the series centers around the group of teenage heroes known simply as the Team, sidekicks of the Justice League’s members. As with Spectacular Spider-Man, Weisman borrowed from the various incarnations of the characters, making the group largely of the best teenage heroes from DC Comics’ rich history (for example, the Robin employed is the original Dick Grayson while featuring newer heroes like Superboy and Impulse). Weisman and company even created an original character, Aqualad (the son of Black Manta working as Aquaman’s apprentice), one that would be adapted to the DC Comics proper. The comic publisher was so impressed with Weisman’s product, they even dignified his work as one of the 52 Earths for their multiverse model (further, DC publishes a monthly comic based on the show that adds to the series’ mythology, Weisman co-writing the book as of its seventh issue). Presently, the show is on hiatus until September, but the series has quickly become a contender for one of the best comic book animated series ever done (perhaps even one of the best for American television animation in general).
To learn more about Young Justice: