[Interview for Toon Zone News: 8th January 2004]
Matthew K Manning is a comic book writer probably most asscoiated by mainstream comic audiences for his work on Justice League Adventures. With two new trade paperback compilations of the Justice League Adventures being released later this month, Matthew speaks to Toon Zone about his popular Aquaman story An Angry Tide, which is featured in the second volume, Friend Or Foes.
Toon Zone: It's been a couple of years since you wrote "An Angry Tide." How do you feel about it retrospectively? Do you think you'd have approached any elements differently now?
Matthew K Manning: Like anything that I worked on in the past, I'd change a few things here and there. When I originally wrote the script, the Justice League cartoon hadn't even aired yet, so I probably would have altered the scene where the Martian Manhunter morphs into Aquaman. I still really like that idea, and I think it still works very well in the context of my story, but the same thing kinda' happens in the Aquaman episode of the series. But I'm no George Lucas or Stephen Spielberg, so I leave my work the way it originally was and I move on.
TZ: What sort of reception have you received to your work on Justice League Adventures? I recall the feedback at the time was rather positive.
Manning: So far it has been pretty positive. My favorite comment was from a lady whose son was a big fan of the Justice League cartoon, and who'd come across a signed copy of my issue. Her son sleeps with the comic at night. That's about the best praise anyone can get, really.
TZ: If you had the choice of any established comic book to write for at the moment, which would interest you the most?
Manning: That's a really tough question since I'd love to someday get the chance to contribute to most of the titles I read. Right now I'd probably say Nightwing, because he's like a Batman you can relate to. Either his title or Batgirl's, since they've only really scratched the surface on her personality. With Batgirl you'd have a lot to work with and much more freedom than most of the other big name superheroes.
TZ: When you last spoke to Toon Zone you said you were hoping to return to Justice League in the future. Is this on the cards? If the opportunity arose, would you be interested in picking up Aquaman again, or would you prefer to move onto a different aspect of the Justice League universe?
Manning: Actually, I sold my second script to Justice League Adventures several months ago. Since he juggles so many different artists and writers on his book, my editor, Steve Wacker, is able to have several different issues in progress at the same time. Of course, I always try to simplify his life by offering to take the book off his hands on a monthly basis, but he always mumbles something about other writers needing to feed their families or something and quickly hangs up the phone.
In all seriousness, I'm very excited about my second issue. It sports the art of Tim Levins and deals with Robin's first encounter with the Justice League. I've seen Tim's pencils and what he does with the animated style it just amazing. This issue easily tops my last one since I had a bit more time to flesh out the plot, and Tim just makes everything flow perfectly. Just don't ask me when it's coming out, 'cause I don't know.
TZ: Is there a method to your madness? How do you approach writing for an established series?
Manning: Actually if I had had to choose which comic would be the toughest to write for, hands down I would have chosen Justice League Adventures. Here you have the most powerful characters on the planet, so you have to find a challenge big enough for them, but you can't really change the status quo because it has to tie in with the show, and more than any other comic on the market, you have to make this book very appealing to kids and adults simultaneously. It was a very daunting task when editor Dan Raspler asking me to submit proposals for it. But it was my first venture into mainstream comics, and since I absolutely love the Bruce Timm animated shows, I jumped at the chance. Now I'm at the point where I can't stop thinking up ideas for this series. I just hope I get the chance to do a few more in the future.
TZ: Are there any other projects you are pitching or working on you'd like to tell us about?
Manning: I have one pitch in at DC right now, but most of the stuff that's occupying my time is in the underground category. We're just now finishing up my new special for Meathaus Comics entitled For Best Results: Do Not Open, that should be solicited in about three months in Previews and be for sale at www.meathaus.com in about one month. I'm also contributing an eight-page story to the 8th Meathaus annual, as well as a four-page little story for a charity book for Avatar. It's keeping me busy, but I'm always working on one or two mainstream proposals. Just nothing I can fill you guys in on yet.
TZ: Finally Aquaman's beard: Yay or nay?
Manning: The look I like for Aquaman is the beard, the long hair, and the orange uniform without the gloves. But any look where he's not wearing that tiara is all right with me.
Justice League Adventures Vol 2: Friend Or Foes was released on January 21st 2004