Sunday, July 24, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: “Super Friends”—Marc Scott Zicree, writer

Introduction to series “Super ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Introduction to subseries "Super Friends" (including a list of interviewees).

How did you get the job to write for Super Friends?

When I got out of college, I was friends with a writer named Michael Reaves. I started writing The Twilight Zone Companion with the goal to get into television. Michael and I collaborated on Space Ghost and Smurfs. By then I was able to write my own episodes. We were writing for most of the animation shows. Michael became the first client of Candy Monteiro and I became the second.

How already fans of these characters before you got the job?

I grew up reading them. I read lots of comics in the 1960s. I think I’d seen Super Friends but not regularly.

Did you create any of the original characters such as the Wonder Twins, Apache Chief, Black Vulcan, Samurai, or El Dorado? If not, what do you know about who created them and what the process was?

I don’t know specifics but I do know that during that period there was a move to integrate. And certainly, we were all in our twenties and liberal politically. We were wholeheartedly behind [the characters]. I didn’t even see the drawings of the characters before I wrote them. The main thing we were trying to do is come up with storylines that hadn’t been done before.

I did one early on and then a couple seasons later I did more. The first one was “The Lava Men.” Until you contacted me I didn’t remember writing the later ones. I was writing multiple shows in a given week. “Lava Men” was really fun—let’s do something really goofy and cool. The 1950s movies were influencing me.

Did you come up with the stories on your own or did producers guide you in any way (i.e. “we want a story with dinosaurs,” etc.)?

They’d say what they were looking for. They’d always give us sample scripts. The main thing was to say how does it differ from the comics? It was certainly more shallow than the comics.

Not much room for characterization?

That time (the early ‘80s) was just before the writing [in animation] got deeper. For about 20 years I never used to tell people I wrote for animation. My main goal was to get into live action. So animation was where I learned structure, but didn’t plan to stay. I ended up writing for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Sliders and Babylon 5. Michael invited me to write for Batman: The Animated Series but I declined. Looking back, I’d wish I’d done it! I’m on the Super Friends DVD set. Whatever was the second season I did. [Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show]

Micheal Reaves wrote an episode where I was the villain. A character called Zi-Cree the Kryptonian. We would frequently put in private jokes.

What challenges were involved in writing SF?

The main challenge was variety because they’d done so many episodes. We’d type up one-page premises. I would often come up with a number of premises at once and pitch them. Often the difference was to find a visual variation, which is why “Lava Men” was fun. I had always kind of hoped I could write the Superman comic book but ultimately I moved into novels and features. It was more fun writing characters I wasn’t familiar with.

Were there any you ended up being disappointed with?

No. I didn’t do many. With Filmation, it was no more than one motion per shot. At Hanna-Barbera, the restrictions weren’t as narrow.

Where did you write—at home, on site at Hanna-Barbera, or a combination?

Usually I’d write at home or at UCLA. I never wrote at the studio. I wasn’t on staff on those shows. Later I was a story editor on live-action shows. When computers came in, it was much easier. I had a Kaypro, an early personal computer about the size of a personal refrigerator. We’d hand-deliver those scripts. It was very fast, done in a few days.

Did you ever incorporate a Twilight Zone idea into Super Friends?

Not in Super Friends, but in other cartoons. But it was all grist for the mill. I was a child of the 1960s—Star Trek, Gardner Fox, Gil Kane, Curt Swan. These were among our inspirations. But there were the limitations.

How much interaction, if any, did you have with the voice actors?

Not on Super Friends but I loved voice actors. Many of the Super Friends actors were actors I grew up adoring. Later I got to be friends with certain voice actors and didn’t realize I’d written for them twenty years earlier. Hanna-Barbera tended to keep it closeted. They didn’t want writers interacting with others in the trenches. Sometimes I’d meet the concept artists and have input because my background in visual arts.

Do you still have any of your original SF scripts?

Probably in my shed. A half-hour script was 52 pages back then. You had to call every single shot.

What are you doing these days?

I recently did the audio commentary for 52 episodes of The Twilight Zone Blu-ray. I’m being read as a possible writer for Mad Men. I was nominated in 2008 for the Hugo and the Nebula. I’ve written over 100 scripts for TV. I write TV and film and books.

Next: Glenn Leopold (writer).


Michael Bradley said...

I am really enjoying this series! Thanks for putting the time into recognizing these "unsung" creators.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks Michael. Wait till you see who/what is coming up soon in this series!