Saturday, July 23, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: “Super Friends”—Michael Reaves, 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

First off, keep in mind, please, that all this took place a long time ago. I think I was still typing on a typewriter then. I barely remember any of this—and there were so many shows I wrote for in the ‘80s and early ‘90s that I’ve forgotten entire series I helped create and shape. (I’m not bragging; this is said with a kind of “I can’t believe I did that” air of wonderment.)
With that caveat, then, I’ll plunge ahead. As I said, I got the assignment to write the first script in 1981. It wasn’t an on-staff position; it was three separate work-for-hire agreements.

How familiar with the characters were you before you got the job?

The characters that made up the Justice League—Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, et. al., I was very familiar with, of course. Characters like El Dorado—not so much.

Which episodes did you write?

Oh god…”The Evil from Krypton,” “Scorpio,” and “Palette’s Perils.”

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.)?

Don’t recall any producer input. I dealt almost exclusively with the story editor, whose name was David Villaire. Nice guy; very easygoing. I just came up with a bunch of ideas and arenas (i.e., “giant mutated insects,” “Middle Eastern desert”) and he’d pick from Column A, Column B, etc.

What, besides the obvious given that it was aimed at children, was off-limits for a script?

As long as we kept the stories simple and had good triumph, we could do pretty much what we wanted. Our only restrictions were budgetary, which were pretty draconian—no more than four or five characters in a shot, of which only or two were actually allowed to move; the rest were part of the background. That sort of thing.

How long did it take you to write one episode?

About a week. (I was faster then.)

Were there any characters you found more fun to write than others?

Superman was kinda fun because I wrote him as someone who didn’t really give a hoot. He’s like, “Forget whipping any man on the planet—I can whip any nation. In fact, I’ll take on an entire continent!”

Of the episodes you wrote, do you have a favorite?

The one featuring Superman, “The Evil from Krypton.” It was such a good plot that I used it again as the basis for an issue of Superman Adventures about 12 years later. (Plus the original had as a villain the nefarious Zi-Kree the Kryptonian.) [a nod to fellow scribe Marc Scott Zicree]

Were there any you ended up being disappointed with?

You’re not serious. Son, back then we were lucky if we could watch any of ‘em without cringing behind the couch.

At the time, did you have a set writing routine—same time every day, for example?

My routine was to write until I dropped. Then sleep, eat, and write some more.

What brought your time as a SF scribe to an end? Did you choose to move on or did they replace you with other writers?

I guess it was my choice, as they were out of assignments.

Do you have any other SF memorabilia from the era (i.e. cards signed by cast members, candid photos, etc.)?

I must be the most boring writer on the planet. No.

Was there ever a SF cast and crew party of any kind?

I kinda doubt it, but I wasn’t invited if there was.

ow aware are you of the influence that SF had on the current generation of comic book writers?

It frankly scares the bejeezus out of me to contemplate it.

How often do you get e-mails from SF fans?

Maybe every couple of months someone’ll mention it.

When was the last time you watched one of your SF episodes?

Good god—they’re all on videotape in the garage, guarded by giant, attack-trained black widow spiders. Every few months I poke around the web to see if mine have been released yet. So far, no.

How do you look back on your time writing SF?

It was a gig. More fun than writing Smurfs, that’s for sure.

Has anyone else interviewed you about SF?

Not about
Super Friends, no.

What has been your favorite series to write for?

My top four series, in descending order:

Batman: The Animated Series
/Gargoyles (depends on how I feel)

Dungeons & Dragons

The Real Ghostbusters

I won an Emmy and was nominated for a second one for Batman: The Animated Series.

What are you writing these days?

Mostly books and screenplays; the occasional comic book (I wrote a JSA, for example.)

4/5/23 addendum: I learned that Michael passed away 3/20/23.


Richard said...

This is the first time I've ever seen an interview with either Michael Reaves or Marc Scott Zicree, but I've been seeing both their names on television for decades now. They've both done a lot of good stuff. How cool to have a little bit of personality attached to each of those names at last!

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

I felt the same, RAB! Wait till you see who is coming up...broadly, a whole lot more super-people whose names you will recognize yet who have not been interviewed before.