After a flurry of activity (read: twitter) to get his attention, the dedicated team at GeekMundo finally got the chance to speak with the wildly creative Jim Krieg whose list of credits includes Story Editor on USA’s MONK, Producer for Cartoon Network’s GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and currently, Producer & Head Writer for SPOOKSVILLE on The Hub Network. We talked about SpooksVille and posed a hypothetical which he couldn’t resist. Here’s hoping Krieg is behind the next big hit in Hollywood!
GeekMundo: Your past work is incredibly varied and most know you from your work on TV shows like Monk, Batman: The Brave & The Bold and Ben 10. Your latest work is the fantastic “SpooksVille” on The Hub. Can you tell us why you chose to adapt the adventures of Adam, Watch and Sally from the beloved book series, and tell us more about what makes SpooksVille tick?
Jim Krieg: Well, sometimes you choose what you write, and sometimes it chooses you. The phrase that keeps coming up ever since my association with SPOOKSVILLE began has been,“There is no such thing as coincidence in Spooksville.”
Jim photobombs initial meeting of Ann and Adam on the set of SpooksVille
For example, on the very day we learned that GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES would not be moving forward (sob!), I received an email from my friend the brilliant producer Jane Startz telling me about Spooksville, a book series by Christopher Pike which she had set up at the Hub Network. She’d been developing the project for a while and had some scripts by Dan Angel and Billy Brown, the talented team behind R.L. STEIN’S THE HAUNTING HOUR. Fortunately for me, their show had been picked up and Jane needed a writer on SPOOKSVILLE. The network had also decided to change the show from a straight horror to comedic horror/adventure and they liked my take.
GM: Even with the warning, SpooksVille is a great family oriented show, with a strong ‘tween’ audience. How do you as a writer, strike a balance between making something creepy and scary, yet not too nightmare inducing for that demographic?
JK: To me SPOOKSVILLE is more like a mystery-comedy roller coaster ride than outright horror. It’s like the GOONIES meets BUFFY meets MONSTER SQUAD meets EERIE, INDIANA meets… er, well, basically every show I’ve ever loved rolled into one. All of them have a scary moment or two, but nothing that’ll make you pass out. Plus, in terms of creatures, the SPOOKSVILLE crew does an amazing job stretching a limited budget, but most of our monsters tend to stick to the shadows, which is a.) pretty creepy and b.) keeps the grotesque elements to a minimum. Also, the actors (Keean Johnson, Katie Douglas, Nick Purcha and Morgan Taylor Campbell) are all amazingly funny and have become masters of using comedy to cut the tension.
The cast of SpooksVille wait impatiently for Kreig to finish the script.
GM: Now, you’ve been busy with a few other projects outside of SpooksVille. My inner comic book geek is really excited about one in particular… SHAZAM! Can you tell us, will this series focus on the wizard called Shazam or the hero, Captain Marvel? What are some of the challenges with writing such an iconic character?
JK: I’m not sure this has been officially announced (if it exists at all, that is), so I must plead the Fifth. However, generally speaking, the story of an old wizard lurking in a subway station would be a hard sell.
GM: Hehe. I hear that. Now, I really enjoyed your work on the WB/DC animated adventure “The Flashpoint Paradox.” Can you take us through the screenwriting process for that film? Did you collaborate closely with Geoff Johns to hammer out the beats of the story arc or simply worked from his notes?
JK: Oh, thanks! That was another assignment that fell into my lap (thank you, Geoff Johns!). I started working on the DTV at the same time that the comics were being written and illustrated (by Geoff, Andy Kubert and all the other brilliant DC writers and artists). They would send me over a mountain of scripts and copies of the raw pencils (pre-lettering) and I had to try and put them together like a jigsaw puzzle. There was just so much great material, the hardest part was deciding what to cut out. It was an embarrassment of riches. I was duly terrified of messing up Geoff and Andy’s story, but they couldn’t have been more supportive. And on the WB side, James Tucker, Jay Oliva and Alan Burnet were like the Dream Team.
GM: Lately, there has been a bit of chatter concerning a (recently proved incorrect) theory that would have made Wonder Woman in the Man of Steel sequel, Kryptonian. If, per chance, you were asked to write for the film (hint hint, Warner Bros), what kind of take might you present on Diana instead?
JK: I don’t know, I love Wonder Woman’s origin. Paradise Island. The competition. The blonde wig. Isn’t it as much of our culture as Crime Alley and the Kent farm by now? I showed the Lynda Carter pilot to my grade school age daughter and she flipped for it.
GM: I simply gotta know: what are you watching / reading today? We always like to know what the industries most creative minds are poring over in their downtime.
Jim Krieg: My nightstand overfloweth. I’m reading The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King. I just finished The Language of God by Francis Collins. I treated myself to a giant Prince Valiant collection for my birthday and I can read those again and again. I have a bunch of comic book within reach, of course; Scott Snyder, JM DeMatteis, Andy Kubert, Geoff Johns and the usual suspects. Oh, and These Are the Voyages by Marc Cushman, which is a very detailed account of making the first season of STAR TREK, because, yes, I am just that nerdy. As for what I’m watching? The Olympics! It’s my opportunity to watch sports on TV and it only comes every two years! Once that’s over, it’s back to SHERLOCK, DOWNTOWN, ARROW, WALKING DEAD and all the good stuff that most people watch. Most people I know, anyway!
GM: Ain’t nothing wrong with being nerdy, man! Ha ha! Now, my last question is deeply personal: What was it like to be close friends with ‘The Maestro’ Dwayne McDuffie? (he was a HUGE part of my love for comics). How did his approach to story and characters affect or influence your own style of writing?
Krieg’s mentor, the late Dwayne McDuffie, honoured in “Ultimate Spider-Man”
Jim Krieg: I’m afraid I’ve kind of dragged my heels in answering this question and now, as I write this, I find it’s the third anniversary of his death. I hesitate to talk about Dwayne in these situations because I don’t want to seem like I’m somehow cashing in on our friendship. Which, when I think about it, is kind of ironic, because when he was still around I never hesitated to take advantage of my access to him. I rarely had a TV or movie pitch that I wouldn’t run by the Maestro first. I always walked away with a better pitch. I couldn’t possibly list all the things I learned from Dwayne, but here’s the first one to come to mind: DON’T SAVE IT. A lot of times writers get a great idea for a plot twist or some clever reveal and we think it’s so good we should save it for an upcoming episode. Don’t save it. By the time you get to that future episode, you’ll have come up with a bunch of new clever ideas, so use it now! That way, maybe the show will be interesting enough to warrant future episodes.
GeekMundo: May Dwayne’s light continue to shine on. Jim, it has been a genuine pleasure to talk with you! I dub thee, Sir Spooks! GeekMundo will be keeping a close eye on SpooksVille and everything else that gets your Midas touch.