The World's Finest Presents


The World's Finest Interviews writer/artist John Trumbull
Q & A Conducted by James Harvey

The World's Finest caught up with writer/artist John Trumbull to discuss his recent deep dive into the history of Batman: The Animated Series for the publication Back Issue. Issue #99 of the comic magazine celebrates the 25th anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, featuring a wealth of interviews, tributes and examinations of the classic cartoon and its massive pop culture impact. Trumbull breaks how Back Issue #99 came together, his own projects and works, and his connection to Batman: The Animated Series and what working on Back Issue meant to him personally. Continue reading for more.

The World's Finest - To start off, simply tell us a little about yourself, your work, and your general interest in Batman: The Animated Series. And...go!

John Trumbull: I started reading comic books when I was six, and that pretty much determined the shape of my life. My interest in drawing blossomed into an art career (including a few coloring books in the DCAU style for the DC Comics licensing department). I have a BFA in Graphic Design and graduated from the Joe Kubert School in 1997. Since 2012 I’ve been writing about comic books for Back Issue magazine from TwoMorrows Publishing. I also write the column “Crisis on Earth-T” for AtomicJunkShop.com, do stand-up comedy, and moderate panels at comic conventions whenever I can.

Batman: The Animated Series premiered during my junior year in college, and I was instantly hooked. The art, the stories, the music, and the voice acting were all top notch. It took the best of the comics and added cool new stuff to become one of the best—if not the best—versions of Batman ever!

WF: Now, can you break down how this special Back Issue came together? What made you want to do an issue based solely around the 25th anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series? What material did you want to make sure you covered here?

JT: One of the trickier things about writing for Back Issue is finding topics that haven’t been covered before. Since BI’s been around for nearly 100 issues now, there’s a lot of material that’s already been done. So you’re always trying to think of potential articles about something new. If you’re lucky, you suggest something to BI editor Michael Eury that makes him say, “Hey, that’s a great idea! And it would fit right in with the theme of this upcoming issue…”

So early in 2015, it occurred to me that the 25th anniversary of BTAS was coming up in 2017, and I fired off an email to Michael Eury pitching the idea of a BTAS article to him. He liked the idea, and thankfully he trusted me enough to do the main article in the issue. Later on, I also took on the article about the history of Harley Quinn.

WF: What type of work went into putting this issue together? The calls, the emails, the writing, just how much work did it entail and how did you manage to juggle it all? There’s clearly a wealth of work that went into Back Issue #99 … just how big did it become, in terms of the content you unearthed and put together?

JT: I had to do more legwork than usual to track people down for this one. After five years of writing for BI, I have contact information for a fair amount of comic book creators, but I haven’t talked to many people from the animation world before. So I was more or less starting from scratch. Some people I found through mutual friends, some people I found through their websites or representation, and some people I just found through Facebook or Google! The nice thing about living in the internet age is that there’s a wealth of ways to reach out to people – I’m sure that this was all tougher 20-25 years ago!

Some people I heard back from quickly, while others took weeks or months to respond (which you can’t take personally – these are busy people & you’re placing yet another demand on their time). I went back & forth with one person’s management for a month before we finally nailed down a time for a 30-minute phone call. But most everyone was very friendly and a pleasure to talk to.

I conducted my first interviews for the article in November of 2015, but the bulk of them I did between January and April of 2017. A few interviews were conducted via email, but I talked to a lot of people by phone – I’ve got about 12 hours’ worth of interviews with various BTAS people on my computer now. (A BIG thank you to Steven Thompson and Jon B. Knutson for all their assistance in transcribing those interviews – They really saved me a lot of time!)

Scheduling got a little more difficult when my day job became a full-time gig earlier this year – I had to do more interviews on evenings and weekends. Thankfully, the time difference between the east and west coasts worked out to my advantage there. Then, once I picked out the quotes I wanted to use, I did my best to weave them all together into a coherent history of the show. Judging from the feedback I’ve gotten so far, it turned out pretty well.

WF: For fans picking up this issue, can you tease of surprises will they find here? Having read the issue, the book definitely touches upon nearly every corner of Batman: The Animated Series, and arguably some of the forgotten aspects of the franchise. What do you think fans will be learning about for the first time here?

JT: I haven’t read the entire issue yet, so I can only speak for my articles, but there’s lot of cool tidbits in there. You’ll find out:

- What part Kevin Conroy wanted instead of Batman.

- Who the original voice actor for the Joker was, and why he was replaced.

- Why Sean Catherine Derek wanted to give Alfred a dog and put a recycling bin into the Batcave.

- How an episode of Days of Our Lives inspired the creation of Harley Quinn.

- How the film Batman and Robin delayed the release of Sub-Zero, and who the original villain was going to be.

- Why Batman editor Denny O’Neil didn’t want Harley Quinn incorporated into the DCU.

Plus there are cool articles about the Batmobile, BTAS voice actor Bob Hastings, The Batman Adventures and other DCAU comic books, as well as a reminiscence of the late, great Mike Parobeck! Any BTAS fan should find lots of stuff to enjoy!

WF: Did you have any moments, such as when interviewing members of the cast and crew, when it hit you that you're interviewing these iconic, talented people who are responsible for one of the most influential shows ever made? What was that like?

JT: Probably the biggest moment for me was getting an email from Kevin Conroy reading, “Let’s arrange a time to talk.” Let me tell you, it’s pretty much impossible not to read that in the voice of Batman!

Talking to Bruce Timm was also a thrill, as he’s been one of my artistic idols for a couple of decades now. I enjoyed bonding with BTAS directors Dan Riba and Kevin Altieri over our shared artistic backgrounds (Kevin’s also a graduate of the Kubert School!). Having phone conversations with voice actors like Kevin Conroy, Arleen Sorkin, and Tara Strong was lots of fun. And Andrea Romano is one of the nicest people you’d ever care to talk to. What a great person—and a great interview—she is!

WF: What did this project mean to you, personally? Is it safe to assume it's a 'dream come true'-type scenario for a long-time fan?

JT: Oh, definitely! Talking to all of these creative folks and getting to know them as people has been a definite highlight of the project.

For me, it was fun getting to satisfy my curiosity about BTAS and the DCAU in general – Although I tried not to go too fanboy on people.

WF: So the readers can learn a little more about yourself, do you have any favorite BTAS episodes, or even memories, that you can share? Perhaps something that helped drive you to put together this impressive anniversary celebration for the show?

JT: So many favorite BTAS episodes – If I had to list my Top 10, I’d go with “Heart of Ice”, the “Two-Face” and “Robin’s Reckoning” two-parters, “The Laughing Fish”, “Almost Got ’Im”, “The Demon’s Quest”, “Over The Edge”, and “Beware the Creeper.”

Favorite memories – It’s hard to beat “Hit him with a rock!”

In terms of what helped drive me, I was really inspired by the special BTAS issue that Cinefantastique put out in 1994, as well as Paul Dini and Chip Kidd’s book Batman: Animated from 1998. I really wanted to continue the great scholarship found in both of those, and discover even more about the show if I could. The World’s Finest is also a great resource for any DCAU fan!

WF - As we start to wrap this up, can you sum up why fans should be chomping at the bit to pick up this issue? Why should they rush out to snag this issue?

JT: BI #99 contains the only known anti-venom to Joker toxin in the world, so you’re taking your life in your hands if you don’t buy it. Plus, when it wins the Eisner next year, you’ll be able to say, “Oh yeah, that makes total sense. I saw that coming. That was a great issue and it totally deserves all the awards it’s been given. Even the Nobel Peace Prize.”

WF: Also, where else can we find you and your works? Do you have anything else you'd like to let us know about coming down the pipes?

JT: You can find me on Twitter as @TrumbullComic. I also write for AtomicJunkShop.com along with a bunch of other talented folks. You can see some of my art (including my Batman & Superman coloring books!) at johntrumbull.deviantart.com. And I continue to write for Back Issue, with an article on Marvel Comics’ Assistant Editors’ Month coming up in issue #103.

WF: Thanks again for your work in putting together an incredible celebration for BTAS' 25th anniversary! Any final thoughts to share with the readers and about this special issue of Back Issue?

JT: Thanks for the interview, James! It was a pleasure talking to you! Just that everyone reading this should buy a copy of Back Issue #99, and then come back for #100!

Check out Trumbull's Twitter account to be up-to-date on his latest works and musings, and swing by his Deviantart site for a closer look at his assorted projects.

Back Issue #99 is available now through comic shops along with traditional and digital outlets. To order a copy directly from the publisher, head over to TwoMorrows Publishing for more details. Featuring a who's who line-up of creators, Back Issue includes a wealth of articles and reports on the classic series, covering a host of topics, a BTAS episode guide, BTAS Batmobile toys, a Harley Quinn history, a look at DC's Batman Adventures and Animated Universe comic books, and so much more!

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