Greetings once more fair travelers of the perilous realm! Today, we bring you the last installment of our interview with Scott Devine, producer of Necessary Evil, a documentary on the villains of DC Comics. If you missed them, you can read part one here and part two here. And of course, you can check out the audio below.
Viking: Do you have a favorite villain-centric story?
Scott: Oh gosh, list your favorite movie of all time. There are many I love. I’ll mention one or two and I think a lot of people will nod when I say – and this is the comic book that got me back into collecting – one short book called The Killing Joke written by Alan Moore and it came out in the late 1980’s. It basically tried to be the first definitive attempt to tell the origin story of the Joker. It took the Joker who is considered the most psychotic of characters and made him a little bit sympathetic. You’re like “I don’t condone what he does but I kinda see what could push a person.” It was the idea…”can one bad day change you forever?” For the Joker it did. He tries to do that to another character in the Batman mythology. Again, I won’t give it away because if you haven’t read The Killing Joke, you absolutely have to read The Killing Joke. It’s a phenomenal book and it’s really about the Joker.
There are other one-shots of Lex Luthor and certain other characters, and this makes me want to mention Villains Month, which DC did this past September where DC did these one-shots of all the villains. They took over the entire DC universe and they had 52, 53 if you count Forever Evil#1, one-shots where the villains were the center of the story. And there are some great ones; new takes on Bizzaro, Cyborg Superman, Doomsday, Sinestro and introduce a few new characters.
As you can tell, you give me a short question and I can go on forever. I’m a bit enthusiastic about the material.
Viking: That’s quite alright. After all people are here to listen to you. Now, you brought up a couple of characters that immediately bring to mind a question that I, and I am sure others have about villains. How is it that somebody like, say Vandal Savage who’s been around forever – almost literally – and has a massive fortune and apparatus, what is it that keeps these guys from winning? Why doesn’t Vandal Savage, or Lex Luthor, or somebody rule the world?
Scott: Well, you know Vandal Savage, a character we cover in the documentary is a guy who was basically a caveman who gained intelligence and immortality by a meteorite with some kind of extraterrestrial power and his strength is he can learn from time. He can say, “oh that didn’t work. I can spend some time and gather my resources.” He has in a way the ultimate knowledge and experience in that he’s lived it all. Why do characters like Vandal Savage, Lex Luthor, the Joker and all of that not take over the world? I think if you ask a lot of writers and I agree with a lot of them, the biggest reason is that the villains seem to get in their own way. Especially when they team up. Some villain always seems to stab another villain in the back. That’s just the way it goes.
But the idea is that the villains do sometimes actually succeed. If not in the long term, for a while. Villains have killed heroes, the Joker killed Robin, Doomsday killed Superman. Villains at times will cause lasting physical and emotional scars. But the idea that the villain actually completely wins, well where do you go from there? You don’t want it to be like the Washington Generals always loosing to the Harlem Globetrotters. There’s a reference for ya. You always want to be on the cusp, you do want them to win occasionally. What did they win? Like four games out of 10,000?
Dan Didio, one of the heads here at DC had a great quote which is in the documentary. “The hero has to win every time while the villain only has to win once. And you’re always asking , “is this the time the bad guys win?” And in the current Forever Evil story-line, it looks like the Crime Syndicate, the evil version of the Justice League, has succeeded, that they have either killed or somehow done away with the Justice League. Where we stand now, issue #2 has come out and I’m still trying to figure out where the Justice League is. So yeah, villains get in their own way at times and they get close to winning. But we want good to triumph over evil. We wanna believe that good will triumph over evil. If not, why are we all trying to be good?
Viking: Exactly. Now, you’ve been around a long time and you’ve done a lot of other projects. What else have you worked on and what else might we see your name associated with in the future?
Scott: Past projects, I’ve worked on several things. I’ve actually written a trilogy of feature films that were produced. A film called Shark Attack, Shark Attack 2 and Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. They are shark-type movies where the sharks are going around eating people like popcorn. You can find them, they still occasionally play on HBO, Cinemax, the SyFy Channel, USA Network. You can find them on Amazon or occasionally on a Netflix rotation. I’ve done a lot of writing for magazines. In addition, for a period of seven or eight years I was doing DVD special features, behind the scenes, all those extras, the audio commentaries, the making of’s. I was the person who created all that material for the studios. I worked on probably about a hundred titles, the DC animated titles, Batman animated, Superman animated, Justice League, Batman Beyond, Teen Titans, The Batman, old shows like that. Other fun series’ like La Femme Nikita, Babylon 5 Gilligan’s Island, Friends for a couple of seasons. And a lot of fun movies like Dawn of the Dead, Terminator 3, Driving Miss Daisy, The Right Stuff, a whole bunch of them. If someone has a really large DVD collection, I’d wager that there are one or two DVDs on their shelves that have my finger prints on it. In addition I’ve also done EPK which are known as electronic press kits which is when you go on set and shoot a bunch of material that ends up being used by media outlets like Entertainment Tonight and things like that. When they play snippets from the movies or TV shows, a lot that is stuff I was working on gathering. It’s a wide variety of stuff.
As for what’s coming up down the road, I do have several things that are in motion but unfortunately I can’t talk about them at this point. Just like I couldn’t talk about Necessary Evil for the longest time. I couldn’t tell my friends, I couldn’t tell my family. I could just say “I’m working on this project” until the press release came out and I’m like, “This is what I’m doing!” People who work in the industry know the necessity but also the frustrations of confidentiality.
I was thinking there was one question we haven’t covered yet which is “Why do we like the villains to begin with?” We talked about “what is it about the villains?” which is the thrust of the whole documentary. And a quick answer for that if possible is that bad guys are free from morality, free from restrictions. Not that bad guys don’t have morals. Actually some of them have high morals. But a lot of times it’s a selective morality. “I can kill all these bad people but I won’t kill kids.” Or, “I will rob from these banks but I’ll only take money from rich people, I won’t take any money from poor people.” The thing about villains is, they are able to act out their desires. If they want something, they go take it. If something or someone gets in their way, they will hurt, destroy, kill, whatever they need to to get that person out of their way, to keep them from being an obstacle. Things that deep down we kind of wish we could do but know we can’t. A person cuts you off on the freeway and you just kinda want to throttle that person but you can’t. You’re not going to. If you cut off the Joker in traffic, watch out. Actually, there was an episode of Batman the Animated Series where there was a character who cut off the Joker in traffic and the Joker basically said, “I’m gonna let you like but you’re basically going to be my flunky from this point on doing whatever I want whenever I call. It was a great story-line.
Viking: Yes, that’s one of my favorite episodes from that series actually.
Scott: I actually have several friends who worked on the show. Guys like Paul Dini, Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, Andrea Romano who did the voice direction. I have a long history with that series and an absolute love of Batman the Animated Series. If you guys haven’t seen all the episodes of it, I believe that it might be available on Netflix. Batman Beyond is also on Netflix.
Viking: Batman Beyond is on Netflix. Which is another series that I am absolutely in love with.
Scott: Yes, another great take on that. In any case, Batman the Animated Series, check it out on DVD or if it’s playing anywhere in syndication. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful series.
Viking: Since we got on the subject of animated series’. I’m curious, the new series, Beware the Batman makes use of a lot of very obscure villains.
Scott: Yes, I’m a fan of the new series. Glen Murakami who’s worked on several shows in the past like Teen Titans and shows like that is one of the driving forces behind it told me they wanted to use villains we hadn’t necessary seen before, including some of the newer ones. Professor Pig, Anarky, guys like that that not everyone might know and these are guys that deserve to have stories told about them. And the creators also get to do their take on those characters. It’s an interesting take. I really enjoy it. Anytime there is a new take on the Batman character, anything from Batman the Animated Series, Batman Beyond turned out to be a great series, Batman the Brave and the Bold was a more light hearted take and still a very fun series and now you have Beware the Batman which I am enjoying.
Viking: And I for one appreciate that they are reaching sort of deep into the barrel so to speak to pull out some of these more obscure villains because at some point you do need to get beyond the Joker, Two Face and the Riddler and see who some of these characters are. And I think it helps broaden out the character of Batman as well.
Scott: Yes, that’s one of the great things about comics is that you can do new takes. You can have the latest take on The Man of Steel in the new movie or how Chris Nolan reinvented Batman or you can do the more fantastical settings. These characters have been around some of them for 75 years. Batman has been around since the late 1930’s, same with Superman. When you have so many decades of story, you can try different things, you can reinvent the character and that’s one of the wonderful things about them. So when people say, “what’s the definitive take?” well, there’s the ones I like. There’s the ones other people like. We may not agree on it but we both love the character.
Viking: Absolutely. Scott, I want to thank you again for coming on and talking about Necessary Evil, now available from DC Comics and Warner Bros. And again, thatnks for coming on; it’s been great!.
Scott: Thanks for having me. Any chance to talk comics with anybody, I’m down for. So again thank you very, very much for having me.