Adam Beechen is a name you've probably heard before. He has been involved with several animated shows and comic books. We've had the opportunity to pick at his brain to gain some insight into what it's like to write for these different mediums. This will be the first part of a muli-part interview. Today we will focus on the animated shows he's written. Have you ever wondered what it was like to write for an established cartoon series?
Adam Beechen: It wasn’t as big a jump as you might think. For all its “kid” emphasis, Thornberrys really had a lot of action to it, as well as humor, both of which are key components that superhero cartoons look for. Thornberrys was a pretty good sample to show around, and my agents showed one of mine to Duane Capizzi, then the Story Editor of Jackie Chan Adventures, who gave me a shot at a freelance episode, then a couple more. That sort of established my action cred more fully, and then it was off to assignments on Titans, X-Men, Static and beyond.
Comic Vine: Is it difficult jumping in and doing a few episode for an on going show? Like doing an episode of The Batman or Ben 10, when others have put their touch on the characters, are there limits to what you can write about? Are you restricted to not making major changes that may not appear in another episode that airs later?
Adam Beechen: It was a little odd when I started out, because often you’re coming to a show with no experience of the tone, the voices, or whatever. The Story Editor sends you the “bible” for the show, and any finished scripts that are done to help give you some ideas, then you just sort of take your best shot, and get as close as you can to what you think the show’s established voice is. You definitely don’t want to go “off the reservation” of what the show has already established, but rather, give the Story Editor exactly what he or she is expecting after you’ve worked out the story outline with them. If you run into something that just isn’t working, you bring it to the Story Editor’s attention before you turn in your finished script, and you work it through together, always with the knowledge that the Story Editor’s final word is law.
Comic Vine: Did you ever come up with a really cool story only to have the powers that be ask you to tweak it or tone it down?
Adam Beechen: Sure, all the time. In those instances, you just smile, grit your teeth, and tell yourself you’ll save the idea for another day. Unless it’s a show you’ve created yourself, you need to reconcile with the fact that these are the people who made the show, they know it best, and they pay your bills, so you better give them what they want. Ultimately, as a freelancer, your job is to make their lives as easy as possible, to write a script that they have to do as little work as possible on to make it ready for recording. That trumps all. If you contest everything you feel isn’t correct on a script you’re doing for someone else, they may wind up not wanting to use you again, and then you’re really out of luck.
Comic Vine: On Batman: The Brave and the Bold, where did the idea for "Invasion Of The Secret Santas" come from?
Adam Beechen: That story originated with Michael Jelenic and James Tucker, who set the creative direction of the series. They knew they wanted to do a Christmas story, and they knew they wanted Red Tornado to be in it, so I came in and we all sat down and plotted out the particulars of the story together. I’d worked with Michael many times before on THE BATMAN, but this was my first chance to work with James. We had a lot of fun, and it remains one of the more enjoyable things I’ve worked on.
Comic Vine: You also wrote "Night Of The Huntress." Was it your idea to use the Huntress or were you asked to use her? How do you feel your version compares to the current comics version?
Adam Beechen: The idea to use the Huntress came from Michael and James also. The Huntress that shows up in this show is as aggressive as the one in the comics, but probably has a stronger, um, physically romantic drive. She was a blast to write. We just pushed her as far as we could, and let the network make the decisions about pulling her back. I don’t think they pulled back very far.
Comic Vine: Do you have any more Batman episodes in the works? Who would you like to bring in?
Adam Beechen: I wrote another episode this spring, and I’m not allowed to talk about it too much, but I can say that it’s pretty unusual and a lot of fun. Very campy and weird. Who else would I like to see brought in? Maybe some of the Golden Agers, like Dr. Mid-Nite. He’d be fun. But it’s not up to me.
Comic Vine: What's it like to write episodes of The Secret Saturdays? The show really seems to have its own feel.
Adam Beechen: It’s a brilliant show, and its feel is thanks to the vision of its creator, Jay Stephens, and the smarts and creativity of Story editor Brandon Sawyer. It’s a great take on the adventure genre that allows for all different kinds of storyteling. I’d watch it even if I wasn’t working on it from time to time!
Comic Vine: Do you have a favorite character on Secret Saturdays? Will you be writing any more?
Adam Beechen: Well, it’s hard not to say Fiskerton. He’s almost purely visual, and the way he’s designed, he can show a tremendous range of emotions. He’s a challenge, in that you can’t do much with him from a dialogue standpoint, so he really forces you to think visually, and as an animation writer, anything that makes me do that...I’m all for it!
But I love Doyle, too, and I know he plays a very important role in the overall series, so his fans should definitely stick with the show for more of him!
Comic Vine: After you write a script, how involved are you with the production of the show? Do changes in script need your approval? Are you ever present during the voice sessions?
Adam Beechen: If I’m a freelancer, I generally have very little input after I hand in the script. Occasionally, the Story Editor will come back to me with a request for a line change or a re-work of a scene, but I certainly don’t have any approval power over anything the Story Editor might change. Once in a while, I’ll get invited to the voice-over sessions, and that’s always a treat, to see the actors actually portray your words. It’s also a good chance to see what changes the Story Editor has made to your script and get a sense perhaps of why they were made, which helps you the next time you write for the show.
As a Story Editor, I can be much more involved throughout the process, depending on the show, approving scripts, making changes to them as necessary as they go through the production process, occasionally collaborating directly with the board artists, giving notes on animation as it comes back, and so on.
Comic Vine: Besides comics (which we'll talk about later) are you working on any other animated shows?
Adam Beechen: I am! In fact, I just handed in the first draft of my second episode of the new SCOOBY-DOO - MYSTERY INC. It’s been a blast working with Story Editor Mitch Watson and his team...and a blast working with these characters I’ve loved since I was a little kid. The episode I just wrote features maybe the most unlikely guest star in cartoon history, and I absolutely cannot wait to see how it turns out.
Comic Vine: Is it more like the traditional Scooby? The last series, Shaggy And Scooby-Doo Get A Clue was...different.
Adam Beechen: It's traditional, but it has its own spin that viewers are really going to dig.
Comic Vine: Do you have a favorite episode that you've written (for any shows)?
Adam Beechen: I wrote an entirely wordless episode of HI HI PUFFY AMIYUMI called “Ikkakuju,” which means “Unicorn.” The dialogue was done entirely with images in word balloons above the characters’ heads, and a lot of the action was supplemented and enhanced by music. It was an exercise in creative visual storytelling, and I’m really proud of how it worked. And it taught me a ton for future projects!
Comic Vine: If you could write a cartoon for any comics character(s), who would you choose?
Adam Beechen: I think a show about the solo adventures of Robin would be a ton of fun. Batman could guest star, as could the Teen Titans, and you could see all the balls he has to juggle as he goes about his business. He’s under as much pressure as any kid, and handles it all brilliantly!
Stay tuned for Part 2, dealing with Adam's career in writing comic books...