Paul Jenkins is one of the premier creators and writers of comic books, graphic novels and video games in the world today. After five years working with the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he began his freelance writing career in 1993 as scribe of the DC Comics Hellblazer. In 1997 Paul won an Eisner for his work on Marvel comics Inhumans series. He has since worked on virtually every comic character in the business, including Spider-Man, Batman and The Incredible Hulk, and the smash hit Wolverine: Origin, for which he won five Wizard Fan Awards.
Other work for Marvel includes the blockbuster Frontlines series, a part of the Civil War event, the Mythos series, and Captain America: Theater of War. Upcoming work includes the Thor: Heaven and Earth miniseries. In addition, his creation The Sentry has become a mainstay of the Marvel Universe. Paul’s work as Writer and/or Creative Director in the video game genre includes Twisted Metal: Black, Soul Reaver, Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, God of War and others. 2007’s The Darkness earned him a BAFTA nomination for storytelling and characterization. His latest work, Activision’s Prototype, hit stores in 2009, and he is currently hard at work on at least one unannounced blockbuster title. Paul has written a number of movie screenplays including Tatua, to be produced by Rick Schwarz (Departed, Aviator, Gangs of New York). He recently directed the 30-minute CybeRacers animated film.
1. Paul you are involved in many creative projects, could you share with us what you have on the go at the moment and a little about your new media business.
“Trans Media” is the buzzword du jour of the entertainment industry but I’m not fond of it. That’s because in order to have a product that truly crosses between print publishing, video games, film/animation and new media (such as iPhone), you must be able to understand how to create in each arena. I have the weird distinction, I think, of actually being able to create in all of these places because I’m currently working on projects in each of them. I think being able to guide a franchise through different media is the true definition of the term.
A number of years ago, I became dissatisfied with simply writing comic books. Comics are a wonderful way to tell a story but the audience is limited. I was lucky enough to work with Dave Jaffe (then at Sony) on a couple of projects, and this put me into the world of video games. I’ve since co-directed some animation and have voice directed for a few games. My company – Clockstop Entertainment – is also working on a few iPhone and iPad application ranging from games to functional plugins.
So while I see for example a number of film production companies bringing in a video game advisor, or perhaps turning towards publishing, I haven’t found anyone yet who has the patience to learn how to actually make the games themselves. To be honest, it is really hard. I love doing games but I have often said you need to take the difficulty of directing a motion picture and multiply that by ten. Bottom line: I never sleep!
2. If you could pick any entertainment franchise to work on, which would you choose?
Honestly? I rarely answer that question directly because I’m of the opinion that all characters have validity. Maybe I feel I have a lot to say, or that you can’t shut me up, I don’t know… I’ve just never been a fan of, say, Spider-Man or the Silver Surfer anymore than I am a fan of the Green Lantern. If I had to pick one, I would probably pick the Halo franchise because I happen to think the storytelling there is very atmospheric – the game developers have really created a cool universe that just seems so real to me. Mind you, it’s probably because I normally play games at 5AM when I am ready to fall asleep. Maybe the whole thing was just a dream.
3. What has been the highlight of your career as a writer so far and why?
There are a couple. My little old Mum in Britain once called me to say how proud she was of me because the fans spoke well of the way I conducted myself at conventions. I am a fairly friendly bloke and I have always understood that the fans pay my wages. I really enjoy speaking to them, so it was nice that it got back to my Mum. Another highlight is that Joe Quesada (Marvel EIC) once called me to say that he had been speaking with Stan Lee, who had been complimentary about a story I was doing. I am sure Stan has forgotten by now but it was cool at the time.
I guess the highlight so far goes back to my days working for Mirage Studios, owners of the TMNT franchise. Back then, the place was really hopping and we were inundated with requests for our time. But one time, I pulled some major strings to have one of the actors in a Turtle suit visit a little boy dying of cancer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The little guy died the very next day but his Mum wrote to thank me. She said that as hard as it was to lose their child (and as a parent I can barely imagine it), her last memory of her son was how excited he was to have met Raphael the Ninja Turtle. She explained that she and her husband would always think of him laughing and chatting in his final moments, and this helped them to say goodbye. That kind of thing is more important to me than any kind of accomplishment or award.
4. How do you see the creative industries in twenty years time? Will the independent mediums (TV, FILM, BOOKS, COMICS) have combined into one amorphous mass of hand held entertainment? Will there be room for the purists? Or will a new kind of fan evolve?
Will Eisner once stated the comic industry had “died twenty times during his lifetime.” I think by that he was saying that people’s interests are fickle, and probably somewhat cyclical. At some point smart phones will seem quaint because we’ll be programming our dreams or watching movies on the lapels of our jackets, or something. The truth is, each form of entertainment has its own set of rules. On a cold day you can sit down with a book, add in a dash of your imagination, and perhaps a cup of hot chocolate, and you have an experience that cannot be recreated by, say, a video game. The rules of seeing a new release at a movie theater involve overpaying for a massive Coke and a tub of popcorn, and sitting through the event until it ends. But take that same film and put it on DVD and you simply change the viewing parameters. Now, you can pause the story, go off and make a sandwich, etc. So when that same film comes onto your iPad it’s just a different way of being able to view the same film but it creates a different experience. Television did not bring an end to the movies, video games did not signify the end of novels, and iPhones are hardly likely to kill theatre. People like all types of content and all kinds of methods to consume it.
In twenty years time I would imagine we’re still going to be wearing jeans and eating junk food and reading books or playing console games. And I honestly don’t think that someone who enjoys, say, a good novel will be seen as a purist. (It should be noted, by the way, that if we do perfect a way to program our dreams, it will be the porn industry that develops it first. )