Created 9/20/2016
 

NEW! - TWENTY(-ONE) QUESTIONS WITH JOHN SEMPER JR.!

The following is an interview done via Facebook direct message with story editor/producer/series co-writer John Semper Jr.  I would like to give Very Special Thanks to Mr. Semper for taking the time to answer my questions.  Some of the answers and new revelations in this interview may surprise you.  You'll find out about what Mr. Semper is currently working on and the one rumor about censorship on the show that finally is proven false once and for all!

Here is the full interview for you guys to read and enjoy.  Any comments seen written in [ ] were added by me so you can fully know who/what is being mentioned.  My questions I asked are in red text and Mr. Semper's answers (which I wrote down myself after hearing him answer my written questions in an audio interview he was kind enough to send me) are written in blue.  Read on, True Believers...
 
01.) First of all, thank you for answering these questions.  Second, thank you so much for helping work on this brilliant animated series.  For my first question, I have to ask: what is it about the show that you're the most proud of?  It's been almost twenty-two years since the first episode, "Night of the Lizard", first aired and this show is still considered to be one of the best, and to some the best, Spider-Man cartoon ever made.
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Well, I'm proud of the fact that after all this time, people are still watching it and people are still liking it.  It's not often that an animated series can be around for 22 years and still be entertaining people, and that's a tribute to all the hard work that we all put into it.  And by "we all", I mean all of the people that you see listed in the cast at the end of the show.  So I'm proud of the fact that people are still watching it, I'm proud of the fact that people still like it.  I'm proud of the fact that young people like yourself come up to me at conventions and start talking to me about the show.  It's apparent that you got all of the things that I was putting into it that I wasn't necessarily asked to put into it, little nuances and little subplots and things like that, that might have even bypassed the network at the time when the network necessarily wasn't really appreciating what I was doing.  But you guys got it and I think that's really cool, so I always really enjoy meeting fans at the show and people telling me all of the things they liked.  I'm very proud of that.  And you know, there are certain episodes that I like more than others.  I have always really enjoyed that I got to do "Turning Point" pretty much the way that it was written in the comic book.  I like having created basically a personality for Felicia Hardy, who was a very non-descript character in the comic books.  And now when I go to conventions, there are all kinds of women dressed up as the Black Cat and I'm very proud of that.  So there are lots of things that I'm proud of.  It's a series overall that I'm extraordinarily proud of and I'm very happy that the work that I put into it is still being appreciated.
 
2.) Christopher Daniel Barnes is pretty much considered by many fans, myself included, to be THE voice of Spider-Man and he's returned to the role for some recent video games over recent years.  What made you decide to pick him for the voice of your Peter Parker/Spider-Man?  What was it about him that made you know you found the right actor for the part?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Well, the honest answer is that I didn't make that decision.  That was made by others, usually those kinds of decisions are made by a committee and the committee didn't really include me.  I do recall being asked at one point whether I liked Chris and I did.  I was busy writing, though, when all that casting was going on.  I was pretty much in the middle of a nightmare of getting the show off the ground and writing scripts and it was being very difficult, so I wasn't terribly involved with the casting.  I do know that it came down to Chris Barnes and Billy Campbell.  Billy Campbell, you know, is the Rocketeer and of course he's done a lot of other wonderful films and TV shows.  Because I was already a Billy Campbell fan and I was a huge "Rocketeer" fan, and I did go to his audition.  I did not go to Chris' audition, but I went to Billy Campbell's audition because I wanted to meet him and I was pretty impressed with his take on the character.  But I think that, in the end it was decided to go young, because Billy Campbell at that time was easily in his late twenties or early thirties and Chris was very young and was just starting his career in voice over.  He'd had a pretty big career in television, but he hadn't really done much voice over.  And we just felt that -- I'm sure that the overall feeling was that Chris was the right combination of youth and acting 'cause he's a tremendous actor and he could handle the voice over really well.  So I think that's what went into that decision and I can't take any credit for it.  It was really other people at that particular moment in time who decided that.
 
3.) The show did a wonderful job with the "soap opera" aspects from the comic books and the show had a great supporting cast.  Ed Asner especially was a riot as J. Jonah Jameson.  Were there any in particular that stand out that you're the most proud of how you handled them?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Well, I assume by the question that you're talking about the supporting cast or perhaps the supporting cast of characters in the Spider-Man universe.  It was very important to me to do the soap opera aspect of things.  I'm actually revisiting that decision with [the DC Comic] "Cyborg".  Because the reality is, and I used to tell my writers this all the time, that it isn't that you're doing a show about a super hero.  You're doing a show about a human being who happens to be a super hero and if you don't capture the human being part of the equation, then the superhero part isn't going to matter.  I've got a character right now that I'm handling in "Cyborg" where they concentrated so much on his gizmos and powers that they've forgotten to create a character for him.  And as a result, the previous incarnations have not been particularly engrossing and engaging and they've had trouble in the past finding an audience for this character.  And he's an important character to the DC universe, so I'm kind of charged with the task with giving him a personality.  And that's the way it is when you start a show.  You have to figure out what kind of personality you're going to give your character and how you're going to get that across, and that's where the soap opera aspects come in.  Because we, as viewers, we engage with these characters by watching them go through similar things that we go through in life.  Loves and losses, and frustrations at work, and frustrations with romance and all that kind of thing.  That's what defines us as human beings and then the super hero stuff just irritates all of that.  It exacerbates the difficulties of living a life and that's my approach to super heroes.  So, for me, the so-called soap opera aspects are good drama.  That's what makes for good dramatic structure in story telling and that, to me, was an absolute given that we had to do on "Spider-Man".  And it was also something that had been done in the comics very effectively and I wanted to make sure that I brought that to the screen so that you would get the feeling that you were reading a comic book.
 
4.) The villains were also wonderful on the show.  This cartoon's take on characters like Venom, Alistair Smythe and the Shocker remain my favorite versions of those characters.  In my opinion, your back stories and origins for some characters like Alistair Smythe and Venom before/when they became villains were better than their comic book counterparts.  Were there any Spider-Man villains you loved working on the show the most, or any you liked working on the least?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Well, I've made no secret of the fact that I liked working with the Hobgoblin the least because he had the least personality in the comic books, so I kind of had to work to give him one.  In terms of which one I like the most, you know, I like doing the Green Goblin because the Green Goblin was such an important part of my time reading Spider-Man when I was young.  Venom had to be done because he was the biggest thing in the Spider-Man universe at that particular time.  I'm not quite sure why I chose the Shocker.  I think it was because there was a toy and I felt obligated on some level to satisfy my bosses by taking their toys and turning them into credible characters that were important.  So I have to say that a slight edge goes to the Green Goblin, just because he was important to me when I was reading the character when I was younger, 'cause I started reading Spider-Man when I was 16 right when the comic books started.  And the Green Goblin was such a hugely wonderful character.  It was fun bringing him to life.
 
5.) This show also had a lot of great guest heroes.  You got to have heroes like Blade and Doctor Strange appear before they got adapted into big-budget movies of their own.  Which hero are you most proud of that you got to have on your animated series?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Two.  You mentioned the two, Blade and Doctor Strange.  Blade, because he was relatively unknown at the time, even in the comics books.  And I got to turn him into a character that they ended up bringing into the movies, so I guess in a way I'm responsible for those movies, even though I'm uncredited.  But, you know, my Blade was half human and half vampire.  And that's what I created, that's what I brought to the table and I'm very proud of that.  Doctor Strange, I just love, and I wanted to bring him to life because I knew that that would be fun.  I also brought him into a "Incredible Hulk" animated episode that I wrote and the reason I did that was because I'm not hugely a fan of the Hulk and I wanted to make writing make that episode interesting, so I brought Doctor Strange into it.  So obviously I love Doctor Strange and he was one of my favorites.  So yeah, those are my two favorite guest heroes.
 
6.) I don't know if you will remember why or not, but some villains on the show had pretty long absences from the show.  For example, the Rhino was missing from the third and fourth seasons of the series, Mysterio and Kraven were absent from season three before they each appeared in solo send-off episodes for the characters (in season four) and Hobgoblin was M.I.A. from the show after season three before his alternate reality counterpart made a lone appearance in the first part of the series finale.  What kept some characters like them away from the show for so long before they came back?  Was it hard to juggle all of the villains on the show and decide who gets to show up in which season?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: I've said this before, 65 episodes seems like a lot.  But when you're trying to showcase a lot of different villains, you know, you start to run out of space.  And then, if you're trying to tell a certain story, some villains suit the story better than others and so it really does become a juggling act.  You know, and some villains dramatically are more interesting than others, and so you're trying to tell good stories.  So really, I never really thought about who was happening when or -- you know, it's the "Spider-Man" show.  The most important thing is that he's on in every episode and as far as the villains are concerned, you just use them as you need them.  And if you don't need them, you don't use them.  It's really as simple as that.
 
7.) On the subject, one villain absent from the show over two seasons was Hydro-Man.  After his season two debut episode, in which he also meets his demise, the character returned for two episodes in season five, but as a clone.  What made you decide to have clones on this animated series?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Well, I guess I wanted to do a death of Mary Jane and I wanted to do "The Wedding".  So, two things: I wanted to do "The Wedding" and then I wanted to kill her off.  And the whole Hydro-Man thing came about as a result of that.  We had such good luck with him being obsessed with her in the earlier episode, that I thought, "Let's bring that back".  But mostly I wanted to do "The Wedding", because that was a big deal in the Spider-Man universe at that particular time and I thought, "Wouldn't it be great if we did our version of it?"  But I didn't want to end up with Peter married to Mary Jane, so it was kind of necessary to kill her off, which we did.  For all the people who say we didn't do death on that series, we most definitely did, because we killed off that Mary Jane clone.  And, you know, the clone thing came about because of the wedding.  I wanted to do "The Wedding", but then I didn't want it to last, which meant that I needed to kill off Mary Jane and the only way I could do that would be by making her a clone.  And so, you know, one thing leads to another and that's what you do.  You try to keep the stories interesting and you try to have really important moments that seem to matter, and that's what I do for a living.
 
8.) For comic fans growing up when this TV show was on the air, we were lucky to see DC Comics have a Batman movie made two or more years after the last one or to have a Marvel comic-based movie get made on TV, let alone on the big screen.  These days, three to five comic book movies appear every year in theaters.  How did it feel that you were able to get a kind of "Spider-Man" movie made at the time with season five's "Six Forgotten Warriors"?  What made you decide to use heroes like Captain America, Nick Fury and Silver Sable guest star alongside villains Red Skull and Electro?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Well, all of these are really big questions and I could probably talk for about half an hour on each of them.  But in order to get this done some time today, there was a certain point on the Spider-Man show where I said to my writers, "We're going to do a thing called 'the Spider-Man movies.'  Very few people know this, but I turned to them and I said, "We're going to do a thing called 'the Spider-Man movies.' And what we're going to do is, we're going to take four episodes."  Each of our episodes was 22 minutes, so four episodes is 88 minutes and that's roughly the length of a movie.  Most movies are 90 minutes on the average.  So I said, "Let's take four episodes and let's just write four episodes like a movie and there will be Spider-Man movies."  And that was a reaction to the fact that Jim Cameron was not going to make his movie.  And I thought, "What we're doing is movie quality."  And I thought that maybe that would be a fun thing to do.  We'd make the movies that Jim Cameron never got to make.  Whenever we looked at a new episode that came in from overseas, we would watch it.  As soon as the episode was finished, we would screen it in the screening room at New World on the big screen.  So actually, we saw all of our episodes like movies.  They were on the big movie screen with stereo sound and every time a new episode came in, it was like getting a new movie.  And we were definitely getting movie-quality animation from T.M.S., most of time.  So I said, "So let's just make movies."  You know, you can just do that when you're running the show.  You can decide to just do things like that.  So, Six Forgotten Warriors was a "movie" and I had always been very intrigued by the idea of superheroes getting older and what happens to them.  And I came up with this idea of using all these Golden Age Timely Comics super heroes.  Timely was the company that preceded Marvel, so all of these characters were owned by Marvel.  And I thought it would be fun to examine old super heroes and having to reflect back on the past.  And then it seemed like a really great time, since we were going to do something had its roots in World War Two, that led to my coming up with the idea of using Captain America.  Nick Fury, we had already used by that time, so that was not a problem.  Silver Sable was Russian, so that was kind of neat to get her in there since it was kind of like World War Two leading to the Cold War.  And because it was Captain America and World War Two, I wanted to bring in the Red Skull and then I wanted to stick in Electro because we hadn't had a chance to use him yet.  And I had been told not to use him, and then as an act of defiance at the very end, I used him because it was too late for anybody to fire me.  So that's how that happened.  As I say, one thing leads to another, one decision leads to other decisions.  So my decision to do movies, "the Spider-Man movies", led to then wanting to do "Six Forgotten Warriors" and then that led to all the other things.  There's a kind of a logic to how you come up with ideas like that.
 
9.) It is well known that you couldn't use Sandman or Max Dillon/the comic book version of Electro on your show due to the "Spider-Man" movie that Jim Cameron was trying to make.  Later on, you couldn't use characters such as Ghost Rider and The Incredible Hulk as guest stars.  Characters like Electro and Sandman have ultimately appeared on the recent animated series "The Spectacular Spider-Man" (which is excellent) and "Ultimate Spider-Man" (which has mixed opinions by fans) and the Hulk has appeared on the "Ultimate" show as well.  How did it feel knowing you had some characters of the Marvel Universe you couldn't work with?  Were there any characters that you wish you had used on the show that either you could before they were off limits or never could use to begin with?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Well, the general idea is I got use pretty much all the characters I wanted to use, because, at the time I was doing my show, I had the entirety of the Marvel Universe available to me, with a few exceptions.  Obviously, I started to use Ghost Rider and then that story got shot down because there was some talk that maybe there was going to be a "Ghost Rider" cartoon show on a rival network and Fox decided they weren't terribly interested in promoting a character that was going to end up on a rival network.  The Hulk I couldn't use because there was also talk of him ending up in his own cartoon show, which, in fact, he did.  But that was okay, because I'm not a huge fan of the Hulk anyway, dramatically.  You know, he's a great comic book character and I love him and yada-yada.  But dramatically, there's nothing you can do with the Hulk.  You know, he smash.  Hulk smash.  And then he's sort of a monster and you have to build up a whole cast of characters around him in order to make him relevant, which is a whole other show and I didn't have time for that.  And I was really not excited about using him dramatically.  Electro, I did use at the very end, as I said, as an act of defiance.  Sandman... well, you know, it would've been nice to have him.  But I had Hydro-Man, which is exactly the same power really, when you think about it.  So, I didn't miss him all that much.  And then you know, fans go, "You didn't have Sandman" and "You didn't have this."  Well, that's all great to think of in retrospect, but we had everything else and I actually had characters that a lot of the Marvel shows can't use now.  For instance, it was off limits, I would imagine, for some of those cartoon shows to mix Spider-Man and the X-Men.  Although, you know, now maybe that's more possible with the relations now between Fox and Marvel.  But anyway, I don't know.  There are a lot of characters that they had don't have access to that I had access to.  I pretty much got to use everybody I wanted though.  I never found myself thinking "Oh, I wish I could use that character."  I used everyone that I got to use that I really wanted to use.  Again, I only had 65 episodes.  There's only so much you can do.
 
10.) Looking back, are there any comic stories you wish you could've adapted in particular for the show or would like to see the next Spider-Man animated series take a shot at working on?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: No.  I'm not an avid reader of Spider-Man, so I don't really know much of anything that's gone on in his world since my series.  And anything I wanted to do, I did.  I did "Secret Wars" and I created some of my own things, like "Spider-Wars" and the Spider-Man multi-verse and all that.  So no, I really -- there's nothing.  I have no, "Oh, I wish I could had done that" feelings about my series at all.
 
11.) Some of the aspects in your Spider-Man show have found their way to the comics in recent years, especially the Dan Slott stories from "The Amazing Spider-Man" comic.  Villains like the Chameleon, Rhino and Shocker were in your Insidious Six team and then they eventually became Sinister Six members in different storylines.  Your two-part series finale, "Spider-Wars", was clearly an inspiration for the "Spider-Verse" story.  Your animated series was also the first to write in Doctor Octopus and Peter Parker having a teacher/student history together before Sam Raimi's 2004 film "Spider-Man 2" had Peter meeting his idol, Otto Octavius.  How does it feel to see some of what was on your show appear in other media since the show ended?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Well, I have mixed feelings about that.  On one hand, it's really cool 'cause obviously I did something pretty incredible and all these other people have -- you know, they've used it, they've borrowed it.  So yeah, I have mixed feelings.  If I had a relationship with Marvel, I'd sort of feel like, "Yeah, great, all for one, one for all."  But I have not had any relationship with Marvel since the show and they have not sought me out to do anything for them, while, on the other hand, I have a wonderful relationship with DC and they, in fact, have me writing one of their comic books.  So I sort of feel like, if they're going to borrow a lot of what I created and use it, it would've been nice, somewhere down the line, for them to have acknowledged that.  But the fans realize it and I realize it and that's the business, that's the way that goes.  So I'm not bitter.  You know, I'm gamefully employed and doing quite well, but I think it would've been smart on Marvel's part to have affiliated with me early on. 
 
12.) "Spider-Wars" had some great alternate reality Spider-Men, with Scarlet Spider and Octo-Spidey being two of my favorites.  What made you decide to use alternate reality Spider-Men for your finale and were there any alternate reality Spider-Men you wish you could've used in the finale?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Well, again, I have no regrets.  I don't ever look at the series and say, "Oh, I wish I could've done this" or "I wish I could've done that."  I mostly look at the series and I go, "Wow, I did everything I wanted" and I sort of don't need to look at the series any more.  It's just this wonderfully complete piece of work that I don't have any regrets about at all.  You know, I could look at bits of the animation and go, "Oh, I wish I that had been done better", but that wasn't my department and that's, you know, something for [Supervising Producer] Bob [Richardson] to regret, if he even thinks about it.  But I have no regrets.  From a writing stand point, I have absolutely no regrets. 
 
What made me decide to use the alternate reality Spider-Men?  Well, I kept feeling - (chuckles) - I knew that I wanted to build up to a big climax and only I was the one knew what the climax was.  So if I had been hit by a bus, the production would've had to bring in some other writer and he would've had to make up a whole new thing, because I didn't share it with anybody.  But I knew that I wanted to have Spider-Man basically save all of reality and that required that there would be alternate realities in a way.  And I also wanted to get as many of the toys in it as possible, because I thought that would sort of be cool.  Not for the toy company [Toy Biz], because I didn't really care about the toy company or [executive producer] Avi [Arad] or any of that kind of foolishness.  But what I did care about was kids that were buying the toys.  If they were buying an Armored Spider-Man, then I wanted there to be an Armored Spider-Man in the show, so that they would be playing with something that had some legitimacy.  And that was where that came from.  I thought, "Well, if he's going to save all reality and there are going to be other alternate realities, then there should be other Spider-Men.  Let's use some of these toy ideas", many of -- most of which were kind of lame, but, "let's make something out of them."  I like taking things that are a bit silly and making them serious.  I think that's a challenge, that's a writing challenge that I enjoy and that was fun for me, doing the alternate reality thing.  I am incredibly amused that they "borrowed" it for the new cartoon show [Disney XD's "Ultimate Spider-Man"], but that just shows you how inventive we were being on my show and how not inventive they are being today.  And, you know, that says something about doing a cartoon show in the 90s, when it was all new and exciting, and then doing a show today, where basically, you really are just a corporate extension of a larger corporate vision that isn't terribly creative.  So that's the world of animation today.
 
13.) Have you got to watch any of the "Spider-Man" animated series or kept track of any of the comics since your series concluded?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: No.  When I finished "Spider-Man", I was done with Spider-Man.  When you have a character in your head for two, almost three years, and then other people start messing around with it, it's not fun.  I haven't touched the comic book at all.  And every time I find out what they're doing with the character, it just kind of turns my stomach because they're so desperate for ideas, that it just doesn't -- nothing feels right anymore when I hear what they're doing.  As far as the other animated series are concerned, I watched about five minutes of "Spectacular Spider-Man".  I thought it looked very well done, and then that was that.  I didn't want to have anything to do with it.  I watched one episode of the MTV series.  I wish I could have done my series in C.G.I. and had that production value.  But the stories, I thought, were crap.  I watched "Spider-Man Unlimited", I think that was the one that came on after mine.  I get them all mixed up, but whatever the one that was on after mine I thought was horrible.  I just, I -- and I know people that worked on it, they're good friends, but I just -- the one that came on after mine I thought was pretty dreadful.  And then, I know there's another one in there too that everyone likes, and I don't think I've ever laid eyes on it.  I can't think of the name of it right now.  The new show ["Ultimate Spider-Man"], I've watched a little bit of, like five or ten minutes of it.  I think I saw a preview clip or something at one of the shows.  Again, the production value's great.  I wish I could've had some of that production value on our series.  But the scripts to me, are just -- they seem off the mark, you know?  The most recent show seemed like it wanted to be a comedy and I'm so glad I didn't have to write that show.  Because trying to turn Spider-Man into a comedy is the very opposite of everything that Spider-Man stands for, as far as I'm concerned.  So I purposely don't watch any of the Spider-Man stuff.  I'll let you in on a secret, I really haven't watched any of the movies either.  It's just, when you're done, you're done and you have to move on to other things.  Again, I'm very happy that people still like my series, but I'm not the biggest fan of Spider-Man things right at this particular moment.  So, anyway, I just think that's the way people's heads work when they're creative.
 
14.) It's been 18 years since "Spider-Wars" aired and yet the full series has never been released on DVD and has yet to get a Blu-Ray release.  To fans who don't know the reason, do you know why the show hasn't had any more home video releases?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: I think it has to do with some kind of rights issue.  It might have to do with music.  I'd heard once that the Joe Perry theme song, the rights are tied up or hard to obtain for DVD or something like that.  Honestly, I don't really care that it hasn't been released on DVD.  I do all of my video purchasing primarily online streaming, and it is available online for everyone to purchase, as well get through services like Netflix and I think for a while it was on Hulu.  So it doesn't bother me that it's not out on DVD.  What bothers me most is answering the question of why it's not out on DVD.  People seem to think that a DVD release is necessary.  I don't.  If I had it on DVD, I probably would never watch it on DVD.  It was not shot in high definition, so any kind of DVD release would be an up-res from the original tapes, the original video, because it wasn't shot on film originally.  It was all done digitally to video.  So, you know, it doesn't really bother me that it's not out on DVD and it certainly doesn't bother me that it's not out on Blu-Ray.  If somebody took it and converted it to 3-D, then I'd want it.  [laughs]  The only discs I ever buy are 3-D Blu-Rays for my 3-D TV, which I love, and if somebody took all of our episodes of Spider-Man and converted them to 3-D, that would be really cool.  I actually have a TV that will convert things to 3-D just on the fly and I've watched a couple of episodes of "Spider-Man" in pseudo 3-D and it's a lot of fun, so anyway, that's that.
 
15.) You got to work on the "lost" episode of "Spider-Man" during your "War of the Rocketmen" campaign.  What was it like working on a Spider-Man story again, even if it is basically just an unofficial "what-if"-type fan fiction?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Well, it's great because I get to write whatever I want and that's great.  I'm actually kind of enjoying that.  Again, I'm not interested in what other people do with the character, but it is still fun for me to work with the character.  I'm thinking of maybe even doing a Patreon thing where I will write new Spider-Man stories for people who are willing to donate to a Patreon.  Because people are always asking me, you know, "How would you have handled this character", "How would you have handled this villain", this, that and the other, and so I was thinking, "Well, maybe I might do that as kind of a fan fiction thing, do a series of scripts that would just be 'what-if'.  What if the series had continued?  What if 'Spider-Man' had gone on another thirteen episodes?"  I'm toying with that idea.  Right now I don't have the time to do it, because I'm too busy writing "Cyborg" and that's where all of my energy is going.  And then I'm also writing a cartoon show right now for Netflix that I can't talk about.  But as soon as I have a little bit of time, I might do that Patreon thing.  But it's great fun.  I love writing Spider-Man, I love the character.  Don't mistake my saying that I'm not following the character for my not loving the character.  I think the character is great.  I just don't like the way that other people are handling him, because, more often that not, I just don't think they're handling him correctly.
 
16.) You are also reuniting with several "Spider-Man: The Animated Series" cast members to work on "War of the Rocketman".  What is it like working with the old voice cast again?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: You have to realize that the thing that happened during the course of that show is that we all became good friends, so these people are my good friends and it's great.  I love them all, they're wonderful people.  And, you know, Ed Asner's great.  Chris Barnes - fantastic talent, I love him.  And he's a great guy and a good friend.  And Rodney Saulsberry [the voice of Joe "Robbie" Robertson] is a good friend.  And [Mary Jane Watson voice actress] Saratoga Ballantine's a good friend, [Felicia Hardy/Black Cat voice actress] Jennifer Hale's a good friend, [Mysterio and Kraven voice actor] Gregg Berger's a good friend and blah, blah, blah.  They're all friends of mine and I see them all the time.  I run into all my old cast members at various events and things, and it's always a pleasure.  I go to the Magic Castle from time to time.  I usually run into Saratoga Ballantine.  I think she's on the board of directors up there.  So yeah, it's wonderful.  And I can pick up the phone and talk to these people any time and we always have a good time reconvening.  And you see some of that chemistry in that video that I did of our 20th anniversary reunion that we had at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo a couple years ago.  That was a really great fun thing to do and the green room in the back was wonderful where we all got to kind of see each other together for the first time in a long time.  So I love those guys, they're great people.
 
17.) Are there any future announcements we can look forward to in regards to "War of the Rocketmen"?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Yeah, well, the announcement is I'm horribly late in getting that done because the DC thing got in my way.  And I am just now getting things up to speed with DC and getting up to where my deadline should be.  And so now I'm just kind of turning my attention to "War of the Rocketmen" and dealing with all of that.  But, um, when I was starting "War of the Rocketmen" I was not doing anything else and then DC called me up and said, "Hey, how would you like to do this comic book twice a month?"  And it's been a real -- it's been a wonderful gig, but it's been really hard work, so I've got to get back to "War of the Rocketmen".  So my future announcement is that I'll be getting back to "War of the Rocketmen" and hopefully getting all of that taken care of relatively soon.
 
18.) You are also writing "Cyborg" for DC Comics.  Congratulations, by the way.  How does it feel to be working on a new monthly superhero comic?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: It is absolutely fantastic.  Marvel has been very stupid in not asking me to write a comic for them, because DC stepped up to the plate.  They called me up and said, "We want you to come over and do this."  I am working with [DC Comics' President and Chief Creative Officer] Geoff Johns and working with some wonderful editors and I am having a blast.  And everything that I would love to have been doing for Marvel, I'm doing for DC and I'm loving this character.  He's a very important character.  He's going to be in the "Justice League" movie, so I get lots of attention, I get lots of Geoff Johns' attention and I'm having a blast.  It's great and I love the comic book.  I think that the artists are great, I think it's a great comic book.  So I have nothing bad to say about Cyborg or DC.  It's wonderful, a fantastic experience.  A lot of work, very time consuming.
 
19.) To those who don't know, what made you decide to work on Cyborg for DC?  What is it that you love best about the character?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: I didn't decide, they called me.  They actually got in touch with me and said "What are you doing?" and I said, "Well, you know, nothing.  I'm doing all my other little projects and my animation writing."  And they said, "Would you come over and have a meeting?" and I said "Yes".  And the next thing I knew, literally like the next day or two days later, I think the next day though, I was up at the DC offices, I live five minutes away, and I was meeting with Geoff Johns.  And that's the way it went, so it was not my decision.  They came to me and I thank them for that. 
 
20.) One last question -- if you got an invite to return for another "Spider-Man" animated series or even a monthly "Spider-Man" mini-series or ongoing comic series, do you know what you would like to do with Spider-Man next?
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Um -- [pauses] I don't know, you know?  The series that I got to do -- After the first thirteen episodes, I had a lot of control over what I did and nobody bothered me after a certain point.  The first thirteen were a nightmare, because everybody wanted to have their hands in it and it was very difficult to get anything done.  But after that, everybody was all done playing with the new toy and then it became work, so they pretty much left me alone.  And I had the rare circumstance of pretty much being able to do whatever I wanted to do, you know, so I take full credit for that series after episode thirteen.  And good, bad or indifferent, it's all on me as far as the writing is concerned.  I don't know that I would get that kind of a deal today.  I don't know, if I had to do another Spider-Man animated series now, it's Marvel is the Marvel of today and it's very corporate top heavy and everybody goes over everything with a fine tooth comb.  And it's also Disney, and Disney is very top heavy and then everybody goes over everything on the Disney side.  So I don't know.  What I wouldn't want to do is do an animated series with my name on it that didn't reflect what I wanted to do and then everybody would say, "Oh, look, John Semper really sucks and that first series must've been a fluke."  I'd rather, I don't need to mess with them.  So it would really depend on how much autonomy I would have.  I would love to handle the character again, but it would have to be a very circumstance.  It would have to not be the kind of circumstance that the writers who are writing those shows have right now, where they just have so many bosses that they have to please.  When I did my Spider-Man show, Marvel was completely not involved.  They were in the process of being almost bankrupt and everybody was getting fired, and so I didn't answer to Marvel at all.  I only really had to answer to Avi and after a while, he wasn't as involved.  And [Spider-Man co-creator] Stan [Lee], after the first thirteen episodes, he bowed out completely.  So, you know, I had a really great situation.  I don't know that I'd get that again from Marvel.  I do have it from DC, I have a lot of autonomy over this comic book I'm doing.  So, you know... maybe it would be more possible for me to do a Spider-Man comic book and have the kind of creative freedom that I would like.  And, you know, on the cartoon show, I did also have to deal with the network, but that wasn't that difficult after a certain point.  We all got into a groove and I knew what they wanted and all that kind of stuff.
 
Now, I'm going to answer one question that you didn't ask because I'm really -- my own particular thing that drives me crazy, this whole issue of censorship.  We were never censored on "Spider-Man", we did not have heavy censorship.  I'm tired of that rumor that has taken root and has become part of the lore of my series. But we never did.  The whole reason that even came about was because I answered some questions at conventions and I used to do a little routine where I would read some of the Broadcast Standards & Practices's notes.  And I think people were so amazed to hear that we even got notes, that somehow that all just got attached to my show, like I was the only one that ever got Broadcast Standards and Practices's notes.  We weren't.  Everyone got them.  Some series chose to ignore them, kind of like "Batman", but they were just marching to the beat of their own drummer anyway.  But everyone got the same kinds of notes and we did not have censorship on "Spider-Man".  I am so tired of hearing about it.  Everyone says we didn't use real guns.  I did a whole episode with Robbie Robertson and his son and arguing over the son having been caught with a real gun, so you know, that's just a lie.  And then they talk about the laser rifles, and who cares?  A gun is a gun.  And then they say we didn't do death, but you know, we did.  I did kill off the Mary Jane clone.  So, so much of that kind of that particular aspect of things drives me a little crazy.  I've seen a couple of videos recently where they mention it and it just drives me crazy.  We did not have censorship on "Spider-Man" that was any different from any other cartoon show on the air at that particular moment.
 
Thank you for your time.  I wish you nothing but the best, Mr. Semper.
JOHN SEMPER JR.: Well, I wish you nothing but the best.  I'm really pleased.  I love your petitions [to make new episodes of "Spider-Man: The Animated Series" and to release all 65 episodes of the show on DVD and Blu-Ray], thank you very much for that.  And believe me, if Marvel ever came to me and said we're going to give you a series to do, I would certainly consider it very seriously and we would have a discussion about how much creative control I would be able to have.  But I don't think that's going to happen.  It's more likely, actually, that Warner Bros. would give me something to do, because I seem to be getting more love from the Warner Bros. and DC side of things.  Plus, I live right across the street from Warner Bros., so it's all -- I feel like I'm all part of the family there.
 
Anyway, this has been great fun and thank you for your questions.
 
Once again, Very Special Thanks to Mr. Semper for taking the time from his busy schedule to answer these questions.  I hope you all enjoyed the interview.

To anyone interested, you can find the aforementioned "Spider-Man: The Animated Series" petitions at the links below.  All of the petitions are 100% free to sign and none of the information you enter gets publicly displayed or shared after you've signed.

Petition asking Disney XD and Marvel Animation to reunite Mr. Semper and the old crew and voice cast to make all-new episodes of "Spider-Man: The Animated Series":

Petition asking Disney to release all 65 episodes of "Spider-Man: The Animated Series" on DVD and Blu Ray:

There is also a petition that asks Hasbro to make new figures based upon "Spider-Man: The Animated Series" similar to the DC Collectibles "Batman: The Animated Series" toy line, if anyone's interested:


Posted September 20th, 2016


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