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Some of What I'm Writing These Days

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I said some time back here that I was working on a new comic book with characters I'd always wanted to handle. The fine folks have finally announced it so I can say it's a four-issue mini-series of Rocky and Bullwinkle, the first issue of which comes out at the end of March. Each issue features a complete tale of Moose and Squirrel in two parts with a brief adventure of Dudley Do-Right, both expertly illustrated by Roger Langridge. What I've seen so far of the artwork looks terrific.

I'm doing this somewhat to scratch a long-held itch. For years and years, going back to the days when Jay Ward and Bill Scott were still around, I kept being approached — and in some cases, actually hired and paid — to write Rocky 'n' Bullwinkle projects that fell through.

The one I regretted losing the most had me working with Bill Scott who was, as you probably know, the head writer/producer of most of what Jay's company produced. He was also the voice of Bullwinkle, Dudley, Mr. Peabody, Fearless Leader, Super Chicken and so many more. At the time of his death in 1985, he and Frank Welker and I were writing a screenplay for a live-action Dudley Do-Right movie for MGM. This had nothing to do with the one made by others in 1999 with Brendan Fraser.

Bill's tragic passing was not the main reason our script never got made. The main one was a rights problem. Having an arrangement with Jay Ward turned out to not be enough.

Back then, the control of those properties was a morass of competing claims and partners, silent and otherwise. Most animation historians will tell you that the reason Jay stopped producing cartoons was that he was fed up with having to deal with network interference. That was certainly a reason but another was that he didn't want to, or maybe couldn't deal with those who claimed to own or control some or all of his most famous properties.

Our project disappeared into that morass…and I'll tell you how messy it all was. A few years later, I was approached by a major animation producer who said, "We have the rights to Rocky and Bullwinkle, and we want you to write a special for us." I said fine, terrific, I'll do it. Before we got around to the part where I'd sign a contract and they'd pay me money, a different major animation producer called me and said, "We have the rights to Rocky and Bullwinkle, and we want you to write a special for us." I said yes to them, too.

For a brief time, I hoped I could get them both to pay me for writing the same script but the attorneys began duking it out and all plans were off. Much the same thing happened a couple of other times. It got so when someone called and asked me to write Rocky and Bullwinkle for something, I'd say yes and then think to myself, "Well, let's see how long it takes this one to collapse." Boris Badenov couldn't kill Moose and Squirrel but for a time there, the legal profession was doing a darn good job of it.

What changed? Well, eventually, a wise and dedicated lady named Tiffany Ward stepped in, spent pots of dough on lawyers, and managed to free Rocky and His Friends from various claimants. Now, controlling her father's characters free and clear and alone, she licenses 'em to the right folks to do good things with them. I hope our comic proves to be one of them.

So that's one comic book I'm writing these days. Another is Groo the Wanderer, which will be returning to the comic book racks shortly. I'll post a message soon about that. And I'm still writing most (not all) of the Garfield comic book published by Boom Studios. Solicitors and dealers advertise it like everything in it's by me but a clever gent named Scott Nickel, who works for Jim Davis, pitches in now and then when I'm swamped with other work. He did several stories while I was immersed in Garfield TV projects and didn't have time to squeeze out any additional lasagna jokes. His are pretty good and he deserves credit for 'em. End of plug.