RICH INTERVIEWS: John Semper Jr. Writer Cyborg: Rebirth DC Comics
First Comics News: For those who do not know, who is Cyborg and what powers or abilities does he have?
John Semper Jr: Well that is covered in the origin issue which you have now had a chance to see or my rebirth issue we will call it where we go into the origin of Cyborg. Basically he was someone who was caught in a unique kind of explosion that’s almost to complicated to go into. Which is probably one of the problems of the character in a way is that his origin requires a lot of knowledge about a bunch of other things like Mother Boxes and Boom Tubes. But basically he was caught in an explosion and his father who is a scientist who is in charge of Star Lab was in Detroit. He decided that the only way to save him would be to use some of the alien technology that they had been experimenting with and observing and researching. Basically what they did was they turned him into a creature who was part human and part machine. The real question with Cyborg is how much of him is still human and how much of him is now machine.
Rich: What enemies will Cyborg face in this new series?
1st: Well we introduced a really big one at the end of issue one. We haven’t given his name yet so I can’t give it to you right at the moment. This character is someone who touches upon everything that’s interesting and meaningful in Cyborg’s life. Like the difference between humans and machines and which side does Cyborg want to be on. Also it touches upon some of the emotional problems he had as in dealing with his father. This villain is going to serve as the catalyst for getting Cyborg out of the house and Star Labs and more into the street and into the world. So he develops more of a world and developing a world of his own. Which is I think something the character has lacked. Though he will be facing a lot of really interesting enemies. He is not just going to be fighting robots. I am not going to turn this into Ultra Man and it going to be a much more cerebral series. than I think most people are expecting. Its almost going to be a bit like Cyborg noir. That will be apparent when you see some of the interesting new directions that I am going with the character. It will start to be apparent in issue number one. Not the Rebirth one but the regular issue one that’s going to be out in a couple days.
Rich: Will you be looking at how well Victor Stone adjusts to being more than half machine?
1st: Yes that is obviously something we will be paying a lot of attention to. Its going to be even more than that. Its going to move into things we have never seen before. Like if hes more machine than he is man its entirely possible that maybe hes more monster than he is regular and safe. Maybe he is not so safe to be around any more. So were going to delve into all of that.
Rich: How do you feel about making your comic book debut with “Cyborg: Rebirth”?
1st: I could not be happier about making my comic book debut with Cyborg Rebirth. I’m having a wonderful time working on this comic book. I think I’m doing something that is unexpected. I like to do things that are unexpected and surprise people. I’m having a lot of fun working with my editors. With Jeff Johns and I’m working very directly with him. I’m having a great time this is the only way to make a comic book debut is working with a major character at DC. I highly recommend it to everyone who is thinking of making a comic book debut. So there you go.
Rich: How do you feel about using robotic parts to replace missing or injured human limbs?
1st: I think its great. I’m one of those people that whenever there is a new technology I immediately embrace it. I want to find out everything there is to know about it. Right now I’m very actively involved in messing around with virtual reality. I never understand people who don’t to deal with new technology. I love 3D and when all the 3D movies came out and 3D TV’s came out, people were going I hate 3D, why 3D, why don’t we just leave it the way it is. The great thing about technology is it never stops changing and improving. I love all the surprises that technology brings. Using robots to do things, I love all the things that are being done at Boston Dynamics. I think that’s the name of the company that is doing all the cool robots. You can try to knock them over while their walking but they won’t , they can climb up stairs and everything. I love all that stuff.
Rich: What about the character Cyborg is most like you?
1st: Well a lot of me seeps into everything I write. What is there about him that is most like me, I guess he and I have had similar backgrounds in a lot of ways. He has gone to great institutions. That he has been raised to value intelligence as being a very important thing. Little bits and pieces and he is going to end up having my sense of humor. That hasn’t quit arrived yet he has to develop a little more of a personality before that will show itself.
Rich: How was writing “Spider-Man: The Animated Series” different than writing a comic book?
1st: Its all storytelling so in a way there is not a lot of difference. Its really just a difference of format. Animation has its strengths and limitations and comic books have their strengths and limitations. So you know its really not that hard once you figure out the format. Comic books are very restrictive in that you only have so many pages and you can only put so many panels on a page and you can only have so much dialogue. But you know animation is restrictive to. You can’t have pages and pages of dialogue there either because animated faces usually don’t have the nuance and suitability able to sustain lots of dialogue. People’s attention will wonder. Basically in each format you have to find ways of making sure that people don’t lose interest and that their attention does not wonder while your trying to tell the story. The two are different but storytelling is storytelling. So in a lot of ways the two are very much the same.
Rich: What stood out for you about working on “Static Shock: Soul Power”?
1st: Well that was a story I really wanted to do. I had had this idea. That actually started with my idea. I’ve always had this idea of looking at super-heroes when they got older. I had done it with Spider-Man we did a thing called six forgotten warriors which I wrote that was my idea. When I cam over to Static Shock I thought. What would it be like to do that similar kind of story at this time in the world of Static Shock. It grew, it just grew. Adam Beacham came in and did the first draft on the script as I recall. I think though that he had worked from my original idea because remember pitching that to the network well before we had gotten close to doing the script. So it was a lot of fun. I really loved that episode. I loved working with the legendary of Brock Peters, the late Brock Peters. Its not often you get to work with an Academy Award, I know that he was nominated I can’t remember if he won. He was a high caliber actor and we also had other actors involved in that episode that I thought were really strong, Terrance Stamp, the legendary Terrance Stamp. That was a great episode, everything about it stood out for me. It was one of my favorite episodes.
Rich: Why do you enjoy writing?
1st: There is an old saying, I don’t enjoy writing but I like having written. I really don’t like writing to be honest with you. But I love when I’ve written something and watching it get made. What I enjoy is the end result. I don’t really enjoy the process, the writing, I find it really kind of annoying. Your sitting alone in a room starring at a screen. It is very anti-social. Your wrestling with your demons the entire time. I actually find the process of writing to be very painful. But it just so happens that I an good at it. I can make a buck at it and so I do. I enjoy writing for people who appreciate what I’ve written. I enjoy meeting people years later who have seen things that I’ve written and have gotten things out of it and they tell me about it. I love that part of it. I’m not a person who enjoys writing but I enjoy having written.
Rich: Why should people watch “Creeporia” what will they get out of it?
1st: I don’t think that anyone has to watch it. If I had only made “Creeporia” for myself. Its one of the few things I’ve done that I can always watch. Sometimes I’ll think to myself I’ll watch about 5 min of it and than I end up watching the whole thing all 3 1/2 hours of it. It delights me, its funny and I think that the girls did a wonderful job performing in the lead role. I think that everybody who performed really did a wonderful job. It was a great time in my life. I spent a month filming “Creeporia”, I actually spent several years making it. We only filmed for one month and I never laughed so hard in my life. I had so much fun making that film.
I guess I don’t really think about what people will get out of it. I’m just happy I made it for me and I get a lot out of it, a lot of joy. I hope they get the same amount of joy and pleasure out of it. Its very silly, there is nothing profound about “Creeporia”. Which is one of the things I like about it.
Rich: What has been your most rewarding experience during your career?
1st: I have a couple of experiences that I consider rewarding. Spider-Man was phenomenal. I didn’t always enjoy working with the people but I enjoyed working with my writers. I enjoyed the end result. I think its a really great series and I’m very proud of it. I enjoyed working with Jim Henson I did the animated Fraggle Rock. Everything about working with Jim Henson was wonderful and special. That was fun. I did two weeks writing on a project with George Lucas were I actually got to be with George. I and two other writers, two or three other writers. We got to work with him every day. We’d hang out up at the ranch. Which is like heaven. That was an amazing experience. Those are three of my rewarding experiences. Working with Stan Lee, working on Spider-Man with Stan. Stan is my hero and always will be.
Rich: Which super-hero that you have worked on would you like the powers of and what would you do with them?
1st: I did Super Friends so I suppose I’d choose Superman. Ha Ha Although my Super Friends is not the greatest Super Friends ever written. The way you phrased the question I guess he can be included. I’d want to be Superman. Cause who wouldn’t want to be Superman. Somebody once asked me what super power I’d like to have. That’s always been an easy one for me. The ability to look into the past. Not the ability to go into the past. I have no desire to do that. To be able to look into the past and see what happened. So that you could solve mysteries, we would know who killed Nicole Brown Simpson. Who killed JFK. Or even who stole somebodies bicycle. I’ve always maintained that if there was some way to look into the past we would pretty much eliminate all crime. Because nobody could get away with it. That would be the ultimate power that I think would fix things. The ability to look into the past would be my favorite super power if I had to choose one. But if I had to be any super-hero I’ve written it would probably have to be Superman.
Rich: Why do you love super-heroes?
1st: When I was a kid I really loved super-heroes. Because you got to experience things that you didn’t really ever get a chance to experience through their eyes. I don’t think that its so much that I love super-heroes now. I think its more that I love people. I love stories about people who have to deal with being super-heroes. Its the best of both world’s. You get to be heroic but you also get to be human. and deal with vulnerabilities. I just think that is really kind of fun. I like heroes, I like people who are fighting bad guys and doing really good things for people. The super part is not one hundred percent necessary. It’s just a nice wrinkle on being a hero. I think heroes are cool. I ‘m not a guy who likes anti-heroes. I’m not a guy who likes monsters and really grotesque freaky characters. They don’t really amuse me. Super-heroes and heroes in general I find them to be very worth while and inspiring.
Rich: Do you have anything to say to the fans of your work?
1st: First of all thank you for giving me the opportunity to answer these questions. Thank you for your patience. I see that we last spoke back in August and it is now approaching the end of September and i am finally getting around to you. I apologize for that. That’s the first thing I should say.
My fans of my work are the only people that really matter to me. Most of the people that I’ve worked for annoyed the hell out of me. A lot of them I don’t ever want to see again. So really the only reward I get for a lot of the things I’ve done are from the fans who got it and appreciated it. In many instances were a lot smarter the people I was working for. You know its all about the fans and I wouldn’t be doing any of this if it weren’t for you. Its no fun making something in a vacuum. Its no fun working for people who give you money but than do not appreciate what your doing or even sometimes they don’t understand what your doing. The fans get it that’s why there fans. They are the whole reason I do anything, there my one single motivation for doing any of this. The money would be my second single motivation for doing any of this but that’s a whole other thing.