Joseph "Joe" Kelly is an American comic book writer, penciler and editor who has written such titles as Deadpool, Uncanny X-Men, Action Comics, and JLA. As part of the comics creator group Man of Action Studios, Kelly is one of the creators of the animated series Ben 10.
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Co-Founder of Man of Action Entertainment - creators of Ben 10, Generator Rex and the characters and team of Big Hero 6. Writer and producer of comics and animation for almost 20 years.
Writing and directing "Poughkeepsie", a short film funding now on Kickstarter. It's about a dying Alzheimer's patient who discovers the ability to move through his memories and change his life. Can he save his daughter who died too young before his time is up? The campaign is here - we're at 30% funded - please check it out when you get a chance!: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1749833744/poughkeepsie-a-short-film
Ask me anything!
Will there ever be a cartoon version of spiderman grown up? Like they had in the 90s? That show was awesome.
Not sure. We always tell folks who want to see their favorite characters done in new ways to contact their studios directly. Fans have a voice - so let Marvel Animation know what you want to see!
Hey Joe, I wanna thank you for signing my copy of Action 775 on Free Comic Book Day. Can't wait to see Poughkeepsie! Two questions:
How has your experience with animation, film production, and creator owned work changed the way you write? And would you return to writing Superman, given the chance?
Writing in all of the different modes that MOA works in has sharpened my visual storytelling for sure - it's what I do 99% of the day - though I will admit that each medium encourages "bad habits". For example, I can't write TV the way I write a comic - I'd wind up with 200 page scripts.
Screenwriting gets sharpened with every piece I write, but I also get so focused on keeping it light that I might loose out on some details when I get to a comic script.
Bottom line is that the more I write the better I feel about my writing - and I'd tell anyone starting out to just write regardless of the medium.
As to Superman - sure! I love the Big Guy! I'd write him again - though probably more in specials or OGNs than an ongoing.
hey, big fan! do you prefer Marvel or DC?
HA! Nothing like an easy question to start the day!
As a FAN - I have always loved Marvel. Spider-Man has been my favorite superhero from day one.
As a PRO I've been lucky enough to work at both companies and (honestly not being diplomatic) I like them both for different reasons: Marvel characters feel more fun for me to rite - there is a joy in the universe for me. DC Characters carry more gravitas and I get to explore a much darker side of writing.
As to the films... I'm loving Marvel right now. LOVING.
Huge fan. What was the motivation and inspiration for making Deadpool a "more-than-meets-the-eye" character when you wrote it?
When we first pitched the Deadpool series, he was actually a lot goofier of a character and we were doing a romp of a series. But then when Matt Idelson and I started talking about the character as a "dark Spider-Man" (which had been floated around the office way before I ever came on board) we started thinking of him as a much more layered character. Ultimately, I wanted to tell the story of a guy who wanted to do good, but was constitutionally incapable of doing so. That's a flawed character I can get behind. He's got aspirations but has a temper. He wants friends but treats everyone like crap.
From there we built him out into the bastard we know and love!
Thanks for taking the time to do this. When writing JLA, how much pressure were you under, considering you were following two very highly regarded runs?
HUGE pressure! Following Grant and Mark was actually pretty terrifying for me. I am a huge fan of their work, so I was following writers I respect on the biggest DC book... a little nervewracking. : )
But I had Doug Mahnke in my arsenal and that made it better!
What's your favorite thing you've had a part in creating?
That's like asking me to pick my favorite kid! :)
I think my creator comics rank at the top. I'm extremely proud of Ben 10 and our animation work at MOA, but I Kill Giants is very close to my heart. So if I had to pick one, that's it.
The new project I'm working on is a short film called Poughkeepsie. I'm in love with that project right now - and we're Kickstarting it. (See how smooth that transition was? ;)
Check it out for more: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1749833744/poughkeepsie-a-short-film
What inspired your work on Ben 10 and Generator Rex? Really liked those shows btw
Ben 10 and Generator Rex were inspired by so many things - all four of us at Man of Action developed both of those shows. On the base level - we always try to make cartoons that we would have watched as kids and would want to watch as adults!
The 4 of us come from different backgrounds and influences, but for me the feel of old Hanna Barbera adventures had a huge influence.
Love your work, thank you! Big Hero 6 had such realistic and empathetic characters. How do you get the emotion “right”?
Steve Seagle and Duncan Rouleau created the team originally in Alpha Flight as an homage to anime and manga characters that we all love. They wanted to launch a team with depth, which means cool characters that play off of one another.
For the film, the geniuses at Disney took the basic concepts, tweaked and expanded them and created a hell of a film. We really love that movie and are very proud to be associated with it!
If you could write a comic series for a character you never written before, who would it be and why?
SPECTRE I've been obsessed with the Spectre for a long time - not just because of all the Bond ads - I love the character and the mythology and would love to do a horror book.
Really love your work on Superman. My friend recommended it, it's his favorite and quickly becoming mine too. Couple of questions.
What are you having for lunch?
Which character do you find hardest to write and which the easiest?
Will you come back to write Superman ever again should the opportunity present itself?
Which characters of DC and Marvel would you like to write?
Lunch - Not a lot, I got food poisoning from Thanksgiving Dinner! Yummmm!
Characters - Superman was the most difficult at first but he became a favorite once I got into the meat of the character - I love what he represents, no matter how ugly the world gets I love those ideals. Easiest characters - Lou from Bad Dog. He is my dark nasty id.
Superman - I would give him a shot again, but probably in specials or a graphic novel.
Other characters - Right now I'm focusing a lot on my own stuff, so I haven't thought a lot about the Marvel and DC characters much. I'm writing Spider-Man + Deadpool now (awesome!) and we have some cool guest stars so I'm getting to scratch that itch without thinking about it too much.
What cartoon in the past decade should I watch that you have not worked on?
Series - Avatar - The Last Airbender
Movie - The Illusionist
What's it like to see a character you played such a big part in developing turn into a pop culture phenomenon?
It's humbling. It's very exciting. It's that "is this actually happening" moment you dream about as a writer.
Ben 10 has been around for 10 years and plays in 170+ countries. That's mind-boggling. Plus, I helped create him with my friends! You can't beat that.
Of course, it was the first thing we ever did, so it's all down hill from there... ; )
So kidding! Gives us a bar to aspire to!
I'm sure there's already information out on this but I thought it'd be interesting to ask you. Why is Ben 10 being rebooted and how did that come about?
I can assume the latest series wasn't doing so well ratings wise but why a hard reboot instead of say a spin off or something? Admittedly I haven't watched since I was a kid but I was a huge fan back then.
Also I greatly enjoyed your JLA run. Still one of the best.
Ben 10 isn't going anywhere any time soon, so for CN it will be a regular question: "Do we mix things up? Reboot? etc." The goal is to make a great show, however they decide to answer the question.
I can't answer for CN, but for myself I feel like a "back to basics" approach was necessary - but there are still a lot of surprises in store for older fans.
Is the mans name billy pilgrim?
Ha! No aliens in Poughkeepsie. The universe just sort of cracks open for this 80 year old man, who's sort of an asshole, and he gets a chance to try and make up for a ruined life.
Love Vonnegut, P.S., but didn't even make that connection!
What will your next short film project be after Poughkeepsie?
Hopefully my next short will be a feature! : )
But let's get through this film first. Which reminds me - you can check out the KS campaign here! Please consider backing or spreading the word!
What got you interested in writing for Deadpool? Do you have a favorite Deadpool story? What was the origin pitch for a Spider-Man/Deadpool comic? Can't wait for the first issue!
Thanks! Issue 1 drops in January!
In the old days waaaaaay back in 1997, my interest was a job! : ) It was a great opportunity and I'd only been at Marvel for a few months. But once I dove into the character I felt like I could contribute a lot to him and I fell in love with this poor slob who wants so badly to do the right thing, but just can't.
Marvel actually pitched me on SM+DP and the pitch was : "You get Spider-Man, Deadpool and Ed McGuinness." Done!
What's your favorite Deadpool joke?
The joke I get asked most about is "YoMammageddon" which is a joke so potent that to hear the punchline would drive a man insane and/or make his heart explode. We blacked it out so that we wouldn't kill our readers. : )
My favorite DP joke personally is coming up in the new series. : )
Hello Joe, Was there any moments you had to cut out while working on Ben 10 or Generator Rex, and where did you guys get the idea for the Omnitrix?
There are jokes and ideas that wind up on the floor in every development process. In the first version of Ben 10, Max was a scientist who drove a blimp - for real. I'm glad we ditched that one, actually. : )
We always wanted Ben to have a device that gave him access to the aliens - it went through a few iterations before settling on the Omnirix - which was originally called the "Megawhat?" because the alien name was too long for Ben... again, that worked out OK.
Have you ever thought about doing your own Image series since so many writers are doing it right now? If you were to make your own story with Image, what artist would you want to tag team with?
Actually I have a few Image books - but they began before the current boom and come out <ahem> slowly. But...
I Kill Giants is at Image and we have an evergreen edition available now. JM Ken Niimura is the genius co-creator artist.
Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire is the second arc of a series I co-created with genius Max Fiumara
The first collection of Bad Dog with genius Diego Greco is available now as well.
In 2016 I'm definitely launching at least 1 more title through Image. They are awesome to work with!
As to artists - there is so much talent it's really hard to choose. I mean literally there are dozens of artists I'd like to work with.
Any talks of live action Ben 10?
Yup! The rights to a live action Ben 10 were optioned a while back. Every once in a while we hear that something might be happening, but nothing yet.
How did you get food poisoning?
An evil evil undercooked Turkey... I think. We have a forensics team trying to work out what exactly did it. : )
Hey Joe! I'm a huge fan of Ben 10 and I'm glad that you've given us the opportunity to ask you questions.
• Whatever happened to the possible spin-off centered on Gwen that was talked about in some interview? Was it scrapped, still being worked on, or isn't but is possible in the future?
• I'm excited for the new Ben 10 reboot and just more Ben 10 in general, but is there any chance of the idea at the last Omniverse episode ever seeing the light of day? Where Ben, Rook, Kevin and Gwen go on a trip across the galaxy?
• Will the Ben 10 reboot still have some characters/villains/aliens that were introduced in Ben's later years throughout Alien Force to Omniverse? (for example, seeing Albedo during his earlier years, or Ben 10,000 and his Biomnitrix)
• Is the Ben 10 reboot like an alternate reality or is everything canon with the original series? Continuity went back and forth with all the other series, so it was confusing sometimes.
• Will you be doing these kind of AMA's in the future? I enjoyed being able to ask you stuff. It reminds me of when Dwayne McDuffie and Derrick J Wyatt answered questions for fans.
Thank you very much, and I can't wait to see what you guys do with the reboot!
Thanks for the kind words!
Gwen Spin off: I think this actually happened (or was at least developed) in Japan. We would LOVE to see a Gwen show. As always, I'd tell you to write Cartoon Network and demand it!
Space road trip - It could happen! But maybe not a for a while. ; )
Can't say too much about new Ben 10 - but there will be plenty of familiar faces as well as new characters. Sometimes you want to save those big guns for a little later too - for example, in Ultimate Spider-Man, we didn't have traditional Spidey villains for most of the first season.
The new Ben 10 is very clean in its continuity. I can't say exactly what that means as a CN lawyer is standing right behind me, but it will be a great entry point for new viewers and have plenty of touchstones for older fans.
More AMAs - Hell yes! This is great! I post a lot on twitter and have been meaning to do this for a long time. I really enjoy this sort of thing.
And it's great that you got to chat with Dwayne. What a great guy and amazing talent.
Can you shed any light on the Mega Man cartoon? Are we getting a series faithful to earlier incarnations, later games, or something for entirely new fans?
Also thank you so much for the depth you provided to Deadpool. Who knows where that character would be today without you.
Thanks for the Deadpool love! : )
MegaMan is a ton of fun. We're having a blast working on him!
We're trying to create a show that incorporates the best bits of the franchises many incarnations - and we have 30 years of stuff to choose from! I can say that, again, it's going to be a show that we would want to see as fans, kids and adults. It's exciting, funny and adds some new elements to the mythology as well as playing with the great toys already on the table.
We've gotten exceptional support from Capcom and our partners at Dentsu, and I think we're on to a very fun show.
How did you feel about CN taking Ben 10 in a more sci-fi direction and dumping most of the mystical elements of the show?
I think all of the Ben 10 iterations have pluses and minuses. It's nice to keep the concepts simple so the world is clean...
... that said, I prefer a universe with some variety. So I would have kept Gwen's magic magic. :)
Where did you get your inspiration from when designing the creatures in Ben 10 and other similar projects? Ever since I was a child I've loved seeing all different kind of monsters an aliens, and the diversity of the aliens in Ben 10 really stood out to me.
The original designer for Ben 10 is Dave Johnson. He's an amazing artist - you should look up his stuff when you get a chance! We had many other very talented designers during the life of the show - we'd cook up powers and they bring them to life.
What is your involvement with the Deadpool series. Are you a writer for the comic books, movie, animated series?
I was the first to write Deadpool in his own ongoing series and did so for 3 years back in the day. This January I'm launching Spider-Man + Deadpool at Marvel.
And I made sure we got him in to Ultimate Spider-Man!
Hey Joe, thanks for doing this AMA! What are your influences for Poughkeepsie? Thanks again!
I've wanted to shoot a short film for a while, specifically a drama with some magical elements. My influences as a director are Terry Gilliam, David Fincher & Wes Anderson. Also the stuff that's being done on TV these days is so amazing - Mr. Robot, True Detective & Hannibal are all inspirational.
first of all, thank you for your body of work. everyone you touch just seems to be fun, first and foremost.
personally, i feel like if you and gennedy got together, that'd be some sort of franchise building show/series.
question: is there anyone in any of your industries you would've liked to/dreamed of working with?
secret question: how true is that rumor behind gwen's redesign between ben10 and its subsequent series?
Thanks for the kind words!
There are a ton of people I want to work with - honestly too many to mention - In comics I'd love to get Bill Sienkewicz to paint a book, Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba, Fiona Staples, Skottie Young... the list goes on!
As to the Gwen redesign - I don't think she's ever been slated for a major redesign that I remember.
How do you feel about the characterization of Deadpool now versus how you wrote him? Or rather, how would you define the differences?
I'm a fan of what Gerry Duggan has been doing with Deadpool - I think he's struck a great mix between comedy and the darker elements.
Other people seem to zero in on the elements that they like the most - the comedy, the 4th wall breaking, the ultra-violence - and that works for them. I tend to prefer navigating all of those levels at the same time if I can.