Titan Maximum Interview with Zeb Wells

Zeb Wells writes about people in very tight clothes. His work has appeared in Marvel Comics' Amazing Spider-Man, The New Mutants and Venom. He also chips in on Robot Chicken and the Robot Chicken Star Wars specials, where he also voiced the bounty hunter Dengar. And now, he's putting words into the mouths of idiots on the new Adult Swim series Titan Maximum.

What are you doing on Titan Maximum?

Tom had written the pilot and the bible, and then me, Geoff Johns, Matt, and Tom broke the overarching stories for the season, and then me and Tom - I think Tom wrote a few more episodes than I did - but me and Tom were actually sitting down to write the episodes.

We're big fans of your Dengar voice. We were excited to hear it turn up in the second episode of Titan.

Yeah, he was in the pilot a little bit too, as the tank Alpha Alpha.

Are you going to do any more voices for Titan?

Yeah, you know, I don't know if I have any more in season one, but already we have Dean Koontz, Jr. showing up in season two, and he, for some bizarre reason, has the Dengar voice, so hopefully that'll still be happening.

Awesome. So, how do you and Tom write? Are you in a room or do you separate and pass it back and forth?

Yeah, we're in the same room, but we're definitely each writing on our own when we write, and then, at the end of the day, or when we're done with our scripts, we'll print them out and each read them, and then Tom usually goes through to make sure all the character stuff is correct and whatnot.

So Tom acts kind of like the showrunner I say. He's kind of the filter everything goes through.

In the last couple of years, you've kind of transitioned from doing comic books to being one of the big comic book guys on Spider-Man to working on an Emmy-nominated TV series in a pretty condensed period of time. What's that been like?

It's been pretty cool. It's kind of stressful because I am still doing the comics so it's kind of hard to schedule everything sometimes. But, you know, when you're a freelancer, being busy is never bad.

But I've actually had... The biggest change has been from going to like, working by yourself all day and then being angry at the world because you don't see daylight, to actually working in a room with a bunch of other funny people, which has been the best part about the whole thing.

How is writing on Titan different from writing on Robot Chicken?

I think on Robot Chicken you have to convince more people that something's funny, whereas on Titan, I just have to tap dance for Tom, so it's kind of, you know, it works out more for Tom because he's got his little private dancer trying to impress him.

You know when you're writing a script and you've got an idea in your head, you see it come out different in execution. Have there been any surprises when you watch it? Any pleasant surprises or things you imagined differently?

Yeah, I think it always surprises you, and then, you're always seeing stuff in varying phases of completion. So sometimes you'll think that, "Oh, that joke... Nobody got that joke," or "It got lost," and then, when you see it with all of the sound effects and the music and the special effects, it ends up working just fine.

And then, when you're working with Billy Dee, sometimes the way he'll read a line, he'll just completely kill it, and then Breckin is so hilarious, and he does a lot of improvising when he's recording his voice. So that's the best part, hearing what Breckin comes up with for a situation that you give him with his character.

Is there a character that's easier for you to write for? One you identify with more?

I think either... Palmer is fairly easy because he's a drunk, and then Sasha is probably the easiest to write just because she always says whatever's on her mind and it's usually really mean. You don't have to filter yourself at all. So she's probably the best one to write.

Switching gears, what's going on with Warlock in New Mutants? Is he back in the book to stay?

I think so. I think he's going to be around for a little while at least. You know, I'm trying to figure out a way to make him not just kind of a Jar Jar Binks character. We'll see. How successful I am will probably determine how long he sticks around.

And you're bringing back Cypher too?

Yeah, Cypher got brought back in the book X-Force. So we're doing a little bit with him in a couple of issues coming up. And I think I found a way to make him cool, believe it or not, but we'll see. That's another hard sell.

What comic books are you reading these days?

I try to read stuff by Warren Ellis and Joss Whedon. I'll read whatever Mark Millar puts out. I really like him a lot. He always writes a fun book.

What TV do you like, animated or otherwise?

I'm really into Venture Bros., and you know, I watch a lot of TV on DVD right now. I'm tearing through Curb Your Enthusiasm right now, which, for some reason, I could never get into, and now I feel like is the best show ever made, so I'm devouring that.

You know, I live with my girlfriend, so I mostly have to watch s*** that I can't stand, terrible reality shows.

Matt said we need to ask you about a meat jerky story? (Editor's note: In this story, Zeb repeatedly refers to two name brands that we will refer to here as "meat jerky," and "sports beverage." Also, readers with sensitive stomachs may want to skip ahead to the question that starts with "Changing subjects...")

Oh, god. (laughs) Well... One time I was watching some of these s*** reality shows with Heidi, my girlfriend, and her friends, and I had a little bit too much to drink. So Heidi was going to drive me home. But I decided I needed something to eat.

So I went to 7-11 and got some [meat jerky] and a [sports beverage]. And as we were walking to the car, one of her friends, like, kicked my bag out of my hand to be funny and all my s*** went everywhere in someone's yard so I went and grabbed it.

And then as we were driving home I rip open my [meat jerky] and I start eating them, and all of a sudden I realize that they smell exactly like... like... kind of like dog s***. And I'm so shocked. I'm so shocked that the [meat jerky] people, you know, let a barbecue sauce get out - because these were like barbecue chicken nuggets - so, I was so appalled that [meat jerky] had let a barbecue sauce get out that smelled just like somebody's asshole.

So I kept like, shoving it in my girlfriend's face, saying, "You gotta smell this." And she was like, "Okay, yes, it smells like an asshole, I get it." And, you know, of course I just kept eating it and eating it and ranting and raving because I was drunk. You know, I was like, doing five minutes on this dumb ass barbecue sauce.

So finally, there are like three [meat jerky] left and I say, "Okay, I can't do it. I can't do it anymore." So I put them away now. I wipe off the barbecue sauce, at least I hope to God I wiped it off. I pray to God I didn't lick my fingers. But then I notice that I keep getting - because it was dark out - I kept getting the barbecue sauce on my hands. I wiped it off again and then I noticed that I had it on my hands again. And then I looked at my [sports beverage] and I saw what looked like a [meat jerky] on my [sports beverage].

So I turn on the dome light. And there is a piece of dog s*** smeared in the little groove on my f***ing [sports beverage] container. I look at my hands and they are completely covered in dog s***. I had been sitting there, eating these [meat jerky] with s***-covered hands. And then, when you smelled in the bag, you smelled s*** too, so I had obviously deposited enough s*** into the bag to completely contaminate that too. I don't even want to know if I was licking my fingers as I was eating, but I know I consumed at least some dog s*** that night.


It was brutal.

Changing subjects, if time and money were not an issue, in addition to what you're already doing, what would be your dream project?

In addition to what I'm doing... I'd probably make some s*** independent film that no one would want to see, if time and money were no issue. Because every short film I've made before is pretty s***** but it's still what I'd like to do at some point. Maybe something about cowboys. And you can quote me on that.

Is there anything else you can think of that we should ask about Titan? Because we're not professional interviewers.

No, I'm one of the worst interviews on the planet. Yeah, I have nothing else.

Titan Maximum premieres Sunday, Sept. 27 at 11:30p ET/PT on [adult swim]