Screenwriter Eric Wallace Is ‘Rebooting’ Old Comics

Eric Wallace, BS ’91, wrote his first script when he was 12. “It was a really bad zombie movie,” he remembers. “This neighbor kid wrote it with me. Then he went off and discovered girls, but I kept writing.”

Now Wallace is a seasoned Hollywood screenwriter with a colorful résumé. He’s written for reality shows, a sci-fi drama, and an anime cartoon. His latest project is for DC Comics, where he’s helping to “reboot” the entire line of comics.

How did you get into screenwriting?

I started out at UT as a biology major. Then a friend said I should switch to film, because I talked about films all the time, knew lots of trivia. I told him it was just for fun, and he said, “So why not do something fun for your career?” That was kind of a revelation for me. I joined the Radio-Television-Film program and never looked back.

What do you like about writing for comic books?

I like that I can write, “Scene one, panel one: A thousand suns explode in a burst of fire and an entire galaxy is wiped out,” and my boss will say “Great, let’s do that!” Because in comics, you aren’t constrained by budget. In TV or film, they would laugh and toss that out right away—it’s already a $30 million scene. Comic books are where my imagination can run wild.

What is the DC Comics reboot?

Fewer people have been reading comic books lately, especially younger people. One reason for this is that the characters and the storylines are so old. Wonder Woman was born in 1940; the first Superman comic came out in 1938. These origin stories aren’t as relevant to a 21st century audience.

So DC is relaunching their comics, starting over from the beginning, with different stories and freshened-up characters. Starting on Sept. 1, when the first book comes out, Superman and Lois Lane aren’t married like they were in the old edition. Who even knows if they’ll get together this time? It’s a fresh slate. New readers can buy a comic for the first time and not have to catch up on 75 years of backstory. And you can download them and read them on your iPad.

What is your role in the reboot?

I’m writing for “Mister Terrific.” He was previously a character in the Justice Society of America, and now he has his own comic. One cool thing this with this project is that we’re diversifying the characters, making them more representative of reality. Mister Terrific is African American, and he’s the star of the comic. That never used to happen. Previously you’d see diverse characters in a background role, with a white character in the spotlight.

When I was growing up, I never saw characters in comics who looked like me. Now there are more African-American characters, Latino and Asian characters, gay and interracial characters. That’s what our world looks like today, and readers deserve a comic book world reflective of that. I really believe that pop culture can be a tool against racism—as hip-hop has been, for example. I think comic books could have that power, too.

Do you have any advice for aspiring young writers?

You have to wear at least three hats. It’s very hard to make a living as a writer doing just one kind of work. So develop strengths in multiple media—I’ve done TV, film, and comics—and market yourself. For me, the medium doesn’t matter that much. As long as I get to tell a great story, I’m happy.

Vampires have been trendy for a while now. What’s next?

Zombies are the new vampires. They’re on The Walking Dead and other shows . . . they haven’t peaked yet. But I think werewolves will be next.

Why werewolves?

It’s the whole man/beast thing—taming the gentleness that lies within the beast, and exploring how we all have a little bit of a beast in us. I should be taking notes on this right now, actually!


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