‘DC Universe Online’ Writer Marv Wolfman Talks About the MMO, Comics and Optimus Prime

He destroyed the Superman and Batman’s multiverse and brought Optimus Prime back to life. Now Marv Wolfman is part of the writing team for the super-hero massively multiplayer online super-hero game, “DC Universe Online.”


Last week, I spoke to comics writer Marv Wolfman about his involvement in the DC Comics MMO  “DC Universe Online.” (I did so after giving him grief about how he brought Optimus Prime back to life in less than stellar fashion back in the 80s — I’ll get into that later). Wolfman is a highly-regarded veteran comics writer whose most famous work is the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” mini-series that re-booted the DC Universe in the mid-80s.

Here’s what I learned about his involvement in the game and how the story is taking shape.

When I spoke to him, Wolfman hadn’t worked with the developers yet. What he had done is absorbed the high-end master-story for the game, which had been cooked up by fellow comics writer Geoff Johns. Wolfman was brought in to turn Johns’ story into actual missions.

The story itself is a secret still. What Wolfman will say about is that “there’s an amazing story that fits within the DC Universe. It starts in a specific place, where you are told what you have to do and what the outcome may be. There is a goal.”

That’s vague, but it’s the kind of grand and driven story Wolfman said he thinks a super-hero MMO needs. He had played “City of Heroes” when it first came out, and while he enjoyed it, he felt that each super-hero battle he experienced in the game was just an event unto itself. He suggests that the player of “DCUO” will be made to feel that they’re playing a DC Comics epic, a series that goes somewhere.

The player can be their own super-hero. Around them will be DC’s cast of legends. Most are unannounced, but three characters Wolfman does confirm he’s writing in the game are Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

Superman is the DC character most familiar to Wolfman, who said the publication of his first Superman story for DC in 1969, gives him the uncommon claim to have written the Man of Steel in five decades. Wolfman is also credited with being the main creator behind the modern version of Lex Luthor. Besides writing Superman comics, Wolfman wrote EA’s poorly-reviewed “Superman Returns” game. But don’t hold that against him. He’s optimistic about how he can write Superman in the new MMO. “We can absolutely be on target for the character the way it’s done at DC,” he said. “It’s not the movie character…We can do Superman right.

He’s also excited to pen Batman for the game. “I think, for games, Batman is just perfect, because he can seek things out and link different parts of the story and characters together.”

And Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman has never been given a chance to shine in a video game, he said. “I’m really pleased to be able to deal with her … a lot of people just think of her as Linda Carter, but she’s a Greek goddess, literally.”

Wolfman emphasized that the game is portraying the modern DC Universe. Readers of the currently-published comics will recognize the universe as one that feels up to date, rather than as an alternate version made for the game. “People reading the comics won’t find this to be an alien land,” he said. On the other hand, Wolfman doesn’t think people who don’t read the comics these days will find the game’s story hard to follow.

If you’re checking for gaming credentials, Wolfman has a PS2, Xbox 360 and Wii. He was playing “God of War 2” the day before he and I talked (“I played for an hour and a half until I got stuck on a level.”) He’s got MMO experience from playing “City of Heroes” and “World of Warcraft.” Added bonus: his wife works at Blizzard in the cinematics department.

Wolfman believes that he has ample time to make this video game super-hero script a good one. He and a rep for “DCUO” development studio Sony Online Entertainment won’t clarify the game’s release date for PC and PS3, though Johns had previously suggested was late 2009 or early 2010. Whether that’s still the case or not, the involvement of Johns, Wolfman and creative director and legendary penciller Jim Lee ensures that this game has a great DC Comics pedigree.

Wolfman’s got a new infinite universe in which to play.

An endnote about Wolfman and Optimus Prime: Back in the 1980s, Optimus Prime was killed in an animated Transformers movie. Fans complained. Wolfman said he was called in and given two weeks to write the two-parter that would bring the Autobot hero back. He wrote an estimated 400 Transformers into the script, a piece of ensemble work that backed up the claim that he’s the go-to person for writing the adventures of huge casts of characters: “I seem to have a facility with dealing with multiple characters and figuring out what makes Batman and Superman tick. There may be a writer who can write a better Batman story — hell, I know there are — but when you have 400 characters you need to know what makes each one tick.” That’s what he’s good at. But give him more thank two weeks! I may have given him grief that the return of Optimus Prime wasn’t his best work — it seemed forced (because it was) and too convenient. But Wolfman can do me one better: he’s never watched the episodes. Lesson learned. He won’t let that kind of thing happen with “DCUO.”

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