Kevin Shinick is an Emmy Award winning writer and is well known for his work on Robot Chicken over on Adult Swim. Shinick has also worked alongside the likes of George Lucas, KISS, and Mike Tyson. Shinick has also written for both Marvel and DC comics. Today TCN and Shinick discussed his first run on The Flash with “With This Ring.” With that being said, let’s get into it.
Q: What got you interested in writing to begin with?
A: I think I’ve always been interested in writing because I’ve always been interested in entertaining people. I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a career in the arts. I began primarily as an actor, going to school for it and then eventually performing in a number of Broadway plays and television shows, but I often felt I also wanted to express my own ideas. I had always enjoyed writing and spent a lot of times creating poems, plays or short stories through my life, but it wasn’t until later in life that I chose to really focus on the writing full time.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
A: The quick answer is that it’s great to bring your ideas to life. But really there are many different facets I like about being a writer. I like that I can do it from anywhere at any time. I like that I never know what’s going to inspire me. And I love when I do get inspired. Of course, there are many steps between getting inspired and getting that idea to the page the way you like it. It can be fulfilling and also challenging, but I love the journey. And when it works, or you come close to birthing the idea you had in mind, it’s a great feeling.
Q: When it’s time to sit down and start writing, where do you draw inspiration from?
A: That’s the fun part of writing. You don’t always know where the inspiration is going to come from. I go to parks, I go to cafes, I look around my room. But a lot of times I try and look in an area that I wouldn’t normally think to look. Meaning, we all have a wide range of interests, but sometime we don’t realize how connected they are. Or could be. Since I work hard to make my characters relatable I usually try and infuse them with something that I’m doing or I’m interested in at the moment. If I’m putting together a model, maybe I’ll have my character working on one as well. But overall, the wider you make your experiences in life the more chances you will have of being inspired. Read books, watch movies, watch people, take a class in something. Expand your horizons.
Q: What led you to write for DC? Did they approach you or did you approach them?
A: I’ve always loved comic books. Long before they were fashionable they were my go to happy place. I’ve been very fortunate in my career to work on projects that interest me, and those projects have kept me in the realm of pop culture (Robot Chicken, MAD, Disney’s Spider-Man, etc.) At some point, my work caught the attention of some editors at DC and when I was luckily enough to actually meet those people at Comic Con or wherever, they asked if I would be interested in writing a Batman comic. I of course gave an enthusiastic yes! And that’s how I got my first comic book. (The Batman 80-Page Giant). Similarly, someone from Marvel approached me as well and that’s how I got my first Spider-Man story. But I have to say, I was also prepared for those encounters. I had written comic book spec scripts so when they asked to see some samples I had them.
Q: Even though “With This Ring” was only four parts, what did you enjoy most about writing it?
A: When DC approached me about the Flash they started by saying, “We’ve done everything that could ever be done with the Flash. You interested in trying to come up with something new?” So I couldn’t pass up the challenge. I think the most fun part for me was connecting to the character and coming up with something that I thought was worthy of me jumping on board. To do that, I thought back to the the things that I always loved about the Flash and Barry Allen specifically. As a kid I was always obsessed with his ring. I loved it, and so I thought if I could find a way to involve the ring and add something unique to his run than I would do it.
Q: It’s been sometime since we’ve seen Dr. Alchemy take on the Scarlet Speedster, what was it like writing the iconic Rogue?
A: Really great. Again, Flash has such a great Rogue’s Gallery, but I wanted to involve someone we hadn’t seen in awhile. And I am always looking to reinvigorate a character who might’ve slipped out of the limelight. For Marvel years ago, I brought back the Hypno-Hustler in Avenging Spider-Man because he hadn’t been used in awhile, and it was a fun contribution to that story arc. Dr. Alchemy, however, is a character who has some pretty impressive powers and I wanted to show him really at the top of his game. Make you realize what a real threat he is to the Flash.
Q: Turning the Philosopher’s Stone into a ring was a nice touch, what led to this decision?
A: As I said, I was really interested in involving Flash’s ring into this story, which is why I called the story arc “With This Ring” but I also didn’t want to give anything away too early. Crafting the Philosopher’s stone into an actual ring not only helped keep me on theme without putting too much emphasis on Barry’s ring, but also I kept thinking it was a logical move for Dr. Alchemy. If I had to lug a stone around the whole time I would definitely try and fashion it into something that was easy to wield and difficult to get off me.
Q: The Flash’s ring has been around for quite some time now, but we didn’t really know anything about the ring other than that it held the suit. You put your own mark on The Flash by adding that his ring is actually made up of both his parent’s wedding rings; you made the ring feel special. How does it feel to do something like that?
A: I am incredibly happy and honored to have been able to add something to the Flash’s long history and remarkable lore. I was even happier when, after coming up with the idea, I realized it hadn’t already been done. As we mentioned, so much has been done with Flash over the years, so it was a gratifying experience to come up with something fresh and yet steeped in history.
Q: In “With This Ring” The Flash didn’t just go up against one Dr. Alchemy, he went up against all of them, in a way. Was there any challenge to writing this version of Dr. Alchemy?
A: I really wanted Dr. Alchemy to be a formidable foe. And considering how many people have been connected to the Philosopher’s stone through ages, I figured it would be an incredible asset to have the knowledge and resources that all the previous Dr. Alchemy’s had. It was a challenge to keep track of them all, but also fun to do the research and come up with backstories for each of them. Which is what also lead me to the Simon Magus/Will Magnus connection.
Q: What was it like working with the different artists and colorists on this story?
A: It was fantastic. I have to say, normally the protocol is for one artist/colorist to handle the entire run of an arc, but not only did I love being able to work with so many creative people, I felt it lent itself to the story more. My original plan was always for the first issue to seem like a stand alone story involving the Trickster. It’s only later that you realize the seeds of Flash’s problems begin in that issue, so it made sense to me that the style of the characters should match the tone of each story. In issue 763 with the Trickster we have a more lighthearted style that Clayton Henry handled beautifully, and then as the stakes get higher in the subsequent issues I felt Will Conrad’s more realistic style, and also Sami Basri’s, suited the story more.
Q: One of my favorite moments was seeing Barry use his skills as a chemist to overcome the challenge in front of him, we don’t get to see it that often. Do you have a favorite moment from this story?
A: I always try and look for the human angle in any story. We sometimes forget that a hero’s “power” is usually (or should be) the icing on the cake. And that the person’s innate attributes are what truly make them a hero. With Barry, I love that he’s a forensic scientist and I’m always looking to see how characters would deal with things if they didn’t have their powers. In this story specifically, Barry does, in fact, lose his powers, so it showcases even more how he needs to rely on his naturally given talents. But he’s also human, and like all of us he has an ego and he wants to be acknowledged, so I tried to put his resolve to the test for the moment, since we all have days where we’re not always at our best. In my first Batman story I had commissioner Gordon come up against the idea of “looking the other way” on a crime because it was easier. It’s something we all go through at times. Everyone is put to the test. It’s the outcome that matters. But I think my favorite moments in this book are the scenes Barry has with Iris. Because she doesn’t let him get away with a lot. She keeps him honest and keeps his ego in check.
Q: Were there any other characters you would’ve liked to include in the story?
A: There are so many characters to choose from in Flash’s life and while I’d eventually love to play with them all, I thought it was important for this first run to be a simple starting point. Flash fans have just come off of a great four-year run under one single writer where a lot has happened, but I wanted to give the people who maybe haven’t read Flash in awhile the opportunity to get back in without having to know too much or deal with too many characters. All while keeping the diehard fans still interested and engaged.
Q: Before we wrap this up, is there any advice you would like to give to the young and aspiring writers out there?
A: I always say that if you want to be a writer then you have to write. You have to have samples ready for when opportunity comes knocking and you need to be ready to hit the ground running on any given project. It’s easy to sit back and question or criticize what a story did or didn’t do right, but what most readers don’t realize is that the challenges and the time constraints on most of these projects is enormous. Sure, maybe you can write it, but can you write it under these parameters? Lately, however, I like to remind people to expand their horizons. As I said earlier, I often like to bring random interests into my stories not only because I find them refreshing but also writers need to know more than just writing. It makes them better writers to know other things as well.
Q: Lastly, are there any upcoming projects you are working on that you’d like our readers to know about?
A: I’m not sure of the date just yet because Covid keeps us guessing, but I have a new Spider-Man comic book coming out in 2021 called W.E.B. And I always have a bunch of television projects in development. We’re living during an odd time, but hopefully we can move through this soon so that we can all discuss these things in person.