Bill Meeks is a video producer, writer, podcaster, and all-around creator of stuff. He lives with his family in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. His video work has been seen in international cinemas, on domestic television, and across the wider Internet. He considers himself to be the world’s biggest authority on Superman, but admits that he’s probably more like the 900th.
Dogboy started off as the main character of a short story I wrote several years ago called “Primitive Hearts.” His name was Wylie Esperenza instead of Bronson Black, and the story was a lot darker and took place entirely in the suburbs. A few years later I wrote a screenplay called The Fantabulous Adventure of Dogboy which mashed up Oliver Twist with Stan Lee’s Spider-Man. I adapted that screenplay last year as the first book of the series, Den of Thieves.
The real inspiration though was the time I made a cheap mask and tied a bed sheet around my neck when I was eight years old and snuck out to cause some mischief. Every little boy has some version of that story, but what if the fantasy became reality?
What challenges did you face in writing Den of Thieves and Danger on Liberty Pier?
The world of Dogboy is a balancing act. While I try and keep the tone timeless (even anachronistic), I’m aware we’re at the point that if you don’t mention modern technology, your book is dated when it comes out. I like to imagine that Colta City (Dogboy’s city) is about 40 miles and 40 years removed from Bayport (the city featured in The Hardy Boys). That usually keeps me going in the right direction.
The dedication section in Den of Thieves reads, “To Philadelphia.” Just out of curiosity, why?
I dedicated it to Philadelphia because I wrote the original screenplay while I was living there. The Guild of Thieves living in the old subway tunnels was inspired by getting stuck underground on the trains in Philly. Dixon Park is a combination of LOVE Park and the concert setup they had at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for Live 8 and the Elton John 4th of July concert in 2005. Philadelphia gave me the story, so I thought it was best to give it credit.
Who are your biggest creative influences?
Universally? Grant Morrison, Elliot S! Maggin, Dickens, and Twain.
Specifically to Dogboy? Stan Lee’s Spider-Man, an 80’s series called My Secret Identity, Little Shop of Horrors, and of course boy’s adventure stories from the 50’s and 60’s like The Hardy Boys, Danny Dunn, and Encyclopedia Brown.
Between writing, podcasting, and your various motion graphics work, which venture do you find to be the most enjoyable, and why?
I really like my video work. I’ve been doing it for years and it feels like home. Podcasting is very rewarding. Our biggest listeners are like friends, and they’ve really got behind Dogboy which is nice. If I had to pick a favorite thing to do it would be creating and analyzing stories, which luckily applies to all three areas. A non-answer answer, but the best I’ve got.
What events in your life have shaped you the most?
I’d say the most profound event in my life happened before I was even born. My father passed away when my mom was four months pregnant with me. He was 35ish. I didn’t find out until I was 8 or so. He was a magician for a big chunk of his adult life which made me curious about performing. That led me to theater, which led me to video, which gave me my career. And yes, he left behind a suitcase full of magic tricks just like Duncan Black in the book. No powers though.
As either the biggest or 900th biggest Superman authority in the world, what is it about Superman that makes him such a timelessly fascinating comic book character?
Superman stands as an iconic example of what we can do if we try, and if we believe in the “rightness” of what we’re doing. “Rightness” is all relative, and some extremists do very bad things because they believe they are right. Superman’s moral compass points true though. We don’t have a perfect example of justice and morality in the real world, so we had to create it.
You’ve been chosen to assemble a four-man (or woman) superhero team to save the world from, say, an invading alien horde. Who do you choose and why?
Hulk for the heavy moving. Superman for the strategy. A Green Lantern (any one will do) to negotiate. Finally, Spider-Man to keep up everybody’s spirits up and provide tech support for the virus Jeff Goldblum will upload to the alien ship.
What is the most interesting issue or item in your comic book collection?
I’m actually not a big collector. More of a reader. I don’t bag and board. I’ve been known to roll a comic up and stick it in my back pocket. One of the few I’ve kept safe though is Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, the issue where the Kara Zor-El Supergirl bravely gave her life in defense of the multiverse.
With two volumes of the Dogboy Adventures in the books, what are you working on next?
More Dogboy, of course! I’m planning on releasing 4-5 more stories by the end of the year, so I’m knee-deep in writing #3 right now. I’m also working on a non-fiction book called Old Wide Web based on a retro-computing podcast I did a few years ago. It’s all about the Dog right now though.
What aspects of the retro internet do you find most fascinating, and what are your fondest early internet memories?
I enjoy retro media in general. Commercials, advertisements, instructional videos, etc. When the web first got really big back in the mid-nineties I was all over it. I made games for a little Game Creation System called ZZT with other kids my age over AOL, edited a Superman fan zine, and even ran an early (and popular) emulation page. Since my memories of my teenage years are fading I use the research process to get nostalgic and wistful. I also think it’s important to teach the “newbs” what things were like back when all this went mainstream.
As I say in the intro for the podcast “If you want to know where the internet is going, you have to know where it’s been.”