Category: News

Emily S. Whitten: 2016 Nerd HQ Preview!

San Diego Comic Con is practically right around the corner now; and with it comes one of my other favorite events, Nerd HQ. The brainchild of actor Zachary Levi and his friend Dave Coleman, Nerd HQ has only gotten better each year I’ve attended. Nerd HQ, which raises funds for the worthy charity Operation Smile, provides a smorgasbord of cool experiences in a chill setting (currently The New Children’s Museum)– a nice place to get away from the madness of the con for awhile while still getting your nerd on. Nerd HQ generally offers a selection of smaller-sized “Conversations for a Cause” panels with celebrities; “Smiles for Smiles” and “Signings for Smiles,” where you can get your photo with celebrities, or get celebrity autographs; places to play video games and see some really cool new or upcoming games; other cool exhibits from sponsors, some of which may be interactive; and two rockin’ parties for nerdy fans.

I’m looking forward to this year’s Nerd HQ, and in preparation for attending, I got to chat with co-founder Dave Coleman about his involvement and what we’ll be seeing. Read on for details!

Zac & David party fans

Dave, what is your background with Nerd HQ and Zac Levi?

Well, I started the company with Zac in 2010.  We’ve been partners in The Nerd Machine, and I have been producing every HQ since they started. Zac and I have been very, very close friends for the last 10 years or so. We’ve had The Nerd Machine for the last 6 years, almost 7. So I’ve been a part of this since the beginning.

Are you also an actor, or do you work in television? How did you end up meeting Zac?

I was on the crew side. I used to be a prop master for television; but Zac and I actually met playing basketball back in 2004, in the neighborhood that we all lived in. It’s funny, we met a lot of our friends that way. That’s where I met Joel David Moore, who was a really good friend of Zac’s at the time, and who’s now one of my other best friends. So it’s really interesting how we all met playing basketball, and then relationships grew out of that.

Eventually, I also started working on Chuck. I had done a movie with another prop master, Scott Bauer, who was on Chuck from the pilot. And he had interviewed me to do Chuck when they thought some of the guys who had done the pilot weren’t going to come back. It didn’t work out because of scheduling, so I ended up doing a couple of other shows while they were doing the first 2 seasons of Chuck. During season 2 of Chuck, I started working on the show 2 to 3 days a week, and then for seasons 3, 4, and 5, I was the on-set prop master for Chuck the rest of the time.

Can you tell me your experience with starting Nerd HQ and how it came together?

My experience is probably much different than Zac’s experience – just because, when we first started doing this, we really had no idea how to do it. We had never produced an event of any size, really, before. I had a design background; I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in set design. So I’d done that kind of thing, but never produced a full-on event for 20,000 people. So there was a lot of trial and error in figuring things out. You know – what do we think would be cool, and let’s just do that. That’s kind of how it started.

The whole thing was really an accident. When we started it; we made some t-shirts to throw out during a Chuck panel in 2010. I had a design background, and I had printed some shirts in the past; so when we started talking about doing stuff, Zac said, “Hey, what if I wanted to just print some shirts and give them out to fans during our panel?” I was like, “Alright, I can make that happen.” So it just kind of all started happening. And we made some shirts, and we took them, and we passed them out; and some of the guys on stage started throwing them; which was a giant problem, because everybody freaked out. Like, lawyers were pissed off and like, “You can’t do that!” because people were jumping over each other to try to get the shirts, and they were worried about liability and that kind of thing. So it got really kind of hairy there; but everybody loved the shirts.

It was the classic Nerd shirt that we ended up calling the NES, with the original Nintendo font. And so people were asking, “How do I get one? How do I get one?” And we looked around and were like, there’s no real “nerd culture” brand. You can buy stuff at ThinkGeek and Hot Topic, and hell, even at Target now, or Walmart; but there was no brand. So we thought about how to start something that people could identify with. So we turned Zac’s fan website, zacharylevi.com, into thenerdmachine.com, and just started taking email addresses; like, “Hey guys, if we made this shirt, would you be interested in buying one?” And we had thousands of people sign up. So we’re like, “Great! Here we go!” and a company got started. And my wife, Courtney, was shipping t-shirts out of Zac’s garage when we first started; and it was crazy. It was a real home-grown family business.

So after that we started trying to figure out a way to have a party; like in 2010 when we gave out the t-shirts, Zac had a party at a bar in the Gaslamp on Friday or Saturday night of the con. And people came, and we gave out the rest of the shirts that were there, and he was like, “Hey man – what if we just did another party to promote the brand?” But we couldn’t really work out a convention space, because, you know, they had been full for years and it takes a long time to get into the convention. So we said, “Hey, we’ll just do something outside.” We’ll find a little place to have a party, and go from there.” And then it turned into, “Well, if we have a party someplace, we’re still going to have to rent it for a few extra days to get it ready. What if we brought in some games or whatever. Maybe we can get some of our friends to come and do some panels. Maybe we could sell some tickets, and give the money to charity. Let’s see what we can do.” That’s how it all started!

What’s your experience been with the chosen charity, Operation Smile?

Fantastic. They’re one of the greatest organizations that I’ve ever been a part of. We are blessed to be able to help them out each year, and to do everything we can to raise money. We’ve been able to do some really great stuff with them in the last five to six years, that has really affected all of our lives in a positive way. You know, we all worry about jobs, and money, and that kind of stuff; but at the end of the day you go, “Man, no matter what we do, when we’re all done with our lives, we’re gonna go, ‘We did something to really help a lot of kids and a lot of people.’”

So of course people will want to know what’s coming to Nerd HQ this year. What can you tell us?

It will be at The New Children’s Museum again, and here’s a quick breakdown: AMD is coming back as one of our headline sponsors, and they are bringing in Battlefield 1 with EA and DICE; so we’re going to have a 64-station multiplayer of Battlefield 1 on PC – which is all Alienware, super-cool tech, and a really fun game experience. We played it during E3, and it’s unbelievable. Xbox is bringing their whole lineup of games that they’re going to have during the con to HQ. So we’ll probably have between 150 to 200 gaming units on site, where you’ll be able to set times, and that will be with Gears of War 4, Titanfall 2, and a bunch of other really great titles, all through Xbox, which we’re really excited about.

Johnson & Johnson is a partner of ours this year, and we’re integrating the “Donate a Photo” app that they do, in support of Operation Smile, into our app and into our photo booth. So if you take a picture at our photo booth, that photo gets sent to our Nerd HQ account to Donate a Photo. We can upload that, and for every upload, Johnson & Johnson donates a dollar to Operation Smile. What we are hoping is that we can raise another 10 to 15 thousand dollars just from photos at the photo booths. Hallmark is going to be on site with some awesome specials and exclusives for HQ which we’re really excited about. Kellogg’s is doing an indie gaming area with the Square Enix Collective, with a bunch of cool indie games that most people have never seen before, that people will get to play.

Stephen Amell, Yvonne S & ZL

We’re going to have a brand-new app that’s been completely renovated and redesigned for this year, with enhanced RFID capabilities; really cool photo filters inside; and connections to all your social media; so that’s very exciting. We’re pulling out all the stops. We’ve added extra air conditioning to the panel rooms, and we’re doing tiered seating in the panel rooms, so it will feel more like the seating at Petco Park. We’re adding a 360-degree camera to the panels, so you’ll be able to watch the panels at home on your VR system. You’ll be able to feel like you’re in the audience, which is what I think people want. And again, we’re lining up some amazing panels – new stuff, returning stuff; things people love, and some new stuff they wouldn’t expect. I don’t have the full panel list yet, but we’ll probably be releasing some of the panel schedule this week, and then we’ll have the full list out by next week.

We’ll be adding brand-new merch that we’ll be selling exclusively at Nerd HQ. We’re going to have this bad-ass 1960’s Nerd HQ-branded van driving around the city to promote HQ and for photo ops – it looks kind of like a big red version of the Mystery Machine. It’s going to be awesome. We’re doing more signings this year than before; and will hopefully bring in some really big names for the signings. And of course we’ll be doing Smiles for Smiles, which is one of our biggest ways to engage the fans with celebrities. We definitely want people to help us in our philanthropy by being a part of it themselves; so we will encourage everyone who comes or watches from home to download the Donate a Photo app from Johnson & Johnson. Because every day of the year, you can post a photo, and each one is a dollar for Operation Smile. Every person, by doing something that they already do by posting a picture, can change one kid’s life in 245 days. We’ll also have the fan parties on Thursday and Saturday, which will be super fun. We’re excited about those. We have a great time those nights.

So what are you most excited about for Nerd HQ 2016?

I think I’m most excited about the greater amount of offerings we’re going to be able to give this year. And I think we’re going to be able to raise a lot more money for charity, and to create a much more pleasurable fan experience through the upgrades to the panel rooms and the rest of the building, which I think are going to make a huge difference. Just being able to offer cool stuff that we haven’t been able to offer before is great.

And it’s HQ, it’s fun! We want people to feel like there’s a place where they belong, a place where they can feel comfortable, and like everyone there is their friend; and that it’s just a good time, and a good place to hang out.

Thank you, Dave Coleman, for your time and for this exciting Nerd HQ information! I can’t wait!

And until next time, ComicMix fans, Servo Lectio!

 

Photo credits: Eric Blackmon

The Point Radio: Tricia Helfer Purrs Into POWERS

Way before we met ORPHAN BLACK, Tricia Helfer was wowing us in a “multi-clone” role on BATTLESTAR:GALACTICA. Now she is joining the cast of POWERS in a characters fans of the series will surely recognize. Plus you will surely recognize one of Brandon Stacey’s more famous roles (STAR TREK THE NEW VOYAGES) but wait until you see his other great acting experiences.

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The TRANSFORMERS 30th Anniversary Steelbook Arrives Sept. 13

Transformers 30thAs announced early June, Shout! Factory, in collaboration with Hasbro Studios, will release The TRANSFORMERSTHE MOVIE 30th Anniversary Edition this fall 2016. This beloved animated feature is being remastered, and a full-range of bonus content and collectible packaging are currently in production. Now, Shout! Factory further celebrates the 30th Anniversary of this iconic movie with The TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE Limited Edition, 30th Anniversary Steelbook (2-disc Blu-ray™ set + Digital Copy), available at Amazon and in stores at select retail locations on September 13, 2016. Featuring the heroic AUTOBOTS, as they defend their native planet CYBERTRON from the evil DECEPTICONS and UNICRON, The TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE boasts the voice talent of Orson Welles in his final role and an all-star voice cast that includes Peter Cullen, Eric Idle, Casey Kasem, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack and Frank Welker.

For the ultimate fans and collectors, The TRANSFORMERS – THE MOVIE Limited Edition, 30th Anniversary Steelbook comes with highly collectible Steelbook packaging, 2-Blu-ray set of the newly remastered movie, immersive bonus content including brand-new featurettes, a digital copy of the movie and more. This is a must-own collection to every fan’s library!

*Shout! Factory will announce in-depth details on bonus content and even more exciting details at the Shout Factory’s SDCC panel.

 

Bruce Willis & David Bautista’s Marauders Comes Home Sept. 13

MARAUDERS final posterSANTA MONICA, CA (July 7, 2016) – Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and Bruce Willis (Die Hard franchise) star in the action-thriller Marauders, arriving on Blu-ray (plus Digital HD), DVD (plus Digital), and Digital HD September 13 from Lionsgate. Currently available On Demand, Marauders begins with a string of bank robberies leading one man to uncover a conspiracy that could bring an entire city to its knees. The action-packed thrill-ride also stars Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) alongside Adrian Grenier (HBO’s Entourage), Johnathan Schaech (Vice), Lydia Hull (Escape Plan), Tyler Jon Olson (Precious Cargo), and Texas Battle (Final Destination 3).

When an untraceable group of elite bank robbers executes the perfect heist, making off with millions in cash and leaving a dead bank manager in their wake, the FBI agents investigating the robbery/homicide (Christopher Meloni, Dave Bautista, and Adrian Grenier) begin to uncover signs of corruption involving the bank’s owner (Bruce Willis) and his high-power clients.  As they dig deeper into the case, the Feds realize that things are not what they seem, and in order to untangle a complicated web of deception and corruption they must push themselves to the brink – where the lines between right and wrong are often blurred.

The Marauders home entertainment release special features include audio commentary with the director and cinematographer, deleted/extended scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and interviews with the cast and crew. Marauders will be available on Blu-ray and DVD for the suggested retail price of $24.99 and $19.98, respectively.

BLU-RAY / DVD/ DIGITAL HD SPECIAL FEATURES*

  • Audio Commentary with Director Steven C. Miller and Cinematographer Brandon Cox
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
  • “The Making of Marauders” Featurette
  • Cast/Crew Interviews

*Subject to change

PROGRAM INFORMATION
Year of Production: 2016
Title Copyright: Marauders © 2016 Georgia Film Fund 44, LLC.  All Rights Reserved. Artwork & Supplementary Materials © 2016 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Type: Theatrical Release
Rating: R for Strong Violence, Language,Brief Drug Use and Nudity
Genre: Action
Blu-ray Closed-Captioned: NA
DVD Closed-Captioned: English
Blu-ray Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH
DVD Subtitles: English and Spanish
Feature Run Time: 107 Minutes
Blu-ray Format: 1080P High Definition 16×9 Widescreen (2.40:1)
DVD Format: 16×9 Widescreen (2.40:1)
Blu-ray Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master AudioTM
DVD Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital

Did the UK Mirror just post the most ridiculous Doctor Who rumor ever?

Let me tell you about how you generate clickbait. You start off by making the story about either a celebrity, TV show, or popular topic that will attract people’s attention. Then you string together enough facts and quotes vaguely connected to the idea that you can make the article more than three paragraphs long. THEN, (and this one is key) you make the headline a question.  So you’re not saying “This is a fact”, or even the increasingly popular “Sources report this as a fact”, but merely “Could this possibly be a fact?” Because then in the story, you can say that it’s probably just flummery.

To summarize: if a news report, especially one on the electric type Internet, has a question as the headline, the answer to said question is almost certainly…

OfCourseNot

I’m going to get a lot of use of this graphic, I can tell you. (Thanks to Frinkiac)

So when I tell you that the Mirror Online posted an article titled “ Can Matt Smith be the first Doctor Who to regenerate as himself?“, can you guess where I stand on the question?

In the article, they reference several quotes from Matt Smith where he says he’s sometimes sorry he left the show, and hopes to come back to it some day, and one from Moffat where he says he misses his collaborator.

Add in the rumor that Capaldi is touted to leave at the end of the next season (ANOTHER story with no basis in fact, mind) and somehow, that means Matt is coming back.

This is another example of nobody being willing to say “No” to a story, because that ends the buzz.  As soon as someone denies something categorically, that’s the end of them being on everyone’s lips.  So when Joe Thespian gets rumored for a role in a Marvel film, he doesn’t say “that’s not true, there’s been to talks at all”, he says “Well, I can’t say anything more definitive about it, but it’d certainly be nice.”

OK, yes, they dropped the idea in the 50th anniversary episode, with the appearance of “The Curator” that the Doctor might someday “re-visit” his past incarnations in the future.

Yes, we’ve seen past Doctors return to the show, but as “themselves”, not somehow returning to their past forms in the current timeline. And yes, the idea of a regeneration into a past form is a tantalizing idea for a story.

But there is one, VERY important thing to remember.

If there is one thing that is nearly universally named as the show’s perfect idea, it is the idea that Regeneration is the most innovative concept ever. It allows the show to renew itself every few years, more than simply a change in producers or show-runners ever could.  By putting a new lead actor (yes, or actress, let’s not get distracted here) in the title role (look at me, I’m so incensed I’ve even passed up a chance to use the word “titular”) it give the show a chance to become something utterly new. Don’t care for the current guy? No worries, there’ll be another one along in a few years, come back and check him out.

Circling back to a past actor, in any permanent fashion, would be the ultimate admission that the show has run out of ideas. People get upset when the Daleks or Cybermen come back again, imagine the reaction if they rolled the clock back to an old Doctor.

It’s why the Big Finish audio plays are such a hit.  Want more Peter Davison as the Doctor? Here’s dozens of them.  We’ve seen Paul McGann, David Tennant, and even Tom Baker return.  Matt will almost certain do some. There’s your “more Matt” stories.

But on the TV show? In any permanent way? No.

Right?

Please tell me I’m right.

Dammit, you you’ve got me thinking about it…

(Writer’s note – the headline of this article was originally submitted as “UK Mirror floats Doctor Who rumor so stupid I’m not even putting it in the headline, clicks-through or no”)

Captain America: Civil War Hits Digital in September

CaptainAmericaCivilWarBlurayBURBANK, Calif., July 1, 2016 — Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War has conquered both audiences and critics, debuting to $179.1 million—the fifth-biggest domestic opening of all time—and earning a 90% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  “Captain America: Civil War” is the highest-grossing film of 2016 domestically, internationally and globally, earning more than $1.14 billion at the worldwide box office. It also continues Marvel Studios’ winning streak as the 13th consecutive film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to debut at #1 at the domestic box office.

When Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War arrives early on Digital HD, Digital 3D and Disney Movies Anywhere on Sept. 2 and on Blu-ray™ 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand on Sept. 13, viewers can join the nonstop action and pick their side—Team Cap, commanded by Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), or Team Iron Man, led by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).

Rogers and Stark are joined by a star-studded lineup of beloved Marvel Super Heroes, including Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie) Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes aka War Machine (Don Cheadle), Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), along with new recruit Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and joined by two new additions to the MCU: T’Challa aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland).

More than 60-minutes of thrilling, exclusive bonus material includes: an inside look at the evolution of lead characters Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, a behind-the-scenes exclusive on the making of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, never-before-seen deleted scenes and hilarious outtakes. Plus, home audiences can learn more about the latest additions to the MCU and get an exclusive, first look at Marvel’s “Doctor Strange,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, coming to theaters Nov. 4, 2016.

Bonus features include*:

DIGITAL HD/3D & BLU-RAY:

  • United We Stand, Divided We Fall – The Making of Captain America: Civil War Part 1 & Part 2 – As the tension mounts, sides are chosen and lines drawn. Learn more about the characters on each side—from Captain America and Iron Man to the latest recruits. In this complete behind-the-scenes look at a landmark in the Marvel saga, we’ll examine their stories through exclusive footage and interviews and discover just what went into selecting the Super Hero teams, filming the epic action sequences and introducing Black Panther and Spider-Man to the MCU.
  • Captain America: The Road to Civil War – Explore the First Avenger’s fascinating evolution from loyal soldier to seasoned, conflicted hero who questions authority.
  • Iron Man: The Road to Civil War – From Gulmira to Sokovia, delve into the development and evolution of one of the most iconic characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Gag Reel – Break the tension of this high-stakes conflict with some hilarious outtakes featuring the lighter side of your favorite Super Heroes.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes – Check out never-before-seen footage that didn’t make the final cut of “Captain America: Civil War.”
  • Audio Commentary – Directors Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely deliver scene-by-scene insight and explain the storytelling challenges they faced creating the third installment of the Captain America franchise.
  • Open Your Mind: Marvel’s Doctor Strange – Exclusive Sneak Peek – Go behind and beyond the scenes as Doctor Strange makes his journey to the big screen.

*Bonus features may vary by retailer. The DVD does not include any bonus materials.

The most explosive clash to ever rock the Marvel Cinematic Universe ignites a firestorm of conflict in the game-changing epic, Captain America: Civil War.  In the wake of collateral damage, government pressure to rein in the Avengers drives a deep wedge between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), causing a catastrophic rift that escalates into an all-out feud.  Against a backdrop of divided loyalties, their fellow Avengers must deal with the fallout. Pick a side in this spectacular adventure, packed with mind-blowing action, suspense and exclusive bonus content!

Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War is directed by Emmy® Award-winning directors Anthony and Joe Russo from a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. Kevin Feige, p.g.a. is the producer of the film, with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Patricia Whitcher, Nate Moore and Stan Lee serving as executive producers.

DISC SPECIFICATIONS (applies to film content only):

Product SKUs: Disney Movies Anywhere, Digital HD/3D/SD, Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray 3D+Blu-ray+Digital HD), Blu-ray, DVD (no bonus) and On-Demand

Feature Run Time: Approximately 147 minutes

Rating: PG in U.S.; PG in CE; G in CF

Aspect Ratio: Blu-ray & Blu-ray 3D = 1080p High Definition Widescreen (2.39:1)

DVD = 2.39:1

Audio: Blu-ray = English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks

DVD = English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio

Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, French & Spanish

Heroes use Mechs to Fight in Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants

Mechs vs Mutants 2DBURBANK, CA (July 6, 2016) — Batman will need the help from several of his Super Hero pals — Green Arrow, Nightwing, The Flash and Robin – to take down a crew of Super-Villains on a scale he’s never seen before in Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants. Produced by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation, this thrilling new addition to the Batman Unlimited animated film trilogy comes to DVD ($19.98 SRP) via Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on September 13, 2016 and on Digital HD on August 30, 2016 via purchase from digital retailers.

The Dark Knight is back doing what he does best – protecting the citizens of Gotham City – in the third installment of the Batman Unlimited series, Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants.  When evil scientist Mr. Freeze activates his latest invention on two of Gotham City’s most formidable criminals – Killer Croc and Bane – things go from bad to worse.  Turning them into super-sized mutant monsters, the Super-Villains start bashing through the streets of Gotham City  with no end in sight.  It’s up to the Caped Crusader and his Super Hero team to save the day by putting the giant robot mechs in their place – but it will be an uphill battle as they face off against enormous foes.

The heroic voice cast features Roger Craig Smith (Batman: Arkham Origins, Assassin’s Creed games) as Batman, Chris Diamantopoulos (Episodes, Silicon Valley) as Green Arrow, Will Friedle (Batman Beyond, Boy Meets World) as Nightwing, Charlie Schlatter (Diagnosis Murder, Kick Buttkowski) as The Flash, and Lucien Dodge (Pokemon, Bleach) as Robin.

The villainous voices are led by Oded Fehr (The Mummy, Resident Evil: Apocalypse) as Mr. Freeze, Dana Snyder (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) as The Penguin, Carlos Alazraqui (Reno 911, Handy Manny, The Fairly Oddparents) as Bane, John DiMaggio (Futurama, Batman: Under the Red Hood) as Killer Croc, Dave B. Mitchell (World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor) as Clayface and Troy Baker (Batman: Assault on Arkham) as Joker. Phil LaMarr (MAD TV, Futurama) joins the Batman Unlimited series as Dr. Langstrom.

Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants is produced and directed by Curt Ceda from a script written by Kevin Burke & Chris “Doc” Wyatt. Executive Producer is Sam Register. Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan are Executive Producers.

Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants follows Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts and Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem as the third release in a series of films rooted in Mattel’s popular Batman Unlimited merchandise line. The films feature characters, vehicles, designs and color schemes brought to life within this enthralling toy collection.

DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION ELEMENTS

Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants will be available to viewers for streaming and download to watch anywhere in high definition and standard definition on their favorite devices from select digital retailers including Amazon, CinemaNow, Flixster, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, Xbox and others. Starting August 30, 2016, Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants will also be available digitally on Video On Demand services from cable and satellite providers, and on select gaming consoles.

BASICS

Street Date: September 13, 2016
Run Time:  72 minutes (approx.)

Is fandom “entitled”? A history of fan-made material

Is fandom “entitled”? A history of fan-made material

Star Wars Meets Star TrekFor those who came in late, a bunch of fans crowdsourced the funds to make a Star Trek fan film, Axanar. The funding campaign was outrageously successful, earning over 1.1 million dollars. That large an amount of money set off Paramount’s sensor array, and they quickly filed suit against said fans for unauthorized use of trademarked items. The folks behind Axanar counter-sued, claiming Paramount didn’t have hold of all the items they claimed.  It was going to get testy (and potentially untenable for Paramount if any of the points made in the counter-suit were deemed valid) until J.J. Abrams stepped in and convinced Paramount to calm down.

In response to said events, this week Paramount released a series of guidelines that fan films must follow in order to stay on the right side of the law, or at least on the right side of Paramount’s battery of white-lipped attorneys. Some of those rules are quite reasonable – the producers of the films can’t make merchandise of their property, and Paramount wrote up a paragraph of verbiage the producers must include in the film’s credits.  Some of the rules are a bit more stringent – the films can’t be more than 15 minutes long, and nobody in the production can have any “professional credits”.  That second one is drawing a number of eyes – some are arguing that it could mean you’re not allowed to use union workers for the production crew, something the unions will likely have something to say about.

Now, the real problem here is that for years there was an unspoken “line” to determine what was considered acceptable by fans’ creations. The exact details were never set in stone, but centered around basic ideas like “don’t make too much money, don’t do anything particularly untoward with the property,” and so on.  While the exact location and cartography of the line may not be known, it’s pretty obvious that Axanar crossed it miles back.  This was no simple pack of fan on cardboard sets and an eight-millimeter camera – the film (and its short prequel) had professional actors, some who had not only appeared on Trek before, but ones like Gary Graham who were actually portraying characters they had played on the actual shows.  The producers of Axanar had stated that in addition to making this film, they were effectively setting up a movie studio, dedicated to making more features in the same vein. So basically, they broke the “don’t make too much money” rule before they even stepped on the set.

These new “guidelines” are far stricter than what was allowed before, and are clearly in response (Retaliation? Perhaps…) to the liberties taken by the Axanar team.  To make an example, an apartment house has a tacit agreement that nobody can play their stereos above six, and even though people were playing them at seven or eight, nobody was complaining. But one guy threw a party and turned his stereo to ten, and the landlord had to step in and put his foot down, so now everyone has to keep their stereo at four.

There have been many conversations about the new rules online – many saw it as a potential death-blow to the staggeringly popular Star Trek Continues series, an acclaimed web series which was likewise inspired by another fan production, Starship Farragut. Another fan production, Renegades, simply announced they planned to excise all Trek references in its new production and become a completely new franchise.

But it was a conversation with an online friend that I found the most interesting.  He described fans who wanted to make amateur films as “entitled”.  That they somehow thought they had the right to make their own versions of other people’s IP and share them with the world. To say that I disagreed with him is an understatement.

First off, let’s look at the history of fandom… starting with the Epic of Gilgamesh.

You heard me.

The classic epic poems could arguably be described as the first fan fiction.  The stories were created by persons (largely) unknown, re-told and embellished by countless other creators.  The versions we know were assembled from various bits and bobs by people who usually ended up getting credit for “writing” them, though you could make a case that “editor” was a better description.

Jumping ahead centuries, Sherlock Holmes had its share of fan fiction. When Arthur Conan Doyle decided to stop writing about Holmes (because apparently he got tired of money) the fans rose to the cause. Doctor Who fans kept the flame alive during The Dark Years with fan productions like PROBE and the audio plays of BBV, which eventually became the official audio plays by Big Finish.  Indeed, many of the people who worked on those fan productions went on to create for the new series.

Entitled?  Hardly.  Dedicated, committed, even? Absolutely.

The big change between the fan films of past decades and those of today is technology.  Thirty years ago, such films were only seen at conventions, often in people’s hotel rooms.  Save for a copy of a copy of a VHS tape, there was no way to obtain one for yourself.  So too for fanzines – stories and art got a hundred or so copies made, which were hawked at conventions, eventually selling through their single print run, never to be heard of again.  Now, literally anyone can film an adventure in 4K quality, with cinema-quality effects, and make it available globally with the click of a button. This makes these fans no more “entitled” than the fans of yore, it just makes them a lot easier to get recognition. Indeed, many times these fan productions catch the eyes of the official producers in a positive way. A fan-made opening for Doctor Who was considered such a good idea, they got a hold of him and used the idea for the series’ new opening titles.

But at the core is that Line. It was virtually impossible to make money on fan material back in the day – it’s almost difficult NOT to now.  But still, for the most part, the desire of the fan is not to make money, but to share their love for the property, and show off their own ideas and jokes.  We’ve seen entire video games created by fans based on their favorite shows and movies.  The sheer breadth of creativity by the fans of the world’s various popular properties likely outstrips the original works by an order of magnitude.

But I don’t know of many fans who think they have a “right” to do so.

When a company steps up and points out a fan project that crosses the line, there is usually a hue and/or cry to some degree.  People will claim the company has “gotten greedy”, and there will be some muted mumblings of boycotts, but in almost all cases, the item in question has simply stepped past that Line, and pretty much deserved to get hit with the ban-hammer.  And in the cases where they weren’t, so far, cooler heads have prevailed.  I’ve talked in the past about the Harry Potter Website scare.  When the HP books (and especially the films) became popular, fan websites proliferated, with various names that used terms and phrases from the series.  And someone in the Warner Brothers legal department thought these sites would cause the downfall of the franchise, and the Cease and Desist orders went out like the exact opposite of Hogwarts acceptance letters. And the news articles began to appear about ten-year-olds getting threatening legal letters, and there was much clicking of tongues, and Warner Brothers quietly waved their hand and the complaints were cancelled.

It’s always been a dance between creator and fandom.  The creators know they owe their fans for the money they’ve paid into the property, and respect their desire to want to play in their garden. The challenge has been in making sure nobody goes too far with their work, and have it potentially become a challenge to the original.  In the age of the electric-type internet, that’s becoming more possible.

We’re starting to see amazing new ways that fans and originators can co-operate.  Cartoon Network just announced a program where they’d work with fan artists to turn their creations into limited run officially licensed items. The fans get both major recognition for their work, and a few dollars to boot, and the creators get to wet their beak, and maintain control of the property.

In a very real way, these rules set forth by Paramount are a GOOD thing.  Strict tho they may be, they set up an actual set of rules that fan creations can follow. The Line is now LITERALLY drawn, which means there’s less chance of stepping over it in error.

John Ostrander: Pop Culture Politics

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“Chicago is not the most corrupt American city, it’s the most theatrically corrupt.” Studs Terkel.

Seducation of the GUnWith due respect (and a lot of it) for the late, great Studs Terkel, I think the Chicago city council has been supplanted by the Congress of the United States for political theater and corruption. As an old Chicago boy and fan of political theater, I was fascinated this week as the Democrats in the House of Representatives staged a sit-in in the well of the House, led by the venerable civil rights leader (and graphic novel author) John Lewis, to protest the refusal of the Republican leadership to even permit a vote on two very small and very specific gun control issues.

House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed the sit-in as a “publicity stunt.” Well, duh. That’s what a sit-in is, a publicity stunt to draw attention to a specific problem. Ryan himself has done a fair share of publicity stunts so I don’t know what his problem is. It’s all part of political theater.

I think there was more to the Democrats’ ploy that a mere desire to shine C-Span’s cameras on themselves. It was triggered by the shooting in Orlando at the gay nightclub that left 49 dead and 52 wounded. The House had its moment of silence to honor the dead for the 16th time of these type of events and that was going to be it. No gun control legislation was going to be even brought up for a vote, let alone passed, and the Dems snapped. They protested, they staged a sit-in to dramatize the situation and they got attention.

Why didn’t the GOP leadership simply allow a vote? I have my own theories. I doubt that the Dems would have allowed a simple voice vote; it would be a roll call and each representative would have to be tagged as they voted. For the GOP, atsa no good. Estimates say that 90% of the electorate are in favor of simple gun control measures so the representatives who voted against it would have to justify that vote to displeased voters.

They also don’t want to vote for any gun control measures. The National Rifle Association gives good money to Congresspersons to keep that from happening and they have issued stern warnings of what they would do to any Congressperson who did vote for gun control legislation – any gun control legislation. Translation: we’ll pour money into the campaign of someone to unseat you. We will make sure you lose your job. This is more important to them than doing their job. More than ever, Mel Brooks’ line in Blazing Saddles as the governor of the state resonates: “Gentlemen, we must protect our phony baloney jobs.”

Not to say that the Dems were completely in the right. One of the simple measures was “no fly, no buy” – meaning that if you are or were on a no-fly list (and thus, presumably, suspected of terrorist ties) at any time, you should not be allowed to buy a gun. However, I watched Larry Wilmore on The Nightly Show voice his problems with that. He has some of the same problems that the ACLU has – it’s too easy to get on the list, too little evidence has to be shown, it’s too hard to clear yourself and get off the list, it appears to unfairly target people of color, and it violates Constitutional freedoms including the right to due process.

It’s too bad because “No fly, no buy” is the sort of simplistic jingoistic catch phrase that works so well with the American public. We don’t do well with more nuanced declarations. Easy to say, easy to remember, and you don’t have to think. That’s ‘Murrica right there, that’s what that is.

To my mind, however, the real issue is not the specific legislation but the larger issue of how no meaningful gun regulation is possible because the NRA won’t hear of it. That’s the underlying frustration that led to the sit-in. Even though 90% of Americans want some kind of laws passed (according to many polls), they can’t even get discussed in the House and they sure won’t get passed in the Senate.

Just keep in mind that this Congressional version of Big Brother has one thing in common with the TV show – in the fall, they can get voted out.

Zorro Comes To Your Home!

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Zorro z LogoLast week we told you about two upcoming collections of Don McGregor and Thomas Yeates’ Zorro newspaper strips as part of a broader profile of Tom’s recent work. As it happens, this week will see the rerelease of Zorro – The Dailies and Sundays (The Second Year) Collector’s Edition, reprinting all the daily and Sunday strips from the 1999 newspaper comic strips’ second year… and, through the website below, autographed by Tom Yeates.

Also for the first time, the entire two years of their Zorro newspaper strip are collected in Zorro – The Complete Dailies and Sundays. This latter hardcover edition will be limited to only 50 copies and will be signed by all Don McGregor, Tod Smith and Thomas Yeates.

Zorro was introduced as a revolutionary character for old California in pulp adventures by Johnston McCulley. Following a critically acclaimed comic series from Topps, the Zorro newspaper strip debuted in 1999 and was written by Don McGregor and drawn by Tod Smith, Thomas Yeates and Rick Magyar. The strip appeared in major newspapers across North America. The series was clearly a labor of love for these creators, all the while paying homage to past creators while still offering fresh and exciting new adventures.

Both editions will be published July 25, 2016. Fans can preorder before that date at www.ZorroDailies.com or www.ClassicHeroes.de.