As a rule of thumb (the very same thumb I referenced not seven days ago), I stay away from licensed books. How did I come to that rule? It’s one engrained in my loathing of fan-fiction. Gasp! I’ve never, ever, (ever-ever) appreciated the world of fan-fiction. The whole notion that one’s love of a property goes so far they must appropriate the universe another writer created for their own nefarious purposes seems weak to me. Why limit oneself to the rules of another’s whims when the post-modern world allows for infinite homage, pastiche, and appropriation? Given the pre-sales of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (go Katie Cook!), I’m obviously in the wrong.
But Marc, you fickle bastard, you’ve just argued yourself into a corner! You, who have lamented on countless occasions how you’d love to write for Marvel and DC… don’t you realize if you were given a run on Green Lantern, Batman, or the Slingers, you would in essence be “limiting oneself to the rules of someone else’s whims?” Too true.
And when DC and Marvel hire me, you’re welcome to call me a hypocrite.
There’s nuance to this argument, and my greater point stands true. Writing for mainstream comics is its own beast, one I’m sure to tackle soon. For the time being, stay with me.
The fact is that amongst the small presses (still large enough to get rack space) are almost entirely engrained with this unyielding genre, save perhaps for Image or Valiant. Certainly we know why: licensed properties bring with them a given fan-base. For much of Dark Horse, IDW, Boom, and Dynamite’s catalogs are siphoning life-force from the lost and misspent youth of their target demographic. And since I’m no Bob Wayne, I simply don’t know how well it’s boding for any of them. The ideology that the comic buying audience at large is desperate to read more tales set inside the Hellraiser, Battlestar: Galatica, and the Ghostbusters seems legitimate, if only on paper (heh). But when I see the book on the shelf, it is truly taxing to find reason to open the gates again on properties built elsewhere.
Perhaps it’s my fear that licensed comics seem far from canon (that is to say that their contributions will hold true forever). Perhaps it’s my fear that adding to existing canon makes it harder to enjoy. I can’t tell you how many times my unshaven cohort Matt has given me the verbal Wikipedia entry on all that has gone down in Transformers extended properties (novels, comics, soft-core porn). And every time? My eyes glaze over, and I’m immediately reminded that I’m happy to have the G1 box set and Beast Wars and call it a day. It’s this fear of the overwrought rules and backstory one needs to know that stifles any anticipated joy in reading a licensed book.
But what if the teams involved are at the top of their game? Creative teams be damned. Truly, if you told me Alex Ross would paint over a Mark Waid script of G.I. Joe… and that it was the best work ever put out by either one of them… I’d still sooner spend my paycheck on a Grant Morrison Doom Patrol graphic novel or maybe some new socks.
Lest you think I’ve never even given a book like this a chance, allow me a simple anecdote. An amazing columnist for the Chicago Daily Red Eye (think hipster news for the daily commuter) Elliot Serrano had been given the opportunity to write a new Army of Darkness comic. Given that it was a slow week, I decided I should support my fellow indie creator (and he was nice enough to interview me for his blog twice) and give it a chance. I’d never purchased an Army of Darkness comic in the past. My knowledge of the source material was limited to the handful of viewings I’d had of Raimi’s film. And to his credit, Serrano’s pen wasn’t weighed down too heavily by the yoke of backstory that came with the property.
That being said, the book suffered terribly from Serrano having to forcefully hit the beats the license (and, no doubt, the legion of deadite fans) demanded. What we were left with? I quote myself from my MichaelDavisWorld review:
“The book has moments of clarity, but they are dragged down by the wishy-washy plot and cardboard cutout of a protagonist. I think I’ll go put on my copy of the movie, and bury this necronomicon deep in a long box… in hopes that the evil spirits lurking within don’t wreck havoc on my soul.”
Given that I thought Elliot’s writing was better than what he’d showed on page only proved to me that the book was not intended for me. While fans of the AoD universe were heralding it as a success, I was left back in the starting blocks wondering why the book shifted tone more than Mitt Romney (ooooh, semi-late reference burn!).
Suffice to say, licensed books have their place. There’s been great examples of those who made great leaps of fiction balancing the properties’ beats while adding to the canon. John Ostrander’s run on Star Wars is still sold out at my local shop. And Joss Whedon’s continuation of the Buffy: The Vampire Slayer into a “9th season” via comics helped fans continue their love affair with the series. There is a place for these books, indeed. The fact is unless you yourself are a die-hard lover of the property in question, the book is wasted space on the rack. And for someone who is now actively seeking originality at the shop… no amount of lightsaber fun will turn me toward the dark side. Simply put? A licensed book is a license to limit your sales to those who are familiar. Everyone else? Find some place else to read.
I would like to note that if the powers that be would like to license Exo-Squad to Unshaven Comics, I will voluntarily lop off my left leg, and then proceed to write and draw the best damned Exo-Squad comic is history. And I can guarantee that it’ll be a top seller… to the 40 or so people who still love the property.
Joss Whedon, witer/director of Marvel’s The Avengers and the upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D. tv series, and creator of Firefly and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, would like to talk to you about this year’s presidential election… an election where brains matter even more than you thought.
New Pulp Author, Nancy Holder visited the Earth Station One podcast this week to talk about her work on Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
The ESO Countdown to Halloween continues as Mike Faber, Mike Gordon, and Bobby Nash are joined by listener David Ingrund and New York Times best-selling author Nancy Holder to review the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer once more (with feeling). We also review the third season premiere of The Walking Dead. Plus, Nancy’s writing partner Debbie Viguie reveals a special announcement! All this and the usual Rants, Raves, Khan Report, and Shout Outs!
Dark Horse Comics has announced that Scott Allie has been promoted to editor in chief. Allie, who celebrated his eighteenth year with the company last month, made his mark at Dark Horse quickly when he began editing Mike Mignola’s [[[Hellboy]]] only a month after joining the Editorial department. Since that time, he has gone on to both write and edit some of the company’s top-selling books, including [[[Buffy the Vampire Slayer]]] and cult favorites like The Goon, and he continues to collaborate with Mignola, including co-writing the upcoming series B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Abyss of Time.
He has shepherded multiple projects with names outside the comics industry, such as Lance Henriksen with [[[To Hell You Ride]]] and Gerard Way with The Umbrella Academy. Along with Dark Horse’s director of public relations, Jeremy Atkins, and recently appointed VP of Marketing, Matt Parkinson, Allie helped to develop and edit the company’s first foray into digital publishing with the critically acclaimed anthology MySpace Dark Horse Presents. Most recently, he engineered a three-month publishing initiative that showcases some of the company’s best horror titles and introduces new miniseries by top-tier talent.
“I’ve worked with Scott, day in and day out, for more than fifteen years now. In all that time he’s talked me off any number to cliffs, kept me going, kept me focused and organized (as much as anyone could), and, quite simply, made it possible for me to produce the best work of my career,” said Mike Mignola. “He’s been everything I could ever want in an editor and I cannot imagine a better choice at Dark Horse for editor in chief. Congratulations, Scott—you more than deserve it.”
“I’m delighted and relieved to hear that my great collaborator Scott Allie has been made editor in chief, because, to be perfectly honest, I thought he already was,” said Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon.
“I’m very excited about this promotion for Scott. The position has been his goal for some time now and he’s worked very hard to achieve it,” said Dark Horse’s president and founder, Mike Richardson. “It has been very rewarding to watch Scott’s evolution as an editor over his eighteen years with the company and I look forward to working with him in his new role to make Dark Horse the best comics company in the world.”
“The first Dark Horse book I ever picked up was the DHP fifth-anniversary issue with the first chapter of Sin City. Now I’ve spent most of my adult life here, and every day it still feels new,” said Scott Allie. “I’m grateful to be at the core of what Mike Richardson’s created, working with him and Randy Stradley and an incredible list of people I admire inside and outside Dark Horse.”
“I hate endings!” said the Doctor to Amy (in last night’s episode of Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan”) as he ripped out the last page of the novel he was reading. The Doctor always rips out the final page of a book, he tells Amy, because he doesn’t want the story to end. The Doctor wants the story to go on. He wants to forget his near-immortal life, he wants to forget that in the end his companions always leave him because they never have enough time and he will always have too much. He wants to forget that he is the last of the Time Lords, the end of the line.
But we are not Time Lords. We know endings come. We know our ending is coming, one way or another, sooner or later. (Hopefully much, much later!) And I think that one of the ways we come to grips with our final denouement is by telling and reading stories because stories end. And our lives are stories, aren’t they? And don’t we always want to know how the story ends?
Endings can be the reasons we keep turning the pages of the book, even if it’s 2 A.M. and we have to get up to go to work in three hours, or why we watch a movie for the hundred-and-first time.
Endings can enlighten. They can surprise, they can awe, they can make us cry. Endings can make us angry, and they can drive us crazy.
Endings can be poignant and bittersweet. Endings can really suck the big one. Or they can be both at the same time.
In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite endings:
The Gift (Joss Whedon, Buffy The Vampire Slayer): “She saved the world a lot.”
The Death Of Supergirl (Marv Wolfman And George Perez, Crisis On Infinite Earths #7): Farewell, Kara Zor-el, the avatar of my childhood dreams.
The Nine Billion Names Of God (Arthur C. Clarke): “Overhead, without an fuss, the stars were going out.”
Nightfall (Isaac Asimov): The stars come out.
Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow? (Alan Moore, Curt Swan, & George Perez, Superman #423 And Action #583): The end of an era.
The Lottery (Shirley Jackson): “’It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,’ Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.”
An Officer And A Gentleman: Hey, what girl doesn’t want to be swept up in the arms of a gorgeous Naval officer and taken away from her drudgery-filled life?
A Guy Named Joe (Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne): “That’s my girl. And that’s my boy.”
Saving Private Ryan: (Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, with a cameo by Ted Danson): “P-51’s, sir. Tank Busters.”
The Way We Were (Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford): “See ya, Hub.”
We are not Time Lords. We want to know the end of the story. Last night, in “The Angels Take Manhattan,” the adventures of Amelia Pond and Rory Williams as they travelled through time and space with the Gallifreyan came to well, an end.
Summer’s singing its last karaoke and the flash mobs of Gangnam Style have come and gone for the nonce. But back-to-school, be ye student or mentor, doesn’t have to mean the fun’s over—just shifting gears. So let’s go to Tampa with Gina, BF Bobby, and her vamped-up posse for adventure #3 in Lucienne Diver’s [[[Fangtastic]]] (Flux, trade paperback, $9.95/$11.50 Canada, $3.44 Kindle, ages 12 & up, Jan. 2012). Wassup? A lot. Heat, humidity, steampunk geeks, government spooks gone…well…even more spooky, death, mayhem—and vampires, of course! Pretty much Buffy on X—so Diver maintains her signature style. The first in the series is still my fav, and I’m not feeling that Tampa plays a crucial role in this story (could be any hot city), but those are minor points in what is otherwise another successful outing full of chic twists and turns that keep things entertaining. I may not always agree on a few details of how she gets there, but I like where she’s taking the series. The focus here is the steampunk club scene full of wannabe vamps and the Feds assign Gina and her crew to infiltrate the true vamps who run the clubs behind-the-scenes so she can investigate a string of club kids murders—but who’re the real big bads? Gina’s really beginning to wonder and doesn’t like what she finds out along the way and she does something about it. This is Gina coming more into her vampy own and raising the stakes (pun sort of unintended…wink) and Diver doing some deeper world building with lots of bells-n-whistles, new minions, and the addition of some surprise superpowers—with which I’m not yet entirely on-board, but I’ll roll with it through next book. There is enough grit and wit in this installment to keep adults engaged, as well as plugged-in co-eds. So take a fabulous spin. And stay tuned for book #4, Fangtabulous, come January, just in time for winter break.
When you’re done clubbing with the kids in Tampa, how about a romantic trip to the beach, the spa—the police station with hot Detective Armani!—with a few gods and goddesses in LA? This is where Diver’s adult urban fantasy romance based upon mythical characters comes to life in [[[Bad Blood]]] (Samhain, $14 trade paperback, $7.96 Kindle, June 2012). And her typically sharp and snarky voice is in full evidence here, but darker than in her Vamped series and with a bit more romantic spice, and appropriately so for the mature audience this is aimed at—right between the eyes. Here we’ve got a freakshow family that is, literally, part circus and part PIs, and the newest working gal, since her Uncle Christos’ disappearance, Tori Karacis, is up to her eyeballs in murder, gore, silicon starlets, Circe, Apollo, Hermes, Hephaestus, mermen, perhaps even Zeus and Poseidon, and a whole lotta WTF?! It is Hollyweird, after all. Blood is thicker than muck, so it seems. And, of course, the bad guys cheat! But I won’t serve up any spoilers save that this all adds up to impending California style DOOM! Let’s just say that the tale contains the typically hot tidbits of the tough gal’s softer side and her having to choose between two impossibly hot men who totally want her, of course (I did say fantasy) and who are competitive with each other, plus wacky grandma Yiayia over the phone—the only family member who actually makes a sort-of appearance besides quirky quotes at the head of each chapter, which is sort of disappointing. And you don’t really see much of Tori’s circus skills—hope that’s remedied in subsequent books in the series. Those complaints aside, it’s an amusing ride with all the romance tropes to keep those genre fans happy, enough who-done-it on the frothy side to keep the mystery fans engaged, and of course there are the supernaturals to hook the fantasy crowd – everyone’s invited to the party and the Tarrantino-level fantabulous ending! The entertainment? It’s all in the blood, natch! Crazy in the Blood ($4.24 Kindle…in print 2013)…next in the series.
Sitting around brainstorming a movie sounds like a great way to spend a few days. According to Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, they fell into their fever-pitch pace after years rewriting episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As a result, they concocted the screenplay for Cabin in the Woods over little more than a weekend. And just the hit series turned tropes and stereotypes on its head; this fright fest also explored, celebrated and inverted the conventions of countless horror films, making for a fresh, funny, original thriller.
You have to pay attention to the film because its smart and do not be lulled by expectations, as is evident from the opening sequences as Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins appear to be going to work at some high tech underground bunker and then we swiftly cut away to your central casting collection of college kids clearly marked for gruesome deaths. As they drive away and a cameo from Nathan Fillion turns up, this is evidently a very different kind of film.
Unfortunately, after it was financed and filmed, the movie languished, a victim of the MGM bankruptcy until it was rescued by Lionsgate which finally released it this spring. Unfortunately, their marketing department didn’t adequately tell the world and most missed it. Thankfully, the home video edition is coming out this week and is well worth your time and attention.
The quintet is made up of comely Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Chris Hemsworth, and Fran Kranz. Williams was already a regular on Grey’s Anatomy, Hutchison was an Australian star, and Kranz was known for Whedon’s Dollhouse, but this was a pre-Thor Hemsworth and seeing this, it’s hard to see anything godly in his studly athlete. Yet, he impressed Whedon during filming and he recommended him to Marvel, which proved wise. Still, the five friends go to cabin for a vacation and as one would expect, horrible things happen and secrets are uncovered.
All along, they are monitored and manipulated by the guys in the underground bunker, overseen by Whedon stalwart Amy Acker. There are hints that their work ethic may smack of Office Space but their mission is a serious one and as we shift into the final act, we’re treated to an assortment of nightmares and monsters that echo every horror movie you’ve seen since birth. The CGI effects ran rampant throughout as several of the quintet defy the odds and survive. Worse, they find the bunker and go exploring to learn why they were targeted and some surprise news spells survival or global. Just when you think you know what’s happening, they cleverly toss in a twist, be it a story point, a visual, or some stunt casting to keep you alert.
It’s tremendous fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously at all, which is just fine with me. The movie looks fabulous with the screen transfer and it sounds nifty, too.
The Special Features some engaging commentary from Whedon and Goddard as we learn about the travails of shooting in Canada. They appear in awe of how game Hutchison was for her various spotlight moments and talked about everything from writing to special effects and time sitting around the sets waiting for something to happen. Whedon apparently shot second unit work which meant he did more than script and produce.
The remaining pieces on both the Blu-ray and DVD are pretty much what you have come to expect these days, including “We Are Not Who We Are: Making The Cabin in the Woods” (28:33) which covers the basic behind the scenes info; “The Secret Secret Stash” (13:07) featuring “Marty’s Stash” with Kranz talking about his stoner character, and “Hi, My name is Joss and I’ll be your guide”; the Wonder-Con Q&A with Joss and Drew (27:30), ‘nuff said; “An Army of Nightmares: Make-Up & Animatronic Effects” (12:10) is about the cool effects; “Primal Terror: Visual Effects” (12:07) focuses on the developmental aspects of the effects; “It’s Not What You Think: The Cabin in the Woods” Bonus View Mode (Blu-ray exclusive). You can also access online the “It’s Not What You Think: The Cabin in the Woods Bonus View Mode”, which is sort of interesting but offers little new.
Kudos to Lionsgate for giving this a spiffy lenticular sleeve, showing some TLC the film deserved.
Last week, I wrote about the awesome folks of Warehouse 13, whom I was lucky enough to meet after attending their panel at Dragon*Con. But they weren’t the only fantastic people at the con, oh no. In fact, Dragon*Con is always so packed with amazing guests that I never get to see or meet all of them, and am left lamenting the fact that I missed Dean Cain’s panel or never got to say hi to Jewel Staite or Sean Maher in the Walk of Fame, despite running around from hotel to hotel like a hyperactive kid in a candy store. But I did get to see and meet a lot of cool folks, and that’s what I’m here to share, so here we go!
The first event I got to was a fantastic Lord of the Rings panel, featuring Billy Boyd (Pippin), Craig Parker (Haldir), and John Rhys-Davies (Gimli). It was a blast. The first thing I have to say about it is very shallow but true: these guys have the most delightful accents! I think I could listen to Scottish, Kiwi, and Welsh actors answer questions all day. And oh, yeah, the questions themselves were pretty good too. I think my favorite bit was when Craig invited a fairly young boy named Orion who was slightly hyperventilating up onto the stage to ask his question (it’s cute when a kid’s that nervous. Adults…well, not so much). I heard through the grapevine later that this happenstance made the kid a minor celebrity at other panels, where people started looking for Orion. To which I say – only at Dragon*Con. I love that about Dragon*Con. My second favorite bit was hearing about how Billy used to read books while working at a bookbinder’s – by tearing out the pages he was finished with and tossing them away. Being an extreme book lover, I’d call that sacrilege, but…well, it does sound kind of fun. And then of course, John predicted that The Hobbit will be a game-changer and that we’re all in for a treat, so: yay!
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of asking Craig and John a couple of quick questions (missed Billy, sadly. Maybe next year?). Craig is delightfully easygoing, and John is effortlessly charming and has that amazing presence that I associate with really good stage actors. And even though he had a plane to catch, he still took the time to sit down for a few and give me his full attention, which speaks to the sort of person he is. Here’s what they had to say:
What would you like to say about current or future projects?
“Actually, I’m a total bum at the moment, because I’m in the process of moving to the States, so everything’s just… everywhere, and I’m not working on anything at the moment.” (Hopefully it won’t be that way for long. I’m sure we’d all love to see him in something again soon).
What’s your favorite part of Dragon*Con?
“I don’t know whether it’s the visuals…the overstimulation of seeing something incredible everywhere you look; or talking with all of the passionate people. It’s an incredibly engaging weekend.”
What would you like to say about current or future projects?
“Projects are falling by the wayside all the time – you know, there were two pictures I really wanted to do recently, but they didn’t work out. But now I’m doing Golden Boots, which is a movie about a little boy who wants to play soccer, and that takes place in Detroit, Michigan. I’m also working on Behind the Mask, which takes place in the pre-continental U.S.; and I’ll be the villain. It has a bit of swash; a bit of buckle; a bit of murder…and unfortunately the bad guys don’t win. I’m going to be in the new Pinocchio, which is a mixture of animation and drama – and I’ll be playing the bad guy. And I’m hoping that Flying Tigers will be shot in China early next year.”
What’s your favorite part of Dragon*Con?
”Obviously the people – it’s the chance an actor gets to meet the people who’ve been keeping him employed for the past forty years. You get to talk to them, and know who they are. I cannot tell you how valuable that is. When you work in theater the audience is right there, telling you “You’re good; you’re bad; you stink.” In film, you can lose sight of your audience; and then you can lose sight of yourself and your own true proportion.”
Words of wisdom indeed. Next up we attended the Buffy & Angel Q&A, featuring J. August Richards (Gunn), Juliet Landau (Drusilla), and James Marsters (Spike). James Marsters challenged everyone to embarrass him (they tried but failed); J. August Richards shared his opinion of Gunn’s story arc from street-savvy vampire hunter to lawyer and back (he was happy with the lawyer arc, and with Gunn going back to his roots when the story needed it); and Juliet Landau spoke about her voice work as the Little Sisters in Bioshock (and how she landed the role thanks to her acting as Drusilla).
The panel was a ton of fun, and I got to check in with J. August Richards afterwards. When asked what he’d like to say about current or future projects, Jay told me that he has something he’s really excited about, but he can’t talk about it just yet. Therefore – check back here on ComicMix in a week or two, when I’ll be interviewing J. August Richards about his newest, as-yet-unannounced project! Yay!
When asked his favorite part of Dragon*Con, Jay replied:
“The people! What I love about Dragon*Con is that it’s one of the rare instances where you get to be around fifty thousand people who are completely non-judgmental.”
Word. At the Buffy panel, Juliet Landau mentioned a documentary she’d made that was airing Saturday, Take Flight: Gary Oldman Directs Chutzpah, and my friend and I love Gary Oldman, so we checked that out as well. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it turned out to be one of the surprise best parts of the weekend. The film is a behind-the-scenes documentary of Gary Oldman’s artistic process as he creates a music video for a Jewish rap group (yes, that really is a thing!), and it is fantastic. I was either smiling or laughing for pretty much the whole thing, because the rappers are funny, and Gary Oldman in creative mode is a thing of joy and awesomeness, and Juliet & co. did an amazing job showing all of that. Juliet also did an excellent job in selecting the classical music that accompanies some parts of the film and really highlights the beauty of the more peaceful scenes.
When asked about what she’d learned in making the film, she replied, “Every set you’re on, you learn. One of the things about Gary on set – and all the best directors I’ve worked with, like Tim Burton and Joss Whedon, are like this – is that he is very focused on the work, but also on having fun. Everybody’s focused, but there really is a joy to be making stuff – that’s really palpable with Gary.” And it really is.
I got to chat with the extremely nice Juliet after the film, and she shared that the documentary is available for purchase on her website. I definitely recommend it, but fair warning: the song being filmed is pretty catchy, so if you watch it, I guarantee you’ll be singing, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send your best guy right over,” for at least half a day afterwards! Juliet also mentioned that her upcoming projects include The Bronx Bull (Raging Bull II), and Where the Road Runs Out. And her favorite part of Dragon*Con? “Meeting all the people!”
Also included in our mad convention dash was the Big Damn Heroes panel, with Adam Baldwin (Jayne), Jewel Staite (Kaylee), and Sean Maher (Simon) of Firefly and Serenity. Those three are like a comedy show once they get going. Highlights of the panel included Nathan Fillion making cameos on all of their cell phones (taking over the panel even when he’s not on the panel, as Adam said!) to check in repeatedly on, basically, how pretty Jewel was looking that day (it really was a hilarious gag, and she really is very pretty); an audience member contributing Firefly bourbon for them to drink; and Adam Baldwin being temporarily embarrassed to share with the crowd (he got over it).
Speaking of Adam, I also went to a Chuck panel where he talked about his role as John Casey; and even when he’s the only one on stage, he’s a riot. Adam answered questions such as whether Casey was really in the Navy or the Marines, and then ribbed fans for being that into the details of the show, noting that “It’s not real!” However, he clearly appreciates the fans who care enough about his characters (notably Jayne) to dress the part, and was particularly kind to a thirteen-year-old fan who was a bit nervous in asking her question. As I said, I sadly missed chatting with Sean and Jewel, but I did get to talk with the quick-witted Adam after the panels.
Adam reports that his newest project is the opening episode of Law & Order: SVU. “I’m joining the cast as a ‘replacement’ for the captain, Cragen, who…got himself in a little bit of hot water last season. So that has kept me a little busy.” As for his favorite part of Dragon*Con? “The people – lovely people who are very kind, and good old Southern hospitality. And the food’s great…you know, wine, women, good food! And the panels …and the utilikilts (pointing). There’s one right behind you.”
And so there was.
Meeting Adam was a lovely experience; and another highlight of the weekend was Jane Espenson’s panel. Jane is like the writer equivalent of actor Mark Sheppard, in that she has written for basically every awesome genre show I’ve ever seen. She’s also delightful to listen to. Her panel focused in a large part on her newest project, Husbands, a web series which can be seen online at lovehusbands.com. We watched an episode, and it’s very funny; and certainly a spin on the newlywed premise that we haven’t quite seen before, being about two gay men who have gotten married in haste and are now dealing with the consequences. She also encouraged people to check out Once Upon A Time over on ABC if they haven’t yet, and answered questions about the writing process, mentioning that she’d like to turn her blog musings into a book someday (yes please, Jane!). Writing tips she shared included her own approach to beginning to write for an established character by asking “what one incident is going to most poke at the character’s emotional core? Getting inside that is one of the best ways to train yourself to be a good writer.” As for her favorite part of Dragon*Con: “Meeting beautiful amazing people in costumes!”
Speaking of people who’ve worked on everything cool ever, I also got to talk with Rob Paulsen, voice actor for a million billion zillion of the toon characters we all know and love, including Yakko Warner, Pinky, and more from Animaniacs. He couldn’t possibly have known that’s one of my favorite cartoon shows ever, but that didn’t stop him from saying, “Hellooooooo, nurses!” as I and my two gal pals walked up to say hi, and, “You all make me want to say, ‘Narf!’” which got the conversation off to a fun start. Rob shared that since he was Raphael on the original Teenage MutantNinja Turtles, he’s pretty excited to be Donatello now on the new one. “And Sean Astin is Raphael, Jason Biggs is Leonardo, and Greg Cipes is Michelangelo, so that’s great.” He also suggested we check out his podcast, Talking Toons, which can be found on iTunes or RobPaulsenLive.com; and now that I know about it, I certainly will! As for his favorite part of Dragon*Con:
Rob: “The pretty chicks!”
Me: “He says, looking at us…”Rob: “Absolutely! I’m not the blind Turtle!”
Walking around the Walk of Fame, I got to chat with several other actors and actresses, including Lee Arenberg, of Pirates of the Caribbean fame (“’Ello, poppet!”) who was enjoying meeting all the fans, and can currently be seen as Grumpy in Once Upon a Time. He also mentioned that he’ll be in the new season of Californication. Last of all I sawMira Furlan, who told me that she’s going to be in a new film starring Penelope Cruz that’s called Twice Born. She then opined that DragonCon was “fantastic – mad and fantastic,” and I couldn’t agree more.
Well! That’s the news for this week, but there’s even more to come, as I also got to attend the Battlestar Galactica panel and chat with those actors while at Dragon*Con and have more to say about that; we’ve got an exclusive chat with J. August Richards in the offing; and I’ve just gotten back from the fantastic Baltimore Comic Con.
So check back for more excitement next week, and until then, Servo Lectio!
Josepha Sherman, folklorist, anthologist, and science fiction and fantasy author and editor, has died at the age of 65.
Josepha published many books over the years, know equally for her tie-in work on Star Trek, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Highlander, Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, and Xena, her original fiction such as the Prince of the Sidhe series, her anthologies such as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Urban Nightmares (which happened to be where my first original short story, “Dark Of Night”, was published) and her academic and educational books.
Her last fiction book was Epiphany: Vulcan’s Soul Trilogy Book Three, co-written with Susan M. Shwartz. Her masterwork, the 904 page Storytelling: An Encyclopedia of Mythology and Folklore which she edited and contributed to heavily, was published in 2008. With her focus on pop culture and folklore, collaborator Mercedes Lackey called Josepha “the common man’s Joseph Campbell”.
She was also a tremendous fan of the ponies, and she would invariably greet me whenever we met with, “So, who do you like in the (insert next big horse race here)?”
Funeral services will be held in Connecticut on Monday. Details to follow.
The greatest pitfall television series featuring high school cast members has is that the cast is already older when the series begins and they age out rapidly. Smallville stopped setting stories in the high school because the cast looked ridiculous on the sets. Confronting the inevitable graduation challenges the producers to find tortured ways to keep the cast intact after the caps and gowns are put away. Even Buffy the Vampire Slayer suffered from this challenge so it is refreshing to see Glee take graduation head on in the third season of the Fox series.
Glee the Complete Third Season came out on DVD last week and seeing it without the weeks-long breaks between cycles, allows you to see how they handled the coming graduation and choices the teens are being asked to make. While the series has never really focused on the kids’ academics, there was almost zero interest in ACTs or college visits, so it was always in the ether but never the focal point of the stories. Instead, it was all about getting to Nationals in New York and succeeding. The season opened with the need for fresh members thanks to a rival Glee Club set up by Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel) while Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) ran for Congress on an anti-arts platform.
Clearly, the producers had no real idea of where to take the characters as motivations and the status quo changed, twisting them beyond recognizabilty. The most ill-served may have been Quinn (Dianna Agron) who started off trying to steal back her baby, given to Shelby for adoption, then embracing the final year of high school until her driving accident (don’t text and drive) and recovery. Somewhere along the line, this sympathetic character, who in season two recognized she was a small town girl stuck in Ohio, gained 50 IQ points and got into Yale and was Ivy League bound. Huh? The best teen villain has become a hero. All the edges to characters are gone, from Puck (Mark Salling) to the divas Mercedes (Amber Riley), robbing the students of interesting character variety. Santana (Naya Rivera) was also softened although her coming out as a lesbian and rising as a performer were among the season’s highlights.
Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) and Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), the romantic couple at the center of the storm, decided to get married and their arc dealt with that reality and the choices each need make for themselves and each other. This rang far more true than the disastrous marriage between Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) and Cooter Menkins (Eric Bruskotter), which formed a mini-arc in the final third of the season.
While each of the 22 episodes is entertaining and often heartfelt, as a season-long arc for the faculty and students it’s a mess and by now Ryan Murphy should have a very clear idea of who they are and where these characters are going. Instead, he seems to have lost any sense of edge in Sylvester, giving her instead a rival in Roz Washington (NeNe Leakes). Even the show’s most intriguing character, Burt Hummel (Mike O’Malley), somehow found himself running for Congress and winning, stealing him from Kurt (Chris Colfer), just as his son’s dreams of going to NYADA are crushed.
Musically, the show remains strong, aided by the welcome addition of Darren Criss’ Blaine to the New Directions. Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet) is also back after a brief contract issue. Some of the winners of the reality series, The Glee Project, wind up added to the cast but are little more than hangers-on with little learned about them and rarely given a showcase. The quest for a championship takes a backseat to the fall musical, West Side Story, which featured some terrific reimaginings of the classic numbers.
In the finale, eight of the cast graduate and turnover in the New Directions will fuel the fourth season as it begins in a few weeks. Most of the graduates will continue to appear so the ensemble swells which is not always a good idea.
The four disc set looks amazing and of course sounds terrific but we’ve come to expect that from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. A neat feature to the set is that the menus will help you keep track as you work your way through the season, remembering where you are.
As usual, the extras are heavy on the music, the show’s hallmark. We get more from the Glee Music Jukebox, although you get clips and not the full songs that were edited to air. Some of the non-musical bits include “Glee Under the Stars” (7:45), a kickoff event at Santa Monica High School. “Glee Give a Note” (7:46) shows stars Jayma Mays and Jones present Culver City Middle School a check for $10,000 for arts education.
You can enjoy some extended and deleted scenes throughout the discs. The highlight here is a Sue Sylvester flashback that should have found its way on air. “Glee Swap: Behind the Scenes of ‘Props'” (5:41) is a nice look at the fun body-swapping episode. “Meet the Newbies” (13:20) spends more time with the new cast members than the series seemed to. “Saying Goodbye” (15:19) is a good look at the emotional toll the finale took on one and all. Lynch’s acerbic Sylvester is found on “Ask Sue: World Domination Blog” (6:07) and “Return of Sue’s Quips” (2:58).
One can hope that the freshened cast will ignite some greater dramatic consistency to match its musical excellence. For now, we have this set which is maddeningly enjoyable while being frustratingly inconsistent.