Tagged: Emily S. Whitten

Mindy Newell: Civil War and Our Man In Orange


As I mentioned last week in this space, Captain America: Civil War rocked!! Well, if you stick bamboo slivers under my nails, I will admit to having one nitpick with the film, but I don’t want to go into it right now because of the off-chance that you haven’t seen it yet. That’s almost a tough pill to swallow, since (a) I don’t think you’d be here if you weren’t a lover of comics and geek culture – with a nice healthy dose of politics thrown in; and (b) Civil War has topped the $1 billion globally, with domestic gross profits adding up to $347,390,153 – and the weekend isn’t over yet as I write this. So I’m going to wait until next week to talk about that one nitpick, in case I forget, which, knowing me, could be quite likely – so somebody remind me, ‘kay? And overall it’s a very small, tiny, minute, nano-millimeter pick of a nit.

And because of that off-chance that you haven’t seen it yet, and because, unlike me, spoilers annoy the hell out of people – they just whet my appetite to actually see the action play out on the big or small screen – I’m not going to attempt to review the movie; though I heartily recommend you go over to my friend Emily S. Whitten’s column and to Arthur Tebbel’s review. Let me warn you now that Em’s column is a bit spoilery, though im-not-so-ho, she does a great job of, uh, whetting the appetite. Oh, and also check out those Twins! Geeks! Tweeks!, in which Anya brings up a problem with superhero movies that she and many other people have – including my daughter Alixandra – which is actually quite legitimate.

I only know one person who saw the film and went “eh,” and said she didn’t like it. When I asked her why, this individual said “Too much talking. Not enough fighting.” I don’t agree with her at all; Civil War is the epitome of what makes the Marvel cinemaverse – and that includes the television and Netflix shows – so successful and DC movies, well, suck big time (on the other hand, the DC “televerse” does “get it,” so I don’t understand what goes wrong with their big screen attempts). Others have said before me. “Marvel gets it.” Cap, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Spidey, et.al. aren’t four-color heroes transcribed onto the big screen. They are Steve, Tony, Clint, Natasha, Peter, and et.al. And before they put on their fightin’ clothes and become the Avengers, every single one of them, to “mis”-quote Emily, “bring the emotional heart of the movie to the forefront.”

As for the Man In Orange, here’s this week’s suggested reading in Trump-A-Rama:

Gail Collins, The New York Times, “Meet Deadeye Donald” “Donald Trump has a permit to carry a gun. ‘Nobody knows that,’ he told a gathering of the National Rifle Association on Friday. Well actually, it’s pretty hard to not know since he brings it up all the time….”

Dana Millbank, ArcaMax, “Trump Bets on Mass Amnesia” “Just how gullible does Donald Trump suppose the American voter is?

“The billionaire showman has been the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for only a couple of weeks, yet his general election strategy is already becoming clear: hope for a mass nationwide outbreak of short-term memory loss. His top strategist, Paul Manafort, has said that the ‘part that he’s been playing is evolving.’ But this isn’t evolution – it’s reincarnation… That call Trump made ‘for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’? Turns out that was ‘just a suggestion,’ he now says.

“The federal minimum wage increase, which he repeatedly opposed? Now he’s ‘looking at’ an increase, he says. “The massive tax cut he proposed during the primary, which analysts said would add $10 trillion to the federal debt? Never mind! He’s hired experts to rewrite it in a way that cuts taxes less for the wealthy. “Those tax returns he promised ‘certainly’ to release? Not going to happen, he says now.

Remember all those companies Trump blasted for sending jobs overseas? Ford was a ‘disgrace,’ Disney had ‘outrageous’ practices, Carrier deserved higher taxes, Apple should be boycotted because it didn’t help the FBI in a terrorism case, and Trump’s never eating an Oreo again because Nabisco outsourced. Financial disclosures last week showed Trump has invested in all of the above.”

Talk about your Civil Wars.

Molly Jackson: Loud Voices


I’ve spent the past week or so in a bubble, apparently hiding from the news of the world. Which is why I was startled by the influx of posts yesterday announcing it was International Women’s Day. A day to recognize all the inspirational women in our lives.

It seems odd that I would miss such a day but it is a funny thing to have a single day dedicated to all women from the planet Earth. Women still make up half the planet, and there are similar days on the proverbial calendar. Still, the necessity of such a day is irksome. The year is filled with days where I can laud women from all walks of life.

Being torn on how to move forward with this column, I decided to err on the side of not nitpicking yesterday’s recognition and to try to enjoy the moment.

Truth be told, women have made strides in comics, both in the industry and in the stories. A few decades ago, I doubt Kamala Khan would have made it to the page. Even if she had, I doubt that she would have the same depth that she does now. The same could be said for one of her creators, Sana Amanat, who is an editor at Marvel Comics. But now we have a character that resonates across cultural and gender lines as a role model to the young and old.

The same exact excitement could be applied to Bitch Planet. Could we have had that book years ago? Of course. Would it have received the same praise it receives now? I doubt it.

However, this is still a small percentage of the comics pie.

Female characters still lead fewer books than male characters. Female creators still make up a small portion of the industry. Now, it is a point of conversation and an area of development. Companies are looking for ways to expand as they realize that courting the opposite sex is a growing market. It will continue to be as long as we look towards the future and remind them that we women are still here and will not be ignored.

On this site, we have amazing women who broke barriers in comics for my generation. For starters, Martha Thomases and Mindy Newell both worked in the industry, creating female-driven stories as they worked in a male-dominated industry. Emily Whitten has written for multiple sites about geekdom, something that isn’t easy as a woman. All of them have been an inspiration as well as a source of encouragement.

So, on this random day, I want to thank all the women who made it possible for me to be recognized as a voice to be heard. Everything you’ve done is helping move us to an equal future.


Emily S. Whitten Reviews The Sherlock Holmes Book

Book Review: The Sherlock Holmes Book

Tis the season…for all of us to be enjoying whatever nifty new items we hopefully received for Christmas. For me this year, that includes The Sherlock Holmes Book, which came out on October 20, 2015 and is part of a series of Big Ideas Simply Explained” books from DK Publishing. These are general reference books that use photographs, illustrations, atlases, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and manuals to explore their topics.


I’m not done reading The Sherlock Holmes Book yet, but from what I’ve perused so far, it’s delightful. Even if you’ve been a Sherlockian for years and have enjoyed all of the canon multiple times, as I have, the book still serves as both a great reference book for summarizing the individual stories or refreshing the memory, and a fun source for supplementary knowledge beyond the canon.

It begins with a background on author Arthur Conan Doyle and on Holmes, his right-hand man Watson, and other main recurring characters in the stories before moving on to the canon itself, examining each individual story with relevant illustrations, historical photographs and images, maps, and small summaries of key characters. It also contains timelines of the stories, including of key events in the lives of Holmes and Watson, which I find particularly fun to flip through. Another neat feature are the summaries of historical events or inspirations for parts of some stories, and of the publishing and production history during Conan Doyle’s lifetime.

After covering the canon, the book moves beyond it to discuss in separate sections the myth and reality of the world portrayed in Sherlockian tales, the setting of the Victorian world and society, criminology and the forensic sciences, crime writing, fans of Sherlock Holmes, adaptations of the canon, and fan fiction (both amateur and professionally published). What I really like about this book is the way it examines the stories and world of Holmes from a number of different angles and presents, even to someone like me who is very familiar with the canon stories, new bits of information, connective tissue, and background on the Sherlockian world beyond the canon.

It really is a great reference book, presented in a colorful and dynamic way that engages the reader. It also, I must note, has a foreword from esteemed Sherlockian and member of the Baker Street Irregulars Les Klinger, author of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes. I didn’t even realize this when I added it to my Christmas list, but it’s a further indication that this is a good Sherlockian resource to have (and maybe I will have to take it along to the BSI Weekend next weekend and get it signed!).

DK Publishing also has “Big Ideas” books for subjects like philosophy, Shakespeare, sociology, and science, and after seeing how well this book is done, I may have to add those to my next Christmas list. Until then, I shall keep perusing my newest cool Sherlockian book, and I hope you all Servo Lectio!

Emily S. Whitten: Dragon Con, Here I Come

Dragoncon2015aHappy upcoming Labor Day Weekend, everyone! I hope you’re all celebrating with a nice break from your usual labors.

Of course, for convention-goers, Labor Day Weekend also means celebrating with Dragon Con a.k.a. (unofficially) the Mardi Gras of fandom cons. There’s a lot to love about Dragon Con. One of those things is the variety of fandom experiences it offers – including the robust schedule of panels featuring everyone from celebrities to fans, the Walk of Fame where you can stroll around and say hello to guests (and purchase photos or autographs if desired), the excellent and varied Dealers Room, the Artist Alley and Art Show, the stellar costume contest and parade, the workshops, the music, and more.

Another thing to love is definitely the vibe of the Con, which I’d describe as a 24-hour hang-out/party with organized events. One contributor to the vibe is that it’s set up as a hotel con, which gives it a convivial, “let’s all hang out during after hours” feel (as opposed to a convention center con where people all wander off in different directions after the exhibit hall and main events close). Another thing is that it’s able to stay a hotel convention despite its size (with over 57,000 attendees in recent years) due to spreading out over five main hotels, three of which are so close they are connected by walkways. And, of course, its reputation as a big con for costumers, and as a place where some of the costumers’ creations literally rival the real thing, means the backdrop of the individual con experience has a continual festival-like air. Add to that the room parties and late-night congregation around centrally-located hotel bars (which also make it easier to catch up with more friends in a short period of time), and Dragon Con TV for when you’re in need of some down-time but still want your con experience to be going on in the background, and Dragon Con really is a 24-hour fandom Mardi Gras.

That’s why it’s one of my favorite cons, and why I’m so hyper-excited right now, as I look forward to all the great panels, guests, and friends I plan to see. It’s also a con that takes significant prep (especially if you plan to do three…wait, scratch that, five costumes over the course of the con), and so that’s why I must leave you all now to attempt the monumental task of figuring out my schedule and packing everything without exceeding flight weight limits. (Eep!)

So until next time, enjoy your long weekend, say hi if you see me at Dragon Con, and Servo Lectio!

Emily S. Whitten: Caprica: Before the Fall

it-has-the-word-avatar-in-it-lets-throw-it-some-of-that-money-guysCaprica, the 2010 prequel show to the 2003 reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, has been on my Netflix watch list for some time; but I blame Mindy Newell’s recent column for bumping it up to the top and getting me to actually start watching (I’m about five episodes in now). I love the modern Battlestar Galactica series, and thus would naturally have a desire to watch anything related to it; but BSG was such an entity unto itself that I was a little afraid of re-visiting it in this prequel format for fear it wouldn’t measure up. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to. It’s a different kind of show, and self-contained enough while still referencing BSG to be enjoyably tied to BSG without having to match it measure-for-measure.

For those who aren’t familiar with the prequel series, Caprica takes place “58 years before the Fall” of the Colonies that kicks off BSG, and focuses heavily on two families, the Greystones and the Adamas (yes, those Adamas) It’s the story of how the first AI robots, i.e. the Cylons, were created; and it’s a much richer story than I would have imagined, stemming from love and loss and grief, and the inability to let go coupled with society’s reckless and headlong quest towards building increasingly advanced technology. Injecting humanity into the robots’ point of view is what the creators of BSG and Caprica do so well; and Caprica‘s story starts with a human girl and computer genius, Zoe Greystone, being killed in a bombing after downloading her personality into a virtual world avatar formed of all documented computer data about her life. This avatar eventually ends up installed in what becomes the first Cylon.

Zoe is a compelling character, played arrestingly by Alessandra Torresani, who does a great job of switching between her roles as human Zoe, avatar Zoe, and eventually, Cylon Zoe (I love the shooting method which shows Cylon Zoe in action as the robot, and then switches perspectives to show her as the girl in the same scene, i.e. how the personality inside the robot would see herself). It’s interesting to think that while in BSG, at least at first, the Cylons were completely unsympathetic characters, in Caprica, thus far a Cylon is the character I’m most invested in. So far, Torresani as Zoe really holds the show together, although the acting overall is excellent. The pacing does feel a bit slow; but then, this show was not intended to be like BSG in action and pace.

It’s hard to watch Caprica without comparing it to BSG, despite it being a show that can stand on its own. But looking at the two together, Caprica tackles the big issues faced in BSG (the use of technology, the varying religious beliefs, etc.) from a different angle, and shows how a change in perspective can influence viewer feelings on the issues. It’s also interesting to observe that as seen in Caprica, life on the colonies wasn’t nearly the peaches and cream existence that BSG Colonial refugees might have nostalgically been longing to return to.

It’s also fun to see Intriguing little bits and pieces of information about the future characters of BSG. In particular, seeing the Adama family fifty-eight years in the past gives me a whole new perspective on Bill Adama in BSG, and makes me wonder how much little Bill Adama knew about his dad’s crime connections and his contribution to creating the Cylons. (Maybe I’ll find out?) And seeing the purposeful echo of Little Italy and mafioso culture in Little Tauron and Adama’s brother Sam’s life is an interesting approach to turning specific Earth culture traits into those distinguishing the Twelve Colonies.

While BSG is a show where humanity has been forced by circumstance to a militaristic culture and general simplicity, Caprica is rich with the diverse culture and prosperity that leads to much of the conflict sewn into the plot of BSG, as people try to hold onto their roots or what they think they are entitled to based on the old world. The setting is completely different; it’s rooted in scenes that feel technologically advanced but culturally familiar, as opposed to the epic space battles and antiseptic feel of BSG. BSG is rooted in a fear of technology; whereas Caprica is about the driving desire to create and improve on it. And while Caprica so far paints the monotheists of the plot’s religious conflict as terrorists, in BSG the “messengers” espousing the monotheistic religion are often portrayed as actually having some sort of divine or at least unique understanding of events that may happen (although even that is ambiguous, which is par for the course with BSG). 

The complexity and imperfections of the characters are akin to those in BSG, but in Caprica, it seems more like they are searching for meaning in the world they inhabit than for a way to build a system that best serves their needs. And in contrast with BSG, wherein both Commander Adama and President Roslin provide a theme of hope against all odds despite the monumental loss that begins the show and the desperate struggle that defines it, Caprica carries a sense of foreboding with it, subtly woven into the fabric of the show – although the feeling might also stem in part from my foreknowledge of the BSG storyline, or the general sense of wrongness felt when faced with the idea of humanity extending a life indefinitely by turning a machine into a “human.” And yet despite all contrasts, Caprica shares with BSG an intriguing moral complexity, and an epic feeling that makes even the opening credits give me a little chill, albeit a different, weirdly sadder chill than that I associate with the opening of Battlestar Galactica. So far, I find it worthy of continued watching, and of further thought.

That’s it from me, so until next time, Servo Lectio!

Emily S. Whitten, M. Night Shyamalan & Closing the Education Gap

M Night ShyamalanHey cats and kittens! I’m ba-aaaaack! Apparently from the world of retro greetings. And from the world of convention organizing. For anyone who’s wondering what I’ve been up to during my l’il six-month hiatus from ComicMix (did you miss me? I missed yooooooou!!!), one of the fun things I did was act as the Program Coordinator for Awesome Con here in D.C. And man, was Awesome Con an awesome time! We had a ton of stuff to see and do for our over 30,000 attendees, and have heard tons of great feedback from attendees, guests, participants, exhibitors, etc. I expect next year to be even bigger and better than this year (which had over four times as many attendees as Awesome Con D.C.’s first year in 2013), so if you’re in the area or like to travel for cons, I’d recommend adding next year’s Awesome Con, May 29-31, to the calendar now! You won’t regret it!

And speaking of things that have been on my calendar lately, this past Wednesday I went to The National Press Club to hear screenwriter, director, and producer M. Night Shyamalan talk about his book on closing America’s education gap, I Got Schooled. A surprising topic for a movie-maker to be writing about, perhaps – but after listening to him discuss the topic, it’s clear that this book was a passion project for him, and it was fascinating to hear him talk. In his own words, “celebrity activists make my stomach cringe – you don’t automatically get the right to give advice about something because you are successful at something else. But you do have the spotlight on you sometimes. In my case, [this is] something I’m really sensitive about, so I’ve always said, graciously, ‘no,’ to being asked to promote this or that, charity-wise. So this situation [of being a charity advocate] is very unusual for me; and in fact came about really organically.”

Shyamalan then described an experience he had visiting two nearby schools in his home city of Philadelphia while scouting locations for The Happening. One he described as “this incredibly vibrant school,” in which “these kids came rushing over, saying ‘Oh my God, are you making a movie here? Can I be in it? Can I die in your movie?’ …and the possibility of a movie being made there was right on the tip of their tongues, and they were ready.” The other “was just the worst thing you could imagine. You know, [with] metal detectors, the lights really dim, and the kids just not in a good place. In showing me the classrooms, the janitor had to unlock the classroom doors. There were bars on every classroom; literal bars. The theater had been burnt down because someone had set fire to it. It was like animals; it was damage control. And in this other school, a kid walked up to me, looked at me, kind of recognized me, and decided, ‘That’s not possible’ and kept walking.” Shyamalan felt this experience was very symbolic of the differences in how these children were being educated. This inspired him to seek knowledge on what system would produce more effective inner-city education for low income kids.

For two years after that, Shyamalan said, he gathered information on “what works in education,” and eventually ended up with thousands of studies on the table, which turned out to be “a big blurry pile of information, half-knowledge, insinuations, and anecdotal movements. … You could cherry-pick anything you wanted,” he stated, “and whatever your confirmation bias was, you could find confirmation for that.” At that point, Shyamalan wasn’t sure what move to make next; but then a doctor friend noted that there is a system of best practices in health care in which if patients do five things – sleep eight hours a day, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, pay attention to mental health, and don’t smoke – the chances of getting all diseases drop to an incredibly low level. If a patient doesn’t do one of these things, however, those chances buoy back to the norm. Shyamalan hypothesized that this might be analogous to best practices for education, and set out to see if the data supported this. “Is there a group of things,” he asked, “that when done together, always work to close the education gap – the gap that exists in every state between inner city, low income children and their white suburban counterparts?”

It turned out that according to his studies, there is. After two more years of analyzing the data, the pile of “blurry information” the M. Night Shyamalan Foundation had gathered became organized into five consistent groups. The Foundation then checked its hypothesis by going to every school that was closing the education gap, and “lo and behold, they were all doing these five things.” The five keys to closing the gap, Shyamalan says, are used by all the schools that achieve, and are: leadership by principals and staff and a consistent empowering message; teacher training that specifically focuses on how to approach inner-city schools and students; data on best practices in curriculum and how to teach that are then implemented; more time spent teaching the children; and smaller schools.

Shyamalan discussed each of these key points further, and stated the conclusion he finally reached in answer to his initial inquiry into solutions for closing the education gap. Shyamalan said, “If the home environment does not change, can we close the achievement gap? The answer to that is categorically yes.”

An encouraging message, considering that according to Shyamalan, inner city low income schools represent 18% of the country’s schools; and one that I hope is true. I’m a big believer in the importance of education, and it’s clear that this country needs to do some serious work to raise the standards of education for that 18%. Whether Shyamalan’s five keys turn out to be the answer, and whether they will be implemented to good effect, is still on the table; but Shyamalan has stated that the book has helped to spur active efforts towards improvement in Philadelphia and elsewhere; so here’s hoping that out of that original blurry pile of data have come some focused answers, and real methods that can be used to improve kids’ lives.




Mike Gold: Awesome Is As Awesome Does

gold-art-140423-254x450-1378888First of all, I have to state right here in public that our friend and contributor Emily S. Whitten was absolutely correct.

We-all (Martha, Adriane, Evelyn, Robert and me) were at the Awesome Con in Washington DC, and it was a fun experience. The action around the ComicMix table was strong and overall attendance was exceptional given the fact that: a) it was held Easter weekend, and b) it only was the second annual convention. There were zillions of cosplaying cosplayers – I think Doctor Who guises dominated the horde, but given the crowds it’s hard to tell. There were a lot of Poison Ivys, as usual. The comics guests were first-rank and the media guests were plentiful without turning the show into another autograph convention.

Despite the large crowd, attendees could walk around the show with ease and it seems people could get into the panels without having to wait in line all day. The retailer exhibitors seemed to be doing good business – if they aren’t they usually let you know. Artist’s Alley was full of all kinds of talent: professional, small press, amateur, and wannabes.

Awesome Con wasn’t overwhelmed with obnoxious p.r. people or mindless publisher announcements about how they’re going to cancel everything and replace it with the exact same thing, only less interesting and essentially unexciting. Maybe that happened at WonderCon, the left-coast convention held the same weekend. Our pal Glenn was there along with the fabulous Tweeks representing the firm (I like that; ComicMix as a “firm”) and Glenn was probably filking with his friends. You can do that in California.

My warmest congratulations and deepest thanks to convention promoters Ben Penrod and Steve Anderson. You guys did swell; take it from a loudmouthed geek who’s been going to such shows since 1969.

The 2014 convention season? So far, so good. Awesome Con and MoCCA. This weekend I zap out to Chicago for two more conventions: C2E2, another clusterfuck show run by people with little regard for comics fans, and the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention. I’ll be at the former on Friday and Saturday, invading the sanctity of the Unshaven Comics table, and I’ll be at the Pulp Show on Sunday.

As you know if you’ve read just about any one of my previous 300 columns (give or take), I am a proud native Chicagoan and I’m looking forward to seeing old friends at both show – and scarfing down some of the world’s best and most unhealthy food. I’ll be staying near the site of the Great Chicago Fire – that location, by the way, has long been the Chicago Fire Department’s training academy. I still think that’s really cool.

Given the fact that I’m still incubating a brand new left shoulder, I won’t be doing as many shows this year as we initially planned. Probably Heroes in Charlotte and Baltimore in Baltimore, a few up here in Connecticut / New York / New Jersey, and possibly one or two others that don’t require my being sealed up in a flying cigar for hours on end.

And, yes, that is Ma Hunkle posing at Awesome Con. That’s a first – at least, for me. And that was really wonderful.

Meet Jen Krueger

jen-krueger-headshot-123x225-2507518I’m guessing that throughout an average lifetime we meet approximately 25 billion people. I could be wrong, but that’s what it seems like. After all, not all of these folks are worth meeting – and more than a handful of them are truly disgusting.

Well, tomorrow morning ComicMix is going to do you a favor: we’re going to introduce you to a clever, funny, intelligent and knowledgeable person who is definitely worth meeting. This is because tomorrow morning, at 8 AM EST-USA, we’re happy to say you are going to meet our newest columnist, Jen Krueger.

I could say a lot about Jen, which is weird because I’ve yet to meet her. Outside of the fact that the entire continental United States separates us, it is clear to me that if we were to meet for an early dinner our conversation would last until closing time, and then continue in front of the restaurant. Okay, I’ll admit this is usually the case when two expatriated Chicagoans meet, but Jen is… amazing. I know this because I’ve read her first ComicMix column – the one you’ll be reading tomorrow morning – and I’ve seen some of her other work.

But given the fact that we have yet to meet, I’m going to let Jen describe herself. According to the official ComicMix Book of Rules and Regulations, she’s going to do this in the third-person.

Jen Krueger is a writer and improviser living in Los Angeles. Ask her and she’ll proudly tell you she hails from Chicago. Don’t ask her, and she’ll probably tell you anyway. Jen is the Associate Director of the L.A. Indie Improv Festival and runs Friday night indie improv show The Manifesto Show with her team Comrades. Jen also hosts PrePopCulture, a podcast about pop culture before it pops. She owns one Calvinball, two sonic screwdrivers, and has degrees in Curiosity and Advanced Curiosity.

You’ll get to know Jen better after you read her first ComicMix column, right here on this unique slice of ether, Tuesday morning.

Which calls up the need for a bit of housekeeping.

You might ask “Hey! What happened to Emily S. Whitten?” To which I respond: you didn’t read her November 26th column… so I’ll encapsulate. For the next six months, Emily will be deep in work so she’s shifting to a monthly posting schedule, on or about the 25th of each month. She will be back to her weekly posting schedule after May 2014… and we miss her already.

Now you may ask “Hey! What happened to Martin Pasko?” To which I respond: hmmm… maybe we’ll run a contest.


Mindy Newell: The Day Of The Doctor

Newell Art 131125 “Great men are forged in fire.

It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.

Whatever the cost.”

The Warrior Doctor (John Hurt), The Day of the Doctor, November 23, 2013

After all the press, after all the hype, after a week of BBC America’s Doctor Who Takeover, I was really afraid that actual episode was going to suck, that I was going to be miserably let down, wretchedly disappointed.

I. Was. Absolutely. Completely. Totally. Utterly. Positively.

Blown. Away.

The whole wide world became the whole wide Whovian world yesterday, as the BBC simulcast The Day Of The Doctor in over 75 countries – Angola, Australia, Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde Islands, the Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, the Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Honduras, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Russia, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Taiwan, Tanzania & Zanzibar, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

I mean, seriously, has the United Nations ever been able to bring about such a coalition? I mean, seriously, I think the last time so many countries and their citizens came together to celebrate and raise a glass or two as they did on Saturday was for the end of World War II 68 years ago.

I mean, seriously, think about it, people. So many of these nations are embattled and torn apart by violence and terror and war—and yet the Doctor, fictional character though he may be, hits such a powerful chord of hope and peace and unity among the peoples of this Earth, is it possible that even in places like Somalia and Myanmar and Colombia and the Congo that a truce was called for one hour and twenty minutes on Saturday, November 23rd, 2013?

Once before has the world been stopped on this date. 50 years ago President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot dead in Daley Plaza, Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, and the world held its breath for the next four days as his body was returned to Washington, where it laid in state, first in the White House and then at the Capitol Rotunda, to finally come to rest in Arlington Cemetery across the Potomac River in Virginia – and so in England no one, or very, very few, saw the BBC’s debut, on November 23rd, 1963, of a science fiction television show about a grandfatherly man and his niece and her two teachers adventuring in time and space in a contraption called the TARDIS, which was an acronym, the niece informed us, for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space, and which looked like an English 1950’s police box.

But the BBC reran the premiere episode of Doctor Who and its ratings took off, and when William Hartnell, the first actor to play the Doctor, became too ill to continue, an innovative idea was born to explain the introduction of Patrick Troughton as his replacement—regeneration.

And now Doctor Who, the series, has regenerated.

I won’t go into depth, so as not to spoil it for those who were unable to see The Day Of The Doctor this past weekend, but I will say this – the driving force behind the Time Lord has been changed.

It was quite a day.




John Ostrander: Time and Space and Remembrance

Ostrander Art 131124An unusual convergence of historical dates of different emotional resonances for me occurred this weekend – the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and what would have been the sixtieth birthday of my late wife, Kimberly Ann Yale.

Like many Americans, I remember where I was when I heard the news of JFK. I was in my history class at Quigley Preparatory Seminary North near downtown Chicago. The word that the President was shot came over the loudspeaker used for school announcements, followed a little later by the news of his death. I was stunned, in denial. I remember little else of that day. I think school was closed and we were sent home.

Kim’s dad was a Navy chaplain and they were living on-base at the time. She later told me how she was at school off-base and had to hurry back. The base was going into lockdown after the assassination and if she was outside when the gates closed, she wouldn’t have been able to get home. That was her tenth birthday.

For me, I place the days of my youth between two sets of gunshots – the ones that killed JFK and the ones that killed John Lennon on December 8, 1980. I was 14 for the former and 31 for the latter. Both gave me a slightly darker sense of the world around me and the country in which I lived. Both events inform my writing to this day.

The day after Kennedy was killed, a new TV series was launched over in the UK – Doctor Who. The series tells of the adventures of a time-traveling alien Time Lord and his (usually) human companions through time and space. When William Hartnell, the original actor playing the part, became too ill to continue the series, the producers came up with a key concept to the longevity of the series: when a Time Lord faced the death of his mortal body, it can “regenerate” into a wholly new form and, even more significant, a different character. Most important, there’s a whole new actor with a new interpretation of the main character. That, I think, has been key to keeping the series fresh and vital.

I met Kim through Doctor Who. I loved the Doctor and wanted to be the Doctor. I also knew that the odds, then or now, of an American ever playing the part was virtually non-existent. However, I was an actor in Chicago and a sometimes playwright and less often a producer. So I conceived of an idea of getting the rights to put on a play version of the Doctor in Chicago.

I managed to arrange a meeting with show runner John Nathan-Turner during a combined Chicago Comic Con and Doctor Who Convention (sometimes referred to as the Sweat Con since the hotel’s air conditioning unit proved inadequate to the number of people attending and outside it was a 106° Chicago August day). John Nathan-Turner brought along Terry Nation (creator of the Daleks for Doctor Who) and Mr. Nation brought along a lovely young woman with big eyes, curly hair, and a megawatt smile who was his assistant for the Con. That was Kim.

To describe Kim as a Doctor Who fan doesn’t begin to describe it. She was also very knowledgeable on all things Time Lord and I used her an a consultant as I developed the script. Nothing else developed at the time; Kim was married and I don’t fool around that way.

We became a couple only later, after the play project had folded and her marriage had broken up. My romantic life at that point was, if anything, even worse than my theatrical career. I’d given up dating; I hadn’t seen anyone in almost two years. It just seemed too painful to try. Kim and I had kept in touch and she was also a big fan of my work on GrimJack, the comic book I had created for First Comics.

I should note here that Doctor Who was an influence on creating GrimJack. It might seem that the two couldn’t be less alike but one of the things I loved about Doctor Who was that you could do any kind of story. They did horror, they did Westerns, they did everything and I wanted to do that with GrimJack. In that sense, he was my Doctor. Later, we showed he could even reincarnate. There is a darkness to the series that I can, in part, trace back to the assassination of Jack Kennedy.

Kim wrote to me about a specific issue of GrimJack that had affected and resonated with her; I found it a little strange that she would write since we lived less than a mile apart and she had my phone number. I told her this and she replied that some things were best expressed in writing. What can I say? I’m a writer; I understood that. Kim was a writer as well. That night was the night our relationship changed. That was the night we started to become a couple.

It’s just coincidence, I suppose, that the three dates are in such proximity to one another. We assign meaning to dates, both as a people and as individuals. It’s an accident that the significant anniversaries of the assassination, Kim’s birthday, and the launching of Doctor Who are in conjunction this year. The connections that I see, that I feel, among them are mine. We are all the results of the various events that have happened in our lives and none of them occur in a vacuum. This weekend, I remember and honor three that were significant to me.