Tagged: fan

Marc Alan Fishman’s Snarky Synopsis: “Figment #1”

Written by Jim Zub. Art by Filipe Andrade and Jean-Francois Beaulieu.

FigmentEver have a thing (in this case, a cartoonish purple dragon) on the tip of your tongue and you’ve just got to figure out where you’ve seen it before? I had to break down and look up Figment on Wikipedia. Figment is a Disney dragon who starred (Troy McClure style) in several shorts used throughout the Disney World theme park. So it would seem here, a salvo of Mouse-driven comic bookery, now put out by Mickey’s favorite movie-makers: a comic based on a barely-there cartoon character. Sure as hell beats a live-action Eddie Murphy star-vehicle about Tomorrow Land, I suppose.

Jim Zub, of Skull Kickers fame, turns in a script that could easily fare in a direct-to-DVD cartoon adaptation with ease. I am pleased to report that Zub comes from my favorite camp of all-ages content creators – building a book that doesn’t speak down to kids with crude humor or simple language. Instead he tells a simpler story, backed by a load of stylish flair and characterization. Our hero, the brilliant (and brilliantly named) Blarion Mercurial, is one of many fine minds working at the Academy Scientifica-Lucidus. Tasked by the demanding Chairman Illocrant to find new sources of energy, Mercurial is the quintessential dreamer with a heart of gold and a head in the clouds. We soon learn that Blarion himself is a man of meager means, given a shot at greatness because of his intrepid mind. His solution to the steam-punky world’s need for more power? The power of the mind, bay-bee. And his Integrated Mesmonic Convertor is the kind of kooky contraption a child might come up with on a rainy day.

The device harnesses the power of thought to generate electricity. Or that’s what Blarion would like it to have done. But like any good thrill-a-minute adventure book of days past, his invention doesn’t seem to work exactly that way. Instead, it created a sentient being built of pure imagination. Figment, the quirky and cute purple dragon – once an invisible pal to a young (and maybe lonely?) genius, now made real! But Zub doesn’t get long to revel in the science, as our hero is put back to the task at hand with seven days to solve the energy problem. I won’t spoil the ending – I know, that’s a change for me – but suffice the say the script zigs where I thought it might zag. It sets up the book for future chapters that clearly will be more frenetic than this first installment.

Concerning the actual words on the page, I reiterate my glee at a script that has no problem speaking above the target audience’s head. It causes would-be readers to stretch their vernacular in order to meet the mental demand of the story. That being said, this is a fun and whimsical book. One that I fret to admit I came in ready to hate with all the piss and vinegar I could muster.

Not to knock poor Walt, but Disney has not been synonymous to me lately with tons of good will. Cracking open this comic though reminded me of the company that set the tone for my childhood with aplomb. “Figment” is akin to those pieces of cinematic fiction that define generations of youth to strive for excellence. The fact that Jim Zub chooses to explore psuedo-science, and pair it with working-class sensibilities, and never take cause for a fart gag? It’s a sign to me that the all-ages comics are continuing to put to shame the cape and cowl sect – far more apt to dissolve into mindless action than tell a good story.

Art chores by Filipe Andrade and Jean-Francois Beaulieu give us a simply grand visual experience to enjoy. Andrade’s scenes are all awash in detail – sketchy detail – that show us an artist truly building a world … and perhaps layer abandoning it. His hand is loose and gestural, but his finished figures are hefty beneath the layer of slightly erased doodles. Beaulieu’s colors elevate the book to the stratosphere it aims at. Warm tones bring figures to the foreground against cooler-toned environments. And the bare hint of an occasional glow or knockout lend themselves more towards a painterly page than a Photoshopped one. While I had a few flashbacks to artists like Ryan Sook, and even Gene Ha in small doses, Filipe and Jean-Francois build a comic book that is simply a joy to read through. The fact that we can spent nearly 80% of the book without the titular dragon, and not miss it? It’s a sign that their work takes Zub’s script and carry us through universe-building without being a drag.

Zippedoo-da. Zippedee-aye. My, oh my, what a wonderful day! “Figment” hit my pull-list like a ton of bricks – the idea of a Disney-penned also-ran, made into a needless comic book – but ended up making my day. Jim Zub and the team of artists build a tale of brilliance that celebrates the power of thought, the joy of imagination, and yeah … there’s a dragon in it too. When fiction strives to elevate it’s target audience through the use of fine language and adult concepts, and present it without pretense? You get an end-product that both the parent and child can enjoy on their own terms. Whether you’re a fan of Mickey or not, Figment is a fine comic to seek out. You needn’t dream about it further; here’s one piece of your imagination made real.


“George R.R. Martin” on fears of not finishing “Game Of Thrones”

“George R.R. Martin” on fears of not finishing “Game Of Thrones”

My friends and companions,

Please know that your concerns for my health and wellbeing are not going unheard, nor are they unfounded. I’ll admit freely that I’m not in the best shape, as anyone can see, and I am certainly getting up there in years. And there are thousands and thousands of pages still to write, at least a decade of continual work. But before you take to comment threads and blogs to stoke concern over my apparently imminent demise, please, know this:

I want to die. Dearly, truly, monomaniacally, I want to be mulch. If I could shuffle off right now, I would, in less than a heartbeat. God knows I’ve tried.

But HBO won’t let me.

via An open letter from George R.R. Martin addressing fan fears that he might die before the books are finished. | Happy Place Original | Happy Place.

Marc Alan Fishman: Sell! Sell! Sell Your Comic!

Comic BooksHey kiddos! I decided I wanted to add a touch of linkbaiting this week to my article. Since the interwebs just goes gaga (but not Lady Gaga) over lists, I thought it was time I give you one… as I lay out to you the secret sauce that makes Unshaven Comics’ Big Mac. That Big Mac is, of course, the reason why we are (in part) as successful as we have been at comic conventions throughout the Mid-West and East Coast. Over the last five years, we’ve cultivated pitches for each of our books, such that it becomes abundantly clear to those standing in front of our table that they need the book we place in their hands.

In between discussions of great grub, good flicks, and other bric-a-brac, many of our fellow creators have asked Unshaven what lands us our good sales and closing ratio. And rather than write a book and sell it to them, I thought it’d be fun instead to even the playing field. So, without any further padding, let’s get into those tips you yourself need to turn your pet project into a product-moving behemoth.

1. You have my undivided attenti – Hey! Zombies!

When you’ve made eye-contact with a potential customer (a “fan,” if you will) and you’ve politely asked them if you can tell them about your comic book – you are doing that, aren’t you? – be clear that you have literally thirty seconds or less to captivate them. If you can’t get through the biggest reasons why your comic is appealing to them in that time? You might as well sit patiently and wait for your mother to walk by the table to listen to all you have to say. This isn’t a proclamation about the attention span of the millenials mind you… this is Advertising 101. So, tip 1: Keep. It. Short. Sassypants.

2. It’s like chocolate meets peanut butter.

Clichéd as it may be, a good pitch saves time by referencing previously available material. Yes, I know that your book is a beautiful and wholly original snowflake. But you know what? I don’t care. When you can tell me that your book is like Fight Club and My Little Pony, I’m free to the do the mental math quickly. Barrier to entry is now lessened, or the wasted time on someone you’re not going to sell to is shortened. So, pick a piece of memorable fiction that matches your book’s genre, and potentially style or mood. Present your X meets Y statement as such that your pitchee knows you’re not speaking on the quality of your piece, so much as the headspace you’re aiming for. In other words, don’t say “It’s like Star Wars Meets Titanic, because it’s just. That. Epic.”

3. People want story first, not characters.

Even if your book follows a single solitary soul for twenty some-odd pages, as a potential buyer I can’t be sold on a character in 30 seconds. Why? Because your characters are likely dimensional. They have depth, nuance, and shades of grey. A person can’t easily be quantified in a single sentence. But your story can. As I’ve been building here: you have limited real estate of ear-time with your would-be-fan. What will make them by your book is not how witty the banter may be… it’ll be the hook of the story. Just because your book stars Robo-Jesus doesn’t mean I instantly want it – it’s how Robo-Jesus fights a horde of rabid leprechauns that sells me on the issue quickest.

4. Leave room to breathe.

Ain’t I a stinker? Here I am building you up for what must feel like a drag race to a sale, and now I’m telling you to slow down! I’m not evil, trust me. Here’s the thing. 30 seconds is actually longer than you think. If you’ve followed along this far, you have a good idea what Unshaven Comics likes to do: We hop in, and tell our audience what our book is about, and end right on the hook. And then we breathe. We look the fan in the eye, and see that they absorb what we’ve said. Some folks will immediately have questions. Some will snicker with a “oh, really? Now what?” Others will ask where the line for Gene Ha starts. In any event, we build a nice pregnant pause into the pitch to force the customer to interact with us. Why? Because while we are trying to sell them, we’re not trying to be the late Billy Mays. It’s not a scream-a-thon until you beg for money… it’s actually a conversation.

5. But what am I actually buying?

Brass tacks: After you’ve dropped the setup and the hook. After you’ve compared your book to common fiction they know. After you’ve maybe answered a quick question about the art. It’s time to close the sale. In case you’re not familiar – and if you’re not, shame on you – watch Alec Baldwin tell you how it’s done.  Always. Be. Closing. The key to finishing strong, is to cut to the chase. Tell your interested party what they’re holding in their hands. How many pages is it? Is it color? How much does it cost? And then, as awkward as it may be, you have to then ask them if they’d like to give it a try. No arm wrenching necessary; just a polite notification that yes, you are indeed a business, and what you’re attempting here is to keep that business open. Your fan won’t mind the hustle, if you don’t mind the humility.

6. Don’t forget the upsell, or the closer.

When you’ve reached step 5, you have a sale or a runner. If they are willing to purchase, it literally loses you nothing to offer an upsell. For Unshaven Comics? It’s typically a free sticker, button, or poster, with purchase of another book. So, yes, for the cost of two comics (one of which you’ve now told yourself is worth purchasing) you now get something potentially cool totally free. Yessir, that’s an upsell. Or, perhaps you have someone on the fence. They like the idea, but… hey, it is five bucks. So, now, you need a closer. Offer to sign the book. Or eat the cost on a button, sticker, or poster. At the end of the day, issues moved are issues moved. And everything you should be doing on a cold sale is try to move that book.

Alrighty everyone. Seem simple enough? It’s not. Like I’d said above: it took us five years, and what I could figure as being literally 3,000+ pitches to get where we’re at. But don’t be discouraged. Remember that at a convention you’re in your element. The people walking that floor are there to be wowed. It’s your chance to wow them. Keep it short, keep it uncomplicated, be witty where you can. Be upfront about your price, and be ready to upsell if you can. And last but not least? Know that the worst a fan will ever say to you ultimately is ‘no’. So… if I haven’t ask you yet, stranger…

Can I tell you about my comic book?


REVIEW: True Detective

True DetectiveYears ago, there was a CBS miniseries, Chiefs, based on the Stuart Woods novel and featured a murder mystery that spanned the years, embroiling three different police chiefs. In 1983, it ran for three nights and I was captivated. When HBO debuted True Detective with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in January, I was immediately reminded of that event. Here, both men were involved in a 1995 murder and now, 17 years later, they get drawn back to the case.

The excellent serial killer serial ran eight episodes and maintained a nourish mood and style that set it apart from all the other serial killer serials that are currently running or recently ended. On the off-chance you missed it, HBO Home Entertainment is releasing a box set this week and it’s well recommended. A lot of the credit and perhaps the reason I was reminded of the earlier series may be that this too comes from a novelist, Nic Pizzolatto. Marty Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey), members of Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division, are interviewed regarding the ’95 case where a woman’s body was found, the corpse artistically arranged. Since they stopped talking in 2002, the men are interviewed separately by detectives Thomas Papania (Tory Kittles) and Maynard Gilbough (Michael Potts) allowing for varying perspectives, points of view and slightly varying details.

Over the course of the episodes, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, another reason the series is consistently excellent, we learn about the initial investigation and the two deeply flawed men who were haunted by its gruesomeness. Hart has been cheating on his wife, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan), with court reporter Lisa Tragnetti (Alexandra Daddario), while Cohle is battling a drug dependency and is grieving over his dead daughter. Neither man is a saint and is far from perfect, so when a second body turns up, it makes them question the man they arrested nearly two decades earlier and is still in jail. Of course, stirring up the dark past is never good although it allows the actors a chance to shine time and again.

Pizzolatto and Fukunaga deftly intertwine the two timelines as we see the previous and current investigations unfold, each step rippling across the tortured psyches of the two detectives. And then comes the finale which, like so many before it, infuriated and tantalized its fan base.  We wanted Rust to find the Yellow King but found physics instead, which left many scratching their heads n confusion. There remain threads and questions for season two although some felt more should have been resolved to make the first eight episodes more satisfying.

The eps are neatly transferred to the three Blu-ray discs tucked within a nice slipcase. The show’s art direction is well replicated on the packaging giving it the same dank, creepy feel. Visually, the three discs are superb matched with excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. They are accompanied by some very nice bonus features starting with commentaries on episodes four (with Pizzolatto and Burnett) and five (Pizzolatto, Burnett and Executive Producer Scott Stephens). These are interesting (I wish there was one for the finale) although the chatter is not wall to wall as we’ve come to expect these days. HBO’s patented Inside the Episode featurettes are included followed by two deleted scenes from episodes three and eight. There is also “Making True Detective“, a fifteen minute overview which emphasizes the production design; an eight-minute chat with McConaughey and Harrelson; and, a fourteen minute dialogue between Pizzolatto and Burnett. The box set comes complete with a digital copy of the season.

Meet Dan Dougherty of “Beardo”!

Beardo is the back to back winner of the prestigious Shel Dorf Award for Syndicated Print Strip of the Year (2012 and 2013), and Beardo is the alter-ego of award-winning writer, artist, and musician Dan Dougherty. ComicMix is bringing the first three volumes of Beardo back into print and adding the fourth book in the series out in time for Christmas. We’re using Indiegogo to take pre-orders, in addition to special items only through this campaign, and the campaign ends Friday.

We talked with Dan about the comic, the crowdfunding campaign, and the people lurking with razors if certain goals are met.

For those who don’t know Beardo, how would you describe it?

It’s about a plucky cartoonist with a sweet beard and a knack for finding the punch line in his own life.

What’s the best thing about doing your own strip?

Making humorous observations about my little world that can also be relatable for public consumption on a daily basis.

And the worst?

Making humorous observations about my little world that can also be relatable for public consumption on a daily basis.

What kind of perks do you get when you do a daily strip like this?  Do other baristas give you free coffee?

Yes, but only because I saved Howard Schultz from a burning building once. At least that’s what I tell them.

Have you ever been recognized by a fan from your likeness to the character?

Only when I’m at comic conventions and standing right next to the books. However, I did have a lady at a school ask me if I knew the Dan Dougherty who does the comic in the paper. I said I knew him, and he’s a real jerk.

What is the strangest fan encounter you’ve ever had?

I’d say check out the comments section on my gocomics page, I get some interesting people who seem to thrive on using the comic as a flimsy segue into whatever wacky non sequitur is rattling around in their mind. Oftentimes it’s more interesting content then the comic that created it.

As we talk, you’ve raised nearly seven times the amount of money you originally asked for, but not enough to meet a stretch goal, which would require you to shave your beard.  Is this good?  Are you relieved?  Would you rather have your beard or the money?

The goal we original set was low just so we could ensure we’d make it. In hindsight, I wish we would’ve set it higher to give people something to rally around, because releasing four books in a year is a lofty goal that requires some serious coin. That being said, I’m just happy I have such supportive fans in my corner who would’ve backed Beardo no matter what we were doing, and I wouldn’t trade them for all the beards in the world.

Martha Thomases: Cosplay Around The Clock?

Thomases Art 140502My friend Connie went to see the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden last weekend. She couldn’t wait to tell me about it. Apparently, it is common for people of Japanese heritage – or people who admire Japanese heritage – to wear traditional dress for this occasion, and she had looked forward to seeing some fabulous kimonos.

Only this time, there were cosplayers. Lots of cosplayers. No one was selling any comics or movies or video games or collectibles, but still there were cosplayers.

Is this a thing now? Are we cosplaying all the time?

I mean, next month at Book Expo America, a trade show for the publishing industry, is having a “Book Con” for people who like books enough to go to the Javits Center on a nice weekend in the spring just for the fun of it. Are we going to see people dressed like their favorite Jane Austen characters? Or Moby Dick?

Once we expand cosplay to the world of traditional (i.e. non-illustrated) literature, then the cosplay opportunities can be expanded infinitely. Perhaps your boss isn’t a plutocrat with no imagination, but is instead performing an homage to The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. Your mother-in-law hasn’t let herself go, she’s just a big fan of Stephen King. And your niece, the little princess? She dresses that way on purpose.

Actually, I already see a lot of kids dressed as princesses or Buzz Lightyear at local playgrounds. It’s possible they are coming from costume parties, which in the new kids’ culture now happen randomly all week long. And the hipster boys, with their artisanal beards, their vintage hats, and their flannel shirts, could just as easily be extras in a John Ford western.

I’m not going to do cosplay, at least not on purpose. I’ve already expressed a personal uneasiness with drawing attention to myself via spandex, and I don’t think that’s going to change as I get older. Having worn a uniform in high school, I am much too self-conscious about the message I send out when I put on clothes of my own choosing. Perhaps there would be some advantage to going to work dressed as Wonder Woman on the day of my performance review. Perhaps I could use a magic lasso to get rid of the creeps on the subway.

Still, the event in Brooklyn inspired this story
in which a snappy dressed African-American gentleman was swamped with fans who thought he was dressed as The Doctor. The writer of the story in the link observed that the random people at the cherry blossom festival were more open-minded than the people at New York Comic-Con six months before. As comics fans, we should be ashamed of ourselves. As Americans, maybe we can be encouraged by the progress we’ve made in six months.

In any case, if you’re looking for investment opportunities, I would recommend bow ties.

Bow ties are cool.

Mike Gold: The Other Convention

Gold Art 140430Last week, I attended two conventions in Chicago: the massive C2E2 multimedia clusterfuck-on-the-lake, and the more sublime Windy City Pulp and Paper show out in the western suburb of Lombard. Guess which one I enjoyed more?

To be fair, C2E2 is a lot of work for me, and my response to “work” is similar to that of Maynard G. Krebs (Google, chillun!). Lots of walking, lots of talking, some negotiating, some promoting, all the doo-dah day. As always, I enjoy seeing my friends – and that’s a big deal in Chicago. Dinner with the Unshavens on Friday at the wonderful Eleven City Diner (best deli in America), dinner with my ol’ pal and former (Real) First Comics partner Rick Obadiah at the wonderful Weber Grill on Saturday. The food was great at both venues, and the conversations were even better.

I went to the Windy City Pulp and Paper show on Sunday. Yes, “paper” includes comic books as well as old magazines and illustration art. There were tons and tons of self-published print-on-demand reprints of classic pulps, and even more original pulp fiction novels being hawked by their authors.

This latter phenomenon is extremely exciting. The authors are getting to do what they want and reach the audience they need, both through print-on-demand and electronic publishing. I wish I had the time (and money, and storage space) to read all the new pulp originals that caught my eye – but when it comes to this sort of thing I’m a stoner kid in a candy store. I will say this past year or two I’ve received more satisfaction from reading the new pulp originals than reading new comics.

Pulps are comic books without the pictures. And they’re usually self-contained. And they’re usually largely or totally insane in scope and story.

I haven’t been able to make it there ever since C2E2 moved their date to within a couple weeks of the Windy City Pulp and Paper show. This year I got lucky: they were held at the same time, albeit maybe two-dozen or so miles away. Again, lots of old friends, but no cosplay. Damn.

Lunch was in that neighborhood and was with two very old Chicago comics fan buddies, Jim Wisniewski and George Hagenauer, a frequent co-conspirator. The beauty of comics fandom is that it can be an extended family. I’ve got friends in this community that I can trace back 40 years or more.

That is the best thing about being a comics fan.

And the meals ain’t bad, neither.



REVIEW: The King of Comedy

15213160_201402150106There’s a scene early on in The King of Comedy where late night talk show host Jerry Langford (played by Jerry Lewis) leaves his New York City apartment and walks through crowded midtown on his way to the studio. Fans greet him and kibbitz with him and Jerry, always on the move, waves, smiles, and tosses one-liners back at them. He gets waylaid at a corner by a woman on a payphone who gushes effusively—“You’re just wonderful. I’ve watched you your entire career. You’re a joy to the world!”—while he scribbles an autograph for her nephew, with whom she’s talking on the phone. Then, shoving the telephone at Jerry, she asks, “Would you just please say something to my nephew Morris on the phone? He’s in the hospital.” Jerry politely demurs, explaining that he’s late, and, in the blink of an eye, she turns from adoring fan to spurned maniac, screaming after him, “You should only get cancer! I hope you get cancer!”

king-of-comedyLater, wannabe stand-up comedian and obsessive fan Rupert Pupkin (Robert DeNiro) shows up as an uninvited weekend guest at Langford’s country house, unsuspecting girlfriend Rita (Diahnne Abbott) in tow, in an effort to get Jerry to take a look at his comedy routine in the belief it will lead to an offer to appear on Jerry’s show. An earlier, brief encounter that ended with Langford telling Pupkin to call his office in an effort to get rid of him had only fueled the wannabe’s delusions that he and Langford were friends. Langford angrily dissuades the clearly baffled Pupkin of that notion and, like the woman whose nephew Jerry wouldn’t talk to, Pupkin’s response to his inappropriate demand on Langford’s time is immediate and visceral. Neither fan can understand how Jerry Langford can treat them this way. “I’m gonna work fifty times harder and I’m gonna be fifty times more famous than you,” Rupert tells him. “Then you’re gonna have idiots like you plaguing your life!” Jerry snaps.

deNiroKingOfComedyIt’s an interesting coincidence that the Blu-Ray edition of The King of Comedy, Martin Scorcese’s 1982 comedy about fame and obsession landed in my mailbox the same day Archie Comics released the news that their flagship character, was going to die in an upcoming comic book story which I wrote. The news thrust me into a Warholian fifteen-minutes of online fame. On Facebook, people who had earlier praised my work were now denouncing me for “daring” to kill off a beloved American icon, or vilifying me for my creative bankruptcy in participating in yet another comic book death “stunt,” feeling betrayed by my treatment of the character (that the Archie who’s dying is not the “real” Archie, but a future/what if?/alternate universe version of the character either escaped their notice or would have just interfered with their righteous indignation; the “real” teenage Archie remains alive and well in Riverdale.) On the flip side, strangers whose only connection to me was that most meaningless definition of “friend” ever coined, i.e. “Facebook friend,” were claiming reflected glory by posting that their “pal”/”buddy”/”friend” was behind this event, while others didn’t find it in any way inappropriate to email me asking to be let in on the secret of exactly how Archie was to die, or even requesting insider information on sensitive corporate internal affairs.

king-of-comedy (1)While my moment in the limelight pales in comparison with the plight of Jerry Langford, the experience did cause me to look at The King of Comedy from a very different perspective than I had in past viewings. I had always thought of the film as an indictment of obsessive fans, but it’s just as much a stark look at the price of fame. Rupert Pupkin is, in the very first scene, shown to be a member of the Day of the Locust-like swarm of obsessed, autograph seeking fans who haunt stage doors everywhere, but he holds himself above the hoi polloi. To Rupert, these aren’t just signatures dashed off by celebrities who probably didn’t even look at him while they were signing, but bonds of friendship between them.

king-of-comedy-2Later, on a date with Rita, his high school crush, now a bartender in a seedy midtown tavern, he shows off his collection of signatures, casually tossing out facts and personal observations about the stars, trying to impress the clearly unimpressed and disbelieving woman. But Rupert can only see himself through the eyes of others and only in the way he needs to believe others see him. If he were deliberately inflating his talent and his connections to the stars, you would say he was shameless. But the sad, creepy truth is that Rupert, a thirty-something loser who works at a dead end messengers job and lives with his mother in whose basement he’s built a set where he hosts his own “talk show,” complete with life-size cardboard stand-ups of the stars, believes every word he says and is genuinely baffled when others fail to share his warped view of reality.

King of ComedyJerry Langford’s reality is equally sad. He’s one of the most famous faces in the country, but his entire world is constrained by that fame. He can’t walk down the street without being badgered by everyone who believes that because he comes into their bedroom every night on their TVs he also belongs to them in person. Even a solitary dinner in his lonely apartment is violated by a fan who have somehow gotten hold of his telephone number and think it’s okay to call with their unreasonable demands on his time, attention, and, as we’ll see, love.

Aiding Rupert in their shared obsession with Jerry Langford is rich girl groupie Masha (Sandra Bernhard). But where Rupert wants Jerry’s fame, Masha wants Jerry himself, in body if not in soul. Where Rupert’s fanaticism seems constrained, at least at first, Masha’s is crazed and out of control; Rupert at least tries to see Jerry in his office even if his “appointment” is only in his head, while Masha stalks the star through the streets, forcing the frightened star to make a mad dash for safety. And, when Rupert finally accepts that Jerry will never voluntarily have him as a guest on his show, he enlists Masha as an accomplice in his scheme to kidnap the comedian and hold him for the ransom of a guest-shot on The Jerry Langford Show.

While it’s probably heresy to say, I prefer Martin Scorcese’s directorial efforts on films like The King of Comedy, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, After Hours, and Hugo over his gangster oeuvre. His humor is always dark regardless of genre, but it shines much brighter for me when I don’t have to wipe away the blood to get to it. And while his crooks and killers always brilliantly realized as the broken people they are, I have a hard time finding common ground with Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito or Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill no matter how real they are. But an ordinary guy like Griffin Dunne’s Paul Hackett in After Hours or the orphaned Asa Butterfield’s Hugo are relatable and, ultimately, have more to share with me as a viewer than even his greatest gangster.

While everyone expects high caliber performances from Robert DeNiro, it’s Jerry Lewis who steals the show here. As a life-long and unabashed Jerry Lewis fan (several of his movie posters and other paraphernalia decorate my living room) I am a bit biased in his favor, but, like many great comedians (Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Milton Berle, Robin Williams, to name a few) his dramatic chops are impressive, giving credence to the old line, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” Even while trussed up by kidnappers Pupkin and Masha like a mummy with tape up to his nostrils, Lewis is able to convey his entire performance with just his eyes. (The King of Comedy isn’t just a lucky one-off performance under the guidance a great directors either; Jerry Lewis delivers as well in dramatic roles in Raising Arizona and Funny Bones and turns in TV series such as Wiseguy and Law and Order: SVU.) And both actors are backed up a solid supporting cast, including Bernhard and Shelley Hack, and 1980s celebrity cameos ranging from announcer Ed Herlihy, band leader Lou Brown, Dr. Joyce Brothers, comedian Victor Borge, and Tony Randall, as well as Scorcese himself as Jerry Langford’s TV show director, and the then-Tonight Show producer Fred De Cordova as Bert Thomas, his producer.

The King of Comedy Blu-Ray is a nice package, featuring the fully restored and remastered film as well as the usual assortment of extras for those who like that sort of thing, including a Tribeca Film Festival conversation with Scorcese, DeNiro, and Lewis, a “Making of” documentary, some deleted and extended scenes, and the original theatrical trailer. For myself, I prefer a film to speak for itself without filmmakers and actors explaining to me how and why this or that was done or without wading through excised scenes or trimmed footage; if they were so important, they wouldn’t have been excised or trimmed in the first place.

The King of Comedy stands the test of time and then some. In fact, it’s even more relevant today with our cult of undeserved celebrity, fueled by the rise of reality TV starring non-stars like the housewives of wherever, Snookie, and Honey Boo-Boo, nobodies made somebodies by virtue of appearing on television. Maybe if Rupert Pupkin had known how easy it would one day be to become a star, he might have rethought his strategy. Or maybe come to the conclusion that in a world where everybody’s a “star,” it just wasn’t worth the effort.

Jen Krueger: Sitcom Love

Pam Halpert

Pam Halpert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the list of things I originally expected from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, emotional resonance isn’t to be found. With a former Saturday Night Live cast member as the lead, I figured the show would be goofy (in a good way) and peppered with cameos from comedians. While these expectations were met early in the first season, the thing I’ve come to like most about the show is the slowly developing romantic storyline between Jake (Andy Samberg) and Amy (Melissa Fumero). But as much as I’ve enjoyed the pining these characters both think is unrequited, I keep reminding myself not to get my hopes up too much about the future of this storyline since sitcom love rarely flourishes in an enjoyable way.

I’m not sure there’s a single narrative show on TV that doesn’t have at least one romantic storyline, but very few half-hour comedies seem comfortable letting their characters actually get together. The Office was getting so much mileage out of Jim and Pam wanting each other but not being together that even after Jim put his cards on the table in “Casino Night” (sorry, couldn’t resist), the show kept inventing reasons to keep them apart. And though I’m about as big of a fan as you can find of the slow burn approach to the development of relationships in TV, I hate it when the hurdles a couple must leap feel like they’ve been put there just for the sake of adding more hurdles. Jim transferring to Stamford smacked of artificially inserted conflict, and I never bought that he’d bother keeping up a relationship with Karen after returning to Scranton and finding Pam single. And since it was inevitable that Jim and Pam would get together in the end, it drove me nuts that the show was delaying the one thing I so badly wanted to see.

I’m sure the prevailing TV wisdom behind keeping love unrequited (or at the very least, requited but unfulfilled) is that two people pining for each other provides more avenues for conflict than a happy couple does. But to that I say, watch almost any episode of Mad About You. Yes, it’s an older show that’s pretty different from the way sitcoms are today, but it’s also a show that holds up because its characters are solid and the storylines rarely depend on problems between Paul and Jamie. With the exception of the season in which their marriage is on the rocks (which also happens to be the worst season of the show), Mad About You manages to find enough conflict for the Buchmans to face as individuals or as a unit without having to resort to artificially driving a wedge between the two of them.

So if it’s entirely possible to have a happy couple in a sitcom, why do so many shows draw out storylines about couples getting together? Perhaps the difference lies in where the relationships are in the pilot. Mad About You begins with married protagonists, so the show never has to get the audience to root for the relationship to start. When a sitcom spends time building toward the genesis of a romance, though, maybe there’s a fear of viewers losing interest as soon as the hook up they’ve been waiting for finally happens. This would certainly explain the inevitably ensuing forced relationship conflict in the cases where characters actually do get together, like the “problems” Jim and Pam faced in the final season of The Office. But this way of artificially extending the will-the-won’t-they element always strikes me as undermining the depth of feeling established during the rise of a TV romance.

I have to admit, I was surprised to see Jake confess his feelings to Amy in the first season finale of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I expected the show to draw out his pining for her well into the second season, but I was pleased to see Jake fess up sooner than I anticipated. And since the writers not only bypassed some of the romantic roadblocks I assumed were on the horizon, but bypassed them with a scene so sweet that I was genuinely touched by it, I’m hoping the show will continue to put the quality of Jake and Amy’s relationship arc over empty gambits at delaying them from getting together. And if season two starts with Amy welcoming Jake back only to learn he started dating someone while on his undercover mission, let’s just say Rosa’s disposition will look sunny compared to my reaction.

John Ostrander: WWGJD?

Warning: spoilers below.

“Look at the flowers.”

A seemingly innocuous line that should set shivers through regular fans of the TV series, The Walking Dead. (more…)