Tagged: George Lucas

Ed Summer’s Comics and Movies

Ed Summerby Mike Gold and Martha Thomases

Ed Summer, the man who opened one of America’s first comic book stores and went on to a varied and significant media career, died Thursday from cancer.

A graduate of the New York University School of the Arts (his classmates included Oliver Stone, Jonathan Kaplan and Alan Arkush), Summer opened the Supersnipe Comic Book Emporium on Manhattan’s upper east side in 1971. The store was named after the Street and Smith comic book character who owned more comic books than anybody else in the world. In the late 1970s he opened a comic art gallery, also one of the first, near his store. His friend George Lucas was an investor.

Moving on to motion pictures, Ed wrote or co-wrote Conan the Barbarian (and also was associate producer), Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons for Disney, and Shinsha (a anime take on Little Nemo). He  was marketing and script consultant for Star Wars: A New Hope and advised Lucasfilm Ltd on numerous projects over the years.

Summer also wrote comics for Gold Key, DC and Marvel and he wrote numerous articles for a wide variety of magazines, including Time, Skeptical Inquirer (a science magazine) and Video Watchdog. He also edited and published Walt Disney’s Uncle $crooge McDuck: His Life and Times, one of the first detailed retrospectives on the work of master storyteller Carl Barks, and was an adjunct professor at New York’s School of Visual Arts.

And that just scratches the surface of Ed’s vast media career.

A native of Buffalo New York, In 2005 Ed started the Buffalo International Film Festival, one of his proudest achievements. He told ComicMix’s Martha Thomases he did it not only to bring some tourism to his hometown, but also because there were so many fabulous old movie palaces there. The Festival continues to this day.

Ed truly loved the movies.


Mike Gold: The Force… In The Wind

George LucasSo, George Lucas is moving to my home town. Hmmmm.

Well, that’s not literally true. Yesterday, George decided the so-called Windy City will be home to the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (LMNA), his so-called storytelling museum that will feature George’s massive collection of paintings, illustrations and digital art. Like everybody else, Lucas gets to visit it – although he probably won’t have to pay.

Chicago beat out Los Angeles and Lucas’ own San Francisco, so, on behalf of my fellow Chicagoans, those still in Cook County and those ex-pats who never really leave Chicago – not in our hearts – let me offer a hale and hearty “na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey-hey!”

I’ll bet Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s brother Ari had something to do with this. Ari Emanuel is a top Hollywood dealmaker who was the model for Ari Gold (no relation) in Entourage. He’s been referred to as a living hurricane, but usually hurricanes are seen in a better light.

“We are honored to be partnering with the city of Chicago and the many cultural, educational and community groups that have come forward with ideas about how the LMNA will add to their vibrant work… Choosing Chicago is the right decision for the museum, but a difficult decision for me personally because of my strong personal and professional roots in San Francisco,” the director said. Then again, he does live in Chicago part-time and his wife Mellody (pictured above with her husband) is a Chicagoan. We Chicagoans can be stubborn.

This is great news for my fiends at ReedPop, as the museum will be a couple blocks from the massive McCormick Place convention center on Lake Michigan, home to their C2E2 pop culture convention each spring. It’s also near Soldier Field, the Field Natural History Museum, the planetarium and the aquarium. It’s within walking distance from Buddy Guy’s Legends and the sprawling Columbia College complexes, where young media freaks go to percolate. Ergo, it’s in the heartland of heartland culture.

From the reports I’ve seen, LMNA appears to be quite a sprawling place. The architectural plans will be submitted in early fall, so we’ll see. Moving George’s massive collection to his museum is going to be a monster job.

I respect Lucas for doing this museum thing. Not just because it’s in a place I tend to visit three or four times a year (but thank you for that!), not because if you’re flying somewhere you’re probably going to be inconvenienced by having to change planes at the dreaded O’Hare International so you might as well jump on the subway, but because he is, essentially, giving his astonishing collection to the public.

Good for you, George. And, again, thank you. I’m looking forward to visiting your home away from home.


John Ostrander: Star Wars – Moving On

Ostrander Art 140105The news came down publicly on Friday that, in 2015, the Star Wars comics license will move from Dark Horse, who has had it for more than two decades, to Marvel, which had it at the franchise’s inception. It’s not a big surprise; since creator George Lucas sold it all to Disney, and Disney owns Marvel, many saw the move as inevitable.

I have had the pleasure of playing in George Lucas’s sandbox for more than ten years, most often with my artistic partner in crime, Jan Duursema. At first it was only going to be a four issue story arc. My buddy and Brother by a Different Mother, Timothy Truman, was the regular writer on the book at the time and he was taking some time off to work on a special project. He recommended me for the fill-in, one of the many favors I owe Tim.

When I got the first assignment, I knew this might be the only chance I ever got to write Star Wars. I decided we should create our own characters; that way, we were less likely to trip over established continuity. I wanted an amnesiac Jedi – a Jedi who had sustained a head injury and didn’t know he was a Jedi.

Jan was brought on board as well and, I have to say, she was and is a larger SW geek than I was. What I didn’t know about that galaxy far far away, Jan did. She decided she wanted to create a look based on a character from the films, the current one at that time being Episode One: The Phantom Menace. She found a figure who was in the background of a cantina scene. Let me point out that the character appears for maybe three seconds and there was no DVD of the film yet; the only place to see it was on the screen. Jan not only spotted the character but memorized him in those three seconds. Yeah, she’s that good.

And so was born Quinlan Vos, our first Star Wars character. He was joined by Vilmahr “Villie” Grahrk, a devilish-looking Devaronian who spoke like a Russian and was a complete rogue. Man, I loved writing that character! Rounding it all out was Quinlan’s missing apprentice, a female Twi’lek named Aayla Secura. George Lucas would later like the look of her so much he put her in both Episode II and Episode III. I think that was perhaps the only time a character started in the comic and went to the movie instead of the other way around. She and Quin also wound up in the animated version of The Clone Wars.

When Tim decided not to return to the ongoing, I was invited back. At the time, the book would switch artists and writers with almost every arc. I suggested to DH that, whether it was me and Jan or not, there should be a regular team and the book should have its own cast of characters. My argument was that it was hard to build a reliable fan base for the book if it constantly changed identities. Having their own characters that could (mostly) only be found in the book would also be a selling point for readers. DH bought the idea and Jan and I wound up as the regular team.

When Episode III came out (they killed Aayla!), that era was essentially done and Jan and I had to look for another. One of my problems with the Prequel Trilogy is that it went backwards in time; when I like a story, I want to find out what happened next. So I suggested to Jan and Dark Horse that we dropkick the franchise down the timeline, past the movies, past the books, and tell that part of the story. Our protagonist, Cade Skywalker, would be a descendent of Luke but Cade was very different. He was a junkie, a rogue, and he wanted nothing to do with the Jedi. My pitch for the character was – what if Han Solo had a lightsaber?

We named the book Legacy and it was, perhaps, the most successful book Jan and I did in Star Wars. We had new Sith, a resurgent Empire, and Imperial Knights – Jedi-like Force users working for a more benign Empire. The cast was huge and we had a chance to tell all kinds of stories for more than five years.

After Legacy ended, we cast about what to do next. I suggested that, having gone forward in time, we now go back. How did the Jedi become the Jedi? I figured that was a story fans would find interesting. As a fan, I wanted to know. Out of all that came Dawn of the Jedi, the series that Jan and I are currently working on and which will be our last Star Wars story for Dark Horse. In addition, I’ve had the chance to do various Specials and one-shots, as well as Agent of the Empire, which was one part Star Wars and one part James Bond. I had a lot of fun on that one.

So – is that it? Have I written my last Star Wars comic? That’s up to Marvel now but I have hopes. Both Jan and I bring a lot to the table. First off, we know how to write Star Wars so that it feels like Star Wars, even when not dealing with the usual characters. Every story we do has to be approved by Lucas Film Publishing and Jan and I have never gotten a story rejected. We get notes, yes, but not rejections. That’s not easy to do, let me tell you. Jan and I are good at what we do. How do I know? Because we sold well and we have our own fans (and I deeply appreciate them).

Will all that be enough? I don’t know; I’ll certainly contact Marvel and pitch to do more stories. I love Star Wars and I think it shows. Marvel may not yet know what they want to do with the franchise. They don’t get control of it until 2015 which is when Episode VII comes out and that will probably help decide more than few things.

Whatever happens, I’ve had a good run and got a chance to tell some fun stories set in a galaxy I love a lot. I also have some other projects I’m developing and some of them are also SF so I won’t stray too far.

I want to thank Dark Horse, the editors – especially Randy Stradley – and all the very talented people I’ve worked with.

Live long and prosper.

Whoops. Wrong franchise.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell




Marc Alan Fishman: Star Wars Sucks – For Now

Marc Alan Fishman: Star Wars Sucks – For Now

Fishman Art 130601Yup. I said it. I’ll say it again. Star Wars? It sucks. Of course I should clarify: I respect the Intellectual Property. I admire George Lucas for spinning a billion dollar franchise out of a single movie – appropriated from so many better films, novels, and concepts. And hell, I own a fair share of Star Wars merchandise (a run of John Ostrander’s Way Better Than Anything On Film comics, a lightsaber, and a handful of vintage videogames). But this past weekend, whilst looking for something to keep on in the background of yet-another drawing marathon, my dial ended up on Episodes I, II, and III.

Given that I recall astutely not liking them in theater, on DVD, or rebroadcast in any incarnation, I’ll freely admit I let them play because I was jonesing for a one-sided fight. And you, my dear readers (who I can plainly see unlocking the safety on your blasters under the table, and preparing to force-pull the ceiling down on top of my head…) get to listen to me rant a wee-bit.

First off, let me parry the obvious incoming attack. Episodes I, II, and III are canon. One is simply not allowed to pretend they didn’t happen. Midichlorians? Happened. Anakin acting like a whiny bitch? Happened. Padme acting worse than a CGI droid? Happened. And no amount of jamming ones fingers in their ears and screaming will make them disappear. Therein lies why I am so adamant at being so blunt in my opinion. By their very nature, this new trilogy drags down the series for me. I think I might be safe to say for many others… this may also be the case.

No matter how good the Clone Wars cartoon may have been… when it ends, you still end up with Episode III. Yes, John Ostrander and a plethora of other amazing writers have contributed to beautifully written comics, novels, and other in-canon fiction. Either way? Episode I, and II are there in living-breathing-CGI. Jar Jar exists, and no comic, video game, or brilliant fanzine will remove him from my mind.

Let me also sidestep your obvious escalation attempt. What about The Matrix, Star Trek, or any number of other brilliant-at-one-point-but-obviously-tainted-by-my-asshat-logic franchises? Perhaps I’m just being a dick, but somehow? I forgive them both. For what it’s worth… the least successful jaunts in each of those large franchises had a given quality to them that still made their respective parent properties still feel valuable. Sure Neo is Jesus, but at least he’s a badass Jesus, right?

The key to my argument comes from Lucas’ own love of technology. In every aspect, those episodes embody what can be so wrong with modern movies and our culture. Lucas opted to slight the artisans who once took his black and white screenplay and made a visceral universe in lieu of videogame artists. Not to slight those who make pixel-art mind you… but even with all the advances of computer-aided movie-making, there’s nary a person I know who doesn’t look at the The Phantom Menace, The Clone Wars, or Revenge of the Sith and not make a fleeting comment on how “it looks like a video game” in a very negative way. Combine with with absolutely wooden performances (from Oscar nominated actors and actresses mind you!), and the new trilogy clearly chose spectacle over heart.

The best examples of Star Wars all share a commonality; they present the fantastic grounded in very human emotions. Lightsabers are cool. X-Wings are too. But find me one person (over the age of 13, to be fair) who prefers Yoda backflipping like a crack-addled spider-monkey to the soul-filled voice and puppet work of Frank Oz? I’ll gladly argue them into submission. The crapulence of I, II, and III degrade IV, V, and VI in ways I wish weren’t true. As I said: you can’t ‘unmake’ them, and therefore everything they set up feels tainted to me.

The fact that they were the product of Lucas, and his team of yes-man make it feel all the worse. It wasn’t as if he’d handed the reigns to a new writer and director, wiped his hands of it, and shrugged off three profitable but largely uncelebrated films. Here, he presented what set up an amazing series of adventures, and pulled back the veil of mystery to uncover a story so dull, it actually weakened existing canon! How I wish I could fear Darth Vader, but now all I see is a whiny douche who had sand in his boots.

Well, they say time heals all wounds. So now, we sit at the event horizon. J.J. Abrams has been given the keys to the castle. While some find his new take on Trek to be more boom-boom than think-bam… it may very well be what Star Wars needs to really move on. A mix of practical effects and CGI (perhaps light on the lens-flares, mmm kay?), blended with original and new casts that take time to put themselves into their roles, and a story that dares to challenge its audience with more than trade politics and council debates could very well be the blaster-shot in the pants the franchise needs to be back on top. For the sake of all who are presently seething at me? I sure hope so.

May the force be with you… ‘cause it certainly ain’t with me.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


REVIEW: Willow

Willow Domestic BD+DVDSometimes you are born for a life of adventure and sometimes adventure recruits you into its cause. For George Lucas, the latter approach is preferable as witnessed in Luke Skywalker in Star Wars and Willow Ufgood in Willow. While Skywalker unknowingly had it in his blood, Willow was far more the ordinary person thrust into an extraordinary cause.

Lucas conceived of Willow’s tale back in 1972 and kept it rattling around his mind until technology was sophisticated enough to tackle it on film. Casting Warwick Davis as Wicket in Return of the Jedi probably began the move from backburner to the front of the production slate even though it was another five years before the film began production. By then, Lucas was no longer interested in directing, instead choosing Ron Howard to mount his first major fantasy. By then, Howard, who was a directing contemporary of Lucas although they traveled in different circles, had just finished Cocoon, a science fiction tale dosed with lots of humanity, and that’s apparently what Lucas wanted.

What we got in 1988, though, was an uneven tale with loads of nice scenery and nifty Industrial Light & Magic special effects but none of the characters sang and Howard definitely seemed out of his element. A new edition, with an excellent transfer, has just been released on Blu-ray by 20th Century Home Entertainment.

willow-blu-ray-dvd-WIL_IA_1008_rgbThe story is not especially original as Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh) of Nockmaar wants no rivals and to forestall a prophecy, has every pregnant woman in the kingdom imprisoned. Of course, a woman manages to give birth to her child, who turns out to be Snow White, er, The One. To protect her, the mother sacrifices her child, sending it in a small boat on the river where it is found by Willow’s children. Willow is a Hobbit, er, Nelwyn; a farmer, happily married, and not seeking a change in his life. The baby, though, upends everything, especially as the Queen’s hounds come hunting. Willow and the baby, Elora Danan, flee, encountering Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), who is a handsome Daikini; a disgraced knight who swings a mean sword. Following instructions, Willow will risk everything to safely deliver the child to the good king and queen of Castle Tir Asleen. Meantime, Madmartigan encounters and romances Bavmorda’s daughter, Sorsha (Joanne Whalley), getting his just reward. For the two hour and six minute running time, you pretty much know what’s going to happen, and you’re rooting for the heroes.

willow-blu-ray-dvd-WIL_IA_1028_rgbThe screenplay, written by Bob Dolman (How to Eat Fried Worms), based on Lucas’ long-simmering concepts, is overly predictable and none of the characters manage to sparkle. Kilmer is too grim, Marsh too broad. Davis’ title character is earnest but flat, given little to work with. Even former Munchkin Billy Barty is overly broad as The High Aldwin, the magician who takes Willow on as an apprentice. He’s forgiven considering how awful the Brownies (Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton), the two French-accented companions, are. That said, Howard still shows the film’s potential in some lovely quiet moments between the characters. Saddled with a so-so story and inexperienced with the demands of special effects, these are few and far between, which just makes us yearn for more. Darker than your typical kids’ fantasy, this overall holds up on rewatching, which has explained its enduring commercial success. As recently as last month Kilmer tweeted there will be a sequel, but after all this time, it remains wishful dreaming.

willow-blu-ray-dvd-WIL_IA_1027_rgbShot partly in New Zealand, it has lovely views and the SFX are fine for when they were crafted but clearly budgetary constraints kept some of the more exciting set pieces from completion, saving them for use in the Marvel adaptation or novelization (speaking of which, go find the Chris Claremont-penned of tie-in sequel novels). James Horner delivers a familiar and lackluster score, that doesn’t help the overall feel of being a retread.

The new transfer is superior to the 2001 DVD release. Lucas and company personally oversaw the work so the print is clean and the colors are well balanced. The THX soundtrack is equally glorious and makes for an improved viewing experience.

The special features have chosen to skip the Davis commentary from the previous release but does offer up the other ones, including Willow: The Making of an Adventure (23:29), a 1988 documentary; From Morf To Morphing (17:24), with visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren; and, Willow: An Unlikely Hero – Personal Video Diary of Warwick Davis (10:53), with some interesting on-set videos he shot during production.

New to the disc is Willow: Deleted Scenes with Ron Howard (12:32) includes the completely dropped subplot with Sorsha’s father, some of Willow performing magic tricks, and a “fish boy” scene that ILM couldn’t quite get right. There is also a brief one minute-plus montage of the film’s lush Matte Paintings.

Win a Copy of Willow on Blu-ray

Willow Domestic BD+DVDJourney to the far corners of your imagination with Willow, for the first time ever on stunning Blu-ray!  Written and produced by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, the film tells a timeless fantasy tale in which heroes come in all sizes…and adventure is the greatest magic of all.  In celebration of its 25th anniversary, the unforgettable classic has been fully digitally restored and debuts on Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack March 12, 2013 from Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The Willow Blu-ray and DVD include a dazzling array of extras with never-before-seen exclusive content such as deleted scenes with remarks from Ron Howard, a personal video diary of Warwick Davis, matte paintings and much more. In addition, look out for Ron Howard’s new introduction for the original 1988 featurette “The Making of an Adventure,” as well as special effect legend Dennis Muren’s new intro to his piece, “From Morf to Morphing: The Dawn of Digital Filmmaking.”

Special Features include:

  • NEW – Willow: Deleted Scenes with Ron Howard
  • NEW – Willow: An Unlikely Hero – Personal Video Diary of Warwick Davis
  • The Making of an Adventure with an all new introduction from Ron Howard
  • From Morf to Morphing with an all new introduction from Dennis Muren
  • Matte Paintings
  • Easter Egg

Our friends at Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment have given us two copies to giveaway. Entries must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, March  13. The decision of ComicMix is final. In order to win your very own copy of Willow on Blu-ray Combo Pack, simply answer the following question:

What did Ron Howard direct immediately after Willow?

  • Gung Ho
  • Parenthood
  • Apollo 13
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • A Beautiful Mind


Mindy Newell: Lost In The Darkness

Newell Art 130218“I grew up reading superheroes where the most important element of that name was ‘hero’ rather than ‘super.’ But, lately, a number of the books from the big two superhero publishers, DC and Marvel, seem to have forgotten the hero part of the name.”

My friend and fellow writer Corinna Lawson, the woman some of you may know as the Geek Mom who writes for Wired, wrote those words in her latest piece, entitled “The Cliffs of Insanity: Putting the Hero Back in Superhero.”

It struck a deep chord in me.

“The Death of Captain America” (Captain America #25, March 2007) scared me and deeply bothered me. It seemed to signal the defeat of American idealism, the loss of belief in this country’s basic precepts of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and freedom for all. And worst of all, it seemed to me that Marvel was telling its readers, most importantly the kids of America, that there was no future here, that the dream was over.

It was an allegory; Marvel seemed to be telling us, for the death of America.

Oh, I think I understand why this story was written. Darkness had overtaken this country, starting with the Supreme Court deciding the election of the Bush administration, ignoring the people’s right to vote or to have their votes recounted or retaken. And the Bush administration, led by Darth Chaney, was such a causally evil administration, ruining the careers and reputations of anyone who got in their way, including people like General Colin Powell and outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, and casually lying to the American public and suckering them into an unneeded and unnecessary war in Iraq, while letting the perpetrator of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden, escape from Tora Bora because the administration could use him and Al Quada to continue to scare the public into accepting the erosion of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Yeah, I got it. It did seem that America, the America I grew up in, that, even with all its continuing problems, the America that promised hope to the world, was dead and buried.

There is a reason why totalitarian and oppressive governments attack the arts and kill writers and artists and sculptors and ban plays and books and movies. Because the arts are where ideas flourish, where the flicker of hope, of what should be, stays alive. Most of us do not think of comics as part of the arts, but they are, combining both the written word and illustration in one format, and as art I believe that comics both affect and reflect society, and are capable of promoting ideas and initiating discussions.

Return Of The Jedi (which would have been a better movie if Luke had been corrupted by Daddy Vader, and Leia and Han had to save him, and then Luke could have saved his father). Ben-Hur. The Searchers. The Bridge On The River Kwai. Watchmen. Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Angel. Battlestar Galactica. Ultimately, all these stories are about the rich and complex nature of good and evil, of love and hate, of triumph and tragedy. Great stories are about anger and hate, lost and found souls, corruption and redemption.

Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces, which George Lucas used in telling the story of Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars movies, is about the monomyth of the world’s cultures throughout history, which is the journey of the hero:

The hero starts in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events – the “call to adventure.” If the hero accepts the call to enter this strange world, the hero must face tasks and trials – a “road of trials,” either facing these trials alone or with assistance. At its most intense, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help earned along the journey. If the hero survives, the hero may achieve a great gift – the “goal or boon” – that results in the discovery of important self-knowledge. The hero must then decide whether to return with this boon – the “return to the ordinary world” – and often faces more challenges on the return journey. If the hero is successful in returning, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world – the application of the boon.”

Once upon a time, our comic book heroes took this journey.


As Corinna wrote, “But, lately, a number of the books from the big two superhero publishers, DC and Marvel, seem to have forgotten the hero part of the name.”

I agree, Corinna.

Too many of our comic heroes have lost their way.




The Official Confirmation that JJ Abrams is Directing Star Wars VII

JJ-AbramsIt takes a lot these days to make the internet meltdown but the news that Bad Robot’s J.J. Abrams was signing to direct Disney’s new Star Wars film was just the megatonage needed. It was a very good week for Abrams, whose production company also sold pilots to NBC and Fox. To avoid being totally eclipsed by the news, Paramount Pictures made it clear that Abrams and team would remain involved in some manner with its Star Trek and Mission: Impossible franchises. Here’s the official release which Disney sent out late last night:

J.J. Abrams to Direct Star Wars: Episode VII

J.J. Abrams will direct Star Wars: Episode VII, the first of a new series of Star Wars films to come from Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy. Abrams will be directing and Academy Award-winning writer Michael Arndt will write the screenplay.

“It’s very exciting to have J.J. aboard leading the charge as we set off to make a new Star Wars movie,” said Kennedy. “J.J. is the perfect director to helm this. Beyond having such great instincts as a filmmaker, he has an intuitive understanding of this franchise. He understands the essence of the Star Wars experience, and will bring that talent to create an unforgettable motion picture.”

George Lucas went on to say “I’ve consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller.  He’s an ideal choice to direct the new Star Wars film and the legacy couldn’t be in better hands.”

“To be a part of the next chapter of the Star Wars saga, to collaborate with Kathy Kennedy and this remarkable group of people, is an absolute honor,” J.J. Abrams said. “I may be even more grateful to George Lucas now than I was as a kid.”

J.J., his longtime producing partner Bryan Burk, and Bad Robot are on board to produce along with Kathleen Kennedy under the Disney | Lucasfilm banner.

Star Wars logoAlso consulting on the project are Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg.  Kasdan has a long history with Lucasfilm, as screenwriter on The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. Kinberg was writer on Sherlock Holmes and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Abrams and his production company Bad Robot have a proven track record of blockbuster movies that feature complex action, heartfelt drama, iconic heroes and fantastic production values with such credits as Star Trek, Super 8, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, and this year’s Star Trek Into Darkness. Abrams has worked with Lucasfilm’s preeminent postproduction facilities, Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, on all of the feature films he has directed, beginning with Mission: Impossible III. He also created or co-created such acclaimed television series as Felicity, Alias, Lost and Fringe.

Neil Gaiman and the Cybermen return to “Doctor Who”; Warwick Davis guest-stars

Warwick Davis

Warwick Davis will be making a foray into a new camp of sci-fi fandom in 2013 when he appears on fifty-year-old juggernaut Doctor Who. In an episode for the second half of this season, Davis will appear in an episode written by fifty-one year-old juggernaut Neil Gaiman, returning to the series after his Hugo-winning episode, The Doctor’s Wife. The BBC has not released the title, but revealed yesterday the episode will feature the Cybermen.  Also starring in the episode will be Jason Watkins (Being Human) and Tamzin Outhwaite (EastEnders).

Davis casts a long shadow over science fiction and fantasy.  Starting with his role as Wicket W. Warrick in Return of the Jedi, he’s enjoyed a long and varied career in many franchises.  He played the title character in George Lucas and Ron Howard’s Willow, and was similarly titular in the horror franchise Leprechaun.  He played Marvin the Paranoid Android in the recent Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film,  appeared in the Harry Potter films as Professor Flitwick, and will be appearing in Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant-Killer.

Davis’ most recent triumph is the Ricky Gervais comedy Life’s Too Short, which recently completed a run on HBO.  In it he played an exaggerated version of himself, separated from his wife and straining under a massive tax bill, all while he produces and films a documentary about himself which chronicles these travails.  Davis shows remarkable comedic timing and ability to do physical comedy in the series, playing the perfect balance of a hateful, selfish interpretation of himself who you still feel sorry for when horrible things happen to him.

Keeping with the whimsical self-deprecating tone of the series, he’s released an iPhone app, PocketWarwick, which turns him into a 21st century Tamagotchi.  You are responsible for keeping him clean and fit as progressively more lucrative acting jobs are sent by his agent, as you attempt to bring you little thespian up from Z-lister to the A-list.

It’s rather safe to say that an appearance on the longest running science-fiction show his history will go a long way towards that goal. At this rate, he’ll have that tax-bill sorted in no time…