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…)
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…)
At least three nights a week, I do long form improvisation. Sometimes I do this in a blackbox theater for a handful of other improvisers, and sometimes I do it in a hall at the Staples Center for hundreds of comic book convention attendees. Either way, I get in front of my audience, take a suggestion, and spend the next 15 to 60 minutes pulling things out of thin air in the hopes of making that audience laugh. I’ve been doing improv for almost five years now, and though I’ve sharpened the skills associated with it, that doesn’t mean it is (or ever will be) easy to get in front of people and make something up.
I’ve also done my fair share of working with something written. Whether it be public speaking or performing from a script, I’ve gotten in front of a group of people with the objective of delivering some manner of copy more times than I can count. While some people find a script to be a comfort when speaking or performing, I definitely do not. There are hundreds of ways improvisation can go well or poorly, but having scripted lines means all you need to do to get it wrong is flub one of those lines. I feel pressure to be faithful to what’s been written and it makes this endeavor at least as challenging as improv, if not moreso. But whether dealing with improvisation or something scripted, it’s a pretty universal human feeling to be nervous in front of an audience since no one wants to look bad or mess up.
So why is everybody giving Michael Bay so much shit about the Samsung CES press event?
Look, I get that some of Bay’s works are so big and silly that they’ve been the source of many punchlines in the past. I’m sure I’ve even made a Transformers 2 joke or two myself at some point. So when I saw tons of tweets and Facebook posts about Bay having a “meltdown” on stage, I figured someone moved beyond good-natured ribbing and into mean-spirited mocking of his work to his face, prompting the director to lose his temper and storm off. Curious, I watched a video of his supposed “meltdown” and (god help, I’m going to sound like a Buzzfeed headline) I was amazed at what actually happened.
Bay later explained on his blog that after he accidentally skipped one of the lines of the host speaking with him onstage, the teleprompter feeding them both their copy tried to compensate for the jump and went on the fritz. Watching the video, the moment the script is lost is clear even before Bay tells the host that he’s lost the prompter, and it’s this moment that made me feel bad for him. The nerves jangling as he tries to continue after that are palpable, and it’s not long before he’s simply unable to continue and walks offstage with an apology. The clip I’d thought might give me a chuckle actually ended up making my skin crawl because it and the way people have been labeling it made me so uncomfortable.
Admittedly, there are better ways Bay could’ve handled losing his place in his copy. He could’ve vamped for a moment while the teleprompter operator got the script back on track, or taken a deep breath to shake off the prepared text entirely and fully committed to winging it. I’m sure the fact that he’s a hugely famous film director means many people assume he’s used to speaking off the cuff, but the difference between speaking from a script and improvising is the difference between having turn-by-turn directions to get somewhere and just going out for a drive. When you’ve left the house with turn-by-turn directions, losing them suddenly is nerve-wracking, no matter how many times you’ve been behind the wheel. So what exactly is it about Bay’s response to this script flub that bears labeling what happened a “meltdown”?
Nothing. There was no yelling, no veins bulging, no expletives or accusations laying blame. Bay left the stage calmly and quietly to save face when he knew the snafu had unnerved him beyond the ability to continue, which is a fairly tame reaction when all things are considered. I suspect Bay’s preexisting status as a pop cultural punching bag is the only reason he’s being mocked over this. If the same thing happened to a student in a high school play or a scientist giving a TED Talk, the reaction from those witnessing it would likely just be sympathy. Personally, I’ve never gotten so flustered on stage that I’ve had to walk off, but I hope that if I did, I’d handle it as gracefully as Michael Bay.
Wait, did I just use “Michael Bay” and “gracefully” in the same sentence? There’s a first time for everything.
Ba dum ching!
REVISED COLUMN SCHEDULE FOR THIS WEEK:
THURSDAY 2:30 EST USA: Tweeks!
THURSDAY 5:00 EST USA: Mike Gold
FRIDAY: Dennis O’Neil, Martha Thomases, Michael Davis
Walt Disney, the studio not the epoymous founder or Tom Hanks, has released several featurettes spotlighting Saving Mr. Banks, which opens today.
Release Date: December 13, 2013, limited; December 20, 2013, wide
Running Time: 120 min
Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Annie Rose Buckley, Ruth Wilson, B.J. Novak, Rachel Griffiths, Kathy Baker and Colin Farrell
Director: John Lee Hancock
Producers: Alison Owen, Ian Collie, Philip Steuer
Executive Producers: Paul Trijbits, Christine Langan, Andrew Mason, Troy Lum
Written by: Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith
Two-time Academy Award®–winner Emma Thompson and fellow double Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks topline Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks, inspired by the extraordinary, untold backstory of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen.
When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins, he made them a promise—one that he didn’t realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney’s plans for the adaptation.
For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn’t budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp.
It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history.
Inspired by true events, Saving Mr. Banks is the extraordinary, untold story of how Disney’s classic Mary Poppins made it to the screen—and the testy relationship that the legendary Walt Disney had with author P.L. Travers that almost derailed it.
“Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot.”
– Bruce Wayne
“Comic book fan boys are a superstitious cowardly lot and some are big pussies as well.”
– Michael Davis
Yeah, I said that.
I know quite a bit about pussies, so I speak from a place of wisdom. Although the vast majority of pussy I know about has almost nothing to do with comic books, less than that with fans and zero to do with boys or men for that matter.
Just to be clear, the big pussies I’m talking about for this particular rant are those winey little bitches whom think that their will should be the will of the industry. The latest fan bitch fest is over Ben Affleck playing Batman.
Fan boys are bitching like teenage girls who just had something bitter spilled all over their brand new braces.
Give that a sec…
Look, back when Warner Bros. (WB) announced Michael Keaton was going to be Batman, comic book fandom lost their freakin minds. The outrage was so immense that WB rushed outtakes of Keaton playing both Batman and Bruce Wayne to make sure the fans knew that Mr. Mom was up to the task.
Die hard fans just did not give a shit. Nope, they just kept that outrage up until Batman broke every box office record they had at the time.
Then – and only then did the fan boys come around. Keep in mind this was 1989, before the Internet. I was on only 1 at the time and even I remembered that.
People, it’s called acting. That’s what actors do. They act.
Yes, Daredevil was a horrible movie and Affleck had a great deal to do with that but everyone was excited as a 16 year old realizing he was right about to get some poon tang when they announced Affleck was going to be Daredevil.
It was only after seeing that movie fandom lost their minds, and rightfully so. Look, I’m a big a fan as anyone of Kevin Smith but let’s face it not all his movies are great. But because Kevin is so damn cool you almost never hear any crap from fans about his movies. That shit just boggles my mind. Kevin gets an almost universal pass from comic book fans no matter what he does. I mean a shit monster? Come on!!!
How asinine was that, eh, shit?
But give Affleck a pass?
The last time I looked, the Oscar count was Affleck two and Smith zip.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t really give a darn about Oscars, to me it’s just another Hollywood gimmick to sell tickets. I’d rather sit through a bad Kevin Smith movie than subject myself to some bullshit like My Left Foot for some other important movie. I like my movies to entertain me. Look, I lived Boys In The Hood so I don’t really need to spend any money on that or films like Peaches. Unless it’s a Bill Duke or Reggie Hudlin film, I stay away from black movies like I do gay sex.
The last real black film I saw not directed by those two men was Black Dynamite and that was just hilarious. Before that, I think the last black film I saw was Malcolm X.
But, (sorry Peter) I digress. I would sell my child for an Oscar. Not because I think it means anything but Oscar is a poon tang magnet. I’m a lot of things but stupid I am not.
Speaking of stupid, that’s what I think the outrage over Affleck becoming Batman is. Stupid.
Stupid with a capital Asshole.
My favorite actor in the world is George Clooney. When I met him I was like a little bitch, he’s just so damn cool! My favorite comic book character is Batman.
Imagine my sheer ecstasy when I heard my man crush was going to play Batman. I lost my mind!
But that movie was god awful. Now, my favorite singer in the world is Frank Sinatra and Oceans 11 (the original) is on my top ten films ever. What did I do when I heard Clooney was going to play Frank’s role in the remake?
I lost my mind!
This is the second time my all time favorite actor was about to play one of my favorite characters (Danny Ocean) and he nailed it!
But, if he didn’t I would have said so.
Like I said, my favorite comic book character is Batman and if I can wait and see what Affleck does so can everyone else.
Until I see him do it, I have nothing but high hopes that he can pull it off. Yes, he was horrible in Daredevil but that mofo was badass as Superman.
Yeah, he was Superman and he was great.
If you don’t believe me just check out the film Hollywoodland.
So until you see him fuck up Batman don’t assume he will. In the mean time shut the fuck up fanboy.
WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold Belabors This Point
THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil Does That, Too
The following article is a lesson for young creators entering the business.
Remember, the comics industry is made up of relationships and the industry is filled with the bodies of young professionals who choose to go with the flow regardless of where that flow takes them or who that flow screws with.
Be very careful who you hitch your wagon too and don’t throw a good friend under the bus just because it’s what everyone else does.
Thus begins the lesson…
There is a very short list of people I’d take a bullet for. Mike Gold is on that list. Mike and I have known each other for over 20 years. I was around three when I met him.
During the time I’ve known Mike, he has not only been a good friend but also a real confidant and staunch supporter. Look, it’s not easy being my supporter. I’ve been known to bring drama into certain situations and the easy (if not smart) thing to do when that occurs is to step away.
Step away, quickly and with purpose.
Mike has always stood by me even to the point where that decision could have caused real risk to his position at the time.
Mike is like family to me.
Mike does not like the San Diego Comic-Con.
I love the San Diego Comic-Con.
Mike thinks SDCC has very little to do with comics and a bunch of other not nice things.
Mike is entitled to his opinion. I respect but disagree with Mike’s opinion.
Mike and I are still like family.
Thus ended the lesson.
WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold
WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON: Even MORE Emily S. Whitten!!!
Look, up in the sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s….
…the third consecutive week that the Geezer, also known as me, used that hokey lead. Pathetic? You decide.
But as long as we’re here…what’s the Man of Steel doing this time? Looks like he’s holding his ears. That must mean that he’s somewhere near the end of his hit movie, at the climactic battle, before a kind of lengthy denouement. Because that was one noisy climax. But first, a geezerly digression.
When I was young – and we’re talking really young, like six or seven – I much enjoyed the “cowboy pictures” I saw at the neighborhood theater on Friday nights. The dime Mom gave me bought a cartoon, maybe a Three Stooges feature and two cowboy pictures with real good guys: Hopalong Cassidy, Sunset Carson, Tim Holt, Red Ryder, and once in a while even – o joyous epiphany in the popcorn-scented darkness! – Roy Rogers, the King of the Cowboys! Somewhere in those innocent years, I imagined what I would think would be a really neat cowboy picture. It would have a long time, minutes and minutes, of non-stop gunshooting. Just bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang. Because, see, the parts of the pictures that had gunshooting were the most exciting parts.
You have to admit that there’s a certain logic here, and I wonder if some vastly mutated iteration of this logic isn’t operating up there on the screen with Superman. And not only Superman – with other cinematic superheroes, too. The fights are big and noisy and go on and on and on…and before the final biff is powed, I’m out in the auditorium getting just a bit antsy. Not bored, just, maybe, wishing that the screen combatants would end it, like my preadolescent self wished that the mushy parts of the pictures would end, the parts that usually involved a girl. (And, in those day, I didn’t have long to wait.)
I understand that spectacular physicality is the lingua franca of superheroes, as essential to their genre as Roy’s horse Trigger was to his. But can’t less be more? Let the tension and suspense get bigger and bigger, let it build and build and then give the folks in the seats a final burst of action that solves the hero’s problems and vanquishes the villain and allows for a quiet and satisfying ending. Don’t serve me a protracted bunch of noisy clashes with essentially faceless pawns before the finale. Define the geometry and conditions of the combat and let us see it clearly and don’t put in anything that doesn’t somehow bear directly on the spine of the story. Such would be my advice.
And such is my quibble, for quibble it is. Almost half way through my eightieth decade, I can enjoy the fantasy melodrama I see as much as the grade-school me enjoyed the cowboy pictures. Okay, except for the ones with Roy Rogers – nothing can be as good as them.
THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Martin Pasko
FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases
Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…
Superman, crossing his eyes, thumbing his nose and sticking out his tongue. He’s directing his scorn toward all the nay-sayers who predicted a cool reception for The Man of Steel. The picture officially opened Friday morning and by Friday afternoon one web news site was describing it as “disappointing.” Disappointing, maybe, to Marvel Comics execs, but most of the rest of us thought it was pretty darn okay. The reviews were mixed, but the theater exit polls gave it an A minus and it ended up reaping enough profit to be the biggest June movie opening ever.
I think it deserves its success. The director, Zack Snyder, and the writer, David Goyer, did exactly what they had to do, and what previous film makers failed to do – reinvent an elderly icon for a contemporary audience. Way back in 1959, editor Julius Schwartz, did that for the comics and now Snyder, Goyer, and their posse, along with a few other creative teams, have done it for the multiplex.
I won’t go into particulars here… Okay, one particular: the villain. He was played by Michael Shannon, our best filmic heavy, both in movies and on television, and he didn’t think of himself as an evil doer. On the contrary: he considered himself to be a savior whose actions were done “for the greater good.” Something familiar about that? In what I’ll hesitantly refer to as real life, those who perpetrate war and genocide and wholesale slaughter always do it for a cause, often religious nor nationalistic, they believe to be vital and benevolent. They’re the heroes and their opposition is villainy and the poor simpletons who are crushed along the way are necessary sacrifices or, as the current terminology has it, collateral damage. Fanatics, these “heroes,” who believe that they could not possibly be wrong. Michael Shannon’s General Zod can stand as their avatar.
Time was when characters in superhero stories were occasionally referred to as “supervillains” and I don’t recall them denying the eponym. In fact, some of them belonged to a kind of miscreants club, pretty much limited to folk who dressed in odd costumes, that called itself “The Secret Society of Super Villains.” The comic book of that title was published by DC in the mid-seventies and collected in a hardcover anthology. The stories were written by Gerry Conway, one of the medium’s major talents, and were fine for their era, when comics were in their adolescence, unsure of what, exactly, they should be and still in thrall to the notion that they weren’t…respectable. Or serious. Or art or… something. Many of the baddies seem to exist only to give the goodies somebody to beat. Now, in both comics and their lumbering descendants, the flicks, writers are willing and able to acknowledge and dramatize the world’s real evil, which can be tragic.
Consider The Man of Steel a parable for our times. An entertaining one.
FRIDAY: Martha Thomases
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman
Look, up in the sky…It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…
…a whole lot of really, really numerous photons striking a large, white rectangle.
Or: it’s remembered images and sounds careening around the inside of my skull because, pay attention now, Superman and I go back a long way.
He’s one of the first fictional people I can recall meeting, though whether our first encounter was in one of the comic books Dad bought me after Sunday Mass or as voices emanating from Mom’s kitchen radio…the details of Supes’ and my initial acquaintance I do not remember, and who cares?
I next saw Supes on a movie screen, perhaps smaller and shabbier than the one mentioned in the second paragraph above, but serving pretty much the same purpose and.. Was I outraged? Disillusioned? Shattered? Or mad?
The problem was the flying. The grade-school me was anticipating watching the Man of Steel leave the ground and zip around he sky because… well, that would be an exciting thing to see. Then – the big disappointment. First the Easter Bunny, then Santa Claus, and now…What kind of bushwa was this? Superman goes behind a rock or something and then he flies up, up. and away. Only it wasn’t him flying. No, even to a kid it was obviously some kind of drawing, like the animated cartoons that often appeared before the cowboy pictures Iliked. Movie magic? Or a dirty stinky cheat?
But I wasn’t done with Superman, nor he with me. I won a story-writing contest that was fostered by the Superman-Tim club. Club membership, which cost Mom a dime, consisted of a card, a Superman pin and a monthly magazine that featured contests and jokes and puzzles and stuff. I don’t know how many contestants won prizes – maybe everyone who entered. And the prize wasn’t great: some kind of cheesy board game with cardboard cutouts that got moved. But hey – I’d gotten rewarded for writing a story! Wonder where that might lead!
Next came the Superman television show shown in St. Louis on Sunday morning well after Dad and I returned from church. Not bad. Okay way to kill a little time before the Sunday pot roast.
Then a long hiatus. Bye for now, Superman. Was it to be bye forever?
No. Years later, by then a freelance comic book scripter living in Manhattan, an editor named Julius Schwartz asked me if I’d like to have a go at Superman. I had some misgivings. Superman was… too establishment for me. Too goody-two-shoes. And too powerful. Melodrama turns on conflict. So how do you create conflict for a dude who could tuck all the gods of Olympus into an armpit, his suit apparently lacking pockets, and still have room there for the gods of Egypt and a few sticks of deodorant? Could I do that every month? I had some doubts. But I was a professional with mouths to feed and so I took the gig. Julie agreed to let me dial down the superpowers thing and let me make another change or two and off I went. For a year. I walked away from Superman and I’m not sure why. Just because I wasn’t enjoying it much? A lot of freelancers might consider that a pretty lame reason for dumping a paying gig and I’m not sure I’d disagree with them. But dump it I did and once again, sayonara Superman.
But never say never. I’m going to the movies, probably this weekend.
FRIDAY: Martha Thomases
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman
|Cover Art: Mike Manley|
|Art: Mike Manley|
New Pulp Publisher, Airship 27 Productions shared artist Mike Manley’s newly completed cover painting for the upcoming Robin Hood novel by I.A. Watson. This new Robin Hood novel is the third in the trilogy series. Volumes 1 and 2 are still available from Airship 27 Productions.
Look for more news on the upcoming Robin Hood book 3 as soon as they are available.
Stay tuned pulp fans.
|Art: Neil T. Foster|
New Pulp Publisher, Airship 27 Productions shared art from the “new” Green Lama series on their Facebook page. This new Green Lama series from Airship 27 Productions features interior illustrations by artist Neil T. Foster.
Look for more news on the upcoming Green Lama anthology series as soon as they are available.