Tagged: Nathan Fillion

John Ostrander: Radical TV Surgery

Castle

It was announced this week that Stana Katic, who plays Detective Kate Beckett on the ABC series Castle, was not going to be asked back IF the series is renewed for a ninth season. The reason cited was cost cutting which also accounts for the shortened 13 episode season planned IF the show comes back.

The premise of the show is that mystery writer Richard Castle, played by Nathan Fillion, worms his way onto the NYPD and helps the detectives solve actual murder mysteries rather than the fictional ones he creates. Central to the series has also been his relationship with Beckett; he started by annoying her but, after as many complications and delays that the writers could conceive, they fell in love with each other, acknowledged they were in love, and finally married.

Which makes the loss of Katic/Beckett difficult to understand for me. The show may have been titled Castle, but its core was that relationship between the two leads. Yes, I originally tuned in the show because I had really enjoyed Fillion on Firefly (and the movie that concluded that series, Serenity) but it wasn’t the sometimes predictable mysteries or the often interminable story arcs that made me a big fan of the show. It was the relationships between the characters and central to it all was that relationship between Castle and Beckett. That WAS the show so far as I was concerned and has been since the first episode.

Look, I get the idea that the longer a show is on the more it costs to produce and ways need to be found to cut those costs. I would think that going to a 13 week season would do that but evidently not enough to suit the suits at ABC. However, it’s a big risk.

ABC and Fillion have both expressed confidence that the show can continue without Katic/Beckett but I’m not sure. One thing I have learned in comics over the years is that every time you make a big change in a title you run the risk of alienating the fans. The general reason for the gamble is that, hopefully, you will gain more new readers by making the change than the ones you will most certainly lose by making it. You don’t want to give readers a reason to stop reading.

Some titles seem immune to this for some reason. It almost doesn’t matter which creators are doing Superman, for example. The title is going to be there so long as DC keeps publishing. That’s less true for most comics, however, and even less true for most TV shows.

Could it work? Could ABC drop Katic/Beckett from Castle and hope for it to go on? Conceivably. There will be a curiosity value for some fans, at least for a few episodes. Might that bring in new viewers and/or old viewers who have been away? Conceivably. Much will depend on how they handle it starting with how they explain and then deal with the loss of Beckett. I don’t know how they’ll do it. I’m not privy to their thinking. It seems likely to me, however, that they will kill off the character. I suppose they could put her in an off screen coma but I suspect there will be a desire to close the door.

Given this great love the show has established between Castle and Beckett, Castle would have to grieve her death as part of Season 9. If they have him just go out and start romancing and/or bedding a flock of new ladies, that will be a problem for many viewers, myself included. I personally know what it’s like to lose someone you deeply love and that doesn’t get resolved in an hour minus commercials. That takes time. Castle himself would be changed by Beckett’s loss and, if he isn’t, that just trivializes the love affair that has been at the center of the show for eight seasons. It might even undercut the revenue that the reruns of the show generate on other channels.

ABC hasn’t definitively announced one way or the other if Castle is even renewed for that ninth year. My suggestion – don’t. If in order to bring the show back even for a shortened season they have to destroy the central relationship in the show, then don’t do it. Do something else. Let everyone involved go on to other work.

When Tom Mandrake and I were doing The Spectre at DC, we knew about a year ahead of time that the series would be ending due to slowly eroding sales. DC gave us the opportunity to end the book on our own terms and we were able to put a cap on it that made the entire run one story. The ending completed it.

Right now, the ones still watching Castle are the fans. Do the right thing, ABC. Don’t piss all over them. End the show and do it with some style.

It’s not always about the money.

Marc Alan Fishman: Defending Wizard World

Chicago-Comicon-logo

Last weekend, Unshaven Comics were the guests of ComicMix, sitting in their booth at Wizard World Chicago. ComicMix was more than generous to allow the squatting, and I figure it behooves me to publicly thank them here.

So, after treating an insane bout of con crud upon coming home, I’ve had some time to troll social media to see what the world thought of the 39th variation on the original Chicago Comicon. The consensus amongst most of my friends was largely positive. But a few folks took to their feeds to take Wizard to task and dog-pile on the once crown-jewel of Chicago-based comic conventions. Perhaps it’s the massive dehydration I’m working myself off of, but I’ll be damned… I feel compelled to defend Wizard World Chicago.

First, let it be said: I myself have taken to putting Wizard World on blast before. I’ve also given them helpful advice. Suffice to say, WWC is my home show. This was the first con I ever attended as a fan. This was the first con I ever showed in as a creator. I have a love/hate relationship with it, as it is for so many cherished memories of our youth that don’t hold up upon later scrutiny. But somehow, within reading the dour thoughts of a random Facebook friend left me desiring to stand over the limp body of WWC and shout “leave her alone!”

Let’s be honest with ourselves: The advent of the Mega Con has mutated what was once the Comic Con. The big publishers now save their budget for San Diego, New York, and maybe a small handful of others. Why the Chicago snub? Same reason I assume they aren’t showing in Austin, Seattle, Baltimore, or a handful of other large metropolitan shows: It’s expensive, and thanks to the marketing of the TV and movie brands, the need to remind people they publish comic books isn’t as needed as it once was. Erecting a large booth, paying the travel and hotel costs of big named talent, and hosting panels with executives (who should be back bean-counting, and figuring out ways to enrage the internet) just doesn’t make sense when balancing the books at the end of the year. Obviously I could argue that the millions of dollars of profit earned for those TV and movie licenses might otherwise bankroll a larger convention showing – especially in America’s third largest city – but even if that were true, the big boys would sooner show up at C2E2.

So, without the big named publishers (or, really, any named publishers), Wizard World Chicago has opted instead to promote its contractually obligated appearances of a litany of celebrity guests. Because of this, my wife got to meet Nathan Fillion, Jeremy Renner, and Brett Dalton – all of whom were super nice and gave my wife lasting memories and keepsakes. A large showing of fans making their way to WWC come primarily for these meet-n-greets. I was once amongst those who bashed this concept. Spending potentially hundreds of dollars for an opportunity to take a picture with someone, to me personally, seems like a complete waste. But on the same token, taking into account how many hundreds of dollars I once used to purchase comics, graphic novels, statues, and other miscellanea leaves me at a stalemate. Autograph seekers are a part of pop culture as much as comic book collectors. And as much as it pains me to say it: Nathan Fillion will bring far more paid attendees to a convention than the promise of that one penciler on that book you like.

Wizard World Chicago has been a show in flux over the last few years. Call it growing pains, if you will. The shift from being a show that celebrated comic books first and foremost to the more general pop culture has left some in a state of bitterness. I myself was one of them for a long time. But hindsight is always 20/20. Comic books are a part of pop culture. Wizard is a business, and as such, pop culture is larger than comics alone. The shift to truly becoming a pop culture show means larger attendance. More vendors. More exhibitors. More panelists and programs. To decry the death of the Chicago Comicon because of Wizard is to blame San Diego, Reed, and the other convention giants around the country.

Wizard World Chicago is many things to many people. So long as comic books are at least some of those things? Then, leave WWC alone. It will never be what it once was. But if it continues to draw a large crowd willing to checkout the always-expanding Artist Alley, then who are we to judge? For those seeking the old-school Comic Cons of yesteryear, well, there’s still plenty of fantastic one day shows. Wizard, simply no longer is one of them.

 

Emily S. Whitten: SDCC 2015 Part V – Nerd HQ: The Experience

Zak Levi

Ladies and gents, it’s time for my fifth and final SDCC 2015 column, and although my coverage of Nerd HQ happens to be my last SDCC write-up this year, it is certainly not least. In fact, Nerd HQ was one of my favorite parts of my whole San Diego adventure this year and is well worth talking about. Of course, the other parts of my adventure were all super fun too, and if you missed them, please go check out Part I  (the con floor!); Part II (the Her Universe Fashion Show!); Part III (the party round-up!); and Part IV (the panels!). But then come back here, because this year’s Nerd HQ was chock-full of great stuff I want to share!

For those who don’t know, Nerd HQ, now in its fifth year, was started by Zachary Levi to benefit the worthy charity of Operation Smile, and takes place during and adjacent to SDCC. Generally speaking, some of its biggest draws are the ticketed Conversations for a Cause, 200-seat discussions and Q&As with celebrities who are often already in town for SDCC; and Smiles for Smiles and Signings for Smiles, photo and autograph sessions with these celebrities. (All of the proceeds for these three things go to Operation Smile.) However, Nerd HQ also offers access to a chill place to hang out with other nerds, free gaming, and a variety of other fun free activities that vary from year to year.

I’ve been covering Nerd HQ and Zac and The Nerd Machine (which would also be an excellent name for a garage band) since 2013, when I wandered into Nerd HQ for the first time (appropriately, with one of the Gazillion Entertainment community forum moderators whom I’d gotten to know during my stint in the Marvel Heroes beta), to see what this interesting offshoot of the SDCC scene was all about. In 2013 and 2014, Nerd HQ was located at Petco Park, where I appreciated the arcade-like atmosphere of where the video games were set up for free play, and the open-air feel of the setting. There were some neat things to see and do, as well as places to hang out and take a breather from the much more crowded and intense SDCC. All-in-all, it was a pretty cool place to be.

This year, however, I feel like Nerd HQ (sponsored by AMD, IGN, and Sony Playstation 4) really, truly hit its stride, something I got to discuss with Zac Levi in this interview, along with talking about future plans for Nerd HQ and what’s new with Levi’s career right now. It was a delight, as before, to talk with him, and I recommend you check out the interview. Not only does he talk about cool Nerd HQ stuff, but also, it really highlights the time and thought he puts into both his work with Operation Smile, and the planning and execution of Nerd HQ. In particular, he talked about “creating a place where fans feel like they have a voice;” and summed up his choices with the following wise statement: “I don’t want to make decisions out of fear; I want to make decisions out of faith.” He’s a guy with a lot of intelligence and heart; and it shows in everything that Nerd HQ has become.

Speaking of which, here are some things that I thought really made Nerd HQ great this year. First, it implemented RFID registration and wristbands to scan everyone easily in and out of the building and keep track of things very efficiently. Second, it moved to a new venue, The New Children’s Museum, and I just loved the feel of it. With its high ceilings, colorful accents, weird and fun bits of art on the walls, and interesting layout, it made for a great backdrop and contributed to a chill vibe, and the great Nerd HQ staff and volunteers were able to set up the activations (various things to do as you wandered around) and traffic flow in a way that made it easy to get to all of the activities without getting stuck in too much of a people-jam.

The lowest level of the Museum hosted the Conversations, and the highest level hosted primarily gaming (Project Morpheus and Star Wars Battlefront were the featured products that you could try). Everyone trying the games upstairs was having a blast; and on Friday, some fans even got to compete in a 20 versus 20 battle in Star Wars Battlefront in which Levi played too.

The middle, ground level featured a variety of options. There, nerds could chill on the patio or the couches inside; play Star Wars Battlefront; get food at the Cafe (or the food trucks right outside); get their names printed on Coke bottles; get a drink at the Geeks Who Drink bars; talk to the folks from Operation Smile; buy Nerd Machine merchandise; check out displays from sponsors; and contribute to the fun chalkboard-graffiti on a big pillar behind the bar (I totally did a drive-by ComicMix tagging near a Deadpool head, because of course). They could also take pictures with celebrities at the Smiles for Smiles photo booth (for a donation to Operation Smile); compete for LootCrate prizes by shooting at Cylons; and get their images green-screened into stills from X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut, as well as buying the DVD, which came with a special limited edition print and two wristbands to the at-con screening of the film.

In addition, they could take Star Wars Battlefront-themed photos at another photo booth; and pose for photo booth photos with the Nerd HQ logo just for kicks. The photo booths were especially cool and easy to use, since scanning your RFID bracelet automatically posted your photo to the NerdHQ Facebook page and emailed it to you; and, you could print out a copy as well. I especially liked the fun and friendly touch of the clothespin wall, where some people opted to hang copies of their printed photos (I hung one up, and my friend later saw it and tweeted a photo of it back to me!). It seemed to reinforce the feeling that we were all there to have a good time together as part of the same big Nerd family.

That feeling extended to the Thursday and Saturday night parties, which I covered in detail in my Party Round-Up. To recap here, the music was super-fun, the dance floor felt like one big happy dancing family, and Levi even made his way out into the crowd and danced with all the other nerds for quite some time. And I literally made a new nerd friend while hanging out on the dance floor, bonding over nerd things. Plus, there was a Wookiee. You can’t go wrong with a Wookiee.

The familial feeling was also present at the Conversations for a Cause, in part because they are limited to just 200 fans per panel, and in part because of the somewhat casual setting. In those I attended, there was a real feeling that the guests on stage were relaxed, having a good time, and happy to be there with the fans; and that made the experience special. It’s one reason it was great to be able to be there in person for a few, although IGN also live-streamed them all, for fans who couldn’t go to San Diego or couldn’t score tickets; and you can now watch a bunch of them on the IGN YouTube channel (sweet!).

I was fortunate to be able to attend four great Conversations. The first was with Levi and the founders of Operation Smile, and you can watch it in full here. Despite all the other awesome, nerdy, amazing Conversations that were offered, I found this one to be the most valuable I’ve attended, because it focused on the whole reason why Zac Levi started building Nerd HQ – to help Operation Smile; and on the great work that is done by founders Bill and Kathy MaGee, and the enormous need for such work. The entire Conversation is filled with stories of their experiences that will move you, possibly to tears (and moved Zac, as he talked about his experience with Operation Smile). But I especially appreciated this story from Bill MaGee:

“In the very first trip, there was a thirty-five-year-old man who came in to see us. Now you don’t see a thirty-five-year-old person in the United States with a big hole in his lip. You just don’t see it. And his mom brought him in; he had never been to school, he couldn’t read, couldn’t write. And I took care of him literally in the light of day, on a stretcher in a hall with some Novacaine, like you would in a dental office. And forty-five minutes later I brought him back to his mom and she said, ‘That’s not my son.’ And I said, ‘Of course it’s your son.’ And she said, ‘No it’s not.’ And I had a mirror in my pocket, and I gave it to him, and as he looked in it, he began to cry; and I’ve often thought, ‘What would it be like to go through thirty-five years of your life, and never whistle; and never feel the gentleness of a kiss, because somebody didn’t have forty-five minutes for you. There’s absolutely no justice in that.’ And I think it’s that simplicity of the fact that you can go, ‘before’ and ‘after.’ And before and after is a metaphor that says, involvement can create change. And no matter what it is that you’re involved with, whether it’s like Zac, who’s been such an incredible help, or whoever; just think of something that you can see with your skill sets and your talents, where you can make a significant difference. And I can tell you, it will transform the way you think, the way your family thinks, and what you do in your life.”

What a great inspiration. Another great part of the Conversations is of course that the audience gets to ask questions, and at this panel, I got to ask a question, which is always cool! (And regarding Zac’s answer to the question of whether they might be able to figure out how to have more Nerd “outposts” at different cons, a) I hope they do! and b) Oh, I have ideas.)

The panel wrapped with a great summation from Levi that really showed the passion he has for what he does. He first reminded people that they can look into different ways to contribute to Operation Smile. He then said, “even if Operation Smile is not what you feel like God or the universe or your soul or whatever is telling you: ‘That’s my thing,’ that’s okay. But find something that’s going to change the world. Find something that’s going to help people in a bigger and more amazing way; that is transcendent of you. Because we could be dead tomorrow. You have no idea how much time you have left. But there are so many people that are hurting in the world. There are so many people who have the gift of a palate that need to be told, you have this thing, and their spirits are broken; and we need to be there to love on them, and to help them to mend that. And so I don’t know what that is for you, but find it with everything you have. Go find that. Go do that. I guarantee you it makes your life, here, in this existence, in whatever time we have left, far more, not just powerful, but worth it. Because ultimately, that’s the value that we find in our lives.” Dude. Preach it!

The next Conversation I got to attend was with Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, and many of the cast members of Con Man, the trailer for which is amazing. Seriously, you guys – I am so excited for this series. If you haven’t heard of it yet, this is the best place to go for an explanation, but in brief, it’s a Tudyk and Fillion project that was funded on IndieGoGo and will be airing on Vimeo; and is a comedic and fictionalized look at some of the experiences Tudyk and Fillion have had as stars of Firefly and regular fan convention guests. In Tudyk’s words: “The series is a light-hearted take on the personalities, luminaries, and characters in the sci­fi community of which we are privileged to call ourselves members. Con Man is a way to share some of the surreal occurrences we have had, while telling the story of a guy learning to love and embrace his fans.” It also features a ton of celebrities you’d recognize from big-time genre fiction shows (like Tricia Helfer and Michael Trucco from Battlestar Galactica), and at least one awesome voice actor (holla, Nolan North, voice of Deadpool!).

The Conversation, which you can watch here, featured eight of the cast members, and was super fun. They talked some about the process of making the series, including crowdfunding it, and the reactions from Hollywood when they pitched the project there. I found Tudyk’s discussion of Hollywood’s reaction particularly interesting. “Hollywood didn’t understand this at all. We would talk to studios and they were terrible with it. They’d be like, ‘Ah-ha, I went to Comic-Con once: craaazy! Whoo! All the costumes.’ Like, ‘You sure, or did you just turn on the nightly news and watch the guy outside going, ‘Look at this person!'” He also said that they passed on some potential studio deals, “because they would start out by going, ‘Let’s brainstorm on a couple of ideas. Like, there’s this goofy person, ’cause they’re a total nerd fan…’ And that was their understanding of this world. They would come at it from that direction. They could only see it from that perspective, because they haven’t been to a bunch of cons; they don’t get it.”

Speaking as a full-time practicing attorney, a weekly genre entertainment columnist, a webcomics writer, a convention co-founder and organizer, and a huge geek and regular con-goer, I appreciate Tudyk’s perspective that fans and con-goers are more complex than just being “this goofy person,” and am looking forward to seeing how Con Man addresses the dimensionality and diversity of geekdom.

This particular Conversation was also cool because it ended with everyone at the panel having the opportunity to donate to Operation Smile for a picture with all the cast members present, which, let’s face it, would be really hard to make happen almost anywhere else. Chalk up another cool point for Nerd HQ! (Also, during the photo Alison Haislip told me she liked my Portal Aperture Science shirt. Thanks, Alison!)

The Con Man Conversation was back-to-back with a Conversation with Elijah Wood (which you can watch here, and which was also really fun, and moderated in turn by Levi and Tudyk). Wood seems like a totally laid back, down-to-earth guy, who called Nerd HQ “a breath of fresh air” in the midst of the craziness of Comic-Con; although later he also said, “I love Comic-Con so much. I really do. It’s the best. I went and had brunch earlier, at Cafe 21, and you’re sitting down and there’s characters from Game of Thrones having brunch, in front of you, and then there’s someone else in a hood and a mask, and they’re having a Bloody Mary. It’s wonderful. It’s just so wonderful. And no one bats an eye. It’s this time in which everyone gets to express themselves, and express the thing that they love, and they’re as normal as can be. It’s fucking awesome.”

I enjoyed it when Wood talked about dealing with the hugeness of being a star in The Lord of the Rings. He said he really had to compartmentalize; to which Tudyk replied that it must have been “a big compartment, a huge compartment;” and Wood quipped back that “it was a walk-in closet.” It was also neat to hear about his somewhat surreal experience being on the set of The Hobbit years after starring in The Lord of the Rings. Altogether it was a really fun, mellow panel; and also ended with the opportunity to get a photo with Wood; so of course I did.

The last Conversation I got to was billed as Nathan Fillion, but actually (shockingly!) Alan Tudyk was the moderator, and so it immediately turned into The Nathan and Alan Show. These guys are an absolute riot together, as you can see in the video, and spent the entire time riffing off of each other and interspersing answers to fan questions with auctions of items they’d brought with them to benefit Operation Smile. My favorite bit was Fillion wearing this Captain America sweatshirt, although the whole thing was epic.

Aaaand…whew! I think that sums up all the awesomeness I was able to cram in during my time at the spectacular Nerd HQ, although there was plenty more I didn’t see (and speaking of that, I understand the Marvel: Partners in Prime Time Conversation was a contributing factor to another of my favorite things to come out of San Diego this year, The Great Dubsmash War, so thanks for that, Nerd HQ)! But for all the stuff I (literally) saw, check out my whole Nerd HQ photo album here or my whole SDCC collection of photos here.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

Emily S. Whitten’s Grand San Diego Adventure, Part Two!

After reading my Twitter feed one night during SDCC weekend, my friend (and cool voiceover dude) Bob Joles joked that I was just at SDCC for the parties. And while that’s not entirely true, I do love a good party and folks at SDCC host some killer shindigs. I’m eternally sad that I can’t somehow clone myself and be at all of them at once, but I did manage to make it to a good handful this year, so here’s my SDCC Party Round-Up!

Gabe Eltaeb’s Comics Kickoff Fundraiser with Jinx Clothing

Wednesday night I didn’t actually expect to be at any parties, but I did meet some friends for a late dinner over at Basic Bar & Pizza, and it turned out that Jinx Clothing was co-sponsoring a comics party there with artist Gabe Eltaeb. It was pretty cool! For atmosphere they had the big ol’ Jinx skull up on the wall, and a fun comics-themed drinks menu. And along with artists Gabe Eltaeb, Carlos D’Anda, Doug Wheatley, Dave Wilkins, Eddie Nunez, and Todd Nauck doing live sketches, they also had some great art prints for sale (I coveted the Harley Quinn one, but by the time I got there they were all sold out), and a raffle going for some of the prints, with all funds going to benefit the important Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The atmosphere was fun and relaxed, and the pizza was good. All-in-all, it was a great chill little party with which to kick off the weekend! If they do something again next year, I’ll surely be there!

TNT and CraveOnline’s The Last Ship Party:

When I saw the notice for this Friday night party, I couldn’t resist, because, hello? Party on a ship! And the historic U.S.S. Midway Museum at that. How cool, yes? The party was put on to promote one of TNT’s new shows, The Last Ship, which airs Sundays at 9 (ET) and features Eric Dane, Rhona Mitra, Adam Baldwin, and more as the crew of a naval destroyer tasked with finding the cure for a global pandemic that’s killed eighty percent of the population.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to see everything that was going on. Apparently there was a laser tag target practice game and a Science Lab, both of which I would have loved to review but missed due to a delay in press being let in to the party. But I did get to catch a few songs by MGMT on the flight deck of the ship, which had a great stage setup and ended with some pretty awesome fireworks. They also had some finger food and free drinks, which are always welcome. I chatted with a few partygoers, who were having a great time, and also saw The Last Ship cast member Travis Van Winkle, as well as celebs Nathan Fillion, Julie Benz, Keahu Kahuaniui, Jason Mewes, Charles Michael Davis, Maitland Ward, and others coming on board to hang out in the VIP area and watch the show. Regrettably I didn’t get a chance to see what was in the Loot Crates that were being given out as party swag, since I didn’t have time to wait in the line where they were being given out at the end of the party and press were not provided with them ahead of time, but if you’re going to give swag, I’d venture to say you probably can’t go wrong with Loot Crates, so hopefully attendees went home happy.

3BlackDot Launch and After the Eisner’s Party

My next party of Friday night was Milestone Comics co-founder and fellow ComicMix writer Michael Davis‘ After the Eisner’s Party which, this year, was also the launch party for 3BlackDot. If you’re lucky enough to swing an invite to Michael Davis’ yearly After the Eisner’s party, do not miss it, because it’s a total blast. This year’s was at BarleyMash, and featured several live performers, including amazing musician and DJ Lil Jon. It also featured a burger bar and tasty hors d’oeuvres, and a cool swag bag. The music, food, atmosphere, swag, and company were all top-notch.

While there I danced and chilled with the ComicMix family and with several members of this year’s SDCC Black Panel, including J. August Richards, Orlando Jones, and Tatiana EL-Khouri, and of course panel founder and host Michael Davis, along with other super-talented folks like Phil LaMarr, Deric Hughes, Denys Cowan, Georges Jeanty, and Damion Poitier. The party went until 2 a.m., and I enjoyed every minute of it. Good times!

The Robot Rendezvous Party

At SDCC this year, not only did Tweet House help organize the excellent I Know That Voice panel (which I will be covering in a separate column), but for Saturday they also put together a “Pop Culture and the Robot Reality” panel (which, alas, I missed, but it sounded super fun!), followed by the “Robot Rendezvous,” a chill gathering at Stone Brewing Tap Room from 5 to 7 PM, both sponsored by GM and Sphero.

The Rendezvous included appetizers and two drinks on the house, and featured several of the panelists with their robotics projects, including Jennifer Barry with a robot that poured you a beer on request, and Marty Linn with the Robo-Glove, which is designed to help people with weak grips (like those with MS or the elderly) be able to exert more pressure to lift and carry things. It was pretty darned cool (and super nerdy in the best way) to get to walk around and see and hear about these great robotics while having a drink and a snack. The party also featured special guest Brent Spiner, who graciously did photographs during the party and was a pure delight to talk with. I and the several friends I brought along had a fantastic time, and can’t wait to see what Tweet House decides to do next year.

And that was it for me and the party scene, y’all! Although I did get the invite to SlamCon (the casual, impromptu end-of-the-con party that can include everyone from regular attendees to celebs) via running into Deric Hughes on the street on the day of. I totally wanted to go, but was way too sleep-deprived to manage it. However, reports from friends said it was a great time, and Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins from Supernatural, among others, were spotted enjoying the vibe. I’m sad I missed it – but maybe next year! …If I get more sleep first.

Stay tuned for more of the news round-up from SDCC, and until next time, Servo Lectio!

 

John Ostrander: Television – Coming, Going, and Staying

The word is getting out on the end of this TV season and what’s coming for the start of the next. A lot of the shows, hit or miss, are not things that I watch. Some of them are very good shows – or so I’m told – that either I just never got into or didn’t appeal to me. They may be on channels that I just don’t get (i.e. Showtime) or subscription services to which I do not subscribe (Hulu, Netflix, and so on).

Arrow has been renewed and I’m a regular viewer. It’s a good show, if not my favorite, but I keep watching to see when/if Amanda Waller shows up. Amanda, in whatever shape or form she takes, generates “revenue sharing” for me so I’m usually happy to see her. Not so much this past week. (SPOILER ALERT) I try to hold off on commenting on other people’s take on Amanda but this seems to me to be a fundamental misreading of her essential character.

As I noted previously, Waller is tough and she can be ruthless but she’s not evil and she’s not stupid. In Arrow she’s willing to nuke an American city to take out a threat. Send in the militia, sure; put everything under martial law? Not unreasonable, given the episode’s scenario of super-powered thugs are taking over the city under the leadership of a murderous psychopath. Calling in the Suicide Squad? That’s why they were created.

Going the nuclear option? Frankly, ridiculous. I can see that they would want a “ticking clock” to add suspense to the final episode but does anybody really think that Arrow isn’t going to save the city?

I was hoping maybe they would do a spin-off of the Suicide Squad but now that seems unlikely. That’s a shame. I think the Squad would have real potential as a TV series but, of course, I’m biased.

Not sure if I’m going to watch Arrow any more.

They are doing a spin off from Arrow in the form of The Flash next fall and, yes, I’ll be watching it. There are some other DC inspired shows on other channels showing up. The one I’m most interested in is Constantine, which I think has real potential if they just don’t muck it up. Yes, I’m looking at you, Syfy, and how you bollixed The Dresden Files.

Marvel will also be a presence. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been renewed and, I must say, this one has been a surprise for me. I’d been so-so about it until it tied into the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and has gotten real interesting. I haven’t yet seen the season finale and don’t know how they’ll wind it up for now but they have me wanting to see it.

They’ve also scheduled a sort of companion series, Marvel’s Agent Carter which will be a period piece starring Captain America’s great love, Peggy Carter, at the start of S.H.I.E.L.D. just after WW2. It’s a spin-off of the Marvel One Shot short, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can sell it but I’m intrigued.

Right now, DC seems to be dominating on the TV screens the way that Marvel is dominating at the movies, but Marvel also has something cooking with Netflix that could be a game changer. They’re cooking up four series (centering on Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones) and then having them all in a miniseries as a group based on The Defenders. That’s ballsy and I’ll probably become a Netflix subscriber at that point if I haven’t joined before then just to see it.

I’m a bit surprised that Castle got picked up again. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been a big fan of the show. Nathan Fillion is terrific, charming, funny and well matched with Stana Katic. The two have a great rapport and chemistry and it would be fun to watch them do almost anything.

However, the show is getting a little long in the tooth and sometimes shows it. They did an episode a few weeks back that involved everyone pretending to be in the Disco 70s. I won’t go into why; let’s just say it stretched my willing suspension of disbelief past the snapping point. You may remember the phrase “jumping the shark” connoting when a TV series has gone too far. It was generated by an episode of Happy Days when a waterskiing Fonzie (still in his leather jacket) jumped over a shark. My Mary noted that this episode of Castle had the shark jumping Fonzie.

Castle himself doesn’t have the same fun and snap of earlier episodes. He’s not the bad boy or quite as outrageous as he was earlier. He and Kate Beckett, his partner and flame, have not only admitted they are in love but it looks like they’re getting married in this year’s season finale. I’m not sure if the writers know how to make that work and keep the characters as lively as they once were. However, the show has been renewed for another season so I maybe we’ll find out.

The only real disappointment on the cancellation scene for me is Fox’s Almost Human. I came in late on the series but I found it intelligently written, well acted, and good production values. I would have liked to see more.

Overall, my greatest concern is that all this could burn out the audience – both on TV and on the silver screen – for superheroes. I think it’s inevitable but, in the meantime, if the quality remains high, it’ll be a good time to be a comics’ geek.

 

Martha Thomases: And The Winner Is…

Nathan Fillion Indiana Jones

Unlike my esteemed colleague Jen Krueger, I watched the Academy Awards all the way through on Sunday (although at the same time I was also fixing dinner, playing fetch with my cat, and incessantly checking my e-mails, and then later trying to find a position in bed so I could see but still be horizontal).

I like to watch award shows for different reasons than most people, at least if I believe the Internets.  All those technical awards that everybody hates?  Those are my favorites.  I love to see someone who is not a celebrity recognized for his or her work.  I love to see them get their moment literally in the spotlight.  I imagine their mothers at home, kvelling.

When you’re in love, the whole world is Jewish.

It’s also great to see ordinary-looking people recognized, people who are not genetically blessed and then prepped by trainers, stylists and plastic surgeons.

So, during one of the snooze-filled production numbers (and if they don’t want the show to run long, why do they do them?), I started to imagine a televised awards show for comics.

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Emily S. Whitten: SDCC Part 1 – Zac Levi’s Nerd HQ!

Whitten Art 130723San Diego Comic-Con International has come and gone, and it was a blast! But boy, am I exhausted. I definitely need a little bit of mellow down-time after all of the (great!) excitement of the biggest genre con in North America (or maybe the world? I’m too tired to look this up, y’all). That’s why even though I’ve got lots of fantastic news and interviews coming your way (Psych! Almost Human! I Know That Voice! Warehouse 13! Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D.! Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox! Captain America: The Winter Soldier! Guardians of the Galaxy! Interviews with voice actors Rob Paulsen and Dee Bradley Baker!), today I want to talk about the most chill place I hung out this weekend – Nerd HQ.

Nerd HQ, now in its third year, is technically not part of SDCC, being the brainchild of Chuck star Zachary Levi and operating as its own thing, but it took place in nearby Petco Park during the con and featured a number of celebrity guests, which made it feel a bit like a mini-SDCC or arm of the con. The atmosphere, however, was a nice and relaxed change from the hustle and bustle of the con floor and crowded panels; and also, it was free to walk around and enjoy the main area, which is cool.

Featuring mainly a long promenade which included an arcade where fans could play video games both old and new (there were several actual arcade games there, along with games on laptops and larger screens for console games), the area also had some nice seating that allowed fans to sit and look out at the field if they wanted to, possibly while eating the food available for purchase nearby. One very nice feature is that the area was covered but open, so fans could get a little fresh air while nerding out during the weekend; which is a great way to decompress after a stint on the con floor or in con program rooms. Just walking around for a few, still immersed in “my people” having a good time but also away from the intensity of the con, certainly did me good when I went over on Saturday.

There was also a stage at the end of the promenade where a YouTube channel (GeekWeek, I believe?) was filming events such as a costume contest and a puppet show to stream throughout the weekend. On the nearer end, a photo area was set up so that fans could get photos with celebrities who dropped by sporadically throughout. Zac was there taking photos when I walked in, and apparently greats such as Stan Lee had also been there at various times. Although the very efficient security whisked me away from stopping to watch the photo experience for too long, I did witness a happy fan on the phone with a friend afterwards, literally in tears because she’d gotten a photo with Zac. So that feature of Nerd HQ was definitely a success in fan enjoyment.

Another great part of Nerd HQ is the Conversations for a Cause; small panels limited to 250 fans, which generally feature guests who are in town for the con anyway. The Conversations took place in a glassed-in area overlooking the field (possibly in the VIP boxes? It was hard to tell with the setup, but it was nice), and (happily for me, after my mad dash from the convention center for the panel I attended) had fans or air conditioning of some sort keeping the area cool. Although the tickets for some of these panels sell out in a hot minute (the Joss Whedon one sold out in 30 seconds or less, along with about three-fourths of the others in the first flight of panels announced), I was able to get a ticket to the Zac Levi & Mystery Guests panel. It would have been fun just to see Zac on a panel, of course; but the mystery guests for the panel turned out to be ace too; being Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk (which made my Firefly shirt especially appropriate attire), and Rob Kazinsky (who turned out to be perhaps the biggest geek of all, and was a great panelist).

Zac both moderated and participated in the panel, which mainly consisted of people asking questions from the audience. The answers were often hilarious and well-worth the $22 ticket price, and Alan Tudyk made things infinitely cooler for the question-askers by bringing along a bag of neat swag to give them (and now I know that if I ever see Alan Tudyk again, I should not give him anything, because he is the World Champion of re-gifters). Possibly the coolest prizes (in my opinion) were several clothing items he had from various places, such as a couple of Dollhouse-related coats, and a giant duster that Russell Crowe and Christian Bale had apparently bought during filming for 3:10 to Yuma and given to him.

Along with being highly entertaining, we learned some new things about the panelists, such as how they got their first big breaks (and with no context whatsoever, because Gondor needs no context, I present this quote from Zac regarding Alan’s story: “Alan, as much as I appreciate your tranny bar story, what was your big break?”). We also learned that Zac’s favorite superhero is Deadpool, which, as anyone who reads my column (or @Ask_Deadpool) will know, automatically raises his coolness factor by infinity; and that Rob Kazinsky manages to be both badass (having been a stuntman and trained extensively with swords) and a nerd to outnerd all nerds, possibly including Zac himself. And Nathan Fillion showed himself to be the sweetheart I already suspected him to be by offering to buy several meals for a poor fan from Australia (I think) who’d had her bags stolen while in San Diego (yikes!).

I did mention that there’s a ticket price for the Conversations; and the photo ops cost money as well. However, the prices are reasonable, and even better, the proceeds go to charity, or more specifically to Operation Smile, which I first learned about from voice actor Rob Paulsen, who also supports them. Operation Smile provides free surgeries for kids with cleft lips, cleft palates, and other facial deformities; and how could anyone not think that’s a worthy cause?

Overall, Nerd HQ is a pretty chill place to go for a break from the SDCC madness, and I had a great time at the panel and a fun time briefly wandering the promenade. I would suggest better availability of both directions (like noting that 7th St. has two names for the stretch next to the con!) and information overall. For instance, visiting fans who haven’t been to Nerd HQ before might not know what-all is available to do for free there; or might not realize they can get photos with celebrities or sometimes walk right in and go to a panel that’s not sold out. Having one of the cheerful volunteers already on hand give out a one-page flyer as fans enter, explaining the set-up of Nerd HQ (and including URLs for things like the YouTube stage, which I can’t find listed anywhere), wouldn’t go amiss, especially since the website doesn’t have really specific information, and cell service can be spotty near the con anyway. There’s also apparently a NERD party sometime over the weekend; and I love a good party, but have no idea where I should have looked to find out more about it. I totally would have considered it if I knew anything more about it!

But don’t take these small critiques to mean I don’t think Nerd HQ is a great thing! It’s pretty rad; and being something that started in a sort of spontaneous way, is bound to have some growing pains. Apparently this year’s HQ was bigger than last; so I’m looking forward to seeing what next year’s is like (while hoping it doesn’t get too big and unwieldy, or it may lose its charm). If I get to SDCC again, it will definitely be on my list of places to go!

In the meantime, stay tuned for all of my other SDCC coverage; and since there’s so much of it, it’ll be coming through as fast as I can get it done, rather than just on my regular Tuesday column schedule. So keep an eye out here to hear about all the other cool stuff I saw and people I talked to at SDCC.

And until then: Viva La Nerdolution! And Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold

 

Peter David has stroke

Peter David

UPDATE: Peter’s site is back. Feel free to add well-wishes there.

Peter David, writer of over one thousand comics for everyone over the past four decades, has suffered a stroke. He writes on his site:

I have had a stroke. We were on vacation in Florida when I lost control of the right side of my body. I cannot see properly and I cannot move my right arm or leg. We are currently getting the extent of the damage sorted out and will report as further details become clarified.

His main website, PeterDavid.net, is getting hammered, but we’ll be updating as we have more information. He’s still planning on hitting all his deadlines, though.

Peter, of course, is well known for his comics work, holding the current record for most months consistently published. comic book resume includes an award-winning twelve-year run on The Incredible Hulk, and he has also worked on such varied and popular titles as X-Factor, Supergirl, Young Justice, Soulsearchers and Company, Aquaman, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, Star Trek, Wolverine, The Phantom, Sachs & Violens, The Dark Tower, and many others. He has also written comic book related novels, such as The Incredible Hulk: What Savage Beast, and co-edited The Ultimate Hulk short story collection. Furthermore, his opinion column, “But I Digress…,” has been running in the industry trade newspaper The Comic Buyers’s Guide for nearly a decade, and in that time has been the paper’s consistently most popular feature and was also collected into a trade paperback edition.

His latest prose fiction, Pulling Up Stakes, is available from Crazy 8 Press. Part one is available as an e-book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble now, with part two arriving shortly. His latest comic, Richard Castle’s A Calm Before Storm, is a spinoff from the TV series Castle, starring Nathan Fillion.

REVIEW: Cabin in the Woods

Sitting around brainstorming a movie sounds like a great way to spend a few days. According to Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, they fell into their fever-pitch pace after years rewriting episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As a result, they concocted the screenplay for Cabin in the Woods over little more than a weekend. And just the hit series turned tropes and stereotypes on its head; this fright fest also explored, celebrated and inverted the conventions of countless horror films, making for a fresh, funny, original thriller.

You have to pay attention to the film because its smart and do not be lulled by expectations, as is evident from the opening sequences as Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins appear to be going to work at some high tech underground bunker and then we swiftly cut away to your central casting collection of college kids clearly marked for gruesome deaths. As they drive away and a cameo from Nathan Fillion turns up, this is evidently a very different kind of film.

 

Unfortunately, after it was financed and filmed, the movie languished, a victim of the MGM bankruptcy until it was rescued by Lionsgate which finally released it this spring. Unfortunately, their marketing department didn’t adequately tell the world and most missed it. Thankfully, the home video edition is coming out this week and is well worth your time and attention.

 

The quintet is made up of comely Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Chris Hemsworth, and Fran Kranz. Williams was already a regular on Grey’s Anatomy, Hutchison was an Australian star, and Kranz was known for Whedon’s Dollhouse, but this was a pre-Thor Hemsworth and seeing this, it’s hard to see anything godly in his studly athlete. Yet, he impressed Whedon during filming and he recommended him to Marvel, which proved wise. Still, the five friends go to cabin for a vacation and as one would expect, horrible things happen and secrets are uncovered.

 

All along, they are monitored and manipulated by the guys in the underground bunker, overseen by Whedon stalwart Amy Acker. There are hints that their work ethic may smack of Office Space but their mission is a serious one and as we shift into the final act, we’re treated to an assortment of nightmares and monsters that echo every horror movie you’ve seen since birth. The CGI effects ran rampant throughout as several of the quintet defy the odds and survive. Worse, they find the bunker and go exploring to learn why they were targeted and some surprise news spells survival or global. Just when you think you know what’s happening, they cleverly toss in a twist, be it a story point, a visual, or some stunt casting to keep you alert.

 

It’s tremendous fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously at all, which is just fine with me. The movie looks fabulous with the screen transfer and it sounds nifty, too.

 

The Special Features some engaging commentary from Whedon and Goddard as we learn about the travails of shooting in Canada. They appear in awe of how game Hutchison was for her various spotlight moments and talked about everything from writing to special effects and time sitting around the sets waiting for something to happen. Whedon apparently shot second unit work which meant he did more than script and produce.

The remaining pieces on both the Blu-ray and DVD are pretty much what you have come to expect these days, including “We Are Not Who We Are: Making The Cabin in the Woods” (28:33) which covers the basic behind the scenes info; “The Secret Secret Stash” (13:07) featuring “Marty’s Stash” with Kranz talking about his stoner character, and “Hi, My name is Joss and I’ll be your guide”; the Wonder-Con Q&A with Joss and Drew (27:30), ‘nuff said; “An Army of Nightmares: Make-Up & Animatronic Effects” (12:10) is about the cool effects; “Primal Terror: Visual Effects” (12:07) focuses on the developmental aspects of the effects; “It’s Not What You Think: The Cabin in the Woods” Bonus View Mode (Blu-ray exclusive). You can also access online the “It’s Not What You Think: The Cabin in the Woods Bonus View Mode”, which is sort of interesting but offers little new.

Kudos to Lionsgate for giving this a spiffy lenticular sleeve, showing some TLC the film deserved.

JOHN OSTRANDER: WWKL?

This week marked fifteen years since the death of my sometime writing partner and lovely wife, Kimberly Ann Yale. Since here we talk about pop culture in so many different forms, I thought I would pose myself a question – WWKL? What Would Kim Like? What has come out since her death that she would really have gotten into?

Let’s start right here – on the Internet. First of all, she would have loved ComicMix and probably would have had her own column here. Kim was a terrific essayist – much better at it than me, I think. She was thoughtful, she picked words with care and grammar and punctuation really mattered to her. Me? If it gets past spellchek, I’m good.

In fact, I think Kim would have been all over the Internet. She would have had a blog or two or three, she would have been answering other peoples’ blogs, she would have been Queen of Facebook. Facebook was invented for someone like Kim. She would have had a bazillion friends on FB. I would have had to pry the computer from her.

Kim was also big into monsters and horror, vampires being her especial faves. I think she would have favored True Blood over the others because of the sex and the melodrama and the Southern-fried aspects of it all. (Kim’s mom was Southern and Kim fancied herself as a Southern belle. Kind of hard to do when you’re born up North but her mind worked it around.) The Dark Shadows movie starring Johnny Depp? Eeeeeeeeee! She would be camped out for it right now.

I think both The Walking Dead comic and TV series would have sucked her in but she would have been tickled by Shaun Of The Dead. Kim had a terrific sense of humor and the world’s most infectious laugh. Trust me – if you were a stand-up comic or doing a comedy in the theater, you wanted Kim in the audience.

I wonder what she would have made of Cowboys And Aliens? She was the one who got me started watching westerns and they were among her favorite genre films and, of course, adding sci/fi to it would have really intrigued her but I’m not sure what she would have made of the execution. I only give it two stars and I think she would have agreed (Kim also worked as a movie critic back in Chicago for a small suburban newspaper, so she could really knew how to dissect a movie.)

On the cowboys and spaceships mode, I think she would have been into both Firefly and the movie tie-up, Serenity. And Nathan Fillion would have led her to the Castle TV series (she also loved fun mysteries and strong female characters).

Then there’s Doctor Who. Kim and I met at a Doctor Who con (actually, a combined Doctor Who / Chicago Comic Con) and she would have rejoiced at the Doctor’s return. I think she would have liked David Tennant’s Doctor the best; she would have described him as a “creamie” – as in cream your jeans. However, she would have liked all three incarnations that have come out since the series’ return and, as a writer, would really enjoyed Stephen Moffat’s writing and now running of the franchise. She would have also liked his take on Sherlock Holmes and on Jekyll and Hyde. I stopped watching the latter during its first season; not because it wasn’t good but because it really creeped me out too much.

On movies, she would have been amazed and ecstatic with The Lord of the Rings trilogy and would, as Mary and I are doing, been waiting impatiently for The Hobbit movies coming out. Viggo Mortensen would also have been counted as a creamie.

She would have been fascinated by how CGI made superhero movies possible and what happened as a result. Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, especially The Dark Knight, would have sucked her in and, come Hallowe’en, she would have dressed up as Ledger’s Joker, no question in my mind about it.  I think, however, she would have been even more taken with Inception – Kim had an active dreamscape and tried to spend as much time in it as possible so the movie’s setting would have fascinated her.

She would have liked Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (less so the sequel) not only because he was so good (and he was) but because she was also a sucker for redemption stories and Downey’s reclamation of his career would have stirred her. She would also have really liked Chris Hemsworth as Thor (creamie) and the whole Captain America film and she would really be anticipating The Avengers, not the least because Joss Whedon is helming it.

I could go on much longer but I think I’ve tried everyone’s patience enough. I may be just projecting onto Kim what some of my own likes and dislikes are but it refreshes her memory in my own mind and heart, keeping the flame alive. She was full of life and she would have brought that with her into the future. Like all those we treasure, she lives on in me and in all those she loved and loved her.

Memory doesn’t die with the body, and neither does love.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell