Tagged: OUTLANDER

Mindy Newell’s Thanksgiving Musings

Just some musings this week…

Outlander Season Three, the adaptation of the third book in author Diana Gabaldon’s story of the 20th century English combat nurse and the 18th century Scottish Highlander (Voyager) is up to its 10th episode, with three to go, and it hasn’t disappointed. I read somewhere that the program’s ratings have steadily gone up with each episode, and Season 4 is already in production. I know that there are many who are disappointed that the show isn’t following the book word-for-word and paragraph-for-paragraph, but as I often remind my fellow Outlander lovers over at Compuserve, television is a visual medium, entirely different from the literary, and there are also time restraints. Im-not-so-ho, Ronald D. Moore and company have actually done a remarkable job bringing a densely packed historical romance/science fiction/fantasy – Outlander is one of those books and series that crosses genres as easily a pedestrian crossing a street – series to life.

And speaking of Compuserve, that venerable site is shutting down all its forums as of December 15, with no explanation given and that “e-mail, news, weather, sports, and entertainment information will remain available to you after this change.” Huh? Who goes to Compuserve for e-mail, news, weather, and et.al.? It’s always been about its forums – and as for Outlander, Diana Gabaldon, way back when, when she was first writing the original book, often posted her “what I’ve got so far,” and asking for comments, edits, and information. I just don’t get it.

I’m in the midst of answering a series of questions for an interview that fellow ComicMixer Joe Corallo is conducting with me for Geek.com. It’s funny what interviews can do sometimes. If it’s live, it can be a matter of thinking quick on your feet, especially if you don’t have a list of the questions in advance. When it’s going to be published somewhere, the interviewee – me, in this case – has a chance to think about it before writing down the answers. For instance, I discovered something about my work on Catwoman in the course of answering Joe. Consider this a sneak peek:

Joe C.: You’re also the first woman to write Catwoman. What was that like to you? Did you get to do what you wanted with the character?

Me: Was I really? I didn’t know that! It was pretty cool. My first swing at her was in Action Comics Weekly #’s 611– 614, a four-part story, “The Tin Roof Club.” To tell you the truth, I think it’s better than that Catwoman mini-series with my name on it. By the way, I came up with the title of “The Tin Roof Club” because that’s how I’ve always thought of Selina:  “What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof? – I wish I knew…just

staying on it, I guess, as long as she can” Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

With that in mind, my biggest disappointment with the Catwoman mini-series is that DC wouldn’t allow Selina to deliberately kill her pimp. I don’t know why. The guy was a fucking pimp, for Christ’s sake! The whole idea of her murdering the bastard was that it would cause Selina to forever remain that “cat on the hot tin roof.” Stuck, y’know? So I had to write it so that it was unclear. Which was total bullshit, of course.

I also made a mistake in involving nuns and Selina having a sister who was a sister. (“My sister, the sister,” as Father Mulcahy would say on M*A*S*H.) It was supposed to be an homage to Frank Miller, not only because of Batman: Year One, but also to his work on Daredevil, in which Matt’s Catholicism played such a strong role. But I think it would have been stronger, and more interesting, if I had stuck to my own roots and made Selina Jewish – after all, “Kyle” could be just a “street name” to disguise her origins.

Basically, I guess what I’m saying is that I wish I could do it all over againor have another crack at her.

It’s a nice, long, juicy interview – well, I think so, at any rate –  so I’ll let you know when it’s slated to appear. Keep an eye out for it, ‘kay?

I’ll keep up the tradition of Thanksgiving “thanksgivings” now:

  • This year, as most of you know, I lost my dad and my mom. So first and foremost, I am grateful to God, the Goddess, and the Universe for blessing me with my grandson Meyer, my daughter and son (in-law) Alixandra and Jeff, my brother Glenn and his wife Ana, and my niece Isabel.
  • I am thankful to ComicMix and Mike Gold for allowing me entrée into the comics world via my columns these past – how many years is it, Mike? Wow! And I freely admit that my column about Secretariat was a stretch, but, hey, he was a Super-Horse!!!!
  • I am thankful to Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, NJ for investing in me and investing me with a sense of home and belonging.
  • I am thankful for Robert Mueller.
  • I am thankful to The Washington Post, The New York Times, MSNBC, Frontline, Vice, CNN, Real Time with Bill Maher and other sane and responsible news organizations and programs for not faltering in the pursuit of truth, justice, and the American Way in 2017.
  • And thanks a lot, The Washington Post, The New York Times, MSNBC, Frontline, Vice, CNN, Real Time with Bill Maher and other news organizations and programs for going insane and being irresponsible and treating Il Tweetci the Mad’s campaign as a ratings grab and celebrity reality show in 2015 and 2016? Now you’re doing your job? Where were you in 2015 and 2016?

Mindy Newell: Outlander, The Scot, The Sassenach                 

July 9, 2016.

Droughtlander begins with the airing of the Season 2 finale, “Dragonfly in Amber.” Somehow millions of fans around the world must satisfy their continuing hunger for the Starz adaptation of author Diana Gabaldon’s book series that started with Outlander, first published way back in 1991.

Centering on the love story between 20th century Royal Army nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) and 18th century Scottish Highlander James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser, it encompassed the lead-up and beginning of the 1745 Jacobite Rising which climaxed in the final defeat of the Stewart claim to the British throne at Culloden Moor and the end of the Highland clan culture.

Interjection: Prime Minister David Cameron delayed the premiere of Outlander before the referendum on Scottish independence, so worried was he over its influence.

The millions of fans – and I am one of them – had to slate their hunger for more, more, more! through rereading the books (up to eight now, not counting the “sideways” shorter novels, novellas, and short stories, with Ms. Gabaldon hard at work on the ninth), rewatching Seasons 1 and 2 ad infinitum, relistening to podcasts (there are so many, but 31 are recommended here), and endless discussions on message boards and chat rooms.

Outlander had a built-in audience when it premiered on Starz on August 9, 2014, but, like me, I think many, many tuned in because of the involvement of Ronald D. Moore, who had ultra-successfully rebooted Battlestar Galactica for the Sci-Fi channel (now horribly called, im-not-so-ho, SyFy) and who had “made his bones” writing for Star Trek: The Next Generation (first episode: Season 3’s “The Bonding”), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (writer and co-executive producer), and Star Trek: Voyager. He was also a consultant on the HBO series Carnivale, where he met Terry Dresbach, the costume designer. Here’s a great article about the couple from the New York Times.

Neither Ron nor Terry have disappointed.

The final episode of Season 2, the aforementioned “Dragonfly in Amber,” ended with the Battle of Culloden about to start. Jamie, believing that he will die in that battle, forced Claire, who is pregnant, to return to the 20th century (in one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever seen) for the sake of their unborn child, whom Claire will raise with her 20th-century husband, Frank. It also jumped ahead to 1968; Frank has died, and Claire and her child, now a 20 year-old young woman named Brianna, have returned to Scotland, where Brianna (named after Jamie’s father) discovers the truth of her heritage…

And Claire discovers that Jamie did not die that day on the moor.

Will she go back?

September 10, 2017.

Season 3 of Outlander premiered.

Droughtlander is over.

And last night, September 17, the story continued.

•     •     •     •     •

Next weekend, September 22 – 24, is the Baltimore Comic-Con. ComicMixers Mike Gold, Glenn Hauman, Joe Corallo, Evelyn Kriete and Emily Whitten. And I’ll be there as well!

But because I’m not sure if I’m working on Friday – yes, I’m back at work, though I’m wearing an ankle brace – if you’re looking for me, I may not be at the until Saturday. With my niece Isabel – OMG, she’s 17!?? How did that happen!? – who has discovered the joys of comic conventioneering and cosplay. I am so excited to be able to share my love of the medium with Izzy!

•     •     •     •     •

A giant and heartfelt thank you to everybody who contributed and made Mine!: A Celebration of Freedom & Liberty Benefitting Planned Parenthood possible.

You did it!!!!

Mindy Newell: Tiptoeing Through Geek Culture

Last of the Mohicans

Last of the Mohicans, by James Feinmore Cooper, is a great American classic. My parents had a Book-of-the-Month copy in their bookcase with illustrations by Newell Wyeth, Andrew’s father, and I first read it at about age 8. Today (Sunday), I watched the 1992 Last of the Mohicans, the one starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeline Stowe, and Wes Studi. Great, great movie, also a favorite of my buddy and fellow columnist Johnny O’s; in fact, it was John and Kim who turned me on to this particular cinema adaption, oh, those so many years ago at their home in Norfolk, Connecticut. I was familiar with the 1936 version, which starred Randolph Scott, Bruce Cabot, and Binnie Barnes, which was pretty good, but director Michael Mann’s adaptation is a gothic work of art, boasting beautiful cinematography and a romantic and haunting soundtrack.

OutlanderI’ve also been blissfully gorging on Season 2 of Outlander, Ronald D. Moore’s magnificent – im-not-so-ho – adaptation of the second book of Diana Gabaldon’s Scottish time-traveling romance and adventure series. As the season continues to build to the 1745 tragic and final confrontation between King George II’s British troops and the Jacobite rebels who followed “Bonnie” Prince Charles Stuart in the failed attempt to restore the Stuart monarchy, Claire is suffering from what we call today Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Jamie is taking on more than a veneer of the hated British army’s discipline and attitude, going so far as to flog his troops.

Thanks to the oversight of Moore and his team, including his wife, costume designer Terry Dresbach, and the lush cinematography of Neville Kid, not to mention the remarkable cast, Outlander is far more than a variation of the “bodice ripper” genre; it is a gripping tale of a culture that now exists only in books, films, television shows, Renaissance Fairs, and museums.

Captain America HydraI know that my buddy Marc Alan Fishman is demonstrating the mature side of the argument, taking a “wait-and-see” attitude, but as for me – well, there is so much that is wrong about Captain America: Hydra Agent that all I can say is:

No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! But I do have a better candidate for Hydra membership.

Donald Trump Suggests Muslim Judge Might Also Be Unfair. Candace Smith, ABC News, June 5, 2016: Donald Trump, already facing bi-partisan backlash for his comments suggesting a judge of Mexican descent is unfit to preside over a lawsuit filed against Trump University because of ‘bias,’ has gone further, suggesting that a Muslim judge would also not be able to treat him fairly…”

Trump Plays GOP for Suckers – Calls Climate Change ‘Bullshit,’ Then Submits Plan For A Wall To Protect His Golf Course From Global Warming. Page 4-5. New York Daily News, front page, May 24, 2016: “The notoriously fickle Republican huckster, who at various times has labeled climate change a ‘con job,’ a ‘hoax’ and ‘bullshit,’ has reportedly applied to build a wall along a luxury golf course that he owns in Ireland that is threatened by rising seas caused by climate change.

Perhaps it is Donald Trump who is the Hydra agent.

Mindy Newell: Of Corsets And Kilts

Jamie Frasier (Sam Heughan): This will go faster if ye just yield, woman!

Claire Randall Frasier (Caitriona Balfe): I’m going to make you suffer!

Jamie: Ye already have! 

Jamie: I am your master and you’re mine. It seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.

Jamie: Sassenach…


Claire: Yes, master?

Jamie: What does fucking mean?

Outlander • Ronald D. Moore, Producer. Based on the novel by Diana Gabaldon

Question 1: Has there ever been a show on television, network or cable – not counting the porn channels – in which the camera stays focused on the action as the man sucks on his lover’s nipple?

Question 2: Have you been watching the second half of the first season of Outlander on the Starz network?

And you thought the sex scenes in the first half were hot? Whoa!

Well, just in case you’re thinking that this old bag is only watching this genre-mixing series (part historical, part adventure, and part romance, and based on Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling novel) only to get her rocks off, I want you to know that, im-not-so-ho, the intimate scenes between the “time-crossed” lovers Claire Randall and Jamie Frasier aren’t in the least bit gratuitous.

Claire and Jamie, two strangers divided by 200 years of societal, political and technological upheavals, were married last season not for love, but for political circumstance and to protect Claire from the British captain who believes she is a spy; there has been some very ugly words between them, as well as some 21st century “politically incorrect” physical abuse that lit up Outlander message boards across the web. And so their relationship seesaws between love and hate, need and independence, conflict and harmony, competition and accord.

None of this should be surprising; Outlander is produced – with some episodes directed and written – by Ronald D. Moore, who has never shied away from the realities of relationships and the forces that work upon them, making those relationships a basic element of all his work, most famously in his reboot of Battlestar: Galactica.

Aside: Mr. Moore has stated that he left Star Trek: The Next Generation because he became frustrated with Gene Roddenberry’s dictum that everyone on the U.S. S. Enterprise NCC 1701-C got along like stoned-out-of-their-minds hippies at Woodstock or a conclave of Scientologists slobbering at the foot of Tom Cruise. A few minor skirmishes were allowed, hints of romance every so often, but no any real character growth and development between crewmembers. “Conflict is the heart of drama,” Moore has said. “No conflict, no drama.”

But Outlander is also richly detailed in its historical facts – the Jacobite movement to restore “Bonnie Prince Charlie” Stuart to the throne of England – and 18th century Scottish creeds, customs and mores, including its costume design. Speaking of which, today’s New York Times includes a piece on Mr. Moore and his wife, Terry Dresbach, who is Outlander’s costume designer. According to the New York Times, “The couple share a similar philosophy when it comes to period costumes: Make them as authentic as possible. ‘I want them to look lived-in, beaten-up and home-repaired,’ Mr. Moore said. To that end, his wife assembled a 15-person aging and dyeing department, whose primary objective is to weather the costumes and ‘make them look real,’ he explained.

“Occasionally they clash when the needs of the story and the reality of costumes collide,” the NYT continued. “For instance, when the villainous redcoat Capt. Black Jack Randall rips Claire’s bodice, Mr. Moore said, ‘Terry tells me in excruciating detail how impossible it is to rip open these dresses unless you’re the Hulk, because there are many layers of thick fabric’…[they] settled on having Black Jack slice open Claire’s dress with a knife.”

Like most actors and actresses the cast of Outlander says that wearing appropriate to the era costumes only increases their ability to “step inside” their characters’ minds and lives. However, the wearing corsets can be, well, inhibiting. Caitrona Balfe, who plays Claire, said, “Once you’re sucked into these corsets, you realize just how repressed women were.” And her co-star, Lotte Verbeek, who also starred in HBO’s The Borgias, says, “The costumes help, but they also kind of hurt.” As for the men, well, they have fewer complaints in their kilts. “There’s something very freeing about wearing [it],” said Graham McTavish, who plays Dougal MacKenzie, the war chief of Clan MacKenzie, and Jamie’s uncle. “It represents something from the past that has style and elegance – you’re not going out dressed in sweatpants, sneakers, and a baseball cap.” Though Tobias Menzies, who plays the aforementioned British Royal Army Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall, doesn’t like them. “Put some trousers on,” he says. Well, he does, for Menzies also plays Frank Randall, Claire’s 20th century husband and a descendant of Black Jack.

I don’t know if the men wear underwear under the kilts, though that is truly the way kilts are worn. I know, because my ex-husband wore a kilt to our wedding….

Um, ‘nuff said!

 

Mindy Newell Is Jus’ Ramblin’ On

DidioJust a bunch of random thoughts this week, gang…

As I mentioned two weeks ago, Martha Thomases and I go waaaay back to the days when she was DC’s go-to woman for marketing and promotions and I was a naive, newbie freelance writer for the company who always stuck my head in her doorway (“hey, Martha”) whenever I was in the office. We have always been kindred spirits in political thought and our taste in literature, television, and moves have always coincided more than they have diverged, and now Martha’s latest column extends that coincidence to some critics.

Martha, you have more patience than I do; I couldn’t even finish the piece because I got so annoyed. So, yeah, I’m not an A.O. Scott fan, either, although I do think he writes beautifully. In my not-so-humble opinion, Mr. Scott is a bit of a snob and a critic in the Rex Reed mold – meaning that he seems to actually enjoy tearing down anything that smells of popular culture because in Mr. Scott’s world “popular” is a euphemism for a four-letter word.

Martha’s column made me wonder if Mr. Scott would have decried Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) or Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883) and Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (both in 1886) or James Fenimore Cooper’s The Leatherstocking Tales (of which The Last of the Mohicans (1826) is the second book in the series) or Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found (1871) as “the death of adult American culture” if he had been employed as a critic in the eras in which these classics of American literature were published.

Writer Chuck Dixon posted the photo posted above on his Facebook page, courtesy of Iconic Superman’s own FB page. I thought it tied in nicely with Marc Alan Fishman’s column this week about the trials and tribulations of a mother and her Batman-obsessed four year-old. I do agree with Marc that it is not generally the fault of the media but the fault of the parents when children are exposed to things that are “rated M for mature.” Parents should – make that must – be aware of the contents of a book, a television show, or a movie and they must be responsible for the interactions of that child with said media. However, I also feel sad that our comics icons (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) are, for the most part, reflecting the grayness of the adult world, the ugliness that is present in the world.

Yes, I know about the comics and cartoons (excuse me, animation shows) geared towards children, but overall, our four-colored heroes are reflections of us, the adults, and are not the standard bearers of positive ideals they should be – and, yeah, I sound like an old fogey, and not the same person who wrote a column about how she wasn’t bothered by that ass-in-the-air Spider-Woman cover. So am I a hypocrite? After all, as an adult, yes, I love writing and reading stories hewing towards the darker side of heroism and life; hell, one of the best stories I ever wrote was about a young girl who runs away with the “bad boy,” has a baby, and ultimately leaves both the kid and the father because she just can’t stand it any more (“Found and Lost,” New Talent Showcase #13, January 1985).

But as a mother, I once told Alixandra that I didn’t care what she watched or read or listened to, except I didn’t want to hear gangsta rap in the house because I didn’t want to hear songs about how the singer was going to cut up and/or kill his bitch (I also told her that I knew she would listen to it outside the house or at her friends’ houses, but in “this house you are not going to play it.”) And as a grandmother, I once tied an apron around my neck, and ran around “singing” the theme to Superman: The Movie in front of the baby (who just stared at me like I was an idiot – he was probably thinking: “this is a grandmother?”

Outlander (on STARZ) has drawn me into its spell. Much less a “bodice ripper” (see my column from a couple weeks ago) than a really, really excellent time-travel story, I told you before that I originally tuned in because Ronald D. Moore was producing it. I have not been disappointed. The dialogue continues to seem realistic and natural, the history of the period has been well researched, and English actress Caitriona Balfre does a wonderful job portraying the time-displaced heroine, Claire Randall, who, while becoming entwined in the life of the MacKenzie Clan and the Jacobite movement, which aimed to place Bonnie Prince Charles on the throne of England, still aches for her husband and life in 1945.

This past Saturday’s episode, which focused on the wedding night between Claire and Jamie, was not only incredibly sensual and sexy – I mean H-O-T, people! – it also was one of the most mature depictions of two people, basically strangers, thrown into an intimate partnership I have ever seen on the screen, big or little. This coming Saturday is the “mid-season finale” – like many shows on television these days, especially on cable, STARZ has chosen to follow the British style of short seasons – the “leave them wanting more” approach. I get it. And I know that STARZ has already renewed the show for a second season. But just how long am I going to have to wait? (If anybody knows, please leave a comment below.)

Like the rest of us, I sometimes wish there were real superheroes (men and women) so us ordinary people wouldn’t have to worry about things like global climate change and terrorists and war. As if fucking ISIL isn’t scary enough, yesterday I read an article in the New York Times about a Syrian terrorist group, led by a member of Bin Laden’s inner circle who was in on the planning of 9/11, whom the nation’s intelligence agencies deem more of a direct and more imminent threat to the U.S. than ISIL. (By the way, don’t ever use the phrase “protecting the Homeland” around me. There was a political leader in mid-20th century Germany who looked like Charlie Chaplin’s “little tramp” who liked to use that phrase.) And of course with President Obama’s plan to “train and arm rebel groups in Syria” having passed Congress, I’m betting that some our arms and training falls into the hands of these guys.

I have been a big supporter of President Barak Obama, but I gotta tell ya, I don’t know what the fuck President Obama is thinking, getting in bed with groups and nations who either don’t particularly like us or outright hate us. I keep thinking about Franklin Roosevelt and how he knew that we needed to get into the war in Europe to stop the Nazis, but with an isolationist Congress and America the best he could do was the Lend-Lease Act, by which he could supply Britain, the Free French, the Republic of China, and eventually the Soviet Union with arms and other war supplies. Perhaps Obama is trying a 21st century version of Lend-Lease, but the lines aren’t so clear-cut, and the “Allies” aren’t really allies at all.

Yeah, we could use a rollicking cry of Avengers Assemble! right about now.

 

Mindy Newell: Outlander

“It’s just a big story, you know? The book is a big tale. It travels a lot and it goes to a lot of different places. And as I looked at it… the rights holder initially was trying to do it as a feature and I knew that it was never going to be a feature. You would lose everything that was special about the book once you stripped it down to two hours. And still, if you want to do the story justice, if you want to actually enjoy the experience the way the reader enjoys the experience, you have to take your time. You have to sort of drink in the landscape. You have to get to know the people. You need to let the moments breathe. You need to let the story just unwind a little bit. And to create that feeling in television, it just required a bigger spread of hours.” Ronald D. Moore, Executive Producer, Outlander, A Starz Original Series based on the book by Diana Gabaldon.

First, a confession.

I’ve never read the Outlander series of books by Ms. Gabaldon.

I’m not sure why. Certainly all the ingredients are there:

  • Time travel: As those of you who regularly read this column already know, and as any newbies are about to learn, mention a time travel story to me and my mouth starts watering like Pavlov’s dog – Doctor Who, various episodes of various Star Trek shows and movies, Connie Willis’s series of short stories and novels concerning the time-traveling faculty of a future Oxford University;
  • A woman protagonist who is not only a registered nurse, but a combat nurse in World War II – for those of you who don’t know, I’m an R.N., as was my mom, who served in the Army during the war, and my dad was a fighter jock in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theatre of operations, first piloting P-40s and then, for the majority of his time in service, flying the ultimate war plane, the Mustang P-51. (Okay, the Brits may argue with me on that one, defending the very worthy and impressive Spitfire, in which the R.A.F. pilots won the crucial Battle of Britain.);
  • History and great historical fiction, especially the incredible history of the British isles and the great historical fiction about our cousins across the pond – I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before here, but I’m sort of a British royal history geek, reading everything from Shakespeare’s plays to Anne Weir and Eric Ives to Jean Plaidy and Phillipa Gregory and watching every movie from The Private Life Of Henry VIII (starring Charles Laughton and directed-produced by Alexander Korda) to The Lion In Winter (starring Peter O’Toole as Henry II, Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitane, Anthony Hopkins as the future King Richard “The Lionhearted” I, and Timothy Dalton as France’s King Phillip II) to various Masterpiece Theatre productions – Glenda Jackson in Elizabeth R – to Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren’s turns as the Virgin Queen. Not to forget Ms. Mirren in the 2006 movie The Queen.

And there was a time when I loved what are commonly referred to as “bodice-rippers,” i.e., romance novels. You know the ones I mean, the one with the covers of some impossibly gorgeous man of a past era with impossibly gorgeous pecs holding a beautiful, sensuous, and amply endowed woman dressed in a disarrayed bodice (hence the term “bodice ripper”). Also referred to as “soft-porn,” these books are formulaic, usually involving a young and innocent heroine and a rich, powerful man who she initially and distinctly H-A-T-E-S, but with whom she eventually, and eternally, fall in love. The seduction of the heroine happens frequently, and, I have to admit here, that some of the sex scenes are I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E, giving Fifty Shades Of Grey a run for its money; I can heartily recommend, for those of you interested in “genteelly” getting your rocks off, The Flame And The Flower by Katherine Woodiwiss, Sweet Savage Love and its sequels by Rosemary Rodgers, and the hottest, most licentious, incredibly sweaty and sexy Skye O’Malley series by Bertrice Small.

But The Flame And The Flower was first published in 1972, Sweet Savage Love in 1974, and Skye O’Malley in 1981. IM-not-so-HO, these were the books that really started off the craze, but since then the romance genre has been flooded with thousands of knock-offs by, again, IM-not-so-HO, too many really, really lousy writers incapable of really, really, sweat-inducing bedroom (and other places) scenes, and, again, IM-not-so-HO, the genre has suffered.

In other words… I was turned off. Not turned on.

Which is why I never picked up Outlander.

Which, BTW, was in a sub-sub-genre of bodice rippers called “time-travel romance,” which was a sub-genre of bodice rippers called “science fiction romance.”

Yeeeccch!

But…

When I read that the adaptation of Outlander was being exec-produced by Ron Moore – he of some of ST: The Next Generation’s best episodes, including “Best Of Both Worlds Part I,” and of course, of the reboot of Battlestar Galatica, my “on button” went green.

So this past Saturday, August 9th, at 9 P.M., I turned on the TV and went to the Starz channel.  And guess what?

Not only wasn’t I not disappointed… I was intrigued.

First off, the production is shot on location in Scotland. Scotland is beautiful, eerie, and full of history.

Second, Mr. Moore introduces us to the heroine, Claire Beacham Randall, at work in the field hospitals of World War II. Mr. Moore added this scene, which apparently is not how the book opens; it should have. Right away the viewer knows who this woman is: brave, resourceful, knowledgeable, and able to stand on her own two feet.

Third, the first half-hour is dedicated to the relationship between Claire and her husband, Frank Randall, a historian. They have been separated by five years of war, and are trying to reconnect through a holiday in Scotland. And by watching them reconnect, we connect to them. Plus there is some hot sex between the pair, including a scene in which Frank goes down on Claire in an ancient, ruined Scottish castle.

Fourth, we believe Claire’s reaction to being thrust back into time and what initially happens to her there because, as I wrote, we already have a sense of what type of person Claire is, and we have become connected to her through the first half-hour.

Fifth, the Scots whom Claire meets speak Scottish as well as English; a nice bit of reality.

And, finally, that ancient, ruined castle pops up again. Only it’s not ruined, it’s not ancient, and its flags are flying over the turrets; a nice bit of foreshadowing by Mr. Moore…and, I’m presuming, Ms. Gabaldon, since I haven’t read the book.

But I will.

I just ordered in on Amazon.

Now I just have to decide if I want to read it before the next episode of Outlander airs this Saturday night.

 

Mindy Newell: EW Does SDCC

Nick Fury

My geek overdrive continues to overwhelm me. But I’m not the only one.

Less than a week away from this year’s San Diego ComicCon (which opens its doors this Thursday, July 24th, and closes them on Sunday, July 27th) Entertainment Weekly joins the national geek fest that is summertime with a bang-up double-size issue featuring a cover shot of Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man and Chris Evans as Captain America with Ultron looming behind them. The issue is a stuffed-to-the-gills San Diego Comic Con preview…

And I read every single page. Including the adverts.

Now I know how those fans at the 1976 SDCC felt when Charles Lippincott (then head of Lucasfilm’s marketing, advertising and publicity department) showed some of the first production slides of Star Wars, and (writer) Roy Thomas and (artist) Howard Chaykin previewed their Marvel Comics adaptation of the film, because the cover story,an “exclusive first look” at Avengers: Age Of Ulton, does an admirable job of leaking just enough info to make me want to go out and see the move right now – only, goddamn!, it’s not due to hit the theatres for a frakking ten months! (May 1, 2015, which makes it nine months and 12 days, to be exact, and if I counted right.)

That’s incredibly unfair, EW!

By the way, that Star Wars teaser was the beginning of SDCC becoming the first exit ramp on the expressway to marketing love and box office bonanzas, for better or for worse. Most comics fans believing it was for worse, as SDCC has increasingly become more and more about film and television and less and less about the four-color world.

Along with articles on upcoming films, small and large (The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies; Air; Mad Max; Fury Road; Horns) and television shows – which Mike Gold did a wonderful job of discussing here. Although you missed Outlander, Mike, an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s eight-volume (so far, according to EW) saga which successfully – based on its millions plus fan base and its mega-profitability for the author and her publisher – blends the genres of romance and science fiction, and which Battlestar: Galactica rebooter Ronald D. Moore is exec-producing for cable channel Starz. It premieres this summer on Saturday, August 9th, although you can stream the first episode on the channel’s website, starting on August 2nd

Excuse me. I got diverted… to paraphrase Peter David.

A nice surprise in the issue is a piece about Jim Steranko. Now a lot of you may be to young to remember Mr. Steranko, but many, many professionals and fans say that it was his work on Nick Fury: Agent Of Shield in the ‘60s (that decade of the Beatles, Andy Warhol, “tuning in, dropping out, and turning on,” the pill, Vietnam, burning bras, the Chicago Democratic Convention… that decade of social revolution) which bumped up comics from pulp rags to line the birdcage with to a new American literary and artistic medium.

Me, I was too young to understand just how revolutionary Mr. Steranko’s work was, but it definitely sunk into the deeper reaches of my pre-adolescent psyche, influencing my (much) later work in the field, i.e., Mr. Steranko was – and is – an individual in the very best (and maybe sometimes the very worse) sense of the word, “travelling to the beat of a different drum,” as Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys sang in 1967. (Here’s a question for you music trivia buffs out there. Who wrote “Different Drum?”*)

There’s also an oral history of The Terminator, which is interesting, but a little sycophantic, IMHO, although in fairness these types of interviews usually are, and also because I’m not really a fan of Mr. Cameron’s, who has become a Hollywood financial powerhouse and player despite the constant charges of plagiarism leveled against him. Notably Avatar, but also Titanic and the above-mentioned Terminator.

Don’t get me wrong. I love his Titanic. It’s compelling and historically pretty damn accurate. But many film aficionados, including director and writer Peter Bogdanovich, noted the *ahem* similarity between Cameron’s 1997 film and History Is Made At Night, a 1937 film by Walter Wanger, directed by Frank Borzage, which tells the story of a love triangle between a financial magnate (Colin Clive), his beautiful (and unhappy) wife (Jean Arthur) and a French headwaiter (Charles Boyer). Just where do Jean and Charles meet? On an ocean liner. On her maiden voyage. And guess what? The ship hits an iceberg.

And I love Terminator. But have you ever sat through the credits and seen the acknowledgement to Harlan Ellison? Do you know why? Mr. Ellison filed a suit that complained that elements of the film were sourced from two episodes of The Outer Limits that Mr. Ellison wrote, “Soldier,” and “Demon with a Glass Hand.” Hemdale, Terminator’s production company, and Orion Pictures, its distributor, settled out of court with Mr. Ellison. Part of the settlement included that film credit.

You’d have to ask Bob Ingersoll, who writes The Law Is An Ass column here at ComicMix, about this, but it’s always indicated some degree of guilt to me. Meaning that it’s not worth the hassle and the mucho dinero and time to the defendant to fight a charge that contains enough truth in it that the defendant could conceivably lose.

I wouldn’t do it.

I’d give the money and run.

Wouldn’t you?

*Mike Nesmith of The Monkees wrote “Different Drum.”

•     •     •     •     •

As I filed this week’s column, I heard about the passing of James Garner, 86, on Saturday, July 19, 2014. Though perhaps best known as gambler Brett Maverick and cantankerous private detective Jim Rockford on the eponymous television shows, my favorite Garner roles were U.S. Army Major Jeff Pike in 36 Hours, Lt. Bob “The Scrounger” Hendley in The Great Escape, and King Marchand in Victor Victoria. He will be missed.

James Garner

 

The Point Radio: OUTLANDER Is Coming – Soon!

For OUTLANDER fans, the wait is almost over. The mega big book series hits the Starz Network in just a couple of weeks (with a sneak preview on August 2nd). Producer Ronald Moore and author Diana Gabaldon talk about the road from book to camera. Plus actor Jay Hernandez, from the Fox summer hit GANG RELATED, talks about making good choices in acting roles and Marvel revives Tony Stark’s ego.

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