Tagged: Smallville

Marc Alan Fishman: Whedon’s S.H.I.E.L.D. Has Already Been Canceled!

OK, no it hasn’t. But I bet I sure got your attention. Let’s have a quiet chat here, nerds, shall we?

Joss Whedon, Emperor of the Nerds, has ascended to the top of the mountain in Hollywood. Who knew all it took was a couple billion bucks behind the largest franchise film in history to get there? With that being said, Disney / ABC / Marvel has officially dropped the proverbial “dump-truck of money” at Joss’ gilded doorstep. And with it comes his triumphant return to television. And every geek in America (and parts of Europe and Asia, I suppose) holds its breath in anticipation.

The S.H.I.E.L.D show, as we’ve gleaned from what few words have graced us from St. Serenity, will take place in the Marvel Movieverse, but will not be sequel to The Avengers. Aside from that? Well, there’s not much else being said. So what are we to do? Speculate of course! Consider this my open air wish list for the show itself. What it could be, and what it shouldn’t.

First and foremost? I want continuity. I want the show to play in not just New York. I want weekends in Wakanda, layovers in Latveria, as well as trysts in the Triskelion. Marvel has a rich tapestry to explore, and a series that gets too many kicks in a single environment ends up becoming predictable. I’d like to think of the helicarrier as our Serenity, and the 616 provides us a new and cool place to explore every week.

And while we’re on that topic, who, prey-tell, should be doing the exploring? If I had my way, I’d free Colbie Smulders from How I Met Your Mother (which I truly love) in lieu of a permanent station as the show anchor. Whedon is known for his strong portrayal of female characters. Sadly, the movie was too pumped full of testosterone to really have much for Maria Hill or Black Widow to do beyond get a little scuffed, and pouty. I say play to your strengths, Master Joss. Maria Hill would not only be recognizable to the masses, but she (Ms. Smulders) has the depth and chops to carry a show on her shoulders with ease. And beside her? Well, I want all the S.H.I.E.L.D. stalwarts. Dust off Falcon, Quartermaine, and the offspring of Dum Dum Dugan (since I believe he was in the Cap movie and is quite not-amongst-the-living).

And what good guy is good without a bad guy to combat? Marvel’s bench is deep with cool villains perfect for the silver screen. Obviously no spy-based show in the 616 would be worth its’ salt without the perfunctory associations of ne’er-do-wells: Hydra, AIM, the Hand, etc. Heck, bonus points if they incorporate “The Ten Rings” from the Iron Man franchise. But aside from the machinations of large criminal organizations comes a bevvy of singular baddies that S.H.I.E.L.D. could be responsible for removing from the picture. Who here wouldn’t giggle a little if they saw the Purple Man, Baron Zemo, or dare I suggest the Hood making their way onto the teevees? No one, that’s who.

And would it be too much to ask for an occasional cameo? Yes, we know that all the Avengers are going to have full dance cards for a while. But nothing, and I mean nothing keeps fans (casual and crazy) coming back for more than the off chance the real Dr. Banner, Dr. Stark, or Captain America shows up to shoot the breeze. And if not for our “actual” movie stars, maybe a secondary cameo from Dr. Selvig, General Ross, or Agent Coul – err… never mind. The point remains the same. After five-plus feeder movies? There’s a metric ton of characters in the toybox that will help keep the show fresh.

And if I have only one wish fulfilled for this show-to-be… it’s all in the presentation. Smallville started strong, but quickly degraded into predictable schlock. The tendency for all TV (dramas and sci-fi shows alike) is to become machines of procedure. S.H.I.E.L.D. can’t bode well if it quickly becomes “case of the week.” Same could be said if it goes the direction of Lost or Heroes… and becomes obsessed with serialization. The key is, was, and will always be balance. Have an overarching storyline peppered with great single episodes to chew on. With an ensemble cast in place, this will all fall in line.

Ultimately, Whedon’s return to the medium that has raised him up as much as it’s let him down stands to be a great reckoning for our king-nerd. Where Firefly and Dollhouse were quickly dispatched due to poor schedule placements and too-small-of-a-fanbase-to-keep-it-on-the-air, S.H.I.E.L.D. stands the most promise to succeed if only for it’s parent franchise feeding the masses now hungry for more Marvel. You know, all those people who loved the movie(s) but were way too afraid of going to a comic shop to read about their new favorite characters. So long as the show can walk the line between “cool spy adventures” and “snarky fan-service”, and Marvel backs the show up with continually successful movies… the sky is the limit. And in that sky? A gleaming CGI set for the Triskelion.

Marc Alan Fishman and fellow ComicMixers Emily S. Whitten, Mike Gold, Glenn Hauman and Adriane Nash will be at the Baltimore Comic-Con today and tomorrow, mostly hanging around his Unshaven Comics booths, selling his wares to the unwary, and screaming obscenities at nearby Yankees fans. Drop by and say hello.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander and George Bernard Shaw, Shakespeare, Del Close, and Stan Lee.


Michael McKean voices egomaniacal Arkham Asylum psychiatrist Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1

Michael McKean just can’t stay away from the fanboy realm.

The versatile star of film, television and stage continues to deviate from his mainstream roles to appear in all forms of super hero entertainment, this time lending his voice to the egomaniacal Dr. Bartholomew Wolper in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

Frank Miller’s landmark graphic novel, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, is the next entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies. The film arrives September 25, 2012 from Warner Home Video as a Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD, On Demand and for Download.

McKean is a key member of a voice cast that features Peter Weller (RoboCop) as Bruce Wayne/Batman, David Selby (The Social Network, Dark Shadows) as Commissioner Gordon, Ariel Winter (Modern Family) as Carrie/Robin, and Wade Williams (Prison Break) as Harvey Dent/Two-Face.

McKean is best known for his portrayal of David St. Hubbins in This Is Spinal Tap, a role he’s been perpetuating along with his bandmates for more than a quarter of a century. McKean actually is a talented musician – he’s quite handy with a harmonica, guitar or keyboard. His honor role of movie credits include Best in Show, 1941, Planes, Trains & Automobiles and A Mighty Wind.

McKean initially drew the public’s adoration as the first half of the inimitable duo of Lenny and Squiggy on the 1970s favorite, Laverne & Shirley. He served as the self-centered, sex-driven boss Gibby on one of HBO’s first original sitcoms, Dream On; and he was a member of the core cast on Saturday Night Live from 1994-1995. McKean’s

prime time appearances number in the dozens on series like Friends, Curb Youth Enthusiasm, Law & Order (two different characters, eight years apart) and The X-Files.

Even within those roles, McKean found his way into fanboy fun – playing Perry White during a 1995 SNL. He would revisit the role six years later on Smallville. In fact, McKean is one of only seven actors to appear in both Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Smallville – and the only one to also give voice to a character in a DC Universe Animated Original Movie.

McKean’s been to the Batcave before, too. The New York native voiced the 1950s Joker and a Mutant in the “Legends of the Dark Knight” episode of The New Batman Adventures, as well as voicing Sneak Peek for Batman Beyond. For Justice League, he voiced The Sportsman.

The DC Lineage dips into his personal life, as well. McKean is married to actress Annette O’Toole, who has the distinction of playing Lana Lang opposite Christopher Reeve in Superman III, and as Martha Kent for 10 years of Smallville.

McKean obliged us with a few minutes to chat about his latest animated role, and a few other subjects near and dear to fanboy hearts. Take a read …

QUESTION: How did you come to think of Arkham Asylum psychiatrist Dr. Bartholomew Wolper?

MICHAEL MCKEAN: Dr. Wolper is a very, very good shrink … if you ask him. He’s a guy who likes the sound of his own voice; he finds his ego very soothing, even though it seems a little ponderous from the outside. But he is convinced of his own genius, and definitely convinced that these poor, twisted souls who have been entrusted to his care are redeemable because he knows who the real bad guy is.

QUESTION: And that “bad guy” is?

MCKEAN: Wolper thinks that Batman is a social disease. He thinks that it is, in fact, Batman’s ego that is driving the crime wave in Gotham City. And he sets out to prove it. I don’t think he actually makes the case, but you can’t tell him that (laughs) … or anything else, for that matter.

QUESTION: How did you approach playing this character?

MCKEAN: My first impulse was Dr. Phil, but it didn’t work – it was too folksy. I think that a man whose ego is such a construct that it supersedes everything else around him, that’s kind of an interesting character to portray. There are some great examples in history. And I think a man who plays God – especially when it concerns human intelligence, human psyche, human emotions – he’s kind of like a prestidigitator. He’s the expert in the room, and when he tells you something is so, he expects you to believe it. And it’s only when he comes right up against the real world that it all falls apart.

QUESTION: In addition to acting, you also direct. And you’ve worked with Andrea Romano on a number of projects. What makes Andrea so good at what she does?

MCKEAN: Andrea Romano has a kind of a soothing, friendly personality, which of course masks a tyrant (laughs). Kidding, kidding. I think she’s an amazing talent and I trust her implicitly. Often if I’m directing, I’ll say, “Look, I won’t give you a line reading, but” and then I’ll try to make my case and get you to say what you’re supposed to say. As an actor, I actually ask Andrea for a line reading, because she knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s been doing it a long time, and she’s the best in the business. So I utterly respect her taste and opinion. And she’s also a great cheerleader – there’s never a time when I think “Geez, I don’t know what I’m doing here.” Even if I don’t know what I’m doing, she always convinces me that I do … and then she sets me straight (laughs). It’s kind of brilliant.

QUESTION: Does being part of a Batman film have any personal significance for you?

MCKEAN: When I was a kid, I adored the Bob Kane’s 1950s Batman. I liked the Superman comics and Justice League and Flash and the Atom – nobody does The Atom anymore, and that was a cool super hero – but I did love Batman. I loved the fact that they always found a way to stage the climactic scenes in a warehouse of gigantic toys, or huge oversized stuffed animals. And even as a kid, I sort of knew, “Well, (Kane) is sort of bored. He wants to draw something new other than just a street corner and a couple of guys fisting it out.” So I was a big comic book fan, and I loved the DC stuff.

When I went to college, the ABC series began airing. I was at Carnegie Mellon and I’ll never forget that everyone was looking forward to Batman and it was going to be the best thing ever. In those days, there was only one or two TV sets in the entire dorm. So we went down to the common room at McGill Hall and the show came on – and the minute the “pows” and “bams” and sound effects came on screen, the whole place went insane. Now these were all young men of ages 17 to 23, but suddenly we were all kids again. It was phenomenal. So it is kind of nice to revisit that (memory) by being in this film.

I also had the honor of playing the Joker in one of Mr. Timm’s episodes. Mark Hamill was doing the voice at the time, but they had a flashback to the 1950s, so I got to play the Joker in one episode. That was pretty exciting, too. And now it’s nice to be in a full-scale, class production like this.

QUESTION: With all your years of comic book reading, and your interest in the super hero realm, do you have a character you’d most like to play or voice?

MCKEAN: Comics actually taught me how to read. From the age of 3 or 4, my older sister would help me along with my reading lessons, telling me how to sound out words. Then I’d sit with my comics and really develop my reading. I remember that as I was reading comics, I had voices in my head for the characters. But I honestly don’t think I have one that I’d really want to take on. Maybe Bizarro Superman. That’d be fun to do.

QUESTION: You’ve carved quite the resume of film, TV and stage performances, and yet you find time for a lot of animation voiceovers. For you, is that additional work … or working fun?

MCKEAN: It is an awful lot of fun. The only time I don’t like voiceover stuff is if I have a ton of ADR work to do. I did a film called Short Circuit II, where I had a lot of scenes with a robot. And it was a real robot – it was operated off screen, but it really was a mechanical man. And, of course, they had the motors going at all times, Every move the robot made, there would be a noise with that movement. So every scene I had with this damn robot, which was about half the film, I had to loop everything. And that drives me crazy. But when you’re working with people like Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche – I did a bunch of Animaniacs and a couple of Pinky & the Brain episodes – those guys make it such a great party atmosphere. They’re so funny and so smart – just amazing people to work with. That’s the best part of the job.

QUESTION: With so many memorable roles in your lengthy list of credits, what do people stop and ask you about the most?

MCKEAN: I guess Spinal Tap, just because we keep coming back. We made the movie 25 years ago and occasionally we “tour” and make TV appearances and put out product. So people know me from that. Occasionally somebody will come up and say “You’re Gibby from Dream On,” not very often, but sometimes. Laverne and Shirley – not so much. That’s a long time ago, and we’ve all changed (laughs). And, of course, the last few pictures I made with Chris Guest. People love Best in Show. People always say the same thing to me about that film – they say, “You know, you and your boyfriend had the best relationship of all the couples in the film.” And they’re so totally right (laughs). We were made for each other. So that’s a lot of fun, too.

QUESTION: Dr. Wolper is actually featured in both Part 1 and Part 2 of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Can you give us a little teaser of what to expect in the second half of the story?

MCKEAN: The Joker is kind of Dr. Wolper’s pet patient. He is the most irredeemable, as far as society is concerned, which Dr. Wolper takes as a challenge. He’s thrilled and delighted when he sees the Joker making such progress, and he thinks that he’s done so well that the next step is to bring him out into the public to kind of show off his own work. It doesn’t go well.

REVIEW: Glee the Complete Third Season

glee-season-3-b_glee_bd_ssn3_spine_boxshot_jp01_rgb-300x400-2757563The greatest pitfall television series featuring high school cast members has is that the cast is already older when the series begins and they age out rapidly. Smallville stopped setting stories in the high school because the cast looked ridiculous on the sets. Confronting the inevitable graduation challenges the producers to find tortured ways to keep the cast intact after the caps and gowns are put away. Even Buffy the Vampire Slayer suffered from this challenge so it is refreshing to see Glee take graduation head on in the third season of the Fox series.

Glee the Complete Third Season came out on DVD last week and seeing it without the weeks-long breaks between cycles, allows you to see how they handled the coming graduation and choices the teens are being asked to make. While the series has never really focused on the kids’ academics, there was almost zero interest in ACTs or college visits, so it was always in the ether but never the focal point of the stories. Instead, it was all about getting to Nationals in New York and succeeding. The season opened with the need for fresh members thanks to a rival Glee Club set up by Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel) while Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) ran for Congress on an anti-arts platform.

Clearly, the producers had no real idea of where to take the characters as motivations and the status quo changed, twisting them beyond recognizabilty. The most ill-served may have been Quinn (Dianna Agron) who started off trying to steal back her baby, given to Shelby for adoption,  then embracing the final year of high school until her driving accident (don’t text and drive) and recovery. Somewhere along the line, this sympathetic character, who in season two recognized she was a small town girl stuck in Ohio, gained 50 IQ points and got into Yale and was Ivy League bound. Huh? The best teen villain has become a hero. All the edges to characters are gone, from Puck (Mark Salling) to the divas Mercedes (Amber Riley), robbing the students of interesting character variety. Santana (Naya Rivera) was also softened although her coming out as a lesbian and rising as a performer were among the season’s highlights.

Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) and Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), the romantic couple at the center of the storm, decided to get married and their arc dealt with that reality and the choices each need make for themselves and each other. This rang far more true than the disastrous marriage between Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) and Cooter Menkins (Eric Bruskotter), which formed a mini-arc in the final third of the season.

While each of the 22 episodes is entertaining and often heartfelt, as a season-long arc for the faculty and students it’s a mess and by now Ryan Murphy should have a very clear idea of who they are and where these characters are going. Instead, he seems to have lost any sense of edge in Sylvester, giving her instead a rival in Roz Washington (NeNe Leakes). Even the show’s most intriguing character, Burt Hummel (Mike O’Malley), somehow found himself running for Congress and winning, stealing him from Kurt (Chris Colfer), just as his son’s dreams of going to NYADA are crushed.

Musically, the show remains strong, aided by the welcome addition of Darren Criss’ Blaine to the New Directions. Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet) is also back after a brief contract issue. Some of the winners of the reality series, The Glee Project, wind up added to the cast but are little more than hangers-on with little learned about them and rarely given a showcase. The quest for a championship takes a backseat to the fall musical, West Side Story, which featured some terrific reimaginings of the classic numbers.

In the finale, eight of the cast graduate and turnover in the New Directions will fuel the fourth season as it begins in a few weeks. Most of the graduates will continue to appear so the ensemble swells which is not always a good idea.

The four disc set looks amazing and of course sounds terrific but we’ve come to expect that from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. A neat feature to the set is that the menus will help you keep track as you work your way through the season, remembering where you are.

As usual, the extras are heavy on the music, the show’s hallmark. We get more from the Glee Music Jukebox, although you get clips and not the full songs that were edited to air. Some of the non-musical bits include “Glee Under the Stars” (7:45), a kickoff event at Santa Monica High School. “Glee Give a Note” (7:46) shows stars Jayma Mays and Jones present Culver City Middle School a check for $10,000 for arts education.

You can enjoy some extended and deleted scenes throughout the discs. The highlight here is a Sue Sylvester flashback that should have found its way on air. “Glee Swap: Behind the Scenes of ‘Props'” (5:41) is a nice look at the fun body-swapping episode. “Meet the Newbies” (13:20) spends more time with the new cast members than the series seemed to. “Saying Goodbye” (15:19) is a good look at the emotional toll the finale took on one and all. Lynch’s acerbic Sylvester is found on “Ask Sue: World Domination Blog” (6:07) and “Return of Sue’s Quips” (2:58).

One can hope that the freshened cast will ignite some greater dramatic consistency to match its musical excellence. For now, we have this set which is maddeningly enjoyable while being frustratingly inconsistent.

The Point Radio: Erica Durance Swoops In To SAVING HOPE

Casting off the image of Lois Lane, Erica Durance is back on TV with NBC’s new drama, SAVING HOPE. She talks about the things that are and aren’t similar to her life in Smallville, plus Venom & Spider-Man will cross over in the movies and *BOOM* – up go comic sales in a big way.

The Point Radio is on the air right now – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or mobile device– and please check us out on Facebook right here & toss us a “like” or follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Marc Alan Fishman: Hulk Smash Puny TeeVee

This past weekend I decided to place my vote (that’s “Dollar Bills” to DC’s Bob Wayne) for The Avengers for a second time. I did it first and foremost to teach Liam Neeson a lesson: If you don’t know the movie adaptation of a board game is a bad idea, maybe you need a new agent. Second to that, I personally wanted to see the film again to revel in Mark Ruffalo’s performance as the Hulk. If there were to be a single break-out star (pun intended) of the film, Bruce Banner certainly was it. For many who saw The Avengers, this is a shared sentiment. So, this begs us to ask the dudes at the House of Mouse… What’s next for the spinach-hued smasher?

If we are to believe the internet (and when has that ever led us down the wrong path?), The Hulk will next appear on the small screen via ABC. The network is pursuing a reboot of the once powerful series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferigno. If this is to be true… I throw myself on the mercy of Mickey. Don’t do it.

Simply put? The Hulk begs for bigger and better treatment. The old series did last five seasons, and featured a few TV movies (co-starring Daredevil and Thor no less!), but this was long before the days of CGI. Long before the Hulk decimated Harlem. Or flew into the upper atmosphere on the nose of a fighter jet. Not that the recent movie Hulks have been perfect mind you, but they put poor old Lou out to pasture pretty quickly when it comes to conveying the size and power of the Incredible Hulk.

If Marvel/ABC ponies up enough dough to downsize the Hulk to the boob tube, it would certainly provide the interest of advertisers and the public at large to watch. But even with an HBO budget for a series, could today’s special effect houses handle the behemoth? In a word… no.

The fluidity of the Hulk within the Avengers was, as many fans agree, the first time the character didn’t feel entirely too fake to enjoy. Ang Lee’s monstrosity lumbered around the fabricated sets like a big baby throwing a tantrum. Louis Leterrier’s Hulk (who obviously did way more cardio than Ruffalo’s) fared better, but was more Max Headroom than Golum by comparison to the most recent iteration. While CGI and effect houses have certainly improved their efforts on TV, do yourself a favor: Watch the best episode of Heroes, Smallville, or Sharktopus Vs. Crocasaurus. Then go back and watch the Avengers. I’ll wait for you. Go on. Done? Now tell me that the scene-eating Hulk would be done any justice on a fraction of the budget that went into creating him on the big screen.

Don’t get me wrong, kiddos. For the chance to see Mark Ruffalo take the character on in a weekly serial, I’d be DVR’ing that series faster than Jeph Loeb could crap out a comic book. And while a TV show would obviously focus on Banner more than the titular titan, when it would come time to Hulk out, we’d get only a poor representation of what we know the character could be. And if they were to regress back to hiring a bodybuilder to smash cardboard walls? Well, who amongst us would not scoff as we wrote anonymous hatespew across the message boards?

If we can agree that Ruffalo’s Banner is following the Incredible Hulk movie of 2008, then we must know that there was an amazing set-up left for the sequel. Samuel Sterns was shown at the end of the film getting dosed by Banner’s blood/chemical sludge. His head began to throb and pulsate, and a creepy smile crawls across his face. Obviously meant as a wink and a nudge to the Leader, one of the Hulk’s better villains. With Ruffalo’s Banner perfectly balancing the line of intelligence and pent-up rage, only the movie screen can truly do the character justice in a battle with another gamma irradiated foe. Relegated to a lesser medium (in terms of only the effect work mind you), the Incredible Hulk might only come across the Credible Hulk.

I say make S.H.I.E.L.D. the TV show, and let Hulk continue to smash the box office.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


Emily S. Whitten: Getting Started in the Comics Industry

I love comics. I love reading them, thinking about them, discussing them, and even critiquing them. I also love writing them, something I’ve discovered in the last couple of years as I started writing a series of webcomics about characters in upcoming comic book-related movies, which were then published on movie news websites like MTV Splash Page and ReelzChannel. Since that time, I’ve realized that I’d really like to keep writing comics, including, hopefully someday soon, full issues for a major company, to be seen by all the worrrrrrld [insert maniacal laugh here].

That may seem like a big leap, but it could happen. After all, most of the people who are or have been involved in professional comics started out just as I did: as ridiculously huge fans of the medium and the characters and stories. I mean, sure, maybe a few here or there got pulled into a job and then discovered they liked it, but for the most part, the people making comics do it because they were fans who, basically, landed their dream jobs through expressing their love of or thoughts on comics.

There are some great public examples of this amongst the current Big Names in comics. They include Geoff Johns, who wrote in to DC Comics as a kid with suggestions for the Superboy storyline. There’s also Kevin Smith, whose lifelong comics fandom landed him a number of roles in comics-writing after he’d already made a name for himself with movies (and he also owns Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, the first comic book store I ever went to, being a Jersey gal). There’s also Gail Simone, who came to the attention of comics publishers through her website Women in Refrigerators, which critiqued the treatment of female characters in comics, and has since written a weekly column on Comic Book Resources and a lot of great comics about both male and female characters, including well-received stints on the all-female group comic Birds of Prey. (I mention this comic in particular because I think it’s great that after Simone expressed her opinion on a certain issue in comics, she had the opportunity to address that issue by writing a number of female characters.) And let’s not forget Mark Waid, whose studio tour on Comic Book Resources reveals just how much of a fan collector he is, as well as giving us this quote about a three-page sequence from Flash #0 that hangs on his wall: “[it’s] the scene where the adult Wally West meets his ten-year-old self and tells the boy that no matter how rotten his young life seems or how hard the days are to get through, when he grows up, every wish he’s ever wished for will come true. It’s hands-down my favorite sequence I have ever written because – and I say this in all sincerity – I often dream about being able to travel back in time and tell young Mark Waid that same thing.”


Of course, compared to these greats and all of their former-fan-now-professional companions, including my esteemed fellow columnists at ComicMix, I wouldn’t say I’ve had too much of a “career in comics” to date. But like, I suspect, at least a few big names today, I have gone from being “just a fan” to being much closer to where I’d like to be in the industry, and have high hopes of continuing along that trajectory in the future. I know that a lot of other fans have similar hopes. So I thought I’d take a couple of minutes to look back at my own experience with comics so far and see how it’s progressed.

As a kid I hadn’t read many comics, and didn’t even know there were such things as “comic book stores” devoted to (gasp) just that medium. There were a few comics in the house that belonged to my oldest sister – the ones I remember being some old collections of Archie and some individual issues of Richie Rich – and I did read those few books countless times, and remember being enamored of both the funny and entertaining stories and the way the illustrations complimented and enhanced them. But I didn’t lack for reading materials, with an English teacher for a mom and two older sisters who loved books, so I never went looking for more comics.

Television, however, was a different matter. You didn’t have to go out and find television shows – they came to you! So I grew up on a healthy mix of cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, ThunderCats, X-Men: The Animated Series (I still love the theme song!), DuckTales and Darkwing Duck, Batman: The Animated Series, and countless others, most of which either started as or ran concurrently with comic books (although I didn’t know it at the time). I also, thanks to my dad, got a healthy dose from an early age of adventure and comics-related shows and movies he loved, including Sky King, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, and the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Fast forward a few years, and I was addicted to Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (and even later, I got hooked on Smallville. Apparently I can’t resist on-screen Clark Kent). So comics have always been a part of my life, and I’ve always been a fan, but I didn’t realize it.

In 2008, that all changed. Thanks to an ex who suggested we go to the local comic book store for Free Comic Book Day, I started getting interested in collecting paper comics. On that fateful day he recommended a character that “I think you’ll like,” i.e. Deadpool; and after flipping through a couple of issues, I was completely hooked. In the following month I acquired and read all the Deadpool books I could find (as well as a slew of other comics, both new and old), and, in a joking conversation with the ex in which I was pretending to answer questions as Deadpool, I think I said something like, “wouldn’t it be funny if Deadpool was online answering questions?” and he said, “You should totally do that,” and thus, the first entry of Ask Deadpool was born. I made up the first few questions myself; and by the next day, people were writing in. I’ve now been regularly answering questions online as Deadpool for four years.

I’ve never had much of an interest in writing fanfiction generally, but with comics, it feels a little different. In a strange way, the comics industry could be looked at as the ultimate repository for quality fanfic (except that as it’s published, it becomes canon). There are so many professionals that got their start playing in sandboxes that were built by previous professionals that writing a comic book character non-professionally feels less like fanfic and more like practicing to join the fun. Sure, my Ask Deadpool writing is still fanfic (until I take over Deadpool at Marvel and write it for the next 20 years, mwahahaaaaa), but it’s different than someone writing about a closed universe such as, say, the Harry Potter series. Not only is writing comics fanfic a great way to practice writing previously published characters’ voices, but there’s actually the chance that all that practice might someday be put to use, professionally.

And there’s also the chance that in writing about something you love, you will accidentally become known as a gigantic Deadpool fan to everyone you know and many people you don’t, which will result in a friend getting a cool Deadpool print signed to you by one of the best inkers in the business (hey-oh, Nathan Massengill!), and you will be so excited about it that you will get it framed, and send a thank you email and photo of the framed print to the inker, and subsequently become friends with the inker, who incidentally convinces you to go to a comic con and introduces you to a bunch of other cool people in comics, and soon other fans and all these people who actually work in comics will know you as the biggest Deadpool fan ever, and this turns out to be a pretty good thing.

Because then you will turn out to be “the most passionate Deadpool fan” that a movie news site has encountered, and will be asked to write a fan article about Deadpool for them, at the same time that you just so happened to have started writing comic strip scripts using Deadpool and other characters to commentate on current pop-culture news, and have found another fan who’s a great artist and has agreed to draw the comics, and it turns out that you’ve already written a script that exactly fits the topic of the article. And the news site likes it, and want to see more.

That’s how I ended up having webcomics published on popular movie news websites. (Although it’s also important to know your own value and not be afraid to pitch something. My Avengers three-part series ran on MTV Splash Page because I actually pitched it to the editor, rather than him finding me.) The same passion for comics and network of people and happenstances has also led to me meeting the folks here at ComicMix and being invited to write a weekly column; and to me meeting another writer who has already had several comic scripts published professionally, and with whom I am now plotting out the greatest comic series ever created (well we think so, anyway). And although I can’t predict the future, I have high hopes that for me, it will hold an abundance of work in comics.

The interesting thing here is, until recently I didn’t really sit down and think to myself, “hey, maybe I could actually write comics. Like, professionally.” Instead, I was just having fun with something I enjoy, and expressing a passion for characters and a medium I’ve come to love. As it turns out (I think, and evidence suggests), this is a pretty good way to get started in comics, and the more I think about what I’d like to write in comics, the more ideas I have. Along with the greatest comic series ever created, I’d love to write Deadpool for Marvel someday (after much more practice, perhaps!) and I’ve got a Superman story in my head that I think would knock people’s socks off. And that’s just what’s percolating in my brain right now. But really, whatever happens in my future, I’m overjoyed that I am where I am today, writing about a medium I love and interacting with people who keep me inspired, and plan to continue to write columns, and webcomics, and anything else people will let me write professionally, for as long as I can. And maybe, if you’re a passionate fan like me, you can do that too! Servo Lectio!

Wednesday Morning: Mike Gold Covers Covers


Smallville star Michael Rosenbaum reprises role of Flash for JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM

flash-mirrormaster-300x168-6903310Michael Rosenbaum makes his triumphant return as the beloved voice of The Flash in JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM, the next entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movies. The film will be available everywhere on Tuesday.

Rosenbaum brought his own playful, gregarious, sometimes sarcastic personality to Flash for the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated television series, setting the standard as the voice behind the “fastest man alive.” Rosenbaum is one of eight actors returning to their original animated voice from the Justice League series.

Fanboy crowds also hold Rosenbaum in high esteem for his impressive performance as Lex Luthor for seven seasons of Smallville. He’ll soon be seen opposite Bradley Cooper and Kristen Bell in ‘Outrun,” and he’s currently in production on “Old Days,” a triple threat for Rosenbaum as he is writer, director and star of the film

Justice League: Doom finds Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Cyborg and Batman on their heels when a team of super villains discover and implement the Dark Knight’s “contingency plans” for stopping any rogue Justice League member. The story is inspired by Mark Waid and Howard Porter’s much-heralded JLA: Tower of Babel.

Produced by Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation, the all-new Justice League: Doom arrives today from Warner Home Video as a Blu-Ray™ Combo Pack and DVD, On Demand and for Download. Both the Blu-Ray™ Combo Pack and DVD will include an UltraViiolet™ Digital Copy.

Any interview with Rosenbaum is well worth the price of admission, as you just don’t know which direction the answer might come from. (more…)

REVIEW: Mad Season One, Part Two

Mad Magazine worked in the 1950s when it debuted because it was subversive in its own way. At a time when conformity was the ideal, Mad went out of its way to skewer that very conformity, poking at the pop culture icons of the day, from its comic book brethren to movies and the nascent field of television. But it was smart humor, written and illustrated by some of the greatest talents working in the field. Its shift to black and white magazine was a desperate move at the time, avoiding the coming of the Comics Code Authority, but it also let the magazine grow in scope and influence. Being skewered by Mad’s usual gang of idiots was a badge of honor, usually proudly worn.

With time, the magazine became stuck in a pattern while the world around it changed and only offers up occasional bursts of brilliance these days. Still, it remains a cultural touchstone and spawned a long-running late-night sketch show that bore little resemblance to the magazine. More successful was the animated version of Mad, produced by Warner Bros. Animation for its sister division, Cartoon Network. Made up of eleven minute shorts, it has relied heavily on only parody since its September 2010 debut. Other carryovers from the magazine have included Spy vs. Spy and some of Don Martin’s cartoon panels coming to life.

The pedigree here comes from executive producer Sam Register, who has normally handled the more action-oriented fare; and Kevin Shinick (Robot Chicken) and Mark Marek (KaBlam!), far more accustomed to comedic stuff.

Recently, Warner Home Video released Mad Season One, Part Two, containing thirteen episodes of the show, which ran between February and June 2011. The parodies range from kid-oriented shows like Pokemon to older-oriented offerings including The Social Network (The Social Netjerk). Sometimes, the titles are funnier than the episodes themselves, especially Smallville: Turn Off The Clark. You wonder if some of the audience watching gets that Law & Ogre is Law & Order?

While the parodies tend to be smirk inducing to laugh out loud funny, they are only a small piece of what Mad is all about and it’s a shame that some of the mainstream social mores the magazine was brilliant at puncturing is totally absent here. There was an edge and bite to the mag at its best but all a new generation is learning is that everything they watch, read, and hear is ripe for parody. I think they knew that.

The quality of the animation is fine but the eleven minute structure needs to be more flexible so the jokes are made and we move on. Interstitials, like the Sergio Aragones margin pieces, would have been nice to have to connect everything.

The only bonus you get on the disc is a Mad digital comic which proves to be funnier than some of the installments themselves.

Private Practice star Tim Daly reprises role of Superman for JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM

superman-martian-manhunter-300x168-9062550The quintessential voice of the Man of Steel – primetime television star Tim Daly – once again returns to his original animated role of Superman in JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM, the next entry in the popular, ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movies.

Daly set the standard as the voice behind the world’s ultimate super hero for Superman: The Animated Series as well as in several animated movies and video games. While fanboys hail his vocal performance as their point of recognition, the Emmy nominated actor is known well throughout the world for his primetime television series roles, including eight seasons on Wings, an intense recurring role on The Sopranos, a memorable turn on HBO’s landmark mini-series From The Earth To The Moon, and his current ABC hit series, Private Practice.

Daly has joined the festivities surrounding the West Coast Premiere of JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM on Thursday, February 16 at The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. The actor will appear for red carpet interviews and take part in the panel discussion following the film – alongside his co-stars Phil Morris (Seinfeld, Smallville), Paul Blackthorne (The River), Oliva d’Abo (The Wonder Years) and Susan Eisenberg (Justice League, Justice League Unlimited). Also confirmed to attend is director Lauren Montgomery and dialogue/casting director Andrea Romano.

Warner Home Video will distribute JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM on Blu-Ray, DVD and for Download on February 28, 2012.

Daly took a few minutes to offer answers to some questions that haven’t been posed to him – lately.

QUESTION: What’s the crux of JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM from Superman’s perspective?

TIM DALY: Well, as usual, it’s all about saving the planet. But first, the Justice League has to save the Justice League. Batman disappoints his colleagues in the Justice League by having a plan to stop any rogue Justice League member, and by allowing those plans to be stolen. Superman understands Batman, though – he really has created these contingency plans for  a pretty noble reason.  He’s trying to protect the world by inserting some checks and balances into this system, realizing that the Justice League has an incredible amount of power, and he wants to make sure that they always use that power in a way that’s not destructive. (more…)

JOHN OSTRANDER: Ghost Rider – What Is Owed?

Denny O’Neil used to have a T-shirt that proclaimed “Growing old is not for sissies.” As I get older, the hard truth of that keeps coming back to me. Case in point.

Two days ago, there was an article here in ComicMix about Gary Friedrich who lost his case against Marvel about participation in the monies made from the movie (now movies) of Ghost Rider, which he created at Marvel. Among other reasons cited by the judge, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, was that Friedrich gave up his rights to the character when he signed checks that had, above the signature line, language requiring him to give up any rights to the character.

I’ve done that, too. You had no choice in the matter in those days. If you wanted to cash the check, you had to endorse it and you had to endorse it beneath the legal crap. There was no negotiation, there was no discussion. It was, to be blunt, coercion.

The name, Ghost Rider, had also already been used at Marvel as one of the Western characters they had – said character, again, being created by Gary Friedrich. Friedrich also had to sign a document giving up all rights – and why wouldn’t he? This was seven years before the first Superman film with Christopher Reeve showed up, six years before George Lucas made Star Wars and showed there was a ton of money to be made off of ancillary rights such as toys et al. You signed those documents because that’s what was necessary to get the work. No movies were being made, no toys were being made, there were no video games – the only money to be made was from the work itself. There was no indie market in those days where you could take your ideas. You made the deal that was there to be made.

The judge had to base her decision on what were the legal facts – and they said that Marvel owed Gary Friedrich nothing. Without Friedrich, however, the property doesn’t exist. From all reports, he’s not in good shape. He could use the money – even a taste.

What is he owed?

Injury to insult department. The judge has not only told Friedrich to stop saying he created Ghost Rider, he was ordered to pay Marvel seventeen grand in damages.

Friedrich owes Marvel $17,000.00!

He’s not the only freelancer in this position. Years ago, I saw Gene Colan and his wife at a convention and I steeled myself up to go say hello to someone I thought (and think) was one of the unique great talents in the industry. He was having eye troubles at the time (with which I would come to completely empathize) and he was, to be honest, a little angry and bitter. Like other old pros, he felt cast aside and forgotten by the industry and he warned me to make sure I had money in the bank or find something else I could do. I wish now I had taken his advice more strongly.

This is not to say there are not groups like the Hero Initiative out there who do tremendous work in helping people who have given to the industry but there are financial limits to what they can do. There is no equivalent to a union or a guild in this industry; if you even think of starting one, you’re gone. John Broome, fabled writer in the Silver Age, found that out.

What is owed to any of those who built a company, built this industry, and then got left behind?

I won’t pretend; I’m more or less in that boat and it scares me. I’m luckier than some; with Amanda Waller, who I created, I’ll see some participation for her use in the Green Lantern movie, just as I did for her use in Smallville and Justice League Unlimited. I think that’s fair and, fortunately, legally binding. Thank you, Paul Levitz.

But what about others, like Gary Friedrich, who worked before there was any such notion? There is, as always, a wide distance between what’s legal and what’s right.

What is owed to those who came before, who did the work on which later, more lucrative, works are built? The contracts, the law, says nothing is owed.

Does that seem right to you?

It doesn’t to me.

If you agree, tell Marvel, tell their parent company, Disney, that they owe the creator something, contract or no contract. Fans can do something and it can be effective. Gary Friedrich isn’t one of the big, great names in comics. But he created Ghost Rider and, legally or not, they owe him.

It’s what’s right.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell