I’m a sucker for travel posters, especially at the end of summer. In spring I always plan more summer trips than we can possibly fit in. Around the time when Kohl’s and Target’s back-to-school ads start showing up, I get that “we didn’t do enough” pang of regret.
That’s probably while I was drawn to IDW’s Star Trek: Year Five variant cover by artist J.J. Lendel. It’s brilliantly executed and evocative of one of those classic travel posters.
This Star Trek series tells the story of the original crew’s missions during the “unchronicled” final year of the original mission. This issue brings back some favorite characters, and that’s always half the fun with revisiting TOS, isn’t it?
Batman versus the Predator? It happened. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” remade by kids? It happened. For years, people have been making home movies, sometimes even using properties that they may not own, but love… and creating new fans of their own, as well as more than their share of headaches for filmmakers and studios alike.
From John Hudgens, the award-winning director of “American Scary”, “Backyard Blockbusters” covers the history and influence of the fanfilm genre (going back to the 1920s!) as well as the copyright and fair use problems these films create. And now, if you’ve got Amazon Prime, you can view Backyard Blockusters for free as of today!
Much to my surprise, I really enjoy both Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville. I’ll wax on the latter first.
It’s hard to explain why I’m a Seth MacFarlane fan. Usually, I can only watch about 10 minutes of Family Guy — I like it, but after that my mind wanders in search of “plot.” That’s more than I can say for American Dad!, which bores me to tears, and The Cleveland Show, which I found to be insipid. Ted was hilarious, and I’m one of only two people I know who liked A Million Ways To Die in the West, the other being ComicMix’s own Martha Thomases with whom I saw the movie. And I’m certain I enjoyed it more than she did. MacFarlane executive produced Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which was so good I offered to throw Seth’s bail, should that become necessary.
I thought he was fine as host of the 2013 Academy Awards, but that show is so overwrought that most of the hosts look better by comparison. An aside: I doubt I will live long enough to see my Oscar host-of-choice get the gig, but I think Henry Rollins really could pull it off.
I realize The Orville confuses those viewers who thought the show was supposed to be a satire of Star Trek. This is understandable, as that’s how Fox promoted it. But what do you expect? Fox has had a problem with science-fiction ever since Firefly. In fact, The Orville is much more of a tribute to Trek, particularly the original series. Coincidentally, lots of Star Trek people are involved in Seth’s show.
Yes, the show is humorous, but it’s neither parody nor satire. Most of the humor comes from the characters, particularly the two bridge lieutenants who drive the ship. The captain, Mr. MacFarlane, used to be married to she-who-is-now-first-mate, played by Adrianne Palicki, which is why you won’t be seeing her on S.H.I.E.L.D. this season. Some one-liners are tossed between the two, but in no case do any of the gags get in the way of the story.
Speaking about the story, I think The Orville is closest to the spirit and the tenor of Star Trek The Original Series more than any of the hundreds of Trek shows that follows, updated to contemporary times and shorn of some of the more tedious Trek clichés. And with much better special effects.
A quick note about one of the cast members. It’s about time Penny Johnson Jerald got a part that was worthy of her exceptional talent. She has a résumé that would impress the most jaded critic, but I haven’t seen her have such a vital and impressive role since The Larry Sanders Show. And, yes, she did voice Amanda Waller in one of the DC/WB animated features… and she did a fine job playing Kasidy Yates Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
As for Star Trek: Discovery… it’s hard for me to think of a new teevee show that got off to such a rotten start. It was supposed to be the crown jewel of the new tollivison service “CBS All-Access.” I’m not sure why they thought they’d make a ton of money bringing Trekkers into their fold, but I’ll give that a pass as there are lots of ways to define “deficit financing.” However, the behind-the-scenes traumas getting Star Trek: Discovery out of dry-dock were so massive the program’s debut was delayed about nine months.
Worse still, the first two episodes were aired on the CBS network in order to seduce potential All-Access customers… and they sucked. The show doesn’t really become Star Trek: Discovery until the third episode when – minor spoiler alert – the star of the show Sonequa Martin-Green, playing Science Officer Michael Burnham, actually boards the U.S.S. Discovery. She’s been properly branded a traitor, so when Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) offers her a job that would keep her out of prison she seizes the opportunity. Burnham keeps on growing and getting more interesting with each passing episode – as does Captain Lorca. In fact, within the first half-dozen episodes Lorca, to me, has become the most interesting Starfleet captain in five of our decades.
Well written and well-acted, if you saw the first two episodes and walked away shaking your head, Star Trek: Discovery deserves a second chance. I’ll bet you think better of the show within two more episodes – and if you stick around to #7, you likely will be hooked.
I watch The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery back-to-back. I have yet to get a feeling of redundancy, and quite frankly the humorous asides in the former helps take some of the weight off of the latter, which, like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, can get very dark.
As for the contradictions with the hallowed Star Trek canon, I strongly recommend against fundamentalism so that you can enjoy a very good show.
Or, as William Shatner famously said, “Get a life.”
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.
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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.
Last week I talked about my opinions and ended with how I might talk about shipping this week, so I am! No, not that shipping. This shipping.
For those of you not in the know, when all those hip, ironic millennials are talking about how they’d “ship that” what they’re referring to is (mostly) romantic relationships between fictional characters. This is the sort of thing we’ve seen throughout history, and before the advent of the internet fans of soap operas are long-running romantic book series did the same thing just without the cool contemporary jargon.
People ship lots of things in those “will they or won’t they?” situations on TV shows. It’s gotten more attention in more geek centric fandoms like Harry Potter, Xena and Star Trek. It gets even more attention in queer geek circles involving same gender pairings as well as triads and other poly relationships. Kirk and Spock from Star Trek is a prominent and early example of pop culture shipping in queer geek fandom.
While shipping is often casually thrown around in fandoms, it sometimes leads to great debate. A recent example of that is with fans of the Supergirl TV show. Many who were shipping Kara and Lena were upset when the cast made jokes about that at SDCC earlier this summer. Last year a Steven Universe artist deleted her Twitter account after she was harassed by fans shipping Amethyst and Peridot. Lauren Zuke had shared art that seemed to support the Lapis and Peridot shippers which initiated the harassment.
There are more examples that exist outside of those two of (arguably) shipping gone wrong, but there are plenty of others and there will be plenty more. So what is a shipper to do? What is someone outside of that aspect of fandom do when things like this happen?
There are definitely a few different ways at looking at these sort of events. We should start by acknowledging that shipping is okay. Hell, it’s often encouraged and teased by people working on these different properties. We also have to understand that for many, LGBT+ representation has been next to nothing for most of these fans lives, including myself. While it’s getting better, it still has a ways to go. Many fans, particularly queer fans, use shipping to fantasize about the representation they’re starved for.
Ultimately, these are properties and franchised owned by corporations or at least owned by people that are not the fans who are shipping in question. Creators need the freedom to do what they would like when they can. It’s often why you like the particular property in the first place.
Fans like the ones in the Steven Universe example are not a majority; they’re a loud minority of fans. In the Supergirl example, people working on a show are not obligated to support your shipping of certain characters. Accusations that they are being anti-LGBT+ by doing so is a little off as there are already characters who are in the show.
Yes, they are side characters, and that’s a big part of the problem when we talk about representation and how much still needs to be done.
Creators and people behind different properties need to avoid alienating fans as well. One of the reasons they still get to do what they love is because of the fans. Upsetting fans isn’t necessarily a great model for continued success. Telling fans what to feel and how to enjoy your property isn’t always helpful either.
Intense fandom can be alienating to people too. I know more than a few people, including those in my fellow ComicMix columnist ranks, who aren’t opposed to things like Steven Universe but the rabid fans that pop up in those situations are what gets reported and it makes them want to avoid it. While I do love the show and think it’s important LGBT+ representation particularly for people a bit younger than me, I can’t say I don’t at least somewhat understand why someone would feel that way.
Shipping is A-OK in my book, and you should have at it. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel bad about it. However, if the people behind the property don’t agree with or support your ship, getting mad and attacking people on the internet won’t change that. They can’t make you change your mind or want something different though, so don’t worry about what they say; ship who you like!
Eaglemoss, a UK based fan-facing company, is best known for creating detailed replicas of Batmobiles, miniature starships from various incarnations of Star Trek and figurines from the mythologies of Marvel, DC Comics and the Walking Dead. They are all of high quality and lovingly rendered.
Each figure or vehicle they sell comes with a booklet developed by experts in each fan-focused field. So when you buy the miniature replica of the Flying Batcave (if you don’t know what this is you really need to find out fast!) you’ll also get a thorough, yet concise, history of the Flying Batcave.
Given the premium quality of these booklets, it makes sense that Eaglemoss would also be a mindful and creative publisher.
Their new Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection is premium quality in spades. Produced with IDW, this is the type of project (I almost typed the word ‘enterprise’ instead of ‘project’) that both long-time fans and casual collectors will respect and enjoy. Its a regularly published collection of hardcover Star Trek comics. But there’s an interesting wrinkle to it all.
Eaglemoss encourages fans to order the first volume at a discounted price: $4.95. Then fans can sign up for an ongoing program, as each month two more volumes are sent to their home. It costs about twenty bucks each month. (The monthly fee is $14.95 and shipping is $2.45 for each book.) If fans continue in the program, they will receive special gifts. But they make it easy so that fans can cancel at anytime.
It’s nice to get our reading delivered on a monthly schedule. Longtime comic fans understand the gleeful attraction of episodic storytelling. Modern fans might prefer reading trade paperback collections and binge watching entire seasons of TV shows. They may be less inclined to enjoy twice-a-month reading engagements. But It is interesting to note that there is a whole new type of fan who’s enjoying regular, episodic fiction. In fact, The New York Times ran a story on this very topic last week.
These are the voyages…
Each Eagelmoss hardcover showcases one long story from assembles several issues of various Star Trek comic incarnations. The first volumes seem to hop and skip amongst the many different Star Trek series; a little original series here, a little TNG there.
Of course, the success of each volume hinges on the stories chosen. IDW and Eaglemoss seem to be choosing wisely, selecting innovative stories by strong creators with good tales to tell.
For a fussy fan like me, it’s really important that the art is up to snuff. I have high standards for comic art. On a licensed property like Star Trek where the likenesses must be spot-on, it’s especially important.
Each volume is a hardcover book with glossy pages and meaty introductions. There’s a heft and an importance to it all.
Star Trek has been published by many comic publishers over the years. For this graphic novel reprint series, Eaglemoss is launching the series by showcasing IDW comics. In the near future, I’m really looking forward enjoying some early DC stories in this slick format. I’m also looking forward like to those Captain Pike adventures from Marvel’s “Paramount Comics” imprint. I missed them the first time around.
Comic on the Edge of Forever
The second Eaglemoss volume reprints IDW’s recent City on The Edge of Forever mini-series. It was a fantastic story that could only be told in Star Trek comics.
As you may know, one of the best-loved episodes of the original Star Trek series was Harlan Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever. But the televised version differed significantly from the teleplay that Ellison originally wrote. For almost 50 years, fans wondered “What if the television episode had been filmed as Ellison originally conceived it?”
The IDW team decided to do just that. They created a Star Trek series based on the original screenplay. The painted artwork by JK Woodward captured the actors’ 1960s likenesses with an urgent dynamism.
“Doing Harlan’s original City on the Edgeof Forever teleplay as a comic will forever be a highlight of anything I do in comics,” said IDW’s Chris Ryall, CCO and Editor-in-Chief. “Seeing Harlan get choked up, finally seeing his story come to visual life as he intended only made it sweeter, but this was one of those special projects, where all the talent involved, from Harlan on down to Scott and David Tipton adapting it and JK Woodward doing the best work of his career on those painted pages… all of that just made this something far beyond a typical licensed comic. I’m thrilled with the events that led up to this finally being able to happen after a half-century of it not even being a remote possibility and I’m even more happy with the finished book.”
The Just Dessert
At the end of each volume is a reprint from sixties Gold Key comics. They are essentially a back-up story, and each one brings so much to the party. It is kind of like when you’re in a restaurant devouring a dessert that you didn’t plan on ordering, but are so glad you did.
Starting in 1967, Gold Key was the first comics publisher to create Star Trek comics. It was so early on in the process, that it’s clear that they didn’t do their homework. They really weren’t familiar with the Star Trek TV show. Legend has it that when it all started, the writer and artist had not even watched a single episode. They based the comics on reference sheets supplied by the network.
But you know what? Each story is a joy to behold.
Dick Wood was the writer. He worked on so many comics over the years, from the Plastic Man to the golden age Daredevil to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Today, he is often remembered for his “unique” interjections, and he doesn’t disappoint in these Star Trek stories. In these adventures, you’ll find the Enterprise crew exclaiming:
Suffering Solar Showers!
Great Novas! (which is often stuttered as “Gr-Great Novas!”)
Was he purposefully trying to make list of “Things Star Trek characters would never really say”? We may never know the truth.
The vintage reprints also reinforce one important idea: Star Trek was very different from anything else on TV at that time. One can presume that Gold Key management said, “Oh, another one of those rocket ship shows. All we need is few laser guns, a space monster and we’re off the races.” It’s fascinating to see how these stories presume what they thought Star Trek would be in contrast to what it became.
These daft tales offer no continuity or consistency. On the other hand, each story can be enjoyed all on its own. For hardcore Star Trek fans, it’s a rare glimpse backward to understand what the general public thought of science fiction adventures before the innovative conventions of Star Trek become standard conventions.
And because they are so wacky, it’s nice that each volume of this Eaglemoss/IDW series reprints just one Gold Key story. I worry that reading more than one of these Gold Key stories at one time would cause fans brains to melt.
Way back when, coming attractions for TV shows were a thing. “Next week on…” was marketing hype that we’d eagerly gobble up. Star Trek’s original series routinely ended with just such a teaser, so it’s fitting that each volume in this graphic novel collection has a coming attractions page. These pages are fun, appropriate and gets readers to anticipating exactly which version of Trek will be featured in the new volume.
• • • • •
For more information on this, you can check it out here. And if you also get that Flying Batcave, let me know how you like it.
Vivek Tiwary has been my friend for more than 15 years. We met through mutual friends, and bonded initially over rock’n’roll and cancer. Immediately, I thought he was one of the coolest people I’d ever met. These are some of the things Vivek has done: Broadway producer (of A Raisin in the Sun, American Idiot, among others), a tech entrepreneur who used his music industry chops to help talent deal with the business, and co-founder of an amazing non-profit that, among other things, helped soothe my husband as he was dying.
You can imagine my surprise when I found out that he is also a huge comic book nerd.
We don’t have quite the same roots – he’s a Marvel fan, I’m a DC girl – but we bonded over our love of the form. In fact, when he was having trouble finding a way to get a movie made about Brian Epstein, I convinced him to adapt his screenplay to a graphic novel script. The resulting book, The Fifth Beatle, won tons of awards and sold a gazillion copies, and will soon be on your TV.
Thus, I have tried to take credit for his success, including the things he did before we met, and his fabulous wife and his adorable children.
Recently, Vivek wrote a story for IDW’s Star Trek: Waypoint. This seemed like as good an excuse as any to talk to him about what he’s working on these days.
MT: I read your Star Trek story. It’s so different from The Fifth Beatle!
VT: I guess it is.
MT: The Beatles and Star Trek are, pretty much, the Sixties.
VT: I suppose so. I was born in 1973. To me, these are just two things that I’m passionate about. I don’t know that there is any pop culture connection between the two tied to why I like them. I’m a sci-fi kid and I’m a music kid. As you probably saw from reading the story, while it is a Star Trek story, really, at heart, it’s a boy-and-his dog story. As a writer, I lean towards those kind of human interest stories. It’s a story about loyalty and childhood dreams. It’s about how that child learns and carries those lessons throughout his life and applies those to leadership.
MT: I’m not familiar with Star Trek: Enterprise, although I love Scott Bakula. Is there time travel?
VT: There is. The last season of Enterprise revolves around what they call the Temporal Cold War. That stuff at the end is all very squarely part of the Enterprise last season continuity.
MT: Is the dog in that?
VT: Oh, yes. So, Porthos, Captain Archer’s dog, is a main character in the entire series. I may be biased because I am a fan and I am a bit of a Trekkie myself, but I believe it’s not just me saying he’s a beloved figure in the Star Trek universe in general. When I posted that I had done a Star Trek story that was, in a lot of ways a Porthos story, there were a lot of fans who were excited. A lot of people said, “Oh, does he get to have a piece of cheese?” There’s an on-going story where Admiral Archer gives him cheese, but it does a bad number on his digestive system. There’s a scene where Archer, in one of the episodes, goes away on a mission and is worried he’s not going to come back. He tells one of the crew members, “Look after Porthos. Give him a piece of cheese for me.” Even in the first Star Trek reboot that J. J. Abrams did, when Chris Pines’ Captain Kirk meets Simon Pegg’s Montgomery Scott, Scott had been doing early work on the transport. Scotty says “So, I tested it out on Admiral Archer’s prized beagle.”
And Kirk, “Wait, I know that dog!”
MT: Is Porthos related to the dog in your story?
VT: I guess I haven’t thought that far ahead. I would doubt it. They’re both beagles, obviously. It’s possible, I suppose, that the Archer family keeps breeding beagles such that maybe Porthos is a descendant of Maska. Certainly he’s a spiritual descendant. To answer your question in geeky Star Trek speak, there is no continuity to suggest that they would be related. In fact, I could claim to have created Maska. He doesn’t appear anywhere else. One of the things I’m most proud of is that the Star Trek story is the first time a Star Trek: Enterprise has been written in a comic. I have the honor of saying I wrote the first. We’ll see what other comic writers working in that universe decide to do with Masca.
MT: Do you have dogs?
VT: I most certainly do!
MT: I noticed the dedication. I wondered if they were current dogs.
VT: Well noted! Laika is the first animal in space, and Sukhi Sioux is my pet papillon, It’s dedicated to a space dog and a dog that is close to my heart who is a fearless adventurer in her own right.
MT: What else are you working on in comics? In your life?
VT: In comics, I’m at the early scripting stages of my follow-up to The Fifth Beatle. The tentative title is A Mess of Blues: Colonel Parker and the Un-Making of Elvis Presley. Those readers who read The Fifth Beatle have had a taste of how I feel about Colonel Parker. I respect what he accomplished but I don’t respect him much as a human being. This book will continue that overall feeling about Parker, but I believe that there’s no such thing as ultimate evil or ultimate good, so one of the challenges for me is doing the research and finding the human side. While he exists in the same world of artist management, these unsung characters who are the architects of pop culture history behind the scene, he and Brian are polar opposites.
MT: Do you have an artist?
VT: There are a number of artists I’m talking to. We don’t have that nailed down. I’m doing that in tandem, working on the script while I talk to artists. I suspect I’ll be able to announce that before the script is done. The Colonel Parker story, to my mind, has three distinct elements. He was born in the Netherlands. His real name was Andreas van Kujik. He fled the Netherlands when he was a young man for shady reasons that aren’t entirely clear. He may have murdered someone. He had to flee the country. He stowed away to make it to America. He arrived illegally. He gave himself the name, “Tom Parker,” partially because it’s a generic name. He joined the carnival in large part because he loved it. He was a carny, a huckster. But also, in the American carnival, everybody has something shady in his past. It was a way to protect himself. What he should have been doing in the carnival was laying low, but his ambition, the chips on his shoulder, he couldn’t do that. He had to become an impresario. In those days, carnivals were very tied to fairs and country music. Which is how he found himself intersecting with Elvis. There’s no question that his carnival marketing skills helped him market Elvis as not just a country star but as a heartthrob and pop culture phenomenon. There’s no question that Parker was in large part responsible for the superstar that Elvis became. Parker also always treated Elvis like an “attraction.” Those are his words, not mine. Elvis fans argue that it is because of that attitude that Elvis never became the artist he should have become.
In Parker’s later years, he prevented Elvis from ever touring outside of the United States. The reason for that is because Parker wasn’t a U.S. citizen and Parker might have murdered someone. He couldn’t leave the country because if he did, he might not be able to come back. Parker didn’t like the idea of Elvis touring without him. There are all sorts of other crazy things that all tie back to Parker being this nomad. For example, at the very height of his career, Elvis was the largest single individual tax payer in the country. Elvis just paid his taxes. What he should have done, like every human being has done, you hire a smart accountant so that you pay as little tax as possible while being legal. Elvis just paid. There were business managers and bankers saying, “Parker, why don’t you have people going through his taxes? Why don’t you set up tax shelters?” Part of the reason was that he didn’t want the authorities looking into Elvis because he didn’t want the authorities looking into him. If you follow him to the end of his days, you find out that it did come out, and he ended up with all these lawsuits.
MT: He wouldn’t let Elvis go on tour without him?
VT: That’s exactly right. It wasn’t unusual for artists’ managers to go on tour whenever they could, but it was incredibly unusual for it to never happen. Brian Epstein went wherever the Beatles went as much as he could. He wasn’t at every single date. When it’s not possible, you let the tour manager handle it. That’s why you have tour managers.
Parker had these three distinct periods of his life. He had life in the Netherlands, which in a lot of ways is a noir murder mystery. He had his early Dust Bowl carnival days and the discovery of Elvis, which is real Americana. Then you have latter-day Elvis, when Elvis is a huge superstar. That’s a downward spiral of Elvis and Parker. That’s Vegas and Seventies and pop culture. So there are three distinct parts of the graphic novel. The plan is that it will be serialized in a way that The Fifth Beatle wasn’t. Whether this means several issues or three issues or something else, we don’t know yet.
MT: Speaking as a consumer, I’d prefer the whole book at once.
VT: I hear you, but for my fans, I think that would take too long. My instinct now is that it would be three parts. I’m also toying with the idea that maybe it’s three artists. The styles can be different.
MT: I’m sorry Ralph Steadman isn’t around to do the third part.
VT: I’m happy to say that through the success of The Fifth Beatle, I’ve gotten to know some amazing artists who are interested in working with me, but the best artists are busy. It’s easier to get wonderful, in-demand artists to do 30 pages or 40 pages than to ask them to do 120 pages.
MT: What else are you working on?
VT: While I’m working on the Parker book, who I’d like to do is do more of these one-shots, these short stories. I’ll do a Star Trek story, I’ll do a Marvel story, I’ll do a DC story. I want to work on licensed properties in a one-off capacity. For many writers, it would be a dream to work on a high-profile character, to do be a series writer. The fanboy in me agrees that would be amazing. But that’s not what I aspire to do. I want people to do what you did, to look at the Waypoint story and say, “Wow, this is so different.” I want people to know that, yes, I adore the Beatles. If you look at my resume, I worked at Mercury records. I produced American Idiot and The Addams Family musical. I produced A Raisin in the Sun and cast a hip-hop guy, Sean Combs, in the lead. I’m a music guy. But I’m also a Star Trek guy. I want to do more of that. I’m talking to a few editors at a bunch of companies about doing one-off stories. I hope those stories will be a surprise, too. Part of the reason why I’m doing things like the Star Trek story is because, as you know, it took about ten years to get The Fifth Beatle published. It’s not going to take ten years for the Parker story, but I want there to be more for my fans.
MT: Most of us contain multitudes.
VT: If people pick up the Star Trek story, they’ll see that, yes, it’s Star Trek, but there’s not a lot of technology in it. The technology is there to set up the story, but it’s not really used to tell the story. My favorite science fiction is like that. The science fiction is the engine that sets up the story, but it’s the human story that I love. My story is about a boy and his dog, about friendship and loyalty. At the end of the day, that’s what the world needs now, to stick together. If you think the world is under siege, you need to get together with your friends who also care about the issue and speak up. And the Brian Epstein story was about a gay, Jewish kid from a random town who changed the world. With LGBTQ rights being attacked, the world needs to see if it wasn’t for a gay man, we might not have the Beatles. I hope you’ll see that these are human stories that are connected to global social and/or political issues. That’s the connective thread between all my work.
MT: Who would win in a fight, the Beatles or the crew of the Enterprise?
VT: That’s a good question. The Beatles were pacifists, so I would like to think that they would talk their ways out of the fight. I think there would have been Beatles fans in the crew. Brian Epstein said the Beatles music would stand the test of time. So the crew of the Enterprise would be Beatles fans. I think all you need is love and somehow the fight would have been averted and they would wind up hanging out. There would not have been a fight.
Science Fiction is a term that means a lot of different things to a lot of different fans. When I was kid I thought it kind of meant Star Trek and Lost in Space, Bradbury books and the Twilight Zone episodes that included aliens. Of course, it’s so much bigger than that. There are subgenres and all kinds of slivers of fandoms that are populated with bazillions of fans. And Star Wars, of course, has just about transcended the entire genre and become its own thing.
So it’s was all the more interesting that a local art exhibit chose to focus on the earliest incarnation of science fiction. It’s called “Fun in Space: An Homage to Pulp Science Fiction.”
Pulp Science Fiction is cheesy and brilliant all at the same time. Pulps often sported lurid and garish covers aimed at adolescent males. On the other hand, so many authors, like Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert Heinlein started telling their endearing and enduring tales in the pulps.
Lurid and garish are two of my favorite adjectives, so it’s natural that I just love old pulp covers. They’re silly, naïve and needlessly sexualized. They are also lovely and skillfully rendered, all with an intense sense of urgency and excitement.
The show’s curator is Steve Nyland. He’s enthusiastic and focused, able to make something like this art show happen and able to convince all the powers that be that it should happen. Nyland told me about how he developed a love for pulp science fiction stories as a kid and it’s never left him.
One of my favorites pulps has been an old issue of Fantastic Adventures that showcases the story “Invasion from the Deep” by Paul W. Fairman. The cover shows a submarine crew astonished as a giant – and I mean giant – undersea princess is bursting through the waves riding an equally giant seahorse.
At the heart of it all – this “Fun in Space” exhibit channeled that frenetic energy. My favorite piece is a recreation of an old issue of Fantastic Adventures featuring the unforgettable story, the Justice of Tor. (Well, OK, that story is actually completely forgettable, but the cover is gorgeous.)
There is so much great artwork here that channels the charm of old science fiction, especially one evoking an Al Feldstein EC Comics cover and another with mash-up of iconic sci fi characters. I was nice to see Spock dancing with Princess Leia.
And cosplay is everywhere! Even at opening night for a Science Fiction art exhibit in downtown Syracuse. On hand were clever cosplayers, celebrating the many aspects of the genre.
The contributing artists stretched a bit too – with some cool sculptures and painted sneakers and furniture.
The gallery is part of a business incubator in downtown Syracuse New York called the Tech Garden. It makes all the sense in the world that a business building that attracts dreamers and non-traditionalists would host an art show that attracts dreamers and non-traditionalists.
I wish I could refrain from corny puns and not write that the opening was “out of this world,” but it was a fun, upbeat celebration by a passionate bunch of talented artists for like-minded geeks.
Geek culture has come a long way. Half the time, I still don’t think that many of us can quite believe it.
I can’t believe that for Monday night television, I can choose between CW’s Supergirl and a young Batman in Fox’s Gotham. After that choice is made, I can’t believe I can then watch a Vertigo comic, Lucifer come to life the next hour.
And I can’t believe that in the groceries my wife brought home, I just unpacked Avengers cheese sticks.
Geek Culture is everywhere.
Back In the old days, professing to the world your love of Geek Culture, be it comics, Star Trek, science fiction or any other flavor of nerdom, meant that you’d be subject to ridicule, derision and scorn. The world at large didn’t respect your hobby. Instead they just quietly put you into that “nut” or “weirdo” category and tried hard to forget about you.
I’m one of those comic fans who never took a break from it. Weekly trips for comics have been part of my life as long as I remember. However, that presented some difficulties for me in the late 70s during my high school/college/post college year dating years. In fact, I recall more than a few relationships, usually the third or fourth date, where I’d have skewer my courage and come clean. The conversations would typically go like this:
Me: “I have to tell you something about me that you don’t know.”
Her” What’s the matter, are you a serial killer or something?”
Me: “No, it’s much worse. I read and collect comic books.”
Her: “Oh dear, God….NOOOOOOOO!!!!”
But things have changed now.
As I recently related, my family gives out comics for Halloween and that propels us into the “cool house” category. I was recently was invited to be a part of the Marketing Executives Mentoring Program, a conference at Cornell’s School of Business. I was honored to be part of a very impressive assembly of marketing professionals.
Remember that moment in the Star Trek episode when Spock gets married, and Kirk and McCoy remark, in awe, that that the legendary T’Pau is part of the gathering? That’s what this event was like for me – about 40 times over.
With this in mind, you can imagine that I found their reactions to Geek Culture all the more validating. Maybe they were all just being polite, but the executives and the business students were fascinated when I discussed my business and marketing efforts in Geek Culture as co-founder of The Bonfire Agency. They wanted to hear more, not less.
And last weekend, it was invigorating to again be the go-to person when the world at large had questions and comments about the newest super hero movie, Doctor Strange.
Like so many Geeks, I enjoy the spotlight and the elevation from outcast to valued expert. It’s a refreshing change.
I just finished an engaging book called The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture by Glen Weldon. He outlines the many changes of the character, and franchise, called Batman. In particular, he chronicles this story alongside the rise of geek culture.
Weldon writes quite a bit about the relationships between nerds and normals. But that dynamic is rapidly changing. Nerds used to occupy a place in society below the “normal” population. But not anymore. Passionate fans of Geek Culture are now perched in a unique spot in the social structure’s hierarchy. Not necessarily above but certainly not below. And so often they are positioned as experts. It’s a long time in coming, but it’s a nice spot to be in.
Now it’s time for to nibble on one of those cheese sticks.
Fifty years and one month ago, a new TV show came to the airwaves that was unlike anything ever really seen before – science fiction, but not childish stories of space cadets with their zap guns, only different from shoot-em-up westerns because they shot beams of light instead of bullets of lead. Star Trek was something different. Unique. And incredibly long lived. Star Trek has become part of the American story, with the original model of the U.S.S. Enterprise hanging in the Milestones of Flight section of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, right next to the Spirit of St. Louis.
David Gerrold, author of the episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”, recently wrote,
“From the beginning, Star Trek was a series of little morality plays. From the beginning, Star Trek was an examination of the human condition. From the beginning, Star Trek was a vision of a future that works for all of us, with no one and nothing left out. For some people, Star Trek was just another job. Okay, fine. Collect the check and go home. But for many of us, maybe even most of us – Star Trek was something special, something apart from every other job in the world. It was a vision of possibility. It was an assertion that the way things are is not the way they have to be. It was a bold assertion of hope in a decade that had fallen into despair.”
And today, half a century later, despite the dated production values, Star Trek‘s best stories are still strong statements that the future will exist with humans in it, and will be what we make it.
But it’s not easy living up to that standard of a golden future. It requires commitment to an ethos of inclusion, that the stars are not just for rich guys, or white guys, or guy guys – we’re all going to go there. All of us, in our infinite diversity and infinite combinations, boldly going forward.
It requires a commitment to science – all science, not just the stuff that reinforces what you already believe. Why guess when you can learn? When you can know?
It requires a commitment to education – not only learning new things, but letting go off old lessons learned that we cling to because of nostalgia and superstition instead of accuracy.
It requires a commitment to competence. There are times when someone’s got to take the wheel— shouldn’t it be the best driver available? Shouldn’t it at least be someone who’s driven before?
And most of all, it requires a commitment to finding a way to work together instead of against each other. We aren’t going to go anywhere if people keep tossing sand into the machinery.
To a lot of the people who work on the franchise, including at various times me and ComicMix contributors Robert Greenberger, David Mack, Peter David and others, Star Trek is more than mere entertainment— it’s a message of hope, and we make contributions to a secular mythology where we are the gods and demigods who span the heavens.
And there has never been a presidential candidate who stands in such complete opposition to the ideals of the Star Trek universe as Donald John Trump.
That’s why over 130 members (and counting) of the cast, crew, and contributors to the Star Trek universe, including myself, have added their names to a voter mobilization movement called Trek Against Trump, an effort spearheaded by Armin Shimerman – and if the most famous Ferengi in the universe tells you that Trump is a greedy, manipulative, tasteless boor who doesn’t have the brains to run a banana stand, believe him.
Do you want to live in a Star Trek future? Well, you can’t take the future for granted — we build it today by what we all do in the present. If you want a better future, you have to make it happen, and you have to act like citizens of a better future. The people who made the stories of that future are telling you how to make it happen.
There are some who have objected to the group’s explicit call not to vote for third-party candidates, and I say— get over it. The only way Donald Trump is not going to be elected is if Hillary Clinton is. You don’t like “voting for the lesser of two evils”? Then realize you’re voting against the greater of two evils. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. You might have heard that somewhere.
So: register to vote. And if you’re really passionate about it, here is your five week mission– to explore strange new neighborhoods. To seek out 18 and older lifeforms to build civilization. To boldly vote, like you’ve never voted before.
Because if you don’t– Melakon wins.
I’m giving the last word to John deLancie, Star Trek‘s “Q”: