Tagged: The Simpsons

Mike Gold: Mad and the Madman

Donald Trump has been trying very hard to do a lot to this nation, thus far with pathetically little success. However, while he might not be making America great, he’s most certainly been making American comedy fantastic.

Take Stephen Colbert. After he took over The Late Show, he has been losing badly to The Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon. Then the Manchild from Hell won the election – thanks to a little help from his friends – and that very evening Colbert had something of a nervous breakdown, live on CBS. To his vast credit, he put all that energy into his job: making jokes at the expense of our Megalomaniac-In-Chief. Now, six months later, he’s leaped over Fallon in the ratings.

Certainly, there’s no shortage of material. Indeed, many other comics have made similar journeys on the Trump Turnpike (“what will that asshole think of next?”). Seth Myers, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Bill Maher, Trevor Noah… let’s face it, if you’re a comedian who is disliked by the far-right minority, your career has had a great six months.

And so, amusingly, has Mad Magazine.

When it was founded 65 years ago – yup, it can file for Medicare but it should move fast – Mad became a major influence in the development of adolescent rebellion. It was the cutting edge of American humor at a time when professionals such as Ernie Kovacs, Lenny Bruce, and Lord Buckley were breaking down the barriers that had been surrounding stand-up comedy. Mad had a major impact upon at least two generations.

But, over time even the sharpest knife finds its edge going dull. Eventually, television shows such as The Simpsons, Beavis and Butt-Head and South Park became the rage (literally; parents raged against each of these shows) and Mad started to look positively geriatric. Sure, they struggled. They hired new talent, fussed with the format, and added interior color but, in my opinion, they remained trapped by that which always had been.

Last month, DC Comics hired a new showrunner for the vaunted magazine, and I don’t think they could have found a better person. Bill Morrison, who has been Matt Groening’s longtime collaborator and the first editor-in-chief of Bongo Comics (The Simpsons, Futurama…) was given the keys to the prop room.

But, as it turns out, it is Donald Trump who is holding those doors open.

During the past several months, Mad has been following the path of Colbert et al. They’ve been doing some great stuff, and much of that has been at the expense of the poster boy of the paranoia marathon. They haven’t turned their backs on their roots and Mad does not follow the path of the former Mad writer (and Yippie! co-founder) Paul Krassner when Paul invented The Realist. Pop culture references abound as always, and even the great Sergio Aragonés remains along for the ride.

Bill Morrison has one hell of a leg up. Whether he can restore Mad Magazine to its greatest glory remains to be seen, but now it’s The Simpsons and South Park that are beginning to show their age. I don’t see anybody else in the on-deck circle, so he’s got one hell of an opportunity to make lightning strike twice.

As I said. He’s the right person for the job.

Tweeks: Long Beach Comic Con Fun

logo_lbcc_largeSeptember 27 & 28, we attended Long Beach Comic Con for the first time.  It was our first smaller-sized con and we LOVED it!  It was so easy and fun.  We really were able to enjoy the art, the cosplay, and hear about new comics.  We also learned how to draw The Simpsons, got the scoop on Afterlife with Archie, played Star Wars laser tag, and maybe did a bit of fangirl shopping on the floor.

Happy 80th Birthday, Harlan Ellison!

harlan_typewriterThere are those of you who doubted he’d make it. Hah! Hah, we say!

Harlan Ellison, writer, raconteur, gadfly, screenwriter, actor, power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, and a character in The Dark Knight Returns, Freakazoid, Concrete, The Simpsons, and Scooby Doo, celebrates his 80th birthday today. Yes, he’s been striking terror into the hearts of mere mortals for eight decades.

We don’t even know where to start with his list of accomplishments. If you’ve never read anything from him, go read his Dream Corridor comic collections, or <a class="zem_slink" title="Phoenix Without Ashes" href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0449031888/associatizer-20/ target="_blank" rel="amazon">Phoenix Without Ashes</a>, or watch some of his videos from his days on the Sci-Fi Channel here.

He even thanks you for your birthday wishes:

And here’s the cover to his Incredible Hulk #140, drawn by Herb Trimpe, who celebrated his 75th birthday yesterday! Congrats to both of you!

Dennis O’Neil: Disney, Woody and Me

Dennis O’Neil: Disney, Woody and Me

A week or two back, our own media goddess, Martha Thomases, observed that in real life Walt Disney was not the debonair and avuncular presence he wanted us to think he was. I’d heard rumblings over years, now and then, that Walt was guilty of anti-Semitism and racism and maybe sexism and that he was chummy with Nazis. I noted these rumors and then, no outrage, no anger – I pretty much forgot them.

But why didn’t I get upset? It might have been because I wasn’t a Disney fan. What he was selling was not high on my shopping list. In fact, I’m only a casual consumer of animation, which may seem odd, given how I’ve earned my living for the past half-century or so: all those comic books…

But at least the cartoons in comic books have the decency to stand still.

Understand, I don’t hate animation. I remember thinking highly of Mighty Mouse when I was in elementary school, and when Bugs Bunny appeared on my neighborhood movie screen, I enjoyed a few funny minutes. And today, I consider The Simpsons and Family Guy pop culture treasures, though I probably respond more to the writing and voice acting in those shows than to the (bouncing/hopping/jiggly) images. I could even enjoy Donald Duck and his pals. But if the Disney empire had never existed, my life would not be impoverished.

So Uncle Walt was a stinker? Well, that’s regrettable, but many things are, and I have no emotional investment in Mr. D.

That’s not true of every entertainer.

When the Woody Allen’s shenanigans with his step-daughter, Soon Yi Previn, became public knowledge, I had a twitch of distaste, because, no doubt about it, I liked Woody as a comedian, a writer, an actor, and most all, as a film maker. I’ve liked him ever since I first saw his young self do standup, probably on a black-and-white television screen, and I’ve liked and admired him ever since. The Soon Yi business? Yeah, that was regrettable. But since Woody and Soon Yi did not share DNA, no real, biological, incest was involved, and Woody did do the honorable thing and marry the lady. To quote my favorite line from Shakespeare: “Use every man after his desert and who shall ‘scape whipping?”

But now, on the occasion of Woody’s receiving a lifetime achievement award, his son, Ronin, and Ronin’s mother, Mia Farrow, claim that he once molested a seven-year-old. Sexual exploitation of children is hard to forgive, especially when it’s done by someone with whom you identify – one of your heroes. The Soon Yi affair was ugly; molesting children is monstrous.

I try not to judge anyone. But don’t expect to see me at the next Woody Allen movie.

REVISED COLUMN SCHEDULE FOR THIS WEEK:

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: Martha Thomases

LATER FRIDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

SATURDAY: Back to our normal schedule with Marc Alan Fishman

 

Marc Alan Fishman: How To Succeed In Comics Without Really Trying

Fishman Art 131221Consider this a free lesson in becoming a rich and successful writer, be it in Hollywood, comic books, TV, movies… whatever. Yes kiddos, you too can be a mega-player in the game if you follow my patent-pending advice. And since there’s no use to wasting time, let me get to them write now. Get it?

Copy someone better than you. See, I’m already gonna copy legendary John Ostrander, who in his article this very week gave out five tips to aspiring writers as well. But as you’ll learn, babe, it’s not about who did it first… just who does it next. I recall, fondly, that one of my professors at college had his intro to screenwriting class begin the year by dissecting their favorite romantic comedy for structure, and then literally rewrite it according to the corresponding skeleton etched out. Nifty, eh? So when the chips are down and your screen is blank, just boot up Netflix, and get prepared to appropriate your masterpiece.

Retcon it, reboot it, or make a prequel/sequel! Why waste your time creating an original piece of work when you can start where someone else started? As a natural next-step of copying someone who is better than you, you can get oodles of dollars by simply refraining from even considering originality as an option. DC Comics may have canceled a Batman series recently, but you best believe that someone else will fill in the slot the second they see an uptick in BatSales. It’s their New52 M.O.: when sales spike, it’s time to expand! Justice League look good? Make it dark! Make it American! Make it StormWatch! Err… Simply put, if you want to be a resource to those folks who sign the big checks? Then be prepared to take on the franchise when the original creator is off doing whatever it is “artists” do. Remember, you want to be writer… not an artist.

When the editor says “Jump”, already be in the air. When you’re in the air? Be screaming “Is this high enough?!” You see, in today’s market, the writer is just another tool in the box. One need not be “good” as much as “serviceable.” When he-who-signs-the-paychecks demands you kill a character off, or refrain from being “too gay,” you salute them, thank them for their bold choices, and immediately write exactly what they’re looking for. If they’re vague? See tips #1 and #2 above. You can never go wrong by pitching to them that which they already know. At the end of the day, they want money. The market proves to us day in and day out that one need not break barriers, blow minds, or explore new territory with our creative fiction. What sells today is what sold yesterday… with a shiny new coating.

Kill off as many characters as needed to feel edgy. Look kids: sex and death sell. Nothing in fiction is off limits. Hell, they killed a major character on Family Guy not even a month ago, and boom, he’s back. Captain America? Time bullet. Batman? Time warp. Thor? Ragnorak. The X-Men? Time vortex. Get violent if you need to. Hell, Man of Steel and The Avengers leveled near entire cities to make their point. Better yet, they gave away the secret to how you end things afterwards. Want your audience to leave with a knowing smirk on their face? Have your heroes be a bit witty amidst the wanton destruction, and maybe let them get a sandwich. Need your audience to feel remorse for all the devastation? Have your hero scream in agony, and then end on the witty retort. Boom. Roll the credits, and whatever you do… Do not forget the stinger. Thanks to Mickey, we have to end everything, and then end it again. Or, pull a Jackson: end your piece, and then end it eight more times. Each time make it gayer and more emotionally despondent. People eat that crap up like McRibs.

Remember that the critics, fans, et al don’t matter anymore. In the age of the Internet, everyone is a critic. Thanks to news sites, blogs, somehow-still-alive newspapers, social media, et cetera, every new release is covered by hundreds of would-be pundits. No matter your score, trust me, you’re fine. If you deliver an atrocity? You’ll pop up on everybody’s Worst Of lists, and your sales will spike as rubber-neckers come to guffaw. Get a middle of the road review? Just head to the comment section, and accuse yourself (anonymously) of being gay, racist, or a gay-racist. Then, as yourself, open up an Instagram account, and post angst-riddled notes of how depressing your life is. Soon enough, they’ll forget if your work was any good anyways. Hell, go apeshit and you could end up like Charlie Sheen. He went AWOL, and nabbed a 20/90 backend multi-season pickup for a show so by-the-book, most scripts are handled via an AOL mad-lib generator.

As far as fans go, just know that you’re safe. When you do an acceptable job writing up the expectable (it is a word now.), only elitist Onion readers will get up in arms. Do you really care if a horn-rimmed glasses wearing, curly mustachioed, corduroy and bow-tie bedazzled Arcade Fire fan thinks your work is shallow and pedantic? Do you mind that I just lifted a line straight off The Simpsons? Of course you don’t! At the end of the day, you want a paycheck and a fluffy credit. I want a yes-man. It’s a win-win situation.

The key to this all is simple. The world is going to end eventually. You’re either going to be frozen is actual carbonite (rich people have the technology – for real) or buried in a pine box right off the highway. It’s your call. Live and eat well by doing what they tell you to do, or have a backbone and visible ribs. The choice is yours. Your foolproof plan is laid out above.

When you’re famous, do me a solid and link back to this article. I’m cold, and extra readers keeps my furnace running.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

Win a Copy of LEGO STAR WARS: The Empire Strikes Out

EmpireDomesticFilled with charm, action and irreverent humor this original story features characters, locations and vehicles across the entire LEGO Star Wars universe including Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, C-3P0, R2-D2, Darth Maul, and more.   When the premiere of LEGO Star WarsThe Empire Strikes Out aired on Cartoon Network, it became the number-one telecast of the day with kids ages 6-11 and boys ages 2-17. Written by Emmy Award winner Michael Price (The Simpsons), the show features many of the beloved Star Wars voice-actors fans know and love including Anthony Daniels, Sam Witwer, Ahmed Best and more.

Thanks to our friends at Lucasfilm we have two copies of the DVD to give away.

SYNOPSIS:

HOLD ON TO YOUR BRICKS….FOR AN ALL-NEW ANIMATED ADVENTURE!

Your favorite characters are back to save the galaxy in LEGO® Star Wars®: The Empire Strikes Out™. The heroes of the Rebel Alliance including heroic Luke Skywalker, swaggering Han Solo and steadfast Princess Leia have no time to celebrate their victory over the Empire as a new Imperial threat arises. But as Jedi-in training Luke embarks on this next mission, he discovers that his celebrity status as a “Death-Star-Blower-Upper” can be a double-edged lightsaber when he’s constantly mobbed by crazed fans. So much for secret missions! Meanwhile, Darth Vader and Darth Maul are locked in a hilarious “Sith-ling” rivalry as they compete for the Emperor’s approval. It’s an action-packed comic adventure that’s out of this world!

In order to win your very own copy of LEGO Star WarsThe Empire Strikes Out on DVD, simply answer the following question. Your answer must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., Thursday, March 28, 2013. The judgement of ComicMix will be final.

What television network did LEGO Star WarsThe Empire Strikes Out premiere on? 

  • Cartoon Network
  • Nickelodeon
  • ABC Family
  • The Disney Channel
Monday Mix-Up: The Simpsons Family, guy!

Monday Mix-Up: The Simpsons Family, guy!

What? I mean… what??? Has somebody gotten the scheduling screwed up on Sunday night on Fox?

I don’t know the next time April Fool’s Day falls on a Sunday, but if both The Simpsons and Family Guy are still on the air (I’ll bet they will be) I think this would be a great switch.

Disney’s Planes Announces Dane Cook as Lead Voice

BURBANK, Calif. (February 28, 2013) – Dane Cook has been tapped to voice the lead character Dusty, a plane with high hopes in Disney’s Planes. Inspired by the world of Cars and directed by Disneytoon Studios veteran and aviation enthusiast Klay Hall (King of the Hill, The Simpsons), Disney’s Planes is an action-packed 3D animated comedy adventure about Dusty’s dream of competing as a high-flying air racer—and his decidedly unfortunate fear of heights. The film takes off in theaters in 3D on Aug. 9, 2013.

“Dane Cook brings unmatched charisma and brilliant comedic timing and instincts to the character,” said Hall. “He gives Dusty a great edge.”

Cook is well known for his appearances on Comedy Central and HBO specials, and for his successful comedy albums. He recently guest starred on Louie opposite Louie C.K., and his film credits include starring roles in a host of films, including My Best Friend’s Girl opposite Kate Hudson, Dan In Real Life opposite Steve Carell, and Mr. Brooks opposite Kevin Costner. The actor/comedian just signed a deal with NBC Entertainment and Universal Television to develop a new project starring Cook.

The all-new story offers an exciting cast of characters and centers on Dusty’s high-flying dream. But Dusty’s not exactly built for racing, so he turns to a seasoned naval aviator who helps Dusty qualify to take on the defending champ of the race circuit. Dusty’s courage is put to the ultimate test as he aims to reach heights he never dreamed possible, giving a spellbound world the inspiration to soar. The film is produced by Traci Balthazor-Flynn and executive produced by John Lasseter.