Tagged: William Shatner

Mike Gold: Adam West Saved More Than Just The Universe

ComicMix’s crack legal columnist Bob Ingersoll is more than just a lawyer with a great wit, although that would be enough. For decades, Bob has been my go-to guy on the subject of television minutiae. So, it came as no surprise when he was the first to tell me and a group of our friends that Adam West died.

Yep, that sucks. Last week at this time, it would have been difficult to find a nicer guy in show business. Most of us are well aware of West’s résumé and I won’t bore you with it at this late date. Here’s the IMDB link – be sure to come back now, y’hear? But there’s one fun fact we tend to overlook.

Adam West saved the American comic book industry.

It was not a great time for the comic book racket. The founding families still owned most of the big players – DC, Marvel, Harvey, Archie – and unless you were Dell Comics, you were pretty much entirely dependent upon newsstand sales. The problem was, the newsstands were disappearing faster than a speeding bullet. The mom ‘n’ pop candy, grocery and magazine stores were dying off like the last reel of a Michael Crichton movie. The neighborhood newsstand, a product of our larger cities, were being urban-renewed into oblivion. Local drug stores were vaporizing before our very eyes.

What replaced all this stuff were big chain stores and huge shopping malls. The problem with these places was profitability. These stores measure profit in “turns” or how fast the product sells, and in “per-square-foot” increments. In response, the Comics Magazine Association of America developed large spinner racks that could hold maybe 500 comic books in a few square feet. The problem here is that policing comic book racks is expensive and takes a lot of time, and there’s not much profit in a 10-cent item.

In response, in 1961 the publishers raised the cover price 20%. Too little, way too late. It turns out there’s not much profit in a 12-cent item, either.

Publishers had been going out of business since the market started to turn south in the late 1940s. By the mid-50s some of the big guys – Quality, Fawcett, Fiction House, EC Comics – no longer survived. You’d think Fredrick Wertham had written another book. Despite Marvel’s slowly growing success, things looked bleak indeed.

And then, in January 1966, ABC-TV started broadcasting a twice-weekly series titled Batman, starring Adam West. The show went through the roof… and virtually all of the surviving comics publishers started adding more superhero product to their line. And these books sold. Some outlets that didn’t carry comics started doing so. For the first time, paperback reprints from a wide variety of publishers became widespread. Tower Comics (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, et al) burst onto the scene in the fall of 1965, just as the Batman hype was gathering steam. As such, they were a bit ahead of the curve.

Tower was joined by King Comics, Archie’s superhero imprint Mighty Comics, Lightning Comics (Fatman the Human Flying Saucer, Super Green Beret), and Myron Fass’s M.F. Enterprises (Captain Marvel, Eerie Publications – which was a horror imprint).

Television fads suffer from the laws of gravity, and the Batman craze only lasted a couple years. The other shows produced by Batman’s William Dozier either died after one year (Green Hornet) or never got off the ground (Wonder Woman, Dick Tracy). None of the aforementioned new publishers lasted very long, with the exception of Fass’s Eerie Publications.

However, in their wake, they left a much stronger DC Comics and an even stronger still Marvel Comics, particularly after Marvel got out from under their distribution deal with DC Comics’ Independent News Distributors – later known as Warner Publishing Services – in 1969.

I place the success of the Batman show and its dramatic impact on the American comic book publishing field at Adam West’s feet. Of course, if West had not been cast the program might have been as big a success. That’s something that we cannot divine. But Adam West did pull it off and he did so masterfully. West had the perfect approach for the material, simultaneously being heroic, “unknowingly” ironic, paternal, and strong of ability, spirit, and character. No easy feat.

More important, West had a great attitude about his work. After a brief period of trying to break out of the stereotype, he embraced the cape and cowl and renewed his work as Batman in television specials, in animated cartoons, and in public appearances. In fact, his last such effort – Batman vs Two-Face, starring West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar and William Shatner as the titled bad guy – will be released later this year.

His death last week made the top of the CBS radio news. It received break-ins on all media and the headline zippers on cable news shows. It set the Internet ablaze. Adam West was, and remains, a part of our American culture.

Adam West was, and remains, a major part of comic book history.

Ed Catto: The 30th Anniversary of Star Trek’s 20th Anniversary

DC Star Trek Comics

Turning 50 doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. In fact, those typical black-and-white “50 years old” party decorations, suggesting that the celebrant is “so old,” seem out of place to me. Fifty can be fun. Fifty can be optimistic. Isn’t Hollywood’s most famous re-invented party boy, Robert Downey, Jr. over 50? Isn’t the always-engaging Marisa Tomei over 50?

This year Star Trek turns 50 and the phenomenon never looked better. There’s a new movie, a new fascinating Star Trek podcasts out there. And now, more than ever, there’s top TV show and even new stamps from the U.S. Post Office. There’s a bunch of -notch merchandise from innovative companies like Titan and Eaglemoss.
But it wasn’t always so. Back when Star Trek was turning 20 the future wasn’t so certain. It was a struggle. Fans were ridiculed. The world at large did not associate any ‘cool factor’ to Star Trek fandom.

And during those days, DC Comics was creating top-notch Star Trek comics. Looking back (at the future) through the lens of 2016, these adventures covered a perplexing time for the franchise. Spock was dead, Lt. Saavik had crashed the party, the main characters were all dealing with aging and career issues and interesting original characters were added to the mix.

I think it might be my favorite period of the Star Trek mythology. So instead of celebrating Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary like everyone else at the Star Trek: Mission New York convention later this week, let’s instead celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Star Trek’s 20th Anniversary…and specifically DC Comics’ Star Trek.

Marv Wolfman was essential to DC’s acquisition of the Star Trek license. Working on the Marvel Comics version helped him develop a unique perspective for successfully adapting the property into comics. Marv offered these great insights:

“I was a huge Star Trek fan. Still am, actually. I had written the first few issues of Marvel’s Trek but in analyzing it later felt everyone who handled Trek comics was doing it wrong. We were all trying to mimic a TV show’s four act structure and tone. We were all telling too many stories on the Bridge when we had an unlimited SFX budget. If they had the means they would have done other types of stories, but they were restricted by budget. Also, TV shows have tons of talking scenes, because that’s cheap to produce. Talking scenes in comics is visually boring, so I wanted more action and wonder.

“But Trek was pretty much dead at this point in comics and the first Trek movie (I wrote the adaptation for Marvel) didn’t offer much hope. But then I got the chance to see an early advance of the second movie and went back to DC saying we needed to get the license. I remember Jenette Kahn (DC’s President) didn’t think there was any hope for Trek back then (and most would have said she was right) but I was a fan and said this one was really good and I had a way of fixing it. Jenette may have disagreed but she trusted me and approved us getting the license.

“I brought in Mike W. Barr to write it, as I knew Mike loved Trek as deeply as I did. My thought was to handle the book like it was a comic, not a TV show. Have continued stories. Don’t structure it like a TV show. Have emotional characters and bring in new characters with whom we could tell stories we couldn’t necessarily do with the regular cast, which we couldn’t change. I wanted the cast off the bridge and on planets, and I wanted the problems to be big and not easily solvable. One of comics’ strength is building up a universe and there was no reason to keep it small because the TV show did. 

“And all of that had to be done while 100% honoring everything else that made Trek great. Great characters and thoughtful SF stories. I thought we did it and the book sold amazingly well.

“I believe later on the approach was altered to go back to more of TV’s four-act structure, ignoring what made comics work, but as sales dropped that approach was changed back to what I had pitched and what Mike Barr wrote. I think whatever you do you need to remember to use the strength of comics.”

Robert Greenberger Marv Wolfman

Next I turned to ComicMix‘s own Robert Greenberger, who has long been engaged in Star Trek fandom (be sure to read his Notes from a Final Frontiersman column). Robert was an editor for the DC Comics Star Trek series. I had a lot of questions for him:

Ed Catto: Rereading the first fun DC Star Trek comics, it still seems fresh and exciting to me. At that time, Spock was “dead,” the main characters were dealing with both middle age and career issues and the series introduced several new characters. What was it like to develop the series at that time?

Robert Greenberger: Marv Wolfman lobbied DC for the rights, feeling he didn’t have a real good chance to work with the characters when Marvel had the license. He and Mike W. Barr both worked under the far more restrictive Marvel license and so they wanted to see what they could do unfettered. The absence of Spock was seen as more of a creative challenge than anything else, since removing such a key figure changed the group dynamic. It also let Mike explore Saavik as a character.

EC: Can you tell me about the challenges you faced?

RG: When I arrived in 1984, the book was about six issues along and Marv and Mike were in a nice groove, developing their original-to-the-series characters, to round out the ensemble and have people they could actually do things to. A third film was being planned but we knew nothing about it at the time so continued to try and fill the gap after Star Trek II with interesting stories. Some of it felt like vamping and required some inventive thinking which is where, I believe, Mike hit on the idea for a Mirror Universe saga.

EC: At that point you were celebrating Star Trek’s 20th Anniversary. Just how different was that from the 50th Anniversary we’re celebrating now?

RG: Paramount Pictures chose not to do too much special for the 20th. There was some licensed merchandise but it wasn’t as big a deal to them. Len Wein was writing the comic for me at the time and we agreed we’d do a special story for that September. I got to use extra pages and he came up with “Vicious Circle!” a fun sequel to “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” allowing the TOS-era crew to meet their film series counterparts.

Paramount finally made a big deal on the 25th and now, the 50th. I’d love to have been involved with this year’s celebration since some transmedia storytelling could have been fun.

EC: I really liked the artwork on the DC series. What can you tell about working with talented guys like Ricardo Villagran, Tom Sutton, Gray Morrow, Curt Swan and even Eduardo Barreto?

RG: Ricardo was living in the NYC area in the early 1980s landed some work at DC, which led to Marv offering him Trek. He relocated to his native Argentina and we used DHL to make the monthly schedule. He needed the reference but smoothed out Tom’s pencils. Tom was a tremendous storyteller and I loved working with him, but the likenesses were never his strong suit. Eduardo Barreto stepped in for one story and if I could have, I would have shackled him to the Engine Room – I adored his Saavik spotlight, but he was in such demand I couldn’t keep him.

When I could, I spelled him with people like Gray Morrow and Curt Swan who handled the work really well. Then I lucked out with Gordon Purcell on Trek and Peter Krause on TNG, young guys who gave it their all and it worked.

EC: You’ve been involved with both Star Trek fandom and comic book fandom for many years, Robert. Can you compare and contrast the two fandoms?

RG: Comic book fandom was a direct outgrowth of science fiction fandom whereas Star Trek fandom splintered from SF fandom since they were looked down on for preferring filmed SF to prose. It was far more broad-based and in many ways welcoming so it grew faster than anyone could have imagined. The passions and infighting remains exactly the same, though.

EC: How does Star Trek fandom react to Star Trek comics?

RG: When there was nothing else regularly published, it was most welcome. Many didn’t like the inaccuracies in the Gold Key books but it was all they had between the infrequent Bantam novels throughout the 1970s. The Marvel series was much better received but suffered from inconsistent creative teams, an editor who didn’t know the property well, and a license restricting them to whatever was established in The Motion Picture. When DC arrived, they had a much broader contract and an editor, Marv, and a writer, Mike, who knew and loved the material. They got to be consistent, which the fans responded to. When I took over, I had a smooth-running operation and the fans continued to support us. Today, IDW feels the same love thanks to Mike Johnson’s stories.

EC: There’s a plethora of Star Trek podcasts now. Do you listen to any of them and what are your favorites?

RG: I honestly listen to exactly one podcast (totally unrelated to comics or Trek) despite having been interviewed for several. I respect Michael Clark, over at Visionary Trek, whose The Captain’s Table podcast has been good to me.

EC: Star Trek has had such a long history in comics. What are some of your favorite Star Trek comics over the last 50 years, and what do you think is the secret ingredient to adapting Star Trek to comics?

RG: I was honored to find six stories I was involved with make it to Comic Book Resources’ recent Top 10 Star Trek Comics of All Time list. My personal favorites are things like Star Trek Annual #3, by Peter David and Curt Swan, Debt of Honor with Chris Claremont and Adam Hughes, and The Modala Imperative miniseries by Peter, Michael Jan Friedman, and Pablo Marcos since it crossed TOS and TNG using Spock as the lynchpin. I enjoyed Glenn Greenberg’s Starfleet Academy run at Marvel and various stories from the other publishers.

Comics is not television and the action and special effects translate differently. To me, the secret sauce in the comics is keeping the focus on characters, working with the ensemble and serializing subplots so you can really explore issues in ways a 60-minute episode of two hour film cannot come close to working with. This way, we offer readers a different experience and shine the spotlight on different facets of the crew or races that make the universe so incredibly fascinating.

EC: Thanks, Robert and Marv. I wonder if Star Trek is one of those 50 year olds that wish to be 20 again?

Bob Greenberger, Howie and Shatner

 

Martha Thomases: Malevolent Ways!

Malevolent

It seems that every few weeks there’s a new animated feature at the movie theater. This is quite different from my youth, when only Disney made full-length cartoons (that were distributed in Ohio) and they took three to four years to produce.

It seems that every television channel has at least some animated content, a lot of it aimed at grown-ups. This is quite different from my youth, when all cartoons were for kids, and were on networks on Saturday mornings and local channels, maybe for an hour after school.

We can have an interesting conversation about why animation grew up and expanded its audience. Was it the influence of anime? The Baby Boomers loving cartoons so much we refuse to give them up, just like with comic books? The (relative) inexpensive production compared to feature films, especially as computers improved?

Who cares why? More animation means more choices for those of us who love the medium.

Recently I had a chance to cyber-meet Jim Cirile and Tanya Klein, of Coverage Ink Films. They’re making the first American animated horror film, Malevolent, starring Morena Baccarin, Ray Wise, and William Shatner, among others. Go to the link, and you can donate to the IndieGoGo campaign. There’s cool stuff there.

1) You say Malevolent is the first American 2-D animated horror film. Was there one (or more) in 3-D?

Tanya Klein (TK): Not that we’re aware of, and we’ve looked pretty hard. These are mostly done in Japan. We’re not sure why there has never been an animated horror feature film made in the US.

Jim Cirile (JC): The closest we can find is Dead Space, which was an amazing film, 2-D animation, but it was sci-fi horror. Ours is just straight-up horror.

2) Why do you think animation is a good technique for horror? What can you do with animation that you can’t do with live-action?

TK: You can do anything with live action that you can do with animation nowadays thanks to CGI. That barrier has been crossed. Just watch any Marvel movie for evidence of that. In our case, it’s more about creating a cool and unique experience. We wanted to do something that’s never been done before and do it in a really fresh way. Animation gives us the ability to have a lot more production value than we might have been able to afford otherwise as a small indie production, while also allowing us to go anywhere the psychology of the story dictates, with off-the-hook visuals. The sacrifice is losing some of the details of the actor’s faces, but great voices actors know how to put all of that into the voice.

JC: There’s something really awesome and unique about this type of experience as animation. We were wondering if people would feel the same level of engagement as with live action. So we screened a scene at a local university for a class full of film students to gauge their reactions. And it was amazing. Even though people were watching drawings, they were gripped. The drama of the scene carries through.

3) Awesome cast. How did you get them?

TK: We were very, very lucky! Our producers Cindi Rice and Paige Barnett, and Jim and I, made a list of all the people we’ve worked with in the past, and then our wish list cast. Amazingly, none of the people we’d worked with were available! That meant we had to go in cold to the rest of the cast. Morena (Baccarin) was our first choice for Gamemaster. She’s just so perfect for the role of the aloof, dispassionate manipulator with perhaps a hidden softer side. We went in cold to her agent, and Morena responded to the script. She told us she loved the darkness of it. How cool is that?

JC: Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) also has plenty of cred as the demented, sociopath patriarch Cyrus DeKalb. Again, we went in cold; same with Bill Moseley (House of 1000 Corpses.)

TK: However, we did have a personal connection to William Shatner. Jim is friends with his son-in-law.

JC: Yeah, makeup artist extraordinaire Andrew Clement, who also did the Deadpool makeup with Bill Corso. I asked Andrew if there was any chance of approaching Mr. Shatner, and he laughed because of course he gets asked this a lot. But he put in a good word for us, and then next thing we know, we get a phone call – “Jim, Tanya, it’s William Shatner. Tell me about your project.” We almost fell over.

TK: So we pitched Malevolent to William Shatner on the phone, and he said to send over the script and an offer. And the Great Bird of the Galaxy smiled upon us, because Mr. Shatner really liked the script.

JC: He’s crazy-busy, and we’re huge fans, so it was such an honor for us for him to come on board. What an incredible man. And by the way, wait till you hear him in this role. You’ve never heard William Shatner “dark.” Wow!

4) The animation (at least in the trailer) seems to me to be limited, sort of like Archer. Will it be more fluid when it’s finished? Was this a style choice or an economic one?

JC: Archer is the exact style we are shooting for. The animated is somewhat limited by budget. Fortunately, one can use the limitations in an artistic and interesting way. As well, Adobe After Effects can fill in the in-betweens that used to have to be drawn by hand. It’s the only way to get the project finished on our budget level.

TK: We will be using a few CG effects in the movie, but it will be 99% hand-drawn.

5) It seems to me (again, my perspective could be wrong) that there are a lot of women working on this film, more than just acting talent. Is this unusual?

TK: So glad you noticed! You know, of course, there’s a fair amount of sexism in Hollywood even to this day. Just look at the DGA and WGA statistics for the amount of women hired in any given year. It’s generally a pretty low percentage. It’s insane, of course. We are fortunate to be working with two kick-ass producers – Cindi Rice and Paige Barnett. About half our art and color team are women as well.

JC: Our director is a dude, and so am I, of course. But the movie focus is on a very complex female character, Miriam, and her relationship with two other complex women – her messed-up sister Kelsey (Florence Hartigan) and Gamemaster. Both represent different aspects of Miriam’s personality in a way – the one that just wants to fall apart and vanish into a haze of drugs, and the one who wants to be powerful and stoic and invulnerable. I think these are all not just things women can relate to, but all of us.

TK: But it’s especially cool I think, in this sort of creative endeavor, to have such a cool team with the unique perspectives all of us bring, and if that in some way comes across as female empowerment and kick-ass, then hell yes, bring it!

6) How will Malevolent be distributed?

TK: It’s a little too early soon to talk distribution. We’ve met with several companies already and will be meeting with more I’m sure. We’ll see where it goes.

JC: This probably won’t be a wide theatrical release, but certainly a festival and limited release run could be in the offing. Certainly comic-cons. We’ll see what makes the most sense when we’re done with the movie this fall.

  1. What is your background? How did you come to animation?

JC: I have a degree in animation and fine art and am a huge animation fan, but soon after college I realized I didn’t have the patience for it, and that my skills were better suited for writing and producing.

TK: It was actually our producers Cindi Rice and Paige Barnett who suggested doing Malevolent as an animated movie. They had done animation for Epic Level Entertainment, such as Xombie and the motion comic sequence from the hit FearNet/Machinima web series Bite Me. Paige thought that going animated would help us stand out. And we all looked at each other and the clouds parted, and it was like, wow, that’s brilliant. As near as we can tell, no one had ever done an animated horror movie in the US before.

JC: Developing scripts is actually our day job – through www.CoverageInk.com.

TK: We develop scripts with writers, producer, and managers and help hone that material and those voices until they’re nice and shiny. The number one issue we’ve seen is, as Jim said, writers not learning the rudiments. There are so many resources out there – online classes, blogs, books, YouTube, etc. It’s easier than ever to learn what you need to learn to be a writer/filmmaker. I took online producing classes recently through one website. Don’t be afraid to rewrite! That’s where the magic happens. Malevolent literally took I think 23 drafts.

JC: Yep, literally submitting it to our Coverage Ink readers for analysis draft after draft until it finally was racking up those ‘considers.’ So don’t be afraid to go for it, and understand that it’s always a learning process. Filmmaking and writing are crafts. They can be learned.

8) Favorite horror movies?

TK: I have to give it up for Army of Darkness. A great combination of genres. Brilliantly anarchic. I’m more of a literary horror fan – King, Koontz and so forth. Sean of the Dead was another great one.

JC: Evil Dead II, The Fly (remake), Alien and Aliens, American Werewolf in London, Dawn of the Dead, Texas Chainsaw I and II, Serpent and the Rainbow, Jacob’s Ladder, The Thing (Carpenter)… it’s a pretty big list, but I tend to like horror films that bring something unexpected or out of the box to the genre. Zombies, vampires, etc., all bore me.

9) Anything else to add?

TK: This has been our geeky passion project for two years now, and we’ve put everything on the line to make this film happen. We had to literally build a team from scratch and figure out how to coordinate everyone, located in 13 different countries and time zones. All to make Malevolent happen. So we’re excited, nervous, scared – you know, all that good stuff. But the amazing thing is that the reaction so far has been amazing, and people seem to really dig what we’re doing. Hopefully we’ll knock it out of the park and show everyone what you can do.

JC: We’re all about DIY and writer empowerment. For years screenwriters have given away their power — nothing happens with your material unless someone else buys it. Thanks to the Internet, crowdfunding, low-cost HD cameras and so forth, now anyone can make movies. It’s a beautiful thing. So get out there and make it happen!

The Point Radio: Shatner’s Warp Speed World

Willam Shatner doesn’t slow down. His career is still moving at warp speed with his one man show, a new book (on his friendship with Leonard Nimoy) and a nationwide concert tour that showcases the music of all of STAR TREK. We talk about all that as well as his passion for film making. Plus former PUNISHER Ray Stevenson is back at being bad, this time as Blackbeard in the new season of BLACK SAILS on Starz (premiering tomorrow). How accurate is the portrayal and which other famous pirate is he constantly compared to?

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Mike Gold: And This Is How The World Ends!

Gold Art 130828OMG! OMG! Did you hear who they’ve signed to play Batman in a whole bunch of movies, starting with Man of Steel 2? No, not Anthony Weiner. And not Ann Coulter –she’s already signed to play Nick Fury in the S.H.I.E.L.D. teevee series. No, Warner Bros. found somebody far worse. They hired the very personification of celluloid evil: Ben Affleck.

Yes, I’m sure you heard of this. So did literally tens of thousands of “fans” who were so upset they signed a petition condemning the action. And seemingly hundreds of thousands went to Facebook, to Twitter, hell some even reactivated their My Space accounts to express their extreme displeasure. Yea, verily, Ragnarök is upon us!

To quote the immortal William Shatner, get a life. You’re entitled to your opinion; if you don’t think Ben Affleck is a worthy actor, that’s your opinion. In my opinion, you’re wrong – Ben Affleck is a perfectly fine actor on his worst day. Besides, it doesn’t matter who’s inside the rubber suit. Lassie would look fine in the Batsuit, as long as she didn’t try to lick herself.

The question is, can the performer handle the role of Bruce Wayne? Quite frankly, this is not a tricky part to handle. Any handsome high school senior who did The Great Gatsby can do it. It’s hard to imagine Affleck turning in any less a performance than Michael Keaton – who I thought was fine – and a better performance than Keaton’s first two successors.

I realize it’s heresy to say this, but that’s never stopped me before: Christian Bale didn’t have all that much to do as Bruce Wayne. When he did, he was fine but nobody was wailing about his being cheated out of an Oscar (Registered Trademark, AMPAS, All Rights Reserved, Watch Yer Ass).

I’ll even defend the Daredevil movie. Ben Affleck wasn’t what was wrong with that movie, and, honestly, in my opinion it wasn’t a bad movie. We had come to expect better Marvel superhero movies, but it was better than both Hulks and either Fantastic Four. More important, the director’s cut was actually a good movie. Not Spider-Man 2 good, not The Dark Knight good, but a solidly entertaining movie with some fine performances. Direct your wrath at whomever cut the theatrical print.

Besides, Affleck can’t help but walk all over Henry Cavill. It’s the approach to Man of Steel 2 that concerns me. The first one was totally misguided. It wasn’t Superman. Actually, it was Batman.

I’ll say one thing for the hiring of Ben Affleck. It shows that Warner Bros. is willing to put their money where their, well, their sundry body parts are. Signing him to a multi-movie contract shows they’re in it for the long haul. It shows they understand what Robert Downey Jr. did for the Marvel movie universe.

And if there’s ever a Marvel/DC crossover movie – calm down; this is just a what-if – I can’t think of a more enjoyable pairing than Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Affleck.

Besides, we already know Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark sit on each other’s board of directors.

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Martin Pasko

 

Emily S. Whitten: Hi-Yo, Dragon Con! Away!

Whitten Art 130820It seems like just yesterday I was getting back from San Diego Comic-Con…and now in less than two weeks, heeeeere comes Dragon Con! Another adventure!

Believe it or not, I still have some things to report from SDCC (yeah, I got a little behind, oops), but even though I’m still catching up from the last con, I’m super looking forward to Dragon Con! Why?

Well, for one thing, Dragon Con is my favorite con for costuming, outside of the Discworld cons. Not only do I get a kick out of costuming myself (as I’ve mentioned here before), but I also love looking at all of the amaaaaaazing costumes other people put together. From a Cylon with a real glowing spine, to an Archchancellor Ridcully with an actual flask in the tip of his pointy hat, to a pair of female “Spy vs. Spy” spies chasing each other around, any and every costume you can think of might make an appearance at the con, and the detail and creativity of many of the costumes just blows my mind.

The humor of a lot of them makes me happy, as well – from a group of gender-bent Disney princesses (complete with beards), to a couple of Spaceballs “combing” the bar-area floor with an actual giant comb, there are a lot of funny costumes to see. And then, of course, there’s one of the coolest costumes I ever saw at the con, which was done by my own roommate and friend Erica – a working Portal shirt with “portals” on the front and back, through which you could “see” to the other side. You never know what costume you’ll see next, and I love that.

I’m also super-excited, as always, about the awesome guests. Dragon Con is a great cross-section of the comics and genre TV and movie worlds, with guests from all over the spectrum. Also, of the cons I’ve been to, it’s the most comparable in its mix of guests to SDCC; but despite the huge crowds (57,000 people are expected to travel to Atlanta for Dragon Con this year), has a much more laid-back and less chaotic feel. Not to mention that with the Walk of Fame, you can often walk right up to your favorite celebrity to say hello (and buy a photo or an autograph, if that’s your thing). This year, I’m looking forward to seeing guests from Smallville, Once Upon a Time, Arrow, and Battlestar Galactica, among others. I’m also looking forward to seeing one of my favorite parts of any con, the animation and voice actor panels. Dragon Con has a lot of great voice actors coming this year, and those panels are always a blast. W00t!

Although this will be my third Dragon Con, there may be some folks out there for whom this is their first – and even for those who have been before, there are some new things to take note of this year. For that reason, I checked in with Dan Carroll of Dragon Con to see what he could tell me about this year’s con and how to enjoy it. Here’s what he said.

What are your top three tips to help new Dragon Con attendees get the most out of their experience?

1) Use the App! (Which you can get for Android or iPhone.)

2) Dad advice: Drink plenty of fluids! Eat your Meals! Sleep and Shower!

3) Have a plan for Dragon Con and find your way around as quickly as possible. Be flexible in your plan because you can’t see everything.

How does Dragon Con differ from other cons?

Dragon Cong brings together gaming, film, TV, comics, live music, a film festival, an art show, and the largest parade in Atlanta for a 24-hour-a-day event over four days in five four-star hotels and a great exhibition space.

What’s new and different this year, that veteran (and new) attendees should know about?

We have upgraded our vendor facilities by moving them to the AmericasMart showroom and convention space. This move allowed us to add nearly sixty new dealers or exhibitors. The space in the Marriott where vending was, is now home to the Walk of Fame where we have space for twenty additional signing tables.

Our big celebrations this year are about anniversaries. The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who has brought a great range of Doctor Who and Torchwood guests, the 30th Anniversary of Fraggle Rock is being celebrated with two Fraggle actors and puppets performing in our Puppetry Track. The 20th Anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is showcased with many of the original cast members and a lot of Star Trek luminaries including William Shatner and George Takei.

(Emily adds: It is also the 20th Anniversary of Animaniacs, as I’ve mentioned before, and Pinky and the Brain (Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche) will be on hand for that!)

What tools are available specifically for Dragon Con fun?

As I mentioned before, the App is a great place to start. Each hotel has an information desk that provides excellent advice and guidance to the Dragon Con member. Other great tools are the Daily Dragon for updated information and Dragon Con TV for some serious belly laughs.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s con? What do you recommend as a must-see activity?

I am looking forward to the new guests at Dragon Con such as Lee Majors and Lindsey Wagner. I am also looking forward to seeing my friends and reporters from around the country whom I only get to see at Dragon Con.

What’s the best costume you’ve ever seen at Dragon Con?

I think the most striking I have ever seen is a 12 foot tall Galactus. My favorite is probably when I see my favorite comic book character, Marvel Girl Jean Grey in her 1960s mini dress and white go-go boots.

Anything else you’d like to share about the con?

The easiest thing about talking about Dragon Con is that there is so much to talk about, which leaves me knowing that I am always leaving so much out. With 38 “tracks” of programming, each dedicated to an aspect of fandom, there is too much going to on to convey in a few sentences, so I invite everyone to come to Dragon Con and experience this amazing event for yourselves!

•     •     •     •     •

Well there you have it, folks! Some tips and info for new and veteran attendees, which will hopefully help everyone have as great a time at Dragon Con as I plan to have! And if you see me at the con, be sure to say hi!

Until next time, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis on March

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold on Rock’n’Blues

 

Mindy Newells’s Wish List

22570How many books and DVDs do you have on your Amazon wish list? How often do you remember to look at it? I always forget to check it, but I took a look at it today, and there are 100 items.

No, I am not soliciting here. My birthday isn’t for another six months, Chanukah and Christmas are too far off to think about, and I’m not your mother, so forget about Mother’s Day, which is this Sunday, btw – although there is Alix, whom I always alert to her mom’s new column. Big Hint, Alix!

I do have to delete some of the books and DVDs; I’ve ordered them without looking at my wish list because, well, I forget to check the damn thing, but there’s still a lot there. The oldest item was added on June 11, 2006; it’s Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Complete Third Season (DVD, not Blu-Ray. I don’t have a Blu-Ray player.) I have no idea why I’ve never ordered this, why it’s languished at the bottom – maybe because I watch BBC America’s repeats of TNG on Saturday late afternoons (which lead in to Doctor Who) – since that season of TNG, as Bob Greenberger so excellently reviewed on ComicMix, was the season where the show really found its legs, airing such classics as Sarak (a Vulcan disease comparable to Alzheimer’s is destroying Sarak’s mind), Yesterday’s Enterprise (in an alternate timeline, the Federation is losing a war with the Klingons and Tasha Yar is still alive), Sins of the Father (Worf accepts disgrace and discommendation to prevent a Klingon civil war – the start of an outstanding seasons-long exploration of Klingon culture that carried over to Deep Space Nine – and save the Empire), and of course the season finale, Best of Both Worlds: Part I (“Mr. Worf….fire!”) Also of note, at least to me, are Who Watches the Watchers, (a pre-warp, pre-industrial civilization discovers they are being watched by Federation anthropologists), The Enemy (Geordi and a Romulan are marooned on a harsh planet and must work together to survive), The Offspring (Data creates an android daughter), and Deja Q (Q becomes mortal and is still a pain in the ass).

Apparently I was busy browsing on June 11, 2006. I also added Fagin the Jew by Will Eisner. I know I picked this one because of my dual love for Eisner and for Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist. According to Amazon’s description, Eisner first envisioned the book as an introduction to a graphic adaption of Twist, but “as he learned more about the history of Dickens-era Jewish life in London, Eisner uncovered intriguing material that led him to create this new work. In the course of his research, Eisner came to believe that Dickens had not intended to defame Jews in his famous depiction. By referring to Fagin as “the Jew” throughout the book, however, he had perpetuated the common prejudice; his fictional creation imbedded itself in the public’s imagination as the classic profile of a Jew. In his award-winning style, Eisner recasts the notorious villain as a complex and troubled antihero and gives him the opportunity to tell his tale in his own words.

On that same day I also added Drums Along the Mohawk, starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert (and directed by one of my all-time favorite directors, John Ford), When Worlds Collide, based on the book by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer, which I read years ago in my Introduction To Science Fiction class at Quinnipiac back when it was just a college and not a university – and talking about it now makes me want to reread it, so I’m going to add the book to my wish list, and Elizabeth I: The Virgin Queen, a 2005 Masterpiece Theatre mini-series, because of my passion for all things Tudor ( and yes, I already have The Tudors boxed set).

Moving forward, I kept up with my Tudor passion in 2011, adding a shitload of novels and non-fiction about that dynasty, including The King’s Pleasure, a novel about Katherine of Aragon (Henry’s first wife, she whom he dumped for Anne Boleyn) by the late and great British author Norah Lofts, and two histories by another Brit, famed historian and author Allison Weir: The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn and Henry VII: The King and His Court. I also listed Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Armgrin, Prairie Tales: A Memoir by Melissa Gilbert, and The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House by Melissa Sue Anderson just because I always loved Little House on the Prairie. C’mon, who didn’t?

In November 2011 I added William Shatner’s Up Till Now: The Autobiography. Bill, I love ya!

2012 additions include Among Others, by Jo Walton. The Hugo and Nebula Award winner for that year is a brilliant coming-of-age story that mixes young adult literature, magic, and science fiction into a read for all ages. I also found Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, by John Scalzi (which was reviewed by ComicMix’s John Ostrander), a spin on the classic Star Trek’s law that new ensigns, i.e., red shirts, always get killed on away missions.

Being a fan of Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God, I also added Doc, Russell’s take on Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and the events that occurred at the O.K. Corral. And I really must move up to the top of the list Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers, the story of four women who are among the 900 Jews holding out against the superior Roman army at the siege of Masada, the mountaintop fortress in the Judean desert.

Just a few months ago I added Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which the New York Times Sunday Book Review just, well, reviewed, and which has garnered much press and praise. It’s the timey-whiney story of Ursula Todd, who is born, dies, and lives again, is born, dies, and lives again, is born, dies, and lives again…each time taking making choices that affect not only Ursula, but her family, friends, and even the world. It’s a story that especially relevant to me these days.

It’s been a tough time for me since last Christmas, when my father first became ill, and watching my mother slowly slipping into elderly dementia. My life has become a cacophony personal and professional turmoil, a symphony of wishes and “if onlies”; I lie in bed at night unable to sleep, with all the different “roads less travelled” in my life teasing me with alternate possibilities, alternate lives. I am adrift at sea, questioning my choices and wondering, no, all too often, fearing the future.

If wishes were horses, the beggars would ride.

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

 

Never-Aired Pilot Highlights Dr. Kildare The Complete First Season

D500We here at ComicMix celebrate all manner of pop culture from today’s obvious hits to the arcane wonders of yesteryear. every now and then we get a notice about something that seems just outside our realm of interest but there’s a thing or two that grabs us. Something like an unaired pilot to the legendary Dr. Kildare series is one of those things. Not only that, but the series gave us Richard Chamberlain as a star (long before he was resurrected for Leverage). The show not only boasted an impressive guest cast, as noted below but it featured some of the best writers working in television including a pre-Star Trek Gene Roddenberry. So, here’s the press release for those who remember and remain interested:

Warner Archive Collection continues to unveil some of the finest series in television history with its release this week of DR. KILDARE: THE FIRST COMPLETE SEASON. The newly remastered DVD premiere includes a “lost” episode – “The Eleventh Hour,” the original, never-aired pilot for the Wendell Corey drama.

Young Richard Chamberlain and veteran actor Raymond Massey don the surgical scrubs – first made famous in the Dr. Kildare films of the 1930s and ‘40s by the team of Lew Ayres and Lionel Barrymore – for the equally successful TV incarnation in the 1960s. Chamberlain’s star ascended quickly, as the show swept him from being a relative unknown to full-on teen idol status (in a show pointed squarely at adults, no less).

The guest cast features a stunning array of Hollywood notables and future primetime TV and film stars. Notable guests from DR. KILDARE: THE FIRST COMPLETE SEASON include film legends Joseph Cotten, Mary Astor, Margaret O’Brien, Lee Marvin, Ellen Burstyn and Dorothy Malone. Television luminaries appearing in the first season spotlight William Shatner, Ted Knight, Jean Stapleton, Suzanne Pleshette, John Fiedler, Herschel Bernardi, Gavin MacLeod, Anne Francis, Jan Murray, Ken Berry, Donna Douglas, Harvey Korman, Ross Martin, Richard Kiley, Roger Mobley, Edward Platt, Martin Balsam, Arte Johnson, Jack Albertson, Bill Mumy, Pat Hingle, William Schallert, Glynnis Johns, Rip Torn, Michael Constantine, Dean Jagger, Joyce Van Patten, and BOTH Bewitched Darrins, Dick York and Dick Sargent.

William Shatner is featured in this clip from DR. KILDARE: THE FIRST COMPLETE SEASON:

Beyond the impressive guest cast, the true star for TV fans is the “lost” episode. “The Eleventh Hour,” the never-aired pilot, teams Dr. Theodore Bassett with Drs. Gillespie and Kildare to get to the bottom of what the devil is wrong with Ann Costigan (Vera Miles).

All episodes have been newly remastered especially for this DVD premiere release. Initial quantities of this release will be traditionally replicated (pressed) in anticipation of high consumer demand.

John Ostrander: Pop Food

When I was back in college, a girl I was dating teasingly insisted that if I had to choose between her and a double chocolate cake I would have to think hard. “Nonsense, my dear,“ I told her, “You exaggerate. I would always choose you.” After a beat, I added, “With infinite regret for having lost that double chocolate cake.”

The relationship with that young lady did not last but my relationship with chocolate and, indeed, food in general certainly has. I’ve become a pretty good home cook over the past few years and I credit television for a lot of that.

I was not into cooking all that much for most of my life. Oh. I could feed myself and even – on occasion – make a really good meal. Then one day I was reading in the newspaper an article about a new show coming onto the Food Channel (which at that point I not only didn’t watch but disdained). It was Iron Chef (the original Japanese version) that was described as a cross between a cooking show and a sports event. Well, that intrigued me enough to sample it and, in short order, I was hooked. It was complete with play-by-play announcer, a field reporter, an analyst, and guest commentators who also were part of the judging committee.

The Chairman who presided over it all was also over the top – heck, the whole thing was over the top – with florid weekly attire. Weekly challengers would come in to challenge the three (later four) Iron Chefs and, while the whole thing may have been rigged, it was played straight.

It led me into sampling more of the Food Channel which in those days included Sarah Moulton, Mario Batali, as well as Rachel Ray and Bobby Flay until the Food Channel became one of the most frequent stops for me on the dial. I also started checking out some of the food shows on other channels such as PBS where I discovered America’s Test Kitchen and its sister show, Cook’s Country, which are my two favorites. Sarah Moulton eventually migrated over to PBS as well and there’s the indomitable Lidia Bastianich, the Italian cooking grandma who scares the bejabbers out of me. I would never cross Lidia. However, she’s a great cook, good teacher, and excellent communicator.

I’ve learned things from them over the years, especially America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Country, and Sarah Moulton. Tips around the kitchen, recipes, ways to prepare food and even how I think about food. I subscribe to some of the magazines and bought some of the cook books and, in general, have become a much better cook as a result.

Things have changed along the way, some not for the better, IMO. The Japanese producer took Iron Chef off the air. An American version followed, with William Shatner as The Chairman but it was (thankfully) aborted after only a few episodes. It was terrible. Food Network launched its own Iron Chef America and it’s been pretty good. A bit tamer than the Japanese version but very watchable.

The problem is that it also ushered in a generation of cooking competitions that now dominate the network. There are battles over cupcakes, you can get Chopped, there are even competitions to decide who will be the next Iron Chef (whose roster has grown from three to a bloated six or seven). To get a cooking show on Food Network you now have to survive a competition called Food Network Star. Only one winner – Guy Fieri – can honestly be said to have gone on to become a real Food Network Star. The others get a show that seems to last a season or two and they’re gone.

The competition shows so dominate Food Network that the parent corporation had to create a new channel, the Cooking Channel, to house the shows that actually are about cooking. Some of the best cooks who were teachers – Mario Batali and Sarah Moulton – left (or perhaps were forced out). I’m watching less of it.

I know on the regular networks they’re even doing a talk/food show called The Chew. It sometimes has Mario Batali or Iron Chef Michael Symon on it, both of whom I enjoy, and I’ve tried watching it sometimes during my daily lunch break but, in general, I find it unwatchable. I know Rachel Ray has also gotten a syndicated talk show on which she also does some cooking but she’s not a great interviewer. If I want that kind of show (and I don’t often) I’ll watch Ellen.

I’ve watched a fair amount of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. It’s formula – Ramsey is asked to come in and help a struggling restaurant, he finds food, décor, and/or sanitary conditions deplorable, hollers and berates everyone in sight, makes things better, and leaves somewhat akin to a surly Scottish Lone Ranger. I mostly enjoy it even though I learn nothing and it’s successful enough to have spawned a rip-off imitation on Food Network and about a bajillion other Ramsey starring shows. You cannot watch all the shows Gordon Ramsey does and have any sort of real life. It would just take up too much of the day. He’ll probably have his own cooking channel shortly – all Gordon Ramsey, all the time. I suspect his ego would like that.

For me, it’s about the food, and can a show make me learn something new or does it make me want to run out and cook. My Mary and I saw one of Julia Child’s later cooking shows when she was in a kitchen with her friend, Jaques Pepin, and they were making hamburgers. They concocted what they considered to be the quintessential hamburger. It got us drooling so much that we ran out to find a place that served good hamburgers. What we got wasn’t on the scale of Julia and Jaques’ but we had to have a burger – any burger. That’s how well Julia communicated and why she was the Master Chef of television. Gawd, just remembering it is making me drool some more.

Excuse me, I’ve gotta go find something to eat.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell