Time magazine’s television critic, James Poniewozik, has posted the first review for Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, which will not air until February 13.
He wrote, “It was both better and worse than I expected, in different ways. One of my concerns about it was that — given Joss Whedon’s talent for making absorbing serials — the case-of-the-week nature of the show would make it harder to grow attached to. (I’m assuming that anyone who cares at this point knows the premise already, but in case I’m wrong: Eliza Dushku plays Echo, an "Active," which is a person who has agreed to let a secretive organization erase his or her original memories and personality and implant new ones in them for "assignments" involving rich clients.)
“Yes, this is certainly Joss Whedon trying to do What People Think Works on Broadcast TV Today—the legendary serial-procedural hybrid. But the first episode—in which Echo is imprinted with a kidnapping-negotiator’s personality to secure the return of a rich man’s abducted daughter—is well enough written to be absorbing. Writing a crime hour doesn’t seem like Whedon’s thing, but the episode is tight, suspenseful, with intriguing psychological twists and flashes of Whedonesque humor.”
He is concerned that the show “is less a series concept than an actress’ showcase, a sort of extreme version of an Alias undercover premise.”
Still, he’s optimistic about the series and its future, concluding, “But for me, the main draw now is not seeing Dushku become a different person every week, but getting to see Joss Whedon become a different writer every week.”
So the third New York Comic Con is one for the annals and I have stopped twitching.
It was, at its Saturday afternoon height, a cauldron of mad, chaotic energy. (And wasn’t it dangerous? Couldn’t all that energy, confined and concentrated by four walls, affect the hearts of atoms and cause the forces that bind them together to disintegrate us all into quarks that would join the neutrinos in spewing through the universe?) That’s okay, for me, in small doses, and maybe in large doses for you, especially if you’re young and new to the megacon scene.
I won’t bother describing the event for you. If you frequent this site, you probably already have all pertinent information. Instead, a tiny, personal note:
Every one of the panels on which I sat was interesting and, I was happy to see, well-attended, which hasn’t always been the case in huge cons, where it sometimes seems that the exchange of currency is more important than honoring and discussing and learning about an art form. But the absolute, stone, hands-down high point came early, on Friday night, when I shared a stage with Peter Sanderson, who moderated, and Gary Freidrich, Joe Sinnott, and Stan Goldberg. Except for Peter, we were all veterans of Marvel’s early days, before the company became Marvel Entertainment and attached its logo to vastly expensive motion pictures, soon to play at a multiplex near you, back when it just published comic books – all kinds of comic books, not just the superhero kind – and there were no multiplexes in which to show ridiculously costly films, even if such films had existed.
Back in the halcyon Sixties, when respectability was but a distant glimmer on science fiction’s horizon (and comics were still mired in disrepute), the editor of an SF magazine asked me to review a novel by Philip K. Dick. It wasn’t my first encounter with Mr. Dick; back in St. Louis, before I’d migrated east and gotten into the funny book racket, I’d read a roommate’s copy of Man in the High Castle and found it interesting. I told the editor, sure, be happy to. The book was Galactic Pot Healer. I didn’t like it and wrote the review accordingly.
That doesn’t quite end the story. The review never got into print. It may have been a lousy review – hey, nobody’s perfect – or the fact that the editor was friendly with Mr. Dick may have influenced his decision. No big deal either way,
Cut to a decade or so later: I am in Southern California on a mission for Marvel Comics and I have run out of things to read, and for some reason, there are no places to buy books nearby, and our expense allowances for this particular jaunt do not include car rental. Oh, woe! What is a print junkie to do? Then my fellow Marvel editor and friend Mark Gruenwald comes to the rescue with a copy of Valis, by a writer I knew I didn’t like, the same guy who’d perpetrated Galactic Pot Healer. But a writer I didn’t like is better than no writer at all – remember, I’m a print junkie – and besides Mark, whose acumen I respect, recommends him. I take Mark’s copy of Valis to my room…
And have that rare and wonderful experience of finding what I hadn’t known I was looking for. Dick was writing a kind of fiction unlike any I’d ever encountered – a fiction that dealt with the malleability of reality, the impossibilities of accurate perception, the questions of personal identity and its place in a large context.
I enrolled in the Philip K. Dick Society and delved into the author’s 44 title backlist.
A year ago, someone who shares my DNA found that tattered copy of Galactic Pot Healer on a bookshelf somewhere and I reread it. I can see why I panned it 40 years ago. The writing is only okay, the plot not terribly engaging. But mostly, the book doesn’t deliver what I think I wanted from science fiction in those days, which was closer to space opera than the introspective, sui generis stuff Dick was doing. But in my new capacity as an Ancient, whose tastes have changed somewhat, I could and did enjoy it. It will never be on my Top 10 list, but I don’t regret having experienced it.
I now know that Dick wrote what was labeled “science fiction” only because nobody, maybe including Dick himself, knew what else to call it. Writing in a genre meant that folks who fancied themselves capital L-Literary would not notice the work, and may not have been able to judge its worth if they had. Back then, the rule of thumb was If it’s good it can’t be science fiction. So Dick’s brilliantly original novels were largely ignored during his lifetime.
His reputation has gradually brightened over the years because, among other reasons, his work has inspired a lot of movies, from Blade Runner, completed shortly after his death in 1982, to Next, which I saw last weekend. Now, The Establishment, in the person of the guys who run the Library of America, have further anointed Mr. Dick by bringing out an edition of four of his novels to be offered alongside productions from Twain, Hawthorne, Melville…you know, the gents whose yarns get assigned in Lit. classes. The Dick collection is edited by the increasingly ubiquitous Jonathan Lethem, which, as far as I’m concerned, is icing on the cake.
Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of comic books like Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern and/or Green Arrow, and The Shadow, as well as all kinds of novels, stories and articles.