Tagged: wrong

Meet Jen Krueger

Jen Krueger headshotI’m guessing that throughout an average lifetime we meet approximately 25 billion people. I could be wrong, but that’s what it seems like. After all, not all of these folks are worth meeting – and more than a handful of them are truly disgusting.

Well, tomorrow morning ComicMix is going to do you a favor: we’re going to introduce you to a clever, funny, intelligent and knowledgeable person who is definitely worth meeting. This is because tomorrow morning, at 8 AM EST-USA, we’re happy to say you are going to meet our newest columnist, Jen Krueger.

I could say a lot about Jen, which is weird because I’ve yet to meet her. Outside of the fact that the entire continental United States separates us, it is clear to me that if we were to meet for an early dinner our conversation would last until closing time, and then continue in front of the restaurant. Okay, I’ll admit this is usually the case when two expatriated Chicagoans meet, but Jen is… amazing. I know this because I’ve read her first ComicMix column – the one you’ll be reading tomorrow morning – and I’ve seen some of her other work.

But given the fact that we have yet to meet, I’m going to let Jen describe herself. According to the official ComicMix Book of Rules and Regulations, she’s going to do this in the third-person.

Jen Krueger is a writer and improviser living in Los Angeles. Ask her and she’ll proudly tell you she hails from Chicago. Don’t ask her, and she’ll probably tell you anyway. Jen is the Associate Director of the L.A. Indie Improv Festival and runs Friday night indie improv show The Manifesto Show with her team Comrades. Jen also hosts PrePopCulture, a podcast about pop culture before it pops. She owns one Calvinball, two sonic screwdrivers, and has degrees in Curiosity and Advanced Curiosity.

You’ll get to know Jen better after you read her first ComicMix column, right here on this unique slice of ether, Tuesday morning.

Which calls up the need for a bit of housekeeping.

You might ask “Hey! What happened to Emily S. Whitten?” To which I respond: you didn’t read her November 26th column… so I’ll encapsulate. For the next six months, Emily will be deep in work so she’s shifting to a monthly posting schedule, on or about the 25th of each month. She will be back to her weekly posting schedule after May 2014… and we miss her already.

Now you may ask “Hey! What happened to Martin Pasko?” To which I respond: hmmm… maybe we’ll run a contest.


Win a Blu-ray Copy of The Wolverine

BD comboWhat does it take to get a woman’s attention? The answer, gentlemen: Iron Claws. Logan, played by Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine, knows exactly what we mean. Jackman returns as The Wolverine and faces his ultimate nemesis in an action-packed, life-or-death battle that takes him to modern-day Japan. Vulnerable for the first time and pushed to his limits, Wolverine confronts not only lethal samurai steel but also his inner struggle against his own immortality; an epic fight that will leave him forever changed. Through all of this, Logan has no problem attracting women, some trying to save him and others trying to kill him. To prepare you for the film’s release on to DVD and Blu-ray today, we’ve compiled a list of The Wolverine’s leading ladies who can’t seem to take their paws off of his claws!

1.   Yukio: The Body Guard

The-Wolverine-Rila-Fukushima-Yukio2Yukio always remained in the “Friend Zone” with Logan, and it’s probably for the best. Thanks to her, Wolverine was able to dodge death several times. She is a badass sidekick!

2.     Viper: Toxin Immune “Doctor”

ViperViper and The Wolverine have so much in common. Both are mutants, both have claws; both are pretty much immortal. While Viper wasn’t exactly fighting for Logan’s love and affection, she couldn’t’ seem to stay away. Even after Logan survives Viper’s murder attempt via a bot she put on his heart both he and she kept coming back for more!

3. Jean Grey: The Ex

Jean GreyWhile her appearance in the film is short and sweet, we find out that it didn’t end that way between the ex lovers. The Wolverine was forced to kill Jean, but it’s okay because she still loves him.  No hard feelings!

4. Mariko: The One to Save

Originally, Mariko plays hard to get, she doesn’t think she needs The Wolverine’s help. Well, let’s just say she was wrong. Not only did Logan save Mariko from being killed, she also fell in love with him. I think it’s safe to say he loves her too.

WolverineMarikoAW-620x349In order to enter the contest, tell us which one is his True Love and why. Get us your thoughts by 11:59 p.m., Saturday, December 7. Open to US and Canadian readers only and the judgment of ComicMix‘s judges will be final.

Michael Davis: C.P. Time

Davis Art 131112Nobody talks more smack about black people than other black people.

There are about a zillion different ways black people describe another black person screwing up. Many of these definitions are stereotypes that would get a non-black person pimp slapped if spoken.

Not being black and telling someone who is that their watch is set to C.P. time or that Obama is the H.N.I.C will surly produce at least a “you looking to get your ass kicked” stare but more than likely a pimp or a bitch slap.


No, I’m not going to tell you what C.P. time is nor what H.N.I.C means or the difference between a pimp and a bitch slap. The “you looking to get your ass kicked” stare is unmistakable, so much so, Helen Keller would get it.

If you don’t know these things, you’re clearly not black. I’m thinking that most non-black comic fans, at least those here at ComicMix, are pretty informed as to what means what and who and who not to say it to.

That’s here at ComicMix. Over at Bleeding Cool where I write another column it’s another story.

I’m convinced that the vast majority of those readers are, well cool. Some however, a small but very vocal group, would read up to the word “time” in my title and with a quickness The Flash would envy, post a comment explaining to me that Captain Planet is not a time traveler. After reading the first sentence the comment would continue with “nor is he black.”

Now, remember, I said the vast majority of Bleeding Cool readers are cool.

I fully expect somewhere on some “I’ll never get any pussy” comic book forum to see a raging discussion about how Michael Davis said all Bleeding Cool readers were…hell I don’t know what they will say I called them. I didn’t word that paragraph like a Dick & Jane book so I’ll get dozens of different takes on how I offended them.

But I digress (sorry Peter). If you want to know the 411 of any or all of the above have someone else ask a black person. Preferably someone you’d like to see get pimp slapped… one of those Bleeding Cool clueless haters would be my choice.

“Hey my main man, you’re black right?”

“Excuse me?” said the man whose skin color makes Wesley Snipes look like Edger Winter.

“Yo Holmes, you H.N.I.C on C.P. time? And if so what does that mea…”


No. That phrase was just wrong.




I just realized I couldn’t really get my point across without divulging what C.P. time is. Well, I could but I’d have to be a lot wittier than I am up to. I just flew across the Pacific Ocean and boy is my penis tired!

What, were you expecting the punch line to that old ass joke to be…and boy are my arms tired?

Nope. Don’t get the penis joke? Black guys do. But you can find out without putting anyone at risk for a beat down. Ask a fat white girl. They get it.

Because I’m just exhausted from lack of sleep, jet lag and fat white girls I’ll tell you what C.P. Time means.

It means Colored People Time, a none to subtle insinuation that black people are always late. It’s a silly outdated stereotype and within the black community we use it mostly in jest.


There’s always an exception to every rule. In the case of the massive show I’m curating for the Geppi Entertainment Museum, Milestones: African Americans in Comics, Pop Culture & Beyond, that exception numbers three.

So far.

That’s three artists whom I reached out to months and in one case over a year ago with the show info. They all accepted and they all have… lets just say been late.

The amount of work submitted on the call for entries website was staggering so I didn’t have to call a soul. Big names submitted, new talent submitted, new stars established journeymen, you name it we saw it on the website.

So like I said, I didn’t have to call one mofo (ask).

Out of respect I contacted a few select artists because quite frankly these people are just so fantastic they were invited by me to show without having to submit and be juried.

Most of those people are TCB (ask) and all is good in the world.

But, oh, those three…

Those three are working my last nerve. Look, I’m 100% positive that I’ve overlooked someone whose work deserves the exaltation this show will bring him or her. It’s bound to happen. I’ve seen hundreds of artists work but I may just have missed someone who should be an obvious choice. The people I called were on a very short list and I have not heard a peep from these people in months.

OK. I’m sure (really) they won’t let me down after I extended my personal invite so I’m sure all will be right in the world…

But if it isn’t…

They will kick themselves when the show opens and becomes an international phenomenal success.

If it doesn’t it’s all John Jennings fault. “I don’t want any artist in the show whose skin is darker than a paper bag.” I can’t believe he said that either. But Tatiana El-Khouri (who will surely be as responsible as John) said “I don’t want any women in the show taller or prettier than me, and they must all be illiterate.”

Hey, I know, simply unprofessional. But what could I do? I was unaware of any of this as I was waiting to hear from these three artists…





REVIEW: Fantastic Voyage

Fantasdtic VoyageAfter a decade of low-budget cheesy special effects science fiction films, the early 1960s was particularly quiet, ceding to television series such as Star Trek and The Time Tunnel. But, also released in 1966 was an eye-opening spectacular that had a plausible premise, strong cast, and the next generation in film special effects. Fantastic Voyage may be remembered today for Raquel Welch in a tight outfit, it is also a step forward in cinematic SF. Thankfully, it preceded 2001: A Space Odyssey by two years.

At a time when miniaturization was making home technology smaller and more sophisticated, the idea of inserting a tiny sub full of humans into the body of an ill scientist seemed the next logical step. The body in question was the victim of an assassination attempt and his knowledge and life had to be saved so a daring experiment was to be undertaken. Forget that the sub is nuclear-powered and the physics doesn’t quite make sense, but this is an ambitious leap forward in man’s quest to understand himself.

Once entering the body they have to contend with antibodies, foreign matter, and a ticking clock. So of course things go wrong en route to the blood clot located in the man’s brain. Harry Kleiner’s screenplay (from a story by a story by Otto Klement and Star Trek’s Jerome Bixby) ignored the original intent for being a Jules Vernesque escapade and dashed the sense of wonder in favor of a dated Cold War vibe.

Richard Fleisher, a skilled and versatile director who helmed Barabbas, Doctor Doolittle, Soylent Green. and yes, Conan the Destroyer, brings his A game to the film, never letting the mind-blowing special effects overwhelm the adventure. He let his cast, led by Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O’Brien, and Donald Pleasence, actually act and treat this as a plausible mission. Harper Goff, who gave us the Nautilus in Fleisher’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, provided the designs for the Proteus while Ernest Laszlo  made the blood stream a hallucinogenic treat. Leonard Rosenman made a conscious decision not to add music until the crew was inside the scientist’s body so it added to the unreal feel of the location. All told, the film worked better than anyone expected earning it Oscars for Best Art Direction – Color  and Best Special Effects.

The film’s unheralded star was actually Isaac Asimov, who wrote the novelization and corrected numerous logic and medical flaws which were later incorporated into the film, keeping it from being silly. His work was fast while the filming was repeatedly delayed so the book was out a full six months ahead of the film making many think it was an adaptation of his work.

FVAll told, though, today’s CGI easily beats the traditional special effects, automatically making the film feel old. The Cold War stuff distracts from a human adventure and the writing is stiff in places while the direction is leisurely compared with today’s quick cut culture. But this was a pioneering effort that restored a modicum of respect for the genre, paving the way for Kubrick and those who quickly followed. As a result, the film is well worth watching.

Therefore, it’s good to see that the transfer to high def was pretty solid although not perfect. The mono mix is transferred nicely so both add up to a pleasant viewing experience at home.

As for the extras, an incomplete collection from the Cinema Classics Collection DVD are repeated here, including

Most but not all of the supplements from the Cinema Classics Collection DVD have been ported over to this Blu-ray release. They include: Commentary by Film and Music Historian Jeff Bond; Lava Lamps and Celluloid: A Tribute to the Visual Effects of Fantastic Voyage (17:40)which is a useful tutorial on how they accomplished it all; Whirlpool Scene: Storyboard to Scene (2:22); and the Trailer and TV Spots (13:07). Additionally, there is an  Isolated Score Track With Commentary from Bond, who knows his stuff accompanied by Jon Burlingame and Nick Redman.

BBC News confirms “A Number” of Doctor Who missing episodes found

Those who were waiting for the BBC itself to weigh in with a statement can stop waiting. BBC News announced on their website today that “a number” of lost Doctor Who episodes have been found, and returned.

As discussed in our story from earlier in the week, the titular “number”, reaching as high as 106 in rumors  that have circulated for most of the summer, may be “two”.  The Radio Times reported two found adventures over the weekend, quietly following a more bombastic and hand-wavey piece by the tabloid The Mirror that went with the more sensationalist 106 figure.

The rumors (repeated almost verbatim in the Mirror piece) claim the questionably-sized cache was found in a TV station vault in Ethiopia.  The BBC piece (which can be assumed the least apocryphal, or at least, the least wildly inaccurate, ) avoids any specifics of source, other than that some episodes have been recovered.  This lack of detail may indicate that even they are just reporting the existence of a rumor.  Some writers have reminded the populace that even BBC News gets it wrong about events in their own organization.

A press conference, originally announced for Tuesday, was postponed to later in the week.  No specific details of the conference have been shared, but the BBC article suggests that news about how these episodes will be made available for viewing will be included.  This parallels the Radio Times’ report that the episodes will be available via iTunes.

So, very slow progress, but considering that more than a couple experts had once posited that all the episodes that would ever be found have been, ANY progress is monumental.  And as Steven Moffat has discussed himself in a recent interview, the media knows that reporting anything about Doctor Who will bring eyes to their pages, traditional or electronic.

Watch this proverbial space for more news, likely occurring over New York Comic Con, where the staff of ComicMix (including yr. obt. svt.) will attempt to separate the news from the rumor, and likely then going ahead and reporting both.

At this point, we must assume that there is nothing that can be assumed, and as sage advice, I shall draw your attention this dialogue from the classic of political satire, Yes, Minister:

Bernard Woolley: (I’ve heard) that there is £1 million worth of diamonds from South Africa in a Downing Street safe, but of course it’s only a rumour.
James Hacker: Is that true?
Woolley: Oh, yes.
Hacker: So, there ARE all those diamonds in Downing Street!
Woolley: Are there?
Hacker: You just said there were.
Woolley: No, I didn’t.
Hacker: Yes, you did! You said you’d heard this rumour, I said is it true, you said yes!
Woolley: I said yes, it was true that it was a rumour.
Hacker: You said you heard it was true!
Woolley: No, I said it was true that I heard it!

Eclipso – A Dark and Shadowy History

Eclipso_OriginDan Didio has written the latest iteration of the character for Villains Month, part of the new Forever Evil crossover event.  It ties up a plot arc that’s been weaving through the New 52 books since their inception – the villain’s black diamond has appeared in the short-lived Team 7 title, as well as Catwoman Demon Knights and even Sword and Sorcery. So clearly his return is intended to be a big one.

But this isn’t the first time DC has tried to make Eclipso into a top-echelon threat. Not by a long length.

People go on about how many times Aquaman has been revamped, but I gotta tell you, I think Eclipso has him beat.  Originally a sort of Jekyll-Hyde pastiche, he was released from within scientist Bruce Gordon whenever he was caught in the shadow of an eclipse.  Fortunately, eclipses are rather rare, so the character almost never appeared…oh, wait…ah, I’m being told that he could also appear under the shadow of an artificial eclipse, like a tea tray being used to block the light of a sunlamp.  Well, that certainly changes things.

He had a run in House of Secrets that got reprinted quite a bit in the wonderful years of the 100-page Super-Spectaculars, where people my age got most of their knowledge of the golden age and early silver age of comics.  He re-appeared on occasion when they needed a relatively generic and replaceable villain – he showed up in the Metal Men book as a Big bad, for pete’s sake.

It was with Eclipso: The Darkness Within that they first tried to make him into a major player.  Eclipso was now a major force of evil, hidden on the dark side where he secretly tried to control and destroy the shards of a massive black diamond, the Heart of Darkness.  But a visit by Lar Gand (Not the Legion’s  Mon-El, but the post-crisis version…look, just read my history of the character if you feel the need to catch up) gave Eclipso the idea to use the diamonds to possess the heroes of Earth, just as he’d used the first/original shard to possess Gordon.

The series did well and spawned a Eclipso title, one of the few times a villain carried a book.  Bruce Gordon was now being played as the Van Helsing to Eclipso’s Dracula, the Nayland Smith to Fu Manchu.  The book didn’t last all that long, and Eclipso sank back into the mid-card.

ComicMixer John Ostrander got ahold of him during his exemplary run on The Spectre, and the history changed again.  Not merely a demon of evil, Eclipso was in fact God’s first tool of Wrath, before The Spectre.  Eclipso, it’s explained, cause the biblical Flood at God’s behest.

This version of Eclipso returned a number of times, possessing Superman, taking Alex Montez as a host in a great arc in JSA, and most controversially, taking over Jean Loring, who was in quite a state after the events of Identity Crisis.

But in there, we got another version of his origin.  Now it’s explained that the black diamonds came from Apokalips, and Eclipso was created by Darkseid.  That was one of those changes that turned vast gouts of the past of the character into the rubbish heap, and it was not taken well by fans.

The New 52 has seen fit to bring the character back to his “god of vengeance” position, though his connection to God has not been re-confirmed.  With a number of appearances in several books, it’s a thread that has been in place for about all of the New 52.   Dan Didio, who did a very good job with the first few issues of Phantom Stranger, does a good job here summing up the latest new history of the character, and making clear how big a threat he can be.  Another small change – Bruce Gordon has now become “Gordon Jacobs,” likely to make the name more different from its original in-joke sources, Bruce Wayne and Commissioner James Gordon. He’s now being portrayed as a disgraced scientist, after an experiment with a solar-powered city goes terribly wrong.  This sets Gordon up to be tempted by Eclipso, as opposed to merely possesed against his will.  Like the spin made the the Phantom Stranger, it allows the character to be a bit more complex.

They’ve used Phantom Stranger to set up a couple other powerful Mystic characters – the first appearance of Raven was made there, though not mentioned by name, and that of her demonic father, classic Teen Titans foe Trigon, who also received a Villains Month issue.

Whether Eclipso will be a major player in Forever Evil, or if he’s being set up for an even later use is unsure.  But with the amount of time they’ve spent into setting him up, there are clearly big plans for the character.

Mindy Newell: The Doctor Who Dream Of Isabel Sofia Newell

It All Gives Me A Headache: Part Three (otherwise known as Multiverse University) is pre-empted this week to present a column by a special guest.

A few months before her birthday, Isabel asked me if I watched Doctor Who.  Oh, yeah, I said.  Do you?  She hadnt, but all her friends were raving about Matt Smith.  Tell you what, I said.  Ill get you the DVD set of Doctor Who.         

But I made a mistake.  I only got her the 11th Doctors series.  I figured that if she liked Matt, I would backtrack and get her the Chris Eccleston and David Tennant series.           

But my brother thought it would be best to start at the beginning plus I think he was curious about the whole Whovian phenomenon so, using Netflix, Isabel and he have been binging on the Time Lord, starting with the 9th Doctor.     

Theyre both hooked. 

And Isabel had a dream.        

This to cop a phrase from Law & Order is her story.


You think you have had the best dreams about the Doctor and his TARDIS?  You might want to think twice.

It started like this. I got on a bus to Hogwarts.  I knew something was wrong because you take the train to Hogwarts, not a bus.  I had just put my luggage away when I looked out the window of the bus and saw the Doctor standing there watching me.  Before I could do or say anything the bus took off and then just as suddenly stopped.  I got off the bus.

We were at Hogwarts, and…

…it was in the middle of town.

Again I knew something was wrong.  And no way was I going to go into Hogwarts if it was so public.

Then I saw the Doctor walking right towards me, but something was wrong again, because right in front of my eyes he suddenly split into the 9th, 10th, and 11th Doctors!

“This is crazy!” I thought to myself, and started running.

And ran smack into two metal things.

I fell down and looked up.

I was staring at a Cyberman and a Dalek.

“Exterminate!” said the Dalek.

“Delete!” said the Cyberman.

Suddenly I had a sword in my hand.

I swung, striking the Dalek in its eye.  I swung again, and exposed the Cyberman’s emotion-blocking chip.  I reached in and pulled it out.  Both the Dalek and Cyberman exploded into tiny bits of metal that rained down upon me.

I stood up, searching for somewhere to hide.


I ran to it, but I couldn’t open the door.

I saw the three Doctors coming towards me.  I knew that I had to get away from them.  I knew they couldn’t all be together at one time.  That they were not my friends.

I ran into a darkened theater.  I looked back.  The three Doctors were still on my tail.

I kept running until I couldn’t run anymore.  I collapsed.  The three Doctors were almost upon me.  I had lost my sword.

Then all of a sudden the three Doctors merged into one, and it was the 10th Doctor.  He picked me up, brought me into the TARDIS, laid me down on a bed, and gave me a kiss on the forehead.

And I knew that I was safe.

•     •     •     •     •

Isabel Sofia Newell is a vivacious 13 year-old who I have known since she was born.  A young woman of many talents, she is an accomplished blue-ribbon equestrienne on the show circuit, a cellist with PhilOrchKids the Philadelphia Orchestras young musician program and the Symphony in C Orchestra intensive summer camp based at the Gordon Theater at the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts in Camden, New Jersey.  She is also a gifted singer, who has wowed audiences with her performance as everybodys red-haired orphan, ANNIE, in junior summer stock.

Isabel is also a voracious reader, a fan of, among other things, Bone by Jeff Smith, the Archie family of comics, Percy Jackson, and, of course, Harry Potter.         

And just recently, Isabel has become a Whovian. 



Mindy Newell: Multiverse University

Quantum Leap Special Edition #1As I was saying…

One of the most imaginative uses of time travel as a story platform was Don Bellasario’s Quantum Leap, which starred Scott Bakula as quantum physicist (among other things) Dr. Sam Beckett and Dean Stockwell as Rear Admiral Al Calavicci:

“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Doctor Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished…

“He woke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Doctor Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.”

Sam was changing history.

Or was he creating alternate histories?

Alternate histories that led to whole new universes.

Parallel universes.

Multiverses within the meta-universe.

The multiverse  (a term coined by American philosopher and psychologist William James in 1895—I wonder what he was smoking?) is a hypothesis that states that there are infinite numbers of universes existing parallel to our own, but at different “levels” within the meta-universe.  The meta-universe is the hypothetical set of infinite—or maybe finite—possible universes (including our own) that together comprises everything that exists, i.e., you, me, the iMac computer I’m typing this on, the New York City skyline outside my window, President Obama, Vladimir Putin, Syria, the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars, space, time, matter, and energy, and the physical laws and mathematical constants that define them.  (In other words, 1 + 1 = 2 no matter where you are in the meta-universe.)

Confused?  See if this helps.  Think of the meta-universe as a sort of giant department store.  The store is stocked with merchandise, but each floor is a separate department, and a little different; they are contained within the same number of square feet, but the first floor sells cosmetics and leather goods and men’s wear, the second is dedicated to children, the third to women, and so on.  But each floor, while having its own standards and imperatives, must obey the rules set by the larger store within which it exists.

So, if Sam Beckett was creating alternate histories as he “quantum leaped” through time, did he eradicate himself from any or all histories?  In the last episode, Sam rights what he believes is his greatest wrong—not telling Beth (Al’s first wife and true love, whom he met in a previous jump) that Al isn’t dead, that he is a POW in Vietnam:

Sam:  I’m going to tell you a story. A
 story with a happy ending, but
only if you believe me.

Beth:  And if I don’t?

Sam:  You will. I swear you will. Instead of ‘Once upon a time,’ let’s start with the happy ending.
 Al’s alive and coming home.

The screen goes black.  A caption tells us that Al and Beth will be celebrating their 49th anniversary this year.

And another caption tells us, “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.”

But what does that mean?

The Grandfather Paradox:  Some fans believe that by changing the course of Beth and Al’s life, Sam wiped himself out of existence because Al Calavicci and Sam never met, therefore Al never became a key element in the development of the Quantum Leap project and so it never got off the ground.  But if Sam never existed, then how could he leap to Beth and tell her to wait, for Al was coming home?

The Novikov Self-Consistency Principle:  Other fans say that, so what if Al is happily married to Beth?  Sam still developed his quantum leap theory, and Al still became his liaison with the government and Sam is still out there, fighting “to put right what once went wrong.”  History rights itself.  History is consistent.

The Multiverse Theory:  Quantum mechanics—Sam is a quantum physicist—describes existence as probabilities, not definite outcomes.  And the mathematics of quantum theory suggests that all the possible outcomes of a situation do actually occur.  Robert Frost described it this way in The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

By taking the “one less traveled by,” the narrator has led a life with a certain outcome.  However, in quantum mechanics, the narrator also took the other road, the one “more” traveled by, and so a “bubble” or “daughter” universe was created, one in which the events and outcome of the narrators life were just as true, but just as different.

American theoretical physicist and string theorist Brian Green, now a professor at Columbia University, put it this way in his 2011 book The Hidden Reality:  Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos.

“And in each universe, there’s a copy of you witnessing one or the other outcome, thinking — incorrectly — that your reality is the only reality.”

So in this universe I have a daughter named Alix who is married to Jeff and they’re about to have a baby any minute, and I work as a nurse in the operating room and write for ComicMix.

In another universe I stayed married to Alix’s father, only in that universe Alixandra is Alexander and I never became a comics writer so I’m not writing this column for ComixMix because I never met Mike Gold who talked me into this thing in the first place.

In another universe, everything happened just like it has happened, only I never got better from my clinical depression and when I’m not in the hospital I’m on Welfare and Medicaid and my daughter doesn’t talk to me.

And in another universe, my father doesn’t have Complex Partial Seizure syndrome and he is going strong at 90 and my mother doesn’t need a walker and doesn’t have emotional, crazy outbursts and she’s as healthy as a horse and my Aunt Augie never had cancer and died and she and my mother talk every day on the phone….

In another universe I don’t have black hair (yeah, I dye it) but let myself go gray and I never married at all but Alixandra is still my daughter and Jeff is still her husband and they live on the East Coast and I’m a film editor who lives in Laurel Canyon with a couple of Oscars and SAG Awards under my belt.

What dreams may be in the multiverse….

To be continued next week!

John Ostrander: Secrets

Ostrander Art 130901Everyone has secrets; lots of them. As I said in my column about the TV miniseries Broadchurch, “…what gets revealed to whom, when, and how and is that a good idea really drives narrative and character. The revelation of secrets may answer some questions but may raise more.”

Some things you can tell about a person by looking at them: what they look like, ethnicity, gender, rough age and so on, but these days of social media such as Facebook, even that may be a secret. Are those pictures really of him/her? Those can still be secrets.

There are levels of secrets and not all of them are deep and dark. Your name, for example. Unless you’re wearing a name badge, it’s not immediately apparent. If you’re asked for your name, you usually give it. Some situations may alter that – women in bars may not give their real names or phone numbers, often with good reason. If a cop asks you your name, however, you’d better be prepared to share it.

There are secrets that you share with different groups of people. Acquaintances, co-workers, teachers and so on, people on Facebook perhaps, know more of your secrets than someone just passing by. There are those who are your actual friends and even within this community there are levels, some friends being closer than others. A level of trust is involved which means that you have usually have shared some secrets with them and they have proven worthy of that trust.

Family presents a parallel and often deeper level of secrets. I’ve joked in the past that parents often know how to push your buttons because they’re the ones who installed the wiring. I’ve been in situations around a family table where the adult children are telling stories of growing up and a parent will look bewildered and say, “I never knew about any of this!” They didn’t because the siblings kept those secrets. In my family it’s been joked as I grew up that if my twin brother, Joe, did anything wrong, sooner or later you’d find out because he would just blurt it out. Of me it was said that if I did anything wrong – well, maybe a decade later I might share it if I thought you were ready to deal with it. Yeah, I have a sneaky side.

There are the few people we let in very close. Deep, long time friends or, even more, the person that we love. Even they, however, don’t know all our secrets. There are some secrets known only to ourselves, that we don’t choose to share with anyone for whatever reason. Deepest of all are the secrets that we keep from ourselves, truths we don’t choose to face.

If all this is true in our own lives, and I submit that it is, then it needs to be true in our writing. A writer must know his/her characters’ secrets, especially the ones the characters hide from themselves. How the secrets are revealed, when, to whom, under what circumstances, and whether it was a good choice or turns out to be a good thing – all drive the narrative.

Sometimes the secret will be revealed to the audience before it is revealed to any character and that’s fine as well. It creates a deeper involvement with the audience and greater suspense; the audience has a vested emotional interest in what happens with the secret.

Nor do secrets need to be told all at once. This secret can be told or shown here and maybe that one there. Maybe part of the secret it told at one point and the rest comes out later. Secrets drive motivation and motivation drives the characters and they in turn drive the story.

And who doesn’t love a good story … or a good secret?




Martha Thomases: Comics… and How Science Works

Thomases Art 130823There was a time when it was assumed that people who read comics were not very smart. They couldn’t understand a book without pictures, despite the opinion of Lewis Carroll, as expressed by Alice. This opinion began to lose ground in the 1970s, and by the 1980s, when Art Spiegelman published Maus, some people began to think that comics were for people who were too smart.

During my time at DC, I saw a parallel development among schoolteachers and librarians. When we first start displaying our wares at book shows, we initially faced skepticism. As comics stories like “The Death of Superman” made the news, and more serious work, like Sandman, got reviewed in mainstream media, these professionals began to understand how graphic story could get students and library patrons excited about reading.

For the most part, comics have played only minor roles in classrooms. The excellent For Beginners series has covered about a bazillion topics. This September, NBM gets into the act with an American edition of a Dutch book, Science: A Discovery in Comics by Margreet de Heer. It is available in paper and pixel.

I could use a book that would explain science for the not-so-smart types I described above in the first paragraph. I’m terrible at memorizing the periodic tables, and if I start to think about time and how to define it, I get dizzy. Alas, this book does not fix my head.

It does something better.

deHeer traces the history of science from the ancient Egyptians to Richard Dawkins and beyond. She covers all the sciences: biology, geology, physics, astronomy, chemistry and so on. She describes scientific inquiry from the time that science was as hunch-based as religion (when it was assumed there were four elements, and the earth was the center of the universe) until now. Not only does she cite the times when scientists proved each other right, but also the times when they proved each other wrong.

She does this with charming drawings, with two characters who walk through the millennia, and interact not just with historical science, but with the people affected by their discoveries. It deftly shows that there is more to history than a list of kings and battles.

A lot of fundamentalist types, especially creationists, like to point at the errors other scientists have found in the work of Darwin, and claim that since his original theory of evolution was flawed, that means God created the world in six days a few thousand years ago. That’s not how science works. Real scientists never take “Yes” for an answer. They always seek to disprove an old theory, or prove a new one. When science proves something is false, it is as much a vindication for the scientific method as proving something is true.

If you have a curious kid in your household, you could do worse than get her this book. Even if that kid is 60 years old.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander