Sunday, September 30, 2007

Apa Nostalgia...

Paul Chadwick (of CONCRETE the comic book and MATRIX THE ONLINE GAME renown) gave a power-point presentation of his work during our talk at the VidFest in Vancouver last Monday, and it brought back memories of our time in Apa-Five, a fan group I organized when I was (*gulp*) 15. Apa stands for amateur press association, and that's pretty much covers it. Like-minded folks would write and publish their own small magazines every month or two, and a Central Mailer would collate them all into one nice book and send the package to all the members. Paul described it as an early, postal based version of the internet, and that's pretty much right. These magazines would comment on current events, offer reviews, and (here's the internet part) comment on other people's comments.

By odd coincidence some early issues of Apa-Five went up for sale on eBay a couple weeks ago, and I picked up a random issue. (I still have my copies, but they are buried in a complex that makes the warehouse at the end of CITIZEN KANE look like a Rubbermaid tool shed). It brought back a lot of memories, most specifically the difficulty involved in printing our little mags back in those pre-computer, pre-laser printer days. The cover of this particular issue (#38, December 1974) is a photo-offset Frank Miller drawing, but photo-copying wasn't that accessible and way too expensive for most members, so the magazines themselves were mostly a wonderful mish-mash of ditto printing/spirit duplication (a crude, chemical process that involved typing onto "ditto masters," attaching those to a roller that transferred purple ink to paper) and mimeograph.

Mimeo was process that involved typing on a blue-wax stencil and literally punching holes through the wax. (Reading this old copy of Apa-Five, I had forgotten that mimeo stencils came in quanities called "quires", 24 to a pack.) You would lay this stencil over a roller barrel filled with a tar-like black ink, which would be squeezed through the stencil holes and onto your paper. This process was an artform unto itself. If you made a mistake on the stencil, you corrected it by smearing a pungent correction fluid (we called it "corflu") over the wax and trying to retype your sentence. Suffice to say, the one thing you learned with both of these processes was how to write on the fly without making a lot of mistakes.

My father picked up a used mimeograph from his office (for $25) and that became my main printing press. I must have cranked out thousands of pages of material on that thing, though "printing day" was often accompanied by much cursing and cleaning and dealing with paper jams. Even the selection of the brand of paper was important, since too thin would allow the ink to soak right through to the other side. I finally settled on an incredibly absorbant type of stock called Fibertone that literally released puffs of paper dust as it went through the mimeo. Fibertone came in all colors and even there, some colors went through the machine better than others. After much trial and error, I settled on green and goldenrod...

In time, I actually got fancier and bought myself a used "thermo-fax", which wasn't a fax machine as we know it today but was a crude, heat-sensitive early copying process. The copying part wasn't so hot (the paper was orange, as I recall, and faded very quickly) but you could buy special heat-sensitive mimeo stencils that would allow you to "burn" images and print them with your high-tech tar machine. There were also all sorts of special mimeo graphics tools designed to help you draw directly on the stencils. Mimeography was an entire industry, supported mostly by the Gestetner company.

Anyway... I still belong to one apa, and I self-publish a small magazine every few months, and I suppose this is where I would say that I miss the old school mimeo process, but actually, I don't. It was awful. Nowadays I can print full color, text-justified small run material for pennies, and that's just fine with me. But it's fun to look back...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Crowded House Live-er Than Ever! continues to offer a gloriously wide selection of live, authorized, straight from the soundboard shows from the current CROWDED HOUSE tour, and for a mere $420 you can get all 27 shows in a nifty box. Definitely only for the truly obsessed, but then I suspect most of the people reading this understand obsessive behavior. Sound is superb and the shows do vary from night to night, so buying all 27 isn't COMPLETELY insane. Just mostly.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Week Without Posting... like a day without... something. But I've been busy, honest. Just got back from a visit with our glorious neighbor to the North, no, not Alaska, where shooting has resumed on the season-the-last of BSG. Meanwhile, I'm busy putting together the story for my next script on BSG, episode #15, currently titled "Untitled", as in I haven't figured out a title yet. And we're careening toward breaking the last few episodes and the big finale. It's all very exciting, and a little weird that we'll probably have the entire season close to written before viewers see the first regular season episode... but welcome to the wacky world of television.

Incidentally, I've been getting a few e-mails re: the proposed plan to split season four between 2008 and 2009. Here is my absolutely definitive response to these queries: I have no idea what the plan is and have no ability to affect it if I did. These decisions are made by Sci-Fi channel folks. All I can do is help make the best shows possible; the rest is up to others...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: The Writer's Room!

Talking about process... ever wonder how the writing staff of BSG works out the story for an episode? Even through we're careening toward the end of the series and have a well defined road-map generated via story meetings with Ron Moore and the staff, each individual episode still requires much care and feeding to get off the ground. Here's how it (generally) works in the BSG --


First, a physical description of our space. Start with long, oak conference table in a big, comfortable room. Laz-e-Boy recliners. Smoked glass windows, a view of the ocean, masseuse in the corner to crack "writer's block," humidor for our cigars, a wet bar to break the tension and... no, wait, sorry, I think I just described the writer's room on HEROES. Our room is a small office with some couchs, white boards and the occasional outbreak of ants. And we love it all the same...

STAGE ONE: Staring at the blank cork board. This is depressing. If it's mid-season, moments earlier the cork-board was a colorful conpendium of scenes from the previous episode, all worked out, a masterpiece of hopefully searing drama, and best of all, it's finished! (Well, at least that PART of the process is finished.) Now the board is an arid wasteland, the episode number leering at us, begging for attention. This is usually the time when the hard-working professionals at BSG fasten our seat-belts, gird our loins... and discuss our favorite movies, last night's television, politics, lunch, practice our Walter Brennen and "Sling Blade" impressions, anything BUT the story. Because getting started is always the hardest part...

STAGE TWO: Ideas. Spit-balling. Okay, where are we going? This process changes depending on the type of story we're telling. If it's a two parter, the answers generally come a bit easier. If there's a gap in the timeline ("okay. It's one year later."), the field is a bit more open. This is when we start throwing up general benchmarks, and yes, these are benchmarks we actually intend to hit! What is the story we're trying to tell? Where are our characters in this moment of BSG history? What are we hoping to reveal about our people, about the BSG world, and about the uber-plot?

STAGE THREE: More. Staring. And. Frustration. Okay, there are some ideas up there, it's looking good -- now how do we make it better? What are the emotional linchpins, what are the revelations, and finally, what are we doing in this episode that we haven't done before? This can mean anything from revealing a surprising nuance in a previously established relationship to coming up with a new twist on the action sequense. The best room moments come when there's an idea that turns everything on its head, but still makes sense within the context of the show. Story traditionalist that I am, I find these ideas incredibly scary and hence always worth more discussion. Discussions like these lead to interesting (*ahem*) plot twists like "Tigh is forced to take drastic action with Ellen", or "four of the final five Cylons are...", or, coming soon, "the fifth Cylon is..." There are a lot of these "holy mackeral!" moments coming in season four, incidentally...

STAGE FOUR: Okay, now we've got a sense of the show. It's starting to come together. Now it's the nitty gritty of going through the story scene by scene, making sure we're getting the most out of the drama. Scene cards are swapped, moved, discarded (writer Bradley Thompson, aka "the card ninja", is the master of ripping dead cards off the board with a disdainful and powerful swoop), until the story feels like it's working. Deal with everyone's notes, tweaks, improvements, and then...

STAGE FIVE: Let's see how it flies with Ron...


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Predator Omnibus!

It's been out for a month or so now, but it's never too late to catch up with the Predator! This Omnibus features all three of my Predator mini-series, published by Dark Horse "back in the day." All full color! The first series, with artwork by Chris Warner, is one of my personal favorites, a straight-ahead action story with all the subtly of a Mack truck. (When it comes to Predator, that's a good thing.)

The first arc was also the series that caught the eye of producer Joel Silver and became the basis (sorta) for the PREDATOR 2 movie. My later mini-series, "Cold War" and "Dark River" are also included, along with some other Predator-iana by other writers/artists.

Predator Omnibus. Available at Amazon and fine comic shops almost everywhere.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I Didn't See THIS One Coming...

2007 Beirut Film Festival Cancelled!

Fest was set to unspool Oct. 3-10, but worries over potential violence brought about by disputes between pro- and anti-government forces over the upcoming presidential elections have led to the event's shelving.

"We like to say the show must go on, but if there's a physical war, we cannot stage the festival this year. We have to be practical," said fest director Colette Naufal.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

MY FAVORITE THINGS - Shock Cinema Magazine

The new issue is out (#33) and as usual, SHOCK CINEMA is chock full of fascinating stuff for lovers of oddball and obscure film. Besides lengthy interviews with actor Michael Ironside, exploitation producer Arthur Marx and others, this issue features the usual wealth of utterly obscure movie reviews. Not the usual "Grindhouse" junk you might see name-checked in mainstream mags, but movies totally off the beaten track. "The Night Dracula Saved The World." "Little Red Riding Hood And The Monsters." "The Removalists." Still only $5.00, this is the best film mag on the market (especially since the demise of the much lamented PSYCHOTRONIC VIDEO) and can be found at most bookstores, or check with editor Steven Puchalski at

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Battlestar Red Carpet...

With one win (for VFX) already in our pocket, the hale and hearty Battlestar staff will be attending the Emmy's Sunday night with fingers crossed, hoping to see Ron Moore and/or Felix Alcala take home some gold. Ron's up for writing the first two episodes of season three, "Occupation" and "Precipice", while Mr. Alcala has been nominated for best director for his work on "Exodus Part 2." Some show called the "Profundos" or the "Castratos" or something has been getting a lot of buzz, but we'll see...

Meanwhile, the march toward the epic conclusion of the BSG saga continues... production resumes in a couple of weeks (Vancouver has been on a long-planned six week hiatus) and then it's straight through to the end, wrapping in March of 2008. It's the RAZOR two-parter, then 20 episodes of BSG gold, "said the jokerman to the thief."

Monday, September 10, 2007

SUPERMAN/BATMAN "Enemies" Review...

A nice review of my Superman/Batman "ENEMIES AMONG US" collection...

I could try to explain what I wanted to accomplish with the series, but this reviewer gets the drift right off and says it better!

The same reviewer also tackles the SUPERGIRL "Candor" trade collection, featuring my out of continuity story from Superman/Batman #27...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Battlestar Galactica Wins SFX Emmy!

And the winner is --

For BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, "Exodus Part 2" --


Gary Hutzel, Visual Effects Supervisor
Michael Gibson, Senior VFX Coordinator
Doug Drexler, CG Supervisor
Adam “Mojo” Lebowitz, CGI Sequence Designer
Jeremy Hoey, Lead Matte Painter
Tom Archer, Lead Compositor
Andrew Karr, CGI Supervisor
Alec McClymont, Lead CGI Artist/ Animator
Brenda Campbell, Lead Compositor

The best SFX team in television, and an award well deserved!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

As The World Turns, BSG style...

A few updates --

Work on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA continues at a fever pitch. The two part RAZOR episode is almost locked and loaded (still a few FX to finish, this thing is HUGE!), and it looks great. Hard to believe we're only three months away from the air date, then DVD release. The FX guys have out done themselves on this one, adding some truly harrowing perspective to the original Cylon blitzkrieg.

Meanwhile, the rest of the season is screaming along. The hearty BSG staff is continuing on the rocket ride to the finish, with half the final season scripted and more episodes in varying degrees of progress. There are lots and lots of jolts and surprises coming your way, so don't fall prey to the endless spoilers on line, many of which are totally, sometimes jaw-droppingly wrong. (In answer to so many queries, no, David Eick is NOT the fifth Cylon...) It may be the final season, but we're trying hard to make sure it's also the best...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

What Makes BSG Writers Laugh

...because we're also Peckinpah fans...

More Crowded House News...

For those who missed this current Crowded House tour or can't make a show, fear not. is selling authorized CDs of every show on the current tour, 2 CDs set going for $20 postpaid, or downloads for $9.95 a pop. Liam Finn's live CD is also available at the same site. Well worth checking out... sound quality is superb.