Thursday, December 27, 2007

I Miss Letters Pages...

The fine folks at Titan Publishing in the U.K. have been reprinting a bunch of recent DC material in neat packages, comic-book sized but with more pages than U.S. "floppies" and with really cool cardstock covers. My recent run on the SUPERMAN/BATMAN series is currently being reprinted in "DC Universe Presents", where, with the most recent issue (#4), Titan is including a good, old-fashioned letters page.

DC in the U.S. killed their letters pages a few years back, reasoning that fans are interacting aplenty on the internet (and, I suspect, the time it took to assemble the pages was just one responsibility too many in a busy editorial schedule), but bandying opinion back and forth on a message board just not the same as seeing your name in cold print in your favorite book.

When I was a kid, I had letters published in several comics, including X-MEN (first series, of course), RAWHIDE KID, PHANTOM STRANGER, GREEN LANTERN and others. For someone with aspiritions toward professional writing, these "appearances" were a real thrill. And when I was running my own letters pages (for THE AMERICAN, mostly), it was usually fun to go through the mail and see what people had to say. (Note that caveat, "usually.") E-mail has pretty much put an end to pen and ink letters, but not the sense of investment that came from seeing your name or other fans "up in lights" and discussing their favorite books.

Anyway, kudos to Titan for bringing back the letters page!

WGA Strike - Day 53

Check the url below for some interesting financial analysis of the WGA/AMPTP standoff from the number crunchers at Bear Stearns. Bottom line; even if the AMPTP gave the WGA everything currently on the table, the effect on corporate "bottom lines" would be negligible. And yet the WGA's being assailed as the spittle-flecked bomb-throwers out to destroy Hollywood. Hmm. I think a rewrite may be required on that particular (bad) script...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

EVIL DEAD The Comic #1 - Friday Jan. 4!!

It's been four years (!) in the making, but it's finally coming out! Because of the New Year's holiday, comic book shops are getting new books on Friday Jan. 4 next week, and that is when Ash and friends will be ready to CHILL YOU TO THE BONE. Or something like that. Solicitation material below:

Artist John Bolton returns this January with his adapatation of Evil Dead in a four issue comic book series written by Mark Verheiden.

"We're gonna get you! We're gonna get you!"

Verheiden and Bolton present an exciting expansion on the classic horror film that introduced us to the powerful Book of the Dead, the relentlessly violent deadites, and Ash -- one resilient, blood-stained survivor. Now an iconic horror hero, relive Ash's first visit to the cabin that brought him face to face with the delectably deranged deadites who possessed his girlfriend and friends . . . and turned "the perfect place to get laid" into a house of fear and fury. Return to the original nonstop gore-fest and experience the thrills, gags, and gagging anew, with unexpected new directions, additional scenes, and Bolton's jaw-dropping new paintings.

32 pages, $2.99, in stores on Jan. 4! The first of four glorious issues!

WGA Strike - Days 51, 52

Nikke Finke's dour words of warning on Christmas Eve were moderated by my friend Mark Evanier's more moderate commentary, so Christmas was celebrated with a smile after all. As Mark often points out, it is in the AMPTP's interest to claim they're ready to write off this TV season, the next TV season, the 2009 movie schedule and whatever else puts the fear of God into the WGA. Click on the appropriate links at the right for all the conflicting info...

Tip of the hat to Mick Betancourt, strike Captain of the Barham Gate Strikers, who welcomed his daughter "Untitled" to the world on Christmas Day. (Mick and his lovely wife are still trying on names for the youngun'.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

SKIDOO Alert - Don't Miss This Movie!

It really IS Christmas! I've written about the miracle that is "Skidoo" The Movie before, but now you can actually see it! TiVo it! Watch again and again and again and...

This never-released-on-DVD and rarely screened epic is going to break in 2008 big time with a one time showing on Turner Classic Movies. 2:00AM, Jan 4.

Otto Preminger directs. Groucho Marx plays "God." Carol Channing does a strip tease. Jackie Gleason takes acid and fantasizes about Mickey Rooney (!). The Turner people make a brave attempt to write a synopsis, but this is one movie that has to be seen to be believed.

All the info is at:

Monday, December 24, 2007

WGA Strike - Days 48, 49, 50

An unfortunate landmark in this standoff, it's now been 50 days since the AMPTP walked out on negotiations (the first time) and the strike commenced. I doubt there will be much action during the holidays, but I intend to continue the day by day count. Here's hoping negotiations resume soon...

But this headline from today's Nikke Finke column doesn't offer much cheer...

Permission to be grumpy on Christmas, granted.

Early Christmas Present

If you love live music, the word "free" and the idea of not stealing illegal downloads, then check out this site. Hundreds of live shows from hundreds of bands, and according to the site it's all legal and approved by the performers. Thanks and a tip of the hat to for the heads up...

I'm just starting to poke around, but the 3/6/94 Wheeler Opera House show by Warren Zevon is pretty amazing, and there are a couple of fantastic Was (Not Was) shows...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

BLADERUNNER The Briefcase of DVDs

That makes two fancy "briefcase" DVD sets in the last month (between this and the MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. collection)... what next, the complete SUPERMAN series packed in a phone booth?

At any rate, this latest 5 DVD BLADERUNNER release offers what one would hope is the final, absolute, definitive director's cut of the film in uber-quality, along with all the previous cuts (including the original release with narration) and, most interestingly to fans, a 3 1/2 hour long documentary on the making of the movie. This exhaustive study has new interviews with director Ridley Scott, writers Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, actors Harrison Ford, Daryl Hannah, Edward James Olmos, Rutger Hauer and many others, and a host of behind-the-scenes folks. This is not a sanitized "everyone loved one another" piece; the on-set and post-production tensions are fully explored, as well as many details of set design and special FX.

There are some great finds, including screen tests (with actor Morgan Paull playing the Harrison Ford character against multiple actresses vying for the role Sean Young eventually landed), cut scenes and outtakes. But mostly it's a textbook look at the stresses and problems involved in doing an epic, expensive, visionary piece of work. If you're looking for a gift for the Replicant in your life, you can't go wrong here!

Mary McDonnell Talks BSG...

Courtesy a link from

A lengthy and fascinating interview with Mary (President Roslin) McDonnell, touching on many things Battlestar. No spoilers, but some teasing about what we were up to when the writer's strike hit. Read the interview at:

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Beatles Sing Stairway To Heaven?

Or a reasonable facsimile thereof... part of a series of Stairway/Zep tributes done in Australia in the mid 90's.

WGA Strike - Days 45, 46, 47

As we approach Christmas week, there's still no real public progress on resuming talks. Rumors abound about an AMPTP "February strategy" (see Mark Evanier's blog for more), which doesn't exactly bring tidings of comfort and joy to all those currently out of work.

And the propaganda war continues, especially the charge that WGA members are all so rich that this strike is little more than a welcome, extended vacation for the membership. I'm sure the folks applying for emergency loans, in fear of losing their homes or apartments, appreciate this characterization. It's an especially interesting charge given that it's being promulgated by several enormous multi-national corporations whose CEOs make millions. I don't think you have to be Milton Friedman to understand that the conglomerates are the ones with the deep pockets here, not the writers. Or to remember that it was the AMPTP that walked away from the negotiating table twice now, not the WGA team.

Strange thing is, I don't "hate" the studios or the CEOs... or anyone, actually. I've worked with too many great people on the other side of the table to go there. So I watch all this transpire with something more akin to sadness than rage. Sadness that we've come to a place where charges and counter-charges have to be lobbed in the first place...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA - Popcandy says #2!!

Unlike my now deleted mistake re: TIME'S Ten Best List (I accidentally took the 2006 list for 2007), this one IS 2007. USA TODAY and Popcandy! We're #2! Yippee!

MY NAME IS BRUCE - Poster Art!!

You can feel the interest building... the passion... the majesty of Mr. Bruce Campbell. Check out some possible poster art at:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

WGA Strike - Days 42, 43, 44

Day 43 (Monday) was a busy day. It started with another successful picketing session at the Barham Gate at Universal. Our favorite parking patrolman was there (seriously, the police who have been assigned our gate have all been helpful and protective), spirits were up, and Chase Masterson (hi Chase! Thanks for reading my blog!), Mary McDonnell and several wonderful BATTLESTAR fans made appearances along with valuable donut/bagel/coffee contributions.

There were at least two location pickets during the day, which seem to be making a real financial dent against whatever's still out there shooting.

And finally, Monday night there was a major membership meeting at the Santa Monica Civic to discuss the current state of affairs re: the strike and the future. There seems to be a fixation by some of the press to focus on WGA dissenters, but the closest thing I heard to "dissent" was the guy politely suggesting a change in negotiators, and even that was met with strenuous and vocal disapproval from the assembly. I left before every question had been asked and answered, but if people were wavering or demanding the guild capitulate, I sure wasn't hearing it. What we did hear was that it's very difficult to "negotiate" with a group that resorts to bullying tactics and ham-fisted P.R. offenses instead of anything resembling a good-faith discussion.

There is also continued bewilderment among some over the fact, verified by the major advertising agencies, that the studios would rather lose a billion (with a "b") dollars in advertising losses/give-backs AND simultaneously destroy two television seasons, than negotiate over the modest proposals on the table from the WGA. And the AMPTP keeps saying OUR leaders are crazy?

It was also great to hear from Alan Rosenberg, the President of SAG... if you think the WGA is cranky, wait until 100,000+ SAG members decide to hit the bricks if this mess isn't resolved by next June. Of course we all hope things are resolved well before that...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

WGA Strike - Day 41

More activity on the strike front, including the WGA's decision to push to negotiate with each individual studio as opposed to the monolithic AMPTP. Be interesting to see if this gets any traction (seems unlikely, at least at the moment), but as always, Mark Evanier has an eloquent and interesting take on the siutation at his site.

MORE Live Crowded House?!!

Long time readers are unfortunately familiar with my Crowded House obsession, which neither strike nor sleet nor dark of night has diminished. Neil Finn and crew released 28 (!) live shows from their 2007 U.S. tour, all still available from those fine folks at, and now there are five more live gigs up for grabs, this time from the Euro legs of their tour. One set has already sold out (Wembley) and these are strictly limited to 1500 copies, so the obsessed must move fast. Check it out at:

These guys also have a pretty great live Gang Of Four show from 2005, worth checking out as well!

Amazon, Ain't It Cool News, Cheap DVDs

I'm not sure how long it will be going on, but Amazon has been putting some interesting DVD sets on sale recently, in one day "Gold Star" events that are actually pretty good. Yesterday I picked up all three seasons of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT for the total price of $29.99. This morning (Saturday), they're offering both seasons of ROME for $59.99. (Retail for both was $200.00). The TV reviewer at, Hercules, spots these sales and gives a heads up when he can, but again the sales are for one day only or until supplies run out... they sold out of the ARRESTED sets around Noon. More ways to spend your money!

Friday, December 14, 2007

MY NAME IS BRUCE - The Trailer!

Years in the making! No, not the trailer, the epic adventure everyone has been demanding! Yes, Bruce (EVIL DEAD, BURN NOTICE, BUBBA HO-TEP) Campbell IS "MY NAME IS BRUCE." Or something like that. Written by yours truly, directed by Mr. Campbell, produced by Dark Horse Indie.

And now, the first trailer has finally been posted on-line! So here you go. Bruce. Guan-Di. "You wanna move that hand?" Ted Raimi. "Hooch for the pooch!" Watch, then prepare yourself for the full experience SUMMER 2008!


How about some good news for a change? Nice photo of Grace, Lucy and Tricia too!

WGA Strike - Days 39, 40

Day 39 picketing was a change of pace, as the BSG contingent took a later shift so we could congregate for lunch with Chicago Tribune columnist Maureen Ryan. We were joined on the picket line by Kate (Ellen Tigh) Vernon and Chase Masterson and a whole bunch of great Law And Order SVU writers and other WGA/SAG folks. At the end of the picket we were given an update on negotiations by Neal Baer from the negotiating committee, but even he didn't spill the latest development, which was the WGA filing unfair negotiating charges against the AMPTP. Details of that situation are available in depth at Nikke Finke's Deadline Hollywood site (see my sidebar for the url) and at the United Hollywood site. Interesting times, indeed...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Man From U.N.C.L.E. - 41 DVDS!

It was one of my favorite shows when I was kid, so it was a no-brainer when Time-Life announced this nifty MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. collection -- all four seasons + the unaired original pilot ("Solo") plus all sorts of extras. All packed in a cool attache case with the U.N.C.L.E. emblem front and center.

Just goes to show, tastes DO evolve, and the stuff eight-year-old Mark loved comes off just a bit silly today. Well, more than a bit. In a way, these U.N.C.L.E. shows are like silver age DC comics come to life. There are adventures with gorillas, the abominable snowman, ridiculously unscientific "science"... frankly, a Bizarro Napoleon Solo would have fit right in. And then there's the cheese factor; as other blogs have pointed out (most notably Ken Levine at the wildly unconvincing back lot was getting a serious workout back in the day.

It probably proves that I've got striking on the brain, but my favorite catch so far was in the first episode of season two, starring a very young and stiff Rip Torn as "Alexander", a maniac who steals a military passifying gas (!) so he can rule the world like Alexander The Great. At one point, for no discernible reason, there is a picket line in the background as our hero Napoleon chases after the unbearable Dorothy Provine (don't ask). What are the very well-dressed strikers picketing? Who knows; all the signs say is "UNFAIR!" in different handwritten styles. Well. That explains that!

Jane Espenson = Good Blog

Jane Espenson, writer de la magnifico (that probably doesn't make sense, but I like the sound of it), has a much more reflective piece on the strike and our encounter with Frank McFurious re: residuals. Let me add that you don't want to get Jane mad. You won't like Jane when she's mad.

When Jane's not prepping to pound strike-breakers, she offers up some of the best screenwriting advice in the racket. Check out her site!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

WGA Strike - Day 38

Another freezing day on the line, literally! The temperature at day's start was a brisk 39 degrees and there was crunchy frost frost on the grass. Okay, so it isn't NYC nasty, but it was still cold!

Still, the "temperature" went up dramatically when our rag-tag picketers were confronted by a remarkably angry fellow who launched into a salvo about "residuals." As in (and this is paraphrased, but pretty close), "you writers, you all get residuals, right? So when the networks all go into reruns in 2008, you'll all make a ton of a money! Meaning you'll actually do better during the strike! You're not risking anything while you're putting everyone else out of work!" He ramped this up to a self-satisfied crescendo, like he had divined the subterfuge of the writers and figured out the DiVinci code all in the same moment.

This one's right up with the costume designer who complained on the radio that writers shouldn't bother striking because they all make "five million dollars a year." Which is kind of like suggesting all costume designers must be making millions, because Ralph Lauren is doing pretty well, right? I'm not sure the point can be made any clearer -- not all writers make millions. Not all writers make thousands. And anyone with any sort of career has experienced wild ups and downs regardless, so "doing well" one year can be followed by "nada" the next.

But I'm not pleading poverty here, and the members of the WGA are painfully aware of the damage wrought by a strike. More painfully aware, I might suggest, than the negotiators on the other side who have walked away from the table twice now in a manufactured huff over some issue or another. If you're going to be enraged, how about saving a drop of spittle for the other team?

As far as the residual issue goes, well, a few points. One, the networks aren't planning to flood the airwaves with drama/sitcom reruns in 2008, they're putting together a flotilla of really exciting reality shows. But to answer Mr. Really-Angry's question, yes, if a WGA covered show is rerun, then there are residuals paid to the writer who wrote that particular show. But "writers" are not some monolithic group who all get residuals all the time, so the vast majority of writers who haven't worked in television or aren't currently working on a show that's UP for a rerun won't see anything from this supposed boon. Same goes if you're a feature writer (unless your feature is run on television), haven't anything produced yet, etc., etc.

So if you want to talk about what strikers have put on the line, here's the deal. Staffers who had been working on television shows aren't getting paid. Guys who were in the middle of writing features aren't getting paid. Show-runners who were running shows aren't getting paid. Yes, some residuals may still trickle in, but to suggest they will make up for the shortfall from the other losses is specious to say the least.

I guess Mr. Furious will have to work up a new talking point for his next visit...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

You Know You Have Too Much Stuff When...

I've been "taking advantage" of my enforced strike-based hiatus to go through my varied and sundry pop culture collections, startled to discover that I have purchased and repurchased any number of DVDs, CDs and funny books over the last few years. It's beginning to get ridiculous; I was bidding for a CHARLEY VARRICK one sheet on eBay (one of my favorite movies, see it!) and lost to a last minute sniper. And lucky I did, because a few days later I found a sweet VARRICK one-sheet tucked under some other movie stuff in a forgotten nook.

I've actually reached the point where it's sometimes easier to buy something again than to try and find it in the stacks of the Verheiden, *ahem*, "estate." I am hoping to rectify that this Winter with a serious purge. I'm talking about a Stalin-like campaign to pare down, clean, free up shelf space, etc. Maybe even find room to hang that cool VARRICK poster...

WGA Strike - Days 35, 36, 37

I don't know about days 36 and 36 (Monday required my attentions elsewhere), but days 37 was friggin' cold. It was a brr-chilly 45 degrees when we started, much warmed by the time we ended. A tip o' the hat to thespian Steven Culp who joined our line this morning, and to all those who offered friendly honks and waves. (And a hearty "what the f?" to the teenage kid who leans out the passenger window of his Mom's SUV every morning making screwy gibberish sounds.)

Nothing much to add that hasn't been said better on the United Hollywood blog. One day longer, one day stronger...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Re: Strike: Marc Guggenheim Sums It Up...

Writer (and my collaborator on a Superman/Batman story just a few months ago) Marc Guggenheim has an interesting piece on the United Hollywood website that pretty much sums up the attitude of most writers I've been commisserating with, following the latest breakdown in negotiations...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Michael Trucco Will Be Fine

Since a few people have asked me about it -- yes, Michael Trucco, who plays Sam Anders on Battlestar Galactica, was in a serious car accident a week ago and fractured his neck. The good news is, he's had surgery, he's already out of the hospital and we've been told that the doctors expect a full recovery. So there's a little "good news" story in this otherwise unpleasant time for the entertainment business...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

WGA Strike - Days 32, 33, 34

Well, THAT didn't go so well, did it? Talks have collapsed once again between the AMPTP and the WGA, with press releases, charges and counter-charges flying left and right. I've added both Deadline Hollywood and the United Hollywood blogs to my blog-list to the right. For details on the recriminations, these sites convey the lowdown better than any truncated version I could cobble up.

So how does this lowly "writer in the trenches" feel about all this? I would much prefer to get back to work, of course, but on the other hand, I've always had this problem with authority figures. (Thank goodness none of this comes across in my work on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA). I also don't like being gamed, and when the AMPTP back-channel informs reporter Nikke Finke that they plan to orchestrate a walk-out a week before it actually happens, regardless of progress, well, suddenly I feel like I'm in a David Mamet play and Mamet isn't allowing any ad-libs! I'm also a little baffled how a business that is all about making complicated deals can't figure out a way to make this one, and that goes for both sides.

Oh well. It's back to the picket line, and the hope that cooler heads will prevail and get everyone back to the table (and more importantly, to work) ASAP...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Unfortunately, I have yet to step up to a high def television system. But with the finger's crossed optimism that has become a hallmark of the Verheiden household, I've picked up the BSG Season One High Def set, and the season one original STAR TREK set. Assuming that one day, I too will enjoy high def.

Fortunately, the TREK set can be viewed in high def and regular def, so I was able to enjoy some of the new "remastered" FX, music and etc. I was surprised at how unobtrusive the changes were (at least in "The Corbomite Maneuver", the one episode I've sampled so far), and frankly I have little problem with the spruce-up. (I also have the entire original series on DVD already, so if I want to see/experience the original version, they remain ripe for the plucking).

WGA Strike Days 30, 31

Another two days of picketing, today under the watchful eye of Security Dudes as well as the ever-present parking police. Yes, writers, the mad dogs of the protest world. After today's session I took advantage of Drew Carey's very generous offer and enjoyed breakfast "on him" at Bob's Big Boy, then the week of 4:30AM wake-up calls finally caught up with me and I took advantage of this off-time to guhhhzzzzz...

The news from the negotiations seems vaugely hopeful, but I'm trying not to set my daily moods by early morning e-mail and article reviews. I'd have the settled emotional state of a Jeffrey Dahmer if I let myself rise and fall on the waves of each day's progress (or lack thereof)...

More as news develops!

Monday, December 03, 2007

WGA Strike - Day 29

It was exceptionally cold on the picket line this morning, until the sun exploded over the hills around 8:30 AM and suddenly... well, it was warm. Despite (or perhaps because of) the frustrating news from last week, attendance was actually up and enthusiasm/determination remains high. After getting an update on the state of the talks from a member of the negotiating committee (in our case we were briefed by Neal Baer, showrunner from LAW AND ORDER SVU), I'll just say that I'm confident in our leadership and look forward to, fingers crossed, some productive talks.

One of the news outlets had a quote from someone on the studio side complaining that it seems like writers would rather "rally than make a deal." Trust me, writers would like nothing better than to get back to work. If I felt the Guild was asking for something unrealistic or pie-in-the-sky, I'd be the first to push for a quick settlement, but the simple fact is, the WGA's demands are modest. So I'll cross my fingers once again and hope we can get this settled!

New... Split Enz?!

Just received a copy of "The Rootin' Tootin' Luton Tapes", a two-CD collection of demos from a celebrated series of 1978 studio sessions by Split Enz. As in the New Zealand band that included Tim and Neil Finn and eventually spawned Crowded House and myriad other musical ventures. A single-disc version of this session will be out from Rhino sometime "soon", but members of the "Frenz of the Enz" fanclub got this special two CD set, with lots more songs. Despite demurs in the liner notes that these are demos and hence less finished, they sound perfectly realized to me, and sound quality is superb. So it comes highly recommended to fans of the Enz, though that endorsement will be frustrating to those not in the (excellent) fanclub!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

WGA Strike - Days 27, 28

Interesting letter from Joss Whedon on developments, this from the always informative United Hollywood blog.

The United site also has a FAQ letter sent out by the WGA negotiators in response to the AMPTP offer that was presented last Thursday. Give that a read to see why an offer sometimes doesn't feel like much of an offer at all...

FInally, one other "silver lining" to this otherwise unfortunate situation is learning about other writers. Who knew, for instance, that the fellow who wrote BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (one of my favorite movies) also created MR. MAGOO (!). Millard Kaufman, take a bow!