Thursday, August 31, 2006

Doiby Dickles - Sidekick From Hell

What the hell was the deal with this guy? I eBayed a nice copy of GREEN LANTERN #13 (Fall 1944) hoping to read some exciting Alan Scott adventures, but instead I was "treated" to multiple stories essentially starring "Doiby Dickles", with GL playing HIS sidekick. I realize the Dead End Kids were popular film characters back then, but were comic book audiences really clamoring to see this simpering, Brooklyn-ese spouting dimwit MORE than Green Lantern?

Somebody's probably already done Mr. Dickles in, but if not, I'm half tempted to bring the guy back in an issue of SUPERMAN/BATMAN so I can drop an anvil on his head. (Or better yet, let golden age Green Lantern Alan Scott do it for me.) Dat'd teech da bum.

Money, Comics, Movies

I just read a column by comics writer Mark Millar mulling the future of the industry and the way some/most comics writers are also working in film and television. No argument there, but I was a little surprised by the dollar figures Mark tossed around re: option payments and etc. Specifically this quote: "A self-contained three issue mini-series is now enough to get you a movie deal and, even if you aren’t writing the screenplay yourself, you can expect anything from 500,000 dollars to even a million for single picture rights, the same again for sequels and prequels and that’s not even counting DVDs, TV rights and merchandise."

Now, I am not privy to Mark's personal finances, and if he's managed to secure that kind of advance for one of his properties, more power to him. But numbers like that are certainly not the norm, especially for self-published and/or creator-owned properties. In fact, I suspect that once you pull Frank "Sin City, 300" Miller out of the equation, nobody's getting that kind of green just for optioning a property.

Indeed, in my experience, the biggest guaranteed up-front payment comes from actually writing the screenplay. You get that whether the movie's made or not. So when I was breaking into the business, that was always a drop-dead negotiating issue. You want my property, I write the screenplay.

All of which is a long way of saying that an up-front option (essentially putting a hold on the property for a set period of time, anywhere from four months to years, while the producer tries to set up the project) for the underlying rights to a comic book property is usually much, much lower than Mark's figures. These six and seven figure payoffs only occur only when the movie/TV show is produced. Meaning you may get, say, a $25,000 option payment against $500,000/$1mil/name-the-insane number if the movie is eventually produced. But as is well known, the chasm between "optioned" and "produced" can be wide indeed. For most folks, that initial option payment is the only cash they're ever going to see...

Monday, August 28, 2006


So easily one of the best television shows ever has come to it's "regular episode" end, and while I eagerly await the pair of two-hour movies that are supposed to wrap up the various storylines, I am also desolute... because there has never been a show like DEADWOOD. Brilliantly written and acted, it dared to create characters as cruel and unredeemed as any in television history (yes, even including the SOPRANOS), and then methodically, impossibly managed to redeem them. Well, sorta...

The final episode's conundrum, in which an innocent woman had to die to save the life of another, was truly remarkable. On the one hand, Ian McShane's Al Swearington was committing cold blooded murder, a killing so foul even one of his loyal henchmen tried to prevent it. But the reasons for the killing were also unexpectedly compassionate (Al was trying to save the life of Trixie, the one whore he had allowed himself to love, even after she left him), and his penance in the end was so heart-felt, that despite his denials, we could feel the torment in his soul. Television just doesn't get any better.

However, DEADWOOD fans have reason for cheer, because writer/creator David Milch's next show, about surfers down on the rough and rugged California/Mexican border back in the early 60's, looks to be just as fascinating and complex.

But I'll sure miss Al, Bullock, Tolliver, Jane and the rest...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Battlestar Convention

I gave a talk with fellow Galactica writers David Weddle and Bradley Thompson at a Burbank BATTLESTAR GALACTICA convention today. I thought it went quite well, but then I'm biased. Convention promoter Adam Malin (of Creation Con fame) always treats me right, and the fans were great. I'm still waiting for the other show to drop (I must have said SOMETHING stupid), but for now I'll bask in a little feel-good...

Friday, August 25, 2006

Getting A Little More Serious...

So I figure folks might have a few questions about some of my projects, ranging from the SUPERMAN/BATMAN comic to the upcoming MY NAME IS BRUCE feature to my work on the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA television show. So I'm going to try to be a little more blog-active for awhile and see what happens. If you post a question, I'll try to answer it... unless I don't, but don't take that personally.

First, a little on MY NAME IS BRUCE. That particular feature project was hatched from my filthy mind in the Fall of 2004, after I'd been inspired by the nine-issue run of THE ADVENTURES OF ALAN LADD comic book. I'm sure some of you are thinking, "come on, Mark, THE ADVENTURES OF ALAN LADD? Do we look that gullible?" But there really was an ALAN LADD series, honest, published by DC Comics back in 1949/50. And it really is worth seeking out. In the first few issues, the actor Alan Ladd finds himself embroiled in various adventures, like being kidnaped by pirates. The key panel, the one that really got me thinking, was one where a pirate, forcing Ladd to shovel coal into the boiler of a steam ship, cackles about his prize. "Ah haaa, look at the great Alan Ladd now!" Something about the gestalt of that moment really struck a chord.

I've also been a fan of Bruce Campbell's since EVIL DEAD 2, which I (honestly) consider one of the great movies of the 1980's. I've been lucky enough to actually work with Bruce on a project (an episode of the late, mostly unlamented TIMECOP series I did for ABC back in '97), and ever since I've been scheming to find a way to do a movie with him. Enter my friend Mike Richardson, who also knew Bruce, and who also happens to own Dark Horse Entertainment. When he told me he'd lined up financing for some lower-budget features, I pitched him my BRUCE idea. What if Mr. C were kidnapped by some small town folks who mistook him from the hero from the EVIL DEAD movie? And when he actually does battle with some demonic force, he's hopelessly incompetent? And why is this blog suddenly like a Donald Rumsfeld monologue?

Needless to say, Mike responded to the idea, and so did Bruce. We had a story meeting in late 2005 to go over the plot, then I went to work crafting a screenplay designed to capture the essence of Campbelliana. Mucho toil later, voila! MY NAME IS BRUCE went before the cameras in August of 2006, and the world is a much better place for it!

By the way, for those budding writers who may read this -- this was BY FAR the smoothest transition from "pitch" to "screen" I've ever enjoyed in my so-called career. Trust me, the road is usually infinitely rockier. But I'll save those tales for another time...