Monday, November 26, 2012

Hemlock Grove: First Image!

Here you go -- the first authorized image from HEMLOCK GROVE, my on-going Toronto adventure!  No spoilers, but I was there the night this photo was taken, and moments after this shot the sky opened up with an incredible rain/lightning storm.  Was it the Gods telling us something?  Or mere meteorological coincidence?  Only time will tell...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

More New Ditko!

"#17" (I can't find any other title) is the latest from the amazingly prolific pen of Steve Ditko, who at age 85 continues to write, draw and semi-self-publish (with publisher Robin Snyder) his own on-going comic book series.

This ish opens with a written editorial from the man himself.  He tells of the time he met a couple of fans in the DC Comics office.  The (apparently very considerate) fans apologized to Ditko for intruding on him, because they had heard that he doesn't like to talk to fans.  Apparently this irritated Mr. Ditko, because the rumor he doesn't like talking to fans was something these folks had uncritically picked up from the fan press, hence "...they turned their minds, their integrity, over to some outsider, a non-factual, non-objective source."  The fans were also "pre-programmed like parrots."  Reading this editorial, I have to agree with Ditko -- how could these fans have ever have gotten the idea that he was not open and generous with his admirers?

Stand out stories: Another adventure of Ditko's female crimefighter "Miss Eerie" in a story set in the 1930's.  A sad Grandma believes she's being robbed by her grandchildren Fred and Sally.  Miss Eerie goes into action, employing her power, which appears to be contorting her face into a weird Mr. Hyde snarl while jamming a big gun in the face of whoever she's interrogating.  No spoilers here... you'll have to read the book to learn if Fred or Sally were responsible.

One of the quirkier stories stars "The Distorter."  We begin with three industrialist types engaged in a seemingly innocent conversation.  "Hash out our differences." "Come to a consensus." "We all agreed on one industry." "Agreed so far." "A good choice!"   But after a night's sleep, fissures erupt between the three over who should run the non-specific enterprise.  The Distorter (I think) shows up and punches all three to bring them to their senses, but it doesn't work.  The end!

I will say there seems to be a running theme against the idea that "might makes right", but stories frequently end with a guy (or distorted-face lady) socking everybody.  But so what?  As I've said every time I've reviewed Mr. Ditko's latest, these feverish story explosions are fascinating, quirky, unexpected and totally individual.  Chances are you won't find these are your local comic shop, but you can mail-order them from the website below.  And good news!  #18 is right around the corner!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Marvel The Untold Story

I've been gradually working my way through Sean Howe's "Marvel Comics, The Untold Story", a very readable but ultimately somewhat sad historical take on "The House Of Ideas."  Like a lot of kids of my generation, I grew up reading Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four and came to regard the creators of my favorite books almost as pals.  "Stan's Soapbox" had us all imagining that the Marvel bullpen was filled with a feisty bunch of cut-ups with nicknames like "Jolly" and "Rascally" trying to produce the best darn comics they could.  Of course, I was 10 at the time.  With age comes a bit of unfortunate wisdom, and in truth the folks at Marvel were indeed wildly talented, but also had mortgages, bad marriages, problems with alcohol, shitty bosses and all the other plagues of adult life.   Because Marvel was always a business first... a very cool business at times, but still a business. 

And that's the sad part.  Because a lot of creators invested a lot of themselves to make Marvel's characters as cool and interesting and iconic as they are.  And when business conditions changed, or editorial positions shifted, or the business went through a down turn, or some outsider bought the company and started making demands, some of those creators had their hearts broken when it became clear they were ultimately expendable.  It's one of the odder conundrums of writing comics (or movies or TV) -- to do a good job, you have to invest emotionally in the project.  But if you invest too deeply and something goes wrong -- i.e., you're off the project -- it can be crushing.  Learning to deal with that rejection is one of the many skill sets required to make a living without going insane in these crazy rackets.

I never did much work at Marvel -- basically one book (Stalkers) for the Epic line way back when.  But over the years I met several of the players mentioned here, and had several fun meetings with Stan the Man Lee himself regarding various projects. Maybe this history concentrates more on the troubles than the good times, but the ten year old still in me wants to hold on to my earlier, fun view of Marvel.  So I think I'll put this book down for now.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Latest From Toronto

It's a sunny and cold Saturday, perfect weather for sitting back with a cup of Folgers and staring at the Sean Connery print in my hotel room's living room.  Production continues at lightning speed on Hemlock Grove as we near the production finish line.  Episodes are being cut, scored, mulled, discussed while otherwise rocketing toward completion.  I visited yet another lovely graveyard yesterday (seems like a running theme!) where scenes were shot and actors acted.  They happened to be performing an episode written by yours truly, and I hope I never ever ever get over the thrill of seeing really great performers speak "my" words. 

Anyway, I'm sure you will be hearing much more about all this very soon...

While most of my time has been spent on the show, I've been winding down in the evenings reading some kindle-ized books.  Most recently, a new biography on Mr. Bruce Springsteen (another surprise!) that digs deeper than some of the earlier attempts I've perused.  I'm actually loathe to read biographies of folks who do work that I appreciate, because sometimes you discover they aren't always the nicest folks.  That can color my appreciation of their material going forward.  This new Springsteen bio presents a few warts, but overall it's the story of a talented and extremely driven guy who focused on his dream and achieved incredible success.  People who only know the politically astute multi-millionaire who flies to concerts on his own private jet may be intrigued by the younger,  apolitical Bruce who played hundreds of shows for $35 a week.   

But as life lessons go, what you learn from this bio is that making a living in the arts is mostly hard work, with no guarantee of financial success regardless of talent.  But the rewards, even if a private jet isn't in the cards, always outweigh the negative...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Election Update!

I was going to open with some semi-witty "so I hear there was an election last week" quip, but in fact I was sitting in a Toronto bar with BSG star Aaron "The Chief" Douglas glued to the TV, so why even pretend? From my perspective, President Obama's election produced these three happy results.  A), the affordable health care act will be implemented, b), if there are replacements needed on the Supreme Court, B.O. will make them and c), the billionaires throwing huge money at massive ad campaigns didn't get much (any?) bang for their buck.  Yay. 

Now, for 2016...

Saturday, November 03, 2012

I'm Voting For Obama

I don't imagine this will come as a surprise to anyone who has read this blog for long, but I might as well put it on the table as we careen toward election day.  Actually, the headline is wrong, I've already voted for Obama via an absentee ballot.  So sorry, Mr. Romney, even if you could conjure up an ad that impressed me (essentially reversing virtually ever one of your major policy planks) it's too late.

I am not a blind advocate of President Obama and his policies.  For every policy that I cheer (the Health Care bill) there's one I don't (detention without trial).  But the choice between Obama and Romney is as stark a one as I've seen since Nixon/McGovern.  Romney represents a massive leap backward, rolling back women's rights, gay rights, turning Medicare into a voucher system, and imposing tax hikes disguised as "closing loopholes" on the middle class to pay for tax breaks for the rich.  For all his faults, President Obama doesn't do all that.

I often scratch my head at the Romney supporters on medicare, or with kids under 26 still on their health insurance, or who have depended on some form of Government aide in the past.  These folks who seem hell-bent on voting against their own interests because... well, because they don't like paying taxes.  Or have some vague (absurd) feeling that Obama is a "socialist." 

But then I realize that by their thinking, I'm voting against MY interests.  Under Obama's plan, my taxes would go up.  But wild-eyed liberal that I am, I am willing to cough up the bucks to provide a basic safety net for folks who run out of luck or suffer some calamity not of their making (disease, storms, earthquakes, floods, etc.). Selfishly, I want a vast swath of people doing well because then some might watch my little teevee shows and I can keep making a living... 

And that's how I see it.  Nov. 6 oughta be interesting...

Friday, November 02, 2012

I Like These...

Famous comic book covers COME ALIVE.  Check it out --