Thursday, September 30, 2010

It Begins in 24 Hours

At Midnight, October 1, my 5th annual month long Halloween Countdown will begin. During the month long celebration of all things Halloween regular features here will be suspended. "Ask Me Anything" will resume on the first Monday of November, which also happens to be the first day of November. The last remaining question from this month will also be answered sometime before Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, stop by often for a daily dose of Halloween.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gloria Stuart (1910-2010)

Actress, Gloria Stuart passed away Sunday night from respiratory failure at the age of 100. Much of the focus on her will no doubt be addressed towards her being the oldest Academy Award nominee for acting for her supporting role in Titanic (1997).  For me, she'll always be remembered for two roles, Margaret Waverton in The Old Dark House (1932) and especially as Flora Cranley, the love interest of The Invisible Man (1933). Rest In Peace Gloria Stuart.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

What I've Been Reading 2

I intended to do this more often, but here are three more books I've read recently.

Michael Broggie is the son of legendary imagineer, Roger Broggie who was their transportation specialist, overseeing the development of pretty much anything that conveyed people from the railroad trains and monorail to the people mover and attraction cars, among many other things. Walt Disney's Railroad Story: The Small-Scale Fascination That Led to a Full-Scale Kingdom is a thorough examination of the development of the Disney theme parks taken from the perspective of Walt Disney's lifelong love of the railroad. It's an absolutely fascinating read. Do not be put off by the high price of this book. It's worth every penny. I've read numerous books on imagineering and the creation of the Disney theme parks, and this one ranks at the top of the list. You can order it directly from Michael Broggie here, or through Amazon via the link above or at the bottom of this post, where  you can choose to order from Michael Broggie as well. He'll sign it for you if you ask, and he ships quickly, and with great care.

Greasepaint and Gore: The Hammer Monsters of Roy Ashton is a book I'd been wanting to own for some time, and while I'm glad to have it now, I found myself wanting more. Ashton, a former opera singer and the possible model for "Q" in the James Bond novels, served as the make-up artist for essentially every Hammer horror movie beginning with "The Curse of Frankenstein." The book's biographical details are certainly interesting. Most of the book though is made up of quotes from people who worked with Ashton as well as photos of Ashton's make-up creations and an abundance of his preproduction drawings. I still felt like there could have been more of these and more behind the scenes photos. There was also not a lot of specifics into how most of the make-ups were created. This is an essential book for any Hammer fan, but could have had just a bit more substance to really make it a definitive work.

This was my second time reading Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light  . The book, just like it says in the title parallels developments in art with what was going on in physics at the time of their development and vice versa. While some of Shlain's connections are tenuous at best, the book is always fascinating and certainly ambitious. If you have an interest in either side covered in this book then it's definitely a worthwhile read.


Friday, September 24, 2010

What I'm Writing Now

While I wait to hear back on the first issue I've scripted of my new, still top secret, comic book series for DC Comics, I'm taking the time to catch up on some side projects I've been promising to get to. First up, an article on one of my very favorite horror movies of all time.

The gorgeous artwork comes from the talented hands of one of my favorite artists, Belle Dee. You can see much more of her fantastic artwork at her blog. Be sure to stop there all through October as she'll be participating again in the halloween Countdown with lots of brand new work. I can't wait.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gather ye' roun' me fellow seafarin' gentlemen o' fortune

Ahoy, me heartys!

Once again it be speak like a scurvy pirate day, an annual celebration o' nay simply pirate speech, but all thin's pertainin' t' gentelemen o' fortune.  Embrace yer inner bucaneer 'n engage ye neighbours, fellow sea dogs, kin 'n th' kindly policeman scrawlin' ye a speedin' ticket wi' a seafarin' twang t' ye speech. 

Below be some accessories that ye can print, cut ou' an' wear ta aid ye in gettin' the spirit o' th' tide 'n make ye feel like th' scurvy pirate ye wish ye be. Jus' add rum an' shiver ye timbers!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

From the Archives 7

Another bit of XOMBI history from late 1995. This was the rough mockup for an ad promoting the series. It used artwork by J.J. Birch from the cover of issue #19 along with a quote by Harlan Ellison. This ad was probably thrown together before issue #19 hit stands, since the reason it was never used is that XOMBI was soon cancelled ending in a double-sized issue #21.

I was, and still am, thrilled with the quote from Harlan Ellison, the second of two he provided to support the series (the first appears on the cover of XOMBI #16). Harlan was always a literary hero of mine, so discovering his enthusiasm for something I was writing was a big deal to me and really added pressure to keep up the quality of the work. I can't thank him enough for all of the plugging and promoting of XOMBI that he did all on his own. He seems to generate a lot of horror stories from people, but I simply find him to be someone who is simply honest. If he thinks something, or someone is worth his time, he will give his all to that thing or person. If something falls short for him, he'll let you know and want no more to do with it. I had a great phone conversation with him while I was writing THE X-FILES comic book series in which he expressed his extreme disappointment in the work I was doing there. Everything he said was right on the money and tied in to the usual restrictions that come with playing with someone else's licensed characters, especially when those characters are on what is currently the hottest tv show on. There's not much you are allowed to do with such a property, and my hands were tied. Again, upon hearing this he was equally as supportive as any other time I've talked to him. I didn't find his dismissal of my work on the X-Files to be a nasty rant, but simply the opinion of someone who was disappointed because they knew I could have been doing so much better. And he was right.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What I'm Working On Now

In a few moments I will begin writing a new comic book project which is incredibly exciting for me, and will be exciting for many of you reading this as well. The downside is, that like many things of this nature, I'm not allowed to say what it is yet. So, keep checking back. More details when I can give them. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

RIP Kevin McCarthy

One of my favorite actors passed away yesterday at the age of 96. He will be greatly missed. His obituary can be found here.

RIP the Voice of Rudolph

Billie Mae Richards, best known as the voice of Rudolph in the classic 1964 Christmas special, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and it's sequels died on Friday at age 88. She was also the voice of Billy in the King Kong cartoon series, the paperboy in the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon series, among many other animated shows and specials. She also appeared in live action tv series and movies, including a small role in Shadow Builder (based on a story by Bram Stoker) in which she is attacked with an ax by Paul Soles who plays her husband and was also the voice of Hermie in Rudolph (as well as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the 1960s animated tv series).


Friday, September 10, 2010

Super Hero Squad - "Stranger From A Savage Land" Airs Again Tomorrow

Are you an early bird even on the weekend? Or do you have kids who are? If so, Cartoon Network is rebroadcasting on of my episodes of  SUPER HERO SQUAD tomorrow at 6:30 am e/p.

New post at for Kids

There's a new post over at my companion blog for kids that labels all of the elements that you'll find on a comic book page. Enlighten your kids and test your own knowledge. Here's the link.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Ask Me Anything #3

It's time for the third edition of "Ask Me Anything" the post where you can indeed ask me anything in the comments section. Questions can be about anything and I will strive to answer them either in the comments section or in more elaborate posts throughout the month. Please take the time to view previous questions so that we don't wind up with a lot of repetition. You can see the previous questions here and here. Ask Me Anything is a regular feature here which is posted on the first Monday of every month. We will be skipping October for the 5th Annual Halloween Countdown, but will reprise on November first.

Now ask away.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Developing Characters

Sean Cloran asked if I had any advice on developing characters.

I've always been much more character driven than plot driven when approaching my work, with the plot usually serving to get at least one character from developmental point A at the beginning to developmental point B at the end of the story. I usually choose plots that will best deliver this transition.

This is also how I begin to approach developing my characters. The first thing you need to think about is what do you want to do with them? Is it some shy high school kid who you want to end up with the girl at the end? Then you need to think about what demonstrates his shyness and what makes him shy. Is it because of how he perceives himself, how others treat him? Then you need to decide who the girl is, and what makes her so desirable to him. How does she react to him at the beginning of this story so you need to know how much work your character has to do to end up with her at the end. After you do this you need to think about what steps the character needs to make to get himself to a position where he does end up with the girl. Does he have friends to confide in? Who are they? What's their relationship to your main character? What's their relationship to the girl? Are there other characters who are obstacles to him getting where he wants to be? Even if it's the jerk jock boyfriend of the girl, figure out why the girl is with him, and so on.

My feeling is the more you know about your characters the more real they will come across, and the easier they will be to write. Stuff you don't think is significant, and may not even have a direct bearing on the story, can inform your character's actions and interactions with others. Knowing that they grew up with overbearing parents may make their interactions with authority figures antagonistic. Knowing that they love roller coasters would suggest them being more adventurous and quick at jumping into things others would hesitate to do, and so on. If you do this for your major characters, it makes their interactions more natural and believable, and it's easier to tell if their dialogue rings true or not.

I generally give my characters a general backstory which goes back to at least high school. Not only does knowing their developmental stages up to their current stage help me develop them foreward, but it provides material to draw on if I want to highlight some future obstacle in their development by tying it to something from their past, but it also makes doing so not seem like it was pulled from thin air. A casual remark along the way such as "my parents hated taking us on vacation anywhere because my brother and I always fought in the car the entire way," suggests a past, gives insight into a family dynamic, and identifies two parents and a brother, all factors that could come into play later. One of the things I hate most in comics is when a character with a long history such as Spider-Man, who has never mentioned having a sibling in twenty-plus years of stories, suddenly has a brother who appears out of nowhere.

Likewise, I always hate it when I watch a movie and can tell you everything that's going to happen by the end of the movie. Whenever you see a father grumbling that his son is never going to amount to anything because he wastes too much time playing paddle ball, you know that a). the dad's going to die, b). the son is going to triumph in a way that would make his dad proud, c). somewhere along the way the son is going to have to use his paddle ball skills to save the day by defusing the bomb, or something. Even if all these things are going to happen in your story, introduce those elements subtly and naturally. Maybe the father and son don't see eye to eye, and the son turns to paddle ball as a way to cool off and de-stress. If it's there without drawing attention to itself early in the story, it won't project itself as an obvious outcome later, nor will it seem to come out of left field.

You'll know your characters are working when you can write them without much effort. They'll also surprise you by seemingly doing things you hadn't anticipated them to do. Even if it's not where you were planning for them to go, it might be the right way for them to go. If pushing them back in the direction you wanted them to go in feels forced, then it probably is forced. Go with what feels right and true.

I'm not sure how helpful this post is, but I hope it's enough to get you started.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Darwyn Cooke is Right About Comics

As someone who has been saying for years that the comic book industry needs to start focusing more on catering to children again, I am in complete agreement with everything that Darwyn Cooke says in this brief interview. Much as the Batman television series of the 1960s is blamed for ruining comics by making them campy, the Batman movie of 1989 along with The Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen comics from 1986 are responsible for turning superhero comics into completely unsuitable reading material for kids.

While it is nice that super hero comic books grew up with the readers who followed them from their Stan Lee infused rebirth in the late 1960s, it's a shame that they stopped being acceptable reading material for a new generation. After all the superhero comic book is really about adolescent power fantasies for the quiet, unathletic kids who never quite fit in, who behind a mask and secret identity were able to shine, defeat the big bullies of the world and earn the admiration of society, and more importantly, the pretty girl who they believe wouldn't give them the time of day in their non superhero persona. I could go on and on about all of the aspects that these power fantasies serve to fulfill in the imagination of children who grew up reading the adventures of Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woma, or the Hulk, but all you need to know is that right now, those needs are not really being served in comic books anyway.

You could argue that there is room for an adult oriented Batman comic book, but is there any reason why all of the other comic books can't be read by "all ages?" Is there any reason the Green Lantern can't entertain without filling it's pages with dismemberment and blatent sex? It's a comic book about a man who wears a magic ring which gives him powers for crying out loud. My feeling is that is a fifty year old man, seventy year old, or even thirty year old still wants to read Aquaman or Captain America, then to each their own, but it should not be at the expense of all the eight and nine year olds who could truly benefit from these comics. "All ages" does not have to mean "stupid" or "inferior." Both the Batman the Animated Series and Justice League animated series television shows proved this.

The other detrimental aspect of superhero comic books becoming all mature is that they've really lost that sense of awe and wonder that they used to have where anything could happen and it didn't necessarily have to comply with the laws of physics or continuity. Why do we need to concern ourselves with the realities of friction and caloric intake when it comes to a character like the Flash, when we don't wonder what exactly Superman is pushing away from when he flies, or how he hovers in the air, or why Spider-Man's gloves don't stick to his webs, or Cyclops can miss. Have you ever tried to look at something and missed? Not to sound like an old fuddy duddy, but I liked it better when the Flash could be turned into a living marionette. Stories like that really appeal to the eight year old in me, which I think is how it's meant to be.


Thursday, September 02, 2010

From the Archives 6

Back in 1998, I was one of the guests at  X-PO Los Angeles, one of the stops on the X-Files 10 City tour. The convention was held a bit south of Los Angeles in the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station's immense Hangar 2 on March 14-15. The hangar, used for housing blimps, was perfect for the occasion, and was actually used briefly in an episode the following season.

Aside from myself, Steven Williams (X) , Mitch Pileggi (Assistant Director Walter B. Skinner), William B. Davis (The Cigarette Smoking Man) and Dean Hagland (Langly) were all on hand as were show writers/producers Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Andy Meisler.

I spent most of the time signing a lot of comic books. What I found bizarre is that this was a convention aimed at the hardcore X-philes, but most of them I talked to had no idea that there was a comic book based on the show, and the comic book was well under way at this point (and in fact would be coming to an end not too much later). I did not get to see much of the convention itself since I was so busy, nor did I get to watch the other guests talk and perform for the guests. The writers (excepting Andy) I all knew from my interactions with them during my frequent visits to the X-Files production offices. With the exception of Steven Williams (whom I only met fleetingly) I did get to spend a good deal of time with the other actors in VIP lounge area. All were the friendliest people you can imagine, and I only wish that my good friend, Steve Kriozere had been a better photographer so I could share the chummy photos of myself with Mitch Pileggi and William B. Davis.

The people who ran the convention did a fantastic job, and everyone I met was great. One of the centerpieces was a photo-op in a green screen version of Mulder's office. I also have another shot of me tossing the pencils into the ceiling panels.