SHAZAM: The Art of the Deal!

from the author/artist/cartoonist Mark Engblom:

One of my favorite comic book concepts has always been Captain Marvel and the power of SHAZAM. A clever synthesis of modern and ancient mythology, the story of Captain Marvel began in Whiz Comics #2 (1940) as orphan Billy Batson was drawn to a mysterious underground chamber. He was met by SHAZAM, a wizard who could channel the power of ancient heroes…all of whom were inscribed as a handy acronym on a nearby wall. Speaking the wizard’s name, Billy was magically transformed into the superhero Captain Marvel, who also possessed the abilities of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.

As cool as the concept will always be, that acronym of gods, heroes, and a Hebrew king continues to fascinate me. I love the child-like simplicity of its assumption that mythic figures would freely share their power with mortals…but my adult cynicism often kicks in and suggests another story behind the wizard’s consolidation of godly power. In other words, it’s…

SHAZAM: The Art of the Deal!

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Weird Al’s Mandatory Fun

Who is there to parody when there are no musicians left?

Oh, Weird Al.  My favorite musician for 30+ years.

The only reason I’m not a member of the Close Personal Friends of Al is that Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz sent my check for $14 back a year later to say that “Polka Party” had flopped and they were kind of thinking that Weird Al Yankovic was over, so the fan club was no more.

I probably should have reapplied at some point.

Sometime back, listening to Weird Al albums became a different kind of experience.  Instead of loving the parodies of pop tunes I recognized in the 1980s and 1990s, now I was having to research who the recording artists are and what their original songs sound like.  (To be fair, when I was 12, I’d no idea what “Yoda” was based on, either.)

What makes it worse, is that Weird Al is now a far superior singer/musician in comparison to most of the people that he is parodying these days.  You notice that his original songs are musically challenging and whimsically inventive, but then every other track on his album has to be a monotonous redo (with better lyrics) of an over-autotuned piece of repetitive junk.

I am loving his new album so far. His first video, Tacky, has a good song, but the video mainly benefits from the superstar guest appearances with goofy dances.

The second video is a huge improvement, with fun animation and lots of inside jokes .

Did ya catch that the homework is graded by Mrs. Krabapple? (Oh, and the song is a huge improvement over “Blurred Lines”)

Then “Foil”, a great song based on a horrible song.

You gotta love the heel turn that the video suddenly makes!

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Why Alan Brennert Won’t Be Watching Fox’s “Gotham”

Barbara Kean, from Detective Comics 500

Barbara Kean, from Detective Comics 500

WHY I WON’T BE WATCHING FOX’S “GOTHAM” THIS FALL:

Back in 1981, in a story called “To Kill a Legend” in DETECTIVE COMICS #500, artist Dick Giordano and I created a character named Barbara Kean, the fiancée of Lt. James Gordon.  (This was set on a parallel Earth where counterparts of the “real” Batman and his cast were twenty years younger.)  A Golden Age “Mrs. James Gordon” (no first or maiden name) had appeared in 1951, mother of a son named Tony, but my character, later picked up by talented writers like Frank Miller and Barbara Randall Kesel, was clearly the prototype (with the same first name) for the “Post-Crisis” first wife of Lt. James Gordon, and—as Barbara Kean Gordon—became a supporting player in Batman continuity, and even made two movie appearances in BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT.

And this fall on GOTHAM, Fox’s prequel to the Batman mythos, one of the supporting characters will be…Barbara Kean, fiancée of Lt. James Gordon.

Ironically enough, on the same day that DC’s online news site listed the results of a fan poll in which I was chosen one of “the 75 greatest Batman artists/writers,” an executive at DC Entertainment—let’s call him “Johnny DC”—dismissed my request for “equity” (a percentage of income received when a character you create is used in other media) in the character.  The justification?  Because I had given her the same name, profession, and appearance as her daughter (at the time, just a sly wink to the reader), she was “derivative” of her daughter Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon and equity “is not generally granted” in derivative characters like wives, husbands, daughters, sons, etc., of existing characters: “this is the criteria by which all equity requests are measured.”

I then pointed out to him that writer Mark Waid had been told by then-DC management that DC did, in fact, give equity in “derivative” characters, just a smaller percentage—and indeed Mark and artist/co-creator Mike Wieringo received equity in the “derivative” character of Bart Allen/Impulse (grandson of Barry Allen/Flash) and received payments when he was used on SMALLVILLE.  I suggested DC grant a similar reduced percentage on Barbara Kean, and I was willing to limit this to her appearances on GOTHAM and forget the movies.

How did Johnny DC respond to this?  Did he rebut my argument?  Nope.  When confronted with the, shall we say, lack of veracity of his statement, he simply stopped responding to my emails.

Classy, right?

Now, let me be clear:  I’ve since learned that the amount of money involved here can be as little as $45 an episode for a full equity character.  So clearly I’m not in this for the money, but the principle.  This is small change compared to the fact that the estate of Jack Kirby receives no share of the billions in dollars that Marvel/Disney makes from movies based on characters he co-created.  But I suspect DC counts on the fact that the money is low enough that hiring an attorney to pursue it would cost more than you’d ever receive in equity payments.  They also count on the fact that their freelancers depend on DC for work and thus will not publicly call them out.  (And sometimes these freelancers are the very ones for whom that little bit of extra money would mean a lot.)

But as a novelist I depend in no way on DC for my livelihood, and have no problem recounting the bad faith they have demonstrated to me.  But I take little satisfaction in it.  There was a time—under the management of Jenette Kahn, Paul Levitz, and Dick Giordano—when DC went to great lengths to credit and compensate creators. They felt it was money well spent, because it brought other creators to the company and everyone benefited.  I was actually proud to be associated with a comics company with a conscience.  I hope my experience with the “new” DC is not typical, and that they still have a conscience.  But I sure don’t see it from where I sit.

(If you’re a fan of my comics work, feel free to share.)

Continue reading

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Comedian John Pinette dies at 50

Stuart Ramson/AP

Stuart Ramson/AP

Chubby comedian John Pinette, who jokes about buffets and Italian food, acted in “The Punisher,” Dr. Katz, the last episode of Seinfeld, and on stage in Hairspray, has been found dead in his hotel room at age 50.

I’m going to miss him a lot.  I own his album, a DVD, I caught his latest show on Netflix, and I always liked him.  R.I.P.

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James Rebhorn, SecDef in ID4, dies of skin cancer at 65

James Rebhorn along with his two sidekicks in INDEPENDENCE DAY (20th Century Fox)

James Rebhorn along with his two sidekicks in INDEPENDENCE DAY (20th Century Fox)

A farewell to James Rebhorn, who was in a ton of stuff, but I will always think of him as the SecDef in Independence Day.  Turns out he had been fighting cancer for 22 years. R.I.P.

 

 

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world building and character significance in a nutshell

DOC SIDHE (1995) written by Aaron Allston

DOC SIDHE (1995) written by Aaron Allston

“Great. I’m helping a guy that everybody in the world either works for or wants to kill.”
Doc nodded. “That about sums it up.”

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Ethan Van Sciver as Neal Adams?

not as a exciting a concept as it apparently sounds

Today I’m Neal Adams. Breaking through my habits and traditional way of thinking through a cover. Doing something new and going against my own grain. I’ve got to shake myself out of this funk.   — Ethan Van Sciver

oh, i thought you meant that you were going to create your own line of comics, put out a couple of issues of each, re-evaluate your company’s financial strategy, change your mind, begrudgingly accept freelance assignments from your former employers thereby banking on your legendary status, be treated like crap by those same former employers, then vow to never work for them again by trying (once again) to publish your own line of comics…thus, continuing your career cycle for the past 30 years…  — Dexter T. Odani

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Batman versus The Terminator

It is an animated fan film conceived by Tony Guerrero and animated by Mitchell Hammond. I like it.

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Harold Ramis passed away at 69

It’s pretty simple, his movies were funny and most today are not. RIP.

– Rob Macomber, February 24

 

Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend, co-writer/performer and teacher Harold Ramis. May he now get the answers he was always seeking.

– Dan Aykroyd, February 24

Actor and Director Harold Ramis, who brought us Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, Stripes, and directed wonderful films like Groundhog Day, passed away in front of his family, from complications of an autoimmune diseases.

Given the contributions he has made to our entertainment growing up, injecting fun into our lives, it’s not inappropriate to be saddened by his passing.  Our condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones

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the Olympic Adventures of Brisco County, Jr

If while watching NBC you hear the Adventures of Brisco County Jr come on it must be the Olymics

Stephen Graziano and Velton Ray Bunch composed original music for the series. Composed by Randy Edelman, the distinctive theme music gained recognition beyond the show’s following; in the mid-1990s, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) hired Edelman to provide music for its sports coverage, including National Football League games and the Olympics. The music samples Edelman sent NBC included the Brisco theme, and by 1996 it was being used during coverage of the Olympics. NBC used it again as the theme for their coverage of the 1997 World Series. Edelman said, “It was original, and it seemed to have the right spirit. It’s got a very flowing melody, it’s triumphant, and it has a certain warmth. And it has at the end of it, what all television things like this have, a ‘button,’ an ending flourish that works really well if they need to chop it down into a 15-second thing.”[44]

NBC continues using the theme in contemporary commercials for the Winter Olympics in Sochi. If you listen you’ll notice.

Now normally the theme for the Olympics is this:

It was even noted on the commentary track for the very first episode the Brisco County DVD set that the theme music ultimately outlived the series and very few of the people that hear it these days would know its origin. But if you listen and you hear this,

then it is fairly obvious. It is sad that this extremely underrated and completely perfect series ended before its time (likely because it was ahead of its time) but at least parts live on. Just not the parts I want.

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John Byrne Dr Doom Justice League art

commission by John Byrne, pencils

colorized

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But what happens when you watch Next Generation in this house?

I should think this might prove a little problematic.

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Disneyfy your life

John Hayward makes a very good point about “Saving Mr. Banks,” the new Disney-made film about a Disney production, and how it is very unfair to the creator of Mary Poppins by twisting the outcome of the disagreement that is central to the film.

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Man of Steel Animated Series

What’s the one thing everyone is going to remember about Man of Steel in five years?*SNAP!*

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Katrina Bowden is such a nerd (but not really)

You may think Katrina Bowden (of 30 Rock fame) is a nerd:

But this guy will set you straight:

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Best Batman moments from JLU

I haven’t even watched this yet, because it’s almost 30 minutes long.  All I can say is…”Rich boy” better be in there!

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“Who Is Donna Troy?” still packs a punch

We got linked from an article over at CBR and I followed the link. Just seeing two scans of  New Teen Titans by Wolfman and Perez on that page managed to get me to tear up.  Dang, but that comic was powerful.

New Teen Titans #38, “Who Is Donna Troy?”, remains one of the best examples of a done-in-one 22-page killer story.  I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it.  I’m sure there must be such people, but even they would have to concede that it is well-done and an effective use of the sequential art form.  For kids born in the 1970s, this is the “Star Wars” of comic books.

And it’s also kind of the pinnacle.  Half a decade later, the very same comic book team is doing “Who Is Wonder Girl?” and it takes five issues to tell and it’s no comparison.

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Superman’s Top 11 Punches Video

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Superman’s 75th Anniversary video

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House of Cards is probably not getting canceled

 

The Huffington Post, the crapass internet rag that it is, pretended to be something of journalism and posted something that does not resemble actual journalism and was not true but pretended to be true.  This lazy notion was that the wonderful television show House of Cards was being cancelled after the second season based on speculation casually thrown about by some low-level writer.  In fact the plotlines for seasons three and four have been written for Mr Spacey and he has not announced a parting of the ways.

 

The show is not being cancelled.  May those that wrote and published that story as truth be ejected from their chosen profession and be forced to toil unhappily in order to make a decent living.

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