Patrick McNee is dead

John Steed actor passed away at 93

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Patrick McNee the actor famous to most of us for playing John Steed on the original Avengers television show, passed away today. From Variety:

Patrick Macnee, famous for his role on “The Avengers” British TV series, died Thursday of natural causes at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 93.

Macnee, who played John Steed in the spy-fi show, died with his family at his bedside.

“Wherever he went, he left behind a trove of memories,” a statement on the actor’s website read. “Patrick Macnee was a popular figure in the television industry. He was at home wherever in the world he found himself. He had a knack for making friends, and keeping them.”

“The Avengers” initially focused on Dr. David Keel (Ian Hendry) and his assistant (Macnee), but Macnee’s famously bowler hat wearing, umbrella-wielding intelligence officer (he never used a gun) became the protagonist when Hendry exited the series. Macnee played the part alongside a succession of strong, female partners, including Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Joanna Lumley. The show ran from 1961 and 1969 and was reprised in the 1970s.

Condolences to his family. I’m sure he will be missed.

I never watched the show myself, but it is on my list and I appreciate the actor’s contribution to our popular culture and our niche culture.

 

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The All-Important Soundtrack

Farewell to the great James Horner

An excellent soundtrack will work so well that you aren’t aware of how it’s manipulating you.  Oh, you’ll hear it and perhaps enjoy it, but you aren’t truly cognizant of how essential it is to the experience until you see raw footage and realize most of the emotional thrust of a moment was the music.  Without that, and a good sound effect engineer, you just have uncomfortably awkward moments with Chewbacca screeching like a cockatiel.

Good Lord!  How pivotal were John Williams and Ben Burtt?!!!  Yeesh!

In Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, there’s a…

Okay, I know it’s not a great movie.  It’s a good movie, and at the time we all appreciated that it gave everyone  in the cast a moment or two to shine, but the ending is a snoozer.  Still, it’s got some great moments.  One of the highlights is “Stealing the Enterprise,” mainly due to the soundtrack by James Horner.

Why the soundtrack?  It’s not just the thrill of the soaring horns once the doors open, it’s the entire piece…and how it plays you.  Because this scene shouldn’t work at all.

How much tension is there, really, in Scotty’s trouble getting the doors to open?  Is the Enterprise going to smash into the doors?  Are they going to fail in their attempt and all go to prison?  So how can there be tension in this scene?

But James Horner pulls it off.

James Horner composed the sountracks to 125 films, many of which played a big part of my life,  including many hours spent listening to them on CD.  He died Monday in a plane crash, only 61 years of age.  R.I.P.

 

 

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Doctor Who is on Disney XD?

This strikes me as extremely wrong but I cannot place my finger on exactly why.

Just based on the clips this appears to start in the second season of the Welsh series with David Tennant. Perhaps they are just promoting it that way.

 

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International Star Wars Day

is today

I obviously have nothing prepared.

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‘The Problem’ of DC wanting to be Marvel

Ask Chris #172: ‘The Problem’.

This not only gives you a great recap of DC and Marvel history, it explains why DC is so dark and serious now.  And it’s on the money.

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Now this is how you tell a ghost story!

Andrew Klavan's Advent Reunion

I’ve been meaning to post this for ages:

Now that’s what I call …

Show »

Use of the Unreliable Narrator,

am I right?

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Review: “Parallel Man: Invasion America” #1

Chris Jones gets to stretch!

Full disclosure right up front.  Christopher “Chris” Jones is a friend that I see at the Midwest Comic Book Association cons in Minnesota, and we’ve known each other for about a decade.  We talk on Facebook, but I’ve never had him over for dinner or helped him move, so that’s made clear our level of friendship.

Not…I mean…it’s not like I’d deny him dinner if he was in town.

Chris has been making a name for himself as the go-to guy at DC Comics for comic books based on animated series.  From various Batman animated-style books to “Young Justice,” Chris has expertly captured the varying animated styles.  Because he’s a cartoony-style artist, right?

Parallel Man - Main character in action

Parallel Man – Main character in action

In an America conquered by China, a mobile refinery dwarfs other vehicles.

In an America conquered by China, a mobile refinery dwarfs other vehicles.

Washington DC is attacked by futuristic weaponry.

Washington DC is attacked by futuristic weaponry.

Actually…no.  He’s got a lot of art muscles he hasn’t been able to show off with his Cartoon Network assignments, and the new sci-fi book “Parallel Man” allows him to showcase his l33t skillz.

“Parallel Man” tells the story of one alternate Earth (The Ascendancy) that has decided to invade other alternate Earths to loot their resources and enslave their populations, and one renegade, Agent Morgan, who has other plans.  This first issue involves a chase sequence on floating bikes that takes place across several alternate Earths.

The science fiction isn’t really anything new to comics, where alternate Earths go back to the days of Gardner Fox, but the specifics of the premise are intriguing.  The action is exciting without being too violent.  Reading this, I began to realize how warped my expectations have gotten from the last 10 years of reading the increasingly gruesome violence of the DC Universe.  In one scene, the Ascendency grabs two suspects and I was surprised to see that it didn’t include a bloody execution!  (I hope that isn’t a spoiler.)  That’s actually rather refreshing.  It hearkens back to the days when comics were beautiful and action packed without death and dismemberment left and right.

Even if the story doesn’t trip your trigger, it is worth it for the art alone.  Chris gets to invent whole new worlds every few pages.  After a decade of needing to stick on-model for every TV imitation comic he was doing, it must feel good to cut loose…and I think it shows on the page.

You can order Parallel Man: Invasion America in comics shops right now with Diamond code Aug141505. Parallel Man #1 hits shelves October 8, 2014.  It will also be on Comixology. 

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Is Ares the Teen Idol in Question?

Lynda Carter

now why would they hire her to play Wonder Woman? I wonder…

I was skimming TitanTV.com for tonight’s broadcast television schedule and I clicked the episode for tonight’s Wonder Woman on MeTV. I found the title and the summary of the episode to be remarkably incongruous.

Wonder Woman
WSYMDT2 – 47.2Sat, 8/09, 8:00 PM 1 hr
“My Teenage Idol Is Missing”
9/22/1978, Action, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Family, Adventure
The Amazons crush the war god, Ares, and Zeus charges them to hold him prisoner as warriors on a secret island; centuries later, an U.S. Air Force pilot is lured to crash land on the island and the commotion allows Ares to escape.

I would never expect the title for a show about the war god Ares to be “My Teenage Idol is missing” although I suppose that fits overall with that particular series.

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Pinky and the Brain at Dragon Con

Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen

Pinky and the Brain

Here is a convention panel with Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen. I love to hear my favorite cartoon characters cuss.

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Remember DM of the Rings?

DM Rings headerI remember DM of the Rings.  Now scroll to the bottom there, or I’ll just link to the first one.

Now Lord of the Rings is such a basis for so many tropes, elements, and now-cliches in more or less half of the genre that we cover here, or perhaps ALL OF THE GENRES we cover here, depending on what you or your average literature major judge, that even though I had not read the books before I saw the movie, I knew how the movie(s) was/were going to go.  Almost none of these movies spoil me because I am genre-savvy.  Therefore I am genre-savvy enough to anticipate events with the foundation-story.

Naturally role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons have Tolkien to thank for their lore, their content.

DM of the Rings, DM standing for Dungeon Master, operated under the premise that the foundation for much of our fan-favorite fantasy fiction did not exist, albeit with something else to inspire the stuff, and the specifics first appeared as a roleplaying game.

I read much of this….. I don’t remember where I was… I think a local all-night coffeehouse in East Lansing, way way back in the day.  I remember rainy nights. I loved those.  Bad internet. Barely enough plugs and outlets for a college town with one wifi-enabled coffee shop.

 

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Iron Giant as Superman

Nothing I can say can really match the quote I used…. well, I could write something that is as good, but the theology seems inappropriate for this blog….. maybe on Apologies Demanded.

Iron Giant Superman

Titular Iron Giant as thematic Superman

From Jim MacQuarrie:

The Iron Giant is the purest illustration of faith ever recorded.

It’s not just that the giant chooses to be Superman; it’s that he does so in the face of all reason and evidence. He looks like a monster; he’s a giant metal man from space who shoots lasers out of his eyes and can crush cars in his fingers. Every fiber of his being screams that he is the metal monster from space sent to destroy us all, everyone he meets is afraid of him, he has every reason to see himself as others see him, and yet…

and yet…

…he chooses, through sheer force of will alone, to reject his origin and nature and become Superman, a character he bears no resemblance to at all. He has no reason to want to be Superman, not one thing to suggest that he CAN be Superman, nothing except Hogarth’s word for it, and that’s good enough. By faith alone, he declares that he is Superman, and when the need arises, it turns out that he IS Superman, simply because he had faith that he could be.

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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!

ArtoftheDeal1

ArtoftheDeal2ArtoftheDeal3

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Weird Al’s Mandatory Fun

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

Weird Al as Newton

does the Epic Rap Battles of History wikia mind if we steal this?

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.)

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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


Terminator Batman by ChrisWeyer on deviantART

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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