My continuing tendency to get distracted and work on things not posted online means that I haven’t updated in a spell. Let’s rectify that with some of the better articles I’ve done over the last couple of months.
As I’m posting this on Halloween, here’s an article I wrote about some crazy haunted house events in North Carolina. You can read it here.
And here’s an article I did on The Little Leviathan, a local oddiites shop that sells odd antiques, custom prop items (they’ve worked on TV’s SLEEPY HOLLOW) and much more you .You can read about their twisted world here.
If you’re enjoying GOTHAM on Fox, I wrote an extensive essay on BRUCE WAYNE, a previous attempt at doing a Batman prequel story for television by the screenwriter of THE IRON GIANT, that actually wound up inspiring a completely different superhero TV show. You can read about it here.
Or if you’re enjoying NBC’s romantic sitcom A TO Z, here’s an interview I did with creator Ben Queen, where he reveals himself to be a major fanboy. You can read it here.
I did a series of interviews counting down to the Small Press Expo (SPX) in September, each an in-depth talk with a different independent creator.
This is a piece I did with writer/artist Scott Shaw on Captain Carrot, who appears in the new DC miniseries MULTIVERSITY and has a cult following from his 1980s appearances. You can read it here.
Speaking of the 1980s, here’s an interview I did with Brian Froud, designer of THE DARK CRYSTAL and LABYRINTH, on his new book FAERIES’ TALES. You can read it here.
And speaking of SF and fantasy, here’s an interview I did with my friend Samuel Montgomery-Blinn on his magazine BULL SPEC. You can read it here.
I talked to Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, creators of the podcast THE THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR, about their two new ongoing titles at Image Comics based on the show, SPARKS NEVADA and BEYOND BELIEF. You can read the interview here.
Here’s an interview I did with screenwriter John Ridley just before he won the Academy Award for scripting this year’s Best PIcture, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, discussing his work on the film and his background writing in comics and animation.
Here’s an extensive piece I wrote for PASTE about how more comic creators are going the route of creator-owned comics, featuring interviews with Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Kieron Gillen, Cullen Bunn and others.
Like most peeps who were born/grew up in the ’80s, I irrationally idealize that decade as the greatest and best of all things.
And there’s nothing quite like finding some obscure reminders of the themes, styles and tropes of that era.
Here’s a few examples of TV shows that really, really embraced certain trends of the time.
THE RENEGADES was a knock-off of the movie THE WARRIORS starring Patrick Swayze as the head of a street gang who secretly works for the cops, specifically national treasure Kurtwood Smith from ROBOCOP, THAT ’70s SHOW and more. I love how half the credits are just their feet intercut with their striking poses and revealing their street names, followed by Smith and his partner exchanging looks like, “Oh, those crazy kids!”
The long-running daytime soap GUIDING LIGHT briefly had an opening that was about…discos, kung-fu and evil Jack O’Lanterns, I think. I sort of love how it goes from the karate kick to everyone dancin’.
During the 1980s, syndicated TV programming for local channels really took off, and TBS, the “Superstation,” had a number of original long-running low-budget comedies. The weirdest was DOWN TO EARTH, whose premise was…well, the theme song pretty much describes this. I’m amazed a show was able to come up with a rhyme based around being hit by a trolley. ALSO OF NOTE: One of the kids of the show grew up to be a Real Housewife, the actor playing the dad quit and was replaced by Dick Sargent, Darren #2 from BEWITCHED, because…that’s his job to replace people, I guess, and the whole thing was co-created by STAR SEARCH champ Sam Harris. That’s some pow’ful ’80s mojo in this one.
THE MASTER featured veteran actor Lee Van Cleef as an American Ninja searching for his long-lost daughter with Tim Van Patten, known as the star of the cult classic CLASS OF 1984 and now known for directing such HBO shows as THE SOPRANOS and GAME OF THRONES. It was one of many “action heroes travel around helping the little guy”-type shows, complete with sweet custom van. Ironically, Van Cleef’s action scenes were mostly done with the actor playing his ninja rival serving as stunt double.
WE GOT IT MADE was one of those wacky shows about guys dealing with a hot girl, in this case a maid. Get it? In this case, it had some of the most sophisticated video graphics this side of The Cars’ “You Might Think” video.
Among the many low-budget SF-TV shows of the 1980s was THE HIGHWAYMAN, a vague knockoff of MAD MAX starring Sam Jones from FLASH GORDON as a government agent with a souped-up truck battling secret forces of evil. Among the supporting cast was former V alien Jane Badler, future STAR TREK: VOYAGER Vulcan Tim Russ, and noted battery spokesperson “Jacko” as “Jetto,” which led to commercials saying the heroes were into “Assault…and battery!” It was created by BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’s Glen Larson, nicknamed “Glen Larceny” for the number of his shows that closely followed recent hit films, and the credits feature the most sophisticated CGI-effects 1989 could buy.
Here’s a compliation of many other low-budget 1980s SF show openings, including TRON knockoff AUTOMAN, the GHOSTBUSTERS knockoff SHADOW CHASERS, and many others.
Finally, here’s an oddball show: DISNEY PRESENTS THE 100 LIVES OF BLACK JACK SAVAGE, a Stephen J. Cannell production for Disney by future X-FILES writer Glen Morgan and James Wong about a Trump-style yuppie (HARDCASTLE AND MCCORMICK’s Daniel Hugh Kelly), who flees to a Cuba-esque corrupt island and lives in a castle with the ghost of a pirate who uses him to help do 100 good deeds to make up for the lives he’s taken with the help of a souped-up boat and special ghostbusting equipment to stop the creatures trying to drag said pirate to Hell. WHEW! Needless to say, the premise was a bit much for viewers, particularly the young ones coveted by this show, to follow. It didn’t last long.
I’m sure there’s many shows I missed, but presumably this has brought back some repressed memories, or created morbid curiosity you’re better off not following up upon. Let’s just remember this: The ’80s were the most awesome decade ever…if you were there for ’em.
As a psycho ADVENTURE TIME fan, I tend to rewatch episodes and follow behind-the-scenes info heavily.
One cool thing I’ve notices is that sometimes the title cards shown for a split-second at the top of the episode depict events referenced but not seen in the episode, or that take place just before the episode’s actions start. This is also often done with promotional drawings the show’s artists do for the Adventure Time Tumblr page — I did a trade for one of these pieces.
I thought I’d compile these images, which often provide some good jokes if you know the episodes.
“WHOAH! Is this the Weather Channel?” “The forecast is partially cool.”
“What a jack-butt-munch-ass-dumb-butt.”
“She looks like that chick who used to be young and had big hooters, and then got married to that dude and does commercials for the Korean institute…”
“Is this a commercial?” “Yeah, for MTV’s House of Butt.”
“You know, maybe if they put more suck bands in prison, people would not want to go there.”
“Hayell yeah! HAYELL YEAH!”
“But it’s like I’m always telling them, ‘If meat’s bad for you, then how come it’s food?'”
“Okay, Beavis. You’ll be thinking about loogies and I’ll be slapping around my gigantic schlong.”
“I’m getting sick and tired of all these smartass videos where there’s all these college dudes and they’re in the water and they’re being all smartass”
“These guys were like always calling each other nerds, because I think that was back before they’d invented words like butt-munch.”
“He’s Lemmy. He can walk into any damn video he wants.”
“Dammit, Butt-Head, SHUT UP! I am a firework! I’m an M-80!”
“I think this is supposed to be her dad. He’s like,’ Should never have sent that kid to Hogwarts.'”
“You know, I kind of feel sorry for these guys, because it’s probably not their fault they suck so much.”
“Hey Butt-Head, what is love?” “It’s like, when you get a stiffie for a really long time.”
“Check it out, he’s watching TV.” “Yeah. And we’re watching TV, so it’s like we’re watching two TVs for the price of one.”
“You know, these are nice colors, all kind of orangey…”
“It takes a lot more than bears to make a video cool, Beavis.”
“Is this like, a commercial for VH1?”
“Hey Butt-Head, where’s Seattle?” “You don’t know? It’s this place where like, stuff is really cool.”
“I think that four-year-old has the same dad as you. Remember when he shoved his Power Rangers up your butt?”
These chicks should marry GWAR.”
“This video is cool and everything, but it’s been giving me nightmares.”
“He’s saying all his friends are turds. He’s telling his friends that they suck.”
“How come these guys are playing out in the mud?” “Well, it’s either because they’re really stupid or really cool.”
“Get off the ground and stop whining, you wuss!”
“It’s like, he can’t write songs, but he sure can sing.”
“Dammit, I’m sick of seeing videos set in school. If I wanted to see videos in school, I’d go to school and watch TV!”
“This chick’s pretty hot, but she has a tendency to wear too many clothes.”
“What language is this?” “I think it’s French, or Mexican or something.”
“I think this is supposed to be freaking us out, but I’m unfreaked. In fact, this video is making me feel totally normal. If i turned on the TV and this was on, I’d be, ‘Yep, this is what I thought I was gonna see.'”
“This guy keeps saying wants a woman, but it’s like, I want a woman too, but I’m not out there singing some crappy song about it.”
“Oh no, it’s another one of these.” “It’s like they’re not even trying.”
“Yeah! Greta’s got quite a unit on him.”
“That is NOT Wolverine, Butt-Head.”
“Look, it’s Mrs. Doubt-FIRE!”
“…and I want you to open your eyes. And I want you to look at me. Now baby…do you think you could do me? Oh. I see you brought some friends.”
“This is still on? That pisses me off.”
“Right now, David wishes he had his old job back.” “Right now, David is planning to kill Sammy Hagar.”
“We should start a band and call it ‘Butt-Head Butt-Head’.”
“If you play this backwards, it says ‘This sucks.'”
“I don’t like videos that suck.”
“I think this is the Jesus and Mary Chain.” “Stop cursing, Butt-Head!”
“Is this a deodorant commercial?”
“Well, I’ll be hornswoggled and dipped in turds!”
“That looks like that dude from Deliverance.”
“Hey Butt-Head, remember when these guys were cool?” “Uhhhhh…no.”
“Oh no, is this Yanni?”
“You LIKE this!”
“Come on, let’s play cards”
“I think this is Seinfeld.”
“Hey Butt-Head, I know I talk about turds a lot, but…these things really look a lot like turds.”
“It’s like this video looks pretty cool, but the sound sucks.”
“This video’s all serious.” “Yeah, it seriously sucks.”
“If I had boobs like that, I’d never leave the house.”
“All right, Montel Williams! Maybe he’ll have some whores!”
“This chick needs to stop whining.”
“That guy looks like a cheerleader. ‘All those years of hard work and practicing moves in the garage pay off when you see those smiling faces in the audience!'”
“I KNOW A GUY! HIS HAIR IS ORANGE! HE SUCKS!”
“They need to show like a big, violent butthole.”
“Check it out Butt-Head, it’s Mallory! It’s that chick from FAMILY TIES!”
Darned if I don’t laugh every time at those not-porn-stars-anymore played by Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. It’s even more repetitive than most SNL sketches and is based around the characters being stupid and inappropriate, like many an SNL sketch that has deeply annoyed me…yet this doesn’t. In fact, it just seems to get funnier each time.
Rather than try to explain the absurd brilliance of this, I’ve decided to create a rough outline of these sketches’ formula, line-by-line, so you can create your own at home. Why you would do this I don’t know. Maybe you’re young and want to liven up a slumber party; maybe you’re just bored. It’s not my place to judge.
Anyway, there are likely variations among the sketches, but this is a pretty close breakdown.
BOTH: “The (superlative adjective, pronounced correctly)” “(Name of luxurious product, pronounced incorrectly, possibly with sexual connotation)
2) (nonsensical description of product’s benefits)
BOTH: “With (mispronounced title)”
1) “Hi. We’re not porn stars anymore. I’m Brooky…”
2) “And (answer that does not give her actual name”
1) “And we’re not porn stars anymore, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like (description of use of product in tandem with 2) with awkward hand gestures)”
GUEST: (moves through scene in some way: “Did someone say (trigger phrase based around pun involving their movement through scene)?”
1 & 2 : (indicate not yet)
GUEST: (gets message, departs)
1) “Other (product) are (bad description, mangled put-down)”
2) (backs up description of why other product doesn’t work with own mangled explanation)
1) “(product) is (illogical reason why it works), plus it’s (more description, mispronounced words, etc.)”
2) “And it’s perfect for occasions like…”
1) (random, illogical example)
1) (same — can be awkwardly-employed verb)
2) (more sexual, inappropriate example)
1) (another mangled, sexual example)
2) (guarantee — with sexual and/or mispronounced simile or metaphor)
1) (similar sexual metaphor/simile)
1) “Plus, you can…(actual use for product)…like…(asks 2 about obvious, everyday object)
2) (Provides wrong answer; possibly sexual)
1) (notes this is incorrect; provides more details)
2) (another wrong example)
1) (remembers correct answer; 2 agrees)
GUEST: (repeats movement through scene with above trigger phrase)
1 & 2: (Not yet)
1 & 2: “With (mispronounced title of product)”
2) “One time (banging-based story, usually based around thinking she had sex with someone famous, but it was really just…) (barely ties this into endorsement for mispronounced product)”
1) (Sexually-based story, usually involving personal injury during sexual act, again ties to mispronounced product)
2) (another banging or porn-related story, barely tied to mispronounced product)
1) (another sexually-based story possibly involving injury, barely involving product)
2) (another banging story, perhaps not involving the product)
1) “Hey, remember (some random thing that has nothing to do with commercial)”
2) (joins 1 in recalling thing, does imitation or weird impression as part of recollection)
GUEST: (moves all the way through scene without stopping)
1 & 2 (look on in confusion, indicate for guest to come back)
GUEST: “Well, hello. I’m (porn-based title, pun-based porn name). (goes off on odd monologue about porn proficiency and sexual experience and/or damaged nature). So if you’re looking for (product that has nothing to do with what has been described), look no further than (name of product being advertise mispronounced even more thoroughly, possibly in a sexual manner. It’s (explanation of why re-described product is good based off mangled description). And (threatens some random person from their past).”
1&2: (dissuade guest from current monologue, explain how the ad has to be good so they can send it in to television to get free [product being advertised, name said in unison])
GUEST: (remembers scam; all awkwardly lean in and “wink” at the camera) “So for (some occasion), (set up for statement of product’s name)”
1) (says name of product) 2) (says something sexual at the same time)
GUEST: (provides mangled pronunciation of mangled pronunciation of product again, along with catchphrase for this product)
1&2: “With (first mispronounced version of product as logo is shown)” (said simultaneously)
Anyway, I hope this has bettered your lives somehow. I’ve been snowed in for a bit and these sketches have been among the things that have kept my sanity. My props to you, ladies Bayer and Strong!
Gene Luen Yang’s already earned widespread acclaim for everything for such works asAmerican Born Chinese and writing the Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels for Dark Horse. His most recent work is actually two works in one, that take two perspectives on a historical event that’s often forgotten in American culture.
Boxers and Saints is a set of two graphic novels from First Second Books that examines the Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901 from two sides in China – the “Boxers,” the rebels who sought to purge China of foreign influence, including missionaries, they felt were overtaking their culture, and the “Saints,” the Chinese who fought against the Boxers, and were later canonized by the Catholic Church.
Yang’s take on the Boxer Rebellion splits the story across two volumes from both points of view, and offers no easy answers as it examines a painful conflict and a difficult time in history from teenagers caught in its wake. It’s already earned massive acclaim, including earning Yang a second National Book Award Finalist honor, and was picked as one of the best Young Adult books of 2013 – graphic or otherwise – by the New York Times.
We called up Yang to talk about his work, the unique cultural connection between the Boxers and modern comic book fans, how the books were almost presented, and his next graphic novel, a unique take on a superhero 99.9 percent of readers have never heard about.
There’s an international flavor to the short films nominated for Academy Awards this year, with no American entries in live-action and only two in animation (one of which is by Disney). Though there’s a predictable quality to some of this year’s nominees, there’s also work that features more inventiveness in a brief running time than most features exhibit in two hours.
Forget Newsroom. Aaron Sorkin should go back to politics
This is an interesting moment for the playwright and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. After months in limbo, his HBO series The Newsroom was just renewed for a third and final season. This should excite hardcore Newsroom fans, but there’s another opportunity we’d like to see him pursue—his long-promised adaptation of Andrew Young’s tell-all account of John Edwards’ downfall, The Politician.
We’ll be blunt: We love ‘80s cartoons. We love the insane Kirby-style riffs of writer/artist Tom Scioli (Gødland, American Barbarian). So when we found out Scioli was going to be doing a new ongoing Transformers/G.I. Joe series at IDW (co-written with John Barber) starting with a Free Comic Book Day issue that will be in stores in April, we were…enthusiastic, to say the least.
Details on the book are hush-hush and Scioli is finalizing the artwork on everything, but we got him on the line to talk about his love of these characters, from the classic toys to the classic cartoons to the classic comics.
Here now are excerpts from our long, long geek-out session with Scioli on these great characters and how they warped our childhoods, and a look at some of the behind-the-scenes drawing for the upcoming series. If anything, we did learn this: Scioli is bringing a real passion and love for the characters to this book, and you can get a glimpse of it here.