Doing a clean-up and wanted to link some recent work. I got to talk with some really brilliant people for a couple places. My ego is inflated!
I’ve been helping out at Crowemag Toys in Raleigh recently, and that’s given me a new appreciation for the Transformers.
The store deals in used toys, and the biggest seller, by far, are Transformers. People pay HUNDREDS for “Generation One” stuff from the 1980s, fan-created “third party” figures, convention exclusives, and more.
(As this place gives me money, should mention: There’s a complete 1980s Scorponok for $300 and Fortress Maximus in the box non-sealed for $1700. Contact through website for info.)
This has inspired me to think back to the day my innocence ended: When Optimus Prime and Megatron killed each other.
The story is now well-known: In 1986’s TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE, the goal was to clear out many of the existing robots and introduce new toys, um characters.
The result traumatized kids so badly that Optimus Prime, leader of the heroic Autobots, later got resurrected. I blame this also in part for his follow-up, Rodimus Prime, being kind of boring.
The idea was, they’re toys, who will care? Well, Prime and his excellent voicing by Peter Cullen had a weird sort of resonance with kids. He was the toy truck that would come to life and be your friend. He was the caring, heroic father figure, a knight in shining armor for the post-STAR WARS age.
That said, I was rooting for Megatron.
Why? It was simple: Bad guys ALWAYS lost.
On cartoons, FCC regulations not only meant bad guys always lost, but they were never allowed to be that threatening. There were rarely any stakes for the heroes to beat them, other than it was their gig.
Well, Megatron wanted to drain the Earth of its resources and conquer the universe, but the consequences of this weren’t adequately depicted for me.
I dug the Decepticons. They turned into planes. They had Soundwave, the cool, emotionless tape-recorder-bot filled with dangerous tape friends. They had Starscream, the whiny, covetous second-in-command (who also had the same voice as Cobra Commander, the late Chris Latta). And they had Megatron, with his military-like appearance, cold, raspy voice, and oh yeah, THE GIANT GUN ON HIS ARM.
Megatron never, ever won, so yeah, when there was a fight to the death, I had mixed fellings.
Let’s set the scene: It’s the near-future and the Decepticons are raiding the Autobots’ headquarters. A number of minor characters get slaughtered, something I didn’t grasp in my younger years.
So Prime is all, “Megatron must be stopped, no matter the cost…”
…and we hear the immortal tune, “The Touch” by Stan Bush. Yes, the one that Mark Wahllberg also sang in BOOGIE NIGHTS. If he doesn’t sing it in TRANSFORMERS 4, that movie is going to be an even bigger ripoff than anticipated.
As much as I love that song and this sequence, they don’t exactly go together. It works a lot better when it’s reprised at the end of the film. Though it does create a thematic linkage or something.
I also like that shot of Prime. Very iconic and imposing. I wish they’d hold on it during his entire line of “Megatron must be stopped,” which is one of many editing problems I see with the final film. I don’t know if this was due to budget limitations or just studio cuts.
Anyway, Prime transforms and rolls out, and Megatron’s on the dead run, yo!
And the other Decepticons are all….
…and with good reason, because…
…and they’re about to go…
And after MOWING DOWN ENEMY AFTER ENEMY IN THE FORM OF A MACK TRUCK, Prime transforms and SHARP-SHOOTS A HALF-DOZEN DECEPTICONS IN MID-AIR WHILE DOING A BACK-FLIP….
,,,AND THEN LANDS ON HIS FEET AND CONTINUES BLASTING AWAY.
I’m sorry, but even if you hate the Transformers, you have to admit — PRIME IS BALLER. That is probably the most bad-ass a good guy got to be in the 1980s.
Oddly, only one Decepticon, Frenzy, thinks to just FLY out of the way and avoid getting mowed down, which is odd as most of the other Decepticons turn into actual jets. Perhaps they were just startled, or damaged, or low on Energon?
…I hate myself now.
So then Prime comes face-to-face with Megatron and is all, “one shall stand, one shall fall!” and Megatron is all, “Why throw away your life so recklessly?” and Prime is all, “That’s a question you should ask yourself, Megatron!”
This is why I love this conflict: Unlike many 1980s good-guy/bad-guy conflicts, where FCC restrictions made the conflict seem more like a rivalry, even frenemy-type deals, it was pretty damn clear that Prime and Megatron EFFING HATED EACH OTHER.
And with the freedom of a PG rating and the desire to introduce a bunch of new toys, they get to unleash that hatred big-time.
MEGATRON TACKLES PRIME!
Prime hurls Megatron into a wall, but Megatron hurles a spike and prison-shanks him, Decepticon-style!
Why did Megatron never just throw a sharp object before? Because it was a G-rated kids’ show.
Also, this is the far-flung future of 2005, and presumably Prime and Megatron are running somewhat less efficiently, despite both of them being millions of years old. …I hate myself again.
Prime sees he’s been shanked, but still dodges a Megatron-blast and does the TIGER UPPERCUT!
Again; The improved animation on this really shows. The characters are allowed to just get BRUTAL, and you can practically hear Megs’ head crunching like a beer can…or would if “The Touch” wasn’t still playing.
But Megs ain’t out yet.
Even though his arm-cannon has been knocked off…for what, the 50th time in the series?…there’s a perfectly good laser-sword just lying on the ground. How convenient!
Prime manages to get slashed IN THE SAME PLACE WHERE HE GOT SHANKED BEFORE. He would make a terrible boxer.
And in pretty much the most epic shot of this, Megatron leaps up for the kill-blow…
…AND LANDS ON PRIME’S FIST.
Prime tries to cyber-stomp Megs, but Megatron literally bounces back….
IN THE FACE!
“I’ll rip out your optics!” he screams, only to get hurled on his butt. “Finish him!” cries an Autobot.
This part I love — Prime just wordlessly goes over and picks up his laser rifle, then heads over to put Megatron down, like, “Yeller’s my dog. I’ll do it.”
There’s a certain workman-like quality to that, i.e. it’s a dirty job, he’s the one who’s got to do it.
And there’s something a little edgy and unnerving about this for a kid. The good guy is prepared to straight-up kill the bad guy to end his reign of terror.
But Megatron sees a discarded laser pistol….
…and here’s the bit I like: Megatron pretends to beg for his life, but Prime doesn’t waver. “You, who are without mercy, now plead for it?”
How many times has there been this scene, where the bad guy begs like a coward? The thing I dig is that Megatron genuinely doesn’t mean it, and Prime knows he doesn’t mean it.
Anyway, Hot Rod shows up to tackle Megatron before he can grab the gun. This is SUPPOSED to be a bit where Hot Rod inadvertently contributes to Prime’s demise, but I don’t buy it. Megatron would have just shot Prime anyway, and his hostage-grab of Hot Rod is too rushed to generate much suspense. Had they drawn it out, it would have been a much more dramatic moment — Prime can’t let one of his own get killed to stop his arch-enemy, and that winds up causing his own demise. Instead, it just feels like a cop-out to say Prime WOULD have won.
Rather, he gets capped. Repeatedly.
You even have Megatron screaming “FALL! FALL!” which is pretty damn baller for an ’80s cartoon villain.
So Prime winds up with a gun to his head…
…and another baller Megatron line: “I would have waited an eternity for this! It’s over, Prime!”
Again, lovely animation detailing. Prime’s injuries looked genuinely painful…for a robot truck…and now Megatron looks on his last legs. But still smirking.
Is Prime gonna take this lying down?
And Megatron goes down!
This was a pretty excellent final confrontation, because neither party kept the upper hand for long.
They both gave it their all, and both were ruthless with the other. It was afternoon cartoons with the kid gloves off.
Also, it’s weirdly satisfying to me, because TECHNICALLY Megatron won — Prime died, and Megatron was still alive when he was drifting in space and got turned into Galvatron.
Well, technically Prime came back. But still…
It’s funny to watch this now. As a kid, I didn’t know Prime would come back. I was freaked out, traumatized like everyone else.
And yet, I was grinning, because the bad guy finally got to be EVIL, and in a way, got a win.
I was never as big on Galvatron, the upgraded version of Megatron. Yes, once the series picked up again, he was also voiced by Frank Welker, but I missed the rasp. He was more of a psychotic, though his episodes hold up much better. He’s like a robot Prince Joffrey from GAME OF THRONES.
Never really cared for the Michael Bay films. It’s funny — they’re actual films with giant, giant budgets, and yet I never came to care for those toy-selling robots the way I did for the ones back in the 1980s.
In a way, those shows were sort of the mythology that my generation grew up with, and it’s probably why we haven’t moved on from them that well. They had a weird sense of history and story, and the promise of that unlimited potential you get in your imagination with each new action figures.
Plus, transforming robots are just cool, duh.
I wonder how many will sell at the toy shop this week?
Recently I found a CD-ROM I’d burned a bunch of old pulp novels onto years back for research for a thing I stopped writing once I got a real job. Anyway, this inspired me to read a few, which in turn inspired me to write a bit from a novel-within-a-novel for the aforementioned thing on Facebook. Here is what I wrote, preserved for posterity.
ZACK’S PULP NOVEL
“We’re going to break into that building. The Potassium Airstone will be ours.”
“Crazy like a PELICAN.”
“Don’t you know who lives in that building?”
“I dunno. Some dork with a tan?”
“Haven’t you heard of Dr. Dire? His story is legend.”
“Legends are stupid, and wrong also.”
“They say his parents sent him away at birth and had him trained to be the world’s
greatest scientist by an ancient order of monks.”
“Those sound like really terrible parents. And how can monks make you a doctor?”
“NO ONE KNOWS. But worse than that, he’s got this team, the Superfly Runnin’ Crew. There’s a pilot and an explosives expert and a telegraph specialist and a cab driver and also an accountant. They’ve all got black belts in tae kwon do and they’re pretty bad, ‘bad’ meaning ‘good.'”
“Reputations are like snowballs — stupid.”
“I don’t want no part of this, man. I would rather drink paint than risk going up against him. I would rather eat a cheese sandwich that had been lying in the sun for an indeterminate period of time. I would rather a large dump truck, drive to the neighboring counties, gather up all the fire ants I could find, create a giant pit full of fire ants — I suppose I’d also need a steam shovel, to scoop up the ants, and to dig the pit — then cover myself in barbecue sauce and dive in screaming, ‘come and get it!’ than face Dr. Dire.”
“You cannot believe everything you read in the newspapers. One day they will be dead, and people will get accurate news from safe, reliable electronic sources.”
“Well, this headline is pretty clear: THING HAPPENING. And when Dr. Dire does a thing, let me tell you: It’s a thing.”
“Let me assure YOU: This thing will be a thing that Dr. Dire will wish was a thing that he had never had. The thing. I mean.”
“Okay, I’m in. But just to warn you: We get caught, he’s mad into delicate brain operations. They make you not evil, and also stare at walls singing showtunes.”
“We’re only going to be singing one showtune tonight, my friend. The showtune of DEATH!”
TO BE CONTINUED!
“Superfly Runnin’ Crew roll call! State your name, your specialty, and your code name.”
“Pinkerton Schlafly, professional aeronaut. Code name: Propeller.”
“Aloysius Bartram Clydesdale Dunkirk Eustace Farrington-Gomez, renowned explosives connoisseur. Code name: Al.”
“Rodney Q. Pants, expert at Morse Code, telegraph service and speed-typing. Code name: Word-Sling.”
“Dangelo Lorenzo DeFilippis-Bologna, undercover checker cab driver and ear for street chat/underworld gossip, along with actual checker cab driver. Code name: Checks.”
“Melvin Peebles, accountant. Code name: Other Dude.”
“And I, of course, am Dr. Archimedes H. Dire, E.O.A.E. Code name: Dr. Archimedes H. Dire, E.O.A.E., or ‘Dr. Dire’ for short. Now – “
“Yes, Other Dude?”
“What’s an E.O.A.E.?”
“Expert on Almost Everything. Now –“
“Do you have to have the doctor part and the title part in your name?”
“Yes, Other Dude.”
“Um, okay. Hey, sorry. One more question.”
“What AREN’T you an expert on?”
“Women. Also pancakes.”
“Moving on. It is my deepest regret to inform you that the criminal mastermind Colonel Dexter Poindexter, aka ‘The Stereotype,’ has set his sights on Dire Dynamics’ latest experiment. Poindexter, as you all know, can do bad imitations of anyone from any country, a M.O. that’s proven surprisingly effective with rookie policemen and several areas in the South. Checks, your report?”
“Yes, sir. Word out of the bingo parlors is that he’s capable of doing a French accent, a German accent, and even a Bronx accent, within the same conversation. He’s even developed an utterly baffling secret code. I gotta go now, I’m picking up a fare at the airport.”
“Very good, Checks. I understand we’ve intercepted one of these notes, which was cunningly concealed inside a hollow cookie at a restaurant. Word-Sling, report your findings.”
“Thank you, Doctor. Now, we haven’t figured out the encryption key, but so far, what we have reads: ‘Ancient proverb say: He who pats himself on back too hard may fall flat on his face. Lucky numbers: 16 8 23 42.’”
“Diabolical. Well, keep working to crack that.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Finally, some bad news: My unicorn-breeding plans have had yet another setback, with subjects exhibiting extreme aggression, along with a curious tendency to breathe fire and grow bat wings. Results are currently being analyzed as we move forward. On a positive note, all senior Dire Dynamics employees will receive a special bonus this month consisting of five pounds of unicorn steaks.”
“And good news, sir! They’ll be completely tax-deductible!”
“Splendid, Other Dude! Now if you’ll excuse me, I must work on my trilling. I’m this close to perfecting my imitation of a South Pacific Purple Crumb-Snatcher. Any other business?”
“Propeller here, sir – it looks like there’s an army of zombie catfish attacking the Dire Building.”
“NOT AGAIN! Everyone! To the gyro-copter!”
“Uh, I still have to pick up my fare.”
“Everyone except Checks! To the gryo-copter!”
TO BE CONTINUED!
“Arise, Large-Eyeball-With-Many-Tentacles…arise as I speak the words of power…Doan-War-E-Bee-Hah-Pee….Doan-War-E-Bee-Hah-Pee…”
“CEASE YOUR GIBBERISH OF HATE, COLONEL POINDEXTER!”
“Dr. Dire! The Man with the Tan™!”
“You’re surrounded, Poindexter! Two dirigibles and umpteen airplanes are buzzing this
building as we speak! My crew is all situated with air rifles and steampunk goggles!”
“You cannot put the kibosh on the resurrection, Dire! The followers of Yoggoth-Soggoth shall open the gateway to the higher realms, by chanting and wearing robes and stuff!”
“Your mamma they will!”
“Your arrogance astounds me, Dire! Just because you successfully removed your own gall bladder and claim to have invented waffles –“
“Time travel was involved.”
“—doesn’t mean that you are, as you proclaim, ‘The Sterling Fist of Justice!™’ There are forces beyond your control, beyond the veil of whatever, that will bring about the utter subjugation of humanity by the giant eyeballs! And men like me who helped them out will get cool cars and jazz!”
“You sadden me, Poindexter. You’ll never know the joy of doing right with a smile, being considerate of your neighborhood, or constantly striving to make yourself better through performing delicate brain operations and practicing tropical bird calls!”
“Spanking Solomon! You’re like white rice with plain yogurt – disgusting! No wonder you never get any chicks!”
“That’s merely an unfortunate consequence of being trained to be the greatest scientist on Earth by an ancient order of monks! Even their limitless knowledge has limits. But I believe one day I’ll find a lady who understands she can only be a mistress to my first loves – science and bird calls – and accompany me for a cartoon double feature and a refreshing strawberry phosphate.”
“Your words are as stupid as your haircut! Behold! The ritual is nearly complete! Soon, the demon/alien/whatever shall dominate the nightmares of the general populace!”
“Bushwah! Your plan is as illogical as fluoridated drinking water! I’ll prove you as wrong as when I proved the Thousand-Winged Dragon of Arkansas was just a combination of Swiss cheese, copper plumbing and floodlights!”
“Really! Ah-ha-ha-ha! See now what arises from the pit!”
“WHAT THIS…AW MAN, I’M BACK ON EARTH AGAIN! SWEET! HEY, WAS THAT YOU IN THE ROBE DID THIS? YOU ARE SO GETTING A COOL CAR!”
“You like that, Dire?!”
“…Bother. I’m going to need some serious bird-calls for this.”
TO BE CONTINUED!
THE FINAL INSTALLMENT (because I gots stuff to do):
ZACK’S PULP NOVEL: THE EMOTIONAL DENOUEMENT
“Madame Sauvage – an Archimedies Dire is here to see you.”
“Archie! Hey! How are ya?”
“Greetings, Meg. Sorry I’ve been out of touch.”
“Oh, it’s okay. Hey, saw you defeated that giant eyeball. Cool beans.”
“Thank you. And I assure you it’s completely reformed. Performing a delicate brain operation on an eye wasn’t easy, but I’ll have a research paper ready in a few weeks.”
“…I can’t wait. So, what brings you to Tacarembo La Tumbe Del Fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas La Junta Del Sol Y Cruz?”
“I got the blues.”
“Aw! What’s the buzz?”
“You’re the closest I’ve got to an equal, Meg. And I don’t just mean because Father
intended for us to marry until it was determined we were actually first cousins instead of
“Yeah, Uncle Abednego was kind of messed up.”
“Parents try so hard. I don’t know if I could ever have children myself – that knowledge that you’ve created something that you kind of have to make not die.”
“That’s why I stick to plastic houseplants.”
“I understand things in ways others cannot. I’ve seen beauty, chaos, underground troll-civilizations with buildings carved entirely from rare fungus.”
“Sorry I missed that.”
“Yet somehow…the sum total of my experience feels less like knowledge than…a bunch of weird stuff that no one cares about.”
“Look Archie, you have a lot going for you. You’re smart, financially stable, and you look pretty good for a guy your age –“
“Sleeping in a vacuum-bag chamber will do that. I have an extra if you need one.”
“Thanks but no. You have a job you love, and you do cool stuff all the time, but sometimes you have to understand why people like stuff that’s not your stuff.”
“I mean like – look, every time you finish an adventure, where do you go?”
“To the Alone-Dome in the Arctic to work on my inventions and bird-trilling.”
“Right, see – you can’t just sit around trilling with yourself all the time.”
“Hmm. Perhaps I should pursue this line of reasoning. I could pretend to be a hobo, or attend a class on how to pick up chicks.”
“Baby steps, cuz. Maybe just throw a cookout or something.”
“I do have a surplus of unicorn steaks.”
“You won’t see the results you want right away, but life isn’t science. It’s like Uncle Abednego always said – ‘Save the world, and it’ll pay you back, by still being around and junk.’”
“I feel infinitely better, Meg. I’m glad our family’s forced-eugenics program produced you.”
“Back atcha. Look, you need a break from this emotion biz. You wanna go hunt some manticores with wet noodles?”
“I’ll go get the chloroform!”
THE END/DONE WITH THIS FOR NOW
As anyone who knows me knows, I’m sort of a sociopathic fan of Cartoon Network’s series ADVENTURE TIME. It represents something truly imaginative, inventive and spontaneous — not to mention fun!
Having recently gotten to do AN ACTUAL ADVENTURE TIME STORY for issue #20 of the KaBOOM! ADVENTURE TIME comic (order it here!) , I thought I’d share with you some of the best pieces from my collection of ADVENTURE TIME art. My full collection is online in this gallery.
Here are some of the best pieces, with commentary.
First, I’ve been lucky enough to get some art from many of the talented people who work on the show, including creator Pendleton Ward…
,,,Andy Ristaino, who’s done many of the character designs and now writes for the show….
…and a couple pieces by Jesse Moynihan, who’s written/storyboarded many of the most surreal episodes and does the FORMING webcomic. Here’s a piece Jesse did of the Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant, one of my favorite one-off characters from the show.
I also did a trade with Jesse for one of the most unique pieces in my collection. With each new episode that airs, the writers/artists on the show do a unique drawing they post on the show’s Tumblr that relates to the events of the episode. This is from “Reign of Gunters” (originally “Gunthers”) showing Finn reading the pick-up artist book “Mind Games” by “J.T. Dawgzone” (later changed to “Jay T. Doggzone.” This includes the only known appearance of “Dawgzone” to date, on the book’s back cover.
And here is Marceline the Vampire Queen by Rebecca Sugar, who wrote/storyboarded many of the best Marceline episodes (“It Came From the Nightosphere,” “What was Missing,” “I Remember You,” “Simon and Marcy”) and also wrote many of Marceline’s songs. Sugar has left the series to do her own show, the upcoming STEVEN UNIVERSE, but it was a great thrill to get a piece from one of the creators who helped define this character and created some of the show’s most emotional moments. This is also signed by Olivia Olson, the voice of Marceline.
Marceline has been one of the characters artists most want to draw from the show. One of the first pieces I got for my collection was a drawing of her by Kate Beaton, the genius cartoonist behind HARK! A VAGRANT. It is also signed by Olivia Olson.
Here’s a walnut-ink commission of Marceline by Ethan Nicolle, creator of the webcomic and animated series AXE COP.
And here’s Marceline by Brandon Graham of Image Comics’ PROPHET and such surreal SF delights as KING CITY and MULTIPLE WARHEADS.
A very nice piece of Marceline and Jake by Nathasha Allgeri, who created Fionna and Cake for ADVENTURE TIME and did the amazing short BEE AND PUPPYCAT for Cartoon Hangover on YouTube.
And I just got this stunning commission by Robbi Rodriguez, where Marceline rocks out big time.
In addition, it’s been great fun getting artists with a wide variety of styles to bring those styles to the different characters from the show.
For example, Chester Brown, whose tales often deal with very, very dysfunctional looks at relationships, did a dynamite job with this melancholy Ice King.
Brown’s good friend and contemporary Seth, who beautifully captures a wintry sense of melancholy in his work, brought a nice dignity to Ice King’s human alter ego, Simon Petrikov.
James Harren, who does more horror/fantasy type work, blew me away with this terrifying take on Marceline’s Dad, Hunson Abadeer.
Ramon Perez did an unforgettably gross variation on Ricardio, the Heart Guy.
Here’s a wry Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant by Jennifer Hayden…
…and a super-adorable Buff Baby Finn by Katie Cook, who writes the MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC comic.
Becky Dreistadt, who does the amazing TINY KITTEN TEETH comic, did this beautiful Fionna and Cake, and has gone on to do a number of stories and covers for the AT comic.
And Lucy Knisley, who’s done some Fionna and Cake comics, did this very sweet piece.
Jeffrey Brown did this take on BMO “playing with itself”…
…while Andy Runton of OWLY did this piece of BMO playing with Jake and Lady Rainicorn’s offspring. PUPPIES!
Tom Fowler, who does all sorts of surreal fantasy characters, did a hulking take on Billy the hero.
And Jeremy Bastian of CURSED PIRATE GIRL did this nasty Ice Queen, which was colored by Beck Seashols.
Janet K. Lee of RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN brought her dapper style to Peppermint Butler, her favorite character from the show.
And Pen Ward himself praised this piece of the Earl of Lemongrab by Jeff Lemire, who did a most ACCEPTABLE! job.
The Lich (or the Lich King, as originally pitched), is very popular with creators who have a more horror-based style, as his countenance of PURE EVIL really lets them do some nightmarish work.
This is by Charles P. Wilson III of THE STUFF OF LEGEND.
This one is by Nathan Fox, and hews closer to the character’s animated design.
Duncan Fegredo, who’s done many of the Hellboy comics with Mike Mignola, combined a few different looks for this grayscale commission.
And Ted Naifeh of COURTNEY CRUMRIN did one with its roots in classic mythology — there’s sort of a folktale, Middle Ages quality to this one.
And finally, here’s Finn and Jake themselves by the Spanish cartoonist Liniers. This just makes me happy!
I’ve gotten a lot of great pieces, though I might stop soon — my personal goal is 200 different artists, and I’m already up to about 180! (there’s a few repeat artists and a couple updated/colored pieces in my gallery)
Again, you can check out my full collection of stuff here!
The first season of NBC’s Hannibal, the adaptation/reimagining of the classic cannibal created by Thomas Harris for Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and other novels, is out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week.
As it happens, I did some Hannibal press stuff at San Diego Comic-Con for a website that promptly decided not to employ me any more a week after the show. With the material still handy, I thought I’d share this interview with Hugh Dancy, whose portrayal of Hannibal’s friend/victim/eventual pursuer Will Graham provides the center and emotional arc of the show.
This was part of a group press event with about five other journalists sitting at the table. Stuff I asked specifically is marked with a (Z).
All photos are copyright NBC.
(Z) Have you enjoyed the con, or have you actually had a chance to be on the convention floor?
No, I haven’t yet. I got in this morning and went straight into this stuff, in the peripheral buildings. So I haven’t gone into the beating heart of it yet.
The question I have to ask is: What was it like throwing up an ear?
You know, I knew that was coming. Bryan (Fuller) explained to me that this was where the story was going, so for me, it was kind of an iconic thing – “I want to throw up the ear, I want to throw up the ear.” (laughs) Because that was when we got into the endgame, and it was just so gross and brilliant. So I was very hyped. And it was good!
Are you going vegetarian after the show?
No, I love meat. (laughs)
(Z) I was curious about how you played the role of Will Graham. I saw you in Adam several years ago, and given how you portrayed a character with Asperger syndrome there, I wondered if that carried over into how you portrayed Will.
I think so. And I’ll tell you why: There’s a moment in the first episode when Laurence (Fishburne)’s character and my character first meet on screen, and he goes, “Where are you on the spectrum?” Something like that. And I think there might even be a mention of Asperger’s, I can’t remember.
For me, that was misdirection. I definitely do not think Will has Asperger syndrome. In fact, what I think he is is almost the polar opposite of someone with Asperger syndrome. The way I think about it is, if there is a spectrum with autism on one end, people who can’t read anything of another person, and with most of us somewhere down here (gestures with hand), then there’s a spectrum extending to the other side with people who have no control over the information that they receive, and have no floodgates at all.
That’s where Will is. And the way he protects himself is, he’s deliberately and consciously adopted some of the mannerisms of a person with Asperger’s.
(Z) He’s faking it, in a way.
Kind of. He’s chosen to block eye contact. He’s chosen to become kind of antisocial and not engage.
(Z) Kind of autistic by choice.
Right, but socially. Not in the way his mind works, but in how he carries himself.
What kind of research did you do – did you observe anyone like Will?
Well, I don’t know anybody like Will. I don’t know that there is anybody like Will, really. Just as there’s nobody really like Hannibal Lecter.
They’re fictional creations. But that said – obviously, I read Thomas Harris’ novels, that’s the best place to start. But then after that, I read some of the stuff by people that Harris had spoken to, some people that work in behavioral science, who work in profiling serial killers. And they all have this strange combination of science meeting intuition meeting detective work. So Will is like that character, but pushed a little bit further.
Hannibal is a daring show for network television – are you surprised by the content of it?
Well, I think what you’re saying when you ask that, is about the blood and the bodies and all that, are they daring, and that’s unquestionably the case. But what I found to be more daring about it, certainly more interesting, and also daring for a network, for NBC, was the format.
It’s an hour-long, psychological, pretty complex grown-up series with limited episodes. And the blood and guts of it – other than being intrinsic to the genre – served all that other stuff, served your understanding of who Will was, of his relationship with Hannibal, and why Will is so messed up, because he carries that stuff around with him.
I think that’s why, in part, we got away with it, because it has context. It’s designed to be part of the aesthetic of the show, and not just, “Shit, we ran out of story, let’s kill somebody.”
(question a bit hard to hear; sounds like “do you feel the TV is an artistic compromise vs. doing movies?)
I don’t look at it that way. I mean, there’s no guarantee a movie is going to come your way. And I chose to do it, insofar as you can tell – I talked to Bryan, and he described to me Year One, Year Two, Year Three, Year Four, Year Five, and it was very rich and different and I thought, “Okay, I’m very happy to sign that contract. I think I will be interested and enthusiastic five years from now.” I mean, maybe I won’t be, but I made that guess.
So I’m absolutely positive about it. I can’t wait to go back. I was very invested in the show, I really thought we were doing something good as we were going along, and the audience was teetering, and now they’re starting to grow, and I really care about it. So I’m delighted.
So you knew Will would end the season inside of a cell.
So there was never any concern for you like, “Is my part going to be smaller in Season Two?” Because you know the master plan for the show…
No, I didn’t have that concern. I just, you know…(laughs) I think you could have a show entirely based around Hannibal, but it would be tricky. He needs a foil. And if that balance change a bit in Season Two, I’m good with that as well. I think we’ve set it up for a very interesting and very different trajectory in the second season.
(Z) Without getting too spoilery, what are you most looking forward to playing in Will’s journey in this upcoming season?
Well, I feel that Will, albeit in a pretty unpleasant way, has had the scales completely removed from his eyes, and in a funny sense, is possibly stronger now than he has ever been before, because he’s not only aware of the situation outside of him, with Hannibal and his identity and who he really is. He’s also much clearer about who he himself is.
(Z) Several critics were calling that last scene in the finale “the birth of a hero.”
(laughs) There is something to that. I think that – it’s funny, I hadn’t read that, but I do think that in a very shorthand kind of way, the second season kind of allows Will to take ownership of his powers, right?
He has these strange abilities/challenges with empathy, and in the first season, he’s at the mercy of that. Jack is using him to some extent to get the job done, and Hannibal is certainly leaning on that part of his brain. And now those people are away from him, and he’s stuck in a cell on his own, and he can begin to take control of his environment, and start fighting.
In the first season, Will tries experimenting with relationships – maybe a friendship with Hannibal, a romantic relationship, maybe being a father figure to Abigail – do you think Will is capable of having a true, fulfilled relationship of any sort?
I think that’s an excellent question. In the relationship with Alana, the question was, “How the hell would someone like Will go about instigating, and certainly maintaining, any kind of romantic or intimate relationship?”
And I mean obviously, the most intimate relationship he has with anybody is with Hannibal. It doesn’t help that by the time he kisses Alana, he’s suffering from encephalitis and is losing his mind. (laughs) That’s never a good thing.
If you know the books, you know that in Red Dragon, you know Will is in a relationship when Jack comes to pull him back in, to work in Behavioral Science. And that relationship is tested – again, the question is there even in that book: “Is Will capable of sustaining a relationship in a grown-up, in a normal way?”
And the honest answer is, I don’t know. He has his dogs – had his dogs. It seems to me like the best situation Will could possibly be in was the situation he was in in Episode One – he was teaching, going home, doing some good, pursuing his interest in fishing, looking after dogs. Anything other than that is going to be very difficult for him.
It’s pretty amazing how in less than 13 weeks, Hannibal has built this incredible fan base online.
Yeah. You always hope for the best, and I thought (laughs) if there was any upside to the fact that we were struggling to get an audience in terms of numbers of TV viewers, it was that we had this entire other audience that came out of it who were not only watching the show but actively supporting it and spreading the word.
That’s a great feeling. It’s a really, really nice feeling to be supported, because for me, this really felt like we were doing something different. It’s very fresh. And I’d be delighted to hear someone say, “Oh, X million people watch your show on Thursday!” It’s a guarantee that we get to go on for a while.
But when I see these people invest so much time and energy in their fandom of the show, it’s just great. It’s really great.
(Another question I couldn’t hear well – basically, it seems to ask about how there are other procedural shows on TV, and how Hannibal is different)
Well, I think that the procedural element to our show – which I suspect will change a just a little bit in Season Two because I’m in jail – was mostly there in Season One in support of the overarching story. You know, the individual crimes are thematically relevant (to that arc) and are designed to help push it forward.
That’s why I like it – and it allows you to invest those situations with some emotional. As an actor, I don’t have to go, “Oh, we’re in the morgue again. Oh look, he had his foot cut off.” To find a way that, for the character, that means something, and resonates beyond that one scene, is good.
(we’re told it’s the last question): I wanted to ask about Homeland — do you watch Homeland? (Dancy’s wife Claire Danes stars on the series)
Yes, I do. Yes.
So are you ready for the next season?
Well, I’m reading it. (laughs) They’re filming it right now, so I’m reading the episodes as they come in. So I know everything.
Do you and Clare compare notes for the Hannibal scripts too?
Well, we both ended our first seasons institutionalized, so…(laughs)
Hannibal: Season One is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Glob be praised! I have ANOTHER comic book story out this month, following up my tale in REGULAR SHOW #3 with “Grocery Time” in ADVENTURE TIME #20!
Here are some fun facts about this tale!
1) It was written nearly a year before “Sombrero World,” my REGULAR SHOW story, but got held up because KaBOOM! didn’t know Cartoon Network had approved it already.
2) It was one of 10 pitches I made to KaBOOM! for ADVENTURE TIME stories. Coincidentally, it was also the pitch I had developed the least.
3) The pitch was, “in a tale told in hard-rock narration, Billy goes to the Grocery Kingdom to get stuff for a party, but finds himself pitted against the Notorious Ham-Pire and his Avocadobots.” I had no idea who the Ham-Pire and the Avocadobots were when I pitched that. They were just weird names I’d written down in my file of ideas that sounded like ADVENTURE TIME characters.
4) When writing the script, I had to come up with a quick way of explaining the Ham-Pire. After debating whether he should be an adorable pig with fangs and a Dracula cape, I hit on a very quick explanation: AN EXPIRED HAM BACK FROM THE GRAVE.
Here’s the design by Brad McGinty:
5) Ryan North, the regular writer on the ADVENTURE TIME comic, joked that Ham-Pire should be the new Big Bad of the series. I of course jumped WAAAAYYYY too hard on this and came up with a backstory for him, which I share EXCLUSIVELY here:
I have been writing this post since the end of March — yet another look at some odd children’s books I read in my youth, or that I’ve found out about more recently.
I’ve just been pasting info/covers in here once in a while, so here’s the final post. It’s not hugely long.
The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet: My elementary school library had a number of books dating back to the 1950s. One series I read that it turned out my dad had also read as a kid was THE WONDERFUL FLIGHT TO THE MUSHROOM PLANET by Eleanor Cameron, which had a premise no kid could resist — a couple of boys are given instructions to build a rocketship and journey to a bizarre fungi-based world hidden from Earth.
I enjoyed a lot of those light-hearted SF books of that era, the sort that had a matter-of-fact, “Hey kids! Here’s some cool SF thing introduced to your everyday life by a wacky scientist person. Check it out!”
There were a number of other books in the series, though I lost interest after the second one, STOWAWAY TO THE MUSHROOM PLANET. Here’s a look at it and the illustrations — I love that sort of cartoony pen-and-ink style from a lot of books of that era. I’m very big on pure black-and-white drawings without tones, which I encountered in a lot of kids’ books growing up.
Elanor Cameron didn’t do a lot of other books outside the series that I know of, though she was a well-known critic who actually got the illustrations in CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY changed after complaining abuot their racist looks, resulting in some exchanges between her and Roald Dahl. Here’s a chronicle of Cameron vs. Dahl.
The original book was last in print with some revised illustrations as of 1988 — that edition you can order from the publisher.
Amy’s Eyes by Richard Kennedy: Was putting some old action figures up on my bookshelf and noticed this book I’ve had since I was a kid — I read it in 1988 or so (based on films I remember being out at the time), and at nearly 500 pages, it was the longest book I’d read at that time!
It was also quite weird. Here’s a review from the Times.
I shared that review with a friend, who replied that he thought the book sounded made-up.
It had that effect. Flipping through it, I was reminded that it had a lot of puns, and strange characters, and some unsettling bit — there’s one where they’re looking for a treasure, and Amy has turned into a doll, so they snip off her button eyes with scissors (!), put them in a bottle, and put the bottle on a string so she can “see” underwater and tell them where the treasure is.
That FREAKED me out.
I was strangely compelled by the idea of turning into a doll, though I suspect that was just social anxiety and stuff.
A while back at a used bookstore, I saw another book by the same author that had a WEEEIIIIRDDDD cover.
I don’t know much about it, but here’s some details:
I’m sort of obsessed with the idea of a boxcar barreling through a wormhole, though that doesn’t seem what the book is about.
Chicken Trek by Stephen Manes
This was a book that my teacher in third or fourth grade read the class. It was about a boy who had to eat at every franchise of a fried-chicken chain for a contest. The premise kind of turned my stomach, but it was one of those great “funny-weird” books.
The author, Stephen Manes, had quite a career as a technology reporter in the 1980s and 1990s. He did another of my favorites growing up, BE A PERFECT PERSON IN JUST THREE DAYS!, which was adapted to an episode of WONDERWORKS on PBS, one of my favorite anthologies.
Suzuki Beane: You can read the full version of this oddball “tiny beatnik” book at the link — I didn’t know about it until a year or two ago. It was apparently a parody of ELOISE, but it had some considerable charm to it, and illustrations by Louise Fitzhugh, who went on to do HARRIET THE SPY.
It also inspired a TV pilot, some scenes from which are on YouTube.
One of the shows I religiously watched growing up in the 1980s was SQUARE ONE TV, a math variation on SESAME STREET on PBS.
And now for a special presentation!
This Wednesday, August 28, sees the release of REGULAR SHOW #3 from KaBOOM!. It is the first comic I have written that has appeared in a hard-copy form that you can buy in comic book stores and have to pay money to get.
STREET CRED, yo.
Well, I only wrote eight pages of the comic. But due to some last-minute shuffling, it’s now the LEAD story and the first thing you see when you open the issue. Hmm hmm! Hmm!
And if you enjoy the superhumanly awesome art of Brad McGinty on this story, you can buy all eight pages of the original art for $2,060.04 here. That’s a pretty good deal. Come to think of it, I need $2,060.04 myself, plus bennies so I can get those pages and have ’em framed on the wall.
If you really like that art, you’ll be happy to know that Brad and I will be doing the backup story for ADVENTURE TIME #20 next month, AND Brad will also be doing another REGULAR SHOW tale with…I dunno, some other writer in a future issue!
We’re aiming to do more backups and possibly a miniseries, but let’s see if people actually like this before we go buggin’ KaBOOM! and Cartoon Network to let us keep playing with their characters.
Anyway, I’m very proud of this story and it got a thumbs-up from none other than REGULAR SHOW CREATOR JG QUINTEL HIMSELF.
So here’s some sweet behind-the-scenes material for the dozens, yes dozens of you who are likely curious about how I became a comic book rock star or whatevs.
It was a complicated process that worked like this:
1) I did my own comic, THE STARS BELOW, that had good art and took like two minutes to read. This was a good writing sample.
2) Relentless-yet-polite harassment of the KaBOOM! editors I knew.
3) Pitched like 10 ideas. They took this one (also the idea “Bad Grammar,” which was rejected at script stage by Cartoon Network. You can read that script here)
4) Convinced Brad McGinty, who I’d met at Heroes Con, that i could maybe write a decent script for him. KaBOOM! dug his jive. Baby, we had a stew goin’!
SO WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR IDEA FOR THIS , ZACK?
For years, I have been obsessed with South of the Border, a faux-Mexican tourist trap on I-95. it is advertised with relentless day-glo billboards with relentless bad jokes and horrifying, sometimes racist “Mexican” puns. There are something like 150 of those billboards, and when you’re stuck on a desert highway, there is little to do but obsess over them, especially if you’re a bored kid stuck in the back seat in the days before they had DVD monitors in cars to pacify little monsters.
Once you get there, there’s a giant Eiffel Tower replica with a sombrero on top and…not much else, beyond cheap trinkets and broken-down rides. But there’s a certain joy to having gotten there, especially if you weren’t able to get your parents to stop when you were younger and in the backseat.
I had actually done another comic story parodying SotB years ago, but the lovely art was covered up by my excessive dialogue and the joke required people to already be aware of the place. When the opportunity came to pitch some REGULAR SHOW stories, I realized this was a chance for a do-over.
If you don’t watch the show (you should; it won an Emmy), it’s pretty simple: Mordecai and Rigby are a blue jay and a raccoon who work at a park, under the auspices of a living gumball machine named Benson. Every episode, some “regular” task (setting up chairs, asking out a girl, etc.) devolves into some massive conflict that involves fistfights, explosions, and the occasional unraveling of reality.
There are also many, many references to 1980s popular culture. This was my bag.
As such, South of the Border was the kind of thing that the ADD-afflicted Mordecai and Rigby would gravitate towards — a temptation while stuck in a car on some boring task. And I thought of a way to escalate this in the typical RS manner for a good apocalyptic showdown — I’ll tell you more about this in a moment.
Ironically, REGULAR SHOW wound up airing an episode called “Firework Run” involving a fireworks place called “South of the Line,” after I made this pitch. I was sure Cartoon Network would reject the story because it was too similar to that episode! But they wound up taking it anyway. They’re very different types of stories; “Firework Run” is more of a parody of Mexico-set crime films, while this is more of a straight-up parody of South of the Border-the-park.
KaBOOM! initially gave me six pages to tell the story. I got to Page 6 and found I had like five pages worth of story left. They generously gave me eight pages instead, and I found a way to cut it back. There were a number of ideas that I didn’t get to, which I’ll tell you about, even though they weren’t good.
So here’s my full script to “Sombrero World,” not the final draft, so I can note the revisions and cut jokes. You might find this useful, maybe, possibly.
Zack Smith Regular Show Sombrero World Third Draft
PANEL ONE: BIG PANEL showing the billboard for SOMBRERO WORLD, a crazy faux-Mexican tourist trap. MORDECAI AND RIGBY are looking up at it through the windshield of the park’s pickup truck with Mordecai driving. Mordecai absently holds a cell phone in his hand. CREDITS appear below the billboard.
The billboard is a parody of such tourist traps as South of the Border in Dillon, South Carolina. For reference, here’s a photoset my boy Chris Sims took of his trip to South of the Border, as whatever bad puns I think of cannot match the actual power of the real tourist trap. Here is also a report of his trip with photos.
Go crazy with the design of this. It is essentially done up in neon colors like hot pink, and incorporates a sombrero motif. There is also a mascot called PONCHO, who is a blond-haired, white, obviously-non-Hispanic surfer dude wearing a poncho and a giant sombrero. His name is on the poncho.
JUST 150 MILES AHEAD:
PRETTY MUCH THE MOST AWESOME PLACE EVER!
MORDECAI AND RIGBY: (shared word balloon) WHOOOOOAAA.
BENSON: (on phone) …hello?
(ZACK NOTES: Okay, here’s where Brad McGinty is a great artist — I originally scripted this as a shot from INSIDE the truck, but Brad changed it to an outside shot, creating a nice POV and a real sense of movement and action.
(In the first draft of the script, the entire first page was Mordecai and Rigby in the truck talking to Benson on the phone, ending with the first billboard coming into view. The idea was to establish the boring desert and the job the characters had to do, then introduce the distraction, but the editor suggested immediately introducing Sombrero World to create the conflict — Mordecai and Rigby want to stop there, but want to prove to Benson that they can do an important job. This was a good move, because it created a visual element to underscore the action, Mordecai and Rigby being distracted by the signs. SCRIPTWRITING!)
PANEL TWO: We’re outside the truck, looking at Rigby pressing the face against the window, awestruck by the billboard (perhaps Poncho is reflected in the mirror). Mordecai has snapped out of his trance and is on the phone with Benson.
MORDECAI: Oh, sorry Benson! We were just saying how much we appreciate your trusting us to take the cart to the dealer’s…
RIGBY: (small) …it is the most radical of empires to all that which is radical.
(ZACK NOTES: Rigby’s line was from the BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD episode “Babes R Us;” it was changed in the revisions from JG Quintel to what you see in the final story)
PANEL THREE: Reveal BENSON on the other end of the phone, in bed with a broken leg. He looks about as sour as you’d expect. There might be some balloons and condolence cards there, possibly one that reads, “GET WELL SOON! – AUDREY.”
MORDECAI (on phone): …I mean, because you’re sick and literally everyone else was unavailable…
(ZACK NOTES: Okay, here’s where a cut joke came in. It was a “Kill Your Darlings” situation, because I was high on this one, but it slowed down the story when every panel needed to count.
(The original version read like this:
MORDECAI (on phone): …I mean, because you’re sick, Skips is on walkabout, Thomas has a final, Pops’s sinuses can’t take the desert and Muscle Man and Hi 5 Ghost are at that concert…
PANEL FOUR: Cut to MUSCLE MAN and HI 5 GHOST at a crazed outdoor music festival that’s basically the Gathering of the Juggalos. Muscle Man and Hi 5 Ghost are both painted like Insane Clown Posse, but with the black-and-white parts of the face paint reversed.
Muscle Man has ripped off his shirt and is twirling it above his head. If room, other recurring characters (perhaps the Guardians of Eternal Youth) are nearby face-painted as well.
MUSCLE MAN: WHOO! WHOO! LAST ONE IN THE MUD PIT’S A JUGGA-LOSER!
(I had an alternate version to THAT where a face-painted Muscle Man and Hi-5 Ghost went to a “Gathering of the JUGGLERS” and MM went, “Aw man…read the flyer wrong.”
(Eh, maybe in another tale.)
PANEL FOUR: Back to Moredecai and Rigby with a long shot of the pickup truck on the highway with the broken cart in the back…and a billboard ahead reading “SOMBRERO WORLD: STOP OR YOU’RE LAME.”
BENSON: (on phone) Look, I just need you slackers to stay completely focused on this task…
BENSON: (on phone) …guys?
PANEL FIVE: High-angle shot looking down on the truck with billboards for Sombrero World on both sides of the road. Mordecai hastily covers on the phone while a wide-eyed and entranced Rigby has his head out the window like a dog.
BENSON: (on phone) GUYS!
MORDECAI: Oh! Hey, Benson! Still here!
BENSON: (on phone) I KNEW IT! You’ve gotten distracted already!
PANEL SIX: Back to Benson in bed as he screams red-faced into the phone.
BENSON: THAT’S IT! I’ve got the number for the dealership RIGHT HERE! I’m calling it in THREE HOURS and you’d better pick it up…
PANEL ONE: Mordecai and Rigby are about blown away by Benson’s yelling at them through the phone (the skin around their eyeballs blows back)
BENSON (on phone, HUGE): OR YOU’RE FIRED!!!!!
(ZACK NOTES: Weirdly, one of the first things I wanted to do when I got to write a REGULAR SHOW story was split one of Benson’s “…OR YOU’RE FIRED!” rants across two pages as a mini-cliffhanger. I have no idea why.)
PANEL TWO: Mordecai and Rigby look ticked as they drive on; there’s a blurred-image double-take effect to show Rigby getting distracted and looking out the window mid-sentence.
From this point on, a TICKING CLOCK is visible in each panel.
MORDECAI: Man…Benson’s such a crank.
RIGBY: Yeah, man! Why can’t he just trust us to OH MY GOSH LOOK
(ZACK NOTES: Yeah, the ticking clock got cut almost immediately. Midway through the script, I realized it was a pain to figure out how much time had passed between panels, and Brad McGinty correctly pointed out that almost every panel was packed anyway. There was enough going on to create suspense already. Also, JG Quintel revised Mordecai’s line.)
PANEL THREE: Mordecai and a frantic Rigby look up at another billboard featuring Poncho. He looks slightly sick and has a stomach pump hooked up to him as he gives a thumbs-up with one hand and holds a fish taco (literally a whole fish in a taco shell, with Xs for eyes and flies hovering over it) in his other hand.
ALL YOU CAN EAT FISH TACOS!
NOW WITH ON-SITE STOMACH PUMP!
ONLY AT…SOMBRERO WORLD!
RIGBY: MORDECAI! WE HAVE TO STOP THERE! THEY HAVE TACOS!
PANEL FOUR: Mordecai irately swats away an over-excited Rigby.
MORDECAI: No way, dude! We’ll be lucky to make Benson’s deadline as is!
PANEL FIVE: Rigby listens intently as a stern Mordecai lectures him…
MORDECAI: Look, dude, Sombrero World looks awesome, but there’s something more important…
MORDECAI: …getting this job done with no shortcuts, no distractions…AND TOTALLY RUBBING IT IN BENSON’S FACE.
MORDECAI: It would BLOW HIS MIND.
PANEL SIX: Mordecai and Rigby exchange a confident look:
MORDECAI AND RIGBY (together): HMM HMM! HMM!
PANEL SEVEN: BIGGEST PANEL OF THE PAGE: The truck drives on…as we see dozens and dozens of Sombrero billboards on the horizon waiting to tempt them.
(ZACK NOTES:: Brad McGinty condensed this into fewer panels easily; I also just remembered that part of this plot was my wanting to do a couple variations on REGULAR SHOW plots; first, by having Mordecai and Rigby getting into trouble for NOT slacking off, and second, to give them a bit of a do-over from an episode called “Busted Cart,” where they bonded with Benson on a cart exchange but wound up blowing things by playing video games. I disliked the characters for that, and wanted them to do the job right this time, because…I’m weird.)
PANEL ONE: This is a big SPLASH PANEL that takes up about 2/3 of the page.
It is done like a placemat from a cheesy diner showing a map of the highway, Mordecai and Rigby in the truck, and the route toward Sombrero World, with the cart dealership at the end. A dotted line follows Mordecai and Rigby’s path. Sombrero World appears like a big city shaped a sombrero with sombrero-towers.
Each of the Sombrero World signs should have a slightly closer mileage and convey something that is silly and stupid but sort of appealing, especially to Mordecai and Rigby, and occasionally feature Poncho. I’m open to suggestions, but here are some of the ideas I have:
-CLASSIC VIDEO GAMES! SOME ACTUALLY WORK!
-OUR MINI-GOLF COURSE! NOW 17% WEED FREE!
-TAKE A SIESTA WITH PONCHO!
–$2 FOOTLONG HOAGIES! MADE WITH FRESH WEEK-OLD MEAT!
-PECAN LOGS! GUARANTEED TO INDUCE INSULIN SHOCK OR YOUR MONEY BACK!
-Some novelty sombreros, including one covered in light-up neon, one with a working roulette wheel in it, a razor-tipped one Poncho is throwing like Oddjob in James Bond, one with a chip-dip thing in its brim (like the “Nacho Hat” from that Simpsons episode) where you can reach up and dip chips into the dip in your hat; a rocket sombrero (the rocket is in the middle part of the hat and Poncho is flying upside-down), one that’s designed like a crystal chandelier, one that’s designed like a juicer, where you squeeze an orange/lemon against the middle part, one with a satellite dish and a fold-down TV screen that goes in front of your eyes.
Imposed over the map are two Hitchcock-like images of Mordecai and Rigby’s heads, sweating bullets and mouths agape as they are tormented by this cavalcade of temptation. There is also an image of their hands clasped in solidarity.
(ZACK NOTES: So this came about in collaboration with Brad McGinty; I realized one difference between REGULAR SHOW on TV and in a comic is that the show has a few minutes at the start of each episode to establish the “regular” situation, and also to do a “time passing” montage to build up to the climax, and both those things are very difficult to pull off in a comic book with static panels and a limited page count.
(My first idea was to create something like a nightmare montage with floating billboards and Mordecai and Rigby sweating bullets, but I left the sequence open to Brad for suggestions. He came up with the placemat map idea…and then asked for some extra billboard gags. I wrote like 50, figuring he’d use five….and he used ALL of them and asked for more.
(That’s how crazy-good Brad McGinty is. Hire him for things and give him money!)
PANEL TWO: From inside the truck, we see Sombrero World through the windshield as a crazed Rigby tries to grab the steering wheel from Mordecai…
RIGBY: AAAAHHH! I CAN’T TAKE IT! STOP, MORDECAI! STOP!!!
MORDECAI: No, Rigby! We’ve almost made it!
PAGE FOUR: –NOTE: WILL ADD TICKING CLOCK IN LATER
PANEL ONE: Mordecai pushes away Rigby with one hand while steering with the other.
RIGBY: But…but…TACOS, Mordecai! TACOS!
RIGBY: PONCHO WANTS US TO STOP!!!!!
MORDECAI: We’re nearly there, Rigby! We just need…
PANEL TWO: The truck is just at the entrance to Sombrero World, with a cheesy statue of Poncho holding a sign that reads, “PONCHO SAYS WELCOME, DUDE!”
MORDECAI: (from inside truck) …to hold on…
PANEL THREE: …the truck has zoomed PAST the entrance…and the Poncho statue has turned to stare at its cloud of dust in disbelief.
TINY SFX: WHIRRRR
MORDECAI: (from off-panel) …a little longer!
PANEL FOUR: Back in the truck – Rigby has his hands on the back window in agony while Mordecai looks in the rear-view mirror.
RIGBY: NOOOOOOO!!!!! PONCHOOOO!!!!!!
MORDECAI: AWWWWWW YEAAAAAHHHH-UUUUHHH!
(ZACK NOTES: Rigby doesn’t have much to do in this story other than react to Mordecai and the chaos around them, but Brad really did a great job with the character’s facial expressions, and that made Rigby one of my favorite parts of the story. Brad’s work is so detailed and crazy that it’s easy to overlook that he does great facial expressions and body language, which is something you really need for a comedy story.)
PANEL FIVE: Exterior shot of the truck zooming by Sombrero World…and a giant black billboard that reads, “WAIT! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!”
MORDECAI: (from inside truck) Who’s tha may-ahn? Who’s tha may-ahn? Who’s tha may-ahn with tha master play-ahn?!
PANEL SIX: Small shot of Rigby looking back as Mordecai celebrates…
MORDECAI: Who’s the man of the hour all full of will-POW-YAH?! OOOOOOOHHHHHH!
RIGBY: Uh, Mordecai…?
(ZACK NOTES: JG Quintel rewrote Mordecai’s mini-rap into the dialogue seen in the final story.)
PAGE FIVE: — WILL ADD IN TICKING CLOCK LATER
PANEL ONE: BIGGEST PANEL OF THE PAGE…Sombrero World has lifted up out of the ground on giant spider-legs (think Howl’s Moving Castle or the metal spider from that awful Wild Wild West movie). We can now clearly see a number of cool things on it, like a water slide, a Ferris wheel, a roller-coaster…all stuff that incorporates the sombrero motif. Some hapless TOURISTS are clinging on for dear life. The head/face is a robotic version of Poncho with glowing eyes.
RIGBY : (from inside truck) …I don’t think Sombrero World WANTS us to drive past!
PANEL TWO: Close on Mordecai and Rigby SCREAMING as we see the looming park-spider-monster in the background.
MORDECAI AND RIGBY: AAAAAHHHHHH!
SOMBRERO WORLD: PONCHO SAYS…TURN AROUND. NOW.
(ZACK NOTES: Not much to add, except this panel is PRETTY MUCH THE ENTIRE REASON I WANTED TO WRITE THIS STORY.)
PANEL THREE: A giant foot from the park-spider SMASHES into the highway as the truck heads for an exit reading “CART DEALERSHIP.”
BIG WALT SIMONSON-STYLE SFX: DOOOM!
PANEL FOUR: The truck heads down a ramp, where a Sombrero World billboard featuring a bunch of dead-eyed lizards is on the side of the road (some are tilted slightly, obviously not alive and propped up). It reads “COME VISIT OUR NEW REPTILE PARK! SOME LIZARDS EVEN ALIVE!” The lizards’ eyes are all lit up like the terrifying laser statues from The Nevernding Story.
RIGBY: (from inside truck) Look out!
PANEL FIVE: Close on the billboard as the eyes FIRE at them!
(ZACK NOTES: I sort of regret this gag; it doesn’t work as well with everything else going on. Brad still drew it well)
PAGE SIX – WILL ADD IN TICKING CLOCK LATER
This alternates some bigger panels of action with smaller panels that are close on the characters.
PANEL ONE: On the road, as we see the truck weave back and forth (a curved dust trail indicates their path) as it dodges LASER FIRE from various BILLBOARDS (we don’t have to see them, just enough to suggest this is where the lasers are coming from).
RIGBY: (from inside truck) Don’t go straight! SERPENTINE! SERPENTINE!
(ZACK NOTES: Yes, this is a reference to the 1979 comedy THE IN-LAWS, one of my favorites)
PANEL TWO: Sombrero World foot SMASHES into the ground in front of the truck, which awkwardly changes its path.
PANEL THREE: Close on the robot-Poncho head, whose eyes are glowing red Terminator-style…
PONCHO: PONCHO SAYS WHY NOT RELAX…
PANEL FOUR: Poncho-bot sneers as CANNONS emerge from it, firing giant PECAN LOGS at our heroes!
PONCHO: …WITH A TASTY PECAN LOG?
(ZACK NOTES: Yeah, another joke that doesn’t really work. There’s not enough room in the story to clearly see it’s a pecan log missile.)
PANEL FIVE: In the truck, Mordecai jacks the wheel left!
MORDECAI AND RIGBY: WHOOOOAAAAA
PANEL SIX: BIG PANEL: GIANT PECAN LOGS splatter against either side of the truck! One has felled a tree!
PANEL SEVEN: In the truck, Rigby is freaked and Mordecai is determined…
RIGBY: WE’RE GONNA DIE!
MORDECAI: Don’t worry, dude…
PANEL EIGHT: Close on Mordcai’s eyes, narrowed like a BAD DUDE.
MORDECAI: …I have a plan.
(ZACK NOTES: Okay, so Mordecai’s plan was a little more elaborate in my initial vision.
(There were two ideas that didn’t make it into the final story. One was the idea that Mordecai and Rigby had known about Sombrero World in the past and wanted to stop there as kids, and you’d have a flashback with Li’l Mordecai and Li’l Rigby in the backseat begging the unseen parents in the front seat to stop, and later, you’d have another flashback with Mordecai and Rigby fighting over something and not noticing that the parents were screaming about lasers and such.
(The other idea is that Mordecai was originally going to beat Sombrero World by going up a dangerous pass, stop at the top, and then rush toward Sombrero World as it came at the truck and do a skid through its legs, leaving Sombrero World to topple into a canyon. Yes, I completely knocked off the ending to the great Richard Matheson/Steven Spielberg TV-movie DUEL. It seemed like a fitting cultural homage for REGULAR SHOW, but that would have required at least three more pages and there just wasn’t room. So the story wound up with a much more expeditious resolution…)
PAGE SEVEN – WILL ADD IN TICKING CLOCK LATER
PANEL ONE: Close on Mordecai and Rigby in the truck, seen through the windshield. Mordecai is hunched close to the wheel, really determined.
RIGBY: What are you doing, man?
MORDECAI: What we do best on these trips…
PANEL TWO: The truck ZOOMS into a tunnel that reads “10-FOOT CLEARANCE”
MORDECAI: …take a shortcut!
(ZACK NOTES: I justified this to myself by having Mordecai specifically mention NO shortcuts back on Page 3, so there was, like, structure! But yeah, it was improvising under pressure)
PANEL THREE: Sombrero World bumps its Poncho-head against the entrance trying to follow…it can’t.
PANEL FOUR: BIGGEST PANEL OF THE PAGE: It raises up to the heavens and ROARS in agony, a couple spider-legs raised! (we see some tourists falling off). The Poncho-head is half-mutilated, giving it a Terminator-style look.
PANEL FIVE: In the truck, Mordecai and Rigby high-five.
MORDECAI AND RIGBY: OOOOOHHHHHH!
PAGE EIGHT: — WILL ADD IN TICKING CLOCK LATER
PANEL ONE: The truck peels into the parking lot of a building reading “CART DEALERSHIP”
PANEL TWO: Mordecai and Rigby rush in…
PANEL THREE: Inside, Mordecai has DIVED across the front desk and grabbed a telephone…
MORDECAI: Hello? Benson?
MORDECAI: We got here! We got the cart!
PANEL FOUR: Benson, in his room, is dumbstruck.
BENSON: Wow. I…I really believed you two were going to blow the deadline. This is amazing.
PANEL FIVE: Mordecai and Rigby stare in disbelief as they hear Benson go:
BENSON: I’m proud of you.
(ZACK NOTES: I wanted to give Mordecai and Rigby a rare victory, and have an emotional moment in the story. It’s not THAT emotional a moment, but Benson is sincere, and that’s something.)
PANEL SIX: A smiling Benson speaks into the phone:
BENSON: Oh, while you’re out there, one more thing I need you to do…
PANEL SEVEN: BIGGEST PANEL OF THE PAGE: Mordecai’s frozen as he hears Benson’s request.…as in the background, we see the Sombrero World Park outside the dealership, waiting for them. Rigby’s tugging at his arm, trying to get him to see it.
BENSON: (on phone) I’ve always wanted to get a hat from this place Sombrero World!
BENSON: (on phone) You think you could stop and get one for me?
BENSON: (on phone) …hello?
(ZACK NOTES: Not much to add, other than Brad McGInty condensed the last two panels into one and did a great job with giving the word balloons a certain rhythm that carried across the panel. Killer work!)
So anyway, that is my commentary on “Sombrero World.” I’m sure like three people will read and enjoy this post, and possibly learn something from it.
Come back next month for my commentary on my and Brad’s ADVENTURE TIME story, “Grocery Time” starring BILLY! And then pray that I get some more comics-writing work so I can do another of these.
Realized I hadn’t done a compilation of all the stuff I’d had posted in a while. Here’s a quick gathering.
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