Saturday, September 30, 2006

Slumming with Spider-Man

What we have here is a picture of my son Matthew posing with Spider-Man at the Grand Opening of the new Best Buy here in Lake Charles, Louisiana ("Superhero Visits Hick Town, Film at 11:00").

I learned of Spidey's scheduled appearance from an ad in yesterday's newspaper, which I purchased for the article on the Lake Area Film Group's 2nd Annual Contraband Film Festival, which is being held tonight.

As I mentioned previously, the Festival marks the premiere of the Director's Cut of Eternal, our entry into the 48-Hour Film Project that we shot last May in Houston, Texas.

Anyway, between our pilgrimage to Best Buy to get Spider-Man's autograph (and where I finally got around to picking up 28 Days Later on DVD for $9.99) and preparations for the film fest, this is all the time I have for blogging today.

I'm sure I'll be back tomorrow with pictures and stories from the festival. In the meantime, we should all contemplate how low our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man's career has plummeted since he sided with Iron Man in that whole Superhuman Registration Act debacle.

Seriously, Spidey, the Grand Opening of a Best Buy? I know times are tough, but it seems at the very least you could get back together with Iceman and Firestar for an Amazing Friends Reunion Tour. You know, something dignified.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Irredeemable Ant-Man #1

The first issue of Robert Kirkman's new Marvel series, The Irredeemable Ant-Man, hits comic shops next week. Ant-Man's alter ego, Dr. Hank Pym, has long been the Rodney Dangerfield of the Marvel Universe, so it stands to reason that the cover of #1 would describe Ant-Man as "The World's Most Unlikable Super Hero." Pym don't get no respect... from anyone. Not from his one-time teammates in the Avengers or the Ultimates, not from comics fans, and certainly not from Marvel's scribes.

Over the years Pym has been portrayed with a variety of mental problems, including amnesia, acute paranoia, and some sort of multiple personality disorder (besides Ant-Man, he's also fought crime as Yellowjacket, Giant Man, and Goliath). He's a wife-beater, known in the regular Marvel Universe for verbally abusing and eventually striking his wife, Janet (The Wasp), whereas his counterpart in the Ultimate Universe once attacked Jan while she was shrunk-down to her Wasp form, spraying her with insecticide and sending an army of ants after her during a final round of domestic violence. Oh, and he also invented the supervillain Ultron, a psychotic, genocidal android. Not surprisingly, Pym was eventually expelled from both the Avengers and the Ultimates in disgrace. I'm guessing the reason for termination listed in his personnel file was "all-around douchebaggery."

So clearly the writers at Marvel have not been kind to Hank, but Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead, Marvel Zombies, Invincible) takes Pym-dissing to a new level by relegating him to the status of a supporting cast member in the Irredeemable Ant-Man series. That's right -- Marvel launches a new Ant-Man book and Pym only gets a bit part. Like I said, no respect, no respect at all.

The new Ant-Man is a low-level SHIELD agent who stumbles across the newest ant-themed super-suit in Pym's lab on the SHIELD Helicarrier after bashing Pym's skull in with the butt of a rifle (adding injury to insult, you might say). Indeed, the majority of the supporting cast is comprised of low-level SHIELD agents, operatives so out-of-the-loop that they spend a poker game debating whether or not Nick Fury might be nothing more than an urban legend created to give the agency a cooler image.

Irredeemable Ant-Man #1 is enjoyable and amusing, though honestly I thought the best gag of the issue was the cover (see above; click to enlarge). Of course, while I initially expected this series about a self-centered protagonist who uses his powers irresponsibly and for personal gain to be played strictly for humor, Kirkman promises that the series will get "very dark." As a major fan of his Walking Dead series, I find that prospect intriguing and will follow the book to see where he takes it.

The art is by Phil Hester and Ande Parks, a penciller/inker combo I last remember seeing on Kevin Smith's run of Green Arrow. I find it a little bit on the cartoonish side, but so far it seems to be a good match for the characters and subject matter.

Ant-Man: The Movie

It doesn't look like Hank Pym will be garnering any more respect when he makes the jump to the big screen. Just as the new Irredeemable Ant-Man comic is about what happens after a SHIELD agent steals Pym's Ant-Man suit, Ant-Man director Edgar Wright (writer/director of the awesome Shaun of the Dead) announced at this summer's Comic-Con that the movie will be about what happens after Scott Lang steals Pym's Ant-Man suit. It would seem the denizens of the Marvel Universe have no more respect for property rights than they do for Hank Pym.

Update: Ant-Man is also scheduled to make an appearance on Cartoon Network's Fantastic Four cartoon in October. From Comics Continuum:
"WORLD'S TINIEST HEROES," airing Saturday, Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 14 at 11 a.m.

One of Reed's experiments goes awry, causing the Fantastic Four to begin shrinking. Within hours, the Fantastic Four will shrink out of existence, unless Reed can reverse the effect. But at miniature size, even a trip to the lab becomes a challenge, even more so when the security systems recognize the action figure sized Fantastic Four as an infestation of rodents and begins to hunt them down. Even with a helping hand from the Astonishing Ant-Man, the Fantastic Four are in for a giant-sized challenge.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Truly Inspired Iron Man Casting

AICN broke the news today that Robert Downey, Jr. has been cast as Tony Stark in Jon Favreau's Iron Man movie. (Iron Man will, of course, be played by CGI).

I am astounded at what a perfect bit of casting this is. Anyone that has a passing familiarity with the respective backgrounds of the actor and the comic book character he would be portraying will see the obvious parallels in their personal battles (Downey, Jr. with drugs, Stark with alcohol). If the movie poster doesn't say "Robert Downey, Jr. IS... Iron Man," then someone in marketing is drinking on the job.

What's really encouraging about the news is that it represents such a brave choice on the parts of both Favreau and Marvel. I doubt that Downey, Jr. is on anyone's shortlist of ideal action heroes, meaning there's going to be a lot of bitching and moaning from ignorant fanboys. And of course, Downey, Jr.'s drug problems have complicated productions in the past (he had to be written out of the Ally McBeal series, for example), so I'm sure there are people who consider it risky to place him at the center of a superhero movie franchise.

I see this as a strong indication of Marvel Studios' commitment to adapting their own properties into quality films. Not only is Robert Downey, Jr. a name actor, but he is also an extremely talented one, as evidenced by his Golden Globe award and his Oscar and Emmy nominations. Having him as the star would lend a lot of credibility to a rather obscure comic book adaptation.

Here's hoping that on Friday someone attached to the Iron Movie confirms rather than denies Downey, Jr.'s casting.

Update: Sweet! Jon Favreau has already confirmed the announcement on the MySpace Iron Man Movie Group...
It is true. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. I am about as excited as I can be. I saw what he can do and he is extremely enthusiastic about playing Stark. I can say with absolute certainty that there is no better choice. The humor and emotional dimension he brings truly raises the bar on this project. Get ready.

Z Week

I'm beginning to suspect that the comics industry is conspiring to bankrupt me by publishing zombie epics at an ever-increasing frequency.

Pictured here are 4 items that were all shipped this week: Marvel's Essential Tales of the Zombie Vol. 1, IGN's The Walking Dead Vol. 5, IDW's Zombies! #4, and the first issue of Zombie from Marvel's MAX imprint.

Combine those with such books as the new Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror, Ultimates 2 #12, Ultimate Spider-Man #100, a handful of "Civil War" tie-ins, Grant Morrison's Batman and a few other DC comics that I'm reading, and it's an expensive week.

Anyone else find themselves having to make an excessive outlay of cash yesterday? Because personally, I'm starting to feel like I'm working for the company store.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Justice Rats

You know, I'm beginning to think that almost anything dubbed over Superfriends clips would be funny. (In this case, it's Kevin Smith's Mallrats). Special thanks to whomever emailed me this gem.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Superman: The Wrath of Zod?

Important Announcement:

Starting immediately, I'm calling for a moratorium on the Wrath of Khan analogy. You can blame Bryan Singer -- he ruined it for everyone.

At this summer's San Diego Comic Con, Singer used the analogy to indicate that the follow-up to Superman Returns would have more action. "I plan to get all Wrath of Khan on it," he announced, then later explained himself to TODAYonline:
"What I was referring to was the fact that, when you do a first film like X-Men, for example, you're introducing a world and a set of characters. Once those characters are introduced, once we've lived with them for awhile and we know them, when you get into a second film like an Empire Strikes Back or a Wrath of Khan, you can make an action-adventure film and you don't have to bank all that time getting to know the characters. Now you can raise the stakes, raise the jeopardy and make a leaner, meaner movie."
I call bullshit.

This is Superman that Singer is talking about, an icon who needs no introduction. Superman and his supporting cast have been around for almost 70 years now, and in that time they've been adapted from the comics into numerous movies and television series, both animated and live action -- not to mention other media, such as radio shows, novels, and newspaper strips. The television season immediately preceding Superman Returns' summer box office premiere included on its schedule both the WB's Smallville and Cartoon Network's Justice League Unlimited. I don't think the intervening weeks were enough to allow Superman to drop out of the public consciousness.

And it's not like Singer had a bold new vision of the Superman mythos that the audience would need time to adjust to. Superman Returns was basically a revival of the Christopher Reeve movie series with a new cast and state-of-the-art special effects. Honestly, I think the movie could have started off with an aerial slugfest over Metropolis between Superman and Bizarro, and the audience would have managed to keep up.

Describing the TODAY interview, Mark Beall over at Cinematical writes that Singer "simply pointed to traditional comic book movie wisdom, and said he meant the first movie had to be consumed with character introductions and relationships, the second movie -- like the old Wrath of Khan -- could jump right into the action." Beall went on to conclude, "He's right, of course, with the conventional wisdom he suggested..."

And that's what I'm talking about. I'm not really attacking Bryan Singer, who still has a lot of street cred with me for what he accomplished on the X-Men movies, but the conventional wisdom that his comments stem from. His usage of the now-common Wrath of Khan analogy was simply the spine-snapping straw responsible for the quadriplegic camel.

Because it's an analogy I hear constantly, every time a new comic book movie franchise kicks off and the fans feel the need to defend the lackluster results. They repeat this assertion that the point of the first movie is to get the characters' origins out of the way, and then the real fun can begin in the second one. My problem with this conventional wisdom is that it is essentially describing a television pilot, not a movie.

The first episode of a TV series is supposed to establish the characters and their world for the audience. A movie is supposed to be a complete package that can stand alone on its own merits.

After all, not every successful movie launches a franchise, which means that the characters, world, and action all have to be crammed into one story. It can be done. Blade Runner, Titanic, The Thing, Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, Saving Private Ryan, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Braveheart... all one-offs.

And what about action heroes who do return in sequel after sequel? Should Indiana Jones, Martin Riggs, or John McClane have had slow, plodding introductory movies before their action-packed debuts in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lethal Weapon, or Diehard? Should Dr. No have presented the audience with more biographical data on 007 before launching the James Bond franchise?

What I find truly ironic is that it's the comic book superheroes -- characters who have been around for decades and therefore have an actual chance of being familiar to the audience -- that people feel are in need of introductory "pilot" movies, as opposed to original characters who owe their existence entirely to the movies in which they appear.

That's even more true with Star Trek, the origin of this Wrath of Khan analogy. Star Trek: The Motion Picture wasn't slow and plodding because it was introducing the movie audience to the Star Trek Universe... Gene Roddenberry's vision of the 23rd century had been on television non-stop since the series debuted in the 60s. It wasn't created to set up the "leaner, meaner" Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. No, ST:TMP began it's life as a pilot for the Star Trek: Phase II television series, which was scrapped when it was decided that bringing Trek to the big screen was more important than getting new episodes on the small one.

And when The Motion Picture's box office debut was met with criticism from critics and fans alike, lessons were learned and applied to the sequel. The Wrath of Khan simply represents a different, and more successful, take on the Star Trek mythos. The two movies were not created as part of some grand design to introduce the characters and the world in the first one, and then launch straight into the action in the second.

Mistakes were made and lessons were learned. That's why the second movie in a series is sometimes superior to the initial one, not because of what the initial one supposedly needs to accomplish.

Granted, a movie like X-Men does have a complex world to set up; Marvel's mutant universe can be impenetrable to outsiders if not presented correctly. But X-Men isn't lacking for action because it had to introduce the mutants and the world that hates them. It's lack of action stems from the small budget Singer was given to work with, due to the studio's lack of faith in the comic book franchise. When X-Men proved itself, Singer was given more money for X2, which itself was so successful that the studio ponied up even more dough for X3, which if nothing else provided us with some epic fight scenes.

Similarly, if the Fantastic Four sequel proves to be better than the original, it will be because someone learned from the mistakes that were made. The sequel needs to embrace the source material, rather than try to minimize the fantasy elements in a misguided attempt at realism. (And if the inclusion of Silver Surfer and Galactus is any indication, they certainly seem to be on the right track). And the same goes for Marvel's Incredible Hulk do-over. On a certain level, comic book superheroes will always be ridiculous. If you want to win over the audience and get them to suspend their disbelief, you need to make a rollicking good movie, not one that is apologetic and embarrassed by its source material, or that tries to bury its absurd elements under an increasingly unstable pile of pseudoscientific justifications. (I'm looking at you, Ang Lee. Throwing in starfish and genetic tampering from birth and God knows what else doesn't make the Hulk's origin any less ridiculous than Bruce Banner getting caught in a gamma bomb blast. It just makes your overwrought movie that much more tedious).

In discussing his proposed sequel for Superman Returns, Singer also invokes The Empire Strikes Back, which I think makes my point for me. The Star Wars Universe, I would argue, is even more complicated than the X-Men's world (which at least is set on Earth), yet Lucas had no trouble establishing it in Star Wars: A New Hope without skimping on the action. The reason that Empire is considered to be superior is not because it ramps up the action; if that were so, then Return of the Jedi would have to be considered the pinnacle of the original trilogy. Empire succeeds on its artistic merits.

Despite my disappointment with Superman Returns, I do hope that Singer is given the opportunity to make a sequel. He's shown what he's capable of with the first 2 X-Men movies (and if you want to see what he brought to them, you need only look at what's missing from X3), and he remains one of my favorite directors. I can only assume that his trotting out of the "traditional comic book movie wisdom" was due to his understandable defensiveness regarding the less-than-stellar reviews he had to suffer through all summer. Because when Singer insists that Superman Returns is exactly what the first movie in a new franchise needs to be, I can't help but hear Pee-Wee Herman, having just fallen off his bike, saying "I meant to do that!"

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lost on Mars

IGN has posted pics of their picks for the Top 50 DC and Marvel Comics Covers of 2006. I couldn't help but notice that No. 49 on the DC list is the Magnificent Kevin cover that I defaced last week.

Also, No. 29 is the Adam Hughes' cover of Catwoman #51, which hit comic shops on January 25, 2006 -- the same day that the "Donut Run" episode of Veronica Mars premiered. What do these 2 things have in common? Why, Hurley's cursed numbers from Lost, of course (now known as the Valenzetti Equation). The numbers appear in Catwoman's mug shot and on the fortune cookie message that Veronica receives from Duncan.

(Can you tell that I'm ready for the new season of Lost to start already? We watched the special features from the Lost Season 2 DVD set at Cap'n John's last week, and now I'm more anxious than ever).

Considering that the "lucky numbers" printed on fortune cookie fortunes are intended to be used in lotteries, it's fun to imagine what might have happened if Veronica had actually played those. Would her luck have gone all to hell, like Hurley's did? (And how would she distinguish that from her everyday life?)

Would she now be investigating the Hanso Foundation's presence in her hometown of Neptune? And how many fanfic writers have already beaten me to the punch on this? (I'd Google it to find out, but I don't really want to know the answer). What I do know is, if anyone on television is resourceful enough to get the Lostaways off that island and back home, it's Veronica Mars. And seriously, we can't have that.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Screenplay Collecting for Comics Geeks

Last week over at Alligators on a Helicopter, Scott the Reader posted a story about his days as an addict of sorts, buying screenplays from his "script pusher" in Manhattan. This led to a discussion in his Comments section about what scripts people own, how they acquired them, and why. Which got me to thinking about my own collection of scripts, many of which I acquired long before I had any intention of being a screenwriter.

I got started in the late 80s or early 90s, picking up overpriced, zillionth-generation xeroxes of screenplays at comic conventions. All of them were from genre movies -- science fiction, horror, comic book adaptations --and most were selected for their "special features," such as scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor or were never filmed at all. Other screenplays I picked up because they were for movies or sequels that never made it out of development hell.

For example, the 3rd draft of Sam Hamm's screenplay for Tim Burton's Batman still included Robin's origin. The screenplay for Terminator 2 had a definitive (and superior) ending, rather than the vague and open-ended (sequel-friendly) one that Cameron went with. And since Buckaroo Banzai was already one of my all-time favorite films, I had to see if there was any brilliant weirdness in the script that might not have made it onto the screen.

Then of course there was Sam Hamm's screenplay for the proposed Watchmen movie (written long before Alan Moore asked to have his name removed from the credits of all movies and graphic novels that he doesn't own the rights to), and the uncredited script for Lost Boys 2.

I also picked up a few treatments, such as George Lucas's "The Star Wars" from 1973, in which Luke Skywalker is a general in the 33rd century, and Fall of the Republic, John L. Flynn's version of Star Wars: Episode III from 1983. And shortly before the series premiere of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I acquired the "Writers/Directors Guide" and a booklet on "Initial Concepts for Staff Writers." And speaking of Star Trek, somewhere along the way I ended up with screenplays for episodes from the original series: "The Naked Time" and "The Changeling." (If the person I got those from is reading this, and those were a loan rather than a gift, and you've been wondering where they've been for the last 10-20 years... well, now you know).

After I became interested in writing screenplays myself, I discovered that I still owned a paperback copy of The Fisher King: The Book of the Film, another relic from my heavy collecting days. I remember ordering it sight unseen, based solely on my love of the movie. Reading Richard LaGravanese's screenplay, I realized a few things: It is extremely good (one of the best I've ever read, actually, and strong enough to get Terry Gilliam to break his vows to never again direct someone else's script or work in Hollywood); I could, obviously, learn a lot from studying it; and finally, that I really prefer reading scripts that have been published in book form to xeroxed pages held together by brads. The text is more aesthetically pleasing and easier on the eyes.

I still go to the occasional comic con, but I don't bother with the tables of screenplays. For me, they're just one more casualty of the internet, where I know I can find the same scripts for free on websites like Drew's Script-O-Rama, The Weekly Script, Simply Scripts, IMSDb, TWIZ TV, and numerous others. But because reading scripts on a computer screen has its own set of drawbacks, I still prefer reading them in book form. And they look cool on my bookshelf. Other favorites besides The Fisher King include Bubba Ho-Tep (with Don Coscarelli's screenplay, Joe R. Lansdale's original short story, plus introductions by both of them); The Donnie Darko Book (which includes the screenplay by Richard Kelly, an intro by Jake Gyllenhaal, a Richard Kelly interview, lots of artwork, and pages from The Philosophy of Time Travel); and Men In Black: The Script and the Story Behind the Film (a big, glossy, full-color affair with lots of photos, Ed Solomon's script, and an official MIB Agents' Manual). The cost of these film books can add up quickly, though, so whenever I'm ready for another batch, I search for used copies on

And since returning to comics retail, I've discovered that comic shops are also good sources of screenplays. My copy of Kevin Smith's Clerks II: The Screenplay came from Paper Heroes, for example. But more to the point:

IDW Publishing, the publisher of the Angel comic books, also publishes Angel "scriptbooks"... screenplays from popular episodes of Joss Whedon's TV series in comic book format, with illustrations by artist Jeff Johnson.

I've got Angel: Scriptbook #5, which is appropriately enough the issue that contains Jim Kouf's script for the episode "Five by Five." You know, the one where Faith, the rogue vampire slayer, shows up in Los Angeles and tortures Wesley. Good times, good times. (Nothing against Wes, mind you, it's just that Faith is one of my all-time favorite television characters).

Other issues include the scripts for the pilot ("City of"), "Spin the Bottle", "Waiting in the Wings", and "Sanctuary". And in November, IDW will be reprinting five of them in the Angel Scriptbook Collection: Volume 1, with a second volume to follow in March.

I'm not sure whether the intended target audience for books (or comic books) of screenplays is primarily fans or screenwriters, but either way, they're an extremely handy (and collectible) resource.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Feastday of Saint Gulager

Feast, the last (and apparently final) movie created as part of Matt Damon & Ben Affleck's Project Greenlight, had its official world premiere on September 12 at the Palms in Las Vegas, but this weekend is its special limited release in 100 theaters across the country. Tonight and tomorrow night, horror fans have the opportunity to catch a midnight feature of Feast on the big screen before its DVD release on October 17.

It's been a long wait since the end of season 3 of Project Greenlight on May 12, 2005, closing our window into the production of Feast and director John Gulager's battle to protect his creative vision while coming to grips with the studio system. Whether you thought he was a genius or a madman (or a little of each), his journey was certainly entertaining to watch.

Also fun was following the evolution of Feast's story and monsters. I read the early and revised drafts of the screenplay by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, comparing them to see what cuts had been made for the sake of their limited budget, and was amused when the opening frames of the trailer answered the question of the creatures' origin, which was still being debated at the end of Project Greenlight.

I'd been planning to drive the 2 or 3 hours to the nearest theater showing Feast this weekend, but now that those plans have fallen through, I'll be eagerly awaiting the DVD. Hopefully the 3rd season of Project Greenlight will be released along with it.

For more information, check out the official website and the blog on Feast's myspace page.

As an aspiring screenwriter and independent filmmaker, I really miss Project Greenlight. Hopefully those of us living in the U.S. will eventually get to see Project Greenlight Australia.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Feast Countdown Clock

More on this topic later. Right now I'm taking care of pesky deadlines.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Finally, we have proof that Flickr was created by Alvar Hanso (or possibly one of the de Groots) as part of the Dharma Initiative.

Someone alert Rachel Blake, stat.

Friday, September 15, 2006

And a Child Shall Save Their Collective Asses

So I'm still suffering through season one of Star Trek: The Next Generation at work, and this afternoon "The Big Goodbye" was on. If memory serves, that's the first Dixon Hill/Holodeck Crisis episode of the series.

At one point I just had to stare at the screen in puzzlement when I realized that Geordi LaForge was standing idly by, watching over Wesley Crusher's shoulder as the "acting" ensign worked to fix the ever-malfunctioning Holodeck and save Picard, Data, and Dr. Crusher from existence cessation.

I love the fact that a Galaxy-Class Starship is the 24th century equivalent of a VCR... it takes a kid to figure out how the thing works. It's a good thing that Wes was on board for the Enterprise-D's maiden voyage. Otherwise, all of the ship's computer screens might have been flashing "12:00" for the duration of its mission, and that would have been especially embarrassing when aliens like the Q dropped by to rub their superior intellect in the humans' faces.

I think this also explains why Picard spent so much of his free time reading the classics. He was too proud to ask Wesley to program his TiVo for him.

"While You're At It, Blow Her a Kiss, Too!"

Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas, died Wednesday at the age of 73.

Just last week I watched the "Hank and the Great Glass Elevator" episode of King of the Hill (one of the shows that's on every afternoon at Paper Heroes), where Hank Hill moons Ann Richards (who provided her own voice for the episode) from a glass elevator at a hotel where she's giving a speech.

Through some course of events that I must have missed while helping a customer, Richards starts dating Hank's neighbor Bill Dauterive, until Bill's ex-wife Lenore (voiced by Ellen Barkin) crawls out from under a rock to destroy his happiness. Still, Bill and Ann part as friends, and their time together gives Bill's self-esteem a much-needed boost.

So of course when I heard the news of her passing, I felt sad for Bill -- who's not only a fictional character, but an animated one at that. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about what that says about me.

Lost, the Universe, and Everything

One of the great things about the internet is that when the Powers That Be announce something like The Lost Experience (Wikipedia entry), a multimedia alternate-reality game designed to keep LOST fans busy in between seasons 2 & 3, I know that I can just sit back and wait for far more diligent folks to post the solution for me. The result is the video above, from which we can discern the following (SPOILER WARNING):

From SCI FI Wire:
The numbers represent the Valenzetti Equation, a mathematical formula having to do with the timetable for humanity's extinction. The show's sinister Dharma Initiative was an effort by the mysterious Hanso Foundation to ward off that inevitability. When Dharma failed, Hanso's nefarious acting leader, Thomas Mittelwerk, set in motion a plan to release a virus that would kill 30 percent of the world's population.
Other details are available at TV Guide. And "Rachel Blake's" recap of her efforts to expose the Hanso Foundation can be found here.

My first thought after watching the video above was that the Valenzetti equation was essentially the LOST version of Donnie Darko's 28 Days, 6 Hours, 42 Minutes, 12 Seconds, but of course it's a lot more complex than that.

Hurley's numbers -- 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 -- hit home with me when they aired his first flashback episode, because back when the Louisiana Lottery first started in the late '80s or early '90s, I played a certain set of numbers every week, and the last half was the same as Hurley's (16, 23, and 42). My numbers never hit, at least not on any week that I bought a ticket. But that wasn't a problem, as it turns out that winning the jackpot wasn't actually a prerequisite for becoming cursed.

LOST returns October 4, leaving me just under 3 weeks to sort through all The Lost Experience minutiae, refresh my memory on all the intricate details from the first 2 seasons at the Lostpedia, and maybe even get around to finishing Bad Twin. Hmmm... maybe the LOST series really is a nefarious plot by Alvar Hanso.

A Boss Called Kev

This morning I was going to get started on a new writing project, but since I was waiting for an email from the client, I decided to kill some time blogging about zombies and photoshopping my boss Kevin Cinquemano's face onto another cover or two of A Man Called Kev. Because, you know, I'm all about productivity.

Honestly, his name is Kevin, he owns a comics shop, it had to be done.

The real fun is printing them out on glossy photo paper, wrapping them around actual comics, then bagging and boarding them and putting them on display in the store. Because invariably some percentage of the customers will believe they're real, and their reactions tend to range from, "Wow, that really, really looks like Kevin, how weird," to "How did Kevin get his own comic book?"

Sometimes I'll slap a price tag and a "Variant Edition" sticker on the bag. Yes, I take pleasure in the gullibility and/or ignorance of others. It's just one of the many retail survival skills I've learned over the years.

Larger versions can be found on Flickr.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Princess of Mars

Veronica Mars in the Princess Leia slave costume from Return of the Jedi? This may be the first time I've ever been sold on a movie based on a single frame. But if you need more info...

This promo image of Kristen Bell is from the upcoming movie Fanboys, "...a comedy about friends, fans and delusions of grandeur. Fanboys takes place in the fall of 1998, a time when everything was pure and Star Wars ruled the world once again. We follow four life-long best friends who travel cross-country in an attempt to break into George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. Their mission is to see Star Wars: Episode I early when they discover one of the young men in their group is diagnosed with terminal cancer and will not live long enough to see the film in theaters the following May. This film expresses what it means to care about something so truly that you would do anything for it… what it means to be a fan. This is a film for the fans, made by the fans." -- Kyle Newman and Matthew Perniciaro.

More images are available at Personally, I can't wait. While the plot is reminscent of 1992's Breaking the Rules (with C. Thomas Howell, Jason Bateman, Jonathan Silverman, and Annie Potts), in which a group of friends discover that one of them has terminal cancer and drive him cross-country so that he can compete on Jeopardy before he dies, I think the heart of Fanboy will be the Star Wars geekdom. And, of course, Kristen Bell in a metal bikini.

The Zombie Outbreak to End All Zombie Outbreaks?

Newsflash for my buddy Don, and any other fellow zombie fans out there:

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, is now out in stores, and thanks to this interview with the author, Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks and author of The Zombie Survival Guide), I now want the book and the audiobook.

With a full cast featuring such voice talent as Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins, Ajay Naidu (Office Space's Samir Nagheenanajar), Alan Alda, Jurgen Prochnow, and John Turturro, how can you resist?

Are you prepared for a worldwide war against the undead? Check out the Zombie Squad website. If nothing else, you'll have the proper T-shirts for fighting off the living dead. And if you have friends or loved ones who are already infected, you can help them accessorize with Eastpak.

(Thanks to Victor for sending me the interview link above. And for more info on WWZ, check out my previous blog post on the subject.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Recycled Trek

Spike TV runs 3 hours of Star Trek: The Next Generation every weekday, providing background noise for my afternoon shifts at Paper Heroes. I have no idea how many times they've cycled through the entire series over the past few months, but I've learned to dread the arrival of the (excellent) series finale "All Good Things...", the harbinger that signals the imminent return of season one.

Case in point: Yesterday I was subjected to episode 4, "The Last Outpost," an inferior remake of the Classic Trek episode "Arena." Not only is this "update" of the first contact scenario a muddled mess of a story, especially in contrast to the starkly elemental nature of the original, but let's compare the 2 episodes' legacies. Because simply evaluating their individual contributions to the Trek mythos demonstrates that they are on opposite ends of the quality spectrum:

"Arena" introduced the Gorn, the most awesome alien in the Star Trek universe, while "The Last Outpost" was our introduction to the Ferengi, by far the most irritating.

Worse yet, while the Gorn made their point in one episode and then were never seen again (not counting their appearance on the non-canonical Star Trek: The Animated Series, or that CGI monstrosity on Star Trek: Enterprise), the Ferengi would never stay away, instead returning for countless appearances throughout Next Generation's run, each more grating than the one before, and collectively having a negative impact on the quality (and my enjoyment) of the series as a whole.

Coincidentally, I fulfilled a childhood dream on Saturday when I stumbled upon an action figure clearance sale at Suncoast, and purchased the Gorn figure by Art Asylum... for a dollar. Sure, when I was a kid in the '70s I had the Mego Star Trek dolls, but was never able to locate the elusive Gorn (which apparently was a Frankensteinian creation combining the head of Marvel Comics' The Lizard, a Planet of the Apes body, and a Klingon costume). Of course this was back in the Dark Ages when you actually had to go store-to-store and search the shelves. You kids today with your eBay -- where's the challenge? The frustration? The heartbreak?

Anyway, check out this kickass Gorn action figure. Is there any doubt it could beat the snot out of an entire starship full of Ferengi action figures, using nothing but its bare hands, a medium-sized boulder, or a makeshift dagger? And all he'd be wearing is that flimsy tunic, because the Gorn is like the Star Trek Universe version of the Sub-Mariner, who you always just knew was a badass because he'd routinely fight giant monsters, robots, and aliens wearing nothing but swim trunks.

Final note: Your "Arena" or Mine is an interesting blog post by John Kenneth Muir about the history of Frederic Brown's short story "Arena," first published in Astounding Science Fiction Magazine in 1944, and since adapted into episodes of, not only Star Trek and The Next Generation, but also The Outer Limits, Space: 1999, Blake's 7, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It's a classic story (I wish I could remember where I read it so that I could find it again), and it's interesting to see how the basic concept evolved over time.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lost at 20,000 Feet

I had to laugh when I read this story on SCI FI Wire this morning about William Shatner in a meeting with LOST creator J.J. Abrams:

Shatner Met Trek's Abrams

Original Star Trek star William Shatner told convention-goers in Chicago over the weekend that he has spoken with J.J. Abrams, who is co-writing and will direct a proposed 11th Trek movie, and added that "on the horizon there are good things for Star Trek and, hopefully, my involvement" in the film, the Web site reported.

Shatner mentioned that he had spoken with Abrams on Sept. 7 and that he and Abrams will be meeting sometime this week.

It reminded me of a thought I had last season, that with all the flashbacks on LOST showing the plane coming apart mid-air, I would love to see Shatner make a cameo appearance and reprise his role from the Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."

I can picture Shatner in Boston Legal mode, staring fixated out the window and yelling, "I'm Denny Crane! There's a gremlin on the plane!" while Hurley tries to settle him down with a "Dude!"

Of course what they were actually discussing was Star Trek, which reminds me that it's almost time for the remastered original series to start its syndication run. Here's some updated Classic Kirk for you:

Monday, September 11, 2006

Eternal: The Director's Cut

"Eternal" was the first short film by Irony Coast Productions, created last May for the 48 Hour Film Project. I blogged about the experience here. You can see the original version -- the one submitted to the contest -- here.

We were mostly satisfied with it, and it did pretty well for itself in the judging. But of course when you're operating under that sort of extreme deadline, you tend to make creative decisions that you regret later after you've had more time to think about it (and after you've started receiving the inevitable negative feedback).

And so "Eternal: The Director's Cut" was created, and it will premiere at the 2nd Annual Contraband Film Festival on September 30 (more info here), courtesy of the Lake Area Film Group.

I'll get a kick out of seeing it on the big screen again, but in the meantime, you can watch it right here, thanks to the magic of YouTube.

(The internet = no waiting).

Eternal: The Director's Cut

Contraband Film Festival

On the left is the poster for the 2nd Annual Contraband Film Festival, which will be held in Lake Charles, Louisiana at the end of the month. Here is the Lake Area Film Group's press release for the event:
The Lake Area Film Group was founded in September 2004 by a group of passionate individuals interested in growing a film making community in Southwest Louisiana. That original group committed to this mission statement:

To create a network of people, ideas, and resources to be shared collectively, enabling the independent filmmaker in the Lake Area,

And to host an annual film festival in Lake Charles, which would serve to both motivate and to inspire.

This year will be the 2nd such festival hosted by the LAFG. The event will take place Saturday, September 30th at 6:30PM and there is no admission charge. Central School Auditorium will be the site of the event once again.

Last year's program included 10 short films and was well-received by the community. This year, the program has been expanded to include the LAFG's first feature length film, Mercy, directed by Patrick Roddy. The movie, which stars Gary Shannon, was shot in Lake Charles and DeRidder, Louisiana. Other notable cast includes Shelly Farrell, Charles McNeely, Julie Ann Fay, Mike Mayo and Carol Anne Gayle. DVDs will be on hand, for sale after the film’s screening. In conjunction with the premier of Mercy, set photographer, Hilary Gayle will be opening an exhibit featuring still images taken during the filming of the movie. The exhibit will be on display in the Black Heritage Gallery, located at Central School, across from the auditorium where the festival is held. The exhibit will remain on display through the month of October.

Another new element that has been added to the Contraband Film Festival this year is a Video Confessional. During the Arts and Humanities Council's Gallery Promenade, the LAFG will be filming volunteers on the third floor of the 1911 City Hall. Participants will have the opportunity to perform in front of the camera in any way they see fit, be it singing, reciting a monologue, dancing or they may choose to actually confess what's on their mind. The footage will be collected and edited together so that it may be shown at the film festival. So if you have always wanted to be in a movie, this is your chance. The booth will operate from 6-9 pm on Thursday and Friday (September 7 and 8) and 10-2 on Saturday, September 9.

Other films on the program include three short films produced during the LAFG's 24-hour film sprint, an event where filmmakers were all given the same generic script and were required to create a story to accompany the dialogue they were give. The teams would then shoot and edit their films with a 24-hour period.

Continuing from last year, student work from the Mass Communication’s department at McNeese will be screened at the festival. Through the Cracks, a documentary by Dan Robertson, takes a look at skateboarding in the Lake Area.

In addition, Single Malt is a short film shot at The Shamrock in Lake Charles and features performances by Carl Bergeron and Cade Chisholm. The short is written by Ken Henderson and directed by Scott Waldrop.

"Eternal" is another short film on the program that originates from Irony Coast Productions, a group whose members span from Lake Area to Houston. The film found success at the 48-hour Film Project in Houston last May, where it was recognized by judges in six categories including: Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Sound Design, Best Use of Line of Dialogue, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing.

The Lake Area Film Group meets monthly at the Central Library in Lake Charles. Meetings take place at 7:30PM on the first Tuesday of each month. The LAFG is open to anyone (18 and up) who is interested in making movies. For more information, visit or email us at
This will be the first film fest I've attended here in Lake Charles, and it will mark the premiere of the Director's Cut of Irony Coast's "Eternal," our entry into the 48 Hour Film Project.

For links to more Irony Coast stuff, check out the sidebar on the right.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Tupperware Parties for Sports Jocks

So the other day I'm watching G4 TV at work and I happen to catch an episode of The Loop called "Fantasy Football -- D&D For Jocks?" (you can watch it here) that compared Fantasy Football to the classic fantasy roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons.

The high point for me was when David Dorey (the guy on the far right) of, in an attempt to defend Fantasy Football from its critics, described the fantasy football draft party as a guy version of women's tupperware parties. Good job, dude, that sounds WAY cooler than D&D.

I would say that Fantasy Football is one more phenomenon that blurs the line between jocks and geeks, but I don't think that line has existed for a long time. This historic rivalry has been a false paradigm for years now.

Sure, when I was a kid being a comics geek/sci-fi nerd occassionally made me a target for Neanderthals, but by the I started college, the overwhelming majority of my friends were comic book readers and obsessive sports fans. I seem to be part of a dying breed of purists, but I try to make up for our dwindling numbers by despising professional sports with all my heart and soul.

Televised sports -- the original Reality TV -- have been the bane of my existence since childhood. Football especially. Not only is it responsible for decades of screwed-up television schedules, but even more egregiously, it caused the cancellation of Futurama by pre-empting it every freaking Sunday until its ratings were down in the sewer with the mutants. For that alone I expect a few Fox network executives to burn in hell.

So realistically, nothing is going to get me interested in watching pro football short of the NFL implementing the rules of Blood Bowl or the suggestions of George Carlin. Yet that doesn't stop the people around me from engaging in excruciating sports conversations and inviting me to fantasy football drafts... which, as I understand it, are like tupperware parties for guys.

I find it amusing that fantasy football players take offense at being compared to D&D gamers, as if they aren't already consummate geeks themselves. Sports geeks are no different from roleplaying gamers, comics fans, or costumed Trekkies. They just have different memorabilia collections, and different tedious conversations that put everyone else in the general vicinity to sleep.

If fantasy football isn't enough proof for you, consider this: When I was a kid, my Mego Super-Heroes and Star Wars action figures were disparagingly referred to as "dolls" by adult males and jocks of all ages. Now, a generation or so later, the comics shop where I work has an entire wall covered in sports action figures -- football, baseball, basketball, and hockey players, even NASCAR drivers -- simply because Todd McFarlane was able to anticipate (and exploit) the geekification of the American sports fan.

Sports fans in denial just need to relax and embrace their inner geek. After all, it's not like anyone is implying that you're gay simply because you play with dolls and play fantasy games. The trading cards are still problematic, though. Because as Bill Maher pointed out, when you're a kid, baseball cards are keepsakes of your idols, but once you're a grown man, they're pictures of other men. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Welcome to roadkillbeta

So after effectively abandoning my previous blog 2 months ago I decided that I wanted to start fresh, and with Google's launch of Blogger Beta last month, now seemed to be the time.

So here's the new blog. I'm sure I'll be continually tweaking the layout for awhile as I explore all the new formatting and content options. And I'll be leaving The View From Oblivion up as an archive of sorts.

I knew I'd have to return to blogging eventually. It's the most reliable way to avoid working on the screenplays.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Unrealized Star Trek Merchandising Potential

Today's the 40th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise, and you know what I want? A Captain Christopher Pike action figure. No, not the healthy one. I want the version that was horribly disfigured by delta radiation and confined to the chair with the flashing lights.

The chair should be radio-controlled, so that I can make it roll around the room. And as an added bonus, the remote control should have an extra button on it marked "Ask Question" that causes the chair lights to randomly flash and beep either once or twice when you press it, so that you can use Captain Pike like a Magic 8-Ball that only answers "yes" or "no." Because, obviously, "Reply hazy... ask again later" would require way too many flashes and beeps.

Seriously, this has to be the only character from the original series that's never been immortalized as an action figure, and you know every Trekkie on the planet would have to own one. Nevertheless, I'm sure if I were to calculate the odds of Art Asylum actually producing such a toy, the answer would be "Outlook not so good."

Bubba Sasquatch

When Bruce Campbell asked the audience at the Houston premiere of his Man With The Screaming Brain which Bubba Ho-Tep sequel they would prefer -- Bubba Nosferatu or Bubba Sasquatch -- I seemed to be one of the few in attendance rooting for the latter.

Personally I think we already have an overabundance of vampire films, and besides, Elvis and Bigfoot are a match made in Weekly World News heaven.

So I was a little annoyed last week when Yahoo! Movies ran the poll below.

Bubba Nosferatu received the most votes -- no surprise there -- but whoever created the poll left Bubba Sasquatch completely off their truly uninspired list. (Seriously, Bubba Lucifer? Bubba Shambler? Lame.) Don't they even read their own movie listings? Bubba Sasquatch is mentioned in the Yahoo! Movie descriptions of both Bubba Ho-Tep and Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires.

The good news is that writer/director Don Coscarelli has suggested that Bubba Sasquatch will be the third movie in the Elvis-fighting-monsters trilogy. Even better is the news that the first Bubba Ho-Tep sequel seems to have moved from the "cool idea" phase to the "actually getting made" phase, based on Paul Giamatti's confirmation of the rumor that he'll be co-starring with Bruce in Curse of the She-Vampires early next year. Giamatti (Lady in the Water, The Illusionist) is set to play Elvis' eccentric manager Colonel Tom Parker.