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Archive for August, 2011


Review by C.J. Bunce

As Hollywood slowly realizes that Philip K. Dick wrote forty-four novels and 121 short stories, you’ve got to wonder what took them so long.  The best of his works are his short stories.  In a parallel universe you could see each story as its own episode of The Twilight Zone.  It’s probably why more of his short stories have made it to the silver screen than his novels (not to knock any of his novels).

The most recent addition to the PKD stories adapted for the screen is The Adjustment Bureau.  And it may be the best yet.  And yes, I am including Blade Runner.

The Adjustment Bureau pulls ideas from PDK’s short story, “The Adjustment Team.”  The film is good enough and close enough to the original story that you easily feel both the story and movie exist in the same place.  More so than PKD’s complete novels or stories, it is his ideas that still amaze readers and audiences.

In “The Adjustment Team” and The Adjustment Bureau, there are… “others” on this Earth.  Not aliens, but akin to angels.  They are members of the Adjustment Bureau, which in turn works for the Chairman, presumably a manifestation of God, but we don’t need to get into that detail to believe what is happening.  Also, the Bureau–the visitors who are always here–are not frightening aliens or strange apparations like we have seen in The Matrix or They Live.  Very easily this film may not be science fiction at all.  In that concept, this is a very PKD story, as he often toyed with religion in a very serious way and challenged the religious world around us.

There is a Plan–one best timeline for all events–and when circumstances show that the Plan is straying, the Adjustment Bureau is sent in to do what is necessary to get the Plan back on track.  In the short story, that means a dog needs to bark on queue.  In the movie it means the protagonist needs to spill his coffee at a certain moment, or he will end up in a chance encounter with the girl of his dreams.  There lies the rub, for our protagonist is a truly good guy, a good Senator on a path to the White House, compared to other sci-fi senators that usually have ulterior motives, like we saw in The Dead Zone.  If this senator ends up with the girl of his dreams, the woman he is destined for, he will become content, and will lose the desire to complete his political path.  Yet there is no choice when the Plan is involved.  So what is he supposed to do?

As with PKD’s story, the believability of the timeline science and the ability to interfere with chance meetings, coupled with fate and destiny, make the movie nicely high concept for a not-so-elaborate production.  It is also not epic or overblown–it doesn’t need to be; what is at stake is the love of two people for each other.  The treatment of that reflects a similar treatment in an equally great PKD story adapted for film, Paycheck.  You also don’t see a lot of sci-fi that would make a great first-date flick.

I liked Matt Damon’s character and performance here over any other to date.  Emily Blunt is perfect as the target of his affections.  Plenty of cameos are also fun, including Jon Stewart, James Carville, Mary Matalin, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg playing themselves.  The very best performance and role comes from an unusual character that we get to know and appreciate, Harry Mitchell, played by Anthony Mackey.  Terence Stamp (Zod from Superman I and II) as Thompson and John Slattery as Richardson are also perfectly cast as members of the Bureau.

The world of the Bureau is not overly complicated and amazingly easy to fall into.  The themes of fate, happenstance and missed opportunity have rarely seen such a nice treatment in film.  The lack of any need for special effects, overly long action scenes and irrelevant tangents results in a very polished final film that is all about story.  For such a great PKD-inspired film that remains true to PKD’s original world building, for great performances, entertaining twists, and a fun overall movie, The Adjustment Bureau gets 5 of 5 stars.

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Comic-Con Panels: Supporting Friends

By Jason McClain (@jtorreyMcClain)

I think I was the first person among my group of friends to be in a creative event that you’d invite other people to go see.  Ok, that’s partly true, since most of my friends at the time were in the same community theater production of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  I don’t remember much about the whole thing except that before our first performance, the most beautiful girl in the whole world, high schooler Syndie, asked me for a good luck kiss.  Being an extremely nervous 8th grader, I balked for just a second before my I punched my nerves in the gut and gave her a kiss on her cheek that came wonderfully close to her lips.  She smiled and walked on stage seconds later.  Yes, I just Googled her and couldn’t find any way to contact her so she could confirm my story, so you’ll just have to trust me on this.  As for Syndie and I, we’ll always have backstage at the Concord Theater.

I also remember that my parents came to see me perform.  Well, that’s what parents are supposed to do.  They had come to little league games and would come to see many more performances and events during the next several years. As my friends and I went in different directions with our interests, we would go and see each other’s moments in the spotlight, whether it was
performing music, acting on stage or playing sports. It’s what we do as friends. We support each other at just a step below what our parents do.

In fact, the support of my friends came in particularly handy for me later in high school.  I had been asked by my friend Steve Sides* to join his band Suspect.  The catch: they had a performance in two weeks and I had to learn to sing all of their songs by then.  The band had been rehearsing for a while and I had just a few days and maybe one rehearsal to catch up while still taking care of the rest of my teenage life.  Well, long story short, I got my mulletted ass on stage on a December Saturday night in the gymnasium of the Trinity Lutheran Church, nerves and all, and sang my heart out.  I conquered songs by Britny Fox, Guns and Roses, Poison and Cheap Trick.  During Kiss’ “I Want to Rock and Roll All Night,” another band member took the lead vocals duty and I took the chance to jump down into the audience and relax for a bit, looking for the support of my friends arrayed in a large semi-circle of metal folding chairs.  They clapped me on my back, said I was doing great, and feeling so much more at ease, I jumped back on stage and helped my fellow band mate get through the lyrical stylings of Kiss.  At that point, I may have even stopped my unconscious nervous pacing back and forth across the stage, my contribution to the showmanship bag of tricks of lead singers everywhere.

That kind of support, that kind of confidence born out of the love of my friends, makes me happy to see the performances of my friends whenever I can.  At Comic-Con this year, I got to see my friend Bailee DesRocher (the person who gave me the wonderful advice to get a press pass for Comic-Con) speak at the Comics on Comics panel along with Phil LaMarr and Javier Grillo-Marxuach.  I also got to see fellow Borg.com contributor Elizabeth C. Bunce at the Diversity in Young Adult Works panel.  I learned things like the fact that Captain America: The First Avenger had absolutely no flaws as a movie (I went to see it, I pretty much agree) and that the Young Adult books don’t really have a solid definition for what they are except for protagonists that fit in a range that is definitely older than 10 and younger than 24.  Mostly it was fun to see friends just having a great time in their element, taking the careers that they love and carving out a niche within the wonderful world of imagination that is Comic-Con.

And now I’ll just steer this post back to how I started this, friends that have come to see me in my element doing things that I
enjoyed.  Now, it isn’t a stage somewhere or a 3.1-mile cross-country course but this assembly of pixels creating an essay on the internet. I thank you for taking the time to let me share with you and giving me an audience for my joy of writing.  Hopefully I’ll see you soon doing the things that you love and that make you happy.

*P.S. Good luck on your Ironman Triathlon, Steve.  You’ll probably be swimming or biking as this is posted.  Wish I could be there to root you on.

Well it is actually the end of international “Read Comics in Public Day,” the second such proclaimed day, that is.  What started as a conversation by a couple of New Yorkers with a website called www.thedailycrosshatch.com about reading comics on the train became the first proclaimed day last year, and it is now slowly filtering across the landscape.

Did you see anyone reading comics in public today?  Maybe not, but you might have seen some folks reading comics in bookstores, coffee shops, parks, or in planned get togethers if you were out and about today, and not hunkered down on the East Coast because of Hurricane Irene.  Better planning would have had the day on a weekday–where more people typically are out in public.  Maybe they’ll think of that next year?  Here is their poster for the event:

The obvious response to the idea–why not read comics in public every day?  The idea is to continue to help legitimize reading comic books by the general public.  Ultimately it seems to be about keeping comic books as a going industry.  Recall that once upon a time Marvel Comics filed for protection under the federal bankruptcy laws so it’s not a foregone conclusion the comic book medium will always be around.  If you enjoy the medium, then sticking with it, reading ongoing series, talking about what’s new–it all keeps the industry going.  Does it need our help?  With Hollywood studios funneling money into films based on comic books, you wouldn’t think it.  But maybe the focus really should be on reading comics because you enjoy them, and if you want them to keep coming, what’s a better idea than supportiing your local comic book shops.

With prices at $3.99 for a new comic book that used to be five cents, ten cents, thirty-five cents, or a dollar, depending on what decade you were born in, buying something like the entire 52 DC Comics #1 issues isn’t in the cards for everybody.  Every consumer has to make choices.  What am I going to do with this $10?  Go out for dinner?  See a movie?  Buy a couple of comic books?

One way to support local comic book shops is a “pull list,” instead of trolling the racks like I have always done.  A lot of comic book shops now use a website called www.comixology.com to keep track of your list.  It allows your designated local comic book store to better plan on what it orders.  In a system where some books cannot be returned by a shop owner, in this economy what better time to give a pull list a try?  I set one up this month and found it pretty easy.  And it guarantees not having to drive around town looking for that issue you missed that everyone else trolling the racks is after.

So if you missed “Read Comics in Public Day” you can still catch up by reading comics in public throughout the year.  I have often taken my Neal Adams/Dennis O’Neil hardcover compilation of Green Lantern/Green Arrow on business trips.  The funny thing is I have never noticed if anyone gave me a strange look.  Maybe comic books are so pervasive today that maybe we don’t really need a proclaimed Read Comics in Public Day?

If you happened to see anyone reading today, post a comment.  We’d like to know what you saw.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

With the barrage of comic book movies re-emerging into the mainstream, starting with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008, and continuing through this summer with Thor, X-Men, Green Lantern and Captain America, comic books as an overlooked niche may be having it’s own renaissance.  With the focus of DC Comics in returning to its roots by recharging its universe starting Wednesday, August 31, comic books are making national news as a popular medium again.

No greater indication of comic books coming of age this year occured at a Heritage Auctions sale a few weeks ago.  In its New York Signature Vintage Comics and Comic Art Auction #7033, fifteen bidders duked it out to determine the single most expensive piece of American original comic art to sell at auction.

So which artist, what book, what publisher scored the biggest single page hit ever?

In part, the record breaking sale came as a surprise.  This was no golden age book from the 1940s.  Neither was it an early rarity at the dawn of comic strips, like the Katzenjammer Kids, Keystone Cops or the Yellow Kid.  It also wasn’t a piece of cover art–in original comic art collecting it is the cover that typically fetches a far higher price than interior work.  Neither was it a classic science fiction comic, a Charles Schulz Peanuts page, or a Superman page.  But it did come from DC Comics.  Something to remember: only in recent years has comic book art been actively collected.  Many early pages were thrown away or lost.  Ask old time artists about their original pages at conventions and they will shake their head and tell you stories about their long gone pages.  Unlike rare comic books, there is only one original art page in existence, so these works are true rarities.

The object of the highest hammer price probably should come as no surprise.  It is from one of the most talked about comic book series in the past 30 years.  From a book that has been studied by economists and even used as a required text book at state universities.

The book of course is the ground-breaking Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, pencils by Frank Miller with Klaus Janson inks.  It is a splash page from issue #3, page 10.  And it sold for $448,125 including the auction house buyer’s premium.

Don’t you wish you had one of the several dozen remaining pages from the four book Batman: The Dark Knight Returns series right now?

The cover of the book featuring the record breaking page:

The last public sale record was set only last year, for the comic book cover of EC title Weird Science-Fantasy #29 by the great Frank Frazetta.  It sold for $380,000.

Frank Miller is now known not only as a controversial but popular comic book writer and artist, he is also the man behind major motion pictures, including 300, Sin City, and The Spirit.  Inker Klaus Janson is the German expatriot who has worked with countless major pencillers and set the standard all inkers aspire to, and he wrote the book on inking, The DC Comics Guide to Inking Comics

   

as well as The DC Comics Guide to Pencilling Comics.  (I am a big fan of the entire DC Comics Guide series and every beginning comic artists aspiring to make a ground breaking page like Miller’s and Janson’s should check these out).

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns has been re-printed numerous times since its release as four prestige format comics in 1986.  The page itself features of course Batman, but also his controversial new sidekick introduced in the 1986 mini-series: a female Robin and considered the fourth Robin in the history of the caped crusader.  The page is a full spread or “splash page” showing the dynamic duo swinging across the skyline of Gotham City.  The Dark Knight Returns is a dystopian tale of Bruce Wayne, who emerges after retiring from the hero business and spending his days as a more stereotypical billionaire, including enjoying the fun of race car driving.  In the book he looks just like Paul Newman, as Newman looked in the 1980s.  The edge that we then saw in 1989’s summer blockbuster Batman starring Michael Keaton derives directly from this series, as does the darkness and grittiness behind every comic book series since.  Frank Miller and Company also revisited the Dark Knight story in the far less popular sequel Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again.

When Miller was asked about the imminent sale of the record-winning piece, he commented, “I’ve always loved that drawing…Danced around my studio like a fool when I drew it.  I hope it finds a good home.”

As several Batman series begin again this week, which series will become the next The Dark Knight Returns?

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

My best reaction to movies comes from those films that are not over-hyped, and that have trailers that do not show too much of a film’s content.  Examples are Inception and Avatar, two movies that were so hyped that by the time I saw them I was disappointed.  Not so for Source CodeSource Code is so innovative and interesting that you may keep talking about it, keep thinking about the different elements, the different choices made and possibilities the story reveals.  If they only made sequels to movies like this.

For one, my favorite sci-fi movie subject involves alternate realities, whether they are parallel timelines, time loops, time travel, or alternate histories.  On a basic level you will encounter time loops, a discussion topic from earlier this week, and you may encounter other alternate reality topics in Source Code.  Despite its title, it is not a computer techno-romp like The Net.  That’s a good thing.

Source Code stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a man on a train who appears out of nowhere and believes he is an American soldier whose last memory was fighting a battle in Afghanistan.  He is pulled out and replaced into a confined space, and from the trailer we know this place is a train that has a destiny with some type of horrible explosion.  Like Unstoppable, reviewed earlier here, only a handful of characters and tight locations are necessary to tell this tale.  The grandiosity of the typical blockbuster is not necessary here to deliver fast-paced action and harrowing circumstances for Gyllenhaal and co-star Michelle Monaghan, and uniquely difficult decisions for a project leader played by Vera Farmiga.  The is a small film, but high concept.

Gyllenhall fails to disappoint.  Joining Tom Cruise and Bruce Willis, his films always deliver.  His acting project choices, like this film, will hopefully continue to propel his career forward.  Like his character in Zodiac, the suspense mystery about the search for the real-life Zodiac serial killer, his character in this film struggles with confidence, angst, and a desire to break out of his confinement, his lot.  His performance here is as equally exciting as his acclaimed role as a troubled youth in Donnie Darko.

Source Code contains traditional sci-fi elements, to the point you would swear this was based on a Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke or Ray Bradbury story.  It has the feel of a classic sci-fi story.  Like with Bruce Willis’s Twelve Monkeys, Gyllenhaal’s Colter Stevens is a traveller, not by choice, not in the way we all dream about what you could do if time travel were possible.  Like characters in Connie Willis books (To Say Nothing of the Dog, Lincoln’s Dreams, Doomsday Book, All Clear) Stevens has a mission to complete, but not all is as it appears.  Rounding out the key characters of the story is Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale), a lead actor type who is always equally solid in a supporting role as “the man behind the curtain.”  Look for the voice of Scott Bakula as Stevens’ father, not entirely coincidental considering this Quantum Leap-inspired quest.  And see how this could be considered another borg story, not unlike The Six Million Dollar Man.

Source Code could be compared with the Matrix, but Source Code is much better, much smarter, and more compelling.  As with movies like War of the Worlds, you are forced to ask yourself “what would I do if I suddenly awoke in Stevens’ shoes?”  Directed by Duncan Jones, this film does not follow any typical pattern and the story begins in the middle of the action, like a lot of TV shows, such as Heroes, have been filmed in recent years.  The pace works really well here.  You may be able to stay ahead of the action and decisions a few times throughout the movie, but I’d wager no one could predict the branches the story ultimately follows.  What contributes to the gravity of the characters’ situations is the believability of the circumstances in our current era of varying colored alerts.

While you’re buckling down for Irene to arrive this weekend, you could do a lot worse than renting Source Code on DVD or Blu-Ray.  Source Code’s creative story, action, and good acting earn 4.5 of 5 stars.  This may have fared even better in theaters, because so many details contribute to the story understanding that even on a decent size small screen you may miss some of these bits and pieces.

Review by C.J. Bunce

The highly anticipated adaptation of the Six Million Dollar Man TV series in comic book from Dynamite Comics was released this Wednesday and was not surprisingly sold out in its first print run.  Titled The Bionic Man, the adaptation was written by Kevin Smith (Green Arrow, Jay and Silent Bob) with Phil Hester (Green Arrow, Green Hornet, Ant Man), based upon a screenplay Smith had written for a never-produced 1990s motion picture version of The Six Million Dollar Man.  Over all, I’d say issue one is a good launch.

Starting with the numerous covers, which you cannot tell a book by, they all look great, and the ten variant covers based on four original works are all pictured inside the back page.  Alex Ross provided the main cover, with Paul Renaud, Stephen Segovia and series artist Jonathan Lau providing the rarer incentive covers.  I posted the covers in a prior article.

The interior art, with pencils by Jonathan Lau and coloring by Ivan Nunes, also looks great.  This is an appealing looking book.  Steve Austin looks pretty close to Scott Bakula as he looks today, as opposed to original series actor Lee Majors, making me think he’d be fun to watch as this updated character.  Oscar Goldman, on the other hand, looks younger than Richard Anderson from the TV series, but has similar facial features to the actor and a more rumpled look about him.  Recall Goldman’s incredible arsenal of suits and the inexplicable checkered suit on the action figure.  Yet check out how similar they look…

   

Clearly this is not about adapting the original but updating it a bit.  The story starts out with an apparent cyborg character gone astray, something like Rambo with a sword, yet some slasher flick stylings…

If there is anything I didn’t care for with the art in issue one, it was this over the top scene, which reminded me of the disturbing opener of Ghost Ship (not a recommended flick).  All other visuals are interesting, with good continuity, and the scene of Austin’s test pilot trip of the experimental Daedalus Mach 8-capable aircraft is definitely nostalgic.

As to the story, there are minor changes to update the character, an already existing relationship with future Bionic Woman Jamie Summers, for example, but otherwise the book’s main story is tracking with the TV series pilot.  Which begs the question, why does Kevin Smith’s name need to be so big on the cover?  And if this is based on a screenplay by Smith, how much of the resulting story reflects Smith and how much reflects co-writer Phil Hester?  At least for this first issue, I think the answer might reflect Smith a bit, based on his modern aka umm, too personal (?) look at Austin discussing a negative bathroom experience with girlfriend Jamie, and an almost pop culture adherence to the original story.  Something about Smith bringing Stanley and his Monster into the first ten issues of his Green Arrow story reminded me of the second storyline of this book. Regarding the killer cyborg subplot–little is divulged, yet is he reminiscent of the Six Million Dollar Man android Maskatron?    Austin is billed as the bravest man alive, yet unlike the TV version, this guy has a nervous stomach before his flight.  Necessary?  I don’t know, but worth pointing out and maybe Smith’s/Hester’s intention of showing thaeir Austin is footed in “modern reality.”

An oddity is the similarity of the character building for Steve Austin as compared to the treatment of the motion picture Hal Jordan in this summer’s Green Lantern movie.  No doubt this is just a coincidence, but the almost slacker test pilot running late to his important test flight is now firmly, if it wasn’t before, cliche.  Since neither original work had it, you get the impression that the slacker generation is creeping into the iconography and mythology of American pop culture a bit.  Maybe this is just an attempt at a hot shot pilot a la Tom Cruise in Top Gun.  No doubt Chuck Yeager and his Right Stuff brethren had a bit of this cockiness to be able to do what they did.

Looking forward to the character development and addition of the cybernetic enhancements that define the Bionic Man in issue #2, out next month.

Following up on our interview this week with Freddie Williams II, who is one of the artists of the DC Comics–The New 52 release, which will be hitting the shelves of comic books stores starting in only five more days, check out this book trailer that DC Comics released last week: Click here for the video on You Tube.

DC Comics actually managed to make their reboot of 52 comics series that we reported on several times in the past three months look pretty good.  In particular the extended version of the above video really rolls through a lot of the line-up, and I suspect had at least one of each title in this multi-media format short.  This was also released across the country in theaters, so you know DC Comics has a lot invested in this new project.

The stand-out features in the trailer are Jim Lee’s Justice League, Greg Capullo’s Batman, Ivan Reis’s Aquaman, Rags Morales’s Action Comics, and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman.  I really like Chiang’s Wonder Woman, as well as J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman.  I was concerned about Batwoman, and still am a bit just because I didn’t think the covers have looked that great, but they featured her well in the trailer.  Same goes for the whole Justice League classic membership.

So what’s on the borg.com pull list out of the DC Comics 52?  In order of interest, with first at the top:

  • Green Arrow (big surprise)
  • Captain Atom (can’t wait to see Freddie’s new art and JT Krul’s story)
  • Wonder Woman (can’t pass up Cliff Chiang’s art)
  • Batgirl (a revised Barbara Gordon has been anticipated by everyone)
  • Batwoman (curious about this one after last reading the character in the weekly 52 series a few years ago)
  • Justice League (gonna give it a try even without my favorite team players)
  • Justice League Dark (gotta see what this is about)
  • Batman (want to see how they treat him when compared to Detective)
  • Detective (traditionally a good focus, will they keep it up?)
  • Action (the oldest title with a great writer, gonna give this a try)
  • Bird of Prey (Dinah without Oliver? gonna check it out anyway)
  • Green Lantern (gotta track what they do with good ol’ Hal Jordan)
  • Supergirl (will they return to her character from the Superman/Batman series? I hope so)

…and whatever else looks good after flipping through the racks.

Finally, to help keep track of release dates, DC Comics issued this handy checklist…

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

A review of Drew Carey’s Improv-a-ganza

By C.J. Bunce

How many times a day do you see the letters LOL?  How often is it true?  I can’t think of the last time I laughed out loud at something someone emailed me or posted on a website.  Yet over and over again… LOL.  It may be funny, but I rarely, if ever, have been known to LOL, let alone LMAO.

If I have ever come close to LMAOing it would have to be from something I saw on TV or in a movie.  The first time I saw Planes, Trains and Automobiles comes to mind.  The first time I saw Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.  Housesitter with Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin.  Trading Places with Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy.  Money Pit with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long.  Stripes.  The Blues Brothers.  Caddyshack.  All resulted in a full bore, certified LOL and maybe even a LMAO.

Network TV comedies, especially sitcoms, are never as funny as you want.  There are exceptions: M*A*S*H, Everybody Loves Raymond, Dharma and Greg, The Drew Carey Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Newhart, the classic Mary Tyler Moore Show (Ted Knight and Betty White were the best) and The Carol Burnett Show (Tim Conway, Harvey Korman) and right now Psych is as funny as any show that has ever been on TV.  But the LMAO came into prime form recently when Drew Carey’s Improv-aganza premiered on the Game Show Network.  I never thought I would have anything to watch on the Game Show Network.  I never really watched game shows.  At least shows I realized were game shows.  Case in point, the British TV series that made it across the pond:  Whose Line is it Anyway?  In truth, I have never watched that show and not experienced a LOL.

Whose Line is it Anyway?–which still is re-broadcast on the ABC Family network–is a series of improv skits centered around four comedic actors doing a variety of things, hosted in Britain by Clive Anderson and then in the States by Drew Carey.  Hand them a few props and make a quick scene.  Set up a scene and every few minutes pull a slip of paper out of your pocket and incorporate the line into the skit.  Sing an ad lib hoedown about… audience?  Give us an idea… anything… blind dates? OK, the blind date hoedown, here goes!  Only one other TV show came close to the explosive humor on Whose Line, and that was the short-lived Thank God You’re Here!  If you think you have seen Bryan Cranston brilliantly perform on Breaking Bad, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen his improv performance as a Rock Star God on Thank God You’re Here!  But the cast of Whose Line is why the show was so good.

Not one show came close to Whose Line, that is, until Drew Carey’s Improv-a-ganza.  The funny things you’ll see on this show you’ll find popping into your head throughout the day.  For the most part, Improv-a-ganza is an expanded Whose Line.  Drew Carey serves as host, but also performs more than he did on Whose Line, and the entire main comedic slate of comedy actors from Whose Line are regulars, like Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops (yeah, and Greg was the pod race announcer from Star Wars: Phantom Menace), Chip Esten, Wayne Brady, Brad Sherwood, and Jeff Davis, all brilliantly funny in quick and smart-witted way of Groucho Marx on the original classic LOL series You Bet Your Life (a show I used to watch in reruns late night with my Dad that made us both LOL every night).  Added to the cast are Kathy Kinney (Mimi from The Drew Carey Show), and Jonathan Mangum and Heather Anne Campbell, both who seem like they have been part of this comedic troupe for years.

This show is the show you wish Saturday Night Live was (like the cool SNL casts of years ago).  It takes place in front of a *live studio audience* at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and is full of the same type of improv’ed skits as in Whose Line, but also adds a lot more.  Improv-a-ganza proves that Whose Line could have lasted even longer than its first British, then American run.  But when you consider the British Whose Line, which included Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops and Brad Sherwood–all who starred in both Whose Lines and Improv-a-ganza–lasted ten seasons, from 1988-1998, and Drew Carey’s American Whose Line lasted eight seasons, from 1998-2006, somebody’s got a great idea for TV with staying power.

And one more thing:  Remember on live skits shows like Carol Burnett when Harvey Korman and Tim Conway would try to get each other to break up laughing in the middle of a skit?  When you watch the cast of Improv-a-ganza in the background as their other cast members perform, they are laughing and holding their guts like the folks in the crowd and at home.  It says something when what is going on is so funny that everybody LOLs.

Check out Drew Carey’s Improv-a-ganza on the Game Show Network, and I guarantee at least a LOL, a LMAO, or maybe even a ROTFLMAO.

   

It is always great to catch up with my friend Freddie Williams II, whether it is at a midwest con or in San Diego.  DW and I were lucky to meet up again with Freddie and his wife Kiki at Comic-Con in San Diego last month.  Freddie is probably best known as the series artist for DC Comics’ Robin, as well as more recently the Flash series, but he’s also served as artist on Aquaman and Seven Soldiers, among other titles, and he is currently the artist on the new Captain Atom series premiering next month.  And I mentioned in a prior post that Freddie literally wrote the book on digital comic illustration, The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics.  We’re happy to welcome Freddie to borg.com.

It was great to see you again doing sketches for fans at Comic-Con this year.  How was life in Artists Alley?  How did this year’s event compare to past years for you?

Freddie:  Artists Alley and the convention itself are super busy, I love seeing friends from years past and meeting new folks but those 5 days go by so fast. The first couple years I had a bit more time to breathe and walk around but now I am doing signings and commissions non stop, but I love it!

What was the best part of Comic-Con for you this year?  Did you make it to any panels or offsite parties?  Any favorite fan moments from this year?

I was on The New 52 Panel for the DC Reboot but I had no time to walk around and take in any sights.  No offsite parties (too much work to do) though I did dinner with my Editor and a few other DC folks one night and got to add Batman to The Palm restaurant in the Gaslamp District another night, that was pretty awesome!

   

Every year longtime Comic-Con attendees comment that Comic-Con has changed with the addition of mega-panels for Hollywood movie franchises, production studios, video game companies, etc., implying a lesser focus on the “comic” in Comic-Con. Being in the industry as a comic book artist, what is your take?

Freddie: At times it does feel excessive, but folks don’t have to go to those panels & areas if they don’t want to. There are still comic related areas to hit, though they do tend to be shrinking every year. I was very happy to see deviantART add the Jumbo tron screens over Artists Alley this year, those rocked!

Any peers in the comic book world you were able to meet up with again, or meet for the first time?

Freddie: Had dinner with Rachel Gluckstern, JT Krul, Nicola & Craig Scott during the con and a few days after the con we met up for lunch with Francis Manapul, Agnes Garbowska, & Joel Gomez, then before we left for the Chicago con we met up again with Joel Gomez and his wife Beth Sotelo. It is always a blast to get to hang out and visit with these folks when we’re out for the Comic-Con.

I want to throw in a big congratulations for being selected as the artist for the new Captain Atom series coming from DC Comics in September. We can’t wait to see the first issue. This year’s Comic-Con had a huge focus on the DC Comics 52 #1 re-launch. What can you share with us about your work on this new project?

Freddie: I am trying some new stuff artistically with Captain Atom and JT and I get to go a bit off the beaten path with the character, so it’s been exciting so far. So doing not only super hero stuff but also esoteric & sci-fi story lines as well.

Here is Freddie’s AWESOME original art for the coming Captain Atom Issue #1, page 12:

Any advice for next year for fans or professionals coming to Comic-Con for the first time?

Freddie: Hmm, that’s a hard one, let’s see–pack light, always walk the outside halls if you want to get anywhere (from one end of the hall to another–it seemed faster to me than walking inside), be prepared to wait in long lines. And come to Artists Alley where the cool folks hang out!

Hey-that’s what Elizabeth C. Bunce and I did!  Here we are having a great time on Comic-Con Friday with Freddie and his wife Kiki in Artists Alley:

Thanks for chatting with us today, Freddie!  Follow Freddie as a featured illustrator at DC Comics website, at his own website www.FreddieArt.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Back in Beginner Computing class in junior high, we learned the BASIC computer language on Commodore VIC 20s.  The first program you learn to write is this:

10 PRINT HELLO

20 GOTO 10

The end result is a loop, printing the word HELLO over and over again infinitely like this:

HELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLO

HELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLO

HELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLO

HELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLO …

It’s an easy way to illustrate a temporal loop or time loop, a recurring story element in science fiction and fantasy works.

In 1905 Spanish philosopher George Santayana wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  He didn’t mean this literally.  As science and science fiction would later speculate, repeating the past may be a possibility one day.

It is difficult to determine who first put the literal repeat of history into story form, but it is a recurring science fiction device that is often used to great effect.  Classic sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick used the time loop in his 1975 short story “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts.”  The best and most well known example of this is the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, where for for some unknown reason a weatherman’s day is repeated until something happens that is supposed to happen–he gets the day exactly right.

Unlike later uses of this device, in his short story Philip K. Dick did not express the element as a repeat of the actual narrative story, but an explanation of cause and effect.  In his story, time traveling astronauts go on a mission, where destruction of the mission results in a time loop that may or may not result in the preservation of an eternal life for everyone.  We don’t see the result, but hear from the tempunauts they have been there, done that, before.  Over and over.

Usually use of a time loop on sci-fi/fantasy genre tales involves at least one person being able to realize the existence of the repetition.  Bill Murray’s weatherman knows the day is repeating in Groundhog Day.  Yet the other characters are not aware at all.  In other uses, characters get to experience deja vu or even fatigue from living time over and over.

This week’s episode of the Syfy Channel’s Haven, the series based on a Stephen King story, is titled “Audrey Parker’s Day Off,” and is one of the best of the series so far.  The main character Audrey Parker, played by Emily Rose, wakes up to repeat a day after she comes upon a death at a crime scene.  She is in bed with friend Chris, played by Jason Priestley, to whom she must explain a different plan for each new day.  In each new day she tries to figure out how to not cause any death, by changing the variables of each day.  In the context of the mystic “troubles” the town of Haven is dealing with, Audrey as the only person person unaffected by the troubles.  With Audrey the show uses this story device quite well.  The parallels to Groundhog Day are unmistakable, but viewers can’t help but like it when it is adapted in a new way as was done here.

Jason Priestley may be strangely tied to time loops, as he also appeared in a television series entirely about time loops, called Tru Calling, one of borg.com’s favorite series.  In Tru Calling, a graduate student and morgue worker named Tru played by Eliza Dushku is able to relive days in the hope of saving the life of someone who died on that day.  Usually she has several opportunities to do this.  Priestley’s character later in the series comes along as an agent of death to undo the seemingly good that Tru has been doing.  His view is that Tru is interfering with the proper course of events, as if only one timeline is correct, and with him it is the first timeline.

Early Edition was another series focusing on the ability to “do over.”  The loop also occurs in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Life Serial,” on the series Eureka in the episode “I Do Over,” the X-Files episode “Monday,” and the Xena, Warrier Princess episode “Been There, Done That.”

In theaters now is the fifth film in the Final Destination franchise.  This series presents a variant on going back to change the past, without the ability to try again via repeats, although with the character of Clear played by Ali Larter in the first two movies, the repeat effort seems to be there all the same.  In the world of the Final Destination films, an individual lives out a horrible accident, then snaps back in sort of a deja vu state, with only seconds to try to prevent the course of events from happening.  However, like Priestley’s character in Tru Calling, an unseen power, like his agent of death, is set about to return the normal and proper timeline, even if it means the death of dozens.

In Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut’s hero Billy Pilgrim similarly becomes what Vonnegut calls “unstuck in time”.  He has no choice, he appears in various stages of his own life, but with the choice of changing events.  This also happens in the episode of Angel called “Time Bomb.”

Captain Picard  (Patrick Stewart) experienced the same problem a few times in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  In  the episode “Tapestry,” John de Lancie’s omnipotent character Q plunges Picard into the past to allow Picard to not only revisit his past, but to change it if he wishes.  With no regrets, Picard changes nothing, even when that means a Nausicaan will again put a pool cue through his heart, resulting in Picard again needing an artificial heart for the rest of his life.  But whereas revisiting the past in story form has been around for centuries–think Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol–a temporal loop requires repeated visits to the past.  Luckily Scrooge gets it right after merely watching his past, and Q is just fine with Picard’s choices the second time around.

Actually the best Star Trek representation of the temporal loop is the Next Generation episode “Cause and Effect,” which might as well be an essay on how time loops work.  The episode starts with a poker game between the bridge officers.  The ship then experiences a temporal distortion and a ship comes out of nowhere to collide with the USS Enterprise, resulting in the destruction of both ships.  Then we have a commercial break, and the show appears to repeat again.  I know of at least one person who almost turned off the show, thinking there was something wrong with the network feed.  Brilliantly, the audience must be confused.  What did we miss?  In this story, characters are impacted by the repetition, they feel tired, and they experience deja vu.  Luckily Lt. Commander Data figures out how to leave a subtle clue for the next repeat, allowing him to save the ship before the end of the hour of the episode.  His crew had been repeating the event for mere days, but the other ship caught in the anomaly, the USS Bozeman helmed by a captain played by Kelsey Grammer, has unknowingly re-lived the same day for decades, and the show ends with Picard informing the other captain of some pretty bad news about his lost time.  Breaking a time loop is also the focus of the Charmed episode “The Good, The Bad, and The Cursed.”

Writers use time loops again and again because they are fun, and modern audiences understand them, mostly because of the success of Groundhog Day.  In fact in this week’s episode of Haven, “Audrey Parker’s Day Off,” when Audrey explains all this to Interim Chief of Police Nathan Wournos, his response is “you’re stuck in my second favorite Bill Murray movie.”  When on the following day Audrey has to explain the recurring events yet again, she cuts him off when he is about to repeat the line and finishes it for him.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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