Archive for June, 2011

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Nick Spencer, the writer of Morning Glories describes the story as “Runaways meets Lost.”  I think you could get better comparisons.  How about “Runaways meets Planetary” (Brian K. Vaughn and Warren Ellis!) or “Veronica Mars meets Lost” (Rob Thomas and Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse!)?  All four have a strong fan base, the comparisons stay in the same medium and one side is based in the adventures of teens and the other side is based on mysteries in physics.

I’m picking nits as all four of those stories have compelled me to read more or see more at any given time.  (I just finished the entire run of Veronica Mars in a little under two weeks before Netflix could take it off the instant queue and I would have had to wait for DVDs in the mail.  I get obsessive sometimes).  I definitely think that Morning Glories could compel me in much the same way.

On each side of those comparisons though, there is a question that might not have crossed your mind.  I think it boils down to the simple question: how do you like your mysteries?

For example, take the final season of Lost and the “sideways” reality. (LOST ***SPOILER ALERT*** – which shouldn’t really be necessary as it has been a year since the finale).  The season finale reveals that the sideways universe is the afterlife.  Desmond is there to help them realize what is happening and to bring them all together to see each other again.

Let me say that again, and just think about it for a while.  The season finale reveals that the sideways universe is the afterlife.

I’m not sure about you, but the number of stories I can recall that deal with life in the afterlife is not that great. For comedy purposes, there is the wonderful Defending Your Life.  In myths there is the story of Orpheus and Eurydice that has been forever tainted by The Killing.  (I shudder to even mention that series in the company of actual good stories). Death appears in The Seventh Seal and later Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.  Off the top of my head, that’s about it. (I’m sure there are more examples and feel free to enlighten me about them).

Lost did it differently though.  The adventures on the island took up less than three months for some characters.  (I’m looking at you Boone and Shannon).  For others, it was several years of their lives as they went back in time and lived in the Dharma community.

So, what does the island mean in comparison to the rest of your life?

For Ana Lucia, it didn’t mean much as she didn’t join the rest of the survivors in waking up in the afterlife.  For others, it meant the world.  Waking up brought in a flood of emotion for the characters (and this member of the audience) as these people that meant so much to them for just a part of their life reappeared.

So, what is the afterlife?  How do you use your time?  Do you use it to become the father that you wish you were, that you wish you had?  Do you use it to come to grips with your own physical failings that resulted in your own emotional failings?  Do you beat yourself up over all the evil that you did?

In Defending Your Life the battle was against fear.  For Albert Brooks, as the writer, I’m sure that is a very personal battle.  For the characters of Lost they had different battles to face.  Finding justice, finding love, finding friendship, finding forgiveness or whatever they needed to find so that they could move forward.

(Thinking about that personally, I’m not sure what I would need to face in order to move along. It’s a mystery of myself that I will have to explore).

In those personal battles, what is more important, the previous 20, 30 or 40 years, or the time spent on the island?  How would you ever be able to work in the experiences of the island in comparison to the building blocks of your personality, your life that happened so many more times?

That is the question I have of the afterlife.  I’ve never met my grandfathers.  I know they played an important part of my parent’s lives, but they both died before I was born.

What happens in their afterlife?  I assume they link to the lives of their children who then link to their children and then we meet.  Or maybe they have directory assistance in the afterlife and instead of reaching a phone, you physically transport to that person.  No matter what is the way of the afterlife, the next question becomes how long do we see each other?  What about all the people we’ve met over the course of our lives?  What if a friend from elementary school that we remember as the person who first exposed me to video games doesn’t remember us?  With whom do we spend time in the afterlife?  What do we need to do to improve ourselves?

I don’t know the answers, but I do know that Lost helped to create the questions.  Sometimes a good mystery doesn’t have an answer.  Yet.  Sometimes we don’t want answers as we don’t want to infect the hopes, dreams and prayers of our imaginations.  Whatever answer we get will pale in comparison to what we had created in our minds or it may be so big that we would have never thought to dream it.

The thing is mysteries are everywhere, we just may not see them.  In Veronica Mars only two people believed something different about the Lily Kane murder, everyone else just went on with their business.  In Lost different people discovered different things about the island that they decided to share or not share. (By comparison, Rose and Bernard chose to ignore all the hoopla and just live in the moment that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. The mystery they got to solve was how they would grow old together).  In Planetary we find that the world doesn’t work the way we think and three “heroes” lead us to examples that wander into the fantastic.  In Morning Glories we see six kids that start at a boarding school.  We don’t know why they are there.  We don’t know the purpose of the school.

So, what kind of mystery do you want?  Do you want ones that are concrete and you can solve and figure out within a set amount of time, like a murder, or the existence of a polar bear, or why someone can talk to machines in some sort of origin story or why people born on January 1st, 1900 or May 4th are special?  (May the 4th be with you significance aside).  Or do you want what friendships mean, or how friendships start, or what the afterlife is like, or what relationships do we have with our parents, or how we need to fool ourselves to actually find our more about ourselves?  In other words, should mysteries reveal more about the soul of the person or the plot of the story?

Ideally, a great story gives you both as you explore characters and their environments.  I think Morning Glories is well along that path after only six issues.


Review By Elizabeth C. Bunce

Two of my favorite TV shows made their season premieres this week:  TNT’s Leverage began its fourth season, with USA’s Burn Notice moving easily into its fifth.  Anyone who’s seen at least a couple episodes of both series can’t fail to recognize that they’re pretty much the same show.  They’re both basically an update of The A-Team: a crew of lovable outcasts who use their unconventional skills to help desperate people fight back against the corrupt and powerful.  I remember The A-Team as being rather campy, so I hope that Leverage and Burn Notice are a little more sophisticated than the ’80s cult favorite I recall from my childhood, although Hardison’s van, Lucille, does look a little familiar.


That said, clearly it’s a formula that works as well in the 2010s as it did thirty years ago, or we would not have two such successful parallels airing simultaneously on competing cable networks.  Even in cable, it takes a lot to make it to a fourth and fifth season–not the least important being loyal viewers.  And speaking as one of those loyal viewers, I’m excited to have both shows back.

Burn NoticeCompany Man joins out-in-the-cold-of-Miami hero Michael Westen working with the CIA team trying to track down the mysterious people responsible for framing him for the dastardly crimes of madman Simon Escher.  It was nice to see Michael back inside for an episode, and nicer still to see the burn notice plotline take center stage for once (instead of being the ongoing series subplot to the “Desperate Client of the Week” main storylines).  Typically, when longterm plotlines are “resolved” in TV series, they’re done kind of ham-handedly, leaving viewers dissatisfied with the writers’ efforts to round off the throughlines that have built tension and momentum for the series. Not so with Company Man.  I was impressed by both the handling of Michael working for the CIA (not as an agent, but as a civilian asset, something I, at least, found totally convincing), as well as the way in which they left Michael’s storyline unresolved.  We feel we got what we wanted from last year’s setup, without sacrificing the core of the show we love so much.  Michael, Fiona, Sam, and Mrs. Westen will continue to look out for the exploited citizens of Miami, and Michael still has questions left to answer from his past.  Last season’s rookie member, Jesse Porter,  played by Coby Bell, returned for the briefest of brief appearances, and although he didn’t have a role in this episode’s story, the writers made it clear he’ll stay part of the team.  I wasn’t altogether thrilled by Sam and Fiona’s roles in the episode; the wounded friend routine felt juvenile and out of place.  These people are professional soldiers; pouting over being left out of a mission is something I’d expect from Buffy’s adolescent Scooby Gang, not an ex-Navy Seal and IRA gunrunner. Overall, it was an excellent conclusion to last year’s cliffhanger, and a smooth transition into Season Five.

As for Leverage, the criminal gang is back for more of the same.  In The Long Way Down Job, the crew “steals a mountain. Again…” foiling a crooked investor (and probable murderer) in a mountain climbing adventure that would do the old A-Team proud!   I’ve been a big Leverage fan since the beginning –can’t resist a great heist– but as much as I love the gang and the schtick, I confess I’m often left vaguely disappointed in the episodes and series as a whole.  Though there have been some terrific episodes (last season’s Rashomon Job was the show at its best), and it’s fun to see familiar faces in guest appearances (from Saul Rubinek of Warehouse 13, to Star Trek’s Q, John deLancie, and last night’s Eric Stoltz) I hardly ever feel that it lives up to its full potential, and I’m not entirely sure why that is.  The cast is great, with Beth Riesgraf, Christian Kane, and Aldis Hodge being the clear standouts.  And maybe that’s my problem.  “Mastermind” Timothy Hutton should be the standout star; he has the talent and he has the chops and he’s clearly billed as the leader, and yet… sigh.  Maybe it’s unfair of me, but every time I watch an episode, I find myself wishing it was Nero Wolfe.  Hutton’s turn as Archie Goodwin…

…may be one of my alltime favorite TV performances (and from a life spent watching as much TV as I do, that’s saying something!).  He sparkled in that role and took a wonderful show to something sublime.  For whatever reason, Nathan Ford just doesn’t do it for me.  

All of that aside, I do respect the Leverage team’s efforts to raise the stakes with the series–Season Three’s ongoing series plotline about international criminal Damien Moreau was ambitious, and certainly led the crew to some interesting locales and episodes, and yet it, too, didn’t really work for me.  Typically, raising the stakes for your characters and your plot is one of the most important components of better, more compelling storytelling.  So it should work, but I felt like the Moreau storyline was forced and inauthentic–trying to make Leverage something it’s not.  I’m not entirely sure what it is, and it doesn’t always achieve whatever it’s trying to do… but I’m still a fan, and I’m still going to keep watching.  Because whatever silly, convoluted plot they have up their sleeves, I want to see Eliot and Hardison sparring.  I want to watch Parker fumble her way through being a normal person.  And, against my will, I even want to see Nate Ford grow as a character.

By Art Schmidt

Last Tuesday, June 21st, The Two Towers showed in limited distribution across the country, to grand applause.  The Extended Edition of the film clocked in at three hours and forty-two minutes, and was a treat to behold on the big screen.  Tomorrow evening is the Grand Finale, the limited release of The Return of the King in select theatres in its Extended form.

Bringing the Lord of the Rings movies back to the screen for a single showing in their extended form is a wonderful treat for fans of the trilogy and of Tolkien’s grand work.  As a further treat, before The Two Towers was shown, a small piece was run of Jackson talking about the making of the film and how it was in many ways the most difficult to make.

The Two Towers was in some respects the biggest challenge of The Lord of the Rings trilogy,” Jackson told the audience, “because you can film the beginning, and you can film the end, but filming a movie which is really ‘the middle’ is a challenge indeed.  And so we worked very hard on the screenplay to try to give it a story of its own.”

He went on to explain his excitement with The Two Towers and specifically with the battle of Helm’s Deep.  Though the battle is a very small portion of Tolkien’s novel (less than ten pages are devoted to it) Jackson and his writing partner Fran Walsh pushed Frodo and Sam’s encounter with Shelob to the third movie and expanded Helm’s Deep into the spectacular climax of the second movie.

“I’d always wanted to film a huge battle scene, since I was a little kid,” Jackson said, reminiscing during his pre-recorded intro.  “It was a fun battle, it took us months and months to shoot.  It was night shoots, it was the middle of winter, there were rain towers and dunk tanks and it was a long, cold shoot to get Helm’s Deep in the can.”

“But you know, looking back on it now, you just remember the good times…  Well, there weren’t really that many good times actually” Jackson quipped, eliciting a theatre full of laughs.

He also talked about filming Gollum and the effect that Andy Serkis had on changing the character and bringing him to life.  One interesting story he relayed concerned the origin of the now classic camp scene with Gollum talking to himself while Frodo and Sam are sleeping on their way to the Stairs of Cirith Ungol at the end of the movie.

“We were able to look at the film coming together,” Jackson explained, “there was some aspect of [Gollum’s] character that just wasn’t gelling, and we weren’t sure audiences would be able to the nature of his unique personality.”  So his partner Fran Walsh wrote the camp scene, and Jackson said he was absolutely thrilled with it but he had no time left in the schedule to film it.  So he sent Walsh off with a tiny crew to film it herself.  Actors Elijah Wood and Sean Astin were filming other scenes, and are not actually in the scene at all; there are stand-ins huddled up under the blankets pretending to be asleep, and the only character with lines is Gollum.

“It’s subsequently become one of the most famous scenes in the film,” Jackson told the audience with a wide grin, “It’s the split-personality scene.”  He goes on to joke “So, ironically, one of the most famous scenes in the film, I didn’t actually direct.  But that’s just the nature of this crazy [business].”

And now we gear up for the final film, The Return of the King, which in its shorter theatrical version is tied with Ben Hur and Titanic for the most Academy Awards ever earned.  Not bad company.  And in its extended version, it’s arguably the best picture ever made.  Go ahead, argue.  Citizen Kane?  Maybe if Rosebud turned out to be his long lost claymore.  Gone with the Wind?  Vivian Leigh was an amazing actress, but she was no elven princess.  Casablanca?  Let’s see how Bogey would have fared had the Nine been gunnin’ for him.  Star Wars?  Okay…  if The Hobbit turns out to be another Phantom Menace, we’ll call it a draw.  🙂  Yeah, I’m a fan.

Watching the extended scenes of Saruman’s demise, the journey of Aragorn and his Army of Undead upriver to Osgiliath, and especially the well-conceived character of the Mouth of Sauron up on the big screen is sure to be a delight.  My one (minor) complaint of the first two screenings of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers is that they did not build in an intermission.  And at just over four hours running time, I’ll probably be needing one about the time the orcs show up at the gates of Minas Tirith.

Of course, June 28th is also date that the EE set of LOTR comes out in Blu-Ray, no mere coincidence that.  I’ll be in line to get my copy, and then planning a weekend in my man cave to devour it all over again.


Some quick background:  In April 2005 I got a chance to meet Michael Turner at a comics convention.   I had known of his work from seeing his Aspen designs (Fathom in particular is a visual treat).  But what was really big then was his Superman/Batman covers.  I told him and colorist Peter Steigerwald that his cover to Superman/Batman #13 fifty years from now would be a defining cover for the first decade of the millenium.  Some Turner covers:


Turner had brought to the convention albums of all his comic book pencil art to-date.  I expected to see some incredible work.  What I saw was epic.  Leonardo da Vinci epic.  As I was “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” over the pages his co-creators mentioned the enormous time he puts into each page.  His pencils for the Superman/Batman covers were stunning, but his interior art of Batman was intricately detailed to a level you would have to see to believe.  Luckily for us, DC caught on to his pencil sketches and put out some alternate covers without the color, but even they didn’t match seeing the pages in your hands.  An original Turner piece used for three covers that Aspen owns:

Nothing against Steigerwald–comics need color and his coloring style was and is great–but sometimes colorists hide some of the best of the pencilist’s craft.  Sadly, Turner passed away just before the San Diego Comic-Con in 2008 at only 37 and we missed out on half a lifetime’s worth of stunning covers and interior art for sure.

Comic readers are always on the lookout for the next big thing.  Like Alex Ross, who has been around in the limelight even before Turner.  Alex Ross has a different style, focusing his best work on painting incredible covers of almost every subject you can think of, from DC to Marvel to political commentary.  Ross has become the #1 cover artist of choice among fans, almost without debate.

But last year the Green Arrow title started picking up steam with its cover art.  Check these out:


A new artist, Mauro Cascioli, had quietly entered the comic book scene and was putting out some stunning painted covers.  Who was this guy?  Cascioli was born in Buenos Aires in 1978.  Between 1992 and 2004 his work could be seen in the Brazil version of Rolling Stone magazine.  Then in 2005 he started working for DC Comics.  In 2007 he drew interior art and cover work for The Trials of Shazam limited series.  And his work in the book looks good, great even.  But then look at a page of his original pencil work for the Shazam series:

Cascioli has his own style, but his incredible detail work reminds me of another artist.  Yes, Michael Turner.  I think his Batman renderings are right up there with Frank Miller’s in The Dark Knight Returns, and Jim Lee’s landmark boot-in-your-face Batman as seen in his “Hush” storyline of the Batman title.  And I like how his Superman looks like Christopher Reeve.  Cascioli then moved on to the standout series Justice League of America: Cry for Justice.  Here is a page of his original interior art to Cry for Justice:

Again, stunning pencils.  In my view, Mauro Cascioli is THE artist to watch.  What is he up to right now?  It’s hard to tell.  The DC press releases about its reboot this past month listed more than 100 creators, but Cascioli wasn’t on the list.  Now it could be because they intended to only list writers and interior artists.  But I hope that DC’s powers-that-be take a second look at Cascioli’s interior pages.  Because as much as I love his Green Arrow painted covers, it would be great to be able to open a book and get that same level inside, and from someone whose work is as exciting to see as anyone we’ve seen…well, since Michael Turner. 

C.J. Bunce

Yesterday in Vancouver, BC, and Kansas City, MO, the annual Maker Faire began–two days of creating, building, thinking, and making began with robotics, alternative energy, and do-it-yourself projects.

You could speak with individuals who have built a hydrogen based car (using a 1920s Ford as their prototype), create paper projects and take them home, learn to solder, check out new styles of cloth dying and even buy the artistic clothing on display, learn about the printmaking process that dates back to Gutenburg and have a print made from wood cut to final print, or join the local costuming guild.

And you could watch the latest in robotic designs–not by high tech industry, but the guys at home in their garages and basements coming up with the next robotic design.  Of course the crowds can’t get enough of robot wars–nothing like a spider-like robot barraging rubber pellets at a bipedal, crouching, Erector set-looking opponent.  And it’s a good mix of both adults and kids making this stuff.  You could also check out the latest scratchbuilt designs of Estes-type model rocketry.

It’s all about getting hands on and just doing it–the act of creating or making–and sharing the results.

My favorite part of the faire was contrasting what 3D modelers from Hallmark Cards were doing in their international business with what the guys on the other side of the hall were doing in a more grassroots way.  Two designer/engineers from Hallmark demonstrated the process for making none other than Hallmark Holiday ornaments using software imaging programs and images of the giant 3D printer that transfers the idea to reality.  But on a smaller scale a few other exhibitors were showing how they could turn plastic cord into plastic 3D parts via their own scratchbuilt units, demonstrating the process in the exhibit hall on the tabletop.  And their use?   Today it was to make even more “3D printers” to sell to the public.  The exhibitor from TechZone Communications said that after the last fair in Southern California he was building and selling 3D printers for the public non-stop.  How do the printers work?  They take a signal of a drawn design from your laptop and pull a plastic cord through a print engine that, through hundreds of repetitive movements, results in a solid structure.  And the objects could range in size from an eighth of an inch high to 12 inches high and equal distance across.

So not only is the art of 3D printing what big companies are doing to make mass produced items, the technology is available to you in your own home.  Today.  What you make is up to you.  A less hands-on way to make resin movie props perhaps?  TechZone had kits for sale from $600 to $1100–the price a good laptop would cost you.  Check out their website here.

C.J. Bunce


I couldn’t be more psyched about this news.  Dynamite Entertainment, the comic book publisher who primarily focuses on adaptations of established properties like Army of Darkness, Robocop, Terminator, Xena, Highlander, Battlestar Galactica and most recently The Green Hornet, announced that it will be launching a new Six Million Dollar Man comic book series starting in August, titled The Bionic Man.  And they aren’t pulling any punches with the creative team.  Kevin Smith and Phil Hester, who together created the second Green Arrow series with the “Quiver” storyline (then with Smith writing and Hester pencils), this time around will be sharing writing duties.  Dynamite regular Jonathan Lau will be drawing the series.  The comic book series will follow Steve Austin again as the test pilot/astronaut whose body is nearly destroyed in a crash and because “we can rebuild him, we have the technology” became the first mainstream cyborg back in the 1970s.  Oh, yeah, and comic cover artists extraordinaire Alex Ross painted the cover to Issue #1 (above).

If you watched the original series, this page from issue #1 will be very familar:

Like other Dynamite titles, Issue #1 will have multiple covers, by Paul Renaud, Stephen Segovia, and interior artist Jonathan Lau.

The creators’ takes on the new series from the Dynamite press release:

“True story: when I turned in a script for The Six Million Dollar Man back in ’98, there was an exec who dismissed it as being more like a comic book than a movie,” said acclaimed film director and writer Kevin Smith.  “It’s an honor to head back into the trenches with the same creative team at Dynamite that made my Green Hornet script so readable and fun.”

“I’m one of those kids who grew up with The Six Million Dollar Man toys all over my house,” said cover artist Alex Ross.  “I still prize them as one of the favorite parts of my youth for the amazing variety of things that Steve Austin could use or fight against.  The Six Million Dollar Man is one of the coolest original superhero properties invented for television.”

“When I heard about The Bionic Man, my initial thought was how to make him stand out from the rest of the cyborg genre, and that’s where my style comes into play,” said artist Jonathan Lau.  “Hopefully this will be a fun ride showcasing a more extreme play of action than I used to do!”

“I’m thrilled to help bring Kevin’s unique vision for Steve Austin and company,” said Phil Hester.  “Fans of the original will find all the classic elements they long for, while those hungry for new elements will get a healthy dose of bionic action for the 21st century.”

“I grew up LOVING The Bionic Man,” said Dynamite President and Publisher Nick Barrucci.  “As a child I wanted to be him, but since that hasn’t happened, the next best thing is publishing The Bionic Man. Dynamite will also be bringing The Bionic Woman to stores in 2012!  Wait until you see what we have planned!”

“As a child I wanted to be him…”  Hey, Nick Barrucci, me, too!  Kinda what got me putting this whole thing together as I said in this earlier post.

Although Kevin Smith’s run on Green Arrow wasn’t my favorite, you can see him bringing back a creature like Bigfoot for Bionic Man like he did Stanley and his Monster in Green Arrow.  As for Phil Hester, I’m a big fan because he works all his artistic magic not from LA or NYC but from my home state of Iowa and because he drew some great pages in his run on Green Arrow and because he attends cons like no one else.  And who doesn’t think Alex Ross is one of the top 5 cover artists of our time, if not #1?  I particularly love it when he veers from standard superheroes and hits the tangent characters like Space Ghost and Battle of the Planets and one-off pieces like Sesame Street’s Super Grover.  Jonathan Lau is an up and coming artist with some great pencils–just check out his website for more images.  Here’s Lau’s alternate cover to Issue #1:

And while I’m at it, here’s Stephen Segovia’s alternate cover to Issue #1:

I love Segovia’s because it reminds me of the Star Wars cover of the first cyborg published as a “borg”, borg bounty hunter Valance, seen here:

And here is Paul Renaud’s cover:

Alex Ross’s cover (at the top of this article) mirrors Steve Austin right off the action figure box from the 1970s so it gets a thumbs up from me.

Looks like we’re going to have a busy Fall with some great new series!

C.J. Bunce


He plays the characters you love to hate.  Some actors are so prolific they pop up as secondary characters for years, fitting nicely in the background, and you could easily overlook them.  Then inexplicably they have a breakout role and show up in everything you watch.  Beginning in 1992, genre actor Mark Sheppard started to amass a volume character roles starting with Silk Stalkings but not until 2005 with Monk did he hit his stride that continues to this day.  Featured in several TV series per year, in the past three years you could almost change from channel to channel and catch him on multiple series within a single season.  And you know what you’ll usually get with Sheppard: a whole lotta deceit, manipulation, sometimes smarmy, menacing, cunning, sinister and sometimes downright evil.  Other than his facial hair, he also looks the same in each series so if you doze off and wake up to Sheppard’s unmistakable sneer, you could easily confuse which Sheppard character you’re watching.  And his appearance has remained basically the same over the years–you could post a photo for each series below, shuffle them, and you’d have a tough time telling the difference (Star Trek make-up aside).  And we like it that way.
Here’s a rundown of his most notable appearances (he’s performed in even more TV series and films) and read on and you might see that his various characters tend to follow a similar, dark theme:
The X-Files (1993).  As the sinister Cecil L’Ively/Ben the Caretaker, he uses the ability to control fire to murder several British dignitaries, and moves along to the United States where his efforts are foiled by Mulder and Scully.
Star Trek: Voyager (2000).  As Leucon, he plays the Brunali father of Icheb, the boy who was once a member of The Borg.  Seemingly a meek and kind father, he actually sent his own son away infected with pathogens in an attempt to kill The Borg.  Luckily, Seven of Nine saves Icheb as Leucon again tries to kidnap Icheb and return him to The Borg.

Charmed (2002).  As Arnon the Aggressor, he plays a demon trying to to kill a retired elder, ultimately destroyed by Piper after the Charmed Ones become superheroes.

Firefly (2002).  As the psychotic Badger, he plays a small time crook turned criminal operation, “business man,” cargo smuggler who convinces the crew of the Serenity to salvage stolen property.
Monk (2005).  As Chris Downey the gravedigger, he is unmasked by detective Monk for framing kung fu movie star Sonny Chow.  Once Monk figures it out, Downey knocks him unconscious and buries him alive.

24 (2006).  As Ivan Erwich, he plays a Dawn Brigade Russian separatist working for Vladimir Bierko in smuggling canisters of nerve gas, ultimately killed by his own man Bierko.
Without a Trace (2006).  As Ioannis “Johnny” Patani he plays a shifty crime boss, but for once is not revealed as the kidnapper in an episode.

Medium (2005-06).  As Dr. Charles Walker/Jack Walker, he plays a doctor who is revealed by Allison to be a serial killer and then comes back from the dead to haunt Allison and possess vaguely psychic people and turn them into serial killers in a creepy Jack the Ripper-ish story.  A shocking, stunning performance, it is my nominee for Sheppard as his most sinister and creepy character.

Bionic Woman (2007).  As Anthony Anthros, he plays a developer of bionic technology.
In Plain Sight (2008).  As the often talked about Russell, he gets Mary Shannon’s sister Brandi in over her head and involved in a drug sale, which sets the tone of the Brandi/Mary relationship for the coming seasons.

Burn Notice (2009).  Sheppard plays the villain of the week yet again.  Michael agrees to help a woman deal with a stalker, Sheppard’s Tom Prescott, only to learn that he is not really a stalker at all, but the leader of a full-scale bank robbery.  Michael and recurring baddie Bly become hostages.  As Fiona blows up the getaway truck Prescott offs his entire gang, to then be caught by the police.
Battlestar Galactica (2007-09).  As Romo Lampkin, Sheppard gets to fully flush out and develop a character over several episodes that becomes one of the highlights of the entire series.  Lampkin once had everything, great family, great career, as a lawyer on Caprica, until the Cylon strike that turns the galaxy upside down.  He is smart, manipulative and deceitful, and yet we like him anyway, when he is stuck defending the even more questionable Gaius Baltar, then serving as counsel to Tom Zarek when he takes over, he is ultimately appointed President of the Colonies.  One episode he’ll annoy you and the next you sympathize with Lampkin’s lot in life.  Lampkin became Sheppard’s stand-out role. 

Dollhouse (2009).  As FBI agent Graham Tanaka, he refuses to believe in the existence of the Dollhouse.  Here we see him again with Battlestar Galactica’s Tahmoh Penikett, who plays the ex-FBI agent assigned to the Dollhouse.
White Collar (2009).  As Curtis Hagen, he plays a crook caught by Neal Caffrey and Peter Burke in the series pilot.

Leverage (2008-10).  As Jim Sterling, former colleague and rival of Timothy Hutton’s Nate, Sheppard appears again with Jeri Ryan, and gets to challenge the entire Leverage team.  Fun to see him spar with Nate–it’s a great recurring role for Sheppard.

Chuck (2010).  On Chuck he is revealed to be the director of the spy organization The Ring.  As you guess, he nails the role.

Warehouse 13 (2009-10).  As regent, Benedict Valda presses Saul Rubinek’s Artie and the rest of Warehouse 13 team to further pursue the shady dealings of Artie’s old friend and former regent, MacPherson.

Doctor Who (2011).  Six months after Sheppard’s FBI agent Canton Everett Delaware III quits the force, he is called by President Nixon to investigate mysterious telephone calls Nixon is receiving, ultimately revealed as the man who got Nixon to record everything in the Oval Office.  He meets up with the Eleventh Doctor and they transport to Florida to investigate the little girl making the calls.  Since this is a  recent episode I’ll avoid spoilers, but Canton provides a satisfying double cross involving the creepy turn-away-and-forget’em aliens known as The Silence.  Here we finally get to see the noble side of a Sheppard character.  Here’s the character I would most like to see him return to play.
Supernatural (2009-11).  As the evil Crowley, he initially weasels his way in to assist the Winchester brothers Sam and Dean, only to later to be revealed as having darker intentions.

Lucky for us, we can gamble on more appearances by Sheppard in his current series and can look forward to his next surprise appearance.

C.J. Bunce


By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

As a writer, the question, “What story do you want to tell?” is an important one.  It lends you focus.  It behooves you to describe some people in detail and leave others in the background.  It compels you to “cut your darlings” not in some back woods, creepy no-teeth father sort of way, but rather clever turns of phrases, sharp witticisms, and generally great writing that the writer spends days waiting to casually saunter into their sphere of imagination and then, when you realize the words, the precious words, have no use to the story, you edit them off into oblivion.  Well, unless you are anal retentive and fear the onrush of the end of all creativity and you copy and paste them into a file just so that you can go back and gently caress their loving characters when you need to believe you can still write.

Cutting those words can be such a chore.  You may not even believe you need to cut them when your reading buddies gently urge you in that direction.  You can make them work.  You can make them fit.  You have a vision and it should stay intact, no matter what anyone says.

Then, you’d end up with Super 8.

There are parts of Super 8 that had me spellbound: the director and his main makeup man riding bikes through the town; teaching each other through magazines; a boy’s first crush; applying makeup to another person, such a very intimate moment, especially when that person trusts you enough to close their eyes (well, trust and the fact they don’t want makeup in their eyes); and friends getting together for a project and pulling together whatever might be at their disposal to figure out how to do it.  I could have watched those kids all day, and the biggest smiles of the whole viewing experience came during the credits as we watched the film of those kids, “The Case.”

Unfortunately, there had to be adults in the film.

Unfortunately, there was a big special effects budget.

Unfortunately, there had to be parent/children themes to work into the story.

The movie starts at the funeral for Joe Lamb’s (Joel Courtney) mother, Jackson Lamb’s (Kyle Chandler) wife, who serves as deputy for the town. Louis Dainard (Ron Eldard) shows up, he’s been drinking, and Jackson Lamb handcuffs him, runs him to his car and leaves Joe sitting by himself outside sitting on an old swing-set.

Then, the title card, “Four Months Later.”

I understand that Joe sitting out by himself is his way of coping with his mother’s death while he looks at the picture in the locket that his mother always wore around her neck.  I understand that Jackson arresting someone is his way of coping and escaping the air of his own home, filled that day with sadness and uncertainty, as all the friends of his hometown crammed upon him and made it tough to breathe, let alone mourn the death of his wife.

That stuff is not the story though.  We’re four months later.  Yes, the hurt is still in Joe.  It will be always.  The grief does not define his character, his curiosity does.  As does his willingness to help his friends, his love of building models and him being at the wonderfully awkward age where he knows he likes girls and has no clue what to do about it.  The scene were Joe and Charles (Riley Griffiths) go upstairs for Charles to get dinner and we hear brief words from the parents and they earnestly invite Joe to stay for dinner, gives us how the adults feel about his loss.

Later that night the plan to film by the train station unfolds.  We get the back-story we need as night falls; all the kids sneak out and wait on Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) to arrive with a car to take them to the train station.  Alice refuses to let Joe in the car she “borrows” from her dad because he’s the deputy’s kid. After all, she’s 13 and driving and that’s breaking the rules – the deputy’s family follows the rules.

So, what do we know from that paragraph to describe the opening of the movie?  We have an idea of what kind of father wouldn’t know her 13-year old took the car and has already taught her how to drive.

What is the relationship between Joe and Jackson?  He solemnly pledges to Alice that he’ll never tell, and we believe him, and we begin to know about that father/son relationship without a need for the opening scene.  A couple brief words like, “We don’t talk much anyway.  Especially not the last few months,” and soon the opening funeral scene fades in necessity.  All the scenes with Joe holding the locket when he gets nervous and we see how much his mother meant to him and now the opening funeral scene is completely superfluous.

Filming at the train station is a grand adventure.  Everything is low tech.  Everything is simple.  It’s the story of kids that want to make a zombie movie.  We’re getting to know the kids, their likes, their dislikes and their personalities as we watch them each prepare for the practice take.

Then comes the train crash.  I think it lasts longer than the car crash in The Blues Brothers.  Unfortunately, it’s about as funny too.  A train collides with a truck that swerved onto the tracks and somehow train cars fly everywhere in every direction.

Of course, the junior filmmakers are still alive.  It’d be depressing if they weren’t.  The car Alice borrowed from her dad does not have a scratch on it.  However, the train depot, the train and any gophers that may have been in the vicinity are ex-versions of their former selves.  Still, amid all of this chaos and destruction, the person driving the truck that caused the accident is also quite alive and gives them a message to not get involved.

Sadly, this is a pattern to the rest of the movie.

Whenever the kids are on screen and filming, guerrilla style, using the Air Force personnel that has appeared out of nowhere for their use, it is fun.  They’re having an adventure and are slowly figuring out the mystery surrounding this train.

Then, adults appear as plot devices, warning them to stay away from the train and/or their friends and bring along themes or story lines that I had no interest in following and I just waited until the next scene with the kids.  Or, some super-duper special effects scenes happen and I think, why does this matter?  Why do the filmmakers need to show this?  Why can’t the son of the deputy hear about it when he listens to his dad through his bedroom door, longing for contact that his mother used to create for his father and him, and the next day they can film there?

I won’t say much more about the story to avoid any spoilers, but, as you’d expect from a story about kids, the kids work together to help one of their own in trouble.  I’m also trying to block out what any character above the age of 20 had to do with anything and recapping would force me to remember.

I enjoyed parts of this movie, especially the scenes between Fanning and Courtney and the scenes between Griffiths and Courtney.  I felt as a guy, the filmmakers did a great job exploring issues that kids and adults would have as they create together.  However, instead of using the kids to explore the adult themes, the filmmakers thought their story had to get the adults involved as well.  As a viewer, I wish they hadn’t.

Two weeks ago I posted a list of all 52 new DC Comics titles that will be re-starting with issue #1 beginning this September.  The following highlights four artists that we expect to see featured this Fall, three definite and one rumored to be doing at least some cover work. 

First off is Scottish artist Mark Simpson who works under the pen name Jock, who has been doing an impressive run on Detective Comics this year.  Although the actual issue #1 was previewed with a cover by Jim Lee, the below startling image was released by Jock as a coming issue cover.  Whether it will come before or after the re-launch has not yet been revealed.


Pretty gruesome image, huh?  What Jock excels at is his black watercolor splashes that form striking images of frenetic energy.  His work is intense and you get to see that in this image that is devoid of much coloring–allowing his original image to shine through.  Following my general passion for Green Arrow, below is an earlier original painted page by Jock from his series Green Arrow: Year One, reflecting Green Arrow marooned on this title page to the fourth issue in the series.

Jock’s style is his own–up close his brush strokes seem quick and haphazard, yet altogether you see a grand statement of desperation.  Before his days of fancy trick arrows, here we see Oliver Queen stuck with a thrown together couple of quivers and hand-made arrows.   Check out Jock’s website for more great examples of his work.

Next up is the artist whose work is so technically pristine that you find yourself searching his original pencils and inks for any hint of a stray mark or sketch line.  Cliff Chiang was selected as the artist for the new Wonder Woman series.  Here is his cover for the first issue. 

Cliff has done plenty of illustrations across the DC universe, from Batman to Zatanna.  With his exceptional work on the women heroes of the DCU we have a lot to look forward to with Wonder Woman later this year.  Below shows Cliff’s work prior to it being colored. 

This is the cover to Green Arrow/Black Canary Issue #1, featuring Canary and the new Green Arrow who had briefly replaced Oliver and went on to become Red Arrow.  Just check out Cliff’s stunning pencils and inks.  Check out Cliff’s website for more great examples of his work.

Next up is digital comic artist Freddie Williams II, who wrote the book on digital drawing.  Actually he literally wrote the book on digital drawing, for DC Comics.  Check it out here the DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics.  Freddie has defined the drawing style and method of the future, with his first big break is the main illustrator for the Robin series.  In September Freddie will be responsible for the art in the new Captain Atom series.  Although DC has not yet released any advance look at Freddie’s pages for the series, here is a sketch of Green Arrow and Black Canary he did for me a few years ago. 

What jumps out with Freddie’s work is movement and action-whether it is Robin swinging across the page or Green Arrow here ready to put an arrow through the reader.  And as you can see with the look on Dinah’s face, skowling at Ollie’s over-exuberance with one hand in pocket and the other held tight, he knows how to draw a humorous page, too.  Check out Freddie’s website for some of his work.

My final artist for today is Scott McDaniel, who will be drawing an entirely new title and character, “Static Shock” in Static Shock #1.  Here is his original cover art for issue #1 before going to the coloring phase.


Scott had a nice run on the second Green Arrow series, and here is the original art to his cover for issue #64.

Like the other artists above, Scott’s style stands out as his own.  His heroes are drawn large and in-charge and practically bust their way off the page.  Check out Scott’s website for more great images.

If these artists are indication, we’ll have some great visuals to look forward to this Fall.

C.J. Bunce


Cross-promotional marketing is nothing new, whether it’s a tie-in of Coca-Cola and Sony, Pepsi and Michael Jackson’s tour, or a national baseball team and the city’s grocery store chain, we are bombarded everywhere we go with not only that special product we didn’t know we needed, but also that seemingly unrelated product that some marketing whiz decided we also need.

Back in the late 1970s and 1980s it seemed like there was a constant battle for the best tie-in promotion between McDonald’s and Burger King.  For a while, the Star Wars franchise was tied into Burger King, introducing a giant size sticker folder, numerous trading cards (you’d need to cut out yourself), and probably the best drinking glasses anyone ever stamped a movie image on, for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi

And they were made from actual glass no less.  They even brought the glass concept back in 2009 with the new Star Trek movie.

E.T. the Extraterrestrial (which also had glasses as giveaways at Pizza Hut) made waves by altering its own original story and tying Reese’s Pieces into the actual storyline instead of M&Ms.  At the opening night of the movie I remember everyone was given a free pack, totally taking you along with Elliot on his garage encounter with our new alien friend.  I don’t recall hearing of Reese’s Pieces before E.T.  The M&M guys blew an opportunity there no doubt.

Every year it seems products become more invasive in actual movies and TV shows.  Once upon a time product names were rearranged on TV shows so a Tide laundry detergent box, for example, had the same logo and design but carried a nondescript word.   Morley brand cigarettes, back to not just the X-Files, but as early as 1961 on The Dick Van Dyke Show, became the TV generic cigarette pack of choice, just as 555 became the area code of everyone in movie land.  Morley was Spike’s brand on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has been seen on Burn Notice, Heroes, Medium, and even William Shatner’s brand in the classic Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at Twenty Thousand Feet.”  But cigarette marketing bans aside, why use a fake brand when you can sell some ad space on your show?

Movie tie-ins are the subject of Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning author Connie Willis’s novel Remake.  The past is “in” and all the women dress in copies of famous Marilyn Monroe dresses and as other stars of classic Hollywood.  But in Remake, the future has arrived and censorship also is “in” and movie studios must edit ads and vices out of old films, essentially undoing all the marketing found in classics of the past. 

In its unabashed, in your face, greatness, no TV show today better uses cross promotional advertising than Subway on the TV series Chuck.  A typical episode has Morgan not just gulping down not just a sub, but a Subway sub and not only a Subway sub but this week’s selected menu sub of the week.  This doesn’t work on the serious drama, but on an off-the-wall genre show like Chuck, it just adds to the shows good-natured fun.  Points go to Chief Brenda Lee Johnson on The Closer.  Her temptation to dig into her drawer for the next Hostess Ding Dong really makes me want to grab the keys and head to the store.

What I find more annoying is cars on TV shows that focus on a car brand, from Claire’s Nissan Rogue in Heroes to the Oldsmobile Silhouette as the “Cadillac of minivans” in Get Shorty to the Ford Taurus conversations (“check out that Ford navigation system”) in White Collar.  That said, I don’t seem to have any issue with all the slick, high-end cars used by James Bond.  Probably because it actually serves to define the character’s wealthy lifestyle.

Subway and Green Lantern teamed up this movie season in a pretty standard ad campaign, with its own website, another current staple of cross-marketing (and even Doritos brand chips get to carry the Green Lantern campaign).  But there’s something not quite right with this campaign.  I don’t know a bigger guacamole fan than me, but spreading the avocado across all things Subway as part of its promotions this season seems a little stranger than usual.  Green is the color for ads this season and all products are apparently welcome.  Bring on the guacamole!

But the Green Lantern avocado is not the strangest thing appearing right now in cross promotions.  Most campaigns, including the Subway campaign, have some reasonable link between the products.  But the X-Men: First Class TV commercial with… Farmers Insurance (?) offers no explanation.  X-Men‘s audience would not seem to be a natural tie to trying to hook a family to a new casualty policy.  So what’s behind this campaign?  Here is one where I have no answer.  Check out the ad for yourself and let me know if you figure this one out:  Farmers X-Men TV commercial

But even this isn’t new.  Check out this old tie-in between the True Blood HBO series and GEICO.  These marketing guys must be on to something…let’s see, what else should we pair with mutants and vampires? 

C.J. Bunce


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