Category: Backstage Pass


Meeting Lee Majors

Hey, looks like we made it!

Five years ago today, Elizabeth C. Bunce, Art Schmidt, Jason McClain, and I had already spent a few months talking through the technical details for the launch of borg.com.  What should it look like?  What should we write about?  How do we get to there from here?  Then it all came together on June 10, 2011, and I sat down and just started writing.  Should this be a weekly thing?  Once I started I just couldn’t stop and we cemented borg.com as a daily webzine.  And readers started showing up every day.  Soon we had hundreds of followers, and hundreds of thousands of visits per year.

The best part?  Working with friends and meeting new ones each year.

We’ve had plenty of high points.  Cosplay took off in a big way in the past five years.   Elizabeth and I hit the ground running at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2011 with our Alien Nation/Chuck mash-up and you can find us all over the Web in photos taken by others at the show.  Our years were dotted with the random brush with coolness.  A retweet by actress Alana de la Garza, coverage of Joss Whedon visiting the Hall H line at 3 a.m. outside SDCC in 2012, Zachary Levi calling out Elizabeth for her cosplay at Nerd HQ, interviewing the stars of History Channel’s Vikings series, our praise for the Miss Fury series appearing on the back of every Dynamite Comics issue one month, tweets from Hollywood make-up artist family the Westmores commenting on our discussion of Syfy’s Face Off series, our Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (negative!) review featured on the movie’s website, that crazy promotion for the Coma remake mini-series, planning the first Planet Comicon at Bartle Hall and the Star Trek cast reunion, attending the first Kansas City Comic Con and the first Wizard World Des Moines Con, hanging with comic book legend Howard Chaykin, Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels, cast members from Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Star Trek, bionic duo Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner.  And borg.com gained some well-known followers (you know who you are) along the way.

sdcc-whedon-c shot

We’re grateful for some great Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and other feedback over the years from Felipe Melo, Mickey Lam, Michael Prestage, The Mithril Guardian, Francesco Francavilla, Adam Hughes, Judy Bunce, Mike Norton, Jack Herbert, Mike Mayhew, Rain Beredo, David Petersen, Rob Williams, and Matt Miner, and for creators we interviewed including Mikel Janin, Penny Juday, Tim Lebbon, Kim Newman, James P. Blaylock, Freddie Williams II, Jai Nitz, and Sharon Shinn.

Bunce Alien Nation cosplay x

What did readers like the most?

We amassed an extensive archive of hundreds of book reviews, movie reviews, reviews of TV shows, and convention coverage, thanks in part to the good folks at Titan Books, Abrams Books, Lucasfilm Press, Weta New Zealand, Entertainment Earth, Dynamite Comics, IDW Publishing, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, BOOM! Studios, and several TV and movie studios and distributors.

McClain and EC Bunce

My own favorites?  Sitting down to come up with my own five all-time favorite characters with the borg.com writing staff.

Schmidt and Bunce at PC 2015

Thanks to my family, my friends, especially my partner in crime Elizabeth C. Bunce, Art Schmidt and Jason McClain, my support team, and William Binderup and the Elite Flight Crew.

Onward and upward!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

borg dot com benchmark logo tape

We kicked off borg.com as a way to catch up on entertainment news, books and movies back on June 10, 2011.  We’ve posted what’s new each day to provide “your daily science fiction, fantasy, and entertainment fix” for two years now and continue to forge ahead as we tick past our 800,000th view by readers today.

We want to say thanks to you for reading.  It’s a lot of fun (and hard work) keeping up on all the great genre entertainment out there, be it on TV, in theaters, in books, or comics.  We also want to thank all the comic book publishers out there that provide us with preview review copies, as well as book publishers and TV and movie studios and collectible companies that allow us to give you first available previews and reviews.  We cover only what we’re interested in and excited about–we figure that if we like it, so might you.

bionic borg meter

Some of the most fun we’ve had is meeting new people as we keep up on the coolest happenings in the genre realm, some at conventions, some are friends we are grateful to chat with each week of the year.  And lucky for us, borg.com has allowed us to meet some of our own favorite celebrities over the past two years, sci-fi stars like Mark Hamill, Joss Whedon, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Anthony Stewart Head, Scott Bakula, Adam Baldwin, Lindsay Wagner, Saul Rubinek, Zachary Levi, Eddie McClintock, Wil Wheaton, and Mark Sheppard.  Sci-fi and fantasy writers like Peter S. Beagle, Connie Willis, James Blaylock, and Sharon Shinn.  And comic book creators like Frank Cho, Jim Lee, Sergio Aragones, Neal Adams, and Howard Chaykin, and scores of other great comics creators like Mike Mayhew, Mike Norton, Michael Golden and Mikel Janin (and several not named Mike).

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One of the newest comic book artists to break-out from the pack with the DC Comics New 52 re-launch is Mikel Janin.  Mikel has updated the look and style of several familiar characters in the new series, Justice League Dark, featuring Zatanna, Deadman, Constantine, Shade, Madame Xanadu, and the Enchantress (all shown above).  With the series’ current issue #6, Mikel saw the release of his first published cover, and where some covers feature a separate penciler, inker and colorist, Mikel did it all for this cover.  His past DC Comics work includes the 2011 JLA 80-Page Giant and Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons.  Mikel has created illustrations based on J.R.R Tolkien books that have been exhibited throughout Europe.  He also created the graphic novel “Les aventures d’Antonin Phylifandre” for Éditions Akileos, among other works.  We’re happy to welcome Mikel to borg.com.

Mikel, are you from Spain originally?  How accessible were comic books to you growing up and what did you read as a kid?

Mikel: Hi Chris.  Yes, I was born in Spain, and it’s where I live.  Comic books have been part of my childhood since always.  Actually, I learned to read with comic-books of Mortadelo, a very popular Spanish character.  As a kid I remember Tintin and Astérix books, then I was an avid reader of American comic-books: Spider-Man, Secret Wars, X-Men, Teen Titans and Conan were my favorite books.  I discovered later the European graphic novels, and became a fan of Hugo Pratt, Manara, Vittorio Giardino, Moebius…

Mikel's interior art for the 2011 JLA 80-Page Giant includes some trick arrow work by Green Arrow.

Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?  Was there any specific turning point in launching your career to where you are today?

Mikel: When I was a child it was sure for me that I wanted to be comic artist.  But I studied Architecture and formed a Studio in 2000.  Things were well in Architecture until 2009, when I finally left it.  I never stopped drawing and I even had some gigs for Akiléos (in France) and was published by Heavy Metal Magazine in the USA, and I was part of a Lord of the Rings based exhibition too.  In 2009 I started an active career in comics, and in 2011 I got my first gig at DC Comics.

What artists have influenced your style?  

Mikel: Too many!  Ibáñez, José Ortiz, Bernet, Manara, Moebius, Giardino, Pratt, Buscema, Kirby, Byrne…

Mikel's first DC Comics cover, an image slightly modifying Zatanna's original new look from a print Mikel offered in a limited edition at NYCC last year.

I understand you are currently working digitally.  What are the pros and cons of using that medium?

Mikel: Yes, I work almost 100% digitally. I come from Architecture, as I said, and computers were my main tool to think, design and draw buildings, so it’s a natural step using the same tools to think, design and draw comic-books!  The pros are you don’t need to buy supplies, you don’t have accidental ink drops or paper broken and so, you don’t have to scan pages and you always can have a safe copy of your work if you have mistakes.  It allows much more experimenting, too, because you aren’t afraid of ruining the page because of it.  The cons are you don’t have an actual original page to offer to collectors, but this is not enough to keep me off of digital.

In the States, for a long time it was viewed that you need to live in New York City or Los Angeles to break into any kind of publishing.  This has of course changed as technologies have changed.  Are there any challenges of working so far from your current publisher?

Mikel: It’s a very confortable way to work.  You work at home, so you don’t expend money in transport or even phone.  An internet connection is enough.  But this means you rarely interact with other people in the business, except by e-mail. Seeing the faces and hearing the voices is important too, for us human beings, so I try to go to conventions and say hello and shake hands with editors, publishers and other artists.  It’s a need.

In addition to the slate of Justice League Dark characters, Mikel has drawn the New 52 updated versions of Cyborg, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman into his series.

Are there any creators you particularly would like to work with someday?

Mikel: Yes! I’m very happy so far, because I had the chance of drawing scripts from so talented guys like Peter Milligan, J.T. Krul and Adam Glass.  And I’m currently working with Jeff Lemire, whose Animal Man I’m very much in love.  But of course I’d love to work with lots of creators, like Ed Brubaker, Gail Simone, Scott Snyder or Geoff Johns, to say a few.

What is the local reaction to your work and your exclusive contract with DC Comics?  In the States the New 52 has been big news this year, appearing in the press even outside the comics industry and traditional fan base.  Has there been a similar reaction back home?

Mikel: Yes, fans in Spain are excited too.  I think many of them are skeptical about the relaunch, but there’s a lot of buzz and excitement.  The New 52 will be here in May, so let’s see how they take it!  I’m happy with the reaction to my work and my exclusive contract too.

With Justice League Dark how did you approach the creation of new looks for characters, in particular the new look for Zatanna and her new costume?

Mikel: My first designs were the classical look for them, just minor tweaks. Then editors told me that they were looking for something new, and they wanted Zatanna to be more sexy, between Catwoman and Emma Frost, so I came with the corset and fishnets in her arms and they liked it a lot.  We decided to play with corsets, jackets, leather pants and fishnets, with variations from issue to issue.  The idea is it’s not a costume.  She has her costume for stage, as a work uniform, but these are her clothes.  See, you don’t have your McDonalds shirt when you’re going to save the world!

You attended the New York Comic Con this year.  What was your reaction to NYCC? Did you get to meet any creators who you personally are a fan of?

Mikel: It was HUGE.  I was so happy, it was a dream for me.  Being in the DC offices, saying hello to people that I just knew for the comic blogs was so satisfying.  Everyone there was so kind!  I had the chance to meet J.T. Krul and Adam Glass, my first writers in DC, and my friends and talented artists Mahmud Asrar, Yildiray Cinar, Joe Prado, Rafa Sandoval, and my old buddies Vicente Cifuentes, Pepe Caldelas or Will Ortego.

What should we keep an eye out for in future issues of Justice League Dark?

Mikel: It has already been announced that Jeff Lemire is taking writing duties since issue #9, with new characters joining the League and lots of action and magic all around!  I’ve read what Jeff has for next issues and I’m super-excited about it, so JLDark fans should definitely follow us in this new run!

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

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg

To get to borg.com’s first anniversary it actually took us 366 days because of the leap year.  And what a year it has been!

So what do we have to show for 366 daily posts–our attempt to keep you up to date on what is going on in science fiction, fantasy, and entertainment news?

Jason McClain and Elizabeth C. Bunce

We interviewed some great people, like DC Comics artists Freddie Williams and Mikel Janin, writers Sharon Shinn and Jai Nitz, and Star Trek insider Penny Juday.  In our “Sneak preview” series we reviewed the pilots for new TV series ABC’s New Girl and NBC’s Awake before they were broadcast on TV.  We gave you our take on several opening weekend screenings of a big year in movies from Cowboys & Aliens to Green Lantern, from the last Harry Potter film to Daniel Radcliffe’s first big adult role in The Woman in Black,  to the day of Marvel Comics movies that led up to the U.S. premiere of The Avengers We shared the first images released of The Hobbit and Total Recall We reviewed new books and classic sci-fi books in our “Retro reviews,” from Philip K. Dick, Ian Fleming, Michael Crichton, Rex Stout, Ernest Cline, and Richard Stark, and several non-fiction books about the “behind the scenes” of movies.  We covered Comic-Con International, Wondercon, Planet Comicon, Free Comic Book Day and the early release party for Avengers vs. X-Men We reviewed dozens of new comic book series, from Morning Glories to Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising and a whole slew of DC’s New 52 reboot, as well as Marvel Comics’ limited series events.  Along with that we’ve kept tabs on our (and hopefully your) favorite things like Doctor Who, Star Trek, Walking Dead, Peter Jackson, baseball, Community, Benedict Cumberbatch, the Syfy Channel, USA Network, James Bond, Batman and Green Arrow.  We’ve posted lots of original comic art to get an eye on the creative process of the artist, and we loved discussing genre costumes, including the latest news about incredible screen-used prop and costume auctions.  We’ve also taken a closer look at science fiction movies with our “Anatomy of science fiction” series, featuring iconic images, and the evolution of space suits in film.  And to give you ideas for movie watching from the archives, we provided our “favorites” and “best of” series, revealing our recommendations for overlooked TV series, Halloween flicks, favorite fantasy films, best adaptations, favorite characters, and best art of Alex Ross and Frank Cho.  We’ve profiled favorite genre stars like David Warner, John Carpenter and Mark Sheppard.  We’ve reviewed new compact discs from some of our favorite celebrities, Hugh Laurie and Zoey Deschanel, as well as new fantasy video games.  And finally, we’ve talked about borgs from every sci-fi franchise out there, and even how borg technology as cutting edge science affects humans in real life.

Art Schmidt and CJ Bunce

We think we like what you’d like, so we’ve tried to help you get the most out of entertainment by recommending to you the best sci-fi, fantasy and entertainment out there.

A personal thanks to professional writers Elizabeth C. Bunce (fantasy author, intrepid TV reviewer and fangirl), Jason McClain (Hollywood columnist and master of myriad musings) and Art Schmidt (diehard genre fan and fantasy realm connoisseur) for their great contributions and getting us more than 250,000 site visits and hundreds of positive feedback comments in only our first year.

Thanks for reading!  Year 2 begins tomorrow…

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

What better way to celebrate borg.com’s 100,000th site visit than share some news about one of our favorite superheroes?  Hollywood writer Jason McClain alerted me to this news item, as it’s no secret I’m one of the biggest Green Arrow fans around.  The news?

The CW Network has ordered a TV series pilot featuring Green Arrow that will, happily, not be related to the Smallville series’ spin on the character.  The producer/writers tapped to create the pilot are Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, the two writers responsible for last year’s Green Lantern movie, and ex-writer for the Green Arrow/Black Canary comic book series, Andrew Kreisberg.

Kreisberg took over the comic book series after Judd Winick moved off the GA/BC title.  He teamed with artist Mike Norton after Cliff Chiang left the series.  I have read Kreisberg’s take on Green Arrow and Black Canary, and I liked it.  Kreisberg wrote some good modern stories featuring the trio in both a lighthearted and action-packed way.  He clearly knows the roots of these characters and their strong relationships with each other, and hopefully he can convey that into the script for the pilot and get it onto the small screen.  He also once acknowledged that there is no other superhero team out there that is a married couple, that that IS Green Arrow’s story.  Right on!

Here are some unsolicited recommendations for Kreisberg, Berlanti and Guggenheim to make the series get off the ground right:

(1)  You might view your TV show as an ensemble show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  An ensemble genre work usually is better than a solo character-focused show (think about the failed series The Cape and why it didn’t work, for example) because although we all loved the title character of Buffy Summers, we loved supporting characters Willow and Xander even more.  And like the best Batman stories, letting the lead hero take the back seat once in a while is a good thing.  At the same time, I didn’t watch Smallville because Clark never donned the supersuit.  Show Green Arrow in action with the bow once in a while, but just not in every scene.

(2)  Take the best of the Green Arrow canon and it will easily translate to today.  The “Hard Traveling Heroes” storyline that put both Green Arrow and Green Lantern on the map and made us want to know more about these characters was a road trip across America.  Something like the Winchester boys moving across country with every new episode in Supernatural.  You might laugh, but On the Road with Charles Kuralt, the CBS segment where he took an off-the-beaten path tour of America, lasted decades for a reason.  Viewers liked to see where he would go next.  You’ll have an unlimited number of settings for your story, too, if you keep the team moving, assuming they let you work with all three characters.

The Kid, Etta, and Butch--archetype for Ollie, Dinah, and Hal

(3)  Everyone likes a good “buddy picture.”  I have mentioned before how the “Hard Traveling Heroes” storyline reflected the 1969 world view, and 1969 entertainment.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid came out in 1969 and was still in theaters when Denny O’Neil wrote the classic Green Arrow and Green Lantern crossover.  Did some of the hit movie rub off on O’Neil?  Who knows.  If you pay attention, you’ll see that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a buddy picture with three buddies, almost a “love triangle,” including some brotherly love between Butch and Ross’s character Etta Place.  That’s right, Katherine Ross’s role as the Kid’s girlfriend, and Butch’s pal, was as important to the film as each of the title characters.  Black Canary/Dinah Lance could have that same crucial role in a TV series about Ollie and Hal.

(4)  Even if Warner Brothers wants to keep Hal Jordan/Green Lantern out of the series, you must include Black Canary/Dinah Lance.  Don’t botch this by pulling ideas from the Dinah Lance of the short-lived Birds of Prey series.  It was good for what it was.  But you want dark-haired Dinah that sports the blonde wig used to go incognito, not the stilted friend of Oracle.  Green Arrow/Oliver Queen can go solo from time to time, but only when he can return to Dinah is he at his best.

(5)  Stay away from the DC 52 Green Arrow storyline and the obvious idea of having Oliver participate in some form of anti-big business Occupy Wall Street movement.  Sure, in real life, Ollie would be leading up the OWS marches, but I think most viewers don’t want a show about superheroes in current politics and as much as everyone hates greedy corporate America, more personal storylines will appeal to modern viewers.   The current series Leverage does this very well.  Think local.  Don’t have Ollie take on all of the world’s problems, have him take on each human problem bit by bit, maybe town by town.  It worked brilliantly for Adams and O’Neil.

Original Mike Norton art from a story under Kreisberg's turn as writer for Green Arrow/Black Canary

(6)  Oliver Queen is not Bruce Wayne.  He’s much more layered.  Queen is not a billionaire.  He lost all his money, and that allowed him to get interesting.  Don’t even waste time on his backstory as billionaire as it will only emphasize his role as a one-time obvious Batman knockoff.

(7)  Read up on your Mike Grell era of Green Arrow stories.  Grell was an ex-government intelligence guy who ended up writing spy novels and comic books.  He took the Neal Adams/Denny O’Neil Green Arrow and Black Canary and brought them into downtown Seattle and injected the backwoods survival skills and mixed it with street smarts.  He made Ollie the Urban Warrior.  This itself harkened back to the iconic Green Lantern Issue #76’s story whereby Green Arrow first takes on a greedy slumlord that Hal Jordan was unintentionally actually helping.

Personal sketch of Ollie and Dinah by Mike Grell

(8)  We know from past interviews that Andrew Kreisberg likes the role of Green Arrow and Black Canary as Oliver and Dinah–husband and wife.  Consider building on Mike Grell’s series, where they run the Sherwood Florist in Seattle by day.  And what the heck, work in Mia and Connor if you can.  And if you must update costumes, you gotta bring back Ollie’s goatee.  As Mikel Janin proved with his excellent recent update to similarly costumed Zatanna, Dinah’s fishnets can be optional.

(9)  The Flash TV series had a lot going for it.  One was the age of the actor in the lead roll, John Wesley Shipp, former soap actor.  He wasn’t 20-something.  He was 35 and looked like he could be a superhero in real life.  If you’re staying away from Smallville (a great move) then give us heroes who have had time to gain some wisdom, not some newbies who have no way of practically knowing all they would need to know in real life to get through their trials on the show (the TV series Bones is a big example of this glaring absurdity with its only-young cast that has knowledge you could only gain by being twice the age of the cast members).  Look for actors in their 30s or or even early 40s.

(10)  Suggested title?  If you take any of the ideas above, how about Hard Traveling, Hard Traveling Hero, or Hard Traveling Heroes?  Of course there are always other former storyline titles like Quiver.

I have no idea what limitations will be placed on Kreisberg & Co. as they work out the script for the TV series pilot.  Maybe they have no intention of including Hal and Dinah, but if they can, it could be something new and different and very fun.

If you want to see Andrew Kreisberg’s stories while writing for Ollie and Dinah, you can buy compilations, including: Green Arrow/Black Canary: Enemies List, Green Arrow/Black Canary: Big Game, and Green Arrow/Black Canary: Five Stages.

And Andrew, if you need help with story ideas, drop me a line.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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