Tag Archive: Jason McClain


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

TNG_Day_#40_01212015-28.dng

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Column by J. Torrey McClain

In theaters now, if you look quickly and listen closely, you can see my profile and hear my voice in the fantastic new movie from Shane Black, The Nice Guys.  I recommend seeing The Nice Guys, not only for me, but because it is a dry, fun, and interesting movie that has a number of laughs.  But, as usual, the movie is the background to my musings and in this case, my personal experience.

On my birthday in 2015, I got a text and a phone call on my way to meeting with friends.  Since I was in the car, I didn’t pick up, my preference, and waited until I was walking along the sidewalk to my destination, expecting to see calls and texts with well-wishes.  As I looked, I got another call, from my call-in booking service.  I answered and immediately gave my acknowledgement that I was available to work the next day.  It was only after this that I was able to look at the text and see that it was my first union gig, as a photo double.

To understand this all-new stage as a background actor, I must explain my normal experiences.  As a friend once relayed to me from a recent L.A. Times article, background actors are known as props that eat. Generally there are at least 20 of us descending upon a production to provide atmosphere and a realistic look of city streets, courtrooms, bars, malls or wherever the protagonists need to be.  We sit, we walk, we mime talking, we run for cover, we sit in a Ferris wheel, we play at eating food and generally try to be as real as possible with several cameras capturing the moment.  In between the scenes, we descend like locusts on craft services, lunch catering and our holding area, eating, talking, reading, writing, playing music or whatever we do to make the eight, ten, 12 or longer hours to pass by while assistant directors and production assistants try to corral us and keep us to a mild whisper so as not disturb filming.  I love the job as the time in between gives me moments with graphic novels or whatever I’m reading at the time, but it can be stifling to many others with low tolerances to being told exactly what to do, wanting to talk, preferring not to listen and expecting the spotlight.  If you’re happy just fading into the background and realizing that your issues are the smallest in the world of a production with many moving parts, days pass wonderfully well.

nice guys

My days on The Nice Guys were so much different.  My first day of my first union gig, I was nervous.  When I met the production assistant checking me in and he said something along the line of these words, “Great, glad you’re here!  This day is all about you,” my nerves shot up a notch as it became apparent that I was the only background actor there.  Instead of being sent off to hang with the other extras, I got to eat at the same time and table with the crew.  I felt guilty of impostor syndrome as I sat among the people there on a daily basis with specific jobs to make the production move forward.  After finishing my food, I got a full haircut from the people in the hair department along with some grey added to my dark brown hair to match the original actor.  A special suit of specific clothes awaited me at wardrobe.  Once ready for the camera, I arrived on set, ready to exit the production van, one of the PAs opened up an umbrella for me and held it over me until, feeling very sheepish, I took it from him and walked toward set.

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10 Cloverfield

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Column by J. Torrey McClain

For most of 10 Cloverfield Lane, the story takes place in an underground bunker without a view into the outside world. I dig those types of movies, like Room, where the audience is left to imagine what really is outside the camera’s purview.  The movies hint at something horrible outside until it is confirmed through a kidnapper or a woman scarred by some unknown pathogen, microscopic or much larger.  But, for a short time, we all have different ideas of what is happening in the world outside the movie.  What rarely pokes its head into our thoughts is what is happening outside the theater as we watch the make believe on the screen.

As a former janitor of a movie theater (as I have talked about before in my explorations in the horror genre) I began to see the theater as a closed environment.  While in the theater, the movie audience has no clue what is happening in the real world (assuming they turn their phones to silent and keep them in their purses or pockets).  From the time the overhead lights dim until they brighten again, the only world the viewer knows is that dark room with a story that envelops them in projected light and sound.

10Cloverfield

A lot can happen in as little as 90 minutes.  The world we know when we walk through the theater door can change dramatically.  It can be a local event or a worldwide one. Only if it is big enough to stir the theater itself or to cause our phones to suddenly beep with emergency messages will it enter our awareness.  The real world might never cut through the sound of Space Marines exploring an abandoned space colony or the laughs that erupt when watching two idiots clad in neon tuxedos trying to one up each other.  It has to be something big for us to turn our attention away from The Terminator as the future hangs in the balance once again.

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The Witch screencap

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Column by J. Torrey McClain

I saw The Witch last week and I got a few true scares.  I also felt a little sleepy at a few points due to a big meal beforehand, poor sleep hygiene at the moment and possibly, possibly, due to the movie and its time period.  It has made me wonder, when in the history, present and future of the universe is the best setting for horror?

I’ve written before on horror in the future when I looked at A Walk in the Dark by Arthur C. Clarke.  (I won’t make myself shudder by mentioning spooky little girls again.)  As I wrote about in that essay, the compelling element of that story came from its application to any time period.  The dark scares us.  The dark scared us.  The dark will continue to scare us.

The future can be scary in its own period as any watching or re-watching of Alien can stir up the tension and fear of meeting with the unknown on the fringes of space.  If not a xenomorph, maybe it’s the weeping angels of “Blink” or the Vashta Nerada of “Silence in the Library” from Doctor Who that get you.  The future combines the unknown of our nightmares with the familiarity of the present (video stores, libraries, kitchens) set in just enough of a different place to make it believable.  When won’t we have libraries?  (In the presence of eBooks, after Netflix all but eliminated video stores, I maybe should have kept that question to myself.)  When won’t we gather with others to eat?  When won’t we watch video entertainment?

video store x

The present scares me because I can insert myself into the world of self-documentation like in The Blair Witch Project or the world of the omnipresence of cameras in the various Paranormal Activity movies.  As I type, someone could be scoping me as I scrutinize my screen, attired in a Kingdom Come Superman shirt.  Properly spooked, I may throw in the towel on this essay, go to my bed, open my Spanish language-learning app and get watched through the camera on my phone.  I could put the phone face down and still not solve the possibility of someone watching me through the rear-facing camera as I crack open one of those library books that pedants might argue as far-fetched.

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Innocence–Locke & Key

Locke & key

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Column by J. Torrey McClain

I just finished reading all six trade paperbacks for the main story of Locke & Key. (I will get to the side stories as soon as I finish Brightest Day and catch up on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, if other comics on my wish list don’t distract me first.)  It is fabulous in its creativity and has a few chilling scares.  One thing stuck in my mind though, and as readers know, that’s what causes my keyboard to clack and click.  In this case, the question I pose to myself is, “At what age do we lose our innocence?”

Per Locke & Key and many forms of government all over the United States and abroad, the age that innocence ends is 18, or in other words, around the time a person graduates high school.  In Locke & Key, the junior members of the Locke family host a party at the end of high school for the people that know about the keys because the knowledge will fade as adulthood surges into the body and possesses it.  I don’t quibble with Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez on their selection of this age or time in our lives, I just wonder what makes 18 the magic age at which we become adults.  Not only is 18 generally when people graduate high school, it’s when they are given the right to vote, it’s the age when they can own a gun in California and the last thing that comes to my mind is that it’s when they can enlist in the armed forces to fight and possibly die for their country.  I suppose any of those things could convey a degree in adulthood or at least a grown-up GED certificate.

Bode Locke

However, you can’t drink alcohol legally until you’re 21.  You can drive a two-ton vehicle capable of killing people at the age of 16.  You graduate college sometime around the age of 22.  You graduate law school at around the age of 25 if you start right out of undergraduate school.  Medical school is even longer.  If you are still in school, can you be an adult?  What if you are paying every one of your bills?  What if you’re not?

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Hail, Caesar! A day in the life…

Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Column by J. Torrey McClain

When I first walked out of the new Coen Brothers release Hail, Caesar! my initial thoughts were that I wanted more.  I wanted more scenes of the characters that just had brief moments.  I wanted more of Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie Doyle.  I wanted more of Tilda Swinton as the Thacker sisters.  I wanted more of Channing Tatum as Burt Gurney.  I wanted more of just about everything (and instead of listing each and every wonderful actor, I choose to stop and get to my point.)  A few seconds later, I realized that the movie isn’t about any of those supporting people.  It is barely about the star, Josh Brolin playing Eddie Mannix*, a fictionalized version of a real life MGM fixer and studio head.  It is about a day in the life of Eddie Mannix.  Think about that for a second and then join me in the next paragraph.

*(For more Mannix, march over to MGM Stories from “You Must Remember This.”)

What’s a day in the life for anyone?  Do you see all of your loved ones?  Do you talk to all of your family?  Do you get to pet your pets?  Do you work?  Do you make love?

Channing Tatum Hail Caesar

A day in the life doesn’t have to be miraculous, stupendous, monumental or anything.  A day in the life is.  If you asked me yesterday what my life was like, I’d tell you I walked along the Pacific Ocean, ate fresh seafood at a seafood “shack,” saw clear vistas devoid of pollution due to low humidity and high winds, played a trivia video game against my girlfriend and went 1-1, and I drove people around as a Lyft driver.  Today I duplicated my driving, walked for forty minutes, gave my kittens their morning treats, got a positive phone call from my doctor, got a book recommendation from one of my Lyft passengers and started to write this essay and the day is not even seven hours old.  Maybe I’ll apply for jobs later or read a book or watch a documentary or fix myself a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon.  My future is in a state of flux as one of my kitten’s tails wags back and forth in front of my laptop’s screen, obscuring words just like the sands of time obscure the future of today.

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SMT X

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Column by J. Torrey McClain

Around this time last year, my good friend Steve suggested that we check out A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) at the Silent Movie Theater here in Los Angeles and I had no clue what it was.  I briefly checked the description, saw a positive Metacritic score and thought to myself, “Why the heck not?”  I ended up seeing a fantastic slow-burning film that made the vampire genre fresh.  I also saw one of the best images to portray a character in a long time.

Early in the film, the co-protagonist girl vampire decides to go home with a drug dealer who had previously threatened the other protagonist as well as a local streetwalker.  As he bursts into his lair, he walks by a large fish tank and gives it a smack.  Seconds later he’s doing lines of cocaine on a glass table, a mounted deer head and a mounted antelope head on the wall behind him, before turning on the annoying techno.  He sits on a couch draped with a blanket of what looks like tigers that would jump out under black light.  In the corner there is a hookah.  As the girl vampire explores the rest of the pad, she finds a set of drums just below a large marijuana leaf poster.  I laughed to myself as I immediately realized I had in those brief seconds already characterized this asshole in my mind with no redeeming qualities.  Sure, the actions earlier helped, but that apartment spoke to me clearly and it screamed into my brain “HE IS A DOUCHEBRO.”

douchebro

Those items and that music might not mean the same thing to every person.  Maybe to others they see a seedy drug-dealing criminal.  Some may see a guy that is definitely more current in his musical taste than I (as Clem Snide and The Replacements play as I write.)  Others may see an advocate for marijuana besides business reasons that has been stigmatized due to its frequent use by hippies and non-WASPs.  (I put myself in the advocate camp, by the way, as the criminalization and the imprisonment of many people in jail due to marijuana related offenses seems to be one of the many effects of the inherent racism in our justice system.  But, that’s for another discussion at another time by others much more qualified than I.  Check out Deray McKesson on Twitter to start your journey on that front or some of the great essays in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the soon-to-be author of the Marvel comic Black Panther).  I just know that for my viewpoint, the more the scene unfolded, the more it verified my judgment.

Such is the magic of great set design.  As a background actor, I get to see lots of set design up close.  Items might not show up distinctly on camera, but choices get made in the costume, prop and set departments that impact the feel of a scene.  The care that the professionals take in these aspects of filmed entertainment mesmerizes me more than most things.

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Crying at the Movies–Spotlight

Field of Dreams catch scene

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Column by J. Torrey McClain

I have cried in many movies.  It took me a while to allow the tears to silently flow instead of fighting them back to maintain a sense of dignity that I imagined more that I possessed.  I can keep crying at the same scene after many viewings, but I’m not sure I can elucidate why.  Recently I watched Spotlight–the Oscar nominated movie–and I cried for a very different reason than I have before.  Before I get to that one though, I figure I will run down a list of some of the movies that made me cry and try to rationalize why on all of them.

Scrooged – Ever since I saw this film in the theater, there is one moment at the end that gets me every time.  It’s the moment that Calvin Cooley walks up to Frank Cross and tugs on his coat.  Bill Murray, as Cross, looks down after his big rambling speech, tears streaking his face and says, “Did I forget something big man?”  Cooley whispers his first words since his father dies and says, “You forgot to say ‘God bless us everyone,’” at least how I remember it.  Why does it still get me?  Maybe it is Calvin’s story that we as the audience see as a companion to Cross’s story and the tragedy therein of his assistant.  Maybe it’s stellar writing that makes a single character wait to speak until he has something magical to say.  Maybe it’s just the sentiments that accompany Christmastime.  I’ll bet it is the part of me that empathizes with Cross and all of the stress and responsibility of being an adult and remembering that sometimes being a child allows innocence to have the perspective to get to the point with just a few words.

SCROOGED, Nicholas Phillips, Bill Murray, Alfre Woodard, 1988, (c)Paramount

Field of Dreams – Many a man has had his stoic expression cracked by this movie when Ray Kinsella and his father are reunited.  It’s the moment where just before his father leaves again, Ray gets up the courage to stop him in his tracks and asks, “You wanna have a catch?” As the Ghost of Christmas Past says in “Scrooged,” it’s Niagara Falls for me. I remember kneeling before my TV during this scene as tears streamed down my face like never before or since.  I sobbed out loud.  I’m sure that’s why the Ghost of Christmas Past knows how to get Frank Cross to sob.  It’s the memories of the times past, those fleeting moments with family that as an adult I want to have had more of those times.  Even if they were plentiful, the past seems far away and the times few as life keeps pushing forward and spreadsheets replace baseball mitts.

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Robert Pittman Wikipedia Commons Killer Whales

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Column by J. Torrey McClain

I do not currently host a pet of any kind in my home.  I grew up with a cat and dogs and I love to visit friends and family with cats and dogs, but it has been a long time since I have enjoyed the company of a pet 24/7.  I add that preface because I want to say that I don’t have stories of a pet’s behavior that reveal “emotions,” “feelings” and “empathy.”  I use quotes because I do not want to personify any animal mostly from a place of ignorance but also from a place of logic.  How I interpret and see the world HAS to be different than a pet.  But, I will not claim they don’t “feel,” I will not claim they don’t “learn,” I will not claim they aren’t “intelligent;” I just don’t know if human language has a word for how animals see the world.

As far as how humans treat animals, I understood about obvious cruelty like I’d see in reports of dog fighting, circus cages and pet abuse.  I remember even in high school, thinking that the idea of anyone “owning” an animal seemed fishy to me and I began to think that zoos might not be the best idea, except in cases of endangered animals, injured animals, education or scientific study, but only in limited scale.  I didn’t think much beyond this for a long time.

In my consumption of books due to my own curiosity and recommendations from friends, I read about nutrition.  I read about healthy diets.  I read about fast food ingredients and practices.  I read about modern factory farm practices.  I read about the idea of sustainable farming.  All of this got stored in my noggin.  Then, I watched the documentary Blackfish.  I started to consider removing meat from my diet as all my experiences combined to form this idea.  It had been simmering in my mind, but the impetus of the call to action came from Blackfish.

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Ant Lucia

In addition to great creators from outside the Midwest, like Black Widow artist Phil Noto (as we mentioned here at borg.com yesterday), the great thing about returning to a Con year after year is running into all our friends who write, sketch, or paint incredible works for a living.  Planet Comicon 2015 was no different.

Take for instance Des Moines artist Ant Lucia (pictured above).  Three years ago Ant was just beginning to put together great genre characters like DC superheroes and Star Wars characters in a unique retro style of poster art.  Flash forward to 2014 and an entire month of cover art at DC Comics was devoted to his creations, and statues based on his DC Bombshell designs are selling off the shelves in every town across the country.  Ant’s beautiful designs are second to none, and there’s not a more deserving guy to achieve such success from his ideas.

Other creators at Planet Comicon this weekend with national success included Jason Aaron, who had his own rock star sized line of fans getting his new Star Wars series autographed, as well as artist Freddie Williams II, drawing sketches for fans and signing copies of his Legendary Starlord series, among other works.

Jordan and Fyffe

Pictured above are artists Damont Jordan and Bryan Fyffe.  Damont had a new “spirit fox” print available that blew us away, and he churned out sketches for fans all weekend long.  And we noticed other artists at the Con were coming to Bryan’s booth to buy his framed art for their own homes.  Bryan has the best eye for design of anyone we know, and creates a variety of inspired multi-media works.  His most recent commercial illustration was for some major franchise properties, as well as the cover of John Renehan’s new novel The Valley.  Check out some of his work at his website here.

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