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Tag Archive: Lost


By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

I first read Jeff Jensen when a friend introduced me to his long explorations on each episode of Lost.  Almost two years after we both said goodbye to the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815, I read his Dark Horse graphic novel, Green River Killer: A True Detective Story.   I enjoy, wait, strike that pronoun and verb, let me start again.  The study and pursuit of serial killers by law enforcement agents interests me.  So, before I delve into what this book made me think about, let me just say that it’s a fascinating look at a detective who pursues the Green River Killer, Tom Jensen, the father of Jeff.

Whom does the author decide to follow?  For Jeff, I’m sure it was an easy decision to paint the portrait of his father and his family through the years and to intersperse it with the interrogation of Gary Leon Ridgway and a couple of scenes from Ridgway’s point of view.

For this genre, it’s a unique take.  For the take of the investigator, you have the books of John Douglas.  For the view from the killer, you have a number of books and movies like American Psycho and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.  This one, though technically the story of Tom Jensen, gives the obvious feeling that it is told through the eyes of a son.  Maybe I read too much into it, but the art of the novel feels like the scenes with Tom Jensen are from a perspective of someone shorter, listening to stories about how his father met his mother and looking up at him and his achievements.

It made me think of other graphic novels, books and movies and how that simple change of an author’s perspective can make a completely different story.  Think of Blade Runner from the perspective of Rachael, as a guy comes in and gives you the replicant tests.  Once that happens, if we follow her character, this revelation could change every relationship she has.  Does she wonder how people look at her?  Does she try to find answers at her job?  How would the movie change if told entirely from the viewpoint of Pris and how she just wanted to live, but a ruthless killer kept pursuing her?  What if it was from the angle of J.F. Sebastian who just wanted to find companionship?

I could go on as you can probably already see the different angels of your favorite movies, but humor me for a couple more.  What if The Lord of the Rings came from the view of the elves?  What if Eight Men Out told the story of the victorious Cincinnati Reds and how they won the World Series but the losers and their scandal overshadowed their victory?  What if instead of Harry Potter, the books focused on the bright, muggle-born Hermione Granger?

The whole idea of Wicked is The Wizard of Oz from a different view.  Elizabeth Bunce retold the story of Rumpelstiltskin in A Curse Dark As Gold completely from the view of the miller’s daughter and made her the heroine.

How does a writer choose a perspective?  What character can interest both the writer as they write and the reader as they read?

When I went to Comic-Con and sat in on a panel with Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, they said what made Batman so interesting is that people could relate to him.  He’s human like us all and he has suffered terrible losses.  Everyone can understand those feelings and motivations.  They said it made it easy to write and create for that character.  They could interject themselves into the story.

On the other hand, Hannibal Lecter inspires book after book and movie after movie and I don’t think there are many genius cannibals in the world.  Then again, do writers need to be genius cannibals to step into those shoes, or just need to find the mundane and the ordinary contemptible?  I find it interesting that Lecter becomes a kind of hero in the stories movies even though he is a sadistic killer.  In real life serial killers aren’t heroes; they are Gary Leon Ridgway.  The eponymous Dexter makes a bit more sense as a hero because he only kills other killers.  If you accept that, then it’s not that far of a stretch to get back to Batman who doesn’t kill, he merely beats and cripples the bad guys.

At their heart, these example characters seek justice.  Rick Deckard seeks justice for the people the replicants killed to escape.  The criminal justice system places the Black Sox on trial to make them atone for accepting money to throw games.  Batman seeks to keep the streets safe from crime so that no one will have to face the pain he did.

A search for justice beats at the heart of many a crime story.  The search for love lies at the heart of love story.  If you want to tell a horror story, it’s about trying to find safety, and if you want to tell the story from the opposite side, it might be the search for retribution or something much darker.  If you make the darkness ridiculous enough, you’ve got yourself a dark comedy.

We all have a story to tell.  We all have a unique point of view.  Every author has to decide what their story will be and what character can best tell it.  I’ve heard it said that every story has already been written, and while that may be true, not every story has been told from every point of view.

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By C.J. Bunce

Today we know what happened to Charles Van Doren, either through living through the aftermath of the quiz show scandals or watching the movie Quiz Show.  Like McCarthyism and later like Watergate, certain events poke at the public and make you question what is going on around you.  Comparing ourselves to readers in the 1950s we know that we never made it to Venus  colonization in the 1990s.  We know that Marilyn Monroe would die young.  We know that Tucker’s automobile would not get very far.  Imagine the era of the Cleavers in Leave it to Beaver.  When Sandra Dee didn’t have to worry about her future but could smile and make everyone happy on the big screen.  Imagine back to the world of the Twilight Zone, but the Twilight Zone neighborhoods before weird things start to happen.

To me, it all looks black and white.  That is of course because of television, because movies had color in the 1950s.  Kodak photos were in color in the 1950s.  But even if you grew up in the 1970s you got to see everything your parents watched because of the miracle of cable TV.

Of course Time Out of Joint could take place anywhere, but it is roughly 1958 when Philip K. Dick wrote Time Out of Joint that we meet Vic and Ragle and Margo and Junie and Bill.  A time when Charles Van Doren was winning game shows on television.  Upheaval in the Middle East.  Recession, millions unemployed.  Familiar?  A normal family: Vic who works the registers at the grocery store, stay-at-home wife but civically active Margo, and son Sammy.  Margo’s brother Ragle, irresponsible, single, 46 years old and flirts with the neighbor’s wife, lives with Vic and Margo and spends the day answering contest entries in the newspaper.  He works as hard as anyone who works full-time, simply to keep winning the contests, and he has won two years in a row–national champion, his photo published in the newspaper.  Publicity of Ragle as local winner was good for the local paper.

If you have ever moved across the country to a new city, you probably felt uneasy at first.  Maybe its the new trees that look like nothing you grew up with.  Ocean where you knew only plains.  Seasons that don’t change quite right.  Simple things like grocery store chains you never heard of in your several years as resident of planet Earth.  And yet some things are familiar and you gravitate toward those places.  Maybe it is something as familair as a Target store or A&W root beer stand.  Anything that can help you get your bearing.  maybe you put your phone down at home and later find it in your car.  Too much on your mind?  Or is it something else?

Neighbors Bill and Junie Black come over to Vic and Margo’s with espresso and lasagna one night.  And tidbits of information make the reader feel like something is a little off.  Sammy’s radio gets no signal, and we learn there has been no radio reception nearby for years.  As a reader, you are slowly sucked into a world like our expected America of the 1950s, but something makes us uneasy.  Vic walks into a room fumbling for a light cord that is not there.  He doesn’t remember the room having a light switch.  Soon Ragle becomes the central character in our trip back 50 years.

Vic is paranoid.  But not so much as Ragle.  No surprise, since this is the age of paranoia, right?  Russians, civil defense alerts…all ready for the Bay of Pigs coming soon to a bomb shelter near you.  Everyone is a bit… paranoid, everyone except Bill Black.  Vic suggests Ragle can pull it all together, after all, he solves riddles with data and charts and scientific-precision calculations in their living room.

Later in the week Ragle asks Junie to go swimming, a break from strategizing his contest entries.  She recalls walking up steps where there should have been three steps but there were only two.  Ragle can’t seem to get the oddities out of his brain.  He walks to the soft-drink stand to get a beer, and it dematerializes leaving a note that states “SOFT-DRINK STAND.”  Ragle thinks he is having a nervous breakdown.  He wants to quit the contests and take a vacation out of the country.  He tells Vic.  Vic and Ragle agree something is wrong.  Somehow “the time is out of joint.”

Sammy has more slips of paper he picked up at the site of some old houses Margo was trying to have leveled by the city to protect kids from getting hurt there after school.  Ragle buys the slips of paper from Sammy and goes to the ruins and unearths several magazines he is not familair with and a phone book from an unrecognizable town and time period.  He begins calling the numbers and the operator says to try the call again.  He questions the operator and she hangs up on him.  He flips through the magazines.  One features a story that Laurence Olivier is dead.  “But he’s alive, I know it,” says Margo.  And there is a photo of a beautiful woman none have them have seen before and the magazines speak of her as if she is famous.  “Marilyn Monroe.”  The magazine says she is famous here in America.  But that can’t be.  No one has heard of her.

As readers, and suggested by Dick, is Ragle just mentally ill?  After all, he lives with his sister’s family at age 46.  He doesn’t have a real job but sleuths out word games not by solving puzzles, but like the kids that ace the SATs because they figured out the supposedly random code of the bubble dots.

The next morning neighbor Bill Black gets to work and receives a report.  About the phone calls being made.  He rushes to the office of a man named Lowery.  Could all this be happening?  Is Ragle sane again?  Suddenly we are thrust into a world that could be found in the TV series Lost.  But this experience is for more personal, far more real.  Hints at the world Dick would later write that would become the film The Adjustment Bureau and short story “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale,” that M. Night Shyamalan would uncover with The Village, that Bruce Willis encountered in Mercury Rising, that Rod Serling would investigate in “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” and countless other Twilight Zone episodes.  That The Truman Show would unapologetically borrow from decades later.  But there is more here.  Dick reveals ideas in his novels in a way that seems relevant and current, even 50 years later.  Time Out of Joint is no different, and is one of my favorites of all his works.

My hints at read-alikes and watch-alikes above will give you a hint at themes to expect in this solid science fiction work that today would be side by side with mainstream bestsellers as the science fiction is only a small part of what happens to these characters.  Looks for themes that Dick pursues in later works, like the meaning of what is real, who we are.  I have a stack of all but one of Dick’s works and plan to make my way through many of them again and others for the first time.  If you have only met Philip K. Dick through the numerous movies based on his works, then there is a giant volume of brilliant novels, and maybe even more brilliant short stories that lies ahead.  Time Out of Joint would be a great entry into Dick’s work.

A familiar group in the original costume and prop collecting arena attended Comic-Con again this year.  We ran into Jon Mankuta and Brian Chanes from Profiles in History on the convention floor Friday.  They also create the SyFy network show Hollywood Treasure, a show I regularly watch to see both the discoveries they find, the collectors of Hollywood memorabilia (like a guy that looks like Santa Claus who has a house full of rare costumes from movies like Elf and A Christmas Story), and, of course, the costumes and props themselves. 

Jon Mankuta from the auction house and TV show eyed our Alien Nation latex heads from across the main walkway in the heart of the convention floor and had a guy in the crowd snap this shot. 

 

Jon is one of those guys that when you see him you have this feeling like you’ve known him for years.   He was having fun at the Con like every other fanboy in the crowd, checking out the booths and sporting a Lost T-shirt.  Jon actually played one of The Others in the Lost TV series and among other acting gigs he performed in sketches during the 2002-2006 years of Saturday Night Live.  It was great meeting someone working at an auction house who gets as excited seeing artifacts from movies just as much as the rest of us.  Coincidentally, later in the day Brian Chanes grabbed us in the crowd for a similar photo.  Later in the weekend we met up with Brian again (below right) and Profiles president Joe Maddalena (below left): 

Profiles is a great resource for screen-used props and costumes of every price range–Profiles is the auction house we featured in earlier posts that sold that record breaking Marilyn Monroe dress from Seven Year Itch, among other pieces in the Debbie Reynolds Collection.  I have also had the pleasure of working with Fong Sam at the auction house, a great guy who coordinates prop and costume auctions and takes phone bids on auction day. 

In past years at Comic-Con, Profiles in History had featured an advance look at props from various movies and TV series that were to be featured in upcoming auctions.  This year they linked up with Desi DosSantos from Screenused.com who has a nice collection of Back to the Future costumes and props.  His crown jewel is one of the DeLorean Time Machine cars from the series (from the third movie in the franchise).   Profiles in History and Desi worked with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (TEAMFOX.org) this year to take photos of convention-goers sitting in the car for a $20 donation, raising more than $11,000 for the charity.  Nice job!  And if you missed seeing the Time Machine car at Comic-Con, the San Diego Air and Space Museum will have it on display through August 13, 2011.

Strangely enough, the Profiles in History booth did not have the only Back to the Future car at Comic-Con.  On the other side of the convention center a replica Time Machine was on display (a DeLorean updated with replica movie parts under the direction of the film’s director, Robert Zemeckis), creating a sort of deja vu for the crowd.  (The replica is pictured at the top of this post).

And if you need your own Back to the Future Time Machine DeLorean, keep an eye out for the December Profiles in History auction where the real car from the Profiles booth will be auctioned, along with part 2 of the Debbie Reynolds auction.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Zachary Levi (Chuck on the TV series Chuck) took over Jolt’n Joe’s Restaurant in San Diego’s Gaslight District and during Comic-Con weekend he sold tickets to the public to benefit Operation Smile, a charity that helps children born with cleft palates.  Ultimately his “Nerd HQ,” along with selling nerd merchandising for Levi’s new enterprise, was able to collect more than $40,000 for the charity.  Nice work!

Over the weekend, the small venue of about 250 seats hosted members of the casts of Chuck, Psych, and Firefly, including Dule Hill and Adam Baldwin, and chats with Dominic Monaghan (Lord of the Rings, Lost), Scott Bakula, Zachary Quinto (Star Trek 2009, Heroes), and members of his new company, Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and Jared Padalecki (Supernatural), as well as video game companies who co-marketed the event.

We attended the conversation with Scott Bakula and with maybe half the room filled, the intimate setting allowed for a lot of interaction. Unlike a lot of other panels with celebrities, Bakula was just plain fun. You could see that Scott was an actor who doesn’t take himself too seriously, yet he is serious about his craft.

Scott discussed his first major hit, Quantum Leap, and described the changes in special effects technology in that series versus today.  Back then he said he would literally have to freeze in place while his co-star Dean Stockwell would run into place–all to create the image of Stockwell’s character seeming to beam into the frame from the future.  Today, Bakula said that the director would film straight through and add the effects in later.  He said for fun, if you watch old Quantum Leap episodes pay attention to the extras in the background and you will notice they also jerk to a stop as part of the then “cutting edge” special effects.  The greatest challenge (and joy) of the show for Scott was working with an entirely new crew each week (since only he and Stockwell had a recurring role)–including literally thousands of actors–that appeared over the course of the series.

Bakula said he was proud of Quantum Leap and is glad a new generation can watch the series through technologies like DVDs and streaming media.  His favorite episode?  When he just played himself, going back and forth in time, including meeting his own father.

Similarly, Bakula said he enjoyed making the Star Trek series Enterprise.  He said he believed that in any other franchise five seasons would be a successful series, but for some reason in the Star Trek franchise you’re not considered a success if you don’t make it seven seasons.  He said part of the reason could be attributed to the tenor of the show in light of the post-9-11 landscape.  Originally sold as a light-hearted exploration show, the producers did not believe the audience at the time wanted to see escapist entertainment.  Instead the series became darker with more conflict.  While it worked and was more appropriate to the mood of the country, Bakula believe it led to the cancellation of the series.  He said ultimately “it hurt us” in terms of the longevity of the show. 

Bakula appeared earlier in the day on a panel with William Shatner and other former Star Trek captains at a Comic-Con panel about Shatner’s new documentary, where each captain is interviewed about his or her experiences.  Bakula said it’s a little hard not to pick up Shatner’s unique, abrupt dialogue timing after speaking with Shatner for an hour and answered the next question in Shatnerspeak.

Both Bakula and the audience had only just received word that Scott’s current series, Men of a Certain Age (co-starring Ray Romano and Andre Braugher) was cancelled by TNT.  It was clear that even this audience of genre fans followed Bakula in his new series and were disappointed in the news.  Bakula briefly explained how new criteria govern whether a show stays or goes, and that the days of following just one set of Nielsen’s ratings is long past.  With the advent of DVRs and similar technologies, where viewers may not watch a current program for 7 or 14 days out, the calculation of a show’s success is more difficult and arbitrary and ultimately each network has its own criteria.  He said for example, had Men of a Certain Age have aired on the AMC channel, it would probably have been renewed for another season.  He said Men of a Certain Age was TNT’s first in-house drama, and that may have played a factor in the show’s cancellation.

When Zack Levi introduced Bakula, he mentioned Bakula’s most recent genre role, that of his father on the TV series Chuck.  Levi noted the oddity of Bakula standing in the back of the room with Levi’s real dad, Daryl.  This all led later on to a duet from the stage show Godspell (which both had previously appeared in) by Bakula and Levi, both hamming it up in stage show style.

Bakula noted that his first love was the stage, and stage acting was preferable to him over TV and movie work, and his favorite work was any role where he gets to sing.

Bakula’s advice for everyone, actors or not, was far-reaching:  It’s important to stay passionate in your craft, even when your TV show gets cancelled.  Find what you love about acting or what you do and concentrate on that–that the only part you can control is the performance.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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.