Alexander Film Works

Posts Tagged ‘comics’

Motor City Comic Con ’13 – A View From the Peanut Gallery

In Just Because..., Roughly About Films, shoot, writing on May 23, 2013 at 10:20 pm

About a week ago, as I write this, at the dirigible hangar they call the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Motor City Comic Con’s 2013 iteration went down. We were there to sell things at Megan’s artist table, and I was trying to get some footage for my documentary, The Costuming Mind. I got a fair bit of b-roll, and some good stills. (The footage is currently being edited.)
There were a goodly number of costumes out there, and some were really phenomenal.
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I took a fair number of stills, shot a couple of interviews, and shot a good bit of B-roll footage. I think that I can help the footage I took already for the documentary plan.

We shall see what we shall see…100_0273

The Hero Concept

In Think About It on October 28, 2012 at 3:24 pm

This past weekend was Detroit FanFare 2012, a comics and toy expo, and the chance I had to meet and speak to legends of the comics world, like Allen Bellman, who worked at Timely/Atlas/Marvel Comics starting in 1942, a contemporary of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Carl Burgos, and Bill Everett, was something we just couldn’t pass up.

I was inspired to write a piece on the concept of heroes, and tie it in with the comics industry… which follows immediately.

***

            We, as story-listeners, always seem drawn to the concept of the mysterious vigilante… the outsider who does what ordinary citizens, or even the authorities, can’t.

The legends come down… Gilgamesh, Beowulf, Robin Hood, Charlemagne and Le Chanson de Roland, tales of Arthur Pendragon and the Knights of the Table Round, the tales of Siegfried and the Rhinemaidens that became Wagner’s Das Ring Des Niebelungen, the labors of Hercules, the Iliad and the Odyssey, Dumas’s The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Johnston McCulley’s stories of the wily El Zorro battling the corruption and oppression in Spanish California, Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger, the heroes of the “penny dreadfuls” celebrating the non-existent Code of the West, which set the archetypes of the cowboy heroes we see up until now, and especially the four-color heroes, the superheroes and superheroines of the comic books.

With ancestors from the “pulps”, the mass-market books printed on lower-grade paper dedicated to a single subject, like Doc Savage and his five assistants battling the forces of crime, G-8 and his Battle Aces endlessly fighting the Great War in the air, costumed crimefighters like The Spider – Master of Men, The Bat, and, most notably, The Shadow, they burst forth on the consciousness of the public in the 1930’s, starting with a certain red, yellow, and blue figure flashing across the sky, who became the exemplar of truth, justice, and the American Way – SUPERMAN.  His name may have had unfortunate resonances with the theories of Nietsche and the übermenschen that helped inspire a failed artist to attempt the “purification” of Germany and Europe into the Aryan Fatherland, but the execution of the concept of Superman was purely American… not only that, but truly Midwestern American.

Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster were both from Cleveland, Ohio when they came up with the concept of Superman… and the Midwestern ethos they were raised with helped inform their creation from his genesis.  He did good deeds, expecting no reward, and used his titanic strength in service to mankind in general.

Following shortly thereafter, from Fawcett Publications, whose lineup before this contained how-to books and the Great War’s anodyne, Captain Billy’s Whiz-Bang, a joke book compiled and published by the founder of Fawcett Publications, William Fawcett, came C. C. Beck and Bill Parker’s take on the super-powered man, CAPTAIN MARVEL.   Where Superman had his powers and abilities for pseudo-scientific reasons, Captain Marvel’s powers came from magic; when Billy Batson shouted the name of the wizard who gave him his powers, a bolt of magic lightning would strike him, transforming him into The World’s Mightiest Mortal, as he came to be known.  The magic word “SHAZAM”, the ancient wizard’s name, granted him the following powers of legendary gods and heroes:

  • S – the wisdom of Solomon
  • H – the strength of Hercules
  • A – the stamina of Atlas
  • Z – the power of Zeus
  • A – the courage of Achilles
  • M – the speed of Mercury

Following these two progenitors came many others… The Flash, Wonder Woman, The Batman, Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Crimson Crusader, Captain America, the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, Skyman, the Blackhawks, Doll Man, Plastic Man, Uncle Sam, Airboy, the Sandman, Starman, Green Arrow… The litany rolls on.

The ‘30’s and ‘40’s became known as the “Golden Age” of comics… with such heroes as Captain America, Major Victory, the Patriot, Uncle Sam, Liberty Belle, and other, lesser known red-white-and-blue metahumans, it seemed almost anyone was donning patriotic garb and battling the Axis powers… but it was not to last.  The Congressional investigations sparked by Dr. Frederic Wertham’s 1954 book, The Seduction of the Innocent, headed by Senator Estes Kefauver and his Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, threw many of the comic publishers into disarray; many went out of comic publishing, and those that remained banded together in self-defense, cooperatively instituting the Comics Code Authority.  The CCA lasted until 2009, and in 2011, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an organization devoted to defending the First Amendment rights of comic artists, writers, and publishers, acquired the intellectual property rights of the CCA, including its seal.

The Seal of the Comics Code Authority

For almost fifty years, this seal was on virtually every comic sold.

After the institution of the CCA, fewer titles existed… Fawcett settled a long-standing lawsuit with DC Comics to suspend publication of Captain Marvel; most of the heroes of the Golden Age faded from sight… and from memory.

Then, in 1956, DC Comics revised and reimagined The Flash, followed by Green Lantern, Hawkman, Wonder Woman, and many others.  In 1961, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby of Marvel Comics (previously Atlas Comics, which sprang from Timely Comics, the 1940’s era publisher of Captain America, The Human Torch, and The Sub-Mariner) started a revolution in the industry with Fantastic Four, heroes with no secret identities, no glamorously perfect physiques (especially in the case of “The Thing”, transmuted Marine pilot Benjamin J. Grimm), and a penchant for arguing among themselves.  This “realistic” approach became the norm in the industry, as time went on.

One can honestly say the world hasn’t been the same since.

And the newer generation just keeps on writing and drawing…

Detroit FanFare 2012

In Just Because..., Roughly About Films on October 27, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Yesterday was the first day of Detroit FanFare 2012, one of the local comic book and toy conventions.  We went to see what it would be like, since it was at the New Name Coming Soon Hotel, formerly known as the Dearborn Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Megan and I compared how this was run compared to many of the science fiction conventions we’d been to, and it compared quite favorably.  It was well organized, seemed to be adequately staffed, and laid out well and thoughtfully.

I voted! Did you?

Many people we knew were there, and we circulated and had fun for as long as we stayed.

Megan patriotic

I glow, rotate, and vote, too!

There will be more, including videos, soon…

Why I Write

In Think About It on October 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm

A periodic reassessment of the reasoning behind my habits of self-torture

The glib answer to the titular question is as follows:  “I don’t know how not to write.”

If I dig a little deeper – and I usually don’t try to – I say that I feel I have something to say.

I don’t think I’m consciously trying to impress anybody, and I certainly don’t expect to become rich and famous from it.  (That would be a bonus, however…)

Basically, I try to tell stories.  The medium by which I do this can vary from just words, to words and pictures (in a comic strip/graphic novel format), to motion pictures.  I try to get these stories told.

But “self-torture”?  Is that my view of the entire process?

At times, yes… You see, anything committed to paper (or phosphors on screen, or magnetic bits on a computer drive) is rarely, if ever, my very first draft.  It may be my first written draft, but it’s been recirculated countless times in my brain before that, and each written draft will undergo many stages of revision before its final form emerges.

A standing joke in my house is “Stop me before I revise again!”

Does all this revision and rewriting make my work better?  I can truly say “sometimes”… Sometimes a revision cycle pares a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter down to its irreducible minimum, letting the central thought shine like an expertly faceted gemstone… and at other times, revision squeezes all the juice, all the life, out of a passage.

It’s a hard determination sometimes.

If you are as afflicted with this malady as I am, the best thing you can have is someone who will read your work and give you an honest opinion, rather than the one that salves your ego.

You then have at least one person who will tell you when your figurative britches are around your ankles.

This is a valuable asset.

What else you need is the discipline, the will, or the gumption to stay with it and keep writing.  The general consensus of many professional writers I know, your first million words (or so) are crap, and you progress faster once you get this apprenticeship process out of the way.

So, aspiring writers, cheer up!  It could be worse…

The Avengers Initiative… Sounds Like A Plan To Me

In Film and Related, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on May 8, 2012 at 5:36 pm

My Dearly Beloved Wife and I got home a couple of hours ago from the theater, having seen The Avengers.  We were both extremely geeked out, watching the story, the effects, and the acting.

This movie was the first one we’d seen in a theater in quite some time (something on the order of ten years or so), and the new theater complex we went to, the Emagine Theaters, is quite a place.  This one also has a restaurant, bar, and bowling alley in the same building (it may not seem like a good fit to you, but it’s a big draw here, outside Detroit).  It’s clean, the screens are bright, the stadium-style seating is comfortable, and they don’t use the disinfectant/cleaning products that send the both of us into asthma.

This is a definite advantage.

Joss Whedon, whose prior credits include Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and the movie version Serenity, and who has said in interviews that he’s a major comics geek, collaborated on the script and directed, and the result is a comic book movie that doesn’t read like a dumbed-down version for mentally challenged people.  The dialogue is wonderful, such as this exchange between Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner):

Widow:  This reminds me of Istanbul.

Hawkeye:  Our memories of Istanbul are very different…

I will put it as simply as I possibly can.

SEE.  THIS.  MOVIE.

Okay?

Other Things I’ve Done…

In Just Because..., Roughly About Films on March 17, 2012 at 8:03 pm

… and maybe regretted.

There are some things, for those of you who’ve joined this blog in progress, that you might not know.  (For that matter, some who’ve been with me from the beginning may not know some of these things.  Such is the way of things.)

Aside from my age (mostly irrelevant), and the fact that I am currently a last-term film student at Wayne State University (outside Detroit), not many people know I actually did a try at stand-up comedy back in the day, when I was still in high school.  (Note: this is a LOT longer ago than many people can conceive of, especially since many of them weren’t conceived themselves…)  I’ve done radio in a few different places as an “air personality” (polite talk for the guy who spins records, talks on the air, and answers phone calls in the studio), worked as a security guard in many different states and many different sites, for different companies (some of which might still be in business), worked as a JCL Analyst on Ford Motor Company’s mainframe computers (mostly boring, except when a job “bombs out”, terminating before it’s supposed to), worked as a letter carrier for the Post Awful for eleven years, wrote, edited, and distributed a “fanzine” (a small-circulation magazine devoted to science fiction and science fiction fandom – samples are still available at http://efanzines.com ), and got an article published in an online microbudget filmmaking magazine (link to come).  I have also tried, from time to time, to draw a continuing comic strip about my fannish family, with mixed success.  (I might subject you to an example or two after I do major surgery on it.)

Mostly, I write.  I write because I don’t know how NOT to write.

And this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Cheers!

Weekend R & R

In Just Because... on January 23, 2012 at 12:41 pm

For the two of us, in most years, January means ConFusion.  This science fiction convention, a joint venture between the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association (AASFA) and the Stilyagi Air Corps, has been held for over thirty years now, most recently in the Troy Marriott hotel, on Big Beaver Road (also known as 16 Mile Road) just east of Interstate 75.

We hadn’t been for a couple of years, because of the issues we’d been going through with Megan’s mom dying, the brothers and stepbrothers causing different problems, and others in our lives becoming leading contenders for the Richard Cranium Awards.

With these issues (somewhat) resolved, we went to this year’s convention, named “Epic Confusion”, hoping just to have a reasonably good time.

We did.

We saw people we hadn’t seen in a couple of years, saw the widow of our dear friend Mike Glicksohn (if you know Mike, you’re the poorer for his death; if you didn’t know him, you’re the poorer for not having met him), and discussed the way things are going, have gone, and may go in future.

We also saw new and different stuff that we thought was cool, and would be good for costuming uses.  (Trust me, this is never far away from the top of our consciousness.)

It’s good to hang with people who understand you, and whom you understand, every so often.  Unfortunately, the other large convention here in the Detroit area, ConClave, is having hotel problems, and will be taking a one-year hiatus, according to the convention committee.  The thing is, science fiction fandom has a notoriously short memory, and a con that skips a year may not be able to regain their past momentum.

The absence of ConClave would leave only Penguicon (a science-fiction convention/Linux user group gathering), Youmacon (a dedicated anime and manga convention – Japanese comics and animated cartoon movies), the World Steam Expo (a convention for those who try to make Victorian and Edwardian science fiction), and Motor City Comic Con (dedicated to the entire spectrum of comic art, from mainstream comic books, to “graphic novels”, to webcomics) as companions to ConFusion as a gathering point for people whose interests run outside the everyday.

Personally, I think this would be a shame, but things do change, and it would be foolish not to recognize that.

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