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In Memoriam: Darwyn Cooke

So I’ve been letting this blog get away from me again but after hearing about Darwyn Cooke’s passing in the last 24 hours, I knew I had to write something about the man who created one of my favorite graphic works.

Back in 2011, when I was just getting into comics and trades, I attended the San Diego Comic-Con for two days after greatly enjoying a day at the event the previous year.  DC’s New 52 project was just getting started and many writers were going to be present at the days I was attending.  I had bought and read both volumes of  DC: The New Frontier and was excited to meet Darwyn Cooke, who created the series as both the writer and the artist.  While most western comics are done as a collaboration between a writer and artist dedicated in their respective fields, Cooke excelled at both and crafted a story that serves as a tribute to DC’s comic lineage.  Cooke was a very gracious person when I met him (anyone willing to put up with me is by default) and I got to speak with him very briefly about the merits of a story like The New Frontier making it easy for a comics-illiterate like me at the time to get into these characters without 60-70 years of history or baggage (I’m a massive casual, so sue me).  He signed both volumes, which I have on my bookshelf behind me as I’m writing this, and I went on about my day.

I’d have never considered that less than five years later, I’d be writing about him in the past tense.

After news broke out that Cooke was going to be starting palliative care for cancer, he passed away overnight less than a day later at the age of 53.  As someone whose family comes with a history and genetic predisposition to cancer, my heart goes out to his family and loved ones in this trying time.

Still Ticking!

I’ve been inactive on this blog as all hell lately, but I haven’t been just sitting at home counting the days!  My writing partner and comrade-in-arms Alex Willging and I have submitted a pilot concept to a writing fellowship and have our fingers crossed for good news come April.  In addition, the actual draft has been written and we’re in the rewriting stage while we’re working on our own other creative pursuits.

You can check out Alex’s blog over at Rhapsodist Reviews.

As of this blog, I’ve got a big entry that I should be posting sometime this weekend dealing with an upcoming DC Animated flick.  Stay tuned!

Oh yes, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  Drink responsibly (or don’t, see if I care)!

Story Expo 2015

Well, it’s been quite some time since I’ve tried blogging, so quick recap of the last couple years.  Since my last post, I have-

  • Left my position at Saddleback
  • Took up a position at Chapman
  • Left Chapman (and the company I worked for) entirely
  • Started working freelance
  • Started doing content work for web group
  • Web group overseas work has dried up
  • Looking for freelance work elsewhere
  • Applied for career jobs
  • Have had applications ignored
  • Applied to fellowships
  • Have not been accepted into fellowships

Have things gone as I would have hoped?  Not ideally, but life’s a journey and I play the long game.

A month ago, a collaborator of mine from my content writing position told me about Story Expo, an annual event I had not heard of but immediately became interested in.  This same collaborate recommended a screenwriting seminar I enjoyed immensely, so I decided to check it out.

Attending the event with my partner-in-crime Alex Willging, the weekend did much to revitalize my writing drive and focus, which has been suffering as of late from a series of discouragements, both career-related and otherwise.  While many of the available panels were very informative, including a character study session from CSU Northridge professor Eric Edson and a segment on writing dramatic TV with award-winning television writer Pam Douglas, it was a pair of two-panel sessions that really got my creative mind racing.

After a Friday class with veteran script consultant Linda Seger, I attended a set of classes taught by script analyst (and author of The Coffee Break Screenwriter) Pilar Alessandra.  I had attended a pilot-writing seminar taught by Pilar back in the spring, and if you live in the Los Angeles area (Studio City in particular) then I highly recommended looking up her classes.  Both classes covered not only beneficial ways of writing a pilot or feature, but how to tidy up a dull-looking script, something that many “mechanical” screenplays could hugely benefit from.

The next day, I attended two panels taught by long-time script guru Jen Grisanti, both of which addressed the topic of constructing a television pilot as well as pitching it.  Given that my writing focus is currently attempting to break into the TV industry, both these classes were a necessity for me, and I was so impressed with the first class that I ended up changing plans to come back for the second.

The event itself boasted a very diverse range of talent in attendance, with writers of all different ages, races, genders, and nationalities in attendance (one panel had about 60% of attendees hailing from outside the US), all bonded together by a common desire for storytelling.  Given the supposed reclusive nature of many writers (myself in particular), I was very pleased to see that everyone at the event was so open to each other, happy to share their thoughts, projects and ideas.  It makes for a very positive experience to offset the oftentimes discouraging path of the career-hopeful writer.

Story Expo made for an excellent weekend and I’m already looking forward to the next one.  I hope to see you there in 2016!

WonderCon 2013

A little over a year ago I attended the Anaheim WonderCon for the first time, which is generally hosted in San Francisco, and had an excellent time.  After a hectic few days attending the San Diego Comic-Con last summer and being unable (as of yet) to get tickets for this coming summer, I was considering for a while to attend WonderCon again when it rolled around, despite it likely being moved up to San Francisco again.  As it turns out, the normal venue was unavailable and the event would once again be held at the Anaheim Convention Center.  Their loss, my gain.  While I covered each day individually last year, I spent more time hovering and will avoid getting too in-depth on the panels I did attend this year, so I’ll be doing a more brief overview of the event this time.  That said, let’s get started.

Although Friday was mostly uneventful (I didn’t attend any panels and spent most of the day in the exhibit hall), I did attend the one event that I was looking forward to more than anything else.  Last year, one of the panels I attended that I really enjoyed was the DC Nation panel, which covered the various DC Nation shorts, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and Young Justice.  The last two shows, despite their excellent quality and their respective fanbases, both recently finished their seasons without renewal.  But despite it’s ending, Young Justice co-creator Greg Weisman (Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man) met with a small group of fans (I numbered just under twenty) in the lobby outside the exhibit hall, and spent about an hour-and-a-half interacting with fans and answering questions about the various shows he’s worked on.  I did not ask any questions myself, but I enjoyed listening about the odds and ends of making the series and the many decisions that were made up to the second season finale.  It was a very fun experience being able to interact with one of my favorite writers in such an informal setting.

I returned to the center on Saturday, this time attending more panels, including one on Falling Skies featuring the cast and showrunner Remi Aubuchon, and a very interesting panel featuring the showrunners of multiple hit shows including Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead, and the aforementioned Falling Skies.  The highlight of the night for me, though, was “The Writer’s Journey: Breaking into Comics and Hollywood Scriptwriting.”  I attended the same panel at last year’s WonderCon, and featured Thundercats writer Brandon Easton running the panel.  He returned this year to the panel, which also included writers Geoff Thorne (Ben Ten, Leverage), Johnathan Callan (Generator Rex, Ben Ten), and actor/writer Anthony Montgomery (Star Trek: Enterprise), who I should mention is currently working with Brandon Easton on his new comic, Miles Away.  Much like the previous year, the panel was a lively and entertaining hour, but also a very direct, no-BS discussion on the difficulties and the processes of attempting to break into the writing world.  While some might find that tone discouraging, I find these panels to be very reinvigorating when it comes to pushing me back into writing, and it’s far better to be truthful on the hardships of the writer’s world than to present a lighter, but false, view that can set aspiring writers for a fall.  The panelists discussed personal experiences and some very practical advice for writers, and the panel closed with a presentation for Lion Forge Comics, which I will be sure to keep an eye on for the future.

As for Sunday, I only attended the panel for the CW show Arrow, which I have been following since the pilot episode last fall.  The panel featured much of the principal cast, as well as executive producer Marc Guggenheim.  The whole panel proved to be quite a treat with some fun surprises (I had no idea Paul Blackthorne was British) and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the season plays out.  Outside of that, I spent the rest of the event outside of panels browsing the floor, checking out the various shops and guests and seeing what books or trades I could grab on the cheap.  The massive Zelda fan in me also found it very difficult to avoid purchasing a copy of Hyrule Historia at the Dark Horse Comics booth but I can’t really afford to be too thrifty with spending at this time.  Well, after paying for tickets and parking in the first place, anyway.  Regardless, it would take hours to describe the entirety of my experience on the floor, which I just don’t have the patience or desire to do.

I’ll close with a plug for my good pal Alex Willging who traveled all the way from Simi Valley to hang with me at my home in San Juan Capistrano and attend the first to days of the event with me.  He was kind enough to plug my blog in his own far superior WonderCon wrap-up, so go check out his own blog to see it.  It’s got pictures, too!

First Step into a Larger World: Watchmen

WatchmenIn mediums like comics and anime, there are titles commonly referred to as “gateway titles.”  These and other mediums of storytelling are met with apathy, ridicule and sometimes outright derision for containing bizarre elements or themes, as well as being associated, often without reason, with a specific audience outside the, for want of a better term, ‘social standard’ (I normally dislike the use of ‘society,’ as it’s become a buzzword on the web referring to anyone with a different opinion than the reader, but my mental thesaurus fails me at this time).  Thus, a gateway title is a work that, while expressing it’s story in the form of its respective medium, tends to do so without conventions normally associated with the genre, allowing the audience to better involve themselves in the story, and often has the result of the audience becoming more open to works of the genre that they would have avoided previously.  I can think of at least five anime that make excellent gateways, which I’ll save for another time (hopefully not long, it’s an article I’ve wanted to do for a while now) and stick with comics.  The comic in particular?  Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, probably one of the most popular gateway comics in the genre.

I have no idea when I first heard of Watchmen, though I remember seeing the name quite often during my time lurking around message boards online back during the days of the Justice League cartoon, and all I could gather about the story was that it seemed to be the comic book story.  Popular, critically acclaimed, and incredibly influential the works that followed it, it seemed to be heralded by nearly everyone as the masterpiece of the medium.  While attending my first Comic-Con with friends I’d made at school, I saw a large booth selling copies of Watchmen in preparation for the upcoming film adaptation.  After some consideration, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and bought a copy to read over the weekend home.

I found Watchmen to be an excellent read and well worth the hype I had constantly seen bestowed upon the title.  Despite my utter lack of familiarity with the Silver Age stories it was deconstructing, I still found the story fresh and the characters and their interactions very interesting.  As someone who grew up on the James Bond series and had seen every movie, I especially got a kick out of “thirty-five minutes ago.”  The tone of the story is one that I’m a fan of whenever it appears; neither naively optimistic or eyeroll-inducing bleak, but progressive shades of dark that ultimately fail to hide the shred of light that ultimately breaks through, especially prevalent in the “thermodynamic miracle” dialogue from Doctor Manhattan near the climax of the story.  Which itself happens around the same time New York is brain-nuked to Hell, but that’s beside the point.  The story itself ends on an open note that no doubt left fans wanting more, but ultimately was probably the best way to close the plot.  Nothing ever ends, after all.

For new readers, it’s possible that Watchmen could come off, ironically, as just another one of the “dark and edgy” stories in comics that it had inspired, but to brush it off as such would be misguided.  Though the efforts at deconstruction could be lost on those who aren’t familiar with the previous generations of stories, Watchmen still serves as a great story and an excellent introduction to the comic medium.

At Long Last: SDCC ’12

As I have mentioned in the past, I attended the San Diego Comic-Con twice, one day in ’07 and two days in ’08, but due to various reasons (chief among them being money, and my being in want of it) had not attended since then.  It wasn’t something I missed all that much, to be honest.  In 2007, I had been attending college for a couple years and had made many friends through the campus film club, which had a heavy assortment of students with various geeky interests, and quite a few of them were and still are avid comic buffs.  Needless to say, SDCC was an event they had attended multiple times prior and talked about with increasing frequency and excitement as the event drew near that year.

Eventually, I decided to give it a shot and attend a day that year, just to see what it was like.  I had an amazing time, traveled around the exhibit hall, bought some cool t-shirts, and attended a couple panels in Hall H, where the large movie panels are usually held.  Incidentally, this was also the first year the Con had sold out, with tickets running out at the door.  This would end up being the last time tickets were sold at the door, period.

The following year I attended two days, but it just didn’t have the impact it did the previous year.  I was unable to attend any panels on either day, and the convention floor was packed to capacity both days, making it very difficult to move around the floor.  In both years I had traveled to and from the convention via train, making it all the more tiring with the only rest being when the day was finished.  With it becoming increasingly difficult to make it to any panels and my own friends attending less, I just wasn’t as hyped for the event anymore, and with my own funds devoted towards finishing school, I wasn’t interested in putting a chunk towards an event I just wasn’t as interested in.

Fast forward several years.  I’ve finished school, moved home, found work (not career-level, but these days it’s something), and have grown more interested in the comic medium as a whole.  Knowing that some friends were going to be making an attempt to attend the convention this year, I finally decided to try for buying tickets again.  In the last few years, the San Diego Comic-Con has grown even more frantic and popular, with tickets selling out within months, then within weeks, then within hours.  Despite the difficulty, I managed to procure tickets for two days again and found myself looking forward to the convention, having been away for so long.  In the meantime, I decided to attend the WonderCon in Anaheim, which I enjoyed immensely and have covered earlier.

This year I managed to snag a hotel room with my brother and a friend of his, and went down the day before my tickets allowed me to attend, giving me time to just get a feel for the area and explore around.  Although I enjoyed it greatly, my coverage of the event will be fairly brief because I honestly didn’t do a whole lot.  The highlights included the signings, in which I met and shook hands with Scott Snyder (Batman, Swamp Thing, American Vampire), Kyle Higgins (Nightwing, Deathstroke), and Darwyn Cooke (The New Frontier, Before Watchmen: Minutemen, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre), and walked away with my copies of Batman: Gates of Gotham and The New Frontier signed.  Unfortunately the line was cut off literally right before me for Trevor McCarthy (Batwoman, Batman: Gates of Gotham), so he’ll have to wait for another day.  I also got to make some small talk with each of them, in the case of Snyder and Higgins discussing Gates of Gotham being my first Batman trade purchase, and discussing the accessibility of limited series works like New Frontier to new readers with Cooke.  Both series I’ll be doing posts on at some point in the future.

Outside of that, and getting some excellent deals on trades I had been looking for, there was not really much else other than purchasing some trades from the present vendors, which I hadn’t done before, but having started looking into and buying trades following WonderCon, it’s something I’ll definitely be taking advantage of in the future.  Hilariously enough, most of the stuff I bought was written by Geoff Johns (Justice League, Green Lantern, Blackest Night), the trades in question being the first five volumes of the 2003-2011 run of Teen Titans and the much more recent Batman: Earth One.  Unfortunately, Geoff Johns being who he is, I was unable to make it to any signings, as the staff had anticipated that a great number of fans would attempt to make the signing, so bands were given out at the beginning of the respective days for priority signing (said bands ran out in about five minutes).  On one last note regarding signings, I scoured everywhere and was unable to find a copy of the first volume of the Young Justice tie-in comic, which I had searched around for as Greg Weisman (Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man, Young Justice) was signing that day.

Not really much else to discuss, I’m afraid.  I’ll still be attempting early preregistration for next year as the event has taken on a life of its own outside the convention center and the entire city has become part of the attraction, so it’s really something I look forward to attending regardless of if I make it into any panels or not.  As for the panels, news, seminars, and so on, I’ll leave those to the far less mainstream WonderCon, even when it eventually moves back to San Francisco.  That’s it for now, but I’ll be back the aforementioned Watchmen piece I’ve been meaning to do, as well as some others I have in mind.  Plenty in store to come!

Next on the Agenda

All right, so I haven’t made any updates since finishing the WonderCon coverage, but at least this time, it’s party due to just being busy and not just outright laziness.  I spent the better part of last month traveling driving up and down to the Los Angeles area doing work for my company at various private high schools.

I’d never been to a private school before, but it was an interesting experience.  Like a high school/college hybrid with Christian educational texts.

Regardless, it’s finished now, and I’ll be heading to the San Diego Comic-Con in a few weeks for the first time in years, and in the last few months I’ve gotten into buying trades.  So as part of the build-up, I’ll be making posts about some of the various trades I’ve read.

I’ll be starting with my gateway into the world of comics, which appropriately I purchased during my first visit to SDCC.  I’m talking Watchmen.  Stay tuned.

Update 7/12/12: OK, so things did not pan out as intended.  I have found myself unable to do some pieces on trades like I had hoped, nor was I able to churn some out and set them on queue while I’m out for the next few days at the Con.  Chalk it up to being busy and/or general laziness.  Regardless, I’m looking very forward to returning to San Diego Comic-Con this year, and I’ll have plenty for free time after this weekend, so I’ll get to covering the event and doing those trade coverages then.


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