Monday, August 6, 2012

The Domestic Jungle #1

Today, I'm introducing my new webcomic series, THE DOMESTIC JUNGLE.  Just a little lark to get some observations about cats off my mind and into yours.  Hope you enjoy it.  Will be updated semi-regularly.

Click to enlarge

Monday, July 16, 2012

Comic-Con: SpongeBob SquarePants

It was Christmas in July at the "SpongeBob SquarePants" panel, with most of the hour devoted to breaking down the stop-motion animated special due out at the end of this year.

Actors Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke performed a scene live in front of the audience, synchronized to an animatic. Seamus Walsh and Mark Caballero of stop-motion animation company Screen Novelties presented a behind-the-scenes look at what went into making the puppets and sets (real Fruity Pebbles were involved). After the concept-through-production analysis, a completed scene was presented to the audience.

The panel ended with an audience singalong, led by Kenny, of "Don't Be a Jerk, It's Christmas," from the special.

During the Q&A, it was also revealed that the "SpongeBob" team is in the early planning stages of a new feature film, but that would still be years off.

Comic-Con: DC Nation

DC Nation, the hourlong action/comedy block on Cartoon Network, presented two exciting new shows at this panel.

"Beware the Batman" is the latest iteration of the Dark Knight, focusing more on Batman as a detective and Alfred as a former spy. Like "Green Lantern: The Animated Series," "Beware the Batman" will be fully CG.

The other new series is "Teen Titans Go!" which will be a comedic take on the Titans. This new version will feature the same cast of characters as the previous "Teen Titans" series.

Both series are due to begin sometime during the 2012-2013 season, though premiere dates were not specified.

This panel was moderated by Kevin Smith, who does not have anything to do with these shows, but participated merely as a fan.

Comic-Con: Shut Up! Cartoons

Made a last-minute decision to catch a panel for Shut Up! Cartoons, a company I'd never heard of. Glad I did. Shut Up! is one of these burgeoning new-media companies that has found a way to monetize creator-owned content. What does this mean to you? It means you might find some new shows you like. Check them out.

Comic-Con: Phineas and Ferb

One of the fun aspects of Comic-Con is that you go into panels with certain expectations, but there's always plenty of room for surprises. For example, I went to the "Phineas and Ferb" panel expecting to see the creators and voice cast of that show. Which I did. But what I wasn't expecting was to see Damon Lindelof, co-creator of "Lost," moderating the panel. And since "Lost" events were always difficult to get into, it was nice to finally get a chance to see him.

But of course the real reason I was there was for "Phineas and Ferb." Obviously there were a lot of kids in attendance, so energy was high. The actors had fun popping in and out of character. Watching Dee Bradley Baker perform the Perry the Platypus chatter is somewhat disturbing... in a good way.

Show creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh prepped the audience for the upcoming "Where's Perry?" cliffhanger season finale. Then Marvel's Jeph Loeb and Joe Quesada stopped by to make the big announcement: next year, "Phineas and Ferb" will be joined in a crossover movie event with "The Avengers." When a new Doofenshmirtz "Inator" inadvertently zaps away the Avengers' superpowers, Phineas and Ferb will help them to get their powers back.

Comic-Con: Creating / Pitching / Writing

Three panels on Saturday were of the how-to variety.

Creating Animated TV Series

This was a very excellent panel featuring members of the Writers Guild of America's Animation Writers Caucus, true veterans of the industry. Writers Alan Burnett, Peter Gal, Henry Gilroy, Craig Miller, Andrew Robinson and developer David Corbett discussed the difference between writing and developing, working with a brand versus working with an original idea, and what you, personally, need to bring to the table to sell an animated series. (Basically, storytelling trumps art, although art is a great initial hook.)

Proper Pitching and Promoting Yourself

He didn't want his hair to look like Justin Bieber's, he told us

The very popular Bryan Tillman, of the Art Institute of Washington, gave a detailed five-part process for presenting yourself and your ideas to the proper company or client. The recurring theme of Tillman's presentation was time: being able to concisely convey your ideas; the elevator pitch; knowing when to let a project go.

The Art of Writing with Gregg Hurwitz

Gregg Hurwitz is a sickeningly prolific writer of novels, short stories, comics and television. In this one-on-one panel with Scott Brick, Hurwitz discussed his process, stressing research in particular.  He also discussed surviving the dregs - keeping perspective on the fact that the tough scene or chapter that you spent days or weeks torturing yourself over is going to fly right by for the reader.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Comic-Con: Floor Report, day two

Some notes from day two (Friday) on the exhibit floor:

1) Spent more time looking at books, and ended up getting a free copy of "Batgirl" issue #1 from DC's "new 52" reboot series

Expensive books

2) Also picked up a free comic called "Mankind, the Story of Us All," which I expect is a religious book; Christian groups are always trying to trick the Comic-Con crowd into... what? Converting, I suppose

3) Speaking of which, the "Jesus Saves" sign holders outside the convention center were joined by Con attendees holding "Jesus Was a Zombie" signs

4) Nickelodeon did a big push for their new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" series, so there were lots of turtle and Foot Clan hats on the scene (I was a turtle, Helby was a Foot)

5) One booth handed me something called TAG, Terror Attack Game, a card-based table-top game; this is a rather large game set, with at least 150 cards and some dice. Can't imagine why it was free... unless it's religious

6) The same booth handing out TAG also handed out a CD called "A Fist in the Sand;" not sure if that's a CD-ROM game or an audio disc

7) Tried to purchase a Bride of Frankenstein shirt from Fisticuffs LTD, but they didn't have the right size; they didn't realize demand was going to be so high

8) Bought the latest from MC Frontalot, called "Solved"

9) Lou Ferrigno was signing autographs for a price; I believe he'd be upset if he knew about this pic

10) And I'm supposed to go see the new Total Recall

Comic-Con: And Then What Happened? Serialized Shows That Ended Too Soon

What would have happened if "Dollhouse" had had a third season? How would "Flash Forward" have been different if David S. Goyer had stayed on? Would "Middleman" have been different if it'd had a larger budget?

TV writers Andrew Chambliss, Ian Goldberg, Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Jose Molina (and my apologies to the fifth panelist whose name I've forgotten and was not listed in materials) all worked on serialized shows that were cut short for lack of ratings. This panel was ostensibly about describing what the conclusions to these cult shows would have been if they'd continued; but the focus ended up being more about what it feels like to work on a show that's constantly under threat of being cancelled before concluding the storyline.

The recurring point throughout the conversation was that, no matter how thoroughly a showrunner/creator may have planned the arc of the series, plans will always change as the show is actually in progress. Whether a show is a hit or struggling, all the planning in the world will be thrown out the window when budgetary concerns, breakout performances, or story elements that were more interesting than anticipated begin to present themselves.

In an appropriate bit of symmetry, the panelists ran out of time and were cut off before bringing the conversation to a satisfying conclusion.

Comic-Con: Brickleberry

The Comic-Con crowd was treated to an advanced screening of Comedy Central's new animated series, "Brickleberry," centered on a group of bumbling forest rangers. The screening was preceded by a recorded message from comedian Daniel Tosh (who produces the show), who couldn't be there because he's "an adult and has a real job." He kept his message short, he told us, so that we wouldn't miss our scheduled "Joss Whedon suck-off panel."

The screening was followed by a Q&A moderated by Tom Kenny, voice of SpongeBob SquarePants and now a "Brickleberry" cast member. Joining him on stage were voice actors David Herman and Jerry Minor, and "Brickleberry" creators Waco O'Guin and Roger Black.

The show had plenty of laughs and will fit in well on late-night Comedy Central. O'Guin and Black were clearly thrilled to be on the Comic-Con stage, a fact reinforced by their descriptions of years of failed pitches and false starts before finding a champion in Tosh.

"Brickleberry" begins airing at the end of September.

Comic-Con: The Writers' Room with Jonathan Ross

Formatted like a late-night talk show, this panel wasn't about writing per sé, but more of a getting-to-know three high-profile comic book writers: Robert Kirkman, John Layman, and Ed Brubaker. Moderator Jonathan Ross made for a good talk show host, something at which he's clearly experienced. (He assured us Americans that he's quite a big deal in his native UK.)

The conversation largely centered on the benefits of creator ownership of comic book properties. Also discussed were daily routines and habits of successful comic writers, including scheduled masturbation time (always 2 PM).

Kirkman, Layman and Brubaker all pointed new comic creators toward internet distribution, which seems to be the recurring theme at this year's Comic-Con. Artists can retain creative control of their work, eliminate printing costs, and not lose any of their earnings to publishers (who typically take more than 50%, even from the top writers).

Comic-Con: Around the Con

Found this committed Grimm fan who created a makeup scar on her arm with the show's title branded in. This picture doesn't do it justice, but it was a very well-done effect.

Robbie the Robot made an appearance, operated remotely by a guy casually -- almost passively -- tapping on a laptop.

When you dress in steampunk, you're required to stop and pose for pictures any time you accidentally find yourself in proximity to two or more other steampunks. It's just a thing that's always happening.

Ran across a group of Batman villains. These people didn't know each other but, like steampunks, found themselves near each other and had to pose together. This was easily the single best amateur Penguin I've ever seen, anywhere, at all, period.

Over near the Gaslamp Quarter, a pop-up videogame arcade was set up by... actually, I don't know who set it up. But I appreciated it. Gameplay was free. Got reacquainted with a longtime favorite, Soul Calibur. But I spent most of my time playing a game I never knew existed: four-person Pac-Man. It's awesome. Not only do you eat pellets, power pellets, fruit and ghosts... you also eat other players! I turned out to be pretty good at that.

A much-talked-about display this year was the outdoor (and free to Comic-Con non-attendees) Batmobile exhibit. Authentic Batmobiles from the Adam West series, through Burton/Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney, and the current Nolan/Bale trilogy were shined up and available for photo ops.

Visible from the street was a small part of the "Walking Dead" 100th issue celebration Zombie Run at Petco Park. But I didn't feel like paying to run the course, so you'll have to rely on other sites for pictures.

All-in-all, plenty to see and do outside of the usual Comic-Con activities.

Comic-Con: Lenore Turns 20

Stopped in to see Roman Dirge discuss the latest issues of his now-20-year-old comic book series Lenore. He also talked briefly about a potential new stop-motion animated TV series, and a new stop-motion animated feature film project. Due to their early development status, he couldn't elaborate much about either.

Dirge was interviewed by his merchandizing partner Andrew Sumner.

This is the second year I attended a Roman Dirge panel. They tend to be loosely-structured stream-of-consciousness events; a good opportunity for fans to ask any and every question, and receive a shot of sherry as a reward.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Comic-Con: How to Break into Television Writing

Hello again from the Professional Lounge. Me being a professional and all.

Hosted by Karen Horne (creator of the Nickelodeon Writers' Fellowship and NBC's Writers On the Verge) and TV writer Spiro Skentzos, this panel was exactly what it promised to be: a primer on how to go about making a career for yourself as a TV writer.

Similar to yesterday's Pitching Hour panel, this panel was informative, but is information you can find elsewhere. Seriously, if you're interested in writing professionally, you should already be listening to the podcasts and reading the blogs that numerous professional writers generously make available to you for free. Bless our modern technology.

Due to Ms. Horne's involvement in writing programs, much was discussed about how to apply, how to stand out, and the (obvious) benefits of getting accepted into one. Mr. Skentzos confirmed one of the most frustrating aspects of these programs for me: the fact that I never get accepted the fact that many (most?) of the people getting accepted into those programs these days are already writers with produced credits, agents, or maybe even long-standing careers. You can't begrudge Mr. Skentzos the fact that he got accepted to a program after already having had a years-long career as a sitcom writer (don't hate the player, right?), but it's important for newcomers to understand you're up against top talent not just when you're trying to get a writing gig, but when you're simply trying to get into a pre-career program.

On the flip side of that coin: Mr. Skentzos has applied to the Warner Bros. Writers Workshop for ten years and has never been accepted. So, if you're an amateur who's been frustrated about getting shut out of writing programs, keep in mind that there are people with decade-long careers who are also getting rejected. So maybe you don't suck. I mean, look... maybe you do; but rejection from these programs doesn't necessarily indicate that.

Comic-Con: Floor Report, day one

Here are some of the stops I made on the EXHIBIT FLOOR during day one (Thursday):

1) First purchase of the con: books 1-3 of Korgi, by Christian Slade

2) Trolled some former employers at the Adult Swim booth

3) Made a purchase from friend-of-the-site David Malki's "Wondermark" at the TopatoCo booth

4) Picked up a free "Regular Show" Muscle Man pin at the Cartoon Network booth

5) Bought a jack-o-lantern t-shirt from Pirate Cove because I always intend to get one every October, and it was only $10 - probably the cheapest item in the entire convention center, including the coffee

6) The Disney booth has a large display of puppets, props and sets from the upcoming Frankenweenie

7) Warner Bros. seems to think the Comic-Con crowd would be interested in The Dark Knight Rises

8) As far as costumed characters that are little more than billboards for upcoming movies are concerned, this one was extremely well done.  So I guess you should go see Hotel Transylvania

9) Walked away with some flyers for free downloads from and ComicsPlus

10) And then there's this

More tomorrow when I check out new things on the floor.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Comic-Con: Character Design in Entertainment: From Script to Sculpt

Neville Page, a leading concept artist and creature designer (seriously, one of the top guys), walked the audience through the process of designing for feature films.  After giving us an overview of some of his high profile work from the last five years, he zeroed in on Super 8 as a case study of the arduous process of creating a movie monster.

In the case of Super 8, Page was serving two masters - J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg - sometimes with contradictory visions of how a creature should look.

I was particularly fascinated by Page's personal process of creating hundreds of "conversation-starter" Rorschach silhouettes for directors and producers to review.  By carpet-bombing them with a large assortment of forms, he can narrow down what his clients are looking for in a broad sense, and then get to work creating variations that narrow the field, and eventually fleshing out (literally) the details for the final figure(s).

Page uses everything from the latest digital tech (he seems to be a particular fan of ZBrush) to the decidedly low tech (using simple effects on Apple's Photo Booth) in order to quickly yet creatively find inventive new forms for new movie creatures and other objects.

Comic-Con: Pitching Hour

Greetings from the Professional Lounge at 2012 San Diego Comic-Con.  #unhumblebrag

Quick summary of the first panel I attended this year.  This was a large panel, which unfortunately means a few people will barely talk at all.  Representatives from TV, movies, talent management, entertainment law, and mainstream and independent comic books talked about the art of pitching.

If you're curious how to pitch:
  • Be confident
  • Keep in mind that you're selling yourself, not your idea
  • Nobody has stolen your precious idea; lots of people have the same ideas.  If you're not the one who executed the idea, you're not going to win a lawsuit
  • Network network network
The good news for people who are unable to attend Comic-Con: this is information you can get without being here.  Plenty of podcasts and blogs by professionals that will help you learn the same things discussed in this panel.  Much of it is pretty intuitive.

Best quote from the panel:
"You should expose yourself to as many people as possible on the internet." - Carina Schulze, Chatrone