November 29th, 2002


Too Many Cooks?

Re: the anonymous New Zealand viewer/reader's comments on the Eltingville pilot -

Sorry it didn't work for you, hoinest. As I said, I can't please everyone. Similarly, I won't try to change your mind reagarding the show, but I want to clarify a few things you brought up in your comment. First of all, the idea that WTE suffered from a case of "too many cooks" is just simply untrue. I was bascially responsible for everything that you saw in the show, I wrote it, designed the chaaracters and backgrounds, oversaw Stephen's board, and (along with Sarah), chose all the actors and approved all the various aspects of production. No one did anything on the show that I didn't approve or partake in. The pacing of the show was decided by myself and the director, Chuck Sheetz, (who had worked on the Simpsons, King of the Hill and other shows).I didn't want to emulate the pace of the strip in the show, it just wouldn't have worked. Not for a half an hour, it would have been too exhausting for the audience. For a short subject of six or seven minutes, sure, I'd crank it to eleven, damn the torpedoes. But for twenty two minutes? It would have been a mess. You have to remember, a comic isn't a cartoon or a film, they're diffferent mediums that have different rules, means and pacing. You can't just transfer one to another. The Eltingville Club pauses in the comics, but you don't see that, because the panel gutters serve as pauses and breaks. The page turning serves as a pacing element. A smaller word balloon with small lettering, a silent panel, these set up the bursts of energy. A constant pac, fast or slow, becomes deadening in film or tv. I wanted to vary the pace, building slowly until we revved up the entire thrid act. I stand behind the decision, for whatever it's worth. As it was there was a host of complaints from people who felt the show was too fast, that they missed jokes and dialogue, that the trivia sequence made them dizzy and that the constant yelling made them want to turn the show off.

Beyond that, I was very happy to hear that your friends who were unfamiliar with the comic enjoyed the show. I'm not happy to hear you were disappointed, but I expected that from some readers -- some expected raunchier material, or wanted certain specific sequences from the strip to be in the pilot, or they didn't like the voices or the fact that we lost the cross-hatching and detail of my art. In all honesty, I primarily designed the show for people who were unfamiliar with the source material. There was plenty there for the viewers who knew the comics, but I didn't want to make a show that alienated casual viweres -- already knowing that I was producing a show about a bunch of guys and their niche subculture. I had to excise a lot of the more obscure references and try to play a few things so "non-comics" people wouldn't be too confused. To their credit, the Network never got on my case, and so we still get letters from people asking just what the hell, "Bee-Dee Bee-Dee Bee-Dee" is and why in hell did we let the trivia contest run so long (it doesn't really last that long, actually, it just gives the impression that it does. Which is what I wanted, for good or bad).

As far as the voices go, I don't think they sounded like radio broadcasters. They sounded like actors, and yeah, they don't eaxactly sound like kids, but there wasn't much I could do. We listened to over 250 actors, and we tried to get kids who were around 16-18 for the Club members. But guess what -- kids can't f'n act!!! The ones that could unfortunately sounded like they were much younger than the characters, and when we tried to mix kids with some older actors the age difference was even more noticeable. So we went with the best voices that seemed 'right" in my head for each character. I personally like the voice acting a lot, and I don't think we were asking too much in the way of suspension of disbelief re: the voices sounding too old. I'venever heard anyone complain that the little kid on King of the Hill sounds like a middle-aged smoker, or that the Simpsons kids sound nothing like actual kids. In animation, you can go with actual kids for Disney movies and Nickelodeon treacle, teenagers are tough. If they sound like "kids", they don't work. If they sound like "acults", it'sa the lesser of two evils. I'd rather have had solid acting than authentic aged-voices.

Okay, the defense rests, and there's some more insight (needed or not) into our thought processes on the show. Last words to the guy from New Zealand -- again, sorry you were disappointed,m especially after you worked so hard to get to see the pilot. I certainly appreciate your desire to see the show, and even if you didn't dig it, you still have the comics. Thanks for reading/watching/commenting.

DVD talk

Sunset Boulevard --
If you ask me, for $20 Billy Wilder's classic is more than worth owning, even without extras. I finally got around to seeing it last year and watched it the next time TCM repeated it, it's probably one of my favorite films and I plan on picking the release up asap.

Sanjuro --
Yeah, I want this as well. But Criterion annoys the heck outta me, they don't clean up the prints, really, from the few releases I have from them. For the extra dough, someone could at least get on a computer and get all those lines and pops out. For conversations sake, the Criterion editions we have (off the top of my skull) are Seven Samurai (birthday present from the Lawgiver), Tokyo Drifter (present from Sarah's brother), Walkabout and Picnic At Hanging Rock (presents from Sarah's dad...say, can't we afford anything ourselves anymore?). Must admit we haven't watched the latter two yet, but we will. So little time, so many hobbies.

Beauty and the Beast -
He's talking the Cocteau version, kids, I'm sure you knew that. The Disney crowd-pleaser is actually a very nice film, imho, but this one's real magic. We have it on VHS and I'd kill to get Sarah the DVD, which is out of print and obnoxiously pricey on the secondary markey, Supposedly a new release is due.

Speaking of which, why the $!#@ did Universal let their classic horror collection go out of print? Don't they like selling DVD's -- especially at Halloween? When we finally got a DVD player last year I was bummed to learn that Universal hadn't released several films they'd put out on tape (The Black Cat and Island of Lost Souls, most notably), and that the films they had released were going out of print. So, I'm sans the Mummy, Dracula (I know, it's overrated as an actual good film, but I want to see the Spanish version and own the sucker for Eltingville-like reasons), House of Dracula, and worst of all, I don't have the Invisible Man. The Lawgiver told me he spotted them fairly recently at the Virgin Megastore (so Judge Dredd) uptown, but I hardly get into "the city" these days, and I doubt they're still on the shelves. I'm avoiding the secondary market for the same reasons I'm not looking to bid on a copy of Beauty and the Beast on e-bay. Too many hobbies, too little money. It's hard to buy DVD's when there's so mnay books we want, so many comics, the elusive dream of a Kirby or Elder original...the electric bill, the car insurance, the physical therapy appointments I've been putting

Comics talk. Wanna take bets it turns into a rambling mess?

My, but I'm posting a lot tonight.

I really should be working on a limited series pitch I owe a certain DC editor sicne it's due this Monday (insert whistling noise, imagine the twiddling of thumbs). I took a break from the pitch and a Bizarro script and some doodles for the second Dork trade cover (I often juggle jobs within the same day, something my therapist called "creative procrastination". I think this journal also falls under that description, more or less.). Anyway, I feel like plugging some comics, because that's what I used to do in my letters pages. I hardly put anything out anymore, and I never run letters pages, so this must be the place.

Here's what has made it's way into the HOF library of comical-type books:
David B's Epileptic vol 1 (L'association, distributed by Fantagraphics), Astro Boy vol 9 (Dark Horse Comics), Short Cuts and Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga (two humor collections culled from the recently cancelled Pulp magazine from Viz, and the ever-depressing, eye-damaging, heart-wearying Previews catalogue from Diamond for crap shipping in February.
Okay, sure, there's a lot of good, fun and interesting comics listed in there, but it's buried under so much lamebrained Eltingville nonsense, crass t&a and inept design work that the phone book-sized mess always manages to make me question why I'm in this business (the same thing happens when I go to my accountant in April). It just comes off like a garish Sear's wishbook for inept fanboys too scared or clueless to find honest-to-gosh pornography, and the fact that this is the basic representation of what comics are all about just makes my blood go cold. And it's no wonder that everybody confuses the medium for a genre with all those airbrushed van paintings for semi-literate male power fantasies. Hey, did you know Spider-Man's hot? No? Well, thank god they've put him on the cover again, or else no one would ever know that Spider-man is HOT! I sure hope Batman's on the next cover, because retailers might forget about Batman if he isn't on the cover three or four times a year.

Anyway, it's no use complaining. Diamond exists to sell product, they obviously like comics, and they do plug the small press more than they used to, but they're the only game in town and retailers want Batman, so what are they going to do? Especially when all ther major superhero publishers have contracts with Diamond that include the cover coverage. hell, everyone knows I don't have a problem with super-goofs per se, just with the slavish devotion given to the material, to the point where comics = superheroes in far too many people minds (non-comics readers in particular). I don't even know if there's anything that could be done, vis-avis Diamond. Putting a small press book on the cover won't help anyone, it's naive to think that would change anything -- even if they spotlighted a small press book every month on the cover it wouldn't change the minds of any retailers who aren't predisposed to that sort of material. No retailers going to buy copies of Epileptic or Palestine or Frank just because Diamond highlighted it. We already know only about 10-30% of all retailers support the small press with any given title. The others just don;t care, they're not fans of the material, so they assume nobody else would be that comes into their store. Self-fulfilling prophecy. Can you imagine if anyone ran a supermarket like that? If the owener told customers he doesn't carry coffee or milk because he himself doesn't like it? Well, that's comics retailing, in a nutshell . This is such a strange, warped and retarded (in the literal sense) industry, from the creators to the publishers to the retailers, distributor(s), marketers, "fan journalists" and fans who believe they should have a say in how the comics are made -- it just drives me crazy. You all drive me crazy. We all drive each other crazy. We all think we know exactly how to fix comics, but nothing ever gets done. ,

Ahhh...I should calm the heck down. Whenever I start discussing the problems we're facing in this field (and will probably always face) I start ranting and I turn into the iliiterate, Brooklyn-mouthed monster you may have encountered in my unfortunate Comics Journal interview. Talking about how to get people to read comics gives me the same headache as talking about politics or religion does, only I (for good or bad) know the names of more inkers than those of senators or saints. Truth is, I wasn't planning on blathering about the depressing state of the industry, I'm used to the depressing state of comics -- I just wanted to cheerfully plug some comics and somehow ended up taking a left turn into shitsville. Comics will do that to you. Maybe my mood has somehting to do with a post I've been planning to write, regarding what some see as the potential comics bloodbath of 2003. Maybe my blood sugar is low. maybe this classic rock station I left on for some god damned reason has eaten away my brain (they played Billy Joel while I was typing -- Billy Joel!! And I left the station on?!?! Why did I do that?!?!) Maybe I'm just mad at myself for typing this much nonsense when I should be typing nonsense for DC comics.

Okay -- hold on -- now that I'm actively paying attention to this radio station, and they just had the temerity to put a Journay song on -- I've changed the station. I actually leapt on my boombox like a soldier throwing his body onto a grenade.

Man, oh, man. Stop me before I type again. This post ends now.