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Another Sick Day

This is going to be a short one today, because this is a house of illness; despite downing gallons of Vitamin Water, orange juice, and Airborne, Julie and I have succumbed to the Virulent Creeping Whatever that is making the rounds. But I do have a couple of interesting comics-related links and things to share that I forgot to put into the last two weeks’ worth of Cross-Hatchings, so you at least get that much today.

Trekking:
One of the minor benefits of our recent computer crash and subsequent trading up is that now we can watch streaming video like the rest of the civilized world.

Which means, among other things, that finally I got to see David Gerrold’s Star Trek episode Blood and Fire.

Blood and Fire has an interesting history. It started life as a script for Star Trek: the Next Generation, and Gene Roddenberry scuttled it because it depicted a gay relationship between two crew members. Gerrold, who is himself gay, had been sitting next to Roddenberry on Trek convention panels for years and heard Roddenberry promise innumerable times to various fans that if Trek ever came back, then yes, there would be a gay crew member. So Gerrold felt justifiably angry and betrayed over having this promise broken, and that was one of the reasons he walked off the show despite all the cheerleading he’d been doing for it in Starlog in the months running up to the premiere.

Then– this is the part that tickles me– he turned the script into a book in his own Star Wolf series, in the same way that he had done with Yesterday’s Children decades previously when it was rejected from the original Star Trek show. (I’m not sure, but I think possibly every book in the Star Wolf series may have begun as an unproduced script for one or another iteration of Star Trek.)

I think all of these started as, if not actual TREK scripts, at least television scripts. But they are terrific books so I'm kind of glad the shows didn't get made, because these are probably better.

So Blood and Fire got the Star Wolf treatment too, and like all the other Star Wolf books, the story probably was improved by the conversion from script to novel.

Along with becoming a Star Wolf novel, the original BLOOD AND FIRE script is, I believe, included in the Gerrold collection THE INVOLUNTARY HUMAN. And you can see the original version of YESTERDAY'S CHILDREN, more or less, in the novel THE GALACTIC WHIRLPOOL.

Now, you’d think that would be the end of it. And for some years, that was the end of it. Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered without its gay crew member and went on for another seven years and then four movies, and Gerrold went on to write a bunch of other books, and everybody was, if not happy, exactly, at least satisfied.

And then along came James Cawley and Star Trek Phase II.

For fan-film episodes, these are pretty amazing.

Cawley and company have been making these painstakingly-faithful Star Trek fan films for the last few years; ostensibly, they are what we would have seen if the original Trek had run a fourth season. The acting ranges from what I think of as “community-theater good” to “professional,” and the special effects are state-of-the-art CGI. But “if it ain’t on the page it ain’t on the stage,” and the big selling point for me is that the scripts are uniformly very good, most of them done by pro novelists or screenwriters with genuine Star Trek credentials. Cawley has lured a lot of professional talent from the actual Trek shows to come and work both in front of and behind the camera: George Takei, William Windom, Barbara Luna, Walter Koenig, Dorothy Fontana, Denise Crosby, Michael Reaves… and David Gerrold. Gerrold scripted and directed a two-part adaptation of his own Blood and Fire as episodes four and five of this “fourth season” of Star Trek.

FINALLY.

Okay? That was all preamble to my being able to tell you that they used to only be available as torrented downloads, but now you can watch them streaming, if you like. Since we got our new computer a week and a half ago, I was finally able to do just that. Here is the episode page. If you like old-school Trek, I think you’ll enjoy them. And check out the other episodes, too.

Emi Town:
One of the casualties of our computer crash was the review PDF Emi Lenox sent me of her new collection, Emi Town. This is a compilation of the sketch-diary webcomics she’s been posting as a blog over the last few months.

There are about a million indie diary comics out there, ranging from mediocre to truly awful. I tend to think that it’s probably not a good bet, most of the time.

But there are exceptions, and Emi Town is one of them. For me the whole thing stands or falls on two things– first, on the sense of humor the cartoonist brings to it, and second, the actual drawing ability. I barely had time to glance through Emi’s collection before our computer went down, and sadly since the review PDF was hosted on MegaUpload it’s no longer available. Nevertheless, I saw enough to persuade me that Ms. Lenox has got a cute sense of humor and some serious drawing chops, and her book is worth a look when it arrives in stores. I’m always pleased to see actual cartooning in comics; sometimes I think it’s a lost art.

So even though I haven’t got a review, I can at the very least link you to her webcomic and let you decide for yourselves. That site is here. As for me, I certainly will be checking out Ms. Lenox’s book when it hits the stands.

Ghost Writing: If you are reading this site then you are probably aware of the dispute between Gary Friedrich and Marvel over his creator credit on Ghost Rider.

You might even be aware that after Friedrich lost his court case that Marvel is asking him for $17,000 he made selling Ghost Rider prints at shows and such.

Now, I’m seeing a lot of silly shit online about whether or not Gary Friedrich ‘deserves’ credit or money or whatever for Ghost Rider. Whatever. It’s already been litigated and here’s the end result. The ugly fact is that not only does Marvel not give Friedrich a share in any of the comics or movie money from Ghost Rider, but they dispute his even getting the creator credit.

Even though it's, y'know, RIGHT THERE ON THE PAGE and that went uncontested for decades.

They’re actually trying to shake Mr. Friedrich down for money he made appearing at shows as “creator of GHOST RIDER.” (If you’ve ever been to a comics convention, particularly to a typical convention’s Artist’s Alley, pause a moment to reflect on the sheer pettiness of going after this one guy among a flock of other artists both professional and otherwise doing commissions of Marvel characters and whatnot.)

So there’s all sorts of online rage and petitions and so on that have gone up, screaming at Marvel over the injustice of it all.

Marvel, owned by DISNEY. Badgering Marvel/Disney Legal with a lot of online petitions and bloviating about right and wrong and forgiveness and morality…. seriously? Have you MET Marvel/Disney Legal? Does anyone think outrage moves them one iota? Didn’t I spend a lot of column inches just a week ago pointing out that big corporate publishers are essentially soulless sociopaths?

Put aside for a moment all the message-board lawyering about work-made-for-hire and court cases and who knew about what risk and so on. That’s not really the point.

This is a guy who’s created something that many of us enjoy– I love Ghost Rider the comic, and Julie really digs the movies– and if you want to help Gary Friedrich, there is now an opportunity outside of pompous internet petitions and other such wrangles to actually HELP HIM. Steve Niles has set up a donation page, here. You can donate to Friedrich directly.

I don’t give a damn about precedent or court cases or work-for-hire contracts or whatever. For me this is the bottom line: This is the guy that gave us GHOST RIDER. If you like Ghost Rider, it seems fair to throw Gary Friedrich a few bucks in return for that, since Marvel won’t do it and he doesn’t deserve to end up homeless over trying to get a creator credit for something he actually did co-create. As far as I’m concerned that’s the end of the discussion.

We sent fifty dollars, basically because that’s all we can manage and because it’s about what I spent on Ghost Rider merchandise in the last year or so– a couple of Essentials and a used graphic novel.

Truthfully, if we sent Friedrich the matching sum for ALL the Ghost Rider stuff here in our place, WE'D be homeless. The last year's worth seemed fair.

But if everyone who sees this just kicked in five or ten, I bet that’d be a big help. It certainly makes more sense than spending hours on the internet arguing over what’s fair and what’s not in a court decision that’s a fait accompli. Why not channel some of that Before Watchmen rage from last week into an actual positive gesture towards a creator that got screwed even worse?

That link, again, is here. Even the price of a new comic would help.

*

And that’s it. Back to bed for me. Back next week, with a whole passel of stuff people sent me to review, including a bunch of cool stuff from TwoMorrows. See you then.

13 Comments

I suppose fan Star Trek episodes and comic book adaptations are all we’ll get to tide us over during the five years between Star Trek movies. I really wish they’d just made a new Star Trek show.

In Marvel Spotlight #5, the first appearance of Ghost Rider, it says “conceived and written [by] Gary Friedrich.” As far as I’m concerned that alone means that he should be credited as the creator of Ghost Rider.

Thanks for posting the Steve Niles donation page – I too loved Ghost Rider and issue #20 was one of the very first comics I ever bought. I donated this morning when I saw the link and thought Marvel could have handled this so much better given the PR monster of the internet and the strength of independent comics creators like Niles and others who have come to the fore in this case.

Bandname: Virulent Creeping Whatever

I’ll have to see if I can swing a donation. To me, the ugliest point wasn’t that Marvel/Disney won’t give him a creator credit (which, given that they apparently won the case, is what they’d do), but that they want to forbid him from REFERRING to himself as the GR creator in interviews and such in the future (as I understand it). THAT’S BS.

I thought I saw something on bleeding cool that they are working towards a new Star Trek TV show, but I didn’t look into it all that much.

“Bandname: Virulent Creeping Whatever”

And their first album should be titled “And They All Fell Off a Cliff and Died” after the best column title ever. “Another Sick Day” can be their first single.

Hope you feel better soon, but skip the Airborne — it’s not going to do anything:

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/makers-of-airborne-settle-false-ad-suit-with-refunds/

Nah, Da Fug, the Virulent Creeping Whatever was one of those Lovecraft pastiches, and it just didn’t work.

But that column title, and the column itself, were pretty good. Thanks for clueing me in.

Came to the same conclusion about the Friedrich case myself, i.e., all the forum and blog threads dripping with righteous indignation are a great deal of sound and fury signifying nothing. Thanks for the donation link.
Thanks also for the shout-out to Phase II. A few years ago I really got into watching all of these Star Trek fan films available online – most are somewhat amusing and just o.k., but Phase II is something else. The production values are fantastic; if it weren’t for the different actors, you’d think you’re watching the original series. My favorite episode is “To Serve All My Days,” despite its kind of downer ending. It stars Walter Koenig himself as an aging Chekhov, and Mary Linda Rapelye, the actress that played Chekhov’s love interest in the TOS hippie episode, makes a guest appearance.
By the way, Greg, with reference to your loss of a file due to a computer crash, I hate to be a nag, but seriously, high-capacity flash drives are really cheap now – I have two that basically serve as my back-ups, as I copy everything important off of my home and work computers onto them pretty much every day…

Hey if Disney can do it to Iwerks, they can sure do it to Friedrich.

‘Cept Disney actually hired Iwerks back and didn’t shake him down for chump change.

Greg, I’m glad you brought up David Gerrold and Star Trek, because I was planning to comment about him this week anyway. You mentioned his book THE WORLD OF STAR TREK in passing a couple weeks ago. I thought it looked interesting, so I requested it through inter-library loan.

I’m about halfway done now, and I’m loving the heck out of it. The interviews the cast and crew (Who knew William Campbell was so insightful?) are great, but the stuff about fandom is really terrific. I’m sure a lot of it is old news for people who were around during the Wilderness Years (is there a name in fandom for those years between TOS and the first movie? I just stole the Doctor Who name), but I’m just a 27-year-old young blood, so for me it’s almost like reading a secret history.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for the recommendation!

In Marvel Spotlight #5, the first appearance of Ghost Rider, it says “conceived and written [by] Gary Friedrich.” As far as I’m concerned that alone means that he should be credited as the creator of Ghost Rider.

That struck me as an amazingly good point, especially since it went uncontested for YEARS, so I went ahead and edited in that page scan. Thanks for the reminder.

I suppose fan Star Trek episodes and comic book adaptations are all we’ll get to tide us over during the five years between Star Trek movies. I really wish they’d just made a new Star Trek show.

Great idea, but the way that TV is now, it would be impossible to just put Star Trek back on the air as is; TV has changed, for one, and the guy that runs CBS, only cares about things that will get his network ratings and money.

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