Why The Russos Are The Best Thing to Happen to the MCU Since Joss Whedon
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.