An interview in the Sunday, June 16 Oregonian....
It was a reasonable expectation.
After all, the plan was to shoot the movie digitally over 12 days at Whedon's house, while Whedon was on a two-week break in the middle of directing "The Avengers." And the idea grew out of a series of low-key "Shakespeare brunches" Whedon held at his house, where his actor friends would come over and read aloud from the Bard's plays. Fillion had attended a couple of them.
"I was around when Joss said, 'I think we should film one of these,'" recalls the "Castle" star. "And, being the stupid guy that I am, I thought he meant.... film us reading it.
"But," he says, deadpan, "I was wrong about that.
"When we got there," recalls Fillion, "the shock for a lot of people, and myself, was that he'd said, 'Oh, we're gonna film it in my backyard' -- but it was a production by anyone's gauge. You've got three cameras rolling, and lights ... and the catering was some of the better I've seen in my career. Joss said, 'Yeah, I can't do anything small.'"
Whedon's "Much Ado" opened in Portland on Friday (June 21) at Cinema 21. It's a charming black-and-white confection that gathers a team of all-stars from Whedon's various TV shows and movies (including Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher and Fillion) to interpret the play in modern dress. Its unforced confidence is impressive, given that the production was squeezed into Whedon's house on a microbudget during the two weeks he wasn't making one of the biggest blockbusters in movie history.
One of the film's highlights is Fillion, who plays "Much Ado"'s clown, the idiot constable Dogberry, as a straight-faced wannabe cop who can't conduct a linear interrogation to save his life. Fillion's deadpan, Caruso-esque approach (more on this in a second) is hilarious, and the polar opposite of Michael Keaton's barn-broad, Python-inspired interpretation of the character in Kenneth Branagh's much-loved 1993 version.
I talked with Fillion about "Much Ado"; how he learned to like the Bard; how he's dealt with fans in a long TV career that includes "One Live to Live," Whedon's sci-fi cult fave "Firefly" and the smash hit "Castle"; and the advantages of Twitter, where at last count his followers at @NathanFillion numbered nearly 1,800,000. An edited transcript follows after the jump.
(Photo by Glenn Peters. “You’ve got a little piece of lettuce on your face here.” “Here?” “No, HERE.”)
(UPDATE 6/22: Dylan's podcast site hit its bandwidth limit, so you can now download the podcast from here.)
Dylan Meconis first popped up on the webcomics scene with her French-revolution vampire comedy ‘Bite Me!’ and cemented her reputation with dark historical drama ‘Family Man.’ Along the way she’s also redrawn the ‘Danse Macabre’ for a new generation and spun her own fable of corruption with the Eisner-nominated ‘Outfoxed.’ Mike Russell of CulturePulp.com will interview Meconis about her style and genre-hopping comics, world-building vs. storytelling, coming of age as an artist online, and her influences outside of comics.
(I've been half-toying with the idea of starting an interview podcast somewhere down the line, and if I do, this is more or less how it would go.)
Dylan Meconis Spotlight Panel: Stumptown 2013 (quirkybird.podbean.com)
Catching up with some recent podcast appearances:
• During the Friday, Nov. 16 "Cort and Fatboy" podcast, I sort of went off on "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2," sorry. Also: Bond, competing "Prometheus" scripts, the Internet cottage-industry economy, and a liquor-store beef. Show-notes in the comments.
• On the Friday, Nov. 9 "Cort and Fatboy," we talked about "Skyfall" (which is pretty damn terrific) and riffed on a variation of The Avengers made entirely of comic-strip-characters (Hagar the Horrible as Thor, Billy from Family Circus as The Hulk, etc.). We may have also reminisced about the long, winding, multi-building history of the show.
• The Friday, Nov. 2 "Cort and Fatboy" deals in Huey Lewis, bad dancing, James Bond, the Disney/Lucasfilm deal, and vague-tweeting -- this last topic for reasons detailed below...
• On Thursday, Nov. 1, we also recorded our final "Midnight Movie Commentary," this one for "Back to the Future." Featuring Cort, Fats, Dave Walker, Erik Henriksen and yrs. truly. What's that? "Final," you say? Well, fun fact: Immediately after we finished recording this, Cort and Fats informed us that they were canceling their show. More on the live Dec. 7 series finale here.
• Oh, and finally, if you go in for that sort of thing, the v. nice Colin Marshall interviewed yrs. truly about my "CulturePulp" non-fiction comic, fan cultures, "The Sabertooth Vampire" and more for his "Notebook on Cities & Culture" podcast. In a hilarious ironic twist, I spend a bunch of the interview talking about my history with "Cort and Fatboy" and the communities to which it introduced me.
So I interviewed "Bloom County" creator Berkeley Breathed for Ain't It Cool News. I think I'm legally allowed to die now.
Berkeley Breathed spent years saying in interviews that no one would want to buy an omnibus collection of his rude, rash and much-loved 1980s newspaper comic "Bloom County." So how the hell did editor Scott Dunbier finally talk Breathed into allowing IDW to publish the five-volume "Bloom County: The Complete Library"?
"By getting Scott to agree to do it himself," wrote Breathed in an e-mail. "It's really 'Bloom County by Scott Dunbier' now. A jaw-droppingly monumental job, compiling all that stuff. Most of the originals looked like the Dead Sea Scrolls. The difference being that my material actually did prove that Jesus existed."
For newspaper-comics fans of a certain age, Breathed was sort of the Chuck Jones of the funny pages -- a storyteller with ridiculously sharp comic timing who worked with a cast of talking animals and screwed-up humans. He could make you laugh with tiny facial expressions and anarchic bits of slapstick, much of the latter involving a diseased cat. Drawn in feverish, last-minute all-nighters, the strip was so reckless and awesomely crass that finding it on the same page as "Marmaduke" and "Garfield" almost felt like getting away with something. Breathed tends to play his gifts down in interviews: He told me he was "destined to be an outsider" in the cartooning community -- despite winning a Pulitzer prize for it in 1987, at age 29 -- "because cartooning was a means to an end: humorous expression and storytelling in whatever medium would have me. Cartooning happened to lay in my path and I rode it." He's selling himself wildly short. If Bill Watterson was Disney Studios, Breathed was Termite Terrace -- and part of the last truly comedically badass trio of newspaper cartoonists, along with Watterson and "The Far Side"'s Gary Larson.
Breathed ended his second "Bloom County" sequel strip, "Opus," in 2008, and seems to have quit the business for good this time (his third attempt, after retiring "Bloom County" in 1989 and "Outland" in 1995). These days, he develops TV projects and makes children's books, including "Mars Needs Moms!" -- which is being made into a film by Disney and Robert Zemeckis' production company. (A teaser trailer should debut any day now.) He's also become something of an elder-statesman cartoonist, which probably gives him hives: He enjoyed a blockbuster appearance at his first San Diego Comic-Con this year, and starting in February 2011, he'll have his first-ever retrospective exhibit at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. "The show is scheduled to run February to June, and will be split between Berkeley's children's-book work and 'Bloom County,'" said Dunbier. "There will be a reception at some point with Berkeley in attendance."
Almost exactly one year ago, I interviewed Dunbier for Ain't It Cool News about his mad scavenger hunt to assemble "Bloom County: The Complete Library." Now Dunbier's paved the way for an AICN interview with Breathed himself -- in support of the just-released "Complete Library" Vol. 3. Breathed agreed to be interviewed by e-mail, as is his wont. He answered over 40 questions -- talking about deadlines, copyrights, Watterson, Schulz, Trudeau, college, editors, newspapers, disrespect, IDW, "Opus," the Internet and Hollywood triumphs and horrors. (God, the stuff about the Weinsteins.)
Mike Russell Talks BLOOM COUNTY And More With Pulitzer-Prize Winning Humorist Berkeley Breathed! (Ain't It Cool News, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010)
Intro to a longish interview with James Cameron for The Oregonian....
James Cameron is enjoying a bit of a victory lap at the moment.
The director of "Titanic," "Avatar," "Aliens" and the first two "Terminator" films is making the rounds to promote the limited re-release of "Avatar" -- with eight-and-a-half minutes of additional footage -- in digital 3D and IMAX theaters. The expanded cut of Cameron's saga about noble blue aliens fighting off resource-plundering humans opened Friday, Aug. 27, and any additional box-office revenues will presumably be added to the film's record-smashing $2.7 billion worldwide gross.
(By the way, a special-edition home-video box set this November will be even longer, with a reported 16 minutes of additional footage. As Cameron half-jokingly promised during our interview, "If you just want to wallow in 'Avatar' for three hours, I can get that for you.")
Mr. Cameron and I talked for a little over 20 minutes about the technical challenges of transposing real facial expressions onto 12-foot-tall blue aliens; changing technology and filmmaking fundamentals; the ideas that his underrated 1989 film "The Abyss" shares with "Avatar"; helping his pal Guillermo del Toro realize his dreams; Cameron's tendency to make "violent films about peace"; the bureaucratic idiocies of BP; deleted scenes; and the enduring legacy of "Aliens" hardware.
James Cameron Q&A (The Oregonian)
The intro from my long conversation with Paul Pope for Ain't It Cool News….
Paul Pope didn't wait for anyone to discover him. The Ohio native kicked his way into comics during the mid-'90s self-publishing boom with work that included "THB" -- his as-yet-unfinished sci-fi adventure about a 13-year-old girl running from robots and bureaucrats on Mars.
Pope stood out for a number of reasons in the mid-'90s. He was one of the few Americans at the time to work in-house at Japanese megapublisher Kodansha -- and his crazy-fluid style and mammoth page counts merged European, Japanese and American comics styles in a way that proved prophetic. (I'd argue "Scott Pilgrim" and its ilk owe a lot to Pope's groundwork, consciously or un-.) Pope also had fun playing with personas and the notions of what a comics artist can be: He put cheeky rock-star photos of himself in his comics, gave himself Ziggy Stardust-style names like "Pulphope" and "Comics Destroyer," and took his illustration into the realms of rock and fashion in New York, where he now resides.
Right now, Pope is working on three big projects. For First Second, he's writing and drawing "Battling Boy" -- his young-adult graphic novel about a kid superhero fighting monsters for hundreds of pages -- and "Total THB," a partial redraw of "THB" that will finally conclude that series. He's also working on "Psychenaut," a dream-analysis project for French publisher Dargaud.
Pope is making a rare guest appearance this weekend at the Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland, Oregon -- with two-hour signings on Saturday and Sunday, April 24-25. (I'm told it's a chance to pick up his limited-edition vinyl toy, "The Masked Karimbah." ) On Sunday, he'll also give a talk with a Q&A. Then, on Sunday night, Pope will DJ and show his experimental sci-fi mashup film "Psychenaut" (a different project than the French comic) on the main floor of the Bossanova Ballroom during the "Stumptown Volunteer Appreciation and After Fest Party." Pope's girlfriend, the New York burlesque and circus performer Harvest Moon, is coming to Portland with him; she's performing at the Bossanova at "The Royal Tease" (April 24) and "Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School" (April 25).
When we spoke last week, Pope had just wrapped a deadline for a French magazine. We talked for an hour-and-a-half while he walked around New York. ("I'm like The Fonz," he joked. "The street's like my office.") Topics of conversation: "Battling Boy," "Psychenaut," burlesque, manga, sex in comics, the ultimate Bat-Cycle, how to draw 70 pages in a month, "THB," Moebius, "Close Encounters," Jeff Smith, what makes a good superhero movie, and how to make toys, camouflage and a rock-star comics persona.
Oh, and we also talked about Pope's surprising connection with AICN's own Mr. Beaks....You can read an edited transcript of the entire Q&A by clicking here.
Mike Russell Delivers A Must-Read Interview With Paul Pope! BATTLING BOY, BATMAN: YEAR 100 And Much More Discussed! (Ain't It Cool News, April 19, 2010)
The intro from our really kind of ridiculously long conversation at Ain't It Cool News....
Dark Horse Comics editor/writer Scott Allie -- whom I've known and occasionally worked with over the past 15 years -- dropped me a line a few weeks ago. He was wondering if I'd submit some spoofy backup comic strips for consideration in the letter-column pages on future Dark Horse "Serenity" books. ** (My editing of a semi-defunct website collecting "Firefly" fan webcomics -- or, as I like to call it, "the single nerdiest thing I've ever done in my life" -- probably had something to do with his offer.)
Anyway. I also suggested we do a Q&A for AICN, mostly because I wanted a sneak peek at what Scott was working on. The backup comics may or may not happen, for all kinds of reasons. But the Q&A totally did, and it accidentally went on for two hours. So here you go.
Dark Horse is putting out two new Joss Whedon-supervised "Serenity" comics this year. You'll find some preview art below. Coincidentally, the two comics deal (in very different ways) with characters who died in Whedon's 2005 "Serenity" film.
"Float Out," due in June, is written by comedian Patton Oswalt, who pitched the story to Whedon while guest-starring on "Dollhouse." Among other things, it's a 24-page collection of memories about wisecracking pilot Hoban "Wash" Washburne -- and it's notable for being the first "Serenity" comic-book story that isn't set entirely between the TV show "Firefly" and the movie. Like the characters in the story (who aren't necessarily the characters you'd expect), we're moving forward.
Due this fall, "The Shepherd's Tale" is an original graphic novel written by Zack Whedon ("Terminator," "Dr. Horrible") from a detailed outline by his brother Joss. It reveals space-preacher Shepherd Book's past, it's structurally fascinating and surprising, and from what I was allowed to read, I'd guess Ron Glass is powerfully sad he didn't get to play this story onscreen -- it would have been one of the great episodes of "Firefly" had Whedon gotten a chance to film it.
Artistically, the books represent a major departure from the more straightforward look of the first two "Serenity" comics miniseries, "Those Left Behind" and "Better Days." "Float Out" artist Patric Reynolds has a rough-hewn, expressive style that Allie describes below as "sort of Kent Williams-style art." And "The Shepherd's Tale" gets a gorgeously high-contrast treatment from the great Chris Samnee ("Capote in Kansas") that acts as a stark counterpoint to the moral grays in Book's life. Allie says he and Whedon wanted "to get away from the precise look we'd had in 'Serenity' comics. And that's what we got with these two guys."
Again, I've known Scott and worked with him off and on for 15 years. It's been fun to watch him go from being the poor bastard who had to try and keep Dark Horse's hilarious-but-unwieldy "Instant Piano" afloat to the guy who edits comics that include Whedon's "Buffy" and "Serenity" titles, "Hellboy," "Conan" and "The Umbrella Academy," among others. He's also built a comics-writing career that ranges from his mid-'90s self-published horror anthology "Sick Smiles" (to which, full disclosure, I contributed), to "The Devil's Footprints," "Exurbia," "Star Wars: Empire" and "Solomon Kane."
We talked for a ridiculous amount of time about "Serenity," "Buffy," Joss Whedon, Evan Dorkin, fan management, future publishing plans, the recent "Buffy" cover fiasco, how licensing works, Gerard Way, the negated "Dollhouse" comic, and the hilarious trainwreck that was "Instant Piano."
____________Mike Russell Journeys To The Center Of The Whedonverse With Dark Horse Comics' Scott Allie! (Ain't It Cool News, March 22, 2010)
On March 14, I'll be helping give a presentation about comics reportage at the College Media Adviser’s convention in New York. Our goal is to show them some of the ways the comics form has been used in journalism beyond editorial cartoons. I've looked at all of the archived CulturePulp strips, and I was wondering if you’d be willing to take a few minutes to answer some questions.
Following are my answers to those questions. It's the closest thing I've ever given to a history of the CulturePulp pop-reportage comic strip.
I've been drawing comics since I was in grade school; I had a four-issue comic-book series (about robots, natch) in my elementary-school library for fellow students to check out.
I later wrote and drew a couple of narrative comic strips for various student publications at the University of Oregon and self-published them as books.
(I also majored in Magazine Journalism at U of O, and wrote for and edited high-school and college student publications.)
I did experiment a little with journalism in a comic-strip format during my college senior year -- collaborating on a cartoon feature in which my college comic-strip character interviewed two other college-comic-strip characters drawn by two other students.
I more or less let my cartooning career languish after I left college in 1992 -- tackling the medium in little fits and starts ("Santa's Lil' Gimp" is the standout), but putting most of my energy into running a couple of community newspapers and writing movie reviews on the Internet. Then, in 2004, I was hired on as a film critic at The Oregonian on the strength of my Web writing.
In March 2004, I had made a nonfiction comic strip for A&E about the history of superhero comics -- but I'd been kicking around an idea for YEARS about doing a comic strip in which I was the lead character, a strip that chronicled me doing weird/funny stuff as a pop-cultural reporter. And so, needing extra income, I simply walked up to my then-editor Grant Butler and pitched the idea a few months into my Oregonian gig. He said, "Make a prototype," and sent me to a zydeco concert. I made this comic, and to my surprise, Grant published that prototype and basically gave me a space in A&E every couple of weeks to do nearly anything I wanted. I was VERY lucky to have an editor willing to take that risk.
From there, I enjoyed the singularly terrifying experience of learning to do non-fiction pop-reportage comics in public.
I presented some of my ideas on the form at a journalism conference in Denver in (I think) 2005, and since then, I've also done a couple of journalism/semi-journalism strips for the Boston Globe: "A History of Aeon Flux" and an interview with filmmaker Richard Linklater.
Yes. I've been freelancing with The Oregonian as a film reviewer/interviewer and as a cartoonist since Feb. 2004. This works out well; under the terms of my freelance contract, I own the copyright to all my comics in the paper 24 hours after publication.
2a. I’m interested in finding out more about the print version. What size does it run in the paper? What kind of play does it get in the section?
CulturePulp (and "Mr. Do & Mr. Don't") comics generally appear monthly in the front-of-the-book section of The Oregonian's Friday arts section, A&E. A couple of special strips were done for Sunday arts sections, as I recall. The A&E strips take up an entire roughly tabloid-sized page of the section -- about 9.5" wide by 10.5" tall.
(It's a really generous news hole, actually, given the ever-shrinking size of comic strips on other pages.) When I started doing the strip, it was half that size, and I had a LOT more trouble with cramped art and making everything fit.
I rearrange the panels for the online version of the strip.
In recent years, time constraints have me taking breaks from the journalism/reportage comics to do a far less research-intensive humor strip called "Mr. Do & Mr. Don't" -- a spoof of "Goofus & Gallant" in which two "instructional cartoon characters" teach Portlanders how to behave at various cultural events.
(After you tally the reporting, transcribing, distilling, scriptwriting, layout, drawing, lettering, editing, and post-production tweaking, each CulturePulp journalism comic takes about 30 hours to make. And that's been with considerable inking assistance by my good friend Bill Mudron and digital coloring by the likes of Mudron and the talented animator Chad Essley.)
There are several. Newspapers have experimented with the form here and there. Here are a few I like, in papers and elsewhere:
4. What do you think is gained from creating a comic about an event rather than simply writing about it?
Honestly, I'm not sure my thoughts on the matter are terribly complicated: I just thought it was a funny/unusual/attention-getting way to cover Portland's weirder subcultural corners while giving myself a cool excuse to do stuff like ride a Segway. Doing it in comics form often allows you to play up the subjectivity and comedy in a way that not even video can match.
5. Taking photographs can be done in seconds, but drawing panels is quite laborious and time-consuming. Why is creating a comic worth the extra time? What does the comics form offer that traditional story-plus-photographs does not?
See above. I guess maybe I'd put it this way:
Comics are the hardest form of writing for the easiest form of reading, which makes it interesting to me as a formal experiment. A lot of people could film themselves doing the sorts of things I do in these strips; a lot of people could write about doing the sorts of things I do in these strips. Very few people would choose to make comic strips along those lines, however -- and none of those comics would look quite like mine. (Most of them would probably look BETTER than mine, but that's another story.)
My point being: This personal authorial stamp provided by the comics form is interesting to me -- not just in my own pop-culture-centered work, but in all nonfiction-comics work, especially by masters like Sacco.
I think what you gain from chronicling a pop-culture event in comics form is that you lend the experience an extremely subjective personal stamp that can be vivid and funny in ways that other mediums can't.
Also, as I once heard Art Spiegelman say (I'm paraphrasing), comics work like the human mind -- distilling information into quicks bursts of words and images. They can be incredibly effective as a journalism vehicle.
Well, I can't speak for hard-core masters of the form like Sacco or Crumb. But for me, I make myself a character because
(a) it ensures I always have something to make fun of, i.e., myself, and
(b) I started the strip without having a lead character as a guide, and it just wasn't as fun to read as it was when I provided the reader with a little first-person everyman who can act as the reader's entrée (and anchor) into whatever world we're visiting. I'd argue it's not narcissism so much as satisfying the reader's need for a protagonist. TV-news reports have anchors and correspondents; why not comics?
7. In the online versions of CulturePulp, you always include “Endnotes and Digressions.” Do those appear in the print version, as well? Why do you feel the endnotes are necessary?
There are endnotes in the print version, but I usually expand them for the online version. I do this partly because I love footnotes (I'm a HUGE fan of David Foster Wallace's nonfiction work) -- but also because supplementing the comic with hotlinks and denser textual information just makes the reading experience richer, and gives a greater sense that the piece was actually reported. I try to make each comic a sort of multimedia "information meal," and the endnotes are a big part of that.
8. Obviously, these questions just scratch the surface of comics journalism. Is there anything else you’d like to add for our college audience?
Mostly, I'd just love to see more people trying to do pop-culture journalism comics. I started mine because I'd always wanted to read one in a newspaper. By all means feel free to make yours better-drawn, funnier and/or more insightful than mine.
9. May we quote from your comments in our paper/presentation?
Only if I haven't made a complete jackass of myself.
-- Mike Russell
For the latest CulturePulp comic strip, I sat down with Portland-based comics artist Steve Lieber. We talked about "Whiteout" -- both the 1999 graphic novel (which Lieber illustrated) and the movie adaptation that opens nationwide on Friday, Sept. 11.
Also: Here's a link to the raw text of my full hour-and-a-half conversation with Lieber -- about "Whiteout," how to draw Antarctica, Lieber's almost supernaturally Zen attitude about the Hollywood development process, obsessive research, amateur spelunking, how to extract payment from difficult publishers, how to make a 100-page comic in 20 days, horrible teaching experiences, designing Hello Kitty floats, working for a literal ton of food, and why a 3-D map of Gotham City might be a nice way to appease the continuity gods.
CulturePulp 86: Zen and the 'Whiteout' movie deal (Webcomics Nation)
Mike Russell Interrogates WHITEOUT Graphic Novel Illustrator Steve Lieber! (Ain't It Cool News)