R.I.P. Dom DeLuise

domdeluiseI didn’t want to let this week pass without taking note of the departure of one of our generation’s greatest funnymen, Dom DeLuise. It’s ironic to work in an industry called “comic books”, when someone like Dom virtually wrote the book on comedy. I had the chance to spend the day with him early in my screenwriting career, when he directed a TV film called Boys Will Be Boys–which, yes, sounds like a porno title (and probably is) but was really more of a Home Alone flick with two kids instead of one.

It was a bit of a vanity project, and Dom called in favors from Hollywood friends like Mickey Rooney, Ruth Buzzi and Charles Nelson Reilly (of “Match Game” fame!) to populate the cast. It also starred John Voight, Julie Hagerty, Randy Travis, Dom’s son Michael and even the exquisite Catherine Oxenberg, who I’d had a mad crush on ever since her pouty-lipped heyday on Dynasty. How’s that for one of the most bizarre cast lists you’ll ever see?

Anyway, my good friend Brian Hennessy–now at Disney, and who went on to produce the film Schooled–had been Dom’s First A.D. at the time, and he invited me onto the set as an extra, so I could see the sausage made from inside the factory. This in itself was an eye-opener as I spent the day with the rest of the extras–several dozen painfully struggling actors, desperate for a camera to pan across their faces for even just a moment; as if Steven Spielberg would be at home watching this direct-to-video feature, see some random actor onscreen for two seconds, and jump to his feet shouting, “That’s him! He’s my next Indiana Jones!”

arne-starr1As it turns out, some actors actually make entire careers out of working as an extra. (More by circumstance than design, obviously, but still.) Comic book artist Arne Starr, who worked on Star Trek titles through some celebrated runs in the 1990s, actually has an entire web page devoted just to his “background” work; I had been in talks with him at one point about possibly doing a Trek project for IDW, and he once spent an entire conversation recounting how that’s-his-hand-in-that-scene-from-CSI, that’s-his-ponytail-in-There Will Be Blood, and so on. (Arne has actually appeared in dozens of major projects ranging from Iron Man to Mad Men and Frost/Nixon–and yes, of course, even the new Trek.)

So, maybe it was because I was the only extra there who really didn’t give a shit about scoring my big acting break by sipping fake champagne in the background of some cocktail party scene, but at one point during a gap in the shooting I found myself standing next to Dom DeLuise, and he actually began chatting me up. (Probably a good example of how utterly magnanimous he was.) By complete coincidence, it turned out that I had once worked for his attorney, an old friend of his, and he seemed to suddenly savor the opportunity to talk to someone on set who wasn’t handing him a  headshot or asking him to resolve some lighting catastrophe.

mickeyrooneyMickey Rooney, meanwhile, had been a sheer comic genius in his scenes that day–ad libbing like a madman and rewriting entire comedy bits on the fly. At one point, he decided he wanted an extra onscreen with him to bounce a riff off of, and the herd of extras nearly stampeded for the opportunity of delivering a single line, some even pulling out their SAG cards should they need a union cred to take a speaking part. At that exact moment, however, Mickey saw me chatting with Dom, then grabbed me by the shoulder… and I suddenly became The Guy.

After we shot the scene a bunch of times (my line ultimately left on the cutting room floor–oh, the humanity), I ended up back in the tent for the extras, who immediately swarmed me to find out how it had gone and what I did to get the part. And so, for the rest of the day, I became King of the Nobodies, an anonymous celebrity among unknowns–people who wanted to chat me up and find out my secret, when I was actually the one person among them who well and truly couldn’t have cared less about whether Steven Spielberg saw my face in the corner of his TV for two passing seconds.

(But, hey, I even made it into the trailer–look for me over Julie Hagerty’s shoulder at 0:40 to 0:42!  How did Spielberg not see me??)

boys-will-be-boys1Eventually, however, the day became unbelievably hot, especially for late September–something like 90 degrees, made worse by the fact that it was a backyard scene around a pool, when all of us just wanted to jump in and be done with it. But Mickey Rooney, already pretty old at the time, was a trooper, doing take after take, the same scene with a dozen different spontaneous improvised punchlines, to give his friend Dom the most material to work with.

What none of us realized was that it was also Mickey Rooney’s 75th birthday–and just when the heat became unbearable, Dom ordered a break and surprised Mickey with a massive cake; then, to everyone’s surprise, he invited all the extras in the tent out front to join them–again, the type of gesture by someone who recognized that a tent full of people out front were all getting paid $79 to bake in the heat all day. So, in typical surreal Hollywood fashion, the fake cocktail party now for 30 minutes became a real party, with Mickey spending his birthday surrounded by elegantly dressed people he didn’t even know.

Despite that, before he cut the cake, Mickey got misty-eyed and told us all a story. He had become famous at an extremely young age, working the Hollywood lots when he was just a little kid, barely old enough to know where he was each day and having no perception that what he was doing was Extremely Important to all the grownups around him.

mickeymouse1One day while shooting, however, he got bored, as kids often do, and started wandering around Warner Bros. during the long breaks between takes. He came across some guy drawing funny pictures, which of course was infinitely more interesting to a seven-year-old than watching people hang lights all day. So, while everyone on the set searched for him, he spent the day with some unknown artist as the man drew cartoons of a rodent–and that’s how Walt Disney named Mickey Mouse.

After the story, Dom kissed Mickey on the forehead, and you could tell it wasn’t the first time. People will talk about how Dom DeLuise made them laugh in roles from films like Blazing Saddles, History of the World, Cannonball Run (as Captain Chaos!) and countless others, and they’d all be right. But I’ll also remember the day that I spent eating Mickey Rooney’s birthday cake as King of the Nobodies, all because Dom was such an incredibly nice guy. He’s sure as hell going to be missed.

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Me and Mickey, mugging it up in our big scene.

WordPress Top-100!

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Wow, I just wanted to say that the Star Trek movie script review that I published this week has easily become one of the most heavily-trafficked posts in the short history of this site–literally thousands upon thousands of visitors during just a few days. It even charted in the Top-100 posts for all of WordPress (#54, see above–click for full size), with this site itself hitting #78 on the Top Blogs of the Day.

In fact, according to my metrix software, this site actually ranked considerably higher for the week than the blog for the entire company of Radical Publishing, where you can find my most recent work. That just blows my mind, and let’s hope my friends and colleagues there don’t hold it against me. 😉

Thanks to all of you for reading, and hope you like the film.

Pax,

ASH

STAR TREK Movie Script Review: FIRE EVERYTHING!

fireeverything

With the world premiere of Star Trek unspooling tonight in Sydney—and no, the International Date Line does not constitute time travel—I thought I’d finally break my silence about the script, as one of the few people in the galaxy to actually read the screenplay ahead of time.

A word of caution as we begin: breaking my silence doesn’t mean breaking my non-disclosure agreement with IDW, Orci/Kurtzman or Bad Robot, who would all be happy to set their phasers to kill if I genuinely ruined any surprises. So, expect a spoiler-free review below; and if you actually like spoilers, you’ll already be surfing a tsunami of them tomorrow and won’t need any from me. (In fact, thanks to Twitter, you’ll probably even get them during the screening itself).

First, however, some background: Director J.J. Abams, the mastermind behind the franchise’s reboot, is notoriously secretive with the details of his projects, a lesson cannily learned from the successes of Lost and Cloverfield; so even reading the script ahead of time required a perfect storm of opportunity and circumstance.

trekmovielogoAs the Trek editor for IDW, which routinely publishes comic book prequels for its licensed titles, the “Supreme Court” of J.J.’s creative circle had tapped me to write the four-issue miniseries that would lead into the film, with the comics hitting the stands in 2008. Soon thereafter, though, Paramount execs repositioned Star Trek as a 2009 summer tentpole release, having laid their eyes on the film’s early footage. Meanwhile, I left the Trek captain’s chair to freelance full-time, and the logistical insanity of creating both the film and the prequel simultaneously finally forced J.J.’s team to shift gears and create the comics series in-house. (No cards or flowers for me, please—it’s not the first time that’s happened in Hollywood, and it won’t be the last.)

During the interim between the two, however, I had the chance to drive up to Universal and read the script at the Orci/Kurtzman offices (where, by coincidence, I actually met one of the guys who’d ultimately write the prequel). This by itself took an extraordinary amount of negotiation, including a maze of round-robin phone calls, several rescheduled appointment dates, and finally a comprehensive resume of published works demonstrating my geek cred. When these people said they intended to keep the story under wraps, they weren’t kidding—in fact, even some key people at CBS/Paramount hadn’t read the script yet, and quite possibly still haven’t. (Did it help that I went to the same high school as Trek producer and Lost Abramite Damon Lindelof? Probably not, but you never know.)

I recognize that such secrecy has occasionally frustrated fans—Trek at its most basic might be a mere copyright, but it’s also a global cultural touchstone and the centerpiece of imagination for legions of true believers. When the custodian of that mythology says he’s going to rewrite the testament, but keep its secrets from the congregates, there’s naturally going to be disquiet among the faithful.

At the same time, however, this secrecy has delivered its exact desired effect: Fans have become more abuzz about this film than perhaps any other in Trek history, and unveiling the reworked franchise with one single flourish has proven much more effective than had J.J. piecemealed it out. Or, to put it in my familiar comic book terms: it would have been like reading a scattershot series of panels, released haphazardly, then attempting to gague whether the issue was any good.

So, enough preamble. Having read the script in a single flourish, is it any good?

trekcast

The answer is: Oh, my, yes. You’re goddamn right it is.

The Supreme Court has powered up all its storytelling weapons and—paraphrasing Nero—fired everything. Action, drama, mythology, philosophy, characterization, romance…literally, all here. Pulse-pounding action sequences, so well choreographed that they actually unfold right on the page. More in-depth characterization than some players receive during entire seasons of Trek. And, most importantly, such elements used not in place of the story, but in direct service to it.

Let’s start with action. As a writer, I use a couple of rules when crafting action scenes: #1: Good action is cool shit happening in interesting places. #2: Everything is more exciting when it’s airborne. And #3: Never pass up the chance to explode a helicopter. The script exploits the first two with consistent and often breathtaking effect; and, while there obviously aren’t any copters in Star Trek, Orci & Kurtzman blow up nearly everything else, again always in service to the story, and not merely CGI showpieces for a picture-frame plot.

The drama? There are a couple of rules when crafting drama as well. #1. Desperate characters struggle against rising stakes; #2: External conflict should be matched by internal conflict; and #3: Get the hell out of the helicopter, douchebag, it’s about to explode.

Here again, the script utterly nails it—especially #3, in which (once the story goes to warp) characters find themselves in almost constant jeopardy, either through action itself or the tension leading up to it. That alone speaks to the skill behind the script, since it keeps moments stretched drum-tight even when we’re all well aware—because, of course, this is the relaunch of the franchise—that most characters aren’t about to get cut in half by a lightsabre midway through the second reel.

spock-and-kirkOK, enough with the rules-numbering. Let’s talk about the characterization. Having written and edited licensed Star Trek, I can tell you that it’s really not that difficult to get Kirk’s voice onto the page or make Spock sound like Spock. Even Slash/fanfic’ers can do it; we’ve all seen the episodes and movies dozens of times and know exactly who they are and how they talk. The challenge for this film is to deliver an origin story about how those characters came to be.

On that level, it’s a story that will appeal not just to Trek fans, but universally to any fans of good storytelling, who can connect with individuals and the relationships that develop between them, with their character arcs of growth, failure and sacrifice, and their authentic human experiences even amidst the backdrop of exploding photon torpedoes.

neroWere there things I didn’t think were perfect? Well, sure. I thought that Nero actually read a little flat on the page—no pun intended—but, having seen even just brief clips of Eric Bana’s performance from the TV spots and trailers, I realize now that he could see in the script what I didn’t. He’s definitely taken the character and punched him through to the stratosphere.

I also thought there was one brief action set-piece that felt a bit too familiar to one from another film of the same genre (again, no spoilers, so I won’t say what); but when you’ve seen as many SF films, episodes, comics, scripts and pitches as I have, sooner or later you’ll find all sorts of moments that can start to seem familiar. It’s the only one I found in the script here, though, and if it’s executed correctly on the screen, it’s going to be a fantastic sequence.

So, all right, it’s a great script. But Star Trek scripts need to be more than great stories; they need to be great Trek, and that means fidelity to all the precise continuity that goes along with it. Talk of reboots and reworkings and reimaginings makes fans afraid that they’re about to rewatch Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes. We’ve all seen Greedo shoot first, and in Hollywood the words “trust me” and “fuck off” often sound remarkably identical. When I moderated the Star Trek publishing panel at the San Diego Comic-Con last year, the subject of the film naturally came up, and Wil Wheaton, sitting next to me, put it best: “We are all living in a Post-Phantom Menace World.”

I also have a number of good friends who have written Trek professionally for the screen, and as much as I fully respect them, there’s a sentiment among some that resists not just change, but any change. Those friends might very well disagree with me about this script, but it’s likely that they would have been disappointed no matter what story was made. Hell, some Star Trek fans already have Internet firefights worthy of the Dominion War, and that’s just for stories that didn’t restart the franchise. I couldn’t produce stories that pleased every single one of those fans when I ran the Trek titles at IDW, and Orci/Kurtzman don’t make the mistake of attempting to do that here.

enterpriseBut, just in case you’re concerned that this story marks its new continuity by pissing all over the old one, let me reassure you: That isn’t what happens here. The script doesn’t ignore 40+ years of continuity, it doesn’t replace it and it doesn’t even eulogize it. It constructs a deceptively elegant narrative device to leave in place all that has gone before, while striking off in a bold new direction. It’s a fresh coat of paint on the ship that we’re all already familiar and comfortable with.

There is indeed a moment in the script—I won’t say what it is, even though it’s already been leaked and widely discussed, since I promised no spoilers—that indelibly marks this as a new continuity; it’s sure to be controversial among the fans, but it’s not a cheap stunt or way of dismissing the old stories. It’s the story’s way of cementing a new identity all its own.

It’s also entirely fair to say that Paramount has hoped to refit the franchise for a new generation, acutely aware of the gently aging demographic that has devoted itself up until now; and in that respect it definitely represents a more modern sensibility and departure from the back-to-basics, “Enterprise gets involved in two warring factions on a planet” type of routine story that made Insurrection such an epic fail.

But while teens will most definitely love it, I’ll also say that my dad is 72 years old, wouldn’t know a phaser from a fork in a toaster, and I’m going to make him see it on opening weekend. It’s a story that communicates everything we’ve loved about Trek, to the masses who could never quite fathom why we loved it; it is, in almost every way, the Star Trek movie we’ve been waiting for.

INTERVIEW: Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek

With the sudden collapse of the Czech government this week and the impending exit of Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek–currently the president of the European Union, in fact–I thought I’d repost an interview I conducted with him shortly before his ascension to the PM post.

He struck me as decent, candid, and unafraid to make controversial statements about positions he genuinely believed in. He also commanded an exceptional fluency in English, without even the need for a translator on standby. Ultimately, his government’s handling of the current economic crisis gave rise to the current “no confidence” vote, though likely a couple of other issues came into play as well.

With his forced resignation, the EU presidency post could pass to Czech President Vaclav Klaus, founder of Topolanek’s party and whose reputation for euroscepticism we actually discuss during the interview. Oh yeah–and U.S. President Barack Obama is slated to visit Prague in just a few days. It will be, as they say, an interesting week.

Click on the images to read the article; photos are by Stephanie Peterka. And you can check out more of my non-comics writing in the Published Works section–just scroll down.

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LAST GENERATION nominated for Best Series of 2008!

chronic-riftYow! Since I’m back to blogging, it’s time to announce that “Star Trek: The Last Generation” has been nominated for Best Series of 2008 by the legendary and longest-running SF/comics talk show, The Chronic Rift!

The ‘Rift started out as a cable TV chat show in New York City in 1989, and now 20 years later can be heard worldwide through its podcast edition thanks to the magic of the Internets. Its annual recognition of science fiction, fantasy and horror storytelling, The Roundtable Awards, tips its hat to the top genre films, comics, TV shows and prose fiction of the year.

last-generation-logoLast Generation has been named a “Best Bet” and “Pick of the Week” by Wizard Magazine–sort of the Rolling Stone of the comics biz, for the uninitiated–as well as received stellar reviews from Wizard, Ain’t It Cool News, TrekWeb, Roddenberry.com and a wide array of other top SF and comics sites, but this is the first time that it’s actually been up for an industry award.

From the official blog of the show:

We release the list of nominees for this year’s Roundtable Awards ceremony…

Best Comic Book
All-Star Superman
The Amazing Spider-Girl
Locke & Key
100 Bullets
Star Trek: The Last Generation

OK, let’s see. All-Star Superman is from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Amazing Spider-Girl is the cult hit written by former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco. Locke & Key is the breakout series from Stephen King’s son Joe Hill. And 100 Bullets is from WonderCon Guest of Honor Brian Azzarello. So, yeah…I think you’d need a degree in quantum physics to chart the likelihood that Last Generation will take home the trophy. (Maybe in an alternate universe… *rimshot*)

Joe Hill

Joe Hill

No, seriously, I’ll say it right now, and mean it, that it’s an honor just to be nominated. IDW, which publishes Last Generation, had been developing Locke & Key during my time as an editor there, and even though I had no involvement in producing the series, I thought it was far and away the most impressive thing we had published. Joe Hill himself is an incredibly fertile creator, able to rattle off story pitches like the gavel dude at a farm auction, and yet hold your attention rapt as if he’d already written the entire story in his head.

Tom DeFalco

Tom DeFalco

At the same time, I’d love to see Tom DeFalco get the nod, since an interview I did with him back in 1987 had been my first professional comics work while I was still a cubling journo in college, shortly after he became editor-in-chief and took me on a personal tour of the fabled Marvel offices in New York City.

(Regrettably, I no longer have any copies of the interview myself; though if I have a chance to sort through my parents’ old storage unit next time I’m on the East Coast, I’ll try to track it down. I think it was headlined, “An Interview With Captain Marvel”–oh, so clever.)

Marvel Masterworks, Vol. 1

Marvel Masterworks, Vol. 1

After our conversation, which lasted very nearly all day, Tom even gave me a special thanks in the Acknowledgments of the very first edition of Marvel Masterworks (Amazing Spider-Man) that came out at the end of the year–my very first professional comics credit. He also put it into the concurrently-produced second and third volumes, The Fantastic Four–which reprinted the issues that launched the Marvel Universe–and The X-Men, which became the Marvel Universe’s top-selling blockbuster franchise.

Coincidentally, one of the other names in the Acknowledgments, also just a fledgling creator at the time, will soon be taking the reins at one of the publishers I’ve worked for. (I can’t say who or which, since it hasn’t been announced yet, but you’ll hear about it soon enough. It’s a pretty big deal.)

Is that--can that be?--Yes, it's our beloved KRAD, fresh from his date with Molly Ringwald.

Is that--can that be?--Yes, it's our beloved KRAD, fresh from his date with Molly Ringwald.

Also coincidentally, the very first episode of Chronic Rift two decades ago featured my future pal and celebrated author Keith R.A. Decadido, who I would eventually hire to write Star Trek for me at IDW, but here looking as fresh-faced as the day he cracked open his first comic.  Manscaping advice, Keith: lose the beard that you’ve now treasured for so long–DeFalco and Hill already have you beat.

None of which has anything really to do with being nominated for Best Series of 2008–except to say that being 21 years old, still in college, touring the Marvel offices and interviewing the editor-in-chief, then seeing my name in the credits of a series of deluxe hardcover books that reprinted some of the most seminal issues in comics history…I sure as hell felt like a winner.

It does feel great to be nominated in such prestigious company, so a huge thanks to those involved in the process who held my series in such high regard. For everyone else, the Roundtable Awards get announced at a ceremony April 6, so be sure to send me your condolences. 🙂

WOW, more than 2,100 hits…

…in just the past week. I’m pretty surprised and flattered, for a blog that’s been around less than a month.

It’s probably because I named the blog “Free Porn”, though obviously now I’m thinking about changing that. (OK, just kidding–I’m not thinking about changing that.)

Anyway, thanks to everyone for reading, guys.

–ASH–

SDCC: The Good Bits

Okay, so, nothing like a good rant to kick off the new blog, but I didn’t want to leave the impression that it was all lemons and no lemonade. (Or all Phantom Menace and no Empire Strikes Back; or all Batman Forever and no—OK, right.)

So, I’ll manage to begrudgingly acknowledge some highlights, despite my best efforts:

Cliff Meth, via Neal Adams.

Cliff Meth, via Neal Adams.

Saw some of my pals from over at IDW–notably including Cliff Meth, an East-Coaster whom I had only known over the phone during the time that we were working on his deranged opus Snaked. The project has now been optioned (pre-convention); and, while all the credit goes to Cliff, it was great to have worked on the book to warm my hands on the glow of his madness.

Wil Wheaton, Tweeter.

Wil Wheaton, ex-Wes.

I also moderated the main Star Trek panel, a joint effort between the publishers of Trek comics, novels and manga, organized by my friends over at Pocket Books. Wil Wheaton, now crafting stories for Tokyopop, was hilarious; a really down-to-Earth and charismatic guy who’s become the perfect storm of genre celebrity, hardcore geek and clever writer.

I had reviewed one of his stories as a guest columnist for a Trek website a few months back, and gave it some really positive comments, so it was great to get to meet him and talk with him about writing Trek.

Andy Mangels, via George Perez.

Andy Mangels, via George Perez.

Got also to chat afterwards at length with Andy Mangels, whose work I’ve always admired, and who I had been corresponding with via email during my IDW days.

Scott Tipton, via David Messina.

Scott Tipton, via David Messina.

Other keen folks on the panel included Scott Tipton, one of the most reliably talented writers who worked for me at IDW, as well as David Mack—the Borg guy, not the Kabuki guy—who I owe another dinner to when I get back to New York. Andy Schmidt, who took over my seat as Trek comics editor and has been deviling me of late for Previews Guide solicitation texts, represented for IDW, while Margaret Clark from Pocket Books was kind enough to overlook that I owe her another lunch as well.

The Indy Jones Journal. The white strip comes off to make it look authentic.

The Indy Jones Journal. The white strip comes off to make it appear authentic. Cool!

(And she even hooked me up with a bitchin’ new Indiana Jones pleatherbound hardcover, designed to look authentic as his journal from the movies; apparently, George Lucas even personally picked out the color of the band that ties it shut.)

Also got to host for writing partners Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward, who have a Star Trek: Vanguard novel coming out next year that’s on my list—nice guys, both.

The IDW Panel itself went well, strongly attended and people seemed to really get a kick out of the Days of Future Past homage cover that my buddy JK Woodward drew for me for the first issue of the Star Trek: The Last Generation series announced at the convention. JK has an actual X-Men series being released by Marvel in the coming months, and if you’ve seen his painted work on Fallen Angel, you know it’s going to be great.

Last Generation #1 incentive cover, from JK Woodward.

Last Generation #1 incentive cover, from JK Woodward.

Had a great long lunch with the extremely engaging Gordon Purcell, a veteran Trek penciler and a real fave among the fans who I’m lucky enough to have as my interior artist for Star Trek: The Last Generation. Gordon’s a true pro who’s got stories aplenty from his time in the trenches and some really excellent ideas on the direction of the series. I can’t wait to start working with him.

Also great restaurant conversation was Anthony Pascale, editor on the Internet’s biggest Trek site TrekMovie.com, who’s not only a Trekspert but is a whip-crack observer of politics. Definitely another dinner in order the next time I’m up in L.A. Also great seeing again was Ed Schlesinger from Pocket Books, who I’ll definitely have to spend more time with back in New York, one of the most magnanimous and astute book editors that you’ll ever meet.

Captain Peter David, with his Fallen Angel and some ensigns, via Stephen Thompson.

Got to say hi with a number of people who wrote or drew for me at IDW, including Fallen Angel and Star Trek: New Frontier writer Peter David, Trek cover master Joe Correney, the inexhaustible Tony Lee, the genital-obsessed Ben Templesmith, All Hail Megatron mastermind Shane McCarthy, and award-winning scribe Neil Kleid, who had better see his Transformers Spotlight project put through or I’m going to owe him breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with my amigo Arie Kaplan, a writer for Mad Magazine and Speed Racer who I had a great time with at WonderCon and who’s got a phenomenal new book coming out on the Jewish creators who launched the comic book industry.

Arie via Arie.

Arie, via Arie.

The book collects and expands on a series of articles that he had published in Reform Judaism magazine (circulation of something like a quarter of a million, the largest Jewish mag in the States); and which, by sheer coincidence, was the same issue that my wife Jenn wrote her CNN-captivating story about nominee John Kerry’s long-lost Czech-Jewish grandfather while we were living in Prague, years before I met Arie through IDW.

Also on the didn’t-spend-enough- time-with list: my IDW predecessor, Dan Taylor, who’s now writing two new titles with collaborator Neil Kleid, both of which sound awesome; Dave Crossland, kamikaze penciller for Bryan Lynch’s Everybody’s Dead; and Gabriel Rodriguez, the amazing artist on Joe Hill’s stunning series Locke & Key, who had spent a few days at IDW during a visit from South America and is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.

Joe Hill himself was awesome to chat with, incredibly animated and able to rattle off killer comics pitches (um, no pun intended) with the enthusiasm of a born storyteller. Locke & Key has been optioned too, and it’s been tearing up the comics sales charts, so good on him.

Wasn’t able to spend any time at all with Clydene Nee, a former IDW cohort and Ramen noodle aficianodo who had her hands full coordinating Artists Alley for the convention; or another chum, Keith Arem, creator and publisher of the astonishingly good Ascend graphic novel—another L.A. lunch date that I’ll have to schedule to catch up with.

So much catching up and hi-helloing with people that I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone along the way—if I have, then yes—I owe you lunch.