Wednesday, April 16, 2014

SPEAKING OF ANIMATION

I just did an in-depth interview with Comic Book Resources about my years working in the animation field and you can read it right here.   How's that for short and sweet?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

GETTING ANIMATED

I'm often asked about my work in TV animation and I thought it would be fun to pull the curtain back a little and shine a light on the process; a process that always starts with a discussion of the story:  sitting down or (since I'm usually three thousand miles away from most of the studios) getting on the phone with staffers to dissect the episode.  That could mean a two hour call, bouncing ideas back and forth, shaping the basics of the tale, or it could mean starting with specific notes from the producers, explaining what they want to accomplish with the story, laying out the basic beats of the episode—which I'm then expected to flesh out into a very detailed outline.

The outline is the bedrock of the process and, in many ways, the most difficult part. It's where you fall through every hole in your story, bump into every flaw.  Once you've got a solid outline in hand, writing the actual script is generally—for me, anyway—a relaxed, and enjoyable, experience.  But outlines are where I sometimes tear out what little hair I have left.

What you'll find below—warts and all, I didn't comb it for typos or spelling glitches—is an outline I wrote, a few years back, for the late, lamented Legion of Super Heroes animated series, a first-rate show run by two first rate writer-producers: James Tucker and Michael Jelenic.  As I recall, Michael gave me the basics of what they were looking for in the story, then I went off, banged my head against the wall for a few days, and wrote the outline.  Give it a read and see what you think.

If you enjoy this let me know and, next week, I'll post the teleplay—if I can find a way to upload it with all the formatting intact.  (Oh, and let's not forget that what you're about to read is ©copyright 2014 Warner Bros/DC Entertainment.)  


LEGION OF SUPER HEROES
CRY  WOLF
outline
by
J.M. DeMatteis

Note:  This episode is narrated, in FIRST PERSON VO, by Timber Wolf.

TEASER 

We’re on the planet HEISENBERG-7, at a conference of some of the top scientific minds in the galaxy.  (Dozens of SECURITY GUARDS, in full Kirbyesque regalia, around the room.)  On a stage, expounding on his success with genetic manipulation, is DR. MAR LONDO.  Londo’s presence has the crowd in an uproar, many demanding that he be denied the right to speak.  (As this goes on, we see a CLOAKED, HOODED FIGURE push his way through the mob.)  Others demand that Londo be allowed to have his say.  “The great scientific discoveries,” one ALIEN SCIENTIST says, “have not come from the conformists, they’ve come from the radicals, the renegades.  Without men like Dr. Londo, we’d all still be living in the Dark Ages.”  Londo says that he’d like to share some of his work with the gathering.  “A little something I threw together from...spare parts.”

A screen slides up revealing a half-dozen creatures—all, Lando proudly explains, created from unliving synthetic tissue that he has developed—each one more hideous than the next:  their bodies, as Londo suggested, seemingly cobbled together from dozens of random parts.  Dr. Londo slips a metallic headband around his head, explaining that these BIOGOLEMS, as he calls them, have been implanted with a new generation of nanites, keyed to his own brain waves.  This allows Londo to control the creatures completely (via the headband) with thought alone—“making them living extensions of my own mind, my own will.”   A single thought—the headband glows eerily—and the Biogolems stagger forward, terrifying the crowd.  Another thought and they stop, frozen in their tracks.  Most of the scientists are horrified, disgusted, by what they see.  Londo takes in their horror with great satisfaction.  

The cloaked, hooded figure calls out from the floor.  These Biogolems may be synthetic beings, he says, but he knows that Lando often works with living subjects.  “But you don’t talk about them, do you, Doctor?  The men and women with homes, families, lives—that you destroyed.”  Londo coldly explains that “all of  my subjects were volunteers—whose families were richly rewarded for their involvement in my experiments.”

“In other words,” the figure says, “they were poor, desperate...and you used them—the way you use everyone...”  He throws off his cloak, revealing himself to be TIMBER WOLF:  hunched forward, claws at the ready.  A hungry, savage gleam in his eyes.  “...including your own son.”  He advances on the stage.  The Security Guards scramble—each one carries the weaponry of a small army—but Timber Wolf is like a force of nature, easily defeating them.

TW makes an astonishing leap above the crowd, landing on the stage before his  father.   With each step, Timber Wolf seems to morph, becoming wilder, more animalistic.  Dr. Londo backs away, mentally ordering his Biogolems to attack.  They do:  charging Timber Wolf...pounding at him, tearing at him...but, again, TW is triumphant.  He hunkers down, lets fly a bestial HOWL, then slowly advances on Dr. Londo.  “You don’t want to do this, Brin,” Londo pleads.  “I...I’m your father.  You don’t want to—”   Timber  Wolf  roars—and leaps, straight and sure, for Dr. Londo.

VERY CLOSE on DOCTOR LONDO:  SCREAMING.  “Freeze image,” a VOICE says—and Londo halts, in mid-scream.  We PULL BACK to reveal that we’re in the Command Center of the Legion’s Mobile Headquarters.  (Everything we’ve just seen has been playing out on a large holo-screen suspended from the ceiling.)  The room has become a makeshift courtroom for a Legion Tribunal:  Timber Wolf stands, in hi-tech shackles, under a harsh spotlight, CHAMELEON BOY by his side—acting as defense attorney.  COSMIC BOY, FUTURE SUPERMAN, COLOSSAL BOY, and SUN BOY stand behind a tall, intimidating podium.  Other Legionnaires are gathered as witnesses to the proceedings (some present in the room, others watching on viewscreens), PHANTOM GIRL prominent among them.  “All the evidence has been presented,”  a grim Cosmic Boy says.   “Brin Londo, you have repeatedly refused to help Chameleon Boy mount a proper defense.  Do you have anything to say before this Tribunal pronounces its verdict?”

Timber Wolf doesn’t seem upset in the least.  He just smiles a cold, harsh smile.  “Bring it on,” he growls.

“It is the judgment of this court,” Cosmic Boy says, “that you are guilty as charged and that you be imprisoned on Riker’s Maximum Security Planet...”  He slams down his gavel.  “...for the rest of your life.”

END TEASER

ACT ONE 

Picking up exactly where we left off in the TEASER—as Chameleon Boy approaches Cosmic Boy and the other judges.   “You can’t do this!” he demands.  “You know this  was a set-up!  Londo must have genetically-altered someone to look like Brin and—”   Cosmic Boy cuts him off, saying that they’ve gone over the evidence a dozen times.  They have DNA samples from the scene, more than a hundred reliable witnesses, holographic records of the crime.  Incontrovertible proof that Timber Wolf is the one responsible.  (We periodically CUT to Phantom Girl, watching all this, extremely agitated.)  Chameleon Boy insists that it’s got to be a trick.  “Lando’s alive!  He’s got to be!  I’ll bet he’s sitting somewhere right now, gloating and—”  Cosmic Boy, losing patience pounds the gavel and says, “The court has rendered its verdict.  The prisoner will be transferred to Riker’s Planet at precisely—”     

“The prisoner,” Timber Wolf says, straining against his bonds and shattering them, “has other plans.”  He bolts for the exit, smashing through the door.  An ALARM sounds.  Total chaos as dozens of Legionnaires swarm across the HQ in pursuit of TW— 

—who single-handedly takes on this army of super-heroes.  There’s a moment when Cosmic Boy almost has TW—but Timber Wolf suddenly becomes insubstantial, slipping away from him.  (CB shoots an angry glare at Phantom Girl, who tries—and fails—to look innocent.)  Future Superman finally spots Timber Wolf, grabs him—and lets loose with a powerful blow that sends TW flying through the air and smashing into—and partially through—a wall:  he falls to the floor, unconscious.

The others gather around TW...only to watch in astonishment as he morphs...into Chameleon Boy.  Cham’s eyes open, he looks up at an extremely angry Cosmic Boy who says, “Do you know what you’ve done?”  “Yeah,” Cham replies, “I’ve given him a chance.  Which is more than you were willing to do.”  He tries to stand, wobbles, starts to fall:  Phantom Girl catches him.   CUT TO:

New Metropolis.  Night.  Rain and thunder.   Timber Wolf on the run, leaping from roof to roof, deep in VO THOUGHT.  He knows he’s been framed—that his father has somehow staged this assassination—but he’s got to prove it.  Far from being shaken by everything that’s happened, he’s exhilarated.  Being in the Legion sometimes feels like being in a cage.  Now, at least, he’s free...to be himself, without their rules and regs.  Yet for all his exhilaration, there’s also doubt.   He’s been having headaches, lately (in fact, he’s got a fierce one right now).  Blackouts.  There’s a gap in his memory:  nearly a day that he can’t account for.  

He enters a futuristic slum:  tenements and sleazy bars.  These headaches and blackouts, he says in VO, worry him.  Ever since his father turned him into a walking nightmare, he’s lived with the fear of losing control.  Of completely giving in to his animal side.  What if that’s what’s happening when his mind goes dark?  “What if I really did it?”  He approaches a bar called THE DARK SIDE, peers through the front window:  a sea of human and alien criminals within.  Cruel and dangerous

TW climbs the side of the building, moving up toward an apartment above the bar.  “No,” he thinks, “that’s not who I am.”  He slips in through the window, drops down quietly into a cramped, filthy apartment, filled with books and papers and scientific equipment.  “At least...Brin Londo isn’t.  But what about Timber Wolf?”  

CUT BACK to Legion HQ.  “The real Superman,” Phantom Girl snaps at Future Supes, “would never have attacked his friend.“  “Oh, really?” FS replies, “And would the ‘real’ Superman have helped a convicted criminal escape the way you just did?”  “I hope so,” she says, then adds that she’s taking the injured Cham to his quarters.  He needs to rest.  

“We’ll deal with those two later,” Cosmic Boy says, rushing to a computer panel in the wall.  In several keystrokes he determines that TW has teleported down to Earth.  Future Superman:  “With his abilities, if Timber Wolf doesn’t want to be found—”  “We’ll find him,” the grim Cosmic Boy says.  “And we’ll bring him to justice.”   

CUT BACK TO TIMBER WOLF.  The apartment above the bar, we learn—via TW’S VO—belongs to PROFESSOR NEERGG:  a contact Dr. Londo uses to buy black market goods and to find subjects for his experiments.  Neergg was once a brilliant scientific scholar...before he got involved with Londo and quickly fell from grace.

Knowing that Neergg is in regular contact with Dr. Londo, TW tears through the Professor’s things, looking for any clue that might shed light on his father’s scheme.  Going through the computer, he comes across a series of personal HOLOGRAPHIC FILES of Dr. Lando’s—stopping when he comes to one labeled BRIN.  We see Lando’s face appear as he talks about the experiment that transformed his son into a human-animal hybrid.  Lando’s concern is that Brin went off with the Legion before the work was completed.  Had TW stayed with his father, Dr. Londo claims he would have helped Brin find a balance between his human and bestial selves.  “He would have emerged as a new, superior species.  But now, without my help, I know it’s only a matter of time before the beast within him takes control.  And Heaven help us all when that happens.”  Timber Wolf’s fist shatters the computer screen.  “No,” he hisses, “it’s not true.  It’s not—”  And then, sensing something, he freezes a beat then  suddenly whirls—

—leaping across the room and smashing a fist through the door, shattering it, grabbing hold of a figure in the hall and yanking it inside.  “Hello, Professor,” TW says.  Neergg—a corpulent, green-skinned, octopus-like alien with tentacles—stammers:  “B-b-brin?  Why, Brin...how d-d-delightful to see you.  If I’d known you were c-coming I would have—”  “Left town?”  TW effortlessly hurls Neergg across the room and into a chair.

Timber Wolf indicates the smashed computer. “How did you end up with my father’s personal files?”  “When I heard he’d d-died, I h-hacked into his database.  D-d-downloaded them.  There’s quite of bit of i-i-incriminating information in there...a man has to p-protect himself, you know.”  “No one could just hack into my father’s files...unless he wanted them to.”  “W-wanted?”  TR, agitated, feverish:  “He knew I’d come here...knew I’d find them.  He’s playing games with me.”  “A trifle p-p-paranoid, aren’t we?”  Neergg says, starting to get up.   Timber Wolf pounces on the Professor, places a claw against his neck, snarling:   “I need a ship.  One that can’t be traced.  And you’re just the man to get it for me.”  “Wh-why?”  “If I can get to Heisenberg-7...study the crime scene.  With my enhanced senses, I’ll be able to find things the police missed, I’ll—”

Neergg—peering over TW’s shoulder—suddenly looks twice as terrified.  Timber Wolf’s eyes ice over:  “They’re here, aren’t they?”  ANGLE ADJUSTS to reveal Cosmic Boy and Future Superman standing behind TW.  “We don’t want to hurt you,” Cosmic Boy says.

TW’s head starts to pound mercilessly (we HEAR it as a DRUMLIKE BEATING).  His voice and body language become more animalistic.  “Well I want to hurt you!”  He leaps—high into the air, kicking Cosmic Boy in the face and sending him flying.  Future Superman moves quickly, pounding TW right through the floor—

—and into the bar below.  All the goons stop dead as Future Superman and Cosmic Boy fly down into the room.  Colossal Boy and Sun Boy rush in through the front door.  “You’re going to prison,” Future Superman tells TW, “where you belong.”

Timber Wolf grins.  “Hear that?” he says, turning to the goons.  “You’re not gonna let these super-cops take down one of your own, are you?”
   
The Legionnaires suddenly find themselves surrounded by dozens of human and alien thugs, brandishing everything from broken bottles to formidable Kirbyesque weapons.  Future Superman, Colossal Boy and Sun Boy take on the thugs—

—while Cosmic Boy and Timber Wolf  go at it, one-on-one...a terrific struggle that, at first, seems to tip in Cosmic Boy’s favor.  But as the pounding in Timber Wolf’s head increases, he becomes more and more savage.  After Cosmic Boy lands a magnetic blow that sends him crashing through a wall, Timber Wolf  rises up from the wreckage, eyes wild...body seeming to grow wider, taller, more inhuman...and he launches himself at Cosmic Boy.  For all his power, CB can’t stop Timber Wolf—who slams his team-mate mercilessly, battering him into semiconsciousness.  Just as Future Superman and the others finish off the last of the goons—

—Timber Wolf makes a spectacular leap through a nearby window, into the thunder and rain.  IN THE ALLEY OUTSIDE—Neergg is waiting.  “Th-this way!” he whispers.  TW rushes to him, Neergg pushes a button on his belt, and the two of them teleport away—just as the Legionnaires come smashing out of the bar through the wall.

END ACT ONE

ACT TWO

A battered, ramshackle old ship sails through space.  INSIDE we find Professor Neergg and Timber Wolf, Neergg devouring some revolting, foul-smelling alien food; TW, head pounding, paces back and forth across the cabin.  “P-perhaps,” Neergg says, shoving the food toward Timber Wolf, “s-some nourishment will help?”  TW snarls and swats the food away.  “Or not,” Neergg says.  Timber Wolf stops a beat—suddenly alert, aware.  “Wh-what’s the matter?”   “You can stop now,” TW says.  “I d-d-don’t understand what you—”

Timber Wolf leaps across the cabin, hoists Neergg in the air with one hand.  “I said you can stop now...Chameleon Boy.”  And Professor Neerg’s form changes...revealing that it is indeed Cham.  “It was Neergg in the apartment...but you in the alley.  With all the confusion, I wasn’t focused...but here, now...with just the two of us—”  “You’re good,” Cham says.  “I don’t just change my form, I alter my body chemistry.  You’re probably the only person alive who could tell that it was me.”   “Was this little trick Cosmic Boy’s idea?”  “Mr. Pompous?  Are you kidding?”  Cham says he wasn’t as badly hurt as he led the others to believe.  A little shape-shifting and it was easy to tail the other Legionnaires to Neergg’s place.  “Why?” TW asks.  “Because I’m your friend, you idiot—that’s why.”  “I don’t have any friends,” TW says.  “Melodrama and self pity,” a voice-from-nowhere observes.  “A toxic combination.”  Phantom Girl shimmers into reality.  

“I don’t want any help from either of you,” TW says.  “You didn’t complain,” PG says, “when we saved your butt back at HQ.”   “I didn’t need you two to get out there,” Timber Wolf says.  “I could have done it—and done it better—without you.”  “Modest, isn’t he?” Cham says to PG.  Phantom Girl puts a hand on TW’s shoulder.  “Face it, Brin...you’re stuck with us.”  He glares down at her hand, growls, and she yanks it back.   “You come as far as Heisenberg-7,” he says, “and then we part company.”   “You’re welcome,” Phantom Girl says as TW pads across the cabin, hunkering down in the corner.  His headache is getting worse:  the DRUMBEAT pounding, pounding, pounding.  And (TW says in VO) with each drumbeat it’s as if something is rising up from the deeps of his soul:  something dark and angry and hungry.  A part of himself he’s always kept in check.  A part of himself he’s starting to like.  Cham and PG share a concerned look and we CUT TO:

Heisenberg-7.  The conference center from our TEASER.  POLICE mill around outside the main hall...as a tall INTIMIDATING MAN  demands admittance.  “No one,” a POLICEMAN tells him, “is allowed in without—”  Intimidating Man flashes his I.D.  “Sorry, Commissioner,” the cop says, embarrassed, “I didn’t realize it was you.”

The Commissioner enters the otherwise empty hall, closing the door behind him.  “Neither did I,” he chuckles...before turning back into Chameleon Boy.  Phantom Girl comes wafting down through the ceiling and Timber Wolf slips in through an air vent.
“Now what?” Cham asks.  “Now I do,” TW says (his head still pounding), “what I do best.”  We HEAR the rising, frenetic DRUMBEAT as, in VO, Timber Wolf tells us how he’s sorting through every scent in the room...every trace of every person that was here that day.  THROUGH HIS EYES we see TW begin to visualize the events of that day...GHOSTLY, MIST-LIKE FIGURES forming in his field of vision.  WE HEAR, OVER THE DRUMBEAT, the sound of ECHOING VOICES:  the scientists...Dr. Lando...and Timber Wolf himself on that fateful day.

TW leaps onto the stage...watches as the attack plays out again, in GHOSTLY SLOW MOTION.  And then, suddenly, he swipes the air with his claws...the ghostly figures evaporating.  TW throws his hands to his head.  “No!” he roars.  Cham and Phantom Girl rush over.  “What is it?”  
The DRUMMING in TW’s head reaches a fever pitch now.  “The scent...of the attacker,” he says, is voice an inhuman, animalistic growl.  “It’s...my scent.  My scent.  I was here that day.  I remember now.”  Timber Wolf’s body grows, morphs—into something far more savage and inhuman than we’ve ever seen before:  “It was me!” he rages.  “I did it!”

END ACT TWO

ACT THREE

This new, primal and monstrous, Timber Wolf hunches there in the hall, growling, watching the two Legionnaires with hungry eyes.  He inches toward them, drool dripping from his slavering jaws.  CB and PG freeze in their tracks.   “I think,” Phantom Girl says, “the change is related to his emotional state.  If we can just calm him down...”  Timber Wolf leaps, roaring, straight at them.  “Well, that should be easy,” Cham says sarcastically, as he transforms into an insect to dodge the beast.   “Oh, I’ll do it,” PG sighs.

Phantom Girl goes intangible, floats in the air above Timber Wolf.  “This isn’t who you are, Brin.”  TW leaps at her...through her.  Frustrated that he can’t get at her.  “I know you.  You’re a good and gentle person.  You’re no monster.”  The beast leaps again, his claws whipping through PG’s intangible form.  Then PG takes a big risk.  She becomes corporeal again.  Standing before TW, totally vulnerable.  “You’re no monster,” she repeats.  TW growls, raises a clawed hand...then stops.  We can see him struggling against the bestial urges.  His body reverts to something between this monstrous shape and his normal form.   “I don’t know what I am,” he growls. his hand going to his head, which is pounding, aching.  “We’ll help you find out,” Cham says as he and PG approach Timber Wolf.  He looks up at them, with real vulnerability in his eyes.  It looks like they’ve reached him.  But just then—

—the police rush in.  “Commissioner, we thought we heard—”  And they stop dead when they see TW and the Legionnaires.   “That’s him!” a POLICEWOMAN shouts.  “The fugitive!”  As the police rush them, weapons drawn, Timber Wolf bounds through the crowd, swatting officers aside and effortlessly escaping.  Cham and PG, on the other hand, find themselves surrounded...and under arrest.  “You can’t arrest me,” PG huffs.  “My mother is the President of the United Planets.”  “Tell it to the judge,” the policewoman says.  “I don’t have time for this,” PG says, going intangible and slipping through the floor.  “Excuse me,” Cham calls after her, “didn’t you forget somebody?”  PG shoots back up through the floor and, before the police can react, grabs Chameleon Boy, turning him intangible and yanking him out of there.  

OUTSIDE—Phantom Girl and Cham emerge to see their ship rocketing up from the surface.   Jumping into hyper-space.  TW’s gone.  She  hits her com-link.  “I’m calling Cosmic Boy.”  “Oy, is he gonna yell,” Cham says.    

INSIDE the ship, Timber Wolf at the controls.  In VO he says that  he’s everything they said he was.  Everything he’s been afraid of since his father transformed him.  He doesn’t belong among people.   There’s only one place for him now.  He’s going home.

CUT OUTSIDE—as the ship emerges from hyper-space, heads down toward the planet Raal.  TW comes leaping out of the ship, racing into the jungle, into the night...toward his father’s compound.  This is where I belong, he thinks.  And this is where I’m going to stay.  CUT TO:

EXT. SHOT of Dr. Londo’s compound.  Silen—except for the the sounds echoing from the surrounding jungle.  Then we’re—

—INSIDE:  Timber Wolf walks through the lab.  It’s like a tomb.  Dark, dust-covered.  Moonlight filtering in through the windows, creating an eerie, chiaroscuro effect.  With every step through the shadows, his head pounds; he feels that beast inside him trying to claw its way out.  That darkness inside him is rising...threatening to engulf him.  Take him over, once and for all.  Then he catches a scent, something that startles and surprises him.  He comes to a sealed door—a COMPUTER VOICE asks for bio-ident—and smashes through it, entering the inner room—

—where he finds a figure sitting in a chair, welcoming him.  At first we can’t see the figure, but then the man steps forward into a shaft of moonlight.  Dr. Lando.   “Welcome home, son,” Lando says.  “So you are alive—”  “After a fashion,” Lando says.  And then, to TW’s horror—

—Dr. Londo begins to melt...dissolving into a pool of steaming, bubbling ooze.  “Quite a lovely piece of work, isn’t it?” another voice says.  “A clone...a combination of my DNA, synthetic tissue and nanites.  Just like the one I used to fool those idiots in the Science Police.”  And then Dr. Londo, the true Dr. Londo, MATERIALIZES in a wave of light.  (He’s wearing the headband he was wearing in our TEASER.)  “This one has a unique design...made to last for only 36 hours.  Quite a mess after that, I’m afraid.”  Timber Wolf whirls—both relieved that his father’s alive...and yet ready to tear him apart at the same time.  He hunkers down in the center of the lab.  “You set me up,” he growls.  “Yes and no.  You see, my dear boy,  you did attack me.  The...other me.  And rather gruesomely, I must say.”  Through the pounding in his head, TW sees the same ghostly visions of the attack that he saw earlier in the conference hall.  He knows his father’s right.  It was him.  “The blackouts, the headaches...all your doing...?”   Lando nods.  “How?”

Dr. Londo says that TW is, once again, at the forefront of his research.  His new generation of nanites, the smallest and most advanced in the history of science, were able to travel, invisibly, from Raal to Earth...implanting themselves in the limbic system of TW’s brain.  “The amygdala to be precise.  Which governs aggression and fear.  I used them—and this...”  He indicates the headband.  “...to call you to Heisenberg-7.  Imposing my will upon yours.  Forcing you to attack your beloved father.  To show you just how far—you could really go.”   “Why?”  Timber Wolf roars.  “Why would you do that to me?  Why would you turn your own son into a criminal?”  “Why?” Doctor Lando repeats.  “Because I want you back!”  This stops TW in his tracks.  “I’ve always wanted you back, son.  You saw my holofiles,” he continues.  “Our work together wasn’t done.  I can help you master this power within you...you can be more than you’ve ever dreamed.”  “What if I don’t want to be more?” TW asks.  “Do you think this...Legion of yours is where you belong?” Lando laughs.  ”The Legion is a child’s charade.  Did you see how quickly they turned against you?  Oh, I suppose they’ve done an adequate job helping you develop your powers...but you’ve grown beyond them now.  Beyond their insipid laws and worthless morality.  Now it’s time for you to step into your destiny.   Together, son...we can do great things.”  The headband glows and, in response, a wall of SHIMMERING TELEPORTATION ENERGY erupts across the room—

—and dozens of warriors beam in.  All of them with Timber Wolf’s face.   “Your DNA is alive in every one of them,” Doctor Lando says.  “Which is why you were born to command them.”  Lando says that he’s recently allied himself with other like-minded men.   (This can tie in to the Imperiex storyline at a later date, if you’re so inclined.)   “Radicals and renegades like myself—with a vision of what this galaxy can be.  But in order to bring that vision to reality...we need armies.”  He looks squarely into his son’s eyes.  “And Generals.  It’s what I’ve wanted for you...what I’ve planned...all along, son.”  “No!” Timber Wolf shouts.  “Never!”  

Lando concentrates, the headband glows, and the TIMBER WOLF WARRIORS advance on TW—overwhelming him, mercilessly beating him back.  How, he wonders, can he stand against super-soldiers created from his own DNA?  

“It’s who you are.  Who you were meant to be,”  Lando says—as the headband glows, brighter and brighter.  Timber Wolf HOWLS—clearly in pain.  “Don’t resist,” Lando goes on.  “Allow the inner beast to have free reign.  Show me your true face.”   And TW does—his body morphing, becoming the monstrous form we saw on Heisenberg-7—as he attacks his Warrior-clones with a raw, brutal savagery.  All trace of the man seems gone:  only the animal remains.  “Don’t fight it,” Lando says, smiling coldly.  “Don’t fight me.  I’m all you have.  Without me...you’re alone.”  And that’s when—
—a magnetic wave sweeps through the Warrior-clones, blasting them back. Cosmic Boy flies in—followed by Future Superman, Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy and Sun Boy.  “He’ll never be alone,” Chameleon Boy says, “as long as he has us!”  Phantom Girl lands at TW’s side.  Timber Wolf turns on her, roaring, raging...but PG goes intangible.   “You can do this, Brin!  You’re in control, not him!  You’re in control!”

We launch into our final, spectacular battle—as the Legionnaires take on the Timber Wolf clones and the real TW struggles to do what Phantom Girl said:  fight off his father’s control.  Timber Wolf HOWLS in AGONY from the effort.  The DRUMBEAT in his head pounding, pounding, pounding.  He  falls to the floor, nearly overcome by the effort to fight off his father, to fight off the darkness of his own soul.  But then:

Doctor Lando staggers back in pain and amazement as the headband begins to smoke...and then EXPLODE.  (When it does, the clones all stop fighting.  They stand, arms hanging at their sides.)  TW then leaps to his feet...restored to his true form—

—springing across the room toward his father.  With one angry swipe, he knocks Dr. Lando to the ground.  Terrified. (It’s as if we’re replaying the attack we saw in the TEASER.)

“Brin—no!” Phantom Girl shouts, rushing toward TW.  Cosmic Boy holds her back.  “No.  Let him do it.”  The others look at CB, stunned:  “Let him?”  

Timber Wolf yanks Dr, Londo to his feet, slams him against the wall, presses his claws against his father’s neck..  

But he can’t do it.  Not to his own father.  Not to anyone.  How is it possible, he muses in VO, that after all he’s done...I still care about him?  I still love him?   “You’re letting me live?”  Doctor Lando asks.  Then his expression becomes cruel, mocking.  “A pity,” he says...and then he melts into bubbling ooze.  Before TW can even react, a viewscreen in the lab erupts into life and another Doctor Londo, the real one (we assume) appears there.  “If only you’d actually done it...of your own free will...you would have made me proud.  Ah, well,” he goes on, sighing, “I’ve got new sons now, don’t I?  And new plans...”  The screen goes black...and a wave of teleportation energy sweeps through the lab, carrying the Timber Wolf Clones away.  CUT TO:

Later, back at Legion’s HQ.  Brainiac Five, having removed the nanites from Timber Wolf, is developing new defenses to insure that this doesn’t happen again...to any of them.  Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy and Phantom Girl gather around a somber Timber Wolf.  “Hey,” Cham says, “why so grim?  It’s a happy ending.  You’ve been cleared of all charges.”  No answer from TW.  “Your father was controlling you,” Phantom Girl insists.  Again, no reply from Timber Wolf.  “That thing you attacked at the science conference,” Cosmic Boy adds,  “wasn’t even human, it—”  TW, a look of incredible sorrow on his face, turns to face Cosmic Boy.  “But it just as well could have been,” he says—
—walking away from the others...standing alone by the viewport, staring down at the Earth below.  In VO he says:  “I’ve battled the beast...and I’ve won.  But for how long?”

THE END

Friday, March 21, 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CAPTAIN CRANE

Tomorrow is William Shatner's birthday (if you want to know why I love the man, just read this).  Let's celebrate with a cornucopia of classic Denny Crane Moments:


And if you want to watch the Greatest Captain Kirk Speech Ever, click here (YouTube won't let me embed it).

Happy birthday, Captain—and many more!

Monday, March 17, 2014

THAT IS THE QUESTION

“So what are you working on?” is a question I get all the time and I thought I’d use Creation Point to answer it.  At the moment, I’m as busy as I’ve ever been in my career and here are a few of the projects either out now or in the pipeline:

The Fox #5 is out from Archie Comics’ Red Circle imprint:  It’s the concluding chapter of a mind-bending, and delightful, mini-series conceived by the uber-talented Dean Haspiel and scripted by the great Mark Waid.  I wrote (and Mike Cavallaro illustrated) the Shield back-ups that ran through issues two, three and four—and this fifth issue brings the Fox and Shield together in a story written by yours truly and illustrated, and inspired, by Dean.  It’s comics for the sheer fun of it.

Over at DC, I continue to work on Justice League Dark (where we’re coming to the end of the massive Forever Evil: Blight crossover), Phantom Stranger (also part of the Blight arc), Larfleeze and Justice League 3000 (the latter two co-written with the brilliant Keith Giffen).  The fourth issue of JL3K—which features future-versions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Green Lantern—came out just last week and it’s a real turning point for the characters.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, now might be a good time to jump on.  I’ve also got a Justice League Dark Annual in the works as well as a Secret Origins story that focuses on one of my favorite members of the JLD.

I’ve started work on my new project with Abadazad illustrator (and all-around Mad Genius) Mike Ploog.  The book won’t be out till this time next year, so I can’t say much just yet.  I will say that, if you’re a fan of Mike’s spookier works, you should enjoy this one.  It’s filled to the brim with Things That Go Bump In The Night.

For those of you who enjoyed my 2013 creator-owned series The Adventures of Augusta Wind, I’m happy to announce that IDW will be bringing you more Augusta soon (well, soon is a relative concept in publishing.  It will probably be some time in 2015).  I’m very excited to rejoin my collaborator and co-creator, Vassilis Gogtzilas, as we bring Augusta’s all-ages tale to its epic conclusion.

Over in the world of animation, I’ve got a pair of projects in the works for...  Well, I can’t tell you.  But they feature...  No, I can’t tell you that, either.  All I can say is that they’re two of the most exciting animation projects I’ve ever been involved in and, as soon as I’m allowed, I’ll break the details here.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d better get back to work!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEHER BABA!



"Love has to spring spontaneously from within; it is in no way amenable to any form of inner or outer force. Love and coercion can never go together; but while love cannot be forced upon anyone, it can be awakened through love itself.

Love is essentially self-communicative; those who do not have it catch it from those who have it. Those who receive love from others cannot be its recipients without giving a response that, in itself, is the nature of love.

True love is unconquerable and irresistible. It goes on gathering power and spreading itself until eventually it transforms everyone it touches. Humanity will attain a new mode of being and life through the free and unhampered interplay of pure love from heart to heart."

Avatar Meher Baba

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

LIKE A FOUR-COLOR CARPET

Way back in 2010 I posted an excerpt from an essay I wrote for a book called Hey Kids, Comics!  Edited and compiled by artist/blogger (and all-around swell guy) Rob Kelly, Hey Kids is a collection of reminiscences from comic book connoisseurs like Alan Brennert, Steve Englehart, Chris Ryall, Bob Greenberger, Paul Kupperberg and many others about the joys of growing up addicted to, and obsessed with, panel-by-panel storytelling.  The book finally came out last summer, it's been getting terrific reviews, and, in a bid to intrigue you—and perhaps get you to click on over to Amazon and purchase it—I thought I’d run my essay in its entirety.  Enjoy!


Portals to Other Dimensions—Ten Cents Each!

I've said this before, and it's true:  I don't remember ever not reading comic books.  I can’t say for sure who first exposed me to them, but I do recall a married couple that lived in my apartment building (the kind of adults you’d expect to be reading comics in the late 50's and early 60's:  smiley, rotund, slightly odd people) and they had a treasure trove of comics—stacks and stacks of them—they’d often share with me.  I also remember a cousin giving me what must have been twenty or so comics (to my young eyes, they seemed more like twenty thousand).  There was something deeply satisfying in spreading them all out on the floor—like a four-color carpet—not to be read, but to be stared at, studied, absorbed to the deeps of my soul.  I enjoyed comic book covers as much as I enjoyed reading the stories.  I could sit there, in a quasi-hypnotic state, and study the illustrations for hours:  they were like cosmic portals, opening up doorways to other dimensions; colorful parallel universes far preferable to the one I inhabited.

The best covers communicated an entire story in one image and my mind would wander off and run the story in my head like a movie (which was often far different from the one that unfolded inside the books:  sometimes it was better).  Drawing was one of my great obsessions as a kid and I could spend an entire afternoon on the living room floor, with pencil and paper, studying a Batman cover—I’m talking about the Dick Sprang-era, square-jawed, fun-loving Bats, not the ultra-serious Dark Knight of today—and trying to replicate it, line-for-line, freehand.  (Tracing, of course, was verboten.) 





My family didn’t have much money—we were lower middle class, my father worked for the New York City Parks Department (he was the guy who raked the leaves and shoveled the snow) and my mother was a switchboard operator for the New York State Parole Board—but I never felt materially deprived.  My parents were always incredibly generous.  And they generously indulged my passion for comics.

I have very vivid memories of being six, seven years old and taking walks with my father on summer evenings after dinner:  We'd head for the local candy store, which—in Brooklyn, at least—was its own magic world, with a long soda fountain inevitably presided over by an elderly Jewish wizard who could magically conjure egg creams (if you’ve never had one, you have my sincere condolences); more comics, newspapers and magazines than you could count; every gloriously trashy candy bar in existence; and an odd assortment of toys, from Duncan Yo-Yos to that lost ancient artifact, the Pensy Pinky.  My father would buy a newspaper for himself and a comic book for me.   A comic was ten cents in those days—which was probably more than my dad’s New York Daily News cost—but it was still a bargain.  (When my best friend, Bob Izzo, was going to the hospital for minor surgery—I think he was having a mole removed—his mother gave him an entire dollar and he bought ten comic books.  I was paralyzed with envy.)


I was seven when, after three decades, the price jumped from ten to twelve cents:  I walked into the candy store with my mother one afternoon and Eva—the not-to-be-trifled-with wife of the egg cream making wizard—was in shock, ranting about this outrageous price hike.  My mother was equally irate.  “Twelve cents,” she gasped, “for a comic book?”   

To my immense relief, the extra two cents didn’t dissuade my parents from buying me comics—and I continued to consume them.  It didn’t matter what the comic book was, I read everything—from Hot Stuff and Casper to Sad Sack and Bob Hope (given the current comic book market, it’s astonishing to realize that the Bob Hope series ran for eighteen years.  The Adventures of Jerry Lewis lasted even longer).  Today the super hero dominates the mainstream market, but, back then, the variety of comic books—all of them kid-friendly—was astounding.  Still, to a boy raised on George Reeves flying across his black and white television screen, the DC super hero comics were the Holy Grail.

We took it for granted that every male under the age of twelve worshipped Superman and Batman—and most of them did—but each of us had our special favorites.  Mine were Justice League (all the DC heroes together in one book?  How could you beat that?) and Green Lantern.  GL was the perfect vehicle to capture the mind of a child.  The concept was as elegant as it was simple:  the hero just thought of something—brought his will and imagination to bear—and he manifested it.  (Even as an adult the concept still works:  I think it’s a perfect metaphor for the way we should all live our lives.)   John Broome’s wonderful stories spanned the galaxies—his place in Comic Book Heaven is secure—but, for me, the the primal enchantment came from Gil Kane's extraordinary artwork.  Before I discovered the force of nature that was Jack Kirby, Kane was the artist whose work meant the most to me:  a mixture of elegance, power and crystal clear storytelling.  As noted, drawing was my childhood obsession and one of my absolute favorite things to draw was Kane’s flying figure of Green Lantern, ring-hand confidently outthrust, one leg cocked back (almost as if it was amputated).





When I was in Junior High School, I underwent a religious conversion.  No, I didn’t suddenly become a Hindu or a Born-Again Christian:  I converted from DC to Marvel.  Contemporary comic book readers can’t possibly understand how different Stan Lee’s Marvel books were in the 1960’s.  DC’s comics—for all their imagination and artistic flair—were pristine and sculpted, All-American and squeaky clean to the point of being nearly antiseptic:  no rough edges, no raw emotions, nothing messy at all.  If you looked at the Marvel books, especially in the early days of the line, it was all mess.  The covers said everything:  lurid colors.  Captions screaming for your attention.  Oversized word balloons with thick, black borders around them.  Artwork so primitive it was frightening.  Marvel Comics were dangerous.

A few years before my conversion, on a whim (or perhaps out of desperation), I’d picked up the first issue of Marvel Tales, which reprinted the origin stories of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man and Ant Man.  Imagine a young mind accustomed to the gentle elegance of Curt Swan suddenly encountering the wonderful weirdness that was Steve Ditko and the dynamic lunacy of Jack Kirby.  Reading the Hulk origin, I was certain that General “Thunderbolt” Ross had to be the one who was going to turn into a monster because—the way Kirby drew him—he already looked like one.  There was a panel of Ross yelling at Bruce Banner and the old man’s mouth was so impossibly wide I was sure he was going to eat Banner alive.  





At that point in my evolution I wasn’t ready for Marvel:  the stories were simply too intense for my tender psyche, so I put the books aside and returned to the more comforting confines of the DC Universe—until, in 1966, Marvelmania swept through the halls of Ditmas Junior High.  Among my crowd of comics cognoscenti, you were looked down upon if you still read Superman (which I, of course, did).  I resisted the tide—no way was I giving up on GL and the League—but by May or June of that year (and, yes, I’m sure peer pressure had something to do with it) I decided to once again investigate this strange Marvel phenomenon.  The first comics I picked up were Fantastic Four #54, Daredevil #19 and Spider-Man #40.  After reading those three issues—I still have a clear memory of sitting on the steps of the massive Catholic church across the street from my apartment house (the appropriate place for a religious conversion) and devouring the Daredevil story “Alone Against the Underworld!”, entranced by Stan Lee’s hyperbolic intensity and John Romita’s muscular grace—Marvel had me.  Peer pressure may have piqued my curiosity, but what sold me was the quality of the stories:  the creative audacity that exploded across every page.






There’s been much debate, down through the decades, about the relative contributions of Stan Lee and his collaborators.  From my perspective, Stan’s contribution was incalculable.  Even if, hypothetically, Kirby and Ditko plotted every single one of those stories on their own, Stan created the vibe and the mythos of Marvel Comics.  He did it with cocky cover copy and the warmth of the Bullpen Bulletins pages, the hilarious footnotes and scripts that managed to be absurdly pseudo-Shakespearean and yet utterly down to earth at the same time.  Most important were the absolutely relatable (especially to a boy on the verge of adolescence) characters, constructed of equal parts angst and humor.   As others have said, with Stan at the door of the Marvel Universe, you really felt as if you were being welcomed into a unique club that was tailored just for you by the coolest uncle anyone ever had.  Add in the quirky individuality of Ditko and the cosmic genius of Kirby (if anyone in the history of comics can be called a genius, Jack’s the guy) and you had something new and vibrant that comics had never seen before.   (Here’s how much I loved those 60’s Marvel Comics:  In the ninth grade I had pneumonia, ordered by our doctor not to leave the house for three weeks.  One Sunday night, about two weeks into my sentence, I couldn’t take it any more:  my parents had gone out for dinner, so I threw on my winter coat—did I mention it was dead of winter?—and, risking my fragile lungs, raced the four blocks to the candy store and grabbed the latest issue of Fantastic Four.) 

I remained Marvel-exclusive until 1970 when Jack Kirby returned to DC:  hey, if Superman & Company were good enough for the King, they were certainly good enough for me.  Kirby’s brilliant New Gods, Forever People and Mister Miracle convinced me I’d made the right decision.  That same year I had my first encounter with the subversive genius of R. Crumb (“Meatball,” anyone?) and my idea of what a comic book could, and couldn’t, be was forever demolished.  Loyalty to any one company, or any one form of graphic storytelling, suddenly seemed ridiculous.  





As I grew older, as I fell prey to exploding hormones and the lunacy of teenage life, becoming immersed in rock and roll, “serious” literature, the spiritual search (and other, less savory, pursuits), I never let go of comic books.  Most of my contemporaries grew out of their obsession, but I didn't.  Why would I turn away from a cosmic portal that expanded my mind, deepened my soul and, most important, made me happy.   


You can’t put a cover price on that.

© copyright 2014 J.M. DeMatteis

Saturday, February 8, 2014

FIFTY YEARS AGO

And the rest really is history.





(By the way—the video embedded above says it's 1965.  That's an error.  These are the three original Ed Sullivan shows that aired, over three consecutive weeks, in February of 1964.  I know:  I watched them all as they happened.)