Long-time readers of this blog know that the two Christmas stories I love and cherish above all others are Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (especially the extraordinary 1951 movie version starring Alastair Sim) and Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life (which may be my favorite movie of all time). But I was recently reminded—thanks, Jack!—of another Christmas tale near and dear to my heart: the classic Twilight Zone episode, "Night of the Meek"—which features an honest and magical Rod Serling script, matched by an equally-honest and magical lead performance by the great Art Carney. Since this is the time of giving, I present it here in its entirety. No need to wait until December 25th—you can unwrap it right now. Enjoy!
I already said that this was the Santa Claus of the 20th century, and it is, but it goes beyond that. Yes it is Serling's Santa Claus, but it could just have easily been created by, Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Stan Lee, or any other number of American authors, because this is the American Claus. Americans are suckers for a good redemption story, we love an underdog, and we love the idea of ascension through goodness. This is all of that, a man literally earns the right to be the ultimate manifestation of charity by just being. He has a duel identity and confronts the misery of success and those not as lucky. Only Steve Rogers has this guy beat.ReplyDelete
Santa Claus is many things to many things to many cultures, the German Santa is different than the English Father Christmas. The dutch one comes from Spain. America has cut and pasted to create one, and that is a shame. Sure on one hand it is nice, but we deserve our own Santa Claus, not cobbled together from who we were before we landed here, but one based off of who we... we all...are. This is him.\
And Serling closes by addressing all children of the 20th century, perhaps, this will show the lesson is not so stuck in time:
So upon seeing this one might say Merry Christmas indeed. I say "God Bless America."
Beautifully said, Jack. Thanks, as always, for sharing your mind and heart so eloquently.Delete
Well. thank you. And thanks for not wishing me a happy or Merry anything.Delete
Though, I don't think you'd want to hear my vies on It's a Wonderful Life. I'm Glad Serling gets his due.
Watched the other night Scrooge with Alastair Sim which is also my favorite version if for no other reason it seems the closet adaptation to Dickens' story.ReplyDelete
This episode of the Twilight Zone is a beautiful tale of what Christmas should be about but not just Dec 25th but all year long.
Alastair Sim is the perfect Scrooge, Stephen. The moments, at the end of the film, when he has his spiritual awakening are among my favorite moments in ANY movie.Delete
Thank you for posting this! I have the 80's version with Richard Mulligan which is good, don't get me wrong, but the Art Carney version...I get emotional every time I see it.ReplyDelete
Every year I have to watch 3 versions of A Christmas Carol: The TNT version starring Patrick Stewart because it has my favorite Bob Cratchit (Richard E. Grant) and Belle (Laura Fraser), A Muppet Christmas Carol because I love the songs and Scrooged with Bill Murray because...well, it's just a great comedy.
And of course I have to watch Die Hard. I'm a big Bruce Willis fan and I love that movie Christmas-theme or no.
I can't argue with those Christmas movie choice, Jose. I saw Patrick Stewart do his one-man Christmas Carol on Broadway years ago and it was delightful.Delete
Thanks for checking in...and have an AMAZING holiday. Merry Christmas!
Ahh, Mr Rod Serling. Twilight Zone is not a mystery tv series. It's modern day parables. Each episode is actually a MacGuffin. A device to talk about a variety of themes. Racism, poverty, fear, war, trust. The Monsters are Due on Maple Street, what a great idea! But even in his darkest episodes, Serling always put some hints of hope inside.ReplyDelete
This is a great analogy to comic books. The reason i like "grey" characters like Swamp Thing, Constantine, (Poison Ivy : ) ), is because i find them more human than let's say Batman or Superman. They are flawed, like Twilight Zone characters. They make mistakes, they show human emotions, anger, hate, lust. Things that are missing from most cape comics. Their stories are the modern day analogy of parables. And yes, i really believe that stories about a giant swamp monster, an ex punk occultist con man or a woman torn between her human and plant side can be more easily to relate to than an almighty Ayn Rayndian caped crusader.
Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Ivygirl. I'm a huge TZ fan since childhood and I think one of the most important elements of the ZONE is that it speaks to a universe that SEEMS ordinary yet is truly, miraculously magical.Delete
The same can be said about the supernatural characters in the DCU. They crack open the mundane universe and reveal the wonders hidden beneath the skin of the world.
Top 3 British Invasion bands that were not, nor made up of, the Beatles.
What? You haven't listed here in a while, I'm sure that monkey is digging his nails into your back.
Off the top of my head:Delete
Gerry and the Pacemakers
You know Gerry probably has a pacemaker by now.Delete
huh I would have guessed the Yardbirds over Gerry and the Pacemakers.
Believe it or not—and despite my love of Eric Clapton—I was never much of a Yardbirds fan. As for Gerry: in the rush of the British invasion, they were huge and favorites of a lot of people. Don't know what I'd think if I listened to their music now...but I'd bet "Ferry Cross the Mersey" still sounds great.Delete
It does still sound great. it was on the radio the other day.Delete
I just thought the Yardbirds counterculture way (first marrying rock and beatnik and then going hippie) would appeal to the headstrong flower child who wrote Moonshadow and The Girl I married and Savior 28 and The Last One. Shows how much I know.
Personally, I think the Yardbirds is my favorite of both Calpton and the notorious thief of American Black music Jimmy Pages. I think I said this here before, but to me that is the perfect music for Peter Parker to listen to in those coffee shop Lee-Romita days.
Well, when the British invasion hit I was in fifth grade, so I wasn't a long-harked hippie. Yet.Delete
I really discovered Clapton with Cream. In fact, the first live rock and roll show I ever saw was Cream's farewell concert at Madison Square Garden in November of 1968. The following summer I saw Clapton with Blind Faith. Great stuff.
SO you are saying that if you had been born a few years earlier thatn yje Yardbirds may have been perfect for you?Delete
Well, the premise is faulty, because weel a know that you were born clutching love beads, and with cues that sound suspiciously like "Journey to the Center of your mind. You were always a hippie Demateis, even before... especially before... they existed.
The recent TZ marathon got me thinking about the anthology discussions that happened here. The fact is that I think that people are going to get weary of the current state of dramas.
Multiple people have recommended "Game of Thrones" to me, and in all honesty there is no reason why I wouldn't like it, but I don't want to get into ANOTHER series were you have to follow everything from the beginning to know. There have been many good shows in the past few years that follow this idea of having to see everything to know what is going on and to enjoy it... but I personally am a tad worn out. Especially when you miss the first season or two. I can not be the only one either.
On the same turn, i comics I think there may be a similar thing. Big events burn me out. They burn many people I know in comic fandom out. Everything is tied into them. And honestly the series with the most buzz are largely (though not entirely) in the habit of steering clear of that. Really, A lot of it is not wanting books we like forcibly interrupted for an event.
Recently I picked up an issue of Web of Spider-man vol. 2 that had one of your stories in it... Ben Reilly in Italy I believe. When it came out Marvel didn't list it as a story I think, but that isn't the point. The point is that I loved it and wanted more . Largely because it was good, and largely because I love the character, but also because it couldn't be part of an event. It was set in the past and couldn't force others in.
Anyway, that's just my lousy 2 cents.
Nothing lousy about it, Jack. I agree with a lot of what you say...and you KNOW that the anthology is one of my favorite forms.Delete
I'm not a GAME OF THRONES die-hard but I've certainly enjoyed the show: it's very addictive. But there IS a ton of story to keep track of and it can get overwhelming, to say the least.
Glad you enjoyed that WEB story: I was hoping to follow it up with more—you could tell it was a sort of back-door pilot, right?—but, at the time, Marvel didn't want any more Ben.
I did pick up the other Ben story you did, where he was a janitor when it came out. It was very good as well.Delete
The interesting thing is that Ben Reilly could have been sort of anthology story unto himself. Not in the strictest forms, but as a nomad he could wind up in varying types of stories. Maybe not that much sci-fi or horror given what his time on the road was like, but crime and slice of life would be perfect from town to town.
It does seem Marvel and DC want to shy away from non-event comics a a whole. Phantom Stranger is a perfect example of one of the issues I have. I am enjoying it, even the tie in stuff, but the stories before where more interesting to me... even if one did lead into it (the babysitter returning). However Batman in Heaven with the Stranger was great, but even that was a side aspect of the over all story. I don't know how the backdoor dealings work, but it does seem like a flow of storytelling gets interrupted when big events come around.
The previously mentioned issues with shows is part of why I like Justified so much. Yes you need to watch the full season, but if you start from the beginning of any season, usually they do a good job of explaining what is going on. Meanwhile on shows like Mad Men, I see episodes they refer back to and it still takes me a few minutes to remember what is going on.
The point is, I would read a Ben Reilly ongoing. My question is though, did Marvel approach you about those stories or did you go to them? Because if they came to you it is an odd view they took. Honestly though, Ben may work better from a publishing standpoint as a series of limited series, which is sad because I think there are a lot of one-and-done stories to be told with him. However rf the owners of the character don't want anything to do with him, well... too bad. Even if there is a market for it (Just say that it is by the author of Kraven's Last Hunt and Spider-fans will o nuts). I wonder if the Kaine Scarlet Spider comic that came out not long after had something to do with passing on the project.
P.S. I hear you have been writing back up features for FOX. Thanks for telling us! or did I miss that announcement?
I honestly don't recall if they approached me about the Ben stories or I suggested it. In any case, I agree: there's so much potential for so many Ben stories. When I did the first LOST YEARS mini, that was the idea: we'd launch a series of mini-series, that could take place at any point in his five year journey (which, at the time, was about fifteen yearsDelete
comic book time, so it could have gone on pretty much forever).
As for Big Events: the answer is simple. If sales on books didn't shoot up dramatically when they take part in these events, Marvel and DC wouldn't do them. It's not so much that they WANT to do 'em, it's that, given the market response, the feel they HAVE to in order to keep the series healthy (and, in some cases, to prevent cancellation). If you've got a book with minimal sales and then, when you toss it into a crossover, those sales double...well, you can see the thinking behind it.
For me as a creator, I'd always prefer to not be involved in a crossover, so I can explore the characters on my terms; that said, when one comes along, my job is to do my best to make the stories MATTER beyond being a simple tie-in. I'm very much enjoying the current FOREVER EVIL: BLIGHT story running through all the "Dark" books. Ray Fawkes (who writes PANDORA and CONSTANTINE) and I have really tried to make this a story of value, with big themes, that's important to the individual characters involved. I think all the best crossovers try to do that.
Finally: Yes, I'm writing a SHIELD back-up in the FOX mini-series and also writing the entirety of the final issue. Sorry I haven't plugged it here. Thanks for asking, though!
I'm very much aware of the financial points behind the doings. And as I said I enjoy the current JLD story. I would even say that there are some very good stories that invaded other books over the years. Many of the Secret War 2 stories that ran in the individual issues were better than the mini series. I also remember some very good stories in Doc Strange's book during the Infinity trilogy in the 90s. There was great character building stuff at DC during the tie-in issues of "Zero Hour." That having been said, I still find it annoying having my regular books invaded. Not every book does as good of a job explaining the relationship as you and Fawkes do. The first issue of JLD was the first you wrote, and I knew the story of what was going on even though the only Trinity issues Iread were the Phantom Stranger and Constantine issues, which I would have picked up anyway. Too often if you do not pick up the main story you are completely lost.Delete
I also think Marvel and DC force this to happen, or at least feed it. Partially because of what I just said, but also because when they have universe shattering stuff that affects every corner, you have to pick it up just to know what is going on. Especially since major players like the JLA, Avengers, and X-men are more than usually involved. I know a guy who loves Constantine going back to the earliest days of Hellblazer, and he is constantly annoyed because of all the books he now has to pick up. The owner of my local comic book store recently completely gave up Marvel because of everything he needed to read just to play keep up.
The worst part is that it seems like really good books often don't get attention until after they are cancelled, even if they are part of a major event. However Pater David's X-Factor went strong with a reputation as being the book for people who want strong characters and a step away from the mainstream X-men kookiness.
In the end, there probably is no real solution, because one has to wonder how many books with lesser sales get dropped because big events eat up money. A lot? Some? none? who knows?
I thing the reason why the current story in JLD-Constantine-Phantom Stranger-Pandora works, is for the reason you stated, it is designed around the characters taking place, and odds are fans of one are at least in the realm of possibility of liking the others. The problem is too often that isn't the case. Too many "just for the Hell of it" through ins sours everything. Not to mention when everything in a book is based around it for 6 months and the reader just doesn't care. Honestly, it wouldn't be nearly as bad if there WAS a comic like a Ben Reilly one, where you can escape it. think about say a Man-thing series, would it have anyplace intermingling with an event? probably not, but it isn't beyond the realm of possibility these days.
As for Fox, I just found out about it recently, say 2 weeks ago, as part of what may or may not be my haunting(long story, no ghost or goblins so probably not the best choice of words, but it's what fits) I just saw the word Dematteis, so this week will be my first issue. Didn't know it was a mini though.
As for ol' Ben, I do think the possibility may come around for him to have a series again. We only have to wait for the right climate. But maybe it is for the best the minis did not happen. As great as that may have been, would Spider-man: Redemption have occurred (by the way how about that back story)? I don't know you wrote it, but I have a suspicion, and correct me if I am wrong, that all things Janine Godbe would have been done in the mini. Or at least maybe an editorial mandate saying that is where it HAD to happen. Of course iot could also have built up a stronger Ben following, and saved him from his dusty fate. Fun to play pretend, huh?
So many elements of the Clone Saga—which, for a time seemed banished to oblivion—have reappeared over the years, so I'm sure Ben will be back when we least expect it. Hell, I never expected to see KAINE get his own series.Delete
Enjoy THE FOX! Just finished the script for the final issue and it feels like a story Lee, Kirby and Ditko would have cooked up together at four am in a bar after ten too many. It's big, it's cosmic, it's a little goofy, and I hope it's fun.
Well, isn't the return of Clone elements sort of like X-men? For years it was the bastard son of the Marvel Universe. They were only occasionally mentioned after the cancellation, with Beast being the only real character to be saved... other than Magneto. Then one day a guy with fond memories of the book by the name of Len Wein breathes new life into it and it is a smash hit.Delete
Now, obviously Ben and Kaine won't be on the superstar train, but I think even though the clone saga had its problems (which you and I, an admitted fan have admitted to) The characters still grabbed people as interesting, also known as the only thing that didn't get lost in editorial pivots and writer changes. So fans then want what they like brought back and what they didn't left behind, sort of like the X-men. Roy Thomas' run was good, but it never really took off like his other works, either in popularity or creativity. Again, that is not to say they were bad.
As for Ben himself, I wonder which possibility. I could see comic book "science" finding away to restore him for new adventures in the here and now. However, doesn't knowing that Ben meets his fate give lost tales a bit of a nice bitter sweetness? Doesn't his death along with tough lost years make him more Peter Parker than Peter Parker? Just free flowing.
We'll see how the FOX plays. with you and Mark Waid lending yourselves it should be interesting. And as far as Stan Jack and Steve go... they really are of the generation to be doing there work at the bar aren't they? I hope there is a lot of almost-philsophy in it, Just like the classic trio would want.
You'll get your share of "almost philosophy" in that final issue of the Fox, Jack. Hope you enjoy it.Delete
As for Ben: the first image that came to mind reading your post is a resurrected Ben...but in some weakened state, tucked away in some super hero "rest home"...looking back at his lost years, telling us tales of the past as part of his therapy. Then, of course, he'll come back to full power and go out into the world for new adventures.
Glad we've got THAT worked out!
Well Dematteis, sadly no Fox yesterday. Comic shipments got postponed in New York, so I'll get it when I get it. However, that is your state of origin, so come on Dematteis, let's try to get it together!Delete
All this talk of Ben though makes me sad. I WANT THOSE TALES! In some form. What form? Who cares?
We Want Ben Reilly!
We Want Ben Reilly!
We Want Ben Reilly!
We Want Ben Reilly!
We wan... come on everybody!
Your Reilly enthusiasm is very much appreciated, Jack!Delete
Sorry FOX didn't make it to the shops. I wonder why...
It wasn't just Fox, it was all comics, they were all delayed because of the weatherDelete
The comics finally arrived, however. No Fox though. I did read Phantom Stranger though. Some of the Serpent's lines reminded me of of "The Divine Invasion." Weird.
VERY weird! But not a bad thing, is it?Delete
ALL comics delayed? Sounds ominous. Perhaps they were hiding in a can of UBIK.
Wait what's weird and not a bad thing? That Fox didn't come? It isn't a catastrophe, but it was annoying.Delete
It's too bad my previous reply didn't go through, it had a fool proof plan for the return of Ben Reilly to publishing glory!
Hmmm. Wonder where that comment of yours went. I'll look around in case it made it through but I missed it.Delete
Come on Dematteis, you and I both know what happened. Marvel sent out their digital gremlins to eat it up. A Ben Reilly book would lack all the history and inter-continuity problem Spidey usually has. It would also bring in more indie readers. Since MArvel really only seems to care about movies these days they can't have that. They already have this Garfield guy lined up for multiple movies. Who would see it? It would collapse everything, especially since there is only a finite number of stories to be told in the 15 years(our time) of stories. come on Dematteis, use your 70s conspiracy cap.Delete
Or maybe my computer was just having issues. That does happen sometimes.
I suspect the latter, Jack! But who can pass up a good conspiracy theory?Delete
I've said it before but, given that whatever goes around comes around, I think we'll see Ben Reilly back. When? I have no idea. But if they ask me to participate, I'd be delighted.
I think the key to Ben's return is two things. First is having him mentioned so people remember. I think that was what caused the previous revival. Ben was a focal point in a story at the time if I remember correctly. The other is not to be too saturated. This is hard. With Spider-man having two titles, one coming out bi-monthly, him in the Avengers, and having Kaine in a returned capacity, you can't have people over spidey-ed.Delete
And I got why you said weird. Because I mentioned the comparison to The Divine Invasion. I wonder if I am the only one who sees it. It isn't really that odd to conceive a villain who pushes the negative points of life.
It's been so long since I've read DIVINE INVASION, Jack, that I don't remember much about it beyond the cover and the fact that I enjoyed it!Delete
As for Ben: We'll just envision him returning...and before you know it, he'll be back!
I remember you said that you had not read all of Valis, aka the first part of the trilogy. Anyway,. I'll jog your memory DIVINE INVASION SPOILERS FOLLOW:Delete
Well, the demon Belial shows the main character, Herb Asher, all the negative aspects of life. What's more he tries to convince Herb that all life is is negative, despair and rot. When Herb Asher shows up at Linda Fox's house it is revealed that she is the opposite side of the coin, the comfort and goodness. Belial acts as the persecutor (I think that was the word Dick used) and Linda Fox the advocate. I have a sneaking suspicion Zatanna will be a rod of good for John Constantine.
In the end it isn't really that odd. Yeah, it is possible you remembered Belial it on some unconscious level, but these are also pretty wide sweeping concepts. ANd in the books that are supposed to be less about traditional superheroics, it isn't unbelievable that one would go for a more conceptual villain, and have a vague similarity to another story.
As for Ben... we can only hope. But I am leaning towards hoping for a lost years series. Maybe called Spder-man: the exile or EXILED: A Spider-man series. The real shame is that the spider-anthology idea of Web volume 2 and amazing Spider-man family would have been perfect. After all that's where Spider-Girl found a home.
Thanks for the DIVINE INVASION recap, Jack. Makes me want to go back and reread the book.Delete
The DCU Belial will soon be showing up in the BLIGHT crossover that's running through JLDARK and PHANTOM STRANGER. I don't know when that character first appeared in the DC universe, but I suspect it was back in the 90's...
Let me heartily recommend "The Shop Around the Corner" with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan, by director Ernst Lubitsch. It's sweet, smart, and probably served as the inspiration for "You've Got Mail.". You'll also get to see another top performance by "Oz", a/k/a Frank Morgan. Rick.ReplyDelete
Merry belated Christmas to all.
I've seen "Shop," Rick and it's definitely the template for "You've Got Mail." Wonderful cast, as you note.ReplyDelete
Belated merriment right back at you!