The great William Shatner turns 90 today! (How is such a thing possible?) If you want to know why I love the guy, read this. And for a list of my favorite Shatner performances, click here.
I could have picked a Captain Kirk scene to post here in celebration, but the truth is, however much I love Kirk and Star Trek—and you know I do—Shatner will always be Denny Crane to me.
SEMI-REGULAR MUSINGS FROM THE SEMI-REGULAR MIND OF WRITER J.M. DeMATTEIS
Monday, March 22, 2021
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CAPTAIN CRANE!
The great William Shatner turns 90 today! (How is such a thing possible?) If you want to know why I love the guy, read this. And for a list of my favorite Shatner performances, click here.
Posted by J.M. DeMatteis at 10:06 AM
Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)
By clicking on the link to your favorite Shatner performances, I was able to discover, in a roundabout way, that you wrote an episode of Twilight Zone around the same time you wrote Moonshadow and Kraven's Last Hunt! Somehow I hadn't known this, and I immediately began looking for where I can stream it. While researching, I discovered on the episode's Wikipedia page that it might not have adhered closely to the original script. Would you recommend the episode anyway, and is there anything you can share about what inspired it? The idea for the plot sounds terrific.ReplyDelete
Here it is:Delete
It was my first TV script and I'm sure it needed the rewrite. And the talented Marty Pasko—who was on the TZ writing staff—had a hand in that, so I really can't complain. I'm sure, if I looked back at my original script, what they did was an improvement.Delete
My only serious bone of contention was a change in the ending that undermined my intent. But, still, it's a fun episode, with strong performances and direction. So, yes, I'd recommend it.
I watched it. I like how the episode concisely presents a timeless aspect of the human condition ("something precious lost, something precious gained"). It seemed to me like the ending was warmer to the older versions of the characters, whereas I would have expected the episode to be more open-ended, to allow the competing ideas and perspectives to resonate together.ReplyDelete
But it was fun. I agree it had strong performances and direction. As a slight digression, from my 40-year-old perspective, I rarely encounter something from that time period that doesn't have something of value to offer, something to latch on to and enjoy. And now I'm in the mood to watch more Twilight Zone episodes...
My version had a much warmer embrace of the younger selves at the end. In fact the youngers merged, very lovingly, with the olders, finding a new balance between the two.Delete
But, overall, I was very happy with what they did. And who can complain when your first TV sale is to the Twilight Zone? The only thing that would have been better would've been going back in time and selling it to Rod Serling!
Thanks for marching me down Memory Lane. I may have to write a blog post about my experiences with this episode...
March 22 is also the birthday of the CHARACTER of James T. Kirk, as well as the former lead singer of the Yardbirds, and your favorite person in the world.ReplyDelete
Anyway, I still do not have DIsney plus, and don't plan to any time soon. However, I have heard about the Falcon and Winter Soldier story, and that they are seemingly using a lot of Gruenwald work as a basis.... which is great.
Still, it has me wondering, are you responsible forthe creation of Flag-smasher? I KNOW, I KNOW, Gruenwald's creation, but...
Look, Gruenwald was the writer right after you, and before that was your editor on the book.
My theory is that you kept coming in, and suggesting to you make Captain America Captain world, or Captain No-Borders, or something. Maybe Mister-One-World. Carl maybe? doesn't matter.
Gruenwald kept trying to explain why this was a bad idea, or that the names were bad, that Shooter wouldn't approve.
To counter that, you just kept saying, "You've heard Imagine by Lennon, right? 'Imagine no countries, It isn't hard to do...'"
And he was like, that isn't a good justification for changing an iconic character so much... or the terrible names. Still, you did this month in and month out. All the time Gruenwald thinking, "if he keeps doing this, I will break this dream of his, and by Stan I have the mustache to do it."
Then your tenure on the book ended. He and you were handing out, and Imagine came on the radio, and you said "hey, remember that great idea I had, since you are the writer now..."
And he was like, "this guy cant take a hint, but I don't want to be rude, so I will just turn his idea into a villain, he'll get the idea, and I won't have to be mean. Also a plus side, might crush some of the hippie out of him."
And thus FLag-Smasher was born. And of course, it probably did not help that in every meeting with him you were ALSO sucking down oxygen right in front of him, while he was trying to have a professional meeting. AS you may recall Dematteis, last year you did confirm the stereotype that all Italians are addicted to oxygen... but, there is a time and a place.
Yes, that's EXACTLY how it happened, Jack. Your psychic abilities are uncanny. But seriously...ReplyDelete
I don't have Disney Plus either, so I haven't seen the show.
Well, we are just going to have to claim a victory that out of the millions of people watching this show, there is a very slim chance, that maybe one or two... perhaps even three if that is n ot too crazy... will pick up one of the books that collect Gruenwald's Cap run.Delete
Apparently the current episode thanks Gruenwald, me, Mike Zeck and Paul Neary. Our whole Cap crew!Delete
I may have to get Disney+ for a month and just binge all the new Marvel content.
Of course they thanked you, Dematteis. Flag Smasher is in the series, and we just went over how your hippie nonsense drove Gruenwald to create.Delete
I guess you can binge all the Marvel content, but there are four more seasons of Marvel shows. So, at what point you do this binging is bit of a question.
Personally, I would suggest that if you need a cap fix, read the mini series (also collected) Truth: Red. White, and Black and Ed Brubaker's excellent run on the book.
Or do none of it. It really is your choice, Demtteis.
Well, VISION & SCARLET WITCH is a complete season telling a complete story, so I think watching that all together is a good idea. Watching too many seasons of too many shows at once is overload!Delete
Well, if it is comic book pros being honored, you may have to wait until Loki comes out. Word on the street, is that the Time Variance Authority will be in it, which if memory serves was designed to look like Mr. Gruenwald as an homage.Delete
I doubt that they will all look like him, but if they want to give the people what they want, they will digitally put his mustache on.
Like I said, I don't have Disney plus, but I think we both know how this ends.. Sam, or less likely Bucky, becomes the new Captain America. Then a few months later, it happen in the comics.
hat I have been wondering recently is... must there be a Captain America?
OKay, I love Sam Wilson. And while I would greatly prefer they put some real effort into making Falcon work. However, if being CAptain America is the only way he will get the much deserved spotlight, and they give a writer that really gets teh characters...fine.
However, what I have been thinking is, keep Steve as a hro in his own right, but no one is Captain America.
I know the myriad of reasons why that wouldn't happen... now. I think in the 70s or 80s it could have worked. But I have a reason.
I don't know if you know this, but occasionally... writers use Cap to make a point. This will shock you, but the secret empire and Nomad stories from the 80s, were inspired by Watergate. Did you know this well hidden gem... Captain America was punching Hitler, when America still had an isolationist stand. This you definitely don't know, but at a time when there were no visible comic characters who were gay, and AIDS was creating homophobia, Cap had a gay friend who he accepted without any conversation or needing to be swayed and promoted not silencing free speech with violence against Neo-Nazis, even though he despised every word he said. I know the last two are probably especially alien to you.
And that all is great, and can very easily continue He would still be a golden age superhero and moral beacon of the Marvel Universe. Most stories would be transforable,
The issue is the baggage that comes with the name Captain America. Three specifically.
1. There is a trap even good writers fall into. They see a chance to make a point about America. GREAT! However, they get so wrapped up in the point, they forget about Steve Rogers. They see a good stand in for the nation's more honorable side, and how it collides with the less great realities, and they forget there is a character that it needs to be filtered through. An interesting character who has lived in this universe, is kind and decent, but nor naive. A character who has already shown an ability to have nuanced thought. Which would be more interesting than just stand in for America.
2. Recurring stories. Specifically, the government goring against Cap, or the other way around. Since Secret Empire, it has happened every decade. Literally, every Decade.
DON'T GET ME WRONG... many have been good stories. But since Marvels ALL about the continuity, it can only happen so many times before he gets sick of it. AND Steve always has the same kinds of Depression and disbelief, and search for identity. Then throw in that given the sliding time scale, in universe this has to be happening literally every other year.
3. Nostalgia. It seems to me there are certain types of fans who just want comics to be exactly like they were before. Right down to the same impact. And because they may have been to young to get that sociopolitical comments were being made then, they can't now. And that causes a backlash, and sales get weird The internet gets weirder. You get it.
I just think that maybe, Captain America is holding Steve Rogers back. And Sam Wilson deserves to be a hero in his own right.Delete
Maybe someone new entirely should be Cap, and these two guys get to be rich characters. I care far more about Steve, Sam, and Bucky that Captain America, and I am pretty sure And an ex-Captain America, who is still the symbolic heroes before would be a great idea.
It gets to be about Steve Rogers in America.
And that is not getting into the whole complicated mine field of the first mainstream African American superhero and forcing him into the title that belonged to an old white guy. Which is something I have no answers about.
Sorry that was all kind of useless, but if you just want good Falxcon or Bucky stories, I can help there.
Falc _ The Captain America and Falcon series by Christopher Priest, circa 2003, I think, did some really interesting stuff with the character. It is also unfairly overlooked.
Bucky (Winter Soldier) - Brubkaer's Cap run. All of i. It is a love letter to the character, and Bucky is Cap for the majority, and very interesting things happen. Like being a trial for time as W Inter Soldier, and winding up in a gulag. And a really... prophetic.. story, where 50s Cap uses nostalgia for an America that never quite was to endorse a party of extremists.
sorry for wasting your time.
Maybe the answer isn't erasing Captain America, Jack. Maybe the answer is transforming him into Captain World. (Not really the best name, but you know what I mean.) A representative of the best in all of us, no matter what nationality or ethnicity or faith. This idea of "American Exceptionalism," that Americans are somehow better than everyone else, is a dated one.Delete
And, yes, I agree about the emphasis on the man behind the mask. If you're only relating to a character as a symbol, then there's really no human being there. You need to relate to a person, to their struggles and triumphs, their all-too human flaws.
Well going with a Captain world motif might make him have to only deal with big picture stuff, and defeat the character moment push. Not to mention very close to "Captain Planet" and I feel Ted Turner might get a tad litigious.Delete
Also, Superman seems to get the idea across without being so... on the nose. So the potential name could be anything.
As for "American Exceptionalism," it has an odd history and reality. In truth the idea as a nation being notably exceptional is relatively new.
For most of the 19th century, the idea of America being this inherently better place was not really there. For the first 3/5s of the century there was a push and pull over how it should be run, not the least of which was slavery, however, there was also the fact that the South remained an aristocracy as planned, but pushing further into the Northeast and Great Lakes region without such establishments, and the increase of autonomy caused by manufacturing.
Of course, after that industrialists started taking over, and took over a similar role, with bad conditions. Then... and if you don't know this, it is NOT HYPERBOLE... corporate America has U.S. soldiers off to their for wars of profit in Cuba and the Philippines, the latter of which was so bad they built concentration camps to keep people safe, and soldiers wrote home distressed that up close brutal combat no longer felt anything when they killed people.
Do... people were not to hip on America as a country.
The idea of American Exceptionalism is rooted more in the experience of immigrants coming into America in the late 19th and early 20th century, telling their kids how much better America was the an the old country... especially since most were coming from the most dirt poor parts of those countries, and by the 20s were making a decent wage.
It was later just kind of weaponized in the aftermath of WWII, in a contradiction to the Commies. Even that did not really turn into actual America instead of the Western World until the 80s. So, as we think of it, came into the world the same decade as me.
Of course, most industrialized nations that people talk up have constitutions at least partially inspired by ours. Even things like universal medicine in Europe and Japan were suggested or outright but in by Americans post WWII.
SO, I guess you could idea the IDEA of America is somewhat exceptional, and has in some form become a part of the world. Which is what those 19th century Americans believed more than the nation itself.
(that of course does not excuse the absolutely bonkers places American Exceptionalism in its current form has pushed some folks in the country)
That is of course, also what Captain is said to stand for... the idea of what America should be.
Of course, again, to stand for that idea you do not need the iconography. It perhaps even hurts it.
As for the second part... I agree.Delete
There is a reason that the Marvel revolution was such a success. It was because it infused human into the superhumans.
There is a reason that Teen Titans was one of the only thing at DC pre-Crisis in the 80s that was doing really well, Wolfman was writing a Marvel style story in the DC Universe.
There is a reason why DC after Crisis worked so well. There was a lot more look at the person than the feats.
I think one of the best things DC did in the past 40 years was inject more Clark Kent into Superman's life. That was the last time that he gained a large number os fans... except for whenthey gave him a kid in continuity.
Yeah, Superman is the most popular character to ever be widely disliked, I was even in that camp, and might still be if I had not discovered how human the refugee from the stars is.
Since 1997, there has been an increased movement to view comics as the "modern mythology." They are not. They are I.P.'s owned by multi-national corporation.
However, In am no stranger to self-delusion, so that is not my issue. It is rather that the idea of them being modern mythology almost always leads to them being viewed through the mindset of icon or symbol.
It becomes almost always about the deeds, not the guy or gal behind the mask.
It is also worth noting that Captain America might technically be unconstitutional.Delete
According to Article 1, section 8, Clause 12 of the U.S. Constitution:
'To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years.'
Since Cap is an offshoot of the army, not the Navy, a continuous usage might cause problems.
Now, I know what you are thinking "I could really go for some spicy nachos... but, more to the point I always read and wrote Cap as a free agent, or at most working under a U.N. charter."
First of all, I want some spicy nachos too, but Mark Gruenwald wrote story where it was revealed Cap was still issued pay ever since he was frozen.
Probably not, but something worth thinking about if you want him to switch identities.
Didn't know about Cap getting payments from the government. Considering he disavowed the government and became Nomad during the Englehart run, that's surprising.Delete
And I agree about characters being turning into icons and losing their relatable humanity along the way. It's something all of us who write comics have to be careful about.
If I remember correctly, Mr. Gruenwald's story was based on the idea that because Steve was frozen, and no body was found, he was classified as missing. So, they never stopped writing the checks.Delete
Then in the 80s, they finally caught up with him. I think it was how he funded the Captain America hotline.
My basis on whether or not a comic creation is a good character is simple. Could you write a year worth of interesting stories about them where nothing "super" or "fantastic" happens.
But in the context of the practice of icon vs. character...
There is currently a series called Superman: Red and Blue, which is like Batman Black and White, but a different color scheme.
It started off really strong. The first story in the issue of the two that have come out, was about Clark Kent going to an Eastern European country on assignment. It so happens to be one where he lost his powers and was tortured.
He interviewed the very military man who tortured Superman, went to prison, and is now out.
The whole story, that was less than 10 pages, was about Clark dealing with the trauma of it that he had buried, and what it was like to just have the guy when asked about such activity be dismissive as if it was a fad of his youth.
It was a really great way to open up the story.
The issue ended with A story of Clark as a kid in school making friends on his first day.
The second began with Martha Kent explaining to two women that birthed by her or not, Clark was her actual son.
All really interesting stories that suck with me.
Most of the rest of the ten were about Superman as a symbol effecting other people. I want to make this clear, none of them were bad, and those types of stories can be great.
However, none of those icon stories grabbed me the same way as that first story.
I think part of the reason why so many people don't like The Man of Tomorrow is because they jut see an icon. And it really was similar with Captain America for many before the MCU.
It also may be why so often people turn Superman evil in alternate stories, where something goes wrong... and Batman has to save the day. Yeah, that makes since, the hero who takes care of the whole world will snap, not the guy who hides in cave, builds a genocide weapon (real DC Comics mainstream story), and creates child warriors.
Anyway, it is easier to get people seeing an icon corrupted than a character.
I do fear the same thing is happening to Marvel. AS more and more the films simplify things, and the comics begin to reflect such changes.
Of course, in defense of the creators (there is a phrase you don't hear much in comic circles) I think certain types of fans can lean into the icon dominance.
There are certain types of fans, and they tend to be very vocal, who have an incredibly narrow view of what these characters can be.
When I started getting into Superman, I ran into some of these, and if the character was exactly what they wanted I would not case. Hell, what they wanted was the misconception I had.
That Clark Kent story sounds very powerful, Jack. And a story like that illuminates the character of Superman in deep and interesting ways.Delete
I really think it would be a good idea for editors at Marvel and DC to write down all the strengths their most popular characters have, and the different ways they have worked. Then pass it on to their replacement.Delete
You could move beyond what is there and experiment, but it could remind them not to get too hung up one element of the cvharacter, or think hard about jettisoning something that works and balance it against the potential stories.
Because it really is a powerful story, and in no way feels out of place, and I have not even read the 70s Word's Finest story that it is technically a sequel to, but it still grabbed my attention.
I would recommend reading it, it is only 8 pages, but good.
I really think if DC remembered that these type of human stories were possible for Clark, and pushed them more, he might not be relegated to alternate reality villain Batman has to beat, or at least by as popular as his name recognition would have you believe.
Speaking of Captain America, I recently read The Life and Times of Savior 28 and I really enjoyed it. I liked Savior 28's progression from being a standard superhero trying to save the world by punching people, to trying to save the world by bringing about world peace, to his final realization that he could do more by just helping out in his local community.ReplyDelete
Also, it was sad to see The Daring Disciple become so embittered that he tried to kill his former mentor and ended up killing himself.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable and thought provoking read.
Thanks, William. SAVIOR 28 is one of my all-time favorite projects, twenty-five years in the making, and I'm very glad you enjoyed it.Delete
I remember having a conversation with a friend about how so few real world problems can be solved by punching a bad guy in the face. He even had an idea for a Superman story in which Superman realizes he can make better use of his time working in an office full-time.ReplyDelete
It's interesting what you can learn in the Comments section. I'm definitely going to check out Savior 28.
Hope you enjoy it, Bill!Delete
IF you don;t mind me interjecting... there actually is a Superman story called "Up, Up, and Away" where after a year without his powers, they start to return.ReplyDelete
IN the beginning of the story we learn he was able to do as C Lark what he could not as Superman, take down Lex Luthor, through the power investigative journalism.
Though, last month he appeared in an anthology called "Truth and Justice" where he used a combination of powers and his career to free a wrongly accused man. So, I think CLark may s=use his time as effectively as possible.
Bruce is the one that needs this talking to about priorities. He could do a lot mere to stop the spread of crime in Gotham by opening a factory and allowing unions to form. Then donating his money to campaigns that prioritize mental health reform.
Same is true for Iron Man. Maybe worse since he is shown to have more of a personal control over teh company.
Crime fighting is clearly a poor man's game. DO you think these kinds of critiques are why Superman was a bit more... enthusiastic (and anti-establishment)...and Spider-Man and Daredevil were portrayed as less economically advanced, with Cap and the F.F, as a spy and fought crazy-no-way Sci-Fi menaces beyond normal protection? Sort of like how you don't call in the military to stop a purse snatcher.
Perhaps that is the genius of the secret identity. Not getting lost in one type of thought process, and seeing things for what they are. Bruce lives so removed from the world, it is no wonder he would not see these obvious solutions they can do.
Gruenwald already showed what happens when you think of everything on a superhero level, in Squadron Supreme.
Come to think of it, the more the comics sacrifice teh BAt for the man, the crazier or at least single minded he gets in his pursuits. Meanwhile Clark and Peter spend there work a day/personal lives often helping people either through the job or personal interactions.
I think the best Batman stories are the ones where you find a balance between the Bat and the man. Where Bruce is a full-bodied, three-dimensional character and not just a guy waiting to put on his cowl.Delete
But you already know that!