BCC 2012: Spotlight on Stan Lee & John Romita Sr.

Our final piece from Baltimore Comic-Con is a very special one. BCC hosted a Q&A panel with two of the most legendary names in the comic industry, Stan Lee and John Romita Sr., and OTF was there! Joined by moderator Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) and a room full of fans, these two greats shared stories of their work together, answered questions from the audience, and didn’t hesitate to exchange the occasional friendly insult.

Mark Waid kicked off the discussion by asking John about his first time working with Stan.

John Romita: I worked with Stan through this other artist for about 7 or 8 months, and then I got drafted. I went into basic training and wound up working on Governor’s Island doing recruiting posters. I had a Class A pass and was allowed to go on the ferry, go uptown, and go to Marvel Comics, although it wasn’t Marvel Comics, it was Timely then. I’d go in, and this beautiful secretary that he always had, comes out and I’d tell her, “I’ve been working for Stan for about a year, but he doesn’t know me. Remind him of Mr. Zachary’s work.” She goes in and comes out with a 4-page script.

Stan Lee: Anything to get rid of you! [laughter]

JR: So he gave me my first job where he knew my name was John Romita, but he still didn’t meet me. There was no time for him to see me, so the girl brought it out and told me to ink it, but I had never inked before. So, after I felt faint for a while, I said, “To hell with it, I’ll fake it.” [laughter]

SL: You mean I gave you a strip and I never met you?

JR: You never met me, but you saw my artwork.

SL: Well, your artwork was more interesting than you were. [laughter] By the way, I love this man. And I’m not gay. [laughter] I’m no good at historical things. I don’t remember what his first strip was and I don’t remember how we met. But I will tell you one thing I remember. This was the greatest man to work with that you could ever find anywhere. He has received so much less credit than he deserves for the Marvel age of comics because any time anything was needed, if [Jack] Kirby didn’t bring in a job that he was supposed to and I needed a guy to finish it quickly, if [Steve] Ditko didn’t have time to finish a cover or a strip and I needed somebody to fix it, if we needed a strip that Gene Colan was doing but couldn’t do it the next month, it didn’t matter who the artist was who needed a replacement. All I had to do was give it to John Romita, and it was usually done as good or better than the original artist would have done! [applause] The only problem is, he was so good that I hesitated to give him his own strip to stay with because then I wouldn’t have anybody around to do all the emergency stuff. He could do anything! He could do penciling, he could do inking, he could do any strip at all. He could draw gorgeous girls. He could do the best action scenes, and I didn’t even like him personally! You can believe me. I have no reason to say this. I love this man!

JR: I will point out that that means I was highly underpaid. [laughter]

Hit the jump to hear more from these comic book legends!

BCC 2012: Spotlight on Garth Ennis

Continuing OTF’s coverage from Baltimore Comic-Con, we had the opportunity to attend a Q&A session with writer Garth Ennis, the talented scribe responsible for such standout works as Preacher, The Boys, and Hitman. Joined by Dynamite Editor Joe Rybandt, Mr. Ennis fielded questions ranging from what to expect from his future projects to his facination with military history and how it has influenced several of his stories. However, the most interesting discussions revolved around subjects such as the smaller, yet popular, comic publishers (Dynamite, Avatar, etc.), creator-owned properties, and his unique style of writing.

One fan broached the topic of the current relationship between publishers and the creators, and asked Garth to elaborate upon his vocal opinion that the comic industry has become less creator-fiendly as of late.

“I know a lot of people are talking about Before Watchmen. I’ve not read it. I don’t intend to. It’s a superhero book done quite well with nice artwork so it’s of no interest to me whatsoever. [laughter] I think that what Before Watchmen is is more important than the comic book. I think it’s a message. I think what it’s saying is DC have realized what Marvel have known all along, which actually is you don’t really have to indulge creator’s rights. You don’t need to encourage creator-owned comics. What you can do, and Marvel have proved this, is you can put out the same thing over and over and over again and people will buy it in huge numbers. And Vertigo, as an example of the opposite, is a commercial disaster. It’s bleeding to death right now. In its 2-year history, it’s had about 6 actual successes. Maybe another 6 that kind of relied on the trades, half a dozen miniseries, and the rest have tanked. How many Vertigo series can you think of that lasted a year and a half? You saw it every single time. There’s the ad, ‘New book from Vertigo! Exciting new monthly series!’ Lines from other writers and artists saying how much they’re looking forward to it. I know, I provided some of that b******t. ‘Oh great, a new book! I can’t wait to read this.’ But that’s Vertigo. It’s essentially failed. I think that DC have kind of realized that. They’ve realized that Marvel are a better model to follow. The important starting point for that is to let people know that the balance is swinging away from writers and artists and back toward the corporations. DC is not a particularly creator-friendly place right now, as I understand it. There are multiple re-writes going on and writers being pissed about. It’s just generally a grim time. That’s why, I think, the smart thing to do is to go to the smaller publishers – Dynamite, Avatar, Image, Dark Horse – and get as much of your own stuff into print as possible. I’m not talking about changing anything. I’ve been hearing about changing comics for 20 years and they don’t look that different to me. I’m not talking about changing things. I’m talking about survival. I don’t want to be the 80-year-old writer or artist who coughs up a lung on his deathbed and that inspires people to give him charity. We have no union. We have no organization. We have no one looking out for us. We’re freelancers, and that’s part and partial of what we do. But no one’s looking out for us, so we have to look out for ourselves. The other person I don’t want to be is the guy standing in line to do the Catwoman/Huntress series that I’ve always been dying to do. [laughter] You know, at age 65 or 70 and still knocking this stuff out. I don’t want to be that guy either. If I am, you’ll know something has gone horribly wrong. So this, to me, is a question of survival. Just sensing something in the air and deciding whether it’s time to take action.”

Intrigued? Hit the jump to see what else Garth Ennis had to share!

BCC 2012: Spotlight on Phil LaMarr

In addition to our conversation with Phil LaMarr, we had the pleasure of joining fellow fans for a Q&A panel with the prolific voice actor at Baltimore Comic-Con.

After being greeted by uproarious applause, Mr. LaMarr immediately displayed his famous voice talents by channeling legendary comedian Richard Pryor. “Look at y’all clappin’. I ain’t done nothing yet!” It was evident right from the start that Phil was ready to have some fun with his fans by doing voices and telling stories. Before he even took any questions, Phil launched into an anecdote from one of his many convention experiences.

“I was once at a Futurama panel where there were a bunch of us from the show right after it had come back from cancellation and it was just announced that we were making new episodes. There was a kid sitting in the front row and he asked the question, ‘How come you guys don’t make any new episodes?’ [laughter] ‘Uh…we will. That’s why we’re here…’ It was really strange. It was actually the same person who, later on, came up to the table for the show he didn’t know anything about. During that time, there was an announcement over the PA that said, ‘William Shatner will be signing at 2pm in Room 106.’ And he goes, ‘William who?’ [laughter] And this guy was IN COSTUME at a comic book convention. I was like, ‘Wait a minute… You may not be a Star Trek fan, or even like Shatner, but you have to at least recognize the name!’ He’s like, ‘I don’t know who it is.’ ‘Ok, let’s just work out what your baseline of knowledge is. Does the name Jesus Christ ring a bell?’ [laughter] He says, ‘Yeah, of course.’ ‘Ok, good! Good! We’ll start there.'”

Having successfully warmed up the crowd, Phil highlighted his on-screen acting career, citing his time as an original cast member on MADtv, as well as his minor, yet “mind-blowing” role in Pulp Fiction. One fan shouted out an inquiry about Phil providing the voice of Osmosis Jones, only to have Phil correct him with the fact that he was the second Osmosis Jones. This, of course, caused Phil to bust out his Chris Rock impression.

“They did the movie, where Chris Rock did the voice, and then when they decided to do the TV series, apparently they didn’t want to pay Chris a million dollars. [laughter] So then I became [as Chris Rock] Osmosis Jones, number one germinator from the city of Hector! [applause] It’s funny, because I’ve actually done Chris’s voice in a couple of things. Basically, anything that has Marty, the Zebra from Madagascar that’s not the movie is probably me. [as Chris Rock] I’m gonna be fresh! Tasty fresh! Freshalicious! Straight out the ground! [laughter] Alex! You bit my butt!” [laughter]

Hit the jump for more fan questions for Phil LaMarr!

BCC 2012: Interview with Phil LaMarr

If you were to list the top five voice actors in the animation business, Phil LaMarr would be on that list. In addition to a history on stage and TV (the UBS guy remains one of my favorite MAD TV characters), LaMarr’s incredible voice talent can be heard in a humongous swath of animated productions – in movies, on television, and in video games.

Even if you haven’t realized it, you’ve heard his voice.  A few highlights from his IMDB page: Hermes Conrad (Futurama), Green Lantern John Stewart (Justice Leauge), the eponymous Static Shock, Vamp (Metal Gear Solid), Jazz (Transformers: Animated), Kit Fisto (Star Wars: Clone Wars), and many, many, many, many more.

At Baltimore Comic-Con, Mr. LaMarr was kind enough to give us a few minutes to talk about the audition process, the distinctions between different types of acting, and more!

Open the Fridge: At your panel, you were talking about how you transformed Static from a teenager [in the Static Shock series] to an aged adult [in the “Once and Future Thing” episode of Justice League]. When you receive a character to voice, what goes through your head when you’re trying to find where that character falls in your voice?

Phil Lamarr: Well, you start out with the description that the people who created the cartoon give you. They usually are pretty specific about certain things, if they don’t have a voice in mind already. Sometimes they will say “he’s gravelly” or “we want something in a higher register” because maybe they already have somebody that they want to counterpoint.

If they don’t say that, then they’ll describe the kind of person [the character is.] Then, you look at the picture of the character, and, coupled with their description, you go: “Okay, how do I want to make the sound?” If it’s somebody [in an elongated voice] “who’s very tall,” do I want to give it a “tall” sound? Or [in a wide voice] a very heavy sound, you know, if that’s entitled to the character.

Sometimes, you might decide to go opposite. If the drawing of the character is someone very, very large, then [in a compressed voice] you might try to go in a different way with the voice.

Basically, it starts with descriptions and visuals, and then whatever that brings up to me – my first instinct. Then, if it doesn’t feel like it’s right on the money, you start to adjust from there.

Hit the jump for the full interview with the incredible Phil LaMarr!

Review: Doctor Who, “A Town Called Mercy”

Justice and redemption were the themes of this week’s Doctor Who appropriately titled episode, “A Town Called Mercy.”

The Doctor has taken it upon himself to defend the defenseless, but who does he defend when “justice” exists in the morally grey?  And what happens to the Doctor when he doesn’t have someone to pull him back from going too close to the edge?

It’s hard to follow-up the sheer ridiculousness of “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” but “Mercy” does an adequate job of bringing us back to the center.  While this Western-themed episode continues the Moffat mantra of “one-and-done,” “Mercy” is a grounded episode whose action is entertaining, but whose plot is predictable.  The real quick draw, however, is not so much in the actual events of the episode, but rather in the questions those events make you ask.  Also, Stetsons are cool, so there’s that.

Amy, Rory, and the Doctor appear in the Old West town of Mercy (population 80 81), whose people are harboring “an alien doctor.”  “The Gunslinger” (Andrew Brooke), a cyborg hunter, has a personal vendetta he wishes to settle with the alien, and, while unwilling to harm the innocent, is content holding the town hostage until they give him up.

Hit the jump for the full review of this Doctor Who western, “A Town Called Mercy!”

Five Unsung Favorites of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine [Star Trek Week]

Star Trek Week is winding down, but it’s not over yet!  Following my list of awesome-yet-underappreciated episodes of Next Gen, here is my list of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes you probably don’t remember but need to add to your next Trek marathon.  And away we go:

Necessary Evil – A fantastic flashback to the days of the Occupation – when Quark is shot in his bar after doing a favor for an old acquaintance, it prompts Odo to reopen an old murder case. We get to see how Odo and Kira first met, and how Odo came to work for Dukat as the impartial ‘constable’. Tracing Odo’s steps and his memories through the crime really lets us get to know Odo in his investigator role, and the more of Kira’s history with the Bajoran resistance is revealed. I have never seen this ep cited as among the best of DS9, but I think it should be up there with all the greats.

Civil Defense – in this awesome episode, O’Brien, Sisko, and Jake accidentally trip an alarm that throws the former Cardassian station of Deep Space Nine into lockdown, as it attempts to quell a Bajoran ‘uprising’.  The rest of the crew, trapped in various parts of the ship, all work with O’Brien and Sisko to set things right.  I love this ep because of the domino effect their efforts to shut down the alarms have on the station and the crew – Garak is the only one able to roam about freely since he is Cardassian; Odo and Quark are locked in his office together (and we know hilarity ensues with that pairing!), and when Gul Dukat shows up to tease the crew for being trapped and shut off the alarm, an image of his former Cardassian commander pops up and refuses the access code, since Dukat is such a duplicitous SOB.  We got to the know the station a bit better, and everyone got a few moments to exercise their various skills (Dukat’s skill is pompous preening!).

Hit the jump for the full list of DS9’s unsung greats!

Interview with Mary Czerwinski of DVD Geeks & Creation TV! [Star Trek Week]

We’ve got a special treat for you today, as Star Trek week continues here on Open the Fridge.  We had a chance to sit down with Mary Czerwinski, the face of Creation TV and frequent Roddenberry.com collaborator. She is a veteran of all things Star Trek, hosts her own podcast at DVD Geeks, and started the Trek crafting series Glue Guns and Phasers.  We caught up with this busy gal and got her thoughts on Star Trek, geek girl fandom, and what she has planned for the future.

Open the Fridge: How did you get involved in Star Trek and turn it into this career with Roddenberry Entertainment and DVD Geeks?

Mary Czerwinski: I started coming to conventions just for the fun of it because I wanted to meet other fans and share my love of Star Trek. My degree is in journalism, so I always wanted to be on camera to interview these people who have inspired me so much, but also to hear the perspectives of the fans. In 2006 I did a series of fun fan interviews, like “The Sexy Side of Star Trek” and “Star Trek After Dark.” They’re all up on YouTube right now. At one point, Adam [Malin] and Gary [Berman] from Creation saw them and, in 2007, they invited me to be their official Creation TV host. They were trying to get more video on the website, so they asked if I could do 3-minute interviews with the guests as they come off-stage and talk to them about their experiences at conventions. I got to interview William Shatner that year, and so many great Star Trek celebrities. George Takei is always a favorite of mine.

From that, I interviewed Rod Roddenberry and we built up a rapport and a friendship over the years, and we always said we should do a project together. We then started looking at the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, which is coming up in a few years, and thinking, “What are we going to do about it?” So, we figured that the Original Series actors are getting up there in age and we need to hear their stories while they’re still around. He decided to start a project for the archive so he can actually own the interviews, because previously, they all belonged to Paramount and CBS, expect for the ones he did for “Trek Nation.”  H wanted to get long-form interviews with all of the cast, starting with TOS, of course, and moving into “The Next Generation” and all the way up to JJ [Abrams]. We have our work cut out for us. We’ve already interviewed dozens of people.

Hit the jump for the full preview of our Mary Czerwinski interview! To listen to the full audio recording, be sure to check out our special podcast now!

Wii U Dated and Priced: 11/18 for $300

The next generation is officially here!  While the argument of whether Nintendo’s truly ushering in the next gen or finally catching up with the old one will be a point of debate for a while, no one can argue that this current generation is on its way out — and

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes Announced

Snakes. Why did it have to be Snakes? Several months ago, news broke about the future of the Metal Gear game series when Hideo Kojima announced Metal Gear Solid 5. However, Kojima must be a firm believer that his fans just can’t get enough of the popular “Tactical Espionage Action”