BEN 10 ULTIMATE ALIEN: THE WILD TRUTH
NEW EPISODES OF BEN 10 ULTIMATE ALIEN
JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM
BEN 10 ULTIMATE ALIEN: THE WILD TRUTH
NEW EPISODES OF BEN 10 ULTIMATE ALIEN
JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM
Thursday night, Earl Kress and Dwayne McDuffie were posthumously named co-recipients of the Writers Guild of America, West Animation Writers Caucus’ (AWC) 14th Annual Animation Writing Award.
More information about Earl Kress and Dwayne McDuffie and the award can be found here-
EDIT TO ADD:
One of my many regrets is that I didn’t pester Dwayne for more of his stories about his days working as an assistant editor at Marvel Comics. As I try my best to recollect the ones he told me, I’ll start with this one-
In the 1980s at Marvel Comics, there was an unused freight elevator area in the back of the building. It may have been the elevator shaft or just the lobby area (unfortunately I don’t remember exactly how Dwayne described it).
The area happened to be approximately the shape of a boxing ring. So during lunch breaks or when it was slow, Marvel employees would regularly head back there and fight and spar in the Marvel Comics boxing ring. Though Dwayne had boxed when he was younger, he didn’t participate at Marvel. But he would watch with the others, and because the way the area was built, there was lots of space for people to look down into the arena and watch the boxing action.
The undisputed champion of the Marvel Comics boxing arena was Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter. He had good pugilistic skills and he was tall. Really tall. With his length and reach, and the fact that he was your boss in charge of everything, Shooter was the most feared boxer in the ring. No one came close to beating Jim Shooter.
Until a new guy joined Marvel. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name that Dwayne told me. Hopefully someone knows and will let me know. But whoever he was, the new guy was not intimidated by the idea of boxing the Editor-in-Chief.
Like all the other times, everyone gathered around to look down into the ring and watch the action. UNLIKE all the other times, Jim Shooter lost. The new guy tagged him with a punch that sent him to the ground.
Now… what are you supposed do you do when your boss just got punched? He’s still on the ground. Is he hurt? Is he dead? If he’s not dead, is he mad? Mad at the person who hit him? Or mad at EVERYBODY? Do you go and give him help? Or will he be mad at you if you try to help?
For a long moment, everyone stood there and didn’t move – didn’t make a sound. Finally someone shrugged and said, “Well, back to work!” The crowd quickly ran off and everyone went back to their desks to work.
Fortunately, Jim Shooter wasn’t hurt badly and he continued on in his comic book career. Dwayne never had anything bad to say about Shooter and said, “He was always really nice to me.”
Which is a good thing, since I don’t think I ever would’ve wanted to see two men the size of Dwayne and Jim Shooter throwing punches at each other…
Matt Wayne here, longtime pal of Dwayne’s. I’ve been leaving the hard work of posting content for this site to Eugene, as I try to come up with a way to share memories of my friend without getting personal. I keep hoping to invent a system to make all these random memories resolve into a portrait of the finest man and the finest mind I’ve ever met. Seems simple enough, but I haven’t worked it out.
Instead, I’m going to list a bunch of things that I got into because Dwayne recommended them to me. I’m sure that this won’t leave us with a complete sense of Dwayne, but it’s all I can do. Blogging isn’t supposed to add up to anything, after all. Merely to add up.
Let’s start with some novelists:
ROBERT PARKER – I bought all the used Spenser paperbacks I could one day around 1989, on Dwayne’s strong recommendation. I’m almost certain that we were standing in a great used book and knickknack store called the Scouting Party, on 7th Avenue and 10th street in Brooklyn. This was just about the time that the Spenser series had misfired a couple times, in Dwayne’s opinion. But I went back and read them from the beginning, and I have to say, they’re almost always well-crafted and among the best detective fiction written to that point. (Dennis Lehane was kind of a game-changer for the genre. Dwayne was an early adopter, as usual.)
Once, I was planning a dinner for my girlfriend in Brooklyn, and told Dwayne about it on the phone. I told him what I was concocting from what was already in the freezer and a few bucks (I was broke for all of the 80s). And I guess it did mirror a recurring bit in the Parker mysteries. When I mentioned slicing a pork tenderloin into medallions he drawled. “Spen-suh!” a la Hawk, and we both broke up laughing. From then on, whenever I was telling him something that implied I was a resourceful and capable cook, which happened a lot, I’d get the same “Spen-suh!” and it was always funny. Because, you see, it was Dwayne doing it.
Which brings up Hawk. Dwayne overlooked Parker’s occasionally Tonto-like portrayal of Spenser’s black friend—Hawk’s dialogue could be relentless with dropped articles and even verbs when possible–because there was so much he did right with the character and the work was well-structured. He overlooked it just like he overlooked the descriptions of Spenser’s wardrobe in the early (1970s) books. Dwayne was aware of the mainstream’s prejudices but he never forgave them or pretended they weren’t there. Which is something you’ll hear again and again if we continue these media memoirs. And he loved Avery Brooks’ portrayal of Hawk on TV. He was also fond of Parker’s more recent heroes, Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall–he viewed them as necessary, in some ways a reboot of Spenser. Thirty years ago, Spenser had been past his prime and a bit more cautious in a fight. In his 60s the obligatory man-of-action stuff was becoming too painful to enjoy.
RITA MAE BROWN – When she’s on, she’s amazing. Rubyfruit Jungle and In Her Day are classics. The Southern stuff with Wheezie and Juts was fantastic. While I found her mysteries (which feature a dog and cat as the sleuths) to be whimsical and adorable, Dwayne was a mystery connoisseur and felt they were hacky. He also recommended her book on writing, Starting From Scratch: A Different Kind of Writer’s Manual-although he felt that Brown went to great lengths to show off her command of literature and name-drop. “I always like an author’s SECOND-most famous work best,” was Dwayne’s ironic mimicry of that common pretentious pose. Dwayne also thought she had one of the best ears for dialogue of any writer. Brown’s “Somebody shot the dots off her dice” to describe a crazy relative was one of his favorite lines ever, one he sneaked into a few different scripts over the years… most recently in an episode of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien.
Dwayne took dialect very seriously; aside from ten minutes in a core English class in college, I never thought about regional dialects until I had access to Dwayne’s library in Brooklyn. He had many books on the subject.
One of Dwayne’s many rules of writing: “Writing in dialect is a tricky business. Unless you’re Mark Twain or Zora Neale Hurston, don’t even try.” Notice that he didn’t exempt Robert Parker or Rita Mae Brown.
The “Don’t even try” in that last bit reminds me of another big influence on Dwayne, Fran Lebowitz. She wrote, and Dwayne often quoted the following: “Your life story would not make a good book. Don’t even try.” More on her (and possibly Mark Twain and Zora Neale Hurston) later.
This is Dwayne’s second Edgewise column about Star Trek – or as he described it, “The first movie caps a very bad day for Dwayne.”
The disembodied Brains’ telepathic voices thundered in my head, “Dwayne, let’s get real for just a moment here. As we look upon our creation, this vast resource of up-to-the-minute news, insightful reviews, sparkling commentary and inside information that men call FANTASTICON, we are forced to make a grave admission. It’s insufficiently fantastic. One might more accurately label it, “PRETTYGOODCON.” And it’s all your fault. Your stupid column is screwing up the curve for everyone.”
At first, the Mighty Brains threatened to punish me by erasing my brain and using it for extra storage, they have to put Internet Explorer 5 somewhere, they reasoned. Eventually though, mercy prevailed and I was sentenced to write about STAR TREK. I guess it was mercy. Come to think of it, it may be a punishment for all the nasty things I said about FARSCAPE a few weeks back. The ways of these great beings are ineffable. I on the other hand, am eminently effable. Hence, part two of my survey on all things STAR TREK.
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
Opening day of this movie was supposed to be one of the best days of my young life. I had it all planned out. First, my high school homecoming, a basketball game against Alex Manoogian, the only school my sorry team could dependably stomp. Then, off to the movies to enjoy the first new STAR TREK in 13 years (The cartoon doesn’t count because I never watched it. Dwayne’s Fourth Law of Science Fiction: “If I didn’t see it, it’s not canon”). This turned out to be a lousy plan. We lost the game, the first time in school history we were ever beaten by the school I fondly referred to as “the Washington Capitals of high school basketball.” Then, my teammates and I made our biggest unforced error of the evening, we went to the movie.
You ever go to see a movie and you really want to like it? You’re sitting there patiently, hoping that something, anything entertaining will occur? Well, we sat there a good, long while. As our boredom and restlessness grew, it was Carlos Goodman, high-scoring forward and first in my peer group to grow a respectable beard, who finally broke the ice. “This,” he shouted across the theater, “sucks!”
Carlos got a standing ovation.
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE initiated two dependable trends that remain with us to this day. One, the oft-reported thing about all odd-numbered STAR TREK movies being stinkers. Let’s not belabor the point. Face it, it’s true. Two, aliens are just humanoids with bones in their foreheads and weird hair. Well, it beats Muppets, I suppose.
I’m out of space again and only now beginning to realize how cruel and subtle is my punishment. I thought STAR TREK was going to be a two-part column, maybe three tops. But I’ve got ten movies and three series to go and for all I know, they’ll release a new movie or cough up a new series or two before I can even finish trashing the old ones. Well, unlike Sisyphus, I’m only going to push this particular rock uphill when there’s nothing better to do. So next week, either part three of STAR TREK, or a new column on something else that catches my eye.
Dwayne McDuffie is the writer and co-creator of several comic books, including DAMAGE CONTROL, ICON and THE ROAD TO HELL. He figures he’ll probably end up doing more STAR TREK next week, as there’s nothing cool coming up on TV until May sweeps.
Not entirely certain when Dwayne wrote these “Edgewise” columns for the now-defunct Fantasticon.com. This was as he described it, “STAR TREK, pt. 1.The Original Series and why it’s smart.”
My glorious and celestial leaders at FANTASTICON (who, contrary to rumor, are NOT disembodied, primary-colored brains floating in glass cases of nutrient fluid) have instructed me that EDGEWISE cannot continue until I’ve made my position clear on STAR TREK. “No one will respect your opinions on sci-fi, fantasy and the like until they know where you stand on this absolutely vital issue,” they said to me, telepathically. Not that they don’t have lips. That’s just an ugly rumor. Nevertheless, rather than raise their ire and have them crush my still-beating heart in my chest with their mighty telekinetic powers, following are my opinions (in fact; the only possible CORRECT opinions) on all things Trek. Clip and save this one and try and memorize it, so you won’t look stupid at parties.
STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES
I like this one the best. A bizarro humanism combines with the best of sixties American imperialism to breathtaking effect. Cowboy Captain Kirk screwed his way across the galaxy and phasered anything he didn’t understand. Sometimes he phasered stuff he DID understand, just because it was so butt-ugly. Then he’d give a speech about the inherent wonderfulness of humanity. Damn straight. The “Prime Directive” was taken about as seriously as the average TV cop takes the instruction, “I mean it, hand over your badge! You’re off of this case!” By the way, in the original series, the Prime Directive was STAR TREK’s sacred creed of absolute non-interference in alien cultures – you know, unless Kirk thinks it’s time for some changes around here. This is how it SHOULD be (in THE NEXT GENERATION, they’d screw up this rule something fierce. We’ll talk more about that later). STAR TREK was at its best when the scripts were morality plays in sci-fi drag. The ingenious device of splitting the main character’s psyche into three distinct characters (Kirk, Spock and McCoy as ego, super-ego and id) allowed what would normally be INTERNAL ethical and emotional struggles to play EXTERNALLY, as dramatic scenes. Plus, plenty of running, jumping, fighting, women in scanty clothes and, most importantly, MONSTERS.
(Dwayne McDuffie’s Second law of enjoying science fiction and not being such a damned nerd: TV and movie Science Fiction projects should always have MONSTERS in them, otherwise I’ll just watch LAW AND ORDER.)
But the most important fact about the original series is this: even the suckiest ones – you know; the space Hippies; the remote-controlled Mr. Spock; the one with the flying fake vomit creatures – even these weren’t BORING. Sadly, this would never again be true.
Next week, I’ll continue to tell you what your opinions on STAR TREK should be, touching on all the movies and on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. I’ll likely torque you off something fierce. You wouldn’t want to miss THAT, now would you?
Dwayne McDuffie is the co-creator of several comic books, including ICON, STATIC and XOMBI. He promises that he’ll eventually review DEEP SPACE NINE and VOYAGER, but that may have to wait for another couple of weeks, as he’s afraid of looking too much like a geek.