Kickstart a Nikola Tesla docudrama

Nicola Tesla has some pretty cool connections with comics, from a starring role in Matt Fraction’s Five Fists of Science to creating Atomic Robo. He also had a pretty great appearance in Dark Horse’s Tarzan: Le Monstre. The world’s greatest, real-life, mad scientist was an awesome, inspiring person and probably my favorite bits of The Prestige were the parts with him as played by David Bowie.

Though geeks everywhere know and appreciate Tesla and his many accomplishments, documentary TV producer Wil Cashen points out that the inventor has still never gotten his just, historical acclaim. To help correct that, Cashen has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the third phase of a docu-drama, Electricity: The Story and Life of Nikola Tesla.

A $30 pledge gets you a digital download of the movie when it’s done, but there are a lot of other rewards at other levels, so check out the site and see what appeals to you. There’s just a little over a week left though, so if you think you want to help out, don’t dilly dally. It sounds like a cool project and I wish Cashen and his team success with getting it finished.

A nerdy complaint about Wizard of Oz continuity

Let me preface this by saying that even though I’m using panels from Eric Shanower and Skottie Young’s adaptation to illustrate this, my gripe is in no way about them. Their adaptations are extraordinarily faithful to the source material, so the problem is all L. Frank Baum.

Here’s the deal:

In the first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Wizard explains that when he arrived in Oz, he took advantage of the locals and made them build the Emerald City for him. That made an impression on me, because it’s pretty huge evidence that – contrary to his own assertions – he’s no more a “good man” than a “good wizard.” This history of the Emerald City is repeated early in the second book, The Marvelous Land of Oz.

But then later in Marvelous Land, the Scarecrow – current ruler of the Emerald City – offers a completely different history.

It’s that version that Baum sticks with for the rest of the book. In fact, he hinges the entire plot on it since the whole story is about who actually has the right to rule the Emerald City. If you haven’t read it, all I’ll say is that there’s a revolt that calls the legitimate rulership into question and Pastoria is an important part of the discussion.

Sure that I’m not the first to notice this, I went to Wikipedia and found that the problem’s made more complicated in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, where it’s revealed that it was the Wizard who ordered the city built, but that he didn’t usurp it directly from Pastoria. The witches took it from Pastoria and the Wizard took it from them.

What all this means is that Baum was serious when he wrote in the preface to Wonderful Wizard that it was “written solely to please children” of his day. In other words, “You nerds need to lighten up and leave it alone.” And I will try.

I do like how the Marvel adaptation of Marvelous Land fixes another possible continuity error that Wikipedia mentions though. In Wonderful Wizard, it’s explained that the Emerald City isn’t actually green-colored, but only appears to be because of the green-lensed goggles the tyrannical Wizard forced his subjects to wear from birth to death. I thought it pretty cool that halfway through Marvelous Land, the new leadership of the city drops the goggles and the city is colored normally for the rest of the book. Wikipedia points out that “the city is still described as green” in Baum’s novels, but Marvel’s colorist, Jean-Francois Beaulieu gives it plenty of natural greenery without the pervasive tint that everything has in Wonderful Wizard and the early parts of Marvelous Land.

With the goggles:

Without the goggles:

There’s even a change in the city’s attitude about its former leader, revealing that they’re now more aware of the Wizard’s deception. I won’t post the spoilery panel, but there’s a scene late in the book where a resident of the city declares that the Wizard “claimed to do things he couldn’t.” Though it happens off the page, apparently the citizens have realized that the Wizard was a sham and that’s a nice bit of continuity development. I hope there’s more stuff like that than like the shaky history of the place.

What do e-book fans do at signings?

Urban fantasy author Dianna Love brings up an interesting problem concerning readers of digital books. What do they do at author signings?

In a press release for her new Keeper Kase product, Love mentions that e-book fans can feel alienated at appearances because they have nothing for her to sign. Sometimes they’ll offer her a piece of paper or let her sign their e-readers, but she imagines that many want a better solution.

Her answer is Keeper Kase, a line of 4×6, signable book covers that fit easily into a photo album, but I’m really not posting this as an advertisement. I mean, if you’re a fan of Dianna Love and prefer digital books to print, then obviously this is good information for you, but the reason I’m bringing it up is because I’d never thought about it before. As a reader, I haven’t converted to digital books yet, but I imagine that I will before too long and Love made me stop to wonder how I’ll handle book signings.

My first guess is that if I like an author enough to attend a signing, I’ll want to buy a physical copy of her book and have her sign it. Even if I’ve already got a digital copy, I’ll want the memento of the meeting and won’t mind finding some shelf space for it in my overcrowded library. Others will feel differently and Love’s solution may be exactly what they’re looking for. As a fan of great cover art, I can see the appeal in having an album full of attractive, signed covers of my favorite books.

That’s why I’m posting this. If you’re a fan of digital comics or books, how do you (or do you imagine you will) handle signings?

Kill All Monsters! and digital formats

Four Colors and the Truth wrote a nice Digital Comics 101 article called “The World of Digital Comics” that breaks down the various ways that digital comics creators make money. Kill All Monsters! is mentioned in the first group, the “Why Buy The Cow, When You Can Get The Milk For Free” model. That’s been the standard model for most webcomics for a while now with the idea being that you give away the comic and then charge for the print collection and merchandise. It’s a good model, but as FCatT points out, it’s not the only one.

In fact, since we’ve joined Artist Alley Comics, KAM is really no longer under that model. Like drug dealers, we’ve offered the first issue for free on AAC, but subsequent issues will be a buck each, putting us into FCatT’s second category, the “I Am Buying Milk. You Can Keep The Cow” model. With more and more people reading comics on mobile devices as well as computers, there’s less resistance to paying a small charge per issue. Not that’s there no resistance, but that’s one of the risks.

FCatT does an excellent job of laying out the pros and cons of each model – including the third, “You Can’t Actually Buy This Cow, But Its Milk Is Gamma-Irradiated And Will Give You Superpowers” model – and it’s an article worth reading.

KAM was also mentioned is in a brief post about AAC on Bleeding Cool. The really interesting part of the post to me is the discussion in the comments about AAC’s model of offering DRM-free PDFs instead of going through comiXology. Though it’s not a polite discussion, two of Bleeding Cool’s commenters do an accurate job of outlining the advantages and disadvantages of buying direct from the creators and buying through comiXology. I understand both points of view, so I’ll simply say that while I’d love for lots and lots of people to buy our DRM-free PDFs, I don’t want people to purchase things in a format that’s not for them. If this isn’t your thing, Jason and I are already working out details to get together the first volume of a print collection.

My point in bringing all this up is that people are still working very hard to figure this out. Maybe the solution is to offer comics in ALL formats: free webcomics, DRM-free PDFs, comiXology, and fancy enhanced versions that move. There are probably disadvantages to that idea as well. It’s a fascinating time to be a comics reader and/or a creator and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out.

In the meantime, if you’d like a free PDF of the first issue of Kill All Monsters!, you can download it at Artist Alley Comics.

LXB | Saturday Morning Cartoons

This week’s League of Extraordinary Bloggers assignment is extremely tough:

You’ve been hired to program the ultimate Saturday morning experience for kids across the nation. Create your own ideal Saturday morning cartoon schedule.

I have mixed feelings about the concept of Saturday morning cartoons. On the one hand, they were an enormous, fun part of my childhood. I’m not a morning person and had to be dragged out of bed every weekday to get to school, but come Saturday morning I was up by 6:00 am – without an alarm clock – to get my cereal with my brothers and sit in front of the TV to watch the test pattern until the first show came on. Then we’d camp out there until noon, which is about the time our folks started shooing us out of the house to play or help with chores.

Every fall we’d start looking in comics and newspapers for ads like the one above, figuring out our schedule for the coming season. Since there were three of us, that sometimes took some negotiation. Those are excellent memories and nostalgia for them makes me want to share that experience with my son. For a long time, I complained loudly about the death of the Saturday morning line-up and lamented the loss of the Good Old Days.

But like with most things, the Good Old Days of Saturday morning cartoons weren’t as objectively Good as we remember. David and I are still able to share the fun of watching awesome cartoons, but we don’t have to wait for a particular time slot on one day of the week to do it. What’s more, we don’t have to worry about scheduling conflicts if Super Friends is on at the same time as Scooby Doo. Or sit through lesser-of-evil shows because The Smurfs and Rubik’s Cube are all that’s on in that time slot. We have entire networks devoted to nothing but cartoons, and thanks to Netflix and TiVo, we can customize our experience. We can watch only the series and episodes that we want and we can marathon our favorites. My ten-year-old self would have shook with giddiness just imagining that something like that was possible. Frankly, as dear as I hold them in my memory, I don’t want to go back to Saturday morning cartoons.

That said, if Cartoon Network gave me the job of coming up with a block of programming for Saturday mornings, I definitely have thoughts on how I’d fill that time. Based on my own memories of how those mornings went, I’d start my block around 6:00 am and finish up at noon. That’s six hours of great cartoon watching.

There are a couple of ways to do this. I could fill that block with twelve of my favorite, half-hour shows, but there are some big disadvantages to that. First of all, I can only pick twelve shows, which is about impossible. Even worse, twelve shows don’t fill 52 weeks of programming for the year unless I show a lot of reruns. I know that’s what they used to do on Saturday mornings and – dang it – if it was good enough for us back then… but I think there’s a better option.

I like the idea of six, hour-long, themed blocks of programming. That way you could work your way through a series (or a couple of half-hour shows in each block) and when you reached the last episode, start another series with a similar theme. Many of the shows I grew up with had shockingly short runs, but they felt like they were on longer because the networks re-ran them so many times. If you don’t repeat them, you can get through a lot of great stuff over the course of a year. So here’s how I’d split up the time and some of the shows I’d include in each block.

6:00 am: Comedy Hour

  • Looney Tunes
  • Tom and Jerry
  • Pretty much all the Hanna Barbera comedy stuff (Flintstones, Yogi Bear, etc.)
  • Early Popeye and Woody Woodpecker
  • Tiny Toons Adventures
  • Spongebob Squarepants

7:00 am: Teen Mystery Hour

  • Scooby Doo, Where Are You?
  • The New Scooby Doo Movies
  • Mystery, Inc.
  • Archie
  • Josie and the Pussycats
  • The Pebbles and Bam-Bam Show
  • Goober and the Ghost Chasers
  • Speed Buggy
  • Funky Phantom
  • Jabberjaw

8:00 am: Adventure Hour

  • Jonny Quest
  • Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle
  • Filmation’s Lone Ranger and Zorro series
  • Hong Kong Phooey
  • Valley of the Dinosaurs
  • The Powerpuff Girls
  • Samurai Jack
  • Tutenstein
  • Codename: Kids Next Door
  • The Secret Saturdays

9:00 am: DC Superheroes Hour

  • Fleischer Superman
  • Adam West Batman
  • Super Friends
  • Live action Shazam!
  • The Secrets of Isis
  • Batman: The Animated Series
  • Superman: The Animated Series
  • Justice League Unlimited
  • Static Shock
  • Batman Beyond
  • The Batman
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold
  • Beware the Batman

10:00 am: Marvel Superheroes Hour

  • ’60s Spider-Man
  • Spidey Super Stories (those shorts that used to run on The Electric Company)
  • Live action Spider-Man show
  • Bill Bixby’s Incredible Hulk
  • Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
  • ’90s X-Men cartoon
  • X-Men: Evolution
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man
  • Wolverine and the X-Men
  • Marvel Super Hero Squad
  • The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
  • Ultimate Spider-Man

11:00 am: SciFi Hour

  • Space Ghost
  • The Herculoids
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series
  • The New Adventures of Flash Gordon
  • Ark II
  • Planet of the Apes TV show
  • Land of the Lost
  • Classic Battlestar Galactica
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century 
  • Ben 10
  • The Future is Wild
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  • Sym-Bionic Titan

And we’re done at noon in time for lunch. I’m sure I missed some great ones in each category – especially more recent stuff – so please tell me what I should’ve included in the comments.