Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Adapting Wodehouse

Quite possibly, the only series that got the stories of PG Wodehouse's most famous and most well-loved characters Jeeves and Wooster was the one produced by by Granada Television in the early 1990's starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in the title roles.

Fry and Laurie were not the first team to take on the mantle of the world's most famous all-knowing valet and his less than capable employer. However, despite the fact Stephen Fry was vastly younger than many of the actors who have portrayed Jeeves in the past, he was by far (in my humble opinion) the very best. And Hugh Laurie's rubber-faced portrayal of Bertram Wilberforce Wooster was equally brilliant.

I felt the key to the success of this Wodehouse series over many other that have come before or after it was the fact that it was incredibly silly. The portrayal of the characters and the situations that were presented for them to overcome were equally clownish and over-the-top to the point that it has no believablilty whatsover.

And that, dear readers, is the key to adapting any of PG Wodehouse's work. And the very reason why quite a few of the adaptations of Wodehouse's books, both currently and in the past have fallen flat on their face.

Case in point. I had rented WODEHOUSE PLAYHOUSE a few months back and my wife Syd and I sat down one night to watch it before bed. The series was produced in the 1970's and starred husband and wife team of John Alderton and Pauline Collins.

Since it came out in the 1970's it had many of the BBC Production standards of that might take a bit getting used to for an American audience. All interior scenes were shot on video and all exterior scenes were shot on film. Never understood why. But I suppose I've been watching BBC shows since I was three thanks in part to WGBH Boston, so it doesn't bother me.

Being so used to the production values of Jeeves and Wooster, the thing that really threw me off was the addition of a studio audience. I've never been a huge fan of laugh tracks or studio audiences in general. But most shows on either side of the Atlantic which were deemed comedies were all shot with some sort of either live or canned laughter. It's never stopped me from watching and enjoying certain sitcoms, but it's something I don't particularly care for myself.

However, as Syd and I watched the first episode THE TRUTH ABOUT GEORGE, I found myself chuckling but I didn't find myself thoroughly enjoying myself the way I would with an episode of JEEVES AND WOOSTER. The story revolved arount George Mulliner having a painful stutter and not being able to express his true feelings to this Susan Blake.

Syd turned to me after the episode was done and said "I really didn't find his stutter funny. I just felt bad for him".

And that's a problem. What could have worked as a hystical Wodehouse misadventure just falls flat due to underacting. Not criticizing the acting skills of either Alderton or Collins. But the flat 1970's production values were a real hinderance to Wodehouse's original writing.

Another thing that has hurt many of the portrayals of characters like Bertie Wooster in the past is many of the actors chosen for the role are far too old. The late Ian Carmichael who portrayed him in a 1960's television show was a very capable actor. But far too old to play the character.

Most of Wodehouse characters in the Bertie Wooster mold were all supposed to be between the ages of 21 to 30. The joke being that they were supposed to be these very young and very foolish characters who think themselves the height of maturity and intelligence.

The ongoing joke with many of the books is the characters who are over the age of 26 see themselves as "over the hill".

Not much has changed as far as the Entertainment Industry is concerned.

There was also a couple Jeeves films that came out in the 1930's which actually had a young David Niven as Bertie Wooster. But I have heard the films are painfully boring and bear very little resemblance to the characters Wodehouse created.

Apparently, there's a new series based on Wodehouse's books set at Blandings Castle which stars some really great actors like Timothy Spall who you might remember as Wormtail in the Harry Potter movies and Jennifer Saunders of Ab Fab fame.

Sadly, I've heard from Wodehouse enthusiasts enthusiasts that it is not very good. Which I'm very sad to hear. I've desperately wanted to see another good adaptation of Wodehouse's work the way the Jeeves and Wooster series with Fry and Laurie as. Alas it seems as though the last really good adaptation of Wodehouse's work was JEEVES AND WOOSTER.

If you haven't seen the series, I highly recommend you watch it. It's a definite guide to P.G. Wodehouse done right. And if House MD is the only program which you know Hugh Laurie from, you'll get a chuckle out of a very young Hugh Laurie hamming it up for the camera. And doing it marvelously.

Hopefully one of these days we'll see another really decent adaptation of Wodehouse's masterworks...

...or I'll just have to do it myself ;-)

First look at Alice

Illustration above is your first look at Alice by artist Paul Loudon who is working with me on an upcoming graphic novel titled ALICE AND THE INVADERS FROM WONDERLAND.  Which will be ALICE IN WONDERLAND with a decidedly Steampunk twist.
Paul has been working from my original character designs of Alice. 
But I've given him enough breathing room on the project to add any of his own suggestions to the costume design. Also, I figured Alice would wear a variety of different hats. Bonnets, top hats, bowlers and deerstalkers. Whatever suits her that particular moment.

I've been working on the project a couple of months over various frozen coffee's at LaLaJava's and Black Diamond Coffee. It had been a concept rattling around in my head since I did the Antiquinox Masquerade Ball back in March. I had done a few pen and ink sketches which featured Alice as a Steampunk adventuress.

The trick was taking the characters and settings of ALICE IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS and giving them a Steampunk makeover.

Basically I approached the project like I was writing an episode of Doctor Who. No secret I'm a huge fan of the show and dream of one day writing an episode.

Needless to say, I've been very pleased with the artwork Paul has done for the project thus far. I'm a huge fan of his work and I knew it would be ideal for this project. I really like his style of comic art.

I will be posting more as the project progresses.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Darth Vader, Ralph McQuarrie and The Star Wars

I still think that Darth Vader is one of the greatest movie villians created over the past 30 years. Sadly, ole Vader has suffered a bit at the hands of the prequels that came out in the past decade. But they will never take away from the impact the character made when he first came striding out of the smoke on board the captured Rebel cruiser in Star Wars and becoming even more of a bad ass mentally choking anyone who mere looked at him cockeyed in The Empire Strikes Back.

I refuse to watch the remastered, reworked and rehashed versions of the original trilogy. I bought copies of unedited versions of the original trilogy when they came out on DVD several years back. Which most fans were outraged when they discovered that they were just copied from laserdisc versions of the movie and they were pulled from circulation shortly thereafter.

I couldn't care less where the source material was from. I'm not one of those technology buffs and whinges whenever the picture quality isn't in 110% pristine condition and whatever else. The version of Star Wars I  grew up with was on DVD and that's what mattered.

Still, I couldn't help feeling like ole George Lucas did that knowing fans would cry foul so he could justify pulling the original versions of the trilogy off the market because he's got this insane obsession that the "new" version of the original triliogy is the real version...

...well... until he decides to change things again.

Okay!! I just went way off the subject.

As much as I like the costume design that was ultimately used in the film. I'm always fascinated when I see people make props based on on the late great Ralph McQuarrie's original concept for Darth Vader.

When the character was created, he was somewhat different from the hideously scarred, heavy wheezing and force strangling deadbeat Dad we all came to know and loathe.

Quite different.

As a matter of fact, the original concept for Darth was more in line with the Flash Gordon, Buck Roger and Commando Cody movie serials from a bygone era. The helmet wasn't meant to be a form of life support, but part of his space suit he used to fly around space from ship to ship. Very much like Commado Cody for those of you familiar with that movie serial. For you who are not, think the Rocketeer. For those of you unfamiliar with the Rocketeer... um... I can't help you.

I'm not sure if Darth was hideously scarred in his original version. They released a figure set based on McQuarrie's artwork for various characters in their embryonic stage of development. I know the Vader figure actually had a removable helmet. But I never got a hold of the figure to check that out.

However!! Dark Horse has decided to do an adaptation of George Lucas's orginal script for THE STAR WARS in October 2013.

The series will feature some really great artwork by Mike Mayhew as seen below.

Personally, I always thought it would be great if they just did a film based on the original script and McQuarrie's original concept art for the character. I'll be very interested in seeing how it translates visually.

Sometimes, first drafts don't always turn out to be the best source material for a finished work. Doctor Who writer and producer Steven Moffat mentioned in an issue of Doctor Who Magazine about the "mythical bottom drawer, full of untold wonders." and how "there's a reason you dump a story and a reason that it should stay dumped".

However, this might not be the case for George Lucas's orignal vision of Star Wars. So much has been told about the characters and so much has been done, both good and bad, that maybe it's time to head in another direction for a new audience.

I have a feeling that the current production team lined up for episodes seven through nine will probably continue where RETURN OF THE JEDI left off. I think it might be high time for Star Wars to go in a new direction from the mystical nature of the old series and a more flat out Flash Gordon style science-ficiton adventure of a new series.

Maybe it's time to follow the adventures of Anakin Starkiller, General Luke Skywalker and the evil General Darth Vader on the silver screen.

Already the same team has established a parallel universe with Star Trek. Maybe the same can be done with Star Wars.

Doubt that will ever happen. So, I'll be happy to pick up my copy of THE STAR WARS issue #1 in October.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

New auction!! Dark Shadows: Barnabas and Angelique (11x17 Color Print +ORIGINAL ARTWORK!!)

Original artwork by Bret M. Herholz (Diary of the Black Widow/Sherlock Holmes). Illustrated in Deleter Black Ink with Crow Quill Pen on Canson 9x12 Bristol Board. Colors on print added digitally. Print measures 11x17.


Inspired by the cult hit Dark Shadows featuring the characters Barnabas Collins and Angelique as portrayed by Jonathan Frid and Lara Parker.

Colors were inspired by the restored version of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI.
The way this auction works is once a winning bid has been made, a print of the image will be made on a high quality glossy cardstock and signed personally to the winning bidder and dated. The original digital file of the image will be deleted making this print ONE OF A KIND. But, along with the print, you will also be bidding on the original artwork I used of Barnabas and Angelique. Which will also be signed to the winning bidder and dated.

Suitable for framing and the ideal gift for any Dark Shadows fan. Click on the link below and happy bidding:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Summer Vacation...

I was back at the Worcester Art Museum this year for their Summer program. It's kind of split differently for me this year since I'm teaching the first two weeks and I'm not back again until the first week of the second session in August.

However, I got the change to teach a Comic Book Anthology class I had taught a few times in the past called WAM Comics. Occassionally in the past it has been called Comic Book Anthology or something along this line. But the last couple of times I think it's just gone under the moniker of WAM Comics.

It was something actually started by Mark Lynch, who taught cartooning classes as the Worcester Art Museum when I was there. Mark also hosts a Sunday night show on WICN called INQUIRY. Where he talks to an impressive multitude of guests. I've even been on Mark's show on a number of occassions. It's great fun!!

He produced the book very much the old fashioned way of physical cut and paste. Which I did for the first couple of issues.

When I did the class this year, I decided to take advantage of the technology we have nowadays and go the digital route and actually publish the book online.

There have been a number of WAM Comics before this one. But I don't know where this one would fall numerically. So I decided since I'm going a different route for this book, this would be Volume One of the digitally published series.

I also decided to set up a goal and deadline for the students. It was quite simple. They had seven days to finish their pages up in. The minimum amount of pages I would allow would be between five to ten pages. The last two days would be filled with me doing a demonstration how they would digitally cut and paste their work together and the steps to uploading their book online to have it published.

If they met both the deadline and the minimum requirement their comic would be published in the anthology and they would receive a free copy of it.

It was a small class but most took the challenge admirably. And for those who chose to goof off the seven days, they missed out.

The main statement I wanted to convey over that week was that they're never too young to get their work out there. All it takes is dedication and time. And what I had hoped by giving them a physical copy of their work was that they will leave my class and have a desire to publish their own work.

Proceeds made from the sales of the book will go to the Metrowest Humane Society. A place where my wife Syd adopted our cat Ruben. Click on the link below to order your copy today: