John Ostrander: Woo Who!

by John Ostrander

Last week TV fandom was set on its ear by the announcement of the newest person to play the Doctor on BBC’s venerable sci/fi TV show, Doctor Who. (If you don’t already know, the Doctor is a time-traveling alien with the ability to regenerate himself into an entirely new body and persona when his current body is on the point of dying.) There have been 12 such regenerations so far; Jodie Whittaker will be the 13th and the first woman to play the part. Joanna Lumley was a female Doctor for a sketch some years back – written by Steven Moffet, no less – but that is not considered canon.

Predictably, there has been some negative fan reaction, although the bulk that I have seen has been overwhelmingly positive. This kind of change often provokes this kind of reaction. When it was announced that the captain on the next Star Trek series coming out (Star Trek: Discovery) was going to be a woman, there was similar booing and hooing.

I can sort of understand. Fans can be conservative; they want what they like to be the same but different only not too different. There have been times when, as a fan, I was somewhat resistant to change. A prime complaint has been that young boys are losing a role model and there aren’t that many heroes who depend on their wits and smarts rather than their fists. Even one of the actors who played an earlier Doctor, Peter Davison, has voiced this objection. However, my feeling is that these young boys have 12 other incarnations to use as a role model. Young girls have been expected to use the male Doctor as a role model; giving them one who looks like them after fifty years of the show being broadcast doesn’t seem to me to be unreasonable.

My late wife, Kim Yale, was a huge Doctor Who fan (as am I) and she used to dress as Tom Baker’s Doctor to cosplay at conventions before cosplay was a big thing. She would have been over the moon about this. My partner, Mary Mitchell, certainly is and has pointed out that having the 13th Doctor be a female is very appropriate since 13 is a “female number” as there are 13 moon cycles in a year.

To me, what ultimately matters is what character do they create and how good are the stories that they tell. When you’ve worked for a long time on a given project, as a writer you look for ways to shake things up and make them fresh. On my book GrimJack, I once killed off the main character and then brought him back and later on, replaced him with an entirely different incarnation (yes, I was a big Doctor Who fan at the time and, yes, that influenced the change a lot). I intended to keep doing that from time to time. And one of the later incarnations I had planned was a female GrimJack. That probably would have incited some comment as well. We just never got to it.

So I’m very pleased with the selection of the new Doctor and hopefully the stories that will come of it. I hope the new showrunner will explore the change and what it means.

One last interesting note: I read that Ms. Whittaker will be paid the same salary as the actor who preceded her, Peter Capaldi. No wage disparity in the time vortex.

Way to go, Beeb.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix, where this piece first appeared. You can learn more about John and his masterworks HERE

The Hudsonian Welcomes SPIDER-MAN (‘s) HOMECOMING

Now this is a villain! Much better than in the comics.

by Joshua Hudson

(This article contains spoilers!)

So I’m totally just now getting around to reviewing Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s been a crazy last couple of weeks. But the good news is that most everyone has seen it by now so, yeah, all the spoilers ahead shouldn’t bother you, right?

As far as I’m concerned, Homecoming was absolutely fantastic. I’ve seen it a couple of times, and the comedy holds up beautifully. Sure, we’ve seen every kind of incarnation with Spider-Man already – he’s been in high school and in college and his Uncle Ben died and had a profound effect on his life – but the writers still found a way to make this different.

They skipped over the origin story (thank GOD!) and just focused on Peter as a sophomore in high school, learning how to be a hero. What Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films did was gloss over a lot of this. Parker was done with high school before the midpoint of Raimi’s first movie, and all we saw was a series of shots of him learning how to be a hero.

Just because you have superpowers doesn’t mean you’re going to know how to use them right out of the gate. From beginning to end, Homecoming showed that as great as Peter was, he was flawed as a hero – as a teenaged hero. But that was okay because he was still having fun and enjoyed helping people, which pulled us as the audience along for the ride.

After watching all of the trailers and seeing a heavy dose of Tony Stark, I was happy to see he had only a few scenes in the movie. They were just enough for us to know Parker is firmly a part of the MCU as a whole, but, yeah, essentially they replaced Uncle Ben with Stark. As a fanboy, this irked me, but it worked for this film and I wasn’t totally upset because we’ve already seen the Uncle Ben thing play out anyway.

This time around we get Parker looking at Stark as a father figure and learning how to be a hero. And Aunt May definitely makes her presence known as played by Marisa Tomei. I’ve heard of a deleted scene which I thought would’ve been great, but without knowing where it fitted in, I’m not sure how I would’ve felt seeing it. In a nutshell, the scene shows May doing something heroic in front of Peter, which could’ve easily served as fuel to his heroic fire.

Michael Keaton as The Vulture was arguably one of the better villains in the MCU, right up there with Loki in my opinion. In terms of previous Spider-Man only film villains, I’d rank him second behind Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. What makes both so great is their relationship with Parker. Vulture’s connection is shown late (and even I didn’t see that coming), but his attitude throughout the film really made you feel for him. The Vulture wasn’t someone that wanted to be a bad guy. Circumstances dictated it, and he had a family to look after. That’s the type of baddie that plays really well.

The fight scenes were done well. I’ve heard some of my friends say there wasn’t enough. I disagree. It’s easy for a director or storyteller to want to put a lot of action into a script simply because it’s an action movie. But this is also a coming of age story for Parker. The writing here gave us action that moved Parker’s journey along, and the final scene was an exclamation point on his ascension to respected hero. Could the action have been better shot and edited? Yes, but I’ve never seen a film where that couldn’t be said.

Parker’s high school classmates were great. Some longtime fans may be mad about casting choices because in the comics, everyone is white and there’s no ethnicity. Did you know that in today’s New York City over 60% of the population is black, brown, or Asian?

This film added diversity to just about EVERYONE. Liz is half Black, Ned looks hispanic, Flash IS Hispanic. I don’t think it took away from any of their comic book origins. Personality-wise, Flash was still a bully, just not a football jock bully, so I was okay with it. And if they ever decide to make him Venom, that’ll be really interesting. My only beef was with Zendaya’s character, Michelle because…

!!!SPOILER!!!

At the very end, it’s revealed that Michell’s “friends” call her M.J. This was a complete cop out by the writers (there seem to be about a dozen of them so forgive me for not naming them here) and director Jon Watts. Michelle Jones, or whatever her last name is, is NOT the M.J. we all know and love. If you wanted ditch the red haired Anglo girl look, fine. But why not at least keep Mary Jane’s name? Nothing against Zendaya. I thought she was great actually. I just felt that as a comic book fan, I’d kind of been  insulted

The introduction of Aaron Davis (The Ultimate Universe Prowler), Mac Gargon (The Scorpion), Herman Schultz (The Shocker) and Mason (The Tinkerer) all fitted well in the story. Each villain served a purpose. This as a case where “too many villains” worked because Spidey didn’t have to fight them all. And that’s okay. What we have now is a great set-up for future Spider-Man movies, and I’m curious to see their next move.

Bottomline: Go see Spider-Man Homecoming. It’s terrific, and a much needed refresher on the MCU as a whole. As long as Sony doesn’t screw up their side of the Spider-Man mythos (Black & Silver featuring Black Cat and Silver Sable, Venom, et al), I think there’s a lot of potential here for great stories.


Joshua Hudson is a producer, writer, and actor. Find out more about him at Hudsonian Productions. Thanks, Josh!

Herbie J Pilato Remembers Martin Landau

Martin Landau & his missus, Barbara Bain, with some other guys you may recall

by Herbie J Pilato

The consummate actor and the consummate professional, terms seemingly created for actor Martin Landau, who passed away on July 15, 2017 at age 89 after a brief hospitalization at the UCLA Medical Center.

With a refined manner and eloquent style and speech, the multi-award-winning and nominated Landau brought significant realism to each of his roles for television, film and the stage.  Landau ignited his acting career in the 1950s, after he worked as a cartoonist for the New York Daily News.

The theatrically-trained actor was best known to TV viewers for three years as the lead master-of-disguise spy Rollin Hand on the original Mission:Impossible weekly espionage show (CBS, 1966-1973), in which he teamed with his then wife Barbara Bain (wed from 1957 to 1993).

Accepted into the prestigious Lee Strasberg Actors Studio from among two thousand applicants (with classmates such as Steve McQueen and James Dean), Landau premiered on Broadway in Middle of the Night in 1957, and was later Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s first choice before Leonard Nimoy to play Mr. Spock on that classic series (NBC, 1966-1969).

In the ultimate irony, Nimoy later replaced Landau on Mission, when he and Bain exited that series in the spring of 1969.

He and Bain later re-partnered for the syndicated, UK-produced sci-fi seriesSpace:1999 (1975-1977) on which he portrayed Commander John Koenig.  “I’m very proud of Space:1999,” he once said.  “It’s success paved the way for other shows to follow.”

Emmy-nominated three times for each of the consecutive years he appeared on Mission, Landau won the Golden Globe in 1968 for the same leading dramatic role, and in 1994 collected the Academy Award for his Best-Supporting Actor performance as Bela Logasi in the feature film, Ed Wood.

Before, during and after his most famous performances, Landau (born June 28, 1928 in Brooklyn) made hundreds of small-screen, motion picture and live-theatre performances.  His TV guest-spots are the stuff of legends, everything from the ground-breaking initial Goldbergs series (of 1953), to The Untouchables, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, I Spy, Checkmate, and countless more.

Besides Ed Wood, Landau’s cinematic prowess remains evident in movies like Tucker(1988), Crimes and Misdemeanors in 1989, both for which he was Oscar-nominated, as well as The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and Alfred Hitchock’s North by Northwest (1959), in which he made his feature film debut, among others.

Landau in more recent years appeared in drama TV shows such as Without A Trace(CBS, 2004 and 2005), and the comedy Entourage (HBO, 2007), earning an Emmy nomination for each of these.

According to his good friend, television writer and historian Frankie Montiforte, Landau “abhorred ignorance.  He believed it was your job to know absolutely everything you were talking about and in great detail, whether it was about acting, journalism, or politics.  And if you didn’t know it, he schooled you on it.  He was always the teacher.”

Of his work as an actor, Landau himself once said, “Everyone can walk and talk.  But your job is to make magic.”  Another time, he said, “Everything that has happened to me is of value.”

It’s that kind of integrity and nobility that will forever remain Martin Landau’s legacy.


Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and the author of several classic TV companion books.  He is practically a founding father of TVWriter™ and is a Contributing Editor Emeritus. This article first appeared at Emmys.Com. Learn more about Herbie J Pilato HERE.

Peggy Bechko’s Tips on Character Descriptions

OMG! Writers have to do all this too – but with words!?

by Peggy Bechko

Writing descriptions for characters in TV and film scripts can be very tricky. We’re writing tight and yet want to transmit something about that character, something that will make an “A” list actor or actress salivate at the thought of playing that character. At the same time it has to be very visual. Unlike novelists, script writers can’t get inside the heads of their characters – at least not when it comes to descriptions. It’s a little like someone off-stage whispering instructions.

If you’ve read a lot of scripts, and if you’re writing them I assume you have, then you’re no doubt all too familiar with a description like: Carmen Smith (20s), slender and graceful, waits impatiently at the bus stop.

Okay, it paints a picture of sorts and we’re told time and again not to over describe, but is that the sort of description that would grab a star? I mean all we’ve said here is that Carmen is thin, impatient woman in her 20s. And, of course your script has to make it past the hurdles and pitfalls of a myriad of other folks who read your script such as readers, agents, maybe producers and others unless you personally know an “A” list movie star. Few of us do. And even if we do, would that person welcome reading your script…and then would that description captivate that person?

Okay, so no, no and no.

Now, presuming your script is otherwise worth reading and it get into the hands of a star’s agent, that agent is going to be looking to see if there’s a plum part in the script for their client. Is the character interesting with a personality, a background; a role that’s multi-faceted to stretch the star’s acting ability.

Isn’t that what you’d be doing if you were a rep for a high-powered star?

So we come back to that original (well, not really so original) description I came up with above. What if the description in your script was more like: The bus driver opened the door to where Carmen, an aristocratic woman more accustomed to limos than city buses, raised her steely gaze to his, then rose and strolled onto the steps plainly intending the bus could just wait a bit longer.

Now that’s a little more like it. What the heck is going on with Carmen? Steely gaze? Causing the bus to wait on her leisurely stroll? There’s a tone here, no? Are things like age important? Not really, unless it really has a bearing on the direction of the story.

Read through your script. Think about the descriptions. If you find one that seems a little flat, play with it. Think about who your character is and consider, can I bring the character through with action and movement, maybe a look or a certain attitude. Don’t depend on age, clothes, height or color of hair (ye gads!). What would make a star want to play that role?


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Bri Castellini: Exactly How Much My Award-Winning Web Series Cost Me To Produce – @brisworld

by Bri Castellini

Filmmaking is expensive. Even the cheapest, easiest production in the world is riddled with costs for things you can never truly anticipate until you’re actually on set, and it only gets harder when you’re on your own. I’m one of the idiots trying to make and release content without the support or funds from a production company or a cable network. Hi, my name is Bri Castellini, and I’m an independent filmmaker with over $80,000 in student debt.

Since 2015, I have produced two seasons of my award-winning web series Brains, two spin-off “extended universe” projects (a mini-series and a short film) from that series, a short film, and several other web series and film projects that were written by friends and collaborators. As expected, this productivity did not come cheap.

Today, I want to talk about the first season of Brains, my first film project, and take you through where the minimal amounts of money I had for my no-budget show went. At the time of production, I was an assistant manager at a coffee shop in TriBeCa, making $14 an hour, while also in my first year of graduate school.

IndieGoGo

In the green column of the budget, I had only one source of funds — the IndieGoGo campaign we ran between filming the pilot and the nine other episodes of that season. According to the campaign itself, we raised $1,015 of the arbitrary $3,000 goal we set. In actuality, we’d made $923.65, after Paypal and IndieGoGo took their fees. Pro tip: the fees on IndieGoGo are lower if you reach your goal. Had I known this at the time, I would have donated the remaining amount before time was up, since it was all coming straight back to me anyways. At some point during production, my grandfather sent me $100 as a gift, so I added that to the IndieGoGo funds, making our working budget $1,023.65, i.e. definitely not enough money.

IndieGoGo Perks

Because I’d never run a crowdfunding campaign before, I made the most amateur of mistakes: I didn’t calculate the costs of the actual perks before setting their prices on the campaign. For instance, we charged $35 for the “official poster” perk and made about $200 dollars from it, but we actually spent $392.95 printing and shipping those posters, which is a pretty dramatic net loss. Not an ideal situation.

Transportation

$312.41. This is where most of our money went that first season. Because we’re in New York City, no cast or crew had a car, meaning that we relied entirely on taxis and public transportation to get us to and from set. It got complicated when we had to drag giant props and other materials to and from our apartments, and because filming is exhausting, we’d treat ourselves to a cab ride after a hard day instead of braving the subway with five giant bags of props and lighting equipment. I also had to shell out some cash when a key cast or crew member forgot about our shoot and we needed them on set as soon as possible. Season two, after learning all this the hard way, we only spent $41.20 on transportation.

Props

Brains is an apocalypse show, so we also spent a chunk of change on props. $261.66 to be exact, which covered fake guns, a fake machete, handcuffs, lab coats, binoculars, and outfits for all our zombies, among many other things. This couldn’t be avoided, but during season two, we spent almost nothing on those items, because we already owned them. In this case, and this case only, being a pack rat really paid off.

New actor

There were several months between filming the pilot and the rest of the season, and in that time, the actor playing the main love interest, who was also my roommate, dropped out for lots of very dramatic reasons. Because this character was vital to the story, and because we’d already cast every other guy we knew in other parts on the show, we had to shell out $91.70 to woo a new actor. First, $19.95 for a Backstage.com account to post a casting notice, then $24.95 for listing the casting notice. After we got some responses, we needed a professional-looking space for in-person auditions, which ended up costing $46.80. The actor we eventually chose was absolutely worth the unexpected charges, and I want to cast him in everything ever moving forward, but finding him cost us time and almost 1/9 of our total budget.

Mistakes

When I was going over my budget spreadsheet after the season, I organized some of the charges into a category labeled “charges that fucked us without being that helpful.” The $165.65 total included a prop gun that looked too fake to use, a set of mics that weren’t compatible with the rest of our equipment, adapters for those mics that still didn’t make them work, PayPal fees from getting the IndieGoGo money into my account, and another set of prop guns that got delivered to the wrong address, and thus we didn’t actually get to use in the show. You can’t plan for every mistake, but you can do more work beforehand to lessen their impact. Had we researched those mics more fully, for example, we never would have ordered them or the adapters in the first place. Same for the too-fake fake gun.

Food

That first season we were pretty inconsistent about feeding people on set because we genuinely forgot that was a thing you had to do, but even so, we spent $221.23. Sometimes we’d send someone to a nearby fast food chain to pick up actual meals, sometimes we’d just buy water bottles and snacks to have on hand, and at the end of the season, I bought three giant watermelons. Fun fact: hitting a watermelon with a machete and a baseball bat sounds like hitting a human, which we recorded to layer onto the zombie “kills” we’d already filmed.

Advertising

Because we were a group of nobodies, no one cared that we’d just spent the better part of our summer laboring over a web series. So each week a new episode went live, I spent a little money on Facebook ads to promote them, to varying levels of success. In total, for the first season, I spent $167.86 on Facebook ads.

Film Festivals

This cost is one that still sends me reeling. I actually don’t have the actual total amount I’ve spent on film festival submissions, because after a while, it got too depressing to keep track. The number in my spreadsheet, $120.74, is only accurate as of November 2015, but since then, I’ve probably spent twice that, because the only way to raise your show’s profile is to get accepted into film festivals, and the only way to get accepted into film festivals is to spend a bunch of money submitting your show to them for the possibility of selection.

As of November 2015, I was $948 over budget. Since then, taking into account my being over $1500 in the red from season 2 and the exorbitant film festival costs I’m still accruing, it’s safe to say that from a financial perspective, producing a web series is more expensive than setting your money on fire. In the future, my best case scenario is breaking even. And I still wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.


Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Community Liaison at Stareable, our favorite web series hub. Read her blog! Watch Bri’s award-winning web series, BrainsHERE! Oh, and she wants you to know this:

John Ostrander: The Digital Dog Ate My Homework. Honest.

by John Ostrander

When doing my writing lectures/classes, near the start I always ask who in the class would consider themselves to be storytellers. A few raise their hands and then I tell everyone to raise their hands.

We’re all storytellers. We all use story in our daily lives. They’re the atoms of our social interactions. The example I give is if you’re a student and you’re late with your homework assignment you should have a good reason why. Make it a good story. “My dog ate my homework” no longer qualifies – if it ever did. In fact, given how much everything is done on computer these days, it would have to be “My digital dog ate my homework.” It’s not any more compelling than the old version, but it might be considered moderately clever.

Deadlines remain a factor long after you leave school and nowhere is that truer than in comics. In his editorial capacity, my good friend Mike Gold once warned me I had moved past deadline and was approaching the funeral line. He also once rang the doorbell of a truant artist (he happened to be in the artist’s home town on other business). Editors showing up on your doorstep can be unnerving.

In my earliest days as a pro writer, I did everything on typewriter (first manual and then electric; rumors that I chiseled them on stone tablets are just mean). I didn’t have a computer until later and, even when I did, some companies (including DC) were not equipped to receive them electronically. So that meant printing them up on my dot-matrix printer and then rushing them off to FedEx for overnight delivery.

Unless you called in your package by a certain time, usually much earlier than you had the work done, you had to take the package to the nearest FedEx office. If you didn’t hit the office by closing time (usually around 6 PM), you had to make the Midnight Run to the main FedEx office out by the largest airport around. More than once, Kim was the driver while I finished collating the pages, stuffing them in the envelope, and addressing the delivery slip. Let me tell you, Speed Racer had nothing on Kim. She’d run stoplights and take stop signs as suggestions to be ignored. Often, we’d meet other local freelancers also making the death defying Midnight Run. It almost got to be a club.

It was something of a step up when I could fax the script in; that could be done at any time. It still wasn’t completely convenient. These days it’s all done electronically. For instance, this column will never see paper.  As soon as it’s finished, it’s a rush to Hotmail and then to the hallowed halls of ComicMix. It doesn’t have quite the same romance as the Midnight FedEx Run but, on the other hand, there’s a lesser chance of a traffic fatality. And fewer chances for an alibi although the possibility that my steam-powered computer (a.k.a. the digital dog) ate my column is potentially truer than the classic excuse.

Of course, all this could be avoided by simply buckling down and doing the work on-time but, hey, where’s the fun in that?


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix, where this piece first appeared. You can learn more about John and his masterworks HERE

John Ostrander: Holding Out For A Hero

by John Ostrander

Bill Maher, noted iconoclastic and increasingly misanthropic host of Real Time on HBO, announced about ten days ago that he was taking July off because, after six months of President Trump, he really needed it. I sympathize. Not before he took what I regard as some ill-informed and gratuitous swipes at comics, comic book movies, sci-fi/fantasy books, movies and TV and anything else I assume that he considers intellectually lowbrow.

Among his gripes that the stupid summer movies were increasingly infiltrating into fall, the time for more serious, adult movies. His biggest gripe is that they make us, the unwashed public, stupider because it makes us want a savior, someone who will descend from on high and rescue us instead of getting off our duffs and doing what needs to be done (i.e. deal with Trump) ourselves.

Except they’re not.

What bothers me about Maher’s criticisms is that he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I have severe doubts Mr. Maher has seen any of the superhero films, let alone read a comic book. It reminds me of the people who used to criticize Harry Potter films and books (which Maher also dislikes) as Satanic without ever having seen a film or read a word of the books. Somebody told them they were Satanic and that’s all they needed.

I can’t entirely blame Maher for thinking that films such as Man of Steel present the superhero as a godlike being descending to save the masses. The director, Zack Snyder, appeared to make the same mistake, presenting Supes in various Jesus like images. However, Superman is more like Moses than Jesus. Moses comes as a baby in a basket floating down the Nile to the Egyptian princess; baby Kal-El comes to Earth in a small rocket to the Kents in Kansas. Moses grows up as an Egyptian; Kal-El grows up as part of the Midwestern farming community.

However, Superman is neither. One of the key moments in the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie is the first time he takes off his glasses and opens his shirt to reveal the iconic S.

Not only does he become Superman: we become Superman.

That’s one of the big keys to the success of Superman over the decades. It’s part of the myth. Yes, we may seem meek and mild-mannered like Clark Kent but, if we took off our glasses and opened our shirts, people would see we were Superman.

It’s the same thing in the Wonder Woman movie, the first time Princess Diana shows up in the Wonder Woman regalia. [SPOILER ALERT!]It’s a great moment as she climbs out of the trench and starts determinedly to stride across No-Man’s Land. She deflects the murderous gunfire of the Germans. She has been outraged by the suffering of innocents and she’s going to do something about it. The Allied troops, inspired, join her and drive the Germans from the suffering village.

At that moment, Wonder Woman is us. Male and female, we identify with her. We become her. That’s the power, not only of the movies but of the story in general. We identify with that hero. They can inspire us to become our best selves.

That is what Bill Maher doesn’t get.

I don’t dislike Maher. He speaks up on topics and takes positions with which I agree – such as climate change. In doing that, he speaks for many people. It’s why I listen; to hear what I think and feel put into words. That’s why it’s frustrating to hear Maher denigrate the field in which I work and that so many worldwide really enjoy. The global revenues on these films are greater than the U.S. take. This suggests that the films speak to people outside our shores and, I suspect, for much the same reasons. It’s not simply the special effects; it’s how they make us feel.

It does make me question. If Maher is so blind on this, how much else is he blind about and that I ignore because they fall into my own prejudices and beliefs.

I hope Maher comes back from his time off refreshed and ready to do battle again. I don’t expect him to backtrack from his previous statements. I’d just like to see him leave comics alone.

Because, Bill, you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix, where this piece first appeared. You can learn more about John and his masterworks HERE