John Ostrander: Wait. What Was I Thinking?

by John Ostrander


NOTE FROM LB: John Ostrander didn’t create the Suicide Squad, but he, along with various important partners, made it into something special enough to succeed as a film even though it starred Will Smith. I enjoyed John’s discussion of the evolution of the world’s most heinous super group and hope y’all will too!


On May 23, DC will release the sixth volume in their TPB reprint series of my Suicide Squad work. It’s sub-titled “The Phoenix Gambit” and, as is my wont, I’m going to share some thoughts about the stories therein. This might actually take a few weeks.

The volume covers issues 41 through 49 and, with one exception, was co-written with my late wife, Kim Yale. It was at this point that we shook up the Squad (and the book) to a large degree. When we last left the Squad in issue 40 (and the end of the previous TPB), the Squad had disbanded or dispersed. Amanda Waller was in jail as a result of her hand in executing the criminal gang calling itself the Loa; she just surrendered and, at the time, many people both within the book and without wondered why. Why didn’t she fight it? Why didn’t she scheme to get out of it?

In one of the stories in this issue, Amanda explains why to a friend – she felt she deserved to go to jail, that she had stepped over the line. This re-enforced the fact that, so far as I was concerned, Waller has always had a conscience of some kind, even when she crossed it. I think that’s the main difference between my Amanda and the film’s Amanda – mine is not a sociopath. Please note: this is not a criticism of the film; they wrote the character as they saw her, as they needed for their story. Mine is just a bit different. The first story starts with Waller in a prison cell in Belle Reve and the caption “One year later.”

This was slightly controversial at the time. There were fans who felt this now put the Squad out of sync with the rest of the DCU. Kim and I weren’t overly concerned about that; we figured over the run of the stories, they’d even up. It was important to Kim and I that the time elapse between the end of the last story and the start of this one. Not only did Waller need time out, some of the other characters need time to elapse as well.

Sarge Steel approaches Amanda in her cell. (Steel also works in the Intelligence biz and he and Waller have been at loggerheads since the Squad began.) He could use her help and advice with a problem and makes her the same deal she made others – do the job, succeed, survive, and get time off your sentence.

Amanda smiles at him; she’s been waiting for this or something like it. She has a counter-offer. She gets a presidential pardon; she gets to put a Squad together like before, they work without governmental ties or oversight, and they get a million dollars. Oh, and Batman has to help with the first mission.

This would be one of the big changes in the book; no more Belle Reve, no more supporting cast. Smaller Squad and, for the most part, no costumes. Every day clothes. They were free agents. More expendable than ever and the U.S. Government had less (or no) control over them (and especially Amanda).

These were significant changes. The book was over three years old and time, Kim and I thought, for a shake-up. While the new direction seemed to me at the time to be a good idea, in retrospect I’m not so sure. Fans can be a conservative bunch; they tend to want the same thing each time but different. That’s a hard trick to pull off. Don’t you need the characters in costume to really know who they are? It could be argued that Deadshot’s costume WAS the character. In losing the Belle Reve, we lost not only the Squad’s HQ but a genuine character in the series.

It could also be argued that having the characters running around in costume negated their being a covert action bunch. This seemed more “realistic” although realistic in this context is somewhat malleable. It also got Waller more out into the field as part of the operation rather than waiting at HQ and that seemed to me to be a better idea.

The Squad itself was a somewhat different group. Deadshot and Captain Boomerang were givens and Vixen and Bronze Tiger were regulars although we had messed with Tiger a bit, scuffed up his “good guy” image. They were joined by Count Vertigo and now Poison Ivy and the modern Thugee, Revan, who previously had been a Squad opponent, working with the terrorist group, the Jihad.

They were also joined by the Atom or, shall I say, an Atom. It appeared that Ray Palmer was killed in an explosion and a new Atom, named Adam Cray, had taken his place. Most the of the Squad members (and many readers) believed that Cray was actually Ray Palmer; they thought Palmer had, for some reason, faked his own death and was now assuming a disguise.

I always felt that the Atom would be an ideal member of an espionage team, especially the Squad. His ability to shrink could make him an ideal spy and so, when he became available to us, Kim and I jumped at the chance – albeit with our usual touch of twistiness.

The Phoenix Gambit also included the Russian equivalent to very early Superman crossed with Captain America, Stanoivolk (“Steel Wolf”). And Batman. Lots of Batman. In fact, the first chapter of The Phoenix Gambit could almost be thought of as a Batman story. He’d stick around for the other three issues as well. No great mystery there – Batman already had a history with the Squad and doing something of a crossover could be a nice way to boost sales, Especially at this stage of the Squad’s history.

Getting ready to write this column (and the next few) gave me a chance to go over the volume myself; I hadn’t read most of these in more than a decade. I think, as a whole, they’re among the strongest in the series. Kim and I were really hitting our stride and there are places where I can clearly see her hand and hear her voice. There’s a place where a drugged and deranged Count Vertigo gets all biblical while in battle. That was almost certainly scripted by Kim; her father was an Episcopal minister and she knew the well from which she drew.

The main artist at this point was Geoff Isherwood who had been one of our inkers for a long time. He gave the art a nice illustrative feel while, at the same time, keeping the down and dirty realism the book required. Luke McDonnell, our original artist, would return here and there but the bulk of the work is Geoff’s and he does a fine job.

Well, that does it for this week, my li’l Squadders. Join us next time when, among other things, we’ll talk about our Secret Origin of Captain Boomerang and how that came about. That’s next week – same Squad time, same Squad channel.

Or something.


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

Showbiz Agony Dept: ‘Smash’ Creator on Being Fired from Her Own Show

It happens sometimes – the dream turns into a nightmare. Getting a series on the air is a major high. Getting thrown off it, OTOH….

What Came Next
by Theresa Rebeck

So I’m walking to a rehearsal in Midtown, and my agent calls me.

He runs me through one thing and another, and then he gets down to it. Had I heard that Steven Spielberg had set up a project at Showtime, a TV series about backstage at a Broadway musical?

“They want you to write it,” he informed me. “Mr. Spielberg read one of your plays over the weekend, and he called this morning to say that he is infatuated.”

Let me tell you something. When Steven Spielberg calls your agent to say he is infatuated with your writing, that is a good day. The saga of what came next is so long and complicated it would take a book to write it all out. Sometimes I think of writ- ing that book and sometimes I think that writing that book and reliving the whole thing would be somewhat akin to shooting myself in the head. But we’ll get to that.

So I took the job, I wrote the pilot, I created all the characters, I nurtured it through a transition from Showtime to NBC, I produced the pilot, and the show got picked up for an order of seventeen episodes. I was the show runner of the first season, which got terrific numbers and established itself immediately as an international sensation. The show was called Smash.

At the end of the first season, I was fired without cause. No one likes being fired, and guess what, I am no exception. As the dust settled, it became clear that at the management level a lot of dastardly stories had been invented about my character. Sometimes I try to parse them and fit them all back together; I have been, at times, desperate to figure out what actually happened. There was a destructive and incoherent madness to it that resists interpretation.

Mr. Spielberg, to give him much credit, called me the day I was fired and apologized. He told me that he blamed himself. He felt that the politics had gotten way out of hand, and they wouldn’t have if he had been around more. He was probably right.

And, of course, as soon as I was fired, all the men who had conspired to have me removed from my post realized that the show wasn’t going to survive without me and so they slunk away and went off to do other things.

The network then hired a whole bunch of other people to run it in my stead, and it fell apart, and one year after I had made that show into a bona fide hit, it was canceled.

Everyone told me the best thing to do was ignore it and put it behind me.

Then I couldn’t get hired for three years.

Then I fired my lawyer and I fired my manager and I fired my agent…..

Read it all at Entertainment Weekly

Peggy Bechko’s World of Editing Your Writing

Cool image found at http://www.kristinethornley.com/about.html

by Peggy Bechko

Fun, isn’t it?

Not really.

In this post I’m going to talk about a new way of editing I’ve discovered. Yes, we all have spellcheck, some of us use Grammarly. Go ahead, Google that one if you’re interested. It nicely underlines perceived spelling and grammatical errors. Very helpful.

But here’s what I’ve discovered. Who knows, I may be behind the times and you may have already stumbled onto it. For Word, there’s a text-to-speech function called Speak. It really is well hidden. What the heck is that you ask? Well, you can highlight any text and the program reads it back to you. Not only that, but reads it to you in a clear, understandable voice. The voice I get is male, but I’ve heard some get female.

No matter.

To get it functioning go to top left of your Word program. It’s on the very top tool bar. There’s a very small downward pointing arrow which, when you hover over it says, “customize quick access toolbar”. That’s what you want to do. For instructions clearer than mine you can watch this quick YouTube video:

If you think my instructions will suffice, then click on that downward arrow I mentioned. When the dropdown window appears, click on More Commands. Then, in the window change the Popular Commands to Commands Not In The Ribbon. Then scroll down (alphabetically) to “Speak”. Highlight Speak and click the ‘add’ button in the middle and see it added to the list to the right. That’s it. A new small icon should appear on that top ribbon just to the left of the downward arrow you clicked earlier.

Now what?

All you have to do is highlight the section of text you want read out loud, click the icon and it will read your writing back to you.

If I’m not working in word (I use Movie Magic Screenwriter for my scripts) I copy and paste the section of the script I want read back to me into word, highlight and click the Speak icon. Works great!

Why? What good is this you ask. Hearing words spoken while seeing them utilizes different parts of the brain and you catch many ore errors and glitches. It really makes errors pop much more efficiently than simply proofreading visually. All in all, a big help. And you can stop the reading by clicking the Speak button again.

The downside? If you’re working with accents, it’s not going to pick them up. Occasionally you can run into context problems such as using a phrase like “run like the wind” vs. “wind the clock”. And it can mess up abbreviations such as St. John or money St. Still, I’ve really liked using it and it has made editing much easier.

For the script writer it’s great to hear the words spoken, to get a feel for the rhythm and cadence.

Oh, and it’s possible to adjust the pitch, speed and volume of the voice in your computer by getting into the settings through your control panel. Find your Narrator by using the search bar (in Windows 10 the “ask me anything” search bar bottom left). When the window opens click on “Narrator Settings”. You can choose the voice – mine is “David”. I can adjust the speed, volume and pitch of ‘David’s’ voice there. Oh, and I have ‘intonation pauses’ turned on.

Really. Try it. You’ll be surprised at how many more errors you pick up and clean up when you have your work read back to you.


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.

Showbiz Mind Games

Say hi to the Id Monster

by Gerry Conway


LB’s NOTE: Convincing ourselves that whatever show or film etc. we’re making is worth all the time and effort we put in is a show business way of life. Writer-producer Gerry Conway, whom I’ve known since we both were wee tadpoles swimming in Harlan Ellison’s Wonderland pond, brilliantly puts it into real-world perspective:


Hollywood is a weird small town.

That’s hardly a new observation, but new or not, it’s true. And because Hollywood is a weird small town, that’s how I came to know and befriend the man who directed one of Steve Bannon’s alt-right documentaries.

For twenty years I made my living as a TV writer-producer in “Hollywood” (which is less a place than a set of business and social connections) and it really was like living in a small, tight community. Everyone either knew everyone or knew someone who knew someone. There were cliques and in-and-out groups, the cool kids and the nerds, the crazy Old Man who lived in the big house on the hill, the rough neighborhood and the new money arrivistes, the rundown homes of the formerly great…

And the schools. In “Hollywood,” there are several “industry” schools favored by parents with the financial resources to keep their kids out of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

(Before the tax-decimating years that followed the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, California had a top-ranked educational system; today it’s the 10th worst. That decline can be traced entirely to Republican tax-cutting fervor. But I digress.)

For the Hollywood parents of a K-6 child there are a number of options, ranging from schools in LA’s West Side for “artsy” kids, to more “academic” schools in the Hancock Park area and the Santa Monica mountains, to “nurturing” schools in the Valley, and “religious” schools in Bel Air and Beverlywood. My wife at the time and I decided to send our daughter Rachel to one of the “nurturing” schools– a terrific family-run K-6 school in the mid-Valley that, until recently, had slipped under the “Hollywood” town radar.

(That changed the year our daughter arrived when Peter Guber decided to enroll his child. Shortly afterwards his competive ex-partner Jon Peters enrolled his child. Then Kate Jackson arrived, and Al Pacino, and Ben Stiller, and within a few years our little family-run K-6 in the mid-Valley was buying property and expanding and had become one of the hottest places for actors and producers to send their kids and network at father-daughter dances and school wide fundraisers. But again, I digress.)

Rachel has an outgoing and social personality. She’s in college now, where she’s well-liked and respected. All likeability and respect was also present during her years in K-6 , where she made friends with whom she’s still in touch now, years later. Since I’m not the most eagerly social person myself, many of the people I befriended during that time were parents of Rachel’s friends. One of those was a man I’ll call Harry.

Harry was (and is) a director of documentaries. That’s a tough business to make a living in, unless you find a gig working in “reality TV”, which, for anyone with an ounce of creative talent must be a soul-crushing experience. Harry had worked in TV for various light-entertainment shows but he wanted (and needed) to branch out into the world of independent documentary film. Like I said, a tough business, especially for a first-time director. Most independent documentaries are either self-financed or funded by foundation grants, because documentaries aren’t profitable for investors. Pursuing such funding can be a full-time job in itself. But at the time we met Harry had lucked into a financing network that promised almost unlimited funding resources– all because of an unlikely accident.

Remember Michael Moore’s post-9/11 anti-Bush documentary “Fahrenheit 911?” It’s one of the few documentaries that actually crossed over into near-blockbuster territory. The success of “Fahrenheit 911” infuriated conservatives, including the handful of conservative filmmakers who occupied Hollywood’s right-wing fringe. One of those conservative right-wing filmmakers decided to make his own pro-Bush 9/11 documentary in response.

(Another digression: there is a vocal right-wing creative element in Hollywood, though it’s much smaller and less vocal than during the days of the Hollywood Blacklist. As a practical matter, Hollywood is culturally progressive, though upper management is often fiscally conservative– particularly when it comes to paying talent. That’s a different rant, though.)

Despite his powerful desire to outmatch Michael Moore’s liberal outrage with his own conservative outrage, however, the filmmaker/director who wanted to make a pro-Bush documentary wasn’t an actual documentary director. After raising funds for his project from right-wing financiers, he discovered he couldn’t make a documentary on his own. So he asked around–like I said, Hollywood is a weird small town–and Harry’s name came up as someone with the skill set to assemble a documentary who might be willing to take on the project as a way to showcase his own talents.

As far as I know, at the time he took the job, Harry wasn’t a conservative, let alone a hardcore right-wing conservative. When we first met at a K-6 social event I felt we had a lot in common politically. We both expressed contempt for Bush’s idiotic jingoism, we were both socially progressive, we liked the same kinds of movies, and we were both doting fathers. Our wives liked each other. Our families hung out. Barbeques, movie nights. Good times.

First time directors often don’t get to pick their projects: if an opportunity presents itself, you jump and try to make if work. If you don’t grab the brass ring the first time around you might not get a second chance. When that right-wing filmmaker offered Harry a chance to get his name on a feature length documentary, Harry grabbed it. He told himself he wouldn’t make a conservative propaganda film. Like most fair minded observers he saw Moore’s film for what it was– a scream of liberal outrage. (I like Moore’s film, but let’s be honest, it’s as fair and balanced as an episode of Sean Hannity.) Harry convinced himself his documentary would be a counterweight to Moore’s film. He wanted it to be fair but strong, passionate but not strident. He seemed to think his own desire for objectivity would influence the final product and make it less a piece of conservative propaganda than it might be otherwise.

He was wrong, of course. As a first-time director working under supervision by a right-wing ideologue he didn’t have any power to influence anything. The film that resulted, the film he was credited with directing, was the film the writer-producer wanted it to be, not the film Harry hoped it would be. Yet that creative defeat was a career-making triumph. Harry was now on the radar of right-wing financiers who wanted to make more “documentaries” like the one skewering Michael Moore which Harry had just “directed.”

People like David Bosse, President and Chairman of Citizens United (yes, that “Citizens United”) and future Deputy Campaign Manager of Trump’s Presidential campaign; and the Dark Lord of Breitbart himself, Steve Bannon.

Over the next few years, as our daughters moved through K-6 together, Harry and I had several interesting conversations about his work. I hadn’t seen his first film, but I understood from what he said that he wasn’t happy with how it turned out; he seemed to feel he’d been thwarted in his effort to put together an honest criticism of liberal attacks on Bush. Like I said, Harry and I shared similar progressive beliefs, though he tended to be slightly more moderate. But as time went on I noticed a subtle change in how Harry spoke about his projects.

While making his second film, Harry described it as a serious appraisal of international politics. He said he was discovering things he never knew that surprised him and that he felt were important for Americans to understand. Of course, he said, he knew his backers had an agenda, but he was steering the film down a middle course. While the movie didn’t entirely express his viewpoint he felt it was less biased and more balanced than his first film. He seemed happier with the outcome. I felt pleased for him – though I was also skeptical, considering how the film was financed as well as the obvious political agenda of the subject matter. Since the film was only available to conservative audiences at conservative conventions and gatherings, I never saw it myself so I can’t judge whether Harry was correct in his assessment.

I did see his third film, however, the one financed and produced by Steve Bannon… and that was an eye-opener.

Harry was proud of this film, so proud he invited my then-wife and I to the “premiere,” a special screening at a theater in Burbank. In conversations leading up to the showing he talked about how he’d worked to create a legitimate documentary about a crisis in American politics, a failure of government to address a growing and horrific problem that threatened the nature of American society– the criminally weak Washington response to the threat of illegal immigration.

My wife and I went to the premiere, expecting to see a documentary on the problem of undocumented immigration told from a moderately conservative viewpoint–a reasonable expectation given how Harry described the film in contrast to how he’d talked about his previous films.

Remember that scene in “The Producers” when the curtain goes up and the unsuspecting theater audience experiences the opening number, “Springtime For Hitler?”

Yep, it was like that.

The documentary Harry had described as a serious examination of the problem of undocumented immigration was a ninety-five minute diatribe against Mexicans and Mexican immigrants, told almost entirely from the viewpoint of hardcore right-wing Arizona border patrol guards and civilian vigilante Minutemen, interspersed with interviews of wives whose husbands had been killed by illegal Mexican immigrants and subtitled interviews with “illegals” who were drug mules or who had been left to die in the desert by “coyote” smugglers. The only “pro” immigration interview was with a radical Mexican nationalist who argued that America’s possession of Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico was an illegal occupation and it was Americans who should be kicked out.

We were, to put it mildly, flabbergasted. After the showing we made polite noises about the documentary being “very effective” and fled quickly while the rest of the invited audience heaped praise on Harry and the producers.

After that, though we stayed friendly with Harry and his family because our daughter and their daughter were friends, I made a point of discussing work and politics as little as possible with Harry. Even so, I found myself wondering if Harry was conscious of the dramatic change in his self-perception.

This was the same man who recognized his first documentary was manipulated by his writer-producer into a blatant right-wing propaganda, who’d known he made compromises in his second film to accommodate the financier’s point of view, and who, nevertheless, had tried – and failed – to produce a balanced piece of work. He’d been aware of the compromises he made. I liked to think he was unhappy but resigned to the financial reality of an independent documentarian’s life. He was also constrained by the fact that after his first film–so much right-wing propaganda–he found financing from less conservative sources closed to him. His only recourse was to make films backed by conservatives. That was the reality. What surprised me, though it shouldn’t have, was the extent to which he rewrote his reality to fit the films he made into his self-concept of being a fair and moderate voice of reason.

The reason Harry’s self delusion about his work shouldn’t have surprised me is simple: I’ve been there. I’ve done it myself and seen many others do it. In Hollywood, it’s a way of life. It’s how people who should and often do know better convince themselves the project they’re working on is brilliant and insightful, when, in truth, the show or movie they’re devising is often a piece of crap.

William Goldman, master screenwriter, once said, “No one ever sets out to make a bad movie.” There’s a corollary to that observation: Very often, no one knows they’re making a bad movie.

When you devote ten hours a day, six or seven days a week to a job–making a film or a TV show– for the sake of your own sanity you must believe the effort and sacrifice is worthwhile. Not just financially worthwhile–in Hollywood, that’s an easy call–but creatively worthwhile. Go talk to the writer or producer of the worst dreck on TV and often you’ll come away astonished by their belief in the worth of their own shitty show. “We’re doing something special here,” says the writer of every predictable family comedy. “We have a great cast and we’re telling important stories,” says the producer of yet another teen drama. These people aren’t lying to you; they’re lying to themselves. They have to lie to themselves– otherwise they’d be forced to admit they’re wasting valuable and irreplaceable hours and days and months making mindless and forgettable entertainment at the cost of marriages, families, health, and sanity. Lying to ourselves under stress is a human defense mechanism. I’ve done it, everyone in Hollywood does it who isn’t a sociopath, and it’s one reason I was happy to leave the business behind more than a decade ago.

So, I understand Harry’s self-delusion. He’s in a tough spot. To make a living doing what he wants to do, he has to convince himself he wants to do what he’s doing. To see himself as a serious documentarian he needs to believe he’s making serious documentaries. To see himself as a progressive moderate he has to ignore the reality he’s promoting a fringe right-wing agenda.

It’s tragic, really. Unfortunately it’s the current reality of the small weird town that is Hollywood, and the much larger, much weirder nation that is Trump and Bannon’s America.


Gerry Conway is one of the Kings of TV and film and comic book writing and also one of our Beloved Leader Larry Brody’s longest-lasting and closest friends. Everybody who comes to TVWriter™ should be reading his insightful blog, where this article first appeared. Learn more about Gerry HERE.

WGA Negotiations Update: Striking a Pose

by Mark Evanier


LB’s NOTE: This article written by the legendary Mark Evanier is the most enlightening discussion I’ve seen yet of the current state of the contract renewal negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP. Things are getting heated, gang. And Mark is here to tell us why:


very few years, the contract between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expires and a new one must be negotiated. Sometimes, the negotiations are simple and sometimes, they are not. When they are not, it is because someone at the A.M.P.T.P. — or at at least one of the member companies that comprise the A.M.P.T.P. — decides he or she can be a hero and advance his or her career by engineering a deal that pays the writers less or at least denies us cost o’ living increases.

I joined the W.G.A. on April Fool’s Day of 1976 so I have been through many of these and sometimes been fairly close to the negotiations. It is my observation that these dust-ups are never about what’s “fair,” at least from the Producers’ standpoint. And when they say things like, “The business is hurting…everyone needs to understand that and accept some cuts,” that is always, 100% of the time, horseshit. For them, these dickerings are only about one thing: Getting as much as possible. The less we get, the more they get.

Whenever Renegotiation Time rolls around, my guild assembles something called the Pattern of Demands — a wish list of things we’d like to discuss. Many times, it is a waste of time because the studios simply refuse to address anything on our list. Their negotiators literally end the meeting if our reps bring out the list. One of the Producers’ lawyers in years past liked to say things like, “We are never going to let these sessions be about what you want. They will only be about what we are willing to give you.”

If anyone does look at our Pattern of Demands, they’ll see items about increased compensation but they will also always see issues that are not directly about money. We want our work to be respected more. We want to be listened-to more on creative matters. We want minorities (including older writers of any color) to be given more consideration. We want our credits to be protected and so forth. Call these the non-monetary issues.

There are people in management at the studios who care about such things but we tend to not negotiate with those folks. The people we deal with only care about the money and with keeping as much of it as possible for their employers. If they address the non-monetary issues at all, it’s because they think they can trade one of the unimportant non-monetary issues for an important monetary one. In the ’85 negotiations for instance, the Producers demanded a change in credit procedures that would have gutted the WGA’s ability to control who received screen credit. They didn’t really care about that. They just wanted to be able to say, “Okay, we’ll drop our demands about credits if you drop your demands about money.”

Because we care (somewhat) about the non-monetary issues and they don’t, sometimes that works. Indeed, in ’85, they dropped those demands but in the same bargaining sessions, we accepted for other reasons a lowering of the fees we were paid when films or TV shows we wrote were put out on home video. The former cost them nothing. The latter cost us billions. From the Producers’ standpoint, that was a wildly-successful negotiation. That year, I don’t think they ever even listened to anything we had in our Pattern of Demands.

Even factoring in that our brief strike that year cost them some cash, the guys who engineered that deal for them were superstar heroes. It was like they’d made a dozen movies as lucrative as Star Wars or Titanic. Each time we embark on a new negotiation, there’s someone there who dreams of doing that again….

Read it all at News From ME (Mark Evanier’s truly enlightening blog)

John Ostrander: Sidekicking Around

by John Ostrander

Holmes and Watson. Lone Ranger and Tonto. Batman and Robin. Lucy and Ethel. Hamlet and Laertes. The list of heroes and their BFFs is long and overall an honorable one… and usually necessary.

A sidekick, at base, is a supporting character and a supporting character’s main function is to bring out aspects of the protagonist. In most cases, the sidekick is there so that the protagonist isn’t constantly monologuing. Granted, Hamlet is a champion monologuist but when Laertes is there he can be engaged in a dialogue. Holmes needs Watson so the reader can see how brilliant the Great Detective is. Whatever his other character traits may be, Watson’s prime one is to be surprised and amazed by Holmes and, in that, Watson represents us, the readers.

There are many different ways of interpreting a sidekick. Watson, for example, can be Nigel Bruce’s bumbling Colonel Blimp character or Jude Law’s testy and acerbic put-upon friend or Martin Freeman’s occasionally explosive but loyal best man. In the Harry Potter films, Ron Weasley, in the first film, is at one point both brave and self-sacrificing. In later films, however, he becomes cowardly and mostly comic relief, very like Nigel’s Bruce’s Watson.

Robin falls into a strange category of the child or teen sidekick. He was originally introduced to lighten up the Dark Knight Detective and, again, to give Batman someone to talk to rather than himself. Robin humanized the Bat. His popularity gave rise to a whole slew of child/teen associates such as Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqualad. Later, these five went from supporting characters to central ones when they formed their own super-team, the Teen Titans (later, just the Titans when they all outgrew their teenage years).

The original Robin, Dick Grayson, later grew out of his shorts and tights to become a full-fledged hero of his own, first as Nightwing and then later, briefly, actually taking Bruce Wayne’s place as Batman before reverting back to Nightwing. There have been other Robins since then, including one – Jason Todd – who was killed by the Joker. Don’t worry; he got better. The role is currently being filled by Bruce’s son, Damian. I believe he died as well at one point but is also now feeling better.

Moral and ethical questions have been raised about the whole idea of the adult hero having child/teen sidekicks. The lifestyle, after all, is inherently violent and rather dangerous. Frederic Wertham, in his suspect 1954 treatise Seduction of the Innocent, postulated Batman and Robin were gay which, given those times, was thought to be profoundly deviant. Wertham was blowing it out his ass but the damage was done at the time. Still, one can see that it was a dangerous life style to include the kids in. The questions remain.

For me, I’ve sometimes identified more with the sidekick than the protagonist. I love Holmes but I’ve always identified more with Watson (except for Nigel Bruce). Batman (and Bruce Wayne) is difficult to like but Dick Grayson (especially in his adult incarnations) is someone with whom I can more easily relate. I think sidekicks are designed that way. They put more human into super-human.


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

Herbie J Pilato: Living the Showbiz Dream

by Herbie J Pilato

NOTE FROM LB: TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and longtime buddy Herbie J has a few words for us all. This is exciting – and important – reading. Go, Herbie J!


It’s important to stay the course.

If you have a dream, whatever that dream might be, if it’s a good dream, that will somehow benefit others, bring a measure of joy, information, entertainment – especially in a positive way, then you have to stay the course. It becomes your obligation to fulfill that dream – for yourself – and others.

For me, dreams are whispers from the Universe how what next step one is to take in life. To deny those dreams…those whispers is not only a disservice to one’s self, but a disservice to others who might benefit from that dream.

When I was growing up, in Rochester, New York, it was always my dream to have my own television show. It has taken more than fifty years for that dream to come true, and but it is happening. Certainly, along the way, there have been obstacles. Some may even consider time to be one of those obstacles. But I do not. Because I believe that what you do has absolutely no relationship to when you do it.

Into this mix, I cannot stress enough the importance of persistence; never giving up, teamwork, respecting your colleagues, co-workers, business partners, and friends along the way, whether or not they are directly connected to your dream. It’s never a bad thing to be cordial, kind and courteous in all your dealings, be they business or personal. A respectful manner is always appreciated in every kind of association, and mostly certainly every kind of professional association.

Years ago, my eighth grade teacher gave each of in our class a famous quote as a gift. At the time, I thought that was not much of a gift. But in retrospect I soon realized it was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. The quote she gave me was from Emerson who said, “No [one] is an island; no [one] goes [their] way alone. Whatever we send into the lives of others, comes right back into our home.”

That remains impactful to me. To this day, I try to “send out” only good things…good thoughts…good words. I try to be as positive as I can, in my work and in my play. I don’t always accomplish that, but at the same time I always reach my goal…my objective…because I try. And in the process of that “trying,” with good intentions, dreams come true.

Mine certainly have – again, and again, particularly with my new TV series Then Again with Herbie J Pilato, the seeds for which were planted with the weekly live events that I hosted throughout 2015 in the Los Angeles area in book stores like Larry Edmunds, and Barnes and Noble, particularly the Barnes and Noble in Burbank, California….

Read it all at Cynopsis Media

More about Herbie J Pilato’s dream