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Diversity

Diversity in pop culture has always been an issue that concerns me greatly. I've tried to do my share to increase diversity on series like Gargoyles, W.I.T.C.H., The Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice.

Now, that I've entered the world of publishing, my sister Robyn brought this article to my attention:

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/opinion/sunday/where-are-the-people-of-color-in-childrens-books.html?referrer=

The article asks valid questions, and - yes, to toot my own horn - I'm going to provide at least a piece of the answer with my new books, Rain of the Ghosts and Spirits of Ash and Foam. Both feature protagonists of color. Rain Cacique is Native American, as is her grandfather Sebastian Bohique. Her best friends are Charlie Dauphin, who's African American and Miranda Guerrero, who is Hispanic-American. Many - if not most - of the other characters are also of color. This reflects the Caribbean setting of the novels, i.e. the fictional Ghost Keys and the actual mythology of that region.

The books are available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Rain-Ghosts-Greg-Weisman/dp/1250029791

and here:

http://www.amazon.com/Spirits-Ash-Foam-Ghosts-Novel/dp/1250029821/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379977280&sr=8-1&keywords=spirits+of+ash+and+foam+a+rain+of+the+ghosts+novel+by+greg+weisman

I urge you to check them out, and to suggest them at schools and libraries.


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Kenny McCormick writes...

Thoughts about Black Spider-Man? Heard anything about him?

Greg responds...

It's all about execution, which I have not seen. So no, no thoughts.

Response recorded on March 13, 2014

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Michael Chabon knows Gargoyles

So in my car, I've been listening to the audio book of Michael Chabon's novel: TELEGRAPH AVENUE, read by the amazing Clarke Peters (of THE WIRE and TREME). I'm a little over halfway through the book, which is set (largely) in a used record store in Oakland in 2008 and revolves around a diverse cast of characters. It's full of all sorts of pop cutlure references, but I was still pretty stunned when suddenly the narrator starts talking about GARGOYLES. Not generic gargoyles, but our GARGOYLES televsion series.

I was going to try to cut and paste the section here, but Amazon won't allow that. So you can check it out yourself here: http://www.amazon.com/Telegraph-Avenue-Novel-Michael-Chabon/dp/006149335X/ref=pd_sim_sbs_b_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=09RDPEC6XPYS8K9E3CQR

Or better yet, buy the book. I haven't finished listening to it yet, but so far it's definitely worth the price of admission.

The GARGOYLES' references begin on or about p. 293. (At least on the Amazon Look Inside function.) It's all pretty cool, and very specific. Though Keith David isn't mentioned by name, Goliath is, and his amazing voice is referenced, along with Goliath's backstory, etc. The character seems to have been part of a significant moment in the life of Julie Jaffe, one of the many protagonists of Chabon's book.

Chabon's written many books, including two particular favorites of mine: THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY and THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN'S UNION. So the fact that our little series registers with him is fairly gratifying.


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Anthony Tini writes...

[Dexter Spoilers]

Well Dexter is over and I was very disappointed with the ending. If the series had ended with Dexter driving into the storm, then I would have been fine, but the whole lumberjack scene and the final season, in general, was horrible. I thought the characters acted very out of character. Of course there were exceptions to the rule and I thought Charlotte Rampling did a great job as Evelyn Vogel. Unfortunately, the story/writing was too convoluted for me to really enjoy her character but her acting was some of the best the show has ever seen.

In my opinion, this season didn't do anything to add to the overall story of Dexter, but I can't put all the blame on it. The show hasn't been up to the same caliber it once was. I really loved the first four seasons, but the last four didn't do the show justice. Sadly, it won't be a series I will recommend to anyone.

What did you think of the final season? What are your thoughts of the series as a whole?

Greg responds...

[Dexter Spoilers]

Personally, I enjoyed every season of Dexter to one degree or another, even this last one. It's hard to top the first season and the Lithgow season, of course, but I don't think that any of the other seasons were bad or even weak - except relative to those two stellar seasons.

There was a lot of great stuff in the final season, I thought, but it was highly flawed. And the last episode was, I agree, extremely disappointing. (And the fact that Breaking Bad's last episode was brilliant and perfect, didn't help poor Dexter in comparison.)

The main problem in the last season was the Brain Surgeon. There was good build-up, but he wound up being very uninteresting. Charlotte Rampling was great, as you noted, but her son wound up being bland. And bland is just no good for a series finale.

I also had a huge problem - not so much with Deb's death (though it did seem like too easy an out to me), but with the fairly ridiculous conclusions that Dexter drew from it, and the choices he made following it. Dexter had grown as a person through the seasons, so the backsliding at the end was horribly anti-climactic.

And there were other disappointments too. I had for years felt certain that the original showrunners were building toward the major revelation that Harry was Dexter's biological father. And that Dexter's brother was in fact his half-brother - and that Deb was his half-sister. Even now, I find it impossible to believe that that was not the original plan. So for me, the fact that that thread never played out was infuriating.

But again, I liked Dexter from the first episode to the second to last episode. And I would recommend the series to anyone who likes that sort of thing.

Response recorded on February 21, 2014

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Harlan Phoenix writes...

The Wizard of Oz references in Gargoyles are among my favorites when it comes to your various literary sources. My all time favorite literary allusion in Gargoyles comes from issues 3-5 of Clan Building, where Lexington's "post-modern Tin Man" is the very cyborg visage he possessed when losing his heart in the Future Tense scenario.

Given that the original book is in the public domain, was there any thought ever given to how the events of the Wizard of Oz related to the Gargoyles Universe?

Greg responds...

Like Frankenstein, I mostly thought in terms of references, rather than working the story into actual continuity. But you never know...

Response recorded on February 21, 2014

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Anonymous writes...

I know you said before that the New 52 has no effect on what goes on with "Young Justice," and to be honest confuses me still. I mean if the events of "Flashpoint" changes the entire history of the mainstream DC universe, then wouldn't that create some kind of domino effect that affects all other parallel Earths (including Earth-16) in some way or another, no matter how big or small that change could be? I mean, isn't the DC multiverse considered to be like a pyramid or a tree and the mainstream DC universe (Prime Earth) is the one that hold it all together in place?

Greg responds...

Oh, I see what you're asking. But I don't know how to answer THAT. Previously, I was asked whether the New 52 altered the production of YJ and/or influenced the creative choices we made, and it did not - because we were way too far along in production by the time we even knew the New 52 was coming, let alone by the time we had potential access to any of its creative content.

What it means IN-MULTIVERSE is a question that I guess you'd have to ask the folks at DC.

In my mind, it changed nothing. I would think that Earth-16 is still Earth-16, as Brandon and I envisioned it. But then again, I haven't had the chance to read Flashpoint, and the only New 52 issue I've read is the first issue of Justice League, so I'm very far from being an expert on the subject.

Response recorded on January 31, 2014

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A fan from far away writes...

Hi Greg!
I'm a huge fan girl of YJ from Singapore. I really love your show and hope to see more seasons if possible.
My favorite character in the show is Artemis, she really struck me in season 1 and her tenure as Tigress in Season 2 was really impressive. So I would like to ask a few questions about her.
1) What served as your inspiration for creating her?
2) Are any of her character traits inspired by strong female characters from other sources? Cos I noticed that she was rather similar to some of my other favorite ladies, such as Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games, Eponine from Les Miserables, Mulan, Ravager (Deathstroke's daughter), to name a few.
3) How abusive was Sportsmaster? Cos I figured he had to be pretty bad to his girls for Jade to pack up and abandon her younger sister.
4) Unrelated but... Will YJ be translated into Chinese? I'm ethnic Chinese and I would love to know their Chinese names.
Thanks for looking through my queries, though they may have been answered. Thank you for giving us fans a really wonderful show while it lasted!

Greg responds...

1. The DC Comics character.

2. Well, I'm not familiar with Katniss. I mean, obviously, I've heard of her, but I haven't read the books or seen the movies. I'm only passingly familiar with Ravager, though we had plans for her in YJ, given enough seasons. I would have done more research on her before bringing her in, of course. I don't really see much Mulan in Artemis, other than the fairly generic notion of a woman in combat. So that just leaves Eponine. And I can indeed see a bit of Eponine in Artemis. But if so, I wasn't conscious of the influence at the time.

3. He was emotionally and verbally abusive. He was not sexually abusive. It's debatable whether or not you'd consider him physically abusive. He didn't beat them. But he did endless combat drills with them, and they took punishment from him. Given that he was a full-grown man and they were young girls, it's absolutely fair to say he was physically abusive.

4. No idea.

Response recorded on January 30, 2014

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Laura 'as astra' Sack writes...

And now for something completely different...
You mentioned you wrote a few episodes of Octonauts. My daughter loves that show. (Catchy tune… and who would have thought there was such a thing as a blob fish?) As far as I noticed the credits only list the head writer.

1. Which episodes did you pen?
2. Did they by chance explain what exactly Turnip and kitchen crew are?
3. On a less frivolous note-
I was thinking about shows like Octonauts or Doc McStuffins or Dora or Little Einsteins or etc, the shows aimed young, as opposed to the shows my kids think are on screen for them but are really for Mommy, like the action plot shows, or the crazy clever ones like Phinias and Ferb. Ironically, a lot of the little kid shows are in a way more realistic because they center on smaller things- "3 simple steps to tying your shoe" or being worried how your old and new friends will get along at your first big sleepover party. The fact that a panda is teaching you to tie that shoe, or you are now a princess in a castle and that's why you have old and new friends to invite to the castle is not something that needs particular explanation. And without having to explain those things you can leave the world gentle.

As you get older you require a setting to make the fantastic events explainable. You can cling to a wall? Radioactive spider! You put on a suit and fight crime from the shadows? You're a rich orphan with a mission to protect the world from suffering as you did! You're a giant scary looking flying 'monster' with the soul of a poet wandering around Manhattan? You a magically time lost nearly lone survivor of a horrible betrayal of a near extinct species! (And you can only glide, not fly!) In order to explain why your heroes act as they do, whole worlds are dreamt up in which the hero's action is logical. The fantastical setting makes the actions in them realistic or at least self-consistent. A side effect of that is to introduce a dark element into the world- parental units are murdered, crime or war is at the door, etc

Which leads me to the dilemma: When, in your opinion, do you begin to transition a small child from the world of Octonauts to the world of Young Justice? (Transition isn't the best word, since you can go on watching the old stuff.) It's not a question of comprehension. Kids can understand an awful lot. The question is; when do you make your child's world less gentle? When my eldest saw the TiVo grabbed an episode of Batman she wanted to watch it. With my luck it's the episode with the amnesia girl who turns out to have started out as a piece of Clayface. Great episode. It ends when she rescues Robin and gets reabsorbed. The show explicitly calls it a murder. Then I got to explain how it is murder, what is murder, to a 3 or 4 year old. What fun! I look forward to watching Gargoyles with her, but not it being her introduction to what a massacre is. ("Well it's just like what happened to your great grandparents...") It's not that you plan on sheltering forever, but small children deserve to be sheltered, and sometimes parents are better as the zone of shelter rather than source of disturbing imagery.

Yes, there is another set of cartoons that avoid the dilemma- she loves Tom & Jerry. But frankly, I can say- 'Wow you could really hurt someone if you did that in real life- but isn't it funny when it's fake? Isn't it funny how everyone overreacts!" And then I'm done. Watching Tom getting hit in the face by a rake doesn't make her life less gentle. Explaining why Tye Longfeather left home would.

There are parallels as kids get older. Harry Potter is age appropriate to whatever age Harry is in the book. So you give an 11 year old book 1. If your 11 year old is a reader he or she will want to tear through the series and might be at the last book before turning 12. The last book is appropriate for a 17 year old. Or as my friend complained that it is frustrating to have so many comics she can't share with her 13 year old - it's not that he isn't going to be reading things with mild sexual imagery, (or not so mild; she was considering starting reading Saga), but maybe it's best he not get it directly from mom. She knows he'd love Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but he doesn't want to start the series only to stop before the 4th book with the aerial sex scene.

At least I only have to worry about it once : The younger one will see everything too early over her sister's shoulder :}

I guess this isn't so much a question as a ramble, but I was wondering your thoughts on the matter.

Greg responds...

1. My episodes haven't aired yet.

2. They seem to go out of their way NOT to explain. ;)

3. I may not be the right guy to ask. My kids grew up on Simpsons in utero. I remember watching Dexter with my 15-year-old daughter and realizing what a bad parent I must be. (And yet, I have great, great kids despite this.)

My kids learned at an early age how to figure out murder mysteries on television (hint: casting plays a major role), how to expect and anticipate surprises, etc. (We've evolved a system of high-fives when one of us correctly guesses a surprise revelation in advance.) They're fairly sophisticated television watchers. But that doesn't mean they didn't have their time with Barney and Friends. They did. But they probably graduated earlier than most. And there was a ton of overlap.

I myself had a television in my room literally from infancy - as my mother placed televisions in nearly every room of the house for her sake - with no restrictions on what I could watch. So I've always let my kids tell me (mostly) what was appropriate and inappropriate. NOTE: I'm NOT recommending this approach. Just explaining why I'm unqualified to judge.

But I have always believed that kids can handle/fathom more than is traditionally believed. If YOU feel good about (for example) Young Justice's moral center - than I personally don't think there's anything particularly problematic in the series, and that includes the reason Tye ran away from home. Teachable moments are worthwhile - even necessary (though perhaps that's unfortunate) - at even the youngest age, particularly in the world we live in today.

So I don't think it's too soon for your kids to watch Gargs or SpecSpidey or WITCH or YJ assuming it holds their attention and assuming you watch WITH them. But again, I'm no expert on parenting. So follow my lead at your children's peril.

Response recorded on January 10, 2014

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Vincent writes...

Bioshock infinite you playing it?/out tonight

Greg responds...

I don't know what those words mean...

Response recorded on December 09, 2013

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Todd Jensen writes...

This question was inspired by your mention of recently visiting a "Doctor Who" convention.

One of the episodes of the revived series (written by Neil Gaiman), had the Doctor getting to speak to the TARDIS when its essence is temporarily transferred into a human body, and saying "You never got me where I wanted to go". To which the TARDIS replies, "But I always took you where I needed to be". I wondered, if you'd seen that episode, what you thought of that exchange, which echoes Avalon's properties in "Gargoyles" down to the wording.

Greg responds...

I've seen it. It was cool. But I'm not feeling like we were copied or anything.

Response recorded on December 06, 2013


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