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Guest Ramble

I'm attaching a ramble J. Michael Straczynski posted back in 1995 on usenet in response to a very negative reaction to even a hint at a same-sex tryst on an episode of "Babylon 5". The point of Greg Weisman posting this is not to get into a discussion of religion or LGBTQ+ issues. Or even to get into a discussion of "tolerance," which was a big buzzword in the 90s, but which, as I've stated before in many ways, I find insufficient. The point of me posting this is to show that just because SOME FANS don't like something doesn't mean EVERY FAN feels the same way. And so, be careful what you wish for, right? Because if people start telling creators what they can and can't put into their shows, you may not like what ELSE they remove.

See, here's where I start to have a problem. For starters, I don't do any thing to be politically correct, or politically incorrect, I do what I do in any story because that's what the story points me toward. Anybody who says "It's not necessary" isn't entitled to that judgement, frankly; you don't know what's necessary to the story. And by framing it in the "is this NECESSARY?" way is designed to make you defend your position when such defense isn't the point; is it NECESSARY to have humor? to have a romance? to have correct science? No, *nothing* is NECESSARY. It's what the writer feels is right for that scene, that story, that character.
"Oh, well, I saw it, but was all that violence NECESSARY?" This is, frankly, a BS observation usually offered by someone with an agenda, who wishes to invalidate the notion of an artistic view and impose some kind of quota, or objective criterion to what is and isn't necessary for a movie or film. As far as I'm concerned, the first person to throw this into a discussion has, frankly, just lost the argument.

Point the second: one of the most consistent comments I get, in email and regular mail, is the spirituality conveyed in the show, that we have shown, and will continue to show, tolerance toward religion, even created sympathetic religious characters. "Thank you for your tolerance," they say...until we show somebody or some action THEY don't like...and at that point suddenly it's a lot of tsk-tsking and chest thumping and disapproval; so okay, how about I just stop all positive religious aspects of the show?

It seems to me, that if I do *all that* with religion, and with thje (the) simple act of showing maybe ONE PERSON in all the long history of TV science fiction across 40 years has a different view of life, that the show is somehow degraded, or downgraded, or dropped in opinion...this simply reinforces the notion, held by many, that a lot of folks in the religious right wish to make sure no other perspective or lifestyle is ever shown on television, at any time, unless in a negative fashion.

The thing of it is, while on the one hand I'm getting praise from religious folks for addressing spirituality in my series (speaking here as an atheist), I've gotten flack from others who think it has no place in a SCIENCE fiction series, and why the hell am I putting something in that goes right against my own beliefs? "Because," I tell them, "this show is not about reflecting my beliefs, or yours, or somebody else's, it's about telling this story, about these people, with as much honesty and integrity as I can summon up. That means conceding the fact that religious people are going to be around 260 years from now." Well, fact is, all kinds of people are going to be around 260 years from now. And what did the anti-religion folks say specifically about including spirituality in my series? "It's not *necessary*," they said.

Translation: they didn't like it. Well, tough. It was right for this story, and this show. And it seems to me rather hypocritical for some folks, who applaud the show for tolerance, for my standing up to those who want to exclude religion from TV, to then turn around and say the show is diminished because it showed that same tolerance...to another group or perspective. I guess tolerance is only okay as long as it's pointed one way.

You say that as a christian, you think any sex except that between a husband and a wife to be wrong. Well, as I recall, the bible also speaks against murder. We've depicted deaths by the hundreds of thousands. (And we're talking here about the *depicting* of the act, simply showing it, not the value judgements made after the fact.) Why does the one (which is so barely hinted at as to be almost invisible) cause the show to be diminished where the other does not?

My job is not to reinforce your personal political, social or religious beliefs. My job is not to reinforce MY personal political, social or religious beliefs. Then it isn't art or storytelling anymore, it's simply propaganda. My job is to tell this story, about these people, AS people, as mixed and varied as they are today. And there is no outside objective criteria as to what is, or isn't *necessary* in a story; that is the sole province of the author. You may or may not like it. You may or may not choose to watch it. Just as people who don't like to see religion and god discussed on TV may dislike it or choose not to watch it.

But you'll excuse me if I see complaints about this one little thing from the religious side, after all I've done to present religious characters and the religious life in a positive fashion, to be hypocritical and frankly somewhat ungrateful. It's as though all this means nothing because of one thing, one outside-imposed litmus test that disregards anything and everything else that has been done.

So straight up...if I should stop tolerating or showing viewpoints that are not my own (spoken as someone who is absolutely straight), then should I now stop showing religion as well? Because that's what this comes down to. Is that what you want? Because religion is included at my discretion as well as anything else on this show. You want me to be less tolerant? Just say the word.


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Where to Turn...

This comment, posted on ASK GREG, was brought to my attention today, and I thought I should respond sooner rather than later...

Question received on Wed, February 02, 2022 12:26:33 AM
Anonymous writes...
I'm not really a fan of how you've increasingly used GLAAD and MPAC to shield yourself from criticism from fans. I've seen you use their support to say the criticism isn't a monolith more than once. Yeah of course it's not a monolith, but that doesn't mean the criticism isn't valid. It comes off a little -i can't be racist i have a black friend- Not to mention that these Hollywood institutions are often out of touch with everyday people, so you should listen to your fans as much as you listen to them. And as a cis white straight man, you dont ever have the right to tell someone who is LGBT or a POC that they're wrong. Just log off Twitter and stop responding. People are allowed to have their own opinions.

This is clearly a response to the following Twitter exchange:

Xaar
@Xaar95340771
@Greg_Weisman
Stop misrepresenting Islam and Muslims in your cartoons. The bare minimum is to educate yourself about the topic. Being a Muslim magician is oxymoronic the 2 are not compatible. Performing magic takes one out of Islam. One cannot be both like Khalid claims.
5:56 PM · Jan 28, 2022·Twitter Web App

Greg Weisman
@Greg_Weisman
We ran everything on that episode, which was written by @nidachowdhry and performed by @UsmanAlly, by @SueObeidi and the folks at @mpac_national. And they were happy with it. So perhaps - just perhaps - you should consider that not every Muslim agrees with you.

First off, I agree that people are allowed to have their opinions. I never said otherwise. I NEVER said that Xaar was "wrong". I clearly wrote that perhaps not every Muslim viewer agrees with him, her or them, and I clearly have evidence to back that statement up. Yet, you seem to have no problem mischaracterizing what I wrote. Likewise, you seem to have no problem disrespecting me, and by implication disrespecting the Muslim writer of the episode, disrespecting the Muslim actor who performed the role of Khalid, and disrespecting the Muslim organization that works daily to improve how Muslims are depicted in the media. (And for no particular reason, disrespecting GLAAD while you were at it.)

Meanwhile, as a pragmatic matter, I'm not exactly sure what alternative you're preaching.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you are right about MPAC and GLAAD being "Hollywood institutions" that "are often out of touch with everyday people." [And to be clear, I disagree with that statement strongly. I even take some umbrage at the notion that MPAC's Sue Obedi is not "everyday people," or the implication that I'm not.] But again, for the sake of argument, who else should I be consulting when I and the rest of the YJ crew make a concerted effort to accurately and respectfully depict Muslims? The fans? How would that work in advance of us making something for the fans to see. Should I poll a random selection of fans? And would that make everyone happy? As it currently stands, I've received complaints on this point from only two "fans". The relatively anonymous "Xaar" and the completely anonymous you (and that's assuming that you yourself are not Xaar, i.e. that you are not the same person slamming me twice on two separate forums). The dozen or so other comments I've received from self-stated Muslim fans have all been highly positive. So do I need 100% agreement in order to do ANYTHING? Or can I go with the prevailing sentiment expressed by most fans (a.k.a. everyday people), MPAC, the writer and the actor?

See, the thing is I'm not hiding behind MPAC or GLAAD. But I am respecting their opinions - and relating those opinions to you and the rest of the fandom, because I think its pertinent information.

Mostly, as a self-admitted "cis white straight [animist Jewish] man," I'm admitting I'm NOT an expert on being a cis biracial straight Muslim man. So instead, I WENT to experts. That's how this works. And I don't see how else it could work. Or are you suggesting that I should only write about cis white straight [animist Jewish] male characters, and never attempt to add diversity to the projects I work on? Cuz, frankly, that's not going to happen, and I don't really think anyone wants that - unless what they really want is a DIFFERENT "crime" with which to hammer me.

As for logging off Twitter, there are days (like today) when I want nothing more. But (a) I feel the need to promote the projects I've worked on, both for the sake of my own career and for the other people who've worked so hard on those projects, and (b) if, as you say, people are entitled to their opinions, then I figure I'm also entitled to mine. So I'm not going to allow you or anyone like you to chase me off. Certainly not over the sin of YOU misquoting ME.


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Young Justice Statistics

Well, as I tweeted today, YOUNG JUSTICE: PHANTOMS is complete, with all 26 episodes in the can. I've also updated all my various reference documents to include everything from Season Four (not to mention Seasons 1-3, our various comic books, the AudioPlay and the video game). And since statistics kinda fascinate me - and since maybe they might fascinate you as well - here are a few.

The Young Justice Timeline is currently 718 pages long. In the past, I've reported that the length of the timeline mysteriously differed between my laptop and my desktop computers, but during the pandemic, my (relatively) ancient desktop finally bit the dust. So now the laptop page count triumphs.

There are 759 characters confirmed - one way or another - to be in the Earth-16 Universe. Some have only been mentioned or referenced briefly. Others, obviously, have had entire arcs dedicated to them. Calling some of them "characters" might also be a bit of a stretch, but I have reasons for including every single one. And - anal individual that I am - I have actually ranked them all in order of their importance to the series. This is something I once did as a hobby for the Buffyverse (which you can find in the ASK GREG archives under the heading of "Buffyverse Geek-Out"), and I've been perfecting my ranking system ever since. The idea is to attempt to make an incredibly subjective thing as objective as possible, based on things like screen time and amount of dialogue and the amount of times other characters reference them, etc. It's still not perfect because I do wind up with point scores, and especially with the lower ranking characters, I wind up with a number of ties. Thus, in order to break any tie, I'm forced to apply more subjective criteria.I was thinking about listing them a few per week, starting with 759 and working my way backwards toward number one. But some of the names haven't been intro'd yet. So it occurs to me that I need to wait until the Phantoms' season finishes airing.

Across four seasons (98 episodes) an AudioPlay and a video game, we've used 128 actors, a phenomenally talented group if ever there was one. Some have only voiced one character. Others have voiced over a dozen. I'm honored to be included among them - even if hiring myself is a rather dubious way to earn this distinction.

There's probably more, but this will do for now.

Just a little peek into my weird brain. Hope you enjoyed it. And I hope you enjoy the show.


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RIP Peter Scolari

I only met Peter Scolari on the handful of occasions that he came in to play Preston Vogel for us on Gargoyles. But he was wry and funny and thoroughly professional. He had most of his scenes with the late Robert Culp, who was a ton of fun bur a challenge in the booth. But Peter played off Culp wonderfully and kept the sessions flowing. Outside, the booth Peter had great stories that kept us laughing and fascinated.

And, man, was he talented. Gargoyles and Vogel aside, I ADORED Scolari in Bosom Buddies, and treasured his performances in Newhart.

He will be missed.


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How I Spent My Weekend...

So... I had a LOT going on this past weekend.

On Saturday, DC FanDome premiered trailers for both CATWOMAN: HUNTED and YOUNG JUSTICE: PHANTOMS, and revealed that the first two episodes of the latter were dropping THAT DAY!

I spent considerable time online - and I don't usually do the online thing over the weekend; in fact, I don't even check my email most weekends - trying to #SpreadTheWord.

But to sum up, here's the news...

CATWOMAN: HUNTED, an anime movie based on my original script, is being released in early 2022. You can see the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYPqTLS_g9c. It stars Elizabeth Gilles as Catwoman and Stephanie Beatriz as Batwoman. Voice directed by our old friend Jamie Thomason, it also features Jonathan Banks, Lauren Cohan, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Ron Yuan and my peeps, Steve Blum, Keith David, Zehra Fazal, Jonathan Frakes, Kelly Hu, Andrew Kishino, Eric Lopez and Jacqueline Obradors. Folks have asked me if it's in continuity with Young Justice. My answer: it's YJ-adjacent, much like that old Green Arrow/DC Showcase short I wrote years ago. A version of these events happened on Earth-16. If you're a completist, you're going to want to watch. (Also, I really think it turned out great!)

Meanwhile, the fourth season of YOUNG JUSTICE, i.e. YOUNG JUSTICE PHANTOMS, dropped its first two episodes this past Saturday on HBOMax. Episode 403 will drop this coming Thursday, 10/21. With another episode (through 413) dropping every Thursday through December 30th. The back half of the season (i.e. 414-426) will drop weekly in Spring, 2022. I'm truly excited for the fans to see the season - and evil creator that I am - also glad that the show isn't all dropping at once. I firmly believe television - especially a show like YJ - is a better experience if you have time to savor and sort and absorb and predict for a week in between episodes.

As for the fourth season's production, we have 21 episodes in the can and ready to air. The last five have all been animated and are currently in post-production. And since there was no IATSE strike today, we're still hard at work. (And to be clear, I'm a member of IATSE as part of the Animation Guild, and I was 100% supportive of the union.) We should be done with all 26 episodes by the end of November.

IMPORTANT ADDENDUM: YOUNG JUSTICE has NOT yet been picked up for a fifth season. So if fans want more of Earth-16, the answer is simple: #KeepBingingYJ (all four seasons) over and over. And over and over. And help us #SpreadTheWord. We want to #SaveEarth16.

So use the following hashtags ad nauseam - just as I'm doing in this post:

#CatwomanHunted
#YoungJustice
#YoungJusticePhantoms
#KeepBingingYJ
#SaveEarth16
#SpreadTheWord

And watch the show on HBO Max!!! Please...

For international fans, I wish I could give you info on when any or all of the above will be available in your countries. But unfortunately, TPTB do not keep us folks in the trenches well-informed. Asking me over and over won't magically reveal that information to me so that I can reveal it to you.

Finally, by the time all my work was done on Saturday, I was completely exhausted and took a nap. In the nap, I dreamed I wrote a hit song. Seriously. Now, normally, my dreams slip away entirely upon waking. And even when I do remember the gist of a dream, the details are lost within seconds. But I actually woke up with a clear memory of the song - both the lyrics AND the tune. Here are the lyrics:

I'm taking my pants off,
Cuz it's that kind of party!
I'm walking a straight line,
And it's luminous!

That's the whole song. You can see why it was such a big hit in Dreamland. I'm expecting the Dream-Royalties to roll in any minute.

STAY WHELMED, everyone!


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EMPTY QUEUE

Well, it took me YEARS, but I finally have cleared the ASK GREG queue. I'm going to take a bit of a break now, but we'll open the question asking function for DC FANDOME on October 16th. I honestly don't know what YJ will be doing for Fandome, but I assume we'll have some presence of some kind, and by then I should have had enough of a rest to jump back in.

Thanks for your patience.


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EDWARD ASNER

So...

This is hard.

It's been a bit of a stressful weekend, as my father went into the hospital with chest pains. A stint that had been replaced last year had failed and was replaced again Saturday morning during an angioplasty. I've been concerned, worried. But the procedure seemed to go well, and he was set to go home today. We seemed to have dodged a bullet.

But there was a second gun.

I slept in today. I woke up to two pieces of news:

1. My dad was good. Solid. My sister picked him up at the hospital and took him straight to breakfast. (My mother was annoyed at not being included - but that's a whole other story.) He's home now. I've talked to him. He sounded cheerful. All good.

2. Ed Asner had passed away.

I spent most of the day doing laundry and other mundane tasks. Life goes on, right? It has to. But it's been difficult getting my head around the whole thing. I've gotten many calls and texts today, offering condolences as if I were part of the Asner family. Folks seem to know how close I felt to Ed. But I don't want to exaggerate. Ed was my friend. I hope he knew I was his, as well. But I haven't talked to him in at least a couple of years. (You can partially blame that on the pandemic, I suppose. There are a lot of people I've lost touch with. If anything, this is a reminder to GET in touch. And I'm going to make an effort to do that.) In any case, there are many, many people who knew Ed better than I did, who were closer to Ed than I was.

Nevertheless, at the risk of turning this post into my own self-aggrandizement, I am going to spend a few paragraphs here on the subject of the Ed Asner that I knew and loved.

I was a fan of Ed's long before I met him. Like many, many people, he first entered my awareness playing Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. (Later, I got a kick out of picking him out of reruns, where he usually played the heavy in such series as The Wild Wild West and others.) But as Lou, Ed was simply brilliant. One of the truly classic scenes in all of television is the scene in the TMTMS pilot, where Lou interviews Mary for a job. Do yourself a favor and view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zj286uBKCu0

That scene had a major effect on me, even seeing it as a kid.

Now, having just rewatched it, the genius of the writing and the two performances still knocks me out. But there was something else about Lou and Mary. Watching their interactions was a bit like watching my parents. The connection in my mind between Lou and my dad was especially strong.

Ed and my father were two Ashkenazi Jews from the midwest. My dad was from Chicago; Ed, from Kansas City. They were gruff AND loving. They even had mannerisms in common. There was much more, I'm sure, that they DIDN'T have in common. But something connected the two men in my mind. And, meanwhile, my admiration for Asner as a performer knew no bounds. When I saw him in the Lou Grant series, in Rich Man, Poor Man, in Roots, that admiration only increased. When I learned of his activism - and the price he paid for it - that admiration shot through the roof.

Years later, when we had begun pre-production on GARGOYLES, I thought of Ed Asner - or of Lou Grant, at least - as the inspiration for Hudson. In fact, when we held auditions for the role, I wrote at the bottom of the character description that "Hudson hates spunk." This was, of course, a variation on Lou's classic line from the above job interview scene. Now, to be clear, I never imagined we'd get Ed to play the role. I figured he was way too big a star for us to land. But low and behold, a few days later, Ed came in to audition for the part. Later, he told me that when he read the character description, he was initially thrilled. The "Hudson hates spunk" line made him feel like he was a lock to land the role. Then a couple minutes later, he thought that if he didn't land the role it would really be awful. But of course, he immediately understood the character and nailed his audition... only for Jamie Thomason and I to throw him a curveball, asking him to do it again in a Scottish accent. He nailed that, too.

Working with Ed was a joy. He was fun and funny and so supportive. In addition to playing Hudson (and Burbank and Jack Danforth/Dane) on Gargoyles, I also cast him as recurring characters on Max Steel (Chuck Marshak), 3x3 Eyes (Grandpa Ayanokoji), W.I.T.C.H. (Napoleon the talking cat), Young Justice (Kent Nelson) and Rain of the Ghosts (Joe Charone). When casting Peter Parker's late Uncle Ben in The Spectacular Spider-Man, Ed was the only person I ever considered. He always brought so much to each and every role.

And more than that he was a great friend to me. After the first season of Max Steel, when I couldn't find a job for over a year and thought I might have to give up on my writing career, Ed was there, offering me support. We had lunch at Musso & Frank's. He looked at pictures of my kids out of my wallet and told me to laminate them. He introduced me to his son, Matt Asner, a producer. He didn't allow me to wallow in self-pity or to badmouth guys who I believed had done me wrong. He just reassured me that I had ability and would find my way through. He was, in essence, my work dad.

So today, as you might imagine, has been complicated. My dad is home and healthy. And Ed is gone. I'm grateful and sorrowful. And struggling. But life goes on. It has to, right?

Finally, I'm going to quote Hudson from Gargoyles. In "The Price," an episode that spotlighted the character, Ed as Hudson told Xanatos: "A friendly word of advice: True immortality isn't about living forever, man. It's about what you do with the time you have. When all your scheming's done, what will be your legacy, Xanatos?"

I think we all know that Ed Asner did amazing things with the time he had. And though we'll miss him dearly, his legacy is clear and shining.


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CORRECTIONS

Fans pointed out some errors that I will correct here:

By the end of Team Year Zero:

Henry Fyff is 14.

Tatsu Yamashiro is 21.


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Temporary Shut Down

Hello,

Just wanted to let people know that at the end of this month, we're going to shut down the ASK GREG a question function for the time being. I don't have anything new coming out any time soon, and I believe everyone has had time to respond to (or question) my latest output. And in any case you've got a little more than a couple weeks yet to get your burning questions in.

I've been very busy working on Season Four of YOUNG JUSTICE, and I simply haven't had times to answer questions at the rate any of us would like. And the back-log has just gotten ridiculous. So we'll cut off questions for the time being, and I'll try to cut down on some of that back-log in time for the release of YJ S4.

I'm not on Twitter that much these days either... and I've even cut down on convention appearances, but I still jump on Twitter when I'm at loose ends, so you can potentially find me @Greg_Weisman.


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Chandra Nalaar

Response to my latest novel, War of the Spark: Forsaken, has been understandably negative, particularly as a result of how the character of Chandra Nalaar was depicted in the book. My response is a bit late in coming, but here it is:

After reading the materials that preceded my work on Magic: The Gathering, I was particularly intrigued by the burgeoning relationship between Chandra and Nissa. I felt that it should culminate in the War of the Spark books. In lieu of bringing them together, as it was not a relationship that WotC planned to pursue, my goal was to write something that honored Chandra's feelings for Nissa and Nissa's feelings for Chandra, something that would give closure to their relationship in a sad but satisfying and understandable way. I believe that if readers had seen my original ideas for the chapter in question, they might have gotten a better sense of what I was trying to accomplish. They might have liked it better. Or maybe they wouldn't have. In any case, through the mutual creative/editorial process with WotC and Del Rey, we ended up with the final product that was published in Forsaken, which clearly didn't meet anyone's expectations or delivers on my intentions. And for that, I am truly sorry.



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