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Shakespeare ramblings...

Seeing TITUS and having some professional free time to dedicate to a more long term project finds me re-emersing myself in the Works of Will (WoW). At least, after a fashion.

Since this ramble will knock my comments on TITUS off the "LATEST RESPONSES" page, so may want to check those comments out by visiting the "Shakespeare" section of the ASK GREG archive.

But recently, I've also been reading Harold Bloom's book, "Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human". It's really an amazing work. I've been reading it while viewing various takes on ROMEO AND JULIET and HAMLET. It's really helped me to appreciate HAMLET more. In the past, I've always admired the play, but it never reached me as deeply as LEAR or R&J or MIDSUMMER or MUCH ADO or WINTER'S TALE, etc. I'm gaining a new, deeper understanding and appreciation of HAMLET now. In part from Bloom's book.

And in part, from Kenneth Brannaugh's four hour movie version, which I saw and liked in the movie theater a few years ago. Still, I'm gaining a new appreciation for it on video. So many little things to love. Such a scope. And I think I'm finally "getting" Hamlet himself.

But frankly, one of the big helps has been revisiting a film that Brannaugh directed (but did not star in) just before he took on HAMLET. In America, it's called "A MIDWINTER'S TALE". (Elsewhere, I think it's known as "IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER".) It's a little black & white film about a company of seven actors (and two support people) who put together a local production of HAMLET in order to raise money to save the church they're performining in. This is another movie I saw and liked in the theater. But seeing it again on video has been wonderful. Ophelia's song of madness has never been more poignant, then in the "rehersal" scene in this film. I can't help feeling, that this little movie was an important act of mental preparation before Brannaugh took on his big HAMLET film. Among other points of interest, the actors who play Hamlet, Claudius and Laertes in A MIDWINTER'S TALE, went on to play Laertes, Polonius and Horatio (respectively) in HAMLET.

I've also been revisiting ROMEO & JULIET. Bloom's book has some really interesting stuff about that play as well. (Though I'm convinced he gets one thing dead wrong. It's trivial, but he takes for granted that Susan is Juliet's late twin sister. His brain must be short-circuiting there. It seems beyond obvious to me that Susan was the Nurse's daughter. Born at the same time as Juliet, an infant who died shortly thereafter, making the Nurse a good candidate to be Juliet's wetnurse -- and surrogate mother.)

I've also watched the video of Baz Luhrman's version of R&J, starring Leonardo & Claire. I like it. This one suffers a bit off the big screen, but it has some great moments.

SPOILER WARNING

Romeo actually getting to see Juliet come back to life just AFTER he's taken the poison for example.

Next up, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE on video and then the ZEFIRELLI R&J. The movie that first opened the door to Shakespeare to me. (I'm still in love with Olivia Hussey.)

BTW, I realize that a lot of Gargoyles fans won't really know what I'm talking about here. ("Who the heck is Susan?") But, you are an exceedingly bright group. Maybe all this cryptic rambling will get you to check all of this stuff out. I recommend it.


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Progress

Well, I just answered the last question from August. September, you are next. I'm determined to catch up so that questions are answered within a week of being asked.


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TITUS

I saw TITUS on Saturday with my wife Beth and three people who worked on GARGOYLES.

1. Fred Schaefer, who was a development associate who helped develop the show. (I think it's safe to say that Talon was sort of Fred's idea in a very early pre-Derek form. We called the character Catscan then.) Fred is currently a producer/executive/story editor at Porchlight Entertainment.

2. Monique Beatty was my assistant during the Gargoyles years. She did a lot of research for me. She's now a producer at Kinofilms.

3. Tuppence Macintyre is an old friend of mine. She also did a lot of Scotish research for Gargoyles, just as a personal favor and because it interested her. She's a Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles.

Anyway, the five of us went to see TITUS in Santa Monica. The film is based on one of Shakespeare's early tragedies, TITUS ANDRONICUS. It was adapted and directed by Julie Taymor, who adapted and directed THE LION KING for the Broadway stage. So it's not surprise that the film is visually stunning. Monique didn't like the anachronistic style of the film (depicting chariots and motorcycles side-by-side for example), but it's not the first time I've seen that kind of interpretation, so it didn't bother me.

And the acting is fantastic. Anthony Hopkins (who I've loved forever -- does anyone remember the movie MAGIC?) plays Titus. He's brilliant. His lament to the stones is heartbreaking. Jessica Lange is good as "Tamara, Queen of the Goths" (now tell me that isn't a Gargoyles' character in the making). And Alan Cumming (who voiced John Castaway in "The Journey") is a nice, twisted villain as Saturninus, the Roman Emperor. But the revelation is Harry Lennix as Aaron the Moor. Amazing.

The story of Titus is not for the squeemish or for children. It's a real pot-boiler. Something just this side of a horror movie with a hard R rating for violence and nudity, though thankfully a minimum of on-screen gore.

The play was a big hit for Shakespeare in his day. But it's been dismissed as a critical flop. And I can see why. I've read it a couple times and thought it awful. Which coming from a bardolitor like myself is pretty harsh. It seemed like none of the characters were sympathetic or interesting.

But I'd never seen it performed, so I was looking forward to the movie. As usual, Shakespeare plays tens times better than he reads. In the movie, I had -- at moments -- plenty of sympathy for nearly all the characters. And the wonderful thing is that my sympathies are constantly shifting. No one is without sin. All share the blame except for Aaron's son. And Aaron himself is amazing.

Although, I can't help agreeing that Shakespeare wrote TITUS at least in part as parody of the tragic genre -- the way SCREAM was designed to be both parody and exemplar of the horror film -- I can also see flashes of KING LEAR, HAMLET and CORIOLANUS in Titus' character.

But Aaron prefigures Othello, Iago, Edmund and Shylock at least. He's a remarkably progressive character for the time. A villain, who is the only character to succeed in preserving a sliver of innocence within the world of the play.

Anyway, I really enjoyed it. And I recommend it to any Gargoyle Fan over the age of 17.


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Galaxy Quest

I saw Galaxy Quest this past Saturday. Not a perfect film by any means, but I enjoyed it.

But mostly it got me thinking. The Star Trek parallels were obvious, and it's hard to apply the same kind of scenario to, say, a Gathering.

But I wondered how I'd respond this summer in Orlando if Thom Adcox and I (for example) were confronted by a woman who looked sort of like Salli Richardson but with blue jeans, black shirt and a red jacket. She tells us she really's Elisa Maza and she need our help.

I wound up coming up with this whole scenario in my head about Alexander accidentally using his magic to send Elisa, Fox and Lexington to our universe. I finally find out definitively what I've suspected all along, which is that I'm not inventing these stories, I'm simply tapping into another universe. Turns out I got a lot right and a little bit wrong here and there. (See previous comments about how I missed beats on "Hero of Ulster" and "Grief" as examples.)

Trapped in our universe, the unlikely trio happen to see an episode of the show. They get on the net and find out about me. And with no other idea how to get home they track me down at the Gathering, hoping I'd know how they are SUPPOSED TO GET HOME.

Then I got stuck. The whole idea got very messy. (This story is really up Cary Bates' alley. I still have that old issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE where Cary travels to EARTH-TWO, turns evil and tricks the JLA into killing the JSA. In that story, the Spectre personally intercedes with God to fix things.)

Anyway, I think this is what Todd calls a 'creativity demon'. I've been trying to "crack" open this story since Saturday night, with little success. But I'll keep working on it, and if I come up with anything good, I'll ramble further.


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ANOTHER UPDATE

Well, there's a good chunk of August done.

See you guys after the new year. Have a safe and great holiday.

Greg


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Only Five Months Behind...

July is done. Finally. Watch your back, August.


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I'm back...

And July is going down today!


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Progress

I was hoping I'd get through July today. But man, no dice. I'll try again tomorrow.


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UPDATE

Hi Gang,

I'm back. And determined to pour through these questions. I can't believe I'm still backlogged until JULY!!!

But first, let me give you a quick update on what I've been up to recently.

STARSHIP TROOPERS
Post-Production has been completed on my first arc of stories. They are all set on the jungle moon TESCA NEMEROSA. I think they turned out wonderfully. I'm still very proud of the writing, but I'm wildly impressed with the CGI. (And yes, there are a few small things that bother me, but...) Overall, I think it's a very powerful set of stories.

MAX STEEL
We've completed writing and recording all 13 episodes for the first season. Post-production should begin after the first of the year. The CGI series should premeire in February on the WB's Saturday Morning. And now that the heavy lifting is done, I'm all but unemployed, which means I should have plenty of time for ASK GREG.

NAZCA
A good friend of mine did the English dub for this Japanese Anime series. Thom Adcox does the voice for one of the leads, and I do a few incidental voices here and there. (Yes, the man who brought you "Nice Mask!" and "Father, the rockets aren't working!" is back behind the microphone. God help us all.) It's available on home video in stores starting mid-January.

JUSTICE LEAGUE GIANT
As many of you already know, I did a CAPTAIN ATOM/JLE/GARGOYLES parody team-up for this comic book. I wrote it a year ago and I still haven't seen the final result, but I'm told it turned out all right. And every copy you buy puts about a tenth of a penny into my pocket... Seriously, it wouldn't hurt if this issue sold out and was followed by a letter writing campaign asking DC to do an actual Gargoyles comic. Don't know if it would work, but it wouldn't hurt.

UCLA EXTENSION
For those of you living in the L.A. Area, Kevin Hopps and I are teaching a twenty week course on writing for Television Animation through UCLA Extension's Writer's Program at Universal CityWalk starting this Spring and running through the Summer. Hope to see some of you there.

Now, back to your questions...


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Captain Atom & the Gargoyles

Reprinting (for posterity) what I just posted in the comment room:

Just a quick response/explanation to Alex (aka Simon).

I couldn't really do a full-on Captain Atom story. I was limited to 10 pages (and it takes a lot of time to write that short) and it was a JLA GIANT, so I was obligated to include the JLE from that era. Those were my marching orders.

So Dan Raspler (my editor) and I decided to do something fun. Something with Captain Atom elements, but something more in the tone of the JLE of that era -- admittedly, a sillier mag than the CAPTAIN ATOM book I used to write back then. But even in those days, when I put the JLE into Cap's book, I tried to split the difference on the tone, so that the transition wasn't too jarring.

I suggested making it a real exercise in self-indulgence by including a bit of a GARGOYLES parody. He went for it.

Now, in my first draft, I did open the story by showing the Funeral-At-Sea of Heinrich Megala. But my editor felt that it was too serious. That it clashed with the tone of the rest of the story. I didn't disagree. (I just didn't care.) But he didn't like it. So we went with what you saw.

Or so I assume. I haven't seen it yet. I called Dan yesterday, and he promised to send me a copy. Originally, Pat Broderick was supposed to do the pencilling -- a reunion of sorts. I don't know exactly what happened, but Pat didn't end up doing the story. So I can't even imagine what it looks like. And I don't know how much or how little I was edited. I hope it plays.

And I hope that clears things up.

By the way, I'm almost done with the writing and editing of Max Steel. I promise that after the first of the year, I'm going to try to MUSCLE through the backlog here at ASK GREG.

Sorry for the delays.



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