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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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THE SMARTEST MAN IN THE ROOM

The following needs saying, so I'm taking time out from my very packed weekend - not to procrastinate, which would not be unusual - but to write up something that I think is important.

But first, some backstory...

I'm not particularly smart about very many things. I am in many ways a bear of very little brain. Ask anyone. I use an iPhone 4.0 because I literally believe that I don't have the brain space to deal with upgrading. I'm a slow reader. My dyslexia makes math difficult as I am constantly transposing numbers. I'm afraid of change. Etc., etc., etc.

But one thing - maybe the ONLY thing - I am smart about is STORY. Now, I've studied story for decades and decades in small ways and large. I also believe I have an innate gift for story. Like a great pianist, the gift itself would have been wasted without years of study and practice. I've had and done both.

What that means is that - when it comes to story - I have often (not always, but quite often) considered myself - with no modesty and tremendous arrogance - to be the smartest person in the room. In any room where this is a topic of conversation, but especially in any room where story was being professionally discussed. (You can see why - with an attitude like that - I'm so popular with animation executives and the like, and why I've been fired from so many jobs.)

Even on the many, many occasions when I have felt that I am among peers who understand story as well as I do, I never felt like they understood it better than I. As good, yes. Differently, sure. Stylistically, of course. But not better. I never felt anyone knew story better.

Oh, I've made mistakes, missed opportunities, slipped up, ad nauseam. I'm human and have never claimed perfection. I've collaborated with some brilliant and wonderful people. The list is nearly endless. But none of that ever shook my basic feeling that when it came to story, I was as smart or smarter than anyone in the room.

All that changed with YOUNG JUSTICE.

So let me state it for the record: when it comes to story, BRANDON VIETTI is the Smartest Human Being in the Room.

I'd love to tell you - BELIEVE ME, I'd love to tell you - that he learned all this at my ancient knee, and that if the student has surpassed the master, the master can at least take some satisfaction in that. But that, dear readers, would simply be a load of crap.

From Day One of YJ, as witness Kevin Hopps could attest, Brandon Vietti knew story, understood it deep, the way I do. And he was smarter about it than I.

The ultimate example of this dropped this past Friday.

Episode 307 of Young Justice: Outsiders, entitled "Evolution."

SPOILERS coming, so if you haven't seen the episode then please go watch it first before reading any further.

Like all YJ episodes this season, Brandon and I broke this story together. A pretty even 50-50 collaboration. There were certain things I wanted specifically to see, like the Cave Bear. Certain things I had researched such as that in (actual documented non-DC Comics) mythology, Nabu was the son of Marduk. And there were certain things that BV wanted in there, like the meta-human kid that Kalibak sacrifices. Certain things he had researched like The Art of War by Sun Tzu (a.k.a. Vandal Savage, a.k.a. Genghis Khan, a.k.a. Marduk, a.k.a. etc.)

And together, we created a pretty kick-ass story for the episode. I don't actually remember the day of the week, but for the sake of simplifying the story, let's say we finished breaking/building the story with index cards all neatly pushpinned into my office bulletin board on a Monday. Monday evening. We both felt pretty good about it, or at least I did, and we left for the day.

Tuesday morning, he comes in and says, "Something's missing."

I tell him he's crazy. There's nothing missing from 307. Nothing. It's a great damn episode. Maybe one of our best.

BV says no. Something's missing.

I say, "What? What's missing?!"

BV says, "I don't know yet. Something. Give me a day."

I roll my eyes in as pronounced a fashion as I possibly can and say, fine.

Wednesday morning he comes in and says, "I want to add a character."

I'm resistant. "It'll mess up the works, I tell him."

But he explains, and of course, he's right. Because Brandon Vietti is the Smartest Person in the Room.

The character he wants to add is Olympia. Olympia Savage. (I take credit for the first name only.) That's right. In our first version of this story, Olympia simply did not exist.

Try to picture "Evolution" without Olympia. Be honest. It's still a solid story. A few of the actual things Olympia does, we had Cassandra doing. But otherwise the plot remains almost completely unchanged.

But not the ending.

With Olympia in the story, the episode isn't merely a solid YJ episode. It's not merely a great YJ episode. To my mind, "Evolution" transcends YJ. It is a phenomenal, even revolutionary twenty-plus minutes of television.

And I tried to talk the guy out of it.

Of course, BV's contributions don't end there. He wrote the script, too, which is fantastic. And if you knew how much he contributed to every facet of production it would humble you. It humbles me, and as you can see above, I'm NOT a humble guy.

But screw all that. I'm not talking about pretty pictures, or color, or sound, or music or even dialogue.

This post is ONLY about STORY. And when it comes to STORY... BRANDON VIETTI will always be the SMARTEST HUMAN BEING IN THE ROOM.

I bow to his greatness. And trust me, I do not do that lightly.

To be honest, he's so good, it's pretty damn annoying.

But it's an honor to be his partner.



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