Thursday, December 2, 2004

Looking To The Stars: Farewells, Goodbyes and Simpler Times.

As I sit down to write this on Thanksgiving Eve, I find myself with far too many thoughts to write a cohesive one-topic column. Thankfully, there is never a need for me to write a cohesive one-topic column. That was one of the benefits I was promised when I first got this job. Which is as good a link as any to the first thing on my mind...

As I'm sure you all have heard by now, our beloved fearless leader Ben Morse is leaving us this week for a job at Wizard magazine. Needless to say, I'm conflicted about the whole situation. Sure, I'm glad that Ben got this job which I know he's been dreaming of forever and a day. But it still sucks that we're loosing the guy who gave me, if not everyone at The Comics Nexus, our jobs way back when we were the smallest section of some wrestling site.

Still, I'm somewhat dismayed that of all the places to lose Ben to, we're losing him to Wizard, who exemplify everything that I personally feel is wrong with the comics news world. Still, he is happy and I take comfort in that. So beyond the first sentence, no negative words from me today.

Contrary to popular belief, I don't take any joy from writing negative reviews. I may make fun of bad stories and laugh off the antics of annoying, show-boating creators, but this is my defense mechanism. I never wish actual malice or harm to anyone, no matter how much I wish they would just STOP.

It was something of a shock then when I stumbled across the news while researching something else. Donald G. Jackson, the very first professional who wrote me about something I reviewed, was dead. He was also, it might be noted, one of the three creators who responded to something negative I reviewed.

Back in the days of Fanzing, I also tried my hand at movie criticism. But being an old Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan as I was, I briefly turned my hand to Bad Movie criticism at a site that would publish nearly anything turned into them. I thought it a good place to warm up then and find a voice for myself. The site was called It's A Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Movie. The movie, rented from the sci-fi section of the locally owned comic store with the huge sci-fi/horror section with tons of straight-to-video classics, was called "Legend of the Rollerblade 7". I'll skip the synopsis here (that's what the previous link to my review is for) but suffice to say it was bad. MST3K quality bad.

This was back when I was still naive enough to think that word never carries. That no professional, much less a film-maker, is going to care what an aspiring writer of 21 summers thinks of his work and of one lone page that says "This is crap and you shouldn't waste your time on it."

Boy, did I get an education. And not just when I got an e-mail from Donald Jackson, noting quite seriously that the Rollerblade 7 would come for me in the darkest night. No, that amused me more than anything. The education came when, tracking his e-mail address, I found Jackson's site, which I am sad to note is no longer up. And I learned of his filmmaking philosophy which explained everything.

Jackson, who trained under James Cameron (Yes, THAT James Cameron) all but single-handedly created a school called "Zen filmmaking". The basic gist of which is that if something unexpected happens during a shot that doesn't hurt the scene, use it. If your actors want to try and improvise something, let them. Shoot the picture and let fate sort it all out.

And in reading this, the movie came together for me. Sure, it was still low-budget and had some bad acting, but it was obvious that everyone on the set wanted to be there and that they were having fun. And that the movie was being made for that simple reason. You don't see a lot of that spirit in the world today, especially in the creative arts.

Whatever else may be said about Jackson's work, and I said quite a bit, his movies were never dull. You'd be hard pressed to find a plot sometimes or to explain what was going on at any given moment, but you could always find something to watch.

So here's a toast to Donald G. Jackson. And a recommendation; track down a copy of his classic "Hell Comes To Frogtown". It is one of the few movies with an outrageous title that actually manages to live up to everything outrageous the name promises.

And while we're on the subject of fun, a new book I checked out recently has had more "fun" in it than most of the comics I read on a regular basis. This wonder book is "Flare" by Heroic Publishing. The title has been around a while, but my comic book store only started carrying the book with this, its' third volume. Issue 2 just hit the stands last week and all I can say is that if you are a fan of books like JSA, the old JLA and Silver Age comics of all types, then this is something you should be reading.

One final thought. Green Lantern: Rebirth is greatness incarnate if only for the fact that in two panels, Geoff Johns finally managed to settle a point of much debate amongst Green Lantern scholars for the last ten years. But that topic I will save for next week... and the revised edition of "One Ring To Confuse Them All!"

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt Website.

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