This Year, I’m Going To Comic Con…Without Going To Comic Con

7/23/20

Much like other big public events that are involve thousands of people huddled together in a confined space, the San Diego Comic Con is not happening this year. Not the live, in-person, analog version of Comic Con, anyway. However…

This year, SDCC is having a series of virtual panel discussions and other online events. They’ve christened the event “Comic-Con@Home.” It started yesterday, and the online programming goes until Sunday July 26th, 2020.  


I’ll be appearing on a “Comic-Con@Home” panel discussion celebrating the history and legacy of E.C. Comics. The panel will be happening tomorrow, Friday July 24th, 2020, at 6pm PST/9pm EST. The other panelists will be Grant Geissman (Foul Play! The Art and Artists of the Notorious 1950s E.C. Comics!) and Dr. Travis Langley (The Joker Psychology: Evil Clowns and the Women Who Love Them), and the moderator will be Danny Fingeroth (A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee), who is the Walter White to my Jesse Pinkman, the Eddie Murphy to my Arsenio Hall. Together, we’ll look back on the lasting impact E.C. has had on comics and on popular culture in general. For more info (and to view the panel on YouTube), click HERE.

E.C. holds a very special place in my heart, especially since I’ve served as a writer for two E.C. titles, MAD Magazine and Tales from the Crypt. Over the years, I’ve written approximately 30 humor pieces for MAD Magazine. I was also one of the writers who worked on the 2008 relaunch of Tales from the Crypt, published by Papercutz.


The Entire Eastern Seaboard!

7/7/20

Many many many (many) years ago, I was a writer for the late, lamented television series Codename: Kids Next Door, which was on Cartoon Network. The show’s head writer was Mo Willems. (Yes, the children’s book author. Back then, he was doing quite a bit of work in television, mostly as a writer or head writer for various animated series.)

One day, I was in a story conference with Mo, and we were going over a premise I had pitched him. For the most part, Mo liked the plot that I’d concocted…until he got to the end of the first act. He turned to me and said, “Wait a minute…the bad guy wants to destroy the entire town? THE ENTIRE TOWN? What does THAT mean?” I wasn’t sure what he meant, so he elaborated: “It’s too vague, too big, too general. If someone’s trying to destroy the entire town or blow up the entire world, there’s nothing specific about it.” Mo’s point was that you can’t have a supervillain character with a generic goal.

Mo always wanted a villain’s goal to be specific and personal. In other words, the villain shouldn’t want to brainwash everyone in the entire town. She should want to brainwash the person who used to be her best friend, so that they’ll be BFFs again. See? Specific. Personal. The supervillain’s goal is tied to that villain’s personal relationships.

And this is something I’ve really taken to heart as a writer ever since. To this day, I can’t stand it when I’m watching a trailer for an action movie and there’s a scene with the U.S. military reacting to the villain’s big plot and a general says, “My god! He’s going to wipe out the entire eastern seaboard!” Really? He is? WHO CARES! That’s too big, broad, and vague. I can’t respond to it on an emotional level. I honestly get angry whenever I hear the phrase “eastern seaboard” in an action movie. It’s usually a signifier that the movie suffers from lazy writing. Or maybe it’s just a movie where the villain ORIGINALLY had a unique, interesting goal…in an early draft of the script. But somewhere along the line the screenwriters got a note from the studio that said, “You know what? The villain needs a BIG goal. How about he wants to detonate some nukes and wipe out – I don’t know – the entire eastern seaboard? It really raises the stakes, right?” I mean, sure. It DOES raise the stakes. But it’s also TOO big. I can’t engage with it. I can’t care about this supervillain character if his/her/their goal is so big and impersonal.

That’s certainly something I was thinking about last year when I wrote a Batman children’s book called Harley at Bat, which was published by Penguin Random House. In fact, the book came out today, Tuesday July 7th, 2020. Harley at Bat is an early reader, and it’s illustrated by Marco Lesko, Fabio Laguna, & Beverly Johnson. Harley Quinn is the supervillain in that story, and she doesn’t just have a vague goal like “Destroy all of Gotham City.” No, she has a very specific goal. She wants to…

Oh, but that would be telling. Guess you’ll just have to buy Harley at Bat in order to find out what Harley’s big supervillain scheme is. But trust me: she doesn’t want to wipe out the Eastern seaboard! In fact, I can honestly tell you that the words “Eastern seaboard” never appear once in Harley at Bat. That’s a promise! 

And while we’re on the subject of Batman: you should be like Batman and social distance. I mean, Batman socially distances because he has trouble forming personal relationships, which is in turn because his parents were murdered, he was heavily traumatized by that horrible experience, and he doesn’t even trust most of his fellow superheroes. Meanwhile, you and I social distance because it’s how we stay safe and healthy. Know what else Batman does? He wears a mask when he goes outside. Be like Batman. Wear a mask. Please.


A Science Fiction Story with a Very Thin Plot

6/29/20

Hope everyone’s staying safe and healthy.

Recently, I wrote a short story for the humor site Points in Case. It’s called “A Science Fiction Story with a Very Thin Plot.” You can check it out HERE.

The basic premise behind the piece is: what if you had to write a science fiction story but you had no real story to tell and you had to REALLY pad it out?

Hope you enjoy it!  

Also, last year I wrote a Star Wars Adventures comic book story called “Majordomo, Major Problems,” which was illustrated by Drew Moss. It’s one of the stories reprinted in Star Wars Adventures Vol. 9: Fight the Empire, which is out NOW from IDW Publishing. For more info, and to see the book’s cover art (by Elsa Charretier and Sarah Stern), click HERE.

“Majordomo, Major Problems” is about Jabba the Hutt’s personal assistant Bib Fortuna, and how stressful it is working for an intergalactic crime lord like Jabba.

And speaking of Star Wars…

Hey, you know who’s part of the Star Wars universe? Darth Vader. Know what? He wears a mask whenever he leaves the house. Or whenever he’s around other people. Be like Darth Vader and wear a mask, people!

And honestly, that’s the ONLY way in which you should really emulate Darth Vader. But hopefully you already knew that.

 


That One Time I Tried To Write A Sonnet

1/1/20

Last Friday, December 27th, was my wife Nadine’s birthday. I decided to write a sonnet for her. I figured, how hard could it be? I’m a writer, right? So what if I’d never written a sonnet before. Was I successful? See for yourself:

 

Nadine’s Birthday Poem
A poem for Nadine’s birthday

– By Arie Kaplan

 

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate

Also, thou hast a body and flesh and blood and internal organs and a skeleton and hair and toenails

Whereas, a summer’s day is, you know, a time of day during the summer, and it has none of that “flesh-blood-skeleton-toenail” stuff.

Nor does a summer’s day actually take physical form in any finite way.

A summer’s day might be filled with any number of delightful physical THINGS.

A walk along the duck pond. That sort of stuff.

Ducks are physical objects, right? So is a pond.

But a summer’s day isn’t…it’s not…What am I trying to say? Help me out here…

A summer’s day is not encased in a body like a person is.

A summer’s day is not endowed with a psyche. It’s not self-aware.

A summer’s day doesn’t have emotions, opinions, wants, needs. URGES.

Does a summer’s day even know that it’s the daytime? No it does not.

And the concept of “day” is really just part of our artificial, manmade* way of marking time.

When it’s day where I am, maybe it’s night where you are.

Time is a construct.

So, you know, just to refresh: you and a summer’s day. Not really that much alike. The comparison is minimal at best.

Thou knowest what? Let’s start over.

Shall I compare thee to…wait.

I mean, come on.

Are you honestly telling me that there was a period in human history when comparing a woman to a summer’s day WASN’T a cliché? Like, did that work? Was that something men said to women to get their attention…AND IT WORKED? And how far back do you have to go to find a time when that DID work?

William Shakespeare wrote the ACTUAL “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” sonnet.

He lived from 1564-1616.

Comparing a woman to a summer’s day HAD to have been played out by that time. No?

I mean, even back then, I’m assuming Shakespeare’s in a pub with his buddies. And he’s like, “Hey guys, I’m thinking of writing this poem where I compare a woman’s beauty to…” And his friends are like, “Let me guess. A summer’s day?” And he’s like, “N-never mind…” And he just trudges off all frustrated because he can’t come up with a better metaphor. So this is what we’re stuck with.

You know what? How about “Shall I compare thee to a meat pudding? You’re both made of meat, but you wear it better.”

THERE. DONE. FIXED IT. I FIXED YOUR HORRIBLE AWFUL POEM, SHAKESPEARE, YOU IDIOT.

Anyway, Happy Birthday, Nadine.

Love,

Arie

12/27/19

* Okay, so maybe saying “manmade” in this day and age is considered a microaggression. But I didn’t intend it that way. Also, nobody says “humanmade.” This isn’t the world I wanted. It’s just the deeply flawed world I was born into. And so were you, Nadine! So were you! Speaking of which – once again – Happy Birthday, Nadine!


Please contact me if you want to use this for any reason. arie@ariekaplan.com