Archive for the ‘Cartoons’ Category

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.

So, Better Late Than Never, I Guess?

9/19/19

You know what? I’m gonna tell you an embarrassing anecdote about my writing career. (Just like I did last time. And the time before that. And the time before that…You get the idea.) But first, some announcements:

Recently, I wrote a book called The Despicable Me Little Golden Book. As you may have deduced from the title, this book is a Little Golden Books adaptation of the first Despicable Me movie. It’s illustrated by Elsa Chang, and it was published by Penguin Random House on September 3rd, 2019.

Also, I co-authored a book called The LEGO Ninjago Visual Dictionary (New Edition), which was published by DK on September 10th, 2019.

And I wrote 2 humor pieces for MAD Magazine #9, which is on sale now. They are:

  • “What If Batman Were Actually 80 Years Old,” illustrated by Pete Woods
  • “Signs She’s NOT Into You,” illustrated by A Person

BTW, you can read my “What If Batman…” humor piece in its entirety via this Nerdist article about the piece. 

This Sunday September 22nd at 7pm, I’ll be giving a lecture called “Flickering Shadows: Images of the Holocaust in Film & TV” at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

And remember just a few sentences ago when I mentioned that I co-authored the new edition of the LEGO Ninjago Visual Dictionary? Well, I’ll be signing copies of it at the New York Comic Con in a couple of weeks. All of the signings will take place at the DK booth, which is Booth #2205-J (Part of the Penguin Random House booth). Here’s my signing schedule:

  • Thursday, October 3rd from 3-4pm
  • Saturday, October 5th from 11am-12pm
  • Sunday, October 6th from 2:30-3:30pm

Last week, my friend Gabe Eltaeb interviewed me for an episode of his YouTube show Inside Comics with: Gabe Eltaeb. In the interview, we talked about my writing career, we talked about storytelling in general, and I answered viewer questions. You can check it out here.

That’s it for the announcements. Now, if I remember correctly, I owe you an embarrassing story about my writing career. Ask and ye shall receive:

There’s a pretty popular online animation studio out there called JibJab Bros Studios. These days, they’re known for animated e-cards and music videos. But back in the day, back when it was called JibJab Media, they produced quite a bit of original scripted content. Mainly, they produced animated webseries, like Geezers, about two little old men named Leo and Cicero who’d sit on a park bench and comment on the world around them. Writing scripts for Geezers was one of my first writing credits of any kind and my first-ever credit as an animation writer.

So imagine how thrilled I was when I showed my father the first produced episode of Geezers I wrote. Now, before I go on, I need to provide a little bit of context. See, unlike most people, my folks were supportive of the fact that I wanted to be a writer. All throughout my childhood, they were very encouraging.

That’s why, when my first episode of Geezers came out, I whipped out my laptop and told my dad that I wrote the script for the Geezers episode I was about to show him. He said, “Okay,” and I hit play. The episode is about five minutes long. My dad didn’t laugh once. He had this pained look on his face, like someone was making him watch their kid play a tooth in the school play. Shortly before the end of the episode, he shook his head sadly and groaned, “What IS this garbage? Who actually thought this was funny?”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Dad,” I said, “What are you talking about? I wrote that.” He got this bewildered look on his face. “You did?” he bellowed. “Well yeah,” I explained. “Don’t you remember? I told you right before I hit play. Why did you think I was showing it to you?” “I don’t know,” he shrugged. “I thought it was something you saw somewhere that you liked.” “Okay…,” I sighed, trying not to sound frustrated. My dad slapped his knees and looked up at me. “Play it again,” he suggested. “From the beginning.” “What?” I was very confused. “But you just saw it, dad. You REALLY didn’t like it. Why would you want to see it again?” “Just play it again, Arie,” he demanded. “Come on!”

“Sure,” I muttered, and I played it again. This time, he laughed at every damn line of dialogue. Oh, it was as though he’d never SEEN anything so funny. I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking that he was laughing in that forced way people do when they’re showing you pity. But no. This was not that. On the contrary. On the most contrary of contraries. He was genuinely, falling-out-of-his-seat-wetting-himself laughing. IT. WAS. SO. WEIRD. I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since. It’s like he was a robot, and between the first and second viewing of the episode they turned on his emotion chip. After the episode was over, he gave me a big hug and congratulated me on doing such a good job. With no hint of irony whatsoever. There was no, “Well, the first time I saw it, I wasn’t aware that my genius son wrote it, but now that I am, I can appreciate its brilliance.” Even though that was exactly what was going on.

Let me repeat: It was so weird.

And my takeaway from that experience is: Um, thanks, dad? I think?

 

 

 

 

Horrifically-Relevant Things I’ve Written (And In One Case, Illustrated)

10/31/18

In honor of Halloween (and totally NOT in honor of me being a shameless self-promoter), here are five of the horror-themed projects I’ve worked on over the years, all of which (except the last one) are on sale now:

1) PARANORMAL STATE: POISON SPRING: As I’ve mentioned on this site’s “Game Writing” page, I wrote the screenplay for the Paranormal State: Poison Spring video game, which was produced by Legacy Games in 2013. You can watch a trailer for the game here

2) THE DOCTOR STRANGE LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK: I’ve written a few Little Golden Books over the past couple of years. The Doctor Strange Little Golden Book was the first one. It was published by Penguin Random House in 2017, and it was illustrated by Michael Atiyeh and Michael Borkowski. 

3) SIMPSONS TREEHOUSE OF HORROR: GRAVEYARD SHIFT: From 2008-2018, I wrote various stories for (the recently-shuttered) comic book publisher Bongo Comics. This was one of them. It was a story published in 2015’s Simpsons Treehouse of Horror #21, and it was called “Graveyard Shift.” “Graveyard Shift” was the cover story in that issue, meaning that the cover depicts a scene from that story. As you might be able to tell, it’s a parody of the 1984 film Gremlins

4) TALES FROM THE CRYPT: JUMPING THE SHARK: As I mentioned on this site’s “Comic Book Writing” page, I wrote the story “Jumping the Shark” for issue #6 of the late 2000s relaunch of Tales from the Crypt, published by Papercutz. You can read the story now in the trade paperback Tales from the Crypt #4: Crypt-Keeping It Real

5) MONSTERFONT: A DECORATIVE TYPEFACE: Okay, this is just something I drew for my own amusement, and it hasn’t been published anywhere. Over the years, I’ve drawn one-panel gag cartoons for various publications (e.g. Nickelodeon Magazine). I haven’t posted any of those cartoons on this site, but I will soon. UNTIL THEN, please enjoy “Monsterfont, A Decorative Typeface.”

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