Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Templeton

11/20/19
Charlottes-Web cover

When I was in second grade, my teacher Mrs. Alstein assigned us Charlotte’s Web. I hadn’t expected to enjoy reading the book, but I quickly found myself becoming engrossed in the story. The characters were well developed, and the central narrative was emotionally involving. There’s a reason the book’s so beloved, you know?

However, toward the end of the school year, I suppose as a reward for making it all the way through the book, Mrs. Alstein decided to show us the animated Charlotte’s Web movie from 1973. Now, if you haven’t seen that particular film, it’s not a bad movie overall, and it’s pretty faithful to the source material. However, the screenwriters also decided to add in a few slapstick-heavy comic relief sequences.

Templeton the rat, giving a typically subtle, nuanced performance

But even as a 7-year-old kid, I found those scenes REALLY hard to get through. I remember specifically, there was some scene featuring Templeton the rat, voiced by Paul Lynde. And if you don’t know who Paul Lynde was, I don’t know, Google him. For pretty much his whole career, Paul Lynde could be relied on to give the most cartoonishly broad performances imaginable. That was kind of his thing. So most of the slapstick comedy in the film was written around his character, Templeton. And there was one particular scene where Templeton is – I don’t know – ranting and raving about how he’s eaten too much junk food and has a bellyache or whatever. And every sentence out of his mouth is a joke, and it’s a HORRIBLE joke. A horrible, labored, predictable, hacky, lazily-written joke. And everyone in the class is just laughing their damn heads off. They’re eating the stuff up, the little 7-year-old sheep. But not me. I’m sitting off in the corner, sulking. And Mrs. Alstein notices this and asks, “What’s the matter, Arie? Don’t you like the movie?” And I just stared at her imploringly and yelled, “It’s just not FUNNY.”

Ewwww, Templeton! You NASTY!

So. Make of that what you will. That either means that I was a MASSIVE snob from day one, or that I had really high comedic standards, even in second grade. I prefer to think that it was the latter, and not the former.

(Come on, you think it’s the former, don’t you? I know you do. It’s okay. You’re wrong, but it’s okay.)

When I was watching all of the other students laughing at Templeton’s onscreen antics, I kept thinking to myself, “Why do they think this stuff is funny? I could’ve seen that punchline coming a mile away. Don’t these kids have STANDARDS?”

The LEGO Ninjago Visual Dictionary, co-written by yours truly (not to be confused with Charlotte’s Web)

Yes. “Don’t these kids have standards?” That’s how I was thinking about the world at 7 years old. Did I mention that I didn’t have very many friends in elementary school?

But now that I have a child myself, I see some of those same qualities in HER. As I type this, my daughter Aviya has just turned 9. (Today is her birthday.) She and I were recently discussing an animated series proposal I’d sent to a couple of television networks. See, in addition to my work as an author, I’m also a television writer. And usually I work on other people’s shows. But sometimes I’ll put together a proposal for my own series and shop it around. In this particular case, the proposal didn’t end up generating any real interest from the networks. However, when I told my daughter about the proposal, she loved it. I don’t want to say what it was about. Let’s say it was about vampire bats who were also sentient baseball bats. (NOTE: That’s not at all what it was about, but you already knew that.) Anyway, when Aviya heard that the networks all passed on my brilliant idea, she said, “You’re KIDDING me! You mean that they put a show about TALKING DOGS on TV (I think she meant Paw Patrol), but they won’t put your show about Vampire Bats on the air, even though it’s MUCH more interesting?! Who CARES about talking dogs!” So, in essence, she was saying, “Don’t these network executives have STANDARDS?”

Me with my daughter Aviya, during a book signing at the 2019 New York Comic Con

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?

 

 

 

 

More Like “The DORK Knight,” Am I Right?

8/2/19

Did you know that 2019 is Batman’s 80th birthday? It’s true! What would happen if the Caped Crusader actually WAS a burden on society – er, I mean an elderly person? Here’s a Nerdist article about my upcoming MAD Magazine story, “What If Batman Were Actually 80 Years Old?”

It’ll be published in the pages of MAD #9, which comes out on August 6th. Artist Pete Woods illustrated the story, and he did an incredible job.  Check out the Nerdist piece (and my “What If Batman…” story in its entirety) via the link above. And click on the thumbnail on the right to see a sneak peek of the first page!

Here are a few more announcements, but if you’ve been to my blog before, you’ll know that afterwards I’ll reward your patience with a humiliating anecdote from my writing career. (So keep reading!)

Two weeks ago, at San Diego Comic Con, I signed copies of Star Wars Adventures #23.  Here’s a picture of me at the signing, which took place at the IDW booth! (I wrote “Majordomo, Major Problems,” the Tales from Wild Space backup story in that issue. The story was illustrated by the amazing Drew Moss.) I’m not the only person who’s excited about Star Wars Adventures #23. The issue got a wonderful review from SciFi Pulse.

Journalist Jonita Davis interviewed me for The Black CAPE, an online publication that caters to older millennial and Gen X film and TV nerds. In the interview, I talked about “Majordomo,” as well as some of the Little Golden Books I’ve written for Penguin Random House (e.g. The Doctor Strange Little Golden Book).

In other news, I wrote the recent Scholastic children’s book Hungry Shark: The Official Shark-Tastic Guide, which is a guide to all of the characters in the Hungry Shark video game franchise. The book was the subject of a blog post on the Scholastic blog, as well as a post on the Ubisoft blog. (The Hungry Shark games are developed and published by Future Games of London and Ubisoft.)

And now that you’ve made it through the gauntlet of my announcements, I shall reward you with a humiliating anecdote. However, this anecdote will not involve my writing career. No, this anecdote is from before I even had a career. This anecdote comes from my childhood! (Ooo, spooky, right?) And it has to do with Batman, so it’s relevant to the “Batman at 80” theme of this post! Anyway, here goes…

1989 was Batman’s 50th anniversary. That’s why the first Tim Burton Batman movie was released in June of that year. But at the beginning of 1989, a TON of Bat-merchandise was unleashed upon the general public, in anticipation of the film.

Guess who bought as much of that merch as humanly possible? Guess who bought as much of that wearable merch as humanly possible? Oh, it was me, dear reader. It was me.

Allow me to elaborate: One day (in 1989), I showed up to school wearing ALL of the following:

  • A Batman baseball cap
  • A Batman sweatshirt
  • A Batman T-shirt, worn UNDER the sweatshirt *
  • A Batman belt
  • Batman socks
  • Batman shoes
  • A Batman doll **

* See, just in case I had to remove the sweatshirt, I still wanted to show that I was an enormous Batman geek. Hence, the T-shirt.

** Okay, you can’t really WEAR a doll. But I gripped the doll tightly in one hand, signifying that it was part of the ensemble.

Yes, I showed up to school wearing all of that…stuff. And since the Batman sweatshirt was black, and so was the baseball cap, and so were the shoes and socks, I also wore black pants. They weren’t black BATMAN pants, but I’m pretty sure I was just hoping that I could somehow WILL them into being Officially Licensed Batman Pants.

How did I show up to school like that and not get endlessly bullied?

I mean, I DID get bullied, sort of, in that people walked up to me, their eyes bulged, and they exclaimed “Wow.” Then they got their friends, showed THEM what I was wearing, and their friends ALSO said, “Wow.” So I became the freak of the day, a sideshow-style curiosity that my fellow students could use to brighten up their otherwise dreary lives. Yay for them!

And it’s not like I didn’t bring it upon myself. If you drive an ice cream truck and you drive by a school, the kids are going to shout, “Hey, ice cream!” If you dress like a weirdo and walk through a school the kids are going to shout, “Hey, weirdo!”

That’s what I get for dressing up like the world’s shortest Batman movie poster. And as I’m typing this, I’m realizing that this probably also explains my present-day reluctance to wear any item of clothing that has a fictional character – or a logo advertising a fictional character – emblazoned on it. It’s a rule I have. I don’t wear clothes that turn me into a walking billboard.

But I’m trying to break that rule, especially when sticking to said rule hurts other people’s feelings. For example, as I sit here typing this blog post, I’m wearing a Star Wars T-shirt which has a picture of Han Solo and Chewbacca on it. Laid over that image is a page from the Star Wars screenplay. My wife bought that for me. Since I’m a writer, and I’ve worked on a few Star Wars-related projects, she thought I’d like it.

And I do. If I didn’t wear it, she would be upset by that. But what about my rule?

I mean…

I guess I can break it, just this once…

Right?

Are You Arie Kaplan? The Comic Book Writer?

7/12/19

I know, I know, you want me to tell you an anecdote from my writing career, like I did last time. And I shall! But first, here are some announcements:

I wrote a Tales from Wild Space backup story that appears in Star Wars Adventures #23, which is out now from IDW Publishing. The story, titled “Majordomo, Major Problems,” is about Jabba the Hutt’s majordomo, butler, and consigliere Bib Fortuna. Specifically, it’s about how overworked and overwhelmed Bib starts to feel after tending to Jabba’s every whim on a daily basis. I should also mention that “Majordomo” is illustrated by Drew Moss, who is a phenomenal artist.

But don’t take my word for it; just check out this variant cover by Drew Moss, depicting a scene from the story.

Here’s a glowing review from the Jedi News site. The reviewer observed that there were parallels between Bib taking care of Jabba and a parent taking care of a child. Was “Majordomo” – at least partially – inspired by my life as a parent? What do you think? (Yes. Yes it was.)  

And if you’ll be at San Diego Comic Con next week, you should know that I’ll be signing copies of Star Wars Adventures #23 at at SDCC from 2-3pm on Fri July 19th, at the IDW booth #2729. You can see the full schedule of IDW’s signings here

Elsewhere at San Diego Comic Con, I’ll be appearing on a panel discussion celebrating E.C. Comics’s 75th anniversary. The panel will be happening at 6:30pm on Friday July 19th. The other panelists will be Grant Geissman (The Wonderful, Horrible EC Comics Book) 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). Danny is the Walter White to my Jesse Pinkman, the Galactus to my Silver Surfer, 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.

This panel should be quite a bit of fun. 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.

In non-San Diego Comic Con-related news, I recently wrote the children’s book Hungry Shark: The Official Shark-Tastic Guide. It’s a guide to all of the wild and wacky sharks in the Hungry Shark video game franchise. Here’s an interview for the website SciFi Pulse about both the Hungry Shark book and my Star Wars Adventures story.

And now for the moment you’ve quite possibly been waiting for: a story from my writing career:

In the year 2011, I was a guest speaker at the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland. It was my second year in a row appearing at the festival, and I gave a series of talks on comic book history, animation history, and various other topics. A camera crew from the festival followed me around a little bit, asking me questions and using the resulting footage to help promote the festival.

At one point, a little old man saw me being interviewed by the camera crew and tapped me on the shoulder. It turned out he was a tourist from England, visiting the festival. “Excuse me,” he began, “Are you Arie Kaplan, the comic book writer?” “That’s right,” I nodded. “Well,” he sniffed imperiously, “Some of us speak proper English.” Then he just turned away like it was nothing, and began talking to the camera crew.

I was really annoyed by his sense of entitlement and tried tapping HIM on the shoulder. “Excuse me, did you really just say that to me?” I asked him a little too loudly. But he ignored me and just kept yammering on about – oh I don’t know, I’m gonna say “the metric system” – and I gave up and went on my way. I guess in the end, he really showed me, the guy who was born in the wrong country, the guy what can’t tawk right. Who the hell do I think I am, anyway, speaking English without a British accent?

Oh well.

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