A Station Eight Fan Web Site
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This won't mean much to folks who aren't living in the Minneapolis area, but KFAI 90.3/106.7 will be serializing the AudioPlay version of RAIN OF THE GHOSTS across five consecutive Sundays, starting at 9:30pm on August 5th, 2018 on their Sound Affects weekly broadcast. There's more info about the broadcast here: http://www.greatnorthernaudio.com/sound_affects/schedule.html or here: http://www.kfai.org/soundaffectsaradioplayground. By clicking on the KFI website's "LISTEN NOW" button at the appropriate date and time, you can hear the Rain AudioPlay from pretty much anywhere with internet or WiFi.
I want to thank Jerry Stearns for making this happen.
For those of you asking... "AudioPlay? Rain of the Ghosts? What the heck is he talking about?" Here's a blurb:
Rain of the Ghosts
The adventures of Rain Cacique, a young girl descended from the indigenous TaÃno people of the Caribbean. Rain lives on the Ghost Keys, a chain of islands on the edge of the Bermuda Triangle, where her parents own and run a Bed & Breakfast that is both Rainâs home and place of employment. Rain goes from making beds for tourists to learning she has the ability to communicate with ghosts. Rain has a mystery to solve, a mission to accomplish and a destiny to fulfill. Book written by Greg Weisman, who also produced this audio play. Twenty actors in the cast, including Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, and Edward Asner, with Brittany Uomoleale as Rain Cacique. Full sound effects and an original musical score.
If you're interested in hearing this at your own pace on your own schedule, it's available on Audible/Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Rain-of-the-Ghosts/dp/B01MU5XQ06/ref=sr_1_1_twi_audd_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1532394865&sr=8-1&keywords=rain+of+the+ghosts
I'm truly proud of this work and urge you to check it out - one way or another.
Rest in Peace, Steven Bochco.
I met Mr. Bochco only once. My brother and I were planning to write a book about Hill Street Blues, and after interviewing Grant Tinker, I interviewed Mr. Bochco for the book. Producing Gargoyles got in the way of finishing the research for the book, and unfortunately I never got back to it. But I enjoyed our conversation, and I still ADORE the man's work.
Hill Street Blues remains television's turning point. Few of the series you enjoy today, including #YoungJustice, #Gargoyles, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, etc. could or would exist without Hill Street Blues.
He will be missed.
Here's my schedule for Grand Rapids Comic-Con this weekend:
GRAND RAPIDS COMIC-CON - DeVos Place
187 Monroe Avenue NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2016
*02:00pm - 05:30pm - I'll be at Booth 017 . All signatures and selfies are free, but I will - as usual - be selling all sorts of fun stuff. I'm bringing 40 animation and radio play scripts from the many shows I've worked on (including - but not limited to - Gargoyles, WITCH, Kim Possible, Young Justice, Young Justice Invasion, Spectacular Spider-Man, Star Wars Rebels, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers Prime, Ben Ten, Transformers Rescue-Bots, Shimmer & Shine, Men in Black, Starship Troopers, Team Atlantis, etc). I'm also selling Christopher Jones art prints for Gargoyles, Young Justice and Rain of the Ghosts. I'm selling my three published novels: Rain of the Ghosts, Spirits of Ash and Foam, and World of Warcraft: Traveler. And I'm selling the Rain of the Ghosts Audio-Play. The novels are ten dollars each. Everything else is $20 each. Cash only. Artist Mara Cordova will also be at my booth, helping out and selling her wonderful stuff too.
*06:00pm - 07:00pm - Television Production and Its Challenges. Monroe Rooms A-D w/Brandon Vietti . "Two of the most prominent television producers in animation today whose work includes "Gargoyles", "The Batman", and "Young Justice" will discuss the roles and challenges of their career as well as upcoming projects.
*07:15pm - 08:00pm - Booth 017. Signing & selling.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2016
*10:00am - 12:45pm - Booth 017. Signing & selling.
*02:00pm - 03:00pm - The Science of Shipping. Grand Gallery E-F w/Comfort & Adam, Thom Zahler. ""Shipping" is when a fan imagines possible romantic relationships between two characters in a story. Shipping is big, but why do we do it? Join husband and wife comic creators Comfort and Adam and special guests Greg Weisman and Thom Zahler as we talk about all the reasons we love our ships; from biological drivers to emotional and intellectual hooks, from the vast history of literary fiction to the present day. But that's not all! In the second half, panelists and audience will be creating a new couple that Comfort and Adam will draw live!"
*03:30pm - 04:30pm - Transferring Comics To The Screen and Vice Versa. Grand Gallery E-F w/Christopher Jones, Jason Spisak, Brandon Vietti. "Directors, producers, comic artists and voice actors discuss the challenges of taking a comic book and transferring it to a television show or movie and the expectations that fans have in this delicate and complicated process."
*04:45pm - 07:00pm - Booth 017. Signing & selling.
*07:30pm - VIP PARTY - Atrium Ballroom.
Stop by and say hello. (If we've met before, please reintroduce yourself. I'm horrible with names AND faces, but I mean well.)
Just a quick plug for the MYTHIC LEGIONS comic book I wrote based on the toys from the Four Horsemen: http://www.newsarama.com/33096-greg-weisman-brings-mythic-legions-to-life.html
Just a few words about Miguel Ferrer, who passed away yesterday. I won't pretend I knew him very well, but he was always a pleasure to have in the booth. He was the voice of Silvio "Silvermane" Manfredi on The Spectacular Spider-Man, and Bo "Bibbo" Bibbowski and Tribune #1 on Young Justice.
Did I forget anything? Oh, yes. His brilliant portrayal of Vandal Savage in Young Justice, making him one of the most interesting and complex hero/villains I've ever had the pleasure of working on.
His talent - both in material I was involved in and in the many, many things I simply watched as a fan - was immense.
He will be missed.