Over the last few months, on every Wednesday afternoon, I’ve maintained a column called COMIC RELIEF where I recommend comics and graphic novels I’ve enjoyed over the years. The segment was originally posted to the LEGACIES OF THE DCAU Facebook page of which I was a curator, though the page has now been taken offline due to low traffic.
COMIC RELIEF will instead accompany the WATCHTOWER DATABASE social media outlets starting at the end of November and will post every Wednesday, the same day new comics arrive at local stores. I intend to mix old reviews with the new, sharing all in a more visual aesthetic rather than the plain text I used before.
I’m excited for a continuing platform to share some of my favorite books from an ever expanding medium. Be sure to hit ‘like’ on the WATCHTOWER DATABASE Facebook page so you don’t miss each weekly update of COMIC RELIEF!
Over the last few months, I’ve been involved in the development of the CircUS Party 2020 campaign, a mockumentary web series in the style of BORAT and THE OFFICE that will bring the political circus out of Washington and back into the classic setting of the Big Top. The CircUS Party just launched their crowdfunding campaign and are seeking initial funds to produce the pilot episode.
If financed, I would likely continue to assist in the development of the web series by writing and producing. I also ran sound during the production of the Teaser Trailer below and make a brief cameo doing as much in the second video.
The CircUS Party web series is the brainchild of Creatrix Iz Web, a member of the original CircUS Party, Head of Development at Social Construct Films, and Ringmistress of Clan Destiny Circus as well as an experienced acrobatic dancer and aerialist. Iz and I have worked together at Social Construct Films for a few years now and it’s been a lot of fun to watch this concept grow into fruition.
With over 1,000 card-carrying members (most of whom joined at Bonnaroo during the 2012 live tour), the CircUS Party already has a huge online community to facilitate participation in the web-series and prompted organized civic action. Though not an actual political party, the CircUS Party reserves the right to become one at some point and make the run for the White House, or a more localized level of government, similar to comedian Stephen Colbert’s presidential campaign in 2008 where he only ran in the South Carolina primaries.
VIREALTY is a feature film by James Strecker, a filmmaker from Eugene, Oregon who produces a comedy sketch channel on YouTube called JTS Entertainment. The film stars actors James Strecker, Nicholas Rylands, Joe Scott, Jon Freeman, Scott Steele, and Will Violette with an original soundtrack scored by Adam Mullen of Musica Atomica.
VIREALITY is intended to be the culmination of every video James has uploaded to his channel over the last six years, bringing together all of the characters from his various skits in a parallel universe shattering epic. In fact, that all becomes a part of the plot when James himself discovers his YouTube content actually exists in its own plane of reality, though under siege by the evil warlord Goo’ghal, a not so sly commentary on the overreach of a certain tech company.
I provided edits for VIREALITY shortly after the first draft was completed and left enough fingerprints behind to earn myself a Co-Writer credit. VIREALITY probably went through four major edits or so with James and I trading PDFs back and forth with comments as we do with additional feedback and suggestions from Micah Dugan, Jon Freeman, and Will Violette.
An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign was launched a few months later where James secured a little over $1,500 for financing out of a $6,000 goal, so roughly a quarter of the desired budget. James is gearing up for production on the CGI heavy segment that takes places in the digital world of “The Tube” and is still welcoming donations on his personal website.
Half of the film, which takes places in the “real world,” was shot last year over two weeks in Oregon. The actors in this segment were playing themselves, all recurring talent from previous videos by JTS Entertainment. These scenes are well into post-production with the more expensive and intricate segments of VIREALITY set in the digital world of “The Tube” prepped for 2017.
During my senior year of high school in Homewood, Alabama, I was a member in a folk rock band called EMPTY HANDS, inspired by musical acts such as Bright Eyes, Wild Sweet Orange, and the Great Book of John, just to name a few.
EMPTY HANDS was comprised of frontman Trevor Litsey (Vocals / Guitar), C.W. Newell (Lead Guitar), myself (Bass) and Will Johnston (Drums) with rotating backup vocalists Molly Byrom, Lesley Wildes, Lily Womble, and Chelsey Whild.
From 2009 to 2010, we played a handful of shows including The Peerless Saloon in Anniston, Alabama which was the oldest saloon in the state, the Magic City Art Connection in Birmingham where we played right after Kate Taylor of Dead Fingers, and the Homewood Holiday Open House on the corner of 18th street.
Listen to our homemade album, with some songs produced by Ron Dometrovich, embedded below via NoiseTrade. I can safely say that the band’s unanimous favorite was track 11, “Utah” which truly still holds up as a damn good tune.
I recently reunited with the crew responsible for UPSTAGED, our entry in the Asheville 48 Hour Film Festival, on a new short film I’ll call Project Burglary for now. The story involves an art thief who finds himself in a surreal, Sci-Fi situation, which is played to its full effect using extreme dutch angles, the black and white aesthetic, and artificial sound via foley.
Project Burglarly starred actor Jeff Ryan Alexander (The Inspectors / Transplanting / Office Christmas Party) with John Duper Morse as his body double and crew including myself (Director), Rome Widenhouse (Director of Photography), Madeleine Richardson (1st AD), Cat Wityk (Script Supervisor), and Brittany Jackson (Gaffer). The short was shot on Monday 9/26 in the living room of the Widenhouse residence in Woodfin, NC.
I adapted this piece from a project I shot for a class at UNC Asheville in 2011 and chose to revisit the concept since the previous version was never completed. The cameraman mixed up the recording button, so every time he thought we were rolling, he was actually cutting. We were left with footage involving the set up of each shot with the camera shutting off as soon as I said “Action!” Luckily I was able to recycle the footage for a documentary about the failed project later that semester.
Revisiting the concept five years later proved to go exponentially more smoothly as I was joined by much capable filmmakers. I wrote roughly three new drafts of the 2-page script after important creative feedback from Rome and Cat, incorporating more unifying moments and symbolism, including a painting of the Ouroboros created by Rome Widenhouse, which you can see getting destroyed in the Instagram video below.
Project Burglary has now entered post-production, edited by Madeleine Richardson. After picture lock, we will begin to create the foley sounds and ambient soundtrack. Expect an announcement with Project Burglary’s official title and its accompanying plans for release by the end of the year.
I recorded the narration on this video last year for WDb, looking back on the history, design, and functionality of Batman’s costumes throughout animated television. WDb is short for the WATCHTOWER DATABASE, a YouTube variety channel regarding all things DC Animated Universe, which was a series of interlocking cartoons starting with the Emmy award winning BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES.
The video below was one of the first I contributed to the channel, so the sound quality isn’t as solid as I would prefer. Fortunately webmaster James Strecker’s editing skills are so natural and engaging, he could have substituted my voice with the sound of a lawnmower and still retained interest. All self deprecation aside, it actually is a pretty cool video and at the time of this post, at least 4,250 other people seem to agree. 102 of them even felt the need to thumbs up… not that life should be measured by your number of Likes, of course.
I’ve been in development on a horror anthology comic series over the last few months. Keeping it close to the chest, so let’s just call it Project Gloom for now.
I have gravitated towards the horror genre off and on for years. I checked out collections of horror stories from the library in 3rd grade. Middle school was a fascination with Japanese horror like THE GRUDGE, Edgar Wright’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD played on repeat in high school, but I kept revisiting DONNIE DARKO again over all else. I guess I like my horror to have a psychological Sci-Fi twist to it. Netflix’s STRANGER THINGS was pretty awesome, right?
Anyway, I’m grateful for Project Gloom since it allows me the opportunity to work with twelve sequential artists on just as many short stories. I’ve found about half of these collaborators so far which gives me plenty to work on in the meantime. One of these artists is Gabriel Fobert, a recent graduate of UNC Asheville’s New Media program. Find his Instagram at @crypt_crow and linked below with a piece of early concept art from our collaborative efforts.
In August, I struck a deal with J. Rutland to assist in the promotion and distribution of his one-shot comic book TRUMP: THE ART OF MISDIRECTION AND CAPITALISM’S AMAZIN’ CHAMPYUN. The book has 24 pages, all written and hand water-colored by the artist, on sale for $5.
TRUMP can be found in various comic shops around the Asheville area, including Comic Envy, Haywood Comics, and three shops I landed through my own persistence: Orbit, Hero Hunter, and Downtown Books & News. I expect J. Rutland may upload the PDF to his personal website in the near future for online viewing once the prints have run their course.
The timing couldn’t have been better because Donald J. Trump himself came through Asheville on Monday 9/12 and spoke at the Civic Center. I would have seized the opportunity to distribute additional copies to unsuspecting Trump supporters if I hadn’t been working, though that was probably for the best. No doubt it was a lion’s den.
I agree with documentary director Michael Moore’s statement earlier this summer, “Satire is what will bring Donald Trump down.” I saw it on full display when naked Trump statues appeared in city centers across the country and when John Oliver’s “Donald Drumpf” episode broke HBO viewing records. Proud to support the cause.
SUB ROSA is the fifth and final short in the dark comedy anthology film UNBECOMING, written and directed by Chris White, produced by Paris MTN Scout. The film was shot on October 7th, 2015 at a beautiful mansion home in Tryon, North Carolina. I helped out on set as a Production Assistant, mainly in the production design and lighting departments.
The film starred notable actors Michael Forest (The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Ronald Reagan cowboy movies) and Patti D’Arbanville (The Sopranos, Law & Order, New York Undercover), both of whom have legendary resumes and were wonderful people to work with, almost as great as the live goat we wrangled into running around the house.
The story involves a retired U.S. senator with a dark secret who claims the CIA would kill him should he ever reveal it. He shares the truth with a frantic farmer who wanders onto his property in search of her goat Maggie.
Over the last year, I’ve been heavily involved with the WATCHTOWER DATABASE, a specialty YouTube channel focused on the DC Animated Universe, a series of interlocking television shows that ran from the early 1990s with BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES to the mid-2000s with JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED. The DC Animated Universe (or DCAU, if you will) is notable for being one of the first major shared universes, a concept only recently made popular by Marvel Studios. The DCAU remains dear in my heart to this day thanks to its mature storytelling, top notch direction, and stellar A-list voice talent.
12TH LEVEL INTELLECTS, a term from the DCAU used to describe some of the smartest people in the universe, is also a series of podcast discussions by myself and webmaster / editor James Strecker where we nitpick certain hot topics from the DCAU. Most of the time, this entails dissecting fan theories. Around the end of July 2016, James and I were joined by Mattie Washburn, who is known for his comprehensive DCAU Timeline Tumblr page, for a special installment of 12TH LEVEL INTELLECTS where we discussed whether the TEEN TITANS animated series belongs in the same universe as the rest of the DCAU.
Despite differences in animation and whatnot, there was evidence on both sides of the argument. Though to be fair, we definitely entered the conversation planning to debunk the theory from the start. The three of us spoke for nearly an hour and a half, yet somehow James was able to dissect 15 minutes of compelling conversation into an interesting and highly informational video. At the time of this post, the discussion has gathered nearly 1000 views over the span of a week. Not too shabby for a such a niche YouTube channel!