Creating in COVID-19 Times

In these uncertain times, I know that I’ve started to automatically tune out anything that begins with those four words: “In these uncertain times”, so please forgive me. COVID-19 turned the world upside down for over six months and counting as of this writing. Everyone’s plans for 2020 were postponed in an effort to social distance and flatten the curve. Meanwhile, I’m over here– as Ted Kendrick and Artificial Ink Creative– still looking towards a creative future, keeping my head down, trying not to cause too much trouble, and use the pause from the pandemic to write and create as much as possible while the free time has presented itself.

Participating in the Producer’s panel for AVLFilm.com‘s February 2020 mixer was one of the last normal things that I did this year, and it was definitely a privilege to chat about the film production process alongside James Suttles of The Asheville Studio and SuttleFilm, and Jennifer Trudrung of Night Frizz Productions. I was booked to work as a Production Coordinator on a TV web-series that was scheduled for production from May to July 2020, but postponed until 2021 because of the pandemic, and while I’m still welcome to the position, I am unsure as to what 2021 has in store for me. In any case, I took the time to be certified by Safe Sets International in their COVID-19 (Level A) training for the film and video production industry in preparation for the inevitable and eventual return to set.

Some projects were still possible to undertake in pandemic times. For example, during the summer, I collaborated with my brother Joe Kendrick to create an informational video for my father’s law firm NWKT in Birmingham, Alabama, which featured firm partner William McKenzie, to assist plaintiffs in their COVID-19 legal strategies. We captured the video in the mock courtroom as you can see in the behind-the-scenes image embedded below. Other blog posts have shared details on the work that I did for the Watchtower Database around the same time as well.

What I saw at the beginning of 2020 as a devastating blow to my routine, being laid off my day job in early January after the entire office was shut down in order to outsource work from another city, actually turned out to be somewhat of a saving grace. Otherwise I may not have been as easily eligible to receive financial aid in unemployment insurance, which kept me afloat while I turned my attention towards writing and developing multiple projects, including five short film scripts written in collaboration with Rome Widenhouse such as the long-teased THE REPLICA RAID III, and some I have not mentioned on the blog before: sci-fi shorts 4SIGHT and A DRIVE-THROUGH WINDOW TO THE MULTIVERSE, as well as surreal horror shorts AUTOTOMY and THRESHOLD. I’ve also dipped back into songwriting and music recording, an art that I used to focus on more prolifically, in early production on a potential outdoors comedy web-series, and in development on a comic book passion project, the psychedelic noir romance ADDITIVITY. Keep an eye on this blog and follow @artificial.ink.creative on social media for updates.

WDb on TWITCH!

Watchtower Database is streaming weekly on Twitch! James Strecker spends every Tuesday reading an issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES and taking detailed notes, every Wednesday involves myself attempting to blind play some DC Animated Universe related video game for the first time, and Thursday features Mattie Washburn, currently reading through the novelization of BATMAN: RISE OF SIN TZU. You can stream for free on Twitch, either live or later in the archive collections which are embedded below. Subscribe on the Twitch channel or follow @dcauwatchtower across social media so you don’t miss any reminder posts.

I will be first to admit, it took me a few weeks to figure out how to best facilitate the stream. My laptop is eight years old and could barely handle streaming and video game softwares simultaneously, but I upgraded my hardware for more powerful processing, purchased a wireless controller, and slowly but surely learned how to best manage the lifestream. Some of the first few videos playing through BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES on Game Boy were a little wonky, but I got the hang of it eventually, and now it’s become something that I greatly enjoy.

Once I completed that game over six episode installments, I played SUPERMAN, also for Game Boy, which I beat over an hour and a half in a single session, though I won’t ignore that I had to use cheat codes in order to stay alive to the end. The game was based on SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and released in 1997 just before Game Boy upgraded in quality, so the gameplay doesn’t totally hold up, but certainly not as terrible as the infamous SUPERMAN 64 video game for Nintendo 64. I’m sure viewers got a kick out of me stumbling my way through it anyway.

I moved on to BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER for Game Boy Color next, and beat the game after two sessions with no cheat codes! I found that this was the easiest out of all the games so far. If I died, I could respawn with all three lives and full health out of the last door that I had entered, so it was simple to pick up wherever I left off. Interestingly, the game did not completely follow the same events as the animated feature film that it was adapted from, including various scenes that never happened like Batman Beyond fighting through the Arkham Asylum ruins, and glancing over the death of the Joker, a flashback event that was depicted differently in both the traditional and uncut releases of the film.

Next on the lineup, I plan to tackle THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN & ROBIN on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (aka SNES). I played this game when I was a child, so I’m looking forward to returning to it again. THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN & ROBIN was also released on SEGA CD, SEGA Genesis, and Game Gear, which were all slightly different in plot and design, so I’ll be working my way through each of them in time, but alternating with other DCAU games so the extensive BATMAN & ROBIN comparison content doesn’t eventually become confusing. You’ll just have to see for yourself, every Wednesday at 12pm PT / 3pm ET for the foreseeable future only on the Watchtower Database Twitch channel!

Update on the WATCHTOWER DATABASE

The Watchtower Database continues to grow and evolve! Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, we’ve been lucky to continue creating steady content, and a lot of that energy and excitement goes to my channel cohorts James Strecker and Mattie Washburn. Bi-weekly coverage on BATMAN: THE ADVENTURES CONTINUE digital comic book series by Paul Dini, Alan Burnett and Ty Templeton has provided a consistent topic for coverage, and time in the zeitgeist for this niche fandom.

In light of the “12th Level Intellects” podcast, we have also conducted interviews with various creatives who worked on DC Comics animated series, such as writer Eric Carrasco and director Sam Liu from JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. FATAL FIVE feature film, as well as director Dan Riba who worked on animated series like BATMAN, SUPERMAN, BATMAN BEYOND, STATIC SHOCK, and JUSTICE LEAGUE. Such an incredible opportunity to discuss the craft with these cartoonists, and we’ve got even more on the way. The Dan Riba video was only part one of three, and we also spoke with writer Randy Rogel about his work on BATMAN and ANIMANIACS.

Aside from interviews, I also worked on several other videos, particularly a preliminary reading list for BATMAN: THE ADVENTURES CONTINUE where I compiled various books that Paul Dini and Ty Templeton had worked on in the animated DC Universe, and was joined by Owen Likes Comics who handled the latter half of the video where he revealed some of the mainstream Batman comics that featured characters like Deathstroke, Azrael, and Jason Tood who were set to appear in the DCAU for the first time in BATMAN: THE ADVENTURES CONTINUE.

Near the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the Watchtower Database participated in the first At Home Comic Con. We spearheaded a panel with guests Chris Lord and Cameron Dexter from the Timm Talk podcast where we read through the script for THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES episode “Legends of the Dark Knight.” I was the voice of classic chummy Batman, Mattie was an excellent Joker, James Strecker was an A+ narrator, and the Timm Talk fellas were pretty funny too. At Home Comic Con was organized by Comic Drake, Matt Draper, and Owen Likes Comics, and featured many other prominent comics based YouTube channels, some you may even know yourself. I don’t know what you watch on the internet.

My most recent video essay was all about Batman and Superman aka the “World’s Finest.” I wrote a gigantic script tracing all of the team-ups between the two superheroes throughout the DC Animated Universe before their more regular meetings in the JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoon, which casual fans will recall was only three or four episodes, but I found many more obscure moments to relate.

Watchtower Database shares weekly free videos every Sunday on YouTube, but available earlier for supporters on Patreon. We have also started live streaming weekly on Twitch where every Tuesday, James Strecker reads an issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES to determine its canonicity with the animated series, every Wednesday is a live video game played by me (usually for the first time, so it can be funny feeling it out in front of an audience), and Thursdays with Mattie Washburn, currently working through a reading of the BATMAN: RISE OF SIN TZU video game novelization. Good times are happening on the Twitch channel these days.

I have more video essays in the works right now; the history of Wonder Woman in the DCAU and the long road before her appearance on JUSTICE LEAGUE (timed to coincide with the release of WONDER WOMAN 84 in October), also an essay on director Tim Burton’s early influence and involvement on BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, another “Casting Call” episode spotlighting various voice actors in the DCAU on Elfrem Zimbalist Jr. who played Alfred and Tara Strong who has voiced Batgirl and Harley Quinn, and speculation on what the “Rann/Thanagar War” might have looked like in the DCAU, all leading up to a big livestream event to celebrate the channel’s five year anniversary on September 17th. Be sure to follow @dcauwatchtower on social media so you don’t miss that announcement and more!

WATCHTOWER DATABASE video essays

Since the conclusion of GRAPHIC CONTENT, and continued brainstorming before the relaunch of the 12TH LEVEL INTELLECTS podcast, I’ve been creating random video essays for the WATCHTOWER DATABASE. Most recently, I focused on voice actor Mark Hamill, who played various characters in DC Animation like Solomon Grundy, the Trickster, Swamp Thing, and most notably, The Joker from BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. This video might read a bit like an audible IMDb page, but that’s exactly the purpose behind WDb’s CASTING CALL series which spotlights various voice actors who have participated in the DC Animated Universe.

I also lent my voice to a recurring character called Dr. ManHatTed, an amalgam of WATCHMEN’s Dr. Manhattan and the Mr. Nobody villain from DOOM PATROL, who has been interfering in the cosmic construction of the WATCHTOWER DATABASE video continuity in an extensive story that began with Mattie Washburn’s missing chair, and made its way into the chaotic rant that is the following video. Naturally, the character is a man, myself Ted, wearing a hat, with a deep voice modulation.

Lastly, I also recently wrote the script, and narrated the below video essay spotlighting characters from the traditional JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, a superhero team made up of magical characters that take on cases too mysterious or disturbing for the primary Justice League to handle. Since the JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK did not premiere until 2011, and the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED cartoon wrapped in 2004, the team was never showcased in the DC Animated Universe (DCAU), though many of its members, such as Zatanna, Etrigan, and Deadman appeared in multiple episodes, and the team received their own animated feature film in 2017 as part of the DC Animated Movie Universe (DCAMU) continuity.

GRAPHIC CONTENT conclusion

My comic book and graphic novel review show GRAPHIC CONTENT has officially come to a close after its 26th and final episode, which fulfills a complete biweekly year long run on the Watchtower Database YouTube channel. The following episodes showcase creator owned original series like UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY and NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT, an independent graphic novel by Jeff Lemire titled FROGCATCHERS, and Batman focused comics like THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS written by Scott Snyder with art by Jock, and THE BATMAN ADVENTURES HOLIDAY SPECIAL by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Glen Murakami. The first two episodes immediately below were also filmed at a friends’ house in front of an extensive collection of DC Comics Archives editions which made a great backdrop.

The last few episodes focused on books like GREEN LANTERN: BLACKSTARS which was an interlude mini-series before the launch of GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO by Grant Morrison, then the first of an original graphic novel series from Image Comics titled NOVEMBER written by Matt Fraction with art by Elsa Charretier, Gail Simone’s run on BIRDS OF PREY that inspired the film adaptation which featured Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn (and my episode coincided with the film release date), the MARTIAN MANHUNTER origin retelling mini-series written by Steve Orlando with art by Riley Rossmo, and ended with an episode on MAGE by Matt Wagner who wrote and illustrated the Image Comics series over several decades.

I’ve been lucky to have a forum to share my appreciation and speculation regarding what books I have been following, and grateful for the thousands of people who tuned in each episode to watch my take. Despite some experience in podcasting, being a talking head and internet personality took some adjusting for me, and even then I didn’t always correctly set the video focus or sound levels, but I grew and enjoyed the endeavor nonetheless, and look forward to continuing to produce content for the Watchtower Database. Catch me chatting with James Strecker and Mattie Washburn in the reboot of the 13TH LEVEL INTELLECTS podcast, and read my work in upcoming issues of the LEGACIES OF THE DCAU webcomic.

GRAPHIC CONTENT catch up

My GRAPHIC CONTENT comic book review show has continued steadily with its biweekly schedule, consistently earning between 1k to 5k views on the Watchtower Database YouTube channel. Plans are underway to wrap up and reformat either by the end of the year or around February 2020 which would mark the one year anniversary. The following episodes cover DC Comics’ 2019 crossover events such as “Year of the Villain” which touched nearly every book in the DCU and “Event Leviathan” which primarily occurred within the Superman books. I also fell deep into the “Black Hammer” universe crafted by Jeff Lemire for Dark Horse Comics.

The next few episodes took a look at the “Batman: Kings of Fear” mini-series which reunited the 90s Batman comics team of writer Scott Peterson and artist Kelley Jones. I had the pleasure of interviewing Peterson at a separate occasion for his work as an editor on “The Batman Adventures”. I also reviewed the popular new “Once and Future” book by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Dan Mora for BOOM! Studios, and lastly the DC: Rebirth iteration of “Batman Beyond” by Dan Jurgens.

Graphic Content (Cont’d)

Graphic Content is the comic book and graphic novel review show hosted by myself, Ted Kendrick. New episodes are released on the Watchtower Database over a consistent biweekly schedule every other Wednesday. Although I’m still feeling out the format and my comfortability behind camera, I’ve truly enjoyed sharing the books and series that I’m reading with the near 40,000 channel subscribers at the time of this writing. The following few episodes were all released over the last four months, and primarily feature DC Comics’ characters such as Batman, the Flash, and Young Justice, with the occasional focus on more original characters.

The above episodes take an introspective on the recent Batman and Flash crossover “The Price” which tied-in with the HEROES IN CRISIS mini-series. YOUNG JUSTICE was rebooted with the original team by writer Brian Michael Bendis, the Arkham Knight character spun out of the video game into the pages of Detective Comics #1000, and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt received a WATCHMEN inspired reimagining by Dynamite Entertainment. The below episodes focus on DC Comics’ zombie horror event DCEASED, the beautifully painted MARVELS by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, and two Vertigo Comics classics in Frank Miller’s seminal early work RONIN and Grant Morrison’s counter culture cult hit THE INVISIBLES.

12th Level Intellects: Mar-June ’19

12th Level Intellects— the geek news podcast co-hosted by myself, Ted Kendrick, and James Strecker– is continuing steadily forward on its bi-weekly schedule with the Watchtower Database, available for listen on Apple, YouTube, and several other podcast platforms. Ironically for this batch of episodes, we lived in a world where superhero cinema received two Captain Marvel movies in one month; the Marvel Studios entry with Brie Larson and DC Entertainment’s SHAZAM!, though the character stopped using the name Captain Marvel within the last decade.

We took a swerve in topic to discuss the launch of GAME OF THRONES season 8 with my friend and GOT expert John Morse, which ended up getting one of the lowest listening counts in the podcast’s history. I suppose the audience didn’t transfer into wanting to hear us talk about GAME OF THRONES. The rest of the world didn’t seem satisfied with how season 8 ultimately played out either. After that flop of an episode, we stuck to discussing AVENGERS: ENDGAME and going through THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES episodes like the fanbase truly wants.

X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX was the final chapter in FOX’s X-MEN franchise after its acquisition by Disney, the film landed with a more expensive flop after an attempt to recreate the same storyline from X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, regarded by many to be the worst installment of the series. On a more positive note, 12th Level Intellects tried its first livestream video podcast, which went pretty well after about 15 minutes of technical difficulties, to chat about the release of the latest LEGACIES OF THE DCAU webcomic issue, “Anno Domini: Prebirth”, the first installment of stories set specifically in the canonical year of 2019 in the DCAU.

LEGACIES Special // “Prebirth”

LEGACIES OF THE DCAU returns for a special six-pager entitled “Anno Domini: Prebirth”. Anno Domini means “the year of our lord” in Latin, which informs the AD in our society’s current calendar listing. The issue was released on June 21st, 2019, which the Watchtower Database team deduced was the exact canonical date that Bruce Wayne retires from being Batman based on a BATMAN BEYOND promotional comic issue retelling the events of the cartoon’s premiere episode “Rebirth, Part 1.” The issue was pencilled by Marcelo Millicay with the cover art by Rick Celis.

“Prebirth” occurs prior to the opening scene in BATMAN BEYOND’s first episode, and reveals what Bruce Wayne was doing mere hours before his final night as Batman. Between appearances by Jim Gordon, Veronica Vreeland, and Derek Powers, the issue is ripe with Gothamites whose stories could use a little more fleshing out before the beginning of BATMAN BEYOND. The issue was an absolute pleasure for me to write, and can be read online in its entirety at the link below.

Click the cover to read “Anno Domini: Prebirth”!

This particular issue of LEGACIES had various coloring duties shared by James Strecker and Mark Daniel Martinez, lettering by myself which insures my script stays in tact, with story editing input from James Strecker and Mattie Washburn. The promo video also featured music by Adam Mullen. “Anno Domini” is the overarching title given to special issues set within the year 2019. Provided all goes to plan, expect more chapters within the “Anno Domini” arc before the year is up.

Watchtower Database at ECCC ’19

The Watchtower Database met in Seattle during Emerald City Comic Con which occurred from March 14th through the 17th. The production team involves myself Ted Kendrick, James Strecker, and Mattie Washburn. Our YouTube channel is known for its video content such as the DCAU video essays, “Vanishing Point” timeline analysis show, “12th Level Intellects” podcast, “Legacies of the DCAU” webcomic, and “Graphic Content” comic book recommendation series.

We managed to conduct several interviews with writers and artists who were all loosely creatively involved in some capacity with the DC Animated Universe, the shared world and continuity that includes the likes of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, JUSTICE LEAUGE UNLIMITED, and STATIC SHOCK. We made connections with Will Friedle who provided the voice of Terry McGinnis, the hero of BATMAN BEYOND, which should lead to an exciting upcoming interview. Stayed tuned.

The gathering was a productive and celebratory experience, essentially a creative summit for the content creators. My wallet whined after an excessive stack of signed comics, but my heart was full from a super-charged weekend with cherished collaborators. Our series of interview videos from the convention floor are available to view on the Watchtower Database channel and embedded below.

Mattie Washburn and I met previously when he visited Asheville while based out of Savannah, Georgia at the time. He recently moved to Seattle, Washington, and served as the home base while we all met at the convention. James Strecker, who lives near Portland, Oregon, and I had never met in person before, despite being podcast co-hosts, artistic collaborators on the LEGACIES webcomic, and longtime internet friends from a history of shared comic book message boards. It was apparently a moment to document, and I recorded the video vertically like a jerk.