“Respect My Craft” – Jimmy Palmiotti

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ “Respect My Craft” articles will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

dcc font

Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con “Respect My Craft” articles

Name: Jimmy Palmiotti

Profession: Comic Book Writer and Inker

Notable Works: Jonah Hex, Power GirlAll-Star Western, Harley QuinnAme-Comi Girls`

“When I write, I treat it like the last time I’ll be writing that. Not having had security before, thinking they’re just going to replace me, that allowed me to appreciate what I’m doing.” – Jimmy Palmiotti (NYCC 2013)


Jimmy Palmiotti grew up in an Italian Catholic household in Brooklyn. Like any rapscallion growing up in the city, Jimmy was drawn to comic books and animation from an early age. His influence didn’t come strictly from comic books. Sure, he enjoyed books like Superman and Fantastic Four, but Jimmy also loved the light-hearted books like ArchieRichie Rich and the “Little Annie Fanny” strips from Playboy. His earliest work came in the form of animated flip book cartoons of his mean teacher getting boned by a horse. It really set precedents for the type of tomfoolery he would show in his work going forward (thankfully, though, not the type of content). Oddly enough, it was the crappy living conditions of comic book artists that made him stray from the business after ghost-inking for Gene Colan Howard the Duck.

jimmy palmiotti and joe quesada

Instead, Jimmy graduated from the New York Technical College with a focus in advertising illustration. He did some work for Pepsi, Maybelline and Bill Gold (poster design for films like Clockwork Orange). He used this professional experience to carry over with him to Marvel, where he began by inking the Men in Black series. Pretty soon, his tendency to output solid work on-time led him to begin inking a variety of books in the Marvel stable, earning him a reputation for catching books up that were behind schedule. He also built connections by inking for other publishers, like Dark Horse’s X series, Valient Press’ Ninjak, and Milestone Media books like Static and Hardware. Jimmy’s career would really take off when he met a young artist named Joe Quesada (a current BFD and Chief Creative Officer at Marvel Entertainment). The duo broke off from Marvel to create their own publishing company, Event Comics, in 1994.

event comics

The mid 90’s was a time for trailblazers in the industry, when many bold creators set out on their own. Event Comics was the birthplace of characters like Ask, Painkiller Jane, 22 Brides, and Kid Death & Fluffy. Event may have closed up shop five years later, but the ride was far from uneventful. Jimmy and Joe had an offer from Dreamworks to create a movie based off Ash, which at the time was pretty much unheard of – which they declined, twice. Their success led them to throw giant industry parties deemed “Marvel Nights.” Their networking led to Event being contracted to create the Marvel Knights imprint. As the industry came into the digital age, Jimmy thought it best to switch it up to writing. Marvel Knights intern Justin Gray became Jimmy’s co-pilot, and the two have co-written books for nearly 20 years, starting with Wildstorm’s The Resistance and 21Down.

jimmy palmiotti power girl

The big acclaim came from the 2005 reboot of the Jonah Hex book. Together, Jimmy and Justin brought back Western comic books and made books fun to read in a one-shot capacity, making it easy to enjoy no matter which issue you picked up. Since his days with Marvel, Palmiotti has played turncoat for DC Comics, and the readers have been the winners. After stints with Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, TerraPower Girl, and the ComiXology-exclusive Ame-Comi Girls, Jimmy came back to Jonah Hex with an original graphic novel, Jonah Hex: No Way Back, in 2010, and led a very successful run of All-Star Western during the early stages of the New52 relaunch. Lately, you can find Jimmy living the dream, writing Harley Quinn stories with his wife, Amanda Connor. Their work relationship isn’t just collaborating on books, though.

jimmy palmiotti and amanda connor

Together, along with Gray and a few others, Jimmy and Amanda created paperfilms.com. Paper Films is a multimedia company that offers “services ranging from world building, screenwriting, intellectual property development, video game development, illustration, editorial experience and much more.” Their resume includes: a Painkiller Jane TV series based off Jimmy’s Event Comics’ creation, Random Acts of Violence, the story for Injustice: Gods Among Us, and several original graphic novels. Thanks to Kickstarter funding, Paper Films has made six original books. Their most recent title is Denver, a science-fiction story about a dystopian future where melting icecaps have flooded the world, leaving the Mile High city as the only city left on Earth. His next Kickstarter project will be called African Odyssey, a series about a time-traveling history professor from Africa’s future.

He is very involved on his own blog and on Twitter, where he often supports Kickstarter campaigns for creator-owned material.


None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties (ComicVine, Stash Bash 1999, TalkingComicBooks).

 

“Respect My Craft” – Karen Gillan

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ “Respect My Craft” articles will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

 

dcc font

Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con “Respect My Craft” articles

 

Name: Karen Gillan

Profession: Actress

Notable WorkDoctor Who, Guardians of the Galaxy, Oculus

“Oh, sci-fi’s been the best to me. I want to continue working in genre stuff because I think it has amazing female roles, and we get to do a range of emotions, comedy and drama.” – Karen Gillan

Karen Gillan came to fame in the US as the ever feisty and amazing Amelia (Amy) Pond, companion to the 11th Doctor. Her part in Doctor Who helped launch her career and now she is a strong actress we can all rejoice to see a lot more of.

Amy-Pond

Karen Gillan was born in Inverness, Scotland in 1987. She knew from a very young age that she wanted to act so she performed in plays at school and joined youth theatre groups, as well as attending the Performing Arts Studio in Scotland and eventually The Italia Conti Academy. In her late teens and early twenties, she began to land roles on British TV shows, including the variety sketch comedy show The Kevin Bishop Show where she was a regular cast member. At age 21, she was cast as The Doctor’s companion, Amy Pond which made her the youngest companion of all time. Gillan spent two years on Doctor Who as Amy Pond and quickly became a fan favorite. She was spunky, smart and strong, and showed that a woman is capable of being a lover and an ass kicker. After she left the show there was no shortage of roles for her. She quickly popped up as a cast member on the Adult Swim show NTSF: SD: SUV, starred in the horror film Oculus, and had her very own prime time sitcom, Selfie. The show was cancelled after a few episodes, but I watched it and trust me, she was the best part. It’s not her fault that yet another incarnation of My Fair Lady was not a success.

guardians-galaxy-nebula-karen-gillan2

Gillan also co-starred in Guardians of the Galaxy as Nebula, which means that we will continue to see her as a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is yet to be revealed how big a part she will play through Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Infinity War 1 & 2 but Nebula does play a significant role in the comics.

KarenGillan-Nebula-1

One of my favorite things about Gillan is that while she is breathtakingly beautiful, she has proven for years that she is so much more than a pretty face. She successfully demonstrates what a dynamic range she has in every project she works on. She made me laugh, cheer for her, and cry my eyes out as Amy Pond. She has also been described as an extremely friendly ball of energy that is a pleasure to be on set with. Seriously, what’s not to like? Don’t believe me? Well check out this video of her and her Doctor Who costars doing their own horrible rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Karen Gillan has made a name for herself in Hollywood as a spirited and dedicated young actress who is extremely gifted and I cannot wait to see where she goes from here.

 


None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties.

“Respect My Craft” – Scott Wilson

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ “Respect My Craft” articles will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

 

dcc font

Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con “Respect My Craft” articles

 

Name: Scott Wilson

Profession: Actor

Notable WorkThe Walking DeadCSI, The Great Gatsby (1974), In Cold Blood, The X-Files, The Last Samurai

“I didn’t expect to live forever. I will remain a fan of the show even when I’m no longer on it. And [Glen Mazzara] said…it’ll either be episode 11 or 12. Eleven comes, I’m alive. Twelve comes, I’m alive. Thirteen comes, I’m alive. So he says look at you, you’re still alive. I said, ‘Yeah. I’m talking to my savior!’” – Scott Wilson

scott wilson hershel greene

Chances are the majority of Scott Wilson fans going to see him at DCC this year came to love him as Hershel Greene on The Walking Dead. There was something so warm and familiar about the character that viewers came to love him just as much as the fictional characters he shared the screen with. While that may be the character with the biggest impact he’s played in recent history, Scott Wilson has been captivating audiences since 1967.

scott wilson in cold blood

Scott Wilson was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1942 and he spent his whole life there unit he hitchhiked out to LA one day on a whim. Wilson was supposed to attend Georgia Southern University and study architecture, but instead met up with some friends in LA and literally drunkenly stumbled into acting. He fell in love with acting and then dedicated five years of his life to studying and perfecting his craft. In 1967, Scott Wilson appeared opposite Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger in The Heat of the Night. That same year, he wowed and terrified audiences as Richard Hickok in In Cold Blood. After that, he continued to grab major roles in many films, including The Great Gatsby, for which he earned great critical acclaim, and The Ninth Configuration, which he received a Golden Globe Nomination for. Along with a thriving movie career, Wilson also made several notable appearances on popular TV shows like The Twilight Zone and The X-Files.

scott wilson great gatsby

There is a noticeable somberness and subtlety to Scott Wilson and all the character’s he plays. He stole the hearts of TWD fans everywhere and even though comic readers knew he had to die, they were still not prepared for his departure. He was the moral compass, and one of the few characters that never let the world he lived in diminish his ability to live, love and forgive. So much more of the love that Hershel encompassed came from the man that Scott Wilson is. He’s been described as wise and extremely kind hearted while also being very serious and thoughtful about every move his character makes – not to mention he’s been married to the same woman for nearly forty years, which is a true statement of genuine character in the Hollywood world.

scott wilson x files

Scott Wilson’s range is all over the map and he nails every aspect of every character he plays. He can play a horrifying cold-blooded killer as well as a loving and wise father with both performances entrancing his audiences. Wilson has worked steadily in Hollywood since the late sixties, always taking roles that excited him and he respected. He never really became a household name, but he acted for all the right reasons. He finds passion in his work and he loves to investigate and learn the characters he brings to life on the screen. He is one of Hollywood’s great characters actors, which may be the best class to be among.

scott wilson hershel greene comic book


None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties.

“Respect My Craft” – Alan Tudyk

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

dcc font

Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con “Respect My Craft” articles

Name:  Alan Tudyk

Profession: Actor, writer, director, below-average carpenter.

Notable Work: Firefly, Serenity, Dollhouse, I, Robot, Dodgeball, Death at a Funeral, Suburgatory, Wreck it Ralph, Big Hero 6, Con Man (coming soon)

“Wash does a lot of this; I land the spaceship and I go ‘Be careful, everybody!’ and then they do these extraordinary things and they come back and I go, ‘Thank God you made it! Strap in, I’m going to fly!’ I do the babysitting job on the spaceship.” – Alan Tudyk (SFX Magazine – 2004)

Alan Tudyk may very well be the funniest guy on TV. Some of my favorite Firefly moments are chalked up to Wash’s gut busting one liners. “If I were unwed, I would take you in a manly fashion.” Every time I see this guy onscreen, I get all giddy, regardless of the role. He’s simply a joy to watch.

Tudyk was born March 16, 1971 in El Paso, Texas but raised in Plano, Texas. He had a brief experience as a stand up comedian but stopped due to an audience member threatening to kill him. Luckily for us, he didn’t give up on acting and studied drama as Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, Texas where he won the Academic Excellence for drama. He briefly attended the prestigious Juilliard conservatory, but dropped out in 1996 without earning a degree. A few years later, Tudyk made his Broadway debut in Epic Proportions in 1999. He would go on to perform in Wonder of the World, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Misalliance, Oedipus and Bunny Bunny. He also filled in for Hank Azaria in Spamalot in 2005.

Tudyk’s career really took off when he was cast as the lovable pilot Hoban “Wash” Washburne in Joss Whedon’s beloved and short-lived science fiction western Firefly. While the series only lasted 14 episodes, it remains a major staple in pop culture with some of the most avid fans in the world. Tudyk is astoundingly funny and charismatic in his role. Wash’s wisecracking, sarcastic attitude and undying loyalty to his loved ones is what makes him such a wonderful character. It’s also what makes his *SPOILER* death in the cinematic reprise Serenity so gorram heartbreaking. 

Tudyk also played the hauntingly deranged maniac, Alpha in the also short-lived Whedon series Dollhouse. Don’t get me wrong. I love Wash. He’s probably my favorite Tudyk character, but Alpha is deliciously insane and Tudyk’s portrayal of him is quite possibly the best acting of his career. Plagued with hundreds of different personalities floating around in his noggin, Alpha’s constantly shifting demeanor and sociopathic mannerisms are heart pounding to watch. Tudyk is great as Wash, but his range is best shown in Dollhouse.

 alpha gif-alpha-imprints

Tudyk’s latest project, Con Man, has Firefly fans absolutely ecstatic. Also starring Firefly co-star Nathan Fillion, Con Man is Tudyk’s very own brainchild. He not only stars in the upcoming web series, but also acts as screenwriter, director, and co-producer. Fillion is also co-producing alongside science fiction writer PJ Haarsma. Con Man tells the story of Wray Nerely (Tudyk) who a spaceship pilot on a canceled science fiction series similar to Firefly called Spectrum. His friend Jack Moore (Fillion) played the captain of the ship and has gone on to become a widely successful A-List actor. Meanwhile, Wray struggles to be happy with his lesser known career, traveling from convention to convention as he makes appearances for the sake of his fans. The series will explore the nuances of convention life and fan culture.

Here’s how Hollywood works. You write a script, you get an agent, that agent proposes your script to a production company and then, hopefully, it gets sent to a bunch of bigwig network people who will pay for it. It’s a grueling process and it takes years. Sometimes you can skip a few hoops if you’re a big name actor, writer, or director or if you work as a reader for a production company, but for the most part, you’re at the mercy of the system. And even if you do get picked up, your project can go any number of ways, including being canceled before its prime. Tudyk said “Eff that!” and took his project to Indiegogo. “It’s not that I have trust issues…” Tudyk joked in his campaign video. Instead of giving his project to a network who might not appreciate the concept and royally screw it up, he reached out to his fans to help fund the web series. He wanted the show to be backed by people who actually understood the nuances of convention life i.e. those who attend them. The initial goal was $425,000 for three episodes. What Tudyk and Fillion wound up with by the end of their campaign was $3,156,234 for 12 episodes and a “lost” episode of Spectrum. In only 24 hours the project raised $1 million, a new record in web series funding. There will also be a Con Man comic book, game, and DVD.

The project will begin filming in June to be released in September through Vimeo’s on demand service. The series will also include actors Seth Green, Felicia Day, James Gunn and Gina Torres. All twelve ten minute episodes will be released simultaneously, so make time in your schedule to binge watch this Fall. I certainly will be forgoing homework for the occasion. Scholarship be damned! I aim to misbehave!

Come see Alan Tudyk at Denver Comic Con this weekend where he will be speaking at two panels, signing autographs, taking photos and possibly pulling inspiration for his new project! Autographs are $40 and photos are $50, cash only. Tudyk will be at the convention Saturday and Sunday.

Photos and Firefly clip courtesy of 20th Century Fox. Video courtesy of Indiegogo.

“Respect My Craft” – Clare Kramer

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ “Respect My Craft” articles will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

dcc font

Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con “Respect My Craft” articles

Name: Clare Kramer

Profession: Actress, Director, Internet Personality

Notable Work: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bring it On, Big Ass Spider!, and Co-Founder of the very popular entertainment site GeekNation.

“I think us Whedon actors tend to stuck together! I’ve become friends with many of the Angel and Firefly peeps. We do tend to travel together to a lot of the conventions – which I liken to summer camp! The great thing about getting Buffy was it was my first job in LA – so many of my lifelong friends were spawned from that job!” – Clare Kramer in her Reddit AMA in August of 2012.

Clare Kramer may be known to Whedon fans as Glory, or more appropriately, Glorificus, but she wasn’t always the hell Goddess. Kramer’s first job was the mascot for Wendy’s. You know, the little girl with pigtails. The perk? She did get free hamburgers during that stint.

Kramer went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts from 1997-2000, graduating from the prestigious program in just three years with a BFA. The young actress had some bit parts off-Broadway, but made her “big” break in 2000 when she moved to L.A. and auditioned for the little teen movie Bring it On. Kramer has admitted that she did not think anyone would see the movie. “This shows how poor my judgment used to be when filming. I thought that while we were having a great time, and it was so much fun filming and I had a blast, that nobody would actually ever see it. It would be one of those movies that kind of slips under the radar. But then I got a call from my manager and he had gone to Universal for a screening and he said ‘Okay. This is going to be successful.’ It was a pleasant surprise.”

Kramer’s role as Courtney, the bitchy cheerleader, started her career of playing the “bitch.” For people who know Kramer, this comes off as quite a surprise. In her personal life, Kramer is known to friends and fans as being a genuinely sweet woman. Her acting talent is proven with how well she portrays the snobby girl.

Clare Kramer in Bring it On

Later in the year, Kramer auditioned for a role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a move that would change the course of her career; becoming apart of the cast of anything by Joss Whedon automatically enrolls actors for a cast and crew family and a rather enthusiastic fanbase.

Clare Kramer as Glory in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The beautiful blonde was cast as Glory, the Big Bad of season 5, and mega nemesis for Buffy. Glory was sexy, witty, strong, and the only Big Bad to successfully kill the heroine. What Kramer brought to the role was recognition that Glory wasn’t necessarily evil, but that she only had one thing on her mind: getting home. It should also be noted that Glory was Ben, which was just as much of a shock to Kramer as it was to the audience. She has publicly stated that she is happy that she didn’t know because it would have affected her performance.

Clare Krame as Glory in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Fans connected with Glory very quickly. Season 4 of Buffy had a myriad of Big Bads. It felt like we didn’t know who the good guys or the bad guys were, but Glory’s entrance in season 5 made it very clear who Buffy was fighting against. The blondes fought each other many times,  and Glory’s personality was reminiscent of Cordelia when she was still in Sunnydale. But Glory also had a knack for summing up humans perfectly, making her really relatable.

Following her 13 episode stint on the critically acclaimed show, Kramer has gone on to several different roles, most involving horror or paranormal aspects. Some of those titles include Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Mummy an’ the Armadillo, Tru Calling, The Gravedancers,The Dead Ones, Road to Hell, and Big Ass Spiders!.

Since 2012, Kramer has been working hard on the entertainment website she co-founded, GeekNation. GeekNation specializes in geek culture, focusing their content on news, podcasts, shows, and Mosters. Clare Kramer co-founded the site with film producer Brian R. Keathley and ran the podcast “Five by Five” and the show “Take 5 with Clare Kramer,” where she interviewed celebrities associated with the nerd world. Most notably, Kramer interviewed Stan Lee in her second episode of “Take 5.”

Geek Nation Logo

Currently, Kramer spends a lot of time on the con circuit. Popular with fans, Kramer has worked her way up from just having a table to hosting main event panels at major cons such as Emerald City. You can see Clare Kramer at Denver Comic Con 2015 at her booth and hosting all the main event panels. Make sure you stop by and say hello to this self-proclaimed geek!

Sources: Pop Culture Addict, GeekNation, Comics Grinder, and IMdB.

“Respect My Craft!” – Commonplace Books

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

Names: Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor, Cecil Baldwin, and Disparition.

Professions: Writers, actors, artists and musicians.

Notable Works: Welcome to Night Vale, “A Commonplace Book of the Weird; The Untold Stories of H.P. Lovecraft”, and “What it Means to Be a Grownup”

“A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep.” – Cecil Palmer, Welcome to Night Vale, Pilot Episode

 

Fiction, in it’s nature, is a little bizarre. It might seem commonplace, but when you actually think about our ability to suspend our disbelief while enjoying these stories, it’s quite remarkable. Then, of course, you have horror, which requires us to not only suspend disbelief, but voluntarily engage in something meant to make us afraid. You also have comedy, which requires our full attention and intelligence to enjoy. Break fiction down and our fascination with it is quite impressive.

Then there’s Commonplace Books, which is anything but commonplace. Co-owned by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, this group of writers, actors, artists and musicians take weird to a whole other level. With wit, expert pace, and a Lovecraftian feel, the stories they turn out are absolutely captivating and just plain strange. Their main project, Welcome to Night Vale, hit the top ten podcasts list in July 2013 and surpassed This American Life in the same month, becoming the number one podcast on the charts. It is currently just shy of being in the top ten at spot 11. More on Welcome to Night Vale in a bit.

Commonplace Books has two published books titled A Commonplace Book of the Weird: The Untold Stories of H.P. Lovecraft (available in Kindle format) and What it Means to Be a Grownup (currently out of print). A Commonplace Book of the Weird: The Untold Stories of H.P. Lovecraft is a collection of stories inspired by a list of 221 story ideas supposedly left behind by H.P. Lovecraft. It ranges from horror stories to memoir to poetry written by various writers of across the country and is edited by Joseph Fink. “What it Means to Be a Grownup” is also a collection of writing, but rather than containing post-mortem Lovecraft, various writers speak to what adulthood means to them. In the format of essays, short stories, charts, letters and one picture book, over thirty contributors can be found in the book including writers from The Onion, SomethingAwful.com as well as comedians Niel Hamburger and Kyle Kinane.

nightvaletitle

“There is a thin semantic line separating weird and beautiful. And that line is covered in jellyfish.” – Cecil Palmer, Welcome to Night Vale Episode 22, The Whispering Forest

Welcome to Night Vale is just plain weird. When trying to recommend it to my friends, I’ve always had trouble describing it. Some attempts have been along the lines of “It’s like NPR from the Twilight Zone”, “It’s a radio drama podcast told in the format of a radio show from the weirdest desert town in fictional history” and, “It’s like if Stephen King and Neil Gaiman created a Sims world and then left it running for several decades” until finally settling with “It’s amazing. Just trust me and listen to it.” Commonplace Books describes it as “a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.” It is heavily inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, and David Lynch.

Co-writer Joseph Fink came up with the idea for WTNV in 2011, having become fascinated with podcasts. He wanted to bring something to the art form that no one had done before. Joseph has always been a huge fan of conspiracy theories. He doesn’t believe but constantly reads them, which is where the idea for WTNV came from. He thought of a town where all conspiracy theories were true and a few months later, the first script had been written. He recorded the first episode with help from his friends actor Cecil Baldwin and musician Jon Bernstein of the band Disparition who do the background music for the show. While this episode had originally been just a concept piece to convince Jeffrey Cranor to join the project, it became the pilot and was uploaded to the iTunes Podcast section on June 15th, 2012. Two years later, the radio drama has been wildly successful, with two tours already under their belt and another US and Canada tour starting June 30th in Montreal and ending at San Diego Comic Con.

NIGHTVALE_100413_20

WTNV is narrated by Cecil Baldwin who also plays the main character, radio host of Night Vale’s local news show “Welcome to Night Vale”. Curiously enough, the main character’s name is also Cecil but with the last name Palmer. He is vaguely described as neither tall nor short, thin nor fat, allowing fans to create their own image or “headcanon” of what he looks like. Cecil is an extremely well crafted character. He has a broad emotional range from dark, serious, and at times terrifying, to hilarious, exuberant, and “fangirly.”

Cecil is particularly giddy when it comes to the character Carlos, a scientist and the only “normal” character. This leads to another great part of WTNV. Cecil is openly gay and while there is a whole episode dedicated to *SPOILER* his first date with Carlos *END SPOILER*, it’s a very small part of what makes the character great. Cecil is gay, but being gay is not the only facet of his character. So many stories today have gay characters whose sole purpose on the show is to be gay. They are the butt of a joke, the management’s way of seeming more progressive, or a way to make the show more scandalous. Cecil is none of these things. He is a radio host and he’s gay. He’s a reporter and he’s gay. He plays a major role in a revolution and he’s gay. He is not “the gay character”. He is the main character. WTNV is also extremely trans-postivie, having various metaphors and characters to represent transsexuality and non-binary genders.

When I first listened to WTNV, and Cecil announced the weather section, I was expecting a weather report that was strange but nonetheless had something to do with the climate. This was not at all the case. WTNV’s “weather” section, in fact, has nothing to do with weather, but is rather a different song each week from various independent artists. This part of the show is a fan favorite. The weather of WTNV varies in genre, but is always well selected and attributed at the end of each episode. Some favorites include “These and More Than These” by Joseph Fink, “The Bus is Late” by Satellite High (my personal favorite), and “A Little Irony” by Tom Milsom.

While all fandoms are creative, the WTNV fandom may have the rest of them beat. As WTNV is an entirely audio experience, there is not much to go off of when it comes to cosplay and fan art. However, the creations that come out of this vagueness are truly remarkable. Some of the best cosplay I’ve seen comes from WTNV and the fan art is just as exquisite. Given complete creative freedom as to what their favorite characters look like, fans have gone above and beyond. Depictions of Cecil range from suit and tie to parka to actual canon furry pants, yet various themes tend to pop up time and time again. While it is not always the case, most fans agree that Cecil has a third eye and at least half sleeve tattoos, often depicting octopus tentacles (a possible homage to H.P. Lovecraft) How did this headcanon come to be? No one knows. Cecil is never described as having either of these, yet look at any depiction of him and nine times out of ten, he has at least one of these attributes. Similarly, other characters have been depicted in a variety of representations, showing how truly creative this fandom is.

Another truly amazing thing about Commonplace Books is that they are completely advertisement and sponsor free. They are able to produce their content entirely through donations from fans and the sale of merchandise. Not only is this impressive, but it just goes to show how dedicated their fans are, some donating as much as $250 – even though the podcast is absolutely free. Commonplace Books survives on the idea that if people truly love something, they are willing to help the creators behind it.

Commonplace Books has cranked out a lot of amazing content in the past few years, but they aren’t done yet. A WTNV stand-alone novel is set to be released in 2015, which will explore parts of Night Vale that Commonplace Books hasn’t been able to cover in the podcast. They are also set to do another crossover show with The Thrilling Adventure Hour July 26th at the Spreckels Theatre in San Diego at the end of their much anticipated US and Canada Tour, tickets for which are on sale now. For those of you who live Colorado, they will also be stopping in Denver July 19th at the Paramount Theatre.

This strange, little group of underdogs are incredibly talented, wildly successful, socially conscious, and gut-wrecking hilarious. Their completely independent project, while little, has met incredible feats, being of low budget and surviving solely on the adoration of their fans. As Cecil Baldwin put it in a recent interview with Geek and Sundry, “You don’t need a lot of money, you just need creative people.”

Photos courtesy of Commonplace Booksvidentefernandezprince-virelaigelegenheits-stalkerJillian Fleckderpkind, and Charlotte Renken

 

“Respect My Craft” – Kevin Conroy

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

dcc font
Click on the link to view all our Denver Comic Con articles!

Name:  Kevin Conroy

Profession: Vengeance, The night, Batman

Notable WorkBatman: The Animated Series, Justice LeagueBatman: Beyond

“Then they described the film noir quality of it, the drama, the kid losing his parents and avenging their deaths, lives in a cave and has an alter ego. It was a whole different, much darker, much more substantive show than I had understood.” – Kevin Conroy

 

Take a second and ask yourself, “Who played Batman the best on-screen?” Christian Bale? Sure. Michael Keaton? You could say that. Really though, hardcore fans only know one man as the Dark Knight. That man is Kevin Conroy, the voice actor from the classic Batman: The Animated Series. His reign as Batman, which began in 1992, is the longest of any actor portraying the character – and it has not even ended. B:TAS is highly regarded as one of the greatest animated shows in the history of television, ranking 2nd on both IGN’s and Wizard Magazine‘s Top 100 (both behind The Simpsons, TV’s longest-running animated show). The series was a testament to the skilled writers, animators and actors that worked on the show. B:TAS resonated with casual and hardcore fans alike, and introduced a new generation to Batman and the DC Universe at a time when comic books were super-saturating the market. This could be hard to believe, but even Conroy himself was not a comic book reader.

Growing up in a strict Irish Catholic setting, he wasn’t exactly encouraged to read comic books. However, what he did end up with was a love for theater. In middle school, when he transferred to a public school, he did not know how to adapt to the liberal nature of discipline, where students spoke out of turn and roamed the halls care-free. Conroy states that if it weren’t for the care of his English teacher, he would have been headed down the road of trouble. She recommended that he join the school’s theater club, and it became a defining moment in his life, an entire lifestyle change.

From then on, Conroy acted his butt off. He joined an acting troupe in high school that became one of the best in the state, starring in every play the school would put on. He became so good that he earned a full scholarship to Juilliard. There, he joined a class of legendary thespians which included Kelsey Grammer and his roommate, Robin Williams. Ironically enough, he almost ended up as the roommate of Superman actor, Christopher Reeve. Conroy’s focus was much more classical. Under John Houseman (Citizen Kane), he became enveloped in theater. After graduating, Conroy worked for Houseman’s The Acting Company, doing Shakespearean plays like Hamlet and Midsummer’s Night Dream.

kevinconroy_537267

Like a lot of theater artists, Conroy needed a profitable way to continue doing what he loved. Throughout the 1980’s, he was featured in various made-for-TV movies, and a lot of soap opera experience. Although his characters never really had big roles, and few of them were recurring – his longest TV role was as Dr. David Dunkle in Rachel Gunn, RN, but it gave him the funds to continue doing theater. Conroy was looking for his big break when he auditioned for the starring role of Joe Hackett in Wings; in a twist of fate, the producers decided to cast Tim Daly instead. Tim Daly, some might recognize, is the voice of Superman in Superman: The Animated Series. This all worked out for us, because had Conroy gotten the role, he may have never put on the cowl.

Another outlet that Conroy took to was doing voice-overs for commercials. This led to getting an audition with B:TAS maestros Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. Previous to the audition, the only experience Conroy had with Batman was the 60’s show (Note: stars of the 60s Batman show, Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar will also be at Denver Comic Con) – very campy and light. Once Timm and Dini explained the comic book origins, the tragic story of a boy whose parents were murdered and his redemption, Conroy was instantly sold on the Dark Knight as a character. He attacked the role as a true thespian would, and even came up with the idea of doing two separate voices for Bruce Wayne and Batman.

Conroy says that, as an actor, he tries to constantly challenge himself. The voice itself initially made Conroy coarse, and had to be crafted and perfected. When time came to research his source, he had to look no further than cast-mate Mark Hamill, who voiced The Joker in the legendary series. Hamill, known to many as Luke Skywalker, is a huge nerd. He made his abundant comic book collection available to Conroy. The two are practically life partners in their work, much like the yin and yang relationship of their characters. Adding to their chemistry was the fact that Warner Bros. had all actors record in the same room. Although the method can lead to more takes, it breeds creativity and leads to more honest performances – which reflected in their work.

batmancitygoty0524-610

Since Batman: The Animated Series, Conroy has reprised the role of Batman in pretty much every animated project since, including the Arkham series, developed by Rocksteady. Recording for a video-game was a much different experience, and challenged him to keep things fresh. Unlike the collaborative environment of the series, recording for Arkham meant hours upon hours alone in a room, recording thousands of clips multiple times, covering every variable in the game. Thankfully, the stress doesn’t leak through into the product, because the Arkham franchise is one of the strongest in gaming; Conroy is set to reprise the role of Batman in next year’s Batman: Arkham Knight. His mantle as Batman hasn’t been just video-games and television shows. When Conroy was volunteering at a soup kitchen in New York City after 9/11, he cheered up the room by reprising his famous line, “I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman!” for the room to hear.  Also, in lieu of the release of The Dark Knight Rises, Conroy dubbed an animated promo for the movie.

In celebration of Batman’s 75th Anniversary, Conroy has also collaborated with Bruce Timm for a few select shorts. He might be the most recognizable Batman voice-actor, but he doesn’t hog the spotlight. He supports other actors’ portrayal of the Dark Knight. Speaking of, he is actually quite a fan of Christian Bale’s performance of Batman, and calls the Nolan-helmed Dark Knight trilogy the closest adaptation to the dark Bob Kane/Bill Finger origins. The growling voice, on the other hand, he could do without. “It’s like – why didn’t someone stop him?” His career is built upon Batman, but the character isn’t the only thing Conroy loves to spend time with; one of his biggest hobbies is restoring old houses. Using his hands to build, garden and paint give him a lot of happiness. Could you imagine owning a home built by the Batman? Batcaves for everyone!

Kevin Conroy will go down as one of the greatest voice actors ever in one of the greatest television shows of all time. He is the undisputed voice of Bruce Wayne, and part of a show that single-handedly introduced a whole generation to Batman and the comic book world, including myself. After over 20 years of serving the people as Batman, Conroy still loves the character and his fans. It’s for these reasons that you must respect his craft.

 

None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties. I hope everybody has enjoyed our countdown to Denver Comic Con. Among all the writers at Hush, we were able to string together 30 biographical pieces in 30 days. Look to Hush Comics for more coverage of Denver Comic Con.