All posts by Paul Kupperberg

“Say, Mister, Could You Stake a Fellow American to a Meal?”


That’s the line Humphrey Bogart (as down on his luck gold prospector Fred C. Dobbs) uses on the Man in the White Suit (played by director John Houston) he keeps accosting for a handout in the 1948 film classic, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Down and out in Mexico, Bogie inadvertently hits up the same guy for money, until, on his third time to that same well, the Man in the White Suit says, “Such impudence never came my way. Early this afternoon I gave you money…while I was having my shoes polished I gave you more money…now you put the bite on me again. Do me a favor, will ya? Go occasionally to somebody else — it’s beginning to get tiresome.”

Bogie is humbly apologetic: “I never knowed it was you. I never looked at your face — I just looked at your hands and the money you gave me. Beg pardon, mister, I promise I’ll never put the bite on you again,” and the Man generously lays one last peso on him (“This is the very last you get from me. Just to make sure you don’t forget your promise, here’s another peso.”)…the peso Dobbs uses to buy the lottery ticket that provides him and fellow prospectors Howard and Curtin to their grubstake. Continue reading

What’s the Big Idea?

Here’s the way the conversation usually goes:

Them: “Oh, you’re a writer? Are you famous?”

Me: “If you have to ask, I think you’ve answered your own question.”

Them: “Well, what do you write?”

Me: “All sorts of things. Novels, kids books, comic books.”

Them: “Really? Where do you get your ideas?

Depending on who’s asking, I have a variety of answers, ranging from the snarky, “I subscribe to an idea service; every month they send me two dozen ideas and I pay them for the ones I use,” to the truthful (but not very helpful), “It’s my job.”

The actual writing is only a part of a writer’s job. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the easy part, it’s still only a part of the process, because before you write you have to have something to write about. Fortunately, having been at my job for a goodly number of years, I’ve gotten pretty good at the whole “getting ideas” thing which come, to me at least, in two distinct flavors: the complete, ready-to-write idea and the broad concept. Continue reading

I Was A Prisoner in the Trumbull Marriott, or, A Lesson In Persistence

ComiCONN 2013 wristbandI spent yesterday, August 24 as a prisoner in the Trumbull, Connecticut Marriott Hotel! I arrived around 9 a.m. and couldn’t escape until almost 7 p.m., when I made a break for the parking lot and, with another freshly sprung inmate, went to ground miles away at the King and I Thai restaurant in Fairfield, cleverly hidden under platters of spicy larb, nam sod, mooh prig sod, massaman curry, and a couple of bottles of icy cold Singha beer.

When I say “prisoner,” of course I mean “guest” at the 2013 Connecticut ComiCONN, my third year at this great hometown comic book convention run by the indefatigable Mitchell A. Hallock. Mitch has been kind enough these three years to provide me with table space from which to meet and greet fans and friends, peddle a few books, and, this year, spread the word about Crazy 8 Press.

MJF-ComiCONN 2013Sharing the table with me this year was Crazy 8 mastermind Michael Jan Friedman, author of Crazy 8’s Fight the Gods, Aztlan: The Last Sun, and Aztlan: The Courts of Heaven (not to mention about a zillion Star Trek novels and comics, every single copy ever printed of which I believe he must have signed yesterday). Continue reading

Purity to the Intent

Jerry&Me1I just saw an old clip from Late Night With David Letterman with guest Jerry Lewis. They were talking about Jerry’s comic persona, the troublesome, noisy nine-year old kid who couldn’t resist stirring up trouble. After Jerry had performed a particularly manic “Hey, laaaaady!” Dave said that the beauty of Jerry’s comedy was its “purity to the intent.” He likened it to (the then popular) Beavis and Butthead animated series: It was a thing that was always exactly what it presented itself to be, a comedic bit of business that never wavered from its purpose.

That phrase, “purity to the intent” struck a cord with me. That sort of creative intent is something I’ve found to be missing in so much of current pop culture. I watch the coming attractions for new movies and am left wondering exactly what kind of movie it’s trying to be. Trailers seem to be tailored to sell to specific demographics rather than to represent the film that’s been made. A couple or three years back, my son and I saw the trailer for a new George Clooney movie, The American, which looked like a great action/adventure shoot ‘em up. But when we went to see it, The American was anything but a great action/adventure shoot ‘em up; in fact, just about every bit of action, adventure, and shooting in the film had been gathered into the two minute trailer. The remaining 103-minutes was a contemplative study of an assassin facing life, love, and his conscience. Contemplative movies, even those starring George Clooney, don’t sell. Blockbuster shoot ‘em ups, especially those starring George Clooney, do. Continue reading

He would sell it, baby!

Same old storyW.W.S.L.D.?

What Would Stan Lee Do?

He would sell it, baby!

If we learned nothing else from Stan the Man at the dawn of the Marvel Age of Comics, it’s that there’s no such thing as too much promotion. Stan, a natural born hail-fellow-well-met type, used his personal bombast to elevate Marvel Comics from a second-rate publisher of whatever was popular at the moment to the premiere brand in the business. And in the process, raised himself from an unknown writer/editor on the brink of quitting his job out of embarrassment over what he did for a living to becoming the only name in the industry anyone outside of the industry recognizes.

Steve, Phil, PKStan may or may not have known from the get-go (probably not) that he had a tiger by the tail with The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the rest of the Mighty Marvel line-up, and he likely reasoned he had nothing to lose by becoming Marvel’s (and his own biggest boaster), but however he got there, Stan recognized early on that the only way to insure Marvel’s success was to promote the bejeesus out of it, True Believers! Continue reading

The Same Old Story, or Straight Up Truths From Downright Lies

Same old storyWhile channel surfing last night I came across a showing of The Singing Detective, a 2003 theatrical remake of Dennis Potter’s powerful 1986 BBC Television miniseries of the same name. The original series starred Michael Gambon as “Philip Marlowe,” a hospitalized writer suffering from psoriatic anthropathy, a painfully crippling arthritic skin condition suffered, not by coincidence, by Potter himself. Confined to bed, unable to move without agony, and totally dependent on an apathetic hospital staff, “Marlowe” fills his days mentally rewriting his old book, “The Singing Detective,” with his healthy self cast in the lead role. “Marlowe’s” days are filled with pain, the humiliation of dependency, and bitter anger in a surreal blend of reality and fever-induced hallucinations in which the players are constantly breaking out into lavish production numbers of 1940s popular songs.

The remake, updated and Americanized, featured Robert Downey Jr. in the leading role (and renamed Danny Dark), and while Potter supplied the screenplay, it lacks the power of the BBC original. Part of that is its length: a sparse 106 minutes versus the 415 minutes of the six-parter; another is Downey’s performance. The self-assured snarkiness that makes him so appealing in roles like Sherlock Holmes and Tony Stark comes across here as his being just another asshole, albeit one suffering from a debilitating disease. But, despite its flaws, The Singing Detective does retain its core theme: Continue reading