by Gene Turnbow
This year Comic-Con was treated to an appearance by J. Michael Straczynksi. His work spans across multiple platforms: comic books (Amazing Spider-Man, Superman: Earth One, Rising Stars), TV series (Babylon 5), feature films (Thor, Ninja Assassin) and video games. He was there mainly to talk about his brand new studio, StudioJMS, the aim of which was to bring all his work in various media under one umbrella. From the Facebook page, StudioJMS is a multimedia, multi-platform studio creating television series, feature films, web content, comic books and games.
In the program guide he hinted that there could possibly be another big announcement, but declined to state what that was unless it actually happened – apparently the news he was waiting to hear didn’t get to him in time for him to make the announcement at Comic-Con. He did speak of his current projects, including The Flickering Light, is a docu-drama about how Nazi propaganda filmmaker Leni Reifenstahl that required Spanish actors, who rented ethnic-looking Jews and gypsys, men, women and children imprisoned in the Max Glan Concentration Camp outside Berlin. Said Straczynki, “She didn’t care about them at all, only about her movie, and it was the crew that looked after them. This was a surreal existence, moving from escapism on a movie set back to a nightmare imprisonment. The script is written, we’re out to actors and we will have partial funding from the German government.”
He also talked about a number of other projects under development by StudioJMS, Ten Grand, Sidekick, Apocalype Al, and Living Dead: The Musical. He said that all the scripts for the new DC mini-series Before Watchmen were done (at least one ones he was working on), and that he was working on new scripts for Brave & The Bold comics for DC, and something called Samaritan X, a book about a what happens at a hospital for superheroes. Imagine the story opportunities in something like that!
“The center of the storm is what comes out of my keyboard,” he said. “It’s all about creating IP. For twenty years, I’ve had the remarkable good fortune to work successfully as a writer and producer in a wide variety of fields, from television to comics and movies. I’ve always dreamed of creating a mini-studio where I can put all of that work under one roof, telling stories that I want to tell and which can be spun up between various platforms: comics that can become TV shows, TV shows that can become movies, and movies that can become comics. With the tremendous recent success of films such as The Avengers, Thor, and the Batman series of films, this feels like the best time to tackle that dream. Best of all, unlike many other startup ventures, I’m not looking to get into these areas, I’m already working in them; now it’s just a matter of taking the next logical step: consolidation.”.
He discussed a TV series based based on (and I believe called) “Vlad Dracula”, that takes the vampire story paradigm and digs down to the foundations by doing a story about the very first vampire, and how he discovers his new role in the world and its advantages and limitations, and how this affects his leadership of his country.
During the question and answer session, one of the audience asked him if there was any chance of Babylon 5 being revived, and that made Straczynkski pause for a moment to collect himself. He replied that he was currently in talks with Warner Brothers on that subject, but that it’s at a stage where anything he might say about it in public could interfere with the outcome, so he’d just as soon not say anything at all about it at this stage. Could this have been the Big Thing he was waiting to hear about before the convention? It could have been, but he has so many other irons in the fire right now that there’s no way for folks outside the garden walls to know.
Then somebody said, “is there any chance of Babylon 5 being released on BluRay?”, to which the response was, “It was shot in a wide format, but the effects were done for NTSC television. If we were going to do that, we’d have to redo all the effects.” To which somebody in the audience replied “W00t!” After the laughter subsided, Straczynkski said, “Where are you people from, really?” , which brought more laughter.
He was also asked about the prospects of a Lensmen movie, and he said he’d spoken to Universal about it, and they didn’t think it there would be enough interest in the film to warrant spending $200 million on it.
He was asked if he was working on a new science fiction space opera, and Straczynski said he was – then when he was asked what format the new property would like be in, he said “eight and a half by eleven, the same as all the rest of them.”
Straczyinki said that the new studio would be a self sustaining entity, self funded and self financing, but the why of it came down to this, and I’ll apologize now for the misquote: “To me a what all this comes down to was one fans journey. We all have a trap we fall into where we abandon our joys – we’re under a lot of pressure from our society to do that.” And then he went on to say something very eloquent about how we’re socialized to abandon our dreams and be matter of fact about life – but how it is only those people who fight to hold onto their daydreams and make them real that define the dreams and goals of society as a whole. He said it a lot better than I ever could, and I wish I could remember his exact words, but I understood what he meant. It’s this underlying spirit that makes StudioJMS what it is, and with his new partner Patricia Tallman, actress and producer, Straczynski has ignited a new light to show the way.
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