Archive for September, 2002

Tips to World Domination: Become the Blog Equivalent of Jay Leno

Some of you may have heard by now that my brother, John Williams, just got married to Sarah Wilkes of Elfnoodles fame. The wedding was this past Saturday, and was a beautiful little affair out in Catawba, VA. They are now well on their way through their honeymoon.

And that means that I am now the 21st century equivalent of a housesitter.

Before the wedding, John contacted me via IM and asked me if I would look after his blog, When an offer like that is made, you don’t turn it down. Especially not if you’re the webmaster’s younger brother and best man at the wedding.

So for a little while, I’ll be playing Jay Leno to my brother’s Johnny Carson – only this guest host knows better than to believe he’ll be running the show any time soon.

This means, of course, that I’ll be posting new content on three sites all during this week. Tune in to watch me turn into a schizophrenic mess by wednesday.

Monday, September 23rd, 2002

Elfquest: Rogue’s Curse

Author: Pini, McKinney, et al
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy Adventure
Publisher: Wolfrider Books
Cost: $13.95
Rating: **• (2 1/2 out of 4)
Availability:Widely Available

Rogue’s Curse is number 9 in the new Elfquest Reader’s Collection series. The series reprints all of the stories from ElfQuest’s long and winding road, and presents new material on occasion.

When you’re dealing with something like Rogue’s Curse – a later installment in what has become one of the most successful indie comics franchises ever – you’re dealing with something that has quite a few expectations stacked up against it. This is made even more true by the fact that the franchise is ElfQuest, and Wendy Pini’s readers are used to a certain high standard of writing and art. The day that ElfQuest opened its doors to new artists and writers was the day that those writers opened themselves up to a heap of scorn and resentment from the fans. It was also – very nearly – the day the music died.

This is where it starts to get a little bit confusing. Rogue’s Curse follows the story of former desert-dweller Rayek and the spirit of his dead lover, Winnowill. Both are members of an ancient race of elves who fell to the world of two moons (“Abode”) many centuries ago. Rayek and Winnowill were both proud, ambitious, and a little bit stuck on themselves. The primary difference between them was that Rayek had friends, while Winnowill only had tools. When Winnowill was killed in the collapse of her lair, her spirit was unleashed. She would have brought untold horrors upon the world, except that Rayek willingly took her spirit into himself and made himself her jailer.

That all takes place before the book begins.

In the course of the book, Rayek is accompanied by his mentor, the wizened partial-amputee Ekuar. Rogue’s Curse abandons the tribal world that has been part of ElfQuest from the beginning in favor of a much more medieval world. In the course of the book, Rayek and Ekuar join a circus, act as bouncers for a high-class madam, and take comissions from a travelling knight to bring back his kidnapped daughter.

Along the way, Rayek is constantly reminded of the dark spirit that he keeps in check. When he lets his guard down for the merest moment, Winnowill takes the chance to cause whatever chaos she can. She mutilates two thieves in a back alley – turning one into a walking corpse and the other into a giant sewer rat. She uses her powers to found a cult and takes human sacrifices. She kills person after person – and Rayek cannot stop her.

As I said, ElfQuest very nearly lost something when people other than Wendy Pini began working on the book. Pini has set a high standard in terms of her lushly beautiful artwork over the years, and her writing has made the characters so real that they can seem at times to be friends of yours. The influx of new talents trying to emulate Pini came close to destroying the special rapport she had built with her fans.

It is books like Rogue’s Curse that saved the ElfQuest franchise. Ironically enough, one of the reasons that Curse works so well as ElfQuest is because it is so different from what Pini used to do. Certainly, you recognize the characters and the situations. But the world of Curse is truly a world to itself. Nothing else in ElfQuest compares to it. From the schizophrenia of Rayek and his relationship with his internal demon to the high adventures that he has on the road with Ekuar, Curse allows various artists the opportunity to put their own stamp on ElfQuest. The artwork ranges from simple black and white to high-contrast impressionism, and the stories range from tales of dark internal struggle to tales ripped from the pages of Robin Hood.

Of course, the crowning achievement of the book is the very last story, when Wendy Pini herself steps in and takes control of the character who has come so far and been so different from what he was. Once again, she puts everybody else to shame and shows that – even stepping away from her usual storylines – she can still prove that the characters are hers.

ElfQuest: Rogue’s Curse loses one star for two reasons. First, it’s got a story by Barry Blair (late of his own comic series, ElfLord). Sadly, it’s a wonderful story – but Barry Blair’s round-faced artwork never quite meshed in my mind with ElfQuest. Second, it’s not a good book to hand to somebody to introduce them to the series. While it’s true that ElfQuest – not being a situational story – has never been something you could just pick up in the middle, the reliance on references to past events makes this story particularly opaque to new readers. If you’re not an ElfQuest fan already, do yourself a favor and start from Book 1: Fire and Flight. If you are an ElfQuest fan, pick this book up for yourself – but get Fire and Flight for your unenlightened comrades.

Related Links: The Official ElfQuest Homepage

Saturday, September 14th, 2002

So You Want to Be an Actor…. Pt. 1

So you’ve decided that you want to be an actor. Wonderful. Welcome to the world of the theatre.

There are any number of reasons that you may have decided to become an actor. There are about as many reasons for pursuing acting as there are actors who pursue it. That’s one of the great things you’ll learn about this profession – everybody’s in it for a different reason.

I’ve always maintained that there is no bad reason for working in the theatre. If it inspires you and moves you forward, it can only be good. Whether it’s a love for the art form, a burning desire to be heard, or the fact that you’ve noticed the most beautiful women / gorgeous guys hang out in the theatre department. Any reason is a good reason.

Now, let’s talk about good reasons not to make it your career.

First of all, you might not get paid. If you’re in college and pursuing acting as part of your department’s productions, chances are good that you won’t get any money for doing it. Instead, you’ll be expected to take your payment in the form of experience. This is not all that bad an arrangement. The fact is that the more you act, the better you get at it. The best way to learn how to act is to act – and learning is what you’re in college for. Once you get out of college, however, you have to face the reality that this might not be a job that will help you pay your way.

The first semi-professional theatre gig I ever had was a two-month gig with two different runs of the show. For the entire thing, I got paid a grand total of $250. At the time, that was one month’s rent – and the only reason I was in town was to do the show. A lot of the time, the work that you do you will have to do for passion. Fame, money, glory – they’re all the things that can come, but they don’t come overnight.

At any given time, most of the actors in the United States are not working as actors. They have jobs as tellers, copywriters, bus drivers, and – yes – waiters. Check out Actor’s Equity – the professional actors’ union – for the exact number of actors who have found work as actors in a given year.

As an actor, you may get rich. But there’s a difference between “may” and “will.” You cannot guarantee wealth as an actor. Very few actors will get rich overnight. They’ll walk into the right agency and – bada-bing – they’ll have a multi-picture deal slapped down in front of them. This, however, is very rare.

A few more actors will not be able to make their fortune overnight, but they will make a small fortune. They’ll work their way up the hard way, climbing the ladder rung by rung. An independent film here, an off-broadway show there. They’ll scrape together enough of their own money to run a one-man show for a week in an off-off-off Broadway house (the kind that only seats twenty audience members – as long as none of them breathe). They’ll work long and hard to be noticed and to reap their rewards.

A much larger number of actors will be able to make their livings doing theatre. They’ll live comfortably, but they’ll be the 9 to 5 workhorses of film and theatre. Occasionally, one will manage a bit of notoriety in the public eye (for being “that guy,” if for nothing else), and sometimes they’ll break through to wealth. But for the most part, they’ll remain the unsung heroes of the acting profession.

But the significant number of actors out there will spend their lives doing theatre in addition to other things. You’ll do theatre while waiting tables, theatre while licking stamps, or theatre while teaching theatre as a liberal arts college. You will do other things to supplement your acting career. Maybe with time you’ll become a local celebrity – but you may never get much farther.

I had a professor once who gave me some very valuable advice. He said to me, “If you can do anything else, do it.” It’s easy to see that advice as cynical and short-sighted, but it is the truth. There are people out there who starve to be actors. People who scrimp and save every penny just to pay their rent because they know that they want to act. They’re hungry for work – and they’re willing to be hungry for it, because it’s their passion.

It’s not a statement that says you will fail. If you are dedicated enough and work hard enough, you can succeed. Acting, like any other profession, is one that you can excell at if you only take the time and the effort needed to do so. The difference is that as a management-wannabe in the mailroom, you stand a much better chance of being noticed. As an actor, you will be fighting to be noticed among hundreds of thousands – if not millions of actors in your own nation alone. That’s why Professor Greg Justice of Virginia Tech got it right when he said: If you can do anything else,

Do it.

Tuesday, September 10th, 2002