Welcome to The Confluence, the newsletter that speaks geek while bringing you insider news and creator insights from the worlds of sci fi, fantasy, horror, and animation. The newsletter’s emphasis will be film, television, books, and comics, but really any corner of Comic-Con culture (e.g., cosplay, toys, gaming, etc.) is fair game.
All of the vivid districts of Comic-Con culture at least feel like somewhat familiar territory for me, too. I grew up in the swelter of South Florida as a pudgy but passionate bookworm with a vast comic book collection and enough Star Wars toys to choke a Rancor. I didn’t really know back then that there were vast legions of other dazzled Jedi fans and avid Marvel collectors roaming the world. That changed in a big-time way in 1982, when my mom bravely took me to my very first (and her very last) comic book convention. It was a 30-minute drive to Miami that day, but I was over the moon the entire afternoon. I got an autograph from Darth Vader, secured a stack of X-Men issues, and, oddly, a cassette tape of a disco collection called Galactic Funk. The adventure led directly to the very first published article of my life: “How to Collect Comic Books” was the headline (or something very close to that) on the front page of the Pembroke Pines (Fla.) Middle School’s campus newspaper.
I had no inkling that I would write (literally) thousands of articles over the decades that followed, first at the University of Florida's independent student newspaper and then at the Los Angeles Times, where I started as an eager 21-year-old intern and finished 21 years later as one of the paper's top feature writers. My long ride at The Times took me to some unbelievable places. Early on, as a police reporter, the work took me to fiery crash sites, active shootouts, raging wildfires, riot zones, and grim prison cellblocks. Later, as the paper's pop music writer, the dream-come-true assignments took me backstage or into the studio to sit down one-on-one with true icons, among them Paul McCartney, James Brown, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Beyonce, Elton John, Metallica, Dr. Dre, Leonard Cohen, and Mariah Carey. After seven years in the music world I took on a new challenge by joining the paper's Hollywood team. That gig took me to studio backlots, the Academy Awards and far-flung movie sets. My career had started in metro cub reporter mode (think Jimmy Olsen at the Daily Planet) but then took an unlikely turn into Almost Famous territory.
It took me more than a decade to finally haul my Florida comics collection to the West Coast but I didn’t ask any friends to lend a hand with the California unpacking. In fact, I kept most of my newsroom peers in the dark about my hobby. In those days, any grown man who owned 14,000 comic books was clearly a guy with major issues. My secret got out in 2009, however, when I created a blog called Hero Complex. My motivation was a mercenary one: I wanted a press pass to attend Comic-Con International for free. The blog had zero editor oversight so the coverage was dictated entirely by my curiosity. If I was interested in a project, it didn’t matter whether it was new, old, famous or obscure. Likewise, if I didn’t like a studio release I could simply ignore its existence. That’s why Hero Complex had a half-dozen features on the scrappy sci-fi of Super 8 but managed to completely ignore the bigger and louder release of Battleship. (I rarely if ever wrote reviews. I always felt that the best reporters could talk to anyone while the best review critics always talk to themselves.The blog became a major hit for The Times and soon became my primary day-to-day workload.
I found myself right at the center of the Hollywood boom in superhero cinema. I’ve now interviewed five Batmans in person, four-and-a-half Supermans (that’s counting Nicolas Cage), three Mr. Spocks and three Catwomans. I loved all of it, but nothing topped the screening events we did for readers. They were ridiculously good line-ups and often free. One of those: The Raiders of the Lost Ark for free at the downtown Regal Theaters with special guest Steven Spielberg plus surprise guest Harrison Ford. Think about that for a minute. The reaction of fans when Ford entered the rear of the screening room was truly something I will never forget. It was like a nerdgasm shared by the 700-plus fans in the room, whose number included Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Or maybe they all just reached a shared mutual state of Nerdvana?
One of the things I will be writing about in this newsletter are the 50+ movie sets I’ve visited over the years. It’s a wild list: Iron Man, Thor, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Dark Shadows, Watchmen, Superman Returns, Green Lantern, Cowboys & Aliens, John Carter, The Spirit, Clash of the Titans, and two Harry Potter films. On those visits I routinely came back with hours and hours of audio packed with interviews, anecdotes, observations, and backstories that have never seen the light of day. Now I have The Confluence as a platform to tell these tales.
My childhood in South Florida, meanwhile, turned out to be practically perfect as far as career preparation goes. And journalism was hard-wired into the comics mythologies, too, with Clark Kent, Peter Parker, Lois Lane, The Question, J. Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson, Perry White, and (my favorite) Ben Urich of the Daily Bugle providing some early formative (yet still profound) impressions of journalism, reporters, and newsrooms. And what's better than yelling "Great Caesar's Ghost!"
Here at The Confluence all these different things will come together in a report that always values insight above insult and strives to be heroically creative and creatively heroic in all things. The Confluence will also have lots of voices from top-name talent representing the stage, page, and screen. I will share some of my own viewpoints, too, along with trivia, live event announcements, art submissions, and anniversary retrospectives. I think it will be a lot of fun and I promise it won't ever be drab or dumbed-down. So now’s the time. Go get your cape on and tell a few friends to do the same by subscribing.