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DEANSPEAK
Ramblings and Ruminations
from Paul Dini

I know I promised a run-down of my Christmas party, but the season just got away from me. I’ll have the party report by Monday I promise, just when we’re all good and sick of everything connected to the holidays. But to prove there’s more to winter than just Christmas and New Years, click on this Oni Press Link to join Jingle Belle and her friend Gretchen for a day of snowboarding. In this strip I introduce a new villain to the JB world, one who will become more of a player in future stories.

Well, it’s early January and we’re at the start of another one. I hope ’02 was a good year for you. For me, sort of a mixed bag, as most recent years have been. On the upside, I got to officially introduce Ida Red and the Mutant, Texas crew to the world, for which I owe big thanks to J. Bone, Oni Press and everyone of y’all who bought the book and took the time to offer encouragement. Consider yourselves honorary members of Ida’s Straight Shooters Club and welcome down Mutant way any ol’ time.

Keeping with the western motif, this fall I had the chance to write a song for my all-time favorite cowboy band and I’ll be heading to Nashville in a few weeks to watch them record it. Ah-haaa! There will be more news on the song and where will appear in future updates, but fer now, jest set tight, saddle pals!

Aside from Mutant, in 2002 my writing took me to such diverse places as Gotham City (always my home away from home) the Planets Mars and Oa, Central City, the mystical side of San Francisco, Smallville, the JLA satellite, 24th and a half century Earth and back to the great North Pole once again. Some of that writing you might have already seen, though much of it is in the offing for ‘03.

I went to Chicago (for real) in June for the wedding of Superfriend Alex Ross and T.J. Katz. It was a beautiful ceremony and Alex and Teej make a great couple. A few weeks prior to the Chicago trip, I journeyed to Las Vegas for Alex’s bachelor party. While the notion of hiring Batgirl and Supergirl-costumed strippers did occur to me, Alex insisted on a G-rated excursion. Hence most of the trip consisted of going to Broadway-style shows and such attractions as the wax museum, Coca-Cola exhibit and World of M&Ms. Saturday, after having temporarily maxed out on hedonism, I vamoosed from the party boys to fly down into the Grand Canyon. A day spent in the refreshing environment of wide-open spaces and scorpions reinvigorated me for another night of reckless Sin City abandon. I’m speaking of course, of our late night run to Baskin/Robbins. Actually it was a pretty good time, though sort of odd when I later realized I had spent an entire weekend in Las Vegas and the only remotely attractive girl I had seen was the green M&M.

Let’s see, what else was fun? Despite my complete and total lack of acting talent, my pal Kevin Smith once again put me in his latest flick (Jersey Girl) and in three scenes with Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler, yet! But don’t expect to see me engaging in any of that sparkling KS repartee, Ben and Liv do all the emoting while I’m strictly eye candy. Still, it was quite an experience being on set filming from six PM to six AM for three nights. Ben’s a funny guy, quick to keep everyone’s spirits up through a long night shoot and very thoughtful to his fans. Each night he made it a point to go out and greet everyone clustered in front of the Paulsborough, NJ strip mall hoping to get an autograph or handshake. And I figure Liv Tyler must really be the magical Princess of the Elves as she remained focused, energetic and radiant on every take, even into the wee small hours. Me, I was always sawing wood by 11:30.

I did a few cons, (Wonder, Wizard East and San Diego) some animation gallery signings and personal appearances, mainly to promote Mutant, Texas and some new Jingle Belle prints and products. Pretty much all the fans I met were very cool. I may not pull in the biggest crowds, but I sure get the nicest ones. In ’03 it looks like Alex and I will be hitting the convention circuit hard in order to get the word out on JLA: Liberty & Justice. It’ll be a nice way to meet all the fans who supported our earlier five efforts and a fitting capper to the last of our DC big books.

On the downside, I lost a loved one in my extended family and seem to be in the process of losing at least one more. That’s never easy, but my sister had a fine, healthy baby boy last February and for that we’re all delighted.

I took another couple grinds through the Love Blender (as Matt Groening refers to relationships in his always brilliant “Life in Hell” weekly strip) and emerged sadder, hopefully wiser and, again as Matt puts it, “ready for further punishment.”

In May I flew to New York for the daytime Emmys, got stood up by my date, endured derisive smirks from my soap opera star ex-girlfriend (looking all smug and happy with her husband, the brat) and to top it all off, saw “Batman Beyond” lose Best Animated Program Special Class to “Disney’s Teacher’s Pet.” Not the best night of my life.

I had a few friends drift away this year (or in a couple of cases, storm out of my life) and a couple of others reappear after long absences. The same scattering of rouges, vampires and personal arch-villains continue to hover overhead, but I try to take it all in stride and remember Mark Evanier’s sage philosophy: “An enemy is just a friend whose guts you hate.”

My gifted and funny Bat-compadre Hilary Bader died in November, which will have me sad for some time to come. Without her, the Batcave is just an empty hole in the ground. As a young cartoon fan, I wrote a number of letters to Disney animator/director Ward Kimball, who always took time to send me funny, typically off the wall replies. Years later I got to meet Ward at a train swap, of all places, and we wound up talking more about O gauge Lionels than Pecos Bill, my all-time favorite Kimball cartoon. I didn’t know Chuck Jones well, but I certainly revered his films. When I worked at Skywalker Ranch some years back, Chuck came up for a couple of days to consult with George Lucas on an animation project and I had a great time hanging out with him and hearing his best animation stories for the first time. I’ll miss those three talented souls. The cartoon world is poorer for their passing.

So I finish out 2002 on a fairly even note. Some victories, some tragedies, but by and large with things pretty much as they began. And some years, walking away with a fifty-fifty split ain’t bad at all. I hope all of you can say at least the same.

Happy 2003.

P.D.

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