Mar 2012 28

by Damon Martin

“We humans can get eaten, we’re not the head of the food chain anymore.”
– Michael Rooker

Veteran actor Michael Rooker has starred in dozens of films including Tombstone and the cult hit Mallrats, as well as making several guest appearances on TV in shows like Chuck and Criminal Minds. What Rooker has been best known as lately is the redneck knife wielding and now armless badass Merle Dixon on The Walking Dead.

Rooker was a regular on Season 1 of the popular AMC series, and made a brief appearance in a dream sequence during Season 2, but with his character’s current whereabouts unknown, is there a Merle Dixon sighting coming in Season 3?

Check out our interview with Michael Rooker in wich he reveals if Merle Dixon will be back when The Walking Dead returns in October.

Damon Martin: First before we get to anything else, it’s the question that’s on everybody’s mind. Are we going to see Merle in season 3?

Michael Rooker: You going to see more Merle than maybe you ever wanted to see.

DM: During Season 2 you had a fantastic appearance alongside Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon). What was it like being back on the show and did you have fun going back for that dream sequence?

MR: I was totally stoked. As soon as I walked on set, everyone was like ‘Merle is back’. They’re big fans of Merle as well, so when we got a chance to do the scene – Norman and I are good friends – and really when you think about it out of the first season and the second season, that’s the only time we ever interacted on camera before, so it was awesome. I had a great time. It was tough love. It’s big brother motivating little brother, motivating him to save his own life and sometimes you’ve got to be tough with people like that.

DM: We’re all excited you’re coming back for Season 3, but one of the interactions I always wanted to see was between Shane and Merle, but now Shane’s gone.

MR: Isn’t that a bitch? I was hoping they’d save Shane for me, but it didn’t happen and that’s just the way it is. I’m letting people know I’m coming back, Robert Kirkman (executive producer/creator) says I’m coming back, as a matter of fact Norman Reedus has stated in several interviews that his big brother is coming back.

DM: I think everybody knew when The Walking Dead came out that it had a chance to be a huge show, but it really has become a cultural phenomenon.

MR: Dude, it’s killer and it’s so amazing and I’m pretty damn honored to be involved with a group of actors, directors and producers and all these guys. I’m having a great time. Even playing the cat-and-mouse thing over this past season in my interviews, I can’t really say anything, so I’ve gotten really good at talking for an hour without saying a damn word and giving anything away.

DM: I know you weren’t directly involved in all of Season 2, but I know you watch the show. What did you think of the movement of the storyline this year?

MR: I enjoyed it because I like the fact that we get to know these people, almost too well. We know them so well that it’s going to really hurt when even the ones that we don’t like that much get eaten, whatever. It happens, it’s a post apocalyptic zombie world, we humans can get eaten, we’re not the head of the food chain anymore.

DM: So this is kind of a two-part question. Online everyone was asking when is Merle going to come back? Is Merle the Governor, the character coming up in Season 3? And now we know that you are coming back, the speculation continues to run. What does that mean to you as an actor to see the fan outpouring for your return, and can you give us any spoilers about what Merle will be doing in Season 3?

MR: No spoilers coming from this mouth, but I’ve got to tell you, the fan base is phenomenal. Even from Season 1 when I first appeared, there were fans that jumped on the bandwagon for Michael Rooker and Merle Dixon, and the Dixon brothers overall. We have several online groups, the Dixon’s Vixens, the Rooker-holics, Rooker Nation, I mean you can get Rooker’d online now. It’s very cool and I really, truly appreciate it.

DM: Season 3 starts filming in May and I’ve got to ask how excited are you to be back as a regular cast member? I know that so many people that have left have said how hard it was because The Walking Dead cast and crew is like a family, but that’s a huge dynamic of this show – no one’s safe.

MR: It’s good that no one’s safe. I don’t want to be safe. I think not being safe makes you hungry and makes you fight more. I love everybody there. This is the first real show that I’ve been involved with. I did another one called Thief, we did six episodes, but I hardly ever worked with all the other actors. This time round we hang out, we live in a similar area so we go have coffee, and chill out and talk, so it is a good family atmosphere.

DM: Now that Season 2 is over we can all just get that much more excited for Season 3 of The Walking Dead when Merle walks back onto the canvas. I think everybody is super excited for what’s coming next.

MR: It’s gonna be awesome. Right on brother, we’re going to have a damn good time.

Related Posts:
The Walking Dead Season 2 Finale Recap: And Hell Followed Them

Mar 2012 20

by Damon Martin

When we last saw our beloved Walking Dead characters, Sherriff Rick Grimes was standing over the body of his best friend Shane who he stabbed, only to watch him turn into one of the undead, and then gets shot by the youngest member of the group, Carl. As Rick and Carl both try to react to the horrifying situation they’ve both just lived through, in the distance we see a hoard of walkers lumbering towards them in the distance. Thus begins the end of The Walking Dead Season 2.

While some may believe that the show focuses on the dead coming back to life and taking over the world, Robert Kirkman’s comic book-turned-television-show is really about the characters and their struggle with living and surviving in an insane world.

As left off at the end of the last episode, the mob of zombies heads towards the farm hell bent on finding some living flesh, and unfortunately for a couple of the members of Herschel’s tribe, they won’t make it to Season 3.

Beth tries to pull Patricia towards the car to make their escape just as a walker leaps out and latches onto her, ripping her apart. Beth can only watch in horror as she finally loses her grasp on Patricia, and runs away to try and save her own life.

Meanwhile, Jimmy rolls Dale’s RV towards the back of the barn where Rick and Carl have set a fire to try and distract the attacking zombies. They leap on top of the mobile home, jumping off the back end to safety. Unfortunately, Jimmy stayed in the RV and the walkers smelled dinner, and busted through the door to have themselves a snack.

Andrea is able to save Carol with some of her signature sharp shooting, but gets cut off from escape. Carol rides off into the sunset on Darryl’s motorcycle, and Andrea is left to fend for herself. Making a run for it in a caravan of two cars and a motorcycle, the group somehow reconvenes and that’s where Rick finally unleashes his bombshell.

At the end of Season 1, the crazy quack Dr. Jenner whispered something into Rick’s ear before they all bolted out, running for their lives. What he revealed was that everybody, all humans, had the infection that caused them to come back to life after death. So whether you die by zombie bites or just die of natural causes, you’re getting back up.

The group rails on Rick for not making this confession earlier, but knowing how insane Jenner seemed, he had no idea if it was the truth or just more crazy lies. It became fact however after he stabbed his best friend Shane, and moments later he was back up, looking to take a bite out of his former comrade.

While zombies simply coming back to life is nothing new when talking about undead mythology, The Walking Dead interjecting a little science with the revelation that everyone is infected was a nice touch. Although quite a few people saw this coming, it was a well timed reveal that confirmed just how hopeless this already hopeless world really was.

Back in the woods, Andrea is still alive but only barely as she continues to run through the woods, firing off rounds from her gun as the hoard of the undead keep close. Just when it looks like we’ve seen the last of Andrea, a sword comes swiping down from above, lopping the zombie’s head off.

Pan up, and you see a katana wielding badass with a hood up over their face, and a chain in hand attached to two zombies currently lacking any arms. As it was revealed later by Walking Dead creator, that is none other than comic book favorite character Michonne, who will be played in Season 3 by former HBO Treme cast member Danai Gurira.

After nearly running out of gas, the group decides to stop for the night and set up camp, but at one point Carol begins to question Rick’s leadership, and the former Sherriff doesn’t take kindly to her remarks. As he lashes out and tells the story of how he had to kill his best friend Shane because it was the only thing he could do, Rick invites anyone in the group to set out on their own and see just how long they survive. No one stands up and in an authoritarian voice, Rick tells the group that if they are staying they have to know one thing: “This isn’t a democracy anymore.”

Ever since his arrival, Rick has been looked at as the de facto leader, despite back biting from Shane and others who question his decision making. In the final episode of Season 2, he let everybody know that if they are going to look towards him as a leader, then he is going to lead and they need to follow. It was a brilliant way to show the humanity of survival with a glimmer of Rick ripping a bit at the seams after such a trying and tragic few hours, during which he lost his best friend, killed his worst enemy (it just so happened to be the same person), and saw more members of his extended family lost forever.

Rick turns to walk away and as the camera pans up, we see a prison off in the distance. Is this the safe salvation the group of weary wanderers has been looking for or just another painful reminder that this world isn’t safe no matter where you hide?

Tune into Season 3 of The Walking Dead to find out…

Mar 2012 14

by Damon Martin

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”
~ Dr. Emmett Brown, Back to the Future

Remember the bit in Back to the Future when Doc Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd) utters that very line and flies away in his souped up DeLorean to take Michael J. Fox and his girlfriend 30 years into the future? He takes them to the year 2015, which is only 3 years from now. In Brown’s version of the future, all the cars had been converted to flying automobiles and we had air gliding skateboards, video walls, and instant pizza.

Were some of those ideas a little crazy? Sure they were. But thinking back 30 years ago, those sorts of things almost seemed possible. I mean look at 1985 compared to 1955 with regards to the advancements in science, technology and innovation.

Now in the year 2012, the United States of America is falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), while our creativity and innovation fails to come up with much of anything new outside of Apple releasing a new iPhone or iPad every year.

Famed astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson believes that a big reason that America is falling behind innovation-wise is due to the lack of funding the government has given over to NASA in the last several years. As our space program has dwindled so has our ability to think outside the box, and reach for the stars both literally and figuratively.

Tyson recently spoke in front of Congress where he made his case for why NASA’s funding is so important:

“During the late 1950’s through the early 1970’s, every few weeks an article, cover story, or headline would extol the ‘city of tomorrow,’ the ‘home of tomorrow,’ the ‘transportation of tomorrow.’ Despite such optimism, that period was one of the gloomiest in US history, with a level of unrest not seen since the Civil War. The Cold War threatened total annihilation, a hot war killed a hundred servicemen each week, the civil rights movement played out daily confrontations, and multiple assassinations and urban riots poisoned the landscape,” said Tyson. “The only people doing much dreaming back then were scientists, engineers and technologists. Their visions of tomorrow derive from their formal training as discoverers. And what inspired them was America’s bold and visible investment on the space frontier.”

Now Tyson points out very specifically that in realistic terms the reason why the US was so dedicated to the space race in the 60s had to do with the Russians’ own dedication to space exploration. The USSR launched the first manned missions into space and the only way the US could beat them was to land a man on the moon. Obviously that was a successful conquest, and, in the period directly following it, most people believed that within a couple of decades we’d surely have landed a man on Mars. Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, yet more than 40 years later our space exploration has essentially landed back on Earth with a dull thud.

‘We stopped dreaming’ said Tyson during an appearance on the popular HBO series Real Time with Bill Maher. “And so I worry, that decisions Congress makes, doesn’t factor in the consequences of those decisions on tomorrow. Tomorrow’s gone. They’re playing for the quarterly report, they’re playing for the next election cycle, and that is mortgaging the actual future of this nation.”

In that same interview, Tyson also points out that the financial bailout ($850 billion) that was completed to save the banks and Wall Street from complete collapse, is more than the entire 50 year tally of the budget for NASA.

The fact is Tyson is right and it’s not even all about landing a man on the moon or exploring the deepest reaches of space, as amazing as all that would be. So much technology was developed as a result of our race to the moon, and that also created work for millions of Americans. Technology launched or invented because of our out of this world endeavors includes Lasik surgery, scratch resistant lenses, cordless power tools, micro-sized electronics, and the list goes on…

But we stopped dreaming.

Even in the early 1980s when I was in elementary school, kids talked all the time about becoming astronauts and wanting to walk on Mars or being the first person to fly to Pluto. I vividly remember our teachers always showing the shuttle launches and how exciting that was to see for a kid growing up. Now our children’s dreams might take them as far as Washington, D.C. or New York City, but rarely do you hear anybody talking about flying to Mars, much less colonizing the moon.

As NASA’s budget continues to fall by the wayside while other programs flourish, and our war machine eats up billions upon billions of dollars, what dreams are we instilling in the next generation? We are obviously a long, long way from landing on Mars or even sending manned missions back into space. We can barely get funding for the technology that will help us peer far enough into space from earth so that we may one day learn the true origins of our universe.

Flying cars? Maybe Doc Brown should have shot for 200 years in the future given the trajectory we’re currently on.

Mar 2012 08

by Damon Martin

Everyone knows soap operas…those daytime shows our moms and grandmas used to watch when we were away at school with improbable storylines where someone’s mother ends up being their sister, or they are in fact married to their sister who also happens to be their mother.

They have been chiseled at for years as lesser television with cheesy dialogue, bad acting, and laughable storylines. But the low brow art form has also been an important piece of the American television landscape for more than 50 years. Now, however, they are seeing a painful and rapid decline, and their ultimate demise could be in sight.


Dec 2011 19

by Damon Martin

“Atheists have always argued that this world is all that we have, and that our duty is to one another to make the very most and best of it.”
~ Christopher Hitchens

On Thursday, December 15, famed author and journalist Christopher Hitchens passed away after a long battle with cancer. He was 62 years old.

It almost seems insulting to try to put into words what Christopher Hitchens did so well whenever his fingers touched a keyboard or his pen hit paper. From his unrelenting passion whenever writing or discussing religion to his unapologetic nature when dealing with politicians or public figures, Hitchens truly was the conscience of a truth and information seeking society

In an October 2003 article for Slate, Hitchens looked to expose the saintly nature of Mother Teresa, yet had no issue with calling her a fraud and a fanatic. Also a staunch supporter of the invasion of Iraq, Hitchens time and time again stood up for his belief that the war was a just move against what he called “Islamofacism.”

He was never one to hold his tongue when speaking about any public figure, as shown in his critique of the 2008 Republican presidential candidates. He famously called Senator John McCain “senile” and denounced his running mate Sarah Palin as a “pathological liar” and a “national disgrace.”

In 2007, Hitchens published God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, in which he riled upon religion as a destructive, violent force in the world that he felt was simply supernatural chicanery used to control and manipulate people.

He helped coin the phrase “antitheist” in preference to referring to himself simply as an atheist. By way of explanation he said: “You could be an atheist and wish that the belief was true. You could; I know some people who do. An antitheist, a term I’m trying to get into circulation, is someone who’s very relieved that there’s no evidence for this proposition.”

Even after being diagnosed with cancer in 2010, just after the release of his memoir, Hitch-22, Hitchens continued to tour, debate, write, and speak out on all manner of subjects.

He debated former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Canada in 2010 about whether religion as a whole was a force for good or evil. It’s pretty clear which side Hitchens came down on, and he time and time again bested his foe with his arguments, even when he struggled to speak or stand for long periods of time.

During his illness, Hitchens spoke candidly about his beliefs or non-beliefs as they were, and said very clearly that he was comfortable knowing that there was no God or afterlife waiting for him when he expired. He also said openly that he wouldn’t take back any of the years of smoking or drinking because they led him to being the writer and person that he was.

Despite the fever of the religious masses that hoped for perhaps the ultimate deathbed conversion, he told CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper in an interview that he simply would not be one of them, no matter how bad things got towards the end.

“If that comes it will be when I’m very ill. When I’m half demented, either by drugs or by pain where I won’t have control over what I say,” Hitchens said. “I mention this in case you ever hear a rumor later on. Because these things happen and the faithful love to spread these rumors. I can’t say the entity by the end wouldn’t be me, wouldn’t do such a pathetic thing, but I can tell you not while I’m lucid, no, I can be quite sure of that.”

Hitchens leaves behind a huge catalog of essays, novels and assorted writings, but the fact that he is no longer around to develop new ideas and push the boundaries of religious debate is a great loss.

He’s not looking down on us from some higher plain, and he’s not in a better place.Christopher Hitchens is simply gone and if he were still alive he’d be the first one to tell everyone that.

The world truly has lost a beautiful, brilliant – and bright – mind.

Dec 2011 01

by Damon Martin

2011 was 12-months of non-stop action in the comic book industry. More and more movies are being adapted from comics, while genre TV shows are seeing their ratings go through the roof. For example a whopping 6.6 million viewers tuned in for the mid-season finale of the AMC adapted series The Walking Dead.

DC launched the New 52, which essentially scrapped every single comic they had going and restarted all the titles back at issue one with new storylines and new origins. Marvel killed a Spider-Man (although it was in their alternate ‘Ultimate’ universe) and re-launched popular characters like Daredevil, while still trying to build back The Avengers.

Though it was a long and crazy year for comic books, these are the titles, artists, and writers that I felt stood head and shoulders above the crowd.

Best New Series: The DC 52

I know, I know, it seems like a cop out to choose 52 comics as the best new comic of 2011, but what DC did by rebooting their entire catalog of comics was a brave and dangerous move. They risked alienating long time readers with their attempt to lure new fans. But judging by the millions of issues sold in just the first few months, the brain trust at DC are currently look like geniuses.

Headed up by the marquee series Justice League, written by DC wunderkind Geoff Johns and art legend Jim Lee, the DC 52 series has content that appeals to the everyday fan, as well as edgier, darker material for those looking for a little bit more blood between the pages.

The stand-outs for the new 52 include Gail Simone’s take on Batgirl, which has been a fantastic read thus far, as well as Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man, which has become one of the best ongoing series in the DC universe. In addition to the successful re-booting of the Green Lantern, with the evil Sinestro wearing the green ring of will once again and Hal Jordan trying to earn his way back into the corp, Geoff Johns has managed to make Aquaman a character people can follow again.

Overall the DC 52 has been a great success for the comic giant, and they deserve this award for having the guts to risk it all. Fortunately, the gamble paid off, and they came up big winners.

Honorable Mentions: Green Wake, Ultimate Spider-Man

Best Writer: Joe Hill

A few years ago Joe Hill may have been best known as the son of legendary horror author Stephen King. Fast forward to 2011, and though he may have got off to a faster start by standing on the shoulders of a giant, with his work on Locke & Key, Hill’s now setting the standard for writing in comics entirely on his own merit.

A labyrinth of characters are interwoven into this book about a family that moves into a house with an elaborate set of doors and keys that open into different worlds, while an evil spirit continues to haunt them.

The biggest crime perpetrated against Hill may be that Fox bought the rights to Locke & Key as a new ongoing series. After a pilot was made, Fox decided to scrap the project in favor of other shows. I had the pleasure of watching the pilot at San Diego Comic Con 2011, and I can say with certainty that Fox made a huge mistake not picking this up. Hill has continued to make Locke & Key one of the most enjoyable series on the market today – his storytelling is nothing short of brilliant.

Honorable Mentions: Nick Spencer, Robert Kirkman, Jason Aaron, Mark Waid

Best Artist: J.H. Williams III

For the second year in a row no less! J.H. Williams III really has set the bar for comic book art in recent times. His stunning art is beautiful on page after page of DC’s reboot of Batwoman, and his work continues to excel in every issue. He pushes the envelope in everything he does – so much so that comic book artists all over the world are paying attention to what he is doing. Williams captures the spirit of his characters with every picture and frame within a book, and truly knows how to showcase emotion so no explanatory words are necessary. It might be hard to move on from Williams in 2012 if his work continues along this same stellar path.

Honorable Mentions: Francis Manapul, Gabriel Rodriguez, Jim Lee, Joe Eisma

Best Ongoing Series: Morning Glories

The knockout winner for the 2012 Book Of The Year goes to Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma’s creation Morning Glories, which was an honorable mention for best new series in 2011. It’s been hailed as the Lost of comic books – there’s a whirlwind in every issue leaving you absolutely begging for more. It’s a series that has an ending in sight as Spencer has said the run will go around 100 issues, putting it in line with another classic book, Y the Last Man.

Most believe Morning Glories will be headed to television within the next couple of years, and there’s no doubt why. Spencer’s story about a group of special teenagers sent to a prestigious high school where the teachers are actually abusive overlords, hiding a deep secret within the walls, is captivating, mind-boggling, and awe inspiring.

From one issue to the next, Spencer leaves your eyes widened and your jaw dropped, and when accompanied by Joe Eisma’s perfectly placed art, Morning Glories is a tour de force that quickly draws you in and never slows down.

When my comic pull is given to me at my local store, nothing hits my eyes faster when I get home than Morning Glories. It’s the first ongoing series that has captivated me this way since Robert Kirkman began writing The Walking Dead several years ago. If you pick up no other book in 2011, Morning Glories is the one to try out.

Honorable Mentions: The Walking Dead, Locke & Key, Uncanny X-Force.

So there you have it loyal readers, the best of the best in comic books for 2011. I expect 2012 to be even bigger because The Dark Knight Rises will hit movie theaters and I’m sure it will be a huge hit. A new Daredevil comic will hit stores in 2012 as well, with an all-star cast on board for the writing and art, including longtime scribe Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Mack. And with the digital age upon us, the comic book industry is entering a whole new world in 2012, and bigger things are sure to be on the horizon.

Sep 2011 01

By Damon Martin

It’s a known fact that outside of some Ewok problems in Return of the Jedi, the original Star Wars series was always thought of by nerds, geeks and fans alike as the perfect movie trilogy.

A great set up and beginning with Star Wars IV: A New Hope to the ultimate downer ending with The Empire Strikes Back, all the way to Darth Vader’s redemption in Return of the Jedi.

Well, creator George Lucas apparently can’t learn to just leave well alone. As if he hadn’t altered the Star Wars universe enough with past revisions when the trilogy was re-released in theaters a few years back, not to mention the prequel trilogy, he’s gone and messed with perfection once again.

With the Star Wars films set to be released on Blu-Ray on Sept 16, Lucas has made what seems like a minor change that pretty much every fan boy and girl will react with harsh criticism, no doubt along similar lines to this article.

In the final scenes – where Emperor Palpatine is electrocuting Luke Skywalker, and his father turned evil minion Darth Vader finally steps back into daddy mode, lifting his boss over his head and tossing him down a giant well –– will now include one extra part.

Like Wyatt Earp in the film Tombstone, Vader will now bellow out the word ‘Noooo!’ just as he lifts the Emperor in the air and tosses him to his final grave. The addition echoes the final scenes in Revenge of the Sith where Vader first takes form and screams a smililar ‘Noooo!’ when he finds out his lovely Padme is no more.

It’s one thing to add to Vader’s humanity, but when it’s as cheesy as the scene looks and sounds now, the world’s ultimate badass loses just a bit of his luster.

Check out the scene and see if you say “Yes, George Lucas should have absolutely added this in, it’s vital.” Or if you just wanted to scream ‘Noooo!