Grab your gavels for a big birthday: the late Judge Wapner would have turned 100 this month. It’s true. November 19, 2019 will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Albert Wapner, legendary TV judge and pop culture icon. (I say that without irony!)
Britannicareminds us of his significance: “Born November 15, 1919, in Los Angeles, California. Died February 26, 2017, in Los Angeles. American jurist and TV personality who presided (1981–93) over The People’s Court, an immensely popular syndicated TV show in which plaintiffs and defendants from California small claims court argued their cases and accepted the judge’s ruling.”
Here’s why I personally find the 11/19/19 date worth noting, if not commemorating!
Back in the early 90s, Paul Fey and I were creating (as Paul & Walt Worldwide) a lot of radio and TV content for King World, the show’s syndicator. When we were tasked with finding a fresh approach for promoting it, I wrote the script for “The Ballad of Judge Wapner,” a 60-second radio commercial. Paul and Mathews Griffith Music brought it to glorious life, helped by the voice of the late Lance LeGault.
Give it a listen. And sing along! It’s now captioned with lyrics.
Comic smile of the week, at least for me: I accidentally learned Marvel Comic reprinted the X-Men parody I wrote – and Jim Lee drew! – in GenNext (an X-Men anthology book) #8. It originally appeared in What Th–? #5, a Marvel humor book from a decade earlier. Great to know! I was using the Google machine last week, and saw that I was listed as a writer on that book. “Ha! That’s a mistake,” I said. “I think I would know if I had anything in that issue.” But I ordered it, and what do you know: there we are, with better paper and better printing this time. Love it. You hang in there, writers, and the world offers up little gifts like this. I’m grateful.
This is writer Walt Jaschek’s introduction to the comic book Recycled Man: What Goes Around, published by Comicmood Studios, and available now on Amazon Kindle. The text introduction is titled, “When Endings Begin.” It’s about the impulse behind Walt’s creation of Recycled Man, and in particular about his power to “accelerate Karma.”
“What goes around, comes around.”
A somewhat world-weary, cigarette-smoking art director I worked with back in my ad agency days used to say that a lot.
He was right a lot.
He wasn’t talking metaphysically. More transactionally. If the flu is going around, you’re going to get the flu. (That was before the the shot. I am pro-shot.) If a client pays late, the agency is going to pay late. If somebody buys lunch with a counterfeit dollar, you’re going to get it as change.
He also used lean back, blow a smoke ring, and say, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” My younger self had to actively shrug that off. My carefully crafted optimism had to be shielded.
But he was right about that, too, in his way. We’re here for a blink, the challenges never stop, and if you don’t hone optimism and resilience, life will seem, as per Thomas Hobbes, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
“Life’s a bitch and then you die” is snappier, I think.
All those quotes were on my mind when the notion of Recycled Man was born a few years ago, in a notebook, late at night.
My concept of Karma – as in, creating your ultimate fate through the arc of your daily behavior – was continuing to evolve. I kept seeing both good and bad behavior manifest fate indirectly, and over time. Thieves don’t necessarily get robbed in return, but check out prematurely. Robbed of time. The corrupt are called out, at least by history. The poor winner loses it all.
Eventually. But often the pace of Karmic repercussions can be glacial, as in glaciers, which we used to have.
My impulse for Recycled Man was that he could accelerate Karma. He could cut to the chase. See the nasty out the door.
This introductory story, in which he does just that, hints – not subtly – at a backstory I worked out in the very same notebook.
It is, I hope you’ll understand, a deliberate change-up for me: a toe-tip into (what I hope is) pulpy drama. That’s new for a writer whose work is typically more light-hearted. Or was.
But as Don Secrease started adding seer-your-retina color to Paul Daly’s evocative art, I knew we had to get a print and digital edition out there – partially to gauge reaction, partially to give our new publishing company, Comicmood, a jump-start. (Will the story continue? Oh yes, if engagement and sales warrant. Let us know what you think at comicmood.com.)
Filling out the issue: a new story I guest-wrote for Terranauts: 2020, an incarnation of the long-running team created by Paul and Don, and on loan for this appearance. “The Call of Cold, Dark Places” matches the book’s tone, I thought.
More Comicmood characters are in development — get ready, here they come —and I think they all have a certain Karma of their own. The unworthy will vanish quietly. (Or maybe not-so quietly. I’m a comics fan, too. I know how we are.) The worthy?
Oh sure, it was fun spending, with wife Randy, 10 nights and 12 days in an all-inclusive Club Med-style resort with free ice water and unlimited I.V. drips. Let’s call it a “hospital.”
And it’ll be odd to not be able to just pick up the phone and order French Toast and Baked Lay’s. (Knowing full well they will somehow instead deliver Baked Toast and French Lay’s.)
But somehow we will proceed without a full staff of registered nurses, hospitalists and friendly floor moppers.
Back here at Apt. 1-B, I will be the hospitalist and floor mopper for a while. There will be caregiving ahead, but don’t worry, I have two allies: extra-strength Excederin and extra-strength Chardonnay.
It was roughly on the 7th day of this journey that Randy took a positive turn. ‘Til then, my poor, sweet wife was fighting a tick-born infection and its side effects – “Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever” isn’t just a John Denver song.
For days, she had but two modes: highly agitated alertness and a medicated, faraway fugue-state.
At about 10 a.m, I had just finished writing a long paragraph in my prayer journal. (Not a joke: I’ve been writing down prayers all my adult life, to good effect. I mean, I’m still here, right? And they’re still making Spider-Man movies?)
Anyway, at the end of the paragraph, I wrote the words, “Help me help this girl back.” I hit “save.”
Within two minutes, I heard her say, “I think I’m feeling better.”
Sure enough. She was smiling, sitting up in bed like Dorothy at the end of “Wizard of Oz.” (“And YOU were there! And YOU!”)
“Th… that’s good to hear,” I said, cautiously.
“In fact, I think I’ll get up and take a shower.” She hit the nurse call button.
“Eine gute idee.” (I’ve been talking German to her lately. Don’t ask me why.)
“Also, I’m starving.”
“Can you please go get me a Goodcents sandwich? I’ll have an 8-inch Italian on wheat, with Provolone, lettuce, oregano, and salt and pepper.”
“Could you be more specific?”
“And oil and vinegar.”
“You got it.”
“And Baked Lay’s.”
Again with the Baked Lay’s.
I’d like to say it was smooth sailing from there, but there were frustrating symptoms still to treat, such as a lingering headache: mine. (Just kidding.)
But today, a lovely Sunday, with the doctors in syzygy (“si-je-zee,” a term from my word-a-day calendar meaning celestial alignment) and souvenir shampoos in hand, home we were sent.
Your well-wishes and prayers helped do the trick, as well, and don’t think we don’t know it. So it is with great appreciation we toast you with… what else?
It’s 1899 and Dr. Devlin D’Abo (Walt Jaschek) believes he alone can lead the United State of America into the Twentieth Century. To help him take control of the federal government, D’Abo creates a weapon that will make his arm of desperadoes invisible. Only the Sons of the Saddle (Don Secrease, Rick Burchett, Bill Lux) stand between the mad doctor and his plan to unite western hemisphere under one supreme leader… D’Abo himself!
— From the DVD jacket for “Sons of the Saddle: The Invisible Rayders: Chapter 4: Doorway to Doom”
Writer/director Don Secrease (working under pseudonyms Sean Ryan and Manny Handz) was the creative force behind this amateur film and B-Western movie parody made by enthusiastic B-movie fans. As backstory, Don wrote the below…
This serial chapter of Sons of the Saddle’s “The Invisible Rayders” (chapter 4 “Doorway to Doom”) was made by a group of B-movie/serial fans for fun, to be shared by friends and family.
It was the summer of ’95, a few of us were discussing fan-made, straight-to-video movies, comparing good to bad, FX, etc., produced by Skeleton Creek Prod., W.A.V.E. Prod., B. Black’s Nightveil Media (its contemporary name.) These films were viewed, discussed, admired for their ingenuity and enthusiastic presentations.
Our ragtag team of B-movie aficionados decided to gather friends and family and create our own movie-making inadequacy.
We selected characters from our daily gag comic strip, “Sons of the Saddle,” wrote a 12-chapter serialized story, picked a random chapter, scripted it – then started rounding up the usual suspects – not to mention costuming, horses and tack.
All fell into place once we scouted our locations. Our major battles filming that summer: a Missouri heatwave, reliable video cameras and, finally, appropriate music. Since this was made for private amusement (or condemnation) and nor for sale, we picked background music from a few public-domain serials & B-westerns.
Ready for a new “Walt Talk?” Live on tape from his home-office in beautiful Ballwin, Missouri: a brief message from creative freelancer Walt J. about his upcoming guest-appearance at the “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference October 11th, 12th and 13th, 2019, at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Walt will be presenting to the assembled freelance writers and editors a topic suggested to him by the conference organizer. The topic: “You Oughta Be in Visuals: How to Make Your Social Sizzle to Be a Better Freelancer.” Walt says he looks forward to hearing exactly what he has to say about that topic… when he comes up with something… by October. Link to the conference: https://www.facebook.com/events/20043… Link to Ruth Thaler-Carter, the conference organizer: https://www.facebook.com/ruth.thalerc…
Walt is a writer (as Walt Jaschek) and a performer (as Walt Jay.) They’re both at work in this promo video, written by the former and presented on-screen by the later. 😉