Dennis O’Neil: Iron Fist and the Costume Unseen

by Dennis O’Neil

In peril, poor Polly Pearlwhite plunges from the pinnacle… And I, a superhero, really should fly up and save her and so I shall as soon as I change into my hero garb and… But what is this? I don’t seem to have worn the cape and tights under my Brooks Brothers suit and how could I forget such a thing? Well, come to think of it, I didn’t have my morning coffee and I’ve been Mr. Cottonbrain all day and… Never mind. Sorry, Polly.

So there I was – this is me taking now and not the fictitious person in the previous paragraph – and I’m about to reveal that early this morning, at about one, I finished watching the Iron Fist television serial and can report general satisfaction with it. But during the final minutes of superhero action I wondered if the film makers were going to give Mr. Fist a costume. He had one in the comic books where he first came to life and back when I was editing his monthly biography I regarded him as another one of Marvel Comics’s costumed dogooders, in the same area code as Moon Knight, Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Hulk, et cetera: not as popular as some of Marvel’s output, but clearly of the same ilk.

The show I was watching earlier today ended – mild spoiler-alert, one you needn’t pay much attention to – with Mr. Fist and a companion climbing to the top of a mountain and finding… not what they expected but rather things that must certainly have ruined their day and, not incidentally, provided a hook into another story. That, we will probably be seeing soon. Mr. Fist was wearing clothing appropriate to climbing snow-covered peaks, but it was just clothing, not a costume.

Marvel’s last adaptation of one of the company’s characters to television went costumeless too. This was Luke Cage, a.k.a. Power Man, who, in the comics I worked on, was Iron Fist’s partner. Coincidence? Probably. But might it not also be the harbinger of a trend?

The costume trope has been a part of the superhero narratives ever since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster introduced it with Superman in 1938. But they didn’t give us the first costumed hero. That honor goes to Lee Falk who began syndicating a newspaper strip titled The Phantom a couple of years before Superman appeared on the cover of Action Comics #1. The Phantom wore a skin-tight costume and a pair of holstered automatics. He lived and operated in the deep jungle, which makes the costume a bit puzzling: it doesn’t seem appropriate. But we won’t be foolish enough to quarrel with success.

Back to Mr. Fist. There’s no reason why action folk have to wear odd suits and a reason or two for them not to. The reasons usually provided are, well… as much excuses as reasons and I don’t completely buy them. It might be that they’ve outlived their time.

Certainly, Iron Fist did just fine in something he could have gotten at a mall.


Dennis O’Neil is one of the top writer-editors in comics, having guided the careers of just about every superhero the world has ever heard of. He’s also a damn fine writer of TV. LB still remembers that time he and Denny collaborated, without ever knowing they were doing so. Or knowing each other either. Ah, the magic of TV! This post was first published in Denny’s column at ComicMix.

Indie Film: ‘Are You Willing?’

And you thought aspiring writers had it bad?!

A film my the amazing – seriously – Erica Rhodes!

Casting Your Web Series

by Bri Castellini

By now you’ve written a script, gathered a team of hopefully competent people behind the scenes, but now you need someone to film. That’s right — it’s time to open up your email to headshots from every hopeful performer in a fifty mile radius.

Because you’ve already made your script breakdown, you should know exactly how many characters you need to cast, so it’s time to write what’s called a “casting call.” You’ll pen a short paragraph about each character, describing their age, gender, ethnicity, and other important traits that will be helpful for actors to get a feel for the part.

Helpful traits to list: “funny, life of the party, brooding, quick-tempered, whip smart, confident, insecure.” Unhelpful traits: “hot but she doesn’t know it, hot but she knows it, just the girlfriend.”

Example casting call from Bri’s show, Brains

Facebook and other social media are a great start for blasting your casting call, but if you’re in a larger city like L.A. or New York, I suggest coughing up a few bucks for a listing on sites like Backstage or ActorsAccess.

These are sites specifically for casting, and will increase your odds of finding talent outside your personal network. They’re also set up to make it easier to sort submissions, instead of just getting a bunch of random Facebook comments and posts.

I’d suggest staying away from Craigslist. Not only does it make your production look less legitimate, but the only actors who actively use Craigslist for casting are looking for… more revealing roles, if you catch my meaning. (Hint: I mean porn)

I’m a fan of a three step casting process.

Step 1: Have actors that fit your specifications submit headshots and, if possible, acting reels, or a compilation of their previous acting roles. Not all actors, especially younger ones, will have a reel, and you shouldn’t disqualify someone for this, but seeing them in action will make it easier to narrow down the initial deluge of submissions.

Step 2: Ask your favorites to send in a video of themselves reading sides. Sides are just excerpts from your script that you think best define the role you’re casting for. This way you can hear potential actors reading lines they’ll potentially have to perform. Usually one scene is good enough — all you’re doing is trying to get a better idea of what kind of performers they are before you meet them in person.

Step 3: Narrow down submissions even further by scheduling in-person auditions. Don’t hold auditions at your house or apartment — people are crazy, and it also doesn’t set a professional tone, even for a no-budget web series. Larger cities will have empty studio spaces for rent on an hourly basis that are pretty cheap. Otherwise, consider asking local universities for an empty classroom or friends for an empty office where they work.

This third step is more complicated than it sounds, because you’re not just auditioning people to see if they can play your character. You’re also deciding if they as a human being are going to jive with your production.

As an example, when I was casting for my series, we had one auditioner who would have been perfect for the character, but he gave off a very creepy vibe, and since we were planning on shooting with very few people in very small locations, we just didn’t feel comfortable offering him the role.

It’s like interviewing a potential roommate, because filmmaking is a very intimate and arduous process, and if you can’t imagine spending twelve hours at a time hanging out with this person, even if they read the lines well, it’s not worth it.

Congratulations, your scrappy team is now complete! Next week we’ll talk about contracts, which are necessary even if you’re only paying people in IMDb credit and fruit snacks.


Bri Castellini is an award-winning filmmaker as well as the Community Liaison at Stareable, a hub for web series. Check out www.stareable.com to find and read reviews of thousands of web series, all in one place. For more great articles about the craft of web series, visit the Stareable blog.

WGAW April 2017 Calendar

What’s happening in the Writers Guild of America West this month:

Click HERE for the, you know, clickable version!

Diana Vacc sees ‘Beauty and the Beast’

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT–

Friday March 17, 2017, Disney Studios released the live action version of their iconic animated film Beauty and the Beast. Growing up, I loved the animated film and watched it countless times, so I was truly excited to see how Disney would reinterpret the classic fairy tale of a prince who is imprisoned in the form of a beast and can only be freed by true love.

And guess what? I was not disappointed.

THE GOOD:

The actors inhabit their roles perfectly. Emma Watson was born to play the beautiful Belle and brings truth and power to the role. Dan Stevens as the Beast gives us the heart we need to empathize with him and his situation. Watson and Stevens have great chemistry, making us root for Belle and the Beast to get to know each other better so their love can develop and grow strong.

Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson as Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts bring their motion capture characters to life. The CGI feels absolutely real, and I admit that I teared up toward the end as we were presented with a terrible fate for these characters.

Luke Evans as our villain, Gaston, brings the all the narcissism of this classic character to life with humor to spare. One scene in particular sums it up as we watch Gaston profess his love for Belle…while admiring himself in a mirror.

The makeup on the Beast was fantastic. Every bit as striking as in the animated film.

The music by Alan Menken, who also did the original’s score, returns with great additions. Yes, those  additions are often corny but are fun nevertheless, and overall the music does a fine job of helping the story move forward while bringing out the emotion in each scene.

The writing by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos not only lives up to the original, it add info that the animated version missed. Many critics have complained that it is mostly “unnecessary” backstory, but I loved seeing the party and the Enchantress changing the prince into the Beast. And as somebody who always wondered why Belle and her father were living in that little backwater village, I especially loved this version’s answer as well as discovering so much more about Belle’s mother.

THE BAD:

There is no bad for me. This film is truly magical.

THE REST:

If you loved the original Beauty and the Beast, you will definitely love this version too. And even if you’re not the biggest fan of the original, the additions may well change your mind.

I highly recommend this film and look forward to future live action versions of classic Disney animated films.