Babylon 5 NOT Returning According To JMS

Whomp, whomp.

Yeah so after the cryptic messages from Straczynski at comic con, followed by the loose lips of Walter Koenig at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convetion, there were high hopes for some kind of return to the Babylon 5 universe.  I personally have been following this story with great interest if you saw my post a few weeks back here.  That, however, is not the case according to show creator J. Michael Straczynski, as he has firmly shot down such talk in recent news.

Claiming that Koenig misspoke and that there are no plans for more B5 in the future.  There has been some amusing outrage across the net directed at the actor for falsely getting B5 fan’s hopes up.  A John Sheridan fan page on Facebook had the status of “Bester, you motherfucker.”  And there have been other sites jokingly comparing the mix up of information to a deep rooted conspiracy similar to something orchestrated by the psi-corps.

I can’t really blame Koenig however, he’s always been a major supporter of the show and was clearly just eager to see another B5 project as well.  I was actually hesitant to post this newest development in hopes that there might be some clarification or reconciliation between JMS’ rebuff of Walter Koenig and his own comments at San Diego.  Alas there has been no further word.  It seems odd though, there apparently was something going on, can we just assume that negotiations went south with Warner Bros. execs?  Or was there perhaps simply some miscommunication and there were in fact never any plans for more adventures in the B5 universe?


One additional bit of information I find interesting is that very recently all of Babylon 5 was taken down from Netflix streaming, which a friend of mine pointed out could indicate that they are planning for some type of new release.  This could mean that the show might be seeing a blu-ray re-release soon.  Perhaps ol’ Walter Koenig was being tapped for a few recording sessions to do some commentary for some of his crucial episodes?

Who the hell knows?  I still hold out some hope however, despite Joe Straczynski’s recent denials, because there’s just too much potential story telling there to simply leave Babylon 5 on the shelf somewhere.

That is all!

My B5 Mission

So here it is, another Babylon 5 blog post from me.  I’m sure you might be getting sick of hearing me go on and on about this defunct sci-fi franchise and I promise I will try and make this my last B5 post for awhile, but I just have a few more things to say about this series.

As I mentioned before I was overjoyed to hear that all five seasons of Babylon 5 are available to watch on Netflix now.  Unfortunately the show only saw a brief life in reruns due to some sort of distribution rights dispute that effectively shut down syndication of the series.  For years I relied on VHS tapes that I recorded from television with the commercials edited out in order to spread the word on the show.  Even that approach, or showing the series on DVD, requires finding time to meet up and watch all five seasons, episode by episode.  It’s often difficult to find a time when that works for both parties.  You of course can lend out your copies to friends and family, but as I grow older I more and more take the position of “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”  I know I still have movies and games floating around the house that I’ve borrowed from friends years ago, and there’s always a slight pang of displeasure when I am without a lent item for extended periods.

The Babylon 5 station

Now however, thanks to modern technology, all of that is a thing of the past at least when it comes to spreading the word on Babylon 5.  Ironically I myself do not use Netflix, the wife and I are currently crunching numbers in an attempt to save money, and though it isn’t that expensive, it does all add up.  It’s on our list however and I’m sure we will catch up to the rest of the world shortly.  This development though does mean that I can finally conveniently and efficiently urge my friends and anyone else I know with Netflix to watch the show.

I am taking up a personal crusade to prosthelytize Babylon 5.  I really believe there has not been a show to equal its scope and level of storytelling.  I love the franchise and the Babylon 5 universe, and unlike other major sci-fi franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek, Babylon 5 needs a bit of a fanbase boost because it seems to be slipping further and further away from the pop culture spotlight (doubtlessly due to the aforementioned lack of syndication.)  BUT I also do not want to overhype it.  I hate when that happens, when you get all pumped up for something listening to others talk about, and you go in with enormous expectations that can’t be met.  If you have never seen the show I don’t want you to take a look at the first season and think “What the fuck?  He was praising this?”  So here are a few things to keep in mind:

1-The effects, for the most part, are bad.  At the start of season 1, the special effects can be blocky, slow and a bit awkward.  You have to keep in mind though that this was an upstart low budget series.  This isn’t part of a big franchise like Star Trek where they can use the legacy of the show, and established fanbase for larger budgets for graphics and effects.  Like Babylon 5 itself in season 1, the effects department was just getting off the ground and starting from scratch.  Thankfully as time goes on the overall look of the show improves tremendously.

2- The show is dorky.  In case you weren’t aware the show is a sci-fi series which, on occasion, conforms to the stereotypes of the genre and has a few dorky moments.  A couple of bad puns here, an alien penis joke there, you know, those old chestnuts.  Though actually as the series goes on those lighthearted “dorky” moments really help reflect the heavier, darker, and more epically mature moments in later seasons.

The show does have a lot of genuinely funny moments

3- The show is thick with continuity.  Babylon 5 isn’t a show you can pick and choose episodes with, in fact I often compare it to LOST in that respect when talking with people about the show.  Sure you’ll get the idea if you just jump right into season three, but there will be plenty of moments where you find yourself completely out of the loop, asking yourself “Now who the hell is that guy, and why is everyone so pissed?”  Without following the continuity of the show you really lose a great deal in regard to the development of the characters which is crucial to the show, and which I’d say is the best part of Babylon 5.  Which brings me to the good things about Babylon 5.

This show is unlike anything else in television, as far as I’ve seen.  The characters in the show grow and evolve with each episode and through every season.  No character is static, or two dimensional.  They are given quite a bit to deal with on screen and there are a plethora of rich personal histories that are alluded to, and referenced which help flesh out the characters.  When I say “the characters” I don’t mean just the main characters, the stars, the heroes, I mean every character on the show.  The side characters, the recurring characters, the comic relief characters, they all evolve as the show goes on.  You find as you watch Babylon 5 that your opinions of characters drastically shifts, and are often completely turned upside down.  The entire Babylon 5 cast is made up of cast of complex individuals working through their issues during the intrigues and immense storylines of the series.

Aside from the characters, the setting for the show, the B5 universe itself, is also deep and well crafted.  There is a sense of history in the universe that is seen through the characters and the plot.  There are political tensions and feuds between various interstellar governments tracing back through these fictional histories.  There is a strong sense of realism, emotional honesty, mingled in through the high tech unreal world of Babylon 5.  In a way the political tones and issues portrayed in Babylon 5 were ahead of their time, I would go so far as to say that J. Michael Straczynski was the first television writer to capture the feel of the post 9/11 United States, before 9/11.  Which is a huge credit to the political savvy of the show.  Thinking about it now, with its themes of corrupted media, distrust of outside cultures, misuse of military power, government conspiracy, and so much more Babylon 5 is more timely now then when it was originally aired.

My last bit of praise for Babylon 5 simply goes to the writing.  The only word I can think of for the writing is epic.  The best description of the show I’ve read was that Babylon 5 was a novel on television.  That is exactly it.  A novel with a huge story arc, dozens of tangents, and varied and complex themes.  The show changed my expectations of television and of the sci-fi genre.  In a way the show changed how I viewed politics and science, encouraging a better understanding of both.  The best thing I’ve taken away from the show however are dozens of memorable chunks of dialogue.  From sharp tongued one liners to eloquent dramatic soliloquies, Babylon 5 has them all.

The character of Michael Garibaldi is one of the best examples of the series writing

So overall my mission now is to create more Babylon 5 fans out there.  Why am I doing this you might ask.  Because I believe in the show?  Because I respect the creators and actors?  Because I hope to share the series message of realism mixed with hope?  The answer is yes to all of those I suppose, but I believe it is all pretty simple, and much more selfish than that.  I’m looking for more folks to talk about the show with who enjoy it as much as I do.  Perhaps I hope to prove to myself that I have been correct in devoting my fandom to the series.  If others out there like it, then maybe that means I have been right to spend so much time following the adventures of a band of fictional warriors and politicians in space.

Isn’t that why fans of any ilk band together?  Whether it’s TV, movies, sports, don’t we all get together not simply to enjoy the subject of our fandom, but perhaps to reinforce to ourselves that we are not alone?

That is all!

A Requiem For Comic Books OR Enter the Mercury Age

So it has been awhile since I’ve bought comics regularly.  Money is tight these days.  The wife and I recently bought a house, there is a financial crisis lurking around, and when it came to saving my hefty weekly comic book fund was put on the chopping block.  A shame to be sure, but I kept up as best I could by reading a few forums and checking out the publishers official sites and browsing sites like Newsarama and others.  I’ve picked up a few trades now and again but it’s been almost two years now since I’ve stopped reading comic regularly.

Well the other day a few friends and I paid a visit to our once regular comic shop.  We were making the journey to see what was new and to help point out some good X-Men trades for one of our group who was just getting started down the long winding X-Men path.  While we were pointing out trades and suggesting writers from the X Universe that she might enjoy, she made the off-handed comment that Wolverine seemed to be in a lot of these books.  The more veteran comic enthusiasts among us had a good chuckle.  Someone mentioned Wolverine’s apparently unspoken ability to warp time and be in every place at once, and I joked that Marvel should just make a new title that consisted of nothing but Spider-Man and Wolverine and just get it over with.  We chuckled and sighed.

However after I said that, one of the shops other patrons, who just happened to be lurking around nearby, walked up to us and said “You joke, but that’s actually on about issue three now.”  It took me a moment to realize what he was talking about, but then he walked over to the shelf and pointed down to a book entitled “Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine #3

Grueling hours of writing must have been put into creating this concept . . .

My only response was “You have got to be shitting me.”  But alas he was indeed not shitting me.  There it was plain as day, selling out incarnate.  Upon further inspection I saw that it is only a 6 issue story arc where Spidey and the runt get caught up in some crazy whirlwind adventure that takes them all over the Marvel universe.  I also realized that the series is written by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert which are some names with some clout.  When it comes to Jason Aaron I could take him or leave him, but Kubert has some pretty impressive artistic credentials.

From the few reviews I’ve parsed through dealing with this series it sounds like fans are enjoying it for the most part, even though many had the same trepidations about its selling out potential.  The only real complaint I’ve been able to gather is that it is constantly late, I guess it’s taken about five months to get the first three issues out, but then again what good Wolverine mini-series doesn’t take years to complete?

Going back to one of my earlier blog posts about the death of Johnny Storm, and the hint at several more main hero deaths to promote book sales, and now this; literally a clichéd joke come to life, it makes me worry about the future of the comic books industry.  I long for the days when creators were creating and building up the comic universes they wrote within.  Writers like Simonson and Gerber introducing crazy characters, that when you try to think of them off the page seem to be insane, but when they laid it out in the panels and ink they brought something new, imaginative, and at the same time tried to make a point and actually speak to the readers.  Today however writers simply struggle to put “hot” characters into some sort of mildly adventurous and entertaining plotline that will sell books. Or barring even that level of creativity writers seem to enjoy tearing apart the history of past creators to make use of the easy concept of “dealing with change” while at the same time being able to avoid the burden of actually coming up with some sort of point. 

Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes created Omega the Unknown, what I consider to be the Pulp Fiction of super hero books.

It’s like building a huge house for a family so that you can see the family grow and evolve and spark all these great events, only to come back later and tear it down just to watch them cry without really thinking beyond how cool it will be when you snap a heart wrenching photo of them in a sobbing embrace.

Perhaps that’s a bit of a melodramatic analogy, but I’m all worked up and pissed.   

With both of the biggest comics companies now under the boot of major corporate control (DC/Time Warner and Marvel/Disney) I have a gradually growing anxiety that the days of the comic industry are in their twilight.  With more and more corporate involvement, mixed media with large-scale Hollywood productions, and the digital revolution at hand I worry that the days of the small, privately owned neighborhood comic shops are on the way out.  Comics are becoming more streamlined, sticking to “popular characters” while letting others fall to the wayside, they’re experimenting less and less and the things we get beyond the printed pages such as DVDs, cartoons, and even movies are often rehashes of old concepts and storylines, despite how well produced they might be.  The comic book industry is like a band in the “Greatest Hits” phase of their career, which of course as we know often signals the end.  When the diversity of a company starts to slide people get bored.  Contrary to popular belief fans do enjoy seeing heroes other than Wolverine and Batman.

Green Lantern Mosaic a series cancelled not due to sales but rather executives not agreeing with the books tone.

Although I was not around during the 70’s I look at the comics from that era and pine for those days.  When heroes were aplenty, the Thing was the hot property of the Marvel universe, and there was at least a pinch of some sort of social, moral, or philosophical commentary mingled with our comic books.  Of course there were a great many shitty comics back then too, but even the shit seemed to have a heart.  Perhaps I have just grown too cynical about the current state of comic books.  There have been several periods in the past when people thought the industry was on its deathbed.  I realize there is still some great stuff out there today.   Green Lantern’s Darkest Night was epic, Marvel brought back some old school sci-fi adventure with Secret Invasion, and there are other great reads among the non-hero comics such as the Walking Dead.  I suppose I am just disheartened by the corporatization of the world at large and the comic book industry in particular.  Back in the day we humble comic fans dreamt of a huge geek revolution, where everyone knew the names of the Avengers and previously second tier heroes like Green Lantern could star on the big screen.  Oh but be careful what you wish for, for how many Mephistos must we bargain with to make our dreams come true?  How many hands will reach to reap the rewards of that popularity?  And how will our heroes change in order to maintain their corporate perceptions?

Thor #337 by Walt Simonson and the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill

I guess one thing I’m getting at is that each era of comic books has its own tone and general spirit, and that I am not a fan of this current up and coming era which I would dub the Mercury Age of comics, for its fast paced mutability that seems to run all over the place without maintaining any real substance.     

It all reminds me of the storyline from Doom 2099 where . . . . ah hell I’m done, I’d just continue rambling forever!

That is all!