Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Spirit of Vengeance


Gary Friedrich sued Marvel over rights to Ghost Rider. Gary lost. Marvel sued Gary for unauthorized exploitation of their trademarked Ghost Rider property. Gary lost. He is obliged to pay Marvel $17,000.

The web is a-Blaze with controversy about the above. Lots of people, including many notable comic book creators, have weighed in with their thoughts and theories.

Most of them have a flawed understanding of intellectual property law, work-made-for-hire and the circumstances of Gary’s services to Marvel way back in the 1970’s.

There has been discussion, for instance, about whether or not the W4H acknowledgement on the backs of the checks Gary received for his services back then specified certain rights, or whether or not Gary crossed out certain parts, and what those things might mean.

There has been much vitriol hurled against big, mighty Marvel for suing little, helpless Gary. Doing so has been characterized as petty, vindictive and cruel. Some speculate that Marvel’s coming down on Gary was a deliberate warning to all others who might dare contest ownership of properties. A few defenders of Marvel pointed out that Gary sued them first, cost them a ton of money in legal fees and apparently, given the decision, was in the wrong.

Some people brought up the fact that Ghost Rider was created by more than one person and many people along the way have made significant contributions.

Marvel’s suit against Gary raised another, related issue. There has been debate about whether or not artists selling sketches of characters owned and in most cases trademarked by the various publishers constitutes infringement.

And more. You get the drift.

I’m not a lawyer, but for over nine years, as Editor in Chief at Marvel, I was obliged to represent Marvel’s legal position to creators with regard to their work. I worked closely with Marvel’s house counsel and outside counsel. I attended an intellectual property law seminar. I was called upon to give depositions in several cases. In more recent years, I have served four times as an expert witness on cases involving IP issues. I know a good bit about the subject.

I don’t know all the particulars of the Ghost Rider suits, so I won’t attempt to pontificate on those, specifically. I will offer a few general thoughts:

1.  Doing work-made-for-hire means that you are selling your services, not whatever results from the services you perform. No rights need be specified, though for belt-and-suspenders purposes, they often are. What was on the back of the checks, crossed out or otherwise, is probably of no significance. Even if there was no legend on the back of the checks, it probably wouldn’t change anything. In those days, before the copyright law of 1976 took effect (January 1, 1978), nothing needed to be signed to effect a work-made-for-hire situation. The arguments would more likely be about whether or not the services rendered were a contribution to a “collective work,” was the W4H policy of the employer consistent, was the work done under the direction and control of the employer…and more.

2.  Speculating about Marvel’s motives seems like a road to nowhere. From the outside, Marvel’s suit against Gary looks to me like one of those defend-the-trademark things. If you know someone is violating your trademark and you don’t do anything about it, you may lose your trademark. You must take action. You can’t pretend to take action. No “just kidding, we don’t really want the money.” I believe that a judge would frown upon that. You have to at least look like you’re serious. That said, is it possible that Marvel will show a little compassion and never bother to collect, or in some other way let Gary skate. Could be. We’ll see.

While I was at Marvel, several times when someone violated our trademarks, I convinced the upstairs bosses to give the infringer, if he or she wasn’t truly evil, a retroactive license for a dollar.  Our marks were protected, they weren’t hurt, all was well.

The best known of those instances was when Dave Sim did a parody of Wolverine in an issue of Cerebus—which sold so well that he did it for another three issues. Parody is protected. Once is okay.  Four times constitutes infringement. But Sim wasn’t an evil guy. We liked him. We intended to do business with him.  So we handled it reasonably, I think.

The difference here, it seems to me, is this: When litigation is going on everything done or said by either side may and likely will be forged into a weapon for the other side. Being generous might be seen as a tacit admission that the other side has a point.

3.  Multiple creators tends to lend credence to the collective work argument. I’m willing to be corrected on this if I’m wrong, but I believe that I coined the tagline “Spirit of Vengeance” back when I briefly wrote the Ghost Rider. I’m not expecting a check in the mail for that anytime soon. I wonder if Mike Friedrich ever got a nickel for coming up with the Bat-moniker “Dark Knight?”

4.  Selling sketches of trademarked characters at conventions and elsewhere…now there’s an interesting situation. Collectively, a vast amount of money must be made that way. To my knowledge, the publishers haven’t ever taken notice. But, I guarantee, it’s on the radar now.

One person said that as long as it’s a private transaction between an artist and a collector, no harm no foul. To that person, I’d suggest setting up a booth at the San Diego Comic Con and selling sketches of Mickey, Donald and Goofy. See what happens. Disney once succeeded in preventing Carl Barks from selling paintings of Uncle Scrooge and fellow Ducks, though later, I think, they worked out a license deal. And Disney owns Marvel now. Hmm….

I think the business of selling sketches is just about to blow up like Krakatoa.

Once again for the record, I believe that the comic book industry has always treated creators unfairly. It should have been different all along the way. It should be different now. But, it was the way it was and it is the way it is.

Here’s the kicker. I believe that the publishers would be wise to rectify the injustices of the past as best as can be done, and to install enlightened policies going forward. I honestly think that would lead to far more great things being created, far greater profits in the long term…and far fewer lawsuits right away.

NEXT:  The Doctorow Doctrine and Other Techno-Tectonic Upheavals

Sunday, February 12, 2012

SEVEN, Issue 1

JayJay here. I finally have all of the pages to the first issue together. To make it easier to read I've put the full size images on a web page so you can just scroll down. Click the cover below to go to the page:

Friday, February 10, 2012

SEVEN, the Kabbalah Kustom Komic

Sometime back in 2006, Denise V. Wohl called me.

I could tell you the exact date if I had the time to dig through my logs. Boxes and boxes of notebooks. From the end of VALIANT, around the end of June, 1992, until some point in 2007 I kept a log of every phone call made or received, every significant communication of other varieties and the noteworthy occurrences of every day. I could tell you exactly when the squirrel up on the telly pole took a bad step, got electrocuted and blacked out the neighborhood.

Those logs helped me out several times in court. Not the squirrel part.

And I also have all my old e-mails going back to 1997 when I first got a computer. Interesting story about that, first getting a computer. I’ll tell you sometime. But, those e-mails are on disks in boxes in a storage space, at least as difficult to find as the logs. Sigh. If I win the lottery, I swear I’m going to take a couple of months off, sort through everything and put it all in easy-to-find order.

In mid 2007, I just couldn’t keep up with the daily records anymore. Too much to do, too little time, and no one was suing me. Why bother?

Anyway….

First, Denise wanted to ascertain that I was the “real” Jim Shooter. Apparently, there are a lot of “Shooters” of various sorts out there.

I confirmed that I was real, more or less. 

She wanted me to help her develop a comic book series based on Kabbalah.

Denise worked at Marvel during my early years there, the mid-to-late 1970’s. She worked in the production department for a while then became a freelance letterer and art production person.

Some of the more verbose writers didn’t like Denise’s lettering because she lettered “too big.” Even though I was doing my best to conform to the copy-heavy Marvel house style of the time, my scripts usually were terse compared to most. And, I loved Denise’s lettering. I thought it was very similar to the great John Costanza’s. Therefore, she often was assigned to letter comic books I wrote.

Besides lettering, Denise worked as a fashion model. I remember times when she would come in to the office directly from a photo shoot, all made up and wearing some fabulous designer clothes—a flowing white gown once, as I recall—sit down at a drawing table and start lettering. Actually, before she’d start, she’d wrap masking tape around her pen-holding fingers so as not to get calluses. Models can’t have calluses. It’s gauche.

Marvel, back in the day…what a place. What a zoo. Walk into the Bullpen and there’s a fashion model in a white gown sitting next to Mike Higgins, dressed for a Dead concert.

Anyway….

Denise had left comics, gotten married, raised a family and done well. She was doing a lot of philanthropic work. And, she had become a patron of the Kabbalah Center in Manhattan. She was very much involved with their Spirituality for Kids program.

But she hadn’t forgotten all about comics. She thought comic books would be a good vehicle for conveying Kabbalistic theosophy to young people, and she had an idea for a super hero group.

Okay.

I looked at her sketches and notes. I also did a little research about the subject matter. If someone had asked me before then what Kabbalah was, I suppose would have muttered something about mysticism and Madonna. Turns out there’s much more to it.

Denise didn’t want anything preachy or heavy handed. Good, because I wouldn’t have done that. She wanted an exciting, super hero comic book, based on Kabbalistic themes, educational about them only in the way that Thor done well is educational about Norse mythology. No “messages” other than those intrinsic to the characters, and they were pretty much of the Golden Rule variety. Be nice. Be generous. Help people. Etc.

Okay by me.

I introduced Denise to Joe Lauria, founder and CEO of Illustrated Media, through which I do custom and commercial work. When he told Denise how much it would cost to develop and produce a comic book, it brushed her back a little. Not cheap. If you do it right.

Denise actually went to DC Comics to find out what they would charge.

Hoo-hah!

Suddenly Joe’s price seemed like such a bargain.

Illustrated Media contracted with Denise to produce a seven-issue (naturally) mini-series.

I started work. Denise had some very definite ideas about the characters—even as far as which designer’s clothes each might wear. Not too surprising, since Denise was in that biz and counted among her friends people like Donna Karan, Zac Posen and Jill Stuart.

It took an astounding amount of research. I ended up with a stack of notes and sketches almost 18 inches high.

Thanks to Denise, I was able to speak with teachers at the Kabbalah Center in New York, especially a gentleman named Rav Meir Yeshurun, one of the smartest, most reasonable, level-headed, logical people I’ve met in many a year.

A lot of people focus on the mystical aspects of Kabbalah. Meir focused on the practical aspects. Tools for living. He’s a down-to-earth, practical guy. When the more mystical things came up in conversation, his attitude seemed a lot like mine—who knows, with a dollop of who cares mixed in. I think he believes that people make their own mysticism. You can find mystic significance in almost anything, if that’s your desire.

Kabbalah is largely about interpreting apocrypha, don’t get me wrong. The foundation document of Kabbalah is called the Zohar. Zohar means “splendor,” or “radiance,” if you prefer.”

Here’s the Zohar, graciously provided to me by Denise:
I found one box of reference books I used. There are more, but here’s what was in that one:
Here are a few of the magazines with fashion reference in them. They were in the same box. The Post-it flags mark pages with groovy clothes we were considering using.
Before sitting down to write the first script, I wrote over 40,000 words of background material including extensive dossiers for each of the principal characters. Here are a couple of the dossiers. The rest are available for download if you’d like to see them. 

Millie is the star of the show:
(The photos that accompany these dossiers have been omitted here, but are in the downloads. - JayJay)

The Seven TM
(Working Title)

By James C. Shooter
Based on concepts and inspiration from Denise V. Wohl

Copyright © 2006 Denise V. Wohl

February 17, 2007

Dossier: milli

BACKGROUND
(Note: most of this will not be revealed)


SUPER HERO NAME: MAINSTREAM;  Real Name: Millicent “Milli” Aiga

Mainstream is influenced by the essence of Malchut:  Malchut = Adonai, “My Lord,” Shekinah, “Kingdom.”  Malchut is the base of the Tree of Life.  Within Malchut, all things, every principle, idea and contradiction are contained.  Malchut is also called the “Body of God” and “Beauty of Creation.”  Malchut is associated with Earth, the color black (brown) and King David.  King David suffered the weaknesses of human nature—a hero, a noble and mighty ruler, he was also a victim and an abuser, a prisoner of logic and emotions,

CHARACTER DESCRIPTION

Millicent “Milli” Aiga (Super Hero Name: “MAINSTREAM”)

Height:  1.63 meters (five feet four inches)
Weight:  53.07 kilograms (117 pounds)  
Complexion:  Pale, pasty, blemished  
Eye Color:  Brown
Hair:  Mousy brown (naturally), but frequently dyed purple, green, hot pink, etc.  
Age:  21
Astrological Sign:  Scorpio
Possible Actor/Type:  Lindsay Lohan

Clothes:  Style: urban Post-modern.  Milli favors brown, black and earth tones.  Early in the series, Milli wears scavenged, shoplifted, Salvation Army/Goodwill, grunge femme clothes.  Later, she’ll wear urban Outfitters, Triple Five Soul, and other, more upscale urban clothing.  When she finally becomes a little more prosperous, she’ll wear Zac Posen.







Millicent is a name of Old High German origin, meaning “work” or “labor” and “strength,” i.e., one who toils or struggles, and yet has the gift of strength.  Aiga is a Rapanui name meaning “Existence, stay, sojourn.”  Rapanui is the native language of the island called Rapa Nui, which means “Great Island.”  In Polynesian, this island is called Te Pito o te Henúa: “Navel of the World,” or Mata-ki-te-Rangi: “Eyes (Speaking) from the Heavens.”  The Dutch navigator Jakob Roggeveen who “discovered” it on Easter Day, 1722, called it Easter Island.  Easter Island is the most remote populated place on the planet, that is, the farthest from any other populated place.

Millicent was born of a Rapa Nui father and Chilean mother of mixed South American ethnicity at a Chilean SCAR (Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research) station on King George Island, Antarctica.

Milli’s father is a lab assistant and his wife is a mechanic/vehicle maintenance technician at the Escudero (“Squire”) Chile research station.  Severe weather made a trip to a hospital in Chile impossible when her mother was due, so Milli was born at the station.

Milli’s parents are hardworking types who make a decent living, if you can call living year round on an island off the coast of Antarctica “living.”  Milli didn’t.

Milli grew up mostly at the station on King George Island.  She was home schooled.  She was bright enough, but unmotivated.  She more or less resisted learning anything that was being taught to her.  On the other hand, she did learn to read and read a lot of things that interested her—like radical poetry, Journey to the End of the Night by Céline, anything by Bukowski, Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, everything by Thomas Pynchon and more.  She devoured anything that about life anywhere but where she was.  She felt angry, frustrated and like a lost soul.  She felt trapped.  She hated where she was.  Her parents felt helpless with regard to their daughter, and were themselves increasingly frustrated.  Her behavior deteriorated daily, and it was never all that good.  Nothing worked—not punishment, not bribes, and certainly not reasoning.

Milli ran away from home at age eleven—quite a feat for someone who lives on an extremely restricted access island.  She stowed away on a supply ship, made it to Ushuaia, Argentina, and from there to Buenos Aires.  She grew up on the streets—not only of Buenos Aires, but of Sidney, Tokyo, Cape Town and Berlin.  She survived by begging, dumpster diving, finagling, stealing, dealing and, as she grew older, even worse—hustling her way around the world.  This was no journey of exploration, no exciting see-the-world adventure.  Milli pretty much had to move from one place to another to stay one step ahead of trouble or because that’s where her meal ticket was headed.  She found out that she hated where she was no matter where she was.

She arrived in New York City when she was 21with faked papers, conned out of a “friend” who works at the State Department.  She was arrested shortly after her arrival for shoplifting and sentenced to six months probation and court-ordered counseling.

Milli currently lives in an Alphabet City crash pad flophouse with half a dozen other misfit souls plus whoever or whatever drifts through.  She suffers from a broad array of human frailties—she smokes, for instance, when she can buy, borrow or steal a smoke.  And she has a chip on her shoulder the size of an Easter Island monolith.

Milli sees her court-appointed psychologist twice a month.  He works pro bono one day a week counseling troubled young people.  His name is Meir Moran.

Milli runs across the rest of the Seven on a harrowing trip uptown in the middle of a New York blackout to keep a do-or-die court-ordered appointment with Meir.  The next day, José finds her, and one by one the others gather—or are gathered—around her.  She can’t figure out what these weirdos want of her.  She can’t do anything, after all.  On the other hand, that Tim guy is really hot for a stupid-straight, stick-in-the-mud suburban kid, and he’s the first nice guy who ever seemed to like her at all….  But…nahhhhh.

Milli thinks she’s nothing.  In fact, she insists on being called “No One” by these oddballs.  But there is far more to her than anyone, especially Milli, knows.  She is the key.  All that the Seven are is manifest through her.

She is in fact, “no one.”  She is all.

And, once the others realize that, they give her the super hero name “Mainstream.”  Over her objections.

Meir is a psychiatrist who becomes the mentor of the SEVEN. I borrowed his first name from Rav Meir. It seemed appropriate. Especially when you see what the name means.

Seven TM

By James C. Shooter
Based on concepts and inspiration from Denise V. Wohl

Copyright © 2007 Denise V. Wohl

May 20, 2007

Dossier: meir


FULL NAME: DOCTOR MEIR MORAN

Doctor Meir Moran is a man, nothing more, nothing less.  He seems to be a very old soul, but…who knows?


CHARACTER DESCRIPTION

Doctor Meir Moran, MD, PhD

Height:  1.70 meters (five foot seven inches)
Weight: 65.77 kilograms (145 pounds)  
Complexion:  Tan, weathered  
Eye Color:  Blue
Hair:  Brown, graying
Age:  63
Astrological Sign:  Virgo (From Wikipedia: - Virgo (The Virgin) (mutable, earth, social): Keyword: "I analyze". Practical, efficient, critical, work and service oriented, common sense, modest, health conscious, mentally active, fussy, helpful, loving, flexible. Part of body: intestines/digestion 

Possible Actor/Type:  Dustin Hoffman (in the film Confidence)


Clothes:  Style:  usually casual, comfortable.  Meir is fastidiously neat and clean, but his clothes always seem to look a little rumpled and wrinkled, even if they’re fresh from the cleaners, or have just been pressed.  Meir buys his clothes at Men’s Wearhouse, Syms, and other discount retailers.  Once in a while, if he sees something he likes, he’ll buy an item at a thrift shop.  He has no favorite designers or labels.  He has no favorite colors.  He generally wears neutrals or muted colors, but occasionally will mix in a brightly colored article of clothing—say, a scarf in the winter, a tie (when he has to wear one) or a sweater.  Meir often wears sweaters.  Meir isn’t careful about coordinating his outfits.  Occasionally, even his socks don’t match.


History:  Meir’s parents, Ashkenazic Jews, immigrated illegally to Palestine from Eastern Europe in 1938 during the Aliyah Bet, or “clandestine” immigration (known in Israel today as the Ha’apalah), fleeing Nazi persecution and narrowly escaping the ensuing Holocaust.

They settled near Petah Tikvah, the “Mother of Settlements” in what is now the Center District of Israel.  Meir, their only son, was born in 1944.  They had two daughters, one born in 1948 and one in 1949.

Meir is a name of Hebrew origin, meaning “Giving light.”  Moran is a surname of Hebrew derivation that means “Teacher, guide.”

When the State of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948, Meir and his family became citizens.

In June of 1949, near the end of the first Arab-Israeli War, Meir’s father was killed in an ambush along the Syrian border.

Suddenly widowed, Meir’s mother struggled to keep her family alive.  Her task became more difficult a few years after her husband’s death when she was obliged to take in a two-year-old niece and an infant nephew orphaned by a bomb attack.  “Grinding poverty” is a cliché, but apt, indeed…as anyone will attest who has gone to bed hungry knowing the morning will bring only more hopelessness and futile struggling.

Meir grew up feeling a great responsibility as the eldest boy, the “man of the house.”  He was determined to succeed, make something of himself, end his family’s suffering and ease his mother’s burden.  He worked hard to do well in school, and at age five, shortly after his father’s death, he began doing odd jobs and errands after school around the settlement to earn a few extra coins for his mother.  As he grew older, he was able to take more demanding and better-paying after-school jobs—but he never neglected his studies.  Often, he would study far into the night after everyone else was asleep.

Many times young Meir’s tiny contributions were the difference between a meager supper and nothing at all.

Meir’s siblings and cousins were not as strong willed or as driven.  They were often goaded into trouble by hunger, by need, by want, by fear and by the rage that grows inside one’s soul as a last-resort defense against despair—rage against the injustice of their suffering, the hopelessness of their lives and the oppressiveness of the world.  Mother worked long hours and seldom was there to comfort or teach them.  All young Meir could do was wish that he could help them…and work even harder.

At age seventeen, Meir earned his full matriculation certificate, after which he served three years in the Israeli Defense Forces.  He served honorably and well in a non-combatant, rear echelon role during the Six-Day War.  After his conscription ended, he entered the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he completed his pre-med studies, medical school and post-graduate studies in biophysics, biochemistry and molecular biology.  He served his internship, residency and fellowship at the renowned Sheba Medical Center.

Subsequently, Meir was invited to become Chairman of the Department of Biomedical Research at New York University Hospital in New York City.  He was the youngest person ever appointed to such a prestigious position.

And so, Meir had succeeded, made something of himself and finally achieved the financial prosperity necessary to end his family’s suffering and remove his mother’s burden entirely.

Meir sent for his mother and family, asking them to join him in America.  His two sisters, one recently shed of an abusive, failed marriage and the other just out of rehab for alcoholism; his cousins, both unemployed and both with histories of arrests for petty theft and possession of banned substances; and his weary, long-beleaguered mother all embraced the chance for a new life in a new place.  Meir made arrangements and sent tickets.

The day came.  Early in the morning, Meir’s family boarded a bus to take them to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

Seventeen hours later, while waiting at Kennedy Airport for their flight to arrive, word reached Meir that there had been an accident.  The bus carrying his family had crashed, rolled down a long embankment and caught fire.  Nineteen people were killed—including his cousins, his sisters and his mother.

Everyone dear to him was dead.  Not by war, or the action of some enemy, or even by disease—things Meir could at least comprehend, things that he’d experienced or dealt with in his lifetime—but by some random turn of fate.  It was devastating.

Meir’s relatives were buried in Petah Tikvah.

In the weeks following the accident, Meir was inconsolable.  All his reasons for striving, for working as hard as he had from early childhood were gone.  He felt cheated and betrayed by life.  At last, he knew the soul-burning rage his siblings and cousins had so often felt—helpless rage against the atrocity fate had perpetrated against him.  His rage, however, was no defense against the despair overwhelming him.

Meir resigned his position at the hospital.  Every day, he simply walked aimlessly, or sat on a bench in the park, lost in his own, personal darkness, attended by bitterness and feeling nothing but gnawing emptiness inside.

One day, after wandering without purpose far into the night, Meir suddenly felt very weary, as if he couldn’t take another step.  He dragged himself to the Port Authority Terminal, meaning to take the train back the Upper West Side and his apartment.

As he stood on the platform watching the train roaring into the station, it occurred to him to jump onto the tracks in front of it.  Death, simple and quick.  A fittingly abrupt end to a life that had been, after all, a monumentally grueling effort rendered useless and futile by a random occurrence.

Then, he noticed that there was already someone lying on the tracks!  

Without hesitation, Meir leaped down split seconds before impact and attempted to yank the man to safety in the crawl space under the platform.

He succeeded—halfway.

The man’s legs were severed just above the knees.

Moments later, the train had been cleared and Meir was improvising tourniquets to keep the man alive.  He was an older man, dressed in worn and tattered clothes.

As Meir worked feverishly, the tattered man looked up at him and asked, “What happened?”

“You were hit by a train,” Meir said.

“Yeah, I know,” said the tattered man.  “I meant, what happened to you?  You look terrible.  You’re wearing darkness like a parka.”

Nonplussed, Meir looked at him, really looked at him for the first time, and felt himself being penetrated by the tattered man’s gaze.  Then the paramedics arrived.

The paramedics took over—expressing profuse admiration for Meir’s expert first aid.  The tattered man continued speaking to Meir—comforting him.  “I wish I could help you with whatever’s troubling you,” he said, “but now seems to be an inconvenient time.”

As the paramedics took the tattered man away on a stretcher, he called to Meir.  “Reach for the light as desperately as you reached for me.  The light will save you.”

Eventually, Meir made his way home that night.  He couldn’t sleep, thinking about the tattered man’s words.

The next morning, Meir made some calls and found out that EMS had taken the tattered man to Bellvue.

Forty minutes later, Meir was standing beside the tattered man’s bed.  Though his legs were cut off, again, the tattered man was the one doing the comforting.

Meir visited him every day.  Every day the tattered man—who liked to be called Sam, though that wasn’t his name—taught Meir something, with wise and simple words.  He opened Meir’s eyes.

Over the course of many visits, bits and pieces of Sam’s own story came out.  When he was young, he had met a great teacher who had started him on the path to enlightenment.  Sam said he’d traveled the world…met many great teachers, and learned much.  He stays in touch with some.  “When the Dalai Lama is in town, for instance, he always drops by.”

“By where?” Meir asked.  Sam explained that he lived in the catacombs below street level where thousands of homeless “mole people” live.  There are mazes of unused train tunnels, utility conduits, sewers, old basements, and nooks and crannies of every sort all over Manhattan underground, accessible through subway stations, manholes, ungrated sewers, air shafts—there’s even a secret entrance through the lower lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria!  The main and biggest underground complex by far, a city beneath the streets, lies under Grand Central Terminal, Sam said, but he preferred to live in the “suburbs,” that is, nearer Port Authority.  That’s where the Dalai Lama comes to see him.

Meir was amazed, but he believed Sam.  You couldn’t help but believe Sam—you saw nothing but truth in his eyes.

Sam had been on his way home the night the train hit him.  He’d had a seizure—a little problem he’d had ever since he was a small boy—and that’s why he fell unconscious on the tracks.  Meir mused that his arrival there at just that moment was a very lucky accident.  “It was no accident,” said Sam.

When Sam was released from Bellvue, Meir implored him to stay at his place for a while, at least until he healed completely.  Sam refused.  “At least, then, let me help you,” Meir said, “give you some money, or….”  Sam interrupted.  He said he didn’t really need any help—though a cab ride back to Port Authority would be appreciated.  It was a long way “walk” on still-sore stumps.

Meir protested the idea of Sam going back underground so soon.  “There are people down there who need me,” Sam said.

Sam went home.  Meir often went to visit him, and found that, though in some ways it was a shadowy, dangerous place, the underground “suburbs,” at least, weren’t so bad.  A real community thrives down there….

Eventually, Meir took Sam’s advice and began to travel, seeking out great teachers and sources of wisdom and enlightenment all over the world.  He visited Koori “clever men” in the Australian Outback, a Cardinal in South America, scholars in Europe, a revered Babalawo in Africa and even the Dalai Lama—who was very pleased to have word of Sam, even though it was sad news that he’d lost his legs.  The Dalai Lama didn’t seem to take that too seriously, however, and averred that it was a small price for Sam to pay to ensure that the chain of wisdom, the Guruparampara, went on unbroken, in the person of Meir.  It’s a living chain stretching from the spiritual heart of the cosmos to nature and mankind, he explained.

Along the way, during and in between in his travels and studies, Meir earned his doctorate in psychology, completed a psychiatric residency and became certified as a psychiatrist.

These days, Meir still lives on the Upper West Side in New York City, working as a psychiatrist.  His offices are in a high-rise at the corner of 86th and Broadway.  He treats and counsels a wide variety of patients, but much of his time is devoted to pro bono counseling troubled young people—people a lot like his late siblings and cousins.

Now in his sixties, Meir is weathered by travel and experience but brimming with life and light.  His eyes are wells of wisdom, penetratingly intense, as deep as if they had seen ten thousand years and yet sparkling like a child’s.

Though he has become very learned and wise, Meir is still a pilgrim on the long road to enlightenment.  He still travels, whenever possible, to meet with and learn from scholars and wise people around the globe.

Meir is no saint.  Not yet, anyway.  He’s perfectly capable of being a little cranky-verging-on-ornery.  He’s generous, but not exactly Brother Juniper, frugal but not an ascetic.  He likes his comfy bed, and is far from ready to move into the catacombs and sleep on a concrete ledge, like Sam.

Speaking of Sam, he often visits Sam either at his home underground, or where Sam sits near the doors to Port Authority, accepting donations.  Meir always brings Starbucks coffee and bagels.

_______________


Here’s the overview of the series story arc (for download):

Here are some character notes:


The Seven TM
(Working Title)

by James C. Shooter
based on concepts and inspiration from Denise V. Wohl

Copyright © 2006 Denise V. Wohl

June 4, 2006


BACKGROUND ON THE CHARACTERS
(Note: most of this will not be revealed)


SUPER HERO NAME: COSMIC (ALTERNATE NAMES: CHARMWAVE, COSMOS, COSMOTRON, CHI, CHAKRA, CHANGE, CHANGER, CHANCE, CHANNEL, CHROMOS): Chenychadaiyan “Chen” Krishnan

Cosmic is influenced by the essence of Chesed:  Chesed = El “God the Great,” “God on High.”  Chesed is mercy, greatness, benevolence – the kind, merciful father who guides and protects the child.  Chesed is tolerance, kindness, sharing, giving.  Chesed carries the connotation “drained,” that is, giving all till empty.  Chesed’s nature is “forgive and forget”—the logical extreme of which is permissiveness to the point of anarchy, giving beyond the point of ennui/satiety.  Chesed is a healer, or, more precisely, a font of healing power.  Chesed is associated with Jupiter, the South, the color blue (white, purple), the Lion and Abraham. (Abraham exhibited the concept of caring [see Nonstop/Netzach]—he cared for individuals.)


SUPER HERO NAME: GAVEL: Gabrielle “Gaby” Bullaibullai

Gavel is influenced by the essence of Gvurah: Gvurah = Yah: “God the Just” or “God the Strong.”  Gvurah is strength, vigor – the strict, authoritarian mother who tears down what Chesed builds up.  Gvurah is discrimination, severity, setting boundaries, taking a stand.  Gvurah is “overcoming,” the strength to overcome, might.  Gvurah is a strict disciplinarian—the logical extreme of which is tyranny.  Gvurah is unlimited power, a “power station” from which power flows.  Gvurah is associated with Mars, the North, the color red and Isaac.  Isaac, who faced sacrifice, represents the judgment of the Deity. 


SUPER HERO NAME: T-STAR: Timothy “Tim” or “T-Bell” Bell

T-star is influenced by the essence of Tiferet:  Tiferet = YHWH-Elohim or YAHEL: “the Holy One,” “blessed be He,” “the Divine Beauty of the Glory of God.”  Tiferet is compared to the sun. “…in the sphere of the sun.”  Tiferet is beauty, harmony, life force.  Tiferet brings forth life.  Tiferet is also pride—the pride of accomplishment, i.e., self-esteem, not egotism.  Tiferet is the balance between Chesed and Gvurah, to wit, the warming rays of the sun and the fierce heat that scorches the Earth.  Both tolerance and discrimination, Tiferet is compassion—not overlooking transgression, but reasonably forgiving.  Tiferet is associated with the sun, the East, the color yellow-gold (purple, green) and Jacob.  Jacob, the father of the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel, was “He who brought forth….”


Tiferet has a strong relationship to Malchut.  Tiferet has the aspect of the “bridegroom,” and Malchut has the aspect of the “bride.”  Tiferet represents the “Love of God,” whereas Malchut is prone to the “Fear of God”


Cosmic, Gavel and T-Star represent Beriah, the World of Creation:  This is the world of intellect, thought, the realm of the throne—that is, the “location” of the Throne of God and the place of Archangels.  Beriah is intellect and thought.  This is the world of creation where archetypes (conceived in Azilut) become patterns.  Beriah is creation itself – the universe in idea, distinct, still within the Deity, but not invested with forms – a simple unity –  Heaven.  Things here are “created in spirit” – time and space are contemplated – night is differentiated from day, male from female, past from future.  Here, with the concepts of time, there begins imperfection, imbalance and change – thus, evil.  Beriah lies between the Fire of Azilut above and the Water of Yetzirah below.  This is the level of prophecy, transcending linear time and space.


SUPER HERO NAME: NONSTOP: Nassor “Nassi” Utsungi 

Nonstop is influenced by the essence of Netzach:  Netzach = YHWH Zavaot: “the Hosts of YHWH.”  Netzach is victory—the Victory of God—and force.  Netzach is eternity, immortality, continuity, the all-enduring drives of nature and natural instinct as opposed to contrivance.  Netzach is intuitive, disposed toward “right brain” functions—a dreamer, an artist, a creator.  Netzach carries the connotation “sparked,” that is, igniting, “setting ablaze” or more precisely, inspiring all around them.  This can be called charisma or intensity.  Netzach evinces confidence.  Netzach channels the healing energy of Chesed.  Netzach is associated with Venus, the direction “up,” the color green (pink) and Moses.  (Moses exhibited the execution of the concept of caring [see Cosmic/Chesed]—he cared for a nation.)


SUPER HERO NAME: HEADCASE: Hayden “Hay” Beritsson 

Headcase is influenced by the essence of Hod:  Hod = Elohim Zavaot: “the Hosts of Elohim.”  Hod is majesty, splendor, glory—a forceful, intimidating, majestic presence.  Hod is “distinction,”—the power that is Gvurah finds practical application through Hod.  Hod is a fulfiller of potentials, dreams made concrete.  Hod is imagination, inspiration, insight, intuition, even prophecy—all of which are good—but also reason and logic which are to be distrusted insofar as they repress natural abilities and instincts.  Hod is primarily intellectual, disposed toward “left brain,” voluntary functions.  Hod is the mathematician, the scientist, the logician, the accountant.  Hod is associated with Mercury, the direction “down” the color orange and Aaron.  Aaron was the first Priest, one who drew energy of the Divine [and with it, the power and judgment represented by Gavel/Gvurah] down to Earth. 


SUPER HERO NAME: HUNK: (ALTERNATE NAMES: J-ANGEL, JAI ALAI, JAGUAR, JALADOR (“Attractive, popular”), JOTA (the letter “J”), JUGO (“Juice”), JUSTO (“Just,” in the sense of fair, righteous, exact),  HI-FI, JEFE (“Chief”), JUGADOR (“Player”), HAWKEYE, HIGHLIGHT, HIGHBEAM, HOTSHOT, HOTBLOOD, HEARTREND, HONCHO, HALO)


José Angel Salvador Mundo Gallardo Hidalgo

Hunk is influenced by the essence of Yesod:  Yesod = El Hai Shaddai: “Almighty Living God.”  Yesod is foundation.  Yesod is procreative power, sex, the “seal of truth,” the non-lucid Mirror (i.e., the obscured image), hidden miracles, and, in a sense, purity.  Yesod is “in the sphere of the moon,” the ruler of the night, the light in the darkness.  Yesod represents the dark depths of personality, the subconscious or unconscious, with hidden but potent/sufficient strengths.  Yesod is creativity and the potential for magic—the pinnacle of the mage’s mental abilities, channeling the natural instincts, especially the sex drive, to accomplish goals.  If Tiferet is the sun and life force, Yesod is the Earth and body, and Yesod expresses the light for which Tiferet is the source—therefore, Yesod is “brilliance beyond bearing,” unbearable light.  Yesod is associated with the Moon, the West, the color purple and Joseph.  Joseph endured great hardship, but rose above suffering and turmoil.  He brought into fullness what Jacob founded, the rise of a nation [see T-star/Tiferet]. 

Yesod brings Tiferet (the “bridegroom”) and Malchut (the “bride”) together [see T-star/Tiferet].  


Nonstop, Headcase and Hunk represent Yetzirah, the World of Formation:  this is the world where patterns are expressed, the world of form and formation – the realm of angels – emotion, speech – this world is the Universe of Beriah invested with forms, but unmanifested (physically) – the idea developed, individual-ness and individuality parsed – things here are given specific qualities – associated with the soul –Yetzirah  is the “connection” to Beriah – Yetzirah has  the dynamic aspect or fluidity of water – also, it is Paradise, or Eden – the place of the lower angels.  This is the level of spiritual understanding, the level of revelation through prophecy.


SUPER HERO NAME: MAINSTREAM: Millicent “Milli” Aiga

No One is influenced by the essence of Malchut:  Malchut = Adonai, “My Lord,” Shekinah, “Kingdom.”  Malchut is the base of the Tree of Life.  Within Malchut, all things, every principle, idea and contradiction are contained.  Malchut is also called the “Body of God” and “Beauty of Creation.”  Malchut is associated with Earth, the color black (brown) and King David.  King David suffered the weaknesses of human nature—a hero, a noble and mighty ruler, he was also a victim and an abuser, a prisoner of logic and emotions.


Mainstream represents Assiyah, the World of Action, or the Material World:  The “Kingdom” – this is our world, the material world, the world of fabrication, the things in existence for us.  Existence is complete here.  All things here were created in Beriah, formed or specifically blueprinted in Yetzirah and made real/material here—except man, who was fashioned in the image of God, and therefore is unique.  Man alone can—potentially—connect to all four worlds.  Man began in Azilut.  In Beriah, man was a spirit, in Yetzirah, the spirit received its soul, and in Assiyah, the soul received a sheath or envelope of flesh and blood—a body.  At its lowest, Assiyah is simply biological; at its highest, it is the psyche and man’s opportunity to advance to higher worlds.  Assiyah is the realm of the physical and actions.


Above all is the World of Azilut – unrepresented because it is unknowable, beyond our understanding: – the World of Emanation – the eternal, unchanging, Devine World –  the world of archetypes from which come all manifestations of all forms – the universe as it exists potentially in the Deity, determined and imagined but wholly formless except as contained within Him – expressed in His Emanations –  Azilut is consciousness, pure will, time and space do not exist – motion does not exist, ergo, perfect balance – evil does not exist Keter= “I Am,” Chochma = “To Become,” Binah = “I Will Be Manifested in Many”  This is the level of contact with the Divine.  People would “burn out” if they connected to Azilut—too infinite, too much power—therefore there are descending levels that are approachable. 


Relationship of the Four Worlds:  Azilut:  the IDEA or DETERMINATION to build a house, (Chochmah: CONCEPTION, Binah: ENERGY to build)  Beriah:  the style/image/DESIGN of the house (Chesed: LOVING WILLINGNESS to build, Gvurah: CALCULATIONS/MEASUREMENTS, Tiferet: lovely, level SETTING)  Yetzirah: the exact BLUEPRINTS to fulfill the design, (Netzach: COLOR SCHEME, Hod: BUILDING MATERIALS, Yesod: digs FOUNDATION)  Assiyah: the materials, construction and the resulting HOUSE ACTUALIZED, (Malchut MANIFESTS) 

The Pillars:

Chesed and Netzach are male and “Active,” that is, Chesed acts with immense power and endless mercy; and Netzach actively, incessantly sustains or repeats the cycles that are necessary to all that is.  Theirs is the pillar of “force and fire” that represents the Light—the Pillar of Mercy—merciful, expansive, positive, active, dynamic, thrusting.  Their pillar is the “source” of power—they are the “power station.”

Gvurah and Hod are female and “Passive,” that is, Gvurah responds with judgment and Hod responds with reverberation to an impulse from the others.  However, they are both complex, having good characteristics and “evil” ones, or more accurately harsh or ominous ones.  They are gentle and harsh, passionate and cold, tender and cruel.  Theirs is the pillar of “form and water” that represents the Vessel—the Pillar of Severity—judgmental, restrictive.  Their pillar is the “power cable” that delivers power.

Tiferet and Yesod are balanced—active and passive.  Tiferet is the balance between mercy and reprisal—enlightened compassion.  Yesod is the seeker, the one who finds the balance between immediacy/responsiveness to the moment and eternity/the cycles of existence.  Theirs is the pillar of equilibrium, “air and spirit,” “will and grace”—the Pillar of Mildness.  Their pillar is the “filament.”  They have the innate ability to resist their nature/impulses.  Through their resistance is derived light, that is, they express the light born of the interaction of their intrinsic opposites.

NOTE THAT EACH SEPHIROT CONTAINS ASPECTS OF THE OTHERS, EACH CONTAINS ITS OWN CONTRADICTIONS.


The Ten Dimensions:

Six of space (north/south, east/west, up/down), two of time (beginning, i.e., past/end, i.e., future), and two of moral/spiritual nature (good, i.e., clean/evil, i.e., unclean).  These are represented by the Sefirot as follows:

Keter—good/evil—Malchut
Chochmah—past/future—Binah
Netzach—up/down—Hod
Tiferet—east/west—Yesod
Gvurah—north/south—Chesed


_______________




The Seven TM
(Working Title)

By James C. Shooter
Based on concepts and inspiration from Denise V. Wohl

Copyright © 2006 Denise V. Wohl

October 22, 2006

7 vs. DARK 7

PAIRINGS


(NOTE: Of course, all of these characters will be three dimensional, with dichotomies and conflicts.  For the purpose of comparison, here I am focusing on their extreme “heroic” and “villainous” attributes.  I mention internal conflicts here only when they are key to the nature of the character.)

(SECOND NOTE: Per Meir, ALL of these people are Malkhut, and though they have “specialties” due to their personal natures, ultimately, like Milli, all of them have within themselves the entire spectrum of human potential.)
_______________
COSMICWAVE/Chen Krishnan—From Singapore; caring, merciful, benevolent, giving, healing.  Abilities: the “Power Cosmic,” that is, influence over the fundamental forces of the universe; healing, making, building

BREAKDOWN/Claudio Garra (Garra means “claw”)—Ecuadorian; handsome but uncaring, cruel, pernicious, greedy, selfish, grasping, avaricious, corrupt, corrosive (essentially GREED).  Abilities: a dark form of the Power Cosmic; i.e., influence over forces of the Unified Field, but only in a destructive way; corrupting, unmaking, destroying.   

_______________
GAVEL/Gaby Bullaibullai—Australian; a disciplinarian, passionate about justice and truth, prone to righteous wrath, severe judgment.  Abilities: great strength, toughness and adamantine resolve

SKINNER/Scarlatta Lametta (literally “red razor”)—Sicilian; a tall and solidly-built woman, attractive in a strong, rugged, athletic way; cruel, sadistic, brutal, violent, wantonly destructive, unjustly severe, vengeful, wrathful without reason (essentially ANGER).  Abilities: hideous strength, berserker imperviousness and bitter resolve (and, like Gaby, extra-dense, strong, durable flesh and bones).
_______________
T-STAR/Tim Bell—From the U.S.; balanced, both tolerant and discriminating, reasonably compassionate/forgiving and reasonably harsh/strict when necessary, possessing healthy self-esteem, but not egotistical, beautiful, a champion of life; the powers of the sun: light and heat—the life-giving warmth and light of the sun, but sometimes its scorching heat and searing brilliance

MURK/Kass Murk—Australian, mostly of European, especially German descent; egotistical, darkly handsome, outwardly a powerful presence and yet deep inside, feels lacking, needy, inferior; self-loathing, enslaved by his own rapacious desires; a champion of the Angel of Death (essentially PRIDE).  Abilities: all the powers of darkness—an accomplished wielder of dark energy; a manipulator of fear who wields despair like an icy blade and the emptiness of selfish desire like a bludgeon.
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NONSTOP/Naz Utsungi—From Zimbabwe; steadfast, enduring, tireless, intense, charismatic, artistic, “right brain”-oriented, intuitive, confident, instinctive, and most of all, a winner; incredible speed and endurance

SLACK/Kame Kuramoto (Kame means “turtle”)—Japanese; a lazy, slow, disaffected man, indifferent, dispassionate, negligent, apathetic, “left brain”-oriented: rationalizing, argumentative, obstructive, can think of a thousand reasons not to care, try, do (essentially SLOTH).  Abilities: the power to erode the will, sap energy, enervate and enfeeble, induce ennui, surrender and defeat. 
_______________
HAYWIRE/Hay Beritsson—Swiss; beautiful—one might say majestic—smart, “left-brain”-oriented, logical, scientific, mathematically skillful, gifted with imagination, insight, intuition and inspiration, but distrustful of instinctive things; a transducer of energy, a channel through which power flows and is transformed

PHASE/Sauda Q’dirah (Sauda means “dark,” Q’dirah means “powerful, mighty”)—Northern Sudanese; an intimidatingly beautiful woman, “wicked smart,” calculating, clever and yet “right-brain”-oriented—has uncanny intuition, “reads” situations and people with the instincts of a predator (essentially COVETOUSNESS/ENVY).  Abilities: a transmuter of matter, can change the phase of substances from solid to liquid, liquid to gas, etc.; can, with difficulty and to a limited extent, transform one element into another, i.e., lead into gold.    
_______________
HARD DRIVE/José Salvador—Venezuelan; compellingly handsome, hidden as well as obvious strength, amazing conscious and subconscious awareness, intuitive understanding, palpable sexual appeal and the ability to channel natural instincts, including sex drive, to accomplish goals—the essential ingredients for making magic; he is a natural conduit, all things seem to come to him and are channeled through him.  Abilities: preternatural powers of perception—the ability to see most clearly that which is most hidden, skilled in magic, irresistible sex appeal

VACUUM/Hammond Munch—Canadian; lean and hungry; he has embraced selfish desire, “sold his soul” for selfish gain and prospered in terms of material things; he has a keen awareness, an analytical mind and lightning-quick intellectual understanding; but the well of his subconscious overflows and permeates his reason with deep, dark, unspeakable wants, needs and flagitious urges; has the ability to channel the baser natural instincts, including all the darkest desires and profane passions to accomplish goals; his appetite is insatiable, most notably for food; all things seem to come to him and he keeps them (essentially GLUTTONY).  Abilities: a human “black hole,” things material are drawn inexorably toward him; absorbs/”consumes” anything and everything; literally warps space and time around him.
_______________
MAINSTREAM/Milli Aiga—From Antarctica; the sum of all of the above, every potential for that which is good and that which is evil; doubt is her greatest frailty.  Abilities:  no special abilities—but the potential for all special abilities

MURIEL/(unknown)—No one knows where she’s from.  Some say she was born on an unregistered vessel lost at sea; she is the sum of human potential, but devoted to the physical, material and temporal; bewitchingly beautiful; far more dangerous than she appears; driven by physical and sexual desires; (essentially LUST).  Abilities: amazingly keen senses, absolute control of her muscles and autonomic nervous system resulting in amazing physical prowess, perfect muscle memory; the ultimate martial artist—if she sees something done once, she can do it perfectly; strong, quick, deadly; a temptress; ultimately, like Milli, capable of the full spectrum of potential power.

_______________

Here’s a logo idea Denise offered:
Here are a couple of designs JayJay chipped in:
Here’s one of my crude designs. Denise loved it:
Here’s what JayJay, our own Blog Elf and artist/designer extraordinaire made out of it:
Though the first issue wasn’t finished, Denise wanted to have a presence at the 2007 New York Comic Con. It was two thousand SEVEN, after all.

Here’s the program book:
We did it up big. Here’s our modest banner over the entrance to the vast hall that served as Artists’ Alley, where the SEVEN booth was:
Denise asked me to design tee-shirts for the booth staff. I pitched two designs:


Here are the kids Denise hired to man the booth, distribute fliers, manage the lines, etc., wearing the shirts I designed:
We did some PR and had a glitzy press kit:
Here’s the flier:
Here’s Denise being interviewed:
And here I am:
We got other good publicity, then and somewhat earlier:
Some time later, finally, the first issue went to press. The print run was 10,000. The book was on sale only in Kabbalah Centers at that point.


Here’s the first issue:
(No, no, no, Jim is out of control today, I tells 'ya. All this stuff and the entire first issue too? I have to dig the pages out of my back up files or scan the issue, which I can't even find right now. So I will get those together tonight, after dinner, and post Seven issue 1 tomorrow. - Tired and Hungry JayJay) 

The pencils are credited to Paul Creddick. That’s a pseudonym I used to use for the lame comic book “art” I was occasionally forced by circumstances to do. But I did not draw this! The penciler, for his own reasons, wanted to remain anonymous. It was his idea to borrow my old nom de gribouiller.

John Livesay and a copilot did the inking. John is a wonderful guy and an amazing talent. I wish we’d ended up with more John and less assistant, but okay.

I’m not happy with the coloring. I had some things corrected, but we were running out of time. Denise needed to have the book printed and delivered on a certain date. The deadline came, and Denise decided that the coloring, as it stood at that point, would do. If the client says “print it,” you print it.

One reason Denise wanted the first issue printed was because she had a premiere party planned. Here’s the invitation:
Lots of notables on that confirmed guest list. Actors, directors, producers, authors, designers, musicians…. I was very pleased to meet Martin Bregman, producer of Scarface, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and many other great films.

Denise was well-connected in the entertainment world.

The place was elegant and packed to the rafters with glitterati. The confirmed guest list was the tip of the iceberg, famous-people-wise.

We printed up an ashcan of the second issue which was given away at the party.
The event was great. Denise provided a limo to get me there and back home.

And, it looked like we were off to a tremendous start.

Unfortunately, not long after the premiere, work on SEVEN had to be suspended temporarily due to certain circumstances that arose, things I can’t get into here.

“Temporarily” has turned out to be a long while.

But, I think that the SEVEN mini-series will eventually be completed. It’s a good project and a good story, I believe. I’d like to finish it someday.

WEEKEND BONUS: SEVEN, First Issue

NEXT: Who Are These Guys?