Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Deepest Dimension Terror Anthology: Inside Story of a Local Twilight Zone Spin-Off
Twilight Zone and Star Trek writer George Clayton Johnson presents...
In the early ‘90s, I wrote and edited a comic book series called The Deepest Dimension Terror Anthology, the brainchild of original Twilight Zone writer George Clayton Johnson. It was published by Hillcrest-based Revolutionary Comics, best known for Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics.
George had already long been one of my mentors. Among his many Zone triumphs:
Kick the Can (old folks turning young again, remade for the Zone movie)…
…A Penny For Your Thoughts (Dick York hears thoughts after flipping a coin on its side)…
…The Prime Mover (Buddy Ebsen uses telekinesis in Vegas)…
…Nothing in the Dark (Robert Redford as Mr. Death)…
…A Game of Pool (Jack Klugman VS Jonathan Winters)…
(George Clayton Johnson on the set of Nothing in the Dark)
Each Deepest Dimension comic adapted a story by George, as well as tales by friends and contemporaries of his like Psycho creator Robert Bloch, sci-fi legend Larry Niven, horror author Dennis Etchison, I Am Legend author Richard Matheson, and others.
Art was by Vampire Lestat comic painter Daerick Gross, Matthew Alice artist Rick Geary, Zap Comix co-founder Spain Rodriguez, Dr. Bang creator Lyndal Ferguson, DepositMan artist Larry Nadolsky, and other high profile, in-demand and ultimately EXPENSIVE artists, whose salaries made the Deepest Dimension three times as expensive to produce as any of the other dozen or so titles we were publishing at the time.
The SECOND issue was where the Twilight Zone connections really unfolded. George’s story “Sea Change” was purchased by Rod Serling for the original Twilight Zone series. However, the show was cancelled just before a sixth season went into production.
It was a huge thrill for me, a devotional Zone fan, to work on the comic version of this (terrific!) Lost Twilight Zone episode.
(George promoting DD at Comic-Con, along with publisher Herb Shapiro – we came across a Zone pinball game, decorated with images from a bunch of George’s episodes! He’d never seen it before - I couldn’t resist taking some pics as he played it!)
Another Zone story was chosen for the next issue…George’s “Execution,” which WAS filmed for a Zone episode, albeit one radically different from the original story George wrote and submitted to Serling….
“Execution” was the one starring Gilligan’s Professor, Russell Johnson, as a scientist whose time machine accidentally brings into the future a western outlaw who was in the process of being hanged for his crimes when plucked from the past. One of the memorable scenes is when the hombre is shocked by the sight and sound of a jukebox, so he shoots it.
For the Zone episode, George’s story was adapted by Serling himself. And changed. A bunch. George has expressed displeasure over the televised result, tho he’s too gentle and diplomatic a man to rant and rail. During our conversations, we talked about the very different story he’d wanted to tell, and he ended up lending me an old typewritten draft of his original story, with pages affixed by a rusty old paper clip.
It was my job to adapt GEORGE’s version, for the Deepest Dimension! To re-envision a classic Twilight Zone, as the original author intended it to be...man, I’ve lucked into some amazing gigs….
Sadly, the “Execution” comic story never made it beyond the script phase, as the series was cancelled after two issues, in part due to that aforementioned cost factor. Here's a sample of the script (I may someday post the whole script online, but note it was done the old fashioned way, like George's original story - on a typewriter! There's no electronic version...):
Presented for your perusal…a selection of rarities from the Deepest Dimension archive, including unpublished artwork, alternate versions of the Zone-inspired logo, actual script pages, behind-the-scenes photos, and a few other goodies I dug up just for this blog …
It was through Deepest Dimension that I first met the legendary and mercurial author Harlan Ellison. I’ll retell a tale I shared in an earlier blog on this…
Ellison and I were both booked to sign autographs at a 1994 Atlanta comic book convention. Seated near each other behind a conference table, I was mostly signing copies of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics while Ellison promoted his upcoming Dream Corridor comic book. During one lull, I showed him a Deepest Dimension issue, featuring an illustrated adaptation of a short story which Ellison had published in his own “Dangerous Visions” anthology book -- "A Toy For Juliette” by famed "Psycho" author Robert Bloch.
Ellison's mood visibly darkened as he thumbed through the comic. "Nobody told me about this," he growled (and I do mean growled – think Schwarzenegger finding a parking ticket on his Humvee). He made the line of autograph seekers wait while he carefully read the comic (illustrated by Matthew Alice's own Rick Geary) from cover to cover.
I could almost see the thunderclouds forming over his head as he got to a brief scene that hadn't appeared in the original text story from “Dangerous Visions.”
"Who the f--k gave a no-name son of a b--ch like you the right to rewrite Robert Bloch?" he fairly shouted, so loud that people in line visibly flinched. "You put his f--king name on the cover, every g-d-mned word of this story should be by Robert f--king Bloch."
Ellison went on berating me without pause for another half minute (so I’m told – I was sure it was a half hour), his voice and gorge rising in tandem as he eloquently, if profanely, defended the sacrosanct nature of Robert Bloch’s storytelling.
Finally, running out of oxygen - if not epithets - he paused for breath, and I was able to tell him "I spoke with Robert Bloch about the comic script and he's the one who suggested the change and the new dialogue."
In a bipolar rush of reversal, Ellison’s scowl was replaced by an unctuous smile as he closed the comic book and handed it back to me with feigned grace. "Oh, well, why didn't you say so? In that case, I love it. Good work."
Ellison turned to the crowd of onlookers, bowed with Shakespearean theatricality and said "Every one of you should buy this Deepest Dimension comic. I highly recommend it."
Here’s the never-published pencil rough of a Toy For Juliette scene: the middle page NOT written by Bloch is what so-incensed Mr. Ellison (art by Matthew Alice/Heavy Metal/National Lampoon cartoonist Rick Geary) -----
Note the post-it from Robert Bloch himself, SIGNED, approving of the adaptation! Below is pencil version of the “Juliette” title page...
...and a printed copy from my collection, signed by Bloch.
Unpublished Deepest Dimension art by Daerick Gross, intended for a comic adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Vengeance of Nitocris.
Unpublished art for adaptation of George Clayton Johnson’s original Twilight Zone story, “Execution”:
Ad for unpublished issue.
REJECTED LOGOS: Top illo is what we ended up using for the comic. The other versions were ultimately rejected ----
COMPLETE STORY FROM DEEPEST DIMENSION #1: The art is by Zap Comix co-founder and occasional Reader cover artist Spain Rodriguez.
(Deepest Dimension editorial proof)
THE RETURN OF ROCK 'N' ROLL COMICS!
The Pink Floyd Experience: All five issues of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics series The Pink Floyd Experience have been out of print and in demand for over fifteen years. As showcased in Pink Floyd’s own official box CD set Shine On, the Floyd comics chronicle rock’s most enigmatic psychedelic warriors, from their early dayz with stoner icon Syd Barrett, through their split (and later reformation). With art by Marvel and DC star Ken Landgraf (Wolverine, Hawkman, Nightwing & Flamebird, etc.), the collection also includes update material, bringing the saga up to 2010.
Hard Rock Heroes: What goes together better than comics and rock music? With almost 300 pages of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics, Hard Rock Heroes goes WAY beyond Behind the Music, to tell the real life, behind-the-scenes stories of rock’s most heavy hitters. Creators include Stuart Immonen (Superman: End of the Century), Ken Landgraf (Wolverine), Jay Allen Sanford (Overheard in San Diego..), Todd Loren (Beatles Experience), Scott Pentzer (Razor), Mike Sagara (Ninja High School), and many others.
Hard Rock Heroes is a book-length pictorial history, covering bands like Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen, Motley Crue, Poison, Megadeth, Pantera, Anthrax, Motorhead, Sammy Hagar, and more. The cinematic stories are realistically drawn, researched from countless photo and video archives, with an encyclopedic eye toward visual accuracy, dramatic flair, and journalistic depth.
Also includes the never-before published “missing” Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics #8 from 1990, on Skid Row. The lack of an eighth issue has vexed collectors and catalogers for years – exactly 20 years later, the story can finally be told, and collectors can finally own ALL the Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics!
As a bonus treat, Hard Rock Heroes also features the Motley Crue comic story from their official box CD set Music To Crash Your Car To II, released in 2004 and written and drawn by original Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics creators Lyndal Ferguson and Larry Nadolsky. Shipping February 2010.
"Great ideas, like the marriage of rock 'n' roll and comics, have the half-life of Uranium and will always be popular," says series co-creator Jay Allen Sanford, who has worked on over 200 reality-based comic books and thousands of similar cartoon strips for the San Diego Reader, as well as for magazines like Rip, Spin, and Oui. "The folks at Bluewater clearly have their fingers on the same pop culture pulse that enabled the original Rock 'N' Roll Comics to become one of the top-selling indie comics of the '90s. Truth is often stranger than fiction...and certainly much more interesting!"
The Beatles are bigger than ever, now available online for the first time digitally, on the Vegas stage in “Love,” and in the new Beatles: Rock Band video game. Now comes the most comprehensive and encyclopedic illustrated Beatles story ever, the Beatles Experience! Over 200 pages, dramatizing one of the most compelling tales in pop culture history, drawn from thousands of photos and interviews, meticulously researched and featuring stunning art by Mike Sagara (Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics) and Stuart Immonen (Legion of Super Heroes, Ultimate X-Men).
Covering the Beatles’ lives from birth and beyond their breakup, dramatized in dialogue and scene recreations more akin to a film bio than a mere documentary, the Beatles Experience also includes a Chronolog timeline going down each page, with encyclopedia background and footnotes detailing related events happening at the same time in the world, in music, and in the Beatles’ own tumultuous and extraordinary lives.
The Led Zeppelin Experience:
The Led Zeppelin saga is one of the wildest in rock history, and this graphic novel pulls no punches in dramatizing the backstage, behind-the-scenes story. From their early days as the New Yardbirds on through their rise to superstardom (and controversy), all five issues of the original Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics series are collected in one rockin’ volume, with art by Scott Pentzer (Razor), Marshall Ross (Deepest Dimension), David Neer (Sports Superstars), Francois Escalmel (Frank Zappa: Viva La Bizarre), and others. The collection also includes update material, bringing the saga up to 2010.
THE KOMPLETE KISS KOMIX KRONICLES - Comprehensive collection of stuff I’ve done about working with Kiss on a comic book series, along with a bunch of never-before-seen artifacts from the Kiss Komix archives AND an article by Kiss comic author Spike Steffenhagen, offering his own very-different take, ala Rashomon, on the same events I describe in my essay...
ROCK 'N' ROLL COMICS: THE INSIDE STORY - In 1989, local Revolutionary Comics ("Unauthorized And Proud Of It") launched Rock 'N' Roll Comics, featuring unlicensed biographies of rock stars, most of which I wrote. Some performers, like Frank Zappa and Kiss, were supportive, while others like New Kids On The Block considered our comics akin to bootlegs and sued. In June 1992, publisher Todd Loren was found dead in his San Diego condo, brutally murdered...
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK VS REVOLUTIONARY COMICS - The inside story of how a hugely successful boy band tried to sue local-based Rock 'N' Roll Comics over an unauthorized biography of the group, sparking a court case that established, for the very first time, first amendment rights for comic books. Illustrated by comic superstar Stuart Immonen (Superman, etc.)...
OVER A MILLION CARNAL COMICS ARE IN PRINT - Here's how and why we made some of the top-selling erotic comics of all time, right here in San Diego, including what Gene Simmons has to do with it all, backstage tales of porn stars, and more confessions of a comic pornographer...
THE ROCKETEER AND OTHER FAMOUS '80S COMICS BEGAN RIGHT HERE IN SAN DIEGO - Here's a detailed history of local Pacific Comics, who recruited comic superstars like Jack Kirby to create one of the first successful indie comic book lines. Pioneers in the fight for comic creators' rights and royalties, former employees and operators reveal how they did it, and what went so terribly wrong...
COMICS AND CENSORSHIP - DON'T BE AFRAID, IT'S ONLY A COMIC BOOK - A local-centric history of comic book censorship, and the fight for the rights of comic creators...
THE BIRTH OF IMAGE COMICS: INSIDE STORY OF A LOCAL PUBLISHING POWERHOUSE - Illustrated tale revealing how Spawn creator Todd McFarlane and local comic artist Jim Lee (the Punisher, etc.) conspired to create the ultimate creator-owned comic books...
Like this blog? Here are some related links:
OVERHEARD IN SAN DIEGO - Several years' worth of this comic strip, which debuted in the Reader in 1996: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/overheard-san-diego/
FAMOUS FORMER NEIGHBORS - Over 100 comic strips online, with mini-bios of famous San Diegans: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/famous-former-neighbors/
SAN DIEGO READER MUSIC MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/sandiegoreadermusic
JAY ALLEN SANFORD MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/jayallensanford