Tuesday, December 24, 2013

BobRo Archives: The "Lost" 'Mazing Man Script

A comment on Facebook about 'Mazing Man led me to the Wikipedia entry about the character that Stephen DeStefano and I created almost thirty years ago. In the article, there is a dead link that used to lead to an online column I wrote about a "lost" 'Maze story, one that we plotted and I wrote up, but that we ultimately decided not to use. From the archives, here is a lightly edited version of that column...

“With ‘Mazing Man… we’d work out a plot and get three-quarters of the way through and sometimes say, ‘No, this wouldn’t happen. They wouldn’t DO this.’” – Bob Rozakis, 1986

Writers, editors and artists plot stories all the time. Good thing, too, because if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be too many comic books to read. When it was time to plot an issue of ‘Mazing Man, editor Alan Gold, artist Stephen DeStefano, and I would head to a local Bojangles fried chicken place and work out stories while munching on wings and thighs, biscuits and fries.

Sometimes we’d have an idea from the start. Other times we’d be looking for a jumping off point. In this particular case, Stephen had come into the city on the subway and had seen a magician moving from car to car doing tricks. He suggested that it might be something we could use in a ‘Maze story.

We worked out a basic plot and I went home to write it up. What follows is the breakdown I delivered to Alan a few days later. Though it is done with individual panels, Stephen was free to expand or contract the number he needed to move the action along. [Stephen and I worked in a variety of ways when it came to doing ‘Mazing Man stories. Sometimes I’d give him a very tight plot – like this one –  and even plug in sample dialogue. Other times he’d go home with the idea and break down the story. In rare cases, “Brenda’s Story” in MM #6 the one example I recall, I’d give him a complete script.]

“IT’S MAGIC” – 7pp – PLOT

1. LOGO and title in the top panel. It’s sunset or a little later. Shot of the skyline perhaps?
2. KP is coming into the apartment. She’s dressed like she was out on a date. She looks upset, angry, disappointed. The date was a bust. Maze and Denton are sitting in the living room watching TV.
3. Denton glances up as her. He’s being unsympathetic, remaking that this is a new record because she’s home from her date at 8:15 on a Saturday night.
4. KP tells them how bad the date was, what a scuzzbucket the guy was. She remarks that there just doesn’t seem to be any magic in her life any more.
5. Maze perks up. The word “magic” has given him an idea.
6. KP is trying to get her shoes off, but Maze won’t let her, dragging her by the arm and telling her he’s got the solution to her problem. Denton is watching, not understanding what he’s talking about. KP is looking to Denton for help.
7. Denton follows along as Maze literally drags KP out the door.

1. Now we’re on the subway platform. A train is pulling into the station. Denton is remarking that this is the fifth train they’ve watched come in. He wants to know what exactly they are waiting for. Maze is telling him to be patient. KP is smoking a cigarette, having given up trying to figure out what it is that Maze is up to.
2. As the train goes past them, Maze spots something inside and announces that this is the train for them.
3. Maze drags KP and Denton onto the train. They’re looking around at the car, which has the usual collection of off-hours subway commuters, daters, deadbeats, etc. Denton wants to know what makes this train different from all the rest.
4. Maze points to our magician, who is just getting ready to put on his act for a new audience.
5. KP looks at Denton and remarks that Maze takes everything too literally.

1. The magician spots Maze waving and recognizes him.
2. Maze introduces KP and Denton. Magician pulls a bouquet of flowers from his sleeve and tells KP he’s charmed to meet her. KP is softening; she’s thinking that the guy is kind of cute.
3. Meantime, Maze spots some kids at the other end of the car. They’re holding wide-tip magic markers inside their jackets, conspiring with one another. Maze realizes that this is a case for him  -- these kids are going to graffiti the car.
4. Maze follows after the kids as they head into the next car. Denton, figuring that Maze will end up getting clobbered, follows him.

1. In the next car, we see the kids taking the caps off the magic markers as Maze charges into the car, yelling at them to stop. Denton is behind him, telling him that perhaps he should leave these kids to the transit police.
2. The kids take off into the next car ahead as Denton is treated to a monologue from Maze about keeping the subways clean. It’s everybody’s job.
3. They continue the chase through the train.
4. Meantime, the magician has focused his entire act around KP and she’s charmed by him. The rest of the people in the car are watching. They thinks she’s part of the show.

1. The train pulls into a station and stops. The doors open. Maze and Denton are coming into a car in time to see the graffiti kids getting out. Maze is proud of himself that he’s prevented vandalism.
2. Behind them, we see the kids sneaking back onto the train in the car Maze and Denton have just left.
3. The train is starting up again. In the car where the magician is doing his act, one young guy jumps up where he was sitting next to his girlfriend, saying they just missed their stop. The girl is telling him to sit down and shut up; this is cheaper and better than the disco they were going to.
4. The magician is doing a rope trick for KP, romantically charming her with his banter.

1. The magician is doing a trick that everyone is engrossed in.
2. Suddenly, the door at the end of the car bursts open and the kids with the markers come racing in. Each of them is holding his marker out like a sword.
3. Right behind them comes ‘Mazing Man, followed by Denton.
4. As the kids charge past the magician, he waves his coat out and when they go past him, the markers have disappeared from their hands.
5. The magician stops Maze and asks him what’s going on. Maze says they were going to mess up the cars with their markers.
6. The train is pulling into a station. The magician points out that they don’t have any markers, winking at the kids like he’s in on a conspiracy with them.

1. The kids, thinking they’ve been saved from Maze by the magician, razz Maze as they get off the train.
2. The doors close and the train is pulling out again, with the kids standing on the platform laughing at Maze like they’ve put something over on him.
3. Now Maze and the magician are laughing as the magician hands Maze the markers. They have obviously worked this routine before. The kids don’t realize that without their markers, they can’t do anything.
4. Later. The train is pulling back into their home station. KP is happily waving goodbye to the magician, who is holding a piece of paper with her phone number on it. Maze is happily proclaiming that he’s kept another subway train graffiti-free for another night. (Don’t show Maze from behind.)
5. Last panel shows Maze from behind as they get off the train. There is graffiti all over the back of his helmet.

So why was this story, originally scheduled for 'Mazing Man #8, never published?

Because, as Alan pointed out when he read the plot outline, Maze lets the kids get away unpunished. He knows the kids will just get more markers and will graffiti some other train. Plus the kids did manage to graffiti Maze himself, though there doesn’t seem to be any time when they could have done so.

After arguing that Maze’s heroics involve “little victories” – there’s no way he can prevent all the New York City subway trains from being vandalized – I reluctantly agreed with him. We agreed to drop the idea and plot something else. (Yes, well, it was an easy decision for Alan and Stephen – I was the only one who had actually done any work!) 

I still think we could have salvaged the plot, but I was so caught up with that final sight gag that I ignored a solution. Fifteen years later, it’s easy to look back and come up with one: After the kids have run out onto the subway platform and are laughing at Maze, he just waves at them. As the train pulls away, we see a pair of transit cops come up behind the kids. Though the kids argue that they’ve done nothing wrong, the cops nod and lead them away. Now we see the kids from the back and see that Maze has written on their jackets something like “I’m a subway graffiti vandal. Please arrest me.”

In any case, I hope you enjoyed this lost ‘Mazing Man story.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Friday in the Park With Alex

I was helping Chuck with babysitting Alex the other day and, since the weather was unseasonably warm, we ventured over to the park on the next block. Alex had a great deal of fun walking the paths, changing direction each time something caught his attention. "Hey, I wonder where that boy on the bicycle is going." "Why is that dog barking?" "That lady is in a hurry; let's go see why." "What's the squirrel doing?" (All the preceding is my own rough translation of Alex-speak; he knows what he's saying even if the rest of us can't understand it.) We zig-zagged back and forth and I was reminded of the installments of The Family Circus which show Billy's incredibly circuitous path from point A to point B.

He enjoyed a ride in the swing, but it was climbing up the steps of the playground structure and going down the slide that was far more exciting. The slide (the straight red part towards the left end of the structure above) is perhaps eight feet long. When he was seated at the top, Alex was all smiles and ready to go. While sliding, he had a momentary look on his face of "What have I gotten myself into?!" And then he was back to all smiles at the bottom... and ready to do it again!

He was not interested in trying the circular slide (at the right end of the structure) except to watch a boy of about five trying to climb up the slide, getting about halfway, and then sliding back down. And then we were on our way again, around and underneath the structure, stopping every now and then to pick up a leaf or a twig that looked particularly interesting.

Once we had checked out everything that needed checking out and decided there were no more people or animals that needed to be followed, we headed home, where Alex (and Grandpa) took a nice nap. Because it's tough work having an adventure in the park!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Grab Bags

During my tenure as the head of Production at DC Comics, the Christmas season would bring a large number of vendor gifts to my desk. Probably as a throwback to the "Mad Men" era, most of these gifts were bottles of alcohol. There was the occasional box of candy or a cheese selection, but wine, champagne, vodka, scotch, et al made up the majority.

Non-drinker that I am, I had virtually no use for all this booze, so I would give it away to the people in my department. One year fairly early on, I got the idea that, rather than just giving it away, I would have a Gift Grab-Bag at our department Christmas party. I piled all the various packages on a table in the middle of the room. As each staff member entered the party, they drew a slip of paper from a bowl and that determined the order in which they would get to pick.

It went pretty well the first year. However, after the first couple of people picked up various packages to get an idea of what might be in them, I made a "You touch it, you took it" rule. This resulted in a gift-trading after-market as some people tried to get something they liked better.

In the second year, when I tallied up department personnel versus the number of available gifts, I found myself one present short. So, I took a bottle of champagne out of its box and then put a couple of cans of Diet Coke in the box, turning one into two and creating the first "You got coal" (or, more accurately, cola) gift. It was quite amusing to see the face of the staffer, who had traded numbers to get an early pick, when she grabbed that very fancy box and discovered she had two cans of soda. Not surprisingly, no one wanted to trade with her.

The following year, I added another twist. One of the gifts appeared to be some comic books with a ribbon tied around them and everyone avoided picking it. There was much laughter as the numbers were called and all the other gifts were chosen, leaving the comics for the guy who had the final pick. He was not so disappointed, however, when he opened the comics and discovered there was a $25 gift certificate with them!

As time went on and my departments grew, so did the number of gifts. My production managers contributed gifts they received. There seemed to be an unwritten rule that my female managers would get things like soap and candles instead of the usual bottles of liquor, so there were a wider variety as well. One year there was a really ugly clock made from a piece of a tree-trunk; no one wanted to trade for that one and it came back into the gift pool the following year!

One gift that no one ever seemed to want was the fruitcake. In fact, one year, when that was the only thing left, the person who would have gotten it opted out of taking it. Actually, that was fine with me. I may be the only person on the planet who does, but I like fruitcake. So I took it home.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Alex Meets Santa

The secret uncovered...

"You know, Santa, you seem awfully familiar."
"Aha! I was right!"

"Daddy, don't tell anybody, but Santa Claus's secret identity is Grandpa!"