5 with 806 Author Cynthia Weil

Cynthia Weil

If you're not familiar with the name Cynthia Weil, you're almost certainly familiar with her work, with Grammy-winning songs like "Somewhere Out There" from AN AMERICAN TAIL, or perhaps that classic Righteous Brothers song (or Tom Cruise song, depending on your outlook), "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling."

Weil is also a novelist of YA books, and her latest, 806, follows three biological siblings on a search for their father, known to them only as "Donor 806."


In the hit Broadway show—Beautiful, The Carole King Musical—many of your songs are included and you and your husband/cowriter, Barry Mann, are part of the show with actors portraying your young selves…how has that impacted your career?


And God Created Superheroes: Brian Bradley and The Anointed 7

The Anointed 7

One of the greatest things about an event like Wizard World is that no matter how many times you've been to a convention, there's always going to be someone new doing something new.

Such was the case when I bumped into Brian Bradley, president of Kingdom Comics and publisher of THE ANOINTED 7, a superhero team that's a combination of JUSTICE LEAGUE meets LEFT BEHIND. It's supernatural evil opposed by supernal good, as no less an entity than God Himself intervenes through human emissaries granted superhuman powers, like Samson but in four-color action.

To get the full scoop on The Anointed 7, we spoke with Brian to find out exactly who these people were, and what kind of world it is they inhabit.

Who are the Anointed 7?

The Anointed 7 are a group of seven individuals who have been anointed by God, with the purpose of standing against Lord Christopher and his violently aggressive new world order. They are a super-powered fighting force.


Mort Walker: Fifty Years of Beetle Bailey

Mort Walker

EDIT: January 29, 2018

It is with great sadness that we report on the passing of comic strip legend Mort Walker, who passed away on January 27, 2018 at the age of 94.

To remember his achievements, we are republishing this interview with Mort, as we talked about his most famous character, Beetle Bailey, on the 50th anniversary of the strip.

* * *

In 1938, while comic books were just entering the Golden Age, Mort Walker staked his claim on the newspaper comic strip pages. He was 14 years old. The most notable of Mort's creations is undoubtedly Beetle Bailey, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year.

I was privileged to speak with Mort about Beetle's comic and real-life misadventures, as well as a few other interesting tidbits you may not know about.


Jocko Marcellino: Rock and Roll (and Ugly Christmas Sweaters) are Here to Stay

Jocko Marcellino

I grew up watching SHA NA NA as a television variety show. And I was into it. Somewhere there exist blackmail photos of me with my (brown) leather jacket, my hair slicked back with Alberto VO5, and my oversized sunglasses. I was the most bad-ass 12-year-old you'd ever seen! So I was more than happy when the offer came to interview band frontman Jocko Marcellino. But it turned out there were things about SHA NA NA I did not know.

My first introduction to SHA NA NA was the television show, and I never looked back farther than that. But you guys actually played at Woodstock! What kind of tentpole was that in the band's history?

That was an extraordinary opportunity that was given to us by Jimi Hendrix. When we were starting out, we had stayed in school that summer. Then we decided to try and make it with the act. We had done eight professional gigs, and our eight professional gig was Woodstock.


Nadia Fezzani and the Rise of the (Real Life) Super Hero

Real Life Super Heroes

Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story! The superheroes that have populated the four-color tales of the comic book pages have made the transition into reality. They go by names like Thanatos or Mr. Xtreme or Phoenix Jones. They have costumes and missions that drive them. And you may even have one operating in your city!

Author Nadia Fezzani has spent time with several of these crimefighters across the United States and Canada, and has chronicled her experiences in REAL LIFE SUPER HEROES from Dundurn. As anyone who frequents CriticalBlast knows, we have an affinity for the super hero as well as for those who appear publicly in costumes. So we were eager to speak with Ms. Fezzani and dig up a few more answers about the addition of these characters to real life society.

Is the Real Life Super Hero (RLSH) movement a fad, an extension of cosplay, or something larger--a step for societal evolution?


The Message Driven Music of Kaylee Keller

Kaylee Keller

In 2003, I was reviewing a music reality series called NASHVILLE STAR. It was sort of the country music version of AMERICAN IDOL, before Carrie Underwood made AI go country itself. The winner of that first season was Buddy Jewell, but I was particularly drawn to the singer who didn't win the big prize, coming in third instead--a young lady named Miranda Lambert.

That particular quality I saw then is similar to what I see now in the music of Kaylee Keller, a twenty-year-old country music ingenue with a quickly growing discography and fanbase.

With her most recent music video, "Nowhere America," Keller garnered the attention of the folks at FOX, who put her on their airwaves and introduced her to a wider audience, who might be a bit surprised to find a millenial who's not quite into millenial things.


Packs of the Low Country: Chicago Comics Creators Kickstarter Campaign

Packs of the Low Country

PACKS OF THE LOW COUNTRY is a six-chapter graphic novel set in a world where monsters have, relatively recently, become a reality--the dreamchild of creators John Dudley and Don Cardenas, two Chicagoans with a love of the comics art form and a passion for telling stories.

Currently, the two have begun a Kickstarter campaign to put their six chapter tale into a hardcover format, and thus far the response has been positive and on track to meet that goal.

We sat down with Dudley to discuss the origins of this latest entry into the monster-fighting genre, to learn what makes it stand out from its competitors and how the book went from idea to reality.

How did you and Don come together to work on this project?


Thump: The Interview

Thump and Tweeter

A while back, we were privileged to review THUMP: THE FIRST BUNDRED DAYS, a novel concept that presents the 2016 campaign in a new setting. Rather than getting into the policy wonk details of how each campaign was run, Thump's creators -- Brett R. Smith, Timothy Lim, and Mark Pellegrini -- simplified the events to the traditional rhyming style of the children's picture book, complete with illustrations that draw from Peter Rabbit rather than from the editorial cartoon pages of your daily newspaper.

After reviewing the book, and seeing the reactions online of others once the book was released, we spoke with editor Brett R. Smith about some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of Thump -- where he came from, and where he's going from here.

What was the "secret origin" of THUMP: THE FIRST BUNDRED DAYS?


Keeping it Funky: Tom Batiuk

Funky Winkerbean

A few years back, I got to speak with cartoonist Tom Batiuk about the fortieth anniversary of his strip, Funky Winkerbean. And then something happened that doesn't often happen to comic strip artists.

Tom got nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. And then he was a finalist for the award.

The notice came for Tom's work on the Funky Winkerbean strip that focused on a longtime favored character developing breast cancer. The strips were collected into three volumes, to bring LISA'S LEGACY to the world.

So when I was told that Tom was going to be in St. Louis on a book signing tour, I jumped at the opportunity to talk with him a little bit more (and couldn't resist bringing my first four volumes of THE COMPLETE FUNKY WINKERBEAN with me, because it couldn't hurt, right?) about this incredible journey he's been taking through the funny pages.


In Saint Louis, Halloween Means The Dave Glover Show

The DGS Halloween Show 2017

Who doesn't love Halloween? Some cultures love it so much, it's not a night but a three-day celebration. Some towns, like Rutland, Vermont, hold a huge parade. And almost everywhere, kids dress up in costumes and go begging for candy. (Here at Critical Blast, we love it so much we dedicate a monthly feature just to people who put on costumes all year long!)

For Saint Louis, Missouri, the tradition for almost two decades now has been the Dave Glover Halloween Show, on FM 97.1. Dave and his cohorts, Mark Klose, Rachel Zimmerman, and Tony Colombo, comprise the cast of the consistently number one rated radio show in the market, and the Halloween episode is a huge draw.


DragonCon Interview with Nasa Astronaut Garrett Reisman

Earlier today we interviewed NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman who was a member of expedition 16 and 17 on the international space station. He discussed what inspired him to become an astronaut and what space flight is like.



Lizzy Small's Big Night: Live at The Mint, August 23

Lizzy Small

Actress. Dancer. Singer. Songwriter. Is there anything in the entertainment field that Lizzy Small can't do? From the precocious tyke who played the baker elf in THE SANTA CLAUSE 3 to the studious collegian who distributes her distinct sound on SoundCloud, Lizzy has established herself as a creative force in the industry.

This coming Wednesday, August 23, Lizzy is preparing to rock the house at The Mint at 6010 Pico Blvd in Los Angeles. We caught up with the artist on the phone to ask her a few questions about her music and her upcoming acting performances.

There isn't any clear cut division between the music and the acting--you grew up doing both at pretty much the same time. Was there a family influence in the performing arts at work?


Enter the Lost World of Mike Grell: Part Three

Mike Grell

Continuing our interview with Mike Grell, who will be accepting his induction into the Wizard World Hall of Legends this month in Chicago. In this installment, we discuss Mike's work on JON SABLE and stories from the headlines--and Mike's short-lived armed standoff with Nazis! Click here to read the prior installment of this interview series.


Enter the Lost World of Mike Grell: Part Two

Mike Grell

Continuing our interview with Mike Grell, who will be accepting his induction into the Wizard World Hall of Legends this month in Chicago. In this installment, we discuss Mike's work on GREEN ARROW, an effort that arguably set the tone for the CW television series, ARROW insofar as Oliver Queen's shift to a more lethal approach in the use of his weapons. (Click here to read part one of this interview series.)


Enter the Lost World of Mike Grell: Part One

Mike Grell

At the August 2017 Wizard World in Chicago, veteran comic artist and storytelling legend Mike Grell will be inducted into the Wizard World Hall of Legends.

When I heard of the hall, I wondered why it wasn't called the more traditional "Hall of Fame." But after speaking with Mike on some of the touchstones of his career that led to this induction, I have to admit that "Legends" is exactly the right word. We think our readers will agree after they've hear the same stories.

In an interview too big for one publication, Critical Blast is proud to bring you the first of a three-part interview with Mike Grell.





Michele Martin: So Many Characters in One Strong Woman

Every so often, and far too infrequently, the world produces an actress with a face like Michele Martin's -- attractive yet versatile, able to portray just about anybody in any genre. And Michele has done just that, with performances ranging from Shakespeare on the stage to co-starring in horror/thrillers like COFFIN 2, not to mention her copious writing credits.

Michele will shortly be portraying Natalie Wood as the lead in the premiere of AVALON at the Edinburgh Fringe, opposite Sean Cronin (FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM) as King Arthur. (The two meet each other as ghosts in the titular Avalon, between Heaven and Earth. Guinevere is going to be so jealous!) But before she hits the boards there, she sat down with us to talk a little bit about some of her upcoming projects -- one of which premieres on an entirely new digital platform!


8 Simple Questions for Finding an Author's Purpose with W. Bruce Cameron

W Bruce Cameron, with Tucker (photo: Ute Ville

One might say that writer W. Bruce Cameron has gone to the dogs -- and the author probably couldn't be happier. The writer of several best-selling novels such as 8 SIMPLE RULES FOR DATING MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER and A DOG'S PURPOSE has recently released a new touching novel about canines and the people they care about with A DOG'S JOURNEY.

We were fortunate to have a few moments to sit down with Cameron to discuss the titles he writes, the movies that have been made, and even some of the unexpected controversy thrown his way.

1. Looking at your title history, things seem to fall into either of two categories: "Dads" and "Dogs." What's the connection there?

Well, you know, if you're the father to some children, and you're the father to some dogs, there's a very clear emotional connection between the two.


Bob Batchelor Shines New Light on Mighty Marvel's Prodigious Progenitor, Stan Lee

Bob Batchelor in the Spidey Signal

With just a few scant hours until the release of SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, it behooves us to look back on the man, without whom, there would arguably be no Marvel Universe for a Marvel Cinematic Universe to have come. Stan Lee is sometimes a polarizing figure in the comic book industry, but no one can deny the influence he had on the direction it has taken.

And while there are several books and numerous convention tall tales told about the man, Bob Batchelor has set out to provide yet another perspective on the multi-faceted man behind THE FANTASTIC FOUR, THE AVENGERS, and, of course, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. We sat down for a discussion with the author of the forthcoming book, STAN LEE: THE MAND BEHIND MARVEL (September 2017, Rowman & Littlefield) to get some more of his perspective on the living legend.


Jennifer Muro: A Force of Destiny Behind New Star Wars Series

Jen Muro -- Star Wars Force of Destiny

(photos: Ricky Middelsworth)

This week Critical Blast sat down with Jennifer Muro writer for the much anticipated “Star Wars: Forces of Destiny” which debuts on Disney's YouTube Channel today and on The Disney Channel Sunday, July 9, 2017. Jennifer is working on some amazing projects and was able to share some awesome information about all the things she has in the works.

J.K. Elison: As a female engineer and a writer myself, I'm super excited to see strong female characters at the forefront of some new stories in "Star Wars: Forces of Destiny." What have you enjoyed most about writing some of the most iconic female characters from the Star Wars Universe?


DC Super Hero Girls Writer Shea Fontana: “No One is Born a Villain”

If you don’t know who Shea Fontana is, you may want to look her up. She’s a rising star who is most known for her work on the highly successful DC Super Hero Girls franchise.

Having done work on other projects such as Doc McStuffins, Whisker Haven Tales (with the Palace Pets), and the upcoming movie Crowning Jules, she’s been spinning delightful stories suitable for younger audiences.


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