Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Pulp Culture
A sneak peek at
new 'Star Wars'


November 19, 1998
By Franklin Harris

I was going to write something deep and philosophical this week, but there is simply too much cool news to report.

As I write, the first, feverish reports are coming in from the lucky few who have seen it.

"It" is the theatrical trailer for the most eagerly awaited motion picture since ... since ... well, since ever: "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace."

The trailer goes into wide release at movie theaters tomorrow, but it was shown Tuesday at a few special preview screenings.

By Tuesday evening, the Internet was filling with hastily typed reactions, often written by people still in such states of euphoria that they forgot what paragraph breaks are for.

Mere descriptions of the trailer -- and of audience reactions to it -- are enough to send chills up a fan's spine.

I won't spoil it by telling you what the trailer shows, but I will say that it was not uncommon for audiences to stand and applaud the trailer when it was over.

Imagine: grown people standing and applauding what amounts to a commercial.

But such is the power of "Star Wars."

If you can't wait to see the trailer -- or if you don't feel like paying $7 just to see two minutes of footage -- you can see a few still photos from the trailer at Cinescape Online, www.cinescape.com. Also, you can read fan reactions at Ain't It Cool News, www.aint-it-cool-news.com.

Still, we will have to wait until May 21 to see the actual film.

'Our last, best hope'

If the impending return of the greatest space-fantasy film series of all time isn't enough to make chubby little fanboys everywhere hyperventilate, there also is the matter of the finale of the greatest science fiction TV series of all time.

On Wednesday at 9 p.m. on the TNT cable channel, "Babylon 5" takes its final bow.

The five-year-long SF novel for television, created by J. Michael Straczynski, defied its critics, who said it could never be produced and, if it were, would never be completed.

But for half a decade -- and for years before the program first aired -- Straczynski persevered. He wrote most of the episodes himself. And while he had to adapt to the unforeseen -- like the sudden departure of key actors and the long delay in getting the go-ahead for season five -- Straczynski always kept the show true to his vision.

And those who said that B5 was simply a clone of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" found themselves speechless as DS9 began imitating the storytelling style of B5.

"Babylon 5" is a television first. Never before has a multi-year saga -- with a definite beginning, middle and end -- been attempted on American television.

"The Fugitive" had a beginning and an end, but no real middle. And "The Prisoner" -- which was a British import, anyway -- was only 17 episodes long.

It began simply enough. "Babylon 5" was the story of the last of the Babylon space stations, built as a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It was "our last, best hope," as the opening narration said.

The story became, however, one of mistakes made and redemption found. It became a story of what it may mean for mankind finally to grow up.

On Wednesday, years of perseverance pay off -- for both Straczynski and the fans who tuned in each week and wrote letters to keep the show on the air.

As JMS himself has said, "Faith manages."

And if you've never seen "Babylon 5," TNT repeats old episodes every weekday afternoon.

More Monica

You've read the Starr report, and you've heard the Tripp tapes. Now you can read the comic book.

Yes, the Clinton/Lewinski scandal has been adapted as a comic book, and it will be hitting comics-store shelves in January.

"Monica's Story" is a one-shot comic scripted by Anonymous, pencilled by James Kolchalka and inked by Tom Hart.

Florida-based Alternative Comics is publishing the book, the net proceeds of which will benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an organization that defends the First Amendment rights of comic-book writers, artists and sellers.

And, no, I'm not making any of this up.

Readers can expect a romantic, touching and tragic account of the affair between Monica Lewinski and President Clinton -- or so I'm told.

"I don't take a satirical tone," the anonymous author has said. "The thing is hilarious already, so a deadpan, unironic presentation works best."

Indeed.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: The "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" trailer is now available online at www.starwars.com.]

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