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.


Wendy Spinale: Through the Looking-Glass, Darkly

Wendy Spinale

I'm a sucker for a remade fairy tale. Throw in that it's going to be a take on Lewis Carroll's Alice characters, and I'm going to be a first-in-line reader.

So when I saw that Wendy Spinale was going to follow-up her steampunk fantasy, EVERLAND, which put J.M. Barrie's characters through a dystopian steampunk adventure, with UMBERLAND, I knew I had to do more than just read the book -- I had to get inside the author's head and share some time with those characters.

Alas, I couldn't fit, so I settled for asking her questions instead.

How did it first occur to you to put these Victorian characters through the Steampunk engine?


Ira Bloom: Hearts and Other Things You Pour Into a YA Novel

Ira Bloom

If you haven't already rushed out and ordered your copy of HEARTS & OTHER BODY PARTS, then you have not yet begun your journey down what is almost certain to be the YA paranormal romance everyone will be reading and talking about this summer. You'll find yourself believing in witches, vampires, demons and other kinds of monsters. What you will have the most difficulty believing is that this novel is the first for author (yes, he can officially use that title on business cards, resumes, and -- shudder -- tax forms now) Ira Bloom. It's too seasoned, too nuanced, and just too good to be the product of the new kid on the YA block. (Oh yeah, and he has a Y-chromosome, too! How rare is that in the YA paranormal romance marketplace?)

We had the privilege of snaring an interview with Bloom before his schedule becomes swamped with such requests. Somewhere along the way, you'll probably see a link to Amazon to pick up this book. You'd be smart to click on it.


In Search of the (Maybe Not So) Lost Testament of Alexander the Great

The Lost Testament of Alexander the Great by David Grant

In Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Purloined Letter," the hero C. Auguste Dupin outwits the police when he is brought in to consult on a stolen letter being used for blackmail purposes. In the story, the police search an apartment where they know the letter to be hidden, checking the drapes and other unique hiding places that might conceal it. Dupin saves the day when he looks for the letter and finds it sitting out in the open, too obvious to be the object the police sought. The story is often pointed to as the epitome of the adage, "Hiding in plain sight."


In Video Veritas: De-Rigging the System with James O'Keefe

James O'Keefe of Project Veritas

Oscar Wilde reportedly said that you can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies. And when it comes to that incestuous Venn Diagram intersection of politics and mass media, there are perhaps few hated more than James O'Keefe, the modern master of guerilla journalism.

This past week, if you watch the news, he's getting harder and harder to ignore, having released a spate of videos capturing operatives within the Democratic party revealing secrets that have caused the rolling of both heads and eyes, depending on where and who you happen to be. But is there more to come? We spoke with the president of Project Veritas about his current operation, and what's next.



Analyzing The Band Analyzed Within

Christians Getting Down!

Whenever you think of metal bands your first thoughts may be Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer and so on but even Christians love to get down and head bang for the Lord. An uprising Christian metal band, Analyzed Within is releasing their latest album and showing just how heavy metal Christians can truly be.




Analyzed Within is comprised of three very talented members.


Killing Reagan Director Rod Lurie: "...Even Democrats Nostalgic for Ronald Reagan."

Killing Reagan Promo

Rod Lurie wrote and directed the widely praised Academy Award- and Golden Globe Award-nominated political thriller THE CONTENDER, which took the first-ever Alan J. Pakula Award. For the small screen, Lurie also created the series COMMANDER IN CHIEF, which was nominated for the Best Drama Series Golden Globe, and for which Geena Davis won the Best Actress Golden Globe for her depiction of the first female president of the United States.

Lurie's latest project is the made-for-television movie, KILLING REAGAN, based off the book of the same name by FOX News commentator Bill O'Reilly, which airs Saturday, October 16, on the National Geographic channel.

Bill O'Reilly's book, KILLING REAGAN, is done in a very "outside looking in" documentary style. How is the film going to be in comparison -- a documentary style or a more traditional dramatic reenactment?


Justin Freer and the Sorcerer's Stone: Bringing Harry Potter's Musical Magic to Life

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Film Concert Series

Justin Freer is performing stage magic. No, he's not pulling rabbits from his hat or sawing women into two pieces. It's much more enchanting than that.

Freer is a conductor and producer of film music, as well as the founder and president of CineConcerts, a company dedicated to the preservation and concert presentation of film, TV and media performances live with film. His current project, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, is currently playing at the St. Louis Symphony as part of a mind-blowing concept that blends film with live music.

Tell our readers what sets what you're doing apart from your standard afternoon at the symphony.


Soft Voice, Strong Opinions. Dede Wedekind Discusses Her Vision of America United

Dede Wedekind's "America United."

Nearly every musical artist has something to say. Otherwise, why bother with the art?

Indie Music Channel's 2016 Best New Female Artist, Dede Wedekind, has several things to say about several things, but more recently she's garnering attention for her latest number, a patriotic piece called "America United" that contains a lyric that ought to ring familiar with anyone who has come into contact with a working television set for the past year. We spoke with Dede about the inspiration for "America United," her experiences growing up in music, and her own vision to "Make America Great Again."

How has your history of making music led up to what you put into “America United?”


What an A.I. Wants: Tamsen McDonough of Syfy's KILLJOYS

Tamsen McDonough (LUCY) on Syfy's KILLJOYS

Science fiction has no shortage of Artificially Intelligent spacecraft. Coincidentally, it also doesn't have a shortage of A.I.s that enjoy the name Lucy (see HOMEWRECKER, HACKERS, and RED PLANET).

On Syfy's KILLJOYS, Tamsen McDonough provides the voice for the ship's computer, Lucy, providing personable (and smartass) dialogue to interact with the crew of the show's bounty hunters, earning her the unofficial title of the show's Fourth Killjoy. We spoke with McDonough about her role, and the role of A.I. in science fiction -- and modern life -- to get her perspective on things from the inside.

On KILLJOYS, you provide the voice of Lucy, the ship's computer. You have such a chemistry with the cast and your vocal interactions with them, I have to wonder -- even though you're not on screen, do you work physically with the other actors, or are you working solely out of a recording studio sound booth?


The Country Network Gets New Life, Focuses on Music and Independent Artists

Country Network TCN Tim Eaton Critical Blast

Music television. From the onset of networks like MTV, VH1, TNN and others, the explosion of what people could watch years ago brought a visual aspect that musical artists had to take advantage of or get steamrolled. If you didn't have at least a concert video to go with your killer song, then you didn't have anything people were talking about -- and worse, nothing they were listening to. As time went by, the networks that built their viewership on music videos have become music networks in name only, with few millenials even realizing what these reality show channels used to be.

The Country Network is looking to buck that trend and get back to the roots of the movement, at least for country fans. We spoke with Tim Eaton, TCN's President and CEO about exactly what his vision is for the revived TCN and how it's going to engage country music fans.


Tommy Brandt: Authentic Cowboy, Authentic Christian

Tommy Brandt Broken Nuff Said

In a genre where artists are all too frequently "all hat and no cattle," Tommy Brandt is the genuine article. I found Brandt's music while channel surfing and landing on something called Cowboy Church, where Brandt was singing his latest song, "Broken." The message was universal, the lyrics were unique, and the musicianship harkened back to a time when country music was easily identifiable as such, not a shade off from pop.

We sat down for a phone conversatin with Brandt about his music, his future and his faith.

What is it that drives you to do what you do? How did you get the calling and recognize that this is what you were supposed to be doing?


Taking in a "Bite" with James Marsters

Just ahead of Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con, we sat down with James Marsters for a bite errr we mean bit. While Marsters is probably best known for his role as Spike in Buffy, he chatted with us about all the things he's involved in, which is everything from tv, movies, and Shakespeare plays, to his band, audio books, and even video games. And if that seems like a ton of stuff, this interview is packed with even more! We talked about his stunt works, his dream roles, and whether it's more fun to play the hero or the villain. And we even asked the biggest question of them all, is there anything planned for the Buffy 20th anniversary? But we wont spoil you with any of the answers, you'll have to check out the video below to find out!


Finding the Appalachian Cryptids: Mountain Monsters' Trapper Speaks with Critical Blast

Trapper, co-founder and leader of the Appalachian Investigators of Mysterious Sightings. Credit: Destination America

The television landscape has become a inundated these days with shows featuring teams of people looking for Bigfoot and other cryptozoological critters. Some of them are dry and anecdotal. Some of them feature the same thing in different locations, usually highlighted by people wandering around in the dark knocking on trees and letting loose with a yell.

And then there's MOUNTAIN MONSTERS, where the team of investigators get all fired up, carry their guns, and vow to "get that sonnuvabitch" when they get near him -- and they always seem to get too close for comfort, whether they're chasing down a Sheepsquatch, a Midnight Whistler, a Yahoo or any of the other many legendary creatures rumored to roam the Appalachian territory.


Hopeful Agnostic. Accidental Exorcist: Dave Glover and The Exorcist House

Dave Glover 97.1 FM Halloween Show Exorcist House Destination America Exorcism Live RJ Carter Critial Blast

Dave Glover is the modern example of taking failure, adding more failure to it, chucking it all away with an "Eff this," deciding to be yourself, and riding that all the way to fame and success. A mediocre attorney, Glover left the law to take on a radio talk show about legal matters -- which was going nowhere. Finally, one day early in his career, the legal questions fell by the wayside to be replaced by penis jokes and tales of his OCD. And a Saint Louis legend was born.


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