A Conversation with Author Troy Benjamin at The Marvel Report!

Ming-Na Wen (and Arthur) showing of the first season Declassified book! (Photo Courtesy Ming-Na Wen's Twitter)

Ming-Na Wen (and Arthur) showing of the first season Declassified book! (Photo Courtesy Ming-Na Wen's Twitter)

With great thanks to Lauren at The Marvel Report, I recently engaged in a fun conversation about the process behind writing the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Declassified books, specifically Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Three Declassified (on shelves and in stores now, go buy it - it's fun)!

Here's a small sample of the interview along with a link to check out the full article!

Walk us through your writing process: are you on set during filming? Do you have to wait to see what happens when the episodes air? Do you get to visit the set and conduct interviews during filming season?
Step one: procrastinate. Step two: panic. Just kidding to my amazing editors Jeff and Sarah, I promise I’m working hard! The first step is getting the scripts and reading them over with a fine-tooth comb, then looking at the schedule and seeing when key moments or set pieces are being filmed. Then I’ll go on set and observe as much as I can. I like to be a fly on the wall and just see how things are done, while also taking notes as I discover things happening. I’ll be writing both the episode synopses and the behind the scenes entries as we go and occasionally getting some one on one interviews to capture some thoughts in the moment. Because of the nature of filmmaking, things change and are constantly fluid so I definitely watch the network aired episodes multiple times and make changes as necessary. Depending on the schedule of everyone involved, I like to do several waves of interviews so that I get thoughts in the moment, then with a little bit of distance, then at the end of the season looking back on everything as a whole.

Give the full article a read at The Marvel Report here!

Get Declassified Once Again with Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Three Declassified!

Now available at online booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, local comic shops, or wherever fine publications are sold - Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Three Declassified by Troy Benjamin! This 248 page hardcover continues the tradition of providing an excellent resource to fans of the series and the Marvel Cinematic Universe by giving you a full and detailed episode guide along with analysis from the writers, producers, and cast of the show, as well as looks behind the scenes on the stunts, visual effects, costumes, props, even the sounds required on a weekly basis for ABC's hit series!

Among the features of this season's book:

- A foreword penned by Daisy Johnson herself, Chloe Bennet talking about her experiences on the show.

- "The Sound of S.H.I.E.L.D." a top to bottom look behind how sound factors into each and every episode of the series, from what is recorded during production (and what is not) to what is added later in post-production. What does Daisy's "Quake" ability sound like? Do they smash a lot of car windows to get that sound? Find out in the book!

- A changed Director Coulson, Clark Gregg on love found and love lost - and what the tragedy he experiences in Season Three does to forever change his character.

- A look back on the evolution of Grant Ward into Hive, including conceptual artwork and commentary from the show runners and Brett Dalton himself!

- L.O.V.E. on S.H.I.E.L.D. - just why are relationships so difficult in the modern spy workplace? And how and why was this the right time for two "cursed" lovers to come together in the series? Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker give you their thoughts in this year's book!

As always, these behind the scenes tomes are such a joy to write - hopefully you'll enjoy reading this season's book as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Get Caught Up with the Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

I've been hard at work on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Three Declassified and have been so buried that I completely missed that not one, not two, not three, but FOUR issues of the Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe are out now! Check your local comic book shop or online retailer to pickup, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers now with a whole lot more to be coming around the corner.

Apologies for the updates here on the site. As you can imagine, with the book deadline, with a new Ghostbusters film right around the corner, and trying to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table, haven't had much time for writing anything else. But rest assured that this summer more updates will be a'coming!

Jane Jacobs, Robert Moses, and RoboCop

In a city, plagued with poverty, crime, and blight, a corporate entity looks to cut away the cancerous tissue and rebuild a newer, more modern city on top of it. The old city is viewed as broken. The new sleek and sculptural city will provide public housing for those displaced while also building towering skyscrapers that will print money for the top 1%. One hero will emerge to fight for the people, to stand up against the corporate greed, and rally the people to stand up for the city that they live in...

RoboCop.

It's funny, it occurred to me in the shower this morning that a project that I'm working on about the legendary New York City Power Broker Robert Moses and his grassroots activist rival Jane Jacobs, is the exact same plot to the 1987 sci-fi Paul Verhoeven classic RoboCop.

In Post-World War II New York City, the wealthy looked to destroy the slums of New York City, its inhabitants be damned, and replace it with new top-down planned infrastructure with super-highways running throughout. Everyone is in their pocket down to the cement mixers that are pouring the foundations.

In RoboCop, evil corporation OCP looks to replace the entire city of Detroit with its vision of a streamlined and clean future that they call Delta City. They put everyone in their pockets, right down to the police force that's charged with keeping the city safe and crime free.

Jane Jacobs looked around her and saw what was happening. She rallied the people to save public spaces like Washington Square Park and stop the building of a Lower Manhattan Expressway from completely eviscerating part of Manhattan. One woman, who was dismissed as a mere "housewife" went toe-to-toe with the powerful figure head and won.

RoboCop, though he was part man and part machine and under the operating protocols of OCP, saw what was happening, fought his programming, and stopped the construction of Delta City. One officer, dismissed as a mere beat cop inside a heavily armored suit, went toe-to-toe with his own creators. He fought the stop-motion ED-209 to battle his way to the top of OCP headquarters and stopped the head of the corporation.

Take a look at OCP's vision for Detroit, MI replacement Delta City...

And look at these real life people at the 1939 World's Fair looking down on Corbusier and Robert Moses' vision of the future city.

Oh my god, now that I'm thinking about it... Robert Moses actually even kind of LOOKS like OCP Chief Operating Officer, Dick Jones! Dude, now I would totally pay to see a strange alternate reality sci-fi version of New York City's history where this all went down.

What's the point of this? Well, point of fact it's mainly to make two people laugh. Yes, this article was written for an extremely targeted audience. But I guess you could say it's also a strange correlation of art imitating life. Topics that were relevant in terms of city planning and the people who inhabit the dense city were at the forefront in the 1930s, they were in our minds in the late-1980s, and it's still relevant today.

That actually sounded intellectual, boy I really pulled that off. Especially considering that most of this was just an excuse to Photoshop this image.

Posted on April 15, 2016 and filed under Movies.

Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe #2 Out Tomorrow!

Man, time has been flying... I blinked and suddenly it's release day for the second issue of the official Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which covers Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk. I once again had the pleasure of tagging along with the OHOTMU writers for this go-round and enjoyed getting to revisit both films.

Essential character biographies, details behind some of the top secret organizations, and easter eggs that you might not have noticed on your first couple dozen viewings of the films, they're all represented here. 

Check these out, they're definitely a great resource for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a good crash course for people still trying to figure out with Kevin Feige and Jeph Loeb keep telling us that It's All Connected! The second installment will be on the shelves of your local comic shop tomorrow!

Back to the Future Day Checklist - UPDATED!

This article has been updated with all the reveals and festivities!

The 30th Anniversary of Back to the Future has been in full-swing all this year, but (for good reason) many of the releases and events have been fixated on the date that Doc takes Marty into 2015 - just two days from now: October 21, 2015. 

With so many product releases, events, videos, and announcements coming in one week, and in some cases one day, I wanted to accumulate a list of all the things that have caught my eye that I'll have to be quick on the draw to either purchase or investigate and absorb. So here's all the stuff I'll be watching when the clock strikes midnight on Back to the Future Day.

IDW

UPDATE: My goodness, where is my head - before I published this the first time I completely forgot one of the most exciting things releasing! The new IDW Comic! Said to take place in between the cracks of the films, telling the side-stories and points of view that you didn't see on screen, the new comic book is going to be fantastic. And it doesn't hurt that it's the same creative team as IDW's Ghostbusters comic which is always top-notch. - 2nd UPDATE: Demand for the comic has been so high that it's already been announced that it's heading to a second printing.

Pepsi Perfect

The Pepsi in super-cool futuristic bottle deemed Pepsi Perfect will be going on sale for a limited run on the 20th. Details on where and when it'll be on sale are still a bit sketchy and everyone has been told to stay tuned to Pepsi's various social media outlets. / Twitter - UPDATE: The Pepsi Perfect bottles flew off the "shelves" of Amazon and Wal-Mart within a matter of 20 minutes. Unfortunately didn't pick one up.

Toyota

Toyota has been running several promos (including a meticulously easter egg filled Statler Toyota ad) that lead us to believe that the Toyota truck that Marty McFly coveted might also be pined after by modern drivers in 2015. Their preview website shows Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd sitting at a diner discussing what the second Back to the Future film got right about modern 2015 and teases a big announcement on the 21st of October. If only it was an announcement that Toyota had purchased the intellectual property rights to DeLorean and the cars might be readily available again. / Toyota - UPDATE: Toyota is using the below short film to help announce their new hydrogen fuel cell inspired by Back to the Future and Mr. Fusion.

DVDs and Books

A new anniversary set (yes, the fourth or fifth time I will have purchased the Back to the Future trilogy on disc format) is being released this Tuesday that includes a few new bonus features as well as the entire run of the animated series. There will apparently also be a brand-new short film featuring Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown on the set. A great Ultimate Visual History book is also hitting shelves on Back to the Future Day. Both of which I've pre-ordered and can't wait to receive.

We're Going Back

If I hadn't have just plunked down a ton of cash for VIP tickets at the Cinespia Hollywood Forever cemetery screening of the first two films, I'd absolutely have picked up tickets for the festivities that the crew at We're Going Back have been putting together. Enchantment Under the Sea dances, screenings in Clocktower Square on the Universal Lot, and Hoverboard lessons... it would have been an outstanding four day nerd summer camp (in the fall) that would have been great. If only. / We're Going Back

Puente Hills Mall

To that point, apparently the We're Going Back folks have set up a recreation of the Twin Pines/Lone Pine Mall in the parking lot of the Puente Hills Mall here in Los Angeles. A Doc Brown Enterprises truck has been parked in the lot for a couple weeks and the Twin Pines Mall signage apparently just went up a couple days ago. Hoping to get out there and snap a photo or two in full Marty regalia if at all possible this week.

USA Today

Apparently USA Today has something special planned for their October 21, 2015 release. Perhaps a lenticular cover for an accident at the Clocktower? Perhaps something else? / USA Today - UPDATE: USA Today's website has been redesigned to mirror its counterpart in the film. Do not believe the print edition has any differences.

Nike

For YEARS, Nike has been teasing the "Air Mag" release that will include power laces. For a Team Fox charity event, a select number of display collector copies (without power laces) were released several years ago for the 25th Anniversary and still sell for exorbitant amounts on eBay. There was (yet another) leak earlier this year saying that the company was looking to release real retail power lace versions of the Air Mag later in the year, but those have all but disappeared like Marty's siblings in a photo. Stay tuned, maybe an announcement from Nike is coming on Wednesday? / Nike - UPDATE: Michael J. Fox Tweeted out a drawing/letter that he received (see below) from Nike which leads us to believe that a second wave of Nike Mags are on the way (with power laces) to be used as a fundraiser for Team Fox and their research to fight Parkinson's. Details still forthcoming, but safe bet the shoes will once again seek a pretty high price tag.


Posted on October 19, 2015 and filed under Movies.

On the Front Lines with the Star Wars Battlefront Beta

Somehow amid the craziness of multiple deadlines, I made a point to at least get an hour or two in with the Star Wars Battlefront beta this week. Apparently I wasn't the only one as EA is reporting nine million people helped them stress test their latest creation over the past several days. And the end result was a whole lot of fun. 

I remember picking up Battlefront II for my PSP several years ago and thinking how much promise it had but how little it delivered on. The control was clunky, the AI was terrible, and the graphics were akin to the Nintendo 64. Fast-forward to this week where a slick graphics package that's incredibly well-designed (but still has some control issues) presents itself and the potential has finally been achieved. Though only two maps and two gameplay modes were available in the beta, it did a great job of demonstrating just how the game can be different from its Call of Duty/Halo/Titanfall competition. Strategic missions with Star Wars flare is really where the game will shine as the AT-AT attack mode showed. 

The downside? Battlefront's competition still outshines it in terms of the dynamics of gameplay. Titanfall and CoD: Advanced Warfare really got me used to being able to be nimble, constantly on the move, and being able to dodge, slide, roll, even parkour my way out of sticky situations. Unfortunately, Battlefront still relies on a little clunkier of a control system where, at least for the beta, your movement is limited to walk, run, crouch, and jump around like an idiot. Granted, I didn't level up to the point where I could outfit my character with one of the jet packs, so maybe having that strapped to your back at least gains you the advantage of a good double-jump as a last evasive maneuver. But there were several instances where I found myself wishing I was playing Call of Duty or Titanfall with a Battlefront skin.

The two opportunities that I had to pilot a vehicle I found myself a little underwhelmed. Vehicles are also a little clunky from the moment you access them - wouldn't it have been great to have a Warhawk or Titanfall method of hopping into an X-Wing or a TIE Fighter docked in a launch bay? Instead, your character walks over a token, kneels down, then radios for air support, and suddenly you're in a TIE Fighter. Oh well. Control of the vehicles is going to take some serious getting used to as both opportunities I had to fly overhead, I crashed myself into an obstacle like a 14-year old driving in a parking lot.

The good news is that with a little bit of practice, a little bit of seasoning, and perhaps some of the advancements and improvements to the game that will come out of the beta test, it's going to be a whole lot of fun. And really time consuming come November.

Even if I end up being the Dak of every match I'm in.

Posted on October 13, 2015 and filed under Video Games.

In a Store Near You: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Two Declassified!

About this time last year, I had the incredible experience of writing my first behind the scenes book for the amazing television show Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and its first season. I consider myself so thankful and lucky that they asked me back to write a follow-up for the second season, and didn't want to let them down (nor fans of the first) by not making the second book bigger and better than the last.

Once again, there's so many people to thank that helped me out, dedicating their time and providing assets and amazing conversations that make the book what they are. And the problem is that once you start naming names, you inevitably always leave someone incredibly crucial out. So a very heartfelt thank you to anyone and everyone at Marvel, in front of and behind the camera on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and to all those that have supported both books.

Thanks to everyone that contributed, there isn't a doubt in my mind that Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Two Declassified is a definitive look behind the scenes of the show's second season: episode synopsis and analysis, behind the scenes anecdotes and details, artwork, storyboards, visual effects breakdowns, and incredible photography from some of the best unit photographers in the business. Even if you aren't a fan of the show (which you should be, but it's okay, I'll forgive you) hopefully the book is a great look into what it takes to create such an elaborate show on a week-to-week basis.

Once again, I kind of felt like Young William from Almost Famous - I was the uncool kid getting to hang with the super-cool rock stars and getting to tell their story. But where William's mandate was just to "make the band look cool," I didn't have to work too hard in order to convey the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s coolness. 

You can order the book here through Amazon, head to your local bookstore like Barnes and Noble or comic shop and purchase it, or buy it from that creepy guy with the gym bag that always offers you watches and "new movies." Wait, on second thought - scratch that, don't buy it from that last guy, it'll probably have the Declassified cover but be a bunch of takeout menus inside or something.

Wet Hot American Summer's Netflix Series - Best Sequel Since Gremlins 2

Before you jump to the comments to immediately express outrage like, "You're insane! Is that a cynical insult? Are you serious? What about Godfather Part II? Empire Strikes Back? Terminator 2: Judgment Day?" calm down. Hold on. Let me explain that headline, which could absolutely read as the clickbait I so loathe.

The cult-film Wet Hot American Summer was not only the first starring vehicle for some of the most successful present day actors and comedians, it was also a commentary on the tropes of camp films. The whole sequence where Michael Showalter's Coop rallies Camp Firewood for their big softball game against their rival across the lake only for it to end with everyone agreeing that it's a trite concept that's been played out in too many other films was indicative of the tone and approach the film took. It's only fitting that its eight-episode "sequel" currently on Netflix, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, took that tone and cranked it to 11.

It occurred to me this morning on my (always) lengthy drive into work that the latest installment of Wet Hot American Summer isn't just another mirror on the camp film, it's also a mirror on the prequel as a whole. 

Looking back at the series, without delving too much into spoilers, the new mini-series not only explores origin stories, it explores EVERY origin story. Even things that you didn't think had or needed an origin story like the "Higher and Higher" song used in the original film. The radio broadcast? Here's the origin story for it. Beth becoming the camp director? Here's the origin story for that. Christopher Meloni's Gene having a torrid love-affair with a fridge? Yup, here's the origins of that. By the eighth episode of the series, you realize that it's not a storytelling device, it's a comedic device that's poking fun at a prequel's need to detail the origin stories of anything and everything, leaving nothing to mystery. Much like the Star Wars prequels where we get the origins for anything and everything like C-3PO (wait, Anakin Skywalker built him from scratch? Huh?), Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp follows the same pattern by giving us backstory to many things that we didn't even think needed a backstory.

And that's where the comment about Gremlins 2: The New Batch comes into play. 

The oft-maligned sequel to Joe Dante's dark-humor Christmas film usually gets a bad wrap. So many of the critiques of the film is that it "just rehashes everything from the first movie" and is way too "silly." Those criticisms aren't without merit, both of those statements are true but the film is purposefully a commentary on sequels, especially those in the late-1980s. The movie takes the exact same premise, rehashes it on a larger scale in a different environment (Gremlins: In Space!) and pokes fun at the tropes that sequels often fall into that everything has to be bigger, better, heightened, and the same beats from the first film have to be hit no matter the cost or the placement in the second film. Phoebe Cates reiterates her hatred of certain holiday because of a bad memory associated with it. Gizmo sees a television broadcast of a larger than life hero and chooses to imitate it to save the day at the end of the film. All the while, this very pointed commentary on what sequels have to be and achieve continues on a runaway train.

Taking that same logic, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is to prequels as Gremlins 2: The New Batch was the sequels. A very biting satire on the formula that I think I'll only appreciate more and more with follow-up viewings.

Posted on August 6, 2015 and filed under TV.

SPT2015: Catching Up on Marvel Awesomeness

I vividly remember right after the release of Batman Returns that I sat down with a small notebook and somehow figured out that if Batman was released in 1989, and Batman Returns was released in 1992, that it would roughly take them another three years to release another Batman film. I don't know where that logic came from, but 11-year-old me was convinced that it would be true and I started a countdown to 1995. Sure enough, 1995 rolled around and so did Batman Forever (for better or worse). The countdown was a little on the excruciating side, especially at that age when time seems to crawl at such a snail's pace and three years seemed like an eternity.

I can't imagine being my present-day 33-year-old self and going back in time to tell my younger self that there would come a time in 2015 that I'd watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on television, which immediately led into the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, then I'd be in Montreal and Vancouver (to work on two Marvel projects) and be watching Daredevil on Netflix, and a month later would be watching Ant-Man in theaters. There's more on this in the upcoming Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Two Declassified (/end plug) but I can't think of any other time where there has been new content for a property consistently for six-plus months like there has for Marvel this year. And it seems like this is just the beginning as Star Wars will be following a similar model - and you can bet other intellectual properties will be hot on their heels.

The storytelling possibilities have been fantastic. One lengthy and connected story told over multiple years, through multiple mediums, with multiple focuses. How great is that? It's the comic book page having come to life and sent to the mainstream. I've been enjoying it completely. And yes, I do have a personal bias and was a little spoiled in seeing both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man at their respective premieres... one of the amazing perks of being the Kimmy Gibbler to the Marvel family. But I'm enjoying every minute of it. Even though Ant-Man is another origin story, it falls in the midst of an on-going story that it's able to weave in and out of seamlessly. Age of Ultron was similar, it didn't need to carry the burden of introducing all the main characters (though it did have to carry the burden of introducing a variety of other characters, which made it a super-dense flourless chocolate cake). 

Ant-Man was a completely different film. If Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a politically-charged action thriller, then Ant-Man is a comedy-charged heist film. Shades of Oceans Eleven, The Italian Job, even a little bit of Mission: Impossible are all in there. It's great how all of the live-action Marvel properties have a very different feel and tone and probably a good reason why they've all been so successful.

One thing is for certain, between a Marvel-fueled first half of the year and a Star Wars-fueled second half, both 11-year-old and 33-year-old Troy are loving every minute of it. And I don't even have to wait three years in between it all.