“Variants” scores coup with guest actor: Comic writer Mark Waid

In a twist on the classic “guest star as himself” sitcom trope, the Dallas-based webseries The Variants scored a major (geek) coup by tapping acclaimed comic book writer Mark Waid (The Flash, Captain America, Kingdom Come) to do a guest shot. And it’s not just a walk-on, either: The webisode requires Waid to play like a 5-year-old (wistfully wishing he was Wonder Woman) and “come out” … as the famed comic book writer Mark Waid, a fact that has apparently escaped his “brother,” Zeus comic store owner Richard, for decades.

The premise is goofy, but Waid’s acting — and that of the rest of the cast, who have really become comfortable goofing it up before the camera — is pretty solid. Next up: William Holden flirting with Barry at the Brown Derby… Well, maybe not.

You can watch it here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘The Variants’ season 1 on DVD

You could make a case that what The Office is to corporate America, The Variants is to quirky small business on the fringe of society: gay-run comic book store. (OK, maybe The Office is just the corporate version of Clerks, but you get the comparison.) The folks at Zeus Comics who created this webseries make fun of themselves, their customers and their own queer nerdiness, but it never gets mean-spirited.

The Variants began last summer as an experiment, but generated enough traffic that it’s already back for season 2 (the next episode, airing Wednesday, features Celeste Martinez). Until then, it’s a hoot to see all the local people and places in the season 1 DVD, now available.

The DVD contains lots of cool extras — audio commentary, a blooper reel, a slideshow or art and rants from misanthrope clerk Barry — but the best things about the DVD? Watching the entire series play out at once like one long feature … and not having to worry about bandwidth problems interrupting your stream.

— A.W.J.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 1, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

She’s a wonder!

For drag diva Celeste Martinez, Wonder Woman isn’t an act — she’s a way of life

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

……………………

CELESTE MARTINEZ
The Rose Room inside Station 4,
3911 Cedar Springs Road. July 1­3. Shows begin at approximately 11 p.m. and midnight. Caven. com.

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When Michael was a boy, his parents divorced and he went to live with dad, who worked all the time and was seldom home. So little Michael found a role model on TV.

“That’s when Wonder Woman came on television,” he recalls, referring to the CBS series starring Lynda Carter. “Wonder Woman was a second mother to me, one who taught me right from wrong in a way. She stood for something. Plus she was so statuesque and feminine and graceful, but still stern and strong. I watched that show religiously and as soon as the episode was over, I was back outside, reenacting what had just happened.”

The series ended in 1979, but by the time Michael had grown into drag diva Celeste Martinez, the Amazonian princess was still a powerful force. Since 1993, appearing as Wonder Woman has been the hallmark of Martinez’s drag act.

It’s not just a passing fancy, either. Martinez has every single Wonder Woman comic book since 1983. “When I got my first job, the first thing I did with my paycheck was get a subscription to Wonder Woman,” she says.

Martinez’s devotion has also made her a regular at Zeus Comics, the gay-run superhero store on Lemmon. Such a fixture is she there, Martinez even appears in the next episode of The Variants, the web-based comedy series set at Zeus. (See sidebar.)

“I’ve known [store owner] Richard Neal for years,” she gushes. “They are a fun group.”

But before her debut as a Web star, Martinez will show her patriotism this Independence Day weekend with a series of shows at the Rose Room — all in the guise of her hero, whom she sincerely tries to evoke onstage in spirit as much as appearance.

Martinez’s costume — golden lasso, bullet-deflecting bracelets, tiara, cape, boots and star-spangled panties, all in the colors of the America flag — is familiar to fans of the classic character as well as the TV series, but maybe not so much the new generation of comic readers. That’s intentional.

“With issue no. 600 [of Wonder Woman], they were trying to get a bigger audience so they updated her look, but the real Wonder Woman fans were not happy,” Martinez explains. “They are about to do another reboot with all of DC Comics characters, so as to make the original Wonder Woman fans happy.”

The timing of the show is fortuitous: Wonder Woman is a perfect image for the Fourth of July, Martinez affirms.

“She represents the best of humanity in the sense she’s non-judgmental and sees the best in everyone. She’s gracious and empowers strength and the best in all of us,” she says. “And she does it in red, white and blue.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 1, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: ‘The Variants,’ episode 2 of season 2

It’s Wednesday, so that means The Variants — the locally produced web series about the fictionalized goings-on at Zeus Comics on Lemmon — has hit the ether. And now that season 2 is underway, the makers are fooling around a bit.

The episode begins with a Cops-like arrest, and then proceeds, through flashbacks, full of drag and kissing and saucy Barry working as a waiter, to tell what happened.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Promo trailer for ‘The Variants’ is pretty brill’

As Zeus owner Richard Neal kept tweeting about his Crossfit training, it wasn’t a surprise to see him buffed and shirtless in the trailer promo for season two of his web show The Variants. But if the vid is a hint of things to come, season two could be hella hilarioius. The Spice Girls editing is enough to get me to watch. But the question posed is what will Neal, the character, do after all that transpired in season one? Hard to say, but it looks like fun getting there.

Season two premieres May 4.

 

—  Rich Lopez

Gay Archie Comics character gets a spinoff

A year ago, Archie Comics introduced its first gay character in the pages of Veronica. Remember? As it turns out, Kevin Keller was such a hit that he’s getting his own spinoff. GLAAD posted this piece on the new comic that’s slated for a June release.

Of course, whenever we hear about comics and gay, we always run to Zeus’ Richard Neal for his thoughts. And why not? He’s clearly the go-to gay for all things within those comic book universes. When asked what he thought about the spin-off, Neal had this to say via Twitter (but not all at once):

Making a political statement for press and sales is common. Writer Dan Parent however has made openly gay Kevin a very real part of the fun, comedic and kid-friendly Archie Universe. Kevin’s own storyline about his struggles at school and coming out to his parents proves Archie Comics commitment to being relevant to today’s youth readership.


—  Rich Lopez