MSN Top 5 for this week
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Does a roundtable with Kathy Griffin and Dr. Drew Pinsky even need a moderator?
Instead, the panelists eagerly quizzed each other about drug testing and offered candid admissions about the impact pf their shows.
WHAT'S THE TOUGHEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
Kathy Griffin: It's a lot of being "on." When I do a show at (Madison Square) Garden or at Universal, it's a two-hour show. But on "My Life on the D-List," it's 12 hours a day of being "on" -- because if I'm not "on," there's no scene. I don't have the luxury to be like, "Hmm, what should I say?" I've got to be bringing it all the time.
Drew Pinsky: The part that pops into my mind is the fighting I have to do to protect the patients that go on a reality television show. I have to fight to protect that their care is good and that nothing happens to them. Because television doesn't care about anything except getting eyes. Which is great and I understand that, and I have to capitulate to that because nobody learns anything if nobody watches. But I'm the one that's responsible to make sure that people get good care.
Randy Jackson: People say it all the time, especially on "Idol": "Oh, Simon doesn't really care about the contestants." But actually, we really do care. We have souls? What a concept!
SallyAnn Salsano: I do a lot of crazy shows, but every single cast member and their family has my direct cell phone. When someone has a particularly difficult episode (about to air), I always call and say, "This is what's coming up; you know what happened that night. It's going down just like it did. I probably wouldn't watch this episode with your grandmother."
Jackson: So you care about Snooki?
Salsano: I do care about Snooki! You can look at my cell phone right now. I've got Papa Snooki, Mama Snooki. All of them.
Griffin: Do you live in the house during taping?
Salsano: With "Tool Academy," I actually enroll. I live 35 days on the set with the kids. On "Jersey Shore," right now I live with the kids on-site. I leave four hours a day, so I work 20-hour days, seven days a week. And in my room, because I'm sort of psychotic, I have three flat screens. I have a 12-camera feed and a touch pad for everyone's mikes.
Griffin: What's the budget on that show? (Silence)
Craig Piligian: What's the budget on "D-List"?
Griffin: The budget on "D-List" is $300,000 an episode and we try everything to stretch it. We don't have a video village with monitors. We have my house and two dudes with a camcorder. I want to get on your show. That sounds great.
Salsano: I'm working 24 hours a day and I'm running a company.
Pinsky: Hearing $300,000 an episode, sounds like "Oh my God!" But it goes fast.
Salsano: You got to make it stretch.
Piligian: Because we do so much volume, it's so different. We go from "Ultimate Fighting" to wedding shows to "Dirty Jobs" to "American Chopper." So at any one point we're doing many different things. (The challenge is) managing the expectations of the talent.
Salsano: And the buyer. When they give you 300, they're gettin' 300!
Piligian: It's juggling. And I can't live like you do. I can't live with the "Ultimate Fighting" guys, nor would I want to. Nor do I want to live with brides getting married!
Salsano: See, I love that.
Phil Keoghan: When you go on "Race," it's the same kind of thing: We're living with it 24 hours a day. When you're at a pit stop for 19 hours in Poland and the first team has arrived and already left and we're still waiting for the last team, all the logistics are thrown out the window. I come back and people see me and say, "Phil, you look like crap." I lose 12 pounds each season.
Salsano: I'll go on that diet!
Piligian: I did the first three seasons of "Survivor" and that's what we did. We lived on location -- for (the) first season it was almost four months.
Pinsky: This is what's interesting about this conversation: You're serving different gods. I've heard at least three different motivational priorities that each of us spontaneously started talking about without even realizing it. We started with the participants; we want them to do well, we want to have a good experience. And then all of a sudden we started talking about the buyers. Then we started talking about the audience, then our production schedule. These are gods that have to get served because everyone signs up to do a television show. So the reality is, you do live a schizophrenic life and it's dishonest to say otherwise.
Piligian: The other thing is, I make people's businesses. I build brands; UFC gave me a billion-dollar business to manage.
Pinsky: That's another god you're serving.
Piligian: We partner with businesses and we can't screw that up.
Jackson: It's all sort of brand building, because even if it's Snooki -- Snooki is now a brand.
Salsano: The Situation is a brand.
SALLYANN, YOU MIGHT BE VERY CLOSE TO THE CAST, BUT
ULTIMATELY IF SNOOKI IS ABOUT TO GET PUNCHED IN THE FACE, YOU
DON'T STEP IN AND STOP IT BEFORE IT HAPPENS.
Salsano: Well, aside from Trina (on "Tool Academy"), who is a real therapist, I also have on all of my shows -- and a lot of producers don't do this -- I have a full-time therapist that works for my production company.
Griffin: Your shows have therapists? Are you s---ting me? I'm doing this all wrong. (Laughs.)
Salsano: I do it for all my shows.
Jackson: You have to have it, because you deal with people where this is not the world that they come from. They don't understand.
Salsano: And when they're eliminated, you can't just be like, "Hey thanks for playing."
Keoghan: It depends on the experience they go through.
Griffin: Do you guys have it on "Race"?
Keoghan: At the beginning, we have an evaluation of everyone that comes on the race. But you also have to look at what the experience is like for the person. We don't have people who go through the race who come out saying, "Man, I wish I hadn't done that, I hated that experience."
Griffin: Do you have a physician?
Keoghan: Yes, we have medical staff, they go everywhere.
Salsano: I did so many seasons of "The Bachelor" -- like eight of those. Those girls just don't want to leave. They feel like, "Oh my God, I thought I had him."
Jackson: What you're really trying to do is offset what those feelings are so that they can go back into normal life. Because what we're giving them is a heightened sense of reality.
Keoghan: It's manufactured reality.
Pinsky: Let me just say, the psych testing that is done routinely on reality TV is worthless. They are worthless. They're good tests, done by good people, but we don't even know what we need to measure to put people on a reality show.
Salsano: I actually find it helpful.
Pinsky: From a medical standpoint: worthless. I got a profile of ("Rehab" participant and former Guns N' Roses drummer) Steven Adler and they're like, "You cannot deal with this man, it's impossible, he's going to kill himself." But I've already got him at the hospital, he's my patient, what are you talking about? I take care of him every day. It's not a problem. Give me something useful about what's likely to happen with cameras (around). But no one knows.
Griffin: I'm curious, on your shows do you guys drug test?
Jackson: I think everyone does.
Salsano: I do a full medical but I also do a lot of STD stuff.
Pinsky: The network requires me to do stuff with my patients that has no relevance to anything. Like everyone on the set has to take (herpes medication) Valtrex.
Salsano: We hand it out like M&Ms! "Hey kids, it's time for Valtrex!" It's like a herpes nest. They're all in there mixing it up.
WE KNOW WHY PEOPLE GO ON THE COMPETITION SHOWS. BUT WHY DO
PEOPLE GO ON "JERSEY SHORE." IS IT STILL JUST TO GET A LITTLE
TASTE OF FAME?
Salsano: I really believe, in their minds they think they have a point of view that hasn't been seen or shared.
Keoghan: Do you really think that's what is? Or do they just like the idea of being on TV?
Salsano: It's a combination. They think they are that fun to watch. When I call up The Situation and I'm like, "How are you?" He's like, "How am I? Better than I was yesterday!"
Pinsky: That's what they want.
Jackson: Everyone goes on, at least in part, because they want to be rich and famous. Face it.
Salsano: Of course. These kids think it's going to last forever. But you never know what show is going to hit. Last summer, when I was roaming around the Jersey shore with these kids, they were like, "Do you think anyone's going to watch this?" And I was like, "You guys have no idea." I was in the control room (saying) "This is shouse crazy. I've never seen anything like it as a producer." But they didn't expect how crazy it got. Nor did I, nor did the network.
Griffin: Have you had experiences where people see the episode and call you, upset?
Salsano: No, because I pre-call. But have you guys gotten the "I was edited to look a certain way?"
All: Oh yeah.
Jackson: Delusion is the heart and soul of reality TV.
Griffin: I think my show edits me to be nicer.
Salsano: I believe people learn more about who they are, character-wise -- not from doing the show, but from watching the show when it airs. I can talk to someone until they're blue in the face -- "Dude, it didn't happen that way" -- and I'm like "Really?" And then they see it and they're like, "Oh my God, I never saw myself behaving that way."
Keoghan: But does it alter the behavior?
Salsano: Yes, it does.
Pinsky: No, it doesn't. That's been studied. If all you do is videotape people and then show them the videos and that changes their behavior, then that's what (doctors) like me would do. It doesn't sustain change.
Keoghan: It maybe changes their aspirations. Maybe at the beginning there was self doubt. "I don't know if anyone's going to care about this or watch this." And then all of a sudden they're all over the news. Surely now they've got a sense of, "Hey, people like me, they like what I do, they like what I say."
Pinsky: Yeah, but that's not necessarily a good thing.
Keoghan: I'm not saying it's a good thing; I'm saying it definitely changes their mind.
Salsano: But it's also part of our job. I still talk to my kids. Any season of any of the shows that I do, if they call me three seasons later and say, "Hey, it's so-and-so," I know. They call my cell. I genuinely stay in touch with them.
DO YOU FEEL RESPONSIBLE FOR THEM?
Salsano: I do feel responsible. They're not going to leave me any worse than they came in. I'm not going to cure them, but they're certainly not going to be any worse when I'm done with them.
Pinsky: That's probably true.
Griffin: Drew's shows are unique in that people come on knowing they're in a dark place. Do you think, during the process, their expectation is to come out looking better?
Pinsky: Some of them want treatment, most of them don't. They need money, bad, and they'd like to get back out there and get going again. They are just desperate for some last resort. They do want to get back in the limelight, they do want to be on TV.
Salsano: The people we put on our shows want to be famous. And if they're famous, that makes me successful. On some level we're all fulfilling the same cycle as the contestants that we're putting on the show.
Pinsky: You just keep your compass straight at all times and listen to your internal dialogue. (But) if you're not doing what you're doing to make good TV, all this stuff that I want people to see and learn about, they're never going to see.
IS THERE A MOMENT ON YOUR SHOWS THAT YOU'RE MOST PROUD OF?
Griffin: Iraq. Going to perform for the troops. And there is something I'm really proud of and maybe I shouldn't be. Tomorrow I'm getting a public Pap smear.
Pinsky: I did a colonoscopy.
Griffin: Really? Did you show your vagina? OK. Tomorrow at noon at the Palomar Hotel, poolside, I'm getting a public Pap smear. The point being, if I can do it in such an outrageous environment, women shouldn't be scared to do it.
Pinsky: Can I do it?
Griffin: Absolutely. Get the speculum, baby.
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST IMPACT REALITY TV HAS HAD ON CULTURE?
Griffin: I love that, as a 49-year-old woman working in television, I can do stuff on my show that I could never do on a sitcom. When I left "Suddenly Susan," I was auditioning to be the grandma. Welcome to Hollywood. And let me tell you -- who did "Survivor" Season 1?
Piligian: I did.
Griffin: You know how great it was for me to watch real women in bathing suits? Because in the scripted world, all the doctors are hot 23-year-old models. I love that about reality TV. Real people, real bodies; 1970s porn bodies.
Jackson: It's almost like the "Rocky" story for real people. You have a chance to have a voice, to be somebody.
Keoghan: For some of these people (on "Race"), it's an opportunity that may never come in a lifetime. Look at the way these people's lives have changed. I'm still e-mailing the "guidos" from Season 1.
Salsano: See, everybody loves a guido.
Sometimes the overnight successes take the longest.
Jason Aaron seemed to come out of nowhere three years ago. Once
That didn't exactly happen overnight. While it's true that Aaron won Marvel's talent search contest, giving him a break into the industry, that was in 2001. After his prize - having his eight-page story published in Wolverine - the writer didn't have another thing published for five years.
That all changed with the publication of The Other Side and, soon after, his ongoing Scalped title at Vertigo. Now even Aaron admits the last three years since then have been a whirlwind for him. In a little over a year's time, he was given an exclusive contract at Marvel and a series of gigs on characters like Black Panther, Punisher, and Ghost Rider. But it was his four-issue story with artist Ron Garney last year that got the attention of Marvel fans, leading to the creative team being reunited for the publisher's new Wolverine: Weapon X series.
Newsarama sat down with the soft-spoken writer at the end of a busy day at a recent comic book convention, reminiscing about his past and looking toward his future as we take a closer look at the person 'Behind the Page'.
Newsarama: Let's just start with Jason Aaron's "origin story." You were born in Alabama, right?
Jason Aaron: Yep, I'm from Alabama. I think Mark Waid and I are the only two comic creators from Alabama, or at least the only two I know of who are from Alabama.
NRAMA: Well, that's not too bad of a person to share a home state with.
JA: Yeah, that's pretty good company.
I was born in Jasper, Alabama. The most famous people from Jasper were George Lindsey, who played Goober on the Andy Griffith Show. And Butterbean, who is this huge, bald guy who started as an Ultimate fighter, but then he went on to do some boxing. People who know about fighting will know Butterbean.
NRAMA: At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer. Did that start at a young age? Or did it come later? And did it have anything to do with comic books?
JA: I remember when I was in, I think 6th grade, and I wrote a story that was called - I sh*t you not - it was called "Charlie Brown and the Chainsaw". I think I wrote the kind of things that, had I been in a post-Columbine school, I would have been expelled for. So from a young age, I was interested in writing. And I had a cousin who was a novelist. He wrote the book that Full Metal Jacket was based on. But I was a big comic reader. I loved comics.
NRAMA: What kind of comics did you read when you were young?
JA: New Teen Titans was probably the first book that got me hooked - the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans. I was mainly a DC guy from that era, so Atari Force and Blue Devil. And then Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, and later Grant Morrison's Animal Man and Doom Patrol.
[the image at top of this page is Aaron hanging out with Morrison at this year'sNY Comic Con - editor]
I knew I wanted to write, and I loved comics. But being in the middle of nowhere, I had no idea how to go about breaking into comics. Of course, in the era before the Internet, I had no clue. I had never met anyone who worked in comics except, like, at Dragon Con, the convention I'd been to.
So I went and got an English degree at University of Alabama, Birmingham, and I worked sh*tty day jobs and wrote some film reviews and DVD reviews and just kind of lucked into comics really. I won that first talent search, and that was my first break. And it didn't lead to anything, but it encouraged me to pursue this. I thought, hey, maybe I'm good enough that I could actually try to do this. I had a couple of contacts, so I could send pitches in.
NRAMA: That talent search win took place in 2001, but The Other Side didn't get published until 2006. Did you pitch a lot of stuff in that time that never made it?
JA: Oh, yeah. I pitched a lot of stuff to Marvel back then. I pitched Punisher stuff and Daredevil stuff. I pitched what eventually became The Other Side as a relaunch of The 'Nam. I pitched a lot of stuff to Axel [Alonso, Marvel editor], which he doesn't even remember. I was exchanging emails with him, pitching him stuff and going nowhere. And then I got this pitch in at Vertigo and went and did a couple Vertigo books. And I sent copies to him and he loved them and called me up and offered me stuff. He had no recollection that it was just a year before that I was pitching him stuff. But you know, those guys get so much stuff thrown at them just every day. And I was a guy who had only done eight pages.
NRAMA: What were you doing to make a living during all this?
JA: Just the kind of thing that you can do when you have an English degree, which is not much. The jobs were nothing too memorable. I managed a video store and wrote movie reviews. I don't know if you can put this one on Newsarama, but I worked in a factory of adult novelty items where I was the guy in charge of the porn, basically. [laughs] Millions of dollars worth of porn - huge stacks of porn.
NRAMA: You just became an even bigger hero to our readers with that one.
JA: [laughs] That probably sounds a lot more glamorous than it was.
NRAMA: Hearing how it took you five years of pitches to get any attention from the industry, why did you stick with it? You could have followed in your cousin's footsteps and written a book, or tried to write for some other medium. Why did you stick with comics all that time?
JA: Well, I wrote a couple of really horrible novels that hopefully nobody will ever read. But I guess I just never stopped thinking about comics because I never stopped reading comics. I wasn't one of those guys that fell out of it once they got to college, or once the bottom fell out after the big boom. I've had a pull list at different stores as long as I can remember. I never stopped reading comics, and I never stopped loving comics. There are times I can remember where I was reading a lot more than others, but I always stuck with it. I guess I never gave up wanting to break into comics. It's just that I didn't know how.
It's still hard these days, even though I think it's a lot easier in a post-Internet world where you can break in from anywhere in the world. I work with guys who are from all over. It's still hard, especially for a writer, to get somebody's attention and to get someone to pay attention to what you're sending them. Obviously it's possible. The pitch I sent to Vertigo was basically a blind submission that got turned down a couple of times. I had the full first script for The Other Side #1 because I had submitted it to Epic, back when Marvel was doing Epic Comics. You had to have the pitch, plus you had to have the first full script written. So I already had that script. And I eventually set it in to Will Dennis and somehow convinced him to read it.
But for me, the formula was just spending a lot of time working on one idea that I thought was different enough, that this is not like anything else on the stands right now and this is something I can honestly say, that if I did see this on the stands as a reader, I would pay money to pick it up. I would buy this. And I just funneled all my energy into that.
I had always thought, as a writer, that if I just got to the point where I was good enough - whether writing short stories or novels or comics or whatever - that if I just got good enough, eventually, the rest of that sh*t would just take care of itself. It's got to be easier to "break in" than it is to become a good writer. You know? So that was my main focus, through college and everything else. I never felt like I was good enough to call myself, like, a "misunderstood genius." That the world just doesn't appreciate me. I didn't know much, but I realized that I wasn't good enough that somebody should fork out actual money to read what I've written. So I just always wanted to get to that point where I did feel good enough.
NRAMA: Do you feel that way now?
JA: Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes. I guess if I don't feel like my writing is worth the money people are paying to read it, then I need to stop and do something about it. I mean, there are things I've done that are closer to my heart than others, but I can honestly say that everything I've done, I'm proud of and I'm happy with, and as a reader I would pick up and read if I saw it on the shelf.
NRAMA: As a writer, what do you think your strengths are? I know you're doing a lot of different types of comics, but are there certain things that you think are your strengths?
JA: I don't know. I try not to analyze those things. Even though most of the stuff I've done is gritty, street-level stuff - a lot of violent, maybe even "macho" stuff - I don't want to be pigeon-holed. That's not all I can do. But I don't know. I guess I gravitate toward things that are a little violent. Things that are a little darker and have more of an edge to them. But at the same time, I'd really love to write something that my son could read in a couple years. He's three years old now, and obviously, the stuff I've done, it's going to be a long time before he can read any of that stuff. I would love to do a straight-up kids book. I'm determined to do it sooner rather than later. And not as just a lark, not as just, "the kid that does Scalped is doing a kids book." But I don't want to be typecast. I don't want to be pigeon-holed.
NRAMA: I know we've talked about it before, but let's just talk briefly about where the idea came from to do The Other Side, since that's the one story that you kept pitching until it was the one that was published. You mentioned your cousin - he's the one that inspired you to pursue that story, right?
JA: Yeah, he died in 1993, so I only met him maybe two or three times in my life. But after he died, I put together everything I knew about him and started a website, 'cause he's got a lot of fans out there. His books are all out of print, but a lot of people out there remember his work and really love it. If you can track down copies of his books, they're well worth the effort. But through that website, I met his group of fellow combat correspondents. They still get together every other year or so, and I got invited to their reunion and got to hang out with those guys. And one of them is Dale Dye, who's the pre-eminent Hollywood technical adviser. He was the technical adviser on Platoon and Saving Private Ryan and a lot of the best war movies of the last several years. So hanging out with those guys and talking to them, along with all the research I'd done on my cousin's life, I plan on writing a full biography of him in the next couple of years.
That was a couple years of my life - that's all I was doing - so that led me to do The Other Side.
NRAMA: Were you surprised by the response by fans and critics to The Other Side? Or did you know that was something special?
JA: I was really happy with the way it turned out. But I got that book turned down by a lot of people - everybody I pitched it to. I pitched it all over. Anybody I could find contact info for, I got it turned down. It was just a matter of finding the right guy - which was Will Dennis at Vertigo. And Vertigo's the place I would have wanted it published to begin with. That would have been my ultimate choice. So yeah, I was really proud of it. I spent a lot of time working on it. That's without a doubt the most time I ever spent working on a script.
NRAMA: And your artist, Cameron Stewart, was pretty dedicated to this story, wasn't he?
JA: Yeah! The very first time I met him was in San Diego. And he left from there to fly to Vietnam. I was coming from being a guy who was sitting alone at my desk, typing up a bunch of words. And now, here was this dude who was physically departing to Vietnam. Just because of sh*t I wrote at my computer. So that was wild. I felt a little like Robert McNamara, sending the boys off, like, you know, "Keep your head down over there."
But yeah, Cameron was great. It was Karen Berger's idea to bring Cameron in. He was just coming off Seaguy at the time. And you knew instantly. I mean, he wasn't the first person you'd think of to draw a Vietnam War book. Even Cameron, when she first approached him, didn't think he was right for the book. But his enthusiasm from the get-go won everybody over. Then once you saw the pages, I think that's some of, if not the, best stuff he's ever done.
I'm super proud of that book from top to bottom. I haven't read it recently. I'm sure if I went back and read it now, there would be things I'd want to change. The first issue of that was the first script I'd ever written, besides those eight pages. But I think that issue still holds up.
NRAMA: Where did the idea come from to do Scalped? You told me once that you were always interested in Native Americans. Was this another case where your interest led to your subject?
JA: Yeah, I had always been interested in Native American history, and I'd been interested in the Leonard Peltier story and the story of the American Indian movement. Even before I'd thought about putting it in a book. So when I started working on The Other Side, Will Dennis told me to send some more pitches in. And one of the first things I mentioned was just the idea of doing a crime book on a modern-day Indian reservation.
NRAMA: Had you thought about that before?
JA: Well, Will's a big crime guy, and we had talked about our favorite crime novels and shows and films and stuff. So I knew I wanted to send him a crime pitch. So I don't remember when it first clicked, but just the idea of setting it on an Indian reservation seemed to work.
NRAMA: But Scalped is - well, it's a crime book, but it's really personal. When you were fleshing out these characters, did you know it would go into this kind of detailed, close-up portraiture of these scarred characters? Did you know you would do something like that, or did that kind of evolve as you wrote about these characters?
JA: A little of both. I still have a document I wrote, I think, three years ago that fleshes out the first 30 issues or so. And I've stuck almost exactly to that, plot wise. A lot of the character stuff is stuff that's come up along the way. I think the book has gotten a lot better as we've gone along. I think I have gotten a lot better as we've gone along. I think at first I was a little overwhelmed, just the idea of writing an ongoing series.
When I wrote Scalped #1, I think I had only written the first two or three issues of The Other Side. So I think I was a little over my head at first. It took me a little while to figure everything out, and for [artist R.M.] Guera and I to connect. But I think once we hit our groove, maybe around issues #4 and #5, or definitely by the second arc, I think we hit our groove. From then, I think it's been great. He and I are really on the same page on everything. He brings so much passion and energy to all the pages. I've fallen in love with the characters, and I love exploring each one of them.
NRAMA: What did your wife think of all these years of waiting for something to happen with comics?
JA: The whole comics world was alien to her when we first met. It took her awhile to realize this was a real job and that somebody could actually make pretty good money doing this. But this all happened right around the time we got married. The day I got the call from Will that Scalped had been green-lighted was actually the day before I got married. And I had wrecked my car the day before. So I was waiting at the bus stop when he called me. So in the course of, like, two days, I got Scalped, I got a new car, and I got married. So that was a pretty big weekend.
NRAMA: Which came first, your son being named Dashiell, or the main character in Scalped being named Dashiell?
JA: It was around the same time, actually. I knew the name from Dashiell Hammett. I think my wife heard it somewhere else and really liked it. And then Bad Horse comes from my cousin. I have a cousin who lives and works on a Cheyenne reservation in Montana. She married a native man there. And her name is Gina Badhorse, and I ended up using that for Gina Bad Horse, Dash's mother in Scalped.
NRAMA: Let's talk about getting the opportunity to become an exclusive Marvel writer. Was Wolverine the first thing they talked to you about?
JA: Yeah, the first thing I did was Wolverine #56 with Howard Chaykin. When Axel first called me, we started talking, and I think somebody coming into his office, that's how you cut your teeth - you do a Wolverine story. So that was my try-out, I guess. I was really proud of how that issue turned out. That's one of my favorite single issues I've done. And it was great working with Howard Chaykin, who I've loved since American Flagg and Shadow, and Blackhawk and everything he's done.
So yeah, it was very surreal. Over the course of that one year, I went from doing nothing for so long and trying to hard to have nothing happen, to having two books with Vertigo, to working with Marvel, and then they offer me an exclusive. So the last two years have really been like a real roller coaster of just... from nothing to having as much work as I can handle.
Check back on Newsarama tomorrow as we talk more with Jason Aaron about his work at Marvel and his upcoming run on Wolverine: Weapon X.
This Saturday, CBS will become the first legacy network to show full matches in prime time. In the wee hours after "Saturday Night Live," NBC is airing a series with fighter profiles and bout footage. Two movies set in the MMA world hit theaters in recent months, including one by acclaimed writer David Mamet, and more are on the way.
But can the brutal sport of chokeholds and sharp elbows truly cross over?
Karo Parisyan says it already has.
"Grandmas have recognized me before on the street," the Armenian fighter said during a break during training at his friend's backyard gym in the San Fernando Valley. "Grandmas! I'm like 'Do you watch UFC?' And they're like 'Yeah, my son watches it and I sit there and watch with him.'"
Parisyan is part of the sport's dominant organization, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. A series highlighting pros' stories in and out of the ring, "The Ultimate Fighter," is the highest rated original series on Spike TV, averaging nearly 2 million viewers over seven seasons.
A much-touted fight between Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Dan "Hollywood" Henderson drew 5.8 million viewers to the network last season; that's comparable to TNT's audience for last week's NBA playoff games.
Nielsen ratings don't tell the whole story.
Widely circulated Internet videos reflect MMA's underground roots. They were part of "Never Back Down," the formulaic kid-learns-to-fight tale that took in over $30 million worldwide since its March release.
And they made a star of bearded 34-year-old Kevin Ferguson, known as Kimbo Slice. He's only fought in two pro matches, winning both. But online clips of him convincingly pounding nightclub bouncers in Miami backyards, filmed by the pornography outfit where he was working as a bodyguard, drew millions of viewers.
Ferguson, who according to MMA lore named one of his six kids Kevlar, is the main attraction on CBS' first card. He's been doing the publicity rounds for the network, including donning a cowboy hat to present Rascal Flatts with a trophy at the recent CBS-televised Academy of Country Music Awards.
"It's been a new experience," Ferguson said softly after posing for cameras at a CBS press conference. "You only have once chance and one opportunity to walk down that road, and when that opportunity comes, you have to step up to the plate."
There's an equivalent upside for the Tiffany Network. CBS traditionally has the oldest audience of all the networks. MMA skews the opposite direction.
"We saw an opportunity to really kind of plant our flag on a growing sport," said Kelly Kahl, the network's top scheduler. "And if that helps us get a little younger, then so be it. That'll be terrific."
Fights will air live to the East Coast and will be tape-delayed in the West. The network committed with the EliteXC organization to air four "Fight Nights" and could add two more if ratings are high.
"We've reached some advertisers we don't typically speak to," Kahl said, noting that ads for beer, fast food and video games would air during Saturday's bouts. "Those are the kind of things that don't really show up on CBS on Saturday night."
Another seemingly odd fit for MMA: Mamet. The famed playwright is known for tough guy, macho talk. But he's not exactly on the cutting edge of youth culture.
Still, he set his latest film in the world of MMA and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Champions of the latter technique, Rorian and Royce Gracie, helped launch the UFC back in the early '90s.
"The Brazilians used to go around to all the dojos and all the boxing gyms in Los Angeles when they first came and they said 'Bring out your best guy,'" Mamet said. "And they would tromp them. And so out of this came the idea of mixed martial arts."
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as an instructor, "Redbelt" reflects Mamet's passion for the technique. He'd been practicing for five years at a Santa Monica dojo, time enough to mull over the philosophies behind the punches.
"The older we get, the more we want to know how to get on in the world," Mamet said. "The world is made up of conflict, so the question is: How does one deal with conflict? How does one learn to avoid conflict? How does one get better at dealing with conflict? And how does one deal with the conflict within one's self?
"And these are the issues that martial arts and particularly my experience with Brazilian jiu-jitsu deals with. Because what it teaches you is not to use force, or to use as little force as possible. However strong you are, however big you are, if you run out of energy, you've just lost the fight."
Hollywood certainly hasn't run out of energy when it comes to MMA. It looks to figure prominently in the upcoming Terrence Howard-Channing Tatum street fighting film "Fighting," by writer-director Dito Montiel. Also on tap or just released: Two MMA documentaries and two lower-budget features, "Never Submit" and "Red Canvas."
Meanwhile, the fighters will keep reveling in the attention.
"It's only 16 years old, the sport, and it's going through the roof," Parisyan, the UFC fighter, said. "No disrespect to any other sport or boxing, but I think we swallowed boxing already. Boxing has been around for 100 years but no one's fighting anymore. They're trying to hold on and the UFC, man, is blowing up."