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Friday, January 20, 2012

SPOTLIGHT: New Interview with RIC MEYERS

New Interview with one of my oldest friends, Ric Meyers. He found me--as fate would have it-- at a Dallas Fantasy Faire when I was around 21 years old, suffering from food poisoning from bad Chinese food, and apparently foaming at the mouth, comatose, in the lobby of the hotel. According to him I was radiant...sitting in a shaft of light.

We've been friends ever since.

In addition to everything else, Ric is an incredibly prolific and insightful creator. He is now being booked by Eva Ink Artist Group for conventions, book signings and speaking engagements. Interview originally appears here: http://forums.jazmaonline.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=4052


See Ric at a convention this year-- it's always fun and engaging to hear him discuss a myriad of subjects...just be smarter than me and avoid the all you can eat buffets.

--R.



(Writers Ric Meyers and Renee Witterstaetter, circa mid 90's, charity fundraiser for the Beardsley Zoo in CT.)



Ric Meyers
Author/Writer
Interviewed by: Richard Vasseur/Jazma VP
Posted: 20/01/2012


Rich: You wrote the first Incredible Hulk novel for Pocket Books. What was the story about, and how much input did you have in the storyline?

Ric: Bruce Banner goes to see the world's leading radiation specialist, only to witness the expert's abduction by agents from the African nation he defected from. Banner hopes the abducted doctor can save him from his Hulky curse, so he chases him, and all manner of mayhem and pathos ensues.
I wrote it some time ago, but, as near as I can recall, I had total freedom in the creation of the book. I believe the project was brought to me as a fait accompli by my literary agent. It was my understanding that Pocket Books wanted a published novelist to write this third book in the "Marvel Novel Series" because they weren't totally satisfied by the ones written just by comic scripters.

My agent thought it was a no-brainer: I had edited and written for Atlas Comics, was friendly with Kenneth Johnson, who ran the Hulk TV show, and had several published books, both fiction and non-fiction, on my resume.

I had a great time with the Hulk, and managed to squeeze in several things I had always wanted to do. All too often, I felt his transformation was initiated by fear or pain, so I wanted to put anger back at the forefront. I always felt that the Hulk was anger personified, not fear or pain personified. I also always wanted his change to be fast -- a veritable explosion of rage. So all that, and more, is in the book.



Rich:Why did you decide to write books about martial arts, and how did your interest in this develop?

Ric: I was hanging out at Larry Hama's office at Marvel Comics in 1978, complaining that producers always made comicbook movies or TV shows campy in some way. I had just come from the set of the Richard Donner/Chris Reeve Superman, which I was reporting on for Starlog magazine (ironically I finished the Hulk novel literally moments before I headed to the airport to start my extended Superman set visit).

Anyway, I wished there was a movie that took superheroes seriously, and Larry just said "Follow me." He brought me down to the now defunct Bleeker Street Cinema, where a matinee of Baby Cart in the Land of Demons, one of the greatest samurai movies of all time, was playing.

I was stunned with delight by that, but Larry said "We're not finished," and brought me immediately down to the now defunct Canal Street Cinema, where Drunken Monkey in a Tiger's Eye (aka Jackie Chan's Drunken Master) was playing.

Well, that astonished me, so I went to every book store and library to find out more about these things called martial art movies. Happily, there was Alain Silver's landmark book, The Samurai Film, to educate me about the Japanese side of the equation, but there was precious little about kung fu films, if anything, on any shelf.

By then I had already written several film books, so I went to one of my publishers -- the great Citadel Press -- and asked if I could write about martial arts movies. They said "sure," gave me the same deal as my previous book for them (The Great Science Fiction Films), and off I went.

Luckily, Ocean Shores Limited wanted someone to educate video stores about the kung fu films they hoped to import into America, and World Northal wanted someone to educate TV stations about the Shaw Brothers Studio movies they wanted to syndicate in the "Black Belt Theater" package they had created.

I was that weird guy at the right time with a book contract in my pocket, so they threw open their doors in both New York and Hong Kong. Much to my amazement and delight I was introduced to Jackie Chan only a few months after I had discovered him.



Rich:How does it feel to be considered an expert on martial arts films, and what unusual jobs has this led to?

Ric: Fine. One of the reasons I got to do things like the Hulk novel, the Dirty Harry book series, and other stuff like that is that I showed myself to be, one, someone who could actually finish the job in a professional (i.e., publishable) manner, and two, I really liked this stuff and could share my love with the reader in a, hopefully, engaging and entertaining way.

To do that, I had to, as much as possible, know what I was talking about, which has led to an on-going martial art education. In the more than thirty years I've been doing this, I've met thousands of martial art teachers, students, movie makers, actors, choreographers, and fans -- some of whom have been inspired by my enthusiasm.
One of the most influential of which was Jonathan Ross, who is occasionally considered the David Letterman, or even the Howard Stern, of England, who I met through one of his researcher's love of my book For One Week Only: The World of Exploitation Films. Although originally engaged to offer insights on the Herschell Gordon Lewis episode of Jonathan's The Incredibly Strange Film Show, I kept telling him about Chan and sending him Jackie movies.

So when it came time for The Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show in 1988, Jonathan took me back to Hong Kong and made a Jackie Chan episode, which really led to Jackie's true breakout in America after two previous abortive attempts (The Big Brawl and The Protector [not to be confused with Tony Jaa's later film of the same, changed, name]).

Following that was a bunch of other fun stuff, like my column for Inside Kung Fu and Asian Cult Cinema magazines; creating cover copy, liner notes, and interviews for more than 300 international DVDs; teaching at colleges; and even doing kung fu seminars for the first Kung Fu Panda film and the subsequent TV series.




Rich:
Who have you worked with or interviewed in the world of martial arts?

Ric: Well, geez, so many. Jackie, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Gordon Liu, Lo Lieh, Wang Lung-wei, Kara Hui Ying-hung, Angela Mao, Sammo Hung, Yuen Baio, Michelle Yeoh, Linda Lee, Brandon Lee, Shannon Lee, Tony Jaa, Chow Yun-fat, Tsui Hark, John Woo, Stephen Chow, Lo Mang, Liu Chia-yung, Conan Lee, Aaron Norris, Michael Jai White, Tan Tao-liang, Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Ang Lee, Zhang Yimou, Stanley Tong, Simon Yam, Ronny Yu -- and that's just off the top of my head. There are a bunch more stunt people and others involved in the business as well.

Rich:I understand that you run a film program at the SDCC every year, what does this entail?

Ric: It's called the San Diego Comic Con Superhero Kung Fu Extravaganza, which I, and Frank Djeng, an exec at Tai Seng Entertainment, started some time in the late 1990's, and it's been going ever since.

Most of the time it's a three-hour, Thursday night event where I show the best action scenes from the previous year's martial art movies between giveaways (of posters, DVDs, or whatever) and special surprise guests.




Rich:Have you ever done any martial arts training, and if so, what type and what benefit have you seen?

Ric: When I started researching martial art movies, naturally I started researching martial arts as well. If I hadn't, it would be like a Chinese writer coming to the U.S. and doing a book about baseball movies without knowing how the game is played.

A good friend of mine ran the Philadelphia Judo Club, so I started there, but I noticed that no veteran student had full use of at least one major joint, so I continued my search elsewhere before that happened to me. Two more friends taught Jiu-jitsu in New York City, so I carried on with them.

Both techniques were cool and interesting, but nothing was helping me understand the styles in my favorite kung fu films. Also, I ran into the American martial art mentality, which is on full display in films like the original Karate Kid and The Fist Foot Way. It's generally known as McMartialArts, or "nothing is worth having if I can't pay for it" or "it's worthless if I can't look badass, kickass or awesome."

So I just kept independent, casting a skeptical eye on teachers who hurt their students, or said things that didn't add up, or demanded that I learn only from them. Then, in 2002, I literally stumbled across the World Taichi Championships in Taiwan. There I met world heavyweight push-hands champion Stephen Watson, who, incredibly, had a school thirty minutes away from me in America!

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear," he told me with a smile. Well, he was the greatest teacher I ever met, and before long, he started introducing me to his teachers and peers, like Rick Barrett, Don Ethan Miller, Willem De Thouars, and Avi Schneier. On that same Taiwan trip, I also met Lee Feng-san at the Meiman Qigong Culture Center in Taipei. Google and/or youtube these guys. They are more amazing than you can imagine (how do I know? Easy. They were more amazing than I could imagine until I met, and learned, from them).

Through these gentlemen I learned, and am still learning, loads of helpful things for my body, mind, and ego. As much as Stephe doesn't care about awards, he brought me to a fistful of tournaments where I collected a bunch of gold medals and trophies (the International Chinese Martial Arts Championship, the USA Wushu Kung Fu Federation National Championship, the International Chinese Martial Arts Championship, yada yada yada).
Meanwhile Master Lee taught me Pingshuai, what could be described as a personal form of Feng Shui. In other words, what authentic feng shui can do for the energy in your home, I've found pingshuai seems to be doing that for the energy, the "chi," in my body. When I started doing it in 2002, I was succumbing to many a sedentary writer's curse: bad back, bad knees, low energy, etc. Since I've been doing pingshuai daily, my legs and back have given me little or no problem, and I don't need any coffee or stimulants like that.

It's had some notable effects on other things, too. I used to get colds three times a year like clockwork. When I started playing Santa annually, I'd get sick as many as a half dozen times in six weeks. Now, for whatever magical reason, (but I think it's the pingshuai), I haven't had a full-scale cold in ten years. Go figure.



Rich:Who is The Destroyer and what about his character makes you like writing about him?

Ric: Ah! The Destroyer! The Destroyer was the second biggest selling men's adventure paperback series in the 70's and 80's (the top selling series was Don Pendleton's Executioner, who The Punisher was "borrowed" from).

The Destroyer's creators, Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy, wrote twenty-four amazing satirical thrillers in the series before they got tired. So Warren put an ad in The Westport News which read "Ghost Writer wanted. No glory, lots of money."

My father sent me the ad. By then, my comic and film book mentor, Jeff Rovin, had secured me some non-fiction book contracts, but I was anxious to try my hand at fiction. I answered the ad, and met with Warren, who eventually gave me the go-ahead to write a Destroyer novel (#25: Sweet Dreams).

"Was it because of the great writing sample I gave you?" I asked (a portion of a Sinbad the Sailor novel I was working on). "No," Warren answered. "That was crap. It was your cover letter. That was the best cover letter I ever read." Just goes to show, it pays to sweat the details.

Warren, like Jeff, was an amazing editor, and taught me more than I can remember. When I handed in that first Destroyer manuscript, he read it and said "The difference between you and me, kid, is that I know the names of the problems." I was in writing-student-heaven.

Then, as now, I never wanted anyone to pat me on the head and say my stuff was ok. Nor did I want someone to tear it up and say it sucked. All I wanted was someone who knew the names of the problems and would explain them to me so I could improve. I've been lucky to have several people like that in my life (including doctors and lawyers).

In any case, The Destroyer is Remo Williams, an ex-cop who was framed for murder and electrocuted -- only to wake up and be trained as a secret assassin for CURE, a "nonexistent" three-man agency that goes outside the constitution to protect the constitution. One man was the brains, Harold Smith, one, Remo, was the brawn, and one, Chiun, was Remo's teacher. Chiun, however, was the Korean master of Sinanju, the sun source of martial arts.

Already, what's not to like? Dick and Warren were brilliant writers, but they didn't know martial arts -- yet, they were so knowledgeable about life, that they kind of did (remember, the word "kung fu" actually means "human achievement," not martial arts). Instinctively, they had Remo doing things that seemed incredible to the casual viewer, but were totally in the realm of kung fu possibility.

But what made the series sing was the relationship between the ex-cop and the 100 pound, ninety year old Chiun, who would put a convention of Jewish mothers to shame. That was combined with the team's wonderfully layered plots, which were full of human touches and insight far beyond normal men.

Every book was a joy. I went on to write #27: The Last Temple, and #29: The Final Death (which introduced Chinese Vampires to American fiction) until I broke the unwritten law of ghost-writing. Apparently I wasn't supposed to proudly tell everyone I met I was writing the Destroyer. And I was especially not supposed to find and visit the artist, the great Hector Garrido, who painted the Destroyer book covers and get my own -- especially when Dick and Warren had never received one.

Rich:What was your contribution to the 60th anniversary issue of Detective Comics?

Ric: Actually I got the numbers wrong. In my pop culture travels, I had become friends with Batman writer/editor Denny O'Neill (as well as "discovered" future Batman artist Marshall Rogers, securing him his first professional assignment). Even so, I was gratified and honored when Denny asked me to contribute an essay for the 50th Anniversary Adventure, Blind Justice (Detective Comics issue 598).

In the essay, I differentiated the "superhero" -- a person who gets their powers from outside themselves -- and the "suprahero" -- a person who gets their powers from within themselves -- a delineation that has remained strong in my kung fu education.



Rich:What are your latest books that you have had published, the influences for them, the subject matter?

Ric: Taking a cue from movies, my latest books are reboots of some of my previous books. A publisher contacted me, asking if I wanted to do new versions of my two previous martial art movie books (Martial Arts Movies: From Bruce Lee to the Ninja and Great Martial Arts Movies: From Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan and More) as well as For One Week Only: The World of Exploitation Films. I did, so I did.

F.O.W.O.'s title remains the same, but the exploitation film genre as it once was is no more, so the book went from being a testimonial to a memorial. But, given that I was approached in 2008 to write a documentary about kung fu films, I took the opportunity to write a book on the same subject -- eliminating the samurai, ninja, karate, judo, muy thai, and taekwondo content of the previous works.

The result was Films of Fury: The Kung Fu Movie Movie (presently on Cablevision, Cox, Comcast, and Insight video on demand, and on DVD March 27th, 2012) as well as Films of Fury: The Kung Fu Movie Book, available on Amazon, among other places, as both a book and an e-book.

Rich:What do you have planned for the future, upcoming releases etc?

Ric: Presently, I'm working with Renee Witterstaetter and Little Eva Ink on a book about a certain jolly bearded fellow, using all the actual questions he's been asked over the last ten years. Right now it's called "Santa Confidential" and is illustrated by Chris Browne, the award-winning artist of the Hagar the Horrible comic strip as well a contributor to Playboy, The National Lampoon, and The New Yorker. It should be ready by holiday time.

I also appeared in two movies this year. I did a cameo as a heinous, but weirdly bearded, New York drug lord in a direct-to-DVD thriller called The Suppressor at the request of the great Ara Paiaya, and then, through Ara's arrangement, played a much more heinous, but more understandably bearded, terrorist in Black Day, a feature film made for the Iranian market (?!).

Quite an adventure. We'll see if they need me for any promotions, or even sequels.




Rich:Why have you used pseudonyms when writing books, and what are the benefits and negatives of this?

Ric: Well, I started as a ghost writer for Warren and Dick, but then was asked by Warner Books to try my hand at some Dirty Harry novels. Clint Eastwood had said that he wasn't going to do any more Harry movies, but Warners still thought they could make money off the character. Hence the book series.

Unfortunately, they felt they needed more than one writer to keep the quickly published books on schedule, so a "house name," Dane Hartman (notice the initials?), was created by the Warners editor. It's a long tradition, best exemplified by such pulp magazines/books as Doc Savage and The Shadow, as well as teen adventure series like The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. They also used "house names."

On the one hand, if you're not enthusiastic about the assignment, it's quick, if not easy, money. On the other, if you're honorable, it's annoying when your fellow authors let the seams show (in the first non-me Harrys they didn't even spell his last name right -- until I insisted upon creating a series "bible").

Then the chief editor of the "Men of Action" books, of which Dirty Harry was the crown jewel, knew of my martial art experience and asked me to take over the Ninja Master series, so I became "Wade Barker" for that. Ultimately, Warners gave me that entire series as well, resulting in two epic, solo-penned, tetrologies (Year of the Ninja Master and War of the Ninja Master). Eventually they even bequeathed me the sole ownership of the fake author's name.

Once I started down the "house name" path, my literary agent was happy to sell me to editors looking for someone quick and hopefully good. So I also became Bryan Swift for the Mac Wingate war series. By then I had done around twenty books, and saw the writing on the wall. I had too great a self-worth issue to write under pseudonyms for long.

The actual titles and numbers of the books I did in these series can be found on my website, ricmeyers.com, as are the science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror novels I wrote under varying versions of my own name.

Rich:What is RIC Heavy Industries LLC and what do you do there?

Ric: That's just my limited corporation to serve as an umbrella for all that I do: writing, editing, consulting, and performing.



Rich:Which super-hero would you want to write a book about that you have not, and why, ie. what do you think you'd bring to the table that would be different and uniquely you?

Well, I've always loved Daredevil, because a lot of what Jackie Chan did in his Hong Kong films reminded me of Daredevil come-to-life, and also because Daredevil is blind the way Zatoichi, the legendary blind swordsman of Japanese cinema, is blind.

There's more than twenty-five films in the Zatoichi series, and they're all great. A main reason is because the films are ABOUT blindness. But not just the hero's sightlessness -- the villains are even MORE blind: blinded by hate, blinded by lust, blinded by power. It creates a dynamic that's engrossing and exciting.

If I could bring the same dynamic, content, context, and insight to a Daredevil book or script, along with my knowledge of martial arts, I believe they could be as great as a Jackie and Zatoichi collaboration.

Then there's Wonder Woman-- the female optimum and human embodiment of heterosexual hypocrisy. Or, as I occasionally put it: I'd love to treat you like a human being, but what do I do with these hormones?

I would really enjoy doing a 100% undiluted, both-barrels version of Wonder Woman. I'd have everyone react to her in the way they would actually react to such a goddess in real life. And I'd have her learn about human disingenuousness, desire, perversity, and pride from the way she's treated.

Being a goddess, she would not only be physically powerful, but mentally so as well -- using man's resentment, frustration, anger, and lust against them. Just imagine a seemingly submissive and naive stranger in a strange land who's actually the galaxy's greatest dominatrix with no neuroses, all that strength, an invisible plane, and a lariat of truth.



Rich:For a person as busy as you seem to be, how do you spend any free time you happen to get?

Ric: I've tried to organize my life so I can do for a living what I would do for free. As a writer and performer, human behavior and the world around it are all part of what I need to know to do what I do. Everything is research to me.

Besides, as soon as I find something I like, I find out more until I love it, and then I look for ways to share that love with others. I love eating, sleeping, thinking, writing, editing, acting, driving, swimming, flying, walking, taichi, qigong, shooting, shopping, movies, TV, theater, dance, music, reading, and friends.

So I don't distinguish between work and play, free time and busy time. It's all the same to me. As the great masters say: understand human nature, understand mother nature, understand your own nature, then you will know kung fu.

Rich:How can someone contact you?

Ric:
ric4kungfu@gmail.com, and you can check out the websites: ricmeyers.com, www.filmsoffury.com, and www.insidekung-fu.com. Also I'll be on the Eva Ink website shortly at: www.evainkartistgroup.com

For booking me into conventions etc., please contact Renee Witterstaetter at: evaink@aol.com

Rich:Do you have any last words for all your fans, advice, directives?

Ric: Fans? I have fans?!

In any case, one of the things I now teach is what I call mental martial arts. After all, who's the one person Bruce Lee never defeated? Himself. So I try to help everyone, martial artists and non-martial artists, to not defeat themselves.

I start with two suggestions.

There may be many people who want to hurt you or hold you back. Don't be one of them.
And, love yourself at least as much as that which you say you love the most.
Then, of course, we get into what love is, and that's another story.



--Richard Vasseur

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