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About "Dan Brown"

I do a bit of everything for The Free Press. I edit copy, write columns, report, and blog on I've been with the paper — which I delivered as a kid growing up in Poplar Hill — since 2005. My main passions are pop culture and local personalities, and I also do a weekly column about graphic novels. Like what you read? Got a beef? Send me an e-mail at or tweet me at @DanatLFPress. I look forward to hearing from you!

Be careful who you pick to worship

- October 28th, 2014

It’s at times like this week that I ask myself: What would Andy Travis think?

If you missed out on the 1970s, you likely have no idea who I’m talking about.

Andy Travis was the harried program director for the fictional radio station WKRP.

Many episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati, which ran from 1978 to 1982 on CBS, revolved around his attempts to maintain order at the wacky workplace, a task made more difficult by eccentric characters like disc jockey Dr. Johnny Fever, salesman Herb Tarlek and serious news guy Les Nessman.

Andy always struck me as a fellow with a reliable moral compass, since he seemed to have an innate sense of right and wrong.

Despite his penchant for tight jeans, Andy had a good head on his shoulders connected to a good heart.

In one episode in which Tarlek’s alcoholism fully flowers, Travis says something I’ve been turning over in my head the last few days: “I don’t care what people’s hobbies are, but I do care when it starts to affect their work.”

But here’s the thing: Andy Travis is not a real person. All of the qualities that I ascribe him, they are projections on my part. So he’s a safe hero to have.

The one time I interviewed Gary Sandy, the actor who played Travis back in the day, I suspect he was having a bad day.

He went on a harangue about how he didn’t get any money from things such as WKRP DVD releases. I didn’t quite know what to think. His bluntness unsettled me. I was disappointed.

And that’s the inherent danger of hero worship: Since they have feet of clay, real-life people are dangerous to idolize. They can only let you down.

That’s why they say you should never meet your personal heroes. Or learn too much about them.

When you put someone up on a pedestal, you are setting yourself up for a fall because it’s a mistake to believe our heroes are somehow better than us. I guess we fall into the trap of thinking they don’t have the same foibles as ordinary humans.

Surely our heroes know something the rest of us don’t know about the nature of life? Surely they don’t develop dandruff or bad breath? Surely they are moral paragons?

Maybe this is why we invented superheroes – so we could have a class of people who truly are perfect and beyond petty everyday concerns. Who always triumph in the end. Who never make mistakes or suffer the same flaws as your typical Joe Schmo.

If you’re feeling crestfallen this week, I don’t know what to tell you.

One of my bedrock beliefs as a journalist is that more information is always better than less, yet sometimes there are consequences to finding out you have placed your faith in the wrong hands.

Pop culture, comics and horror all on tap Oct. 19

- October 13th, 2014

You can read my latest graphic-novel column by clicking here.

It’s about Forest City Comicon, which goes Oct. 19 at Centennial Hall.

I hope to see you there!

For pop-culture fans, the wait is over

- October 6th, 2014

Sequels have been around since the New Testament.

Yet never in pop-culture history have there been so many examples of sequels arriving years or even decades after the original film or TV show that spawned them.

August saw the release of Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For, nine years after the first Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller adaptation of the latter’s graphic novel.

In November, moviegoers will be able to watch the further adventures of Harry and Lloyd when Dumb and Dumber To debuts – 20 years after Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey originated the idiot characters.

Meanwhile, on television, a Twin Peaks sequel series was announced this week. The quirky program went off the air in 1991, so by the time Agent Cooper reappears on Showtime in 2016, a full quarter-century will have gone by.

In the case of the Sin City franchise, the near-decade wait appears to have worked against it: A Dame to Kill For generated only $6.3 million on its opening weekend, enough for an eighth-place debut.

It’s too early, however, to make a blanket statement about how long of an interval is too long before the creation of a sequel.

What we are able to understand at this point is how it’s possible for follow-ups like these to get made.

You guessed it. It’s the damn internet’s fault.

What the internet allows is for a pop-culture property to linger in the public mind. This is a new development.

In Hollywood’s heyday, there was only one way to see a movie: You had to schlep to the theatre and watch it there. Then it disappeared, unless it was re-released on the big screen.

Television changed that, particularly the introduction of the VCR in the 1970s. Movie fans could watch films at home, as many times as they liked.

The internet builds on all of these previous technologies. It allows us to watch motion pictures and discuss them with other film enthusiasts around the world, and if we get impatient waiting for Hollywood to deliver a sequel, we can just make one ourselves.

In this way, a film or show becomes lodged in the collective consciousness in a way that was never possible in previous decades. The effect is to prolong the life of a property.

But it can also harm the success of a sequel.

Look at a film such as Anchorman.

Released in 2004, it was followed up in 2013 with Anchorman 2, which missed out on a No. 1 debut because fans weren’t convinced they should see it in theatres. Why bother? They could watch clips from the original for free on YouTube.

It’s true that, before the internet, there were some franchises that unfolded over decades. Star Wars immediately leaps to mind, but it was the exception.

In the era of the internet, expect to wait longer for the inevitable sequel to your favourite film — but somehow, the wait won’t seem so bad because you’ll have access to your favourite characters the whole time right on your laptop or phone.

Changes to Forest City Comicon

- September 30th, 2014

Organizers for the Forest City Comicon have a bit of news to pass on: Their featured guest, Firefly’s Ron Glass, has been forced to cancel his appearance.

I’m a bit bummed, but the show goes on! I was looking forward to hearing Glass talk about his days on Barney Miller. We’ll just have to have a good con without him!

As I may have mentioned, I will be leading a panel about Southwestern Ontario comic creators. More details to follow.

The event is Oct. 19 at Centennial Hall.

Here is the official release from Forest City Comicon about Glass, in case you didn’t see it online.

Ron Glass Forced to Withdraw Appearance

September 30, 2014


London, ON

The Forest City Comicon regrets to announce that Ron Glass, best known as Shepherd Book in Firefly and its sequel film, Serenity, has had to withdraw from his appearance at this year’s convention.

“Artists can find out they are filming ten days before a project is set to begin,” explained representatives of Ron Glass. “Although his schedule was clear when he signed the agreement, something has come up. He feels terrible that he has to cancel.”

An official statement from Ron Glass is forthcoming.

Guests who pre-purchased autograph bands or VIP Meet and greet tickets online to meet Ron Glass in person have had their purchase automatically refunded.

As a result of the change, organizers of the Forest City Comicon have shifted resources allocated to Ron Glass into other areas of the convention. Additional announcements are expected shortly.

“We share in the disappointment of our guests that Ron Glass will not be able to attend this year’s convention,” explained John Houghton with the Forest City Comicon. “In spite of this cancellation we have an excellent event planned with many guests and a full slate of vendors, displays, and panels.”

The listing of vendors and guests continues to grow at the Forest City Comicon’s website with the number of vendors now nearing capacity. In addition, the preliminary listing of discussion panels and presentations has also been released.

“There’s still plenty to be excited about at the Forest City Comicon,” added Houghton. “The team has been working hard to make this event a success for the community in London.”

A celebration of nerd culture like no other: The Forest City Comicon is coming to London, Ontario’s Centennial Hall Sunday, October 19. The event will feature three floors of costumes, vendors, panels, board games, video game tournaments and more. Early bird tickets for the event are available now at

I’m an XL guy in a slim-fit world

- September 23rd, 2014

This column is for men of a certain . . . stature.

For these guys, and I include myself in this group, shopping for clothes can be a bit of an ordeal.

That’s because when we try on a shirt on in the store, there always seems to be something wrong with it.

Finding an affordable shirt you like is hard enough.

You take it back to the change room. You put it on. And the stupid thing barely fits. You feel squeezed. Sometimes I can’t even get it buttoned up.

Then I check the tag. Yup, it’s a “slim fit.” Fooled again.

That’s right: I am a burly guy in a slim-fit world. Perhaps you can relate.

Call us roly-poly. Call us rotund, or even pleasantly plump. Just don’t expect us to conform to the slim-fit mould.

Basically, these clothes are made for the same dudes who like to wear skinny jeans. You know the ones.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have the proportions of an 11-year-old girl. I’m a man, for cripes sake. I like to eat bacon and spaghetti and Fritos.

Clothing labels also have other terms for it. Instead of slim fit, sometimes the tag will say “tailored fit.” But whatever you call it, it’s just another way of saying it’s not for a guy who has a bit of a bulge around his belly. Not for me, in other words.

Nor is it just shirts.

If you’ve been to an Old Navy store recently, or a Roots outlet, you will have noticed how the pants on display go up to about a 32-inch waist and end there. Apparently anyone with more midsection has to shop somewhere else; I guess hefty guys aren’t expected to be stylish.

Clearly, these places don’t want my business. Besides, isn’t the concept of an extra-large shirt coming in a slim-fit version kind of self-defeating? It’s supposed to be EXTRA large!

So I’m at home after my latest trip to the store. I’m on the couch, feeling sorry for myself since none of the clothes I found that I like will stretch across my ginormous build.

You know who I feel like? I feel like a huge Hulk, the green-skinned monster who is only fit to wear the ripped remnants of Bruce Banner’s slender threads.

I turn on the TV. I start flipping around the channels.

And then it comes to me.

I know exactly who the slim-fit shirts are intended for.

The Trivago Guy.

It’s so clear to me now.

It’s him. He is the one who is ruining fashion for the rest of us. He’s the one who is making me have body-image issues.

So to the Trivago Guy and all his fellow Fedora-wearing friends, a curse on you. Damn your tiny frames.

May you get so skinny that you shrivel up and blow away, you pencil-necked douchebag.