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page created: 6/4/07

By the Power of Mangels!!

In the course of our regular work at The Digital Bits, we run into all kinds of interesting characters who work in and around the DVD industry. None of these has had quite as fascinating and wide-ranging a career as Andy Mangels. Not only has Andy written scores of film-related books, comic books and magazine articles in his day, he was also arguably the single most prolific DVD producer of 2006, having crafted great special features for BCI/Eclipse's many Filmmation catalog releases, including such classics as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Dungeons and Dragons, She-Ra, the Flash Gordon animated series, Groovy Goolies, Space Academy and Ark II, to name but a few.

We invited Andy to participate in our annual Digital Bits DVD producers panel at Comic-Con last summer, and he was such a hit with the audience that we thought it might be fun to sit down with him here for a more in-depth discussion of his work and experiences. So here's the result (you'll find an excerpted version of this in this month's issue of Geek Monthly as well). We hope you enjoy it.

Hugs and kisses,

Bill & Todd
March, 2007


Todd: Alright, I'd like to ask the first question.

Bill: Go for it.

Todd: Hey Andy, as someone who hasn't been name-checked in one of your books, I was wondering… what does it take to get name-checked in one of your books?

Bill: (laughs) You have to start by talking his ear off about how badly the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise sucked.

Andy: (laughing) You know, usually, once a year I do a charity auction and auction off what's called a "tuckerism." I'm not sure why it's called a tuckerism, other than that I suppose the first person who did this was named Tucker. But that's when an author writes a real person into a book. And so because there's a lot of Star Trek fans, and they tend to be fairly generous with charitable organizations, I will auction off walk-on roles in the Star Trek books that I've written. So they've all had a couple of tuckerisms. And sometimes they're auction winners, and sometimes they're friends and sometimes acquaintances. Every now and then the names are kind of a mash-up. I'll be sitting at my desk and I'll need to name a character and I'll kind of look around at all my stuff… (Todd laughs) …and you know, pull the first name of the creator of Wonder Woman and combine it with the last name of some music artist I happen to be listening to at the moment or something. And that will be the name of a new character.

Bill: I should mention that this comes up because Andy 'tuckered' me in the new Star Trek: Enterprise book he's co-written (with Michael A. Martin) for Simon and Schuster, The Good That Men Do -- which is the first book of the Enterprise relaunch, right?

Andy: Correct, yeah. When we got the assignment to do that book… let's put it this way. It's kind of a combination re-write of the final episode of the series - the end of the series - and also the launch of what would be season five if the show had continued, as far as the books are concerned. So it's not technically a relaunch as much as it is, okay… here's season five. And it repairs a lot of the damage done by… as the fans call it, 'The Thing That is TATV'… which was the series finale, These Are the Voyages

Bill: (laughs) The so-called finale.

Andy: Right. It was such an abomination in the eyes of God, Man and nearly every fan in the galaxy, that Paramount agreed to allow us to write a story that kind of makes sense out of it.

Star Trek: Enterprise - The Good That Men Do

Bill: It's actually really impressive, because as bad as that final episode was, you guys made it look brilliant. You guys made it into the granny pitch before a gimmie home run. (Andy laughs) I was really surprised, because I was one of those people who loved the show but hated that last episode with a passion. And for any fans out there who might be in that same boat, you should read this book. I think you'll really enjoy it. You can breathe a sigh of relief after you flip that last page.

Andy: Well, I don't think I'll ever get to work with (Enterprise producers) Rick Berman or Brannon Braga after this, after I've slagged off their horrid, horrid finale…

Bill: That's probably a good thing.

Andy: You know, (chuckles) I think I'll be able to live with myself.

Bill: Anyway, knowing how much I hated that last episode, Andy actually named a childhood friend of Trip Tucker after me, which I'm quite honored and thrilled about. As my wife can attest, I damn near fell over laughing when I saw that.

Andy: It was actually a test to see if you'd read the book.

Bill: (laughs) Well, I haven't read a Star Trek book in many, many years - since I was a teenager, I think - but you hooked me with all the talk of a build-up to the Romulan War that we never got to see on the show, and the promise of a fix for that final episode. If the future Enterprise books are as good and as epic as this one, I'll certainly keep reading. And not just to find out if Bill Hunt ever joined Starfleet either.

Todd: Yeah, and what Todd Doogan might be up to in the 22nd century… (Andy laughs)

Bill: Since we're talking about the books that you've done, you've had a really wide-ranging career in the media so far. Tell us about your background and some of the different projects you've been involved with.

Andy: And how it all led me to DVDs?

Todd: Sure. Books, comic-books… you've done a whole range of things.

Andy: Well, I actually originally wanted to work in the comic book field as a kid. I developed some pretty decent art skills in high school and I got an associate of arts degree in graphic design in college. And so I started out with the intention of becoming a comic book artist. But by my third year of college, I was really hating the idea of doing art on demand. It became clear that that wasn't really for me.

Luckily, I was involved in an APA, an Amateur Press or Publishing Association, which was kind of a precursor to web pages and blogs, but it was published in print. It was forty or fifty members of a fan club, and they would write or draw something and send it in to someone called a central mailer, who would collate everybody's work together into something that resembled a small phone book, and then send it out every month or two. So I was in one called Titan Talk, which was a Teen Titans APA, with Rob Liefeld and Hank Kanalz. Hank now, I believe, is working back at D.C. Comics. He's been on and off there. He was at Malibu Comics for a while. And in talking with them, I heard about a book that Fantagraphics was doing called Focus on George Perez. George was somebody whose work I really closely followed. So I approached Fantagraphics and said, "Hey, can I interview George, can I do something?" And they basically told me that I had absolutely no credits, and they had no clue who I was.

Bill: The classic new writer conundrum…

Andy: Yeah. But I offered to do the checklist in the back of the book - kind of a trivia page. And that became my first published work. Shortly thereafter, I was hired to write a bunch of articles for Amazing Heroes magazine, and I continued to write for that for another hundred and something issues all the way up until its end, and then jumped to other magazines.

In the course of all that, my mutual interest in comic books and Hollywood gelled together, and I started doing a lot of movie star, director and writer interviews. And I ended up doing that for a column in Amazing Heroes called Andy Mangels Backstage. It kind of alternated between an interview column and a news/rumors/reviews column. Years later I would find out that Harry Knowles had actually said it was one of the things that inspired Ain't it Cool News. I've actually heard that from quite a number of people who run movie and TV sites…

Todd: Damn you! (Everyone laughs)

Andy: …when they talk to me they all say, "You know, I read you when I was younger!" And I've run into movie executives and other people who all say that. Of course makes me feel really old, because I've only just turned forty… (laughs) The difference was that I started writing when in this field when I was very young. So when they say that they read me when they were younger, and in some cases they're not even younger than me… it strikes me as funny and strange at the same time.

Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Characters

Eventually, the magazine work led to comic book work, because I got to know various editors and writers and artists. Unfortunately, comic book work kind of dried up in the mid-nineties, but I had just done some comics for Topps, who also did trading cards. And Topps was going to be doing a Star Wars magazine. And I begged and pleaded with the editors to let me do something for them. So they assigned me an Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Boba Fett article. And after I turned it in, the editor called me up and said that Lucasfilm had called him and wanted me to contact them…

Todd: Uh-oh…

Andy: Yeah, I was terrified. But forty-five minutes later, I had my first book contract to write The Essential Guide to Characters.

Bill: For the Star Wars universe.

Andy: Yes. Because they had been looking for somebody who could write something fairly encyclopedic, and who was also a good writer and knew the material. And it just happened that I turned in my Boba Fett article on a day that they were looking for a writer to do exactly that type of thing. So I got my first Star Wars book contact out of that.

Bill: And that's how you got into tie-in work?

Andy: Actual books, yeah. And I was later writing a news column for another magazine called Marvel Vision, which was their in-house news magazine at the time, and I asked the editor if he had any fill-in comic book work that I could do. And it turned out that he was editing the Star Trek comic line for Marvel, so he gave me a one-shot fill-in issue. So I brought in my co-writer, Mike Martin. We had never worked together at that point, but I knew that he wanted to break in as a writer and that he was also a walking encyclopedia of Star Trek lore. And while I'm a fan of Star Trek, I can't quote how many times Spock as raised his eyebrow.

Todd: Shame on you.

Bill: Yeah, that would seem to be critical knowledge for any writer in the Trek realm...

Andy: (laughs) Yes. And Mike can do that. So we turned in this fill-in issue, and it got the fastest approval in Paramount history. In less than an hour, the story was approved. And Paramount told the editors to let the other writers of the book go, because they wanted us to write the book from then on.

Bill: Nice. How many issues did you end up doing?

Andy: Only six, because then Marvel cancelled the line. (laughs)

Todd: Of course.

Andy: So we did like six issues of that, and we did some other fill-ins. We actually had three other Star Trek comic series in development for Marvel when the axe fell, one of which the first issue was completely drawn. After that, we kicked around doing more Star Trek stuff for various licensees, and then Paramount pushed us towards Pocket. And we've been doing Star Trek tie-in books for them ever since.

Bill: And you did the Titan books, which follow Riker and Troi after they leave the Enterprise post-Nemesis, is that right?

Andy: Yeah, we did two Titan books, we've done Deep Space Nine and Next Generation. The only thing… we haven't done a Voyager book and we haven't done anything really with The Original Series. Although we've done Captain Sulu books, which are set just after The Original Series.

Bill: And now you've done the first Enterprise book, and you're doing the next one too.

Andy: Actually we've written two Enterprise books so far now, Last Full Measure and The Good That Men Do. And then we're going to do the third one - the second book of the Enterprise relaunch - which is called Kobayashi Maru. That will really start the build-up to the Earth/Romulan war that was referenced in The Original Series. We'll be writing that this summer.

Todd: So how did all of that work in comic and tie-in books lead you into DVD?

Andy: Well, in the midst of doing all the Star Trek work, I wanted to continue pursuing my own material. And I had an idea to do a book called Animation on DVD: The Ultimate Guide. I got this insane idea that if I put out this phone book-sized guide to every animated DVD released to that point, with pictures and reviews and stuff like that, that that would be a really cool project. It was insane, because there were like sixteen hundred or so - there was just an immense amount of animated DVDs out there. It was a huge book. And it was supposed to be the first of a whole line. We were going to do horror on DVD, gay films on DVD, action/adventure, comedy. We were going to do a whole line of books like that. But the animation book didn't sell very well, so the company decided not to continue it.

Bill: (laughs) That sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it Todd?

Todd: It sure does.

Bill: We wrote a Digital Bits: Insider's Guide to DVD and it sold extremely well for about three months, and then fell off the radar. Writing guide books is unfortunately not the way to corner the publishing market.

Todd: There's no getting rich in it, that's for sure.

Andy: (laughs) Yeah, but it really surprised me. There's so many animation and specifically anime fans out there, and there's not a lot of really good, all-inclusive books that cover everything. We had every title covered up until about three months before we published, because we were adding things right up until the very end to keep it fresh.

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