Gone Baby Gone comes out this weekend and it’s about a pair of Boston cops whose personal and professional lives unravel as they try and solve the mystery of a missing 4 year-old girl.

If the setting and the police procedural sound somewhat familiar, it should. The author of the novel from which the movie has been adapted is Dennis Lehane – the same guy who wrote Clint Eastwood’s 2003 award-winner Mystic River.

Not only is true that Ben Affleck is behind the lens on this one, but he also adapted the screenplay, finally returning to the screenwriting roots that won him an Oscar ten years ago for Good Will Hunting.

I have to give points for the casting on this one. Any movie with Ed Harris gets my attention. That goes double for Morgan Freeman (as long as it isn’t Evan Almighty). I’ll tuck in for a Morgan Freeman movie even if he’s narrating.

Casey Affleck is getting good notices for his performances in this one. It’s odd that my mind doesn’t leap to nepotism when Casey Affleck is starring in a Ben Affleck film, but he’s just that good. Who would have guessed that Casey Affleck would not only have grown out of the shadow of his brother, but have Oscar talk swirling around two performances in one year (the other being The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the elder Affleck lately and how he plugs into the Theater Hopper mythology. Long time readers of the comic know that he’s been a punching bag for us going on four years.

It was all good fun for a while. Remember, this was at the height of the whole “Bennifer” media craze. Plus, he was churning out a lot of crap movies at the time. So he was very easy to hate.

Clearly his time with Jennifer Lopez has made him a little camera shy in recent years. I think he’s done the smart thing by marrying Jennifer Garner and not talking about it, having a baby girl and not talking about it and keeping a low profile by taking bit parts in movies like Hollywoodland.

That said, it’s becoming harder and harder to hate Ben Affleck for the things he does. These days he doesn’t DO anything! That’s why I’m wondering out loud if I should maybe transfer Jared’s hatred onto a more timely celebrity.

I think I have a storyline in me that will tackle this subject and I think I’m going to try and make a play for it next week.

This actually dovetails into something else I wanted to talk about. I hinted at it on Wednesday and now I need to spill the beans.

As you may or may not know, Theater Hopper has been regionally syndicated in the youth publication Juice for the last year or so. It’s available in and around the Des Moines area and is a sister publication to the Gannett-owned Des Moines Register.

After next week, Theater Hopper will no longer appear in Juice. The publication does not have a local reviewer due to the difficulty they’ve had working with local theaters. As such, they’re scaling back their movie section and expanding their style section and Theater Hopper has been dropped as a result.

I realize that, for the majority of you, this information does not impact you in the slightest. But what you don’t know is that if you’re a fan of this comic, it affects you significantly.

In the last year or so, have any of you noticed that I haven’t attempted a significant or lengthy storyline? Sure, there’s been the occasional 3 or 4 strip arc. But nothing in terms of character progression like Jimmy losing his job, introducing Charlie or the time Tom got a monkey?

There’s a specific reason for that.

While Theater Hopper was running in Juice, I made the conscious decision to avoid lengthy storylines or continuity of any form largely due to the fact that I only had enough time to produce three strips a week and one of them was being repurposed for Juice. I couldn’t do a longer storyline because the people reading Juice didn’t know anything about the character histories and would not understand the narrative. So, instead, I stuck to a gag-a-day format and fell into a pattern.

If you were a cynical bastard, you could call this “selling out” – limiting one’s creative output for monetary compensation.

You would be right. I wouldn’t argue you on that point.

Don’t misunderstand me. I was grateful for the opportunity to have my comic in a print publication that was produced locally and shared with a wider audience that I would never have access to otherwise. I will ALWAYS be grateful for that.

But it never sat well with me that I couldn’t do a longer storyline or that I didn’t have the free time or creativity to come up with another solution.

I could have walked away. I could have quit at any time. But I didn’t. What would you do if someone was giving you free money? I was a sell out.

I’m actually kind of relieved that my comics are no longer appearing in Juice because it takes the decision out of my hands. I could have never willfully walked away from the opportunity or the compensation. But now that they’ve made that decision for me, it’s a lot off my mind.

So now Theater Hopper is going in another direction. I suppose there was no reason to tell you why. I could have just let the change in the storytelling speak for itself. But I guess I wanted to get it off of my chest. If there was ever anyone out there reading the comic and thinking I was just going through the motions, I wanted to let them know the reasons why.

Now that everything is out on the table and I can go in any direction I want, I feel liberated. I just wanted to share that.

I think I’ll leave it at that.

Have a great weekend and I’ll see you here Monday, fresh as a daisy!

↓ Transcript
Did you see Gone Baby Gone was directed by Ben Affleck?

Yes! And the hate machine is in full effect!

I can’t wait to see it and confirm another Affleck failure!

I dunno, man he’s got a good cast for this one.

Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris? They’re even talking nominations for Casey Affleck!

You might have to set aside your Affleck-hatred for this one!

Yeah? Well, there’s probably a reason he’s directing this one and not starring in it!

I bet he got really fat…