Please Help Me, I Am A Fanboy

Well, I think we all knew that, but I don’t think we ever knew exactly how deep that river ran.

We know about me and movies – though there are bigger movie fans out there. I haven’t mentioned comic books much since that one comment about preferring that I talk about movies (I’m quite the sensitive soul, I assure you), but then again, I just don’t read them as much as I used to. The constant mega-events and reboots just wore me down, and I’ve largely turned my back on them.

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects

And then the local comics shop that I visited perhaps once every three months opened up a shop much closer (the bastards) and now I’m an every-three-weeks-or-so guy. I don’t leave with many books. The titles I have hung onto are because of the writers more than anything. It’s the usual suspects – Kurt Busiek, Gail Simone and – especially – Warren Ellis. Well, there’s also The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but that’s mainly because for years nobody believed me there actually was such a character.

If we’re going to drill down into the fanboy thing, the author we have to concentrate on is Ellis, whose work I was turned onto in that selfsame comic shop so many years ago. If you’re a comics fan, you’re familiar with his work: Stormfront, The Authority and multiple Marvel titles (including the amazing NEXTwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.) in the superhero genre, and more wide-ranging genre work like Transmetropolitan, Global Frequency and Planetary. He branched out into prose novels and TV projects, but keeps returning to comics. The weekly Web serial FreakAngels has wrapped, but his current series, still being published in floppy form, are Trees, Injection (which is my current obsession) and a new James Bond series aiming to take the character back to his Ian Fleming roots.

injection3The thing about serialized storytelling (which is the state of modern comics – the one-off single issue stories have seemed to all but vanish, though Global Frequency showed Ellis can also work very well at that form) is that each chapter has to find a way to stand on its own, while still serving the greater story. FreakAngels was good at that, publishing its tale in six-page gouts. Lately, Ellis really has gotten this down to a science, as each issue – I almost called them episodes – leads up to a final image that is almost always satisfying, but still causes the reader to say “Nooooooo! I want more!” I once snottily said that every issue of Injection was too short, but each issue is so densely packed with imagery that it takes time to unpack. Ellis (and his artistic collaborators, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire) give us tiny glimpses at a vast tapestry of a story, and like FreakAngels before it, Injection is going to provide an even better experience when it is all of a piece.

(A few years ago I went back and re-read Neil Gaimin’s Sandman from stem to stern, and was delighted at the many pieces I had not picked up on a monthly basis, but now revealed themselves when considered as a whole.)

Ellis is a writer intensely interested in futurism, and he lived his life pretty openly in the digital realm, back in the days when most of us were piddling around with an AOL account. Mailing lists, Twitter, Instagram, he was there, finding the possibilities, experiencing and recording a vast new world. He’s slowed down on that as responsibilities multiply (especially to his own health – take care of yourself, dammit! We need you!), but he still has a weekly newsletter I look forward to each Sunday.

Squad Goals

Squad Goals

Now if all that wasn’t fanboy enough for you, Ellis also updates us about his work habits, what he takes with him on his travels for work purposes. And every now and then he will sing the praises of something that works really well for him and suddenly I have to have that thing because Warren Ellis uses it and thinks it’s cool.

20160218_113154Before I go any further, let me introduce you to this =>

I am the guy pushing 60 who’s still wearing cargo pants. The reason why is the right thigh pocket always has this kit in it. It’s an idea I saw on a Boing Boing post once, about a designer who always carried a pouch like this that had everything he might need on a typical day. Markers, measuring tape, small flashlight, the like. I thought, that is absolutely something I should do. Immediately went over to Amazon and bought the very same zipper pouch, the Maxpedition Micro Pocket Organizer. What you see poking out of the mesh pocket is one of Ellis’ gewgaws, the Nightcore Tube flashlight, which is rechargeable and insanely bright. The only drawback is also its strength: it is small, and once I lent it to my son, who immediately lost it. I lost no time in ordering its replacement, it is so handy. There’s also a lens cleaning cloth and a Swiss-Tech flat multi-tool, which is fairly useless but it was a gift from my flashlight-losing son. It’s meant to be carried in a wallet, but I already have too much crap in my wallet.

And in case you were wondering, this is the interior:

2016-02-18 12.56.25From left-to-right: 4-in-1 screwdriver, pencil, Leatherman 831207 multi-tool, 4-inch adjustable wrench, marker, Streamlight LED flashlight, and a clasp knife from my collection (which means at any given time I’m carrying three knives. Come at me, bro.) In the back pockets are yet another lens cloth and some braided paracord. I do like being prepared. The wrench and paracord are the only items I’ve never had cause to use. Yet.

Big deal, you’re thinking, you’ve found a kit that works for you, and it has a thing one of your favorite writers once said was cool. Yeah, you’re some fanboy.

We haven’t gotten to the Pebble yet.

SteelI was one of those people who wasn’t interested in the idea of a smartwatch. They seemed like expensive toys, way out of the reach of my pocketbook, like a sports car or a curved TV set. I had stopped even wearing a watch, because I had a smartphone and I’m almost always in the presence of one computer or another with a clock in the corner.

Then Ellis waxes rhapsodical about his Pebble Steel. Not once, but twice. And suddenly, ridiculously, I feverishly desired a Pebble. My life would simply be hellishly incomplete without one.

Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how you approach the story – the original version of the Pebble, only slightly removed from a successful Kickstarter campaign – is pretty affordable, especially if you buy it used. I thought $35 was a fair price to find out if it was actually as good as Ellis said, and I could actually afford that.

Baby steps, my friend. Baby steps.

Baby steps, my friend. Baby steps.

The screen is not very bright – it’s a grayscale LCD e-paper display. It has an accelerometer so if you flick your wrist, a backlight comes on for a few seconds, so it’s usable in dark environments. It has various downloadable apps and watchfaces. It vibrates whenever you get a call, text message, or alert from any number of smartphone apps you choose.

Ellis likes it because it allows him to judge if he should engage immediately with an alert or if it is something he can deal with later without physically checking his phone. He claims it’s improved his phone’s battery life by one-half or more. And the Pebble itself, with that e-paper display, can go five days without a charge. It’s also waterproof, which starts getting into the realm of James Bond shit, unless you also have to wash dishes and it’s kind of refreshing to not have to take the expensive gizmo off when you do so. I even wore it into the shower once, just to prove I could. But that felt so freaky I never did it again.

After just a couple of days, I was sold on the damned thing. It turns out that pulling out your phone and turning it on just to see the time is actually a lot of wasted motion. It also appealed to me that I could see the weather and temperature outside if I chose the right watchface (that sort of functionality quickly supplanted the geeky novelty of the one that duplicated the Star Trek LCARS display). Yeah, yeah, I could just look outside but the Day Job is inside a server farm and I might as well be in Hitler’s bunker for all the windows I have access to.

Well, crap.

Well, crap.

The one fly in the ointment was that the e-paper display could get famously buggy, and I’d have to switch back and forth between watchface and an app to clear it out, sometimes several times. Well, I thought, that’s what you get for buying a used one. So I saved up my birthday and Christmas gift cards and ordered a new version of the one my hero wore, the Pebble Steel. The original Pebble felt and kind of looked like that first digital watch I bought back in the late 70s, all black plastic and rubberized watchband.

Here’s the thing, though: like I said, the e-paper display was notorious for its instability. The first Steel I got wouldn’t even charge (and the charger is a different configuration between various generations of the device, so I couldn’t even determine if it was the cable or the Steel itself). The replacement charged up, but the display was even worse than my original Pebble. After trying various remedies found on Pebble’s forums, I finally went straight to them, and they very kindly sent me a new Pebble Time, which was their current iteration. They also offered to send me another Steel if I preferred, but when you’re offered a First Class Upgrade, you take it.

The Time has a color e-paper display, and though the body is still plastic, it looks classier. There’s yet another charger, but this time the port is positioned to also accept something called smartstraps, which I think is putting me back in the expensive toy category. The Time already does everything I want it to, and more.

Pebble is my co-pilot. All you other co-pilots, out of the boat.

Pebble is my co-pilot. All you other co-pilots, out of the boat.

A major major advantage is that I mute my phone whenever I am shooting video, or performing in a show. I don’t always remember to turn it back on. I might have missed calls from my wife or my mother if it weren’t for the Time alerting me (I also take unseemly delight in looking at a phone number on the watch and pressing a button to sent it straight to Voice Mail). Sometimes I can’t respond to my phone’s reminder for me to take my evening meds, and I wound up forgetting to take them entirely. The Time allows me to set another alarm for every day to remind me to take my damned old man pills. The accelerometer tracks my steps in a day, so I can try to take more. I’m never going to worry about leaving my phone somewhere again because the Time buzzes whenever I pass out of Bluetooth range. It has a countdown timer and a stopwatch, both things I used to haul out my phone to access.

So yes, Warren Ellis was right about that one, too. It’s a terrific tool. I just hope the next time he finds something wonderful and useful, it’s back in the ten buck range again.

injection-3---review-142716We now return you to your regularly scheduled incoherent ramblings about cinema.

POSTSCRIPT: Judging from his Twitter feed, Richard Kadrey is now wearing a Pebble. I was doomed to this course of action in any case.



Wow, I know I like to say “Feast or famine” a lot to describe my professional life but jeezum crow give me a break.

Currently: gearing up for this season’s news at my regular job. From September through December, I’ll be producing a four-minute video every week. That’s my mornings right there. Then shows Friday and Saturday night. 7 to 8 evenings per month running audio for the live broadcasts of various city functions (though the guy I replaced on these is out of the hospital and may be easing back into those duties).

That’s my basic work template. I stay busy. I get bills paid, sometimes even on time. But I’m always looking for more, because, hey. Things need doing. Dental work. Car’s eleven years old. I haven’t had a check-up in 14 years. Home repairs I am in no way qualified to even attempt.

You know. Life’s Rich Pageant.

The last couple of years haven’t been good for my workflow. The beginning of the year marked an upswing when I contracted to help write a book that was an ethics training course disguised as a choose-your-own-adventure novel. I eased back into prose writing, eventually wondering why I wasn’t writing for myself anymore. The major problem being I don’t want to write something that’s not in at least some respect original, and I’m pretty dry at this point. There’s the germ of a novel I’ve been trying to tease out for more than a decade and it just ain’t coming. So I decided I’m going to do the obvious thing, and swing at it for NaNoWriMo, and see what happens.

Well, what happens is that work starts coming out of the walls.

First, the people for whom I wrote that ethics novel are gearing up for something later in the year (or early next year) which would involve writing an episodic short novel entirely int he second person and avoiding personal pronouns. I like a challenge as much as the next guy, but that really sounds like some thought experiment you read about on Boing-Boing.

Then, the guy who gave me my start in video production has an interesting idea he wants to run by me, and yes, it is interesting, and yes, it is something I’d be interested in doing. The idea is developing rapidly, beyond my ability to keep up with it and still keep my regular juggler’s balls in the air. He calls, wondering why I’m not inundating him with excited e-mails.

This morning: I had agreed to do a small role in an ongoing film project in which my wife is involved. One of the other actors has gotten hospitalized, and they need someone to do the role this Sunday. Am I available? Am I a quick study? Can I do this?

I’m very tired. The wife’s cat has made it his hobby to see how loud a noise can be produced at 4:00am, with whatever props are available. I need to be digitizing video, but my eyes won’t focus. There are many things I would rather be doing right now. Memorizing lines for Sunday are an “A” priority right now, but so is an excited e-mail or two. Sleep would be good, probably with the Horrible Mutant Cat safely locked in a padded cell. I’m fooling myself, however, as I what I really want to be doing is continuing my re-read of Powers.

Powers is a comic book (me, reading comics. Fancy that!) by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming that I got hooked on about issue 6 or so after passing it over repeatedly because I found Oeming’s art “too cartoony”. Frankly, I still do, but I can’t imagine the book without it now, and his panel layouts are often incredible. But what has always made it for me is Bendis’ dialogue. I love his dialogue, and people may whine about his tendency to “decompress” stories, but bah phooey on them.

Powers is a police procedural taking place in a city where there are super-heroes and villains; our protagonists are two homicide detectives who specialize in cases where people with powers wind up dead. The series has twists and turns a-plenty – some of which, predictably, pissed off readers – and now it’s being turning into a TV series. During the run-up to that, the book has come out less and less frequently, so it’s time to re-visit it.

That seems to be the mood I’m in, once more: re-reading an entire series and seeing what I get from it, years after the fact. I did this a few years ago with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Scott McCloud’s Zot! and Jeff Smith’s Bone. Those are all amazing, and I got a lot more out of enjoying them as a whole rather than serialized story. After Powers it looks like I’ll be revisiting Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher, which is, shall we say, unique, and I’m now crawling through used bookstores and my collection to drag together a complete run of James Robinson’s Starman.

After the movie-watching orgy of T-Fest, I’ve found it hard to get it up for another movie, but last Saturday I finally got to see Troll Hunter, which is the best Blair Witch Project I’ve ever seen. Comparisons between the two are going to be more than inevitable, but Troll Hunter  has humor and likable characters on its side. That and the fact that you get to see something, but that’s just being mean about Blair Witch‘s zero budget. It would probably be nicer to call Troll Hunter a better Cloverfield.

Anyway. Rather be home right now reading funnybooks. But when hasn’t that ever been the case?

Ridiculous Power Fantasies

Haha, remember when I was trying to add a new post every day here? It was hilarious, how soon that ran aground on my policy of “If you have nothing to say, don’t say it.” I talked about comic books quite a bit in those days. It being the Internet, I was of course told that such  posts were not very interesting, so would I please go back to making fun  of bad movies or bitching endlessly about my Hated Job. Well, I lost the Hated Job, blogging time was mostly taken up by job searching, and at least Bad Movies, like The Poor, will be with us always.

The new WordPressy version of the blog didn’t fare too much better. There was an “Okay, I can do this weekly” ethic for a while there, but honestly: I work hard to make my life as seamlessly uneventful as possible. I get my excitement from movies and literature, thank you. The idea of Real Life Adventure gives me hives. I do not travel well. I could go political – God knows there’s enough grist for that mill, particularly these days – but there are lots and lots of people doing that, and doing it well. Don’t want to be a part of that particular wall of noise.

Ideally, I should be talking about stuff that I know something about, and at this point, that’s a) bad movies; b) comics; c) the workings of city-level politics. The last would mean nothing to anyone not living in this burg; I do, and it’s boring as hell to me. I’m going to a small bad movie festival next weekend, so there will be some reportage about that. But right now, dammit, we are going to talk about funnybooks.

The latest thing causing nerd dismay is the reboot of most of DC’s title to #1 in September, a reboot that involves dropping years of continuity and skewing the characters to a younger, apparently grittier and meaner venue (I don’t think I’ve seen one smile on any of the preview art). All this seems to be tied in with the alternate-universe FLASHPOINT event, which is something I grew bored with and stopped reading one issue in. That the reboot does not seem universe-wide makes my head hurt. Sorting the signal from noise is daunting, and I suppose that, eventually, all my questions will be answered (like, what does this mean for Batman Inc?); but in my usual, selfish way, this reboot sucks if only for two reasons: It has meant the cancellation of Birds of Prey and Secret Six.

I believe Birds of Prey will be continuing, but without the guiding light of either writer Gail Simone or leader Oracle; in fact, a somehow-healed Barbara Gordon is returning to the role of Batgirl (and Simone is writing that), so… nah. Not excited.

Add to this the fact that I checked out a Gotham Central  trade from my library this week and am once again being blown away by the quality… and we have (finally) the subject of this week’s mental perambulations. Were I Straw Boss of the Universe, there are certain comic book series that would go on forever.

Firstly, you should know that, under this scenario, there would have been no more Superman comics published after All-Star Superman.

(Even if one of the reboot titles I’m actually looking forward to is Grant Morrison’s return to the character)

1) & 2) Birds of Prey and Secret Six – Oh, what a surprise, am I right? You have your typical comic book plots in both these titles, but the stories are, themselves, astoundingly character-driven. Team books live and die on the social dynamics of their members, and the nuances each individual brings to that dynamic. There was never any doubt that each character in these books was a different person, with different goals, strengths, and weaknesses. The books largely deal with legacy characters, and damned if Simone didn’t take a bunch of B and even C-listers and turn them into vital, engaging individuals. Secret Six is going to be especially missed, with its cast of misfits finding itself – much to its dismay – becoming a (somewhat still dysfunctional) family. The character of Bane, largely a joke since he snapped Batman’s spine in Knightfall, was revitalized as a major player in the book’s final arc. Birds of Prey was very much a rumination on friendship and camaraderie. Both of these titles deserved to go on forever.

3) Gotham Central – one of the poster children for This is why we can’t have nice things. Written by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, this was a police procedural comic set in – obviously – Gotham City. The concept of everyday police work in a city with a metahuman population is a strong one – Powers remains one of my favorite books – and this series hits all the right notes. Batman is a fleetingly-seen figure, befitting his status as a near-urban legend, but his very existence casts a very large shadow over all proceedings. A large cast is well-handled, and the stories drive with all the power of a really good Law & Order episode. It was a major critical hit, but sales were never really there, and the Major Crimes Unit was dismantled during Infinite Crisis. This series deserved to go on forever.

4) Grimjack – I will brook no argument here. Grimjack was the finest comic book ever made by the hands of man. Imagine Raymond Chandler in a city where magic and science work (but not necessarily in the same time and place), where time and space travel are possible, and your protagonist – a world-weary, aging soldier of fortune – can find himself involved in any genre – including, memorably, a funny animal cartoon – and you have Grimjack. Writer John Ostrander seemed to make it a point to piss off readers every ten issues or so, but damn, the man can tell a story. Read it from the beginning and you find yourself enjoying a well-plotted novel that was cut off way too soon when publisher First Comics went under. Ostrander managed to bring it to an end of sorts, but he had plans far beyond we got. There have been a few new issues of Grimjack over the years, but these were all in prequel territory; I doubt we’re ever going to get to see Grimjack in Hell, or the Grimjack twins. This makes me sad, because Grimjack deserved to go on forever.

5) & 6) Nexus and The Badger – Two more casualties of First Comics’ implosion. Nexus, by writer Mike Baron and artist Steve Rudewas Space Opera writ large; Space Ghost without the annoying teen-agers and space monkey. The title character, aka Horatio Hellpop, is granted almost unlimited power, but must – driven by life-threatening dreams – seek out and execute mass murderers and tyrants in the galaxy. Nexus’ origin was a mystery slowly teased out over the early series, then Hellpop abdicated his role and powers, leading to a series of substitute Nexuses (Nexii?) that drove the story. The cover pictured here is to the magazine-sized black-and-white premiere issue. I bought that first issue because of the Paul Gulacy cover, but was immediately won over by the script and Rude’s simply phenomenal use of zip-a-tone screens. I’m not kidding here, the man’s use of different layers of dots and dashes made the B&W art gorgeous. I was sad to see it turn to a color comic after three issues. The second or third issue of the magazine-sized series had a flexi-disc with an audio dramatization of the story, which was a pretty gutsy move.

The Badger, also written by Baron, took it’s ad slogan quite literally: “Put on a costume and fight crime? You’d have to be nuts!” Norbert Sykes is a martial artist and Viet Nam vet who suffers from multiple personality disorder. His dominant personality is The Badger, a costumed avenger who really likes beating up street thugs and people who mistreat animals (he can also talk to animals, it seems). The Badger stories were a lot more free-form and fun than the strait-laced Nexus stories, and both series had a large cast of interesting and engaging characters. Both series had limited series released about 2008-2009, but hey. They deserved to go on forever.

7) Savage Henry and 8 ) Those Annoying Post Brothers – The order of those two should be reversed, since Henry is a spin-off of Post Brothers, but I profess a greater love of Savage Henry, which actually rather surprises me. I first encountered Matt Howarth and his creations in Heavy Metal  magazine in the late 70s, during a period when I found the magazine actually readable, as opposed to “Gee, these are nice drawings of tits.” This was the serial Changes, which introduced Howarth’s world of reality-level-hopping denizens of Bugtown: the extremely formidable Ron and Russ Post, and their experimental rock group the Bulldaggers, which included in their line-up the real-life synthesist Conrad Schnitzler, and the Lord Cthulhu. Savage Henry was their guitarist, and had a series of his own, which guest-starred more actual musicians from our limited reality, like Wire, Moby, Clint Ruin and The Residents. These books were full of heady stuff, madman riffs, and actual, honest-to-god science fiction, which spun off into other Howarth series like Particle Dreams, Konny and Czu and Keif Llama, Xenotech. One of my prized possessions is a mini Howarth did in the day called The Mighty Virus, which is an alien comic book, translated into InterLac and as I recall, three other alien languages (none of which is English). Hell, go to Howarth’s site and give him money for stuff. It will be worth it. Needless to say, both series deserved to go on forever.

There are others – limited series that I loved but came to a planned end. I realize that in many of these cases, the creators have grown and gone on with their lives, and in some cases might not even want to go back to their babies. At least one other favorite from my old days – American Flagg, by Howard Chaykin? I looked in on it a few months ago. It has not aged well, with me. Could Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen have kept Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. going beyond its ten issues? I would have loved to find out.

A bright spot in all these ruminations is Starstruck, The Series That Will Not Go Away. Writer Elaine Lee and artist Michael Kaluta keep bringing it back,over and over again, expanding its universe a bit more every time, and thank God for that. Its wry science-fiction universe universe is a breath of fresh air every time. Dense, funny and literate, and I have loved Kaluta’s art forever.

Well, here we are, over 1700 words later. I have changed nothing, and now I need to go to lunch. Likely a good thing that I am not Straw Boss of the Universe.

Vanishing Act

Yeah, I just wanted to make sure you were having blackouts, too. Thus my not-blogging yesterday.

Actually my yesterday got started way too damn early, about 4:30am. It happens. Sometimes I empty the Incredible Shrinking Bladder and am able to go back to sleep. Rampant allergies madE sure that yesterday was not such an occasion. So I got up, took some antihistamines, and continued with my ongoing project of reading the complete Cerebus. I’ve been hung up on Volume 13, Going Home, for a few weeks now.

I’ve gotten some interesting reactions from this little journey of mine. Mostly mixtures of admiration and pity from people who, like me, were regular readers of the book during its periodical days and just drifted away for any number of reasons. In my case it was trying to keep track of a storyline month after month, especially when creator Dave Sim got into his heavily text pieces like Jaka’s Story or, especially, Reads, leaving behind what had gotten me into the series in the first place: some especially sharp satire on politics, then religion, and, always, pop culture. I abandoned the periodicals, or “floppies” as they seem to be called these days, and just kept to the dense trade paperback collections, the “phone books”. The last one I picked up on first publication was volume 12, Rick’s Story, and I was picking them up largely out of habit, the completist’s urge. Financial concerns, like having a kid, soon put a stop to even that, and Cerebus slowly passed from my radar.

That means I missed out on a lot of the fun. If by fun you mean people screaming at each other in print and over what passed for the Internet in those days. Given that such things are now epidemic, somebody must find them fun. Mr. Sim, you see, has some unpopular ideas about gender politics. It tends to color everything you read by him, much as you may try to ignore it. Especially in Coming Home, where, having read From Hell, Sim decides to annotate his work.

Thus more bitching about women and feminists, and we begin to get some intimations of Sim’s conversion from godless secular humanism to religion. Not just any religion, but old time religion. Literally. What they refer to as “Abrahamic”. Basically the Torah, the Apostles, Revelations, and all of the Quran. This surfaces in his lengthy annotations on F. Scott Fitzgerald (who is a character in the second part of Going Home, in the person of F. Stop Kennedy), when he brings in special scorn for a Fitzgerald character’s irreverent dismissal of the Bible as “fatuous and simple-minded writing”.

This all gets very strange, in my mind, when I consider that I generally find his most well-rounded characters to be female. The annotations themselves are an interesting read, going into great detail about Fitzgerald, though I am rarely sure how the lengthier notes apply to the story they supposedly annotate; the art is some of the most gorgeous Sim and Gerhard have created, and some of the storytelling itself is elegant and wondrous; there was, however, an intimation of a plot somewhere in the first part of the book, and the second part, “Fall and the River”, which forms the second half of the book, abandons it for a lengthy digression, seemingly because Sim became obsessed with Fitzgerald, just as he did with Oscar Wilde in Reads and Melmoth.

I also covered the ribbon-cutting on a new theatre opening in the afternoon; I was surprised that it was a re-purposed retail space, but I don’t know why I was surprised; it’s logical for a young theatre to be exactly that. Anyway, that turned out to be ridiculously tiring. I seem to be getting old.

This weekend is going to suck out loud. Sub-division-wide garage sale tomorrow, followed by the Saturday night show; then I get up waaaaay too early Sunday morning for coverage of the Fort Bend International Festival, which is going to be a 12 hour day for me. So I cannot honestly say that Monday will not be another Blog Black Hole.

Oddly, the subject of women keeps coming up

You know, I was actually pretty sure that you could get through your day without hearing me whinge about something. I guess this proves that I can’t get through a day without whinging about something. In print, no less.

I finished the story on the Women’s Shelter today; not as troublesome as I had feared, once I decided no, dammit, I want to see the passion and conviction on the shelter director and the executive director’s faces when they talk about their missions in life. I did the minimum of cut-aways, a few phone numbers and websites, and called it a day.

Guess I’ll find out tomorrow if that was a good call or not.

My week, otherwise, seems to be dogged by Superman. The week started with the news that Zack Snyder – you know, 300, Watchmen – would be directing the next Superman movie, which seems to me sort of logical. Given the venom that was sprayed over the Twittersphere – and yes, I first heard the news in Twitter, sue me, I’m a busy man – from the outraged reaction, you’d think that the announced director was M. Night Shymalan (another subject I’ll have to return to someday).

I actively hated 300 and was ambivalent to Watchmen – I’d have felt much more charitable if they’d had the balls to do the squid. I find it hard to believe that a CGI painting of a squid is more expensive than a CGI hole in the ground, but aaaaaaaah I’m not gonna fight that fight right now. The best comment I’ve seen so far is Kurt Busiek’s, who pointed out that it would at least look right and there would be some good action in it. My own best comment is that I want to actually see a movie before I condemn it. I know, I know, color me nutty.

I finally watched Superman/Batman: Apocalypse last night, and it did not suddenly convert me to the Supergirl camp. The pacing seemed rather uneven to me, but then, the last few DCU movies were damn near non-stop punch-fests, and not only were we doing a *choke* origin story with incumbent exposition, we had to have what passed for character development.


No Barda In A Towel images. This is as close as I could get (Plas, too).


To help Kara – Supergirl – become acclimated to life on Earth, Clark takes her shopping. She takes to it swimmingly, with ostensibly hilarious results. Okay, alien girl who still remembers life on super-scientific Krypton suddenly turns into a 90210 character when confronted by boutiques. Haw haw! Wimmen! They got the shopping gene!

I’m a man and I was insulted.
Then again, I felt much better when Big Barda showed up only wearing a towel. So I’m also a pig, but I was a happy pig.

Brief Book Report: Color of Rage

So I finished the stack of volumes of Path of the Assassin the library had saved for me, and now I have to wait for the last three – possibly last two, because for some reason the catalog does not list vol. 14, and therefore I cannot reserve it. In any case, while casting about in the stacks, I found another volume written by Koike that I also checked out as insurance against just such an event: The Color of Rage.

Color of Rage has a good hook: two men escape from a slave ship and wash ashore in Ed-era Japan. One of the men is Japanese, but the other is black, a slave from America, it seems, which puts the story near the very end of the Edo period, just before the American Civil War. The clues are not plentiful.

The Japanese man is named only “George”, and the American “King”. Having bonded on the ship, the two are determined to find a peaceful place to live where people are nice to each other, and such places are not plentiful in a country with a heavily stratified caste system. King does not speak Japanese, and has to wear a disguise to keep his dark skin from attracting attention. George is suspiciously knowledgeable about the ways of the yakuza, and tries to use that knowledge to at least get them back to his home village. Of course fate, and the two men’s sense of outrage at seeing peasants and the like being treated like slaves, means the trip won’t be easy.

The real problem is, the stories never truly gel, at least not in the way Koike’s other work does. Lone Wolf and Cub and Path of the Assassin are rife with historical detail and character interaction that lives and breathes; Color of Rage is fairly one-dimensional at best. We see a slight intimation of what it could be in George’s brief lectures to King of how the yakuza system works and how it will help them, but those are few. When King starts raging, saying “Rargh!” and punching trees – all but literally chewing the scenery – because “I WANT A WOMAN!”, one can only say, “Really? This is my character moment?”

So, alas, I’m pretty disappointed with Color of Rage. It ends on a very ambiguous note – hell, it doesn’t end so much as stop – so maybe the domestic readership agreed. I shrug and move on. I don’t and can’t like everything even my most favorite of writers have written, that’s only natural. It’s finding the stuff that you do like that makes reading new things worthwhile.

But really, Dark Horse, I have to ask – what was up with that cover? It’s gorgeous, but outside of the horrid stereotypical horniness off King, it has nothing to do with what’s inside.

Author Cleans, Film at 11

I finally, and most unfortunately, have time to start mucking out my home office. Something I’ve been wanting to do for months, but golly, always had something else pressing to do.  Since most of those pressing things had to do with my recently departed computer, I had run out of excuses. Dammit.

In the course of a little over an hour, I had tossed away a fair amount of crap (wow, a classic PlayStation controller extension cable. That will come in handy some day. Toss.) and straightened out my reference bookshelf.  Tossed out some hopelessly outdated material, discovered I had two editions of the same book and gave one to my wife’s school.

Three shelves of books became two. And then that extra shelf got loaded down with Marvel Essentials. I see a lot of hatred pointed toward the Marvel and DC phone books in the land of Internet Comics Journalism (a term that makes me giggle) but I love them. Yes, I  once went on record as hate, hate, hating them, because they had no color, but then I bought one out of curiosity at  Half Price Books and got hooked. Hooked bad.

I’ve got several longboxes of comics in my closet. They have only a fitful amount of organization about them, because keeping a continually-expanding assortment of magazines in any sort of order requires time and room; I don’t have either. But there on my shelf: The entire Lee-Kirby run on Fantastic Four, taking up a foot of shelf-space, and bought for what I likely would have spent on a Good Quality copy of FF#1.

Worst. Simulation of me. Ever.

I admit, I have the Completist Disease. If I have one piece of a collection, I’m likely to seek out the rest, within reason. I always found a reason to visit Half Price and other used book stores before, but now it’s with a definite mission, a database in my phone, and let’s not even talk about my Amazon Wish List.

I wish DC had followed Marvel’s model, but their Showcase Presents books seem to start at somewhat arbitrary points for their Big Three, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, concentrating on the Silver Age. Then, they also have their Chronicles line for those characters, slimmer volumes that are reprinting the Golden Age stuff from the very beginning, and those are in color.

As you might be able to tell, I love my comics. I was taught to read at age 4 with them, and I carry them in my heart. And my bookshelves.

Oh, yeah, I watched Iron Man 2 last night. Liked it, felt it was a little scattered. As with the first movie though, the suit action scenes were top-notch. Hey, we have a lot of big metal things pounding on each other, and I can tell what’s happening! Does Michael Bay even watch other peoples’ movies to see what works?

I need to go shower and haul my butt in to work to run the floor for the weekly newscast. This evening I cover an art show opening, and suffused with Iron Man 2, I have a nagging feeling there will be some manner of super-villain attack during that. I hope I have enough tape.

Library trip

So I’m dropping by the library to check in books, and not coincidentally pick up a book I had requested several months ago, but that someone had apparently returned. It’s the first volume of E.C. Segar’s Popeye – yeah, I’m reading them out of order, but that’s how they were presented to me. As I’ve mentioned before, these things are huge without necessarily being massive. 14.5 inches by 10.5 inches. A tad ungainly, but that format shows off the strips well.

While I’m there, I might as well see if there’s anything else I’d like to sample (not that I don’t already have a ton of stuff of my own to read at home, you understand, but a library presents such a buffet of possibilities…). This particular branch has the Bloom County omnibuses, but I’ve already got the Popeye book, which is a pretty dense reading experience. I check to see if the manga section has anymore Osamu Tezuka I haven’t already read, and then I light upon something I’d meant to check out for a while – Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kajima’s Path of the Assassin. Having finished up reading Lone Wolf & Cub years ago, I was glad to learn that these two had other series out, and Dark Horse was translating them into English. Of course, like their Lone Wolf collections, these were small – 6 by 4.

So I exited the library carrying one really big book and two tiny ones. I appreciate contrasts like that.

I’m going to be a total gaijin here and say that wrapping my head around the now-standard way that American editions of manga is bothersome. Japanese books are read from right-to-left, and the books are arranged similarly. Opening an American edition is the traditional Western fashion greets you with a page that says “Stop! This is the back of the book!” Doubtless there was a lot of additional, costly man-hours involved in reversing the artwork for a Western layout, so the American editions now preserve the original layout, and simply slug in the English translations.

I’m willing to bet this also prevents any adulteration of original artist intentions that would result from simply reversing the art’s image. I’m no artist myself, and when more knowledgeable people talk about black masses on the page and the elements of a page drawing the reader’s eye to a focal point I go Wowwwwwww and Fancy that! It’s invisible to me, but I can feel and appreciate their effect.

One of the Tezuka books I had checked out, explaining the Japanese layout of the book, exclaimed, “Trying new things makes you smarter! Try it and see!” and I find myself adapting easily enough to the right-to-left, but the multi-tasking – there’s a small part of my attention that is devoted to constantly reminding me to read right-to-left – is also a little distancing, and I’m not feeling as connected to the manga as I do to other comics read in the traditional way.  I can only look at that as a personal failing, and work to correct it.

It’s a conundrum

After an evening of no recourse to City of Whatever, my hands are only shaking slightly.

Finally took in the second episode of Slings & Arrows, in which I suspect the dynamics for the rest of the season have been properly set up. I wasn’t as sidetracked by near-toxic nostalgia and longing as I was during the first episode, but I sense I still need to take my time in consuming this show. The writing is sharp and knowledgeable, the acting spot-on, and boy howdy, do I miss the theater right now.

I am also hoping that more characters die so the undertakers become regular characters. I really, really enjoyed them.

Finished up The Batman Chronicles, Volume 3, beating the deadline by one day. That was quite a binge on Golden Age comics, but was a fun read, especially since A) we got to see Batman use a gun again; and B) the surprising revelation that in 1941, the Batmobile was a bright red.

Since I’m dropping by the library, I also finished up Osamu Tezuka’s Apollo’s Song, as I am discovering that my library system has a fair amount of Tezuka floating around. This is a thick book – Tezuka rarely took the short path in his storytelling – about a young sociopath who is cursed by Athena to discover love over and over again, but to always have it snatched away. Or maybe he’s just insane and hallucinating it all. It’s an unusual story, and pretty harrowing in places, but never less than gripping.

The big news is I have a lunch meeting with a producer I’ve worked for in the past, which hopefully means more work for me. Kindly lay out whatever oracles, mojos and jujus you may have for me, for things are, as they say, getting kinda short over here. That’s why I finished the books a day ahead of schedule – I’m hoping I won’t have time to drop by the library tomorrow.

That’s my big news. I should have saved it for tomorrow, but then what would I have used to go out on a high note today?

I got nuthin’. Well, okay, Batman.

I wound up not watching the second episode of Slings & Arrows last night. Real life intruded a bit too much to set aside an hour. Well, that’s a lie, one of my gaming buddies who hasn’t been around a lot due to rehearsals was online, and we played Going Rogue for far too long.

I got an e-mail from NC Soft this morning that my time cards had expired, and I think I’m going to lay off it for a while; I have some time codes saved, but I need that hour or two every evening to do other stuff. Summer’s over, and it’s time to start getting serious about 50 Foot DVD again.  The discs and books have been stacking up, and although my hand-me-down reading chair finally gave up the ghost (converting itself from a recliner to a permanent semi-recliner), I’m ready to get back to some serious book time. Even if I am propping my feet up on a toolbox.

So maybe I’ll watch Slings & Arrows tonight. Or finish reading Batman Chronicles, V 3, as the library wants it back Thursday. Apparently somebody else has requested it, so I can’t extend my possession – somebody else in the county reads Batman? Fancy that.

Reading the Chronicle books – which present DC comic character stories in chronological order – has been educational. Watching creators struggle with a new medium is an interesting process. By the second volume of the Batman Chronicles, writer Bill Finger had started to develop a solid formula that he would continue to exploit again and again: stories with large casts of characters that would be affected by the story’s turn of events and interaction with Batman and Robin.

The first Clayface story (one of many different Clayfaces, too), is a well-developed murder mystery, complete with red herrings. There’s one story where Batman and Robin use their crimefighting skills to deliver John Hughes-style life lessons to neglectful rich parents. This morning I read a story about modern-day pirates (though still on a schooner and brandishing cutlasses) where, in aiding the Dynamic Duo, various of the hostages re-discovered their masculinity, their inner strength, and their very reasons to go on living. Though I prefer my brooding Dark Detective who has made plans for every possible eventuality, it’s really fun to see Batman as Life Coach.

Then, I also have the second volume of Showcase Presents World’s Finest, which means it’s time for some Bat-Mite. I kinda miss Bat-Mite.