(I can only assume this is part of Stephen Colbert's "Make McCain Exciting" initiative...)
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
"And did I mention that his aging ex-girlfriend is now head of the local Triad and in her employ are four warriors with amazing abilities, like the guy named Soulstriker who literally punches his opponents in the soul?"And with those words, Scalped writer Jason Aaron might have just convinced me to buy my first Wolverine miniseries ever.
Friday, June 27, 2008
I have a tiny scab at the tip of my nose.
My injury came the other night, as I was cuddling our ferret She-Devil, and she started kissing me on the nose.
Over and over again.
With her sandpaperlike tongue.
Usually, she only gives my nose a couple of licks. Not this time. Eventually, I have to assume that she tasted my blood, and decided to drink it.
Now, you might think, why on earth would I continue to hold this little fuzzy vampire up to my nose? To be honest, my nose didn't hurt at first. But then, all of a sudden, it started to sting. She was eroding my nose!
And I only am escaped to tell thee: Do not let someone erode your nose, no matter how cute they be. Beware!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Top Cow is publishing six one-shot comics in a program called Pilot Season. The idea is, readers buy the six books and vote on their favorites on Top Cow's MySpace page starting in August. This is the second year for the program. Last year's Pilot Season books were all revitalizations of existing Top Cow properties, such as Ripclaw and Cyblade, so I paid little attention to it (although if I can find the Ripclaw book somewhere I might pick it up, since it was written by Scalped's Jason Aaron). This year's crop of pilots interests me more, since none seem to be based on ideas I passed on the first time around.
The most intriguing to me--and the first one I've bought--is Genius, written by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman and drawn by Afua Richardson. Bernardin and Freeman wrote last year's The Highwaymen, a semi-futuristic action miniseries that I liked a lot. Genius is about a prodigy in the art of warfare--one who emerges not on a formal battlefield, but on the gang-run streets of Los Angeles. She's a 17-year-old named Destiny, and in this issue, she declares war on the cops.
There's one cop who can see what's coming: Detective Reggie Grey, who notices patterns of decreased inter-gang violence and realizes they're being bonded together against a common enemy.
I think this Pilot Season gimmick gives creators a tough line to walk. It's a one-shot, so the story has to be satisfying on its own. Four of these six books won't see a second issue. At the same time, it's a pilot. It's meant to leave the reader wanting more. It's on this level that Genius really succeeds.
While there's action in the book, much of it is build up. Seeing Destiny's impromptu army take out some cops is viscerally exciting in a Grand Theft Auto kind of way, but Richardson's art--despite attractive figurework and distinct characterizations--goes for the backgroundless pose a little too often to position everyone in space. There's adrenaline aplenty, but the tactics of the scene aren't conveyed as effectively as they could be. (Make that should be--this book is all about Destiny's strategic and tactical talent, so this is a problematic shortcoming.)
On the other hand, the concept is killer. And we see that the two main characters, Destiny and Grey, are bound together by a critical moment in their past that neither is aware of. That's certainly worth exploring. And I certainly want to see how this war progresses. Destiny at one point makes a speech that sounds like her neighborhood is seceding from Los Angeles, if not the nation itself. There's a lot of potential here. If the second issue of this book were out today, I'd buy it on the spot.
I do have a slight quibble, though: Troy Peteri's lettering font is a little obtrusive. Maybe it'll grow on me, but I'm betting it won't. Also, the book's logo (in an ornate gothic-bling font) might make the book hard to spot on the stands. For a week or so, my comic shop had flyers up advertising a signing last Friday, and I still didn't know the book existed, simply because I couldn't read the logo while walking. And if a flyer on a door I'm walking through can't stop my step, I doubt an unfamiliar book in a sea of other comics would do a better job.
Now, though, I'm looking for the book. If we're lucky enough to get another issue, you can bet I'll find it.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
So last night, I'm on the phone with my mom. She asks how my week's been going so far, and I mention that I worked from home on Monday to write my column.
She says, "You have a column?" I guess I never mentioned it, but it came with the managing editor job.
"Yeah, Mom, it's a business advice column."
"Oh. Is that why the stock market's going down?"
That's as good a theory as any, I suppose.
(And by the way: 1500 posts! Zowie!)
Monday, June 23, 2008
The first time I ever broke up with a girl, it was because of George Carlin.
She was a couple of years younger than me, and we had very little in common. Different taste in music (she was a U2 fan; looking back, her taste was better than mine), different tastes in TV, different tastes in friends. We both liked to make out, but that was pretty much the breadth of our recreational intersection.
And so one night, we're at a dance at the high school, talking with a bunch of my friends and our dates, and not really connecting, as always. We start talking about comedians. Eddie Murphy's Delirious was really big at the time, and she mentioned it. I mentioned how much I loved George Carlin; when I'd had a paper route a few years before, I played a cassette of A Place for My Stuff over and over again until long past I had the thing memorized. And she said,
"Who's George Carlin?"
You can't break up with someone on the spot at a big school dance. It's just rude. But those three words were like the anti-Thunderbolt: a clear sign reading You Are Not Compatible.
A week later, we were through.
George Carlin is immensely important to me; never mind that he was funny as hell, there was a weight, an importance to his words that few comedians achieve.
Because he chose his words carefully. He loved his words. Words were one of his chief sources of humor. He settled for nothing less than exactness, and lampooned the vague and the wishy-washy. Euphemisms were dicti non grata.
His other target was authority. He'd skewer the powerful with moral outrage or impish glee, usually by turning their own jargon against them in a form of linguistic judo. It usually wasn't anyone specific he was going after; more often, he was challenging the very idea of authority. He could be blisteringly funny, or blisteringly angry. His humor wasn't always comfortable. There was a knife-twist, an unkind mirror. I'm tempted to say that if Joseph Heller did stand-up, it would sound like he'd cribbed from Carlin. But the fact is there was no one like Carlin, and now there is no one like Carlin.
But I'd bet that there are some people who are better, smarter and more independent than they would have been without him.
Rest in peace, George.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Reading this week’s issue of Trinity, I wondered about something I’ve mused on before: How can a new villain catch a break?
I mean, here we have Konvikt, a nonverbal bruiser from another planet. (He’s joined by Graak, a little guy with the best line in the issue—“Konvikt missing big chance, but Graak cool, Graak cool...”—but that’s neither here nor there.) And in Trinity #3, he holds his own against the entire Justice League. Black Lightning, Flash, Hawkgirl, Black Canary, Green Lantern, Firestorm—no one can touch him. And then the Big Three show up (it’ll be a heck of a long time before I call Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman the Trinity; my Catholic don't go deep, but it goes at least that deep), and WHAM! Superman gets knocked out.
And I really want to call shenanigans.
I want to say, who IS this guy? He’s fought the JLA to a standstill and then knocks out Superman with a punch?
But that’s the point of the scene: Konvikt is extremely powerful. (A secondary point might be: If Konvikt can knock out Superman in one punch, how come the rest of the JLA is still standing?) But for some reason, I’m finding it hard to simply take writer Kurt Busiek’s word for it. I’ve spent over three decades of my life being told that Superman is extremely powerful, and I’ve just known Konvikt for two weeks. So try as I might, I can’t shake the feeling that Konvikt is a first-level badass simply “because the writer said so.”
It’s not Busiek’s fault—I’ve been conditioned by a lifetime of reading comics. If Superman is being outpunched, I want an explanation. And since Konvikt is a figure of mystery, the explanation is still forthcoming. The two needs are in conflict—something's got to give.
I don’t think there’s any way to introduce a character like this out of the blue without prompting some level of disbelief among seasoned readers. To be honest, I think I felt the same thing about Doomsday, a character who was wildly successful for a time. The last “new” character that I can think of that I accepted immediately as fighting in Superman’s weight class was Mongul—and he was introduced in DC Comics Presents #26, published in 1980. I was 11.
There have been other characters lately that have made me wonder these same things—most recently Titus, Roger Stern & John Byrne’s “godlike” conqueror in JLA Classified, who had the added burden of the question, “If he’s so powerful and fought the League so long ago, why haven’t we heard of him before?” Of course, the answers to these questions are always very mundane in the real world. We’d never head of him before because no one’s ever written about him before. We don’t know why Konvikt can K.O. Superman—for now, we just have to accept that he can. Keep reading and you’ll find out why.
I actually admire Busiek’s restraint in writing the fight scene in Trinity #3. He didn’t have Konvikt wipe the floor with the JLA to show what a threat he was; he just fought them to a standstill. It might be the best way to handle a scene like that, in that it doesn’t devalue the League while it still establishes Konvikt as a threat. But somehow, I can’t quite accept Konvikt at face value without conscious effort. Those 30-odd years of Superman reading have made my disbelief too heavy to suspend for long.
At the base of this, I'm curious: Is it possible for a character introduction like this to work? Has the introduction of Konvikt worked for you so far? If not, do you expect it to become more plausible as more is revealed? Is there a way of introducing a character like Konvikt—mystery and all—that wouldn't cause disbelief? Or is that disbelief okay, considering it mirrors how everyone else feels when they see Superman get clobbered?
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Whaddya know? Spend the better part of a week in Idaho, eating like a king...
...come home with a 3-pound potato. At least I don't have spud-fingers coming out of my belly. Creeeeepy.
Ah, well. My bike is all set up now, so I might actually exercise now and then. And I've got leftovers from a great vegan meal that I can sub for my traditional meat-heavy dinners when I'm low on points.
I changed the lock on my front door,
So you can't see me anymore...
I finally got around to updating my Newsarama link in my sidebar (and bookmarks) to the comics-only tab. There are better places to read about movies and tv, and I'm tired of it wasting my time.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
As I was walking out on the tarmac to board my connecting flight in Chicago, I was greeted by an airline staffer who was directing people onto the planes. A jet engine was roaring nearby, going through whatever motions it needed before takeoff.
“Boise?” he said.
“Yeah, I’m going to Boise,” I told him.
“Right, I’m from Jersey,” I said, wondering how he knew. But if he knew, most likely my baggage had made it to the flight. Best not look a gift horse in the mouth.
“No,” he shouted, pointing to the roaring engine, “Noisy!”
Couldn’t argue with that.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I was checking up on campaign news on TPM, and I noticed Jill Hazelbaker's name cited as a McCain spokesperson. The name sounded familiar, and a little bit of trolling around in my blog archives put the name to the deed: Hazelbaker is the Kean Troll! I'd totally forgotten about her; I'm sure she'll give us a reason to remember her soon enough, though.
For instance, she might turn to stone if touched by sunlight. That'd be memorable.
So the Colbert taping last week was a blast. It wasn’t too hot to wait in line (pity those poor fools in the heat yesterday) and we had a good time hanging out before the show. It turned out the couple in line ahead of us were waiting (outside the wrong studio) to see The Daily Show, but they were able to get in anyway. (I really thought I had corrected them about that while we were waiting, but I guess not, or it didn’t take.)
After going through security, we hung out in an interior waiting area for a while, watching a “greatest-hits” type video—mostly “Better Know a District” segments. (Poor Rob Wexler.) Then the audience manager came in, taught us how to clap (twice as fast as we normally would, to give the impression of twice as many people), encouraged us to laugh heartily, and asked us trivia questions about the show. (I won a Colbert Report baseball cap for knowing—hmm. I forget what, exactly. But I knew it at the time.)
Once we were ushered in to our seats, warm-up comic Pete Domenick called me a dirtbag. Well, the fact is, I was laughing at a joke about his butt hair, so I guess I deserved it. He’s a really funny guy, putting all his energy into not just making the audience laugh, but making them feel comfortable around each other. He talks to people throughout the audience, makes fun of them, makes fun of himself, whatever it takes. But by the end of his set, we’re not a bunch of individuals who’ve been waiting in line for a few hours—we’re an audience, ready to do our job.
Then Stephen came out, amid high-fives mostly to his crew. (I was on the aisle he ran down, but never put my hand out for the high five.) He starts most shows with a Q&A session with the audience before he gets into character. The impression I got is that he’s a really nice, smart, with-it, (and busy!) guy who has finally come to terms with how famous he is. He’s not Brad Pitt, but he realizes there are people out there who adore him. (Reading over this para, I realize I’m talking out my hat, but he sure seems friendly, if a little too busy to be completely approachable.)
I never got to ask my Q (either “Have any guests not realized you’re playing a character?” or “What’s your alignment?”), but another guy took the wind out of the sails of the second question by asking what he thought of D&D’s 4th Edition. (Stephen’s answer: “I’ve moved on to girls.”)
Then the show started. Most of it was done in one take—we only ran through the cold open twice. Somewhere during a commercial break, Stephen fired some WristStrong bracelets into the audience. I snagged one and gave it to Kathy. She says I can have it back when I’m famous.
Pat Buchanan was the guest, pimping his book, The Unnecessary War. He drew parallels to the Iraq War, saying it hasn’t made us any safer, which got cheers—uncomfortable ones, since who wants to agree with Pat Buchanan? But then things got to a more familiar level when Stephen framed the premise of the book this way: We should have let Hitler take what he wanted. I don’t think that’s exactly what Buchanan was trying to say—how could it have been?—but he didn’t really disabuse Stephen of the notion, suggesting that we should have drawn a line in France, saying Hitler could have whatever he wanted south of the line, but going north of it meant war. I don’t think the studio microphones were able to pick up the sound of all the jaws dropping.
Of course, throughout the show, we laughed, screamed our throats raw, gave standing ovations and had a great time all around. And when Stephen ran through the audience after the show, I got my high-five.
P.S. On the way to the train station (after an after-show dinner at a Mexican restaurant—frozen sangria is goood) we bumped into the Daily Show couple again at a crosswalk. I walked up behind them and said “We are SO stalking you.” New York can be such a small town sometimes.
Monday, June 09, 2008
On our trip down Virginny way for Ben's baptism (a dunking he took like a man, by the way), Kathy and I decided to go hiking in a heat wave. Why swim in a hotel pool when you can tromp around in 90-plus-degree heat? (Do I love this crazy woman? Oh yes I do.)
Kathy picked out the McKeldin section of Patapsco Valley State Park in Maryland, and off we went, hoofing it over a 2.5 mile route. (Not too long, but, y'know—90-plus degrees.) Somewhere along the first trail, I was in the lead, and suddenly noticed something moving that I would have put my foot down on in about two steps. It was a big black snake, about three feet long, and about as thick as a bicycle tire. It slithered off the trail in a hurry as I fumbled for my camera. By the time I could get a shot, it was no longer discernible from the rocks and leaves surrounding the trail, so no go. I didn't think it was poisonous—poison snakes are usually colorful–but man, it was spooky. Looking it up this morning, I think it was a black rat snake, a constrictor that takes down rats, chipmunks, baby squirrels and small rabbits, but are harmless to humans. That is, if you consider a pantsload of crap harmless.
Later on, we decided to extend the trek for another mile; we'd hiked mostly in the shade, and it had been easy going so far. So we branched off onto another trail, taking us close to the Patapsco River. And, unbeknownst to us, the Ancient Temple of T'zz'zzt, the Mosquito God. After traveling next to the river for a stretch, we followed the trail uphill with uncharacteristic speed.
We were no longer hiking. We were fleeing.
After that narrow escape, we soon found ourselves eating giant crabs out on my brother and sister-in-law's deck. Then, the heat broke a little, as it started to rain and lightning. If you've ever wondered whether I would stay outside eating crabs under a metal umbrella during a thunderstorm, the hypothetical is now an emperical. Yes, yes, yes.
(Thanks to Terrierman for the pic!)
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Friday, June 06, 2008
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
First of all: I lost 2.8 pounds this week! I have no idea how to express that in binary, but this is how I express it in beer steins:
Combine this with some progress in previous weeks and I'm more than halfway out of that huge videogame helmet I put on during my trip to New Orleans.
Second: Most people (7) in the no-doubt statistically significant poll I ran were avoiding Indiana Jones spoilers. Half the respondents (6) were also avoiding Lost spoilers, and nearly that many were avoiding spoilers for The Dark Knight. And apparently I'm the only person left who watches House but who still hasn't seen the finale.
Third: Now I can get rid of the poll widget in my sidebar. I missed being able to see new comments without scrolling.
Fourth: Me, dancing with a live hand grenade, on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Complete with comment from onlooker!
Fifth: The horrible realization that your life might have been richer had you never seen that.
So, One-Eyed Jack: Into the West.
Man, this has been a long time coming. So let me fill you in on a little history.
A few years ago, Adam Beranek and Mike Bencik created One-Eyed Jack, a cat with nine lives who would live in nine different time periods, having adventures with his pal Hogan. They started out the series with an adventure in ancient Egypt, which Mike has completely drawn. The plan was for Adam and his brother Christian to publish the book through Silent Devil, their publishing house. And when the plans were made up for which time periods to cover, Mike suggested the cats live the lives of Lewis and Clark, and he wanted me to write it. (Mike's known me for a long while; we worked at the same children's publisher together, and collaborated on dozens of stories.)
I don’t know how hard a sell that was to the guys, but it was an awesome favor. I owe Mike big.
I had no comics experience (other than some great classes Danny Fingeroth taught at NYU and years of reading them), but I have written a book on Lewis and Clark, so I could be counted on to be fairly historically accurate. The guys went for it, and I got to work.
Eventually, the plan changed: The book would now come out all at once as a graphic novel. I’d be writing one (at least one) of the chapters in the book. Meanwhile, I had gotten my script to Mike, and he started drawing the pants off it. We expanded it a little, to give the story room to breathe now that we weren’t constrained by standard comic page count. (Oh, and we need a bear attack? I can do that, sure.) And we figured out what my second chapter of the One-Eyed Jack saga would be.
Somewhere along the line, Christian and Adam decided to refocus Silent Devil, and now Christian is spearheading Disney’s new Kingdom Comics line. That left Mike with a bunch of pages and no publisher. And One-Eyed Jack with an uncertain future. (Up until this point, I hadn't mentioned it online, figuring the publisher should make the announcement when they were ready.)
Not wanting to face another Wizard World Philly (our hometown con) without anything to sell, Mike decided to put the Lewis & Clark book out as its own comic. In its way, it’s a sampler of the larger graphic novel, but it was always intended to stand on its own. The nature of the series is such that it really can’t help but stand on its own, so that worked in our favor.
I’m really excited by the book. I think Mike is a heck of a storyteller, and he’s got some great character designs as well. And I think I acquitted myself well for my first time out of the gate. (I’m can't be 100% certain of this yet; getting this micro-print-run ready was so down to the wire that I never got to proof the book in PDF. Saturday’s con was so busy for me that I never had a chance to read it. And leaving the con on Saturday was so hectic that I completely forgot to grab a copy of a comic that I’ve spent my entire life working toward in one way or another. Yes, I am a schmuck.)
Mike’s mailing me some copies. I know how it ends, but I honestly can’t wait to read it.
P.S. The filthy lucre segment: We’re not available through Diamond, Cold Cut or any other distributor. We’re selling these ourselves for four dollars, including shipping. At 30-some pages, it’s a lot of book for the price. Email me at grimmbeau AT optonline DOT net. (You can PayPal to that same address.)
Monday, June 02, 2008
At some point during the evening, I decided I’d go home Saturday night. I missed Kathy. I missed the ferrets. And heck, I admit it... I missed crawfish.
This weekend was also the 19th annual Crawfish Fest at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in NJ, and we’d planned to go since before I knew when Wizard World was. Kathy and our pals Jay and Nicole considered going Saturday, but the forecast called for Hell’s Own Hailstorm, so they postponed till Sunday—leaving me the opening to join them.
Sunday was gorgeous—sunny, but with enough breeze to keep somewhat cool (although around 2-4, I did feel myself baking a little). There was great music there, and delicious food. Let’s cover the food first: jambalaya, crawfish bread, boiled crawfish (here’s me sucking the head of a mudbug), po-boys (I had a flat-out magnificent fried catfish po-boy), black-bottom pecan pie, bread pudding with praline sauce, pheasant/duck/andouille gumbo, and even some stuff that we didn’t try. Oh, the eating was good. And plentiful.
And the music! When we arrived, Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners were tearing it up. Then there was Bonerama, a brass funk band that erects a wall of sound from their 4 trombones, tuba and rhythm section. And when they play Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” or Led Zeppelin’s “Ocean” (as they did yesterday), you realize that brass really IS a heavy metal.
There was Railroad Earth, kind of a folky/blues jam band. Really accomplished musicians, and great to listen to. I took off for the shade while they were on, but my ears still got a treat even when I couldn’t see the stage.
Finally, there was Allen Toussaint. The man is a miracle, a genius, a national treasure. Between performing, writing and producing, he’s put more hits on the charts than I can count, from long before I was born. He’s the Will Eisner of pop music: so much of its DNA is his creation, and what he didn’t create, he perfected. And seeing him play piano, you realize it is as natural to him as breathing. I can’t imagine the hours of effort it must have taken to make it seem so effortless. Kathy and I were up near the stage, dancing all the while. At one point he played a medley of “A Certain Girl,” “Mother-In-Law,”* “Working in a Coal Mine” and “The Fortune Teller,” which he could easily have titled “Four Reasons Why You Love Me.” He's way too classy for that, though, so I'm doing it for him.
All in all, pretty much the definition of a good weekend.
*Have I told the story of how I met Ernie K-Doe here? I'll do that, and see if I can find the photo I have of him, his wife Antoinette, and a 12-years(!)-younger me.
I haven’t had a weekend so packed with fun in a while.
It started out with a D&D game Friday night, in which the intrepid band of adventurers came face-to-face with a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. That’s not just awesome, that’s Fifth-Grade Awesome. Because there’s nothing more intrinsically awesome than the things you love in 5th grade. (We’ll see this again later in the weekend.) The only thing that would have been cooler (although a shame for the player involved) would be if my T-Rex chomped the paladin in half and everyone could see his head and torso bounce through its ribcage.
The next day was the Main Event. I drove down to Philadelphia for the Wizard World comic convention there. I was looking forward to it for a couple of reasons. First of all was One-Eyed Jack. Mike and I had finally completely my chapter of the graphic novel, in which Jack and his pal Hogan live one of their nine lifetimes as Lewis and Clark, making the historic journey to America’s west coast.
The original plan was to save publishing any of the book until the entire graphic novel was completed, but it gets frustrating going to conventions with nothing to show people. So this special issue—the complete Lewis & Clark story—was born. People seemed to respond well to it—especially parents and kids. It was really gratifying. (I'll do a separate post on the book later today.)
Another reason I was looking forward to the show was the chance to see friends again. I caught up with Mike, of course, as well as Scott Neely and Sean McManus. Plus, I got to meet an online friend for the first time, since Ami was in town for the weekend too! I had lunch with her and her friend Greta, and later on we had a great time walking the con floor. And Ami got to witness my second moment of Fifth-Grade Awesome for the weekend. Or maybe third-grade. Either way, it was serious glee when I encountered this:
A big pile of comics.
Not comics in boxes. Not comics in bags, or boarded up. And these were the comics I was pulling off the drugstore stands when I was a kid; some of them were the same books I bought from Greenberg’s pharmacy before riding my bike home. It was like finding some lost treasure. It was like winning the lottery. They were 50 cents apiece, and I pulled one after another from the pile, just on the basis of their covers alone. Fantastic Four? Sure! Popeye? Why not? Casper? Cool -- any Richie Rich around, too? Ghostly Haunts? Ditko says YES!
After the con, Mike had me over for a delicious cookout at his place, then we went to the Zenescope after-party, where I didn’t drink as much beer as I’d like because a guy only has so many bonus points, and I knew there was pecan pie in my future. Mmm... pie.
So that takes us through half the weekend. Special thanks to Black Manta, the Baroness, and of course the ever-adorable Ami for classin’ this post up with their smiling faces (and, um, helmets).