What I bought – 1 January 2014
Peter Lake seemed to love her in exactly the way that she loved everything that she knew she would lose. He kissed her, and stroked her, and spoke to her. How surprised she was at what he said. He told her about the city as if it were a live creature, pale and pink, that had a groin and blood and lips. He told her about spring in Prince Street, about the narrow alleys full of flowers, protected by trees, quiet and dark. He told her about the colors in coats and clothes and on the stage and in all kinds of lights, and that their random movement made them come alive. “Prince Street,” he said, “is alive. The buildings are ruddy as flesh. I’ve seen them breathe. I swear it.” He surprised even himself.
He talked to her for hours. He talked himself dry. She leaned back on the pillows, pleased to be naked in front of him, relaxed, calm, smiling. He talked hills. He talked gardens. What he said was so gentle, strong, and full of counterpoint and rhyme, that he was not even sure that it was not singing. And long before he was all talked out and exhausted, she had fallen in love with him. (Mark Helprin, from Winter’s Tale)
Atomic Robo and the Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #4 (of 5) by Brian Clevinger (writer), Nick Filardi (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer), Scott Wegener (artist), and Lee Black (editor). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Red 5 Comics.
So much underwear
Jenkins and Robo kick ass
See!: Chekov’s Time Bomb
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Catalyst Comix #7 (of 9) by Joe Casey (writer), Ulises Farinas (artist, “Agents of Change”), Paul Maybury (artist, “Amazing Grace”), Dan McDaid (artist, “Frank Wells”), Brad Simpson (colorist), Rus Wooton (letterer), Ian Tucker (assistant editor), and Brendan Wright (editor). $2.99, 28 pgs, FC, Dark Horse. Amazing Grace, Frank Wells, and Agents of Change created by Barbara Kesel.
Pop culture weirdness
Betrayal! Bashing! End times!
The threads are threading
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight #4 (of eight) (“Shanks for the Memories”) by Gary Caldwell (colorist), Alex de Campi (writer/letterer), Simon Fraser (artist), Ian Tucker (assistant editor), and Brendan Wright (editor). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.
Yay, nipples! NIPPLES!
Much gory, bloody revenge
This panel – really?
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
The Manhattan Projects #17 (“What We Made”) by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Jonathan Hickman (writer), Nick Pitarra (artist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $3.50, 20 pgs, FC, Image.
Surf dude alien
Groves’ truth bombs bring us some mirth
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
I don’t put much stock in the beginning of a new year; it’s a fairly arbitrary date, after all. If we really wanted a good day to start the new year, we’d pick the winter solstice, as that’s when the days start getting longer. But it’s handy enough, I suppose. I don’t do anything on New Year’s Eve, because it’s never been a big thing for me. Now that I have kids, we don’t do anything, and I go to bed pretty early because my kids get up early in the morning. Before I had kids, we went out a few times, but not too often – for me, it’s just never been a big day. But it’s the beginning of a new year, so there’s all this reflecting going on, and as I only bought four comics this week, I thought I’d go “off book” a bit this week.
This May is the 35th anniversary of my 8th birthday, which sounds very odd but is somewhat important to me (more than just being my 43rd birthday, of course). Right before I turned 8, I came back to the United States after living in Germany for 4 years, and while I recall quite a bit of my life in Germany, I was too young to really remember everything. After I turned 8, however, I have better memories – not “better” because of the quality, just better because I’m able to recall more things. I’ve written before about the summer of 1979, which is still my favorite summer ever, as our neighborhood was full of kids, all about the ages of 7-11, and we played Kick the Can with a giant rubber ball I owned almost every day. Our neighborhood was a great place to live, as most of the yards were unfenced and we could move between houses through back yards fairly easily. The summer of 1979 began my golden age, as I suppose most people who didn’t have a horrible childhood consider their adolescence a wonderful time. I know that many people have a lot of issues stemming from bad childhoods, and I feel terrible about that. I am not one of those people.
I know that my time in Germany was great, but like I said, I had a really grand time from May 1979 to May 1989, when I graduated from high school. I didn’t really pay too much attention to the geopolitical forces of the 1980s – I knew of certain events, like the Marines getting killed in Beirut and the Challenger blowing up and, closer to home, that time the mayor of Philadelphia bombed his own city (I still have trouble fitting that into my “things that actually happened” category) – and so my childhood was fairly blissful. My parents were perfectly fine people (they still are), and while they punished me and my sister for various infractions, they were never excessive. They gave us a good amount of freedom, and trusted us to not screw up. Occasionally we pushed too far – one time when I was about 13/14, I rode my bike way too far away and stayed out too late, not getting home until almost 9 o’clock at night, and I caught hell for it – but never to the extent that my parents went crazy. My friends still mock me because my father came up with creative punishments – usually we were barred from watching television, but once he made us watch an educational program (of our choice) and write a book report about it. Once he punished us because we didn’t change the toilet paper roll – that’s another that gets a laugh out of my friends. To be fair, he did tell us about it many, many times, and we just ignored him.
This relatively idyllic childhood is one reason why I have a difficult time relating to “coming-of-age” stories. Too often, it seems like writers assume everyone had a shitty childhood, so they don’t need to put in the work to make their own shitty childhoods relatable. I’m not blowing smoke up anyone’s ass when I say that I had a good childhood, and I’m certainly not denigrating anyone’s own bad childhoods, it’s just that writers can’t assume that everyone goes through the same experiences they did. I had some issues with my parents, of course, but nothing major. I have often said to people that my dad is emotionally distant – I can recall him saying I did something well once in my life, when I got really good grades in my first semester in college, and people think that’s very sad. But I don’t think it is. He grew up at a time and in a place (Nanticoke, PA, home of Pete Gray, the one-armed major league baseball player!) where men were not very emotive, and he learned from his father that his responsibility was to pay for everything (including college) and leave the nurturing to the womenfolk. I know kids whose dads were much nicer and much more “fatherly” but who had to struggle to go to college because their dads couldn’t pay for it. I just got the other kind of dad, and I can’t really say who got the better end of the deal. But beyond that, there really wasn’t much bad in my life. I went to an elementary school near enough to my house that I could walk home, cutting through a park along a creek and then through a corn field that is now a golf course (so sad!), I went to junior high school a little farther away, but still close enough to walk home from, and I went to a good high school. I loved high school, honestly. One of my very good friends now graduated from high school the same year as I did, but I didn’t know her in school because she hated it so much she kept her head down and just got through it. I know that a lot of people have that attitude, and it’s too bad – I certainly get it, but I thought high school was a great place to figure out what you liked and disliked and what kind of person you wanted to be. I went to William Tennent, which was fairly big – about 2000 kids over 3 grades (10-12) – and you could meet a lot of interesting people there. I was a chorus geek, as were many of my friends, but a lot of them played sports too, so while we had some stereotypical jocks, they didn’t bully the geeks as much as you’d think. I was friends with the valedictorian and the salutatorian (back when those terms meant something), but I was also friends with a lot of football players and cheerleaders (I had a tremendous crush on one of the cheerleaders, but never had the courage to say anything about it – maybe then we would have seen the limits of tolerance at Tennent!). I took college prep courses like Calculus and Physics, but our school also offered a wide variety of classes like Home Ec. (where I learned to sew a pillow!) and Economics (which turned out to be one of my favorite classes). I know I’m very fortunate, as I know many people who had lousy childhoods, and I really do appreciate my parents for making my life fairly easy.
A few things are so different from the 1980s to today, in terms of growing up. I grew up in a fairly big development, meaning I could travel far without hitting a major road, which would be more difficult to cross. I feel bad for Norah, my 8-year-old, because in Phoenix, there are very wide, busy roads every mile, so her world is hemmed in a bit more until we’re confident she can cross those streets. The houses where I grew up rarely had fences in their back yards, so moving from house to house was easy. Even the fences were usually chain link, which are easily climbed. Obviously, as an adult I see the value of having fences (keep those damned kids off my lawn!), but even so, I feel bad for Norah because in Phoenix and its environs, cinder block walls are the “fence” of choice. Not only can’t you climb them easily, you can’t even see through them. They box in each house a little more and makes it more difficult for neighbors to get to know each other. Another thing that’s different is the proliferation of schools. When I went to grade school, everyone went to the same schools, pretty much. We had a private Catholic high school and the public one. I assume some kids went far and wide to private schools, but those two options were pretty much it. This forged a sense of community within the two townships – Warminster and Southampton – that the school district serviced. Obviously, we didn’t know the Southampton kids as well because they went to a different junior high school than we did, but if you met someone in 2nd grade, as I did with many kids, chances are you’d still know them in 12th grade, whether you were friends with them or not. Some of my best friends today are people I met in 1979 when I came into the school district at the tail end of 2nd grade. I don’t know if we still have that sense of community in schools today, because, at least in Arizona, there are so many options. We have more charter schools than any state in the country, but there’s also, it seems, a lot more movement across school districts or to different schools that aren’t the “home” school of the student. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’m curious to see what happens when Norah gets out of elementary school (where the population has been relatively stable over 4 years) and goes to middle school.
This year will also be my 20th wedding anniversary, which is somewhat incredible, if you ask me. I never gave much thought to marriage when I was growing up; I figured I’d eventually meet someone, but I didn’t really think too much about it. I never had much game with women; for much of my teenaged years, I didn’t really care too much about sex, because I was too busy enjoying being a kid. When I did become interested in girls, I wasn’t quite sure how to ask them out – part of it was nerves, true, but part of it was that I didn’t meet many new girls because I wasn’t a social butterfly. So most of the girls I had crushes on I had known for a while and considered them friends; it would have been weird to date them. My first girlfriend and I dated when we were high school juniors, but it didn’t last too long and we both decided to split in a fairly friendly manner. I did have a girlfriend for most of my senior year in high school, and it was a pretty good relationship – kind of weird, but quite good. She came from a pretty conservative Christian family – they were very nice, but still pretty conservative – and she was torn between being a good Christian and giving into her hormones. It made our relationship somewhat spicier than my friends – the ones who knew both of us – might expect. We drifted apart when we went to separate colleges, and I think the Christian side of her won out once she was away from my devastating, undeniable magnetism. Our break-up was amicable, and I’m very glad that I finally found her on Facebook, as I was a bit disappointed we hadn’t kept in touch. I had another girlfriend in Australia, and as fun as that was, it’s not really that conducive for a relationship when you live 10,000 miles apart. We stayed friends, and I was very happy that I got to see her in Los Angeles a few years ago when she and her husband visited the States. So going into my senior year of college (1992-1993), I had had three girlfriends. Yeah, not a lot of game.
I met my wife on 26 August 1992, when I walked into a poetry class on the first day of school. I was late; I think I was the last person to arrive, but even then, I was there before the teacher (he was a bit of a flake). The class was in a small room, and it was crowded, so I couldn’t find a place to sit. I got a chair and sat down next to my future wife and her roommate. Now, they were the two most attractive people in the room, but I had another reason: they were sitting the farthest away from a certain girl in the class. I knew this girl – the previous autumn I had been in a different poetry class with her (what do you want, I was an English major), and the teacher actually asked her to drop the class. She was an awful person. She hated every single poem that anyone else brought into the class, and if you criticized her poetry, she accused you of all sorts of things, like being a racist. Later in the semester, she said I harbored violence toward women because I wrote a Bonnie-and-Clyde type poem with some violent sex in it (ignoring the fact that both parties dug the violent sex in equal degrees and loved each other because of it), and she said my future wife’s roommate was racist because she called a character “Mexican” even though the person was actually from, you know, Mexico. So I didn’t want to sit near her, especially as she was already going on about something snootily (she was an annoying hipster before they existed – a proto-hipster!). My wife tells me that she and her roommate were already thinking about dropping the class because of this one person, but then I walked in. Oh, the animal magnetism! Actually, when I sat down next to them I began quietly ranting about this girl and how annoying she was, and my wife found me hilarious. She figured as long as someone else found this girl insufferable, the class wouldn’t be that bad (as it turned out, most of us found her insufferable – eventually we all started going out drinking and discovered that we all really didn’t like her). So we bonded over hatred of this girl. Some people have told me that picking on people is rude, and I agree if the person is just somehow different, but this girl was actively hateful of almost everyone. I don’t know how she had any friends.
So Krys and I became closer, and for once, I had enough game to make the leap from friend to boyfriend. I still can’t believe it happened, but it did, and I knew I had a good thing almost at once. About 20 months after we became a couple, we got married. I was 23, which among my peer group, was fairly young. I think I’ve been married longer than almost anyone of my age that I know – a good friend got married later in 1994, I know, but I think everyone else waited. I was boring even when I was young! But I was madly in love with the young lady, so why would I wait? I’m still madly in love with her, so I think I made a good choice.
So it’s 2014, and the new year makes everyone nostalgic for the past year and anticipatory for the imminent one. Obviously, we see a lot of “best of” lists coming out, and I’ll have one up soon enough (this year I got a jump start because the final week for comics came on 24 December and nothing of note came out; I don’t count this week even though the books came out on 31 December because technically, their sell date was the 1st). If you haven’t checked out the Comic Book Resources Top 100 countdown yet, I encourage you to do so. Here are the links: 100-76, 75-51, 50-26, 25-11, and 10-1. Last year I didn’t submit a list; I just forgot. This year I remembered, and I was a bit surprised (pleasantly, though) that many of my choices ended up so high on the list. In case you don’t know how we do this: Kiel Phegley asks everyone who is even remotely connected to CBR to submit a list of 10 comics. I assume he assigns point values to each of our choices (10 points for #1, I assume?) and then adds them up. Eight of the comics I submitted ended up on the list, which I think is pretty cool. I will choose to view it as me having a wide influence on people, as they obviously agree with me!!! I do, however, disagree with 3 of the top 5 (Young Avengers is #5, which I think is fine, and I haven’t read March), but that’s the way it is. Reading the comments is, of course, the most fun. Plus, in case you missed it, Here’s the final Tim Callahan essay for CBR. It’s an “exit” interview conducted by our old pal Chad Nevett, and it’s pretty interesting. Tim is a cool dude, and I wish him well. Maybe we’ll meet again at a convention in the future and he can tell me why Chew isn’t a good comic. He’s wrong, but he can try to convince me!
Anyway, I like “best of” lists. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m horribly sentimental (even though I decry it in writing; I think it’s fine to be sentimental in real life but not in writing), and so looking back at years gone by is something I heartily endorse. I do like looking forward, so here are a few personal resolutions: 1. I’d like to lose weight. I do this every year, and I’m not bad at losing weight, but toward the end of the year I always start to backslide. I usually don’t regain all the weight – this year I think my net loss will be about 10 pounds – so maybe, if I keep doing it, I’ll eventually lose the amount I should. Or I could, you know, be more disciplined. 2. I’d like to write more. Earlier this year, when I stopped doing weekly reviews, I did it partly so I’d have more time to write. I did quite a bit of it, but got distracted by life a few months ago and haven’t gotten back into it. I love writing, and I’ve written quite a bit over the years, but I’ve only been published once. I honestly don’t know very much about the business side of writing, so I usually write short stories or novels and then move on. I’d like to change that this year, obviously. Of course, first I have to sit down a write more. We’ll see.
In terms of more general stuff, I’d like to see comics continue to expand. I love the fact that so many non-superhero books have become more and more popular, and I hope that continues. There’s no limit to the kind of stories you can tell in comics, and it’s nice to see that more and more creators are figuring that out. The return of Stray Bullets makes me pine for other creators try to do some things they might have let fall by the wayside. The rumor is that Casanova is returning, and in my mind, Matt Fraction could really use a good year after the rough year creatively he’s had (obviously, I’m very much alone in that regard, but it’s just my opinion). I’d really like to see DC and Marvel try harder to make good comics. Everyone loves Marvel right now, but the fact that they’re just constantly rebooting everything and jacking up the price on every single one of their comics is kind of annoying. I know that if the quality of the book is good, the price shouldn’t matter, but it does to me, especially when Marvel ships their books so frequently. I refuse to drop almost 100 dollars a year on one Marvel comic, and if they come out twice a month, that’s 8 bucks for 12 months. Ridiculous. The idea of a unified Marvel Universe has gone by the boards, too, and as I’m horribly sentimental, I kind of miss it. I know Marvel pretends it still exists, but let’s be honest – it’s gone. On the DC side, the consistently dour tone is just, well, depressing. I know that Batman, for instance, is kind of a bummer of a character, and he’s rarely been a terribly sunny character, but if you read older Batman comics – pre-2000, I suppose – there was at least a feeling that Batman could make a small difference in Gotham. As bad as it got, there was always something that made you think that Batman could bring some joy to the denizens of his city. One reason I don’t like Snyder’s Batman is because I’ve read two trades’ worth of it and Batman doesn’t actually defeat anyone. Whenever he manages a small victory, Snyder immediately undercuts it by bringing in something worse. For a lot of the DCnU, that’s the feeling I get. Nothing ever ends in even a small, clear victory, because the churn means that something more evil is coming down the pike. The darkness is fine for some books, but for the whole line? Blah. I know it’s not all completely like that and I haven’t read tons of the DCnU, but the bright spots are few and far between. It’s not necessarily the quality of the DCnU that bugs me, just the consistent tone of it all. Obviously, none of the stuff I wish for DC and Marvel is going to happen, which means I’ll probably slowly drop more of the Big Two. Oh well.
So that’s just some of the fun things I’m thinking about as the new year begins. Sorry I didn’t do more with the reviews – I liked them all, was glad to see another issue of Atomic Robo although I still don’t think they have the coloring figured out perfectly, was amused to see nipples in Grindhouse in only a few circumstances when they could have been seen elsewhere, and enjoyed the bloodbath in Manhattan Projects but wish the book had a few more pages each month – it always feels a bit short. You know I like to ramble occasionally, and small weeks like this are perfect for that!
Here are the Ten Most Recent Songs on My iPod (Which Is Always on Shuffle):
1. “Hey Hey What Can I Do” – Led Zeppelin (1970) “I walk the town, keep a-searchin’ all around, lookin’ for my street corner girl”
2. “Step On” – Happy Mondays (1990) “Don’t you know he can make you forget you’re a man”1
3. “Dancing Queen” – ABBA (1976) “Anybody could be that guy – night is young and the music’s high”
4. “Get on the Boat” – Prince (2006) “When we love each other, that’s the only way that’s gonna be right”
5. “Say Something” – James (1993) “Amongst friends, but all alone”
6. “Hawkmoon 269″ – U2 (1988) “As the room spins around, I need your love”
7. “A Question Mark” – Elliott Smith (1998) “If you ever want to say you’re sorry you can give me a call”
8. “Rusty Cage” – Soundgarden (1991) “Hits like a Phillips head into my brain”
9. “Freedom!” – George Michael (1990) “We had every big-shot goodtime band on the run, boy, we were living in a fantasy”2
10. “Jimmy James” – Beastie Boys (1992) “I’m Mike D and it’s been proven I love it when I see the party people get movin'”
1 Somewhere Kieron Gillen is smiling!
2 I’m still convinced this is almost the perfect pop song if you take into account George Michael’s situation at this particular point in his career, the status of MTV at this time, and the video for this song. It’s unbelievable how well Michael captured the zeitgeist.
It’s a new year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t Totally Random Lyrics!
“I can move and make directions, once I start I’m never done,
I can go from room to room, I can crawl or I can run,
I can wander through the maze, it’s a wonderland at night,
I can stop and aim my gun when there’s a robot in my sight.”
I hope everyone had a good 2013, and let’s make 2014 even better, shall we? Have a nice day!