Friday, September 24, 2004

That Special Season

Kelly Sue is goodly enough to remind us that, if you haven't registered to vote, you should do so now. You're running out of time. She also points us to a website that offers you the chance to win an obscene amount of money for registering. So either way, get registered and get voted.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Nerd up!

Okay, so a few weeks ago someone calling himself Batman raided a kid's birthday party, and stole some cake. Everyone who's nerdy enough to find that funny already knows that.

So, in the ultimate example of why Spider-Man will always be cooler than Batman: What does a guy calling himself Spider-Man do? He climbs a 59-story building with his bare hands.

(Found via Warren.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Carol Overall

I admit, I'm not much of a web-sleuth, so if anyone can offer some assistance, I would greatly appreciate it. Once upon a time, Natasia bought a painting at a liqour store. And it was a really awesome painting. And being a kind-hearted soul, Natasia recently (like, five minutes ago) passed it on to me. It's signed by an artist named Carol Overall and I'm trying to dig up some information on her, if there is any to be dug up. I imagine she's just Some Lady, but as I was carrying it up the stairs to my place it occurred to me that she might like to know what happened to her painting, you know? Or, if nothing else, I'd like to be able to tell some sort of Carol Overall story when people ask me about the painting in my living room. It shows an older man playing cards at a table, with an ashtray, pennies, and some cards in front of him. The cards are real cards, the wallpaper behind him is real wallpaper, and there is a whole other painting of some trees hanging on the wall behind him. Here are some pictures:

Saturday, September 18, 2004

34 year old males who like Classic Rock

I stole this one from The Beat, which I check every day for my comic-book-gossip needs. It's the results of a reader survey by Diamond Comics, the largest distributor of comics and graphic novels to comic book specialty shops:

Average age: 34

Gender: 87 percent male; 13 percent female

City — 48 percent
Suburbs — 38 percent
Rural — 14 percent

Education level:
College — 45 percent
High school — 33 percent
Junior college — 10 percent
Post graduate — 9 percent
Grade school — 3 percent

Music taste:
Classic rock — 27 percent
Metal — 16 percent
Adult contemporary — 8 percent
Country/western — 6 percent
Classical — 4 percent
Rap/hip-hop — 2 percent

Own a computer: 77 percent

Use the Internet: 86 percent

Own a home video game system: 68 percent

Yikes. The thing to remember, however, is that these are the folks who *chose* to respond to a survey that most likely came out of Previews, which the catalog Diamond sells through the comic shops that highlight comics releases in two months time. So, the results are skewed. You only get the folks who buy Previews from their comic shop and choose to respond--meaning all of those kids buying manga from Borders aren't being counted. I bought Previews religiously when I was in high school, but thanks to Chicago Comics stacking them around the corner from the sales desk, I don't even think about it anymore. I don't think this is representative of comics readers as much as it is representative of the average comic book store shopper.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Sweet-Ass Saucy 'Stache

Jill took the picture:

Jen Echo and I wrote the story:

The place is the Powerhouse Gym on Michigan Avenue, in Chicago, that windiest of Windy Cities. The time is five minutes from NOW.

Franklin Delano Mustache had just finished working out, a little running on the NordicTrack, a little dipping in the pool, and he was toweling himself down following a locker room shower when his gaze lingered, a little too long, on a fellow fitness enthusiast. The FEE wasn’t fazed by the stare, he was used to it by now; he was buff, he was tan, he was a good-looking man. It was the way Mr. Mustache licked his, well, mustache, that made him bristle. The FEE glared at MM and moved to another corner of the locker room.

Mr. Mustache sighed. Not everyday is your day, he thought to himself. He hastily gathered his things, tucked in his shirt, and headed outside for the train.

Walking to the red line, Mr. Mustache’s march was interrupted by exiting wedding receptors, happily leaving a nearby church. They left joy, confetti, and a disposable camera in their wake. Mr. Mustache, being one part frugal and two parts curious, picked up the camera, intent on spending the remaining shots if only to see what was captured before.

He continued to the train. The swoosh of the train doors blew a breeze against his exposed leg hairs,, thus reminding him of his state of almost-undress—Mr. Mustache had forgotten to change out of his workout shorts. This tiny, yet drastic, change in his everyday dress sent his mind reeling. Mr. Mustache was a mustache man, to be sure, but he was also solidly a pants man. It was not like him to be found naked from the thighs to the ankles. Being so, half-dressed, on a public transport train, with a half-used camera that wasn’t really his, with a locker room fantasy still on his mind . . . he felt freer, freest, free!

On any other day he might have spent the remaining shots of the camera on squirrels or trees or bowls of fruit. But today, he was someone else, someone new, someone daring. Though not invisible, he was certainly in disguise, free to behave in ways he normally would not. He looked around at his fellow passengers, all beautiful people, traveling who-knew-where on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. He snapped a photograph of a pretty girl, he smiled and winked at her. She laughed, and snapped a picture right back.

The train pulled into the Belmont station and his mind cannot stop the whir-click-working at the possibilities that might await him in the busy street below. He fought his way through the crowd, taking a few more photographs of smiles and uneasy glances, squeezed his way past fellow travelers and fellow lovers of the world. He gave them a nod and an arch of his eyebrows, and they tipped their caps right back. Adventure was before him and his pants were far, far behind.
Through the turnstile and onto the sidewalk, Mr. Mustache looked down to admire his impressive shorts. GASP! He lifted the billow of his shirt to take a self-portrait from the waist down. He stroked his ‘stache with self-satisfaction and proceeded down Belmont with a gait so light some might say he was skipping. With each block east he felt less conspicuous and a little sassier. Click, advance, click, advance, so many pretty things, the least of which was he. He was late for a rendezvous at Stella’s with a hunk of a man who adored Mr. Mustache’s Canadian status.

But first thing’s first, thought Mr.—no, no, Monsieur Mustache, and he made a sudden right into an overpriced studio on Barry. He had three shots left in his camera and an itch that needed scratchin’.
Mssr. Mustache stepped into the studio, the sunlight framing him from behind. Lawrence was working the studio today after taking three weeks off for a full-body wax. He was smooth, he was slippery, he was ready to wriggle into MM’s life.

“Everybody out,” Lawrence said. “We’re closing early today.”

MM winked, and a slow smile crept over his face.

Twenty minutes later, MM stepped back into the sun, relaxed and with a fresh camera in his hands. Maybe he would come back in an hour to pick up the developed film; maybe he would follow the sun and keep on traveling. He had to get to Stella’s, after all, to prove he was from the Great White North.

A skate rat teen sped by, sneering into his headphones, and MM spun around, karate-chopping the melancholy youth in-between the shoulder blades. The rat fell to the sidewalk and MM hopped onto his skateboard, tossing him a grin in return. MM dash-dash-dashed away, and he was fast-fast-fast. The rat looked up, upset at first, and understandably so; but who could stay angry in the face of such a delightful get-away bum? The rat couldn’t help but smile and give Monsieur the thumb’s up.

MM sped on, wishing only that spandex had pockets so that he might find a roll of Mentos (The Fresh Maker!) to prepare for his meeting. He thought of the ad that had brought him speeding this way in the first place:

SWGM seeking French Canadian to lament the new DeGrassi High and revere the old, to cheer the Leafs, to recite fave Kids skits and hum the theme. To debate the merits of Ted Koppel and to contemplate how Mounties are different from Troopers. Are you him? Call me.

Was there anyone more fitting than Mssr. Mustache himself? Certainly not!

Ditching the skateboard, MM walked into Stella’s and immediately saw trouble. Decked in acid-washed short-shorts and a Bryan Adams tee, SWGM was flapping his arms wildly from a table near the kitchen.

Surely everyone deserves at least one chance, thought MM.

“L’agenouillement vers le bas avant moi et sucent mon penis,” said his would-be suitor.

It was clear to MM that SWGM had simply stumbled upon an internet language translator and hoped it would be enough to fool a true French-Canadian.

What a disappointment, thought MM.

All the same, MM smiled and settled in for a drink. He lived up to MM’s expectations, but could climb no higher. The discussed DeGrassi, the Kids, and Ted Koppel’s piece; but it was dry and lifeless, lacking the sweat and vitality implied in the late-night IM conversations that had preceded their face-to-face. The night seemed to be heading where so many had before: plenty of liquor, lights-off man-groping, and a changed screen name in the morning.

Maybe for the old MM, he thought. But this time, things are different.

The good Monsieur excused himself to the washroom, smiling politely and declining the Fake French-Canadian’s offer to join him. MM wasted no time in wriggling out of the bathroom window and lowering himself to the alley below. He was dusting himself off when he heard a strong, deep voice from the street.

“What’s this? Skipping out on the bill?”

MM looked to the gaping mouth of the alley and saw a magnificent beast; well, two. A police officer mounted on horseback, both with rippling muscles hidden under brown fur. The cop’s chest hair burst in a triangle from the neck of his shirt, his thick arms covered in more hair than Robin Williams. The cop had a mustache too, one to rival MM’s own, one that hid his upper lip and tickled his lower.

I wonder what else that mustache has tickled, thought MM.

MM scanned the alley and found his reflection in the shards of a broken mirror. Not looking for a repeat of his locker room disappointment, MM made certain his face did not betray his own desire to be tickled.

“Well, what’s the story?” demanded the officer, dismounting and entering the alley himself.

MM curled his toes tightly in his shoes, concentrating on their tightening and not the officer’s luscious ‘stache. “Officer, this is not what it seems.”

“Oh,” said the officer. “Really?” The officer stepped closer, leaving MM quite literally between a rock and a hard place.

“No sir,” said MM. “My only debt is to karma, as I must have done something awful to have a blind date with some do-it-yourself French dude with a Canadian jones. Leave through the front door, he might follow; leave through the back, I start with a clean karma slate.”

MM closed his eyes. The officer stepped closer and MM’s toes curled tighter. MM was sure his face was being tickled by a triangle of angelic hair. The shattered mirror was no longer in view, but MM found himself wetting his own mustache and he knew his face must have by now betrayed his thoughts. He blinked his eyes quickly open and the cop was there, he was oh-so-right-there, smiling and nodding, with a hand on his nightstick.

MM closed his eyes again; the mystery sparkles danced on his eyelids and the butterflies tingled in his stomach. He heard a throbbing, he felt it, in his tummy. It moved up past his heart (through his heart), into his throat, filling up his brain. It moved down, too, into his toes, making them uncurl, making them wiggle and giggle and tap. The sparkles behind his eyes grew brighter, moved faster, and his knees grew weak and became liquid. He fell backwards, panicking but unable to open his eyes, and he was afraid he would crack his skull against the brick wall. But he didn’t crack his skull against the brick wall. He fell backwards and he swirled around the air rushed this way and that and the throbbing grew stronger and he could fee the rhythm beneath the soles of his feet, beneath the soul of himself. The bass throbbed, and the hi-hat opened, and the synth broke glass, and the guitar, oh my god, that guitar sang and shook the whole world down.

Mssr. Mustache opened his eyes and the cop was before him, whirling and twirling fist over fist, wearing tiny shorts that bulged in the middle, with hairy legs and bulky black boots, a tight, tight blue shirt, mirrored sunglasses and a shiny white helmet. The lights were dim and rainbow and fog drifted from he didn’t know where, and the air was heavy with sweat and lust and danger and fever. The space was crowded with men who were dancing and shaking their hips and smiling and clapping to the beat. Mssr. Mustache smiled too and he gave in to the rhythm, gave in to the fun and to the unknown of it all, and he clapped his hands and he clapped the cop’s hands, and he thanked himself for getting on that train, for climbing out of that window, and for closing his eyes, and for opening them again and for hearing that music.

He smiled and he laughed and he clapped his hands again. He shook his hips and he shook his ass and he wiggled his toes some more. He spun and he danced, and he danced, and he danced all night.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

More Kids and Comics

I used to talk about comics with Jill and more than once we said it was strange that I was into them at all, since they seem to be a medium that for the most part passed up kids my age. I mean, folks my age knew what they were, and some even had them as a kid, but I was the only kid at my school who went to the comic shop every Wednesday to load up on new books. Well, once I knew there were such things as comic shops, anyway. Before that, I went to Waldenbooks at Eastgate Mall and raided the rack.

But it's not so strange when you look into it. I was into comics because my brother was into comics. My brother is ten years older than me, so he was a kid in the late 70's and early 80's. The first comic book I remember owning was a copy of Green Lantern he gave to me. The first one I remember buying was an Alpha Flight I picked up on a trip to Waldenbooks with him. He was the one who introduced me Don Parker's Records and Comics, the first comics specialty shop I'd ever been to. We used to trade comics with each other, and I'm pretty sure he always came out ahead on those deals. But I was into comics because he was, and I was into Marvel comics because he was. I kept my comics in a footlocker, because he did too. I started buying white longboxes after he did. I started bagging my comics because he showed me how to get the comics into the bags without the tape getting stuck to them.

He joined the Navy and moved to Florida when he was 20, so my comics interests were left to evolve on their own after that. I got into DC/Vertigo books and indie titles like BONE and MADMAN. I picked up the SPX anthologies and started to recognize names like James Kochalka and Alex Robinson. I found SIN CITY and FROM HELL. As a teenager I wrote my own comic book sagas, plotting out a 300-issue superhero epic and re-imagining the Death of Superman as if I'd thought of it on my own, acting out key scenes with G.I. Joe figures. I didn't really find other people who were into comics until I was in my 20's, and even then it wasn't quite the same thing. I like superheroes, but I don't read about them anymore. But I still think about them, and what they mean and where they're going, and where comics are going as a medium and an art form and an industry. Jill and I used to talk about kids and comics and whether they were reading them or not.

I went to Borders the other day because they're having a manga/graphic novel sale. I don't know if you've looked at the comics section of your local chain bookstore lately, but it's pretty interesting. At the one closest to my house they have two sections of superhero and "literary" Western comics, and about twice that of manga. A crowd of kids descended on the manga while I was looking at the Other Stuff and they were talking excitedly about the new books that were out in their series. A lot of manga titles stretch on for five, ten, twenty volumes, each at between ten and twenty dollars apiece, and kids and teenagers are the ones buying them. And they're buying them from bookstores like Borders, not from the local comics shop. And when I say kids, I mean girls too--the particular group I saw was made up of three girls and one boy.

I think about the people creating comics a lot. Mainstream comics, sold at the comics shops, are still peddling 24 page pamphlets, still about superheros, still written by grown white men. The difference between now and when my brother was growing up is that they're now being bought by grown white men, too. The same dude who followed the adventures of Batman and Robin when he was 13 is still buying them now that he's 33. But they're still being written as if a 13-year-old is reading it--it's curious and it's maddening and it used to make me wonder what would happen to comics in ten or twenty years, when the current audience moves or runs out of cash or dies off.

But in that bookstore the other day I figured out that ten years from now, the people writing and drawing comics will be drawing from a different model than creators my age or my brother's age. They'll have grown up on manga and trade collections and comics sold in bookstores and not comics shops. They'll be open to more possibilities of what comics can be and have been and they won't be as limited by format as the superhero folks are. I'm excited to see how their reading tastes evolve. I bet they'll move to the stuff non-comics publishers are putting out, like PERSEPOLIS and IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS from Pantheon, or publishers like Top Shelf who specialize in trades. I'm interested in who they'll be pitching their own stories to, since the comics they're growing up on are mostly imports from Japan. But I'm sure it'll work itself out, and I'm kind of excited to see the work they produce.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Zombies Are Forever

Dateline: Crawfordsville!

I spent a day and a half in Indiana helping The Knife and Miss Kitten Foy make their zombie movie. I suggested the title "Zombies Are Forever," but it was politely ignored. I also suggested "Zombies Don't Wear Diamonds," which I stole from Jen K's mom, but this was also smiled at and forgotten. These people, they have no vision.

Okay, so they actually have lots and lots of vision. The Knife ran a tight ship, making sure everything was done and taken care of, hanging up pig posters:

Laying down sheets:

And applying makeup:

While The Foy gave instructions to The Cast:

And we got out of the way and let the zombies do what zombies do best. Which is walk into corn.

I also learned that horseplay is not allowed at the Skate Corral. And I had the most meaningful and pleasant conversation I've ever had with a two-year old, while his parents were being zombies under sheets.

We discussed the Army, why we both like ice in our drinks, and how neither of us knew how to roller skate. Such a polite young man.

And the parents! The parents really come through in Crawfordsville. Clothes, skating rinks, graveyards, altars--they know how to deliver, folks. That's quite a support network.

Crawfordsville: A Good Place For Zombies . . .

. . . and A Good Place For Nappin'.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004