Thursday, March 31, 2005

50 in 05: Miniature Sulk

#11: Miniature Sulk, by Jeffrey Brown. If you're looking for The Next Jeffrey Brown Book, this is not it. SULK is a collection of stories that seem to be about Jeff's childhood and current relationship with his brother(s) and his family, but unrequited crushes quickly turn up, and then it turns into what looks like a collection of his sketchbook material. There are a few comic strip-ish short bits, including two panels featuring "Sensitive Guy" that I thought were really funny--Sensitive Guy stops a girl about to unbuckles his pants because he's written her a poem--but overall, it seems like the Top Shelf folks were just filling up pages on this one. I don't mind collections of miscellany at all, but this one seems extra unorganized, especially towards the end. The funniest bits are those that are most surprising--Jeffrey Brown diving out of the sky to knife his arch-enemy, for example--but I was really hoping this book wouldn't turn into Brown's comic book alter-ego pining after girls who don't love him. "Clumsy" and "Unlikely" are already prime examples of that--I'd much rather see more strips about Jeffrey growing up with his kung-fu brother.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Ain't It Cool reports that Thomas Hayden Church, he of SIDEWAYS, will be playing Sandman in the next Spider-Man picture. I always liked Sandman--I hope he wears that green shirt. And I have a soft spot for THC, as well--and it's a lot better than the earlier rumor that Venom was going to be the SM3 villain.

Heidi has a side-by-side comparison at the Beat.

RQL needs blood of the living to survive

Hello All,

Some of you might have heard of Real Quick-Like before--it's a fiction zine I'm helping my pal Annie D put together. We put out the call for short works of fiction written for the theme "Last to See Them Alive" and we have the 8-or-so pieces we want to use for the first issue--now what we need are black and white illustrations to accompany them.

RQL is going to be printed and distributed by us, sold in places around Chicago like Quimby's and Chicago Comics. It will go out to other cities depending on where we know people--so if you're interested in taking a stack to your local book/record/comic shop, let us know. No one is making any money on the project, but it gives us a chance to put out something we're all proud of for other folks to see.

So if you're interested in drawing a one-page black and white illustration for our first issue, and if you have the time to do it in the month and a half or so, please let me know--we want an illustration to accompany each story, and I'd love to get a story in your hands to inspire you as soon as possible. And if you know anyone else who would be interested, send them my way as well.

Your friend in the small press,
Matthew Jent

Friday, March 25, 2005


I don't trust it. It kind of creeps me out--from what I understand (and when it comes to the interweb, I understand very little), some sort of microscopic internet spirit who lives in the sky will kindly allow me to see advertisements based on the content of the email I send and receive. Not to worry, however, for said email is entirely, 100% safe, secure, and private.

Er. Right then.

However! Gmail storage is ridiculously large, so when my pal Jodi (let's hear it for Nashville!) sent me a Gmail invitation, I happily accepted. I like it a lot better than hotmail for my junk mail, giving-out-of-my-email-on-websites, and things of that sort. All of this is to say, if anyone else wants a gmail account, let me know--I seem to have 50 invitations I can send out. Drop me a note at if you're interested. But if you just want to tell me how much you like me, show me pictures of your boobies, or tell me secrets about your boy/girlfriends, keep using the old one.

50 in 05: SPX 2004

#10: SPX 2004: War!, edited by Greg Bennett, Charles Brownstein, and Chris Pitzer. Usually I'm right on top of the SPX collections--they're published in conjunction with the Small Press Expo every year and they showcase new and indie comics folks. But somehow this one slipped past me, so I finally picked it up as part of Top Shelf's big sale a while back. So that means it's been two years since I picked up an SPX anthology, so one of two things has happened--my tastes are evolving, or the SPX gang put together a very, very sub-par book last year. Or maybe the contributors to this volume fell victim to the idea that writing is easy--of the 27 stories, only three have a writer AND an artist, and it shows. Now, I'm not writer-snob--some folks get by just fine without a collaborator, and some are better than those who only write. art spiegleman, Frank Miller, Carla Speed McNeil--none of them, however, are in this book. I read it in a day and most of the entries were poorly thought out, amateurish morality tales.

The theme for 2004 was "War," so we got things like an Asian couple sneaking across the border into Wisconsin--"Patriot Act Free Since 2006!" and an American pilot surprised at how much he liked a Serbian man, in spite of following orders to drop bombs on the man's country. Nothing new or poetic here.

The stand outs were few--"Building It Up Just To Tear It Down" by Alex Lukas, about the construction and deconstruction of the railroads before and during the Civil War was one. My personal favorite was "The Holy Kingdom," by Bruce Mutard, concerning a Christian soldier rethinking his place in the Crusades in 1191. I got the sense that it was a piece of a larger work, and I hope it finds its way to the reading public someday soon. I'm not sure if SPX 2005 is available yet, but if it's no better than 2004, and this anthology is truly a barometer for the work being done in the alternative comics scene, indie comics might be in for a rough patch for the next few years--until the folks currently being influenced by manga start putting out work.

50 in 05: The Bell Jar

#9: The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath. What the shit? How did this one get away from me for so long? Where were you, my trusty readers, a few months back when I was looking for female coming-of-age stories? Well, in case y'all didn't know, Sylvia Plath is really funny. This was on my reading list for a class on Autobiographical Fiction, and being a class full of writer-types, you'd be surprised at how much of the conversation was stuck in "she writes very accurately about depression" mode. One fella even said that the depressed tend to see the world very objectively, since they know they can't change anything. He also has chronic stomach problems.

I'm not a big fan of poetry, you know? I like a few poets--I like listening to Saul Williams rather than reading him, and I like reading Raymond Carver's poems rather than watching a movie about his stories. I haven't read any of Sylvia's poems, but she writes a balls-out novel. It's the lack of likes that really get me--her doctor's desk is an acre, her chair is cavernous, Esther would see a tiny Alp in her eyeball after she visited Europe. It's all true and factual, the metaphors are real and not metaphors at all. I mean, they *are* metaphors, but, you know--there's a big difference between BEING and BEING LIKE, and it's of such a size you often don't see it until it's right there in front of you.

In my own work, that specific word choice signifies a certain confidence in language. I remember being in class when it first happened, when I saw the difference the absence of 'like' could make. I said, "It's making the metaphor real," and my teacher Carey said, "Yeah," and then I said, "Yeah!" and, and holy shit, man! That's magic! It carries greater weight in first-person accounts. It imbeds you deep in the perspective of who is telling the story. It's a reminder that the story is subjective, that it's a perception being reported. I like that reminder.

So, the Bell Jar: really, really good book. And if you've ever read Sylvia's journals, you know she went on a lot of blind dates. Those are really funny, too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

New Roommate

Wolf is hiding in the bathroom . . .

. . . and Lola is hiding under my bed.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Dateline: 1995!

While I'm at it, I thought it would be neat to think of the titles, ten years later, that sparked my love for comics all over again. Not that I ever really stopped, but these were the books that sent my brain spinning into completely different directions.

Dateline: 1985!

I ripped this idea off of Dean Haspiel's blog--the idea is to find the first five comics that started you down this dark, seductive path. I found all of the covers from the wonderful, which seems to have scans of every comic book cover you could possibly want.

Friday, March 11, 2005

holy CRAP, or "Let's Get Nerdy"

I found the trailer for REVENGE OF THE SITH online, and dude:

. . . I had a total nerdgasm.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

50 in 05: A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries

#8: A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, by Kaylie Jones. Kaylie Jones (I'm gritting my teeth and shaking my fist in the air as I say it)! If I was the kind of man I wish I was, I would challenge her to a duel. No pistols or anything pussy like that--well, maybe knives--but I was thinking a bare-knuckle knock-down fist fight. On the one hand, she writes a novel--and when I say novel I'm thinking "novel," because she might as well have just written a damn fine "creative memoir," and in the process justified her father's mixing of fact and fiction (that's novelist James Jones, he of the Thin Red Line and From Here to Eternity)--and in fact, add that to the list of reasons I want to fight her--but anyway, she wrote a novel that features one of the most honest and American of American families I've ever seen in fiction. Thank god she added a new chapter in "Mother's Day," as it's the only thing that redeems her mother from the last third of the book, and also serves to foreshadow the inherent forgiveness Channe feels for her mother in "Citizenship."

The awkwardness of pre-sex in "The House in the Tree" is a mate for "Human Development," in which we meet Francis, the perfect boy at the perfect time for Channe. And "Diary," though at first it feels like an awkward way to end a novel, explains a few things, biologically speaking, about the emotional capacity of the Billy formerly known as Benoit. And, for the record, I actually like the ending a lot, awkwardness and all.

Now, on the other hand: if Bill Willis, he-man tough guy writer, shed one more single, solitary tear--staring straight ahead, his face otherwise emotionless--I would have grown a beard and moved into the mountains, never to read another word again. My companions would have been the wolves, who have no word for "melodrama" in their language.

I ask you to consider: the same pen that wrote, "I sat at the edge of the his bed in darkness as I had so many nights as a child. I tried to start out calmly but no words would comoe, just tears, hot ones smelling like vodka," also wrote, as Bill Willis discusses a broken Roman amorhpa, "'Those worms are so old the sea turned them into part of the clay.' He said this without emotion, although a tear, which he ignored, dropped out of his eye." I ask myself why Kaylie Jones, who is surely my arch-foe, and who displays such wonderful instincts elsewhere in the novel, makes this choice. Another scene like this, where Bill sheds a solitary tear over the memory of a Japanese soldier he murdered, turns what is a fascinating and real portrayal of a lost father inot a caricature of a tough guy with a tender guy inside.

Another affront: bubbling below the surface of this novel is the idea of a girl and her adopted brother, a girl who readily admits to being flirtatious and sexually curious--yet this taboo of incest is skirted around, ignored as easily as a giant, man-eating bear in the living room. Channe and her brother "had never even kissed," Kaylie tells us. Janet No. One, a schoolmate of Channe's, spreads rumors that Channe and Billy slept together. Channe encounters a surrogate boy Billy's age in a treehouse to experiment with, explore, and eventually despise. Billy might as well be asexual for the lack of development he displays as the novel charts Channe's progress from childhood to her late-20's. But what is most interesting is this--Billy's biological mother, according to her diary, is impregnated by her cousin (by marriage), even though they never had sex. They laid down together and she felt a hot spurt on her thigh. Channe and Billy shared a bed many times but never, as my memory serves, is there a mention of them touching, in any way. It's a decidedly absent detail. The whole matter is this gian LUMP under the carpet, talked around and occasionally glanced at uncomfortably.

If Kaylie Jones was my friend, I would ask her: How? Why? How can you dance what could be a beautiful, uncomfortable, dramatic moment when this subject is broached? And if she couldn't answer, if she didn't answer, that is when Kaylie Jones would become my enemy.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Supergod of Longevity, parts one and two

Dorothy was a waitress at the Promenade, working the night shift in an all-night joint that played jazz and played host to lonely souls, or souls ready to make a change. She had hair that was blonde, black at the roots, and her customers liked it that way. She was tall and she had a smirk her customers liked, too. She made a good living on tips. Nelson sat at her tables a few times a week; he was a man with slicked back hair and a thin mustache, but he made it work. His suit was rumpled and not dark enough to get anyone’s attention

“Gimme a fruit cocktail, I ain’t too hungry,” he said.

Dorothy smiled. “Sounds like a real man to me.”

She shimmied away and Nelson watched her hips (dear god, he loved her hips) and he couldn’t tell if she was joking or not. She came back with a fruit cocktail, placed it in front of him on a violet napkin, and winked.

“You come here a lot,” she said.

“I come here sometimes,” said Nelson. “You work here a lot.” Nelson tried to grin, but he was afraid it looked fake and he let it drop.

“Well. Grin if you need anything,” Dorothy said.

Nelson grinned and couldn’t help it, and Dorothy grinned right back. Nelson watched her while she worked, listening to the band. He smiled from time to time, not a full-fledged grin, but his smile dropped when he heard her three tables over, saying, “Grin you need anything.”

Nelson ordered a shot and left before she brought it.

Two nights later (maybe three), Nelson met Trick. Nelson had entered and sat in a table across the bar, away from Dorothy’s section, and he noticed Trick at Nelson’s own usual table. Trick was dressed in gold. It sounds like a joke, but it’s true—gold shoes, sparkly trousers, a jacket and bow-tie that glittered. He had angel dust on his face that sparkled, even in the half-light of the Promenade, and he winked at Nelson when he caught him staring.

Nelson frowned and puckered his face, at Trick and the liquor he’d ordered. “Give me something nasty,” he’d told the waitress, the one with brown hair and eyes Nelson didn’t bother appraising. “What?” she’d said, looking him square in the rumpled suit, and he’d only waved her away disapprovingly. She brought something brown and thick and when Nelson drank it he swallowed fast to keep from gagging.

Every few minutes he looked up to see Trick, whose name he did not yet know, and from time to time Trick looked back and winked. Whenever Dorothy approached Trick’s table, which was often, Trick had a hand on her hip and looked up at her, smiling and laughing. Dorothy did the same, smiling and laughing, touching Trick on the golden shoulder with her fingertips. Dorothy wore rings, four on her right hand, three on her left, the space for a wedding ring left absent. Nelson checked that every time he went to the Promenade, his eyes tracing the white of her cuticles past her knuckles to the space for a ring. He checked it whenever he could, that space. That’s what he focused on when he see her with Trick, when she delivered Trick’s wine and his shots and returned his glasses. Dorothy walked away from Trick, and Trick winked again at Nelson. He’d never seen this man before, but here he was, bathed in gold, Dorothy’s fingernails painting him with love.

Nelson raised his hand and snapped. The shadow of a waitress fell over him and Nelson didn’t bother looking up.

“Sumthin’ nassier,” Nelson said.

“I don’t know what that means,” the shadow of a waitress said.

Nelson turned to look at her. “Some-thing, nast-ee-ur,” he said, his eyes on the bags under her own.

She might have laughed, but Nelson wasn’t sure. He closed his eyes to keep the room from spinning.

“Nastier than what?” she said.

“That stanky ass cootch you got unner your--”

She slapped him and Nelson fell out of his chair. By the time his eyes opened he was in an alley, vomit on his chest, and he almost hoped it was his own.

* * * * *

I make no apologies baby, and you might as well print that on my gravestone. Not that I’m ever dyin’, because bitch, I’ll be too busy flyin’. My name is Trick, honey, and once I enter the room you won’t remember how drab your life was before I got there.

Now, I was eyeing this boy Nelson, the one with the nappy hair just dyin’ to be set free from whatever potion was keeping it in place, because I could tell he wasn’t quite at the bottom of his barrel. That’s when I like ‘em, right before they hit it. Cuz once they hit it, they gots nowhere to go but up—that’s when they start getting’ their shit together, and they take one look at Trick and know they gots to go the other way. So Trick (and that’s me baby, don’t be confused by the syntax) knows to grab ‘em when they think they hit the rocks, but in fact they still fallin’.

Well, Nelly, he was fallin’, and fast. I was eyein’ him with the intent to move in, and soon, and poor bitch-ass fool got hisself thrown outta the goddamn bar. Now, how the shit you get thrown outta Promenade? Well, in this case, it’s tellin’ Marmalade Maggie she got a smelly ol’ cooter, I guess, but fine. It makes my job different than I expected, but no harder. Like I says, Nelly was fallin’ fast. He was over there eyeballin’ me and thinkin’ I was mackin’ on his favorite waitress (and I was, but only because I don’t know no other way to talk to no ho), when in fact I was getting’ the digs on his own self. Askin’ that girl what was up with this boy, why he lookin’ so horse faced, whether or not she got the butter for his muffin.

“He’s attractive,” she done told me, “but I’m not attracted to him. He’s too sad.”

“Ooh, girl, everyone’s sad once in a while. Maybe you’s the one to perk him up.”

“Maybe you’re the one to perk him up,” she told me, but she done blushed when she did it. “Why are so interested in Nelson, anyway?”

(And that’s how I figured his name, see it? Tricks is Tricky, baby girl.)

“I’m a cupid swathed in gold,” I told her, and I held my arms out like Jesus done did when they hammered ‘em. But I fluttered my eyelids, and if there’d be any Romans in the Promenade, I’da converted ‘em over and over again.

But I digress. Girl, don’t even let me get on like that. I paid up my bill and I even paid down his, and Dorothy, she look at me funny for that one, but I just touched her on the arm and tell her I got a soft spot for alley cats. She laughed and told me I was a softie. I almost told her, “Not since I was ‘leven, baby,” but figgered I’d just put that one in my pocket and save it for later. I gots work to do.

I left out front, then swung around the side, through the alleyway. Contrary to popular belief, now, Mama Trick don’t mind gettin’ his feet muddied up when his baby birds is squawkin’. I stomped through the mud and piss and shits of that alley, knowin’ all the while that as soon as I got back home them pants was goin’ in the furnace. I stood over that unconscious, puke-stained man, and I knew there wasn’t much ol’ Trick could do to wake him up from wheresever he was. Not much, but a thing or two.

So, speakin’ of thangs, I unzipped my drawers and pulled mine out. Uncoiled it, unrolled it, stood on my tippies to keep it from brushin’ the stank as ground. I didn’t aim it at the poor bitch’s face, naw, just to the side, is all. I let him hear the spatter right in his ear, let the spatter go spatter on his face a time or two. A drop on his eyelid, a drop on that rotten-ass ‘stache of his, and shit baby, I don’t even feel bad about that one. That thing needed to go anyway. His eyeballs flittered and fluttered and his lips quivered and quavered and he blinked open just in time to see god, that is, my thang, being roped back up and put into stable. There was a twinkle in his eye, just a flutter of seein’ somethin’ greater than he be, before his throat done gurgled and his stomach done rebelled and he done puked all over hisself one more time. First time that happened to ol’ Trick, I can tell you that, some brother sickin’ on hisself at the sight of my glory, but that’s no harm. I don’t take it personal.

“Wake up, Mary,” I said. “I’m ‘bout to make you a happy man.”

Nelly said somethin’ there, but I know none what it was. I can talk drunk-speak all right, but his was drunk-speak on toppa self-pity, and pity ain’t no thing Trick knows much about. I pulled him up by his pride and put him in a cab, then sent it on to my crib. I got my own cab and followed, cuz there ain’t no way I was ridin’ in the same machine as that stanky ol’ bitch. Not Trick baby, no sir.