Thursday, May 13, 2010


I've lost 70 pounds since October, and a big part of that has been from walking. I walk every day at lunch and yesterday one of my co-workers asked me what I listened to during my walk. So, I thought this was a good opportunity to post a bunch of youtube crap to my blog just to, well. I don't know. Figure out how to do post videos to my blog. And it's worked well.

So here's a bunch of crap I listen to when I walk during lunch.

I have an 8 minute version of "Just One Fix" that is probably one of my favorite walking songs, particularly if I'm in a shitty, vengeful mood. A lot of Ministry's heavier stuff is good for this. "N.W.O." would be perfect too. Any of the stuff that kind of sounds like the marching song for an army of evil robots. So. Yeah. Just about anything by Ministry.

The next two songs are proof that I have grown woefully ignorant of the music scene and so am forced to find a lot of my music in commercials.

A lot of my walking songs are Killers songs. They're my new favorite group, and will remain that way until I listen to all of their songs over and over and over again, grow bored, and hate them.

Speaking of which...

"I Hate Myself and I Want To Die" does not sound like it would lend itself well to positive activity, but it's got a nice beat for walking. Steady and hard. And there's really no way for me to talk about this without sounding like I'm talking about something else, is there?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Superhero movies

At Attentiondeficitdisorderly, Sean Collins summed up his thoughts on various superhero movies in a single paragraph. I thought that was pretty cool. So I'm stealing from him a little bit. Though I don't think I'll be as succinct.

Like Sean, I loved Burton's Batman. I saw it 8 times in the theater. I think Batman Returns gets a bad rap and both Batman Forever and Batman and Robin are crap.

I think Sean's complaints about Batman Begins are valid, but I still think overall it was a great flick. The Dark Knight was definitely the better of the two, and to date the best superhero film ever made. Ledger's portrayal of the Joker was wonderful. I would agree with a lot of naysayers who claim Ledger would never have won the Oscar if he hadn't died, however I still think he would have deserved it. He wouldn't have won it because it was a superhero movie. His death made that less of an issue.

I wrote at length about my opinion on Incredible Hulk and Ang Lee's Hulk at TWC, but briefly, I think they were both good for different reasons. I think Hulk gets a bad rap. It was a failure, but it was a failure because Lee had grander goals than most directors making superhero flicks.

Blade is a great, fun movie with really fantastic fight scenes that didn't take itself too seriously. I thought a lot of the first film's sense of humor was lost in Blade 2, and never bothered with Blade 3.

Fantastic Four didn't feel anything like the FF I know. It felt like just another superhero flick. I never saw the second movie.

Of the Superman films, my favorite is still Superman II. I liked Superman Returns and didn't seem to have a lot of the problems other people had with it. I really appreciated how Singer continued the storyline of the older films. I think the nostalgia factor went a long way for me.

I liked X-Men and X-Men 2, but if I think about either too much, the plots fall apart. I actually liked X-Men 3 the first time I saw it. It felt more like the comics in some ways. For example, Wolverine wasn't always the central character and you got a stronger sense of the complexity of the relationship between Xavier and Magneto. But on further viewing, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I haven't seen the origins Wolverine thing and probably never will unless someone pops it in the DVD player while I'm not looking.

I liked Hancock. Didn't love it, but I liked it.

I didn't like Daredevil, but didn't passionately hate it either. I simply didn't expect much from it and my expectations were met. I've never seen Ghost Rider, but I've never managed to enjoy the comic, so I don't know why I would bother. I never have, and probably never will, bother with any of the Punisher flicks. I never saw Elektra. I felt very meh about Hellboy and never saw the sequel. I dug Mystery Men, and particularly enjoyed Geoffrey Rush and Greg Kinnear. Incredibles is a good, fun flick and I'm surprised they've never made a sequel. I think I liked Blankman, but I haven't seen it in years. I loved Unbreakable and never really understood why so many people hated it. A lot complain that they guessed the "surprise ending," but it wasn't a whodunnit, so who cares? I guessed who the killer was in Mystic River in the first 10 minutes and I still liked the rest of the movie.

I thought Watchmen was frustratingly stupid and that the director had no clue what his source material was beyond "superheroes who swear and are all violent and shit."

Spider-Man was good, Spider-Man 2 was better, Spider-Man 3 was ridiculous.

Iron Man was one of the best and I find it wonderfully ironic that one of the most critically and financially successful film properties from the comic book movie craze is a character who, until Civil War came around, most people had stopped caring about ages ago. Haven't seen Iron Man 2 yet. I'm hoping to wait a few weeks and miss the crowds.

Did I forget anything?

Review: Mouse Guard, Vol. 1: Fall 1152

Mouse Guard, Vol. 1: Fall 1152
By David Petersen
Published by Archaia Comics. $24.95 US
Collects Mouse Guard #1-#6

Mouse Guard previews started showing up online a few days after my decision to permanently forgo single issues of comics for their (usually) more affordable trade collections (this was sometime around 2006 or 2007 if memory serves), and those previews made me feel like a freshly-quit ex-smoker walking through a lunchtime huddle of co-workers still on the death sticks. I've never gravitated towards talking animal comics, but the Mouse Guard preview pics immediately drew me in. It looked like the animals from a children's picture book transplanted into Middle Earth. And somehow, rather than appearing silly, the mice in the pictures looked as noble and brave as any of Tolkien's diminutive adventurers. Mouse Guard tempted me to forget my new resolve. Sure, I could wait for the trade, but it wasn't a Marvel or DC book. As far as I knew, there was no guarantee the thing would ever get collected. I'm fairly certain that at that point even Marvel was still fairly selective about what it would reprint in trades and what would be forgotten in quarter bins.

Unfortunately, as you might imagine, there have been quite a few books over the years that made my mental "wait for the trade" list. I expect there are, and will continue to be, many victims of this list and Mouse Guard was one of them until I spotted the hardcover edition of Mouse Guard, Vol. 1: Fall 1152 in the library and I suddenly remembered how badly I had wanted to read "the mouse thing with the swords."

Mouse Guard introduces its readers to a world where intelligent mice react to the dangers they face - such as the many predators the book's real world counterparts suffer - by carving cities and towns out of tree trunks and creating an elite guard, the book's namesake, to protect their people. In this first collection, the death of a grain merchant reveals a plot to overthrow the mouse government. Mouse guards Saxon, Kenzie, Lieam, and Sadie race to find the mouse traitors and stop them.

It's a wonderfully told story. It isn't a particularly complex story, but it's complex enough to keep an adult mind, or mine, engaged. While there are echoes of Tolkien, thankfully whatever inspiration Petersen takes from Lord of the Rings doesn't extend into exposition. We don't need to know the intricate mouse trade negotiations and epic mouse wars that have occurred from the dawn of mouse time until now. They're mice. They have swords. Petersen trusts us enough to let us continue with just that (though the collection does come with maps of the Mouse Territories as well as other extra info).

It's also a very well-paced story. While my main motivation for quitting single issue floppies for graphic novel collections was financial, one of the things that made the choice easier easy was how quickly I could get through your average single issue of a superhero comic in the age of decompression. But each single chapter of Mouse Guard was filling. If I had broken my floppy fast for Mouse Guard, I bet I wouldn't have minded too much.

It's particularly surprising how well Petersen renders action scenes. As I said, the book looks and feels like a children's picture book, but those swords the mice carry aren't just for show. And when you begin reading it, if you're like me, you will assume one of two things is going to happen. Either the author will avoid any real violence in the story (e.g. lots of sword duels without anyone ever actually getting cut), or the contrast between the violence and the picture book feel of the thing will make it far too grisly (one of the most quietly traumatic moments of my childhood was watching the animated adaptation of Watership Down which, among other things, features quite a few cute little bunnies ripping each other to pieces). But Petersen strikes a wonderful balance here. He doesn't shy from blood, but he doesn't splatter the pages with it. In the meantime his sword fights are some of most dynamic I've seen in comics, regardless of the fact that it's tiny rodents crossing blades.

One of the smart choices Petersen makes here is how he draws the mouse guard's predators. Two scenes feature battles between the mice and larger creatures, and what makes the predators look so scary is Petersen's choice to draw them realistically. When the mouse guard fights a snake, it looks like a snake. He doesn't exaggerate the renderings at all. If Petersen were asked to draw a snake for a science book for children, you wouldn't expect a rendering any more realistic or specific. And somehow that makes the snake scarier than the kind of cartoon monsters any comic book reader is used to.

If I have any complaints with the book, they're minor. I occasionally had difficulty remembering which mouse was which, because for the most part the different heroes are distinguishable only by their different colored fur and capes, but it was never enough to derail my immersion.

Overall, a wonderful book that I would recommend to just about anyone. Upon finishing it, I was psyched to learn the property has spawned two new series: Mouse Guard, Vol. 2: Winter 1152 and the anthology series still being released in single issue form, Legends of the Guard.

By the way, while I'm not really comfortable giving people advice about what is and isn't appropriate for children I don't have the responsibility of raising, I think it's fair to say if you're comfortable with your kids seeing Avatar, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptations, or just about any live-action Marvel Comics or DC Comics adaptation, I doubt you would have a problem with your kids reading Mouse Guard.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

This bothers me

This bothers me.

To sum up, if you don't feel like clicking the link, it concerns a supposed correlation between smoking and writing.

I quit smoking last March. I still count the days. An ASPCA calendar hangs off the office door at home, each month devoted to cats or dogs or even donkeys, and I cross out every day as it passes with an X. Every 10th day is marked on the calendar. I think I'm somewhere between 410 and 420 days now. My cravings are weak but they're there. If I walk into a bodega, convenience store, gas station, or any other type of business bound to have at least one wall devoted to the little plastic-wrapped boxes, I know that I will experience a few moments of childish hunger, and then it will be gone. I count the days so it stays that way. It is tougher for an argument with your girlfriend or a disagreement with a co-worker to give you an excuse to buy one of those little boxes if you know exactly how many days you will ball up and toss in the garbage because of it.

Still. Like a lot of people, I worry that five years from now a doctor will find a shadow, and I'll know I butted out my final smoke 17 years too late. And because of the subject of the above-linked article, I worry about something a little absurd, I guess. I worry about not smoking.

One of my writing professors in Tampa told me about a writer he knew who quit smoking. The writer found he simply could not write without smoking. So he quit writing, too. Since hearing that story, I've worried about eventually being forced into making a similar choice. When I think about times in my life when I wrote more, and wrote on a more regular basis, I think of myself smoking.

I have this vision of myself. You probably have something like this too. It's the Me that exists once I'm writing more. It's the Me that won't exist until I'm "really" a writer. And that Me is smoking. He's typing away, the cigarette is in his mouth with the tip nodding at the monitor. He's sucking in the drags and pushing out the smoke through his nose like an angry cartoon bull. It's not a thought I manufacture. It's just there. I think of this preferable, closer-to-perfect me, and there he is. Smoking. Without any permission from me.

I understand the absurdity of it. I don't really believe that I need cigarettes to write. And while maybe I don't have proof of it, the long, smoky years I spent NOT writing before I quit should prove that smoking won't make me write. But I read that article and I remember my professor's story and I remember earlier this year reading Stephen King's On Writing and being struck by an offhand observation King makes about nicotine helping to stimulate a writer's mental synapses or something along those lines, but mostly I think about how my better, future Me won't be as strong-willed as I am, and it bothers me. It bothers me.

There are only a handful of explanations I can come up with for this supposed writing/smoking correlation.

First, there's pure advertising. Image. If you go to the blog post I linked to above, you will see a host of photographs of writers smoking (though apparently a couple of the photographed "writers" are actually actors playing writers). Few of these photographs seem spontaneous. Most seem like press photos. It doesn't seem like a friend, relative, spouse or lover just snapped away while the writer was hard at work. In most, it seems that the photos were promotional in nature and that the writers had plenty of time to consciously decide whether or not they wanted to have their moment smoking captured in time. That would seem to suggest that the writers want the world to think of them as smokers. Which says to me maybe there is no real writing/smoking correlation. Maybe it's just that smoking conveys something that writers liked being conveyed. In the days before smoking was considered as detestable as it is now, I can imagine these writers were trying to make themselves appear intellectual, but casual. A writer wants, while appearing intelligent, to not appear tightly wound. No one's going to want to read The Picture of Dorian Gray if Al Gore wrote it.

Second, there's the nature of writing. Writing involves thinking. It involves what can appear to be a lot of physical inactivity. Smoking may offer a relief to that. It is difficult to sit and truly be still. It can be very difficult to just think. Smoking may seem to be the perfect cure. It's the perfect activity. It's easier even than eating or drinking. You don't even need to get ice or silverware. There's nothing to clean up or piss out. You light a fire, breathe, and stamp it out when you're done. And now that I think about it, my memories of smoking and writing don't coincide so perfectly. I certainly smoked and typed at the same time, but I think usually if I was smoking it was when I had paused; thinking about what would come next or to look at what I already got down. Smoking while actually writing just wasn't as frequent. It couldn't be. You have to hold the cigarette in your mouth, the smoke floating from the tip bothers your eyes, without flicking the tip with your finger occasionally the ash drops right on your keyboard, and it's overall just not as pleasant an experience.

Third, it may be along the same lines of writers and coffee. Writers write. And writers don't always give a shit about sleep when they write. I think it's fair to say sometimes, if you're really into it, you just need to tell sleep to go to Hell. And cigarettes help you stay awake. I've heard different things on this, and they always seemed to contradict one another, but I think after 17 years of smoking I can safely claim that cigarettes help you stay awake.

Fourth, again, you may notice that a lot of the writers on that page had their pictures taken before the current stigma against smoking existed. My full-time job includes going to professional writers' websites every day and looking for their promotional photos, and I don't know if - after about two years of doing it - I have ever seen a promotional photo of a living writer smoking a cigarette. If I have, it couldn't have been more than once or twice, and I would guess the only writers allowing it would be authors who might think it would help their image; perhaps mystery or thriller authors trying to ape their protagonists.

I offer this to point out one thing that probably has not changed from the time the earliest of the photographs in the aforementioned blog post were taken and one thing that has changed. What probably hasn't changed all that much is that writers are poor. What has changed is the price of cigarettes. Cigarettes used to be cheap. Very cheap. I may be wrong about this, but I have a distinct memory of my mother sending me to a gas station to get her cigarettes and having no more than 75 cents in my hand. I'm willing to bet they were a good deal cheaper for Oscar Wilde and T.S. Eliot. Now, in New York State, even the generic brands are $8 a pack. And you will notice in the "Nicotine Chic" post, there are very few recent photographs.

I don't know. I have no definitive answers. If you've gotten this far, then what you've read basically amounts to a smoke-hungry writer fighting like Hell to stave off what has the potential to be the best goddamn excuse the glutton inside him needs to make him cave after a good year that wasn't so breathless.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Astro City: Confession - The Comic Book that Changed My Life

I liked this girl. She liked another guy.

It wasn't long after I returned to Albany from a brief life in San Diego. I was still too poor to move out of my parents' apartment. By that time, most of my native friends proved themselves more resistant than I to the magnet of Albany. I enjoyed exactly one group of friends when I returned and as soon as the aforementioned girl and guy were officially liking each other more than either liked me, I moved to the always uncomfortable but familiar position of wheel number five.

Ted and Mary were married. Their apartment was ground zero. Bob and Carolyn would pick me up and bring me there. They were the aforementioned girl and guy. We pounded beer shots during something that had a name like "power hour" - we drank one shot of beer every minute for a half hour. Usually, power hour was timed to coincide with Iron Chef. Ted, Mary, Bob, and Carolyn all thought Iron Chef was funny because it was stupid. I agreed with the stupid part. I had read James Clavelle's Shōgun while living in San Diego and complained that the losing Iron Chef contestants should be forced to cut open their bellies.

We were usually good and hammered by the end of Iron Chef; all except Mary who refused booze because she was pregnant. Eventually, we ordered food. Whoever we ordered from on a particular night could probably stay open two months longer because of it. With the exception of Carolyn, we were all huge. If the five of us were caught walking together, anyone who was lost and needed to find a good pizza parlor could just put their map away and follow.

By the end of the night Ted and Mary would retire to their bedroom and the rest of us found a couch or chair in the living room. Once Bob and Carolyn were a couple, Ted and Mary celebrated the union by letting them stay in the spare bedroom. That left me alone in the living room on their skinny couches.

One night, after it became clear Carolyn's gooey feelings towards Bob were upsetting me, Ted joined me out on his fire escape for a smoke. Ted was a good guy. A nice guy. I hope, whatever he's doing now, he's happy. But Ted was also something of a condescending assface. Ted thought he was a learned elder. You know the guy in a shitty movie - usually towards the end, after main character has made what is definitely a bad decision and just needs a learned elder to give him some advice that will put him back on the right path - who claps his meaty hand on the main character's back, shakes his head, chuckles, says "You know, son," and then says a bunch of useless, empty horseshit that shocks the main character out of his wrong-headedness? Sometimes it will be the kind of saying you'll read on a farmer's bumper sticker. Sometimes it will be a story. Usually, the older, learned storyteller will end the tale by flicking away a smoke or spitting somewhere as if to say "I just told you a rustic story that should change your stupid life, but I don't even care. That's how cool I am." Well, if he's alone with you and you have a penis, chances are Ted will do everything he can to let you know THAT is precisely the guy he wants to be. Yoda with a pitchfork. You know what? Fuck Ted.

So anyway, Ted came out on the fire escape to give me some advice. He told me about this story he'd read in a comic book I'd never heard of called Astro City. This dude, Michael, keeps on having dreams about the same woman. In the dreams, they're together. They're madly in love. Inseparable. The dreams seem so real that they affect Michael's real life. Michael's works suffers. His friendships suffer. His romantic life is dead. Eventually, this mystical dude named the Hanged Man visits him. The Hanged Man tells Michael he is an unfortunate victim of an epic super-battle. Time travel was involved, and while the good guys did everything they could to prevent the timestream from being corrupted, a number of people were literally wiped out of existence. They were never born. The woman Michael dreams of was such a person. They had enjoyed a life together, but now her entire existence has been rubbed off the canvas of time. Michael's dreams are all that remain of her. The Hanged Man offers Michael the only solace he can - to take away Michael's memories of his wife so he will no longer endure the dreams of a lover he can never touch. Michael refuses, choosing that he would rather remember and ache than lose what little he has left of her. As the Hanged Man is leaving, Michael calls out to him. He wants to know how everyone else who lost a loved one this way chooses. The Hanged Man tells him that no one chooses to forget. Everyone would rather bear the pain than lose the memory of who they lost.

So, basically, it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. Which Ted could have just come out and said, but he needed a story to mentally film that scene in his life movie, so he found one. Good for fucking Ted.

It fell on deaf ears, and not just because those stories - no matter how well-intentioned or poignant - always fall on deaf ears when the ears' owners are in the midst of dealing with not having what they can't have. But also because I didn't love Carolyn. I was lonely. I liked Carolyn. I liked the idea of rolling around with Carolyn. I liked the idea of maybe, one day, loving Carolyn. But I didn't love her yet.

That night after Ted and Mary went in their bedroom and Bob brought Carolyn into the other bedroom to do with her what I was wanting to do with her, I found the comic Ted told me about. Astro City: Confession.

It had been years since I read comics on a regular basis. High school drove it out of me. In my teen years, I was friendless. Comics were a solace then. I bagged up all my comics and left them out on the curb, finally deciding I had allowed them to become too much of a shelter. A crutch. If I could do it over again, I would have kept the comics, but not because of what they were worth as collectibles. I would have kept them because, yes, they were a crutch. But at the same time, I was friendless. I was hated and alone in a military, Christian, all-boys high school. Comics weren't a crutch that, as I thought, were keeping me from walking on my own two feet. Comics were a crutch I needed because my legs were broken.

In spite of Ted's assfaced attempts to teach me a made-for-TV-movie kind of lesson, the story he told me about, "The Nearness of You," was the one thing about Astro City: Confession that didn't change my life. It turned out "The Nearness of You" was a stand-alone at the very end of Confession, while the rest of the book followed the teenager Brian Kinney, and this was the story that grabbed my attention. Soon after Kinney arrives in Astro City - a metropolis thick with costumed crime-fighters - he is inducted into the world of superheroes. The dark, mysterious hero The Confessor taps Kinney to become his new sidekick: The Altar Boy. While Kinney wrestles with school, life, apprenticing as a superhero, and trying to unravel his benefactor's secrets, Astro City is buckling under the weight of supernatural serial murders, rising anti-superhero sentiment, and the usual army of supervillains a world with this many superheroes can expect to wake up to every morning.

Astro City: Confession fought off any desire for sleep. I refused to shut my eyes until I finished. Once I did, I realized what I had just experienced was something that, to me at least, was completely new. I knew, without a doubt, that the man who wrote Astro City felt for superheroes the way Ted thought I felt about Carolyn. This guy, Kurt Busiek, loved superheroes. He loved them. And not the way a lot of us loved them. The guy who wrote Astro City saw more in superheroes than those of us who screamed at each other about who would win in a fight between Hulk and Superman (Hulk). He didn't love superheroes the same way a collecting comic book miser loved superheroes. The guy who wrote Astro City loved superheroes like the stereotypical poet loved a sunset or a rose. He loved them like an astronomer loved the heavens. The guy who wrote Astro City would approve of Michael the dreamer's choice in "The Nearness of You." Like Michael, he chose to keep aching for a world of dreams than find the peace that forgetting might bring. Whereas I chose the opposite years before and left my comic book collection for the garbage men.

Astro City seemed the polar opposite of books like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. It wasn't as violent or sexually explicit, but that wasn't what really separated it. And it wasn't just that while a book like Watchmen asked the question of what superheroes would be like in the real world, Astro City asked what real people would be like in the superhero world. Astro City didn't answer those earlier, darker books and didn't try to counter them. But while the nostalgia is just as palpable in Astro City as the paranoia is in Watchmen, what truly comes through its pages is love. Busiek and Anderson find beauty in a cityscape defined by suicidal acrobats and flying supermen. They find grandeur in the dance of lightning, fire, and emerald lasers tearing through pitched battles above the besieged city. Astro City doesn't deny what Moore and Miller saw, but if it answers their works at all, it says, "Yeah, but guys, there's this, too."

I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong. But that's what I saw. That's what I see.

Astro City woke something in me. I can't lie and say everything that followed was a good idea. I dived into Ebay and started rebuilding my collection. I also had a fascination I didn't have when I was a teen - comic book memorabilia. Action figures, posters, lunch boxes, wastebaskets, plates, twisty straws, inner tubes, you name it, they had superhero themed versions of it, and I hunted it down like Tony Stark hunting down a bottle of whiskey. At one point I spent a few days away from my parents' place. I returned to find over 25 boxes of comic books and comic book memorabilia that arrived in my absence.

Eventually, I had to cut out the spending, which coincided with me cutting out the group of friends in which I was wheel number five. I was long over Carolyn and happy that her and Bob had found each other. They rented a place together and I was a frequent visitor. The problem was that I was changing. In some ways, I was changing in ways of which Bob didn't approve, mainly because it meant we didn't hang out as much. Bob was an avid collector of more things than I even know. He would briefly be passionate about collecting one particular item and then months later would move on to something else. I didn't learn the extent of this until I saw the home where he grew up. He had collections of pictures. He had collections of soda bottles. Action figures. Comic books. Perfume bottles in the shapes of antique cars. When last we spoke, he was collecting license plates. He wanted to help me with my collection too, so he would drive me all over the place looking for rare Marvel or DC themed action figures forgotten in toy store clearance bins. When I finally decided I needed to move out of my parents' place, I told Bob enough was enough. I needed to move. I couldn't spend money on action figures anymore. He kept calling to go spending. I said no. When I started losing weight, losing 30 pounds in just one month in fact, he warned me that I wasn't being healthy. I was losing weight too quickly. When he told me that, I reached under my ass, yanked the thick stack of Arby's coupons from between my butt and his passenger seat cushion, held them up to him, and asked him what his expert opinion on healthy weight loss was. It wasn't long after that that I told him, once and for all, to go do to himself what I never got to do to Carolyn. I never spoke to any of them again. I saw pictures of Bob and Carolyn on facebook a few months ago though. They have kids. They're married. I hope they're happy. And fuck them too.

My newfound love of superheroes brought me to Comic Book Galaxy, which would later lead me here, to Superheroes, etc., as well as Trouble With Comics. I made more friends. One of them helped me get my current job, which in turn made it possible to return to college.

When I returned to school, I made superheroes my guiding star. Providence was with me. Writing about pop culture was very much in style. For a Sociology of Gender course I wrote a paper about how black male superheroes were depicted in comics. My undergraduate English Honors thesis was called "I Watched Krypton Die and So Did You: How Marvel Comics Reacted to 9/11 by Trying to Make Us Heroes, and Make Its Heroes Us." When stumped on how to react to the assignment of writing a manifesto on poetry, I decided the only figure who could convey my feelings on the subject was The Riddler. I wrote the essay "Nobody Likes a Smart Ass," and talked about why it was bad to write something whose sole purpose was to prove you were smarter than everyone else.

There are other creative endeavors I've been working towards, with the procrastinating fury of a constipated turtle, since my return to college and it's safe to say they take a healthy amount of inspiration from the world of comics. We'll see if I ever get off my ass and get them done, or if I'm ever as fortunate as Kurt Busiek to show the world that, given the choice, I'd rather be dreaming.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Superheroes, etc.

Before it was left to gather dust, Superheroes, etc. was a blog about comic books. It stayed dormant for many of the same reasons other blogs do. Procrastination. Laziness. Doubt. Life. I planned to dust it off back when I started blogging regularly again with the fine folks at Trouble With Comics, but I failed to do it in part because it felt redundant to write about comics both here and at TWC.

The simple, stupidly obvious fact that occurred to me recently is that there's no good reason why Superheroes, etc. needed to be only - or even primarily - about comic books. Hell, the name says it all. I don't think I meant for it to when I first named the blog, but that little "etc." gives me a good deal of license.

A few mornings ago, in the face of writer's block and an overall creative malaise, I challenged myself to come up with a list of subjects I wanted write about and that I thought other people might want to read about. The list quickly overtook the single piece of scrap paper I allotted for the project. At lunch I forced myself to go and take my usual half-hour noon walk around downtown Albany, and this time - instead of laziness - it was the prospect of coming up with more blog topics that almost kept me from my daily stomp.

And there were plenty of topics covering comics. For some time now, I have thought of writing extensive, perhaps even in multi-part, pieces about certain comic series that left deep impressions; most notably, Lone Wolf and Cub. I started several times, but never finished, an article about comics like Empire and Wanted featuring supervillains as protagonists. Then there are all the papers I wrote in college about superhero comics which, for some reason, until now I've never even considered reproducing on the Internet.

But if you are generous enough to occasionally stop here to check out what I'm posting, you will find comics are just one of many subjects I'll be writing about. And at times the blog will seem like nothing but autobiography, with a few comic book and movie reviews here and there.

A lot of things in my life have changed recently; mostly for the better. So to celebrate the de-cobwebbing of Superheroes, etc., the first new week of the blog is going to be all about works of art that changed my life. An album that changed my life. A novel that changed my life. And to begin, this coming Monday, a comic book that changed my life.