Mourning And Night


So the Rocket City Bloggers are doing a Year Long Blogging Challenge, where there’s a prompt for each week of the year. Since I’ve been remiss in blogging lately, I missed the first three prompts, but I figured I would do something for this week’s: “What is your favorite joke/cartoon?”

If I had more time, this would have a long explanation about the history of the cartoon and an aside about the joys of collaboration. Instead, I’ll just say my friend Lain is brilliant and here’s a cartoon we did:

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Review: Troy Hickman’s Common Grounds


With Troy Hickman back on comics racks with his new series “Twilight Guardian,” I was inspired to order a trade paperback of what I recalled being his brilliant series, Common Grounds, which I had originally read in single issues as they came out.

Two things to get out of the way at the outset. The cover is horrible. I mean, as a piece of art, it’s OK, but not great. As a cover by which the Common Grounds book is being judged, it’s awful. But we’ll get back to that in a second. The other thing — you can buy a used copy of the collection for a little over a buck on Amazonwhich means you would be crazy to not. I mean, like, even if you don’t read comics; stop right now, follow that link, and order a copy.

OK? Back? Great.

Common Grounds is a brilliant comics reconstruction. Many of the noted works of the last 25 years have been comics deconstructions, taking apart the pieces of golden and silver age comics, seeing how they work, and building something dark and modern from them.

Hickman does a brilliant job loving examining the tropes and conventions that make comics work, but he then puts them back together in a way that honors, rather than diminishing, the classic feel. He’s a clever writer, approaching his stories from unexpected angles, and with the occasional surprise turn. But most of all, Common Grounds is a fun read.

From the secret struggles of a super-speedster to the reunion of two retired archrivals to the story of the Acidic Jew, Common Grounds is enjoyably fresh and greatly entertaining.

In some ways, there’s a feel to Hickman’s Common Grounds that’s not unlike Kurt Busiek’s Astro City(another must-read); there’s a similar lovingly creative approach to the classic elements of superheroes.

The other flaw with the Common Grounds trade paperback? The spine is marked with a large “Volume 1.” It’s a huge shame that it wasn’t followed up with a Volume 2.

Kinda-Review: Green Hornet (In Which I Become An Old Fuddy-Duddy)


I wanted to go see Tron again.

Heather was going out for a girls’ night with some friends, so the boys and I were having a guys’ night — dinner and a movie. There aren’t many kids’ movies out right now; and they’d pretty much seen them, except for Yogi Bear, and I do have some standards.

I’d seen Tron thrice before, and the boys had seen it twice. They’d seen Green Hornet once before, and I’d not seen it at all, and Finn really pushed for Green Hornet (because he wanted me to see it) over Tron.

I normally would have balked at the PG-13 rating — the recommended age is older than both boys put together — but their granny had already taken them, and all involved swore it wasn’t that bad. So I’m not going to be exposing them to anything they haven’t already seen. Well, OK, then, Green Hornet it is.

I should have stuck with Tron.

The thing that I’ve been wondering since then is whether it was really that reprehensible, or whether it was just my perspective was different watching it with the boys. What would I have thought if I was watching it by myself?

And it was reprehensible. The “heroes” treated each other badly. They treated women badly. Their language was awful. They fought police and put them in mortal danger on a lark. (And these are the good guys.) They were cavalier about destruction of property and endangering bystanders. Arguably, they had no redeeming traits at all. Sure, there’s a “redemptive” level of “helping others,” but it’s really far more about their own self-indulgence; their “help” is self-centered, dangerous and largely unproductive. Even their climactic battle, presented as being important, is ultimately pretty whimsical.

And I’ll admit a further bias that, while I’ve never been a huge Green Hornet fan, I felt like the movie was disrespectful to the original source, which is something that’s a big turn-off for me in movies. If you want to remake  a property, remake it in the spirit of the original. If you want to make something in a different spirit, then use some creativity and do it with your own invention instead of someone else’s.

So I can’t swear that I wouldn’t have enjoyed Green Hornet if I had seen it by myself, but I would imagine probably not. (Adding to this theory — I’ve never seen, nor had any desire to see, any other Seth Rogen movie.)

But it’s another piece of evidence for the state in the growing case that being around the boys is making me an old fuddy-duddy. Exhibit #193 — Last week, I was at the comic book store, picking up my weekly comics. (A good exhibit for the defense, let the record show.) Caden wanted a book, and I grabbed a Star Wars comic off the shelf because it featured on the cover a large number of Clone Troopers, which Caden loves. (I’m not sure whether the prosecution or plaintiff arguments are supported better by the fact that part of me finds it wrong that their post-prequel upbringing makes them think stormtroopers are good guys and not care about Han Solo.)

Flipping through it, I saw that it showed Anakin, sans a good chunk of his arms and legs, dangling from the ceiling, having his cybernetic systems replaced. Later in the book, and somewhat subtly, a minor character’s head is visible mid-frame, having been removed from its proper place via lightsaber. Is this appropriate for a five-year-old? How am I supposed to know? Is it any worse than the last Star Wars movie, which he’s seen?

And I found myself thinking a weird thought, that I never thought I would think.

And let me point out, I think it should be optional, I think you should be able to publish whatever sort of comic book you want, but I think there should be a way of knowing what comic books are appropriate for what audiences.

But, dadgumit, I miss when books were approved by the Comics Code Authority.

The Demise of the Newspaper – Unintended Consequences (via Idle Ramblings)


I wrote a post a few days ago about the future of newspapers. My good friend Joe Gurner has taken the issue and gone in a very important direction with it — the impact of the potential death of the industry on superheroes.

If you’re still in the newspaper industry today and you take a long, hard look around, things don’t necessarily look good. The hard economic times of the past few years have taken their toll. They come on top of the fact that the industry as a whole has been slow to adapt to changing technology, changing readership and changing business models. In many ways newspapers have become dinosaurs, but the industry itself played its own role in keeping t … Read More

via Idle Ramblings

For The Person Who Has Everything


(Bagged and Bored shown here is only a working cover; actual cover can be seen on Amazon.com)

The holidays are coming, and if you’re anything like me, you’re struggling with what to get that person that’s so hard to buy for, the person who has everything. Well, here’s your big opportunity to get them something that it’s pretty much guaranteed that they don’t have, unless they’re Richie Younce. Or Lain Hughes.

First, of course, there’s Homesteading Space,the book I co-authored with astronauts Owen Garriott and Joe Kerwin. Homesteading Space is the story of the Skylab space station from the point of view of the people that made it happen, and is written to give readers an idea of what’s it’s really like to live and work in space.

Of course, since Homesteading has sold thousands of copies, it may be that the person you’re wanting to buy for already has a copy. For that person, you can get them another copy of Homesteading, just in case. (Heck, on Abebooks.com, you can even pick up a signed copy for only $350.) Or … you can dig a little deeper into my oeuvre with David Pogue’s The World According to Twitter,for which I wrote 13 words, or one word, depending on how you count. (I get nothing from the sale of this book, of course, but it is pretty entertaining.)

But those are both books that are pretty mainstream; real books, published by actual publishers, that you could buy at your local Barnes & Noble, as long as your local Barnes & Noble is in Huntsville. Let’s talk about the stuff that they’re really unlikely to have. For that person, there’s Bagged & Boredand Mayor Of Awesometown,the first two collections of the Hatbag comic strip I create(d?) with Lain. The collections are full-color, and each include a year’s worth of the strip, plus all sorts of bonus stuff. Amazon even has the “Look Inside” feature turned on, so you can check them out.

And, then, for the person who has everything, including an appreciation of really bad books, there’s the best bad novel ever written, The Leonardo Code (The Broken Triad – Book Two),which was team-written on my old blog by me and some friends. There’s flying robot death monkeys, nanite-laced mind-controlling ribs, a hidden paramilitary bunker under Graceland, enough celebrity cameos to earn us several cease-and-desist letters if anyone but us ever read the thing, and much much more. And the cover looks perfectly legitimate sitting on your shelf. (You can read a preview here.)

Smorgasbord* of Awesome!


I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how I had bought an original Arlo & Janis comic strip. Not long afterwards, I mentioned that to my counselor, Devry Coghlan (in passing, not seeking help for it, thankyouverymuch). And she said that she and her husband had one as well. Her husband is Huntsville Times managing editor Curtis Coghlan, who spent a fair bit of his career in Mississippi, where he got to know A&J artist Jimmy Johnson.

So last week, Johnson starting posting on his web site the strips he drew for a comic he pitched unsuccessfully, Lost Key. And with one of the strips, he wrote this:

Yes, I misspelled Mr. Buffett’s surname. I blame my old friend Curtis for that. My first serious exposure to Jimmy Buffett’s music was from a collection of cassettes Curtis copied for me from his vinyl albums. In the process of labeling the cassettes, Curtis misspelled “Buffett,” and I went on to compound the error. Not only did I listen to Jimmy’s music without paying, I didn’t even spell his name right. I believe I subsequently have purchased enough legitimate Jimmy Buffett music and merchandise to atone.

Now, Curtis isn’t that unusual a name, but, even so, I was curious enough to check with Google, and, sure enough, found this older post on Johnson’s site:

Speaking of music. Yes, yes, yes, I know. I misspelled Jimmy Buffett’s name. At the time this was drawn, 1985, my entire collection of Buffett music consisted of cassettes copied from the albums of my friend, Curtis Coghlan. Somebody, I honestly can’t say whom, wrote the name down incorrectly on the blank cassette labels. So, that’s how I thought it was spelled. That’s my excuse, anyway. I don’t know the excuse of my editors at United Media. For what it’s worth, Mr. Buffett has the distinction of being the first musician ever mentioned in the strip.

My counselor’s husband is the guy that introduced Jimmy Johnson to Jimmy Buffett’s music. That’s kinda cool. Like meeting the brother of that girl that told Abraham Lincoln he should grow a beard.


*See what I did there? Since a smorgasbord is like a “buffet”? I mention this only so that I can tell my favorite buffet-synonym story, in which a much much younger David went to some buffet restaurant that called their buffet by a term I’d not heard before, and so I unknowingly misunderstood it as a word I was familiar with. It says something about young Dave that I misinterpreted “Country Sideboard” as “Country Cyborg,” which I picture as a mix between The Six Million Dollar Man and The Dukes of Hazzard.

#readcomicsinpublic


Today is International Read Comics In Public Day.

And while I did buy a half-price copy of 24 Hour Comics Day Highlights 2004 yesterday when I went to The Deep to pick up my books for this week, specifically with the purpose in mind of participating Saturday.

However, I don’t know for sure that I’ll be able to, so I’m posting this, and at least being public about my comics reading.

I’ve posted on here before about my love of comic strips, but I haven’t talked as much about comic books. But, yeah, I’m geeky enough that I still read comic books. I go to the comic shop every Wednesday between work and Bible study to pick up the new books, and usually read them that night.

I read the random rare issue of this or that infrequently growing up, but didn’t really start reading comics regularly until college, inspired by my editor, noted journalist and author Jesse Holland, and fellow Daily Mississippian staff members Rodney Crouther, Lain Hughes and Joe Gurner. For a while there, a comics run up to Memphis was held pretty much every week.

Back then, my consumption was pretty mainstream, and very DC — Superman, Batman, Flash, Justice League, Green Lantern. It was the era of the huge event, kicked off by the death of Superman. That was a redefining moment, and every few months thereafter, Batman got replaced, or Green Lantern turned evil, or Superman came back to life but Clark Kent died. Metropolis, Gotham and Coast City were destroyed so frequently that I can’t imagine there are any extant insurance providers in the DC universe today.

Today … well, I’m tempted to say I’ve very much become “that guy” when it comes to comic books, except that there are so many “that guys” in comics that it means nothing. There’s “that guy” that wears nothing but superhero logo shirts. There’s “that guy” that will have heated debates about who would win in a fight between heroes. There’s “that guy” who will explain ad nauseum how your favorite book has never been the same since Chris Claremont wrote it.

I’m “that guy” who thinks that mainstream superhero books are mindless pablum, and any intelligent reader should only be reading books by smaller imprints (or by the “indie” imprints published by the Big Two).

I’m all about some Astro City, or Fables, or Echo, or Elephantmen, or any number of books the average person hasn’t heard of. If I’m talking to you about comics, that’s what I’m going to talk about, that’s what I’m going to recommend. In fact, right now, you should order a cheap used copy of Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile. It’s easily accessible to the non-comics-reader, and greatly entertaining. OK, you back? I also heartily recommend Astro City, though reading it benefits from some familiarity with the basic conventions of superheroes.

And then there’s something like Localthat doesn’t have any superheroes or fairy tale characters or anything, just a young woman growing up as she travels around the country. Or there’s True Story, Swear to God: Chances Are,a writer’s true story (of course) about how he met his wife. You can buy a used copy on Amazon for a penny. I mean, OK, really, what’s stopping you?

And I could go on and on. Just picking those four seems woefully lacking, and I’m positive there are far better things I should have mentioned.

In the interest of full disclosure, however, I should note that, despite the fact that I’m continuing to gradually decrease my weekly reading, I still pick up the occasional mainstream superhero event book. Even as we speak, Daredevil’s taking over Manhattan and the Green Lantern Corps is …

… well, you’d just have to read it.