Remembering Steven Bach: Christopher Reeve

• Tuesday, March 31, 2009 1 comments
Steven and I talked about death only one time in the years I knew him.

Surprising, because while I was at college, I had several families members who passed away. But believe it or not, this conversation wasn’t about any of them, and was actually started while talking about celebrities. I have a bad habit of getting attached to certain artists, entertainers, actors, etc., and when they die, it puts me in a funk for several days. I can’t exactly pinpoint why; I remember the first time I cried over a famous person’s death was Jim Henson, and in a way, I suppose that was understandable. I was a cartoon kid, with a liberal dose of Muppets, and Henson was one of the few human faces among my childhood heroes. He was the only one who could die, and when he did, I thought everything was going with him. It didn’t work like that, but I still recall being devastated.

There was another human face among my heroes back then; Superman – Christopher Reeve – who passed away from complications due to his paralysis. I didn’t usually quiz Steven about the famous people he’d met or known, because honestly, given time Steven would bring them up himself. But I knew he had to have known Reeve, being in Hollywood when he was, and Reeve being such a big deal before the same movies I loved him for deep-sixed his career. So we were outside before class, Steven was smoking, as he was pretty much always doing in the open air, and I made up my mind to make an ass out of myself, and ask one of the most fanboy-ish questions I every asked while at Bennington.

“Did you know him? I mean – what was Superman like?”

And Steven nodded, letting the geeky giddiness of my question pass without making fun of me [I’d have deserved it after that], and then he told me what I’d always heard, that before his accident, Reeve was a charismatic individual with loads more acting ability than anyone had ever given him a chance to use before his accident. And being Superman, like with his father before him, and proven to be more of a professional detriment to his career – causing him to be pigeon-holed as a square-jawed, Adonis/muscle head who wouldn’t be good for much else.

I was a little disappointed, just because I’d heard all this before, and I guess I was anxious for some behind the scenes part that only Bach would know. And I was considering just ending the conversation there, before hearing something else incredibly sad about this actor who I idolized as a child, when Steven did what always kept me in the conversation with him, and asked me a question. Specifically, why I would ask.

I just sort of opened up, and talked about how I grew up watching the Superman movies, how it always amazed me how much the man on the screen resembled the character I read about in my comic books, and how I was I had just been feeling down ever since reading about Reeve’s demise. In retrospect, it was more than I probably should have laid out on anyone, even if asked, and I might have been better to just say “it had been on my mind because of him being in the news,” or better yet, just “no reasons.” But I told him everything, in series of nerdy run-on sentences, admitting to him that I was bummed out that he’d died.

And there was a pause, and Steven nodded again, after taking a long drag of his cigarette, and said, sort of regretfully, “Well, yes. People die.”

It’s funny. I suppose I could have taken that a lot of different ways. Typically, when people tell me obvious things as though they think I was not aware of the fact, I get angry. And since Steven died, I think everyone I’ve talked to about his passing has made the same statement, almost in reflex, and while that’s… understandable, it also hasn’t made me feel a whole lot better. The sentiment of “people die” is, essentially, a negative, if not an occasionally reassuring one, and it’s hard to take it as anything but.

But.

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation with Steven, run the way he held himself, and what I said, over and over again. And I think, as well as anyone could know, Steven was looking at this kid, his student, talking about something ridiculous that was upsetting him, and with absolutely no idea how to deal with depressed geekery. In this moment, there was a gap, two people seeing something about the same world in a way where neither thing either said made sense to the other. I was hero-worshipping, and Steven was very much in the real. And yet he didn’t dismiss me, he still cared enough to offer the one awkward bit of reassurance that he could bring to mind, the compassion to put down his view and try and comfort me.

Didn’t matter what he said wasn’t great or perfect – it mattered that he bothered to try.

A lot of people in college, my peers and my professors, never even bothered to try and bridge that gap. Steven was one of the few who did, and it made me feel like I mattered, and it made an ineffectual sentiment mean the world to me.

Selah.

Remembering Steven Bach: Lectures

• Monday, March 30, 2009 1 comments
I never really considered Steven a traditional sort of teacher – it’s hard to look back at his classes and see them as lectures. “Lectures” always seemed like too cold and impersonal a word, one that would put what Steven Bach did on the same level as some monotone community college professor. Learning from him was so much more than that – he was a storyteller, and taught almost by parable at times, never giving an answer right away, and always having this brilliant flash of enthusiasm when he thought anyone in the class might be getting what he was starting to drive at.

It annoyed some of my peers. They always said they came to college to learn, and would ask me why Steven wouldn’t just teach – to which I’d usually respond “why wouldn’t you just listen?” It remains to me a mystery how anyone couldn’t listen to the man, his stories were always so layered, so good [factual? Mostly, though he referenced Fatty Arbuckle fucking that girl to death with a green-glass Coke bottle a couple of times, and we all know that was bullshit… but again, as I said, almost like parable], and he had such a theatrical way of presenting them. Some days you’d come into the class, he’d pop in late [as he did], and everything would be so chill and relaxed, the class lounging in the seats, and Steven making small talk about what movies we’d watched that weekend. And then, slowly, almost so you wouldn’t notice at all, he’s segue into a point or a story, and the next thing you knew you’d be on the edge of your seat, listening to every single word.

And Steven was good – he knew he had you, because once you were on the edge of your seat, his voice would just get progressively lower, and lower, until it was just a raspy whisper, and looking around, the entire room would be leaning forward, hanging on every word. And sometimes when he had us there, he’d slam his arm down on the table top, open-handed, or shout out loudly about his point, and those times happened infrequently. But more often than not, he’d just smile, and lean back in his chair.

It was just as effective as any shout too.

Being in class with Steven Bach made you feel like you were being taught by someone who’d actually been a part of something. And by someone who actually wanted to teach. In fairness, I believe that was true for the rest of the Bennington faculty as well, but in practice, Steven was peerless.

Remembering Steven Bach: Links

• Sunday, March 29, 2009 1 comments
I've been writing little bits about Steven in my spare time for the past couple of days. My plan is to spend the next week or so posting them, one a day, until I'm either out or I start worrying my tribute to him is in bad taste. I can't make a lot of promises about these -- most, admittedly, are more about myself than Steven, but he's a part of all them, some in ways that won't be entirely clear because I've only been away from him and his lectures for two years, and in that time there are still some run-ins and lessons that I turn over in my head regularly, trying to figure out their meanings, their morals, and their applications.

It won't all make sense. Probably won't share every Steven story I have. I hope it won't all be sad. But this is my space, and while I never intended to use the blog like this, for the time being, it's his space too. And it's the only proper way I can think to pay tribute right now.

I'll try my best to post them all around the same time each day. For future reference, each will have the tag "Steven Bach."

What follows is various links I've collected since his death. Most of them have come my way from Lex Friedman, but a few have come from various other sources.

Steven's Obituary, in the New York Times. I think it's a great obit., if for no other reason than it calls him a "gentleman," which for me has always been a term of very high praise.


New York's State Writer's Institute Online Diary. An intermittantly updated blog of the New York Writer's Institute, with a nice entry on Steven's passing, and several links, including some video.

Speaking of video, I'd suggest checking out this link on FORA TV, and this one with Steven on Charlie Rose. Both have him talking about Leni Riefenstahl, and his last book on the subject. Sam described them to me as like catching a last lecture by him -- both brought me comfort to see his mannerisms, and hear his voice again.

Finally, here is another obituary for Steven, one that gave me and some friends a little laugh. Steven loathed the publication so absolutely that I can actually hear him saying "You've gotta be fucking kidding me!" as I link it.

Anyone with other links, or stories about Steven to share, just post them in my comments section, or e-mail me. I'll make sure they get up too.


Addendum:

There will be a new post about Steven every day at 6:00 PM. I've already written them, and they are scheduled to post at exactly that time. However, if other stories of Bach pop into my head during the day, I will likely add them as they come to me too. Right now, the whole week is set up, and everything should run smoothly.

Steven Bach, 1938-2009

• Friday, March 27, 2009 2 comments
Can't seem to find the right words. Found out through Facebook last night that my screenwriting/film history/literature professor Steven Bach, who I took classes with nearly every term, had died the previous morning. I don't know the how or the why, but people tell me he had been ill, and the words "lung cancer" were used once or twice in conversation before sitting down to write this -- but all of that is just speculation, and I know no more than anyone else about this. Downside of Facebook is that almost anything discovered on it the mind immediately wants to reject as a falsehood -- and news of this nature the mind wants to reject anyway.

But the feeling in the pit of stomach assures me that this is very real. The official announcement is coming from Bennington some time soon, but since access to my campus e-mail was apparently irrevocably forwarded to the lost creepybean.com domain, I don't imagine I'll receive it. This post is for the few people who read my blog, but don't have Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or anything else that might be disseminating this news to other Bennington alums. It is only temporary; the man deserves a far nicer tribute than I can give him in this state of mind, and I plan on posting more about him in the next day or so.

I was always proud to have been taught by Steven, and I always reference being his student as part of my artistic pedigree. Though I doubt he would have considered us close, I admired him, and feel tonight like I've lost a parent, rather than a professor. More's the regret, cliche though it is, that I hadn't written him since graduation, wanting desperately to impress him with my first letter, and maybe, make him proud by springing some big success I'd accomplished with the skills he'd given me -- but I was too ashamed of my shortcomings, and now, it really doesn't matter at all. Lesson learned.

Condolences to the community, his family, and his friends. Thank you to those who were patient with me last night. And thank you to a dear friend, who took my call.

I want desperately to be out of this house, to be among friends, and to mourn properly.

I miss you, Steven. Missed you before, but not like this. Rest in peace.


From the New National Affairs Desk...

• Wednesday, March 25, 2009 2 comments
The past several days have been busy by my standards. Sunday night I dozed off in the chair for a couple hours, and managed to not get the garbage out before the truck came. Not a giant tragedy, just one of those things that makes me look like an idiot for waiting until the last minute, but for some reason [even when I was living out in bum fuck nowhere and had to brave wild dogs and a Deliverance-like setting] I've always felt more comfortable taking my garbage out at night. Wonder sometimes if it's just one of those waspish things I've picked up, never letting the neighbors see me do something I'd consider less than flattering.

One day, my venue will change again, and a new possible death scenario for me will be getting shot while taking out the trash at 3 in the morning.

Monday morning I had a list of phone calls to make -- the big ones being to the IRS and Verizon. For some reason [possibly because I was moved out of my house in a single night], I've misplaced my returns from the previous year, and I had to call the good old Internal Revenue Service to get a transcript. I expected this to take hours, but actually managed to knock it out in a little under 30 minutes, only 10 of which I was on hold for. Honestly, it made me feel like a magic man.

Luckily, Verizon injected a big bunch of Kris Angel [Re: suck] into my day after that. An hour and a half of my life later, I had put in an order for an upgrade to my grandmother's internet connection, so the new laptop could enjoy the wireless service that God meant it to have.

Slept the rest of the day. Why not?

Verizon [via UPS] made it up to me today by delivering the new wireless modem as I was on my way out to the mailbox [another next day delivery. It's nice being out of the boonies], and I hooked it up with very little swearing. So, yes, the reason for this incredibly mundane post is so I can use my flashy new internet connection for something other than downloading Ad-aware and iTunes.

So instead, I direct you to these links, far more interesting than hearing about me getting used to a touch pad again:




Enjoy. Should be seeing some actual work out of me in the coming weeks.

Shalom.

Well played, Dell.

• Friday, March 20, 2009 0 comments
Quick update, inviting a new member into the Mojo Wire family. Also, brag.

As many people know, I've been without a laptop for the past several months, and most of my writing work, along with updates to the blog, internet posts, etc, have been done from the marginal discomfort of my Grandmother's desktop. And while I mean no offense to the many desktop users out there, the lack of mobility drives me a little crazy. So, after making a little land-deal [which I went into here, here, and oh yeah, here], I put in an order to Dell, and yesterday, I was told my laptop had been shipped. This news came at the same time I got a cheap copy of Microsoft Office in the mail, and I naturally thought I'd be sitting on the software for the 5-6 business days that Dell told me to wait.

Imagine my surprise when the computer got here today. Glad I didn't put that extra money into two day delivery.

Anyway, the new laptop is a sleek, black, 15 inch Dell Inspiron 1545, running Windows XP -- a pleasant surprise, since Windows Vista has a nasty reputation I'd rather not deal with until they've had a couple years to work the bugs out, and because Dell downgraded me for no extra charge [and I've heard stories that it usually costs upwards of $100 to get the operating system that actually...you know, operates]. Screen and picture are great, it's slightly smaller and a little slimmer than my old Toshiba was [Shalom, friend], but weighs about the same because I upped my order to a higher cell battery, which has added poundage to the computer and -- my only complaint thus far -- sticks out the back of the unit a little bit. It doesn't look bad or anything, I'm just wondering how it's going to sit in my bag with the uneven back. Otherwise, I'm very pleased, and it looks like the next week or so will be going towards setting the machine up with the necessities -- namely, all my old writings, the few pictures I keep, iTunes and my music, VLC Player, Firefox [or possibly Google Chrome, as FF has been royally pissing me off these past few months] etc, etc.

A lot of this requires internet access, which will be a little wonky for the time being since Verizon's pretty militant about how many machines you run on their basic connection. I'll be trying to get around it this weekend, but likely I'll be getting some sort of upgrade from them come Monday [wireless maybe? In a house I live in? Dare I dream this crazy dream that most people realized five years ago?]. Afterwards, I'll be trying to finish up the next draft of "Trendsetter" [which will probably be all I'm doing for the next month or so] with the notes I've put together the past several weeks, though I'm expecting a lot of progress to be made right on the new computer.

Fresh surroundings, fresh perspectives.

Cheers.

Bloodletting.

• Sunday, March 15, 2009 1 comments
As a metaphor, I always found bloodletting kind of attractive.

Dictionary.com defines bloodletting as "the act or practice of letting blood by opening a vein." Merriam-Webster describes it simply as "phlebotomy," which is what my dad was trained to do when he went back to school a few years ago, specifically drawing blood for testing. Phlebotomy is the occupation his would-be employers say he is unable to pursue because his bad shoulder and the cancer he recovered from have rendered him "disabled." I do not know if my father is truly hurt bad enough to be considered disabled, but I do know that what he does isn't the sort of bloodletting I'm talking about here.

Both sources go on define the term as meaning bloodshed or slaughter, as well as the "reduction" or "elimination of personnel." I will, for the time being, ignore the annoyance I feel at the inclusion of this example, as a metaphor should never be taken as literally applicable, no matter how apt to the situation may be, but that is not what I'm discussing here. I find myself more tolerant of the parallels drawn between the concept of "bloodletting" and "death" -- perhaps because I like what sounds like an artistic flourish on atrocity, and it brings to mind "Henry V," and other Shakespearean battle speeches. It also, importantly [currently], refers to the pointlessness of the act of bloodletting, implying that the supposed "cure" to a problem is only going to make the patient worse.

I don't know a lot about the actual practice. I know all the old-world civilizations, your Greeks, Romes, Mesopotamias, and Aztecs performed bloodletting as a medical procedure -- if your city had plumbing, libraries, or money, then it likely had bloodletting as well. I know it didn't completely fall out of use until relatively recently -- but I only know this because I saw them do it in the Paul Giamatti "John Adams" series, and I will freely admit this knowledge might be wrong. The only explanation for the practice that I can call to mind was given by Hippocrates, who based the treatment's merits on comparisons to a woman's menstrual cycle which was believed to purge women of illness. Much later, many other cultures, particularly Judeo-Christian religions, would view women who were menstruating as "dirty" and "untouchable," yet despite this shift, bloodletting was still seen as a viable way to rid yourself of sickness and other bad humors. It was used to treat just about everything from the common cold to what we'd probably today call clinical depression, and though now it seems garish and antithetical to any sort of healing process, many undertook it for their ailments and many recovered.

It wasn't only practiced on humans, either; I once knew a vet who still swore by it as an occasional treatment for sick horses. After hearing this from her, I would later read some folksy novel about a country veterinarian who employed the same practice [only in extraordinary situations] with archaic tools passed down to him by his grandfather, and he too found success. Both of these accounts are, of course, glorious lies. The first paints someone I know and think highly of as very bad at her job, while the second is a literary flourish based on foolish superstition, not unlike the plethora of English heroines in literature almost derailed by getting caught outside after dark, and in the rain.

Both's mistakes are understandable, and even charming. There is something about the old ways we will always find more appealing. Even those who constantly seek out knowledge will often find, when looking behind them later, that their old ignorance and naivete now looks like some forever-lost golden age. Bloodletting as a treatment, though somewhat obscene to us now, can still be romanticized like all the other old superstitions passed down to us by our grandparents. I am reminded of the old Navy maxim of "Red sky at night, sailor's delight, red sky at morning, sailor's forewarning" my own grandpa taught me, and regularly laugh when I notice the sky looks pretty red both when the sun was going down and coming up. The humor is less out of how silly and useless this "trick" seems to be now, and more at my constant, almost instinctive need to try and apply at every opportunity. My sailor's weather report is no different from bloodletting in that respect, just coincidence and superstition, tied up in each other enough to become fact.

And why shouldn't that be appealing? Who doesn't occasionally wish for those simpler times, when we might not have understood what we were doing, but we had faith, and knew in our hearts that faith would guide us, protect us, and save us from the dangers we face? Natural. Forgivable. Pleasing, even. A lesser writer might even pause, to ponder if we miss it, and to maybe draw a correlation to the teenage girl with the razor blade, or to the junkie, as his needle first breaks the skin.

But that would be kind of hacky.

For us, for people, I mean, I think the allure in the practice of bloodletting probably goes even deeper than that. Not everything is nostalgia, after all, some things strike us quite a bit more presently, and without getting too fancy, I think a lateral move could be made from bloodletting to a comparison of the way we all move forward, perpetually leaving so much behind us. The concept is inherently simple; the blood in our bodies have gotten stagnant, and diseased, and need to be removed so we may grow and prosper. Life's not so different [if I can be a little over-arching, without being passe]-- we put aside things from our childhood, grow out of people, places, and things, and move forward, removing something of ourselves in the name of some sort of progress. We learn one author we love wasn't nearly as great as we thought they were, that one person will let us down and by proxy most will, that some hobbies and obsessions are best packed away in boxes, in attics, in rooms so as not to distract us from the important things, the things we really need to do. We get stagnant, we bleed, we get better, we move on.

And I think about that point a lot, and think about the world today, about how so many people move into adulthood and take their Nintendo, their Harry Potter, and their stuffed toys with them. I look at that, at these things from our youth we all cling to [and I do this as well, the twenty-three year old who lives with his grandma, and holds no real job, and who's most pressing concern might be having money for comics in the next couple of months], claiming the world is bad and that these things are good, and they bring us joy and happiness, and yet we all seem sort of broken, and unsatisfied. The world is bad. And I wonder if maybe we shouldn't open a vein.

Then again, it could all be superstition and coincidence, and the two things could be no more connected than the rain tomorrow and the color of tonight's sky. And even if [and this is a big if] it were all true, and I had hit the proverbial nail on the head, it neglects the fact that bloodletting as a cure, in actuality, doesn't heal, but rather harms, and there's only so much you can take from a person, only so much one person can willingly or unwillingly give, before there's nothing left. And as useful and necessary as it is to move on, to bleed ourselves of indispositions, it is just as necessary to remember that in sacrificing without gain, all we may achieve is leaving behind the things our heart once beat for. We only have so much blood.

Yes, as a metaphor, I really do like bloodletting -- just antiquated and shocking enough to do the trick.

New Comic Book Day

• Friday, March 13, 2009 2 comments
In certain circles, the Wednesday [sometimes Thursdays] of every week is a mini-holiday known as "New Comic Book Day." The day is known as such because this is when the major comic companies distribute their titles -- actually nearly all comic companies deliver their books on these days, and while it varies as to what comes out, if you're so inclined you can stop by your local shop every week on or around this day, and pick up the latest Spider-Man, Superman, or Batman. In high school, it was sort of like an event, or at the very least, an excuse, to get everyone together and go to the local shop to pick up whatever it is you can't wait to read that day.

Nowadays, this strikes me as a little extravagant -- something marked on the calendars of people with a plethora of time and disposable income. My new comic day comes far less often, every two-to-three months, and that's usually enough to hit me hard in the pocketbook and keep me entertained with comics for a day or two. But I know people, well into their twenties, thirties, forties, who show up every couple weeks on a Wednesday, without fail, to snatch up the new titles on their pull-list.

To each their own.

A lot of the reason for my infrequency of purchase is because of the low volume of titles I get. The big two, Marvel and DC, publish literally hundreds of books month-to-month, and honestly, a lot of them just suck. Maybe it's because of homogenization [there are more 'Avengers' comics than "Law and Order" spin offs] or the lack of original ideas [which is understandable 100 books in a month, 75 writers on staff, 99 of the books are boy's morality tales in spandex... do the math], but from my tolerance standpoint, and from the standpoint of having very little income, I've become selective with what I read.

And my local comic dealer is very understanding of this -- I pause now to plug that I go to Cheryl's Comics and Toys in Kanawha City, run by Cheryl Pauley [natch], and having her in charge of my pull list is one of the more pleasant experiences in my comic book fandom. She doesn't mind I stop by infrequently, or that I buy a lot less than a lot of her other customers, she's always understanding if I can't make it into the shop right away, and she often grabs things she knows will tie-in with something I'm reading or that I'd just be likely to enjoy. I got nearly all my comics from her even while going to school in Bennington, Vermont, save for a title or two snagged for me by my friend Heke, or Sam's mom.

What I'm reading now is really exceptional, and I thought I might talk a little about them here because I enjoyed them so much.

Top of my list is always Dynamite Comic's "The Boys," a take on the super-hero world if the men in capes were all like politicians -- i.e. dicks and whores, as written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Darick Robertson. Ennis is of "Preacher" and "Punisher" fame, and the book is full of gross-out humor like giant super-boners, circle jerks, and a Wolverine-parody with sledgehammers for fists and the simple catch phrase of "Gonna!" repeated now until infinity. It's not quite as epic in scope or clever as "Preacher" was, but it's also relatively early on in the book's life, and reading them as they come out feels important -- as if something just...good, is taking shape. As usual, it's not all sophomoric humor, and Ennis has found a balance I haven't seen in his other work; in Issue 26 he has a really sweet, honestly-drawn moment between his protagonist and the protagonist's girlfriend while they have sex in the park, only to follow it up with a really interesting commentary on the drunken revelry of St. Patrick's Day in Issue 27, ending in a splash page of a leprechaun hat filled with vomit. Some people might call it cynical -- I think that neglects a stronger aspect of the subject matter, but even in neglecting it, there's still plenty to enjoy and laugh about. Probably the best book being published today, if you can stomach it. And Robertson is the same level of superstar he was on "Transmetropoliton," with Issue 26 sporting a variant cover [which I have] of the G-Men [guess who they're parodies of?] facing off in 1970's Dave Cockrum-style and giving each other the finger.

Next up is Vertigo's [DC's adult line] "Ex Machina," a book about the first super-hero mayor of New York City. Written by Brian K. Vaughn [Y fame] and penciled by Tony Harris ["Starman" guy], the book skates exploitation sometimes, except for the fact that Vaughn loves New York so damn much, you really can't get upset about it. Issue 40 is my highlight from this pick-up -- hilariously, this one stars the books creators, Vaughn and Harris, interviewing for the chance to do their fictional mayor's comic book biography [in the comic -- meta, you know?], and even though it's the kind of gimmick that tends to suck [Marvel Comics' 1980's and 1990's shitty bullpen comics come to mind], Vaughn knows what he's doing, plays it honest and close to the chest and doesn't step over the line. There's a little bit of vanity, but it's damn charming and honest as hell. The ending is exceptionally funny, especially if you know comics, and I laughed so hard I had to stop reading from my stack and just enjoy it for a bit.

DC's "Green Arrow and Black Canary" was a wonderful addition to my pull list that's gone now. I liked the hippie super-hero, his family of arrow-slingers, his wife who, short of the fishnets, might be the greatest stab at feminism in comics today, all enjoyably written by Judd Winnick [that would be Real World and "Pedro and Me" Judd Winnick], and built on the relaunch of the character by Kevin Smith. He departed the from the book, and his replacement, Andrew Kreisberg, while a very capable and talented writer, is now writing a far more standard super-hero book, which isn't nearly as much fun for me as it was in Winnick's hands.

"Runaways" is currently the only Marvel title I get -- created by Brian K. Vaughn, few books, even as young as this one, can boast such an impressive pedigree of writers -- Vaughn, then JossWhedon [Buffy, Firefly], and now Terry Moore, who you've heard me talk about at length in this blog, using words like "admiration" and "inspiration." Can't say enough good things, but I don't want this blog to turn into that. "Runaways" is probably my favorite comic book, and now my favorite writer is helming it, so I'm in heaven with this title, especially now that it is coming out on time [something Whedon couldn't seem to manage -- and I don't really take issue with late books like I used to, it's just when they're late, I get less of them to read, and in the case of "Runaways" that makes me sad]. It is a shame that Marvel can't produce more books like "Runaways," as it strikes me not unlike something that might have rolled out of the golden age of Marvel -- unique, marketable characters with staying power and some actual literary depth. The failings of Marvel to follow up on similar new works in the genre [like "Marvel Boy" and "Gravity"], makes "Runaways" seem even more special, and being a fan of the book means something to me, not unlike the way being a Spider-Man fan meant something to me when I was ten.

The last two are DC titles -- one is Gen13 in DC's Wildstorm brand [kept alive only for nostalgia purposes, near as I can tell], an unfortunate relaunch of the uber-popular, beautifully drawn by J. Scott Campbell, and horribly-written by the same man 1990's series. I say "unfortunate" not because the book is bad, rather, it just seems unlucky. It was relaunched by editorial edict, and put in the hands of Gail Simone, who did more with the characters' development in four issues than their creator ever managed to do. Simone's workload eventually caught up to her, or maybe just her interest waned, and Scott Beatty [the guy who did the 90's encyclopedias of super-heroes for DC] was made the writer, and just as he was growing into the book, another editorial edict was handed down to "End the Wildstorm Universe," essentially turning every book in the WS line into a post-apocalyptic tale. Beatty has surprisingly rolled with this well, and coupled with the fact that Campbell's character designs still ring as relevant and iconic, something a lot of 90's books can't claim, means the title can be downright charming. It's a lot of fun, if not a little fly-by-seat-of-Beatty's pants [which you can't blame him, as a writer for the series, he's been jerked around like no body's business], and Mike Huddleston, who is relatively new to comics, has amazing pencil work that really fits the feel of this type of book. Occasionally, a more indie-style artist like Dan Hipp will take over for an issue, which is a real treat, and makes a book that feels a little forgotten about sometimes interesting and fun. Gen13 isn't for everyone, but I like it's quirkiness, and even though I'm waiting for it to get cancelled, I really hope it doesn't.

The other is DC's "Green Lantern Corps," which I think is the most mainstream title I get without fail now. I originally started the book because I read "Green Lantern" heavily in the 90's, which featured the character of Kyle Rayner, a somewhat controversial replacement for the Silver Age Green Lantern of Hal Jordan, and the character of Kyle is heavily featured in this book. I am a big enough fan of the Green Lantern that "GL" was a nickname the girls had for me in college [particularly Sam], but honestly even I'm amazed sometimes that I read this book. It's not my usual comic book snobbery or cheapness, just some basic prejudices I have against the material -- I don't like space stories with heavy science fiction, aliens don't interest me, I think having more than one Green Lantern waters the character down really badly, and the writer, Peter J. Tomasi, never really impressed me with any of his other work. But "Green Lantern Corps" is an amazing book, and giving the reasons as to why is difficult if you don't know the material. Kyle Rayner, of course, is the main draw for me, but the reemergence of Guy Gardner, Mongul fighting Arkillo in Issue 33-34, the outright creepiness of the cradle-robbing character Kryb, the combination super-hero/surgeon/sexy red chick Natu, the Star Sapphire Corps [think Green Lanterns meet Sailor Moon, and shut up, it's awesome], and the talks-to-dead GL Saarek hit all the right notes with me. It's high concept, but not obscene, the action sequences are violent, but don't feel celebratory about it, and Tomasi threads a subplot like no one's business. In a book this sprawling, there are certainly things that pop up that I just don't care about, but it's a minor problem at best. It's building so well, I'm actually going to start picking up the regular "Green Lantern" book in anticipation of their upcoming "Blackest Night" crossover. Right now, Patrick Gleason is penciling, and his work is good enough I hope he stays. The coloring of the book is inconsistent, not bad, just not done with a strong eye towards continuity, which isn't odd for comics, but stands out in GLC to me for some reason.

Most impressive thing about GLC is how a book with such a large cast so rarely feels like it's full of cannon fodder. Characters die, of course, and so far no one who's died under this creative regime has been brought back [comic book death], but Tomasi does a really good job of making most of those who pass matter to the reader, particularly impressive when sometimes they only get a few panels per issue. GLC winds up feeling like four super-hero comics meets Star Trek [in a good way, if there is a good way]meets a war movie.

I read other comics, of course, lots of trades, "Walking Dead," "Preacher," "DMZ," "Invincible," and a few others ["Fishtown" is up next... an IDW indie book I know nothing about, and I love those], and my dad gets "Superman" and "Punisher" in the mail, but as month to month goes, those listed above are the biggies. I look forward to all of them, though, which I don't know my friends with a larger pull-list can say, and that makes me feel good, along with just feeling more justified that the higher standards I have to put on my comic consumption means I won't be throwing too many of my comics down in disgust. And there are things I wish I could get, if I had the money to entertain less "sure-things" -- as Spider-Man is a book I just enjoy getting, and Deadpool is one of those things I've always wanted to get started on, but usually fail to. Both Marvel books. Hah. Few others, including a couple of recommendations from friends, but right now, I don't feel like I'm missing much.

This has went longer than I intended. Sorry, I don't get to talk about comics very often.

Shalom.

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.

• Monday, March 9, 2009 0 comments

The panel above you might recognize as Justin's handiwork, from our comic "Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name." This is a relatively new panel, a sketch from a scene that I've been worried about, not because of Justin, because he's got his shit together far better than I do, but rather because when I wrote it, I was afraid maybe I'd dropped the ball a little bit. It's a very standard scene, just a meet-cute, really, boy meets girl with a twist, and while what it's supposed to do is very simple, it can come off as forced pretty easily. But here I sit, looking into the eyes of Tana Cash's daughter Calamity, with her little head tilt and that look in her eyes like she's measuring this boy she's on panel with for...well, not a suit, and I'm just in heaven.

That look is perfect. In it I see the little thing I was so afraid I didn't do. But Justin nailed it. And that, in a way, it why I love comics so much, because deep down, at the end of the day, no matter what you're doing, if you're really lucky, if you're really working with the best people, then your artist is your partner in crime and has totally got your back and saved your ass in moments like this. Means a lot. And I sort of just want to gush like a proud poppa, but bottom line, it's excellent work.

It's a good day, for the most part. Stayed up most of the night, going over "Trendsetter" notes and feedback from friends. Looked hard at the assumptions people were making, what was standing out but not working, and what needed to be done to make my too-bloated-for-a-short short into a real, legit movie. I've talked here several times about what I needed for that transition, but I haven't really made much progress on what the new content will actually contain, and what of the old content will have to change.

But I'm proud to say, some time around five or six this morning, I put together the first rough [very rough] outline for the new "Trendsetter." Now, in some ways, this is nothing to celebrate, because by my own time line I am significantly behind, but as I said to a friend earlier, being behind and knowing where you're going is infinitely superior to being behind and having no clue what the hell you're doing.

Some things have become a lot easier, and a lot clearer to me. Unless there is another significant change, Brandon's parent's and his extended family are out, while, likely, a small bit-part character from the original script will be getting more screen time, and one new character [unsurprisingly, another old, familiar face from some of my previous work] will be joining the cast. Furthermore, an aspect to my protagonist's character that was sacrificed for the more passive stance Brandon takes is going to be returning, hopefully making "Trendsetter" a bit more traditional in plot without sacrificing what the aspects of the character that make it more unique [I feel like people are hearing me talk about "traditional" and freaking out a little bit, however, I'm not selling out -- just expanding the narrative, which will involve Brandon being a little more proactive in his fate].

Few problems arise. I knew one of my hobby-horses, a neat little gimmick where in the pre-letter year I have Brandon use the slang term "Rad" [a nod to a friend from college, Dylan Sanders-Self], and then, when picking up the narrative a year later, having everyone say "rad" but Brandon. What it was supposed to be was just a subtle nod that maybe there is something about my protagonist that predisposes people to pick up thinks he does in a fad-like manner. Regrettably, while everyone seems to notice this quirk, few if any "get" it's inclusion, so it will not be seeing any time in the next draft. So much for being clever, but if it's not working, it's not working, no matter how cool I think it is.

There's also a slight fear I have that the movie will be starting a little... late. General rule in screenwriting is by page 20, some pretty significant action has taken place that makes the story more interesting, raises the stakes, and sets some goals, but at my current outline it actually looks like something along those lines won't be appearing until almost page 50. This is obviously going to be an editing problem, and some stuff is going to have to be cut, but I think, if I manage to keep the beginning interesting enough [like the the near-10 minute intro I have currently], I might be able to pull it off anyway. It probably shouldn't be worrying me this soon -- a bridge to be crossed when I get there, but it is, in my experience, better to see these things coming.

There are other things, and I need to contact Kyle and fill him in, of course, but for right now I'm just pleased with progress made, and the possibility of progress to come. More here soon, of course. Breakthroughs are great, though.

Cheers.

March Sadness

• Saturday, March 7, 2009 1 comments
As of yesterday, my days as landed gentry have officially ended, and I am now only Randall Nichols II, gentleman. One of meager means and, no doubt, numbered days in the life he has thus far pursued. Thankfully, those days might be extended considerably if I approach this problem with a little intelligence, and hopefully, I shall be graced with some in a short enough period of time so as to take advantage of it.

This is not what I'll consider a happy day, though getting out from under that land and making a little money for my trouble is most certainly a good thing. Today is the end of a dream, one that has been unrealistic, maybe even impossible, for months now, but once saw me and a very beautiful, intelligent girl, enjoying cohabitation in a house that probably shouldn't support one tenet, let alone two. And while it would have just been transitional, two people who were not built for country living, making a go of it together in a summer too hot and with no air conditioning [or cable for that matter]... I occasionally looked forward to that. And I'll miss it.

Hah. Missing something I did not have. Ridiculous. But the possibilities were too nice and beautiful to not mourn, and I will miss them. All these things I've left behind.

I plan to post again later tonight, and this, it was my intention, was to have been posted last night. But I fell asleep unnaturally early for me yesterday, so I'm playing catch up a little bit.

Shalom.

Holy shit, I'm up before 11.

• Friday, March 6, 2009 0 comments
Just some short, little things.

Feeling much better now. Only contending with a cough. Planning on not letting it get out of hand.

Had some thoughts while sick, considering a few changes. Nothing right away, improvements, maybe? Definitely in a new, blue funk right now, carried over from being sick. Lots of thoughts on the matter, private for the moment. Probably talk about more later.

Yesterday was a bit of a wash. Meant to spend evening with friend, he seemed like he needed it, but my first full evening on my feet ended up getting me pulled away to make up on all the chores I missed. Hope the night to himself helped his recovery though.

Saw "Watchmen" at midnight, lots of thoughts, plenty of notes [Re: six pages]. Considering a legit, or at least semi-legit review to go up here. Aiming for Sunday, but reviews were always sort of torturous for me [what isn't? they'd ask]. But I should be writing something, and this seems like the most present thing for me to write at the moment.

Slightly behind my self-set [and mostly secret] date for finish of the next draft of "Trendsetter." Was aiming for middle of March, now seems unlikely. Being sick lost me a week, but I also thought a few of these other hassles would have vacated by now. Could improve my mood if they would, which would also stir some inspiration, I'm sure. Also have some last minute comments from friends to figure in as well, and honestly I know what has to be done, I just haven't had many new ideas on how to do it. Looking at end of March/beginning of April. Despite block, seems realistic, and possible.

Cheers.

Tandoori to go.

• Thursday, March 5, 2009 1 comments
I'm back. Feeling better. Could probably write at great length about it, but for once, I won't. Feeling pensive.

Tonight is "Watchmen" night, got my ticket, no idea how it's going to go. John sent me something for my anticipation though, which I have no idea the source of, but honestly thought was the greatest thing ever. So, before I see it, before I form an opinion, a little fun:If this belongs to you, just e-mail me. It's awesome, but I don't want to offend.

Shalom.

Nothing fancy.

• Monday, March 2, 2009 0 comments
Still sick. Worse than I thought. Should be back up in the next couple of days. No promises.

If well wishes are in my inbox, thank you. Haven't looked yet.