Thursday, January 02, 2014

My Favorite Comics of 2013

Right, you know what this is all about. Let's get to it with the obvious statement: 2013 was a damn good year for comics.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The Line It Is Drawn is having an open call for artists

My pal Brian Cronin, who runs the Comics Should Be Good blog over at Comic Book Resources, recently announced an open call for artists for the The Line It Is Drawn feature:


I have been meaning to add a couple of new Line it is Drawn artists for a while now. So if you’re interested, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com with two pin-ups attached (in jpeg format) by December 22nd. One pin-up should feature an inter-company crossover of your choosing (like Atomic Robo teaming up with Batman) and the other one should feature a comic book cover homage of your choosing (like Tony Chu holding his sister and crying a la the cover to Crisis on Infinite Earths #7). I will pick two or three of my favorites and they’ll be the newest members of the Line it is Drawn gallery in the New Year.
So there's that. The feature is a lot of fun to read each week, and apparently a lot of fun for the artists too. If you're one of those drawin' types, give it a whirl.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Election Day 2013

And so we come to the first Tuesday in November, aka Election Day, aka the most important day on the calendar that isn't a federal holiday. (I'd ditch Columbus Day in exchange for this one, just for the record.)

My feelings on the importance of voting have been summed up numerous times, so they don't need to be repeated here, except to say: Get out and vote, dummy.

This is one of those off-off-years for elections, where nothing much is happening federally and all the attention is focused on state and local races. Here in New York City, we're electing public officials, including a mayor to replace Michael Bloomberg. I think we've actually got more people running in this race than ran for President last year, which makes sense if you think about it. Gracie Mansion has a view of the city skyline and Long Island; the White House has a view of the Capitol Building. Which would you want to look at?

The top two candidates are Bill De Blasio and Joe Lhota. DiBlasio is the favored candidate going into Election Day, largely because Lhota seems to think he's campaigning to replace Bloomberg as Least Likable Person In New York City instead of mayor. Maybe someone should have told him. Regardless, my choice was easy to make, since Lhota's biggest accomplishment as head of the MTA was to jack up my cost of living every time he ran into a problem.

Also running as a lesser party candidate is John Catsimatides. He ran earlier in the Republican primary, which he lost because (a) his campaign lynchpin was putting his silly nickname ("Cats") on all his flyers and (b) he appears at all times to be melting. There's also the "Rent Is Too Damn High" guy, although at this point he's pretty much a tourist attraction, like a more civic-minded Naked Cowboy.

We're also electing a Comptroller, Public Advocate, and a new City Council. The biggest story in any of those races is that, during the primary season, former governor Eliot Spitzer actually thought New Yorkers would put a guy who spent 80 large on prostitutes in charge of the city's checkbook. We're crazy, but we're not stupid.

There are also some ballot initiatives. The big one is a constitutional amendment that would legalize casino gambling in a limited form. I voted against it because I smelled graft, and because the last thing I want is more shitty advertisements for casinos on my TV. I still haven't recovered from 2009's Mohegan Sun ads. I also voted against selling some public land in the Adirondacks to a mining company, because duh.

So that's how I participated in our democracy today. I hope you do the same.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Grandma Lorayne

My grandma passed away on Friday morning. Writing about my grandfathers here seemed to help me process their deaths, so let's go ahead and do that again.

Grandma Lorayne (she went by her middle name; her first was Georgia) was my mother's mother. She was born in Oklahoma in 1922, and, like most Oklahomans of that time, grew up dirt poor but proud. It was probably her (and her husband, Grandpa Emil's) experiences that led me to my interest in John Steinbeck. Unlike the Joads, Grandma's family stuck it out through the Depression and the Dust Bowl. Long after more recent memories had faded, Grandma could still tell stories about the great black clouds of dust descending on a town, blotting out the sun and filling every imaginable space with grit.

Grit, of course, also means endurance, orneriness, and Grandma had that in spades. She endured the '30s, then endured the war of the early '40s, waiting for Grandpa to return home from Europe. She endured two difficult pregnancies in the ten years afterwards. She endured the tumult of the sixties, and raising a teenaged daughter in that time. She endured breast cancer, early retirement, and the coming of old age. She endured caring for her older sister, my mom's favorite aunt, when Fern's condition became too frail for her to manage herself (Fern was a fighter, too; she made it to the ripe old age of 100 in 1998). She endured having my brother and I as grandsons (just kidding, Matt. Mostly.). She even endured a great big balloon shaped like Mario slowly falling on her. Indeed, she was able to endure everything life threw at her, until the loss of Grandpa. That one, I think, was too much for even her. She was less vibrant, less engaged. Life had lost its attraction. These last few months, I think, she was looking forward to being with him again. And now, she is. It's small comfort for those of us left behind, but comfort nonetheless.

The things I'll remember about Grandma: Her smile and laughter. The smell of her French toast cooking. How I could brighten her day, just by being there really, but also by presenting her with some silly knick-knack shaped like a cat. Her running commentary during my favorite TV shows (or "programs", as she called them). The time she spent an entire episode of Walker: Texas Ranger counting how many people he beat up. What her face must have looked like when Mom and Dad took her to see The Forty Year-Old Virgin. Her hugs. Her kisses. How much she enjoyed being a grandma. How much I enjoyed having her as mine.

I'm gonna miss you, Grandma.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Some Ado About Much Ado About Nothing

This thought has been swirling around in my mind since I saw Joss Whedon's new film version last month: The whole play really is about love, isn't it?

I know what you're thinking: "No shit, it's a romantic comedy." (Indeed, it may be THE romantic comedy, the archetypal form from which all others follow.) But really, most romantic comedies, and most of Shakespeare's comedies, are about relationships. This one is, too, with the delightful sparring of Beatrice and Benedick, and the milquetoast courtship of Claudio and Hero. (The subject of another essay entirely.) But when you think about it, or at least when I've thought about it over the last month, it's really about love. Love, and all the silly, wonderful, terrible things we do because of it.

The couples, of course, do what they do out of love. Beatrice, Benedick, Hero and Claudio all react in myriad ways as their love is tested, threatened, thwarted, and, at last, returned. But what about everyone else? There's Leonato, of course; could his outrage at Hero's supposed sins be as passionate, as painful, if he didn't love her so? Don Pedro facilitates Claudio and Hero's romance out of filial love for them both; something similar might be behind his plot to match up Beatrice and Benedick. And yet, he makes more than one pass at wooing Beatrice as well. What does he feel for her? And there's poor Margaret. We never get inside her head much, but she must feel something for Borachio, and she's used for it, used to harm her friend and mistress, whom she also loves dearly. And she is, in the end, forgiven. As must we all, for who hasn't done something incredibly stupid out of misplaced love. (See also Borachio himself, and, at least in Whedon's version, the poorly misused Conrade as well.)

There is one character who's an exception to all this, of course: Don John. Nothing he does could be construed as coming out of love, not even love of himself. When he tells his comrades, and us, that he is "a plain-dealing villain", what he's actually saying is that he's incapable of love. You can't help but pity him a little bit, and while I'm generally not a fan of "villain's point of view" rewrites of classics, there's something there to mine of how he got that way. I don't believe anyone's born evil, so what happened to him? And are there parallels between him and the bitter, broken-hearted Beatrice and Benedick of the play's beginning? What would they have become, if not for their friends? If not for love?

In another project, Whedon once wrote, "Love makes you do the wacky." Not exactly Shakespearean, but you get the idea. It's probably an idea as old as storytelling itself, or older. And like all good ideas, we keep coming back to it. The point of art, after all, is to explore what it means to be human. And you could come up with worse definitions of that than "To love."

Sunday, April 07, 2013

My ChildHood Heroes

Warning: You are about to read something very nerdy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Neil Gaiman Has Done Something Wonderful

Which is really nothing new, but, you know.

It all started with Twitter and Blackberry. On February 4, Gaiman tweeted twelve questions, one per hour, to his followers, themed around the months of the year. Out of the many, many responses he got for each month, he chose a prompt for a quick short story, around 1000 words. Then, over the next three days, and with a camera crew hanging over his shoulder, he wrote the stories. 'Nuff said on that account.

The stories are now available as a PDF download here. They're all quite wonderful, in that way Gaiman has. I've said for years that he's one of our best magical realists, and these stories prove it. They're all fantastic, but very grounded, very human, reminding me of what it's like, trying to get through this life. Some are sad, some are funny, some are scary, some are varying combinations of all three. I don't think I'll ever look at a calendar the same way again.

Oh, and it's not over yet. They're looking for illustrations of the stories for an eventual digital showcase and print edition. Obviously, I won't be participating in that part, but there's no reason why you couldn't. At worst, you've lost a bit of time, and gained the experience of having read some really good stories.

I am toying with the idea of doing something with my own answers. Maybe just an entry regarding where they came from. I don't know. Some of it might be a bit more personal than I'm willing to get into in my old age. (I really do look back at some of my old entries on this blog and cringe.) Or maybe I'll turn them into stories. One of them, January, was about something I've considered in story terms for quite a while now.

But that's all for later. Right now, you should go download those stories. Then, get a cup of your favorite beverage, sit in your favorite chair, and do some reading. It's good for you.