Thursday, September 30, 2010

COOL SHIT 9-30-10



Jesus. Another crap week here at Cool Shit. Once again, there is only one book who made the cut, and sad to say, it was just barely. Maybe I’m depressed with the news that DC might be shutting down Vertigo by December. I don’t know. But, here we go with the one good book of the week:



CROSSED: FAMILY VALUES #4: Yeah, I miss Garth Ennis on this series. The new writer, David Lapham, is really good with most things (crime, obviously), but pseudo-zombie apocalypses? Not so much. Ennis can take humanity and make it real, but Lapham sometimes makes it sound too hokey. Still, they share the ability to be extreme. As per usual, the kinda-sorta zombies are ultra-violent, and their words are really ugly, but Lapham falls into the trap so many writers these days are familiar with: the real monsters of this book are the people. Yes, the villains here are ordinary people with guns who want to steal horses from our heroes. Things get nasty, and the main bad guy (a fella’ who looks a bit too much like Alan Moore) sounds exactly like one of the Crossed, especially when he says things like, “I’ll fuck that little girl’s brains through her teeth while the rest of ‘em [pregnant women] bleed out!” It’s a good read (not great), and the art, while sometimes silly, is good enough (I miss Jacen Burrows, too), but ultimately worth the price of admission.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SHIT ON TV by Dr. Jonah Chaos

Recently, the FCC reduced the Seven Words You Can't Say on Television to six.  You can now say "shit" on TV, and CHICAGO HOPE took advantage of this.

In Elmhurst, citizens are up in arms about this, going so far as to picket City Hall.  Mayor T--- M------- said at a press conference that he is indeed pissed off at the FCC, especially if it will win him votes in the upcoming election.  "What if children hear it on TV?" M-------- said.  "Fuck the FCC!  FCC stands for Fuckin' Cocks and Cunts!"

In fact, many children who overheard M--------'s speech have adopted his cry of, "Fuck the Fuckin' Cocks and Cunts!"  They shout it gleefully in the streets.

"Fuck those bastards!" said Thomas Finn, 8.  "How dare those cocksuckers expose us to the s-word!"

My question is, what's the problem?  There should be nation-wide celebrations.  One down, six to go.  As much as I despise the poison semen of Satan's crusty, wart-spotted, AIDS-infected cock (the mayor), I have no choice but to agree with him.  Fuck the FCC!  Not because they let "shit" slip by, but because they put so many regulations on TV in the first place.

Words are words.  Some may be powerful, some insulting, but is it wrong to say certain things just because they imply something dirty?  "Shit" describes something emitted from every human being.  It's perfectly normal to excrete a hunk of brown, stinking matter.  In fact, your bodies rely on the act of shitting.  Why, then, is the word "shit" considered immoral?

To "fuck" is for one being, be it male or female with a strap-on, to insert a cock-like object, be it dick or dildo, into the hole of another human being, male or female, cunt or asshole.  This act is also perfectly natural and quite pleasurable to boot.  In other words, not only do people do it, but people do it a lot.  Not only should it be allowed to say "fuck" on TV, it should also be allowed to fuck on TV, or at least have some sex scenes that show nudity besides some guy's wrinkled ass.

These are only two examples.  There are many more.  The question remains, then, why allow the existence of the FCC?  The argument that certain words are dirty does not hold.

The only possible answer is to lie to children, to maybe deter them from fucking by keeping them stupid.  Why keep them from fucking?  Teenage pregnancy, so-called decency, sexually transmitted diseases, and most importantly, fear.  God help them if these kids ever experience pleasure!

I implore you to stop lying to our future.  While you're at it, how about giving them some freedom, too?  Take age requirements off tobacco and alcohol.  It means nothing anyway, except to earn the city money when kids get fined for under-aged smoking or drinking.  To restrict something is to restrict thinking.  To restrict thinking is to restrict evolution.  To restrict evolution is to restrict intellectual growth.  Thus, to restrict kids from having a choice about anything is to reduce them to the level of morons.  Maybe if you start treating kids like intelligent human beings, with dignity, they might surprise you.

Think about it, if you're capable.

Monday, September 27, 2010

THE ELMHURST PUBLIC HOUSE: DAYS GONE PAST


The Elmhurst Public House used to be a lot more fun. Not to say that one can’t have a good time there now, but their drink specials just aren’t what they used to be. In the golden era of drinking at the Public House, every Tuesday and Thursday were $1 personal pitcher days. Domestic only, of course, but still, it was the main attraction to the place back then.



The only drawback was that the personal pitcher was almost impossible to pour from. It was a guarantee that anyone attempting to do so would lose at least a mouthful of beer to the table top; the liquid would just slop down the entire body of the pitcher instead of going into the desired cup. A friend advised that you should just drink from the pitcher itself, at the otherwise inefficient spout, and this seemed to remedy the situation.


Not that it matters. This drink special is gone, and there really isn’t much else to say about the place because of it.


During the day, it serves as a decent restaurant with good mozzarella sticks, but you don’t want to hear about that. No, you’re looking for a good time, in which case you want to show up at night. Don’t go too late, or you’ll never find a place to sit. It’s mostly a college crowd in there, and they love to flood the place. Anytime after nine o’clock, and you’ll be standing, and even that is doubtful.

Even if you do find a seat, you won’t want to get up to go to the bathroom because someone else will take your chair the moment you’re out of sight. The customers here know no mercy, and they don’t honor anyone's space. Yes, your fellow patrons are not your friends (unless you’re accompanied by actual friends, and they will have to struggle to save your seat), and barroom etiquette is rarely observed here.


But the waitresses and bartenders are very good. If you ask for a whiskey on the rocks, easy on the rocks, they will take you at your word. They will not water your drinks down, and the service is fairly prompt if all you want is a drink. (If you want food, it’ll take a bit longer than most would prefer, since there are so many goddam people in there, and they all want food. And don’t order the steak. They overcook their meat. Steak shouldn’t crunch in your mouth.)


There are decent drink specials (not as good as the $1 personal pitchers, but still not bad), and every once in a while they have a live band. The place is not, however, built for live bands, so you might want to avoid the crowd for those evenings.


The Public House is very accommodating when it comes to reserving tables. In fact, they’ll give you an entire room for your event, where you won’t have to deal with the other asshole customers.


In short, the music is good, the service is good, there is plenty to look at, but beware of your fellow drinkers. They are beasts, and they don’t have a sense of good manners. But forgive them; they’re in college, they know not what they do.



The Elmhurst Public House

683 W. St. Charles Rd.
Elmhurst, IL 60126

Friday, September 24, 2010

TALES OF DENTISTRY CHAPTER TWO


What is a crown lengthening procedure? It’s simple, really. It’s when they remove a swath of gums from under one of your teeth, thereby making the crown look bigger. This is what Dentist Two had in mind for me. The idea was to have the procedure done so Dentist One could see under the gums to see how far down the decay went. He would then make a decision about what we need to do with my bad tooth at that point.
Dentist Two was a chipper woman, whose abundance of energy somehow put me at ease. Not enough at ease that my blood pressure wasn’t rocketing, of course, but still, I was more relaxed than I expected to be.
About the high blood pressure: Dentist Two doesn’t do anything to you if your blood pressure is beyond a certain point. I was right there on the cusp. She kept testing me until I was relaxed to the point where she felt it was safe to give me Novocain.
There was really only one problem with the procedure: when they do this, they only numb your gums. You can still feel your teeth, and the bad one was pretty tender at this point. Every time she brushed up against it, I felt a jolt of pain. Now, speaking as one who had been through an immense amount of pain recently, I was able to take most of it, but there was one point when she actually tapped the tooth with a metal tool, and I jumped up hard enough to almost fall off the chair.
The procedure itself was pretty quick, though, which was merciful. It didn’t even seem all that scary. The worst part was watching her closing me up. The idea of stitches in my mouth absolutely terrified me. I didn’t even need to see the result to be frightened by it. Just seeing her pull the thread back was enough to gross me out.
When she finished, she handed me a mirror, and I saw that my tooth did, indeed, look bigger. There were two black blots in there, which I took to be the stitches. All in all, it didn’t look too bad. I showed it to some friends later, and they were shocked by it. In fact, they were kind of surprised that I could be up and about, knowing that there were stitches in my gums.
She gave me post-op instructions (including do not sip through a straw or spit for a day, and rinse my mouth out with saltwater a few times) and told me to come back in a week to have the stitches out. After that, I can go back to Dentist One for an examination. And if I experienced any pain, I should take a couple of Advil. Well, that sounded kind of small for oral pain, but as it turned out, it wasn’t so bad. I hardly felt a thing. Every once in a while, while eating, I felt something tug at the stitches, and that wasn’t comfortable. But that was the worst of it. Oh yeah, and I couldn’t eat anything sharp, like potato chips. That was actually the worst part, as I’m a huge fan of chips.
Anyway, I followed instructions, and when I got the stitches snipped and pulled out, Dentist Two said everything was looking very good. Cool.
I went back to Dentist One, and after poking around a bit, he said that he thought he could clear this up with a root canal. This wasn’t a promise. He said that things could still fall apart, but he thought it was worth a shot, that a root canal could possibly fix this.
Root canals are done in two parts. The first is to cut the top off your tooth and then to go in and file all the decay out, all the way down to the roots of your teeth. The second part is to close everything up with a crown after a few finishing touches. The tooth would then be a dead tooth, but it would still be in your mouth, right?
Okay, so I went in for part one, after having heard horror stories all my life about root canals. In actuality, it’s not all that bad. There is ZERO pain when they’re doing it. There is some discomfort because you have to keep your mouth open for a long time, but that’s the worst of it. The dentist then puts a bunch of files that look like needles into your tooth. It looks scary, I’ll tell you that, but again, there is ZERO pain. I was so loaded up on Novocain, you probably could have hit me in the mouth with a hammer, and I wouldn’t have felt it.
Then, there is the filler. If you hollow out your roots, you need something to fill the spot, right? He stuffed four rods into the tooth, which he then had to seal by setting them on fire. The assistant produced a lighter, which the dentist used to heat up a metal tool. As soon as it was hot enough, he pressed it into each root. The sizzle and the smell of burning tooth was kind of off-putting, but again, there is ZERO pain.
He then cooked up a temporary crown, which he glued in place. He told me to come back next week, and we’d finish up. He said everything looked very good, that he thought this was really going to work.
I went on my way. He told me if there was any pain, I should take a couple of Advil. This time, though, I did feel pain afterwards. Actually, a lot of it. That’s when it all catches up to you, after the procedure is done, not during. I got a jumbo bottle of Advil and slogged through the week.
There was one problem: half of my tongue remained numb when the rest of that side of my mouth came back to me. I couldn’t taste anything on that side for that entire week. Why? I’ll explain in a moment.
I went back, expecting everything to go smoothly. In fact, Dentist One said that since it was now a dead tooth, I wouldn’t need Novocain. But I was paranoid, so I asked him to shoot me up, anyway, which he gladly did.
At this point, I mentioned my half-numb tongue, and he said that it’s actually a common thing. When injecting Novocain, you’re supposed to just touch the nerve with the needle, but occasionally, the drug gets INTO the nerve. When this happens, numbness can continue indefinitely. Now THAT is scary. I asked how long this would last, and he said sometimes it takes a few weeks, sometimes a few months. There are some cases in which the tongue remains numb forever.
I tried to keep that out of my mind as he started poking around in my mouth. He took the temporary crown off and probed into the tooth. As he was doing this, he cursed.
“What’s up?” I asked, or at least, I tried to ask. My mouth was open too wide at this point.
“It might be too late to save the tooth,” he said. “I need an x-ray to make sure, but just sit tight for a moment.”
They took an x-ray, and when Dentist One returned, he pointed out the trouble area. “The tooth’s got to go. This is why.” He pointed out a crack in the root of the tooth, right there by the jaw. Apparently, the bottom of the tooth was in two pieces, and nothing can fix that. “The decay just went too deep.”
As he put the temporary crown back in, he told me my options. There were three. First, I could get an implant. It would take a lot of time, almost a year, and a lot of money, thousands of dollars. But it was the best option. Secondly, I could get a bridge. This involved sanding down the teeth on either side of the gap and affixing a piece over the space, using the filed down teeth as anchors. This was the most popular solution, but it tended to wear down the bone in the jaw in the blank spot, and it put undue stress on the anchor teeth. Lastly, I could just let it go. Just deal with the empty space.
The last one wasn’t an option for me. At the time, I was 31 years old. Too young for missing teeth. If I was in my sixties, I would have just dealt with it. I didn’t know about the other two, though. I spoke with my friend, Jason, about it. He lost one of his upper front teeth, and he wound up getting a bridge to fix it. He never had any complaints about it, but in the end, I chose to get an implant. It sounded sturdier and healthier from what the dentist told me.
Dentist One then said for me to go back to Dentist Two. She specializes in implants, and she knew how to prepare for it when pulling the tooth. (I was also told about same-day implants, but those are actually not very sturdy at all. They’re actually kind of a scam.)
So, I made an appointment with Dentist Two to have the tooth pulled and the preparations for an implant to begin. Tune in next time for that account, and to find out how a THIRD dentist got involved . . . .

[WHAT FOLLOWS IS A PICTURE OF THE TEMPORARY CROWN, EVEN THOUGH IT'S NOT VERY CLEAR.]

Thursday, September 23, 2010

COOL SHIT 9-23-10

Sorry, but only one good book came out this week. There were a couple of notables (like Brian Keene’s THE LAST ZOMBIE #2 and the new issue of THE DARK TOWER), but they just barely fell short of the Cool Shit mark. I think it’s no surprise, though, that the one good book is . . .




THE WALKING DEAD #77: Protagonist Rick Grimes has come a long way since we met him in issue one. I remember even considering him a hero back then. Tragedy and hard decisions have turned him into a much darker force over the course of nearly 80 issues. Once again, we find him doing something very questionable in order to protect his friends. This is the first time he has committed such an act in a cold, soulless way. Even though he still does these things through love, he might have finally crossed the line into villainous territory. Even when he hanged the murderer in the prison storyline, he did so with rage burning in his eyes. Bad deeds have become such a commonplace occurrence for him that he doesn’t even feel it anymore.

And that’s what makes him such a fascinating protagonist. This guy, he’s just like us. He’s not Bruce Wayne avenging the deaths of his parents. He’s not Spawn, seeking justice against the forces of Hell. He was just some guy, and then the zombie apocalypse came along. Would we be so different from him in his shoes? Would we have made different choices?

Without society, the center doesn’t hold. Darwinism does, though. Only the savage can survive. As Hunter S. Thompson used to say, “It’s time to get familiar with cannibalism.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

FUCKED!, an opinions column by Dr. Jonah Chaos

[NOTE: IN MY YOUNGER YEARS (IN THE LATE 'NINETIES), ONE OF MY FRIENDS AT THE LIBRARY STARTED UP A WEBSITE DEDICATED TO MAKING FUN OF MY HOMETOWN, ELMHURST. HE KNEW I WAS A WRITER, SO HE ASKED IF I'D BE INTERESTED IN JOINING THE STAFF. OF COURSE I WAS, AND I WAS GIVEN WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A REGULAR OPINIONS COLUMN, WHICH I WOULD WRITE UNDER THE PEN NAME, DR. JONAH CHAOS. (I HAD OTHER PEN NAMES AND DUTIES, BUT NONE WERE AS FUN AS CHAOS.) NEEDLESS TO SAY, NONE OF THE WORK I DID FOR THE WEBSITE WAS POSTED. I THINK IT WAS A BIT TOO MUCH FOR THEIR AUDIENCE. I ALSO WROTE AN INTERVIEW WITH THE MAYOR, WHICH IS REFERRED TO IN THIS STORY. I MADE ALL SORTS OF RIDICULOUS CLAIMS, LIKE THE REASON ELMHURST IS SO WHITE IS BECAUSE THE MAYOR HAS ANYONE IN TOWN WITH SKIN DARKER THAN AN ITALIAN'S MURDERED AND BURIED BENEATH CITY HALL. I ALSO CLAIMED HE WAS A PEDOPHILE, THAT HE KEPT A CATAMITE ON HAND AT ALL TIMES. NO WONDER THIS SHIT NEVER SAW THE LIGHT OF DAY . . . .]


The President of the United States visited your parents' home and fucked your mother. Now what do you think of the sex scandals surrounding Bill Clinton? Apathetic now, are you? Just the Prez doing a little fucking, huh? He just wants to lay some pipe. Yeah, well, he's laying some pipe in your mother.

I know what you're thinking: there goes Dr. Chaos again, spouting crazy shit. But you don't understand. I'm not lying. Clinton visited Elmhurst yesterday, and he went from household to household, fucking all the women in town, including your mother. What's that? Your mother is dead? He dug her up and violated her corpse. I saw him, and so did the rest of this shit-crusted city.

FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK!

What am I doing? I apologize. I'm new to this publication, and this is my first opinions column? Sorry, I've been having trouble with the fucking mayor, and I haven't the time to come up with a proper column. I promise the following pieces will be better, but with the booze and my drug-addled brain, I can't take the mayor interview and this thing on top of it.

Don't get me wrong, though; Bill Clinton would fuck your mother . . . if he got the chance.

Monday, September 20, 2010

THE SPRING INN: A HOLE-IN-THE-WALL OASIS



There isn’t a lot of fanfare to the Spring Inn on the outside, and that’s how it should be. Neighborhood bars should never advertise themselves too loudly, because they don’t need to. They have a specialized clientele, and these people all know where to find the Inn. In the summer, there are usually a few smokers out front, and chances are, you know them. But in the winter, there is usually no one there; the smokers are out back where there is a tent for them.

Once inside the Inn, you know you’re in the right place. The lights are dim, but not so dim that you can’t make your way through the crowd. Even though smoking has been banned in bars for quite some time, you can still smell the smoke in the nicotine-stained walls. You can hear darts thunking into a digital board near the back, but only if no one has plugged money into the ‘Eighties rock jukebox.

The bar itself is made of thick wood, and all of it is scarred. Generations of people in this neighborhood have leaned against this bar. It is practically a tradition. The face above the hands wiping at a pint glass is familiar. You always know the bartender in this place. Hell, he probably even knows your drink of choice. You probably don’t need to say a word to him about your preference.

Take a look around. Most of the customers here are middle-aged. They used to come here when they were young, and they’ve never decided to break themselves of the habit. There are a few twenty-somethings here, ready to perpetuate the tradition of their parents. There is even some eye candy here.

But this is not a place to go in order to get laid. It happens, but it’s a rarity. No, this is a place where you go to unwind, have a few drinks, shoot the shit with your friends, and maybe even play a game of darts. If you want to get laid, go down the street to Doc’s. There’s a college crowd down there, and your chances are better.

Ah, you have your drink. If you’re alone, or are with maybe two or three friends, hang out around the bar. Your glass will always be full. Or if you’re with a bigger crowd, push a couple of tables together. If it’s a weekday, no one will bother you. If it’s Friday or Saturday, you might have a bit of trouble, as those tend to be the busy nights. They don’t serve food at night, but sometimes, the bartender will send out for pizza and leave it out for anyone who wants a slice.

The bell over the bar clangs, and the lights suddenly become brighter. The bartender is calling out that it’s closing time. Go up to the bar for one last drink, but the bartender is flexible. If you want another last second shot, he won’t object.

It’s time to go. You head out into the streets, and even if it’s winter, there is a warm feeling in your belly. There are very few places like the Spring Inn in the suburbs, and you will be eager to visit again and again in the future.

Spring Inn
552 Spring Rd.
Elmhurst, IL 60126

Friday, September 17, 2010

TALES OF DENTISTRY CHAPTER ONE



Most adults have had some kind of work done on their teeth. In fact, most of the people you talk to on a daily basis probably don’t have all of their teeth. Maybe they have dentures, or maybe a few crowns, or even some bridgework. It’s incredibly rare to meet someone who has never had a dental problem. It’s all a part of growing up. Some people run into trouble earlier than others, and others luck out and get to keep all their chompers into old age.

I am of the former camp. Since extensive dentistry is a lot more common than one would think, I hope this serialized story will help people understand what it is like to go through something like this. Perhaps it will help someone, or perhaps this is a cautionary tale. You be the judge.

First, a confession: until recently, I had not gone to the dentist since I took the exam to get into high school. The reason I stopped going? Mostly it was fear. I don’t like people putting things into my mouth. But the big reason was that shortly afterward, I was no longer insured. I had been under my grandparents’ insurance, and they had to drop it. There was no way for me to get insurance at the time, and I never managed to get a job working for a company who would give me dental.

Until February 2008, when I was hired at my current job. By then, however, I figured that if there was something wrong with me, it was too late to fix. (Stop laughing. I can hear you.)

So, I went happy-assholing on my way until one day, somewhere back in October 2009, I started getting these really bad headaches. Imagine having gnomes with pickaxes hammering away at the inside of your skull, and you’re not even close to feeling what was going on with me. The pain ran up and down the right side of my face, from my jaw line to my temple. It was unrelenting. It started out every morning on my way in to work, it would continue through the night, preventing me from getting all but one hour of sleep.

I tried everything, but the only thing that seemed to have any favorable effect was booze, and I couldn’t have that at work. I muscled my way through my job every day, and as soon as I got home, I started hitting the bottle as hard as I could. If I was lucky, I was in a drunken stupor by seven o’clock in the evening.

But at work, there were times I seriously considered suicide, the pain was that bad. I was starting to fear that I had trigeminal neuralgia, which is a condition my grandfather has. It’s a stabbing, constant pain, and no one knows how it starts or how to cure it. Suicide sounded a lot more appetizing at that point. There was no way in hell I was going to deal with that for the rest of my life. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I took the day off to go to doctors.

No one knew what it was, so my trigeminal neuralgia fears did not go away, but one doctor suggested that I go to a dentist, just in case.

I decided to make an appointment with the last dentist I had seen, the one from just before high school. We’ll call him Dentist One. When I showed up for my appointment, he did not remember me (no surprise there), but he was not pleased with the idea that I hadn’t sought care with anyone since I had seen him last.

After a few x-rays, he determined what the problem was right away: a piece of an upper molar was missing, and there was some heavy decay in what remained of the tooth. He numbed the area and drilled the decay. As he did this, he said there was the possibility that we’d need a root canal to fix this, but as it turned out, the decay had not reached the nerve yet. It was pretty damned close, though, as I saw when I looked at the x-ray. All it took was a quick filling, and the pain was all over.

But while he was in there, he noticed that I had a significant buildup of tartar on the backs of my teeth. I needed a deep cleaning, and it wouldn’t be fun. It was under my gum line, so they would have to go in with sharp tools to see what they could do about getting me back in action.

For the initial cleaning, they have what I best can describe as a sonic screwdriver (not the kind the Doctor uses on the BBC, sadly) which shakes heavy tartar away. It was shocking. It felt like they were knocking my teeth out, but when I saw the slivers of tartar, I was surprised that there was that much crap in my mouth.

Next came two separate visits, both for the deep cleaning. One would be to numb one side of my mouth, the other to get the other side. After the Novocain injections, everything went very well. It was kind of scary to see blood get suctioned out of my mouth through the clear plastic tube, but it was painless.

It was on the second cleaning visit that Dentist One decided to drop the bombshell on me: he had noticed a dark spot on my x-rays, and he had no idea as to what it was. He wanted to open it up a bit to see what was lurking inside that tooth. Since I was already numbed up, he set to work on me with his drill, and soon thereafter he had bad news.

“This one might have to go,” he said. “There’s a lot of decay in there. It came in from the side, which is highly unusual. I don’t know what could have caused it to happen.”

“Is there a way to save the tooth?” I asked.

“Root canal,” he said. “And even that is a bit iffy. I can’t see all of the decay, so I’m going to send you to a gum specialist. She’s going to perform a crown lengthening on you, and then you’re going to come back so I can take a better look, okay?”

I agreed. Next time, we’ll talk about what a crown lengthening is when we meet Dentist Two.

(The picture below shows me pointing out the trouble tooth.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

COOL SHIT 9-16-10



WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BARON VON SHOCK? #3: Okay, so Rob Zombie’s storytelling is over the top. Anyone who has ever doubted that hasn’t seen the EL SUPERBEASTO cartoon. Every sentence must have a curse word, and a page without nudity or sex feels empty, almost wasted. So far, WHtBvS has lived up to Zombie’s style, but issue three offers something a bit different. Sure, it happens in a Nevada whorehouse, and the thrust of the story is that the main character, while at said whorehouse, runs into a whore he knew when she was a little girl, but somehow none of Zombie’s usual sleaziness creeps through. This is ultimately a sad tale about someone who was nothing, then rose up to superstar celebrity, and then lost it all . . . and now he wants the fame back, no matter the cost. The thing is, there is no betrayal in this cost, just self-humiliation as he tries his best to muscle through a crappy script.

The artwork is a bit rough for my likes, and Donny Hadiwidjaja tries to copy Mike Wolfer too much (at least in the nude scenes). It doesn’t matter, though; Zombie’s writing makes up for it in spades.



HELLBLAZER #271: It has been a long time since I was eager to read this book. I never disliked the adventures of John Constantine, but when Mike Carey took over the writing for this book a few years ago, the quality took a steep decline. It wasn’t until Peter Milligan came on board when the blue collar mage became dynamic again. And now that Simon Bisley is doing the covers, I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve got a hard-on for this book. Biz just has a way of portraying grit, misery, and lunacy; he’s utterly mad, and he’s perfect for HELLBLAZER.

That said, I’ve never been a fan of Milligan’s other classic Vertigo book, SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN. It hasn’t been published for years, and now, Milligan is bringing the character back . . . in the pages of Constantine’s book. Here’s the cool thing, though: Shade’s fuckin’ nuts. Granted, he was always a bit off, but grief over his dead girlfriend has sent him off the deep end, and this becomes evident here as he captures Constantine’s “fiancĂ©” and first changes her face (so she looks like the dead woman) and then tries to mold her mind into that of his beloved. If you gave up on HELLBLAZER during the dark days, you should come back. Milligan’s keeping ‘er warm for you.



HIGHLAND LADDIE #2: It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of THE BOYS, so why wouldn’t I like its second spin-off? Wee Hughie’s gone home to Scotland to clear his head and hang out with his old mates. Here we get a look into his psyche, probably an attempt by writer Garth Ennis to cover all of the Boys’ histories. At this point, the only one we know very little about is Butcher. I only have one complaint: artist John McCrea has taken over the pencils for Darick Robertson. I love McCrea’s work (especially on DICKS), but sometimes, he has a tendency to give passionate characters blank faces. Sadly, he does this with Hughie, and it irritates the shit out of me. But he’s still very good at grotesque scenes. See above for proof.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

FOLLY

[NOTE: BACK WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE, I USED TO DO WRITING EXERCISES TO WARM UP BEFORE WORKING ON SOMETHING WITH MORE MEAT ON IT. THEY WERE USUALLY SHORT AND SILLY, KIND OF LIKE A JOKE. I NO LONGER DO THE EXERCISES BECAUSE I NO LONGER HAVE AS MUCH TIME AS I DID BACK THEN. (I DO THEM, HOWEVER, IF I HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO WORK ON. I HAVE TO STAY SHARP, YOU KNOW.) SOME OF THEM ARE KIND OF GOOD, THOUGH, IF ONLY FOR A CHUCKLE. I'VE DECIDED TO START POSTING THEM HERE ON TUESDAYS, SO I WILL NOW BE PUTTING SOMETHING HERE EVERY . . . FUCKING . . . DAY OF THE WEEK. I HOPE YOU ENJOY.]



Charles Darwin’s boat approached the shore of Tierra del Fuego, and he could see upon the beach a group of natives. They were stark naked and had multicolored paint swirls all over their bodies. He could see them looking at him, foaming at their mouths, eyes wild, their muscles tensed up, ready to attack. Jesus, hadn’t he heard somewhere that they were cannibals?

“My God!” he gasped. “Stop the boat! They’re savages! They’re going to kill us! Turn around! Turn AROUND! Quick! Before they attack!”

Darwin’s boat retreated from the shore, headed back to the main boat, leaving Tierra del Fuego and its inhabitants behind.

“Huh,” a Fuegian said. “That was weird.”

“What do you think he wanted?” asked another.

“I don’t know. Well, anyway, welcome to Starbucks. Can I take your order?”

Monday, September 13, 2010

WHITE COLLAR: CRIME PAYS FOR USA NETWORKS

[SORRY, FOLKS. THIS TV REVIEW MIGHT SEEM A BIT DATED, BUT THIS ARTICLE WAS SUPPOSED TO SHOW UP ONLINE A LOT EARLIER THAN THIS. IN FACT, IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE UP BEFORE SPRING BEGAN. BUT, BETTER LATE THAN NEVER.]



Neal Caffrey (played by Matt Bomer) is just about the classiest, smartest, gentlemanly white collar criminal that you’re ever likely to come across. His specialty is forgeries (to say nothing of the long con), whether they be art, jewelry, bonds, you name it, and he is practically untouchable.

Peter Burke (played by Tim DeKay) is the FBI agent who has been tasked to catch Neal, and with sheer intelligence, hard work, and dedication, he manages to pull this off and put this white collar criminal away for a very long time.

But Neal has special skills, and in exchange for getting out of jail (with an ankle bracelet, of course), he is willing to work with the FBI to put away some of the toughest to find criminals that network television has to offer. So begins USA’s new buddy crime dramady, WHITE COLLAR.

As with most USA shows, the balance between comedy and drama is perfect, like a well-mixed Manhattan. The writing is so intelligent, the viewer is actually likely to learn something (although that something would probably be illegal to practice, so be careful, folks), and the relationships between the characters seem well-defined, but as with all good shows, can be thrown up in the air without the slightest warning, as last year’s finale proved. This show is rich with betrayals, so it is always difficult to trust even the most innocuous of characters, which is good. It keeps the viewers on their toes, rather than sitting complacently by.

Not that the show isn’t pretty to look at. There is plenty of style to keep the more vacuous viewers paying attention. Neal’s world is one of high class, and he must always fit the role if he is to manipulate people into getting what he, and by extension the FBI, wants. But don’t be lured into a false sense of security; there is plenty of meat to sink your teeth into.

The only problem, and this holds true with other USA shows, like PSYCH (Verizon), MONK (Windex), and late THE DEAD ZONE (Visa), is that the product placement is a bit too blatant. When you change the course of action or even dialogue to mention a product, then your art can quickly become a commercial. During January 26’s episode, Neal fiddled around with the interface of a car that was, not surprisingly, a product of the show’s sponsor, Ford. Once the logo and technology were prominently displayed, and the characters had made mention of it, the story was free to continue. Most people don’t give a shit about this, but for those who do, it is kind of grating on the nerves. But if you can get past this bullshit, you are in for a hell of a show.

WHITE COLLAR
Tuesdays, 9 pm central
USA Networks

Friday, September 10, 2010

WIZARD WORLD INTERVIEWS PART FOUR

Apologies to my other subjects, but this interview is my favorite. When we found Brian Azzarello, writer of 100 BULLETS, LOVELESS, LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL, JOKER, and a number of other excellent books, on Friday, he was very reluctant to give an interview. In fact, when he finally said yes, it was on the condition that we come up with questions he hadn't been asked before. Always eager to rise up and face a challenge, I did my best, and Leo came up with a few questions, too. In the end, Mr. Azzarello complimented us, saying that we did, indeed, do a good job. I have no doubt that you will enjoy what follows, the final interview of Wizard World Week.



John Bruni: Otto Penzler recently stated that he was sick and tired of people equating detective fiction with noir. He said that noir is more about losers. Robert Bloch once said something along the same lines, but instead of losers, he said the damned. The losers and the damned, these are your protagonists. What do you think is the appeal?

Brian Azzarello: I wouldn’t go as far as to say these are losers and the damned. They are people who make mistakes, just like every one of us, which is where the appeal lies. When you read this kind of fiction, you recognize when the train goes off the rails, and it’s fascinating to watch. These characters try, usually to no avail, to bring themselves back to the right path. The motivations are so believable. “Losers” is harsh. They’re people who make mistakes. That’s what makes them relatable to me. I guess I just don’t want to call myself a loser.

JB: It does seem that all your characters are doomed from the start because they are predisposed to making those mistakes. And speaking of mistakes, even though crime rates are down these days, there seems to be more of it on TV, on the news. I was in court yesterday, and I saw maybe about five cases. The judge was so bored that he went to his chambers and said to call him if any new cases came in, that he’ll be on break until then. I know, it sounds kind of weird.

BA: It is.

JB: Why do you think there’s more violence on the news? Is it just sensationalism?

BA: Sure, it is.

JB: Do you think it’s the same thing that draws readers to crime fiction?

BA: Maybe. I think it links more to . . . look around today. Look at the crowds at this show. You think these crowds are here for Captain Kirk? They’re here for Governor Jerk.

Leo Perez: I just spoke with him.

BA: Did you?

LP: Yeah.

BA: And what did he say?

LP: He thinks he’s larger than life. I asked him what his plans are for after this, and he said that he wants to rebuild his family. And he’s also going on THE DAILY SHOW on Monday. He really didn’t have much else to say other than, he’s looking for more jobs out there that could make him seem bigger than what he is.

BA: A lot of people in this sort of situation, they take a step back from the spotlight, but he’s running towards it.

LP: He told me that Wizard World approached him.

BA: Well, somebody had to contact somebody. He’s got an agent. I don’t know what to believe there. Nobody’s going to take responsibility.

JB: Have you seen his outrageous rates?

BA: Are they any more outrageous than someone else’s?

JB: They are, actually.

LP: Eighty dollars for a photo op, fifty for an autograph.

BA: How much is Captain Kirk?

Cliff Breaux: Eighty.

JB: Really?

BA: Well, if he can get it . . . .

LP: People are giving it to him.

JB: It seems like people are getting fleeced and liking it, by people like the governor.

BA: I don’t know, do they like it? Do you think so?

JB: They’re willingly giving him money for the photo op.

BA: That doesn’t mean they like him. I think right now they like his infamy. When they announced him, there was a chorus of boos. Does that mean they like him? No, but they want his autograph. Just imagine if OJ was here. Not that I’m equating the two, but I guess I just equated the two.

LP: Will this steer you away from coming again [to Wizard World]?

BA: No, I don’t think so. But it is weird. This has turned into more of an autograph show. It’s really not about comics. I don’t know if it’s for me, anymore. C2E2, that was exclusively about comics.

LP: Is that why DC and Marvel are absent this year?

BA: No, I think that’s something to do with . . . it’s not just DC, it’s something to do with Marvel, Dark Horse, all those big guys. They’re not here, and I don’t know why. I don’t get at all the politics and stuff.

JB: Do you think it’s better to write from pain or love?

BA: You can be more objective if you’re writing from pain.

JB: That’s true. Graves rests at the heart of 100 BULLETS, but what does he really represent? Responsibility? Temptation? Indulgence? A lot of the characters seem to view him in a different light.

BA: That’s what made the character work so well. He wasn’t a chameleon-like character, but he represented something different to all the other characters. He was kind of a tabula rasa for what they wanted to project onto him. It was there. Even though he had his own agenda. He was the manipulator of the entire series. Again, people like getting fleeced.

JB: Even he seems doomed in the end. He’s the most powerful character in the story, and he’s still doomed.

BA: Nobody walked away without blood on their hands. If they walked away.

LP: In your books, I’ve noticed there’s a lot of gang involvement. Not just on the Mafia level, but street gangs. You’re spot on. Was it from personal experience? Or research?

BA: I’ve never been in a gang, but I’ve lived in this city for 20 years. It’s hard not to have personal experience. It’s interesting to see how things change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse. Man, you go out to the far west side, Jesus Christ. It’s desolate. Go down to Chicago and Austin, or even further south. Holy shit. It’s not always been that way. Opportunities out here have dried up for a lot of people, and that tends to leave the violence.

LP: How old were you when you moved here?

BA: I don’t know. 25? 26? I grew up in Cleveland, where there’s a lot of gang violence. I mean, not like out here. It was there, but in Cleveland, there weren’t a lot of Latin gangs. Not much back then, when I was there. The Bloods and the Crips had just started going national at that point.

JB: I just have one last question. I know you have FIRST WAVE, and there are a bunch of spin-offs from that, but do you have anything coming up that you’d like to plug?

BA: I’m working on a series right now with Eduardo Risso coming out from Vertigo probably next year or so. It hasn’t been announced, other than that we’re working on something. In the fall, LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL is being re-released as a hardcover, just like JOKER, with extra scenes we had to cut out originally because they were monthly comics, and we were stuck in the 22-page format. Now we’re ready to throw some stuff back in. It’s a nice companion to JOKER. That’s my plug.

LP: I just have one more quick question. Obviously, you’ve taken a lot of public transportation.

BA: Oh, yeah.

LP: What’s the wackiest character you’ve met, or the weirdest story you have?

BA: Oh, man. Burn Man is still the weirdest guy. I don’t know if you remember him. He was around a lot. Terribly, terribly disfigured. He’d ride the train, and he’d get up in people’s face with a sign with the story of what happened to him, and people would give him money because he was so shocking. He really didn’t have a face. He didn’t have all of his fingers, either. He was just known as Burn Man, and it was a while ago, too. The READER did a story about him. He was really a tragic figure. His burns came from crack. He fell asleep on a mattress while smoking. He was making a substantial amount of money, enough to survive while panhandling. There were doctors who were offering to help him for free, but he refused any help. He was an interesting character, that’s for sure.

JB: Do you think he’ll ever show up in your work someday?

BA: Nah, he was too over the top.

JB: Truth is stranger than fiction.

BA: Some old dude showed me his cock once. That was kind of weird.

LP: One time I was out on the orange line, and you get a lot of crazies there—-

BA: That’s where the old guy showed me his cock.

LP: --It was Christmas time, and this big, white-bearded man—-full on beard—-he stumbles in and he sits down. A little girl’s like, “Mommy! There’s Santa Claus!” He then pisses on himself and all over the train.

BA: Wow.

LP: I love Chicago.

BA: That’s a scarring memory.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

WIZARD WORLD INTERVIEWS PART THREE

Welcome to day three of the Wizard World interviews! Today's subject is Brian Pulido, creator of many horror/fantasy icons, such as EVIL ERNIE, LADY DEATH, and PURGATORI. He is currently writing a new LADY DEATH series for Avatar. This is the second interview I've conducted with him, so I had to come up with new and interesting questions. I hope I succeeded. Enjoy!



John Bruni: Aside from being your own boss, what was different between working with Chaos and Avatar?

Brian Pulido: Obviously the day to day work that was associated with publishing, I was no longer accountable to that, so it allowed me to focus a bit more on the creative. It gave me a different perspective that allowed me to just be concerned about that. I think that’s the biggest difference.

JB: Last time, we talked about the possibility that characters like Belladonna, War Angel, Gypsy, and the others might show up in the new LADY DEATH book. Have you and William Christensen talked any further about that?

BP: Actually, we discussed those characters, and we’re in the formative stages of discussing a series, whose name will be decided, that will involve Belladonna, Medieval Lady Death, and their requisite villains. We’re not calling it a crossover, but those two characters are coming back for more action.

JB: Lady Death has survived longer than any of your other characters. They tried bringing back Evil Ernie and Purgatori with another company, but it was short lived. What do you think is Lady Death’s appeal?

BP: Lady Death is iconic. She really is the ultimate expression of the bitch goddess. There’s something about her. She’s equally loved by men and women. Men want to be with her, and women want to be her.

JB: Is there any chance of some background Chaos characters, like Bedlam or Cremator, making an appearance in the new Lady Death book?

BP: It would be fun if some of the older Chaos characters could, but legally, we’re limited to just Lady Death and characters who appear in her title. Characters like Leviatha, for example.

JB: Now that you’ve done THE GRAVES, what was it like to work with Bill Moseley and Tony Todd?

BP: It was fun working with them both. They’re professionals. Really nice. They were fun, and they brought a lot of energy and invention to the story. They were respectful all around. They’re fun. You hear people talk about actors, oh, they were so great, but they really were.

JB: I really liked Bill Moseley in this movie. His character was amazing.

BP: Writing that character came naturally to me. When Bill brought the idea to me about the pig nose, I was able to revise the dialogue and tailor it more towards a man who thinks like a pig.

JB: I remember when you came back to writing EVIL ERNIE, you watched a bunch of horror movies to bone up on the genre. Nowadays, what kind of horror movies do you enjoy?

BP: I watch any horror movie I think will be good. My favorites from the last few years are things like CARRIERS. I liked END OF THE LINE and BEFORE THE FALL. I like indie horror. I see remakes as kind of an obligation. The DAWN OF THE DEAD remake was a stand-out for me. I liked 28 DAYS LATER. So, the last five, ten years, those are some of the movies I was thinking about. I liked a small indie film called THE OTHER SIDE. I seek out obscure stuff. I’ve seen all the French new wave horror. HIGH TENSION. Even a movie like PULSE, I thought the American and the original, there’s just some cool stuff in them. I like slasher films, but it’s hard for them to be exciting. The NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake, not so great.

JB: I was about to ask, since you wrote for Freddy, what you thought of the remake.

BP: Yeah, not so great. Very unimaginative given the fact that the guy’s a dream demon. I don’t know why they went that way. I tend to like stuff that’s apocalyptic, like THE END OF THE LINE or BEFORE THE FALL, but I’m always tracking horror films. I have zero interest in stuff like SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, it’s just not my bag. I like horrific stuff that tends to be apocalyptic, heaven and hell, extreme supernatural stuff.

JB: What are you reading these days?

BP: Comics-wise, I’m reading CAPTAIN AMERICA and THE WALKING DEAD.

JB: Looking forward to the AMC series?

BP: Totally. It’s like a dream come true. You gotta’ love that stuff. Obviously, I like the zombie stuff, I liked it before it was trendy. I loved it when I was a child.

JB: Do you have any film projects coming up?

BP: We do have a ghost story in development. I can’t talk about it yet, but our specific goal is to scare people. Like, in THE GRAVES, there were a lot of different goals. Fun, action, gross. This one, we’re saying SCARE. Scare only.

JB: After the new LADY DEATH, what’s new for you?

BP: There’s a lot to do, and not a lot I can discuss. But what I can tell you is, in the world of film, television, and comics, there is new stuff coming in 2011 and 2012. This year has been a percolating year. There are some things that might surprise you.


Tune in tomorrow, for I have saved the best interview for last: Brian Azzarello! Some of you might remember the last time I interviewed him, and you're probably thinking, "Best? Whatever." Don't be too sure. This one will knock your cock off.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

WIZARD WORLD INTERVIEWS PART TWO

Welcome to day two of the Wizard World interviews. Today, I'd like you to meet Douglas Paszkiewicz, writer and illustrator of ARSENIC LULLABY!



John Bruni: Your sense of humor is questionable. How has ARSENIC LULLABY survived for so long?

Douglas Paszkiewicz: Well, there are a lot of questionable people out there. As society crumbles, our margins rise, you see.

JB: Excellent. Has there ever been an ARSENIC LULLABY piece that made even you cringe?

DP: Quite a few. If it weren’t for deadlines, I would have cut out a lot of stuff, but when you need a certain amount of pages by a certain time, you just say, to hell with it, it’s going in. A lot of the Nazi stuff, if I had time to think about it, I’d probably have left it out. But time is a tyrant, so in it goes.

JB: I like Abraham Lincoln’s role in your work.

DP: Thank you. He’s a lot of fun to draw.

JB: Is there any subject that would be taboo for you?

DP: Define taboo.

JB: Something you would absolutely not joke about.

DP: I try to stay away from sex jokes, religion jokes, not really because they make me cringe, but because people who are into that have an axe to grind and they’re not enjoying the timing and the structure of the joke. If I joke about sex, people want to just see nudity, and the jokes are just lost on them. I try to keep swear words out of it because I think it’s funnier when something horrible happens, and there’s a word balloon of x’s and o’s and zigzags.

JB: Can you tell us anything about the cartoon?

DP: Well, it’s strange that you should mention Abraham Lincoln, because he plays a role in the cartoon. What we basically did was, we took three stories directly from the comic book and just put those in animated form. I got some stand-up comedian friends and friends in bands doing the voice-over work for me. It turned out pretty decent, I believe. So, Voodoo Joe is in it, Baron von Donut is in it, and Abraham Lincoln as the devil sort of wraps everything together. It’s every bit as despicable as the comic book.

JB: Have you retired entirely from the comic book world, or will there be more books from you in the future?

DP: If the cartoon should go up in smoke, then I’ll do some more comic books, but I really am having a lot of fun doing the cartoon right now because I’ve got sound, I’ve got motion, so it’s a lot easier to tell a story when you have those two elements. I’m still doing work for MAD Magazine, so you can always go there to get your taste of my sense of humor. But for the time being, I’m going to work on the cartoon. The pilot turned out decently enough to say hey, we can do this. I’ll keep doing that until I get sick of it and say to hell with it with my brush and ink and bristle board.

JB: Aside from the cartoon and MAD, what’s next for you?

DP: Well, there’s enough on my plate right now, to be honest with you. I really bit off more than I can chew with the cartoon, but fortunately I got a lot of help, so it turned out good. But it’s going to keep me busy for a little while, I think.

Leo Perez: Is the cartoon only available on DVD right now, or is it going to come out on TV soon?

DP: We took it to several different networks. Basically, this is a pitch pilot. While they’re mulling over that, we’ll put it up on iTunes on a pay-per-download basis. As we accumulate more [content], we’ll send out more DVD’s for people to pick up, and that sort of thing. Distribution-wise, we’re going the same route we went with the comic books. Everybody who is a fan of the comic book will be able to get the DVD, and once it gets picked up by somebody, I’ll be able to retire to Cuba, or something.


Tune in tomorrow for my interview with EVIL ERNIE and LADY DEATH creator, Brian Pulido!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

WIZARD WORLD INTERVIEWS PART ONE

Welcome to Wizard World Interview Week! Yes, I've finally transcribed everything for your reading pleasure! I was going to release one interview a day, but then I realized that this is a short week. In light of this, I have decided to kick off with TWO, count 'em, TWO interviews! Enjoy, and be sure to support the small press! Buy their work!

First off, here is my interview with Jon Michael Lennon, writer and illustrator of PRODUCT OF SOCIETY . . . .



John Bruni: How long have you been in the business?

Jon Michael Lennon: Zero years. I am not in any business. No, I’ve been making my own comic books for four years.

JB: What inspired you to publish your own comics?

JML: I always wanted to, and I publish my own because it’s hard, as anyone can tell you, to break into the actual business even with small publishing houses. You always submit stuff, and you get nothing back. After time, a lot of people are like, “Oh, they don’t want me, so I’ll just keep trying, or I’ll give up.” Well, I got a Visa with a high limit. Sure, the debt keeps getting higher, but I’ll pay off a little bit every year. The goal is to someday, maybe not have to pay a printer. Until then . . . you know.

JB: You’ve been around Artists Alley a while now. How has it treated you?

JML: It all depends on the person. I sold a couple of books today, which is better than zero. It’s tough because not everyone is my target audience. You guys are probably more my target audience because you’re younger, you have a sense of humor. A lot of people walking around are old, they got Wolverine shirts, they have no interest in dolphins having sex with chicks. The way it’s treated me? It’s all a matter of positivity. I’m not the most financially successful at this, but I try, and that’s all that matters. I’m lucky to be in the position to be able to do that.

JB: Is it hard marketing your stuff, considering the mature content?

JML: Maybe it kind of screens my audience a tad. At the same time, I don’t have the ability to do anything wholesome. I’ve tried. If the word “fuck” isn’t in my work, I don’t like it. It’s just what I do. Think of Adult Swim. I know they’re not saying fuck, but that kind of humor, there’s an audience for that kind of stuff. Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Vertigo, I mean, they’re a bit more high class than me, but that kind of stuff? That’s my audience. It’s a very small audience, and I’m one guy, so it’s tough. But I keep going and going, and hopefully someday, something will happen. I’m doing this, no matter what, so I might as well make a few bucks off of it.

JB: Speaking of a weird audience, has it been cool to you, or does it get too weird?

JML: Too weird? Not so far, yet. It’s only Friday morning. Most people have been nice to me. They’ve either bought my comics and have been nice, or they’ve looked at me with disdain and spat on the table. Well, not that last part, but there is a chain of comic book stores in Chicago called Graham Crackers, and I know the manager of the store I go to, so I got him to carry the first book I did. And then, some kid bought it and the mother came back, quite irate. There was some guy shooting up semen into his vein to get high off it, or whatever the hell I was writing about. They had to pull it off the shelves. I don’t see the problem. They’re weak, man. Gotta’ be strong.

JB: Considering things like the anti-smoking killer, the stoner-thief having a demon come out of his asshole—-

JML: It’s funny, man. You’ve got notes and everything.

JB: Dare I say that there might be some moral content to your work? In spite of having, you know, government agents drinking poop from a glass?

JML: Wait, what’s the question? Well, of course. It’s all about accepting the Lord Jesus—-no, I’m just trying to make people laugh. If I had to say what my comics are really about, well, it’s gay-sounding, but I’m just trying to say life is funny, and we should all laugh at the worst possible things we can think of. We’re all going to die, so chill out. I don’t think there’s much more of a moral than that. I don’t have anyone getting raped, so I’m against rape.

JB: That’s good.

JML: Especially man-on-man. I don’t know, I’m no creature, man. I just want to make people laugh and spread my disease to the world with whatever comes out of my brain. This book here has the return of the Cyborg Dolphin, but the story I did in the back is really fucking dark. There’s a baby in the womb giving the middle finger, necro-bestiality, man-on-man rape. Well, you don’t see the rape, but it’s implied. This guy, he finds the Lord, and he reads the Bible and the Qua'ran 2-in-1, and he gets out of prison and celebrates by getting a prostitute who bites his dick off. So, those are lessons. Like, check out your prostitute first. Thoroughly.

JB: That said, would you consider any subject taboo?

JML: Jeez, man. I’m not a bad guy. I’m not a freak. I don’t think child molestation is funny. But besides that, what else can you say? For instance, I had a buddy who was doing the cover for PRODUCT OF SOCIETY #3, and it didn’t work out because he drew a woman in a straight jacket, just like we’d talked about. But when he gave it to me, besides being a bad painting, you could see her pussy, dude. I can’t have a pussy on the cover of my comic book. Are you fucking crazy? They’re going to kick me out of here. The only taboo is stuff that’s not funny. I got a lot about terrorists and stuff. Hell, I don’t know. If I could find a way to make child molestation funny, I’d probably write about it.

JB: What’s next for you?

JML: I’m still working on PRODUCT OF SOCIETY, but I’m kind of stressed out with it. The Cyborg Dolphin story has to be continued. After I finish this up, I’m going to start work on some paintings because I feel like I’m kind of stagnating with my cartoony style. I have the ability to do better art, so I want to take a break and do some interesting pieces like this series of paintings I’ve been thinking about. It’s still going to be dark and fucked up, but it’ll just be better art. I have some interest in doing computer animation, just to make some cartoons and put them up on YouTube. Otherwise, I’ll continue to do this kind of thing, society will live on, and that’s about it.


Interview the Second: Kurt Dinse, writer and illustrator of ONE YEAR IN INDIANA . . . .



John Bruni: How long have you been in the business?

Kurt Dinse: I’ve never really been in the business, but I’ve been making comics for about five years, maybe six.

JB: I’ve seen you a lot in Artists Alley. How has Artists Alley treated you over the years?

KD: Pretty good. It’s kind of a different vibe from the rest of the convention because people who usually come through here are here for a specific reason. They’re not here to buy a toy. They’re looking for something they’ve never seen before. Maybe some guys come through here asking you for a picture of Wolverine or something but most say, “Hey, here’s something I’ve never seen before.” So generally, it’s treated me pretty good.

JB: I’ve seen you at C2E2 as well. What do you think the difference is between the shows?

KD: You know, it’s kind of funny. I’ve been talking about that with everyone who comes through here. I found out that people are either bitching about this show, or they're bitching about C2E2. They want this show to be more like C2E2. The only thing I didn’t really like about C2E2 was that, I live around here, and it still is a pain in the ass to get to [McCormick Place]. But the thing about it was, there were windows. There was sunlight, and I could see the city, so it’s kind of a double-edged sword. I wish both companies would treat the artists a little better as far as having ridiculous table prices. I mean, I know they have to cover the prices and costs and stuff, but you’re not really helping anybody by thinning out their art pool. So, I kind of like them both for different reasons. This is a really big artists area as compared to C2E2, but C2E2 had a lot of really good artists over there. Sorry, I’m about as waffley as you can get.

JB: So, how much of ONE YEAR IN INDIANA is based on fact?

KD: More than you’d think. A lot of them are based on fact. Really, quite a bit of them.

JB: Even the one about the jam bands?

KD: Yes.

JB: What is your favorite metal? I see you’re wearing a Motorhead shirt.

KD: I grew up with a lot of the old school stuff. That’s what the character always wears. The shirts of all those good bands. That was the stuff I listened to back then. For a while, I listened to punk, then I came back to metal. Stoner kind of metal, or whatever they call it. I like the super heavy aggressive stuff. I like Mastodon a lot. I guess they’re kind of proggy, but it’s good, it’s different. I have a certain love for super noisy crap, like Relapse and stuff like that.

Cliff Breaux: Dillinger Escape Plan?

KD: Yeah, stuff like that. Have you ever heard them do Soundgarden’s “Spoonman?”

CB: No, I haven’t.

KD: It sounds exactly like the record. They didn’t change it much at all, and you’d think that band would freak that song out. I have an interest, not musically, in a lot of black metal. It fascinates me. It’s a fascinating culture. The music’s okay. It’s not that it’s not too fast, it’s just not heavy enough.

JB: As far as your art goes, what would you say are your biggest influences?

KD: There’s a ton. I started getting into a lot of guys from the Seventies in the past couple of years, like CREEPY and HEAVY METAL MAGAZINE. Corbin’s a big one. Started getting into Moebius a lot. That’s because their styles are so different. I grew up on John Byrne and all those cats. Really, all the different guys were all doing this weird Seventies stuff, the super-thick lines and all sorts of good stuff. That kind of era really influenced me.

JB: What’s next for you?

KD: I have a new book out, my first spin off of ONE YEAR IN INDIANA called TALES FROM THE FRATHOUSE. There are three, four little stories not based on fact at all. Well, maybe a smidgen. They’re just about frathouses, and I’ve always thought that they’re ripe for parody. But I hope to collect everything I’ve done in a nice, shiny, glossy book. I’ve got two more—-well, I have a lot more stories—-but I have two more to do, and then I’ll self-publish everything in a book with a color cover, something nice and thick. Then, I can just keep going on. Eventually, I’m going to run out of stories. I just have to figure out when. I probably have another year or two of this. And I’m doing this science fiction book called HURR, based on a friend’s story. He ripped it off from HEAVY METAL, and all that kind of stuff. It’s a rip-off, it totally is. And I’ve got some other stories that are brewing in my head, about an old folks home and maybe a version of THE RE-ANIMATOR, which would be true to the actual story, which I find a really humorous story, if you look at it the right way.


Tune in tomorrow for my interview with the creator of ARSENIC LULLABY, Douglas Paszkiewicz!

Friday, September 3, 2010

MEETING AUTHORS #3: A NIGHT WITH THE KING



[NOTE: THIS IS A HEAVILY EDITED VERSION OF A PIECE I WROTE ABOUT TWELVE YEARS AGO. ONCE UPON A TIME, I WAS A HUGE STEPHEN KING FAN. I STILL LIKE HIS WORK, BUT NOT NEARLY AS MUCH AS I USED TO. HE WAS ONE OF THE FIRST AUTHORS I’D EVER MET (BEFORE HIM, THERE HAD ONLY BEEN CLIVE BARKER AND JOHN SANDFORD), AND BACK THEN, I WAS STILL SUSCEPTIBLE TO GETTING STARSTRUCK WHEN MEETING FAMOUS PEOPLE. PLEASE FORGIVE THIS EARLY ATTEMPT, AS EDITING CANNOT SOLVE EVERYTHING. BUT IT IS AN INTERESTING LOOK AT THE PAST, AND IT IS ABOUT STEPHEN KING, AFTER ALL.]

From the Sept. 20, 1998 issue of the BOOKS section of the Chicago TRIBUNE:

“Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 5:00 p.m.

“Legendary best-selling author Stephen King will read from and sign his new book, Bag of Bones. Please note: Admission to this event is by ticket only. Tickets are free and will be available only on Tuesday, Sept. 29, starting at 9 a.m. at the Congress Pkwy. entrance of Harold Washington Library Center. Only books purchased at the event will be signed. No photos, please.”

Above this is a picture of Stephen King, clad in a leather jacket, a forefinger casually placed against the left side of his face, a child-like gleam in his eyes.

This was a once in a lifetime chance to meet the King. How could I pass it up? Well, I had to get classes and work out of the way, but as soon as that was done, I was free to head down to the city and get my ticket as early as possible.

I made it to Chicago at about eight-ish, an hour before the tickets would be released. I parked in a lot where I would be raped the least over price, and I rushed over to the Washington library, where a looooooooooong line of people were already waiting. There were tired people with sleeping bags and blankets, eating breakfasts consisting of beef sticks and Coca-Cola. But at least the line seemed to end at the corner . . . .

As soon as I reached the corner, I saw that the line continued for quite a ways. I found the end, whipped out a book (not Bag of Bones; by that time, I’d read it already), and started waiting. I guessed that there were about two hundred people ahead of me, which was fine considering how there were seven hundred tickets to go around. (As it turned out later, there were actually 640 tickets.)

A half-hour later, some library representatives came by looking for fan club members, who apparently got priority in line. I was tempted to lie and join their ranks, but I decided not to push my luck. After these folks were gone, more people came by, the press, and started taking pictures and shooting video.

Soon, the line started moving. I put my book away, eager to be in motion. There were a few pauses, but I finally made it in the door, where I was given a green ticket, a flyer, and a long strip of paper with a line of orange stars. This last was supposed to be a wrist band, and if I wasn’t wearing it, I wouldn’t get into the event. My ticket was 389, and I held onto it for dear life.

I then went back home and whiled away the hours, waiting until I could finally meet my favorite writer, my hero, Stephen King.

The last thing I did before I left was affix the wristband in place. It was a pain to get on because I have hairy arms; this thing was supposed to be taped on, which was not fun. But I got ready and rushed back downtown, only to get caught in a traffic jam. When the fun of wasting away on the Ike was done, I was raped again by the parking lot.

But at least I was ready to meet the King. I went to the library and saw a sign that said: SORRY—OUT OF TICKETS FOR STEPHEN KING.” I then went up about seven escalators before I reached the top floor, where I showed off my wristband to the guard and was granted entrance to the room where the King would give his performance.



I threaded my way through a legion of King fans to where I could buy the book. I already had it, but he wouldn’t sign anything that wasn’t purchased here. Book in hand, I tried to find the best possible seat, but this was too difficult. I got as close up as I could, and the waiting began.

Shortly after my arrival, a woman dressed as a corpse started walking around, calling out her love for Stephen King. “Stephen!” she shouted. “Stephen! Where are you? I love you!” This went on for about a half-hour. I don’t know if it was set up by Scribners, or the library, or if she was just a fan, but it was pretty cool, regardless.

After that, a representative from the library came up to the lectern and broke the bad news: due to the number of people, King would not be personalizing the books he signs. I felt a stab of disappointment, but then again, I simply felt lucky that I was actually going to meet the man I had idolized for more than half my life.

A few minutes later, some people from Sam’s Club gave a speech about the library, but I really didn’t pay much attention to that, to be honest. I clapped in all the right places, impatient to get to the King.

And finally, he was there. Stephen King was on stage. I stood, hands clapping wildly. The others clapped even harder, for not only was he before our very eyes, he was also wearing a Cubs jersey, and it had Sosa’s name on it to boot. But he’s a Red Sox fan, so I knew something was up. Sure enough, I was right: “I’m an official Cubs fan until October 17,” he said. He then unbuttoned the jersey to reveal a Red Sox shirt underneath. There were a few surprised looks in the room, but not many.

He then went on to offer his theory as to what would happen if the Cubs and the Red Sox made it to the World Series (which was looking possible, at the time): it would be tied after six games, and on the day of the last game, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, tied game, World War III would begin.



King continued talking, but now it was about why he’d chosen the Harold Washington Library as a point on his book tour. He chose a library because he owed them so much, considering his poor upbringing. Again, no surprise to me or anyone else in the room.

Then came the shocker: rather than read from Bag of Bones, as we were all expecting, he read a full short story from Six Stories (an extremely rare collection of his shorter fiction), “L.T.’s Theory of Pets.” [NOTE: SINCE THEN, THIS STORY HAS SEEN A WIDER PUBLICATION IN EVERYTHING’S EVENTUAL] It was a very funny story, but, well, you know Stephen King. He said about it, “I started writing this piece as a humorous story, and as you know, when I start out to write something fun, it goes someplace else.”

I not only listened to the story, I watched him tell it. It was one of the most magical experiences of my life, watching my idol walk around the stage with the mic in one hand and the book in the other, giving us a tale I’d never read before without making so much as a mistake. No stutters or um’s, nothing. There were some points in the story where I wondered if I was really dreaming up this whole scenario. [NOTE: SEE WHAT I MEAN ABOUT STARSTRUCK? SORRY, FOLKS. IF IT’S ANY CONSOLATION TO YOU, I DON’T GET THIS WAY ANYMORE. I HAVEN’T SINCE . . . WELL, SINCE I MET STEPHEN KING AND REALIZED HE WAS JUST A GUY. A GUY WHO WRITES EXCELLENT STORIES, OF COURSE, BUT JUST A GUY.]



When the story was over and the clapping was done, the book signing started. They lined people up by the numbers on their tickets. They went in increments of 50. I knew it would be a long time, considering I was 389, but I relaxed and waited. I was in a perfect position to watch him sign books, so I did, still not believing the reality of this ordeal.

After an hour, the number bracket I fell into was called, and I got in line. As I drew closer to the King, I felt butterflies colliding in my belly. This was my hero! How many people got to meet their hero? What would I say? What COULD I say?

Well, a friend of mine, Rob Tannahill [NOTE: KNOWN AS R.M. TANNAHILL TO THOSE OF YOU WHO READ TABARD INN], had written and drawn three Stephen King parodies (for fun, not publication) starring Beavis and Butt-Head. I'd convinced him to let me send copies to the King, and we got a letter back saying that both King and his wife, Tabitha, enjoyed "The Dork Half," "The Stupid Death of Beavis Verrill," and "The Scam" immensely. So now I had an ice breaker. And at some point, I knew I had to ask him a question for the paper I was writing for one of my classes.

Finally, I reached the place where they put the ticket into the book where King would sign it, so everything would go quicker. I was one person away from him! I switched the book from one hand to the other so my right wouldn't be sweaty. My legs were still sturdy, even though I knew they'd turn to jelly soon.

Then, it was my turn. To my surprise, I was still in control of my legs, my right hand was dry, and I was entirely calm. He took my book and shook my hand.

"Good to see you here," he said amiably, although I could hear about 388 signings worth of tiredness in his voice.

"Great to meet you," I said. Then, as he signed my book, I said, "I wasn't the guy who wrote them, but I sent you the Stephen King--" (OHMYGOD, DID I JUST SAY THAT? I WAS TALKING TO THE KING AS IF HE WEREN'T THERE!) "--slash Beavis and Butt-Head parodies."

"Those were great," he said. "I love those two." He then went on to do his impression of Beavis saying, "Fire! Fire! Heh-heh." You have not truly lived until you've heard Stephen King imitate Beavis.



"Can I ask a question?" I asked.

"Sure," he said, blue eyes piercing into mine. I could tell I had his full attention.

"Why do you think Nathaniel Hawthorne's works are done to death in the classroom, but your work is ignored?"

He gave a very simple answer (even if he's wrong--Toni Morrison and Amy Tan are both taught in class--I've had to study both at least twice), but I loved it. "Because he's dead," he told me, a smile on his face. We laughed, and I still wondered if this was a dream. I had to move on, though, so I took the book and shook his hand once again. It was as I walked away that my nervousness returned. My legs went rubbery, and I could barely control them, even as someone took my ticket and replaced it with a limited edition collectors magazine for BAG OF BONES. I waited there, looking back at Stephen King as he signed another book, and I still wondered if I was dreaming.

But I wasn't. I looked at the King's signature, written in blue, and I couldn't take my eyes off of it. It was proof that this was all real.

The next day (Sept. 30, 1998), both the TRIBUNE and the SUN-TIMES had a story on the King's visit to Chicago. In the TRIB, I learned that people had been lined up in front of the library since two in the morning, and they had come from "as far away as Texas and Arizona."

The SUN-TIMES, on the other hand, actually had a picture of Stephen King in the Cubs jersey. On page 45, I found a longer article, where I learned that the tickets disappeared within 42 minutes, and there were about 2000 people hoping to get in. And there, in a picture of the audience from that night, further proof that I was there: my picture. Granted, you need a magnifying glass to tell who I am, but I'm near the back, wearing a black denim jacket.

I was lucky to get in, but I was, indeed, there, and I got to spend a night with the King.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

COOL SHIT 9-2-10

[SORRY I'VE BEEN GONE FOR SO LONG. THINGS IN MY LIFE HAVE BEEN GETTING PRETTY CRAZY OF LATE. I'M GOING TO TRY TO GET EVERYTHING BACK ON TRACK IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS. NEXT WEEK, I'M GOING TO START POSTING WIZARD WORLD INTERVIEWS, ONE A DAY.]




G.I. JOE: HEARTS & MINDS #4: Not all of the new G.I. Joe books are up to snuff (the ones based in the world of the movie are particularly bad), but this one, penned by Max Brooks (WORLD WAR Z), continues to blow me away. Each issue is comprised of two stories, one from a member of Cobra, the other from a Joe. This one takes a look at Dr. Mindbender and Doc. These stories are really character studies, delving deep into the psyche of each subject. They’re not objective; they are told from a first person perspective. As the old saying goes, no one ever believes that they’re the bad guy. Hitler thought he was a good guy. So does Dr. Mindbender, and as one looks at his thoughts and turns them over, they make sense. In fact, maybe Dr. Mindbender isn’t totally out of line. The G.I. Joe profiles are a bit blah, if only because they make overly-emotional entreaties to the reader. Doc’s story is no exception. If you loved the Real American Hero when you were a kid, you should get into this series. It’s perfect for the adult fan, for those more interested in the whys and wherefores.



YOURS TRULY, JACK THE RIPPER: Joe and John Lansdale (Lansdale Squared, according to the cover) bring their adaptation of Robert Bloch’s most famous short story to an end. Granted, they’re true only to the premise of the tale, but their mojo storytelling sense of humor shines through and makes up for their lack of loyalty. Given Bloch’s own idea of wit, I think he would have liked this series. The art is too empty, though. It’s clear that Kevin Colden is trying for a Sin City-type aesthetic, but the bland, nearly colorless style fails to leap off the page. Still, it’s a small complaint.



JONAH HEX #59: Fuck the movie. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard about where it goes wrong. Come to the source. Read the new(ish) Hex series and get the good stuff. As always, it’s true to the original Hex comics, although these new books are a bit darker. Hex is the same bastard he always has been, and as usual, the body count is high. The Gray Ghost returns (kind of) in this issue in a MAGNUM FORCE sort of way. The first Dirty Harry offended a lot of people, so they brought in the Magnum Force for the second one, to show that Inspector Callahan is actually kind of sensible. The Gray Ghost is here to make Hex look a bit softer. Unlike with Dirty Harry, this doesn’t work. Hex is too mean, tough, and violent for most readers to identify with. Thank you, DC, for continuing to let a guy like him roam your universe.



THE BOYS #46: Are you reading THE BOYS? Why not? It’s one of the best books on the market right now, and it’s only halfway through, according to writer Garth Ennis. There’s still time to get on board. In this one, Wee Hughie unburdens his new-found secret to Butcher, and he surprisingly doesn’t get his ass kicked. Why? Because the guy just has the strangest luck Butcher has ever seen. However, he can’t let the new guy get away with stupidity, and he does something to the poor Highland laddie that might be unforgivable. Guiltily, he tells his dog, “Cruel to be kind, Terror. Gotta be cruel to be kind.” By the way, have you ever imagined what it would be like to find pornographic pictures of Wonder Woman? The equivalent of this happens in this issue of THE BOYS. Get the trades, get back issues, do whatever it takes to get caught up. You’re welcome, in advance.