First and foremost, I should apologize to you all. When I first thought to start an opinions column, I thought it would happen a lot more often than this. Well, I’ve been busy. My stupid strip club heist novel took over my life. I don’t even know if it’s worth working on, but that’s neither here nor there. The first draft is done, and I won’t be working on the second for quite some time.
Let’s get a little personal. Perhaps some of my previous entries here have been a bit TMI, as they say on the Internet these days, but fuck it. This is my platform, and I’ll say whatever the hell I want to.
We all have that one girlfriend (or boyfriend, or whatever) that has haunted us ever since that relationship came to an end. Most guys (and I’m talking to guys here; sorry ladies, but it’s different for you) wind up in a head-over-heels situation, and somehow it gets fucked up, and they spend the rest of their lives thinking about it, wishing they had one more chance.
Not me. When it comes to that One Girl, I’ve had my second chance. Hell, I even had a third and fourth chance. But a lot of my friends don’t see it that way. I’ve found myself in a very unenviable position of having to defend my own stupidity because of this.
I guess I should mention this now: if you’re not a close friend, you’re probably not going to be interested in this. In fact, I’m not sure the One Girl in question wants me to write about her, so I won’t mention her name. If you know me well, you know who I’m talking about. That’s all ye know and all ye need to know.
And don’t worry, I’m not going to start talking about the relationship. That would take far more words than I’m capable of writing. Someday I will write a novel about it, but today is not that day.
I have a gift, or maybe it’s a curse. It’s probably both. Regardless, I know exactly who I am. You will not find me in ANGELHEART, begging and crying at my own reflection. I know what’s in me and what isn’t. There is no delusion here. Because I know this, I also know that I’m a very difficult person to get along with, at least in a relationship. I’m set in my ways, and I know that if it ever came down to a choice, I would always choose writing over a girlfriend.
Yeah, I’m a dick. But I also value a lot of things that others don’t. If you don’t believe me, talk to some of my ex-girlfriends. There aren’t a lot of them, but I feel confident that all will agree that when it came down to it, I devoted my time more to writing than relationships.
Sadly, a lot of my friends know my nature. A favorite past-time among them is to set me up with their friends. It always leads to disaster. It never works. But then there are those stalwarts who think that it was a fluke. Yet at the same time, said stalwarts always warn me, when they’re setting me up with their next friend, “This time, try not to be yourself.”
That’s bullshit. I know how difficult I am. When I first started seeing people, I tried to play nice. I tried to be like everyone else. But there eventually comes a time when the truth has to come out. I’m getting too old for this shit. Every time I go out with someone, I make sure they know what they’re getting into. If they’re not into that, well, thank you for your time.
As for my time, I find it very valuable. I have two jobs. When I’m not working at them, I’m trying to eke out a living as a writer, which I’ve been an absolute failure at, so far. (Although I recently succeeded at one of my writing goals, but I have to keep my mouth shut about that for now. You’ll find out about it soon.) I don’t want to waste time pretending to be something I’m not. Considering my recent health issues, I don’t think I’m very long for this world. I have no problem with that (these issues are all my own stupid fault), but I have a lot of shit to do before I kick off. I’m not going to succeed if I’m off with someone who doesn’t know who I am.
I guess that’s an odd way to say I have standards. Many of you will find that funny, but I do have ‘em. Here’s another thing that you might not know: I have weaknesses. Sure, I’m a bastard quick with disgusting, heartless jokes, but I’m still human. And that’s what I’m writing about today.
The One Girl. I fell in love with her on FOUR SEPARATE OCCASIONS. How fucking stupid is that?
Not so stupid. I’ve known her for a looooooooong time, more than I’ve known anyone who is reading this right now (unless your name happens to be Rob or Jesse, of course). She knows me more than any of you do. She knows each and every one of my flaws like the back of her hand. And all of those times, she was willing to be with me.
At least on the surface. I know a lot of you think she was using me, and maybe you’re right. I don’t know to this day. I know she’s used a lot of people, and I’d like to think I’m different because I was around long before she became homeless, before she became a junkie, before she contracted Hep C. I want to think that means something.
I know I love her still. I’m not in love with her, mind you, but those four times, I was. She’s been around me for so long that sometimes I think she’s a part of me. Considering how many of my thoughts are in her head, she’s probably a conjoined twin at this point. Was she ever in love with me? I hope so. Again, I don’t know. You’re probably all right, in that she was using me and was never in love with me. Since I’m one man, and you are legion, I have no choice but to let that be the prevailing thought.
If that is indeed the case, then she gave me something no one else ever did. For a while, I could at least pretend that someone in the world found me, as I am, flaws and all, desirable. Someone was willing to overlook my quirks and ways and hold me and make me think I had a place in the world. I’ve never wanted to live long. I used to say that if I lived to 40, I’d kill myself on the day before my 41st birthday. Well, she made me want to live.
I feel like an alien, like maybe another race dropped me off on earth as part of an experiment. I want to belong, like everyone else, but there’s too much that’s weird about me. I’m too abnormal, and I can’t help it. It’s just the way I am.
She made me feel like I belonged, like I was a member of the human race. That is worth more to me than almost anything in the world.
But because I’m a dick, writing is still worth more. Yeah, I know. But a lot of you are writers, too. Maybe you get it. Or maybe I’m pissing into the wind, as usual. What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments below.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
CAPTAIN SWING AND THE ELECTRICAL PIRATES OF CINDERY ISLAND #4: Huh. Would you look at that. Avatar finally got off their asses and finished this book. How long has it been? Perhaps this means we’ll eventually get the end of DOKTOR SLEEPLESS, too. All right, it’s no MINISTRY OF SPACE, but still. This book goes out with a bang and perhaps one of the most disgusting steampunk creatures ever. You should see his dick spout. No. You should. Get the book and see what I mean. Anyway, Warren Ellis gives us a final dose of philosophy, and Raulo Caceres makes it look impossibly beautiful. Seriously, is there any artist working now as good as this guy? (By the way, remember when Ellis made a DOK SLEEPLESS reference earlier in this series? In this issue, we get a GRAVEL reference.)
STITCHED #1: Almost made it without mentioning Garth Ennis. Remember when I reviewed his movie, STITCHED? Well, this is the comic book continuation of that. Kind of. It’s actually a comic book form of what happened in the movie, right up until the “to be continued” ending. And I was right: the horribly mutilated bodies look far cooler in comic book form than on film. It’s really some grim shit, there. Cool shit, indeed.
Monday, October 24, 2011
This book is not what one would expect. Longtime fans of the comic book series, THE WALKING DEAD, would think this was about how the Governor, one of the most notable villains in the history of the book, whipped Woodbury into shape from scratch.
Not so. Writers Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga start out long before the Governor reaches Woodbury. Meet the Blake brothers, Philip and Brian. Together with Philip’s daughter Penny and their friends, Bobby and Nick, they begin their adventure hiding out in a suburban home, a home where they have just wiped out all the lurking zombies in the area. Or did they?
As with all of Kirkman’s work, the characters are the most interesting part of the book. Most interesting is the dynamic between Philip and Brian. The former is a hardcase redneck, tough as shit and stronger than anyone around him. Brian, on the other hand, is kind of a wimp, the sort who’d jump at his own shadow. This clash in personalities feeds most of this book as the brothers, who obviously love each other, struggle to accept each other as capable people.
The attention to the characters isn’t to say that attention to plot is lacking, especially to those familiar with the comic books. People who stick to viewing the show aren’t familiar yet with how far Rick Grimes is willing to go to protect his family. They don’t know that he’ll stoop to murder.
Kirkman and Bonansinga show Philip Blake in much the same light. He will do anything it takes to make sure his daughter survives the zombie apocalypse, no matter how violent things get. That is the be-all-end-all for him, just like Rick. Very interesting, indeed. Is Kirkman saying that the Governor and Rick are one and the same, that if Rick continues down this path, he will become the Governor?
Philip’s descent into madness is a rather fascinating thing to watch. At first we recognize him as we would ourselves, doing whatever it takes to make sure Penny survives. Who wouldn’t want to ensure their own daughter’s survival? But as time goes by, we start to question how far we’d go.
But there’s a degree of horror to it, because we would do some of those things, too. There is a scene where Philip rapes someone, and it almost seems reasonable. Almost. If a friend of yours told you about this happening to him, you might even feel sorry for him, as Brian feels when he hears it for the first time.
But as the comic book fans know, Penny doesn’t live. When we meet the Governor in the books, he keeps her zombified body around and even feeds it pieces of human beings. When we see her die at the hands of greedy rednecks, it hurts, and when Philip goes off the rails, it’s absolutely horrifying. He’s the protagonist of the book, someone we identify with, and to watch him fall to pieces and become just as depraved as the worst villain, well, it makes us realize that this is in all of us, given the right circumstances.
But Kirkman and Bonansinga have a neat little surprise in mind for us. To mention it would be criminal, but things get mighty interesting near the end of the book, when the Blake brothers and company make it to Woodbury . . . .
To those who would like to know the Governor better, this is the perfect treat. It explains a lot, and going back to read the Woodbury story arc again, it enhances the story, especially after knowing that little surprise. The only drawback to the novel is, it’s written in present tense. For most horror stories, this lends the tale a sense of immediacy, but here it doesn’t feel right. It’s supposed to be a prequel of sorts, and to anyone who has read the books, it’s a look at the past. Using past tense would be far more appropriate.
But don’t let that detract from the story. It is very enjoyable, and any fan would be remiss to skip it just because it doesn’t have pictures.
THE WALKING DEAD: RISE OF THE GOVERNOR
Written by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
Thomas Dunne Books
$13.43 on Amazon
Friday, October 21, 2011
I had to have more. Unfortunately, no matter how far and wide I shopped, I couldn’t find any subsequent issues. Time moved on, years stretched, and so on and so forth. Fresh out of college, I learned about the INTERNET. I also learned that Mile High Comics had an online store, and they had just about everything. That included issues 2-8 of STRAW MEN. The entire series was finally in my grasp, and it was just as kick-ass as I thought it would be. Even more.
Contained within these eight issues is a story that stretches across decades. It all begins in a shit-splat Oklahoma burg, Gate, and the Experimental Atomic Plant One. This is where Dr. Jon Stonewall conducts his experiments in an attempt at genetically engineering the perfect human being, a person free of mutation and sickness. He’s got pretty good reasons for doing this, considering his son was born with a defect that made his left hand look like a jumbled mess.
Craig Stonewall, the aforementioned son, is the protagonist of this story. In his father’s eyes, he’s more than just physically defective. Jon sees Craig as a weakling, someone who stagnates in whatever misery he feels he’s in rather than doing something about it. He wants to make a man out of Craig more than almost anything else.
And this is very clear to Craig, who harbors a lifelong hatred of his father as a result. However, Jon is right about most of these things, even though Craig denies it. Yet Craig’s hatred with Jon is not unwarranted, either. His father will go to any lengths to ensure that his will is done, and that includes manipulation and murder.
Even more so, it includes the formation of political and religious organizations. Jon is the puppet master behind the Primacy Party and the Primacy Church (despite being a confessed atheist). Both have goals to bring human beings to perfection through scientific experimentation. Both also give Jon an incredible amount of support through money to fund said experiments. In charge of both organizations is the good-intentioned Robert Hughes, who believes this is what God wants, and he’s got his eye on the White House . . . . But Jon knows how willful his puppet can be, so he makes sure he has something with which to blackmail Hughes: an orgy that Jon orchestrated just so he could videotape the good reverend in a compromising position.
Have I mentioned that Jon has no trouble in experimenting with his son’s pregnant wife? In fact, that’s how the real story begins, with Carol in labor, and Craig speeding toward the EAP1, which has now been converted to Gate’s medical center. Craig worries in the waiting room, afraid that his own mutation might come out through his son. He has no idea that his father had been using Carol, who had actually consented through her own fear of defect (due to an earlier miscarriage before she met Craig, her uterus is no longer normal), to perfect his radiation treatments.
Long story short, Carol dies giving birth, and Jon kidnaps Craig’s son and tells Craig that the child also died. However, Craig finds out the truth and comes after his father . . . only to be too late. The child has been whisked away (we later find out to Canada), and in order to throw Craig off the trail, Jon frames him for murder. This also works in Jon’s favor, because the doctor he had murdered is the only other person who knows that the child did not die.
Which brings us to Jon’s instrument of destruction: Weeper. He is truly a fucked-in-the-head villain, as fucked in the head as they come. When we find out about his past, it’s no wonder. During the late ‘Forties, he was captured by Chairman Mao’s goons, and he was tortured for several months. Starved. Beaten. Raped. Repeatedly. “When is a man a woman?” the torturer asks. As he pulls his pants down and gets ready to rape Weeper for the first time, he shouts, “Any time I want!” After months of this, he is driven insane. When American soldiers rescue him, he looks like a concentration camp survivor, and he thinks in terms of song lyrics. By the time we meet him, his favorites are songs by the Doors and “I Am the Walrus” by the Beatles. He decides he is the Lizard King, that he can do anything. The man is absolutely vile and heartless, shockingly so for the period in which he was written.
Craig runs from Gate, and after many years of trials and tribulations, he falls in with a circus and starts making money off of his deformity in the sideshow. Soon, his closest friends are freaks, in particular a dog boy by the name of Growler. After a while, he even starts believing his father’s story about the death of his son.
However, in his absence, something very pivotal happens to Jon Stonewall: he is told that he has cancer. Malignant. He doesn’t have long to live. After years of experimenting with radiation, the disease has finally caught up with him. So, he comes up with a brilliant plan, very Machiavellian, and with the help of Weeper and several government connections, he sets it in motion.
It all begins when Craig sees the cover of TIME with Jon on it . . . and Craig’s son?! In the article, Jon claims to have genetically engineered the child to be perfect in every way. He’s finally achieved his lifetime goal.
Well, sort of. Nothing is what it seems, not even Jon’s plan. You see, he has a back up plan, and it’s pretty fucking grim. It leads to one of the most heartbreaking endings in comic book history. It hurts almost as much as the ending of EX MACHINA.
That’s a lot of territory to cover, and there’s a lot more I haven’t told you about. My favorite part is a speech Jon gives concerning his own childhood in issue 6. He tells a story of the good ol’ days, of happiness and cheer, of loving parents, and all of that. As he says these things, the artwork of Rob Davis shows us the reality, of how Jon constantly got his ass kicked by bullies, and how his ostracized father (a self-confessed Communist) brought his entire family down, which caused Jon’s mother to abandon them. It’s an ugly little story, and it explains a lot about how Jon became the man he is.
Jon Stonewall is, in fact, the most interesting character in the book. He has lofty, noble goals. When you get right down to it, he wants to save the human race from its own faulty genetic code. You can’t get nobler than that. But he is so underhanded and evil in his methods that one can’t help but think of him as a villain. This kind of complexity just wasn’t in comic books back then. Well, nothing mainstream, anyway. And like I said, Alan Moore was just starting to change readers’ minds with his own work at the time.
If there was any justice in the world, this book would be remembered as a major turning point in comic book history. It would have been canonized and filmed and everything. Writers like Garth Ennis and Warren Ellis would list it as a huge influence on their own work. Vertigo would have found a way to reprint it in a trade. As it is, I am the only person I know who remembers this book.
Good luck finding it. I bought the last copies from Mile High (unless they’ve restocked, somehow). I don’t even know if you could find it at C2E2. If you do manage to find it, I guarantee that the hunt is worth it.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
SUPERIOR #6: Remember how I said in last week’s review of SUPERIOR #5 how Millar has an actual heart? It has never shown through more than in this issue. As young Simon finds himself back to the way he was, he is given a day to decide whether or not to sell his soul. You see, Ormon is desperate for his soul. If he doesn’t get it, he’s going to be dismissed to the deepest depths of Hell. Now that Simon finds himself realizing how much love he has in the world, even though he’s not really Superior, Ormon feels the need to hedge his bets. Read it to see for yourself.
THE BIONIC MAN #3: At first I was skeptical of this one. Do we really have to keep bringing shit back from the dead? In all honesty, I don’t even care about Steve Austin. But . . . well, Kevin Smith wrote it, so of course I’m going to give it a try. Sure enough, just like with GREEN HORNET, too much of Smith’s style shines through. But at the same time, he knows when to back off and let the story tell itself. I’m sure a lot of old time fans would feel their stomachs churn when they see all that remains of Austin’s body after his awful plane crash. And of course he doesn’t want to be rebuilt. He just wants to die. Smith brings a lot of common sense to a larger than life story.
HELLBLAZER #284: How can things get even more fucked up in John Constantine’s life? His control over magic continues to spiral out of control while his purloined trenchcoat gets into a bit of trouble on its own. Any long time reader of this series will feel absolute horror at the final page of this issue. After all this time on Constantine’s shoulders, is the trenchcoat really going up in smoke?
BUTCHER, BAKER, CANDLESTICKMAKER #4: How much you wanna’ bet I’m not going to mention Garth Ennis next week? Never mind. Anyway, once again, we get a rare glimpse of Butcher in love. It truly is a sight to behold, especially for those of us who are used to him being a hard bastard. But even more shocking is the end of this issue. We heard about what happened when the Homelander raped Butcher’s wife and she gave birth to his unnatural child. Now we actually get to see what happened. I want to tell you all about it so bad, but . . . fuck it. I can’t. It’ll ruin the book for you. Needless to say, it is one of the craziest scenes ever put to the page. If you don’t read this book, you’re fucking nuts. Or you have a soul. Whatever.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
THE CAPE #2: What is this? A father/son edition of COOL SHIT? At first I was iffy on a sequel to Joe Hill’s THE CAPE. It was an excellent story that really stood on its own. But this new series is really good as we see Eric sink to all new lows. How can a guy who learns he has the ability to fly become such a douchebag? Christ, he’s willing to slit his own mother’s throat and set his brother on fire, simply because he’s jealous. And he’s supposed to be our protagonist? Yeesh.
JENNIFER BLOOD #5: A week can’t pass without me bringing up Garth Ennis. With this issue, we finally find out why Jennifer is killing all of her uncles. Apparently, she’s a daddy’s girl, and can you guess what her uncles did to her old man? To say they pulled a Julius Caesar on him is an understatement. Read this book and see the ugliest knifing you’ve ever seen. Even moreso, read this book to see the most brutal axe murder ever put to the page. Ennis keeps topping himself when it comes to savagery. Perhaps he should start writing CALIGULA after Lapham’s done . . . .
Thursday, October 6, 2011
I feel stupid. Something happened to my Cool Shit file, and the post I was going to make today was destroyed beyond all belief. So . . . I'll wing it.
CALIGULA #4: Remember how Felix, our protagonist, was buttfucked by a talking horse in the last issue? Where exactly do you go from there? And is it possible that he's actually starting to love Caligula? Lapham's an absolute beast. There's no telling what he'll do next.
THE WALKING DEAD #89: It looks like this book is back on track. For the past few issues, it's been in kind of a lull since they're between story arcs. But now that people at the Community are threatening to murder Rick before things can get even more fucked up, things are picking up. Bad news for Glenn: he walked into the middle of the conspiracy, and now they want to kill him to keep him silent. Guns come out, shit goes bad, and THE WALKING DEAD is back to being a clusterfuck. Nice.
THE BOYS #59: There are just two more story arcs left to this book. If you want to get on board, now's the time. It looks like the epic battle between the Seven and the Boys is off, excpet Jack from Jupiter seems to still think the Boys were responsible for releasing the incriminating sex video of him, thereby ruining his career as a supe. As a result, the Boys suffer a major loss. Butcher does not take this lightly, and he has visions of gory and terrible retribution in mind. The conclusion of this issue is fucking ghastly.