Friday, November 30, 2012

FORGOTTEN COMIC BOOKS #5: LOBO




No, not THAT Lobo! Come on, what do you take me for? Granted, Lobo is not as awesome as once he was (he probably stopped being so after the Alan Grant monthly), but he’s not exactly forgotten now, is he?



No, many years ago, back when you’re parents were kids, there was another comic book called LOBO. Wow, I’m really reaching back through the archives for this one. Has anyone ever heard of Dell’s 1965-66 comic book series? Probably not, especially since it only comprised of two issues. However, it has a great significance to the history of comic books: it’s the first title to feature a black hero as its protagonist. That’s right, up until then, black guys couldn’t be the main character of a book. No sir, that just wouldn’t work for a predominantly white, suburban audience.


Truth be told, LOBO didn’t change all that much in the world. In fact, it was completely ineffective, but shortly thereafter, people seemed to be a bit more accepting of the idea of black people being more than supporting characters at best, and at worst, racist caricatures.


With a title like that, you could probably guess that it was a western book. Yep. “Branded for life! An honest man . . . blamed for a crime he did not commit!” Sounds pretty common for the time, right? Actually, LOBO is a pretty common book for its time, aside from the shade of the protagonist’s skin.


Check it out: When we first meet Lobo (and that isn’t his real name; we never get to know his actual name), he’s a soldier for the Union army, and he’s just received the good news that the war is over. He can go back to being a regular person. Like many other such folks, he went west to give himself a new beginning. He takes on a job at a ranch, where a couple of trail hands decide he’s kind of a joke. One day, after a successful cattle drive, he is framed for the murder and robbery of his boss by these two jokers (who are the ones who dub him Lobo, as he’s a lone wolf). However, there is one guy who knows he’s innocent: the criminal who really killed his boss. He goes out in search of this guy, only to find that he’s been killed by Indians. Along the way, he rescues a drowning prospector, who is surprised that a killer like Lobo would save his life. Lobo tells him his story, and the prospector has a similar story. It turns out this old man really did strike it rich, and he’s dying. He gives Lobo all of his gold provided Lobo brings justice to the west.


This story has everything a western comic book had back then: a hero who was framed for murder and is bent on clearing his name, a hero who refuses to kill people (even when his life is in danger), a hero who bears a symbol of his name (in this case, gold coins bearing an image of a lone wolf), everything.


But the problem is, Lobo is the every-hero of that time. The only difference is his skin color, and that is purely cosmetic. It never comes up in the course of the story that he is black. His experience of the west is the same as if he’d been white. Granted, Dell is a mostly remembered as a children’s comic book company (just look on the inside front cover of #2 to see what else they were advertising), but they had the chance to really do something interesting with this series. Instead of taking a few risks to promote discussions of race in a time when the racial climate of America was changing drastically, they decided to make Lobo a common cowboy. The conflicts he encounters are purely because he’s a wanted man, not because of the color of his skin. One could almost wonder if maybe he was meant to be just a white guy; the colorist just decided to have a little fun.


Almost.


As it turns out, the color of Lobo’s skin was enough to cause the publisher to tug at his collar. There are only two issues of this book. It looks like Dell didn’t have the guts to continue the series, which was supposed to be a monthly. Look at the release dates: the first issue came out in Dec. ’65, and #2 had to wait until Oct. ’66 before being released. LOBO #3 simply wasn’t meant to be.


It’s a shame. LOBO could have been so much more than it was. If only Dell had the guts to make something of this book. Still, as cosmetic as it was, LOBO is still the first comic book to feature a black hero, and that counts for a lot.


Good luck finding copies of either book. They’re pretty scarce, although you probably wouldn’t have to spend too much on them, even if you do find them. I got mine for about $20 each (and I found them about 10 years apart). Not bad for a groundbreaking book. Too bad it’s mostly been forgotten by people today.



Thursday, November 29, 2012

COOL SHIT 11-29-12




CROSSED:  BADLANDS #18:  Wow.  Take a minute to admire that cover above.  That is my absolute favorite Crossed artwork right there.  The sheer depravity of something like that shocks even me.  Thank you, Raulo Caceres, for painting something that fucked-up.  This issue also marks the end of David Hine’s story arc about an inexperienced guy who just wants to learn how to write convincingly real characters from a lunatic bestseller.  This is also the first time we get to see the inner thoughts of one of the Crossed.  Yes, part of this is narrated by one of the Crossed.  How crazy is that?  And the very last panel is a grotesque masterpiece.  The quote from Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” is very apropos for the occasion.


AMERICAN VAMPIRE #33:  This is also the end of a story arc, one of my favorites, second only to the previous one.  It ends on a rather melancholy note, at least for Pearl, but for Skinner Sweet, it’s back to business as usual.  It would seem that he’s now free of the device that keeps him under the sway of the VMS, so who knows what the fuck he’s going to get up to the next time we see him?  The thing that worries me, though, is the title of the next arc:  CODA.  I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen any announcements about the end of AMERICAN VAMPIRE.  Considering how everything is sucking over at Vertigo right now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this title come to an end.  I hope I’m jumping at shadows, though.  Have any of you heard anything about this?


DICKS #10:  Wow, today was a day for endings.  This is the final reprint issue of DICKS, which means we will be getting BRAND NEW DICKS ACTION NEXT!  Also, look at that cover!  While it isn’t the most offensive cover they’ve ever done, it’s a really funny take on SAGA.  Also, you can never go wrong with shit-centric Christmas stories told with a thick Irish accent.  My favorite line comes from the devil himself:  “Aye, all hail me.  Ye do know these two wee hooers’ve made a cunt outta ye, don’t ye?”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

AMONG THE DUST, WE LIVE: Chapter Two

7


“You dirty, cocksucking, ass-raping, piece of shit son of a butt-fucked whore!” Dirk panted, trying to catch his breath, and when he did, he spat another slew of invective at the engines. He’d rewired them back to the way they’d been before he tried fixing #6, but the bitches weren’t working. They didn’t even make a sound when he flipped the switch.



“I need a drink,” he muttered. The rest of the crew were probably laughing it up, getting wasted and having fun while he was stuck in the engine room with FNG.



Jason handed him a bottle of water. “You’re sweating up a storm, dude.”



Dirk drank. “This blows. We’ve got the shit detail, bro. I don’t even know how to start fixing this.”



“Have you tried linking the turbo feeds to the—-“



“Yeah, yeah. I’ve been on the ship for how long now? Longer than you, so, yeah. I thought of it.”



Jason shrugged. “I’m just trying to help.”



The auxiliary lights dimmed, and the air system gagged and ground its gears. The two men looked at each other, confused, as the walls shuddered around them.



Dirk lunged for the comm. “LT! What the hell’s going on?”



“This is Drake. I authorized Janna to fire a probe at an unidentified anomaly.”



“Jesus, Cap! It’s draining power like a motherfucker! Call it back!”



“It’s that bad?”



“Shit, the systems are failing! We might have just cut days off our back-up power!”



“It’s too late,” Everson said. “The probe’s halfway there. Recalling it would cost us too much energy.”



“Just keep working,” Drake said. “We’re counting on you. Bridge out.”



Dirk stared at the comm. “What the fuck? I gotta’ have something to work with.”



8



A click reverberated through the lab, and Janna knew the probe was home. She flicked a switch, and the wall inside the compartment opened up, pulling the probe inside the ship. When the aperture closed, she put her hands into the two circles on the Plexiglas, so they were enclosed by the radiation gloves, and she detached the probe, readying it for information download.



It took a second, but before long, she had the read-outs on her screen. Everything came from physical evidence, but there were no specimens from the ghostly haze. Which implied to her that it really was insubstantial.



Janna turned on the comm. “Lab to bridge. Captain Drake?”



“This is Drake. Go ahead.”



“I am ninety-nine-point-nine-nine-nine-nine percent certain that there was a planet here. Judging from the traces of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon, I’d say the atmosphere was remarkably like earth’s.”



Everson broke in. “Are we dealing with some kind of phantom planet, here?”



Janna sighed. “I don’t know. I couldn’t get any readings on that. There is, however, a strong magnetic pull where the core used to be. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was drawing us in.”



Drake again: “Well, that’s just great. Anything else you can tell us?”



“Just be careful of debris. I don’t think there’s anything too big out there, but you never know. Lab out.”



She turned the comm off, then turned back to the probe. There was nothing more to be learned from its contents, but it would be best to have the information properly logged, just in case. Then, it would be a good time for a cold beer. And maybe a visit to Rico. He had a cute ass.



She put her hands through the circles again and got ready to finish up work before playtime.



#



Drake turned off the comm and looked at Everson, then Pamela. “I guess we just have to ride this one out.”



“What did she mean about debris?” Everson asked. “Could some of it pierce the hull?”



The captain shrugged. “Just be super-vigilant, okay?”



“So, we just wait?” Pamela asked.



“I guess.”



She smiled. “Good. That means we have time to talk.”



“Oh, Jesus,” Everson said. “Don’t do it here. I might be tempted to drive us into an asteroid.”



9



Ben wiped his ass with the bargain-basement, rough-as-sandpaper TP the government insisted on buying for its employees. He thought about the amazing technological advances humanity had made in just the last twenty years, and he wondered why no one had come up with an alternative to such a disgusting duty as wiping one’s ass. Sure, there was the bidet method, but with such a heavy shit as this one, a stream of water would be useless. Deep space travel was a cinch these days, but new ass-wiping technology was still beyond science’s reach?



Ben tore off another wad of toilet paper and reached back, gritting his teeth against the coarse grain. When he checked, he saw that the brown was still too thick. “Is this ever going to be done?”



Back home, he’d been a well-known sportsman. Baseball, football, basketball, you name it. Maybe he hadn’t been famous, but he had fans. What would they think if they could see him now?



Then, in mid-wipe, the lights went off. The pumps were still grinding away, and they still had gravity control, but the world had gone dark.



“Guys?” Ben called out. He hoped Rico and FNG were still out there. “Is this a joke? It’s not funny! I’m trying to wipe my ass, here!”



Nothing.



“Shit.” He finished up by touch and pulled his shorts on. As he flushed, he looked at where he thought the showers were and wished he could take one. But if the power outage was genuine, the water pump might be next. Water had to be conserved.



Feeling his way through the darkness, he reached the door to the gym. Once again, he called out for his friends and got no answer. There was one thing left to do: find the comm and hope that it worked.



#



“What the fuck now?” Dirk yelled. “FNG! Where are you?!”



“I’m over by the comm,” Jason said. “I’m going to contact the bridge.”



“Screw that. We don’t have the time. Just find a flashlight and help me work. It should be ten feet to your right.”



Jason touched the wall, patting it lightly with his fingertips. When he found nothing, he realized Dirk was talking from his perspective, so he felt to the left until he found the flashlight. He disconnected it from its charger and aimed the beam at Dirk.



“I can still hear the oxygen pumps working,” the mechanic said. “That means we have maybe two hours before we lose water. Two more, and we lose gravity. An hour after that, we’ll be breathing stale air.”



“Okay,” Jason said.



“So find the other flashlight, give it to me, and get to work. Or we’ll be dead by the end of the day.”



10



Drake escorted Pamela back to his quarters, and he’d begun pouring them drinks when the lights went out. Instinct kicked in, and he grabbed for the emergency flashlight without needing to feel for it. He heard Pamela call his name, but he ignored her until he tested the comm. “Captain to bridge. Everson, are you there?”



No answer.



Pamela touched his shoulder. “Drake, what’s going on?”



He sighed. “Why do I even bother having quarters? I might as well start living on the bridge. Come on.”



“But, our talk—-“



Drake downed both drinks. “No time. Let’s go.”



“At least I’m getting plenty of exercise on these walks.”



#



Armed with a flashlight, Everson removed the plasma screen to reveal the real window. The brightness was so intense that he no longer needed the flashlight. He flicked it off, but put it in his pocket. Just in case.



The door manually cranked open, and Drake made his reappearance with Pamela. “What’s with the power outage, Everson?”



“I guess Janna’s probe drained more energy than we thought.”



“How much longer do we have?”



“Good news or bad news?”



“Good.”



Everson bit his lip. “Sorry, I was lying about the good news. I was hoping you’d pick the bad and forget I offered the good. I needed something to feel better about.”



Drake pursed his lips. “Just tell me.”



“We’ll probably be dead in twenty-four hours. Unless Dirk fixes the engines.”



“Oh, is that all?”



Pamela stared out the window. “Guys, that thing is getting really close.”



“Oh, yeah,” Everson said. “There’s that, too. We should be hitting that thing in about—-“ He looked at his watch. “—-five minutes.”



Drake offered a humorless grin. “Remind me again why you’re my second-in-command?”



“My, uh, charming wit, good-looks, and ability to effortlessly curse?”



11



Rico was halfway through his lunch, eaten by flashlight, when he heard someone moving in the kitchen. A feminine “FUCK!” came to him, and he grinned. He’d managed to cook his freeze-dried steak and potatoes before the power went off. For all he knew, this food would be the last prepared meal on this ship, ever.



Winter emerged from the kitchen with a tube of cheeseburger-flavored paste in one hand and a beer in the other. A flashlight was tucked under her armpit as she ate. When she saw Rico, she smiled and approached. “Hey there, spaceman. What’s up?”



Rico didn’t make eye contact. “Not much.”



Winter sat down and popped the top off her beer. “You should get one of these. No telling how long they’ll stay cold.”



He thought she was trying to trick him into going so she could steal the rest of his food. Paranoid? Perhaps. But he knew what kind of woman she was. He speared another piece of meat and stuck it into his mouth. “Maybe later.”



She shrugged. “Whatevs.”



Rico shoveled some mashed potatoes into his mouth, and Winter watched him, sucking at the tube. Finally, she said, “Why don’t we talk with each other more often?”

Ric
o grunted. “Don’t wanna’ make the captain jealous.”



“He doesn’t own me, you know.”



“And I don’t do sloppy seconds, hon.”



Her eyes widened, but not too much. Recovering, she blew out air. “That’s not what I was talking about. Perv.”



Rico grinned. “Whatevs.”



#



Everson looked up from his controls, bathing his face in ghostly light. “Here we go. Contact in three . . . two . . . one.”



Drake braced himself against the wall, but when the ship touched the swirling light outside, nothing happened. They passed through the luminous halo as if it wasn’t there. “Like a door through a ghost,” he muttered.



“Ain’t it the other way around, Cap?”



“No,” Pamela said. “It’s perfect.”



Everson looked back at his console. “Uh, Cap? We’re moving.”



“The engines?” Drake asked.



“No. The center is dragging us in.”



Drake sighed. “Janna said this might happen.”



“Still. It’s creepy.”



“At least nothing bad happened,” Pamela said.



#



Winter ignored Rico as she finished up the tube of cheeseburger. Then, as she put the cap back on, she looked up to see he was staring at her with a familiar gleam in his eyes. She saw it on every guy’s face whenever she walked into a room: pure, unadulterated lust.



She meant to say, “Fuck you, Rico. Not after you just put me down, you piece of shit.” For a moment, she thought she’d actually said it. But then, her fingers unzipped the front of her jumpsuit.



Rico stood and tore his jumpsuit away, leaving the tattered remains on the floor. All he wore beneath were black boxer briefs, and he nearly ripped those in the process of getting them off. He stood on the opposite side of the table from Winter, both hands stroking the biggest hard-on she had ever seen.



She stepped out of her own jumpsuit, showing that she’d been going commando. Playfully, she tweaked her nipples and pulled at her breasts.



Rico couldn’t take it anymore; he flung the table aside and pressed Winter against the wall. She threw her feet around him, digging her heels into his back. He pushed into her, and she dripped down his thighs as he began to thrust like a piston.



12



Dirk knew it was a bad idea, especially in the heat of the engine room, where dehydration was a real possibility, but stress kept gut-punching him. He had to do something.



He reached into his hidey-hole and removed a pint of whiskey. After a couple of hits, he offered it to Jason.



“No thanks. I’d rather keep a straight head.”



“Pussy. This’ll screw the ol’ noggin back in place. This situation’s too FUBAR to take without a slug. Go on.” He shook the bottle.



“No, thank you.”



“Fine.” Dirk screwed on the top and put the pint back. “Let’s get back to work.”



Jason paused suddenly, his eyes wide, as if he had to fart, but he didn’t want to do it too loudly. Then, he said, “Whhhhhhrrrrrruuuuu.”



Dirk laughed. “Shit. Sounds like you already had a few.”



Jason shook his head. “Sorry. Your language confused me for a moment. I’ve got the hang of it, though. I’d appreciate it if you would cease working on the engine. There’s no escape.”



Dirk punched Jason’s shoulder. “Quit clowning around, grab a wrench, and go to work.”



Jason waited until Dirk turned his attention back to the engines, and then he brought his flashlight down on the back of the mechanic’s head. Wordlessly, Dirk dropped in a heap, his tools rolling off into the darkness.



“Sorry, friend,” Jason said. “I did ask politely.”



#



Janna hummed the most recent, chart-topping Assblasters tune as she strolled down the hall to the commissary. A trip to the gym, she decided, would be too trying for her. How many times had she all but thrown herself at Rico? How many times had he subtly rejected her? She knew she didn’t look like much, but even she had some pride.



No, a beer would be more conducive to her happy-go-lucky nature. And since the lights were out, who knew how much longer the beer would be cold?



As she approached the door to the caf, a scream echoed through the corridor. The sudden sound made her pause, and when she heard the growl, she rushed forward, cranking the door open by hand.



They were like animals; their wild movements and the frantic sounds confused Janna, so much so that she thought Rico was raping Winter. The two of them flailed against each other with such a force that they slapped and squished together.



Janna wanted to rush into the room, to pull Rico away from his victim, but when she saw Winter claw his back—-in a good way—-she felt her stomach revolt. How many times had Janna fantasized about Rico naked? Only to finally see him nude in reality . . . like this? His back shone with sweat, and she could see his balls between his legs. When Rico dragged Winter to the floor, Janna could see the rest of his equipment, enough to realize that she had not been generous in her dreams, after all.



What am I thinking? She tried to look away, surprised to find that she couldn’t. Her breath raggedly came in and out her mouth, and heat smoldered all over her body. She wanted to masturbate while watching them, but when she realized this, she pushed the thought away.



Disgust burned at the sides of Janna’s neck and in her forehead. She forced herself to look away from Rico’s pumping buttocks, and she dragged herself from the room. Once outside, she leaned back against the wall and sighed. The perverse desire to watch slowly baked its way from her body, and she felt anger take its place. She’d known Rico was kind of a slut, but he also never slept with anyone an associate had been with. Everyone knew Winter was fucking the captain. Why was Rico with her now? Janna was the only available woman on board. He was supposed to be with her.



Janna wiped at the wetness under her eyes, satisfied that she was finally showing the proper response. Fuck the beer, she thought, and she headed back to her quarters, where she had a bottle of vodka stashed away.



#



Rico and Winter did not keep track of how often they came; they just kept hurling orgasms against one another. They had no need to stop in between to regroup. Like wild beasts, they continued to hammer away as if they feared that stopping would be the death of them both.



But as with all good things, their passionate bout of sex came to an end, and they peeled away from each other, lying on a floor puddled with their juices.



“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted that,” Winter said.



“Five hundred years?” Rico asked. “Six hundred?”



“That sounds right. I’ve lost count, but yeah. Probably.”



Rico looked down at his bruised, chapped penis. “I think I broke it.”



Winter touched her vagina and showed off her bloody fingers. “Me, too. But it was worth it.”



“Hundreds of years, just floating in the cosmos. I thought about a thousand things in that time.”



“Like?”



“Food. Entertainment. What I’d do if I ever got a body again.”



“Ah.”



Rico put his hands behind his head and sighed. “The top of the list was getting laid.”



“Of course.”



“Shit. If I didn’t hurt so much, I’d go again.”



#



Jason didn’t need the flashlight to find the comm. He pressed the button on the comm, yet as soon as he did so, he knew that it didn’t work.



He grunted. “Alien technology.”



Then, he closed his eyes and concentrated, willing the device to come back on line. It took a minute, but he felt the click of energy being restored, and he pressed the button again.



#



A voice came through on the comm, and Everson had to cross his legs to avoid pissing himself.



“I thought that thing didn’t work,” Pamela said.



“It doesn’t.” Drake rushed to the lieutenant’s side and pushed the button. “Drake here. Go ahead.”



“Are you the captain of this vessel?”



Drake sighed. “Jason, quit fucking with me. What’s up?”



“Jason? You mean, Jason Middleton, the so-called FNG? Yes. This is his body, but my name is Snichlo. I am . . . was a citizen of the planet Ravlet, which once resided here centuries ago.”



Everson covered the speaker. “We’re practically locked into place, Captain. We’re still approaching the core, but for all intents and purposes, we’re a part of this Ravlet place, if that’s what it really is called.”



“Is that bad news?” Drake asked.



“I don’t know. All I know is that we’re now orbiting this sun, and that scares me.”



“Captain Drake?” Snichlo said. “Are you still there? I was hoping you and I could meet and have a chat . . . ?”

Monday, November 26, 2012

GARTH ENNIS WROTE A KIDS BOOK?! A review of ERF



[DEPARTMENT OF FULL DISCLOSURE: ERF was listed on Kickstarter for quite some time, and since it had Garth Ennis’s name on it, you bet your bottom dollar I donated to this book’s existence. My name is listed among the Friends of Erf on the final two pages of this book. I have never given an unfair review, though, and I’m not about to start now.]



When one thinks of children’s books, Garth Ennis is probably the last writer one would think of. The man who gave us PREACHER, HITMAN, THE BOYS, and easily the best runs on HELLBLAZER and THE DEMON ever could not possibly have a children’s book in him, right?


Well . . . prepare yourself for ERF, which takes place in the time before life started crawling out of the ocean and onto land. It concerns a quartet of friends: Figwillop (the fast one), the Booper (a chameleon), KWAAH! (who can puff up to gigantic proportions), and Erf (who doesn’t seem to have any talents). One day, these four friends discover that they can breathe out of water, and they go up onto land to explore a brand new world. Unfortunately for them, they’ve come to the attention of Colossux, who needs enough energy to swim to the mainland and intends to get that energy by eating these four friends.

After some consideration, Colossux decides that he really needs to eat just one of them, and that he’ll let them decide who the unlucky one will be. Each of Erf’s friends has an excuse as to why they shouldn’t be sacrificed, but Erf is just terrified and sad because he knows that he’s the only expendable one here. Much to his friends’ credit, they don’t bring this up. They decide to sleep on it and decide in the morning. But Erf has other plans . . . .

This book is guaranteed to traumatize children for many generations to come. That’s a good sign of a children’s book, if it can do that. If you have kids, and you read this book to them, you’ll finish your night up trying to calm them down, to get them to stop crying and go to bed. Because Ennis has a very Darwinist way of looking at things, it really comes through cold-bloodedly here. Yet at the same time, there is a great deal of warmth to it, especially if you read to the very end and see just what the great importance of Erf is in the long run.

Ennis has a great feel for humanity, as is illustrated in many of his character interactions. Jesse Custer and Cassidy. Tommy Monaghan and Natt. Even Butcher and Wee Hughie. Despite the awful, horrible circumstances he writes about, he’s got an optimistic view of things, and never is this more evident than it is in ERF. Artist Rob Steen brings it to life in a rather beautiful way, especially as Erf goes to confront Colossux on his own.

Sure, your kids will cry, but they’ll come away from this story better off than they were before.


ERF
Written by Garth Ennis
Illustrated by Rob Steen
Published by 2 Badgers and Spitfire Productions
42 pages
$14.99

Friday, November 23, 2012

EVERYONE'S GOT ONE #18: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS ARE SHIT


Once again, it has made the news.  Some overly-sensitive atheist group has noticed that a bust of the Ten Commandments has been a decoration at a public school for years, and they want to have it removed because it doesn’t respect their right to not believe.  Then, some dipshit Christian group gets involved and says the bust must stay because if it doesn’t then it doesn’t respect THEIR right TO believe.


First of all, I’m an atheist, but I’m not such a knee-jerk scumbag to want to take down a statue that has been there for 50 years simply because it offended me personally.  Guess what?  I don’t give a shit.  Play your games all you like, but it has nothing to do with me.  However, if you are Christian, and you are offended by this situation, you might want to rethink your religious affiliation.  The Ten Commandments were handed down in the Old Testament; therefore, they are a JEWISH tradition.  The New Testament exists to abolish the Old Testament altogether.  (Which is kind of why the Jewish folks weren’t too happy with Jesus Christ hanging around until they, you know, MADE him hang around.)


Normally, I’d laugh and keep quiet, but the ignorance these Christians are portraying is just so much more overwhelming than usual.  I know it’s weird to get a Bible schooling from an atheist, but I might as well make use of the as-of-yet useless college education I received between the years 1996 and 2000.  It should be noted that I studied religion against my will (as a gen ed requirement) at one of the top Catholic colleges in the country, but because of my desire to get a good grade and therefore never have to repeat the class, I paid a lot of attention.  Hell, this school is so Catholic, the guy who wrote the Serenity Prayer used to teach there.


Anyway, remember why, according to the Bible, Jesus Christ died on the cross?  It was to atone for everyone’s sins.  But it’s not as simple as that.  In the Old Testament days, you couldn’t just go to the local priest and confess your dirty deeds.  God knows what you did.  You just have to ask Him for forgiveness, and the way you did that was through sacrifice.  You went out in the field and found your finest ram or goat or whatever and killed it on an altar of the Lord.  In fact, there were a lot of sacrifices you had to make back then if you wanted to get shit done.  Burnt offerings, cereal offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, guilt offerings, all of that shit.  Not only that, but there were a metric shit-ton of rules you had to obey in order to successfully make your offering to the Lord.


God, being a reasonable kind of guy, understood that He was asking a lot of His worshippers.  Could you imagine doing any of that shit today?  Fuck no.  You have a busy schedule.  That’s why God came up with this brilliant plan to send his son to earth and have him brutally murdered as the ultimate sacrifice to Himself.  That way, people didn’t have to go through all the trouble of making sacrifices; it was done for them already.  All they had to do was ask Jesus for forgiveness, and that was that.  Simple, no?


Yeah, you can see why the Sanhedrin and Pharisees were so eager to get rid of Jesus.  Why does he have to fuck everything up for us?  Imagine if a new Christ figure showed up tomorrow and revised everything.  You don’t have to go to confession anymore, and you don’t have to eat and drink of the Savior anymore.  How do you think the Catholic church would respond?


Well, Jesus had another card up his sleeve in regards to the Ten Commandments.  He was once asked what the most important commandment was.  “Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  There is no other commandment greater than these.’”  This is from Mark 12:29-31 (and it’s also in Matthew at around 22:36).  Considering how the entire purpose of Jesus Christ’s existence was to do away with the old way of doing things, it would seem that he’s cutting the slack quite a bit.  It sounds like he’s relying on two and only two commandments.


That may sound like bullshit to you.  Maybe you’re right.  I’m no expert.  But I do know this:  if you really want to be a stickler about this, there should be ELEVEN Commandments on that sucker.  This, you can’t deny.  Take a little gander at this gem found in John 13:33-ish:  “Little children, yet a little while I am with you.  Ye shall seek me:  and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love for one another.”


So . . . no love for the Eleven Commandments?  Or are you just conveniently forgetting that one so you can continue to oppress minorities and feel good about yourself?  It’s one of the last things Jesus said, so it was probably pretty important, don’t you think?


Don’t get me wrong.  The Ten Commandments are more or less a good way of living your life.  Penn & Teller did a great bit on BULLSHIT in which they edited them down, but I’m not going to go into that here.  A lot of it is whiny I-am-the-Lord-don’t-scorn-me emo crap, but there are a few good ones.  You shouldn’t kill (although there are a few folks out there who need killing), you shouldn’t commit adultery (just get a divorce like most sensible people so you can start fucking others), and don’t steal (unless you and your children are hungry).  The bit about coveting is kind of pointless.  You should want nice things.  If your neighbor has a nice car and you want one . . . well, don’t steal his, but get one as good (if not better than) his.  What’s the point of living if you don’t want nice things?  I can’t help but notice there’s nothing about rape up there, but can God be perfect?  Oh, wait.


So yeah.  If you’re going to be Christian, you should be aware of what you really believe.  Unless you’re prepared to bring back shit like burnt offerings, then don’t get your panties twisted up about Ten Commandment-related crap.  It doesn’t mean anything to you.  Love is the important message.  I know, you’re not too good about loving people who aren’t at least similar to you, but it’s been a long two thousand years.  You’re getting better at it.  Maybe in a hundred years or so, the Muslims will catch up to you.  Maybe in a thousand years, all of you will outgrow your fairy tales.
 
 
Jim Jefferies has a good bit on the subject.  He said there should only be one commandment:  "Don't be a cunt."  I can get on board with that one.


And fuck you too, atheists.  You’re not off the hook, either.  God is on our money and in just about every aspect of our government.  Get over it.  It means something to most people, but to us, it’s an empty word.  Do you think twice every time you say, “Goddammit!” when you stub a toe?  Or when you say, “Jesus Christ,” while shaking your head at some stupid news story?  No.  Don’t give the Ten Commandments a second thought.  Remember when you said the Pledge of Allegiance in grade school?  Did you believe every word of it?  Fuck no.  It was just one of those things you had to say at the beginning of every day.  Empty words.  The next time you hear something about God, just shrug it off like I do.  It means nothing to you.


Just . . . fuck everybody.  Yeah, that’s my usual message here at Everyone’s Got One.  Fuck you all.  Fuck fuckity-fuck-fuck-FUCK!


I think I need to get laid.
 

Anyway, am I on the wrong track here?  Am I talking out of an anus-mouth on this one?  Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

COOL SHIT 11-22-12



THE TRANSFORMERS:  ROBOTS IN DISGUISE #11:  I really love how this book is turning out.  Starscream, who has always been rather treacherous, has finally found his place in the world as a politician.  Holy shit, he is off the fucking rails in this role.  It’s amazing to watch him in action, utilizing the same scumbag moves our very own politicians use.  Even better, it seems like he’s wheeling and dealing with Prowl, and that would make for an insane titanic team-up.  Best of all is how they work together to deal with Shockwave and his Decepticon rebels.  No, actually, the best part happens early in the issue, when Omega Supreme is immolated in a gigantic explosion.  Or is the surprise guest star the best part?  I can’t recommend the new Transformers books enough.  These aren’t for kids; these are for the adults who used to love the Transformers when they were kids.

 

THE LAST ZOMBIE:  BEFORE THE AFTER #2:  Things are really coming to a head with Dr. Ian Scott as Federman comes closer and closer to discovering his deep dark secret.  In fact, it’s safe to say that he knows Dr. Scott is turning into a zombie by now.  All he needs is the final proof of a test.  In the meantime, everyone else is having a good time being stranded in a blizzard.  At least it takes away from being on your toes all the time.  They find some good whiskey and kick back.  Once again, the star is Dr. Scott, who tells of his relationship with Jen.  Writer Brian Keene says there’s one more mini-series after this one.  You can tell things are drawing to an end.

 

HELLBLAZER #297:  This marks the end of yet another Constantine family adventure.  Now that we know that his nephew Finn is not guilty of those serial murders, we can rest a bit easier.  Every once in a while, the Constantine line kicks out a regular bloke, after all, although those of us familiar with the character know there are plenty of bad eggs out there.  Long time readers will remember the first HELLBLAZER annual written and illustrated by the original creative team, Delano and Ridgeway.  Hell, even Ennis and Dillon took a crack at the Constantine history in their run.  The funniest moment is when John’s niece-in-law calls him a good man.  His initial reaction is very touching, but when he realizes what’s going on, he becomes cold and hard, just like the John we’re used to.  I’m really going to miss this book when it’s gone.  3 ISSUES TO GO.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

THE END OF AN ERA: R.I.P. THE BOYS




[Before we begin, I just wanted to say one thing.  My mother and I shared a lot of the same tastes when it came to comic books.  (And music, too.  Reading actual books, though?  Couldn’t be more different.)  She liked PREACHER and HITMAN and EVIL ERNIE.  Didn’t like HELLBLAZER, though.  Near the end of her life, she was a huge fan of three books (also, my three favorites):  LOCKE & KEY, THE WALKING DEAD, and THE BOYS.  I think she liked L&K most, but she loved the shit out of THE BOYS.


The last time I saw her alive, I’d gone to visit her at the hospital.  They’d just put her into hospice, so we all knew she was going soon.  This wasn’t her first time in the hospital.  Near the end, she’d been in and out, but a long time ago, when I was in high school, she’d gotten into a horrible car accident that put her in a coma for more than a year.  When she came out of it, she told me she had vivid memories of me and my grandparents and brothers coming to visit her when she was out.


So even though she was in a coma again (and would never wake up), I knew she could hear me.  Personally, if I was in her place, I would want to know how all of the ongoing books I’m reading will end.  With that in mind, I sat by her bedside and made up endings to LOCKE & KEY, THE WALKING DEAD, and THE BOYS, and I gave them all happy endings.  I hope it brought her peace.  She died the very next day.


Now that I finally know how THE BOYS ends, I didn’t do my fake ending justice.  I short-changed Mom by far, and I hope that if there’s an afterlife, she can forgive me.


This one’s for you, Mom.]


[One more thing:  this isn’t really a review.  It’s more about my thoughts regarding the final issue of THE BOYS.  If you have not read the ending, you might want to come back later.  There will be spoilers, and you will be angry with me.]


The first thing you notice is the cover.  How appropriate that a book about shitting all over superheroes ends with every supe in the history of the title flying directly into a toilet.  It’s a very John McCrea thing to do, yet somehow, it’s done by co-creator, Darick Robertson.


This is a super-sized epilogue to the story, just like with the final issue of PREACHER.  It happens six months after Wee Hughie kills Billy Butcher and assumes his role as the final remaining member of the Boys.  More importantly, it ends with the repair of an event that has always lingered in the background of this story, since issue one.  You see, in the world of THE BOYS, terrorists didn’t crash a plane into the Twin Towers on 9/11; they took out the Brooklyn Bridge.  Here we see workers triumphantly hammering in the final girder, bringing New York back to its previous glory.  As Hughie walks down its length, a recognized hero for saving everyone from Butcher’s insanity, he hardly seems to be the same guy we’ve known throughout the series.  He’s got steel in him, as if everything he’s gone through has made him a better, harder person.


And he’s been through a lot, especially in the most recent issues.  The final battle with the supes, in particular Butcher vs. the Homelander in the Oval Office, then Butcher vs. Black Noir on the White House lawn, left everyone a bit ragged.  But when Butcher went off the reservation and killed Mother’s Milk, Frenchie, and the Female, that’s when Hughie was really run through the ringer.  When he suddenly realized that he was the only one who could stop Butcher, he just about shit his pants.  He knew for a fact that even though he stood no chance of succeeding, considering Butcher’s ruthless intelligence and overpowering strength, Hughie went ahead and tried anyway.  Granted, he won by sheer luck (and with a little help from Butcher’s final manipulation against him), but he still did what very few of us would do:  against insurmountable odds and his own fearful urge to run away, Hughie went ahead and did it anyway.  No one would have blamed him if he’d turned tail.


And it seems that this has finally given him the backbone that Butcher always wanted to give him.  Hughie is finally the strong man Butcher wanted him to be.  And best of all, in Hughie’s own words, “I came right through the whole thing in one piece.  I never had to turn into a monster.  There might be folk that think I did, but I’m happy to let them.  I saw all sorts o’ nightmares an’ made all sorts o’ daft mistakes, but I got to stay the fella I am.”


Even so, it’s great to see him go up against the spook from Vought American.  It would seem that the corporation has rebranded themselves to American Consolidated, and Hughie wants to make sure they stay out of the supe business by showing that he still has some of the chemical that Butcher planned on using to wipe out anyone with V in their systems, implying that any VA supes out there will have a difficult time keeping their heads if the corporation continues on their path.


Yet at the same time, the spook remains the consummate professional.  Even though Hughie has him over a barrel, it doesn’t seem to faze him.  In his words:  “I’m an expression of the corporation.  I’m the voice that says—you’re right, sue us.  That never gets upset.”  So yeah.  The fucker gets away scot-free.


But Rayner sure doesn’t.  With the aid of Monkey (who we can only hope someday marries a handicapped athlete), Hughie completely torpedoes her bid for election to the U.S. Senate in a scene that needs to be seen to be believed.  I kind of wish this would happen in real life.  I would love to see what would have happened if, for example, Romney had hired a plane to cruise by an Obama speech with the message OBAMA IS A COCKSUCKER flying from the back.  SUSAN RAYNER IS A WHORE.  Nice.


Oh yeah, and it looks like Consolidated America is going to have trouble cooking up new supes.  The new batch they march out for the spook is very disappointing, and he demands that they try again.  With what?  “Something that isn’t just the same old shit dressed up.”  Can it be that writer Garth Ennis, notorious for disliking superheroes (which is an odd trait for a comic book scribe to have), is taking yet another shot at the industry?


So it sounds like everything ends pretty badly for all concerned, right?  And what about Wee Hughie and Annie January?  It’s an Ennis production, so what do you think?  As cynical as his work tends to be, he always believes in the power of romance.  Jesse Custer got Tulip in the end of PREACHER, and so Hughie gets to live happily ever after with Annie.  In a great moment, we see him whirling about with her, just like he had with his previous girlfriend from issue one.  It brings back the memory of that moment, which A-Train completely ruined by running into her and killing her so hard her arms came off in Hughie’s hands.  Without this incident, Hughie would have never had reason to join up with the Boys.  He probably would have spent the rest of his life in Scotland, living whatever dreary life he had planned out for him.

 
It’s nice to bring the story full circle, and the kiss Hughie and Annie share in the very last panel, with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background, is a magical and powerful moment.


I think Mom would have really liked that.


And so it ends.  72 issues is a long run, and it’s been fun.  It’s been my favorite ongoing book, and now it’s done.  Many of you will remember that it originally started out at Wildstorm, but its anti-superhero theme bothered the shit out of DC so much that they had to cancel it.  I remember thinking that was bullshit at the time, and being very upset.  It wasn’t yet my favorite, but I still loved the hell out of it.  I’m glad that Dynamite picked it up.  They’re a shit company, focused far too much on retro characters like the Spider, the Bionic Man, John Carter, and others, but at least they recognize talent.  The best move they ever made was picking up THE BOYS.

 
I hope you had as much fun with it as I did.  I’m going to miss talking about it in Cool Shit.  At least we still have LOCKE & KEY, right?  Oh wait.  That ends in seven issues.  Well . . . at least we still have HELLBLAZ—oh, right.  Four issues on that one.


THE WALKING DEAD.  I think we’ll have that one for a while.

 
Here’s to whatever Garth Ennis has planned for us next.

AMONG THE DUST, WE LIVE Part One

[I know a while ago, I said I was thinking about serializing a novella here.  Welp, that day has come.  It's really hard to market stories of this length, so I thought I'd throw it out there.  When you think of people on a starship out in the middle of nowhere, you don't think of regular guys.  For example, on STAR TREK, every character was so consumed with their jobs that they didn't really have time to just hang out and break balls.  FIREFLY did that to some extent, but those guys were criminals living on the fringe, not ordinary people.  What I wanted was to pretty much take the guys I worked with at the public works garage in my hometown and put them in space.  It's also kind of a fuck-off piece, but I hope it's fun enough for you to overlook that.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.  Enjoy!]


1




“So, I went into Consumer Discount Mart, and—-“



“Whoa.” Lt. Everson held his meaty hands up. “You mean to tell me you shop at that cesspool of humanity?”



Dirk ran a hand through his greasy hair. “Well—-“



“What? Did they have a two-for-one deal on blow-up dolls or something?”



“Hey, I get pussy.”



Everson grunted. “Even a blind pig finds an acorn every once in a while.”



“Can I finish this story?”



“Only if the punch line is that you got a dry handjob from a midget in the pet supplies department. I can never get enough of those stories.”



Dirk blinked. “As it turns out, there was a midget involved. But it was a guy—-“



“Oh. It’s like that.”



“No. I asked this guy where I could find a—-“



“Bottom line me here, Dirk. Where are we headed?”



“Fine. I got in a fist fight with a midget over a discount pack of toilet paper. Before security separated us, we’d knocked over a fat chick in a wheelchair. Happy?”



“Huh.” Everson nodded, chewing on the inside of his cheek. “Now I’m interested. Start at the beginning.”



“I can’t.”



“Why not?”



“You know the twist ending now. There’s no suspense. Nothing to build up to.”



Finally, Captain Philbin Drake stepped between his two men, pointing a finger at each. “As much as I’d love to hear this compelling, intriguing story of innocence lost and the true power of femininity, I’d like to remind you that we have a job to do. We have cargo that needs to be delivered no later than three months from now. We’re behind schedule, and we’ll never make it unless you, Dirk, get your delicate, Consumer-Discount-Mart-shopping ass below deck and finish fixing Engine Six. All right?”



Dirk saluted. “Yes, sir.”



“Lieutenant, get to your station. Get ready to bring us back on course.”



“You bet, sir.”



While Everson sat in the driver’s seat and Dirk scampered away, Drake took the captain’s chair and sighed, staring out the front window into the deepest depths of barely-charted space. Two months into a six-month mission, maybe more since the engines were crapping out. Why had he ever agreed to this?



Perhaps it was the multi-million credit offer. Considering his recent expenses, there really was no other choice.



“Thanks a lot, Cap,” Everson said. “Dirk was getting ready to tell a story that would have undoubtedly earned him a Pulitzer back home.”



“Dirk’s a moron,” Drake said.



“But he’s our moron. And I think he might have struck a gold mine on this one. Midgets, sir.”



“His mother must be proud.”



“Hell, I’m proud.”



“Not proud enough to do your job, I hope?”



Everson rolled his eyes. “Aye-aye, Captain.”



Drake didn’t know what these scientific supplies were for; all he knew was how much they weighed and how quickly they were needed. The Raleigh Project was located on Quarf 5, a planet next to a red dwarf in the Raven system. Their mission was so top secret that not even Commander Reiyo knew about it, but whatever it was, it had to be impressive, considering their isolation. The Raven system was uninhabitable, especially the Quarf planets.



More than once, Drake had been tempted to open up the crates, just to satisfy his curiosity, but even in his drunken fits, he was a good boy, a company man.



The comm crackled, and Dirk’s voice came through. “I think we’re ready to try out the engine. I rerouted some of the power, so we might lose some room temperature, but that’s it.”



“Copy, Engine Six,” Everson said. “You’re a go.”



“Roger. Starting Engine Six in three, two, one, now.”



A loud click echoed through the ship, and something fired up beneath their feet, making the floor vibrate. Then, over the comm, Dirk cursed. The air hissed, and the reverberation ceased. All lights winked out, and the constant whoosh of the environment cycles came to a grinding stop.



“You’ve got to be shitting me,” Everson said.



“Do we have contact with Engine Six?” Drake asked.



“No. And get a load of this: none of the engines are working now. The lines are flatter than hammered shit.”



The emergency back-up kicked in, and the lights came back on. Everson’s sweaty, hirsute face loomed over the controls. His jowls quivered as he flipped switches and pushed buttons. “Dirk, do you copy? Goddammit, can you hear me?”



“Yeah, I copy.” Dirk’s voice sounded terse, an angry parent trying to figure out how to scold his child.



“What the fuck did you do? None of the engines are working.”



“Well, I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened. I’m backtracking over my work, trying to figure out how to fix it.”



“How long do you think that’ll take?” Drake asked.



“I don’t know. A couple of days?”



Drake rubbed his temples. “Jesus Christ.”



“The back-up only has power for a week,” Everson said.



“Holy hell, LT. I know that. I’ve only been working this fuckin’ ship for ten years. Don’t worry, it won’t take that long.”



“You’d better not be wrong. I don’t want to start cranking out oxygen with a manual pump.”



“Yeah, well, your snippy tone isn’t helping me out much, so . . . .”



“Snippy?! You--!”



“Fuck this shit,” Drake said. “I need a drink. You two work this bullshit out. I’ll be in my quarters.”



Everson watched the captain stand and make his weary way to the door. He considered what he was about to say, the wrath he would probably cause, and decided to hell with it. “Hey, Cap. We’ve known each other for what? Fifteen, sixteen years?”



Drake turned, brushing his hair back from his eyes. “Yeah. So?”



“I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that you’d be far less high-strung if you didn’t nail everything with a pussy.”



“What? I don’t fuck every woman I see.”



“There are three women onboard this ship,” Everson said. “How many have you slept with?”



Drake pursed his lips. “I haven’t slept with Janna.”



“Yeah, but she’s ugly.”



“You don’t have a lot of room to talk. I’ve seen a baboon’s asshole that looked prettier than you.”



“Hey, Janna’s a great kid. Smart as hell. Sweet. Great sense of humor. But she’s ugly. When she masturbates, her hand is probably embarrassed to be with her. Pamela and Winter, on the other hand, are model material. Maybe not Paris, but definitely New York.”



“Are you suggesting that I only sleep with women who are good lookers?”



Everson didn’t bother to answer.



“Okay, stupid question. Look, this is deep space. Our maps aren’t even accurate. We’re far away from our loved ones. Is it any surprise that I’m lonely and looking for comfort?”



“If by comfort you mean meaningless sex with hot chicks, then no, it’s not a surprise. But look at what it’s doing to you. Back in Manhattan, it’s not even ten in the morning, and you’re ready to start drinking.”



“Out here, time means shit.”



“So? It still passes.”



“And I’m passing it in my quarters. Let me know if anything happens.” He stepped through the door, and it hissed shut.



Everson sighed. “Aye-aye, Cap.”



2



“Drake’s a dickhead. If he wasn’t such an awesome captain, I’d never ship out with him. Ever.”



Ben lightly touched the bar. He didn’t want to interfere with Rico’s weight-lifting, but he also didn’t want his friend to lose control and crush his larynx.



“I mean,” Rico continued, “what kind of prick—-and married with kids, no less—-fucks two out of three women on a six-month trip?”



“You’re just jealous of the competition,” Ben said.



“Damn straight, I am. I’m not taking Drake’s sloppy seconds.”



“You care too much. Me? I don’t give a shit. I can be the rebound guy. I’m already working on Pamela. Not much is happening, but I’ve got to try something. I haven’t gotten laid in two months. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going another month.”



“Good luck,” Rico said. “With me, it’s first place or nothing.”



Ben grinned. “There’s always Janna. I’ve seen the way she looks at you.”



“Fuck that. I have standards. Ever hear of ‘em?”



“Careful. After another month of jerking off, you might change your mind. Besides, I hear that ugly chicks are better in bed. They have to work harder.”



Rico gave a final push, then racked the bar. “No thanks. I’ll wait till we get to Quarf 5. There’s bound to be a hottie scientist, and as soon as she sees this—-“ He flexed his considerable chest muscles. “—-she’ll be all over me.”



“Unless Drake gets there first.”



“Shut the fuck up.” Rico grabbed a towel and wiped the sweat from his face. “Hey, FNG. You’re new. What do you think of our glorious captain?”



Jason stopped doing curls. “He seems all right to me.”



“That’s it? He’s all right?”



“Well, he’s treated me fine. And I’m not really here to get laid. I’m here to work.”



“What are you, a fag?” Rico and Ben laughed, bumping fists.



“No. I like pussy as much as the next guy. I just want to get my certification so I can command a ship of my own someday.”



“You’re going to go far, FNG,” Ben said.



“Shit goes pretty far after you flush it, right?” Rico asked.



“I wish you’d stop calling me FNG.”



“You’re the fucking new guy,” Rico said. “Until we hire someone else, you’re FNG. Deal with it.”



And then, the lights went out. The sudden disorientation threw Jason off balance, and the weights clanked to the floor.



“Son of a bitch,” Rico muttered.



“Where’s the emergency lights?” Jason asked.



“They’d better come on. I need a shower, and the water doesn’t work unless—-“



“Boo-hoo,” Ben said. “I gotta’ take a shit, and I can’t imagine doing that in the dark.”



The power came back on, and all three men stared at each other, embarrassed by their words except for Jason. He grinned. “You guys are pussies.”



“Hey, you’re FNG,” Rico said. “You’re not allowed to bust balls yet.”



Ben grimaced and touched his belly. “I think I’m prairie-dogging. I’ll be in the john.”



3



Pamela missed cigarettes. Back home, they were too expensive, but she considered them a worthy vice. They were illegal on all ships for safety purposes, so she had no choice but to suck on a nic-stick. At least they had a giant stock of those; without them, she would have lost her shit a month, three weeks, and six days ago.



She stuck one in her mouth and slurped, thinking about the way Drake had leered at her whenever she did this. Of course, such a leer used to lead to mind-blowing sex, but then she found out about . . . .



No. She refused to think about her. It would only lead to more nic-sticks. At this rate, she’d be out of the things in a month.



Instead, Pamela thought about getting revenge. Drake could be pretty possessive, like most alpha males, so she figured it would be best to sleep with one of his men. Rico was the obvious choice—-and from the stories she’d heard about the guy, she was sure he could show her a good time—-but Ben seemed nicer. Everson was out of the question, and she doubted Dirk would know what to do with her. She was fairly certain that FNG—-no, his name was Jason—-was gay. It had to be Rico or Ben.



Or both, a particularly wicked part of her brain said.



She turned the corner, thinking about going to the gym, when she came face to face with Winter. Both women jerked back in surprise, but neither would tolerate looking startled in front of the other.



Winter recovered first. “Sorry, darling. I was lost in thought.” Unspoken, but clear in her dancing eyes, was the rest of her statement: “I was lost in thought . . . about Drake and the wonderful, crazy sex we’re going to have later tonight.”



“If you’re capable of any cerebral activity,” Pamela said, “I’ll eat myself out.”



“Ooh. Is that a promise?” Winter offered a lopsided grin, and it was easy to see why Drake had wanted her.



“You’re a whore, you know that?”



“I’m a slut, baby. I do it for free. Besides, you’re no different. Last I checked, Drake’s a married man. He’s got a family back home.”



Pamela snarled. “You don’t know anything about me. About what he and I did.”



“I’ll clue you in, sister,” Winter said. “He talks, and he was bored with you. Him and I, we get . . . creative.”



Pamela’s fists clenched. She never considered herself a violent person. In fact, she’d never been in a physical fight in her entire life. But Winter kept pushing her, and she couldn’t wait to claw her adversary’s eyes out.



“Oops,” Winter said. She playfully chewed on a fingernail. “I guess I struck a nerve.”



“You disgust me. I can’t believe Drake would ever stick his dick in a trash compactor like you, but I guess I was wrong.”



Winter’s eyes narrowed. “I guess he got tired of fucking a bag of grease like you.”



Pamela roared and lunged for Winter just as the lights went out. Winter managed to block the first blow before they went blind, and now they both flailed at each other. Pamela got lucky and found her enemy’s throat with her hands, but Winter pulled at her hair, breaking the hold.



A beam of light cut through the blackness, and Janna’s high-pitched voice said, “Ladies! Break it up!”



The fighters blinked, trying to squint through the sudden light. Both disengaged, but neither tried to help the other to stand.



“I know you guys hate each other,” Janna said, “but we’re stuck on this ship for one more month. That doesn’t even count the trip home. I suggest you two learn to deal, okay?”



Winter straightened her hair. “That’s easy for you to say, Janna. No one wants to fuck you.”



At first, Janna feels the urge to correct the pronunciation of her name—-Yanna—-but she knew Winter had done it on purpose. The, the lights came back on, and Janna flicked off her flashlight. “Sticks and stones, Winter. Sticks and stones.”



Winter rolled her eyes and stomped away. Pamela watched her leave before she said, “Sorry, Janna. That was uncalled for.”



“It’s okay. Nothing she could ever say can hurt me. I don’t believe in taking stuck-up bitches seriously.”



5



The door whooshed shut behind Drake, and he grabbed a bottle of whiskey from his private stock. He considered using a glass, but he’d rather have the swiftness of drinking from the bottle.



It was too bright in his quarters, but he still wanted to see a little, so he said, “Dim lights.” The ship complied.



He slumped down in his chair and took a deep slug from the bottle. As always, the first drink ignited his belly and the back of his throat, and he wanted to wash it down with something else. Then came the second gulp, and his head filled with comforting cotton.



He sighed and pulled his digital picture book from the shelf above his desk. He scrolled through a few pics before he found the one he wanted: his family back home. Rachael and Tommy grinned out of a Kodak moment. He loved them more than anything and hated that he had to be here instead of with them. He had visitation rights, after all. Twice a month on weekends.



Except he couldn’t afford to live the way he did. Child support continually drained at his credit accounts. He knew this was because he couldn’t keep his dick in his pants. Betty had found out because he’d scorned one of his lovers, and the bitch had tattled on him.



Unfair. He couldn’t call Chrissy a bitch. He owned this problem, no one else.



Everson had a good point. Why did he cheat so much? Was it just the sex? Monogamy got old quick. He never really had any true connection with these women. Well, maybe Pamela. She had a great sense of responsibility, but she also knew how to turn a guy on. Could that be it? Was he just too easily seduced?



Drake took another drink and thought about Winter. Sexy, dirty Winter. She’d do anything he’d wanted. Anything. He wasn’t one for the kinky stuff, but just knowing the possibilities made him sweat. Pamela just kept to two positions: missionary and cowgirl. Winter had a much bigger imagination.



He looked at the picture of his kids and felt disgusted with himself for his growing hard-on. Hiding the digital picture book, he had another slug from the bottle and thought about giving Winter a visit. After the engine failure today, he knew he needed some kind of carnal distraction.



The comm went off, and Everson said, “Hey, Cap. I hope you’re not three sheets yet. We got a problem.”



“What is it?”



“I . . . well . . . you’d better just come up here and see for yourself.”



Drake had never known Everson to be at a loss for words, so this had to be important. He put the bottle away. “I’m coming.”



He stopped long enough to pop a mint into his mouth before charging the door head-on. “Open,” he said, and it did. His pace did not alter until he nearly bowled over Pamela. She stood outside his quarters, her finger hovering over the comm.



“Jesus!” he said. “You scared the shit out of me.”



She thought about her recent near miss with Winter. “Maybe I should wear louder shoes.”



“Well, I’m kind of in a hurry. What’s up?”



“That’s it? Just . . . ‘what’s up?’”



He pointed to his bars. “See that? Remember that I’m the captain of this ship? I have duties to attend to.” He started pushing past her.



She blocked his way. “Isn’t that convenient? I thought we’d have a little chat about your . . . your concubine.”



“Yeah. About that. We’ll have to talk later. Something important is going on right now.”



“Bullshit. You’re just too scared to talk.”



“What? Scared?” He blew out air, as if the idea was ridiculous.



“I’m sorry, I forgot. You’re Philbin Drake, fearless captain and trailblazer. Then, you’re ‘uncomfortable.’”



“No, I’m in a hurry. If you don’t believe me, feel free to follow.”



She stepped aside, and when he passed by, she went after him. He could have his way, but she’d be damned if the walk to the bridge would be quiet. “Have you been drinking?”



“Why? You smell something?”



“Yes.”



“See? You answered your own question. You could have saved yourself four words. Who knows? You might need them someday.”



“Fuck you, Drake. I’m not the one drinking on the job.”



“What? Are you gonna’ tell Mommy? We’re in deep space. The rules are different out here.”



Pamela grunted. “You’re impossible.”



“I thought that’s why you liked me.”



They walked in silence for a moment. Their boots clomped on the titanium floor, and the pumps labored to grind out oxygen on back-up power. Finally, Pamela said, “What did we have? And don’t say sex. It couldn’t be just that.”



They approached the door to the bridge, and Drake struggled to think of something to say. He wanted to be profound and maybe a bit mysterious, but inspiration refused to rise. “Later, Pammie. It’s time for business.”



6



Everson stared out the window, watching as the . . . thing came closer. He had no idea what it was, had never seen or heard anything like it before. A vague explanation floated near the back of his mind, but he didn’t want to consider the possibility.



Behind him, the door swished open, and Drake stepped in, followed by Pamela. Both stopped as soon as they saw the thing out the window.



“What the hell is it?” Pamela asked.



Drake approached the window, which was really a hi-def screen fed by a digital camera on the forward hull. He squinted. “Can we enhance this?”



“Yeah, but it does no good,” Everson said. “It’s the same blurry image, only bigger.”



Drake touched the image, and the plasma haloed. “It looks like—-“



“A planet. I know. But it can’t be.”



Drake knew. Usually, planets were not transparent. Yet this thing looked like one, maybe the size of Mercury. A gray mist swirled about in the cosmos like dust, and it even appeared to be rotating. No environment could be seen, and there didn’t appear to be life here, but Drake couldn’t think of any alternatives.



“Is this supposed to be here?” he asked.



Everson shrugged. “It’s hard to say. We’re off course in a system that hasn’t been fully explored. I have a fairly good idea as to where we are, though, and there shouldn’t be anything here.”



“It looks like a ghost,” Pamela said.



Drake raised an eyebrow. “Was there ever a planet here?”



“Shit, Cap,” Everson said. “That can of worms is too fucked up for me to even think about. I’m not a metaphysical guy. I pilot ships, bust balls, and think about pussy. I’m good with one-liners, but this?” He waved a dismissive hand.



“Janna might know,” Pamela said. “She’s the scientist.”



Drake nodded. “Get her up here.”



“Cap, there’s something else you should know.”



“What’s that?”



“If we keep drifting like this, we’re going to smack right into this thing in forty minutes.”



Drake went to the comm. “Bridge to Engineering. Dirk, you there?”



“Yes, sir.”



“How’s the repair going?”



“Not good. I still haven’t found the problem.”



“Do you think you can get us one engine?”



“Not a chance. I’ll probably have to rewire this bitch. I could use some help.”



“I heard FNG’s got some training,” Everson said.



Drake nodded. “Dirk, I’m sending Jason down. He’s not certified, but he knows a few things.”



“Sure thing.”



Everson sighed, shaking his head. “We’re gonna’ hit that thing, and it’s not going to be good.”



Drake ordered Jason down to Engineering, and as soon as he turned the comm off, Janna entered. “Holy shit,” she said. “Trippy.”



“Did Pamela brief you?” Drake asked.



“Yes, sir. It’s actually kind of funny. There’ve been some rumors that a planet used to be on this orbit. You can kind of see a circle of rocks around the ghost planet. I’ll bet if I could get a magnetic reading, it would be off the charts.”



“So, you think it is a ghost,” Drake asked.



“I don’t know. I believe in science, not spooks. But in my humble opinion, a planet used to be here.”



“Everson, do you think our ship would be damaged by contact with the . . . uh . . . planet? Ghost planet?”



“Hard to say, Cap.”



“I could send a probe into it,” Janna said. “If I had some comp readings, I’d be able to tell you.”



“But we don’t have the energy to launch one,” Everson said. “We’re on back-up power right now. It’s too much of a risk.”



“It’s too much of a risk not to,” Janna said.



“How much power are we talking here?” Drake asked.


“Not much.”


“Ordinarily, that is,” Everson said. “Considering our situation with the engines, there’s no telling how much energy a probe would bleed off. It might take a couple of days off our back-up gennie.”


“That’s probably an exaggeration,” Janna said. “Give me a chance, Captain Drake. Please?”


Drake stared out the window. “I don’t like not knowing what this is. Besides, Dirk’s never failed us before.”


Everson blinked. “What are you talking about? Dirk fails us all the time. I’d call him a troglodyte, but that’s an insult to troglodytes.”


“He’s never failed us before when it was important. Janna, you have my blessing.”


“Awesome!” she said.


“Just make it quick. I don’t know how much time we have.”


[TO BE CONTINUED NEXT TUESDAY!]

Monday, November 19, 2012

AN ABSOLUTE STEAL: A whiskey review



[Sorry for the hack title.  It was irresistable.]


It’s always good to see a new whiskey on the shelves of the trusty liquor store, especially when it has a high proof. Larceny, even though it sports the date of 1870, is fairly new to the game in its current incarnation, and it boasts of a glorious 46% ALC/VOL. That’s right, 92 proof. Beautiful.



Here’s the best part: they have an introductory offer right now, by means of a rebate. If you buy a fifth, you get ten dollars back. Since it usually goes for $24, that’s not bad. If you get a handle, you get $20. How can you lose by giving it a chance?


Larceny’s brilliance doesn’t end with its marketing strategy. Check out the story on the label: “John E. Fitzgerald’s weakness was fine Bourbon, and he faced temptation every day. As a treasury agent with the only set of keys to the rickhouses, taking from barrels was easy. But, he didn’t just take from any barrels, he took from the best barrels. Some say he was a thief. Others claim he was a man of great taste. This is the legend of Larceny. Unlock the smoothness and decide for yourself.” Hot damn! They really put their money where their mouth is. Their drug-dealer mentality—the first taste is free, you gotta’ pay for the rest—is staggering in its genius.


But all the marketing in the world can’t cover up bad quality. So . . . how does it hold up? Real smooth. It’s good sippin’ whiskey. Then, just when you thought it was down, it breathes fire back up your esophagus, igniting the back of your throat with boozy goodness. There’s only one cure for something like that: DRINK MORE!


But be forewarned: it doesn’t just sneak up on you; it bashes you over the head upon first meeting you. You will feel its wrath immediately. This is dangerous stuff. Keep your wits about you, and you might survive to tell the tale of this grand new potion of alcoholic bliss.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

SHIT SHIT 11-14-12



Many of you know that whenever I’m blogging, I dedicate every Thursday to Cool Shit, a semi-regular column in which I get to talk about the awesome comic books that came out that week.  Every once in a while, nothing good comes out, and something monumentally awful does.  That’s when I write a Shit Shit column.


This is going to be a very unusual installment, because it’s not about any books that just came out.  (Besides, it's Wednesday, not Thursday.)  No, it’s about an idea, brought to us by the scumfucks over at DC.  We’ll get to that in a moment.


When I was a kid, I loved comics.  My favorite was the Marvel run on THE TRANSFORMERS, and when that ended, it devastated me so badly that I just stopped reading comic books.  Fast forward to my senior year of high school.  A friend of mine lent me a trade of Evil Ernie’s first adventure, YOUTH GONE WILD.  Holy shit, had comics changed!    I wanted more adventures like this!


The same friend also lent me some PREACHER and HITMAN, and that sealed the deal.  I was back into comics, and that streak would continue through to this very day.  But to a guy like me, I couldn’t just read three titles.  No, I wanted to expand my horizons.


The very first book I found on my own was HELLBLAZER, and I was smart enough to start with issue one, rather than the current issue (which I think, at the time, was around #80).  With that first issue, I was hooked, and I had to know more about the main character, John Constantine.  Very soon, I had collected each and every single one of his appearances (even the silly kinda-sorta cameo in THE DOOM PATROL), and I was reading his new adventures as they unfolded each month.  It is remarkable in that it is the only title that was around when Vertigo first started that is still going today.


A week ago, it was announced that DC would be canceling HELLBLAZER, and it would be relaunching the title as a fixture of the DCU in the form of CONSTANTINE.


I cannot tell you how much this kills me.  Many of you will remember the Twitter rant I went on, and believe me when I say I’m still just as furious now as I was at that moment.  Before I took a break from writing Cool Shit, many of you may recall how I wanted to get Constantine out of the JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, so they could stop sullying his name.  It looks like they’re doing the opposite of that.


What I’m about to say may hurt a little bit, but you’ve just got to accept it and move on.  Okay?  Ready?  Each and every single DC book published, no matter how dark and gritty they can get, is aimed at children.  Ultimately, that’s not a bad thing.  Kids need reading material, too.  But HELLBLAZER is an adult book.


Imagine if you took an R-rated movie like, say, POLICE ACADEMY and decided to make a cartoon for kids out of it.  (*sigh*  I’m sorry.  I hate myself, too, right now.  For those of you who have repressed all memories of that cartoon, I apologize.)  Remember when Lessard thought Mahoney had given him a blowjob under the lectern, and it turned out to be the prostitute Mahoney was hanging out with down there instead?  I’m sure you can guess that didn’t make it into the cartoon.


The writers have come to the defense of the relaunch by saying that Constantine is still the snarky, chain-smoking bastard he was in the Vertigo world, but that’s just the surface.  Constantine is a very sexual man, but even that, to a degree, is surface material.  No, he’s a dark motherfucker.  Look back at all of the close friends he’s gotten killed over the years.  He betrayed each and every one of them for a greater good, and he didn’t think twice about it.  Ever.  Sure, he felt guilty afterwards (to the point where he was haunted by their ghosts), but think about this:  are you capable of killing your best friend in the world to ensure that something big and bad doesn’t happen?  Probably not.  But Constantine can and has.  This is not a character trait that is likely to be portrayed in the new DC book.


He’s also got a very odd sense of humor.  Remember when he accidentally pissed on the Phantom Stranger’s boots?  Or how about the time he used Swamp Thing to grow out a bunch of weed plants?  Are moments like these likely to happen in a book geared toward kids?



John Constantine is dark, with a very twisted sense of humor.  He’s got a lot of character flaws that make for great adult reading, but they will never make it through to the relaunch.  Why?  Because they are not suitable for young readers.  At the very most, I’m sure DC will be going for a PG-13 rating for CONSTANTINE.  HELLBLAZER is a hard-R, and sometimes, he goes into NC-17 territory.  Keep in mind, he’s an incredibly self-destructive guy.  How much of that will get through to the new book?


One of my favorite moments from his life doesn’t even come from HELLBLAZER; it comes from the Prestige 2-issue series called THE HORRORIST.  There is a moment when Constantine, who has a very sexual attraction to pain, lets a dominatrix whip the shit out of him.  But . . . he’s BORED.  That’s right, she can’t hurt him hard enough to make him feel horny.  He just gives up, puts his clothes on, and walks away.



The very moment something like that happens in the new CONSTANTINE book, I will sing its praises.  I don’t think it will, though.


Some of you with really, really long memories are probably chomping at the bit to remind me that John Constantine actually started out as part of the DCU.  Believe me, I have not forgotten.  I own his very first appearance.  See?



And in case you want me to be even more specific, here’s the very first time we see him:



There are some people who say that he showed up in an earlier issue, but they’re grasping at straws.  I’ve seen the background character they believe is John Constantine, and while it looks like him, it’s really a stretch, because it’s almost a throwaway scene.  (I have that issue, too.)


DC was different back then.  Sure, a majority of their output was dedicated to children, but there were a lot of new and different things going on.  Keep in mind, Constantine was created by Alan Moore as part of his run on SWAMP THING.  Note the message above the title:  SOPHISTICATED SUSPENSE.  If you were a kid, and you saw that on a comic book, do you think for one fucking second you would have bought it?  No, you wanted guys in tights kicking the shit out of weirdos and giants.


The reason they did it that way was, no one had thought to put this message on a book yet:  SUGGESTED FOR MATURE READERS.  Back then, everyone thought comic books were for kids and no one else.  Finally, three years later, when Constantine got his own book (written by Jamie Delano, who was handpicked by Moore), someone had thought that nifty phrase up.


And yes, the first issue of HELLBLAZER was a DC book.  It continued as a DC series for 62 issues.  That’s because Vertigo didn’t exist then.  After many years of kicking ass and telling adult stories, DC realized that they should create an imprint dedicated to publishing such work.  Good for them.  For the longest time, Vertigo was my favorite publisher.  They put out books like PREACHER and TRANSMETROPOLITAN, two of my absolute favorite books (although the latter started out at the short-lived Helix imprint).
 

I can almost hear you pointing out that I’m making a big deal out of adult work vs. work for kids.  The first and foremost argument you could make is that cursing and sex and all of that stuff is just decoration, that you can have a good adult book without stuff like that.  Maybe so, if the adult in question is kind of a dullard.  The fact of the matter is, it’s not just the cursing and sex.  Those are just tools one can use to enhance stories or to prove a point.  They are tools that will not be available to the new CONSTANTINE writers.


But it’s more than that.  Try as you might, you just can’t create innovative art anymore when it comes to kids stories.  All the great stuff has already been done.  That’s bad news for adults like me.  For kids?  That’s all right.  It’s preparing you for the good stuff later in life, kind of like seeing George Carlin on THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE.  That can only lead a kid to finding out about his awesome ADULT stand-up.


The problem is, kids reading about the adventures of John Constantine in the DCU will grow up and find out about HELLBLAZER, and they’ll go through the run, very happy for the enhanced experience, except . . . they’ll be pissed off because there are no new HELLBLAZER stories, just CONSTANTINE stories for kids.


That’s the major problem with this.  It’s a creative step backwards.  No artist ever wants to do this, and when you get down to it, comic books are an art form.


Or are they?  What is the only purpose for a move like this?  If DC cared about their art, why would they do something as stupid as this?  Simply put:  MONEY.  They want a popular book like HELLBLAZER to have an even greater appeal, so they’re trying to rope some kids into his adventures by watering him down.  Do they have the right to make more money?  Sure.  But after a bullshit move like this, they can’t expect to be called artists.


No, DC has given up all pretensions.  They’re not about art at all.  If they were, they would have shied away from a move like this.  On the other hand, Marvel is doing very well.  Why?  They certainly care about money, but they also give a shit about quality.  As soon as they realized a brutal character like the Punisher might not be for everyone, they sent him to their Max imprint, where he worked out pretty fucking well.  Marvel cares about art.  Everything DC does is an attempt to wring more money out of their readers.  Look what happened to Jonah Hex.  He was a fringe character, and when they started the new 52, they decided to send him to Gotham City.  Why?  Because Batman is one of their most popular characters, second only to Superman, and he lives in Gotham.  They want crossover readers.


Hex is another character that DC has royally fucked.  There used to be a lot of art in him, and now:  nothing.  Him and Constantine would get along pretty well on that fucking score.  Hm.  The writers keep mentioning that Constantine will keep smoking.  They certainly made sure Hex would keep drinking.  It’s almost like they’re using these vices as crutches, trying to show the world that these characters are edgy.  Sorry, drinking and smoking does not make one edgy; it’s all in the character flaws.

 
Many of you might remember me saying that I hoped Peter Milligan, the current HELLBLAZER writer, would kill Constantine off in the last issue in an attempt to mock whatever waterhead ends up writing the new series.  I’ve changed my mind since then.  It would simply be a matter of saying, “Hey, we relaunched everything.  This is a new Constantine, from a completely different earth.”  Or maybe I could find comfort in that, knowing that my Constantine is still safe from the stupid new 52 (which is more than 52 by now, so we should probably stop calling it that).

 
Besides, isn’t that what Delano did when he finished his run on HELLBLAZER?  He kinda-sorta killed Constantine off, and Garth Ennis had to pick up the pieces and make it work (which he did pretty well).  Also, Brian Azzarello did the same thing for Mike Carey.

 
It is really, really sad to see DC sell away its integrity for more readers, betraying people like me who have always supported them in all of their risks.  What does this leave for Vertigo?  Honestly, it hasn’t been doing so well of late.  It’s been a long time since I bought just about every book they published.  My favorite company is now Avatar, where they are doing some really amazing things with their art.

 
Vertigo still has the FABLES books, but if they weren’t creator owned, they would do pretty well as part of the DCU.  As much as I like the series, it’s based on a gimmick that paid off, and nothing more.  I like how Bill Willingham has extrapolated a few series from this idea (especially JACK OF FABLES), but ultimately, it’s a stagnant book.  It's fun, but it's a one-trick pony.


That leaves AMERICAN VAMPIRE and its various spin-offs.  There is nothing stagnant about any of these books.  It is truly art.  It tells about things off the beaten path, and it takes chances.  It has a dark character at its very center, and he might not even be a good guy.  Sometimes he is.  A lot of other times, he’s kind of a Constantine.

 
Other than that, Vertigo has nothing going for it.  It’s too bad.  They used to be on the very edge, and now . . . squat.

 
DC is going to shut down Vertigo, mark my words.  They wanted to do it before, but they settled for Wildstorm at the time.  Now, they’re centering in on the last vestiges of their creativity, and it’s going to be a sad day when they finally succeed.

 
I find a lot of comfort in the idea of a multiverse.  Whenever a shitty movie is made based on a great book (an example:  CONSTANTINE, starring Keanu Reeves, made from HELLBLAZER; I’m sure you’ve heard of the book . . . .), I like to think of it as a parallel reality where shit just happened differently.  That helps me forgive a lot of transgressions against source material.  I’m going to try to do this with the new CONSTANTINE book.  In fact, I’m going to stop pronouncing the name like it was meant to be—Con-stant-eyen, as voiced by Alan Moore himself, since the character is from Liverpool—and start pronouncing it like everyone else—Con-stant-een, like the cocksucking, shit-ass movie—just to forward this idea.

 
I don’t think I’m going to succeed at turning a blind eye.  HELLBLAZER ends with issue #300, and I’ve been reading about John Constantine’s adventures for so long, when he’s gone, a part of me will go, too.

 
Alas, poor John.  I knew him, Hex . . . .