Thursday, December 28, 2006

I'm a Professional

It must've been 15 years ago, at this point. I had just finished a camping weekend with my friend Nick and a couple of other guys, and we retreated back to Nick's family's upstate bungalow. (Why they always called it a bungalow and never a house still eludes me.) I took it upon myself to cook breakfast for the guys because, A) I was hungry and B) I wanted edible food and I just didn't trust any of them to make a breakfast that was more than fast or broken.

So I set to work making pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon. Easy enough. But I'm very good at breakfast. Almost as good as I am on the grill. Anyway, Nick asked me what I was cooking. I said "Relax, buddy. I'm a professional." He then asked me, "Has anyone ever paid you to cook?" I shook my head. He told me "Then you're not a professional. You're a talented amateur. And I'll reserve the 'talented' until after I've tasted your bacon."

No, not a gay weekend at all.

But he was right. Until you've been paid to do a service, you can't claim to be a pro. And, as of yesterdays mail, which included a sparkly check from DC Comics, I'm a professional comic book writer.

That sound you hear is a very muffled victory dance.

Monday, December 25, 2006

"There Was A Time"

That's probably my favorite James Brown tune. Inasmuch as you can call rhythmic assaults like that "tunes." I haven't got much to say about James Brown that you won't read or hear someplace else. He was just one of those guys—and there aren't a ton of them for me—who I would've killed to have seen in concert in his prime. James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, and Stevie Wonder pretty much are the list. Maybe add Ella Fitzgerald. And Stevie Ray Vaughan. That's it.

Another one bites the dust. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Under the Tree With Care

Yes, we're pretty much halfway through the Christmas march. Christmas Eve with In-Laws is over, the last bottles tossed into recycling, the last leftovers imprisoned in their tupperware cells. Tomorrow is my folks, shuttling out from Long Island because we are the owners of the grandchildren, and they're still young enough that they are the holiday magnets.

"You, there. Person with full control over your bladder and a driver's license. Get in your car and come to us!"

But it's all good. Holidays. Can't really complain. Except for when I do.

Hope yours was a good one, without any tears.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Some Things Bear Repeating

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Tequila is not your friend.

No matter how good your night is going, a shot of tequila will suddenly bring everything to the edge of madness. And last night, it was through sheer force of will that I kept myself from making the floor of the 10:41 pm NJ Transit train very, very slippery.

The only reason I abandoned my better judgment was because I was goaded by a mother of three. And when a mother of three calls you a pussy for not taking a shot, you take the shot.

Stupid tequila.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I hate celebrity playlists. Okay, hate is a very strong word. But I don’t like them because I think they’re disingenuous. You look at one of those rundowns of the 10 or 15 songs picked by whoever and you know that you’re not actually seeing a slice of that celeb’s personality…you’re seeing the slice they want you to see.

You can absolutely tell a lot about a person by the kind of music they listen to. Music, much like movies, can also function as a personality rorschach. But if you’re really trying to get a handle on someone, you need to look at their wall of CDs. (And if they don’t have a wall, that tells you something right there.) You can’t hide from your own collection. This is the stuff you held on to. And with each and every disc there’s a reason why.

But, since we live in the iPod age, there’s an easier way: the shuffle. The shuffle is merciless. The shuffle is aware. The shuffle will not let you hide. And this is how we can know a person.

So, here’s my Shuffle-ography. Ten songs, chosen at random. And what each title brings to mind.

“Mosquito Song,” Songs for the Deaf, Queens of the Stone Age
I bought this album simply because it was on EW’s top 10 list one year. And because Dave Grohl played the drums on the whole album. I dig Dave Grohl. Imagine how tough it must be to be the drummer in the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl’s band, knowing full well that if the boss doesn’t like what you’re playing, he could step right in and do it better. The fact that, by all accounts, Grohl’s not a dick about it is impressive. Somehow, this dude managed to extricate himself from forever being a member of Nirvana. He didn’t have to do that; he could’ve coasted for the rest of his life on that. Like Krist Novoselic. But he wanted something else, something more, and I can respect that.

“Quills,” Phrenology, The Roots
When I was in high school, I was into rap in a big way. I was a 15 year old black kid on Long Island; I was supposed to be into rap. Luckily for me, those were the halcyon days of hip-hop: Public Enemy, De La Soul, Eric B. & Rakim, Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest. But as gangsta rap moved in, I moved on. That was a music that didn’t quite speak to me. (I was from Long Island, remember?) I discovered Hendrix, Zeppelin, Clapton, Parliament Funkadelic, James Brown, Beethoven, Oscar Brown Jr., Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane. But I swung back around in my late 20s and found musicians on the rap scene. People like Jurassic 5, Mos Def, the Beastie Boys, and, yes, The Roots.

“Come Away with Me,” Come Away With Me, Norah Jones
When my daughter was born, she slept like all babies do: in short bursts, punctuated by long stretches of crying. My wife and I would take shifts, since no one should be expected do fly solo on that front, not unless you have to. A couple of weeks in, I couldn’t listen to any of the dozen lullaby CDs we got any more. The last thing you want to hear at 4:00 am is “Hush Little Baby” for the 152nd time. So I brought in a couple of my CDs: Nat King Cole, Stevie Wonder, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Norah Jones. I spent countless hours holding my daughter and dancing her to sleep to "Come Away with Me." I still mist up a little when I hear it.

“Get Me to the Church,” Sinatra at the Sands, Frank Sinatra
This song actually depresses me a little. Not because of some time-related nuptual fiasco—one of which I actually had at my wedding—but because of how young Quincy Jones was when this was recorded. He was 33 years old, conducting Count Basie’s orchestra and arranging Frank Sinatra’s songs. He was still a young man, and he was operating at the peak of his talents, and at the top of his field. Not that 33 was a bad year for me, but I wasn’t on a movie set, directing Tom Hanks and Kate Winslet in a film written by Paddy Fucking Chayefsky either.

“You Really Got Me,” Van Halen, Van Halen
My friend Nick and I used to take these road trips. I must’ve been in my senior year in high school, maybe freshman year of college. Anyway, these trips would consist of us starting at his family’s house in upstate New York, picking a direction and driving. Sometimes we could camp out (we were both Boy Scouts at one time, at varying levels of accomplishment), a couple of times we would just pull over and crash in his car, a maroon 1983 Pontiac Grand Prix. Now, this was before his Guido the Killer Pimp phase, in which Nick listened to nothing but shitty club music and Billy Joel—and way before his current fixation on shitty country music—so we were listening to classic rock. That’s where I first heard a lot of things (the one most vivid in my head is “Veteran of the Psychic Wars,” by Blue Oyster Cult, which is the closest thing to comic book radio theater I’ve ever heard), as well as “Eruption,” which floored me. Of course, it was followed by "You Really Got Me." Which is, in and of itself, not a bad song either.

“You Give Love a Bad Name,” Cross Road, Bon Jovi
Ever buy a CD for one song, and then kind of get stuck listening to the rest of it? I bought this Bon Jovi greatest hits album for “Wanted Dead or Alive,” which is, legitimately, one of the greatest arena rock songs ever written. (Also, my favorite karaoke song…if for nothing else than the Richie Sambora part.) But I get bad MTV flashbacks whenever I hear this. I should really relegate this to the “Runaway” bin so it never shuffles up on me again.

"Cellphone’s Dead," The Information, Beck
I’m just digging into this album, so I don’t really have all that much perspective on it. But I like Beck, especially his willingness to take chances. Plus, that marionette performace on SNL was awesome.

"Jewel of the Summertime," Revelations, Audioslave
I always wanted Chris Cornell’s voice. His, or Sting’s. Preferably a combination of the two, to both scare the shit out of the ladies, and then woo them back. When I was in a shitty post-high school rock band, I always wanted to belt in Cornell’s crazy-ass wail, but could never pull it off. And my bandmates told me as much, continually. I still try in the car, though. And tear my throat out every damned time.

"Pictures of Success," Take Offs and Landings, Rilo Kiley
Can’t help you much here. Just got it. Haven’t listened to the whole thing yet. But, hey, it must say something that I got it in the first place, right? I just don’t know what.

"Across 110th Street," Jackie Brown Soundtrack, Bobby Womack
I’ve only ever bought two copies of the same CD because the first one was worn out once, and that was the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. Man alive, I played that one into the ground. There’s just something about the way Quentin Tarantino assembles his soundtracks that speaks to me. He just knows the perfect pop song for the perfect moment, much in the way that Scorsese does (even if he dips into the “Gimme Shelter” well a little too often). And so, the first time we meet Pam Grier’s Jackie Brown, standing on an airport moving sidewalk, being drawn inexorably to her fate, this is the song we hear. All about the hustle, and the price. (I’m also a big fan of "Strawberry Letter 23" from the Jackie Brown album, and was thrilled that I already had the song when I heard it on that Kellogg’s commercial for Special K cereal.)

So, that’s my shuffle-ography. A life is a collection of snapshots, all of a specific moment in time. These are just 10 of mine.

What does your shuffle-ography look like?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

As Much as I Love Lynda Carter...

I would, in no way, have a problem with an Indian actress playing Wonder Woman, so long as she looks like this:

She, by the way, is Priyanka Chopra, a Bollywood actress who may or may not be on Joss Whedon's list.

(Thanks to Heidi for the tip.)

EDIT: Just to be clear, I am not in favor of this Indian actress simply because she's hot. (Which she is.) But the idea of an Indian actress is intriguing. Wonder Woman is supposed to be an exotic creature, from a place far different from our normal, everyday world. And, let's face it, a white brunette no longer qualifies as exotic...even if she is Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas. And an accent isn't enough. She needs to look...other-y. And an Indian actress would get you there. Plus, many of them are hot.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Strip Teased

I visited a very specific kind of place over the weekend, a type of establishment I don't go to very often. I went to a strip club.

I've never been the type of guy who frequents nudie bars. If I think back, the last time I was at a strip club was my bachelor party, more than seven years ago. Now, I like naked women. Really, I do. They are a few of my favorite things. But the prospect of "strange titties" (as one guy in the bar was loudly looking forward to seeing) changes some men and makes them believe in fairy tales in which they're the star.

Strip clubs are like special effects movies: Everyone going in knows that what you're seeing isn't real, but we all agree, for the time we're in that darkened room, to pretend that they are. But me, I'm always aware of the artifice. And I'm unwilling to give in to that fantasy. Because I know—and have never been able to make myself forget—that it's not real.

The women who work at these places are very good at their jobs. But, oddly, their job is not really selling sex. They're selling the idea that you, the patron, are attractive, are desirable, are worth wanting. They are selling you your own manhood. And that is the thing that some men are willing to go into debt for. Every man wants to believe that they have it in them to attract women who look like these women look and who seemingly love sex as much as these women do. After all, these are women who could have their pick of any of the other schmucks who walked in that night. But she stopped to talk to you.

She will hug you, and hang on you, and let you buy her drinks, and give you a massage, and, if you really want to, she will take you someplace else. And do things to you. What, precisely, depends on how much you're willing to spend. And that is where the bargain comes in. Not "bargain" as in 30% off—in that respect, titty bars are the polar opposites of bargains: Everything is, like, three times as expensive as in the real world...including sex. (I overheard one guy, a few seats down at the bar, musing to no one in particular: "150 bucks for a blowjob?! I could buy a shitbox car for $150 bucks!")

No, when I say bargain I mean a deal, a contract. And it goes like this: She will take your money and make you feel like a golden god. You will pretend that you never gave her any money. And together, everyone gets what they want.

If you can make that sort of bargain, then a strip club can be a magical place. There were guys in there last weekend who, I'm sure, spent a shitload of money to feel like Jamie Foxx feels every night. Four, five figures worth. Once you realize that that's the deal, then its incredibly easy to understand how, in one night a couple of years back, that one guy dropped $100,000 in a Scores club.

I can't make that bargain. I've tried, in the past, and failed. And it's not because of the money. I spend money on dumber shit than my ego—I bought a laserdisc player. But I just can't make myself believe that these women believe in me. They don't. They can't. Would be bad for business. They can whisper whatever they want, but I know it isn't real.

And I'm all about the real. If it ain't real, I don't want it. I've already got real, and I like it.

But I can admire the special effects.

STILL RELEVANT: The Secret Service's Super Bowl

Or World Series, or U.S. Open. Take your pick. Whatever you wanna call it, that's what it's gonna be for the Secret Service if Barack Obama does, indeed, run for President.

Why? Because, for the first time, a black man has a legitimate (and, depending on who you talk to, likely) shot at winning the White House. (And Jesse Jackson's run, however well-intentioned it may have been, never really had a shot.) Even though it's been a scant 40-odd years since the Civil Rights movement, I'd like to think that we, as a society, are ready for that.

But there are still pockets of this country who won't stand for it, who aren't ready for a Negro in Chief. And those happen to be incredibly well-armed pockets.

So this is when we see, exactly, what the Secret Service is made of. Because those nuts are gonna come for Obama...whether the general public hears about it or not.

Put your game-face on, fellas. Show time.


I originally wrote this back in 2006. And every word still applies now that he's taken the Oath of Office. Now we play for all the marbles.

Friday, December 08, 2006

MySpace, but For A Special Kind of Geek

I just joined ComicSpace, a networking site that operates much like MySpace, but look like its populated mostly by comics pros. It seems to be run by some guy named Josh who lives in Maine. Maybe out of his basement. I say this because it keeps crumpling, like someone who got punched in the yarbles and the throat at the same time. Warren Ellis killed it once, with an email.

So, stop on by, if'n you like:

EDIT: Yeah, it's down again. Must've been a swift blow.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

If I Still Was the Band-ing Type

I would name my band one of three things:

Pushy Galore.

That is all.

(And no, you can't have any of those names.)

Wizard Whirled

Lots of talk on the internets about the editor-in-chief vacancy over at Wizard Magazine, the slick market-leader in comics "journalism." I put that it quotes because it's not a very good magazine. Mediocre writing, poor presentation, editorial myopia, all of which add up to a sophomoric catalog for Marvel and DC.

I was reading Augie De Bleick's Pipeline column today, and he laid out some very valid points about what needs fixing over there.

For my part, I won't run down my litany of suggestions. And, no, not because I'm saving them for some job interview. I haven't been offered the gig and probably wouldn't take it if I was. (For lots of reasons, chief among them: they couldn't pay me enough to leave EW and stop suckling at the Time Warner golden teat; I don't particuarly wanna commute from Jersey to upstate New York; and going back into comics journalism would prohibit me from writing comics themselves.)

But I will say this: Wizard should aim to be the Sports Illustrated of comics. Bet you thought I was gonna say EW, right? No, our focus is too wide. SI, on the other hand, is all about sport, in every possible permutation. You get the meat-and-potatoes coverage you're expecting, of the NFL or the NBA or the or MLB or the PGA, but you still get stories about up-and-coming atheletes, veterans, sports you never thought were sports (spelunking, anyone?), and breaking news about sport (steroids, gambling, sex-offender high-school coaches, etc.). You get everything you could possibly want, as a sport fan: something about that particular sport you're interested in, something about sports you might not be, and a "deep dive" into a surprising arena you hadn't thought of.

So replace "sport" with "comics" and "athlete" with "creator."

Why isn't Wizard covering these reports of gender discrimination and sexual assault? Why aren't they doing a reported piece on the effect shipping delays have on readership? If you've gotta cover Hollywood, why not a piece on all the capeless comics that are becoming movies? Or the shift in the firmament that has occurred thanks to the old Hollywood gatekeepers—the ones who shunned comic flicks—dying and being replaced with younger ones that grew up with comics? All right alongside stories about the latest Marvel and DC books.

All I'm saying is that there's a way to make Wizard a real magazine, one that covers its industry without talking down to their readers, without pandering to the marketplace but still giving it what it wants. Yes, they will lose a few friends, maybe a few advertisers. But if what you're after is a legitimate journalistic enterprise instead of a PR outlet, then it's worth it.

Look, I did what I said I wasn't gonna do. Stupid blog.

Monday, December 04, 2006

M.A.N. Preview

Not too much, a few unlettered pages. But you can see it at All the Rage (scroll down a bit), along with a witty couple of grafs I wrote about the project. (Not that you lot haven't already hear more than a couple of grafs about MAN—and you know for yourselves if they were witty or not.)

And while we're talking about upcoming projects, I will tell you all there is to tell about the Wildstorm book Adam and I are writing. We're halfway through the script for the third issue (of five). An artist has been retained, a wickedly talented bloke named Lee Garbett, and he's busily cranking out character designs and the like. And, according to our editor, things look good for a Summer '07 launch.

So, Adam and I will be busy boys at Comic-Con next year...