Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Things I Learned in San Diego, 2007 Edition

For this year, at least, Star Trek is dead
Yes, J.J. Abrams unleashed his Spock on the masses and all was right in the world. But I didn’t see a single Klingon on the floor. I heard rumors of one, but no actual visual confirmation. I saw three Starfleet officers…and one Hogwarts student with a shoulder-mounted Tribble, the poor man’s owl. Just last year, Star Trek was a thriving fan community, and it’s members came out in droves to represent. This year, I saw more Ghostbusters than emisaries from the Final Frontier.

Women are amazing
Okay, I already knew this. But this con put things into sharper relief. As a guy, I know full well that there are things that I will do—begrudgingly—for my wife that I have no interest in doing. She knows this and after 13 years together, she’s pretty good about not asking me to, say, follow her through Saks while she shops and I hold her bag. Because I would go and grumble through the whole Bataan death march experience. I saw women on the convention floor who clearly didn’t attend of their own volition, who were pleasantly taking in the sights and ignoring the smells. (And you can immediately tell the women who are not “into it.” They look, somehow, more optimistic. Maybe because they didn't know what to expect and are surprised by everything they see.) When we were signing at the DC booth, a woman came up and asked Brian Stelfreeze for a sketch; not for her, for her boyfriend. He was, you see, attending a panel of some sort and she volunteered to collect sketches for him. Now try and picture your average male citizen, getting swatches from dress designers at a bridal convention, while the missus-to-be is watching a floral demonstration. Ye gods, you are amazing creatures. And you almost always smell good.

In Two Years' Time, There Will Be No More Male Pedi-cab Drivers
In my incredibly un-scientific recounting, about 70% of San Diego Comic-Con attendees are male. I'm sure some of them were gay—the numbers are large enough for a statistical sample—but most are dudes that, even if they have left their parents' basement (and I'm being glib here, I know), still like to gaze at the female form. So, given this demographic, who do you think got more passengers for their pedi-cabs: the swarthy young immigrant fellas OR the tanned, toned, twentysomething immigrant women? I saw rows of those dudes, idling by the train crossing, while a watermelon-thighed Sharapova look-alike hauled Red Squadron up Harbor Drive. Natural selection, baby. Survival of the species.

Mary McDonnell is the sweetest person alive
I moderated the Battlestar Galactica panel on Saturday. Seeing as my bar of success was not vomiting on any of the cast, I declared it a win. But Mary (we’re now on a first-name basis and, if its okay with my wife, she’s gonna come live with us) tried to soothe my nerves beforehand, and when it was over, she gave me a hug and a “Well done.” And when I ran into her at the EW/Sci-Fi Channel party, she stopped to talk for 20 minutes when she absolutely didn’t have to. A wonderful person. And absolutely, positively, drop-dead gorgeous. (Don’t get me wrong, the other Women of Battlestar were perfectly gracious—except for Lucy Lawless, who flipped me the bird in front of 6,000 people. In all fairness, it was after I introduced her as a man.)

Terrence Howard would dominate my obit
I'm pretty sure he was on my plane, flying back to New York. And I realized that if this plane went down, the news story would read: “Oscar-nominated actor perishes in a plane crash; 150 others also dead.” I’m one of "the others." Just so you know.

Comics is Hard Work
I was behind the AiT/Planet Lar booth for a total of 6 hours over the course of 4 days, selling copies of Monster Attack Network. And it was brain-thuddingly exhausting, hard-selling our book to people who, allegedly, are at the show to buy comics. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a small press vendor, strapped to a table all day, every day. No wonder the bar at the Hyatt is so packed. I’d want to numb the pain, too.

What a difference a year makes
Last year, we’d locked the Highwaymen deal, but no one else knew that. The book wasn't announced until the New York show this past February. We were just guys rolling through the hall, same as thousands of other creators, talking about the book that was coming…but we had nothing to show. This year, everything was out: Two issues of Highwaymen, and the M.A.N. graphic novel. And they’ve all gotten glowing reviews. And now, people who wouldn’t give us the time of day last year were taking us to lunch.

Pay it Forward
God, I hated that movie.

But seriously
I’ve made a few friends in this industry, some of them after giving their books some love in EW. I did so because they did good work and, for me, the mission at EW was to expose people to the best that comics had to offer. And now that I’m in the same boat they are, they’re introducing me to people that can help me out. They don’t have to do that. But they do anyway. I suppose you could call it returning a favor, but I just think these are good folks. I appreciate everything they do. And I hope they know that.

And Now, Finally, the Best M.A.N. Review EVAR

From some dude named Iain Jackson, who totally nails it:

"Picture a lovely, tropical isle. The balmy breezes blow, tourists plague the natives, and all is right with the world.

Enter the giant worm. Takes the top off a few buildings, rampages a little here and there. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just another day on Lapuatu. But thanks to the Monster Attack Network (or M.A.N.), the rampaging is limited, fewer tops of buildings get done in, and the monster eventually gets led back to the sea, or the hole in the ground, or wherever, because that's Just What MAN does.

The main characters are Nathaniel Klinger, lead field agent and operations manager for the Monster Attack Network, and Lana Barnes, newbie agent who may have a Deep Dark Secret. Zeke (whose last name I don't believe we find out) is Nate's best friend and fellow agent... and black. And gay. (That last detail doesn't come out until late in the book, at which point my love of the tragically heterosexual writing team was locked in stone.) There is, of course, a villain (aside from the monsters) as well. There's inappropriate sex! (Alas, not involving Zeke. Next time, maybe.) There's angst! There's drama! There's giant flying microbats and giant robots! And here and there, we see snippets from the MAN Manual, with cheery little anime-ish figures saying things like, "From time to time, you will need equipment not available at MAN headquarters. Every business' charter includes a clause stating that they must, when presented with due cause by a MAN operative, place any requested equipment/personnel at said operative's disposal. They won't want to do this. But it's the cost of doing business on Lapuatu. Tell them to suck it up." (This is followed immediately by a scene in which Zeke commandeers a van and does indeed tell someone to "suck it up.")

The writing and art are well matched -- mostly -- and both very good. Nima Sorat's artwork is wonderfully expressive, and does a great job of showing character and feeling. Unfortunately, it isn't the best for showing clear action scenes, which is a problem in a book that's almost nonstop action. Most of the time, it works out OK, but there are some scenes, especially when the various creatures are crashing into the built world around them, where all you can do is scratch your head and wonder what exactly just happened. The writing also has this weird moment at the very end, which is wonderfully inspirational, and hits exactly the right emotional note ... and ten seconds after you close the book, you realize that it's absolutely and completely wrong, but in a weirdly right way. Given what we've been told about the characters involved, it simply shouldn't happen; certainly not without a lot of angst and agita, at least some of which we should have seen or heard about. But ... it feels like the right ending, so you kind of don't mind.

I really really really want there to be another one of these. Perhaps a Monster Attack Network annual! Something to look for every summer! (Plus, if there's another one, maybe next time, Zeke can be the one having the terribly inappropriate sex. One can but dream...)

Highly highly recommended. Go. Buy. NOW. You will read and read again. Really."

Viva 'Las Vegas Weekly'

Whose J. Caleb Mozzocco says:

"Nate Klinger is the chief of the Monster Attack Network, a highly trained team of first-responders who specialize in evacuation and rescue in the face of giant monster attacks, which happen more frequently on the island of Lapuatu than in the Toho film company’s catalog.

You’ll notice Monster Attack Network acronyms quite nicely into MAN, and that’s just what Nate is—a manly, all-man, man of a man. Built like a barrel-chested Bruce Timm superhero design, this two-fisted man of action may be the star of co-writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman’s debut graphic novel, but the book itself isn’t about manliness as much as monsterliness.

The creators, and the characters, love their giant monsters, and the philosophy of MAN is that monsters are something to adjust to, not hunt down and kill—“No different than California,” Nate says of the monsters. “Their palm trees come with earthquakes and fires.”

Lapuatu’s palm trees come with a Godzilla-like Gygax, a giant slug monster, a giant Rodan-like bat, a giant octopus and more, and the arrival of a mysterious woman and a sinister industrialist escalates the MAN vs. monster dynamic into an all-out-war.

It’s a little like a half-dozen Japanese kaiju flicks, with all the boring (i.e. non-monster) scenes cut out, and the rubber monster suits replaced with state-of-the-art special effects. Only better."

More M.A.N. Love

From Bill Sherman at Blogcritics:

"Recently, Starz Action channel played host to a quartet of nineties era Godzilla movies (Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah, Vs. Mechagodzilla, Vs. Space Gorilla, Vs. Destroyah), introduced by Steve Van Zandt in an affected accent. Over six hours of building tromping action. Yeah, I set the recorder for it.

I'm thinking, though, that at least one of the minds behind the new graphic novel Monster Attack Network (AiT/Planet Lar) was sitting at home and marathon-viewing these babies the day they first aired. Clearly, these are people who appreciate the beauties of a big ol' monster foot coming down on some fleeing unfortunates.

Written by Highwaymen team Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman—and drawn with a heavy predilection for the big black brush stroke by new-to-me Nima Sorat—M.A.N. is a comic book tribute to monster rampage movies. Set on the wealthy tropical isle of Lapuatu, the book follows the workings of a group of men and women hired to fend off the island's periodic monster attacks, a fairly regular occurrence that island inhabitants see as part of the price for living in a global economic powerhouse.

Where the monsters come from is never explained, nor does it need to be. It's the Monster Attack Network's job to chase off each attacking creature (rarely, we're told, killing 'em), then rebuild ("And repave. And re-upholster. And re-spackle. And re-wallpaper") each trashed-out area. From the very first monster attack depicted—a flying beastie named Gygax that we only get to see as a shadow and a giant eye peering into an office building—it's clear M.A.N. has found a need and filled it.

The book's two main characters are Nate Klinger, a hypermuscled block of a man who is M.A.N.'s operations manager, and Lana Barnes, a shapely exotic beauty and new M.A.N. hire who, it is obvious to both Nate and us, is hiding a secret or two of her own (for one thing, though her name's plainly Anglo, she quickly has to own up to being Lapuata born).

Klinger is aptly described by another character as built for "standing on top of a wall, pushing herd animals onto Saxon invaders." Though relatively new to the monster attack biz, Lana proves equally capable, hopping on top of an attacking giant slug to ride it out of the city, for instance, without once having her fulsome breasts pop out of her improbable dress. Nate has his odd tingling suspicions about the lady, but obviously these two heroically shaped figures are meant to work together.

The plot of M.A.N., such as it is, revolves on a sudden increase in island monster attacks that naturally proves to be human instigated. Soon as the story's maniacal mastermind is introduced, readers'll immediately suss much of what he's up, and, to Bernardin & Freeman's credit, they don't work overtime to mask this fact. They know what we wanna see—more giant monster attacks, not a lotta talky pages filling us in the villain's motivation.

And giant monster attacks is what we get, right down to the inevitable "mecha" monster assault by the bad guy in a giant robot. "Now that's one [expletive] with too much money," Zeke, the profanely amusing second-in-command observes. In stories like this, plot mechanics are largely secondary to the specifics of fight and flight in the face of monstrous stomping doom.

That noted, our two scripters prove as adept with snappy word balloons as they have in their current Wildstorm Highwaymen series, even if they do stint somewhat when it comes to fleshing out the secondaries. Sorat's stylized gray-scaled art blends both Jack Kirby and Mike Mignola with the somewhat more weighted art of a Paul Pope, though at times it's a little too loose and choppy to get the job down. When the giant slug crashes into a theatre showing a monster flick, for instance, it's not always clear how the sequence is supposed to work, particularly when Sorat cuts to two moviegoers blissfully unaware that the monster attack's taking place.

Still, the large panel of a humongous Harryhausen-esque cephalopod perched atop a skyscraper is as engagingly out-there as any of the giant monster comics Stan Lee & King Kirby used to serve up back in Marvel's pre-superhero days—which is as it should be. Gotta love them four (or is it five?) tentacled giant cephalopods..."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Oh, yeah...the Con

Is going well. I'm not gonna write all that much about it, as I'm writing a piece for EW about my first con as a professional creator, and I don't wanna steal material from myself.

But, we've met some good people, caught up with some great people, and all but sold out of every copy of Monster Attack Network that Larry Young drove down from San Francisco to San Diego.

We just wanted to save him having to repack.

I Barely Believe It Myself

So, when I returned the smashed up Mustang to the Dollar Rent-a-Car people, they asked me, when picking up the replacement if I wanted the insurance. You know, the same $15/day insurance that allows you to wrap their cars around a phone pole with nary a worry in the world. The same insurance I declined the first time.

Of course, I said no. "I haven't been in an accident in 15 years...what are the odds that it'll happen twice in three days?"

It happened twice in three days. Literally, on my way to return the second car.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I'm Not Fabulous

You know how I know this? Because I'm in LA, staying that the alledegly fabulous Mondrian Hotel, home to the Skybar, glamorous pool scene, and Korova Milk Bar-style rooms, and I'm on the verge of "can't stand it."

I got to my hotel last night at about 11:30pm, after ramming my rental car into the ass-end of an Infiniti SUV because I was busy counting the street numbers to find the Mondrian. Which, as it turns out, doesn't have a number. Or a sign saying, you know, "Mondrian here, turn right/left." After exchanging information with the lovely young actor who I rear-ended (I can crack wise with the gay jokes, too, you know), I pulled my now-sad Mustang into the valet—who looked at me like a car-jacker—and checked in.

Given that it was, according to my internal clock, 3:00am, and I'd flown 3,000 miles, I just wanted to crawl into bed and give up. But, sadly, sleeping wasn't on the agenda, seeing as seven floors below, the party at the Skybar was raging. Thump-thump-thump-thump went the music. I actually—in a move cribbed from Andy Capp, I think—put another pillow over my own head to fall asleep.

I sitcom-snuffled myself out.

And, I'm typing all of this while sitting in an uncomfortable chair at a desk with the word "THINK" inscribed on the wall directly in my eyeline.

I fucking hate fabulous.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Off to the Races

Heading out to the West Coast, y'all. I'll be in touch when I can, and I'll see you when I see you.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Will Someone Stop Me...

...from procrastinating? Please? I've gotta write this review of 300 before the end of the day, and I'm finding anything, everything to do instead.

That cursor is just sitting there in a recessed window...taunting me.

My Dad's Hands

My father's an accountant. Which means that, while he was never one for hard labor—its from him I get the credo "Why should I [insert home-repair task here] and fuck it up when I can pay someone to do it right?"—he still worked with his hands. He was a number-cruncher before people used computers to do everything, and all of his work involved a desktop Texas Instruments calculator and a mechanical pencil.

Every tax return, every ledger entry was done the old-fashioned way: with his fingers to the grindstone. And I remember, when I was growing up, looking at his hands as he would help me with my math homework. (I'm now jealous of his having a skill that could be readily employed to help a kid out; my skill set, honed by years of on-the-job journalism training, is blunt at best. I don't know, as Captain Kirk would say, why things work in a sentence. I just know that they do. When my kids come to me with their English homework, I'll be reduced to "This is the way it sounds the rightest. Don't ask questions. Go.")

Anyway, his hands were corded with veins, souvenirs of long hours of penmanship. That feeling you used to get in college, when you had to take a day's worth of notes at lectures? Times a hundred. I used to wonder if my hands would ever look like that. Like they'd earned it.

I was in the backyard over the weekend, inflating a big rubber pool for the knuckleheads, er, my kids. My lovable, knuckleheaded kids. (Of course, I was using an electric pump: see credo, above.) But this thing took forever: big pool, pussy pump. And I had to hold the pump nozzle into the little air nipple thingie for about an hour, during which time I notice that my own hands had developed those same crazy veins.

They say that, in time, we become our parents. It's true. What they don't tell you is that it sneaks up on you.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Those two guys, from just below, the ones who sorta split on Highwaymen #2? Here's their take on Monster Attack Network:

"Brendan: This book is what AiT/PlanetLar does best. With one part stoic lead, one part mysterious beauty, and about a hundred parts super gigantor chaos monsters you get the blockbuster that is Monster Attack Network. The concept is simple; huge monsters arise and destroy the island of Lapuatu, and M.A.N. rebuilds. When this happens once every month or so, it isn’t a problem. When it starts happening damn near everyday… well, that would be spoiling it.

The story doesn’t give us any more than we need to enjoy ourselves. It has all the banter and action one would expect from a story about fighting monsters. The only trip up comes in the art. Nima Sorat has a unique style and vision for the book, and the characters manage to be familiar while remaining original. When we do see the monsters they are as horrific and awesome as they were when you were ten. The problems arise when the style overwhelms the narrative, and when the lack of consistency between pages impedes the transitions. The opening action sequence takes the knowledge that there are monsters for granted, and fails to give us that one big establishing shot. It evens out towards the end, progressively getting better.

Don’t think too much about this one. You’ll love it.

Adan: This is Marc Bernadin and Adam Freeman doing crazy shit again. This time, instead of blowing things up with guns and cars, though, they do it with huge freakin’ monsters! Nate and company at MAN (I just love calling it that) save the island nation of Lapuatu from the rampaging monsters they coexist with. Coexist, you ask. Yes, coexist. These monsters are usually peaceful, but sometimes they throw a tantrum and MAN has to step in to corral them back to safety while saving humans and fixing the damage. They try very hard not to kill the monsters, as they are also the rightful inhabitants of the island.

Bernadin and Freeman write in so many action sequences, it’s unfortunate they didn’t get a better artist. Nima Sorat is good when the story is slow and relaxed: tender moments between colleagues, conversations with bad guys, dudes sitting in front of banks of computer screens. But once the scene calls for action, the inks get all muddied up and I can’t tell what the hell is going on. Maybe MAN 2 will have an artist with a better sense of space and moving forms.

Other than that, though, good stuff. These two guys are really impressing the hell out of me."

No. 2 for #2

From Adan Jimenez at PopCultureShock:

"This is just all kinds of fun. It’s what every buddy movie should be like. Two guys who don’t really like each other but have to work together for the greater good. One guy shoots, the other one drives. And oh yeah, it’s set in the near future. It’s from my head, people!

Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman (who you will hear more of soon) write an awesome, awesome story about two guys have to do all kinds of cool and crazy shit to protect a girl from sinister forces. The who and the why don’t yet matter (except for Able Monroe and his partner McQueen, who may be so cool that he doesn’t need a first name) because things blow up, people get shot in uncomfortable places, and cars do things cars were not meant to do. At some point in the near future of this mini (probably the very next issue), we’ll be told the why and who, I’m sure.

The artist Lee Garbett is one part Brian Stelfreeze (who does the cover, actually) and two parts Frank Quitely, but in a good way. Garbett’s men look like the old, craggy bastards they are, but his women do not, as Quitely’s so often do. And his action sequences look like all the best parts of The Ride. And take look at the expression on the matador’s face when his bull is unceremoniously shot in the head. Priceless!

This book is all the best parts of Die Hard, Speed, 48 Hrs., and Bullitt all rolled into one fantastic, fluffy confection. It’s like comics can be fun once in awhile or something."

His buddy Brendan isn't so much with the effusive praise:

"I don’t think I’ll be back next issue.

This is one of those times when I get real pompous and say that comics need to have a reason to be comics. The reason superheroes dominate the industry so wholly, at least in part, is because spandex works way better on the four color page than it does in reality. Just ask a biker. I think that on some level the writing team of Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman know this, because their Monster Attack Network book shows this perfectly. Monsters make good comics. And no matter how many times I see Brian Stelfreeze or someone who emulates him try, I don’t think cars make particularly good comics. They don’t engage me enough as a reader for me to be willing to wait 30 days to find out what happens next.

Don’t get me wrong, I did really enjoy this story, and I will be eager to read it in trades when the time arrives, but I don’t want to wait six months just to finish a buddy-cop action movie. I could do that in two and a half hours by renting any of the movies Adan listed. I dug this, and keep checking the singles if you’re already waist-deep. If you have yet to start this, though, do yourself and the story a favor and wait until you can chug through it all at once."

Fair enough

First Review for #2

From Comic Book Resources, where, again, we're on the Buy Pile:

The Highwaymen #2 (Wildstorm/DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Speaking of delightful, you can't beat the style and panache with which these two retired instruments of policy go about their work in retrieving a rogue government asset is just plain fun to read. The entire opening sequence, escaping a CIA field team, is the stuff of action movie legend, as Mr. Monroe and Mr. McQueen practically waltz through super powered assassins and deluges of high caliber ammunition flying their way, firing quips back and forth at one another the entire time. It's wonderful analog enjoyment, as Lee Garbett (with colors by Johnny Rench) perfectly depicts almost everything from car chases to gunfights to dialogue (the automotive somersault could have been a smidgen more clear, but wasn't bad), and the script by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman is so tight that you could bounce a paper dollar off of it. Now a "buy-on-sight" as this mini is firing on all cylinders.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

San Diego schedule

Should you want to find me in San Diego, here are the places I'm guaranteed to be, and when.

1:00-2:30: Signing at AiT/Planetlar Booth (#2001)
3:00-4:00: "DC: Crossing Over" panel (Room 5AB)
5:00-6:00: Signing at AiT/Planetlar Booth (#2001)
6:00-7:00: Signing at DC Booth (like you need me to tell you where it is)

10:00-11:30am: Signing at AiT/Planetlar Booth (#2001)

12:00-1:00pm: Signing at AiT/Planetlar Booth (#2001)
2:00-3:15: Moderating the "Women of Battlestar Galactica" panel (Ballroom 20)
4:00-5:00: Signing at DC booth
5:00-6:00: "Wildstorm: Storm Front" panel (Room 5AB)

Hungover in the San Diego airport, waiting to schlepp on my flight home.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Newsarama Q&A

In which JK Parkin extracts some Monster Attack Network goodies as well as our game plan for San Diego:

"If I were to get everything I want out of this year’s con, we’d have another book lined up by the time I get on the plane coming home, I’d have met more people than I knew going in, I’d have drank my fill, I’d have spread the word far and wide about The Highwaymen and Monster Attack Network, and I’ll have a kiss from Katee Sackhoff resting on my unwashed cheek."

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Cover For Highwaymen #5

...which I'm totally in love with.

M.A.N. Love

Our first Monster Attack Network review, from Graeme over at The Savage Critics:

"I'll say this about pull-quotes: Sometimes, they work. The evening that I got my copy of the new AiT/PlanetLar graphic novel MONSTER ATTACK NETWORK in the mail, Kate found herself reading the testimonials on the back cover from the likes of John Rogers, Jeff Parker and Ivan Brandon and becoming more and more excited to read the book itself. Me, I was sold on the name alone, and the realization that the acronym was M.A.N.

"Like the recently-released first issue of their Wildstorm series, The Highwaymen, Monster Attack Network shows that Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman have absolutely no problem writing popcorn action fiction - There are set-pieces here that are perfectly constructed in terms of mixing the spectacle of the main action with the cutaways to add scale and humor (I especially liked the massive monster slug-riding rushing past the window of a restaurant, with the shouted "Shit! Shit! Shit!" as parents talk to their son), and their High Concepts and snappy dialogue hits the spot repeatedly. Where they're lacking - and considering this was their first book, despite it coming out post-Highwaymen, it's really not that bad a flaw - is the ability to slow down; the story feels like it's always "on", and even the scenes that should be quieter and more still end up vibrating with the energy of the crazy.

"The art has a similar problem; Nima Sorat's work is stunning in places, Paul Pope does the Venture Bros does early Marvel monster books, but there are times when the desire to wow the viewer overwhelms the clarity of the storytelling (There are, to be fair, other times when the art just clicks and sells the story to you - I don't want to imply that this isn't good art, because it is); it's as if everyone involved is so excited about working on the book that they can't stop wanting to really, really impress the reader and maybe go slightly overboard.

"They needn't have worried; this is a really enjoyable book, despite the overeagerness: The central idea and plot are so strong that, even if the execution hadn't been as Good as it is, it still would've been worth a look. Like I said; I was sold on the name alone."

Got This Funny Feeling

A big ol' box showed up at the house over the weekend, filled with finished copies of Monster Attack Network in all it's giant-monster-stomping glory. The funny feeling showed up because it's done and in hand.

It had been waiting, hovering at various stages of completion for so long, that to see it completed has got me feeling a bit separation anxiety-ish. (Which, in case you're wondering, is a little like fluish, with a lot less mucus discharge.)

And, to top it off, it's got me nervous about the future. M.A.N. was, to me, kind of like a yet-to-be-released laurel we could rest on. Regardless of whatever else we were working on, we always had the "And our graphic novel will be coming out, sooner rather than later" in our hip pocket. And now, everything's out of the barn. Not counting some anthology work that's in various stages, we've got no "major" works on the runway.

Wait. I know what this is: Empty nest syndrome. We'd best get to making some more babies.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I'm A Mother's Worst Nightmare

My wife is coming back tomorrow. She left me with the kids last Wednesday while she toured Ireland with her sister. No one has been to hospital, so I consider this stint a "win." But, it's a win with what I can only define as an error.

Tonight, for dinner, I fed my son McDonald's french fries, Swiss Miss vanilla pudding, and Lorna Doone cookies. That's it. No real food. Side orders and dessert. Sorry, two puddings, as I wondered if he'd had enough to eat.

I am the father that mothers have nightmares about.


Monday, July 09, 2007


I was recently reminded (by the Occasional Superheroine) that it's the 50th anniversary of Chuck Jones' majestic "What's Opera, Doc?" Which is, perhaps, the greatest of Warners' incredibly great Looney Tunes shorts.

A long time ago, when I wasted my time hatching ideas that I could never possibly in a million years do anything with (someday, I'll tell you about the Running Man screenplay—faithfully adapted from the Richard Bachman novella—I wrote for no good reason), I came up with this movie, a pseudo-documentary about Elmer Fudd. How he was the tragic hero of the Warner Bros. cartoon universe. But it'd be shot as if Fudd were a real guy, a flesh-and-blood actor. And the techno-trick of the Warners "cartoons" was that they built real sets and filmed them with a special camera that flattened the image into the 2-D world we're familiar with.

Fudd was the ineffectual villain, the butt of all the jokes, the idiot of that universe. But, like so many actors, he was frustrated at the pigeonholing. He felt that he had so much more to offer, but no one would give him the chance. Until, after years of dutifully showing up to the set to be the laughing stock, he got a script under the door:

"What's Opera, Doc?"

And for once–actually, the only time in any Warner Bros. cartoon—he got to act, he got to sing, he got to be the hero. Fudd carried the show, with all the Wagnerian heft he always thought he had. And, for the first time, he heard the applause for him. He had moved the audience to tears. (Hell, I cried at that short, and I dare you to deny that you did too.)

And it was bittersweet, because it was the last time he'd be allowed to show the kind of performer he really was. But "Opera" was his moment to shine. And that's where the documentary ended, an old Fudd, bones creaking, scar tissue evident, holding the Oscar that he won for killing Bugs Bunny.

One more for the pile.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I Will Say This For Sting

He may look a bit like an old man—during the Live Earth broadcast, his arms looked like they only retained a sense memory of tone—but he can still hit the notes. That voice still does everything it used to...and that's saying something.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The LesterBot

He watches. Waiting. His emotionless, chitinous exoskeleton looks amiable. Harmless, even. But beneath that calm, fleshy exterior, a symphony of metallic death churns.

In the name of all you hold sacred, don't look into his eyes.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Championship Season

Every year around this time, I get a little tennis bug. It lasts from late June to mid-August, from Wimbledon to the U.S. Open. Only started about seven years ago, and I don't even know why. I think I just sat down and started to think about tennis, as an actual sport. Once you get past the silly method of scorekeeping (why is having nothing but love a bad thing?) and the cultural-etiquette holdovers only surpassed by golf, playing tennis at a championship level is a wonder to behold.

We can all agree that trying to hit a Major League fastball is one of the hardest single feats in all of sports. 98 mph worth of ball hurtling at you, trying to make contact with an object that's just a hair wider than the ball itself. I'll give you that. But try doing the same thing, but while sprinting. Yes, we'll give you an instrument significantly bigger, but we'll ask you to hit a ball back in the opposite direction, deciding in a split second where to hit it, and ask you to place the ball in a zone inches wide. And then recover to do the same thing again, when the ball comes whizzing back. For hours.

That's tennis, and that's why I watch it. No other sport has that same combination of power, speed, finesse, reflexes, and skill. (Yes, asking which sport is harder to play well is like asking who'd win in a fight, bear or shark, I know.)

That's why I was watching Wimbledon the other day, and so saw one of the most amazing things I'd ever seen on the sporting stage.

Serena Williams was playing some Russian chick—Hantucova or something (all those tiny Russian chicks sound the same). And Serena was playing well. She'd won her first set and was battling to win her second and finish out the match. She was walking away from a point, full of energy, bouncing on her toes like a prizefighter, when she suddenly dropped to the ground in pain. Her left calf seized up on her, cramping like a steel trap. Crying, screaming, pounding the ground in both agony and frustration, Serena looked to surely be out of the match. Her father knew it, watching from the stands, as did her mother, who wiped away a tear or two. Her sister, Venus, knew all too well what this could mean, and she pulled her jacket tight, as if warding off the cool, humid London breeze would somehow keep her safe from the same ailment.

After a few minutes, Serena was helped to her feet, where she stood ramrod straight as Hantucova served out the balance of her game, watching the serves just fly by. Now, Hantucova was up 6-5 in the second set, and Serena had to serve her game or forfeit the match. During the TV time out, the trainer taped up Serena's calf and sent her out there. She couldn't jump, could barely run, and for a tennis player as agile as Serena, that's a crippling predicament. But she went on court, the pain still evident on her face, and started to serve. Like so many other things in sport—from a baseball swing to a boxer's punch—the power of a tennis serve comes from the legs, from the jump and twist. But Serena couldn't jump.

And still, through sheer force of will and arm strength, she muscled in a 100 mile-an-hour serve. A couple of aces. And she won her game to force a tiebreak.

When people say that athletes are like warriors, I usually dismiss it as hyperbole, as something announcers say to fill the time during a three-hour broadcast. But this woman fought, against her body, against time, against her opponent. And it was clearly a losing fight, but she picked up her racket and walked onto the field and refuse to surrender. It was an amazing thing to watch.

But there was no way she could win that tiebreak. She shouldn't return a serve, and when she did, couldn't engage in a volley. She was absolutely on her way to losing that match, unless fate swooped in to save her. Which it did.

It's as if God himself was watching that match and, impressed with Serena's valor, granted her a reprieve. With the tiebreak slipping away, and the rest of the match on its heels, the sky opened and it started to rain.

I'll admit, there was a tiny frog in my throat when this happened, when the rains that had plagued this year's Wimbledon saved Serena from defeat. It was as perfect a story you could imagine, one that if it hadn't actually happened you'd think was fabricated. Of course, there was talk of divine intervention, that the Almighty had stepped in to give Serena—a devout believer—a second chance.

Now, I'll ask you, which is worse, not believing in God (my default position), or believing in a God that not only watches tennis, but takes a break from his laisse-faire policy to, of all possible things that could benefit from His attention, intervene in the course of a match?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Me and My Self-Promoting Mug

Why I'm putting this up here, I don't know. Because I'm a glutton for punishment. But the dudes at Pop Culture Shock were nice enough to ask me to do it, so it's the least I could do.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Little Bit O' M.A.N. Goodness

Adam and I were interviewed for Silver Bullet Comics about Monster Attack Network—which, as you'll see if you read just one entry below, is coming out July 18th. Larry gave 'em some lettered pages to run, and I'm stealing them for my own nefarious purposes. Which, pretty much, consist of posting 'em here.