Monday, July 29, 2013

Big World

Good morning, gentle readers! Or good evening, as the case may be.

It’s always interesting for me when I check the stats on this blog and see who my audience is and where they live. This week, the majority of visitors to the blog have been from Russia, with the USA a close second, then Poland, Indonesia and China.


I’ve gone international.

When did that happen?

How did that happen?

I may never know, but it makes me smile to think that someone in Beijing is reading this at the same time as someone in St. Petersburg and Dallas. That some bored office worker in Jakarta is taking five minutes off to check out this blog and see what that weird American is writing about this week.

Curiously, you’d think this would make the world feel smaller and cozier. It doesn’t. It actually makes me feel like the world has expanded, but in a good way.

So, welcome, peoples of the world.

I hope you enjoy your visit.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Movies That Never Were

This is what I do when I can't write.
I create fake movie/book covers.

I rather like this picture. Not sure what the story would be, but I suspect it would slip into that rare genre of ghost stories set in the old west.

I messed up on the tagline for this fake movie poster.  It should have gone, "Monsters. It's Their World. For Now."  But I didn't realize my mistake until I had saved the image above.

And finally, this is probably one of my favorites:

Come on. You have to wonder what happened between Despicable Me and its sequel. Right? I really like how this image turned out, especially the texture.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that.

See y'all at the movies!

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Wow Factor and Deflowering Virgins

Good morning, gentle readers.

As many of you know, I work in a comic shop. Actually, I work in one of the largest comic shops in the United States. It’s an interesting place to work. You’d be surprised at the cross-section of humanity that wanders through our doors: policemen, artisans, soldiers, university professors, professional fighters, ministers, people with families, people without families, young lovers, old couples, business professionals of every stripe, rock-n-rollers and retirees.

My favorites, though, are the virgins. The one’s who have never been inside a comic shop.

They’re easy to spot; they walk in and their eyes widen and they get this look on their face, that just says, "Wow!"

Most wander around, a bit timidly at first. They gawp at the dragon hung over our work area, then look around and spot the life-sized Batman figure, lurking above the Dollar Room. They usually comment on those two and I wind up pointing out the other figures; the life-sized Spider-Man attached to the wall behind and above them, the young Anakin Skywalker figure in his pod-racer outfit above the paperback books.

These are good conversational hooks for newbies, and, at this point, they usually reveal their virgin status. And then, ladies and gentlemen, they ask the question that makes my little heart go al aflutter: "What comics would you recommend for me?"

I love making recommendations, introducing people to whole new worlds that they might never encounter on their own.

"What do you like to read?" I’ll ask. "Or see at the movies?"

These are sounding questions and let me get an idea of the virgin’s tastes.

"I really liked that Avengers movie," some will say.

"Oh? Who was your favorite character?"

"The archer."

"Hawkeye," I’ll say, and point them toward the Hawkeye comic or, better yet, the trade paperback.

The Avengers, Dark Knight, Man of Steel. People who like those movies are easy to make recommendations for, because the characters in them are in several popular, mainstream comics.

It’s a little more challenging, however, when someone says, "The last movie I really liked was Twilight."


I loathe Twilight, the books and the movies. Nevertheless, I try my best to point the innocent at something they might like. Although, to be honest, comics featuring romantic supernatural adventures aren’t exactly thick on the ground.

So, I fall back on my default book, Fables by Bill Willingham. We usually have a ton of trades available and it’s a quality book. Nine times out of ten, the person will give it a try.

I had a lady come in a while back looking for a gift for her grandson. She asked if we had any comic books that featured African-American characters that weren’t violent. There are several books that feature African-American characters but none of them are particularly non-violent. Comics are, essentially, action/adventure stories so violence is pretty prevalent in the medium. I mentioned this to the lady, then showed her some trades of Static Shock and Icon & Rocket. She wound up buying Static Shock that day and came back the next to buy a trade of Black Panther for herself.

"I’m looking for a good horror comic."

"Rachel Rising by Terry Moore. It’s creepy as hell and was nominated for a 2013 Bram Stoker Award."

"I’d like a comic for my 10-year old daughter."

"Try My Little Pony or, better yet, Princeless. And if you can find it, Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting is wonderful."

"What about Wonder Woman? Would you recommend Wonder Woman for my little girl?"

"Um. No, not the current run. But try this Wolfman/Perez Wonder Woman trade from a while back. The art and story are both pretty great!"

Which brings us to the fact that the comics industry these days isn’t geared for children. Most comic readers are eighteen and older. As I said above, I’ve got retirees coming into the store and buying books.

Thankfully, when someone comes in looking for kids books, I can take ‘em back to our Kid’s Section. A lot of the titles are cartoon tie-ins: Adventure Time, Scooby Doo, Spongebob Squarepants, Teen Titans Go. Occasionally, something will get stuck back in the Kid’s Section that doesn’t belong there, like Eastman & Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If it’s the cartoon Turtles book, that’s fine, but the actual mainstream comic isn’t really appropriate for kids, in my opinion.

Then, of course, there are the people asking for stuff that we can’t help them with.

"My kid is crazy for those Japanese cartoons. Do you guys have anything like that in comics?"

"You mean manga, and, sorry, we don’t carry it."

"Why not?"

"It just doesn’t sell for us. Try Barnes & Nobles or Books-A-Million. They usually have a ton of it."

"You guys got any comics based on video games?"

Sure. We’ve got some Sonic the Hedgehog in the Kid’s Comics."

"No, I mean, more like, Grand Theft Auto."

"Sorry. No."

Then there’s the guy who sidles up to the counter and asks, in a real low voice, "Um. Do y’all carry any, like, adult stuff?"

"What do you mean?"

"Y’know. Adult."

"Oh. You mean like adult-adult."


"Sorry. We don’t carry adult comics normally but we can do special orders if you have something in mind. Like, if you want to order a copy of Sex or Howard Chaykin’s Black Kiss."

Most don’t.

And, then, at least once a week, someone who has never read a comic in their life, will come into the store and say, "I heard y’all had comics based off The Walking Dead t.v. show. Is that true?"

"Actually, the comics came first."

"Really? I didn’t know that. Y’all got any?"

"Sure. We’ve got all nineteen trade paperbacks in stock. They’re right behind you."

They turn around and see our Walking Dead display. And, I swear, every single one of ‘em goes, "Wow."

'Nuff said.

Monday, July 8, 2013


Joe Dankmyer sat in the park, taking deep, calming breaths. He could feel the panic, clawing at the edges of his thoughts, looking for purchase. They had told him this might happen, after releasing him from the hospital, but he hadn’t thought it would happen. There was a bottle of pills, tucked into the medicine cabinet back at his place, that would have helped. Despite his protests, the doctor had pressed them on him.

"Take them, Joe," the man had said. "Just in case."

Joe wished he had the pills right now.

It was the building across the street that had set off the panic attack. The building did not look as if it had been built, but rather exploded into being. It resembled an asymmetric pile of frozen concrete, painted with a crystalline sheen. There were windows, scattered at random throughout the structure. Some were big enough to give a glimpse of brightly lit, pastel interiors.

Aesthetically, the building wasn’t unattractive but its design, its construction, was so odd to Joe that it tipped him over the edge. He scrambled for control of his emotions, gripping the faux wooden park bench so hard his knuckles went white. Shutting his eyes, he took deep breaths and wished he had brought his little bottle of pills with him.

"Are you all right?"

The voice was feminine, concerned. Joe opened his eyes and saw a matronly woman in an orange pantsuit standing in front of him. She had red hair piled on top of her head and a small white poodle on a leash.

Joe managed to grunt out, "I’m fine."

The woman’s eyes narrowed. They darted over his face, to his hands, and recognition dawned in her face. She sat next to him, the poodle straining at its leash.

"Freezer burn?"

The question caught Joe by surprise and seemed to short circuit the panic attack.

"How did you. . . ."

Chuckling, the woman touched her red beehive, patting it into place.

"Personal experience."

Her gaze settled on the building across the street.

"Is that what set it off?"

"Yeah," admitted Joe.

"Looks like the Fortress of Solitude from those old Superman movies," remarked the woman. "The good ones, with Christopher Reeve."

"I liked the Henry Cavill ones," Joe managed to say. "You’re a freezer?"

She nodded, stuck out her hand. "Lucille Jones-Fitzgibbons. Put on ice back in ‘31."

Joe introduced himself. "I went under in ‘28."

"Cancer?" asked Lucille.

"Yeah. You?"

She nodded. "Yep. I have to admit though that I didn’t think getting frozen would really work."

"Why’d you do it?"

Lucille shrugged. "Why not? I took a chance and it payed off."

"Do you ever . . . ." Joe let his sentence fade, waved vaguely at himself.

"Freak out?" asked Lucille. She chuckled. "I used to, all the time. Then it sorted itself out." She smiled at him. "It’ll happen with you too."

"You think?"

"I know," said Lucille.

"Do you ever miss the old world?" he asked, quietly.

"No, not really. I like living in the future." She made air quotes when she said the last. "Although I do miss junk food."

Joe grinned. "Yeah. We went to sleep and the health Nazis won."

"The bastards," said Lucille, in mock indignation. "What about you? What do you miss, Joe?"

"My friends," said Joe. He sighed. "They’re all gone."

She patted his hand. "Yeah. That sucks. You ever go to the support meetings?"

"I tried, but it got on my nerves, everybody sitting around and whining about shit."

"Not your thing?"

"No," said Joe, firmly.

"Good. I hate hanging out with crybabies."

He laughed and it occurred to Joe that this was the first time that he had laughed since they thawed him out of cryo.

"You want to go get a coffee or something?" asked Joe.

Lucille batted her big, brown eyes at him. "Why, Mr. Dankmyer, I thought you’d never ask."

He grinned and stood. On impulse, Joe offered Lucille his arm and she took it. Like that, arm in arm, they walked into the future, a little white poodle darting around their ankles.

Friday, July 5, 2013


Good evening, gentle readers.
No doubt some of you were wondering why there wasn't a blog update this past Monday.
I could spin an elaborate tale about real life pressures getting in the way, but the fact of the matter is that the well simply ran dry.
I could not think of a single goddamn thing to write.
The problem has persisted all week. None of my usual tricks are working.  Honestly, I can't recall the last time I've been this stymied.
It's irritating as hell, like that itch in the middle of your back you just can't, quite, reach.  And no amount of rubbing against door frames or using the steak fork seems to alleviate it.
So, that's what happened.
That's why there was no update this past Monday.
I'm trying to refill my creative tank, to get my juices going again, but so far nothing is working. The books I'm reading seem dull and listless. Nothing on television grabs me.  I search online for movies to watch and keep coming up with zeroes.
Everything just seems 'bleh.'
Basically, I'm stuck in the doldrums, waiting on a breeze to  push me somewhere.
So, what's next?
Books. Music. Movies.
And, most important of all, patience.