Saturday, March 20, 2004

 
Confidential to Logan -- You're welcome, pal. And good work on the reviews.

 
Adventures of An Accidental Vegetarian -- Yeah, I know, I don't want this blog to become a "comics and STOP EATING MEAT!" blog either. Let me know if I get lecturey. I swear to you, you wanna keep eating meat, that's your b-i-bidness.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon was extremely stressful for my wife and I. Her lemon Ford Focus for the third time just decided it doesn't want to start again. She's had this car for a year or so now, and every few months it shits the bed, and no one ever explains what the problem is, and eventually it starts again, and one time it was real funny because the jackass in the service department tried to tell my wife that her cell phone could be causing the problem. Anything but admit the lousy car is, oh, yeah, right: LOUSY.

So, I drove to where the giant paperweight Ford Focus was sitting, picked up my wife's grandmother (they'd just had lunch together), and drove her home while my wife waited for the tow truck.

Dropped off Lora's grandmother at her house, drove back to the scene of the crime Ford Focus not working, and waited an hour with my wife and kids in my car while the tow truck took its own sweet time getting there.

Eventually they came and once again hauled off her car -- hey, next time is #4 and New York's Lemon Law kicks in, so bring it on because this car is more lemony than Lemon Pledge -- and we decided that the previous plan of dinner at home was going to be replaced by a decadent evening of dining out at an area restaurant. This is always problematic when it's a last-minute idea that pops up at 5:30 on Friday afternoon, and now I had the added consideration (and thanks for waiting for it) of being a vegetarian.

Digression: Haven't eaten meat in nearly a month now, but I still feel weird calling myself a vegetarian. Am I a vegetarian yet? Hmm.

Anyway: We ended up driving to Lake George to see if our favourite Italian place was open. Nope, "Reopening April 1." I figure they won't, that's an April Fools joke, right? So we drove south back through the village and pulled into the lot of an Italian place we'd never tried before that we had noticed was open on our way through the first time. Lake George is a resort town, mostly closed up at this time of year, so in a way it was a surprise that any place was open.

This place that was open, though, we got there and went in. My wife and daughter went to the bathroom almost immediately, leaving my son and I to peruse the menu.

Now, I was really tired. I got up for work Friday morning at 2 AM, and the stressful afternoon left me not-quite-thinking-straight. Very "In The Moment," just wanted to find something to drink and something to eat and forget the annoyances and frustrations of the previous two hours. So, me and the menu:

Scallops, mmm, scallops are good. I like chicken parmesan. Ooh, haven't had veal in a while. Maybe I'll -- maybe I'll -- oh, wait. Wait. Stop.

I'm a vegetarian.

Fuck, ravioli. Ravioli and tomato sauce. They don't even have mushroom sauce. I hope it's cheese ravioli, not goddamned beef, like, Chef Boyardee?

Anyway, once I realized this brain fart I was apparently suffering, I laughed out loud, LOL as they say on the computer internet. My son asked me why I was laughing, and I told him it was nothing, but when an 8-year-old boy wants to know what you're laughing about, he doesn't quit until he gets an answer, so I told him:

I was trying to find something to eat on the menu, and I remembered that I don't eat meat, and suddenly it occurred to me that I feel like an alien who's landed on an unfamiliar planet and I can't eat the food here!

In one of those great parent-child bonding moments, he immediately understood where I was coming from, and he laughed too. His Dad is an Alien. Alien David Doane.

So, yeah, I ordered the damn ravioli with tomato sauce, and they were very accomodating with throwing some mushrooms into the sauce. It was actually very fresh pasta and tasted delicious, and although they weren't on the menu, when we were told they had cannoli, that was it: No scallops for me, but at least there was cannoli. For a brief, shining moment, all was well with the world.

Friday, March 19, 2004

 
Putting the ME in METH -- It occurs to me that my insightful satire of Clifford Meth's paranoid, narcissistic column on Barry Windsor-Smith may have, at the last, been entirely too subtle for the novice to appreciate. Therefore, let's examine the actual Meth column and see what lies at the heart of his particular (and peculiar) psychopathology.

A Rare (and Unappreciated) Barry Windsor-Smith Citing

First, I find it fascinating that a man who is about to claim to be an experienced and much-in-demand journalist would spell "sighting" that way.

By Clifford Meth

I've told this story before, but recent events invite its retelling: It was in the early days of Wizard's existence that I was invited to write for the fledgling magazine. The invitation came from Pat O'Neil, a former editor at ComicScene who had bought my articles before. He offered me twice what I’d been getting from ComicScene. It’s important to note that these were not halcyon days for me, friends. I was struggling financially. And at home, I had two in diapers.


For the sake of argument, we'll assume he means "two children."

One day, I received a call from O'Neil asking if I'd be interested in doing a feature on Barry Smith.

“Sure,” I said. “I loved his work on Conan.” So the very next day, I attempted to contact Barry. One of his assistants, a woman, answered the phone. I explained that I was calling on behalf of Wizard and asked for an interview.

“Barry doesn't give phone interviews,” she said. “You'll have to fax your questions and he'll review them. If he's interested, he'll get back to you.”


It might strike even the most generous of readers to think that this was a bit demanding and off-putting of Windsor-Smith. That is, until one reflects on the fact that at the time, BWS was full engaged in producing BWS: Storyteller, an oversized, 32-page, ad-free comic book for Dark Horse comics. Barry was writing, pencilling, inking and colouring the series. Upon reflection, one might concede that, well, the guy had more important things to do than personally address each media inquiry in an immediate and accomodating manner. Unless one is Clifford Meth, that is:

It wasn’t what she said so much as the way she said it. Really snotty.

That's some journalism, there.

So I'll admit I was a little put off. In my career as a freelance journalist with the L.A. Times Entertainment Newswire and about four-dozen magazines, I'd interviewed lots of people from John Scully (C.E.O. of Apple Computers) to Frank Zappa; from Howard Stern to Mickey Mantle; poets, playwrights, actors and actresses; scientists, athletes and religious leaders.

Translation: "Clifford Meth is a very, very, VERY important Journalist. Good thing he points this out, because before this past Wednesday, I'd never heard of him. Astonishing, really, considering the bio he presents on his column page at Silver Bullet Comics:

"'Clifford Meth is one of dark fiction’s best kept secrets,' says Barnesandnoble.com. But it’s more than fiction. It’s the whole Meth persona. He has Blackbelts in Shotokan and TaeKwonDo. He’s been drunk with Evel Knievel and is one of the few guys Howard Stern trusted with an interview. Frank Zappa trusted him, too. So did Timothy Leary. His articles have been syndicated by The L.A. Times Entertainment Newswire. You've seen him in Billboard and dozens of other magazines. His writings have been praised by Kurt Vonnegut, Harlan Ellison, Jim Steranko, Pete Townsend of The Who, and the international Literary Review. Until you’ve read one of Meth’s books, you’ve missed something unique. And you have nothing to lose. His publisher is so confident that all of Meth’s books are offered with a unique money-back guarantee: Buy it, read it, and if you’re not delighted, send it back for a full refund. His current book is 'god’s 15 minutes' from Aardwolf Publishing"

Me, I interviewed M*A*S*H's Mike Farrell once. Boy, when it comes to capital-J Journalism, I suck! On the other hand, when it comes to pretension, Meth's resume and insistence on posting it at length on his column page makes Barry's name-change look humble, indeed.

And if I'd only learned one thing at that point in my career it was this: A fish rots from the head. When someone's -people- act that way, it's coming from the top.

So, Meth has now spent a grand total of perhaps five minutes on the phone with one of Barry's assistants, and already this Journalist has decided "A fish rots from the head." I submit to you that it's already apparent Meth is seriously fucked in the head, but, let's continue:

But there are exceptions. So I persisted.

I typed up a list of questions and proceeded to fax them the next morning. Later that afternoon, I received a call. It was Pat O'Neil. He informed me that I was off the story.

“What happened?” I asked.
“They said you were rude to them,” Pat reported.
“They said I was rude?”
“And they said you called him ‘Mister Smith’ in your fax.”
“Isn't that his name?” I asked.
“It's Windsor-Smith,” said O'Neil.


Now, interestingly, Cliffy doesn't provide us with such a word-by-word transcription of his conversation with the unidentified female BWS Studio assistant. I would be very interested to know if he referred to Barry as "Barry Smith" during that call, and whether this woman would have corrected him, and what Meth's reaction to someone daring to correct him might be. Because I suspect the true origin of the BWS Studio claim that Meth was rude involved more than simply not knowing the man's name. So, again, too bad for us and for posterity that Meth conveniently remembers every single word of a decade-old conversation with his editor, but not the conversation that preceeded it by only a single day.

I squinted, ran my hand through my beard, then said, “Hang on a minute.” I ran downstairs and pulled out my autograph book. Then I grabbed my copy of Conan #1. Then I ran back to the phone. “I have Conan #1 in my hand,” I said to O’Neil, still out of breath. “The credits say Roy Thomas and Barry Smith. I also have my autograph book. Barry signed it at the first MarvelCon... Here it is. ‘Best wishes--Barry Smith.’”

Now, most people at all interested in Barry know that he added "Windsor" to his name in the 1970s. Most sane people will also understand that he had every right to do so, and that the reasons are nobody's business but his own. But in the next section, we see how irritated Meth seems to be by this fact:

“He changed it,” said O'Neil.
“Gosh,” I said. “I feel like such a fool! How could I have missed such an important news item?”
“You're off the story,” said O'Neil.
“At least let me call and apologize,” I offered. “I don't want to leave it like this.”
Ok, said, O'Neil. Call and apologize.


Now, one would have to be disingenuous to the extreme not to see the sarcasm inherent in Meth's claim that he told his editor "Gosh, I feel like such a fool! How could I have missed such an important news item?" The contempt he feels for Windsor-Smith and his temerity at changing his name is extremely obvious.

So I called again the next morning again. “This is Clifford Meth,” I said to the person who answered the phone at the Windsor-Smith Studios. At least I assumed it was a person.

What the fucking fuck does that mean, the sane reader asks?

“I'm calling from Wizard magazine and—”
“I thought we made it clear that you shouldn't call here.”
“Who am I speaking with?” I asked.
“This is Alex Bialy. I'm the office manager.”
“What did I do wrong?” I asked.
“You don't even know Mr. Windsor-Smith's last name,” said Bialy. “Now you're not to call here again. Do you understand?” And with that, he hung up.


Now, this is where Meth's alleged capital-J Journalism meets actual journalism in a very interesting and telling manner. Up until now, I am willing to accept Meth's story pretty much at face value. As someone who has been a journalist for nearly 20 years (although I have never interviewed Howard Stern or the Pope, I'll admit -- but I do know how to spell "sighting," so at least there's that), I know that not every single interview attempt is going to succeed. Sometimes they fail spectacularly. Sometimes it's the journalist's fault, sometimes it's the potential interviewee's fault, sometimes a combination of both -- and most likely, every once in a while, it's nobody's fault in particular; things sometimes just don't click, and you don't get the interview. A sane, normal journalist will regret the circumstance, and get on with their life. Not Meth, though. That's not nearly dramatic or self-affirming

I sat there for a moment waiting for the feeling to come back into my head. Then I felt it. I was hurt.

And here it all begins. A decade of drama and insult and hurt feelings, every single drop of it residing solely in the head of this little, little man who believes he is a capital-J Journalist who Will Not Be Denied, Insulted or Fucked With.

like an idiot, I called back again.
“Bialy?” I asked.
“Yes?”
“This is Clifford Meth. Just answer one question: What the hell is your problem?”
But I never did get the answer because he hung up. And that afternoon, Pat O'Neil called me to tell me I was fired.

Now, I know what you're thinking. O'Neil should have backed me up. Yessir. I agree.


It almost seems like satire, doesn't it? This guy is taken off a story but refuses to leave the by-now harrassed-feeling BWS Studio people alone. And he thinks he doesn't deserve to get fired?

You're also thinking there's an odd chance that this was all put in motion by Bialy, not Windsor-Smith; that the big boss knew nothing of these events. Well, I thought that, too. So I called Windsor-Smith’s home and left a message on his answering machine. The message was brief, explanatory, and apologetic. I left my phone number. Repeated it twice. Slowly.

But I never did get a return call.


Why in hell would any sane person expect a return call? Already Meth is admitting that he engaged in stalker-like behaviour, refusing to listen when told that BWS and his people didn't want him to call. Now he's been fired for his disturbing behaviour, and still he continues to stalk Windsor-Smith, tracking down his home phone number and making what any reasonable person would know is an extremely unwelcome call.

That, my friends, was a decade ago. Why recall it now?

Yes, why? Did Barry Windsor-Smith shoot his dog? Run over his grandmother? Surely, Meth must have suffered some massive injustice to justify the dredging up of a decade-old incident about which virtually no human being on Earth could possibly give a flying fuck. Well, here it is:

Well, recently, I received an email from one of Barry Windsor-Smith's associates—an artist of acclaim whose work I admire very much. Like so many of his peers—most, in fact—he was contributing to The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute book that I'm editing for Aardwolf Publishing. And he wanted to know why Windsor-Smith had not been invited.

So I phoned this artist and told him the story. He wasn't the least bit surprised.

“Look,” I said. “I’m a forgiving guy. Just tell Barry to call me. I've always admired his work on Conan.”


"Just tell Barry to call me." He's like the Terminator, isn't he? He Just Will Not Stop, until he gets the attention of the object of his stalking.

But Windsor-Smith didn't call. Instead, another artist phoned on his behalf. He said that Windsor-Smith was worried. He feared that if he contributed a piece to the book (a project I've been working on for months) I might reject it.

“Tell him to call me,” I said. “Here's my phone number.”


Nothing less than the full and complete attention of Windsor-Smith will satisfy this man.

But Windsor-Smith didn't call. Then, a day before the deadline, Aardwolf Publishing’s secretary received an email from none other than Alex Bialy. The note said that Windsor-Smith’s art would be arriving a little late and that Aardwolf should hold open a place for it. It also insisted on knowing full details of the benefit auction, distribution of the book’s proceeds, and so forth.

Entirely reasonable, since Windsor-Smith drawings are extremely rare in the marketplace and highly valued. It's also understandable that Barry would want to be certain that the auction is on the up-and-up. I have known Barry for five years now, and if there's one thing I've learned in that time, from seeing him interact with his peers at conventions and from talking extensively about his time in comics and the people he's known, it's that he has an enormous, almost awed respect for his fellow creators, and a strong sense of wanting them to be treated decently and ethically.

Aardwolf's secretary sent Bialy the following reply: “Clifford Meth is the editor of The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute. Ask Barry to call him.” Then she gave him my phone number.

But Windsor-Smith didn't call. Instead, I received an email from Bialy. It said that Windsor-Smith would be contributing to the book and asked for my Fed Ex number so they could charge me for the shipping.

I replied very clearly: “Ask Barry to call me.”


Note carefully that even though Barry has had dealings with Meth a decade earlier that did not end well, even though this character, in my opinion, engaged in disturbing, stalker-like behaviour that got him fired from Wizard and continued to engage in that behaviour even after that, Even then Barry was willing to create a piece of artwork in order to help out a fellow creator at a time of need. Even if you think he's a pompous ass for daring to change his name thirty years ago -- even if you think he treated poor Journalist Clifford Meth with an appalling degree of disrespect and disregard, it's vitally important to remember that BWS was still willing to produce a valuable piece of art in an effort to relieve some of the suffering of Dave Cockrum. Is Meth at all willing to meet BWS halfway, then? To put aside his decade-long grudge and let bygones be bygones and put Dave and his health and well-being ahead of all other considerations?

Fuck, no:

As of this writing, I have not received a call. But I have thought about this situation long and hard, friends. I've meditated on it and fasted for days in an effort to humble my soul.

Perhaps he should have been stalking Dave Sim all these years?

I've looked into the deepest depths of my being and decided that I should forgive Barry Windsor-Smith for what he did to me (and what I can only imagine he's done to others). Even if I am beneath personally calling.

It's unfair to hold royalty to the standards of common courtesy when, after all, those standards are so common. And Windsor-Smith is a most uncommon man. His work is so brilliant, in fact, that I think it unfair to subject it to indifferent eyes. A collection of sketches by mere “comic” artists has no place in the same publication as a Windsor-Smith rendering.

Further, I think it unfair to subject someone as important as Barry Windsor-Smith to my unworthy company; unfair to ask him to descend from Olympus and grace this editor—whose career he offhandedly stepped on as if it were a bug—with his divine etchings of unparalleled perfection.

So, no, my friends—Barry Windsor-Smith will not be appearing this evening.

Clifford Meth


So Meth is excluding one of the most popular and talented artists ever to work in comics from this project. Why? Read it, it's all right there: Because Barry won't call him on the phone. Barry Windsor-Smith has violated Clifford Meth's Constitutional RIGHT to get a phone call from the object of his enduring love/hate obsession.

The most important thing to realize, here, my friends, is that Meth used Dave Cockrum's dire, life-threatening illness as an excuse to dredge up his decade-old grudge against Barry Windsor-Smith. Even if every single slight Meth alleges BWS committed against him is true, it is still loathsome and extremely troubling that he would use Cockrum and his illness as a launching pad for his outraged screed. The more I study this column, the more disgusted and disturbed I am. It is astonishing to me that anyone could read Meth's own words and not be able to see just how twisted his motives are in this, and just how tainted the Dave Cockrum charity book has become.

I strongly urge all of you to eschew purchase of this book, and send your money directly to Dave Cockrum. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the only Paypal address I can find online is one to buy Meth's ego-driven and ego-tainted book. What a shocking non-surprise.

 
An Accidental Vegetarian -- At 38 years of age, I certainly never intended to stop eating meat. Despite my oldest friend having been meat-free for the last five years, and despite an ever-increasing awareness of the casual contempt the meat industry seems to have for the concept of safety (or even simple decency), I never really thought much about the subject.

It was so simple to microwave some bacon to go with my waffles for breakfast; to grab a hamburger on the way home from work, or order a Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple from the local pizza shop. It was easy, convenient, and of course, it tasted good.

Looking back, one key "meat moment" about ten years ago that I always harken back to, though, when thinking about human consumption of meat was when my wife Lora first introduced meat into our daughter's diet. After months of eating mashed peas and carrots and other vegetable-based baby foods, my wife spooned a tiny amount of turkey baby food into Kira's mouth -- only for her to spit it out in revulsion, and glare at her mother with a genuine sense of outrage and betrayal. Seeing that primal scene, I began to question just how natural it is for humans to ingest the flesh of other animals. I also reflected on, as I often do, one Thanksgiving radio broadcast when Tom Snyder referred to turkey as "the only meat that actually tastes dead."

I had been forced to eschew some kinds of meat about five years ago, after being diagnosed with diabetes. It became much more important to me to cut the most egregious kinds of animal fat out of my diet, so no more prime rib or bacon -- both are composed primarily of fat and offer little nutritional value by any standard. If we bought hamburger, I lobbied for lean, 90 or 95-percent fat free. My wife did her best to comply with my needs. Instead of regular hot dogs, we got Healthy Choice, all-beef franks that had significantly less fat on the label than regular hot dogs. But our meals were still built primarily around meat. American society is built around meat and meat products in sometimes shocking ways -- for example, I recently learned that one cereal manufacturer refuses to guarantee that any of their cereals are free of meat or meat by-products. So, their popular granola cereal may well be a bowl of morning meaty goodness. Marshmallows are produced with rendered meat by-products, so my favourite kids cereal -- they're magically delicious, to coin a phrase -- isn't vegetarian-friendly. Amazing.

A couple of years ago, I read the book Fast Food Nation (excerpt here) and was startled to learn just how much contempt the fast food industry has for its workers and the poor bastards who end up consuming the mass-produced fat-bombs they serve. Being an adult of at least average intelligence and observational skills, I have always noticed that supposed advances in healthier options in fast food restaurants are mostly marketing maneuvers -- those crisp, green salads usually come with dressing packets with enough fat content for three meals; grilled chicken sandwiches are slathered in mayonaisse -- but I was stunned to learn that one of the key goals of McDonald's is to have a zero learning curve for their workers. They want their shake machines and french-fry fry-pits to be so simple that even an idiot can operate them -- which, of course, will be the end result of their plans. A fitting irony, I suppose, since that's mostly who'll be consuming the product as well.


Over the years I became more and more aware of what a Matrix-like illusion Americans are living under. TV shows and toys from Fisher Price reinforce the idea that the cattle Americans consume spend their lives grazing idyllically
on wholesome grass out in the fields, when the reality for many was that the meat rendering industry created a form of institutionalized cannibalism, feeding cattle, pigs and other animals meant for human consumption to themselves. I learned recently from the book Mad Cow USA that cannibalism results in spongiform encephalopathy, a disease in which holes are created in the brain by rogue proteins called prions. This horifically fatal illness -- which is thought to sometimes take decades to present itself -- is thought to be the cause of Mad Cow Disease, which is communicable to humans as a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. You may remember the images of thousands of cattle being burned in Britain to stop the spread of the disease. Science has since learned that prions aren't destroyed by heat, so all burning those cattle accomplished was to release the slow, deadly prions into the air, in the the water, into the environment. Decades from now, it will be horrifying and fascinating to see what the end result of all that cattle-burning turns out to be, and how the government will dissemble and spin the facts, as governments have already been doing for years.

In any event, reading Mad Cow USA (a PDF file of the entire first edition is available here)-- and earlier, Fast Food Nation -- finally resulted in me one day in March of 2004 just becoming revolted to the core by the thought of eating meat. I think the key moment for me was learning that the meat industry was actually feeding cows not only their own relatives, but feed composed partially of chicken shit and feathers, that did it. This is an obscene thing to do to an animal, no matter how the blend is prepared or how palatable they manage to render it. And then, to think that the meat from these animals that consumed chicken shit and feathers is considered suitable for human consumption? Now do you see why it's like waking up from The Matrix for me? For cows, Soylent Green is people.

Going vegetarian was nothing I had planned, but the change in my personality and in my lifestyle was as immediate and startling as a heart attack. The change left me essentially lost at sea in an unfamiliar, alien world where, just half a decade after having to redefine my eating habits to save my body from the ravages of diabetes, I now had to find new sources of nutrition. It was less than two weeks before I began to feel an insistent sense of gnawing in my gut that apparently was caused by a lack of protein. I was aware that I would need to find alternate sources of protein, but am still now struggling to find a new balance and utilize sources that are palatable and healthful.

My vegetarian pal Marshall accompanied me to the supermarket recently and recommended a protein drink, which I tried the next day. Perhaps I need to experiment with proportions and sweeteners (again, the diabetes has to be factored in), but I found it fairly unpleasant and was unable to finish the entire thing. I'm also not a huge fan of nuts, although I bought a jar of peanuts in case I feel that telltale gnawing setting in again. In the meantime, my preferred protein sources so far are meat substitutes like Gardenburgers and Boca Burgers, and eggs, which I generally liked anyway. With eggs, though, come cholesterol and fat, not to mention concerns over the non-organically raised variety, likely to be what is available in most of the restaurants where I live.

Another issue has been my wife's learning curve. From the moment I decided to drop meat from my diet, I was determined that I wouldn't try to evangelize or convince anyone else of the horrors of meat. Despite that, my wife's initial reaction could not have been much more shocked or hurt if I had told her I was gay. Understandable; after all, we'd eaten an awful lot of meat together over the course of our 12-year relationship. She saw my sudden conversion -- what I like to call my "Saul on the road to Damascus moment" -- as something that would turn the lives of our entire family upside-down and inside-out.

To ease the transition, I decided to try to make as many meals as possible -- if she came home from work each afternoon to a hot, delicious meal, it seemed to me that it would make the fact that the meal was meat-free a little more tolerable. The night I made meatless lasagna -- still with cheese (four kinds, in fact) and tomato sauce -- was a success. She refused to try the Smart Dogs, though, so I had to make up two batches of hot dogs. Interestingly -- and gratifyingly -- my kids seem to prefer the soy-based franks to the beef ones. My son and my wife even discovered that they like sauerkraut, which I prepared with the hot dogs. One thing I've quickly learned is that the lack of meat is greatly mitigated by the presence of strong flavours in meatless meals.

The night my wife offered to cook, she decided to make hamburgers for her and whichever of the kids wanted them, and Garden Burgers for me (and again, whoever else wanted them). I was reading in the bedroom when she started preparing the meal, and when I came out to see how things were going I noticed that she was using the same spatula for both batches of burgers. I didn't want to start a fight and tried to gently reinforce that this was more than a little counter-productive to my goal of eliminating as much meat (or contact with meat) from my diet wherever possible (and I do understand that that won't always be possible). She seemed a bit...whatever!...but I don't think she'll do that again, and we managed not to get angry about the obvious difference of opinion over how much it mattered, this thing with the spatula.

I also have had to try to make her sensitive to just how many meat-related products there are in seemingly unlikely places. The last time she went grocery shopping -- the first time she went in with a vegetarian-packed shopping list -- she brought home three cans of "Vegetable Soup." First ingredient? Chicken stock. I ate the Garden Burgers that had been flipped with the same spatula as the hamburgers, but I probably won't eat the "Vegetable" soup. Even I don't understand that one, since the risk of illness or exposure to pathogens is probably many, many times higher when we're talking about exposure to uncooked beef. Maybe it's because I perceive that her feelings would be more hurt with the burgers, which she actually expended some effort in preparing, than with the soup, which will eventually be dumped from the can to the pan before being consumed -- by someone other than me.

So, as I have accidentally stumbled into vegetarianism, it seems like a whole new world. I feel a bit safer, and while that might be an illusion, I do feel a greater sense of control over my health, and more optimism for the future. Tomorrow, Saturday, March 20th, is Meatout 2004, and I urge you to take one day and live meat-free. Have waffles or pancakes and eggs for breakfast. Have a bean and cheese burrito and a salad for lunch. Try those Morningstar Farms Buffalo Wings or the absolutely convincing Boca Burgers for dinner -- they're some of the most convincing meat substitutes I've ever tried, absolutely delicious. Eventually I imagine I'll move on from the need for even substitute meat, but for now it's a great help in making perhaps the most profound transition of my life. From sleepily gnawing on chicken wings and turkey legs to a greater awareness of the genuine danger of mass-produced meat, and of the cruelty that a meat-oriented society delivers not only to the animals it consumes for sustenance, but ultimately to itself.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

 
The Voice of Reason -- Here's Chris Allen, weighing in on John Hinckley Clifford Meth:

Very funny ADD takedown/fisking of Clifford Meth, but the source material is really pretty disturbing. Now, I don't know this guy's work other than this column, and I believe that he's done good things, editing anthologies with some top writers and apparently writing his own stuff. He may be very talented and have his heart in the right place with many of his projects, including the upcoming Cockrum tribute book. But what on Earth was he thinking with this attack on Barry Windsor-Smith?!

His column is about the longest piece yet devoted to the Cockrum book, but instead of getting potential readers excited or moved enough to order it, he takes the opportunity to blast Windsor-Smith for an old grudge he has. The grudge isn't even against BWS, but Alex Bialy, and he even admits Bialy may be the sole culprit who committed the terrible crime of getting Meth pulled off a story. He didn't get Meth fired, as that wasn't in his power to do. Even if it led to Meth's firing, it has little to do with BWS. So here BWS, whatever his feelings about Meth, agrees to contribute to the Cockrum book anyway. But Meth can't let bygones be bygones, and instead insists that Barry call him. No, an email is no good, and Meth is not going to accept this superstar's gratis contribution without making Barry contact him and dig up an incident from many years ago. And when BWS understandably declines to do this, his contribution is then publicly refused. Never mind the extra copies a BWS pin-up just might sell, that would then benefit Dave Cockrum. Nope, Cliff's got to stand by his principle, the principle of publicly fucking with hyphenate artists when their assistants piss off Cliff. This just makes me not want to buy the book at all. Does Cockrum have a PayPal I could send to?

 

A Rare (and Unappreciated) Jodie Foster Citing

By John Hinckley

I've told this story before, but recent events invite its retelling: It was in the early days of Wizard's existence that I was invited to write for the fledgling magazine. The invitation came from Pat O'Neil, a former editor at ComicScene who had bought my articles before. He offered me twice what I’d been getting from ComicScene. It’s important to note that these were not halcyon days for me, friends. I was struggling financially. And at home, I had two in diapers.

One day, I received a call from O'Neil asking if I'd be interested in doing a feature on Jodie Foster.



“Sure,” I said. “I loved her work on Conan.” So the very next day, I attempted to contact Jodie. One of her assistants, a woman, answered the phone. I explained that I was calling on behalf of Wizard and asked for an interview.

“Jodie doesn't give phone interviews,” she said. “You'll have to fax your questions and she'll review them. If she's interested, she'll get back to you.”

It wasn’t what she said so much as the way she said it. Really snotty. So I'll admit I was a little put off. In my career as a freelance journalist with the L.A. Times Entertainment Newswire and about four-dozen magazines, I'd interviewed lots of people from John Scully (C.E.O. of Apple Computers) to Frank Zappa; from Howard Stern to Mickey Mantle; poets, playwrights, actors and actresses; scientists, athletes and religious leaders. And if I'd only learned one thing at that point in my career it was this: A fish rots from the head. When someone's -people- act that way, it's coming from the top.

But there are exceptions. So I persisted.

I typed up a list of questions and proceeded to fax them the next morning. Later that afternoon, I received a call. It was Pat O'Neil. He informed me that I was off the story.

“What happened?” I asked.
“They said you were rude to them,” Pat reported.
“They said I was rude?”
“And they said you called her ‘Miss Foster’ in your fax.”
“Isn't that her name?” I asked.
“It's Windsor-Foster,” said O'Neil.

I squinted, ran my hand through my beard, then said, “Hang on a minute.” I ran downstairs and pulled out my autograph book. Then I grabbed my copy of Conan #1. Then I ran back to the phone. “I have Conan #1 in my hand,” I said to O’Neil, still out of breath. “The credits say Roy Thomas and Jodie Foster. I also have my autograph book. Jodie signed it at the first MarvelCon... Here it is. ‘Best wishes--Jodie Foster.’”

“She changed it,” said O'Neil.
“Gosh,” I said. “I feel like such a fool! How could I have missed such an important news item?”
“You're off the story,” said O'Neil.
“At least let me call and apologize,” I offered. “I don't want to leave it like this.”
Ok, said, O'Neil. Call and apologize.

So I called again the next morning again. “This is John Hinckley,” I said to the person who answered the phone at the Windsor-Foster Studios. At least I assumed it was a person. “I'm calling from Wizard magazine and—”
“I thought we made it clear that you shouldn't call here.”
“Who am I speaking with?” I asked.
“This is Jim Brady. I'm the office manager.”
“What did I do wrong?” I asked.
“You don't even know Miss Windsor-Foster's last name,” said Bialy. “Now you're not to call here again. Do you understand?” And with that, he hung up.

I sat there for a moment waiting for the feeling to come back into my head. Then I felt it. I was hurt.

So, like an idiot, I called back again.
“Brady?” I asked.
“Yes?”
“This is John Hinckley. Just answer one question: What the hell is your problem?”
But I never did get the answer because he hung up. And that afternoon, Pat O'Neil called me to tell me I was fired.

Now, I know what you're thinking. O'Neil should have backed me up. Yessir. I agree.



You're also thinking there's an odd chance that this was all put in motion by Bialy, not Windsor-Foster; that the big boss knew nothing of these events. Well, I thought that, too. So I called Windsor-Foster’s home and left a message on her answering machine. The message was brief, explanatory, and apologetic. I left my phone number. Repeated it twice. Slowly.

But I never did get a return call.

That, my friends, was a decade ago. Why recall it now? Well, recently, I received an email from one of Jodie Windsor-Foster's associates—an artist of acclaim whose work I admire very much. Like so many of her peers—most, in fact—she was contributing to The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute book that I'm editing for Aardwolf Publishing. And he wanted to know why Windsor-Foster had not been invited.

So I phoned this artist and told him the story. He wasn't the least bit surprised.

“Look,” I said. “I’m a forgiving guy. Just tell Jodie to call me. I've always admired her work on Conan.”

But Windsor-Foster didn't call. Instead, another artist phoned on her behalf. He said that Windsor-Foster was worried. She feared that if she contributed a piece to the book (a project I've been working on for months) I might reject it.

“Tell her to call me,” I said. “Here's my phone number.”



But Windsor-Foster didn't call. Then, a day before the deadline, Aardwolf Publishing’s secretary received an email from none other than Jim Brady. The note said that Windsor-Foster’s art would be arriving a little late and that Aardwolf should hold open a place for it. It also insisted on knowing full details of the benefit auction, distribution of the book’s proceeds, and so forth.

Aardwolf's secretary sent Brady the following reply: “John Hinckley is the editor of The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute. Ask Jodie to call him.” Then she gave him my phone number.

But Windsor-Foster didn't call. Instead, I received an email from Brady. It said that Windsor-Foster would be contributing to the book and asked for my Fed Ex number so they could charge me for the shipping.

I replied very clearly: “Ask Jodie to call me.”

As of this writing, I have not received a call. But I have thought about this situation long and hard, friends. I've meditated on it and fasted for days in an effort to humble my soul. I've looked into the deepest depths of my being and decided that I should forgive Jodie Windsor-Foster for what she did to me (and what I can only imagine she's done to others). Even if I am beneath personally calling.

It's unfair to hold royalty to the standards of common courtesy when, after all, those standards are so common. And Windsor-Foster is a most uncommon woman. Her work is so brilliant, in fact, that I think it unfair to subject it to indifferent eyes. A collection of sketches by mere “comic” artists has no place in the same publication as a Windsor-Foster rendering.

Further, I think it unfair to subject someone as important as Jodie Windsor-Foster to my unworthy company; unfair to ask him to descend from Olympus and grace this editor—whose career she offhandedly stepped on as if it were a bug—with his divine etchings of unparalleled perfection.

So, no, my friends—Jodie Windsor-Foster will not be appearing this evening.

John Hinckley





 
Attention Webmasters -- If you have a link to my old site Comic Book Galaxy on your site, I'd be delighted and grateful if you'd switch it over to www.addblog.com. For the time being, things are set up so that going to www.comicbookgalaxy.com redirects readers here, but that won't be true for very much longer, and I'd hate to be to blame for a dead link on your site.

Thanks.

 
Oh, Hey -- Happy Birthday, Logan!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

 
Hornschemeier Examined -- Gardner Linn does the honours.

 
He's A Dog, With A Robot Brain -- Jason X-12 and James Kochalka have teamed up for years in the recording studio, and now in comics.

 
Swinging's Not My Bagge -- Peter Bagge goes to an alternative lifestyles conference right here. Excellent stuff.

 
While We Wait for BLUESMAN -- Here's a review over at Artbomb of Rob 'n Pablo's earlier masterwork, The Castaways.

 
More Moore -- Here's an interview with Alan Moore from The Independent, just in case you didn't get enough here.

 
Comic of the Week -- Make sure you pick up Darwyn Cooke's continues-to-be-excellent DC: The New Frontier this week; #3 arrives in stores today. Don MacPherson reviews it:

Cooke's simpler style doesn't keep the book from looking moody and mature. He employs heavy inks to great effect for key visuals. If his work on Catwoman and Selina's Big Score weren't enough to convince fans of the strength of his craft, Cooke's efforts here definitely will.

I want to remind you that with ad-free, double-sized issues, New Frontier would be a bargain even if it wasn't filled with drop-dead gorgeous artwork and an epic story that involves the biggest icons of the DC Universe. Since it has all that, too, you'd really, really have to hate superheroes not to be buying this book and shouting about it from every rooftop.

Also

While I'm here, I want to remind you that Sleeper: Season Two ships in June and you need to tell your retailer now that you want to support the best monthly series on the stands. Here's a taste:



Now that is pretty. The second Sleeper trade paperback also ships in June. Buy these books or I will really, really be pissed.


 
Steven Grant Doesn't Need My Pity -- But he does get my best wishes for a quick recovery, both financial and physical, from a car crash this week. It provides Grant with an opportunity to once again show why he's one of the coolest guys in or out of comics:

There's no need to send me any sympathy messages, since I'm assuming everyone out there wishes me well on this. If you don't, I don't want to hear from you anyway.

See? He doesn't need your pity. He does need some quick cash, though, so if you're an editor or in some capacity to offer Grant work, e-mail him pronto.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

 


Colleen Coover -- Small Favors is the most fun pornography money can buy, so over-the-top in its exhuberant sexuality that it comes back around to innocent again. I was delighted its creator decided to answer the Five Questions.

Is doing a magical lesbian comic a lifelong dream come true?

Doing a comic is, yes! The rest came later.

I’ve always wanted to do comics; one of my earliest memories is drawing scribbly little “Batman” strips at my Great-Grandmother’s house. It just happens that the first major work I’ve done in comics is an erotic romantic comedy.

Small Favors came about at a time when I was ready to start working on comics seriously. I looked around and saw that there were damn few adult comics for women to enjoy. I prefer all-girl action in my porno, but with very few exceptions Sapphic sex is generally treated as voyeuristic entertainment for men. The whole “looking through the keyhole” thing. So I would often find myself, a woman watching or reading girl/girl porn, being addressed by the director or creator as though I were a man. I felt I could make a book that women like me would like, without alienating a male readership.

But my first priority has always been not to create a porno comic but to create GOOD comics. My next project, which I’m working on now, is for readers of all ages. It’s called Banana Sunday, written my boyfriend and creative partner Paul Tobin, with all the art by me. It’s a high school adventure with comedy and romance and monkeys! I’m really excited about it.

Have you ever thought up a story or scenario for Small Favors that you decided was too wild to print?

Well, you know, it’s all stuff that I find sexy, so I don’t ever have to stop myself and go “Whoa! Too far!” After all, my main character is a young woman in love with her own personified conscience, who varies between being six inches tall and normal girl-size, and sports absurdly large pigtails!

I do have criteria for what can and cannot go into the book. I made a decision early on that I wanted women who identify as lesbians to have the same personal access to the fantasy as bisexual women like me. So there are no men in the book. Again, this is not in order to alienate male readers, but to avoid creating that Peeping Tom sort of feeling I mentioned before.

I never include any sex play that would turn me off, just for the sake of including extra kink. Activities that normally involve the use of a toilet, for example, hold no appeal for me sexually, so you won’t see them in Small Favors!

Finally, I feel strongly that there in a book created to celebrate the joy and laughter that good sex is all about, there is no place for the darker side of sex. So no jealousies, diseases, unplanned pregnancies, drugs, and ESPECIALLY no violence or rape.

What do you think is behind the near-universal appeal of two cute girls together?

I don’t know… I know sex experts have offered all sorts of theories about why straight men like all-girl action, and people say that the majority of straight women admit to being bi-curious, but I don’t like to think too much about it. I feel like too much analysis would ruin the fun, you know?

Now, the whole premise of Small Favors is what has become almost a mantra for me: Pretty Girls Make People Happy! And really, it’s just TRUE, you know? I’m not talking about sex, here. If you’re walking down the street and see a really pretty girl with a zillion-watt smile, it just makes you feel good! You don’t have to be consumed with lust to appreciate that.

So it’s not surprising that when you put pretty girls in a sexual situation, those same good feelings get sort of transferred over. I think you would need some awfully powerful hang-ups not to get some pleasure out of it!

What's the reaction to Small Favors from your family and friends?

The thing about my family and friends is that they KNOW me! Two weeks ago, Paul and I went to a burlesque show in New York with my sister and her husband. My mother loaned me my first erotic literature (Delta of Venus by Anais Nin) when I was fourteen! (I never gave it back, so I’m not sure “loaned” is the right word…) Nothing I do in a comic book is going to really shock them, and they’re very proud of the attention Small Favors has received these last few years.

Most of my friends and associates are either comics professionals or customers at the comics shop where I have my day job, so again, not likely to be surprised by any of the wacky highjinks in my cute little sex comics. And people who have problems with the thought of ladies having happy fun sex together are not people I’d be likely to be friendly with.

When I do get a weird reaction to Small Favors, it’s usually from total strangers. I’ve occasionally heard the comment “you don’t think of a woman doing a comic like this…” at conventions and such. I really have no answer to that. They don’t mean it to be nasty, I think that sometimes people just forget that girls like to think about sex! And there’s a common idea that all porn is exploitive of women, so that can be a tough concept for them to get over.

Who are your favourite comics creators and what about their work appeals to you?

Milton Caniff. All-time favorite. I especially love Terry & the Pirates. His work was so rich; even an expository “talking head” strip would have depth and drama. And action scenes were full of motion and excitement! His cartooning skills gave his adventure-strip realistic style life and dimension. I could write a five-page essay on all the stuff I’ve learned from studying just one daily strip’s original art. As a sucker for romance, I consider him to be one of comics’ greatest masters in building romantic suspense.

Los Bros Hernandez. A lot of people have remarked that they can see an influence in my art from either Jaime or Beto. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you which of them has influenced me more. I tend to think that it’s pretty even. I deeply admire Jaime’s technical skill and clean lines, and Beto’s more organic art is full of character. The great thing I look to the Bros for is their brilliant sense of design. I’ve never seen a page from them that didn’t work as a complete work of comic art, independent from the rest of the story.

Guy Davis. He’s always been so good, and lately he seems to have blossomed into a one-man Art House! I liked his issue of Hellblazer (the young punks of London hearkened back to his lovely Baker Street work) and Deadline was one of my favorite superhero-type stories of the last couple of years. Just this latest issue of Metal Hurlant alone has him doing two completely different, totally brilliant short pieces! I especially liked the Tardi-esque “Photo-taker” story.

Ai Yazawa. Her Paradise Kiss is currently my favorite manga by far! Her art is so pretty and her character designs are so varied and the storytelling is great and clothes clothes CLOTHES! I want to go shopping every time I read!!! More shoes! More skirts! More hair dye!

I could go on forever. Darwyn Cooke’s work is so yummy; like Caniff, his illustrative art is rooted in strong cartooning skills. Also Javier Pulido, Jordi Bernet, Cameron Stewart, Dean Haspiel, Craig Thompson, Clifford Chiang, and on and on and on.

Thanks to Colleen for tackling the 5Q -- be sure to visit her Live Journal.

Monday, March 15, 2004

 
ADD Blog Fundraising Auction -- We're a bit strapped for cash this month here at the ADD Blog, and this gives YOU, the home reader, an awesome opportunity to take home some of the best comics and graphic novels of recent months for a bargain price:

Louis Riel HC -- $24.95
The Fixer HC -- $24.95
The Losers Vol. 1: Ante Up -- $9.95
Peanutbutter and Jeremy's Best Book Ever -- $14.95
Caricature -- $16.95
Mother, Come Home -- $14.95
Blab #14 -- $19.95
Magic Whistle: Bigger, Larger and Bigger -- $11.95
Sam and Twitch Book One: Udaku -- $21.95
The Couriers: Dirtbike Manifesto -- $12.95
Comic Book Lettering The Comicraft Way -- $9.95
Superman on the Couch -- $19.95

Here's how it works: Look over the list, the combined total value of which is over $200.00. Decide how much these graphic novels are worth to you, and e-mail your bid to me before March 25th, 2004. The highest bid will take home the graphic novels, all of which are in excellent condition, most of which are duplicate copies that have not even been cracked open. I reserve the right to reject any bid for any reason, and please be aware that $10.00 postage will be added to the winning bid to cover the cost of getting this large, heavy lot of graphic novels to you.

Additionally, and this is important, the winning bidder MUST pay by Paypal or Priority Mail me a Postal Money Order from a US Post Office within 24 hours of being notified he or she is the winner. So don't bid unless you really want the books and are ready to pay by March 26th at the latest. The whole idea here is to infuse me with some cash almost immediately. Please try to understand and don't bid unless you do.

In addition to taking home some great reading material, you'll be helping to keep the ADD Blog online by helping me cover my expenses. Look over that list and e-mail your bid or any questions ASAP. Contest ends at 12:01 AM on March 25th, 2004. Thanks!

 

More Short, Sharp Shocks -- All right, I have a ton of goddamn comic books sitting here, and my conscience won't let me just file them away without saying something about them. So prepare yourself for some extremely concise summaries of my opinions of these here funnybooks...and scroll down to the previous entry for a few more from earlier today.

JLA #94 -- John Byrne, Chris Claremont and Tom Orzechowski reunite decades after producing some of the most entertaining corporate superhero funnybooks of my teenage years. But where are Terry Austin and Glynis Wein? Anyway, Claremont's dialogue is a bit clunky and Ordway's inks seem a bit heavy-handed (Byrne's style is completely consumed in some panels), but for the most part, this is serviceable entry-level comics for children, focusing on a goofy-looking vampire who manages to turn Superman to his team. Not as exciting as I had hoped, but far from the train-wreck that everything Claremont and Byrne have done for the past decade indicated was a distinct possibility. Grade: 3.5/5

Gotham Central #17 -- Seemed like a lot of uninteresting blah blah blah in this one, with artwork by Greg Scott that doesn't quite reach Michael Lark's excellence. This is shaping up to be the least compelling storyline of the series so far, unfortunately. Grade: 3/5

The Escapist #1 -- From Happy Endings to Autobiographix to Hellboy: Weird Tales, Dark Horse seems to buck the trend of mixed-bag anthologies, almost always featuring more entertaining and interesting stories than not. The Escapist meets that standard, with a nice blend of styles and stories simulating decades of comics storytelling development in service of the alleged storied past of Michael Chabon's character from his Pulitzer-winning Kavalier and Clay novel. The standout stories are the origin of The Escapist, which conveys the oddball logic of Golden Age origins without aping the bad writing and art that was often in evidence. I also liked the contributions from Jim Starlin and Howard Chaykin, but the book is so packed with fun comics that there's got to be something for everyone here. Grade: 4/5

Cerebus #300 -- Dave Sim either didn't care or didn't realize (probably the former) that many non-Cerebus readers would check out this landmark issue, and so he delivers a slow, uneventful and probably-intended-to-be ironic demise for his decades-old aardvark protagonist. Hardcore fans will probably love the fact that Dave never concedes an inch in his war against sanity, but even the most open-minded new readers (or lapsed former fans like myself) will likely be bored by the dullness of the aardvark's death, the lead balloon impact of the theme inherent in Cerebus's entry into the afterlife, and worst of all, nearly two-dozen pages of deadly dull text pieces. For Sim and a few hundred dedicated readers, this is probably The Event of a Lifetime. For the rest of us, the end of Cerebus arrives with all the magic and wonderment of a mosquito fart. Grade: 2/5

Magic Whistle: Bigger, Larger and Bigger -- I didn't like this as much as I wanted to. Sam Henderson has an appealing line and a simple, energetic style, and there are some fun moments and interesting experiments with style and colour here, but overall I didn't get the same charge out of this that I did from the recent and similarly-themed Further Grickle. Grade: 3/5

Hi-Horse Omnibus -- Diverse and lightweight anthology, with an Andrice Arp undersea-themed cover that is just stunning and really ought to be issued as a lithograph. A lot of different stories and styles, Howard John Arey's Crumb-influenced cartooning being the most entertaining and interesting. But nothing in here grabbed me as much as the subtle beauty of the cover. Grade: 3/5

Real Stuff -- Dennis Eichhorn's autobiographical stories recall Harvey Pekar without the angst or self-loathing. Eichhorn has had a genuinely interesting life and makes some apt observations about what he's learned, with a compelling narrative style that I like a lot and would love to read more of. The artists lined up here to illustrate his stores are a who's-who of altcomix superstars, including Rick Altergott, Jim Woodring, Seth, Joe Sacco, Los Bros. Hernandez, Charles Burns, Dave Cooper, David Collier and a couple dozen more. You want this. Grade: 5/5

8 1/2 Ghosts -- A playful amalgamation of styles including Seth and Dan Clowes powers this odd magazine-sized comic about a ghost movie being made with real ghosts involved in the production. Too cute by half for me, but if you skew to the whimsical, you might find this appealing. Despite the obvious kid-appeal of the style and subject matter, there is copious copulating, so don't leave this laying around if you want to keep young eyes from seeing people having sex. Grade: 2.5/5

Fused #3 -- The story takes a turn for the generic here, with full-page splashes of fight scenes full of sound and fury signifying a padded-out story. Josh Medors does a workmanlike job illustrating the story, but Paul Lee's art from the first couple of issues of the previous mini-series at Image set a standard that has not been seen since. Grade: 2.5/5

Para #1 -- Stuart Moore excels at readable adventure stories (like this, or Zendra) that get the job done at a certain level, but lack of spark of true excitement or ingenuity. Para is about a young woman whose scientist father disappears -- and is presumed dead -- after an accident involving a superconducting supercollider. Imagine Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, his story being told from the point of view of his young daughter, and you've pretty much got it. The artwork is bland in spots and frustratingly potential-filled in others. I'm intrigued enough to read the next issue, but far from won over. Grade: 3.5/5

 

Short, Sharp Shocks -- Concise snippets of critical insight, professionally produced for your protection and consideration. Don't try this at home.

Gabagool #6 -- This may be the funniest comic I've ever read -- for sure, it's the funniest comics I've read this year, and the best issue yet of one of my favourite small-press series. "Nudes and Prudes" concludes the adventures of the gang at one of those decadent "Hedonism" resorts, getting naked, drunk and high with abandon -- only time and again to be brought back to earth by their all-too-human neuroses and bad habits. You don't need the current, opportunistic shroud of creative oppression that came from Janet Jackson's nipple being revealed on live TV for Christopher Viglotti's giant boner to be as hilarious as it turns out to be, but it doesn't hurt. And the hot tub scene has forever changed my ability to even think about eating eggdrop soup. The cartooning here has fully arrived, well-composed and beautifully inked, Gabagool has improved in every way in its six-issue journey from mini-comic to must-read alternative funnybook. This gets my highest recommendation. Grade: 5/5

3-Car Pileup #1-2 -- Rough-and-tumble anthology title with a good deal of potential but a few miles to go before it gets there. #1 gets off to a bad start with a sideways story originally designed for the web -- guys, it's made up of individual panels that I could have rearranged for comic book formatting in Photoshop in ten minutes. Unfortunate, because the story's thin premise -- having deep feelings for someone from afar -- is a worthy subject treated fairly well and with an unexpected twist at the end. The "Koala" stories in both issues seem to be treated as highlights, but are among the least interesting material here. Better are the short "Idiot Box" newspaper-style strips and especially #2's "Bulimic Consumer" by Dan Custer, the standout of the two issues to date. Custer's art is unfinished and needs work, but his writing is clear and he has no problem communicating his ideas and conveying his personality (two cornerstones of good comics) to the reader. Order here. Grade: 3/5

Swamp Thing #1 -- The first Swamp Thing issue I've bought since Alan Moore left the title, this new series gets off to a promising start by hewing closely to the style of Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben from a lifetime ago. Writer Andy Diggle sets a properly tense and moody tone, and artist Enrique Breccia evokes Bissette and Totelben without sacrificing his own artistic personality. In Swamp Thing's decades of existence, Moore is the only writer who ever kept my interest for the long haul, but there's every reason from this first issue to think that it might be time to give the book another chance. Grade: 4/5

Coup D'Etat Afterword -- An ugly and dismissable Wetworks story kicks off and dominates this unfortunate mishmash of Wildstorm marginalia, but the brief Sleeper: Season Two preview demonstrates in just a few short pages the appeal of the series. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips deliver a tantalizing appetizer full of paranoia and potential, showing why Sleeper is the best monthly book on the stands. If you've been waiting to jump on the acclaimed series, buy this to sample Sleeper's style, but remember to skip past the awful first story and the filler pin-ups. Grade: (Sleeper story) 4.5/5 (the rest) 2/5

JSA #59 -- An interesting idea for a standalone story -- Per Degaton travels through time to watch key moments of misery for enemies he can't defeat through conventional means. The story is somewhat diminished by nods to current continuity of a book I don't follow -- this month's fill-in art by Sleeper's Sean Phillips prompted me to pick it up, though. Phillips delivers a fun but uncharacteristically rushed-looking issue -- I'd guess this was just thrown his way to keep food on his table in-between Sleeper "seasons." And that's fine, the dude's gotta eat. The best moments are Degaton ruminating on his deliciously twisted, outside-the-box plan. The worst include a clunky, disturbing subplot regarding Captain Marvel (!) and underage sex (!!) and the altogether wrong Ethan Van Sciver cover, which conveys a mood completely at odds with the atmosphere Geoff Johns reaches for here and nearly achieves in his script. Close, but not quite. Grade: 3.5/5

Sunday, March 14, 2004

 
Things I Did Today -- Took a friend to lunch. Bought groceries, including some protein-packed peanuts, natural peanut butter and some sort of protein shake thing. Having not eaten meat for a couple of weeks now, the lack of protein was starting to be felt in most unpleasant ways. Bought some more of those delicious Morningstar Farms Buffalo Wings. Watched a movie with Marshall. Got mildly drunk on a port wine he recommended. As a result, felt more mellow than is usual. Wrote this post. Went off to read some comics.

 
Random Sunday Blogging -- It's early on Sunday morning, and everyone in the house but me is sleeping. There's a part of me that wishes I could "sleep in" on my day off, but there's another, stronger part that really enjoys the quiet.

Fans of Uzumaki should really enjoy today's American Elf strip by James Kochalka. If you're reading this on Monday, he's probably already changed it, but you really ought to be a subscriber anyway. It's the best webcomic I've found, and just about the only one that has managed to make itself a daily stop. It does so through a canny combination of readability, creativity and ease of navigation. And plus, man, Kochalka just keeps getting better and better. Saturday's strip, about his son and his cat, showed just how much his new life circumstances have improved his already exceptional cartooning.

And it appears for all the world that John Byrne has deleted his utterly insane comments about Grant Morrison and Alan Moore. The link is no longer working, although a search on the Byrne forum for his favourite word "eviceral" still brings up a hit. So it bears repeating so that John Byrne's opinion of much better, more gifted and memorable creators can be remembered for the ages:

I get no sense from [Grant] Morrison's work that he has any "love for the genre". I get the same vibe I get from [Alan] Moore -- a cold and calculated mixing of ingredients the writer knows the fans like, but to which the writer himself has no eviceral connection. Nostaligia without being nostalgic, as I have dubbed it.)

Do your part to make sure that this quote isn't forgotten. It's everything that's wrong with comics -- John Byrne's, anyway.

Update: The link supposedly works again.

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