30th Nov2010

World Wide West

by Will

So, I haven’t been so great with posting lately, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been online. In fact, I just posted my 10,000th tweet today, so I clearly still have a lot of time on my hands. Even though I haven’t had much here recently, I have been showcased in a few other places on the web. Let’s take a closer look at some of that:

1)  For anyone into the Vice Magazine scene, Street Carnage is the site to visit. A few weeks ago , things got out of hand as @StreetCarnage Twitter followers got into a huge “No Homo” parody game. I assure you that it’s not as offensive as it might sound, but I can’t even begin to explain it; you’d best click that link to get a better understanding as to where things eventually ended up. In any case, something that started as a way to pass time on a Saturday afternoon ended up with me getting my name on a site that I actually didn’t own. Check it out:

As you can see, the whole “experiment” produced a bunch of groaners, but it’s still kinda cool that I got acknowledged.

2) A few weeks after that, I found that I got a retweet/reply from @FakeeEtiquette. Again, nothing major, but it’s still nice to be retweeted by an entity with more than 9,000 followers. If you have any “aspiring actor” friends, you’ll probably relate to this:

3) A few weeks before all of that, I helped kick off my friend Marcus’s new internet radio show. I’ve crossposted some of the stuff I’ve written for his site (TGRIOnline.com), and this is just another one of his hairbrained schemes to take over the world. In any case, I love anything that gets me more attention, and it was a fun experience. You can listen to that show here.

Also, I don’t think he has announced it, but I’m scheduled to be on again tomorrow night, so be sure to tune in!

4) Finally, in my aimless attempt at “brand extension”, I’ve found myself with a Tumblr . Now, some of you might be asking “Why do you need another website?” Others might be asking “What’s Tumblr?” Let’s answer that last one first: from what I’ve gathered, it’s all the best parts of “New Twitter” without the seizure-inducing interface. You’re not hampered by character limits, and you can post pictures, text, videos, audio, etc. It follows that Twitter model, in that you follow folks and they follow you. So, it’s just another social networking popularity contest.

So, why did I create one? Well, that’s easy:  believe it or not, I actually created it for archiving purposes. I’m sure if any of you are aware, but Twitter imposes a limit on the number of older tweets that you can access. As it stands, you can only search your archives up to 3200 tweets. Sure, that may seem like a lot, but seeing as how I just passed 10,000 today, that means that I can no longer access the majority of my tweets. For most people, that’s not an issue. They use Twitter as a forum for their stream-of-conscious thoughts. I, however, tend to really use it as a “micro blog”. Sure, some of those tweets might be in-the-moment, but I’d really like to remember and review some of them at later dates.

In the past, I had used a website that turned my tweets into a PDF “tweetbook”. Unfortunately, that service seems to be down indefinitely. So, in a somewhat desperate move, I created a Tumblr and linked it to my Twitter account. If nothing else, I figured this would serve as a crude, but effective, archive. I actually created this system around Tweet #7,000, at which point I teased that I would be unveiling a new site. Well, after about 2,000 tweets, I decided to check in on my little experiment. And it was a clusterfuck.

Tumblr isn’t a live system when it comes to imported content, so all of that is queued. My Tumblr was set to update about once per hour, but all that did was distort the natural chronology of things. Posts were out of sequence, often making no sense. So, I spent a weekend going through and trimming the fat. I disconnected Twitter, as I really didn’t need to see all of my @replies scattered any which way. With all of that behind me, I’ve decided to try to use Tumblr for its true purpose. What that means is that I need followers. If you’ve got a Tumblr, let me know and I’ll follow you. While the #followback mentality on Twitter can lead to ignorant/worthless conversations, Tumblr seems to be 75% porn, so I really don’t see how I could go wrong. You’ll probably see content on  there that I’ve already tweeted, but that’s to be expected. After all, my tagline is “The Place To Be To See All The Great Stuff You’ve Already Seen Before!” Yeah, it’s basically gonna be a “Best of Will’s Tweets” site, but it’s also going to be where I post photos from now, if only to not have to deal with Plixi servers anymore. I’m sure, over time, I’ll figure out what to do with that site. But for now, as Kanye would say, “It’s a process.”

19th Nov2010

5 Possible Responses To Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason”

by Will

1. “Well, I Just Got Cable”

2. “Bitch, I SAID Get Back Here!”

3. “(…Um…) I Love You?”

4. “Health Insurance”

5. “Isn’t This YOUR Place?”

19th Oct2010

Comic Book Word Problems

by Will

If you are a regular comics reader, these questions should not be too difficult. You will have 30 minutes to complete the test, and please keep your eyes on your own paper . Good luck!

1) Your rich parents died under mysterious circumstances. Your father had a business partner. Guess who killed your parents.

2) Two men are in a room. One of them has a mustache (and is NOT Tony Stark). Which one is the villain?

3) You live in the Marvel Universe but NOT in Midtown Manhattan. You are, however, a scientist who frequently travels to Latveria.  How will you die?

4) A train leaves Gotham City at 4 PM, traveling east at 100 MPH. Another train leaves Metropolis at 4:25, traveling west at 90 MPH. At what point will the Joker kill everyone aboard both trains?

5) An object is neither a bird nor is it Superman. What is it?

6) A hero joins the X-Men and is persecuted. However, the same hero joins the Avengers and is celebrated. Should the hero still be considered a “dirty mutie”?

7) In your past, you taunted/ignored/got tired of a classmate. In the present, a mysterious figure is attacking you “for no reason”. Guess the identity of the mystery figure.

8 ) You’ve opened a school with 5 students. If you have an annual turnover rate of 50%, combined with a mortality rate of 10%, how many students will you have in 40 years? <Remember to factor in alternate timelines and resurrections>

9) As a superbeing, you encounter another, unfamiliar superbeing. Calculate how long you will both fight before realizing that you are on the same side.

10) You seem to be invincible except for one particular element, which is only found in chunks of your home planet. However, your archenemy seems to be only the who can acquire this element. How fucked are you?

11) You are about to celebrate a milestone. You have already recently changed your costume and received an update to your origin story. How safe is the frailest member of your supporting cast?

12) Congratulations! You and your wife just had a mutant baby. Unfortunately, the baby has a rare illness. Do you get a real job, so that you can cover the baby under your HMO or do you send it to the future (where medical science must surely be better than it is currently) to be raised by a cult?

Bonus Question:

Part One: Your last girlfriend was killed by your nemesis. Your current wife, though a vivacious lingerie model/soap opera star with daddy issues, is getting kinda boring. Out of nowhere, The Devil gives you one wish. Do you resurrect your old girlfriend (who you loved more), or do you ask for a divorce, which will free you up to bang your old girlfriend when she’s inevitably resurrected down the road?

Part Two: Your dead girlfriend actually had an illegitimate daughter with the same villain who ended up killing her. Due to a rapid aging ailment, that daughter is now old enough to bang, and looks exactly like your dead girlfriend. With grass on the field, do you play ball?

Please show your work (Stick figures are permissible).

15th Oct2010

Backstreet Boys – Reading Between The Lines

by Will

On a recent roadtrip, Lindsay and I decided it would be fun to have a bit of a singalong. Since she had actually seen them in concert back in the day (I’m STILL jealous), I didn’t have any qualms putting Backstreet Boys: The Hits – Chapter One in the CD player. For the uninitiated, or for those with “musical taste”, Chapter One was essentially the Backstreet Boys’ first “greatest hits” album – I say “first”, because there’s bound to be another, even though they haven’t really had a “hit” since the albums covered by this disc. In any case, the odd thing about the collection is that the songs aren’t listed in any meaningful order – or are they? Usually, a common approach to these collections is to list the songs chronologically, so that you can hear the evolution of the artist’s sound. Here, however, they just jump around between the self-titled debut, Millennium, and Black & Blue. After a while, however, I began to see a narrative taking shape. After a closer listen, I decided to get down to what the collection was really trying to say.

1) I Want It That Way: It’s clear why this was the lead track, as this was hands-down their biggest hit. The song, however, makes no sense whatsoever. Sure, you can try to say that you know what it means, but even by pop standards, it makes no sense. This is further exacerbated by the fact that there’s a European cut that flips the script on the entire song – instead of “tell me why I never wanna hear you say”, it’s “tell me why I love it when I hear you say”. That version even changes up the lyrics. And no, it’s not a remix, as they’re both marketed as “I Want It That Way”. Talk about a cultural divide! So, bottom line is it’s a catchy tune, that heralded the release of their second album, Millennium, which broke the record for most units moved in one day (which was later surpassed by ‘NSYNC). Fine choice for #1 on the album.

2) Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) [Extended Version]:  Again, this placement is a no-brainer. While “I Want It That Way” was their biggest single, “Everybody” is the song that put them on the map. A lot of people don’t realize that this track wasn’t initially on their debut album. If you were one of the early birds to get the album, the track doesn’t exist. The song came out in the spring of ’97, as it was the lead single on their second European album, Backstreet’s Back. When the single took off, it was added to the later pressings of the US version. Anyway, as a career-making single, it’s fine at #2 on the disc.

3) As Long As You Love Me: This is where it gets interesting. By no means is this their next most successful single. Sure, it was popular, along with it’s face morph music video, but it wasn’t as big as some of the songs that would come on the next album. That’s where I start to notice a narrative. You can either decide they’re singing to their fans OR to a particular girl. Either way, the result’s the same. This is where the begging starts. Desparate to begin this courtship, BSB start pleading their case. They don’t care about past transgressions. She could’ve been a whore, a dancer, or a Mormon – it’s all forgiven as long as she loves them. This begging continues for the next four tracks:

4) Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely: Things don’t seem to be going so well for BSB. They’re feeling a little down in the dumps, but they’re not giving up yet. And they’re seeing dead people everywhere!

5) Quit Playing Games (With My Heart): Pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, BSB have decided that they’ve had enough, and they deserve better than what they’ve been getting. Girl, you’d better figure out if we’re gonna do this or not! I’m a MAN!

6) All I Have To Give: Uh-oh, they’re begging again. She must’ve caught them digging through her trash. They’re so distraught here that their grammar’s all over the place! “Does his gifts come from the heart?” And y’all wonder why she won’t return your calls! She was an English major!

7) Larger Than Life: A happier, bombastic tune. Not only do things seem better in the relationship, but it’s a thank you song. BSB realize they couldn’t have gotten here without her/us. Sure, it’s a thank you note to the fans, but it also works in a more intimate context. The video, however, had NOTHING to do with this, preferring 90s production values and creating a dance party on a space station. Sentiment’s still there…somewhere.

8 ) I’ll Never Break Your Heart: Now that everything’s going well, this is the “rose petals leading to the bedroom” song. BSB decided to turn down the lights for something a little romantic. A declarative song, they promise they’ll never do any wrong. It’s us, together forever baby!

9) The Call: AAANNNNNNDDD they fuck it all up. Apparently, the relationship was going too well, and they got bored. So, they decided to sing an entire song elaborating how they were now cheating. It would’ve seemed edgy had Usher not cornered the “boastful cad” market prior to the song’s release. Nothing indicates the peak of a career more than the moment the artist turns on his fans. Up to this point, BSB had declared their love for each and every young girl in the world. They’d begged and pleaded. Now, they’re telling all these girls how they’re cheating on them with their cuter, skinnier friend. You know, the one who goes down all the time. But don’t worry – they’ll be home when they’re done. BSB never quite bounced back from that boastful ditty.

10) Shape of My Heart: So, it seems she’s given the guys a second chance. After all, it was just that one time, and his phone really was dropping out – the battery was low! So now they’re back to begging. They’re apologizing without going into detail about what it is they did. It’s like a Hollywood press conference: “Looking back on the things I’ve done, I was trying to be someone. I played my part – kept you in the dark. Now, let me show you the shape of my heart.” Can’t you just see someone reading that, as Gloria Allred stands next to them?

11) The One: Now that the scandal has settled down, they’re back to making promises. Basically, they’re reiterating everything said in “I’ll Never Break Your Heart”, but to a peppier beat. If they were married, this is the part where they’d start talking about having another baby, ’cause that’ll solve alllllll their problems…

12) More Than That: A reiteration of promises. This is the kind of sentiment that follows her catching them looking at the babysitter the wrong way:

“Do you think she’s prettier than me?!! I see how you look at her!”

“No, baby! Who wants to be around pert breasts and a youthful outlook? Surely, you jest!”

13) Drowning: So, how does this tale end? Well, we don’t know. Instead of resolving the narrative, the album ends with “Drowning”. The trick to this song is that it’s really just BSB saying “Who do those O-Town kids think they are? Let’s show ’em how it’s done”. From a music theory perspective, Drowning is really just another interpretation of O-Town’s “All Or Nothing”, complete with the same piano intro. They’re really earnest about it, so as to keep us from realizing it’s the same song, but I know better!

So, I guess if you want to know whatever happened to this storied relationship, you’d have to buy their more recent albums. Yeah, I knew you didn’t care that much. You really should buy ’em, just to help Nick Carter buy a new trailer.

16th Sep2010

Live Free or Origin Hard

by Will

Comics as escapism – this is a concept that is always bandied about when people try to explain the notion of collecting & reading comics. Supposedly, we read superhero comics because they take us out of our day to day lives, and might even inspire us to greatness, as we observe acts of heroism. I don’t discount any of this, but I know that, for me, I enjoyed the escapism that the hobby provided me. This is going to get into a lot of family stuff, and may not be as action-packed as the other stuff, but there is a point here. Trust me.

So, we already covered that my mom had me late in life, but it should also be said that my father passed away from an aneurysm when I was three. So, I tell people that I was raised by the Black Golden Girls: Mommy, Muddear, and the Aunts. Being a single mother, my mom was at work most of the time, so I spent most of my time with Muddear, hence the Alabama trips and whatnot. Then, around 1993, something changed.

To go even further back, my mom had been married before. This is actually a bit of an odd story. She got married when she was 26, to a guy named Fred West. He was a bit of a cad, but their marriage lasted about 14 years. When it ended, she said that she was never changing her name again. She eventually met my father, Willie West, who was not related to Fred. So, she got to keep that name-change promise.

In any case, I bring up Fred because he resurfaced around 1993. You see, he had time to think about what he had done (whatever that may have been), and he decided that he wanted her back. Since he had “con man tendencies” about him, he knew how to get to people. He realized that the best way to get to her was through me. Now, this isn’t a standard “creepy stepdad/mom’s boyfriend” kind of thing. I LOVED him. He was a really fun guy. It was hard for me to think he could’ve done anything wrong, and he genuinely seemed to care about me.

So, how does this relate to comics? Well, he used to SHOWER me with toys and comics. Of course it was in order to curry favor with my mom, but I would have these free-for-all days, where he would pick me up in the morning, and we would hit 4 comic shops, 3 Toys R Us stores, and a McDonalds. Even though I’ve exhibited the whole “I’m asking for this just to see if I can get it” behavior, it wasn’t like that here. We’d get in the car, and he’d ask, “So, where to today, buddy?” This was how I learned about comic shops and the back-issue market, as I was always looking for new places for us to go. This took place during the summer, so we’d make these runs about 2 or 3 times a week. Honestly, it got to the point where I had run out of shops and things to buy.

These Fred Sprees were fruitful, as they taught me about local comic stores, like Geppi’s Comic World and Barbarian Books. I also had my introduction to back issues, as I tried to catch up with what the characters had been doing before I got into comics. Geppi’s used to have these $5 grab bags, where you’d just end up with the worst comics. I didn’t know that then, of course. They ALL seemed cool to me, even if it was a Crystar comic from the 80s, or Moon Knight #27. I loved those grab bags because they taught me about other types of books on the market, and they all seemed like these ancient treasures. Even if they were just 10 years old, they felt like these relics from forgotten times. I loved seeing the ads for canceled cartoons and failed breakfast cereals. I also realized that many of them didn’t also didn’t end in one issue, but that just gave me something to search for next time. The seeds were being planted for my love of The Hunt. I was beginning to see comics as things to be collected, and as I had already learned from the Happy Meal toys, I’m a bit addicted to collecting.

*Not actual family. I wasn’t that lame.

Anyway, as this was going on, there was a period where we were almost like a nuclear family. Sure, the aunts and Muddear were still around, but Fred would come by and take Mommy and me to dinner. We’d be in a booth at the Hot Shoppe (that’s for you MD/DC folks!), and I’d be reading an old copy of All-Star Squadron, as they laughed at some joke he just told. I liked that, as it was something I had never had before, but had always seen on TV. It was like I had a mom and a dad, and we were all just happy together.

So, eventually my mom put a stop to the Fred Sprees because she really didn’t think he had changed, and she didn’t want to give him false hope. There was no need for him to waste all his money on comics and toys if it was going to be in vain. Fred stuck around for a while, but he finally moved to Virginia. He died a few years ago, from Alzheimer’s. I could tell he wasn’t necessarily “all there” back in the day, but that was part of his charm. Just another reason I loved him.

So, when I think of “comics as escapism”, I’m not thinking of how cool it would be to be Batman, or what it must be like to live in Metropolis. I fondly think back to the time when I had what society considers a “family”, and how much I liked that feeling. It was fleeting, but comics were there for the whole thing. I can look at a copy of All-Star Squadron now, and it all comes back to me. Maybe that’s more accurately “comics as nostalgia”, but isn’t nostalgia just escapism from the present? Next time, I wrap this all up and bring us to the present.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Five

15th Sep2010

Origin Forever

by Will

OK, so up to this point, we’ve covered my first comic experience, as well as the summer where I fell in love with the medium. At the time, I had no idea that I was on the cusp of a full-on comic explosion! I’m not sure if you’ve been paying close attention to the timeline, but we just ended the summer of 1992. Fall of that same year would mark three very important events that would shape my comic reading hobby. Let’s take a minute to explore those milestones.

On September 5, 1992, Batman: The Animated Series premiered on Fox Kids. We all know how revered the show is, and we all know about the Emmy wins. I wish, however, to point out what the show meant to me.

Unlike most of my generation, I don’t have fond memories of He-Man, Thundercats, or even Transformers. It’s not that I didn’t like those shows, but I just never saw them. I used to carpool with one of the teachers at my school, so I was usually in after school care, waiting for her to finish up for the day. By the time I got home, it would be after 5, and those shows would be over. I might get to catch them on the occasional sick day, but those were rare as I loved school. Just like with Dr Seuss, I’ve tried to go back and understand what I missed, but I guess you”just had to be there”.

The reason that B:TAS was so important to me was the fact that it was the first animated show that was “destination television” for me. I already loved Batman, but most fans will tell you that B:TAS rejuvenated the franchise. Sure, the movies had been great, but the show was the last step needed to cleanse the collective consciousness of the campiness of the 60s show. Don’t get me wrong – I had loved that show, but my comic reading was making me realize that it hadn’t depicted the “real Batman”. Anyway, I found myself taking over my mom’s VCR, programming it to tape B:TAS every day. The more I watched, the more I wanted to know more about the lore. This, in turn, led me to seek out more Batman comics.

A month after Batman premiered, the X-Men cartoon debuted on Fox Kids. I have to admit, I had almost no knowledge of X-Men prior to watching the show. As you learned in the last installment, my Marvel knowledge didn’t extend much outside Spider-Man. The artsy kids (or, as artsy as you could be in 6th grade) at school were really into X-Men, but I just nodded along with their conversations. I kinda knew there was a guy with knives in his gloves, but that was about it.

So, while X-Men also became a VCR staple, it was for different reasons. Whereas Batman had deepened my appreciation for the character, the X-Men cartoon served not only as an introduction, but as a full immersion course. We all know the general Batman stuff off the bat (no pun intended): rich guy, dead parents, bat flies through window, strikes fear in criminals, sometimes has sidekick. X-Men isn’t nearly as accessible. I think 1992 was probably the most accessible period in X-Men history (it was on the eve of that franchise’s 30th anniversary), and that’s still not saying much. It’s kind of jarring to grow attached to the character of Morph, only to get into the comics and find that he never existed prior to the show. It would take a Ph. D to fully understand the X-Men franchise, and I thank this show for getting me in on as close to the ground floor as possible. As with Batman, I had an urge to seek out more X-Men comics to see what I’d been missing.

I remember that my very first issue of the X-Franchise was Uncanny X-Men #297, which made absolutely NO sense to someone only acquainted with the cartoon. It was the tail-end of a huge X-book crossover called “X-Cutioner’s Song”. It came bagged, with a trading card, so I thought I was onto something really special! Now, the X-Men books have had some confusing storylines over the years, but that one still might take the cake for “most convoluted” – and that’s saying a LOT. I stuck with it, though, I only have a slightly better understanding all these years later. Yup, I still have that issue, too.

It was the 3rd event that made all the difference in the world. In the comic world, Fall of 1992 also marked the Death of Superman storyline. I’ve already discussed this in an Adventures West Coast post, but to say this was a BIG DEAL would be an understatement. It also served as a good link to getting through to my mother.

For those who only know me through the internet, my mom had me later than most moms. In fact, she was 43; I was a “surprise”. So, when I first started learning about Superman, I realized that his debut was the month before my mother was born. So, any chance I got, I would use that as a means to open up a dialogue. “Oh, your birthday’s coming up. I know because Superman’s anniversary just occurred.” Yes, it was lame, but what could I do? I thought I was clever! She never had any real love for Superman, so it’s not like this appealed to some part of her. It did, however, allow me a chance to demonstrate how much I knew about, as well as how much I loved, comics.

The whole “death of comic character” gimmick wasn’t common at this point, and the event was getting a LOT of media coverage. I think people at her job had even been talking about it, so she understood the magnitude of it all. I didn’t yet understand the whole concept of miniseries and future solicitations. So, I got her to take me to the comic shop (yes, I had discovered them by this point), so that I could get what I thought was the death of Superman issue. Instead, it was just Part 1 of the storyline. Well, she was already used to my whole “I just need one more” pleas from my days of collecting Happy Meal toys, so this was nothing new. She hated it just as much as she had with the aforementioned toys, but she was used to it. Not only did she take me to get all the books where Superman “returned” as four other characters, but she also took me to get the comic where he really did come back.

I think that mainstream exposure did a lot to let my mom know that comics weren’t just “funnybooks” anymore. She still hated X-Men, though. They were “demonic”, and she threatened to throw away any issues that were left in common areas. Still, we were making progress. Next time, I’ll get into exactly why I love comics.

Part One
Part Two
Part Four
Part Five

14th Sep2010

Origin Zeo

by Will

So, when last we met, I recounted the tale of how I discovered my love for comics. Rather, it wasn’t love at that point, but was more of a passing curiosity. That all changed when Muddear and I went back to Alabama in 1992. At that point, Cephus and his Winnebago were M.I.A., so we ended up taking an Amtrak sleeper for the trip. I can’t read in a car, but I can somehow read in a train. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up about 24 hours.

Not much had changed about me in 3 years, so I still needed to be bribed to make the trip. I no longer had the scooter, so I was really worried as to how I was going to entertain myself while down there. Let me paint a picture for you: we live in the COUNTRY. We didn’t have an indoor toilet until about 1994. There was no cable, and we lived on the side of the highway. Unless you planned ahead, your days would consist of listening to big rigs, watching The Beverly Hillbillies through screen snow and swatting wasps. So, as you can understand, I NEEDED stuff to take with me!

The night before the trip, my mom and aunts took me to Waldenbooks to stock up on supplies. Now, I should also mention that I had a SERIOUS love for the Hardy Boys at this point, but that’s a story for another time. Let’s say that I was reading those as voraciously as I currently read comics. So, I intended to pick up some more Hardy Boys volumes, but realized that I had read all of the books that particular store had to offer. I probably threw a fit, because I’m an only child, plus it sounds like something I would do. At that moment, however, I noticed the spinner rack near the register. I was determined to get something, and since I was doing them a favor by going to Alabama with Muddear (or so my little, disillusioned 11 year old mind thought), they could break the rules a bit. I saw a comic on the stands that caught my eye immediately: Superman, but guest starring Robin. Not just that, it was Robin and Superman fighting VAMPIRES!!! In today’s industry, that comic would solve all of DC’s problems – the true definition of a gateway comic.

So, let’s focus on what we were dealing with here: comic book (bad), Superman (good), Robin (inconclusive), vampires (BAD). These were the factors in play in the middle of that mall bookstore. I appealed to Aunt Mary, ’cause she’s the kindly one of the bunch, even though she’s also the one who would be most opposed to the vampire aspect. I explained that Superman and Robin were FIGHTING the vampires. They were trying to vanquish evil, not become a part of it. Somehow, my Shopping Mall Perry Mason routine won out, and I got the book. Yep, I got the book, but I couldn’t really flaunt the cover, which depicted a vampire chick about to bite Superman’s neck (yeah, I was also the kid who couldn’t have toy guns). I also grabbed some copies of Detective Comics, mainly due to the fact that the covers were innocuous, and “Detective” didn’t sound like something that the aunts could argue about. After all, I’d been reading Hardy Boys, and I didn’t yet realize that Batman also starred in Detective.

So, I got my comics, and hid them away for the night, fearing my family would change their minds and try to throw them away prior to my departure (similar events had occurred – again, for another time). I swear, the minute our train pulled out of Union Station, I was reading those comics. It was exciting, kinda like when you read your first Playboy – plus, the boobs are roughly the same size in both. It wasn’t until I got to the end of the Superman & Robin vs. Vampires adventure that I learned a harsh truth about comic books: the stories don’t all end by the end of the book! Up to this point, all the “real” books I had read had completed their narrative by the final page. I’m sorry, but The Cay and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry didn’t end on cliffhangers! How was I supposed to find out how this ended?! I mean, it was hard enough just getting this issue! How would I even go about finding the next part? Did they only sell comics in certain stores? These were the questions going through my head.

A few days after we got to Alabama, we went to Kroger for groceries. While in the store, I saw a spinner rack full of comics. I was still somewhat burned by the fact that my last comic experience had been…incomplete, but I found myself checking out the books. That’s when something caught my eye; an issue of Action Comics, with Robin and Superman on the cover, still fighting vampires! Was this the same book? How many Superman books were there? When did this come out? Looking at the title page, I thought I had found the next part of the story! Oh happy day! At this point in my life, I had my own allowance, in addition to the money Muddear had been given for me. I grabbed the Superman book, as well as some more Batman comics and went home to finish my story. Years later, I realized I had read them out of order, and this “miraculous” find was actually Part 1. Why were comics so confusing?!

Over the course of that trip, Kroger visits became more regular, as I was trying to find any reason I could for us to go into town. “Muddear, we need bubble bath.” Or “Muddear, I want Spaghetti-O’s without the hot dogs in them.” I was starting to learn that comics came out on a weekly basis. Sure, there wasn’t an issue of Superman each week, but there did seem to be a weekly comic starring Superman, regardless of the title on the cover. I also started stocking up on more Batman comics, as well as G.I. Joe. I had always loved the Joe cartoon, but didn’t know there were comics of that, as well. The comics were grittier than the cartoon, and characters actually seemed to die.

I also found myself branching out, gaining interest in different characters. Superman wore thin quickly, but Spider-Man piqued my interest. He was a down-on-his-luck loser, yet he was married to a hot redhead who was always in his corner. The real kicker, however, was the fact that this summer was actually the 30th anniversary of the character’s first appearance. This meant that there were several comics that featured hologram covers. I don’t know if I’ve ever expressed this, but I LOVE holograms. Sure, it’s a dated “technology”, but I wish holograms were on EVERYTHING! Sure, those books were a bit more expensive, but I was getting an extra-sized comic AND a beautiful hologram cover. In my mind, comics just kept getting better and better!

Needless to say, that summer was FILLED with comics, as I couldn’t get enough of them! Still, my reading was pretty much isolated to DC characters, and Spider-Man. On the train ride home, one of the porters noticed that I was reading comics, and he started a conversation with me. I remember thinking, “Adults read these things?” I’ll never forget that, as it was the first time that I realized that there was a sense of community about all of this. He told me that I should read Marvel comics. I said, “Nah, I’m good with DC.” I remember being excited about the thought of new comics, but feared what my mom would say when I got home. Would she allow me to continue with this hobby? Where would I find comics other than the ones at Waldenbooks? Marvel published books other than Spider-Man? These are the mysteries surrounding my homecoming, and we’ll touch on that next time.

Part One
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

13th Sep2010

At Long Last – My Comic Origin!

by Will

I’ve been wanting to write lately, but really haven’t had much to write about. I’ve been to a LOT of comic cons and stores lately, and it made me realize that I’ve never really explained *how* I got into comics. This isn’t just a blog thing, as many of my “in real life” friends don’t really know this tale either. So, it got me to thinking, and those memories have brought us here. Let’s go for a little ride, shall we?

People never believe this, but I started rudimentary reading at 18 months old. This, combined with the fact that my parents were older, meant that I skipped a lot of “typical” children’s literature. I never had any fairy tales, and I missed out on Dr. Seuss. I probably sound like I snob, but I realize that I truly missed out on some classics. Later, I went back and tried to read The Cat in the Hat, but it was too late – the damage had already been done. So, what did I read? Mainly, I read the Style section of the Washington Post. Yeah, there were pictures, but I also learned a LOT about the television industry.

My mom and aunts loved to encourage my reading, so they were always willing to buy books for me. They, however, had to approve of the books, so the covers couldn’t show anything demonic, and they couldn’t be something that was a “waste of time”, like “funnybooks”. Anyway, they used to make me go to Alabama for the summer with my grandmother. The thing about those trips was that I HATED going, but ending up loving it once I was there. In any case, I would throw a FIT prior to leaving, so they’d always bribe me with books and toys so that I would “be a good boy for Muddear”. Also, Muddear was given money to keep me pacified while down there.

The first time I was sent to Old Dixie was 1989, and my cousin Cephus (we are from the South!) drove us down in his Winnebago. There wasn’t much to do, but I had a scooter, and our front yard had a ditch. If you do the math, you’ll realize that I had my own Fat Kid X-Games event going on. I’m still amazed that I never fell in and died – this was a DEEP ditch. I remember, though, during one of my ditch-jump lulls, buying my first comic at the local bait shop. Rather, I didn’t pay money for it, but it was bought for me by a cousin during an ice run for a cookout. I can’t remember the issue number, but it was a Star Trek comic published by DC. This was during the Original Cast Movie Era, so those were the uniforms they were wearing.

Now, I’m gonna be real honest here: I don’t think I ever even read that thing. I mainly asked for it just to see if I could get it. Yeah, I was that kid. Since I hadn’t really been allowed to go near “funnybooks”, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Plus, I was as much of a Trekkie as you could be at the age of 8 (I’d been watching TNG since its premiere, and had seen all TOS episodes). Seeing it on the stands, it was familiar to me and that’s what I went for. I think it had Klingons in it, but didn’t they all back then? I know that comic made the trip back to Maryland from Alabama, but I really don’t remember what became of it. I guess it got thrown away during one of Muddear’s cleaning jags. The main point is that, while I remember owning it, comics had yet to make any real impact on me. I think I had it more for its connection to Star Trek than for the fact that it was a “forbidden comic book!”

Over the course of the next year, I had another one of those “I wonder if I can get x to buy this comic for me” moments. One Sunday afternoon, my aunt’s boyfriend took me to 7/11. It’s a long story, but here’s the gist of it: Muddear lived on a street in DC that wasn’t exactly the nicest. The ice cream truck came through, and I really wanted ice cream, but Muddear was always of the opinion that the ice cream truck was really just selling crack. So, she wouldn’t let me near it. I think I cried, and Mr. Jackson (my aunt’s bf), who had been doing some work on the house, volunteered to take me to 7/11 for some non-crack ice cream. So, in addition to my Push-Up, I ended up with a Heathcliff comic. Now, I’m not sure if y’all remember, but Heathcliff was the Flavor Aid to Garfield‘s Kool-Aid. He was not the A-list cartoon cat, but I remembered that his cartoon had a really cool theme song (one that I still find myself singing at times). Plus, the kicker was that he was dressed as Batman on the cover. Now, my whole love of Batman extends back to the Super Powers toy line, as well as syndicated reruns of the ’66 show. Surprisingly enough, I had never thought about seeking out Batman comics. This changed all that, as it was the first time I really thought “Wait, Batman started as a comic character, right?” Anyway, I remember that this comic was just a loose parody of the first Michael Keaton movie. Still, it was the first time a comic actually kinda stuck with me, and I still have that book in my collection today. This was not, however, when the collecting bug bit. No, my friends – that happened on the next installment of Will & Muddear’s Alabama Adventures, which I’ll talk about next time.

Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

27th Aug2010

Why Do You All Hate This Boy?

by Will

Seriously, I don’t really understand what has become of humanity. In a world where there are natural disasters, Wall Street corruption, and Sarah Palin to worry about, why are people directing their anger at this child? Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, then you’re already familiar with Justin Bieber. He’s the pop star du jour, adored by teenage girls from coast to coast. Like many North American heartthrobs, he’s a cute blond kid, with a slightly prepubescent voice. For some reason, though, he has become quite the hate magnet. People love to hate this kid! Why? I think it says a lot about our society when people just full on hate someone/thing, even though they really have nothing at stake in the matter.

When we were in middle school, it was the “masculine” thing to hate on a pop star. “Eww, the New Kids are gay!” Yes, this was an ignorant and homophobic time, but you grew up, learned the error of your ways, and laughed whenever you saw that same band on I Love the 90s. Today, however, it’s an older crowd getting in on all the ridicule. I don’t feel that Bieber is so pervasive that he interrupts the flow of your daily life. I haven’t heard him on the radio in months. Sure, I see his face on magazines in the store, but I also see Angelina Jolie equally as much. Why doesn’t someone tell her to stop adopting babies, so Mila Kunis can have a shot at a magazine cover?

Can someone over the age of 21 honestly tell me what their beef is with Justin Bieber? Seriously, don’t you have better shit to do with your life? Don’t you have a job and bills to pay? He’s a kid. Sure, he’s beloved by millions, and he’s worth more than you, but he’s a kid. Yes, his voice is shrill, but it’s changing. For all of his perceived “faults”, you still can’t justify your irrational hatred of him. Plainly put, you’re a hater. Just own up to it, rather than waste the time to unravel the mystery of his celebrity. Teen Heartthrobs aren’t supposed to make sense. They aren’t. There are few requirements: cute, no aversion to attending Teen Choice Awards, and did I mention “cute”? That’s it. If you’re an adult, you’re already out of your wheelhouse, as he’s not for you. Teen Heartthrobs prey on the irrational hormones of teenage girls. If you’re a grown man or woman, weighing in on how you feel about something made for children, you might as well go off and “spread democracy” in some 3rd world country, since you know everything.

How old are you? 30, you say? How about I call your parents, and ask them about those phone bills when you kept calling the Coreys on that hotline? You forgot about that dumb shit, didn’t you? But we let you off the hook, ’cause you were young. At least “Beliebers” have the internet, so their shit is free. You kept Ma & Pa Bell in business with your shenanigans! Sure, grown ups probably thought there was something wrong with you, but they remembered what it was like to fawn over Frankie Avalon or whatever. They had bigger shit to worry about, like The Cold War and New Coke, than to weigh in on how much of a waste of space Corey Feldman may have been.

Sure, you see Bieber’s name a LOT. You also see his picture a LOT. As far as music goes, you kinda have to work to hear a Justin Bieber song. They’re not played in every gas station or Dennys. If you hear a Bieber song, you’re either in Claires or you’re listening to pop radio. If you’re so anti-Bieber, you had no business doing either of those things.

Anti-Bieber Fever seems to have even spread to corporate levels, as demonstrated by Twitter’s recent changes to their Trending Topic algorithm. Say what you will, at the end of the day, it was an anti-Bieber initiative. People had complained that they were tired of seeing him trending all the time. If that’s what people were tweeting about MOST, why shouldn’t it trend? I’m tired of hearing about the various wars we’re fighting, but I can’t complain to NBC and ask them to shift shit around so we only get news about anything other than the wars. Sure, Twitter gave some PR response about how and why the change took place, but now we’re left with runner-up Trending Topics, which are usually about some obscure Korean boyband and their new song “Jelly Rainbow Overdrive (Love Stars)” or something.

Nobody hates Hanna Montana this much, and the same people would say that she “sucks”. Is Disney protecting her? Just from a purely business standpoint, this is a kid who built his way up from YouTube, sparking a bidding war between Usher and Justin Timberlake. It’s a technological Horatio Alger story! Those are two guys who know something about the music business, so they must see something in him. Had he been some kind of money grab promoted by Joe Francis, I’d probably be on the side of the haters. That’s just not a union that I would be able to get behind – like if Chris Brown opened a Pilates studio.

Is it his look that bothers you? It’s not all that uncommon these days, but I still encounter people who can’t stand his look. Well, he looks just like that lesbian barista at that fair trade coffee place you pretend to like. So, maybe you should stop boycotting Target and take some time to deal with your issues.

Something odd has happened with this generation, where passion has paved the way to elitism. In music criticism, as well as that of comics and movies, no one is willing to agree to disagree anymore. You can’t have an intelligent exchange with anyone who disagrees with you – it quickly descends into who can say “that sucks! You have no taste” first. This is bad enough with the layperson – spurred along by gamer culture and the prevalence of high-speed internet. It gets FAR worse with the opinionated, self-proclaimed “expert”, spouting, “I am right and you are wrong. And dumb. And shouldn’t be allowed to breed.” I’ve seen this shit happen! Life’s too short, and there’s too much to really worry about, than to devote the amount of time and hatred that many do toward Justin Bieber and the like. A lot of this is coming from the “cultural elite”, but why is their shit protected while everyone else is fair game? How’d you like it if I started raging on how fat Hurley was on Lost? Motherfucker was on that island for how long, and never lost a pound. “But he was hoarding food…” FUCK YOU! I’m shitting in your sandbox now, and you don’t like it, do you?

So, before everyone starts running their mouths about who does and doesn’t have talent, as well as what is and isn’t culturally worthwhile, why don’t you take a minute to process all the bullshit that you’ve been involved with that didn’t hold much water? Leave Justin alone. He’s not for you. That’s fine. Just be classy about it. You’re an adult, so act like one.

P.S. Stop getting high and watching Spongebob. That shit’s played out.

03rd Aug2010

THIS Is Why I’m Unemployed…

by Will

So, if you follow me on twitter, you tend to get real-time updates on my job search progress. A few weird things have occurred during this whole ordeal. For one job, I was rejected before I even completed the application. I had saved it on the website, and hadn’t gotten around to submitting it with a cover letter. I guess they put a time limit on those things, and just flushed the system, leaving me with a rejection e-mail. For another job, however, I was rejected TWICE. I’m not sure if it was oversight, or the result of a changing of the guard at the organization, but I just wasn’t going to let go without being acknowledged. Here’s what transpired (names have been changed to protect my ass in this litigious society in which we live!):

Dear William West,

Thank you for taking the time to submit your qualifications for the Project Coordinator position at FUNCO, LLC.

We were fortunate to have several qualified candidates apply for the Project Coordinator position. After careful consideration we have determined the qualifications of another candidate are a closer fit to the needs of the position.

We would like to keep your résumé on file for future reference. We wish you every success with your career plans. Thank you for your time and your interest in our company.
Sincerely,

Jane Smith

Recruiter

FUNCO, LLC

Yeah, I figured it was only right that I write back and thank her for considering me. Or at least, one might construe my response as such. You decide:

Hello Ms. Smith,
Thank you for getting back to me. I actually received a rejection
letter a few weeks back from your organization, regarding this same
position, from a Rick Davis. To be rejected twice, I guess you
*really* don’t want me! In any case, thank you for your time,

Sincerely,
William West

That is something that happened. I figured I’d blog it as a preemptive strike, before it turns up on Monster or Careerbuilder as an example of how NOT to act when applying for jobs. Yeah, I did it. I’ll own it. I doubt I’ll end up blacklisted for it, and the world will keep on spinning. I guess my only justification is “rejection hurts”. It’s hard being out there, wearing your heart and credentials on your sleeve, only to be told time and again that you’re not good enough. Was my response in poor taste? Sure, but I had just hit my limit. Hopefully, she read it in the tongue-in-cheek tone in which it was meant, but it seems that people don’t realize jokes in electronic correspondence these days unless you end with “jk” or “lol”. So, if you’re reading this “Ms. Smith”, jk!

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