Plastic City Comic Con 2017 Recap

This past weekend I attended the second Plastic City Comic Con. This year the show made the jump from a small VFW hall in Leominster to the mighty Wallace Civic Center in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. I saw my first concert at the Civic Center, and for decades the venue used to sub as the “Boston” leg for many top-tier band tours. The concerts stopped for some reason and the place became primarily a hockey facility. Plastic City Con knocked out some of the spiritual cobwebs and brought the place back to life for one Saturday afternoon, and that was cool to see.

First – huge props to convention organizers Keith and Amy Gleason. They are truly nice people and fantastic organizers. I’ve known Keith for like 20 years and he’s always been super friendly and down to earth, which is surprisingly rare in the comic book world. Keith and his crew kicked ass and expertly coordinated the logistics of the con. It’s like they were made to do this, and it’s awesome to bear witness to the successful execution of it all.

It was a pretty casual show for me. After doing a slew of cons in 2016, I streamlined my gear and it all fits into two compact milk crates, along with a banner stand, table cloth, and lightweight shelving unit. Setting up my table took like 5 minutes.

I didn’t do any carnival-barker selling this show, I just let people come up and browse the books. To my surprise, I covered expenses before noon.

My grandpa passed away earlier this month and in cycling through the various stages of grief, perspective hasn’t so much been gained as it has been forced upon me. I think one of my main takeaways from the last few weeks has been to stop wasting time and energy trying to appeal to those who don’t get me or completely misjudge me (turns out that’s a great many people) and conversely be more open and about recognizing and appreciating those who do. Basically I have no time for people who take themselves too seriously, especially in the godforsaken world of funny books.

To the comics themselves- Colonial Comics was a big hit! I sold out of copies pretty early on. I’m proud to be part of it, and the local connection really intrigued folks. I enjoyed talking about the research into my Worcester County-based story. Crypt Zero is apparently my “sophomore slump” book. Interest seems low for a one-off black and white sci-fi ghost story, but whatever. I’m glad it exists. Voodoo Bird, an 8 page pamphlet of a comic, somehow still captures the popular imagination, but it was all about the trades and anthology collections this show- Colonial Comics, 27 Club, Shakespeare Shaken.

Con highlights: I wasn’t in much of a networking mood, but it was great to see local author Sean Sweeny (I pointed locals to his table throughout the day, North Central represent!), Dario and the squad from That’s Entertainment, Cody Sousa writer of CROAK was cool and had the table next door, along with Alterna Comics publisher Peter Simeti (thanks for the tote bag!). I have an ad running in several of Alterna’s newsprint titles, so check them out.

Special thanks to everyone who picked up my comics and to all the friends and family who came by to say hi and provide caffeine support. Super appreciated.

Plastic City year 2 was a good day for me and an even better day for Fitchburg and Leominster in general. So often Worcester County folks are forced to drive across multiple zip codes to do anything. If our cities and towns where in Utah they’d have their own broadcast TV stations. But alas, we’re sort of culturally neglected up here in the great northlands, eclipsed by the Boston behemoth. Plastic City adds much to the area and I hope there are many more iterations of it to come.

Posted in Comics, Meta, Writing Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Attack of the Localize Mother 3 Sign Clones!

Oh my. What have I done.

Genie is out of the bottle, kids. The Localize Mother 3 mindgerm has been released and is infecting the population at pandemic levels. Now something akin to a full-scale psyops campaign is underway.

Since unleashing the neon pink scourge upon the world last April at a taping of WWE Smackdown, the Localize Mother 3 sign meme has bubbled up in some surprising places.
First, there was the Women’s March in Washington D.C. back in January:

Incredible. The true passion is evident, and extra points for some sharp dabbing.

Lest you think these signs were just coincidental, let me point out that these good folks specifically stated “…I want to be iconic like those people at the WWE matches…”

ICONIC.

Then, this past Sunday night, Localize Mother3 signs once again invaded the collective unconscious with primo primetime placement during WWE’s Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View event. These events are a huge deal, drawing in way more viewers than a lowly Smackdown taping. Twitter user @magypsyparty took things to a whole new level. The homage was evident, continuing the use of the trademark neon pink signage and keeping the message to the classic, simple “Localize Mother 3.”

The execution was perfect, once again the internet exploded, and the end result was nothing short of wonderful.

Every Localize Mother 3 sign sighting is conceivably somebody’s first, and that’s what really warms the empty cavity where my heart should be. Inevitably, someone will ask “What is this about?” and that in turn leads to conversations about Mother 3, and every conversation about old Japanese video games is one that’s not about stupid politics or war or famine or global warming, and gee, maybe we could all use just a small sliver of that relief. We didn’t start the fire, etc.

Is Localize Mother 3 a movement at this point? I’m not sure what the official benchmark is, but I’m willing to lean toward yes. Momentum is funny thing, and human interactions still have a curious intersection with reality, hyper-weird as it may be in the information age. Monkey videos still make me laugh, for example, and something as daringly stupid as a sign about a forgotten video game hits in similar territory. I’m not sure why, but it all makes me feel good, or at least temporarily not bad. And maybe, just maybe, somebody at Nintendo is seeing all this hoopla and smiling.

Posted in Games, In the News, Inspiration, Meta Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

“Independent punk rock master of darkness”

The good folks at Monkeys Fighting Robots were kind enough to do a Creator Spotlight write-up on me and highlight my recent comics Voodoo Bird and Crypt Zero. Writer Brandon Griffin described me as an “independent punk rock master of darkness”, which, y’know, I’ll take. Check out the feature here:

Creator Spotlight: Erik Radvon

 

 

Posted in Comics, Meta, Writing Tagged with: , , , ,

The Last Jedi, and a new hope for weird Star Wars

The Force Awakens isn’t a bad movie. It does what it sets out to do. The issue I had with it is it didn’t seem to aspire to do very much. It played it so safe, over-pivoted so hard from the unrestrained zaniness of the Lucas prequels that, while a fun ride, it left me wanting a whole lot more.

A common refrain heard when The Force Awakens was released was that JJ Abrams had essentially remade the original 1977 Star Wars (now known as Episode IV: A New Hope). Revisiting TFA and digesting it more in the time since its theatrical run, it struck me that JJ hadn’t remade A New Hope at all, but instead channeled Raiders of the Lost Ark as his template in some substantial ways. From the selection of Lawrence Kasdan as his writing partner (not a writer on A New Hope, but the main writer on Raiders) to the desert locales, practical effects, Indiana Jones-esque fireball explosions, an old lightsaber mulligan driving the plot, and even Harrison Ford back in action, TFA’s callbacks to Raiders are many and varied. Add to that the fact that JJ’s directing style, both in TFA and his career in general, is unabashedly modeled after Raiders director Steven Spielberg, with absolutely none of the esoteric flourishes used by George Lucas providing any influence at all. TFA is a glimpse at the Spielberg-directed Star Wars film we never had.

None of this is a critique. Raiders is one of the greatest action-adventure movies of all time and there are far, far worse things to use as inspiration. Delivering a high-octane action romp, introducing an entirely new generation of characters, and setting the stage for perhaps decades more worth of Star Wars stories is no small feat, and JJ completely pulled it off in TFA. But for anyone looking for a sequel to Return of the Jedi, the continuation of the Skywalker saga was basically punted to the next films. My favorite scene in The Force Awakens is its last. Rey discovering long-lost Luke Skywalker on his island refuge (or is it prison?), once again calling back to Raiders– a sort of reverse unpacking of its final scene showing the Ark being shelved in a vast, soul-crushing government warehouse. There’s a strong similarity to both endings for me, particularly in how they reverberate with uneasy energy and leave you with a strange sense of closure laced with lingering questions.

Which brings us to today and the arrival of a new trailer for a new Star Wars episode (already!). It’s called The Last Jedi, and so far I love what I’ve seen. It’s tough to make sweeping judgments from a few short sequences, but the overwhelming sense I get from The Last Jedi trailer is that we should expect the unexpected from this entry. There’s no “Chewie, we’re home” applause line comfort food, and no hype-ratcheting mystery box techniques at work. Quite the opposite. The Last Jedi looks to be jumping into the story deep-end with both feet, putting forth its premise directly and boldly, and in the process challenging everything- its characters, young and old, and perhaps its audience too.

For me, everything about The Last Jedi is clicking in a way that The Force Awakens never did, from the trailer footage to its starkly beautiful poster. Maybe it’s due to it having a singular purpose this time around. Unshackled from the complex corporate mandate of making Star Wars stable again and all the various ramifications involved in relaunching a billion-dollar property for a new generation, it looks like director Rian Johnson and producer Kathleen Kennedy have swung the pendulum solidly back into unsafe territory, to a place of unafraid storytelling with all the risks that entails. The prequels were deeply flawed, but damned if they weren’t endlessly creative and strangely daring in their determination to tell their story. Where TFA delivered a safe steadying ground for Star Wars to regroup, The Last Jedi looks ready to shake things up again. It gives me renewed hope that the franchise will get a little dark and a little weird.

The cinematography here is richer and more naturalistic than the high-gloss action look we got from JJ’s film, and the overall tone seems more intense. Luke Skywalker, the character who defines all things Star Wars to me and probably most others who cut their teeth on TV broadcasts and battered VHS copies of the original trilogy, is featured quite prominently. The Force Awakens jump-started Star Wars, but The Last Jedi looks like the movie I’ve been waiting for since the credits rolled on Return of the Jedi. There are hints in the trailer that the answer to the question “Whatever happened to Luke Skywalker?” may be more complex than we thought.

Watch the trailer here:

Posted in Movies Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Logan: Here comes tomorrow

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I still remember my first introduction to the X-Men. It was a Super Bowl sometime in the mid 80s, one of the Montana years. I was dragged along in tow with my family to a neighbor’s party. They had a son, older than me, and we were paired off as the adults engaged in their wing eating and Bud Light drinking. I somehow announced that I was into comics, and this kid’s ears perked up. “Oh, do you read X-Men?” For some reason at this young age I had attributed all things “X” with meaning adults only, as in X-Rated. Like Dustin Hoffman’s tormentor in Marathon Man, I sheepishly asked this unknown older kid “Is it safe?” He laughed, and handed me an issue. I’ll never forget the cover- Mr. Sinister a towering giant, the strange and colorful cast of X-Men characters tumbling from his hand into an abstract inferno below. In its pages I found everything I had been looking for. Like so many others, I had just found my new favorite comic.

17 years after Bryan Singer’s X-Men hit the big screen, ushering in a franchise of nearly a dozen sequels and spinoffs, Logan arrives as a dark bookend to all that has come before. The film sets out to serve as a swan song for actors Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, there since the beginning as Wolverine and Professor X respectively, but it manages to accomplish so much more. Channeling a hallmark device of the X-Men comic series, Logan jumps ahead to a strange future. We recognize some of the characters, but their world and surroundings are a twisted fun-house mirror distortion of the reality we thought we knew, a crushing alternate pathway from the future we had hoped for. The jolting futureshock of Logan instantly reminded me of some of the X-Men’s best comics moments, unexpected issues like Grant Morrison and Mark Silvestri’s “Here Comes Tomorrow!” and Claremont and Byrne’s “Days of Future Past.” These stories jumped ahead of the standard storyline without warning, and delivered ominous, heartbreaking looks at “what ifs?”, possible outcomes from our current state of being. When the action shifted back to the regularly scheduled superhero hijinks, these dark stories lingered overhead, potent undercurrents steadily pulling events ever-so-closer to the brief glimpses of those frightening possibilities. Logan accomplishes the film version of this, adding weight to the entire library of somewhat uneven entries to the X-Men film series.

Through its thick veneer of bleak anguish, Logan is ultimately a hopeful movie. It is a bit daring in its approach, focusing on ideas and characters rather than an abundance of special effects or flashy setpieces. The plot takes us through such unillustrious places as the US-Mexico border, a bland casino in Oklahoma City, and the desolate cornfields of the American heartland. Its characters, from the hero formally known as Wolverine throughout the entire supporting cast, are all in various stages of crisis, not so much facing down super villains as they are fleeing threats that feel very personal, immediate, and real. The movie somehow even manages to break a Hollywood curse and showcases compelling child actors, one of which completely steals this show.

Logan also surprised me by making many unexpected statements about our world- our present and perhaps our future- but by far my favorite statement it makes is something of a reflection on the nature of faith and comic books. Comics are a bizarre religion, readers often indoctrinated young and sticking with the practice/habit/vice throughout their entire life. “It’s all made up bullshit,” Logan himself paraphrases. But with comics, the meaning is the reader’s to create, to define, to cherish. How many found themselves in between those panels? How many kids felt hated and feared in their own everyday lives, in big cities and little towns all around the world, just like the X-Men did in their fictional Westchester mansion? My personal childhood brand of was mutandom was being left-handed, introverted, living with my grandparents, and being seemingly completely out of sync with the nuclear family dominated suburbia fabric around me. For others it was race, gender, sexuality, religion, or maybe just an overriding sense of otherness. Whatever the trajectory, the focal point was Uncanny X-Men, the dominant comic book title for nearly two decades straight, the pop culture centerpiece for an entire ill-defined, misunderstood generation. Logan does the best job of any major comic book of capturing the essence of and paying homage to what comic books are all about, a point that arrives thoroughly unexpected and with surprising emotional heft. Logan dares to ask “What’s all this spandex and universe building really all about?” and does more than its fair share in attempting to answer it.

In the end, Hugh Jackman and team have to feel pretty satisfied with how they’re bowing out from their long X-Men drama. Logan is easily the best of their collective efforts, and it leaves a somber, touching high water mark to propel the series going forward. No matter where 20th Century Fox takes the X-Men films in the post-Jackman/Stewart era, they would be wise to ensure that the stark warnings and hopeful spirit of Logan aren’t quickly forgotten.

Posted in Comics, Movies Tagged with: , , , ,

Colonial Comics: New England 1750 – 1775

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Colonial Comics New England: 1750-1775 is here, and it is a great looking book. I’m humbled to be in the company of so many talented comic creators. The variety of styles, voices, and stories assembled by Jason Rodriguez and his team really makes this a unique and special collection.

My contribution is titled “The Call Up” (the Clash are never far from mind…) and features artwork from Noel Tuazon and colors by Rob Croonenborghs. It tells a story of civil disobedience that took place in Central Massachusetts in 1774. Two years before the events of Lexington and Concord, the working class people of Worcester County wrestled independence from the world’s most powerful empire. Not a shot was fired.

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I took an approach you might call “cinematic dreamy” for this story. With the guidance and support of Jason, I stripped the original script of its considerable verbiage and produced a silent piece focused exclusively on the actions of those in 1774. I looked to Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick for inspiration, in the sense that without captions or dialogue balloons it was essential that my script made every frame count, every shot a potent sigil of feeling, light, tone, and life. I was frankly startled by how readily and immediately Noel and Rob brought my vision into reality. Sometimes you get lucky, and this time I got extremely lucky.

Colonial Comics is available at bookstores nationwide, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, and more:

Amazon (Trade Paperback)
Amazon (Kindle)
Barnes and Noble
Target

Posted in Comics, History, Writing Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Running on Empty in Winter 2017

Hello from the depths of winter 2017. My mental, physical, and spiritual reserves are at their natural nadir. The days are rusty gears grinding away- not much goes easy, but the job is getting done nonetheless. It was 65 degrees yesterday, in February, and the warm wind was exhilarating in its apocalyptic wrongness.

I’ve moved, set up shop in a typical old New England house in a typical old New England town surrounded by typical old New England people. I have a neighbor named Emil, a French Canadian, which makes sense in a place called French Hill, so at least some things still have a shred of meaning. My world is now Home Depot and paint and fumes and nails and mostly constant physical pain, all of which suits the season well. I feel like a light of relief is somewhere at the end of this tunnel, rays of sunshine cutting through dense clouds of suspended asbestos and 100 year-old dust. We’ll see come spring.

Somehow, amidst all this, writing efforts continue to chug along. I have a new story out in a handsome collection called Colonial Comics Volume II, edited by Jason Rodriguez. I’ve also finally begun promoting Crypt Zero, my indie comic completed late last year with artist Rob Croonenborghs and letters by Micah Myers. Details on where to get Colonial Comics and Crypt Zero are below. Looking ahead, the plate tectonics of new projects are slowing smashing together in my mind. I’d like to get two new books birthed into reality this year, one a companion piece of sorts to Crypt Zero, meaning more pulpy sci-fi with little commercial prospects, and the other something completely different- a teenage drama piece set in the glorious 1990s. American Graffiti/Dazed and Confused for the Clinton era. Again, we’ll see come spring.

Crypt Zero
Spaceman-for-hire Commander Dal is sent to a remote planet on a scouting mission. He finds an ancient crypt and a whole lotta talking dead things. A pulpy sci-fi thriller in the classic EC Comics tradition. Written and Published by Erik Radvon. Art by Rob Croonenborghs. Letters by Micah Myers.
Available for purchase online: http://radvon.com/comics/crypt-zero/
Available for retail purchase: That’s Entertainment, Fitchburg, MA

Colonial Comics, Volume II: New England, 1750–1775
A collection of original comic stories edited by Jason Rodriguez, Colonial Comics brings new takes and shines a light on untold stories from America’s colonial period. This volume features my story “The Call Up” with art by Noel Tuazon and colors by Rob Croonenborghs.
Buy it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2lNi3fj

Posted in Comics, Meta, Projects, Writing Tagged with:

Cheap Thrills of a Cheap Age

So you kick out 3 million.

Does the factory reopen? Do the shops come back to the decimated main street you walked as a kid? Do the Cadillacs roll by blasting something by Brenda Lee? Is everyone smiling and happy? Are things the way they ought to be?

Maybe you hear less Spanish at the grocery store, and maybe that makes you happy. Puts you less on edge. Lets you unclench for a moment as a wave passes over – we got ’em. We are boss here.

Cheap thrills of a cheap age, fake gold everywhere.

Interwar Berlin was a pinnacle of human endeavors- art, science, music, fashion. Folks there didn’t roll out of bed one day and decide to hate Socialists and exterminate the Jews. It came from the fringes, seeped in like an inkblot, and boiled underneath the surface. But when things got tough the brownshirts’ hate-talk found its opening and erupted through volcanos of angry workers until something very dangerous happened- it all began to feel good.

“Fuck ’em all” is the rallying cry of a broken and dispirited people. It’s a fuse that once sparked cannot be unlit. Deport 3 million, then 5, then 7, then- fuck it- all 11. The factory remains closed, the Cadillacs do not return, the smiles are still phantoms and, damn it all to hell, you still hear Spanish and Cambodian at the grocery store. How are they still here? They’re laughing, aren’t they? They’re laughing at us. Let’s take a look at them. Papers, please.

Legal, illegal, documented, undocumented- when the blood starts pumping none of that matters. We are past reason. What this is about is the cheap thrill of a boot to the face. Like junkies, once the taste is acquired there is no remedy but for more, more, more. It begins with immigrants, but it certainly won’t end there.

“Tear down this wall!” was the ultimate expression of American excellence, delivered with perfect timing and moral authority by one of our finest actors, who also did a stint as president. Now the inheritors of his legacy don red hats and fill stadiums demanding the opposite. From wall destroyers to wall erectors in a generation.

Walls might keep out the brown people blamed for society’s ills but cannot withstand the judgment of history. Each brick stacked robs us of something that will never be returned.

But it’s too late for any of that now. Morality, sentimentality – out the window. A new situation is underway. Cheap thrills rule the day, and the only hope is the future. Meet you there.

Posted in History, In the News, Writing

Crypt Zero – Postmortem ramblings about making an indie comic

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This is the afterword for Crypt Zero, produced by the writer version of Erik Radvon, and axed from publication by the budget-minded publisher version of Erik Radvon. It is presented here as a companion piece to the comic book.

Welcome to the Land of the Living, Crypt Zero

All living things share the same plodding movement. It’s unmistakable. From a spider wobbling out from under the floorboards to a lion chasing down a gazelle. We’re no different. Energy in motion, yes, but also matter robotically propelled through 4D timesoup motion pictures that our brain puts together as “reality.” In this sandbox, whatever it may be, we play out the same old schoolyard dramas. Babes in the dirt. Fussing, fighting, and generally making a mess of everything.

As we gracelessly tumble through existence, certain acts have replayed themselves, over and over, maybe for even longer than we know. All our science, all our religion, and there’s still a gnawing sense that the real secrets of our Whateververse are locked away in some dusty old attic. Somewhere out there waiting for us to find it. And so we go. We move. Energy in motion, matter plodding, grace be damned.

From a machete in the jungle to a robot probe around an icy moon, humans tend to engage in activity rather unlike any other mammal. Squirrels don’t write operas, and they sure as shit don’t calculate insertion orbits. It’s not just intelligence though. This has nothing to do with evolution. This has to do with heart (the concept, not the organ). This is about soul. This is about the unifying homesickness that seems to permeate all human endeavors. Where the hell are we trying to go? Why have we always felt so out of place in our own home?

We keep ourselves busy with philosophy and technology and sport and war, but when we stare down reality it all seems like noise, a falseness so obvious that its persistence almost entirely proves that other forces at work. The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote “Almost immediately, reality yielded on more than one account. The truth is that it longed to yield.” Like the cat that ate the canary, we can’t seem to quite fully suppress the urge to spring the trap, to let the formulas and scriptures fall aside for a bit and realize, with wonder, that we will only ever understand what we see, and what we see is undoubtedly an illusion.

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Pages from Crypt Zero being proofed for the printer.

Is this all too much for a comic book? Probably. Maybe. I dunno. I have stones in my kidneys keeping me up way too late and, you know, the witching hour and all that. Maybe I’m loopy on grinding, ever-present pain. Maybe I just want to reflect the strangeness that I feel when I close my eyes onto you, knowing that you have felt it too, dear reader, of my time or thereafter.

Which brings me to the space ghost. Ghosts are real, of course, because we say they are, just like mountains and tables and overly complex tax forms. None of it is anything without a set of eyes to define it as being something. None of it vibrates without with a hand on the quantum guitar, plucking the strings by an eternal campfire. Why write a story about a space ghost? Because true power hardly ever really dies, because the worst ideas of humanity have somehow stuck around, even as we build better televisions and create tastier permutations of chicken. And because some poor sucker always ends up springing the trap (sorry, Commander Dal). I used a ghost because nothing quite shows the illusion more than the illusions we create ourselves.

Shakespeare was fond of ghosts. Hamlet’s ghost dad told him this:

“But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres.”

Like stars.

Ok. Crypt Zero. This is my second independently published comic. I think of myself primarily as a writer, but my wife reminds me that putting together a project like this is above and beyond pounding out a script, so I guess I’m a publisher too. Joining me on this adventure once again are artist Rob Croonenborghs and letter Micah Myers, the creative force that brought you my first comic, Voodoo Bird.

When I reached out to Rob about doing another story together, he mentioned a fondness for drawing human faces and staying away from mech and tech. So I sent him a script featuring a (then) faceless person in a spacesuit doing all sorts of stuff that could be construed as “sci-fi.” Rob gave the script a read though, and thankfully he saw through the surface trappings and found something. Rob’s contributions to the story are enormous- giving the somewhat sternly scripted Dal a personality, a face, and piercing eyes. He took a story set on a barren and dead environment and filled it with energy and life. I’m so grateful for Rob’s work in bringing this to you.

Freshly minted print editions of Crypt Zero.

Freshly minted print editions of Crypt Zero.

The script also called for a somewhat funky distributions of text, interlacing spacesuit translation voiceover with untranslated alien-speak. Micah Myers gave these words the necessary treatment, and the book would not have worked at all without this.

I’m going to do a pretentious shoutout to my comic book heroes, people whose work has somehow brought me to the point of wanting to make comics and given me the inspirational wherewithal to make it happen. In no particular order- Wally Wood, Jack Kirby, Steve Gerber, Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Rob Liefeld, Jeff Smith, Shelly Bond, Phil Hester, J.M. DeMatteis, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Karen Berger, and the late, great Dwayne McDuffie.

Thank you for leading the way, and for sending the elevator back down.

I don’t have enough words to thank my wife Jessika. Whenever I doubted, whenever I questioned, whenever I balked at the costs or time or effort, her response was steadfast- “Do it.” I couldn’t have with you.

Final thanks to you, dear readers. Your support is everything.

The dusty attic beckons.

Posted in Comics, Writing Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

All Good Things…

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It was the 50th anniversary of Star Trek this past week. I didn’t have much time to revisit it, but all the headlines struck me as I went about my busy adult-life tasks.

Star Trek is a live wire topic. Dropping the name alone is like lighting a bonfire, signaling to all that there is some deep geek shit going on. It’s hard to sound cool talking about Star Trek. Star Trek is not cool.

It is incredibly earnest though. It speaks truth to power. Beneath all the techno-babble and alien makeup, Star Trek is a series of stories, stories designed to explore some facet of being alive. At its best, it does it truthfully, emotionally, and without restraint. And really there’s nothing much cooler than that.

Next Generation was the jam for me, maybe for my entire age group, the forgotten future. We were that next generation, the Class of 2000, vanguards of the 21-st century. It’s strange how things tumble over and over again, a clumsy cycle. The Star Trek of the present is a muscular reimagining of the past, the Technicolor ‘60s Kirk and Spock stuff brought back again, with sleek styling and overcharged energy . It’s seen as “getting back to basics”, something that’s happening all across the culture. The comics, games, music, movies, TV shows, novels of the 80s / 90s are seen as having gone astray, of being somehow inferior mishaps compared to the purity of the things from the generations before and after. The once imagined future from the era of Reagan through Clinton is now a kind of shoddy near-past, and the ideas from that time- they’re missteps, flat tonics, not what people really want. Or so we’re told. In any case, a lot of people in Hollywood are making loads of money pitching it as such. Maybe in 20 years or so a new breed will take another look at the situation.

The present state says, in deeds rather than words, forget The Next Generation and forget Jar-Jar Binks and forget Nirvana (now a popular t-shirt), because that was all so, like, wrong or something. The smart kids from the 70s are in charge now and they are figuring it all out, giving the people what they really want. That 80s stuff was all too cheesy or something.

My favorite Star Trek thing, hands down, is the last episode of The Next Generation, “All Good Things…”. It’s a melancholic standard-definition 4:3 television epic, which with each passing year feels more and more like something from another epoch. But I remember the day it aired like it was yesterday. We taped it. My grandfather, a winemaker, particularly liked it, with scenes of Picard tending his vineyard.

That night, I felt a rush of exhilaration when the overlong episode ended. I couldn’t wait for what was to come. There would be movies, a bigger platform, and surely bigger stories to come. Now I look back and realize that it never really got any better.

“All Good Things…” is the quintessential Star Trek story because it’s not so much science fiction as it is about the human mind and the human heart, and the relentless beatdown time puts on both of them.

I feel a bit like Picard leaping through time as I write this. I was, what, a 13-year-old boy when it aired? I sit here now a 35-year-old man, and I can go back there, to the big old square TVs and the VCRs and my grandparents and the whole thing. It’s just like that, snap, and it’s there. The past is always with us, as much as the present, as much as the future.

That’s the central brilliance of “All Good Things…” It’s not about scientific time travel. It’s not about spaceships or funky uniforms. It’s about how we all travel through time, on little treks, simply by existing. It’s about life and how it passes, slowly, quickly, in spurts and all at once. The faces, the friends, the family, the regrets, the mistakes, the things that matter. You can taste the future right behind the fabric of the now, hanging there just waiting to happen, and traveling to the past is just a flutter of the eyelids away. Always.

And all that is out of fashion these days, all that saccharine stuff about life, the universe, and everything is sort of seen as too serious or too obvious or too boring or not enough about our “troubled times” or problematic or whatever the hell. I don’t know. I have come to realize that I am rapidly being left behind. Someday it will be hard to explain it all. 50 years from now, who will understand? It feels tough to translate 1994 as it stands now.

I suspect I’ll do what my grandfather did. I’ll seek out some land to grow grapes on, and spend my days tying up vines in the sun, until time has its way with me.

To boldly go where no one has gone before. It’s what we’re all doing, in our own way. How many stories have we forgotten? How many stories get left behind?

It’s ok though. It’s all one story, really. It’s all the same human story, from Shakespeare to starships.

“All Good Things…” makes me feel sad and happy and engaged (no pun intended) all at once. It still plays for me, dammit. It plays for me just like it did when I was 13 with a cassette tape in my hand. It will play for me when I’m old, some kids or grandkids around me laughing at the old man with his old shows. Maybe they’ll see something in it.

What I enjoy most about “All Good Things…” is that it does a good job of illuminating one of the rare truths we know about existing- in one way or another, despite being vulnerable to the forces of nature and the malignant aspects of humanity, we somehow have the subtle power to carve out our own realities. We plant and tend and harvest our own existence through a curious blend of past, present, and future. It’s all given form, this strange structure called life. Nothing is wild, sky’s the limit.

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