Monday, April 06, 2015
In a recent article in The Atlantic, it was claimed that experiences trump materialistic rewards. I buy that.
When I was 19 years old and had a little disposable income for the first time in my life, I bought every comic book that Marvel and DC put out, and some selected independent titles as well. I was a collector. I carefully handled every comic, then put it in a bag with an acid-free backing board.
Thirty-one years later, I still buy comics, but I only buy what I like, and once they're available digitally on sale, I'll get rid of the floppy issues if they're worth anything. I would rather have all of my comics available to read on my iPad than to have physical copies that I have to haul with me on vacations and on planes and trains when I'm on business trips, which I take often now. Life has changed.
Back then, I started collecting superhero action figures, too. I was given the first Batman and Superman Super Powers figures, and I bought the rest. And the Secret Wars figures. All of them. I even worked at Toys R Us, and chose my figures from the cases when they were brought out to the floor. There were few enough of the figures back then, that I could keep up. There's no way I could do that now. I'd love to collect the Mego-like World's Greatest Heroes figures, but investing in my own business supersedes that want.
Then in my late 20s and early 30s, it was Magic The Gathering cards, and then other card games, Star Trek and Star Wars, mostly. Then it was original comic book art. I had some great pieces by some great artists. Take, for example, this George Perez New Teen Titans page, shown here. I had pieces by Greg Land, Norm Breyfogle, Tom Grummett, Dick Dillin, Brent Anderson, Bill Reinhold, Denys Cowan, Larry Stroman, you name it.
Then my daughter came along. When we adopted Sera in 2007, I gave it ALL up. Everything. I sold off all my action figures, all my original art (except one page, which has sentimental attachment and is worth only about $50), and all of my comic books. I still have quite a few things about me, including trade paperbacks and hardcover collections of comics. But all the valuable stuff is long gone.
Since beginning my journey of being a comic book creator, the collecting bug has lost its bite. I go to comic book conventions and buy little. I pick up a little souvenir for Sera, usually a sketch card or two, or something My Little Pony related, but nothing for me. There's just nothing in it for me anymore. I'd rather have money to pay artists to draw my creations and bring my dreams to life. When I run my Kickstarter, whenever my upcoming hardcover book is finished, I will be using the original art from the book as incentives. I will keep none of it. My wife asks me, are you sure you don't want to keep it? I always laugh and say no. A high-res scanned print will look just as nice in a frame on my wall if I want to display it and I won't have to worry about it being destroyed in a storm. I will even sell my George Perez portrait of La Calculadora. Yes, he's one of my absolute favorites, but the joy of receiving it from him and publishing it will always be a memory that I will never forget. And whenever I see him, he recognizes me as "that math guy!" That story alone is worth more to me than the actual physical piece of Bristol board.
In contrast, I read a post on Facebook yesterday about a man who has every key Marvel Silver Age comic, including Fantastic Four #1, in a safe deposit box and takes them out occasionally to enjoy them. Then he puts them back. He has literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in comics that he has to go to the bank to see.
I went to Las Vegas last summer to speak at the American Library Association annual conference, and I will be talking about that experience for years. Being wined and dined by an international publisher, being applauded and recognized for my work, traveling throuh Utah and Arizona seeing family, all of it was wonderful. I'd rather do that than be able to say, "Hey, look at this copy of Fantastic Four #1!" I can read Fantastic Four #1 whenever I want. It's on my iPad.
Saturday, April 04, 2015
I was an abused child. My mother and father swapped spouses with another couple in 1970-71 after my mother caught my father cheating with the neighbor lady. The neighbor's husband didn't take kindly to that, and my mother and he had an affair right back.
I was almost six when it started. My brother had just been born. The next year was spent making weekend visits where they went into their various bedrooms and did whatever, while we kids, my brother and me on one side, and the other couple's three children on the other, all bunked together.
Finally, one day, the other husband, Steve, came to pick us up and took me away from my home. My mother was very pregnant with his child, and we went to live with him. The beatings began shortly after. The first time he hit me, we were having dinner and I don't know if I was chewing with my mouth open or had my elbows on the table, but I was sitting to his right and he hit me so hard in the face that he knocked me over the back of my chair. I got up off the floor with blood filling my mouth, and cried. I had no idea what I had done. Later, I figured it out. It wasn't table manners that had gotten me hit. It was the fact that I was the son of the man who had taken his wife and I looked like him. I was a daily reminder of the loss of his family. I don't excuse his behavior. I am explaining his behavior.
I spent the next five years being beaten virtually every day. It wasn't always so nice as a backhand to the face. Mostly, he had me take my pants down, and beat me on my bare behind with a 14" ruler from DeNooyer Chevrolet in Battle Creek. It was wooden on one side, and metal on the other. It was affectionately called (by him), "The Stick." You know, as in "Shut up, or you'll get The Stick." "You're getting The Stick when we get home." The police were called at different times because of all the screaming that my little brother (age 1) and I were doing, and the police examined the welts on our behinds. They did nothing. We got it worse after they left, just to prove the point that there was no one who could stop him.
But the problem with corporal punishment is, it loses effectiveness after a while. I still remember the day when I was 11 and in 5th grade and The Stick lost its power over me. We were living in Allegan, Michigan, and Linda Ronstadt's Heart Like a Wheel was playing and he was going to town on my butt. And I wasn't crying. He hit harder. I wasn't crying. I just decided that I wasn't going to feel it anymore. He told me that I'd better cry or he'd keep hitting me. I wasn't crying. I felt like I had won a victory. Then he punched me.
The beatings continued to get worse throughout the next year. I would go to school with a black eye and he would tell me to tell my teacher I fell. I didn't. I told my teacher that my stepfather had punched me in the eye because he had taught me not to lie. Didn't matter, though. Nothing happens when your mother works at the Department of Social Services. This is before there were child protective services. The beatings grew so severe that my mother finally decided to let me go live with my father, who had divorced the woman with whom he had cheated, and had remarried to a third wife. I didn't tell my dad what had happened because they still had my brother and I had been told what would happen to him if I told on them. So, I kept it quiet. I kept it quiet until my brother got the same opportunity six years later and there was no one left to hurt. Or, so I thought. When he started beating on my mother, she finally left him for good.
This little vignette only catalogs a fraction of the physical abuse. There was far, far more physical abuse as well as emotional abuse. I just had to do something to deal with the feelings I had when I was watching Outlander tonight and the alleged "hero" started beating Claire's bare behind with a belt. I had to clear the room quickly. Writing this helped get a little bit of the anger out. There's a lot of that. That it still comes on this strongly after 38 years is just amazing to me. The impressions made in childhood truly cannot be underestimated. I know I'll never get over it. All I can do is deal with it the best I can, and try to make sure that it doesn't happen to anyone else.
Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
I've known Russell for some time now, and I know him to be a good guy. He's an honest guy, as honest as any I've known. And he's a journalist, like David Simon was. So, when I tell you that Old Wounds reads like an episode of The Wire, set in the world of Watchmen, you'll know that I mean business. He's telling a crime story like it is, as he's seen it. And that expert storytelling shows through and gives the world of Old Wounds a gravitas that almost seems too good for a world with powers in it.
The opening of the story focuses on Michael Lane, a former masked adventure called Night Hunter, as police wake him at his door to report the death of someone who used to be close to him. I don't even want to tell you more than that, because I don't want to spoil the blooming of the flower that marks the beginning of this story. It unfolds in a way similar to Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent, where layers give way to more layers.
What I will tell you is that the story feels familiar, with settings and imagery evocative of Watchmen (secret identity closet) and The Dark Knight Returns (retired hero missing an arm) but with none of the baggage that go with them. It doesn't feel thirty years old. It feels comfortable, like your favorite sweater that has been freshly cleaned. But as the story progresses, that comfort is only temporary, as Michael and his former partner find themselves embroiled in a mystery that you feel isn't going to go well for them. The danger feels real, and I am genuinely interested in what happens to the characters, even though I just met them.
I can't wait to read more.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Saturday, May 05, 2012
I went in, wanting to love your movie so much. I got in early because of a middle-aged bladder. Stood outside the theater door, as they cleaned up after the show that preceded mine. I was the first one seated in the theater, midway up, center seat. I didn't even buy a Cherry Coke because I didn't want to have to get up and miss anything in a movie with a 155-minute running time. Great scenes. Funny scenes. Black Widow's interrogation was brilliant. Superheroes meet and they fight. That's pure Marvel. You so completely got the spirit of Marvel comics as directors and writers seldom do! I was along for the ride, and enjoying every minute, and then you dropped the bomb on me:
Thor: He’s my brother.
Natasha Romanoff: He killed 80 people in 2 days!
Thor: …He’s adopted.From that moment on, I was outside the movie, looking in. My daughter's adopted, Joss. I love her more than comic books. I love her more than Firefly. I love her more than my own life. To imagine having to explain that line to my six-year old daughter and why everyone in the audience is laughing at Thor while he distances himself from his brother, as if he is somehow less connected because Loki's adopted, took me outside the movie. I was now a viewer; a critic. I was no longer an active, willing participant in what I thought was otherwise a great, great film.
From that point, I was more critical in my viewing. I was less forgiving of the flaws. The funny moments, and there were many classic Whedonesque moments, weren't as funny to me. I struggled to get back in; to let the line go. It probably wasn't meant with malice, I thought. I don't think you meant it that way. But I just couldn't move past the fact that it was there.
I've read from other sources that some oversensitive adoptive parents have a problem with that line. I'll take that hit. I may be oversensitive about it, but you know what? As an adoptive parent, it's my job to be sensitive to it. It's part of the gig. I was prepared beforehand and remain prepared to deal with comments about my multiracial family. I have stood up for my family on numerous occasions because of unthinking comments that have been made about the fact that my daughter's Chinese. It's not easy sometimes, and it has cost me personally, but it's a price that I am more than willing to pay.
So now I have to play the role of the single dissenting voice in a sea of mass approval for the Avengers. I've played this role before. Some people even expect it of me. But for the one throwaway line that was not important to the advancement of the plot, it was a great movie, and I'd be among them. But, as it stands, I'm not. I'm sorry, Joss, but I just don't see why that line was necessary, and it ruined the rest of the movie for me. I don't expect anyone who's not an adoptive parent to understand. But I am one, and I have to stand up for this principle. If I don't, then I am not the father I want to be, and I am not the man I want to be. I'm certainly not perfect, but I hope I'm at least consistent.
I read in an interview this very telling anecdote by Thor actor Chris Hemsworth:
The line where I say, “He’s adopted.” I had no idea that would be funny [laughs]. When we shot that, I went, “Is this really funny?” But, that’s the thing. Joss is hilarious.No, Mr. Hemsworth. Your instincts were correct. It's not funny at all, at least to me.
Addendum: After sleeping on this, I decided to go back and see it again with my wife, who I warned about it. Except for that line, it IS a great movie. I was able to look past the line, but I still wish it wasn't there.
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
So, what have I been working on that has taken all my blogging time? Solution Squad!
Thursday, January 12, 2012
He was only my second dog, and the first one I got as a puppy. He came to our school as a skinny little stray, a tan shepard/lab mix with a dark patch across his back and tail. Erika Eldridge picked him up, and found him a temporary home. She knew I was looking for a dog, but knew I didn't want a big one. The first time I saw him, I knew he was my dog. He ran right up to me and started licking my leg. I took him home in a box, but he was so energetic, he sprang right up out of it and licked me in the face. When I got him home, he fit in the palm of my hand. I took him to the vet, who estimated that he was about ten weeks old. We crate trained him at first and penned him in the kitchen of our apartment with it, but he ended up climbing the crate with his claws and escaping. We knew then that he was pretty smart.
After a few weeks, his feet doubled in size, and his ears started to stand up, though one flopped down half the time. I took him for walks, and he ate goose poop. He thought it was a delicacy. When we moved into our house, he was fully grown at 88 pounds, and was quite a handful. When we went for walks in our new neighborhood, he would grab the leash with his teeth and pull me along. I was never sure who was walking whom.
From the beginning, he was an athlete. He would run, chasing Frisbees and lasers, until he was ready to collapse, gasping for air. I eventually got him to catch the Frisbee, and it was his favorite game to play. When he would bring it back to me, I had to get it from him, while he caught his breath. He would eventually tire of that game and drop it, but not before he taunted me at least twice.
Another favorite activity of his was shoveling snow. When I would take care of the driveway, he would always join me outside, waiting for a load of snow to come his way so he could snatch it up in his jaws. We even tied a sled to him a few times, but he would take off so fast, the sled rider would fall off the back. Shadow LOVED the snow.
Until he was about 11 years old, he was the same energetic, playful puppy I met on the very first day. He really started slowing down, sleeping more, and having trouble catching the Frisbee. I knew he wouldn't live forever, but I didn't expect such a sudden decline. We finally had him put to sleep today when he got really sick at home. He'd been getting more aggressive as well, probably partially due to arthritis, and although it was difficult I knew it was the right thing to do.
The house seems so much quieter without him. It's an absence we'll be feeling for a long, long time. Goodbye, Shadow. I already miss you.