Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dead Letter Office

Dead Letter Office

hear your voice, convicting
in the crackling of flames
a fire that you've lit within me
doubts, of my direction
and proper place in this place
are turned to ash.

sealed in an envelope, lickety-split
and sent to me, but to the wrong
address, and a pseudonym which
I no longer attribute to my personality
yet still deeply entrenched in my psyche.

No return address because I'm not sure where
you are, though I've searched...
and postage not the going rate because this
is love from years ago, and yours was not the receiving end

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Epic Beards of Review: Joe the Barbarian

“King Death! From your world did he spy mine! From sunless Hypogea his endless night extends. Restore my throne of light! The journey—arduous, companions on the way, et cetera! Traditional rules apply! Failure means an audience eternal with King Death!” –Lord Arc, Joe the Barbarian

There comes a time in life when we must give up childish things.

Really, though, who are we kidding? I’ve got a shelf of action figures, and those are the ones that aren’t yet packed away in boxes. Comic books abound in my apartment, with four longboxes full, even after culling two or more this summer.

Even more so, with a kid on the way, now’s the time to bulk up on heavy reading while I’ve got the chance.
I’ll admit, picking up Joe the Barbarian the other afternoon was an utter impulse buy, but you’d have to admit that Christmas Club money was burning a hole in my pocket. I was fortunate enough to make it through a week. It was one of those books I picked up when I was looking for something else, but quite surprised when this was really what I’d been looking for.

Like the story inside, the cover is this amalgamation of images: toys at Joe’s feet, scores of crosses from a veteran’s graveyard, Joe’s room—not to mention a floating island towards the top of the cover. Then there’s Joe, quite typically out of place through all this. It helped a heapload that the story was written by Grant Morrison, a real mainstay in comics. It also didn’t hurt that it was and Eisner award nominee for best limited series, comics’ highest achievement.

This graphic novel opens with Joe Manson on a school tour of a veteran’s graveyard for school. We soon come to find that his father has died in one of the Gulf Wars, and this field trip has special meaning for Joe. After being harassed by some high school bullies, they end up taking his candy, which has major implications for Joe throughout the story.

See, Joe’s got a mean case of diabetes. As he heads home to a room stuffed to the gills with all manner of action figures, he starts to hallucinate, heading off into another world where toys (and the threats) are real. Joe’s pet rat becomes a quite adept bodyguard, and the house itself represents this land where one wrong move could spell disaster for the world of Hypogea.

In just eight simple issues, Morrison and Murphy move characters like chess pieces not quite unlike Oz or Narnia. The level of fantasy is high, but spotting all sorts of random Transformers and other action figures from my childhood made the reading thankfully slow down a bit to take in the scope of the drawings that worked in tandem with the words.

Growth from Joe and a handful of other main characters kept the story moving from one of denial and dismissal to that of determination and daring. What begins as this motley crew of characters with differing motivations, brings them all together in the end to an appropriately fantastical ending.

This article originally appeared at Strip Tease in December 2013.

Epic Beards of Review: Superman No.172

In all her infinite grace, my fiancée was willing to allow us to have a superhero wedding.

Though she’s not nearly the level of nerdery I embrace, together we went all out and had the wedding I’d never dreamed possible. The ladies wore capes with our own super-insignia and the groomsmen all grew facial hair as “secret identities.” We had a Supa Hero IPA from Clown Shoes Beer. My wife painstakingly hand-made table toppers, whirly hearts and votive candle holders from comic book pages. Our cake had a Daily Planet topper and the Legion of Doom was our card box.

A year or so later, we’re also making a kid. Doctored some pretty nifty baby shower invites and plans to have “first photos” taken in a wrecked spaceship a la Superman. Though the wife has put the kibosh on an heroic name (Clark, Bruce or Lando) that won’t stop me from teaching my kid, boy or girl, about their heritage.

A pile of coverless comics were passed onto me when I was ten from my father. Among them was Superman No. 172, October 1964 with writing duties by Edmond Hamilton and art by Curt Swan (and a Giant Superboy that was my brother’s) were among my favorites.  They were from his childhood, specifically age ten, which was lost upon me until I re-read this issue.

I shall not wait as long with my progeny.

“The New Superman” starts off with a full page of people gawking over just that: some blond Superman streaking across the sky. Clark Kent looks skyward, dejected muttering that he’s just a reporter for the rest of his life. I’d have been more upset that the usurper was prettier.

The tale begins in earnest when The Daily Planet tasks Clark to investigate that an astronomer from the Metropolis Observatory has discovered a green comet! With his total-recall memory as young Kal-El hearing of this from his father not long before Krypton exploded. Though not heading straight for Earth, Superman must save countless other worlds from this menace.

In his super-preparedness, our hero summons two would-be champions from the Bottle City of Kandor, enlarges them with a ring borrowed from Green Lantern and sets out some tests to find which will succeed him if Superman’s task proves too daunting for the Man of Steel. It’s one thing to use your powers, but another completely to use them correctly. Of course, once you get a taste of power…

A veritable who’s who of co-workers, sidekicks, heroes and villains really make this piece a highlight of my childhood. Supes even employs new powers and a snazzy new costume! All these silly plot-lines and the callous way our new hero flaunts his power show our Superman as the hero he really is.

Even without powers, I’ve got a wife who loves me and a half-dozen longboxes of proof to show my kid how super we really are.

This originally appeared at Strip Tease in November 2013.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Prodigal: The Wooded Council

Painting done by Elizabeth of Pocket Vinyl at Avenue 209 Coffee House November 13, 2013.

Okay, so there's a twelve-seat council (going with Biblical allegory here) of woodland creatures.

I've been working on this for some time, revolving chiefly around this old bear (Karhun) and Barry, the main character in Traveling Tales.  Long story short, the prodigal son is coming home.

Here's my list so far:

1. Karhun
2. Old Turtle
3. Cardinal
4. Blue Jay
5. The Frog Prince
6. Buck
7. Fawn
12. The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son is the twelfth seat on the council, but has been absent for years and his homecoming has got Karhun all riled up.  (Maybe some Judas references here?)  There're reasons he's been away, all legitimate-like, but he's back nonetheless. 

Is "The Wooded Council" a decent name?  If not, what would you suggest?  What are the four other animals on the council?  I'd been using a rabbit as a courier of sorts to wake up the rest of the woodland creatures, but was hesitant to use him as a seat.

Also, think of the seating arrangement as thirteen tree stumps: one in the middle for speaking, and twelve others around it as intervals on a clock.

Does anyone read this blog?  If so, why aren't you commenting here or over at The Oracular Beard on Facebook?