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March 2005

Danger Is Her Middle Name

Spoiler queens take note! I’m about to rant a bit about the latest issue of Astonishing X-Men. Proceed at your own risk, if you're the type to get all uppity about that stuff.

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Damn, Girl!

Avengers #4

The Bendis-ification of the Avengers is still just beginning to fall into place, but I’m digging it. I was never especially into the old Avengers (except for the Wasp and her ever-changing costumes, but they sadly managed to tone down the fun, socialite side of her over the years), so I’m not as horrified as some folks by the new cast of characters. I wouldn't say this is Bendis' strongest work yet, but at least he cherry-picked a great cast of characters that he knows how to write. The plot may be moving along slowly (a sure sign that the story is being paced out for the trade paperback, an epidemic of sorts these days), but the dialogue snaps, cracks, and pops like a Preston Sturges flick.

With Alias, Bendis made me a fan of Luke Cage, which I would never have thought possible. He also gave the latest (and now the late) version of Ant-Man a real personality, which was miraculous. He put Spider-Woman back in action (and gave her donut jokes!), for which I will be forever grateful. Most of all, though, he made Spider-Man funny again.

Spider-Man is totally my type. Well, I like all sorts, but I keep coming back to smart, funny, sad sacks. Especially if they're wiry and limber. Spidey's never lost the wisecracks altogether, but so many folks who write for him play up the unending misfortunes, the hot model for a wife, the tedious angst of it all. It's so charming, and hence kinda hot, to have him acknowledging all the goofy plot twists that have happened over the years and make light of them all. Now that’s why he's my friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. You show me a bookish guy with nice arms and a skinny butt who handles adversity best by focusing on the absurd, and then I'll show you me all starry-eyed and swollen-trousered. He fights crime, too? heaven.

I love this bit of banter as the new team rockets off to the Savage Land (dont't ask)...

Avengers #4

David Finch's art is also rocking. Spider-Woman looks really glam, and I get a kick out of Cap reading the newspaper, and Luke Cage with his GameBoy or Blackberry or whatever he's got there. I just like way they're all nonchalant, like they're on the subway. It's a nice touch.

Subway Smackdown

Better late than never, here is my piece from last Tuesday night's WYSIWYG Talent Show. This is transcribed from what I scribbled in my notebook at jury duty that day, so for the actual delivery you'll need to check the video clip. And now, without further ado:

Sparky speaks


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What You Saw

Last night's WYSIWYG — and this is no surprise — was another whiz-bang fun-fest. It was an honor and a treat to share a stage with such eclectic, charismatic, insightful talent. I think last night's crowd also had the largest number of people I know (or bloggers I know of and would like to know better) in the packed house, which was even more swell. Typically, there was too much hubbub before and after the show to chat up everyone there, but even if I did I’d only be weird, nervous, and shy since I was so amped up on performance anxiety.

I got laughs when I hoped to, so I guess my piece went over pretty well. I wrote the whole bit longhand while I was at jury duty (waste. of. time.) yesterday, so it'll be another day or three before I type the whole thing in and let you all see how expertly I recycled old jokes.

I didn't manage to get any pictures of myself, but there should be video clips available soon.

Raining, Pouring, Etc.

I was already stressed out about the day ahead of me tomorrow. Hauling ass up to teach a class that’s been a bit of a challenge for me already, then having to finally write something to read at WYSIWYG (by the way, you should all go, if only to see me wing it and make a fool out of myself), trying to squeeze in work on a long-overdue project proposal that’s giving me greater and greater writer's-block anxiety, and so on and so on. But now it turns out that I have jury duty as well. That couldn't suck more.

Not only do I have to get myself all the way out to the god-forsaken far end of Queens to some area I’m totally unfamiliar with (where the fuck is Sutphin Boulevard and why do I have to go all the way out there?), but I have to cancel class again after being out sick two weeks ago. That would be a disaster of its own: I only see my students once a week, and it's hard enough to get them to finish their projects. They have next week off, and if I go another two weeks without cracking the whip, I may never get them back on track. Ugh. And do you have any idea how far away Jamaica is from where I live? Far. I have no idea when I'll be done, but I can only assume it won't leave me enough time to finish anything for tomorrow night, or work on anything else constructive. Ugh. I’m so screwed, and probably way more stressed out about this than I need to be, but that’s just how I get when I’m in a hopeless bind.

Jury duty! Jamaica! Tomorrow morning! Fuck me.

Kitty Brain Rot

In all honesty, my biggest beef about having a cat around the house is all the damn hair. And the weird whining and puking noises. Catch me in a good mood and I can even admit that, yes, he looks very adorable when he sleeps by the window with his little paw draped over his eyes. But he's never cute enough to make me forget about the everyday threat of brain damage. Brain damage, damnit!

Cats. The silent killers.

Let Me Wipe That Up

Hot damn! It looks like the second issue of Sticky has just rolled off the presses and started oozing its way onto the shelves of your local comic shop. Assuming, that is, that your local comic shop is the sort to sell quality homo smut comics from an independent press.

Judging from the preview pages available at Sticky's Yahoo! Group, it looks like Dale and Steve once again took two colors and a vivid imagination and combined them into something pretty swank. To be fair, of course, I have to reserve my final judgement until I get my sweaty hands on the actual comic and read through it — you, the reading public, deserve as much — but so far I’m still impressed.

The word is that you can order Sticky #2 by calling Eros Comix at (800) 657-1100 (since it hasn't been added to their web site yet), or buy it from Chicago Comics and Quimby's in Chicago, Jim Hanley's Universe in NYC, Atomic Books in Baltimore, The Beguiling in Toronto, and other comic book and alternative culture stores that carry erotic comics. (I list all those stores not just for the sake of plugging Sticky, but also because I really love the wide range of books, zines, and comics that they all carry, and I think you all could do worse than to throw a little business their way and do your bit for the small press market. OK, off the soapbox now.)

Sticky #2

Hell's Kitchen Renovation

You can't expect comic books to accurately portray the workings of the real world, especially as the real world evolves further and further out of sync with the underlying premise of a comic. The New York of the Marvel Universe, for instance, bears less and less resemblance to to my New York (and not just because Magneto didn't do anything to fuck up my morning commute last year). Sure, I can walk by the Avengers Mansion or take the subway to Spider-Man's neighborhood, but there's not much more resemblance than that anymore. Marvel's contemporary New York is still based on Stan Lee's fictionalized version from a couple of generations ago, which hasn't had the same churning real estate market as the real thing.

I get a huge kick out of the version of Hell's Kitchen that Daredevil protects with such dedication. His Hell's Kitchen is still about the poor and the downtrodden in their seedy apartments and dive bars, and the crime rings that prey on them. The actual Hell's Kitchen (which the realtors are trying to get us to refer to as "Clinton") is more about gays, tourists, and luxury rentals these days.

I would love to see Daredevil start interacting with the area's steady influx of homos and realtors. Maybe another cocktail lounge or an Olive Garden could open up down the street from Nelson & Murdock's office, or maybe Matt could look into subletting the first floor of his townhouse for a couple grand per month. Considering the city's colorful history of gay bars getting protection form the mob, wouldn't it be awesome if the Kingpin's cronies opened up a huge gay disco in Matt's favorite church? With go-go boys dressed like Daredevil? That would be more grittily realistic. And still ripe with dramatic potential, don't you think? Daredevil could totally use a drag-queen sidekick.

Daredevil watches the rents increase

I Won't Shut Up, Either


You're totally lame if you haven't gotten yourself to a WYSIWYG Talent Show yet, because they've all been really great. I totally admit I’m a little subjective, but that also seems to be the concensus from other people who go. I’m just sayin', is all.

But next Tuesday's show — The City That Never Shuts Up: New York Stories — is going to be really special. Why? Because I’m performing, that’s why! I’m going to stand up and declare my lifelong passion for this awesome, filthy, magnificent, loud, delightful place. And not just me! Check out the rest of our ass-kicking line-up:

So take the miracle cure, lame-o! Get yourself to P.S. 122 next Tuesday, March 22, at 7:00!

Miss Thing

The best line of dialogue from the new issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four? This sad lament from Ben Grimm, who's realizing that they've come all the way to the N-Zone (the Ultimate version of the much cooler-named Negative Zone) only to meet yet "another freak who gets his — its — kicks from controlling people":

The universe is this fantastic place, full ideas and, you know, cool stuff. And everyone else seems to think it's somewhere to set up their frickin' butt-hat franchise.

The Ultimate series always make me nervous, even though I’ve really liked a few of them. I’ve been so happy with Ultimate Fantastic Four, which really nails the esstential personalities of the characters, and really gets into the sense of wonder they feel as they explore their own powers and the universe around them. Yes, it's a gimmick to reboot the Marvel Universe and fill it with younger, edgier, remixed versions of its characters, but in this case Warren Ellis is really rocking it.

I think he's the best writer to handle this particular series: he writes solid, funny, nuanced characters, but he also writes incredible stories of science fiction, which is what the Fantastic Four really thrive on. I haven't minded the slow pace of the series, because I’m totally loving the sci-fi ideas he showing us and developing along the way. Frankly, I’d be happy to have the action go slower if we could get more rumination about the things they're seeing along the way.

And I’m glad to see Ben get so many good quips in, and to have them mixed in with the incredible decency that I’ve loved about the Thing. He's probably my all-time favorite comic character, and this book is really letting him shine so far.

My only quibble is with the Invisible Gi...er...Woman, and it's one that I have with just about every reboot of the FF done during the last 15 years or so. Now, she's another one of my favorite characters, but because she really grew into herself over the years. For this, I think we have to thank John Byrne (who these days should be kept a minimum distance of a million miles from any characters we love). It was Byrne who really developed her from the plucky, girly Sue Richards into the powerful emotional rock of the team. That journey really made her, and it's a shame to see her start out as absurdly accomplished as Reed — not because she shouldn't be, but because she was a richer character when she grew into them after all her Fantastic experiences.

Vandal Savage, Leather Daddy

Watch out if you see this guy at IML, Folsom, or your local Eagle: when he tells you he wants to be your master, he's not playing around! If he just wanted someone to polish boots he probably wouldn't have the Justice Society on his case quite so often. Either way, I bet he has a really low BLUF number.


Praise Spidey!

Whether you love or hate Spider-Man (I don't collect, but I approve of him in general), you surely appreciate his place in pop culture. And that’s why you should check out the rest of the this fantastic cartoon from the Portland Mercury. You'll never read a bible story the same way again.

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