Bipolar disorder, mania, depression, anxiety. I'm only just discovering what those words mean for my well-being and the shattered pieces of my life. The "work in progress," it turns out, is me. Expect an exploration of my thoughts, my feelings, and my journey. And hopefully some fun stuff like my opinions on comic books, movies, and books to name a few.

Old "archive" posts remain if you want to get to know me further.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Flashback Friday: Avengers West Coast 69



Super heroes fighting each other has long since gone from reliable genre convention to outright cliché. Whatever the reason for the fight’s start, it almost always turns into a “let’s discuss how best to defeat a villain” coffee clutch. Avengers West Coast 69, though, is one of those great examples of super hero fights that have nothing to do with upholding justice and fighting crime. Two characters who can’t keep their mouths shut literally pick a time and place to beat each other senseless. It remains my favorite super hero fight to this day.

Avengers West Coast 69 is a glorified team picking. The story jumps back and forth in time, telling two stories concurrently. In the A story—the story that opens the issue—Hawkeye and US Agent dish out a mutual ass beating. In full costume and with arrows and shield, the two fighters hold little back. There is no love lost between them, and since the A story begins before the fight actually starts it’s clear to readers that the whole thing was orchestrated in advance which leads to the obvious question of “why.” Enter the B story which occurs earlier in the day and is confined to Avengers West Coat headquarters. The team is choosing a new roster, but before they do that General Heyworth has a message for US Agent. Both Avengers teams will operate under the United Nations going forward so the US government is no longer maintaining a representative on the teams. US Agent, who had had a guaranteed a slot on the team before, now has to earn his way on like everyone else. US Agent doesn’t take the news well and Hawkeye rubs plenty of salt in the wound. Predictably, the voting doesn’t go US Agent’s way, and with only one vote cast in his favor he gets a spot as an alternate. The end of the B story dovetails into the A story as Hawkeye and US Agent set up a fight for later that night.


It’s a lean story in Avengers West Coast 69 that really boils down to two events of consequence: the team selecting its members and Hawkeye and US Agent fighting. With respect to the first event there’s no real rising action or plot twist; so foreshadowed is the result of the vote that the reader isn’t surprised that Hawkeye makes it and US Agent doesn’t. As to the fight—everyone knows it has no real teeth. The story is the fight rather than the outcome, so to an extent it’s overwritten. To the benefit of both stories, though, Roy and Dann Thomas used a convention common across a variety of narrative forms today but less frequently seen at the start of the 1990’s: non-linear storytelling. Both stories benefit from being broken up and interspersed with the other. It prevents the vote from feeling more important than it is, and it keeps the fight from feeling too long. It’s a brilliant move that makes the issue work.

I’ve never read other issues of Avengers West Coast, so I don’t know if there is additional backstory to the Hawkeye/US Agent relationship. You don’t really need it, though. The Thomases write US Agent as a self-entitled jerk through and through. Even before the general unceremoniously delivers the news in front of the entire Avengers team with no warning, US Agent’s smug attitude goes a long way to damaging him in the readers’ eyes. Hawkeye, though, is almost worse—and this is where I wish I did know the backstory. Hawkeye starts rubbing salt in US Agent’s wounds immediately, and it’s entirely personal. At no point does he offer a compelling argument for why US Agent is a detriment to the team. Hawkeye just doesn’t like him, and he’s having a good time kicking him while he’s down. The pettiness behind both men’s actions colors the fight and sets it into a special class—a more personal class—of hero fights. There are no lofty ideals here.


Paul Ryan’s art is, unfortunately, not as memorable as the story it’s conveying; that said, Ryan is very good at drawing characters’ faces and expressions. This proves to be a key component to the B story where US Agent and Hawkeye are already pushing back at each other but aren’t in a position yet to fight. Words were unnecessary; the dislike is obvious despite the masks.

Avengers West Coast 69 has all the makings of a forgettable one-off. And if not for the non-linear storytelling device I’m not sure it would be half as fun. It also happens to be the issue that colored my perception of Hawkeye forever. US Agent is a jerk in this story. Everybody knows it. And everybody knows he’s not making it on the Avengers. But only Hawkeye takes the tack that he shouldn’t; he does it very personally and very publicly. Even if he’s right, his attitude in the B story and his willingness to stoop to US Agent’s level is definitely a stain on someone who just got overwhelmingly voted on to the team. What’s more the promised suspension at the end of the issue rings very much like the kind of non-punishment reserved for popular members of teams and groups. To me Hawkeye walks away from this fight looking far worse as a character, and to this day I’ve been ambivalent to if not outright suspicious of him—his defining moment to me a petty fight on the beach.



Avengers West Coast 69

Roy and Dann Thomas – writers

Paul Ryan – penciler

Danny Bulandi – inker

Bill Oakley – letterer

Bob Sharen – colorist

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Short Box Editions - June 21



The Great

The opening pages of Gideon Falls 4 leads a reader to worry that this is going to be an info dump issue that ruins the mystery. And while Father Fred and the reader come into possession of a lot of knowledge, the Norton and Dr. Xu story thread amps up the mystery in a new way. Jeff Lemire’s writing continues to impress with its minimalism—though in issue four he definitely dials the talking up to eleven. Meanwhile Andrea Sorrentino’s art continues to carry the day. Most impressive was a moebius strip sequence that kept my eyes fixed far longer than was necessary to “read” it.

The Good

Infinity Countdown: Champions 1 is the best kind of tie-in issue. Including several players from the Infinity Countdown storyline the issue still prioritizes Champions characters and themes. A great blend of a Champions issue with Infinity Countdown action. / Issues worth of foreshadowing telegraphed one of the surprises in X-Men Gold 30. The other surprise feels just right. Marc Guggenheim wrote possibly his best issue yet, and artist David Marque and colorist Matthew Wilson deliver gorgeous pages. / Fernando Blanco’s pencils have Batwoman 16 looking the best it has in several issues. The story is solid even though Batman’s characterization is questionable—though when isn’t it these days. A much better finale than I expected when I saw Batman was in it. / Dry English humor keeps Infinity Countdown: Black Widow 1 from getting too lost in magic, magic, and more magic. The kind of good issue one doesn’t see coming. / Green Lanterns 49 is a workhorse: resolving the previous issue’s immediate complications while setting the stage for the next big story. Good at everything it does; great at nothing. / A well written JJJ issue with an uneven theme. Is it caricaturing of JJJ? Or the redemption? I'm not sure. But it's good read, and Mike Alred's art is fun way to tell it. / Cable 158 is buoyed by “present” Cable never making an appearance. The peek inside early X-Force era Cable is worth the price of admission. / All the great moral quandary material from the previous issue goes to waste in Champions 21 where the teams find a quick excuse to fight before the Master is revealed to be evil; it was too convenient an out and a letdown.

The Bad

This is a hard label to give Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider 20. It’s generally a fun series, and Peter David writes the characters with real humanity. But at the same time it feels like a series in transition—not sure what it really is or who is its star. / Amazing Spider-Man 801 lands down here despite being a love letter to Spider-Man—a familiar if not recycled love letter—from Dan Slott. The sentiment, long since stale, never changes—only the circumstances do.

The “What the—?”


Hunt for Wolverine: The Claws of a Killer 2 makes too much sense to be called a mess. But aside from Sabretooth and Deathstrike discovering the zombies, the issue doesn’t seem to advance the story in any way. Sabretooth and Daken engage in a posturing contest despite never being in the same room. Much of the issue’s dialogue feels lifted from bad action movies. This is the kind of tie-in that Marvel’s gotten especially good at in the last couple years: the pure money grab. It isn’t new. But it’s put to special use here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Week 24 Part 2 - Fun and Games with Gabapentin


[Drugs, DRUGS, DRUGS!!...all this and nothing more in a rare part 2 to the week.]

I don’t like my meds. I’ve mentioned this before. And it’s not that I’m anti-medication or even necessarily anti what these medications do to me. Rather the meds are a daily reminder that, to my eyes, there’s something wrong with me. I have yet to make peace with the idea that this is the normal me and I need to not compare myself to other people or what my idea of normal is for them. This is easier said than done. And in the meantime it’s as though every pill is a tether—granting the ability to find functionality in life but simultaneously limiting that functionality.

[You’re very repetitive, you know that? You’ve covered all this before.]

Last week I was quite ill for two days—an unpleasant little stomach bug that saw me struggle even to keep ice chips down. Needless to say taking my meds was a non-starter. On day two I choked down one of my doses of lithium and spent the next three hours doubled over. That was that. It wasn’t until day three—more or less the first day I was recovering—that I got back on my schedule, and by then I felt a different kind of terrible.

I ached. My head hurt. I felt simultaneously anxious but lethargic. I couldn’t focus to save my life.

Lithium and Abilify have potential side effects for stopping them cold turkey but most of those seem to revolve around a roaring-back of the symptoms they’re designed to treat. It’s possible those two contributed to how I was feeling—though with the Abilify I’m on the second lowest dose and had only been on it for three weeks. I think the main culprit was the Gabapanetin.
I wasn’t aware until last month (thanks to the power of Twitter)—

[Here Twitter comes to save the day!]


—that Gabapentin was addictive. And not just addictive but that it also has similarities with GHB, a potential date rape drug that’s used recreationally, in lower doses, in certain gay circles and often alongside meth. I think the preceding sentence may have sucked. In any case, while I had opportunities to try GHB recreationally I never did. I’m sure eventually I would have because, well, me.

Gabapentin’s withdrawal symptoms are not unlike those of alcohol, and withdrawal can set in as soon as twelve hours after the last use. I absolutely suffered withdrawal from the Gabapentin.

Prior to last week I had intended to discuss increasing my Gabapentin dosage. My anxiety had been rearing its head more frequently, and I was having a harder time keeping it under control. While this was acceptable when I knew the drug was addictive but hadn’t experienced anything to drive that point home, the very minor withdrawal I went through is enough to question my decision. I see my meds doctor today (Wednesday) and am not sure what I will do.

Do I want to be more reliant on medication than I already am? And what does that say about me if I need more medication to control the anxiety instead of controlling it on my own? What does it say about me if I want more medication?

To be continued…

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Week 24 - When Even Getting Better Scares You


An amusing anecdote.

I live near Carson City, Nevada and, being very prideful, last week I wore my “Sorry girls I like joysticks” tee. There’s no kind of rainbow anything on it; it’s an almost aqua-ish blue with a picture of a joystick. Stopping into a convenience store for a Coke, the young lady at the counter chuckled at the shirt and commented how it could mean multiple things. I smiled and agreed. The young lady then went on, almost concerned, about there being a certain meaning in particular—as though I wasn’t aware that the shirt was a tongue in cheek announcement that I’m gay. Either I do a great job at passing or she has lousy gaydar. In any event, I found her concern—and assumption that I didn’t know what my own t-shirt meant—kind of funny in an “oh my God we’re doomed” sort of way.


[Why the amusing anecdote, Theron? It’s very not mental health related.]

Primarily because the rest of the last week was lousy. Part of that was thanks to a nasty stomach bug that for two day kept me from keeping down much more than ice chips and Gatorade—to say nothing of staying on my meds schedule. But also I got myself into a funk that I still haven’t quite gotten out of. For the first time since I started treatment I did not want to go to my counseling appointment. Every time I leave either my counselor or my meds doctor my mind goes into a kind of paranoid overdrive about how I behaved and what I said, as though a single misstep will see me cast from the disability rolls and into a world that alternatively gives me anxiety attacks and fits of anger—a world that spent a number of years more or less breaking me in the form of progressively more destructive self-medicating.

[But you went, right? It’s very important to not skip those sessions.]

I went. In addition to my own conscious fears my counselor also suggested that my concern after these sessions might be because of an underlying fear of recovery—that when I have breakthrough moments I don’t know what to make of them. Though I don’t remember that exact thought in these instances, this makes a certain kind of sense to me. I’m not sure what the absence of depression and low level dread feels like.

My imagined personification of dread and depression.

To be Continued…

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Week 23 - What's Up with People, Anyway?


We’ve never met. And I probably have no desire to meet you. Don’t take it personally. I don’t really want to meet anyone. Not face to face—at least not at first. I have this thing called a social phobia. Doesn’t take too much knowledge to settle on what that must be, right?

[Tell our readers what social phobia means for you.]

Thank you condescending other character that exists only in my head. I don’t like being physically close to people. My personal space bubble is about five feet in radius. Checkout lines drive me crazy because everyone always wants to push their cart right up behind me. In the gay community this is especially difficult. Not because we’re serial grocery shoppers (though perhaps some of us are as a fetish—who knows) but because there is a strange tendency toward familiarity—by that I mean, among other things, hugs. I cringe when I get hugged. I don’t want to be touched. I don’t wat to get close.

Except I continually tell myself that I do.

I used to go to sports bars or bars in the Castro district. I had it in my head that I would meet people and bond over something and become friends. Because I’m the gay Colonel Sanders (or maybe slightly less gay depending on one’s reading of that performance) I prepared everything in my head beforehand.

Spaceballs...directed by Mel Brooks.

But it never worked. There’s a step between knowing someone and not knowing someone—I think it’s called meeting—that I couldn’t do. So I would have a drink.

[Uh-oh.]

Yes! If you’ve read almost any of my prior entries you know that alcohol was one of several means of self-medicating I engaged in. But when I went out I viewed it as social lubricant (arguably another kind of self-medicating). Buzzed me would be able to do what sober me could not: interact with strangers. Unfortunately buzzed me failed just as badly and when it escalated to drunk me—drunk me was useless as a person, either too happy or too angry to do anything worthwhile.

[Pretty bland entry so far. You could have at least drank at work.]

Oh, I did. I never got full on drunk. But I was pounding beer at lunch on weekends for almost the last year I worked there and was full on drinking at work select nights for the past couple months. The buzz deadened me enough to keep from raging at the customers.

[…]

Last week I sort of not really introduced my boyfriend on this blog. We me online. With one exception I’ve met every guy I’ve dated (or tried to) online. I can interact with people I don’t really know online with relative ease (hence my prodigious Twitter account). Real in-person people are much harder. Once those people go from a collection of pictures and messages to a fully formed person I don’t really know what to do anymore. I can’t really read behavioral cues (one of the reasons I have lousy gaydar). I’m not confident that I know what feelings for another person feel like. When it comes to relationships most of my history is dumping people in the most unceremonious way possible as soon as I’ve decided that the relationship (or even pre-relationship) won’t work. I seldom communicate with them when it happens.

The one time I was dumped was a weird experience. We’d never really dated but I kept misinterpreting cues as to what direction things were headed. Ultimately when events predictably (I say predictably because I’m sure everyone but me could see it coming) went the way they went I was devastated. Somehow I’d built up this idea that the two of us would have a relationship. This idea wasn’t built on any strong feelings but merely on a plan I’d devised in my head.

[Prepare ship…for love.]

The Love Boat...developed by W.L. Baumes

Yes, but I’m less Captain Stubing and more Colonel Sanders, remember?

[So…love at ludicrous speed?]

I met Shane, my boyfriend who I showed off for the first time two weeks ago, on line. Our first date was Batman vs Superman yet somehow we had a second.

Shane...developed by a deity with a bizarre sense of humor

Neither of us was looking for a relationship yet one managed to develop anyway. Somewhere along the line I felt something for Shane I’d never felt for anyone else. I am at a loss to explain it. It wasn’t love (because while I think that happened, it happened later). There was simply a connection that didn’t exist with anyone else. And a feeling that I had while I was with him that I’d never had with anyone else.

Unfortunately I still can’t take verbal cues or body language cues. I know his tendencies. But when I have a particularly off few days (either very low or manic) and his behavior gets out of the predictable I find myself locked in a choice between constant questioning and outright paranoia. Neither of which is attractive. I actively start planning for the end of the relationship that I am certain is coming.

This lack of understanding is not unlike all of my other interactions. I can feel people watching me and judging me. They get loud and they get close. They’re in my way, and I’m certain it’s on purpose. They’re slow, and I’m certain it’s on purpose. They’re inconsiderate, and I’m certain it’s on purpose.

But for all that pain and aggravation I will leave the house to go out in public. Because though I hate to, I have to. Right?