The best blog from the best author you've never heard of. Assorted thoughts ranging from comic books to politics. Sometimes I even talk about writing.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bags & Boards: 7/29/15

Every Wednesday I pop into Whatever Store on Castro Street in San Francisco to pick up my haul of new comics. Because I like to hear my own voice (in written, non-auditory form), I toss up a few brief thoughts; if it’s a heavy week, the five that left the biggest impact (good or bad) get a full review treatment while the rest get quick hits. Minor spoilers always possible.

X-Men ’92 #2
Book of the Week
How can you not enjoy revisiting the excess of ‘90s comic books? With the absurd super hero costumes and ridiculous hair, and the overly talky thought bubbles and omniscient narrators. This issue is long on dialogue as Casandra Nova examines the captured X-Men and provides her own quirky therapy. In an interesting nod to Secret Wars’ internal continuity, Nova justifies her mental sanitizing as a way to prevent her world from turning into the harsh X-worlds that exist elsewhere on Battleworld. The thread of self-conscious over-censorship that appeared when the X-Men arrived at Clear Mountain last issue continues when Nova shuts down Gambit and Rogue just as they’re about to have that great love connection they never got; Nova sanitizes it to a daytime Nickelodeon level in a fun moment where she literally has Rogue and Gambit on puppet strings. I don’t know what Sims’ and Bowers’ intent is, but the Nova sanitization is a fun tongue in cheek reminder of our culture’s occasional tendency to go to great lengths to not offend each other. Koblish’s art continue to make the nostalgia factor the highlight as his work recalls not just the X-Men series that started in the 90s, but also the cartoon series that ran at that time. Of all the revisited X-Men pasts getting a Secret Wars treatment, this might be the most fun—and simultaneously the campiest. But then then anyone who read X-Men in the 90s had to have appreciated some camp.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Bags & Boards: 7/22/15

Every Wednesday I pop into Whatever Store on Castro Street in San Francisco to pick up my haul of new comics. Because I like to hear my own voice (in written, non-auditory form), I toss up a few brief thoughts; if it’s a heavy week, the five that left the biggest impact (good or bad) get a full review treatment while the rest get quick hits. Minor spoilers always possible.

Wolf #1
Book of the Week
This Week’s Whatever Store Recommendation
I was already curious about this one based on the noir detective meets Sandman concept. What struck me most in this first issue (ad-free, max sized) was the breathing room. The first third to half of the issue is sparse on dialogue as Taylor’s images of main character Antoine Wolf and the city surrounding him convey Wolf’s unhappiness and, to me anyway, his boredom—both of which make sense since we are told he has a deathwish; we don’t even get into Wolf’s point-of-view narration until the main plot gets set in motion about halfway through the issue. Speaking of that plot, it’s easy to suspect that what looks to be a major story may be misdirection as two less straightforward stories are weaved in at the end. There’s also an interesting structural choice where the story develops a moment of tension before deliberately skipping its payoff; Kot, breaking the fourth wall, tells us the payoff will be revisited and revealed at a later time. It’s also worth noting that the issue is light on exposition. The existence of the supernatural is made plain through dialogue, but only clues are given as to Wolf’s exact nature and the wider circumstances of the world; it’s a choice that requires the reader pay attention. I’m looking forward to the next issue.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Bags & Boards: 7/8/15



Every Wednesday I pop into Whatever Store on Castro Street in San Francisco to pick up my haul on New Comic Book Day. In addition to the books that catch my eye, I ask them to add one book they really like. Because I like to hear my own voice (in written, non-auditory form), I toss up a few brief thoughts. Minor spoilers possible.

Strange Fruit #1
Issue of the Week
This Week’s Whatever Store Recommendation
This was no soft-sell. They loved it at the shop, and the enthusiasm came through when they talked it up. Taking place in Mississippi during the floods of 1927, most of this book is a real-world slice of life under Jim Crow in the Deep South. Our main character, Sonny, spends most of the book trying not to get lynched after being recognized by a white man as an alleged thief. Waid and Jones tell a story that is faithful to the circumstances of the time; at one point an upper class white man and woman defend our Sonny from the Klan—not out of charity so much as the cold calculation that black men make up a large part of the work force and it’s not economically viable to lynch them all. Jones brings a level of love and detail to every panel, giving the book the full-on painted treatment; the art is captivating all on its own. The book doesn’t encroach on super hero territory until the last few pages, and all I’ll say is that it involves a meteor. This is a must have for the week, to be sure. And I’ll be getting the next three issues of the mini-series without question.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Dissenting from George Takei


When I started on social media, I intended to have fun putting myself and my writing out there for people. I never planned to be political. I also never planned to focus on my sexuality. I wanted to be known as a writer rather than a gay writer because the two things aren’t connected in my eyes; I don’t consider myself a gay writer—rather a writer who happens to be gay (just like Stephen King is a writer who happens to be straight). So much for both of those intentions…

“Human dignity has long been understood in this country to be innate. When the Framers proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that ‘all men are created equal’ and ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,’ they referred to a vision of mankind in which all humans are created in the of God and therefore of inherent worth. That vision is the foundation upon which this Nation was built.”

----Obergefell v. Hodges; Thomas, J., dissenting (93-94)

Innate: (1) existing from the time a person or animal is born; (2) existing as part of the basic nature of something


Inherent: belonging to the basic nature of something or someone
----Both definitions from www.merriam-webster.com.

Two weeks ago the Supreme Court decided the issue of same-sex marriage. Last week, George Takei expressed extreme dissatisfaction with Justice Thomas’ dissenting opinion. The more I engaged with people over what Justice Thomas wrote and what Mr. Takei said—at the views of those defending Mr. Takei and the implication of what they might actually think of me as a person—the angrier I became.

Justice Thomas’ dissent touches multiple issues, most of which I am not covering here. Eventually he comes to the matter of dignity, a topic raised by the majority opinion. It is the matter of dignity that became a flashpoint for Mr. Takei and thus became the central topic of discourse regarding Justice Thomas’ dissent. Where Justice Thomas mentions historical examples, I will only speak to my personal experience.

Until Friday, June 26, I didn’t have access to the privilege of marriage in all fifty states. I saw myself no less equal as a person for lacking access to marriage; I was simply treated unequally. I did not see myself as undignified for lacking access to marriage; my dignity simply wasn’t respected.

I’ve been fortunate to live in the time that I do and in the country (and part of the country) that I do. In some major industrialized countries homosexuals are criminalized and in some less industrialized countries they are killed; parts of this country are less tolerant than the San Francisco bay area in which I reside. Such treatment of people doesn’t upset me because I wish we were equal; such treatment upsets me because we are equal.

I don’t understand the argument being made against Justice Thomas’ point in this instance; are his opponents saying that we are not all born with the same human dignity and the same human equality but instead receive them only by the indulgence of a government or beneficent majority? Does that mean that until the morning of June 26 I was not equal as a person to the heterosexuals living in this country? It disgusts me to consider that for the first thirty-four and a half years of my life, I was less of a person than straight people, and I am only now equal and dignified thanks to the tolerant decree of the Supreme Court and the country’s heterosexual population.

Justice Thomas’ dissent offers plenty of points for people of good conscience to debate; this is not one of them. George Takei is an entertaining man who has used his celebrity to champion equal treatment of the gay community; I cannot believe that he meant a government was capable of taking a person’s dignity so much as treating them without respect to his dignity. With all the valid conversations regarding equal treatment of race, gender, and sexuality that we face, I am struck by how much more important it is to remember that no one confers equality and dignity; we all have them, they cannot be taken from us, and we are all entitled to have them respected.

I didn’t need a Supreme Court decision to be equal. I didn’t need straight people to become more comfortable with me to have dignity. I have always been equal and I have always had dignity. Friday’s decision just means that now I get treated that way.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Bags & Boards: 7/1/15

Every Wednesday I pop into Whatever Store on Castro Street in San Francisco to pick up my haul on New Comic Book Day. In addition to the books that catch my eye, I ask them to add one book they really like. Because I like to hear my own voice (in written, non-auditory form), I toss up a few brief thoughts. Minor spoilers possible.


Secret Wars #4
Issue of the Week
The problem with any “event” mini-series is that every issue feels like a checkbox next to a part of a story outline. The question is whether that mechanical necessity can feel organic. Hickman does this well—perhaps superbly—here. This issue is the obligatory explain-the-world and introduce-characters-who-can-save-the-day story. Fortunately it’s told almost entirely from Doctor Strange’s point of view, and in his retelling of how Battleworld came to be we get just a moment where he acknowledges his personal failure—his momentary weakness that preceded Doom seizing power. Strange gets his opportunity for redemptive backbone straightening right before the end. It must be said that Ribic’s pencils continue to create a grace in this ridiculous world Doom has patched together, and Svorcina’s colors—kind of washed out but not—lend an otherworldly feel to a world we all know is only here for a little while.
 
Red Skull #1
This Week’s Whatever Store Recommendation
I really don’t know what to think about this one. It was billed to me as Suicide Squad meets Thunderbolts. And that’s a fair description of at least the series’ impetus. The middle of the issue is exposition heavy, and while it’s perfectly logical that the back story be delivered in the way that it is, the info dump is kind of a body blow to the pacing. A big end-of-the-line kind of fight tries to make up for this, but Pizzari’s pencils left me feeling that some of the panels were over-cluttered. It wasn’t a bad read; posturing bad guys are always fun. But I can’t say I’m eagerly awaiting the second issue.