Archive for the ‘Non Fiction’ Category

Last night was yet another in a line of odd and surreal evenings this past week. The entire family went over to a friends house for dinner. I met Amy and the kids there and from around 6:45 until 11:00pm Jess, Butch, Amy and myself sat and talked about all kinds of things. We laughed and joked and had a fantastic evening. The reason it was so odd is that last Monday Amy and I decided that we shouldn’t be married anymore.

I woke up Monday with a dual purpose. My main focus was the interview I had that evening with Kevin from gayrva.com about becoming an editor at his website. My other obligation was to try and teach a 22 year old how to drive. That went poorly so I’ll skip over the details there. I had lunch with friends on Monday and we talked about relationships and what we want out of life. An hour before I needed to be there I arrived at Crossroads, a cool little coffee shop down at VCU. I wasn’t nearly cool enough to be there but I sat and read Style and sipped a cappuccino while waiting for Kevin to arrive.

My phone rang around ten minutes before my meeting and when I saw that it was Kevin calling my heart sank with the thought that the meeting would have to be postponed. Luckily it wasn’t that, he was calling to tell me that he was already there and when we both looked up at the same time I got very excited. I haven’t been an editor in a while but it was something that I was pretty good at once upon a time. We talked for about 45 minutes about my experience and his needs and he asked me about my life. As always when asked that question I replied that I had been married for almost ten years and had two kids. He seemed a little surprised and then asked me a question that I don’t think I really answered fully, “Why does someone who is married with kids want to get involved with a gay website.” It took a minute to find the right words and the first thing I mumbled was that I was bisexual and that was something I had been dealing with over the past ten years. I went on to tell him that I believed that the real reason I go to gay rights rally’s and protests is because I believe its a civil rights issue and one group of people shouldn’t have the power to deny rights to another group of people because they don’t approve of how they live their life. I may have quoted Dr King at that point because I love the line”If you see a good fight, get in it.” but I don’t know if I did.

The meeting went great. He offered me the position of section editor for Arts and Entertainment and I was on cloud nine. I sped across town to share my good news with the fine folks at WriteClubRVA who were properly enthusiastic about my exciting new editing gig. Our meeting seemed to me to be a much happier and productive meeting than normal which was a shame because I didn’t think to take my laptop along. After the meeting my friend Jess and I went to the Starbucks at Barnes & Noble to talk. It was there while sipping my mocha frappuccino that I realized that my marriage was over. It wasn’t a bolt of lightning or anything it was more akin to remembering where you left your keys. Its something you already knew but couldn’t remember. We talked for about an hour and I went home dreading the talk that I knew was to come.

As I drove into the driveway it looked like all the lights in the house were on. I didn’t know if that meant Amy was still awake or if she had fallen asleep without turning them off as she does sometimes. I walked in and stood in the doorway of our bedroom and shifted uncomfortably. “Hey,” she said. I could only croak out my own “hey” in response. She asked me if anything was wrong and I mumbled something unintelligible. The look on her face took on a new resolve and she said “Can we talk? We need to talk.”

This was it. The talk and I didn’t even have to initiate it. The coward inside me lept for joy.

“I’m really pissed at you right now. You were supposed to feed the kids before you left tonight because I had to work late.”

The coward then wept. I couldn’t believe what I had done. In my selfish pursuit of something more I had actually forgotten to feed my children. I felt about two inches tall and I expected her to yell and scream and possibly hit me with a frying pan because I felt like it was the least I deserved. Instead we sat and talked about all the problems we’ve had over the years and where we are right now. We care about each other, we are friends. Sadly, we are not in love with one another anymore. I know in my head that we both made mistakes to get here, she will tell you the same, but I feel like the bulk of the blame lays at my feet. A few years ago I fell into a black hole of despair and depression and I never quite climbed out of it. I basically checked out of our marriage and she did the same in response. By her reckoning we’ve actually been separated for about two years, the last nine months of which I have spent in a separate room from her.

She was mad at me Monday night, she said as much but she never actually got angry. We were at that place beyond angry where resolution resides and we are better for it. Once we were resolved that this was the end of it she asked where I would go. I knew I couldn’t be far from the kids so I told her I would talk to my mother and see if I could move in with her next door. “I can’t make you live with your mother.” was her only real response to that and I am now living happily where I had been living miserably, on the sofa with my family. Its incredible how the exact same living situation can seem to much better once the labels have been peeled off and the last remnants of a tattered relationship are shrugged off.

We will always be in each others lives and we will always be friends. My friend Ray thinks our ability to act like civilized people instead of the crazed ax swinging Norsemen most divorced couples turn into is that we’ve been through the horrible ordeal of separating but we did it over a year ago. We’ve already felt the hurt and betrayal and loneliness so now the separation feels like a promising start rather than a horrible ending.

I don’t know if anyone paid attention to the Captain America controversy over the past couple of weeks but at one point it got extremely amusing. The story got picked up by several media outlets and caused a storm of anger and snark all over the internet. Some sites reported it as a straight news story while others editorialized the heck out of it. Luckily for me I am not a news site so I can editorialize as much as I want. But I don’t think I will. Politics in comics are hard to get right at the best of times and with the tumultuous times we live in it seems like an even harder line to walk. In response to the outcry from tea party supporters and vociferous members of the “news media” Marvel Editor in Chief Joe Quesada responded in his “Cup O’ Joe” column with this;

“Hold on. Before digging into this, you’re starting from a false premise. There was zero discussion to include a group that looked like a Tea Party demonstration. Ed [Brubaker] simply wrote in an anti-tax protest into his story to show one of the moods that currently exists in America. There was no thought that it represented a particular group.

And yes, what Ed said is absolutely true, he does shy away from labeling things and did exactly that in this instance. In Ed’s story, there was no connection to the Tea Party movement, that’s a screw up that happened after the fact and exactly what some people are getting upset about.

There is one legit criticism in there, and a lot of not so valid stuff, but let’s dive into this. By the way, for those that haven’t read “Captain America” #602, here’s your spoiler warning: read no further lest you want to know what’s going on.

In the story, our new Captain America – who is Steve Rogers’ old sidekick Bucky Barnes – and Sam Wilson the Falcon – another ex-sidekick of Steve Rogers – are in search of an armored super-militia group called the Watchdogs who attacked a sheriff and his squad and have set up roots in the hills outside of Boise, Idaho where they are building a weapon and planning an act of terrorism against the people in that town. Keep in mind that the Watchdogs have been villains in the Marvel Universe since 1987. Bucky and Sam hatch a plan to infiltrate this group and defeat it from within so they travel to Idaho. The idea behind this was to expose them both – in particular Sam (who has been portrayed most often as a leftist leaning character) – to other parts of America. While in Idaho in search of the Watchdogs, they come upon an anti-tax, anti-big government rally, which is something that Sam, in particular, hasn’t been personally exposed to, and it hits him the wrong way. Here, at this moment in the story, Sam is the fish out of water. This, however, is where Mr. Houston misreads what’s happening in the story. He assumes that the people protesting in the streets are the Watchdogs, when in fact they are not, so this is an element that is taken out of context. These protestors as written by Ed are no different than protesting crowds he wrote into issues of “Cap” last year. Only those protestors were angry about oil prices skyrocketing and the housing market problems. So in short, the Watchdogs, and the protestors aren’t connected, they just happen to be in the same story.”

The critics of the comic haven’t been placated by Quesada’s reasoning. While scanning the comments at the Washington Times web article on the controversy I was somewhat surprised by the level of anger in so many of the commentators. These are a few of my favorite comments from last week.

No Party said
Joe Quesada must think people are stupid…although if you are an adult reading comics…he could be spot on. It wasn’t a stupid accident or error…monkeys weren’t sitting in front of a typewriter and accidently put those slurs on the sign, someone at Marvel did, and that person is too cowardly to own up to it . If I thought anyone from MSNBC moonlighted . I might think they were involved, but my guess is that it is a Marvel Comic troll.

ONTIME opined
The Tea Bag idea (follow the Constitution) must be a bit to simplistic for the extrordinary intelligence needed to draw a comic book picture, so why not clutter the idea with liberal hate and bias and call it good?

miroj1 offered
This is all we need, ultra-liberal media organizations trying to brainwash people with their political agendas…and now comic books? Is nothing sacred anymore? I mean we’re all supposed to be Americans. You would think Captain America would believe in the American dream…not socialism…

tuckerscot responded with
miroj, no nothing is sacred to a liberal. Have you ever had the misfortune to have to sit through a Captain Planet cartoon? Pure left wingnut propaganda.

My question to you dear readers is this; is Ed Brubaker and Marvel Comics using Captain America to further their socialist agenda or is it just another instance of people being offended for no reason? I would love to hear your thoughts.

The past week or so I keep seeing postings on the internet about the best female characters in comics. I don’t know if these lists and declarations are due to a beginning of the year desire to do best of lists or if there is a larger agenda involved but it seemed like a good idea to jump on. I’ve been a big fan of strong female leads since I was a child and my love for the empowered woman of today cemented because of Joss Whedon’s portrayal of real people with real emotions on the ironically titled “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Over the past decade female characters in comics, film and television have been getting more three dimensional and they are being written much better. They are no longer sexy villians or saintly mothers, they are something in between. Strength, intelligence and character are winning the war on cleavage and I couldn’t be happier.

My pick for best female character of the past decade is Renee Montoya, former police detective, current Question.

DC Comics may have accidentally given us one of the most diverse characters in the history of comics, a strong woman of color who happens to be a lesbian. Let me back up a little bit and explain how such a thing is possible.

I’m sure everyone remembers Batman The Animated Series. It stands as arguably one of the best cartoons ever aired with solid plot lines that weren’t so dumbed down for five year olds that adults found them annoying (I’m looking at you Teen Titans Go). One of the new characters created just for the animated series was Officer Renee Montoya, the young idealistic partner of the cranky veteran Harvey Bullock. The character was an instant hit and soon made her debut as one of Gotham’s finest in Batman. Promoted to Homicide Detective in Batman #475 by Commissioner James Gordon, she was once again partnered with Bullock. When Harvey was promoted, Renee was partnered with Crispus Allen. During the epic No Man’s Land storyline where Gotham was destroyed by an earthquake and unceremoniously thrown out of the United States, Renee was a key player in the city’s survival tricking the villain Harvey Dent into helping with relief efforts after he fell in love with her.

During Greg Rucka’s fantastic run on Gotham Central, Two Face feeling spurned by Renee after No Man’s Land outs her as a lesbian in public and frames her for murder. She is eventually cleared of all charges but her overtly religious parents disown her because of her sexuality. Not long after her personal life falls apart including the destruction of the relationship with her girlfriend, Renee’s partner Crispus is murdered by a corrupt cop named Jim Corrigan. Vowing vengeance Renee beats Corrigan’s girlfriend unconscious and pulls a gun on Corrigan. Unable to enact her vengeance and feeling lost and broken, Renee quit the GCPD and spiraled further down into a pit of casual sex and alcohol abuse.

In the pages of 52 Renee goes though a journey both physical and spiritual. Her friendship with The Question and his eventual demise at the hands of one of the worlds worst villains, cancer, has caused a huge transformation. During 52 Renee spent a considerable amount of time in the city of Nanda Parbat, a mystical city in a Tibetesque region of the DCU. During her time there she struggled with her identity with the help of Richard Dragon, one of the men who helped mold Bruce Wayne into the Batman. Before his death the Question told Renee that his wish was for her to take over his mantle and continue his work. During and after 52 Renee, as the Question fought against the church of crime in Gotham and around the world finally ending up as the backup feature in Detective Comics.
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That brings us to the opening statement. A strong, lesbian woman of color following her own agenda and taking charge of the situation. Earlier in 52 we saw that there is already a relationship between Renee and the new Batwoman Kate Kane. A relationship that has the potential to be the Willow/Tara of the DC universe. An empowered lesbian couple who defy media stereotypes by being a loving committed couple. We have seen plenty of heterosexual couples who have healthy monogamous relationships. In DC alone we have Lois and Clark and Ralph and Sue.

There are still plenty of stories to tell about Renee Montoya. She has conflicted parents, a loving brother, loyal friends in Bullock and Gordon and a potential love interest that could bring the term “team up” to a whole new level. I’ve been there with Renee though her entire “career”. From her humble origins as a uniformed officer on the animated series through her transformation into the new Question and rarely have I cheered and moaned and wept for a character as intensely as I have done for her. I don’t know if DC understands what they have but they have had enough intelligence to allow Greg Rucka to continue plotting her course.

Best comics of 2009

Posted: January 11, 2010 in Non Fiction, Writing
Tags: ,

Here we are kids at the end of another year. 2009 was a tumultuous year to say the least with an economic crisis and terrorist threats and a new Twilight movie. As we move into the next decade I am hopeful that the world will calm down, people will be nicer and my car will start. Hopeful yet knowing that none of these things are likely to happen. That is what hope is for; to see the world as you wish it to be, to believe that people are generally decent and good. I will hold on to my hope and I implore you all to try to do the same.

That’s all the hippy talk you’ll get from me today as I plan to talk about what I loved in 2009. I think this was a fantastic year for those of us who love comics, sci-fi and fantasy. I won’t lie, there were some huge disappointments this year (Final Crisis) but I think the bad was out shined by the books that either raised the intelligence of the reader or provided a sense of fun that comics have been missing for quite some time. I’m sure there will be some disagreement with my picks but I won’t say that these are the “best” books of 2009 but I will say these are the books I enjoyed the most.

BEST ONGOING SERIES

DETECTIVE COMICS
Since Bruce Wayne died the whole Bat-family of books has been top notch but none of them compare to the magnificence that is Detective Comics. Greg Rucka’s handling of Batwoman is some of his finest character work but what makes this book so great is the artwork of JH Williams III. Never have I seen an artist who is able to not only draw in multiple styles but make them blend seamlessly. If you aren’t reading this book you are missing out on the most visualy stunning comic book I’ve ever read.

BEST MINI SERIES

INCOGNITO
Ed Brubaker has become one of my favorite writers over the last few years. Between his landmark work on Captain America and his older DC series like Catwoman and Gotham Central he has earned a reputation as the go to guy for deep character work with big event level action scenes. Incognito was a smaller story about a former super villain stuck in the hell of witness protection. The series started off as a character study of a bad guy trying to do right for the wrong reasons and then blossomed into a thriller full of action and intense drama. Sean Phillips gritty noir art style was perfect for this story about broken people.

BEST NEW SERIES

UNWRITTEN
Vertigo has long been the premier imprint for edgy and intelligent comics and they have done it again with the literary beauty of Unwritten. The premise sounded kind of silly to me, the son of a prolific teen fantasy writer finds out he’s a Harry Potter like character come to life. The book itself takes you on a tour of some of the most famous literary geography Europe has to offer and gives a peek at some of the most famous writers of the last hundred years. One issue is devoted entirely to Rudyard Kipling and while it has little to do with the plot of the series, its possibly the best written issue so far. This is a brilliant series that I look forward to every month.

MOST AMBITIOUS SERIES

WEDNESDAY COMICS
I’ll be honest and tell you that I thought the idea of Wednesday Comics was a bad one. Who reads comic strips anymore? Apparently the smart people do. I sort of accidentally found myself on the pull list for this series and I have rarely been so happy with being wrong. There were a couple of stories that I didn’t love but overall the size of the book gave the artists some room to really show off what they can do. Mike Allred was born to draw Metamorpho and Adam Strange by Paul Pope was a revelation. If you missed out on this landmark series we have most of the issues in the store but more importantly, there will be an oversize hardcover next year. I implore you all to look into it as the Supergirl story alone was enough fun to buy the whole series.

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL

RICHARD STARKE’S PARKER: THE HUNTER
I decided a while ago that I didn’t care what Darwyn Cooke did, I would buy it. If his next project is to doodle on trash bags with crayons I will pick it up. When I heard that he was adapting a crime noir novel that had already been made into a Mel Gibson movie I wasn’t all that thrilled but as it was Mr Cooke, I knew I would be buying it. As everything else the man has done it was nothing short of magnificent. The bulk of the first twenty pages is nearly textless allowing Cooke’s incredible visual storytelling to set the tone of the book. Having never read any of the Parker novels I came into this with fresh eyes and loved every monochrome panel. I can’t wait for the next volume.

BEST “EVENT”

WAR OF KINGS
While everyone else continues to talk about Blackest Night and Dark Reign they seem to keep missing the best events in comics with the Marvel cosmic line. Going back to Annihilation and leading to the current Realm of Kings the team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have been the best part of the Marvel Universe. War of Kings also uses plot threads started by Ed Brubaker when he was writing Uncanny X-Men. Not only have these two shined a spotlight on the Inhumans, the Kree and Rocket Raccoon but they made Darkhawk cool, a herculean feat no matter how you slice it.

BEST ALL AGES COMIC

TINY TITANS
Every single month my whole family looks forward to reading this book. Its fun and silly and at times it reminds me a bit of the old Loony Tunes cartoons where the adults laugh at different parts of the show than the kids do. The premise is pretty simple, the Titans are in Kindergarten and their teachers and other faculty are all DCU villains. The book is quite possibly the most fun thing I have ever read.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

MUPPETS – BOOM KIDS is a new imprint from BOOM Studios and they are on a roll. They currently have the license for a multitude of Disney characters including the Muppets. The characters voices are all spot on and the stories are just as fun and quirky as the TV show. My favorite bit was the writer getting kidnapped in the middle of the Muppet Robin Hood mini series.

GAIL SIMONE– Why can’t she write every book featuring a female lead? Her run on Wonder Woman is the best that character has ever been and Secret Six is awesome every month. I have rarely read a book so deliciously demented as Secret Six. Ragdoll has quickly become one of the best parts of the DCU.

Fat kids

Posted: December 7, 2009 in Non Fiction, Random

The key for the obese to surviving those horrible years between the blissful ignorance of childhood and the waking stupor that is adulthood is to realize that even though you may be fat, you’re also a worthwhile human being. Keep in mind that you’re going to hear a lot of hurtful and hateful things in your life and there is no definitive way of dealing with the ignorance of your fellow man. I’m not one of those touchy feely types, I’m not going to sugar coat it for you. I’m not going to tell you that if you work really hard and use those extra special workout tapes your grandma got you for your birthday that magically all your problems will go away. It doesn’t matter whether you have a glandular disorder or if you just double fist Twinkies every afternoon while watching reruns of Mama’s Family, you’re still fat. Telling the smarmy kid in homeroom that your glands are screwy isn’t going to get the little bastard to tease you any less. Keep in mind, if you’re fat, you’re fat; using terms like “big boned” or my all time favorite “husky” are flat out patronizing to any of us with half a brain and any shred of self respect. The first step to feeling better with yourself is simply being able to say “hey, I’m fat” and being ok with it. Fat is not a dirty word no matter how many self help gurus, dietitians and “life coaches” tell you it is. I think the main problem our society has with overweight people is the negativity we associate with the word “fat”. It’s got a stigma to it that used to be reserved for words like “gay” or “communist” when our grandparents were catching Jackie Gleason on the “picture box”. Being comfortable when you say the word “fat” can go a long way to making you impervious to the childish insults of, and I use the term loosely, your peers.

My buddy Stevo and I have had several pop culture related websites over the years. Back in 2003 we opened wtfentertainment.com as a place to post things like movie reviews and the like. About a year after we opened neither of us were really writing anything with any regularity and the site kind of sat there, unused but looking fantastc (Stevo makes pretty websites). Around then I got the following e-mail.

“thiswillshockyou.com” <business@thiswillshockyou.com> wrote on 06/02/2004, 12:43:21 AM:
Hello,
My name is Ryan from WTF Entertainment, LLC I find it very strange that your business name you guys go by is wtf entertainment when we are the legal registrants of that name.  I hate to give you this bad news but you cant just go around using any name you feel like using for your business. Please immediately stop using that name and  transfer  http://www.wtfentertainment.com  to us immediately. We take this problem very seriously and failure to work this out with us will result in us taking legal action. Thank you.

Ryan Canto
thiswillshockyou.com

This wasn’t the first time an internet tough guy had threatened to sue us so I responded with all the social grace and legal knowhow I possesed.

Hi there Ryan from WTF Entertainment, LLC, my name is Tommy of absolutely no business whatsoever. I bought this as a personal web space quite a while ago. I don’t know, or care really, how long you’ve used the name but I do think its odd that your company is called WTF Entertainment yet your website is thiswillshockyou.com. I’ll tell you what, I’m not too terribly attached to the name or anything because, as I said, it was purchased to be a personal site so if it means that much to you to have the url, make me an offer. I will sell you the url but i’m not going to just give it to you because you made the school yard claim “I HAD IT FIRST!” More threats of legal action shall be met with open mockery.

Have a lovely day.

I then went on with my life and forgot about this. About a week later I got this.

“thiswillshockyou.com” <business@thiswillshockyou.com> wrote on 06/10/2004, 08:32:34 PM:
Tommy, I wasn’t trying to be a jerk in my last message so relax. It looks like to me as if you registered that name in hopes to sell it back to us for profit, which is very illegal. We will give you $10 for the domain and thats my final offer. Tommy, we may be a smaller company but what your doing is know different than if you registered  microsoftcorporation.com, its our legal business name not yours so by law we have rights to the domain, if you don’t believe me ask a lawyer. Something like this will end up costing you thousands of dollars if it goes to court so either do the right thing or we will have to take legal action. Thank you.

Ryan

Now he had used his dizzying intellect and knowledge of the law to frighten me quite a lot. I of course answered immediately.

I guess I wasn’t very clear before, I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF YOU! I didn’t buy this to sell back to you, I bought this to be a personal web space. And yes, you were trying to be a jerk and still are with your talk of legal expenses. If I had ever heard of you maybe buying the name would have been illegal but as it is, you’re out of luck. I retract my offer to sell you the url, I think I’m gonna keep it. A friend and I have been working on some ideas for the space since we bought it but we’ve been too busy with life to do anything. And in case you’re wondering, I checked out your website and while I didn’t find it to my liking, I hope you’re doing well with it. Don’t worry, our site won’t have any kind of pornography on it so there isn’t any way we could be confused with you. My friend and I are pop culture junkies and the last site we owned (filmspies.com) was dedicated to reviewing movies and DVD’s. That’s pretty much what we plan to do with this site. Now that I’ve explained myself a little better I hope you can just stop bothering me, this is taking up valuable time I could be reading comics with.

hugs n kisses

Tommy

I don’t know what happened but I never heard from him again. I didn’t mention to him that his copyright info says the site was (c)2004 while my site was registered 11/30/03.

U R SO GHEY!

Posted: December 2, 2009 in Non Fiction, Random

For the most part, I don’t look at the cold hard facts when discussing something like this. I’ve read a bunch of stuff about how gay couples in long term committed relationships tend to be two income, usually in some kind of white collar job. They tend to move into urban neighborhoods and the communities that change over to predominantly gay neighborhoods tend to have higher property values. None of that matters to me. What matters to me is that they are human beings, Americans who are being denied the same rights that those of us who aren’t gay enjoy without thought. Amy (my wife) and I aren’t together because I’m a man and she’s a woman, we’re together because we love each other. It’s as simple as that. If you’re in love, and you’re willing to make a lifelong commitment to someone, regardless of their color, national origin or sexual orientation.

When I was a little kid my dad used to get his paycheck on Friday afternoon, cash it and disappear until Sunday night when he would roll home wearing the same clothes he had on Friday, reeking of alcohol with no money to his name. On occasion he would come home furious because his best friend Jim Beam told him to be and he would drag my mom across the road by her hair. What kind of country do we live in that gives a man like that more rights than an upstanding-pays his taxes-takes out his trash-tells his partner “I love you” every day kind of man?

It wasn’t that long ago the black community took the brunt of a “right thinking” society that was so certain that allowing blacks to have the same rights as everyone else would bring about the collapse of society, people were killed in the name of “right”. We live in a new age where hateful violence occurs less often and gets much greater media coverage. Thankfully, things that would have been ignored and swept under the rug twenty years ago now get played on the half hour on CNN. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough. Americans are being denied their rights by other Americans and I cannot stand by and allow it without speaking up.

You may think being gay is an automatic “go to hell free” card, and that is your right. Just keep in mind that once upon a time, people were fed to lions for believing in your hell. Remember that all people of this planet, in one form or another, have had to fight their way up from some type of persecution. No matter if you’re black or white, Christian or Hindu, rich or poor., at some point in the history of your people there has been hatred, bigotry and persecution. How can we, as a society, tell our citizens that they aren’t allowed the thing our forefathers fought so hard to procure for us.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

With liberty and justice for all.