Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Book List 2009

Time once again for the annual “What I Read This Year” list, in the order I read them and broken down by type. The number of books in all categories went up from last year. Nearly two books per month (non-fiction and fiction) and well over one collected edition per week. Some clunkers on every list, but overall, a lot of good stuff packed in this year!

Non-Fiction

  1. Belushi: A Biography - Judith Belushi Pisano and Tanner Colby (Excellent read. Reminded me of Live From New York.)
  2. Marvel Chronicle: A Year by Year History - Tom DeFalco, Peter Sanderson, and Tom Brevoort (Maybe the best Xmas gift I got last year!)
  3. War as They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and America in a Time of Unrest - Michael Rosenberg
  4. God, Country, Notre Dame - Theodore M. Hesburgh with Jerry Reedy (Recommended by our parish priest. Good read.)
  5. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk - Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
  6. The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music - Steve Lopez (A very quick read. Although hard to believe, I think the movie was even more slight.)
  7. I Swear I Was There - David Nolan
  8. Time Bandit: Two Brothers, The Bering Sea, and One of the World’s Deadliest Jobs (audio) - Andy and Johnathan Hilstrand, with Malcolm MacPherson
  9. Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain - Marty Appel
  10. Wishful Drinking - Carrie Fisher
  11. An Hour Before Daylight: Memoirs of a Rural Boyhood - Jimmy Carter
  12. We’ll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin’ Showbiz Saga - Paul Shaffer with David Ritz (There isn't a hipper mother fucker on the planet!)
  13. Vinnie Here: Fanciful Conversations Between a Pastor and His Dog - Rev. Joseph Kraker & Vinnie
  14. The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock Radio, A Memoir - John Gorman with Tom Feran (Radio Daze “lite”)
  15. My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir (audio) - Carl Reiner
  16. 11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944 (audio) - Stanley Weintraub
  17. How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion (audio) - Daniel H. Wilson
  18. Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 - Simon Reynolds
Fiction
  1. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  2. The Stranger - Albert Camus, translated by Matthew Ward
  3. I Love You, Beth Cooper - Larry Doyle (Recommended all over the place as a great book. Completely underwhelmed by this thing. Don’t see it as anywhere near being a “John Hughes ’80s film in book form” as it was touted to me.)
  4. The Witches - Roald Dahl
  5. Boy: Tales of Childhood - Roald Dahl
Trade Paperbacks and Collected Editions
  1. The New Mutants Classic, Volume 1 - Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod
  2. The New Mutants Classic, Volume 2 - Chris Claremont and Sal Buscema
  3. Spider-Man/Red Sonja - Mike Avon Oeming , Mel Rubi
  4. The Astounding Wolf-Man, Volume 1 - Robert Kirkman, Jason Howard
  5. Batman: Haunted Knight - Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (Love Loeb and Sale’s Batman work!)
  6. The Transformers: All Hail Megatron - Shane McCarthy, Guido Guidi
  7. Powers: The Definitive Hardcover Collection, Volume 2 - Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Avon Oeming
  8. RASL - Jeff Smith
  9. Air: Letters from Lost Countries - G. Willow Wilson, M.K. Perker
  10. The King - Rich Koslowski
  11. Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: The Best of the Best - Brian Reed
  12. Ms. Marvel, Volume 2: Civil War - Brian Reed
  13. Ms. Marvel, Volume 3: Operation Lightning Storm - Brian Reed
  14. Mini Marvels: Rock, Paper, Scissors - Chris Giarrusso
  15. Mini Marvels: Secret Invasion - Chris Giarrusso
  16. The Demon Omnibus - Jack Kirby
  17. Maxwell Strangewell - The Fillbach Brothers
  18. The Walking Dead, Book One - Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
  19. The Walking Dead, Book Two - Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
  20. Y: The Last Man - The Deluxe Edition, Book One - Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra
  21. Wanted - Mark Millar, JG Jones, Paul Mounts (Saw the movie first. Entertained by both.)
  22. The New Mutants Classic, Volume 3 - Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz
  23. Fantastic Four - Visionaries: John Byrne, Volume 4 - John Byrne (Possibly the best collection of single issues ever.)
  24. Classic Transformers, Volume 2 - Various
  25. Fantastic Four - Visionaries: John Byrne, Volume 5 - John Byrne
  26. Civil War: Heroes for Hire - Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
  27. Y: The Last Man - The Deluxe Edition, Book Two - Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra
  28. Daredevil Omnibus, Volume 1 - Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev (Giving the FF Visionaries Volume 4 a run for its money in the “best collection of single issues ever” category.)
  29. Ultimate Spider-Man: Ultimate Collection, Volume 1 - Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley
  30. Civil War: X-Men - David Hine, Yanick Paquette
  31. The Complete Frank Miller Spider-Man - Frank Miller
  32. Indiana Jones Omnibus: The Further Adventures, Volume 1 - Various
  33. Young Avengers, Volume 2: Family Matters - Allan Heinberg, Jim Cheung, Andrea Divito
  34. Civil War: Punisher War Journal - Matt Fraction, Ariel Olivetti, Mike Deodatto
  35. Civil War: Iron Man - Various
  36. Storm - Eric Jerome Dickey, David Yardin, Lan Medina
  37. Black Panther - Reginald Hudlin, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Dean White
  38. Spider-Woman: Origin - Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Reed, Luna Brothers
  39. MySpace Dark Horse Presents - Various
  40. Super Human Resources - Ken Marcus, Justin Bleep
  41. Wolverine: Logan - Brian K. Vaughan, Eduardo Risso
  42. Daredevil: Battlin’ Jack Murdock - Zeb Wells, Carmine Di Giandomenico
  43. The Nobody - Jeff Lemire (Absolutely lived up to its billing. Fantastic story.)
  44. Civil War: Amazing Spider-Man - J. Michael Straczynski, Ron Garney
  45. House of M: Avengers - Christos Gage, Mike Perkins
  46. Spider-Man vs. the Black Cat - Various
  47. Annihilation Classic - Various
  48. Annihilation: Conquest, Book One - Various
  49. Nova, Volume 1: Annihilation Conquest - Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
  50. Nova, Volume 2: Knowhere - Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
  51. Annihilation: Conquest, Book Two - Various
  52. Queen & Country: Definitive Collection, Volume 1 - Greg Rucka
  53. The Walking Dead, Book Three - Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
  54. Punk Rock and Trailer Parks - Derf (Fantastic story from a local guy.)
  55. Whiteout - Greg Rucka, Steve Lieber (Not nearly as strong as his Queen & Country work, but entertaining.)
  56. Fantastic Four/Spider-Man Classic - Various
  57. Dead @ 17: Ultimate Edition - Josh Howard
  58. Daredevil: Yellow - Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (Didn’t really care for this story at all. I have Spider-Man: Blue and Hulk: Gray on my shelf, but don’t really want to read them after this.)
  59. Absolute Dark Knight - Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, Lynn Varley (Stunning.)
  60. Captain Britain Omnibus - Various
  61. The Walking Dead, Book Four - Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn (This series is amazing. I don't find it as personally depressing as others do; I think it's just appropriately affecting storytelling.)
  62. Chew, Volume 1: Taster’s Choice - John Layman, Rob Guillory
  63. The Mighty Avengers: Assemble - Brian Michael Bendis, Frank Cho, Mark Bagley
  64. Queen & Country: Definitive Collection, Volume 2 - Greg Rucka (Reading Queen & Country makes me want to pull out my MI-5/Spooks DVDs and rewatch that series. Thrilled I got Volumes 3 and 4 for Christmas this year!)
  65. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill (Enjoyed this so much more than Watchmen! Great story.)
  66. The Complete Essex County Hardcover - Jeff Lemire (I read all 512 pages of this amazing book over the course of 24 hours. More personal than The Nobody, it's haunting and gorgeous.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Friends Like These...

I alluded to this on Twitter the other day, but it’s always amazing to discover how talented your friends are. Last year I got knocked back by a package from Dave.

(Coloring courtesy of my kiddo.)

This year, it was Alan. I know he’s creative, what with his producing audio theater and the like, but I had no idea he could draw as well!


But this is not to take away from my friends who I am already aware have humbling talent, like Pat...


I’m just a guy who fancies himself a writer and is a comic book fan. These friends of mine are talented artists.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Marvel Unbound - The Mighty Avengers: Assemble

I pick up trade paperbacks of comics I read back in the day all the time. I have no qualms about spending my time and/or money on books that collect story arcs that I remember fondly from the early to mid-’80s. But when it comes to more current runs of comic books, I tend to buy collected editions of material I haven’t read previously in single issue format. The oversized hardcover of Brian Michael Bendis’ The Mighty Avengers: Assemble is an exception.

I love it when Marvel reprints material in the oversized format; the art just explodes off the page! And Assemble collects the first few story arcs from the first 11 issues of Mighty Avengers that bridge Civil War and Secret Invasion. But to say it only serves to fill a gap between two events does the book a disservice. The stories further reveal the complexities of the Marvel Universe and move the overall narrative forward.


I haven’t read these stories in a couple of years, not since I read them in single issues as they were released. At the time, I was just getting back into comics after twenty years away, and I remember picking up that first issue of Mighty Avengers and being completely disoriented as to what was going on in the Marvel Universe. I didn’t realize at the time that the Mighty book was the pro-registration team and that the New Avengers book was the anti-registration team.

Frank Cho and Mark Bagley’s artwork perfectly suits that notion of a slick, sanctioned team. (And Leinil Yu’s more gritty visuals fit the New Avengers renegades equally well in that title at the time.) Although I’m not particularly fond of Cho’s renderings of Janet Van Dyne/Wasp or Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow throughout issues #1 through 6, the images collected here are still gorgeous enough eye candy that I had Cho sign my copy of the book at Wizard World Chicago earlier this year.


Bagley’s work on the subsequent five issues weaves the pre-Secret Invasion buildup with the “Venom Bomb/Doom’s Castle” storylines. I talk at length in the chapter “Panel to Panel” of Deus ex Comica about Might Avengers #9. I love the magic Marko Djurdjevic and Bagley weave in that issue, and I had forgotten just how retro-awesome the follow-up issue is!

Bendis seems to be having a lot of fun with the dialog in this book. I remember laughing out loud reading some of the exchanges in issue #11 the first time around and again here. I also like the way Bendis portrays the frustration and conflict in Ms. Marvel after being appointed team leader by Tony Stark’s Iron Man/Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. then having her authority undermined by him around every turn.


I figured I would get more out of reading these collected issues this time around just by virtue of my fully and immediately grasping the context in which these stories originally took place. But on the flip-side, I wasn’t sure how this would read for me given the Secret Invasion knowledge I was bringing to the table. The six-part “Initiative” storyline works well, providing an “into the deep end” mission for this new team by way of the classic Avengers foe, Ultron. Bendis does a good job balancing his talking-head moments needed to setup the selection of the team with the action of an all-out battle by using out-of-sequence flashbacks. And the Secret Invasion setup in the second half of the book never gets in the way of just telling a fun adventure story.


I’ll be to preordering the second volume, designed to take the reader through the end of Bendis’ run on the title (and the point where I jumped off the book), scheduled for release later this winter. During Secret Invasion the Avengers titles were used for event backstory, so I’m curious how cohesive a collection this next book, covering issues #12-20, might be.


Although the dimensions of a Marvel Omnibus, these deluxe hardcovers don’t overdo the extras. Apart from some Cho character sketches and page art, and some Bagley cover art, the focus is firmly where it should be: on the stories themselves. The Mighty Avengers: Assemble is a great collection for the shelf and a fun read in the tradition of my old-school Avengers books.

Monday, December 21, 2009

See How the Black Moon Fades

How awesome is it to see Sinéad O’Connor perform “Mandinka” at the 1989 Grammy’s? She looks so awkward and out of place. The shocking incongruity of her shaved head and strikingly beautiful features. The ragged jeans and black boots paired with such a “no mistaking she’s a woman” top. And I love that she is clearly lip-syncing. Such a great moment in time captured here, before the SNL scandal, before her ordination, and all the other personal troubles and controversies. Just a woman and her music alone on the stage.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tribute

To paraphrase Tenacious D, "This is not The Greatest Ad in the World, no. This is just a tribute."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rise

I saw Public Image Ltd back in 1989 at Blossom Music Center when they toured with New Order and The Sugarcubes. Twenty years on and that show still holds a special place in my heart. I went to that show with John (in fact, I think I might still owe him money for the ticket), but virtually everyone from my future close college circle of friends and lovers attended that show, and then some.

I wouldn’t meet her for another six-and-a-half years, but my wife was there. While I was on the lawn, Tracy was in the mosh pit down front getting gobbed on by Johnny Lydon himself.


Some combination (or maybe all of) the people John and I would consider our closest circle of freshman year friends at Bowling Green just a few months later were there. I saw Erin wearing a PiL shirt during orientation, which prompted me to go up and talk to her. I’m pretty sure Jeff was at that show, and maybe Jennifer, too.


Marking the 30th anniversary of the landmark Metal Box, Lydon has reformed PiL, and I’ve been keeping tabs on the reissue and reunion news by way of Slicing Up Eyeballs. I doubt I’ll ever see Lydon or PiL live in Northeast Ohio again, but this pulsating seven-and-a-half minute live version of “Rise” from their first show in 17 years is enough to bring a nostalgic smile to my face.


I could be wrong. I could be right.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Catching Up on Music History

I met Simon Reynolds at the Pop Conference in Seattle back in 2007, where we were both presenters (on different panels). We ended up seated next to each other on the last day of the conference for the "Future of Thinking About Music for a Living" roundtable discussion. He was a pleasant enough guy and it was cool to meet him, but even with that personal connection and the fact that his book Rip It Up and Start Again is clearly right in my wheelhouse, I had not read the book before now.

Well, I take that back. After that roundtable, I recall having quite a bit of time to kill before my flight home that afternoon, so I wandered around downtown Seattle and found a bookstore to hole up in. While there, I read the chapter
in Rip It Up on Pere Ubu and Devo and the Northeast Ohio influence on postpunk, along with perusing some of the 33 1/3 books that were written by some of my fellow panelists and others I’d met that weekend.

But this has been a fun year of filling embarrassingly huge holes in my personal music history knowledge. I finally got around to reading the incredible oral history of punk, Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain. I also picked up I Swear I Was There: The Gig that Changed the World by David Nolan, another oral history that attempts to piece together who actually attended and the band genealogy that sprung out of the two Sex Pistol shows at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. And now, Rip It Up.

I can’t play a lick and Tracy would kill me if I attempted to carry a tune, but I love music. I love all kinds of music, but classic punk that bleeds into postpunk and alternative (what we called “college radio” back in the day) holds special sway over me from both a nostalgic perspective and an objective stance. There is a rich history to this branch of the rock and roll tree, and it’s great to have it chronicled so precisely. And Rip It Up is precise. If you’re looking for the loose and laid-back approach of Please Kill Me, this isn’t it.

Topically, Rip It Up is the perfect sequel to Please Kill Me. But Rip It Up takes a decidedly more academic, music journalistic bent in its approach, tone, and delivery. And this is not a complaint, because Reynolds is good at what he does. The book is a deep-dive into what punk begat, tracing the evolution from its beginnings with PiL rising from the fevered brain of Johnny Lydon after the dissolution of the Sex Pistols, spiraling out to synthpop, MTV, Goth, and beyond. Reynolds breaks things down chapter-by-chapter, with each one focusing on a specific sub-group or geographic location or set of similar artists within the larger postpunk movement.

2009 seems to have turned into The Year Adam Got Up-to-Speed on All the Music Reading Essentials He Previously Overlooked. If you’re digging on this topic, you should definitely check out Synth Britannia (in which Reynolds is the only non-musician talking head). And if you enjoyed 2002’s 24 Hour Party People, Anton Corbijn’s beautiful Ian Curtis biopic, Control, is a must see.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Marvel Unbound - Captain Britain Omnibus

I am a huge fan of the oversized collections comic book publishers produce, including DC’s Absolute Edition line, Marvel’s Omnibus series and their general oversized hardcovers, and Dark Horse’s Library Edition collections. There is a certain prestige to the format.

Whether you shop DCBS or conventions or even Amazon, there is really no reason to pay full cover price for one of these books. But if you’re going to publish a book in one of these formats and put a $100 price tag on it, I expect some care to be put into the final product. Marvel’s Captain Britain Omnibus has been a bit of a let down from a packaging perspective.


Of the material collected here, I don't think I'd previously read any of it, so it’s fair to say I didn’t bring any prior character knowledge to the table. From a content perspective, it’s great to have these stories collected and the window into the Marvel UK format is fascinating. Unfortunately,
the presentation is marred by stripped-down credits and incorrect table of contents on the opening pages.

I have a fair number of omnibuses on my shelf, and to be fair, there are others besides the Captain Britain book that sport the boring opening page format (Devil Dinosaur and Secret Wars for starters), but the errors in the Captain Britain Omnibus compounds the problem. The original publishing date of Captain America #306, June 1985, is incorrectly cited as June 1986. This oversight is more glaring by the fact that Captain America #305 is also in this collection and the covers of both are reprinted here, so the correct date is easy to divine.


Also, there are introductions by Alan Davis and Alan Moore, both from 2001, then a character recap that is completely uncredited. As far as the actual reprinted content, I’m torn. The storylines are enjoyable and an interesting glimpse at Marvel’s earl
y 1980s presence in Britain, but there are words missing from dialog boxes throughout... sometimes there is white space in a sentence where it’s obvious there was a printing error, and other places words were just plain left out of the original published material.

Maybe I’m making too big of a deal out of this, and maybe I’m overly sensitive to it for a number of reasons: First, I have edited a book and articles and have an eye for simple errors like these. So I know these things should be caught, and when they’re not it just feels sloppy. Also, I am a writer who has published my own book and agonized over finding the right price-point for it in the hopes that my readers feel they’ve gotten their money’s worth out of it and the value was inherent (including a lack of typos and the facts correct). Finally, I am a consumer who, although I didn’t pay cover price for the omnibus, spent my hard-earned money on it. And when there are issues like this from a book at this price from a company of Marvel’s stature, it’s disappointing and feels a little like they didn’t really care about the product they were putting out there. But the contents of the book are enough to recommend it.


The first half of the omnibus (23 issues of Marvel Super-Heroes and The Daredevils) weaves a wonderful story of alternate universes that affect one another and contains the first mention anywhere in Marvel comics of the Earth 616 designation. It’s pretty cool to see the way the story is handed off between Dave Thorpe and Paul Neary to Alan Moore to Jamie Delano. Threads are never left unresolved, each chapter in the story has meaning and future implications. The Marvel UK model of six- to ten-page stories per book are a study in efficient recaps, wasting not a moment beyond what is necessary to bring the reader up to speed.

The second half of the book, comprised of 25 issues of The Mighty World of Marvel and Captain Britain, along with a handful of US Marvel comics appearances (New Mutants and X-Men annuals, the previously mentioned Captain America issues), remains pretty consistent even when the writing duties jump around a bit.

I believe there is just one thing missing from the collection: There is a reference in Captain America #305 where Cap thinks, “That doesn’t look like the Captain Britain I’ve met before – ” and it references ROM #65. I know there are rights issues to the ROM property, so it makes sense that issue isn’t included.


The bonus material is an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach that befits an omnibus. Alan Davis’ character and costume designs, scripts, pin-ups and posters, back-up stories, all the covers of all the issues and previous collections that contained any of these stories, a Grant Morrison story and a Chris Claremont essay, and even reproductions of both covers offered for this omnibus are presented here.


Despite the nuts and bolts of the packaging falling well short of the expectations set by the collection’s label and price tag, the Captain Britain Omnibus is an incredibly entertaining read and can be recommended on the strength Marvel UK model it exhibits.

Monday, December 7, 2009

An Embarrassing Confession

I love Jeff Parker’s work. Perusing his comic book resume is a venerable list of comics that pepper my personal collection. But I think I am the only comic fan I know who isn’t completely smitten with Agents of Atlas. I want to like it – hell, I want to love it! – but it just hasn’t clicked with me.

As someone who has flirted with music journalism, I would say a negative review is one of the toughest things to write. It’s easy to gush about stuff you enjoy, but to put together a thoughtful negative review is always challenging. First, you don’t want to come off like you’re just piling on or being vindictive or just ranting to hear your own voice. Second, you don’t want to be disrespectful to the artist or creator.

Chris Marshall recently praised the Agents of Atlas hardcover collections on Collected Comics Library. All of my comic book fan friends gush over the book. I had dinner with Dave Wachter the other night, and as you would expect to happen when two comic fans get together, the conversation eventually turned to what we have enjoyed reading lately. And what title was Dave quick to say: Agents of Atlas. So still I remain, the only person I know with whom that book and team hasn’t connected.

But the conversation with Dave may have finally helped me realize why I'm not digging the book. Dave raved that he loved how it combined noir with super heroes with espionage with ’50s style sensibilities, and I think that might be it... for me, the book suffers from an identity crisis. And maybe it’s because I love Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction’s Immortal Iron Fist so much, but Agents of Atlas also feels like, at its heart, it treads a little too close to that same Eastern mysticism territory.

My favorite issues of the series have been the ones where folks like the Hulk and Captain America and Namor have guested. I genuinely feel horrible that I don’t like this book, like there is something wrong with my comic tastes that this creation by a writer I admire and an artist I enjoy, that this team of eclectic characters who seem right up my alley, that this mix of genres I love is somehow not clicking for me.

Obviously my opinion is firmly in the minority, and that’s ok. I’m not trying to sway anyone from enjoying Agents of Atlas. And I certainly don’t mean any disrespect to the creator because I love most everything of Parker’s I read, I love the work of the artists that bring his writing to life, and every interaction I’ve had with Parker via Twitter has been great. Heck, in spite of never really falling in love with the book, I purchased all 11 issues of the second volume along with the X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas two-issue mini. I just have found that – machinegun wielding, kick-ass Gorilla-Man aside – Agents of Atlas just isn’t my thing. Sorry.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hoop Dreams

The kiddo isn’t a great athlete, but he’s not horrible either. He has a zest for life and an enthusiasm to everything he throws himself into. Currently, he’s playing in the school’s youth basketball league. There are five third grade teams. They practice on Tuesday nights and play two games Saturday mornings through all of November and most of December. Games are played at the two middle school gymnasiums – they play half court games, but the full width of the court.

Each team in the league (third grade through sixth) is given the opportunity to scrimmage on the high school gym floor during halftime of a varsity boys basketball game. The kiddo’s team’s turn was Friday night.


If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been traveling a lot for work the last couple of months, but I’ve made it home every weekend for the kiddo’s games. I was in Pittsburgh again this past week, and I knew I needed to get home in time for his big moment on the court.


Because nothing goes as planned, I had actually padded my calendar to accommodate my leaving Pittsburgh late, and I’m glad I did. I ended up leaving an hour-and-a-half later than originally planned, and got stuck in rush hour traffic downtown. But I caught a break when I called Tracy from the road and realized the varsity game was starting at 7:30 instead of 7:00.


I ended up walking into the high school gym with two minutes left in the first half! Prefect timing. And the first person I saw was the kiddo, who was lined up with his team, waiting for their big moment. After I got a giant I-missed-you-all-week hug, I found my way over to Tracy and the other youth parents we’re friends with who were all sitting together.


Halftime wasn’t very long, but sandwiched between the dance squad’s routine at the beginning of it and the varsity teams warming back up at the end, the kiddo and his mates had their five or so minutes in the sun! Playing full court ball, running hard end-to-end, hustling, and trying their best.


Before their scrimmage started, I told Tracy, “You watch, he won’t touch the ball once tonight, but will still have the greatest time ever.” And I was right. He didn’t get his hands on the ball, but he had fun. He hustled on defense, ran the length of the court hard, and was clearly having a blast out there with his friends. I was so proud of him.


Leaving the school later, there were a couple of high school girls at the entrance. They saw the kiddo – still in his basketball jersey, shorts, and sports goggles – and told him he did a nice job. The kiddo said “Thank you” in that awkward eight-year-old-getting-a-compliment-from-a-high-school-girl kind of way, and I know he was proud of himself, too.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Yo, Joe!

I love G.I. Joe. Not the action figures. I bought and played with them briefly in the early ’80s as a preteen. Not the cartoon. I was in my mid-teens by the time the cartoon hit the airwaves. But that original Marvel comic book series was the centerpiece of my comic world in the ’80s. I read and loved that book for half a decade. It was the last comic I collected before walking away from comic books completely in high school. To say G.I. Joe holds a special place in my personal comic pantheon would be an understatement. So when you go and make a movie of it, you better believe I’m bringing a footlocker’s worth of nostalgic baggage to the table.

I admit I was swayed by early reviews and a lack of positive buzz around this summer’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra big-budget flick, so I stayed away from the theater. My friend David and I have a theory: If a movie – especially a movie with roots or ties to the comic book culture – is not getting good reviews, then avoid the flick’s initial run and catch it later at home after the hype machine has died down. It worked for Ghost Rider. It worked for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And, I am thrilled to report that, yes, it worked for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, too.

I couldn’t believe how readily I was able to suspended disbelief for anything the movie threw at me and just surrender to the thrill-ride fun. And I was even more surprised at how easy it was for me to set aside everything I know and love about the history and continuity of the G.I. Joe franchise and embrace [SPOILER] Baroness and Cobra Commander being siblings, Snake Eyes taking a vow of silence, The Pit located in North Africa, Duke and the Baroness linked romantically [SPOILER], and so on.

Even Tracy, who has no point of reference whatsoever for the franchise outside of the chapter I devote to the Real American Heroes in my book, enjoyed the movie. We had a fun time passing a couple of hours, and I would definitely check out a sequel… after it makes its way to DVD, of course.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

’Tis the Season

After dragging my sorry ass out of bed and eventually out of the house after a grueling Black Friday morning, we headed out for our annual Downtown Akron tree lighting festivities. The city’s budget-cutting done back in July was felt on this cold November night when compared to last year’s event. Main Street wasn’t blocked off, the NBC affiliate personalities MCs were replaced with an Akron radio station DJ, and Santa didn’t arrive by train.

Everything was held completely within Lock 3 this year, but the fireworks remained a crowd-pleaser. The sky lit up beautifully in golds and reds and greens and purples and bright whites! It was a gorgeous display behind a beautiful tree, reminding us, once again, why we love this city and this community.

This year, we took our neighbors with us, who had never been before. We had a great time huddled together during the presentation and fireworks and ta
king pictures in front of the big blue-lit tree, and at the end of the night we ended up back at our house for hot cocoa and warm conversation, the always-perfect beginning to the holiday season.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

You’ll Always Remember Your First Time...

Tracy is a hard-core shopper. She is the fiercest, most cunning bargain hunter I have ever known. Black Friday is a holiday for her. It’s my wife in her element. It’s something I have never been able to get my head around, before now. Tracy invited me to join her on Black Friday this year, an invitation that had never been extended previously. I felt honored to be asked to join my wife on her annual quest, and more than a little intimidated. My shopping skills and bargain hunting cunning have improved over the years simply by being married to this woman, and while I’m all about my beloved Banana Republic and some technology shopping, I’m no where near her league. So it was with a bit of apprehension that I accepted her offer of early morning pursuit.

After Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house, we’d made arrangements to leave the kiddo with them overnight while Tracy and I braved the Northeast Ohio elements and shopping denizens. After a few hours sleep in early night, our alarms went off at 10.30pm, and we were off, armed with bottles of water and snacks...


10.45 pm – Stop at Get-Go to pick up gift cards for Toys “R” Us and Home Depot.

11.00 pm – In line at Toys “R” Us awaiting its midnight opening. The line eventually wraps all the way around all four sides of the building, but we are there just before the rush of people arrives. We are located along the first side of the building, in a decent position to get in and get out reasonably quickly.

12.00 am – After an hour of standing in the light Ohio drizzle (under our umbrella, of course – remember, Tracy’s a professional), the doors open and we file in, but not before people from the parking lot attempt to get out of their cars and just saunter in among the folks who had queued up according to etiquette and form. There is some shouting and some name calling and some rude gestures around us, but we make it in without incident. Tracy has given me clear instructions: go immediately to the Electronics department and get two [REDACTED] and a [REDACTED]. Meanwhile, she will get the other two items and meet me in Electronics for checkout.

12.10 am – I have the loot I was charged with finding, Tracy has hers, and we meet up for checkout. The store is a madhouse. I’ve never seen a store so completely packed before. It is impossible to move, and heaven help the folks who are trying to navigate a cart through the aisles of crushed bodies and strewn-about merchandise.

12.30 am – We complete our checkout, make it back to our car, and are off to our next stop.

12.35 am – We head to Old Navy. Scheduled to open at 3am, we park the car and head up into line, fortunate to be under an overhang and spared the drizzle-y rain that continues to fall.

12.50 am – We begin to reevaluate why we are going to Old Navy. Do we really need anything here? Do we really need a free copy of LEGO Rock Band for the Wii when we are a Guitar Hero house? Is there a better way to spend these next precious hours of pre-store opening positioning?

1.00 am – The decision is made. Screw Old Navy. We head to Target, scheduled to open at 5am.

1.10 am – In the parking lot of Target, the rain is coming down, there are about ten people in line already. We decide to stay in the car and try to sleep until 2am.

1.37 am – The rain is coming down harder now and neither of us can sleep. I suggest that we should get out now and stake our claim in line before others arrive for a number of reasons, the most immediately pressing one being, if we’re committed to this, I want to be under the overhang in front of Target so we don’t get soaked all night. I see a twinkle of pride in Tracy’s eyes as she readily agrees.

1.42 am – We are in-line outside of Target. Where Toys “R” Us fell horribly flat with the rushing of the gates at midnight, Target deserves credit for the brilliance of their plan to keep order. They used their carts as a barrier of sorts that the line has to follow. There is no way you could walk up to the door at 5am and stroll in without being in the line, so kudos there.

2.00 am – I head over to Walgreens to use the bathroom while Tracy holds our spot in line.

2.15 am – Tracy heads over to Walgreens to use the bathroom while I hold our spot in line.

2.30 am – I sit in the car to warm up while Tracy holds our spot in line.

2.50 am – Tracy sits in the car to warm up while I hold our spot in line.

3.10 am – No one shows up after us for a long time. We pass the time chatting with the few folks already there, discovering that the guy next to us roomed at college with a girl I graduated from high school with and currently works with one of our recent neighbors. Small world in the wee-early morning hours.

3.15 am – I suggest running home to get my thermal underwear on, and Tracy readily agrees that I should so I can bring back her hooded sweatshirt.

3.45 am – I return from home, forgetting to bring Tracy hot cocoa (I'm clearly the amateur here), but one of our line-mates’ mother has arrived after having bought out all the hot cocoa available at the Speedway down the street and hands the warm cups out to anyone who wants some.

3.45 am – The parking lot fills up and the line begins to really grow.

4.00 am – Target employees distribute free “green” bags and store maps to everyone in line.

4.15 am – Lawn chairs and blankets and all the other amenities the early morning line holders have with us are systematically returned to our respective vehicles in anticipation of the doors opening within the hour.

4.50 am – Tracy and I consult the store map and review our game plan one more time: Similar to our Toys “R” Us excursion, I’m to head straight to Electronics to get [REDACTED] and an external hard drive, while she will grab a cart and pick up [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and [REDACTED]. At which point we’ll call each other on our cells and plan our attack on the registers and checkout.

5.00 am – Target's doors open, and we file in. I head to Electronics and grab [REDACTED] and then head to the computer aisle to get the external hard drive, only to find the spot on the shelf empty! And I was the first person there! Two, three, four people and more show up and aisle is a jammed up mess. I have a Target employee try to locate the drives.

5.10 am – The Target employee eventually returns with a box of five external hard drives. We all follow him up to the register area. In the meantime, Tracy has called and reported that she has everything she set out to get and was on her way to meet me in Electronics.

5.15 am – Tracy points out that I grabbed the wrong [REDACTED] and now my greatest fears are being realized: that I would screw something up on this mission. Achebe was right. Things fall apart.

5.20 am – I am off to other parts of the store to try and located the right version of the [REDACTED] I was supposed to get. It’s nowhere to be found.

5.30 am – Tracy checks out with everything else we needed to get (all the things she had grabbed plus the external hard drive). The clueless employees find multiple different versions of [REDACTED] but not the version we needed. So we wait in the checkout line at Electronics with five others who are trying to score the same item, letting others go ahead of us so we don’t lose our place as the checkout line continues to grow.

5.35 am – Here is where my wife’s patience and Zen approach is a sight to behold... Standing in that line as Target employees continue to bring out boxes of the wrong version of [REDACTED], I realize how hot, tired, and hungry I am. I look at Tracy, who looks like she hasn’t slept in days, and tell her we should just buy the wrong version and exchange it later. But she keeps telling me to wait another five minutes, to give them a chance to bring out more boxes from the back, that they will eventually find what we were after in the backroom.

5.50 am – A Target employee makes his way to the Electronics register with an armful of the right version of [REDACTED] we need! Because we had kept our place in line, we are given one from the employee and quickly pay for it and work our way to the exit. I am stunned at how long the front register lines are! They stretch from the front door more that a quarter of the way around the store!

5.55 am – Tracy stops at the restroom at the front of the store, I take our loot to the car, load it up and get the car started.

6.05 am – We pull into the Home Depot parking lot, with things looking much less crazy despite the fact the store opened just five minutes earlier. I drop Tracy at the door and find a place to park.

6.08 am – I walk into the store and hear Tracy call my name. She has the single item we came for: a new pre-lit tree for our entryway.

6.10 am – A Home Depot employee tells us we can checkout at the Returns desk and we’re in and out in a matter of minutes.

6.15 am – We’re across the street at Acme, in hopes of buying some donuts for breakfast. They don’t open for another 15 minutes. I say forget it. Let’s just head home and get some sleep.

6.30 am – Home. Quickly unload the car, get out of these clothes that feel like we’ve spent days in, and hit the sack.


An hour and a half later, Tracy got up for work and was out the door by 8.40.

Two hours after that, I woke up feeling like I’d been on an all night bender, and to find snow accumulation on the ground
.

I asked Tracy sometime between Target and Home Depot and the drive home, what pleasure she gets out of doing this year after year after year. Her response? The thrill of the hunt, and the ability to get some really great gifts for our family on a reasonable budget. My wife has expensive taste and high standards, and what I saw on Friday morning was a side of her I hadn’t before – she was patient and calm among some of more interesting characters you might never hope to encounter. She is naturally driven and organized, but her Black Friday mission is more akin to a surgical-strike than a shopping trip. I have new respect for Tracy after seeing her in action.


Friends asked me if there was a surge of adrenaline when the doors opened or when finding the right items. Tracy’s answer was yes. Mine was no. My only reaction when the doors opened was one of fear – not of my fellow shoppers, but of letting my wife down by grabbing the wrong item or getting shut out of the right item because of one of my mistakes. Tracy said I did good Friday morning and that I made her proud.


Friends and family have asked if I’ll go with Tracy again next year, and here is the response I gave them: I have heard that women forget about the pain of childbirth and decide to get pregnant again, choosing to go through that potentially excruciating process a second or third time. Unless, I completely forget how miserable I was Friday morning, and how exhausted I was all day Friday, I don’t think I’ll be joining Tracy on any future Black Friday adventures. But I’m glad I did it once, so I can say I’ve had the experience, and I have even more respect for my wife and what she goes through each year to help make our Christmas special.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Between the Panels

A couple of weeks ago I did an author visit at the Fairlawn-Bath branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library. I had a really great time reading from Deus ex Comica and answering questions from the audience on a wide range of topics. During the Q&A session, the conversation turned to motion comics. Marvel is already in the game with their Spider-Woman title on iTunes, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Alex Maleev.

I downloaded the first Spider-Woman motion comic when it was released, but haven’t picked up any of the subsequent installments, instead opting to consume the monthly storyline in traditional single issue comic book form
.

There is the question of the future of comics: Will they be delivered and read via monthly single issues, collected editions, or electronically on a computer or smart phone? But that is a discussion for another time, because motion comics are not a part of that debate. Motion comics are not comics, they are semi-static movies with spoken dialog and minimal animation.


I’m all for getting new readers engaged in the medium, but Marvel’s motion comic has little to do with the act of reading a comic. In fact, I’d argue that motion comics have as much to do with gainin
g new readership for comics as the big screen adaptations or Universal Studios’ roller coaster rides featuring these properties do.

Comics have a well-documented history of being censored and banned. But that combination of reading and exercising your imagination will always be the medium’s highest redeeming quality as far as I’m concerned. The kiddo gets enough stimulation spoon-fed to him via TV and video games. I first encouraged him to read comic books to get him to read. Now that he’s reading them voraciously, I’m encouraging him to slow down with his comics and let each panel sink in, urging him to experience the comic and let his imagination twist and expand and grow as he fills in the blanks.

A motion comic takes too much away from the experience of a comic book for me. Some of it is tactile. Like the album-to-mp3 struggles experienced by every generation prior to the current one, there is something to be said for holding the comic book or collected edition in my hands and smelling the paper and feeling the weight of it, knowing it occupies physical space in the world. But there is more to it than that because I see a future for reading comics and books on smart phones and computers. The motion comic’s biggest crime is that it takes me out of the role of active participant and renders me a passive consumer of the art.

When I read a comic book (either in monthly single issue
format, collected edition, or via an electronic delivery option), I am forced to engage in the activity. By its very nature, a comic panel can’t move. It can imply motion, but I have to use my imagination move the characters or action from point A to point B. It’s what happens between the panels, which takes place completely in my head, that makes reading a comic a dynamic activity. And that is what ends up left out of the motion comic experience.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Your Daddy's Synthpop

“What is it about gay English synthpop duos from the ‘80s? They have style. They have relevance. They have staying power. They have a musician who is content to hide behind a computer during live shows while the singer commands the stage.”

I wrote that as the opening to a review of Pet Shop Boys’ Cubism DVD a couple of years ago. At the time I was referring specifically to the Boys and Erasure. Those same observations are also reported on and expanded upon in the excellent BBC documentary Synth Britannia.


If you’re a fan of pop music... hell, if you’re a fan of music, you need to watch this amazing documentary covering the genesis and evolution of synthpop in the UK. From the earliest heartbeats in the late ‘70s to the world-moving earthquakes of the ‘80s, this is a fantastic, uniquely British story that needed to be told. Influences like Kraftwerk and J.G. Ballard are given their due, while the growth of the genre is explored through the words and work of the people who were on the ground as the movement took shape.


Eight of the nine segments are available on YouTube. For whatever reason, that last 10-minute segment is nowhere to be found (I believe it’s a copyright issue in the US), but viewing what’s here will fuel your playlist selections for days!
(Don't believe me? Check out the tracklisting from the program listed below!)

Credit to the always great folks over at Slicing Up Eyeballs for the heads up on this.
















Program Tracklist
1. Depeche Mode - New Life

2. Wendy Carlos - William Tell

3. Wendy Carlos - Clockwork Orange Main Title

4. Kraftwerk - Autobahn

5. The Clash - White Riot

6. The Normal - Tvod

7. The Normal - Warm Leatherette

8. The Future - 4 Jg

9. The Human League - Being Boiled

10. Donna Summer - I Feel Love

11. Cabaret Voltaire - Seconds Too Late

12. Cabaret Voltaire - Nag Nag Nag

13. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Messages

14. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Enola Gay

15. Joy Division - Atmosphere

16. John Foxx - Underpass

17. Throbbing Gristle - Still Walking

18. Throbbing Gristle - Hot on the Heels of Love

19. Fad Gadget - Back to Nature

20. Silicon Teens - Memphis Tennessee

21. Gary Numan - Are Friends Electric?

22. Gary Numan - Cars

23. Visage - Fade to Grey

24. The Flying Lizards - Money

25. Depeche Mode - New Life

26. Depeche Mode - Just Can't Get Enough

27. The Human League - Don't You Want Me

28. Heaven 17 - Penthouse & Pavement

29. Cabaret Voltaire - Landslide

30. Soft Cell - Tainted Love

31. Yazoo - Only You

32. Yazoo - Don't Go

33. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Maid of Orleans

34. Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams

35. Ultravox - Vienna

36. Kraftwerk - The Model

37. Depeche Mode - Everything Counts

38. Depeche Mode - Master and Servant

39. Pet Shop Boys - West End Girls

40. New Order - Ceremony

41. New Order - Blue Monday

42. Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder - Together in Electric Dreams

Friday, November 20, 2009

140 Characters of Laziness

I have been lamenting my own lack of motivation to write lately. I have all sorts of excuses. I travel for work, and I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. You would think that having nights available in a hotel room without the usual distractions would be perfectly conducive to writing, but when you’re on the road you end up working ten to 12 hours a day, and you eat like crap, and it’s difficult to get inspired and focus to write.

But what might be my biggest writing de-motivator... Twitter. Twitter has replaced blogging, email, and forums for me. When I come across something that piques my interest, instead of sitting down and putting a few hundred thoughtful words to paper and publishing it on my blog, I’ll shrink a URL and write a pithy comment and be done with it. Instead of taking the time to write out full-blown emails, I direct message friends short, 140-character well-wishes or good-natured jibes or whatever.


Although I am complaining about the impact of Twitter on my blogging and email, I have to admit the replacement of forums with Twitter has been truly positive. With Twitter, I avoid the general douche baggery of the forum, while still staying in touch with the folks I want to and up on the news that’s relevant to me. (On a weekly basis, from my friends who still frequent forums, I see tweets saying things like they need to get away from the forum before they type something they shouldn't or that their blood pressure is rising because of some comment they read in a forum thread.) Where forums often seem to foster the pompous, long-winded soliloquies of blow-hards, Twitter is a great natural filter (because I'm only following the people whose comments I want to read) and force the writer to get to the point quickly and concisely.


To be clear, I'm not anti-Twitter and this is not a manifesto, I just need to stop using Twitter as an excuse to not work my writing muscles. It’s time for me to shake off this laziness and make the time to flesh out some of the ideas that crop up. Instead of opting for the instant gratification of a quick tweet, I need to go back to my pre-Twitter, pre-too-busy-to-write mindset. The next time an idea strikes me, I’m going to do my best to avoid the crutch of a quick 140-character missive and instead stretch myself and exercise the ol’ noggin with some critical thinking or satire or whatever the situation calls for.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Deus ex Comica at the Akron Library

I have been having a lot of fun promoting Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan over the last seven months through in-store signings and convention appearances, with reviews and interviews (in places like Wired Magazine’s GeekDad) and doing author visits (at events like the Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University). Now, thanks to the support of friends like Cathy Morgan, I get to do it here in my own backyard at the Fairlawn-Bath branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library on Saturday, November 14!

I’ll be reading some selections from Deus ex Comica and
talking about the evolution of the book, and looking forward to discussing anything from the self-publishing process to comic books in general after the prepared portion of the presentation! Comics might not be everybody’s thing, but I hope the readings, accompanying visuals, and subsequent audience dialog will make it worthwhile for everyone attending!

If you’re available, I hope you’ll come out! You can RSVP by calling the Fairlawn-Bath branch directly at 330.666.4888! Event time and more details are below.

(click to enlarge)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's Pronounced "Fronkensteen"

The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
17 October 2009: Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square, Cleveland, Ohio

One of my birthday presents this year was a date night with Tracy: tickets to see Young Frankenstein, the new Mel Brooks musical, at Playhouse Square. So, after dropping the kiddo at the in-laws for the overnight, we headed to Ken Stewart’s Tre Belle for an early dinner. Everything was perfect (including prosciutto as God intended it: wrapped around fresh cantaloupe melon). We had forgotten it was Sweetest Day, the Cleveland-invented greeting card holiday that’s celebrated in the Great Lakes region, so we were actually grateful the show time forced us into an uncharacteristically early dinner, because we were winging it without dinner reservations.

We arrived downtown in time to people watch from the balcony of the Palace Theatre lobby before heading to our seats and settling in for an amusing ride. Our theatre going has been decidedly R-rated of late. We saw Spring Awakening earlier this year (teen sex, masturbation, suicide), Young Frankenstein now (“Don’t touch our tits!”), and Avenue Q is up next in the spring (Sesame Street with full-frontal puppet nudity!). But where Spring Awakening was explicit and serious, Young Frankenstein is more bawdy fun. (I’m curious to see where Avenue Q will fit on this scale.)


It’s interesting that the movies that helped shape my sense of humor in my teen years (and are still quoted in my daily lexicon) – John Waters’ Hairspray, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brooks’ The Producers and now Young Frankenstein – are finding new life on Broadway, but it can be a slippery-slope of perceived nostalgia mixed with lazy creativity. Thankfully, the adaptation of Young Frankenstein to the stage is largely successful.


Young Frankenstein preserves the storyline of the movie, along with many of the key set-ups/one-liners that make the movie so classic, but expands some of the themes and scenes (mostly in the right places). Elizabeth’s “Please Don’t Touch Me” number felt a bit like filler, but “Join the Family Business” – a completely new scene in which the ghost of Victor Frankenstein attempts to convince Frederick to take up the mantle of his work and create a new monster – was excellent! That number was also the point in the show where I really sat up and took notice of the choreography. It was probably the most perfect moment of the entire night for me.


Inga’s introduction number, “Roll in the Hay”, was fantastic, beautifully built off the great Teri Garr movie line. And Frau Blücher’s “He Vas My Boyfriend” was another well-turned adaptation and expansion of a classic movie line, this time one of Cloris Leachman’s.


The second act didn’t feel as muscular as the first, but did have its moments. “Puttin’ on the Ritz” vied for the show-stopper slot; and it was good, but it was also predictable. Anyone going into the show with even a passing familiarity with the movie would expect that. (“Join the Family Business” seemed a more complete centerpiece in act one than anything act two had to offer.)


For my money, the gem of the night was the blind hermit’s “Please Send Me Someone”. The result was a great homage to Gene Hackman’s genius original performance, but infused with its own unique character. The other great act two moment was Elizabeth’s “Deep Love”. A double entendre rendered surprisingly (and uncharacteristically for Brooks!) subtle by the musical arrangement, so much so that it seemed many in the audience were unsure how to take the song.


More than History of the World, Part I... more than Blazing Saddles... more than Spaceballs... more than The Producers... Young Frankenstein has always been my favorite Mel Brooks movie. And while the stage production of it might not be the out-and-out hit The Producers was, I came away satisfied. Now I’m holding out for the musical adaptation of Silent Movie. That would be something to see!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Man in Black

Writers & Readers Series - Neil Gaiman
04 October 2009: Lake Shore Facility Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio

A week and a half after my author visit as a part of the Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University, where I presented Deus ex Comica to an audience of 50 or so people with a couple of prepared readings and a fun Q&A session, I got to see how it’s really done when Neil Gaiman visited the Cleveland Public Library for their Writers & Readers Series. It was an amazing opportunity that took me by surprise!

Our friends Chad and Heather came in town from Fort Wayne to visit with us and to have the opportunity to hear Gaiman speak and meet him. We made it up to the Lake Shore Facility Auditorium right around 12.45 for the 2pm talk. Doors opened at 1pm and, although there was a long-ish line of people already queued up in front of us, we were able to get right in and find great seats.


After going to the overflow room to greet those folks in person (they would be viewing the talk on closed-circuit TV), Gaiman returned to the main hall and began his talk. He read from both his new book, Odd and the Frost Giants, and his current bestseller, The Graveyard Book. Although there wasn’t time for too many questions to be asked, Gaiman provided lengthy and thoughtful answers for the appreciative crowd, leaving us feeling like we’d had a glimpse into his personality outside of the written page.

After the talk and Q&A was over, we queued up to meet the author and have the books we’d brought with us signed by him. This was the one place where the event organizers dropped the ball: They really should have given attendees numbered tickets when we entered the building initially, and used that as the queuing order for the signing session. Regardless, the crowd was very easy-going about things, and everyone in our party
felt the time passed very quickly and didn’t feel nearly as long as it actually was.

Tra
cy and I have only recently discovered Gaiman’s work, but are thoroughly enjoying it! Tracy loves The Graveyard Book and Coraline, and while waiting for our turn to meet Gaiman, she read half of The Eternals hardcover we’d brought for him to sign. I fell in love with Marvel 1602, so much so that I included my thoughts on it in Deus ex Comica. I was on the fence about giving a copy of my book to Gaiman (unsure how receptive he might be to it), but after hearing his talk, I felt completely at ease with the idea.

Chad and Heather went first, having their daughter’s copy of The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish inscribed with a request from Gaiman to not swap her little brother, and their gorgeous Dave Wachter-drawn image of the Gaiman character Destiny signed. Gaiman asked who drew the commission and was kind enough to pose with it for us. Then Tracy had him sign her copy of The Graveyard Book, and we all got a kick out of him putting her name on a tombstone for the inscription.


When it was my turn, I handed him the copy of The Eternals, and while he was signing it I set the copy of my book on the table next to him and explained that I was comic fan in the ‘80s who drifted from the hobby and had recently rediscovered the culture and wrote a book about the experience. He stopped midway through signing The Eternals, picked up the copy of Deus ex Comica and flipped quickly through it, and gave me an “Awesome!” (And a couple of the folks around him – handlers or librarians, I’m not sure which – agreed and chimed in with encouragement.) When I explained that I wanted to give him the copy, he wanted to make sure that I had signed it for him! It was an unexpected experience that made me feel incredible, if only because the courteous and genuinely appreciative way he accepted the copy of the book.

I had no idea what to expect from Gaiman with regards to the talk and meeting him, but he was charming, self-deprecating, friendly, and gracious. And that encounter has solidified me as a fan of both the man and his work.