Saturday, February 27, 2010

Farther Afield

I took Deus ex Comica to Virginia for George Mason Unversity’s Fall for the Book Festival last year, and it’s time to take the book outside of Ohio again...

First up, I am going to be on the “How to Get Published” panel at the Pittsburgh Comicon Saturday, April 24! I attended this con as a fan last year in September and was able to give a copy of Deus ex Comica to Stan Lee, now this year I will be on a panel with John Booth and Paul Anderson. I don’t have details on what time my panel will be yet, but will add that to the “2010 Author Appearances” schedule on the blog and will certainly be tweeting about it as soon as I know.

I am also going to be at the Summit City Comic Con in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on May 22! This single-day show is being put on by my friend Zack Kruse and the great folks from DCBS. I’m very excited to be a part of this event and have an opportunity to see a lot of my Midwest-based friends in the process.

On the more immediate horizon, and after the success of my author visit at the Learned Owl in Hudson in mid-February, I’m now looking forward to reading at the Northwest Akron Branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library Thursday, March 04 (time and details below). If you’re in Northeast Ohio, please feel free to stop in, listen to some readings from Deus ex Comica, take part in the conversation afterward or just say “hello!”

So I am still on-track with my goal to average no less than one book-related event per month in 2010 and there's more to come!

  • March 04, 6.30pm-7.30pm: Northwest Akron Branch (ASCPL), 1720 Shatto Avenue, Akron (330.836.1081)
  • April 24, TBD: "How to Get Published", Pittsburgh Comicon, Monroeville Convention Center, 209 Mall Boulevard, Monroeville, Pennsylvania
  • April 29, 7pm-8pm: Nordonia Hills Branch (ASCPL), 9458 Old Eight Road, Northfield (330.467.8595)
  • May 01 (Free Comic Book Day!), TBD: Comic Heaven, 4847 Robinhood, Willoughby (440.942.6960)
  • May 22, 10am-6pm: Summit City Comic Con, The Grand Wayne Center, 120 West Jefferson Boulevard, Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • June 27, 10am-4pm: Akron-Canton Con, Chapparells Community Center, 2418 S. Arlington Road, Akron
  • July 10, 2pm-3pm: Firestone Park Branch (ASCPL), 1486 Aster Avenue, Akron (330.724.2126)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The End of the Eighties, Track 10

“Gravitate to Me”
The The
Mind Bomb

I remember dancing to the 12-inch versions of “Perfect” and “Infected” at Thursday’s long before I ever made it onto Bowling Green’s campus. In fact, the albums that spawned those original songs, the US release of Soul Mining and Infected, are pretty amazing, but it wasn’t until I heard Mind Bomb for the first time that I was completely overwhelmed by Matt Johnson’s work. Released in July 1989, the album somehow got by me that summer despite working in the CD store.

I remember our next door neighbor in Chapman Hall was named Matt, and that he let me borrow his Mind Bomb disc one day. (Irreconcilable memory: For some reason I think Matt moved in during the Spring semester, so that means I didn’t give Mind Bomb my full attention until at least a half-year after it was originally released. That seems crazy to me, but I can’t say with any degree of certainty that he was there in the Fall of 1989.)

There wasn’t a more aptly titled disc for me to find at that time than Mind Bomb. A 19-year-old creative writing major who scrawled poetry at every chance I had, this album hit me right in the chest. The first thought I had after listening to this collection of songs was “I could have written this!” It wasn’t hubris, or me being egotistical, or even simple naïveté, it was a compliment. It wasn’t that I thought I could be a successful songwriter, it was that Johnson had taken so many of the same thoughts and similar themes I was exploring in my poetry and synthesized them into something beautiful.

It was like he had climbed inside my head, rooted around and among the thoughts and confusion in there – the sex and lust and love and religion and cynicism – and made poetry of it all. I have always felt Mind Bomb owes as much to Prince as it does to Julian Cope/Teardrop Explodes or Love and Rockets. The one-two album closers, “Gravitate to Me” and “Beyond Love”, are pure dorm room, post-punk seduction.

“Gravitate to Me” is the most romantic you’ll ever see Johnson get, and I think it has everything to do with the fact it’s the lone song co-written by Johnny Marr over the course of his two-album stint with the band. The former Smiths guitarist worked with Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders in the late ’80s before ultimately forming Electronic with New Order’s Bernard Sumner, and splitting his time between Electronic and The The until mid-’90s.

Lyrical cockiness mingled with a hint of chinks in the armor sprawl across eight-plus minutes of Marr’s ringing guitar and anchored harmonica work mixed with Johnson’s piano. The swagger of the protagonist falters only once: when acknowledging the turmoil within somewhere around the song’s mid-point (“And to quell the torrents / In my subterranean depths”), otherwise, it’s unadulterated bravado from its aquatic start to its jingling harmonica outro.

There is a certain “helter skelter” lurking beneath the lighthouse imagery and the idea that there is nothing that could possibly keep the lovers apart, but it never surfaces enough to scare away the notion of destiny. It’s an unsettling feeling that is more exciting than off-putting, and it runs through much of Johnson’s body of work. This time it’s tempered with just enough sensuality to sell it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Marvel Unbound - Wolverine: First Class - The Rookie

Marvel seems to have struck gold with the “First Class” franchise of their X books. They started out with Jeff Parker’s excellent eight-issue X-Men: First Class series in 2006. That series, focusing on the original X-Men recruited by Professor Charles Xavier, was so successful it was granted an on-going that lasted nearly a year-and-a-half. This was followed by the Wolverine: First Class on-going (2008), the three-issue Weapon X: First Class (2009), and the new Uncanny X-Men: First Class on-going (2009).

What’s great about this franchise is Marvel has put quality writers and artists on it, kept the stories all-ages, and let them breathe between the panels of the original runs of the X books history. (Similar to what Joe Casey did with Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin.) X-Men: First Class dealt with Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman, and Angel. Uncanny X-Men: First Class explores the group originally formed in the pages of 1975’s Giant-Size X-Men #1... Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and more. (Incidentally, I loved this First Class so much I actually bought the original art for page 5 of the Giant-Size Special #1 from Craig Rousseau. Gorgeous stuff!) I haven’t read the Weapon X: First Class books, but they strike me as designed to cash-in somewhat on the popularity of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie.

More “Kitty Pryde and Wolverine: First Class” than actually just Wolverine: First Class, writer Fred Van Lente has a lot of fun with these characters. I had picked up the first two single issues when they were on the stands, but decided to trim my pull list in favor of trade-waiting and snagged this first collection at Wizard World Chicago. It’s slight, to be sure, pulling together only the first four issues of the on-going, but it’s a fun read and something (again, like Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin) I can (and have) handed off to the kiddo to read without reservation.

The issues collected here consist of two one-and-done stories (issues #1 and #2) and a two-parter (issues #3 and #4). I haven’t read beyond these four issues, so I can’t speak to how formulaic the series gets. Even over these first few issues the “Wolverine doesn’t want a sidekick/Wolverine reluctantly brings Kitty along/Kitty and Wolverine both learn a lesson” blueprint is obvious but not a deterrent.

The Rookie isn’t an omnibus, nor does it claim to be, so you get a reprint story in the back, along with five pages of Salva Espin’s character and cover sketches. I only have a sort of half-complaint with the reprint story in that it’s Wolverine’s first appearance in Incredible Hulk #181. I say “half-complaint” because I had never read it before, so that was cool, but given the timeframe the Wolverine: First Class series covers, it might have been more appropriate to include something from the Kitty/Wolverine ’80s Uncanny X-Men instead.

Regardless, it’s a fun collection and I’m definitely planning to pickup volume two from a bargain bin somewhere down the road, if only because it includes an Alpha Flight story and is something I can pass along to the kiddo!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Reopening Old Wounds

Couldn't agree more with my friends over at Slicing Up Eyeballs about just how horrendous Sirius is compared to what XM was. Two months after writing this blog post about the Sirius-to-XM changeover, we canceled our subscription. The song selection and DJ chatter was just too much to warrant paying for anymore. We've had trials of Sirius/XM in two new cars and rental cars and, until recently, as a part of our DirecTV package, but there is no reason to suffer Sirius' shallow playlists and annoying, superfluous announcers.

The “Dark Wave” show was always a lone bright spot with regards to providing deeper cuts, the closest thing to Fred Sirius ever did, but the problems are still apparent (maybe even exacerbated) in the three hour show. Looking over the playlist from last night's show (found here courtesy of Slicing Up Eyeballs, along with their commentary), it doesn't account for the annoying presence of the DJ, but it does speak to the songs. If you're only devoting a few hours to this, and given how much great music is out there, do you need to average one Joy Division and one Cure/Cult Hero song per hour? Of only 38 songs played, nearly half of them (16) are from just seven different artist.

While I understand giving Sirius credit for the effort, “Dark Wave” has always struck me as an excuse for the company to say, "See? We didn't completely change. We still play this music.”

Relegating Fred from a full-on channel to a weak three-hour show with horrible DJ babble is not preserving a station, and was never going to be enough to satisfy this fan.