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On a Break

Hey guys. Sorry for the lack of updates. Trying to get this book done, and between work and living with parents, it’s taking forever.

As you can probably guess, I’m updating to let you know there won’t be any updates for a good, long while. When the book is done, I’ll get back to it. Probably with a new look. We’ll see.

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“Who are the Foo Fighters?”

 

I heard one college girl say to the other, as I was coming down the stairs from the other direction. I work at a university here in Atlanta. Hearing that made me feel kinda old, to be honest.

See, I’m an actual 90s kid. As in, one born in the 80s. I was — and still am — too young to appreciate Nirvana (though I admit to being in the minority of my cohort). I went to elementary and middle school through the 90s and attended high school and college in the early 2000s.

This was a time before Youtube. Before instant streaming. But I don’t wanna talk about that. I wanna talk about “Everything Sucks.” Everything Sucks is a new show on Netflix about a group of kids going to high school in the 90s. It is a perfect encapsulation of my adolescence. Love, lust, hate, joy, depression. Everything is there. Even — sort of — grunge. Here’s the thing a lotta folks don’t understand: Grunge was for Generation X. That’s why the aesthetic is all over the movies of Kevin Smith, the movies of the 90s.

How do you spot a 90s movie? All the long-haired dudes in flannel. But those were films for and about college-aged people in the 90s. People who went to elementary and middle school in the 80s. People who caught the first episodes of GI Joe and Transformers waaaaaaaaaaaay back when they first aired.

My generation’s childhood introduction to Batman came via Michael Keaton and the amazing Bruce Timm and Adam West, not reading The Dark Knight Returns.And that’s what the writers of Everything Sucks seem to understand so well. It wasn’t just about grunge. Grunge was on the periphery. It’s what our older brothers/cousins were into, while we listened to Tupac and Britney Spears and watched Clarissa explain it all. Though honestly Tupac was a bit before my time too. He passed in the mid-90s, somewhere around 5th grade.

Everything Sucks is set in the town of Boring, Oregon in the year 1996. A small American town. Racism is somewhat invisible here, much as I remember. But homophobia is still in its heyday. Matthew Shepard’s murder is still two years away. Columbine is three years away. The first season of the show has dealt with growing up in a single-parent home, the pain of suicide and divorce, and the isolation that comes from knowing you’re different from everybody else.

This movie focuses a lot on the so-called outsiders. The drama geeks — actor and tech — that I spent a lot of my high school time hanging around. (I always felt they were way too cool for me, though I was sort of one of them. More on that later.)

I see a lot of myself in two of the characters: McQuaid, the undiagnosed Aspie who can’t tell his crush is not actually interested in him, and Tyler, the eager, barely pubescent, chronic outsider who just wants to be accepted by the cool kids. Granted, Tyler’s a bit more demonstrative than I ever was around the opposite sex (though then again I did have this annoying habit of telling every pretty girl I knew that I thought she was pretty, as if that would somehow translate into a relationship?).

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Everything except this show…

Anyway, awkwardness aside, I just can’t stop gushing about this show. I found so much that was relatable. Long bus rides full of excitement. Longer bus rides when everyone was sick and tired of being around each other. CHURCH CAMP. The unapproachable hottie who is actually way more normal than you think.* The gay kid who gets called a d–e in the first episode.

Oh, did I forget to mention the casual homophobia? This show has very little of it, but it’s creeping in the background. It’s the dark undercurrent of the 90s. So many kids with feels they couldn’t express from fear. Shear fear of being mocked, teased, threatened, beaten. I witnessed some of this firsthand and heard about it secondhand from good friends who received death threats for being out while in college. For my part, I’m straight. My mother might be considered ahead of her time. She never let my brother and I use those words that got bandied about on the playground, in locker rooms, and just about everywhere else. You know the words. I censored one in the first paragraph.

Why am I harping on this? Because one of the main characters is discovering her identity as an LGBT person. She’s not sure what her label is but she knows what — and who — she likes. So far, only three other members of the cast know. One is an ex-boyfriend she dated only to head off the teasing she was getting. One is the girl she likes who reciprocates her feelings. One is the boy with a crush on the girl she likes (see what I mean about ALL THE FEELS?).

But her dad? He remains oblivious. He’s the principal. He seems like a nice guy. But I am still nervous to see how he will react when she comes out to him. In 1996. One year before Ellen comes out. Two years before Matthew Shephard. Three before Columbine. A little less than 20 years before the Supreme Court declares laws prohibiting gay marriage as being unconstitutional. Even in 2018, LGBT teens make up a disproportionate population of homeless, abused, and unemployed Americans.

Don’t get me wrong. This show has its share of drama, but it is hilarious. There are moments in every episode when I roared with laughter. When Tyler bemoans his supposed friendless status yet can’t tell the conservative Christian girl Leslie totally wants him. When Luke has to come up with and simultaneously defend his movie pitch to the drama club on the fly. Banana slug.

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This freakin’ show…

But despite all the humor, IT’s always there. In the background. Lurking in the shadows. The unspoken threat. That love which dare not speak its name.

Oh yeah. Remember when I said I always thought the drama kids were way too cool for me? Well, my main reason for that is there were these guys in the drama club/classes who were always surrounded by beautiful girls. They were hilarious, always cracking jokes. I assumed they were the most popular kids at school. But there was one thing I always thought was a little odd. They all had the same accent. Not a Chicago or Savannah or New York accent, no. I’m talking about a more Nathan Lane way of speaking.

Were they gay? I don’t know. As a rule, I’ve never gone around asking people if they’re gay. Even when my friends hang up calendars filled with half-naked firemen, I make no assumptions unless they tell me directly. But that’s not the point. The point is I never once saw a gay couple at my high school or in college or even on television (though LGBT couples were first starting to get representation in mainstream media around the mid-90s). Why not? Were they closeted? Were they ashamed?

Were they afraid?

As a practicing Catholic, I’m not quite liberal enough to be a full ally to the LGBT movement. Good example: I’ve been leaving off the “Q” whenever I’ve used that acronym. But I voted against the amendment to the Georgia constitution officially defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. I just couldn’t abide that. I still can’t. There are some things society and the government just isn’t allowed to do. Telling folks who they can marry is one of them.

But this is the 90s. When just saying something like this would get you called “gay,” which was a social death sentence. When people thought every gay person had AIDS. When people thought gays were going around recruiting children into their “alternative lifestyle.”

This is a personal issue for me. I have LGBT friends and family. I don’t agree with everything they believe. I don’t support everything they do.But I will always fight for them. For their right to exist as free and independent members of an accepting society built around love and justice.

Anyway, we’ve gotten way off track, and I’ve yet to address the question burning in the hearts and minds of my younger readers. These are the Foo Fighters:

Happy Easter, kids.

*Yes, normal is a real thing. I’ll explain what I mean in next week’s post, probably.

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Saving the City!

Super-proud of my hometown. You can read more about the 30,000 and Sunday’s March for Our Lives here.

Definitely worth checking out!

And of course, I’m not in favor of a total gun ban. That’d be stupid. But some surely some kind of legislative or cultural shift needs to happen? We’ve had something like 20 school shootings since January?

Come on. Let’s do something.

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Gods and Monsters and More!

Hey, folks! Long-time readers may remember me talking eons ago about a book called “The Emerald Sword.” I’m still working on it, but NOW I have come up with a plan to have the final draft done in just ten short weeks.

Ok, ten regular-length weeks, but you get the idea.

The novel is about a fiery redheaded girl who embarks on a quest to save her family from an evil wizard and his skeleton army and winds up embroiled in a conflict that may lead to the destruction of all she holds dear. Plus, there are werewolves, fairies, dragons, buffalo, and maybe even some chocolate if I can squeeze it in there.

Depending on how the agent hunt goes, we could be looking at publication as early as 2020 or even later! Whoopee!!

Space Dracula stands on an asteroid in space.

Space Dracula approves of this message. (I made this one years and years ago. In MS Paint. So, yeah.)

I’ve also been working on making the site more accessible to my blind visitors and those with slower internet connections. PLEASE let me know if you have trouble accessing any part of this site! I’ve been adding alt-text and image description to all my images. A bunch got erased on accident and had to be either replaced or junked indefinitely (don’t leave me alone with computers). So now most of the images on this site should be friendly to screen readers. I’m only now getting started with this sort of thing, so please be patient and let me know if I’m doing this right.

I haven’t added descriptions yet for my Bubblegum-Man and In His Spare Time comics. I’ll be working on those soon!

Finally, I’m toying with the idea of putting In His Spare Time up in the comic space. Probably plow through some of my back catalog before posting new material. Let me know what you think.

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Defending Escapism

I’ve posted on this topic in the past, on my old blog. My feelings haven’t changed.

Escapism is often decried as immature or irresponsible. As if to say someone locked in a basement filled with spiders, frantically trying to find another way out, is somehow guilty of sloth.

Escapism is a perfectly rational response to a world filled with evil. Engage and defeat evil if you can, of course. But if you cannot, escape is a valid second option.

The human desire to escape to a better world could be seen as evidence that we are not meant to be here. That we are meant for heaven. As the good book says, our hearts know no rest until they rest in Thee.

This is not to say we should not work for a better world. Or at least that we should work to help our own neighbors where they are. But there’s only so much we can do. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. And we are so tired.

In the meantime, we have Star Wars and fantasy and superheroes to sate our yearning for a better world.

Let no one mock our escapist fantasies, our dreams of a better tomorrow. Come my friends, tis not to late to seek a better world!

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Concerns Regarding Disney’s buy-out of Fox

It’s a simple enough concept. Power and trust have an inverse relationship, at least where the human race is concerned. This has been true in government, business, and religion with few exceptions.

Today, Disney purchased Fox Studios. X-Men, Fantastic Four, and I assume everything created by Groening and McFarlane now owned by a single company.

This is reason for concern. Monopolies hurt consumers by limiting choice. A monopoly on art, however, would limit culture.

Imagine it. All geeky movies, all scifi franchises, controlled, filtered, processed, and packaged by a single entity with a single vision. And it wouldn’t stop there, of course. Soon, tv, books, magazines. Everything under one umbrella.

Not just geeky stuff either. All sit-coms, dramas, period pieces. Every historical picture telling only one version of a market-adapted, corporate-approved history.

Imagine new and veteran writers, both struggling to find room for professional publication. How will they gain wider audiences if their voices do not align with the vision of a publishing monopoly?

Sure, there’s blogs and vlogs. Things go viral all the time. But for now at least, the prospect of paid work resides almost exclusively with traditional publishers. The industry is changing, yes. Patreon and self-publishing software and platforms make it easier than ever for artists to go independent. In other words, to flood the market with free and purchasable content.

Guess which is more popular online?

Maybe I’m exaggerating. I hope I’m wrong. But answer me this: Would we as Americans be ok with exclusively state-sponsored, state-owned media?

If so, this is not the country I thought this was.

If not, why are we ok with Disney owning all our movies and TV shows? All our content?

Should one company have final say on what American (popular) culture looks like?

In the meantime, I hope my fellow writers are either busy Disney-fying their voices as quickly as possible or else preparing to hang on to independent thought as long as possible. Let the record show I shall ever belong to the latter camp.

“I bow not yet before the Iron Crown, / nor cast yet my own small golden sceptre down” –J.R.R. Tolkien

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Snowpocalypse III: The Snowening

Hiya, kids! Down here in Georgia, we’re experiencing Snowpocalypse III: The Third One. Eagle-eyed readers will recall the original Snowpocalypse back in 2011, which served as the precursor to Snowpocalypse II: Snowmageddon in 2014. Now the winter weather is back. It’s Snowpocalypse III: With a Vengeance!

All of us at Conq Comix/Optimist’s Umbrella are having a grand day out in the snow.

Here is Darth Vader, leading the troops to conquest:

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Uh oh! Looks like somebody crashed on a forbidden tundra! Yoda and R2D2, heads just barely over the snow, walk through a frozen plain!

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Meanwhile, Mr. Freeze gets his revenge on Batman and Robin, using his freeze ray to encase them in snow!

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Here, Vader confronts Luke Skywalker at last! Behold, Luke Skywalker, fallen in the snow, his lightsaber out of reach, as Vader looms over him!

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“Join me. And together we will rule the North Pole as father and son!”

As Batgirl and Mr. Freeze argue over the power of his ice cannon…

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Here, the Green Lantern Corps assists Superman with the construction of the Fortress of Solitude:

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Meanwhile, it appears Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker have resolved their differences.

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A redeemed Skywalker and son make snow angels!

And Yoda and R2D2 have repaired their ship.

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“Be back, we shall!”

Join us after the holidays, when we go to the beach!

 

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Spider-Squad II: Femme Force Five~!

Remade! As a sequel! Black Widow kicks butt with four other women, one of whom is invisible the entire time!

If there’s a problem. If no one else can handle it. And if you’ve already tried the Avengers, maybe you can hire….FEMME FORCE FIVE!

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Real Talk

Gonna talk feminism for a second. Feel free to check out.

Was just thinking about something. In 3rd grade, my friend K wanted me to hold her medication bottle for her because she didn’t want a bulge showing in her jeans on class picture day.

That’s messed up, right? She was freaking 8. Who told her what societal expectations of women were? Who was holding her to them?

Anyway, she went through a LOT as we got older. I hope she’s doing alright now.

I dunno. I got nothin’.

That’s all folks. Read my comic. It’s funny, and there’s aliens and lasers and magic and stuff.

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I Dreamed a Dream


Justice League comes out soon. I, for one, can’t wait. DC took such a risk starting their cinematic universe with Wonder Woman. Now I hear Justice League takes place in a world where Superman’s already dead! Talk about risk.

It’d have been nice to have seen Man of Steel. It’s a shame that project got cancelled. I heard it was really something, but the studio just couldn’t settle on an ending. Why, I heard one draft even had Superman breaking Zod’s neck!

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Still from Man of Steel, never officially released.

I know, right? It’s one thing throwing him into an abyss, but breaking his neck? Is this Superman or Rambo?

Anyway, thank goodness no one saw that Dark Knight Returns adaptation they made. I think it was called Darky Darko and the Space Troll or something? Can you imagine if they’d tried to base a cinematic universe off that? Yikes.

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Batman confronting Superman in Darky Darko, in case you didn’t get a chance to see it during its rather abrupt run.

I mean, it’s an ok film, but there were some major “huh?” moments. I don’t regret seeing it (twice), but I’ve no desire to see it again. I hear Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck reprise their roles from “Darky Darko,” but obviously with different backstories. I mean, a world where Batman and Superman hate each other? Who’d want to watch that? Yeah, in Justice League, they’re gonna be best friends. Well, so long as someone casts a rez on Superman.

But yeah, the new Justice League movie should feature Wonder Woman prominently, as she’s the flagship character for the DC cinematic universe (much like Iron Man is for the MCU).

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Wonder Woman was the first official movie in the DC cinematic universe, setting an inspirational, colorful tone.

Could anyone have predicted Wonder Woman’s success, coming as it did just five years or so after Dark Knight Rises? It was so smart of Warner Bros. to recognize that, while a grimdark tone works great for Batman, not all DC characters should be treated in the same way. I think that’s part of the reason we never got to see Man of Steel: Supposedly, they were going to make it similar in tone to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Can you imagine? A brooding Superman? Eesh. That may not have gone over well with a lot of people.

Thankfully, Justice League, the second-ever installment in WB’s DC cinematic universe, debuts November 17 of this year. It looks like there’ll be plenty of action, laughs, and drama. I guess we’ll see what happens!

Seriously, though. I really enjoyed BvS, Man of Steel, and Suicide Squad. They may have their flaws, but they are fun movies! May even wind up buying BvS on DVD or Blu-Ray someday.