Topic: Personal Commentary
The handsome fellow to the left is Napalm (tm). He's a character I created back in my college days. As my senior project in my Advanced Drawing class, I spent all semester producing a complete comic book in pencils.
I had a number of mis-starts but finally settled into a groove.
Napalm is the story of a soldier in Viet Nam who through a bizarre set of circumstances gains deadly powers.
Napalm's a pyrokinetic. The character exudes a combustible jelly-like substance similar to napalm.
Napalm sticks to crooks!
Up until I discovered comic books, I wanted to be an architect. This tickled my architect father to no-end until he learned that my desire stemmed not from wish to emulate him, but rather Mike Brady on the Brady Brunch.
It wasn't long after reading my first few funny books that I decided that drawing and writing comics had to be a lot more fun than what Mr. Brady and Dad did for a living. After all, Dad always came home grouchy and complaining of his sore feet.
My early efforts involved other people's heroes like the Hulk and Superman. I drew enormous tomes of their adventures together. I wish I still had them. I suspect that my mother threw them out some time along the way in one of her anal retentive cleaning raids on my bedroom.
While I have not and likely will not settle into a career in the comics industry, it remains a dream. I continue to draw and write for my own pleasure. If I one day make it into the "glamorous" world of professional comics, I'll be thrilled to death. If not, no big deal. I'm having fun doing for myself and sharing with friends.
Justiciar(tm) is my rather cynical answer to Superman. In my comicverse he is hailed as the world's noblest superhero. Very few outside of the halls of power in the Pentagon and the White House know him for the amoral opportunist that he is. The Pentagon maintains a public relations taskforce whose role it is to ensure that Justiciar (tm) remains at the height of his popularity. Everywhere in the world, one can readily purchase Justiciar action figures, t-shirts, ball caps, and pogs. If the world really knew what sort of person he is and of the atrocities that he has performed, his name would be anathema throughout the globe. As it is, those outside of the Beltway who find out about Justiciar don't tend to live too terribly long.
The man known to the world as The Ranger(tm) was originally a Texas Ranger in the Rio Grande valley back in the late 1880's. For many years he served as a Captain in the Texas Rangers carrying out the policies of the Governor and Legislature. Of course one of the policies he was required to carry out was the elimination of Indians from the territory.
In the completion of one of his other tasks, chasing down Mexican bandits his party was all but decimated. Mortally wounded, he was found bleeding to death by a tribal scout. He was taken to the center of the encampment where the Medicine Man, Eagle Eyes, took him under his protection. He nursed the law man back to health. While convalescing with the tribe, the Captain came to know them for the noble people they were and not the savages they were portrayed to be.
On the evening before his departure from the camp, Eagle Eyes divined the Ranger's future. He told the law man that he would take a long journey and at the end of that journey the many spirits would grant him their strengths. The Captain thanked Eagle Eyes for his hospitality, yet felt that the prophecy was more the pipe talking than the spirits.
He returned to the outpost where he learned that a strike was planned on Eagle Eyes' tribe. He rode back out to them immediately to warn the people that had provided him with such kindness of their impending doom. He arrived soon enough to muster a squad of tribal warriors to aid him in holding off the advancing Rangers enabling the bulk of the tribe to flee the area.
The Captain was then and is now a tremendous tactician. He fought a brilliant campaign against his former comrades, yet as resourceful as he was he could not overcome his enemy's superior numbers. As he stood with the bodies of the fallen warriors a twister swept through the advancing forces. He was torn away from the battlefield and certain death to find himself thrown over a hundred years into the future.
Now he is known simply as The Ranger. Eagle Eyes' words were true. He made the journey. The spirits did indeed grant him their strengths.
More to come...Aron Head
...Or how I learned to stop worrying and steal comic books.
Way back in the early spring of 1976, I discovered my very first comic book. I was nine years old and hanging out at the corner convenience store with my best friend, Stevie. While the clerk had his back turned, I dared my chum to steal something.
He stole a two cent piece of Bazooka Bubble Gum.
He then dared me to steal something, but it had to be bigger than his.
This was exactly the kind of crap I was always getting myself into.
It had never occurred to me that Stevie would rip something off. After all, we had never stolen anything other than cookies out of his mom's cookie jar! If I'd ever thought that he would follow me up on the dare, I would have known that I would be forced to reciprocate -- and thusly would NEVER have dared him in the first place.
Still, a dare is after all a dare.
My eyes swept across the store for a suitable item. I stepped over to the comic book rack, checked over my shoulder, and once assured that I was not observed; I stuffed the comic under my windbreaker and exited the store.
I stole the very first comic book I would ever read.
When I returned home, I deposited the stolen article on my night stand where it remained for several weeks.
I hated to read back then. Reading is what 'They' made you do at school, not something you did in your free time. It wasn't until the next rainy day that I would actually pick the thing up out of boredom.
The title of the comic was SCAMPER. He was one of the pups from Disney's LADY AND THE TRAMP. Scamper was cool. The comic was cool. I read that one comic over and over. Finally, I decided that I needed another.
So, I was off to steal my second comic book.
I had stolen probably eight comics over a three week period before it dawned on me that I should really be purchasing my comics. Thus, my life as a hardened criminal ended and my life as a comic book addict began.
The summer of 1976 came. My father decided to take my brother and I on a trip to Gulf Port, Mississippi where there was to be some kind of huge Bicentennial celebration. Dad wanted to buy a game or something for me to mess with on the long drive. I talked him into buying me comic books instead.
It was at this point that I made the transition from the Disney Comics and over to Marvel and DC's hero comics. I still remember the books that he bought me that day. I picked up those great SUPERMAN FAMILY and BATMAN FAMILY $1 comics, the price of which my father complained loudly.
Most memorable of all of the books I got that day was the story arc in the Superman books that involved him getting hit so hard by some outerspace alien that he wound up being knocked back to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Now, my brother is five years older than me and he had hit me pretty hard before and I never got knocked through time. I thought, this alien guy must be bad news.
I have cultivated this habit of mine for over thirty years now.
Comics have always been a constant, an unchanging element of my life. Certainly comics have changed drastically over the last three decades, yet my love for them has remained unswerving. Through great times and bad times, comics have been a source of hours fun and enjoyment.
Today is Saint Patrick's Day, the day the world celebrates the life and ministry of the Apostle of Ireland by drinking copious amount of green beer, wearing buttons declaring "kiss me I'm Irish," and pinching those absent any emerald adornment.
This was always the day I shared a beer with my dad.
We'd get together to meet at some friendly bar and knock back green beer. Dad always paid. He wouldn't let me. He only ever allowed me to buy him a beer once. That was a big deal for me.
My father liked me in groups. Large gatherings put him at ease. He was a party guy comfortable in crowds. He was quite a charmer.
To be honest, he had some difficulty with one-on-one intimacy.
But every Saint Patrick's Day, no matter what he was doing he'd seek me out.
"We drinkin' green beer?" He'd call me.
Today, I drank a beer on my back porch thinking of my father gone now four years.
St. Patrick's Day was our day. At a bar... a man and his son... drinking beer... quietly loving each other.
I can't think of a better way to observe a saint's day.
I saw 300 tonight.
It's a beautiful film. The SFX are simply breathtaking. It has the rich look of a master's oil painting. I thought of Jacques-Louis David several times.
I have only one complaint about the effects. Persian Emperor Xerxes is portrayed as a giant and while it is shocking to see him tower over the Spartan King, it was difficult to focus on their conversation since it didn't seem that Xerxes was really talking to Leonidas. He was looking past him. A very minor quibble, I know.
Again, really, quite a lovely film.
And one of the most brutal I have ever seen. This movie is rough. The R-rating comes easy, earned early on in the film. Dismemberments, beheadings, blood, and carnage are offered up in abundance.
Still, less disturbing than The Passion of the Christ.
Or Jersey Girl.
A violent movie, it's rather hard on pachyderms. Hint: don't get attached to the elephants or the rhinos.
It's an amazing adventure, a story of courage, sacrifice, and liberty.
Gerard Butler cuts a heroic figure as Spartan King Leonidas. He carries the weight of his nation on his shoulders, their very way-of-life in jeopardy. Butler is convincing. Somebody you'd genuinely want to know.
I like 300 an awful lot, but I chafed at one of its messages: strength, courage, and honor can only be found in attractive people. Whether intentional or not, that's what I walked away with. I won't offer any spoilers. Suffice it to say, what I saw as a tragic flaw on the part of Leonidas and his Spartan society was actually held up, revered in the movie.
Still, this was a fine film.
I'll be seeing it again.
"Go tell the Spartans, passer-by,
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie."
So I was chatting with my co-worker, Dave, and I was reminded of this bit from Kids in the Hall.
Seven years ago today, Suzanne and I were married.
When I think back to that day, I realize how little we truly knew each other. We had not lived together before our wedding nor had we taken any trips out-of-town together. What we knew, the important thing we knew, was that beyond loving each other (I was crazy about Suzanne from the first date) was that we enjoyed the company of each other.
We were comfortable together from the start.
We cherished hanging out. Going to movies, reading our books at Starbucks, walking the dogs, yard work - time spent in the other's company was gold.
On our wedding night, we retired to our hotel room at the lovely Stoneleigh Hotel. Suzanne and I were dead, dog tired - it's a lot of work getting married, y'know - and starving. Despite the fact that there was tons of food at the reception, neither one of us had eaten anything except the bit of cake we sliced for each other.
The church's sexton , the fella who ran the reception for us, had packed us a basket of food and a bottle of champagne. It was late when we got to the hotel. We had to be up early the following morning to catch our flight to Cape Cod, our honeymoon destination. We thought better than crack open that bottle. We'd save it for later.
But we still wanted something bubbly.
We reclined on the bed feasting on the contents of our basket and sipping Diet Dr. Pepper from champagne glasses while watching the Marc Anthony concert on HBO. We told stories, relaxing, the room full to bursting with our laughter, with our joy.
In the glow of the television, I looked over at this lovely woman, now my wife and knew what I lucky man I must be.
As the years have gone by and Suzanne and I have shared blessings and hardships, I look back on that wonderful end to a wonderful day. And while an ending to that particular day, it was the beginning of this marvelous journey we have shared and continued to share.
Seems like yesterday.
I love you, Suzanne.
Apparently, I am the last of a dying breed.
Well, me and a good many of my friends.
While I cruised around Fort Worth today, I listened to the latest episode of the Fear the Boot podcast. It features a fascinating, hour-long interview with Ryan S. Dancey. Mr. Dancey, among other things, is the fellow who brokered the deal to move Dungeons and Dragons from TSR to Wizards of the Coast. He also has a wealth of information about the demographics and trends of the gaming market.
And he shared...
He explained something that I have wondered about for years.
Back when I was a kid buying my first gaming books to run my dungeon crawls and to create my galactic empires, one could find all these great gaming books full of crunchy data, statistics, and combat charts. As the years went on, those kinds of gaming aids became less and less common. With the advent of the World of Darkness game system, the books became about setting the mood, developing back-story, and characterization (all of which are good things, btw).
But as a Game Master (GM), I wanted rules and critical hit tables and conversion charts.
Ask any of my gaming buddies. They'll tell you. I've been bitching about this trend for years.
Mr. Dancey explained it all for me today. You see, the gaming market is not driven by game masters. Rather, it is driven by players.
While GMs buy a lot of books (as is evidenced by my bowing book shelves), there are too few of them on which to build a viable industry. There are more players than GMs. Thus gaming books are created for the players.
I found this revelation stunning. And yet, it makes perfect sense.
The switch to gaming publications fluffy with atmosphere over mechanics? Certainly that appeals to the player...
I have always thought that GMs drove the market. I mean, what the hell are the players gonna play if the GM's not running it? But the fact is that we GMs are the hook that leads the players to start parting with their hard earned cash.
While I find this distressing, I am even more concerned to see in cold, hard statistical detail the fact that the gaming market is aging. Trends suggest that we're all getting older (duh) and our ranks are not being renewed by younger gamers. Mr. Dancey suggests that the kids who used to leap into table-top-RPGs are instead heading over to MMORPGs. The experience is not the same. But it's good enough.
This is chilling.
I don't want to be the last Mohican.
Tomorrow, I will kidnap some teenagers and force them into a six hour session of All Flesh Must Be Eaten. But we gotta do it early, because I gotta be in bed by ten.