Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stealy Dance

Reading Seth's blog:

Life Is Peachy Awesome!

It occurs to me that the better his life gets, the worse mine gets.

Someone blow up his sump pump or something, will you?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Leaving it to Beaver

Mission to destroy any and all hip credentials: GO!

I love Leave it to Beaver.

And not in an ironic sense, either. The show actually seems to make some people angry because it depicts an idealized vision of suburban middle America (critic David Marc's term is "Aryan melodrama"), but I'm guessing it was more realistic than, say, Growing Pains or the Cosby Show. Most of the trials and tribulations of Beaver (especially in the middle years) pretty accurately reflect what young boys still fret about, and his reactions to things still ring pretty true. And the supporting cast was fantastic. Eddie Haskell provided the blueprint for the (seriously) annoying kid next door (and still hasn't been topped), and Larry Mundelo was a perfect weak-willed, peer pressuring foil for the generally well-intentioned Beaver. Then you had the great Richard Deacon as Fred Rutherford, the office blowhard with the piece of shit kid he still always bragged cluelessly about.

Mainly, though, the show was well written and well directed, and the stories carried a moral without forcing it down the viewer's throat. Beaver and Wally were probably the first even slightly realistic kids in television sitcoms (although one could probably argue in favor of Bud Anderson on Father Knows Best). Generally, the boys were a bit cynical about life's many charms, and more often than not they did the dumb thing first, despite the many attempts by their parents (and mainly by Ward) to steer them in the right direction. On top of that, Ward's reaction to his boy's misdeeds was often palpabale disappointment, followed by the grudging realization that kids are rarely going to be as perfect as their parents hope. That still strikes me as a pretty realistic reaction, and is much preferable to the smug chuckle and "kids will be kids!" sentiment still pushed by today's (generally awful) sitcoms. Of course, there was also a lot of comic discussion about Eddie's father or Larry's father beating the shit out of them, but we never got to see that.

While it's true Leave it to Beaver rarely touched heavily on social issues, there were attempts to address issues as diverse as racism (Eddie teaches Beaver to tell his Mexican friend that he has a "face like a pig"), class (Beaver befriends the trashmen's kids, and June is forced to realize that class has little to do with character), and even alcoholism (Beaver befriends an alcoholic handyman, who ultimately betrays Beaver's innocent trust). It's hard to imagine many modern sitcoms working so hard to construct a story (more often than not, story has been replaced by an endless string of one-liners) that drives an episode, and letting the humor evolve naturally from the situation. There are valuable lessons in writing to be culled from the best of these shows.

Anyway, I can watch the show endlessly. Flipping through the listings tonight, I saw that TV Land is running the Beav from 1:30 until 3:00. That's an hour and a half of warm fuzzy fun before crashing, and waking up to the relative hell of a new day!

Beaver trivia: Did you know Harry Shearer played the Eddie Haskell character (originally named "Frankie") in the pilot for Leave it to Beaver (originally called It's a Small World)? FASCINATING!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Toys in Faded Polaroids I

Young BCM with baby sis:

What's that Easter gift on the glass-topped kitchen table?

Why, it's an Evel Knievel Colorforms set! (a $25.00 value in 2007):

Study Break at Two a.m.

I've given myself until 4:30 to finish this script I'm working on. That would mean sixteen pages in two hours. Eight pages an hour. Four pages every half hour. Two pages every fifteen minutes. Seven and a half minutes per page.

Okay. I've now given myself until 5:30 to finish this script I'm working on.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

100 Great Songs, Pt. 4, by B. Clay Moore

#94: In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning by Frank Sinatra

Prior to the rock era, no one recorded more great albums than Sinatra. His masterpiece (in my opinion) is 1955's In the Wee Small Hours, one of the earliest concept albums. And the concept is loneliness following heartbreak. In front of spare, subdued late night mood music arranged by Nelson Riddle, Sinatra bares his soul, communicating the pain of lost love like no one before or since, in one of his jazziest sessions (Sinatra was not a jazz singer, but he was capable of rising to the occasion now and then). This, the lead track sets the tone right from the beginning, with its aching piano notes leading into the sound of a man alone with his thoughts very, very late in the evening. On top of that, I doubt a song has ever been reflected more accurately in an album's cover art (this may be my favorite album cover of all time).

#93: Hazey Jane II by Nick Drake

I can't fully explain the effect Nick Drake's music has on me. Each of his three albums has a distinctly different feel, and all of them are excellent, but my favorite of the three is Bryter Layter (his second, after Five Leaves Left), from which this track is drawn. I guess the disc is kind of baroque sounding compared to his other albums, and certainly features more instrumentation, but it's still by and large a bittersweet listening experience, with a less pronounced sense of melancholy. For me, this track best communicates the feeling. It's slightly breezy...to me it sounds kind of like it's drifting toward me from some forgotten radio somewhere down the street...from some slightly timeless place. Some place I might have passed through as a child, in the backseat of my parents' car.

Like I said, I can't explain it. I discovered Nick Drake in college when I was trying to unearth any British folk I'd missed up to that point (I think I'd read an old Robert Christgau review of this disc, prompting me to track him down), and listening to his songs had always been a very personal experience. Rather than be disappointed that others "discovered" him, I was elated when VW produced that (quite brilliant) commercial using "Pink Moon" several years ago, resulting in a new appreciation for his music. Walking past the "Nick Drake" section at Best Buy and seeing it well stocked was a good feeling. If you're into, say, Elliott Smith, and have never tried Drake, DO IT NOW!

There's Late and Then There's Not Arriving At All

I'd love to go to bed. It's 2:17 in the a.m., and I have lots of stuff that needs to be done in the morning.

But the germ of an idea is drifting around my head, and I feel like I need to roll with it a bit to see where it leads before hitting bed. An editor inadvertantly suggested the title of this new concept to me while making suggestions as to what he'd like to see me write. He's probably gonna fucking hate it, judging by the hee-whack ideas burbling around in the brainpan, but it may end up being pretty cool.


I CANNOT FUCKING BELIEVE I am not in Charlotte this weekend. I've never regretted skipping out on a con more than this one.

Big time pissy grumble.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

100 Great Songs, Pt. 3, by B. Clay Moore

#96: Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying by Belle & Sebastian

If Astral Weeks is my all-time favorite disc, Belle & Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister is right behind it. The album doesn't have a weak track, and has several songs that I never get tired of, but Get Me Away From Here is the one I always go to first. A bit more lyrically specific than many of Stuart Murdoch's early songs, I'd listened to it endlessly before I ever really figured out what it was about. There are a few lines that always lodge themselves in my brain, and the end of this lyric is something of a motto for me:

Ooh! Get me away from here I'm dying
Play me a song to set me free
Nobody writes them like they used to
So it may as well be me

Eventually, I realized the song was a bit of a spoof on the group's image, and as such is almost intentionally cliched in places. But, you know...cliches are generally true. Musically, the song has a sprightly, yet still melancholy strum that sustains and then picks up midway, kicking everything to a new level. I say it's melancholy, but it always makes me happy. And then it segues into the sound of children playing in the distance (can any sound be more evocative?), which leads into the almost as lovely title track.

#95: Rocky Mountain High by John Denver

I tread carefully here, knowing that John Denver's name has become synonomous with a slightly empty-headed, uncomplicated hippy dippy aesthetic that's more than a little unfair to his legacy. One thing no one has ever doubted is Denver's devotion to the outdoors and the restorative power of nature. Rocky Mountain High is perhaps the ultimate distillation of that sentiment, and I never fail to be moved by the song. Denver's pure, ringing voice perfectly communicates the "back to nature" yearning that surely passes through everyone's heart at one time or another. Sure, it's romantic and slightly melodramatic, but I defy you to stand amidst the Rockies, watching an eagle fly, and not feel like flushing the rest of the world away.

John Denver also has sentimental attachment for me. His two signature hits, Rocky Mountain High and Country Roads (Take Me Home), represent the relative birthplaces of my parents (my mother having been born and raised in Denver, my father having been born ((as was I)) in West Virginia). And when I was a child, it wasn't unusual for my father to turn up the radio when Denver came on, singing along and encouraging me to do the same. Denver's records were always close at hand in the gigantic stereo console that sat in our various living rooms as we shuttled around the country.

And, of course, there's a specific memory attached to Rocky Mountain High that I'll always cherish. In the early summer (late spring?) of 2002, my father called a "family meeting," to which only myself, my mother and my sister were invited. He had something to talk to us about, and so we convened at a restaraunt in Wichita, eating outdoors on a lovely night. It was there that he asked us our thoughts on an unannounced option to run for Lt. Governor of Kansas, something it turned out we all supported heartily. While his eventual four years in office passed by like a breeze, spending that night with my immediate family remains stuck in my head. There was a singer set up on the patio at the restaraunt, playing a steel guitar, and taking a few requests. After dinner and a few drinks, my father started calling out for Rocky Mountain High, to which the singer replied with some annoyance, "I don't have the right guitar for it." That didn't stop my father, whose (kind of) polite badgering continued ("Aw, c'mon, play it, anyway!"), until the guy shrugged in exasperation and gave it a shot. It sounded fine to us, and we all danced around to the song, having fun being in one another's company, celebrating a new chapter in the family history...

Life is very difficult right now for a number of reasons, not the least of which is related to health problems within the family, but it helps to have moments like that in my bag of memories, to pull out every now and then and reflect upon.

Grown Men Playing with Trains

I was talking tonight to an artist about collaborating, and he was asking me about Hawaiian Dick. I started thinking about the origins of the book, and later realized there's an influence there that I don't mention much: John Ford's Donovan's Reef. I think the poster says it all:

"Big" John Wayne, indeed. Also Lee Marvin, Jack Warden and very much punching in a tropical bar.

I don't know when I first saw the movie. Probably in high school. I had a room in our basement during high school (technically from eighth grade through my first couple of years in college, one of which was spent living at home), but I spent most nights sleeping in the large playroom in the basement, where the cable television sat. No windows, so it was always possible to sleep until one or two after staying up until three or four watching old movies or Nick at Nite (back when they primarily showed television shows from the fifties and sixties). Of course, I did the same thing on school nights, too. Organizing comics, drawing, writing, but mainly watching television.

All I know is the first time I saw Donovan's Reef, I knew that one day I'd spend some time in that setting. The feel of that movie definitely informed certain corners of the Hawaiian Dick universe.

So see it if you get a chance.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

100 Great Songs, Pt. 2, by B. Clay Moore

#98: Sweet Thing by Van Morrison

Why is it great? Because it's the best track on the greatest album of the rock and roll era. You could make arguments for The Way Young Lovers Do, Madame George, Cypress Avenue, or even the title track, but for me the song that kicks the Astral Weeks album into orbit is Sweet Thing, which sounds like the aural manifestation of a drive down an ex-lover's rainswept street at midnight. It may be my favorite song of all time.

#97: The Whole of the Moon by the Waterboys

Emerging from the morass of dreck lobbed at listeners by eighties radio, The Whole of the Moon is a soaring, joyful ode to experiencing life, rather than just living life, and it actually made it onto the radio here and there. Music and lyrics work together to create something beautiful. It's the rare artifact from the era that doesn't sound dated by bad production or synthetic instrumentation. It's nearly perfect.

You climbed on the ladder
With the wind in your sails
You came like a comet
Blazing your trail
Too high
Too far
Too soon
You saw the whole of the moon!

The Order? Champions?

So, I just read the Newsarama piece noting that Marvel was going to title Fraction's Champions book The Order, and, predictably, in the talk back section, fans are heralding it as a triumph for the "little guy" (Heroic Publishing).

I guess the fact that Marvel had the name first doesn't strike a chord with people willing to celebrate every perceived blow against the Empire. And the fact that Heroic hasn't exactly been churning out "Champions" masterpieces over the years doesn't register, either.

Personally, I wish Marvel had been able to use Champions as the title, just because it sounds better. And, you know, because they had it first.

Also, the whole issue has only served to drum up more publicity for the book (which, knowing Fraction, will immediately be the best book Marvel's debuted this year), so, you know...big guy wins. Again.

100 Great Songs, by B. Clay Moore

#100: Memphis by Chuck Berry

Why is it great? Because it's one of the first great rock and roll songs to step outside the love/lust/dance/fuck arena and attempt to communicate a story. And it's a heartbreaking story, too, all about a father trying to reconnect with his little girl after splitting with her mother. Set to a rollicking, chugging Berry beat, of course.

#99: Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys

Why is it great? Because it may be the best single of a golden era for pop singles. It's fitting that Good Vibrations wasn't an album cut, because the song contains enough brilliance for an entire album side. I think Brian Wilson hit the peak of his songwriting and production skills with this song, using the group's always impressive harmonies to their greatest effect, and using the mellotron, an instrument often used just because it was there, to create an underlying rise and fall in tension that just underscores the dramatic starts and stops of the song. Fucking amazing.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Atomic Revolving

Normally these days I'll sit on plans before making grand announcements, but Peck mentions something in his blog that I'll elaborate on. A year from now, we'll see if this post was prophetic or pathetic.

At this moment we have plans to produce an Atomic Revolver anthology, with an eye on a summer, 2008 release. Jason Aaron and Jason Latour will collaborate on a story, as will Peck and Jeremy Haun, as will I with Tony Moore.

We've all got extra junk lying around that'll probably go into the book, as well. I know Seth and Tony have some strips they want to do, and I'm sure Latour does, as well.

Once we finally get the AR site/blog up to full strength, I imagine we'll be more specific with what we're doing.

Born on a Monday

Latour is working on digitally painting an early Steel City Hawk image. He hasn't done much digital painting, so he's figuring it out as he's going, but it's looking pretty cool:

You can see the progress over at his blog: http://www.jasonlatour.com

I attended a little comic creator get together over at Steven Sanders' house Saturday night. In addition to seeing lots of pals, I had a chance to talk to uber talented artist Nathan Fox for a while. His most recent work was a fill-in on Brian Wood's DMZ book, but he's done some other pretty awesome stuff. He did a Batman Black and White story that has to be seen to be believed.

Also, he has the coolest website I've ever seen:


Love to collaborate with him one day.