Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Do You Remember Wizard Magazine?

When I was a teen, there was no cooler magazine for people that aren't cool than Wizard.

I first picked it up around 1995, I think. My mom and I were housesitting my grandfather's house and I picked a magazine out to help bide the time in the era before internet, cable (or at least them having it) and the like. It had Wolverine on the cover, if you can believe that!

I immediately knew I made a pretty good choice, as Wizard used to be pretty damn thick. Those things were packed. They had readable material up the yin-yang, from a funny and weird letters column, a section for homemade action figures, articles, a price guide featuring spotlights on quality reading on every page, and humor. Everywhere there were captions, on the action figures, under the photos of conventioneers at the front of the news section, and even in the legal mumbo-jumbo in the contest rules. And it was funny. Legitimately funny.

I started to get Wizard on a regular basis, even pre-dating by a few months my own comic reading habit. And in days when I couldn't afford all the comics I wanted, I still got Wizard. They were ballsy and weren't afraid to explain how Todd Mcfarlane's writing or Rob Liefield's everything sucked. It was full of young guys in their 20s and 30s, having a good time, bullshitting, and talking geek stuff in a way that made it seem not-so-geeky, and hip, even! They really were ahead of the curve in the "cool nerd" revolution that hit the early 2000s, where you can see A-listers at San Diego and movies starring Seth Rogen and Michael Cera blow up the box office. By all accounts they should all be driving Hummers that run on liquid baby seals back to their mansions where they bang European women all the live long day.

Well, apparently not so much. Wizard had a run for a while where they bought out a ton of conventions and ran roughshod over the business. I like to think of them as the WWE of comic magazines, in that sense. Then again, New York started up a major convention again and San Diego grew into the biggest industry convention of all. They made another misfire by scheduling Wizard World: Atlanta around the same weekend (or the same weekend) as a much beloved Carolinas convention known as Heroes Con, and were eviscerated online so much that they canceled Atlanta and acqueisced dominance to Dragon Con run by creepy Ed Kramer. None of this really bothered me, as conventions were fun the first two or three I went to, then they became increasingly sad, and I would walk around and feel dirty that these were my bretheren. Once again, not talking about your average Joe IStillReadAvengersButIHaveAGirlfriendAndApartment but more the "this is the only three days I leave my mom's house" people. There, but for the grace of God, and all that...

Wizard Entertainment has fingers in other pies, too. The best, to me, was Toyfare. This was the magazine that spawned Robot Chicken. Except in my opinion this is funnier than Robot Chicken. The best section was Twisted Toyfare Theater, which was so popular they turned it into a series of trade paperbacks. In order to prove they're a big, humorless corporation DC explicitly forbade Toyfare from using their characters in the parodies. Oh well. There's only so many jokes you can pull from those lifeless stiffs anyway. They also had Inquest devoted to gaming, Anime Insider to... anime, and started an unsuccessful comic company, something that could have been seen as a conflict of interest, but it failed so who cares!

Needless to say, I kind of forgot about them until Rich started blogging about recent troubles. I have no inclination to search the back catalogue for all the stories, so once again go to Lying In The Gutters and let your fingers do the walking. With falling convention attendance, longtime employees like Pat McCallum and Brian Cunningham were shown the door. Actually the majority of the staff I enjoyed no longer seem to be employed there, with the sole exception of Mike Fasolo, a latecomer to the magazine, and even that could have changed by the time this post is put up. Apparently they also rely on free help to maintain the forums, with the free help offered in the hopes of getting a paid position. Good luck with that.

I think one of the things that led to the downfall of Wizard is the internet. There's just no sense in waiting 30 days for news when it hits you in 30 seconds via Comic Book Resources, Newsarama, and other places. The rest is just a combination of factors like increased commercialization, lower page counts combined with higher prices, less humor and more focus on ads disguised as articles. Of course, all those things could have been present when I was reading and it's just the rose-colored glasses of youth that didn't make me see them. I mean, one valid concern that's always been there is the total absence of anything not Marvel, DC or Image. I can see that criticism, and I can also recognize that you won't find that much about Troma in Entertainment Weekly, either.

I don't think Wizard will ever really go away. The industry is big enough to need a major magazine to publish it, and Wizard, by virtue of being the first "glossy, sexy" magazine will be it. I don't know if it will ever reach the heights of its 1990s heydey, but then again... will the world reach the heights of the 1990s ever again?

This is a video that one of my buddies did for a Wizard contest in the early '00s. I love the Poundstone line...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Men Are Martian Manhunters, Women Are From Amazon

And so begins the probably final chapter in my likely trilogy of posts that make me sound like an incredible sexist. The first being about the "Phoenix" who I had the misfortune of working with and the second being about the fight against evil led by anorexics. But in my defense, at the time of the anorexic post there were ads all the time for the Terminator tv show and for Doomsday, and as for the Phoenix... well she plain sucks.

I sort of intimated on this particular pet peeve with my post on the Phoenix, but here it is: moderately attractive girls who like comics seem to be, more often than not, really annoying and full of themselves. It's like they lord over the fact that the ratio of male-to-female comic fans are 357:1 and male to decent-looking female comic fans look like 7,892:1. As I said before, if these girls were to go to the local discotheque/bar/what have you they would be mostly ignored by the typical dudes who go there. Put them in an area where there are horny, hard-up lonely guys around and... jackpot! I say this with no malice, just an observant eye calling it as I see it. Take it from me, one of my close female friends from way back in high school grew up to be a cosplayer. I asked her her favorite characters and she named a buncha broads whose costumes she liked. So there.

A perfect example can be found in the Lying In The Gutters column found here. Rich Johnston came upon a craigslist ad and posted the thing for all to see. I don't recall if it truly became the industry meme that he predicted (i.e. breaking internets in half, blonde latinas looking like hookers, etc etc) but it certainly caught my eye. I'm going to post the ad here and intersperse my thoughts through:

Midtown Comics boy, you're hot. - w4m - 23 (Midtown West)

Date: 2007-09-12, 1:03PM EDT

You- gorgeous comic shop cashier, maybe 20ish years old, black t-shirt, asked blonde/red-head (like the band?) boy in white polo to "hold down the fort," lip ring (but then, you all had lip rings, didn't you?)Me - 23, brunette, red tank top, black skirt-only girl in comic shop, Monday, sept. 10, afternoon

I waited in line to ask you about a special comic order. I am ashamed to admit that I stared heartily at your beautiful dark eyes while I stood there. I fantasized about nibbling that hot lip ring on the right side of your lip and grabbing your crotch. I didn't get a look at your crotch. Damn. On most guys, lip rings don't work but there is something about you that makes it the hottest thing in the world. Cute comic shop boy (have I mentioned how I hate it when girls call guys "boy". What is he, 12 or something? Is she a schoolteacher?), I want to make out with you. I want to feel your lip ring all over my body. I came in with a guy, but I was not dating him. He is my trainee at work. I am not interested in him at all. (and I am sure that he is flattered and thrilled that you made such a point of saying that)

Cute comic shop boy, I fantasized about throwing you into a supply closet and tearing off your pants and raping you until you couldn't walk (when did rape become acceptable? Or is it only acceptable if you're a chick? Guys, go out sometime and tell a girl she looks good... and you want to rape her. Then report back on how it went). I guess that's somewhat unlady-like and rather slutty (yes). If you remember, though, I did not tear off your pants or even rape you while we exchanged sexually charged comic banter (what did that sound like? "Hey, want to see my Giant Sized Man-Thing?"). I wanted to. I wanted to take off those loose fit jeans and go. To. Town. I am sorry I led you on when you showed me some comic recommendations. I'll probably buy another one next week so I can see you. But I don't think I'm that into comics. I want to be, for you. But my heart isn't into it (then... what was the special order comic about? Huh? It's only a craigslist ad and you're already lying to him about something). My heart is into your body. I hope you wanted it ("it"? You have a penis?). I hope you wanted me to give it to you (the penis?). But I can't. Because I have a boyfriend. We've been together for three years. I know it doesn't matter to most hot guys but it matters to me (yes, it matters so much that you went behind his back and placed a craigslist ad. You can't cheat on your boyfriend so bad you write about how you want to cheat on him). So even though I wanted to rape you crooked, sideways and covered in chocolate sauce, it can't ever happen. I'm sorry. I am hoping this is a letdown for you (I hope I teased you and gave you blue balls. Nice). I am hoping you wanted me covered in chocolate sauce as well. I suppose there is always the chance that you didn't want to rape me, too (I hope and pray irony is a stranger to her lest she find out that rape is definitely not something you want to happen to you under any kind of circumstance). You told me your name and where you live, though, so I think the wanna-rape-ratio had to be pretty even. So I'm sorry. But look on the bright side. There's something you don't know. It's terrible. While I am, to the general population, pretty cute (and have a top notch rack), I harbor an insidious secret. (uh, that is thinking way too highly about oneself. You're alright. But pretty cute? With that schnozz? And "top notch rack"? You hide it well, madam. And what's with everyone from New York having black hair and olive skin? Is that town 98 % Italian and Greek, or 99%?)

Cute comic shop boy, I'm a nerd. I play World of Warcraft and like to read gaming webcomics. I sit around in my pajamas and lead midlevel instances over Ventrilo. I'm dying for my epic flying mount. I like to go to Staples and purchase office supplies and organize my desk. There is a of picture me in a World of Warcraft shirt at, with a fork in my hair. I love Age of Mythology, even though it's about a hundred in gaming years. I have a Playstation 2 and Xinaghua pwns my face. I say pwns, even in real life (I hate people that do this. Things typed should never be said. I knew this girl who said "pwn", "win" and "fail". I stopped talking to her. True story). I wish I could sew so that I could wear her sexy bellyshirt outfit and parade around town, hooking up with other nerds who like hot chicks in skimpy gaming outfits (what a whore). I go to I-CON at Stonybrook every year so I can watch Voltaire sing about Star Trek, and so I can flirt with him because he's in my 'five.' I love Stargate SG-1 and Richard Dean Anderson. Claudia Black is a goddess.

Cute comic shop boy, I hope one day I hope I let my inhibitions and your pants down and our rape to rape ratio with each other becomes 1:1. Maybe another girl can even get in on it (oh what a surprise she's "bisexual". Just like every other woman in this country between the ages of 14 and 32). In the meantime, I'm going to take you (and this hot girl) to bed with me every night for the rest of the week. I've already thought about you twice. You were great. So was she.

I love your lip ring.

P.S. I'm sorry about my terrible lesbian vampires joke. (wait, there was a lesbian vampire joke?)


Girl who doesn't love comics that much but loves your eyes.

So there we go. I did google this and found a discussion and a blog post, both from Newsarama, I think. The Newsarama commenters seemed to think she was a psycho stalker tease. Of course, later in the year, something not altogether surprising was revealed here.

Can you imagine the poor sap who dated her for 3 years? Probably thought he found the jackpot with having a moderately attractive female into geek stuff, only for her to glimpse a guy that looks like CM Punk's little brother on a whim and send him straight to Masturbationville. With stopovers in Latenightcryingjagland and Selfloathingtown.

It only took 3 months at the max, probably less, to put the kibosh on a 3-year relationship. Furthermore, just a month later LITG fans were privy to this. I hope it was worth losing a longtime boyfriend for a dude to rape you in chocolate sauce while lesbian vampires watched for 4 months. Four months, tops. The dude quit the comic shop. She probably scared him out of the hobby. Now he's into the Yankees and Jovi. For shame.

Okay, let's everyone cut the shit. Normal people are slowly but surely pouring into this hobby. I can go to Borders and see nice, cute girls reading manga. Maybe not Iron Man, but sequential art nonetheless. Everyone likes comic book movies. Every single young person has played the Wii. Being a geek has never been more socially acceptable. That being said, please stop acting like you're doing us a favor by deigning to hang out with the losers. Yes, there are a ton of mouth-breathing, sweaty fatties that have bizarre and sad personal lives and treat these characters as if they are family instead of a paycheck for a huge corporation. There are also nice, normal guys that think this stuff is fun and/or funny.

I've always hated people that fished for compliments, and you won't find a better example than girls dressing up as Dawn or Witchblade or whatever. And you won't find so many aspiring Mae Wests anywhere else. Seriously, talk to a girl in a comic shop and she'll tell you many a joke on how she's probably scaring all the dudes there and they're probably all up in arms that she knows who Optimus Prime is. I took a photography class last semester with a girl that looked an awful lot like Lana Lang from Smallville (i.e. a Canadian Eurasian goddess) and she saw Transformers in the theaters three times. Three! I've never seen any movie in the theaters three times. I think the most was The Departed and Jackass Number Two at two times each. So really, we're not that impressed with your Cobra Commander shirt and Green Lantern tatttoo. Just be cool. Capische?

As for the rest of you... get your comments on! I'm (obviously) not making any money from doing this, so the second most-important thing I can get from this (besides peace of mind) is knowing that people are out there reading and enjoying. Or reading and hating. But at least reading. Make up a fake name, it's the internet!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Cliques: The Hero-Clix Gang

So I thought I'd start another series to talk about the groups of people that would congregate in our fair store. It'll pad out the narrative as well as give people the opportunity to compare and see if any similarities lie within their own groups.

Before I get to it, I will say I'm surprised that I have 7 followers, but a little dismayed to find people so adverse to commenting. I know it's easier to read-n-run, but when you comment you really let me know there's someone else out there. Plus, it'll give you guys a chance to connect and maybe start discussions amongst yourselves.

Which brings me to a new point. As things wind down (as they eventually will. I have the ending posts pretty mapped out so in my mind we're kinda closer to the end than to the beginning) I'm thinking of starting a new blog/forum based around the industry called something like "Comics Suck". It'll basically be a big bitchfest. Now, I don't think comics suck. I actually told a smoking fox French study partner that I was on the upper floor of Barnes & Noble wrapping up "Civil War". How can I be such a mack? Practice. Plus, I went to Urban Outfitters recently and saw some cool little Mighty Marvel Mugs. So I still like the culture of comics, especially the part about how if you look somewhat normal (ie under 450 lbs, somewhat washed and fashionable) that no one blinks an eye when you let your nerd out. Thank you, "The OC"! But I do think there's a ton of crappy comic stores, customers, and Diamond is still out there making lives miserable so there's room for a spin-off. I swear I'll never know how Diamond built an empire on being a bloated, inefficient middle-man.

Back to the point: every Friday night our shop would host Hero-Clix tournaments. Hero-Clix is a collectible miniatures game that came out in 2002. It's tiny little plastic figures of comic characters with stats on the dial and powers to modify what they can do and you battle it out. And even though I disparaged it earlier on my customer complaint on the Mole-Man... I gotta say, it's kinda fun. Me and my buddy (the cokehead) got into it when it first came out, and even stayed at the store until the wee early hours of the morning playing it. And this was the summer when we hung out with the college girls in their off-campus apartment watching them get drunk on Arbor Mist and going to free radio concerts. Ahhhh, the summer of '02. Why did you ever have to end?

Even back-er to the point: A series of regulars would go to these games. And despite being held on Friday nights, these were generally the most normal gamers of the bunch. I geniunely liked a lot of these people. Now the bad apples were superbad, but most of them were cool, like outside of comic shop cool, even!

There was a guy I'll call D-Rock ('cause someone else did) who was built kind of like a pro wrestler. He was tall, blond and athletic. But most appealing of all was his natural sense of ease and good-naturedness. He just exuded a confidence rarely seen in our neurotic little world. He made frequent jokes, chewed tobacco and married an Asian nurse.

His sidekick and the guy that ran the tournaments I'll call D-Rock Jr, because he was shorter, skinnier and still blond. The big boy from New York didn't really like him because he thought he was smug and caustic. I dunno, I got along fine with him.

There was another guy I'll call McEnroe because he once grew out his curly brown locks into a McEnroe-like 'fro. He was in his late 20s and divorced, and talked about his ex-wife a lot, which was weird. He was a decent looking guy. He also seemed baked out of his mind every minute of every day. He later moved and I have no idea what happened to him. Never got confirmation that he smoked more weed than Seth Rogen, either.

A guy that recently emailed me is someone I'll call Shogun. He was a comic customer first, and would bring his young son in when he picked up books. Now normally, I can't stand kids. Oh I can be civil, but I recognize that at least right now they're not for me. However, this little guy was pretty cute, I admit. He would sing "Ain't No Sunshine" and would run around the store. All of this is making me seem about as normal and manly as Pee-Wee Herman, but trust me. The kid was awesome. If you didn't laugh at him, a part of your soul undoubtedly has died.

I've mentioned Sack Ofshitskin (I ironically encouraged him into playing rather than just collecting) and Mole-Man. There was another troublemaker I'll call Dickhead. Dickhead was disliked by everybody, not really for any big reason, just little, small, subtle ones. He just carried himself in a very dickhead manner. He was in his early 30s, paunchy, and had a perfectly cute fiancee that no one could understand the attraction was. D-Rock joked that he should sleep with her just to spite Dickhead. He should've.

Ponytail had a life that was either the greatest or the worst. I had actually met him back when the Star Wars CCG was popular almost 10 years ago. He had a cute, goth-ish girlfriend who went to a local college. He had a ponytail and worked at Michael's, the craft store. Sarcastro would kind of give him a hard time, but Ponytail seemed to take it well. Before I knew it, he disappeared and my apathy remained. He returned when Hero-Clix took off and came back with a stunning blond girl. And when I say she was an 8, I mean an 8 in the real world. Not an 8 in the comic world, which would be a 4 in the real world. She was thin with a nice body, blond, and a pretty face. And for some reason she was devoted to Ponytail. The guy that wrote an 8-part movie epic involving Atlantis and evoking "Tango & Cash". The guy that ran out to puke on the sidewalk on several occasions. She would fight with him and sit next to him on Friday nights as he played miniature games. Ponytail lived at home. Past 30. I have no indication to believe he might have moved out. He apparently has an 11-inch penis that dispenses Arbor Mist and new episodes of "Grey's Anatomy".

There were some odds and ends. There was one guy with a super-southern accent but actually said some clever things, so it taught me never to judge someone by their cover. No it didn't. The last guy was the first guy to run the tournaments. I shall call him Unibrow Johnson, and I shall get to him later. He was the guy that "bought" the store.

So there they were. These brave champions of Friday night, that would battle until 10 at night. These men with cute girlfriends and normal social lives. Some things are just a mystery, man. Some things are just a mystery.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Alex Ross Seems Kind Of Like A Dick

I'll take a break from the normal personal recollections and give an opinion on the industry that we found/find ourselves in.

Doesn't Alex Ross seem like he's kind of a dick?

I wasn't reading comics when Marvels came out, but I remember the hubbub of Kingdom Come. I looked at his art, and yeah, it's impressive. Although, something always seems a little "off" to me. Everyone looks like the ideal in the 1950s. The guys, while huge, seem a little fat. I know that's probably "more realistic", but come on. It's comics. There's a dude with a ring that makes giant green shit.

I remember people going ape shit over Kingdom Come, which I never really understood. It's a very "of its time" story. It was basically a reaction to Rob Liefeld, Image comics and the industry in the early to mid 90s. It all seems so dated now, the concern over bad influence super-heroes. People in costumes with lots of leather and tattoos, smoking and blowing each other away. DC let its big, end-of-the-universe-as-we-know-it epic be a response to a fad. A fad that was on its way out by the time the book came out. Besides, if anyone wants to get a peek at what was the best possible way for DC to do its "end of an era/Ragnarok" story then they can take a gander at this. Now, that's a story!

I think the thing that bugs me the most about Ross is that he's a traditionalist. He's one of these people that likes things from a certain era, and that's all he'll deal with. Most people agree that the Barry Allen Flash died a hero, with dignity, in a decent story in Crisis On Infinite Earths. Not Ross. Barry Allen was screwed, and should be the Flash to this very day. Screw the people that have watched Wally West grow into a fine hero of his own for the past twenty years. Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern? Dick Grayson as Nightwing? Not hearing it and not drawing it. Everything should be exactly as it was during the Silver Age. That's when comic books peaked and nothing that came after it was worth a damn.

When does it end, though? I mean, somewhere out there there are fans even older than Ross thinking, "Hal Jordan? Space cops? Fooey! It's Alan Scott or nothin'!" Or maybe "Barry Allen can't hold a candle to Jay Garrick! Now that was a real hero, he wore a WWI helmet and everything!" Fair's fair. What about them, Ross? They were here first.

One of the things that writers like Alan Moore and Warren Ellis talk about is the lack of variety in comics and the stifling urges to do self-masturbatory stories over and over again. Moore said he can't look at super-heroes anymore because all he sees are the dead men they were stolen from. Ellis talked on how going into a comic shop is like going into a bookstore where 90% of the books there are about nurses. Now, there are some fine books about nurses out there, I'm sure, but do you really need such a vast majority of them? I don't go as far as they do. I enjoy a good superhero yarn as much as the next guy (well, maybe not as much as the fat 40-year-old in the stained Gambit shirt) but I don't know if I really need to constantly read stuff that never changes, never grows, and never dies.

So let Iron Man wage war on good old-fashioned costumed crusaders. Let Captain America and Batman croak. Turn the Hulk red. Whatever. Because everyone knows that the industry is full of Alex Rosses just biting their lips in anxiety until they get the chance to make Iron Man mind-controlled, resurrect Captain America and Batman, and make the Green Goliath angry and emerald again. Just ask Geoff Johns.

I think this video kind of has some interesting parts where his douchebaggery can't help but leak all over everything...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Parade Of Assholes Part Three

Jose Illicitano

You know, believe it or not I might end up having less of these than I thought. I think enough time has passed that I'm slowly forgetting all the shitty regulars, and I don't want to post about the occasional innocent annoying people, like that one deaf guy. They weren't evil on purpose.

This guy was. We'll call him Jose Illicitano. He went to my high school and was in a grade lower than me. At first, he seemed really cool. He had a good sense of humor, despite being kind of a weirdo. Example: He fell asleep in Anatomy and when the teacher woke him up, he started up suddenly and said "hoo-ah!" That's right, Al Pacino's catchphrase from Scent Of A Woman. I don't get it either, but it was random thus funny.

Over time, he became a regular, and I'd let him behind the counter to talk, and would even supervise him once or twice on how to use the register in the hopes that he could substitute at some point. I think you all know where this is going...

At college, he found a girlfriend. Now, this was not a minor miracle as he was not the handsomest fella in the world. He had kinky black hair, a goattee, and a paunch. However, his girlfriend seemed really cool and open to comics. She was tall, with curly blond hair and height-weight proportionate. Well, one day I'm helping a new customer (who I never saw again) and was about to ring up his credit card when the phone rings. Turns out it's Jose's girlfriend. She says that she has something to tell me about Jose. She's pregnant. I stammer out an "uh... okay, call me back in a few minutes. I'm with somebody." She gives me a really grateful "thanks, (my name here)" and we hang up. The guy, presumably not wanting human drama with his superhuman drama, promptly pays, leaves, and sticks to mail order from that point on.

It turns out all those years not getting laid and reading comic books left Jose not with any sort of gratitude towards the female race nor a sense of right and wrong. He dumped her and his parents called her a whore and said that she raped (?!) him. She was undecided as to what to do, but ultimately decided to end it and move back down further south of the state where her relatives lived and finish college there. I understand what I just wrote might upset some of you, it's an issue that divided this country with very little, if any, gray area. What happened happened, it was her decision to make, I won't, can't, ain't and don't say what I would have done. Moving on.

The main reason she called was to inform us of Jose's sticky fingers. Turns out he had been stealing from the shop for some time now. A customer ordered the JLA:Earth 2 toys from DC Direct from us, and when we went to retrieve them from the back, they were gone. He had bought a Punisher mini-statue off eBay only to find it was missing the extra gun. No worries, he stole ours from the box and closed it back up. He stole from big box stores like Media Play (kinda like Borders for you young'uns) and Best Buy, too. He would do the old "remove the DVD/video game from the protective covering and slip it in his clothes" trick. This came as kind of a shock and a disappointment. My liberal guilt didn't want to believe the cliche of the sleazy latino womanizing thief, but there it was. I felt like Michael from The Office when he found out the ex-con working for him was the black guy, and not a white guy who got caught polluting in a black guy's lake.

If you're hoping and salivating for the neat and tidy comic book ending of the owner coming in, kicking the guy's ass back to Guantanamo Bay and dropping a bomb on him... keep hoping. I informed the owner of what the girlfriend had said, and of course he was upset. After asking me if she would testify and getting pissed, it just kind of went away. Jose stopped coming in after probably detecting some knowledge on our part and some low-key hostility. I saw him a couple of times at the gym I used to go to, and was a dick to him, but that was it. As tempermental as the owner was (he once kicked a Coke machine's ass and broke a register), he surprisingly didn't do anything. The girlfriend later admitted revenge fantasies to me such as throwing a molotov cocktail in his room, but she didn't do anything and neither did I, despite my own bloodlust at being made a sap as well as the objective anger of treating someone like he did.

I talked to the girl fairly regularly for a period of three to three-and-a-half months, I think. It was a bad year for me, as I moved far away from work with my parents who I did not get along with in the slightest. My buddies were all in college and I felt so very, very alone. It was probably a tie for worst year of my life. Place a gun to my head (at the time I probably would have wanted you to) and I'll probably say it was the worst. So needless to say, those conversations really helped me a lot. I found out she was really cool, and artistic, and her vulnerability probably appealed to me as much as my (admittedly somewhat self-interested) kindness appealed to her. We stopped talking when she moved down south and started a new job, school and life. Probably for the best, as I was most likely a reminder of all the unwanted drama that arose from that period of her life.

As for whatever happened to Jose? Who knows. He's on Facebook and MySpace, but with private profiles of course. I never heard from him or someone else about him dating another girl, and I know he doesn't have that cool of a life or a job. He's probably still living at home with overbearing parents pushing him to get married to some chick who will pop out eight kids and get fat on him.

Also, hopefully this post will show I plan on being honest about myself in the future, as I don't exactly paint myself in the best or most heroic light here. Everyone has their faults, and I certainly had more than my share in those years.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The People We Was

The shop had a group of regulars that... regularly... went to movies together, celebrated holidays, and acted kinda like a family. It was kinda nice, actually. I figured I'd go ahead and make a post about the people that I actually chose to spend time with. Besides, my little blurb in Lying In The Gutters sorta could sound like I'm an angry, bitter loner. I'm not alone.

The leader, or Sam Malone, of the outfit was the owner. I won't get too much into him now, as I have a great big post on him later. He was in law enforcement, looked like Freddie Mercury, was obsessed with the 1980s and was a pretty cool guy. If he wasn't your boss. He turned out to be the worst kind of boss. More later.

For the longest time, his sidekick was a guy we'll call Sarcastro. He had a biting sense of humor as befitting a comic store employee, which he was for a couple of years, although that seems three years too short. He was always there in my high school days. He was a big, husky blond guy who lived at home until he was married. In some ways, he fit a stereotype in that he was occasionally mean, lived at home, didn't date around too much. But when he was cool, he was authentically funny (not just comic shop funny), was young and close to me and my best friend's age so he liked the same music and shows. He seemed to buy video game systems and other gadgets as soon as they came out. He met a religious chick and promptly married her off and is now a father of three (or soon to be three), living in a nice big suburban home filled with nice things, like Tivos, and probably Blu-Ray players and Nintendo Wiis to boot.

Their mutual friend shared qualities with the both of them. The Weatherman worked at the Weather Channel, although in an off-camera capacity. Like Sarcastro, he could be a world-class dick, but most of the time was geniunely funny and cool as well. Hell, he invited me to his wedding, so that was kind of flattering. He went to high school with the owner, and mainly bought books probably just to socialize. He also liked Godzilla.

My closest friend from that group was a guy who I can't name but comments on here as Bryan Ferry's Mom. Probably just to give me shit for insulting Anglophiles. He's also a huge fan of Roxy Music. And cock. Just kidding ya, BFM! He was super-generous with CDs and DVDs, and had a sweet job where he basically worked a four day week as a result of being such a pimp at it. He likes a lot of hip stuff and looks far younger than his age. Never a nasty word from this guy. He alone shall be spared my vitriol.

There was a southern democrat who was probably a hippie at some point, but you would never know it to hear or see him. He was pretty nice, and was older than all of us. Hell, he went to high school with my mom, it turns out.

There was a funny black guy, that kind of had some Don Cheadle qualities to him. He went through some ups and downs and didn't really come in during my tenure as an employee. He's married with two kids now, and I have his email somewhere. He hung out some with this reformed alcoholic who looked a lot like Jimmy Palmiotti and was in the Air Force when younger. He later had two kids with a lesbian. Sweet! He worked with BFM and Sarcastro at an old person's nightclub for awhile.

These three guys worked for a local distributor that wasn't Diamond. They had a warehouse we would visit to get gaming cards and other shit I didn't care about, but they were really cool guys. One was an Italian guy who had some stories to tell, I'll not tell you what. Another was a guy with an unfinished Venom symbol tattoo on his back and a wife who worked for Warner Bros. The other was a guy with Weezer glasses, a shaved head and a long goattee yet was a Republican. Go figure. I actually really liked these guys and I think they all stopped coming in when the store was sold. I wish I still had their contact info.

The last guy I can remember was a huge, and I mean huge, guy from New York. He lived with his parents, I think. He worked for a long time at Barnes & Noble, despite the fact that he had a degree in Teaching. They canned him after he took some medical leave due to ankle/leg issues. The owner thought he might've had a lawsuit on his hands if he wanted to pursue it, but I guess he didn't. He ended up working at a Lowe's unloading trucks at 5 in the morning. He was in his mid-30s and really should have had a better job. He was the most obviously nerdy in regards to appearance, but oddly enough was not into computers, video games or the internet in the slightest.

As for me? Some say I look like a white version of Jemaine Clement from Flight Of The Conchords. And I am just as shy-at-first, socially awkward and funny as any numerous hip nerds. So, a cliche. And I'd be remiss if I forgot my two "real world" friends, my best friend and former roommate who was a tall, good-looking Harvard grad (who is now engaged ladies), and my former other best friend, a portly red-head who lived with a girl who looked like a supermodel and got big into booze and coke and works as a waiter at a bar. I guess. I haven't talked to him in two years. I'll probably see him at his booze-and-coke caused funeral.

What seperated us from most comic shops is that we were the comic shop you could take your hot, shallow girlfriend to. The place wasn't wrecked, we listened to the "hip young white people" alt-rock station, we could talk South Park, Simpsons, Arrested Development, The Office, etc. In fact, rarely did we talk comics. We didn't dress in X-Men shirts, we didn't have ponytails, we showered. We were the "cool" guys. Now, I know every shop considers themselves the "cool" shop, and we weren't as hip as the comic shop/indie music store that was in the hippest area of town and sold more Eightball than JLA, but still.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Welcome, Chums! Think Clean Thoughts!

...what just happened?

So here I am, with my most challenging final being tomorrow, and naturally I prepare by going to this blog and seeing if anyone has commented on it (seriously, Bryan Ferry's Mom? I finally write a strip on the naughty couple that worked there and you don't comment? For shame) and I see tons of people commenting everywhere, because Rich Fuckin' Johnston linked me! Pretty sweet for a guy only getting two hits a week just a month ago.

So to Rich, merci beaucoup (note to self: study for French final tomorrow as well. You have no idea how to ask questions in French, leaving you a life of pissing yourself in Paris because you can't translate the Gallic form of water closet). I was just kidding with everything bad I might have stated about you. Heh heh. In all seriousness, I read your column every week and get annoyed when you take off for American holidays, although by typing that I realize it's probably the American website taking the day off. You stopped giving Marvel so much shit and laid off Millar, too, so good for you! (Full disclosure, I like both Marvel and Mark Millar, and actually find his shameless self-promoting endearing, despite that his being a dirty pinko commie I am naturally inclined to hate him) Do yourselves a favor and go pick up The Flying Friar. Trust me, as someone taking a religious class in a Catholic college you need all the excitement you can get from that genre.

To my new (mostly UK-and-her-former-colonies-residing) readers, 'ello guv'ners! That wasn't offensive, was it? It's odd to find so many comments and such from people across the various ponds, but more than welcome. I would bust a testicle to visit or live in Australia or England, as I'm one of those Yanks that likes and respects the accomplishments of the entire world. And for the record, while the genius of 2000 AD, Doctor Who and even Monty Python escapes me, I am in your debt for the following: Dizzee Rascal, The Streets, Morrissey, The Office, Alan Moore, Peter Milligan, and without a doubt Lucy Pinder. You can keep Madonna.

A couple of quick notes about me: I do not currently work in the comic store. The comic store may or may not exist. I also don't hate England or women. I actually have a lot of friends and am enjoying my much delayed college experience. This isn't one of those things where the guy doing the narrative is blameless or smarter than everyone else or put on a pedestal. Believe me, I will be getting to me later. I don't really keep up with comics anymore, although I know things like Captain America is dead and Iron Man runs SHIELD and everyone is a Skrull. Other than that, I couldn't tell ya.

I'm hearing a lot of recognition on my stories, which is both good and bad. Once I get the time I will be setting up links and stuff, and if anyone wants my (worthless) opinion on something or wants a question asked, ask away in the comments or e-mail me. In the meantime, continue to enjoy the medium of comics, without thinking so much on who makes them, sells them, and reads them. No, not you. The other guy in the store. The creepy one.

Okay, instead of doing the cliched "Welcome To The Jungle" video with Guns N Roses, I'm going to the original "Welcome To The Jungle Scene" from The Dead Pool (Not the Deadpool) starring Jim Carrey and Liam Neeson. Everything goes better with Neeson.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My #$@! Co-Workers III:The Swingers

I know this is a little close to my last post on my co-workers, but I just remembered these people existed and this is too good not to share.

So when I took over for the last full-time employee, there was a couple that worked on the big gaming day, Saturday. They had been longtime customers, and presumably started working there to help pay for their habit. The guy was a heavyset bespectacled guy with a lisp, and his wife was an about ten-years-younger gal. They were nice enough, and I had run into them a couple of times at conventions. One time the wife was wearing a costume with no pants and when she sat down it looked like she was using the potty. Hee. Also one time at a convention, the owner ran into them and the guy was covered in so much sweat he might as well have showered with his clothes on. When asked where the guy had walked from, the husband replied "*pant* *pant* the hotel next door". Sometimes, cliches are true.

They were fine, for the most part. I hated working Saturdays because all the kids and the Pokemon craze and the mess and everything. They eventually quit and he got transferred to the Pacific Northwest working for a company that actually made some of the games, they had a kid, and now they're out there doing something somewhere. It's what I found out later that makes them noteworthy.

I overheard a conversation my senior year of high school between the owner, the old manager and a friend of their who was a judge talking about a legal issue. It seems the couple had an amateur website displaying amateur sexing. All the guys knew about it while it was going on except me. This thing was wild. I looked it up thanks to the handy-dandy Internet Time Machine and saw her getting sapphic with a girl in a wheelchair, sexing one of her college professors and getting more BBC than an English citizen. They were swingers. Not Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau swingers. Your creepy aunt and uncle swingers.

It was so weird. She was fairly young, in her mid-twenties when this was going on, but she wasn't really what you picture when you picture amateur porn star. You might think of porn stars looking like this (okay, how in the hell can you post pics where you actually want them? Write in and help a brother out!) In any case, she did not fit the look of the prototypical porn star.

I always wondered about their life. Did they continue reenacting Eyes Wide Shut when they moved? Do they find a sitter for the kid and go to a local motel to get the wife some huge schlong? Do they ever play Heroclix where the winning team gets a crack at her? I wonder...

I think it goes without saying that the swinger chick did not look like Bettie Page...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

State Of Affairs

Well, due in part to some good ole fashioned OCD, I don't really want to have two-to-three negative "aren't people such dumbshits?" posts in a row, so I'll hold a general catching-up post. Besides, the last couple of posts have had comments from people that aren't people I've known in real life.

So. Hello.

In all seriousness, I'm wondering how people are finding out about this blog. I haven't sent it to Warren Ellis or Rich Johnston yet (but I will, once I get enough content). The only thing I can think of is random keyword searching in the blogosphere. Or someone that reads the blog of my lone follower linked to this. So if anyone out there is reading this, who are you? Where did you come from? You don't have to disclose full name, SSN and address, but it'd be neat to see if you're current comic shop employees, people that used to come in to the shop that they think is the basis for this blog, curious masturbators, whatever.

I will say prepare for a slight (two week at the most) drop in productivity as school starts back up after the weekend and finals rear their ugly head. I have a big load this year (that's what she said) so I have to study up, or at least procrastinate and cram up.

I really don't have a concrete plan for this blog. I'm going to go through all the a-hole customers that I hated (off the top of my head, I can come up with five specific individuals, with perhaps some general "types" later), my idiot co-workers (three more parts, including my boss and the a-holes that bought the store), a couple of more opinions on the industry, one positive post on all the cool people I did meet (it'd be a slap in the face if I forgot them) and a couple of wrap-up posts where I detail what happened to the store (the hot potato change of hands is kind of funnytragic) and my ultimate final say.

I'm a little surprised at just how quaint or seemingly small the blog will be. I worked at this place for about six years, and had been a customer for ten. I have to say, though, that the last time I worked there will be three years this May, and time is slowly healing all the wounds that developed. I think my posts, especially the ones regarding me and my "origin story" will be pretty big, so it will be size and not numbers as we head towards the finish line. Then, I will probably say no more. I kind of thought this blog could be a discussion piece. A sort of example of what's wrong in the industry and how even good and honorable intentions can lead to so much waste and dust. Also, I hoped it would spur others. Nothing would please me more than for some owners (or especially employees) that have dealt with this special level of Hell to start their own blogs, whether here or video blogs on YouTube or Facebook groups or whatever. I am generous with the linking, so by all means if you want whatever meager publicity I can and will one day provide, send me an email or comment and I will link you up something fierce. And really, that goes for everyone in the retail world. Clothing stores, restaurants, video games, big box, it's all designed to make people want to empty a barrell in their face, so let's all express it anonymously on the Internet! That being said, don't think me a coward for expressing it anonymously on the Internet. The only thing I fear is a well-educated lawyer, and the people I am writing about are completely free to come by and see what I have to say. The ones that were good to me I am good to them, the ones that stepped on me are getting stepped on in return. Fair's fair, and you will see later on I can be just as harsh on myself.

I have signed up for AdSense. I resisted for some time, not wanting people to think me some sort of sell-out or that I'm trying to get money from this, but I figured why the hell not? The ads are unobtrusive and I'm a poor college student who needs all the funds he can get. Especially after I explain the owner's actions and how I left the store in my ending posts. He will not get a lot of sympathy from those that know him once they find out some things. For that reason I am also dwelling on putting up a link to PayPal. If I do, please do not feel obligated to do jack squat, but if Rich puts this up in one of this weekly columns and some kind-hearted Marvel editor or store owner or venture capitalist with a heart of gold and more money than Danny Rand(obscure!) gets a chuckle or two from this and wants to float me a fiver online, then so be it.

That's about it. My next post will probably be about the kinky couple that used to work on the weekends. Oh, it's a good one. Until then, stay safe!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My #$@! Co-Workers II:Sally Brown Make You Go Down

This is my second installment in my series on my co-workers. This one was yet another teenage girl, and yet another huge mistake.

I'm going to call her Sally Brown. Like Sally, she was a blond girl, and like Sally she had a ginormous head.

Sally Brown used to come in with her high school chums when the bus would drop them off in a K-Mart parking lot and wait for her parents to pick her up. She was remarkably self-assured, and would talk and sass total strangers and people much older than her. She started to ask for a job, and eventually the owner figured he could hire her cheap to do the stuff I didn't want to (it should be noted she predates the Phoenix). We pretty much trained her to run the register and set her loose on the weekends. We thought surely someone so nerdy looking had to be smart. Wrong. Mistake. She had the common sense of Gomer Pyle.

This was probably a mistake in hindsight. Sally Brown was about 5'0, and had a penchant for sitting on a footstool hidden from the public eye. An old co-worker came in one time, went to the back, changed, came out and stood in the front for a solid minute before she looked up from whatever manga book she had her nose stuck in and asked, "when did you get in?" Yeah. This was a common problem. Sally Brown wanted to work, but not "work". She wanted to get paid reading comics and sitting around.

She could be weirdly abrasive and sensitive at the same time. I remember once she called the owner crying because she casually tossed a pack of cards at a kid that turned out to be "special" and was yelled at by the mom. Her dad later complained to the owner about the mom complaining at his daughter, and eventually everyone was advised just to calm down. I'll always remember Sally Brown being extra nice and helpful towards the dimwi-new owners, and subtly (or not) asking about what her role in the new store would be, and being told none.

The family, while being conservative Catholics, also had a weird sexual undercurrent to them. Her older sister (Charlene Brown?) used to come in and flirt heavily with the owner, and regale him with taking guys home and them being rough with her. Once, I had found a notebook and thumbed through it, hoping to get a name or contact info for whatever kid left their Social Studies homework there. Instead, I found the beginnings of a classic hentai tale of a man with tentacles in his overcoat confronting a woman in a bathtub. I thought it was something the Phoenix had written, until Sally Brown called and said she left a notebook up there. To know her you would never had guessed tentacle sex was on her mind.

She probably has watched this video to do the opposite. You know, to ensure tentacle rape...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Look Back In Apathy: Blister In The Storage Room

I'm going to post couple of stories that don't really fit in anywhere under this series, as this doesn't really go in any other category (i.e. asshole customers, asshole co-workers, etc etc).

In the backroom where the bathroom and books older than your uncle are, the owner kept some porno comics. He had a euphemism for them, but I just realized I can't probably say what it was as it was the name of the only guy who enjoyed them. In the meantime, I'll just call them porno comics. A lot were published by Eros, which is a division of Fantagraphics and consists of probably their highest sellers. A lot of weird hentai and indie porn by small-press guys like Bob Fingerman( and one of the Hernandez guys. Pedro, I think.

He kept them hidden in a separate box, or tucked in randomly. Sometimes a regular would pull them out or find them for laughs. Of course, the funniest tale involved another kind of regular. This guy was a card and game player who had to use the potty during an action-packed Saturday. Evidently, he must've come across the box whilst returning from his mid-morning tinkle and decided to flip open a book and get reacquainted with his genitals. He had been gone for some time when the owner tried to open the back door and asked something along the lines of, "hey-hey, what are you doing? What's going on back there?" To which the curious masturbator probably replied, "uh-n-nothing. I'll be right out." Sadly, I wasn't there to take a picture of his walk of shame.

The lesson? Admit you're keeping the books to wack off to at 2 a.m. when your wife is asleep or throw the things out. No one wants a copy of Defenders with the shiny-embossed and sticky-entrailed cover.

Monday, November 24, 2008

$4 For Funny Books? You Are Insane.

So in late October on Rich Johnston's blog, something I compulsively read despite not having regularly bought comics in years and having a love-hate relationship with the author (he talks endlessly on British things no one cares about, plugs his own stuff and seems somewhat of a hanger-on to the industry), it was reported that comics may soon go up to $4 a book. He came up with a neat little chart that can be found on the blog here:

Turns out that comics should really cost about $1.09, as opposed to the $3 they cost now. No. You are not going to get teenagers with disposable income to spend $4 on 32 pages of Spider-Man not getting laid and Batman brooding when for the price of 3 comics they can get a DVD, and if they choose to eschew comics they can get a video game a month. If they can pull themselves away from the internets and the Facebooks and the homemade porn made with the digital cameras with soundtracks by the Lil Waynes.

The economy is tanking. The bottom keeps opening up, and by this time next year we'll all either be living beyond our means on credit like the good ole days or be standing in a bread line with the rest of our commune amazed that Michael Moore was right when he predicted that this was the end of capitalism. Now, how this would end capitalism when the Great Depression didn't kill it, I don't know. Then again, I'm not a fat retard. The point is, when Scott Collegegrad gets laid off from his entry level data processor position that he didn't want in the first place as he has an English degree, what do you think he's going to cut out first? Food? Rent? Uncanny X-Men?

Also, a lot of comics seem craptacular. DC is going through some fuckin' Crisis, like, Crisis 8:The Douchening or something. Everyone in Marvel is a Skrull, or a Republican, or a zombie, or a zombified Skrull who watches Fox News. I would venture to say I, someone who read a lot of comics for 11 years, could not figure out the Watcher's ass from a hole in the ground nowadays. New customers are going to be confused, and when a lot of old customers like me occasionally get a grim existential feeling that Spider-Man will always struggle to get laid, Batman will forever be a jerk, Wolverine will never shave those sideburns, they're going to put the Washingtons back in their wallet and keep walking.

You can get the hardcovers from Amazon cheaper than the individual issues from the local retailer. And they come with extra stuff. Why even get the monthly issues? It's all paced for the trade anyway.

I'm not saying I don't like comics. I do. And I'm well aware that there's more stuff than repressed homosexuals in tights blasting each other with lasers and tasers and whatnot. There's Blue Monday, 100 Bullets, Fables, Walking Dead, Dork, and countless other unique titles I'm forgetting here. I'm not saying creators shouldn't make money. They should. Everyone from the artist to the assistant editor should make a living wage and be able to get by without selling comp copies on eBay or heroin on the street corner.

I'm just saying that comics are too expensive, and sooner or later the industry will hit a wall. They'll either blink and lower their prices and financial expectations, or they'll find themselves on The History Channel talking about the good ole days of comics and interesting radio.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Parade Of Assholes Part Two

Sack Ofshitskin

First, an apology. This blog has had crazy delays at least twice, and all I can blame is my schedule and laziness. But this time, it literally has been my schedule. I'm taking 17 1/2 hours of college classes and working 20 hours a week, so I'm packed. I will try to continue posting as the rage remains...

Which brings me to my second regular who gave me regular bouts of insomnia and suicide attempts. Sack Ofshitskin. Once again, people who are familiar with the shop will recognize what the name is based on, others won't.

Sack was an old high school cum of the owner. He looked like a mixture of Mr. Burns and a baby, fitting because he was a fairly well-off right-winger who cried like a bitch at stuff, hence my two photos. He was balding, liked volleyball and walked around a local mall with a Santa hat. Needless to say, he probably was a closeted homosexual. He also had a sweet tat of the eyes of Nightwing on his bicep, so his predilection for man meat was probably true. I mean, it's lame enough to get a comic book tattoo on your bicep, but Nightwing?! The gayest sidekick that ever bared bare leg? And his freaking eyes? Not even his symbol or anything? What was he gonna finish off with, his face and a heart around it? Ugh.

Now besides being lame, Sack was best known for being cheap. Really cheap. Really... really... cheap. This is a guy that would try to get out of paying sales tax. Once, out of frustration and embarrassment, I paid the sales tax on his Witchblade action figure. Oh that's right, this guy is trying to get the best deal on a Witchblade... action figure. Comic fans by and large are known for being extremely selfish, cheap and short-sighted. Eager to pray to the altar of Amazon not realizing that by killing brick-and-mortar they're killing their own hangouts and game competitions. So to be noted by one's peers for being cheap, means that in the natural world you are a Cheap God.

It was his cheapness that ultimately created the schism between him and the owner/store. Sack had ordered a crate of Heroclix for an incredible steal, pretty much what he could have gotten ordering online. We were making close to 0% profit on this, very slim. He balked at paying the sales tax, which was something the owner warned me he might do while insisting that he had told him that he couldn't do away with sales tax that time. Without sales tax the profit might have just gone into the negative. I told him that he'd have to pay the sales tax, and that to refuse was un-American and hampering the War On Terror™ that was so beloved by his fellow NeoCons. He said "you know what? Forget it," and stomped back to his seat like a four-year-old. I said, "all right" as I didn't make comission anyway. Before I opened the new case to sell, what do you think he did? Buckled like a belt. Caved. Backed down like a bitch. He went ahead and bought the stupid case full of plastic toys for children made by Chinese children. Then went ahead and stopped getting as many books and buying Heroclix elsewhere. We sold the store and I moved shortly afterwards so I didn't get the full effect of the Sack embargo. The owner later said he visited the shop under the new dumbas-owners, I meant owners, and Sack ignored him. What a fucking baby.

Fun fact: When the "gang" went to go see X2, Sack talked like a retarded pre-teen throughout the movie, much to the derision of the theatregoers around him. "I didn't know Nightcrawler was so powerful!" "Siryn!" "Ulp, Phoenix! We got a Phoenix!" Dope.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Robert Downey Jr Just Got Even More Badass: "Fuck DC Comics"

"That's all I have to say and that's where I'm really coming from."

After seeing his performances in "Less Than Zero", "Chaplin", "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang", "Tropic Thunder", and the greatest comic book movie in "Iron Man", (that's right, fanboys- fuck DC comics. Crisis my balls) I didn't think it was possible for Tony Stark to be even more of a pimp, but there you go.

I wish I could have seen the reaction to this statement by Batman's #1 superfan of all time, Sack Ofshitskin. Who's Sack Ofshitskin? Just the alias of some ultra-cheap supernerd with a rockin', and not at all gay, tattoo of Nightwing's eyes on his 8-inch python and the focus of my next post.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

And Lo, A Skinny White Chick Shall Save Them

There seems to be a weird trend going on in fantasy-land. And, well... I pretty much spoiled it in the title. But for those of you who aren't about the title, here it is: action/horror/sci-fi/crap movies where the fate of mankind/Earth/the Hershey plant in Hershey, PA is left up to the strongest fighter out there... white chicks under 120 lbs.


Now, I don't know about you, but when I see a 14-year-old girl or anorexic model my first thought is to run like Hell. Because Lord knows when they will look at you cock eyed, and beat you within an inch of your life in a way that the Sean Connerys, Bruce Willises, and Samuel L. Jacksons never could.

I'm lying.

I can see how my rant on this might be controversial. After all, feminists and girls all like a good role model to look up to. Someone who can prove they can be just as tough as the boys. Except that's not true. As revealed in Brian K. Vaughn's excellent Y: The Last Man, your average dude is stronger than your average chick, and even as strong or stronger as your average athletic chick, fair or not. I mean, no offense to Summer Glau, but if her and Jimmy Kimmel ever mixed it up in the octagon... my money would still have to go to Kimmel, years of ballet training or no.

I have no problem with women in action movies. But wouldn't the better and more realistic example be women that looked like Vasquez in Aliens, Sarah Connor in Terminator II, or those freaks of nature Chyna and Nicole Bass?

I blame two things. First, the "Maximization" of our culture, otherwise known as "douching it down". Some cynical movie exec is thinking, "hmmmm... guys like action movies, but there's a smidge of homoeroticism in the way the camera lovingly frames Sly Stallone's oily pecs. Now, if it were a 100 lb. chick that looks fifteen at the oldest... bingo! We tap into the lucrative hetero-pedo demo! Beth! Another line of Columbian!" And some dickhead reading Maxim, wearing a trucker hat, getting highlights in his hair while watching NFL thinks, "hot ladies! This is totally awesome! Any dude who doesn't like this must be a fag!" And the intellectual world silently weeps...

Secondly, Joss Whedon. Is this guy that much of a p-whipped feminist, or are we gonna see him on the news one day fighting allegations from teenage girls? Yes, women are strong. How about writing a strong male character? Oh, what's that? You're about as athletic and macho as Louie Anderson? Can't relate? Think Schwarzenegger films are right-wing propaganda? Ok, back to your high school scripts, then.

I realize I seem like I'm lashing out every which way but loose, but come on. You can't have it both ways. Either stick with something vaguely new and different, like the realistic options of badass black guys, kung-fu masters, and gun-crazy Republicans, or stick with different... realistic different. Like putting a chick that can bench press more than cocaine and Tic-Tacs in a project. Just a thought.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Comic Fans Hate Comics

At least, on the internet.

The one thing you always have to remember is that on the internet, 98% of comic books suck. Marvel books, DC books, Image books... no one really talks about the indie stuff. I think it's because it would just be too fucking stupid to debate about how Dork hasn't been the same since Evan Dorkin found Prozac or how Chip Ware sold out or the new costume being worn by the latest moper in Optic Nerve is lame.

According to the critics online, Bill Jemas is the Antichrist, Joe Quesada is a terrorist, and shit that's 20 years old was the best it will ever be. Gwen Stacy having an affair with Norman Osborn, Spider-Man making a deal with Mephisto, Iron Man hunting down Captain America for the government, all of these things are the equivalent of "Lost" ending with Matthew Fox waking up with drool on his shirt and a "Lost" script in his lap, and then calling his agent saying that it was a trippy read and that he'll take the role of Jack. (Holy crap, I just figured out how they're gonna end "Lost!")

Never mind the fact that the majority of almost everything sucks, from music to TV to movies. Never mind the fact that being emotionally invested in something that has undergone numerous changes, often including deaths and weddings and births and drug habits, for over 70 years in some cases. Things suck. Though damned if they can't stop reading.

There was a comment in a talkback on Ain't It Cool News (I know, my fault for going there) about how someone would "never buy Spider-Man again", but would continue to read it in Border's. What the fucking shit?!? That's like how someone is never going to watch "Heroes" again, but will download the torrents. Or how someone is absolutely appalled at the fact that 007 is a blonde now... so they will just have to sneak into "Quantum of Solace". Boy, the Rolling Stones sure do suck now. I'll have to check out that album on Limewire.

Here's a radical idea... if you don't like something, don't fucking read it! This industry has the worst fans. The only other industry that is worse off is the gaming industry (tabletop and card, not video-you know, the type of gaming no one does anymore). Comic fans are whiny and selfish and feel like they own the characters and are entitled to everything. Why can't things stay the same, except for changes that they agree with? Why can't comics be as exactly as they were in 1986?

What makes things worse is that secretly, every one of them dreams of creating comics. Oh sure, what Mark Millar and J. Michael Straczynski is doing is a travesty. Why won't anyone from the Big Apple call Joe Dieavirgin in Podunk, Arkansas? Can't they see only he has the love and talent to make the Hulk great again? I don't think one good writer has come from a forum. Not one. Real writers are getting experience, reading, writing, living life. Things normal people do.

If you ever want to get the urge to swallow bullets, hang around Ain't It Cool and Newsarama for starters. I'm sure I'll get other suggestions, but these two are bad enough. Be sure to say hi to the guy that knows for a fact that DC is better than Marvel and the guy that cried when Blue Beetle got shot Leo DiCaprio style.


Monday, February 11, 2008

My #$@! Co-Workers I: Beware The Phoenix

Oh, I've been waiting for this one.

Due to my quirks, I don't want to run consecutive types of posts, so I don't want to run two "I hate ____" in a row. However, enough posts have been made since my first (and definitely not last) asshole customer that I can now talk about the types of dipshits I worked with. Different subcategory, similar posts.

There is a type of person that exists in the dank, smelly culture of fandom that is one of the most ruthless and despicable of all the scum found within it. That is the (often self-appointed) Cute Comic Chick™. I know what you're thinking. "Who in their right mind has issues with attractive females reading comics?" "Who would have an issue with any female reading comics?" "This is sounding increasingly misogynist, I'm going to place a notice to all the Friends of Lulu. And frankly, this loser is probably bitter because he asked her out and he turned him down or something." Oh, you sad, deluded fools.

The industry is rife with so-called "cool" comic fans who would sooner burn their original copies of Watchmen than not worship these chicks. For reference, see the reaction of the Taki Soma scandal and go search around Suicide Girls for these people.

All of this will be fodder for another example in another post another day. For now, let me regale you with the tale of the Phoenix.

Why the Phoenix? Well, for one Jean Grey was this chick's favorite character. Probably because for two, she bore a passing resemblance to said character. Dyed her hair red, though.

The Phoenix first came into the shop seemingly at random one day, I dunno, probably spring or something. Me and another co-worker were bagging books on Wednesday, and she came, sat down, babbled on about crap and left. We were flabbergasted. Who was this broad? Why was she in here? Did she seem a little "off" to you?

Over time, I got to know the Phoenix. Well, as much in that one can truly know her. She was underage at 17 (you know what they say-Dad says she's too young, but she's old enough for me!-Kip Winger) but seemed to attract a steady stream of dudes in their mid-20s. She was cute, but I recognized that in the comic world she was stunning. Curvy, relatively height-weight proportionate, aforementioned dyed red hair. It was the classic ego-boost of hanging with the nerds. Guys who love George Perez would worship her, guys who love the Patriots would poke her if slightly inebriated. Big diff.

Before too long, she was employed. We thought we had an ace in the hole. A cute chick... working the counter! Getting vulnerable young nerds to spend money! Yeah, didn't really work out like that. She favored spending time on her computer doing who knows what, or using her credit to pay her friends way into the Magic tournaments ensuring we didn't make any money.

One of the weird things with Phoenix was her lust for lying. She loved to lie. A lying liar that lied. Her parents forbade her from passing out flyers in front of a movie theater for fear of being arrested or fined or something, yet she told tales of dating a middle-aged gay with AIDS. She talked of attending an orgy, and yet her most interesting story regarding the orgy was visiting the locale a year later with her friend and finding a condom in the balcony. Whaaaaa? Has she ever heard of an orgy? Seen "Caligula"? Read an issue of "Penthouse Forum?" And bear in mind, she's telling us these events of her past when she's only 17. Apparently her parents were dead, shot down by Joe Chill inspiring her to date middle-aged gays with AIDS and attend orgies but not to screw, see, or hear.

She had quite a temper, too. After I insisted (on the orders of the boss) that I would collect and keep track of the Magic tournament participants/losers, she complained to the boss and threatened to take the Magic tournament with her. Towards the end of the reign of the store, she built a website proposal for us. Pretty much spent a weekend in bed doing it, and wanted something like $600 for it, and blithely informed us that if we didn't accept it that she would shop it around to all the other local comic shops. Needless to say, we didn't acquire her webmastery and neither did any of our competition. Imagine that.

She happens to be the other person from my involvement from the store that has written about their experiences (that I know of). I've read a few entries before my temper told me I should quit while I'm ahead and unarmed. Nothing too upsetting regarding me, but some definite truth-related exaggerations. When in doubt, make shit up. And lo and behold she has a fanbase ready and willing to trade in dignity for a chance of a "cyber"... if the kids still do that.

The stores changed hands at least twice since I worked there, and I go to a better school than she does, so I consider myself at least partly avenged, with the added bonus of being able to sleep at night.

The moral of the story: a lot, not all, but a lot of girls that read comics are weird. If someone tells you shit that sounds made up... they made it up. It's weird to date someone in high school if you're not in high school. And sooner or later everyone gets what's coming to them, whether in the form of a relationship ending, a firing, a changing of schools or the loss of friends. You can't be a weirdo without some form of karmic retribution.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Bathroom Run By Mephisto

If there's one thing that little liar that I worked with was right about, it was on the condition of the bathroom. Granted, bathrooms aren't generally the cleanest of areas. Public bathrooms are worse. And the type of bathroom that would be found in a fast food restaurant, gas station, or locale where there are tons of fat people, snacks, and reading material (I'm talking about a comic shop)?'s over, son.

The bathroom was always a little off, mainly because the store was run and more often frequented by guys, and all guys typically do is stand for a few seconds, flush, and leave. Somehow when we moved stores, however, the bathroom went from "meh", to "I must have died and landed in a circle of the Inferno where I have to use this thing every day for all of eternity".

I think most of the blame resides, believe it or not, on the Friday night Heroclix crowd. Often would be the time when on Saturday morning it would be revealed that there was a little "present" in the toilet for whomever were to come across it. I blame this guy with a ponytail, who despite the fact that he lived at home at age 30, managed to date consistently attractive women. He also wrote a 12-part epic on Atlantis that somehow ripped off "Tango & Cash". I don't get it either. And once ran from the shop to puke on the sidewalk. Pure class. However, it could just as easily been the Mole Man.

Every once in a while, it would get to be too much even for me, and I would enlist in my poor mother (what do you want? I'm lazy and cleaning shit up wasn't in my job description) to clean it up. Oh, the redhead might have talked about her cleaning, but the only thing she liked to do was straighten up (big effin' deal) and type on her computer with no line of sight of the customers. She was really good at that last one.

Whenever the bathroom would be cleaned, we would always make vows to keep it to employees only, or friends only, but sooner or later someone would slip up and it would look like the Golgothan exploded in there once again.

What I really hated was being seen as "responsible" for the mess. Like I went around to outhouses and collected waste material to dump in there. Some asshole consistently shat with no regard and it was my duty to clean up after that booty? Not for the low, low pay I got. I remember one lady asking if some kid could use the bathroom as I was ringing her up. I politely explained that the toiler was out of order, and that even the employees closed up and walked to the grocery store 100 feet away to use theirs. Then she asked why it was out of order and I explained that it hadn't been fixed yet. She asked why not and I said the guy hadn't gotten here with his plunger. I mean, for all she knew it had been clogged not five minutes before. I guess we could have closed the store, called a plumber, and called a locksmith to put a lock on the bathroom... but fuck it.

Friday, February 8, 2008

No One Has Bought Anything Ever

This title has two meanings. In one, it basically illustrates the fact that 90% of the people coming into your store aren't going to buy anything. In the other, it's a sage word of wisdom to anyone who has had a nerdy grandpa die, or found comics belonging to you at age 13, before Limp Bizkit and trying to nail teenagers at Hot Topic took over your life, or performed a home invasion of a geek. You are not selling those comics. Not the Lady Death #0 chromium nip-slip edition. Not the issue of Uncanny X-Men where Wolverine and Cyclops perform bukkake on Professor X as he sleeps. Not Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman. You ain't sellin' it. Not in this economy, and not in this industry.

The majority of my phone calls and interactions were with people looking to sell stuff. I guess it's nothing too horrible. Phone bill runs a little high, you used to like G.I. Joe, so you figure you can unload some back issues for that extra $25-50. Or, your significant other is a big Antiques Roadshow fan, and it dawns on you that you have a copy of Blue Beetle with Benjamin Fuckin' Franklin's name on it. Still, when you deal with it on an hourly basis... it blows.

Our store wasn't the only that dealt with it. No one in our area bought, and it was even a point of contention in a discussion between Kevin Smith and Bryan Johnson in an episode of SModcast dealing with Johnson's distaste for both comic books and retail.

The reason stores don't buy is usually twofold. In one, times are tough. This ain't the go-go late '90s where we were dealing with national surpluses and comic retailers were snorting coke off of diamond display cases (not to be confused with Diamond Display Cases™ on sale from the Previews catalog for only $199.95!) thanks to the profits of Pok√©mon. This is the era of comics where bookstores wisely jumped on the manga trade, raking in tons of cash from nerdy/cute teenage girls and the otaku that love them. This is an era where even hillbillies have wifi in their outhouses and toolsheds. This is an era where people download music, movies, and yes, comics for free, and what they can't get free they get from Amazon for 45% off, free shipping and a sensual massage.

The second reason is partly inscribed in the ranting above. Comic shops ain't making a whole lot of money. Even Golden Apple in LA with all its Samuel L. Jacksons and Nicholas Cages didn't earn its owner a hot tub in his stretch Hummer if his obit was any indication. So chances are the local comic shop you frequent (or more likely don't) is just a month away from foreclosure. And Diamond having exclusive rights to Marvel products, DC products, and your first-born ain't helping either.

So the next time you head out to a comic shop with a sack full of Spawns and a head full of dreams... do yourself a favor. Get your eBay on, donate the comics to a children's hospital (a suggestion I would always make that would without fail get a great reaction from a people that have no concept of charity), or just step in front of a moving bus. Because all of those options are better than trying to sell to a comic book store.