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.