30 April 2012

Free Comic Book Day 2012: The Comics

It's that time again! For the twelfth consecutive year, Free Comic Book Day insists on being scheduled the same day as the Kentucky Derby so if you live in the Louisville area as I do, you know when and where you'll want to go - and when to just stay away. For the rest of you who don't live in an area the rest of the world ignores, however, this is kind of an exciting assortment of free issues being offered.

One thing I noticed is the prevalence of issues based on licensed content from TV shows and movies. That's nothing new, and I've shared in the past that it was that kind of stuff that I first read. Still, I would really like to see some publishers at least make a flip book out of one licensed property with one original, rather than pairing up two licensed stories.

Remember, each comic book shop has its own rules about distribution. You may only be allowed X number of issues total, and of course there's no guarantee that there will be any copies on hand of whatever it is you've gone for by the time you get there. I've bolded the issues that are on my personal wish list, so if you happen to be going to a comic book shop Saturday and you think of me, I won't complain if you snag me those books.

2012 Gold Books
The Avengers: Age of Ultron Point One
Bongo Free-for-All/SpongeBob Freestyle
DC Comics The New 52!
Image 20 I can't believe Image Comics is 20 years old now!
Mega Man
Mouse Guard: Labyrinth and Other Stories A 48 page hardcover, y'all.
Peanuts/Adventure Time Flip Book
Star Wars: Serenity I think there's been a Star Wars comic every year so far.
Transformers #80.5 A continuation from the old Marvel Comics series!
Yo Gabba Gabba!

2012 Silver Books
2000 AD
Animal Planet The World's Most Dangerous Animals
Atomic Robo and Friends
Bad Medicine
Barnaby and Mr O'Malley
Buffy: The Vampire Slayer - The Guild
Burt Ward: Boy Wonder
The Censored Howard Cruse
DC Nation/Superman Family Adventures Flip Book
Dinosaurs vs. Aliens
Donald Duck Family Comics
Finding Gossamyr: Stuff of Legend
Graphic Elvis
The Hypernaturals
The Incredible Rockhead/Zinc Alloy
The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel
The Intrinsic
Jurassic StrikeForce 5
Lady Death: The Beginning
Moomin Valley Turns Jungle
My Favorite Martian
Overstreet's Comic Book Marketplace - The Greatest Horror Comics of All Time!
The Smurfs also includes Disney Fairies featuring Tinker Bell
Sonic the Hedgehog
Spider-Man: Season One
Top Shelf Kidsclub
Valiant 2012 featuring X-O Manowar
Voltron Force: Shelter from the Storm
Witchblade: Unbalanced Pieces
Worlds of Aspen
Zombie Kid

25 April 2012

When It Hurts Too Much to Share

I recently noted that a woman I met on Twitter hadn't been active in a while. Lo and behold, her account was no longer active. This was particularly alarming for me because what brought her to me was when my post, "On Depression" made the rounds last year. We've struck up a correspondence via Twitter to bolster one another's spirits, often bantering about our embarrassing taste in music (though I still refuse to apologize for loving Bryan Adams's Waking Up the Neighbours). She had indicated in recent months that she felt compelled to withdraw from her friends. I took some comfort knowing she was still accessible via online social media, though. I know in my own experience that the support system I built online was instrumental in keeping me going throughout my Year of Hell. That she had severed those ties particularly frightened me.

I Googled her Twitter user name and eventually I found a tweet archived in which she was interacting with someone else. I tweeted that other user to find out of she knew anything about our mutual pal and to my good fortune, she had an e-mail address with which to contact her. I was relieved to learn that my pal with bad taste in music is just "taking a break" from Twitter and is doing okay, and that she'll return soon.

Just now, however, I received three direct messages from another young woman I've met on Twitter. She was brought to my attention because a young woman I know with Crohn's re-tweeted her one night and I got the distinct impression she was in a very dark place emotionally. I tweeted her to see if she was alright and she assured me it would pass. She is battling anorexia and depression, and she breaks my heart. I am reluctant to share her message to me, but I wish to have it archived for reasons I will explain momentarily.
thank you for being so awesome to me, I'm going to be deleting this account in hopes of overcoming this disorder.i just cant keep doing this
i'm going to be okay! i just cant have this around me. I hope life brings you all the wonderful things you deserve. you are a great writer
but most of all a great person. :)
I readily admit to you, Dear Reader, that I am tearful right now. I so much want to just hug this young woman and find some way of chasing away her demons. I can't do either of those things, though. In fact, I can't even reply to her because she deleted her account while I was in the process of typing a response to her first direct message! I understand why she feels that participating in Twitter, at least with that account, contributes to her problems. I've discussed it in the past, but it bears repeating: We must always be mindful that our common woes are not the only aspect to ourselves. If all you talk about with someone is whatever issue you both have, then it's going to be an unsatisfactory relationship for one, but also it can create a sort of tunnel vision about your self-image if that's all you talk about.

To my young Twitter friend, I would say this: You are much stronger than you've let yourself realize. I don't refer to your discipline to fast, but rather the strength you summon to keep going, day in and day out, with that torment inside you. You have a sweet nature, and you're the kind of person the world needs to remind us of the good in ourselves. I wish with all of my heart that you reach a place where you've managed your health disorders and I want you to know that you're welcome to contact me any time you want. It doesn't have to be to discuss how you're doing, or how I'm doing. We can chat about anything at all, including our embarrassingly bad taste in music.

Seriously, I actually own this:

See also: "How to Form a Support Network"

23 April 2012

Senator Rand Paul on the Crohn's & Colitis Caucus

The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) put out a call to contact our representatives in Congress about joining the Crohn's & Colitis Caucus. They explain:
In March 2011, Congressmen Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) launched the first-ever Congressional Crohn's and Colitis Caucus.

This caucus works to promote:
  • Awareness of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
  • The need for expanded research at the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • The importance of accessible insurance and disability for patients with IBD
Being a Crohnie, I filled out the automatic contact form and sent it to my representatives. Here's what I received today from Senator Rand Paul:
April 23, 2012

Dear Mr. McClain,

I have received your inquiry seeking federal funding for Crohn's disease research through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Please understand that given our nation's fiscal challenges, I am unlikely to support any plan that would further add to the current pile of debt already held by our citizens.
It is time for our nation to address its fiscal problems, and it is the duty of lawmakers to introduce responsible legislation that will rein in spending. Just as American households must balance their checkbooks, the federal government should do the same.
We have seen currencies and countries fall under their unsustainable debt, and it is the duty of lawmakers to prevent such catastrophes. In March 2012 I released my proposed FY2013 budget "A Platform to Revitalize America." My plan would balance the budget in five years, and achieve $8 trillion in savings over 10 years. I have also introduced, along with Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), Senate Joint Resolution 5, which calls for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, with specific spending limitations and protections against tax increases. 
The size of the national debt has grown considerably over the past few years. In order to get our fiscal house in order and prevent potential catastrophe in this country, everyone will have to be willing to make sacrifices in sacred programs. All areas of the budget should be on the table for consideration, and while I am not willing to compromise on whether or not cuts should be made, I am willing to compromise on which cuts should be made.  Please be assured I will keep your thoughts in mind as the Senate continues to debate the budget.
Once more, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance in the future. I look forward to hearing from you again.

Rand Paul, MD
United States Senator
The short version: "Sucks to be you. Quit being so selfish and expecting me or anyone else to give a damn."

This is really no surprise. Here's what Senator Paul wrote to me about why he wouldn't support sparing funding for the National Institutes of Health a year ago. Here's what he wrote in May 2011 about Social Security and Medicare funding.

You know, Senator Paul, I get your analogy about having to make cutbacks at the federal level just like in the home. It's obvious in your home, healthcare costs aren't much of a consideration. For some of us, though, they're the most important thing there is BECAUSE THEY KEEP US ALIVE. They're not indulgences. But then, what should I expect from someone who grew up with a father whose philosophy is that FEMA is "bad morality" and shrugs when his supporters say to let the uninsured die?

You're right about one thing, Senator Paul: healthcare costs are quite expensive. Guess what? They wipe out our budgets, too. We have to deal with it, and it's high time you and the rest of the "Let them Die" part of our society own up to the fact that just as we can't choose to be healthy, you can't choose to omit us and our needs from the national discussions. 

It must be a nice sense of security one enjoys where one can view things like healthcare needs as selfish luxuries, you know, like out in Arizona where organ transplants were deemed too much of an imposition on the state's budget. I wouldn't know. I'm one of the selfish people who insist on needing help coping with a chronic medical condition.

Baby I'm a Fool for Melody Gardot

I've been meaning to blog about Melody Gardot for quite some time. She first came to my attention in 2008, when iTunes offered "Worrisome Heart" as their Single of the Week (22 April 2008). I downloaded every Single of the Week, Discovery Download and even the Latin Single of the Week that year, but in truth I'm not sure I ever really listened to many of them. I don't know why I gave Gardot a few minutes of my time and not the rest, but I'm glad I did.

If there was one adjective to characterize Gardot's music, that word would be "sultry." Every song she's released to date has just dripped with sweltering sexuality. I get a swell in my chest from the mere sound of her voice. The instrumentation backing her invariably conjures some smoky bar with bad lighting and bourbon used like mouthwash, or perhaps an intimate dinner with red wine either outside on a warm summer night or next to a fireplace in Winter. Listening to Gardot sing is not to have sex, though. It's to lie back and let her make slow, sweet love to your ears. She leans in and caresses, teasing and laughing one moment; begging for your touch the next. Hers is a sensuous aesthetic.

She writes her own material, often infusing it with at least a semblance of the autobiographical material that requires a certain kind of candor and courage that I admire. When she sings, for instance, "I would be lucky to find me a man/who could love me the way that I am," my first reaction is to want to reassure her that there's nothing so wrong with her that she doesn't deserve love. But once that instinctive protectiveness has its say, I recognize that this is not merely Gardot fishing for flattery or even expressing self-pity. It's a manifestation of frustration and self-doubt the likes of which many of us are too timid to acknowledge. Gardot put it in a song.

Some Lessons: The Bedroom Sessions EP
3 May 2005

On 11 November, 2003, Gardot was struck in traffic by an SUV while bicycling. It nearly paralyzed her. As part of her recovery treatment, her doctor encouraged her to explore music therapy. That led her to this self-produced EP. The subtitle is reference to the songs being written while she was more or less bedridden during her convalescence. It's out of print and has been for a while. Two songs ("Wicked Ride" and the titular "Some Lessons") were later included on her first LP...

Worrisome Heart
26 February 2008 [Verve Records]

Gardot originally recorded and released this album on her own, but later it was given a wide release by Verve Records. The vulnerability on the opening title track ("I need a hand with my worrisome heart") establishes from the beginning that she's trusting us, the listener, with her intimate thoughts and feelings. Lest we begin to think we know what she needs, she quickly puts us in our place with the teasing "All That I Need Is Love." The rest of the album follows suit. She brings us within an inch of kissing tenderly before backing off and laughing carefree. She wasn't quite 21 years old when she first released this. Astounding, really, because her sensibilities of pacing and sequencing suggest a maturity and wisdom beyond that young age.

iTunes Live from SoHo EP
24 March 2009

This iTunes exclusive set includes two songs from Worrisome Heart sandwiched between four other songs from her next album, My One and Only Thrill. Some listeners may be impressed by how great she sounds live (particularly in the ProTools era). What struck me most was her ad lib banter, in which she makes light conversation with the audience. It's as though she's shrugging as part of an act of being coy, which only makes the pageantry of seduction all the more alluring.

"Baby I'm a Fool"
Gardot's first music video is the perfect microcosm of her musical aesthetics and persona. I just want to live in this video, and to get into that bathtub with her.

My One and Only Thrill
28 April 2009

My One and Only Thrill came three years after she debuted Worrisome Heart on a small indie label. Thematically and aesthetically, she's still very much the same woman as she was at 21...which is to say, the aural lovemaking smolders throughout the album. She co-wrote two songs ("Our Love Is Easy" and "The Rain") with Jesse Harris, and she covers "Over the Rainbow" in a sort of beatnik arrangement in tribute to her youth spent watching The Wizard of Oz repeatedly with her grandmother. Perhaps it was simply her way of acknowledging the foundation of her life that led her to the kind of success she was beginning to enjoy at the time this album was assembled. On some level, I'm sure she likened her post-accident self with frustrated Dorothy Gale, knowing there was a greater world than the one she lived in and wondering what it would take to get her into it.

Here's the EPK (electronic press kit) in which Gardot discusses the creation of the album:

There were a few different releases of this album. iTunes has an exclusive bonus track, "Pretend I Don't Exist" (presently $1.29 by itself). A Deluxe Edition included a five-track live EP of songs recorded in Paris, all songs from My One and Only Thrill. Of the five, only one ("Baby I'm a Fool") was also performed on the Live in SoHo EP so between the two, there are live versions of eight of the album's twelve songs. She sounds terrific on every one of them.
In November 2010, a different edition was issued. "The Stardust Edition" added "Chill Out Mix" versions of three of the album's songs ("Our Love Is Easy," "Baby I'm a Fool" and "My One and Only Thrill"). In lieu of the Live in Paris bonus disc is instead the four song Bye Bye Blackbird EP recorded with guitarist David Preston. Add it all up and there are twenty five different tracks scattered among the various editions. There have also been a few mixes released exclusively in international markets, and she has already appeared on a handful of collaborations with other artists on their albums.

Gardot's second music video, released ahead of her forthcoming third studio album, The Absence.

22 April 2012

C2E2 III: Taking Ownership of Chicago

I have discussed previously my love for Chicago and its people. I confess, though, that I was somewhat apprehensive about returning there after six-plus years because the last time I was there was for my honeymoon. Though our wedding was in January, we scheduled an August honeymoon because we wanted to attend Wizard World Chicago and catch a White Sox/Yankees game. I had been several times before, but it was my wife's first visit to the Windy City. On that visit, I enjoyed a sense of inviting her into a very specific part of my world. Beyond pointing out familiar places and activities I thought she would enjoy, I largely let her take the lead on what we did or where we went. I wanted it to be our exploration rather than me leading her around the place.

In many ways, Chicago stopped being "my" place. I feared how I would handle returning there, though I felt reasonably confident that as long as we stayed focused on C2E2 and didn't really do much else in the city, I would be fine. I took my Buspar just in case, though, and I had it on me at all times. It went to the convention with me - not, mind you, that I had the presence of mind to bring anything to wash it down should the need have arisen. By the time I got through the concession stand line, I would have either required emergency services or gotten over it entirely.

Upon arrival, I found myself invigorated with the kind of familiarity that one develops with a place where they feel at home. It was like visiting out-of-town relatives. I felt so upbeat that I began to try to locate a local pizza joint I had first visited on my honeymoon. I had little to go on: I knew it was within a few blocks of the Tremont Hotel, it was directly across the street from a Walgreens and that there was a mural on the wall. Well, firstly, I was wrong about the Walgreens. It actually faces a grocery store.

When we arrived at the place, we were told how long the wait would be and we cheerily elected to wait. It was our last night before coming home and we couldn't leave without having some authentic Chicago deep dish pizza! The brochure at the hotel recommended the place, it was nearby and that led us to waiting about half an hour. The weather was gorgeous and we were on our honeymoon. We waited patiently.

The foursome ahead of us, however, weren't so patient. They kept making comments in earshot of the hostess until they were eventually seated. When my wife and I were seated, we were brought to a cozy table along the back wall and we were given a very sincere apology for the wait. We explained we were cool with it; besides, they told us how long it would be. As I recall, we were sat a few minutes before we had been quoted. No big deal.

Along the wall next to us was this mural, though. I recognized the iconic figures, of course, but I wasn't clear who the guys behind the bar were. I also found it curious that Jerry Seinfeld should be in a group with Frank, Marilyn, Elvis and Sammy. I asked the manager about it and he explained that the two guys behind the bar were the current owner and his predecessor. Seinfeld was originally Dean Martin, but then they realized they were the only two living people in the mural and it made them nervous! Dino became Jerry, then, to soothe their superstitious anxieties. I thought that was terrific.
Photo credit belongs to my friend.
After finishing our meal (quite tasty, with very friendly and attentive service, I might add), we were then told that dessert was on the house. Whether it was because we had been so patient and the other group wasn't, because we were on our honeymoon or because we had made conversation about the mural, I can't say. Whatever the case, it was the perfect pleasantness to cap off our honeymoon. We were completely smitten with the place.

Back to the present. Armed with this little information, I scoured the interactive online recommendations service in our room at the Hilton and I worked out that it was Pizano's Pizza on State Street. I called and asked if they were the place with the mural and it was confirmed. I was anxious about returning, but I figured I might not get another chance any time soon and it would do me good to finally get the photo of the mural that I wish I had taken in 2006.

Saturday (14 April), my friend and I checked out of the Hilton in the morning and hopped a shuttle to the convention. I snagged an interview with a group of very friendly cosplayers which figured prominently in a blog post I wrote for Flickchart, we enjoyed the con in general and capped it all off with an hour long Q&A with Val Kilmer that was absolutely hilarious. I have attended several conventions where celebrities fielded questions from audiences and rarely have I seen anyone as comfortable and engaging as Kilmer was that night. Afterwards, we discovered that the line for the return shuttle was so packed we might not even make it on the next two buses...if there even was a second. We briefly deliberated about whether to wait it out, but I reasoned that I'd rather just get going than to get comfortable for 20 minutes only to find out we had to walk anyway. We began the return hike.
If you check out Infinite Hollywood's coverage, you'll see a photo of this photo being taken! (These are different cosplayers from the ones I interviewed.)
It's a respectable walk, from McCormick Place to the Hilton. Google Maps says the route we took was two miles. My left foot says Google Maps doesn't know how to measure distance. Regardless, it was a beautiful night and we felt good. We decided that we wanted some authentic Chicago dogs for dinner. We hoofed it some more, which was not the brightest idea for a couple of guys who'd spent all day walking around at a convention. Still, I know it's important that I take advantage of any opportunity my body gives me to do such things because it's so rare. I had my cane, which helped tremendously. We got back to the parking garage near the Hilton, and moved across the Chicago River to another garage from which we went back out on foot to find us some dogs. The place recommended to us by a local pedestrian turned out to be closed. Off we went, exploring.

Eventually, I made the executive decision that we would explore down State Street. I had a general sense of where Pizano's was, and I figured if we were going to wander about anyway, it may as well point us in the direction of a place I (mostly) wanted to go anyway. We finally found a place: Mister J's, which was the first place my wife and I ate on our honeymoon. The service leaves something to be desired, but the grub is good and the prices are decent. As soon as we walked out of there, we discovered Pizano's staring us in the face! We strolled in and I bought us each a beer. Not my brightest decision, but I figured I'd go for broke. Amazingly, my guts handled the brew okay...though I dare not ask that of them again anytime soon!
The bar at Pizano's Pizza on State St. Photo credit: My friend (again).
I introduced myself and explained my reason for being there, and they were quite friendly about allowing me to photograph the mural. As my friend and I sat at the table adjacent to where I had sat on my honeymoon, I reflected on how I felt. It was certainly bittersweet, but I also felt it gave me a sense of ownership over not just Pizano's or even Chicago, but my own memories and experiences. They're shared, of course, but I hobbled away from there with a renewed sense of self-identity. It was that, more than anything else, that I took away from this most recent visit to Chicago. It's not about writing my wife out of my experiences, but rather about reestablishing my focus on me, rather than on us. It's a compartmentalization of sorts, but rather than isolating her out of things, I've elected to emphasize myself. I think this is the healthiest perspective I, or anyone else, could manage. I'm glad I took the chance on my emotional state (and physical condition!).

I offer my sincerest thanks and gratitude to my friend who made possible this excursion, and for indulging me. I also thank Pizano's Pizza for being awesome and the city of Chicago for once again making me feel welcome.

18 April 2012

C2E2 II: The Comics

Okay, before I get into the comics I got signed I just want to take a moment to point out that my blog post for Flickchart, "All Dressed Up with C2E2 to Go" is now live! Hop on over there, if you will, and don't forget to comment and share. Otherwise, how will the world know I'm awesome?

Once I decided to accept my friend's gracious offer to accompany him to C2E2, I checked out comicbookdb.com to see which comics I owned whose creators would be present. There were several, but I was very quick to rule that I wasn't going to be the fan who took half his collection to get signed. I pared it down to just one issue per professional, though there were a couple of issues that overlapped.
Pep Comics featuring Betty & Veronica - Free Comic Book Day 2011
Signed by Dan Parent (writer, artist) 13 April

At some point in my youth, my mom introduced me to a cache of Archie Comics she and her brother used to read. I always liked them, though I confess I never felt compelled to buy any Archie Comics of my own. This was a Free Comic Book Day issue last year and I actually missed out on it at The Great Escape (I think I put it back by mistake and didn't realize until later what I had done), but I found a copy of it for a quarter at Half Price Books. It was a reminder how refreshing Riverdale can be. Dan Parent was very friendly.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special #1
Signed by Tim Sale (artist) 13 April & Jeph Loeb (writer) 15 April

I've gushed over this issue in the past, but for the uninitiated, it's a great Batman vs. Scarecrow story. It was also the first Sale/Loeb LOTDK work, which evolved into the iconic maxi-series, The Long Halloween. I bought my copy at a flea market the Friday night of the week it went on sale. I nearly hesitated and waited until the next morning, when I was going to The Great Escape, but I surrendered to the compulsion. I'm glad I did, because there were none to be found at TGE the next morning! Everyone under-ordered this book (its $6.95 cover price wasn't very attractive). As a LOTDK reader, it was gratifying to see all the readers go gaga over this special, which was clearly branded as part of my favorite Bat-book. I was able to get to Mr. Sale when just one other guy was at his booth, and I was actually first in line for Mr. Loeb. This issue was already one of my nearest and dearest, and now it's even more so.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Official Movie Adaptation
Signed by Gordon Purcell (artist) 13 April

It wasn't easy deciding which issue to take, because Purcell worked on quite a few of DC's Star Trek issues in the 90s. I wanted to take Star Trek vol. 2 #16 because not only did he do the art for that issue, but it was written by J. Michael Straczynski, who was also in attendance. Alas, I could not find that issue! I decided to take this comic book adaptation of Star Trek VI because it was the teaser poster for that movie that lured me into Star Trek in the first place (explained in this post I wrote for Flickchart). Mr. Purcell was very laid back and we chatted for several minutes.
The Transformers #1 of 4
Signed by Bill Sienkiewicz (cover artist) 13 April

This is one of the very first comic books I ever owned. I did not own it when it was first published; I didn't even know about there being Transformers comic books until they had already been out for more than a year. But I was fortunate in that Marvel Comics recirculated several of the back issues in 3-packs at places like Value City and I was able to get caught up fairly quickly that way. Mr. Sienkiewicz was very upbeat and remarked this was one of the issues he's asked to sign the most often. I explained to him the impact these comics had on me as a child, learning to read words that were not introduced to me in the classroom (such as "dirge"). It was nice to be able to properly give credit to someone who had a hand in my development, and nicer still that he was so warm and welcoming.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #100
Signed by Gene Ha (artist) 13 April and Jimmy Palmiotti (artist) 14 April

This was an issue where I could have also hit up Mr. Sale and Mr. Loeb, but I elected not to burden them. I remember buying this issue at The Great Escape and taking it back to my grandfather's house, and reading it at his kitchen table after we'd eaten some fried chicken from Hardee's. We did that quite often once upon a time. There were quite a lot of contributors to this special issue, not all of whom attend shows anymore (and I think a couple may have passed away). I'll work on it.
All-Star Western #1
Signed by Jimmy Palmiotti (co-writer) 13 April

Mr. Palmiotti is the only guy I actually hit up twice at the show, but at least I did it on two different days. All-Star Western was one of two New 52s that really interested me from the beginning (the other being Batgirl). I wasn't very happy about the $3.99 price tag and even less happy that Barnes and Noble didn't carry it. That's hampered my reading, but I did eventually snag a couple issues and enjoyed what I've read. This was not a priority issue for me to get signed. Incidentally, I almost took instead DC's adaptation of William Shatner's Star Trek: The Ashes of Eden. I wish I had.
Batgirl #1
Signed by Adam Hughes (cover artist) 13 April

My friend took this issue to Emerald City Comic Convention a couple weeks ago on my behalf and got writer Gail Simone to inscribe it to me by my Twitter user name. At the time I asked him to take the issue for me, she was not on the C2E2 list and I certainly wasn't expecting to go! Adam Hughes wasn't easy to catch at his booth; he's a busy dude (though, given he doesn't do sketches at shows any more, I have no idea just what keeps him so busy!). His wife was very friendly and I owe this signature to her taking pity on me and getting it for me. Also: Adam Hughes looks about 20 years younger in person than his profile photos.

Men of War #1
Signed by Ivan Brandon (writer)

Okay, this one I bought at the show after discovering 1) Brandon was in Artists Alley and 2) one of the vendors had this for $2.00. I was kind of curious about this book anyway (particularly drawn to those gorgeous covers!) and knowing it's already been cancelled and that I can rather easily acquire the entire series, I decided to splurge. I'll review Men of War when I get the chance.
Detective Comics vol. 2 #1
Signed by Tony Daniel (writer, artist, cover artist) 15 April

Directly after leading the line for Jeph Loeb, I dashed off to the DC booth where I managed to be third in line for Tony Daniel. I let him know that I almost didn't buy this issue at all, but that I had been completely sucked in by it after I acquiesced and I told him that, as a fan of Legends of the Dark Knight, I could offer no higher praise than to say that the "Dollmaker" story arc would have been a perfect fit in that anthology. He expressed humility at the flattery and struck me as a very sincere guy. I like that he thought to inscribe "2012 C2E2" next to his signature.
Robin #126
Signed by Bill Willingham (writer) 15 April

This was another "lesser" important issue for me to get signed, but I had it so I took it. I caught Mr. Willingham at the Hero Initiative booth almost by accident; my friend was going there to find out when he might get a crack at a Gene Ha sketch. I like that he made use of the white space to inscribe it with a caption bubble.
Star Trek/X-Men
Signed by Marc Silvestri (artist & cover artist) 15 April

I had to take this! It's one of the few Star Trek comics I ever entirely loved, just because it's so "WTF?" Mr. Silvestri himself calls it "the weirdest comic ever made," noting that, "I loved the original Star Trek so much, I had to do it!" The guy in front of me in line also brought a copy, so we had a nice little chat about it. Mr. Silvestri's favorite panel is early in the issue when Nurse Chapel calls for Dr. McCoy and both Bones and Beast respond in unison and then exchange suspicious/annoyed looks. (My favorite moment is when Jean Grey knows Captain Kirk wants to hit on her.)

To our surprise, Mr. Silvestri was also in the mood to do head sketches for free! Somehow, Captain Caveman came up in conversation with my friend that morning so I tried to get that as a subject, but apparently, despite creating some of the hottest entertainment of the last fifteen years, Marc Silvestri is not cool enough to be familiar with the bearded one. I opted instead for a Batgirl sketch and even that almost didn't happen because couldn't think of what she looked like offhand. "I was just going to draw Batman with hair," he quipped later. My friend, however, managed to borrow a Graphitti Designs T-shirt based on Adam Hughes's cover art to Batgirl #1 (my signed copy of the comic was in the car). Near the end of the sketch, he absentmindedly began singing the Neal Hefti theme song to Batman, but sang "Batgirl" instead. That sparked a brief exchange about how Batgirl actually had her own song. It was worth missing the panel on "Disabilities in Comics," I should think!
Batgirl by Marc Silvestri, 15 April 2012

17 April 2012

C2E2 I: A Crohnie Returns to Chicago

"Hey, dude...shades of the late 90s. Wanna go to Chicago this weekend?"

This was a phone call I received from a friend of mine about a week ago. The reference of the late 90s was that in 1998, we talked ourselves into going to Wizard World Chicago about a week before the show. It was the kind of thing you can do when you're young, healthy, have disposable income and can free yourself up to go. I had just been offered a similar invitation from a friend of mine to go with her family for a week to Tampa, where I have family, but eventually I concluded I shouldn't be gone for that long for various reasons. This proposal, though, for just a few days, seemed to be more practical and so I decided to go for it. Besides, since he was going to have the same hotel and travel costs whether I went or not, he wasn't expecting me to chip in on either. We took a cooler with some lunch meat, so grub wasn't even much of an expense. All I had to hope for was that my body wouldn't betray me.
Chicago is my favorite place in the U.S., and second only to Barbados as my favorite place I've ever been. The people have always been very friendly to me and I have always felt very comfortable in Chicago. As a Southerner, I was raised to be wary of large metropolitan areas, and I laugh whenever I encounter that fearfulness. I have no idea how many times my mom advised me to "be careful" and went out of her way to express to me that "Chicago isn't very safe."

I walked to the convention on Friday and I began to doubt that I had a very good sense of my bearings. I checked a map at a bus stop, and asked the gentleman sitting on the bench if he could direct me to McCormick Place (the site of the show). He smiled and said, "I should; I grew up there!" He gave me directions, for which I thanked him. Just as I turned to walk away, I processed that he was wearing a U.S. Navy ball cap. I turned back around and said, "Oh, I just noticed your cap. Thanks for your service." He smiled again and just said, "Hey, no problem." That kind of friendliness and helpfulness is what I have experienced firsthand in Chicago every time I have been there. That's what I wish people like my mom conjured when they hear the name of the city. In fact, I didn't bother with mapping out my route before I left the hotel. I had a general sense of where I was headed, and I counted on finding that kind of help if I needed it. Sure enough, it was there waiting for me on a bus stop bench.
I was fortunate to snag a press pass to write for Flickchart. (This is as good a time as any to point out that my Flickchart blog posts can be found in the Other Writings tab at the top of this page.) I was chatting for a few minutes with some very gracious cosplayers when someone walked up and asked if he could get a photo of the foursome. Black Cat responded, "I'm sorry, we're doing an interview right now." As soon as he had walked away, I allowed myself to tell her that was an awesome moment for me. I was an interviewer! Someone had to accommodate me conducting an interview! I was like, a real writer or somethin'! It's pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, I know, but it was something I hadn't experienced before and it was a nice little thing for me. (You may recall, Dear Reader, that I'm trying to make a conscious effort to enjoy and celebrate those moments when they come along, rather than dismiss them.)

I didn't get to many panels, unfortunately. I did get to attend one with some of the creators of Womanthology, as well as another with contributors to Chicks Dig Comics. I caught part of "Rewriting the Rules on Queers in Comics," but I had to leave that panel to find a bathroom (the only such interruption I had, to my surprise!). I was very disappointed to miss "Disabilities in Comics" on Sunday, but I'm given to understand that a conversation took place this weekend with another guest and the moderator of that panel regarding invisible illnesses, so I'm hopeful that there will be some greater awareness and acknowledgment of folks like me in the funny books.

One of the first booths I visited in Artists Alley was Jean Kang's. She had a print of Batman on a toilet with the caption, "Everybody poops..even Batman." It cracked me up and seemed perfect for me since it basically connected my Crohnie lifestyle with my love of Batman. It was $10, not at all unreasonable, but I was trying to be a good boy and not buy everything I saw that I liked in the first half hour. Even with my friend's generosity and our frugal planning, I'm still pretty poor, you know.

Kang was one of the Womanthology panelists and her candor, humor and enthusiasm endeared her to me and I returned to her booth afterward to discover she had no more Batman prints. I spent $5 to purchase her Quickie Comics, which she kindly inscribed to me. I read it at the hotel room that night and was so entertained that I only partly paid attention to the episode of Cheers that was on TV. Anyone who knows me knows how impressive this is, because I love me some Cheers. I loved it so much I even forgave her the handful of spelling errors I spotted.

I'll post some more about the weekend, but I'm trying to make this manageable for you, the reader. In the interim, be sure to check out my Flickchart writings (and, y'know, some of the other posts on the blog there!) and Jean Kang's blog, JeanDrawsStuff.com.

Still Winning

You may remember, Dear Reader, that I had a nice run of luck ("Winning") at the end of February. I didn't really follow up on that at the time, but I feel now is a nice time to reflect on some things that have gone my way recently. I vented so often throughout my Year of Hell about depression that I feel it's important for those who find their way to my blog to see that it did get better for me. If you learn just one thing about depression from this blog, let it be that.

One of the little things from the end of February that I enjoyed was finding the right combination of coupon and sale price on a bag of World's Best Cat Litter at Target that dropped the $8.99 bag down to $5.99. There was a mail-in rebate (still active!) so I'd get my $5.99 back. Well, my rebate check came this past week...in the amount of $7.99! I actually made $2.00! "You're excited about two dollars? Really?" you're scoffing. It's not so much that the amount of money involved is important so much as the fact that my already great deal managed to actually get better.

Then there was the NCAA Final Four. I filled out my first ever bracket this year, with dual objectives in mind. The first was to score free parmesan bites from Dominos Pizza. The second was to compete with President Barack Obama. I am pleased to report that I succeeded in both quests. I snagged my parmesan bites and enjoyed them for lunch one afternoon. They were tasty and filling and didn't seem to particularly faze my finicky guts so I count that as one big win.
I duplicated my selections against Domino's and the President.
The big win, though, is that I met someone. I'm still pretty protective of other people in this blog so I won't be elaborating but I am comfortable saying that we met through a mutual friend at February's screening of The Man with the Golden Gun and that it has been very comfortable for both of us so far. She makes me feel good about myself, and she's supportive of my writing which is quite convenient since I'm really trying to work on that.

Side note: She messaged me on Facebook a few days after the movie and made mention of liking this blog. It wasn't until several hours later that I realized...that meant she read my blog! Not just that she was aware of it and had looked at it, but because of how candid I am, that this meant she either knew, or knew where to find, all kinds of things about me! It was the first time I had reason to reflect on just how disadvantaged I can be at times as a consequence of being so publicly open about myself.

Note: This blog post was supposed to go live sooner than it did. I got sidetracked the night I wrote it and forgot to come back and actually publish it.