And, of course …
(Dig that bendy swoosh! Remind you of anyone?)
And, of course …
(Dig that bendy swoosh! Remind you of anyone?)
Are you awesome? As awesome as this Doc Savage cover by comic book, sci-fi and fantasy artist Ken Barr? Or as awesome as Scott Slemmons, who sent this book to me just because he is, by definition, awesome?
Doc Savage Cover illustration: Ken Barr 1981 edition (First Playboy Paperbacks)
As I write this, Sandy and I are a few hours away from catching a bus from Austin to San Antonio, and from there a train West. From there … well, we don’t really know.
For years we’ve had half-formed plans of taking a train trip up the Pacific coast, but life — and the responsibilities that come with it — being what they are, they never went very far beyond the daydreaming stage. But in the last two years we steadily lost the three kitties we gladly gave priority to over anything else, and that combined with the freedom of working freelance got us thinking more seriously about taking the trip.
There was a lot of planning that went on before and during the last few months — including taking care of our baby Pancho, packing most of our stuff into storage, moving into an apartment that would let us go month-to-month — and it’s essentially come to this:
We’re taking a 45-day train trip around the country, and then we’re coming back to Austin. But maybe not.
We love Austin, so much that when we originally moved here our plan was to stay for two years; that was 12 years ago. But we’ve always been restless, and having lived in the Southwest and then Central Texas for most of our lives, Sandy and I are always curious about this thing we’ve heard of called “seasons.” So we’re combining two dreams into one, and then we’ll see what happens. As we make our way around, we’ll be keeping an open mind to see if any of the cities or areas we visit call out to us. If one does, we’ll seriously consider moving there; if not, we won’t. Essentially, we’ve planned on not having any solid plans.
Yeah, we know — crazy.
We’re going to take the train from Texas to L.A., and then up the coast to San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. From there we’ll cross to Minneapolis, and then down into towns in Wisconsin and Ohio to visit friends. Then it’ll be on to Chicago, D.C. and New York City before heading on to Toronto and Montreal. After that we’ll wind things up in Boston, which is currently fighting it out with Austin and where we plan to spend about a month to see how it fits. All of this is subject to change as we go, but that’s the plan today.
The idea of leaving Austin is pretty hard, and harder as it gets closer to the time we need to catch that train. We have a lot of people we love in this city, and this is genuinely home to both of us. But we also know those same people would encourage us to at least try, and honestly, who knows when we’ll get another chance? We’re nervous, but excited. But nervous. But excited!
We’ll let you all know how things are going (we’re going to blog about it, as soon as I can get one set up), and we’ll still be in contact in all the usual ways. Mostly we hope that, in some way, we can take you all with us. No matter where that ends up being.
(Personally, I’m looking forward to hitting lots of comic book shops and eating lots of good food.)
When we first got Pancho 19 years ago, we thought he was the ugliest cat we had ever seen.
He was only a few weeks old when Charlie brought him to our apartment, the last kitten left from two different litters. We decided he had to be the runt, all gangly legs and a head that seemed to account for a full third of his tiny body. Wild blue eyes flared from under a skull that bulged between his pointed ears, a cranium that would imply genius if he wasn’t so obviously insane. Charlie thrust the squirming kitten at Sandy, said, “Take this cat!” and promptly walked away to nurse the various scratches he had gotten on the car ride to our place.
It was love at first sight.
Pancho eventually grew into his head, and like an ugly duckling became a beautiful cat. I mean, really gorgeous. Over the years various vets, pet-sitters and house-guests have all stopped to coo and fuss over him, and being the most loving, gentle and friendliest cat ever, he’d just bask in it. Occasionally he’d bite a nose because he was also crazy, but you didn’t mind because by then it was too late — you were already in love with him.
When we lost him to bone cancer June 12, we were heartbroken. We still are; I don’t know if there will ever be a time we aren’t. That probably sounds strange to some people — all the effort to give Pancho the medicines and supplements and subcutaneous fluids he needed even stranger. But we loved Pancho and when he was diagnosed four months ago we kept doing what we had always done; we took the best care of our baby boy as we could. At his age surgery or treatment wasn’t really an option, and all we could do was keep him as comfortable and healthy as possible while watching that awful disease progress. Eventually our days revolved completely around Pancho’s care. Sandy cut her on-site contract work to nearly nothing; I stopped working completely. We were lucky to be able to do that. We’ll be forever grateful for the time we got to spend with him.
On the day we finally decided to let Pancho go, he was still eating and drinking, still using his box, still getting onto my chest to purr himself to sleep. But the cancer was robbing him, of so many things, and we had decided a long time ago that we would never let one of our babies suffer. It was one of the hardest decisions we’d ever had to make, but we loved him too much to let it go any further.
It seems weird to say “loved,” as if it’s a condition that’s in the past now. We still love Pancho. We always will. He was a best friend, a companion, an amazingly endless source of unconditional love. We spoiled him, but only half as much as he spoiled us. Our home, our days, and our lives are emptier without him in them. We miss him. Our little Panchito. Pancholino. Pancho Doughnuts. Papas. Sweet boy. Handsome boy.
Our very good boy.
Love of our life.
After a longer-than-planned hiatus, I thought I’d return to Small Sundays (and Great Caesar’s Post!), with one of my favorite and most-prized possessions: Mego Spider-Man.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know the Mego Corporation had a near-complete corner on the action-figure market in the 70s — the only other real competition were Kenner’s Star Wars figures — and produced licensed figures based on everything from comic book characters to Star Trek to popular TV shows. The dolls (sorry, guys — they’re dolls) were 8 inches high and featured real cloth costumes, which is what really impressed me. And while I might’ve lost a lot of childhood toys to negligence and fate over the years, Spidey has never been treated with less than loving care.
Except, there’s something about this Mego Spider-Man. Something just a little bit … off. Can you figure it out? Let’s hear it, you Ben Urichs — what is Spider-Man’s secret?
Note: Holy smoke — Flash ran so fast his face melted! Is it Barry? Wally? Bart?!? Actually, it’s the last of a trio of figures including Wonder Woman and Aquaman that I found as promotional items in bags of potato chips in Mexico. Which, of course, means Mexico is winning the Promotional Items Arms Race.
Recently, I did something that most people of a certain age find themselves doing — having an online discussion about John Cusack.
Nowadays, I’m ambivalent about Cusack, but back in the 80s I LOVED that guy. He was in a lot of coming-of-age movies that caught me at just the right time, and it was when he was still funny.
And I don’t mean Hot Tub Time Machine funny, I mean really funny. Part of this was because he was the go-to guy for “Savage” Steve Holland, who made a name for himself with some supremely silly movies about teens who smoked and drank and lived in a sort of cartoon world where nothing was too serious and no one got hurt. If there was a scale, John Hughes would be on one end, and Holland would be on the other.
The discussion started with a picture I posted from Better Off Dead. If you haven’t seen it before, stop reading this right now and go get it. It’s a classic — no idea is too crazy, there is just one ridiculously great line after another, and it somehow all comes together into a tight little story with characters you genuinely care about. It is — hand to God — the funniest movie about teen suicide you’ll ever watch.
Cusack, unfortunately, didn’t feel the same way. He reportedly left the theater 20 minutes into a premier screening and then reamed Holland out for “using him” and “making a fool out of him.” Cusack would work with him again a year later in 1986’s One Crazy Summer, solely due to contractual obligations; after that, the two were kaput.
Which is a shame. Because, in my mind at least, it looked for a while as if Steve Holland was going to be our generation’s Mel Brooks and Cusack our Gene Wilder. He played an immensely likable and identifiable teenager, which isn’t easy. And he was doing it when theaters were overflowing with likeable, identifiable teens. To stand out must have meant he was doing something right. When Cusack suddenly decided he was a self-important, capital-A Actor, he shoved a natural talent for comedy to the back of his cupboard until it crumbled into a bitter, barely recognizable pile of dust.
Frankly, I think he screwed it all up. At the time, Cusack had a ton of potential (it could argued he still does). But starting with his starring role in 1989’s Say Anything, Cusack started a spiral that circles around mediocre rom-coms (often without the com) and pseudo-thinky films that, for all the effort, just manage to be boring. It’s too bad, because again it’s about potential. Gene Wilder is mostly known for playing absurdist roles with plenty of heart, and Cusack had a talent for that in spades. With some maturity and good roles, he could have been in the same pool as John Candy or (dare I say it? I dare!) Bill Murray. Instead, enjoy a viewing of … shit, I don’t know, Serendipity?
Of course, Cusack has made some good movies — the fantastic Being John Malkovich and the slow burn of High Fidelity come to mind — but they’re not my favorites. These are my favorites:
Better Off Dead
I could say more about this movie than I already have, but I’ll just let you watch this instead.
The Sure Thing
I don’t know if people just forget about this one, but it’s a great road movie about teens taking their first real steps into adulthood. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s smart, and at its core it’s about love and sex (if you’re into that sorta thing). Here’s some cinematic shorthand; it’s directed by Rob Reiner. If you have a love for When Harry Met Sally, watch the movie where he first explored most of its themes.
There is absolutely nothing funny about The Grifters and that’s completely OK. (I never said I wanted Cusack to do nothing BUT comedy). Like the hard-boiled noir it’s based on, this film is a punch in the gut; once you realize that fist has a knife in it, it’s too late and all you can do is sit there, stunned.
For what it’s worth, I’m glad John Cusack is still around. I just wish the guy who shows up now looked more like the kid I saw all those years ago.
I’m not usually someone who goes out of my way to promote myself. Normally, I’m just not the kind of person who can easily say, “Hey! This is me, and this is what I’m doing!” But.
Hey. This is me. This is what I’m doing.
You may not realize it, but I’ve got a few online projects going on. These are basically writing projects, and they’re a way to get my writing out there, share interests and interact with … well, with you.
So I’m going to ask you to do something for me. I realize that not everyone is into comics. Or astronomy. Or Cthulhu or hobbits or any of the other geeky things I tend to go on about. But your support means a lot, and hitting “like,” “follow” or “retweet” goes a long way. Leaving a comment really makes my day, and the sites make it easy to do that (you can even use your Facebook sign-on for most, including this one). Even if you’re not necessarily interested in the Clark-vs.-Superman debate, maybe someone you know is; word of mouth helps.
With that in mind, here’s where you can find me online. Remember, it only takes a second to click “like,” but the experience lasts a lifetime. (Wait, what?)
And if you’re already supporting these projects — thank you!!
Yer pal, Max
Great Caesar’s Post! — You’re already here! This is the main blog, mostly focused on comics but which I’ve been using to branch out into other things. Sometimes serious, often silly, I’ve been maintaining GCP in one form or another since 2006. http://www.greatcaesarspost.com/
It’s Plastic Man! — A new Tumblr blog dedicated to Jack Cole’s Man of Rubber. A note: If you already follow the other Tumblr blog (coming up!), you still need to follow this one individually to get updates. Another note: I’m having a lot of fun doing this one!
Red Hot Lava — A Tumblr blog and a kind of annex to Great Caesar’s Post; things that are fun or interesting, but don’t get a full write-up, usually go here.
Facebook pages — There are Facebook pages for Great Caesar’s Post here, https://www.facebook.com/GreatCaesarsPost , and another one for It’s Plastic Man here; https://www.facebook.com/itsplasticman — like ‘em to get updates! Spread the love!
Twitter — On Twitter, I tend to be more ranty and curse-y; if you knew me in college, you know what I’m talking about. You can find that here: https://twitter.com/MaxoRomero
Thanks again, guys — I appreciate it.
Opening paragraphs from The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft Art by Olli Hihnala
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden aeons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. That glimpse, like all dread glimpses of truth, flashed out from an accidental piecing together of separated things—in this case an old newspaper item and the notes of a dead professor. I hope that no one else will accomplish this piecing out; certainly, if I live, I shall never knowingly supply a link in so hideous a chain. I think that the professor, too, intended to keep silent regarding the part he knew, and that he would have destroyed his notes had not sudden death seized him.