Fighting cancer takes balls (and donations)

Posted: January 21st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

A few months ago, I was talking to someone about their testicles.

I don’t remember exactly who, so I hope neither they nor their testicles take that personally. The important thing is I was telling this guy that he was young and so had a greater risk of developing testicular cancer. It’s a conversation I’ve had with a lot of men since February 2013, when I was diagnosed with it.

I’ve talked about that before, so I’ll just say that it was very scary, and I was very lucky, and I’m doing A-OK now. (If you want a little more detail, you can read more here.) Around the same time, a friend of mine also developed cancer, and a few months ago my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer (both are also OK). And just recently the world lost rock legend David Bowie and beloved actor Alan Rickman. It’s easy to lose sight of the way cancer affects all of us until it becomes personal.

My point is, I’ve been thinking lately that I’d like to do more to help cancer research and treatment efforts, and maybe get my friends involved. That’s where you guys come in.

A while back, Kevin Church did a raffle-like fundraiser in honor of his birthday, and I’m totally ripping off the idea. Between now and March 6, 2016, I’ll be asking everyone to donate to the American Cancer Society, Livestrong, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, or F*ck Cancer (you don’t have to donate to all of them — just one is fine), and email the receipt for your contribution to me. That contribution, no matter how small or large, will be your entry. Each individual donation will count as one entry, so if you donate to all four organizations, that’ll count as four entries. On March 6, I’ll randomly draw the names of the people who’ve entered and hand out hopefully awesome prizes.

But I need help, so I’m asking all you writers, artists, collectors, fans, and comic book store owners to contribute comic book and pop culture items to be raffled off, items that would encourage others to donate to any of the charities listed above. Anything that anyone would be willing to contribute to the raffle — big or small — is very much appreciated, and indeed, will be vital to this little fundraiser even happening. And as soon as raffle items start coming in, I’ll post them here so everyone can see what they could win!

I chose March 6 as the day for the raffle because, almost three years ago, that was the day I had the surgery to remove the malignant tumor, along with the testicle where it had decided to set up house.  (I was diagnosed in late February, had the surgery, and started radiation about three weeks later.) That was also when my doctor told me he was 99.9 percent sure that they had gotten all of the cancer out. It was the day I felt as if I could stop holding my breath, and get back to living my life.

Seems like a good day to me.

If you’ve got some cool stuff that could help me raise money for cancer awareness and treatment, please consider doing so. If you’d like to donate for a chance to win that cool stuff, consider that, too. Help me get the word out by sharing this post on your social media of choice, and keep an eye out for updates.

Thanks.

How To Donate Items for the Raffle

Contact me at maxoromero [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’ll give you the physical address. You can also DM me on Facebook and Twitter.

How to Donate to Charities Fighting Cancer

One more time, here are the organizations I hope you’ll contribute to:

American Cancer Society

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

F*ck Cancer

Livestrong

Hey, Let’s Talk Testicles

Testicular cancer is, fortunately, a fairly uncommon type of cancer that affects about 1 out of every 263 men annually. Unfortunately, it usually develops in younger men (the average age is 33), and can spread quickly if not treated. In a sense, I’m lucky to be middle-aged; my doctor told me that since my body is generally slowing down (er, thanks), that meant the cancer was slow, too. Younger men, with their bunny-like metabolisms, tend to see their cancers develop and spread faster.

So what should you be looking for? The next time your down there — c’mon, you know it won’t be long — thoroughly check how your testicles feel. They should feel like a peeled, hard-boiled egg, with no bumps, lumps or protrusions. Don’t go by whether or not there’s any pain; my tumor didn’t hurt at all, and this type of cancer actually only becomes uncomfortable if the tumor is allowed to grow to a huge size. (My doctor told me that he’s seen more than one guy come in with growths the size of a navel orange. That is CRAZY.) And hey, if you’re not sure something is out of place, get yourself a partner and have them give it a feel — who says a self-exam can’t be fun?

If you feel anything, ANYTHING, odd, make an appointment with your doctor immediately. No excuses, no time to waste. Hell, that’s good advice for just about anything. So let’s take care of ourselves, and if we can, let’s take care of each other.

Find more information on different types of cancer, their symptoms, and how they’re treated at the American Cancer Society’s resource page.


Blue Romance: Love to love you, baby

Posted: February 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

And now, the rest of the Beauty and the Beast story is coming at you in wham-bam fashion — let’s go!

When we last saw our lovelorn couple, Dazzler had worked herself into a nice little nervous breakdown, Beast was getting inexplicably possessive and Doctor Doom was still railing like Michael Jackson that the mysterious kid in L.A. was not his son. He may have moonwalked, but that is unconfirmed. After getting picked up by an apparent gang of hippies on the beach, Dazzler ended up at a mutant misfit halfway house called (sigh) Heartbreak Hotel, with Beast hot on her heels.

What happened next? Well, there was some inappropriate touching …

… and then, after “days pass” a couple of times, Beast finally wears Dazzler down with his teddy bear charms!

Who knew Dazzler and Beast were such sticklers for proper grammar?

Everything is copacetic until sleazy show producer Hugo Longride and smooth operator/Dazzler boyfriend Alex Flynn remind Alison that she signed a contract that they expect her to honor. Eventually she hits the “stage,” which looks like a cross between the floor of the Coliseum and a Lovecraftian rumpus room. Dazzler sings, gets booed, and what the crowd really wants is revealed — fiiiiight!!!

Afterward there’s some moral debate, heavy mutants-are-outcasts discussion and a lot of angst I’m gonna skip over. Beast busts into the dressing room to rescue Dazzler (again), but she starts to glow uncontrollably (again), freaks out and tells Beast to hit the bricks. Which, of course, leads to more frowny-face Beast.

Later, Dazzler and Beast seem to be an item again (writer Ann Nocenti has a tendency to get loosey-goosey with the flow of time), but still debate whether or not she should be “performing.” There’s some more “we’re all misfits in some way” talk (it really starts getting thick at this point), as well as more pining from Beast. And then, in preparation for her next battle, Dazzler puts on a stereotypical Native American costume for absolutely no reason.

Hank decides to do some snooping and discovers that Flynn and Longride have been drugging Dazzler to make her more suggestible, while also causing her to lose control of her light powers. But before he can do anything about it, he’s caught and drugged himself. Now a slobbering animal, Beast is put on the gladiator floor with Dazzler and a nasty little fight breaks out pretty quick.

Faced with the embarrassing smell of burning dog hair, Beast snaps out of it and desperately shouts some sweet-nothings to Dazzler. True love wins through and the fight ends with the two hugging it out in the middle of the floor. The crowd, of course, isn’t very happy about this turn of events and to calm them down, Flynn puts on a cape and talks the other fighters into killing Longride.

Meanwhile, Doom decides he’s had enough and hops a doomjet for California, but still takes the time to doomslap his butler some more. Stupid butler, with his constant updates on Doom’s bastard son!

Once he reaches L.A., it’s revealed that Longride was really a doombot keeping an eye on the alleged doomspawn — Alexander Flynn!

While all this is going on, Beast and Dazzler have been captured and hung upside down in a basement. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make out a little, right?

At the same time, a couple of the Heartbreak residents decide to mount a rescue of their own, Rocker (remember the horse-faced fighter?) switches sides, Flynn monologues about how he’ll be the next ruler of Latveria, and Doom lurks in the shadows while continuing to deny Flynn is his son (alright, man, we get it — gah!).

After being freed by Rocker, Dazzler and Beast confront Flynn (who’s now wearing a Kirbyesqe helmet in addition to his doomcape) and his semi-mind controlled mutant gladiators! Against all odds, the duo not only hold their own, but start winning. Er, surprise?

Even more surprising is Flynn’s O-face:

In his defense, that line never fail to impress da ladiez. Feeling pretty good about himself, Flynn captures one of the misfits, which forces another gladiator to nearly kill Flynn before he’s stopped by Beast and Dazzler.

Defeated and utterly humiliated after his fighters turn their backs on him, Flynn finally gets a little face-time with dear old not-dad. It goes about as well as you’d expect.

And this is where things really fall apart because the whole thing ends up being one big anti-climax. Doom just sorta leaves, the fighters get revenge on Flynn by mocking him a bit before leaving, and then — AND THEN — Dazzler and Beast come to the conclusion that maybe they should “just be friends.”

I SWEAR TO GOD.

Am I the only one who thinks this is just like the last scene in Singles? It just needs more Paul Westerberg. But that, finally, is the end. Heavy-handed but morbidly entertaining, the mini-series winds up being a little frustrating because, things just go back to the way they were when this whole thing started. As far as I know, this Love-That-Could-Not-Be is never mentioned again. Ever. Personally, I’d love it if somehow this little bit of ancient romantic history would be brought up again, even if it was just in passing. Like a lot of past relationships, it’s just too damn weird to ignore.

Ann Nocenti, writer; Don Perlin, artist; Kim DeMulder, inker

Bonus Panel!

Oh, God.


Blue Romance: Under the covers!

Posted: February 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Before we get back to the inexplicable tale of romance that is Beauty and the Beast, let’s take a look at one of the best things about this four-part mini-series — the covers.

I’ve mentioned it before, but Bill Sienkiewicz is one of my favorite artists. His artsy sensibility and ever-evolving — yet still signature — technique has a tendency to elevate whatever particular comic book he’s working on. That’s certainly the case with his Beauty and the Beast covers.

Each of these has that Sienkiewicz “look,” and while I think issues #3 and #4 are pretty standard in terms of setting and design, they’ve all got a certain visual energy. That said, what’s up with issue #4? That one is particularly weak and looking at it is the optical equivalent of a sour note — I want to ignore it, but it’s tinny and flat in a way that just bugs me. I always get the feeling Sienkiewicz phoned that last one in (though it is still consistent with the theme of energy bursting outward, both in Dazzler’s light and Hank’s fur).

My favorite, though, is probably the cover to issue #2, just because it’s such a great callback to the classic romance comic. I especially dig the way Sienkiewicz renders Dazzler’s power; it’s subtle but touches on an important characteristic while also drawing in the viewers’ focus without hitting them over the head with it.

Take a look, and see what you think:

Even more than the covers themselves, my absolute favorite design element is the itty-bitty Beast and Dazzler that Sienkiewicz drew for the cornerbox. In just one tiny mini-scene, the artist has summed up the attempted tone of the story, and all the bittersweet, clutching emotion that goes with it. It’s really freakin’ impressive, actually:

Awww — aren’t they adorable? And there’s that outward burst again, carrying a visual theme through to what’s often a throw-away patch of art. Sienkiewicz is really a master artist.

Cover art by Bill Sienkiewicz


Blue Romance: Stars (and garters) get in your eyes

Posted: February 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Jean Grey and Cyclops, Daredevil and Elektra, Spider-Man and Mary Jane — these are names that represent comicdom’s fairy tales of everlasting love*. And while these well-known stories from the Marvel Universe chronicle the never-ending bliss of big-name characters, that doesn’t mean the second-tier characters are left out in the cold.

Take for instance, oh … Beauty and the Beast.

Written by Ann Nocenti with pencils by Don Perlin, this four-issue mini-series was nothing less than the classic tragedy of unrequited love as seen through the eyes of a mutant disco queen and her shaggy blue boyfriend. Yes — it is EPIC.

Now, as far as I know there was never any hint of even a smidge of attraction between Dazzler and Beast in the past, and the script seems to hint they only had a passing acquaintance before this series. But drop them in a Hollywood party or a gladiator pit and it doesn’t take long for them to start making goo-goo eyes at each other.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Beauty and the Beast #1 actually starts the way all stories should — with Doctor Doom.

All Doom wants — I mean, besides total power and the complete obedience of his subjects — is some alone time with his art. Can’t a guy decompress a little? No! Not when the bastard son you turned your back on years ago suddenly surfaces in California, you can’t.

Man, that’s cold. By coincidence (*cough*), Doom isn’t the only one headed for the land of sun, surf and drive-bys. The Beast is taking a vacation from the Defenders (and the X-Men and the Avengers, because he’s a member of all of ’em, as he’ll mention like a bajillion times), and he’s decided Los Angeles is weird enough to accept a mutant covered in nothing but blue fur and a Speedo.

Think again, Hank! Even though he mentions it a few times to himself, Beast is still surprised that the anti-mutant craze sweeping the nation has come to L.A., too. In the Dazzler: The Movie graphic novel, Dazzler was outed as a mutant and now the whole country hates “muties.” ‘Cause Dazzler betrayed her audience? Or something? I’m not sure how Dazzler became the cornerstone of mutant/human relations, but thinking about her fall from grace makes Beast get all frowny-face.

Meanwhile, Dazzler is dealing with her new image problems head-on by going to parties. She blazed a trail for Paris and Britney more than 20 years ago! As far as I know, though, Daz is still wearing underwear.

At the party Dazzler meets Alexander Flynn, and this guy is smooth. Alison speechifies about how mutants are going to have to start drinking out of separate water fountains soon — Nocenti hits the “mutants as misunderstood outsiders” thing pretty hard — and Alex gives her the ol’ “yeah, yeah” before convincing her to sign a contract with slimy producer-type Hugo Longride. He’s cagey about exactly what kind of show he produces, but Dazzler signs anyway, because as we’ll see, she’s not very smart. I mean, c’mon, Longride? Even if it’s not what it sounds like, shouldn’t that name itself be a red flag? It’s like taking a job with Dick Stickyfloor**.

Alison doesn’t have time to sweat the details, not when there are more parties to go to and a battered reputation to sabotage. But, like a lot of people who party too hearty, Alison suddenly has a problem with leaking in inappropriate places.

A week later Wonder Man (who’s with the West Coast Avengers at the time) thinks a wrap party is just what Hank needs — that and a bright yellow shirt with no buttons. And hey, guess who else is there drowning her sorrows? Before he can even say, “How’re YOU doin’?” Beast is defending Dazzler’s dubious honor and roughing up a guy with a look that the Fall catalogs call “The Seabiscuit.”

That guy must spend a fortune on toothpaste. Soon Dazzler is breaking up the fight after squinting at the furry blue dude and saying, “Hey, you look familiar,” then skedaddling when her unpredictable light show freaks her right out. Luckily, Wonder Man is there to be the voice of optimism.

Wonder Man: Ultimate Douche. Anyway, Dazzler proceeds to lose it a little more, and Beast convinces himself that Alison needs some sweet, sweet rescuin’ while he cranks up the pining from “wistful” to “stalkery.”

Yikes. Dial it down,Hank — it just isn’t attractive. But what’s a lovelorn Beast to do? How does he save his Beauty from a nebulously defined fate-worse-than-death? Well, tracking down and beating up a guy with a horse face is a start. While all this is going on, Dazzler has emo’ed herself all the way to the beach. She gets out another, “I am the light,” before a gang of beach bums with a cart pick her up and carry her away.

Yeah, seriously.

At the same time, Beast has pinned the horse-faced Rocker (I know, I know) in a half-gelding and forces him to call his boss so he can find out where Dazzler has gone. Somehow Beast was right to guess Longride would have her followed, and with an address in hand he throws himself out a closed window and hotfoots it across town.

The address turns out to be an old hotel and — even though he’s supposed to be the thoughtful intellectual — Beast immediately busts in the door and starts making demands of the old lady and the kid who are just kind of hanging out. They make a half-hearted try at hiding Dazzler, but she’s easy to find since her light power is really out of control now. Dazzler figures glowing a lot makes you grotesque, but Hank is there to handle damage control.

Hank. Dude, seriously.

* This might be sarcasm.

** I’m so, so sorry.

Ann Nocenti, writer; Don Perlin, penciler; Kim DeMulder, inker


Blue Romance: Beauty and the Beast Week begins (again!)

Posted: February 8th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Way back when Great Caesar’s Post was still a young blog, with stars in its eyes and a spring in its step, I ran a short series about the Beauty and the Beast four-part mini published by Marvel in 1984 through ’85. Some of you might remember this, most of you probably don’t, and in any case, I always got a kick out of it. So I’m opening the vault and re-releasing the series of posts (with original mutant warts and all) on the unsuspecting populace in honor of the swiftly arriving Valentine’s Day.

That’s right — it’s the return of Blue Romance!

Hey, remember that time Dazzler and the Beast fell in love while on the run from anti-mutant hysteria and ended up joining an underground gladiatorial fight club in Hollywood that was controlled by the illegitimate son of Doctor Doom?

YOU WILL.

Beauty and the Beast week continues tomorrow!


Tina Fey, you’re still welcome in my barrio

Posted: October 1st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

A couple of days ago comedic actress Tina Fey was approached by a comedian with a show on Funny or Die called Billy on the Street, who challenged her to name 20 Latino performers in one minute. The outcome, as you might imagine, was a little shameful.

What you might not imagine, though, is that I don’t think Fey deserves any of that shame.

Look, I’m Latino of Mexican-American heritage. I grew up in a home that was literally less than a mile from the United States border with Mexico and the fourth largest city in that country. My community was — and continues to be — around 80 percent Latino, and Spanglish is practically the official language. In a word, it’s Latino as hell.

And I’m telling you now, I don’t think I could name 20 Latino performers in a minute, either.

Do I have to turn in my Mexi-card? Am I somehow less Latino because of it? Will some white folks stop acting surprised when I speak accent-less English? I doubt it. So why do we expect an Anglo lady from New York to pull it off? Why do we take what was a shaky comedic premise to begin with and use it to shame someone? Por favor.

Besides the unfairness of the “game” trotted out by host Billy Eichner, the whole thing distracts from some real issues, namely the lack of Latino performers getting a shot at top-tier roles, and the relegation of the performers we do have to restrictive, stereotypical background characters. It’s gotten better, but it’s still not very good. And yet, all anyone can talk about is how Tina Fey “failed.” Which is both inaccurate in the broader Internet sense and besides the point. Here are some sample headlines to chew on:

Tina Fey Fails Miserably on Billy on the Street, Can’t Name 20 Latino Performers (Us Magazine)

Tina Fey Finally Fails at Something on Billy on the Street (E Online)

Tina Fey Gracefully Fails at Game “LaTina Fey” (USA Today)

#Epic Fail: Watch Tina Fey Struggle Naming 20 Latino Actors (Vibe)

And so on. I should point out that I’m not trying to defend Tina Fey (it would have been nice if a person who’s been successful in the entertainment industry had more Latino names at her fingertips). But personally, I don’t think she’s done anything that needs to be defended against. I think the media outlets piling on her, without taking the time to discuss the real underlying issues facing people of color in the entertainment industry, have more to answer for.


Riding shotgun with the Ghost of John Wayne

Posted: July 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

When I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2013, I was scared.

It’s hard to describe what that really means. I have the usual apprehensions most people have – How are we ever going to afford that thing we need? Am I going to get in trouble with my boss for that mistake? Should I go to that thing or stay home? But this was different. This was, literally, a matter of life or death, and it was overwhelming.

I should tell you now, this isn’t about cancer, at least not really. It’s about John Wayne.

Once I went through the whole process of diagnosis, confirmation, and surgery, the final step was getting radiation treatments (I was very lucky – a combination of early detection and quick responses from my doctors meant I got to avoid chemo). When Sandy and I were taken to one of the doctor’s exam rooms, we were surrounded. Staring laconically out at us from nearly every wall space and flat surface was The Duke.

Posters, studio stills, and memorabilia wrapped us up in a virtual John Wayne blanket (which I would not have been surprised to find). Along with my doctor’s laid back, hippy, Hefner-meets-David Wooderson vibe, it was the first time in the whole process that I allowed myself to feel that everything was going to be OK. John Wayne – and anyone who obviously found so much inspiration in him – wasn’t going to let me down.

Before this, I most closely associated Wayne with my mom. She’s a big fan, and back when I was younger we would spend a lot of weekend time watching his movies on cable. At the time cable was a new thing, a young and wiry version of what it is today, full of promise but frustratingly lacking in depth. We had maybe a dozen or so channels, about half of those being local. But we did get KTLA, a station out of Los Angeles that padded out its programming the same way a lot of channels did then – with lots and lots of old movies and serials.

And that’s how I got my education in John Wayne. Mom wasn’t as big on his war movies or the few noir and romancey films he made, but of course that still left plenty of the cowboy movies that made him a towering icon of popular culture. “Stagecoach.” “Rio Grande” (his first film with Maureen O’Hara). “The Searchers.” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” “True Grit” and “Rooster Cogburn.” All these and more made me a fan, too, and gave me an enduring love of westerns that I’ll always associate with Mom. I have a soft spot for all of them, but none occupy a space a big as the one reserved for “The Shootist.”

“The Shootist” is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite John Wayne movie, and probably one of my top 10 favorite movies, period. Wayne gives the best, most nuanced, and heartbreaking performance of his life in this movie, which co-stars a young Ron Howard, a still-captivating Lauren Bacall, and the quietly raging James Stewart. The cast alone is a powerhouse, but Wayne is the rock-steady center of a film on life fading away.

The movie is about an aging gunfighter (Wayne), who’s name alone still has the power to set people on edge; when J.B. Books is in the room, everyone else starts looking for the exit. For the most part, though, Books just wants some peace and quiet because, after surviving a lifetime of shoot-outs, cancer is killing him. He wants to drift into history without fuss like the Wild West itself,  and finds a small town where he figures he can live out what’s left of his life. But Dr. Hostetler (Stewart) tells him his death will be as ugly as his past – Books can expect his body to painfully betray him, to the point that even laudanum won’t see him through anymore.

New to town, Books finds a room at a local boarding house, run by a widow and her son (Bacall and Howard). Bond Rogers knows who he is and doesn’t like having a killer under her roof one bit, but her son Gillom is fascinated by the gunfighter and wants to follow in his footsteps. Meanwhile, word has gotten around that Books is in town, and people have come gunning for the legendary shootist.

One of the things I like best about this movie is how low-key the whole thing is while also accomplishing an underlying tension that comes from knowing tragedy is inevitable. That tension becomes palpable when you find out this is John Wayne’s last movie, and that this was an undeniably personal film for Wayne. He had already lost a lung and some ribs to an earlier bout with lung cancer. Three years after this movie’s release in 1976 he would die from stomach cancer.

In the 70s, when I was growing up, that’s what cancer did – it killed you. Diagnoses would tend to come much later in the cancer’s growth, and treatment was almost medieval compared to today. Cancer was practically a death sentence, it seemed, and survival was at best a coin toss. It didn’t matter if it was his six-pack-a-day cigarette habit or his exposure to highly radioactive soil while on location for “The Conqueror;” cancer finally brought down the Duke.

The irony of seeing a couple of dozen images of a man who died of cancer while waiting to be treated for cancer wasn’t lost on me. Still, for whatever reason, I found comfort in it. And when, at the end of my radiation treatment, the doctor gave me a plaque with a John Wayne quote on it, I cried.

The quote is short and simple. It says:

Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.

I hung that plaque above my nightstand, and I see it every day. And every day, I saddle up.


Max’s Top 10 List of Best Lists of 2014

Posted: December 31st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

10.

9.

8.

7.

6.

5.

4.

3.

2.

1.


Superman Sunday

Posted: December 14th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

ManofSteelandPlastic_JohnOBrien

Man of Steel and Plastic
 art by John O’Brien

Superman Sunday

Posted: November 30th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

SupermanPortrait_JoePekar

art by Joe Pekar

(find more of his work at his DeviantArt site)