Let’s talk about the weather

Posted: April 25th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Spring has finally come to Chicago, if the birds building nests and dudes wearing shorts in 58-degree weather is any indication.

I’m a little sorry to see winter go, to be honest. Everyone who has lived here for more than a few years can’t wait for some warmer weather, but I grew up in the desert and then lived in swampy Central Texas for 14 years. When I was a kid in El Paso, we used to have seasons—I even remember snow. (It was always gone by that same afternoon, but it was there, no matter how ephemeral.) That changed over the years and the snow slowly happened less and less, but Austin was worse. An average of 10 months of humid summer temperatures sounds like paradise for some, but I’m a fat guy who hates to sweat, so that got old after a while. We moved to Chicago for a change, and a chance to experience real winters was a big part of that.

From what we’ve been told, last winter—our first here—didn’t count. It got cold, but not that cold, people said, and there wasn’t much snow. I can’t argue with that. Last year was mild compared to this one, which the TV weatherpeople are saying is the second longest winter in about a hundred years.

Ice on the Chicago River

It snowed much more than last winter, with freezing winds coming off Lake Michigan, just a couple of blocks from where we live. We were introduced to the concept of “the lake effect,” which basically means the lake is big enough to generate its own weather system. In the winter, that translates to cold and wet. Most days have been cloudy, constantly threatening rain or snow or just hard looks. The radiator clanked and groaned throughout the day.

But lately, the sun has been beaming down on the city, bright and insistent. People have traded in heavy coats for light jackets. Our radiator only grumbles once or twice, gets comfortable, and goes back to sleep.

I’m already missing it.

I’ll miss the ritual of checking the weather before dressing for the day. (Layers, and a good pair of modern-day longjohns, are king.) I’ll miss me and Sandy steadying each other as we walk down icy sidewalks. I’ll miss the “chicken lights” that help keep people from freezing on the L platforms.

Also known as “French fry lights”

Baseball is good, though, and hopefully we’ll be able to see a couple of Cubs and Sox games this Spring. The city hosts a bunch of festivals in the summer, and those are always fun. And in spite of what people in other parts of the country tend to think, Chicago does get hot, and surprisingly humid.

I’ll try not to complain about the heat, though I know I will. In the meantime, I’ll dream of snow and the satisfying crunch of freshly salted sidewalks.

Shambling corpses and writing about writing

Posted: April 17th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

There’s nothing like being declared dead to get you off your ass.

A little more than a week ago, I got a notification on Twitter — somewhere I spend way too much time doing not much. It came as a surprise, I’ll tell you that.

I’d never heard of Zombie Cat Bacon before, but they’d apparently heard of me. Not only that, they’d noticed I hadn’t written anything on this blog in a long, long time. About a year and three months, to be exact. Did I mention I spend way too much time on Twitter (and Facebook)?

I have to admit, it stung. I’ve always considered myself a writer, and to not be writing is a special kind of hell: First, there’s the desire to write, but somehow never getting around to actually doing it, and second, there’s the guilt and frustration that comes from all that inaction. (Sorry about the tangle that is the previous sentence — I’m out of practice).

In the back of my mind, I’m always thinking, “I really need to get back to writing, at least on the blog.” And then I freeze. I don’t know why. Did I lose my confidence? Is it laziness? Some sort of creative inertia that’s kept me in some sort of stasis, stretched out indefinitely on the event horizon of wanting to write and actually writing?

I don’t know. Maybe a little bit of everything. It’s easy to make excuses. I was about to write, ” … and some of them are valid,” but you know what? That’s bullshit. If you want to do something — really, really want to do something — you find a way to do it.

But first, baby steps. I’m going to take a stab at writing here again (as well as writing professionally again, because I enjoy it, I used to be good at it, and I need the money, yo). For now, I’m making a promise to myself (and you, imaginary reader), to write here at least once a week. It won’t be exclusively about comics anymore, so expect some randomness.

But at least we can expect something.

Give me that Carrie Fisher

Posted: January 30th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to participate in an episode of Give Me Those Star Wars, a podcast dedicated to one of my favorite franchises and my first hardcore fandom. It’s always great to be invited to take part in a Fire and Water Podcast Network show, especially when Ryan Daly is the host, but this time it was a sad occasion: Ryan was asking myself and several other fans to help pay tribute to the sadly departed Carrie Fisher.

It turned out to be a heartfelt and touching show, with remembrances ranging from favorite Princess Leia moments to her career as a writer and under-the-radar script doctor. For my part, I had so many things to say that I was worried I’d forget something (or just go on and on), so I ended up writing something out. And now, I’m sharing it here.

This is exactly what I recorded for Give Me Those Star Wars, including little idiosyncrasies like italics where I wanted to remind myself to stress some words and ellipses for pauses. If you’d like to hear how it turned out, go check out the episode and give it a listen!


I’ve started this thing about half a dozen times.

First, I tried explaining that Carrie Fisher has been a part of my life since I was seven years old. That, of course, was when she first strode across the screen as Princess Leia in Star Wars. Then I tried summing up her professional life, as an actor, a writer, feminist icon, and then when she evolved into her final form as capital-C Carrie.

Ugh. I haaaaate when people refer to celebrities by their first names. So I tried starting that way, pointing out that where Carrie Fisher was concerned, I couldn’t help it. She meant so much to me personally that referring to her in any other way sounded … impersonal.

But none of it was working. I couldn’t explain why she’s been so important to me, or why her death felt like such a loss.

I finally realized it comes down to one simple thing: I admire Carrie Fisher. As an actor and writer, sure — but mostly, as a person. I admire her incredible strength. I admire her intense honesty. I admire her unyielding bravery.

These were all qualities that came through in her work. When I watch her as Princess Leia now, I can see Carrie Fisher there. I completely believe that, if she found herself in the position, she would stand toe-to-toe with Darth Vader. That she’d go undercover to rescue the love of her life, willing to blow up herself and everyone else around her to get it done.

I believe Carrie Fisher would strangle anyone who tried to put chains on her.

That bravery and honesty burned bright in everything she did, especially her writing. Her scorched-earth style of autobiography started, always, in her own backyard. Instead of shying away from any pain, or embarrassment, or shame anyone else might’ve felt if their life got so publically … complicated, she confronted it. She wrestled it into submission. She embraced it. She made it her own.

And, in the messy process, she gave us yet another reason to love her.

From the beginning, Carrie Fisher had been bigger than life. That hasn’t changed, even now.

But I do miss her.

I miss knowing she was out there in the world, kicking ass and smiling at the thought that anything would try to stop her.

All I can do is shoot this cobbled-together message into space, and hope it makes sense once it gets there.

I like to think it’s what Carrie would’ve done.


The X-Men and my uncanny evolution of language

Posted: October 16th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

A couple of years ago, I was invited to submit an essay for what was going to be the second volume of Hey, Kids, Comics!, an anthology that was a labor of love for editor Rob Kelly. Unfortunately, volume 2 never came together (but you still can, and should, pick up the first volume). Since then, I kind of put the following essay in the back drawer of my mind and digital files, but I recently came across it again and thought I’d share rather than let it languish.

I hope you enjoy — Language X!



When the older Asian lady gently grabbed my elbow, I thought I was in trouble.

I say older, but truthfully she was probably around 40, at most. But I was in my early 20s and, being a kid in my second year of college, everyone past 30 looked old to me. And, being young, I was of course doing things like jumping off couches in the Student Union building and shouting, “Konnichiwa!” to a group of friends who were meeting us for lunch.

The lady, still holding on to my elbow, began talking to me excitedly in what I could only guess was Japanese. “Oh, crap,” I thought. “I’ve offended this woman and now she’s telling me off!” I instantly felt shame, even though I knew “konnichiwa” was an innocent greeting, equivalent to “good day.” I wanted to explain to her that my yell was basically a third of my total Japanese vocabulary. I wanted to blame the X-Men.


I can’t remember exactly when I started reading The Uncanny X-Men, but I do know I was at just the right age to soak up Chris Claremont’s dramatic, angst-laden prose as if I was an adolescent corncob rolling in a bed of warm butter. Rattling off the roster of my X-Men is easier than naming all my cousins; Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus, Kitty Pryde, and Professor X. This all-new team wasn’t the one originally created by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum for Giant-Size X-Men #1 in1975 — Thunderbird had already been killed off by the time I got there, and Kitty was a recent addition. Claremont’s Southern belle, Rogue, would come later and other characters, like Banshee and Sunfire, were on the periphery. As far as I was concerned these seven heroes were it — these were the X-Men.

It took years before I realized I was essentially reading a superhero soap opera, but by then I was past caring. What I did care about was what happened to these characters, both in fightin’ action and in the melodrama of their personal lives. I was fascinated by the different cities and cultures they would jet off to in their SR-71 Blackbird. I luxuriated in Claremont’s overwrought writing style, and I spent whole afternoons imagining the characters’ various accents.

Claremont’s X-Men were a United Nations of mutants, which the dialogue seemed intent on almost constantly reminding readers. Cyclops and Kitty were from the United States, so they spoke the way an average reader might expect, but everyone else was from what — to me — was an exotic location. Storm was Kenyan, and had a cadence to her speech that echoed the European colonization of that country. Colossus, of what was then the Soviet Union, spoke in a deliberate, almost ponderous way; Piotr Nikolaievitch Rasputin, the gentle farmboy from Russia, embodied the implacable nature of our Cold War adversary.

Nightcrawler, a demonic-looking teleporter who disappeared in a cloud of sulfur and brimstone, peppered his conversation with the Gothic embroidery of his native West Germany. I had no idea what Wolverine — a backwoods Canadian — sounded like. A cowboy? Sorta? Your guess was as good as mine, bub. And the less said about Banshee’s magically delicious Irish brogue, the better.


Storm stuck with straightforward English, but Nightcrawler and Colossus would use words and phrases from their native languages constantly. In retrospect, I loved it not just because it introduced me to languages I probably never would have been exposed to otherwise, but also because it was comfortingly familiar. When Colossus dropped a “bozhe moy!” or Nightcrawler a “mein gott!”, they could have just as well been letting loose with the “Ay, Dios!” I heard every day.

Growing up in El Paso, Texas, meant a lifetime of being steeped in my Mexican-American culture. El Paso was (and still is) a community that hovers at around 80 percent Hispanic, sitting directly on the U.S./Mexico border with Ciudad Juarez. Most people in my hometown are bilingual in English and Spanish, and EVERYBODY speaks some form of Spanglish, that mashed-up way of speaking both languages at once. Seeing the X-Men use phrases from their native tongues (or, in some cases, a language Professor X psychically plugged into their brains) was the most natural thing in the world to me. The people around me did it all the time; it just made sense the heroes in my world of comics would, too.


This normalization of foreign languages was comforting to me in another way. It helped emphasize that it was OK to speak a language other than English in the United States, and it didn’t make you less American. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I was never discouraged from speaking either Spanish or English (or Swahili, if I’d ever gotten the itch). But I grew up with the stories Dad told me of growing up in El Paso and Albuquerque in the 50s. Spanish was his first language; once he started going to public school, this meant being teased by teachers for his accent. Raps on his knuckles if he slipped and used a Spanish word in class. Beatings if he was caught having an actual conversation in Spanish.

Later, after he’d married Mom and gone to a Los Angeles broadcasting school to obliterate any trace of an accent, he was adamant his kids wouldn’t go through the same thing he did. Times had changed, but not that much, and both my little sister and I would grow up with English as our first language. And like a lot of kids who are later-generation descendants of immigrants, we never really got the hang of our cultural language. I’m better now, but for a long time my Spanish was terrible.

My Spanglish, however, was excellent.

Thanks to the constant practice I had at listening to more than one language at a time, adding some comic book German or Russian to my vocabulary was a cinch —especially when it was reinforced by Claremont’s quirky insistence on peppering it throughout nearly every issue of The Uncanny X-Men. Suddenly I was getting regular exposure to the varied lyricism of other languages; the staccato brass of German, the stentorian fluidity of Russian, and occasionally the soft rat-a-tat of Japanese. Comics, and X-Men comics in particular, helped me realize different languages could have things in common with each other, and this lead to a further understanding of shared cultures and histories. There was a connection, and the X-Men were helping me make it.

And then Claremont seemed to make Japan itself a semi-regular member of the cast. In quick succession, and over various issues, Wolverine fell in love with a cultured Yakuza clan leader, Storm fell in with a free-spirited Tokyo thief, and Kitty was kidnapped and became a ninja (in the seminal Kitty Pryde and Wolverine six-issue limited series, also written by Claremont). In Uncanny X-Men #181, following the team’s adventures in the Secret Wars limited series, the X-Men randomly appeared over Honshu, Japan, where Lockheed fell in love with a dragon. Slowly, Japanese started creeping into my vocabulary.


“Arigato” (though Styx beat Claremont to that one), “hei,” “giri” and “gaijin” were all words I was comfortable using. I never used them in everyday conversation, but they were there if I needed them.

So years later when I let loose with a “konnichiwa,” it seemed like a good way to greet my friends. But I wasn’t sure the Asian woman felt the same way. After she asked me something a couple of times, I had to embarrassedly tell her I didn’t actually speak Japanese. Still holding my arm, she immediately switched to English.

“Oh, but I heard you. You spoke Japanese, right?” She sounded disappointed, and explained that she thought she was going to have a chance to talk to someone in her own language.

“No, no … I’m sorry,” I said, even more embarrassed now. “I only know a few words. I’m sorry.”

The woman smiled, and squeezed my arm.

“That’s OK — your accent is very good!”

And with that, she let go of my arm, smiled and said, “Goodbye!”

Relieved, I smiled back and waved. “Bye!”

But thanks to the X-Men, I could have just as easily said, “Sayonara!”

Or “auf wiedersehen.”

Or “do svidaniya.”

Or even, “adios.”

Hey, it’s a new post! Also, it’s #Writetober!

Posted: October 6th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | 11 Comments »

October is my favorite month of the year. Not only is it when the weather seems to shake off the oppressive heat of summer in exchange for the bite of fall, its also happens to be when I got married and, of course, the Halloween season. And if fall is my favorite season, Halloween is by far my favorite holiday.

The last couple of years, its been hard for me to get into the Halloween spirit. But thanks to Delilah S. Dawson (pointed out to me by Ken Lowery), I’m feeling a little like my old boney self again. Delilah has started what she calls #Writetober, a kind of companion/response to #Inktober, but instead of encouraging artists to draw something every day, she’s releasing writing prompts and encouraging writers to come up with flash fiction on Twitter that will fit in five tweets.

I’ve obviously coming late to this party, and I doubt I’ll be able to participate every day, but it sounds like fun and I’m going to do my best to join in (flabby as these particular writing muscles are). In that spirit, here’s something I wrote that doesn’t follow any of the prompts so far, but was inspired by one anyway. Close enough, right? And don’t worry, the story is shorter than this intro.


It awoke with a start. A sudden awareness where there had been nothing.

Fingers. On its skin.

Exploring, tracing skin more like hide, tanned and taut. Then hands, dragging it out from its cupboard, a hole in a wall identical to dozens of others edging into darkness. It had been untouched for what seemed like forever. It resisted the temptation to open its eyes.

A grunt was testament to its dead weight. It felt itself lifted, almost dragged, to thump and lay flat on a long, wooden table. Electricity ran through it as a finger mapped its crooked, tortured spine. Sinew and connective tissue flooded with forgotten blood. It sighed.

A hand reached between its dry and yielding folds, splitting it open, groping at what was hidden inside. Musty air flowed over uncovered creases.

Then a voice, human and otherworldly, reads its fleshy, tattooed pages.

“Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn …!”

Darwyn Cooke and that sonofabitch cancer

Posted: May 13th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »


This was originally a post on Facebook, but I thought I’d share it here, too.

The news was released today that artist Darwyn Cooke is receiving palliative care for a particularly aggressive form of cancer. As a fan of his work, and as a cancer surivor, this news is shocking and makes me sadder than I can say.

Cooke is a wonderful artist who’s probably most well-known for his DC: The New Frontier, but he also deserves recognition for his wonderful Batman family stories and — my personal favorite — his adaptations of the Richard Stark “Parker” books. His work has always been nostalgic yet modern, gentle yet powerful, and always filled with joy. In a medium in which the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” carries more weight than usual, Cooke’s art spoke with the authority of a king clearing his throat.

Cooke doesn’t seem like the kind of person to blow smoke, so I won’t either — “palliative care” isn’t usually a good sign. It means that, instead of treating the disease, the patient will be made as comfortable as possible while things run their course. It is a heartbreaking, but heroically humane, courageous, choice to make.

I don’t know how long we’ll have Darwyn Cooke with us, but I’m happy to know his art will be immortal. And I don’t know if donations will help him or his family at this point, but I hope you’ll at least consider donating to a cancer organization in his honor. Then go out and buy his books, and tell others about them. Share the work that he so obviously put so much of himself into.

I think he’d call that a win.

Announcing the winners of the Be a Hero in the Fight Against Cancer raffle!

Posted: April 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »
As I announced earlier on the Facebook page, the winners in the Be a Hero in the Fight Against Cancer raffle have been selected! Thanks to their generous contributions (as well as those of others who chose not to be included in the drawing), we managed to raise a total of $454, and I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate that. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
And now, the winners are:
Asjha Stus — signed DCU Online posters, Wonder Woman bookmarks, and a Half-Price Books gift card
Kyle Jones — the Indie Comics pack
Tom Alvarado — the DC Showcase bundle
Rebekah Starnes — two Marvel hardcover collections
Virginia Childers Davidson — the Indie Hero pack
Peter Gaskin — the Sideshow Boba Fett figure
Ryan Steans — the vintage Hall of Justice playset
Thanks again to everyone who donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, American Cancer Society, Fuck Cancer, and LIVESTRONG — your generosity will help people dealing with cancer treatment, and will also go toward research that will help us take care of this sucker once and for all. And of course, big thanks to everyone who donated items for the raffle itself — none of this would’ve been possible without you!

BOBA FETT joins the battle against cancer!

Posted: March 2nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Another prize has been added to the raffle drawing, and this one is a doozy:


Huge, huge thanks go to Peter Gaskin, who not only donated to one of the cancer organizations we’re supporting, but who also provided this brand-new, sixth-scale Boba Fett figure! As you can see from this description page, this is an amazing prize, and it could be yours with just one simple donation to one of the following groups:

American Cancer Society

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

F*ck Cancer


And remember, every donation is an entry, so the more donations you make, the more chance you have to win! Let’s be heroes, and join the fight against cancer.

See here for more details!

Announcing prizes for the Fight Cancer raffle!

Posted: February 19th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

After a couple of weeks of mostly silence, a flood of raffle donations have come in, and believe me when I tell you it’s a stack of really awesome stuff.

Donate to the American Cancer Society, Livestrong, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, or to F*ck Cancer (the organization supported by Arrow star Stephen Amell!) and you’ll have a chance to win one of these great prizes. And remember, someone was generous enough to donate these items for the raffle, so please be generous when you donate to one (or more) of these organizations. A donation in any amount gets you in, and every individual donation you make counts as an entry. (See this previous post for more details.)

Not only would your donation help support cancer research and treatment, it might nab you one of these prizes!


  • An Indie Comics bundle, with titles including The Rack: Year One (Mostly), 32 Stories (an Optic Nerve collection), Caricature by Daniel Clowes, Snake Pit Gets Old (by Austin creator Ben Snakepit!), and the Wild West Show anthology (signed by several of the artists and writers!). Oh, and I threw in a Dark Horse keychain for good measure. Most of these books were donated by pal Tina Brackins.


  • DC Showcase Presents collection, which you can see is a nice stack of goodness. One lucky person will get all of these books! We can thank SJ Mueller and DC Universe Online for this prize, as well as this next one. A collection of mini Wonder Woman bookmarks will come with this, too.



  • This is really, really great, and would be a fantastic addition to any comic book fan or gamer’s collection. As you might be able to tell, these are posters for the DC Universe Online MMO, signed by each member of the development team! These make for a very unique prize, and depending on the number of entries these might be split among two donors, or they might go to one entrant. Thanks again go to SJ Mueller and the dev team at DC Universe Online.

OK, people, hold on to your butts — this next prize is a big one.


  • Your eyes do not deceive you; that is a beautifully preserved Mego Hall of Justice! Generously donated by the inestimable Rob Kelly, this 1976 playset is gorgeous, and 99.9 percent complete (all that’s missing is the conference table accessory). It even includes the mini-catalog it originally came with for other Mego toys!The outer walls of the Hall of Justice feature images of Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman, Supergirl, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow. As you can see, it also comes in its original box, which is amazing.

Some other prizes that are also up for grabs (but not pictured):

  • A $20 gift certificate for Half-Price Books
  • Marvel Visionaries: Stan Lee (hardcover) and Spider-Man & The Human Torch hardcover (by Dan Slott and Ty Templeton)
  • A Star Wars-themed prize to be named at a later date (but believe me, it’s incredible)

I’ll update this post as soon as additional prizes become available. Remember to donate to one of the following organizations, and you’ll be entered to win one of these awesome prizes!

American Cancer Society

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

F*ck Cancer


Blue Romance: Wait, let’s see that again

Posted: February 14th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Aah … l’amour!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!