Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Paranormal was so last year

I've blogged before about paranormal stuff, but I guess it's time to tell the stories of my own personal encounters of the unexplained.
I'll start with my ghost story.

I was living in an apartment above a coffee shop in Arlington
with a home recording studio set up in my bedroom
(what a great beginning, how cool am I?)
I was in the living room sitting on the couch watching the Nanny with some popcorn, soda, and my cat on my lap
(not so cool now am I)
suddenly there was the sound from my room of someone banging their fists up and down the keys of my keyboard at top volume.
My cat jumped off my lap, I spilled my popcorn and soda and I missed the punch line of one of the Nanny's jokes, all I know is that there was some misunderstanding about the sexual tension between the nanny and her boss.
I ran into my bedroom, just as I turned the corner, the sound stopped and there was no one there.

On another occasion it was my turn to take the trash out to the dumpster behind our building in the lot with no lamp at the bottom of the exorcist staircase.  I was putting the trash away and I had this funny feeling that there was someone behind me.  I turned around and I could have sworn that there was dude wearing some of old postal uniform, but I dismissed it as the heebie jeebies.

Sometimes in the middle of the night me and my room mate would here music coming from the attic.  One day we decided to take a look up there.  We found an old hand crank Victrola record player with a large brass speaker horn.  It was beautiful, before I could say anything my room mate gave it to this stupid girl that was with us that he had a crush on.  How cool would it have been to have had a haunted record player?

Later we learned that our building used to be the headquarters for the American Nazi Party and that the leader was killed on the front steps of the building (I saw a photo of him in an old newspaper clipping and he was wearing a Nazi uniform that looked like that postal dude by the trash) and that was all his junk in our attic, including a huge printing press.

Okay, so now the UFO story.
I was camping out in Middleburg with my group of goofy teens.  In the middle of the night I heard this sound that woke me up.  At first it seemed like some one driving up on a motorcycle but the sound got way louder than a motorcycle.  The sound itself was kind of like multiple pulsating frequencies.  

My first thought was, "are you kidding me with this crap?"

Second thought, 
"Who the hell is playing German Avant-electro at 3am... IN MIDDLEBURG?!?!?"

Third thought, 
"If this #$$ doesn't put a lid on it by the time I get my boots on, I'm smashing their face."
(I'm not very cheery when I've been woken up in the middle of the night by German techno)

I opened up the tent, the sound was coming from right above me.  It was as loud as a helicopter but there was no wind and I couldn't see anything... the sky was clear.  The noise moved off into the distance and I shrugged and went back to sleep.  Then next morning I asked the others if they heard that weird noise and they all said unenthusiastically, 'yea, that was weird'
I scratched my head and pondered deep questions like, 'how am I going to make coffee in a pot of water on a camp fire?'

That's it.  Kids today are not impressed by anything.  If it's a close encounter of the 2nd or 3rd kind, don't waste our time.  NOW 4TH OR 5TH KIND?, okay, now we can blog about something.  And I'm the same way.  Here I am talking about it and I'm a little bored.
That Nanny stuff was funny though.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Geek List

Okay, here's my comicy geeky list of 
Top Comics That I Love, 
that you don't have to read but I would think that you were cool if you did.

Exiles: With an Iron Fist by Judd Winick
Exiles is the one comic that had the most cool potential but was never allowed to bloom because of the almighty franchise driven mainstream publisher.
The idea is that there is a 'multiverse' filled with alternate versions of... everything!
And that some how some of these worlds have 'gone wrong' and certain individuals are 'unhinged' and recruited to restore the order either by defeating some 'big bad' or killing some innocent kid.
They could have done so many great things with remixed versions of super heroes and teaming them up to do all kinds of crazy things.  It was like an actual version of 'What If'.  What if guys like Ennis, Ellis, Morrison, or Bendis had been turned loose on this title?  It drives me crazy to think about the stories that could have been, but never were.  I guess what happened is that a cast of regular characters were used over and over again and like every other stupid mindless sucky money making property of the Marvel Corporation, nothing was allowed to happen to them, and if it did then they some how came back.

New X-Men: E is for Extinction by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
When these two guys get together wonderful magical things happen.  I'm told that none of Grant Morrison's ideas here are new and happened in the late 90's.  I say, who cares?  Their story telling sensibilities are off the chart, they avoid all the usual cliches.  Some action and drama is explicit and bizzare on the level of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Other times their story telling takes an H.G. Wells approach, showing only the aftermath of something crazy which sends your imagination into overdrive.  Quitely's sequences and panels are on the level of an Ennio Morricone picture.  I'm not screwing around here, buy everything by these guys.
All Star Superman art by Frank Quitely
JLA: Earth2 art by Frank Quitely

also by Morrison
Marvel Boy, art by JG Jones
Seven Soldiers art by JH Williams III
Arkham Asylum art by Dave McKean

Judge Dredd: Apocalypse War by John Wagner and Alan Grant
Judge Dredd is the first 'Dark Age' comic.  
(side note, comic eras like golden, silver and bronze age are distinguished on the timeline by clusters of common characteristics, of which there are always outliers of each type that are both ahead of their time and behind their time)
That whole angst 'Grim and Gritty' thing... that was the brits in 1977, at the peak of the Bronze age Dredd was the harbinger of the coming Dark age of comics.  Judge Dredd was published by 2oooAD comics, the house that allowed guys like Alan Moore and Garth Ennis to cut their teeth.  
Judge Dredd is a unfeeling merciless cop of a dark megalopolis in post-nuclear apocalyptic America.  He hates everyone, but especially criminals.  He also goes toe to toe with mutants, monsters, aliens and zombies.  He says things like, 'Drokk!' and 'Grud!' and 'Stub Gun! (as he's using his stub gun)'
Also check out 2000AD
and Marshal Law

Twisted Tales Horror Anthology by Pacific Comics
In 1982 Pacific Comics published the first issue of Twisted Tales, which might have been the first rated R horror comic to emerge out of the underground, where graphic comics hid since the 50s, to appear in the suburban racks of commercially distributed and marketed comics.
(but this is not my area of expertise, check out The Horror of it All for more information)
Twisted Tales was the perfect comic for a junior high punk rocker growing up in the mid-west.
It had sex and gore and no moral. It often featured awesome art by Richard Corben, Bernie Wrightson, Dave Stevens, and I want to say Mark Schultz, but now I don't think so.
Also from Pacific, Alien Worlds
If horror and sci-fi aren't your thing some other good small press stuff from the 80s:
Nexus, Mike Baron and  Steve Rude's vast epic.
Love and Rockets, Hernandez Brothers' post-punk/latino... indie thing turned drama.
Xenozoic Tales, Dinosaurs and 50's style futurism, awesome art - Mark Schultz
Rocketeer, Dave Stevens R.I.P.
American Flagg, it's weird, a lot of Howard Chaykin's stuff turned out to be true.
Grendel, Matt Wagner, it's better than it got credit for.
Miracleman, nuff said.
Flaming Carrot, uh, his head is a flaming carrot.
Usagi Yojimbo, Samurai epic with cute angry animals, way better than ninja turtles.

Supreme by J Michael Straczynski and Gary Frank
So this is like a modern day evil version of the Justice League.  
A nice small town couple find 'the boy who fell to Earth' (Superman, basically) but are intercepted and killed by the government to seize the alien and study it and exploit it for their own purposes.  It doesn't go well.

Hellboy by Mike Mignolia
I'm sure everyone knows Hellboy by now.  The movie was okay for what it was, but the comic is way better.  Super gothic art akin to the shadowy German noir of the 1920's.
Occult action.

League of Extraordinary Gentleman by Alan Moore and Kevin O'neil
Alan Moore is a great writer.  My pastor told me that it is better to be effective than original, and although it might be hard to believe, I actually agree with him.  But, Moore is both effective and original in a medium where writers are usually neither. 
I know some people hate Kevin O'neil's art... if you are one of those people then just don't talk to me.  I was a fan of O'neil since Nemesis the Warlock.  I've always like abstract artists like Sienkiewicz and McKean, but O'neil was just a little more comicy than those guys which was cool with me.
The League has nothing to do with that craptastic movie that came out.  Moore's League kill people and have sex... at the same time... not really... but kind of.  This is about a super hero team based on classic characters in the vein of Jules Vern, all of which are public domain. I guess on the one hand I love this because it proves that you can tell an awesome super hero comic that isn't a popular American franchise property.  And that some of those characters can die or go bad and you still have a great story.  Screw big media, buy this comic.
Also by Alan Moore
Swamp Thing are by Bissette, Totleben, and Veitch
Watchmen art by Dave Gibbons 

JLA: Obsidian Age by Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke
Um, this really isn't a great comic.  But I love it and I've read this story arc a million times.  The story kicks off in the fallout of one of those huge company wide events (Our Worlds at War) which I never read and probably never will read.  I gather that Aquaman used some kind of Atlantian magic to save the Earth from the aliens, but had to sacrifice the Atlantians to do it and turn them into air breathers and send them back in time... yea, I know that sounds dumb and I'm not even sure that that's what happened.  But Kelly sets up the Justice League to fight an ancient world version of themselves.  These 'Obsidian Age' heroes are just as powerful as the JLA and revered as heroes in their own setting, but completely devoid of anything that resembles modern ethics. In their time there is nothing wrong with collateral damage, slavery or human sacrifice.  Needless to say, they have a disagreement.

Also by Kelly and Mahnke
Action Comics: What's So Funny About Truth Justice and the American Way? (widely considered to be the best single comic ever made... not by me, I'm just saying)

X-man by Warren Ellis
Okay, there is this stupid generic X-mutant that was produced in the mid 90s and then Warren Ellis did awesome things with him.  He went from being a character with the lame factor of Cable and Bishop to the best X-mutant character in the Marvel U.  On Ellis' run he has elevated to a being that can 'walk the multiverse'  and has adventures that are as brutal as they are existential.  Once again, I'm not screwing around here, if you don't like this comic then you are an idiot... go play in your sandbox.
Art by Ariel Olivetti, he's another one that polarizes people.  I love his painted covers, but I can get overdosed on his painted interiors.  It's like too much sugar.

The Authority by Mark Millar
Hmm... this is hard to describe.  The heroes are actually the bad guys, but they don't come right out and say that.  In fact it is never even implied, but if you look at who they are and what they do and what they stand for... they are bad.  I think this comic is a satyr of something, but I'm not sure what.  
The Authority kind of resemble the Justice League, but they kill God, push around the President, dismantle dictatorships, have no accountability... and they are arrogant self-righteous (and yet morally empty) pricks. 
So, that said, it's a great comic.  Millar addresses some political and social justice issues in this titles.  I admire the effort and enjoy his story telling, but I don't agree with his politics.  I think he over simplifies things and misses the real villains is this country that grafts into his comics, but hey, that's why we have Johnathan Hickman.