This way madness lies.

Today's sign that not only is the Apocalypse coming, but that it might not be such a bad idea after all:

I realize this is probably the next logical step beyond the current kid-friendly "Spider-Man & Friends" line of products, which I do have to admit a certain begrudging liking for (if only because it means I can buy age-appropriate Spidey toys for the boy), but I can't help but think this is taking things too far. Infantizing known characters worked, I think, exactly once: Muppet Babies*, which was not only the first visitor to this particular concept well, but also had the added benefit of actually being pretty fun. Everything else just seems like a cheap knock-off. I mean, have you ever seen Baby Looney Tunes? Yeesh.

In the interest of full disclosure, though, I have to admit that the image of Baby Wolvie stalking the ladybug is kind of funny. I am suitably ashamed.

Read about this and other potential abominations before the Lord (including Baby Stooges) here.

Hey, Juliana Hatfield has more of her Honor System Downloads available on her web site. The new songs are mostly demos and alternate versions of her solo work, but there are a couple of Some Girls (her band with Freda Love and Heidi Gluck) demos in there, too. Download, listen, enjoy, and pay so that she'll continue to put up more songs.

On a related note, I feel compelled to tell you that the new Some Girls album, Crushing Love, is really good and well worth your music dollar. Go and buy it now. Now, I tell you!

Looks like I'm not the only comics blogger with the urge to purge - Scipio has been cleaning house, too, and explains the philosophy behind the decision better than I could (though I'd have left out the comparisons to Clean House, but that's just me). I'm right there with him on this - when you've got a toddler in the house, space and money become hot commodities, and this helps with both. Also, as I've said many, many times before, we hate where we live and hope to move, and have no interest in taking a lot of this stuff with us (hint, hint). Also also, and I'm sure Erin will love this part, I've come to realize that I'm never going to read a lot of this stuff again, so why not pass it on to someone who will and make a little cash on the side? I mean, yes, obviously there's stuff I'll keep forever - for instance, you'll get my precious few Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four issues when you pry them from my cold, dead hands - but a lot of this stuff is surprisingly easy to part with.

*Well, twice if you count Tiny Toon Adventures, but I don't, because I think that: A.) it used new characters inspired by old characters, not baby versions of the originals; and B.) it was genuinely clever and funny most days, and we never would've gotten Animaniacs without it, so we owe it a huge debt of gratitude.


My mind was blown today.

I was in line at the post office, and the woman behind me has this little baby boy in her arms. The baby smiles at me, so I make Patented Goofy Face That'll Make a Baby Smile #414 (you know the one), and yup, he smiles, so the woman and I make polite conversation, and I eventually ask the little tyke's name. It was...

wait for it...

Dionysus. As in "Greek Good of Wine and Revelry." As in orgies with nymphs and satyrs. That Dionysus. And as it turns out, the kid's named for his grandfather. Hot damn! Not everyday you meet a real live demi-god. At the post office, no less! Who knew?

(And while I realize that the kid's grandpa probably wasn't the Dionysus - because what would that guy be doing in Rhode Island, anyway, especially after the Jazz Festival already left town - I prefer to think that he was, because it makes for a better story and frankly, my life could use some better stories.)

(I also can't help but think this kid's friends are gonna be sorely disappointed if he doesn't throw some truly bitchin' parties in high school. "Dude, whaddaya mean no orgies?!? Lame!")

(Yes, I realize that high school kids probably don't talk like that anymore.)

(I also realize I type in entirely too many parentheticals. Don't you judge me!)

My mind was blown, so I figure it's time I return the favor to the world.


(from Magic Boy #2, Primata Comix, Lisbon, Portugal)

Revel in the splendor. And be thankful I didn't post the page of him peeing, though that would've probably gotten more hits. The sacrifices I make to keep this thing vaguely work safe.

Why yes, I do have more eBay auctions going right now. Thanks for asking!

Come on, you know you want a copy of The Superhero Women. Or a buttload of Secret Origins back issues. Maybe even a Thundercats lunchbox.

In case you were wondering, Blogger's spellcheck suggestion for "Kochalka" is "Socialize." If we can figure out the hidden meaning there, we probably have too much time on our hands.


So Joss Whedon made a list of his favorite 25 TV characters ever in no particular order. I was bored, so I did the same thing. My list probably doesn't seem as exciting, because I'm not a TV/film writer/producer with a frighteningly dedicated cult audience, but I'm sharing my list anyway, which is also in no particular order. Enjoy.

  1. The Doctor (Doctor Who) - All of them, really, but if I had to pick a specific one, it's a toss up between Patrick Troughton, Tom Baker, and Christopher Eccleston.
  2. Emma Peel (The Avengers) - Brains, beauty, sophistication, wicked sense of humor, looks good in a catsuit and can blow shit up. Honestly, she's the perfect woman.
  3. The Fonz (Happy Days) - C'mon, who doesn't dig the Fonz? He's practically a real-life superhero!
  4. Bill Haverchuck (Freaks & Geeks) - I pretty much was this kid growing up. Probably still am.
  5. Jaye Tyler (Wonderfalls) - I can relate to her cynicism and lack of clearly-defined life goals. Also incredibly cute.
  6. Benson DuBois (Soap, Benson) - Never really figured out how one goes from butler to Lt. Governor, but he made the ride seem convincing. Also, kind of a real prick to just about everyone and doesn't care who knows it.
  7. Number 6 (The Prisoner) - You have to admire the guy's fortitude. Also, it's interesting to see a TV hero who's actually on the losing side of things as often as he wins in the end.
  8. Rupert Giles (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) - Kick-ass library folk, represent!
  9. Kelly Garrett (Charlie's Angels) - Well, her or Kris. They were always my two favorites. I wholeheartedly admit that this choice is based more on attractiveness than actual merit. I honestly don't care.
  10. Grover (Sesame Street) - Television's greatest unsung comedic genius. Go rewatch the "Near and Far" clip if you don't believe me. I'm sure it's on YouTube somewhere.
  11. Maxwell Smart, Agent 86 (Get Smart) - It wasn't his incompetence that made him funny, it was that he had no idea he was incompetent.
  12. Julio Mendez (The Flash) - No reason. Alex Desert always seemed really cool.
  13. Dr. Perry Cox (Scrubs) - As well-formed and complex a character as I can ever remember seeing on a sitcom.
  14. Ted Baxter (The Mary Tyler Moore Show) - See my explanation for Maxwell Smart.
  15. Crewman Specialist Cally (Battlestar Galactica) - I think Laura Roslin may actually be a better character, but I think Cally's really cute. Again, not caring.
  16. Alice Nelson (The Brady Bunch) - Kept The Brady Bunch from becoming too sappy and earnest. Much needed comedy relief there.
  17. The Question (Justice League Unlimited) - I liked how his characterization clashed with the rest of the League, but they still kept him around because they couldn't argue with his results.
  18. Willow Rosenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) - Probably had the best-realized character arc of the entire series. Also, again with the cuteness.
  19. Artie, the Strongest Man in the World (The Adventures of Pete & Pete) - The episode where he's forced to leave the younger Pete behind? Heartbreaking.
  20. Mel the Dog (Jack's Big Music Show) - Who wouldn't want a dog like Mel?
  21. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek TNG) - Patrick Stewart is just damn cool. Also, significant character growth over the course of the series. The guy who sits down to the poker table at the end of "All Good Things..." is much different than the guy we meet in "Encounter at Farpoint."
  22. The Riddler (Batman) - Frank Gorshin only, though. I didn't like the John Astin version)
  23. Lorne (Angel) - Every ensemble needs a song and dance man.
  24. Captain Jim Brass (CSI) - Every list needs one grizzled cop character. He's mine.
  25. Barbara Cooper (One Day at a Time) - Probably the most uncomfortable sitcom ever (all that yelling!), but once upon a time, Valerie Bertinelli was the Roman Goddess of TV Cuteness, so I am compelled to include her here.

A place for my (old) stuff.

So as I've mentioned before in the many posts where I shill for my eBay auctions, we've been trying to get rid of stuff around the house because we'd like to move at some point in the not-too-distant future* and don't want to have to bring everything with us. We have a lot of stuff. A whole damn lot, in fact. This was the case even before we had the kid, so you can only imagine how much the situation has ballooned since then. I used to have a roommate in college who prided himself on being a minimalist, and he'd talk to whoever would listen (and occasionally, those who wouldn't) about how great it was to have so little stuff weighing down his life. At the time, I kinda wished he'd stop talking about it all the time, but now I kind of have to admit he had a point.

Recently, we kicked off Phase 2 of the de-stuffafying plan and combed the house for items we don't need, never use, and/or are just taking up excess space. And it's funny, because even though Erin and I are generally the sorts of people who love the things we own, it's amazing how many of the things you "just can't live without" you can actually, well, live without, once you're in the culling mood. Well-loved but used twice (maybe) kitchen gadgetry? Gone! DVDs and movies we could've swore that we legitimately needed once upon a time? See ya! Erin's many bags and purses and things? Weeded out! The vaunted Pez collection? Pared down significantly! CD collection... you are cut in half, possibly even more! Goodbye, Zip drive that I no longer have the connecting cables or even disks for anymore! So long, large number of books read once (maybe), never to be opened again! May you and so much more bring joy to either new owners or some landfill somewhere, whatever the case may be.

Most everything that didn't get outright tossed is currently sitting in boxes out on the sunporch, awaiting a yard sale we hope to have a few weekends from now (of course, this means we can't currently get to 4/5ths of the sunporch, but oh well), and if it doesn't sell then, off to the Salvation Army it goes. Other stuff we've earmarked for eBay, because you never know the sort of random crap people will buy on eBay. We'd probably eBay** an even larger percentage of stuff than we already are, but honestly, it's kind of a pain in any vast quantity. I totally understand now how people can start businesses based solely on eBaying other people's stuff. As for the books, we've listed a lot of them on Amazon, and they've been selling pretty well there. And the best part of that is, they don't charge a listing fee, and you can take stuff down whenever you want, so if we sell it through Amazon, great, and if we can yard sale it, that's good, too.

The whole process has been pretty liberating, and a lot more fun than I had initially anticipated. The only downside is that for as much crap as we're getting rid of, there's still a whole lot of stuff we're actually keeping and will eventually have to move. Bleh.

If you ever move into a largish place and wonder how you're ever going to fill all that open space, just stop wondering. Unless you make a concentrated effort to do otherwise, you'll find yourself filling it just fine, possibly even unintentionally. It's getting rid of all that excess you're going to have to worry about eventually.

*Next Sunday A.D. would be ideal, but obviously, that ain't gonna happen.
**Yeah, I'm using "eBay" as a verb. Sue me.

Corrected misconceptions and some not-uncalled-for pleading.

Got an email via MySpace the other day from Ed the Sock (A.K.A. Steven Kerzner), which I believe makes me the first person in family to ever receive correspondence from a puppet. My mom will be so proud. Anyway, Ed/Steven thanked me for the mention in my Chicago wrap-up post, but wanted to let me know that they weren’t as bored as I thought they appeared, but more likely taking advantage of a lull. He said their placement in Artists Alley was actually quite ideal, and that they were pretty busy the entire weekend. I was really happy to hear this, seeing as I thought both he and Liana K. were very down to Earth and incredibly friendly and approachable, and I was sort of perplexed why they weren’t being mobbed. Turns out that my perception was a bit off – not an unusual occurrence by any means, just ask Erin – but for once, that’s probably a good thing.

I went to a local comics & collectibles show in North Attleboro, MA, on Sunday. It may seem like comics overkill so soon after Chi-town, and it probably was, but I miss a lot of these shows since I usually work on Sundays, and United Airlines made damn sure I couldn’t look around much at Wizard World, so it was nice to have both the opportunity and the time to browse through the bins. And I found some good stuff, but that’s not the point of this particular story. Instead, the point is this: stench.

It should come as a shock to no one that you can expect a certain amount of body odor at a comic show of any size. In fact, whenever someone writes up an article of show etiquette, hygiene concerns are inevitably at the top of the list. But, as anyone who has ever been to one of these things can tell you, these pleas usually fall on deaf ears (or blind eyes, as the case may be). And that tends to suck, but you learn to deal with it.

But wow, this show I went to Sunday... some people there smelled incredibly bad, even by comic show standards. And that, friends, is saying something. Maybe it’s because it was a muggy day, maybe it’s because the North Attleboro Knights of Columbus Hall is small and has no air conditioning, I don’t know. All I do know is that the usual Comic Show Funk had come out to play, and it brought its entire family with it. We’re talking near-Seinfeldian levels of B.O. here. One guy in particular smelled so bad it actually drove me away from the table I was looking at; I’d try to move a little, maybe put someone in between him and I, and he’d just keep sidling up next to me. Horrifying.

So please, all you Fanboys of Unusual Stink (F.O.U.S.) out there, I’d just like to remind you that they’ve made some particularly impressive leaps and bounds in the field of soap technology in the past twenty years, and it’s really worthwhile to check it out. Thanks.

(The above plea is just as applicable to white kids with dreadlocks, by the way. Dreaded blonde hair doesn’t look cool, it just looks filthy. For the love of God, bathe, Trust Fund Hippies!)

More shilling, more swag

As mentioned earlier, we've started to put some household items up on eBay as well, so if you're looking for stainless steel baby flatware, a Pooh silver-plated baby dish set, an unused flowergirl basket for a wedding, a collectible paperweight celebrating the 100th anniversary of Maine's largest daily newspaper, or a porcelain doll in traditional Irish costume, click here to check 'em out.

Seriously, buy this stuff. And the comics stuff that I posted earlier. But please, somebody, anybody, please take the porcelain doll off our hands. Those things creep me right the hell out.

More talk about books I got in Chicago, but briefer this time, since I wanna go to bed.

Felt: True Tales of Underground Hip Hop - It's by Jim Mahfood, so I kind of liked it, but I probably would've felt more strongly about it if I actually liked more than three or four hip hop acts. If a copy of Felt's album found it's way to me for freebies, I'd give it a spin based on this book, though (Ryder, do you have this?). So maybe that's something.

Atomika: God is Red #1 - I picked this up because the creator, Sal Abbinanti, is a frequent guest on the Comic Geek Speak podcast, a really funny guy (just as much in person, I was pleased to find out), and interestingly enough, Alex Ross's model for Captain Marvel. I see where he's going with the story, which is about the rise of some sort of 20th century technology god in the USSR, but I don't think I'm the audience for this book. Sorry, Uncle Sal. The artwork is interesting, though, and the cover by Ross is one of the best images by him I've seen in some time, so it's still worth a look. Your mileage may vary, you know?

Highlander 0 - Ten years ago, I would've loved to have seen a Highlander comic. Now, all I can really say is that ten years ago, I would've loved to have seen a Highlander comic. Plus, between the the movies of varying quality and the TV series, Highlander continuity is as hard to decipher as that of any superhero comic you can name, so I'm not even gonna guess where this fits in. In the end, it's pretty good, I guess, but so what?

Scar Tissue 1-4 - Interesting story concept here: transplant patient receives a super-villain's heart and gains the powers of said villain as a result (the villain's soul seems to be riding shotgun in the guy's brain now, too). And the story plays out pretty well, too. Despite initial plans to conclude in 4 issues, they ended up spilling over into a fifth, which is coming out soon. A little offputting at first, since I thought I was getting the whole series, but I'm glad they did that rather than try and jam an unsatisfying and rushed ending into the fourth issue.

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man 9 - Didn't get this in Chicago, but I'd just like to say that this was the best Spider-Man comic I've read in a very long time. It's a Saturday morning cartoon on paper - Spidey tries to stop Dr. Doom from frying the FF (and most of NYC) with a giant flying magnifying glass - but it works. In fact, that's probably why it works. It's light, it's refreshingly angst-free, and it's fun. Remember fun Spider-Man comics? They used to make those back in the day. It reminds me of when The Batman Adventures was the best Batman book being published. I'll definitely be checking out more of this series.

And that's pretty much it, aside from stuff I'm forgetting, stuff that I didn't feel strongly enough about either way to feel like mentioning, and some trade paperbacks and original graphic novels. I'll get to those some other time. Or not. Probably Spiral Bound, at least. That deserves some typing about. But now, time for go to bed. Mind picking up before you leave? Thanks.

Shilling and some thoughts on Chicago swag.

More eBayables, from my house to yours! Support the "Bill and Erin Eventually Wanna Move and Don't Want to Have to Take This Stuff With Them" Fund!

We're getting ready to enter the second phase of our eBaying, where we start to put up assorted household kitsch and baby items we received but never used, and in many cases never completely opened. I'll post links to those when they go up, in case anyone wants more than just my old comics-related ephemera cluttering up their homes.

The cool thing about not being able to cart as much stuff home from a con as you usually would is that you're actually able to read it in a reasonable amount of time. So I've got that going for me, which is nice. Here are thoughts on some of what I've read so far:

The Monkeynauts and Why We Call Them Robots by Sarah Becan - I picked these mini-comics up because they featured monkeys and robots (I'm not made of stone, people), and lo and behold, I actually learned something. The former documents the history of America's simian space pioneers (as allegedly reported by another monkey named Bombo), and the latter, as I'm sure you can figure out based on the title, talks about the origin of the word and concept of "robot," and their basis in the work of Czech playwright Karel Capek. Well-drawn, well-written, and some very interesting subject matter I hadn't really encountered before. Recommended. More info on these and other comics by Becan at her site,

Save Spidey
, Snakepit, and A Freebie I Forget The Name Of, Sorry! (obviously not the real title) from Young American Comics - Save Spidey is what happens when bored theme park caricature artists get ahold of some astonishingly terrible Spider-Man coloring books. Defacement antics ensue, and justifiably so, if that's the sort of officially licensed product Marvel's gonna let out the door. Snakepit is a quarterly collection of diary strips from Ben Snakepit. If you like that sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like. I can't remember the specific issue number, but it had a Jim Mahfood cover, and that's alright by me. The last one was my favorite of the three, which makes me even more mad that I can't remember the title. Anyway, it documents Tod and Corey Marie Parkhill's grand plan of a Young American Comics coast-to-coast 2006 con tour, and how it was doomed to failure before it ever started thanks to their ill-fated RV, the YACMobile. Fun stuff all. The first recommended to fans of toilet humor or people who hate Marvel, the second to people who enjoy diary strips like American Elf or Squarecat Comics, and the third to people with eyes who can read. More info on these comics and more can be found here.

Little White Mouse: Open Space 1-4
- As far as I can tell, this is the last LWM mini-series, and it says a lot about a story that I can read the ending, and then want to go back and read everything else, and then read this again. To quote Kang (or was it Kodos?), holy flurking shnit! This story - a girl trapped for a year on an abandoned space station (with two service robots and an android containing the brain patterns of her late sister) tries to make her way home - was all kinds of excellent. The manga-flavored art was handled well and really fit the tone of the story, which was familiar without ever becoming cliched. I had the chance to pick-up the LWM Omnibus when I was at Paul Sizer's table, and I'm now kicking myself that I didn't. I'll correct that situation as soon as money and availability allow. Not just the best thing I read among the stuff I picked up at the show (sorry, Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #88), but maybe the best thing I've read all year. Not sure what that says about either myself or current comics, seeing as this was released back on 2002, but oh well. Now I see what Johanna has been raving about for all these years. I should've listened sooner. More info on this and other projects at Paul Sizer's site.

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #88
- I'm not saying that this wasn't awesome, though. I mean, just look at the cover:

(Not my actual copy - image taken from The Grand Comic Book Database)

What's not to love? And yes, Superman really does ignore the problems of the world to dance the Krypton Crawl inside, and the reasons why are even a bit far-fetched for a Jimmy Olsen comic, but it's all kind of brilliant somehow. Let's just say that it wouldn't be out of place in an issue of All-Star Superman and leave it at that. I'll have whatever Mort Weisinger and company were having with a side of fries, thanks.

There's more to discuss, but that's all I'll do for now. It's getting close to lunch time, and there's food to be had out there somewhere.

Slowin' down a bit.

Summer grad classes have ended, and therefore library hours changed dramatically - from now until Labor Day, we're only open Monday through Friday until 4 p.m. Therefore, I get to work weekdays during normal business hours just like most of the rest of the world instead of my usual "dead of night" shift. I get to be a real live regular person again, for a few weeks, anyway. Woot! The line for the Happy Dance forms to my right.

So while I'm off experiencing weird things like actually being able to eat dinner with my family and having a weekend that consists of Saturday and Sunday, blogging will probably be a bit light for the next few weeks. Your lives will continue normally, I'm sure, and in time, you'll barely notice my lessened presence. Of course, I strongly suspect that most of you barely notice my normal presence as is, so I bet you'll all adjust quite nicely.

PS - How funny is it that Blogger's spell check doesn't recognize any form of the word blog? You'd think they'd look into fixing that.

"Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago" Day 2 - The Touristy Stuff

So yeah, day two of the Chicago trip. This one will be much shorter, since there are fewer anecdotes and I'm tired and don't want to type long. Lucky you!

Still on east coast time, we got up earlyish and grabbed croissants from the bakery in our hotel (French style hotel = tasty baked goods available for sale in the morning; a very good thing, indeed). The friendly airport shuttle driver lady had nothing better to do, so she drove us over to the Rosemont CTA stop so we wouldn't have to walk, which was cool, since walking is what we did for pretty much the rest of the day. We wandered around downtown for a little while, checking out the Marshall Fields building, that big sign in front of the Chicago Theater (and it was incredibly hard to resist the urge to recreate the end of the Perfect Strangers opening credits - where tux-clad Larry and Balki walk out of the subway, adjust their bow ties, and cross the street to head to, presumably, the opera at this very theater - but I did), and Erin looked around the Old Navy flagship store for a little bit, while I played with this wall-sized Simon-type game they had there. I got the high score. I kind of rule. We also wandered up to the very edge of the Magnificent Mile, where we found both a Lego Store and a Sanrio store - glee for us both, whoda thunk it? Erin bought a Hello Kitty notepad, and I bought a Batman minifig keychain, and we took copious pics of the various Lego structures in and around the area.

We made our way over to the Armitage area, near Lincoln Park, which is sort of the trendy, collegey area, I guess - sort of like the Thayer Street area in Providence, or any number of places in Boston, really. Ate lunch at a place called John Barleycorn's, which had tasty food and the most guy-centric TV programming I've ever seen - all the TVs were blaring ESPN, and several of them also had a little "picture-in-picture" window in the corner alternately showing women in bikinis and people jumping off of stuff. Good food, though - I recommend the rib tips.

From there, onto Wrigley Field for the Cubs game. Bought some Cubs stuff for ourselves and the fam, and since it was Hat Day, we got free Cubs home caps, too. Very excellent ballpark experience - great seats, nice weather, really excellent hot dogs, and the Cubs actually won. Admittedly, they were playing the Pirates, the worst team in the National League right now, but still.

Headed back to the hotel, got our stuff together and vamoosed. Uneventful flight home, except for the always enjoyable cabin pressure head decompression we both experienced as we began descent. Nothing like losing most of your hearing and feeling like your head's about to implode, huh?

Anyway, despite United's best attempt to derail everything on Friday morning, it was a great trip. And I learned a few things:
  1. Never fly United if you can at all help it.
  2. Most female independent comic book creators are apparently redheads, if the WWC Artist Alley is any indication.
  3. Goose Island Honker Ale - Silly name, awesome beer.
  4. Meat tastes better in Chicago. No, it's not all in my head... animal byproducts are just tastier in the Midwest. It's probably because the area is closer to the source and all, but I'm chalking it up to magic, because that's the sort of crazy shit I like to do.
  5. Lego Darth Vader is f'n metal:
(As is, apparently, the White Man's Overbite.)

PS - Here are our non-Wizard World-related Chicago pics, if you're interested.

Picture pages, picture pages

Aerith here, joined by her good friend Bespectacled Anakin Skywalker, would be ever so happy if you were inclined to check out the few pictures I took at Wizard World Chicago last Friday. I mean, come on, you're gonna say no to that face? Jeez, this girl's Cosplay-Fu is strong.

"Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago" Day 1 - The Nerdy Stuff

This post has nothing to do with either Soul Coughing or the solo career of frontman Mike Doughty. Sorry. I highly recommend you check out the music, though. Good stuff. Anyway, this is the inevitable "Bill and Erin's Chicago Trip Wrap-Up Post." I'm breaking it up into two parts, but even then, it'll still be long. You've been warned.

Friday - United Airlines thought it would be fun to delay our flight for four and a half hours. We disagreed wholeheartedly. It was all related to nasty weather in Chicago the night before, which is understandable, I guess, but it didn't make us like it a whole lot. Being stuck in airport is bad enough, but being stuck in your local airport is even worse, because you're left thinking of all the things you could have spent the morning doing instead. Plus, I hate to fly as is, so getting that much more time to sit and think about it made things even worse. We did finally get there, though, but obviously, plans had to change. Erin scrubbed her planned shopping trip on the Magnificent Mile in the city, and I was left with a scant three hours to squeeze in Wizard World Chicago. I wasn't about to give up any portion of our plans for Saturday in order to get in more Con time, nor was I in any mood to give Wizard another 25 clams. So I figured, hey, I did the Louvre in under 2 hours - including time for lunch - so this will be no problem. And I'm happy to report that you can do a major comic con in 3 hours; you pretty much have to run, though, and be prepared for the fact that while you'll be able to see everything, you can't really look at much. I had a good time, though, and squeezed a ton of stuff in, surprisingly. I'll bullet-point this to make it easier.

  • I met Chris Staros and Owly creator Andy Runton at the Top Shelf booth, and I picked up a copy of Spiral Bound there, as well as an Owly book that I picked up for Liam. I had Andy address it to Liam, and told him that this would be my son's first comic book, and he seemed really appreciative.
  • I've been a listener to the Comic Geek Speak podcast for almost a year now, and have been a poster on their forum for almost as long so it was great to meet a few of the folks from that show - trivia guru Peter Rios, Moon Knight fan extraordinaire Kevin Moyer, and mom-to-be Tasha Deemer. We talked comics (obviously) and travel nightmare stories for awhile, and I told Tasha about the wonders of the Microwave Steam Sterilizer. No new parent should be without one. Sterilize bottles the old-fashioned way for a few days, and you'll agree with me.
  • Talked Gumby for awhile with the publisher of Bob Burden's new Gumby book; I forget the guy's name now. Crap. Anyway, I told him how I loved the two Gumby books Burden did with Art Adams for Comico in the 80s, and he said those are being collected with some new Adams material somewhere down the line, which is great news indeed.
  • Shook Peter David's hand. I had nothing for him to sign, but I just wanted to tell him how much I enjoyed his work over the years, to which he replied "Wow! Thank you so much!" So, you know, I thought that was nice.
  • Paul Sizer, who does Little White Mouse, was giving away free copies of his latest LWM mini-series, as well as selling copies of Moped Army and the LWM omnibus. Took the freebies, bought nothing. I'm a bad person. Sorry, Paul. I told him I've been wanting to check out his work for awhile now, though, based on Johanna's glowing reviews in the past. So he pulls out this sketch he did for her - it's Johanna herself, wielding her giant hammer of snark. Awesome illustration - I hope she posts an image.
  • Speaking of awesome illustrations, I got an amazing Zatanna sketch from Jim Mahfood. I'll have to post an image later. I've been a big fan of Jim's since he did the Generation X Underground Special for Marvel and the Kevin Smith books for Oni, so getting a sketch from him was a huge deal for me. And he seemed like a very cool, laid-back guy to boot.
  • Randomly stumbled across Steven Kerzner, a.k.a Ed the Sock from Much Music and G4's "Ed's Night Party," along with his co-host and wife, Liana K, who was dressed as Poison Ivy. They seemed kind of bored - they were on the edge of Artists' Alley, and it didn't look like many people had come up to them. Too bad, as they were very nice, even when I seemed really stupid. See, they had their own comic, and it looked to have two covers, and I put one I was holding back to get the cover I liked better. Ed (even when there's no puppet involved, I can't help but think of him as anything but Ed the Sock) tells me that they're the same book. I explain how I'm used to variant covers and everything, and he then flips the book over to show me that it is literally the same book, one cover on the front, one on the back. I felt kinda dumb, but I'm used to that; I'm reasonably book smart, but the real world frightens and confuses me most days. Anyway, I asked to get a picture - meaning I was hoping to get a picture of Ed and Liana - but the next thing I know Ed has my camera, and Liana stands up to put her arm around me. I'm not usually the type to get my picture with comic con ladies, but rejecting a beautiful redheaded Canadian/extended cable TV personality - who has a cute accent and is dressed as Poison Ivy, to boot - just seemed like the height of rudeness to me. Who's with me on this?
  • Fun costumey stuff - I saw two couples (I'm assuming they were couples, anyway) in really awesome costumes. One pair dressed as Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, and the others, two young teens, were dressed as Anakin Skywalker and Aerith from Final Fantasy VII. When I got a picture of the latter two, the Aerith-girl smiled very sweetly and gave me a plastic flower from her basket. Astoundingly cute moment, and I saved the flower for Erin, because I'm cool like that. Also saw the inevitable stormtroopers, and I finally asked one the question I've always wanted to ask those guys - just how many people in a given day ask 'em about the droids they're looking for. He told me that only one person had asked him that on Friday, and we both decided we were proud of Geekdom for its restraint.
  • Only really picked up a few trades, some indy books in Artists' Alley, two sketches (the Mahfood one and one by Atomika creator Sal Abbinanti), and one back issue (which, admittedly, I was pretty psyched to find for cheap).

There were a few other folks I met, but I'm suffering from Vacation Hangover and airplane-clogged ears at the moment, so I'm drawing a blank on the rest. Sorry, folks I left out, if you're out there. I'm sure I'll type about your books after I read them.

Anyway, the amazing thing about all this is that as much as it seems like I crammed in based on the above, there was so much more I missed. I wanted to meet the Mouse Guard guy and pick up a couple of issues, but the booth was crowded when I got there, and I never got the chance to go back. I breezed through the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and ACTOR booths, but didn't really have the time to buy anything to support their causes. Found a couple of cool books at the In-Stock Trades pavillion (it was so much more than just a booth - great job there, guys!), but didn't get to look around much. Stopped at the ALA booth, but only had time to grab some bookmarks and talk for a minute with the woman there about how librarians are really weird.

Some other Comic Geek Speak listeners were gonna meet up for food and drinks later, but after a day spent waiting and waiting and waiting, followed up by a real "hurry up and have fun" experience, I was pretty wiped, so Erin and I went down the street to Gibson's steak house, where I had one of the bigger ribeye sammiches I've ever had in my life and a tasty local beer called Goose Island Honker Ale, as well as half of Erin's chicken sandwich. We went back to the hotel, took some showers, collapsed in a heap, and fell asleep about 9, which our bodies, still on Eastern time, interpreted as 10, but might as well have been 11 million o'clock.

Day 2 details to follow soon. Though probably less detailed, because this was sort of tiring to write, thanks to Vacation Hangover (day after full-body craptacular feelings caused by travel instead of sweet, sweet booze). Can you have less-detailed details? There'll also be some pictures at some point, too, I'm sure.

Bits and Pieces of Things and Stuff

Finished Jpod, and on the whole, I liked it. I think. My earlier assessment of it essentially being the Bizarro World version of Microserfs was right on the money. In that book, the characters talk about Melrose Place, and how that in lieu of actual character development, the people on the show would just go completely insane at random intervals; as a joke, they talk about living their lives like Melrose characters, each getting their own shot to go "random," as they called it. Well, that's more or less what happens in Jpod. The characters in this book all seem more or less normal one minute, and the next someone is helping to bury a body, or is kidnapped and sold to slavery in China. And I think the Melrosiness here is intentional, as at one point in the novel Coupland calls attention to how the setting of MP is at least superficially similar to one of his earlier books, Generation X.

Oh yeah, Coupland does just have the characters refer to him in the book, he's actually a recurring character. I should hate that, but it's such an exaggerated version of himself (one would hope, otherwise he's a total bastard in real life) that it kind of works, the way you never really minded when Stan Lee would write himself into a Marvel comic, because while it is incredibly narcissistic, at least the "character" is interesting.

It does have it's problems, though - the pages and pages of random words in different font sizes were annoying in Microserfs, and they're even moreso now, even if they're probably calculated to be that way. Also, he wastes 20 pages listing digits of Pi, and after a paragraph's worth of story, lists another 20 pages of another random number sequence. But on the plus side, I suppose, this all makes it a quicker read, since there are large sections you can completely skip and not feel bad about it in the slightest.

So in the end, maybe not a good book, but a strangely compelling one. I'll take it.

Now I'm reading Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live. Twenty pages in and I already dig it. A lot. I don't think I'm one of those people who wants to be Chuck Klosterman, but I'd take his job, his talent, his hip-without-really-trying-to-be-hip attitude, his book contract, his CD collection... okay, fuck it, I want to be Chuck Klosterman. But, obviously, Erin and Liam can come along for the ride. And I'd skip the drugs. So maybe I'd actually just settle for "Me, but a little more cool?" I dunno. Let's just move on.

The big news around the comics water cooler at the moment is that Claypool Comics is more or less shutting down. I'm of two minds on this story. On the one hand, I hate to see any publisher go under, because it's bad for the fans of the books, it's bad for the creators of the books, and it's bad for the industry as a whole. It's also pretty terrible that this company was driven out of the game not by its own actions, for the most part, but by those of its distributor, good ol' Diamond (which will one day receive its payback, I'm sure; not soon, but someday), whose raise of the minimum order numbers a few months back put a number of small publishers on death watch.

On the other hand, in all the years I've been collecting comics, the only Claypool book I've ever seen on any store shelf ever was this year's Free Comic Book Day issue.* Admittedly, I was never looking for any of their stuff, but still, it's weird not to remember ever seeing a single issue even in passing. I've read that their sales numbers were ultra, ultra low, and that in 14 years of publishing, they cracked the Top 300 maybe 10 times or less. So while it's sad that they have to go under, it's kind of amazing they were able to last as long as they did, don't you think? If there's a silver lining, it's that.

Lastly, if you see this guy at Wizard World Chicago on Friday...

please refrain from reminding him that his head is large and unusually ovular, that his face is puffy, that his haircut is kind of lame, that his shirts rarely seem to hang right, or even that he sounds vaguely like a Muppet. Bear in mind that he will have just gotten off an airplane a little while earlier and that he'll be wandering around in a large crowd like a lost puppy, and that if there's two things he hates, it's airplanes and large crowds (the jury's still out on lost puppies). Take him aside, offer him something to drink, maybe a cookie or a slice of pie, and assure him that yes, everything will, in fact, be alright.

*And in the interest of full disclosure, I read this, and really didn't like it one bit. If this was supposed to get me to want to buy Claypool books, it didn't do a very good job of it.