This is an old blog

June 4th, 2009

Be gentle with it.

For my up-to-date musings, you should visit Section 244!

A broken switch, the empty airwaves and a five-year habit

August 29th, 2008

Five years ago…

It’s my first day at a new job, working within a professional office cubicle instead of a greasy kitchen dishpit. I’m finally taking steps to move into the job path I always intended for myself and…I keep hearing music. It’s soft, faintly heard in the background, but recognizeable as top 40 hit material. Well, there are a lot of other desks in my area, it’s not my place to comment on others enjoying their radio.

It’s my second day at the job and it suddenly hits me - I’m the one playing the radio. The device in question lies to the left side of my desk. No one claims it as their property - the original owner may have left the company years ago, if the condition of the object bears witness. It seems that the on/off switch was broken off somehow so the other employees manipulated it by lowering the volume. Well then, I can enjoy this radio as though it were my own!

It’s been about two months. I’ve learned a lot about data entry, the importance of breaks and my threshold limit for Nickelback. I’m relocated to a new desk in the back corner. Not a proper cubicle, just the only clear space to fit a desk. I’m alone virtually all day. But the radio makes the move with me.

A few more days of Closure’s “Look Out Below” and I realize that I need to stop listening to top 40 music. I scan the dial. Classical music? That’ll do. I leave the dial at CBC Radio 2.


I’ve left the old job behind and it’s been nearly three years at my latest job, the actual career I had always sought. I still have the old radio - no one objected to my removing it from the office - it plays in my kitchen at home. Always CBC Radio 2. At work, internet radio grants me the same station.

But today might well be my last day as a CBC Radio 2 listener. The programming has changed a little since I began, with an insipid jazz program eliminating my interest in the evening shows. Starting next week, virtually all daytime classical music will be removed and replaced with contemporary sounds, primarily Canadian. Oh boy, maybe Nickelback! I’m enjoying the final day of classical music broadcasting; by this time next week, I probably won’t be listening to the radio at all.

In stores this week

August 27th, 2008

Get down to your local comics shop today to pick up a copy of the All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Vol.4, the latest entry in the current hardcover collection. I talked about it here.

And while you’re in the shop, be sure to get your free copy of Marvel: Your Universe, which features some neato handbook entries by yours truly. I talked about it here.

Immortal Iron Fist: The Origin of Danny Rand

August 19th, 2008

Over the past two years the Immortal Iron Fist has been one of the most consistently entertaining comic books published. This week sees the release of a one-shot, the Origin of Danny Rand:

THE STORY: Honor. Dedication. And above all, purity of heart. There have been sixty-six men and women to carry the mantle of THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST throughout the ages – men and women of great courage, valor, skill and sacrifice. Sixty-six men and women have stood between man and the unstoppable forces of evil, willing to give all they have to hold back the hordes. This is the story of Danny Rand, the Iron Fist of today – as told in THE BOOK OF THE IRON FIST! Raised in the otherworldly kingdom of K’un-Lun as an unparalleled martial artist, the Earth-born Rand mastered the ability to focus his spiritual energy into an impervious fist of iron. Now, as the costumed adventurer called Iron Fist, he fights with the fury of his ancestors and a hope for a better tomorrow! Experience the birth of a legend like never before is this special re-presentation of MARVEL PREMIERE #15-16 – featuring lush, fully rendered coloring and an all-new framing sequence by MATT FRACTION and KANO!
Rated T+…$3.99

It also features an Iron Fist biography written by me.

50 Things I Love About Comics

August 16th, 2008

I saw John Seavey running with this meme and thought I’d throw in a few myself.

  1. Steve Ditko
  2. Watchmen
  3. Rex Libris
  4. DP7
  5. Deadshot, a one-note Batman villain who was perfectly fine-tuned in John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad to a crazed suicidal hitman.
  6. Leiko Wu, perhaps the first sensitively-fashioned Asian woman in North American comics.
  7. The moment in the first Black Spectre story from Moon Knight where the Black Spectre is inspired to continue his plans by watching how a black widow spider feeds on its prey.
  8. All of the Weirdworld stories.
  9. Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction’s Immortal Iron Fist.
  10. Jack Kirby
  11. Superman: “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”
  12. Crisis on Infinite Earths, a line-wide crossover that’s actually rather good.
  13. Mark Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme
  14. Dr. Strange: “To Have Loved and Lost.”
  15. Understanding Comics
  16. Kurt Busiek’s Astro City: “The Nearness of You.”
  17. Maus
  18. Gail Simone’s Poke-Rhino!
  19. That in the Marvel Universe, Jack Kirby is literally God.
  20. “They sing no songs in Hel, nor do they celebrate heroes…for silent is that dismal realm and cheerless…but the story of the Gjallerbru and the god who defended it is whispered across the nine worlds…and when a new arrival asks about the one to whom even Hela bows her head…the answer is always the same… He stood alone at Gjallerbru…and that answer is enough.”
  21. The Dark Phoenix Saga
  22. John Byrne’s reimagining of Superman as a cosmic immigrant in Man of Steel.
  23. Bruce Timm’s many animated adaptations of the DC greats.
  24. Mark Gruenwald
  25. The Eternals
  26. Johnny Hiro
  27. G.I. Joe: “Silent Interlude”
  28. John Ostrander’s brilliant idea to transform the crippled Barbara Gordon into Oracle.
  29. “I’m the third Blue Beetle. And I know there will be a fourth. And a fifth. On and on. Some better. Some worse. But the story, the name, the hero? That’ll go on forever past me. Past us all. And I think that’s kind of cool.”
  30. Street Angel
  31. Action Philosophers!
  32. Ego, the Loving Planet
  33. That Dr. Mid-Nite is one of the only “doctor” heroes who actually practices medicine.
  34. Daredevil: “Born Again”
  35. The Interman
  36. Thor unwittingly crossing paths with his own grandfather.
  37. The great acronyms like AIM, SHIELD, LMD and MODOK up to ULTIMATUM, HAWK and AUTOFAC; not so much the self-aware parody acronyms of recent years.
  38. That moment during Infinity Gauntlet when every hero set against Thanos has fallen…except for Captain America.
  39. James Larner; “never before was a pawn so nobly fallen.”
  40. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe
  41. Quasar meeting the ghost of his atheist father, who refuses to believe in the afterlife and rationalizes his own existence.
  42. The Silver Surfer fights for Earth!
  43. Ambush Bug
  44. The original Armor Wars
  45. The Avengers “Mansion Siege” story.
  46. That when Larry Hama was permitted to kill off G.I. Joe characters in later issues he didn’t always play favorites.
  47. Planet Hulk
  48. Alan Davis’ Excalibur
  49. That Alfred Bester wrote the original Green Lantern oath.
  50. Hannibal King, who was a vampire detective long before the concept was rendered mundane.

Thirty years ago today…

August 14th, 2008

…Australian soap opera star Kate Ritchie was born.

Kate is best known as a founding cast member of the series Home and Away, in which she appeared from 1988 until this very year.

Oh yeah…also on this day 30 years ago: my birth.

In two weeks - Marvel: Your Universe

August 13th, 2008


My name isn’t there, but I’m a contributor to this book. Notice the free part? Now you can own one of my comics without paying money…or waiting for me to bestow a comp on you. Marvel has more details in their press release.

The Faith of Mark Gruenwald

August 12th, 2008

In August of 2006 I journeyed to New York for the first time in my life, invited there by Peter Sanderson to attend the memorial being held for Mark Gruenwald. Two of my fellow writers from the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe - Mike and Anthony - accompanied me.

Many people took turns at the microphone, including Mike. Near the end, Gruenwald’s widow Catherine read from a notebook Gruenwald had written more than ten years before his death which concerned his thoughts on the afterlife.

I thought I was already familiar with Gruenwald’s take on matters of spirituality. Two of Gruenwald’s favorite characters - Wendell Vaughn, the heroic Quasar and Dave Landers of DP7 - were both atheist. In spite of our differences in belief, I had at least admired Gruenwald for being open-minded, such as his treatment of exorcism in DP7#5 (which was where Dave’s atheism was revealed - but at the same time as fellow cast member Randy’s Catholicism). There was also an amusing bit in Quasar#22 where Wendell was visited by the ghost of his father, also an atheist; still a staunch non-believer, his father’s ghost refused to accept his own existence and offered his son a rationalization for his manifestation.

Because of this background I was a little surprised by what Gruenwald had written in his notebook: in there, he expressed his belief in a creator. Not necessarily God, not even something he recognized as a deity, but a creator. This, for me, was exciting; the suggestion that Gruenwald was perhaps more agnostic than atheist comforted me and explained to me his open-mindedness.

Mike drove me to my hotel that evening. As we reminisced over the night’s events, Gruenwald’s spirituality came up. Mike, a Christian, was taken aback by what he had learned, being unaware of the atheist themes in Gruenwald’s work. As we pondered the life of a man whom we had both admired, one of us found new fondness for him; the other, less.

What Gruenwald is to me

August 12th, 2008

Mark Gruenwald had already been a writer/editor for many years by the time I read my first Gruenwald story: 1989’s Captain America#355, the first chapter of the now-reviled “Teencap” story in which Captain America was temporarily transformed into a teenager so that he could infiltrate a youth indoctrination camp. Although this story is often wielded as an indictment against Gruenwald’s abilities it made an impression on my eleven year old psyche, one that kept me close by through to the end of Gruenwald’s tenure on Captain America in 1995.

Over time, I explored more of Gruenwald’s work; DP7 made a profound impact on me; Squadron Supreme was hard-hitting for its time; Quasar had a sense of wonder and intelligence; the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe was a gift, the greatest comic book reference tool I had ever encountered.

But it was in the pages of Marvel Age magazine that I really grew to know the Gru. His regular column “Mark’s Remarks” (born first in the letter pages of titles he edited) exposed the business of comic books to me in a straight-up no-nonsense way. Not only did he expound upon what he expected from a good comic book, he explained the language and techniques of comics in a way an outsider like me could appreciate. He also let in the occasional glimpse of his true self, his sense of humour and devotion to his loved ones. Gruenwald was the one man in the comics industry who I completely respected.

I wasn’t reading comics when he died; the news reached me months afterward in an off-hand manner. I’ve celebrated his legacy on many August 12ths since then, even joining his friends in New York for the 10 year memorial. Still, it bothers me that I never finished a letter I began writing to him when I was fifteen. I think it remains stashed away in a notebook somewhere.

In the 100th issue of Marvel Age, Gruenwald wrote a list of 100 thoughts. I committed many of them to memory within a week and still bring them forth from time to time. They aren’t only about art - they’re about life. Gruenwald’s life is over, but his art will endure for ages to come.

12 years ago today…

August 12th, 2008

…Mark Gruenwald passed away, well before his time.

For many years now I’ve hosted an online collection of his Mark’s Remarks columns at my geocities site, which you can find here. Interest in Gruenwald seems particularly strong on the internet this year as Tom Brevoort, Blog @ Newsarama and Comics Should be Good have all been linking to my site. Kudos, guys!

I’ll have more to blog about Gruenwald as the day develops. I might even find the time to transcribe some more Mark’s Remarks for the site.

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