It’s here

In case you missed it, The ABCs of Dinkology: Death has arrived. Go get you some of the third installment in my series about the trials and tribulations of young Max Dinkman. It’s a pretty crazy story. I think you might like it. It’s got amazing art by David Ravenberg and a fair good piece of storytelling by . . . me. Oh, and I’d be grateful if you’d write a review after you read . . . but only a good review. Bad reviews are for the birds.

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Batdance

When I was a kid I was one of Prince’s more casual fans. It wasn’t that I disliked his music. Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I did, in fact, love it. Hell, for better or worse, “Raspberry Beret,” “Peach,” “Little Red Corvette,” and “Kiss” basically helped me form my idea of the ideal woman. Truth be told, in more recent times, this image might have had something to do with it too:

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If that looks familiar, it should because:

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I know. It confuses my sexuality in all the right ways. And don’t even get me started on what some of Prince’s New Power Generation stuff taught me . . . .

Anyway.

In 1989 I hadn’t been quite so schooled in my own preferences yet. I didn’t own any of Prince’s tapes or records or anything like that. I just listened to his songs when they came on the radio or watched his videos when they popped up on MTV.

It was a different time, kiddos.

On June 23rd of that year, my casual relationship with Prince’s music changed as I sat in the theater at the premier of Tim Burton’s Batman. When I watched that movie as an 11-year-old impressionable comic book nerd I realized someone outside of comic books could take them seriously, could make them into something everyone enjoyed. At the time (and to this day) I thought everyone should enjoy comic books. I thought the superhero concept was far from an immature trope that should be relegated to adolescent boys’ bedrooms. Sure, people within the industry and fandom had thought this for ages. Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp ThingFrank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returnsand Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth are all 1980s releases that treat the superhero concept seriously. But Burton’s Batman was in beautiful celluloid, before my eyes, mainstream. The world at large was finally taking comic books seriously. Fast forward to 2016 and holy crap. Am I right?

Anyway.

Back to Prince who, rumor has it, basically created the soundtrack for Batman in, like, 10 minutes or something, after only watching half of the movie. And I loved that soundtrack, people. Hell, I still do. I don’t know what’s going on through most of it, but that doesn’t matter. It’s so funky! And check out the video for “Batdance”! What the hell is going on in it? It’s insane and . . .

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When I realized I loved it, I realized that not spending my hard-earned cash on more Prince music was an egregious error. I wasn’t purchasing his work because it was outside the scope of my world. I wasn’t getting out of my safe and familiar shell. Though I enjoyed it, I was doing to his music the same thing the world was doing to comic books.

I remedied that situation immediately and Prince’s music has been with me since.

 

The Pain We All Share

I, like most of America apparently, recently saw Guardians of the GalaxyFor the record, I loved it. I’m not going to review it here because, let’s be honest, it’s probably been reviewed a bajillion times (I’m using ‘bajillion’ as a scientific/mathematical term). Why would my review matter?

Instead, I’m going to explain my favorite scene in the film, the part that made Rocket Raccoon a star. Or, if it hasn’t yet, it damn well should.

Spoilers ahead.

I’m not sure at what point in the movie this occurs, but there comes a time when the Guardians are meshing as a team. It is a messy business. The mesh isn’t perfect. Through one event or another, they are allowed some down time between galaxy guarding. Drax gambles, Star-Lord and Gamora connect, Groot groots (I guess), and Rocket gets drunk. Then Rocket fights with whoever will fight with him. There is a bubbling anger in that adorable little guy. I’m no scientist or psychologist, but it stands to reason that when an angry guy gets drunk, he gets angrier. So, you know, the fighting doesn’t come as a surprise. What comes as a surprise is Rocket’s speechifying when Star-Lord breaks up the fight.

Picture it. Rocket, fuming with anger at perceived and/or real affronts to his person is standing before Star-Lord who is trying to calm the situation.

Star-Lord:

Rocket, you’re drunk alright? No one’s laughin’ at you.

Rocket:

He thinks I’m some stupid thing! He does! [points at Drax] Well, I didn’t ask to get made! I didn’t ask to be torn apart and put back together over and over and turned into some little monster! [begins to cry]

The conversation continues for a few lines and even veers off into something funny. But from that moment on, Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t quite as funny. It isn’t, frankly, quite as fun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun, but there is something somber behind that fun, something like growth . . . something like change. It’s as though in that one moment, with those few words, Rocket Raccoon forces everyone of his cohorts–and by proxy everyone in the theater–to grow up a little.

Rocket says he didn’t ask to get made. This indicates he is fully aware of his situation. He is fully aware that others think he is a monster, something different, something ‘less-than.’ He is fully aware of his place in the universe and when he’s just drunk enough, he can speak the sad, sad, truth of it. Why is this so important? Because Rocket is all of us, you guys. Deep down there are moments when we all feel unimaginably different from everyone else. We all struggle with connecting because the same great miracle that keeps us going also keeps us separate–our individuality, or rather our desire to simply be who we know we are meant to be. None of us ask to get made. None of us petition to be here on this plain of existence (as far as we know). All of us, at one time or another, suffer silently the clear loneliness Rocket offers in that one somber sentence: “I didn’t ask to get made.”

Like Rocket, there are some of us who feel that way all of the time. We hear the remarks, or, if we don’t hear them, we feel them. Or if they are not said, we can sense how others perceive us: as something so different it is to be looked down upon. To have a cartoon raccoon illustrate this empty and simultaneously disquieting feeling in pitiful, simple words, is almost too much for the lighthearted adventure, almost. But that’s the point where entertainment becomes art, that almost area. In other words, this statement alone turns a good movie into a great movie. This statement alone allows Guardians of the Galaxy to speak to us in a profound, artistic way. This statement alone indeed allows the film to call itself art.

Sure, Guardians of the Galaxy is a popcorn movie based on a sci-fi comic book about space adventurers. Sure, it’s brightly colored and bombastic. Sure, it isn’t realistic in any scientific sense. But you know what it is?

True.

People come together, despite their differences, all the time, and they do great things when this happens. Sadly, people also silently suffer for being nothing more than who they are all the time. When a silly space raccoon can say, so perfectly, “I didn’t ask to be made,” he is saying it for all of us because none of us asked to be made. None of us asked to be who we are. When the Guardians come together as a cohesive team after Rocket’s sublimely saddening line, their coming together is more profound, it’s more epic, and from a storytelling point of view, it is surely art.

When Rocket hollers this drunken epithet we should all listen and remember it for the next time we want to make fun of someone for being nothing more than who they are, or hurt someone because he is different, or, in fact, perceive someone as ‘less than’ when actually he is only different. After all, we’re all different and none of us asked to be made.

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Work

I have a good job. I’m a teacher. I teach creative writing and a class called video journalism which is kind of a misnomer because there isn’t a lot of “journalism” in the class. It is more like a film making and photography class (putting that language arts endorsement to good use there). I’m also the adviser for the video yearbook–wave of the future folks. It’s fun. Everyday something different happens. Everyday is a new experience. Everyday I don’t know what to expect. Yes, there are times when the happenings are not “fun” in the most commonly accepted sense of the term. However, those days are balanced out by days when I get “thank you” cards from 17 and 18-year-olds about to graduate. There are days when my students win awards for their films. There are days when I can talk a kid off the figurative ledge of a teenage breakdown. There are days when light bulbs go off. There are lots of good days.

I have a good job. I write a comic book. Sure, it isn’t a character I created. Sure, it isn’t a comic book that sells millions of copies. But it is a blast to write the monthly adventures of a time displaced goddess. How many writers get the okay from their editors to just “go crazy”? Writing Legend of Isis has given me time to exercise my creative juices. Plus, the critics seem to like it. Some of them really like it.

What I am getting at is that I don’t mean to complain. I interviewed for an adjunct position at Omaha Metro today and I think the interview went well. I’ll know in a few days. If I get it, I think I’ll like that job too.

Spider-Man

I am in a defeated state right now . . . a low point. The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts decided I wasn’t one of the lucky twenty-something artists to have a residency there this summer. I can’t seem to get an agent no matter how many letters I write or how many ways I write said letters. I’m writing a monthly comic book that sells enough copies to warrant the publisher continue to publish it . . . little more. I teach high school creative writing. I have an MFA and approximately $80,000 in unpaid student loans. I sense a crumbling wall of heavy machinery near me. Everything is about to fall and it will squash me.

But I will get back up, even after the tons of equipment straddle my back, even while I am lying prostrate in a puddle that is rapidly becoming a pond. I am like Spider-Man in the classic issue #33 by Steven Ditko and Stan Lee. While the machinery weighs heavy on my back, while the crushing knowledge that all I have done is very close to being for naught, I will push through it. I will remember why I do what I do and I will lift that machinery off my back for my family and friends, but most importantly for myself. And when that machinery is heaped in a harmless pile in the corner, whimpering like a beaten dog, I will shout, “I did it! I’m free!” and I will continue on down the road, always striving to make my life better.