Archive for June, 2008

30
Jun
08

Summer Love Chapter Three

THREE

Healing Hands

 

Stephanie and I met each other at the coffee shop again the next day, and every day that week, and by Friday I’d convinced her to go out with me that night, to an open-air restaurant. Even at night, I couldn’t convince her to go to a movie. Fortunately, it was a clear, beautiful evening, and between the full moon hanging in the sky and the gentle candle that would burn on our table, it was going to look like a picture postcard mailed straight in from the mythical land of Romantica.

Stephanie was living out of an extended stay hotel, and a pretty expensive one at that. I arrived to pick her up at 7:30 on the dot, and to my surprise, she was already ready to go when I knocked on the door.

“You look shocked,” she said, opening up and joining me in the hallway.

“I sort of am. Most every woman I’ve ever known seems to have a playbook telling her that keeping a guy waiting is the way to keep him interested.”

“I guess I wasn’t around when they handed out the playbook.”

I got a good look at her in the hallway, and I thought I’d have to mop up my chin. She was incredible. Not model-pretty, but her full figure had very nice proportions, hugged perfectly by her little black dress. Against her pale skin, encircling her perfect neck, was a white gold necklace with a heavy red ruby dangling from it, cradled happily between the generous swell at the top of her breasts. Her lips were painted the same blood-red as the ruby, and the combination of her complexion, raven hair, and scarlet mouth made me think of Snow White, only elevated from a mere fable to a genuine goddess. She gave off a faint, sweet smell of fruit, although I couldn’t place exactly what variety.

Was I in love yet? No. but by damn, I was in full-on lust.

“You… you look…”

“Oh no, did I overdress?”

“Oh, God no. I just left my thesaurus at home and I couldn’t come up with enough synonyms for ‘fantastic’.”

She smiled with her mouth, which anyone can do, but she also smiled with her eyes, and that’s a lot harder to fake. But there was something behind her eyes, too, a kind of sadness. Like her smell, it was some time before I could place it – about the same amount of time as it took for me to really understand her.

No, that’s not fair. I understood her very quickly. It was just a long time before I knew her.

“You’re so sweet,” she said. “What’s wrong with all those girls your brother was talking about?”

“Fools,” I said. “Poor, misguided fools.”

“Clearly. So, where are we going?”

I took her down to my favorite Italian place (that pudge in my Superman sketch was not unearned) and requested a table on the patio. I was a little nervous, because the forecast that morning had called for light rain, but we couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous night. We shared a bottle of red wine, and we decided to split an enormous helping of the restaurant’s signature lasagna. I didn’t have the foggiest notion if you were supposed to drink red wine with pasta, but if I was wrong, she was kind enough not to point it out.

“So, what do you do for a living?” I asked her across two wineglasses.

“Ah, the official first date pleasantries. I wondered when they would begin.”

“Well, they work as icebreakers. Besides, there’s an important difference in the way I’m asking them this time that sets my usage apart.”

“What’s that?”

“I honestly want to know the answer.”

She smiled again. “I do seasonal work. I’m in agriculture.”

“Really? What sort of work?”

“Crop development. I try to implement new techniques to make the yield more productive.”

“Ah, so nice to finally meet the person responsible for getting fresh peaches to my grocers’ produce section,” I said. “So what sort of crops do you work with?”

“Oh, fruit, vegetables, grains… you name it, I’ve worked in it.”

“Really? Can you hook me up with any tobbaccy?”

“How much do you want?”

We laughed at our respective jokes, and she smiled. “It is kind of a big responsibility, trying to figure out ways for there to be enough for everyone. I don’t even remember the last time that happened.”

“When dinosaurs walked the earth and your neighbor was your next Happy Meal,” I offered. “Wow, you’d think this would be a busy time of year for you.”

“Not so much. There’s a lot to do during the planting and a lot to do during the harvest. And during winter, I’m pretty much holed away in a cave somewhere analyzing and interpreting data, but right now there’s nothing for me to do but sit back and wait for the stats.”

“Your mother must be so proud,” I joked. She didn’t laugh. In fact, her sudden quiet and the way her face fell made me realize instantly I’d said something stupid. “Oh… I’m sorry, I’m…”

“No, it’s okay. My mother is actually the person who got me into the business, so I’m sure she approves of my work. It’s just…”

“It’s a sore subject,” I said. She didn’t reply, but the way she looked down and nibbled at her lip told me that I was right. “So… How ‘bout them Celtics, huh?”

She snorted. “Don’t get me started on the Celtics.” She smiled, and the tension was smoothed enough that I didn’t realize until later that she pronounced the word with the “Kuh” sound: “Keltics” instead of “Seltics.”

When the dessert cart came by, she opted for a fluffy angel food cake topped with fresh strawberries. “That’s interesting,” I said. “I would have pegged you for a chocoholic.”

“Mmm. I do love a good cocoa bean, but there’s something about fresh strawberries. They just…” she picked up a whole berry from her cake, taking a bite, wrapping her plump lips around the fruit. “They just do something to me.”

I wondered how much ice remained in the champagne bucket, and if there would be any way to surreptitiously dump the whole thing into my lap.

“How about you?” she said. “I feel like I’ve been monopolizing the conversation. Tell me all about Adam Solomon.”

“Well, to begin with, I was rocketed to Earth as an infant from the doomed planet Krypton.” She laughed, but not hard, and I quickly learned I would have to take it easy with the pop culture references, because most of them were completely off her radar. “I’m just your average cartoonist. I grew up reading Peanuts and Pogo and Calvin and Hobbes… comic strips in the newspaper.”

“I know Peanuts. I started reading it because I thought it was about legumes. I kept reading it because Charles Schulz was a man of singular wisdom and vision.”

I grinned. “That he was. So I went to college and majored in art, then I dropped out in two years because nothing I was studying was practically applicable to starting a comic strip.”

“So why aren’t you in newspapers all over North America?”

“Have you tried landing a newspaper comic in the 21st Century? The only time a space opens up is when someone dies. And even then, half of the strips just continue with the assistant taking over, if he hadn’t done so already. There’s no innovation there anymore. Newspapers are dying anyway – webcomics are the future of the artform.”

“I love listening to artists talk about their work. You always get so passionate.”

“As passionate as anyone can be, I guess, spending their time drawing get-well cards and spot illustrations for Total Moron’s Guide how-to books.”

“Good, honest work, and at least you get to create, right? Besides, I’ve seen your drawings. All you need is to find your audience, and you’ll take right off.”

“Well, the piece you saw was particularly good. I had the perfect model.”

Her smile was changing. Now it was hungry. Predatory. I liked it. “I’d love to see more, if you have them at home.”

“Why Stephanie, are you asking me to come back to my place so you can see my etchings?”

She popped another strawberry into her mouth. “Maybe.”

That ice bucket was looking more and more necessary.

“Darn. I should have bought some coffee to offer you.”

“That’s okay. I’m sure we can find other ways to keep each other awake.”

If a hand grenade had exploded under my chair at that point I wouldn’t have noticed.

“Oh, you’re blushing. That’s adorable.”

“Was I? I couldn’t tell a thing through a haze of red.”

She drained her glass, spilling the last of the wine between her lips. “Sorry, was I too forward? I guess it’s just a genetic thing. When people in my family decide we want something, we have a tendency to simply claim it.” Her eyes flashed, and I could see a wholly unfamiliar burning inside them. This is not false humility on my part. For a split-second, I felt like I was under the gaze of a lioness, exciting, and terrifying all at once. This was a far cry from the timid girl who had apparently staked out Perry’s coffee shop waiting for me to return. This was someone who would not be denied.

Then, just as quickly, the fire waned and sweet Stephanie returned. She picked up her napkin and covered her nose and mouth. “Oh, lord,” she said, “I can’t believe I said that.”

“It’s okay.”

“No, no, I’ve probably scared you half to death. I feel so stupid.”

“Stephanie, it’s okay. Really.”

“No. Dammit, I made a fool of myself.”

I couldn’t believe how rapidly her temperament had changed: sex kitten one minute, scaredy cat the next. I pulled my chair around the side of the table and draped an arm over her shoulder, gently rubbing her. This presented a new problem, however, as my new concern split between trying to comfort her and my total, lustful awe at the fact that apparently every inch of her skin was as silky and flawless as her hands.

“What’s wrong with me?” she hissed. “Why can’t I ever fix this?”

“Fix what? Stephanie, what is it?”

She looked up at me, meeting my gaze with worried eyes. Inside me, there was a war between the desire to make her feel better and the desire to simply feel her, and in any way possible. When our eyes locked, the two sides of my internal conflict immediately brokered a peace accord, the prime component of which was that each faction readily agreed it was time for me kiss her. It was silly and crazy and far too soon, but I was human, and I didn’t think Hercules himself would have been strong enough to resist her at that moment. I leaned in over the table, sliding a hand beneath her hair and across her cheek (perfect, every INCH of her, absolutely perfect) and our lips met. She was soft, yielding, but as we met, the intensity grew and we fell into one another. I tasted that fruit again, on her lips, not strawberry, but something else. Something…

I paid the check and we returned to my house, and I did indeed show her my etchings. And although I did not confirm that every bit of her skin shared the perfect smoothness of her hands, shoulder and cheek, I did manage to cover a pretty substantial percentage; and, as I had once fantasized about how good her hands would feel across my own skin, I learned as well that they felt very good indeed.

 

*   *   *

 

“Why are all your characters whistling?” Perry asked.

“I drew it this morning,” I replied, returning to coloring my comic strip in Photoshop.

“This morning? What does that me—NO!”

I grinned at his reaction. “This is what I like about you, Perry. You pick up on everything right away.”

A woman in a ball cap tapped on the counter. “Excuse me, can I get an espresso?”

“Yeah, yeah, in a minute. So, what happened?”

“You know how it goes, dude. Nice restaurant, nice dinner… nice everything, to be honest.”

“And you do mean everything, right? Don’t you? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink? Say much more?”

I took a slow sip of my coffee. “Geez, Perry, what’s this? I would have expected Amber to get all ‘Gossip Girl’ on me, but not you.”

“I’ve been married for three years. That’s the official cut-off date where it becomes acceptable to start living through your friends. Come on, spill.”

“Sir? I just wanted a cup–”

“Yeah, I’ll be right with you, lady. So come on, after dinner? What happened?”

I debated how much to actually tell him. Perry and I didn’t really keep any secrets from each other… but on the other hand, I didn’t usually have anything to hide. It isn’t like there was some deep, dark secret to dish on – oh, we had fun, but not the sort of fun I was capable of describing in any great detail. But while my conscious mind was dwelling on everything that happened after we closed the door to my house, there was a large part of my brain that was devoting itself primarily to the way she broke down at the end of dinner. I didn’t think about it much after we had left the restaurant (and if you try to tell me you would have been thinking about it at that point, I call you a liar), but now I was having a hard time wrapping my brain around everything. The trouble was, I wasn’t sure if Stephanie would consider this information personal – too personal to share. Yeah, it happened to me, but clearly, there was a story here, and I didn’t know if I had the right to tell anyone even a small part of it.

“It was fantastic,” I said, deciding on a level of frankness I was comfortable with. “You know those first dates where things are absolutely perfect for 99 percent of the evening, and you’re ready to ask her out again before the appetizers even get there?”

“I vaguely remember such things, yes. Of course, on our first date Kim broke out in a rash because I made her try the spinach and artichoke dip and neither of us knew she was allergic to artichokes, so I may not be the best person to gauge.”

“Well, I’ll tell you this much, bro – there were zero rashes last night.”

“Awesome, awesome. A lack of rashes is almost universally recognized as a requirement for a good date.”

“Sir–”

“Oh, for God’s sake, lady, can’t you see I’m having a conversation? What do you think this is, a coffee shop?”

Amber swept in. “I’m sorry, ma’am, you’ll have to excuse the owner. He recently suffered a stroke that rendered him a total asshole. Can I help you?”

She led the confused customer away and I shook my head at Perry. “How the hell do you even stay in business?”

“Volume. Now enough about me, spill. What was the problem last night?”

I nearly spit my coffee. “What makes you think there was a problem?”

“You said things were perfect 99 percent of the time. That leaves a one percent window in which you were free to make a total assclown of yourself.”

“As usual!” Amber added cheerfully from her position at the espresso machine.

I paused in the conversation long enough to give her a well-earned glower, then returned my attention to Perry. “Okay, here’s the thing, and I don’t understand a bit of it. We’re having dinner. We’re having a great time. We’re flirting like crazy. She’s flirting like crazy.”

“The math is all working in your favor so far. And then?”

“Then she starts to get a little… aggressive.”

Perry whistled through his teeth. “Good aggressive or bad aggressive? Were you thinking about dumping the ice bucket in your lap?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Sweet.”

“But then, out of the blue, she started to wig out on me. It was like all of a sudden she realized she was being the aggressor, and she was afraid it would scare me away or something.”

“A hot girl makes it obvious she wants to jump your junk and she thinks it’ll scare you away? Has she met men?”

“Well, I told her it was okay and then the next thing I knew…”

“Yes? Yes?

“Well, I didn’t think about that one percent again until just now.”

“Awesome sauce.”

“Yes, indeed. But let’s wipe away the sauce for a minute, shall we? Why in the world would she react like that?”

“Hmm. For that answer, we may require the female perspective. Hey, Amber?”

“Yes?”

“Do you know any females? Adam needs their views on his date last night.”

“Hardy-har-har.”

I repeated the story for Amber, who listened with a peculiar degree of interest. When I finished, she nodded. “You must have been giving her mixed signals.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, at first you must have said or done something to make her think you wanted her to be the aggressor. Don’t worry, you’re a dude, so I don’t expect you to remember what you said. But then, when she didn’t get the reaction she expected, she got scared you were going to bolt. Now, this is both good and bad. On the one hand, if she was that upset about possibly scaring you off, she must really like you. On the other hand, if she flipped out that way, she’s obviously got some issues.”

Perry raised an eyebrow at her.

“Oh, right, I forgot who we were talking about. Issues equals good. Cool beans. Let me ask you, stud, what happened after she flipped and you put a lip-lock on her?”

“Uh…”

“Say no more. If you were ‘uhh’ing this girl at any point in the evening, then she probably made up her mind about what she thinks your behavior means, don’t you think?”

“Yeah… probably,” I said. this wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination true. You see, even when I told Perry about the ‘uhh’ in question, I left out one crucial detail that I was now afraid would give Stephanie completely the wrong idea about me.

“You’re still nervous, aren’t you?”

“How can you tell?”

“Because you look like my puppy does every time I pull the ‘fake throw’ on him, and he can’t find the stick. You always looked that way whenever you and I tried to have a deep conversation too.”

“I love how you remember the important things.”

“Here’s the advice, man. Are you ready? Because brilliance like this is transitory.”

“Hit me, swami.”

“Don’t talk to her about it yet.”

“What?”

“Dude, you’ve gone on one date. I don’t care if you ‘uhh’ed her brains out, if you start talking all about feelings and emotions and all ‘where this is going,’ she’ll think you’re a needy, clingy mess and run screaming from the premises.”

“What if she doesn’t?” Perry asked.

“Then that means she’s a needy, clingy mess and Adam should run screaming from the premises.”

Perry shrugged. “What can I say? The woman is talking sense.”

“Keep it casual. Go slow. Don’t blow this one.”

I nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Well keep it in mind now, Romeo. Your girl is coming through the door.”

I spun so fast I nearly fell off my stool. Stephanie was stepping up to the door just then. as the opening bell jingled, I found myself adjusting my hair and holding my breath, not entirely sure where this conversation would lead us. But she smiled sincerely when she saw me and my breather grew a little easier.

“Hi, Adam,” she said, waving at me.

I waved back. “You remember my brother Perry? And Amber the Mutant Barista?”

Stephanie’s forehead wrinkled. “You’re a mutant?”

“Only on alternate Tuesdays. Well, the wonderful world of making coffee awaits.” She and Perry evaporated, returning to work with more diligence than either of them had demonstrated since the first day on the job. But both of them, I noticed, remained in earshot. My friends.

“It’s great to see you,” I said.

“You stopped me a lot last night,” she replied. My stammering response was broken off by the crash of the tray of mugs Amber had been carrying.

“Um… yeah. I guess I did.”

“I don’t understand what happened. We were doing things… things that I certainly enjoyed and you certainly appeared to be enjoying–”

“I was!”

“And I was prepared to do a great many other things that – and you’ll excuse my lack of humility – most healthy men would be falling over themselves to do.”

“Most healthy men and any number of diseased ones.”

“But then, just before I was about to suggest one of my very favorite things, you asked me to stop.”

It took me a minute to process her entire statement. I was too busy trying to figure out what she meant by “one of my favorite things.”

“So what I want to know, Adam, is why?”

“Why?”

“You were clearly starving for attention. I was clearly willing to give it to you. Why would you put a stop to such an exchange?”

My lower jaw bumbled over itself. I expected this subject to come up, but only with the usual amount of innuendo and beating around the bush. The whole direct approach was new territory.

“Well, I… I… geez, this is going to sound stupid.”

“That’s okay. I’ve known lots of stupid men.”

I laughed. She seemed more confused than angry, and confused was easier to deal with. “Well, the truth is, Stephanie… I really like you.”

“I like you too. Now answer the question.”

“That is my answer. Ugh… I’m afraid if I explain it, I’ll scare you off.”

Now she looked slightly amused, crossing her fingers and tilting her head incredulously. “Trust me, Adam, after the things I’ve seen in my life, I seriously doubt there’s anything you could say that would scare me.”

My shoulders slumped. I was pretty sure that telling her the truth would ruin the whole thing before it started, but lying never even crossed my mind. Mainly because I’m awful at it. “Look, you’re beautiful. I’m sure that every straight guy in town would climb over their own mothers’ corpses to do half of what you were willing to do last night.”

“This is a compliment, right?”

“The thing is, I don’t want to be just some random guy off the street. I’m not saying this is going to be some big, huge, deep relationship, but in my experience, if you think you may want one, then doing too much too fast is pretty much the best way to make sure you never get it.”

She looked perplexed, and the next thing she said made me certain I’d blown the whole thing.”

“Something… more?”

“Yeah. Something… lasting.” Here we went. Make or break time. “Stephanie, you’re fantastic. And every urge in my body – most of which haven’t been out for a spin in an enormously long time, by the way – is telling me to whisk you away and do any number of things to you that would make my grandmother disown me. But I’ve managed to quiet those urges down and listen to the part of me that would like to have something with one person for a long time. Geez, I sound like a girl.”

“Yeah, kind of,” she agreed. She didn’t sound upset, though, and the confusion had left her face in favor of a quiet little Mona Lisa smile. “So… you do want to?”

“God yes,” I said. “Just not yet.”

“It never occurred to me that you’d want to at all. I’ve known a lot of men who are…”

“Commitment-phobes?” Amber shouted, as if she was talking to the blender. The rest of the coffee shop had fallen silent, except for one guy in a black coat who snatched up his coffee cup and marched out.

“Yes. That.” Stephanie’s smile spread. “You’re very strange, you know.”

“So I’ve been told.”

“I think I like it.”

“Well, that’s a relief.”

Kissing her was like touching the sun.

Next: Chapter Four-Wonderful World (Don’t Know Much)

 

Creative Commons License
Summer Love by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.evertimerealms.com.

29
Jun
08

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 75: Webcomics

2 in 1 Showcase

Put down the paper and fire up your computer — this week the Showcase boys are talking about some of their favorite Webcomics. Blake is a-flurry with suggestions, while Chase tries to figure out the appeal of the phenomenon… and the guys discuss what it takes to make a webcomic, and how to do it. Then in the picks, Chase continues to love Geoff Johns with Action Comics #866, and Blake bids a sad farewell to the comic book version of Justice League Unlimited. Coming soon, the Showcase will feature Hellboy and Batman’s greatest foe, the Joker! E-mail us with your comments, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at Showcase@Comixtreme.com!

Episode 75: Webcomics

Featured in this episode:

A Blizzard of LizardsSubcultureStarslip Crisis Volume 1

XKCDHow to Make WebcomicsAction Comics #866Justice League Unlimited #46

Since we’re covering webcomics this week, we thought it best to give you guys the links to the various comics we talk about. NOTE: Some of these comics include harsh, grown-up language. Click at your own risk.

Dork Tower                                              PVP
Evil, Inc.                                                   Questionable Content
Girls With Slingshots                                Sheldon
Irregular Webcomic                                  Starslip Crisis
Knights of the Dinner Table                     Subculture
Lost Toast                                                Welcome to Border City
Nodwick                                                   XKCD
Penny Arcade                                           Zuda Comics

28
Jun
08

R.I.P., Michael Turner

Weekends like this, the time of a major comic book convention (specifically Wizard World Chicago), are supposed to be times of big news and big announcements for the comic fans in the world. Nobody expected to wake up to the news we got today. Michael Turner, the artist who made Witchblade big, helped resurrect Supergirl, and created and co-created such diverse books as Fathom, Soulfire and my personal favorite, Shrugged, has passed away at the age of 37.

Turner, one of the true comic book “superstars,” has had a very public battle with cancer for several years now. In a statement released this morning his friend Vince Hernandez says that Turner has beaten the disease, moving on to a better place. I rather like that way of looking at things, and the way Hernandez talks, it sounds like that is how Turner himself would want to be known.

I only met Michael Turner once, at the Wizard World Dallas convention in 2004, and I was just one of a thousand faces looking for autographs that day — but he was very polite and careful to double-check and make sure the names he was personalizing the books to were all spelled correctly. From all accounts, he was a very nice, kind man. Aren’t those always the ones that go early?

I’m not going to pretend I was his biggest fan — I liked his work, but I often felt like he was getting a bit overexposed. There was a period last year where it seemed he was drawing the covers on every other book Marvel and DC published, and I would have liked to see more old-fashioned covers done by the interior artists. Now, though, seeing that his work is done, it almost feels like his intent was to get as much out there as he could before it was too late. Now it seems the day of the Michael Turner cover is over, and that saddens me.

While he’ll be remembered for Witchblade, Fathom and Supergirl,my favorite work of his was a title he co-created and co-wrote with Frank Mastromauro, a fantasy/comedy called Shrugged. This was a book that featured a teenager with the classic “angel” and “demon” sitting on his shoulders, trying to give him advice — but then he begins communicating with these two abstract creatures, and the world of his conscience begins to bleed into the real world. For my money, it was the most original and creative thing Turner ever did, and while I hope it continues on without him, it’s a shame that his contribution to the title is over.

I wanted to post some of my older reviews of his work as a tribute of sorts (poor a tribute as that may be), and was doubly saddened to realize that the vast majority of the reviews I’ve done of his work were just of comics he drew covers for. I wish I had more. Still, I posted a few at the Back Issue Bin, and I’d encourage any other LiveJournal members out there to do the same.

Thirty-seven years is far too brief a time in this world, but Michael Turner made the most of what he had. He produced a vast wealth of work and inspired a whole new generation of artists. For anybody, that’s a pretty good run. Rest in peace, Mike.

Reviews this week..

I neglected to do this last weekend, mostly because I had very few reviews to share, but I made up for it this time. Here are the reviews I’ve posted since the last time I updated. and don’t forget, you can see all of my reviews at the Comic Reviews Archive right here at the ‘Realms.

27
Jun
08

Whaddaya want from me?

Well, guys, I knew this day would come. When I relaunched the ‘Realms, I never entertained the thought of having a post every single day — experience has taught me that, in the long term, that simply isn’t possible. I’d hoped to have something up here every day for at least the first month, though, something to help get people in the habit of coming back on a regular basis, looking at what I’m throwing out there for you guys, and sharing. But here I am, today, just short of the four-week mark, and I’ve got nothing to post about.

So instead of going blank, I’m going to ask you guys: what do you want to see here at the ‘Realms? I’ve covered just about all the categories that you can expect to see here regularly, but I want to know just what you think about them. What are you favorite things I do here? Do you like the movie reviews? The book reviews? The comic book talk? The television discussion?

Do you like general “Think About It” rants like my musings on movie merchandise? Do you come by to see the links to my reviews, columns and podcasts at Comixtreme? What about thinks like The Adventures of the Superbuddies? When I started this, I intended for it to be a semi-professional website, and although I have no intention of ignoring my friends and family, I didn’t want to post too much personal stuff unless I had a particularly funny, interesting, moving or otherwise memorable story. But is that what you guys want to read here? Because I got plenty more where that came from.

How about fiction? Summer Love isn’t going anywhere, you’ll get a new chapter every Monday come hell or high water. But would you like to read more fiction from me? Honestly, I’m not sure what I’ve got that isn’t online, unfinished or too embarrassing to share with people, but if that’s what you want, I’ll try to give it to you.

So here’s what I want you to do guys. Up at the top of this post, you see that little link where it tells you how many comments the post currently has? Click on that and give me YOUR comment. What do you want to see at Evertime Realms? What can I give you guys to keep you entertained, keep you interested, and keep you coming back for more?

It’s my site, but I’m doing this to give you guys something worth reading. So let me know what you want.

26
Jun
08

Three More Years of ‘The Office’

NBC announced today that Steve Carell has signed a deal to star in three more seasons of The Office. This, of course, fills me with glee. That’ll be a good seven years of this show, and assuming the next three are as good as the previous four, it’ll go down as one of the all-time greatest TV shows. The writers are top-notch, the cast is incredible talented and…

…waitaminute, this show has already been on the air for four seasons?

Man, it still feels like a new show to me, like something that has come out of nowhere to claim a place on my must-watch list. Has it really been four full seasons of antics from Dwight and Michael, of the sweet romance of Jim and Pam, of the insane ravings of Creed or bitter jealousy of Kelly? Well… okay, it hasn’t actually been four full seasons. The first year it was a mid-season replacement with a mere six episodes, and season four was severely truncated, a victim of the writer’s strike.

Still…

I remember once when Tim Allen signed a deal to extend his Home Improvement contract for three seasons, and ABC starting running ads like wild proclaiming the fact. Three whole seasons! It seemed like an eternity then. Now the best place to see Home Improvement is Nick at Nite.

TV has become quite the indicator of just how quickly time really does zip by. I’ll enjoy every minute of the next three years of The Office, but man, can’t somebody slow it down a bit?

Oh, and dig that YouTube video I dug up of great moments from the show. Especially if you’ve never seen it.

25
Jun
08

Everything But Imaginary #269: Going With the Flow

Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do to focus yourself into writing a cohesive column. What do you do when that happens? You go stream-of-conscious, baby.

Everything But Imaginary #269: Going With the Flow

24
Jun
08

How I Review

Blake at BSI comicsI get asked a lot of questions in the course of my duties as a columnist, podcaster, and millionaire playboy. “Blake, how can you be a millionaire playboy on a teacher’s salary with the clothes you wear?” is one. I don’t care for that one. A better one is, “how do you write your reviews?”

Jason, the owner of our friendly neighorhood comic shop (BSI Comics in Metairie, Louisiana) has embarked upon a quest to review the first 30 appearances of Batman in the run-up to the release of the movie The Dark Knight, and in that capacity, asked if I had any tips. At the time, I really didn’t, but the more I think about it, the more I do. As you may have noticed, I write a heck of a lot of reviews, both here at the Realms and at Comixtreme. You may also noticed that a lot of them are Marvel Comics, which is a surprise to people who know that — in general — I prefer the works from their main competitor, DC Comics. The reason I review so much Marvel is simple — I do the advance reviews for Comixtreme. That means each week I get a pack of comics in the mail to read and review before they hit the store. Which is cool, but it also means I don’t get to pick and choose which books I review. Sometimes this means I have to suffer through some real crap (Wolverine: Origins, for example). On the plus side, this also means I frequently discover great books I may never have read otherwise, such as Incredible Hercules or X-Men: First Class. I also occasionally get advances from other publishers, such as Devil’s Due, and there are many comics I review on a volunteer basis (i.e., on my own dime), mostly from DC and assorted independent publishers. So today I’m just going to run down some things I keep in mind when I’m writing a review. And keep in mind, although I use comics as my examples, these are things to keep in mind no matter what you’re reviewing — comics, novels, movies, TV shows, whatever.

First and foremost, be honest and explain fully. Your job is to tell people what you think about what you just read. But it’s not enough to just say “this is great” or “this is terrible.” You need to explain why you think it’s bad: “I find Mark Millar is writing the Human Torch totally out-of-character in the current run of Fantastic Four. Johnny has been a superhero for his entire adult life. He’s smart enough not to jump in bed with a super-villain the day he meets her.” The same goes for a book that you do like, but it’s often easier to explain your position. Sometimes it can be as simple as, “the fight scene in this week’s issue of Trinity was full of plenty of action.”

You’ve also got to be thick-skinned enough to take criticism yourself, because you will get it. No matter how you feel about a book, there’s someone out there who feels the exact opposite. If someone is polite about their disagreement, no problem. If someone shows up calling you an idiot, a toady, a liar or worse, you’ve just got to let it roll off your back. I have to admit my favorite, though: when someone who disagrees shows up and loudly proclaims, “Well that’s just your opinion!” I feel like saying, “Well… duh.” That’s the point. A reviewer’s entire job is to give his opinion. And as I always tell my ninth-graders, the difference between fact and opinion is that a fact is something that can be proven, while an opinion can only be supported.

FACT: Moon Knight is published by Marvel Comics.

OPINION: The use of pound signs (####) in Moon Knight in place of curse words feels like lazy writing, as though the writer is not allowed to curse, but isn’t creative enough to come up with other words in the swear word’s place.

Next, you’ve got to make sure that whatever you say is about the work, and not the creator. This is usually easy with comics, as I don’t really have a negative opinion — personally — about most people in the industry. I’ve met a few of them, but they’ve usually been very pleasant. I’ve encountered many more online, and those are also usually good encounters. Comic creators aren’t like movie stars. Although there are comic gossip and rumor sites, it’s nowhere near the level of a Hollywood celebrity. If you’re not sick and tired of hearing about Tom Cruise and Lindsay Lohan, I can only assume you don’t own a television. But there aren’t any comic pros who draw that kind of attention.

In fact, I’ve even gotten some very nice e-mails or messages from people whose comics I have panned. Usually it’s along the lines of thanking me for taking the time to review the comic, responding to a specific criticism, or telling me a bit of continuity I was unaware of that casts their comic in a different light. At any rate, if a pro responds to criticism politely, this only increases my opinion of them personally. I’ve been reviewing for CX for five years now, and in all that time I’ve only gotten one angry e-mail from someone whose work I criticised. I’m not going to say the name (although it’s an artist most comic fans would recognize), but the book this person was working on was being “relaunched” without him, and he raved that it was because of — and I quote — “PEOPLE LIKE YOU!” I let it slide and I’ve even given several positive reviews of his work on other comics since then — even though this message seriously dropped my opinion of him personally.

This goes both ways, though. I don’t give a book a bad review because I dislike a creator, but I can’t give it a good review just because I like them either. There are several comic pros I’ve struck up a friendly relationship with online, and I actually feel bad when I get a book of theirs I don’t like. But if I don’t like the issue, I give it a negative review anyway, because above all else, a reviewer has to be honest.

Another thing to keep in mind — especially if you’re reviewing a foreign comic or something presenting older material — is to keep it in context. In his early appearances, Batman used a gun. These days, such a thing would be horrifying. But in Detective Comics #29, his hatred of guns had not been established, so it isn’t really fair to call that out-of-character at the time. Or look at Will Eisner’s brilliant comic The Spirit. The Spirit’s sidekick, Ebony, is a terrible racial stereotype that would be unthinkable today. In the 50s, though, it wasn’t something people recoiled against. It doesn’t make it a bad comic, just a comic out of its time.

Now if you’re reviewing something like a comic that comes out on a regular basis, you will eventually find yourself running out of things to say. This goes for both the good and the bad. I reviewed Jonah Hexat CX for a long time, and although I still love the comic, I found I was saying the same things every month. So I passed it on to a different reviewer. I can’t do that with the Marvel reviews, though, so when I find myself saying the same negative things about Moon Knight month in and month out (because with every issue I find myself having the same problems with the writing), I’ve just got to suck it up and keep going.

One last thing: we’re all human. We all have our own biases. You have to try to put them behind you, but if you’ve got one so intense that you can’t ignore it, just admit it. For example, I hate the XMen character Gambit. I think he’s a terrible, obnoxious stereotype and I can’t stand the stupid accent he’s always written with. I dislike the character so much that I find it hard to enjoy any comic in which he plays a major part. So I don’t make any secret about the bias. It’s not totally fair, but it’s more fair than complaining about the comic without telling people the reason I dislike it.

That pretty much sums it up, guys — everything I can tell you about how to review. If you want to see the most recent example of my review prowess, check out my review of the movie Get Smart. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got about 14 reviews to get through today.

23
Jun
08

Summer Love Chapter Two

TWO

Falling For the First Time

 

Again, the cliché thing would be to tell you I sat around for the next few days dreaming about this “Stephanie,” but nothing about our relationship was ever particularly traditional. Although the whole incident remained a good enough memory to give me a pick-me-up after the greeting card rejection, I poured my energy into drawing rather than the pursuit of the womenfolk. I wanted to launch a webcomic – it had been a goal of mine to do a comic strip on the Internet ever since it began to dawn on me that newspaper strips were a dying breed – but whenever I began working on one I quickly abandoned it. Every character I created was derivative, every premise redundant.

This time, though, something was different. Most comics on the internet were either sitcoms, cartoonish, or highly video-game centric. Sure, there were brilliant strips in all of those subgenres, but I wanted something that would be funny without automatically fitting into any of those molds. What spilled from my pencil this time was a sort of… well… geez, let’s just use the proper term: it was a romantic comedy. The protagonist was basically the sort of girl I’d realized I was looking for – someone who had been through it all, someone who was mature enough to realize what she really wanted, but didn’t know how to find it. I had a supporting cast, I had her dating backstory laid out… I had already even devised and fleshed out the character she would eventually (like years into the strip) begin to fall in love with. I did my best to make him as unlike myself as possible – nobody likes a Mary Sue – but who knows if that’s even possible?

Whenever I was doing computer work that didn’t involve my Cintiq drawing tablet, I took my laptop down to Perry’s and took advantage of his Wi-Fi connection. I was already to the point of designing the website for the new strip, and although I liked the look I came up with (a nice, warm site built around browns and Earth tones with blue and red trim) and although I liked the look, I was struggling with a title for the comic. I had a list with dozens of potential titles scribbled down, and each had a neat line through it. I rejected all of them either because the name was already in use for a website or because – even more frequently – the name sucked.

Girls Gone Mild?” I said. “Love and Longshots? Hey, do you know there’s actually a comic strip called Girls With Slingshots?”

“One of my favorites,” Amber said, wiping off the countertop.

“Fine, be that way. I’ll leave you alone.”

“No, really, I think it’s hysterical. Danielle Corsetto, right?”

I raised an eyebrow. “I swear, you’re the barista who cried wolf. I can never tell when you’re being sarcastic or not.”

“Makes sincere moments like these all the more meaningful. Still no luck?”

“Well, that depends on how you define ‘luck’. I’ve Googled my way to a hell of a lot of sites, but it’s got to be a good thing I don’t actually have a girlfriend right now. I’ve done so many searches for different permutations of ‘girl’ and ‘woman’ that one peek at my Internet history and she’d have me sleeping on the couch for a month.”

“You probably already had half of them bookmarked anyway.”

“Hey, maybe his new friend can help,” Perry said.

“What are you talking about?”

“An enchanting young lass you gave a sketch to. She’s been in here every day since our little performance.”

“What makes you think she’s coming for me?”

“What else would she be here for?” Amber asked. “It’s not the coffee.”

“True enough.”

“Hey!”

“Let me tell you what she does when she gets here,” Amber said. “She walks in the door. She looks right at your table. When she sees you’re not there, she orders a cup of coffee and then spends entirely too long drinking it, and the whole time she’s here she jumps every time the bell over the door rings as though we were giving her an electric shock.”

“Then she leaves with the same look on her face you had that year you asked Santa Claus for the Voltron set and you got a rock tumbler instead,” Perry added. “If she’s not looking for you, then she must expect Rick Blaine to waltz into my coffee shop at any moment.”

I scoffed again at that and returned my attention to my web design, but if their plan was to get me thinking about her, it worked. It would be false modesty to say that as no woman ever displayed an interest in me first, but I could count the number of times it had happened on one hand. If I tried counting those occasions when I didn’t screw it all up by being totally oblivious to her interest, I only needed a single finger. Yes. Usually that one.

I thought about looking for her, but I didn’t know her last name or where she lived or anything about her, really, except that she had the most velvety soft hands I’d ever felt. I doubted that checking the phone book for “Soft-Handed Stephanie” would prove fruitful. A web search for the same phrase would probably turn up a lot of hits, but if my gal was one of them, she may not exactly be what I was looking for after all.

Thing was, after Perry and Amber clued me in on my admirer, I found myself behaving the same way as she was – looking up in anticipation and apprehension every time I heard the little jingle that announced a customer walking into Perry’s shop. Between relationships, or even during one if it lasted for awhile, I tended to forget just how much I enjoyed this part of it: the shy nervousness about whether it would go anywhere, the acceleration of your heart when you think the person you’re interested in, or the sheer anguish that comes along with wondering, while you think about them, if they’re thinking about you too. Don’t get me wrong, I’d trade all of that in a second for a love of a true, more lasting kind, but that part of it was still an awful lot of fun.

It would be another two days before I got to discover whether or not she was actually coming to the coffee shop to look for me. I was at home, illustrating the scripts I had written for the second week of the comic strip. I decided to stockpile a month’s worth of strips before I even launched, and as I didn’t even have a title or domain name yet, it was easy to work ahead. I was having a little trouble with the second Tuesday strip, introducing the main character’s father, but I wasn’t really coming up with a look I was happy with. My struggles were blissfully interrupted when the telephone rang. It was Perry, and a highly excitable Perry at that.

“What are you doing right now?”

“Working on the comic strip.”

Wrong! You’re on your way here this very instant to get yourself a cup of java.”

“Perry, this really isn’t a good time.”

“She’s heeeeeeeeeeeere!” he sang.

“She who?”

“You know damn well ‘she who’. She just walked in, glanced forlornly at your table, and ordered a Caramel Cappuccino Chiller, which Amber is currently taking a ludicrously long time to prepare, so hurry!”

“I’ll think about it, Perry,” I said, reaching over to unplug my laptop. “But I really am swamped.”

When I walked into the shop seven minutes and forty-two seconds later, the girl in question was sitting at the table nearest “my own,” taking miniscule sips from her drink. She looked directly at me when the bell signaled my arrival, then her pale cheeks flushed pink and she buried her attention intently in the book she was reading.

Trying desperately to appear casual, I walked up to the counter, where Amber was on duty. “What’ll it be, Adam?” she asked, then (satisfied she had my attention) mouthed the words “She’s here!” in a bold and dramatic fashion I would previously have thought reserved for particularly bad mimes.

I know,” I mouthed back, then ordered a Strawberry Italian Soda and popped open my laptop on my table. The girl and I both sat in silence, each of us pretending in vain not to notice the other.

She was the one who finally found the stones to break the ice. “Say, weren’t you in here a few days ago? The… um… the artist guy, right?”

“Guilty as charged. In fact, ‘The Artist Guy’ is what it says on my business cards. I’m kind of a regular here – my brother owns the place.”

“Oh, that must be nice. I’m Stephanie, by the way.”

I remember, I thought, but instead of saying it I just waved my hand and said, “Adam.”

The exchange of names resulted in a perfectly awkward silence, during which both of us looked around, nervously, about virtually anything other than each other.

“So, I haven’t seen you before,” I finally said. “Except for that last time.” I was such an awkward turn of the phrase that I hoped the ground would open up and swallow me whole.

“I’m not from around here, actually. I travel a lot during the spring and summer.”

“Oh. Where are you from?”

“Down south.”

“And you’ll probably be on the road again soon, right?”

“Maybe not. I like the city, and I don’t have any pressing business elsewhere. I was thinking of making this a sort of extended visit.”

“The city’s gain.”

“Yes, it would be.”

Another awkward silence. Perry and I can rave for three hours about whether Val Kilmer or George Clooney was the worst big-screen Batman (Kilmer was, although Clooney was in a worse movie), but put me at a table next to a pretty girl and I’m incapable of three consecutive coherent sentences.

“So… you’re an artist?” she said.

“Oh yeah. Greeting cards, and some reference books. But I’m developing a new comic strip for the web.”

“I’ve known a lot of artists. Sculptors, mostly, but artists are pretty much all the same.”

“Oh, we are now?”

“Oh goodness, yes. Whether it’s a chisel, pencil or paint brush, you all think with the substitute for your lower anatomy.”

“Hey!”

“Do I lie?”

“Well… no, but… still. Hey.”

She giggled, and it didn’t sound forced at all, and I was the man. And then we fell into another painful period of quiet.

As much as I love the anticipation stage at the beginning of a relationship, this stage, the “getting to know you” stage, was torture. Things are weird and uncomfortable and you keep asking the same trite questions over and over because you’re afraid to ask anything else. While those questions are perfectly adequate to use to pass the time with a stranger on an airplane, they seem a remarkably stupid way to drive a conversation with someone you are currently picturing naked.

“Look,” I finally said, “how about I just cut to the chase and say I’ve been hoping to run into you here again?”

She sighed. “Oh, good. I was afraid it was just me.”

I closed my laptop. “As the owner’s brother, I have special privileges. You see this table? Only I get to decide who sits at this table, and at present, that list only consists of two people: me and Charles Schulz. And it’s been a lot harder for me to meet him since he died.”

“My, how exclusive.”

“But now, I think  I can authorize a special dispensation that will give you permission to sit here too.”

“Me? Really? Gosh, I’m flattered.” I don’t know what was cuter, her gentle sarcasm or her use of words like “gosh” and “goodness”. She picked up her book and her coffee and joined me at my table, while in the background I could see Perry and Amber high-five each other. In retrospect, that slapping of the hands was like a starting buzzer for the best summer of my life.

Next: Chapter Three-Healing Hands

Creative Commons License
Summer Love by Blake M. Petit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.evertimerealms.com.

22
Jun
08

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 74: Mark Millar and Wanted

With Wanted coming soon to a theater near you, Chase and Blake take the time to discuss the works of writer Mark Millar. Chase is a fan, Blake not so much, but the guys do their best to get to the heart of his work, discuss the Wanted comic book, and talk about their expectations for the movie. In ths picks this week, Blake loves the first few weeks of Trinity, while Chase enjoyed the beginning of Ultimate Origins… then, stay tuned, as each of the guys has a special announcement! E-mail us with your comments, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com!

Episode 74: Mark Millar and Wanted

(left-click to listen, right-click to download)
Featured in this episode:


21
Jun
08

What I’m Reading: A Year At the Movies

This isn’t my first time reading Kevin Murphy’s A Year at the Movies, but it’s the sort of book you can go through over and over again. Murphy is probably best known as the voice of Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000. After spending ten years making fun of bad movies through his little robot, Murphy decided to spend a year rediscovering film. He went to the movies every day for a year, resulting in one of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever read.

Murphy covers virtually every aspect of theater-going in this book. He reviews some movies. He discusses theater construction and layout. He watches in-flight movies. He travels to the smallest movie theater in the world, to a theater made of ice, to famous film festivals and to kiddie matinees. Audience-participation screenings of The Sound of Music are featured next to kung-fu film festivals, IMAX screenings and a week of foreign films. He takes a different “date” to the same movie every night for a week. He complains about pre-movie advertising and laments the career of Rob Schneider. The chapter on how to get ready for summer blockbuster season is possibly the single longest piece of sarcasm I’ve ever read.

This book is extremely funny. Murphy’s wit and grasp of film is unparalleled, and some of the observations he makes about bad movies and bad actors are side-splitters. He doesn’t come across as a film snob, though — he expresses appreciation for some “lower” films, but at the same time, he can recognize true art when he sees it. The book also has instances of true depth and poignancy. The year that Murphy underwent his odyssey, you see, was 2001, so as you can imagine, the chapter written in the second week of September is no lighthearted romp.

What you get out of every page, be it funny or touching, movie review or travelogue, is that this is a book written by someone with a true love and passion for the art of movies, who can cut down the bad examples as easily as he hails the great ones. If you liked MST3K, or if you just love movies in general, this book is well worth the read.

Speaking of movies…

This feels like a good time to explain a bit about some of my own movie tastes. I love a good comedy, but frankly, it’s become increasingly hard to find any. Look at the “comedy” offerings we have this summer. You Don’t Mess With the Zohan? For a long time, I have operated on the theory that 50 percent of Adam Sandler’s movies are unwatchable, while 50 percent are far better than they should be. For every surprisingly charming 50 First Dates, we get the painful garbage of Little Nicky. But lately, I feel like the “crap” end of Sandler’s personal scale is beginning to weigh down. Sandler as an Israeli counter-terrorist agent who decides to quit and goes underground as a hairdresser in New York? It sounds like the movie was conjured up by South Park’s random manatee plot generator.

Get Smart. I love Steve Carrell on The Office, and I’ve got nothing against Anne Hathaway, but when’s the last time you saw a TV show big-screen remake that was any good? (Films set in the continuity of the show, like the Star Trek films or Serenity don’t count for the purpose of this discussion, I mean ground-floor remakes.) I can count The Fugitive and… and… help me here, I’m not coming up with anything else. What’s more, this movie features Dwayne “Please Stop Calling Me ‘The Rock'” Johnson, a black hole of talent that leeches all pleasure from the screen whenever he appears. I know a lot of people will disagree with me here, but I don’t find the man funny, I don’t find him charming, I don’t see any evidence of acting talent in his body, and it makes me want to weep like I’ve found a bag of drowned kittens when I hear the rumor that he’s going to play one of DC Comics’ deepest and profound villains, Black Adam, in the Shazam movie.

The Love Guru. I hear that this film is already being hailed as the frontrunner for the Worst Picture award in this year’s Razzies, and I have no problem believing it. Mike Myers puts on yet another ugly wig and yet another accent and recycles all his same gags. Remember when Myers was actually funny, back on Saturday Night Live and the first (stress: the FIRST) Wayne’s World movie? Even So I Married an Axe Murderer was a charming, unorthodox romantic comedy, although the future of his career would prove this film to be the beginning of his obsession with playing multiple characters and wearing stupid costumes. Myers ran out of jokes about halfway through the first Austin Powers movie and he’s just been circling the well ever since.

Now I realize that some people will hear this rant and consider me something of a film snob. I swear, gang, I’m not. I like a mindless action flick. There were many years when Jason and I would spend a Valentine’s Day weekend, dateless, watching a movie where there was no redeeming value beyond — and I quote — “stuff blows up.” But when it comes to comedy, brainless isn’t funny. Not to say there can’t be a low joke in there, but you need something intelligent to back it up. Look at the classic spoof films like Airplane or The Naked Gun. There was an underlying intelligence behind the goofy comedy that films like Superhero Movie and Meet the Spartans doesn’t even come close to approximating.

Let’s look at two of the funniest groups of human beings God ever put on this planet: Abbott and Costello and the Marx Brothers. Lou Costello was by no means above taking a pie in the face, but he also dazzled you with his clever wordplay. These guys could leave you half-convinced that seven times thirteen was twenty-eight, could make you live in fear of the words “Niagara Falls,” or turn a simple game of Craps into a battle of wits. And need I even mention “Who’s on First”?

Groucho Marx and his brothers were geniuses. They could turn a phrase so effortlessly that they were halfway through the next joke before you realized you were laughing at the previous one.

  • “We’ve got three men and a woman trapped in a barn! If you can’t send help, send two more women!”
  • “Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. What he was doing in my pajamas I’ll never know.”
  • “I’d never join any club that would have me as a member.”

Simple jokes, yes, but delivered with such skill and aplomb that they make up some of the greatest comedies ever made. Compare this to Mike Myers, whose current idea of clever wordplay is to make the same joke about his crotch eleven times in six different movies.

The best comedy these days isn’t on the big screen, it’s on the small one. The Office. Scrubs. My Name is Earl. These are shows that have an underlying intellect behind the comedy that makes them work. Thank God the unjustly-cancelled Arrested Development is going to be made into a movie. We’ll actually get a comedy with a brain. In the meantime, when I’m looking for a laugh, I’ll keep watching reruns and DVDs. I’ll save the theater for explosions and action.




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