My Favorite Moment of Comics Journalism

In the early ’90s, I was a freelancer for a magazine about comic books called Wizard. For a couple of years I would regularly get assignments from my editor (Patrick Daniel O’Neill, who had great patience) to interview people. I got to interview Wendy and Richard Pini, whose series Elfquest got me into comics back in 1980. Alan Davis, whose drew Excalibur when it was my gateway into superhero comics. Joe Quesada early in his career, and so on, and so on. They eventually took all of the interviews in-house, and while I wrote some small news articles for a few more years, it eventually dried up. But there was one interview that was quite possibly my favorite one, which never saw print.

Image Comics logoIn 1993, Wizard published a special all about the X-Men family of comics (Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty), which sold well enough that some other special one-shots were planned. The next one was to be a special all about Image Comics, which in the early ’90s was a relatively new company with a lot of creators who had defected from the larger publishers to write and draw their own titles. I was asked to interview a group of the “second wave” creators; not any of the original founders, but some of the writers/artists who had started comics at the company when the doors had opened up a bit. The special was eventually cancelled, and it was just as well because one of the creators in question was not returning phone calls and I’d been told his presence was a must. (This creator also had some serious problems with getting his comic out the door and I suspect he was afraid to be called out on that.) But for the interviews I did, there was one that still makes me laugh my head off. We’ll call this creator John.

I was a huge fan of John’s comic (we’ll call it Doe), one of the best of the “second wave” of titles at Image. And long before Doe, he’d done a lot of other noteworthy comics; he wasn’t a flash in the pan. So I was pretty psyched to interview him. I’d read all of his series at Image, and even some ancillary material that also existed. Big fan. I’d talked with him briefly to set up a time, and late one evening I called him back up at the appointed hour.

At first I was simply happy with how well the interview was going. He was relaxed and chatty; I’d interviewed people before who were very guarded and gave one-word answers to questions. (On the bright side, those early experiences taught me how to both ask questions that couldn’t be answered so briefly, and also how to draw out additional statements from them when confronted with such.) But as the talk progressed, I noticed that he was… really relaxed. And getting even more chatty. Around the halfway point I started to ask myself, “Is John stoned?”

A few minutes later, I responded to something he said with a reference to the ancillary material that I’d read, and he said, “Wow, you really do like this comic. Do you want to write an issue?” I laughed in response. “No, really,” he said, and I could almost imagine John leaning towards me as if he was in the room. “You should write an issue. I want you to write an issue. It would be amazing.” Well, yes. It would be amazing. I laughed a little nervously and said that I’d love to do so, and the interview continued as his behavior got a little more erratic, but hey, he was still answering questions and giving overall rational responses.

The next day, John called me. This was the first time that had ever happened. “So, Greg…” he slowly said. “Um… what did I say to you last night?”

“Well John,” I said with an unseen smile on my face, “you said I could write an issue of Doe.”

There was an uncomfortable-for-John silence, which I finally broke with a laugh and, “But I won’t hold you to that, of course.”

I could almost hear his shoulders sag in relief. “Oh good,” he finally said. We talked for a few more minutes, I mentioned the high points of the interview, and he seemed pretty pleased with it. He even gave me advice on how to try and get ahold of the incommunicado artist (“Pretend you’re from a record label, he really wants to be a musician!”) and by the time we ended the conversation he seemed really happy.

As I said, the interview never ran because the special was cancelled, and it’s a real shame because I had enough from John alone that it could have been a great solo interview. But today an art book by John that I’d ordered ages ago and forgotten about suddenly showed up in the mail, and I had to start laughing at the memory of it all. Because for a brief 14 hours, I had an offer to write an issue of his comic. And while there was no way to have ever worked that into the interview, it was and still is the most unexpected moment I’ve ever had in all of my years of comics journalism.

Uberlist 2016

It’s been a long time since I’ve tackled the Uberlist. I first heard about this via the far-more-talented-than-I Kelly Sue DeConnick. She and her old roommate Nikol Lohr made New Year’s To Do Lists back in 1998 instead of New Year’s Resolutions, which is sheer brilliance. In 1998 they had 98 items on their lists (“98 Things To Do In 1998”), and every year since then they expanded the list by one. Since is 2016, there are 116 items on the Uberlist, because there’s nothing very uber about a 16-item list. My first attempt was back in 2003 and I participated through 2008, where life got in the way and I never finished figuring out what I’d even accomplished and what I hadn’t.

In the words of Kelly Sue:

I think I only accomplish about 30% of the list in any given year (one year, I didn’t finish MAKING THE LIST) and generally by June there are a good 10 items that are no longer applicable or even desirable, but it’s a fun thing to have nonetheless, and it keeps me focused for the first few months of the year. Then I forget all about it until about, oh, say, NOVEMBER, at which point I scramble about trying to remember where I put last year’s list.

I enjoy the process partially just for the making of the list; it lets me think about things I’d like to do as one year comes to a close and another one begins. I’m never too worried about what does and does not get done; in some ways it’s a list of wishes and desires, not of things that I simply must accomplish. And it’s fun at the end of the year to look back at what seemed important or enticing at the time. It’s simply not possible to do it all; I’d never expect myself to.

With school over it felt like a good way to try and remind myself of goals and ideas I had dangling. On some level this one’s a little less original than others, with a few items repeated to count for multiple times achieving the same goal, and a bunch of items either finishing up projects/games or finally tackling specific books, but at least it’s a completed list. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully next year’s list can be a bit more robust and varied as I cross off items this year.

(Oh, some items are slightly truncated in terms of writing what they are, because I have a printed copy near my desk and squeezing 116 items onto a single page, even using three columns in landscape mode, is difficult. Also there are a few items that I’m not posting onto the web and have redacted accordingly.)

Anyway, let’s see what happens.

  1. ADMIN: Finish writing my 2016 Uberlist
  2. HEALTH/BIKING: Bike a 50-miler
  3. HEALTH/BIKING: Regularly in non-frigid months
  4. HEALTH/EXERCISE: Go to MadFitness twice a month
  5. HEALTH/EXERCISE: Try kayaking
  6. HEALTH/RUNNING: Regularly three days a week
  7. HEALTH/RUNNING: Run 5 or 10k race (1)
  8. HEALTH/RUNNING: Run 5 or 10k race (2)
  9. HEALTH/RUNNING: Run 10-miler/half marathon
  10. HEALTH/RUNNING: Run 750 miles
  11. HEALTH/RUNNING: Run 846 miles (beat 2015)
  12. HEALTH/SWIMMING: Start swimming again
  13. HEALTH/TRIATHLON: Run a triathlon
  14. HEALTH/WEIGHT: Be under 155 lbs.
  15. HEALTH/WEIGHT: Be under 160 lbs.
  16. HEALTH/WEIGHT: Be under 162 lbs.
  17. HOME/ENTERTAINING: Cook for friends (1)
  18. HOME/ENTERTAINING: Cook for friends (2)
  19. HOME/ENTERTAINING: Cook for friends (3)
  20. HOME/ENTERTAINING: Cook for friends (4)
  21. HOME/ENTERTAINING: Cook for friends (5)
  22. HOME/ENTERTAINING: Cook for friends (6)
  23. HOME/REORGANIZING: Clean out filing cabinet
  24. HOME/REORGANIZING: Clean up “Olympian” external HD
  25. HOME/REORGANIZING: Frame vintage Italy map
  26. HOME/REORGANIZING: Hang new art on staircase wall
  27. HOME/REORGANIZING: Sort through pants and donate excess
  28. HOME/REORGANIZING: Sort through the gift box
  29. HOME/REORGANIZING: Transfer Ben’s VHS to DVD
  30. HOME/REORGANIZING: Transfer Charlie’s VHS to DVD
  31. LEISURE: Do things with friends more often
  32. LEISURE/CAMERA: Complete #366photos
  33. LEISURE/CAMERA: Complete 1 Second Everyday
  34. LEISURE/CANNING: Make blueberry jam
  35. LEISURE/CANNING: Make new type of jam
  36. LEISURE/CANNING: Make sour cherry jam
  37. LEISURE/CANNING: Make strawberry jam
  38. LEISURE/CANNING: Make tomato sauce (1)
  39. LEISURE/CANNING: Make tomato sauce (2)
  40. LEISURE/FILMS: Watch a Akira Kurosawa DVD (1)
  41. LEISURE/FILMS: Watch a Akira Kurosawa DVD (2)
  42. LEISURE/FILMS: Watch a Yasujiro Ozu DVD (1)
  43. LEISURE/FILMS: Watch a Yasujiro Ozu DVD (2)
  44. LEISURE/FILMS: Watch a Yasujiro Ozu DVD (3)
  45. LEISURE/FILMS/AFIDOCS: See full-length doc
  46. LEISURE/FILMS/AFIDOCS: See shorts compilation
  47. LEISURE/GAMES: Join a gaming group
  48. LEISURE/GAMES: Learn how to play Settlers of Catan
  49. LEISURE/GAMES: Win Disney Infinity: Guardians of the Galaxy
  50. LEISURE/GAMES: Win Disney Infinity: Star Wars: Rise Against the Empire
  51. LEISURE/GAMES: Win Disney Infinity: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  52. LEISURE/GAMES: Win Disney Infinity: The Incredibles
  53. LEISURE/GAMES: Win Professor Layton and the Last Specter
  54. LEISURE/GAMES: Win The Witcher 3
  55. LEISURE/LEGO: Put together Bike Shop/Coffee Shop
  56. LEISURE/LEGO: Put together Doctor Who set
  57. LEISURE/LEGO: Put together Toy and Grocery Store
  58. LEISURE/LOCAL: Go to an amusement park
  59. LEISURE/LOCAL: Go to DC United game
  60. LEISURE/LOCAL: Go to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
  61. LEISURE/LOCAL: Go to Nationals game
  62. LEISURE/LOCAL/EATING: Go to Jackie’s before it closes
  63. LEISURE/LOCAL/EATING: Go to La Casita Pupuseria
  64. LEISURE/LOCAL/EATING: Go to Quarry House
  65. LEISURE/LOCAL/EATING: Go to Rose’s Luxury
  66. LEISURE/LOCAL/EATING: Go to Urban Butcher
  67. LEISURE/LOCAL/EATING: Go to Velatis Caramels
  68. LEISURE/READING: At least 5 book club selections
  69. LEISURE/READING: At least 20 prose books
  70. LEISURE/READING: Be better at tracking (on Goodreads) comics read in 2016
  71. LEISURE/READING: Best American Comics 2009
  72. LEISURE/READING: Best American Comics 2010
  73. LEISURE/READING: Best American Comics 2014
  74. LEISURE/READING: Best American Comics 2015
  75. LEISURE/READING: Get better about donating
  76. LEISURE/READING: Jane Eyre
  77. LEISURE/READING: Lucky Jim
  78. LEISURE/READING: One from the Mieville stack
  79. LEISURE/READING: One from the Murakami stack
  80. LEISURE/READING: Read half of stack on dresser
  81. LEISURE/READING: Read or donate new series Doctor Who novels
  82. LEISURE/READING: Saturn Apartments
  83. LEISURE/READING: Vagabond backlog
  84. LEISURE/TV: Daredevil S1
  85. LEISURE/TV: Orange is the New Black S2
  86. LEISURE/TV: Transparent S2
  87. [REDACTED]
  88. [REDACTED]
  89. [REDACTED]
  90. [REDACTED]
  91. LIBRARIANSHIP: Volunteer with Lubuto 12 times
  92. LIBRARIANSHIP: Volunteer with Lubuto 20 times
  93. PERSONAL: Wear sweaters more often
  94. TRAVEL: ALA Annual or Midwinter
  95. TRAVEL: Big vacation with Charlie (not listed)
  96. TRAVEL: Florida/visit parents
  97. TRAVEL: Gallifrey in February
  98. TRAVEL: Iceland
  99. TRAVEL: Lost River
  100. TRAVEL: Spain
  101. TRAVEL: Weekend getaway (not listed)
  102. WORK/LEARNING: Learn Captivate
  103. WORK/LEARNING: Learn DSpace
  104. WORK/LEARNING: Learn PHP
  105. WORK/LEARNING: Learn Python
  106. WORK/LEARNING: Look into PMP certification
  107. WORK/REORGANIZING: Clear out books for eBay or donations
  108. WRITING: Finish a short story
  109. [REDACTED]
  110. [REDACTED]
  111. WRITING: Regularly contribute reviews to CBR
  112. WRITING: Submit for publication a short story
  113. WRITING: Write a new short story
  114. [REDACTED]
  115. [REDACTED]
  116. ZENITH: Be happy

Movies and Books: 2015

Another year gone by, another tracking of books and movies and such for the year. I know I missed a lot of graphic novels when you count the collected editions (since I read a fair number for review purposes in serialized formats), as well as for the various zines I’ve read. I’d said that in 2014 that it was a hectic year in terms of school and tracking fell to the wayside a bit. That was not only true for 2015, but also for reading and seeing films in general. Ah well! Hopefully 2016 will be more productive.

Movies:

  1. The Imitation Game
  2. Mr. Turner
  3. Early Summer [麦秋 Bakushū]
  4. The Housemaid [하녀 Hanyeo] (1960 version)
  5. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  6. The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015: Live Action
  7. The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015: Animated
  8. Bigger than Life
  9. Saint Laurent
  10. Inside Out
  11. Tangerine
  12. Grandma
  13. Big Business
  14. Black Widow
  15. The Grifters
  16. Room
  17. A Royal Night Out
  18. The Wait [L’Atessa]
  19. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  20. The Danish Girl

Plays/Performances:

  1. Quiz-O-Tron
  2. Welcome to Night Vale: The Investigators
  3. Bianca Del Rio’s Rolodex of Hate

Books:

  1. Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  2. Blindness by Jose Saramago
  3. How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Friendship, Theft & Musical Theatre by Marc Acito
  4. Tiny Deaths by Robert Shearman
  5. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  6. The Reference Interview Today: Negotiating and Answering Questions Face to Face, on the Phone, and Virtually by Dave Harmeyer
  7. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
  8. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
  9. Information Technology Project Management by Kathy Schwalbe
  10. City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
  11. The World of Ice & Fire by George R.R. Martin, Elio M. Garcia Jr., and Linda Antonsson
  12. Basic Research Methods for Librarians by Ronald R. Powell
  13. Collection Management Basics by G. Edward Evans
  14. Remembrance of Things I Forgot by Bob Smith
  15. The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson
  16. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Fiction Magazines, Chapbooks, and Zines:

  1. Kinfolk Vol. 14
  2. Kinfolk Vol. 13
  3. Lucky Peach #16

Graphic Novels: Continue reading Movies and Books: 2015

The 4-0 You Want

I suppose there’s something apt about having to be in my 40s to finally achieve a 4.0, but better late than never, right?

GPA

It’s been a long two years (and technically I’m still waiting on an approval on my graduation portfolio), but it’s a wonderful feeling to be more or less done. I made some wonderful new friends in graduate school and I learned a lot to boot. Some classes stood out more than others, of course, but there’s only one class choice that I genuinely regret and I consider that a real victory.

I’ve half-joked about writing a book on how to go back to school in your 40s and who knows? With ebook self-publishing what it is, that may happen. But I’ve got a lot of other things still on my plate too; two years worth of pleasure reading to catch up on, all sorts of games that are waiting to be played, and (lest you think there’s nothing but frivolity ahead) plans to work my way through the LIS 7440 Scripting Languages for Library Applications syllabus. We’ll see how far I can get through that last one, but it would be good to learn PHP if nothing else.

It still feels strange to not have classes kicking in at the end of the month, though. I won’t miss the lack of free time, but I must admit that I will miss the chance to learn something new and to interact with some really great fellow students. In the meantime, though, I’ll enjoy getting my life back, or some approximation thereof.

Returning to Biking Home from Work

It’s been a while since I’ve biked home from work: April 2011, to be precise. That was when I used to live in Arlington, and while it was a convoluted route (due to a general lack of bike-friendly routes in McLean) it wasn’t too bad. Recently I decided it was time to try and bring that option back on the table, so after a lot of scouring of maps and checking out some areas in person, I found a method to get me from McLean into downtown DC in one piece. (Getting from there to home has many options.)

Biking Home

On the whole, it wasn’t a bad route, a little over 19 miles. There were only three parts where I found myself audibly groaning:

  • Within the first quarter mile, the sidewalk/path used to get out of downtown McLean safely became completely overgrown with plants. I had to go extra slow because it was like being in some sort of awful movie set in a jungle. Getting hit in the face with mammoth weeds, no thank you.
  • For the last little stretch in Virginia, there’s a route specifically for bikes to get down from the Military Road area to Chain Bridge. It’s probably a 60 degree incline. Maybe more. Not for the faint of heart. Fortunately it’s also very small. Next time I may actually walk my bike down it.
  • Finally, I made the decision to cut across the National Mall and then go home on the Metropolitan Branch Trail, instead of just hopping up the Rock Creek Park path to Blagden and then heading home that way. So many children on the Mall. So many school groups. All of them hogging all available points of egress. Next time I’m skipping the Mall.

I’d like to keep doing this once a week until the weather gets to be too hot. It’s a good way to get some extra exercise, and I need to start biking more often. For now, this will do.

Movies and Books: 2014

Once again, an attempt to keep track of films seen and books read… I know I missed a lot of graphic novels when you count the collected editions (since I read a fair number for review purposes in serialized formats), as well as for the various zines I’ve read. This was a hectic year in terms of school and this fell to the wayside a bit. I added a bunch in at the end of the year but still, I’m sure there were some big holes. Unsurprisingly, the numbers went down because of graduate school.

Movies:

  1. The Wolf of Wall Street
  2. Philomena
  3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  4. The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Live Action
  5. The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Animated
  6. The Lego Movie
  7. Stranger by the Lake
  8. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  9. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me
  10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  11. Under the Skin
  12. Late Spring [晩春 Banshun]
  13. The Immigrant
  14. 112 Weddings
  15. 1971
  16. Deor and I
  17. Art and Craft
  18. Snowpiercer
  19. Obvious Child
  20. Magic in the Moonlight
  21. Boyhood
  22. To Be Takei
  23. Guardians of the Galaxy
  24. The Skeleton Twins
  25. Gone Girl
  26. Nightcrawler
  27. Foxcatcher
  28. Human Capital [Il capitale umano]
  29. Two Days, One Night [Deux jours, une nuit]
  30. Falling Star [Stella cadente]

Plays/Performances:

  1. Richard III
  2. Welcome to Night Vale: The Librarian
  3. The Importance of Being Earnest
  4. Henry IV Part 1
  5. Wicked
  6. La bohème
  7. NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour Live Show: December 2014

Books:

  1. The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan
  2. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
  3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  4. This is Oakland: A Guide to the City’s Most Interesting Places by Melissa Davis
  5. Organizing Knowledge: An Introduction to Managing Access to Information by J.E. Rowley
  6. The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
  7. Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi
  8. The Process of Legal Research by Christina L. Kunz
  9. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  10. Management Basics for Information Professionals by G. Edward Evans
  11. Unexpected Stories by Octavia E. Butler
  12. The Old Funny Stuff (Author’s Choice Monthly #1) by George Alec Effinger
  13. Emphatically Not SF, Almost (Author’s Choice Monthly #15) by Michael Bishop
  14. True Minds (Author’s Choice Monthly #12) by Spider Robinson
  15. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
  16. Understories by Tim Horvath
  17. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  18. Who’s 50: 50 Doctor Who Stories To Watch Before You Die – An Unofficial Companion by Graeme Burk and Robert Smith?
  19. The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
  20. Digital Curation by Ross Harvey
  21. Miguel Covarrubias Caricatures by Beverley J. Cox
  22. Metadata for Digital Collections: A How-To-Do-It Manual by Steven J. Miller
  23. Cruddy by Lynda Barry

Fiction Magazines, Chapbooks, and Zines:

  1. Kinfolk Vol. 10
  2. Lucky Peach Vol. 6
  3. Kinfolk Vol. 11
  4. Lucky Peach Vol. 12
  5. Kinfolk Vol. 12

Graphic Novels: Continue reading Movies and Books: 2014

Vivat Grendel! Vivat Grendel!

You may already know that in addition to being a big comic book fan, I own a fair amount of original art from comics. And if you know me really well, you may know that I am a huge fan of Grendel, Matt Wagner’s signature series that my friend Dave Gross turned me onto in college. I already own some Grendel art that I adore; a Pander Brothers piece as well as a solo Arnold Pander piece, Jay Geldhof’s painting for Grendel Cycle, a J.K. Snyder III pin-up… well, now I have two more pieces that are both heading my way even as I type this, both in the hands of various shipping companies.

The first is a page from Grendel Tales: Devils and Deaths by the late, great Edvin Biukovic. Biukovic was an artist who had a short career in comics; he made his big North American debut through Grendel Tales and quickly became in-demand for his clean art style. Sadly his career ended at the age of 30 from a brain tumor, just as his career was getting huge. Earlier this month, his family released a limited number of his original art pages for sale, something that almost never happens. I ended up purchasing this beauty; I was a huge fan of Biukovic the second I bought Grendel Tales: Devils and Deaths #1, and he was a talent that was silenced far too soon.

Biukovic Grendel 04 Pg 18

The second is a page from this year’s Grendel vs. The Shadow, drawn by Matt Wagner himself. I never thought I’d own a Wagner Grendel page, and having the opportunity made my head explode. And if that’s not enough… just look at the detail and the graceful shading here. The art dealer whom I talked to about it said that it looks even more gorgeous in person. I cannot wait.

Grendel vs. Shadow 1 pg 10

Once I get them framed sometime in the new year, I’ll probably swap out some pieces either at home or in my office (or both?) with these. I love the art I have hanging right now. But I really, really love these. And it’ll be nice to see something new on the walls.