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Oh, Marvel comics, why does my heart keep holdin’ on?

November 6, 2010

Dear Marvel Comics,

Okay, I’ve been trying to write this letter for awhile now and I keep putting it off because, well, there’s absolutely nothing easy about it. But if you’ve been paying any attention then you probably saw this coming. I mean, you must have noticed that your presence on my pull list at my local comic shop has been dwindling more and more over the years. And the growing presence of that…other comic book company on said list. I know, I know, this is totally painful – it’s hurting me too. But the writing is on the wall and we just have to come to terms with it. Marvel, I think we need to break up.

Now come on, don’t get all upset and start throwing stuff and cursing me out, you know exactly why this is happening. And exactly how hard it is for me to be doing this. I mean, I’ve been with you for, what? 32 years? That is a long-ass time for any relationship to last! But if you really think back, it hasn’t been 32 years of uninterrupted bliss – this has happened before. Yes, it has, and let’s not pretend it hasn’t. Remember back in the early 90s when I split up with you? And you remember why, right? Because everything went from compelling stories and character development to endless crossovers and nonstop battles without any substance. And the artwork, man, it was heinous! But that was the early 90s in comics all over, so I won’t hold you entirely responsible for that part. But I do hold you responsible for making me decide I hated comics and didn’t want to read them for years. And then slowly, I let you back into my life. And you came back the same way you first got in – with the mutants; my beloved X-Men in all of their many iterations. You were letting Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely do these wonderful, weird, creepy and funny things with them. And that opened the floodgates for some truly great stuff to enter my life: Runaways! Astonishing X-Men! X-Factor! Young Avengers! Alias!

But then, after getting comfortable in your loving arms once more, you started to pull the same shit you did before. Yes you did! Don’t even try to deny it. First you give me House of M, which, while a fun read and a nifty little story, went and de-mutantized a zillion mutants as well as trotted out your really overly worn Incredibly Powerful Female Hero Goes Mad and Creates Mass Destruction on an Epic Scale storyline that you think were not all tired of. P.S. We are. And it pretty much went quickly downhill from there. You turned most of your X-books into generic catch-all titles for all of your little post-House of M story arcs (Endangered Species! Messiah Complex! I Used To Be a Mutant and All I Got Was This Lousy One-Shot!) and tossed aside almost any interesting character development for endless battle sequences, non-stop plots involving a dozen different anti-Mutant groups and other rehashed, been-there-done-that antics. (Seriously, you revived Nimrod. Nimrod! The petal-pink robot from the future who will Kill All Mutants!) Worse still, you crapped the bed on great titles like Runaways and New Avengers, letting them become watered down and lifeless. Or, worse still, you gave great characters like the original Spider-Woman her own title again only to do nothing interesting with it whatsoever and kill it after 5 issues! And don’t even get me started on what a waste it was for you to revive the New Mutants if you weren’t even going to try to recapture even a fraction of their former glory!!

Damn. I told myself I wasn’t going to get all worked up in front of you. Look, I know you didn’t mean to let this happen – and its not like you haven’t done anything good. X-Factor is still pretty damn great. And Uncanny X-Force seems like it could be a fun ride for awhile. And I’m enjoying Avengers: The Children’s Crusade because YA is such a good team and you really should just let them have their own book again. But, honestly, you’ve got vampires in the X-Men book (quelle originale!) and a thousand one-shots and spin-off minis from that. Uncanny X-Men is as boring as all fuck and Hope running around finding the “5 Lights” just doesn’t do anything for me. New Avengers got boring a long time ago and no amount of revamping can undo that. I mean, you went and took Jessica Jones, one of my favorite new characters you created in a long time, and turned her into a one note character. That is just unforgivable!! Agh!!! Okay, I’m getting all angry again. So I’m just going to go before this gets too hard. I’ll still be in touch to keep up with those one or two books I mentioned before. But it will kind of be like we’re Facebook friends – we keep tabs on one another but it doesn’t go much deeper than that. And if you see me around town with some folks from some of those other comics, well, try to see past your jealousy and hurt and maybe you could learn a thing or two about why I’m spending my time with them. You never know, maybe we’ll get back together in the future. But it’s really going to be up to you.

Love always,


And now, your moment of queer rage.

October 1, 2010

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that in the last three weeks there have been four different gay teens who committed suicide as a reaction to intense and repeated anti-gay bullying. All four of them were young gay men, two of whom were thirteen years old, one of whom was fifteen years old and the most recent of them was eighteen years old. That is four lives snuffed out because they could not live with the various forms of abuse being directed at them by their peers. And while one of those boys was technically an adult, let’s be real, all of them were children. Children, okay? Don’t gloss over that point. You know, children, the one who people always hold up as the innocent victims who need to be saved from the savage and sinful influences of us homosexual perverts. I guess this is where religious fundamentalists would start telling us about how only some children are worth saving and the rest can burn in hell. And you can be sure many someones in many places are preaching that same vile, toxic bullshit right now. Fred Phelps is probably rallying his troops right this very second to go protest at their funerals. And I can hope that just this once Mr. Phelps ends up on the extremely bad side of a horribly grieving parent.

There are barely words to express how awful these recently publicized suicides are – horrible and unnecessary and heart-rending. I mostly write about pop culture on this blog and in the last decade we have seen an ever-increasing amount of LGBT representation in mainstream pop culture  – from TV to movies to music – and what seems like an ever-growing tolerance and even, shock of shocks, acceptance. And then reality comes crashing down in the form of four dead boys who should have lived to be ancient before they left this world and it becomes clear that no amount of Glee or Project Runway or The L Word or Brokeback Mountain can take away the very real pain of living in a world where you are fed messages again and again and again – from your family, from your peers, from your co-workers and teachers and religious leaders – that everything about you is sick and wrong and dirty and horrible. And for some of us those messages are just too loud and too painful to endure for one more moment.

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All hail Rat Girl!

September 24, 2010

I won’t even lie: I was more than hesitant about reading this book, despite my long-time love of Kristin Hersh and especially her seminal band, Throwing Muses. I first discovered Hersh and her band at the tender age of 15 when a review of a live show in Spin magazine caught my attention, describing Hersh standing on stage, electric guitar pushed out in front of her bulging, pregnant belly while her head snaked back and forth like a charmed cobra as she wailed at the top of her lungs about demons, ghosts and animals bleeding through the walls. Kristin Hersh has never been a regular, run of the mill musician and her and her band’s music reflected that – fractured, shifting, mercurial and genuinely weird yet somehow crushingly beautiful at the same time. But with all of this mass love in mind I still had to wonder: could this wonderfully weird lady write a book I’d want to read or would I have to throw it down, cringing in dismay and trying to cast away the memory of the bad writing within for fear that it would corrupt my love of her music?  It’s a valid worry – it’s like musicians who decide to try their hand at acting or actors who want to break into the music biz; it rarely, if ever, goes well. And we’re all left to turn away and try to hide the embarrassment on our faces for ever having supported that person in his or her primary vocation. Thankfully, Ms. Hersh crafted a book that’s as perfectly strange and utterly compelling as the music she’s been making for the last three decades.

Rat Girl would almost better be described as a micro-memoir. Instead of giving readers the usual overview of a life thus far, Kristin Hersh presents us with one year of her life – 1985 to be precise – when she was 18 years old. And while I’m sure lots of us had our share of sturm und drang swirling about us at age 18 – it’s a teenager’s job to be full of drama and darkness, after all – the 18th year of Kristin’s life found her band, Throwing Muses, signed to 4AD Records amidst a growing whirlwind of buzz while, at the same time, Hersh was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and then found herself pregnant with her first child. But if that makes you think you’re in for a chick-lit-eqsue ride through tears, hand-wringing and a parade of victimization, you couldn’t be more wrong. One of the best things about Rat Girl is Hersh’s slightly self-deprecating detachment from telling her very intense, very chaotic, very painful story. The tone of Rat Girl often reminds me of Susana Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted, a memoir of the author’s diagnosis with and hospitalization for borderline personality disorder. Hersh approaches her story with much of the same refreshing lack of sentimentality and poor-me-ness that Kaysen utilizes when recounting her experiences but with a voice that is uniquely Hersh’s own – peppered with made-up words, the naturally fractured nature of diary entries and snippets of song lyrics that Hersh felt related to or illuminated a given situation. And with Hersh, songs are always one of the biggest parts of her life.

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Pop that culture, pop pop that culture!

September 23, 2010

What? What overly long, unannounced blog hiatus could you possibly be talking about? I have no idea whatsoever, he types, whistling innocently and pretending nothing happened. Okay, you caught me, life got a little extra lifey for awhile and I had other things to focus on besides blogging it up here on the Slug. But hey, I came back, right? And it’s not like pop culture wasn’t on my mind during all of that life stuff. In fact, quite the opposite. Sometimes I think my brain is some sort of antennae/sponge combination that just pulls pop culture information and runs it around on a crazy circuit that finds its way into my dreams at night. I mean, that’s the only reason I can explain why I have some of the crazy-ass dreams I have when I’m fast asleep at night. But I am not complaining at all – it’s something I enjoy. And so, I wanted to share with you just a few of the pop culture obsessions that spend time whirling around in my already busy mind. They are somewhat diverse but share a lot of common traits: diamond-flawless dialog – often going so far as to make an impact on the popular zeitgeist of modern language itself, female characters full of defiance, heroism, flaws and humanity; a surprisingly irreverent or alternate take on death and a lot of being pop culture that references pop culture itself. My obsessions may be tiny, silly little pleasures, but they are pleasures nonetheless. And in the sometimes difficult world we live in, those little pleasures are sometimes the best ones.

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September 11, 2010

It’s difficult to write about the subject of 9/11 without falling into all sorts of traps and pitfalls: over zealous patriotism, racist baiting of anyone of Middle Eastern origins, or just plain fear mongering. I also don’t want to ever overshadow the writing of people who were literally at or very near ground zero when the towers went down. I was not, although I was living in Brooklyn and working in New York City. I remember a lot of subway delays and rerouting that occurred as I made my usual morning commute. None of this was unusual – subways in NYC are always switching from one line to another for some reason or another. As I got off the train and walked the few extra blocks to work, fire trucks went blaring by and people seemed to be having trouble with their cell phones. Again, nothing unusual for a busy morning in Manhattan. I got to the corner of 19th and 6th, half a block away from the entrance to the building where I worked, and saw a clutch of people gathered on the corner staring toward the downtown area where smoke was billowing up from one of the Twin Towers. “One of the towers caught on fire,” a woman told me when I asked what was happening. I found it concerning but not alarming as I made my way into the offices; fires happen in Manhattan. By the time I got inside a co-worker was telling me “There was an accident, a plane crashed into one of the towers.” My concern raised to moderate alarm, wondering what the fallout of such a tragic accident would be and wondering how something so freakish could have happened. A group of us gathered in a spare office to watch the news reports on TV and then the second plane hit. And we knew that there was nothing accidental going on at all.

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On Cody Cummings and the curious world of gay-for-pay porn.

September 2, 2010

(It should go without saying that this post and the links within it are NSFW. But I will say it anyway for folks who complain when such obvious things are not noted: This post and the links in it are NotSafeForWork! If you’re at work, don’t read this post! If you are and you do, well, enjoy your chat with the director of Human Resources!)

Cody Cummings is a porn performer I’ve found myself fascinated with for quite some time. Yes, I think he’s hot; in spite of his kind of cheesy tattoos, his propensity for always wearing a really heavy looking silver watch in all of his scenes and his sometimes excessive abuse of hair removal products. But he also fascinates me as an interesting aspect of the gay-for-pay porn genre. Gay-for-pay, if the moniker isn’t obvious enough, is porn that stars allegedly heterosexual men who are engaging in gay sex on camera for money. Now most folks with a bit of savvy know that porn is all about fantasy. And that fantasy is often as constructed as the Eiffel Tower. I used to work with this big ol’ southern queen years ago who had once held a job writing “girl copy” for Playboy. Girl copy is the text that goes along with the photos of the models saying what they like, how they are in bed, what kind of men they’re into, etc. So for a period of time this was all being fabricated by a gay man. (Sorry to crush the hopes and dreams of men everywhere who thought Candy really did love a man who wanted to make love to her on a bearskin rug by a roaring fire!) As soon as I heard that story it was impossible to totally get out of my head when consuming porn. I could no longer ignore the artifice that is sometimes thinly or heavily veiled. Do I believe all of the guys in gay-for-pay porn are straight? Not even a little. All you have to do is watch a few such videos and watch these supposedly heterosexual dudes swallow cocks like they’re starving for it and you start to peel away that veil a little bit. But fantasy is fantasy and sometimes the conceit works and great fun is had by all. And then there’s Cody Cummings.

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Why a Wonder Woman movie should probably never exist.

September 2, 2010

I’m sure the title of this post alone is a head-scratcher for those of you who know me and know that I am a huge fan of the Amazing Amazon. But truth be told, I’ve pretty much felt this way since murmurs of a Wonder Woman film started floating around more than a decade ago. At first, when word got out that movie studios were considering the idea, I got really excited! I thought it would be thrilling to see my iconic heroine on the silver screen. I’ve been a huge fan of the TV show since I was a wee lad, so this would be the chance to see Princess Diana taken to the next level, right? With big budget special effects and an a-list squad of Hollywood folks bringing it all together! And they would really know how to do it up, right? Because Hollywood has made some really spectacular films based on comics books! And they totally know how to do right by iconic heroines, don’t they?



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