The Curator of Schlock #49: Superman IV

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The Curator of Schlock #49 by Jeff Shuster

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

(It’s not that bad)

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Now we’ll wrap up Patriot’s Month with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. When I think of the red, white, and blue, I think of Superman. Granted he dresses in red, yellow, and blue, but he also supports Truth, Justice, and the American Way! Unfortunately, Rocky Balboa’s “We ain’t so different!” speech at the end of Rocky IV must softened many hearts because Superman IV is all about ending the nuclear arms race. Psh. A little nuclear winter never hurt anybody.

1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace starts off with Russian cosmonauts not realizing the gravity of their situation when a piece of space junk knocks poor Yuri to his doom. Never fear. Superman (Chistopher Reeve) saves poor Yuri delivering him safely back to the space craft.

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You know, I remember back in the 80s how terrified we all were that the Soviet Union would the first to land someone on Mars. We were afraid that the red planet would really become the Red Planet. Thank goodness for the end of the Cold War. Now no one has to ever land on Mars!

What else? The Daily Planet is being taken over by David Warfield (Sam Wanamaker), a newspaper tycoon who specializes in tabloid journalism much to the chagrin of Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve), Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure), and Perry White (Jackie Cooper). Lacy Warfield (Mariel Hemingway, who happens to be Ernest’s granddaughter and portrayed Dorothy Stratton in Star 80) is the new boss’s daughter and she has a thing for mild-mannered Clark Kent. So Lois Lane is in love with Superman and Lacy Warfield is in love with Clark Kent.

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This is interesting situation that allows Superman and Clark Kent to go on a double date with these two ladies and hilarity ensues. Superman uses his heat vision to roast a duck for Lois so we can add duck-roasting to his list of super powers. One thing I never liked about these movies was how they kept inventing super powers for Superman. Like how he can all of the sudden speak in any language. I remember on Smallville he could barely speak a full sentence of Spanish. Yes, I watched Smallville. All ten seasons and it was excellent! I got to see what would happen if Clark Kent took out a bad guy with a bowling ball on that show, and it exceeded my expectations.

Back to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Some schoolboy named Jeremy wants Superman to get rid of all the world’s nuclear weapons. I would have thought this was a pretty good idea back in the day provided the United States of America was excluded from this arrangement. Superman is mum on the matter until the new Daily Planet shames him into making a public statement. The floating heads in The Fortress of Solitude tell him to say no and find a new planet to rule, but Superman can’t let little Jeremy down so he tell the United Nations he’ll throw all of the nuclear weapons into the sun. And Superman does just that and everything is jim-dandy. The end.

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Oh wait. I forgot to mention that Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) breaks out of prison. He and his nephew, Lenny (Jon Cryer) decide to create a super villain out of Superman’s DNA mixed with a bit of nuclear radiation. He’s called Nuclear Man and he likes to “hurt people.” How can Superman defeat such a monster? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

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You know speaking of Jon Cryer, was anyone else upset over the ending Pretty in Pink? I mean, yeah, I’ll concede that Blane wasn’t like the other rich kids at school and was worthy of Andie’s affection, but where did that leave Duckie? I bet the guy never found true love again. It’s not fair!

Five Things I Learned from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
  1. Clark Kent can’t hit a curve ball.
  2. Urban sprawl is ruining America’s farms
  3. Lois Lane can’t speak French very well.
  4. The dark side of the moon isn’t so dark.
  5. Richard Pryor is a more credible villain than Nuclear Man.

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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.

Heroes Never Rust #51: We3 gud. Gud dog. Home now.

Heroes Never Rust #51 by Sean Ironman

We3 gud. Gud dog. Home now.

The final issue of We3 is bloody and violent and heartwarming. It’s a fitting end to the series that seems like it ended too quickly, but I guess there’s only so far a story about three animals in robot suits searching for home can go. The issue opens with a homeless man finding the team sick and beaten in a dilapidated shed. The rabbit is hurt from the gunshot wound from the previous issue. The man goes to help them, but he finds the police searching for something. While the second issue features most of the breathtaking panel design of the series, there are a few good moments here. The first comes when the homeless man meets the cops. On top of a long, thin panel depicting a couple of police officers standing in the rain, Quitely places six small panels, like in the last issue, that are rotated on a three-dimensional plan—they look like they hang over the background panel. In each small panel is a detail of the scene: police tape, police lights, a gloved hand. By breaking the image down into small, detailed panels, the design allows the reader to see the scene, create their own large image, and have it make up only a fourth of a page. Usually, a break in panels represents time passing, but here, Quitely uses separate panels to show different areas of a larger image.

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The mastiff in a robot suit is let loose against the animals in a train depot. The rabbit confronts him alone, while the dog and cat search the area. The mastiff is easily five times the rabbit’s size, and I have to give the rabbit credit for ramming the mastiff’s nose with its head, but that poor rabbit never stood a chance. By the time the dog finds the two, the mastiff has the rabbit in its mouth with his teeth crushing the rabbit’s head. I guess one of the team had to die. I care very little for rabbit’s because an ex-girlfriend once had one that was annoying so I wasn’t sad to see the rabbit go. At least, the rabbit gets one last shot in by dropping a bomb. It doesn’t kill the mastiff, but gives the dog a chance to run.

Doctor Roseanne gets her last scene when the military sends her in to calm the dog so sharpshooters can get the dog in their crosshairs. The best panel of the issue is Doctor Roseanne holding the dog’s head in her hands. His eyes are closed and he’s clearly at peace for the first time in the series, and he says, “We3 gud. Gud dog. Home now.” Instead of letting the military shoot him, Doctor Roseanne tells the dog his real name (Bandit) and jumps into the line of fire, sacrificing herself. And of course, the dog doesn’t know what’s happening and runs off repeating, “Bad dog.” He runs right to the mastiff.

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Now I don’t like cats much. They’re okay, but I don’t want to own one. But when that damn cat jumps from out of nowhere and grabs the mastiff’s eyes with its robotic claws and saves the dog, I want to cheer. Another cool panel layout comes with this scene as the dog runs into the cat and mastiff battle and the three smash through a brick wall. The page ends with the reader not seeing where the three go, but the panel ends and the three fall out of it and into the page gutter. It makes the fall seem so much more forceful and such a larger drop than just a detailed picture would do.

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Once the mastiff is taken care of, the animals escape long enough to shed their robotic suits. The dog has a self-realization moment when the leg of his suit breaks off. “Is coat not Bandit. Is coat not we.” He then tears into the cat, removing the suit. Quitely gives us another three-dimensional panel design with a collection of rotated thumbnail panels showing the cat in pain. Again, the panel layout emphasizes the cat in agony much more than one large image could. It seems nowadays that artists go immediately to a full-page shot or a double-page splash to show a big moment, but Quitely proves with We3 that that approach isn’t as strong. Concentrating on storytelling through panels can have a much greater effect.

Of course, the remaining animals escape the military and they live happily ever after with the homeless man. I wouldn’t be writing this if the dog died. There are too many stories where the dog dies. I would have thrown out the comic if he died. He gets to live happily ever after because he’s a dog and dog’s are the best. The cat gets to live too since the cat helped out the dog. The rabbit died because, well, who cares. Gud dog. Gud dog.

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Sean Ironman

Sean Ironman (Episode 102) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida, where he also serves as Managing Editor of The Florida Review and as President of the Graduate Writers’ Association. His art has appeared online at River Teeth. His writing can be read in Breakers: An Anthology of Comics and Redivider.

In Boozo Veritas # 51: The Ghost of an Artifact

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In Boozo Veritas # 51 by Teege Braune

The Ghost of an Artifact

I know now that there is no one thing that is true – it is all true.

–Ernest Hemingway

I have a clear and distinct image of the photograph in my memory. A boy a few years older than myself who I am told is – but do not recognize as – my father sits on the lap of an elderly gentleman. I think of the man, with his white beard and sad, kindly smile, as a grandfather, despite the fact that he in no way resembles either of my actual grandfathers. He beams down at my father who in turns looks, straight faced and serious, at the camera. “Idaho – 1961” is scribbled in ink on the back of the photograph. The one time I remember seeing this old photograph I was informed that the man was a very famous writer who killed himself shortly after my father met him. I don’t know why anyone felt the need to convey that final detail to me as a child, but it stands out as the saddest thing I had heard by that point in my life.

The writer in the photograph is Ernest Hemingway who would have been 115 years old today on July 21, 2014. My father describes their chance encounter as such:

“My family was traveling through Idaho in Spring of ’61 when I was 11, and I was admitted to Sun Valley Hospital with severe joint pain. The doctor’s thought it might be some kind of iron overload. EH was in that hospital at the time, and he liked to tell me stories because I was in such pain. He wanted me to sit on his lap for the story telling – which was weird because I was 11 – but I did it and some nurse took a picture at some point. I was ok, just some odd bug bite or something, but I heard he killed himself a few months later. I remember that scene like it was yesterday.”

My dad does not have a lot more details to offer. As his parents have both passed away and his siblings are all younger, there is no one available to further elucidate the circumstances of this meeting. My dad remembers that Hemingway told him stories about soldiers, cowboys, and Indians, the kind of stuff he perhaps assumed all eleven year old boys enjoyed, though my dad was more interested in spacemen. (Maybe he would have been more entertained had he found himself in the same hospital as Isaac Asimov or Ray Bradbury.) He remembers Hemingway as a kind, elderly man who seemed “very old and sort of out of it,” though Hemingway was only sixty-one at the time. I asked my dad if Hemingway’s suicide affected him emotionally in any fundamental way, but he does not remember. “It was the first time I probably even thought about suicide. It wasn’t a subject people liked to discuss in the early ‘60s. I doubt I had much of a concept of what that meant,” he said. I asked my dad, who I have always known as a prodigious reader, if his youthful encounter with Hemingway allowed him to feel a connection to his work later in life, but my dad says no. “I’ve got nothing. I’m not very familiar with him. I read The Sun Also Rises in high school, but I don’t remember being able to associate that book with the man I met many years before,” he told me. If my dad made an impression on Hemingway there is no record of it. It is entirely possible that Hemingway, whose numerous physical and mental problems had already destroyed him creatively, never wrote another word between his short time with my father and his untimely death.

I became a big fan of Hemingway’s work in high school when I read The Old Man and the Sea and shortly after The Sun Also Rises, the bookends of Hemingway’s career in reverse order. My own writing, in which I attempted to copy Hemingway’s short, abbreviated style, became even worse than it was when I was copying Jack Kerouac’s sprawling sentences.

“Your dad met Ernest Hemingway once,” my mom told me as my interest began to turn into an obsession.

“Dad met Hemingway?!” I nearly shouted.

“Oh, yeah. There was a picture of them together floating around somewhere,” she said casually.

The meaning behind the photograph that I had seen as a child and had not thought about since suddenly became painfully obvious to me. I asked my mom if she knew where it was, but she did not. I asked my dad who said that his parents probably still had it. The next time I was at their house I went through several boxes of photographs but none of them featured Ernest Hemingway. My grandparents remembered the photograph, but could offer no clues as to its whereabouts. “He seemed like such a strange old man, but he loved your dad” was their only input on the entire meeting. Finding the missing photograph became a mission, but none of the family members who I called or emailed had any information. Everyone agreed to search through their old family photos or allow me to look through them myself, but nothing ever turned up. In the last few years I have begun to wonder if the picture is an example of a sort of mass family hysteria or hallucination. Perhaps we are remembering a story about another family who showed my grandparents a picture of their own son sitting on Hemingway’s lap, and at some point we internalized it, made the story about us because that seemed more interesting.

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The photograph included here is not the one in question; it is a picture of Hemingway and his own son. Maybe one day I’ll be rummaging through old family albums, turn a page, and there it will be, shining forth from behind its clear envelope, the lost and coveted photograph of my dad sitting on the lap of an old and very depressed Ernest Hemingway, one of the last photographs ever taken of one of the 20th century’s most important writers, a smidgen of history, a family legend verified, one more ghost laid to rest.

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teegenteege

Teege Braune (episode 72episode 75episode 77episode 90episode 102) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.

Areas of Fog #24: The Painter of Sunflowers

Areas of Fog #24 by Will Dowd

The Painter of Sunflowers

Between the crushing heat of the July sun and the occasional flash flood, it’s been a difficult week for people and flowers. We’re all feeling a bit withered. Only my neighbor’s sunflowers, which bloomed over the weekend, seem to be thriving.

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When I spotted these sunflowers, I thought of Vincent Van Gogh, who had already been on my mind. He worshipped sunflowers and painted them compulsively—from life in the summer, from memory in the winter.

A portrait by Paul Gauguin, his friend and rival, shows him in the act. It’s called “The Painter of Sunflowers.”

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Van Gogh hated it (“It’s me, but it’s me gone mad”). I like its forced perspective, how it looks as if Van Gogh is painting the sunflower itself into existence.

When it comes to Van Gogh and his short life, reality and metaphor are swirled together. This was, after all, a man who nibbled his oil paints like an aspiring synesthete.

It began early, when his mother delivered a stillborn son named Vincent Van Gogh. Our Van Gogh was the replacement child, born a year later to the day. He was both Vincent and a metaphor for the lost Vincent.

Later, as a painter of blazing pastures in the south of France, he suffered bouts of mania and delirium. Did he stare too long into the sun of his creative passion? Or was it just severe sunstroke?

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I think his suicide was a metaphor too—or at least, it was meant to be. Van Gogh shot himself in a wheat field (he’d borrowed a revolver to scare off crows) just a month after his brother Theo announced he was moving to Holland. Theo was the wooden frame to Vincent’s stretched canvas. Without Theo, his financial and emotional survival was at risk.

In the past, whenever someone tried to leave, Van Gogh resorted to self-mutilation. When Gauguin moved out of the Yellow House, he sliced off his left ear with a razor. When a girl he loved skipped town, he held his hand over a candle flame, vowing to keep it there until she returned.

When Van Gogh shot himself in the chest, he missed his heart. It was suppose to be a symbolic act. A metaphor. This is what you are doing to me, Theo. And it only became literal as the result of an inept country doctor. At least that’s how I read it.

And this brings me to the reason Vincent Van Gogh has been on my mind. An Italian artist named Diemut Strebe has unveiled a living replica of Van Gogh’s left ear—the one he severed—which she recreated using DNA from an envelope Van Gogh sealed in 1883. The ear was grown in Boston with the help of scientists from MIT and Harvard. It’s currently on display in a German museum.

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Until now, if you hoped to divine the true source of Van Gogh’s madness and solve the mystery of his suicide, you had to study the letters and stare at the paintings. How much easier to pluck a red hair from a thick brushstroke and grow another Van Gogh and watch to see how this one kills himself.

Van Gogh was buried in a hilltop cemetery. His coffin was heaped with sunflowers. It was late July. According to one mourner, “The sun was unbearable.”

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Will Dowd 2Will Dowd (episode 91episode 104) is a freelance writer based outside Boston. He received an MFA from New York University and an MS from MIT. His writing has appeared in Barrow Street, Post Road, Skeptic Magazine, and NPR.org.

 

 

Shakespearing #5: Richard III

Shakespearing #5 by David Foley

Richard III

Richard III

 Richard III is Shakespeare’s first transtemporal hit, the first of his plays to be a hit not only in his own time but across the centuries. Why?

The most obvious answer is Richard himself, a character type now so familiar that he seems always to have been with us: the glittery hero-villain, whose malevolence is so imaginative, so mobile and intelligent that he seduces us into horror.

Shakespeare seems to be having such fun with him that you can feel his interest fade in Act V when it’s time to bring his villain to defeat. Down Richard. Up Richmond. And to end, a conventional encomium to the peace and prosperity the current queen’s grandfather ushered in. The entire act is set out in a stiffly pageant-like series of scenes, including visitations by the ghosts of Richard’s victims: “Despair therefore and die!” And yet even here the familiar voice of the Nietzschean ubermensch breaks through: “Conscience is but a word that cowards use;/Devis’d at first to keep the strong in awe.”

In another way, what feels so fresh to a contemporary audience about Richard III may be what was most old-fashioned about it in its day. Scenes that read like Ionesco or Beckett—the comic interchange between Clarence’s murderers; Margaret muttering asides through 50 lines of dialogue before anyone notices her presence; the Duchess of York, Queen Elizabeth, and Margaret sitting on the ground in some Beckettian non-space while they bemoan their murdered husbands and children—have roots in the more pantomimic conventions of the mystery and morality plays.

Richard himself is half Lucifer and half, as he himself says, “the formal Vice, Iniquity.” Shakespeare’s perhaps instinctive reach for these old forms seems to be a way of managing or framing the weight of evil in the play. The play is haunted by past murders. Richard’s adumbration of Macbeth—“But I am in/So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin”—could apply to many of the other characters, and Clarence’s gorgeous, guilty monologue before his death is given a didactic gloss by the argument between his murderers.

The result is a play that seems, in its willingness to mix and match dramatic strategies, both freewheeling and highly stylized. The power of the famous scenes between Richard and Anne and Richard and Elizabeth lies in the way their dramatic fluidity is contained in a driving stichomythia.

But their power also comes from Shakespeare’s fascination with strong women. James Shapiro rightly warns us against looking for Shakespeare the man in his plays, but you do sometimes wonder what Shakespeare’s mother and sister were like. Halfway through the play, Richard pays a backhanded compliment to his sister-in-law, Elizabeth. He says of the nephew he will soon have killed, “O, ’tis a perilous boy,/Bold, quick, ingenious, forward, capable:/He is all the mother’s, from the top to toe.” His later scene with Elizabeth goes on for some 430 lines, and this time we’re sure that Richard has met his match. We’re as puzzled and disappointed when Elizabeth, like Anne before her, yields as we are when Kate says that women, being “weak,” should “place [their] hands below [their] husband’s foot” in The Taming of the Shrew.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that, in a nation that had been run by two strong-willed women in succession, a woman might be considered “bold, quick, ingenious, forward, capable.” And perhaps it’s not surprising that the more conventional 16th century view of women should find reinforcement in his plays. It’s the living tension between those two views that gives Shakespeare’s women their (admittedly sometimes frustrating) power.


 

David Foley

David Foley is a playwright and fiction writer living in Brooklyn. His plays include Cressida Among the Greeks, Paradise, Nance O’Neil, The Murders at ArgosA Hole in the Fence, and Sad Hotel, among others. His novel The Traveler’s Companion is available on Amazon. He teaches at New York University.

Episode 109: Pauline Hawkins!

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Episode 109 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

On this week’s show, I talk to writer, teacher, and advocate Pauline Hawkins,

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plus Caitlin McDonnell writes about discovering her urge to teach, from a night spent in jail, in “The Capacity of Language to Make Us Less Alone.”

Caitlin McDonnell

NOTES

Harper Lee has contested any participation or approval in Marja Mills’s new biography of her, according to The Guardian.

To learn more about Pauline Hawkins’ radical way of teaching George Orwell’s Animal Farm, read her blog here.

You can read Pauline’s resignation letter here.

This episode proudly features the music of The Intoxicators.


 

Episode 109 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

 

The Curator of Schlock #48: Rocky IV

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The Curator of Schlock #48 by Jeff Shuster

Rocky IV: Apollo Creed Is Dead

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We’re back with Patriots Month here at The Museum of Schlock. Many of us kids back in the 80s were waiting for that final fight between the United States and the Soviet Union. We expected nukes to be flying all over the place, for Red Armies to come crossing our borders and blowing up our houses during Christmas time. Sadly, this never came to pass. The closest we ever got to that war was Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren pummeling each other in a boxing ring.

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1985′s Rocky IV (from director Sylvester Stallone) starts out well enough. Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) are enjoying some time away from the ring. Rocky buys Paulie a robot servant, which is pretty cool.

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I know you younglings think your smartphones and your apps and your Facebooks and Twitters are the apex of technology, but we had robots back in the ’80s! I had a cousin who owned a Robie the Robot. I had a Verbot and a Dingbot. I haven’t seen those robots in years. Maybe they became sentient and decided to leave Earth to colonize a planet of their own…

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Anyway, all is well until this Soviet boxer named Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) shows up out of nowhere and requests an exhibition match with an American boxer. How dare he? Apollo Creed takes up the challenge and tells Drago where he can stick his Stroganov! When the two men meet for their match at the MGM Grand Hotel, Creed enters the ring dressed as Uncle Sam. As if that wasn’t enough, Creed decides he’s going to bury this Commie with The Godfather of Soul!

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That’s right! James Brown shows up to perform “Living in America,” a song about how great America is because we have all night diners, black coffee, and hard rolls! He also has a back up chorus, dancing girls, and a giant electronic bull’s head. What do you have Soviet Union, diners that close before 10 PM? The crowd boos Drago as they should and then Drago has the arrogance to tell Creed, “You will lose.” Woah. Check your hubris, Drago!

Creed dances around taking quick jabs at Drago until Drago punches him dead in the face. Creed loses his composure and Drago punches him in the face again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again.

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I think the translator must have screwed up. Drago wasn’t looking for an exhibition match, he was looking for and execution match! After the first round, Balboa tells Creed it might be a good idea to forfeit the match, but Creed begs Balboa not to stop the fight no matter what. In round two, Creed dances around and Drago punches him in the face again and again and again and again and then Creed falls down and dies. Noooooooooooooooooooo!

Rocky Balboa decides to avenge the death of his friend and challenges Drago to a match on Russian soil.

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Balboa trains in the hard snow and chops wood and climbs mountains while Drago trains in his computerized gym. I think good old-fashioned training beats fancy gizmos, but what do I know. When Balboa enters that ring, you can hear those deafening boos from hostile Russians, but as he gains the upper glove on Drago, something strange happens. The Soviets actually start to cheer Rocky on. Perhaps, it’s a mutual hatred of Dolph Lundgren that put an end to the Cold War.

Five Things I Learned from Rocky IV

  1. Robot servants need to make a comeback.
  2. “Living in America” should be a contender for the national anthem.
  3. Faces are not fists.
  4. Soviets like to hold their “Beat the American” exhibition matches on Christmas because they want to ruin Christmas for America.
  5. Sylvester Stallone should be credited with ending the Cold War.

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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.

Heroes Never Rust #50: Bad Dog. Bad Dog.

Heroes Never Rust #50 by Sean Ironman

Bad Dog. Bad Dog.

The second issue of We3 picks up a few minutes after the premiere issue. The three animals run from military helicopters and jeeps. This is my favorite of the three issues. It’s basically a series of action scenes displaying the power of the robotic suits the animals wear. The destruction is very graphic and horrific. In the opening, the team runs over a few wild rabbits. They’re torn apart, and Quitely doesn’t shy away from showing decapitated rabbits with blood, flesh, and bones scattered into the air. When the issue ends with a full-page shot of a mastiff towering above the camera in a robotic suit, one might imagine the destruction and violence that awaits in the third and final issue, even though the mastiff just sits there with a stupid look on its face.

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What sets this issue above the other two are the panel layouts. I know, I know, this is a blog about writing, not how to layout a comic book, but the way panels are displayed affects pacing, transitions, and other aspects of storytelling. Panel layouts are one of the most important parts of a comic book. The opening sequence starts large with a few widescreen panels followed by a double-page spread. The scene gets set and the action gets going. The first somewhat odd panels come at the later half of the chase scene. One panel shows a military jeep speeding toward the animal team. What’s being presented in the panel isn’t really exciting. Sure, it’s a speeding jeep and three animals in robotic suits, so that’s cool, but it could be just a panel that connects the reader to the next page where the destruction will be shown. Instead, Quitely puts the camera in inside the jeep and places the jeep and its occupants in silhouette. This allows the jeep to blend in with the black page. The windshield of the jeep basically acts as the panel. In full color is an image of the dog (the best of the animals, by the way) bracing and getting ready to strike. There’s so much energy in the panel. The reader can feel the jeep speeding toward its doom.

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The next page a double-page spread separated in two halves—the top is the dog crashing through the jeep and the bottom is the cat in a tree shooting needles at soldiers. Instead of just two panels with a lot of detail, Quitely lays out two large panels and then overlays two dozen small thumbnail panels on top. Instead of having time pass from panel to panel, the thumbnails act as a close-up on the destruction. Bullets fly. Blood sprays. Needles stab eyes, tongues. The destruction and death is much more powerful. The sequence shows so many details that would be lost in one large image. By showing the specific details, the destruction seems much worse. Quitely does something similar on the following page, which features a helicopter on fire as it spins out of control. The thumbnail panels for this image spread out from the center of the helicopter. Behind the helicopter panel, instead of a plain black background, fiery smoke rises.

Untitled3The artistic highlight of the issue comes two pages later (I know, it just keeps getting better). A two page spread with eight panels that are shown from a different angle to the reader. Instead of front facing, the panels are turned, like doors facing one another. The cat tears into soldiers. Blood and flesh sprays out of the panels. The cat seems to jump from panel to panel instead of being confined inside. I’ve been studying this layout of late, trying my hand at a version of it. Panel layouts like this one make the comic worth reading, in my opinion. Destruction just for destruction’s sake doesn’t do it for me. No matter how well written a scene featuring a cat in a robot suit fighting the military is, at the end of the day, it’s a cat in a robot suit tearing into human beings. There’s only so much that can be done. But, because this is a comic book, the best of all story mediums, Quitely and Morrison are able to show the ferociousness that cat possesses. Not even panels can hold these animals back.

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And yet, for all the destruction and death this issue features, I keep coming back to the dog. After a train crashes, the dog pulls the conductor from the creek below. “Gud dog. Help man.” Then, he calls the three together to continue their escape. He stops, possibly letting the military find them again, to help the man. As the camera pulls back at the end of the scene, it’s revealed to the reader that the conductor doesn’t have a bottom half—it was ripped off in the accident. The man is dead, but the dog wanted to help. Not understanding, the dog did what he could.

The three run into a hunter and his kid. The hunter shoots the rabbit in the head (Don’t worry, rabbit fans. The rabbit still lives). After the dog and cat kill the hunting party, the dog sits off to the side and hangs his head. “Bad dog. Bad dog.” Moments like that are much more powerful because of the violence earlier. These are just animals. The military fucked them up. They don’t understand what they’re doing. The dog is just protecting his friends. They can kill so easily, though. In a way, the reader wants the military to stop them. They are dangerous. These moments give the comic weight and makes it more than just a dog in a robot suit destroying a bunch of things. Poor dog.

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Sean Ironman

Sean Ironman (Episode 102) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida, where he also serves as Managing Editor of The Florida Review and as President of the Graduate Writers’ Association. His art has appeared online at River Teeth. His writing can be read in Breakers: An Anthology of Comics and Redivider.

 

In Boozo Veritas # 50: Divertissement with Kittens

In Boozo Veritas #50 by Teege Braune

Divertissement with Kittens

A man dreams, his visions, hopes, loves, anxieties all bubbling to surface of his unconscious mind with out logical transition, referents lost, his thoughts incoherent to himself. In brief: Chaos reigns. How to order this miasma? How to peer into phantasmagoria, to find a thread of inspiration wriggling in the soup like a baited worm, to bite down and embrace the hook that pierces not the lip but the imagination, to allow oneself to be dragged out of the sea of one’s confusion, pulled by no effort but one’s own submission into the air of creative triumph? Is this what the philosophers mean when the speak of Genius?!

I stand with rod raised in the storm, allowing the gail to blast my calm. Smite me, Jupiter, for I have blasphemed against thee. Like Ixion I have insulted thee, lusted for thy bride, violated thou natural order, and now here I stand making mockery of thee, and yet lightening doth not strike!

Turn not to Jupiter, young man, for he has long since wearied of mortal folly. Apollo burns but speaks not. The wisdom of Minerva will help you least of all. Bacchus of the Vineyards is your salvation. This is the embodiment of the divine, which has called you to worship. Blessed be he whom in his benevolence bestowed upon humanity that sacred fruit, the grape and the secret it contains within. Liquid courage, social lubricant, bottled, bubbling inspiration. Bacchus for thee and thy gifts we give praise.

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What was Papa Hemingway’s advice: “Write drunk but edit drunker?” The first sip merely sets the stage. Consumed in meditative state like a prayer, we give it up to God. Gone down the gullet before it even touched our lips, it never belonged to us in the first place. The second sip is a labor of love. It goes down like brass tacks, our mission solidified. Once more for good measure, after the third sip we can begin to work.

A finger taps a key, but a flitter in the corner of an eye distracts me from my purpose.

–Be thee mote or fairy, speak, sir, please. I implore thee of thy purpose.

My voice creaks, betrays my fear. I feel the steely gaze of cold malicious eyes upon my heart. Dare I investigate further lest I come face to face with some incorporeal beast?

The tinkle of a bell, the pitter-patter of tiny feet, no roar but a friendly mew, eyes the emerald green of precious stones not hellish flame, Tom Tom trots through the door, fit for the ball in elegant tuxedo. He bats a ball of yarn conveniently lying on the floor, chases dust bunnies to their doom. Laughing at the antics of this jester, I lose my train of thought, forget completely the masterpiece for which I’ve completed a mere two words: “Stately plump…”

–Tom Tom, entertain us with a little soft shoe,

I tease the kitten, sipping from my glass.

Now here comes little Ariel all white from whiskers to tail. She’ll give Tom Tom a run for his money, by gum. Pouncing upon the predator, we see how quickly the lion on the prowl is turned knavish at the pummeling of his paramour. He rolls onto his back showing his furry little belly, flashing white daggers, bluffing.

Another drink and then another and then I’m seeing in photo negative. No, that’s just Ariel’s counterpoint Mephistopheles. A witch’s familiar in his first life, he was burned at the stake. Poor Mephistopheles isn’t bad luck. On the contrary he seems to bring with him a kind of infernal fortuity. Happy is she for whom he has taken a liking, albeit this luck seems always to come at another’s expense. Perhaps a charm has been placed on him, for the hapless kitten is oblivious to his own talents. Nevertheless, his entrances can be off-putting, for in unlit rooms one is rarely aware of his presence when suddenly a pair of glowing green eyes of obstreperous intent appear as if floating midair.

Chuckling to myself I turn away from the kittens at their play. Let’s see, where was I? Ah, yes,

–Buck Mulligan…

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One’s concentration is difficult to sustain while kittens are arriving one by one as if for some kind of feline fête. There is Eury whose preternatural ability for rediscovering objects lost weeks previous suggests a secret tendency towards kleptomania. Newt, the thief of shrimp, fish, and foul, master of the grab and run technique, he brazenly enacts his criminal activity under our very noses. Riley, the manx, with stub of tail and tufts of main jutting this way and that, well groomed but perpetually unkempt.

I pour another glass, but finding it empty before I can return to my work, I pour one more. More and more the kittens arrive. Here come Mittens, Dempsey, and Ambrosia. Then Goneril, Reagan, and Cordelia. Tumbling head over ass they make fools of themselves on my office floor. Squealing, they beg for grouse, cream, liver pâté. How to explain to them my abject poverty, for I, a starving writer, am barely capable of feeding myself, much less a dozen kittens and yet more are arriving every minute? Bean and Dusty, Jersey and Schnickelfritz, Bailey and Loki. All of these kittens climbing over me. Impossible to write another word amidst this cuddly infestation, I am Saint Anthony suffering adorable torment at the claws of darling imps and demons. Dozens of kittens turn to hundreds. Their mewing is a din drowning from my mind my creative intention. Kittens will be my death. They tear at the curtains, slash at the sofa, scatter their dirty litter into every nook and cranny. They rise up, swirl around me like a maelström. Stern discipline is what they need so that I may finish my task. I attempt to pluck them from midair, but they elude my grasp. Reeling, I stumble, fall, hitting my head against the linoleum floor, I blackout, slip from a world overfilled with kittens into a dark and dreamless sleep.

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When I awake, my head is throbbing, but the room is empty, not a kitten in sight. Somehow the decimated furniture is immaculate, not a fiber misplaced. I look at the computer dreading the humiliation of another missed deadline when, to my surprise, words adorn my screen. Some sprite or fairy has taken it upon itself to finish In Boozo Veritas in my slumber.

___________

teegenteege

Teege Braune (episode 72episode 75episode 77episode 90episode 102) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.

 

 

Areas of Fog #23: Ocean Sounds

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Areas of Fog #23 by Will Dowd

Ocean Sounds

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 Overheard at Nantasket Beach, Saturday, July 12th

There it goes

—Father’s detached response to the sudden submersion of his kid’s sandcastle. Kids leaning on their shovels. World-weary.

Note: Inevitable—but no one told them.

 

Bruno, can you believe we still have something left to say to each other?

—Retiree in a beach chair. Ragged Red Sox hat. Skin the color of a chewed cigar.

Note: Bruno did not respond, did not even looking up. One of his feet lazily burying the other in the sand.

 

I love matriarchal societies.

—Girl with the seahorse tattoo.

Note: Male seahorses gestate and give birth.

 

You see see see me.

—Two-year-old girl in a bumblebee swimsuit who buzzed passed me in the dunes. Unattended.

Note: Why do some abandoned kids seem to emit a silent alarm, while others give off an unmistakable air of autonomy? This one seemed to know what she was doing.

 

Not today.

—Woman with a grey bun defending her bag of cherries from a swooping seagull.

Note: Sometimes life is uncomplicated.

 

Stand right here.

—Middle-aged daughter down to her last match. Trying to light a cigarette. Positioning her elderly mother to block the sea breeze.

Note: Mom fanned out her dress and looked down-beach. Shaking her head.

 

I feel like Charlotte’s gonna capsize us.

—A sister’s dire and unheeded warning, which proved prophetic.

Note: Cassandra on an inflatable cabana.

 

There’s nothing better than this.

—Unattributed.

Note: Floated out of a crowd. Like an ownerless swimsuit washing ashore. Might have been an auditory hallucination. (Sun stroke?)

 

This was a mistake.

—Mother of infant twins. Stroller wheels sunk into the sand.

Note: Unintentionally revealing statement?

 

[♫♫ Für Elise ♫♫]

—Ice cream truck broadcasting xylophone Beethoven. Casting a melancholy pall on the afternoon.

Note: Depressed teen prodigy behind the wheel? Saving up money for a Stradivarius—one screwball at a time?

 

I don’t like to go in the water. I just like to look at it.

—High schooler staying with the stuff while his friends head toward the blue.

Note: Paradox of the ocean. Inviting, yet forbidding.  Inhuman, yet where we come from. Endless, yet here we are at the end of it.

 

What do you think he’s writing?

—Guy with neck tattoo. Bike helmet in the sand. Eyeing me from under a camouflage umbrella.

Note: Time to go.

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Will Dowd 2Will Dowd (episode 91episode 104) is a freelance writer based outside Boston. He received an MFA from New York University and an MS from MIT. His writing has appeared in Barrow Street, Post Road, Skeptic Magazine, and NPR.org.

 

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