Heroes Never Rust #55: A Nemesis and a Newbie

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Heroes Never Rust #55 by Sean Ironman

A Nemesis and a Newbie

There is no one right way to tell a story, but there are ways that work and ways that don’t work. Two ways that work in comics (and in other storytelling mediums) are on display in issue three of The Boys. Billy Butcher has assembled his team. Wee Hughie has come to New York to see what Butcher’s been talking about. Now the fun can start. The inherent problem (or a possible problem) with the series could have been Butcher and his team just going from superhero to superhero and making them pay. Locations could change. Powers could change. But after a little while, the series could be tedious. An overarching villain must be introduced. Someone, or some organization, must be out there for Butcher’s team to work up to.

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In The Boys, the “good” guys are Butcher’s team—a group of violent, homicidal psychopaths (at least a few of them). But, even with their penchant for violence, they believe in what they do. Superheroes, many of them, are dicks and think they can get away with more than they should. The Boys put superheroes in their place. They fight, and kill, for a good reason. These are the good guys. In comics, the main villain is the opposite of the main hero. The villain and the hero are two sides of the same coin. Mr. Fantastic expands his body—Dr. Doom has confined his behind a mask. Batman is a madman who’s reserved and stoic—Joker is a madman who’s wild and out there. Captain America is a man made perfect from science—Red Skull is a man turned grotesque from science. Here, Billy Butcher, dressed in black and ready to fight and fuck, is the team leader. His arch nemesis needs to be a leader of a team and has opposite features.

Enter The Homelander, leader of The Seven (a riff on the Justice League).

The Homelander is basically Superman. While he’s not a Kryptonian, he has the powers of Superman and serves the same role. Instead of having black hair and dressing in black, like Butcher, Homelander wears red, white, and blue. He has a cape and blonde hair. If he wasn’t such an asshole, he’d be just like Superman.

The issue begins with Homelander showing a new member of the Seven, Annie January aka Starlight, around headquarters. For three pages, Homelander is sweet, kind, and sensitive. He asks Annie about her old superhero team and compliments her abilities. He has her sit down at their conference table and says, “There’s just one final test for you to pass, and I know you’re going to excel at that, too.”

Then, he drops his pants and says, “Suck it!”

I told you he was an asshole.

Superheroes like Homelander are why I enjoy this series. Homelander isn’t out to conquer the world. I wouldn’t say he’s an evil person, at least from what’s been revealed so far in the series (although I hold back on information given to the reader later on). I like that the superheroes are just people who have been given popularity and power. I could see a big movie or music executive doing what Homelander does here. If you want the job, you gotta help him out.

Anyway, back to him being Butcher’s nemesis. Comic readers know he’s Butcher’s enemy number one because he’s the antithesis of Butcher. That’s the rule. Also, on a smaller note, the Seven is not the enemy here. The Boys are going to take on a different superhero team first, which helps make the Seven, and Homelander, be the big bad.

Another storytelling technique in this issue is that of the newbie. Sometimes exposition is necessary. I know it gets a bad rap, but readers do need to know what’s going on. One way to work in exposition and explain situations to readers is to introduce a new character. In this issue, we get Annie as the newbie for the Seven and Hughie as the newbie for the Boys. Homelander is able to explain things to Annie that he wouldn’t normally explain to the other members, and Butcher can explain things to Hughie that he wouldn’t normally explain to the rest of the Boys.

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But, that’s not the only thing Ennis and Robertson get from introducing new members to the team. A mystery element is added. Because Hughie and Annie don’t know everything about their respective teams, characters can speak about events and people and the readers can be left a little bit in the dark. As long as readers understand what’s going on currently, they can be teased about other events. Readers can at once be firmly placed in a situation and be left in the dark. By doing both, readers don’t feel confused and, hopefully, they want to continue reading to find out about the events and people they are being teased about. The Lamplighter is mentioned by Homelander, but readers don’t know anything about that character, other than that the Lamplighter was a member of the Seven. Butcher mentions a person named Monkey, or at least that’s what he calls this person, but readers haven’t been introduced to that character yet.

Later in the series, things change up a bit, but it’s important to get readers settled quickly in a story. Once a reader understands the world and how the story operates, the story can be screwed with. Sides could change. Characters could turn out to be somewhat different than readers thought. But, first, readers have to be given something to hold onto. Here, we’re given fresh-faced newbies and dickish superheroes who seem somewhat familiar.

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Sean Ironman

Sean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read inThe Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

In Boozo Veritas # 55: Process This!

In Boozo Veritas # 55 by Teege Braune

Process This!

A Contribution to the My Writing Process Blog Tour

Nathan Holic is something of a renaissance man. He’s a professor, writer, cartoonist, blogger.

American Fraternity Man

His first novel Fraternity Man was released last year by Beating Windward Press, and furthermore, he’s now edited three separate, amazing volumes of Burrow Press’s 15 View of Orlando. His presence is often accompanied by the masculine aromas of mahogany, bourbon, and motor oil, and by inviting me to participate in 15 View of Orlando Volume II, he introduced my work to this city and paved the way for the many opportunities I’ve been grateful to receive ever since. I’ve got a soft spot in my heart (and on my head) for the guy, so when he tagged me to be a part of the My Writing Process blog tour, how could I say no?

The origins of this glorified chain letter are obscure, chiseled away and lost by that mighty sculptor time. Like a delightful virus, it spreads itself from one host blogger to the next, almost as if sentient. Vanessa Blakeslee infected Nathan, Nathan infected John King, Mark Purcell, and now I too caught the bug. The funny thing is that I inadvertently talked about my process a couple weeks ago, but that was more a discussion on how I manage to whip out these blogs after procrastinating until the very last minute. I said nothing of my fiction and realized that I rarely mention it in my blog, so I’ll take this opportunity to discuss that here. Fiction is quite a bit different from blogging. Unless you have a book deal or are already a famous author, you have no deadlines, and most fiction writes are aware that if they stopped making any work at all, few people would care or even notice. That knowledge alone can lead straight to existential crisis. Writing fiction, for me, is about subverting that anxiety into a narrative, usually one that incorporates a monster in some capacity, but before I get carried away, allow me to digress. There are four primary questions that this blog tour obligates me to answer:

  1. What are you working on?

At this time, my primary goal is to finish a yet untitled collection of short stories. I’m pretty close. A couple more medium length stories would put me at a reasonable word count, and some of the stories I haven’t looked at in awhile could use another draft or two. Short stories, not unlike classic cars, require a lot of time and maintenance. Whether this collection should be marketed as horror or weird, off-beat literary fiction will probably depend on which, if any, publisher decides to pick it up when the time comes. Truth is, some of the stories are more funny than scary. Genre lines are bending, merging; the filmy flesh separating one from another has become punctured and now they seep fluidly into each other. It’s an exciting time to be writing stories about monsters. I also have some longer projects that I would like to complete at some point, but something about the length of a novel simply shuts me down. I have not yet figured out how to sustain that level of concentration. Novelists, please send advice my way! How do you endure three hundred plus pages?

  1. How does your work differ from other of its genre?

I guess I would hope that after reading my work the answer to this question would become self-evident. That being said, I’m not sure how to answer this. With a little luck, critics of the decades and centuries to come will debate this topic endlessly. Recently, as a reader I have become very captivated by the weird fiction movement invigorated and championed by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer among others. Humbly I must admit that I have too much to learn about it to tell you how exactly my fiction differs other than to say that weird fiction seems to embrace such an eclectic array of writing, horror, literary, surrealist, and otherwise, that differing may be inherent to one’s participation within it. You dig? 

  1. Why do you write what you do?

As I mentioned earlier, I love monsters. I have always loved monsters, and when I was a kid I had a toy called My Pet Monster, which I handcuffed to my bed in order to protect me from other monster that might otherwise come into my room and eat me as I slept.

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Nevertheless, not all of my stories feature monsters as obvious as those with which I was obsessed in childhood. Sometimes the monster are the good guys, and sometimes I may even point out the, no doubt, ground-breaking observation that even people can sometimes become monsters. Your mind is blown, I know. That being said, a story about something that could happen to you or someone just like you on your way to work, I’ll most likely leave to some other writer. I’ve never been all that interested in writing realism for some reason, though as I reader I never want to become so mired in one genre that I close myself off to all the really great work that is out there. So why do I love monsters so much? Maybe, totem like, they help me contain, explain, or understand anxiety. Probably rich subject matter for a future blog.

  1. How does your writing process work?

It is very important to me to have a routine. I’m not the kind of person who can just automatically jump into that headspace and dash out a few lines in between day jobs. I can write into the wee small hours of the night or get up before dawn and have pages already completed before the sun comes up, but I will most likely do neither unless I absolutely have to for some reason. I am lazy and also bartend at night, which means that I’m probably working or sleeping in those moments ripest for creation. If I can get up and set aside a couple hours for writing in my pajamas as I sip a cup of coffee before the day’s responsibilities tear me away, I’ll do so. I also like writing in public places and usually search out a cafe or coffee shop in which I can feel particularly at home to write for a couple hours in the afternoon. The Drunken Monkey is one of my favorite spots in Orlando, though recently they’ve been too busy for me to get really comfortable, which is great for them; they definitely deserve it, but selfishly, I miss the days when I was their couch’s sole occupant. 

The times and places have changed continually throughout my life, but the need for a routine has remained constant. Periods in which my life or schedule has dramatically altered, whether it be by choice or because of factors beyond my control, my writing has inevitably suffered. This is often accompanied by episodes of crippling self-doubt that make a new routine very difficult to establish. When I was younger, I would become so frustrated by this cycle that I often tried to swear off writing altogether, but I could never stick to it. Didn’t really want to anyway. Even when I wasn’t writing them down, ideas for stories were never far from my mind. Recently my fiancé and I moved and at the same time I accepted an opportunity to teach English for an incredible organization called the Adult Literacy League. Both have been very positive changes, but simultaneously have left my writing in a slump. I’m trying to be okay with it, figure out what feels right, and reestablish a routine without becoming overly frustrated. I am happy to say that I have no intention of swearing off fiction.

Well, I was supposed to tag three new writers, but I put that part off too long, so I’m going to give my literary friends a chance to tag themselves should they so desire. Stephanie Rizzo, what do you think about all this? What do you do to breathe life into your incredible short stories? Jared Silvia, you’re another writer I love and admire. How do you make it work? Adrian Alexander, I have to admit, I’ve only had a tiny taste of your writing, but it left me longing for more. Do you follow some kind of process to make that happen? Amy Watkins, we haven’t heard from a local poet yet? As a person who writes in both essays and poetry, do you have any input on the different processes involved for one or the other? Adam Smith, all the way across the world in Australia, did you find your process changed dramatically when you left Orlando to go down under? I know so many amazing writers, this list could go on and on, so I’ll leave it at that. “Writer, tag thyself!” (as Jesus is purported to have said (or something like it)). 

Also, it’s my birthday!

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Teege Braune BirthdayTeege 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 #27: A Chess Problem

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Areas of Fog #27 by Will Dowd

A Chess Problem

This morning I got up early and sat on my back porch and worked my way through a stack of week-old newspapers.

I was testing a pet theory.

People claim the full moon triggers a collective lunacy, flooding emergency rooms and holding cells.

If that’s true, just imagine what the supermoon unleashed last weekend.

I rifled through the papers, skimming over the usual sprees.

At last I found something: a report of the 41st Chess Olympiad in Tromsø, Norway.

The tournament got off to an uneventful start, but right around the time the supermoon waxed, things got weird.

A player from Uzbekistan was found dead in his hotel room.

The women’s team from Burundi vanished after round five; according to Norwegian officials, they’re still unaccounted for.

And during his final match, Kurt Meier, a member of the Seychelles team, collapsed from a heart attack. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

If this last incident sounds somehow familiar to you, that’s just because life has once again lifted a plot from Agatha Christie.

Agatha Christie

In her short story, “A Chess Problem,” a grandmaster suffers a heart attack in the middle of a game (metallic white bishop, electrified board).

Agatha Christie was a decent chess player.

Most mystery novelists are.

Poets are lousy at chess, which is surprising given the parallels (the perpetual starting over, the inevitable madness), though of course poetry is played not in a smokey backroom with fellow hollow-eyed obsessives but alone, the right hand against the left, with pieces that can breed and recombine, on a board of endless overlapping squares.

The most successful game of chess ever played by a poet took place at the White Horse Tavern in the late 1940s, when Dylan Thomas—who would years later die after being served 18 whiskies at the bar—vomited on the board, blasting the pieces onto his opponent’s lap.

Dylan Thomas

Which was, I suppose, a kind of endgame.

I once ducked into the White Horse Tavern to escape an afternoon downpour.

I elbowed my way through the shrieking crowd and asked the bartender for 18 whiskies, which is something she must have heard before, since, without looking up, she replied, “Only if you promise to die.”

Checkmate.

I keep thinking of Kurt Meier, and how his mid-game demise was recorded by tournament officials as a loss, and how his individual ranking will take a posthumous tumble.

Chess is a cold, ruthless amusement.

Take the case of Magnus Carlsen, the 23-year-old Norwegian grandmaster and current World Champion, whose shocking defeat at the Olympiad was drowned out by the deaths and disappearances.

Was it exhaustion?

Was it the airlessness of a room in which 650 chess matches were being played concurrently?

Was it the fact that the prime minister of Norway made his opening move in what must be the international equivalent of throwing out the first pitch?

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“I was just empty,” Carlsen said after the game. “Neither creativity nor any of the simple things are there for me right now. It’s not good.”

I’m suppose to describe the weather this morning. I’m suppose to think of an original way to describe the blue sky and the white clouds.

I found a single fallen acorn on the porch. I should probably make something of that.

But I’m not in the mood to describe anything right now.

I just feel empty.

And I don’t care if my ranking goes down.

It’s like Dylan Thomas said: “Poetry is not the most important thing in life. I’d much rather lie in a hot bath reading Agatha Christie.”

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Will Dowd Summer

Will 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.

Episode 113: Sarah Grieve!

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Episode 113 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 the poet Sarah Grieve,

Sarah Grieve

plus Rose Tran writes about what Sherman Alexie taught her about humor.

Rose Tran

TEXTS DISCUSSED

Honey my Tongue

Dearest Creature

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Episode 113 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Shakespearing #9: Two Gentlemen of Verona

Shakespearing #9 by David Foley

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

08 Two Gentlemen of Verona

There’s a form of Equity contract which allows you not to pay the actors, provided certain other criteria are met. It’s called a “showcase,” the idea being that these productions help actors showcase their talents.

The only two productions I’ve seen of The Two Gentlemen of Verona were showcases, perhaps understandably. It has four easy-to-cast young leads. There are comic parts which offer wonderful opportunities for funnymen. (In one production I saw, a friend made Launce hilarious in his native Tennessee twang.) For the rest, the cast is small, the settings simple, the plot easy to follow, and there are no flying fairies or asses’ heads to test the resources of a small company.

There’s something Shakespeare-Lite about Two Gentlemen. Much of it can be read as a sketch for later[*] plays. According to Riverside, one source for the play was the poem on which Romeo and Juliet is based, and thus we have new love driving out the old “as one nail by strength drives out another,” as Juliet drives out Rosaline, and a banishment speech which sounds like a first run at Romeo’s. (“And why not death, rather than living torment?” says Valentine; “Ha, banishment? Be merciful, say death,” says Romeo.) Silvia and Valentine are an early version of Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado, while Julia, disguised as a page to the man she loves, prefigures Viola. And as in Midsummer and As You Like It, everyone runs off to the woods to straighten out the mess.

There’s even an uncomfortable happy ending, like those of Measure for Measure and All’s Well That Ends Well, in which a woman’s patience is rewarded with marriage to a man who’s been villainously cruel. Sixty lines after Proteus threatens to rape Silvia, he claims Julia as his “wish forever,” though not before Valentine has offered him Silvia to restore their friendship. We can only guess at Silvia’s response to this; she has no lines for the rest of the play.

This may be clumsy or it may be cynical, fitting in with the play’s overall cynicism about love. In one of Shakespeare’s more acid pairings, the parting of Julia and Proteus (“What gone without a word?/Ay, so true love should do: it cannot speak.”) is followed by Launce’s lament about his dog who, at parting, “sheds not a tear, nor speaks a word.” The most consistent imagery in the play revolves around eyes, which love traps or makes blind, and letters, love codified in easily torn entreaties. The very rapidity with which the ending resolves matters suggests that love is light, illusory.

It occurs to me that the man who gave us the phrase “marriage of true minds” was almost Austen-like in his belief that marriage of minds was both deeper and higher than marriage of desire. His most persuasive couples (Kate and Petruchio, Beatrice and Benedick, Antony and Cleopatra) connect as intellectual equals, whereas Romeo and Juliet is as much about the dangers of love as the dangers of hate.

If love in Shakespeare’s plays is illusory, a card trick, it makes a kind of cynical sense that Proteus and Julia can reunite after all he’s done. But it also says something about the way Shakespeare treats villainy: not as a trait but as a condition. Villainy is something Proteus passes through, and if he can, so can we all. As I’ve noted before, even his more sustained villains reflect back uncomfortably on us.

[*] Always with the caveat that we can’t say for sure which plays were earlier or later.


 

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.

A Word from the King #3: The Writing Process Blog Tour

 A Word from the King #3 by John King (obviously)

The Writing Process Blog Tour

The Writing Process Blog Tour is a leapfrogging—or rather, leap-blogging—questionnaire linking one writer to three writers who will then answer the questionnaire themselves before nominating three more bloggers who will do the same, until, obviously, this viral activity will require participants from outer space, or newborns who can type, to keep the tour spreading across the infobahn.

The ever-fab Nathan Holic, who tapped me for this honor, posted his own entry for The Writing Process Blog Tour here.

Nathan Holick

But now it’s my turn.

What are you working on?

I am currently working on (1) a lecture called “Postmodernism for Creative Writers,” (2) a novel that I have been eking out for 20 years, and (3) a top-secret, book-length biography. 

  1. This talk will be delivered in public, with a Q & A, but also be released as a podcast episode.
  2. This postmodern narrative combines the aesthetics of Modernist writers like Henry James, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, A.A. Milne, and early Samuel Beckett. The work is experimental, in that consciousness and sensory impressions (rather than some urgent plot) drive the book. Plus there is lots of sex.
  3. I can’t talk about, because it is a secret.

How does this work differ from others of its genre?

  1. I tell jokes.
  2. Self-evident, I hope.
  3. It is still a secret.

Why do you write what you do?

In some ways, I write to impose my vision of reality upon others. The off-the-shelf definitions of identity, the political verities, the art that is nothing more than corporate tofu needs to be kicked off-kilter for any real reality to be observed and lived.

Partly, this means preserving those parts of the past that seem to have faded, but whose life radiated such light that they made life more tolerable, more real, more survivable than history.

How does your writing process work?

The most important part of my writing process is how I overcome the pressure of the workaday, to have my own mind restored to me for use. And to find momentum. 

I call my podcast The Drunken Odyssey in part because my writing process is an epic misadventure, a rupturing of plans and a distancing from domestic tranquility. I wish my life were more civilized or orderly, or that I could travel to conferences or carve out an hour or two of each already damaged, diminished day.

With a similar situation, many writers just stop writing, but not me, as project (2) indicates. I claw my way through the seas, against the tide. I beat to windward when I must, which is most of the time.

I’ve invited three writers to continue this relay:

Stephen McClurg

Stephen McClurg 2

Rose Tran,

Rose Tran

and Dianne Turgeon-Richardson.

Dianne Turgeon Richardson, politician

There own takes on this questionnaire will appear next Friday-ish. Keep a weather eye open.

Selah,

John King

The Curator of Schlock #52: Congo

The Curator of Schlock #52 by Jeff Shuster
Congo
(Ape of the Week: Gorilla)

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When a movie starts out with Bruce Campbell screaming directly into the camera, you can take that as a good sign that you won’t be wasting your time. 1995’s Congo from director Frank Marshall tells the story of a talking gorilla, King Solomon’s diamonds, super satellites, laser guns, and an extra evil Jo Don Baker. What more could you want out of movie?

As mentioned earlier, Congo features a talking Gorilla named Amy. I know what you’re thinking: how can a gorilla possibly talk? That’s impossible! Well, she does the sign language thing and she has this device attached to her arms that translates her signs into spoken words. Granted, Amy sounds a bit like a Speak & Read. What is a Speak & Read? It’s an electronic device that taught children how to read back in the 1980s. Yes, I owned one. Yes, I’m an old man.

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Anyway, poor Amy’s been having nightmares about the jungle and her guardian, Dr. Peter Elliott (Dylan Walsh), decides it’s high time to deliver her back to the Congo. Plus, he figures since Amy knows how to sign, she can teach the other gorillas in the wild how to talk. That should go a long way toward speeding up the inevitable ape uprising.

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Unfortunately, Dr. Elliot is having trouble securing funds for returning Amy back to the wild. He should have tried auditioning Amy for a Broadway revival of Bye Bye Birdie. I guarantee you that sucker would be have been a sold out for six months. Dr. Elliot eventually manages to get funding for his exhibition from a mysterious benefactor named Herkermer Homolka (Tim Curry).

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Yes, Tim Curry is in this movie sporting a Romanian accent. Do you really need more reasons to watch this?

Homolka isn’t the only one who wants to fund this expedition.

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Dr. Karen Ross (Laura Linney) is a communications scientists who works for TraviCom, TraviCom is run by R.B. Travis (Jo Don Baker). He’s obsessed with getting his hands on a rare blue diamond so he can build a super satellite like the kind we see in James Bond movies. He sends his son, Charlie Travis (Bruce Campbell), off to Zaire where he mysteriously disappears (gets mutilated by killer gorillas.) Charlie was Dr. Ross’s ex-fiancé so that’s her motivation for leading the exhibitio. R.B. Travis simply wants to rule the telecommunications industry. That’s his reason for sending the exhibition.

The group arrives in Africa where they meet Eddie Ventro (Joe Pantoliano wearing a Hawaiian shirt) who helps them to organize the exhibition. They also meet Captain Munro Kelly (Ernie Hudson sporting a British accent) a mercenary who will lead them into the Congo.

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Will our intrepid group of adventurers survive heat seeking missiles, killer gorillas, and an active volcano? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

Congo came out the same summer of Batman Forever. I’ll take a movie starring a talking gorilla and one of the greatest ensembles of character actors ever seen in on film over that mess any day. Plus, Congo features killer gorillas that toss human heads around like they’re footballs. What more could you possibly want from a movie?

5 Things I Learned from Watching Congo.

1. Talking gorillas could give JIBO a run for its money.
2. “Rain drop drink” is gorilla speak for a vodka martini with olives.
3. You can’t trust Tim Curry.
4. You can always trust Ernie Hudson.
5. It’s always fun to watch Jo Don Baker lose his cool.

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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 #54: Introductions

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Heroes Never Rust #54 by Sean Ironman

Introductions

Now that the tone and racy content has been set, issue two of The Boys sets up the characters. In the premiere issue, readers were shown two of the main characters (Billy Butcher and Wee Hughie), but now the rest of the team comes out to play. There are twenty-two pages of content, three characters to introduce, two main characters whose stories must be furthered, and there’s still world-building that needs to be done. There’s not much room to spend on each character of the team. Plus, introductions shouldn’t feel like exposition. It’s a lot of work for Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, but they solve any problems with a strong structure.

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The issue opens with Rayner (the CIA contact for The Boys) looking through files of past cases of The Boys. She gave Butcher the go ahead to start up again and seems to have doubts. Other than Butcher making superheroes pay for being dicks, readers haven’t been given much about what Butcher and his team actually does. In two pages, Ennis and Robertson set up just how devastating Butcher’s team can be, while still keeping a mystery element in play. Readers aren’t shown much, but they are given hints with excerpts from the files.

  • “Brutal beating unlike anything on record at this hospital”
  • “Prisoner demanded, then begged not be released”
  • “Extremely ragged decapitation, followed by”

The Boys Vol1-final

It’s enough to set up the team and show that Rayner is not fully on board with Butcher. Most importantly, the plot doesn’t stop to tell the reader what happened in the past. It uses past events to complicate Rayner’s relationship with Butcher and gives the reader a peek at the team, which Ennis and Robertson then go into.

The rest of the issue jumps back and forth between a conversation between Butcher and Hughie as Butcher attempts to make Hughie a part of the team, and Butcher collecting the other three team members (The Frenchman, The Female, and Mother’s Milk). We all know Hughie will eventually join the team so I won’t waste time here discussing Butcher talking with Hughie. Now, I like Butcher and Hughie, but a conversation could be awfully boring to read. So Ennis and Robertson break up the issue so that it’s not shown in chronological order. At points in the conversation, the story jumps to Butcher approaching another member of the team.

The first is The Frenchman. He’s drinking espresso at a coffee shop and talking to himself. Some assholes in suits make fun of him. “Fuckin’ French faggot.” “Goddamn surrender monkey.” He stares at the suits cool and calm. Then, quickly, he puts goggles on and beats the shit out of them. Butcher walks in, and The Frenchman calms down, runs up to Butcher, and hugs him, happy to see his friend again. Then, they walk off, leaving the suits bloody and either dead or unconscious. The action scene does a good job breaking up the conversation between Butcher and Hughie, but it does so to show The Frenchman’s character. It’s not just random action scene. The reader sees that The Frenchman is dangerous but not wild. While he shows a range of emotions in the short scene, he’s not emotional. He’s in control and can go from sitting with a nice espresso into killing somebody within a second.

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The second is The Female She’s on a doorstep, small and thin, with a jacket that’s three times too large. She knocks quietly, and the bad guys inside argue and then try to get rid of her. She grabs the man at the door and shuts the door behind her. Butcher watches the house from across the street. Readers only get the screams of those inside. Then, a face, not the skull, just the face, ripped from a man hits a window and slides off. That’s all readers get from The Female. She never speaks. But, readers can see that she might be more dangerous than The Frenchman. She uses her looks to her advantage, but in a different way than many comic book female characters. She doesn’t have huge breasts, long legs, and wavy hair. She looks sad. People drop their guard, and then she tears them apart.

A couple of summers ago, I took a poetry class and the professor said that poetry is about creating a pattern and then breaking that pattern. This is done by creating a structure to stanzas and lines, and, at the end, changing it up. It creates a tension in the structure. That’s what Ennis and Robertson do here. We get two introductions with violent action scenes. These scenes show the capabilities of The Frenchman and The Female. But, with the third member, Mother’s Milk, the pattern changes. Mother’s Milk, a large black man, is shown in his dining room drinking coffee from a mug that has “Bad ass” on the side. His first line of dialogue is “Butcher, man…I dunno.” He’s calm and seems tired of it all. He only gets a little worked up when Butcher puts his mug down on the counter without using a coaster. The first two introductions are three pages each, while Mother’s Milk’s intro is four pages. He seems more important than the other two because of the change in pattern.

Mother’s Milk’s daughter comes in dressed in a small tank top that shows off her breasts, and when he tries to talk to her about it, she yells at him and leaves. This guy can’t even control his own household. He’s a far cry from the other two, but I get the feeling he’s got something brewing inside. Butcher gets the action here. He goes outside and yells at the daughter and crushes the gun from two guys she’s hanging with. This introduction gives more color to the issue—it complicates the structure, making Mother’s Milk stand out and making the issue more than just the other teammates killing a bunch of people. Changing that pattern helps save the issue from a bunch of boring exposition and setup.

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Sean Ironman

Sean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read inThe Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

In Boozo Veritas # 54: Anthology: Getting Drunk and Reading Stories

In Boozo Veritas # 54 by Teege Braune

Anthology: Getting Drunk and Reading Stories

Saturday night I participated in a truly unique literary experience: Cole NeSmith’s Creative City Project sponsored Anthology: A Night of Stories and Spirits at Snap! Space.

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To a soundtrack of gypsy jazz provided by The Cook Trio, writers Jared Silvia, McKenzie Parker, Keith Kolakowski, and Vanessa Blakeslee (whose debut collection Train Shots was recently released by Orlando-based publisher Burrow Press) and myself took turns reading original work sitting in an easy chair on a stage set up to look like Masterpiece Theater before a wonderfully large and responsive audience.

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Lest we writers imagine that the packed house was brought by the allure of our brilliant work alone, signature, craft cocktails designed by Matt of The Courtesy Bar were also served. Five cocktails to be exact, one for each story.

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It probably comes as no surprise that I, a drunken writer who keeps a weekly blog called In Boozo Veritas about literature and alcohol, would consider having a cocktail based on a story I wrote one of the pinnacles of my career. My weird story about prop comedian Carrot Top fighting reptosapien-hummanoid monsters in Winter Park’s Kraft Azalea Garden inspired an equally unusual beverage that combined chai-infused Bacardi with simple syrup, lime, and carrot juice. While I would never have thought to mix these ingredients together myself or order the concoction in a bar, this just goes to show why I’m no mixologist. The delightfully off-center, bright orange elixir partnered perfectly with a tale about a man with bright orange hair who is addicted to drinking lizard blood.

Across the board, Matt did an excellent job taking cues from both odd details and a story’s overarching atmosphere to create drinks as rich in layers and subtleties as the literature from which they were derived. I found it a personal treat enjoying his mixture of scotch, lemon juice, lavender-infused simple syrup, Peychaud’s bitters, and darjeeling tea while listening to my good friend Jared Silvia read his story “Thursday.”

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Having read this story in Burrow Press’s first collection Fragmentation long before I even knew Jared, it was my introduction to the work of someone who has become one of my favorite local writers. Jared’s story, narrated by a ponderous drifter whose adventure finds him indulging in his penchants for sunscreen, cheap wine, and the dirty, after-work smell of a Russian bartender, is equal parts funny, sad, and wonderfully resistant to easy interpretation.

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Each of the stories contained an air of the mysterious and an open-ended quality that lent itself to the heavy consumption of top shelf spirits. As the Creative City Project scheduled two shows back to back (both of them sold out), by the time everything wrapped up around midnight the writers and our significant others were ten stories and ten cocktails deep, and quite frankly swimming in it. Some of us sobered up by stumbling up Mills Avenue towards Tako Cheena and then jumping right back into that pool of self abuse by finishing the night at Lil Indies where they were serving some very fine cocktails of their own and playing a fantastic set of soul and funk. As always an otherwise classy evening devolved into a foggy night of rowdy debauchery. The events that followed are worthy of their own lurid tale, one that would most likely inspire its own signature cocktail containing what? Bourbon, beer, horse radish, dog food, and Edy’s slow churned French silk ice cream perhaps? But that is a subject for another blog post and another reading, one that will hopefully never see the light of day. In the meantime, Cole has proven that the City Creative Project is an organization to keep your eye on. I for one am eager and excited to see what amazing events he hosts in the weeks and months to come.

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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 #26: Night Thoughts II

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Areas of Fog #26 by Will Dowd

Night Thoughts II

There’s an insomnia native to early August, when the nights are as cold and clear as a jellyfish and you feel like the only remaining creature alive—or you would if the neighbor’s dog would stop howling at the moon.

A lot of ink has been spilled on the moon this week.

Or should I say “supermoon.”

They claim it won’t be this luminous again for twenty years.

I admit it does look spit-shined.

We also just passed, in our calendrical orbit, the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing.

It has me thinking not about Neil or Buzz, but about Michael.

Michael Collins was the third crewmember on Apollo 11, the one who never actually stepped foot on the lunar surface but stayed aboard the Columbia spacecraft, circling the Moon.

“Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during this 47 minutes of each lunar revolution when he’s behind the Moon…” Mission Control observed.

Good thing he kept a journal.

“I am alone, now,” he wrote during one spell on the dark side, “truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it.”

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Of course, not everyone believes we went to the moon.

To them, Collins’s journal is as authentic as A Voyage to the Moon, the science fictional memoir of Cyrano de Bergerac, a 17th century French soldier and dramatist who claimed to have traveled to the moon on a primitive rocket powered by fireworks.

(His first attempt, made by attaching vials of evaporating morning dew to his waist, was reportedly less successful.)

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Collins feared a similar mechanical failure.

While he waited for his colleagues to blast off from the Moon and rendezvous with him in orbit, he confided to his journal: “My secret terror for the last six months has been leaving them on the Moon and returning to Earth alone.”

Armstrong and Aldrin put their odds at 50/50.

Nixon had already prepared their eulogy: “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the Moon to explore in peace will stay on the Moon to rest in peace.”

Up in his capsule, Collins imagined the worst.

“If they fail to rise from the surface, or crash back into it, I am not going to commit suicide,” he wrote. “I am coming home, forthwith, but I will be a marked man for life and I know it.”

These two sentences are why I believe we went to the moon.

I find them more compelling than any moon rock.

More convincing than any ampule of lunar soil.

More definitive even than the recent aerial photos of the Apollo 11 landing site in which you can make out the discarded Lunar Module like a cigarette burn.

Untitled 3Of course, Collins’s nightmare proved to be just that—a nightmare.

When they returned to Earth, it was Armstrong and Aldrin who were the marked men, the living memorials who descended into reclusion and alcoholism, respectively.

Meanwhile Collins, who never left a bootprint on lunar dust, sidestepped into a life of peaceful anonymity.

Today he lives in Florida and spends his time painting awkward, verdant watercolors of the Everglades.

“The moon is so scarred, so desolate, so monotonous, that I cannot recall its tortured surface without thinking of the infinite variety the delightful planet earth offers,” he wrote in his memoir, Carrying the FireAn Astronaut’s Journey.

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Until recently, Collins refused to sign his paintings, afraid his valuable signature would inflate the price.

He didn’t want to trade on the accomplishments of his earlier life.

Picasso once refused to sign a painting brought to him for authentication.

“If I were to sign it now, I’d be committing forgery,” he said. “I’d be putting my 1943 signature on a canvas painted in 1922.”

After the Apollo mission, Collins felt different from other people—and not just because the time he spent hurtling through space has made him, according to Einstein’s special theory of relativity, a fraction of a second younger than his fellow earthlings.

“I have seen the earth eclipsed by the moon,” he wrote.

“I have seen the sun’s true light, unfiltered by any planet’s atmosphere.”

“I have seen the ultimate black of infinity in a stillness undisturbed by any living thing.”

“Although I have no intention of spending the rest of my life looking backward, I do have this secret, this precious thing, that I will always carry with me.”

When Cyrano crashes back to Earth, no one knows or even suspects where he’s been. Only the village dogs, who chase him, howling. They smell the moon on his clothes.

My neighbor’s dog has stopped barking.

The moon must have slid between some trees.

Maybe I’ll try sleeping again.

Pick this up later.

Haven’t even got to the famous play—the one that portrays Cyrano as a nasally-endowed poet who doesn’t sign his love letters, who draws his sword when Death comes to bear him back to the moon.

“It means nothing to me. I have no opinion about it, and I don’t care,” Picasso said when he was asked about the first moon landing.

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Will Dowd Summer

 

Will 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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