Episode 376: Kendra Decolo!

Episode 376 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk with Kendra DeColo about poetry, bohemian misadventures, editing, performing, and more.

Kendra Decolo

Photo by Lindsey Rome.


My Dinner with Ron Jeremy


This episode is sponsored by the excellent people at Scribophile.


TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

Check out my debut novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame.

Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame Cover

Episode 376 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 #282: Bad Ronald


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The Curator of Schlock #282 by Jeff Shuster

Bad Ronald

Would you be interested in watching a movie called Good Ronald?

Whatever happened to Dabney Coleman? I remember that as a kid, whenever you’d watch a movie with Dabney Coleman in it, you’d be in for an okay time. He was in WargamesCloak and Dagger, and Max Dugan Returns. Oh wait. Jason Robards was in Max Dugan Returns. Could you imagine a movie that starred both Dabney Coleman and Jason Robards? Talk about World’s Finest! Who would get top billing I wonder?

Time for another ABC Movie of the Week.


Tonight’s ABC Movie of the Week is 1974’s Bad Ronald from director Buzz Kulik. It’s about a boy named Ronald (Scott Jacoby) who is bad. Everyone in town knows this. Just look at him. The guy looks like a super nerd, and I’m not trying to say that all super nerds are serial killers, but the facts speak for themselves. Ronald is a teenager who lives at home with his strange mother (Kim Hunter). He plans on going to medical school after high school so he can operate on her one day. That’s bizarre.


Anyway, it’s Ronald’s birthday. After chocolate cake (Ronald’s favorite), he leaves to go to pool party that he wasn’t invited to so he can ask out Laurie, the hot girl in his class who is clearly out of his league. She rejects his offer of going out to a double feature at the local cinema. The other teenagers splash water on him as he leaves. No one likes you, Ronald. Just stay at home with your mother. In fact, your mother did warn you that “You shouldn’t waste your time with someone who doesn’t care.”

When leaving the party, he runs into Laurie’s kid sister, Carol, and by runs into her, I mean he runs into her, knocking her off her bike. Carol taunts Ronald, but he takes the barb like he should, but then Carol talks trash about Ronald’s mother and he snaps. He lifts Carol up with crazy strength and throws her. Carol’s head hits a cinderblock, and she dies. Ronald runs home to tell his mother about what he did. He then informs her that he buried Carol’s body in a shallow grave. Ronald’s mother doesn’t know what do. If only they had gone to the police after the girl had died, Ronald could have explained it was only an accident. But since he buried the body, that will cement his guilt in the eyes of the law. What to do? What to do?


Ronald’s mother has the bright idea of walling up the downstairs bathroom and hiding Ronald in there until until the heat dies down. She’ll feed him through a secret compartment in the pantry. Ronald will, of course, have to keep up with his studies and his daily exercises, but in a couple of months, they’ll be able to leave town. When the police finally do come poking around, Ronald’s mother tells them that he’s run away. The police search his bedroom and find Ronald’s jacket in his closet. His jacket has a piece of cloth torn from it and wouldn’t you know it, it matches the piece of cloth they found at the scene of the crime. Mom should have burned the jacket. Honestly.

Ronald’s mother finally decides to get that surgery she’s needed. She leaves Ronald with some powdered milk and tells him it should only be about a week. Then she dies on the operating table. The house is sold to Mr. Woods (Dabney Coleman) and his family. Mr. Woods has three teenage daughters. Ronald spies on them through peepholes he’s hidden around the house. He also sneaks out at night to drink their milk and eat their hardboiled eggs.


Did I mention that Ronald is having trouble telling fantasy from reality? He’s been hard at work on a Sword & Sorcery novel while being cooped up in that bathroom. I think he imagines one of the blonde daughters as the fairy princess and himself the fairy prince.

I’ll leave what comes next for you to witness yourself, but if you think Ronald is getting a fairy tale ending, you don’t know much about 1970s TV movies.

Jeffrey Shuster 3

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #27: Deep Background


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Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #27 by Drew Barth

Deep Background

 A new reader looks at issue #1007 of Detective Comics and would likely feel intimidated. There’s much to be said for a short series. It’s why I was recently drawn to Coda or Cemetery Beach, which tell fantastic stories that actually, satisfyingly end. DC has been working on some of these smaller-scale stories like Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle, Cecil Castellucci and Adriana Melo’s Female Furies, and now Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins’ Lois Lane.


The name Greg Rucka on its own should be exciting, as he was one of the architects of DC’s modern era. From being one of the writers on 52 to expanding the Bat-family mythology with his runs on Batman, Batwoman, and Gotham Central, his name has earned its reverence. And with Lois Lane, Rucka—with Perkins’ shadow and smoke soaked panels—is working within one of his strongest genres: crime.

Of course Pulitzer journalist Lois Lane is going to write about crime and corruption in the highest places—she’s won a Pulitzer prize and intends to expose every horrendous thing the current presidential administration has done. In only the first issue, Rucka has already given us the catharsis of Lane yelling at the White House press secretary about the funding for child internment camps with hard numbers and throwing out a name like Lexcorp, which is somehow less evil now. (Let’s be honest: we’ve all wanted to scream at the White House for one reason or another.)

But that catharsis is only one aspect of this story. From the beginning, we actually have Lois away from Metropolis, holed up in a hotel in Chicago, and working on a story that will soon devastate the current White House. We also have a Russian journalist murdered over secrets we know nothing about just yet. And it is through that little plot-hook that Rucka and Perkins catch us—those unknown secrets are mentioned sparingly..

Rucka excels at using contemporary issues to build the reality of the world he’s writing in. The corruption and child internment camps that Lois Lane mentions is a harsh reality. Characters like Lane and Renee Montoya in this first issue deal with that seedier reality as they’re not superhuman. Superman himself is right there, but he’s Clark Kent throughout this issue. Going back to his work on Gotham Central, Rucka always finds ways to make us believe in the peril and mortality of these comic book characters, typically with the contrasting of their moments of triumph with that abrupt shift into something dangerous. Although the danger hasn’t yet fallen into Lois Lane just yet, you can hear the sword swinging above, ready to drop.


Lois Lane is the perfect canvas for the reintroduction and development of Renee Montoya (AKA, The Question), an intriguing character from the Gotham world that Rucka helped to define more than a decade ago. As this is the first we’ve really seen of Montoya since DC’s rebooting of their universe a few years ago, it’s going to be interesting to see how Rucka will develop her character in this new continuity. Personally, I’m excited to see The Question make her comeback. From her two scenes in this story—a Deep Throat-esque dark parking garage conversation and the rescuing of secret files form a murdered journalist—The Question is in her original element of investigation and punching.

Stories like these are how new fans are made—small stakes time and money investment, familiar characters and creators, and strong story-telling. These stories are also how old fans can get excited about the universe again. A good short series like what Lois Lane is shaping up to be is a revitalization for the whole line: low-entry curiosity for new readers and a shorter story for older readers fatigued from longer-running series.

Get excited. Answer The Question.

drew barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Lost Chords & Serenades Divine #12: Safe as Milk Dialogue



Lost Chords & Serenades Divine #12 by Stephen McClurg and John King

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band: Safe as Milk (1967)

STEPHEN: Unlike Machine Head, Safe as Milk has been a favorite album for about two decades, though I felt late to the Beefheart party.

Safe as Milk

After college, I played music regularly and met several Zappa fans. I knew Zappa as a pop culture reference, a guest on The Monkees. These guys discussed how Zappa and Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) went to high school and played in bands together and I thought that was interesting.

Most of my friends were not into Top 40 music. Everyone had a few overlapping tastes, but I had a friend into noise, a friend who played fingerstyle blues, friends playing jazz, etc. I had unknowingly played a few Beefheart songs in one band.  I played to the chords, since I hadn’t heard the songs, but they stood out to me and I wanted to hear more. When I found out it was The Magic Band, I asked what I should hear next.

Mistakenly, I was told Trout Mask Replica.

Trout Mask Replica

While it’s not my favorite Beefheart record, I do like Trout Mask now, but upon first hearing it, I felt cheated. Initially, I thought, “They’re playing two or three songs at once. Ok….” I had heard so much about this record over the years and I just didn’t get it. I know I’m not the only one who has had or will have that experience. It’s not an easy record to digest.

I gave up on Beefheart until I heard “Electricity” on a documentary. I immediately responded to that song and we started covering it. That made me want to check out Safe as Milk.

The album opens with “Sure ‘Nuff ‘n’ Yes, I Do,” a variation on the blues standard “Rollin’ ‘n’ Tumblin’.” It’s funny to think of this band–known for being challenging–whose first song (on an album, I think they did some previous singles) is essentially a “girls-and-cars” song.

That first verse has a mysterious quality. The desert part happens to be true for Van Vliet and it seems to place it out of the traditional Delta blues, but it’s a quote from “Minglewood Blues” that the Grateful Dead eventually popularized–after this record. Mentioning New Orleans brings in the hoodoo, voodoo, gris-gris, and all that which is accompanied by the slide guitar, something more akin to the devil’s instrument–the fiddle–than to traditional European guitar. The “tornado” piece reminds me of American tall tales, Pecos Bill, in particular, and finally, I love “the moon stickin’ in m’eye,” but I feel like that comes from somewhere, too.

The rest of the lyrics are mostly about pursuing love or sex, which just gets old to me and probably why I listen to a lot of instrumental music. Sometimes I just find that stuff boring, particularly men singing about “girls.”

During the third verse they play a two-measure break. That rhythmic sense in that verse, moving from something relatively smooth and pulsing to more stuttering parts becomes a method that the band will use throughout its existence. It’s one of the ways that they build contrasts.

Part of the lyrics at the end make me laugh: “Stick with me and I’ll stick with me and you.”

The most exciting aspects of this track for me are Ry Cooder’s slide playing and John French’s drums.

JOHN: If memory serves, I first started listening to the good Captain while recovering from a hernia operation deep in Interzone, quadrant 9.7. The bat couriers were disrupted by the sulfur hurricanes, and on a really bad TV set with sandpaper reception I probably saw the same documentary that you did: The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart.

“Electricity” drew me into its web, too, in part because the song is an ecstatic hoedown with swooping and galloping slide guitars and a theremin and the Captain is yowling like the ghost of Wolfman Jack who wasn’t even dead yet. It almost sounds like a 1950s novelty record. Those tinkling high notes on the guitar recall the Indian whooping of young David Lynch indicating something about the passage to the Black Lodge. One thing I find strange is that this never made it onto the classic psychedelic songs featured on the radio.

STEPHEN: In one of the Black Lodge or dream sequences, there’s a close-up of a mouth saying “electricity.” And almost every film uses flickering lights or sparks as some sort of sign of evil or danger.

The original idea before theremin was to use a saw, but supposedly they couldn’t get a good recording of one. Saws on metal making music and sparks (metal machine music?) which oddly links with the future Lynch work. I’ve always imagined that they would have sounded similar to the various metallic sounds Peter Thomas was able to conjure in the 1971 Fists of Fury soundtrack.

JOHN: Safe as Milk might be the safest Beefheart record, but it sure punched a big psychic hole in 1967 and marked a major psychedelic turn, but it’s also a trippy march through so many classic genres of songs. On a first listen, Safe as Milk is both weird and very familiar.

STEPHEN: One of the interesting things about the record is the mixture of genres you mention. They do garage rock. They do soul/R&B, blues, and whatever “Electricity” is.

“Zig Zag Wanderer,” again, in some ways is a rock-and-roll cliche: the drug song. Most of the time that’s also boring to me. Zig Zag is a type of rolling paper.

I do like the fairy tale imagery. I feel like “the wanderer” here isn’t going to lose his house because he is in some ways his house and is always traveling with it. “You can dance, you can prance. / These old timbers got strong beams.” The house is well-built: he’s got strong legs.

Again, like that “stick with me” line, I love “Heaven’s free, ‘cept for a dollar.”

JOHN: The lyrics get so specific for Beefheart, even if I don’t really follow what he is saying. Maybe I am not listening hard enough, or maybe I am listening exactly as lucidly as can be without going crazy. This was the same year The Doors released Strange Days, The Grateful Dead released The Grateful Dead and Anthem of the Sun, and The Beatles released Sergeant Pepper and The Magical Mystery Tour, though “I am the Walrus” certainly reaches Beefheartian levels of lyrical disjointedness.

STEPHEN: I love the bass and vocals section of “Zig Zag Wanderer.” The bass sounds like a tuba. There are a lot of complaints about the way this recording sounds, especially from the musicians involved, but I’ve always liked it. It’s not clean, but it is full of character. I know there were quite a few overdubs, but it captures a band playing together in a room really well.

JOHN: Compared to the Beatles, the good Captain seems to be recording in a tin outhouse somewhere in Albuquerque. “Zig Zag Wanderer” is a bit repetitive to me, and a bit too on the nose–the song doesn’t zigzag as much as the lyrics would suggest. Not a bad vamp, and wow that bass is fat, but not a lot of surprises outside of the general crusty texture. Honestly, the strength of this record is its profoundly crusty texture and the odd arrangements.

STEPHEN: The only record I know well on that list you mentioned is Strange Days and it has marvelous production, but I agree, the texture and arrangements here help make the character of the record. I’ll take odd and crusty as much as marvelous.

“Call on Me” always makes me think of the intro to The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” It’s partially because the guitar effect sounds somewhat like a 12-string. The lyrics don’t do much for me on this one.

JOHN: “Call on Me” is rhythmically interesting. The jangly guitars bouncing with the harpsichord bits make this a seasick adventure in the best possible way. The lyrics are vapid, instructing the listener that the singer can help appease her (his?) loneliness while the music is a bit batshit, suggesting that the singer is lonely and weird and maybe not the most reliable antidote to loneliness, but then again if you are lonely you probably need someone weird to identify with. But frankly when listening to Beefheart, I often ignore the lyrics, except when he speak-sings poetry.

STEPHEN: I’d never thought of that, but Beefheart’s narrators come off as unreliable as Poe’s.

I like the horn parts on this and that they fade into the riff from “Then He Kissed Me,” which turns up in a lot of places.

JOHN: “Dropout Boogie” is the first great song on Safe as Milk.

STEPHEN: Yeah, even though the voice is stylized after Howlin’ Wolf, this one feels like the first “Beefheart” tune on the record. He sounds menacing even though the lyrics, again, aren’t much to me, though I love this section:

You told her you loved her,
So bring her the butter.
You love her adapt her.
You love her adapt her.
Adapt her adapter.

Something about “Adapt her adapter” reminds me of early domestic relationships in Cronenberg films.

And then there’s a great pseudo-waltz section with marimba that transitions to solo guitar that builds the phrase higher and then when the main riff slithers back in it just sounds even dirtier. The rhythmic sense of this track has nice off-kilter moments like the “What about after that?” phrase.

JOHN: The feel is if The Trashmen had a cold and were covering The Kinks and forgot the lyrics, with the odd dainty flourishes of the marimbas.

STEPHEN: “I’m Glad” is fine as a soul track, but it’s not my favorite thing that the Magic Band does.

JOHN: It’s a cross between The Philly sound and Van Morrison. What’s weird is how not weird it is.

STEPHEN: It does serve as a kind of palate cleanser for “Electricity,” which we’ve discussed a little. But, yeah, imagine being in a crowd and seeing them play “Electricity” and then “I’m Glad.” I would be energized hearing “Electricity” last, but confused if “I’m Glad” were last.

“Electricity” reminds me of Blue Velvet, “Now it’s dark,” “In Dreams,” the lipstick scene, etc.:

High-voltage man kisses
night to bring the light
to those who need
t’ hide their shadow-deed
hide their shadow-deed
Seek electricity………..

“Yellow Brick Road” is one that I normally wouldn’t like. Too positive, but besides “Electricity” it is one of the tracks that oddly defines the record for me. Lynch also uses Wizard of Oz imagery in several films. There’s a simple bell or xylophone that plays a simple, happy melodic line, and I’ve always liked the kind of bouncy, fairy tale, “peppermint kite” aspect of this track.

These works are all Americanizations of the European fairy tale tradition. Similarly, Lynch mines The Hardy Boys and ‘50s Big Boy culture in a way that Beefheart mines these American musical traditions.

“Plastic Factory,” for me, is like “I’m Glad”: It’s fine for what it is, I’m just not as interested in it. I like some images in the lyrics, the vocal whoops that Beefheart does so well, I’m not sure what they’re called, but it’s almost like an octave shift on a syllable, and the primal nature of the bridge that shifts into a three-feel.

“Where’s There’s Woman” has some cool echo or delay effects and creates a dangerous, sexy–maybe noirish?–mood. I think Zappa is on the backing vocals, but that’s about all I think about the track. I like what it evokes, but the details aren’t necessarily interesting to me.

JOHN: The tempo of “Where’s There’s Woman” is so fucking creepy, like insectile smoke unfurling into the mind of a city, and the lyrics seem to match:

Where there’s truth, the green valley steals cottonwood

Where there’s peace, a little cloud of music gleams brotherhood

STEPHEN: One of my favorite drum tracks is on “Grown So Ugly,” especially what French does with the high-hat accents on the verse. The guitar intro has that off-kilter blues sound the band could do well. Also, there’s a magnificent use of tension before the band shifts into what I guess is a pre-chorus of fantastic howls in a two-measure guitar and drum phrase that builds to those wolfman sounds (Oooohhhhh Baay–Bay!”).

There’s a sense of the wolfman’s story or something like a doppelganger, though it’s explained through the line about being in Angola prison for 20 years. Unlike “Where’s There’s Woman,” there are a lot of details in this one I find more interesting. The bass part is traditional, but perfect in this song.

JOHN: When white people appropriate the blues, it helps for them to find a gimmick that lets them in. Jack White used avant garde style with the costumes and color schemes of The White Stripes. But weirdos like Tom Waits and Beefheart seem to transcend the question of race, which is to say their blues are reconfigured into their own weirdness.

STEPHEN: For me, the weakest part of “Autumn’s Child” is the vocal lines with Zappa and the theremin that then become the chorus. They sound boringly psych-rock to me, but the rest of the track is spectacular. The song has a range of parts and maybe my favorite lyrics on the album. There are several spots I like, but I might as well quote the first verse:

Autumn’s child got a loophole ‘round her finger.
Halo rings her head.
Cornhusk hair makes me linger.
Her cat’s stare meets my dare.
A man’s chair greets my stare.

I’ve always heard that second line as “Halo razorhead,” but I guess the pronunciation is something like “Halo rangs’er head.” I’ll still probably always hear the former.

JOHN: You’ve skipped over the absolute best song on the album: “Abba Zaba”! The rumbling percussion with those madenning lyrics sung with such confidence:

Song before song before song blues
Babbette baboon
Babbette baboon

STEPHEN: Yeah! I don’t know why I skipped it. I feel the same way–everything works here, which is maybe why it was supposed to be the title track. The company who owns the candy of the same name had issues with it. The back of the record has the pattern that’s on the wrapper! I’ve heard the Babbette baboon reference is to the artwork or some kind of artwork associated with the candy, but I may be confused about that.

Of course, as a bassist I was intrigued that there was a bass solo. I should relearn it. I love how French, as usual, drives the song. I just find the lead guitar parts on this one beautiful: crackly, birdlike, sometimes insectile, but still beautiful.

The “song before song” lyric you mention is one of my favorites, along with “two shadows at noon” and “tobacco sky.” Pungently evocative imagery. It gives the listener a lot of room for interpretation and discovery.

JOHN: That dominant bass and noodling guitar reminds me of how gorgeously off-kilter Primus is. That is a fine bass solo, and the song is this rhythmic chant of joyous nonsense. Hopefully that description can be put on my tombstone.

Marc Maron bought the LP and a stranger who saw him asked, “Catching Up?” Aren’t we all?


Stephen McClurg (Episode 24) writes and teaches in Birmingham, Alabama. He co-hosts The Outrider Podcast, writes at Eunoia Solstice, and infrequently blogs. He has contributed music as a solo artist and with the group Necronomikids to past episodes of The Drunken Odyssey.


Episode 375: Chet Weise!



Episode 375 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk with Chet Weise, the publisher of Third Man Books.


Photo by Jamie Goodsell.


Lucy Negro Redux CoverAscend Ascend Covermary wants to be a superwomanMy Dinner with Ron Jeremy


This episode is sponsored by the excellent people at Scribophile.


TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

Check out my debut novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame.

Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame Cover

Episode 375 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 #281: Go Ask Alice


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The Curator of Schlock #281 by Jeff Shuster

Go Ask Alice

More like Go Ask Alice and She’ll Get You High!

We’re on Week 2 of ABC Movie of the Week Month! Are you excited? Yes, you are. Why? Because tonight’s movie is 1973’s Go Ask Alice from director John Korty and stars none other than TV’s William Shatner, star of T.J. HookerBoston Legal, and Shit My Dad Says! But you know him as Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, you super nerd. And you now reflect on all those times in high school when you got your head dunked in the toilet for knowing Captain Kirk’s middle name or that you knew for a fact that the Starship Enterprise has only one bathroom. You ask yourself if being a Star Trek fan was worth it as the grungy 70s TV movie unfolds before your eyes.


There’s a disclaimer before the movie begins, stating that the movie is based on the actual diary of a fifteen-year-old girl, only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. The first thing you see is a fifteen-year-old blonde girl named Alice (Jamie Smith-Jackson) buying a diary and then discussing sex hormones with her mom, and you’re getting angry because there is no William Shatner.

You were promised William Shatner!

Then they play that disgusting Jefferson Airplane song “Go Ask Alice” over the credits and you know the movie will be filled with drugged-out hippies! But then you see in the credits that this movie of the week has a special guest star, TV’s Andy Griffith, and you are reassured that all is right in the world.


Alice doesn’t start out as a drugged-out hippie. On the first day at her new school, she’s lonely until she meets a nice girl named Beth (Mimi Saffian), who tells Alice about a recurring nightmare she has about being abandoned in the synagogue on her wedding days when her fiancé discovers she isn’t a virgin. You feel that Beth is a good friend for Alice and that she’ll keep Alice on the straight and narrow.

But then Beth goes away for the summer.

Alice goes to a party where she’s force fed some uppers and downers by some burnouts, and now Alice is a druggie.


And still no William Shatner.

Until you do see William Shatner and you can’t believe your eyes. He plays Alice’s dad, an English literature professor at a major university. But he looks middle-aged, his hair is brown, and he’s sporting a mustache. And you know all is not right with the world because William Shatner can’t sport a mustache to save his life. And you wonder what happed to the man who four years prior had been seducing green women and striking fear into the heart of the Klingon Empire.


Just when you think Alice can’t sink any lower, her boyfriend gets her to start hawking pills to some 1st Graders.


And then she finds out her boyfriend has been cheating on her and she runs away. You feel awful for Alice, hoping that Andy Griffith will be able to save her, but you know Alice is doomed. You find out the movie is based on the actual diary of a young girl who was addicted to drugs and then died. But then you learn of the controversy surrounding the book, about how the author may have made it up. Does it matter? Of course!


Because you just watched 74 minutes of melodrama interspersed with William Shatner sporting one of the worst mustaches you’ve ever seen.

Jeffrey Shuster 3

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #26: The Wild Storm

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #26 by Drew Barth

The Wild Storm

Nearly thirty years ago, we saw the birth of Jim Lee’s WildStorm imprint within Image Comics. The name, taken from Lee’s WildC.A.T.S. and Stormwatch, would typify 90s extreme comics: ultra violence, para-military mercenaries, spandex tighter than skin, spikes on everything, and dubious anatomy and musculature. That aesthetic dominated comics. Even Alan Moore contributed to the massive universe of series and characters that Lee spearheaded. By the late 90s, the imprint, along with all series and characters, was purchased by DC Comics and, by 2010, was quietly discontinued.

But WildStorm isn’t dead.

In 2016, DC announced that Warren Ellis and Jon-Davis Hunt would be reviving the imprint and continuity with a 24-issue series simply known as The Wild Storm.

ws1The Wild Storm is as close to a piece of perfect superhero comics as the medium has ever produced. If Watchmen is always considered a pinnacle, then The Wild Storm needs a spot next to it. Just above is the first page of the first issue of The Wild Storm and already we have a nine panel grid and a character wiping away a circular mark on her forehead as an almost inverse-origin of Dr. Manhattan’s iconic atomic symbol. Where Watchmen deconstructed the superhero genre as a means of bringing stories into a modern age and context, The Wild Storm is a reconstruction of the superhero genre that works off every superhero story that has come before.

Ellis and Hunt work throughout the series to build. As a team, they’ve taken characters that had existed in the previous WildStorm imprint and have reinterpreted them for a new universe. There’s the mythology of International Operations, Skywatch, The Authority, the WildC.A.T.S., the aliens and daemons as well as every event in the past that has lead to the creation of the above organizations as well as Angela Spica as the outside observer to every major event. As observers in this world, we’re caught in the middle of a Cold War scenario where both sides really want to blow each other up with as much force and flair as possible.

But Ellis knows that isn’t how a story needs to begin. Not when recreating and building a new universe. If their war is going to have impact—if the casualties are going to have any impact—every moment needs to build toward it. Much like how Angela Spica as a character goes from a rudimentary grasp of the flying exoskeleton hidden in her skin to a complete mastery of her abilities, we see each building block. Warren Ellis is a continual master of this slow building and a series like The Wild Storm only reinforces his mastery.


But more than just the building of the new universe and story, there’s the building of the physical mechanisms of the comic itself. Hunt is brilliant in his use of line and tempo throughout the page as a means of conveying action. In the two previously posted pages, the action on the page takes maybe a minute on the first page and a few moments on the second. Hunt’s nine-panel grids and other grids throughout the series aids the page’s tempo and speed. Using that second page as an example, each of those nineteen panels can constitute a second of time passing, the many panels working like quick cuts in a film or multiple short paragraphs in a written story.

This is comics, though, and that idea can work two ways. All of those panels can be a sign to read quickly, to have the eye move over in a fast way as to get to the explosive panel at the bottom. But at the same time, there is a deliberate slowness to observing each panel as its own moment. A second-to-second beat that can work to slow down time and ratchet up the tension even higher as our eyes unconsciously make their way to the climax of the page. As the series has progressed, Hunt works more to break free from the grid and gives us pages like the following.


This is the nine panel grid going through the second circle of hell. Much like Jack Hawksmoor inside, the page is being ripped apart. And this is one of the first instances of the series breaking from the grid pattern that had been established in previous issues. In these instances, Ellis and Hunt want the reader to notice and feel uncomfortable with what is being shown. These are the visual cues that make our eyes re-focus and re-examine what is on the page. It helps as well that the above page was after a page turn, contributing more sharply to the impact of the sudden skewing of the grid and insertion of multiple mini-panels.

One of the greatest things about The Wild Storm is that this isn’t the end of the story. It’s the end of the character arc for Angelia Spica as she’s gone from barely being involved in the world to being an active partner in saving it. But there are other characters introduced, more concepts like the other leftover experiments into superpowers by both International Operations and Skywatch, story threads hanging in regards to what happens to both of those organizations after massive upheavals in their structure. Ellis and Hunt have built a complete breathing universe for more creators to come through and add their ideas. Through both story and page structure, they have built a tone and a tempo for the rest of the universe to follow as the gaps they have left get filled in. Ellis himself has another series, WildC.A.T.S., slated for release later this year and Bryan Edward Hill and N. Steven Harris have recently completed The Wild Storm: Michael Cray limited series that expands upon that character’s story as well.

If there was ever an example of a well-curated universe spinning out of one of the best superhero series of the century, The Wild Storm is it.

Get excited. The storm isn’t over.

drew barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Your Next Beach Read: Michael David Anderson, author of “In The House Of Wolves”

Another installment of Erik Deckers’ “Your Next Beach Read.”

Your Next Beach Read

#YourNextBeachRead is continuing into July as a way to introduce you to a new author and their works in the hopes that you’ll find the next book you want to take with you to the beach, the pool, or the comforts of air conditioning.

Today’s featured author is Michael David Anderson, author of In The House Of Wolves..

What’s your name and where are you from?

I’m Michael David Anderson, and I’m originally from Sevierville, Tennessee. I currently live in Orlando, Florida.

How long have you been writing? How did you start?

7-7 - Michael David Anderson author photoI started writing when I was in second grade; my first work was a sequel to The Very Hungry Caterpillar. My tastes in storytelling have changed dramatically since those humble beginnings, however. I went on to publish my first poem in middle school, and my first novel Teddy was published a few years ago.

Who are…

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Episode 374: June 2019 installment of Loose Lips

Episode 374 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I share a recording of Loose Lips, the monthly current events literary thing run by Burrow Press, who selected me to curate and emcee this installment.

This installment featured Deirdre Coyle (upper right), Erik Deckers (bottom), Bethany DuVall (upper left and bottom), Corwin Moore (beneath upper left), and Tom Lucas (middle right). Photos by Katherine J. Parker.


This episode is sponsored by the excellent people at Scribophile.


TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

Check out my debut novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame.

Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame Cover

Episode 374 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 #280: Maybe I’ll Come Home in the Spring

The Curator of Schlock #280 by Jeff Shuster

Maybe I’ll Come Home in the Spring

Sally Field and David Carradine don’t mix. 

Tired of Summer Blockbusters? I know I am. I’m tired of movies that value pyrotechnics over pathos, slapstick over wit, and Rodan over Rodin. Not on this blog!

I want movies that teach me a lesson, that get me asking the tough questions about life, death, and everything in-between. Back in the 1970s, we had filmmakers who challenged audiences and the status quo. They did it on a weekly basis on little network called ABC.

This July, the Museum of Schlock is showcasing the ABC Movie of the Week!

Tonight’s movie is 1971’s Maybe I’ll Come Home in the Spring from director Joseph Sargent. Sallie Field stars as Dennie Miller, the prodigal daughter of the Miller family, who left her life of suburban heaven to travel around with a disgusting pack of hippies led by a disgusting man named Flack, portrayed by David Carradine.


Dennie calls her parents, tells her how she’s doing fine. All she has to do is ask people for change and they give her nickels, dimes, and quarters. I guess that was worth more back then. Dennie also practices that free love that’s so popular with the young people these days. And she pops pills and smokes the wacky tobacco. And Dennie eats food out of garbage cans. And then Dennie runs away from Flack when he’s on the methedrine again.

Maybe I'll Come Home 3

Dennie makes her way back to her parent’s idyllic suburban house. Jackie Cooper plays Ed Miller, her dad, and Eleanor Parker plays Claire Miller, her mom. Oh, and Dennie has a younger sister named Susie as played by Lane Bradbury. Hmmmmm. Lane Bradbury was born in 1938. This would have made her 33 years-old at the time of Maybe I’ll Come Home in the Spring. And she’s playing a teenager in this movie. That’s weird.

Maybe I'll Come Home 4

Anyway, Dennie’s parents are thrilled to have her home. Her mom even makes them French toast. Her dad almost calls off from work, but there’s that important meeting he simply must attend. Her mother has errands to run, and her sister has to go to school. Dennie is left in the house to remember fond memories, like the time her parents decided to get separate beds to sleep in.


Meanwhile, Flak has flipped out after finding out Dennie went back home. He steals a pest control truck in broad daylight. One of the exterminators exclaims how he doesn’t understand the world anymore. The California Highway Patrol chases after him, but lose him. He parks the pest control truck in front of a diner, orders three big breakfasts, and refuses to pay his meals in a restaurant that has bugs, or such was his claim while pointing to the pest control truck out front. He then steals an ice cream truck, first giving out ice cream to the neighborhood kids before the ice cream man chases after him to no avail. Flack snacks on some ice cream bars as he speeds off to the Miller residence.

Maybe I'll Come Home

Uhhhh. What else? Ed cooks some steaks on the grill. Susie is on drugs. The Millers throw a party with disgusting looking hors d’oeuvres. There’s some loud charades. Susie shows up to the party high as a kite. The Millers don’t seem to notice. The next day, Flack shows up trying to coax Dennie to come with him to Canada. Dennie hesitates and Flack says all she cares about is swimming pools and vacuum cleaners. And what is so wrong with vacuum cleaners and swimming pools, Mr. Flack? During all the commotion, Susie sneaks out and runs away. Maybe she’ll be home in the spring? The last scene of the movie shows Dennie vacuuming. That’s brilliant. You’re either the vacuum or you’re the trash. Dennie chose to be the vacuum.

Jeffrey Shuster 3

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.