Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #152: Only Fools

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #152 by Drew Barth

Only Fools

I began my year reading a fairly long novel in the form of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and am ending it with a similar tale in Si Spurrier, Nathan Gooden, Addison Duke, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s This Hungry Earth Reddens Under Snowclad Hills. There is a common thread: the turn of the century lust for gold. But while the former is steeped in the locality of Hokitika, New Zealand, The Rush takes its inspiration from the Yukon valley and the cold that seeps into the bones of every person to pass through for their gold.

Unnamed horrors bookend this first issue of The Rush. We are met with the bowler-hatted figure on this issue’s cover along with brief glimpses of giant spider legs. We know more about Nettie Bridger. A mother in search of her son, Nettie traverses the rivers and snow in the north to reach the Yukon valley and the gold seekers that may have some information about her son’s whereabouts. While the few opening pages gives us some essential context in the form of a letter she is writing to her son, we see the inklings of a larger problem rearing its head. While we see the letter and the moments she describes writing, the letter is never written. The land itself seeks to delay her finding her son.

The Rush is another story by Spurrier that follows some of his similar threads from work like Coda and The Spire—namely the question of competence and ability of our main character. In the case of The Rush, Nettie Bridger is committed to finding her son among the gold scavengers scattered across the Yukon valley. Her son, much to her devastation, has already passed. Many of Spurrier’s best characters are quite competent in what they do and their aims are usually noble. But their tragedy comes in their hesitation. If they had acted sooner, if they had trusted an instinct nagging at the back of their mind, they could have solved their problems before they started. And yet. All tragedy does not simply stem from their hesitancy, but much of what makes them suffer comes from that question of acting sooner

I’ve mentioned many times how important and difficult first issues can be. Spurrier, Gooden, Duke, and Otsmane-Elhaou, however, can make the process seem simple. There is an essential tragedy running throughout this issue coupled with its slowly churning horror and it creates a feeling comfort among the unease. Everything happening makes you want to put the issue down, but you slip into the story completely and want to see where the rest of it goes. It’s the magic the creative team here has that something so uneasy could draw you in so completely.

Get excited. Get that color.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331 & 485) 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.

Episode 500: Paul Auster!

Tags

, , , ,

Episode 500 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

On today’s show, I discuss the power of Stephen Crane with novelist Paul Auster.

Photo by by Spencer Ostrander.

TEXT DISCUSSED

NOTES

ScribophileTDO 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.

Today’s interview was done in cooperation with Miami Book Fair.

Behold my literary tourism in Brooklyn, during my MFA days.

Former site of The Brooklyn Cigar Shop set, taken May 3rd, 2008. (I apparently don’t know how to frame a shot.)


Episode 500 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #380: Django

Tags

, , , , ,

The Curator of Schlock #380 by Jeff Shuster

Django

Don’t bug the man dragging the coffin around. 

My friend Larry and I were trying to scale a Canadian prison wall using a rope made of used men’s briefs. I went first, inching my way ever so clumsily to the ground below. I was about halfway down when Larry decided to follow. The combined weight of us both proved too much for Larry’s amateur knot job. I was free-falling and the last thing I saw was Larry’s protruding butt cheeks before everything went dark.

— To be continued.


This week’s Arrow Home Video release is 1966’s Django from director Sergio Corbucci (who is referenced in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). Django is one of the more notable spaghetti westerns.

We don’t get Clint Eastwood in this motion picture, but does star the one and only Franco Nero in the title role. The movie begins with Django dragging a coffin through the muddy wasteland of the old west.

This behavior brings to mind questions like for what purpose does one drag a coffin around with him and who is in said coffin? One wonders if it’s some sort of fashionable affectation, or does the coffin give this man comfort like a baby blue blanket does for Linus?

A prostitute named Maria (Loredana Nusciak) gets whipped by a gang of evil Mexican bandits. Then the Mexican bandits are shot to death by an evil gang of ex-Confederate soldiers called the Red Shirts. Naturally, these Red Shirts want to kill Maria by tying her to a burning cross. Then Django shows up, shoots the Red Shirts dead with his six gun, and brings Maria with him to the nearest small town, complete with a brothel run by Nathanial the pimp (Ángel Álvarez).

Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo) is the leader of the Red Shirts and demands Nathanial give him his weekly cut of the brothel’s profits. Django sees this and shoots up the Major’s men, but tells the Major to go and to bring his whole army back with him next time. Well, the Major does just that. One would think that’s more than even Django can handle, but it’s at this point that we get to what’s in the coffin and it just happens to be a machine gun that Django uses to mow down every Red Shirt that enters town.

This gives him clout with the Mexican bandits and their leader, General Rodriguez (José Bódalo), who wants to start a revolution back in Mexico and take over as ruler of that country. He also has a penchant for slicing off the ears of those who cross him. So General Rodriguez wants ten of those new fangled machine guns, but those cost money so Django and General Rodriguez’s gang assault the Mexican Army at Fort Charribba. They steal a whole lot of gold, but the General doesn’t want to give Django his share just yet. They lock the gold away, but Django enacts an elaborate plan to steal it. He then makes a break for it with Maria.

I like this picture, which has the spirit of A Fistful of Dollars. We get a particularly nasty villain in Major Jackson, a man whose idea of sport is shooting poor Mexican farmers. And Django is especially cunning as our anti-hero. Deep down we know he won’t get away with his scheme, but we root for him all the same. Apparently, there was a whole slew of these Django movies made back in the day so I may return with another next week.


Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477, episode 491, episode 492, episode 493, episode 495, and episode 496) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #151: Dolly Parton Reference

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #151 by Drew Barth

Dolly Parton Reference

It’s finally a Wednesday… Finally here… Wednesday. And that means it’s a Jojo Wednesday this week. A bit over two years since the conclusion of the animated adaptation of Hirohiko Araki’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, we’re finally at the premiere of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean. Although this one is a little different, with it being shown exclusively on Netflix, it is still nice to see Stone Ocean animated in all its batshit-road-trip-across-Florida-insanity

Stone Ocean is the sixth part of the long-running manga, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. The series as a whole is centered on the Joestar family and their bloodline throughout the decades—their battles, their deaths, and everything else that can happen around them. Stone Ocean follows Jolyne Cujoh, daughter of Stardust Crusaders’ protagonist Jotaro Kujo, and her incarceration in Green Dolphin Street Prison in Port St. Lucie. Jolyne, along with fellow prisoners Hermes Costello and a sapient colony of plankton inhabiting a dead woman’s body known as Foo Fighters, must unravel the mysteries of Whitesnake—a malicious force that can trap people’s memories and Stand abilities in physical disks. As mysterious as it is dangerous, Whitesnake has stole the memories and Stand of Jotaro Kujo and will attempt to kill Jolyne multiple times through surrogates to prevent her from taking back her estranged father’s discs. It’s a lot and this is maybe the first couple volumes out of seventeen.

From the bits and pieces we’ve already seen of the animated series, David Productions is going to be following the source material very closely—from the designs of Stands like Stone Free and Weather Report to the layout of Green Dolphin Street Prison itself. And because of that, there has always been an odd discussion surrounding these adaptations and that’s if someone should read the original manga first. And, normally, I would say yes. But despite Stone Ocean concluding in 2003, there has yet to be an official release of the manga in the US. The previous part, Golden Wind, only started getting its official manga releases in August, but there hasn’t been much of Stone Ocean just yet. And that’s definitely a shame as Stone Ocean was one of those pivotal moments in Araki’s development as a mangaka. The style we see him ending this part with is the style that has become his most iconic over the past twenty years with everything from fashion spreads to new covers for series re-releases. It feels like all of that started with this part of his manga, but we’re still not allowed to see it in English officially just yet.

As always, I’m going to evangelize Jojo as one of the best shonen manga ever released and this animated adaptation is likely going to continue my trend of evagelization. And for good reason. I’ve written previously about some of the major issues with shonen manga and Jojo’s supplanting of those tropes in favor of more sectional storytelling. I’m also excited for this entire series to be animated as it ends on a note very few manga have approached, but it’s something that many western comic fans will be very familiar with.

Get excited. Get free.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331 & 485) 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.

Episode 499: Saïd Sayrafiezadeh!

Episode 499 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

On today’s show, I discuss Beckett, Kafka, wry sardonic worldweariness, and other matters of interest with fiction writer and memoirist Saïd Sayrafiezadeh.

Photo by Beowulf Sheehan.

TEXT DISCUSSED

NOTES

ScribophileTDO 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.

Miami Book Fair has recordings of online events that can be viewed now.


Episode 499 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #379: A Taste of Blood

The Curator of Schlock #379 by Jeff Shuster

A Taste of Blood

Stick with Uncle Herschel’s Favorite instead.

So my new BFF Larry and I were trying to break out of a prison in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. The two of us were hugging the outside wall, planning to scale it using a rope made up of used pairs of prison underwear. And I’m talking about used Fruit OF The Looms with questionable stains! Larry tied it to some iron bars outside a prison window. “You first?” Larry asked.


Happy Thanksgiving! It’s normally around this time of year I share a cannibalism movie with all of you, but it would seem my humble collection of Arrow Blu-rays does not contain such fare. However, I do have another Herschell Gordon Lewis classic in the form of 1967’s A Taste for Blood to share with you. I guess it’s blood consumption rather than flesh consumption, but that’s close enough.

By the way, the sub-head up at the top is in reference to a breakfast entree at Cracker Barrel restaurants. You get two eggs any way you want, grits, a choice of breakfast meat (usually in the form of ham, chicken tenderloin, hamburger steak, or catfish), and fried apples or hash brown casserole. Why am I wasting time talking about a breakfast entree? Well, my time was wasted watching another Herschell Gordon Lewis movie so there.

The Arrow Blu-ray gives you the option of watching this Blu-ray with an introduction from the director himself. He says that most budget horror movies of the period had to be at a minimum of 80 minutes run time and that most directors stopped there, but not him. A Taste for Blood clocks in at nearly two hours. You know what was 80 minutes? Terror in a Texas Town. I liked that movie!

What’s the plot? A man named John Stone (Bill Rogers) gets a letter of inheritance in the mail along with two bottles of brandy. The gist of it is his Romanian ancestor owned a lot of property in London and John must drink a toast to his ancestor with the brandy provided to inherit. And then John gradually exhibits some strange behavior like shying away from crosses and sucking the blood out of go-go dancers. And it turns out his ancestor is the one and only Count Dracula.

John sets about murdering the descendants of those who defeated Dracula back in the day. He murders a wealthy oil heiress who is a descendant of Quincy Morris. All of his victims have to die in the same way Dracula did, with a wooden stake through the heart. This attracts the attention of Dr. Howard Helsing (Otto Schlessinger), descendant of Abraham Van Helsing. And of course, no one believes him when he suggests that John Stone is a vampire and blah, blah, blah.

I’m sorry, but mid-1960s Miami, FL ain’t that scary. This is not the setting you use for your gothic horror movie. Also, I need to complain about the score or rather the three tracks the director licensed from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop that he insists on having played over and over again in every single scene! Still, those of you looking to get into Herschell Gordon Lewis, but are wary of the splatter in his films, there isn’t so much splatter in this movie. Happy Thanksgiving! I think I’ll watch Ronin again.


Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477, episode 491, episode 492, episode 493, episode 495, and episode 496) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #150: Last Short

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #150 by Drew Barth

Last Short

Once again, we return to ShortBox—one of the best curators of the comics medium. Over the past few years, Zainab Akhtar has provided the world with a box of comics, candy, and wonderfully illustrated prints from a wide-range of creators—all of whom are putting their best efforts forward through every volume they create. This most recent box, the thirteenth so far, is easily one of the strongest.

It is also going to be the last.

The variety of comics within ranges from silent fantasies to recipe comics to deeply personal ruminations on our connections to the people around us. There is, as always, something in here for every kind of comic reader. A particular highlight in this box was Xulia Vicente’s I See a Knight and its story of Olivia and the headless knight, Sierra, she sees following her. While the knight is a kind omen, Olivia and Sierra soon create a friendship between them that lasts for years. Until it doesn’t. I See a Knight chokes me up. It isn’t the only comic to get me choked up in a ShortBox. And we do have Bun’s Comfort Food Corner by Chu Nap as a nice little comedown as well.

But as good as this ShortBox is, there’s still that realization that this is the last one. And the awful thing about it is that it’s ending for reasons almost entirely out of Akhtar’s control. Rising costs compounded by Brexit have made it difficult to keep the box at its original costs, even more so with international shipping climbing near the cost of the box itself. We have a box of unabashed human expression being delivered, in my case, across an ocean. Akhtar has said that she will continue publishing individual comics, as ShortBox has done in the past, but I will miss these boxes of comics.

All good comics end.The transcendent delivery of Shortbox too comes to an end. As sad as I want to feel about it, I can open up some of the many books I’ve been getting over these past few years and savor what I was able to get.

Get excited. Get short.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331 & 485) 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.

The Curator of Schlock #378: Terror in a Texas Town

The Curator of Schlock #378 by Jeff Shuster

Terror in a Texas Town

Don’t bring a gun to a harpoon fight. 

I was trying to break out of a prison in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan with Larry, a Don Knotts lookalike. Larry had spent the last ten years tunneling the walls of this place with nothing, but a worn rock hammer to get him through all this concrete. Seems he was sent to prison for killing his wife though Larry protested his innocence. He said a guy with a Strawberry Shortcake tattoo on his right bicep did the deed, but the authorities didn’t buy his story. I told Larry I’d do everything in my power to help him clear his name once we got on the outside and he helped me rescue my kangaroo.


Tonight’s Arrow home video release is 1958’s Terror in a Texas Town from director Joseph Lewis. This one is distributed under the Arrow Films moniker as it’s a bit more high class than their usual fare, but don’t let that scare you. This is an incredible western penned by Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood 10 that was blacklisted. Also, the star of the movie, Sterling Hayden had also been investigated by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

So there’s this evil land baron named McNeil (Sebastian Cabot) who wants to buy up all of the land surrounding Prairie City. The trouble is the land is owned by a group of salt-of-the-earth farmers who don’t want to sell. Enter Johnny Crale (Nedrick Young), an evil gunslinger working for McNeil. Any farmer that doesn’t sign his land over gets a gut full of lead. One such unfortunate farmer is a Swedish immigrant named Sven Hansen.

You see, Sven and neighbor, Jose Mirada (Victor Milan), discovered oil on both their properties and figure that’s the reason behind McNeil pressuring everyone to sell. Jose and his son even witness the murder of Sven at the hands of Johnny Crale, but Jose’s wife tells him to keep silent as she’s expecting a baby and wants the baby to born in peace.

Anyway, it turns out old Sven had a son named George (Sterling Hayden, naturally), a whaler by profession who has decided to settle down on his father’s estate. George shows up to town, asking questions about how his father died and how to get to his father’s estate. The town sheriff tells him that things in America aren’t like they are in Sweden. You can’t just expect to come over here and inherit your father’s land, but George isn’t buying any of that. George says that his father’s will filed away up in Austin and that he plans to get a lawyer.

The sheriff then tells McNeil about this Swede that’s been asking too many questions. McNeil offers George three hundred dollars for his land that really belongs to McNeil anyway due a contract that George’s dad had signed with him. George is suspicious of McNeill and refuses to deal with him. I have to say, Sebastian Cabot plays a perfect ass and one can’t wait to see him get what’s coming to him. And if you want to see the bad guy getting speared with a harpoon then this is the movie for you.


Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477, episode 491, episode 492, episode 493, episode 495, and episode 496) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #149: Noir-vember

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #149 by Drew Barth

Noir-vember

What’s in a grave? Usually a body. Usually a body that matches the grave listed above it. But if that was always the case, we wouldn’t have dozens of conspiracies about who could be in which grave. And that kind of conspiracy is where we get a series like Regarding the Matter of Oswald’s Body by Christopher Cantwell, Luca Casalanguida, and Giada Marchisio. We’ve seen every kind of conspiracy regarding the assassination of JFK—from government involvement to his head just doing that—and so many of them also center around his assassin: Lee Harvey Oswald.

The story begins in 1981, but it actually starts in 1963, but then we’re given a couple different framing devices for this story. The main crux of this first issue, however, is the assemblage of a group of disparate individuals from around Texas by an unnamed man in a trench coat. Each of these individuals has a particular skill—from not being noticed to forgery to hot wiring cars—that makes them perfect for an assignment. This assignment is, of course, the spirit of conspiracies for decades to come: find an individual who looks similar enough to Lee Harvey Oswald. For what purpose? From what the moments in the 80s we see at the beginning show, it’s to replace the real Oswald’s body. But why though?

What Cantwell, Casalanguida, and Marchisio do to make this an even more fascinating look at the idea of conspiracy theories is how they chose to frame it. Text pages from non-existent books aren’t new to comics—an Alan Moore comic without those would feel empty—but the way these pages are presented along with the further framing of the story in the 80s creates this interesting contrast of what we’re supposed to pay attention to in the story. Tangentially related to the story at hand, coming into this first issue with no idea about its general plot, these text pages would feel like they belonged to a completely different book. But once the understanding hits at the first page of comic, the reader gets drawn back into the plain text about doppelgangers and the dangers of meeting them. This kind of text in a comic can feel like a risk, but the creators here not only make it interesting, but slip in some foreshadowing for how the rest of the story will likely play out.

Seeing how this story is framed already makes me hopeful for future issues. The slow unfurling of information with a cast of disparate actors in a grand narrative is always the kind of cork-board conspiracy that I can get behind. It’s also the kind of thing that makes me wonder how much this framing text will act as foreshadowing and how much could spoil the rest of the series. We can already put our trust in Cantwell, Casalanguida, and Marchisio for this issue, so we can trust to see what kind of labyrinth they can lead us down next.

Get excited. Get conspiratorial.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331 & 485) 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.

The Perfect Life #27: A Best Man for the Worst Groom

The Perfect Life #27 by Dr. Perfect

A Best Man for the Worst Groom

My best friend from college has asked me to be his best man at his wedding, but I am not sure I can do that since he cheats on his fiancé all the time and brags about it when he is drunk. Wouldn’t I the better man if I told his fiancé about all this? Or should I talk to him about this?

Maybe they are in an open relationship, but since I am not her best friend, I never hear her confessions. But really I wonder if she’ll have morpions nesting on her wedding dress, the very thought of which makes me itchy. What is the perfect thing to do? How can I live with myself?

Torn

————

Dear Torn,

This is a strangely familiar scenario that I probably saw in a buddy comedy or soap opera. Its biblical origins are also noted. Why are you hanging out with such scumbags in the first place? It’s true that we don’t always choose our friends, but perhaps it’s time to change up.

I’d certainly avoid being pulled into some bizarre love triangle. Those never turn out well, despite what you might read in tawdry romance novels, which I adore, by the way. By now, I’ve been a groomsman more than I can remember. I’ve performed best man duties twice for my louse of a half-brother, who couldn’t keep a marriage together if his life depended on it. Imagine giving two different speeches to the same person.

Third time’s a charm, they say.

Why is that? Do we statistically improve at something by its third iteration? I know it’s just an expression, but so is “pass the potatoes.” Remember that one? You couldn’t walk across the street without someone saying it, generally implying sex for money. We live in a filthy world.

This groom seems to be to his knees in illicit affairs, but if experience has taught me anything, any man that boastful is generally embellishing or trying to compensate for something. This isn’t to suggest that he’s making everything up. I would just subtract about half of those claimed encounters from the scorecard.

Could they be in an open relationship? Anything’s possible. I’ve received several letters from lost souls, asking about open relationships. It absolutely can work if you’re both moral degenerates.

I assume that the groom wouldn’t classify his predilection for romantic trysts as cheating, open relationship or not.

If he’s already cheating, he doesn’t respect his fiancé. Respect is crucial in sustaining a relationship. Without mutual respect, any union would wither and die, just like the movie industry.

A fair-minded, timid person would hesitate to get involved. That’s why I officially sanction you to intrude into their personal lives with the fervor of a 1970s TV detective. Firstly, tell the groom that his behavior deeply offends you. Then go behind his back and inform the bride-to-be of the terrible mistake she’s about to make. Perhaps she needs to change up as well to a suitor already in her life who is more attentive to her needs. There I go citing my romance novels again.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, which is another common expression/cliché thought of by some passé know-it-all. Stop waffling around and act. Follow the groom around to see if his stories add up. Take pictures and even dabble in some blackmail, which is always good for a lark.

It’s never too late to involve yourself in other peoples’ affairs like some doddering busybody IRS tax collector. Take heart in the fact that if you don’t expose this charade, someone else will. And if you choose to let it be, don’t be surprised when you’re called back to be the best man a fourth or fifth time.

Consider an anonymous call from a payphone or something. Be creative. Life is not a porno movie, as I’ve learned in encounters with cable repair technicians, teachers, real estate agents, and police officers. These professions have yet to make a pass at me.

The best option, however, is to save all the juicy details for the best man toast. You could land a debilitating blow that won’t be soon forgotten.

That’s if you’re an outright sociopath.

Whatever you decide, let me know. I’ve got a pool running with the other advice columnists. Most of them think that you’re going to fold, but I have faith that you’ll do the right thing, whatever that may be in this crazy world.


Dr. Perfect has slung advice across the globe for the last two decades due to his dedication to the uplift of the human condition.