Episode 73: Matt Bell!

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Episode 73 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 interview fiction writer Matt Bell,

Matt Bell

plus Rose Tran writes about encountering Matt Bell’s How They Were Found.

Rose Tran

TEXTS DISCUSSED

In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods

Cataclysm baby

How They Were Found 2

NOTES

Watch Matt Bell’s reading at the University of Central Florida.

On December 5th, at 7 P.M., The Drunken Odyssey will host a live reading in honor of Repeal Day, which marked the signing of the 21st amendment, thus ending prohibition. See the facebook event.

The Heaven of Animals, the forthcoming collection from friend-of-the-show David James Poissant, is available for pre-order. Please support the launch of his book, which is wonderful reading.

The Heaven of Animals

Episode 73 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 #15: Chernobyl Diaries

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The Curator of Schlock #15 by Jeffrey Shuster

Chernobyl Diaries: Free Beef Jerky Included With Tour!

chernobyl-05

I’m a sucker for cheap DVDs. Amazon was having a blowout sale the other week of $5 dollar DVDs. I purchased Falling Down, Up In Smoke, and Flashdance. And then I bought a $4 dollar DVD, Chernobyl Diaries. I remember seeing the trailer at the movies a couple of summers ago. It looked like one of those found footage horror movies that are all the rage now. A bunch of young American tourists decide to take a trip to Chernobyl and all sorts of craziness ensues. And by craziness, I mean that they all die a horrible death.

CHERNOBYL DIARIES

Not that I really mind that they all die a horrible death. They’re all these fresh-faced trust fund types. You know, for once I wish Hollywood would make a horror movie featuring some young people who can’t afford to take three month all expenses paid trips to Europe. Who are these young people? Their names escape me, but who needs character names. I’ll call them like I see them. There’s Baby-face, Stubble-face (Baby-face’s older brother), Blondie (Baby-face’s girlfriend), and Brunette (a friend of either Blondie or Baby-face).

Stubble-face is more daring and reckless than Baby-face and he manages to convince Blondie and Brunette to take a trip over to Pripyat,, the city that was at the front and center of that whole Chernobyl nuclear disaster a few years ago. They meet up with Uri, a local extreme tour guide who convinces Baby-face that Pripyat is perfectly safe. Uri insists that radiation levels are low enough that they won’t affect their health. I trust Uri. He cracks jokes about beef jerky. A bearded Australian and his Norwegian girlfriend also tag along with them.

The Ukrainian military doesn’t want to let anyone inside the city (imagine that!), but Uri knows a secret path into Pripyat. They see the sights: the abandoned buildings, the abandoned parks, the mutant fish flopping around near the shore. After a black bear chases them out of an abandoned building, Uri decides they should call it a day. Uri starts up his tour van to get them out of the city, but surprise, surprise, it won’t start! It looks like someone messed with the wires in Uri’s van. But how is that possible? Pripyat is an abandoned or is it? Yeah, it’s not abandoned.

chernobyl_diaries_2

They hear some noises and Uri and Baby-face leave the van to investigate the happenings. Gunshots go off, Baby-face makes his way back to van with a chunk missing from one of legs, and Uri has gone missing. Wild dogs start attacking the van. Yeah, they’re all going to die. Really, at this point the movie is over. They’re all just delaying the inevitable. At some point, Chernobyl mutants kidnap Baby-face and Stubbly-face insists that they go find his brother. Ummm…no. You should hightail it of town and get away from the wild dogs, mutant fish, and mutant people. Plus, there’s that whole radiation thing to worry about. I hear that can kill you.

chernobyl-diaries-scary-girl

Chernobyl Diaries kind of came and went in the theaters. It’s shot in that free roaming HD camera style that seems to be all the rage these days. Usually found footage movies designate one of the characters in the role of camera operator, but not this time around. They don’t even bother with the pretense. Sigh. The sad thing is that the Chernobyl disaster would make an incredible subject for a documentary or a dramatic film. Of course, that might force Hollywood to portray Eastern Europeans as human beings. Why do that when you can portray them as killer mutants?


Ten Things I Learned From Chernobyl Diaries

  1. Don’t go to Chernobyl.
  2. Young people are reckless.
  3. If you see a creepy little girl with her back turned to you, don’t call out to her.
  4. Packs of wild dogs don’t mess around.
  5. Mutant fish like to bite people.
  6. Don’t go to Chernobyl.
  7. If the Geiger counter readings start to rise the further you walk, walk in the opposite direction.
  8. If you find Uri’s walkie-talkie abandoned by an underground bunker, don’t go looking inside for him.
  9. Don’t go to Chernobyl.
  10. Four bucks can be too much money for a DVD.

___________

Jeffrey Shuster

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

Loading the Canon #13: I Was a Greek Goddess

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Loading the Canon #13 by Helena-Anne Hittel

I Was a Greek Goddess

You’ve noticed it. It’s impossible to ignore. The magazines, the TV commercials-it’s everywhere. Skinny women and guys with rippling pectorals. We’re made to believe that this is what we should aspire to be. THIS is what you want.

Well, not way back when, it wasn’t.

Okay, so I may have lied to you a bit. The aggressively athletic male torso has been “the thing” since BC. The Egyptians were notorious for this in their art, which has been almost entirely consistent for millennia

pharoah

(excepting that crazy period when then-pharaoh Akhenaton moved everything to Tel-el-Amarna and introduced the principal of Ma’at, or truth, into the way he’s represented for posterity). The pharaoh, after all, was an all-powerful figure in Egypt. He was almost a god. The thought, then, was that he ought to be carved into stone or painted on walls as muscular and powerful. The women, by contrast, were made soft and curvy.

Egyptian Sculpture

Today’s Victoria’s Secret Angels would have sincerely worried them.

VS Wings

How was she ever going to survive childbirth?

The Greeks latched on to these ideas soon after. The athletic male developed in kouroi (free-standing nude male statues) from the Archaic period to Hellenistic. Fast-forward to Polykleitos in the High Classical period, and his über-famous Doryphoros (“spear-bearer”).

Doryphoros

Myron’s Diskobolos (“disc-thrower”),

Diskobolos

and Lysippos’ Apoxyomenos (“the scraper,”),

Apoxyomenos

all of those represented-even the gods-were idealized. Spear-bearer, in fact, was so loved, the Romans coped him and all of his friends into marble. They’re the only extant copies we have of this statuary, as most Greek originals were bronze (these were melted down for weapons later). We stumble upon our Spear-bearer later on in a palaestrum (a gymnasium, essentially. No more complicated words, I promise) in Pompeii. It’s like pictures of bodybuilders at Gold’s Gym. This was not only decoration, but an aspirational tool.

Women, however, are a bit more complicated.

The ancient female ideal, as mentioned earlier, was curvy. Large hips and rounded shapes meant that you could have all the babies you wanted and live to tell the tale. Evidence: the Aphrodite of Knidos.

Aphrodite of Knidos

There are no flattened abs or muscled legs, no dramatic cinches in the waist, and no “thigh gap” (talkin’ to you, “thinspiration” people). Here was a goddess personified and almost human, preparing for a bath.

Peter Paul Rubens’ women were another story. This was voluptuous on a whole other level. His Three Graces

Rubens_Peter_Paul-The_Three_Graces

and the portrait of his second wife, Hélène Fourment,

Helena Fourment in a fur wrap

are good examples of this. He did not idealize the women in his art because he saw no need to. This is where we get the term “Rubenesque.”

Then came the rise in popularity of the corset. This changes EVERYTHING for the female in art from 16th century Europe. Waists were cinched to within an inch of their lives, compressing bones and organs and making breathing difficult (medical diagrams of this fashion fad are scary).

The Harmful Effects of the Corset, illustration from 'La Vie Normale et la Sante' by Dr Jules Rengade (b.1841) c.1880 (colour litho)

Every woman of status wore a corset.

In the late 19th century, pen-and-ink illustrator Charles Dana Gibson created what came to be known as his “Gibson Girls,” combining the voluptuous woman with the fragile one. One’s curves, bust line and hips and the other’s slender lines and respectability bore the illustrations that created a standard image of the American girl.

Gibson_Girls_seaside

The point, then, is this. Fashions change. Ideals change. This is just an extremely cursory glance at beauty standards in the Western tradition, and already we see the male shape bulking up and the female shape slimming down as the years progress. There’s a huge constancy, one could argue, in the male ideal, but a fluctuation on the feminine side of things.

What was important to a man-that he appear powerful, athletic, capable and strong still seems to stick today. The child-supporting curves that made up what was important in a woman, however, did not. This is not your friendly, neighborhood art historian telling you that you are ugly because you don’t look like today’s superstickskinny tan girls and aggressively muscled men. This is merely an examination of how we must have gotten to these “ideals”. I’ve now put this word into quotations. Why? Because what one person considers art isn’t going to be the same as another’s preferences.!

ART IS SUBJECTIVE. It is human expression and a living timeline. “Here today, gone tomorrow” has never been a truer way to describe it.

___________

Helena-Anne Hittel (Episode 35, essay) is an Art History Major at the University of Central Florida and Intern at the UCF Art Gallery.

Gutter Space #15: When Worlds Collide: Bone, by Jeff Smith

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Gutter Space #15 by Leslie Salas

When Worlds Collide: Bone, by Jeff Smith

To springboard off my post last week about how differences in art styles can affect the reader’s ability to perceive differences between characters, I’d like to take some time to discuss the differences between the way characters are drawn based on where they are from. One of the best examples of this is Jeff Smith’s Bone.

Bone follows the protagonist, Fone Bone, as he gets lost in a new uncharted land and has the adventure of a lifetime. As he searches through miles and miles of desert (with only a few supplies—a map, a canteen, a bedroll, and a copy of his favorite book, Moby Dick), Fone finally encounters a lush valley.

Taking a moment to look at Fone, we can see that he looks rather cartoony. He’s all white, doesn’t really have any clothes, and his features are simplified. His feet don’t have toes. He doesn’t have hair or nostrils, but he does have expressive eyebrows and a bulbous nose. His four-fingered hands are typical of old-school comics and cartoons—much quicker to only draw four fingers than all five.

However, when we see the valley, it is rich with detail. There are clearly different types of trees and fascination topographical variety. This world that Fone has come to the cusp of, is unlike the boring and vast nothingness of the desert. So it only makes sense that it’s people should look differently also.

Enter Thorn, the beautiful young woman that finds Fone Bone and helps him (and his cousins, who have also come to the valley) out. Fone helplessly falls in love with her, and for good reason. Look at her! Look at those lovely lashes, those muscled thighs, those five-fingered hands. She’s drawn in rich detail, and clearly comes from a world much different than his own.

Unlike some of the other characters that live in the valley, Thorn does not discriminate against Fone and his cousins based on their appearance. Almost every new character makes some sort of comment about how strange they look, but once the weirdness is addressed, the people of the village grow used to the Bones and accept them as guests and visitors.

It is in this manner that Jeff Smith visually addresses the weirdness of people who come from different places. The vastly different drawing styles, combined with the characters’ recognition of the difference, helps the reader navigate the cultural, economic, and societal differences between these two types of people. Overcoming these differences is a recurrent theme throughout the graphic novel Bone, and adds an element the realism of prejudice in this fantastic setting.

 ___________

Leslie Salas (Photo by Ashley Inguanta)

Leslie Salas writes fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, and comics. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida and attended the University of Denver Publishing Institute. In addition to being an Associate Course Director at Full Sail University, Leslie also serves as an assistant editor for The Florida Review, a graphic nonfiction editorial assistant for Sweet: A Literary Confection, and a regular contributing artist for SmokeLong Quarterly.

Heroes Never Rust #15: The Fifth Grade

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Heroes Never Rust #15 by Sean Ironman

The Fifth Grade

My father, who was a passionate reader, was afraid his children weren’t reading enough, so he made it a priority to get us reading at a early age. If we started reading when we were young, he thought, then we’d be readers for life. Judging from how much my sister, my brother, and I read versus the average adult, I’d say my father had used sound logic. As a child, I was not fond of children’s books. Even young, I didn’t want to read something that I felt was talking down to me—dumbing a story down, making it less harsh, more easily digestible. But, of course, I couldn’t very well read many “adult” books either—not because my father wouldn’t allow me, I read quite a lot of his fantasy and science fiction novels, but because I didn’t understand so much of it. My father had read comic books when he was a kid—ThorConan, Sgt. Fury and The Howling Commandoes—so he started getting us comics.

For whatever reason—what good is a reason? Who cares?—I took a shine to them. My brother liked Wolverine and my sister liked She-Hulk, but they didn’t stick with them. Throughout my life, I read comics religiously for a few years, then stop for a couple, and then return. I believe anyone who hasn’t read a substantial amount of comics, including superhero comics, has done a great disservice to themselves.

My first blog post was about the first comic book I remember getting and the impact it had on me. But that’s not really the comic that hooked me. How could the first of an obsession be the most important? The first wets one’s appetite, but the second is the real hook—the returning.

xmenomegagold

My birthday is May 14, which comes at the end of the school year. In fifth grade—the last grade offered at Morrow Elementary in North Lauderdale—we were taken on a fifth grade class trip to Universal Studios. We drove up early that morning in a couple of school buses, and drove back that night. That morning, before my mom drove me to the school, my father gave me a copy of X-Men: Omega, the end of the X-Men event, The Age of Apocalypse, which I had been following for the few months it had endured. We didn’t have a home computer in 1995, and the World Wide Web was not known to me. I had heard about this comic—the big end—in whispers on the playground and from the neighborhood boys of who would live, who would die, and all the in-betweens.

The Age of Apocalypse was the greatest X-Men sequence of the 1990s.  In spun out from the Legion Quest story arc, in which Professor X’s forgotten son, Legion, went back to a time before the X-Men had ever been formed in order to kill Magneto. He wanted Professor X to raise him instead of forming the X-Men. Instead, in a show of the love he has for Magneto, Xavier jumps in the way of Legion’s attack and dies. This creates quite the problem. If Xavier dies before creating the X-Men, then the X-Men never existed in order to stop the supervillains and try to diffuse the tension between humans and mutants.

The world goes to shit.

Apocalypse, a thousands-year-old mutant who believes in Survival of the Fittest, awakens earlier due to Legion’s show of power in the battle resulting death of Xavier. Without the X-Men to stop him, he conquers most of North America with the help of his four Horsemen—Holocaust, Mister Sinister, Abyss, and Mikhail Rasputin. Humans are relegated to Europe, at least the lucky ones. If they couldn’t escape America, they were culled and taken to camps—the X-Men version of the Nazi Holocaust.

Magneto forms the X-Men—a very different group from Xavier’s—in memory of his friend and fights for the dream Xavier believed in. I don’t want to ruin most of the twists and turns, but it is pretty amazing. I love alternate versions of characters—the designs in this story are fantastic. It’s like messing with characters in early drafts of fiction stories—by seeing different sides of the character, one understands that character better—what can change about them and what can’t. For example, Cyclops wasn’t picked up by Xavier, so he was raised by Mister Sinister and works the pens, where the humans are kept before being experimented on by the Beast. Yet, Cyclops works secretly to help humans escape, as many as he can. You can’t take the good out of him. Another great example, and the first time I really loved the character, is with Colossus. He was always protective of his sister, Illyana, but here after he finds out she’s still alive, he will do anything, including letting his students die, to protect her.

factorx

The writers took the idea of the post-apocalyptic world and ran with it. Well-known characters died—Cyclops, Angel, Shadowcat—and lesser-known characters were stars. Some characters, like Spider-man, didn’t exist at all. The event was intense, with a human holocaust and the world on the brink of nuclear war. Looking back, I can’t think of one happy storyline in the event. Everything was tragic—and in fifth grade, that meant adult.

Universal was three hours away, so in a six-hour round trip, I had plenty of time to read and re-read the comic. I studied every panel. The Age of Apocalypse event was across multiple mini-series—X-Calibre, Gambit and the X-Ternals, Generation Next, Astonishing X-Men, Amazing X-Men, Weapon X, Factor X, X-Man and ­X-UniverseX-Men Omega brought them all together for the last big battle of Magneto’s X-Men versus Apocalypse and his forces as the Human High Council in Europe plans to nuke America. Nearly everyone (well, at least those who survived the individual mini-series) had his or her moment. Some, like Cyclops and Jean Grey, fought to escape America. Some, like Colossus, fought to protect others. The main X-Men team didn’t fight for their world at all. Instead, Magneto and those closest to him, fought for the promise of a better world.

The plan was to send Bishop back in time using a crystal Apocalypse had possession of in order to stop Legion from ever killing Professor X, but only Bishop knew about the “real” world. Magneto just had to put his faith that his world wasn’t supposed to have happened. It seems like there’s death on every page, and yet the deaths still feel earned. The scene in which Colossus, in a rage to protect his younger sister, crushes his wife, forcing Gambit to put him down is tragic in nearly every panel of those two pages.

X-men omega #1

And how cool is that ending. I… can’t. I’m concentrating. And then Magneto rips Apocalypse in half.

In the end, the X-Men succeed in putting the world back to normal. But the comic doesn’t end in victory, not really. It doesn’t end in the correct timeline with the X-Men happy at the mansion. It ends in the Age of Apocalypse world with Magneto, his wife Rogue, and their infant child as the bombs go off and the world is erased. The family stands there in hope that everything will be better and we watch them get engulfed in the fallout. Even in victory, there is tragedy.

xmanomega5

That was the coolest bus trip ever. Even now, when I have problems with the current storylines, I know I’ll come back every so often to check in. That was when the X-Men got me for life.

___________

Sean Ironman

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

In Boozo Veritas #15: The Drunken Odyssey with John King, Episode 72: The Liner Notes

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In Boozo Veritas #15 by Teege Braune

The Drunken Odyssey with John King, Episode 72:

The Liner Notes

The Drunken Odyssey with John King is your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature. Last Tuesday I was honored to be invited by John to take part in episode 72 with fellow local writers Dianne Turgeon Richardson and Matt Peters, who is the man behind Orlando-based publishing house Beating Windward Press. What literary subject could John have possibly needed my expertise to discuss? Drinking, of course. And how should one discuss drinking? While drinking, naturally.

Sweet love

The four of us gathered at the clubhouse of John’s condo where an important meeting was taking place, so we were subsequently relegated to a hot, cramped back room that was still decorated for Halloween. The walls were entirely black and covered with drawings of skulls and messages of death scrawled along them, but every writer worth her grit knows that literature isn’t about comfort, nor for that matter, is drinking. John initiated our union by mixing together equal parts white rum, dark rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, and more than a splash of grenadine into a pitcher large enough to quench the thirst of an entire little league team.

The concoction known as Intergalactic Polynesian Luau Punch was atomic red, contained enough sugar to send Cookie Monster into a diabetic coma, and entered literary posterity for keeping us well quaffed throughout the night (assuming we all become celebrated writers).

I was hesitant to listen to the resulting podcast for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it has been said on more than one occasion that I like to hear the sound of my own voice. If this is so (it probably is), it only pertains to my voice as it comes out of my mouth. Once recorded and played back to me, I rather hate the sound of my own voice. I know I’m not alone in this hangup. Hearing your own voice tends to be equivalent to seeing your own distorted image in a fun house mirror, and then cringing as you realize there’s nothing wrong with the mirror at all; you actually look that way.

Teege Braune channels Donald Duck

Secondly, bouts of drinking were not meant to be documented. Foggy recollections, exaggerated tales: these are the only ways drinking binges should be remembered. It is why drunks obsessively try to get those around them to have another drink. A recording device is not only stone-cold sober, it also has been blessed with an infallible memory and a tendency to create scandals for people like former presidents and celebrities. Fortunately, John, Dianne, Matt, and I are neither of these things.

Dianne Turgeon Richardson, future politician

Nevertheless, we each harbor our own sense of pride and threshold for humiliation. Anyway, the podcast is certainly not as incriminating as the video of me at twenty-three having consumed a great deal of bourbon and wearing a bikini, and we can all thank Bacchus for that.

The podcast speaks for itself, as podcasts tend to do. Though I would like to point out, if you didn’t notice already, what an absolute champion drinker our illustrious host John King proved to be. Matt got pretty silly before he was half finished with his first glass, and I followed close behind. Dianne held her own pretty well, but even she was stumbling over her words and dropping casual F-bombs by the end of it. John, on the other hand, drank his portion of the Intergalactic Luau Punch in stride. He unsuccessfully attempted to keep us focused while we went off on strange rants. I’m still not sure why he expected a group of drunks to stay on topic.

Baudelaire speaks

Never once did he slur his words or embarrass himself by blubbering on whilst trying to remember where he was and what the hell he was doing there. I can’t say the same thing for myself, but then again, I don’t think John invited me to be the resident teetotaler.

Lastly, my apologies to Ryan Rivas for his inclusion in the discussion. John promised to edit out anything that was inappropriate. He lied.

___________

Teege Braune at workTeege Braune (episode 72) 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.

Episode 72: We Drink!

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Episode 72 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, My friends Teege Braune of In Boozo Veritas fame, Matt Peters of Windward Press, and MFA candidate Dianne Turgeon Richardson join me to discuss matters literary and drinkerly.

Teege Braun and Matt Peters

Diane Turgeon Richardson

Plus Dave Patterson writes about how Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 transformed him.

Dave Patterson

TEXTS DISCUSSED

60th anniversary edition

Bukowski On drinking

Baudelaire Beer

Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation

NOTES

To read Teege Braun’s liner notes for this episode, see #15 of his blog, In Boozo Veritas.

Carlton Melton‘s song “Use Your Words” from their album Country Ways accompanied Dave Patterson’s “A Pleasure to Burn.”

photo

Laurie Anderson’s Remembrance of Lou Reed appears in Rolling Stone.

Teege Braune’s eulogy for Lou Reed appeared in In Boozo Veritas #13.

This weekend Playfest is happening at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre.

playfest

The Heaven of Animals, the forthcoming collection from friend-of-the-show David James Poissant, is available for pre-order. Please support the launch of his book, which is wonderful reading.

The Heaven of Animals

 Episode 72 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 #14: Heavy Metal

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The Curator of Schlock #14 by Jeffrey Shuster

Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal

I don’t know what I can say about the 1981 animated anthology movie Heavy Metal that hasn’t been said by countless other fans of the film on countless other blogs. For that matter, I don’t know how I’m even supposed review an anthology movie so I’m going to break this up into two lists.

heavy_metal04
Ah, plutonium nyborg!

Ten Things That Come to Mind When I Think of Heavy Metal

  1. The most awesome soundtrack ever assembled featuring Devo, Journey, Blue Oyster Cult,  Sammy Hagar, Grand Funk Railroad, Stevie Nicks, and Black Sabbath.
  2. The most awesome score ever created by Elmer Bernstein. It was the first time he used the ondes martenot!
  3. A space shuttle opens to reveal a 1958 corvette and I can’t help but wonder why all astronauts don’t descend back to Earth in style.
  4. A glowing green ball that is the sum of all evils from all planets, galaxies, and dimensions. And it’s voiced by the king of all voice over artists, Percy Rodriguez. That’s pretty darn evil!
  5. A cabby that keeps a disintegration ray in his back seat for anyone who points a gun at his head. How cool is that?
  6. A nerdy boy who get transported to an alien planet where he transform into a bald superman who he gets the women and kills the bad guys.
  7. A larcenous, perverted worm of a starship captain who should be torn into little bitty pieces and eaten alive.
  8. A B-17 pilot who has to contend with the reanimated corpses of his fellow airmen.
  9. Alien robots that seduce Earth women and promise Jewish weddings.
  10. Devo playing  “Through Being Cool” right before a leather clad warrior maiden chops the heads of three barbarians off.

Taara

Ten Questions I’ve often pondered about Heavy Metal

  1. Why doesn’t a 1958 corvette burn up upon re-entry?
  2. Why is a glowing, green ball of evil wasting its time telling stories to a little girl?
  3. Why do people keep touching the Loc-Nar? It dissolves their flesh and causes them to suffer an excruciating death.
  4. Why don’t modern cabs have disintegration rays installed in the back? Seriously, it’s 2013!
  5. Why is Captain Lincoln F. Sternn such a larcenous, perverted worm and why do we love him despite of this?
  6. Why is the segment with the cocaine-snorting aliens even in this movie? It has nothing to do with anything.
  7. Why is John Candy’s voice used so much in this film? Do we care? No.
  8. Why does that one barbarian guy just stand there after his two buddies get their heads chopped off? Fight or flight!
  9. Why doesn’t Taarna ever speak? I bet she’d have lots of interesting things to say.
  10. Why do so few movies have one-tenth the imagination that Heavy Metal does?

___________

Jeffrey Shuster

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

Heroes Never Rust #14: Earth X

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Heroes Never Rust #14 by Sean Ironman

Earth X

Comics follow no rules. I spoke to a class of undergraduate students at the University of Central Florida this week about this very topic. Because there are no rules in terms of form, there are no rules in story. Comic creators are not confined by stunts and effects that may be too dangerous or too expensive. They are not confined by actors and actresses. They are not confined by the imagination of the reader. Comic creators are only confined by their own imaginations, which as it turns out is endless. Corporate comics have a few restraints in terms of the main universes. Characters must be protected in order for the characters to be viable in the future. Yet, because the comics’ form can do anything the creators want, there are ways around the rules for the main universes, comics on the fringe, comics that take place outside of any continuity in the main storylines.

Earth_X

Earth X was part of a trilogy about the future of the Marvel Universe. It’s the last truly epic Marvel comic. The story was crafted by Alex Ross (Marvels, Kingdom Come) and Jim Krueger (Foot Soldiers, Justice), with covers by Ross, script by Krueger, and pencils by John Paul Leon (The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, Challengers of the Unknown). When Stan Lee first started creating the Marvel Universe as we know it now, the heroes and villains changed over time. The characters grew. At some point, probably once a lot of money started pouring in, the company got more careful. Characters began having a status quo. Ross and Krueger imagined a Marvel Universe that kept growing, kept changing. By taking the characters into a possible future, anything can happen, and anything does. The story isn’t confined to have to agree with a character’s solo adventures. Ross and Krueger take ahold of the Marvel Universe and they run with it. The story, which contains hundreds of Marvel characters, is incredibly complex and requires a careful read. Universe X follows Earth X, with the trilogy ending with Paradise X. I’ll just discuss Earth X today.

In the future Marvel Universe everyone has powers. I guess it was just a matter of time with all kinds of experiments and mutations occurring on Earth. While many characters are covered throughout the course of fourteen issues, Machine Man could be considered the main character. Through him, we are introduced to the story. Through him, we attempt to figure out the mystery of why everyone now has powers. Machine Man is brought to Uatu, The Watcher, to find out what’s going on with Earth. Uatu is one of the coolest characters in the Marvel canon.  He is part of an alien species of Watchers and assigned to watch Earth and not take part in anything that occurs. A mystery attacker however as we find out in the first issue has blinded Uatu about ten years before the story begins. He needs Machine Man to be the new Watcher. Machine Man is given the task of cataloguing the everything on Earth. Oh, and he gets to do this from Uatu’s base on the moon.

Uatu_(Earth-9997)

Didn’t I say this was really cool?

Each issue begins with Uatu explaining the backstory of a certain group of Marvel characters—Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, the Norse gods. Then Machine Man finds that group on Earth and sees what they are up to. Through each chapter, we get a little closer to solving the mystery of Earth’s population having superpowers and why and how Uatu was blinded. In this story we get street-level characters and battles and by the end huge planet-saving battles against extra-terrestrials. Plus, it has the coolest takedown of a super villain with the battle of Captain America versus the Red Skull.

There are two really awesome aspects to a work like this. First, when you really think about it, these characters can’t exist in the same world. How does Thor, a Norse God, exist alongside the Greek gods? How does the science-based characters sit next to the mystical? Well, I don’t want to ruin the fun, but Ross and Krueger use all of this and help explain how it’s possible. But the best part of their explanation is that it isn’t an explanation. It’s a deepening of Machine Man’s understanding of the world. It relates to the main plot and feels more like we’re uncovering more a mystery rather than getting an exposition dump.

reed-richards-earth-x

Second, and what really takes this into great epic territory, is Ross and Krueger really go all out on the new versions of the characters. These are the same characters we know and love, just with ten years of history added to them. Not one feels completely out of left field, but they are all in a way. I can see how each character ended up here, even though where they are is so foreign from where they are in the current Marvel Universe (at least the current one of the time). This has the best version of Captain America ever. An old, bald, battle-weary soldier who has the American flag draped like a toga over one of his shoulders. He very quickly becomes the fan favorite of the series. The Red Skull is not the Red Skull we know, but a telepathic kid who wears a red Punisher skull and is hypnotizing new soldiers in his war. He refuses to do so to Captain America because he wants to see him give up. There’s a fat retired Spider-man, along with Wolverine. Cyclops is trying to find his way in a world that has no need for equality between humans and mutants. Dr. Doom is dead, and after the death of Susan Richards, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four has lost his mind and wanders the halls of Dr. Doom’s castle dressed as his nemesis. Franklin Richards, after the death of the Human Torch at Namor’s hand, forever curses Namor for half his body to constantly be on fire, even underwater.

Namor

This is the Marvel Universe cut loose from any rules.

The story gets incredibly large, and even answers questions I didn’t know I needed answered. While there are two volumes that follow, the first one, Earth X, can stand alone. It’s not an event that leads to another event. Every story comes together for a touching finale that shows the hope the Marvel Universe has to offer.

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Sean Ironman

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