Jun 30, 2015

Farewell to An Old Friend: Comic Related

You may have read the news elsewhere, and I'm almost afraid that typing this out will make it even more true....

After eleven years, Comic Related will be closing shop.

I have written my own farewell to the site, and I've posted my reaction on Facebook, but here I feel safe in exploring my feelings about its ending.

On the one hand, Comic Related was my first "professional" gig, of sorts - having a regular deadline, working with others "in the industry", and having a larger audience for my writing - those were always enjoyable. I have some great friendships that have resulted (and yes, the Zone 4 podcast will still go on), but I also have some very mixed feelings about the climate in which it's folding.

One thing I loved about Comic Related was its sheer love of comics as an art form, and its focus on smaller, more independent creators. That gave me a freedom to have opinions about books and creators that might not have been popular, as well as a platform to shout out more obscure creators and media that deserved attention. I can honestly say that I was never censored by Chuck, Brant, or John (most of the censorship came from myself), and that I always felt that we were a great voice that deserved to be heard....

....but in this current online media climate, it's a voice that needs to be asserted. Many comics/media sites either focus on being PR machines for the Big Two or second-guessing creators in order to pursue their own agenda. With the comic industry now "big business" and driving much spin-off media, it has become more difficult for smaller voices to be heard. In our current comic-saturated (and I will dare to say, "oversaturated") media culture, it's becoming increasingly difficult to remain independent.

But on the other hand, Comic Related is ending on its own terms, and for that I will respect the decision to close the site. Many of my fellow contributors are part of my "family by choice" (rather than "family by chance"), and I'll still remain connected with them through various online channels....

....and this is also the shot-in-the-arm I've needed for the blog. My creative writing commitments have led me away from the blog (being in terminal job search mode also hasn't helped), but I believe that once I let go of anything, there's space for something new to come in. In that spirit, if you're interested in having me review your book, no matter how small, you can reach out to me via this convenient Contact Me form. (Yes, it's from my personal site; although this blog has a contact form, I'll need to switch that in the next few days). I'll also download my past columns as PDFs; I'm thinking of possibly reprinting them in ebook form (please let me know in the comments your thoughts).

I'm going to miss Comic Related - it was a great site to be a contributor. I'm grateful to Chuck for taking me on, and for Brant and John for putting up with me. I'll miss it, and the next few days will be a bit rough....but much of my current creative "renaissance" was due to that column.

I'm proud to have been part of the Comic Related family. I'm also not ashamed to say that publicly.

Jun 26, 2015

Patrick Macnee: A Tribute

To say that Patrick Macnee had a significant effect on my life would be....an understatement. 

Like many of my peers, I was a tv/movie brat who spent numerous hours late at night scanning for obscure things to watch on a small, portable black & white television.

(Yes, I lived during a time when tv sets were available in black and white. And there were only three networks - four including PBS. Don't be so ageist!)

One night, eight years old, I came across something called Murdersville late on a Friday night. That was my introduction to a show called The Avengers (which I knew automatically had no connection to the Marvel comic)....and to a man who was a kind of masculine role model.

Most boys idolized sports stars, action heroes, and GI Joe. My role models growing up were Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, Jon Pertwee, and Patrick Macnee...and Macnee was the most influential.

See, most of the men in my family....OK, my father loved four things: Sherlock Holmes, war movies (especially World War II), westerns, and mafia dramas. Most of the other men in my family....well, let's just say that I was deemed as "strange" because I could sew. And didn't date up a storm in high school (low self-esteem will do that to a man, but that's a blog post for another day).

But Macnee as Steed was not only attainable - he was ideal. Witty, urbane, well-read, intelligent - I could be all of those things. His dress sense was something I could also reflect (my father had plenty of nice suits - after all, he was an attorney), and there was a confidence about him that never seemed overdone.

But the thing that really impressed me was how he related to Emma Peel. It was friendly, flirtatious, and yet with a strong sense of equality. There wasn't the kind of will-they-won't-they that permeated many shows that came after (I'm looking at you, Moonlighting), nor was it the application of easy "action babe/sidekick" tropes prevalent in modern shows (I'm looking at you, collective works of Joss Whedon). You knew that Steed liked Mrs. Peel - even if only professionally - and there was always an undercurrent of class about the man.

(Watching the very early episodes of The Avengers, Steed started as a harder-edged character and grew into an Edwardian gentleman. Ironically, only two months ago I wrote about The Avengers for Comic Related. As I noted on Facebook, I might want to reconsider what I write about for the site).

In fact, he's one of the few "role models" I have met in real life - years ago, when Macnee released his autobiography Blind In One Ear , I attended a signing at a downtown bookstore. Cutting class, I was one of the first in line to purchase and have it signed. Waited about half an hour before Macnee came - on time - wearing (if memory serves) an impeccably tailored white suit (which was never advised in Chicago back then - we were a rather dingy, dirty city).

Moving towards the front of the line, I handed my book to Macnee eagerly. He asked my name, and as he signed the book, I mentioned how much of an influence he had on me...in that eager, earnest way that many do when meeting "celebrities." Flashing a smile, he handed me the book and simply said, "Thank you - you're too kind."

He was every bit as charming, urbane, and self-assured as I expected. And yes, he will be missed.

Jun 23, 2015

Too Busy to Blog - Here's a Squeeze Documentary

Been working through some major projects, as well as writing and editing....so yes, again, I've left this blog a bit dry.

Will definitely have to do another blogaround, but until then....here's a BBC documentary.