Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Too Easy, Sure. But Fun.

My evil twin, Dimestore Freud Jerkwater, has found a new source of weird psychosexual imagery in comics.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you: The Adventures of Jerry Lewis.

(Note: click on any picture to expand it.)

Exhibit A:

Jerry being mounted from behind by a giant cat.

With a gun.

While a child looks on.


(Okay, it may be a giant rat. Hard to tell. Since "cat" works better for the bit, I'll say it's a cat.)

Exhibit B:

A monsterous mother. "Drowning in milk."


Exhibit C:

Oh come on.

Let's add this up:

Jerry tied to a target + Little boys and girls aiming arrows at him + a man dressed in a cross between Gestapo and camp counselor gear, wearing shorts that say "Uncle Ted" on them + his "Oh, Please, Dorothy!" posture + the name "Camp Wack-A-Boy" = I'm not sleeping well tonight after seeing this cover.

Exhibit D:

Okay, there's nothing particularly Freudian in this. I just think the image of the horse shooting the gun is funny.

Ah, comics.

Click here to read more!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Final Push

National Novel Writing Month ends on midnight, November 30th.

My current word count sits at 46,295 words. Victory comes at 50,000 words.

Therefore, I have two days to write 3,705 words. I've averaged about 2,200 words per day for the last week. I can do this.

The novel is crap. I do not care.

It's neither funny, nor polished, nor possessed of the literary merit of the back of a candy bar wrapper. I do not care.

Oh, I will, balding fat guy in a bow tie. Yes I will.

And by the way, it's not polite to point.


Click here to read more!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Roundup! Yee-haw!

Due to work and my personal life getting remarkably intense at the exact same time, I've been a little slack on posting to Filing Cabinet. In lieu of a witty and insightful post,* here are a spatter of random thoughts.


The novel writing is behind schedule, though not cripplingly so.

Quota: 36,674 words
Actual production to date: 34,093
Word debt: 2,581.

That's not great. But Thanksgiving entails a long trip to visit the in-laws and not a lot to do. I'm bringing my laptop and going nuts. With luck I'll be over 50,000 words by Monday, two days ahead of the deadline. Last Saturday I crunched out 4,300 words, so I can do it if'n I want.

By the way, the novel sucks ass. Fortunately, I don't care much.


My wife is from the deserts of West Texas, and that's where we're headed tomorrow. Fortunately, as I know much of the world through comics, I expect my holiday to go a lot like this:


I haven't confronted a murderous stone totem in years. It's not something you think you'd miss, but you know what? I do.

Life is funny sometimes.

Two books for future discussion:

Silent Dragon by Andy Diggle and Leinil Yu doesn't live up to all the hype I've seen. It's okay. More than anything it feels like a manga drawn in a western style. Killer robots, man-into-machine, the spunky girl sidekick who tries to look tough, doomed love, the yakuza, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Not bad, just not great. I don't see the appeal. To each their own.

Godland by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli has grown on me a lot. The first two issues did little for me, but dang it, either the book's picking up speed or I'm getting accustomed to it.

Though I do have one question: Scioli is very clearly a Kirby disciple, and I can appreciate that. But why late-period Kirby? Instead of the Marvel-era Kirby or the New Gods era, Scioli is drawing heavily on the Kirby's late seventies work like The Eternals, 2001, and Devil Dinosaur.

(Note the villain whose head is a green skull floating in a fishbowl on a robot body. There is only one word to accurately describe that: ROCK! Click on the picture to enlarge.)

I suppose if you're going to follow in the old man's footsteps, why not use him at his most idiosyncratic. As my college friends said so often, "If you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly." I dunno.

The book's a hoot. Casey and Scioli are not aping Big Epic Seventies comics. They're aiming at the same goal as the Big Epic Seventies comics. I can dig it.


Happy Thanksgiving!

And don't let the giant mutant turkeys of the pampas rampage in your hometown. (They can be distracted with Hostess Snack Cakes. So stock up and be a hero. Chicks dig a man who can think quickly on his feet and save the day with a fistful of Twinkies.)

*Also in lieu of my normal posting style. Ba-ZING!

Click here to read more!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Aquaman, Tell Us About Your Mother

Many comic bloggers have drawn attention to the amusingly phallic comic book covers featuring Wonder Woman. Good lord, how many times was the Amazon Princess strapped to a rocket, stalactite, missile, or bomb?

Ah, symbolism.

Amateur Freudianism is fun! Remember: anything longer than it is wide is a phallic object.

But ya know what?

There was another superheroic champion of Freudian imagery who nobody mentions:


Yeah, that's not symbolic or anything. Nope. Not at all. No feminine sexuality implied here.


Oh, come on. An exploding circle, a prone Aquaman facing the circle crotch-first, a pale woman watching him, and "Die, My Love, Die?"


Dragged into an ovoid abyss attached to a gold ring while his wife and adoptive son look on, Aquaman yells that he can't stop himself from shrinking and being dragged into the World Within the Ring.


-cough cough-

Nope, no fears of women here. Marriage is groovy too, right, boys? Right?


Again, an exploding pit and Aquaman leading with his crotch. And it looks painful.


And the biggest "oh, come on" of all: the dreaded Dentata. "It's too powerful! It's ensnared my son and will devour us both! AAAAAAH!!"



Aquaman was one of two major DC heroes in the Silver Age who was married. Perhaps it was no coincidence that he was the one to enjoy so many...feminine-threat covers.

(The other married hero, Hawkman, strutted around bare-chested and carried a mace. Uh-huh.)

Just a thought.

And it's not limited to the Silver Age, either. What, ten years ago, Aquaman lost his hand and replaced it with a harpoon. Ye gods. Any English majors out there want to explain what a hero "losing his hand" symbolizes? Replacing it with a hard metallic penetrating weapon?

Ooooookay then.

Click here to read more!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Swooning a Nerdly Swoon

It came, it came, it came!

They teased me for years. At last it has been printed!

The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana by Jess Nevins has hit the world with a sickening thud, well over a year after it was first supposed to be published. And I couldn’t be happier.

The book is an exhaustive guide to the characters, stories, and settings of nineteenth century popular literature, with a focus on the fantastic and mysterious. It has big fat entries on the obvious characters such as Dracula and Sherlock Holmes, as well as obscure characters like Father Ambrosio and Gideon Barr. The book also contains entries on recurring motifs and themes of the era such as anarchism, “Future War” books, and that lovely racist motif of The Yellow Peril.

Originally The Encyclopedia was a website. The site still exists, though it's on Geocities, so it overloads and crashes all the dang time. I read the whole damn thing from front to back one very boring winter, and loved every bit of it. To have the site radically expanded and put into a book is a joy. And it’s a big mamma-jamma volume.

Good lord, what a resource. Flip it open at random and you’ll certainly find a lengthy entry on a story you’ve never heard of, by an author whose name means nothing to you, that is still dang interesting.

This book plus a stack of silver age comics (and a dime bag of kind bud) could very well make you the next Grant Morrison or Alan Moore.

“Whoa…Spring-Heeled Jack meets…uh…Father Rodin…and then…the Star-Spangled Kid shows up…and…uh…add a talking horse, and it’s Vertigo Time, baby!”

Click here to read more!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Impractical, Unlikely, but Who Cares, I’m Just Making It Up: the Return of the Big Fat Comic

A silly nostalgic post is a’comin’. Be warned.

When I was but a wee squirt in the late seventies, I purchased a comic that left a particularly fond memory. Not for the stories per se, but for the comic’s general content. It was World’s Finest #255.

From '73 to '82, DC produced something Young Harv adored: the big fat superhero anthology book.

That particular issue of World’s Finest, sixty-eight pages long and ad-free, contained a Superman-Batman story, a Green Arrow-Black Canary story, a Shazam story, and a Creeper story. None of these stories were reprints. And the series ran like that every issue.

Fork one of those over to a comic-crazed six-year old and watch the kid's eyes bulge.

DC did the same with Adventure Comics, providing four or five full-length stories of major and B-list heroes in each issue. Dammit, that’s excellent.

Other giant honkin’ multistory books of the seventies included Superman Family and House of Mystery. Sometimes the books were as long as eighty pages. Schweet. One buck for all that comic? All those different stories? They were the Shonen Jump of the seventies.

Okay, okay, it probably wouldn’t work today. I’m not even sure it worked back then. But man, it’s fun to throw around.

Say the Magical Comic Fairy gave you the chance to create a new title for one of the Big Two, and the company wanted a title in the manner of the Big Fat Comics of the seventies.

The schema you must follow is: Two a-list characters have their own stories, one b-lister, and one c-lister. No d-listers. Your Big Fat Comic cannot feature characters who have never carried their own title, however briefly. Marvel Comics Presents was a showcase for pet characters and never-weres, and it was underwhelming. The Big Fat Comic of my dreams would be no such thing. Oh, and team-ups are encouraged. Your lineup will be stable for six months, after which it may be tweaked.

Here’s my Big Fat Comic for Marvel, one I slaved over for six whole minutes:

A-list teamup: Marvel’s new odd couple, the Overexposed Duo, Spider-Man and Wolverine. Make their odd-couple nature a big part of the series. Sure, they’re in the Avengers together now anyway, but what the hell. Ride that gravy train!

”One’s an amnesiac mutant killing machine with a jones for redheads and a chip on his shoulder…the other’s a high school science teacher with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and a beautiful red-haired wife…together, they fight crime…and each other!”

A-list #2: Iron Man. His solo series, both of the regular and Ultimate varieties, come out infrequently. Give him a spot in the Big Fat Comic, dang it! Bright shiny adventures with the shiniest superhero around! Pass the turtle wax!

B-list: Doctor Strange. The perfect hero for this kind of book: he’s popular enough to have his own series from time to time, but not to the degree that he can sustain one through the thin times. The Doctor would pull in quite a few readers on his own, since this would be his only ongoing series.

Plus, he’s way cool.

C-list: Cloak and Dagger. C&D are popular enough that they won’t generate head-scratching from the fans, but not so entrenched that you can’t mess with them and make cool-o stories.

There you have it. A veritable sampler of goodies: One wacky hero team-up with Marvel’s biggest names, one straight-up flashy superhero story, one weird cult-favorite superhero story, and one “street-level” story, to indulge the fanboy’s neverending taste for “grit.”

This Big Fat Comic would be a much better title to market to the outside world than that fiasco All-Star Batman, and dang it, I think it’d be fun.*

Come on, blog-o-spherians…cast your own Big Fat Comics.

How about a DC book with the Flash/Nighwing team, Hawkman, the Martian Manhunter, and Kamandi?


*Please notice that I referenced All-Star Batman without resorting to the "What are you, retarded? I'm the goddamn Batman!" exchange so mocked across the internet. For I am above such petty shots.

Okay, I'm not. I just didn't think of a way to work it in. Except as a footnote.

Click here to read more!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Day 6: Keep On Truckin'

The NaNoWriMo project is chugging along on schedule.

Day 6 word quota: 10,002 words
Day 6 actual total: 10,649 words. A little bit ahead of schedule. Aside from one night I had to quit early, I’ve been a few hundred words over quota every day.

Though I tried to have a ten thousand word weekend, I produced less than half of that.

A few bits of wisdom gleaned from six days of high-speed noveling:

--The ideal “plan-to-no plan” ratio for writing seems to be about 1:1. If I have no idea where I’m going when I sit down to type, nothing happens. If I try to plot out too extensively, I end up losing focus and watch SportsCenter instead. Plopping my ass down with a half-formed idea seems the best way to go. I don’t have to waste energy in wholesale flailing, but there’s room to play and take oddball turns.

--It’s easier than I thought to keep my inner editor from taking over and sabotaging the whole project. The Editor Within has settled into the idea that the first draft has holes in it and that in a month or two, he can feast upon bad scenes, poor grammar, and repetitive prose like a hungry bobcat on a limping raccoon. It’ll be bloody.

--Coughing up acres of unconsidered prose is a little bit like word association games. What comes out of you when you’re writing too fast to censor yourself? What deep, dark oogy things lie within your subconscious? The cool part of this mind-dredging is the inadvertant creation of themes. I have two or three, and I can tell they’ll run throughout the novel. My big struggle is to keep these themes from being applied too consciously, lest they become mechanical and obvious.

--Yes, I use the word “lest.”

--Writing a novel in a month is a lot like going to the gym. It’s good for you, it’s even fun, but dragging yourself to it every damn day can be a chore. I love it once I’ve settled down to hackery. Persuading myself to sit down and resume the hackery will probably grow tough soon. I can feel the urge build. Not gifted with an abundance of self-discipline, my only recourse is to keep the novel as entertaining as possible so I won’t get bored and wander off.

--The founder of NaNoWriMo, Chris Baty, was right: telling people you’re writing a novel is fun. “Oooh, what’s it about?” “Am I in it?” “Will you work in the story about the time you got so loaded you yarfed into the bathroom sink and backed up the neighbors’ plumbing?” That I can’t tell them what it’s about nor who’s in it is both fun (makes me seem more mysterious and authorial) and a drag (since it lessens their interest in the ongoing process).

A bunch of you in blog-land are either working on a NaNoWriMo novel or a regular book. Any thoughts on the process?

Click here to read more!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"This never happens to Wolverine."

You know what we don't see much anymore?

Superheroes who lose their costumes and have to wear wooden barrels.

Whether or not that's a positive development, I can't say.

Just an observation.

Would it be so bad for Marvel to create X-Men: The Pantsing?

A better question: where did all those naked people find barrels? Where are the nudity-sparing barrels of today?

Click here to read more!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

NaNoWriMo Progress: Day 1

I won't post every day about this, but hey, it's my first day.

Quota to keep on pace: 1,667 words per day.

Day 1 word quota: 1,667 words
Day 1 total: 2,001 words. Woo!

Mood: Diggin' it. That first two thousand was a lot easier than I'd expected. I should enjoy this mood while it lasts, because next week I'll probably be driving myself insane.

Thoughts on book: Holy crap, it's schizophrenic already. The tiniest hints of a plot are coming out. It's gonna be weird. No big surprise.

Ninja count: 0. Against all odds, this may be a ninja-free novel.

Click here to read more!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Marathon Begins, plus random junk

Today, November 1st, National Novel Writing Month begins. I'm scared out of my wee mind. Only one in seven NaNoWriMo contestents finishes.

This is when thoughts flit through my head such as "You know, Mother never wanted me to be a writer. She thinks it ungentlemanly. She always wanted me to be...a cowboy."

Ah, well. Time to take my mammoth fear of failure aside, tell it to look out the window and see the pretty birdie, then punch it in the nuts and run.

Whether or not I'll blog much in November is unclear. So in case I'm quiet for a spell, a few brief thoughts.


I haven't followed The X-Men since 1986. Never my bag.

Out of curiosity and a string of odd events, I just bought the first two trade paperback collections of Grant Morrison's New X-Men run from 2001-2003. I've been digging Seven Soldiers of Victory and none of the other trades in Borders were catching my eye. So what the hell, I figures.

Holy crap, it's excellent.

Okay, most every fanboy who might read this blog probably has an opinion on the Morrison run, but dang it, this is my first exposure. And yea verily, it rocketh.


The Showcase Presents: Superman volume was a great buy. Lots of crazy classic crap from the late fifties in it. Then why don't I read it more?

As much as I love the lunacy of the Silver Age o' Comics, the books are like candy. A piece now and again is great, but damn...five hundred pages?

Even I get tired of giant radioactive monkeys and Lex Luthor turning Jimmy Olsen into a river of maple butter after a few stories. And I'm a man who loves his maple butter.

The Essential Fantastic Four volumes suffers from a similar problem. I love old-school FF. Desperately. I don't think either Lee or Kirby ever did anything as good as their FF run, and it's a monument to great superhero comics. But damn, I cannot sit down with the volume and read it cover-to-cover. Makes my head hurt.


At the risk of snark, I was a bit amused at some sniping on messageboards about the recent revision of Dr. Strange's origins in J. Michael Straczynski's miniseries Strange. I can understand that they didn't like it (it looked terrible to me), but the body of the complaints was kinda funny.

"It's all cliche," they complained. The tough-girl love interest. Wire-fu. The hip, smack-talking mystical master. All very "Matrix-esque," they complained.

True, that's weak. What about the original origin, courtesy of Ditko and Lee in the early sixties? What elements went into it?

An ancient, wizened Asian master of magic in a hidden mountain fortress. The European aristocrat as villain. The graceful and luminous princess of another dimension falling in love with our hero.

Or, as I like to call them, the cliches of a previous generation's popular culture.

You could transpose early Dr. Strange into a bad pulp novel without changing a single thing.

What made the Ditko Dr. Strange stories cool was how he used the cliches as a starting point and created something new and cool. From what I've seen, the "new" Strange never gets past the cliches. It looks downright assy.

If that's why it fails as a story, say that, instead of something quick like "it's cliched." Dig a bit, nail down exactly how it fails. Then you can bust on it a hell of a lot better.

To recycle a bit of imagery, why shove it in the chest when you can kick it in the nuts?

I've got nut-kicking on the brain today.


A rude idea, sure to generate hate mail: The "new mainstream" cannot save comics, nor will it.

A charming idea of the comiccenti is the belief that the medium of comics would be successful if they (a) were sold in more readily-available places than comic shops and (b) expanded from the traditional boundaries of thirty-two page superhero “pamphlets,” embracing both larger formats and broader genres.

The first point I believe is true, though it glosses over the gigantic risks and costs involved in such a push.

The second point is wishful thinking.

For those unversed in comic dork talk, “New Mainstream” describes any comics that are not superhero books, arty comics, or manga. Westerns, romance, horror, espionage, detective, all of it falls under “new mainstream.”

On first glance, this seems like a perfectly sensible idea.

And it won’t work.

The reason boils down to economics. I can find a good western, romance, or horror story for a fraction of the price of a graphic novel. The intrinsic appeal of seeing a story graphically depicted is not enough to carry the book to a mass audience.

A regular novel is half the price and takes considerably longer to read. Sure, I dig seeing the stories as comics, but even I, a dedicated comic freak, balk at paying fifteen dollars for a mediocre sci-fi or horror story that I can finish in an hour. Dude, I can get mediocre sci-fi and horror for damn near free on cable television all damn day.

Graphic novels cost more than the regular kind. Simple as that. The New Mainstream's ability to overcome the price then lies in two possibilities:

1. The essential appeal of sequential art.
2. Better stories than you'll find elsewhere.

The first factor is not enough. The second factor is, to be charitable, unlikely. It certainly hasn't happened yet, nor is there any reason to expect it will happen in the future.

Comics succeed when they go where other media can't.

Sure, an issue of Shaolin Cowboy runs me three bucks and I rip through it in about twelve seconds, but dammit, I can't find that combination of visuals, wit, and action anywhere else. Compare that to the Oni graphic novel The Long Haul, a generic western heist story. I can find something that does exactly what the novel does for less than half the price, and likely does it better.

Look at what comics exist and sell: capes-n-cowls, which can't be matched by movies and teevee yet (one Batman movie takes years and hundreds of millions to make; DC puts out what, six Batman books every goddamn month) and arty-farty comics, which go in directions that other media simply can't.

I like the idea of the New Mainstream. I do. I've got the new Jonah Hex series in my pull-list. But I don't think it has a prayer of saving the industry unless it either gets real cheap to buy or consistently produces better work than other media. Neither seems likely.

Comics used to come in a variety of genres and do well, sure. When? In the fifties and sixties. When comics were dirt-cheap and in dimestores everywhere. What they lacked in content they made up in price and ubiquity.

This isn't about art or the satisfaction of comics. This is about cash.


I really like donuts.

Click here to read more!