Blog Summary

A blog for poetry, prose, and pop culture.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Flash Fiction: Under a Dead Sun: Past Sins

Chapter 4

Father Enrico Santiago made the sign of the cross and hurried across the courtyard of his small mission. His threadbare brown robes rustled in the stiff desert wind and his free hand caressed the rosary beads at his waist. His deeply browned face was reddened and covered with sweat, and he was having trouble catching his breath. There has been terrible reports from the neighboring village this morning, reports he had dismissed as superstition despite the strangeness of the weather. He offered another prayer, biting off an old curse he had once used in a former life and hurried into the parish, running his hand through his thinning hair. He had dismissed the wild claims, until he had seen them with his own eyes.

Father Santiago had saddled his small donkey and left with two of his order to place the panicking villages, whose tales of the dead risen from the grave had seen preposterous. He wasn't prepared for what he had seen, hordes of vicious blood thirsty monsters surging through the small village. If he closed his eyes he could still see their distended faces. Skin turned a sickly yellow with engorged mouths, stretched impossibly wide to house rows of blackened fangs. The creatures fingers turned to yellow black sharpened points. The sight of blood and entrails as the creatures feasted on the living.

He stifled another shudder and bolted the door, calling the rest of his small order together, consisting of two other monks along with a stable boy and a washerwoman. They peppered him with questions about what he had seen. About why the sun had suddenly turned to a darkened orb. Santiago ignored the questions and simply directed each of them to a job, fortifying the windows and barricading the doors, all the while trying to keep the grinning face of the undead out of his mind.

He had barely escaped alive, his companions were not so lucky. The creatures had swarmed them before they could even register what they were witnessing. The beasts weren't fast, but what they lost in speed they made up in numbers. Enrico could still hear the screams of Brother Alvarez and Brother Cervantes as they were pulled from their donkeys. Enrico had reacted faster, urging his small donkey into a spin and kicking him to show some speed. He hadn't been fast enough though, and he heard the donkey cry out as one of the monsters bit into its leg. Enrico fell forward and landed in a pile. He could feel them at his back and he jumped up and ran towards the mission as fast as his sandeled feet could carry him never looking back, still hearing the screams of the living behind him.

End of Line.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Hey all,

A bit of a different type of introspection in this post. Today is a day of change for me. My room mate, and best friend, is moving out and I certainly have a bit of mixed emotion. I met my best friend Jason in 7th grade and I really treasure the friend ship we have made over the past 20 years.

We became friends in class finding common interests, things like comic books, super heroes, and art. It was a friendship that we cultivated all throughout high school and into our first years of college. Into our first year at college we also became room mates with another friend of ours. We were room mates up until the year 2000, when he moved to San Francisco to attend art school. He lived there for five years studying art but despite the distance, our friendship never suffered. We still talked regularly and met for Comic Con each year. After he graduated, he moved back to Arizona and luckily we were both in a situation where we needed a room mate. He moved into my house and we have been room mates for nearly 5 years.

Today he is moving in with his girlfriend Autumn. It's time for them to move in together. They are so perfect for each other and I am genuinely happy for each of them. Still, a little part of me is sad that this chapter of my life is closing. With Jason though, he's more than just my best friend, he's a part of my family. We are closer than brothers and I don't think there is anything that we wouldn't do for each other. I'll miss the easy banter and the daily in jokes that we shared. I'll miss seeing my best friend every day.

Look, I am really happy for him and his girlfriend. I don't want that to be misconstrued in any way. There's a time and a place for each person to take that step and this is one that is over due. Its not like he is moving far away, or that I'm not gonna be able to hang out with him any more. We will still be friends.

Still I want to say a few words. Jason is my best friend. Thank you brother. Thanks for being there for me over the years. Thanks for more things than I can say. I always looked at you as a source of inspiration, someone who continued to follow their dreams in the face of adversity. Someone who challenges me to be more creative. Someone who challenges me to be a better person. You've changed my life. Thank you.

God this probably sounds really gay. Still, I hope you understand. You've been my best friend for 20 years. I'm looking forward to find out what the next 20 will bring because it's been a great ride. Somethings may change, we may not be room mates any more or hang out every day, but there is one thing I know that won't change. Our friendship. Thanks Jason, you are the best.

End of Line.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Poetry: Insomnia

Hey all,

I wrote the majority of this poem in the waning hours of the evening yesterday, kind of coasting on very little sleep. I went through it this morning and proofread it a little, making some minor modifications to syntax and the rhyming scheme. Overall I like how it turned it, sort of an insight into exhaustion. A little bit shorter than some of the stuff I've been working on lately, but I think it works. Hope you like it.


Cannot seem to close my eyes,

Fitful bursts of sullen dreams.

Rest escapes despite my cries,

Lost along slumber's streams.

Covers pulled above my head,

Wrapped in the softest sheet,

Yet nothing that is in my bed,

Can make my sleep feel complete.

A pillow fluffed, the windows wide,

Can't seem to make the day go bye.

There's no recourse for what I've tried,

I even played a soothing lullaby.

Cannot find the rest I need,

So many jumbled thought,

Have to find a way to bleed,

The anxieties of which I've wrought.

Toss and turned, yet took no breaks,

This restless night just cannot end.

The subtle sounds the evening makes,

Cry a roar which I can't defend.

Eyes so red with bleary sleep,

As I greet the cresting sun,

Another night of counting sheep,

Has fell away, undone.

To sleep or dream a fleeting grace,

With no chance to fall away,

Insomnia's a lonely chase,

Whose prize is but a brand new day.

End of Line.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Word Balloon: Daredevil: Guardian Devil

Hey all,

For my February comic book pick I though we should dive back into the world of mainstream super-heroics. I tend to really push a lot of indy titles, stuff outside the normal genre because indy titles are really good books to gateway non comic readers into the medium. They are also books avid comic readers may not be reading or may not have noticed. Still, it's nice to return to the fold a few times a year and pick out some really good super hero comics. This month we are going to turn the spotlight on one of my favorite monthly super hero books, Daredevil.

I've been reading this series consistently since the relaunch of the book in the late 1990's. Daredevil, and Marvel Comics in general, were in a dire situation. The company was entering a crippling bankruptcy as the bottom had fell out of the market. The early part of the decade was marked by rampant speculation, people buying huge event books, like the Death of Superman, the relaunching of new Spider-man and X-Men titles, and the birth of upstart publisher Image Comics. Comics were being printed in the millions with people buying and saving issues believing that one day they would be worth a fortune, not realizing that with such a huge circulation amount, books wouldn't have the same value or rarity as older comics.

Marvel chose two upstart comic book makers, Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmotti, to come in as editors of a small line of comics, called Marvel Knights. This line of books would feature some of Marvel's under performing characters, but told in an edgier tone. Quesada and Palmotti were well respected in the comics community and attracted a number of creators to coem and work for teh company, whose image with free lance creators had been several damaged over the past few years with bad editorial control and inflexibility in storytelling. Quesada and Palmotti got to choose 4 books to start their line, and they lead off with the Inhumans, a series about a race of beings that lived on the moon, with up and coming writer Paul Jenkins and former Image artist Jae Lee. They got Black Panther, a book about an African king turned superhero who had long been a staple of the Marvel universe by writer Christopher Priest and artist Mark Texeira. Their two big guns was a relaunched Punisher featuring him as a supernaturally powered hero by novelist Christopher golden and comics legend Bernie Wrightson. The flagship book of the title though was Daredevil, featuring Quesada and Palmotti on art and writer/director Kevin Smith on story.

This was a huge coupe for Marvel. Smith was (and is) a comic book fan boy and bringing someone of his name and reputation could mean a lot for the flagging company. With the exception of the Punisher series which was met with almost unrivaled hostility, the imprint was a huge success, led by Smith and Quesada's Daredevil run. Daredevil in the early 1980's was one of Marvel's flagship books, along with the Uncanny X-Men, mostly thanks to superstar creator Frank Miller who wrote and illustrated issues along with penciler David Mazzuchelli. They created an epic run on the series, introducing much of the more meaningful elements of Daredevil, his Catholicism, his intensely personal rivalry with the Kingpin, the creation of Elektra, and his long standing feud with the villain Bullseye. Nearly the entirety of the Daredevil movie was based off Miller's run. Unfortunately since Miller's run, those were the stories that defined Daredevil and he had fallen into a slump.

Smith and Quesada really began by changing the ante on Daredevil and getting back to the fact that Daredevil's own worst enemy is always himself. In the same way that Spider-man was a hard luck hero who tried to joke his way out of a problem, Daredevil faced his demons in a more brooding way. Driven by things like guilt and anger, Daredevil was always a character who thrived in misery, the worse things were for him, the better the book was in trying to find ways for him to overcome the situation. Usually in a manner that left him worse off than he was before.

Daredevil is really about Matt Murdock, the blinded son of a boxer who was killed for refusing to throw a fight. Murdock was blinded by a chemical spill, which while costing him his sight, supercharged his other senses, giving him a radar-like ability to see through sound waves. Growing up, Murdock became a lawyer, trying to fight the good fight though the legal system. For Murdock though, some crimes fell through the cracks. To safeguard his neighborhood, Matt Murdock became Daredevil, a vigilante who protected those who couldn't protect themselves.

With Smith and Quesada on board, they set about changing the status qua of Daredevil. Matt has long since lost everything that meant anything to him, his law practice, the loves of his life, Elektra and Karen Page, and now only has his faith left. This though is challenged when a young girl leaves him with a new born baby, one that may or may not grow up to be the Messiah or the Anti-Christ. He is also greeted by a returning Karen Page, who in recent years had fallen on hard times living in California, getting addicted to drugs and doing porn, ultimately becoming HIV positive. Murdock must protect the baby, becoming increasing violent anytime someone suggests the baby is anything less than innocent.

Murdock visits his mother, who has cloistered herself in a nunnery since his birth, as well as Dr. Strange after fighting with his ex-girlfriend The Black Widow over the baby. He learns that topical drugs have been used to cause him to hallucinate and become violent from the baby. He also learns that his arch nemesis Bullseye has attacked the church where he left the baby. He must race back to confront the man who killed the first love of his life, Elektra, before he has a chance to kill his over love, Karen Page and in the process, find out who hired Bullseye and who is trying to ruin his life.

Collected in the first 8 issues of Daredevil's relaunch, Smith's Guardian Angel is considered the book that put Daredevil back on the map of upper echelon Marvel Comics. I can't even say it was my favorite run in Daredevil, for that you would easily look at Born Again by Frank Miller or even look into Brian Michael Bendis' run, the writer who took over after Smith. They had a much large and more seminal influence on the title than Smith's short run. What they don't have though, and what makes this a far more important collection in my opinion, is the impact. Before this book Daredevil was a joke, an also ran in the Marvel universe. Here is a great story with the perfect starting point for a new reader. It brought in people who had never read comics before on Smith's name alone, and established Quesada as a creative force in comics.

Due to this run, Quesada would go on to become Editor in Chief of the entire Marvel Comics line and lead the company from the brink of ruin into an age of prosperity not seen since the 1960's. One of the guiding factors behind Marvel's Ultimate line, he made comics more accessible and shed years of baggage of characters. He attracted new creators to the company and welcomed back established acts into the fold. Without Quesada there is no Marvel film division and certainly the mainstream appeal that comics are enjoying would not be in effect right now.

Let's look at the book itself. Quesada is really at the top of his game on this book, he creates a very dynamic version of Daredevil and breathes a life into the character not seen since Miller. Truth be told, Quesada was never quite the same after this series and it was easily his last monthly book, the politics and day to day of comics becoming a bigger part of his job in 2000. Still what struck me about this book at the time was the quality. Much of Marvel was still being printed on news stock, the way the books had been done for decades. Quesada switched over to the glossier paper that many of the competitors were using. It made the colors and art also seem to leap off the page, using computer color and effects in a manner that most Marvel books hadn't seen yet. Quesada had a flash and style that had been lacking in Marvel art since the formation of Image Comics in the early 90's.

Smith himself has always been a master of dialog and you can genuinely feel his love of comics and of Daredevil in particular in this book. There are some passages that get bogged down a bit with prose in the series, but he manages to capture the essence of Daredevil, the pathos and guilt. He elevated the character back to A list status and in the process revitalized a lagging franchise. Bullseye was a big time player in Marvel again and the final bits of his story established a former B level Spider-man villain as a bigger force in the Marvel universe. He also planted the seeds for the return of Daredevil's number one nemesis, The Kingpin, an element that would have a huge impact on the series in years to come.

Not enough can be said about the impact that this arc had on Daredevil and me. This was the series that brought me back to Marvel comics after a fairly long hiatus from their books. The quality of Marvel had so declined from 1992 to 1994 when I had dropped my last Marvel book, that I hadn't read one of their publications in almost 5 years. I was still even reticent to pick up this book at the time even with the pedigree, it took me a few issue to get into the flow of what the Marvel knights imprint was trying to do, bring back the things we loved about the series in the first place. After Daredevil and Quesada's success, I looked into other books they were publishing, especially after he was named Editor in Chief. New life was breathed into many of my favorite characters, from Spider-man to another take on the Punisher that put that character back on top. This book re-opened the door to Marvel, a publisher that dominates much of my monthly comic book budget today.

Daredevil my favorite on-going Marvel book for one reason, it consistently pushes it's character to the edge. They always have great talent on the book and it operates on a gritty realism that grounds the title. Daredevil is not a "clean" super hero book. It's hard and gritty, like the Hell's Kitchen area of New York that he protects. Check out Daredevil: Guardian Devil by Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada for a really great comic that shows even the greatest of heroes don't always win in the end. It's a seminal work in Marvel's history for how it changed the publisher forever. You won't regret it.

End of Line.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Poetry: Changed

Hey all,

Happy Valentine's Day! Continuing perhaps my longest tradition on the blog I have posted another Valentine's Day poem. Poetry has been really hard for me the last month or so, especially on a topic such as love. I really don't like this holiday that much as its such a reminder of how alone I am. Admittedly a large part of that is my own fault, but it still doesn't help. Seeing so many happy people out there buying flowers and candy, knowing that when they go home they will have someone waiting for them. Still I tried to channel some of that angst and other emotions into a poem that maybe someday will have resonance.

This poem is very much about how meeting one person can change your whole life. How one instant can change your whole perspective. How love can really change how you view the world. Perhaps I am a bit of a romantic, or at least I think I am, but maybe you can find a small measure of worth in the poem. If not, that's okay I'll keep trying to find a better way to express it. Thanks for reading.


There is no easy way to say,

No simple means to allay,

Of all of the things that came to be,

In all the ways you inspired me.

Since you came into my life,

The world has felt so full and rife.

That all my world until these days,

Had no color save blacks and greys.

The Sky seem to shine a brighter blue,

And the morning dawn glows a more azure hue.

The flowers I smelled had no scent,

But with you in my arms they are heaven lent.

The food that I ate had no flavor,

Yet now the tastes are ones I savor.

But most of all the world felt cold,

As I walked alone, my heart untold.

The day I met you this all changed,

In one brief second my life was re-arranged.

You gave me purpose and showed me the world,

In such a way that life seemed unfurled.

My once cold soul was flushed with cheer,

In every moment you would draw near.

My days begin when you'd arrive,

It's only then would my life thrive.

I cannot express in words or phrase,

How much better you make my days.

I cannot sing in lyrics or song,

The ways you make me belong.

To simply say I love you,

Are pale words that can't imbue,

All the depth and meaning you give,

To this life I've finally learned to live.

I'd gladly give up all the pleasures,

The colors, scents, and warmest treasures,

To spend my days in hope and try,

For the chance for you to feel as I.

So on this Valentines today,

There is no cost that I'd not pay,

Just so you will always know,

How very much I love you so.

End of Line.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Flash Fiction: Under a Dead Sun: Past Sins

Chapter 3

Eva May Saint was certainly not the daughter that Caleb Saint had thought he would have. His wife had been the gentlest flower in the county, long blond hair the color of spun straw and eyes as blue as the sky. A petite thing, many people had wondered how such a delicate thing would have survived in the harsh frontier where she was born. She may have been slight, but Caleb had known her to be as strong willed as they come. Perhaps that was the only trait Eva had kept from her mother. Her stubbornness.

Eva was her father's daughter, of that he was certain. Caleb Saint was once a towering man, nearly 6'5 with dark brown hair that curled from under his lip to the top of his head, his chin meticulously shaven. He had been huge and powerful, able to wrestle the orneriest cattle, fight the meanest ranch hand, and out shoot the deadliest gunslinger. He had given up that lifestyle though when he had met Eva's mother, and settled into life as a cattle rancher. That had been nearly 40 years ago. Now he was the biggest cattle baron in the county, though age and hard living had finally caught up with him. Stooped over he was confined to a wheelchair thanks to an errant bullet fighting off an Indian attack. His once powerful frame reduced to knotted mucle that had long whithered away. His hair had turned white and thin and he was nearly blind in one eye. The worst injury though had been suffered during a cholera outbreak. An outbreak that not only cost him 2 of his 3 children, but his beloved wife as well.

Now he sat on his porch and watched as his only surviving relative, his daughter, drove in the last of the heard. She sat tall and straight in the saddle, her brown hair pulled back underneath her brimmed hat. She wore pants that he thought far to tight and chaps that accented the curves in her legs. She also wore a loose fitting men's shirt and vest, rolled up at the sleeves, and a gleaming Colt revolver sat on her hip. She was a beautiful woman most agreed, though long towards becoming an old maid being on the other side of 30. Most men didn't want someone who could out fight or out-drink them, and Eva was certainly not the one to back down from a challenge. When she took over running the ranch, she had given up on what many would have considered a normal life. Sometimes Caleb regretted letting her get her way, but he never could say no to her.

Caleb glanced at the sky, feeling a chill in his bones that he knew wasn't right. The sun should have been well in to the sky by now, but there was still a pale overcast in the air. He watched Eva heard the last of the cattle into the pen and spur her horse towards him, a smile lighting her face. Caleb Saint allowed himself to smile back, welcoming his daughter home and pushing the strange weather from his thoughts. There was time enough to worry about that later, for now, Caleb just wanted his little girl. Little did Caleb know, that time was something he did not have on his side.

End of Line.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Movie Time: Rewind: The Public Enemy

Hey all!

As promised this month it's time to spotlight a new actor in the column, the great James Cagney. Cagney worked for The Warner Brothers studio starting in the early 1930's usually playing a tough street kid who works his way up the criminal empire. Each studio had it's go to formula in the early days of Hollywood, Warners with gangster pictures, MGM with the musical, RKO and comedies, each studio tried to make a diverse range of pictures, but they also excelled in their specific category. The Warners Studio sold it's film to the working class American. While many studio's made films to take peoples minds off the Great Depression, Warner Bros. embraced the common man, flooding the market with pictures of gangsters and highlighting the criminal element, offering an escapism that people could relate to.

James Cagney himself grew up in Vaudeville and started out as a song and dance man, an image downplayed during his early years with the Warners studio. He had been working the theater circuit since 1919 and had acted in silent pictures in the mid 1920's. It was his run in the theater that had brought himself to the attention of the Warner Studio and ultimately got him his first contract, a three week deal that eventually ended up a 7 year commitment. Signed to a deal in 1930, Cagney worked in several pictures, often at breakneck speeds and often in films that played up to the tough guy image that studio head Jack Warner pushed on him. It was Cagney's seventh film with the studio that launched his career though, 1931's The Public Enemy directed by William Wellman, and co-starring the great Jean Harlow and Joan Blondell.

The Public Enemy starts out at the onset of the Prohibition, liquor and beer are outlawed and therein lies a huge opportunity for money to be made. Cagney plays Tom Powers, a young boy from humble beginnings who starts to work his way up the criminal ladder with his best friend, Matt Doyle (Edward Woods). they start out small, working for a local fence, stealing and shoplifting, but eventually work their way to more heinous crimes, including killing a police officer during a botched robbery attempt. Eventually they start working for a bootlegger named Paddy O'Brien (Robert Emmett O'Connor) and go from being apprentices to leading gangsters in the organization. Cagney sets himself apart from the rest of the pack by being tougher and more ruthless than his counterparts.

The duo enjoy the trappings of their lucrative lifestyles, wearing fancy suits, driving expensive cars, and dating beautiful women. This lifestyle doesn't sit well with Cagney's brother, played by Donald Cook, who is a shell shocked war veteran and wants their mother and family to have nothing to do with Cagney's blood money. Eventually though Cagney's greed and arrogance catch up to him, inciting a gang war that would cost him everything, and proving that crime doesn't pay.

There is so much about this movie that is iconic. At the time this film was made, it was using more state of the art recording equipment for sound and allowed for actors to really inflect tone and diction, giving the audience Cagney's machine gun-like speech patterns a whole new level of authenticity that movie goers hadn't yet seen on the silver screen. There is also the climatic ending, where Cagney "gets his". The scene sets the tone for not only Cagney's career, but for the genre itself for nearly the next two decades. It's brutal and honest and unflinching, just like Cagney. Perhaps the most important scene though is a sequence between Cagney and actress Mae Clark, in which during a fight Cagney loses his temper and shoves a grapefruit in her face. It really changed the way audiences looked at leading men in pictures from that point. No longer was the hero necessarily the guy in the white hat, it added shades of gray. The hero could be as flawed and hateful as the men he was fighting, bringing a new dimension to acting and creating the early anti-hero, an ache type that Cagney would never be quite able to shake in his career.

Cagney made several gangster movies during his first decade with the Warners, with the Public Enemy being his first starring vehicle. Films like Angels With Dirty Faces, Taxi!, The Roaring Twenties, and White Heat, leaving an indelible mark on cinema as our first tough guy. Cagney tried very hard to break out of those tough guy roles, making films such as Footlight Parade and Yankee Doodle Dandy, which highlighted his skills as a dancer. Sadly audiences craved the tough guy Cagney, never really allowing him to break free of the stereotype for too long.

Still, James Cagney remains to this day the poster child for the tough guy, playing the hard nosed criminal that is merciless and unforgiving, yet still finding that edge of pathos in even the most remorseless of killers that binds him to the audience in such a way as to root for him. The Public Enemy is Cagney's first really great film, the first in a career that would last nearly 50 years in show business. Take the time to check out Cagney's work, I know I was impressed. James Cagney in the Public Enemy, you won't be sorry you watched.

End of Line,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Assorted Nuts!

Happy February All!

Wow, this may be one of the longest lapses in posting I have ever had and I really have no legitimate excuses. I chalk it up to a series of things, most notably my recent addiction to the XBox game Mass Effect 2. I literally could not stop playing it. Every night for a solid 2 weeks until I just recently beat it. I have also been fighting a nagging cold/flu for the better part of a week and a half. The most honest answer is that I just didn't have any motivation.

Don't get me wrong, I am still very excited about my Flash Fiction and the rest of my posts, I just haven't had that creative spark really flowing for a few weeks now. I'm hoping with these other distractions out of the way I can get back to posting on a regular basis and I think I still have time to have a decent output this month, post wise. I will attempt to get a Rewind column and another installment of Flash Fiction up over the weekend, as well as a Valentine's Day poem, another tradition on the blog.

Time to further my resolve and actually get to work. Don't give up on me yet, I'm still not quite done.

End of Line.