Category Archives: Satire

Story: Dale Carnegie Lives! Chapter 3

It’s the book of century! What does it all mean?!

Okay, I’m feeling lucky. I think you guys are liking this and so I will post yet another chapter in less than a week! My goal is to entertain you. If you keep reading, I think you’ll get hooked as you learn more about our hero, Fernando, and his misadventures. Consider purchasing a Kindle edition (at the nice price of only $2.99) and leaving a review at Amazon. Just go right here.

Chapter 3

Fernando had this recurring dream of floating away in a big beautiful balloon. Just like that famous pop song from the Sixties, “Up Up and Away,” by The 5th Dimension. It came out in 1967, the Summer of Love. “Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?” is how it began. What a glorious poppy sound full of bubblegum optimism! It made no sense but it felt so right. “Up Up and Away—for we can fly!” Fernando would have been all of twelve years-old, an innocent little bright-eyed boy ready for Jupiter to align with Mars. This was, as everyone knew, the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

What stuck with Fernando about the Age of Aquarius was reincarnation. It was believed by many that the Second Coming, the Reincarnation of Jesus Christ, was aligned with the passing of the Age of Pisces giving way to the Age of Aquarius. Each age being over 2,000 years, Pisces represents the great age of travel on water; and Aquarius represents the great emerging age of travel in air, and in space. The Jet Age and the Space Age! What an incredible time to be alive! If there was to be a reincarnation of Jesus Christ, then surely there was to be a reincarnation of Dale Carnegie! Anything was possible. It was both a time of fanciful hot air balloons and the most sophisticated rocket science.

Fernando’s father had built a hot air balloon in the final years leading up to his disappearance. It was meant to promote his musical act. Over the years, relatives mailed that same hot air balloon to Fernando in various parts. The guards never bothered to ask about it. They even helped Fernando find a few missing parts on eBay.

Fernando grew up in an era full of turmoil but also great optimism, one that could sustain groovy dreams for many years, even decades. The image of a miraculous hot air balloon persisted in Fernando’s mind day and night. A most magical balloon would be his means of escape!

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Filed under Castro, Cuba, Dale Carnegie, Fiction, Humor, Satire, Story, Storytelling

Story: Dale Carnegie Lives! Chapter 2

Eminem and Dale Carnegie

Honestly, I don’t see why I shouldn’t spring another chapter on you ahead of schedule if you’re ready. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, well, I just can’t see why that should be. I am dying to know what you think. And I’m even thinking of knocking the price down on the Kindle edition if I’m talked into it. Anyway, enough of that for now.

Remember, all you really need to know is that our hero, Fernando, is a rogue immigrant from Cuba. He means well and, in fact, he has a pretty darn important purpose in life!

Chapter 2

Manuel and Paloma did have a son. However, their good fortune would not last. In 1959, Castro took control. Artists, intellectuals, and activists were all in danger. And, as the years passed, Castro and his regime would pluck out dissenters. One day, in 1967, Manuel was plucked and never seen again. And, when Fernando came of age, in the prime of his life, in 1977, he too was thrown into a prison cell. It was now 2017 and Manuel Rivera’s son, so full of promise and supposedly with a special purpose, had been languishing in a Cuban prison for the better part of his life. This is where our story of Fernando begins.

So many years locked away. Oh, the horror. Fernando, if he ever dared to dream, had lost much of his youthful spark, almost forgetting how to dream. If he had ever known his true calling, it had been buried deep inside him, beyond reach. Perhaps his father had only hinted at what lay ahead in Fernando’s future. But, for now, he was not much better off than a dog. And what could he possibly do now at this point in his life? Was he already too old? Were his best days behind him? Had he ever had better days? Still, like a dog, he had a strong survival instinct fully intact—and he had not completely given up. In fact, he remained a crafty little devil.

Fernando had been plotting his escape for years. Unlike many prisoners, Fernando valiantly did all he could to hold on to his soul. He had seen what had happened to many of his fellow Cubans. Many of them blamed themselves for getting locked away in prison. Somehow, there was a peculiar mindset that believed in Castro and that, no matter what he did, Castro had a very good reason for it! This was the control that an authoritarian had over his people. It exists to this very day and not only in Cuba but around the world, even in the United States of America. Hard to believe—but true. Fernando had enough to worry about just being in prison but he knew that Castro was wrong and that others like him were also just as wrong.

Fernando’s father, before he disappeared forever, had told his son that he was the reincarnation of Dale Carnegie, the world-renown motivational speaker. But what did that really mean? So many years later, was that supposed to be accepted at face value or was it just a metaphor, a symbol of hope? Fernando stirred at night trying to understand what it meant and what was to happen to him. Did he have any hope left? What helped him out a lot was the fact he had become a fixture in the prison system. He had been around for so long that he could pretty much come and go as he pleased—at least that is what he thought.

Sometimes, Fernando was locked into his cell with great ceremony. Other times, it seemed that, if he wanted to, he could walk right out of the prison. It was a big game with the guards, he was sure. It went unspoken with little rhyme or reason. No one seemed to care much what Fernando did. The guards were an odd mix of utter incompetence and light thinkers with glimmers of philosophical insight. “Let him walk right out of here,” Fernando overheard one of them say, “and he will run right back to what he knows best, his dull but familiar prison routine!”

Finally, the day would come when Fernando would have the last laugh. Before it really became too late, he would escape and never return.

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Filed under Cuba, Dale Carnegie, Fiction, Humor, Satire, Story, Storytelling

Story: Dale Carnegie Lives! Chapter 1

Welcome to my novella, “Dale Carnegie Lives!” We will be reading this together each week! This is the first installment and a new chapter will be rolled out each week all the way to the very end. I hope you enjoy the offbeat humor. I hope you get a kick out of this misadventure. If you would like a handy dandy complete version that you can read anywhere, then you can find the whole book at Amazon right here.

Set in the summer of 2017, this is the story of a Cuban illegal alien who slips across the United States border. Can you say, “Donald Trump” and “Build The Wall” three times fast? There is that aspect to this tale. But there’s much more.

This is the story of a man who stumbles upon his purpose in life, later in life, after most people would have called it quits. This is the story of a man, completely out of his element, who confronts numerous clues to discover his true destiny. Fernando is a man unjustly imprisoned for forty years who, in a great leap of faith, escapes Cuba in a hot air balloon.

Fernando believes in the promise and hope embodied in what is best in the United States of America. He is not fully aware of the Donald Trump phenomena but it doesn’t really matter. Fernando believes in something transcendent: the power of the individual to have the courage to chase after any dream.

Empowered with a belief in his own abilities and guided by a supernatural connection to legendary motivational speaker Dale Carnegie, Fernando has the power to move mountains and there is no wall that can hold him back!

CHAPTER 1

We all, deep down inside, desire to improve ourselves. There’s that feeling to do better, be better. We all get that feeling, right? Some of us choose to act on it– but we often fall short. Sometimes we fall flat on our face. You get the picture. This is a story of a very unlikely hero who has always been determined to improve himself. Fernando Rivera knows a lot about falling down. He is a little man with little hands and little feet but with a way big heart. He has a very unusual tale to tell that should entertain and probably inspire. We shall see.

Over time, our optimistic little hero’s ideals had been crushed to near extinction. He had turned into a shell of his former self. He had regressed back, back, back, to something primal, a simple animal. This is the sad and sordid tale of such a pathetic beast who never stopped believing. He never stopped dreaming, despite all the nightmares.

Despite himself, buried under resentment, fear, and confusion, Fernando had a good side. For everyone is capable of redemption—or at least a cup of coffee and a good honest slap on the back (or face) for good luck. Fernando knew he deserved more, much more. Fernando, even after all those years of torment, had a purpose to fulfill. It seemed unlikely, so unlikely. But he had dreams to realize, dreams he hadn’t even dreamt of yet.

It is the story of Fernando’s entry into the world–so dramatic, unusual, and perhaps supernatural– that holds the key to his destiny. The chain of events goes back to New York City, Halloween night, 1955. It was on this very night in an alley overlooking a stage door exit, filled with expectant onlookers, that a mysterious-looking man in a fedora waited. Along with the masses, he waited for a glimpse at one of the most celebrated figures of the era, the world-famous motivational speaker, Dale Carnegie. But he hoped for more than just a mere glimpse. He aimed to talk to Mr. Carnegie. In fact, he was compelled to connect with Mr. Carnegie. Too much was at stake.

The man in the fedora was Manuel Rivera, a talented singer and musician. Back home in Cuba, he was a rising star. But on the streets of this massive metropolis, he barely registered any recognition. In the span of a few months, Manuel had tried to make his mark but, aside from a few club dates, he was as far away from fame and fortune as a lotto ticket is from winning. It was Dale Carnegie’s book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People,” that had helped him out so much during this struggle. He remained uncertain about his own future but he felt ever more confident that he and Paloma would soon have a family of their own back in Cuba. Perhaps a son. Instinct told him that it was essential that he try to make his mark that night with Dale Carnegie as his prized audience. There would only be a few minutes available to him. He would be on a plane back to Cuba that very same night.

Call it a leap of faith, a crazy fever dream, or simply following gut instinct. Manuel had to be exactly where he was, doing exactly what he was doing. Beads of sweat pored down his scrawny face as he grew anxious. He was over-thinking again. When Dale Carnegie emerged, he had to lunge forward and act. It was all in the timing. To any passersby, it would look perfectly natural, this highly unnatural act of forcing one’s self onto another: in those few innocent seconds, it would be him, his miserable sweaty and improvised little life, connecting with what seemed like this ray of pure beaming light.

Carnegie had chosen a little theater in Spanish Harlem to lead a workshop on self-improvement. Everyone in attendance had suffered some setback. Many had trouble finding work because of the color of their skin or their accent. They were vulnerable to blaming themselves but strong enough to know otherwise. There were whole families in attendance and, as it was that time of year, kids were dressed up in costumes celebrating both Halloween and Dia de los Muertos. Carnegie could see many little figures dressed as goblins, witches, and skeletons, each of them looking up and waving or dancing. When it was over, Carnegie bowed to great applause and made his way out the exit.

And then, it happened: there was Dale Carnegie at the stage door! He seemed uneasy as he surveyed the crowd outside but he offered up a smile and a warm wave of his hand. That was Manuel’s cue. He lunged forward for the sake of his own destiny and something more that pounded in his heart. If only Mr. Carnegie could understand how important all of this was.

He sang a few notes. He actually began with a song. It was so crazy—but it instantly set Manuel apart from all the others. That’s all it took. He sang a few bars from one of his own original compositions. “I was lost and desolate, and it made me cry. But then I discovered Dale Carnegie, and my heart flies so high!” In that moment, Manuel had Dale Carnegie’s full and undivided attention. “What a lovely song—or is it a poem? I appreciate the sentiment, sir!”

“And I appreciate you, Mr. Carnegie!” yelled out Manuel.

“Who are you?”

“I am Manuel Rivera. And it is my destiny to meet you!”

“Well, sir! I am very flattered. I understand too. You seek guidance, meaning, and purpose. You have it all within yourself.”

“Of that I am sure, Mr. Carnegie! What I am speaking about is a legacy. Not just mine—but yours too! With me, you can count on your legacy. I will do everything in my power to have your name, and your good works, live on!”

“I see,” Carnegie looked up and beyond the spectacle of well-wishers. “I am tired and tiring out, I must say.” Carnegie could not help but linger and studied Manuel’s face intently before giving out a sigh. “Sir, I may very well take you up on your offer!”

“You will?”

Carnegie seemed to nod to Manuel. And then the connection was abruptly broken. Carnegie proceeded down the steps, into the throng of people, and was temporarily swallowed up by the chaotic mass of excitement, followed by a quick escort into a waiting car that promptly sped away.

As if he’d been riding a magic carpet, Manuel Rivera had found his way home. It was almost as if he’d never left, back in the arms of Paloma. He had barely unpacked before he was more than just in his wife’s arms. It was all a matter of timing. They rolled around in bed, lost in each other, and he could feel it happening. He had mounted her. He was inside her, both their bodies throbbing. Suddenly, he felt an overwhelming release, sweat dripping down his back, and he shuddered. He knew this was the right time for great things.

Later that bright new day, one foot out of bed, he casually turned on the radio. They had been asleep for hours. He craved some music but the news on the radio jolted him back to life. Dale Carnegie had died. He could instantly sense what was going on. There was no other possibility. He knew that Paloma was pregnant! And that, he gulped just at that mere thought: Dale Carnegie knew he would be safe to reincarnate with the Riveras! It had begun: the reincarnation of Dale Carnegie!

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Filed under Castro, Cuba, Dale Carnegie, Dale Carnegie Lives!, Fiction, Humor, Satire, Story

Webcomic Review: MY ROOMMATE, THE INTERNET

MY ROOMMATE, THE INTERNET

“My Roommate, The Internet” is a very good title. If it were a play, I’d go to the theater to see it. If it were a game, I’d play it. For now, perhaps forever, it is a webomic and it does a fine job of it. A lot of us out there have created, or attempted comic strips. Some of us, like myself, did a comic strip in college. I peg this one as that sort of thing and done well. Back in the day, home-grown college comic strips were a big thing. I suppose they still are. Writer Andy Nordvall and artist Alexander Neish have climbed on the shoulders of many a comic about young people just hanging out. “My Roommate, The Internet” succeeds in having a distinctive irreverence and tapping into the zeitgeist.

Young people, in many respects, have not changed all that much in the last few decades. Attitudes have changed dramatically. Styles have changed dramatically. And so on. But a sad sack slacker from fifty years ago could pretty easily navigate the same couch and bag of potato chips as his brethren of today. Okay, the big difference would be…the internet! Nice segue back to our review. The premise of this webcomic is dealing with a roommate who is “as annoying as the internet.” That already sounds so goofy that I can’t help but want to check it out. It makes me think of a bad suggestion thrown out to an improv comedy troupe. But that’s okay. That’s totally okay.

It’s what Nordvall and Neish do with their oddball premise that matters, right? I’m thinking a nice mix of jokes and character-driven narrative. It’s a weekly comic. It’s just a question of developing both the jokes and characters. In general, that’s a tough slog so I’m not looking for a home run every single time. I’m looking for passion and consistency–and I see that. Do I see more? I think so. The gags have a good offbeat timing. Neish is having fun with facial expression. Both of these guys are having fun and that carries over to the reader. All in all, nice work.

In general, a comic strip, dealing with regular deadlines, is vulnerable to burn out. It happens to the best of them. Jokes repeat themselves. Material can feel like just filler. My recommendation to these guys is to play up the internet theme for all its worth. If, for example, you have a problem with trolls on Reddit, then bang that drum as loud as you can! If you become frustrated by social media etiquette, then let everyone know just how frustrated you are! So, if I have a gripe or criticism to express about this comic strip, it would just be a very general disdain for holding back and being relatively too nice. I think these two guys are on the right track. Just keep exercising those creative muscles and you’ll keep getting more and more awesome.

One last word, I only do some ranting because I care. I am holding you guys to a very high standard and I’m confident in your work. I’m told that Nordvall and Neish welcome followers. I think these guys are on the right track and you should follow them. You can find them, and follow them, at these fine locations: Instagram, Twitter, Patreon, Tumblr, and Facebook.

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Filed under Comics, Humor, Internet, Satire, Webcomics

Review: DARK SIDE OF THE MOON by Blutch

DARK SIDE OF THE MOON by Blutch

Blutch is one of the greatest cartoonists working today. You may not be familiar with him but, once you see his work, you can’t help but fall in love with his fluid line and worldly narrative. This guy is simply brilliant. At 49, he is relatively young. All of us cartoonists seem to age well. Part of it has to do with a bit of arrested development. Just a touch of Peter Pan can go a long way in a youth-oriented industry. If only all could be counted on to go well, then a true artist-cartoonist could enjoy a most meaningful, productive, and youthful life. But things rarely go according to plan. That is part of what the great Blutch confronts in his new graphic novel, “Dark Side of the Moon,” available in French and English at izneo.

All in a day’s work.

Now, one more thing, keep in mind that American cartoonist greats like Paul Pope and Craig Thompson turn to France and worship at the altar of Blutch. This is the time for all the great work in French by Blutch to be translated into English. And, believe me, that is currently happening. Take a look at a recent English version of “Peplum,” published by The New York Review of Books. This is also time for the master to reach ever new heights with ambitious and complex bildungsromans and roman-a-clefs. He does just that sort of thing with this new book which has a cartoonist satirizing his lot in life in a similar vein as Fellini satirizing his. We begin with a dream, an ideal, and how it fares when it dukes it out with cold harsh reality.

Much has been said about Blutch’s expressive line. It seems as if he conjures up the most lively and vivid figures from head to toe. Well, that ability does not come from being showered with likes on Facebook over knocking off a quickie sketch. In Blutch’s youth, and in mine, to be liked was a hard won endeavor that really meant something between two human beings, if it happened at all. And for someone to like your work, well, that meant you must have torn your heart out with elbow grease. Oh, the nostalgia can weigh so heavy as to floor me. In the case of this book, we go back and forth between Lantz, the cartoonist in the bloom of youth and in the pit of middle age. Lantz is on a journey where memory and desire conflate the truth.

Liebling at her easel.

Perhaps sweet and dewy Liebling holds the key to happiness, to perpetual youth. It is this lovely young woman who begins our tale. From her, we find all the energy and promise of youth fully intact. But, alas, Liebling has certainly come of age to go out and get a job and so off she goes to give up her soul to the nearest employment agency. Blutch mercifully sweetens things by setting it all in a fanciful world of the not too distant future. All Liebling seems to have to do at her new job is stick both of her hands in a big blob. Yes, a blob, not a blog. It is a goopy half-sentient network that keeps things running smoothly at Mediamondia, the mega-publisher-content-provider. Okay, you can see the easy segue to Lantz, a master content provider, er, cartoonist.

Pips tells it like it is.

Imagine your favorite pop culture franchise. Okay, that’s what our hero, Lantz, has a pivotal role in. Lantz is responsible for churning out the next installment of The Brand New Testament. The only problem is that Lantz is losing his mind. The passing of time is making Lantz sad again. It’s a whole new world. It’s not like the old days and it’s hardly like it was in the heyday of Pips.

No one appreciates all the toil involved with creating a work of such epic proportions…and all done by hand. Hint: Blutch speaks of his own work and the relative indifference he must confront. There are people who want what he can make but do they really know him or love him?

You will bow down to Cuckoo Puff!

Blutch triples down by giving himself three alter egos. There is a young Lantz and an oldish Lantz. Plus, there is a shrewd youngish character named Blutch, a corporate jester who knows how to play the game. It is this character who needles Lantz and convinces him that, if he refuses to go on with The Brand New Testament, then he damn well better be content to churn out the very next installment of the popular, but decidedly subpar, Cuckoo Puff series.

Nothing goes according to plan.

Lantz will either avoid reaching a breaking point or Blutch will happily dance on his grave. And then there’s the ethereal Liebling. Surely, she must hold a key. This is an utterly mesmerizing work. If you are new to Blutch, consider this an excellent introduction.

DARK SIDE OF THE MOON is a 56-page full color graphic novel and available in a digital format at izneo.

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Filed under Bande Dessinée, BD, Blutch, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Humor, Satire

Seattle Focus: Surviving THE HAZE

Kayakers paddle in view of downtown Seattle, cloaked in a haze of smoke that swept down into the Puget Sound region from fires in British Columbia. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

The Pacific Northwest is hazy, hot, and bothered. So reports The Washington Post. It has really thrown off the routine of us Seattle natives.

Here in Seattle, we are very low-key. Many of us can tolerate grey skies most of the year. Some of us, like myself, are far more tolerant. I accept grey skies as part of the package. When we reach a sweet spot sometime in autumn, all that grey can be the most satisfying backdrop for contemplation and creativity. But not the haze we are currently suffering through.

The Haze, as some of us have gotten to calling it, is something sinister, a harbinger of climate change things to come. Or, one can hope, just one big temporary pain in the ass. Either way, it has cut into us. This time around, we are dealing with Canadian wildfire smoke. What will we be dealing with next time, and the time after that? Many of us moved to Seattle just to avoid having to face those kind of questions. We thought we’d forever said goodbye to such things as hurricanes and heat waves.

The Seattle Haze t-shirt

So, yeah, we don’t do well with oppressive weather. We can barely handle any snow in winter. For us, The Haze is a really big deal. For those of you with a sense of humor, there’s a t-shirt just waiting for you. Find it right here and here. Cartoonist Jennifer Daydreamer and I created it just for you.

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Filed under Humor, Pacific Northwest, pop culture, Satire, Seattle, T-shirts

Review: REVENGER & THE FOG by Charles Forsman

REVENGER & THE FOG by Charles Forsman

A vast and desolate wasteland, suitable for any action or exploitation movie, serves as the magnificent backdrop for REVENGER & THE FOG, the second collected volume of the ongoing Revenger comic book series by Charles Forsman. What I readily come away with is this: a horror schlock genre opens up a wide field for comics but it’s not so easy to get it right. You need a strong narrative backbone to keep all the flesh and blood moving along. Forsman jiggles it all into place with a masterful touch.

An instant taxicab ride.

Quentin Tarantino easily comes to mind as a practitioner of the type of movie terror that Forsman is channeling. Everything and everyone is cast in a pale yellow light of sheer desperation. We know from the get-go that the characters that dwell within mostly, or exclusively, eat raw meat…perhaps drink blood too. It is nothing to them to humiliate, mutilate,…well, you get the picture. A little goes a long way. Not my preferred cup of tea but, then again, it all depends upon the writing. Forsman is sensitive to those proper modulations of gore.

No one messes with Revenger!

As I understand it, Reggie, aka Revenger, is a one-woman force of nature, easily the lone wolf but open to companionship from time to time. For this collection, we follow Revenger when she belonged to a vigilante gang known as The Fog in Los Angeles in the late ’70s. This is a most unlikely assembling of brute force and cunning not seen since the A-Team. Revenger has fallen head over heels for Jenny, aka Dynarat. It is a love affair fraught with danger and ill-fated beyond words. Billy, aka Slim, offers some crude technical skill. Tara, aka Scalpel, is a martial arts guru.

The basic story here is a goofy nihilist joy ride. Dynarat is kidnapped by her abusive movie mogul father. Revenger must find a way to rescue her. The story dares you to take it seriously. Within context, it works its magic, much in the same way as other forms of parody and good obsessive autobio can sway the reader. The intriguing thing about this comic is that Forsman, like Tarantino, is intimately involved with his subject matter, both playfully satirizing it as well as paying it respect. There is irony but it’s not all irony. It’s a joke but it’s not all a joke. Essentially, Forsman works from a platform that provides exhilarating freedom for a cartoonist to take big risks: the arena of pure artifice, pure entertainment.

Revenger tells it like it is.

Forsman has an admirable control over some pretty weird proceedings and keeps to a steady pace, mindful of the distinct journey each character is on. It is one thing to create a scene with some impressive slicing and dicing of body parts. But your story will never truly succeed if no one cares. We care about all the characters in this story, even the most repulsive ones. We don’t wish the villains well but we do get caught up in them.

Well, you get caught up in everyone’s business as much as you please. This is a deliciously artificial world we are navigating through. No wonder this gritty pumped up terrain, this hyperreal wasteland, attracts some of the most creative minds. You can mix and match an endless sea of possibilities: the inane headbutts the profound.

Forsman, much like his contemporary Michel Fiffe (COPRA), has the admirable distinction of tackling all aspects of his work: the writing, the drawing, and even the coloring. While pretty common in indie circles, this kind of involvement is nearly unheard of within corporate comic book publishers. In the case of Forsman, he does quite well in serving his cryptic vision alone. His wiry characters get bathed in just the right quirky color schemes. Tongues can stick out and be painted a bright fire engine red! It all makes sense: perfectly oddball and compelling story, art, and colors.

The world of action B-movies, it turns out, is just another world, with as much to offer as any wonderland or netherworld. And, as I suggested early, it is a satisfying and quite apt playground for comics. There is a thread from Herriman’s Krazy Kat to Kaz’s Underworld to Forsman’s Revenger comics. A final thought: After you complete the main story, you have an extra feature which is Revenger lost, appropriately enough, in a hell hole. It is a fitting end to a most intriguing collection of work.

REVENGER & THE FOG, the second volume of Revenger comics, is a 160-page full color trade paperback, published by Bergen Street Press. For more details, and how to purchase the work of both Charles Forsman and Michel Fiffe, visit Bergen Street Press right here. Visit Charles Forsman right here. And be sure to stop by and consider becoming a patron of Charles Forsman at his Patreon right here.

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Filed under Bergen Street Press, Charles Forsman, Comics, Comics Reviews, Dash Shaw, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Horror, Michel Fiffe, Satire

Book Review: ‘Day for Night’ by Stacey E. Bryan

Illustration by Henry Chamberlain

Damien Hirst, the bad boy of art famous for displaying sharks in art galleries, once asked his 6-year-old son which he would prefer in his bed, a girl or a zombie. The boy instantly replied, “Zombie!” That is a crude and random example, I know. But perhaps it makes a bigger point about our collective fascination with the macabre, the unknown…and sometimes that is made most clear from a child’s point of view. That brings me to “Day For Night,” a new novel by Stacey E. Bryan. It has zombies of a sort. And it even has a shark! Like my example, there’s a fine-tuned crude and random vibe to this book.

This is very much a Los Angeles tale. Bryan indicates any pause as a “beat,” reminding us we’re in Tinseltown, full of daily theatrics and scripts coming out of everyone’s ears. We also get a lot of local flavor with characters living out in Brentwood, Culver City, and Marina Del Rey. There’s much talk about the well-hidden Toluca Lake. Everything seems to converge for a time at Sepulveda Boulevard. Plus numerous movie references not the least of which is Francois Truffaut’s “Day for Night.” An old tattered poster for the film decorates the apartment laundry room our main character, Rae, finds herself in at the start of the book.

At first, we don’t know if Rae is caught in the throes of an anxiety attack but she readily declares she is experiencing the end of the world. Is she perhaps an aspiring actress? Yes, she is. But what she describes next leaves much room for further speculation. Rae witnesses her neighbor Annie levitate up above the tile floor. Annie blacks out just as Rae throws her yellow bra at the glowing force surrounding her friend. By the time that Annie wakes up, it’s too late to rationally explain to her that something most supernatural (thwarted alien abduction?) has just occurred. Annie completely missed it. Rae experienced the whole thing!

And so our story unfolds alternating between typical Angeleno angst and unexplained phenomena. It’s a wonderful balancing act that Bryan maintains. Basically, half the novel favors events more grounded in reality and then, as the weird stuff pushes its way to the foreground, you get a more mature version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Rae is in her thirties and, like her counterparts has had time to become more hardened and jaded than Buffy. Rae is a tough cookie recovering from quite a lot of rough scrapes, especially the day a tiger shark got too close and chomped off some of Rae’s fingers.

Bryan is totally in command of her story and has fun teasing out moments for her main character, Rae. Funny internal monologues give way to sudden outbursts followed by the latest development in Rae’s bumpy journey. Along the way, she encounters romance ranging from comical to intense. Throughout, Rae discovers a tapestry of connections that sustain her and help her grow ranging from the mundane to the sublime.

“Day for Night,” a novel by Stacey E. Bryan

Bryan has mastered that same melding of the everyday with the supernatural that has appealed to legions of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. The pithy exchanges between Bryan’s characters crackle with hard-won insight. It is insight mixed with harsh reality…and the movies. This is L.A., after all. It’s a mix of gumption that just might be enough to take on vampires and space aliens.

“Day for Night” is published by Vagabondage Press. You can find it on Amazon right here. And you can find Stacey at her website right here.

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Filed under Aliens, Book Reviews, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Horror, Los Angeles, Satire, Supernatural, Vampires

Movie Review: ‘Get Out’

When I first saw the trailer for “Get Out,” I was hooked on the idea of a racially explicit horror movie. I had already written a script in my head of what I had expected to see. I took for granted that this would be a wry and revealing look at how African Americans can still be seen as the Other. And that is definitely there. We also have the opposite where it is those who are subjugating who are seen in the same way, as some menacing Other. And I expected some dark comedy mixed in. With all that in mind, I wondered, not if, but how far this movie would cross the line.

What “Get Out” does best is keeping to a true horror movie pace, gradually building up. Instead of a frog that is in a pot of water gradually set to boil, we’re all expecting a black man to be boiled alive, so to speak. No, there are no black men being boiled–just a metaphor. In fact, there are far more gruesome things up ahead. The remarkable thing is that there is a certain level of restraint that allows writer/director Jordan Peele to navigate deeper into our collective racial history than some of us out there are ready to go.

The opening scene alone is loaded with plenty of food for thought. An African American young man is walking through an upscale, and presumably white, neighborhood. He is talking on the phone and joking with his friend that he’s lost in what he calls with a whiny accent, “the suburbs.” As he proceeds down streets with tony- sounding names like “Peacock Street,” a white sports car pulls up blaring an old 1930’s song, “Run, Rabbit, Run,” a sly reference to the classic WASP novel, “Rabbit, Run,” by John Updike. The young man attempts to avoid the car by walking in the other direction. Ultimately, he can’t help walking towards the car whereupon he’s knocked out and thrown in the car’s trunk.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya)

We next see an interracial couple preparing for a trip. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), are about to meet Rose’s parents. Chris is hesitant and Rose asks him what’s the matter. Chris asks Rose if she mentioned to her parents that he’s black. Rose laughs it off and reassures him that’s it’s not an issue at all. It’s a tender moment. It shows that Chris is vulnerable while Rose is far more in control of the situation. The acting is quite believable. Rose seems clearly in love with Chris. But the focus leans towards Chris as we see events through his eyes. He’s convinced he’s entering the lion’s den and we easily sympathize.

The focus never leaves Chris and, once they arrive at the family estate nestled in the woods, the attention heaped upon Chris grows. It begins with the first meet-the-parents round. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener make for deliciously out-of-touch parents attempting to be hip. If only that was all that lay in store for our hero. Red flags go up one by one. There’s a quick aside by the dad, “Oh, that room leads to the basement. We closed it up due to a buildup of black mold.” Yikes, in the context of a horror movie, that says it all.

Things are gonna keep steadily getting freaky from here on out. And so they do, some artful and some more in line with standard-issue tropes. One horror chestnut, the comedy relief sidekick buddy, is given new life and put to fine use here. Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams, one of TSA’s finest, adds another dimension to the narrative. While he may rob the movie of some of its more provocative and scary potential, that seems to be the right approach for a project that is unleashing so many racial issues. Overall, we end up with a number of compelling scenes and images without resorting to a heavy hand.

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Filed under Horror, Horror Movies, Movie Reviews, movies, Race, Race Relations, Racism, Satire

Review: ‘Simpsons Comics Knockout’ collected trade paperback

SIMPSONS COMICS KNOCKOUT

SIMPSONS COMICS KNOCKOUT

SIMPSONS COMICS KNOCKOUT, published by HarperCollins, is a fine collection of Simpsons comic book stories originally published by Matt Groening’s Bongo Entertainment. This is a great opportunity to get your Simpsons fix all in one full cover trade paperback that collects five Simpson Comics: #116, 117, 118, 119, and 120. What you will find is consistently pithy, witty, and outright hilarious good fun.

Page excerpt from Simpson Comics #116.

Page excerpt from Simpson Comics #116.

Each comic book collected here covers one story. The titles are as follows: “Mall or Nothing,” “Sandwiches are Forever,” “The Flunky!” “Homer Drops the Ball!” and “The ‘X’ Men.” For example, in Simpson Comics #116, originally released in the U.S. in March of 2006, you have a sly satire on consumerism: the Simpsons find themselves living inside a shopping mall. This predicament is to the delight of Homer Simpson, and to the dismay of his progressive daughter, Lisa.

Other stories feature a Simpson family globetrotting adventure; a satire on help for the lovelorn; and Homer in a boxing match with everyone’s favorite corporate villain, C. Montgomery Burns! This is great all-ages entertainment from Matt Groening’s legendary creative team.

SIMPSONS COMICS KNOCKOUT is a 128-page full color trade paperback, available as of February 21, 2017. For more details, and how to purchase, visit HarperCollins right here.

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Filed under Bongo Entertainment, Comics, Harper Collins, Humor, Matt Groening, Satire, The Simpsons