Please Help By Sharing My GoFundMe Page

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I’ve been in a rough patch for the past year, and I hope you can take a minute to help me. I have a gap of two months of rent and utilities I can’t cover without support before I begin a new degree program in August.

If you share my GoFundMe fundraising page on social media such as Facebook, it would be a huge help to me. These things only work if people spread the word, and that’s where I need your support: getting the word out.

The GoFundMe page has a modest goal of raising $1700 to cover rent and basic utilities for just two months before my semester begins in August. Here is the link to share on social media:

https://www.gofundme.com/help-a-student-survive-the-summer

The more people see it, the better the chance I can make it through this summer to continue my education without ending up on the streets. Please share the GoFundMe page, and help spread the word as far as possible.

Thank you!

Matthew

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molt

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Since this poem has a man-versus-nature vibe, I made a robot read it.
Click here for the audio file.

molt

we used machines
to pound the earth smooth
still
it resists us

concrete crumbles like desiccated skin
letting life push through the cracks

a flower here
an ant hill there

each as powerful as a flood
or quake
in its own
small
way

this insect-ridden earth refuses
the exoskeleton we plaster over it

a molting cicada breaks free of its shell
the waxing moon casts off her shadow
they will have their day in the sun

the inconstant planet shudders in its sleep
throws off our metal blanket
tangles wires
topples towers

tectonics
gravity
and fire

the universe is not so different from us
it only has
more powerful machines

pop-up card

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Mom and I have a long history of exchanging handmade cards. Store-bought cards can be wonderful, but there’s something special about knowing a person took the time to not just buy something but create something unique for you.

For this past Mother’s Day, I wanted to make a card that would be unlike any I’d sent her before: a pop-up card. It turns out the Internet has a treasure trove of tutorials and inspiring examples, so I picked one and ran with it.

Mine has a pretty simple front: a butterfly based on a design I pulled from an image search, with the black lines done in Sharpie marker and the color done with acrylic paint thinned with water. Mom likes blue and butterflies, so I couldn’t go wrong with a blue butterfly.

pop up card exterior

All the paper is Bristol paper: what comic books used to be drawn on before the digital age. I did all the butterflies and other colored pieces individually, then cut them out and glued them in place.

Here’s the interior:

pop up card interior

Thanks to the sturdiness of Bristol paper, which is a bit like cardstock, the card can be displayed open like this. It took me the better part of a Sunday to put it all together, but this barely scratches the surface of what’s possible in a pop-up card. People have made everything from multi-layered hearts to dinosaur skeletons, so clearly the sky is the limit in the pop-up master class.

The basic idea is pretty straightforward, though. The body of the card is two pieces of paper. For the interior pop-up sections, you cut one of those pieces along lines perpendicular to the center fold. You fold those cut-out sections so they pop up at right angles to the fold of the main card. Glue the inside piece to the outside piece, without putting glue on the folded pop-up sections. Finally, cut out and glue anything you want to attach to those sections.

Bristol paper is sturdy and well-suited to being painted and displayed, but it can be challenging to make precise, smooth cuts in it with scissors.  I originally intended to cut out the butterfly antennae. I settled for drawing them on with Sharpie after I glued the butterflies in place. If I were making another card from shapes with finer, more complex details, I would try a thinner paper stock for those pieces.

 

four seconds of fame?

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The other day, I found an unexpected appearance of Mars Will Send No More in another medium: a YouTube video about comic books by WhatCulture. In the segment about Jack Kirby, an image of Galactus appears from 3:16 to 3:19. What words does the mighty Galactus utter in his speech balloons? That’s right: Mars Will Send No More. I’m guessing WhatCulture searched the web for images of the devourer of worlds and decided to go with one I’d altered for fun in the earliest days of this blog.

Dig it.

ocean

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ocean

against the unconquerable ocean
you remain far from powerless

you can dive below its surface
swim its currents and surf its perimeter
draw food from its depths and shallows
or live along its edges

so long as you realize
you will never be its equal
never match its immensity
or power

we are small things
unlike the stars that birthed us
or the moon who pulls the ocean
without ever touching her

respect and humility and fear
these words speak of our knowledge
that beyond the boundaries of continents
awaits what we will never subdue

an infinite depth of azure and obsidian
swallowing dreams
dissolving them for centuries
before setting them back on the shore

polished as smooth and featureless
as a mystery without end

 

 

 

Movies vs. Comic Books: Who Controls Time?

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Now that films based on comic books and superheroes have firmly entered the mainstream of popular culture, characters and storylines we comics readers have enjoyed for years regularly come to life on the big screen for a wider audience than comics ever reached. Long-time readers are often thrilled to see their favorite heroes in live-action movies, but some feel a bit of regret. After all, it can be disheartening to hear people discussing characters as if the movies tell the entire story, when many readers have followed the characters in-depth for years or even decades.

Compressing years of story into a two-hour theater experience means a lot gets left out, as anyone who read the Planet Hulk stories can tell you about the movie Thor: Ragnarok, or anyone who read Marvel’s Civil War comics can tell you about the Captain America movie of the same name. Plus, the big screen and the printed page are two distinctly different mediums, each with its own storytelling conventions, so they deliver distinctly different stories.

Movies usually follow a formulaic narrative structure. From the inciting incident to the hero’s crisis, predicting the next story beat in a movie is pretty easy. Comic books often employ more flexible and unusual structures—a point in their favor in my opinion. This is true despite a trend toward making modern mainstream comic books more cinematic in their approach to storytelling.

Near the turn of the century, Warren Ellis used the term widescreen comics to describe the blockbuster-movie style he was creating in The Authority with artists Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary. After 12 issues, writer Mark Millar and artist Frank Quitely came on board and kept up the cinematic approach. Millar, Hitch, and Neary soon combined forces to reinvent the Avengers as The Ultimates—the forerunner of the current film versions of the Avengers. For a more in-depth look at widescreen comics, and how they influenced movies as much as movies influenced them, see Peter Suderman’s article for Vox.

As far as I’m concerned, there hasn’t been a movie yet that equals those first 29 issues of The Authority. But it’s more than just the awesome stories, vicious dialogue, and stunning artwork. What makes the printed page most enjoyable for me can be summed up in two words: time control.

In a film, time passes at a fixed speed determined by the flow of film through a projector, or its digital equivalent these days. Yes, a movie can use slow motion or speed up time, but all of that is determined by the movie itself. Moviegoers have no control of it in a theater. Time passes at a pace determined exclusively by the filmmakers.

With printed pages, the reader controls time. The reader determines how long to spend on a panel or page. Readers can turn back the pages to see something again if they did not absorb it on the first read. The reader can set the book down and walk away, then come back to it and pick up again from any point in the narrative. Movies only provide this convenience if you own or stream a copy at home and can rewind it or freeze the frames.

While I enjoy movies, I tend to enjoy their comic-book source material far more due to time control. An awesome action scene might be over in seconds or minutes on the big screen, but I can linger on it for as long as I like with a printed page. A stunning visual appears on the screen for fleeting moments, then moves on to the next one. It leaves me feeling unsatisfied when I want to spend more time taking in all its detail and beauty. With a comic book, I can pore over the artists’ rendering and take time to appreciate every line and shape, every bit of hard work that went into inking and coloring the picture. Instead of having it all fade away as I leave a theater, I can come back to it again and again with a book.

While many recent comic-book movies do look great, the awesomeness always go by too quickly for me. I never have a chance to fully appreciate it before its gone. And when the theater lights come on, fun time is over unless I want to buy another ticket. The experience is transient and ephemeral compared to a physical book I can keep for years.

None of this should be taken as an argument over which medium is “better”. Enjoy what you enjoy. This is only an attempt to articulate a feeling I’ve had for years but never explained very well to people who expect me to be super excited about recent superhero movies. It isn’t that the movies are bad; they simply lack one of the biggest things that gives me enjoyment with comic books: time control.

 

On a less serious note: a video.

Quarterly Report

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It’s been a quiet quarter here at Mars Will Send No More, with a few posts about retrofuturistic trading cards, some new poems, and a brief vignette. If you need more comic-book blogging in your life, I’m happy to report our old friends at Longbox Graveyard, after a long hiatus, just started a new series running every Monday. Since it’s always 1977 at the Longbox Graveyard, Paul will be covering a different comic book from 1977 every week. It’s fun, it’s free, and it’s like unearthing a glorious time capsule.

Just when I thought no one was paying attention anymore to my vast archive of comic book posts here, MyComicShop sent a message saying I had accumulated a nice credit in my account thanks to their affiliate program. No, I don’t make a dime off this blog—I lose money to keep it running—but I do earn a little “store credit” when readers click through links to MyComicShop to purchase comic-book goodness. Thanks to readers in the last six months, I earned enough credit to get a box of X-Men and Fantastic Four books I was forced to sell off five years ago.  I was sad to see them go in 2013, but we had a joyous reunion last weekend, and for that I am grateful to you. Thank you for reading and clicking!

As for why it’s been so quiet lately, most of my writing energy this year has focused on a story that’s been four years in the making. You might have noticed my ill-advised obsession with writing the utterly non-commercial fiction series The Adventures of Meteor Mags and Patches since 2014. The first 16 stories, totaling over 200,000 words, have been leading up to Mags’ birthday party in 2029. Now it’s time to throw that party—and have it all go horribly wrong.

More than once, I considered giving up. The self-induced pressure to take four years of notes and craft them into a narrative that would deliver a real payoff after all the build-up—honestly, I’ve had many days where I didn’t feel up to the challenge. Strangely, getting in touch with that feeling helped me work out several scenes where the odds against survival are so overwhelming that even the indomitable Mags thinks she might surrender to death at her enemies’ hands.

But what I love about Mags, and why I find it so fulfilling to write about the black-hearted smuggler’s adventures, is her unconquerable spirit. She’s stronger than I will ever be, yet she inspires me to be stronger than I am. I’ve often wondered if readers relate to her on a similar level. But last year, I sent a few of her stories to a friend who endures an extremely painful medical procedure every eight weeks. My friend recently told me she takes those stories with her every single time she goes in for the procedure, and she reads them, and they help her get through the experience.

Before it’s all said and done, Mags will probably conquer her fictitious solar system, but helping a real-life friend remains her greatest achievement. Mags is all about kicking ass no matter what life throws at her. If my irreverent space pirate’s strength can help someone cope with their own challenges, then her true mission is accomplished.

2018 has been a difficult year so far, but I hope you stick with Mars Will Send No More, and that you, too, keep kicking ass. Thank you for dropping by and reading, commenting, filling in gaps in my research on comic books and dinosaur collectibles, and enjoying my archives of artistic obsessions. I’m glad you’re here to share them with me.

 

 

 

 

shelter

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shelter

that night we hid from rain
under cover of a metal carport
lightning crackled overhead
and the warning drizzle became an onslaught

i only felt safe with you
it didn’t matter how long we hid
so long as we stayed together
your sense of adventure inspired me

your intractable desire to hunt
encouraged me
your constant presence at my side
comforted me

to hell with the storm
for thinking it trapped us
together
we were never cornered

that parking lot belonged to us
we hunted across its asphalt expanse
exterminating the small things
locusts moths and lengths of string

property lines and contracts we did not recognize
agreements of strangers we did not recognize
we owned our hunting ground
for as long as we survived

hours passed beneath our metal canopy
before the clouds relented
we acknowledged their awesome power
no different from ours

forces of nature
embodiments of will
we gloried in the surrounding chaos
knowing we were its equals

i have never forgotten your eyes
your nearness at night
how you touched your face to mine
saying everything without language

but i have often wished
to live as you lived
to demand this earth obey me
and answer to my whim

to remain indomitable
when hope evaporated
to rule everything
when nothing
belonged
to me

—for Ellie Kitty, who loved to take me on walks at 3 a.m., whatever the weather.

stories – a brief reflection

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I’ve been asked to present at a gathering of storytellers later this month, and I don’t really know what to share. But wondering about it prompted me to collect my thoughts about stories: what they are, what they mean, and why we create them.

Stories

Fiction can convey a psychological or emotional truth which is lost in a mere recitation of facts. By taking the senselessness of life and shaping it into a narrative which makes sense, which has internal order and cohesion life’s random events do not, stories do more than present facts. Stories tell us what those facts mean—to the author, to the reader, to each other, and our societies.

Stories bring us this comfort beyond simple entertainment or fantasy fulfillment. Stories take us to a place where humans control the timing and sequence of events, determine who populates the world where those events take place, and decide what is the point of everything. Stories are a place where life does not happen to us, but where we happen to life.

The power to shape action, character, the environment, and history itself does more than relieve the suffering life inflicts upon us in careless, random fashion. This power also inspires us. It suggests we can impose our will upon the realities we confront. It makes us wonder if we are not so powerless as we often feel. Stories fan a spark of belief that we have power over our destinies, that we might shape our lives like heroes and conquer seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Storytelling is not limited to fiction. We make stories of our own lives, and the lives of others. We take observations, perceptions, and perspectives, and weave them into tales we often believe to be true or real. But we must remember these tales are as subjective as fiction, open to multiple interpretations, and completely dependent on who tells the story. Two different observers can disagree on the facts of an event or character, and what meaning we draw from interpreting those facts tells as much about ourselves as it does about anything objective.

We could propose that all stories are fictions, whether based on actual events or fantasies, for every story is a creation of the storyteller. Every story has a bias, an agenda with roots in the storyteller’s culture, time, environment, and uniquely personal experience. Understanding stories in this way reveals that humans do not have one truth, but many truths, and perhaps just as many lies, for not all agendas are honest.

As storytellers, we might consider our subjectivity something we are responsible to disclose. What is the truth we want our readers to perceive, and why do we want that? What ends do our stories serve? If we are to be honest with our readers and listeners, we must first be honest with ourselves and understand our own intent. We make our stories most compelling when we use them to present multiple perspectives or arguments and let readers draw their own conclusions, even when we want them to draw a specific one.

Can we say the power to create stories is what makes us uniquely human? Even that proposition serves an agenda: a belief that humans are somehow different from other animals and set apart. Does the honeybee tell a story about finding nectar when she dances for the hive? Does the lioness tell a story when she teaches her cubs to hunt? Do chimpanzees have a story when they bury their dead? Does the crow know a story when she stays behind the flock to be at the side of a sick or wounded crow? Maybe we are wrong to label all animal behaviors as instinct, to dismiss the transmission of information within a community, or from generation to generation, as resulting only from some internal pre-programming.

Maybe if we look deeper and with more compassion, we will find stories everywhere, even in our inhuman companions who share this world with us. Maybe we will discover we simply don’t speak the language of those stories, or they are told in ways so alien to our way of thinking that we fail to recognize them for what they are.

Maybe stories are everywhere, surrounding us with truths we have yet to consider, and we only need to learn how to listen.

weightless

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weightless

let us remain weightless
high above earth’s orbit
intangible spirits
untroubled by time
and its disasters

do you see how they scurry below us
frightened by storms that find them
terrified by a future they cannot predict
but arrives in solid armor
crushing everything in its path

is that what you wish for us

to be physical and real
to empty every drinking glass eventually
to wither away and become nothing
untraceable specks in a landscape
no one remembers
not even our children

consider
my counteroffer

let us remain weightless
and only touch them in their dreams
where we do and say what we please

let our only gravity be emotions
they remember for moments in the morning
then disregard

let us live more lives than one
an endless stream of biographies
we shape and redefine
only temporarily imprisoned
in a parade of faces
and memories
that never happened

let us meet them
in gardens untended
in buildings unconstructed
never becoming as real
as those we encounter

let us remain weightless
only touching life at its edges
like tourists who long to see a country
without immersing
in its wars or politics

when you and i become dreams
we will swim vast oceans
with no more commitment
than dipping our toes in the surf
without ever leaving
this place beyond it all

where we are forever unknowable
always seen
and never
ever
touched

jams

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Last year I sent copy of the Meteor Mags: Omnibus Edition to a band whose albums I listened to approximately one million times while writing the story Voyage of the Calico Tigress. Mags and her crew, including space monkeys and telepathic octopuses, do an impromptu performance of one of Snail’s songs. In return, I received a note saying, “This is the coolest thing ever,” which made me smile. I’m glad the guys got a kick out of it.

Here are some other albums which have been in heavy rotation in the secret writing laboratory—albums where once they start playing, I don’t ever want them to end.

Unida: El Coyote.

If the Internet is to be believed, Unida’s final album was never released by their record label, but was eventually made available directly to fans at concerts. It is often found on the web with different titles, but I like El Coyote. Singer John Garcia, formerly of the legendary Kyuss, is Mags’ favorite vocalist, and references to his various projects pepper her stories like buckshot.

 

Hell Camino: Hell Camino.

I almost always listen to this album back-to-back with its follow-up, Orange Lily, because I love the sound that much. If memory serves correctly, I first heard Hell Camino last year on one of my two favorite Internet radio stations: Desert Sessions Radio. At night (in Arizona time), the station tends to play 60s and 70s rock, but they rarely spin a tune that was already played to death by traditional “classic rock” stations. During the day, the station is thunderously heavy, raining down a constant onslaught of modern bands who trace their family trees back to Black Sabbath. Find their streaming URL here: http://37.59.47.192:8264/stream

 

Bullet: The Entrance to Hell.

Bullet changed their name to “Hard Stuff” because another Bullet already existed. You can find the Hard Stuff albums on YouTube, but I’m partial to this odd reissue under the original name. Maybe because the first time I heard it, my mind was blown by hearing a song from the incredible compilation series Nuggets in a random YouTube recommendation. Nuggets rocked my world with so many garage/psychedelic/heavy bands from the UK and Australia that I am still reeling from the impact years later.

 

Wo Fat: Noche del Chupacabra

Wo Fat convinced me that C minor is the heaviest key of all time. They are the reason I got a baritone electric guitar to tune to Drop C. My favorite songs on this album are Common Ground and Descent into the Maelstrom, the latter of which shares a title with a totally different yet amazingly ass-kicking song by Australia’s Radio Birdman. You really can’t go wrong with any Wo Fat album. Psychedelonaut slays with tunes like Analog Man, and The Black Code is a masterpiece with Hurt at Gone and Sleep of the Black Lotus, a title I believe to be inspired by my favorite Conan story Queen of the Black Coast, about a female pirate.

 

Orange Goblin: Time Travelling Blues.

I never heard an album I didn’t like from Orange Goblin, but this is the one that stays in heavy rotation. From the rumbling drum riff that opens to album to the closing song that shares the album’s title, it’s such a hefty slab of rock and roll that I usually listen to it twice in a row. The title song’s declaration “We own the sky” has become a recurring motif in Mags’ stories, and her band covers it in their concert in Blind Alley Blues.

 

Black Angels: Passover.

I attended a Black Angels concert last October in downtown Phoenix, and the music was so simultaneously heavy and beautiful. These cats annihilate me. The band hails from Austin, Texas, but I first heard them courtesy of the Europeans who run my other favorite Internet radio station, GRRR Radio. GRRR Radio’s streaming URL is: http://pstnet5.shoutcastnet.com:50390 This album doesn’t have what is perhaps my favorite Black Angels song, Currency, but it’s damned amazing all the way through. Black Grease and Bloodhounds on My Trail are my faves on this one.

 

Meteor Mags: Jam Room

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This scene is a postscript to the sixteenth Meteor Mags adventure, Rings of Ceres. All adventures so far have built up to Mags’ birthday party in 2029, in a story to be titled The Battle of Vesta 4. While organizing my 12,000 words of chaotic notes and half-written scenes for BoV4, I felt I was missing a quiet, character-driven scene where Mags shows three teenagers a few things about music to help them with their new punk band, Dumpster Kittens.

As usual, even a quiet scene with Mags ends up being pretty loud.

Meteor Mags: Jam Room

The day before her 106th birthday, Meteor Mags showed off her drum set to the new girl, Jinx. The two convened in the jam room Mags set up so Sarah and Anton could practice and work on songwriting. Patches stretched out with her eyes closed, resting her fuzzy face on one outstretched limb atop a tube head on an Orange amplifier.

“It’s a beautiful kit,” said Jinx.

“Bird’s-eye maple,” said Mags. “Custom-built on Mars. But if I had it to do over, I’d go with mahogany. Not as pretty, but a heavier sound that could kick a god in the balls.”

“Can I play it?”

“Anytime you want, dear. But if you fuck it up, you’re paying to fix it. Deal?” Mags held out her hand, enclosed in a fingerless biker glove.

Jinx slapped her hand into the older woman’s leathered grip. “Deal.”

Mags eyes twinkled like stars in a telescope’s glass. “Check out this bass pedal. I keep tweaking the action on it, but I think I got the right tension now.”

Bronze cymbals glowed in the jam room’s light. They perched atop polished chrome stands and hardware. The bass head bore a ring of skulls. Mags sat on the drum stool. Her ample backside and swishing, fluffy tail enveloped it.

Jinx said, “I thought you’d play with a double kick.”

Mags scoffed. “Batalla plays a double kick for the 78s, but I prefer the old-school approach. One foot for the bass, and one for the high-hat.” She gave the high-hat an expressive flourish, demonstrating its glistening sound closed, open, and in a half-dozen states in-between. “All about that high-hat.”

Corrugated foam panels lined the walls to reduce the ambient, reflected noise of the kit and the various stacks of amplifiers around it. A hint of jasmine piped through the air vents to mask the stale scent of recycled air. Tattered couches and love seats along the walls sat so close to the array of instruments that ear damage was practically guaranteed, but they gave the close quarters a lived-in, homey feeling.

On one couch, Tarzi reclined with his feet up on an armrest and his head smushed against a pillow on the other. He had arrived a few hours ago, after spending his morning in a spacecraft with Ryder. The older man’s conversation left him with a need to immerse himself in George Orwell’s book, Homage to Catalonia. He lifted an eyebrow to gaze over the top of the memoir. “John Bonham didn’t need two kick drums.”

Mags pointed a drumstick at the adolescent she affectionately called her nephew. “Right on, T-man. All in the wrists? All in the ankle, too. Speed, precision, lightness, power.” Mags pounded the bass pedal with her right foot and made it fire as rapidly as a machine gun.

Jinx took note. “How do you get it to go so fast but still keep time?”

“Come here and watch.”

Jinx stepped behind the kit and observed.

Mags blasted another staccato bass burst. Then she rested her sticks on the snare head. “Stay loose. You can’t tense up. But you need to stay firm, too. Don’t get all flabby. When you find that balance, you can do anything. I don’t just mean with a drum. I mean anything in life.”

Jinx did her best to absorb this advice. “When my ankle gets better, I’ll be all over it.”

“That’s the spirit.” Mags twirled the drumsticks in a blur. “Sarah and Anton could use a drummer, and you seem like you have the right attitude. Why don’t you show me what you got, but without the footwork?” Mags held out the sticks.

Jinx grabbed them. As soon as Mags slipped off the stool, Jinx filled it. She adjusted the tilt of the crash and ride cymbals, brought the high-hat in a little closer, and executed a brief roll across the three rack toms from smallest to largest, ending with the floor tom. “You’re taller than me,” she said. “But I can work with this.”

Tarzi called out, “Drum solo!”

Jinx twirled her sticks with almost as much panache as Mags, tossed one into the air, and caught it. “You’re on.”

Mags lit a stolen cigarette and appraised the girl’s technique and timing. Jinx blasted into a speedy 4/4 punk beat then stretched it out into a flurry of syncopated, off-beat fills—not with the facility of a seasoned New Orleans drummer, but showing solid ideas and spontaneity.

A knowing smile crept across the smuggler’s face. Jinx, she thought, was not yet a percussion expert, but she would be just what Sarah and Anton needed to jam out their tunes and kick some arse. Straight-ahead rock beats, with a generous amount of creativity to help their songwriting and improvisation. She made a mental note to thank Tinta for the introduction.

Sarah ran into the room, dragging Anton behind her as she had nearly every hour of every day since the boy’s father brought him to Vesta. His embarrassed expression of the first few days had disappeared, and a newfound contentedness shone on the face of the boy who had so recently lived under the threat of terror on Mars.

Mags said, “Now this jam session can officially start.” No one heard her over Jinx’s drumming.

Jinx saw the founding members of Dumpster Kittens and stopped playing. She didn’t smile at them, but she lifted her head in a gesture of recognition.

Sarah said, “That would be a cool beat for Agents of Cruelty! Are you feeling better?”

“Fever’s gone,” said Jinx. “Ankle is damned useless right now, but at least it isn’t throbbing.”

Mags introduced Anton to Tarzi, and a comfortable chatter filled the room.

Ryder showed up to see what all the racket was about, and another round of introductions followed.

Mags said, “This is the guy who planned the Yeltsin job.”

“I’m retired,” Ryder lied. “Now I’m just a chauffeur to Mags’ teenage sidekicks.” He plopped down on the edge of Tarzi’s couch.

The young man held out a hand and received a hearty slap on his open palm. “Thanks for the lift.”

Mags asked, “Are you two friends now?”

Tarzi said, “You were right about his having shite taste in music but awesome stories.”

“Dude,” said Ryder, “I played you the good stuff.”

“Sweet bleeding fuck,” said Tarzi. “It was like eight hours of Ted Nugent.”

“That reminds me,” said Mags. “Drum fills! Some of the all-time greatest are in Stranglehold. We need to add that to our list.”

Tarzi said, “I am not putting that right-wing jackass on our list.”

“Then I am,” said Mags.

Anton piped up. “We could do a jam on it. The riff is pretty easy.” He lifted a Gibson SG from its stand and tuned it.

Tarzi returned to reading. “All hope is lost.”

Sarah said, “I don’t know the words.”

“I got you covered.” Ryder snatched up a pencil and paper. He recited the words as he wrote, until he came to the second verse. “The road I travel’s a—” He raised his head. “Mags.”

“What.”

“She’s just a little girl. Are you sure you want her singing this?”

“Because it says bitch? Jesus, Ryder, you’re getting soft in your old age. This girl’s seen some shit you don’t even know about. Sarah, what’s a bitch?”

A pair of sweet, angelic eyes met Mags’. “It’s a female dog. Or, in prison, a person who performs sexual favors in exchange for protection from gang violence.”

Mags pointed a drumstick at Ryder. “See?”

“Oookay. Bitch it is.” He completed the line on the paper. “And if your house gets in my way, baby—”

Tarzi barely lifted his eyes from the pages. “We’ll get sued for this, you know. Quoting song lyric without permission.”

Mags laughed at him. “The Nuge was assassinated when he ran for President in 2016. Nobody’s suing us over Stranglehold. And if they do, I’ll kick their arse.”

Sarah asked, “What’s the melody?”

Ryder sang a few lines for her.

Celina appeared in the doorway. “For fuck’s sake, Ryder. Sing it in the right key!”

“Celina!” He descended on her like a storm and crushed her in a hug, causing her drink to slosh over her hand. “Goddamn, is it good to see you again!”

Celina slapped his bum. “You too, you lousy felon. Now let go before I suffocate.”

He released her, but his eyes were still held captive, and his smile faded not one bit. “What’s a key?”

Celina rolled her eyes and wiped her wet hand on her jeans. “Let me do this.”

Sarah listened intently to the older woman’s singing. “I can do that.” She stepped up to the mic. “Who starts?”

Mags aimed a drumstick at Kaufman’s boy. “Anton. I’ll count it off.” She smacked the sticks together crisply four times, establishing the tempo.

The young man began the riff, looking to Mags to make sure he had it right.

She gave him a wink and a smile and four extra bars to get settled. Over the blaring guitar amplifier and its crackling distortion, she shouted to Sarah. “Ready?”

Sarah stepped up to the mic and closed her eyes. Anton’s riff was a warm liquid, a comforting bed of fuzz, a sound as soothing as a city being bombed off the map.

On Anton’s eighth time through the riff, Mags exploded a drum fill on snare and bass. It shook the room so hard the building seemed in danger of falling off the asteroid into space. The precise, sharp sting of her snare made Ryder jump. He’d almost forgotten what a musician his partner in crime was.

The twelve-year-old Sarah launched into the first line. She didn’t really know how a dog in heat felt, but she was pretty sure it felt like kicking ass, and freedom to say anything, and desire for something immediate and personal.

Celina sipped Kraken black rum, completely nonplussed by the wave of sonic annihilation rolling over her. She tapped her foot as if the ear-splitting racket from the speakers was the most natural thing in the world. With cool detachment, she noticed the new girl’s eyes never left Mags for a second.

As Sarah’s vocal chords ripped into the verse about bitches and houses burning, Celina considered Jinx. Many of the young women the Australian had worked with in the club over the past few years were basically nice girls who had survived terrible events. But this newcomer had a good helping of the antagonistic, punk-rock attitude Mags exuded. It was a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, it showed an inner anger and strength. On the other, it might be a guard against a deeper, overwhelming sadness. Rage was a wall, a barrier, and Celina wondered what unspoken torments Jinx carried with her. Would they destroy the young woman, or was she strong enough to conquer them? Celina decided to keep a watchful eye on her, lest inner turmoil lead Jinx and her new friends to destruction.

In the manner of a woman who has dealt with immeasurable sadness for too many years, Celina relegated all these thoughts to a space she held inside her, and returned to the joy of the moment. It was time for the guitar solo.

Mags backed off the over-clocked assault on the drum heads and let the band bring it down a bit. Anton was no Ted Nugent, but he took a credible turn at a solo. He’d been influenced by his father’s illegal Sonic Youth records, so he eschewed Nugent’s shred style for a more atmospheric, textural romp. He put the headstock of his guitar against the amp. A wailing cascade of feedback poured out like a lake from a broken dam.

This raucous, flowing noise excited Patches. She leapt down from her perch on Anton’s amplifier and shoved her face between the microphone and the speaker’s tweed cover. With her ears pressed flat against her tri-colored head and her whiskers shimmering in the soundwaves punching out from the speaker, she howled into the crisscross pattern of the microphone’s metal head.

The guitar solo gave way to a caterwauling that nearly paralyzed her friends. The criminal calico filled the room with noises that spoke of her prehistoric ancestors. The fury of a smilodon sinking its teeth into a cave bear. The iron flavor of a mastodon’s blood in her mouth. The despair of watching spear-wielding primates robbing a continent of its massive, deliciously mammalian fauna.

No one in the room would forget that cry, but only Mags understood it on a primal, genetic level. The smuggler shut her eyes and saw in Patches’ song a place of bestial beauty and torment. A place of perfect belonging and never-ending loneliness. It smelled like Earth and rain and matted fur.

Mags’ drumsticks smashed into the tom heads like they called out for war. She attacked the crash cymbal repeatedly with the force of a lioness’ killing bite to the back of a zebra’s neck. Something inside her released a forlorn, unearthly howl in duet with her kitten.

Again, Mags backed off the percussive assault to let the band in. Sometimes, she thought, you gotta start low.

Sarah sang the pirate’s thought, and her voice led the group to the finale.

anarchy comics

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In 1978 and 1979, Last Gasp published four issues of Anarchy Comics. The series combined history and satire, politics and humor, wildly veering from educational to absurd in its exploration of left-wing themes. One minute, it’s seriously explaining how the black flag became a symbol of anarchy, and the next it’s having a laugh by sending a deranged punk rocker into a futuristic, peace-loving utopia that enrages him. Archie gets ridiculously spoofed as Anarchie, in the same series that presents a historical discussion of women anarchists. It’s a wild ride that might serve as propaganda if it only took itself seriously, which it refuses to do.

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You can often find copies of Anarchy Comics at MyComicShop, and some are occasionally available from Last Gasp. But you can save yourself the trouble of tracking down individual issues thanks to the 2012 Anarchy Comics: The Complete Collection, which you can easily find on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

Here are two short pieces about the Russian revolution, from our archives. The first is by Spain, the creator of the satirical left-wing action hero Trashman, who appeared in Subvert by Rip Off Press.

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If you haven’t yet discovered the underground comix insanity Last Gasp published in the 1970s, dive into the archive of Last Gasp highlights collected on this blog over the years.

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Mars Attacks trading cards

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For the eighth birthday of Mars Will Send No More on WordPress, and my forty-fifth on this planet, let’s have a look at some of the craziest Mars-based paintings of the twentieth century: the Mars Attacks trading cards!

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From the 1984 reissue set

Because Topps is still producing new sets and republishing the originals now and then, I won’t post my complete collection of scans of the original cards. But we can enjoy a few of the classics together.

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from the 1984 reissue set

As much fun as these cards are, doesn’t it sound better to have them all reproduced in a high-quality book with essays about the cards’ history? If you think so, too, avoid spending a fortune collecting original vintage sets, or even the 2012 reissue set, and pick up the book Mars Attacks: 50th Anniversary Collection on Amazon.

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from the 1984 reissue set

If the originals aren’t enough to satiate your Martian appetite for carnage and chaos, the gory story continued with sequels: the Mars Attacks Revenge set, the Mars Attacks Invasion set, and the Mars Attacks Occupation set.

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from the 1984 reissue set

Not all reproductions of the original set include the same cards, and this has been a point of contention in many online reviews. I tried to find a guide to exactly which set you’d need to buy to get not only the original 55 cards but also the ones omitted from the set due to excessive nastiness. The result? A bloody headache!

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Ouch my brain!

So, I ask you to post in the comments section with any information you have about which set is the definitive, complete, all-inclusive version.

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Maybe marketing these to children wasn’t such a great idea!

You might already know artist Norman Saunders painted many of the original 1960s cards, but reader Ed Dietrich tells me Norman also painted a 1966 series of Batman trading cards. Here’s a sample from Ed’s collection, with an appropriately horrifying giant spider! Big thanks to Ed for helping with this post!

norman saunders batman card 1966

Last but not least, a Dinosaurs Attack set was released on a terrified populace in 1988, and while rampaging dinos might seem well-suited to the fury and frivolity here at Mars Will Send No More, an awesome collection is already available for your viewing pleasure at http://dinosaurs-attack.blogspot.com/

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Fun for the whole family!

Despite its relentless, gruesome carnage and widespread destruction, Dinosaurs Attacks was clearly produced by cat lovers.

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I like most stories where cats win.

poems between friends

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One of my methods of developing fictional characters is having them write poems about each other. I’m currently working on a short story about two teenage girls who are best friends, so the following two poems are an exercise about them and their emotional bond. It was fun to step out of my personal poetic voice and let them speak in their own voices.

 

Friendship

We help each other all the time
but that’s not why we’re friends

That’s how we became friends
not why

We hang out all the time
trading stories, laughing,
sharing secrets, eating
but that’s not why we’re friends

That’s what we do
not why

Friendship involves action
but action is just the plot

Stories, like friends, are more than a plot
They are the feelings they give you

Something happens in your heart
and you never see life the same after

She’s my friend because of how I feel
when we’re together or even when we aren’t
She’s with me in my thoughts
and it isn’t a short simple word like love

One word isn’t enough
to describe what happens when music plays,
your heart sings with it, and for a few minutes
anything seems possible

Connected, not alone
Energized, not tired
Uplifted, not beaten down
Trusted and accepted

Maybe that’s why we’re friends
Or maybe it can’t be explained
like a mystery novel with the pages torn out
or how no two calico cats have the same markings

The world would seem empty without her
and I would feel
like a piece of myself
was missing

 

Daredevil

She’s always been braver than me
rougher, wilder, reckless
like a mustang on the open plains
running toward the fire instead of away

She never backs down from a fight
maybe she even looks for one

The world needs people like her
because so much is wrong with it and
someone
needs to do something about it

I imagine she could be anything
anything she dared or was willing to fight for

I imagine she will always be free
the way a trapeze artist escapes gravity for a minute
but the minute lasts forever

I’m here on the ground where things are safe
while she flies up there
inspiring me

making me feel like I could be anything, too
like I could be free
if I dared

the physicality of feeling

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I’m participating in a seven-day writing course this week, and one of the exercises involved communicating emotions by using the five senses. I tackled four emotions suggested in the exercise, making lists of what each one looked like, tasted like, and so on. We were instructed to turn each emotion into its own short piece of writing, but I modified that a little. I combined the two negative emotions into one short prose piece, and then the two positive emotions into another. Here are the results.

Despair & Anger

The next morning, you walk into the kitchen to find the shattered remnants of all your ceramic dishes broken on the floor, a thousand shards as sharp as knives. Right where you left them before passing out. The apartment windows have frosted over, and so has the windshield of your car.

The blue Honda is buried under an ocean of white to the horizon, broken by dirty grey-brown smears where city snowplows pushed the blank death to the side and only further blocked you in. Sludgy, slushy shittiness you stumble through hoping not to fall. The roads and walkways have become traitors, slippery fiends who plot to leave you broken.

Why is everything so hard. Why do you work so hard to get somewhere you don’t want to be. Why you. Why anything.

The atmosphere is a hydraulic press whose weight cares nothing for you. It doesn’t recognize you. It doesn’t know who you are. It only exists to slow time to a crawl, to turn your movements into sluggish drags like when you’re underwater struggling to surface.

Passing trucks poison the wind with exhaust fumes mixing with the burning tendrils of your last cigarette. The semis rumble past with the anonymous efficiency of a human resources drone saying they regret to inform you they’ve chosen someone else. You hate them like you hate words you can never take back, words whose memory aches like your hand after punching something that’s harder than you.

Nothing takes root in this frozen soil. No flowers flourish in this doomed expanse which never knew the sun.

People don’t live here. They just try to keep from dying.

Love & Hope

Before you make love, she feeds you tacos. Their oil seeps through their wrappers to soak the brown bag and turn it a deeper shade. The fragrant heat of a deep fryer and the spicy red energy of salsa. Steam escapes and drifts away to comforting nothingness under the kitchen fan.

You can taste the food before it enters your mouth, just like you taste willingness on her breath when you kiss, telegraphing the aroma of her skin on your face. Sink your tongue into her and drink. She engulfs you, swallows you up like the sea, and cries like a gull, forlorn and ecstatic in her flight.

When she curls up next to you afterward, her pupils grow large like planets in a telescope. Her words and the unintentional song in her voice say you are special, a lie you believe because you want to. She runs a brush over your skin like a groomer tending a horse after riding. The mass of gentle bristles touches you in a way that might be love and might not, but you can’t tell the difference.

The next day, you ride your bike to the ATM. The air carries a scent of evergreens and redwoods and the ocean washed clean by afternoon sunlight. Pure.

You stuff crisp bills into your wallet, filling it with their cloth-like texture and confidence. You trade a few for chocolate brownie cheesecake and a burger bursting with condiments and peppers until your belly swells. Back on the bike, you pop in your earbuds and pump your skull full of thick, fat, fuzzy guitar riffs, a living liquid energy.

You’ve forgotten what concerned you yesterday. Tomorrow might not be so bad. It’s a long time between now and sunset, so why bother worrying?

 

Our instructor said, in reviewing the exercise with us the next day, that we don’t need to use every single sense all the time, or every single descriptive image we invent. We want to liberate ourselves in the first draft, but pare back over-writing in the revision stage. It’s easy to mix metaphors when writing to the senses, so watch out for that in revision. Also, in a story, we don’t need to use every emotion-laden object we come up with. We can pick one, or maybe two, and let them do the work as the main embodiment of that emotion by having them recur in the story. Once the reader feels it the first time (my broken dishes of anger, for example, or my tacos of hope and emotional nourishment), then every time that object appears again, the reader already knows what it means.

More Retrofuturistic 1950s Cards: Jets, Rockets, and Spacemen!

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Bowman produced these beautifully painted trading cards beginning in 1951: Jets, Rockets, and Spacemen! The “jets” cards merely showed normal airplanes with informative text on the back, but the rest of the series told a story about a fantastic space adventure, with each card as a chapter.

The slideshow below features some of my favorites. You can find a complete collection of both the fronts and backs of these cards, so you can take the entire journey, at http://www.lowellsplace.com/jrs/jrs_main_page.html

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Though I only heard about these cards this year, the series is clearly a direct ancestor of the Meteor Mags stories. Its conception of space involves pirates, cats, octopuses, and dinosaurs (flying reptiles, actually: pteranodons). That’s my kind of space adventure!

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Octopuses in space!

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Vicious cats on other planets!

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Space pirates!

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Interplanetary Dinosaurs!

I love keeping up with current developments in space exploration, but I guarantee you that interplanetary travel will never kick as much ass as it did in 1951! Tragically, this series stopped before the complete story was told. You can read more about its production, and why it was never finished, at https://www.psacard.com/articles/articleview/6976/psa-set-registry-1951-bowman-jets-rockets-spacemen-trading-card-thats-blasting-off-popularity

 

Retrofuturistic Topps Space Cards from 1958

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Space travel ain’t what it used to be! Technology, design, and planetary knowledge have evolved since these beautiful Topps trading cards came out in 1958. But if you are like me and easily amused by vintage space art, these cards are worth checking out.

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Below is a slideshow featuring a few dozen of my favorites. You can find a complete collection, including scans of the text on the back of the cards, at http://www1.coe.neu.edu/~dan/tsc/go.html

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23 meteor peril

Meteor Peril! Isn’t space travel exciting?! The only thing that could make it more fun is fried eggs.

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Matthew Kalmenoff painted dinosaur postcards

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Ankylosaurus (Cretaceous period) - for web

Reader Ed Dietrich sent us these postcards as a follow-up to what we’ve shared of the late Kalmenoff’s artwork for The Golden Stamp Book of Animals of the Past and Sinclair Oil’s Exciting World of Dinosaurs booklet. Ed says these cards from publisher Dover bear a 1985 copyright date, which means they come from a book you can still get inexpensively on Amazon: Dinosaur Postcards in Full Color. The complete set contains 24 postcards. Here are five to whet your prehistoric appetite!

Brachiosaurus (Jurassic period) - for webBrontosaurus (Jurassic period) - for webPlateosaurus (Triassic period) - for webTyrannosaurus Rex and Ornithomimus (Cretaceous period) - for web

Animals of the Past as Painted by Matthew Kalmenoff

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animals of the past stamps Book Cover

Today’s images come to us courtesy of reader Edward Dietrich, who recently discovered a 2012 post with my scans of a 1960s booklet, Sinclair and the Exciting World of Dinosaurs. Another reader had informed me that the artist was Matthew Kalmenoff, and Ed added that Kalmenoff did the full-color paintings on the stamps in a book I loved when I was a kid: The Golden Stamp Book of Animals of the Past.

The cover, featured above, has art by Charles McVicker. Ed sent the following scans of Matthew Kalmenoff’s paintings for us all to enjoy. He included notes about different versions of this book, of which there were many!

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Though the blog Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs has scans of some pages from a 1950s version of this book, the art was apparently recycled into many editions. Ed says he’s owned a third printing from 1968 (priced at 59¢), plus an eleventh printing from 1975 and an eighteenth printing from 1980 (both priced at 89¢).

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Most of Ed’s scans are not from the stamp book edition, but a 1961 version called Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals Trading Cards, and branded “Golden Funtime Trading Cards”. Instead of printing the artwork on sheets of lickable stamps to affix to the pages, this version presented the images on heavy cardstock and had oversized pages. This version only had 45 paintings, compared to the 48 in the stamp books, so Ed thoughtfully scanned the remaining stamps from the other editions.

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Some updates to the captions happened between the 1950s stamp book version and this 1960s trading card version. For example, the Protoceratops is clearly labeled as such in Ed’s scans, but was labeled “horn-faced dinosaur” in the 1950s version. Also, the Ichthyosaur is named in this edition, where it was labeled “fish-like reptile” in the 1950s book. “Winged reptile” got updated to Rhamphoryncus. Other captions changed, too, but why should I ruin all the fun of letting you find them?

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If you’re like me, you now want wall-sized prints of several of these gorgeous (if somewhat scientifically outdated) paintings. If you’re willing to settle for something smaller, I’ve seen some of them on Amazon repackaged into a 1988 book called Ready to Frame Dinosaur Paintings. I hope Kalmenoff got paid well for this artwork, considering how many times it was repurposed into different publications over the years.

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If you’re digging these paintings and want to see more of Matthew Kalmenoff’s vintage artwork, cruise back to the original post that started all this madness, because I updated it with more images and links. I was excited to learn about this connection to one of my childhood treasures via total strangers’ commenting on a post about a book I randomly found on eBay. Talk about going full circle!

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A big “thank you” goes out to Ed for taking the time to scan and share these images! This blog would be nothing without the people who have dropped by over the years to share my enthusiasm about dinosaurs, prehistoric animals, comic books, poetry, and mutant brains from outer space. Happy New Year to you, and may your dreams be filled with prehistoric mammals!

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The next three images are the ones from the stamp books that did not appear in the 1961 trading cards version.

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If I ever get around to recording another album of guitar instrumentals, it’s going to be called “Skull of the Uinta Beast”. Hell yeah!

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Here are two images of the cover from the 1961 trading cards version!

Golden funtime animals of the past Cover close up

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