Meteor Mags: The Battle of Vesta 4 – now in paperback and ebook!

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Four Action-Packed Stories Full of Anarchy, Asteroids, and Excessive Ammunition Continue The Adventures of Meteor Mags and PatchesHoist the Jolly Roger and Get Ready to Rock!

Available on Amazon in paperback (224 pages) and Kindle. Also available on iTunes and at Barnes & Noble for Nook Book.

Rings of Ceres: A hell-raising space pirate and her indestructible calico cat return to a decimated asteroid civilization to rescue friends and kick ass, but they get caught up in violent riots between the desperate citizens of Ceres and the mercenary security forces guarding the mining corporations.

Jam Room: Meteor Mags leads a jam session with the teenagers who want to start a punk band called Dumpster Kittens!

The Battle of Vesta 4: Meteor Mags and her fun-loving crew throw the birthday party of a lifetime—until death rains down from the sky! Mosh at the rock’n’roll party of the century as the Psycho 78s record their new album! Flee in terror as Club Assteroid falls under the dragons’ assault from space! Discover the underground caverns of Vesta and join the resistance! Take one last hell ride aboard the Queen Anne before it all goes up in flame! Strap on your battle armor and get ready for the most brutal, barbaric, blood-soaked fight of your life: The Battle of Vesta 4!

Hunted to Extinction: Meteor Mags and Patches undertake one last hunt to exterminate the space lizards from our solar system. Their journey reveals the fate of Tarzi’s parents, a tragedy that connects our criminal crew to a powerful potential ally. Plus, Mags gets a new ship, and it’s got even more kick-ass stolen technology to help her plunder the System! Her club might have been destroyed, but Meteor Mags and her friends will never accept defeat so long as they live.

May not be suitable for children or carbon-based life.

 

drive

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Drive is a song by The Cars, and I recorded this instrumental version in the living room at my old place, on a sunny afternoon with heavy traffic outside. The car noise seemed to fit the theme.

Listen or Download the MP3: https://app.box.com/s/gv0bl75qgvooosetgaolgnosxh5gjs9q

About ten years ago, this track appeared on a limited edition CD of maybe 100 copies, an album recorded with friends and sold at a CD release party. I haven’t made it available anywhere since.

indie box: This Is Sold-Out

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This is Sold-Out lampoons the comic book industry of the 1980s, and no one walks away without a few lumps. It’s too bad the creators never did a sequel satirizing the 1990s speculator craze. Long-time comic book fans will enjoy picking out the altered comic book titles on the racks and the ridiculous hyperbole about the medium we know and love.

My favorite moment might be when a rodent and a turtle use random words from the dictionary to come up with the title of the latest black-and-white indie sensation: The Catastrophic Obsequious Belgian Hibernation Retrieval. Someone must create that book!

This Is Sold Out has an outrageous second issue that concludes the story as the “Color Police” get together to eradicate all competition for the black-and-white madness. Absolute lunacy!

Collector’s Guide:
-From Sold Out; 1986, FantaCo.
Last we checked, FantaCo was defunct and this title is out of print.

 

 

 

indie box: Teknophage

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Inside the indie comics box today, it’s Teknophage: a walking, talking, totally evil dinosaur who rules a world much like ours, only infinitely more terrible. Teknophage feeds on souls, which he extracts from helpless humans in the horrifying vats of his mobile city. He cruises his planet spreading misery every where he goes. Many have tried to overthrow him, only to have their souls ripped from their tortured bodies and consumed.

Rick Veitch created this evil bastard reptile for Tekno Comix, a Neil Gaiman venture. With artist Bryan Talbot, Veitch blends horror, science fiction, and a cynically hilarious social satire to make Teknophage a story you will never forget – assuming you survive!

Here is a preview of the pages where Teknophage recounts his earliest days as just another evil telepathic dinosaur, and how he discovered the multi-dimensional technology that made him master of the planet.

Collector’s Guide:
– From Teknophage #4-5; Tekno Comix, 1995.

indie box: Salvador

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Today we open the indie short-box to find the first and only issue of a series that never happened: Salvador!

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The ultimate intent of the lavish, wordless art remains a mystery to me. I felt like I followed the central character’s journey, even though the world was unfamiliar to me, and I could draw some conclusions about what it was all about. But did this episode set up a longer storyline, or is this issue a self-contained story? What did the creators think was coming next?

The blurb in the back of the book, which you can see in the scans below, says Salvador was to be a five-issue series, and the main character was a “savior for DNA discards” in a world of genetic engineering gone awry. He can fly, but he was born brittle, so he is easily broken. I don’t know if that will help you make more sense of this unfinished work, but have a look at these gorgeous pages anyway.

Collector’s Guide:
Salvador #1; Boom Studios, 2007.

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indie box: Thrasher Comics

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The short-box of indie and small-press comics this week crawls right out of the gutter to bring you the underground skateboard glory of Thrasher!

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Thrasher Comics came from High Speed, the publishers of Thrasher Magazine, who also produced the art magazine Juxtapoz. You don’t need to be a skater to dig the artwork in Thrasher Comics, however. Here is a sample: L. E. Coleman’s “Skate Greats of History,” featuring Elvis Presley skating on a guitar, and Julius Caesar skating the Colossuem.

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Though it’s unsigned, Thrasher contributor Ken Jones informed us the cover was created by Kevin Ancell. The style brings to mind the work of Rick Griffin. Griffin did freelance work for Thrasher Magazine and even designed several Vans shoes, a brand loved by skaters everywhere.

Collector’s Guide:
– From Thrasher #2; 1988, High Speed.

 

 

 

 

indie box: Rare Bit Fiends

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What’s in the short-box of indie and small-press comics this week? It’s Rare Bit Fiends by Rick Veitch!

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Here to introduce the descent into the dreamworld is a strange and nameless beast who begins every issue of this unique series.

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In Rare Bit Fiends, Rick Veitch made his dreams into pages of comic book art. Don’t look for traditional stories in Rare Bit Fiends. You’ll only find the psychedelic language of dreams and the weird workings of the inner mind. Veitch’s artwork is in top form.

Below is a sample of an illustrated dream whose narrative comes from a special-guest dreamer Neil Gaiman and rendered by Roarin’ Rick in ultra-cosmic perfection!

Collector’s Guide:
– From Rare Bit Fiends.
– Collections include Crypto Zoo, Pocket Universe, and Rabid EyeKing Hell Press.

The title Rare Bit Fiends is a nod to the early 20th Century comic strip Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend by Winsor McCay, who created Little Nemo in Slumberland.

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rare bit fiends rick veitch119

indie box: Zero Killer

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What’s inside the short-box of indie comics this week? Dystopic, post-apocalyptic future? Check. Girls kissing in punk-rock gear? Check. Ass kickings? Check. Tattooed mutant brothers living in a vandalized World Trade Center with a massive stockpile of weed? Check.

How about a guy eating cockroaches? Dudes hacking off a dude’s limbs and feeding them to rats? One totally stacked mama running a vicious gang of leather-clad boy-toys who kill on command? Check, Check, Check!

What’s there NOT to like about Zero Killer?!? Arvid Nelson put together a monumental adventure story with complex characters in this six-issue series published by Dark Horse. Illustrator Matt Camp made the story come to life perfectly, including a rockin’ wraparound cover featuring dinosaur skulls! It’s like they made this one just for me.

Collector’s Guide:
– From Zero Killer; Dark Horse, 2007.
– Reprinted in the Zero Killer TPB.

 

indie box: Elephantmen

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What’s inside the short-box of independent and small-press comic books this week? It’s Elephantmen from Image Comics! Now, you might argue that Image Comics is too big to be considered “indie” or “small press” anymore, and maybe you’re right. But I remember when it was a start-up company with only a handful of titles, and one important thing remains the same: a focus on creator-owned projects.

Richard Starkings’ Elephantmen is one of several books that made me pay attention to Image Comics after having written them off years before as having better art than story, and too much focus on spandex-clad super-types. While that judgment might seem more accurate if you consider the quality I encountered in the earliest issues of WildC.A.T.s and StormWatch when Image began, even those titles became pretty awesome a few years later. So, Image can thank Richard Starkings for getting my damned attention, and I also thank Richard for the amazing tutorial he created that taught me how to letter comic books using Adobe Illustrator. See the Comicraft company website for awesome fonts, and that tutorial which is well worth the $10 if you want to learn how to letter digitally.

In the Unnatural Selection story–one of my favorites–Joe Casey and Ladronn created a gruesome future history for Richard Starking’s Elephantmen. A future where soldiers are bred from men and beasts, incubated in horrific labs, and indoctrinated as murderous slaves. Dig the following sample pages from Elephantmen: Unnatural Selection. We witness the birth of the starring character Hip Flask and the strange brand that gave him his name. Also, we encounter the brutal training and combat our hybrid heroes endured before they gained their freedom. One thing is for sure: mad scientists are jerks!

Collector’s Guide to Awesome Elephantmen Stories:
– From Elephantmen #0: Unnatural Selection; Image Comics.
Elephantmen TPB
Damaged Goods TPB
War Toys TPB
Unhuman: The Elephantmen Art of Ladronn.

 

 

 

more mixes added

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I added a few more music mixes to the archive page for my streaming sets. Simmer (Mix 56) is from last month featuring a blend of ska, reggae, vocal jazz, latin jazz, and rock. Rock1 and Rock2 (Mixes 5 and 6) are two hard-rocking sets from 2016 featuring punk, metal, psych, garage, doom, and more — with a few other things to spice them up. Enjoy!

indie box: Pounded

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What’s inside the short-box of indie comic books this week? The punk-rock mini-series that glorifies juvenile debauchery and ill-advised life choices as only Brian Wood and Steve Rolston could bring you: Pounded!

Did you ever have one of those mornings when only the F word will do? Heavy Parker has, too! In the third and final issue of Pounded, after getting his ass beat, Heavy makes it through four whole pages of a lousy morning with just one word to describe his feelings.

Pounded from Brian “DMZ” Wood and Steve Rolston is a quick read but a fun one. It’s much more guy-oriented than Wood’s work on New York Four and New York Five. I got the impression those were written for a young female audience who finds drama in texting and… texting… and more texting about texting… PLEASE KILL ME! But in Pounded, we get rock and roll, tough talk, sex and drugs in the bathrooms of concert venues, brutal fist fights in the street, and plenty of profanity! Man out with Heavy Parker today. Guaranteed to improve your fucking morning!

Collector’s Guide:
– From Pounded #3; Oni Press, 2002.
– Reprinted in the Pounded TPB (which is more often in stock.)

 

indie box: Nemesis

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What’s inside the short-box of indie comic books this week? Nemesis, published by the UK-based Eagle Comics, and originating in the pages of 2000AD. Thanks to my high-school buddy Brian and his older brother Michael, the insanity of British comic books was percolating into my awareness by the mid-1980s, and by the time creators such as Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Warren Ellis (to name just a few) were working on mainstream franchises at Marvel and DC (or their subsidiaries), I was primed for a ‘British Invasion’ of American comics that rivaled that of blues-based rock music in the 1960s.

For me, it began with Nemesis. When Brian saw this creative team sparked my interest, he also shared with me Marshall Law and Metalzoic. Since then, I’ve dug O’Neill’s art on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Mills’ work on Flesh, which I only discovered decades after its original publication.

The following self-contained short story about Nemesis begins in a dungeon where alien species are imprisoned, along with humans suspected of harboring or assisting aliens. Though they suffer, their spirits are lifted by memories of the revolutionary alien warrior, Nemesis!

Nemesis the Warlock! His name strikes fear into the hearts of humans everywhere. Humans living in a religious monarchy that persecutes and exterminates all aliens. Just look at this glorious propaganda poster for Torquemada, the arch-nemesis of Nemesis and totally disgusting scumbag.

That’s right. This evil freak is everywhere, spearheading an inquisition across the galaxy to torture and murder peace-loving aliens! It’s almost like living in the United States in 2019!

But take heart, species of the universe. Nemesis the Warlock has an even freakier face than Torquemada, and his sword is way more huge! So huge that it has its own origin story — a violent, grotesque space epic of suffering and sacrifice for all the wrong reasons. Suck it, humans!

Collector’s Guide:
– From Nemesis the Warlock; Eagle Comics, 1984. By Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill.

 

a new page for music mixes

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If you’ve enjoyed the virtual “mix tapes” I’ve been posting here since late last year, then visit the new page that collects them all for your listening pleasure:

https://marswillsendnomore.wordpress.com/pbn/

I once thought I would end this mix series after the fiftieth recorded set. But thanks to other DJs, I kept discovering new music. That’s the beauty of hanging out with other music maniacs. Plus, I now realize that several styles I love are grossly under-represented, from modern jazz to classical music of India. So you know what? The PBN will live on and explore more sonic territory.

Thank you for supporting the Puma Broadcasting Network, a division of the Feline Liberation Front. Long live the resistance.

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subwoofer

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PBN SET 18: SUBWOOFER
AUGUST 2017

Subwoofer is a hearty blend of heavy riff-rock and hip-hop seasoned with electronic dance music and punk.

Listen or download the MP3 file. 128 Kbps. 110 minutes.
The set list is available as a text file.

Monster Truck – Sweet Mountain River
Godsmack – Cryin’ Like A Bitch
DJ Kay Slay – 60 Second Assassins
Larry Tee & Princess Superstar – Licky (Vandalism Remix)
Puma Broadcasting Network – Station ID 7
Crookers + Rye Rye – Hip Hop Changed
Snoop Dogg – Bitch Please (with Nate Dogg and Xzibit)
KLF – 3 a.m. Eternal (1991)
Sound Out – Gotta Be Acid (Original Mix)
Architectural – Peacetime
The Chemical Brothers – Get Yourself High
Way out West – Domination (Bonkers Break Beat Mix)
SNWCRSH – Party Mix (Excerpt)
Grinderman/UNKLE – Hyper Worm Tamer
Queens of the Stone Age – No One Knows (Unkle Reconstruction)
Unkle – In a State
Wo Fat – Analog Man
Om – Unitive Knowledge of the Godhead
Puma Broadcasting Network – Station ID 2
Rollins Band + Chuck D: Rise Above (Black Flag)
The Donnas – All Messed Up
T Rex Quiet – Millennium Breath
Telekinetic Yeti – Abominable

What is the Indie Box?

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Indie Box” will be a series of posts named after the cardboard short-box where I store a modest collection of independent and small-press books that were limited series or very short series, or even a single issue. The Indie Box series began yesterday and will appear every Wednesday at least through September and — if all goes well — through the end of 2019.

Two things prompted this new series. One was the recent arrival of a stack of comic books that necessitated re-organizing my short-boxes to make space for everything, and that event made me realize how many small-press gems I have that have never been featured on this blog. This oversight needs rectified!

The second prompt was that every time I try to edit and update older posts on this blog now — from 2013, for example –WordPress gives me an error that it can’t recognize the post’s URL, and it kicks me out of the editor. The only solution I can find is to go through the older “wp-admin” route to edit posts, and that post-editing format is one or two generations outdated now. (If you have a better solution, please leave me a comment, because I have tried and failed for more than a year!)

The new Indie Box series will combine several things. First, I’m pulling older indie comics posts from this blog’s earliest years and giving them fresh updates with new text and links for you, and in the process converting them to new posts I can edit in the more recent WP editor for my own sanity. Second, I’m digging into a digital archive of comic book scans that never got unpacked and previewed for you on this site, and that archive includes vintage goodies by writers such as Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, to name a few. Third, I’ll be dusting off the scanner to capture some of my favorite pages from my physical collection so you can enjoy a look inside lesser-known and under-rated comics that rocked my world.

Now you know! Enjoy the series!

 

DJ Pi

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I met Pi this year in cartoon world, when a friend invited me to Pi’s virtual music and art club Blush Response to hear a techno set. Electronic dance music isn’t my favorite thing, but as a veteran raver of the early 90s, I can still groove to some flavors of techno, and Pi had her finger right on that button. She also mixed absolutely killer hip-hop sets — so killer that I eventually stopped writing down all her tracks and started recording her entire sets.

Those recordings might be all I have to remember her by now. Though I was just a fan, I empathize with her close friends who are mourning her sudden disappearance. I’ve been there, too. 

In the spirit of sharing music and rocking out to awesome tunes together, here are the five Pi sets I recorded in June and July 2019. These were made for my personal enjoyment, so please forgive their slight imperfections: they are only 128 Kbps, they sometimes miss the beginning of the first song, and they sometimes drop out for a couple seconds when the music stream dropped while I was recording.

But they also totally jam, and since Pi was notorious for not recording her sets — something we joked about just two weeks ago — I think a few of her friends might like to have these, and that a few readers of this blog will also get their minds blown by these jams. And the music will live on.

Listen or download the MP3 files:

DJ Pi – Hard Techno Set at Blush Response – 06 July 2019

DJ Pi – Hip-Hop Set at Chest Rockwell Suite – 14 June 2019

DJ Pi – Hip-Hop Set at Chest Rockwell Suite – 21 June 2019

DJ Pi – Hip-Hop Set at Chest Rockwell Suite – 28 June 2019

DJ Pi – Hip-Hop Set at Chest Rockwell Suite – 05 July 2019

 

indie box: Alexis

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This week, the indie short-box holds the only issue of Alexis I’ve ever seen. This book is so small-press that it might as well be extinct — which is a shame for a book with bold and exciting black-and-white artwork, boobs, and tentacles.

Individual issues appear sometimes on eBay and Amazon, but with little agreement on the market value. I’ve never seen a listing for a full set of either Volume 1 or Volume 2, and certainly not both together. [This is no longer true! See my update in the Collector’s Guide below.] Each volume was five issues long. Below are my scans of issue #5 of the second volume. It seems like a grand climax to a fun story with awesome art that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I’d love to see the other nine issues.

Art & Story by Adam Kelly. Published March, 1996 by Kim Thompson and Gary Groth of Eros Comix, a defunct imprint of Fantagraphics. The inside cover contains this text: “RETAILERS ARE INSTRUCTED NOT TO SELL THIS PUBLICATION TO MINORS.” Compared to some of the publisher’s outright porn comics advertised in the back of this issue, Alexis #5 seems pretty mild.

Collector’s Guide: I have no idea where to find this series. Do you? Leave a comment and enlighten me. UPDATE: I found a store that currently has all issues of Volume 2, and a package deal containing all ten issues of Volumes 1 and 2. Prices are about $10 per issue. See the listings at AbeBooks.com.

 

 

preview: small flowers, part 1

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Small Flowers will be the twentieth episode in The Adventures of Meteor Mags and Patches, and I expected to finish drafting it this summer. But then I realized this is a good time to slow down and do something I rarely bothered with in the first ten stories: build Mags’ world in more depth and detail. The aftermath of The Battle of Vesta 4 is an opportunity to plant seeds for future stories and illuminate previously murky details about the solar system.

Small Flowers will resolve many ongoing sub-plots, but every resolution is the beginning of something new. As I mentioned in my memoir about writing the first 19 stories, the series began with a chaotic energy, and I didn’t bother thinking through a lot of stuff because I never expected to write more than a few simple stories that might make fun comic books. Five years later, I wish I had spent a little more time on things at the beginning. Now that the series is poised to go in an entirely new direction, I’ll take my time with Small Flowers.

Anyway, here’s a preview of Part I, which takes Anton and Kaufman in a new direction after Slim’s demise. It also sets up Part II, which takes place amidst the reconstruction of Ceres. Enjoy!

Part One: Relocate

In December 2029, a month after the invasion of Vesta, Meteor Mags and Patches traveled to Below the Belt Strip Club to have a drink and chat with its new owners. The club had been closed since the death of its founder and builder: Mags’ old friend and unofficially adopted nephew, Slim.

Slim’s death left a void in Mags’ heart, and his passing left the residents of the asteroid belt without a place to get a home-cooked meal while naked beauties danced onstage. The venue’s reputation for nude performances concerned its new owner, and Mags thought a face-to-face might get him sorted. Taking a seat at the bar, she raised a pint glass filled to the brim with black rum and said, “To Slim.”

“To Slim,” said Kaufman. The formerly clean-shaven administrator had grown a beard as part of his new identity. Mags had promised he and Anton would receive new photo IDs with new names before the month was over. He touched her glass with a much smaller glass. “The best damn chef this godforsaken Belt has ever known.”

Mags purred. “That’s the truth.” She took two generous gulps while Kaufman swallowed his single shot. Sleater-Kinney’s All Hands on the Bad One played over the club’s speakers courtesy of Mags’s private music library in the one room in the back that no one else could access—not even the man she had granted ownership of the place.

Kaufman’s glass hit the bar top with a resounding smack. He sat facing Mags. Each of them occupied a leather-upholstered bar stool. Their knees occasionally touched as they talked. Kaufman pretended the effect on him went unnoticed. The rum did not help. “Did Slim leave any recipes?”

Mags’ laughter reverberated in the empty club. “Oh, K-man! You crack me up.” Her gaze drifted to the stage where she had danced countless times over the years, and she welcomed the memories of cheers and catcalls. “Let me tell you something about Slim. Cooking was second nature to him. Ever since he was a kid working in his dad’s restaurant in Chinatown, his recipes were in his head—just like all his accounting. If there was one thing Slim’s old man taught him, it was ‘never leave a paper trail’.”

Kaufman said, “The opposite of what they taught us in the Port Authority.”

Mags wet her finger with rum and ran it around the lip of her glass until a musical note shimmered from the vessel. “But you, dear, burned quite a few paper trails anyway.”

“True.” He poured himself another shot. “I’m sure you can teach me to cook grub fit for a space miner. But what really worries me is—”

A slamming door interrupted him. Anton burst from the back of the club where Slim’s private luxury apartment had been taken over by the father and his fourteen-year-old son. “Dad,” the boy shouted, “I know what we need here!”

Kaufman peeled himself from Mags’ piercing eyes. The same eyes stared from the wall behind him in the framed poster enlargement of the cover to her solo piano album, Blind Alley Blues. The poster hung beside a framed copy of the Ceres 2027 concert poster. That one had cost Kaufman a fortune and arrived on his last day in office on Mars more than a month ago.

Mags had added a few framed mementos of her own: photographs of her and Patches, several of Celina dancing and posing with her girls, and an artist’s rendering of the Psycho 78s recording HyperSonicHatred.

Kaufman loved them all. He said, “Tell me, son.”

Anton charged the bar with an enthusiasm his middle-aged father envied. “A recording studio! In one of the rooms back there!”

“In the back rooms?” Kaufman knew what purpose those rooms had served under Slim’s management, though he’d never availed himself of the opportunity. “Son, where can we get the equipment for a—”

“Mags can get it! She can get anything.” Anton knelt on the floor to pet the sleeping calico cat between the two adults.

Patches opened her eyes at his touch. She rolled onto her back to invite belly rubs.

Anton rubbed the cat’s bushy underside.

Mags said, “He’s right. That’s a great idea.”

Kaufman said, “But in the—”

Mags bulldozed Kaufman’s objection. “We can knock down a wall or two. Make a serious studio back there. We can do isolation booths. Mics out the arse. The latest soundboard.” She gripped Kaufman’s shoulder and shook it. “Tell me that wouldn’t be awesome!

Anton implored his father. “Dumpster Kittens’ first album, Dad! We could record it right here!”

A realization dawned on Kaufman. They were offering an escape from his dilemma. Instead of having back rooms full of private lap dances and sexual activity, his son’s new band could have the run of the place. Kaufman wiped his hand over his face then flung the hand open in a gesture of release. “If Mags says she can make it happen, then I believe her. Let’s do it.”

“Yeah!” Anton sprang from the floor and crushed Kaufman in a hug.

Kaufman embraced his boy and set a hand on the back of Anton’s head. “We could make Dumpster Kittens the house band. You and your friends could jam here.”

Anton pulled away. “That would be amazing!

Mags gave Kaufman a wink from behind Anton. Her eyelashes snapped shut like the petals of a Venus flytrap for the briefest part of a second before releasing him. “Hell yes, it would. You should get Tinta and Jeremy in the mix. Convert one of the rooms to a tattoo and body-mod shop. Take a cut for the house. We can turn a few rooms into living quarters for some of my girls. They’ll earn more than their rent, and you’ll have plenty of space to spare.”

“I’m just worried.” The speakers played Flowers in the Basement by Mammoth Indigo. Kaufman withered. “Maybe we could discuss this another—”

“Just fucking say it, K-man. You ain’t gonna break the boy.”

“Fine. I’m worried that if we re-open—”

When we re-open.”

When we re-open, people will expect all kinds of activity that, frankly, I don’t know if I want Anton exposed to every night.”

“There it is.” Mags drained the rest of her glass and motioned to Kaufman to re-fill it. “Anton? How do you feel about living and recording in a place that has naked women parading on stage every night of the week?”

Kaufman’s palm slapped his forehead. “Jesus, Mags.”

“What? He was fine at the Assteroid! Let the boy speak!” Mags raised her eyebrows and gestured with a sweep of her open palm to invite the young man’s opinion.

“I, uh—” Anton clung to his father, but he studied the adults’ faces, first one, then the other.

In the moment Anton considered his next words, Mags pressed her hand, palm up, at Kaufman to silence the man.

Anton said, “Dad, I liked Club Assteroid. Everyone was nice to me. I made friends. Everyone was always dressing up and doing makeup and talking about hairstyles, and I—I mean it was fun, you know?”

Mags chuckled and flicked ash from the end of her cigarette. “It was good times, wasn’t it, Anton? You got along great with my girls!”

Anton’s gaze fell to the floor. He found Patches blinking at him. He thought of nights the cat had slept beside him in the hangar following the invasion. Her paws kneaded the air, and she mewed. He said, “Do you really think so?”

Mags slapped her leg. “I know so! Anton, my girls ask about you every day since you’ve been here. I admit, they just barely put up with the guys in the Psycho 78s. But they felt right at home with you. They’d love to see you again. I heard you got pretty good at helping them with their makeup.”

When the boy answered with a shy smile and averted eyes, Kaufman asked, “Anton? All that dancing and carrying on didn’t bother you?”

The young man met his father’s eyes. His multi-colored spikes had grown out to reveal their roots in the past month, and he needed to remove most of the beads Mags’ dancers wove into his hair during his first days on Vesta. He had plans for a new hairstyle once that one grew out a little more.

Mags said, “Just tell him, dear.”

Anton looked mortified.

“Go on, my little Dumpster Kitten.”

“Dad,” he said, “I like the dancing. I think it’s pretty. The dancers are pretty. But I don’t—I mean—I’m just not into girls that way.”

Mags reveled in the stunned look on Kaufman’s face. She slammed her palm on the bar. “Let’s have a round on the house!” She re-filled her glass and Kaufman’s, and she handed a third shot to Anton. “Bottoms up, little man.”

Anton took the shot and sought his father’s approval.

“Go on, Son. Cheers.”

The boy drained the shot glass. He staggered slightly but didn’t cough, and he handed it back to Mags. “Dad? You’re not mad?”

Kaufman slid off his stool and took his son in his arms. “Why would I be mad? I’m sorry if you think I could ever be mad at you, Anton.”

Mags quietly sipped her rum in the moments of silence that followed. Kaufman, she thought. I love the guy to death, but sometimes he is the last fucking person to get aboard the clue train.

“Anton,” said Kaufman, “just be you. The only thing that matters to me—and I mean the only thing—is that you are safe and happy.”

“Me too, Dad. That, and Dumpster Kittens.”

Kaufman laughed. “Yes, and Dumpster Kittens.” He patted Anton on the back.

Mags’ left tit chimed with the sound of a twentieth-century phone ring. “For fuck’s sake.” She pulled a tiny black square from her bra, touched it with her thumb print, and shouted, “What?!”

“Hey, tía. You busy?”

“Lonso! Never too busy for my favorite nephew.”

“I thought Tarzi was your favorite.”

“He’s my other favorite. How’s Plutonian?”

“You wanna talk to him? He’s trying to invent some shit to record the octopuses’ brain waves.”

Mags purred. “Let the man work. Does he seem happy?”

“He’s still broken up,” said Alonso. “Drinking way too much, even for a pirate. But if I keep him busy on projects, he seems okay. He even made friends with Karpov.”

“Karpov is such a dick.”

“No lie,” said Alonso. “Can I ask you a question, or do you want to keep gossiping about your boyfriend?”

“He isn’t my boyfriend, fucker!”

“Yeah, right. Anyway, the new band has a show coming up in a month, and we still don’t have a name. Do you got any ideas?”

“They extended my work on Mersenne Primes. How about The Mersenne Primates?”

“Too cerebral,” said Alonso. “Most people aren’t as into math as you.”

“I don’t know. How about Atheist Abortion Clinic?”

“Are you fucking high? We are on a cosmic trip, not a political one.”

“What about Blunt Force Trauma?”

“Seriously heavy, tía. But we’re all about peace and love now.”

“Damn it, Lonso! What do I know about peace and love? Let me ask someone.” Mags interrupted the conversation between Kaufman and his son. “Anton! Help me out here.”

“What do you need, Auntie?”

He had never called her that before, and the occasion elicited a thunderous purr. “I need a band name. It’s for a bunch of telepathic octopuses and these Stalinist space monkeys frying their fucking brains out with my old pal Alonso who is into ska, punk, and doom metal.” Mags grabbed her glass. “I can’t believe I just said that sentence out loud.”

Anton asked, “What kind of music do they play?”

“It’s some kind of hippie drum circle stoner rock with metal and psychedelic influences. Plus, they want to start a galaxy-wide revolution or something.”

“Oh,” said Anton, as if he heard similar descriptions every day. “You should name them after that Sonic Youth song. Small Flowers Crack Concrete.”

Mags pounded her fist on the bar so hard that the mahogany creaked under her assault. “Yes!” She held up her hand to summon silence and shouted into her phone. “Small Flowers! You are the tiny weeds that will grow in the cracks of the concrete of the solar system and break the whole fucking thing apart!”

“Oh, hell yes, tía. Small Flowers! But we’ll be big soon. Did you just think of that?”

“Nah, mate, my nephew Anton rocked it. He’s a huge Sonic Youth fiend. Just like his old man.”

“Right on, ese. Imma run it by the band and see what they think. I bet they love it. Can I call you later?”

“You can call me anytime.” Mags lifted her empty glass and eyed the massive liquor collection Slim had built on the opposite side of the bar. “I might not answer. But you can still call me.” She hung up without waiting for a reply. “Small flowers!”

Mags slid off her barstool. Her fluffy tail flicked this way and that. “He loves it!” She scooped Patches from the floor and cradled the calico in her arms, gently rubbing one ear with a thumb. “That was a stroke of genius, little man.”

Anton dragged a hand through his hair, pushing it back. “Dad should get the credit. He played me all the Sonic Youth albums.”

Mags poured Patches out of her arms and onto the bar. “You gonna make some racket like that on stage here?”

“I hope so.”

“I know so. You get Sarah and Jinx up there with you, and this shit will be jumping off.” Mags discovered Kaufman’s befuddled look at her easy rapport with his son. “Anton,” she said, “your dad’s pretty awesome.” She wrapped her arm around Kaufman’s shoulders. “You’re lucky to have him.”

Mags thought of her mother and the love they had shared, pure and unconditional. Mags had, at some points in her century-long life, stopped believing she would ever see that kind of love again. But she saw it between Anton and his father. She let Kaufman go and dropped her face so her wild locks of hair fell over her cheeks and hid the mist in her eyes. She went behind the bar and examined the liquor bottles with more attention to detail than they deserved.

Later, outside the club with Patches in her arms, Mags considered the stars. She rubbed her face into her cat’s voluminous fluff, and the two of them purred in unison. Mags whispered a prayer. “Great-gramma, thank you for Anton. That kid did more to solve my problems than I could alone.”

The silver band on her left ring-finger glowed with a warmth that comforted the pirate until her tail stopped flicking and only the tip switched back and forth in the desolate quiet of the infinite glitter around her. “We can keep the dancing in the main bar, but have the kids recording and bunking in the back of the house. Jeremy and Tinta have a place to live and work if they want it. All of which keeps the money flowing.”

Mags opened the door to the Bêlit and set Patches on the deck. “Goddess. When did I get so old that I started worrying more about cash flow than rocking out and killing everyone who gets in my way?”

Patches scratched the side of her face with a rear paw and gave Mags her opinion.

“Screw you too, baby kitty!” Mags laughed and laughed. “Maybe you’re right.” She took her seat in the captain’s chair. “Maybe it’s time for us to stop worrying about business and get back to raising almighty hell.”

The ship powered up and lifted into the limitless black of space where an array of glowing fires lived only to light the darkness. Mags tuned the radio to her favorite station.

A familiar voice announced, “That was Betty Blowtorch with Hell on Wheels. And a smokin’ Joan Jett cover of Pretty Vacant. Next up, Delta Alba Plex by Unida. This is the Puma Broadcasting Network. Long live the resistance.”

“Oh, hell yeah.” Mags swished her tail and turned up the volume. “Then again,” she said, “we’ve got business to take care of before the Ceres concert. First stop: Mars. And then…”

While Mags explained the plan for the next month, Patches curled into a half moon with her front legs around a stuffed seahorse on her favorite corner of Tarzi’s new bunk. The young man’s familiar scent comforted her. The plush toy between her paws comforted her. Mags’ constant monologue when no one else was around comforted her.

The invincible kitten purred herself to sleep.

From the Diary of Meteor Mags. January 2030.

I won’t lie to you about the reconstruction of Ceres, but I won’t tell you the whole truth, either. What I’d like you to remember is that my girls were on the frontlines, up to their elbows in blood trying to heal the wounded, feed the hungry, and piece together a broken civilization.

Early in November, Earth committed resources to the rebuilding. But when intercontinental war broke out on my one hundred and sixth birthday, those resources vanished into thin air. Earth’s influence was limited to mercenary forces the corporations sent to protect their mining facilities.

Patches and I took care of most of them. I didn’t live this long letting a few merc squads stand in my way, and Patches couldn’t give half a wet fuck about any of them.

I called in a few favors, spent an ungodly amount of money, and after about three weeks of Patches and me killing every corporate goon we could get our paws on, the Ceresians got the help they needed. Ships from Mars landed safely. They set up food distribution and medical facilities, and I didn’t have to break but two or three skulls before peeps on the ground understood the shit was going down in an orderly fashion.

Because let me tell you, some people were in desperate circumstances. So were me and my girls, and some of us had been on Ceres when the shit hit the fan. When that tornado touched down, me and Patches and a bunch of our crew were caught in it, and so were Tinta and Jeremy, and Jinxy. Once our story got out to the Ceresians, they realized we were on the same team.

But I knew we’d get it sorted. The Psycho 78s concert on Ceres back in ’27 was the fuckin’ bomb. Anyone not at the show was rioting in the streets. This asteroid—sorry, this dwarf planet—belonged to the revolution, pure and simple. All we needed was a chance to wipe the scum off it so the people could do their thing.

And that tornado, and the war on Earth, and all those dick-holes attacking my club? It was horrible. All of it. Except the parts where me and Patches were killing those fucks. Those parts were awesome. I mean the other parts.

Anyway. What I’m trying to say is this: despite everything we lost, we had an opportunity to build something new.

And that’s exactly what we did.

dinosaurs of the tellus science museum

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This month, my mom and sister took me to the Tellus Science Museum in Georgia, and I was spoiled with an afternoon of prehistoric life and outer space! The museum lobby showcases a huge apatosaurus skeleton, and my sister snapped a photo for me to share with all the dino geeks who frequent this blog.

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The camera on my phone isn’t as nice as hers, but I snapped a few pics, too. Here is the apatosaur’s head in a position where he might be eating a planet.

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The planets in the pic appear over the entrance to the planetarium where we enjoyed a presentation about how Earth was formed. This was fortuitous timing, because the film showed something I was reading about that very day: how an ancient proto-planet named Theia crashed into an early version of Earth, a cataclysmic collision that enlarged Earth and resulted in the formation of our Moon, our tilted axis of rotation, and eventually our ocean tides.

The film presented this event as a known fact, but it’s a hypothesis that best explains how things got the way they are now. The Theia hypothesis is explored in more detail in the book I took on my trip, an amazing and often poetic exploration of geology, chemistry, and cosmic history that begins with examining a single pebble found on a Welsh beach.

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The Planet in a Pebble: A Journey into Earth’s Deep History by Jan Zalasiewicz is a bit wordy at times, being written by a lecturing professor. What it lacks in concision, it makes up for in its flowing language that links many scientific disciplines to each other and gives insights into how big-picture events like the origin of Earth relate to small-picture events at the atomic level, all to create the rocks we sometimes ignore beneath our feet but which, upon examination, reveal so much about our world.

The prehistoric exhibit at Tellus Science Museum showcases specimens found in Georgia, and it features some fossils visitors are invited to touch (including Megalodon teeth and Triceratops poop). The Appalachiosuarus pictured below was new to me.

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This fearsome beast shares exhibit space with a pair of Dromeosaurs whose informational plaque needs a bit of an update. The plaque mentions feathers and the relation of dinos to modern birds as a kind of hypothesis, but these things are now known with about as much certainty as we can get. After all, we’ve found the feathers, and paleo-artist William Stout was among the first to depict them in his mural paintings for the San Diego Natural History Museum. You can read more about that in Prehistoric Life Murals by William Stout, which includes amazing reproductions of his paintings in a glorious hardcover volume.

Tellus also has aquatic beasts, including a Mosasaur and a sea turtle, the two main characters in one of my favorite stories, Archelon and the Sea Dragon by Francis K. Pavel. You might enjoy the short essay I wrote about the book for an undergraduate project a few years ago.

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For flying reptiles, Tellus has a trio of Pterosaurs. Here’s one of them.

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Tellus has prehistoric mammals, too, including this Smilodon.

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These are just a few of the wonders in the prehistoric life exhibit. And I didn’t even photograph any of the awesome space exploration stuff. Tellus Science Museum has a bunch of other exhibits, too. I didn’t see them all, but I loved what I saw. If you go, you might call ahead to find out the showtimes in the planetarium, because several shows play at different times throughout the day. The Birth of Planet Earth is well worth seeing, and I’d have liked to see the other features if we had more time.

On your way out, you can visit the gift shop and get a cuddly ammonite and a few of his stuffed trilobite friends!

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If you can’t make it to Georgia any time soon, Amazon also carries critters from this plush toy line called Paleozoic Pals.

more free comics

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Just when I’d wrapped up a series of posts about the big box of free comics I got thanks to readers who used my affiliate links to find books at MyComicShop.com, another note from the retailer arrived to say I’d earned an additional $80 in store credit. That same week, I’d found a good deal on eBay to replace one of my favorite (and previously sold) action/crime series, DC/Vertigo’s The Losers, so I was left with very few holes in my collection. The Dark Horse Conan stories I’d like to read again were either too pricey or currently out of stock, so I dug around in my short boxes until it hit me: I still don’t have the complete original Miracleman series!

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Over the years, I’d tracked down affordable copies in respectable condition of issues #1–20, and this quest was aided near the end by Marvel’s reprints of the original series. As Marvel made new, high-quality reprints available, the ridiculous prices for the original books decreased. Issue #15, one of the last gems to enter my collection, used to run from $150 up to several hundred bucks, for example. Now I have a copy in wonderful, though not perfect, condition, and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

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I didn’t worry too much about collecting issues #21–24 because Marvel reprinted #21 and 22 in their repackaging of Neil Gaiman’s Golden Age storyline, and it seemed that Gaiman was slated to finish the Silver Age story that ended with a cliffhanger and was never completed due to Eclipse Comics’ demise. But here we are, years later, and we still haven’t seen the end of that story. I’m glad for Gaiman’s recent success with American Gods, but it isn’t a project that interests me. The gods I want to read about have “Miracle” in their names!

So, armed with some store credit, I picked up issues #21-23 of the original series, leaving me with only the rare (and still a bit pricey) #24 on my wish list. I’ve read them all before, thanks to scans posted online, but it’s just a different and more satisfying experience to read the physical copies. (You can find scans of the original series at https://readcomiconline.to/Comic/Miracleman-1985)

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Those three books ate up most of my store credit, but I had just enough left over to pick up another story I’ve read before but was partially incomplete in my collection: The Price by Jim Starlin. Sure, I have the color “remastered” version that was the Dreadstar Annual, but I have never seen nor owned the original magazine-sized black-and-white edition, and I just love the black-and-white painted art of the original Metamorphosis Odyssey that appeared in Epic Illustrated and started the whole Dreadstar saga.

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The original art reveals just how much the coloring/painting process enhanced the artwork’s mood and the story’s vibrancy. The original feels cold compared to the color version. It lacks the brilliant reds of the robes worn by members of the Church of the Instrumentality, the eye-popping colors that bring various cosmic and mystical energies to life on the page, and the powerful emotions suggested by the reprint’s color artwork.

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However, the front and back-cover paintings are rendered in their original full-color and full-size glory, unlike in the reprint where they are shrunk and surrounded by additional cover elements that distract from their beauty—a complaint that at least one reader expressed in the original letters column of Dreadstar when the Annual was discussed.

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I’m pleased to now have both versions of The Price in my Dreadstar collection, and the original was the one piece I’ve felt was missing over the years. How I assembled, lost, and re-assembled the entire original series four times is a saga of collector triumph and tragedy, but I’m happy to now have every issue I ever wanted from one of my all-time favorite stories in any medium.

Now if we could just see the end of Miracleman, all would be right with the universe.

Thank you, readers and fans of sequential art for visiting this site and using it to find the books you want!

Collectors’ Guide:

Miracleman #1-24 (original 1985 series, Eclipse Comics)

Miracleman (reprint series by Marvel Comics, includes original issues #1-16)

Miracleman Golden Age (reprint series by Marvel, includes original issues #17-22 )

The Price (original magazine-sized b&w edition, Eclipse Comics)

Dreadstar Annual #1 (full-color reprint of the original, Epic/Marvel comics)

 

July Ebook Giveaway!

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From now through July 31, you can get the following ebooks absolutely free on Smashwords:

Meteor Mags: The Battle of Vesta 4 and Other Tales

Meteor Mags: Omnibus Edition

Never See the Night

The Baby and the Crystal Cube

Three Years Dreaming: A Memoir

Anything Sounds Like a Symphony: Poetry at Maximum Volume

Animal Inside You: Poems of Chaos and Euphoria