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.

 

indie box: Metalzoic

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This is the second time a book published by DC Comics has broken the rules and earned a place in my indie short box. This time, it’s Metalzoic by the legendary team of Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill, and there’s not much about it you can call “mainstream”. Metalzoic takes place in a future where the Earth is ruled by intelligent, mechanical beasts patterned after modern and prehistoric animals — and boy, do they love to fight!

Yes, you just witnessed a brutal showdown between a gorilla with a saw blade on his head, and a lion with a chainsaw for a tongue and metal skis for feet. Do I really need to say anything about the story’s plot, or is that cool enough for you? Two of my favorite pages show a shark attacking a caravan of wooly mammoths during a trek across the ice.

It’s like some sort of psychotic nature special! I can almost hear David Attenborough narrating it for a BBC documentary.

O’Neill always delivers wonderfully twisted artwork, but he pulls out all the stops to illustrate Metalzoic‘s endless mecha-menagerie.

The story is interesting, especially since the main character — the saw-blade gorilla — is a brutal, amoral hell-raiser whose brawn and ferocity might be the only thing standing between the Earth and total destruction.

And just look at him go!

When all this takes place and how it came to be are slowly revealed throughout the story. We don’t get a clear timeline until about 50 pages in. It might have been helpful to see a historic summary earlier in the story, so here it is.

If you’re like me, and you wish Godzilla movies would cut out most of the human-related nonsense and just show more monster fights, then this 64-page epic adventure is the book for you!

Collector’s Guide: Metalzoic; DC Comics Graphic Novel #6, 1986. Though it’s often out of stock at MyComicShop, you can usually find it on Amazon for between $15 and $30.

indie box: A History of Violence

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This week’s pick from the short box of indie comics takes us once again into the world of crime fiction. A History of Violence from John “Judge Dredd” Wagner and Vince Locke really puts the “novel” in “graphic novel”, telling a deeply detailed story in its nearly 300 pages. I read it years ago but didn’t see the film until this summer. The book was more satisfying, especially the ending, which is a visceral punch to the gut in print but completely re-written and watered down for the film.

So, let’s start at the beginning, because A History of Violence opens with murderous intent.

Pretty soon, the murderers stop for a bite to eat in typical, small-town America, where everything is quaint, peaceful, and family-friendly. But when they try to start trouble at the local diner, the dude at the counter decides homie don’t play that shit, and he totally destroys them.

Diner dude wastes these guys and becomes a local celebrity. There, the story gets bogged down with scenes of his resultant interactions with the yuk-yuks from Anywhere, USA as they fawn over him at little-league games and other scenes I could skip. But this shift in the hero’s calm, daily life gets kicked up a notch when the leader of a criminal organization recognizes diner dude in a newspaper article, and decides to visit.

This scene begins a gradual reveal of diner dude’s past, and how he came to be involved with the underworld in his youth and eventually assumed a new identity so he could live a pastoral life in Generic, USA. The middle third of the book tells that story as a flashback, and it’s almost as much fun as the part in the Godfather novel where we flashback to Vito Corleone’s rise to power in his youth.

The first time I read A History of Violence, I couldn’t put it down. But upon re-reading, I could have done without so many extended, dialogue-heavy scenes of regular folks standing or sitting around while having an interpersonal drama. It often feels like this could be a real barnburner of a tale if we could just cut some of the “normal folks chatting in a mild state of distress” scenes, and get into the absolutely fucked-up criminal world that really drives the plot and drama. And by “absolutely fucked up”, I mean pages like this:

Earlier, I implied I didn’t like the movie, but mostly what I hated were the changes to the ending. In fact, the film did a better job portraying the shoot-out on diner dude’s lawn where his son was involved, and the film had a somewhat tighter pace. Also, Ed Harris as the eyeless criminal guy totally rocks.

I’m a bit ambivalent about the art in this story. The panel layouts and the visual storytelling of both quiet conversations and brutal conflict are top-notch, but I can’t escape the feeling that that I am looking at a sketch of the story instead of the final version. The art is very scratchy, and while it has a visceral power, after a couple hundred pages I started wishing another inker would come along and tighten it up. On the other hand, this is a gritty and compelling story once you get into it, and a gritty visual style suits it well.

Fans of crime fiction should read A History of Violence at least once because, despite its flaws, it is a dramatic and emotional journey that not even the film could match, and it isn’t a story you will soon forget. The original edition is long out of print, but the 2005 reprint will run you about $20.

Collector’s Guide: A History of Violence; 2005 reprint edition, Paradox Press.

indie box: Hieroglyph

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This week’s pick from the short box of indie comics comes from Ricardo Delgado, whose Age of Reptiles is among my all-time favorite comic books. Hieroglyph delivers Delagado’s signature style of primarily visual storytelling with vast landscapes and non-verbal drama, only in a science-fiction setting on a faraway planet.

This four-issue series published by Dark Horse is full of visual splendor, as a lone explorer seeks to understand a distant planet and the unusual beings who inhabit it — and, along the way, make some really awful decisions and narrowly escape with his life several times.

Part of the fun of this series — and something which was commented on many times in the letters pages — is that we don’t really know what the deal is with the alien beings and all their activities, their strange and massive temples, and their relationships to each other. We experience the planet and its inhabitants the same way the explorer does: with incomplete information, leaving us to try to work out the meaning for ourselves.

The fourth issue of Hierolgyph is the problematic one, because it undermines exactly what made the first three issues so much fun. Eventually, a recurring alien character appears at the explorer’s ship and — lo and behold — it has sorted how to speak English, and it launches into exposition to explain everything we’ve seen so far. I don’t know if this was an editorial decision or an authorial one, but I would have been much happier with just about any other ending that did not involve aliens expositing in English.

Despite fumbling the ball in the fourth quarter, Hieroglyph is an intriguing read for most of its run, and Delgado’s ability to portray the feelings and reactions of both human and non-human characters through purely visual means is without peer. You can have it for only $3 or $4 per issue.

Collector’s Guide: Hieroglyph #1-4; 1999, Dark Horse.

more mixes added

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I added a few more music mixes to the archive page for my streaming sets. While hard rock is my favorite thing (set 57: Dolls, and set 58: Softly), I also love music from India (set 59: Hard Raga), and Africa (set 60: Africa). Tune in and blow your mind!

indie box: Down

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Like last week’s pick from the short box of indie comics, this week features another crime story with a bad-ass female lead. Down is a four-issue series by Warren Ellis with art from Tony Harris and Cully Hamner, and its portrayal of a police officer infiltrating a violent criminal organization reminds me in some ways of one of my favorite films: The Departed by Martin Scorsese. Down isn’t quite as complex, as the fast pace and tight focus relentlessly blaze through the story up until the bitter end. But like The Departed, this story doesn’t end where you think it will.

Down puts our leading lady into the middle of a conflict between crooked cops and even more crooked gangsters, and every step of the journey takes her into increasingly questionable decisions about just whose side she is on. In her quest to get close to the criminal leader, she is forced to consider just how far she is willing to go to maintain her cover.

Down has a high body count and graphic violence, but I feel the real intensity takes place around just how much her experiences deform and re-define the protagonist’s conception of who she is and what role she wants to play in life. At some point, she realizes she has crossed a line she can never step back over and return to normalcy, and her only option is to choose a new path of her own design.

It’s one of my favorite of Ellis’ short works, and all the better because it doesn’t end with a big explosion, a convention he tended to over-use when he seemed to be cranking out a new series every week. It’s a fun read if you like crime fiction and bad-ass women, and you can get it for about $2 an issue.

Collector’s Guide: Down #1-4; 2005, Image.

indie box: Felon

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Today’s pick from the short box of indie comics is Felon, a four-issue series from the mind of Greg Rucka, who is known for both his crime stories and his preference for writing female lead characters. I have a few other Rucka gems to share with you later, but they all feature a detective as the main character, and this one follows the adventures of a remorseless criminal.

She’s a bad-ass without being an over-the-top action hero, and even though we are sympathetic to her because her crew screwed her over, she isn’t exactly role-model material. She’s concerned about one thing, and one thing only, and this focus on her goal is apparent from page one. She is released from prison and only has three words to say:

She sticks to this simple, direct goal through three issues of violence, and the plot is pretty straight-forward, even when a new heist enters the picture. But the drive, the unrelenting focus she maintains, and her subordination of any empathy or morality to the intensity of her avarice made a huge impression on me. Felon influenced my own stories about an unrepentant female criminal who constantly smokes cigarettes and blasts anyone who gets in her way, so I owe Rucka and company a debt of gratitude.

But it’s the fourth issue that really blows my mind. The third issue brings an end to the heist story, and you wonder what’s next, but then Rucka turns the world upside down. The fourth issue introduces a female detective who is on the trail of our leading lady, completely switches to her point of view, and shows how her focus on the case destroys her personal life. Also, the first three issues are full color, but the fourth is black and white. The titular felon only appears in flashbacks related by other characters, such as a scene that recalls one of her robberies and demonstrates just how cold she can be.

Felon is a quick read but a fun one if you love crime fiction and bad-ass women, and you can get it for about $2 an issue.

Collector’s Guide: Felon #1-4; 2001, Top Cow.

indie box: Lords of the Cosmos #3

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Today’s pick from the short box of indie comics features an issue that doesn’t even exist yet! But it will soon, because the Kickstarter for Lords of the Cosmos #3 is now underway, and it is the tenth Kickstarter from Jason Lenox, whose work first appeared on this blog about six years ago.

Let’s have a sneak preview of artwork from a series Jason describes as a “sci-fi and fantasy comic for fans of He-Man, Thundercats, Heavy Metal, and Flash Gordon!”

The 1980s nostalgia is strong with Lords of the Cosmos. Jason says, “Take all your retro action figure and geek-out fantasies, throw them in a blender with some cheap tequila, put that bad boy on high, and drink whatever mangled, gnarled mess comes out!”

If that sounds the comic-book cocktail you crave, visit the Lords of the Cosmos Kickstarter to reserve your copy and more fun bonuses!

indie box: Scene of the Crime

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This week’s pick from the indie box isn’t even indie, having been published by DC Comics, but it has an indie feel and showcases the talents of two future superstars. Scene of the Crime is an early collaboration between Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark, who would later do an amazing run together on Daredevil at Marvel.

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Scene of the Crime follows the adventures of a private investigator as he unravels an increasingly sinister and fucked-up story, and I wanted to love it. It would probably make a solid movie. But after the second issue, I was flipping through pages to see the big reveal. The narration in the captions starts in first gear on page one and never really accelerates, and the art is sometimes too clean when it could use more grit and grime.

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Scene of the Crime faces a structural problem in that we as readers get hints that the investigator has some past tragedy, but we don’t get told what it is until the final pages. This makes it feel more like a postscript than something crucial to understanding the character’s motivations, and by the time we get there, the main story is basically over. So, did it really matter? It feels like it didn’t.

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Despite its flaws, Scene of the Crime is a glimpse into the early days of a writer and artist team who eventually crafted tightly-wound, tense crime stories. The four-issue series shows the team has the ability to tell a complex tale of crime and mystery, and I see it as a stepping stone to later masterpieces such as the Brubaker/Lark run on Daredevil and Brubaker’s epic collaboration with Sean Phillips on Criminal, one of my all-time favorite comic book series.

Collector’s Guide: Scene of the Crime; DC Comics, 1999

Son of Big Box of Comics: Turtles, Surfers, and Science-Fiction Mayhem

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The big box of comics series is a tribute to the fun things I wouldn’t have in my life without the readers of this blog who help me earn store credit at MyComicShop.com or Amazon.com every time they use my handy “Collector’s Guides” links to make a purchase.

It’s a symbiotic relationship — much like when an alien symbiote bonds to your nervous system and drinks your adrenaline for survival.

Actually, it’s nothing like that, but you could read that story in the Spectacular Spider-man TPB #1 by Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos.

This month, thanks to readers’ generosity, I put together a run of inexpensive reprints of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2–5, courtesy of IDW’s “Color Classics” versions of early TMNT. A few months ago, readers helped me reunite with the ridiculous majesty of TMNT #6, and I couldn’t go on without reading the preceding issues at least one more time!

Was it fun? Oh, hell yes. But maybe not as great as I remember from my black and white collections or the original colorized graphic novels from First. IDW’s coloring is part of that, since they put dark colors over the original Zip-a-Tone midtones, and obscuring the mid-range tends to flatten the artwork and make it less dynamic. Also, one of the pages in one issue seems to be a misprint that duplicates a page from earlier in the story.

But in terms of being an affordable way to read the Turtles’ earliest adventures, these reprints did the job admirably. Because #6 is one of my all-time favorite comics, I enjoyed reliving the outrageous plot that led up to it, and seeing how the storytelling evolved and improved in the early days. As a bonus, I got a few issues from the second volume of Color Classics, including a solo Michelangelo adventure in a kind of Lone Wolf & Cub fantasy of feudal Japan mixed with mystic lizard demons from hell. That issue includes one of my favorite Turtles pages:

Also from the second volume, a color version of an issue of the Return to New York story that’s a favorite of mine.

Along with the batch of ninja nostalgia, I picked up some bargain-priced Fine copies of Paul Chadwick’s The World Below. It’s no secret I love Chadwick’s Concrete series. World Below and its sequel, the four-issue Deeper and Stranger, don’t have the same depth of storytelling and lush rendering as Concrete, but they are a fun romp through Chadwick’s science-fiction imagination.

I like the sequel better than the first series. The sequel uses black and white art with no color, which is almost always how I prefer to see Chadwick’s art. And, the first series suffered from too many flashbacks trying to make me care about characters I never properly met, since the story started right in the middle of the action. Each time a character faced a crisis I wasn’t invested in, the character flashed back to a similar situation in their early life to beat me over the head with how huge an emotional deal it all was. That didn’t work for me.

Also, I could have lived without seeing the characters say, “eff this” and “eff you, you effing effer” instead of using the actual profanity. Those pages in World Below #3 were physically painful to read, and even old-school characters like F@%$ would have been preferable.

It seems to me that if your dialogue depends on using the word “fuck”, then you should probably just say “fuck”.

The narrative problems (mostly) smooth out in the sequel, which has my favorite issue of the series and an unexpected ending that blew my mind. Deeper and Stranger fulfills the promise of the first World Below and the tagline on those covers: the deeper you go, the stranger it gets!

Finally, this month’s box of comics included a favorite from my Avengers collection that I sold off a few years ago. Recently, someone commented on my old post about the Stern/Buscema/Palmer run on Avengers in the 1980s. It reminded me that while I basically memorized those issues after reading them so many times, Avengers #266 featuring the Silver Surfer really needed to come back to my modest “Avengers favorites” collection.

Let’s get this out of the way right now: the issue is a post-script to one of the most god-awful, tragic dumpster fires Marvel produced in the 1980s: Secret Wars II. Don’t even get me started.

But this issue focuses on two powerful beings—one a respected hero, and one a reviled villain—who need to work together to heal a cataclysmic wound in the Earth before the planet falls apart and kills everyone. All in 32 ad-free pages, in which the fate of the world might depend on one total nerd’s desire to watch sitcom re-runs with his girlfriend instead of letting the disaster take its fatal course. It’s so insane!

This issue has many examples of Stern’s dialogue that endeared me to his Avengers. Namor and Hercules bust each other balls like only gods can do, but below their arguing I sense a mutual respect born of the knowledge that they are both beings of power, and maybe they need each other to call each other out sometimes to help keep their rages in check.

She-Hulk isn’t turned off at all by Hercules’ temper tantrums; she flatters him and straight-up asks him to dinner, which is almost as awesome as that time she hooked up with Juggernaut. Jennifer’s a being of great power, too, and she seems perfectly comfortable and relaxed about it.

Hercules’ thoughts on nobility and heroism after the villain supposedly “loses his powers” while saving the Earth — also a lovely piece of internal dialogue.

But my favorite part is the final scene where the villain reveals he never lost his powers at all, and that the hero was complicit in this deception.

But why?

The Silver Surfer’s comment on courage and vulnerability really sums up what I love about this Avengers run. Sure, it’s all fun and games in spandex with lots of punching and the fate of the universe at stake, and there’s no shortage of expositional thought balloons. But every now and then, Stern’s humanistic and thoughtful depictions of his characters meld with John Buscema’s and Tom Palmer’s artwork to create high points of visual literature.

You know what? I might need to reclaim a few more of my favorite story arcs from this run — especially the Kang saga and the assault on Avengers Mansion.

That’s it for September’s big box of free comics, and I am excited to tell you about the October box that is on its way!

cover songs from the archives

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These two tracks are from a pair of live performances in 2002 in Depot Town, a small commercial/arts area in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I’d love to release them on an album, but I don’t want to mess with obtaining commercial rights to sell my versions of the original songs. So, here they are, free of charge.

The first is a cover of I Had a Chance by Morphine. I kept the lyric but re-tooled the music. Click to listen or download the MP3.

The second is a medley of two songs: Cactus by the Pixies, and The Letter by Joe Cocker. I took some liberties with the key and the chords. Click to listen or download the MP3.

Though I’ve never been a talented singer, I had a lot of fun in 2002 as a ‘solo act’ with my old Epiphone acoustic guitar, playing and singing in galleries, record stores, and other low-key venues. I still have her, though she’s worn from years of use and abuse, and the top is cracked from banging on it like a drum during an overly enthusiastic performance of Had My Chance. A couple years ago, I took her apart, painted her black, and reassembled her, and now she sounds about as good as she ever did.

The two concerts took place at Dreamland Theater and a record store across the street, whose name I can’t recall. They were recorded by Craig Baker, who passed away a year or two later. He was a regular on the same open mic circuit I frequented, and we had many great conversations about life, art, and music. I’m grateful that he volunteered for the job, because I’d have no record of these shows if not for his generosity.

indie box: Tales of the Cherokee

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Today’s pick from the box of indie and small-press comics is Tales of the Cherokee. Let’s have a look at Gene Gonzales’ illustrated version of the Cherokee creation myth in “How the World Was Made.” Dig that splash page featuring the worlds above and below!

Below is another tale, a Cherokee love story Gene calls “The Origin of Strawberries.”

Collector’s Guide:
– From Tales of the Cherokee #1, Mandalay Books 2001.

To see current works by Gene Gonzales, visit
http://www.genegonzales.com and http://www.genegonzales.blogspot.com

preview: small flowers, part 3

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Small Flowers will be the twentieth episode in The Adventures of Meteor Mags and Patches. I’ve posted previews of Part 1 and Part 2. Part 3 advances a major sub-plot about the free-energy technology Mags and her friend Slim invented, and Mags’ desire to bring the interplanetary corporations to their knees by distributing free power throughout the solar system. This current draft, according to my workshop group, needs updated with some physical description of the device in question, but I am saving that for my final revisions. It’s a fun couple of scenes anyway, and the first scene is written in Mags’ voice.

Part Three: Reenergize

January 2030. From the Letters of Meteor Mags.

If you ask Shondra, she’ll insist I dropped by Mars just to see her. But as much as I love that little sneak, she had some things I needed, and I don’t mean those kinds of things. I mean the prototype for my energy system.

Shondra had her crews working on it day and night for a month. At the same time, she tried to reverse engineer the K Drive, the stealth system my guys pulled from Kaufman’s ship for the Bêlit. I wanted a copy for the Hyades first. And if it passed muster, then as many of the damn things as I could get my hands on. When you make a living stealing stuff, an invisible pirate fleet sounds too good to pass up.

Shondra said she tested her K Drive on some cargo ships the size of the Hyades, and she had it all crated up with installation instructions. I looked them over and figured Lonso could handle it. He’s pretty amazing.

Shondra looked pretty amazing, too, in her white coveralls, striking a pose by the crates. I let her kiss and pet me way longer than I should have.

Then she explained the problem with the energy system. Her crews hadn’t tested it all. They couldn’t on Mars. That would draw too much attention. And they hadn’t any time to take it to a deserted asteroid.

I told her not to worry. I had just the asteroid for the job.

Vesta.

Shondra showed a genuine look of concern, and that was touching. She’s got a good heart, even if I don’t entirely trust her mind. She practically begged me to find another test site, and not to turn on the system myself.

But I checked the blueprints and the parts, and it was built just the way Slim said it should be. If I can’t trust Slim, who the hell can I trust?

Goddess, I miss him.

Frankly, this thing scares me a lot less than the K Drive, which is basically made of electronics that shouldn’t even exist. But the energy system is basic. We made two rods out of a new element called “ryderium” after my old pal Ryder, goddess rest his soul.

Once we place one rod each at two opposing poles on the planetoid, a tiny generator kickstarts a wave that bounces back and forth between the rods. All anyone needs to draw power is their own rod in the ground. The SlimRod comes with a converter to turn the wave into standard current. The converter tech is simple and open-source. Anyone can build one with basic tools and the right gauge wire.

The prototype is crated up in my armory. Shondra said it’ll either light up Vesta like a motherfucker or blow us all to bits.

Me at least. Patches should be fine.

That’s why she gets to turn it on.

January 2030. Vesta 4.

“Everything’s hooked up,” said Donny. “At least, anything that looks like it works.” He and Fuzzlow had spent hours reconnecting electronic systems in Mags’ old private hangar to the new energy converter.

The open door to the hangar revealed the darkness inside. Though the interior was as black as the inside of a coffin, the smuggler’s feline eyes picked up details in the starlight from her spot outside the building. At her feet, a rod in the ground. In her arms, her best friend.

“Good,” she said. “You two take the ship into orbit and wait for us to call.”

“Mags,” said Fuzzlow. “Come with us to a safe distance. Please. Patches can handle this on her own.”

Mags stood her ground. “Patches and I are in this together. End of discussion. But if I die, bury me in my leather pants and my favorite black bra. And those black heels with the straps on them.”

For all Fuzzlow knew, she might have been talking about any one of a hundred pairs of shoes. “You bet,” he said. “If we find anything left of you.”

“Close enough,” said Mags. “Now get going. Fair winds.”

What Mags felt when the ship lifted away from the asteroid and became a speck in a sky filled a billion specks wasn’t loneliness, but it was close. “It’s just you and me, Patches. Are you ready?” She knelt and poured the fluffy calico out of her arms onto the rocky Vestan surface. “Do the honors.”

Patches said something only Mags could understand. She stood on her hind legs and wrapped her forepaws over the generator switch. She peered over her shoulder and mewed. Her whiskers twitched in the stillness.

“I know. It’s either the dawn of a new age, or the end of an era. Don’t keep me in suspense.”

Patches gripped the switch and, with all her strength, pulled it toward the ground.

Only the echo of the switch clicking into place filled the silence. Regolith floated across the asteroid. The stony crags and hills made no comment.

Mags held herself erect and refused to believe nothing had happened. Then she knelt and picked up Patches. “You did great, dear. Just give it a second.”

While they cuddled, a low hum arose, like an electric bass note sustained and oscillating all around them.

“Here it comes, baby!”

A forceful clunk from inside the hangar answered her. One by one and then in clusters, lights came on inside. Computer systems re-booted and added their glow to the display. A radio kicked on and started blasting Detroit punk.

“It works!” Mags’ shout tumbled into laughter. “A-hahahaha! It works!” She cradled Patches with one arm and pulled a joint from a pouch at her waist. She held one end against the SlimRod until the tip smoldered and turned a bright red. Mags puffed. “The rods get a little hotter than expected. But this will do just fine.”

She carried Patches to the hangar’s entrance and gloried in the brightness she had reclaimed from dark. “This wouldn’t be possible without Slim.” She lifted her eyes to the stars. “I love you, buddy. Always will. Good job.” To Patches, she said, “Now let’s see what happens when we make a whole lot more.”

preview: small flowers, part 2

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Small Flowers will be the twentieth episode in The Adventures of Meteor Mags and Patches. In July, I posted a preview of Part 1. Part 2 takes us to the reconstruction of Ceres, and it concludes with the following concert scene that unites Mags onstage with her old friend Alonso and the freakish, inter-species band he formed with Mags’ telepathic space octopuses and a tribe of former Soviet space monkeys. Here is the current draft, subject to revision before the story is published.

Meteor Mags strolled on stage in nothing but tattoos and her great-gramma’s ring, and her favorite pair of polarized glasses. The deafening greeting sounded to her like thunderstorms and ocean waves that broke on her cliffs without eroding a grain of stone.

She dripped sweat along every visible curve. Her skin glistened in the stage lights. She snatched a white Iceman from a stand and gave the guitar a cursory tune-up, arching one eyebrow at Alonso.

He shouted to her.

The crowd drowned his voice.

She heard him anyway. Mags heard him in her head, and the octopuses were in her head, and she was one with Karpov and Shades and all the macaques onstage who stood poised with the wooden rods they used as drumsticks. The crowd was in her mind, and her mind included everyone on Ceres.

She adjusted the guitar strap and gripped the mic. “Oi, Ceres! How the fuck are ya? Who wants to start a revolution?”

Mags laughed at the response. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Listen up, dillrods. When I was here with the Psycho 78s back in ’27—”

She paused for applause, long enough to light up. “I said, the last time I was here, the man tried to shut us down. But you took to the streets and started a fire they will never extinguish. You fuckin’ tore shit up! Yeah!”

She let the cheering go on for a bit. “Tonight, I want you to think about something a lot harder than tearing shit down. I want you to think about putting this asteroid back together. Putting our lives back together. We made a great start the last couple of months, but we’ve got a lot to do. Are you up for it?

“I thought so. As for the mining corporations trying to take over? The politicians selling your rights? The scumbags who want to stop the music? Send this song out to them. I know you know the words.”

On the downstroke of her pick, the band launched into Down on Me by the Hoodoo Gurus. Mags had not rehearsed it with Alonso and his menagerie. She felt her babies with her, and she trusted they would get everyone sorted.

She was not disappointed. Mags squeezed her pick hand between her thighs at the chorus and yelled, “Down on me!” She replaced the original words with anyone she didn’t like. “Port Authority—down on me! CIC—go down on me!”

The crowd echoed her, but it had begun not being a crowd long before the first chorus.

Few humans experience chromesthesia, the sensation where sounds are translated into light by the mind. But to the octopuses swarming in the tank onstage, nothing was more natural. Every frequency became a color. Every waveform, a shape.

Many.

Bright.

Shapes.

Mags found it amusing, the way the octos and the monkeys and Alonso and everyone in the audience merged into one abstract painting of color and emotion. Maybe she should have been scared when the boundaries dissolved and everyone became a swirling mass of music, feeling, and a million shades of the same idea.

But Mags had been tripping her tits off for decades before most of the people in the crowd were born. She took it all in stride. Kaleidoscopic light show? Check. Sharing her feelings with everyone around her? Check. Alonso knowing how to play any song she could imagine? Oh, hell yes!

Mags threw down some tunes she never bothered to practice with her interspecies freakshow. She led the band without pause through Die Motherfucker Die by Dope, Honey Bucket by the Melvins, and City in Flames by Trans Am.

The macaques worked themselves into a drumming frenzy. Wave after crushing wave of rhythm flowed from their drums, a mathematical complexity grounded in something primal, a groove that thousands felt but few could later explain.

Mags ripped her guitar free from its strap and whipped it into the monitor at her feet.

A crash and a wailing feedback.

She stormed off stage.

When the applause refused to stop, she returned. Mags grabbed an acoustic-electric and waved to the monkeys to stand down. She adjusted a capo and strummed chords the band had not rehearsed, but Alonso was right beside her, harmonizing vocal and guitar parts to one of her old favorites.

Neither cared the octopuses made it possible, taking the music from her mind and imparting it to Alonso as if he had known the song all his life.

Over the instrumental break, Mags held on to the mic. “Hate is fuel. Anger is fuel. To make a better world than what we have right now. But I want you to remember something more important than anger. Love.

“That’s right, you sorry hooligans. Love. I need it. You need it. Ceres needs it. It isn’t enough to tear down all the things we hate. The only things that matter—the only things we truly stand for—are the ones we love. They are what we build. Together.”

She did not look at the man on her right. She knew. “Take it, Lonso!”

Alonso took it like he was running out of a burning warehouse.

Mags closed her eyes and backed up his solo without looking at her guitar, even when she belted out the final verse.

indie box: Saurians

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This week’s pick from the short-box of indie and small-press comics deals once again with Unnatural Selection, much like the Elephantmen issues we looked at by Casey & Ladronn. But this pick comes from CrossGen comics and deals with evolutionary developments in the course of a war between humans and reptilians.

From the reptiles’ perspective, they’re the good guys. One of them discovers that by eating the humans, the reptiles get smarter and more adaptable like humans. This change allows them to kick our butts in intergalactic warfare. But the politics and religion of the Saurians make things more complex, as does interpersonal rivalry that can only be solved through sword fights and ass kicking!

Hell, yes! It’s like Mark Waid wrote this one just for me, and the artwork is so much fun though this whole story, from the creative panel layouts to the glorious colors.

Saurians: Unnatural Selection is a two-issue limited series telling the tale of the reptile that first made the discovery that eating people is the smart thing to do for an evil space dinosaur, and even if you never followed CrossGen’s main titles, this is a damn good story!

Collector’s Guide:
– From Saurians Unnatural Selection #2; CrossGen Comics, 2002.

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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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