cassette

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cassette

neither of us was emotionally stable
when she made me a mix tape
in the mid nineties

we listened to it on the highway
without a reason to be there
except for driving at unreasonable volume

two songs on that cassette stayed with me
we die young by alice in chains
and passive restraints by clutch

as just another grunge member of generation x
i should have heard alice in chains before 1997
but i ignored commercial radio all my adult life

we die young retains their hair metal sensibility
while foreshadowing the heavy suicidal brilliance
of subsequent albums

but the clutch tune eclipsed it
combining a description of cars
with sexual power and surrender

expressing things i felt for her
but she felt for someone else
and i should have known that

early clutch riffs are not difficult
beginners can play them
but their ferocity and massive sound remain unmatched

when we saw clutch in pontiac they were just okay
though other times ive seen them
are among my favorite concerts

in hindsight it says a lot about my twenties
not really formed yet as a person
i was in the process of becoming someone else

it didn’t surprise me when layne staley died
he sang about heroin addiction and death
so it felt more predictable than the weather

what really surprised me
was how clutch recorded album after album
blowing away even that first impetus ep

and if i had to pick one perfect rock album
to listen to for the rest of my life
it would be blast tyrant

maybe everyone has an album like that
one that never grows old
no matter how many years go by

ive become more cynical and set in my ways
but every time i hear those songs
i miss her

 

 

 

resident

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resident

before silence erased everything
you could go to bed
with jet engines ringing in your ears

the roaring railway serenade
cacophony of car crash lullabies
then emptiness

now you lie awake in solitude
unable to imagine what came before

not a drop remains
no sine wave nor vibration
only sickening tranquility

no one arrives to set you on fire
and toss the gas can
on your smoldering corpse

no one even remembers
where you live

Kickstart a New Book by Artist Joe Shenton!

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JULY 30 UPDATE: I’m pleased to report this project was fully funded! ~M

Last year, Joe Shenton sent me original artwork for supporting a Kickstarter campaign. I told him I like outer space, pirates, and octopuses, and he created a drawing I absolutely love. UPDATE: You can now buy a high-quality print of this piece from Joe’s Etsy Shop!

joe shenton ink drawing 003

This year, Joe is working on something a little different: producing an illustrated book with an original story, and adding watercolor paints to his ink drawings.

The Last Forest will be a tale about a boy and his fox caught up in a conflict between nature and industry in a future world Joe’s creating by blending fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction.

Here are a couple images from the project’s Kickstarter page. If you like what you see, head over to Joe’s Last Forest Kickstarter Campaign and show him your support! Get there before July 27, because the campaign ends soon.

9643a83687e831e6d7d1a519a55f984a_original

524515a1b17ab89a7df1d11770da136b_original

quarterly report

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Gather round, Martians, and put on some striped socks, because these quarterly reports are serious business.

First, I need to thank the readers, friends, and friends of friends who helped me when I was in dire straits this summer. Things were touch-and-go here for a few months, but your generosity helped me weather the storm.

Just when that storm wore itself out, Martian monsoon season hit, and I was forced to give up the top-secret headquarters that has been my pirate-radio broadcast booth for more than eleven years. I don’t like to blog about my personal problems, but just between you and me and the worldwide web, the only way this year could suck any worse is if Dr. Doom decided to become my personal nemesis.

But as I prepare to set up shop in an all-new lair, I’m reminded to always look on the bright side of life. So, what’s been good about the second quarter of 2018?

The writers’ critique group I started back in February 2017 has been doing quite well. I couldn’t be happier with the three people I chose to be assistant organizers, and they have been the only reason I was able to keep the group going while weathering this year’s storms. My goal was to build the group to the point where I didn’t need to personally handle every single thing at every single meeting, and to have a group that was more about “us” than it was about “me”. Mission accomplished.

Has it been trouble free? No. On average, about once every six months, we get someone who only brings negativity, drama, or rudeness to the group. Then I need to step in to bring down the hammer and remove that person. But that’s taught me something interesting, because in the process I learned that one reason some of these groups don’t last long is that the leaders are afraid to be confrontational and stand up to jerks. So, even on those days where I come up short on people skills, not being afraid to stand up to someone disruptive has turned out to be a useful quality. Maybe being a leader includes being a bouncer if needed.

In other news, a few people said nice things about my recent writings as I’ve workshopped them and performed them at various readings. Some people said my favorite three words: “I love Mags”, which at this point in my life means more to me than if someone were to say they love me. I’m way too into my fictional leading lady of the asteroid belt, so it’s nice when people dig her. Then, a few others said they loved my poetry.

I mention it because these things always surprise me. I just write stuff because I need to write it, or because I need to assemble words in a way that makes me happy and satisfied. Back in my 20s, I got used to no one giving much of a damn about my weird artistic hobbies. Now, when something I made connects with people, I’m basically stunned. I think, “Really? You liked it, too?” It’s the kind of thing that makes me think I should get over being a reclusive bachelor and maybe try to reach a wider audience. Then I think, “Yeah, that might be nice. But really, I just want to finish my next story.” The creation is the fun part for me.

Last month I got a request to use a photo from this blog in a magazine that is interviewing one of my art heroes: Steve Rude. Steve, among other notable accomplishments, was the co-creator of Nexus and the penciller on most of the Nexus issues I absolutely love, even if this blog takes its name from an issue he did not draw. The magazine wanted to use one of my photographs of the Nexus flexi-disc, and I basically told them, “Hell yes, you can use it! And HAIL NEXUS!” I look forward to when that interview issue goes into print, so I can share it with you here.

What else has gone right this quarter? Thanks to readers clicking through my affiliate links, I got enough Amazon store credit to buy some toner cartridges, which are so bloody expensive, and that meant I could keep printing copies of stuff to take to workshop so I can improve as a writer. I also got a little store credit at MyComicShop, but I am waiting to redeem it until I get moved into the new Martian HQ. Thank you, readers, in a big way, because when you make purchases after clicking any of the thousands of comic book, books, and music links in this blog, it’s a lot like sending me a tip. It’s a way of saying, “Thank you, Mars Will Send No More!” And it really makes my day.

A few people contacted me this quarter to ask about a rare and out-of-print Ry Cooder disc that was never made available in the States. This doesn’t happen often—maybe once every couple of months, on average. I keep expecting Ry to send me a nasty email saying, “Stop giving out your mp3 rips of my damn disc,” but it hasn’t happened yet. Instead, a few times a year, I get a chance to connect someone with these wonderful music recordings that are simply not available in my country. Ideally, the album would be put back into print or made available digitally. I don’t know why that hasn’t happened yet, because the album is awesome, and more people in my country should have a chance to enjoy it. Those who ask about it are always super nice, too, and they usually send me grateful follow-up emails saying the album is indeed bloody awesome. It makes me happy to know they enjoyed it.

In my secret identity, I’ve helped several people this quarter get their books in print by contributing editing, design, and self-publishing guidance. Those authors have been incredibly generous in referring others to me so I can build new relationships. My marketing budget is virtually zero, and I survive because of word-of-mouth based on the positive experiences authors have with me. If I am struggling through a challenging week, and then I get an email from one of my authors who tells their friend or colleague how much they loved working with me, it brightens my day.

Just between you and me, I’ve had many jobs where every time the phone rang, I would have rather had a root canal than answer that call. But now that I work with authors who are passionate about making books, I look forward to talking with them. I’ve had stressful days this year where it was a glorious relief to just take a break for an hour or two and talk to someone about creating a book! I love it.

I also got accepted into a second Master degree program thanks to my incredible advisor who smoothed out more paperwork snafus than any advisor should need to. After years of suffering through advisors who seemed hell-bent on either giving me no information or actively giving me the wrong information, I’ve now got one who—get this—actually advises me. It’s amazing! So, on the academic and business frontlines, things are looking good for the next two quarters.

If you made it this far into the post, you’ve digested my 1000 words for the day, and I thank you for dropping by, commenting, liking posts, contributing to discussions of comic books and art, clicking through affiliate links, and being among the coolest bunch of readers a guy could ask for. I wish you all the best for the next quarter, and I look forward to sharing it with you.

in search of the monster riff

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These three audio collages are comprised of song samples chopped up, layered, and re-arranged using only the free software Audacity. They were inspired by an old friend who made mix tapes in the 1980s (and more recently, mix CDs) by stringing together only the most awesome few seconds of each of 99 songs.

My versions of that idea are relentless assaults of drum fills, guitar riffs, screams, beats, memorable lines, and other madness arranged in a way that might only make sense to me but which you might also find kind of groovy.

Click the titles to listen to the mp3 files. Download them if you like.

In Search of the Monster Riff #1

In Search of the Monster Riff #2

In Search of the Monster Riff #3

molt

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

molt

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

concrete crumbles like desiccated skin
letting life push through the cracks

a flower here
an ant hill there

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

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

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

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

tectonics
gravity
and fire

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

pop-up card

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

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

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

pop up card exterior

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

Here’s the interior:

pop up card interior

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

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

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

 

four seconds of fame?

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

Dig it.

ocean

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ocean

against the unconquerable ocean
you remain far from powerless

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

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

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

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

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

polished as smooth and featureless
as a mystery without end

 

 

 

Movies vs. Comic Books: Who Controls Time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

On a less serious note: a video.

Quarterly Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

shelter

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shelter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stories – a brief reflection

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

Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

weightless

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weightless

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

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

is that what you wish for us

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

consider
my counteroffer

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

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

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

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

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

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

where we are forever unknowable
always seen
and never
ever
touched

jams

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

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

Unida: El Coyote.

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

 

Hell Camino: Hell Camino.

I almost always listen to this album back-to-back with its follow-up, Orange Lily, because I love the sound that much. If memory serves correctly, I first heard Hell Camino last year on one of my two favorite Internet radio stations: Desert Sessions Radio. At night (in Arizona time), the station tends to play 60s and 70s rock, but they rarely spin a tune that was already played to death by traditional “classic rock” stations. During the day, the station is thunderously heavy, raining down a constant onslaught of modern bands who trace their family trees back to Black Sabbath. [UPDATE: The Desert Sessions Radio streaming URL seems to have changed recently. Find them online at http://www.jango.com/stations/282639559/tunein]

 

Bullet: The Entrance to Hell.

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

 

Wo Fat: Noche del Chupacabra

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

 

Orange Goblin: Time Travelling Blues.

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

 

Black Angels: Passover.

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

 

anarchy comics

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

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

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

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

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Mars Attacks trading cards

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

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From the 1984 reissue set

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

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from the 1984 reissue set

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

mars attacks cards 11 destroy the city

from the 1984 reissue set

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

mars attacks cards - 41 horror in paris

from the 1984 reissue set

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

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Ouch my brain!

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

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

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

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

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Fun for the whole family!

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

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I like most stories where cats win.

the physicality of feeling

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

Despair & Anger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love & Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Octopuses in space!

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Vicious cats on other planets!

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Space pirates!

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Interplanetary Dinosaurs!

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

 

Retrofuturistic Topps Space Cards from 1958

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72 mysterious mars

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

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

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23 meteor peril

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

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