Thursday, February 19, 2009

Comicbook Rockstar 3: With A Vengeance

Three strikes. Third time's the charm. Three Stooges.

Who the hell am I anyway?
What the hell do I have to say?
Where the hell am I going?

My favorite movies as a kid were Raiders of the Lost Ark, Die Hard and Back to the Future. I even said that I wanted to be an archeologist in my fifth grade yearbook. I think I have it around here somewhere. I got a photo of my face on Indiana Jones' body at Great Adventure and had it printed up on a t-shirt. A shirt my friends would pull out in High School and sport around the halls.

I had all the Back to the Future collectible movie cards in a shoebox, and it was the absolute first ride I made my family go on when we visited Universal studios. I'll see if I can dig up those pics too. And Die Hard, well, I remember a blissful feeling of being like Bruce Willis once when I was playing guns up at my cousin's house, where he lived on a remote court. I had all the neighborhood kids gunning for me, but I was too slick. I came alive with a plastic gun in my hand shooting down the other kids.

I spent my teenage years in Massapequa, Long Island. New York City's parking lot. You know, Strong Island, the Surburban Island off Manhattan. Queens and Brooklyn have totally disavowed being part of us, but it's all the same landmass until the Midtown Tunnel or East River bridges baby.

Massapequa, home to the Baldwin Brothers, Joey Buttafucco, and Steve Guttenberg. And it was/is as suburban as it gets, with a McDonald's every mile, a diner every half mile and a gas station every 20 feet. I smoked Marlboro Reds over some mozzarella fries and gravy after driving out to Long Beach to hang out on the beach all night. I had a paper route at 11 years old, helped deliver soda and candy to train stations all across the island at 13, worked at Adventureland on the kids' teacups (aka the vomitorium), King Kullen, Waldbaum's, K-Mart, Sears, and Jiffy Lube. Eventually, I went to Nassau Comminuty College where I graduated with my Associates Degree after taking every writing course I could.

I'd always been writing. As long as I could remember really. I remember a soap opera-ish, anti-hero drama from junior high, involving my rebellious friend Dennis, and my first girlfriend Nicole. I also re-read recently two short stories from my English class in tenth grade. The first was about a hard boiled detective facing demons summoned to start Armageddon. The other about Sparky, the Wonder Yak, who sought enlightenment and which borrowed heavily from Ren & Stimpy's Shaven Yak. And I recall receiving an award for a short poem that I banged out as an assignment that went to some state level competition. I accepted it almost as an afterthought in my Marvin the Martian t-shirt and jean shorts at the holiday concert.

Oh yeah, and as an aside, I had long hair. Sebastian Bach long hair. I know there's some bad pics floating around. I even won best hair in my high school yearbook. Sigh. Best hair. I had begun growing it out in Junior High after seeing Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. I wanted that Ted S. Preston, Esquire look and it just kept on growing. Besides, the bowl cuts and spiked hair was getting played out.

But I digress.

I always felt like someone who could write, but not a writer in name. I could transform words to help a person experience a situation, even one I had never been in myself, but I had nothing of substance to say. With a handful of pretentious poetry, three scenes from a Tower of Brahma screenplay, and a false start on a sci-fi novel, I pretty much left college and accepted my life as a failed writer. I had nothing to say. No life experience to really share.

My life had been imagined for most of my high school years as I, along with my friends, roleplayed every concievable genre, from cyber-punk to fantasy to Vampire the Masquerade, which I even LARPed once. Once. But the majority of games were superhero which were inspired by the fact that I had found comics just a few years earlier and with a new batch of sci-fi/fantasy-centric friends, I plunged into comic books, and the multiverse of superheroes.

The Burton Batman movie, the GI Joe cartoon, and Mad Magazine had driven me to seek out these so-called books. I had always been an avid reader, often pouring through whatever books I took out of the library before the day was done. I guess my love for comics came when I first started really getting into Garfield, Peanuts, and the rest of strips from the funny pages (I read Brenda Starr for years, and hey, it had a guy with an eye patch in it, and that's cool dammit). I would take the collections of comic strips out of the library and pour through them from the minute we got into the car. So later on, when I saw that Norm Breyfogle Detective comic (404 I think?), that silent issue (85) of GI Joe featuring Storm Shadow as a good guy, and Wolverine 17 & 18 sitting on the racks…I was hooked. I went to 7-11 as often as possible picking up all sorts of books and a batch of Hot Tamales for the bike ride home. I rolled up a Jim Lee Uncanny X-Men and tucked it in my back pocket as I rode my Mongoose BMX home.

Over my teenage years I had the good fortune to be reading comics at their best and yet their worst. I was there as Image burst on the scene and I was there for the late 80's DC for books like The Question and the development of Vertigo. I felt as if my brain would explode every time I devoured another Grant Morrison Doom Patrol, Peter Milligan Shade the Changing Man, or Garth Ennis Hellblazer. Sure, I read all the superhero stuff too. I've been reading the Flash steady since just after Mark Waid jumped on the book and totally turned it around and reinvented the superhero in a post-modern age. I will never forget where I was when I read issue 100 of the Flash where he first discovers the Speed Force (I was in the upstairs lounge of Nassau Community College's library). I thought he was dead. They actually got me. They had moved me.

Nothing else read as fast, or looked as cool, or had as many crazy ideas as these amazing little addictive pamphlets. I resorted to buying $10 worth at the local comic store and tossing $30 in afterwards when no one was looking. I was a junkie and I needed a constant fix. Comics are great for that. Comics are definitely the crack of fiction. A (used to be) cheap fix of mad ideas, stunning art, and deep rooted Freudian/Mythological opera. Not to mention the often dingy and scary places you needed to hit up in order to score.

I gave it up, semi-cold turkey almost two years ago. Sure, I pick up a graphic novel here and there, but I was sportin' a $200 a month habit and in the end that's all it was. A habit. It wasn't fun, it wasn't fresh, and it made me more depressed and took money away from doing anything outside in the real world, with other people. Yes, DVDs and CDs certainly played a major factor in depleting my funds and the consumption of my time, but that was a separate $100 a month habit all its own. But damn if I didn't read some mind altering comics and see some kick ass Hong Kong flicks in that time.

These are things I did and sought out to take up my time. I always thought you could see an intriguing pattern in the likes and interests of a person when you take a close look at them. I'm not sure what my entertainment really says about me anymore, and in a lot of ways I've stopped worrying about it. These things are supposed to be fun distractions from a often cold, and cruel reality. For too long I had myself under a microscope, or like a detective following clues to determine who I was and what I stood for, and where exactly I was underneath the debris of thirty long, white, comic book boxes.

Coming out of your hole and piecing together your life seems so obviously simple in the end. I just stopped reading and started writing. Whatever I needed to go through, whatever battle within my head I needed to survive, I survived it and came out writing. It was ugly and unrewarding a lot of the times, but that's not that point is it? How many people really become stars after winning on Star Search? It has to be done for the love of doing it, or it has to be done in order to save yourself. That joy, pain, and hunger that drive creative types to creatin', that's what's real in this world, and that's what gets you where you want to be.

I have an idealistic view of humanity and want a creative revolution to be born of these fertile times we live in. We live in a world that in many ways is becoming more and more fictional every single day. PR, spin, and celebrity worship guide our daily routines, and are involved in the epic wars, disasters, and personal madness that plague us all. It's my intent to help as far as I can. Ego aside, I know I have the ability to write, but what nearly killed my passion to write was a lack of direction and purpose. I don't know if I have the answers to help people, but I know that I needed help and I did it for myself by utilizing my talent as often as possible.

The more I write, the better my life becomes. Coincidence?

Ahhh, this all seems like trite psychobabble in retrospect. Some nostalgia wrapped around a fat, hard to swallow pill. Maybe it'll flow more naturally next time. Maybe not.

But you gotta keep going, right?


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