Beloved Comic Book Writers (Who are rather Odd)

If variety is the spice of life, as the saying goes, some people are very spicy indeed. Which is good, I like spicy stuff.

Gimme some of that!

One of the spiciest worlds is that of the creative arts – from art to literature to theater to film and television, and even to the comic book industry, you will find some very unusual people littering the crowd. People like…

Stan Lee

The Man:

The one comic book writer most non-nerds have heard of, he is a household name across America and among millions around the world. From the late 1950s to the mid-1970s Stan created or co-created many of Marvel’s most well-known superheroes: Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor, and so on.

In recognition of his importance in the comic book world, most Marvel movies in the past decade have given him brief cameos:

The Oddities:

As you may know, Sony is currently filming a Spider-Man reboot due out next year. I read online that Stan Lee liked the reboot, and thought, “Well, it must be good if the creator likes it.”

Then I learned that Stan Lee also liked the Japanese version of Spider-Man, where our hero gets his powers from an alien and pilots a giant robot.

Okay, um… uh…..

And did I mention he made a cartoon in 2004 called “Stripperella“, where our hero’s mild-mannered alter ego is… you guessed it… a stripper. He also proposed a similar cartoon starring Ringo Starr. As in, the Beatle.

Then, in 2006, he hosted and judged a reality-TV competition show called “Who Wants to be a Superhero“, where a bunch of really odd people wearing homemade costumes compete to get a comic book made about them.

Yeah. This guy is odd.

Alan Moore

The Man:

Having just covered the most beloved name in Marvel, it is only fair for me to turn to my favorite writer for DC.

Moore is British by birth, and his nationality shows in his work. He is less about action and violence, and more about intrigue and the psychology of the characters. If most American comic books read like an episode of CSI or Bones, Moore’s work reads like a James Joyce or Agatha Christie novel (albeit much, much darker). And his work is treated in the comic book world like classics, as he has written some of DC’s most beloved stories:

The Oddities:

First off, he looks like this –

If you saw him on the street, you'd assume he was homeless.

So there is that.

Then there is the fact he is a self-professed anarchist, and his desire to become a shaman/magician.

“One word balloon in From Hell completely hijacked my life… A character says something like, ‘The one place gods inarguably exist is in the human mind’. After I wrote that, I realised I’d accidentally made a true statement, and now I’d have to rearrange my entire life around it. The only thing that seemed to really be appropriate was to become a magician.”

-Alan Moore

That’s right. He has decided to dedicate his life to something he wrote in one of his comic books. It’s hard to get more odd than that.

Kevin Eastman

The Man:

Four words. Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles.

The Oddities:

So, what does the creator of one of the most profitable franchises in America, beloved by children everywhere, do with his life next?

Apparently, become the editor of Heavy Metal, a graphic novel magazine. And by graphic, I mean PORNOGRAPHIC.

I am not joking. The magazine’s pages are filled with fantasy and sci-fi comic porn. I dare not link to its home page for that reason.

Then there is the fact that he is married to a model. Then you find out that the Ninja Turtles comic books were originally not kid-friendly at all, but filled with violence and gore. I am forced to conclude Eastman is actually a rock star wannabe. The odd thing about him seems to not be him, but that parents and children liked his work.

Jhonen Vasquez.

The Man:

Actually, this guy’s work is pretty darn odd already. He created Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Squee!, Invader Zim, and I Feel Sick, all of which are very strange, warped, and bizarre on their own. Naturally, the guy who came up with this stuff must be bizarre as well.

The Oddities:

Take a look at his Twitter feed if you dare. Here are a sample of his actual tweets –

“I feel bad for people that actually have to buy a product named ‘Beano’. It’s like buying a box of ‘Help Me I Am Farting Myself to Death’.”

“AHHAHAH! My robot slave just asked “What, Master, is autonomy?” They’re always cutest just before you gotta pre-emptively melt em’ down.”

“Went rollerskating today after decades away from the activity and found it’s like riding a bike, or smashing a little girl into a wall.”

“Good friends are hard to come by, but fortunately this taco truck makes eating tacos made from friend-meat just a bit easier.”

I… I just don’t know what to say to that.

Information from Wikipedia.

 

The strangest things people nostalgify.

Nostalgia is a weird thing. The 1960s were an incredibly intense time… the world came close to being annihilated in a nuclear shootout, and social convulsions and riots rocked America to its core. Yet we think of those years as some sort of “golden age”, with retro throwbacks to that era in everything from interior design to Hollywood.

But at least nostalgia for those years makes sense. That was the decade we made it to the moon, “peace and love” was the catchphrase of the day, and optimism about the future abounded.

Also, lots of pretty, pretty colors.

But some things people nostalgify make no sense to me. Like…

The Civil War

This year is the 150th anniversary of the conflict that claimed more American lives than any other. It was a brutal, bloody conflict, made worse by the fact that the Union and Confederate armies had highly-advanced weapons yet fought like it was still the Napoleonic Wars, marching in nice, neat rows in open fields. And the medicine of the day couldn’t really handle the wounds these advanced weapons caused, and many more people died of infection and disease than the bullet that hit them.

Now, just relax. I'm going to saw off your leg.

Yet, somehow, this great American tragedy has become the weekend hobby of people across the nation. I’m sure you’ve seen those people who dress up in blue or grey uniforms. They will gather in public parks and reenact some battle, acting like they’re having a grand old time.

The weird part is, you never see people doing this for other wars. When was the last time, besides watching the History Channel, you saw people reenacting Vietnam? Or the War of 1812? Or World War II? I don’t get it.

The Great Depression

The Waltons. Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Seabiscuit. All of these Hollywood movies about what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation”.

When you walk into Home Town Buffet you see this on the wall:

The Great Depression is probably up there with the 1960s as the decade we like to nostalgify the most. We look back on those “innocent” years fondly, when times were supposedly simpler. Life was all baseball and swimming holes and the New Deal, according to our society’s collective memory.

Actually, the great depression looked more like this:

I suppose enough said.

The Cultural Revolution

You may remember the Cultural Revolution from my biography on Deng Xiaoping. Essentially, Mao Zedong created a period of state-sponsored chaos and civil war over ideological purity. Many people died, while many more were tortured, imprisoned in faraway camps, and scarred both physically and psychologically.

Yet to today’s Chinese youth, these years evoke nostalgia. People take vacations to see the camps where their parents were imprisoned. There are Cultural Revolution-themed restaurants where tourists can be play-tormented by the Chinese pals.

A good time, I guess?

Then there is this:

Yeah, I have no idea what that was, either.

Nazis. Freaking Nazis.

Do a Google Image search of “Nazi Chic” if you dare, but be warned that it will give you nightmares.

If you do, you will notice lots of Asian faces in those pictures. This is because Nazi chic is apparently popular among rebellious youth in Japan. I guess that makes sense, since Japan was on their side in the war. But seriously, guys. They’re Nazis! What is wrong with you?

Slip the collar and run! My adventure with a lost dog

So, I was house-sitting for a family friend while she was away at the Live Oak Music Festival. My job was simple: take care of her dog and cat while she was away, pick up any mail that was delivered, and make sure the house didn’t get broken into or anything. I was left some money and a giant tub of trail mix as payment.

I like house-sitting for this family friend because her house is closer to both the bus stop and my workplace, because I get some privacy, and because she has a big, high-def TV with DirecTV. At my house, we have two regular TV’s with cable. And I have to share them.

Now, I am very familiar with this family friend’s cat, but her dog was a new pet she only had for a few weeks. I had just been introduced to her. Her name is Jemma, and she is a chihuahua-dachshund mix. In other words, one of those super-energetic high-maintenance barkers. She’s friendly and sweet, and a good dog for sitting in your lap, but darned if she didn’t run absolutely everywhere and bark her fool head off over the littlest thing.

Adorable, isn't she?

Now I’ve seen enough Dog Whisperer to know that these dogs need a whole lot of exercise, both for health reasons and to keep them well-behaved. So, I decided on my first morning to take her for a walk. I took her through the neighborhood, and then got hungry. I decided to stop by McDonald’s for a Sausage McMuffin from the dollar menu. Thinking nothing of it, I tied her leash to a post, tightened her harness just a tad so it would be more secure, pet her, told her to stay, and figured I would be back out in 2 minutes to untie her and continue on our way.

As I was paying the cashier, I saw Jemma out the window, sniffing some bushes. With her harness off. She had pulled free from her collar! I rushed out the door to grab her, so I could put the collar back on her. She took off sprinting across the parking lot.

The parking lot was very empty (it was only 7:30 in the morning), and there were only two other people. One tried to help me grab her, but missed; the other was handicapped with a cane, and couldn’t really do anything. In less than five seconds, she had disappeared from my view. I had lost her.

Now I know what they mean when they say “It all happened so fast.”

I searched frantically for her. I asked every passer-by if they had seen her and if they could help. I called my friends, coworkers, and family to enlist their help. I also called Jemma’s owner, who decided to leave Live Oak and come down to help. I wrote up a MISSING poster and posted about the disappearance on Craigslist, Facebook, and Twitter. I called animal control. I did everything I could think of, even going back to see if she was hiding in a bush or behind a dumpster somewhere.

I went home about 1 p.m., having done everything I could aside from wandering the streets randomly hoping by random chance to find her, which would be pointless. I went to bed thinking Jemma would end up as just another statistic for lost dogs in our area.

The next day, at about 5 or 6 p.m., I got a phone call from Jemma’s owner. They had found her! The dog was safe at some elderly couple’s house. They had seen the Craigslist posting and called.

Jemma was able to come home.

I learned a few things from this experience.

  • When you are taking care of someone else’s pet, be sure to ask details about the pet’s personality and how the owner treats it. I only learned after the fact that Jemma had never been walked, and had been carried everywhere in a car. It only makes sense, then, that she would freak out in a public place.
  • Make sure that your collar is the right size for your pet. After I talked about the incident with my dad, he said Jemma’s harness must have been too loose, even though I had tightened it.
  • Take precautions in case your pet does go missing. In Jemma’s case, she had one of those microchips implanted, where people could scan to get data like her name, owner, and how to get in contact with the owner. Even if that elderly couple hadn’t seen the Craigslist posting, they almost certainly would have turned her in to animal control, which would have scanned her for microchips.
  • Don’t run after an energetic dog. This was, above all else, what I believe led to this fiasco. Jemma must have thought we were playing, or knew she was in trouble and wanted to get away. Either way, being so energetic meant she would easily outsprint me. I’m a distance runner, not a sprinter. Perhaps if I had enticed her she would have come to me instead of taking off.

Fortunately, this was a lucky happy ending to this story. But it was a valuable lesson to me, and I hope it is an instructive tale for all of you.

As my dad says,

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from poor judgement.

On a personal note…

I would just like to congratulate by brother, Zachary Griffith, on his graduation from Morro Bay High School.

I would also like to congratulate my cousin, James Erickson, on his high school graduation as well. To both of you, I say this: you are now adults, and are off to make your own lives. I know this freedom can be both exciting and scary. Life is full of risks and opportunities. But ultimately, you can’t overthink things and paralyze yourself with weighing all the options. Just do what feels right. Only you can know what will make you happy. Find something you are passionate about, and you will never go in to work sighing “Another day, another dollar.” You will go in to work thinking “Another day, another opportunity!”

Best of luck to both of you, and to all of the Class of 2011!

Awesome people in history: Theodore Roosevelt

Nothing beats an awesome mustache.

I’m not sure, but I think Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the more well-known Roosevelt. FDR led us through the Great Depression and World War II, and holds the record for longest presidency, at 12 years. All while confined to a wheelchair. Which is pretty awesome.

But there’s a reason Theodore is the Roosevelt we put on Mount Rushmore.

The only thing most people know about South Dakota.

You wouldn’t have associated “Teddy” with awesome as a young boy with asthma and poor eyesight. But these very weaknesses were what motivated him to adopt a daily routine of exercise – as much as his asthma would allow – and gradually he became rather buff. His toughness may have been a reason he was elected to the New York State Assembly at 23 years of age. To put that in context, I am 23, and I’m still in college.

And all I've done is worked for our puny college TV station.

In late 19th-century America, all levels of government here in America from city halls to the White House were filled with corrupt politicians put in office by “political machines” that selected candidates, bought votes, and made sure all non-elected government jobs from Secretary of State to janitor were filled with the machine’s loyal underlings. It was kind of like Gotham City in the Christopher Nolan Batman films. Theodore Roosevelt decided it was time to be a metaphorical Harvey Dent – an unbuyable idealist using his office to take on the corrupt system. For this, he became famous and popular with the people, as well as infamous and unpopular with the political machines.

In 1884, his mother and wife both died on the same day. In mourning, Roosevelt decided to go west and live the life of a cowboy.

Also known as one of the most awesome jobs in U.S. history.

When he returned to New York, he went right back to fighting corruption, and worked his way up to Washington, D.C. with his spunk and determination. He was Assistant Secretary of the Navy when William McKinley was president. During this time, there was growing agitation for a war against Spain, as newspapers reported on how harshly the Spanish army was oppressing the Cuban people. Oh, and the fact that a major U.S. battleship suddenly exploded in Havana harbor, the cause of which is still a mystery. Now, Roosevelt did something sly. As the debate over declaring war raged, he ordered the U.S. Pacific fleet so sail into Hong Kong and just hang out. Then, on the very day Congress finally did declare war, Roosevelt ordered the fleet to sail over to Manila to intercept and destroy the Spanish fleet. Then immediately quit his job to volunteer in the Army.

I'm not even sure the Spanish knew the war had started.

Roosevelt organized his own Army unit, the 1st Volunteer Cavalry. Better known as the “Rough Riders”, the became famous once they got to Cuba for bravery and tenacity under fire. And Roosevelt led them in person. When Roosevelt and the Rough Riders made their way on foot up Kettle Hill in the Battle of Santiago, securing American victory, Roosevelt’s status as a war celebrity was solidified.

After the war, William McKinley made Roosevelt his running mate for his reelection bid. Then, McKinley was shot, and Roosevelt became the youngest President on record. He had the White House completely remodeled, and used it to entertain all manner of celebrities. He once again turned to smashing the political machines, and enacted all kinds of reforms to alleviate the problem. He tackled the notorious monopolies and trusts run by figures like Rockefeller, Morgan and Carnegie that had cornered the American marketplace, charging exorbitant prices for products made by poorly-paid workers while running any competition out of business. Dozens of such monopolies were forcibly broken up in order to have a free market again. Roosevelt also enacted some of the first labor laws to protect workers, and the Pure Food and Drug Act to protect consumers.

Not content with just fixing America’s problems, Roosevelt also had the kahunas to try to fix all the world’s problems. He arbitrated the peace settlement that ended the Russo-Japanese War, earning himself a Nobel Peace Prize.

And setting a precedent followed by almost every president since then.

We can thank Roosevelt for the Panama Canal, too. When Columbia wouldn’t grant the U.S. the right to dig the canal, Roosevelt threw Uncle Sam’s might behind a small, little-known band of rebels seeking Panama’s independence from their southern neighbor. Roosevelt effectively created the country from nothing; not just by securing its independence, but also building up its economy and infrastructure so it could support the canal’s construction. Suddenly, a little-known and ignored backwater became one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries.

Roosevelt was an avid environmentalist, laying the foundations for the modern National Parks Service. In his spare time, he would visit these parks to go hunting. What did he hunt? Why bears, of course.

Deer hunting is for wimps.

One particular tale came from his bear hunts. On a bad day of hunting, someone decided to tie up a bear cub so the president could say he shot something. But Roosevelt refused, saying it was unsportsmanlike to kill a bear cub.

Which is where we get the "Teddy Bear".

During his presidency, Roosevelt kept nine dogs, two cats, four guinea pigs, two chickens, two ponies, a parrot, a pig, a rat, a snake, and a badger. The White House must have seemed like a zoo.

After leaving office, Roosevelt went on a huge African safari to hunt rhinos.

Because bear hunting is for wimps.

He returned to the U.S. and decided he wanted the White House back, after all, causing a split in the Republican Party. His “Bull Moose” Party was actually more popular than the Republican ticket, because people liked the man so much. While in Wisconsin, he was shot in the chest by a would-be assassin. Rather than go to a hospital, Roosevelt went ahead and gave the campaign speech he was scheduled to make anyway. “It takes more than that to stop a Bull Moose”, he said.

Ultimately, though, Roosevelt lost to Woodrow Wilson, so he went on a trip to the Amazon rain forest. Because, you know, that’s how he rolled. His last years were mainly spent advocating U.S. entry into World War I and opposing President Wilson’s policies. When he died, he was a symbol for many of all that was right about America. Which is why he’s the guy on Mount Rushmore.

Information from Biography.com plus some things I’ve read in various “Facts about Presidents” books.