Archive for March, 2017

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

The pull quotes on independent comic series Guns a Blazin’ might go something like this…ah, never mind, why spoil the memory of a fun read with something as cheese-tastic as single word pull quote adjectives? Besides, even just thinking the words pull quote sparks an idea better hunted down and killed elsewhere, another observation for my as yet mythical Ideas post. 

So anyway, I buy, have signed and just now read the first four issues of Guns a Blazin’ following the haphazard time travel adventures of Eddie and Kody. I ended the reading session nearly busting a gut laughing. And I got caught looking at the various fictional ladies in this story for whom bikini defines daily attire. The point, I suppose and one I should expect from friends that grew up watching the same TV and movies as I did.

Indians attack a frontier fort. Blond haired Kody Willis, probably a cavalry scout from his civilian trail clothes including union-mandated duster, runs to wake up his buddy, Eddie. The dark haired man that looks so much like artist, Rafael Navarro, that I know I need to ask, just to save up for a bit of friendly teasing, wakes up. A quick scan of the horizon shows attacking Indians, no problem. Finishing the sweep puts several creatures of the large, hungry and really shouldn’t be in a Western tale variety firmly in the scope. If I had to guess, Rafael went for something like how Ralph Bakshi drew orcs for the first time around with The Lord of the Rings crossed with the Green Goblin. Even more worrisome than these troll-orcs, Eddie sees a familiar redhead in a metal bikini on a flying disk, Domina.

Eddie and Kody are forced to leave the fort to its fate especially after seeing the troll-orcs smash the old-timer manning the fort’s lone howitzer. Facial expressions tell the reader that Eddie and Domina have a bit of history of the ‘he went out for pizza taking her time machine with him’ sort. Thus begins four and soon to be five issues of a fun time travel story with a garnish of an unapologetic Y-chromosome knucklehead buddy picture.

The highlights: a visit to Dinosaur Time where Kody falls for a brunette in a leopard print bikini, later named Myra. Eddie gets Myra’s father drunk to facilitate the night of passion. Myra trades on Kody’s genuine affection to request aid attacking an otherworldly installation intended to rain asteroids upon Dinosaur Time. Eddie distracts Domina sexually while Kody and Myra escape the slave collars and together they reverse the asteroid magnet.

Eddie and Kody jump forward in time, heartbroken that something that the boys couldn’t or wouldn’t do for Myra kills her in the jump. And then with Domina chasing them angry that Eddie consistently seduces her and books it out of there before she can restore his damage to her grandfather’s grand plan for the timeline, the boys land in a wasteland. Said wasteland is revealed to be an inter-dimensional dumping ground for a former time traveler, now known as The Void, drawn as a male force of darkness. Eddie and Kody land in the laps of the ladies of the Hell’s Belles, a One Percenter Outlaw Motorcycle Club for women representing the last gasp of regular people. The Void approaches…

In a way, I’m kind of expecting Guns a Blazin’ to fall into the hands of someone who is not a fan of Y-chromosome Knucklehead Adventure Fiction. The hypothetical political screed disguised as a review would define savage in Webster’s Dictionary and possibly the OED for at least six decades. All because my friends wrote and drew a Two Knuckleheads with a Time Machine Loose About the Cosmos Among Bikini-clad Women Story. Luckily, I’m a fan able to see an innocent throwback and judge according to the small details, not overarching pseudo-political concerns that don’t let people have fun.

Pretty much the four issues, so far, do a really good job of channeling writer Mike Wellman and artist Rafael Navarro’s collective sense of boyish adventure. It’s a simple idea, to give two knucklehead types the local equivalent of a TARDIS and set them loose on the timeline. And throw beautiful bikini clad women at them as part of the dramatic obstacles.

Both guys are, in strict point of fact, knuckleheads. Kody the cowboy with a heart of gold is the knucklehead intended as the Everyman Foil, an obvious metaphor that in the face of the advanced mathematics and high-energy physics of time travel everybody is the lunkhead cowboy. And Eddie, or Eduardo if you please, is a different kind of knucklehead. The kind explained by this question – “why is a guy with the ability to run the, as yet unseen, time machine on the run from his ex-girlfriend, Domina, while apparently being unable to fix the already damaged timeline?”

To be fair, much of the answers about Eddie are yet to be revealed by the story, after all it’s not like there isn’t anyone left in comics who hasn’t read the choice of Blake Snyder, Syd Field, Robert McKee, Joseph Campbell (or his literary descendants) and Stan Lee. Knowing the books we read, I can make loosey-goosey guesses about the kind of events to come. But at the moment, the reader is too busy riding shotgun with the boys to worry about when Domina, her mysterious grandfather, or Eddie himself will use the events to come to illuminate the why of the story. Mr. Wellman asserts that he just recently locked the script for Issue Five teasing out more of Eddie’s backstory. Stay tuned to this Bat-Channel!

Speaking of Bat-Channels, I think Mr. Wellman’s real strength in his scripting for Guns a Blazin’ is his masterful pacing and use of the last page/panel as a cliffhanger leading into the next book. As we left it, because Misters Wellman and Navarro can’t write and draw the books fast enough for readers, the Void approaches after testing the Belles’ defenses. We could just as easily say Winter is Coming or next week we will see if Batman and the Boy Wonder will defeat the nefarious Joker and straighten out those crazy Dutch camera angles. A long winded way of saying, yeah, we’re dealing with a professional at teasing the cliffhanger for next time.

Another thing in the plus column is that Kody and his interaction with the still enigmatic and roguish Eddie really goes a long way towards creating empathy for these lovable knuckleheads. Kody expresses an uncharacteristic, for this kind of throwback fiction, genuine affection and respect for the cave girl, Myra. He wants to stay or bring her along over Eddie’s experienced objections. Pretty much, this sweet intent to avoid being a stereotypical bed-hopping cad on Kody’s part will have to serve to mollify the anger likely to spew from the hypothetical screed disguised as a review should the expected angry non-fans read this series. There is only so much that any book can do to chill out the hordes of party poopers and nothing that’s possible once the ink dries.

This affection for the boys allows readers (me at least) to simply not worry about the small things. When introduced to Kody running for the sleeping Eddie during the Indian attack, he speaks with words I associate with a later timeframe in our common spoken lexicon. Shouting incoming and man gives the initial impression that Kody might be the time traveler, not Eddie.

Now, am I an actual expert on what people of 1881 said or didn’t say that isn’t polluted by watching too many Westerns? No. But, these pages do feel like Kody might have originally come from any time after 1900 and the regrettable mechanization of war. Kody’s spoken dialect drifts back to a more accurate personal lexicon over the course of the four books, especially as he expresses his lingering anger towards Eddie for his Try It and See What Happens response to the question of bringing Myra through the time vortex.

Regrettably, this review is quite writer-centric because…hello, writer! While I’ve dabbled in photography and photo-manipulation art, my ability to comment on Mr. Navarro’s art is limited to “nothing strikes me as overtly wrong about the images” and get ready for a style somewhat like Oeming’s work on Powers. You’ll like the art or you won’t; I do given that Mr. Navarro has done some interesting caricatures of me and my character creations (I’m pretty sure the tone of this post has already given away I’m pals with both guys).

So basically, we have a fun (if your worldview allows this kind of fun) time travel romp that makes no apologies for being what it is with minor flaws likely only to tweak the professional ear of someone like me. I’m waiting with baited breath to see how the creeping male pseudo-zombie army gets soundly trashed by the ladies of the Hells Belles MC assisted by two knuckleheads who have the classic We Should Help decision to make. The Void is coming! Winter is Coming! And stay tuned to this Bat-Channel!

Oh, and if you really want single word pull quotes for the poster, there are a bunch littered throughout. I don’t have to make it easy, though.

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

In a moment of annoyance, of which there are many to be found on social media, I almost want to do a poop dance all over the very concept of writers, artists and other creatives participating in social media to begin with. FYI, the poop dance I perform is an act of sympathetic magic involving the bongo drums waiting for me on my iPad drum app for when I finally lazy shame myself into creating music and writing posts for my sister column Composer’s Counterpoint. Whatever, just so elephant and rhino sized road apples land somewhere where they might do some good. 

In the real world, I won’t walk away from social media, especially Facebook. I doubt you will either for the same reasons. Basically, when I write something on Smoking Lizard or wherever that I want you to read…maybe (the last two being barely good enough to post but not promote), I need to splash around those links to the full extent of my network. This outweighs the grief social media gives me, so shut up and deal.

Now, there are plenty of anti-social media writers out there that make a valid point about social media simply being a time and distraction suck that disabling their accounts helped them finish their books. Not disputing this reasoning. I’ve successfully beat into shape the low grade ADHD of my life so that these days I work with my creativity instead of freaking out going against it. Now, I can turn Facebook off when I’m done, flop onto my couch, or grab my coffee mug and gear bag and get busy. A few years ago, perhaps less so. Someone who needs to go into isolation writer mode doesn’t need me or anyone else confusing the issue with our stories.

But, my real annoyance lies with the vicious, nasty and sometimes uninformed politics and pseudo-politics from all flavors of our political spectrum. For the purposes of this post meant to help writers get through their day, I’ll mostly leave aside the normal political bar fight rooted in this generic headline – DER GRÖPEN FÜHRER SIGNED X, ELIMINATING Y CREATING MASSIVE PROTESTS AND BURNS ON SOCIAL MEDIA – except where it directly affects writers and creatives. There has been a long running pseudo-political sideshow that predates this admittedly probably racist, treasonous and greedy administration, that if you didn’t need to use social media for other things like posting links would make anyone quit.

I’m frankly sick of having articles about Ghost in the Shell whitewashing float up to the top of my Facebook feed like the rancid motor oil after the Exxon Valdez reef grounding. Some people choose to be angry that a white actress (Scarlet Johansson) took what these uniformed people believe should be an Asian actress’ part. And, I like many of the pro-art, pro-Free Speech, We Should Judge According to Original Intent and What Anime Actually Is people in my social network, we have defended Ghost in the Shell in our posts and comments.

We stated several facts that traditionally, many female characters in Anime, especially the ones from near-future and midterm-future settings, don’t verifiably look or behave Japanese, whatever that is. I noted several possible reasons, including ambiguously Post-Racial characters or a poor self image, saying in a comment – “it’s not my job as a consumer of anime to help the Japanese with their poor self image by refraining from consuming things I like because of a post written by someone who is not a fan is designed to make me feel bad. They need to work on their culture and send the rest of us a memo.”

Others have correctly pointed out that due to past racism and current economic reality in media that Scarlet Johansson is probably the only actress on the planet (name value plus actually wants to play the Major) to convince a studio to fork over $150 million making the movie. Basically, a Cart Before the Horse argument that says “fix racist casting on all future projects while simultaneously figuring out how to sell an Asian or Asian-American woman as an A-list movie star instead of wasting effort trashing an American, with all that entails, project that’s already in the can.”

None of the above points flies with the haters. And some keep attacking at the level of this can’t be allowed, we will drive these offensive things from our precious media space that we don’t actually own but merely share! Usually peppered with a lot nasty names causing someone with slightly thicker skin than normal to drily observe – “You kiss your Mama with that mouth?”

Dealing with the Angry Left on social media is a never ending process where an artist constantly defends his or her choices against people who have only heard about the work instead of reading/looking at it. And if common misconceptions about what the average artist believes (a.k.a. The All Artists/Writers/Musicians/Actors are Liberal Gay Cuck-tards Fallacy) even holds true half of the time, then the Angry Left chooses to attack and eat the Artistic Left leaving all kinds of right wing people untouched waiting for their moment.

The Angry Left going off on Ghost in the Shell or whether Wonder Woman shaves her pits forgets that the members of Artistic Left (and Artistic Middle or Artistic Right) are fully aware that no set of beliefs as rigid and tightly wound as those the Angry Left espouses survives contact with real people and the wide spread of beliefs we hold. How many otherwise well-meaning Liberal or Moderate artists created something that didn’t exactly fit the Angry Left’s orthodoxy and paid for it on social media? Whatever happened to Free Speech existing to create more art and well thought out commentary about that art? Instead, the worst of us viciously attack that art with an intent of making the emotional payoff of that art too high for the artist.

I’ll take a sidestep and explode the fallacy I mention above that all creatives think in lockstep with a presumed Liberal cuck-tard agenda. Some assume that the high correlation of Left-leaning attitudes among writers/artists/sculptors/composers and so on stems from the profession of the arts being about the ability to wallow through our feelings and mine them for product. Okay, that analogy lasts just as long as it takes me to edit one of my books. Sometimes editing represents four times as much of purely analytical work that actually works against my preferred emotional state because I really loved that paragraph! And for me any time a dream gives me an idea (the ultimate in mining emotions), I still need to edit as much as possible trying to figure out why dudes in orange flight suits much like X-wing pilots are in the same dream as a grassy field of magic mushrooms.

Art is as much self-criticism and logical analysis as it is about milking an experience and the emotion inexorably tied to that experience to tell a good story. That artistry also includes – “wow! That last paragraph doesn’t even read like English and I’ll take a chainsaw to it until I like it or run out of ideas!” – which allows people of all stripes to contemplate an artist’s life. Because, we aren’t always wallowing in our emotions, but can be as sociopathic about Getting It Right as we accuse the Right of being on all kinds of subjects.

This leads us to a set of interesting questions. If actors are all Liberal cuck-tards explain Charlton Heston, Robert Davi, John Wayne or Matthew McConaughey to me. If all writers are the same explain Ayn Rand, Terry Goodkind, or L. Ron Hubbard to me. Get the idea, we’re all different! I personally believe in Eat What You Kill Capitalism right up to the point where I know I’m going to have to pay for things, like health care where the old way didn’t work. My art reflects this moderation and I’m not gay.

So far I’ve given it to the Angry Left in the teeth for attacking art at a personal level, instead of answering Art for Art and Essay for Essay. That once opinions are expressed the only appropriate response is Thank You, but the Angry Left wants to keep going. However, certain elements of the Right are also deeply offended by this level of unrealistic moralizing and they also wade into the fray throwing around a lot of triggered snowflakes and cuck-tards. Just before they sign up to back a President with no more regard for Free Speech than the Angry Left.

The worst elements of the Right have signed up to defund PBS because of Donald/Ronald Grump appearing on Sesame Street, a green Grouch that gives it on the chin to Der Gröpen Führer with parody. And then you find out that the Grump character has appeared perhaps six times in the last twenty years. Who’re the triggered snowflakes now?

Both sides of these assaults upon our cultural database that might be precursors to that distant future where we burn all the books, music and paintings must be defended with scorn and derision from all comers. They justify these attacks by referencing the other side (sick of PC, defending Big Bird). Especially, since artists aren’t going away. No amount of Left shaming or Right anger will make me stop. When art becomes a compulsion, we take Mother May I off the table.

We will offend the Left because not every character will fit into slots so narrow that the narrative got squeezed out like lime over a plate of Chicken Pad Thai. We will offend the Right and the Left for different reasons because not all of our characters will be White Men. The Right hates literary experiments crossing race and gender barriers because why are we kowtowing to the Evil Anti-American Cuck-tard Agenda? The Left hates the same character because how dare you even attempt to write a Latinx woman when you’re a white dude?

My answers to Right wing criticism is I’m not drinking anybody’s political Kool-Aid, that I write the characters I need to because of the conventions of the type of story. Thusly, since most stories with vampires seem to be thinly disguised assaults on women who have to choose between a good but lethal time with the suave bloodsucker and the equally lethal conformity of being a good girl, I needed a female protagonist who could kill everything in the room that needed killing and walk away tossing aside her broken heels as she goes.

And the Left likely tries to say but you’re not a woman. Well, the character referenced here was basically the female version of me to cut down on character creation with an act of imagination to do the best I could to create a woman and not a freak. How successful I was or wasn’t is a matter of personal taste that requires reading my books, not blowing high-vitriol smoke on social media. Besides, I know that writing women or minorities has nothing to do with true understanding, but successful mimicry, like a duck hunter and his decoys. Do the best you can by showing respect for your characters and maybe one more person will like reading you than the vast numbers of people hating you.

And now I end my tangent just to say that all of this crap would or could show up in my Facebook feed leading to my initial wrongheaded advice to kill your social media accounts. Putting links out knowing that not everyone will like what you do trumps the burn to come because haters have to hate. But, it’s not like there aren’t fun things too.

Like with a recent game post designed to scoop up wacky responses. A friend posts a left pointing finger asking to follow the digit and tell me what you end up armed with for the zombie apocalypse. My post: my pen.

A lady tries to make a joke about it might not be mightier than the sword. I reply stating – “Yes, it’s a poor but still usable zombie weapon. I’m prepared to stab at the eyes, if I have to. But, pens help create communities when we write the words we choose to believe in. It is this community, that gets people through zombie apocalypses because we fight harder with verifiable force multipliers when we fight together. In the same vein, I also said that as the tribe’s storyteller I’m pretty sure that I could trade up to a better weapon like a rail spike hammer using my storytelling skills.” Basically, a fun interaction that never would’ve happened if I’d closed up my Facebook shingle.

So what now about social media? My suggestions.

A) Don’t quit, you can’t and have it work out what with our marketing needs.

B) Set time limits that work for you.

C) Use the Block button liberally when attacked.

D) Try to keep your responses to cat videos and fun things. Or go whole hog, but bring your A game if you do.

E) Read all the posts your friends send, but respond to as few as possible.

F) Reply Thank You to all negative comments or not at all.

There, I love social media. I hate social media. Now, I just need to follow my own suggestions with ruthlessness and my well used library card. 

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

Ironically, I liked Sony’s recent SF/Horror flick Life, so this isn’t a review in the normal sense of the word. I see it as a case study of simplicity versus excessive plot gymnastics, sometimes also referred to as a literary version of Occam’s Razor (simple is usually better). It all stems from one plot point where the filmmakers had two ways to get to the same ending.  

One choice was narratively simple based on the rules of the monster presented to the audience. The other choice didn’t exactly violate the rules of the monster either and might have an ugly budgetary reason for existence, but which then created the need to spend the last half of the movie pulling some very inventive tricks to leap over the plot hole. The filmmakers chose Option Two.

This next part I have to write carefully so you don’t misunderstand me and assume that this post is a review where I’m backhandedly trashing a bad movie or gushingly praising a good movie. But, what I noticed about this movie will take on a few elements of a review so you understand my point.

If this were a review, my hypothetical positive review would be filled with the more grammatically digestible of adverbs or adjectives intended for use as single-word pull quotes surrounded by ellipses on the poster (mostly true, I did like the movie). If this were a review, my negative comments would expand like a virus from the plot hole under discussion to find minor flaws to balloon into titanic vitriol, snark and animus about the acting, lighting, writing, directing, composing and on down to the poor intern relegated to the craft service table passing out cookies and sandwiches. But, because the plot choice under discussion doesn’t violate the rules for the monster, it’s not bad writing per se, just extra complex writing. The scenic route for the movie instead of the direct express bus.

I’m sure Life was pitched as – Alien meets Gravity, set on the International Space Station, with a monster derived from actual conversations with exobiologists and a different ending than Alien. And it delivers. It’s not a review. I liked the movie. Stop bugging me.

Horror movies that get compared to Alien have two endings: Final Girl (waiting for some intrepid filmmaker to do a Final Guy version, just to see how sexist we are, but I digress) and They All Die and the Monster Escapes. At the moment, saying how Alien ended tells you how Life ended, so I’ll take the Fifth here.

The monster awakened on the ISS from Martian soil samples fired back to Earth from a Mars probe proved to be interesting. Each cell dormant since the water disappeared from the Martian surface is described as “All muscle, all nerve, all optics receptor…all at the same time.” And the doomed human scientists figure several important things out about Calvin (the unfortunate nickname from a school naming contest).

It breathes oxygen. It eats similar food to most carbon-based life. It goes dormant in the absence of oxygen. Each cell is part of a highly intelligent single entity. It has a robust outer shell combined with the ability to store up oxygen to survive extended periods in hard vacuum.

So, I watch the movie digesting my Pad Thai Chicken. The first scientist to have trouble with Calvin, lingers a while in an injured state. Calvin officially kills a character played by Ryan Reynolds first, possibly because the actor had to run off to finish Deadpool 2 and didn’t have the time to be a star this time around. However, the first scientist injured is hurt in a way that everyone who has seen Alien is totally screaming – “face-hugger and chest-burster!” – at the screen. He was nicked and left to linger while we assume cells from Calvin grow inside him.

This reveal happens while Calvin lurks outside the station banging on the hatches to get in. And then the poor scientist who is inside the station coughs up some blood, dies and his friends open up his clothes to reveal Calvin snacking on the man’s legs. At this moment, I think the hungry white goo has grown into two halves of a larger smarter monster.

However, the filmmakers only chose to show the audience one Calvin for the rest of the movie. They don’t show us if Calvin 1.0 outside dies or goes dormant (we are told it can do this explaining why the species survived on Mars for millions of years). Suddenly, it’s inside and racing towards the end of the movie where…

Dancing around telling you what the ending was, you’ll just have to trust me that two Calvins is a simpler approach to that ending. All the filmmakers had to do was show, however briefly, what happened to the outside the station half of the monster. Perhaps, they show us this in flashback if they feel they need to preserve the body shot of the chosen route. But, it was dropped in favor of not paying for double the CG even though and the gymnastics required for only one monster are more complex and not simple.

Did I enjoy the movie? Yes. But, I noticed what a pretzel the narrative became once the filmmakers didn’t put two Calvins on screen.
And who am I kidding yeah it’s a review.

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

“What has the nasty writers got in his pocketessss, Gollum?”  

Well, to be fair the answer is neither nothing nor the One Ring of Power. Maybe, I beat that question because Smeagol might not have the vocabulary to figure out things like an iPad, keyboard, pens, mechanical pencils, notebook, score sheets, power cables and a few other things that I’m not sure I remember when I dropped ‘em into my black bag of writerly doom. Or maybe I punch Gollum in the head until he squeals for mercy.

It’s kind of odd doing the periodic inventory of my mobile kit that I take with me whenever I need to be anywhere but my house making my words. I have three levels of where I keep my stuff: pocket, bag and car. Because there aren’t any excuses ever and even less Mother May I in writing.

My pockets end up filled to the gunnels with things I need to move around the city and get home again, but when you include the black coat I wear nearly everywhere, even when sane people broiling in 80-degree temperatures in Sunny California might rightly wonder about such a high-albedo fabric color, I become a one-man mobile writing machine. The coat is thin only good for wind and water and provides the pockets needed to supplement that the only pocket in my various pants devoted to my writing is the cellphone pocket at my right thigh. I wear sweaters underneath on cold days.

On a light travel day, patting me down you’ll find the cellphone, a cable, a mobile battery, my reading/typing glasses, my earbuds and some cheap shades. The battery powers the phone until it dies giving me a few more hours sitting in a plush chair swilling coffee when I don’t want to make the logistical commitment to bringing my black bag into the room.

The interim state involves the aforementioned black bag where I keep iPad, keyboard, notebook, pens, pencils, 3” x 5” cards, a pack of writer support cards (a victorious acquisition at a recent Christmas White Elephant party), connector cables of all the just in case types for iPhones and iPads, score sheets and clamshells paper clips in a couple sizes leftover from the last time whenever that was that I had a paper manuscript in the bag.

As you may surmise, this bag is the most modular item in my kit. If I know I need to read something in goes the book, Kindle or comic book. If I’m stuck for ideas I’ll drop in the heavy ass idea dice that I recently took out of my bag precisely because it was a heavy ass bag of dice sitting at the bottom of my bag on days when I didn’t have any trouble finding the next thing to work on, at least in the coffee shop.

There is a constant war between me wanting to lighten this black shoulder bag versus getting my day completed. Dice go out. Dice go in. Graphic novels in. Different graphic novels replace the first one. I thought I would replace the iPad and full size Apple Bluetooth keyboard, still in the original coffee stained box it came in, with a cheap Lenovo running Windows 10 (see Hide in Plain Sight, Axes to Grind), but I hated how said crap-wagon technology interfaced with me so the iPad Mini remains despite being slightly heavier.

Two other contests for space in my bag and pockets continue to the present moment. I have music aspirations that fear and needing to write have delayed for a couple years now. I used to carry a harmonica in the pocket where I keep my keys and business cards and might again when I finally get over being a scaredy cat composer, but for now I’m saving weight by leaving it home. Currently, I have an unopened pack of score sheets in my bag that’s the other relic of saying I’m a composer. Additionally, some of the cables in the bag are music oriented in that they’re intended to connect an iPad/iPhone to a recording microphone that I’ve also generally left at home to save weight avoiding forms of creativity I’m not feeding at the moment.

The other contest involves switching back and forth between a regular 6” x 9” spiral notebook and one of those special notebooks with the proprietary paper that works with an expensive note capture/smart pen (post to follow whenever). Sometimes I take the regular notebook. Sometimes I take the note capture gear. And sometimes I take both. This will end when I’m ready to call it that the note capture pen actually saves me time taking my handwritten work directly into the phone instead of merely re-typing my handwritten pages. We’ll see when we see…

It’s kind of funny to me that the bag might have influenced a key sartorial choice. For a long while, I would wear shorts bringing the black shoulder bag with me. A black soft bag splitting the difference between shoulder/messenger bag and briefcase somehow doesn’t go with shorts. So I decide to wear pants (a decision that also coincides with cold weather and shorts that have holes in them from a Leatherman tool sitting wrong in the pocket, take salt here liberally), because pants just look better with this bag. 

Lastly, we come to what’s in my car that helps me write. I keep a blank spiral notebook in the map slot near my ankles. And I have a bunch of interesting things in the center armrest cubby. Coffee mug. An extra portable lamp (the twin of a similar light in my bag glossed over in the paragraphs above). Yet, another portable battery kept fully charged just in case the three in my bag run down or I blow off bringing my bag. And a spare USB-Lightning cable separate from the one that plugs my phone into my car.

Wow! That is a lot of small items to lug around just to make sure I don’t get to try the cheesy ass lame I forgot my calculator, Sir excuse that didn’t even work when I last tried it in a middle school science class. And for sure, this post is generally representative of a Slow News Day that I’m basically emptying out my pockets to keep up my word quotas.

But, when you think about it maybe you’ll have a greater understanding of the tools you like, why you acquired them and why you’ve become emotionally attached. And maybe we’ll give Gollum a kick to the head…just because.

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

I’m probably doing a bit of disservice to people I know and with whom I share productivity time in reviewing Alex Studios’ independent series Mania now instead waiting for a few more issues. But, Issues 1 & 2 are all that’s available to read for the moment. Here goes. 

The series, proposed as a six-issue miniseries, follows the doings of two superheroes in a future California city, New Renard, where implanted augmented reality chips (ARC) have linked people together the way those Google Glasses were supposed to a few years ago. However, if a citizen experiences psychological, emotional or possibly spiritual difficulties the interaction of troubled mind and ARC chip can create a spandex-hero or spandex-villain. At the level of concept, sign me up, which I have contributing to the successful Kickstarter to make Issue 3 a reality.

But, then I read the first two issues and my ardor based on what is actually on the page has cooled some. It is still a brilliant concept filled with visually striking art and lots of potential still lurking just beneath the surface. But, it hasn’t figured out how to introduce characters, present the reader with the awesome world building that jumps off the page and tell a three-act story about fearless and mentally damaged heroes chasing a canister of DNA, all in a proposed six issues. I hope Alex Studios extends this miniseries out to at least Issue 8 to give their story elements some breathing room.

Issue 1, The Shift, follows the spandex-hero Jumpstart as he rescues a female citizen from one of New Renard’s robotic cops about to go haywire and make a lethal wrongful arrest. The blond long haired hipster in a woolen beanie rips up the cop and appropriates the still-active cop brain segment trying to teach the officer not to draw down on innocent women on the street, while a supermanic spandex-villainess robs a bank nearby using enough explosives to level whole city blocks.

Issue 2, The Light, introduces us to Iris, aka Dr. Tessa Ignatius, a supermaniac who harbors resentment towards the ultimate Big Bad, Fahrenheit Corporation, the inventor of the ARC chip, for stealing her hyper-efficient fusion reactor technology. She is, for lack of a better word, mugged on the subway by Prism, a former lesbian lover who works for Fahrenheit Inc. as a agent working to control the occasional and random appearance of supermaniacs. A fight and escape ensues.

A common element of both issues so far is that both Jumpstart and Iris start to have conversations with a voice on the other end of video phone calls. The mysterious voice is very worried that Lady Midna, a supermanic spandex-villainess with a penchant for mind control and dressing up as a clown (the Joker just called, he wants his metaphor back) just stole a canister of DNA labeled JAN. He demands both heroes start working to make things right working together, even though they don’t know it, yet.

So here we are at the end of Issue 2 hoping something picks up for the as yet unpublished Issue 3. I won’t go so far as to start bad mouthing this series (I’m committed through Issue 3 because of the Kickstarter), nor will I ever confuse a still-great concept with a reading experience that like many before it needs a few issues to hit its stride. But, so far the concept and Player Pitch (superpowers as a result of mental illness) are holding my interest more than the narrative.

We have seen two supermaniacs, Jumpstart and Iris, so far. But, while we do get some sense of Iris’ past with a mention that Fahrenheit Inc. has stolen her fusion reactor technology and the nasty lesbian spat behind an armored spider-bot mecha with Prism, I’m not sure I could tell you what Iris’ superpower actually is. Given that it’s traditional to assign superhero codenames based on powers, I’ll assume that she has light manipulation powers, but maybe we’ll get more clarity as the story progresses.

I know even less about Jumpstart. He leaps from tall buildings to save the woman in the red dress. He rips up the cop about to create the future world equivalent of an unlawful police shooting. But, I have zero understanding of what he does other than fly and display super-strength, powers that pretty much everybody everywhere has. I would guess that a guy named Jumpstart has some kind of electro-mechanical powers that helps him fly/fall with attitude, rip up officer-bots, and restart broken machines and hearts suffering cardiac events. We’ll see as the creators tell us the story.

The two villains presented in these two issues have been given more attention. I may joke about Lady Midna getting a call from the Joker over his appropriated villain metaphor, but psycho crime clowns have become one of the great comic book villain motifs. But, I found myself enjoying her presence despite that we only really see her robbing the bank to get the JAN canister and can’t stick around to use massive amounts of exposition to clue the reader into her raison d’être.

Similarly, I learned more about Prism through her fight with Iris than I did about Iris herself. I got to feel the annoyance of having to confront a former lover who has chosen the side of freedom over the conformity offered by the Fahrenheit Corporation. And that Prism will have to face superiors with a temporary failure.

I can’t reiterate enough that so far the Mania world is something that I want to see thrive once the need to introduce new characters gives way to telling a fun story where heroes chase a McGuffin (the JAN canister) for three acts. Once I get a handle on Jumpstart and Iris and how they will interact with the evil in charge of everything Fahrenheit Corporation that wants JAN to control all future advances in seamlessly connected biotechnology, this literary franchise should take off. Possibly, with an, as yet, unplanned second book.

Right now, Mania, is a tour de force of world building and innovative coolness that just needs to get busy with telling a story. Fingers crossed…