Se7en

7.) Angel & Faith (Dark Horse) 2011 – 2013 — by Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs. Holy smokes, where do I begin? First off, this series just ended, as it was only meant to be 25 issues, but as I trade-wait, I have yet to read the finale, so I’m going to go all River Song and say NO SPOILERS.

The awesomeness that is Angel & Faith is that it carries on the great tradition of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in comic form. This series, Buffy Season Nine, the Willow five-issue Wonderland and Spike’s five-issue A Dark Place (and also a Drusilla series!) all fall under the banner of Season 9. This is also the frustrating thing about this series IN THAT THERE IS SO MUCH TO READ AND I HAVE TO HAVE SOME MONEY LEFT OVER TO EAT. I’ve prioritized Angel & Faith because Angel has always been my favorite (his series too), so that means I’m a bit behind on the rest.

After the shows went off the air after seasons 7 and 5 respectively for Buffy and Angel, the series both went into comics to continue the stories. Buffy went to Dark Horse (my favorite comic distributor) and Angel went to IDW due to the split between UPN and WB at that time for the television rights. Now, under Season 9, all of Angel and Friends was bought by Dark Horse so that the two could make cameos and stuff without a bunch of legal hoo-haa. Buffy Season Eight had some…issues. And so did Angel: After the Fall and the rest of the Angel IDW run. Confused yet? So were we, the audience. The writers of the various comics for Season Eight of Buffy and Season Six of Angel went big-budget — oh my god, Dawn’s a giant and Angel and Los Angeles have been sucked into hell and Spike is on a spaceship with giant cockroaches and there are giant Hindu gods smashing out of the ground and eating everything — so that by the time Buffy finished it’s Season Eight run, I was a little distanced by what made the show so great: character driven plots that adhere to everyday life with some awesome supernatural sidelines thrown in to make it interesting. Buffy and Angel were so great because of how people reacted to the things happening to them, not because of robo-battles and helicarriers and special effects.

But, after listening to much fan feedback about the flamboyance (caution, that link has S8 spoilers) of Season Eight, they hunkered down and created the masterpiece that is Angel & Faith.

I always liked how Faith and Angel had their similarities espoused in the series and the comic is a continuation of their strange relationship in which each of them strive to make the other better, regardless of whether the other wants to change or not. In a new world created by the events of Season Eight, Angel and Faith find themselves living in Giles’s apartment in England where SPOILER ALERT Angel is trying to bring Giles back from the dead after he became possessed by an alternate dimension that he and Buffy created by skrawnking and killed Giles. (Yeah, Season Eight…let’s just move on.) Faith is also dealing with a magic-free world and what that means for those left who depended upon magic to survive. Faith, not thinking that bringing back Giles is a good idea — because when is resurrection a good idea in any TV show? — is trying to dissuade Angel by getting him to concentrate on the here-and-now. The interplay between the two is as great as ever and I, for one, am excited to have a series where the two main characters have little to no sexual tension driving events. Angel’s a little shell-shocked and Faith has more responsibility than ever and the two desperately need life-savers in order to cope with their new lives. Which is why they were teamed up in the first place: they have a little Master-Yoda-Luke-Skywalker feel, a bit of veteran-camaraderie, and a smidgen of healthy disregard for stereotypical relationships. Yay for interesting storytelling!

The best part is the intrusion of Giles’s aunts and how they liven up the broodiness that has been known to seep into both Angel’s and Faith’s lives. It’s much needed comedic relief and, once again, the story is driven by how the two eponymous characters react, not to big-budget effects and extravagance.

Also: LADY ARTISTS.

If you’re only going to read one series from the Buffy comics, read this one. You might be a bit confused, as there’s about nine years of backstory, but what comic series isn’t loaded down with lots of history? It’s nothing more than jumping into the middle of Superman comics, or, even better (worse?) X-Men comics. You won’t be disappointed by its excellence.

EIGHT

8.) Chew (Image) 2009-present — by John Layman and Rob Guillory. What’s exciting about Chew is that, like Sweet Tooth, anything (and sometimes everything) can happen in the crazy creative and zany world presented through the character of Tony Chu, cibopath and FDA agent extraordinaire.

A cibopath — and the only reason why I knew this beforehand is because I like the band Cibo Matto, and only then, because of Buffy of course — is someone who gets a psychic impression of whatever food he is consuming. Like when a psychic touches someone’s hand and gets a glimpse into their unknown, a cibopath knows where his food comes from and what has happened to it in the recent past. Understandably enough, Tony is a vegetarian in a world where chicken is illegal and a black market has sprung up to deliver the illicit poultry.

Tony gets drawn into many food and murder-related adventures, finds many other people — those who can describe a meal so well that others feel full when reading about the encounter, those who can cook memories into their food (similar to Like Water for Chocolate, I guess) — both allies and villains, embroiled in the cases he’s investigating. Which is maybe the best premise for a cop-type of comic drama I’ve ever heard of. When an idea can be stretched and pulled to cover so much territory that the possibilities will never became stale, you know the idea is rock-solid.

Chew also has an interesting story technique: each issue starts out with a seemingly random first page that somehow relates, either as a flash back or a flash forward, or sometimes just an amusing side story, to the larger plot. So, not only is the slightly-satirical story out-of-sync, it also oftentimes begins in media res, my favorite kind of res. Nonlinear narratives for the win!

The art is pretty amazing — being just realistic enough so as to make the squigier scenes pretty squigy and just enough comic to give depth to the more flamboyant emotions with a cartoon-like flair, the witty dialogue is on par with any Joss Whedon show, and of course, the wacktastic happenings are enough to keep even the most out-there minds entertained. When I have a hard time continuing to read a comic or a novel because of my jealousy, I know I’ve found something good and Chew is no exception. It has just enough humor to keep it lighthearted, just enough gore to keep it comic-y enough for the hardcore fans, and just enough creativity to outlast most all other comic writers, which is saying something.

It’s an ongoing series, so who knows what’s still left to happen. I’m still pretty early on, since my comic book fund was severely depleted by my buy-a-house, buy-a-business, and then get-married fund, but Chew is in the top contenders always for my money. Also, having the main character be of Chinese descent is a nice twist in the white-dominated main character arena. What’s even more refreshing is that the creators wished for Chu to be “a totally unstereotypical Asian-American.”1 Many of my friends find the concentration of a fictional character’s entire essence into one personality aspect (i.e. being gay, being a woman, being of a different ethnicity) will be pleased to note that Chu is not defined by his nationality, but instead just…is.

I don’t even really have any qualms with the series, either. It’s solid, interesting, and still has lots to explore, even a few years in. Do yourself a favor and (requisite pun) give this one a nibble.

Number 9 on the Comics! List

9.) J Michael Straczynski’s Thor (Marvel) 2007-2009 — Now, JMS I HAVE heard of. And maybe you have too. Babylon 5 is his most famous piece of work and he’s also the second television-writer-turned-comic-book-aficionado on this list as well. Which speaks well for the guy, actually. Adam has a theory that all movie stars want to be rock stars and all rock stars want to be movie stars. The same holds true for television guys wanting to be novelists and novelists wanting to be movie directors and so on. Which is why some things are fantastic books (Queen of the Damned) but absolutely horrendous movies (e.g. Queen of the Damned); they are simply different formats and it’s hard to make what works for one work for the other. By succeeding in multiple ways, it shows that the creator truly knows what makes a story tick and conveys that to an audience well.

Which is why JMS’s Thor is spectacular. Guy knows how to tell a story and tell it well. Captain American has just died, the Avengers are disassembled, Asgard has been destroyed — don’t worry ’bout it, ’cause with comics, sometimes you just dive right in — and Thor, sharing a human body with Dr. Donald Blake (eh?) — has to undo the events of Ragnarok. But, oh noes! Loki is back too — and HE’S A GIRL. Promising not to betray Thor (have we heard this before?), Loki offers his help in restoring the Asgardians to a new home: Oklahoma. From there, it’s all about the interactions and how a small dustbowl town deals with an influx of gods and their enemies.

It’s a nice intro into the Thor mythos, if you’ve never read a Thor comic, and is just a darn good plot. Time travel, Dr. Doom, love triangles, Iron Man getting pwned…It has everything! Oftentimes comics fall short in the emotions category and, looking through my choices, the ones that have a good ability to express and make the readers feel tragedy, loss, and longing are what make this list. A superhero like Thor — really, just Marvel’s version of Superman — can be hard to identify with and even harder to make interesting, but JMS has done it and I feel he really breathed new life into a character that can be, at times, stagnant.

Oliver Coipel’s art — especially the looks that Lady Loki gives — will stop you cold. I have never personally been afraid of a panel of ink drawings, but holy guacamole, does Coipel know how to draw a woman that Thor hath scorned. I got goosebumps — GOOSE FLESH — all up and down my arms with some of the panels and the sprawling Oklahoman landscapes almost don’t do justice for the wide-open vastness that Coipel achieves. Usually I’m not a big fan of realistic comics — I want artwork, not Renaissance Faire fantasy drawings — but Coipel makes it work for me with his little touches of elegance. Having Heimdall’s cloak turn into the vastness of space, even to the lack of eyebrows on Lady Loki all are such little details that others wouldn’t have necessarily put thought into.

A drawback is the somewhat slow pacing of it all. Loki’s eventual betrayal (believe me, that’s not a spoiler) takes some time to build in which everything almost seems as if it’s just a day in the life of. Which, I mean, if that life is Thor’s and the day is when he decides to rebuild Asgard in Oklahoma, that’s interesting, but it’s still comics and explosions are still demanded at least every twenty pages. Once the plot does get going and Dr. Doom’s presence ramps up, it’s hard to find any fault at all.

However, I was less than impressed with his Midnight Nation, so don’t lose any sleep over that one, m’kay?

Comics!

After the fiasco of the first comic store I went to (recap: here), I found one in Boulder called Time Warp that is both a.) huge with a great selection of comics and trades, b.) very professional, and c.) the place where Adam and I got little figurines of Deadpool and Black Widow to be our cake toppers.

Everyone there is extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and not antagonistic toward those of a different gender / role-playing schtick.

Adam and I go there about once a week to peruse the selections. Neither of us are hard core comic nerds; mostly we just like to trade-wait for our favorites.

WHICH IS WHAT THIS POST IS ALL ABOUT.

Given the popularity of top ten lists, I’m going to count down over the next few days my favorite comics. Some are done with their storylines, others are still running. Some are new, well, all of them are new, so let’s not worry about the fact that none are older than ten years and just skip on ahead.

I mean, we all know that Sandman, The Watchmen, Fables, Hellboy and Y: The Last Man are fantastic and they need to be read. (I have yet to come to a consensus about Preacher being in this list, but that’s another bloggy post.) I think this Top Ten list can do without that which goes without saying. Most of these are a little indie, in that they’re not DC and Marvel, but every good list needs some recognizable heroes, eh? Awards go to those with outstanding writing, great art, and interesting plot lines. (Listen up, Hollywood. WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT IS LADY LOKI well-written superheroes. The two need not be mutually exclusive.)

10.) Sweet Tooth (Vertigo) 2009-2013 — by Jeff Lemire. I have never heard of Jeff Lemire, but the synopsis of this one is just too good to pass up. It’s post-apocalyptic Nebraska and there are animal-human hybrids. Young Gus is just such a one, a boy with deer antlers and ears (and, surprisingly, not the only comic on this list dealing with people with horns!) and after the death of his father, he does the forbidden: he leaves his compound to explore the rather messed-up world where those like him are ostracized and hunted.

Where the fun comes in is with the wackiness. I hate statements that start with “it’s part…” and then go on to say, “…and part…” but it’s part The Road and part Homeward Bound, equal parts horrific depression and cutesy uplifting and all of it is fantastic. The great thing about a comic that is so unlike anything else is that it’s hard to predict what will happen. Not knowing how the universe works yet and why things are the way they are makes adds tension and suspense and is a favorite plot device of mine. The creativity to make something like this is borderline creepy, but it works so well given the meager dialogue and heart-breaking plot.

Also, comics are some of the most emotive forms of entertainment and this one hits me right in the feels, bro. The art is evocative, being fleshed-out enough to give a sense of world-building and letting the known — farms and crops, trees and the sparseness of that climate — but is just a little off-putting to dish out a big ol’ heaping of defamiliarization so as to continue to exude a sense of wrongness about the world. You begin to care so much for odd little Gus so that when bad things happen to him — I mean, it IS post-apocalyptic, so it can’t be too happy — you almost dare not read ahead.

My only dislike is it seems to meander, as if the author didn’t quite know where he was going, which is not uncommon for serialized comics. But, given that I’ve read only the first volume Out of the Woods (#1-5), and at a 40 issue run, there’s still plenty of time to pull the many strands together and create a phantasmagoric coming-of-age story. This one was recommended to me by serious comic nerds, so I don’t take their words lightly.

Also, Lemire does both the writing AND the drawing. That’s a talented dude, bro.

STAY TUNED FOR THE REST, BAT FOLK.

A Serious Moment.

You can even tell how serious it is because there’s punctuation in the title. 

Here at the The Sauer Press, we try to keep things light-hearted. Which is ironic given that “we” is me and I’m a horror writer. Whatever. The point being that the things I complain about and the things that irk me are usually rather insignificant and I take a fancy to waxing poetic about them because I’m a writer and that’s what we do. 

However, because of recent events and because talking about things makes me feel better about them, I’ve decided to post a rather personal outpouring of a sticky situation that’s been affecting me for a few months.

I’ll start out by saying that I consider myself a strong, independent young woman and all of the diatribe that goes along with that. I was never really bullied as a kid, but my friends were and I always stood up for them. I gave a voice to those who didn’t have the courage to speak their minds because of youth. Then, as a business owner, I’ve learned how to play hard ball with a lot of vendors, wrangling about pricing, delivery dates, minimum orders, and the like. Needless to say, I’ve no trouble speaking my mind and standing up for myself.

And yet, I recently found myself in an abusive relationship. Not with Adam. No, of course not. But not all abuse comes from a partner. Sometimes it takes the form of a family member, or a close friend. We’ll call the other tango partner in this manipulative dance Tee to avoid confusion. And to give us a starting point. 

Tee and I lived together for two years. During that time Tee talked to me on several occasions about keeping the communal areas clean. Now, I’ve lived with many a roommate before and so has Tee. My previous roommates were messy and gross; they would leave dishes out and various types of mold and semi-intelligent life forms began to live in the fridge. Yeah, I’d talk to them about it, but if they didn’t help clean up, it would just eventually get to the point where I’d do it and then get on with the rest of my life. And I’m sure Tee has had messy roommates before too, but the difference between me and my previous roommates is a box of flour.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was admonished the most recent time over an opened box of flour and a measuring cup, after several discussions that were more like lectures over the past two years. It wasn’t even that flour was all over the place, just an opened box of flour and a measuring cup carelessly left out after cleaning up the rest of a home-cooked meal. When Tee confronted me over such, I finally had to say what was really on my mind: “I am a clean person. I clean up after myself. Maybe your standards are too high and you need to figure that out.”

Which led to Tee asking me what my problem was. When I responded, “I have no problem with you, just your perception about how dirty the kitchen is,” Tee began to repeat the question over and over until — and here’s where my natural response to cry in every emotional situation, appropriate or not, kicks in — I was sobbing and Tee started yelling shrilly, without any control, and then slammed a door in my face. I was truly afraid of Tee in that moment unlike I had ever been by another human being in my life. 

Not that I thought Tee would do anything, and I know for sure now Tee’s boundaries do not extend past physical abuse, but that’s when the first inkling that something was very wrong popped up. I walked around my own home in a constant state of egg-shell shock, wondering if I had cleaned enough — it was my duty to clean the kitchen every week, regardless of whether I had used it or not — or if the next time Tee wanted to ‘talk,’ it would be another twenty minutes of me mumbling, ‘No, you’re right. Yes, I’m sorry. No, it won’t happen again.” Like I was a dog or a child to be punished for something I didn’t even do.

No one deserves that sort of manipulation and guilt. I am a guilty person by nature. My empathy extends to almost everyone who has a story to tell me and any bad happenings going on in others’ lives almost always elicits an, “oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, what can I do?” Tee knew this, knew that I am rather easy going and don’t have strong opinions on things like sparkling clean floors and perfectly vacuumed rugs and used this to make me feel guilty for things that had nothing to do with me.

So I left the argument thinking I was in the wrong. That I was a slob and I was making Tee’s life miserable by my slovenly, boorish ways. Until I started thinking about the many times when Tee had yelled at me, thrown things, made me cry, and manipulated me and realized that if Tee had been my boyfriend, I would be his abused girlfriend. Suddenly I realized with alarming clarity that I had allowed Tee to make me believe that I deserved the admonishments dealt and that I was at fault for Tee’s inability to recognize what was really wrong. 

I cannot guess as to Tee’s motivations for doing such. Tee is a very angry person and has yet to acknowledge the reasons why. I don’t think Tee was really angry about the kitchen, it was just a catalyst for all of the emotion and stress Tee could not handle. The best reason I can guess is jealousy and an inability to reconcile the bad things that have happened in Tee’s past with where Tee is at now. Tee may be projecting the feelings of worthlessness Tee received in years past, but none of that gives Tee the right to make me feel less than human. 

Which is why Adam and I moved. It took a lot of coaxing from Adam and other friends to make me realize the truth of the situation and I’m very glad for their support. I don’t think I would have moved out as soon as I did if not for them. I would have continued to take the abuse for years, thinking that Tee needed my help or that Tee would get better if I just did everything right. What I realize now is that I could never do anything right for Tee and no amount of me changing could change Tee. The only thing I regret is that I did not see the situation clearly earlier and stayed for as long as I did. 

When I was younger, I would use my teenage angst as motivation for writing. The feelings of loneliness and isolation I felt as a child, for feeling different and disconnected from those around me, became the backdrops for my earlier stories. Now I’m trying to see if I can use this experience in the same way to both help me get through it and to help fuel my stories with better emotion and description. I’m not there yet, the events are still too fresh, but you know what they say. Time + tragedy = comedy. 

 

 

 

Inspiration a la Late Night Conversations

People ask me a lot where I get my characters from and if they can be in one of my novels. Yes, I suppose that the best authors are those who are the best observers, and that most novels carry twinges of the real. Not to condescend, but the saying goes that the best lies are based on the truth and what else is a novel but a big lie written down?

Truth is, the strongest characters I’ve written aren’t necessarily based on any one person, or even a conglomeration of my father with a bit of ex-boyfriend #6, but rather are juxtapositions of the many, many people I’ve encountered. Or, even other fictional characters. I’ll take bits and pieces of those around me and run with it. Byron is a mix of The Joker from The Dark Knight, the actual Lord Byron, ex-boyfriend #3, Lermontov’s Pechorin (from the magnificent A Hero of Our Time), and even a bit of Harry Potter.

Sidetrack paragraph: There’s an excellent article linking Quentin Tarantino ‘s films to Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin that conveys this sentiment exactly. And Bakhtin is a favorite of mine, so there ya go. The article is more about the Tarantino-verse rather than a sprawling pop culture extravaganza that is my mind, but basic principles apply.

However, some real life things are too good to pass up. Like, an eleven o’clock conversation betwixt Adam and me:

M: Pluto is my ruling planet.

A: How so?

M: I’m a Scorpio, that’s how that works.

A: Ah, yes. Astrology. The thing that makes people believe in stupid things so they can blame their stupid behavior on something else.

M: I don’t think Pluto will take kindly to that. He’s already had his planetary status taken away. You know, those scientists are going to rue the day they made that decision.

A: Why’s that?

M: What’s Pluto the god of?

A: Death?

M: And when those meanie scientists die, who do you think is going to show mercy on them?

A: Not Pluto? And believing in the punishment of a death deity isn’t superstitious and stupid?

M: It’s sort of like Pascal’s Dilemma. Better to believe in the death gods than not at all.

A: Do you know who my ruling planet is?

M: Nope. Who?

A: Zapados.

M:…the Pokemon?

GOLD. Dialog for my next quirky sitcom. DONE.

The Honeymooners

Hello, all. Adam and I are back from three major life events in as many weeks. (And boy…are my arms…tired? This is why I’m not a comedienne, folks.)

First, we moved — which was somewhat unexpected — but the valiant Adam worked until 2 AM to get us mostly out of our old place. We’ve settled a bit into the new place, but there are still boxes and kinks to work out. Mostly, my computer needs to be set up so I can blog and write more efficiently.

Then, we got married on Halloween! It was steampunk themed. Pictures, I’ve been told, are to follow shortly. Let’s just say there were lots of tophats, goggles, gears, an African explorer a la Dr. Livingston, a mad scientist, a few cowboys, and Daryl Dixon.

Lastly, we flew internationally (and I’m a horrible flyer) and went to Cabo San Lucas for the honeymoon. There we had a week of intense relaxation, sitting around the pool and/or beach and reading books. I got through four and Adam through a huge chunk of HP Lovecraft — he’s on the Arkham Horror kick too — and another massive novel as well. (We also may or may not have played a round of Arkham Horror each night until we got our asses kicked by Yog-Sothoth.)

Now I’m back and the question burning in all of your minds is…ARE YOU WRITING?

The horrible, horrible answer to that is no. Unfortunately. Our dreams of participating in the NaNo were dashed in hopes of relaxation and ridiculously good Mexican food. Maybe one day, when my looks have faded…

On lighter news: my birthday doth approaches, which means VAMPIRE MOVIE MARATHON. Commencing in a viewing of the best movie known to mankind, The Lost Boys. It’s really hard for me to write and speak about the greatness that is The Lost Boys without somehow using the epithet, “greatest movie known to mankind.” Someone should pay me for this.