How Not To Get Rich Reading Comics

An acquaintance said to me several weeks ago, “Oh, I didn’t know you collect comics,” to which I responded, “I don’t. I read them.” I sheepishly apologized for being a smart ass, but underneath the sass the sentiment was sincere.

I went on an organizing spree before we left for Pittsburgh for the holidays and attempted to catalog all of my comic books. In hindsight this was a laughable endeavor; I neither finished the job itself nor got to a reasonable stopping point that would be useful to pick up from next time. Instead, I spent a number of late night hours making stacks of favorite titles, building spreadsheets and reminiscing about reading comics in the early 90s.

(No one has ever said that before.)

But I’ve never considered myself a collector. How could I be? I started reading regularly when I was eleven or twelve – old enough to make my own choices about titles, but young enough to be clueless about the industry as a whole. I got hooked on characters (I still do) rather than creators, although the Rob Liefeld influence was impossible to escape in those years.

I bounced from Marvel to Image and back again, dabbled with Vertigo but never mainstream DC books. If I found a character I liked, I tried to read every title in which that character appeared. Or was featured. Or mentioned. Obnoxious crossovers were made for kids like me.

Cannonball was the first character I remember going out of my way to find. Liefeld created X-Force in 1991 at the end of his New Mutants run, and there was a lot of big corporate publicity about the new title. For some reason rather than being excited about Cable or Domino or perennial favorite Deadpool (!!) I was swooning over a goofy kid in goggles with a lazy Southern drawl. I am positive it was his affected speech pattern that caught my attention (and not his wormy hair) although I also got sucked into the whole Externals is-he-or-isn’t-he storyline. I let Cannonball guide my reading for years. And when the previews for Hickman and Opeña’s Avengers #1 came out this past fall featuring dear ol’ Sam Guthrie on the cover, twelve year old me totally squealed out loud.

(Hickman isn’t writing him with the drawl, though! Twelve year old me was sad. Thirtysomething year old me is pretty stoked for this book and got over it. It’s also a lot easier to read.)

(After my infatuation with Sam came Clint Barton, first by way of his Thunderbolts appearances and then with the Avengers. My love for Hawkeye’s unique combination of self-deprecating wit, defensive arrogance and mad marksman skills remains to this day. I have a lot more to say about his classic redemption arc, how I think he’s the heart of the team and ultimately why Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye is the best new series of 2012, but I’ll save that for another time.)

More than twenty years later I’m pretty sure I don’t own any single issues worth more than $10. I have some Death TPBs signed by Neil Gaiman, but they’re for reading not hoarding. And I was lucky enough to have Chris Ware sign my copy of Building Stories, but it’s not going to just sit on a shelf wrapped in plastic.

Maybe it’s because I’m such a tactile person, but collecting comics always struck me as a sad alternative to the rich escapism and excitement that reading them could provide. An open door vs. a closed door, if you will.

Instead, I buy them – print and digital and sometimes multiple copies of each with variant covers because I swear I will buy anything David Aja draws yes he is that good – and I read them – over and over and over – and I share them – with friends and family and hopefully more with my son as he gets older – and I kind of love them a little bit.

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.
-Walt Disney

Nah. Not rich at all.

Generations of Artists

The first *real* artist I met was my nana. She was a quilter. She was also a nurse, wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. But she earned a reputation for her quilting, one that I was aware of even as a child. I think I have a memory of visiting a fabric store with her as she gathered supplies for a quilting contest celebrating Grand Lake St. Mary’s, but it’s possible I’m remembering a different time. I’m pretty sure I can also picture us visiting where her winning quilt was on display, but again, I unfortunately can’t be sure if what I have is a true recollection.

What I do have are several of her quilts and wall hangings. We just returned from our first visit to Pittsburgh since we Moved Across The Country, and I brought back the very first quilt my nana made for me.

(Cat not included. Since we returned home, she is practically attached to my hip and wasn’t interested in my attempts to capture the quilt for posterity sans feline.)

This quilt was completed in 1981. I know that because my nana always signed her work. Avi would probably tell you that’s what made her an artist.

Two observations: this was clearly done before I was calling her “nana”, and I recognized her “handwriting” in the embroidery. Wow.

While we were in Pittsburgh, I also got to make some great art with my four year old niece. We did some simple printmaking together and I watched her draw. She is extraordinary. Her understanding of spatial relationships and composition and expression is years and years ahead of most children her age. I am consistently astounded by what she is capable of, and this is me as a parent and former art teacher saying that.

I know a lot of *real* artists now. Masters of media of all types. Sometimes I even play that role myself. It’s such a part of my life that I often take it for granted. It was nurtured in me by family and teachers…it is who I am, no matter what I do.

And I would be honored to be a link between the artist my nana was and the artist my niece may become.

That Thing You Do

Is navel gazing strictly reserved for those with child? Or is my association of the two based on the book of photographs by Charlee Brodsky that my friend Alisa sent me when I was pregnant?

(Because I’m not. Pregnant.)

But I have been almost embarrassingly introspective these past few months year.

Strike that. It’s not (that) embarrassing. It’s actually understandable and appropriate and I guess I just needed time to reconcile all of those FEELINGS before trying to WRITE about them.

We made A Big Decision ten months (!!) ago and Moved Across The Country over the summer. (Anyone who doesn’t think selective capitalization [or parentheses] is effective should try their own Move for comparison.) It probably goes without saying that in order to do that I had to quit my job. It was (is) still weird not to be working full time. Hold that thought.

Two (!!!) cross-country drives and several hundred boxes later, California (and the Kralls) welcomed us.

It’s criminally beautiful here. I could gush about the produce all day. Avi has piles of new friends and we love his new school. Being less than a mile away from our closest friends is a perk I can’t even put into words most days.

If this place weren’t so far away from Pittsburgh it would truly be perfect. And by “Pittsburgh” I mean “the people we love and miss very dearly”. I said something today about “going home” – meaning Pittsburgh – and immediately felt guilty. I don’t know why. We’ve only been here five months. I lived there for most of 32 years.

I love the freedom and flexibility here. I love the time (and produce. Have I mentioned the produce?!) I have to cook healthy foods. I get to hang out with Avi more now than any other time since he was 9 months old. Awesome.

I’ve also been writing. And drawing. And writing and drawing. Apparently years of stifled creative energy can explode all at once if you’re not careful about how you release it when you finally have the time.

I have a lot of options, and that’s probably why I’ve been feeling so unmoored. And excited. And scared. Way back when we started talking about Moving Across The Country, the theme song (or lyric of choice, I guess) was usually Little Red’s “excited AND scared” from INTO THE WOODS. I think it’s taken me this long to realize that it wasn’t just the Move that had me feeling that way.

Just. Go.

So next to normal.

Wow.

I don’t have much I can say. It wasn’t quite magic, but it was close. Put it this way: I cannot remember the last time I went to a live performance knowing so little about the story beforehand. I hate surprises; I skip to the end of books and read movie synopses. But in this case, I didn’t have time to ruin it for myself in advance. Being able to truly experience and discover and…get. it. (!!!!) during the show last night is something I am truly thankful for.

Afterwards, a (necessary) stiff drink or two with many wonderful people.

Just go and see it, okay? And if you can, go tonight and use the code SUPERBOY for a $15 discount. Or student rush for 50% off at the box office before the show. Go without reading about it. Without listening to the soundtrack. Without knowing.

And bring kleenexes.

The Big Tap In VIP Ticket Giveaway

I’m going back to LA at the end of the month for work. This is a super exciting thing, since I’m going for Showcase and I’ll get to see a lot of friends. But I fly out on Saturday, April 30, which previously was circled on my calendar for something else entirely.

So my loss is your gain, potentially.

I have two VIP tickets that I’m giving away to one lucky reader who promises to enjoy all the amazing craft beer in my absence. These tickets are valued at $65 a piece, but since VIP tickets are actually sold out one could argue they’re even more valuable. If you don’t like your odds, you can always buy regular tickets for $40 each here, but I have it on the highest authority that the VIP tickets – and the special tastings they allow access to – are totally worth it.

Leave a comment telling me your favorite beer before noon on Sunday, April 17, 2011. (I’m keeping the contest open for that long since I have this little event next week that’s going to be pulling my attention just a bit.) I’ll pick the winner using a random number generator and he or she will have 24 hours to respond. Assuming all goes well on that end, tickets will go into the mail on Monday, April 18.

You must be 21 to enter. Since you can’t even get into The Big Tap In if you’re under 21, there’s no point in winning a pair of tickets you can’t use. Just saying.

The Big Tap In benefits HandsOn Volunteer Network of the Valley. You can also donate here if you’re so inclined.

Fine print: I purchased these VIP tickets on my own. I’m not receiving anything from The Big Tap In or sponsor Vintage Estate Wine and Beer. I sincerely just want these tickets that I cannot use to go to a good home!

N2N

I’m seeing next to normal next week.*

No biggie. It *only* won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010. Do you know the last time that happened? 1996. Know the musical? Maybe you’ve heard of it…RENT. Even better? The same director – Michael Greif – was responsible for both.

Perhaps now you can start to understand my excitement. Eleven Tony nominations, three wins for Score, Orchestration and Best Actress for Alice Ripley WHO IS COMING TO PITTSBURGH.

Friends, how often do you get a chance to see an actress on tour in the role that won her a Tony?!

(A clue: not that often.)

So yeah, I’m pretty stoked. Even though I am unbelievably busy at work with a little thing we like to call Spring Carnival & Reunion Weekend, I’m taking one of my precious free evenings to see this awesome show.

Wanna come too?

Use the promo code SUPERBOY for $15 off tickets in price levels A, B and C for performances on Tuesday, April 5 and Wednesday, April 6. And if you pick Tuesday, let me know! That’s when I’ll be there.

You have to log in to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust in order to use the promo code, so don’t skip that step.

And don’t skip this show. Seriously.

Fine print: I received this discount code as a proud member of the Greater Pittsburgh arts community, and confirmed with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust that it was okay to share. I acquired my tickets elsewhere – thanks Rachel!

*Wikipedia told me it was stylized like that.

Aaaaand, that was odd.

Or, what not to do if you want a so-called blogger to write about your show.

Or, how not to act as an audience member.

Or, how not to act as The Cat in the Hat.

Or, my “review” of PMT’s  “Seussical The Musical”.

So Avi and I saw a show on Friday, as you may have guessed. He’s seen “Seussical” before and we have the soundtrack. I was excited to surprise him with tickets to see Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s production because he is five and not an asshole theater snob like his mother, and I could use a reminder about that once in awhile.

We were at will call to pick up the tickets when something very strange happened.

The first set of tickets I received had my blog listed. Sort of. Not exactly the correct name. They were also not in the section I had purchased. And I was So. Incredibly. Confused. On the one hand, cool! Someone set aside free press tickets for me because of ye olde bloggedy blog blog. On the other hand, NO ONE TOLD ME. Seriously, how could that happen?! Who just assumes that a) I’d be interested in writing about “Seussical” – which, honestly, I wouldn’t have been because I’m an asshole (see above) (and below) and b) I will show up on Friday night for the show without being told to do so! The fact that I purchased tickets ON MY OWN was just a coincidence. Otherwise, I would have never known these tickets were set aside for me.

I did some investigating and haven’t been able to figure out who the *someone* was who made these arrangements and failed to tell me about them. So odd!

In any case, we went inside, sat in the seats I had paid for and saw the show, which brings me to part 2 of this too-long tale.

There was a kid sitting next to us with his grandmother. I judged him to be about six or seven based on size. He was out of control obnoxious the entire first act. Yes, it’s a family show. Yes, I think all kids should be exposed to live theater. But I also think they should be encouraged to behave appropriately as an audience member, and that that behavior should be reinforced by their adults. This boy was loudly talking and singing and pointing pretty much constantly. I thought for awhile it was because we were RIGHT NEXT TO HIM that it was particularly distracting, but people two, three, four rows away were turning and glaring. Now let me make it clear that Avi was sitting SO quietly this whole time. He was obviously bothered by the boy’s behavior, but he was also polite and tried to ignore it. Rockstar.

At intermission, a group of teenage girls sitting in front of us turned around and told me that Avi was SO well behaved. They begged me to say something to grandma. I waffled (unsurprising) and chickened out (also unsurprising), hoping the second act behavior would be better. It wasn’t. Finally I turned and glared for a looooong time so grandma couldn’t ignore me anymore. She said “What? He’s five!” And before I could stop myself I shot back, “SO IS HE!” and jammed my thumb in Avi’s direction.

I wish I could tell you she shut up or apologized or something. Nope. She glared back at me and said “Oh grow up!” and that was that. (Which, huh? What does that even mean?!) At the end of the show, she and the boy bolted and the girls in front of us turned around. One of them actually told me, “You did nothing wrong. Don’t worry about what she said!” which was kind of adorable. Thanks, kid.

Whew. Now, part 3 and 4 of this saga come with a disclaimer (I’m an asshole.) and a cop-out: see, my friend Brian said pretty much everything I can say about the production, including the sentiment about youth theater. But I was especially disappointed in The Cat in the Hat, who was played more as a bloated cameo than the spry emcee of the whole story. I have major objections to that particular casting and the ad libbing, and I fully understand that I may be one of few people in Pittsburgh who feel that way, or at least who will admit it. Sorry. But when my kid whispers (because he is a good audience member!) to me that he wishes The Cat would stop interrupting the show, well…it’s not working. That thing you’re doing. At all.

And to steal another line from Brian, other than the parts I didn’t like (The Cat, the set, the lighting, the sound), the parts I did like (Jo Jo, Gertrude, Horton, the costumes, the orchestra, the ensemble) were great.

But I’m an asshole like that.