2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Marvel Comics – 1990s

Previous: Marvel in the 80s

Although I consider the 80s to be the peak, if I still had all those boxes you would find more 90s Marvel than anything else. It would almost be embarrassing, revealing my guiltiest pleasures of camp boys adventure stories. How fun they were.

I have since sold all my Marvels on ebay, saved others, but the memories remain. Again, Goodreads Marvel shelf

It was the 1990s comic boom, when gimmicks and crossovers and COLLECTIBLE NEW ISSUE 1! desperately pleaded you to buy multiple copies. The economy was good, everyone thought they’d get rich by selling Spawn # 1 (they wouldn’t) and I was in the thick of it. More on Image comics in a moment.

Marvel upped their crossovers like never before, and I’d like to start with Infinity War. That is pretty much the epitome of the era. Not to mention they’ll apparently make a movie of it.

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Infinity Gauntlet, by Jim Starlin, was brilliant. The villainous Thanos destroyed half of all life in the universe. It was cosmic. Jim Starlin’s space opera mythos will get its own post eventually. However, after Infinity Gauntlet concluded, the franchise was totally milked. The Infinity Watch series with Adam Warlock, The Infinity War and Infinity Crusade crossovers, it kept going. And I, at the time, loved it.

Another crossover was Avengers: Operation Galactic Storm, about an outer space war between the Kree and Shi’ar empires going to war. Perfect example of this sort of thing. 19 parts I think? It took me forever to track down each one and read the whole thing.

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What really deserves mention on this sort of thing is Spider-Man. Oh, Spider-Man in the 90s…

I actually remember going to the bookstore and seeing part 2 of Maximum Carnage and being totally enthralled. I barely knew what was going on, but they hooked me. I had to read them all.

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I was totally completist, reading all 14 chapters at full price as they came out. No hunting for back issues, it was the first time I experienced the rush of going to the comic store on Wednesday to read the latest installment.

There sure were a lot of Spider-Man comics back then. Web of, Amazing, Spectacular, Unlimited

I didn’t even understand all those characters, Iron Fist and Deathlok as well as Venom and Carnage. But I liked sensing more to the story.

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Met my best friend in the middle school cafeteria, when we noticed each other reading Spider-Man comics

Later in the 90s, Spider-Man would be haunted by the endlessly-complicated clone saga. It got less fun. Too convoluted for its own sake, and even the most diehard fans had enough.

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No wonder the franchise was eventually rebooted.

There were some actual good comics in the early 90s. Peter David’s Hulk comes to mind. Although it kept changing tone – Peter David is a great writer but he seems to make it up as he goes along – I jumped in during the Pantheon era. Fun stories like Rick Jones’ wedding, with superheroes in suits!

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A better recommendation for Hulks to read might be the awesome Future Imperfect:

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Meanwhile, in another corner of the Marvel Universe there was Ghost Rider.

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I remember a whole “Spirits of Vengeance” thing with spinoffs galore. It was no Vertigo, but I ate it up as superhero-friendly horror. Morbius the Living Vampire and whatnot. Y’know, there wouldn’t have been a Blade movie if not for those.

Speaking of movies, my original Guardians of the Galaxy was not of that blockbuster movie. The Guardians were a superteam from the 30th century, and only in the last few years did Marvel create a contemporary outer space team of misfits. Anyway, the 30th century version got their own series in the 90s. I always liked that cosmic, Silver Surfer stuff. It was obscure, not a big seller, but I enjoyed the world-building very much.

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Speaking of more obscure, the New Warriors. Where Mark Bagley, famed artist of Spider-Man, got his big break. Written by X-Men 90s scribe Fabian Nicieza, the team consisted of Marvel rejects in limbo who could be thrown together. Nova, Speedball, Firestar, some positive diverse characters thrown in for good measure; nothing else to do with them so why not make a new group? I recall it was pretty good. I like team book dynamics. The comics themselves I didn’t actually collect, they belonged to my best friend (mentioned above, the Spidey fan) and I read them all. Ah, bonding.

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That said, it’s about time I talk about actual good comics. Like, comics with heart that embrace the superhero genre but are a bit more intelligent. Comics for grownups, nostalgic they may be, but for grownups nonetheless. There wasn’t much of that at Marvel in the mid-90s, but some arose.

The great Mark Waid, very esteemed writer, had began to write for Marvel after leaving DC’s Flash and took up Captain America with Ron Garney. It was mighty good stuff.

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And then Marvel had to go and fuck with that.

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SZ Art – Animation Biennial

On Sunday afternoon I went to the B10 art hall for the “2nd Shenzhen Independent Animation Biennial” within the OCT Loft neighborhood.

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I think it’s more a video art exhibition than animation. But semantics.

WP_20141221_010 - CopyLet us enter.

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Can you make out the artists? Somewhat international.

Make sure to click for more detail.

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The cinema, times:

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An avant-garde Japanese film, of which I honestly could not understand:

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I quite liked this Taiwanese loop, critique of consumerism it must be:

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And so on

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Marvel Comics – 1980s

Previously: Growing up with the X-Men

The Uncanny X-Men were my absolute favorites when I was young, but those were not the only comics I was into. I had a great love for the whole Marvel Universe, and like the mutant corner of the epic tessaract room, I too was introduced to Spider-Man and the Avengers and the Fantastic Four by living in a house full of 80s comics…

I was never a Spider-Man completist, but with SO MANY Spider-Man spinoffs out there, Marvel really milked the franchise and I read a lot. Amazing, Spectacular, Web of. At least X-Men were teams and had spinoffs, how did Spider-Man get so many titles? The classic character, of course, has among the greatest rogue’s gallery. Peter Parker was also a relatable guy, and for this reason the underdog of superheroes because the most popular flagship of a whole company.

Some say that Spider-Man lost it when he got married. I didn’t think so, I liked the continuity and growth in the character’s life. Marvel has since, as all comics readers know, retroactively rewritten Spidey’s history so he was no longer ever married. Talk about a harsh annulment!

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Speaking of Spider-Man and X-Men and more, Secret Wars was the perfect story to tie together all the superheroes. Required reading in 84, it was on of the great original crossovers. Secret Wars took all the main heroes and villains and thanks to the mysterious Beyonder they were put a planet to fight a war. Nowadays crossovers are a comics cliche, but back then it was a big deal. Certainly a big deal for me to read.

I read it out of order, finding random back issues and more until I completed the story years later. The chapter introducing Spider-Man’s new costume was hard to get — expensive (the costume was precursor to Venom) — but eventually I bought the bullet and paid.

That’s how it was back then, piecing together the Marvel Universe.

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The sequel Secret Wars II sucked by the way. Trying to be philosophical and shit, the omnipotent Beyonder went to Earth and took human form and became a lame 80s hipster. Really terrible stuff.

But Marvel could do better.

This was the era of the great writer-artists. Truly great reads.

John Byrne’s science fictional Fantastic Four, took them to the Skrull Galaxy and Eon the Living Planet and the Negative Zone antimatter dimension and the microverse. Let us not forget, the mighty Galactus.

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Walter Simonson’s high fantasy Norse epic of Thor, as Thor’s world was fleshed out in Asgard joined by Balder the Brave. The actual mythologies were utilized as Ragnarok occurred, the end of the world, with Allfather Odin himself fighting the evil Surtur.

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Later I caught up on all the tradepaperback reprints of Frank Miller’s seminal noir-eque Daredevil (note that Miller is famed for Sin City, but this was his previous mainstream work leading up to that). Groundbreaking at the time.

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That covers all the main genres of adventure stories.

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Calling all writers, calling all proofreaders!

A fond hello to all you brilliant aspiring writers out there.

Who would like to help me on a manuscript? That whole I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine setup…

I, an experienced professional copyeditor, will help scour your manuscript for typos. And you can help me. Networking and all that.

My latest is a slim eBook at under 50,000 words. I suspect you will find it a good read. It’s my last eBook before I officially get “real published” and I hope to polish it as much as possible. Please help me with one last edit.

 

My contact information is on my About Me up there, but let me reiterate: let’s correspond and do say hi via rayhecht@gmail.com

Can’t wait to read your own works of genius and soon 🙂

 

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My humble namecared. See? I am a pro

 

Growing up with the X-Men

“Da na na na NA NA!”

That’s supposed to be the X-Men Animated Series theme song. Remember that? If you’re a member of my generation, should be a fond memory…

Fox X-Men Animated Series 1992 to 1997

Can’t you just hear the theme song?

 

Little did my early childhood self know, but there was a lot more to X-Men than that 90s Zeitgeist.

As detailed in my last post: My History of Comics, once upon a time in my adolescence I was given the awesome gift of about a hundred 1980s X-Men comics (as well as New Mutants and X-Factor spinoffs, more on that in a moment). Written by Chris Claremont, this was the crème de la crème of the superhero genre. It changed my reading habits — and hence, my life — forever.

Although these comics posts are mean to be about my experience, I will delve into the greater history of comics for a bit. In Marvel Comic’s “Silver Age” era in the 1960s, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, that is, probably just Jack Kirby, created the X-Men. Cyclops, Angel, Best, Iceman, and Marvel Girl/Jean Grey. It was actually more of a failure compared to Fantastic Four and the Avengers at that time. Yet, in the late 1970s came the All New All Different X-Men and American superhero comics suddenly matured.

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Dave Cockrum?

 

With an international cast, featuring the Canadian Wolverine and the African Storm as well as many others, it brought much-needed diversity to the superhero genre. In particular were the many strong, female characters. (Funny though it is that the X-Men were so feminist.)

It still pisses me off that the movies don’t get that. I’ll be complaining about the movies a lot in this post.

By the 1980s, the Uncanny X-Men were the best of the best. While Marvel was publishing a lot of cherished works, scribe Chris Claremont was building an amazing mythology unequaled with anything else out there. He took the metaphor of mutants-as-oppressed-minority and went with it unseen depths. He wrote with equal ease in outer space settings, as the alien Shi’ar Empire fought the Phoenix and the Brood. He wrote about magical concepts, with Colossus’s sister Illyana the ruler of the mystical demonic realm of Limbo. He was on fire, and he stuck with the characters on fire for 16 years from 1975 to 1991. Although, yes, if you wanna critique we was and is a very wordy writer.

My bundle of X-Mens covered about 180 – 240. But with many other heres-and-theres, I got the Dark Phoenix saga graphic novel collection and Classic X-Men reprints. The fun of collecting comics back then was to fill in the gaps and slowly piece together the greater story over the course of years. Then I got X-Factor 1 – 50, the spinoff featuring the original X-Men such as Cyclops, which covered many crossovers. As well as bunches and bunches of New Mutants.

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The New Mutants, next generation of students at Xavier’s

 

By the time I hit the ground running, Magneto had joined the X-Men in issue 200 and then there was the Mutant Massacre and then for a darker period the X-Men had “died” in the Fall of the Mutants storyline in 225 and lived in Australia while being drawn by Marc Silvestri, and then the demonic Inferno crossover around issue 240 brought together X-Factor and others. Wow fun times!

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Silvestri, love that art

 

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My History of Comics

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My current crop of graphic novels on apartment bookshelf, but do read up on how it all began…

Back: My hobby of comics

And now the history thereof:

Back in the 1980s, I was a weird little kid. I had an unstable upbringing, and although I was encouraged to read I didn’t really discover my passions until a bit older. I didn’t get into comics until that decade was over with, although as a small child I did typically love Ninja Turtles and Transformers without even knowing the original comic book origins.

By the time the 90s arrived, I was a hyperactive nerd with bad social skills and hailing from an increasingly-broken home. My destiny as an escapist comic geek was inevitable, it must have been. I did enjoy watching the brilliant X-Men and Batman cartoons, though I hadn’t read much of the source material yet.

Finally, my parents divorced. I remember it as a great relief.

I was about ten or eleven years old and my dad lived in Indianapolis, Indiana while my mom moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. The great question was which insane parent me and my sister were to stay with (spoiler: wasn’t going to be my mom). The answer to that question was postponed, as we were sent to stay with our loving older, richer, Jewisher relatives to live with for a year as my parents got it together and proceeded to fight each other in court.

It was an interesting year, living in a big house in actual American suburbs. Like you see on TV and everything. A taste of the good life!

But what really made it a good life was that my old relatives had an adult soon who had moved away. Their son was a comics fan, and closets upon closets upon basements in the house were filled with classic 80s and 90s Marvel comics. Lots of Star Wars toys as well, by the way.

Some of my best memories are of exploring that ol’ house. All the things I discovered…

Putting comics in chronological order. Making sense of the crossovers, filling in the gaps of storylines bit by bit. The Avengers. Fantastic Four. The story of Tony Stark losing his armor to James Rhodes, Captain America quitting, Spider-Man’s black costume, and marriage. Tie-ins to Secret Wars, Inferno, Acts of Vengeance, and more.

I lived in the Marvel Universe, I truly did.

Here’s the thing about superhero comics as hobby. To truly understand the profound continuity, you need to read a lot. Not just casually pick up an issue or even a graphic novel every so often, you need to obsessively understand everything that has ever happened to these characters over the course of decades. Hundreds of characters with their own biographies and histories and villains and to follow it all you have to basically become an expert.

Then, in the midst of figuring all this out, I started buying the latest 90s Marvel comics. Spider-Man and X-Men, of course. Crossovers like Maximum Carnage and the Phalanx Covenant. The early 90s did not measure up to the heyday of the mid-80s by any means, although as a dumb kid I was very impressed by those Image-era artists. And there was nothing better than Wednesdays at that fondly-remembered little comic shop in downtown Broadripple. It was my first. It’s gone now.

The time came and my dad moved to Cincinnati and me and my sister moved with him. Life was more or less stable from middle school to high school. But by that point, the damage was done. I could not move anywhere without finding the local comic shop and I was wired so that it was one of the most important things in my life. Soon I would meet my lifelong best friend in the cafeteria of our middle school, because we both read comics and didn’t sit with the cool kids.

But before I moved, I was given the greatest gift one could ever be given, a hundred-odd issues of 1980s-era Chris Claremont genius.

Remember what I said about continuity, about being an obsessive expert to truly understand the story? That goes quadruple for the epicness that is classic X-MEN.

Next: My early affair with the X-Men (and not that current movie shit, the original awesome groundbreaking All-New All-Different series…)

Comics One

I like to share. Over the course of this blog, I’ve shared my writings, some of my taste in music, and yes my love-life. However, one aspect that I consider very important to my identity has been rather neglected. I speak of my biggest hobby of all, my first love. Comics. There are many facets to the complexity that is me Ray, but if anyone is interested in truly knowing the core of my being then you must know that I am ultimately.. a bigass comic geek. I used to go to the comic shop every Wednesday. I used to scour for good deals at used bookstores and comic conventions. I collected thousands of periodicals across all genres, and filled my various bedrooms with dozens of boxes. At last count, I had about 40 boxes. They contain over a hundred issues each, do the math. I have less now, that’s another story, but still a ton of these back in my dad’s closet in Indiana of all places.

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Now imagine 40 of these.

To introduce this series detailing my great interest in the sequential art form, let me begin with profile links from my extensive Goodreads:

According to my Goodreads shelves, I have read over 1000 graphic novels (I think it’s more, that’s just what I recalled to list)
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=comics

There are all kinds, all genres. But I must admit mostly superhero- https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=superhero

Split into DC and Marvel (I’m more into DC, least I used to be) https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=dc https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=marvel

Re: Superman
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=superman

Also, quite a lot of Japanese manga
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=manga

Such as the fun volumes of Shonen Jump https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=shonen-janpu

The “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=tezuka

I do, of course, contend that comics are as literature as prose books Noting DC’s adult imprint Vertigo
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=vertigo

Indie as well, all that which defies classification https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=indie

My favorite authors:

Grant Morrison
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=grant-morrison

Alan Moore
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=alan-moore

Warren Ellis
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=warren-ellis

Neil Gaiman
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=gaiman

Geoff Johns
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=geoff-johns

Heartache Songs 3 – Fun. “Out on the Town”

Heartache Songs 1

Heartache Songs 2

Heartache Songs 3

Nate Ruess, who broke your heart?

With no irony, no declarations of guilty pleasures, I admit am a shameless sincere full-on fan of the epic rock band Fun.. Among my very favorite bands, especially current music. And what a singer.

I prefer this live version of the bonus song from the seminal album Some Nights (of which the eponymous song “Some Nights” is of course brilliant, among many others…). I’ve listened to many of those songs on repeat again and again, and this one in particular like no other.

If you pay attention you will see Mr. Ruess’s songwriting contains some consistent themes, and again I ask the question: Dude, who broke your poor heart?

Now, these lyrics don’t necessarily apply to what I’ve specifically done, y’know making a scene and all, but I’ve been pretty damn close. I can relate to the feelings a bit. Most of all, I relate to the part about knowing I can be more clever and strong and mostly clever.

That’s it. End of the series, no more heartache music from me. I’m over it, and I’ll spare you Bright Eyes. Lucky you.

Still, hope you give this a listen and if you’ve been there I hope it’s a small comfort:

I set all my regrets on fire
Cause I know I’ll never take the time
To unpack my missteps and call all of our friends
I figured they would take your side

I make the bed, just not that well
Your name comes up a lot
When I talk to my mom
Oh, I think she can tell

I was out on the town
So I came to your window last night
I tried not to throw stones
But I wanted to come inside
Now I’m causing a scene
Thinking you need a reason to smile
Oh no, what have I done?
There’s no one to keep me warm

So maybe I should put up a fight
I’ll call them back and borrow a box knife
So I can learn to live with all the stupid shit
I’ve been doing since ’99

And I know I could be more clever
And I know I could be more strong
But I’m waiting for the day
You’ll come back and say
“Hey, maybe I should change my mind”

I drink a lot
I’m not sure if that’s new
But these days when I wake up
From a night I forgot
I just wish that it never came true

I was out on the town
So I came to your window last night
I tried not to throw stones
But I wanted to come inside
Now I’m causing a scene
Thinking you need a reason to smile
Oh no, what have I done?
There’s no one to keep me warm

And I know I could be more clever
And I know I could be more strong
And I know I could be more clever
And I know I could be more CLEVER

I knew there’d come a day
When all was said and done
(And I know I could be more clever)
Everything I was
Is everything but gone
(And I know I could be more strong)
All my big mistakes
Are bouncing off your wall
(And I know I could be more clever)
The bottles never break
The sun will never comes
(And I know I could be more clever)
So come on let me in
I will be the sun
(And I know I could be more CLEVER)
I will wake you up
I am who I was
(And I know I could be more strong)
So beat up your heart, oh beat up your heart, oh beat up your heart
(And I know I could be more CLEVER
And I know I could be more)

I was out on the town
So I came to your window last night
I tried not to throw stones
But I wanted to come inside
Now I’m causing a scene
Thinking you need a reason to smile
Oh no, what have I done?
There’s no one to keep me warm