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Follow the latest chapters of Always Goodbye on Webtoons
Featuring being a weird kid, divorce, and becoming a fanboy…
This here is my autobiographical comic, Always Goodbye. Just a humble lo-fi take on my life, year-by-year…
Read them first at Webtoons.com: https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/always-goodbye/list?title_no=224697
Prologue, my parents meet in the middle of the world, I am born, and the family grows and goes. Suffice to say, to be continued–
It’s been a long while.
Once upon a time, as I’ve written about before, I liked to collect comic books. It’s pretty much my favorite storytelling medium, that mix of visual and verbal with so much dynamic imagination, it’s my first love and as much as I enjoy prose and film nothing will ever compare to flipping through a picture book…
Back in 2005, so long ago, I moved to California and left my collection in my dad’s closet. Guess that was growing up.
After years of subscribing and going to the comics shop every Wednesday, and a lot of digging around at comic conventions and used bookstores, my collection was about 5,000 issues strong. It took up a lot of space.
Flash-forward to early 2008. Even before I moved abroad that year, I knew I had to get it together. I decided to take a month off my west coast life to stay in Cincinnati and sort out about half of my collection. Ebay became my full-time job. I was constantly working on the computer and going back and forth from the post office. I sold all my Marvel, manga, independents, and even more than a few toys. That amounted to half of my stuff. If I remember correctly, I made about a thousand US dollars.
And that was the compromise. I was a big DC fan at the time, and hoped my knowledge of continuity might actually help me as an author one day, so I kept all of those. Then, as we all know, I moved all the way to China. It was a heck of a year.
I admit I didn’t have a good long-term plan. Some two dozen boxes stayed in my dad’s closet, until he eventually retired and moved and issued an ultimatum that I needed to find another storage solution. Luckily, I have friends. One was kind enough to curate them for a year, but then he went through some drama and had to move. Another good friend took them up and they remained in his grandma’s basement for another year or two. All while I lived thousands of miles away. I felt bad that these people went through so much trouble on my account, but what could I do other than say thanks and wire some gifts…
It has now been a full decade since I’ve left America, and it’s time to get it together. Let’s face facts and admit I’m not coming back any time soon. Owning two dozen heavy boxes of books simply isn’t so compatible with the expat lifestyle.
Last month, I went on my big trip to the United States. For almost the entirety of July, Bronwen and I traveled throughout my troubled country. For the first half we mostly stayed in Southern California, exploring Los Angeles and Orange County by way of Long Beach as homebase. It was a rather good trip.
For the second half of the journey, we stayed in my adopted hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Not quite as much tourist action, but she seemed to enjoy it. A good introduction to middle America, right?
It was where I grew up, where I could drive around the various neighborhoods and indulge in nostalgia, and a good middle ground where my relatives from Indiana and Florida and old friends from east coast could all come together to meet me once again… And, of course, where my comics were.
The family and friends and sight-seeing where all important parts of the trip. But this post is about the comics.
Suffice to say, it was not easy juggling so much in such a short time. Not to mention the workout of dragging all those boxes from house to house. My apologies to anyone who felt left out as I sorted out all that stuff.
Anyway, my little sister had agreed to help me sell some on Ebay (my own Ebay account had long since deactivated in the ensuing decade). I didn’t have time to organize the entire collection, but I did post a select few which I thought could get a good price.
There was the New Teen Titans, from the 1980s and up:
The complete 2000s JSA/Justice Society by Geoff Johns, including his first work Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. and Hawkman and more:
Sadly, the entire 1980s-1990s Justice League International by Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis wasn’t more popular for some reason, though that fun-loving run is among the best to me:
One thing I did discover about Ebay is that it’s much easier to post graphic novels as books rather than organize hundreds of magazine issues. If you type in the ISBN, it not only gives you the stock photo but even suggests a price. Fine by me! I decided to sell the remaining dozen or so graphic novels that way, sold about half of them for five to ten dollars each, and it only took two trips to the post office.
Leaving a substantial percentage for my little sister’s PayPal as a gift, because I try to be a decent brother.
Meanwhile, mailing out full runs box-by-box just wasn’t feasible. So I decided to post a summary on both Craigslist, and that new Facebook Marketplace, pitching anyone to come by to my hotel and look through the entire lot and negotiate a price.
That wasn’t not weird, is it?
DC COMICS MEGA-COLLECTION FOR SALE, from the 80s and 90s and 2000s! Massive sets of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Justice League International, Teen Titans, Legion – thousands of comics by such creators as Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, and much more!
I am selling my entire comic collection consisting of several thousand which I have built up over many years. This is a great deal because I am moving and simply trying to pass them on quickly to a fan.
Please come by personally to check them out in Blue Ash, Cincinnati and then we can agree on an exact price. For example, if you want the entire set for a bulk purchase in the four-figures, that’s possible. Or, more specifically, I can sell some of these various bundles of hundreds per set for a two- to three-figure sum each:
All comics are in very fine to near mint condition unless otherwise stated. Please message me for more details and the whole inventory…
-Superman 90s and 90s: reboot by John Byrne starting from issue #1, Death and Rebirth of Superman era by Dan Jurgens, featuring many extra Supergirl and Superboy issues and even some Shazam!
-Superman 2000s: featuring the Y2K and Our Worlds at War/Imperiex War crossover, many issues by Geoff Johns and also Birthright by Waid
-Batman: bundle particularly with lots of spinoff issues of Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey written by Chuck Dixon; plus even old Outsiders
-Wonder Woman: massive bundle starting from issue #1 with the George Perez post-Crisis reboot, as well as John Byrne’s 90s run and Phil Jimenz in the 2000s and many more
-Complete 80s Justice League! This huge bundle features the entire run of the classic 80s Justice League International era by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMattis “Bawahaha” comedy era #1-60, plus many more with some Firestorm thrown in
-The New Teen Titans: huge bundle of the 80s Marv Wolfman and George Perez era of the Titans starting from #1 on to the Judas Contract with Slade/Deathstroke the Terminator, and lots of extras from latter decades…
-Geoff Johns MEGA bundle with complete Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. that started it all plus Teen Titans, and Flash Rebirth!
-Infinite Crisis 2005 crossover by Geoff Johns including Villains United and the Secret Six series by Gail Simone, Villains United
-Justice Society by Geoff Johns: The complete JSA by Geoff Johns, plus various Starman issues by James Robinson as well as Spectre and old 80s All-Star Squadron and Johns’ Hawkman plus more
-90s Young Justice by Peter David, and others by the acclaimed writer
-52 by Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, Grant Morrison: complete set plus spinoffs from of the epic ‘real-time’ comic from the 2000s of the year skip
-Grant Morrison bundle featuring the complete Seven Soldiers of Victory, All-Star Superman, Final Crisis, Batman and more from the mad genius DC writer
-Grant Morrison Vertigo bundle! Featuring complete runs of his hard-to-find brilliant miniseries such as the complete Flex Mentallo, We3, Sea Guy, Vimanarama, Joe the Barbarian, plus some Doom Patrol
-DC crossovers! Zero Hour, Invasion!, Millenium, Joker’s Last Laugh, Identity Crisis, and Tons of DC crossovers from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s featuring all the iconic superheroes saving the universe
-Legion of Superheroes from the 80s – and even some 70s and 60s – and 2000s: massive bundle of Legion issues by with a couple of valuable Silver Age ones, many Paul Levitz classics both pre-Crisis and post-Crisis, and also the first issues of the Mark Waid ‘threeboot’ in the 2000s
-Complete Legion of Superheroes 90s reboot: every single one of the post-Zero Hour reboot by Mark Waid & more. Giant set of Legion and Legionnaires and Legion Lost and more spinoffs!
Behold, I have created a new Tumblr account in order to share my comics:
I have started with an old one. “Shopping Spree” is a 12-page short from a defunct anthology experiment entitled Cupcake Dreamy. It is about Hollywood and street kids and photography and shoplifting and trains and ennui.
Almost goes without saying, massive spoilers herein forewarned.
Do not read ahead unless you’ve already seen.
Just for fun, I recently put together some of my recent comics as an “ebook” on my old Smashwords account. I don’t often use that website, but if nothing else it is a useful vehicle for sharing free PDFs.
Feel free to read and download. This complication of one-page stories is hereby titled A Random Assortment of Cautionary Tales.
I also have hard copies in Shenzhen to happily share if you bump into me in person 😀
Tell your friends!
Moreover, if you happen to be a friend of mine on Goodreads.com and you want to be very very kind… Well, the funny thing about Smashwords is that even such a small ebook gets a listing on Goodreads. And I can always use reviews. So, wanna read and then quickly rate a few stars with your honest opinion…?
A Random Assortment of Cautionary Tales is just that — a random collection of one-page comic stories by Ray Hecht about the little things in life that haunt us so. No lessons to be learned really, just cautionary in the sense of the warning that everyday can bring new adventure in frustration, ennui, and meh.
Featuring: Umbrella Thief, Why Does This Always Happen to Me?, The Train, Sketch, a Run, Yet Another Semi-True Story, and the 4-part series Unnecessary Cries For Help
Here’s a video of me participating in the Shenzhen Stories event, in which local storytellers tell touching stories of personal experiences. I was invited, and yes I was a bit nervous. The theme was unluckiness (being Friday the 13th and all), and my only idea was to talk about the everyday minor frustrations of my silly little indie comics instead of the usual trauma.
The event was excellent, with heartfelt performers expressing their personal stories. It wasn’t easy for me to keep up with that. Also, now that there’s a video I am again reminded of my annoying voice.
To my surprise, the projector didn’t work and yet it went over well! They seemed to like my comics stylings. Please listen in on the talk and the laughs, and judge for yourself:
Last week on a Sunday afternoon I participated in an event in which writers based in Shenzhen can read their works aloud. It was part of the Shenzhen Book Exchange, which is an interesting sort of amateur library that English-language readers put together to promote reading and finding books while abroad. I’ve borrowed a lot of books from there, and donated a few myself.
While at it, I decided to print some of my one-page comics and share them as little books. That went over pretty well. (They don’t work very read aloud but great to give away.) Now six pages long. The working title of this slowly-growing anthology is “A Random Assortment of Cautionary Tales.”
I am somewhat afraid that I’m not very good at reading. The audience seemed attentive, but maybe I read too fast. Ah well, I’m not quite an actor but I hope the words are interesting.
Reading from my new story THIS MODERN LOVE:
As much as the point was to share my works, it was also much fun to organize the event in that I found new writers in Shenzhen to work with as well as help to edit for translations. While I’ve read at the book exchange before, and I had a ‘Shenzhen Writers Night’ earlier in the year, this was the first time putting those two in particular together and I think it was a good forum for the city’s literary scene. I’m lucky to have come across these great authors, both established Chinese and (such as me) aspiring American. Here they are with links to their works below:
Greta Bilek is a self-published travel writer and author of the book China Tea Leaves. Writing about travel in China, she finds inspiration in ancient poems, historic travelogues, stories told by Chinese friends and more. This is her second time presenting at the Book Exchange, sharing reflection from the road and experiences of taking on layers of cultural traditions as an expat.
Tiga Tan is the scriptwriter and novelist. She has written more than 300 episodes of TV series for Shenzhen’s children’s channel and the animated series Fuwa for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She is author of “G.O.D.I.S.E.T” a science fiction novel. She read from her short fairy tale “So Long, Aga.”
Nicole A. Schmidt is a published author, poet, educator and editor. She shared poetry, creative non-fiction and art she has created while in China. She is the author of Inside a Young Soul, and runs NAS Writes as an editing platform.
I hope you will take the time to look up these writers and learn more about their brilliant works! I’m honored to have had the chance to share the creative side of Shenzhen.
I’m looking forward to the next event already…
Being an expat living in a major Chinese city of millions – with thousands of Westerners within the English-speaking foreigner scene – you never know who you will meet and what part of the world they may introduce you to… particularly when it comes to romance!
As I’ve written about extensively, it just never seemed to work out with me and Chinese girls. I haven’t followed up on those old blogs in a while, but know this of my present situation: I have not been lonely over the past year.
In the summer of ’14, I happened to fall for an artsy South African girl. Without getting into too much detail, let’s just say there were some interesting stories along the way. I’m not going to share all those personal stories at this time. Suffice to say it’s been serious, intense, and loving.
I am however happy to share the fact that last holiday (Moon Festival coinciding with National Day) she took me on a tour of her home country. An entire new continent I’ve never been to, a whole other land. I am still in awe of all I had seen.
I must admit, it was a challenge at times. Sad though it may be, at this late stage in my life this was actually the first time I had ever met a girlfriend’s parents! Wow. Really? Well, that’s me.
I was rather nervous. There was, in actuality, the issue of class. White South Africans tend to live in the suburbs, in gated communities, walled off by electric fences. I grew up a step below, and over the past half-decade gotten comfortable living in the lesser developed end of a developed city in developing country.
South Africa in actuality may be one of the most unequal countries in the world, but I’m not saying that my girlfriend’s family are that rich. Just normal middle class. Yet even that is tricky for me to be comfortable with. I liken myself to a starving artist-writer in China mind you, not some trader-businessman.
Really, it wasn’t that bad.
All that said, the country is full of beauty like no other… I can see what people love so much about Africa.
My lovely did an incredible job of planning this trip. (How could I plan? I followed her. And it worked out very well that I did.) Everyday, off to a new place. New sights to see. New wonders to behold.
Off we went.
We flew in from Hong Kong. Transferred at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, to the view from the aircraft of exquisite waterfalls and Mt. Kilimanjaro. My first time entering the Southern Hemisphere. Wish I could have explored Ethiopia more. Next time.
Though we were tired, I was determined to start exploring right after landing. Being picked up from the Johannesberg airport was almost a disappointment; I’d wanted to learn about trains right off the bat. But it was tiring after the second flight being over ten hours.
The driver took us to the guest house in Melville, the hip part of town. On the drive over I stared out the window and took pictures. The highway only showed what looked like middle-American suburbs. In fact, much of what I would see of the middle-class homes and shopping malls pretty much reminded me of American suburbs.
Melville was awesome. Full of vegetarian restaurants (we ate Mexican food the first night, yum!), used bookstores (I spent way too much money), and most importantly of all a comic book shop. Outer Limits: I got an old Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud I’d been wanting to reread and share for ages.
They didn’t have the latest One Piece manga volume, but later I did find it at a shop in Pretoria.
And Gaiman’s Sandman: Overture still hadn’t come out yet, always late.
By the second day my ears no longer popped and jetlag not too bad, we hung out some more in Melville and bought vintage clothes at this cool place made out of trucker containers called 27 Blocks. After some errands at the bank, I got a Sim card for my phone. Another highlight was simply going to a grocery store. Again, due to the western context, it was nice to simply be in a supermarket.
We checked out and took a tuk-tuk driver to downtown Pretoria, at the City Bowl area near the Gautrain station. There, although heavy with all the luggage, we went to yet another bookstore (found a used Warren Ellis graphic novel) to meet up with Eleni – blogger of Greek Meets Taiwan – who lives in the area. It was tricky to find the time, but small world that it is one might as well take advantage, and had coffee with her boyfriend and talked about education.
A lot of interesting talks showing me how it really is in South Africa…
Running a bit late, we took the Gautrain to Pretoria. This was the moment. My girlfriend’s dad, first time ever in my life to meet him. Although I did talk to him on Skype the week before. It was cool, no big deal at all. Nice man.
The dad and his wife – I would meet the mother later (now that I think about, perhaps divorced parents is one of the things that brings us together) – drove us out for dinner. We stopped by at a hoity-toity golf club where I did not feel comfortable at all. But it was interesting to see their scene. I was treated to an endless array of delicious meals, put on weight, and I’m very grateful he invited me into his home and was so kind.
The house in the suburbs was as suburban as ever. Except as said in South Africa they have electric fences. Stayed in our own guest bedrooms, watched cable TV, and caught up with my online life.
Already my third day in this land, and then sadly it started to get boring.
Hi there, gamers!
With this in mind, I hope it is appropriate to interview Mr. Corey van den Hoogenband of the website Button Masher T.O.
What is your personal process by which you get an idea for a post, and how do you go about writing it?
More likely than not, the process begins with me jumping out of bed late at night to grab my phone and make a memo about what it is I want to write about. I can say with confidence though that in my experience the key to writing a successful article is writing about what you care about and why you care about it. There’s going to be a million other sites covering the exact same news stories whether that’s gaming, politics, what have you – and readers can get that same news anywhere. What’s going to bring people towards your article is how you perceive that news. Your opinion is your greatest ally – and if it differs from everyone else, even better!
If you wanted an example, early in July a trailer dropped for the “A Matter of Family” Batgirl DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight. I noticed that in the trailer Harley Quinn, a character I think is great, is sporting her original outfit from the ’90s Batman cartoon. Instead of writing an article saying “Check out this new trailer!” like everyone else did, I wrote something along the lines of “Harley Quinn Goes Old School in New Batgirl DLC.” Even a month later, that article brings in at least 30 visitors a day.
Are there any writers who particularly inspire you?
I think I’m influenced most greatly by Greg Miller and the rest of the guys at Kinda Funny. I’ve been reading Miller’s stuff since he first showed up at IGN in the late 2000s, and his style of writing worked in such a way that it didn’t feel like text on screen, it felt like your nerdy friend telling you why you would or wouldn’t like game x. I hope my writing comes across the same way to readers – that there’s a guy on the other end who’s excited to tell them about whatever the article is about.
Now that the Button Masher podcast is up on iTunes, can you share some interesting things about making a podcast?
Without a doubt the hardest part of a podcast is starting each episode. Once the ball is rolling you feel fine going for 30, 40, 50 minutes, but I know whether it’s me on Podcast Engage or Nic hosting CineMasher, we always do four or five intro attempts before we get it right. “Heeeeello internet and welcome to the… no no no that was way too lame.” Picture that but in ten plus variations each episode.
I see you cover a lot of cool nerdy pop culture, focusing on video games but not exclusively so. From Muppets to Bojack Horseman, what are some of your favorite non-gaming franchises and stories?
Well the whole idea of not exclusively covering games is an extension of our longing to just share and celebrate the stuff that we would talk about anyways if Nic, Damion, the others, and myself were sitting around at a bar. When it comes to non-gaming I’d say some of my personal favourite franchises would have to be Batman: The Animated Series, Breaking Bad, the A Song of Ice and Fire books, and most recently this exceptional comic book series, Saga.
What were your favorite games growing up?
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask was the first game I got addicted to. I was too young to beat the game’s first temple so I’d just run around exploring Termina as Link until my three day cycle ran out, then I’d start again and repeat. You wouldn’t believe how excited I was when I found an old Nintendo Power Magazine with a walkthrough of Majora’s Mask’s dungeons and realized there was more to Zelda than just cutting down bushes. My life was changed…I’ve yet to figure out if that was for better or worse.
What are your favorite games currently?
Right now I’m obsessed with Batman: Arkham Knight. I caved and bought the 40 dollar season pass, so hopefully it’ll supply me with the Batman fix I desperately crave all the way up until the new year. I’m a weak, weak man.
One of the things I’ve missed out on by living in China is the glory of comic conventions. I went to the San Diego con — biggest in America, a number of times. I used to go to small ones in Cincinnati. Buy discount bundles of comics, get some signed by artists and writers. In San Diego, of course, many big-time celebrities to gawk at. Pretty much the funnest thing there is to do.
I did go to an animation festival in Shenzhen a few years back, and it was fun. Students making CGI films, Japanese manga translated into Chinese. But no Western comics.
With the popularity of the Marvel films all over the world, Wizard World — and I’d gone to a Wizard World in Chicago back in the day — decided to host their first convention in China at the nearby city of Guangzhou. Imagine my pleasure at hearing this!
Then imagine my extreme disappointment when I went last month and it was an abyssmal failure. 😦
Now, I didn’t expect much. Wizard World Guangzhou was beaten by the Shanghai comic con, and the reviews weren’t great. Just a bit of cosplay, toys to buy, and very little actual comics to purchase but apparently at least a few. As Marta Lives in China had written about: https://martalivesinchina.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/shanghai-comic-con/
What a long story the failure of the Guangzhou con. Where to even start?
Only a few days before schedule I’d suddenly heard that they changed venues. Guangzhou, host city of the large scale international Canton Fair, should know how to do big events. China has trade conventions all the time; I’ve been to many. Yet the new venue was suspiciously small. Apparently they built a big tent or something.
We arrived Saturday in the afternoon, and heard from friends that they’d been waiting in line in the scorching heat for several hours. Two Americans in China has more details here: http://www.twoamericansinchina.com/2015/05/the-big-con-nightmare-guangzhou-comic-con.html
Nothing but long lines. Hours and hours of this. We decided to go eat nearby, in no hurry to join the lines and wait, and gather some intel.
Finally, after hours of walking in circles just wondering if the line was even moving, the story had been pieced together. Turned out the the original venue had backed out. There were rumors they wanted to overcharge the westerners at the last minute, and/or they double-booked. Probably another stupid boring trade show about cell phone parts or something. Gosh forbid they do an exhibition with some culture.
Fanstang, the incompetent Chinese-based organization working with Wizard World (and Wizard bears responsibility too), only had time for this very small alternative location. Seemed all the vendors were cancelled. Couldn’t even buy a dang T-shirt. I never did get to see the inside, but a few others had and said it was extremely disappointing.
The only discernible point of this thing was to look at a few celebrities.
I felt silly taking pics with the crowd, but what else was there to do?
This guy is Stefon from Vampire Diaries, so I’m told. Paul Wesley.
And this girl on the right walking away is Skye from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which I don’t watch. Actress Chloe Bennet.
And that is unfortunately all I got.
The biggest name was Lee Pace, Thranduil from the Hobbit and Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy. Whatever.
I took these pictures when the celebrities were leaving. It was scheduled until 6:00, I figured the last hour or so could be enjoyed there, but at 4:00 the stars got fed up and left. It was over.
The remaining crowds were not happy. It was very difficult to get a straight answer about refunds. Finally, an American in charge told me the rest of the story. The police wouldn’t let the people in, as there were something like 7000 tickets sold but the venue could only hold several hundred people. Yes, that big a discrepancy. Only “VIP” tickets would be let in the next day, which cost 500 yuan, and absolutely not worth it. They were still figuring out details on regular-priced ticket refunds and sending signed autographs or something.
In the end, what a clusterfuck. An epic China fail if ever there was one.
What bothers me the most is how much it embarrasses China. Talk about losing face. All these celebrities, who have much social capital, are left with a terrible impression of doing business in China. These people are not impressed with Guanghzou. If this worked it could have been a lot of fun for fans and opened up Western pop culture to this grand country. Instead, it reinforced the worst examples of how China is not quite yet ready to be a modern country. I’m very sorry about that, but what other conclusion can be drawn? It’s true.
The lesson is to tread carefully in China, and don’t have high expectations.
That said, with my low expectations we still had some fun in China.