Saturday, December 15, 2007

Understanding the Value of Comics

When I was a kid, eight years old, my parents got divorced. I wasn't raised to be particularly religious, but when that happened it was like God died. My parents both loved me but they weren't particularly in the best places in their lives and they fought each other... for me. I felt that I had to choose, that I had to protect them from each other, that I had to bring the light, to take care of them, so that they wouldn't give up. I would never want any child to bare that but I still don't believe it was the wrong thing for me.

The stress affected me. In the course of four years I developed two major diseases. In fourth grade my left knee and right middle finger swelled up to four times their sizes. The pain petrified my right hand and my left leg. I had developed a rare form of arthritis that only a handful of kids in the country had and there was no guarantee that I would walk again. Sometimes my leg would cramp up from the lack of movement and I'd use the hospital bed to raise and lower over my knees so that I could have some movement without extreme pain.

When I was in sixth grade I weighed just over fifty pounds. I was wasting away, always thirsty, starting to wet my bed again, and always very tired and sickly. I was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes, a disease that would require me to take multiple shots of insulin a day, monitor my blood and my diet, and require me to actively keep myself alive every day of my life. I cried when I was diagnosed. The tears didn't last long. But then I had to call my dad and tell him and when he answered the phone he was so upbeat and optimistic. It broke my heart to have to tell him that his little boy, his only child, had a disease that would never go away.

A few months before the first disease, my mom was washing her clothes at a laundromat so I had to go with her. There was a Stop-N-Go next to the laundromat and she bought me a comic book to keep me entertained. It was a reprint of one of the most famous issues of The Amazing Spider-Man and it ended with a cliffhanger ending. I had to get the next issue and I'd visit the Stop-N-Go again and again checking to see if the next chapter was out yet. And when I would find that the next issue still wasn't out yet I'd buy a different issue of Spider-Man (there were four monthly Spider-Man comics being published at that time including the reprint title). One of those comics also had a cliffhanger ending and by the time that next issue did come out, I was hooked. Spider-Man's alias, Peter Parker, was a kid like me, not bad looking, but not someone who girls were lining up for. He'd save the day, but it often cost him with his personal life. He was an orphan raised by his Aunt and he felt responsible for the death of his uncle. Still, he kept doing the right thing, even though it didn't always work out for him. And every now and then, it did.

I always liked heroes. I appreciate the bad boys, like Han Solo, who did the right thing in the end and whom all the girls swooned for and all the boys wanted to be. But I liked the "good boys" better. They were the ones that had to carry the weight while the bad boy was looking cool and doing what was convenient for himself. Luke Skywalker and Superman were my first fictional heroes. And then came Spider-Man whom, at the time when I needed what made him a little more complex, was tailor made for me. All of these characters gave me something to believe in. They helped me escape the blues of the real world. They kept my head high. They were my new Gods.

Being sick as a child might sound horrible but the truth was it was never so bad. My parents put their war with each other on hold. I got more attention from the rest of the world than I ever got before. My dad came by one day with a huge stack of comic books which was like winning the lottery for me. And I never sat there afraid of what was happening to me, I just dealt with it and focused on what it took to get better. Within a couple of months of being diagnosed with the arthritis I was walking on crutches. A few months after that I was back on my feet. For a few years after that I'd feel a little tingle in my joints when the weather changed. Now I barely remember having the disease. And within a week I adjusted to being a Diabetic. I kept super tight control, especially as a kid. I understood what the disease asked from me and I did what I had to, and the truth is, most of the time, I forget that not everyone is Diabetic. It's a major part of my life. But I don't think of it that way.

I don't believe in giving up. The world isn't a perfect place and it often lets us down. But the reason I believe in heroes and in great things is because I believe in me. I'm not saying I'm a hero, but when I can't find the ideals of heroism in the world around me, I can find them in myself and that way I know they are real. I'm not perfect but I believe in doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do. Life's not always simple, sometimes it's muddy and gray, and sometimes there is real tragedy that you can't find anything good in. And sometimes we forget to be our "better selves". But for someone like me, someone who doesn't believe in a particular God or has any idea what the cosmic answers are, there is still room for faith.

I wholeheartedly believe that comics can tell any kind of story. I appreciate how comic books have "grown". I appreciate that comics "aren't just for kids anymore" and how deconstructionism has made comics more "sophisticated". But there is still a place both inside that and outside that, for stories that are fantastic, that blast us off, and give us something to believe in. I'm an artist and a storyteller and I've decided it's time to get on with it. There are stories that I'm craving that no one is doing so I'm going to do them myself. And some of it will be relevant, and some of it will be indulgent, and some of it will be provocative, but what I really want to do is tell stories that allow for people, old or young, to believe in something.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Cuban Shredded Pork

These recipes are my dad's and this pork is AWESOME! He hasn't been making this that long for us but my wife and I are in love with this recipe. We've both made it once and it's super easy. I don't think he'd mind me posting it here.

Cuban Shredded Pork

1. 4 lbs pork butt/shoulder roast with or without bone
2. 3 finely diced cloves of garlic
3. Juice from 1 lemon or line
4. Black Pepper and Salt to taste
5. 1 Teaspoon dried oregano
6. 1/2 cupt water

1. Trim any outer layer of fat from pork roast.
2. Place all ingredients in a tall baking pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
3. Bake in oven at 325 degrees for 2 1/2 hours.
4. Remove foil (watch for steam which can burn when removing foil)
5. Using two forks pulling in opposite directions, shred pork, removing any large pieces of fat and bones.

Serve with:

Jim's Mediterranean Rice

1. 4 cups water
2. 2 cups Jasmine or Bastante Rice
3. 1 tsp curry powder
4. Salt and Pepper to taste
5. 1/4 tsp cinnamon
6. 1/8 tsp ground cloves
7. 1/2 cup raisins
9. 1/4 cup sliced almonds
10. 1 tsp chicken soup base

1. Boil water in 2 quart sauce pan.
2. Add all ingredients and stir until mixture begins to boil.
3. Cover the pan with a lid and cook about ten minutes at the lowest possible flame.
4. Uncover lid and rake rice with a dinner fork.
5. Taste Rice and if rice needs more cooking add water as needed, cover lid, let simmer one minute, turn off heat, and let sit covered several more minutes.

Cuban Black Bean

1. 1 lb. dry black beans
2. 2 quarts water
3. 1 tsp bacon fat
4. 6 finely diced garlic cloves
5. 1 large diced onion
6. 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
7. 1/2 can tomato paste
8. 2 teaspoons salt
9. Black Pepper to taste
10. 1/2 tsp cumin
11. Option: 1 finely diced jalepeno if you like spicy

1. Place all ingredients in a pressure cooker and simmer under pressure for 40 minutes.
2. Release pressure and simmer under low fire until all liquid becomes thick like black gravy. Do not overcook beans so that they become mushy.


If you would like to leave a comment or you have a question you can respond to this post at my forums.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Video On The New iPod Nano

Apple has just announced the release of the new iPod Nano which now plays video. The image to the left is from their website and I believe it represents the actual size of the screen. This Nano comes with the same drive space as the previous nanos, 4 or 8 GB, so you're not exactly going to stuff a lot of video on them although that's the same with the iPhone. If you really want a serious video player you should probably still consider the full sized iPod.

While the overall size doesn't appear to have grown to increase the potential screen size the new Nano appears to have gotten wider yet shorter. Unfortunately this makes it less sleek and it's going to be harder to slide into small pockets. While the added function of video is nice, let's be serious here, if you want to watch a movie, you need a bigger screen or you're going to lose your sight. I love my iPod Nano and while I've been considering picking up an additional Video iPod, I don't think I'll be investing in this one. In fact, I'm glad that we have two of the older generation iPod Nanos in our household as it looks like they will no longer be carried, because the sleek design fits my purposes much better.

I think Apple is making a mistake by discontinuing the old design and not allowing the option for it. Video is a cool feature, but it's not what I got my Nano for.

You can reply to this topic at my forums.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Comic Picks - August 2007

All Star Superman
By Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

When I was a kid I loved Superman. Most of my exposure was the movies with Christopher Reeve who embodies the spirit of my generation's Superman and the Super Friends cartoons which, well, were nice for me as a kid. When I started collecting comics when I was eight, however, I was all about Spider-Man. Superman comics just weren't that fun in the 80s. I've now broken Superman down into the 3 versions that I think work:
  1. The Siegel-Schuster/Fleischer era which was so awesome with it's art deco style and it's iconic characterizations.
  2. The Silver-Age/1950s anything-can-happen/15 kinds of kryptonite/loads of fantasy Superman.
  3. The Christopher Reeve movies (1 & 2).
All Star Superman takes the best of all these eras and finally does Superman right again. It doesn't have have that super dense continuity that's taken over comics, all the Silver-Age fantasy is there but played straight yet not so straight that it's not fun anymore. Frank Quitely's design borrows heavily from the Fleischer era with an EC Comics Sci Fi twist. This takes the best of the 40s, 50s, and 80s and brings it all together in a comic that you don't have to follow monthly to understand. All Star Superman is a superhero book for people who like superheroes but aren't geeks about it.

By Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

I'm currently on the third trade paperback of Ed Brubaker's Sleeper and I'm totally addicted! The basic plot is very similar to the Movie The Departed (which kicked ass!) but with a little more espionage and, yes, it does take place in a world with superheroes, but it's very easy to forget that. This is more a crime comic than a fantasy comic and it's probably the most absorbing comic I've read this year! Everytime I finish a trade I kick myself because I didn't buy the next one. This is brought to you by the perfect team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, who I want to give credit to because everyone can see I drool over Brubaker's writing, but Phillips is really underappreciated and he really sets to mood and style of the story. This book kicks ass! There is a prequal to this comic but I really recommend people start with this first trade Out In the Cold. I haven't read the prequal yet and I'm sure it's good but the art's not by Seann Phillips and it's not really Sleeper without Phillips (I'm really picky about continuity of art). Fortunately the prequal is "choose to read" and not essential.

Please feel free to leave your comments and feedback at my forums.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Most AWESOME New Orleans Barbeque Shrimp Recipe EVER!!!

This is a dish I first had on my honeymoon, over six years ago now, in our favorite restaurant in New Orleans. My wife, who had eaten there in the past, told me about the barbeque shrimp and after trying it I fell in love. I asked the waiter if there was a cookbook that carried the recipe and he returned from the kitchen with a sheet of paper that had the recipe on it. Now that is service! Warning: This is fattening, however it is worth it! As my motto goes, Everything in moderation, including moderation.

Recipe Serves 2 as an Entree, 4 as an Appetizer

16 Jumbo Shrimp (12 per pound, about 1 1/2 lbs.) with heads and unpeeled
1/2 cup Worchestershire
2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice (about 2 Lemons)
2 teaspoons freshly ground Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cubed
French Bread for dipping

In a large skillet combine the shrimp, Worshestershire, Lemon Juice, Black Peppers, Creole Seasoning, and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until shrimp turn pink, about 1 minute on each side. Reduce heat to moderate and stir in butter, a few cubes at a time, stirring constantly and adding more only when butter is melted. Remove skillet from heat. Place the shrimp in a bowl and pour sauce over the top. Serve with the French Bread for dipping.

Please feel free to leave your feedback at my forum.