I met Kevin Smith at Comic-Con, back in 2000 or 2001. The encounter was so incredibly embarrassing, I can't bring myself to recall it, but can be summed up thusly: I made a complete fool of myself, and as a testament to his kindness, he didn't make me feel like a total asshole. (Note for the record that I was a total blathering idiot, and also note that I defy every single person reading this to sit on a couch next to Kevin Smith and not lose their shit because you're sitting next to One of Us who is living the dream.)
I've always lamented that I made such a fool out of myself, because if he remembers anything about me at all, it's probably something like, "Oh man, that guy is an idiot."
This morning, my inbox was filled with e-mail about this art show Kevin Smith's doing called Crazy 4 Cult 2 that opens in Hollywood next Saturday, including a link to this fucking awesome painting, that completely owns in the face:
There are a ton of magnificent works on display in Kevin Smith's blog, but that's not even the best part of the post, which is this:
I saw “Watchmen.” It’s fucking astounding. The Non-Disclosure Agreement I signed prevents me from saying much, but I can spout the following with complete joygasmic enthusiasm: Snyder and Co. have pulled it off.
Remember that feeling of watching “Sin City” on the big screen and being blown away by what a faithful translation of the source material it was, in terms of both content and visuals? Triple that, and you’ll come close to watching “Watchmen.” Even Alan Moore might be surprised at how close the movie is to the book. March can’t come soon enough.
See? Living the dream.
The show opens on August 22 at Gallery 1988 on Melrose, which is next door to Golden Apple. He says that there were over 1000 people last year, so if you're going, you should plan on showing up early.
Fans of Wil Wheaton’s blog or books know him to be an adroit writer of nonfiction, an almost Mark Twain for the geek crowd if you don’t mind such a comparison. Yet his "Art of War" story shows he is talented with fictional narratives, too. The story involves Kirk and a Klingon named Kring both trapped together in a collapsed mine on the planet Angrena. The "enemies forced to cooperate" situation isn’t unique to science fiction or to Star Trek, be it the film Enemy Mine or "The Enemy" and "Darmok" episodes of TNG. These kinds of narratives succeed if there is something different about how they are told and if they provide the reader with something to think about with the characters or a social lesson. Wheaton does all of these things with his comic.
They gave me 10 out of 10! Dude!
My friend and editor, Luis Reyes, is also getting rave reviews for his story, The Humanitarian, which I still haven't seen because my damn contributor's copy hasn't shown up, yet. Luis is a great guy who took one in the chest when TokyoPop . . . uh . . . popped . . . a few months ago. I remember talking with him about his story while he was working on it, and he was really hopeful that people would like it. Sounds like they did: "Once in a while, a Star Trek story is so incredibly good that it stays with you forever."
Cheyenne Wright did a pretty awesome drawing of a guy who looks like me, but cooler.
How much do you want a shirt that says "GE [lightning bolt] EK" right now? I guarantee it's not as much as I do.
Depeche Mode: The Singles 1986-1998 is available from Amazon MP3 for 3.99 today only. I am not ashamed to admit that I loved Depeche Mode when I was a teenager. Any DM fans out there notice how, depending on your age, your seminal DM album is either Music for the Masses or Violator? Mine is the former, though I still love the latter.
This isn't awesome, but it's important that I share: there's a current crop of e-mails going around that appear to be from CNN or MSNBC. They're not. They go to very well-designed pages that can fool people into installing malware. I don't ask this often, but please share this bit of news with your friends who are . . . vulnerable . . . to this sort of attack.
Great Showdowns of the 8-bit Era is beautiful. (via reddit)
That reminds me: If I collected some of my favorite Games of Our Lives into a book, would you be interested in buying it? (Note that it was all WFH and as such the AV Club owns all the material; I'd have to convince them to give me permission, but before I bother trying to do that, I wanted to gauge interest here.)
I hate that NBC is delaying their "live" prime time Olympics for West Coast viewers, but their online coverage is incredible. If you're only watching the Olympics in prime time, you're really missing out on some great events, like Table Tennis, Archery, Rowing, Soccer, and Handball. I mean, gymnastics and swimming are neat and all, but there's a lot more to the games than just those events. Durr.
Top Shelf is rapidly becoming one of my favorite publishers. Like Vertigo or Blue Note, I can pick up anything from them and know I'm going to love it. I want to do a proper review at some point, but the book Super Spy by Matt Kindt is absolutely magnificent, and proves that graphic storytelling exists as literature. You can see one of the stories in the book here.
Me: Ah! I hate this song! Change it! Change it!
Ryan: Hey, when we played the endless setlist, you said -
Me: We were playing for five hours! I don't think anyone should be held accountable for anything they said, did, or turned off during the endless setlist. Now let's never speak of this again.
Ryan: But -
Me: NEVER. AGAIN.
Ryan went back to school this morning. My ribs hurt so much, I couldn't hug him as much as I needed to, making an already-difficult goodbye extra painful. He's grown up and matured so much in the last six months, I just love having him around. He's really grown into a fine young man, and is someone I'd like to hang around with even if he wasn't my son. I'm going to miss him a lot.
Though based on actual events, some of this has been . . . enhanced . . . for dramatic effect.
On Friday, I took Anne to the Moonlight roller rink for her birthday. It was totally awesome, and we had exactly the kind of fun we remembered having when we went to roller rinks as kids, which was kind of the plan when we made it.
While we were there, I learned something: Newton's first law of motion isn't just something you have to study in school; I proved the goddamn thing.
Here's how it (and I) went down: I was rolling along on those old retro 4-wheeled skates I was the fucking master of when I was in middle school. Nearing the edge of the rink at the blistering speed of about three miles per hour, I bumped one skate with the other, transforming my feet from a means of travel into a perfect pivot point. I flew straight to the floor, stupidly throwing my right hand out to break my fall.
My hand hit the floor, and stuck. It didn't skip, it didn't slide, it just stuck there, waiting for the rest of me to crash onto it. It was not disappointed.
Guess what happens when you take 150 pounds of me, accelerate it to three or so miles per hour, then drop it from about six feet onto four inches of balled-up fist? It turns out you focus a whole lot of rib-breaking power onto a small surface.
It didn't really hurt when I fell; it was silly and a little embarrassing more than anything else, but when I fell a second time in almost the exact same way two hours later, I knew I was in for an ouchy evening.
Friday night was fine, but it ached a whole lot on Saturday. By Saturday night, it was a constant ache, occasionally disturbed by stabbing flashes of real pain. Sunday was bad, Monday was bad, yesterday was better in the morning, and by last night, I thought that maybe I was on my way to recovery.
I woke up this morning - after waking up six or seven times overnight - in absolutely unbearable pain. Since this didn't continue the "I think it's getting better" streak that started yesterday, I made an appointment to see my doctor.
"Does this hurt?" He said, pressing against my side.
"How about this?" He pressed in a different area.
We repeated this as he worked his way up my right side.
"Okay," he said, "let's try this."
He put one hand on my back, another on my sternum, and pressed.
"Does this -"
I made a sound like a giraffe getting run over by a train while they're both hit by a meteor.
"Yeah, we're gonna go ahead and x-ray that."
I went down to the lab and had a series of films taken. I successfully resisted the compulsion to say "HULK SMASH!!" after each shot. When I took them back up to my doctor's office, he showed me where he could see a break, and where he thought my ribs were cleverly concealing at least one other break.
"So . . . do we have to put me down?" I said.
"No, but you're going to be unable to do much of anything for at least another week."
"Can I get a note to that effect to give my wife, and would you leave some space for me to write other . . . doctor's orders?"
"You're sure you only took Motrin this morning?"
I answered in the affirmative.
"If I'm broken here," I said, pointing to my side, "then why does it hurt so much here?" I pointed to my sternum.
"Because you probably tore a bunch of cartilage when you fell. I can't say for sure because cartilage doesn't show up on x-ray, but I think it's a safe assumption." He wrote me some prescriptions for pain medication and advised me to breathe as deeply as I could and force some coughs a few times a day to minimize the risk of pneumonia.
"I'll see you again in ten days to make sure you're fine before you go to Seattle," he said.
(I'd told him that the most important thing in my near future, even more important than healing this massive pain, was ensuring that I didn't miss PAX.)
So now I'm home following his orders, taking pain medication that I don't want to take (if I start thinking Squidbillies is awesome than I'll go back to dealing with the pain) eating prunes and playing the waiting game until UPS delivers Hungry Hungry Hippos.
. . . stupid classical physics.
A few days after my sixteenth birthday, I lost my Rocky Horror virginity with my best friend, in a shitty little duplex theater in Van Nuys.
I'd wanted to see Rocky since I was ten or eleven on my way to an audition and my mom drove us past a marquee advertising a midnight showing every Saturday. My parents couldn't or wouldn't tell me what it was about (my memory is hazy on that specific detail) but anything that happened at midnight on a Saturday sounded great to me. The creepy lettering and word "horror" in the title only increased my antici . . . pation.
Darin and I were at a place on Van Nuys Boulevard called Cafe 50s. These fifties cafes were everywhere in the eighties (some blame Stand By Me and Back to the Future for their popularity) but this particular one was my favorite. Though I've never actually been in a diner in the fifties, this one felt the most authentic, which means it copied what I'd seen in movies better than anything else, and had Del Shannon's Runaway on the jukebox.
We gorged ourselves on patty melts and chocolate shakes and vanilla Cokes while we talked about all the things that seemed important after you discovered girls, like how to actually, you know, talk to one and convince her to take an unforgettable trip with you to second base for sixteen seconds of passion. We argued about the time travel paradoxes in Back to the Future, confirmed that quoting Monty Python to the 24 year-old waitress is not the best way to get a stand up double when you're sixteen (or ever) and admitted that Michael Keaton was a vastly superior Batman than we'd been prepared to give him credit for. In other words, it was a Saturday night like any other, and as midnight (and the restaurant's closing) drew near, our attention turned toward that most important of teenage activities: doing anything but going home.
"Have you ever seen Rocky?" Darin asked.
"God, I hate that stupid movie," I said. "And the sequels are even worse. It's like, we know he's going to win, so why waste our time wi --"
"I mean Rocky Horror." He said.
"Oh." I said. "No, but I've always wanted to."
"It's playing across the street at midnight. We should go."
As quickly as I'd gotten excited to see it, I lost my nerve. Through the pre-internet grapevine that gave teens of my generation the truth about Mikey from Life cereal ("Ohmygod he died by eating pop rocks and drinking coke") I'd heard about Rocky virgins being deflowered in horrifying ways ("Ohmygod this guy I know went to see it in Santa Monica and they made him take off his clothes and wrote VIRGIN on his chest in lipstick!")
"Don't they do horrible things to people who haven't seen it?" I said in my most nonchalant voice, grateful that it didn't crack.
"Not really," he said, "but if you're worried about it, we won't say anything."
"Okay," I said, my excitement returning.
The waitress came back by our table. "Can I get you guys anything else?"
Before I could demand a shrubbery, Darin said, "Could we get some slightly burnt white toast?"
The waitress and I gave him the same curious look. He smiled enigmatically.
Twenty minutes later, we bought our tickets, burnt toast in my pocket, butterflies rising in my stomach. We stood in a line that grew to about two dozen people and waited for the theater to open. I made nervous smalltalk with Darin, talking a little too loudly about the great cast they had in . . . I think I chose Huntington Beach.
The doors opened a few minutes before midnight, and we walked into a theater that, Tardis-like, seemed bigger on the inside than it appeared on the outsider: dirty blue and orange curtains hung on the walls. Two aisles separated three groups of squeaky blue seats. The floor was painted a dark navy blue -- blue seemed to be a recurring theme in this particular theater -- and was appropriately sticky. We chose seats on the aisle near the back. I should have been freaked out when a guy sat down a few aisles in front of us and lit a cigarette, but being rebel-adjacent excited me.
The theater quickly got as full as it was going to get. It seemed that most of the audience knew each other, especially the four people who huddled together at the front of the house, next to the screen.
A dude with long black hair and bright red lipstick emerged from the group, and spoke to the audience. I can't remember what he said, because when he began, a hand tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up and saw the most phenomenally beautiful girl in the world standing in the aisle. She had short black hair in a Bettie Page cut, bright green eyes, full red lips. She wore a red corset that fit her . . . perfectly.
She bent over and said, "are you a virgin?"
I was, in every way that mattered, and in that moment I would have pushed my mother in front of a train on its way into a lake of fire if it meant that this girl would remove from me this . . . condition.
If I'd been standing, I'm certain I would have fainted. "W-what?" I stammered.
She extended one hand and caressed my face. She repeated herself, even more seductively than the first time.
My voice cracked as I said "YES!" a little too loudly.
Her eyes flashed and she squeaked - squeaked! - a little. "This is going to be fun."
She stood up abruptly and hollered, "I have a virgin!"
"A VIRGIN!" Replied much of the audience.
Before I knew what was happening, she stood me up, had me repeat some oath that I've sinceforgotten, and spanked me. I remained fully clothed, but by the time I was done, I was soaked through after everyone in the theater sprayed me with their squirt guns and spray bottles. As quickly as it started, it was over, and she disappeared before I could get her number.
My deflowering was, like most people's, nothing like I'd hoped for or expected, but it was still magical. I loved every second of it.
While other regulars repeated similar rituals with a few other virgins in the audience I looked at Darin. He looked back, mirroring my disbelief.
"That was awesome!" I said. Not only had a girl practically showed me her boobs, she'd touched my face! Seductively! And talked to me! And squirted me with a squirt gun! I was beside myself, and the movie hadn't even started yet.
The lights went down, and the show began. I didn't know any of the lines, but I quickly figured out what to yell at Brad and Janet. I threw my toast. I did the Time Warp. I watched the girl who'd taken my Rocky virginity play Magenta, which is probably why Magenta is still my favorite character in the whole show to this very day, twenty years later.
When it was over, we drove back to La Crescenta in my slightly-better-than-Patrick-Stewart's Honda Prelude, blasting New Order the whole way with the sunroof open and the windows down. I dropped Darin off at his house, and though I got back to mine around 3, I didn't fall asleep until the sun came up, I was so loaded with caffeine, sugar, adrenaline.
The movie, of course, was campy and not especially good, but that wasn't the point. It was a shared experience, a place for misfits of all stripes to gather once a week, and fly our Transylvanian freak flags. For the next two years, Darin and I lead an ever-growing group of our friends to Rocky at least once a month, usually more, at the Rialto theater in South Pasadena. I haven't been since 1991 or 1992, but those years -- and the film itself -- hold a very special place in my memory.
This is why we must do whatever it takes to stop MTV from making their High School Musicalized remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, adding new songs -- new fucking songs! -- because just remaking it isn't offensive enough.
Online petitions are pointless and don't do anything, but we can still visit Stop the Remake dot Com to feel like we're doing something to stop this travesty from occurring.
Don't dream it, be it.
I hurt myself pretty badly on Friday, and may have cracked a rib. I'll have details in a future blog post that's currently unwritten, but exquisitely funny in my head.
The excruciating pain in my chest, plus the Olympics, plus spending a lot of time in the Geeks group at Propeller, plus Ryan going back to school at the end of the week means that I don't have a lot of time left over (or motivation) to do any blogging at the moment.
Here's a nifty picture I took at Comic-Con, though, featuring my favorite cosplay of the con, and a little bit of MC Frontalot:
And here's that picture of me as a lemon that everyone's been asking to see since 1979:
It was the end of the day, and my blood sugar was dangerously low. Colors and sounds were louder than they should have been. My feet and legs had been replaced by two dull, throbbing stumps that barely supported the weight of my body.
Most of the day, I'd been signing autographs for and talking with countless excited fans. Some of them shook my hand too hard and too long with a sweaty grip that trembled a little too much. Some of them stared at me uncomfortably. Some of them rambled incoherently. All of them were genuinely friendly, though.
I took it all in stride, because I've done this convention thing for -- my god -- two decades, and even though I don't think I'm anything worth getting excited about, I know that it happens sometimes, and I know how people occasionally react. I never laugh at them or make them feel lame. I never make jokes at their expense. I am understanding and grateful that they want to talk to me at all. I wouldn't want to talk to me if I was trapped with me in an elevator, and I certainly wouldn't be excited about the prospect if faced with the option. I am always grateful, and take nothing for granted.
A voice boomed over my head, blasting right through my eardrums and exploding inside my skull. The convention floor was closing, it announced, and it was time for all of us to get the fuck out.
Red-jacketed security guards emerged from shadows I hadn't noticed during the day. A handful at first, then a dozen, like zombies pouring through a breach in a barricade. They shambled forward relentlessly, single-mindedly driving a mass of exhibitors and straggling fans toward the doors.
I picked up my backpack, inexplicably heavier than it was before I emptied pounds of books from it earlier in the day, and heaved it onto my shoulders. My back screamed.
"You have to vacate the hall," a girl said to me. She couldn't have been older than eighteen, but clearly wasn't going to take any shit from anyone, especially someone in my weakened state.
"I'm on my way," I said. I turned to say goodbye to my boothmates, and saw the unmistakable visage of Jeph Jacques walk past behind them.
I've done this convention thing for a long time, so I knew that it was unlikely that I'd have a chance to say more than three words to Jeph before the convention was over. If I didn't seize the moment, I probably wouldn't get another chance. I smiled at the girl, faked to my right, and spun to my left around her. I nearly fell over from the effort.
"Hey . . ." she began. I took two quick steps away from her with my last bits of strength.
"Jeph!" I called out. He kept walking. He's done this convention thing before, and, like me, knows that when someone calls out your name at the end of the day it's best to pretend you didn't hear them so you can just get the hell out of the hall and to a place where you can recover your hit points. This place is usually called a bar.
"Jeph! It's Wil Wheaton!" I called out. I don't know Jeph well enough to call him a friend, but we've talked at shows before, and I've always enjoyed our limited interactions. Maybe if he knew it was me, and not some random person, he'd stop so I could say hello. Maybe he wouldn't want to talk to me if we were trapped in an elevator, but I knew the security guards were closing in, and if I could get into his Circle of Protection: Exhibitor, maybe I could stay there for a couple of minutes.
He stopped and turned around. He smiled wearily, and said hello. We shook hands, and I noticed that he'd been walking with someone.
"Hey, have you ever met Randall?" He said.
His companion turned to me and extended his hand. My brain screamed at me, "OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD THAT'S RANDALL MUNROE! BE COOL!"
Before I knew what was happening, my hand shot out from my body and grabbed his. I incoherently babbled something about how much I love his work. He tried to say something, but I just. kept. talking.
My brain screamed at me, "SHUT UP! YOU'RE MAKING A FOOL OF YOURSELF YOU ASSHOLE!"
My mouth, however, was out of my control. I continued to ramble, vomiting a turgid cascade of genuinely-excited praise and gratitude all over him.
A full minute later, I realized, to my abject horror, that my hand was still shaking his. I held it too hard in a sweaty, trembling hand. Darkness flashed at the edges of my vision, and I felt weak. I pulled my hand back, a little too quickly, mumbled an apology, and shut my mouth.
They said things to me, but I couldn't hear them over my own brain screaming at me, "GET OUT OF THERE YOU COCKASS. YOU HAD ONE CHANCE TO MEET RANDALL MUNROE AND YOU BLEW IT! I HATE YOU! YOU GO TO HELL NOW! YOU GO TO HELL AND YOU DIE!"
A hand fell on my shoulder. I turned toward it, and saw the security girl.
"Sir, you need to leave the hall." She said. "Now." She had backup: a pair of similarly-aged teens, two boys working on their first mustaches. They fixed me with a steely-eyed gazes.
I have never been so relieved to be kicked out of anyplace in the world as I was then.
"I guess I better go," I said. I took a short breath, and lamely added, "it's really nice to meet you. I really do love your work."
My brain did the slow clap.
His reply did not penetrate the wall of shame I'd constructed around myself, though I clearly recall that he didn't make fun of me, or make me feel stupid, or let on that I was a sweaty, shaking, raving lunatic. He didn't appear to be grateful that we weren't trapped in an elevator, though I suspect he must have been. As I fled the hall, I was grateful for his kindness, patience, and understanding.
Once outside, I went to a place where I could forget my appalling embarrassment.
That place was called a bar.
He looked at the pictures on the cover and asked, "Who's that?"
"His name is Wil."
"Oh! I like Wil. He's going to come over and play with me."
"That's a nice thought, but Wil is a big person."
"Then he will come and pick me up and we will go to the park."
I love how four-year-olds think that seeing a nice picture of a person wearing footie pajamas means you're instantly friends and want to hang together.
I love that I got to write a book that I'm proud of that actually means something to the people who read it. I am truly a lucky guy.