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Life: Older 2013

Posted in life on January 20th, 2013 by Hannibal Tabu
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“… I tried to be perfect
it just wasn’t worth it
nothing could ever be so wrong
it’s hard to believe me
it never gets easy
I guess I knew that all along

As the clock ticked over to start my fortieth trip around an impossible ball of gas explosions, I sat in a run down bar in Torrance, California, bracketed with commentary on Doctor Who and reminiscences over a fallen friend. One of my best friends stood on stage, maybe twenty five feet away, finishing up strains of “The Ballroom Blitz.” The songs I sang on the eve of this milestone will provide punctuation for these musings.

“… there are many thing that I would like to say to you
but I don’t know how …

On one hand, I have a laundry list of accomplishments worth noting. Edited a national magazine with a circulation of 200,000 by the time I was 21. Guiding hand in the construction of five multi-million dollar websites. Two novels published. Poetry published in a number of anthologies and journals. Talented wife, wonderful children, steady job at a company investing in growth.

“… off in the night, while you live it up, I’m off to sleep
waging wars to shape the poet and the beat
I hope it’s gonna make you notice
I hope it’s gonna make you notice

… someone like me …”

I have my share of demerits and disparagements against my name. A failed marriage during the first Dubya presidency. Financial catastrophes. Car accidents, almost dying four or five times … in the vernacular, “sh** got real,” too.

“… a heart that’s full up like a land fill,
a job that slowly kills you,
bruises that won’t heal …”

Through out my childhood and my twenties, I had a recurring dream that in September of 2013, I would be run down in the middle of a street by a yellow Ford Gran Torino. It was as crystal clear in my mind as any memory. I don’t seriously believe it will happen, but let’s just say I am going to be very conservative in my movements in September, and likely to drive right up to anywhere I’ll need to be.

“… it’s the terror of knowing
what this world is about
watching some good friends
screaming ‘Let me out’
pray tomorrow gets me higher high high
pressure on people, people on streets …”

One of my strongest beliefs was that a brother younger than 40 in a Cadillac was begging for trouble. I imagined the birthday would come and I’d magically transform — grow gray tinted dreadlocks, ditch the t-shirts and jeans for button shirts and slacks with a mean crease. You know, look like a grown up.

I find the all-purpose style I’ve had since college still holds up, that I can dress it up with a button shirt and take a meeting, but in general, my Nissan Altima’s a more innocuous (and cost effective) choice, that even a week’s worth of hair on my head feels so hot and itchy that it’s simpler to get my latter-season Ben Sisko on. I don’t wanna be somebody different, not like that. Just a more effective me.

“… even the best fall down sometimes
even the wrong words seem to rhyme
out of the doubt that fills your mind
you finally find
you and I
collide …

I say all this to say that I could go in any direction. I could toil away my days like the beleaguered protagonist of The Police’s “Synchronicity 2″ or I could become the Black George Lucas, or hit any point in between. All my best laid plans lie shattered on the road behind me, diminished from the second they made contact with the harsh light of reality. I honestly don’t know where I’m going, or what’s next, but I’m at a point where I care a lot less about it.

“… don’t give up your independence
unless it feels so right
nothing good comes easily
sometimes you gotta fight …”

What I do know is that I’m finding a balance to know what’s right for me. I tweeted this past year that every minute for me is stolen from one of you. That’s fine. It’s not every minute, and I do a lot for others. There’s a space between the vile jackass I once was and the non-stop normal guy I could become where I can take care of business while still furthering my own star-shattering ambitions.

“… nobody said it was easy,
girl it’d be a shame for us to part
nobody said it was easy,
no one ever said it would be so hard

I’m going back to the start …

So, this is 40, with apologies to Judd Apatow.

Playing (Music): “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service

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Comics: The Commentary Track for the March 16th Buy Pile

Posted in 104, awesomeness, bad ideas, blame society, buy pile, comics, dc, entertainment, marvel, ranting on March 19th, 2011 by Hannibal Tabu
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Every week I do a column full of comic book reviews as I’ve done since March 2003 and currently published at Comic Book Resources. Then, after the reviews post, I try to come over to my blog and expand on the thoughts and ideas listed there. Sometimes it’s profound, sometimes it’s gibberish, but it’s always about comics … let’s see what we get this week!

What? This week’s reviews

OH, NOW YOU WANNA BLOG AGAIN? Look, I was super jet lagged from flying to Oakland and life and what not. You pay for it, you can complain. Let’s get to work.

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN: Marc Alessi’s folly ran from 1998 to 2004 (and we still never found out the big secret behind the sigils). Milestone rocked as a comics company from 1993 until 1997 (with Static Shock carrying the torch so well that DC backed a Brinks truck up to the door of the dearly departed Dwayne McDuffie and inundated him with cashish, “integrating” with the DCU in 2010’s Milestone Forever). However, the Teen Titans need Static, John Rozum’s back penning Xombi and both Sigil and Ruse (to a lesser degree El Cazador) are flying Marvel colors alongside their insignia.

Some might say, “WTH?” Or, to be more ethnic, “Why you bringin’ up old isht?” I noted this when remarking on a Wally West fan hoping that the cancellation of the current Flash title meant Wally would take center speedster stage again. Like with some musical eras, many people lock in on whatever was happening for them during their formative periods and cannot stray too far from it. In a derivation from that, instead of nurturing the new ideas (Marvel’s Gravity, for example, who has a great power set and all but just can’t get any momentum) they return to older factors.

However, in the case of Milestone, it serves a much higher goal. DC is, factually, whiter than a weekend at Dick Cheney’s house. The Milestone characters instantly diversify the line, which can shut up anybody from an Al Sharpton to, well, me. For a little while, anyway. Static can sneak his way back on to TV, alongside heroes everybody knows, and my little girls can see that. There’s a value to that, psychologically, that’s incalculable. Old or new, that’s worth having.

Likewise, Disney has been sitting on the CrossGen properties for years. To have their new comics arm see if they can squeeze some blood from that turnip, despite the humor of how Marvel and CrossGen went at one another in wars of words, is ironic and amusing all at once.

It’s also interesting that these two “old” ideas were better than, well, most of the regular stuff on the stands. The complicated nature of all this is not lost on me at all.

WHAT DREAMS MAY COME: Given the new 5 Ronin mini, I was driven to look at why Elseworlds treatments so fascinate fandom. The Punisher as a samurai? Bruce Wayne as a Green Lantern? Deadpool with the Venom symbiote? Superman landing in Gotham City? Taking certain central characters, ones who are well known, and tweaking their circumstances just slightly.

Why the fascination? A part of it is what I called the rise of fan fiction, as “average joes” have become the pros, and all the “what if such and such fought what’s his name” comic book shop conversations have become the comics on the stands themselves. I find that problematic.

What I really think is the issue, however, is that it speaks to the effectiveness of the characters in penetrating the audience. The sheer level of love that people have for these characters buoys them in the marketplace and sustains them through good times and bad, and a brief vacation from their everyday existences provides a kind of thrill for the fans who — as noted above — like the things they like and don’t go for much different. Bruce Wayne as a Green Lantern is a slight variation. Gravity as a whole new guy beating up super villains? What the heezy?

Just things I note as I’m reading along.

THE CURSE OF THE SNAKE CLAN: St. Patrick’s Day, you say? Do you know the whole story?

LO, EVEN FOR THE MASSES … THERE SHALL BE A PANTSENING! We’re not talking about this … well, not much. Were red boots too much to ask? She also looks nervous. Lynda Carter never looked nervous. Neither did Chris Reeve. Just saying …

THAT’S THE NEWS, AND I AM OUTTA HERE: Not much else worth discussing, honestly. Off I go for DJ practice!

Playing (Music): “Out of Touch” by Hall & Oates

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In Memoriam: Dwayne McDuffie, 1963-2011

Posted in 104, awesomeness, comics, creativity, dc, effectiveness, entertainment, fandom, g.i. joe, history, inspiration, marvel, sadness, torch-passing, writing on February 22nd, 2011 by Hannibal Tabu
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The word “loss” encapsulates a lot of concepts, large and small. You lost that receipt with an idea on it — an irritation. You lost a job — financially crippling. You lost your mind at that club — not so shabby.

It is difficult to describe what it’s like to lose a person to the gaping chasm of death when you didn’t know them all that well. That’s some of my challenge with the passing of Dwayne McDuffie. I followed his work — mostly in comics, admittedly, but I did enjoy the Justice League episodes I saw. I hung out with him a time or two at conventions. He even took me to lunch once, when he was working at Warner Brothers Animation, showing me his office and giving me some tips on how to survive in the content creation game. But I didn’t know his wife, didn’t speak to him on his birthday, I wouldn’t have expected him to pick up the phone and call me about something random.

Dwayne McDuffie, 1963-2011

When the news of his death hit me, I was at work at MIMCO, in a planning meeting, multi-tasking with website updates and social networking check ins. Like the sudden and unexpected death of a young woman I’d worked with (she was 25, healthy and insanely vibrant), it shook me and made me stare at the low peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains outside my window and just think. I’m 38. I don’t eat a lot of unhealthy stuff, I walk a lot, I’m lean, I try not to give a crap about much so I won’t be stressed. I can’t foresee a day when I’ll be dead. Neither could that young woman. Hopefully, neither could Dwayne.

As of last week, he was promoting the critically acclaimed All Star Superman — an adaptation of Grant Morrison’s mind-boggling maxi-series that “many fans consider the quintessential Superman story.” Literally, he posted on Facebook on Sunday. It’s Tuesday. He’s gone.

I won’t go into his whole history, but his work at Marvel and DC (especially co-funding Milestone Comics with Derek Dingle, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Christopher J. Priest, the last of whom designed the logo) inspired me greatly. My favorite property was Blood Syndicate — a super powered street gang — but Hardware has echoed my corporate experience once or twice and Icon inspired me (but somehow, also, Clarence Thomas — go figure). Before all that, here’s the first time I ever recognized him as an entity …

Click to enlarge, image courtesy of Every Day Is Like Wednesday

I remember seeing that “pro file” in the editorial page of a G.I. Joe comic (I collected the series religiously) and being awed. Years later, I brought up the final quote (“… deep down, I’m every bit as terrifying as I look”) to him in the aisles of San Diego Comic-Con and he brushed it off. “I’m a pussycat,” he protested.

“Maybe now,” I laughed back.

Dwayne couldn’t believe that his creation Static never had a serious action figure. It drove him nuts. He blogged about it, he talked about it. I believe that his decision to bring Milestone into the DC Universe was, in part, because that if Static was a Teen Titan, he could get a proper action figure (not some Subway kids’ meal incentive). I sincerely believe that. Sure, there was what some industry watchers called “a truck load of money” too, but the action figure was the kicker (you should have seen his office at WB Animation, it was a Black geek paradise). Jai Nitz told me that “There will be an older version of Virgil (from the Batman Beyond eps) released later this year to end the JLU toyline.” That, likely, was greatly gratifying for Dwayne, as was finally satisfying his dream of working on the Fantastic Four.

In my experience, he was extraordinarily nice, even when he didn’t have to be. I interviewed him for failed retail site NextPlanetOver, right before the Static Shock series was going to air, and he was very willing to discuss topics that frustrated some. He was gracious, he was kind … but admittedly, he did not tolerate foolishness, as a story about a 1989 period when he was a Marvel editor showed …

Click to enlarge, image courtesy of Comics Should Be Good

He had his challenges, as all of us do, but I for one will always celebrate his accomplishments. I was honored that he knew my name, that he respected my work, that he thought I was good enough that he could take time to talk to me and advise me, even in the scant chances we had for that to happen. I could post a string of rememberances (and on my Facebook profile I have, sadly, it’s a walled garden so I can’t just directly link … I think) but this one from Chris Sims is as good as any.

In Dwayne McDuffie’s passing, Black geeks in particular lost our hero, a larger-than-life combination of intelligence and savvy, accomplishing a great deal on merit alone in an industry built to ignore and marginalize a tall, gruff, Black man like him. The reflection in his glasses was more nuanced than the entire careers of many people who he saw come up in the funny book game. I miss him already, and I’m sorry I wasn’t a better friend.

In the words of our ancestors, anedge hirak Dwayne McDuffie, and thank you for everything, within the city of Dakota and elsewhere. I hope, for all that we’ve lost, we’ll one day find you again.

Playing (Music): “Without A Fight” by Janelle Monae

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