Adventures In Freelancing: Picking Up What They’re Laying Down

It struck me recently that my last few Adventures In Freelancing columns have not only been infrequent, but also pretty negative. Taking The Good With The Bad was about my insecurities regarding expired contracts, Learning To Accept Workless Days is pretty self explanatory but also about how not working can result in some work and my wife told me that 5 Things I Miss About Working In An Office made her feel bad for me, though that wasn’t my intent. I plan on being positive with today’s post.

Anyone who pays attention to the self serving links I post in the semi-regular Casting Internets will notice that I’m still writing for Marvel.com and doing the occasional list for Topless Robot, but posts for UGO.com and Maxim.com have ceased to exist. Also, ToyFare, the magazine I had been writing a good chunk of ceased publication. That’s the way things work in the freelance biz. I sound pretty casual about such things now, but I was not happy when it happened (hence the almost three month gap between AIFs). I worried incessantly that I wasn’t helping out enough when it came to finances. I made peace with my wife making more money than me a long time ago when she was bringing in more green as a temp than I ever did in my various professions. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to help as much as possible. Hell, we had a kid on the way and don’t want to live in this condo forever. Was it finally time to ditch this crazy dream and get a job at the Post Office?

Thankfully that didn’t come to pass. As it turned out, some people I knew and some I didn’t know were going through some changes of their own. All that shifting created an opening at Comic Book Resources. They needed a writer and as it turned out, I am in fact a writer. It also helped that I’m good friends with one of the editors there. Never let it be said that who you know is not important. Almost all the gigs I have right now are thanks to friends and former colleagues, plus, I hope, some degree of talent on my part. Anyway, I wound up getting a pretty darn fun gig as the Image Comics contact. There were some growing pains as I got used to their style, but I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of things. Better yet I like the job itself because the people working on these books have a lot of enthusiasm and are doing really fun and interesting comics that I feel good telling the internet about.

In a weird reversal of fortune from a few months prior, I was contacted about a few more jobs. One I can’t really talk about yet because I’m not sure if it’s happening or how it will work. The other though is for the next evolution of ToyFare now known as Wizard World, a digital magazine. I started off doing some feature work for them, but now I’m essentially the freelance toy editor. It’s like working for ToyFare again, but without having to get on a train or drive 45 minutes every day.

I’ve talked to a few family members who own their businesses about the ups and downs that come with them. They all say that it’s important to remember that there will be another up during the downs, though it’s sometimes hard to remember. Of course, being the pessimist I am, I worried that all my contacts would dry up, my lack of gigs would look bad for potential future jobs and I would become a has-been in this fickle market. Hopefully next time things take a down swing I’ll remember this. We’ll see. Anyway, I’m going to enjoy this high point while it lasts and continue to work on my own projects on the side. Onwards and upwards!

Casting Internets

Nick Spencer was a peach and responded with super speed when I asked him to list his Five Favorite Avengers for Marvel.com.

I also talked with David Baxter about his upcoming Image book Marksmen for CBR.

USA Today got the official scoop that DC is revamping their universe. The part that makes me cringe the most is that they want to “reflect today’s real-world themes and events.” Blech. Real world comics are boring, guys.

I’m developing a strange fascination with abandoned amusement parks. This one of a Six Flags in New Orleans that closed before Katrina could be a little less art schooly, but it’s still kind of amazing. (via IHC)

Tom Bondurant’s latest Grumpy Old Fan discusses the importance of Robins in DC continuity, basically stating that Robin acts as a kind of mile marker for Batman, showing how old he is. I never thought of it like that.

Have you ever heard of old timey NYC hoarders the Collyer Brothers? I heard them mentioned on an episode of Puck Nuts or Tell Em Steve Dave and then spent a good deal of time reading their Wiki page. “Langley had been crawling through their newspaper tunnel to bring food to his paralyzed brother when one of his own booby traps fell down and crushed him.” WHAT?!

This Wired piece about football players reacting negatively to the new safety standards for the game really got me thinking. If the people that a rule is supposed to protect think the rule is ridiculous, what is the point of said rule? Can’t the players’ union take a vote on whether they think these things are necessary with the implication that a vote against the new rules will also translate into a clause that says said players can’t sue if they do get injured? I know people look down on football players, but is treating them like ignorant children who don’t know what’s good for them really the way to go? Maybe it’s time for the XFL to make a comeback.

Over on Rolling Stone, Jay-Z writes about song writing. Fun stuff.

I read Rolling Stone so I don’t have to keep up with various Twitter accounts. Tiring that. Anyway, I’m glad to hear that Green Day is working on new songs.

Brian Hibbs’ latest Tilting At Windmills is filled with comic book math that makes a lot of sense to me. Yet, companies still tend to disregard the things he brings up, so who knows what’s really going on?
I absolutely love Zach Bellissimo’s Vincent Price piece. I would like it on my wall in the future. (via The Autumn Society)

Record Review: Matt and Kim’s Sidewalks

A lot can be said about enthusiasm. That’s what attracted me to Matt and Kim in the first place…thanks to a commercial. Even though I’m old (28 is old right?), I still watch more MTV than I should. A few months back, MTV was doing a huge ad campaign leading up to an indie music awards ceremony called The Woodies. To get people psyched (or something) they interviewed different musicians briefly about road trips and driver safety. One such ad featured Matt and Kim, a band I had heard of, but not knowingly heard up to that point (they’re probably in commercials and whatnot). A brief search on YouTube didn’t find me the video, but basically they were talking about road trips. Matt absolutely oozed an enthusiasm and sense of fun that you don’t see a lot in music anymore. Kim fit right along with him, wondering why her hypothetical future children weren’t taking their cool mom on their musical road trip. I was kind of smitten with these two. Then I saw the actual Wooodie Awards which made me feel ancient because I hadn’t heard of half these kids, but it also made me even more curious about this dynamic duo.

Fast forward a few weeks and I find myself in a Borders on its last day of existence. It was kind of a sad affair, but with everything marked down to $0.50, I didn’t feel too bad. As it turned out, in addition to a copy of Craig Thompson’s Blankets which I haven’t had the chance to dive into yet, they had Matt and Kim’s most recent record Sidewalks for sale. There aren’t many records I wouldn’t buy for half a buck, so I jumped at the chance to actually listen to this group I had been kinda sorta interested in from afar. I was not disappointed.

Note, the following video is surprisingly violent and bloody. But MAN is the song rad.

I haven’t had this much fun with a record in I don’t know how long. I’m not sure how their other records sound, but Sidewalks is filled some very well put together beats and electronic elements that rival some of the bigger hip hop and pop tracks I hear on the pop stations, especially “AM/FM Sound” and “Cameras.” As if that weren’t enough, the songs themselves are filled with the kind of optimistic lyrics that can only be written by kids in their 20s. But, I don’t want to give the impression that they’re just a couple of impressionable kids singing about rainbows and flowers, the general theme of the record seems to be grabbing life by the horns and taking full advantage of it. “So many books that i didn’t read/but there’s so much air i chose to breathe./How about the colors that I’ve seen?/So i’ll leave these pages in the trees.” I like that sense of wonder with the world but also the knowledge that it might come at what others might see as a cost. That combination of hot beats and sunny optimism might seem contradictory, but the results are infections, foot tapping (sometimes stomping) anthems that make me want to follow my dreams and kick life in the junk (whatever that means).

There’s some NSFW talking at the end of the following video, just FYI.

I dig all 10 tracks on the record, though “Northeast” is a bit of a bummer. But, hey, it’s also the shortest track on the record, so I can’t be too miffed. If you’re like me and have an unnecessary predisposition to dislike anything that comes out of Hipster Brooklyn, I encourage you to still give Matt and Kim a try. If they’re being ironic, they’re either really bad at it or incredibly good actors because I think that kind of enthusiasm is difficult, if not impossible to, fake.

Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 12 “Addicted To Love”

Tonight’s episode of Real World Las Vegas was pretty fantastic and even changed my opinion on a few of the characters. Continuing the theme of real-ness that hasn’t been seen on this show in quite a while and possibly never to this degree, tonight’s episode featured children reuniting with parents they haven’t seen in years, someone dealing with the death of a loved one, the discovery of a long lost pair of siblings, a relationship coming to an end…oh, and motocross. Hey, it doesn’t need to be all heady stuff. Hit the jump for all the deets. Continue reading Real World Watcher: Las Vegas Episode 12 “Addicted To Love”

Ad It Up: The Mask Returns

Like a lot of kids my age, my first exposure to The Mask was the Jim Carrey movie. At some point in college I got my hands on the first two trades featuring the character written by John Arcudi and drawn by Doug Mahnke. It’s a lot bloodier and more violent than the film, but it didn’t quite grab me for whatever reason. Regardless, though, I love this ad from 1992’s Predator vs. Magnus Robot Fighter #1 with the Mask blasting through the familiar silhouette of a certain cinematic superhero. Fun stuff.

Books Of Justice: JLA Deluxe Volume 2

JLA DELUXE EDITION VOLUME 2 (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Howard Porter with Val Semeiks, Arnie Jorgensen, Gary Frank & Greg Land
Collects JLA #10-17, Faces of Evil: Prometheus #1, JLA/WildC.A.T.S. #1
As with the previous volume, I was once again surprised with how much Morrison packed into so few issues. I remembered the Injustice Gang story, the one where GL, Aquaman and Flash travel to Wonderworld and then to a possible future where Darkseid has taken over, but did not realize they were all happening at the same time. This is one helluva yarn to unravel and that’s before we even get to the Prometheus story. Wow, so much going on here. All other comic book writers–especially ones who want to write big time superhero team comics–should take notes for reference instead of throwing out yet another boring retread of old villains without much new thought or spark.

While a group of super villains coming together to put an end to the heroes might not have been the most original idea of all time–and seems even less so after the past few years of that being the go-to plot for villains–Morrison twisted it just enough by putting Lex Luthor in charge and having him use hostile takeover (read: business) tactics to destroy the JLA. He also, thankfully, didn’t just go with whatever Super Powers lame-os that seemingly everyone else who does this story. I fully expected to see Cheetah instead of Circe, but Circe makes so much more sense. As it turns out, the Injustice Gang series acts as a kind of book end for the other stories I mentioned. Kyle Rayner really gets to shine in an issue before Morrison moves the spotlight over to Aquaman. He does such a good job of giving everyone their due diligence.

But, my favorite aspect of this story is the Darkseid Is possible future. I am a sucker for these kinds of stories because they really get to play with our heroes in ways that just can’t be done in modern comics. Superman’s dead, Batman has been forced to kill, Flash is a fat guy, GL’s a zombie, but more interestingly, Argent has become a hero! Most of you might not remember Argent, but she was one of the characters in Dan Jurgens’ relaunch of the team in the late 90s. Seeing a guy like Morrison show her in such a cool light made me really re-think that character and reinforced the idea in me that there are no bad characters just bad takes on them. Apparently, no one else was paying attention because she hasn’t done much since Devin Grayson’s Titans book (I think).

And then the JLA disbands…but not really. It was a hokey trick that didn’t need to be there. Besides, it wound up just being a restructuring that brought in new members. And you know what? Morrison didn’t put the team together by having our heroes looking at pictures and weighing their options or all meeting up by happenstance and deciding to join forces, THEY WERE JUST THERE! I’d like those potential super hero team writers to take note of this too. We don’t need to see how the team is put together. It’s boring. Just put them together and if questions arise (or better yet, if mysteries abound) answer them as you go. I don’t want to see how next season’s Steelers come together, I want to see them play football! Wow, I’m punchy today, but I think it’s because this stuff all seems to basic and obvious and yet we’re inundated by boring and bad team books all the time.

Anyway, we’re introduced to a brand new villain named Prometheus thanks to his one-shot that then carries right into the next issue that introduces the new team. Prometheus might be one of the greatest villains of the 90s with his ability to download everything from building schematics to marital arts moves into his brain, but I do have one question, how did he get their moves on camera, especially Batman? Ah well, maybe he used his Cosmic Key. Like Zauriel, Prometheus has been mostly mishandled, but I think he could use an upgrade and come out swinging. He had the one-shot not too long ago, has he appeared since? The whole “he doesn’t have VILLAINS programmed in his brain” conclusion is a little Silver Agey, but wound up being fun anyway. I’m still not clear if Catwoman being there was her own idea or Batman’s but that sure was good luck if not planned.

The book ends with a comic I’ve never read before, but enjoyed: JLA/WildC.A.T.S.. I’ve gone on record several times as being a fan of the Wildstorm Universe, so seeing the ‘Cats interact with the Big Seven and written by one of my favorite comic writers is a treat. However, this book won’t blow you away. It’s kind of your standard inter-company crossover, but with Morrison’s crazy brain working on the reasons why they’re crossing over. Even so, I’m glad it’s included in the book to make sure everything he did with the team is collected.

Reading this book not only made me want to get the other two volumes of the JLA Deluxe series, but also get all of the DC 1 Million issues and read the whole thing as one big epic. It would be nice if DC put something together with all the one-shots in the correct chronological order with the main miniseries, but since I haven’t heard anything about that, maybe I’ll just put my own together and bind that shiz up. I’m going to keep my eye out for them as the con season heats up and will maybe get to them after getting my Justice League collection bound.

Last Night’s Shows, Today: Real Housewives Of New Jersey

REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY “In The Name Of The Father” & “Drop Dead Gorgas” (Bravo, 9:00PM)

Last night the missus and I caught the first 90 minute episode of the new Real Housewives Of New Jersey season as well as the second ep which was new. The first one revolved around a wild Christening that lead to shouting and punching while the second revolved around Halloween and a fashion show with several of the Housewives walking. With Dina still gone (bummed about that) and Danielle kicked off the show, we’ve got Melissa and Kathy as the new Housewives and their sole responsibility seems to be talking smack about Teresa without actually trying to talk to her.

Two episodes in and this season is already starting to lose me, but in a completely different way than it was losing me last season. Last season completely revolved around the housewives reacting to Danielle’s craziness, which was seriously strange and seemingly close to dangerous (at least on a social if not legal level). Anyway, I was kind of hoping for something a little more relaxed with the third season, but that’s not the case and, in fact, Danielle’s specter still hangs over the gang in a weird way. Remember in the reunion when Danielle slyly brought up some problems between Teresa and her family? Well, the producers went out and got Teresa’s brother’s wife Melissa to be on the show as well as one of her cousins, Kathy, in a seeming effort to make these episodes all about how evil Teresa is. There’s some static between Teresa and her brother who like every other man in her life is named Joe, which makes everything super confusing. Anyway, said static is never really explained well. Brother Joe is upset because his father like’s Husband Joe and feels betrayed by seemingly everyone. Really it seems to boil down to most of these people being childish adults who can’t take any blame for anything and always lay it on the other person. Teresa blames Brother Joe and Melissa, Brother Joe blames Husband Joe and Teresa. No one wants to meet the other halfway. Brother Joe acts like such a, pardon my french, pussy throughout the first two episodes he might as well be one of the housewives. I was near tears laughing when he was screeching at his dad during the first episode’s chaotic Christening. Either man up and have a real conversation with your sister that doesn’t involve copious amounts of booze and fix things or just cut her out of your life completely. Which, for the record, would not include going on a reality show with her.

Meanwhile Caroline and Jacqueline are dealing with real problems that adults can relate to. Caroline is really feeling the empty nest as her boys Albie and Chris tell her they’re moving into their own apartment. At the same time, Jacqueline continues to struggle with her daughter who has no concept of the real world and acts like an entitled spoiled jerk who completely expects her parents to pay for an apartment in the city so she won’t have to commute to her internship that she doesn’t show up to because it’s far away. This chick needs some serious reprogramming and boils my blood, but at the same time, that’s something that anyone with a teenager deals with.

I get that family drama is something that people deal with all the time, but the way the producers clearly went about casting this season as a Teresa hatchet job is insulting and boring. It doesn’t help that there’s no discernible reason for the drama that I’ve been able to make out aside from childishness or that everyone is just so petty about it. Melissa: “Teresa thinks she throws better parties than me, but she doesn’t.” Seriously? That’s what you’re worried about in life? Man, it must be awesome to be rich and able to worry about stupid shit that doesn’t really matter. And I don’t mean to canonize Teresa here. She doesn’t seem to have done much to mend the fences herself and, like her brother, blames everything on the other person. We’re just more familiar with her, so we’re on her side. Besides, every single thing that comes out of Melissa’s mouth seems to be an attack on Teresa which is just boring and catty.

I would imagine that Caroline is by far the most popular of the Housewives, and yet, instead of the producers trying to capture more of her realness by getting women like her, instead they go the other way and go for incendiary characters. Kathy seems like she might have some of this in her, but she seems to have really mired herself in the Melissa/Teresa nonsense, taking different sides at different times and coming off as a trouble maker. It’s disappointing because of all the Housewives iterations, this one has the most potential to not only feature the Bravo norm of rich people doing fabulous things, but also the addition of actual heart and family. Would the viewership die off if the cast consisted of people who didn’t hate each other? Hey, it’s possible, I’m no Bravo expert, I just know what I like. Maybe Caroline and her family just need their own series.

I don’t think I’ll be blogging about this season on its own or take notes during it, but will probably return to it a time or two in future LNST entries.