Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween! I don't know if there's Halloween karma, but if so, I'm hoping to score big, since along with candy and some small toys, I'm also giving out a pile of comics, including a well-read copy of Thor #362. (Oh, I've got another, trust me.)

My Youngest is a cowboy this year, since he's a fan of Woody from Toy Story; and my Oldest picked up a bleeding Scream mask. Yes, I'd prefer he dressed up as a superhero too, but his mom got the costumes this year. I'm wearing a short-sleeve blue Star Trek shirt, ala Dr. McCoy--this is barely a costume, I'm pretty sure it's in my regular rotation, but I have my phaser, communicator, and tricorder. Nerd! (I get more like Bones every year: I'm cranky, even my good advice is always ignored, and I only get some about once every 20-some episodes...)

I hope to be back online at home in the next couple of weeks, which will mean new posts again, and possibly some pictures from today. Here's hoping, and have fun! Read more!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The other day, I rewatched Quatermass II, the classic Hammer sci-fi horror film and the second of the Quatermass trilogy. I'm not sure if I've seen the first one, but I have this and Quatermass and the Pit on VHS, and liked them both quite a bit. Really short summary? Cranky Brit rocket scientist fends off alien invasions. Three separate times, three separate aliens.

Since I'm a big fan of interconnected universes and legacies, or if you've read anything like Ellis' Planetary or Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; it's pretty easy to imagine a line from Quatermass fighting alien invasions in the fifties, Mulder and Scully of the X-Files doing the same in the nineties, and perhaps even the cast of Fringe for this decade. (It would never, ever, happen; but wouldn't a Fringe/Millennium crossover be awesome?...for me and like three other people...) Science-heroes, fighting government interference and cover ups, public skepticism, and alien mind control over most of the 20th century? Hell, yes, I'd watch that!

Unfortunately, even as I imagined a decrepit and bitter Quatermass, old and forgotten and probably blacklisted, classified, and buried by the government; I looked him up on wikipedia and saw there was a fourth serial, ominously titled the Quatermass Conclusion. Yeah, looks like poor Quatermass wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to meet Olivia Dunham or Fox Mulder. There was a remake of the first one a few years back, though...

In other news, while picking up Halloween candy, I was forced to buy a box of Frosted Mini Wheats, a bowl of which is currently pummelling my internal organs. Definitely a rude surprise when there's Boo Berry on the shelves. Why did I buy this nightmare of fibrous bricks? To get my Oldest son the Guitar Hero prize inside. There was an ad during Heroes last night for some KFC mountain of a meal, with a similar GH tie-in; but I'd have to say that campaign seems aimed more at the correct demographic. Maybe this is part of a nutrition-outreach program. Or a cruel bait-and-switch.

Worst of all? I didn't even get the cool guitar shaped game, I got some boxy, allegedly amp-shaped thingus. I may have to tell that kid he's on his own to find another one, though...

Oh, and I forgot: I'll totally be out on Wednesday, taking my dog Sam from apartment to apartment as we look for a new home and I try to make him look smaller somehow. Wish us luck! Read more!

Monday, October 27, 2008

OK, since last time I did a DC-centric clip show, this time around we'll hit up some of the Marvel "highlights." Actually, maybe highlights shouldn't be in quotes there, some of these were actually pretty good, or at least actually featured the characters who's book it was. Seriously, does Marvel have a policy now where at least one issue a year has to not feature the main character, even in passing? And for every book that can do that well, like Brubaker's Captain America, there's an Avengers book with no Avengers, a Cable issue about Bishop, or a Spider-Man about Flash Thompson.

Wow, off-topic already! Hey, don't leave yet!
Hey, when my shift's over, my shift is over, get me?
Ah, the Avengers are getting a head start for the sad tale of Bloodhawk, or are leaving because they've already heard it. Has there been other characters named Bloodhawk? Seems too easy a name to have just been left there...

I imagine that 'What? You're still talking?' as less surprised than pissed...
I totally stepped on the punchline the first time I posted this: "His love is real, Hulk, even if he is not!" Maybe love isn't the right word...

Skrull or no Skrull, dead or not, Hank had best be back in this outfit posthaste.
I wouldn't have bet on this, but I've used the tag "Back when Hank Pym was cool" more than the one for Spider-Man. This one's got both, so there you go.

Although I know full well Man-Wolf's never sucessfully killed anyone, I'd still scream like a girl if that was coming at me.

Let's do one more for today: another Spidey one, with the sensational character find of the seventies, the Man-Wolf! Isn't John Jameson the Man-Wolf or Star-God or whatever again in the current continuity? Is he still married to She-Hulk? Shouldn't I look this nonsense up myself? Ah, well. I still have a carded Man-Wolf in my cube at work--of course I have an open one, but the sheer joy of him having a toy made it worth buying a cheap spare for display. Very Halloween, all year round. Damn, now I wish I could do more for Halloween, but probably not. Pick up my slack, OK? Read more!

Friday, October 24, 2008

So, I'm in the middle of trying to find a new place, where I can keep my dog Sam; or as I now call him, the fifty-pound homewrecker. If he was a yippy little dog (like Sugarpie) he probably would sail under the radar; but since Sam's a bigger dog, some places won't allow him and I'm sweating it a little. Well, sooner or later. Hopefully sooner, before I end up living in a storage garage...

I just wanted to leave a couple quick notes before I was out for the weekend. First up: does anyone know what happened to Mighty God King? It's come up as suspended the last couple days, and I enjoy his site quite a bit, even if my understanding of Canadian politics is limited to my grandma complaining about Quebec circa 1992.

And yesterday, to calm myself down after a week of stalls and starts, I read all my Doom Patrol comics, an almost complete run of the John Arcudi/Tan Eng Huat version. It's funny, I've read the Kupperberg/Lightle-Larson and the John Byrne versions, but I'm not sure I've read an actual issue of the Grant Morrison Patrol. (Just the occasional blogpost about it!) I wanted to remind myself to post some art from that: Huat's art is interesting, not typical DC superhero fare; and the late Seth Fisher also did two issues in a very fun style.

I also re-read the first "I Can't Believe it's not the Justice League" mini, and there are a couple references to the Doom Patrol snuck in: specifically, Elongated Man had made an appearance as part of a corporate-sponsored version of the Patrol, with Dr. Light, Metamorpho, and old school Patroller Beast Boy. Good issue: Robotman can't figure how Metamorpho could be leading a rival Patrol, since last he heard, Rex was dead. Before Cliff can ask Rex how he can be there, Rex asks Cliff how he can be there, since last Rex heard, Cliff and the rest of the Doom Patrol was killed. Cliff thinks about it, and disappears. Kind of a downer, but pretty cool. (Don't worry, he comes back...kinda.)

Let's go out mentioning some happier posts: SallyP shelled out for the 13-inch Green Lantern and even now basks in his glory, and Poe's got the Movie Masters Batpod, which I saw today and am tempted as all hell, even if Deadpool and Nightcrawler would just steal it... Read more!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Even when I'm not updating, I'm still here on the blog a lot; because I use all the links to read everyone else's blogs. (Early on, I had to set Statcounter to not count hits from my location, or there'd be an extra couple hundred every day...) So I hate not updating, since after a while it grates on me seeing the same posts there. Which means it's time to shuffle the deck chairs on the sinking...I mean, spruce this place up!

I suspect this is what happened to that last issue of Battle Chasers.

Dear Tara is still one of my favorite posts here, a love letter to love letters and old Mike Grell Warlord comics. Why isn't there a Showcase collection for Warlord again? I mean, it's gotta have a bigger potential fanbase than Sugar and Spike, and nine out of ten bloggers want that one...

If Sarah Palin was this hot...that would be bad, yeah.
Before she was shot, before she was Oracle, before Birds of Prey; Barbara Gordon was Batgirl and a disturbingly hot Congresswoman. Try not to wonder how the hell the obviously under-30 Barbara got elected...

Did Aquaman have trouble getting up front?  'No, I'm Aquaman!  Yes, I'm a super-hero!  Look, there's Wonder Woman, she'll vouch for me!'

You know what The New Frontier really needed? Rex the Wonder Dog. And Congorilla. Check out the double-secret secret origin of the day before the Justice League!

Somehow, I picture Firehair as even now trying to will himself out of The War that Time Forgot.

Oh, let's do one more DC Hullabalooza: On it's last hurrah as a regular-format comic, Showcase tries to prove you don't need Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman for a party, in this little number with everyone who was ever featured in the book, from the silver age Flash, Green Lantern, Atom, the Creeper, Lois Lane, the Challengers, the, um, Inferior Five...Angel and the Ape...Sugar and Spice...Space, crap. At any rate, there is a running theme in these last two, of Lois Lane being way more kickass than she ever was in either her own book or Superman's.

Well, perhaps later we'll try for a Marvel-centric clip show, then maybe a homemade post one, and by then I might be back in action. Until then, remember: Space Ranger sucks. Read more!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Technical troubles continue!

Pfft. I wish they were just technical troubles. Not to get all depressing, but things are kind of a mess right now, and probably will be for the next couple weeks. I usually (that is, I did last year...) take off November for National Novel Writing Month, but I sincerely doubt I'm going to be up for it this year. Maybe.

Suffice to say, I'll be back as soon as possible, OK?
Read more!

Monday, October 13, 2008

So, we're down to this...

Good news and bad news: I finished twenty-one pages over the weekend. (Twenty are in the six-panel grid.) Between that, and a good six or so pages I set up before, I've got a good backlog going, and an epic Nightcrawler and Deadpool story that I probably need to come up with an end for...

The bad news is, my internet's still down at home, so a good month's worth of posts is trapped. At this rate, we are this far away from running a clip show...

Before we sink that low, let's take another favorite-yet-easy-yet-occasionally terrifying blogger standard, and look at the recent keyword activity! I use Statcounter and love it, and while it's occasionally disenheartening to see I got more hits for John McCain as Green Lantern than just about anything I might have put some work into, it's worth it to be able to see what people are looking for that brought them to me. Like the word "Happenstance," or how to use it in a sentence. Um, yay?

Yet, now that I've brought it up, there doesn't appear to be any terrible, mind-scarring searches this time. They're somewhat odd, and probably not what the searcher was looking for--I don't know what "Drax Hall Pirate Ghost" refers to at all, nor how it would end up with me. "Sexy Avenger Tigra's feet Pictures," is close; but I swear someone once found here with "Superboy Kryptonite Cock Punishment," and I hope to God there's some Silver Age story with Jor-El launching a chicken into orbit in another rocket test, then it lands on earth 20 years me, that's better than imagining the alternative.

Sigh. So, clip show tomorrow? Terrific. Read more!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

How I learned to stop worrying and love the 9-Panel Grid:

Although I had been exposed to it at a young age, I never bought the Legion of Super Heroes on a regular basis until the first issue of the 1989 series, the "Five Years Later" era. Previously, I had read random, older issues; or the digest reprints of the Adventure Comics era; or occasional issues depending on the character featured. Legion had never struck me as a book I absolutely had to read every month, before or since. Why did this one strike home with me?
It wasn't the art, at least, not at first. Giffen uses the nine-panel grid page almost exclusively, and some of his only exceptions were title pages to signify a new chapter in the series, like "Five Years Later" or "The Terra Mosiac." Early in the series, there are a couple issues that don't use the 9-panel throughout, usually to signify a flashback (issue #8) or a tonal shift (#11, one of the first Tenzil Kem/Matter Eater Lad issues, the comedy issues between tragedies). I've wanted to scan some art from this series for a while, but out of context, it's hard to get at what's going on.
And there was a ton going on. Set five years after the last issue of the previous Legion series, Earth has left the United Planets, the Legion has disbanded, and several of it's members have been through a lot since then.
Now, of course this was well before the Internet and spoilers and everything else, but there's just a heavy feeling of menace from this series. The future used to be shiny and bright and awesome, and while it wasn't a post-apocalyptic ruin, it was in pretty bad shape now. It's different reading these issues today, since at the time they had...pressure. What happened to these characters? What was going to happen? You didn't know. You had to piece a little bit together each month, and while it was occasionally frustrating, Giffen's Legion was a book that rewarded repeat reading. c
Not to say there weren't problems: there's a Mordru magic reboot and some heavy continuity surgery in the first few issues, and several plot points that hinge on Adventure Comics stories I've still never seen. There are numerous points that are either red herrings, or not returned to for years, which is the downside to having a cast of bazillions.

And there were some heartbreakers in there early: longtime fan favorite Phantom Girl, killed off-panel in the missing five years. (You can argue whether or not it was a refridgerator-stuffing, as her death changes Ultra Boy/Jo Nah quite a bit.) Hedonistic ladykiller Sun Boy, now a sellout traitor. Cosmic Boy, a founder and Legion mainstay, now powerless. Timber Wolf, mutated into the mute beast Furball. Mon-El's most heroic moment...right before he gets all the Superboy references taken out and reworked into Lar Gand, a name that sounds like it was pulled out of a hat.
rBut the upside is, Legion of Super Heroes once again became a book with drama and super-heroics and adventure and science fiction and romance and horror and comedy. It was a big book, containing if not multitudes, a hell of a lot. Even though I've lost and repurchased some of them more than once, I still pull the Five Years Later issues out every so often for an afternoon's read. Giffen wasn't there for the whole thing, but until the next reboot (the "threeboot," I think) it ran about sixty regular issues, or five years. Fitting.

I'm at best a dilettante on Legion matters: there is a ton of great blogging about the Legion, and DC could do a lot worse than listening to them. This post has been in the draft pile for a while, since when I loaded it, I was hoping it would pop up as a nine-panel grid page. Oh, well. Read more!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The medium of action figures can be a harsh mistress...

Like everyone else, I wanted to be a comic book artist as a kid. However, I quickly realized my anatomy was, at best, sub-Liefeldian...which probably still could've got me a job in the 90's, but even so, I had to let that dream go. Still, that is very much why I love making the toy comics, as between the software and the toys, it's not too difficult to get a recognizable, and hopefully readable, end result.

That said, even putting aside my lack of Photoshop, etc; there are limits to what you can do with action figures instead of a pencil: even if I suddenly had a brilliant idea for, say, Optimus Prime and the Autobots fighting an army of Daleks in space, there is no friggin' way I could pull it off. Especially since I don't have any Daleks...and now you now why all my strips are dialog-based snark. (Pete over at Fanwank will sometimes drop effects that make me bite my fist in envy, yet claims they 're relatively easy. Maybe.)

So, every once in a while I'll have an idea that might not be bad, but is definitely impractical for the format. Or, at least, for my format: someone might be able to pull my halfbaked ideas off, but that would be more of a Lucasfilm-level production, like Toyfare's animated strips; whereas I'm at the Dark Shadows level. (Forget knocking the toys over, you have no idea how often I knock the sets over.)

Sometimes, an idea will be stalled because I don't have a figure for a character, or worse, because I have a figure that isn't poseable enough for what I want to do. The Total Justice toys I used in my first strip are basically only movable enough to wave their arms around, but it bugs me more that I didn't have a Superman figure in that scale. Worse, even with multiple Supermen from DC Direct, the Superman animated series, JLA, the new DC Universe one from Mattel; I don't think I have a single Supes toy without clenched fists. Maybe I just can't find one when I need it. Maybe DC doesn't want Superman to be seen handling...anything, I guess.

The point of all this buildup is all for a script for a short, aborted strip. I didn't even have a Doc Samson figure at this point, but while I still like the joke, it was beyond my means to produce. But, since I still can't upload anything, why the hell not? I rewrote it with enough description that maybe you can see what I was going for, and if anyone has ambition and a ton of Mego or Famous Covers figures, perhaps you could prove it can be done and show me up as a quitter. Enjoy!

(Peter, in full Spider-Man costume, is lying on the psychiatrist's couch, hands folded on his chest. Doc Samson is in the background, sitting with his legs slightly crossed and taking notes. Samson is dressed conservatively, probably a sweater, which would be comforting if he wasn't a hugely muscled man with a horrible looking green ponytail.)
PETER: I had that dream again.
SAMSON: (sighs, drops pencil on pad.) Which one, Peter?

(flashback, go to a slightly old school Ditko or Frenz look. Shot of Peter from the inside of his school locker. Flash Thompson, Liz, and other high school students can be seen in the background pointing and laughing. Peter has glasses, a shocked, embarrassed look, and is buck naked. Obviously, shadows or a locker door or something is blocking Peter's junk.)
PETER: The one where I have a big test that I didn't study for, and I'm completely unprepared, and I forgot my clothes.

(Samson is clearly trying to look sympathetic, but is having a hard time with it.)
SAMSON: Hmm. I can understand the underlying anxiety, but I thought you were a very good student. What test would you be unprepared for?
PETER: I dunno. Wood shop? Or home ec. Left alone, I eat a lot of things that start with "cup of." Aunt M--I mean, my "mom," is right to worry about me not eating.

(Still Flashback: Spider-man, still naked except for his mask and web-shooters, leaping at a very skeeved-out looking Doc Ock. One of Ock's tentacles should be blocking Spidey's naughty bits, and at least one should have a protective position, like it doesn't want to see that either.)
PETER: Anyway, then Doc Ock shows up and starts tearing up the place, and I have to go stop him...
SAMSON: Still...
PETER: Yeah. Don't ask where I was keeping my mask and webshooters. I don't wanna know.

(Samson, closing his notebook and standing up.)
SAMSON: Well, I think that's enough for today. I'll see you next week.

(Peter, shaking Samson's hand with a skeptical expression.)
PETER: Yeah. Hey, isn't this usually where you say, "We've made a lot of progress today?"
SAMSON: Ha-ha. Yes, usually. Read more!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I don't like the set-up...

...but you can't argue with the delivery.

What the hell is this from? Still dredging posts out of draft mode (10-11-06!), but I think this is from one of those Justice League of America 100-page giants, that were like 80% reprints. The reprints weren't terrible, but they weren't great either. This is probably from a Black Canary/Starman story, that would get an interesting callback years later in James Robinson's Starman.

Over the weekend, I watched football while the Youngest watched Robots and the Oldest ran around the neighborhood, and I took about 400 pictures for the next several toy comics. I don't intentionally set out to do the Nightcrawler & Deadpool show, but this strip's run away from me, so I hope to start posting it soon. Hopefully...

Oh, hell: I was going to mention that I was tradewaiting for the new Deadpool series, but I have read a lot of it online, and the second issue seems stronger than the first. We'll see if I hold out! Read more!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

"Ah! Zombies! And swears. I guess it's up to you which you're more afraid of..."

(Yesterday, Poe Ghostal's Points of Articulation became Points of Mutilation, as he ramps things up heading into Halloween, and he started things off with a zombie attack post. He's been in on that before too, since Poe inspired this one: I started it at least a year ago. But since I'm stuck offline at home anyway, why not? Oh, and while I don't usually around here, this one has curse words, bloody violence, and unfortunate product placement. Enjoy!)

To begin, I want to say I'm safe enough for the time being. Oh, I'm completely fucked, yeah, but not yet. I just have to get this down in the hopes that someone is able to use this information either to save themselves, or maybe even wipe out these zombie fucks.

I saw my first one yesterday at lunch. On my lunch break I had biked over to Burger King, and was getting a kid's meal because I wanted the Silver Surfer toy. Even after everything that's happened, I still have the toy in the bottom of my backpack. Yeah, I don't have anything useful like a shotgun or a chainsaw, but I've got the Surfer. That probably says a lot about me.

He looked like a homeless guy at first. Hell, he probably was a homeless guy. He lurched towards the restaurant, planting his face into the glass. A couple kids laughed, and I thought it was funny for a second, until he moved and the hole in his chest slid across the window, leaving a smear of dirt and muddy red. It wasn't a straight hole through him, but diagonally somehow, so you wouldn't see through him if he was coming right towards you.

He had seemingly appeared from nowhere in the south side of the parking lot, and started around the building, ramming and rubbing on the glass. Pretty obvious he wasn't a homeless guy then. Lots of zombie movies have that first zombie just seem like someone lost or insane or sick. In retrospect, I'm probably lucky my first was a capital-Z zombie, a Lurcher. When he started heading for the drive-in window, some of the other customers and I yelled at the employees, but we didn't have to bother: the SUV leaving the window had pulled forward, and the zombie had gone right for the window of the moving vehicle. The driver, presumably scared to fuck, floored it forward, flying into the street and traffic with the zombie still trying to get through the window.

If you're reading this, you probably had this feeling too: that instant of revelation, like the alcoholics' moment of clarity; when you realized zombies were out there, and everything was going to go to shit in short order. There was a pay phone in the Burger King, and I grabbed my backpack, got over there, and called my wife. I...don't want to go into what I told her. It's personal, but I had her grab the kids, get what food and gas that she could, and get out of town. My folks have a cabin quite a ways away, but it's isolated, safe, and there's food and guns there. I told her to head for it, not to wait for me, and I'd be right behind them; which is probably the biggest lie I've ever told her. I was on my friggin' bicycle: if more zombies were already out there, the odds of me making it back to my house on it were mighty slim.

When the sirens started, one of the kids stuck his head outside, like he was completely expecting to get it bitten off. When he didn't, he took off, and his friends followed. I had to say goodbye, and I too ran. To my bike. You can undo a bike lock every day of your life in less time than it takes to type the sentence, but when zombies enter the picture it seems to take years.

The sirens were louder than I would've expected, and I was kind of hoping to be able to hear a little more clearly. You don't expect anything to sneak up on you on a clear, sunny day; but I wasn't ruling anything out there. I got my helmet on as I saw another zombie, lurching out of the Home Depot parking lot. He looked like someone had tried to kill him with a circular saw, but all it had done was make a straight red line from his face to his knee and tear up his clothes. It didn't look like his brain had been injured, which is probably why he was still ticking. I got on my bike and pedaled like hell, but luckily I knew exactly where I was going: the Smart Sports big-box store, about two blocks away.

Let me explain my reasoning, here, since later this won't seem like it was a good idea. At all.

I used to work at a music store in a mall. It was a boring, pointless job, since CD's were overpriced to begin with there, and this was during the early, glory days of Napster and file sharing and music thievery. So, my coworkers and I would talk about movies, and being trapped in a mall anyway, Dawn of the Dead came up a lot. (This started before the remake, although we talked about that one too later.)

"What kind of mall has that much food, and guns?" was often a discussion starter. "A magic, 1970's one," was the closest I ever got to an answer. Then we'd try to figure out what we would do if trapped in our mall.

"Sears," I would say, "is the only really useful place in this whole deathtrap. Tools, camping stuff, maybe propane, gardening stuff..."

"To grow food?" asked my friend.

"Probably, but I was thinking lime. You can't stay in the mall forever, so you're going to have to kill the zombies, even if you have to poke them in the heads with a long, pointy stick. Figure you'd need the lime to dump on the bodies and decompose them so they don't make a pile up to you."

Long pause.

"If zombies ever attack, I'm coming to get you, man."

One agreed upon point was the mall wasn't the best choice for riding out zombie attack anymore. A good sporting goods store, one with guns and camping equipment and food, would be ideal. Not only was it a tip of the hat to Army of Darkness, but we figured even if 95% of the population of the city turned into zombies, you could eventually whittle that number down.

"Get a .22 rifle to start, just to get used to shooting, get your aim. Nothing fancy yet. And just start shooting zombies in the head. Start in the morning, take breaks, punch out in the evening. Shooting zombies would be your full-time job." We also guessed there would be enough bullets in a sporting goods store to do the job, even if it took...we had no idea how long it would take, but someone suggested if you made a game of it: see how many zombies you can kill an hour, then try to beat your score.

So, when the zombies started, I had a rough plan in mind from the start, the same way you might have a general fire escape plan. The plan's a little different if you have to escape from a highrise rather than from your house, but the basic ideas the same. I wasn't going to be able to get to my family and get out of down, so I had to get to a sporting goods store.

There were a couple, better located and equipped stores downtown; but it was pretty obvious from the start that that going for them would be a bad idea even if I'd been in a car.

Smart Sports, however, was close enough that I could bike there. I hadn't been there in years, but it should have everything I was going to need, and in my master plan if I hurried I could get there before they locked the place up or the place filled with zombies. Plus, I had actually worked in that building when it used to be a Future Shop, so unless there had been some major changes, I knew the basic layout.

Note how all of this seemed a perfectly reasonable plan, when I was slacking off at a cash register watching preteens try to shoplift. Maybe it would've worked a little better if I had gotten to another store, maybe not. In actual practice, though, I had three lucky breaks, and an assload of bad ones.

As you doubtless know, the zombies spread pretty quickly. Most of the first ones I saw were slow. Lurchers. The real danger was other people, because panic was most people's first reaction. And their second. Maybe even their twelfth. Cars were flying through the intersections, one smashed into a coffee stand, and another hit another car into the pole holding up the stoplights, but I didn't have time to gawk. I only had to get across one busy street and a good chunk of parking lot.

The Old People's Buffet a couple of doors down from Smart looked full of zombies already. I was on the far end of the parking lot, but I saw two busboys light out of the back. I was about to yell at them to follow me--I was going need all the hands I could--but then the one behind lunged and caught the leader, and bit him in the back of the neck. That was pretty damn fast for a zombie! I wasn't expecting any running ones, especially since most people around here didn't run that great when they were alive. I noticed he seemed noisier, and bloodier than the other one I'd seen, but didn't have time to think about it.

The windows to Smart weren't as visible as I would've liked: there was a ton of ads and displays blocking my view of the inside. Still, I could hear more hell breaking loose behind me, so I didn't think there was a lot of choice at this point. I put my bike on the rack, and it took real effort not to lock it. I had that bike for over four years, and it had more than done a good job for me. I know it's stupid to be sentimental about a fucking bike with everything that's happened, but it was my bike and I loved it, OK? All right, I'm getting all moody about it now, when at the time I tore inside like my ass was on fire.

The store's lights were on, but it seemed dim inside, probably compared to high noon outside. I spun around looking for zombies, but didn't see any, which just made me look more frantically. "Hey!" I yelled. "Anyone alive here? Does anyone have keys to this door?"

"Shut the fuck up! He'll hear you!" hissed a voice from under a cash register counter.

The gurgling growl that followed made it pretty clear what she was referring too. I looked around: canoe display, skating equipment, camping stuff, shoes, shoes, shoes..."Where are the guns?"

"Are you high? We don't have any!"

"Motherfuck." The growler shambled forward, one obviously broken arm held in front of him. He seemed slow, especially since he had been a fat guy in a past life, but I didn't want to get cornered by him. Or crushed. There was a section of sports equipment like baseball bats, and I made my way to them.

I grabbed an aluminum bat, not because I was worried about breakage, but only because I had had one as a kid. Growly was shoving his way through a rack of jerseys, and I took another bat off the rack and rolled it in the direction he was coming. Sure enough, he stepped on the bat and did a pratfall on his face, and either his arm wouldn't support him or he was too dumb to try and catch himself. I smashed the bat down on the back of his skull, at least three times, and it stopped growling. I thought not seeing his face would be easier, but I had seen his name tag, he had been Carl, the general manager.

I thought about looking on Carl for keys, but had to look around: something turned Carl into a zombie, so there was probably another one roaming around somewhere. I yelled to the counter voice, "Hey! Do you have keys to the door!? Are there more here?"

"No." I still couldn't see whoever was hiding, and the voice sounded like it was from miles and years away.

"No what!?"

"No, he got bit outside. No, there's no one else here. No, I don't have any keys." The voice started to sound a little less far away, with just a trace of annoyance, but I still couldn't see her.

"Well, all right," I muttered, and turned back to Carl. A sludgey goo was forming a puddle under his face, and in the dim lighting, I noticed Carl actually seemed to glow slightly. Not the green Turner colorized Night of the Living Dead with, but still a faint sick green. His clothes appeared to be starting to melt as well, but he had the big manager's keyring on his belt, and I pulled it off, the loop of his pants giving like it was Play-doh.
"I've got the keys!" I yelled at the Mystery Voice. "We can lock the door, and then see what's going on!"

"Okay," said the Voice. She started to come out from under the counter, and I started for the door. I stopped for a moment, and discarded the bat I had used on Carl for a new, cleaner one, then turned back towards the door.

So I got a good view of the SUV plowing through the front doors. It didn't stop until it was completely on top of where the front counter, and the Mystery Voice, had been.

The front of Smart Sports now had an SUV-sized hole where it's front doors had been. I remembered there had been concrete pylons, probably there to prevent just such an occurrence from happening, and the SUV must've been going pretty fast, since there was no sign of them. If there's one thing I'm not going to miss in whatever this future turns out to be, it may be fucking SUV's.

There's no way for me to be sure, but I'm pretty sure this was the same SUV I saw at the Burger King. What was that, ten minutes ago?

The girl at the front counter that I had never seen, the Mystery Voice, was gone. Smart Sports was now no longer securable and didn't have guns. And the driver of the SUV had been saved by the airbag but from the sounds in there was obviously a zombie. And there were more outside. None had started in the hole yet, but I figured that wouldn't take long.

I had one idea left: when I had worked at this building before, the break room had been in back. I ran for it, occasionally grabbing items I thought I might need: a duffel bag, a windbreaker, several bottles of water, rope, some Swiss army knives in blister packaging that would probably take a Swiss army knife to get out. And some piton, spike-things. Those I would definitely need. By the time I reached the back, I could hear glass falling, so I didn't think I had much time.

The back of the store was even darker, and considering something could be around every corner or waiting in any shadow, it was fucking terrifying. Parts of the back were stairs and shelves for larger sale items, with the manager's office and break room walled and roofed like little boxes within. The break room had horrible fluorescent lighting, but was bright and clean and felt safer. I put a chair to the door to hold it closed, then smashed open the vending machines and packed up as many candy bars and pops as I could fit.

I had been afraid the noise might attract something, though, and I was right, but a lot quicker than I had expected. With a roar, something ran at the door and hit it so hard I expected zombies to flood into the room, but the lock and chair stood. Then came pounding, and an enraged screaming. Different than Growlee/Carl. This one sounded pissed, where the other had sounded mournfully hungry.

Still, this wasn't entirely unexpected, and I knew how to get into the ceiling from here, so I climbed on top of the pop machine, then moved the ceiling panel and brought up my bags. It was dark, so I had to adjust for a moment after I climbed up and closed the panel behind me. I had grabbed a flashlight before, a nice, heavy blunt instrument of a maglite, but it was packaged with batteries and not ready to use. Being careful where I placed my weight so I wouldn't fall through, I climbed over the break room. The levels adjacent would be easy enough for me to get to, but also easy enough for anything to jump at me if I was spotted.

Ideally, I wanted to get to the roof without any thing seeing me, so I could close the door behind me and have less worry about being followed. Back when I worked here, depending on which manager was working, the big fire alarm lever on the roof access door would be turned off so people could smoke on the roof. Either way, I was going to have to throw down my bags, hop down, climb a set of metal stairs, and get out the door. Simple enough any other time, but now, there was no telling.

Carefully looking over the side, I saw my Screamer: it was the busboy I had seen previously. Shit. He still wore a dirty white shirt and apron, now stained down the front with blood. There was a gory scalp wound on the back of his head, but it looked more painful than anything. Still, it was only him so far. I dropped one of my bags on the opposite side of the break room, and Screamy went running after it. Fast. He ignored the bag, but looked around spastically, his head jerking around. I quietly climbed back into the break room. Unplugged the TV and took it down from the wall mount, then put it on top of the pop machine. Climbed back up, as Screamee went back to pounding on the door.

While he moved like he was receiving electroshock, Screamee was a lot more active than the other two zombies I had seen. The pace of the screams changed, and I realized Screamee was breathing. Was he alive? Well, he wasn't friendly either way, and had to go. "Screamee," I said. He screamed straight up, as the TV smashed his face shut. He twitched a lot.

I took a quick look around: no one in back yet, but I didn't want to go back out front. I hopped down, grabbed my bags, and ran them up to the roof access. The door was open, so I took a quick look: A nice, clear, zombie-free rooftop. After I threw the bags onto the roof, I checked the door to make sure I could secure it from the roof side, all the while glancing over my shoulder to make sure nothing else had made its way to the back room yet.

I could see smoke, from several fires in the city. But I didn't have time to survey the damage just yet. Leaving the roof door open, I went back down the stairs, bat in hand.

It occurred to me the fridge may have more food that I would want later, so I tried that first. There was the remains of a case of Mountain Dew and a Subway sandwich that was probably Carl's, so I dumped the trash out of the little office garbage can and put them in. I also grabbed a first-aid kit, like it was a health pack in a video game. What I thought it would do I couldn't have told you, I'm pretty sure it didn't have anything for zombie bites. Anyway, I didn't think I had much time, but I checked Carl's office.

On his desk was a laptop, still in its case. I didn't know if I'd be able to do anything with it, but I could figure that out on the roof, not there. I grabbed it, and glanced around for anything else that might be helpful. There was a pair of binoculars in a case hanging on a coathook. I only wondered why Carl had them for a moment, and then made my way back to the roof access.

I could hear more zombies, now, roaming around the front of the building. I didn't know if they would hang around if they couldn't hear or see me, and I didn't want a bunch of them inside Smart if I could help it. I took one more look, to make sure I hadn't been followed, then closed the roof door behind me, locking myself up there for the duration, unless I got desperate enough to smash it or something. I used the spikes to wedge the door shut, so even if something did find it's way up there, it would be almost impossible to get through without tools.

There was a fire escape ladder on the roof, anyway, that telescoped down from the top so I'd be able to get down but no zombie would ever be able to reach it. I was safe. For the moment, anyway. I stood, panting, I don't know how long, until I finally realized I was still wearing my bike helmet. I'm quite sure my resulting fit of laughter sounded quite insane, but there was no one there to confirm that for me.

My next course of action was to survey my kingdom of roof. Apparently Smart Sports still had a couple smokers on staff, since there were a couple stained yard chairs up there and an ashtray between them. The chairs were placed facing not into the city proper but into the hills of suburbs and houses, some of which were also burning unchecked.

There was also a radio and an outlet, and I turned on the radio (to static) and plugged in Carl's laptop: it was probably charged, but I didn't know how long power would stay up, and I could be up here playing solitaire for quite a while. I glanced over the computer, noting it was nicer than mine at home, and it looked pretty new. I hoped there wasn't a password or anything, but I still had to look around before monkeying with it.

While I might have preferred a parapet, or whatever you call those ridged edges to a castle, the roof was secure, but I felt agoraphobic at the openness of it. Still, I could see some of the rooftops of the other stores, and didn't see anything yet. And in a pinch, I could probably get to the Pottery Barn's roof if needed.

Still, I was safe. Safe enough for now. I went back to the radio, dialed through the channels to an emergency broadcast signal that didn't seem to be ending soon, then got the binoculars. Plopping down in the chair, I started to look around, but before I did I checked the time on the laptop; which, as you might've guessed by now, wasn't password protected, thank...whoever.

I had only been gone an hour from work. I walked over to the side facing the office building I had been just that morning, and could see it had zombies. Lots of them. Damnit, that was a secure facility, where you had to swipe your ID card to get in. Then again, I guess it only takes one zombie inside to ruin the lot. I didn't use the binoculars. I didn't want to see anyone I knew.

Intersections were crowded with cars, wreckage, corpses moving and not. Even though I could still hear sirens, I didn't see any ambulances or fire trucks moving; but they doubtless would've been the first on the scene, and into the fire.

I looked then at the Burger King, which had three or four zombies roaming about outside, and smoke billowing out the drive-in window, which appeared to be blocked open by a torsoless body. As I watched, one of the screamier zombies Frankenstein-lurched outside, on fire, probably from the frier. He waved his arms, screaming, but it seemed less like it hurt than it was angry.

One of the slower-seeming zombies, a fat man missing most of an arm, turned toward Burner. Oblivious to the flame, Fatty walked over and took a bite out of Burner. This set Fatty's face on fire, and Burner shoved his thumbs through Fatty's trachea. Locked together, they gouged and bit and burned, until they fell over together, like a melting candle.

What the fuck was that?

Even though I had a pretty good vantage point, there was only so much I could see. Partly because a lot of it was horrible to watch, but also because there was so much going on. By two o'clock, there was an emergency broadcast about staying indoors, locking your doors, making peace with your god, etc. But by that point, I hadn't seen that many people--living people venturing out for a while.

The Safeway at the far end of the complex looked safe for a bit, but eventually I could see while a lot of zombies were still trying to get in, there were a fair amount of zombies inside as well. Crap. A couple of the smaller stores that way, a Hallmarks, a cell phone place, Radio Shack, a jewelers; all had doors closed and shutters down, which made me wonder if anyone might be OK there.

The Petsmart had a small pile of dogs, cats, maybe other animals milling about in front of it, seemingly unbothered by the zombies that occasionally walked through them. Someone had to have just let them all loose, rather than leave them to starve in their cages. The animals hadn't taken off just yet, though, as it looked like a couple of bags of food had broken and scattered in front of the doors. I hoped whoever let the animals out made it, but I wasn't gonna bet the farm on that one.

Best Buy didn't look infested, but the area directly in front of the store was littered with computers and DVD's and such. Looking at it forensically, I'd guess looters would run in, grab crap, run out, get eaten, get up, wander off. Great.

Target looked quiet, and part of the front of the store was blocked by a bus. Several zombies banged on the windows, but didn't seem like they were getting anywhere. Still, I couldn't see inside. I wondered how many of these places looked safe, but had zombies trapped inside like flies inside your house, buzzing about and hitting a window over and over.

(The big idea for this one, if and when I ever came back to it, was going to be that there were several distinct types of zombies roaming around: George Romero-style ghouls, voodoo zuevmbies or however you spell that, infected virus carriers ala 28 Days Later, even alien controlled corpse slaves as seen in The Earth Dies Screaming. Sort of Jane Goodall for the zombies, then.) Read more!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Beetle knows it's polite to open a door for a lady.
That's not foreshadowing, but it wouldn't have made less sense than whatever Max's evil motivation turned out to be...
Another one from the draft pile, but any excuse to post more from Justice League Quarterly #3, "When you wish..." Keith Giffen plot, Gerard Jones dialogue, Mike McKone pencils and Bob Smith inks; still one of my favorite single issues ever.

Still offline, but working on it. The sad thing is, I should be like a month ahead on posts, but I haven't gotten anything done on that front, either: I have one new strip and a couple single-panel bits, but not a lot else. Hopefully, soon... Read more!