Friday, March 23, 2007

What to do in New York!

The next in my continuing series on the fabulous places I visit, what I do there and the things that I eat. Today, I'm back in New York City! The Big Apple! The City that Never Sleeps! I arrived yesterday and am on my wait out today. Let's relive the high points, shall we?

Best Lunch: Teresa's Deli on 42nd Street

This little piece of New Yorkiana combines the hurly burly of the New York Stock Exchange trading floor with the stolid comforts of sandwiches. Zipping out from a planning meeting in a nearby office, I had a Turkey and Swiss with lettuce, tomato and mayo, and a bag of Cape Cod potato chips. The turkey was sliced sublimely.

Best Place to Walk from One Building to Another: 42nd Street to Park Avenue

After our planning meeting, we took a delightful jaunt from 42nd Street to Park Avenue. The rain had stopped and it was a freshly minted sunny Spring day. I soaked in the sun through my dark suit and took a deep breath of cigarette smoke and exhaust. Ah, New York in the Springtime!

Best Place to Have Your Flight Cancelled: LaGuardia Airport

I arrived at LaGuardia after a successful day of pitching my company's wares the home base of an important (foreign owned) American company. Flush with excitement, we cabbed it to LaGuardia, our Blackberries tapping and beeping with the manic energy that serves as the soundtrack to American business today. Upon Arrival, I quickly discovered that my flight had been cancelled. No worries, I was flying Northwest Airlines. Surely my hometown airline would have no trouble getting me home from New York! But, alas, 'twas not to be. No flights, no way home, no how. But surely there would be a hotel nearby -- I could see two outside the window. But alas, 'twas not to be. A quick call to my travel agent confirmed that no rooms would be available this night. Drat! I was forced to cab it again to a fine hotel by JFK airport.

Actually, I'm not sure what is best about LaGuardia. Presumably many plans fly in and out daily. Just not mine.

Best Hotel: The Doubletree Hotel, JFK Airport

It wasn't just the comfortable, utilitarian room, or the available iron and ironing board, or the lineup of "Still in Theaters", "Hollywood Hits" and "Adult Desires" movies on demand or the hot, fresh chocolate chip oatmeal cookies they give you when you check in, it's...

Actually, it is just these things.

Best Steak: The Doubletree Hotel, JFK Airport, "Welcome to New York Strip"

  • I asked for it medium rare. And it was! Not to rare, yet not too well done. Yes, indeed. This was a medium rare steak. Yessir! And what a delightful name. Sitting cross legged on my hotel bed, chewing carefully and slowly the way you're supposed to, sipping my Coke and dutifully eating my peas and carrots, I felt truly welcomed to the fair borough of Queens.

Best Neighborhood: The Doubletree Hotel, JFK Airport

I can't answer this one, because I never left my room.

Best Place not to be Stuck in the Airport: JFK Airport

Geez! I gotta go. Catch you next time!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Captain America - The Scoop!

It's not often that my hobbies and profession come together so nicely. Here, the comics news site Newsarama interviews New York Daily News reporter Ethan Sacks about how the paper got the scoop on the death of Captain America in the pages of Captain America #25:

NRAMA: Speaking of the scoop; there had to be a good level of coordination between you (the NY Daily News) and Marvel Entertainment. Approximately when would you say the exclusive was agreed upon?

ES: The exclusive was agreed on about two months ago. The New York Post – the Daily News’ arch-rival (picture an Australian Galactus running a paper) – had an exclusive when Spider-Man unmasked in Civil War #2 and I heard plenty about it from my editors. When I whined to Marvel that they should’ve kept me in the loop, too, they promised me a future exclusive when a story with mainstream interest would surface. So two months ago, I got a call from Marvel’s PR contact calling me into the Marvel Bullpen for a little powwow. They revealed the plans for Cap right then and there. The publisher wanted several conditions for us to get the exclusive: That we commit to most of a page up front and put a good-sized piece of art with it. It was a no-brainer for us, and my editor gave the green light later that afternoon. I didn’t even tell my wife.
Some scoop. Sacks whines about not getting the story the last time Marvel had a story that might have mainstream interest. Marvel PR says, "OK, we'll take care of you next time." And, with two months advance notice, they managed to get the story in the paper. Not exactly the classic image of the reporter dogging the company and the editor shouting "stop the presses" to get that story to us for working his deep cover contacts, is it?

It's not Sacks who trumpets this as a big scoop -- it's Newsarama. Public relations -- the art of how companies communicate to the public through media and influencers (today's definition) -- should be a required course in the media age. How organizations and media build relationships that lead to stories shouldn't be such a mystery -- it ain't rocket science folks.

It can be fun time you see a big entertainment story -- or even a business story -- that strikes you as a little odd, that has you asking, "why was this on the news?" ... play the game PR people play from the outside. Ask: Who wanted this story told? Who were the unnamed sources? What did it take for this story to make the big splash that it did?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Captain America - RIP

And, of course, this video tribute (view at your own risk...Oy!)

Captain America died today.

As an imaginary character living in an imaginary world of superpowered heroes fighting outlandish villains, Captain America was still, well, a little different.

His modern incarnation -- a man born of the depression and created during World War II revived and forced to reconcile his values in today's world -- was at once uncomfortably cornball and choke-back-the-manly-tears inspiring.

In the comic world, this is going to piss people off. But there's a tradition here. Back in the late 60s, the writers had Captain America quit and become "Nomad" when he couldn't represent the America he saw on the streets and in the Capitol. In the 90s, I've read, he was forced by the government to hand over his shield to John Walker -- more "my country, right or wrong" than the exemplar of the American Ideal.

What captures America today? Captain America has never been more a 'man out of time'. His government no longer holds itself out as a shining beacon meant to bring the free peoples of the world together. Instead, we hold forth that we must protect our own at all costs, and if the rest of the world won't go along, we'll go it alone. Where legitimate dissent is viewed as anti-American. Where supporting the troops means putting more of them in danger, for reasons increasingly unclear. Where we act like bullies and fools and wonder why no one likes us...

It's been a few years...time for Captain America to be recast.

If I were the storyteller, by the way, I'd call the assassination of Steve Rogers a ruse. The original Captain America goes underground, while others take his place. Steve Rogers dons a new mask and takes a tour of his namesake country to rediscover who Americans are these days, for real. To get back to basics. To find out the price of milk. He gets on the Internet, finds out what makes people happy and what really scares them. Discovers who we really are and what those ideals are that we really need a Captain America to uphold and protect.

And, along the way, who really needs a good kick in the head.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Would Be? Might Be? Is!

"But as the president has made clear, we simply cannot afford to fail in the Middle East. Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility, and endanger Americans for decades to come."

Robert Gates, US Defense Secretary, December 18, 2006

This is the most egregious lie being propagated by our leaders at this time. It is important that we reframe the issue -- get beyond this will we decide to succeed or not succeed. The decision is out of our hands. Or rather, we made poor decisions, and we failed in Iraq. Past tense. Our credibility is impaired, Americans are endangered. The failure has been accomplished. It's over and done with.

The question now is not one of success or failure -- that question has been answered. The question before our leaders and our country now is how to contain the failure to just Iraq. Humpty Dumpty has fallen...all the president's men can't put Humpty back together again.

America doesn't have to be a peacenik or Pollyanna. But it has to stand for something more than questionable invasions and quick fixes.

That's why how we got into this is still relevant. We need to decide who we are in the world again. Is America a force for good? Then let's do good in the world. Let's invest in a more peaceful world -- whether that means raising the global standard of living or exerting military force to protect ourselves and our allies.

In the end, America must stand not for a way of government but for helping the peoples of the world to live good lives -- to give voice to the voiceless, open opportunity to the poor, and ease the pain of the ailing.

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Late at night, under the covers and by flashlight, I've been re-reading Watchmen graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Gibbons.

If you haven't read it, go forth, buy it and read it.

For a story drawn from 1980s Cold War fears of imminent nuclear armageddon, the story remains remarkably relevant today. And for the conspiracy minded among you, has it been remarked that the horrible event at the climax of Watchmen and the events of 911 could be seen as eerily similar? What if 911 was "manufactured" for the sole purpose of bringing the world together, and we blew it? Or, more likely, 911 could have brought the world together, but, as Alan Moore seems to say, it really just wouldn't have worked anyway... someone would have blown the secret, changed their mind, squandered the goodwill of the nations of the world...

OK ... so it's been remarked..., and ... probably other places, too... But read it or read it again. It's that good.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Smile for the Season

Nothing makes you smile a sweet, winter-holiday-related smile like walking into the lobby of a Minneapolis office building ... and ... and ...

...practically running smack dab into a real-live Elvis Impersonator, performing "Kentucky Rain" before a crowd of shocked downtown office workers!

Yeah, baby!

Note: not the actual
Elvis Impersonator seen in
Minneapolis. Photo
"courtesy" of

Thursday, December 14, 2006

An Update

I'm "working hard" in a suburban Minnesota Starbucks. And don't let anyone tell you different. update:

* Thanks to all who have written to inquire about illustrating my fine comic script. I'm contacting y'all now, or will be soon. If you're interested and haven't written, check out and then send your samples to

* Episode X of Peter Flak, Big Time Detective is live at One Minute Stories ( Our hero is confused and weak of stomach, pursuing his supposedly dead publicist to the posh Carstairs Hotel and being pursued by a dogged TV reporter with her own agenda. Will Detective Flak find the answers to his vexing questions? Will he do any detecting? Will anything ever happen in this story?

The answer is... what were the questions again? The story is steaming toward a pulse-pounding, mind-blowing, mildly amusing conclusion in the coming ... umm weeks or so. Don't forget to start at the beginning...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Star Search

I've officially finished with the first draft of my magnum opus of a comic book script, now called "Wings." Three issues and 60+ comic pages of kid-with-invisible-wings-and-his-friends related action. You can see my "pitch" and the backstory at

If you visit and have before, you'll note that the script itself is no longer there -- I've done a lot of editing and it wasn't so current anymore. The site now is officially dedicated to my efforts to recruit an illustrator who can bring this story to life.

If you are an illustrator visiting here from the many places I've posted my plaintive plea for an illustrator/collaborator, have a look at the Dom Parker/Wings project blog. You'll find the backstory to the tale I've penned, a description of Dom, the main character. I'll be adding descriptions of the other main characters over the next couple days.

My biggest challenge, of course, is finding an artist. I thought perhaps that there would be someone out there willing to do this for "experience," but so far, no one's taken a bite on
my pitch. Not surprising, I guess, given that I'm sitting what would probably end up being over 100 hours of work if it were to be pencilled, inked, colored, lettered and nitpicked over by the writer.

Again, if you're an artist, and you're good, let me know if you're interested... I'm soon going to discuss what I can invest in this project in real dollars with my Lovely Wife.

Anyone with interest, ideas, comments or questions, feel free to comment here or email me!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More on the Artistic Process

Have you ever made up a song in the car? I do this all the time. I have written about a half-a-CD's worth of songs...out loud...while driving to work in the morning.

Unfortunately, I can't remember any of them.

It gets me back to the question of "harnessing the creative process." As in, "how do you do it?"

I believe it is childish to think that you can only create 'when the inspiration strikes'. That's an excuse. The artist captures inspiration and turns it into something, not just poorly sung lyrics shouted out to silently to fellow participants in a traffic jam, but inspired words and music carefully crafted into something that...well... might well mean something.

Or at least be enjoyable.

Writers...write. Creators...create. Office workers...get out of the coffee shop and go back to the office.

For the stuff I write without much inspiration, but with, I hope, some art... check out One Minute Stories...

More later.

Monday, October 09, 2006

My First Comic Con

After a lifetime of avoiding true geekdom, I attended my first comic book convention yesterday, the FallCon put on by the fine folks at the Midwest Comic Book Association. Since I'm generally not allowed to go to such events alone (and because they're a lot of fun), I brought the family 5- and 6-year-olds along for the ride.

Brushing over the remembered anxieties of a pre-teen kid, I explained to them on the way to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds how I was always afraid to go to a comic book convention back at ages 10-16. I always thought it would be "weird" or somehow "too much."

Part of it, too, at that time, was that I'd never wanted to be a comic book "collector". I bought comics because I liked the stories. I wasn't comfortable being around people gauging the value of each comic, or buying up multiple issues of the same comic so that they could save them for resale some day -- mind you, this was in 1980-81 or so, before the I dropped out of comics and well before what I understand was the great comic boom of the late 80s and 90s, which I pretty much missed out on. This was around the time that my best friend beat me to 7-11 and bought up all the copies of the Uncanny X-Men issue where Kitty Pryde fights the demon alone in the mansion, and I had to shame him into letting me buy it off of him. Back then, you just didn't want to miss an issue of X-Men -- we thrilled to Alpha Flight, cringed at the depredations of the Hellfire Club and cried our way through the Dark Phoenix saga ... and we knew we were in on something special -- not valuable -- special.

Back to the present. To my everlasting delight, my oldest son says that he'd never feel too weird to go to a comic convention, because he loves this stuff...this and I still won't let him read a modern comic. Funny how such freedom from what others see as strange or embarrassing is available only to the very young and the very old -- or those of us who are old enough to decide for ourselves. Like me ... nearing 40 and dammit, I was going to a comic convention!

FallCon was a modest affair. Call it about 8 rows of artists and dealers. Not much of the weirdness in the aisles associated with some of the bigger cons that I've read about. My five year old was apparently cute enough to merit a couple of door prizes -- a giant bag of about 50 recent comics, a ton of licorice and assorted candies, and about 20 of dice of varying denominations (I told my wife they were "D&D dice" -- I'd given up role playing games about the time I gave up comics, so I have no idea if they're used for anything else...). Then, I'm pretty sure the guys doing the raffle ticket prizes overheard our numbers and made sure the little one was a winner -- he chose a Spawn action figure, which in a five-year-old's hands was pretty disturbing. But it was his call.

The kids made sure that we made a beeline for "The Batcave" to see the Batmobile and Bat Cycle, and where an aging, pot-bellied Batman, a wavy-haired puffy-chested Superman, and a chubby red-haired Robin milled about, along with a Wonder Woman who I admired for her confidence to be willing to don the costume. And she pulled it off pretty darn well.

Then, on to the artists. FallCon is a place for collectors to find lost issues and old toys, creators to meet and network, and fans to meet local talent and get good deals. Me? I just wanted to soak it all in, and maybe see bit of what it's like to be a creator.

What did I learn?

1. It's hard to strike up a conversation with a 6 and 5 year old in tow. No problem, because they had a great time, and so did I, but let's just say that "short attention span theater" was the order of the day.

2. The FallCon was filled with really nice people. Besides giving us free stuff, we chatted with the creator of Frontier (no link -- looks like has gone down the tubes), who showed my kids how to draw Spider-Man. I bought a copy of Issue #0.

Also chatted with another creator whose name escapes about "getting back into comics" and how to connect with artists, since I have a script I'm helplessly trying to finish for what will be no good reason if I don't seek an artist. He let me tell him about it, and thought I should look into a manga style for the art ... not something I'd thought of given my old school experience.

3. Even the toy guys were pretty nice -- one guy was happy to "downsell" me to a cheaper item so he could make a sale of a Spider-Man figure to my kid. I can appreciate that. By the way....

4. ...there are a lot of toys at these things. Hold onto your wallet if you bring your kids!

5. There are a lot of people out here just trying to get into the field ... and the combination of the web and on-demand printing is making it easier to get in. I'll talk about the Web in a second, but, it's heartening (and a little unnerving) that so many have such passion for a medium that they'll give over so much of their lives to drawing out their stories because they've been thinking about it and just want to get back into comics.

6. There is no reason in the world why a creator can't build a large audience via the web and make a little money at it...if they're able to deliver quality and work hard at self promotion. Moreover, I'm pretty convinced that the big guys could make some money online as well if they'd put some effort into it.

7. FallCon is really for the serious comic fan -- you almost need a plan coming in -- to see certain people, or search for certain comics and toys. If they thought about it, they could draw in a wider crowd. You could set up workshops that help kids make their own comics, or invent a character. You could have someone giving comic art lessons throughout the day. You could give people rides on the Batmobile. Do a kids/teens self-made costume contest. Put together a "readers panel" ... Hold a "new creators" or "under 18" contest -- say, for scripts and art -- and let visitors vote.

Might have to volunteer next year...

Anyway, thanks to FallCon and the MNCBA -- the kids said, enthusiastically, that they'd do this again, and a good time was had by all.

Friday, October 06, 2006

New Stories Update

I've started to get a bit more prolific on the writing front, so I thought I'd share the lastest with you, my loyal reader or two...

On my One Minute Stories blog, I've started a new series: Peter Flak, Vain Detective, the story of a good-looking homicide detective who arrives on the scene with his own press agent -- he's grossed out by dead bodies, but has a nose for the news -- being on it, that is. Here are links to Part I, Part II and Part III.

I'm also pretty fond of a recent One Minute Story called "Dreams Have Eyes," if only because I like the title.

Anyway, if you like the stories, share 'em around... and feel free to send me your own... it'd be fun to open it up a little more.

I've been working privately on my comic script -- issues 1-2 are online. I've decided to finish it as a three-part series and see if I can find someone to draw it, since my artistic abilities are confined to poorly proportioned doodles.

Meanwhile, people I've informed seem to be pleased that I'm not going to relocate myself and family to Australia, which I guess is comforting.

Finally, it might comfort you to know (it comforts me, anyway) that life feels a lot less like a chronic impending disaster these days. Perhaps I'm closer to the solutions we're after, or maybe I'm just getting better at going with the flow. But you never know what's...impending...