Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 Comic Book Retrospective Analysis

By nature I am an introspective and analytical person. For all of you laughing out loud at the idea of me being an introvert let me educate you quickly. Being an introvert or an extrovert is not about being quiet or loud in public. It has to do with where you recharge your energy. I have learned and adapted to function in public, in crowds, and in front of mobs of people. The process wears me out. I have to get quite a bit of alone time to recharge.

Because of my reflective nature I like to analyze. I track almost everything in my life. With all the data I gather it is sometimes fun just to look at it different ways and see what can be learned.

The first thing I learned is that I spent way too much on comic books this year. I averaged $329.43 per month. That is about $83 a week. I totaled out at $3953.13 per year. That is almost exactly $1000 over 2018 ($2922.79) and more than $1500 up from 2017 ($2329.42). Some of that can be attributed from an increase in average comic book price from $2.99 to $3.99. I continue to see that price point creep upward on both Marvel and DC. It looks as if the goal is to average $4.99 per book in the near future. While that won't be a complete jumping off point for me I cannot buy 15 books per week at $5 a piece and look at myself in the mirror.

Seeing my habit increase an average of $500 per year makes me feel a little out of control. I do quite a bit of writing, talking, and thinking about comic books. I do think it is time to consider carefully how I spend my comic book dollars.

So what did $3953.13 buy me you might ask? Well, that data is a little imprecise. I bought a few graphic novels and trades along the way and while I have that data it is not as neatly organized as my weekly trips to my local comic book shop. I will say the majority of this money WAS on my weekly pull list, but since I cannot be to the penny precise I won't go into average weekly spend and discount versus retail cost.

To be fair, I did crunch all of those numbers. The data is skewed. Moving on.

I read a metric ton of Marvel Comics. I read 54 Marvel Titles not counting all the individual books for events like Age of X-man or 2099. This made up 341 Issues.

The most individual issues goes to Amazing Spider-man at a count of 25 issues. Immortal Hulk comes in at 17 issues with Avengers at 16. I wouldn't have guessed at this result since I consider X-men my favorite part of the Marvel Universe. If you add up all of the X-Titles, I read 102 X-related issues this year. It was a good year for the X-men if you do away with Age of X-man which was simply dreadful.

Conan the Barbarian had a great year. At a quick glance there were about 46 titles I picked up related to him. I don't feel as if any of those were wasted money. I look forward to more swords and sorcery in 2020 and beyond.

It follows Logic that DC comics makes up the 2nd most read company. I broke DC down into 3 categories: DC, DC Black Label, and Vertigo. All together I read 236 issues from these companies. They break down as follows: Vertigo 28 issues, Black Label 24 issues, and DC 174 issues.

The main Universe is where I focus most of my reading. I read 26 issues of Batman, 24 issues of Detective Comics, and 24 issues of Justice League. Interestingly enough if I add up all of the titles that are about Batman, Joker, or Harley Quinn the total number is 98 issues. That likely indicates accurately that Batman and his pals are my favorite characters. Sean Murphy is hands down my favorite Batman writer. I would love to see him take the helm in the main continuity.

Here is the list of Titles and Issue Count:

Company  Title  # of Issues
Ablaze  Unsacred 2
Aftershock  Knights Temporal  4
Boom  Once & Future  5
Boom  Faithless  3
Dark Horse  Black Hammer/ JL 5
Dark Horse  Berserker Unbound 4
Dark Horse  The Orville  4
Dark Horse  Tommy Gun Wizards 2
Dark Horse  Strayed 1
DC Batman   26
DC Detective Comics 24
DC Justice League  24
DC The Flash  17
DC Green Lantern  14
DC Batman Beyond  11
DC The Batman Who Laughs 9
DC DCeased 7
DC Event Leviathan  6
DC Heroes in Crisis 6
DC Batman & the Outsiders  5
DC Batman Superman  5
DC Tales from the Dark Multiverse 5
DC Doomsday Clock  4
DC Year of the Villain  3
DC Legion of Super Heroes 2
DC Superman  2
DC Flash Forward  1
DC Freedom Fighters  1
DC Harley Quinn Poison Ivy 1
DC Hell Arisen  1
DC Black Label Batman Curse of the White Knight 5
DC Black Label Batman Last Knight on Earth  3
DC Black Label Harleen 3
DC Black Label Last God  3
DC Black Label Superman Year One  3
DC Black Label Joker Killer Smile  2
DC Black Label Batman Damned 1
DC Black Label Batman White Knight Von Freeze 1
DC Black Label Dark Knight Returns the Golden Child 1
DC Black Label Joker Harley Criminal Sanity  1
DC Black Label Wonder Woman Dead Earth  1
Dynamite  Bettie Page Unbound 9
Dynamite  Vampirella 5
Dynamite  Chassity 4
Dynamite  Bettie Page 3
Dynamite  Vengeance of Vampirella 3
IDW TMNT 11
IDW Shredder in Hell  4
IDW  Canto  6
IDW  Usagi Yojimbo  4
Image  Criminal  12
Image  Outer Darkness  10
Image  Die 9
Image  Curse Words 8
Image  Deadly Class 7
Image  Unnatural  7
Image  Redneck 6
Image  Sonata  6
Image  Crowded 5
Image  East of West  5
Image  Sea of Stars  5
Image  Analog  4
Image  Self Made 4
Image  Blackbird 3
Image  Dead Eyes 3
Image  Manifest Destiny  3
Image  Prodigy  3
Image  Safe Sex 3
Image  Death or Glory  2
Image  The Marked  2
Image  Undiscovered Country 2
Image  Assassination Nation  1
Image  Coffinbound  1
Image  Magic Order 1
Image  Pretty Violent 1
Image  Reaver 1
Image  Seven to Eternity  1
Image  Unearth  1
Marvel Age of X-man 30
Marvel Amazing Spider-man  25
Marvel Immortal Hulk  17
Marvel Avengers  16
Marvel Uncanny X-men  15
Marvel X-Force 13
Marvel Conan the Barbarian 12
Marvel Doctor Strange  12
Marvel Old Man Quill  12
Marvel Savage Sword of Conan  12
Marvel Avengers No Road Home  10
Marvel Fantastic Four  10
Marvel Marvel Comics Presents 9
Marvel Savage Avengers  9
Marvel 2099 8
Marvel Dead Man Logan  7
Marvel War of the Realms  7
Marvel Absolute Carnage  6
Marvel History of the Marvel Universe  6
Marvel House of X  6
Marvel Jane Foster Valkyrie  6
Marvel Powers of X  6
Marvel Spider-man Life Story  6
Marvel Age of Conan Valeria  5
Marvel Loki  5
Marvel Wolverine & the Infinity Watch 5
Marvel X-23 5
Marvel Age of Conan Belit  4
Marvel Death's Head  4
Marvel Excalibur  4
Marvel Fallen Angels  4
Marvel King Thor  4
Marvel Marauders  4
Marvel New Mutants  4
Marvel Doctor Doom  3
Marvel Ghost Rider  3
Marvel Spider-man   3
Marvel Superior Spider-man 3
Marvel X-men 3
Marvel Black Cat  2
Marvel Conan Serpent War  2
Marvel Return of Wolverine  2
Marvel Aero  1
Marvel Black Order 1
Marvel Domino  1
Marvel Ghost Spider  1
Marvel Incoming 1
Marvel Infinity Wars 1
Marvel Invisible Woman 1
Marvel Marvel Comics 1000  1
Marvel Spider-geddon 1
Marvel Symbiote Spider-man  1
Marvel Thanos  1
Marvel Weapon Plus  1
Oni Press  Rick & Morty vs. D&D II Painscape 3
Vault  Moneyshot  3
Vertigo Lucifer 5
Vertigo The Dreaming  5
Vertigo Books of Magic  4
Vertigo Goddess Mode 4
Vertigo Hex Wives 4
Vertigo High Level  4
Vertigo House of Whispers 2

Make of it what you will, 2019 was a good year in comics. I plan to use the above information to spend smarter in 2020. I am paying more attention to what I love and what I like. Nest year I would like to spend about $1500 less and end up with a collection I am happier with.

We shall see.



Comic Book Pull List 01/01/2020

DC

Batman Beyond #39
Detective Comics #1018
Flash #85
Joker/ Harley Criminal Sanity #2

Image

Death or Glory #8
Manifest Destiny #40

Marvel

Doctor Doom #4
Marauders #5
Thor #1 
   Donny Cates takes the wheel with Thor. While I will miss Jason Aaron, I am very curious about the change of pace. 
X-men #4

Monday, December 23, 2019

Comic Book Pull List 12/25/2019

Dynamite 

Bettie Page Unbound #8

Image 

Criminal #11
East of West #45

Marvel 

Doctor Strange #1
Incoming #1

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Comic Book Pull List 12/18/2019

Ablaze

Un/sacred #2

Boom

Once & Future #5

DC

Batman #85 - The last issue in Tom King's run. 
Batman Last Knight on Earth #3- The final issue of Scott Snyder & Greg Cappulo's Dark Knight
Batman Superman #5
Doomsday Clock #12- The end. 
Harleen #3- Final Issue
Joker Killer Smile #2
Justice League #38
Last God #3
Hell Arisen #1 - Apex Lex vs the Batman Who Laughs

Dynamite

Chassity #4
Vampirella #2 Replica Edition

Marvel

2099 Omega #1- So glad to be done with this. 
Amazing Spider-man #36
Avengers #28
Conan Serpent War #2
Excalibur #4
Fallen Angels #4 - The only hard to read X title. 
History of the Marvel Universe #6 - I really hope Marvel has Mark Waid give annual updates. 
King Thor #4- The End of Jason Aaron's Thor Run. 
Marauders #4
New Mutants #4
Spider-man #3
X-Force #4

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Comic Book Pull List 12/11/2019

DC

Batman Curse of the White Knight #5
Detective Comics #1017
Flash #84
Superman #18
Tales from the Dark Multiverse: The Judas Contract #1 

Dynamite

Bettie Page Unbound #7

IDW

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100

Image

Deadly Class #42

Marvel 

Age of Conan Valeria #5- Final Issue
Doom 2099 #1
Fallen Angels #3
Ghost Rider #3
Immortal Hulk #28
New Mutants #3
Savage Sword of Conan #12
Spider-man 2099 #1
Jane Foster Valkyrie #6
X-Force #3

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Comic Book Pull List 12/4/2019

DC

Batman #84
Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 Facsimile Edition
Green Lanterns: Blackstars #2
Justice League #37
   Scott Snyder, you better pull something out on this one after making the Hall of Justice a giant mechanized Battle Beetle in the last one. Shenanigans. Cute, cheeky Shenanigans, but Shenanigans all the same. 

Dynamite

Vengeance of Vampirella #3

IDW

Shredder in Hell #5

Image

Dead Eyes #3
    New content starts here. This is Gerry Duggan. You should be reading it. 
Death or Glory #7
Die #10
Manifest Destiny #39

Marvel

Amazing Spider-man #35
   Nick Spencer, at this point I am sticking around to see what happens with Kindred. Reel it back in, sir. 
Conan Serpent War #1
   Solomon Kane, Moon Knight, Dark Agnes, and Conan! Yes. All the yes. 
Doctor Doom #3
   One of the best capes and tights series on the market. 
Excalibur #3
   Tini Howard absolutely kills it with Besty Braddock and the mutant formerly known as Apocalypse. 
Ghost Rider 2099 #1
   If there is a book I am really worried about buying this week, this is it. 
Marauders #3
   Pyro got a face tattoo in the last one. Oh, and Kate Pryde is the Red Queen. I cannot wait to see where this goes!
Old Man Quill #12
   Finally, the freaking end. 
Savage Avengers #8
Star Wars #1 Facsimile Edition
Venom 2099
   How can they screw this up? Yes, I know I am tempting fate. 
X-men #3


If I only had $20...

  1. Marauders #3
  2. Conan Serpent War #1
  3. Dead Eyes #3
  4. X-men #3


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Comic Book Pull List 11/27/2019

DC

Batman Beyond #38
   Will Batwoman Beyond actually be a new character? I am betting it will be Maxine. 
Detective Comics #1016
   I am enjoying Mrs. Freeze way too much. 
Flash #83
Last God #2
   I think this one has the makings of an epic. I also want this as a campaign setting for the world's best roleplaying game. 
Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Infinite Crisis
   Think I should actually read Infinite Crisis first? 

Dynamite

Bettie Page Unbound #6

Image

Criminal #10
Curse Words #25
   The last issue? Charles Soule is working hard on Star Wars and Undiscovered Country. I can see it ending here. Question is, will it be a happy ending?
East of West #44
   Also last arc. Jonathan Hickman is tying this one off to give his love to the X-men.

Marvel

Avengers #27
   We literally got an issue last week. It was phenomenal though. I hope for more 1 million BC Starbrand. 
Conan 2099 #1 
    This is the main reason I am interested in the 2099 series.
Fallen Angels #2
   I admit I am so very skeptical of this book having legs.
New Mutants #2 
   Please be more interesting than the first issue. Please. 
Punisher 2099 #1 
   Because why not?
Uncanny X-men #266 Facsimile Edition 
   1st Appearance of Gambit. This is the holy grail for me. I traded mine away for a stupid New Mutants #98. Only Rob Liefeld is proud of me. 
Valkyrie Jane Foster #5
   Such an interesting cast so far. I love you Jason Aaron and Al Ewing.
X-Force #2
   They skinned Domino and assassinated Xavier in the first book. Why are you not drooling for this issue!

Oni

Rick & Morty vs. Dungeons and Dragons II Painscape #3
   Do I need to explain the awesome here?

Afterword 

11/20's Pull List let me come to an ending with a few books that I pull. I decided to do away with Marked, Vampirella, Loki, and Safe Sex. My thoughts and feelings about these are all on the review episode of the podcast. Tough week. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Comic Book Pull List 11/20/2019

Boom

Once & Future #4 Writer- Kieron Gillen Artist- Dan Mora

DC

Batman #83 Writer Tom King Artist Mikel Janin
Batman Superman #4 Writer Joshua Williamson Artist David Marquez
Batman White Knight Presents: Von Freeze #1 Writer Sean Murphy Artist Klaus Janson
   How can you not love this world?
Green Lantern #85 Facsimile Edition
   This is a landmark issue. It confronted Roy Harper being addicted to Heroin. 
The Infected: Scarab #1 Writer- Dennis Hopless Artist- Freddie Williams II
   I am super excited to see "evil" Jamie Reyes.
Justice League #36 Writer Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV Artist- Francis Manapul
** The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage Writer- Jeff Lemire Artist- Bill Sienkiewicz
   I may pick this up. I am really torn and undecided. Black Label is the big selling point. I don't have any love or hate for the Question. I have a lack of exposure. Do I really want to change that?

Dynamite

Chassity #3 Writer- Leah Williams Artist- Daniel Maine
Vampirella #5 Writer- Christopher Priest Artist- Ergun Gunduz
   I am really torn on this title. I love Vampirella, but this run has been so nonsensical. I would hate to buy it just for the cover art. 

IDW

Canto #6 Writer- David M. Booher Artist- Drew Zucker

Image

Crowded #10 Writer- Christopher Sebela Artist- Ro Stein & Red Brandt
Marked #2 Writer-David Hine & Brian Haberlin Artist- Brian Haberlin & Geirrod Van Dyke
Outer Darkness #12 Writer- John Layman Artist- Afu Chan
Safe Sex #3 Writer- Tina Horn Artist- Alajandra Guitterez

Marvel

2099 Alpha #1 Writer- Nick Spencer Artist- Viktor Bagdonavic
Absolute Carnage #5 Writer- Donny Cates Artist Ryan Stegman
Amazing Spider-man #34 2099 Writer- Nick Spencer Artist- Patrick Gleason
Avengers #26- Writer- Jason Aaron Artist Dale Keown
    1 billion BC Starbrand drawn by Dale Keown. 'nuff said!
Conan the Barbarian #11 Writer Jason Aaron Artist Mahmud A. Asrar
   *spoiler* He didn't die in the last one.
*** Deadpool #1 Writer- Kelly Thompson Artist- Chris Bachalo 
   Mr. Wilson gets his first ever female writer. I am intrigued. 
Excalibur #2 Writer- Tini Howard Artist Marcus To
Fantastic Four 2099 #1 Writer- Karla Pacheco Artist Ron Lim
Immortal Hulk #27 Writer- Al Ewing Artist- Joe Bennett
King Thor #3 Writer- Jason Aaron Artist Esad Ribic
Loki #5 Writer- Daniel Kibblesmith Artist- Andy MacDonald
Maurauders #2- Writer Gerry Duggan Artist- Matteo Lolli 

Vault

Moneyshot #2 Writer- Tim Seeley Artist- Kurt Michael Russell


Sunday, November 10, 2019

Comic Book Pull List 11/13/2019

Ablaze 

un/sacred #1 Writer/ Artist Mirka Andolfo 
   I will be honest that I have not looked too much into what this is about. The book has cutesey art. It is written and illustrated by Mirka Andolfo. I don't really need anything else. 

Dark Horse

Black Hammer/ Justice League #5 Writer- Jeff Lemire Artist- Michael Walsh
   I haven't read a single issue because I have not caught up on Black Hammer. I am collecting them on the premise of crossover events are historically fun. Also, Garin raves about this one. It is not published by DC though, Garin. 

DC

Detective Comics #1015 Writer- Peter J Tomasi Artist- Doug Mahnke & Jamie Mendoza
   Mr. and Mrs. Freis. Who knew that Norah was a vicious bitch? 


Event Leviathan #6  Writer Brian Michael Bendis Artist Alex Maleev
   I expect this to end with long lasting repercussions for the DCU. I strongly suspect that the events here lead to Superman revealing his Clark Kent identity (though I could be wrong) I also cannot wait to see who is underneath the mask of Leviathan.

Flash #82 Writer Joshua Williamson Artist Rafa Sandoval
   Now begins the Reign of the Rogues? I mostly just love Captain Cold. 

Superman #17 Writer Brian Michael Bendis Artist Kevin Maguire & Sean Parsons
   I am picking this one up in anticipation of the big identity reveal in issue #18. 

Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Blackest Night Writer Tim Seeley Artist Kyle Hotz & Dexter Vines
   These have been so good. Much like the Elseworlds or What if?! series these books take seminal moments in the DCU's history and flip the script on the results. I cannot wait for this read. 

Image

Sea of Stars #5 Writer- Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum Artist Stephen Green
   Honestly, I have struggled through this series. It is a Father/Son, Survival, Exploration book. It isn't bad. It just isn't my cup of tea. If this issue doesn't leave me wanting more I will drop this one. 

Marvel

Age of Conan Valeria #4  Writer Meredith Finch Artist Aneke 
   Valeria really needs her own ongoing series. She is fierce, fun, and determined. I have enjoyed every issue. 

Fallen Angels #1 Writer- Bryan Edward Hill Artist- Szymon Kudanski
   Kwannon, Cable, and X-23. This could be fantastic. It also could be ridiculous. I am willing to find out. 

History of the Marvel Universe #5 Writer- Mark Waid Artist- Javier Rodriguez
    If you want to know a broad strokes overview of the Marvel Universe, this series is your opportunity. It is told from the perspective of a far future conversation between Galactus and Franklin Richards. 

Savage Sword of Conan #11 Writer- Roy Thomas Artist Alan Davis
   I shouldn't have to pimp Conan at you. 

Tomb of Dracula #10 Facsimile Edition 
    This is the first appearance of Blade! Amazing reprint!

   
X-men #2 Writer Jonathon Hickman Artist Lenil Fancis Yu
   Will we still be grossed out by the possible threesome of Wolverine, Jean, and Cyclops? Will Storm continue to sound like the most insane religious zealot ever? Will Vulcan still be grilling? Are the Starjammers going to be unnecessary pieces of two comics? Find out here. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Comic Book Reading Priority

Wednesdays really make the week for me. The kid doesn't have school so I get a little more time with her. I have a standing meeting at work that drags me in a little early. This gives me an excuse to leave a little early (when I can) and I try to get home before the little one is in bed. This often doesn't work, but I get excited about the idea. Also, it is new Comic Book Day.

As an almost forty year old man new comic books really shouldn't excite me as much as they do. By the standards of adulthood and maturity that the adults of my childhood attempted to install in me I need to,"put away childish things." Thankfully, I am not slave to such draconian ideas. I strongly suspect I will enjoy comic books, role playing games, video games, and cartoons my whole life through.

If you have paid attention to my Comic Book Pull List posts or listened to the podcast you know that I am an avid reader. I really do devour stories. I typically finish an audiobook a week. I will also read myself to sleep on the Kindle and plow through a novel or two on top of that. I really am rather insatiable in my love of the narrative.

Recently, I have experienced an unintended side effect of the podcast. I pick my books up on Wednesday as early as I am able. I rarely read more than a book or two that day. The last few weeks I have not even had a chance to put my books in reading order until Thursday.

Yes. I do have a reading priority every week. I tackle key issues first.Think of key issues as stuff introducing a new character, introducing a new power for a character, a character going through a major change, or a character dying. Batman #77 is a good example. The death of Alfred Pennyworth is a major life event for Batman. It puts that issue at the top of the pile.

After that comes any #1s. Love it or hate it #1 issues drive sales. Lots of readers get excited for new beginnings. Proportionately, the creators behind the comics work hard at grabbing the audience with #1 issues. I will say that X-men #1 might be a lackluster example of this. On the other hand, take a look at Marauders #1. Kate Pride breaking her nose on a portal to Krakoa in the first couple of pages set the tone for the rest of the issue. It was a delight.

 I work my way through event books next. Event books are a mixed bag. I think of it like a long term couple trying to spice up their sex life with a little kink. The event is going to give you their creators and characters putting forth their very best effort to give you something new and exciting. In all reality you often end up with more of the same thing you have been used to for a good long time. It always starts off strong and then reels things back in to a nice safe and comfortable place.

As an example of this I will point to Absolute Carnage. Donny Cates got off to a creepy start with lots of recognizable dead bodies in one big mass grave. Eddie Brock is having to reach out to Spidey for help. Spidey is his typical self, but Eddie has a new twist of responsibility for his son. The Venom symbiote is uncharacteristically blood thirsty and wants Carnage dead. Things are familiar but just far enough outside our comfort zone as to be interesting. In issue 3 we climax with Venom Hulk. By mid issue four Carnage has claimed the Venom Symbiote and Eddie magically gathers together a new suite from the cast off Codices. We are back to comfortable to finish things off. For further reference on this phenomenon please see Secret Empire, Spider Island, Convergence, Civil War, Civil War II, Secret War, Secret Wars, and most other events. There are exceptions (House/ Powers of X), but events are frustrating.

Next, I read ongoing series stuff like Batman, Flash, or Doctor Strange. These story lines make up the heart of comics. Characters and villains change very little from issue to issue for the most part. Somehow Batman fighting his (mostly) unchanging rogues gallery has remained (mostly) fresh for 70 years. I respect the creators that give us more than 50 issues of the same story. Books like The Walking Dead, Invincible, or Saga are really worthwhile. They break the status quo, and give the comics community something substantial.

 I finish up with mini series stuff like Death's Head or Dead Man Logan. These books are normally good for character evolution. They may or may not have universe effecting consequences, but I typically enjoy these books more than the events. They make almost no pretense about their importance in the greater narrative. Oddly enough because of their compartmentalized nature, mini series often tie up plot lines and set the stage for new ones. I like saving the best for last.

It is funny that I am having a problem as a side effect of the Podcast. I grab all my books on Wednesday and do my level best to read everything so I can report on them in the review episode we record on Sunday morning. This is a labor of love and I have a blast plowing through 15 to 20 issues in 4 days.

It typically means that Sunday afternoon, Monday, and Tuesday are completely and utterly bereft of comic reading. I find myself more and more caught up on back issues and books I only read in trade paperback. My back log of books is lacking. It leaves me a little bit at loose ends for those breaks and lunches. It is a strange problem to have. I tend to fill the time with lots of writing, D&D prep, and podcast prep. Sometimes I worry that I am one dimensional.

There are worse problems to have.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Comic Book Pull List 11/06/2019

This is a very Image heavy week for me. Berserker Unbound will come off this list with issue #4 (although, I would almost expect to see it return) The week feels very much like a 90s antihero celebration with King's Batman, Ghost Rider, Savage Avengers, X-Force, and Vampirella all in the line up. That is no bad thing.

Dark Horse

Berserker Unbound #4 Writer Jeff Lemire Artist Mike Deodato
   The Mogrel King finally faces the Sorcerer that murdered his family. I will be impressed if they tie up the mini series in this issue. Never underestimate Jeff Lemire.

DC

Batman #82 Writer Tom King Artist Mikel Janin
   Only 4 issues remain in Tom King's run. Batman is back in Gotham and headed for a fight with his Father and eventually Bane. 

Green Lantern Blackstars #1 Writer Grant Morrison Artist Xermanico
   Is Hal undercover for the Guardians? Has Hal switched sides? It is well worth 3 issues to find out. Embrace the Multiverse insanity!

Justice League #35 Writer Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV Artist Francis Manapul 
   I think this is the flagship book of the DCU. Doom has won the war for the heart of the universe. Also, Hawkgirl's rage and anger caused her to DOOM everyone. I wasn't surprised. Now she can be emotionally tortured while fixing it. 

Dynamite 

Vengeance of Vampirella #2 Writer Tom Sniegoski Artist Michael Sta. Maria
   The first issue absolutely exceeded my every expectation. It set up such a beautiful mythology. I am super excited for this one. 

Image


Dead Eyes #2 Writer Gerry Duggan Artist John McCrea
   This is a case where I am showing writer loyalty more than speaking to the merits of the book. Now I am not saying Dead Rabbit Eyes isn't an amazing read. I genuinely don't know. I have been carrying around issue #1 since it released. I had decided to pass because the original concept didn't interest me, but I have really come to appreciate Gerry Duggan's writing. I *plan* to have this read by the time this releases under its new title.

Deadly Class #41 Writer Rick Remender Artist Jordan Boyd
   Richard put me on to this Remender gem. It is an oddly philosophical piece considering that it is staged in the 1980's in a boarding school for assassins. I am not a fan of any specific character. Honestly, I am following along at this point to see how much misery the characters are going to go through.

Death or Glory #6 Writer Rick Remender Artist Begal
   Cars, motorcycles, kidney failure, and trafficking humans for organ harvest. This is the best type of heist book. Also, Rick Remender.

Die #9 Writer Kieron Gillen Artist Stephanie Hans
   I want to say that this book birthed the RPG comic genre, but that is probably unfair. It certainly defined the genre and raised the bar. This one is just meta enough to be satisfying. It is also fantastically moody.

Manifest Destiny #38 Writer Chris Dingess Artist Matthew Roberts, Own Gieni
   The Lewis & Clark Expedition meets Supernatural. After a long hiatus issue #37 did not wow me. I am really hoping this one picks up the pace. It is a nice dense read though.

Sonata #6 Writer Dave Hine, Brian Haberlin Artist Brian Haberlin
   This is a sci fi epic in the making. Firefly meets Enemy Mine splashed generously with Shadows of the Colossus. Sonata is refreshing.

Undiscovered Country #1 Writer Charles Soule, Scott Snyder Artist Daniell Orlandini
   I would read almost anything Scott Snyder. He has my trust at this point. Charles Soule has yet to steer me wrong either. Joint venture? Sign me up. Oh the book has an interesting premise too.

Marvel

Amazing Spider-man #33 Writer Nick Spencer Artist Patrick Gleason
   2099 tie in. 

Doctor Doom #2 Writer Christopher Cantwell Artist Salvador Larroca
   #1 stole the week against House/ Powers and a couple of Black Label drops. I cannot wait for this book. 

Fantastic Four #16 Writer Dan Slott Artist Sean Izaakse
   I am not excited about the current arc, but this book has been incredibly well written.

Ghost Rider #2 Writer Ed Brisson Artist Aaron Kuder
   I LOVE Ghost Rider and it isn't just the whole motorcycle thing. I am thrilled Danny Ketch is back in the mix. I think Johnny is the stronger Ghost Rider though.

Immortal Hulk #26 Writer Al Ewing Artist Joe Bennett 
   Last issue put the Leader back in the story. This has been one of the best books on the shelf for the entire run.

New Mutants #1 Writer Jonathon Hickman & Ed Brisson Artist Rod Reis 
   I have always been extremely skeptical of these characters. They aren't "new" anymore. At the same time I am dying to see what direction they are going. The 4th part of the Bagley Every Mutant Ever Cover drops with this book.

Old Man Quill #11 Writer Ethan Sacks Artist Robert Gill
   Is this book concluded yet? One more issue, ugh, fine.

Savage Avengers #11 Writer Gerry Duggan Artist Patrick Zircher
   Enter Elektra? Yes, please.

X-Force #1 Writer Ben Percy Artist Joshua Cassara 
   Beast, Jean Grey, Sage, Wolverine, Kid Omega, and Domino.... This one will be interesting. The 5th piece of Bagley's every Mutant Ever covers is here. 


   


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Comic Book Pull List for 10/30/2019

I am willing to wager that a good portion of the people who read by blog know me. It feels silly to keep reintroducing myself, but I find myself writing in an introductory voice none the less. In case you did not know, I host a podcast about comic books.

God, I feel dumb. I even mentioned the podcast in my introductory post.

The podcast is called The Printed Panel Podcast. You can find us on iTunes, Spreaker, and a few other groovy services. If you like listening then by all means check us out.

This is not a plug for the podcast. On the contrary, I realized that quite a few people probably don't like podcasts and may still want some guidance where comic books are concerned. This post will be my first attempt to do something about that.

I am going to type up my weekly pull list here. I will share my thoughts about the book as best as I am able. I do want to point out that my Subscription List is published on the blog. I will do my level best to update it monthly as Previews publishes. I may even get fancy and start listing release dates for things.

I really take this hobby a bit too seriously. Since this is the first time I have written one of these posts I will go to the effort of giving a quick synopsis of all these books... at least what I know thus far.

Aftershock 

Knights Temporal #4 - Writer: Cullen Bunn Artist: Fran Galan
   Auguste de Riviere is a time displaced knight. Beyond that I don't know what the hell is going on with this book. I think I like it better that way. 

DC


Batman Annual #4 - Writer: Tom King Artist Mike Norton & Jorge Fornes
  If you haven't been reading King's Batman, then you have missed a great run. The bad news is his last issue on the series comes at #86. The good news is he is going to be succeeded by James Tynion IV. 

DCeased #6 (of 6)- Writer: Tom Taylor Artists: Trevor Hairsine, Neil Edwards, & Stefano Guadiano
   DCeased is an alternate continuity event based on the idea of the Antilife equation being spread through the DCU turning anyone it infects into a crazy rage zombie. This is the final issue of the series. *Spoiler* They kill off Batman in the first issue. 

Harleen #2 (of 3) *Black Label* Writer/ Artist: Stejpan Sejic 
   This is a super intimate alternate reality look at the seduction/ transformation of Harley Quinn. It reads like a novel and is stunning in its visuals. 

Joker: Killer Smile #1 (of 3) *Black Label* Writer: Jeff Lemire Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
   With Harleen and Joker/ Harley Criminal Sanity dropping around the same time I would be super critical of this book... if it weren't being written by Jeff Lemire. 

The Last God: Book 1 of the Fellspyre Chronicles *Black Label* Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson Artist : Ricardo Federici
   I am an absolute sucker for swords and sorcery or fantasy books. On those merits and the previewed cover art alone I will give this one a try. 

Dark Multiverse: Death of Superman Writer: Jeff Loveness Artist: Brad Walker & Andrew Hennessy
   This is the 2nd in a series of Dark Multiverse tales. This "What if?!" focuses on Lois Lane being so grief stricken that she becomes the Eradicator. I loved Death of Superman way too much not to pick this up.

IDW

TMNT #99 Writer Tom Waltz & Kevin Eastman Artist: Dave Wachter
   There is a female turtle. Splinter is locked away in the Foot Stronghold after losing leadership of the Foot Clan to Karai. Old Hob just mutated a group of humans who were watching Baxter Stockman's inaugural speech as Mayor of NYC. Why have you not been reading this book all along?

Image

SFSX Safe Sex #2 Writer: Tina Horn Artist: Michael Dowling
   Set in an America where "The Party" has enforced laws about sex and decency, SFSX follows Avory's troubles fitting in. That isn't even 50% accurate, but it sounds like a great byline. This one is lightly pornographic and heavily political. So far, I agree with most of it though. 

Marvel

Conan the Barbarian #10 Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Mahmud A. Asrar
   This is one of my favorite series. This issue is supposedly Conan's death. I might be impressed more if it actually is, but that wouldn't bode well for issue #11.

Dead Man Logan #12 (of 12) Writer: Ed Brisson Artist: Mike Henderson
   The end of Old Man Logan?

Death's Head #4 (of 4) Writer: Tini Howard Artist: Kei Zama
   This will be the end of a very satisfying story by Tini Howard. I read it as much out of love for her work as I did for Death's Head. 

Doctor Strange Annual #1 Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote & Tini Howard Artist: Andy MacDonald & Lalit Kumar Sharma
   I am about done with Doctor Strange, but again Tini Howard.

Excalibur #1 Writer: Tini Howard Artist: Marcus To
   How the F*&^ is Betsy Braddock Captain Britain? Apocalypse is a good guy now? Really? Like for really real? Also Tini Howard. I have been collecting Bagley's "Every Mutant Ever" Variants and Excalibur #1 is the 3rd part.

Savage Avengers Annual #1 Writer: Gerry Duggan Artist: Ron Garney
   Conan the Barbarian in the modern age. Do you need more? 


This should be an amazing week for comics. What am I missing on this list? What should I be reading that isn't here? 


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

I absolutely hate Age of X-man

Oh how I wish the title of this one said it all. I think that the concept behind this one was decent, and it just went grossly off the rails. Before I descend into my frustration with Age of X-man so far let me back up and lay some ground work. Think of this as a brief history of shame.
I love the X-men. I have been reading X-men comics off and on since 1987. There have been highs and lows for the X-men, but that is true of all comics. Creative teams change and it is tough sometimes to maintain a direction for a book
Personally, I blame Brian Michael Bendis. All of the recent lunacy started with his All New X-men and Children of the Atom story lines. To defend Benis and give blame where blame is due the most problematic part of X history (until recently) comes from Phoenix powered Cyclops killing Charles Xavier.
I love the fact that Scott basically throws a complete tantrum and the result is his life long mentor lying dead on a beach. What's more is I am not convinced that Xavier wasn't powerful enough to prevent his death and simply allowed it to happen in order to get through to the super emo Cyclops. Bendis may have been somewhat written into a corner by the event books that book end his work.

The art for this point in time was fairly cool. I didn't completely hate the idea of Hank McCoy reaching back into the past and bringing the X-men of the 1960s to present day in a bid to remind the modern X-men of who they are. It is a bit... clumsy and heavy handed. It doesn't smack of a genius plan for Beast. I am willing to swallow all of that on the idea that he is broken up by Xavier's death.
Children of the Atom looked amazing. It was a fun read. Future X-men Xorn is Jean Grey? Sure. Wolverine and Mystique have a kid? Viable. What else did this 10 part event accomplish? Oh, it got a bit of my money. Seems reasonable.
I don't feel that the X-men really advanced any sort of story line until the wrap up of the Infinity Event when we got Death of X. Now, going into this event I am fearing that the Inhumans are about to replace mutants in the mainstream of the Marvel universe. Unlike the rest of this list I think Death of X is well worth reading.
No, Scott Summers did not really get his just deserts for turning into an angst ridden bitch. He did die though. More importantly he didn't die in a cool climactic way. His ending, like him, was only important to Emma Frost. It really tied a neat little bow on the most boring X-man.
To give credit where credit is due I hated his death a lot less than I hated the way Wolverine went out. Scott Summers died as Scott Summers lived, unremarkably. Wolverine, on the other hand, has been one of the biggest rock stars in the Marvel Universe. He has been an Avenger, a member of the Fantastic Four, Alpha Flight, and an X-man. They had this soldier, weapon, and hero douse himself in molten adamantium. It is bloody insulting. I was thrilled when they brought Wolverine back. I rolled my eyes when they resurrected Cyclops. I may comment again on this later in this post.
For quite some time the X-men books have seemed sort of aimless despite numerous reboots. Extermination finally gave it some movement. It undid Children of the Atom by sending the 60s X-men back to their own time. It neatly removed any paradox from their movement through time. These were all great moves. Then Cable committed an odd sort of suicide.
Cable didn't actually kill himself. The established (let's call him Old Cable) version of Cable was killed by a teenage version of himself. Old Cable is a beloved character. Pulling the great character shift it this way SUCKS. I have been reading X-Force ever since trying to find love for the Teen Cable. Thus far I am not impressed. The change feels temporary, unnecessary and forced.
More insulting though is Young Cable kills Old Cable because Old Cable allowed the X-men from the 60s to endanger the timeline. I could buy that reasoning. If Cable is now a timecop like Bishop (and I am not sure that the writer didn't make a mistake on that score) then Old Cable isn't guarding the timeline. *Shoom Shoom Shoom Shoom* makes a bit more sense in that context. That is until Kid Cable resurrects Cyclops and brings him back into the continuity. You cannot execute someone and then commit their same sins. Who green lit that in the same story arc? DUMB!
I point out the Cable killing Cable thing because Cable is Nathan Summers. He is the child of Scott Summers and Madelyn Prior. Nate Grey is X-man of Age of Apocalypse Fame. He can be seen as an alternate version of Cable but remember the parentage is different. Nate Grey is the child of Scott Summers and Jean Grey. If all of the nonsense with Cable is bad. This new batch of garbage from X-man is so much worse.
When I first saw Teen Cable I thought he was Nate Grey.

It was something of an understandable mistake. Imagine my surprise when X-man actually shows up in Uncanny X-men looking like an actual mutant Jesus.
Honestly, I was initially kind of happy with him. Sure he was playing a villain. He is way overpowered. To stand up to X-man you would need someone on the level of Legion...who they immediately brought into the fray. Of these two omega level mutants an alternate reality is born: The Age of X-man!
This should be mutant paradise. There should be equality. This should be Xavier's dream brought to life. Is it? No. This is an attempt at political commentary with a very 1960s era feel. It is the peace and love era where love is banned. Other than Apocalypse's groovy new look the whole thing has the taste and feel of a bad bowel movement.
Apocalypse really does look awesome. If hippie Apocalypse survives this abortion I won't be too upset. None of the titles are good. All of the characters are pale shadows of their "real" counterparts. Predictably with any reality brought into being by X-man and Legion every resident of the Age of X-man knows that their reality is screwed up. Other than Bishop no one seems to be able to do anything meaningful about it. Bishop? Really? The one character that might be more pathetic than Cyclops, and we throw him in jail with Honeybadger and Beast.
We are 16 or so issues into this abomination and nothing has happened. There has been no great reveal. None of the characters have shown any depth or made any interesting moves. The insulting part is that I think Marvel knew that was the case. They didn't convert the entire X-lineup to follow the Age of X-man the way they did during the Age of Apocalypse. Nope. X-force, X-23, and Uncanny X-men are still going strong outside the alternate reality.
Hopefully Johnathon Hickman can clean this mess up with House of X and Powers of X. Along the way during a branch of those X-men books that weren't really doing anything Charles Xavier got resurrected and Betsy Braddock got her original body back. Maybe between that and a new direction Hickman can put right all the stuff that went wrong.
Just the promo art has me excited. Magik has her brother's armor. Very cool. Many, many dead heroes and villains are there. Kid Havok? Kid Storm? Wolverine and Weapon X? There is so much going on here.
Rachel Summers as the Phoenix? Emma Frost between Jean Grey and Scott Summers. Which version of Warpath is that? Blink! That is Blink. Kitty Pride doesn't seem too happy to be sitting with Charles Xavier. The Brood! Best of all that is Old Cable.

Marvel, you need to get this one right. The X-men have a fantastic legacy. There are some neat strands built over the last decade even in BMB's work. Let's see if you still have what it takes. I can say that I won't wait through another reboot. If Powers of X and House of X fall flat I am out of the X-men and maybe out of the Marvel Universe.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Break Up Behavior

Picture it! Sicily! 1912!
God help me! I love the Golden Girls.
Anyway...
 Once upon a time two people meet. They like one another. They start spending time together. They develop a relationship. The relationship lasts whatever amount of time.Maybe they were engaged. Maybe they got married. Maybe there are some kids involved. No matter the circumstances, something happens. The relationship ends.
The natural feelings that happen at that point are pain, anger, confusion, betrayal, and a whole host of other negative things. I would say 90% of break ups turn really ugly. Names get called. Property gets stolen or destroyed. Disrespect is traded back and forth.
This makes very little sense. Even in the event of infidelity it is much better to calmly heal and move on to show the person your true value. At some point in time you desired, respected, and were into this person to the exclusion of all others. What is the point of losing your mind and acting out?
Psychologically speaking I think we always want the other person to realize what they have done. You are basically acting out your pain. Is sleeping with someone else out of spite the best way to do that? How about burning their stuff? Flattening all their tires? Not letting them visit their kids?
The other problem here is that the person who got dumped, cheated on, stolen from, or abandoned very likely cannot reach the person that hurt them emotionally. The decision to end the relationship was made when that person did whatever they did. There is very little chance, even if they didn't think things through, that you can really connect with your former partner in a way  that is meaningful enough to make them truly value your feelings. They didn't value your feelings before. Why would they now?
Lets look at this from a less detached and logical perspective. In our theoretical break up lets say that my wife lied to me, manipulated me, and generally had zero regards for my real human emotions. The break up happens because I develop the stones to say enough is enough. Once I reach that decision what do I really want from her?
Emotionally, a little genuine introspection that garners a sincere apology and changes they way she behaves toward me is awesome. It probably won't happen. Even though I have taken myself away from her she still didn't really care enough about me not to lie to me, manipulate me, maybe cheat on me (because who really knows without proof), and had no regard for how I feel about anything. I cannot reasonably expect the apology.
What I can reasonably expect is respect for my new boundaries. If this theoretical wife and I shared a child, I can expect that the welfare of the child comes before absolutely everything else. I can reasonably expect that once I finalize the break up that I don't have to hear a bunch of begging and pleading. I can expect fair treatment.
The catch to all of that is it is my responsibility to give the same. One of my biggest flaws is that I still love people long after the relationship has become a thing of the past. It isn't hard for me to be nice or even kind. The mistake that most people make is that my kindness is an opening to rekindle the "romance." It isn't. If pushed too far I will withdraw my kindness and meet an ex with aloof indifference from that point forward. Underneath I will still care, but I will be damned if I ever show it again. Fool me 32 times, shame on me. I have to draw the line somewhere.
As for stuff, people should leave the relationship with whatever they come into it with. Mutual property should be fairly split. It is just stuff after all. You are going to replace the relationship eventually. Who cares if you have to buy a few DVDs again? Money gets tricky, but the best thing I can offer here is that you should be a separate accounts kind of person from the beginning. Like Snoop I have my mind on my money and my money on my mind. Ain't no sense losing it to foolishness.
I have been robbed in break ups way too many times. It is my biggest argument for going digital for content. I can change a few passwords and maintain my movie collection, digital music, and Kindle library safely. I don't really mind losing stuff as much as I mind the disrespect behind it.
I guess all this rambling isn't necessary. What this all boils down to is simple. When you break up with someone you should hold yourself to a very high standard of behavior. Be an even better person that you were before you met them. Take the experience and appreciate it for the time you spent. Let go of bitterness, resentment, and unrequited love. Don't allow yourself to walk about worse than you were before the relationship began.
Ultimately, if you and that person are meant to be you will find one another again. It would be good if you didn't have to have a bunch of uncomfortable conversation about the way you exited the relationship. I learned this one the hard way, but I am thankful that Ashley was able to forgive me a short lapse in my senses. I foolishly had let my own pain get in the way of seeing that if she was leaving there was a problem with the relationship. Denial is self delusion is a powerful tool. I kind of wish someone had been friend enough to me to point out that I might have head my head up my own ass. Thankfully I have those people in my life now.
If I hadn't made that mistake there is a good chance that the break would not have evolved into a break up. I hope all of you take this advice. The next time you lose a relationship show all the integrity you can. Be kind and respectful even if you were done terribly wrong.

Just don't ever allow that person to do you wrong again. Acting right and proper is great, but don't ever allow yourself to be a damned doormat! Take care of yourself first. That is rule #1.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Willpower Fatigue

We are, all of us humans, beings divided. Although I get the impression that we feel this to different degrees. Over the course of human history different scholars and visionaries have described this in different terms. I like the way Chip and Dan Heath describe it in their book Switch How to Change Things When Change is Hard. 
I picked this jewel up to read for work. I am a big fan of leadership and business literature in general. In Switch we are ultimately dealing with getting things done by dealing with people's logic and emotions. The book likens the emotional part of the brain to a full grown (and sometimes angry) elephant. The rational part of the mind then is the elephant's human rider. The very valid point made by this analogy is that our reason and logic gives us the illusion of being in control, but in all reality humans are primarily stupid emotional animals without any real guidance.
This very much is in connection with my view of life and living. I like to believe that I am a more logic based human, but at the end of the day I am as much a slave to my emotions as anyone else. Therapy taught me very well that trying to prevent myself from expressing my feelings was efficiently  and completely wrecking my life.
Switch presented an interesting idea. Basically people are not lazy. Instead they are so worn out with controlling themselves in too many aspects of their lives to have willpower in EVERY situation. This really appeals to my mind. I have amazing willpower. I haven't had a desert, sweet, or soda in 3 years. Yet, when I decided to drop potato chips, crackers, and bread from my diet this month I totally failed. While I will admit that bread, crackers, and chips are a personal favorite of mine there is no reason that they should be harder for me to quit than my former soda and Little Debbie habit.
My Willpower is extremely fatigued. I spend most of my interactions these days biting my tongue for one reason or another. The further I am forced from the truth of my emotions the harder it is to control my behavior and, as a result, my reactions and mouth. I find myself having extreme reactions and then having to back peddle all too often. Luckily, I am fairly self aware and I focus a lot of delaying reaction and processing things emotionally before showing a reaction when that is possible.
In less high brow terms my life works like this:
  •    Some potentially upsetting piece of information is given to me.
  •    I have a base emotional response which includes a display of frustration or outright anger depending on the severity of impact of the bad news. 
  •    Depending on the bearer of the bad news, the media by which it is relayed, and their reaction, I have a few moments to think.
  •    I am forced to apologize for my overreaction. This is frustrating in and of itself. 
  •    I consider a better course of action. 
  •    A conversation, hopefully, begins.
  •    Things are resolved. Sometimes this goes the way I want. Sometimes it doesn't, but I come to terms with my new reality. 
What I have learned about myself is that the less thinly stretched I am on my willpower the less of a reaction I have. My willpower is amazingly finite. If I see to as many of my needs as I possibly can on a routine basis then I can increase my willpower to its maximum capacity. This was probably a very stupid time to try and change my eating habits. Taking away comfort foods results in less comfort.
I need willpower and the control it provides a lot more than I need to lose a few pounds that the bread, chips, and crackers diet change will provide. Knowing that I am in need of this comfort I am probably going to add a box of Cheese-Its to my grocery list. If eating a few carbs provides me with the patience and coping mechanisms to be able to do more at my job and negotiate the labyrinthine depths of my personal legal situation then that is a cheap and easy fix. I can certainly afford to eat a few too many calories more than I can afford to lose my cool in a vital situation.
This realization has lead me to change my approach to a TON of things. I have put a lot more consideration into what changes really need to be made in my life and in what places it is best to stay the course temporarily. I can provide myself a bit of a Dave Ramsey style common sense approach of what to work on and what to leave be until a more appropriate time.
Speaking of Dave Ramsey, Willpower fatigue can really hit financially. It leads to a sort of cycle of feast and famine. It starts out by some unexpected expense hitting your budget. Having to replace a tire killed by a pothole has been the ever recurring theme of the last two years for my family. I just love the roads around Knoxville. I don't quite live paycheck to paycheck, but I am not yet to the point where my emergency fund and savings are substantial. I AM on the path to that life, but it is a couple of years away, yet.
So, *bam* you have a flat that has to be replaced. That means you have to come out of pocket with $100- $150 unexpectedly. That causes you to have to tighten your belt on your budget for a paycheck or two. When you get to the far side of that belt tightening you almost always feel the need to have a little splurge. As long as the splurge is small it isn't that big a deal. All too often having had 2 to 4 weeks of austerity causes you to have either a big splurge or a series of small splurges until you are a lot more in trouble than you were with the tire incident. Now the belt has to tighten even more. When you get to the far side of that you feel the need to spend even more. The cycle repeats and repeats again until you feel like you are always broke. I call this "Fuck It Economics." As in," Fuck it. Let's go out to eat. I feel like we haven't had a treat in far too long."
To combat this I try to build splurges into my budget. Sure I have figured out how to feed me and the kid on $56 for two weeks. The diet is good for me and her. It is a little repetitive though. So I budget $150 to eat on from paycheck to paycheck and I reward myself occasionally when I don't spend that much. I don't have to acknowledge these breaks in willpower with a "Fuck it!" I expect them. We need a trip to Burger King to play on the playground. We need to buy a new toy at the store because the kid acted amazing. By having the forethought to build in the unexpected I am not taxed past my financial means very often.
I am trying to find ways to think like that in my day to day. My oldest and her boyfriend seem to take pleasure in wrecking the kitchen. They leave food wrappers on the counters rather than trashing them. Every time she cooks there is a sink full of dishes that don't get washed for days. I don't know why it really stresses me out, but every time I run into them in the kitchen I have to apply my willpower to not get hateful about it.
I started thinking hard about it. Why do the dishes bother me? They kind of gross me out. When they sit for a while they stink and attract bugs. I don't like living in filth.
Do I dislike it enough to do something about it or am I just trying to enforce them cleaning up their mess? When I asked myself that question I had to admit it was a lot easier for me to have an attitude and expect them to fix the problem than it was for me to roll up my sleeves and wash the dishes. I even frequently made the excuse both to myself and aloud that it wasn't my mess! That is a moronic argument.  If I take exception and put the effort into feeling some sort of way about it why was I not willing to clean up the mess.
When I really examined it I resolved just to wash the dishes. It didn't take any great amount of time or extreme effort. Once they were clean I felt better. The dishes were my issue not the two young adults being lazy about cleaning up after themselves. That took the frustration out of my emotional load and strengthened my willpower. I think this proactive, preventative approach to my own mental health will set me on a much more relaxed outlook.
There is simply no sense looking at a mess, complaining about it, expecting other people to clean it up, but doing nothing about it yourself but carrying around anger, frustration, and resentment. I had put a lot more effort into avoiding dealing with the dishes and fussing at my daughter than it took me to just wash them.
I can already hear some of the people reading this saying," Yeah, but you are training your 20-year-old daughter that she can continue to be lazy about cleaning up after herself and her lazy boyfriend. This is actually making the laziness worse." I agree with you. I also know that I cannot win that fight by leaving a stack of dirty dishes. I cannot win that fight by bitching and complaining. As a parent and mentor, I can set a good example and hope it is followed. I will clean up after them just like my parents have cleaned up plenty of my messes over the years. I will do it without complaining or even drawing attention to it. I will believe that the kids will come to realize the importance of pitching in as a family and looking out for the rest of the family. I know already that they do. They are both helpful to me. Now if I can just beat my Dad to mowing the yard each week I will feel accomplished!

Removing the things that make me have to hold my temper makes a difference in my attitude. I can be myself and put right my life much more easily than fighting all of the silly little frustrations along the way. It really makes a huge difference keeping that Elephant fat and happy. My Rider feels much more in control. The illusion of control is good enough for me.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

My Hero Complex

Early in the morning on March 1st, I was reading a comic book. Specifically, I was reading Detective Comics #999. It was an absolutely fantastic read. It brought together the conclusion of a storyline that had been running for several issues. More importantly, it gave me one of the most profound epiphanies in my life. I am going to attempt to relay this profound revelation without spoiling any of the story. After all, this isn't a story about Batman. This is my story.
I grew up in awe (a quick aside here. AWE is a root word of awesome. Look it up. Do not confuse this with the cute sound someone makes when looking at a puppy which is written awww! This is an important distinction. Please learn it.) of right-thinking, chivalrous heroes. Superheroes, knights in shining armor, barbarians, fables, gods, and teenage mutant ninja turtles. I grew up on a steady diet of adventure. I looked forward to saving damsels in distress. I craved righting wrongs. I didn't want to put right what once went wrong because that job belonged to Dr. Samuel Beckitt.
As I grew older I didn't lose any interest in being heroic. I got the chance to test my wits and my fists on more than a few occasions. Years later, I would reflect on some of these fights and realize that I chose them for all the wrong reasons and that I was, in fact, the villain of the story. That probably should have sobered me to the idea that I had wrong ideas and wrong thoughts, but it didn't. I was more than willing to blame the person that lead me astray that to look at my own psychology and what allowed me to be fooled. I was always taught to pick my battles but I allowed my battles to choose me. I relished in them. I thought they were adventures.
I made the decision to grow up when my oldest daughter was born. It was certainly the time to walk the straight and narrow. I quit drinking alcohol. I decided that I wouldn't fight if I didn't have to. Being a Dad was going to be plenty of adventure for me. For a small time, not nearly long enough, it really was. Falling asleep on the couch holding the little one was the pinnacle of many a day.
If you want to make God laugh make plans.
No sooner had I settled into my new life than it was violently ripped away from me. Don't take this to mean that I hold no blame for this. I got the girl that would become my first wife pregnant because I made horrible decisions in the wake of my high school sweetheart breaking up with me. I acted with a shocking lack of maturity or character. The result was that I didn't know the woman I was sleeping with at all. I say woman but to be fair she was fifteen and I was seventeen. Girl might be a bit more accurate.
Turns out when you make stupid decisions and act out emotionally your whole family can pay for it for years to come. Baby Momma's stepfather turned out to be a pedophile. He had raped and molested her for years. I found this out after he had already molested my six-month-old daughter.
The stupid action movie hero in me believed that I could simply kill this man, erase evil from the world, and put everything back to rights. The reality was violence wouldn't help my daughter. It wouldn't undo the damage to her or to her mother. I had to deal with THE SYSTEM. My Mom was smart enough to steer me away from making things worse.
My family and I entered into a battle stacked against us. It took us nearly four years to "win." The catch to that is no one really wins these types of things. Evil, and by that I mean the molester, did not get punished. The rather ill-conceived relationship I had with the kid's Mom was broken forever. Bad idea or not, I didn't like losing her. I didn't want to be divorced. Most of all, my daughter had her life changed forever. She ended up in the primary custody of my Mom based on the recommendation of a psychologist that the court happened to agree with. I did nothing wrong. I, in fact,  supported all of the right things, but I still walked away with a sense of devastating loss.
It took me about ten years to pull my head out of my ass after that. I didn't realize why until very recently. Being the stupid, macho, self-centered, idiot that I am I focused on my sadness at failing to protect my child rather than focus on her. I spent years not understanding the sense of failure that I felt. I learned to quietly hate myself, and in that hatred, I did things to bring about the punishment that I subconsciously felt I deserved.
Now, how was my inexperienced 18-year-old self supposed to identify psychological signs of abuse in an intelligent young woman? I didn't have the wisdom or experience necessary to figure it out. In my mind, though I was the quintessential man. Dirty Harry had nothing on me. I should have been able to do something, anything about it!
The funny thing is this perceived failure, for all that I tortured myself with it, did not change the insane notion that I could fix any problem, overcome any foe, or come out on top of any situation. I was entitled. I had an unrealistic series of expectations for myself. I way overestimated my own abilities. For all my self-loathing I maintained the serious swagger of self-confidence. It is impressive the amount of psychological damage one can do oneself over the span of two decades of being unrealistic, self-hating, and owning blame that isn't their own.
Secretly, all this time I have been telling myself that I would not fail again. I would be vigilant. I would be smart. I would protect my family no matter the cost to myself. I steeled myself mentally and suppressed any emotions that attempted to get out of control. I would be the self-sacrificing shield between my family and any harm visited on them by the world. I simply could not fathom a situation where I would fail as fantastically as I did with my oldest daughter.
I got remarried to Ashley. I started cautiously carving out a life and expanded the people I would love and protect by the factor of her family. The entire time we were married I lived in complete terror of failure. I could have been the Arrow from the CW and modified my motto to," You have failed this family."  Ultimately my own angst made me angry, distant, and foolish. I put pressure on Ashley that I should not have. She got unhappy. She left. My feelings of failure deepened
Then I let history almost completely repeat itself proving that I had learned very little 17 years before. I rebounded like a pinball from Ashley to Whitneigh. Lord knows I was in no emotional place to make this decision. My sense of guilt and shame were at an all-time high, but I wasn't emotionally stable enough to deal with my feelings. It was infinitely easier to hide my troubles by setting out to help Whitneigh with hers. Instead of doing that I started us both down a path of destruction that hasn't quite played out yet.
A few years into the drama I created here, I failed even further. Mom died. The family ends up in shambles. Teagan got pulled out of the house by DCS. The delusional "hero" in my roared his disapproval and I arrived at a complete identity crisis.
Here is where the story gets better. Thanks to the court system I got some therapy. The very first thing my therapist had me thinking about was if I liked myself or not. My self-confidence said yes. I wasn't ready to look too deep yet. I did do some great work at coming to healthier attitudes. I have written about a lot of it here.
I wasn't willing to accept some basic truths. My oldest daughter getting molested did happen as a result of my bad decisions, but it was not my directly my fault nor did I have the ability to prevent it. I should have learned the lesson of not reacting impulsively to big emotions, and because I was too busy blaming myself I ignored a real lesson. That lesson would have helped me. My accountability wasn't noble. It was completely miscalculated.
I missed two decades of my daughter's life by being emotionally vacant. I was so scared that she would blame me for what happened to her that I played protector instead of being her father most of the time. She didn't need a knight. She needed a Dad. I wasn't really either.
Ashley did not need me to be a superhero. She needed me to be a loving, understanding partner to her. She was facing her own pent up emotions and I eventually pulled away from her to be her protector. Then I had the audacity to be surprised when she left me. I played the victim when even playing the hero would have been better. More importantly, I failed my family again when they were hurting from her leaving. I was more caught up in silencing my own emotions than in helping them deal with
The hero delusion further leads me to distract myself with "helping" rather than deal with anything else. Whitneigh has suffered greatly from this. We didn't plan a relationship. We didn't plan a pregnancy. We have spent half a decade reacting from one disaster to the next. Even when I have explored my emotions I have not been able to own the fact that my stubborn insistence that I am some more powerful and capable version of a human has caused me to make foolish choices, react poorly, and come across as generally arrogant and callous.
It hurts me to admit this, but I am no Superman. I am no Teenage Mutant Ninja anything. I am not even capable of the well-honed skills of Batman. While I may know what evil lurks in the hearts of men, I am no Lamont Cranston. It may seem laughable to state this outloud. It is obvious to most people, but I am not a hero of any stripe. I am a middle-aged man with average intelligence, above average height, a decent soul, and I am not in any way capable of protecting anyone from the world, not even myself.
I have no great long term plan. I have not got everything figured out. There are many times that I am completely terrified of what is going to happen next. The extraordinary thing about me is my dogged determination to face the unknown without showing my fear, but maybe the time to do that has passed. Perhaps there is more virtue in being openly afraid and facing your fears honestly than having false bravado.
I named my blog Davids Boring Blog in a quiet attempt to break the Chinese curse of," May you live an interesting life." I am nowhere near as boring as I would like to be. I am working on that though.

Since I have faced openly that I am not the hero of this particular story it has been easier to keep my feet moving. A few days ago I put aside a fools crusade. I am no longer tilting at windmills. With luck, this will return energy to me to focus on more worthwhile things that actually matter. Either way, I appreciate the Dark Knight's writers shining a light into my particular darkness.