Thursday, April 30, 2015

Milestone

I love the last day of the month. For most of my clients, that's invoice day.

Oh how I love invoice day.

Today marks a special occasion: I just sent in my 1,111th freelance invoice.

For some odd reason that strikes me as better than invoice # 1000. That one was boring. Too many zeroes.

I still have a few more invoices to send today, so this milestone won't stand for long. That's okay. Life is all about transitions and moving forward.

Onward to...1234? 1500? 1776? 2222? Geez, I don't know if I want to wait quite that long for the next milestone...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bicentennial Comics

Every once in a while I like to look forward by looking back.

I was seven years old in July 1976, when the entire country colorfully celebrated the American Bicentennial. I remember school art projects, fireworks, parties, parades, all kinds of pins and other mementos, TV specials, and magazine covers.

Oh yeah, and comic books.

I honestly can't recall ever reading a Captain America comic book before Jack Kirby's Captain America's Bicentennial Battles, but that massive ("treasury"-sized) book quickly burned its way into my brain. I became a life-long fan of Steve Rogers, Jack Kirby, and, of course, history.

I still have my battered copy of Bicentennial Battles. I re-read it every few years. Of course in many ways it doesn't hold up, but in others it remains a high point of comics from that era.

But Bicentennial Battles is very lonely in my collection. Even though I fondly remember two other Bicentennial-themed comics from that year, they have long since left my possession. I want them back, and I want the rest.

Over the past few years, I have trimmed and slashed my comic-book collection over and over again. Now it's time to build it back up again, only in a more focused way. I'm going to pick a few kinds of comics that I want to collect and slowly seek them out.

Bicentennial comics shall come first.

It shouldn't be too hard. I've done some research. From what I can tell, there weren't all that many Bicentennial comics. Some of their connections to 1776/1976 were pretty tenuous. Quite a few were kids' comics. But I'm still going to try to track them down.

Here are the covers for the titles that I have identified so far. Some of them should be easy to find. Others may take a while. No worries, I'm not in a rush. I'll just try to finish my collection before the tricentennial.





Not exactly patriotic, but I think my collection would be lacking if I didn't include this.

A restaurant freebie? I'm not sure if this will be worth tracking down, but I'll give it a shot.






Who knew Dennis the Menace was so patriotic?


I had this one as a kid. Memories of it are what sent me down this trail.





Okay, so it's a calendar, not a comic book. Close enough.


A book, but it's about comics, so it counts. 

I don't think the date on this one is quite correct, but it seems close.

You can't tell from the cover, but apparently there's a Bicentennial story inside.


Another restaurant freebie. Hmm.



I had this one, too. Hmm. Maybe giant-sized "treasuries" should be the next category that I collect!

 Did I miss any? Let me know. I'll add 'em to the list! (Update: I've already added a few -- thanks to everyone's contributions!)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: My year in books



I have a room in my house devoted to books and comic books. Boxes and boxes of the damn things. They've been sitting there for a few months, ever since we moved from Maine to Oregon. Some day soon I'll start to buy some new bookcases, un-box the books and spread them around the house, but for now they'll just have to sit there where the movers dumped them this past August.

Hopefully it won't take too long to dig into those boxes, because I own hundreds (if not thousands) of books and comics that I haven't had a chance to read yet. I read an average of a book or two a week, but there's never enough time to truly catch up, is there? This year's move -- not to mention my excessive work schedule and the terrible health problems that plagued my family -- also served to slow down my reading.

I know you're waiting for the total, so here it is: I read 100 books this year. That's a lot, but it's quite a bit below the 119 books that I read in 2013 and the 115 that I read in 2012. It's also a much lower number of pages: I read more short books (primarily graphic novels) than anything else this year. That's an adaptation that I needed to make. With everything going on this past year, I just didn't have the luxury of focusing on longer, more involved novels as much as I wanted to.

I did read some damned good books, though. Top of the list, "Cabinet of Curiosities" by Guillermo del Toro. If you want to read something that will inspire you and kickstart your creativity, pick this one up.

Worst book? Well, I think the most disappointing one was "To Hell You Ride," a graphic novel by actor Lance Henriksen, whose extreme right-wing politics and conspiracy theories destroy a story that had a lot of potential.

Now, looking at books alone hardly captures the true depth of my reading in 2014. I read a LOT of articles, short stories, individual comic books and essays that could never be tallied in a way like this.

Looking ahead, I'm going to work hard to get back to reading novels this year. I have a few boxes of them ready and waiting for me, after all.

2014 in Articles

New Year's Day is good for three things: sleeping in, looking back and looking ahead.

I already slept in. I'll look ahead later today. For now I'm looking back.

This was a busy, busy year. In addition to moving all the way across the country -- no small endeavor, let me tell you -- I worked my tail off. Well, more specifically my fingers. I published 286 articles last year, ranging from short news posts to massive magazine features. That averages to about one article per work day, although some of the articles took months of work to pull together.

This is actually the lowest number of articles I have published in years (I published 392 in 2013 and more than 400 in 2012), but I concentrated on more involved work that had a greater impact. I also dramatically increased my per-article fee as a result (something freelancers always need to focus on achieving).

My favorite article of the year wasn't really an article -- it was an essay celebrating 10 years of my Extinction Countdown blog/column over at Scientific American. It's one of the most emotional things that I have ever written.

I have a lot of other favorites from this past year -- they're all my babies -- but I think for the purposes of this post I'll narrow it down to two, one more for SA and another for TakePart:

Found: A Snake Species No One Believed Existed

Cheetahs are Being Wiped Out, and Selfies are to Blame

You can find links to the other 283 articles from 2014 here.

With that out of the way, let's go ahead and look ahead: I look forward to filling 2015 with more amazing articles. Thank you for reading. I couldn't do this without you.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hot Stuff, Stumbo the Giant and the worst comic-book villain of all time

Lately I find myself absolutely obsessed with old "Hot Stuff" comic books. Yes, the little red devil in a diaper, the guy you see on all kinds of bad tattoos and almost nowhere else these days. I know it seems silly, but the Hot Stuff stories (usually written and drawn by the late Howie Post) are full of great wordplay and absolutely amazing cartooning. I can't get enough of them.

But "Hot Stuff" wasn't just about Hot Stuff. Each issue also features a truly charming "Stumbo the Giant" story by another late cartoonist, Warren Kremer. I love the "Stumbo" stories and they deserve a massive, comprehensive book collection. Kremer's artwork is a wonder to behold. His lines are full of life and style and Stumbo, who's all heart, is one of the all-time great comic-book characters. 

Once in a while, Stumbo faced off against the guy you see above, Dr. Cesspool, probably the ugliest and worst-named villain to ever appear in a kid's comic. Luckily the dude was a pretty incompetent mad scientist. In one particular episode (from an issue of "Devil Kids" that I picked up at last week's Rose City Comic Con), he gave first Stumbo and then a volcano a fake case of the measles (yes, you read that right). Obviously, things did not work out the way he had planned.

Dr. Cesspool may be a silly and kinda stupid mad scientist, but the story was drawn with style and genius. I plan on tracking down more "Hot Stuff" issues in the future.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Back from the Borderlands

Well this is exciting. The long-out-of-print anthology BORDERLANDS 5, containing my short story "All Hands," is finally available again, this time in a handy-dandy Kindle edition. It's hard to believe that it's been 11 years since this book first came out, initially in a limited-edition hardcover and then as a mass-market paperback (called "From the Borderlands").

Unfortunately, the e-book edition doesn't include a handful of the original stories, most notably the exemplary "Stationary Bike" by Stephen King, but the majority of the tales are still there and they're all fantastic.

This is probably the best (and weirdest) short story I ever wrote. I hope you'll give it a look.