Friday, November 04, 2005

Zombie Tales: Oblivion

... was sold out at my local shop. Congrats to BOOM! On my part, two bits of praise -- and mind you, I actually haven't read most of the book yet.

First, for Tom Fowler who drew my story: for not just being a helluva an artist, but actually a great, subtle storyteller. Go read it. I'll wait.

Now look at page 4. Zoom to the close up on your browser. Look at the panel where Fahey says "Where's he hiding the gun?" See that little detail? That's the essence of a fair-play mystery; you could've tumbled it right there. Not something I asked for, but something Tom had the presence of mind to do. Tom Fowler has some amazing stuff lined up for the new year, including one title so filthily high-concept-cool I'd slit my own throat to write it. However, my little project with DC will be keeping me busy (and I believe we're in next month's Wizard, so I can finally talk about it a bit.) That said, hunt up his stuff.

Second: Mark Waid's story destroyed me. He actually sent it to me when I was in the middle of a nasty bit of writer's block. What he pulled off in six pages did not inspire me -- it instead sent me into a spiral of numbing depression at how his writing can be both relentlessly efficient but also just ... goddam sincere. I know he makes a living at it, and a good one, and he has a bunch of fans -- but for my nickel Waid doesn't get the respect for his writing chops he deserves. Most of you missed Empire when it came around the first time. Go get it.

Motu Vahine

Sunset over Taha'a

... is the small island just off Taha'a, that gives you this not-all-too-shabby view of the sunset. No more than 18 people on the island, no resort activities, just swimming and watching my Lovely Wife ogle young Tahitian beach attendants, while I kept a wary eye on the sharks and the Island of the Sex Lizards (long story).

Big thanks to all the guest bloggers, although it will take a while for me to scrape that Halloween picture out of my cerebellum. Posting and snark to come, as soon as I'm finished unpacking.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Funnybook Publishing Part 1: Old and Busted

PART 1: the problem

So John tossed me a bit of a challenge that I’ve been dodging this past week with Zombie Tales self-contained story posts – John said I’d be stepping in to give you a view of independent comic book and graphic novel publishing. At first I wasn’t sure I had a thing to say, but then I saw an Entertainment Weekly article on an older demographic shift in comic book readership, and it got me thinking.

Two of the biggest announcements of 2005 in comics came out in the past few weeks – the Executive Producer of LOST, Damon Lindelof, is writing a Wolverine/Hulk comic book, and Stephen King is bringing his DARK TOWER to Marvel for a mini-series.

Theoretically, this is the kind of mainstream acceptance that comic books and graphic novels have been courting for years. King is one of the biggest names of all time in novel publishing, LOST is the hottest show on TV, bar none. To make it a trifecta, all we’d need would be some huge rock star to sidle up and do a comic.

That’s nice. But who cares?

I’m not saying that I’m not excited that an A-list talent like Stephen King is coming to comics, or that there’s a well-capitalized outfit like Marvel that’s willing to pay out the cash to make it happen. I love the fact that my favorite TV show of all time has an Executive Producer who loves comics, and loves it so much that he’s willing to write a comic to prove it.

It’s just that it’s more of the same – bigger, better, faster, more. And no innovation.

When Stephen King comes to comics, it’s to do more with a franchise he created himself nearly a quarter century ago – and in another medium (so really, is this much more than an adaptation?). I can hear the King fans saying already, “I liked it better as a novel!” and chances are, they’ll be right. When Lindelof comes to comics, it’s to write one of the most over-used characters in the business –fanboy bait Wolverine.

Where’s the innovation?

The dark shame of comics is that the rich get richer and the industry gets poorer. DC Comics (the D and the C stand for Detective Comics, so their name literally is Detective Comics Comics) has yet to create a character that eclipses their big three – Superman (1938), Batman (1939), and Wonder Woman (1941). Their next-most recognizable characters, The Flash (1940) and Aquaman (1941) are just as old. They’ve been making hay off the same old same old month in and month out for 65, nearly 70 years.

Where’s the innovation?

Marvel Comics emerged with a bang in the early 1960s: Spider-Man and The Hulk (1962), the Fantastic Four (1961). The X-Men didn’t catch on until Wolverine was created in the pages of The Hulk (1975) and tossed in with a makeover on the X-Men that catapulted them into what we know today (1975). The mid-1970s was the last fertile era for the company, giving them not only a revamped X-Men team that’s their top seller, but another arguably recognizable duo in the form of The Punisher and Ghost Rider. So they’re not quite as bad as DC, they’ve only been living off the same old ideas for about 30 or 40 years. Half as long.

Imagine this: you turn on ABC TV, and all you’ve got for prime time is a selection of about a dozen of their all-time greatest TV shows – The Love Boat hitting its 27th season, Addams Family would’ve clocked in 41 seasons (okay, maybe taking a season or two off to do The New Addams Family with a Scrappy Doo-like cute and cuddly sidekick), Barney Miller, Benson, Bewitched, you just know that Matlock’d still be plugging away. Lost would already have a spin-off because during any given month, there’s 18 to 20 different Batman and Batman spin-off comic books. 23 to 25 X-Men spin-offs. You think the CSI franchise or the LAW AND ORDER franchise are overdone? When people say there’s comic book collectors – good God man, there’s comic book collectors. There’s hordes of men and women that show up week-in and week-out on Wednesdays to devour this stuff.

Same old same old.

Okay. Let’s be fair. There’s a scattershot of other characters that have attained a franchisable level. The list would have to include some from the past 15 years that have made the leap to movies: Hellblazer as Keanu’s Constantine. Spawn, God help us. Hellboy. Maybe Witchblade (you remember the TNT TV show, right)? I’m sure I forgot something, and someone in the comments section’ll set me straight. But let’s count it together with me – on the outside, that’s 4 – that’s right, 4 – hits in the past, hmmm, ida know, 30 years? And Witchblade and Constantine aren’t even big enough hits to sustain a single spin-off.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of funnybooks hitting the shelves week-in and week-out are new versions of the same old same old. The Batman beat the Joker again. Waitaminute, it was The Penguin this time.

I, for one, am sick of it. Out with the old. In with the new. DC and Marvel focus on selling Yet Another Spider-Man series – the latest is called “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” (no, really) –I’d like to find the next Spider-Man.

Big talk, I know. But how are you going to get anywhere if you cower at the feet of these giants?

In the late 1950s, DC Comics ruled comic book publishing with their super-heroes. If Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko had decided to keep on keeping on with what Marvel was publishing at the time – giant monster books and westerns – there’d be no Marvel universe. And yet, in many ways, it’s what editorial at both of the big two companies continue to do – sticking with what came before, and frankly, it’s a snake eating its own tail.

It’s time to color outside the lines.

NEXT: That’s nice, but what the hell are you going to do about it, Mr. Publisherguy?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dingo Adieu

This will be the last chapter posted here at KFM since we've now caught up with the weekly updates. I hope you've all enjoyed reading it and will continue with the story over at DINGO.


As Julie kept asking question after question, all I could think of was how desperately I needed a normal, healthy relationship. As far as most of my relationships went, mine with Julie was great. But it was great in all the wrong places. There really wasn’t much more to it than sex. Even though it was a mind-numbing, bathe-in-gasoline-to-slough-the-shame-from-my-soul kind of sex, it didn’t matter. At the end of the day we were just objects to each other. We couldn’t talk about anything else. We’d tried before, but it had usually led to an afternoon of power-fucking in every changing room on Rodeo Drive. It was a fun ride, but nothing more. And like every great ride, Julie was beautiful, fast, and could turn on a dime in the blink of an eye.

I don’t understand, Dingo.” I couldn’t tell if it was the 12 stitches over my eye giving me the headache or Julie’s prattling. I bit off a stretch of red tape and put it over the empty socket where my taillight should have been while I balanced the phone between my shoulder and swollen cheek.

“Julie, I told you. Darby took the box.”

I get that, but—.

“The box my dad hand-carved just before he died.” I could feel the two edges of skin stitched together pull at each other every time my jaw moved.

Yes, yes, and the box protects your family’s dirty little secret or your mother’s pride and joy or whatever the hell it is you’re calling it this week.”

“Hey, I told you not to go digging—. ”

I don’t care what it is, Dingo! I couldn’t give a shit about that damn box or what’s inside. The only thing I want to know is what the fuck your ex-wife was doing there.”

So there it was. And I thought she was jealous just because somebody else got to beat the living crap out of me for a change. “Julie, I didn’t even know she was in town until after I was in the hospital.”

Bullshit. Let me ask you, Dingo. Did your brother really leave that box in the trunk or was this just an excuse to see her again?

“Oh, for the love of…” I checked under the rear tire well to make sure the tire wouldn’t scrape against the dented frame. Fortunately, the damage was mostly cosmetic. Still, I was going to have Benoit’s balls on a stick for this.

Answer the question, Dingo. Was this just a trick?

“She shot me in the face, Julie! Do you understand that? She pointed a pistol directly at my head and pulled the trigger. What, in all that is unholy on this planet, makes you think I would ever want to see that psychotic bitch again after that?”

I thought you let her shoot you?

“No!” Everything was part of some twisted sex game with Julie. The one time I had opened up to her about my ex-wife, she saw it as just another tawdry tale of my sex life.

Then why are you going after her if you don’t want to see her?

I fumbled through my pockets and found my prescription bottle. I knew that if I screamed, my head would break and my brain would leak through the gaping hole in the side of my head, granting me the sweet, sweet release of death.

I took in the deepest breath I could muster. “To go after THE FUCKING BOX!”

Oh. So that’s what an aneurism feels like.

You’re an asshole. And I’m leaving.” I tried to speak but my brain was slowly imploding. Oh, and Dingo. I’m taking the ferret with me.”

She might have said more, but I couldn’t hear her. I was too busy trying not to pass out from the immense pain ricocheting around inside my skull. By the time I pulled myself up from the concrete skillet that was the parking lot, she had hung up.

It was the first time a woman ever dumped me without making me bleed first. A rather sad milestone when I thought about it.

Normal and healthy. Might as well ask to win the lottery.

After a quick stop at a grocery store, I headed to the pound. Fortunately, my headache had dissolved into a mild migraine by the time I got there. But the second I walked in, it escalated to a constant hammering. The smell of urine and fear crept through the overbearing stench of a pine-scented antiseptic that was making my eyes water. A woman with a fake henna tattoo around her neck and no make-up sat behind a faded green counter. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could smile in a place like this.

“Hello! May I help you?” she asked. She gave my broken face a quick scan, but kept smiling.

“Yeah, my dog was brought here last night. Name’s Cerberus.”

“Oh, thank god!” Her smile disappeared.

“Something wrong?”

She just scowled at me. “Follow me. This way.”

I followed her to a back room where I could hear the deep rumble of an air-conditioning unit. Once inside, I saw cages stacked and arranged in neat rows. The room smelled like bleach.

In the cages there were cats, dogs, and a few of those god-awful ferrets. All of them were cowering in a corner, shivering or burying their heads underneath their paws. A few of the dogs were mewling weak and pathetic howls so hoarse that they obviously must have been at it all night. I thought it must be a natural reaction to being in this place and seeing the humans that kept them here, but as we walked past their cages, I noticed that they weren’t shying away from us. They were recoiling from a larger cage in the center of the room. Cerberus.

The dog was stuffed inside a wire cage that allowed him to stand up only if he kept his head down. A small bowl of food sat untouched at his feet. His fur stuck out away from his head in wild strands through the wire bars of the cage and his fangs were bared through a thick, leather and steel-buckled muzzle that stretched around his mouth. The noise that I thought was the air-conditioning unit was actually coming from the dog. His growl was shaking the whole room. And though the room was at least thirty degrees cooler than it was outside, it was by no means cold. Yet I could still see subtle traces of Cerberus’ breath.

The girl turned to me and said, “Your dog killed one of the other dogs last night.”

“Really? Oh, sorry. Look, he was in a car accident with me and he probably just attacked because—”

“He didn’t attack the dog. He just scared it to death. I mean look at them all!” I scanned the room. She was right. Every animal in there was as far from Cerberus as their cage would let them be. Blood dripped from one of the ferrets’ mouths as it tried to chew through the metal bars of its cage.

“I think you’re imagining things, Miss.” Even I didn’t believe it when I said it.

She crossed her arms and said, “Look mister, I don’t know what kind of dog that is, but it isn’t healthy.”

“Not healthy? What, he’s got worms or something?”

“No, that’s not what I mean. I mean he’s just…just…”

“Oh. Wrong?”

She turned to me and her face relaxed a little. “Yeah. Wrong. That’s what he is. Wrong. I think you should put him down.”

I stepped forward and let Cerberus sniff my hand through the bars. He pressed his nose against me and tried to lick my hand through the muzzle. “I should put him down because he scares you?”

“I know dogs, mister, and this one’s dangerous. You can see it in his eyes.”

I hit the latch and opened the door. Cerberus unfolded himself out of the cage and stretched, his giant claws scraping across the cool linoleum. “Oh, you’re right. He is dangerous. You’ll get no argument from me about that.” I unbuckled the muzzle.

“What are you doing? You can’t do that!” She started to back toward the hallway. “He has to be muz—”

I tossed it to her. “Don’t worry. You’re safe.”

“Mister, that dog is dangerous. He’s…wrong. You said it yourself.”

Cerberus licked my hand and pushed his massive head against me. I scratched him behind the ears. “There are a lot of wrong creatures in the world, Miss. But just because we’re wrong, doesn’t mean we’re bad.”

As the dog and I left the room, the animals all moved about their cages, putting as much distance between them and Cerberus as possible. When we got out to the lobby I turned to the girl and asked, “How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing. Please, just go.” She stood behind the counter, never once taking her eyes away from Cerberus.

“Come on, dog.” When we stepped out of the building, the heat hit us like a blackjack. I could feel the moisture in my mouth evaporate when I opened it. I was almost tempted to spend a few more minutes inside, enjoying the cooler air, but it would probably be more comfortable to just stay out in the searing sun.

Cerberus didn’t seem affected at all as he ran to the Jeep and hopped up onto the hood, vaulted over the windshield and into the passenger seat. I got in and grabbed a plastic grocery bag from the back. Inside was a bottle of water and a ten pound ham.

I set the ham down on a paper bag on the floor of the Jeep then tried to unwrap it, but Cerberus kept pushing me out of the way with his gargantuan head. “Fine, fine. Eat the plastic, I don’t care.”

I took a swig of water then headed out onto the road. I knew that Darby most likely wasn’t still in town, but if she was, she’d be with Benoit. Or at the very least, that bastard would know where she was. Either way, his house was still standing. And that was just simply unacceptable.

I grabbed my phone and pulled up Julie’s number. I didn’t want to call her and I certainly didn’t feel guilty enough to do so, but my finger still hovered over the “Send” button.

Deep down, I knew I should just let it go. Just let Julie and her ferret slouch off to Bethlehem and be done with it. Normal and healthy, that’s what I was looking for now. A normal and healthy relationship.

I looked down and saw that Cerberus had devoured nearly all of the ham. Including the hambone. There were tiny bits of plastic sticking out of his fur. “Yep. There’s no doubt about it, dog.” I pressed the button. “You and I are definitely wrong.”

Monday, October 31, 2005

Dingo Chapter 7

Happy Halloween all.


The clouds looked made of spider silk. Thin, white, wisps tendrilled out from underneath the bulbous extrusions in their slow parade across the sky. And there were stars, shimmering by the thousands. The sun was bright, the sky the bluest I’d ever seen, but there were stars.

The trees in front of me leaned back and forth in the wind, their leaves singing an autumnal hymn that sent the clouds to dancing. The bushes and tall grass waved like the waters of a great green ocean, breaking against the clearing in which I sat. I caught a scent of jasmine. And something else.

I wasn’t alone.

There was movement in the grass. Something swam toward me through the reeds and out from under the shadowy canopy of the forest. There were glimpses of color, all unnatural and foreign in this paradise.

The wind picked up, blowing my hair into my eyes. I couldn’t see. I brushed it aside and tried to focus on the movement that crept toward me. Again, my hair fell into my eyes. But it was odd. My hair wasn’t long enough to get into my eyes. Still, there it was, annoying and obtrusive. I brushed it away again.

The thing was closer. More wind. More hair. I had to clear my vision, see what was coming, but as I moved to brush my hair away again, my hand froze, unable to move. I struggled against whatever invisible force held my hand fast, but it was no use. It wouldn’t move. I couldn’t see and the thing in the grass moved closer. I could feel it near, watching me, stalking me.

“Mr. Asher.”

It called to me. The beast in the rushes knew my name and called to me. I pulled at my invisible bonds but they would not break. I screamed, thrashing to get away from the thing that held me.

“Mr. Asher!”

The wind disappeared, taking with it the sound of rustling leaves and flowing reeds. Now I could hear only the high hum of fluorescent lights. And people breathing heavily.

“Mr. Asher, you have to settle down.”

I tried to sit up, but a hand pushed me back down. I couldn’t see. There was light but I couldn’t see. Something was over my face.

“Get this off me!” My voice came out thick and heavy.

“Mr. Asher, please. Only two more stitches left.”

Stitches? Then I remembered.

“Let me up. Let me UP!”

I could feel three sets of hands on me, all pushing me down. “Sedate him.”

“Wait, stop! Just wait.” I eased back onto the bed and relaxed. I couldn’t afford to be knocked out again. “No more. Just finish this so I can get the hell out of here.”

The nurses and orderlies kept their hands on me while the person pulling at the hole over my left eye finished his work. I couldn’t have been out that long if they were just now finishing stitching my head.

I did a quick assessment of the rest of my body, first my toes and then slowly worked my way up. As I tensed the areas where my captors held me, they squeezed and leaned into me, obviously afraid I’d try to get up again. But when the tension passed, they relaxed their grip. Everything seemed to be in working order. A little sore and stiff, but nothing felt broken or torn beyond what a day or two of bed rest couldn’t fix.

When the gauze over my face was lifted, I squinted at the sharp light overhead. “All done.”

I sat up and turned to the man who had been sewing my face together with all the grace of an epileptic working a jackhammer. He looked 12. “Good. Now where’s my dog?”

“Mr. Asher, we’re going to be taking you back to a room. So—”

I kicked my legs over the side of the bed and brushed him aside. The nurses all rushed to restrain me but the kid doctor waved them off. “No. If he wants to go so badly, let him.”

I sneered at him. “Smart kid.” The boy in man’s clothing just smiled at me. I stood up, took a step and felt the world turn upside down. It seemed as if all the blood in my head had drained away to pool at my feet. I looked at the kid and said, “You smart-ass son of a…” then collapsed to the ground.

My head started to pound as blood flowed upward. I took a deep breath, sat against the wall and said, “…ow.”

“Would you like us to take you to your room now?”

If I wasn’t a quart low of A Pos, I’d bounce this brat off the walls. “No, I think I’ll stay here and bleed a little more.” I turned to the nurse on my right. “I can see up your skirt, you know.” She blushed and moved to unfold a wheelchair. “How soon can I get out of here?”

“Dr. Epstein will be able to answer your questions.”

I didn’t have the energy to press the kid, so I let the nurses ease me into the wheelchair and take me to my room where Dr. Epstein met me shortly after.

“Mr. Asher, how do you feel?”

“Like I’ve been skull fucked with a Volkswagen. But I’ve been worse.” The local anesthetic was starting to wear off and I could feel the length of the wound in my head.

“Yes, I know.”

“What?” I looked up and noticed that Dr. Epstein had a file a half inch thick resting on his clipboard.

“Cedar Sinai faxed these over. Makes for some interesting reading.”

“Yeah, well it made for some interesting living.”

The doctor chuckled. “I imagine. How’s your vision?”

Great. It was time for the game show portion of my hospitalization. Every time I’ve had blunt head trauma, the docs all asked the same questions: How’s your vision? What’s your name? Who’s the President of the United States? Answering the questions right got me a prescription to some heavy-duty pain-killers. Not a bad parting gift for the most part. However, answering the questions wrong usually meant being awarded with a cocktail of Demerol and myriad anti-seizure medications to be followed by the grandest prize of them all: a diamond-tipped drill-bit to the side of the head.

Dr. Epstein asked his questions and I gave him my answers. I’ve been banged on the head enough times to know whether or not it was serious and this little boo boo may have hurt like hell, but it was all superficial. My brain was still intact.

Twelve stitches and a headache. Not too high a price to pay for getting rolled in a car.

When he was done, the doctor scribbled on his notepad and said, “I’ll have a nurse come get you and take you down for some routine tests. In the meantime, the police have some questions for you.”

Wonderful. The lightening round. I wondered what prize THIS was going to get me.

Two uniformed officers came into the room and stood on either side of my bed. One pulled out a tiny notepad while the other rested her hand on her hip. The one with the notepad started asking questions: Did you see the kind of car that hit you? Do you remember seeing anyone follow you? Were you drinking?

No. No. No. It became a mantra. After about the eighth question, I’d had enough. “Look. I was stopped when something hit me. I didn’t see who or what it was. Now can you tell me, do you know what happened to my dog?”

The female officer said, “It was sent to the pound. Miracle the thing wasn’t killed.”

There was a polite knock at the door. A young blonde in a candy striper outfit poked her head inside and said, “I’m sorry, I’m looking for Mr. Asher.”

One of the cops gave the little girl a smile and nodded in my direction. The candy striper walked over to me and handed me an envelope. She stood next to me, shuffling from foot to foot as the cops and I all watched her. “There’s a little speech,” she said, “but I can skip it.” We all smiled and she left the room.

One cop said, “Mr. Asher, we believe this might not have been an accident. Do you know anyone who might have been angry with you? Someone who might want to hurt you?”

“Grab a phone book.” I knew exactly who did it and the second I got out of that damn hospital I was going to pay Mr. Benoit another visit. “Officer, I have a lot of people angry with me. But none of them live in Vegas.” My head began to throb. “What happened to my Jeep?” I asked as I started opening the envelope.


“Where? I need to get…I need to get some clothes out of there.” It was believable since my t-shirt was practically crusted over with dried blood.

The female officer smiled and said, “Don’t worry. The hospital will take care of—”

“No!” A spike of pain shot through my temples. “Look, I don’t like having my belongings just lying around.”

“Your stuff will be fine, Mr. Asher.”

“No, it won’t,” I mumbled.

“Is there something you’re not telling us, sir?”

I wanted to blurt out ‘Yes, you stupid cow!’ but I knew that I would never get out of Vegas if I did. So I tried to breathe through my nose, out of my mouth, and rid myself of this growing headache. “No. It’s just that I had some valuables in the Jeep and I don’t want them stolen.”

“Like I said, your stuff is fine. Your wife came in and picked up your things about an hour ago.”

The skin on the back of my skull went numb. “What did you say?”

“Your wife. You are married to a…” she flipped through her notepad. “…Darby Asher, yes?”

The numbness spread until the only thing I could feel was a tiny pinprick of pain over my left eye. Both of the cops stared at me, stone faced and unblinking. Then I noticed the get well card in my hands.

On the front of the card was a black and white photo of a young boy handing a colored rose to a young girl. But on the inside of the card there was no type, no charming or goofy pictures, no saccharin message lamenting the wonders of my existence. There was nothing except four tiny words scrawled across the inside in black ink:

Get well soon, motherfucker.’

More bang for your non-buck

Another free self-contained story from ZOMBIE TALES: OBLIVION #1 for your reading pleasure. This one's by super-talented industry legend, writer Mark Waid, and illustrated by super-talented industry legend Mark Badger.

In case you missed it, we've run two other full stories from this anthology here:
MEMENTO MORI written by John Rogers and drawn by Tom Fowler
THE BAKEMONO AND THE CRANES written by Johanna Stokes and drawn by Keith Giffen

If you'd like to pick up a copy and don't have a comic shop nearby (or a shop that stocks Boom! Studios books), you can buy a copy online here. Or, you can just leave a tip in John's tip jar on the right.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Happy Halloween!

This one's more just to disturb John when he gets home.

Girl in the Clubhouse

While John's away...

Johanna here. For the month of October, I did a weekly column over at Comic Book Resources taking a look at women and comics.

Check them out if you get a chance.

How to Get Your Girl to Read Comics:

So you've gone and got yourself a girlfriend. Congratulations. And she's the real deal. She's seen the toys (even if she hasn't touched them cause you told her you don't like that) and she's seen the video games (and has come to accept that playing "Halo" on the X-box is the closest you're going to get to any real exercise.) She's darn near perfect. There's just one thing. Your new love doesn't get along with your first love-- Comics.

How to Get Girls into Your Comic Shops:

Dating a comics geek has given me ample opportunity to see my fair share of comic shops. Oft was the time he would drag me in, kicking and screaming. Once there, I would clutch at his hand and growl "Do not leave me!" 45 minutes later, when blood was leaking from my eyes and ears, he would promise (read: Lie) "Just 5 more minutes!" (Later I would seek my revenge in the shoe store. He would be crying and crawling for the exit, a broken man, and I would step on his neck with a shiny new pair of stilettos, bend down and whisper in his ear "Just five more minutes, baby. Five. More. Minutes.")

How to Get Girls to Buy Your Comics:

I doubt I'll ever understand comic collecting. Or comic collectors, for that matter. There is a loyalty in comics that you don't find in many other places. Did you go see "Pitch Black" and hate it with the heat of a thousand suns, but when "Chronicles of Riddick" came out felt like you had to go because Riddick was in it? If your favorite television show runs off the rails, do you hang on season after season waiting for some new writer to come along and reinvigorate the characters? Do you have any brand loyalty to the individual networks?

"Dude… It's 'According to Jim."

"I know, ya'll, but it's ABC… you have to watch."

What Girls Can Do for Comics:

Loving comics like I do and knowing that there are lots of women out there who feel the same way, I asked the professionals what we could do for the industry. Keith Giffen said lower necklines and shorter hemlines, but let's call that Plan B, 'kay?

For more info go to

Dingo Chapter 6


The nice thing about a city like Vegas was that when a man walked into a drug store covered in blood and reeking of sweaty dog, it was business as usual. I stepped up to the counter and threw down the bandages, handi-wipes, some sports drinks, and three pounds of beef jerky. Some girl with green hair and a pierced head was behind me chatting on her cell phone about flying out to Amsterdam to catch a P show at the end of the month. It took all I had not to turn around and strangle the life out of the waifish little nit.

“—means Power. Fargo18 said it’s a reference to Damon’s first girlfriend, but he’s full of shit. Paula was his sister, not his girlfriend. Hey, did you know their guitar player is related to a serial killer? That’s so hot. I hear—”

I leaned in close toward the cashier. “Can you ring this shit up a little faster?”

As I walked out to the Jeep with my booty in hand, Cerberus sat in the passenger seat and casually watched me approach. In the few hours I’ve been with the dog, it never once threatened me. But its mindless stare made my skin crawl. And I was going to have to put the top up soon. This dog was far from predictable and the last thing I needed was him jumping out and running off with someone’s kid. I would probably have to put the chain back on him.

I threw the beef jerky at Cerberus’ feet then spent the next fifteen minutes doctoring myself. I was going to have a nasty scar over my left eye to match the one on my right temple.

After I put on a clean t-shirt I threw back the sports drink and waited a few minutes for the electrolytes to kick in. While I waited, I punched Mr. Benoit’s address into my GPS system. A little dot began to flash on the screen.

I looked over to see that Cerberus had eaten all three pounds of jerky, including the plastic packaging. “Have I mentioned that you are just wrong, dog?” He stared at me for a moment before giving a noncommittal lick of his chops. “Just remember, I’m your friend. And we don’t eat friends.”

Still, he just stared.

“And why do you smell like creosote?”

I parked a few hundred feet from Mr. Benoit’s house. It was a stylish ranch house in a cookie-cutter subdivision sitting at the end of the road. The black Mercedes that Benoit rode away on was parked in the driveway at an odd angle. Mounds of dirt and sod from some recent landscaping project were piled in front of the large bay window, but not high enough that I couldn’t see directly into the house.

Using a pair of binoculars that I fished out of the glove box, I watched Mr. Benoit as he talked on the phone, pacing through his living room and throwing his hands around like he was swatting at flies. The driver was sitting back on a couch, pale and barely clinging to consciousness. But there were three other men in the house with them. All big, all well dressed, and all standing around the coffee table on which sat my box.

“I hope you’re still hungry, dog.” I buckled up, started the Jeep, and hammered the pedal. There was no need to turn on my headlights. The street lamps gave me enough visibility to tell where I was going. Besides, I didn’t want the bastards to see me until I was sitting in their laps.

It took about two and-a-half seconds to cover the distance to the house. The Jeep hit the mounds of dirt and launched over the little cobblestone porch. When the grille hit the bay window, there was enough resistance to throw me against my seatbelt. Cerberus bounced and hit the dash, but didn’t seem terribly bothered by it. Just. Wrong.

Shit flew in every direction. Glass and splinters rained down on the marble tile, singing out like a thousand wind chimes. An ottoman went airborne across the house and slammed into the far wall. Lamps, tables, sofas, all erupted in a storm of broken house-bits.

I hit the brakes and skidded to a halt in the middle of the living room. I unbuckled my seat belt, reached back and grabbed the crowbar, then hopped out.

Mr. Benoit was sprawled on the ground, his mouth hanging open as he tried to form words. The driver was still on the couch, covered in shards of glass and a thousand new cuts. Cerberus must have messed him up pretty badly because the guy didn’t seem to be reacting to the Jeep that just crashed through the window.

The others were picking themselves up off the floor, all cut and bleeding from flying debris. One was only a few feet away when he started to reach into his jacket.

“What the fu—,” was as far as he got before I opened his face with the crowbar. The other two sprang forward. The first to reach me got a knee in his face. As he was falling away, I brought the crowbar up and fish-hooked the second guy, ripping his cheek open and sending small streaks of his blood across the cream colored walls. That just left Benoit.

Cerberus was already out of the car and on top of him. The dog had the man’s throat in his massive jaws. Benoit wasn’t moving. His eyes were the size of baseballs as the dog slowly squeezed.

“…call him off…can’t…breathe…,” he said, like I gave a rat’s ass.

I saw the box on the floor next to the driver who was now completely unconscious. I picked it up and tossed it in the back of the Jeep.

“Julius Benoit, how you doin’ there? Is the dog playing too rough with you?”

“…fuck…yoauugghh—.” Cerberus started his twelve-cylinder growl as he tightened his grip.

“You might want to be careful about what you say there, Mr. Benoit. I think he can understand you.”

The guy who got fish-hooked was cursing and stumbling toward the gaping hole in the front of the house. Blood pooled between his fingers and dripped to the ground with sickening plops. “…oooo…stupig moder fuugghhrrr…” He got around the Jeep, but when he tried to step over the debris and out onto the porch, he lost his balance and fell out of sight. He didn’t get up.

Wood and glass crunched underfoot as I walked over to the only upright chair in the room. I swept away chunks of window frame and took a seat. “Nice place you got here.”

He didn’t move. Cerberus had his meaty jaws wrapped around the man’s neck so thoroughly that if he closed his mouth, Mr. Benoit’s head would come clean off. A small trace of blood started to line away from the man’s nose.

“…what…do you…want…”

Down by my feet were the contents of a spilled humidor. I found a cigar cutter and a book of matches amidst the rubble at my feet. “What everyone wants. Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men. But today I’ll settle for some answers.” I took a big draw and blew a cloud of smoke into the air. “Hmm. Not bad. Now, Julius. How’d you know about the box?”

He made some sort of gurgly noise mixed with some broken vowel sounds when my cell phone rang. I checked the caller i.d. Julie.

“Hold on a second. Yeah?”

Hey, baby. Watcha doin’?

“Helping a friend redecorate. You?”

A steady buzz came through the receiver for a moment, then she said, “Thinking of you.

“Oh. That’s…sweet.” Benoit’s eyes were getting even larger now and Cerberus’ growl was getting deeper. “Look, I’d love to play but I’m in the middle of something at the moment.”

You still looking for your box?

“Already found it. I should be on my way home any minute now.”

Okay, baby. I’ll be waiting.

“Don’t have too much fun while I’m gone.” I put the phone back in my pocket. The man with the open and bleeding face started groaning as he faded back into consciousness. I stood up and walked over to Benoit. “Look, Julius. I’ve got places I’d rather be. So answer my questions so I can get out of here. How’d you know about the box?”

Benoit breathed heavily through his nose for a moment then said, “Darby.”

I figured as much. “How do you know her. Ease up a bit, Cerberus.” The dog relaxed his grip and Benoit sucked in a deep draught of air. I swore the dog actually did understand what we were saying.

He coughed. Carson.”

“You do some work for him?”

Benoit made a croaking noise that sounded vaguely like a “yes.”

I took another draw from the cigar. “When did Darby tell you about the box?”

“…this afternoon…five, six hours ago.” Right about the time short-bus from Buffalo opened it. Damn, Darby worked fast.

“Well, make sure to tell Darby that I’m viewing this little visitation from you no-necks as a violation of her restraining order. Next time I’ll have her ass hauled off to jail.”

“You…better…better kill me…”

I knelt down next to Cerberus, staring into Benoit’s eyes as I scratched the dog behind his ears. “Julius, I may be a lot of things, but a murderer isn’t one of them.” I stood up. “Don’t know if I can say the same about the dog, though.”

I tossed the cigar onto the chair, whistled, and then the animal and I got into the Jeep. As I backed out of Benoit’s living room, I could see him rubbing his throat as the chair caught fire.

Cerberus shoved his head in the back seat and started sniffing at the box.

“Hey, get away from that. Hey!” I pulled at his head but it wouldn’t budge. When I pulled a little harder, the dog growled and sneered at me. “Whoa, okay. Smell all you want. Jeesh.”

The dog went back to running his nose over the box, sucking in air through his giant nostrils. But after a few seconds, Cerberus gave a snort and then faced the front of the Jeep.

When I got back out onto the road, I dialed Rick. It took three tries before he finally answered. What..uuuhh…the fibbik…say him where?

“Rick, you babbling idiot, wake up!”

I’m up I’m up. What? Dingo? Rick sounded like he had been gargling rocks. What’s up?

“You owe me a new Jeep.”

I heard him take a swig of something then light a cigarette. Rick gave out a belch and said, “So why do I owe you a new Jeep? There something wrong with yours? I could hear a woman’s voice mumbling in the background.

“Yeah, I just remodeled a home with it.” Rick started laughing. Cerberus nudged over from the passenger seat and sniffed the phone against my ear. His breath smelled of blood and rotten eggs. I gently pushed the dog back, half expecting to lose my arm in the process, but the dog acquiesced.

What the hell did you do that for?

“The guy you sold the Z to decided to have a peek.”

Rick’s laughing stopped. It was a few seconds before he spoke. What happened?

“What do you think? Darby sent a local goon squad after it.”

Damn, she could sense it all the way out there?

I pulled onto the Strip and came to a stop, letting the throngs of people shuffle from one temple of flashing lights to the next. “It doesn’t matter where it’s at. If the box is open, she can sense it.”

How’d she get muscle out there so fast?


You’re shitting me?

“Nope. Guess they’re a thing now.”

Rick laughed again, but it was more from nerves than humor. Well, did you get it back?

“Yeah, lucky for you.” I was only able to make it two more blocks before I had to stop for another herd of people. “All right, bro,” I said. “I’m on my way back home. Break a leg.”

Yeah, thanks. And Dingo. I really am sorry, man.

“It’s cool. Just don’t expect a Christmas card this year.”

I put the phone in my pocket and waited for the lines of people crossing the road to clear. I was tired, torn, and dying to take a hot shower. I entertained the notion of grabbing a hotel, but I didn’t want to spend any more time in this city than I had to.

I gave Cerberus a scratch on his head but then stopped when I saw the people in front of me running away in a panic. It didn’t make any sense until something hit the Jeep like two tons of angry gorilla.

My head hit the side window, spiderwebbing the glass as the back end of the Jeep swung around in a violent arc. I could hear people screaming, their voices wavering from the Doppler Effect created by my spinning Jeep. The front left tire hit the curb and then the Jeep lurched up onto two wheels, balancing for what seemed minutes. Cerberus slid off of the passenger seat and landed on the other side of my head. Gravity disappeared. The flashing lights of the strip danced in awkward ways, but then stopped when the Jeep finally fell on its side in a loud, anguishing screech of metal and concrete.

Outside I could hear more people talking, a few of them shouting. I crawled out of the top of the Jeep and slowly pulled my way onto the sidewalk. Even though the sun had set hours earlier, the pavement was still hot to the touch. But the freshly opened wound over my left eye was distracting me from the pain of burning asphalt. A few people moved closer, chattering away and pointing, but no one moved to help me. They all gawked at me for a moment, some even taking quick little snapshots before continuing on toward the pretty, pretty lights. Lights which for me were quickly fading.

Yep. Business as usual.