Sunday, December 26, 2010


Apparently this is a thing that happens.

I'd never even heard of it before, but it's happening as I write this. In all the fearsome Pennsylvania winters of my childhood, I never heard thunder or saw lightning during a blizzard…but we just had both a few minutes ago. Awesome. And such a heavy metal name, too. This is better than Hanukkah and Christmas and the Going Forth of Wadjet rolled into one.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


The following is posted here so as to spare myself the trouble of retyping it in lots of other places and I can just direct people here. Especially non-comics people who are trying to make sense of the contradictory and sometimes very foolish things being said on this topic. I'm far from an expert, so if you spot any mistakes please give a shout in the comments.

A few random points about this:

Yes, a character whose nickname is "the White God" is being played by someone whose skin color is not what Westerners colloquially refer to as "white." Why, that's almost as unthinkable as a Hellene referring to the Furies as "the kind hearted ones" or someone calling a very large man "Shorty."

Brown-skinned people were not unknown to the Vikings; they raided Iberia and encountered Moors. And funnily enough, Norse mythology itself features two races of gods -- the Aesir and the Vanir -- fighting and then joining forces. (Something like the Avengers/Defenders War.) There's a line in one poem that seems to say Heimdall was originally a member of the Vanir who crossed over to join the Aesir. So the notion of Heimdall being a different race is not completely unheard of.

In Marvel folklore, discrepancies between the depiction of gods in the pages of Thor and in standard Norse myth -- Marvel's Thor not having red hair, for instance -- were long ago rationalized by the explanation that the comics characters are not the Aesir and Vanir et al but their successors, reborn after the fall of Asgard at Ragnarok. Subsequent writers have probably fiddled with that explanation. (However, that thing some people are saying about "they're actually shapeshifting space aliens who took the form of Norse gods" is something else altogether and not considered to apply here.) The point is, historical considerations about what the Norse would have had in mind for Heimdall as noted above aren't strictly relevant.

Thor comic co-creator Jack Kirby also created the first African superhero, the Black Panther. After that, he tried to make sure all his comic series were racially integrated. He even wrote and drew an African-American romance comic that was never published. When he was working on Thor, I bet if you had asked him "Hey Jack, why aren't there any Black gods in Asgard?" he'd have told you "Sure there are!" and introduced one in the next issue.

And most importantly, Jack Kirby nearly died fighting the Nazis…and if you ever told him that something in a movie made out of his Thor comics was going to cause irritation and annoyance to a bunch of ignorant bigoted white supremacist assholes, he would have been delighted. He would have said "Tell me what pissed them off and I'll do it twice as much!"

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Its origin and purpose still a total mystery

I can't believe this is actually real, but apparently it is. I want one but I'm afraid of what might happen if my action figures evolve to become sentient tool-using creatures. And then one day the Monolith tells me "All these toys are yours, except the ones on the top shelf of the left bookcase. Attempt no landing there." No, the danger is just too great.

(via John Gruber)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Days of miracle and wonder

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson looks out the Cupola window bay of the International Space Station at Earth, about 350 kilometers below, sometime in September 2010. More information here and here.

Don't forget that we live in a time when this is a real thing that actually happens.

(Link courtesy Mark Bourne, whose blog Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL is always a source of great edification and information.)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Something to think about

"I see the Christian Science church already has its Christmas tree up."

"Yeah…and you notice, it's always a Christmas tree. Never a Science tree."

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Costumed character

From Brooklyn to Beijing, and Into a Caldron:

Mr. Cabo favors the kind of dress inspired by turn-of-the century Chinese aristocrats: a long, black silk tunic with a mandarin collar that opens to the side and a black trilby over a black do-rag bearing Chinese characters for "dragon" and "trust." On his feet he wears black Dr. Martens boots.

One early Sunday morning, while commuting to work by subway, he explained his look. His attire communicates his respect for Chinese culture, he said, but it also has a more practical function. Because angry Chinese parents do not knock before barging into his office, when they see him behind his desk in the fashions of yesteryear they are momentarily flabbergasted.

"It gives me time to think," Mr. Cabo said as he walked through the crowd. At 6-foot-3, he appeared nearly a head taller than almost everyone around him. "Plus, they’re going to stare at me anyway," he said.

Recently, a 4-year-old started crying in fright at the sight of him. "I’m a little afraid to talk to you, because you’re black," a parent said to Mr. Cabo, who speaks fluent Mandarin.

From the New York Times, November 3, 2010.

He comes from a distant place. He's not like anyone else around him, and though he tries to fit in to a certain degree he is always apart. He's assumed to have special powers and abilities because of his alien heritage. He wears a distinctive outfit for psychological advantage, to evoke a specific response in the people he deals with. I don't say that Paul Cabo is heroic…but he may have more to tell us about what it would feel like to be a costumed hero in real life than you'll find in Watchmen or the works of Ellis or Millar.

(And if only he were an ex-hitman instead of a former Starbucks manager, the whole story would be like a sequel to Ghost Dog.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Birthday honors

As ever, birthday greetings on this unusually fine day to Adam at The Blue Meanies Are Coming! and Becca at No Smoking in the Skull Cave. May the birthday elves leave every gift you want underneath the birthday tree...while birthday revelers dressed in their traditional costumes as Katy Perry, James Carville, and Helen Reddy knock on your door to offer you birthday candy and treats…and in the evening, birthday fireworks light up the skies and make your neighbors gasp in surprise and cheer the anniversary of your birth. Or however you do the whole birthday thing where you are.

How interesting that two of my favorite bloggers just happen to have birthdays on the same day. I mean, what are the odds?

For me, it's the day I apologize yet again to my mother for having caused her inconvenience one day many years ago. But as she points out, she didn't have anything better to do that day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lost weekend

photo by Rich Johnston

I feel a bit funny here without my initials -- they've been with me so long -- but it was time to let them go. They served their purpose, and I was getting uncomfortable with people actually calling me "Rab" (or sometimes, strangely, "Rob") in real life. It's time people know me not merely as an acronym but as the fellow who edited that book, and then that other book, and then wrote a book, and that comic that never came out and another one that did a long time ago.

Anyway, so yeah…NYCC 2010 went by in a blur of about ninety million people. That's the figure they announced, right? I'm prepared to believe it. For the first time, I feel like I missed a convention while actually attending it, mainly because the crowds kept you from walking the show floor freely. Most of my time wound up spent behind the Sequart table, plus an excursion to the world premiere screening of Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods on Saturday evening and helping out at the Q&A session for the film at the con the following day. If you were there at the convention panel, did you notice how the lights went off when they showed clips from the film and back on when they were done? That was me. Pushing the light switch.

I still maintain a table can be the best way to see a convention -- just stand there and let everyone come to you -- but this time it didn't work as well. I hate to say this, it really goes against the grain philosophically to sound elitist…but NYCC may have to consider adding a fourth day, and making that extra day for industry and trade people, including librarians and teachers and press. For people who are working during the con, those early hours on Friday before the doors open to the public might end up being the only chance they have to see the rest of the con (as it was for me). And really, the definition of "professional industry person" is becoming so diffuse, it's not so elitist as it might once have been. It still rankles to make the suggestion. I come out sounding like the guy who's just got in, trying to pull the ladder up behind him. But it may have to happen.

Overall, Sequart had a really good con, including the aforementioned film debut. The company launched two books at the con, my own Minutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen and a pre-release convention beta edition of the Gotham City 14 Miles anthology. Both sold out during the con. The Watchmen book sold out before the first day was over. The copies that Sequart expected to last the entire three days of the con went in less than a day. Finally we had to reserve two copies as display copies marked "sold out, please order online" so that prospective customers would have something to pick up and flip through at the table. And we did have people saying they'd come looking for the Sequart table specifically because they'd heard of this book and wanted to buy it. Amazing.

One factor that may have fed demand was a curious gap or omission I noticed at the con. Last year NYCC took place just before the Watchmen film opened, so the merchandise was everywhere. Toys, costumes, the works. This time, virtually no new Watchmen merchandise to be found. One costume merchant was selling Rorschach-style fedoras, with accompanying mask; you could find action figures at a steep discount. Not much else. Surely people didn't stop liking Watchmen just because the movie came and went? Having liked it for 25 years already? But that's how media marketing works. This time, because no one had any motive to generate false demand for it, Sequart had the market cornered for people who genuinely still wanted to know about Watchmen.

(If you're also one of those folks, Minutes to Midnight is not yet listed on Amazon but is now available on Lulu. I'll be sure to mention it when the Amazon link arrives.)

At the con, we also worked out what my next two projects for Sequart are going to be, so I've got a nicely packed schedule over the next several months. More as this story develops…

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

No cause for alarm

Despite the title, the above video is not actually Monty Python, but comes from a television special called How To Irritate People starring three future Pythons and produced by David Frost. Though I didn't know it until recently, I was watching when it aired in the States back in January 1969. Funny thing: this very sketch was a huge joke in my family for many years after this brief exposure…but for all this time none of us could remember where we had seen it. Every once in a while, something like this gets stuck in our memory and become a huge part of our personal mythology. Who can say why, or what significance it may come to have later on?

So, yes, six months. No cause for alarm. I'm not quite ready to start blogging again, but there's some news I've been sitting on for way too long and I've been dying to share it with everybody. You may already have read about it here or here or here, but the official word is here.

The book is Minutes To Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen. 184 pages, $19.95 cover price, a dozen genuinely terrific essays about Watchmen in print and on screen inside, and my name slapped on the cover purely for being in the right place at the right time. Available this October from fine vendors of printed graphic storytelling everywhere, as well as through Amazon and Lulu.

A couple of the contributors may be folks you know by different names; a couple of them are just on the verge of becoming prominent; and a couple of them are such big names you'll be asking yourself "What kind of dirt does Richard have on these people that they'd be willing to write for him?" I can't figure it out myself. But they all did an outstanding job. Unbelievably, all of them found something worth saying about Watchmen 25 years after it was published. You'd have thought there was nothing new left to say. I did too. We were wrong.

Minutes To Midnight will be launching at NYCC this year -- as will the documentary film Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods directed by one of our contributors -- so it promises to be a wild ride in October. If anyone reading this is going to be at NYCC, let me know in comments or via e-mail so I can pencil you into my timetable...!

I'm also more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the book. Or anything else, really!

Sunday, February 21, 2010


My mother, yesterday afternoon: "Do you hear someone drumming?"

I listen for a moment and say, "Yeah, I hear it too. There's someone playing drums in the park across the street."

"Oh good," my mother replies. "For a moment, I was afraid I was turning into the Master."


Woman talking on cellphone at 1st Street and Second Avenue:

"And she said girl, your face is red, your eyes are glassy, and you're swaggering. And I said whoa! what do you want from me?"


A sighted woman and a blind man are walking down Lafayette Street towards the Astor Place Tower.

The woman says "I wish you could see this building."

The man says "I don't need to see it. I can hear it. It sounds terrible."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A very short story

When I was ten or eleven -- sometime during the year before my family moved to New York City -- I have a vivid memory of a substitute teacher coming to my class and, in lieu of a lesson, reading us The Laughing Man by J.D. Salinger.

Which, if you know the story, was a profoundly weird thing to do.