Stinky Lessons 2: Express Yourself


Before I get into one of the more disgusting Stinky Lessons, I wanted to say that I experienced a great deal of joy this afternoon when I discovered the most blessed Stinky Lesson of the autumn season: Any consistency of dog poop is easier to pick up when there is a bed of autumn leaves for it to fall on.

In other words, I now love the fall.

Now, without further ado, we must press onward into stinkier matters. The following discussion and accompanying video are really gross. You have been forewarned.

Sometimes your dog does not know how to express itself, and I am not talking about creative angst. When your dog’s butt starts to smell strongly of fish, this means its anal glands have filled with fluid and must be emptied or, in veterinary jargon, “expressed.” If a dog cannot express itself, it risks infection and severe pain unless someone else — a vet or groomer, perhaps — steps in and does the expressing.

When it comes to issues like this, Amy and I are rugged individualists. The first time Tiberius had this problem, Amy sucked up her pride, watched the following YouTube video, and, as I described it to my work friends the next day, “milked my dog’s butt.”

I was supportive. I distracted Tiberius with peanut butter while cradling his abdomen to keep him from sitting down, and when it was over I promised that next time I would do the dirty work myself.

“Next time” happened this past Monday. Like Amy, I watched the YouTube video. I visualized the operation ahead of time in hopes of getting it over with as quickly as possible. When Amy had expressed Tiberius previously, the fluid, which ranged from dark to yellow-brown to clear, squirted all over our living room floor. We had the benefit of a hard wood floor, but the room still smelled like a fish market even after I scrubbed every lick of anal fluid off of it. Having learned from our mistakes we set Tiberius up in the bathroom and I stripped down to my undies in order to prevent cross-contamination.

From there it was just a matter of in, up, squeeze, out, repeat.

Expressing Tiberius was much less nauseating the second time. In fact, having overcome the initial hurdle of doing it myself, I started to feel pretty jazzed about my new found ability. I felt confident enough in my utility that I started thinking about offering to express dogs for other people. Maybe I could advertise that I could match or beat competitor offers and go into “expressing” as a side business.

Sure, Tiberius hasn’t been able to look me in the eye since Monday, but that’s not exactly something I’d have to worry myself with once the expression money started rolling in.

Now, if only there were a secondary market for canine butt milk…

Republican Debate – September 16, 2015

Then CNN said, "We need to add MORE Republicans," and it was... well, you decide.

Then CNN said, “Let there be MORE Republicans,” and it was… well, you decide.

It was clear to me after watching the first Republican Debate from August that the next debate would need fewer people speaking and more details about actual perspectives and policies. CNN, as if reading my mind, decided to do the EXACT OPPOSITE and up the roster from ten to eleven with the addition of Carly Fiorina. Luckily, not long after this debate Scott Walker dropped from the Republican Primary Election, but he was the only one; so there are still ten Republicans that we have to talk about.

Using my method from my previous post on the Republican Debates, I have decided to remove those who are clouding this pool of candidates in order to find some clarity. I have also upped the ante. Though CNN wasn’t willing to make any cuts in their candidate lineup, I certainly am. In the previous post, I reviewed the five candidates that came off as remotely electable; well, in this one I am cutting that number down to four. Goodbye, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Chris Christie.

Here is the full video of the event:

Also, don’t forget to check out the Fact Check of the Debate. There’s only one this time!



As I’ve mentioned before, my knowledge of these candidates stems solely from what I have gleaned from watching the debates. Armed with that information alone, it seems pretty clear to me that John Kasich is pretty clearly the best that the Republican Party currently has. He’s probably the only one who can claim any knowledge on how to balance the budget in a time where the government gets shut down left and right because we don’t seem to have any money for anything. Furthermore, he comes off (despite the obvious difference in age) as a remnant of the old guard of post-War Republicans and Democrats who believed in bipartisan cooperation. The importance of a Republican who can enter into a dialogue with Democrats should not be lost on an audience watching fellow Republicans who cannot even have a discourse without resorting to ad hominem attacks and bickering. In his closing statement, Kasich spoke of an America unified not by top-down “trickle down economics,” but by investing in the lower and middle class. Not only is this the Republican who stands a chance in the general election; this is the Republican who could restore legitimacy to the party. Sure, he does little to nothing in order to excite minority voters, and this is a serious concern for the party, but what he does bring to the table is a Republican identity that isn’t straight out of the funny pages.



Near the beginning of the debate, Donald Trump, with no prompt from the moderators or candidates, decided to start attacking and insulting Rand Paul. It was then that I decided that anyone who gets under Donald Trump’s skin like that is somebody I wouldn’t mind seeing as the next President of the United States of America.

I have said this before, but there is something to like about someone who doesn’t duck away from answering a question, someone who has clearly done his research and has some plans for the nation’s problems, and someone who has the courage to say something that is contrary to his party but may be right in line with America’s needs. Rand Paul can somehow say what is on his mind without transforming immediately into an egotistical bigot. Who would have thought that was possible?

You can follow the hype machine or you can stand by what it means to be a Republican, and one of the central tenets of the party has always been making sure that the Federal government does not legislate issues that the State government ought to. While I loved the fact that Paul called out drug legislation that tends to arrest minorities much more often than white people, his true shining moment was revealing the hypocrisy of these so-called Republicans who want to override the 10th Amendment for so-called moral reasons. I’ll let Mr. Paul speak for himself on this issue:



I have a lot of trouble finding video segments on YouTube in which the Republican candidates are saying sensible and meaningful things. I don’t actually mean that as a criticism of the GOP candidates, but rather to condemn us for only focusing on the sensationalism. Just as I had problems finding John Kasich’s closing statements, I had some trouble finding the clip in which Marco Rubio explains that both parties are out of touch with the people. This was a rare insight made even more rare by its scarcity on the Internet.

While Kasich and Paul may be more bipartisan, Rubio actually embodies a bipartisan solution, possibly without even knowing it. He appeals to conservatives in that he toes the line with the strange brew of traditional- and neo-conservative ideals floating around in Washington, and yet he appeals to progressives in that he speaks intelligently and neither treats the American public like idiots nor feeds upon them as such.

Why do we need Marco Rubio if we have John Kasich and Rand Paul? Because at the end of the day, neither Kasich or Paul are getting the numbers needed to be the Republican candidate. I have seen three scary figures roosting at the top: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Carly Fiorina, and if any of you find these individuals as unacceptable as I do, Marco Rubio might just be the hero that the Republican party needs even if he is not the hero it deserves.



That’s right. For the second debate straight, the Republican party has made Jeb Bush look like a legitimate candidate. As I mentioned earlier with Ron Paul, there are few things that make someone stand out as a candidate more than being Donald Trump’s punching bag. Perhaps this had everything to do with proximity, but it seemed like Trump ragged on Bush probably more than anyone else. In addition, and this seems to be a refrain we keep returning to, I feel inclined to defend Jeb Bush against some bogus argumentation. As an extension of the dynasty argument (“I don’t want another Bush or Clinton in the office…”), Jeb Bush was criticized because many of his foreign advisers are the same as those held by his brother and his father. Once again, this is not a family issue; this is a party issue. If elected President, every person on that stage would appoint foreign advisers from the ranks of those who served under a Bush or two in the past, and they all know it. Rather than admit to that fact, cheap Republicans reach for low hanging fruit and start cheap fights.

* * *

I want to keep this balanced so I talk about the same amount of Republicans as I do Democrats, so in my conclusion I want to talk about the curious case of Mike Huckabee.

Republicans Hopefuls Speak At Iowa Faith And Freedom Coalition

I need to congratulate Huckabee for making a push for fraternity at the beginning of the debate, while giving Trump an underhanded compliment by comparing him to Mr. T. (I wonder if Trump knows that Huckabee is making fun of him…) Here’s the video:

Of course, the Republicans on stage couldn’t adhere to this spirit of respect and decency for more than a minute or two, but you gotta give to Huckabee for attempting to combat the idea that the Republican party is imploding. Not only did Huckabee mention the excesses of Wall Street twice, but he gave perhaps the most sensible quote of the night when he suggested committing to a War on Heart Disease, which is America’s #1 killer (not terrorism or universal healthcare, surprisingly). Unsurprisingly, this incredibly sensible sound clip is nowhere to be found online…

At the same time, some of the things Huckabee says just sound so absurd that I cannot believe he is the same person. We might need to start calling him Jekylbee and Hydabee. Though I am not sure Mike Huckabee actually believes half of the things he says, he might just perfectly represent the current state of the Republican party. They are superficially unified in that they will strike down any legislation that has Democrat names attached, but they are ultimately at odds. We have ultra-conservative Newt Gingrich Republicans who are at odds with astroturfing Tea Party “activists.” Neither face of the GOP wants to concede anything to minorities despite their importance in the future of the party.

This is a confused party, and something needs to be done about it. We need to vote for the Republican reformers and forget about the loudmouthed obstructions. This is our future we are talking about.

Comic Recommendations: October 21, 2015

Over at DC, Justice League #45 starts a new chapter of the “Darkseid War” with the huge implications of the events of issue #44 and Titan’s Hunt #1 continues DC’s odd post-Convergence attempt to reincorporate select portions of previous continuity into current continuity. Meanwhile, Marvel is continuing their second wave of new first issues that are hopefully going to stay around for more than 2-4 issues and define the current continuity with some pretty strong performances in The Amazing Spider-man #2 and Karnak #1.


  1. The Amazing Spider-man #2 (Marvel Comics), Unspoiled Edition

ASM 02 01

As some of the best Spider-man writers of the ages — Stan Lee, Brian Michael Bendis, and Dan Slott, among others — have proven time and time again, the best Peter Parker stories are not always the biggest epics. The Amazing Spider-man #2 is no exception. In this issue, Spider-man teams up with his personal bodyguard (What? Did you forget that Peter Parker is a CEO of a multinational corporation now?) Hobie Brown / The Prowler against the campy cosplay criminal organization known as Zodiac. Silly villains, amusing hench-people, and everyone’s favorite quipster make for an entertaining dialogue-driven romp.

2. Karnak #1 (Marvel Comics), Unspoiled Edition

Karnak 01 01

With the rise of The Inhumans both in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Agents of SHIELD, proposed 2019 film) and in Marvel-616, we were bound to get more titles exploring the diaspora of Kree experimental superhumans. Karnak is a surprising choice for protagonist in an ongoing series, but under the creative control of Warren Ellis and Gerardo Zaffino the series is promising to become a slam dunk. The world of The Inhumans is much more vast than we might have thought a few years ago, and Karnak looks to be the most promising exploration of this relatively untouched goldmine of ideas.


  1. The Amazing Spider-man #2 (Marvel Comics), Spoiled Edition

I can think of issues of Dan Slott’s The Amazing Spider-man Superior Spider-man run that have made me cry, but to be honest I think his most memorable issue has been The Amazing Spider-man #690. In this more run-of-the-mill issue (every series has to have them), Spider-man’s infamous foe Dr. Connors / The Lizard is human in form but lizard in mind, a fact that he is trying to hide from Carlie Cooper, Spider-man, and the Horizon Labs staff who now see him as an ally. This is difficult because Curt Connors is missing an arm, but the Lizard’s brilliant healing power keeps regenerating the missing limb, so Connors must repeatedly hack off his own arm in order to maintain appearances. The story comes to a head when Detective Cooper notices that Dr. Connors is missing the wrong arm. I was cracking up and telling friends about this scene for months following its release, because to me there are fewer things more funny than an obsessive masterminded scheme that falls apart because you accidentally sawed off the wrong arm.

While The Amazing Spider-man #2 does not reach quite so high as the instant classic I just described, it certainly treads similar ground. It is hard to take Zodiac seriously. They look much more like Power Ranger villains than they do legitimate first rate arch-rivals, and yet Dan Slott likes to remind us that in the 1960s when Spider-man was created there is no difference.

ASM 02 05

“Make my monster GROW!!!!!”

Sometimes to treat characters like these seriously and lovingly, you have to depict them in all of their silliness and let the classic Spider-man wit become a voice for the readers. While Hobie didn’t pull any punches during this issue when it came to Peter Parker’s overabundance of quips, it was actually a bored, somewhat disenfranchised Zodiac goon who provided the greatest source of levity. As Spider-man and The Prowler infiltrate the undersea Aquarius base in a whale-camouflaged submarine vessel (I told you it was campy!), this lackey criticizes everything about the Zodiac operation from the fact that their patrol vessels actually draw attention to their secret base to the more fundamental issue that Aquarius, the Water Bearer, is actually an air sign and not a water sign.

ASM 02 04

“I know my astrology.”

Each time Spider-man uses one of the technologies invented by Parker Industries, we see another facet of Dan Slott’s comedy in his use of flashbacks. A good example would be when Spider-man uses one of his new and improved Spider-trackers and the reader is shown a flashback to a Parker Industries commercial promoting the same technology in use for finding missing keys, phones, and TV remotes.

ASM 02 02

Peter Parker, Capitalist

I would be careful not to dismiss this device as strictly for laughs. Dan Slott expertly introduces the multiple divisions of Parker Industries — consumer technologies, SHIELD law enforcement solutions, and gadgets with super secret Peter-Parker-eyes-only applications — and in so doing characterizes Peter Parker as unexpectedly shrewd. In the previous issue, we learned that a multinational corporation can have a heart; in this issue, we learned what Peter Parker can do when he’s thinking ahead of the game rather than responding to the newest threat. Knowing the luck of Peter Parker, this house of cards is likely to fall apart in an epic way, but it is fantastic seeing this adult Peter Parker with adult responsibilities.

I want to return to the flashback device one last time, because despite my love of the lighthearted nature of this issue there was something dead serious going on behind the scenes. The final flashback that Peter Parker experienced felt incredibly awkward. After several installations featuring comical scenes involving Parker’s technology, we get a dead serious memory of Spider-man leaving Silver Sable to die at the hands of Rhino in The Amazing Spider-man #687. I am of the opinion that the entire use of flashbacks was only included in this issue in order to lead up to this moment. While it felt like a strange meander in the flow of this issue, the issue’s epilogue justified the tangent. In this scene, Aleksei Sytsevich appears to have abandoned his life as Rhino. However, he is interrupted from drowning in his sorrows by the appearance of a man in a red suit who wants him to come back to action. Rhino, as always, will not be budged. However, the stranger sweetens the deal, revealing that Sytsevich’s dead wife Oksana is apparently still alive, and this monument of a man is moved.

ASM 02 07

From Beyond

At first I was kind of bored with this conclusion. The man in the red suit looked most like Matt Murdock in his maskless Daredevil costume from his most recent adventures on the West Coast, but the most likely suspect is Norman Osborn. The reason this doesn’t feel particularly exciting to me is because it feels like a not-so-well-disguised ploy to promote the upcoming Spider-man film featuring the Sinister Six. But that was just my first opinion. Thinking about the scene more, I thought of another possibility that would be much more fruitful, namely that the mysterious gentleman was, in fact, Mephisto.

Who do you think the man in the red suit is?

Who do you think the man in the red suit is?

As soon as Doctor Octopus hijacked Peter Parker’s body during the Superior Spider-man storyline, I had this half-baked idea that Dan Slott was slowly setting up a much bigger plot. What I imagined was that the mind-swapping and -warping was going to reveal a memory that was sacrificed during the “One More Day” storyline, the memory of the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. I was, of course, wrong at the time, but I have good reason to believe that this reversal will come about in the near future, probably during this volume of The Amazing Spider-man. Perhaps the most lasting consequence of Otto Octavius’s tenure as Peter Parker / Spider-man is that his baby, Parker Industries, has forced Peter Parker to take on more adult responsibilities than he ever has before. This sets the stage perfectly for the adult responsibility associated with being a husband and a partner to Mary Jane Watson. There is further support in the Secret Wars Spider-man mini-series titled Amazing Spider-man: Renew Your Vows. While the current volume does not appear to share continuity with this mini-series, Dan Slott’s decision to depict Peter Parker as a husband and father broke open the concept of great responsibility, explored it for four issues, and then attempted to close the door on it. I say attempted because this is not a genie that you can just put back in the bottle; the responsibility of being a father is something that Dan Slott clearly wants to return to. “Renew Your Vows” was not even the first time Slott has referenced this concept this year. During Spider-verse, one of the key characters was Mayday Parker, the daughter of Peter and Mary Jane from Earth-982 (Marvel Comics 2). Finally, the appearance of Rhino’s deceased wife would suggest (perhaps as a red herring, but it suggests no less) that the man in the red suit has the power to make deals that involve resurrection. It is no stretch to think that any such character in a Spider-man comic might be Mephisto, the villain who saved Aunt May from doom.

While I am excited at the possibility of Peter Parker as a CEO of a multinational corporation who is married to Mary Jane and who may soon be expecting a daughter in Marvel-616, this leaves one likely and incredibly sad consequence: Aunt May, who has built a great second marriage and who has lived life to the fullest for the last few years, is going to die and this time it is for good. I might be wrong, but I don’t think I am.

2. Karnak #1 (Marvel Comics), Spoiled Edition

Karnak 01 06

“I know kung fu.”

Karnak is an example of both the best and worst that Marvel Comics has to offer. On the one hand, Warren Ellis and Jorge Zaffino immediately make it clear that there are unexplored portions of the richly developed Marvel Universe that they wish to focus on in this volume. In this sense, Karnak immediately reminds me of Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction’s classic The Immortal Iron Fist. On the other hand, the inclusion of Agents Phil Coulson and Jemma Simmons into this tale of Inhumanity almost immediately discredit this book as propaganda meant to promote the more profitable Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Karnak 01 04

Did the inclusion of characters first introduced on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD take you out of this issue?

As a reader, we exist in the tension that exists in-between, and though Ellis has been established over the years as a name you can trust, the uncertainty is further exacerbated by the fact that he is journeying from his wheelhouse of controlled story-telling (limited series) into the unfamiliar grounds of perpetual character development (ongoing series).

Ultimately, I was a strong supporter of this comic because of a couple of important factors, namely, that it is fresh and has a lot of promise. When you are reading a comic by a big name like Warren Ellis, you know that the author is going to have a lot more freedom to develop the characters and story than any up-and-coming author would. With the further addition of a non-central character, the sky is the limit. If you’re writing a series involving Wolverine, Captain America, or Thor, you are going to find yourself in a strange situation when the big shots at Marvel decide that Wolverine is going to be encased in adamantium and killed, Captain America is going to start looking his age and pass the torch on to Falcon, or Odinson is no longer chosen and Thor becomes a woman, but it wouldn’t shake the status quo if Marvel announced tomorrow that any of those things happened to Karnak. As such, I find myself excited that a name like Ellis is in charge of further developing the Inhuman biome.

Clearly, Karnak has some catching up to do when it comes to Black Sabbath lyrics, but he's learning.

Clearly, Karnak has some catching up to do when it comes to Black Sabbath lyrics, but he’s learning.

The main reason I am excited for Karnak is because I am enamored with Jorge Zaffino’s art style. While some of the ins and outs of close quarter conversation sometimes seem visually a little uninspired, when Zaffino is afforded a Stanley Kubrick-esque long shot on a scene the effect is just breathtaking.

Filling in The Inhuman map.

Filling in The Inhuman map.

The art is often simple and gritty, like a composite of Jeff Smith’s cartoonish work on Bone and the dark and gritty imagery Ben Templesmith’s 30 Days of Night. There is also a bit of homage in this series already to the pixilated coloring of early comic books and if I’m not mistaken the credit for that point of ingenuity goes to colorist Dan Brown (who I assume has nothing to do with The DaVinci Code. I think I was convinced, upon looking at the first panel of Karnak #1 (above), that I would go on to read Karnak #2 next month.

Before I sum up my feelings about Karnak, I want to point out a clever Easter Egg that Ellis planted in this issue. Writers at Marvel don’t pull any punches when they make fun of all of the acronyms involved with many of the bigger organizations within the universe like SHIELD and AIM and later SWORD. In this issue, Ellis introduces a splinter cell of AIM scientists dedicated to making life hard for The Inhumans titled IDIC (International Data Integration and Control). While it is certainly entertaining that yet another acronym has found its way into our Marvel espionage dictionary, learned science fiction fans will recognize the IDIC as the ultimate statement of Vulcan philosophy from the hit series Star Trek: “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”

Inhumans vs. Vulcans?

Inhumans vs. Vulcans?

In the next couple of months, we will know for certain if Karnak was worth our attention as a comic reading community. It is my hope that the inclusion of Agents of SHIELD was just meant to be a kick-off so the community who knows Marvel from what they see on their television will get into this comic, because the further Karnak journeys from his tether to Coulson and Simmons, the more interesting his story becomes and the more vivid and exciting the art is to behold. That is not to say I want to see Karnak completely disconnected from the profane world. In fact, one of the most entertaining moments was the introduction where Karnak is guided by monks through the hallowed Tower of Wisdom only to find that he is needed to answer a ringing satellite phone. What I am saying is that Karnak needs some space to blossom into its own unique entity without its creative vision becoming too thoroughly diluted by elements that force you to think outside of the pages of the book. I think Ellis and Zaffino can deliver this, and I think that Karnak #1 serves as one heck of a promissory note, but ultimately this is an issue that only time will tell.

* * *

I am trying something different today for the conclusion, but I expect that it might become the new normal. Last week, my friend Zac, who had a hand to play in bringing me back into reading comics after a few years, pointed out that I missed out when I neither read nor reviewed I Hate Fairyland #1. Zac was right. I managed to catch up pretty quickly — which wasn’t hard because there is only one issue to catch up on — and by way of apology for not being on my toes about everything comics, I thought I would give you a little bit of a review here. No spoilers, though.

I Hate Fairyland 01 01

The premise of I Hate Fairyland is pretty simple. Rather than your usual lighthearted romp through fantasy with the occasional difficult decision like in Alice in Wonderland or The LabyrinthI Hate Fairyland reads much more like The Monkey’s Paw. The protagonist Gertrude lives a common life, playing in her room and parading around as a princess, but when the fantasy becomes reality she immediately wants nothing to do with it, fighting tooth and nail against getting sucked into Fairyland.

Does this look like someone who wants to enter a fantasy world?

Does this look like someone who wants to enter a fantasy world?

Thus the moment that most children would love to experience — the welcome to Fairyland — is turned on its head and becomes something of a dark comedy.

No place like home.

No place like home.

No worries. Gertrude need only find the key and she can be returned home. Just as soon as we find out how easy it ought to be for Gertrude to go back home, we flash forward 27 years and Gertrude is still stuck in Fairyland.



I Hate Fairyland is a complicated story and it is unclear exactly where it is going. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this tale is the fact that either because of natural childish cruelty or some notion that murder in a dream is not actually a crime (after all, there are no bodies left over when you wake up), Gertrude transforms into something of a villain. She is the protagonist, yes, but the reader is just as often hoping that she can be stopped as wanting her to find her way home.

Skottie Young is a fantastic human being. I actually got to meet him at a convention a couple of years back and at that time I don’t know if anyone knew him for anything other than the graphic novelization of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Since then, he has become a common name at Marvel, and just about any comic that has an alternate art cover these days has Young’s signature on it. Young delivers a fantastic concept, the idea that maybe fantasy should remain fantasy and not become reality. If you look into any of the greats — The Neverending Story and Peter Pan come to mind — there is always some degree of danger and a feeling that the young hero just wants to go home, but Young turns the volume on this concept up to 11. Young is also fantastic on the anecdote level, as many of the scenes in this comic will prove. I especially liked the riddle scene with Gertrude and the Slug Lord. Though the concept and scene-by-scene execution is spot on, Young’s storytelling direction is not entirely clear by the end of the issue. My expectation: Things are going to fall apart in a very Coen Brothers kind of way, characters are going to have unexpected interchanges in the process, and readers are going to have a really fun time experiencing the whole thing.

Hit me up if I missed any fantastic comics this week. Otherwise, you’ll be hearing from me once I get through the October 28 releases.


I went to Fountain Street Church on Sunday, October 11, 2015, and Reverend  W. Fred Wooden preached one of the best sermons I have ever heard about, among other things, becoming. Wooden is committed to justice and compassion for the hurting. The sermon that week was titled “Heartaches.”

Republican Debate – August 6, 2015

This is the condensed version. You should have seen how many showed up to the forum three days earlier.

This is the condensed version. You should have seen how many showed up to the forum three days earlier.

I wrote about the Democratic Debate so, in a spirit of fairness, I will put down some words about the first Republican Debate. This is really against my best judgment because while everyone over on Team Democrat seemed concerned with student debt and crime on Wall Street, there were only two Republicans who even gave mouth service to these issues — Marco Rubio regarding student loan debt and Mike Huckabee regarding Wall Street — and those words were only said in passing. The debate began divisively with Donald Trump’s declaration that he will support nobody but himself in the general election, and the evening was peppered with ad hominem attacks and aggressive infighting. (It is worth noting that these attacks tapered near the end, perhaps due to some commercial break urging for the candidates to at least pretend that they can work together as a united party.) The loudest majority skirted the questions posed them, avoided policy altogether, and wasted our nation’s time and money by only speaking generally about truth, intelligence, Ronald Reagan, and the Christian faith.

A mentor of mine once said that if you want to calm down a group of teenagers and get something done, you have to remove the volatile elements one at a time until you reach a place of relative stability, and since I only discussed five Democrats I also thought it prudent to narrow the Republicans to the five most sensible candidates. Getting rid of Donald TrumpTed CruzChris Christie, Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker, that left us with the following five representatives of Republicans nationwide who might actually be able to keep this party together. Might.

Here’s a full video of the Debate. It has been up since August so maybe it won’t be taken down very quickly.

As always hit me up if the video link is down.

As with the Democratic Debate, it is always important to check the facts about what the candidates had to say. It just so happens that there were two volumes of corrections from for the Republican Debate, which probably reflects the number of candidates and not the amount of obfuscation. Here is the Early Edition and the Late Edition of the fact checked GOP Debate.


Marco Rubio

In my previous post I mentioned that a candidate with true vision would make for the best president, but lacking anyone with true vision the Republican Party ought to look to the minority of candidates who are truly presidential in terms of presence and concern for policy details, people who are professional enough to resurrect the legitimacy of the GOP. Of all the men on this stage, these qualifications are most easily seen in Marco Rubio. Keep in mind, my opinions are based on what the candidates brought to the Debate, and not on any amount of research or keen insight into political science.

While it is unfortunately true that Rubio’s rise to prominence has paralleled the party’s need to combat allegations that the GOP is a white men only group and Rubio’s potential to become the first Latino president would be on par with Hillary’s historical first woman presidency, his status as the Republican token minority should not deflect voters from his qualifications. For example, Rubio expertly avoided angering a tough conservative crowd by hinting at some really progressive policies regarding immigration and he was one of the only candidates who attempted to explain complex issues to the audience rather than generate sound bites. A voice who seeks to bring the public up to a higher level of discourse is always going to appeal to me.


Rand Paul

The difference between Rand Paul and the rabble is that people like Trump attack to deflect further examination of their own records, because ultimately people like Trump don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, but Rand has a tendency to hone in on hypocrisy and there is something genuine to the man in this sense. He is engaging the issues at the same time he is attacking the person who opposes him, but this isn’t the reason I took Rand Paul seriously while I tossed the other five out. When Paul speaks it is not from the pulpit of one party or another, and it is this characteristic that makes him one of the most likely candidates to engage in honest and caring bipartisan dialogue. I’ve said it before, but lest we forget, the Independents — (clears throat) THE PEOPLE WHO DECIDE ELECTIONS — like that kind of stuff. (Sorry, had to make sure the rowdy kids in the back heard what I was saying.)



Ben Carson didn’t get a lot of air time, and this won’t make the GOP look any better when it comes to winning over minority voters, but when he did get to talking I heard a lot of words I absolutely did not agree with. That said, as a renowned retired neurosurgeon, he was the one person in the room who had proven that he is intelligent and hard working. I will take that over Donald Trump’s hot air any day of the week.

The most interesting part about Carson’s air time is that Fox News was obsessed with framing his answers with photobombs or Scott Walker nodding. In fact, I was sure that in the two or so months since the debate I would have found a YouTube sensation made from video of Walker nodding in the background to the tune of Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” or some similar beat driven song. Alas, this GIF is the best I was able to find:

Maybe Carson actually gets some air time at the next debate, and maybe I’ll see a different side of him when I do.


John Kasich

Kasich may not stand a chance. He isn’t exactly the style of candidate the GOP is looking for right now. This is a race for mavericks, and Kasich comes off as more of a working, thinking man. It is likely that he was only added to the roster because he’s the governor of Ohio and the Cleveland crowd present at  the debate seemed to really like him. Like Rubio, Kasich seemed to be concerned with educating viewers on the issues and distanced himself from verbal attacks. I wonder what might have come about if soft-spoken candidates like Kasich were given the mic-time of loudmouth candidates like Donald Trump. In fact, compare Kasich’s participation in a bipartisan balanced budget push during the (Bill) Clinton administration with Trump’s non-cooperative stance and exploitation of corporate bankruptcy to avoid actual financial responsibility issues. Which one of these people do you honestly think would be better at running the country?

(ANSWER: It is not the one who is popular for “speaking his mind.”)



Nobody on either side of the aisle seems to want to associate with yet another Bush, and yet the circus that is the Republican primary crowd makes Jeb look like a real contender.

I’ll be honest. If you showed me the policies of George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush side-by side I would have no idea that they were related. In fact, the “dynasty” argument makes much more sense as a criticism of the bipartisan system than it does as a measure of whether or not Hillary or Jeb are electable candidates.

At the end of the day Jeb Bush, like his fellow Floridian Marco Rubio, just comes off as if he is taking this whole thing seriously rather than attempting to lampoon the party.

* * *

I should take this moment to clarify something that many of you who viewed the debate are probably wondering. Why did I get rid of Mike Huckabee and not Rand Paul? Rand Paul is clearly one of the free radicals that is exciting the GOP to a fever pitch, an act among acts in the side show, while Huckabee is careful, thoughtful, and well-spoken. At the same time, I was put off by how everything with Huckabee seemed to come back to his common sense tax policy. This framed him as a travelling apothecary trying to sell the masses on the idea that quinine is a cure for all that ails you. However, just as Martin O’Malley summed up the Democratic Debate, I think Mike Huckabee was the prescient individual who summed up the Republican Debate when he criticized Donald Trump Hillary Clinton in his closing remarks:

Next up, the Second Republican Debate. No spoilers, people. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet.

Comic Recommendations: October 14, 2015

The main acts over at the Big Two were Scott Snyder’s Batman #5 (DC) and Brian Michael Bendis’s Guardians of the Galaxy #1 (Marvel) featuring the Thing in a role he was meant to fill since 1961, but we all know that the best current comic is published by Image Comics so it is not surprising to find out that Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead #147 was the best comic of the week.


  1. The Walking Dead #147 (Image Comics), Unspoiled Edition

Walking Dead 147 01

The Walking Dead is the most important comic series of the Willennium, and this issue finds Rick Grimes and company reeling from perhaps their greatest tragedy yet (see TWD #144). (They happen approximately every 48 issues, but I’m never ready!) Many of the survivors are no longer deserving of that name, and their loved ones, overcome with rage, are demanding a sacrifice. Robert Kirkman proves that the sublime exists nascent in the mundane by delivering to a crowd of geeks who love large breasts and muscles (us, Geekdom, comic book lovers) a subtle conversation in a kitchen that will likely make you cry.


  1. The Walking Dead #147 (Image Comics), Spoiled Edition
This is why The Walking Dead is so good.

This is why The Walking Dead is so good.

I once spent a couple of days analyzing The Walking Dead #1 and I realized that with Robert Kirkman form is everything. Issue #147 takes the form of a triptych painting with leaves representing the past issue (Eugene’s desire to us Lydia as a hostage rather than a guest) and the next issue (Lydia drawing a gun on Andrea as they escape to the Hilltop), The centerpiece of the issue is a conversation between Rick and Michonne that was really touching.

Michonne is introduced in this issue as an apparent threat to young Lydia’s life as she stealthily invades Rick’s home, kitana drawn.

The last thing you see?

The last thing you see?

It would make sense for Michonne to want revenge. When Lydia’s mother Alpha, as they call her among the Whisperers, had members of Alexandria killed, Eugene wasn’t the only one who lost someone.

Eugene is now exploring the nuclear option.

Eugene is now exploring the nuclear option.

Michonne lost her beloved Ezekiel. Yet, when a shirtless Rick Grimes pulls a gun oin her she reveals her true purpose: to help Lydia escape to safety. Michonne confirms Rick’s worst fear, that the peaceful community has transformed into an angry mob in just a few hours’ time.

This reversal of expectation is one of the story elements that makes Robert Kirkman one of the greats. We are not talking about cheap, M. Knight Shyamalan-style plot twists. This is something different. We assign simple expectations to these characters is if they’re merely there to move the plot along, but Kirkman breathes life into the people in his stories and they surprise us with their humanity. The best example of this technique is probably when Rick takes Negan prisoner a couple arcs back instead of taking his life. Kirkman preaches that these black and white figures are not merely fodder for the dead; they are each of them a singularity and a decisive victory in the war against total annihilation of human life on this planet.

Would you believe that this isn’t even the best part?

The reason this is the comic to read this week is because of the graphic representation of a discussion, of all things. As if sumoning the spirit of the Eagles song “Desperado,” Rick confronts Michonne because she won’t let anybody love her. She pushed her children away before everything changed and she followed suit with Ezekiel after the dead began to rise. Following this conversation, Rick and Michonne share a cry. It is often noted that Rick Grimes will do anything for his family, but it is just as often forgotten that Rick is a cop and a cop needs a partner. As such, Rick’s well-being is inextricably tied to that of Michonne. The love between Rick and Michonne is not romantic or familial; it is the love that is shared by professionals who share a common goal.

Hug it out.

Hug it out.

This scene is a moment of uncommon warmth, but it is overshadowed by a sense of foreboding. Rick mentions that the death of his wife Lori and daughter Judith was the necessary condition for the depth of happiness he currently has with his wife Andrea and son Carl, so when Lydia pulls a gun on Carl and Andrea this happiness is threatened in a serious way.

Please don't go where I think this is going...

Please don’t go where I think this is going…

The implications of this face-off are huge. Lori and Judith Grimes were killed during the war with the Governor in The Walking Dead #48. Exactly 100 issues later, Andrea and Carl are potentially on their way to join the rest of the family. This next issue could be big.

My prediction: This particular application of the Lori/Judith parallel is a red herring. Ever since Negan was defeated, The Walking Dead has had a different tone. I think this is because Kirkman is shifting his focus from Rick to Carl. We are expected to read this comparison in terms of the situation that will hurt Rick the most when we should be thinking of the worst case scenario from Carl’s perspective. Carl loves Lydia fiercely, as only the young and inexperienced can. Furthermore, they have done the nasty which, in narrative terms, usually means that the female involved is pregnant. I think the most likely situation is that Lydia and her possible unborn child are going to be killed, and at the hands of either Carl or his surrogate mother Andrea. That’s actually all I want to say about that; I promised myself I wouldn’t cry…

* * *

Though The Walking Dead was the only comic that really wowed me this week, I want you to know that I am forcing myself to have really high standards. Last week I passed by Amazing Spider-man #1 despite the fact that Dan Slott’s work is consistantly great. The concept of the Uncle Ben Foundation and later the unveiling of Horizon University at the wedding of Max Modell and Hector Baez were great, but I don’t want to devote this series of posts just to reviewing Amazing Spider-man. In the same vein, something ought to be said for Batman #45 and Guardians of the Galaxy #1. First and foremost, the confluence of Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Batman is one of the best things that has happened to DC comics since Geoff Johns rebooted Green Lantern, but this episode, while certainly inspired, is not the one people are going to be talking about a year from now. As for Guardians of the Galaxy, Bendis is known for the slow build, and while GotG has long felt like his backup book or another word for Marvel Team-Up word is that he will be leaving the X-Men imprint shortly and there’s nothing more exciting than a project that Bendis is focusing his primary attention on. Will that be this volume of Guardians of the Galaxy or something else entirely? There is no way of telling. In the meantime, I’m going to keep my eyes on Batman and Guardians of the Galaxy, and if they don’t blow my mind in the next couple of months then I guess my readers will just have to tell me I was wrong.

Democratic Debate – October 13, 2015

Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee, and Martin O'Malley.

Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee, and Martin O’Malley.

Before writing something intrinsically political in nature, one must always ask, “Is this going to be worth the effort?” Certainly, there are a lot of hot topics raised by the Democratic Debate the other night and the normal social media response is to ignore everything that has been written, lump the writer into one of two possible realities, and take a giant dump over everything that has been said. In almost any other situation, I would have decided to stay silent regarding the gathering of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee, and Martin O’Malley. I haven’t been following the rhetoric that has been used on the campaign trail, and until very recently I didn’t know anyone was actually running against Clinton for the democratic vote. (I had originally thought the Bernie Sanders was an Independent candidate, and only a week ago did I learn that Joe Biden was in the Democratic race. Oops.)

Why did I break down and decide to write anything about the Democratic Debate? It really comes down to this: the candidates present were required to deal with issues that are very close to my heart, specifically the student debt crisis and the criminal acts on Wall Street that brought about the 2008 recession. Originally, I had hoped that Elizabeth Warren would have become a Democratic forerunner and Ron Paul a voice in the Republican debates, the idea being that if we had people on either side of the aisle critical of Wall Street the other candidates might be forced to take a position now and take action later. Whether Sanders and Paul’s son Rand (who I have yet to see resemble his father in terms of true courage and vision, but who I hope will come around) are going to be enough to push this issue forward for at least another twelve months remains to be seen. However, the Democratic Debates leave me hopeful in this regard.

There was something really wonderful that came from my viewing of the Democratic Debates, namely a belief that these candidates project an image of being devoted to unpacking complicated ideas and educating the American public. This piqued my interests and forced me to put on my philosopher hat. Throughout the debate I was reminded of the fundamental two questions that underlie this event:

  1. What qualifies someone to be the President?
  2. Is it more important for participants in a primary debate to be allies or enemies?

If you want to watch the full democratic debate, it is available, at least for a limited time, on YouTube:

(By the way, hit me up if the YouTube video dies. I will try and find another posthaste.)

Perhaps just as important, if you’re going to put together an informed opinion on the candidate, you should also check out the article “FactChecking the Democratic Debate” from This is a great resource for basically any speech or debate that you watch, because, whether purposely or through a slip of the tongue, the truth is often obfuscated at events like this and you deserve to know when this occurs.



I am not offering reflections on the politics of the candidates, but rather a personality profile. You have seen political rundowns everywhere. My intentions, as usual, are much more philosophical in nature. I am perfectly OK with questions remaining unanswered. With that in mind, Hillary Clinton was the most presidential candidate at the debate in just about every meaning of the word. She held herself like the Chief Executive of this nation and years of experience oozed through every word.

Keeping this in mind, I want to make a recommendation. We are better off as a nation without Hillary Clinton for president. Yes, that sounded like troll-bait, but let me finish this thought. Clinton is the type of politician who is gifted at fulfilling a role. She is at her best when she is allowed to be bold and fierce dealing with very specific policy issues and situations. That is not the president’s job. The danger of having Clinton in the oval office is that she would attempt to do too much of the work herself. Watching this debate has helped me develop a fairly stable concept of the definition of a good presidential candidate. The president ought to be a visionary leader and first delegator. In many ways, I have more respect for Clinton than any of the other candidates present, and it is clear to me that though she wasn’t the loudest voice she certainly won the debate, but that does not mean she should be president. You don’t want an experienced martial artist in the world as your chief filing clerk, not when there’s ninja-ing to do. Similarly, you don’t want Hillary Clinton tied down by the chains of being the public face of the United States of America.



I want to further expand my concept of first delegator from the previous section. Despite strong opposition in congress, Barack Obama is one of the greatest presidential success stories of recent history. Obama was elected because his vision inspired young people on college campuses and social media, the people who, over the next eight years would be starting families, buying houses, and embarking on careers, the bread and butter of a healthy economy. He was often criticized by people close to the administration because he would set an impossible goal for his team members and expect them to carry it out. He would delegate important movements forward in policy to his cabinet, to members of congress, and most important, as an activist President, Obama delegated the majority of the work to the American public.

In retrospect, it seems unfair to devote so much of my Bernie Sanders discussion to President Obama, but if you want to see what Sanders stands for just log onto Facebook. It seems pretty obvious what matters to the dude. What we know from all of our friends who are intoxicated with/possessed by Bernie Sanders is that the man has a vision for the country. He may not have been the most prepared for the debate, and he is certainly rough around the edges, but it is possible that he is about as close to the definition (that I have laid out above) of a President that we currently have in the running.

Bernie’s greatest moment helps me to tease another concept that was pretty evident at the Democratic Primary, a concept that Martin O’Malley will tie together for us, which is that these candidates have slight differences in policy but emerge as a strong group of allies. Here’s Bernie’s perspective on the email scandal:



I have a few friends in the military, and many of them are the most solid, compassionate, and capable people I know. During Webb’s introduction, I got the same feeling from him. Furthermore, along with Clinton, Sanders, and, honestly, all the other candidates, he had a tendency to address negativity with a desire to provide context and education. He was put into a difficult situation regarding comments he’d made on Affirmative Action and gun control, but he took the time to address subtle points. I haven’t watched much news coverage, so I don’t know if that comes across in their summaries, but it was seriously refreshing.

The most important thing Webb brings to the table is legitimacy for the Democratic Party. It is often said that the “independents” decide an election, and I think this is true though the veracity of this statement really depends on how you define “independent.” What independents (and many Republicans and Democrats, for that matter) want is a group of people who are going to listen to one another. They want two parties coming together and bills passing with bipartisan support. Webb takes conservative stances on self defense and other issues, but he is careful and incredibly thoughtful, re-imagining Republican ideals in a Democratic light.

I don’t think Webb is the next president, though. I liked him. He was refreshing, but I think he is, at best, the #4 candidate out of the 5 candidates president. Webb is, like Clinton, a skilled roll-player. He belongs in the president’s cabinet, and like my comments about Clinton — this is a compliment and not a show of disrespect. In service of your nation, it is not your job to climb as high as you can; it is your job to put yourself in the role that best suits your skills. Webb would make a great Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State.


Lincoln Chafee came off as soft-spoken and a little bit creepy, but I can’t fault him. He was part of a pretty strong group of candidates and kept the conversation interesting. He was much more comfortable giving pre-written speeches than debating, but that is really no reflection of his skills as a leader. Chafee is running on a “results matter” platform, and I have no reason to doubt the results that he spoke of often. Ultimately, Chafee is yet another role player.



There were a couple of moments where O’Malley came on strong and I thought: that right there is what a president looks like. I mean this in terms of appearance, fire for justice, and professionalism. Unfortunately, his presidential feel was not as consistent as Clinton’s. Otherwise, I think he might have been a real forerunner, someone to deal with.

In retrospect, I honestly don’t think that O’Malley is running for President. If Clinton is elected, she will be the first woman president, and that is a big deal. With the Republicans in disarray attacking anything that is dangled in front of them, Biden, though not present at this first debate, has a great deal of strength. He’s incumbent-adjacent, to say the least, and that means everything for people who don’t want a Republican in office but who also don’t want Hillary. As for Sanders, he’s got a lot of regular people behind him, and if he can only get them out to vote he might have this sealed. Realistically, one of these three people will probably be elected President.

So, what are Webb, Chafee, and O’Malley even doing up on this stage? Webb and Chafee might actually believe they have a chance, but I believe O’Malley has something else in mind. I think he’s honestly trying to gain enough support so he can attach himself to the winner of the primary and become the next Vice President of the United States. If my thoughts are true, he may be the only one on that stage who knows what his role in the future of this country is.

The fact of the matter is that O’Malley has become perhaps the most important Democrat in America. He may not be President in 2016, but his closing speech may have something to do with whether or not a Democrat is sworn into office at the conclusion of this election cycle. Here’s the clip:

Ultimately, the viewer needs to decide whether or not they just witnessed a debate between rivals or the proceedings of a future cabinet. As for my educated opinion, I’m not sure I have one, but having only the experience of this Debate under my belt I think that Sanders will be our next president, O’Malley will be his running mate, and at the very least Clinton will be in his cabinet, perhaps accompanied by Webb and Chafee. I do want to check out the Republican Debates. From what I’ve heard (from both Republicans and Democrats), it was a little bit of a sideshow, but that’s honestly what I’ve come to expect. I just hope to see one or two people devoted to their country more than to their own ego, because if the party is to be defined by Donald Trump I honestly think they might be best served diverting their efforts toward preparing a candidate to run against Kanye West in 2020.

People are already talking about it.

People are already talking about it.

ArtPrize 2015: UICA

Though I feel a little disappointed that I live downtown this year and didn’t spend much time devoted to exploring ArtPrize 2015, I have been keeping myself busy with aggressively attacking my own personal debt, so I can’t feel too bad. I was given a little bit of a boon on Sunday, the last day of ArtPrize, when I had a chance to check out the exhibits at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art (UICA).

There were two pieces there of note, both visible from the outside of the UICA, so they don’t even have to be open for you to enjoy these pieces.

Michael Peoples, "The Great Race"

Michael Peoples, “The Great Race”

While Michael Peoples’ “The Great Race” is not specifically aimed toward social justice, there is quite a bit that can be gleaned from this piece. These ducks, as they travel forward down the stream, meander down a wall, across a horizontal slab, and finally up and across the walls of a stairwell, forcing the viewer to make drastic changes in position and view while viewing this piece. This is an installation that is not easily captured and shared via two-dimensional photography. I do not want to put words into Peoples’ mouth, but how perfectly does this description fit the sociopolitical climate in which matters of justice are discussed. That said, my main pull to “The Great Race” was how inspired it made my wife, who is a sculptor herself. The saying “Happy wife, happy life,” though great in its use of rhyme is archaic in the engendering of its sentiment, but when you’re married to a heavily creative woman like I am any inspiration such as this pays dividends for months.

Charles Jevremovic, "Technician 3"

Charles Jevremovic, “Technician 3”

“Technician 3” by Charles Jevremovic was at once the most interesting and most ironic piece at the UICA. For me, this piece is difficult to describe. It involves waves of machinery facing the public with the occasional projection of a scientist or technician on its surface. There is a sense of Cold War anti-Soviet war games zeitgeist here accompanied by a true love for science, technology, and all things geek. The irony sinks in when you compare the presentation with the artist’s statement of purpose.

Amy is a hands on individual. While looking through the Fountain Street Church exhibits, she was scolded for touching a very impressive piece composed of handmade paper scrolls. Fast forward to our experience at the UICA, and you find a woman surrounded by knobs and buttons but separated by a cord that says “DO NOT TOUCH.” In a small theater, the UICA projected an interview with Jevremovic in which he described his work as something that you are invited and welcome to touch, suggesting that the tactile interaction is perhaps the most important purpose of “Technician 3.”

The question now is whether the imperative to keep your hands off of the installation undermined the artist’s intention for the piece, or whether the contradiction presented actually heightened the value of the art beyond what Jevremovic had intended.

Neither of these pieces are particularly easy to represent through photography or describe in words. They ought to be experienced. While I am still at a loss to further assist those who will not get a chance to view “The Great Race” in person, I was lucky to find that Jevremovic had included a short video of his piece which I have posted below.

If the UICA releases their artist statement video from Charles Jevermovic for online consumption, I’ll be sure to post that later so you can get a sense of the comedy that comes from making an interactive piece that cannot be touched.

Bookmark this Hymn for my Funeral


Just As Long as I Have Breath

Lyrics by Alice Carpenter
Music by Johann G Ebeling

Just as long as I have breath, I must answer, ‘Yes’ to life;
though with pain I made my way, still with hope I meet each day.
If they ask what I did well, tell them I said, ‘Yes’, to life

Just as long as vision lasts, I must answer, ‘Yes’ to truth;
in my dream and in my dark, always: that elusive spark.
If they ask what I did well, tell them I said, ‘Yes’ to truth.

Just as long as my heart beats, I must answer, ‘Yes’ to love;
disappointment pierced me through, still I kept on loving you.
If they ask what I did best, tell them I said, ‘Yes’ to love.

Now, living up to those words is the hard part!

Comic Recommendations: October 7, 2015

This is a big week for comic books. Scott Snyder started another weekly title for DC in the spirit of Batman Eternal titled Batman and Robin Eternal; over at IDW, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles put a close on their main story arc; Image released two Brian K. Vaughan issues (Paper Girls #1 and We Stand On Guard #4); and if you like to make yours Marvel it looks like a bunch of books either ended or started anew this week. I leafed through as many comics as I could and decided to present you with my personal favorites of the last week.

By the way, with all these Eternal titles floating around, I’m personally holding out for Alfred Pennyworth Eternal. In fact, if you’re reading this, Bob Harras, I have a heck of a pitch for this possibly future weekly title, so hit me up.

If you’re reading something that is blowing your mind this week, hit me up. I am currently only keeping up on Dark Horse, DC, IDW, Image, and Marvel comics, so I don’t know much about some of the smaller publishers and there are many titles under these imprints that I haven’t checked out because I don’t know much about their creative teams. I’m always in the mood to be inspired. Feel free to be the one who sets me up with my latest inspiration!


  1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #50 (IDW Comics), Unspoiled Edition
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #50

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #50

This new series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has quite a few parallels with the original Eastman and Laird title, so the main reveal of the momentous fiftieth issue might seem predictable. After all, the final battle pitting Master Splinter and sons against Master Shredder and his mutant goons is bound to have some casualties. However, the “war to end all wars” that takes place under the Manhattan moon is not without its surprises, and its conclusion may leave you wondering about the future of the title. I have much much more to say about this issue, but you’re going to have to delve into the spoiler zone below in order to read it.

2. Paper Girls #1 (Image Comics), Unspoiled Edition

Paper Girls #1

Paper Girls #1

Brian K. Vaughan revealed his plan for a post-apocalyptic Canada in the mini-series We Stand on Guard a couple of months ago. In 2012, Image began publishing his space opera Saga, which is likely to eclipse Y The Last Man as his magnum opus (at least from where I stand). With these two data points, I assumed it was going to be another three years (approximately 2018) before we could expect anything remotely earthshaking from BKV. Paper Girls, written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Cliff Chiang has introduced me to the joy of being wrong.


  1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #50 (IDW Comics), Spoiled Edition
Master Splinter vs. Master Shredder

Master Splinter vs. Master Shredder

While DC and Marvel have worked to wrangle decades of comic book history into a neat continuity with different methods and varying success, IDW comics has pretty seamlessly woven together elements of the Mirage and Archie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic series with the 1987 CBS cartoon and the result has varied from solid to outstanding. I white knuckled my way through the final battle between Splinter and Shredder, and thought I’d share with you the four moments when my jaw dropped. You get that I really enjoyed this issue, yes?

Donatello, in the Flesh

This is probably one of the more predictable, yet no less monumental, moments in the issue, and yet I was right there with Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael in their moment of terror as they watched the inorganic shell housing their brother’s consciousness self-detonate to take out the nigh-invincible Bebop and Rocksteady.

Metalhead-Donatello Detonation

Metalhead-Donatello Detonation

The previous issue proved that Donatello would be returning to the flesh shortly, after we saw the first of two cameos of a mutant who we can only presume to be Leatherhead holding a vile of mutagen. As I mentioned in the no spoiler zone above, the future of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle title looks like it is going to be a big old question mark, but the Donatello story arc provides us with two obvious plots as we move forward. First and foremost, (a mutant who is likely an alligator named) Leatherhead just saved Donatello’s life and that is a debt that won’t go long unpaid, but second, and probably more importantly, Donatello is going to be struggling with the limitations of his flesh. While he was Metalhead, his processors worked much faster than the human brain, and he had magnificent weapons built into his synthetic body. Now, he’s got a space age shell and bow, but there’s bound to be some depression and frustration coming as soon as Donatello sees some down time.

Shred Head, Dead

TMNT 50 09

The creative team working on IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles over the years has proven their boldness time and again, so I was fully prepared for them to turn the old stories on their head and kill off Master Splinter. If that happened, my wife was probably going to see me crying while reading a comic book. (It wouldn’t be the first time. While reading Geoff Johns’ “The Sinestro Corps War” story arc in Green Lantern, I not only cried while reading about Coast City supporting Hal Jordan with green lights in their windows, but I cried once again while describing the issue to Amy as we got an oil change in Lowell.) It didn’t happen. As predicted, Shredder bit the dust. This is a big deal, and it is really the take home message of this issue, but it is nothing new to a non-casual TMNT fan. Normally, this would be followed by a City at War arc where the gangs of New York are trying to fill the power vacuum left by the Shredder, and this might just happen, but there are some other turns of event that make me question if it will happen exactly as we expect…

Exit Michelangelo

TMNT 50 11

I may have been the most disturbed by Michelangelo leaving the group. Turtles fans are used to Raphael storming off and leaving the band of brothers for a night, a week, a month, or longer. That is just who Raph is. We have seen Leonardo depart from his family when he was brainwashed into becoming Shredder’s chunin (second in command). We even recently saw Donatello bid farewell to the team shortly before his apparent death by the hands of Bebop and Rocksteady. But there was something stomach-turning about Michelangelo leaving. Even the concept of Michelangelo, the happy, fun-loving brother, stepping out of character and bidding this lifestyle farewell is uncomfortable, but his reason for leaving makes this all the more destructive for Splinter and Company. Michelangelo witnessed his father kill Shredder, a man who was once his brother, and though it is thought of as the only honorable end for a warrior, watching your father decapitate an incapacitated enemy can’t be an easy thing to watch.

“An Honorable Death”

When the other turtles took a sabbatical, it became difficult to imagine anything getting in the way of their reunion, but under this circumstance it has become difficult to imagine Michelangelo ever being able to come back. Michelangelo is the heart of the team, and his absence will be felt heavier than any of the others in the months to come. Perhaps more important, it is unclear where he could possibly go. He has always had his buddy at the pizza parlor to talk to, but who could possibly commiserate with what this turtle has seen, what he has been through. This move is more gutsy than teasing audiences into thinking Donatello is dead, and it makes for good writing, but as much as I admire this change of direction I’m not sure it is a world I want to be a part of.

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

TMNT 50 12

In yet another unexpected turn, Oroku Karai’s first decision as Master and general of the foot clan army is to not only honor Splinter’s detante order, but to hand over the reins of the organization to Master Splinter. I half expected the rat to don the helm of Shredder, suggesting a possible future corruption a la the Star Wars: Episode I photo of young Anakin Skywalker on Tattooine with his shadow taking the shape of Darth Vader. The foot clan was once an honorable school of warriors in feudal Japan, and perhaps it can return. However, there are clearly going to be problems. Many of these ninja have grown accustomed to crime, vendetta, and the will of a seemingly undying master, and that is an influence that will be hard to break. I expect to see splinter groups (I made a funny!) arising, possibly assassination attempts, and shaky footed run-ins with Hun and the Purple Dragons.

Everything the light touches...

Everything the light touches…

I have never been more excited to read Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

2. Paper Girls #2 (Image Comics), Spoiled Edition

Wonder Woman Jr.?

Wonder Woman Jr?

Our first view into the world of Paper Girls shows a 12-year old brunette girl named Erin crouching on the moon, dressed in a one-piece swim suit and holding a large red apple, the first segment of a dream sequence that she is having just before she awakes to “Hell morning” on November 1, 1988. Erin is a paper girl, and she has a job to do. At 4:40 AM she begins preparing a stack of The Cleveland Preserver so she can mount her bicycle and deliver the Tuesday edition to her neighbors.

Hell morning!!!

Hell morning!!!

While most people I know were sold on this comic simply because writer Brian K. Vaughan was associated with the project, it was actually this first panel that told me I was going to enjoy this comic. During the current decade, I have enjoyed few comics more than DC’s New 52 Wonder Woman with the team of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, and here was a young, strong woman drawn by Chiang himself who reminded me of a pre-teen Wonder Woman. There was a feeling of continuity there, and that was enough for me to commit.

Don't mess with the Paper Girls.

Don’t mess with the Paper Girls.

The Paper Girls themselves are fantastic. They are strong, non-sexualized girls, comparable to Chris Claremont’s early Kitty Pryde or Louise Simonson’s female Power Pack members, Julie and Katie Power. The story is driven by the obligatory banding together of young female “paper boys” during the dangerous period following Halloween. I will say that I am in this book for the characters. There is nothing wrong with the plot. The mutant alien ninjas (?) and the strange (organic?) device and the possible transportation to another place in the cosmos are all fine and good — it feels a little bit like the beginning of LOST with the mysterious island full of smoke monsters, charging polar bears, and ghosts from the past, and this is not unsurprising since Vaughan helped the creative team at LOST as they steered the hit success toward its conclusion — but ultimately the tone of urgency, danger, and uncertainty drives home a much bigger punch than any of these plot devices.

What exactly is going on here?

What exactly is going on here?

If I’m giving the creative team due diligence, I would have to say that I’m excited to see how Vaughan’s new epic is going to unfold, but if I’m being honest with my first opinion on this comic, I would be happy just to see some dazzling splash pages by Cliff Chiang. Truthfully, I’d probably keep picking up Paper Girls even if all I did was flip through the pictures every month.

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This review does not exactly take into consideration solid comics that are holding the line, so issues like Batman and Robin Eternal #1, We Stand on Guard #4, Amazing Spider-man #1, and Star Wars #10 perhaps didn’t get the praise that they deserved. We need comics like those to keep the industry running, and it is within these series that we are likely to see some of the best issues in the coming months. However, I really want to focus on those comics that are really bringing everything they have, staying true to the characters and histories that they are a part of while also presenting enough depth and excitement to bring in new readers. In other words, if you are not reading Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Paper Girls you are missing out, plain and simple.