Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Childhood comics: Remembering Paul Kupperberg and Lonesome Pinky in Amazing Spider-Man #221

Remembering Alan Kupperberg, and the Denny O’Neil Amazing Spider-Man days

As I was vividly recalling each page of one of my childhood possessions, Amazing Spider-Man #221, I realized Denny’s run, save for the Deb Whitman subplot, seems very episodic, like television at the time. This simplicity might be one reason his ASM’s not as widely critically regarded, yet I recall his work distinctly. He’s very obsessed with time- the costume change and the trip back for the antidote come to mind-in a way that helps set the drama in detail. He’s blessed with longtime Spider-Man inker Jim Mooney, who keeps things consistent despite numerous fill-ins over an already-promising John Romita, Jr. I think the last time a cover declared the blurb “Crisis On Campus!”- back in ASM #68, was it?-Jim was often inking John Romita, Sr. or Don Heck.From Alan's Custom Comics work

One of those fill-ins featured Alan Kupperberg, whose work I want to remember today to mark his passing from this world on July 17th, 2015. I remember his name and work on Amazing Spider-Man #221 very clearly. Always a handy utility artist, Alan caught the agility of the wall-crawler, hand springing and kicking his opponent Ramrod, staying a step ahead of the very punk-rock-looking bruiser. I remember his sweaty Dr. Kissick and his sinister Ramrod along with his great Spider-Man figure work. The issue was briefly the only comic book I owned, surviving the ravages of my childhood ownership, so from the day Mom let me get it at North Broad Produce Market, I read it dozens of times. It became one of six comics from 1981 I got in real time. I rarely got to visit that Market, but I loved its citrus smells and would later see Iron Man #169’s dramatic tease about the new Iron Man- but we’ll get to Luke McDonnell July 19th, since that’s his birthday!
I committed every creator’s name to memory back then, as each issue that I gratefully took home was, to me, a star turn. After I became Facebook friends with Alan, I asked him about his turn on Incredible Hulk #300, which I finally got decades after its dramatic appearance in 1984. Alan got to draw most of the New York City-based Marvel superheroes in that issue, which sent the Hulk off to the Crossroads and his savage otherwordly final arc under Bill Mantlo. My attention to his credit, he said, brought quite a blast from the past. It was nice to get new fan mail, he said, from such a long-forgotten job. But Alan’s not forgotten. OH, yeah, sometimes confused with his Doom Patrol revivalist writer brother Paul, sure! But, from his first Marvel work on Crazy, the Magazine That Dares To Be Dumb, in 1976 onward, Alan had a journeyman career, from Captain America #240 throughout the 80s and 90s. He broke in, in 1974, at Marvel, working with Neal Adams’ Continuity Associates.
He had a good Black Cat you can find in issues of Peter Parker, and kind of excelled in the kind of parodies and cartoon humor with which his professional career began. Just look for Spider-Ham back-ups in Marvel Tales! He also took over the Howard the Duck newspaper strip after Gene Colan. In 1987, he drew the Peter Parker Honeymoon annual and the infamous ASM #289, where Ned Leeds is finally killed as the apparent Hobgoblin in flashback. Blue Devil, Firestorm, JLA, Warlord- his list afterwards at DC is a busy one!

What we’ll do here, though, is spend a few minutes over that one of many art jobs Alan probably spent a couple of weeks knocking out, ever reliably. Spider-Man was still in the long-standing pattern, only briefly messed with by Marv Wolfman when he finally decided Peter ought to at least graduate college, where the company really didn’t want to change his status quo and had a reasonably successful formula to keep pumping out adventures of their busiest trademark. Character studies and short story ingenuity become the episodic recourse. One can only take their best shot at saying something meaningful, like the colorfully-titled “Blues For Lonesome Pinky!”

I remember many times trying to ape Alan’s able splash page, where Spidey soars over Empire State University campus. His ESU phase as a Master’s student in physics and teaching assistant is usually handled over in Peter Parker, referenced in our Roger Stern Spectacular Spider-Man overview. His relationship with Debra Whitman, a secretary at the college, and rivalry with Biff Rifkin over her is, like his Daily Bugle dealings, usually Amazing’s province, under Denny. We’re swept into Dean Sloane’s office for a quick rundown on his status as T.A. and student. But a big creep’s leaning on a Doctor Kissick, nearby, blackmailing the professor for a poison.
The shiny-skulled baddie, as referenced by editor Tom DeFalco, is Ramrod, a Steve Gerber-Bob Brown “’Frisco” era creation who fought Spider-Man during his guest appearance in Daredevil #103. He sets off the ol’ Spider-Sense, and – I think it’s a ten second costume change later- the wall crawler’s taunting the heavy on the University Commons. Alan gives us a round one resembling what you might call The Rhino Strategy, until Ramrod wises up to the way out: heave a massive statue at the clustered students, then beat feet!

Peter consents to a bluegrass bar visit at the behest of his neighbor, the Kinky Friedman-styled country warbler Lonesome Pinkus, who’s become a fixture in recent issues, his goofy lyrics resounding off-key throughout Parker’s apartment building.
Here, the arm of coincidence stretches, with Debbie showing up on a date with her returned ex-husband Biff, and Peter settling on a glass of milk before a wretched Lonesome Pinky performance ends with erratic behavior worthy of a punk rock riot. Why? The beer’s poisoned...and Spider-Man clashes with the spiked patrons. But now, we get O’Neil’s human interest touch: Pinkus tries singing, desperately laying down some blues. This somehow quiets the bar, so as I recall, Spider-Man swings back to ESU campus to consult Dr. Kissick.

His grilling leads to a dose of antidote set aside to complete Ramrod’s ransom scheme. Spider-Man’s moving fast, again gracefully rendered, clock ticking. The pulse-pounding race, however, comes across a hurdle I’ll bet doesn’t surprise you much: Ramrod’s posed masterfully outside, to check out his crime scene. Would you believe he picked this bar because they told him he couldn’t sing and would give him a gig? A guy with an endo-skeleton like his would be a natural for heavy metal. Insults. Hopping. Wall-crushing. But a few mighty thumps from Spidey just aren’t slowing him down, and time’s running out for the bar patrons. Meanwhile, Lonesome Pinkus delivers the performance of his life, eschewing the corny country and western act for some apparently improvised painfully-real blues. I think it makes a subtle cultural comment on country’s new-found pop turn of the times compared to less-put-on, more sincere songwriting of the kind that made Greenwich Village famous, as quintessential 60s kid O’Neil would doubtless know. Lonesome’s expressions by Alan Kupperberg stay with me as much as Spider-Man’s kicks and bounces; facial expressions are his strength.

The junkyard finale actually takes a humorous turn. Ever the wise ass, Spider-Man makes good use of puns and used tires to set Ramrod up for a coup de grace. What do you do with a man with a metallic skeleton and skull who just won’t stop being antisocial? You stick him to a crane-mounted salvage magnet! O’Neil’s been good at finding non-Rogue’s Gallery types Spidey can’t just punch out; he even smushed together his new Hydro Man with the similar classic Sandman to make a mud creature you don’t want to muck with, in ASM #218. I loved Spidey’s immobilization of his bullying metal-enhanced foe.

But where the team goes for the extra-special touch is the depiction of Pinkus grasping his throat. He’s been begged to stay in the Spidey-turned spotlight and keep the crowd in check, because if they rampage elsewhere they may never be cured in time. His harsh rasp gives out just as the wall-crawler arrives in the nick of time to play bartender, a role we’ve never seen anywhere else. Debbie, Biff, everyone’s saved by the elixir-enhanced beer, but unnoticed, unheralded in a way we usually associate with Spider-Man himself, Lonesome Pinkus wanders off after the show of a his crazed audience will find impossible to remember.

And so memorably did Dennis and Alan and company tell this over-looked tale, I can tell you, all these years later. It’s the unsung heroes, like Mr. Pinkus, that keep the grind of recurrent trials going, pouring maybe a little special something of themselves into these crevices between the concrete of earth-shaking canon events. It’s the dreamer who comes for that forgotten turn in the spotlight that keeps the club there through good months and bad. Sometimes, they leave a little flower of beauty, struggling to survive in its natural way of finding life, noticed by the humble random passerby.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Iron Man and Spider-Man's John Romita Jr.: 1st Marvels

1st Marvels: John Romita, Jr. INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #115

Mantlo’s run becomes history, and Layton/ Michelinie/ Romita makes history

Paired with the inker who would notably join him on Uncanny X-Men- Marvel’s best direct market seller- the son of Silver Age Spider-Man artist John Romita followed his namesake over a decade after that future Art Director came to Marvel. I virtually forgot John Romita, Jr. got his first assignment drawing a back-up for Amazing Spider-Man Annual #11 in 1977. His full-book premiere comes in Invincible Iron Man #115, a 1978 issue which, with a few fill-ins, marks his regular tenure there.
When new writer and new inker David Michelinie and Bob Layton begin directing Iron Man, next issue, a definitive Bronze Age team comes together, making a modern look and feel for the mechanized marvel that influenced Jon Favreau and his own team on the box-office smash Iron Man movies.

But everyone’s got to start somewhere, and it so happens JR, Jr., as he’s often nicknamed, got the Iron Man assignment as Bill Mantlo departed the strip. Nowadays, a one-hundred-twenty-degree heat pounds a location like modern Mosul, where remainders of American armaments fell into the hands of ideological extremists who brutalized their Iraqi neighbors they could not recruit. No reasonable, woke person could blindly romanticize the power of advanced field weapons, which are only as good as the soldiers wielding them. By 1978, the attitudes shaped by Vietnam and Americans touched personally by foreign policies had led to a more counter-culturally-shaped, energy-research-oriented Tony Stark. Mantlo revived many old favorites such as the old Mandarin-gets-switcheroo-Iron Man, Ultimo stomping towards the capitol where Stark’s again been subpoenaed, Spymaster, Madame Masque and Jasper Sitwell. Outside Midas and his recruits there was nothing really new going on.

If you were new to Invincible Iron Man, Mantlo and Tuska delivered a reasonable superhero take with remixed classic touches- even a new Guardsman, complete with O’Brien brother inside. If you liked those things, you now had the latest version. As a young collector, I was attracted to the look of the Guardian armor and the back issue price was right, so these were my first versions of these characters, and #100 came with a Starlin cover, too. Mantlo gave us a the only appearance of the initially-successful Frankenstein Monster in a few years, and for many more, along with Dreadknight, a new villainous successor to Black Knight. Outside the Soviet Super Soldiers and brand-new Jack Of Hearts, we were back to the 1960’s story ingredients without the virulent anti-Communism. This would fit well with the general Jim Shooter approach coming in the 1980s; this was, in fact, the year Shooter was assigned Editor-in-Chief.

Romita’s debut continues those revisited elements. In fact, the hardest part of this storytelling- and granted, there are fans of this handbook-like approach-is how #115 takes the “revisit” element to such an extreme, there’s literally almost no new story whatsoever! When we reach the end of “Betrayal!” Stark’s ambushed by more characters from the past: the Ani-Men, recruited as muscle, apparently quite quickly, by Whitney Frost (Madame Masque), turned, as it were, on a dime by the return of Count Nefaria, an old-time Avengers foe. This is the sequel to his appearance in Avengers, a title being written at this point by a combination of Shooter, Micheleinie, Steven Grant and Mark Gruenwald, drawn in alternating arcs by John Byrne and George Perez.

There’s a rich reliance on existing Marvel continuity, but it overwhelms the utterly decompressed plot. Funny thing is, continuity between issues is about to fly out the window when the next team debuts, but then a new set of long-term threads begin weaving a modernized classic overshadowed at the time only by the revolutions in Uncanny X-Men and Daredevil.
Romita doesn’t take a strong presence in plotting this early in his career; the writer and inker will become the prime story drivers and give him lots of great stuff to draw.
JR will get to co-create Jim Rhodes, Justin Hammer- famously picked up and re-defined by the movies, Rhodey going on to become an Iron Man in his own right.
He gets the unflappable Mrs. Arbogast, reliable plant security chief Vic Martenelli, French business woman Yvette Arvil, bodyguard/ private investigators Bethany Cabe and Ling McPherson, who represent a Charlie’s Angels-flavored new breed of female support characters. Beth especially has more depth than the average love-interest, doubling as an action hero and confidante, not to mention an initial rival for the job of Tony Stark’s bodyguard! Suddenly, a character doesn’t have to be an Avenger to be recognizable. Everything gets specific!

It’s hard not to look ahead to this much-regarded three year run, because JR’s debut relies entirely on looking backwards. There’s a few proportion problems and the inking leaves the new penciler seeming a bit old-fashioned, appropriate for the Mantlo-era tone which often sported Jack Kirby covers, too. The bigger challenge yet, however: illustrating several pages of handbook review of the past of the fallen Unicorn, capped on front by a wrap-up of the departing Avengers, filled in with more morose Stark distance and the cliché “there goes a guy without a care in the world” from a guard, and a Tony Stark fist fight with Bird Man, Frog Man, Ape Man and Cat Man that ends with yet another betrayal from the recently-disguised Whitney/ Masque. Stark doesn’t get a particularly clever showing, just a scenario meant to invoke armor-less peril of the title character and a reasonably-quick-to-comprehend motivation for Masque’s betrayal. His shadowed intention was to make the dying Unicorn a pawn to the silhouetted “Other”- hard to miss the general shape of the Titanium Man, who re-outfits Unicorn with a new power beam and points him destructively in Iron Man’s direction. This all comes out when Stark utilizes a device to read Unicorn’s discordant memories, which nonetheless play out as an orderly recap of his previous three appearances and an unrevealed scene behind his present attack. There’s little discernible personality- he’d make a complex Saturday morning cartoon villain, but his character hook’s unchanged. Worse, this is all unveiled at this juncture without any development for another year, so it’s really just Bill leaving us a planned thread and cashing another quick check for hitting deadline. Romita’s relieved of pacing actual scenes, in favor of a pastiche flashback. This might’ve made the drawings themselves a simpler task for the beginner, who, with little plot and an information dump, has plenty of space, indeed, has to stretch some to get his seventeen pages.

We do revisit “he’s alone in his shell,” emphasized once again amidst the Avengers. He’s bossy jerk to the Beast. This is underscored by his later lonesome thought that he’s always surrounded by obedient machines. His concern over standing up Whitney is meant to establish he has a heart beyond his now-never-depicted lady’s man playboy life. Bill’s giving us characterization- but little interaction.

What we come to associate with John Romita Jr. suggests he’s better suited for what’s ahead. Prefiguring Magnum P.I., we’ll get a James Bond spin on Tony, complete with wry flirtation and glamorous women. Romita loves the cosmopolitan. If his Iron Man moves far away from the socially-conscious style, his superheroics embrace the coming decade’s love of computers and futuristic sheen. If his work’s subsumed beneath a very stylistically-heavy Bob Layton on inks, the armor itself becomes sleek, characters, realistic and demonstrative, and settings, referential. Suddenly we have a Stark who might take time to hit Studio 54, gambling in a tux in Atlantic City, disguising as a phone company worker on Long Island. The battle to remain free of munitions making embroils Stark Industries with S.H.I.E.L.D. itself! Stark has turmoil, but also friends, and reflects new ideas.

In 1980, JR Jr. begins Amazing Spider-Man in #208. Leaning on character drawing and a love for New York City itself, he catches on by #223-the end of O’Neil’s run-as the regular artist for another amazing team-up under Tom DeFalco with former Spectacular Spider-Man writer Roger Stern.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Halfway Through Life

Half way through Life?

You know, wherever you are, in a meaningful sense, you’re at the Beginning!
Everything- even your memories- can only be experienced Now. So whether you spend now thinking of your day, your life, days ahead, the distant past, the far-flung future-it’s still Now, the one moment you have.
Now, a neurological study of the brain I read, years back, pointed out that even “now” is really just a shade in the past, a few microseconds lag in your response. But consciousness is consciousness, isn’t it?

As the sun sets, I notice dark’s just barely come a bit earlier than it did even two weeks ago. Something about the length of the sunlight’s always fascinated me. I think it’s Potential, you know? Of all the things you can go out and do before the sun sets. You could be just as excited about the length of the night: for sleeping, for going out to enjoy an event or possibly meet someone. When I was a kid, summer between school years was longer, and I loved the beginning of summer. Maybe we didn’t have the money or time to spend it traveling or visiting some relative with a great home or playing out a season pass to Six Flags or Disney World or to go skiing on the lake, but at minimum, it was my own time! I’d think of what I wished to think about, and sleep was malleable. In fact, this second week of July, more often than not, was vacation time, so as I noted in a post about my Dad, my family and, uhm, Iron Man, in June, we were usually in a different setting, hopefully doing some cool different things, some camp out and fresh air and family stuff. At minimum, I was wondering off playing pretend in some different setting.

But I was conscious of every change in the passage of the seasons. We lived in the country much of my childhood, and Paw Paw’s garden, as well as our own, also reflected the changes: corn and tomatoes are ready about now, beans need picking. I went outside to play pretend- spent more years than I think is normal just wandering about in the foliage imagining my own stories, my own shows (which sometimes I played out with my watch to keep up with programming time and commercials, developing my own sense of story pacing). I imagined meeting pretty girls and being part of a gang of friends and good times and games. I lived out the commercials and music videos. I comforted myself often with the thought there was still plenty of time, and did I realize it or not, I appreciated the time I had spent in my own treasured world.

Defending the territory of my own little world is a big, big reason I ever try to make a living with my imagination. I value entertaining people- I love my investment in a bit of private time living on to share with others. It’s amazing when someone responds, rejoinding with my musings, stories, songs. Like, wow, that went from my head to theirs and then made it back to mine! I like sending feedback to others when I can for the same purpose: sharing, the creation of yet another new things shared. I love insights. I love Imagination. I love Possibility. I love Now.

I’d considered what to say about a comic book- one I got in embarrassing trouble back in fifth grade for peeking at in Math class- one I was borrowing at the time. It had been printed a year or two before. I was already nostalgic, if you call it that, for the times as a child I would find comics on the magazine or spinner rack, and though I could have very few of them, I would pirate their images and my glancing understanding of their stories to play them out in my back yard. I was keeping a person inside alive, my embodied enthusiasm and energy. I never owned this comic, but it came from a time when a comic book was my very favorite item in the entire world, and right now, since Spider-Man’s just been in a movie where he nearly joined The Avengers, it’s even possible to write about it and share it with an eager audience- maybe even in a book, which builds that career I need to preserve that Self I carried inside against all temptation and logic otherwise.
I had my topic and a strong memory and several points of connection from which to write. But first, I had to nap.
Before I fell asleep, I had the thought that I may well be already halfway through this lifetime- and that’s if it’s a fairly long-lived one! Our mystic reading years ago interested me in imagining a lifetime of hundreds of years- and with the changes as yet unforeseen, who knows just how long a life will grow to be? But it’s just as I put it in the lyrics of our song “Dear Future” nearly ten years ago: “With nine hundred years left, to savor your treasures- there’s guarantees for nothing but today!” So here we are. Today. Now.

I thought how, fortunately, if I’m halfway through life, I’m only one-third of the way of spending it, in all hopefulness, with Angela Dawn. Greedy for money, not so much, but experience? It’s most of what I really have and most of what I really want. Potential- the cheery idea that we have still plenty of time, possibly even most of our time yet, to love each other and appreciate each other’s company-is an emotional comfort against worry. So is not thinking at all. When, instead of going out to swim or take up some other summer leisure, I was push-mowing the lawn at my Mom’s after work, I simply resigned myself to the present- to the task at hand. Sure enough, when Anj came out to relieve me of the mowing a few minutes, I had a seat on the porch I always mean to clean, and looked out onto the yard I always think of as a place I could go have much more recreational fun than I ever really do- freshly cut, open, Potential. The root of that word is “potens”- power- and Potential is powerful indeed. I relished the particular cool of the evenings of late, some twenty degrees or so below the high of today. The breeze has its own peculiar sensory conversation with mind, body and soul. I didn’t envy anyone else their friends, family and summer fun, for those moments. I treasured the time I’d spent bonding with that plot of land, chopping away with Anj on that lawn.

I await my partner, artist Joe Phillips, and his new outline preserving our ideas staked out thus far in pursuit of a more unique and light-hearted version of Hero Duty, the strip we’re creating for IDW Publishing. Naturally I hope it’s just the start, halfway through life, in turning a life of daydreams into a reality of continuing creation and sharing. That's to say nothing of friendships I've known, and ones I can't even foresee! Somehow it makes me feel like summer’s just begun. I look forward to beginning my new podcast series and eventually, a video series for YouTube, starting with a conversation with a real, honest-to-Gosh comics creator and friend, Dave Kraft, who entertained me many, many times as a child even when I didn’t realize he was yet again the uncredited writer of my coloring book or Pez comic, and of course when I knew it was him, too, writing my back issue of The Defenders or The Savage She-Hulk. I look forward to recording songs I’m playing with our friend Steve McMahon, and his wife Claudia, who shared her recognition of that conversation the breeze brings to our feelings while she listened to me clumsily tinker out the chords to “Why Can’t We Sail Away?”- where the sea breeze “blows your name.”
It feels like I shouldn’t give up- and what, wait to die? Just like that urge that kept me getting back up to mow a lawn whose completion seemed closer to possibility, it feels like if I just keep at it, the books and songs and comics career forge profits of all sorts- become cartoons and TV shows and even movies! There may yet be a family. More friends- I mean, these I have came from their lives to mine, and I didn’t even know these people existed years ago, when my friends were my family. I still have the enthusiastic support of Bali, the biggest fan we ever had and the person who made martial arts and comics fun and interactive. We may even see each other again. I’ve had to let go of cherished people and move on from other times, and yet, every day, when I set aside worry and exhaustion, ideas await. No amount of possibilities that fell apart ever terminated Whatever your age, I wish to evoke that in you, in anything I do.
To wonder too often how long one has to live is truly to think too much on a thing yet undiscovered. Its single value is to enhance the present so that we use the best of our past. To make the best of our future.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming- Not always cool, but Amazing to the end Review (no spoilers)

Spider-Man: Homecoming

2017. As the opening title suggests so very cinematically, the Marvel Universe marches on: so many successful, entertaining movies, and with the arrangement struck with Sony, last spring’s Civil War reunited them with the company’s flagship character: the best selling merchandise character in the entire world by a wide margin. Now, Spider-Man’s on, more or less, his new solo debut. We’re getting a lot of things I’ve longed for: no Origin Story repeat, for one, the most formulaic aspect of these wildly-popular movies. Humor. A full Marvel Universe. But as I read a few interviews to prepare a preview, some questions roll into my mind.

Is Heroism still hip? Is altruism relatable to modern audiences? What sort of attitude will Pete have?
How much actual teenager culture will we see in Peter’s life?
Any room for friends? After all: who’s a complete loner anymore?
How different will this villain be- from previous Marvel villains and from his comics incarnation?
Speaking of friends: how different will Spider-Man be with mentor Tony Stark as a supporting character? Not always, but most of the time, Peter was alone against trouble, alone in the angst of his secret identity- especially emphasized in his earliest years under Ditko.

The day’s finally come. Before we get to any spoilers, I have to tell you Spider-Man: Homecoming’s A-grade entertaining! The three ladies who went with me all enjoyed the movie very much- but Spidey always did seem like the type of personality appreciated as much by fans regardless of gender. The ten year-old boy joining us says “It was amazing!” Kids almost always enjoy a Spider-Man movie, and hey, most of all, this is definitely for them! The diverse cast offers a friendly attitude towards a future, in America and around the world. Classic fans get Liz, Betty Brant, an MJ, and best of all, a Flash Thompson, the popular kid who picks relentlessly on our nerdy hero.

As for the origin, with a pretty decent one featured in a film just five years back, maybe the “super-abilities” part is as simple as Presley put it: “I think someone getting bitten by a spider and gaining powers is cool!” Uncle Ben’s loss gets a meaningful glimpse in a line about keeping his I.D. secret from May, and the implicit “power/responsibility” part’s something we see Peter still learning all through Homecoming. Space that went towards the Twilight Zone-twist origin and the Daily Bugle and ever-curmugeonly J. Jonah Jameson, this time out, goes instead to Peter’s high school life. For once, he’s definitely a teenager- just as he began under Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

Some of that space also goes to Tony Stark and his trusted valet, Happy Hogan, reprised by Robert Downey, Jr. and Jon Favreau. This gives Avengers fans- of which there’s so very, very many brought together by the organically-grown super storyline dating back to Iron Man (2008). This brings, to many, the deepest structural changes to the Spider-Man mythology this time out: he’s the junior superhero in every since. Captain America PSA’s are shown in the high school. (Hannibal Burress plays the gym teacher with the line: “...although I’m pretty sure Cap’s a war criminal or something by now, but I’m required by the state to show these!”

The move from Avengers Tower to the new upstate New York compound creates a huge part of the plot, and its climax. The fallout on the streets of New York from the battles of aliens and gods directly effect the life of that villain to whom I alluded earlier: a pleasantly-fleshed-out Vulture, complete with much more realistic and dangerous-looking equipment with which to take to the air, played by Michael (Birdman, Batman!) Keaton. I’ll publish another post with the spoilers, but let’s just say his alter ego springs a fascinating surprise- and gets one himself- based on his private life.
Super heroes always call forth a bit of inherently-optimistic futurism; it’s part of their wonder. From his original appearance on, Peter Parker always devised technology for his personal uses, inventions like his web shooters, webbing, and even back in 1963, his tracer tracker. I think the quantum-leap in his equipment-for which he’s clearly not prepared, but whatevs- makes him more appealing to the imagination of future audiences for some time to come. His use of special personal devices fits neatly with the lifestyles of millennials everywhere.

Like in Civil War Iron Man’s again a support character instead of the lead. But his part doesn’t overshadow screen time for Spider-Man; in fact, there’s a long Marvel tradition of loose cannon Spidey getting down-country from the officially licensed Avengers. The close personal tie provides a rich surrogate older-brother figure, or some might say, a father-figure. Paternal instincts make an interesting mix with the aging but still vivacious playboy.

I loved the casting. The other big change, on a more subtle level, gives Peter- and Spider-Man- someone with whom he can talk. Ned’s an engaging best friend (played with fanboy awe and geeky charm by Jacob Batalon). And Karen’s maybe an even bigger change- but from director Jon Watts’ point of view, this A.I. gives Spider-Man another screwball companion to allow for extended suspense sequences that aren’t played in awkward, boring silence. AS my pal Dave Kraft, a dyed-in-the-wool pulp aficionado who grew up thinking of Spidey as a “second-stringer”- but eventually got to write him in many popular media-put it, Spider-Man’s a very talkative, witty, wise-ass guy. The movie plays up that part beautifully. His youthful naivete is touching, realistic, and grounded. Tom Holland above all really shines.

Stunts, special effects – a part they’ve been getting very right in Marvel Cinemaverse. The final battle’s unique nonetheless in its mid-air and Coney Island isolation.

Spider-Man, in the comics’ fifty-five year search for novel approaches, has basically evolved into a type of Tony Stark-like boss of his own technological corporation. I’m glad we didn’t have to experience that level of shock. Back to high school, and more ground-level simplicity than ever, while presenting novel gimmicks that enhance action and the ongoing comedy of Peter’s adjustment to his role: these six screen writers pulled together.

And oh yeah: is heroism hip? Oh, probably not. Without overwhelming the story in melancholy, Peter’s dual life, true to form (Parker Luck!), ruins everything he looks forward to as Peter Parker and complicates his every accomplishment. If one thing rings home, it’s as I told ten year-old Presley: “No matter how cool you become, stupid stuff still happens.” You just can’t be a spectacular figure in any realistic light without mixing it up with the occasional garbage can.

Jon Watts starts the myth anew with an appealing young star, an Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) with whom everyone’s flirting, a promising alliance with the Avengers- and a good old fashioned friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

Write Your Novel! (and I'll Write Mine) A look back, a look forward

Write Your Novel: How I Did It, and Believe You and I Can Do It AGain!

Summer More Fun Than Others?

I have a lot of creative ideas visit me each summer. If I can wash away any corners of maudlin thought or unnecessary conflict, what’s left besides Creativity, Kindness, Love, Beauty, Expansion, Abundance, and Receptivity? There at every pivot is another helpful possibility, vibrant, opening another detail, unlocking ideas towards the future- and the future of each individual invention, or even each individual relationship. An impulse awaits to unlock more of my energy and engage with some work: helping someone, making something or offering an activity that will help or delight a person, filling the present with another logical part of progress.

I love the feeling of mild anticipation, love when it waits for me on either side of my sleep, an almost conspiratorial sense as if preparing a surprise. I love when my thankfulness fills the emotional spaces in between my actions. I love when I’m in such a mode of appreciation and attention that simple details take on meaningful resonance. I love when my skin practically tingles with my imagination interacting with another impulse towards activity. I love when it’s a spontaneous moment, and I love when it’s a vision of many pieces coalescing into the edifice of a strong story, song, essay, career defining pathway. I love living them out in my imagination, and I love recording that journey in some way that marries practice with spontaneous discovery. I love when walking a passage seems like another handful of a thread through a secret, rewarding maze, invisible to the world- but sometimes, possible to depict!

I enjoyed that first month of summer all my life, when the freedom for my mind to play would first open the possibilities of time all my own. When I was given access to my grandfather’s typewriter, I began composing my own index, emulating the format of text guides that provided credits, title, a list of dramatis personnae and their ongoing continuity, and then, a succinct plot synopsis with which the imagination could conjure a story in the most terrific images and style imaginable. I would try to envision what the pages of these never-drawn comics might be like, what pacing and angles might compose the panels. I drew a few humble comics, too, and creating a checklist and funny bulletins of titles that, if I only had time free, I would love to write as a coherent universe of individual tales. I’d drink sweet tea and sit outside in the cool of morning with my own type write, a twenty-five year-old hand-me-down from my aunt, staying geeky long after supposed grown-up interests and the cruelty indoctrinated in adolescence would’ve otherwise subsumed my wonder.

I have made each of my completed books, largely during that late spring/ early summer block of the year. I have at least contributed heavily to each of them during that time, and it seems to return to me each blessed year. The task itself takes control of my life, and I lose myself in its joy.

So I wrote a real novel. Yes. It’s a process detailed four years ago now across the June and July entries of Be Chill, Cease ill. Once I settled in, I began writing, over the course of six weeks, first 1500, then between 2000 and 6000 words daily. I kept up with my weekly word totals. I would revise as I went along, and would accept getting less total words in some days for the sake of spiffy up writing from the day or days before. Since I was commemorating memories to serve a specific, emotionally-satisfying purpose, I talked often with my partner, best friend, and incidentally, wife, Angela Dawn. I’d intended to do this for years, tried drafting early parts many times. I guess a quiet desperation mounted to finally see it through, so as to appreciate its value as a story, moreso than to acquire my own book.
I read similar materials, though I also read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods that spring, too. Point is, I wanted to craft an extended narrative, so that’s what I read.
I believe I was reading books aloud together with Angela when it occurred to me the directness of the romance novel format- which develops character, but also moves plot forward in a straight-forward manner without Faulknerian rambling- would center a story that could just as easily have been filled with lengthy digressions and experimental approaches and clever tricks. This way, I would ascribe the emotional atmosphere of each beautiful moment I wished to fictionalize/ novelize, then resume the business of moving the characters’ lives forward. I was well into the process when I figured out the ending- the last two weeks saw a more deliberate pace, crawling up from probably 60 thousand to right at 73 thousand words. I also posted suitable samples that would not give away too many surprises nor catch our characters in, well, too sexy a moment too often, as intimacy, its discovery, was my subject, rather than smut. I lived in the world of that story those six weeks. It was the last and probably most major and complete work I did living in California.

Sometime later, I incorporated the diary addition, as I was handed my grandmother’s diary of the most romantic period of her own young life, after she started seeing my grandfather. I felt the characters, who had embraced Love as though they invented it, would benefit from a tie-in with the similarities true love reflects in lives of all generations. The change in the times, the more liberated modern era’s contrast, also spelled out some ways their love was unique to its era. I found the perfect place for them to make that discovery and inserted adapted bits into that expanded late-book chapter. I had used the distance of California, physically, to reunite with everyone in our lives as they had appeared in the perspective of that time. In some ways, the account served as my own diary. Now while revisiting our home state and towns, I could add the finishing touches.

Almost a year after I began my rough draft, (I’d Go) Anywhere With You went on sale on, May 1st. I made, once I had online access again daily, my first attempts at publishing and sales, printing copies on demand through CreateSpace and getting an interview with a local radio show hosted by Nell Regan. My book was carried in the two local bookstores; I had a rather dreary attempt at a book signing at Dogwood Books, accompanied by posters spread across downtown carefully, and made a few bucks playing my guitar that day. I tried contacting book clubs- no luck- and offering my book for review- no luck- as well as to a few likely publishers. My query had- no luck. But I sold a copy here and there personally along the way, and sometimes I’d have an Amazon sell, even over seas!

As much as Anywhere became my first complete actual experience writing a novel, that still tells only part of what it meant to me, and what might it mean to you, if you read it. Would you rediscover the initial, perennial elements of young love? Would you remember a time, or a dream you had of love? Would you enjoy a coming of age story set in the 1990’s? If you have your own book in mind: along with necessities like a plot, writ beforehand or discovered in the process or both, characters to grow and explore, or formulas for experiments you’d like to try- what would writing it mean to you? Not just the completion of it- but the writing itself, the recurrent appointment?

I ask myself, what did I learn, as I turn to crafting the next one. I have another one, composed of short stories and later tied together by an intermittent and bracing framework, which I wrote for a private audience. If I could re-capture the sense of crafting short stories, a sense of my audience, and merge its promise with the exciting notion that my OTHER book and comic might help me reach them, then these chapters which lie ahead might not prove so daunting. Already, events in the news such as the travel ban speak to the formation of the single character whose interpretation I feared failing most. Sometimes you just have to see what you can do!

This time out, it’s a subject matter not so much for me, personally, but crafted to speak to the experiences of others moreso. It’s also a synthesis of things I’ve learned as I resumed writing comics and cultural analysis late this April, as I used the completion and planning of Integr8d Fix to train myself again to produce promising amounts of story material. I’ve written a novella, or long short story, take your pick, based on another fictional property in between. I adapted the plot for this one starting with a comics inspiration, with a character imagined from talks with my friend in Australia, James. I shifted and played with how to create a series, as selling a series is a useful way to produce commercial novels. And make no mistake, I intend craft as well as art, because I want to earn a living that will allow me to keep exploring this talent- and growing!
This time, I’m looking at technology and social trends I see developing now to help me create a world set in the near-future. It takes some thought: what might be more possible in five years?
I feel like The Butterfly has a strong chance to be loved by, and populated by, young characters.
Will my young adult characters be convincing? I want it to contain a socially diverse cast. Will they each sound authentic? But then, the authenticity of one’s own identity is a perpetual coming-of-age question- regardless what age you find yourself becoming, young adult, middle-aged, older.

You can drive yourself to distraction wondering too much about “will this be ‘this’ enough?” I looked to the past for Anywhere. This will have less of my reliable memories and it may not be as emotionally comforting as that cozy, love-filled novel. But those characters faced their own set of uncertainties, too. They just faced them together. I wonder how broad a set of supporting characters I’ll really need to speak for a true variety of what you find in life, and I think I’ve got it. At some point, you decide you’ll tell the story of whomever shows up.

You may worry about writing unnecessary passages, but who knows what good writing all of it out might be. You can always edit and revise further. Don’t let a desire to take every step perfectly stop you from putting another step out the door! Don’t worry too much about plans you may have had if you started something you’re continuing later. Dig them back out as you go! Once you see the names again, the plot points again, you’ll either see new directions or remember the compulsion you felt when you included that character, that point. You can always retrofit things you meant to say, make room for what tells the most focused story. Relating a realistic set of human beings always offers the chance you’ll sprawl. That’s a credit to the number of stories you’ve added to your storytelling. Let the process guide you as you engage.

There’s always room to be made for a brand new idea- like a bizarre dream I had that works as material for a near-future VR party. It’s off-putting in the way social gatherings sometimes are, and reflects a real discomfort with some of the steps society’s taking towards the future.

As a very young person, I often found myself alienated by how callous others could be; now’s not the time to worry that I’ve become old-fashioned, because naturally some of my characters will reflect my own sensitivity, while others will simply be less-caring for motivations of their own. You also don’t have to completely map out anyone’s motivations, and you definitely don’t have to telegraph them! Let cool phrases and insights be your guide in what you put down. You can make any statement you want- just don’t bore your own self, meandering!

The illustrations inside the book Angela just showed to me got me thinking how we used to do one for each short story. Finally, last winter I got the first seven chapters of Chrysalis of the Butterfly basically down in a concentrated frenzy similar to my Anywhere outburst, interrupted by my foray into Select Your Own Excitement, prompted by an opportunity offered by my Danish programming friend and the arrival of my teen niece Ciara into my life. Since then, The Air Is Haunting’s fallen into disrepair beyond my control- a risk you take entrusting others- but one day I hope to get up material saved there to try another book, plus its setting precipitated the plot I chose to write a pilot for a cartoon I hope to resume with its creator this winter...after we complete the comic book he pitched successfully to IDW Publishing, with a little writing help from me. I accepted a friend’s suggestion to write for a comics site, and learned from my enjoyable friendship with a long-time professional writer, too. And hey, I finished a magazine article this spring, then, chapter seven!

However trying to my patience Life around me has been, always there was a faithful return to enough personal peace to settle in and write. Whatever promises were forgotten by others or never meant at all, I kept one eye on the most objective standard of Truth I could conceive, and the other on dreamlike possibilities.

My point here? Keep trying things. Keep creating and writing. Even if years must sometimes pass and projects seem to fall apart, a character or idea might be knocked loose to visit another storyline elsewhere. Allow yourself some creative experiments! Do things for fun, but always with some resonance in your genuine interests. Write different formats like skits, songs, poems, plays, essays, magazine features, blogs, stories-but keep turning to yourself often, if not practically daily, for entertainment born of your own intellect. Read! And take in life around you, building the most meaningful relationship circumstances will allow. This widens the identities of characters you can create. You are writing for today. Today is writing to serve tomorrow, and often, to preserve fascinations of yesterdays. Learn to examine skillfully delivered effects and how and when to implement them in your craft. Find an audience that compels your inner voice to speak. Schedule yourself some structure, but know when it’s worth getting behind to attend a new idea or a valuable personal interaction.

Let go of thoughts that block your intention, even as you let go of even the nicest compliments and starry dreams more readily than you imagined. And if your finished product turns out twice the length of the estimate with which you cajoled yourself into sitting down to start it, like this one did for me, don’t fret, pet.

Love, best always, sincerely, and with regards,
Cecil aka C Lue.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Dr. Who Season Finale: Where There's Tears There's Hope

“Where There’s Tears, There’s Hope” - the not-quite-final Finale for Peter Cipaldi, Dr. Who

Doctor Who has this wonderful quality of bringing friends together.

The Doctor has those quasi-qualities, you might say, that make him father-like, sibling-like- even a kind of romantic interest, to some. But overall, the relatable character’s set off by his identity as an alien- a Time Lord, to be specific-a personal bridge into the utterly fantastic, unveiling races and customs more alien- and often threatening- than his own.

As long as we’re talking primary characteristics, not only is he definitely alien- he’s a friend. His altruistic moral code and shrewd, knowledgeable approach, blended with his mix of the reckless daring and wary caution, and who knows when which is coming?- serve humanity in secret, to say nothing of other hapless races and entities lost, invaded and otherwise perplexed.
Along with the occasional glimpse on Saturdays on PBS as a kid, I had a friend- an alien friend, you might say at the cost of a sly side-eye from me-who’s always been a dyed-in-the-wool Dr. Who fan. The Doctor even figures into not only his weekly ritual with his now-wife, but even, charmingly, into their wedding! Johann says: " Whenever a new episode of Doctor Who is on, a little bit of magic sneaks into the universe just for that short while." And while we’re on the subject of the Doctor’s sibling quality, it’s our sister Dixie who plunged us into binges of the ninth, tenth and eleventh Doctor, setting us up for the new Peter Cipaldi turn these past seasons which has glued me to the ongoing saga!

My friend Kraft- who’s been known to be a few ages himself- not so much because he’s an enigma, as part and parcel of Loki pranksterism- said he’s never journeyed with the Doctor- and could he jump aboard the TARDIS and join the fun, just anywhere, and not be lost in its winding five-decade-plus cosmology? (Wouldn’t it be funny if he’d phrased it exactly like that?) I suggested he simply hop aboard with this present season’s companion, Bill. Her introduction to the series is a perfect sort of Dr. Who 101, complete with a university setting. Her horrible fate, transformed aboard a black hole-time-warped starship into an increasingly inhuman, fearless Cyberman (spoilers coming)

is the subject of the last two episodes, leading to her remarkable liberation- and back to this season’s first episode.
We were promised the Pilot would return. It’s a very nice tie-up for Bill’s story, but one I was surprised to have tied up! The Pilot episode (:-D) had a nice strain of Romanticism, particularly with its yearning love story-ending. What I love is how that one terrific line at the top- “where there’s tears, there’s hope,” says the good Doctor- ties so literally into the resolution for Bill in the end. Maybe I don’t think about these things obsessively enough, but her return to free Bill to an energy state was a twist I didn’t forsee. The door’s open for Bill to return to human, too, but it’s exciting we don’t know when- and if- that’s in the cards.

What seemed certain, instead, was that the Doctor would come to an end, his regeneration process foreshadowed, its beginning depicted. For some reason I was thinking of Christmas and Santa Claus at the end, when suddenly the 12th Doctor’s rebelled against his change- finds himself no longer alone!
Johann says: ”Dr Who finale was a doozy. The guy who played the William Hartnell/first Doctor in the Dr Who documentary showed up as the first Doctor!”
Our one clue? The Doctors, says the title card, will return -together- at Christmas!

As my wife Angela Dawn observes:
“’Missy’, the only other Time Lord in existence (a.k.a. The Master), betrays Doctor Who at the behest of a past incarnation of herself. They gleefully discuss how they might bring about the demise of the good Doctor (how many steps would it take to throw him down and kill all his Regenerations?). Dr. Who lets them in on a little secret: when she hit him, the Doctor used that as an opportunity to change the programming of the Cybermen who wanted nothing more than to make more of themselves out of humans. They now included the Time Lord two-heart system as human, as well, so the two of them would have to fight alongside the Doctor, if they hoped to get out of this as themselves.”

The betrayal of Missy of herself- in her split male and female guises- made a tragic end to her brave struggle over to the Doctor’s side. She began the season as a mystery menace locked away behind a vault door. From her piano notes drifting over to nervous alien companion Nardol’s ear to his compliance with her to pilot TARDIS to the rescue on Mars, the errant Time Lord gradually moved herself towards grace. She was wonderful when the Monks wrote over human history; she came to feel compassion, empathy for beings she haughtily considered lesser. She was certainly a candidate to become the new Doctor.

Yes, every since the season began, and as discussed briefly on The Graham Norton Show, we’ve been building towards Cipaldi’s swan song. It’s practically as much a tradition as the regeneration narrative itself for fans to mourn the loss of their present lead when a new one’s cast. Cipaldi’s Doctor seemed a bit aloof, and of course appears older than recent Doctors since the revival. (Within the story, his age is obviously disconnected from mere physical appearance- not to mention he’s traveled through strange loops of existence that defy linear time, you know.) He didn’t set out to charm. But Peter’s take increasingly became “humanized” over the story arcs, eventually making slick pop culture references and definitely bonding with his curious new companion. He loved the way Bill found voice for questions even while she was bewildered. His sacrifice of his sight for several episodes became integral to the plots as both limitation and occasionally, as boon. The history-rewrite two-parter with our Big Brothers the monks was my favorite story, and I really dug the emoji-bot episode’s premise about the world of Happiness.

But aside from great sci-fi premises, there were the character studies in two episodes that really won me over to the Doc-Bill team. Doc’s interaction with the flatmates in the alien-possessed house was colorful, with bits like his resentment of Bill explaining “he’s my grandfather.” That pilot, however, was all it took: Bill uncovers his student by becoming his “audit” student, and credibly demonstrates the need for a curious human companion at a moment when he’s rightfully devastated by the drastic consequences that befall his companions. This two-part ending just underscored that danger, but what a team they made.
Their chemistry was, I think, a great boon to Cipaldi’s 12th Doctor, and I in no way was eager to see him go.

That said, one more go round seems imminent. The show’s very generous, too, in reuniting leads in reprisals of the role, alternate life lines in Christmas movie specials. Perhaps if I’d been following the show regularly for longer, I’d have seen that coming. Experience prepares your anticipation. But what a thrill to travel again each week into the unknown. And in the spirit of the show’s optimism- dark, dire circumstances faced by our helpful detective-hero from beyond-things may work out badly for some unfortunate characters, but for the story lover, it’s all going to be all right, come what may.
Trust him...he’s the Doctor.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

What It Means To Fight For Your Country (1967) Vietnam, America, War and the Soul

The World Outside Your Window

While crafting an essay for my non-fiction book on Marvel Comic books, Integr8d Fix
I worked from an inspiration to reflect the real world dramas churning outside the colorful pages of a multiple part Iron Man story set in Vietnam, presented in 1967. Here, separately, is the part of that essay reflecting America- and Vietnam- during that divisive year in our history. I humbly offer it as a multi-faceted crash course summary to the Vietnam War at that time, for those who don’t know much about it. For those who do- and those who remember those days- I hope it’s a thoughtful reflection on the complexities of that era, as told in the words of those who lived in, as gleaned from the Op-Ed pages of the June New York Times this year.

While each month of the three-part storyline in Tales of Suspense #92-94 unfolded:

Protestors planned to march in October in Washington.

Plan Pennsylvania: Americans agreed to covertly cease bombing; in exchange, North Vietnam halted their military advance into key areas of South Vietnam. As detailed in a New York Times article by Robert K. Brigham: “Once North Vietnam acted, the United States would freeze its combat forces at existing levels and peace talks could begin.” How very unfortunate that Reason failed: despite initial negotiations on July 24th , on August 20th, 200 sorties flew, the most yet against North Vietnam, explained as “orders (had been) delayed by inclement weather.” Most likely, Johnson, convinced of the value of the strikes, couldn’t pass up a chance to hit key areas, in case the deal prevented him from doing so later. Brigham writes:  Johnson...was desperately trying to keep his options open by escalating the bombing just before a pause, but in the end he actually narrowed his choices.
Trying to placate both antiwar members of Congress and his generals, who wanted a wider war, Johnson tried to find a middle ground when there was none.” His choice to “pour on the steel” led the Viet Cong-who believed taking Saigon would end American influence- to a retaliatory push known as the Tet Offensive, which in turn called for an even great increase in American forces, controversially drafted. Months after Pennsylvania’s secret failure, over half a million American soldiers now fought in Vietnam.

Objectors on the same college campuses as the small, growing contingent of newly-older Marvel fans organized draft resistance efforts. One, journalist David Harris, estimates between a quarter and a half a million young men joined him in rejecting their draft notices. On October 16th, 1967, he helped organize a National Draft Card Return, in which hundreds of cards were sent back to the government during 18 rallies across America. He was one of about 3200 eventually tried and jailed (in 1968), as he denied his college exemption, reasoning another, poor young person would go in his stead, to a war that presented, he believed, a moral quagmire. His story was told in a NY Times Op Ed, June, 2017, as well as his book The War and What It Did To Us.

In his words: “Reality is made by what we do, not what we talk about. Values that are not embodied in behavior do not exist. People can change, if we provide them the opportunity to do so. Movements thrive by engaging all comers, not by calling people names, breaking windows or making threats. Whatever the risks, we cannot lose by standing up for what is right. That’s what allows us to be the people we want to be.”

Raising my children myself was so hard, I cannot even say it. You know, it was very dangerous when I was fighting in the war. You could die anytime. But raising my kids alone was much harder. Sometimes, I would just sit by myself and cry.
I still dream about the war sometimes. I dream about when a bomb is about to explode, and I shout to my unit to lie down. I have seen so many things, saw eight out of 10 people in my unit become wounded or die at once. War is cruel. Cruel. When you have a war, people and families are divided — between husband and wife, parent and child. Now my wish is that there is no war in the world, that we can help each other lead our lives instead of fighting. That is my message. I want peace. Le Thi My Le -The Women Who Fought for Hanoi NY Times June 6, 2017
Many people who fought in the war, maybe they could never forgive America. But when I joined the war, I knew everything had two sides. And the sides had the same hurt together. In Vietnam, maybe we lost our country, lost our family, had a lot of people die — but in America it is the same. All the soldiers are the sons of parents, and they lost their children, too. It is all the same, the same hurt.
- Nguyen Thi Hiep The Women Who Fought for Hanoi NY Times June 6, 2017

From the Times, I’ll close with the story of Bill Reynolds, a veteran of the Ninth Division, a.k.a. Charlie Company. It is for such men- and the children playing in the back yards and streets of America- that Stan and Gene crafted this tale, grafting their colorful adventurer onto a real world intrigue with motivations and consequences that we as a nation were only beginning to explore.

Once he was conscripted, Reynolds reported these conflagrations in the Mekong Delta, coincidentally each time happening in his true soldier life along with roughly each month of this four-color offering. On May 15th he saw his first major action, lost a good friend, as his unit inflicted 90 Viet Cong casualities in heavy, brutal fighting.
In June, Bill said:
“Heavy automatic rifle fire and rocket propelled grenades screamed in along with small weapons fire. My buddies were dropping left and right, but by the grace of God I raced safely back to a small berm next to the creek where everyone able was scrambling.” Air power protected them while their enemy fired from heavily-fortified bunkers. While Huey gunships covered them, his friend Second Platoon Medic Fourth Class Specialist Bill Geir risked his life to help Reynolds’ friends, until he lost his own life to a shot that tore under his armpit. Reynolds bandaged him while the Third Platoon medic Elijah Taylor attempted to reach no avail. Bill watched evacuation Hueys try to lift soldiers out of the field, only to be shot a hundred feet off the ground. One landed directly on top of Specialist Forrest Ramos, who’d rolled out to safety. 47 American soldiers died; their Alpha Company, decimated.

“A few weeks later, on July 11, Charlie Company was caught out in the open by the enemy and we lost five more brave soldiers, including my high school classmate Phil Ferro and four buddies. The Vietcong escaped that night, so we were unable to exact our revenge.”

The rest of their grueling experience was spent on “routine patrols, with the usual booby traps and fire fights.” He eventually came home to a disapproving American crowd.
As per the Times: Bill Reynolds is a Vietnam veteran and the director of veterans’ affairs for the Santa Clarita Valley Signal. His combat experience with Charlie Company is featured in the documentary “Brothers in War” and the book “The Boys of ’67,” by Andrew Wiest.

It is more difficult to question the nature of truth, to be sure; it is human nature to accept stories that follow our own preconceptions. But for the sake of freedom, and the brave sacrifices made by those who served, no matter the games of power wielded by our governments, I hope we as a country make our way back in the direction of consensus truths, however divergent our opinions then might be!

On this June day I write, a Veterans Reform Bill, expanding previous legislation from the Obama administration to increase bureaucratic accountability and aid care closer to home for vets, was signed by President Trump into law, so there’s news relevant to patriotism and thoughts of our country’s soldiers. However imperfect we as creators and citizens might be, may we look to the well being of those who would stand strong, when time and toil has yolked them with the weak and sick.