I know, I know.
I messed up. And now everyone’s pissed at me.
But it wasn’t my fault, you’ve got to get that. I was just…I don’t know. I always listen to the wrong people– “bad input,” my school counselor calls it. And then I just end up doing whatever they say. She says I’m “overly suggestible” and “unable to differentiate between right and wrong.”
But even that’s not true. I know what’s right. I just get mixed up sometimes.
Guess I’m off the baseball team, too, huh? Man, is my mom going to be disappointed.
What? Sure she will. You don’t know her…
No, seriously, dude. This’ll kill her. You haven’t told her yet, have you? Isn’t there any way we can sort this out without telling her? I’ve been doing really great recently, and she’s really proud of me.
No, thanks. I don’t smoke. You got anything to drink? A Coke or something? That’d be great.
No, I don’t want a lawyer. Yes, I understand my rights…over eighteen, yeah, by three months. I got held back.
What happened…? That’s a big question.
Comics happened, I guess.
Let me tell it my way, okay? Okay? You probably talked to the school, so you know that I used to be in trouble all the time. Just keeping grades good enough to be on the team. Most of the kids thought I was a loser. Bummer.
And just cause I’m like ten seconds late, I get my third tardy slip, which is automatic detention and a note to my mom. This is about a month ago.
So, I was pretty bummed, ’cause there’s only so much my Mom will put up with, and I hate making her cry and all. She thinks I’m gonna turn out like my dad — she tells me that all the time.
I leave school that day, and it’s like, everyone I know is already disappointed in me. Coach, my teacher, my mom…and this is just like, the topping on the pie or whatever.
I have this sorta-friend whose brother’s over-age, and he buys liquor for us. They live way over by the railyard in this crappy neighborhood. It’s raining, and I ask Tom, that’s the brother, if he’ll go buy me something to drink. He gives me this funny look and says sure. He’s like, 21 and a full-blown alkie already. He stinks, and sometimes he talks to people who aren’t there, I swear. I keep thinking he’s gonna just take the money and slip out the back door, but sure enough, he shows up back at his place with four bottles of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, two for him and two for me. Tom looks like Goober on Andy Griffith, so it’s like Goober is scoring for me.
No, sir, that was it. I didn’t have anything else. No. What did I just say? I’m not getting excited, I just don’t want to keep repeating…all right, all right, whatever. That’s all I had. I didn’t have any dope or anything.
Anyway, I take this shortcut I know…no one but kids goes that way ’cause they’d have a heart attack and die. No offense.
I go up to my room and I’m just smashed, and suddenly, everything’s hilarious. I mean, I took my detention slip and blew my nose on it, and I fell on the floor and just couldn’t stop laughing. I knew my mom would be home soon and that got me laughing even harder. And I get this idea to take a bath with my clothes on, so I run the water and jump in, the funniest thing ever.
I like to read in the bath, and I have this box in the upstairs bathroom where I keep my comic books…no, not Archie. No, not Plastic Man either. Jeez, you guys ever leave the station house? Elvis is dead, all right? These are the GOOD comics. You wouldn’t know them, I’m sure.
I’m reading the comics, okay, and still laughing, and I pick up this book, water splashing everywhere, and it’s called Hitman. And it’s all about, like, these two cool guys and their friendship and how they don’t take any shi…crap, I mean, from anyone. The Hitman guy, he’s got this great coat, and these shades, and he shoots this guy and his face just explodes, right? And I’m so wasted that I can’t stop laughing, and suddenly,
Suddenly, I GET it.
I GET it, man! The secret language of comics!
You know that crap about playing records backwards? Well, shit, man, I mean, Officer…
You oughtta see what happens when you read these comics upside-down. It’s a whole new WORLD.
It blew my mind. I couldn’t believe it. It’s this whole secret CODE, man, written just for people smart enough to SEE it. I’m like, freaking, cause it’s right THERE, you know? You have to turn the book upside down, and you have to kind of…just stare, like those Magic Eye things, and suddenly you’re in. You’re part of it! Subliminal messages!
Don’t look at me like that, okay? I know you don’t get it. That’s what makes it so great. If people like you got it, it’d suck. No offense.
So, I’m just catching the wave, sorta decoding it, and it says the same thing over and over….”Clean your room. Clean your room. Clean your room.”
Well, I almost puked. I jumped out of the tub and drank a whole bunch of Tang for the vitamin C and ate a bunch of Chicken In A Biskits, so I’d sober up, but mainly it was the puking that helped, I think. I ralphed a ton, I admit it.
And I cleaned my room, of course. Man, when Garth Ennis sends you a secret message via an evil code in an upside-down comic, you just GOTTA do it. My mom came home and she didn’t even yell about the detention and the tardy slip when I told her, cause she thought I cleaned my room cause I felt bad.
The truth is, I couldn’t wait to go to bed so I could learn more. And right like I thought, I pick up a Transmetropolitan, which is this great comic about this guy and his funky glasses, and a few minutes later, the message starts coming through… “Say ‘May I please be excused’ when leaving the table…Say ‘May I please be excused’…”
I’m freaking, you can imagine…I figure these messages are either coming straight from the writers and they’re all in on it like a coven or something, or it’s like, a government conspiracy…or UFOS or something. Then I start thinking, what if it’s the DEVIL, man?
Doesn’t matter–I’m completely hooked. HATE tells me to give my grandmother a call–she’d love to hear from me, PREACHER tells me that to be popular I’ll need to keep my fingernails neatly trimmed, FAUST says that it’s never ‘hip’ to talk in the lunch line, and THE AUTHORITY just says ‘Flossing is fun!’ over and over. Dark advice, man. Heavy, heavy words.
By the time I’d read the entire first run of THE INVISIBLES, I started feeling really bad about not helping Mom more around the house, and 100 BULLETS helped instruct me in how to be a better student by organizing my notes by class and date. I got these little colored see-through tabs for my binder separators…Azzarello, thy name is EVIL, dude.
Rock on, Lord of Darkness, or UFOs or CIA or whatever…I am your slave, is what I was thinking. Instruct me in your secret rituals with your hidden messages…
They told me to get the secret cult haircut, sort of a Richie Cunningham thing, and some nice tan slacks at J.C. Penny’s, and I started wearing the letterman’s sweater I had wadded up in my closet as the symbol of my secret unholy pact. The weird thing is, instead of being shocked by my outrageous behavior…my mom was thrilled. When the Dark Writer Lords, through the latest issue of OUTLAW NATION, ordered me to pick up the dishes after dinner, my mom almost cried. I thought, yeah, got her! But they were tears of JOY, it turned out.
Anyway…blah blah blah. You know the rest. Following the secret subliminal coded messages of the Writer Lords, I turned myself completely over to evil…I mean, the whole deal. Pep club, choir, car washes for band…Oddly, it seemed like no matter how EVIL I became, I just got more and more respect and trust from adults.
Which of course, I hated. DARKCHYLDE even told me to limit my TV watching so that I could better focus on my studies.
Hey, I’m not stupid. I know what you think…why do these dark comics tell me how to act like such a nerd? Even I started to question it. When VAMPIRELLA told me to eat more fiber, I decided I’d had enough of evil. I wanted to get right, make amends.
So I took a few bucks from my tip jar and went to the Circle K and bought all the cutesy kid’s books I could find; Powerpuff Girls and Scooby-Doo and Betty & Veronica and Sonic The Hedgehog, and I turned THEM upside-down, looking for the messages.
And that’s when I set fire to all those houses.
Hey, where’s that Coke you were gonna get me?