POPLIFE is a collection of excerpts from my work journal. There is no specific form or function the column serves other than to allow the reader to see what my experience in my first year as a comics-writer is like. Some weeks I get work done, so I talk about work. Some weeks I don’t get any work done, so I ramble incoherently. POPLIFE’s purpose is to provide a glimpse behind the curtain of my specific process.
The moment that the wheels of our plane touched the tarmac, Kelly Sue began lactating coconut milk. Around her feet swarmed hoards of skinks like a shimmering lizard blanket, everywhere she walked while in Quintana Roo. The effect was quite like she was floating. The dark and scaly little bastards would surround our bed at night and stare, a group of them forming the 26th hexagram of the I-Ching (meaning ‘a great or an increased involvement in something’, roughly) on the ceiling above us.
“Here Leezard leezard leezard,” I’d say compulsively (and even though they swarmed around her feet anyway), because I’m a moron who’s cultural touchstones are Taco Bell commercials rather than great works of literature. But that’s okay. It was our honeymoon. It was a time for the Big Thoughts.
Later, as the last bits of Lili lash out around us, Kelly Sue sequesters herself in the spa and I flip channels until I find a Godzilla movie.
Life inside of a postcard is alright, to tell you the truth. Hung out with my wife, slept in, ate whenever, sat under the sun and swam under the water. Not just any water, either– this was that grade-A blue postcard water that you’ve seen on the postcards. The blue so blue it’d be sky, except for all the fish and the not-breathing part. I’m not entirely sure what part of Mexico we were in– I mean, I could isolate it on a map if I had to, and I know the name of the place but really, what does that tell you? A single point on a map is just a single point, and without context it doesn’t mean anything. The Bermuda Triangle looks like a lovely piece of ocean from up there.
Here’s how I can describe it best: when we were leaving the hotel to fly home, we pulled onto the highway and began heading north towards Cancun. We passed an old building that at one point was a gas station, but hadn’t been a gas station or much else other than an old building for a very long time. A dog was standing on its roof.
“Hey,” I said, “There’s a dog on that roof.”
Everyone agreed. It was a time for Big Thoughts.
So before we leave I am gifted, by Peter Artbomb Rose, with a copy of OFFERED. It’s a fat little manga book by Kazuo Koike (the guy what wrote LONE WOLF AND CUB) & Ryoichi Ikegami (the guy what drew SANCTUARY) and published by Comics One. There’s two of ’em, I guess. So, I wrote it up for Artbomb this week, and here’s an excerpt that sets the story up for you:
Olympic-bound athlete Boy meets insane biker militia Girl, who is offspring of Hitler (whom we learn was augmented to greatness by some weird alien fetal mummy) and reveals to Boy that Gilgamesh ejaculated into elephant tusks and stored them in glaciers so that his seed would be eternal; Girl cajoles Boy into sex, believing the offspring of Hitler and Gilgamesh would rule the world; Girl is murdered by mysterious paramilitary supernazi treasure-hunting cabal while Boy believes himself to be the heir of Gilgamesh; Boy and crew team up to unearth Gilgamesh’s hidden treasures.
Yeah. Okay. So, aside from the fact that WHO THE HELL GIVES SOMEONE THIS ON THEIR WEDDING DAY, here’s the description for another of the Comics One manga books that Peter told me about called WOUNDED MAN, as taken from Amazon:
Keisuki Ibaraki is not a man to be trifled with and the pornography company, G.P.X., makes a grave mistake when they kidnap his high school sweetheart, force her to do unspeakable acts and then make her commit suicide. Keisuki is now on a mission of vengeance and will stop at nothing until he vindicates the memory of his dead girlfriend. Travel with him through the jungles of Brazil as he exacts his revenge, one by one, on the unsuspecting murderers. However, hot on his trail, is the pure-as-white reporter, Yuko Kusaka, sniffing out any kind of story that will gain her recognition. Keisuki confronts her and the ensuing Karate battle tests their wills, as well as Yuko’s purity. Sit back, relax and let the sultry Brazilian weather lull you into a trance as you traverse through this action packed story!
I’m so bored by Western comics I could scream.
And so there I am, living in a postcard, thinking the Big Thoughts and all that. Thinking about how the serial, its brevity, and our inexplicable attraction to conventional three act structures sap the joy out of everything. And I’m trying very, very hard not to write. I didn’t bring a laptop, I didn’t bring the Pantsphone, I didn’t want to do anything at all. I was taking time off for the Big Thoughts, no pressure or stress or Oh, fuck, what am I gonna do about this story or that.
Then the sun started to wreck everything.
I’ve never been really, properly sunburned before. I’ve had a few little dabbles with it here and there, but the whole seared skin experience had eluded me to date. So, yeah. Dicking around Mexico with no shirt and no sunscreen. Skin goes red and ouchy. The pain wasn’t such a big deal; the pain was completely manageable and not an issue. There was one night where I’d wake up a lot, but it still wasn’t so bad. There was this whole galvanic response phenomenon, which was fun in its own way-there’d be a breeze, and I’d get a shiver, go goosebumpy all over. None of that was a big deal. None of that was problematic. This was, I told myself while Really Not Writing Anything At All, the Sunburn Experience.
But then came the itching.
How is it that no one’s ever told me about the itching? My fucking back has peeled like a map of Atlantis, I’m dropping DNA like a teenager out of tissues, and everything… fucking… itches.
Oh, oh holy god.
So, so anyway. I’m lying in bed itching and praying for death, and a sentence pops in my head. I don’t know if it was part of a dream that I held onto or what. I start to roll the line around and repeat it and then another one follows it, and another, and then an idea starts to wrap around it all. And then there I am, writing to keep myself from drowning myself in the fucking ocean because merciful sweet lord god in heaven above does my back itch and it’s not stopping. No phone, no computer, no desire to do anything other than stare at the ocean and not take my own life, and there the writing starts.
We’re never in control of this kind of thing, I guess. The Big Thoughts just kinda creep up on you.
THE ANNOTATED MANTOOTH! is solicited in the current PREVIEWS. This collects the three MANTOOTH! stories from Funk-O-Tron’s DOUBLE IMAGE series as done by me, Andy Kuhn, and Timmy Fisher. Aside from the stories, all gussied up and perfected, it’s got an Introduction bv Warren Ellis, a Preface by Joe Casey, and a Publisher’s Note by Larry Young. It’s got the scripts and annotations to those scripts and all sorts of dumbass behind-the-scenes sort of things. It’s got a pinup gallery featuring Jeremy Love, Carla Speed McNeil, and more. And it’s got a new-ass cover by Hector Casanova. It’s 96 pages of Rex Mantooth Awesomenicity, available for preorder now with the following magic number: OCT02 2287. It’s $12.95, and will make you sparkle and glisten as though you were freshly waxed and oiled by wood nymphs.