Guardian Idol

It was a posh affair, mainly attended by citizens of Sombra, North Central Positronics, and LaMerk.

A tongue of red carpet rolled to the curb where buckas, monorails, atomic slug robots, limousines, giant mythological beasts, and a rocket ship disgorged contestants and the glitterati of high society. On occasion todash bells pealed and an incandescent rectangle sketched itself into a ghostwood door secreting cloaked Manni swinging bobs or corporate presidents with decadent drinks in one hand and the ample bottoms of beautiful women in the other. They passed along the carpet through a gauntlet of paparazzi and rabid fans towards a black skyscraper. Its height was spangled with window lights like so much rhinestones. Thunderclap cumuli gathered and roiled around the tower, purple bolts of energy dancing on the tower’s apex.

Laughter wafted from below.

Storied guests from many worlds were in attendance, from a thousand one nights of fables to tales of the Brothers Grimm, tragedies to comedies, a veritable plethora of memorable characters from the Rolodex of Genres. They were ushered into a massive stadium whose seats seemed to recede into infinity. Above the large but simply decorated stage bristled an array of photo recording and audio amplification equipment.

Excitement ran its musk through the air and on its surface babbled a throng of voices.

Bill Denbrough took his seat, Beverly Marsh disengaging from his arm to sit daintily. She nudged Bill, said in the direction of her pointing finger, “Hey… doesn’t that fella look familiar?” The man in question, Bob Gray, who was at the moment absently rubbing at a patch of stage makeup on his cheek, was engaged in busy conversation with one Joe Collins. They laughed, and chilled the scalps of nearby guests, especially that of little Alice stroking her twinkling pussy.

A few rows behind them was seated a massive man with his scalp peeled onto his cheek. He had removed the armrest between two seats to fit himself, squeezing next to a grime streaked gent who made inarticulate sounds of reverent delight as his steel lighter sparked up flames.

Near the front row, a man with a scar on his forehead cut in the shape of a cross stared with grave concern as John Cullum spoke slowly into his ear. The Three Muskeeters eavesdropped onto Moses Carver and Aaron Deepneau, who were in deep conversation, perhaps discussing counter-espionage maneuvers.

Dennis and Thomas of Delain strode in, their eyes burning with murderous anger, but their weapons were checked at the door. They found their seats near Claudia y Inez Bachman who was oblivious to the excitement, intent instead on sketches of a choo-choo train. Engineer Bob smiled when he read what she wrote over her shoulder, nodding. It was true, all of it.

The Breakers occupied a large section of the stadium, basking in their Good Mind. Nobody but Ted Brautigan and Dinky Earnshaw really appreciated the irony of their presence. Buttplug baby Jesus gurgled in someone’s gunna sack. Captain Jack Sparrow dozed nearby, finding something better than rum for once.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstearns stood guard at a door before security shooed them to their seats. John Galt was earnestly exemplifying the merits of free enterprise to a bored, chain smoking Ayn Rand whose expression plainly revealed she thought she wrote the book on the subject. A scruffy tramp with a toothbrush moustache expressed his outrage with pantomime, repeatedly smacking a grunting Adolf Hitler with his bamboo cane as nearby spectators roared laughter.

The lights dimmed. All commotion ceased. A murmur of anticipation rippled through the congregation. A dulcet tone rang out, long and sweet.

A ring of light grew on stage.

A voice announced, “The Kas’ ka Gan!”

To the sound of  an eternity of hands clapping, a slick and dapper fellow in a tuxedo stepped into the light. His smoothed back hair gleamed above saturnine features. His smile was immaculate, all encompassing.

He flicked his collar and strode to the edge of the stage where he bowed deeply, milking the wild applause for a moment before saying, “Hey, hey, I’m just a mouthpiece. It’s not like I’m Mister Gan himself!” There was laughter at this. “I’m your Master of Ceremonies tonight. Some of you might know me by one or two of my many names, but I like to be called Walter O’Dim.” His voice lowered into a conspiratorial whisper. “It’s why it’s so bright in here. I’m often dim to the point of translucence.” There was polite applause.

Walter shrugged.

“A tough crowd, huh? Jokes were never my forte. I can see you’re eager to get on with it.” Walter did a little jig, spun on his heels, his coattails flaring dramatically. His arms spread wide.

“We’re well met here.” His manner became solemn, and his hands folded against his heart. “Friends and enemies alike, we put aside our differences to celebrate a pivotal point in the history of all worlds. We’re well met here!” Walter crossed his arms and chinned a hand. “I suspect when the day is over, we will awake as if from a strange dream…”

His mood became genial, and good cheer animated his movements.

“Well, now, folks, as we all know construction on the Beams,”—the stadium erupted with the sound of palms beating against palms—”this ambitious project to replace magic with rationality, is almost completed”—if it were at possible, the applause grew louder—”but… they need names.”

Walter camped across stage on exaggerated strides.

“They need souls. Twelve of ’em! Our sponsors Sombra, LaMerk, and North Central Positronics have been generous in allowing the public to choose from the beasts of earth!”

He spread his arm as wide as his smile.

“Let the contest begin!”

The first contestant was the Emperor Tamarin who strode regal to center stage and commenced grooming his impressive facial hair. When he exited stage left, careful not to trip over his mustache, the audience pulled out their telecommunications device to call in a vote.

Toad croaked a love ballad about earthworms and flies on hot, steamy nights. Cricket played the sawtooth with his back legs (sounds almost Hawaiian, don’t it?). Rat was debonair in a waltz with Bat as his sexy, shimmering dance partner. Hare boasted his virility on stage with nineteen satin-lashed angoras. Turtle expressed deep wisdom, his languid tones recalling a contest between himself and the Hare. Fish, in a bowl, pointed out on a chart the many delicacies made possible by his very flesh.

And the contest went on, calling upon the stage Lion, Eagle, Wombat, Salmonella, Elephant, Snake, Mosquito, Yeti, Squirrel, Horse, Platypus, Monkey, Wolf, Beetle, Bear, Dodo, Dog, Skunk, Candiru, Lemur, Hummingbird, Armadillo, Sloth, Cuttlefish, Tarantula, Whipoorwill, Rook, Cat, Reindeer, Honeybee, Cockatoo, and then some. A great time was had by all, the crowd roaring with jeers and cheers, and the folken down home who couldn’t afford todash did the same from their living rooms.

And the Guardians of the Beam were chosen, say thankya


The Runaway

Walter Padick gathered his gunna into a coarse weave sack and slung it over his shoulders, wincing as the welts his father laid on his back stung. The Huntress Moon slatted the beaten earth of the Padick residence with cold light. It was in this light that Walter paused to look over his shoulders at the drunken lumps that were his kin. Wouldst thee leave us penniless and starving? his mother’s voice sounded in his mind. He saw her toothless mouth very clearly.  He would. A pox on you! hissed the voice. He slipped from the crooked cottage and ran down the road, purloined coins tinkling in his gunna against the bread and dried meat he had also stolen.

He found jobs swabbing after drunkards in inns or shoveling shit in farms along his ceaseless wanderings. Something called him forward on the road, always urging his hands to lace up his dusty boots and move on whenever he stayed in one place too long. One night in the seedy dive Hung Crooked, dodging the blows of drunk blind patron, ka flung his soul to the winds. From a dark corner extended a hand glittering with doubloons, a scimitar glittering from the shadows. His laughter seemed to slice through the ragtime tune the weedstalk pianist thrashed from his piano. “Fix up my horse for me?”

Walter lay in the foul smelling straw, fighting to choke back the sobs threatening to rip through him. The hot splat of spent seed on his back had turned cold, like his heart. The man had stolen something from him, that spark of goodness that remained despite his father’s drunken beatings and his mother’s insults. That chance for a life not exactly love and light but something close was shattered by an act of violence and theft. The eyes that burned out of the head that turned against the shit crusted straw to look upon his violator was full of hate. The rapist curled his lips into a sensual grin and ran the back of a hand along it.
But, of course, ka is a wheel.

Walter Padick was not to know it at the time, and would never know for the memory was driven to the deepest recesses of his dogan, never to resurface, the face that leered above was the very same as the one which provoked a certain apprentice gunslinger into an early rite of passage.

Walter, always damned, as ka wills it, was not to know that he was to poison his very own soul. Many-faced Marten drew his hood over his cruel features and fled cackling into the night. The boy lay there for a long time, not caring that his pants were pulled to his ankles, not caring about the cold that swirled in with the season’s first snowflakes. Then he slowly drew himself up, pulling at his clothes with leaden fingers and stood shivering against the barn door as the horizon grew pink with dawn.

Walter started laughing, very well remembering the laughter of his assailant as he took and took, filling and filled with a blackness that would reverberate within his soul to the grave.

Graphic Novel Bender

I’ve gone and done it. Discarding my interest in novels, I turned to graphic publications which I perused with abandon, the orders racking up in my local library holds unit. Mind you I read a whole lot more than I’ve listed, but I figured these deserved a mentioning. I tremendously enjoyed many of those stories, and I hope you do read this and go on my recommendations. There is nothing I love like passing on a good story.

Casanova Vol. 1 Luxuria by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba: This brought me back onto comics. I used to be a fan of the usual marvel canon of superheroes and all that jazz, and it was the first time I was introduced to a character that didn’t necessarily wear a Halloween outfit. I’m a big fan of Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius stories, and to read Casanova is to invoke Jerry in all of his reality hopping glory. This is also a great book for the Popular Culture aficionado because Fraction, in every installment, inserts many and often obscure references, and when you reach the end of each issue, he kindly explains the origins… for some of ’em. Fraction also hails from the Kansas City area and I’m only too glad to support local artists. To get a taste of the series, check this out! It’s the first issue, free for whoever may want to sample its delights.

Ex Machina by Brian K Vaughn and Tony Harris: This caught me by surprise. I felt I shouldn’t have enjoyed this as much as I have, considering politics is poison in my book, but who can’t not admire a renegade mayor? The story arcs touch upon many of the issues that afflict our country, and Mayor Hundred deals with each one of them in a way we would love many of our government officers do so. Hundred, in an accident with a freak object, acquired the ability to converse with machines. With the help of two close associates, he becomes The Great Machine, a superhero complete with, from designs that come to him in dreams, a jet pack and nifty gadgets. Soon he abandons the idea, for it seems to be more dangerous to assist in costume than to do so in other avenues. So he decides to run for mayor. Nicely done by taking snapshots of actors in poses then penciling/inking in for highly realistic details.

Fables by Bill Willingham, Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha, and Craig Hamilton: I was slow on the uptake with this particular series, but I am very glad I dug in and soldiered on. There are modern day Fables living in our world, and they are refugees from their homeland. These fables fled their homeland to escape the wrath of the Adversary. Populated with many well known fairy tale characters and some obscure ones as well, it is an addictive and entertaining read with story arcs that reveal the character and darker insights of each character. Jack of Tales now has his own comic book. Dark, promising, and just plain good storytelling, this is a must add collection to any true enthusiast of the graphic novel.

Marshal Law by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill: Nothing prepared me for the inherent weirdness of the Marshal Law stories. A cop in a completely fucked up San Francisco, Marshal holds no prisoners. Armed with his distinctive guns and a sadomasochistic get-up, he slays left and right in the name of the law. A carnival of costumed villains, zombies rising from the grave, and all in all a multitude of the good ol’ horrorshow ultraviolence delivered to and delivered by Marshal Law.

Oddly Normal by Otis Frampton: A dejected half witch with an oxymoron for a name, Oddly Normal hates her life. Her parents doesn’t understand her and she can’t get a break at school. She wants to be normal, not Oddly Normal. On her birthday she makes a wish and it seems to change everything… for the worse? Her parents are not around anymore, and her aunt comes to take her to Fignation, a land untouched by mortals. My first impression was wrong. It’s actually a quite intelligent and quaint novel, with a penchant for metaphysics and discourses into thought. An enjoyable quick read.

The Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon: These cowpokes’ vision of the West is as demented as it is entertaining. Jesse Custer the preacher with values and fists hard as nails, Tulip the dame as pretty as her name but almost as hard as the preacher, Cassidy the vampire with a penchant for adventure, lusty angels and demons, some good ol’ gunslinging, a crazed leader of a clandestine organization (apart from the Saint of Killers, Starr is absolutely my favorite character in this fucked up madcap ride. The things that happen to him shouldn’t happen to anyone, but you can’t help but laugh for you know the fucker deserved it), the boy with a face like an asshole, and a whole wild array of characters my descriptions won’t do justice.

The Resonator by Prentis Rollins: Aaron Bronsen Jr. is a miner in an universe where no human has slept for so long. Sleep has become the commodity of recreation, carrying the same role alcohol and drugs do in today’s world. Nobody knows why humans do not sleep anymore, but everyone knows there are drugs to help you sleep… and the resonator. Highly illegal, resonators are deemed a danger and only the wealthy can afford such luxury. Aaron Bronsen Jr. encounters a resonators and this changes the course of his entire life. Nice to find this original story, penned in black and white, amid the flash and bang of today’s comics. Don’t get me wrong. I like the flash and bang, but there’s something compelling about old-style comics, especially those with exquisite attention to detail and the concentration of objects in a single frame of reference. There’s an unique twist I find very delectable, myself being a cat lover. 😉

Sandman by Neil Gaiman & Etc: I’d call this the quintessential graphic novel, though some might say it’s Alan Moore’s Watchmen. This is brilliant, because it chronicles a very very tiny slice of time in which Morpheus of the Endless decides to change himself… in the most drastic way. Upon completing the entire novel, one realizes Morpheus in effect planned a lot of the threads that were tied up at the consequence. Mindbending, and a completely entertaining romp through interested storytelling.

Smoke and Guns by Kirsten Baldock and Gabriel Ba: A pretty short graphic novel, but I could just see this turned into a movie. Hot gun-toting chicks sweetly selling illicit cigarettes on street corners, turning mean with guns when they find a rival on their turf, leading up to a conflagration of bullets amid all that estrogen. Sweet! Bang bang pow pow! Take a deep drag and inhale the gunsmoke.

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Gunslinger Born by Robin Furth, Peter David, Jae Lee, and Richard Isanove: Finally a new Dark Tower storyline! When the final novel was written, Dark Tower fans everywhere lamented, for a story such as this is truly about the journey, not the destination. Apart from ‘The Little Sisters of Eluria’ there was nary a story to be seen outside the novels… until Marvel stepped in. The project is guided by Robin Furth (who I swear knows more about Midworld than does Sai King himself) with the express approval of the master storyteller himself. The Gunslinger Born begins with excerpts from ‘The Gunslinger’ and ‘Wizard and Glass’, serving as a decent introduction to the character of young Roland in his early adventures. The infamous Battle of Jericho, which readers found themselves disappointed to find no further exposition in the final novel, is one of the stories slated to be in this series.

Valerian The New Future Trilogy by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres: An oldie but goldie. Valerian is an intergalatic spy and time-traveller who has teamed up with the lovely fellow spy Laureline in a series of queer and wonderful adventures. This was the inspiration for Luc Besson’s Fifth Element, a project which was started up then abandoned until the nineties, and some say many of the designs in Star Wars was stolen from Mezieres.

Y the Last Man by Brian K Vaughn and Pia Guerra: What can I say about this? It’s beautiful. A world populated by just women… and a single guy is right in the middle of it! A man’s dream? I wouldn’t think so. The dark side of man’s softer aspect. You’d think a world of women would do some good? Vaughn’s dark imagination says otherwise and it’s believeable. Sometimes outright funny, and often just damn chilling. Popular Culture fanatics’ll have a ball digging out references to everything from baseball to old movies.