I Was a Marvel Zombie

Fun article at the Washington Post on the differences between Marvel & DC comics. I was a Marvel geek throughout my youth, as I found the DC books to be way too square.

DC, back then: It’s your kid brother, wacked out on Pop-Tarts, still in his underpants at 10 a.m., insisting on “Super Friends” over “Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.” Thinks he’s Batman at night, thinks he’s Aquaman in the tub. It’s make-believe, make-believe, make-believe. A hot dog is not a death ray, now sit down and eat. And who used all of the red and orange crayons? And why is Robin always in here naked with my Barbies?

Marvel, back then: It’s your big sister’s boyfriend, already 18 and “kind of different, but nice,” your mother observes, although he rides a motorcycle with no helmet. He draws an Incredible Hulk for you on a sheet of paper, and that’s it, you’re hooked, he’s a god. From him you learn about Ghost Rider and Conan the Barbarian and Silver Surfer. He listens to Rush.

DC, back then: Shlockarific television! “Batman” in the ’60s (Ka-pow! Wham!), “The New Adventures of Wonder Woman” in the ’70s. The toys, the cartoons, the read-along storybook LPs.

Marvel, back then: Put out a comic book starring the rock band Kiss.

DC: “Sgt. Rock.”

Marvel: “Doctor Strange.”

But look at DC now: It has become a retreat for grown-ups who’ve had it with the Marvel characters’ endless angst. When you weary of 22-year-old mutants, Batman can seem comfortably adult. Superman feels right. Green Lantern is a terribly interesting idea, a meditation on burden. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are filled with what seems like literature and history.

And look at Marvel now: After decades of fawning over bad-boy Wolverine, everyone started paying a lot more attention to Captain America. He kind of rocks, in a way you never knew, and so does Iron Man. For years nobody except total Marvelheads read “Iron Man.” The World Trade Center collapsed and Marvel took it personally, bub, and started drawing firefighters and cops more. Started drawing flags and sunsets. Had a moment.

All hail Tom Spurgeon for linking to this.

Tom also posted a link about the American Library Association’s annual meeting, which was the first major event to be held in New Orleans since the flood. The report is written by a comics/pop culture site, but the content isn’t geek-specific.

Get off the bus

The Airbus problems I mentioned two weeks ago have gotten worse. According to this BizWeek article and this followup news item, executives at Airbus and EADS, its parent company, are getting the axe due to utter incompetence in keeping on top of the A380’s production.

[Airbus sales exec John] Leahy says that until this spring, managers on the plant floor downplayed the problem. “If you asked any one department, they’d say, ‘I’m a little bit behind, but we’re going to catch up,'” he says. But Airbus executives were concerned enough to ask the consulting firm of McKinsey & Co. in April to examine the problem. It was McKinsey’s report, in early June, that triggered the EADS announcement.

Yet others say the situation is no surprise, because Airbus’s corporate culture openly discourages employees from alerting managers to potential problems. “If you tell them bad news, they simply don’t listen,” says Andrew Walker, a former top engineer at the factory in Broughton, Wales, where the A380’s wings are built. “No one dares tell a high executive that something isn’t possible, because he risks losing his job,” says a local union leader at the Toulouse factory who asked for anonymity.

That fear could explain why Airbus failed to grasp the severity of the problem sooner, even though the company had similar problems in the 1990s with long-range versions of its A340 aircraft.

Make mine Boeing.

The Uses of Failure

One of my favorite posts ever is actually a From the Editor column from my magazine about my enjoyment of failure.

This week, BW has a neat article called How Failure Breeds Success, on how corporations can learn from their mistakes, particularly with product launches gone awry.

Intuit Inc. [. . .] recently celebrated an adventurous marketing campaign that failed. The company had never targeted young tax filers before, and in early 2005 it tried to reach them through an ill-fated attempt to combine tax-filing drudgery with hip-hop style. Through a Web site called RockYourRefund.com, Intuit offered young people discounts to travel site Expedia Inc. and retailer Best Buy Co. and the ability to deposit tax refunds directly into prepaid Visa cards issued by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.

The slideshow‘s not as good as the one I posted on Friday.

Hag and Mope

Official VM buddy linked to this site as part of his entertaining and unofficial guide to the annual Comic Con in San Diego. He linked here in reference to a couple of drawings by Jaime Hernandez that I bought at Cons past. I won’t be at this year’s, but if I were to go, I’d see if Jaime had any drawings for sale of Ray D., Doyle and Speedy, to balance the three drawings of his women that I own.

Without further ado, here are two of those drawings. I never got around to scanning my Penny Century drawing, but it’s a wonderful illo.

I wrote a bunch of posts last year from the Con, with plenty of pix and wacky observations. Here’s a list:

July 15: Walking, Talking, Gawking

July 15: One More Thing

July 16: Rise of the Imperfects

July 19: Pic-Shas (includes some other San Diego stuff)

Suburban Handicap

Yesterday, the Official VM Wife and I headed into NYC to see a performance of Measure for Measure. It was directed by John Castro, a lifelong friend who stopped talking to me in September 2003 because of a girl. I think.

I mean, I know she’s a girl, but I’m not exactly sure exactly what John’s reasons were for not returning my calls for a year, since he’s never told me. Even though he finally deigned to write me, he’s never managed to put together a free evening to get together with me, and his responses to e-mails are intermittent at best.

He missed my wedding last March, for what I assume were reasons relating to the founding of his new theater company, Hipgnosis. That invite was pretty much my last attempt at salvaging 30 years of friendship, but I figured I’d perform some sort of friend-like duty and see his play before its run finishes tonight.

It sounds like a going-through-of-motions, I admit, but I prefer to describe it as an “echo of friendship.”

God, that all sounds like it was a depressing evening, but it wasn’t.

In fact, I had a great time, because another friend of mine, whom I haven’t caught up with in 11 years, joined us for dinner and the play. This guy was a Navy vet I knew in college, and we hadn’t seen each other since I took him to the airport in 1995 to send him to his teaching gig in South Korea. He had just helped me move into my new/old home, and we had some adventures getting the moving truck up from Annapolis to Ringwood.

Cap’n Nemo (fortunately, I didn’t have a college nickname (that I know of)) was filled with riotous stories about his sudden deportation from SK and his life in the last decade, his unique political & linguistic perspective, and obligatory college reminiscences. He’d never seen me drink–much less drink gin–and when we made introductions yesterday, he laughingly replied to “This is my wife, Amy” with “Never thought I’d hear that from you.” It was great to see how we’ve changed and could still stay close.

Joining us for drinks but not dinner or Shakespeare, was my buddy Elayne and her friend Jill. We had (what I consider to be) a lovely time, shooting the breeze, telling stories, and crisscrossing our lives into one another’s. Elayne joined us early in a bar where Amy & I ended up to get out of the heat.

We watched the second half of the France-Brazil match, then watched a loud patron hit on the Czech bartendress, with whom I bonded over the virtues of pop music, as characterized by Hanson’s “Mmmbop!” which was playing on the jukebox.

Is the play the thing? I suppose I should get around to writing about it, but I don’t have much to say. I enjoyed it, but the theater-space was overbearingly hot. I haven’t read the play, so I didn’t have any preconceptions about how it should be staged. I don’t even know how to critique actors at this point, except to say that none of them embarrassed themselves, and no one seemed out of place, although the Duke came off as a bit wooden in his soliloquies.

John & I didn’t have any tearful reunion/reconciliation. I don’t think life works like that, at least not in your mid-30s. He happened to be outside the theater-building as the three of us were approaching, and he zoomed across the street to greet us, giving me a big-ass hug. I introduced him to Amy & Mark, and he shook hands and then headed off for whatever stuff he needed to get done, pre-play. We didn’t stick around after, but we had some fun conversation on the way to Mark’s subway entrance.

Coincidentally, another friend of 20+ years got in touch with me during the afternoon, calling while Amy & I were walking through the east village. The thing was, we heard loud cheers coming from several of the bars and restaurants on the street, so we assumed there was a goal in the France-Brazil game. Since the cellphone-call came an instant later, I figured it had to be my dad calling. It turned out to be my friend, who also missed our wedding, but just came across her present for us, and is hoping we’ll come by today to pick it up (and see her and her family).

Friendship takes a lot of turns.

(Wanna see some pix from our east Village meanderings? It’s a little photoset, but it includes a pic of the place where Amy & I had our first date).

Relief Effort

Well, after busting my ass for a couple of weeks on this writing-heavy issue of the magazine, with plans to work through the long weekend in order to get the pages out Wednesday morning, I discovered that another magazine at our company is way off schedule and is shipping with ours from the printer. So, according to our production coordinator, I have more time (like into the week after) to get this issue wrapped up.

So there’s a profound sense of relief going on, with me and my associate editor. We haven’t said anything to our salespeople; so no telling!

But an ever weirder feeling of relief comes from the fact that I finished reading The Power Broker this morning. I started Caro’s epic biography of Robert Moses in the middle of May, and 6-7 weeks is a long time for me to spend on a single book (let’s leave out last year’s reading of Proust, which sorta breaks out into 7 books). As I told Amy a few nights ago, “I think this is the first book I’ve ever read in which the page count reaches four digits.”

The book was absolutely amazing. I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in how New York City “got that way,” as well as anyone who wants a good illustration of

a) how your good intentions can lead everyone else to hell;

b) how city authorities function(ed) a lot differently than elected officials, operating like a kingdom (complete with dark tower);

c) how idealism can get squashed like a bug;

d) how much of a douche Robert Moses could be; and

e) how one can be a creative visionary force, and be completely wrong.

That said, it’s a giant book: 1,165 pages of not-so-great typography. But the portrait it paints is fantastic.

Now, as I said, there’s also a relief factor. See, for weeks now, I’ve been bringing that volume with me to work. Lately, I’ve been going out for take-out lunch, parking in a lot, sitting in the back of the car and listening to Howard Stern replays while eating, then, when I’m through, turning off the satellite-radio and reading 15 or 20 pages of the book. It’s been pretty consuming.

Today, about to head out for some sushi, I thought, “I have nothing to read.” Walking in the door tonight, I thought, “I don’t have to kill myself on the magazine, and I don’t have any more of The Power Broker to read. Wow.”

Anyway, that’s Life As I Know It. I watched a little of the NBA Draft last night, but no one wore any really breathtaking ensembles (Amy & I were waiting for the 18-button, triple-breasted suit and vest, but gave up and watched an episode of Buffy instead).

And now it looks like I actually will get out to that staging of Measure For Measure this weekend.

Unless I start another book. . .

Good thing Ian didn’t bring up his Navy record

Last December, Amy & I stopped in on one of the hotels in New Orleans where we were planning to reserve a block of rooms for guests at our wedding. The place was still under reconstruction, but one of the upper floors had just been refurnished, the desk clerk told us. The guard would take us up and show us around, if we wanted.

The guy took us upstairs and we toured a couple of the newly decorated rooms. They looked great. Walking behind the security guard, I noticed the large sidearm hanging from his belt, and I thought, “This guy could be a complete psycho. He could shoot us right now and dump our bodies somewhere, and no one would find us.”

It was a weird, passing thought, but it was conditioned by being in a pretty abandoned city.

The hotel worked out for a bunch of our guests, even if my buddy Ian and his family had a problem with their door not locking correctly and had to get moved to a new room at a weird hour (sorry, guys).

This morning, I was scrolling through Drudge and came across a news item about — wait for it — a psycho security guard at a New Orleans hotel popping a visitor in the face with his .40 while they argued over who had the more extensive military record!

“Well,” thought I, “it couldn’t possibly be the same hotel . . . Oh, wait. Yeah, that’s the Royal Saint Charles, alright.”