For Better or Worse

I have always been a fan of John Cena since the first time I laid eyes on him.

I am nothing if not shallow.

But his unique charisma, outstanding physique, and handsome, expressive face caught my eye the first time I caught a glimpse of him while flipping through the channels. Despite my lifelong passion for professional wrestling, however, I never watched any of his matches–my disdain for WWE, which began when they were WWF back in the day, has never abated, despite the hiring of so many heavily muscled guys with spectacular bodies–and was really happy to see him start making the transition to acting (following in the footsteps of Dwayne Johnson, Dave Bautista, and numerous others). I bought a DVD of his first film years ago relatively cheaply in a bargain bin (The Marine, if you are so inclined), and thought, at the time, “this dude could go far in films–he’s naturally charismatic and can act. He’s not Olivier by any means, but he can act enough to carry a scene and create a believable, likable character”.

But the film itself wasn’t good–it was produced by WWE, of course–and I hoped he would get another shot in something not WWE related. He has since proven he can carry a scene, and has done some really great character work in small roles over the years. I did keep thinking–I think this often–that he (and other professional wrestlers) should be cast as super-heroes; it’s not like they have to build up their bodies the way Henry Cavill or Chris Hemsworth had to, so was relatively pleased when he was cast as Peacemaker in the reboot of Suicide Squad–a DC Comic I had no familiarity with; likewise I knew nothing about the character of Peacemaker. But…as a Cena fan, I wanted to watch–and Paul enjoys a good superhero show/movie, too.

I didn’t realize the show was directed and written by James Gunn–whose Guardians of the Galaxy remains my favorite Marvel Universe film–but could immediately detect that Gunn sensibility I loved in Guardians in the very first episode. Not knowing what to expect, I was a little taken aback by the first episode–I thought the opening credits were strange, for one thing; and I wasn’t sure about the show’s tone, or if the characters were going to work or not. We were very close to giving up after the first episode, but decided to keep going.

I am very glad that we did.

It took about three episodes for us to completely buy into the story and the characters, but once the show gets its feet underneath it, it is actually quite fun and darkly funny. All the acting is good, the characters are clearly defined and their inner lives (and inner struggles) make them not only relatable but understandable and likable. They are, of course, on a secret mission to combat an alien invasion (code name: Operation Butterfly), and while the mission is kind of crazy, it works within the context of the show. Freddy Stroma–who is actually gorgeous–downplays his looks to play nerdy Vigilante, and Danielle Brooks is also fantastic. Robert Patrick is also perfectly vile as Peacemaker’s racist father, a super-villain known as the White Knight.

And yes, the opening credits eventually–as we got deeper into the show–became one of our favorite parts of the show.

And Peacemaker’s best friend, an eagle cleverly named Eagley, is also pretty hilarious.

We enjoyed the hell out of this show, and I highly recommend it. Can’t wait for season two–and may even go back and watch Suicide Squad.

And God, Cena is perfect. PERFECT.

Night Fever

I read comic books when I was a kid, and around the age of eight or so moved on from Archie to DC Comics and their pantheon of super-heroes. I did watch the Batman television show when it aired when I was even younger; it was a lot of fun to watch–silly and campy (even though I was too young to even slightly understand what camp was or have any idea that it was even a thing; I just knew I liked it). I’ve dipped my toes back into the world of comics from time to time over the decades as I’ve gotten older. I don’t know a whole lot about comics–enough to know that I don’t know much, but just enough to be able to participate in a conversation about them for a little while before getting lost. I never followed writers or artists, I followed the characters–but have always had an appreciation for the art, both in story, drawing, and colorization–that make the books what they are.

I’ve always loved Nightwing since he was introduced, and that’s an abiding fandom that has flickered, off and on, over the years. (If ever asked who my favorite comics character is, I always unhesitatingly reply “Nightwing.”) It was this fandom that actually led me to the Titans television show, which I enjoy, and recently, a friend on Twitter was recommending a graphic novel that combined the first six issues of a new Nightwing story arc, the issues collected into a book called Nightwing: Leaping into the Light.

I also had to examine, for the first time, the questions why does Nightwing resonate so much with me? Why do I connect so much with this comic book superhero?

Which leads to the character of Dick Grayson.

The great irony of my connection to Nightwing is that I absolutely hated Dick Grayson as Robin. The only time I ever really liked Dick-as-Robin was on the Batman television show, as played by Burt Ward. But the costume, the weird subjugation of his personality as anything other than a pale reflection of Bruce Wayne/Batman never really connected with me, yet at the same time I felt like I should connect with him, as he was closer to me in age than Batman or any of the super-folk I followed. I mean, I liked Jimmy Olsen’s identity as it was established in his own spin-off series, so why didn’t I like Robin? I think it was because of that subjugation, that strong willingness to be just like Bruce without questioning it; there was an unflinching eagerness to please the older male/father figure that probably reminded me, harshly, of my own failures to meet up to the societal and parental expectations for a male child–because I resisted strongly against conforming to those expectations because they weren’t who I was. My childhood, therefore, was a long period of resisting what everyone was trying to turn me into.

Dick Grayson not only didn’t resist, he eagerly embraced the role his father figure expected from him. And so, I couldn’t relate to him.

I didn’t connect with him until he rebelled and became Nightwing; struck out on his own and grew up, determined to find himself and who he actually is rather than trying to fit into the mold his father figure created for him.

And that was when I connected with him–because I could identify with that entire internal struggle between who people expect you to be, and who you really are; as well as how hard it can be to find yourself when you’ve been relentlessly trained and told who you are.

So, in some ways, Nightwing’s hero’s journey emulated that of so many gay men; he had to find himself rather than fit into the mold he was also told he was made from and the fulfill the role that was expected of him.

And maybe it’s not just gay men–it’s any man, really, who have been raised to emulate their father (figure) so much that they try to turn into them, and find out that isn’t who they are.

And Nightwing was also one of the first characters in the DC Universe to actually age.

Nightwing: Leaping into the Light is an exceptional treatment of the character. The artwork is phenomenal; the writing exceptional. I don’t follow comics as closely as I used to–I simply don’t have the time, but maybe when I retire–and I know there have been a lot of changes to the DC comics universe over the last decade or so, and I’ve not been able to follow them all. I know there are a lot of characters now in what’s considered the “bat family”–I would have to look them all up–and I also know the character of Nightwing himself has been through a lot on his recent journey; this book alludes to his troubled recent past–but now he is actually trying to make a difference in the world, to be the “light” the world (or the deeply criminally contaminated city of Blüdhaven that he now calls home) needs. Alfred has died–that was a deep shock–and it also turns out he left young Master Grayson a fortune. Over the course of his story, as Dick/Nightwing recognizes the issues and problems in his new home city, he decides to use that money to try to turn back the darkness and help people, while working at night as his persona to fight crime. It’s done extremely well, and I love the dog he rescues and winds up adopting at the beginning of the book; and Nightwing’s character…who he is…and what he stands for…is very well defined in this story.

And now I want to read more.

Jingle Bells

I was tired all day yesterday–very low energy for most of the day, too tired to deal with a lot of anything. I spent the day making condom packs and watching a strange reality show on HBO MAX–Finding Magic Mike–and it really wasn’t what I was expecting, to be honest. I was thinking it was going to be an excellent piece of camp; Bravo had tried this with the trashy Manhunt, which was about casting a male strip review in Las Vegas. But this was…different. This was about helping the contestants “find their magic” by gaining confidence in themselves by learning how to perform for women while taking their clothes off. “I don’t feel like the main character in my life story anymore,” one of them says in the first episode, and many of the others echo the same kind of discontent and dissatisfaction with their lives. The process of the show was kind of interesting, and the contestants were actually kind of likable? (One was incredibly arrogant, but the editors did a really nice job of softening his edges by showing other sides of him, interacting with the others and helping them? He was the closest thing to a villain the show had, and I was actually kind of glad the editing didn’t try to fit the contestants into the boxes you usually see on competition shows.) It was actually kind of nice to see, particularly as the contestants bonded with each other.

So, while I was kind of disappointed in it, at the same time I was rather glad I watched. It did make me think about a lot of this “cultural war” stuff; like how “men aren’t men anymore”–but I would posit that men never used to be men, either; it was all a facade because of societal expectations placed on men to be “tough” or “strong” or “big boys don’t cry” and make them emotionally distant and disconnected from everyone in their lives. Societal norms and expectations when it comes to gender roles are quite damaging, I think–and while of course there are those who bemoan the breakdowns of those cultural norms. I do think/feel/believe that that the breaking down of gender roles and the redefinitions coming in their wake will make for a stronger society in the long run. I found male gender roles to be terribly confining and revolted against them most of my life; which means–in theory, at any rate–that my life has been subversive.

Which, while a cheery thought, is also kind of sad.

And I certainly didn’t expect a reality show where guys learned how to strip like Vegas professionals to lead me down a brain wormhole of examining masculinity roles and expectations. So, well done, HBO MAX and producer Channing Tatum. Well done, indeed.

I am going to work on the book as much as I can today, while cleaning and organizing; I have to do a live reading and panel thing this afternoon–which means turning on the camera in the computer, which means people can see the kitchen behind me, which means it can’t be in the condition it currently is in–and I am also supposed to record some promo videos. Sigh. I really hate being on camera and I really hate the sound of my own voice. But I agreed to do all of this, like it or not, and so I really need to commit and get it all done. I also need to figure out when all the things I’ve agreed to do are actually due, because the first quarter of 2022 looks to be booking up with all kinds of things that need to get taken care of and I need to pay attention to, or else I am going to be horribly frantic in the first few months of the next year.

And one thing I really need to get done is this book. I need to make enough progress into it so that I am not feeling stress about it–good luck with that, right?–because that stress will shorten my fuse and make me start snapping at people, and that’s not a good thing on any level. For anyone. I need to plan and make lists and get organized.

Last night I dipped into Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien, and it’s absolutely charming. I also found my copy of Johnny Tremain and read the first chapter again–which is so dramatically different from the film that I am now wondering how much of what I remember of the book is actually from the film? Paul is going to be gone most of the day–he has Wacky Russian in the morning and then he is going into the office–so I am going to try to get as much writing done as I can before three my time, which is when I need to start rehearsing my reading for the panel at 4 central time. I also have to do a promo video for #shedeservedit, and I also have to record a short reading from “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” which I am dreading. I’ve never liked seeing recordings of myself, am usually not terribly fond of photos of myself either (until years have passed), and I absolutely hate the sound of my voice. I am not sure what that is–a lack of confidence in myself? More deep-rooted self-loathing? Not feeling like the main character in the story of my life? (Damn you, Finding Magic Mike, for triggering all these self-questioning self-examinations in my head!)

I also finished reading Nightwing: Leaping into the Light, and it was, as I expected it would be, truly wonderful. I also started evaluating Nightwing as a character and why I connect with him so much; which will inevitably the blog entry/review of the book, no doubt–and possibly another essay at some point as well. (Honestly. I have so many essay ideas…maybe make that a part of the new year’s goals; finish the essays.)

I did make a list yesterday of all the writing that I have to get done by the end of the year, or by the end of January, and it’s staring at me from my notebook. I am resisting the urge to flip it over and not look at it, but I really do need to know and I really do need to get to work on all of these things. Ass in chair, fingers on keyboard is what is absolutely called for here, and focus.

So, on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday before Christmas, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you tomorrow.

Christmas Alphabet

Thursday and working at home today. Huzzah!

I got some very good work done yesterday on the book, as well as an invitation to write a story for a tribute anthology, which meant it was a very good day. Today I am working at home, and am also very excited because finally, at long last, I have found Johnny Tremain on a streaming service! And while it disturbs me to no end to actually have to pay to rent it, but I’ve been wanting to see it again for a very long time, and I think I can cough up the couple of bucks to pay for it.

I’ve long wondered where my interest in history came from, and when I saw Johnny Tremain available to stream at long last on Amazon Prime the other day, it hit me: when I was in the first grade, at Eli Whitney Elementary School in Chicago, one afternoon we all gathered in the auditorium and they screened the movie for us. It was my first time seeing anything to do with American history–at that point, I was aware of the Civil War (I was from the South and lived in Chicago; of course I did) and who Washington and Lincoln were, but it was watching this movie–about a teenager in Boston during the period leading up to the American Revolution, that triggered my interest. This was when I started looking for books on American history at the library instead of ones about dinosaurs, and I was in the fourth grade when I finally got a copy of the book (I didn’t know it was a book first) from the Scholastic Book Fair, and it remained a favorite of mine for the rest of my life. I’ve always, always, remembered watching that movie and wanted to see it again; but it wasn’t until recently that I realized that it was the trigger that led me to my interest in American history, and from there to history in general. I am sure, since it’s a Disney picture made in the 1950’s, that it’s very rah-rah patriotic–there’s a thirty minute clip from it on Disney Plus that I tried to watch out of context, but it was so…hit you over the head with AMERICANA and FREEDOM and LIBERTY that I couldn’t really watch all of it; I am hoping that the entire movie won’t be such blatant propaganda, but then again, it was during the height of the Red Scare and it probably was intended to indoctrinate (white) children with a pro-America mentality; patriotism to the nth degree.

So, we’ll see how that goes, won’t we?

I got some good work on the book done last night, after which I was very tired, so I climbed into the easy chair (with a sleeping purr-kitty in my lap) and finished reading A Caribbean Mystery. (More on that later.) I also started reading Nightwing: Leaping into the Light (based on a recommendation from my friend Alex, who always knows whereof he speaks) and it reminded me (again) of why Nightwing is and always has been my favorite super-hero ever since I was a teenager (since he evolved from Robin into Nightwing); and it also finally hit me last night precisely why that was the case; it should make for an interesting blog entry when I get to it. I have so much writing to do–and fortunately I am in a creative state of mind these days, which needs to be more laser-focused. I am pretty confident I will get the book finished in time now, as well as everything else I need to do. We need to make a Costco run at some point, and of course there’s always mail to pick up, dishes to do, floors to clean, and laundry. I also have condoms to pack, and so much reading to do. I inevitably always have more than enough books on hand so that I will never run out of things to read–and that’s not even taking into consideration the ebooks loaded into all the reading apps on my iPad. I slept really well last night–a lovely side effect to being exhausted yesterday–and my shoulder is starting to feel better–at least I can move my arm without feeling a stab of pain, but I do want to keep resting it for another few days before attempting the gym again. I think tonight I might also walk around the Garden District taking pictures of Christmas decorations, which is always a lovely thing to do; one of the many things I love about this city is how it dresses itself up for any and every holiday, which makes it always seem so festive here.

I also have all my Christmas shopping done, and I actually did my Christmas cards last night as well. Now if only my house weren’t such a mess, I could claim I was winning at life!

Paul and I have decided that 2022 is going to be a year dedicated to living our best lives, and we’re thinking about taking another jaunt to Europe (pandemic permitting); but Amsterdam and Berlin will be our destinations. I’ve always wanted to visit both–there’s really nowhere in Europe I don’t want to visit, really–and the appeal of the art museums in both, plus Amsterdam is primarily a walking city, is a hard pull to resist. I’m thinking we might even take the occasional weekend getaway to a panhandle beach, why not? I have to do some traveling for my career (pandemic willing), and I am sure Paul will want to come to Minneapolis with me for Bouchercon, since we both lived there (he lived there much longer than I did; I only lasted eight months, and only agreed to live there on the guarantee it would be eight months and then we would move to New Orleans–other than the weather I really liked it there) it makes sense for him to come with. He works so hard, and he really does deserve to have down time where he can just relax and have fun.

Yesterday at the office I was walking out of our cubicle area to a testing room because one of my clients had arrived. I had noticed that the Crescent Care shirt I was wearing fit rather nicely; I have three of them in purple (one for every clinic day) and one of them, for some reason, fits better than the others and looks more flattering when I wear it. I actually had just thought about it again when I stood up from my desk (“hey, my pecs looks HUGE in this shirt”) and as I walked out, our nurse (hired in July) was sitting at the front desk and she said, “You know Greg, I can see the potential that you were fine when you were younger.” Fifty year old me would have been offended (“what? I look old and tired now?”) but sixty year old me accepted it in the spirit it was intended–a compliment–so I just laughed and replied, “thank you, I was.” Like I said, ten years ago I would have let that hurt my feelings; now I saw it as a compliment–if worded a bit bluntly–and it amused me. Even thinking about it, I am smiling about it.

I do wish I hadn’t been so insecure and self-conscious when I was younger. I also wish I could transfer this very mentality to my writing. I don’t get Imposter Syndrome as much as I used to–more maturity of age, perhaps?–but I do worry about whether people will get what i am trying to do when I write. I worry about unintentionally offending people more than I ever used to before (trust me, if I am trying to offend you, it’s pretty fucking clear); and I am trying to be kinder, more aware, and to exercise empathy as my default rather than getting offended myself. I don’t know how well I am succeeding, but I certainly don’t have my Julia Sugarbaker tirades are regularly as I used to.

Interesting.

Maturity, or just tired?

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me.

Superman

So, on National Coming Out Day this past week, October 11th, the current Superman—Jonathon Kent, son of Lois and Clark—came out as bisexual. When I saw the New York Times piece I literally gasped out loud. This wasn’t some minor character in a team comic; this wasn’t even a second-tier lead of a less-popular title. This was fucking SUPERMAN, the Big Blue Boy Scout, the tentpole character on whom all of DC Comics, and the DC television and film franchises, are built around.

I literally had tears come up in my eyes. This was So. Fucking. HUGE.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much that would have meant to me as a deeply closeted and terrified gay teenager in the Chicago suburbs and later, small town rural Kansas. I really don’t know how best to explain what this meant to me as a sixty-year-old gay man, but here goes.

Oh, Superman. You are the ubiquitous comic book character; since your debut back before the second world war you have become the default; the super-hero every other super-hero is judged against. It’s even right there in your generic name: you are the super man, hence you are Superman.

Superman is kind of the Bill Jones or Joe Smith of comic book heroes: basic, simply named, and the best of them all.

I was a kid when I first started reading comic books about super-heroes. Before I bought my first Action Comics (all I remember is that Lex Luthor was the issue’s villain), I read Archie in all of its iterations; I also read Millie the Model, Dot, Little Lotta, and some others that have faded from memory. The Jewel Osco where my mom used to buy groceries when we lived in Chicago had a comic book vending machine near the entrance, right next to a soda machine dispensing cans of Pepsi and its variants. You put in a dime and two pennies into the appropriate slots, and pushed the appropriate buttons for the comic you wanted; the metal spiral thing holding the comics would spin and drop your comic down, so you could reach in through the door and pick it up. That particular day I wanted a Betty and Veronica, which was A5 but I was in a hurry and accidentally pressed B5 instead; voila, I got an Action Comics instead, much to my bitter disappointment. One of the local independent stations, Channel 32 (which also showed repeats of The Munsters, among other black-and-white classics) aired reruns of the old Superman television show; which I thought, even for my unsophisticated childish palate, was cheesy and silly. I remember grousing about it to my mother—whose response, “Boys read super hero comics anyway” was the kind of thing that usually would guarantee that I would never read a super hero comic book, but I picked it up after we got home and I started reading, certain that I would hate it.

It probably should go without saying that I didn’t hate it.

And it opened an entirely new world for me. Sure, it got a little frustrating from time to time for me (Superman was such a goody two-shoes, but that was kind of his job) and Lois being so desperate (and jealous) to either marry and/or expose his secret identity was annoying; especially because Lois otherwise was such a kick ass woman. There were any number of Superman or Superman-adjacent titles, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen had their own titles; Superman often appeared in (and was definitely a charter member of) Justice League of America; there was also Superboy (“Superman as a teenager!”) and Supergirl…it was like the comics readers couldn’t get enough of Superman and his world. I eventually moved on to other DC Comics titles, too—everything Batman (Detective Comics was always my favorite, because there was a mystery to solve) and Flash and Green Arrow and Green Lantern and…yes, my dollar allowance every week for a long time went to comic books (Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were $1.50 and my allowance was $1 per week; and no, I couldn’t wait until I had two dollars to get one; I always needed to spend my money as soon I got it on Thursday—Mom’s payday—at either Jewel Osco or at Woolworth’s…because I could always talk Mom into buying me a book if there were Hardy Boys or Three Investigators to be had). When we moved to the suburbs the Zayre’s didn’t carry comics, nor did the grocery store in town; the 7/11 only carried Marvel (I tried with The Mighty Thor, but the continuing story aspect Marvel used irritated me because I would inevitably miss an issue), and when Zayre’s finally started carrying comics, things had… changed. Wonder Woman was no longer an Amazon, and was just an every day modern woman running a boutique (somehow she’d given up her powers). Supergirl had been poisoned, which meant her powers came and went without warning; one moment she’d be super, the next she wouldn’t. It was an attempt to modernize the books, of course, make them appeal to the newer, more sophisticated modern audience of the 1970’s; some of them started addressing social issues and became a lot more adult in theme. (Green Arrow actually became my favorite book during this time; he was drawn naturally—had curly chest hair AND nipples—and he had no powers other than being an expert archer and skill at hand-to-hand fighting). I eventually moved away from comics because I started spending my money on novels—Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, etc.—and comics were, I thought, really for kids.

Later on, when we moved to Kansas, I got back into comics again, and things had changed yet again. Some of the Legion of Super-Heroes’ costumes made them look like strippers (male and female); the drawing of the characters had become more natural and realistic (Superman, for example, went from being barrel-shaped to having a narrow little waist and abs showing through his skintight costume), and Wonder Woman was an Amazon again. This was my Howard the Duck period, when I also started delving into Marvel a bit more. Comics always remained of interest to me throughout my life, with me going through periods of collecting and reading in large volumes at different times…before moving on from them again. I am not an expert on comics by any means; I know the names of some artists and some writers, but for the most part, I always paid more attention to story and character (go figure). But I’ve always maintained a love for the characters; and yes, the original Christopher Reeve Superman movie (which I rewatched recently for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival) indeed made me believe a man could fly.

I’ve always had, and always will have, a soft spot for Superman.

To me, Christopher Reeve was Superman–the prior versions of the character, including the popular television show (which I watched religiously) always seemed, to me, to be an actor playing the part; Reeve somehow just was the character. He was so insanely and ridiculously handsome; the body was just right, and he had the right mix of charm and charisma the part demanded. Reeve’s Superman could never be seen as a threat–and he also made it completely believable that no one could tell Clark was him, with different hair, glasses, and street clothes; he physically changed how he stood, his posture, everything about him that was Superman, when he was playing Clark.

Reeve never got enough credit as an actor, frankly.

And while my memories of Margot Kidder as Lois Lane aren’t fond ones–I thought she was a fine actress, but miscast–overall, the first two Reeve films were good ones. They could have stopped there, but didn’t–and the last two weren’t good. I enjoyed Lois and Clark (despite what Dean Cain turned into) and Paul and I eventually succumbed to the simple pleasure that was Smallville…but I wanted to see Superman back up on the big screen, where he belonged. I was very excited when they cast Henry Cavill in the part (I’ve been crushing hard on Cavill since first noticing him on The Tudors)….and then came the movies. I enjoyed them for what they were, and I did think some of the changes made to update and modernize the story (how would Americans today react to the discovery of a super being from another planet?)–and you can never go wrong with Amy Adams, either.

But…they forgot the most important thing about Superman: his kindness and genuine concern for people. In the quest to make the DC Film Universe of all that is dark and angsty like the Batman movies–the direction Batman has gone in since the comic mini-series The Dark Knight Returns–was a bad one. Patty Jenkins got Wonder Woman so fucking right–and it was the same basic formula as Superman. Superman used to be derisively called “the world’s oldest Boy Scout”, but that can work with the character, and with the right actor. I think Cavill has the charisma and the charm–and the extraordinarily gorgeous smile–to pull that off; I just wish they would have let him have the chance.

The new show on CW, Superman and Lois, is also excellent; I absolutely love it, and I do think that Tyler Hoechlin is one of the best Supermans of all time, frankly. (The entire cast is stellar, frankly.)

So, as I said earlier, I was pretty fucking jazzed the other day to see the piece in the New York Times earlier this week about Superman “coming out”–on National Coming Out Day, no less–and even if it turned out to not be Clark Kent, but Lois and Clark’s son Jonathan (in the comics they have the one son; on Superman and Lois they have twin sons, one of whom is named Jonathan), and while I, in my white gay male privilege assumed this meant that he was gay–he’s actually bisexual. But he is attracted to other men, and even has a boyfriend.

There was one particularly noxious piece posted on Medium, which the homophobic piece of trash who wrote it proudly posted on Facebook (I reported his post on Facebook as well as the piece on Medium as hate speech; the Medium piece came down, but the last time I looked, of course Facebook had done nothing about it). I read the whole thing–poorly worded, not grammatical, would have given a C- grade on the construction basics level alone–but the part that I couldn’t get past, the part I can’t forget, was him saying this: But why take one of the few heroes left for the “Straight World” and make him abnormally offensive to us?

Abnormally. Offensive.

I guess I missed the massive closet exodus for the DC and Marvel Universes? Let me see–right off the top of my head, at DC aren’t Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Nightwing, Cyborg, Aquaman, the Flash, the Martian Manhunter, the Question, Beast Boy, the Elongated Man, and Shazam, all straight? (And that is just off the top of my head., and only DC.) But you know those people who are so afraid of the queers–you know, like the piece of shit who wrote the Medium piece–they just can’t help themselves or keep their fucking mouths shut. Oh, no, Mr. I’ve Never Brought a Woman to Orgasm just can’t let us have anything without letting us know how much it offends their delicate, needle-dicked sensibilities. You know, the same kind of guy who undoubtedly always complains about “cancel culture” and “social justice warriors” and “wokeness” and I don’t have a problem with gay people but why do you have to exist? Those kinds–sad, bitter little men with so little joy in their lives they have to spend their precious time on this planet letting everyone else in the world know how much they object to our existence.

But he has a right to his opinion and we are oppressing him if we call it out for the hateful trash it is…and him for the piece of shit he is.

As my editor at Kensington wrote on a note he included with a copy of a bad review of one of my books, this just reeks with the stench of failed author.

This guy claims to be a crime writer, and claims to work for a publisher (I’ve never heard of it or him before this moment)…but after reading this piece and another one he published on Medium, the real crime is his actual writing.

Fuck off, dude. And know that bisexual Superman is going to have way better sex than you could ever pay for, no matter how long you live.

God knows I have.

Sometimes

Tuesday morning and so far so good. Yesterday was a relatively easy day at the office, really; a lovely way to start off the week, actually. I felt rested for most of the day, and had a relatively easy time getting home as well, which I wasn’t expecting; traffic lights in the Central Business District are still out or blinking, including the one at Poydras, which is the main artery of the district–which makes the drive a bit challenging. There wasn’t much traffic yesterday on my way home, so that intersection where I cross Poydras (Loyola) wasn’t as horrific as it has been in the past.

And tomorrow is payday; I had quite literally forgotten! Paying off the car has changed my life so dramatically for the better, Constant Reader, you have no idea. Before paying off the car, I would have been counting down the days to pay day, wondering how much I’d have left to buy food with, wondering if I would have enough to pay for everything. Not having that kind of extreme financial stress, like I’ve been experiencing for the last four years plus, has been literally absolutely lovely for me. I don’t know how people do it–and then buy another car right on top of paying off the old one, or trading one in before its completely paid for and…yeah, I will never understand the joys of having all that extra debt hanging over my head. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never wanted to buy a house or a condo or anything; the thought of being saddled with debt for the rest of my life like that absolutely curdles my blood.

And yes, I am quite aware that I still have to pay for housing anyway, that I am essentially throwing the rent money away every month that I could be “investing” in property, and all the rest of those financial security memes I’ve been told since I was a child. But I am not a fan of debt of any kind, quite frankly. I hate debt, hate it hate it hate it, and my next financial goal is to pay off the rest of the debt I am still carrying, which has become a bit easier since the car has been paid for. I don’t regret buying the car–I still love the car, and will for a long time, no doubt–but I am not sorry the debt is gone.

I didn’t think I slept very well last night–it seemed to take forever for me to fall asleep–and yet I still feel rested this morning. My Fitbit tells me that the majority of my sleep last night was “light” sleep, and I didn’t get the correct percentages of “REM sleep” or “deep sleep”. I imagine what this means is this afternoon I will run out of steam and get tired; that seems to be the case once the caffeine wears off. Ah, caffeine; such a harsh mistress you are.

Today is the official release day for Bury Me in Shadows (or it was yesterday; I’m really not sure how I still have a career, honestly) so there’s one more Blatant Self-Promotion post to come; I’ve been working on it since the weekend, and I hope to get it right and posted today. Tomorrow night I have the launch event at Murder by the Book in Houston (virtual), and I am doing a diversity panel for a library through Sisters in Crime (chessie chapter) this coming Monday. I know, two virtual events in less than a week, who am I? I also realized yesterday I had never posted the BSP post I’d written Sunday morning, so it went up yesterday instead.

I’m really not very good at this blatant self-promotion thing, and sometimes I wonder if it’s a mental thing; defeating myself before I have a chance to be defeated by the rest of the world. It would make sense, wouldn’t it?

I rewatched Scream 2 last night while I was waiting for Paul to finish working and come downstairs, and rather than switching to something else when he came down about halfway through the movie he was fine with just watching it through to the end–we’re both big Scream fans–and oddly enough, no matter how many times I’ve seen these movies they still work and are enjoyable. Greater horror minds than mine have dissected these films, how meta they are, and so forth to death; nothing I could say could possibly lend anything to the discourse already. But I do enjoy them more than most slasher/horror movies, it seemed fairly appropriate for Halloween, and since I have Peacock, which has all the Halloween movies streaming available, I may spend the rest of the month watching every Halloween movie; there are actually some I’ve not seen. And what better films for the Halloween Horror Film Festival than the Halloween series? (And if I can squeeze in a Scream or two, why not?) I didn’t write very much of anything yesterday and am not terribly happy about that, to be honest. I felt a bit tired when I came home from work yesterday–I stopped to pick up a few things on the way home–and tonight I have to go to the gym, since I can’t tomorrow. I did pull up Never Kiss a Stranger and started revising and re-ordering the story somewhat–beginning with the removal of about 2000 words at the beginning that might not be as necessary as I had originally thought; they can go further back in the manuscript than where they were originally placed, if used at all–so that was something, but I was tired and Scooter really wanted to nap in my lap in the easy chair and it was all so much easier to just give into the tired and relax with a purring kitty in my lap…yeah, it’s a wonder I get anything done around here at all.

And yesterday the current Superman–Jonathon Kent, son of Clark and Lois–came OUT. Superman is gay! * (That sound you just heard was any number of homophobes screaming about their childhoods being ruined.) I didn’t see it yesterday–I just saw the piece in the New York Times shared on Twitter–and will read it later this morning between clients. But this is quite thrilling, and that they timed the announcement for National Coming Out Day? Thank you thank you thank you, DC Comics.

Yesterday I also got a PDF file from an anthology I contributed a reprint story to; I had literally completely forgotten about it (my memory is completely worthless these days) and I never recorded it on my “out for submission” spreadsheet either; so my system completely failed. It happens, of course, and more regularly than I would prefer, to be completely honest. Anyway, it’s a gay erotic vampire anthology from Lethe Press called Blood on His Hands, and the story I gave them to reprint is my old “Bloodletting” story; which was originally written as a sequel story to my novella Blood on the Moon, and eventually became the first chapter of my Todd Gregory novel Need. I’ve not reread any of my vampire stuff over the years, and so last night, while I was trying to figure out to watch before settling on Scream 2 I spent some time revisiting this story. It isn’t bad, actually; I was very pleasantly surprised. (I often am pleasantly surprised to read something old of mine and see that it’s not terrible, or a steaming pile of shit…I really do need to stop being so hard on myself when it comes to writing; even as I started moving bits and pieces of Never Kiss a Stranger around last night I found myself thinking, “oh, this is good” or “this needs to be punched up some”–but “this is good” thoughts far outnumbered “fix this”, which was most pleasing to me. I have another story in another anthology coming out later this year–the story is “A Whisper from the Graveyard,” but I cannot think of the name of the anthology; I think it’s Pink Triangle Rhapsody? It really is a wonder I have a career of any kind in this business….

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I will see you tomorrow on Pay-the-Bills-Day.

*Well, bisexual anyway, but he has sex with men and that’s more than enough for me. It’s a huge step for DC Comics and super-heroes in general; it’s fucking Superman, not some supporting cast super-hero most people have never heard of who only appears in some team-up books; it’s SUPERMAN!

Hello Hello

Monday morning and here we are again. But the good news is I actually wrote something yesterday that wasn’t this blog and I haven’t done that since Before the Power Went Out. Granted, it wasn’t much of anything; a listicle of books I used as inspiration for Bury Me in Shadows and how their mood, style, voice and point of view helped me develop my own Gothic style for my own book. Bury Me in Shadows isn’t my first Gothic, of course; Sorceress, Lake Thirteen, Timothy, and The Orion Mask could all be considered Gothics (the latter two definitely more so than the first two; but the first two do have touches of Gothic in them).

But writing this listicle (and yes, I do hate that word but it works) got me thinking about Gothics in general, and what is/isn’t considered Gothic when it comes to literature (and no worries, Constant Reader–I refused to take the bait and name The Castle of Otranto, Dracula and all the others that inevitably turn up on these lists; I even left the Brontë sisters off my list); likewise, I often think about noir in the same way and what it is or isn’t (I maintain that Rebecca is noir to the heart of its dark soul), which makes reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Velvet Was the Night such a joy. Yes, I was able to sit down yesterday and spend some time with this delicious noir that is just as velvety in its writing as its title implies; it was after I walked to the gym on a beautiful late September Sunday and worked out, then walked home and had my protein shake, watching the end of the Saints game while sitting in my easy chair and reading. So, yes, yesterday was quite the marvelous day for one Gregalicious. Yes, I slept later than intended; but I made it to the gym, I wrote the listicle piece, and I spent some time reading. I really need to set aside at least an hour every day to spend reading; I’m not sure why I’ve had so much trouble reading since the power came back. But I have some amazing things in my TBR list I want to get to, and I definitely want to hit the horror/spec fic hard for October, to honor Halloween. Definitely want to reread The Haunting of Hill House again, perhaps grab one of those thick Stephen King first editions down from the shelf and dig into it, and there’s a Paul Tremblay on the shelves, waiting for me to read it. I can also get back into the Short Story Project for October–there’s no better short story writer to study than Stephen King, right, and I haven’t even cracked the spine of If It Bleeds.

Yes, that sounds like a great plan.

I also need to start working on the book I just signed a contract for that is now due in January. I haven’t settled on a pseudonym yet, but the book’s title is (pause for effect) A Streetcar Named Murder, and I am really looking forward to getting back into writing this again. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and making lots of notes…I do think I am getting to the point where I am going to start writing fiction again, and regularly. I still feel more than a little bit overwhelmed, but it’s not as paralyzing as it has been Since The Power Went Out…but I am also aware, from past experience with this sort of shit, that it also goes from day to day and changes. Today may be a good day; yesterday certainly was, but it can also change on a dime at any moment.

We also finished watching Curse of the Chippendales after the Saints game–the final episode was a bit of a letdown–but the overall story was fascinating. I was more than a little surprised that none of the Chippendales dancers were gay–or certainly not the ones they interviewed, at any rate–because I would have sworn that several of them were; I mean, as I said to Paul while we were watching, “I find it really hard to believe none of these guys were gay–especially with worked out bodies at a time when the majority of men who did work out were gay.” Then again, it could be a stereotype, but I do remember when if someone looked like they worked out, the odds were in favor of them being gay. (While I am aesthetically very happy that gay body culture has crossed over into the mainstream with the result that even straight guys of all ages are working on keeping their bodies in shape, I do miss the days when a hot-bodied guy would catch my eye and I’d be able to think, ‘yeah, one of us most likely.’)

After that, we got caught up on Titans–I cannot emphasize how well Greg Berlanti’s television adaptations of the DC Universe are done–and then we started watching Midnight Mass on Netflix. It’s creepy and weird and sad and more than a little spooky; all I could think while watching was ugh how miserable it would be to live on that island…while I am not a fan of living in enormous metropolitan areas like New York or LA or San Francisco etc, I am also not a fan of living in little communities like the one depicted in this show. There’s such a claustrophobic, insular feel to living in small rural towns or communities that I don’t think I could stand for long. But it was a lovely, relaxing Sunday around the Lost Apartment (and the Saints won!), which was greatly appreciated by me at the very least.

And on that note, I should head into the spice mines. Y’all have a lovely Monday, okay?

I Drove All Night

Friday and the first day of my four day weekend! Woo-hoo!

And I got my new computer yesterday–and practically wept for joy once I had it set up (which literally took NO time at all). It’s so fast, the picture quality is stunning (I played the 2019 LSU-Alabama game on it thru Youtube while I did the dishes, and the picture quality is better than my television’s. And yes, that game is one of my main happy places, sue me.) It’s been amazing so far; but I also need to remember to enjoy these it’s amazingly functional and fast days for the inevitable day when the spinning wheel starts showing up again, or programs start freezing or locking up, and the whole hellish Mac computer thing starts all over again.

Today is a Gregalicious day; I had already decided earlier this week that would be what today would be for me. I have a spa appointment at twelve thirty (for a waxing, if you want to know, and sorry about the TMI if you didn’t) but it’s all a part of the new attitude towards celebrating being sixty, and part of my personal wellness journey. There was just something about going to the gym the other night for the rebirth of Leg Day into my life that switched my mindset around, or flipped a switch in my head about working out; maybe it was the tiredness of my legs the last two days around here, which means I am aware of the work my body is doing? While I have been going to the gym and working out fairly regularly since we joined the new gym, it’s not like I’ve been enjoying the workouts, or even had much of a goal going forward with it–more of a I am doing this to be healthier and to try to be in better shape. I’ve not wanted much to mess with my eating habits/diet; I’ve never rearranged the way I eat for weight control, choosing the workout path on its own entirely. Maybe I should do something about my eating habits; trying to eat healthier, or something. I want to lose some fat weight–I had gotten down to 200 but am now back up to 211 again, and i’d rather be around 200, possibly even as low as 190. It’s possible and I am going to work my way up (down?) to that goal. Part of the issue with the working out is that I didn’t have a set goal–before, as I have said, I always planned my goals around peaking at the holidays–Decadence, Halloween, and Carnival–and while I have no intentions of ever running around at those events next to naked again under any circumstances, maybe it’s not a bad idea to use those dates as goal dates…my mind is already wired that way.

We started watching the new season of Titans last night on HBO MAX–I’ve always loved the Titans; they were amongst my favorites in the DC Universe, and Nightwing has always been one of my favorite heroes in that universe–and was surprised/not surprised to see the Joker killing off Jason Todd before the opening credits of Episode One. As I explained to Paul, back in the 1980’s as a publicity gimmick, DC ran a contest about killing off Jason Todd/Robin, fully expecting the readers to vote to keep him alive. They didn’t; and I will be the first to admit I voted for him to die daring DC to actually pull the plug on a major character in the Batman universe; DC called the readers’ bluff and killed off Jason in the now famous “A Death in the Family” story, which was also around the time the Batman stories took their turn toward the truly dark and noir.

Today I am going to, as I said, have a spa appointment. I also have to pick up another box of Scooter’s insulin syringes and get the mail. Obviously, I am trying to figure out the most efficient way to do the errands, as always, and think I’ll start with the spa day and go further afield uptown from there before coming home and spending some time with The Other Black GIrl. I also need to head to the gym at some point today, preferably before five (when it starts getting crowded again) and I will probably spend a goodly amount of time playing with my new computer, which is always a fun way to spend time. I’m going to spend the rest of this morning probably cleaning out my email inbox, as well as doing some other neatening/straightening up around my office area; I don’t have to be at my spa appointment until twelve thirty. I would like to get phô today, but with the gym and the protein shake I may have to put off the phô until tomorrow, alas.

I’m also going to possibly–just possibly–do a little bit of writing work today–I know, that’s not a Gregalicious Day Off thing, but I do need to get that short story revision typed up, and I also need to get my notes for the revision of #shedeservedit typed up, and I should probably spend the weekend going over that manuscript and making corrections to be input while I am on vacation in two weeks in order to get it all finished by the end of the month.

So, yes, I have a lot of plans for the rest of this month that really need to get done absolutely; and the first thing in order to be certain it’s all going to get done is to make sure that I have a to-do list in place….and so that’s what I am going to do for the majority of the rest of this morning; getting a bit organized. And yes, that does count as a Gregalicious Day Off activity; because it will relieve my mind and help me relax.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday the 13th, everyone!

Who Are You?

I spent my condom packing time the last two days catching up on this week’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hill (#lockherup, seriously,) and then Superman and Lois. I had missed an episode–I hadn’t been aware it had come back, and it expired on Hulu*–but I was able to catch up with the action pretty quickly, and before I knew it, hours had passed and I had finished watching everything available. I have to say–and I mean this with all my heart–the Arrowverse gets Superman in a way the movies don’t–and I don’t think ever will. Don’t get me wrong, I will go to my grave loving Henry Cavill (and thinking he is the perfect casting for Colin should the Scotty books ever be filmed or made into a television series–hello Netflix), and thinking he’s a great Superman, but the scripts and directors utterly fail him completely every single time. I mean, I got Man of Steel in a way most people didn’t, and I also appreciate the films for great casting; and the Snyder cut of Justice League did, in some ways, seem to get the character the other films chose not to; but this iteration of Superman is the character I grew up loving, and that Christopher Reeve embodied so perfectly (until that franchise went off the rails completely). It really isn’t that hard: Superman is a nice guy who cares about people and will always, always, do the right thing, even at great personal cost to himself. DAMN IT SUPERMAN IS THE EMBODIMENT OF A HERO AND THE CW GETS THIS. He cares.

I’m not ashamed to say that several times during Episode 11–the flashback origin story–I teared up a bit. Every single episode of this show has a moment where I think to myself, goddamnit this is how you do Superman. This show reminded me of every reason why I loved the character, why I read the comic books voraciously, why I have watched every TV show and every movie religiously–and appreciated almost all of them on some level. I watched both of the first two Christopher Reeve movies in the theater, and got goosebumps (I will never forget the ads for the first one: You will believe a man can fly! And I fucking did!)

I honestly never thought I would ever see a Superman adaptation again that would give me that same thrill–and Superman and Lois does, with every episode.

Superman was my first super-hero comic book when I was a kid, when I moved on from Archie and the Riverdale kids. There was a comic book dispenser machine at the Jewel Osco in our neighborhood in Chicago when I was a kid, and Mom would always give me enough change to get a couple of comic books (because I would then sit in the front of the store and read them while she shopped in peace; I don’t understand why my parents never completely grasped the concept I could always be bribed into good behavior with reading material) and I remember being tired of Archie and thinking–knowing–my father would be pleased if I read something more, well, boys-oriented. Some of the boys in my class at school were way into Superman and DC Comics; so I thought, what the hell and put my change into the machine, getting Action, Adventure and Superman comic books. I very quickly became a big fan, also reading the Superman-adjacent comics as well: Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Superboy, Supergirl, Justice League of America and Legion of Super-Heroes. This also led to reading all the Batman books, Wonder Woman, Flash, Teen Titans, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and so on and so forth. As a DC Comics fan, I don’t thin I ever reached what would qualify me for “nerd” status; I loved them all, though, and also followed along with all the adjacent media adaptations–the Superman movies; the Wonder Woman television show, etc. I’ve seen all the movies, and started reading the comics again in my mid-twenties, and then again in my early thirties. I’ve kept up with them over the years; all the reboots and so forth, all the television iterations–Lois & Clark, Smallville, etc.–and enjoyed them all. When CW started adapting the various characters for television, I began following them as well–the first seasons of both Arrow and Flash were amazing…but we did eventually stop watching because both shows seemed to be repeating themselves, and I slowly began getting way behind on them all…and wasn’t really sure, to be honest, that I wanted to give Superman and Lois a whirl. As I said, love Henry Cavill as Superman, but the movies just weren’t quite there…

But being a fan of gorgeous Tyler Hoechlin from his Teen Wolf days, one afternoon while making condom packs, I decided to give it a shot.

At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Elizabeth Tulloch’s Lois Lane, but I did like the entire idea of them being married and the parents of twin sons, Jonathon and Jordan–although I winced at the thought of the inevitable CW teen drama to come. But…Tulloch had completely won me over by the second episode, and I really enjoy the twins. Jordan Elsass and Alexander Garfin are perfectly cast, and look enough alike to be believable as fraternal twins. The family drama at the heart of the show–having to tell the twins their father is Superman when one of them begins to develop powers, how they deal with one being powered and the other not–is so incredibly well-written and well-acted that it sucked me right in. I also loved that Morgan Edge is the villain, rather than Lex Luthor or General Zod–which is how they always inevitably begin these types of shows/movies/stories–and I also loved that they waited until Episode 11 to actually give us the origin story, done in flashbacks. They are getting it right on every note, every level–and while we used to roll our eyes at Smallville with great regularity despite being completely sucked in…Superman and Lois gets it right. They understand that Superman and Clark are, at heart, incredibly decent human beings who will always put the needs of others first, no matter what the personal cost to themselves…and the caring about humanity and the greater good is there.

I absolutely love this show, and can’t wait for new episodes to come in July.

If you’re a Superman fan, you should be watching this show if you want to see it done right.

*I realized later I should have checked the CW app, and sure enough, there it was. Sigh.

Sunrise

Oh, it is so nice to get up after the sun comes up. The one lovely thing about having to get up so early Monday thru Wednesday is that normal days feel like sleeping in, which makes some sense but not a whole lot. I get the same amount of sleep every night–eight hours, if I actually do sleep and don’t have insomnia–but for some reason getting up to an alarm at six seems like an entirely different thing than waking up on my own at 7:30.

Go figure.

The sun is trying to come out from behind a cloud cover this morning, which is promising after several days of gloom. It stopped raining for a while yesterday afternoon, and then started again last night after I got home. I was going to go to the gym last night, but decided the chance of being caught in the rain on the way home was far too likely for me to want to walk–and I was right; the downpour came right around the time I would have been walking home–and being caught, or going walking, in the rain in New Orleans just wasn’t what I was in the mood to deal with. (Umbrellas only slightly help, and you inevitably get soaked from the hips down, and it’s also brutal on your shoes.) So I am going to go today after working at home; condom packing and data entry and so forth. I am thinking of taking a personal day tomorrow, as I have a ridiculous amount of errands and so forth to run, and I really need to spend the next three days focused on the book. I am, of course, going through the same thing I always go through when I am writing a book and being this close to the end; the inevitable mental struggle of oh my God this is utter garbage to this may be the best thing I’ve ever written, flipping back and forth between the two with a high degree of regularity. The Lost Apartment also needs some work done to it–and I may start the process of going through the books stored in boxes; that’s a chore that will feed my OCD beautifully and will be enormously satisfying.

The Tennessee Williams Virtual Festival technically began last night, and will run through this weekend. Paul is exhausted–he also had another project that needed to be finished yesterday, so he inevitably stayed up all night Tuesday getting it done, and so when I got home from work yesterday he was clearly running on accessory, and I made him go to bed relatively early so he can get the sleep he needs. He pushes himself very hard and it worries me; he ignores self-care all too often when he is under pressure/stress, which worries me; I do not have the ability to stay up all night to work on anything–even when I was in college I never pulled an all-nighter (unless drugs and alcohol and partying were involved), and just the idea now fills me with dread.

I don’t think I could possibly survive an all-nighter, to be completely honest.

I am debating whether I want to watch the Snyder cut of Justice League while I am making condom packs today. I saw the original–I think I streamed it when it became available for streaming, but it really left no impression on me. I’ve always loved the Justice League comics, and I wanted to love the movie…I didn’t. I don’t even remember much of it, to be honest; the plot didn’t stick with me and, well, I was enormously disappointed in the under-utilization of Flash and Cyborg to the point I wondered why they even bothered including them in the movie? (especially since, in my memories of DC comics, Cyborg was on the Titans team rather than the Justice League–and I just remembered there should be a new episode of Superman and Lois from this past week! Huzzah!) As a completist, I know intellectually I need to watch this version of the movie, but Christ, four hours? There are any number of lengthy classic films I’ve never seen because of such excessive length….but on the other hand, it will solve the dilemma of choosing what to watch.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines.