Wednesday Warren – Run Straight Down

Continuing our look at Warren’s 1989 release, Transverse City, an album that most Zevon fans don’t put on their Top Anything list. But I love it.

The second cut off the album is “Run Straight Down,” which picks up immediately from the previous title track, bridged by crackling electricity. (“Run Straight Down” segues directly into the next track — “The Long Arm of the Law” — via the sound of a police helicopter.)

In “Run Straight Down,” we’re still stuck in Warren’s imagined near-future dystopia, this time examining the destruction of the environment as a background vocal recites chemical compounds:

(4-Aminobiphenyl, hexachlorobenzene
Dimethyl sulfate, chloromethyl methylether
2, 3, 7, 8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-
para-dioxin, carbon disulfide)

(Dibromochloropane, chlorinated
benzenes, 2-Nitropropane, pentachlorophenol,
Benzotrichloride, strontium chromate
1, 2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane)

Now, seriously — how many rock stars would even think to turn chemical compounds into a backing track? Of them, how many could pull it off?

I went walking in the wasted city
Started thinking about entropy
Smelled the wind from the ruined river
Went home to watch TV

Vintage Warren — what a slam-bang beginning to a song. He immediately sets the mood, communicates the history and present of his universe, and tells you volumes about the narrator. In four lines. In less than two dozen fucking words. God, I wish I could write like that!

Here’s “Run Straight Down.” Keep that abrupt helicopter ending in mind until next week, when I’ll talk about “The Long Arm of the Law.”

Memory Monday – Superman at the Dawn of Time!

This may be the perfect example of why I loves me some superhero comic books:


Superman in Action Comics


I mean, yes: It’s goofy as hell. It’s Superman talking out loud to himself while flying towards a gigantic golden temple that somehow exists in the moments before the Big Bang. (Don’t try to think about it — it will hurt your brain.)

But, God — the power and the passion in that artwork! The sheer never-say-die-ness (is that a word?) of Superman’s resolve…

I love this stuff.

(From Action Comics #553, March 1984. Story by Marv Wolfman. Art by Gil Kane.)

This Week in Rejection!: Aboriginal Science Fiction

This is a good one.

Of course, at first blush, this is just a generic form letter rejection. And that’s certainly how I looked at it at the time. But take a closer look (and click for a bigger version).


Aboriginal SF


This is a fabulous, terrific, and encouraging rejection letter. I certainly didn’t see it that way when I received it, and more’s the pity.

The initial cross-out of “Contributor” and replacement with my name doesn’t mean much by itself — that could just be a polite intern or an in-house policy designed to lessen the sting of a rejection.

But the checklist of “what’s wrong” is very helpful. It tells me what I did wrong, but also tells me what I got right. Look at everything that isn’t checked off. This letter should have thrilled me — I can fix too much exposition. And I can always submit another, more original story.

But those were really the only problems with the story I submitted. Every other checkbox — those relating to the real guts of writing — was left blank. So the story wasn’t that bad.

And then, of course, there’s the circling of “try again,” emphasizing that idea, telling me that the editor saw promise in my work and wanted to see more.

Unfortunately, I was too callow to understand or appreciate the real message of this letter. I saw “No” when what it reallysays is, “Not this one.” An important distinction.

So, if you find yourself on the receiving end of a similar rejection, allow yourself a few moments to mourn a missed opportunity, but then get back behind the keyboard and go make another opportunity!

The Problem with Green Lantern

After seeing (and being disappointed by) the Green Lantern movie, I called my best friend. On the walk back from the theater, I subjected him to a long, mildly incoherent ramble as to the movie’s flaws and unmet promises. We both agreed that Marvel’s movies were carrying the summer (a tough admission for a DC kid like yours truly).

I wanted to compact all of that rambling into a short (preferably tweetable) bon mot, but I couldn’t knock it down to anything sensible or articulate. i just kept having this nagging feeling of wrongness when I thought about the movie, and I could only explain it by tortuous routes through twisted byways of logic and story examples. (“The movie just felt like this, when it should have felt like this instead…”)

But just now, almost a week later, something popped into my head that sums up my issues with the movie:

The problem with the Green Lantern movie is that it’s about what makes the characters tick, not about what the characters do.

For a straight drama, the former is fine. For an action movie, it’s deadly.

If you saw the movie, what did you think?

Mangaman in Previews!

Every month, Previews — the catalog of the comic book industry — goes out to thousands of stores and tens of thousands of comic book fans around the world. In another life, long ago, I worked on the Previews staff.

So it’s not just a professional thrill, but also a personal one to see my own graphic novel given a very nice treatment in the July 2011 edition of the catalog (available at fine comic book stores everywhere!).

First up, Mangaman was chosen as a Featured Item in the Comics & Graphic Novels section of the catalog: See here.

And then, the staff of Previews chose Mangaman for the “Indie Edge” slot. “Indie Edge” didn’t exist when I worked onPreviews — it’s a way for Previews to select a single upcoming title out of the hundreds listed in the catalog and make sure it’s seen by everyone. Very cool. They asked Colleen and me to mention some graphic novels we were into, so it’s not just about shouting out “Read Mangaman!” It’s about promoting independent graphic novels in general. You can see what Colleen and I selected here .

Of course, now that the book has been listed in Previews, this means that you can place a preorder for it at your local comic book store, in addition to already being able to preorder it at Amazon,, and your local independent bookstore. If you’d like to order Mangaman from a comic book store, use order code JUL111128. To find a comic book store in your area, visit the Comic Shop Locator Service.