Agent of Change

A Blog by Cory!! Strode, who really should write something interesting here.

Why Previews Sucks or How To Sell Comix

I haven’t posted about comics for a while, but mostly it’s because of how busy I’ve been and haven’t had time to read all that much that’s new. Except Shirtless Bear Fighter.  Damn, that’s a fun book.  You need to go buy it.  Do that.  I’ll be here when you get back.

Are you back? Did you read it?  Wasn’t that fun?

Anyway.

We can all agree that Previews is a barely readable mess, right? A jumble of images and ads that may somehow be close to the page of the comic being solicited, but the vast majority are a tiny paragraph with a postage sized image that tells you next to nothing about the book, so that ordering a $4 24 page indy feels like a crap shoot.  But that’s not what annoyed me this month.

‘WE’VE GOT A GREAT NEW LINE OF BOOKS AND YOU HAVE TO BUY THEM. IT’S A WHOLE NEW LINE OF 8 MONTHLY COMICS THAT ARE LIKE NOTHING YOU’VE EVER SEEN AND OH BOY HOWDY, YOU NEED THESE AWESOME COMICS!!!!”

That may well be, but when all you have on the Big Ad You Spent A Lot Of Money On is how awesome the books will be and how I need to get in on the ground floor….I’m gonna pass unless I am a big fan of the creators. The hype tells me next to nothing about what the books will be about.  What do I mean?  Grab a nearby paperback novel.  Turn it over.  Now read what’s on the back.

That should tell you the genre, the tone and have a hook to make you think, “I want to know what this story is.” Some author’s don’t need to do that, but most do.  George R.R. Martin’s next Game of Thrones book won’t need a back cover blurb, but Jeb Bronie’s (get it?  Jabronie?  Never mind) better  have a kick ass cover showing a cool encapsulation of the conflict and the back cover blurb needs to grab me or it’s going back on the shelf.

That’s what your ad in Previews should be. If you’ve got a cover, show it, and it should be an image that makes the reader curious about what’s inside AND give an idea of the interior art.  In the 80’s, you could get away with a cover by Dave Stevens and interiors by Bob Hacksalot, but now, with comics at $4 a pop, that’s not gonna work as well.

In the description, don’t tell us it’s the start of an amazing 12 issue epic…that may actually make me say no, since I have a couple of long boxes of indy comics that ended mid story, and I remember those creators and just buy the trades from them now. Tell us the story hook.  Give us a question that the story answers or a reason to want to read it.

“The Gatlin Brothers have been one step ahead of foreclosure on their chicken farm for as long as they’ve owned it, but as the final notices come due, a plane carrying ten millions dollars’ worth of cocaine crashes out behind the barn. They are stuck with a choice:

Figure out how to sell the drugs, evade the authorities, keep ahead of the local gangs, hide from the cartel that is looking for their missing shipment, and save the farm…

Or,

Inform the police, lose the farm and get jobs at the local meat processing plant.”

In that little blurb, you’ve got the gist of the plot and a strong idea of what the story will be. Like the hook or not, you at least KNOW what you’re buying as opposed to:

“Writer John Doe, known for his work on Marvel Tie-In to a movie mini-series and indy book that came out three years ago and sold 7,000 copies and artist Sam Pencilpusher, who just graduated from the Kubert School and did uncredited backgrounds on Bob Artist’s DC work bring you a 6 part story with action, crime, drugs and suspense from the publisher who does a bunch of comics based on TV shows from 30 years ago!”

Maybe I’m overgeneralizing, but when I look through Previews, I see a lot of credits, but not a lot of hooks. It’s like when a movie trailer tells you a movies if from the studio who gave you a movie and a director who worked on something I haven’t seen. It narrows your audience, while the trailer that leaves you wanting to know what happens widens the audience.

You want sales to go up? Make Us Want To Know What Happens Next.

 

 

 

 

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“Just Joking”

“Just joking” is something we now hear repeatedly from the White House. Trump tells cops to beat up suspects, and the explanation is “just joking”. Ed Butowsky pressures news outlets to run the fake story about Seth Rich saying “The President wants it run” and now says he was “just joking.”

“Just joking” is the excuse given by abusers who know there is no way to cover up what they did and shifting the blame to YOU for being upset. I mean, don’t you have a sense of humor? Don’t you understand a joke?  Are you that clueless that you take it seriously?

“Just joking” is a red flag that lets you know that the person you are dealing with is dangerous and WILL attempt to hurt you.

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Dreams

When I went to sleep last night, the group home was more active than usual.  One client was complaining about being uncomfortable when going to the bathroom, another was arguing with his roommate (accusing him of taking a watch the client didn’t come into the facility with and must have owned a long time ago) and the awake staff kept leaving the room to the laundry room open (it’s right next to the living room where I sleep, so thanks for the washing machine and dryer noise).

The first section of the dream was that I had missed my bus home.  I took the opportunity to go for a hike and walked around a series of barren hills.  I wasn’t wearing a watch, and didn’t think about what time the final bus would come until I realized I had been walking until dark.  I went back to the nearest road, caught the bus and instead of going home, I went to the retail job I had had at Shinder’s when I first moved to MN. 

I knew I had left the job a LONG time ago, but had agreed to come back for a shift here and there and I’d agreed to work Christmas Eve because it would be quiet.  I got there, and the place wasn’t open.  There were boxes of rare comics they wanted me to process to pass the time, and opened the store.  As it got close to closing time, told the few people there we’d be closing in 5 minutes, started closing things down and a line formed at the register.  Then, things went nuts.

The people in the store came up to the register, had things that weren’t priced, wanted to trade in things from other stores, asked me to buy baseball cards, attempted to grab money from the register and the line kept growing.  My co-worker went home when the store was supposed to close without letting me know, and more and more people kept coming in.

They weren’t waiting in a line, either, but just surrounding the area and butting in front of each other.  I get all weird even thinking about it…and it seemed to go on forever.  After what seemed like at least an hour, people from the home office showed up to yell at me.  They accused me of erasing the special hours off of the windows, of shutting own the registers and pocketing the cash and on and on, and the people kept coming.  Eventually, I was able to break away from the crowd, and I just kept thinking I would miss Christmas.

Oddly, in the dream I didn’t quit.  I did as soon as I woke up, though, actually muttering “screw that job.”  Upon waking up, I actually felt more tired than when I went to bed because of how crazy it all was.  What does it all mean?

“It doesn’t mean anything, Anna. It’s only a dream. Sometimes a banana is just a banana, Anna.” John Belushi as Sigmund Freud

Oh, and the overnight staff started complaining about the clients before I even put my glasses on in the morning….

 

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To serve and protect

I don’t comment on every tragedy, but here in Minnesota, we’ve had another incident of a policeman using lethal force against someone who was not a danger to themselves or others. These incidents have been happening more and more, and I believe there is a very simple reason why:

We have turned our police into a military force who are trained to kill.

The concept of the “warning shot” is a quaint idea for a long forgotten past. We have been giving military equipment to the police since 9/11 as we’ve been dumping money into “Homeland Security”.  Crime is it the lowest levels since WWII, and yet we are all freaked out about it due to endless media reports and politicians telling us that the US is a war zone and we are surrounded by carnage.  Police leaders tell us that they are in constant danger so that we don’t investigate them too closely.  Officers are trained to empty a clip into a suspect.  When the police kill someone involved in a minor offense, we are immediately shown the most thuggish picture available, and they are presented as a subhuman danger to society.

Police no longer “walk a beat” where they walk the neighborhood and get to know people. They don’t live where they work.  They are taught the military way of looking at the world where everyone is a potential enemy.

41 officers were killed by gunfire last year, a tragic number, but not the “hundreds” our President and his people have said. 1162 citizens were killed by police last year.

Here in Minneapolis, an officer with a history of violence against suspects shot and killed a meditation instructor who had called 911 for help. We won’t ever really know what happened because the officers involved parked their car where the dashboard camera couldn’t capture what happened and they did not turn on their body cameras as required to.

The media is demonizing protestors because THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE TOLD TO DO. However, this doesn’t make their message any less valid.

Our police are to serve and protect, not be judge and jury. We need to demand that they return to their function and if they don’t, we need to demand that politicians force them to return to their functions, and if they don’t?  We need to shut it down, shut it all down.

Our lives are at stake.

 

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What kind of year it has been

One year ago, I accepted a full-time job after temping for almost three years. Before that I worked awake overnights at the group home for over two years.  The 2008 crash eliminated my job, and I had to work part-time jobs from then until when I decided to take overnights.

In the last year, I have:

  • Recorded over 150 hours of podcast audio
  • Started two new podcasts (Bad Advice and Series in Review)
  • Written a novel and edited three for turning into podcasts
  • Gotten a LOT of dental work. Benefits are keen
  • Built up a savings account that has 2 months of salary saved
  • Brought listenership of Kray Z Comics and Stories up a little over 40%
  • Interviewed some amazing people
  • Got a new nickname (The Cleaner, just like Kenny Omega!)
  • Started learning a foreign language
  • Got moved into a kind of supervisory position
  • Put on about 10 pounds (now working to take it and another 30 on top of that off)
  • Seen my foster daughter get engaged
  • Watched my son find a new place to live and enjoy his job
  • Retired from doing conventions due to it being too….people-y
  • Stepped down as the Best Dressed Man In Comics
  • Missed an overseas friend who is doing incredible things
  • Been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and gotten medication that helps with the cascading panic attacks that plagued me through August and September of last year
  • Read a lot of comics and novels
  • Not slept enough

What a difference a year makes!

I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to like my statuses, react and engage in conversations, listened to the podcasts (krayzcomix.solitairerose.com Be there, aloha), dealt with me when I am a pain in the ass, Checked in when I ask “Are we good” or just clicked on “request friend” here on Facestab.

A LOT of stuff is coming in the next year from Solitaire Rose Productions, and while I always see myself as having a pretty boring life, when you stack it all up, it’s kind of cool.

Much love to friends old and new, and remember: “No matter where you go, there you are.” – B. Banzai

 

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More on emotional checkbooks

Long post warning, but it’s about anxiety in detail, so if you’re interested in my experiences….

I have written in the past about the Emotional Checkbook. I don’t know how standard an idea it is, but I like it.  We have an emotional bank account with the people in our lives, as well as one overall.  What that means is that we have a certain about of emotional cost we can take as well as emotional deposits we can accept.  Some people have built up a lot in that account, some not so much and there is a general overall account.

For example:  A new GF/BF doesn’t have a lot built up in the account.  There’s the initial deposit (attraction) and things they do that show you they care such as how they treat you, romantic gestures, how well they listen and interact, etc…  However, as the account hasn’t built up very much, it’s pretty easy for someone to make too many withdrawals.  A withdrawal is when you have to spend emotional capital such as when they do someone insensitive, when they lean on you for support, when they ask for favors, etc…  When someone is making more withdrawals than deposits, we begin to feel used, that the other person doesn’t care about us and eventually, if the account bounces too many checks, we’ll close it out by dumping that person.

I believe that we have these accounts for EVERY relationship in our lives.  Even with inanimate things:  I get terrible service at this store, and while they have lower prices, I just don’t feel it’s worth putting up with the bad things.  My job pays well, but they treat me poorly, what I do doesn’t matter and I am not connect to my co-workers.  Over time, every day is an emotional withdrawal and I only get “deposits” when I get paid or when they give free food.

Even in long term friendships, there’s that checking account.  I once has a long-term friendship where eventually, the other person never asked how I was doing and never offered any sort of emotional support.  It got to the point where I would time our conversations, and if she hadn’t asked anything about me after a half hour, I would end the conversation politely.  By that point, checks were bouncing and I closed out the account.  In another case, we had an issue that the other person refused to deal with maturely, and every conversation was either telling me how terrible I was or asking to borrow money.  I had to close that account as well.

Currently, I am dealing with a few issues, but I have thought about how I am feeling and why, even though I feel alone, I don’t want to deal with people and spend a lot of time convincing myself to maintain the close friendships I have.  Part of it is how anxiety works.  “If you people don’t like me, then screw you all!” is the irrational way the issue messes with your head.

However.

In both of my jobs, I am giving to other people.  My full-time job is about helping people understand and resolve issues with their benefits, and if you don’t think people get stressed out when there is an issue with their medical benefits, you’re kind of sheltered.  For the past three months, it’s been far busier than projections and we are asking people to verify their dependents, so if they don’t have proper documents, their spouses or children could lose medical coverage.  That takes a lot out of you, emotionally.

THEN, at the group home job, I’m there a lot, the clients are very dependent on you for things, they can do things that get you upset and you have to keep being patient and kind (even when they are being jerks) and even when it’s calm and you’re doing everyday interactions, it’s another withdrawal.

So, add that together and I now understand why I feel so tired, anxious, and stressed.  My emotional checkbook is bouncing checks all over the place, so the slightest thing can make me feel like things aren’t going to go well.  A slow response from someone makes me think I have done something to make them hate me (which has actually happened before) and I mentally write them off.  What might be good natured ball-busting comes off to me as anger toward me. I know people laugh at the whole “trigger” thing, but the one thing I have learned isn’t just to feel an emotion, but to understand what is causing it before I act on it.  Maybe that’s why people say I always seem calm.

Or, I’ve lived in Minnesota so long, I’ve learned never to outwardly show emotions. 

Much love to friends old and new, and I hope that people are making desposits in your emotional checkbook constantly!

 

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You know it don’t come easy

I have said over and over in my little essays that my goal is to “Love everybody and make ‘em feel good about themselves.” Michael Des Barres, who I knew little about until I started listening to him on his Underground Garage radio show, states that he is “Your Humbler Servant” which was something I adopted to put words to how I see my life.  I didn’t come to this easily, and for a portion of my life I was embittered, cynical, and felt that I had been given the fuzzy end of the lollypop.

 

I made the change in my thinking, and I am NOT one of those people who believes “the secret” or that positive thoughts bring you positive results. In fact, the world around me hasn’t changed.  I’ve still had to struggle, deal with financial and emotional upheaval, had people in my life who did me wrong and the like.  None of that changed, and the people who say “thinking positively will always make you rich!” are scam artists just as big as the Nigerian Prince who used to e-mail you about helping him get his money transferred to another bank.

The world didn’t change. I still have been laid off 4 times since 1999 when I made the mental change.  I have had a dear friendship dissolve in a painful way.  I have had five relationships with women I loved end.  I have suffered huge financial setbacks, increased anxiety, family tragedies and the like.  What changed was how I saw it.

With people, I assumed positive intent and gave forgiveness, knowing that they did what they thought was a good idea at the time. With employment, I made sure to keep myself learning and got away from thinking that my job is who I am, and instead see it as how I help others.  With family, I realize that things will be good at times and not good at others.  With my own mental health, I realize that I can do what I can to take care of myself and to get help when I need it, same as I would for an infection or a chronic condition.

I wake up every day knowing that my internal weather determines how I see the external circumstances. That everyone is a person with hopes, dreams, fears, desires and needs and while what they do may affect me, it’s all in how I react to that.

I have also seen people whose lives are defined by who and what they hate, and the more I se4e it, the more I realize it’s not my job to oppose them, but to avoid them and not let their anger change how you live your life. I fail at this, and tend to take criticism much more easily than praise, but I’m trying to do better.

I want to live in a world where everyone gets what they want. Even my enemies.  It ain’t easy, but since we’re all we’ve got, we have to help each other.

Much love to friends old and new and I hope that you learn to live a life defined by forgiveness and hope rather than anger and fear. It may not work for everyone, but it works for me.

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Mr. Trump, I am upset as well

I am about to make some people mad, but…sorry, not sorry.

The Trumps have said that their son was upset by seeing Kathy Griffith picture of Trump’s bloody face. I’m sorry he saw that, and you should be a bit more diligent in what you allow your son to see.  As a single father, I took great care as to what media was son was exposed to, which is hard in the days of the internet, but it is possible.

My son is upset that his health care is going to be taken from him. As an asthmatic who works a low wage starter job he enjoys, the ACA has brought down costs for him that he can afford the medication that helps him breathe so that he’s not in and out of the emergency room.  He’s also upset that you’ve rolled back protections for safe water supplies, as he would like to not be subject to pollution and water borne diseases in his drinking water.

He’s also upset that your cavalier sharing of intelligence information has made it easier for the people who want to do us harm economically, internationally and physically to know classified information. He’s also upset that your administration is looking into removing protections for LBGTQ people much like your Vice President attempted to do and that he can be fired if he happens to date someone of the same gender.

He is also upset that you have thrown in with white supremacist hate groups by retweeting their messages and endorsing their statements. You have even appointed people with ties to their organizations into your administration.  He is upset that you only seem to recognize minority terrorism and when white people commit acts of terrorism, you ignore it until days or weeks later, giving the appearance that you only get upset when minorities commit crimes, which is a lifelong pattern with you.

He’s upset with your past business ties to mod bosses like Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano, your use of illegal immigrants and the long history of illegal and corrupt business dealings. He’s upset with your lifelong poor treatments of women, including the sexualization of your daughter Ivanka starting when she was 12.

But that’s just MY son. YOUR son is the scion of a President.

I guess only the children of Presidents should be shielded from upset.

However, I’m betting that Obama’s children were upset that you claimed their father was not an American citizen. That your detectives in Hawaii had found blockbuster evidence that we are still waiting for to their day.  That their father was such a poor President that America will never elect another African American.  That you are trying to destroy everything he did in office, that you lie about your accomplishments to diminish and delegitimize him.

Then again, your son may also be upset in how you treat his mother, ignoring her at events, berating her while cameras are running, mocking her looks after she gave birth to him, your sexual advances on other women while you were married to her and other ways you show that she is just another of your possessions.

What Kathy Griffith did was failed art and in poor taste, but I think stating that your son was upset by it doesn’t hold a lot of water for me. That’s on me.

Guess I have a long way to go before I am as empathic and caring as you are.

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Perfect Moments

I am amazingly sentimental, and when it comes to anniversaries, I tend to obsess. I realized this week that 30 years ago I finished college, moved to Minnesota and started my jobs at a juvenile justice group home that doesn’t exist anymore and a comic shop that doesn’t exist anymore.

I am going to record a podcast about that shift soon (and it’s along the lines of the song “That’s how I got to Memphis” if The Newsroom gave you a deep, abiding love of that one). But one thing I remember was a day when I was all done with college, had finished up my college jobs (they were for students only) and was sharing a house with a woman I was in love with.

It was a cool early summer morning, the radio was playing, and we had had a light breakfast, and we just sitting around, reading and enjoying each other’s company. I stopped what I was doing and said, “We need to treasure this.  All is right in our lives, things are peaceful and relaxed.  This is a perfect moment.  Soon, we’ll have to worry about jobs and money and other things, but for now, everything is where it should be.”  I was right.  In the years since, those “perfect moments” have been few and far between, but they are to be treasured:

-Watching Batman Returns with my son at the drive in as a Thunderstorm slowly moved toward us

-A warm evening on the patio at Uncommon Ground where I was reading, a couple of people were working out a new song on a guitar, and people walked by on their way to their Friday night activities

-Reading the New York Times with Gene Colan before a comic convention stared for the day and talking movies

-Shooting pool with a woman I loved the day she moved in with me

–Nights on my deck, reading comics with a cold beverage as the sun went down

-Watching the X-Files cuddled together on a couch and talking about the future during the commercials.

-A road trip with music playing and singing along to the music.

-A long conversation with a future friend at a coffee house

-Having a conversation while wandering the streets of St Paul through twilight

-Sitting on the banks of the river in Stillwater after going through antique stores

-Driving a drunk woman home as she muttered on and on about how much she loved me

-Taking my son to his first showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show

-The glorious, amazing all night multi-theater horror movie fest on Halloween

Moments where all is right with the world are fleeting, special and should be treasured.

Much love to friends old and new, and what are some of YOUR perfect moments?

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On hypocrisy

I have been thinking about hypocrisy today.

It’s been a huge thing in the news lately, it’s something we use to beat down those we disagree with, and a LOT of what I was taught in behavioral psychology was about cognitive dissonance, the backflips the mind goes through when we hold two opposing ideas. One of the worst things you can call someone is a hypocrite, and I know people who gleefully point out the hypocrisy of people they don’t like just to watch them squirm.

But. What if we think about it in a different way?  What if, as part of loving everyone, we assume positive intent about people and their hypocrisy is a case of them just not living up to the ideal version of themselves they want to be?

We all have failings. We don’t follow through 100% on every promise.  We don’t fulfill every request from the people in our lives.  We all see ourselves as the hero of our stories, but sometimes we’re the fool, sometimes we’re the bystander and sometimes (hopefully rarely) we’re the antagonist in someone’s personal story.

Instead of instantly jumping to the attach when someone’s words don’t match up with their actions, think to yourself about things YOU say about yourself that you are trying to live up to. I see myself as a kind person, but I’ll bet you don’t have to look too far to find someone who sees me as opportunistic or manipulative.  I know a person who holds her friends to incredibly high moral standards, but has had affairs during different periods in her marriage.

Hell, I once had a friend who was a living embodiment of this, and I learned early on that the only way I could stay friends with them was to realize that they had a highly inflated version of themselves that they could never live up to. I accepted them and forgave them when they would speak with massive hypocrisy.

I always see the ones I love as their best selves, even if they don’t.

We can attack and tear them down, or, we can give them what we would want if we fall short of our internal standards. Understanding.  I often say I don’t have goals and resolutions, because they invite failure, and it is the same with these things.  If we flip it from being mad at someone’s hypocrisy to understanding it’s a case of them not living up to their ideal of themselves, it’s easier to forgive and understand.

Much love to friends old and new, and I hope you are able to forgive those who don’t live up to their perfect version of themselves.

 

 

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