Jim Starlin and me

I’ve been reading a lot of Jim Starlin this year. It hadn’t meant anything before; I go on binges with one author or another and run with it till my interest in them is exhausted. I’d been following Starlin’s work in comics from the beginning of his career. He’s always espoused far-out conceptions and abstractions that appealed to a warped mind like mine. This time, I think there’s more to it than that.

I want to assure everyone up front, my family especially, that I am not contemplating suicide. I have no intention to harm myself in any way. That being said, I think we can all agree this has been a shitty last six months. I’ve lost four family members, people I’ve known all my life. My father committed suicide November 1st; the very next day my uncle Rick suffered a stroke. My father’s twin brother Wayne gave up and passed away a month later. My brother Eddie was taken by cancer, and another brother of mine is fighting the same insideous disease. He’s a stubborn cuss and he’s determined to fight it, and maybe give the big C a kick in the groin while he’s at it, and I’m proud of him for that.

dad's celebration of life 1

[From my father’s celebration of life, November 25, 2018]

Losing Eddie was hard. In a way he’s had a very big influence on the artist I’ve become. He was an artist in his own right; he’d done some beautiful work in the ’70’s, and we had a sketch book of his work at the funeral. Without him I probably wouldn’t have been such a Beatlemaniac, never been introduced to the wide world of comic books. Artists are no stranger to my family.

eddie's funeral sat feb 23 2019

[Eddie’s funeral, February 23, 2019]

I’m still very angry at my father. We’ve all shared our grief and confusion. He was our patriarch, our rock for at least four generations; we’d come to rely on his stubborn good sense and the advice which may not have been we’d WANT to hear, but was usually what we NEEDED to hear. I’ve come to a point where my overriding sense is anger. Why didn’t he talk to anyone, tell us how he was feeling? Why didn’t he say anything? I know I’m not the only one feeling this. I’ve vented some of my feelings into my writing and my art, but that does nothing to relieve that empty hole in our lives that’ll never be filled.

Okay, what the @*%$ does this have to do with Starlin? Part of it may be that he crafts characters with suicidal tendencies. Honestly, when I first started reading comics I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the names of the artists, apart from Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko. If a cover is striking, if the implied scenario looks you right in the face and grabs you by the nethers, I’m hooked. ‘Chicks with ample bosoms’ were not as big a draw in the 1970’s (at least not to my untainted eyes–hee hee hee).

I didn’t make a connection between what I was feeling and what I was reading till one night at work. I work the late shift; there’s not that many people in the store, which means I usually have way too much time to think. I was reading his book, The Art of Jim Starlin , thinking about the kind of heroes I admired and it just it me, and I wondered if I should be worried.

I haven’t been very demonstrative of my grief, apart from too many angry outbursts. My tendency is to withdraw into myself, even more than I usually do. I suppose I could have worse escapes than comic books. They’re my fall-back, my go-to when I need to relax and refresh. Except…

There was this Essential Warlock collection I’d been avoiding at the library. Adam Warlock was one of those heroes I’d gravitated to in the ’70s who nobody else seemed to take an interest in, but the point is this book was large–massive–like 576 pages. I’d passed it by for months ’cause I wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment. Then when I finally got around to picking it up…it was checked out. Of course it was. So I put in a hold and finally got the complete story I’d seen in drips and drabs over the years.

Here’s the nub of it; when Starlin took over the series, he was in a bad way. He went  from high school straight into the Navy, spending the next three and a half years overseas. He became a member of the Navy’s aviation division as a photographer’s mate. He was sent from base camp to Sicily, then transferred to an intelligence unit in Southeast Asia. There’s more to the story, but here’s what he said about it:

“I was still pretty messed up psychologically, living on too much booze and drugs and had split up with the lovely Heather [his then-girlfriend]. So it should come as no surprise that what I ended up changing Warlock into was a suicidal paranoid/ schizophrenic.”

It wouldn’t be the last time he put a character through its suicidal paces. in the 1986 DC miniseries Cosmic Odyssey, Green Lantern John Stewart destroys an entire solar system because of his arrogance and stupidity. He felt all those millions of deaths through his power ring. He was frighteningly aware of what he’d done and he was ready to die. Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz give him a tough love speech, which was probably not the best approach to a man on the verge of killing himself, but it seemed to work. Stewart put the gun down, calls back his ring and says “Screw you, J’onzz” before leaving the room.

johnstewartxanshi23    johnstewartxanshi24

I’d picked up a book at a library sale, a cheap book that looked like it might help me understand my father’s suicide. But when I got it home, (1) I found it had a religious slant, and (2) as soon as he wrote about his father being a coward, I put that f—-r down. I didn’t need to hear that. I may never know why he did it, I may be angry at my father, but I don’t believe he was a coward, and I don’t need some religious putz’s judgmental crap on the subject right now.

I’m not looking to punish myself but here’s the other thing about Jim Starlin: his work is not easy reading. Adam Warlock in particular is a character who puts on a front of serene indifference and self-righteousness, while inside he’s struggling with nagging self-doubt and guilt over the consequences of his actions. Starlin’s stories are usually not a day-trip to another galaxy where Batman quips, “Oh, a giant starfish is about to swallow Gotham. Hmm. I have a Bat-pill for that.”

starlin-warlock-vampireBatman d in family starlin

{Batman doesn’t get off scott-free, sometimes]

I’ve been fortunate to have a therapist who’s been helping me through these hard times, a man I’ll always be grateful for. I’ve talked this through with my wife and my therapist, this sudden obsession with Starlin and my own troubles, and I guess we can all agree it’s something that’s helping me cope. I have no answers for those others groping to make sense of what must seem to be a senseless act. My wife and son worry about me as much as I’m worried for them.

I try to get through each day, try not to think too much about the fact that I don’t have that rock to fall back on now, that I have to somehow be the one my immediate family depends on. I just hope I’m up to it.

Religious Idiocy of the week

Televangelists: Christians Must Pray For Trump Because Democrats Will Make Bible Illegal









You people are making this too easy.I don’t know where you get these fantasies about Trump’s ‘godly wisdom’, because if that’s what he’s following, I want nothing to do with the Bible. Jesus said suffer the children to come unto him, not ‘tear the little ragamuffins from their w—–k parents and let them die in a frigid meat locker while we laugh at them’.

Leaving these poor children to die, after they fled a terrifying situation at home, is an obscenity. Tearing them from their parents is an obscenity. The abuse running rampant in Donald Trump’s immigration policy top to bottom is an obscenity, and that pretty much sums up one reason why I will have nothing to do with organized religion. That and I’m an intelligent, free-thinking man.



Onto the next one…

Catholic Priest Claims Autistic Children Are ‘Like Animals’ Caused By Porn, Masturbation, Adultery









Yes please, listen to a representative of the clergy who kept western civilization in poverty, fear and ignorance for a thousand years. Jesus, fuck this guy.

Oh yes, there are a lot of parents of autistic children who will agree with you on that! Honestly, do you have no filter. Did this actually sound good in your head before you let it spill out of your mouth? Truthfully, I don’t know much about autism, but I’m 99.978546% certain that your sexual activity has no determination on the genetic outcome of your offspring. But given the Catholic clergy’s predilection for raping choir boys, you’d know all about that, wouldn’t ya?


I don’t think you people have read the Constitution of the United States of America, specifically the First Amendment, which guarantees the freedom of religion. Basically its a free pass. The government is NOT ALLOWED to touch our religion; you don’t get to tell us what to worship or what sect we are required to go to. That’s the shite King George II tried to pull on us in Revolutionary War days; we HAD to attend the Anglican Church– you know, the one where the King of England is the head of the clergy–in effect, putting him on the right hand of God.

Ridiculous, huh? We passed that amendment to make damn sure NO GOVERNMENT ever compels us to worship as THEY see fit. Religion in the United States has a unique mandate. We can’t touch it, can’t tax it, in fact clergy can say pretty much whatever they want without fear of arrest of murder, as has happened in some Latin American countries. The Bible is no danger of being banned. The Bible is one of the consistent best-selling books in this country, if not the world. I don’t foresee it going out of print in the near future, or any future. It’s past time to cut the crap, cos your fear-mongering is groundless.


source: USA Today, 2018, from the United States Constitution


Doctor Who Series 11: A Perspective

I think I’ve heard just about enough of this. Ever since Jodie Whitaker was announced as the 13th Doctor, we have heard from the disgruntled male class how wrong this was, that the Doctor was MALE and always should be. Guess they all forget that the idea was first introduced in the 4th Doctor story “The Hand of Fear”. The change,  if you will has been hinted at, even anticipated by fans every time a regeneration was due. And now that is has happened, we have those same males swearing this is the worst Doctor Who ever, that this marks the END of Doctor Who.

I’ve finally had the opportunity to view the entire 11th series on DVD, including the New Year’s special ‘Resolution’. And my verdict? Calm down, you dimwits.

Point one: WORST Doctor Who ever? You people never watched Classic Who, have you? Where do I begin…? How about ‘The Twin Dilemma’? ‘Time and the Rani’? ‘The Power of Kroll’? Okay, ‘Robot’ had dicey f/x but at least there was some heart in it, and it was Tom Baker’s debut so his energy managed to carry it through.

DW power of kroll

@ BBC still for ‘The Power of Kroll’

No, I think we can settle on Series 22 as the rock bottom of DW. The writers failed Colin Baker, they relied too much on torture and violence as valid story telling elements, and god! That patchwork coat still burns my eyes!


Don’t look on this as a criticism of Colin Baker. Truth is he was my first Doctor, which is always going to leave some warm fuzzies–even though my first viewing of DW on PBS was Episode 4 of the Trial of a Time Lord season. Getting back to Jodie Whitaker. What to say about her first outing as the Doctor…

One of the failings of series 11 was something we’d all gotten used to, an overarching plotline leading to a season-ending all-in showdown. Where was the Cosmic Menace with Delusions of Grandeur threatening all reality/the universe entire/Earth in general, whatever? I think we could all have used more scripts of epic proportions. And DAMN Doctor Who for making me care about f—in’ giant spiders! Why would you do that, Chibnell? ‘Kay, so much for the negative.

‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’ served as a decent introductory story for 13 (I’m just going to call her that for now). Like so many before him, Tim Shaw–is it ok to call him that?–mistakes regeneration for incapacity. This Doctor is firing on all cylinders, scraping traps out of available materials and assembling a new sonic out of spare parts. Think ‘The Christmas Invasion’–‘The Eleventh Hour’–‘Deep Breath’. We haven’t had a regeneration story yet that was a turkey, and we don’t have one now. The Doctor is never more dangerous than when their neurons are going batshit.

jodie whitaker making sonic Ep_1_4.0

We did have gold amidst the dross. ‘Rosa’, ‘The Witchfinders’ are among the best New Who has to offer. ‘Demons of the Punjab’, oh lord, that was a heartbreaker! And make no mistake, 13 is the Doctor. The sanctity of life is still paramount, perhaps too much so; we’ll see what Time and Experience does to modify 13’s perspective and attitude.


I know there are some people who will never be convinced this series is not pure shit, and honestly they’re not worth our time. Science fiction is about open perspectives and challenging ideas, NOT calcified notions of ‘THIS IS HOW DOCTOR WHO IS SUPPOSED TO BE AND NOTHING ELSE!’ I got this with Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi, not to mention Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy ad nauseum. There are some die-hards who think anything done since the 2005 return of DW was god-awful.

Okay, I’ll give you this. Jodie Whitaker’s first series as 13 was lacking in the Epic department. But its not the end of DW. It’s a different team’s take on a classic hero…heroine, whatever. We have two or three more series to judge her era on its merits or demerits. And I got exactly what I wanted when 13 first met a Dalek, she left it gobsmacked with clever patter, and she gave it as much mercy as it deserved–which is none at all. Will future Whovians look back favorably on 13? Sorry, friends, only Time and distance will tell us that.

jodie whitaker resolution 03-dr-who.w700.h700


Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

Mike’s Amazon page:

f & d cover



Book review: Apollo 8

apollo 8 cover

Apollo 8: the thrilling story of the first mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger, author with Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 @ 2017 Henry Holt & co.

This was a mission of firsts which by no means was a sure thing. It may not be exaggerating to say this was the mission that saved the Moon Landing, the hurried preparations notwithstanding. Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to leave the Earth’s gravity field and surrender to another’s; the first manned mission to orbit another world; the first burn during a communications blackout on its first pass around the dark side of the Moon, to establish lunar orbit. That orbit would be the first time the eyes of man viewed the dark side of the Moon from close proximity. Then there was the burn to escape lunar orbit and re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, all of which held the potential for disaster. Despite the fatigue that was inevitable on a six-day flight in a small, sometimes temperamental craft, with virtually the eyes of the world on these three men, the first trip to the Moon was an unqualified success.

apollo 8 crew

Though all three astronauts–Commander Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and rookie Bill Anders, along with their wives have their share, the focus is more on Borman, his service in the Air Force and his struggle to join the budding astronaut corps. For author Kluger it’s also a chance to revisit an old friend, Jim Lovell on his earlier career for his record-setting missions for Gemini. And for a last first, these gentlemen were the first to eyewitness the Earth rising over another world, and Bill Ander’s majestic photo has been immortalized ever since as ‘Earthrise’.


It is also a story of the tragedy of Apollo 1 and the disorderly craft that killed Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White on the ground. Apollo 8 was a bold, on-the-fly idea that ultimately saved the Moon landing, and I want to thank Kluger and all those brave men who helped bring back the wonder of the Moon shots, before cynicism and division became the norm and divided our country.


Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

f & d cover

Mike’s Amazon page: