It’s the Spawn’s birthday — she turns 22 today, and we’ve done the cake and presents thing. But there’s a little time for potpourri, don’t you think?
I made a trip to Real City yesterday, lunching at my preferred inexpensive Chinese restaurant before hitting a comics emporium nearby. At the comic store, I looked for the graphic novel version of Eight Million Ways to Die, but there wasn’t one in stock. However, there was a copy of Astro City: Private Lives, another volume in Kurt Busiek’s brilliant series about superheroes and the people whose lives intersect with them. As I’ve noted in the past, one of the great things about AC is that many of the stories focus not on the folks in capes, but on the ordinary people who live their lives in a world where superhero stuff just happens. For example, the lead story focuses not on high-level magic user the Silver Adept, but on her personal assistant, who sets up (and postpones) appointments, keeps track of assorted items of Great Power, and occasionally has to placate Things from Beyond while the boss has other business. Other stories deal with a sweet little old lady who happens to run a sort of rescue shelter for the giant robots supervillains have used in their schemes, and a touching story about high school kids that has more than a little to tell us about where villains come from, and what a hero might really be.
I’ve said before that I think Astro City may be the best written superhero comic on the scene these days, with Eisner-quality stories. This volume has done nothing to change my mind. Call it thirteen bucks well spent.
Other reading I did this week includes installments Two and Three of Andrew Cartmel’s Vinyl Detective series. Number three has been sitting on my desk since before the New Year, because I had read the first in the series, and had the third in trade format, but had to wait for the mass market edition of the second one. (Everybody straight? Then let’s continue.)
The novels feature the escapades of our otherwise nameless first-person narrator, whose fascination with obscure records leads him into adventures when he is hired to find them. Typically, the records are the MacGuffins that lead our hero into webs of conspiracy and secrets some folks prefer kept. He works along with his girlfriend, a best friend/fellow music geek, and a female taxi driver known as Clean Head for her shaved dome, all of whom are good for more than a few laughs. The Vinyl Detective’s stories tread an interesting line between cozies, comic mysteries, and something darker. The fourth one in the series comes out in May, and I’m looking forward to it.
As I mentioned above, today is the Spawn’s birthday. Twenty-two years ago today, I met her and held her as my beloved Kentucky Wildcats lost an overtime game with Arizona for the national championship. This afternoon, I got a hug, and my ‘Cats fell in overtime against a hot Auburn squad that claimed a Final Four spot with the win. Clearly we should try to avoid games on my daughter’s birthday. But it wasn’t a bad season, and the ball will go up again this fall.
On the writing front, in a bit less than two weeks I’ll be appearing in Hillsborough, NC for another installment of Noir at the Bar.
I think I’ll be reading “Rough Mix,” the short story that appears in At Home in the Dark, Lawrence Block’s new anthology. If you order a copy, I’ll be happy to sign it for you, so if you can swing by, please do!
Meanwhile, my colleague Marilyn Dallman Seymour has announced her retirement at the term’s end. An Americanist, Dr. Seymour has been one of the Spawn’s favorite profs in her time at Mondoville, and she’ll be missed.
However, it’s an ill wind indeed that blows no one good, and Marilyn’s departure means that we’re hiring a tenure-track replacement. So if you know an American lit specialist (or if you happen to be one), give us a holler, huh?
Well, supper time is drawing near, so I’ll wrap this up with some music. The Downliners Sect were part of the mid-60s British R&B scene, along with groups like the Pretty Things, Animals, and Yardbirds, to say nothing of the Stones. But unlike the contemporaries I’ve mentioned, the Sect didn’t really make it out of the second division, and consequently are not especially known in the States beyond a certain circle of geeks (Hi there!). However, they continue to soldier on, and more power to them.
Among other things, they were notable for the fact that band member Don Craine typically wore a deerstalker cap, and that both Steve Marriott and Rod Stewart unsuccessfully auditioned for the group over the years. This particular number dates from 1966, and has the distinction of being co-written by Lou Reed and John Cale before anyone had heard of the Velvet Underground. In fact, I’ll double it up and give you the original (as by the “All Night Workers”):
followed by the Sect’s revved-up take:
And with that, I’ll see you soon!