Tag: COVID-19

PANDEMIX Is the Comic Anthology You Need to Be Reading Today

PANDEMIX Is the Comic Anthology You Need to Be Reading Today

We are living and surviving today in a world with a virus that has changed so much of how we were used to living. It has affected everyone in America and most of the world whether you “believe” in it or not.

Talented artistic folks have invariably impacted significantly. While many artists were used to the working at home that has become the new norm for so many more, the world is different than it was pre-COVID19, and we knew that it would be only a matter of time before we saw creative expression of what the pandemic has wrought in comic form.

That time is now. We present to you PANDEMIX: Quarantine Comics in the Age of ‘Rona!! Available Today!!!

A group of nineteen talented artists and writers have come together to share their impressions of how they are seeing the world that we live in today. It is a wonderful collected anthology of comic goodness, but wait there’s more. This self published digital edition is available on Patreon , and all proceeds go to charity with donations to The Hero Initiative.

Continue reading “PANDEMIX Is the Comic Anthology You Need to Be Reading Today”

Weird Scenes #95: Gee, They Were So Young

Weird Scenes #95: Gee, They Were So Young

Whatever gets you through your life ‘salright, ‘salright / Do it wrong or do it right ‘salright, ‘salright / Don’t need a watch to waste your time oh no, oh no — “Whatever Gets You Through The Night,” written by John Lennon, 1974.

When it comes to sorting Americans into tribes based upon political beliefs — and we are so desperate to divide up into tribes — if you are thinking along the lines of “well, those [whatever] usually tend to be [whichever tribe you like, such as young conservatives, young progressives, young Libertarians, or jocks]…, you are most certainly full of two things, one of which is yourself.

We hear a lot about Gen-Z being very politically active and very progressive. Of course that’s not completely so. Like all previous generations, the largest subgroup are those who just don’t give a damn. These kids are much more politically active than the previous two, but they seem to be motivated not as much by some old fart’s progressive agenda as they are by the philosophy “You are destroying my planet, and I’m the one who is supposed to live here in the future. Not you.” And… that’s fair.

The younger you are the more cynical you might be, but I am living proof that cynicism is most likely to be a permanent lifestyle. For one thing, it’s more fun. This is a good thing: it’s easier to fight the good fights if you allow yourself to appreciate your victories, keep a sense of humor about absolutely everything, and never think about Sisyphus. It’s good to remember the words of some Joker: “Why so serious? Let’s put a smile on that face!”

So it came as no surprise that when I watched Donald Trump’s two pep rallies earlier this week, I saw a whole lot of kids. Almost entirely White kids, but there always are a few non-White people are there, some of whom were hired just like the large group of cheering fans at Trump Tower when the Donald floated down his escalator-from-heaven back in 2015.

Granted, the second of these sessions was held at a college, so it’s not a great an indication of teen-age lack of death-perception as the first. But both had this in common with our recruitment policies for our military: the younger you are, the less likely you are to be aware and protective of your longevity. By and large, if you were, say, a 45-year-old carrying a bayonet, and you were ordered to assault that well-protected Hill 59, you might hesitate. Then your problem becomes getting out of the way of the 19-year-olds who are much less concerned about maintaining their personal franchise.

It is at the core of military training: your master says jump and do not think, you jump without a thought as to your own mortality. 19-year-olds, by and large, have yet to fully develop that sense. I did all kinds of dangerous shit back when I was 19. And 18, and 20. I look back and smile, but I’m not smiling about those stupid risks. I smile because I’m still around to look back at all that dangerous shit. My actions were, and still are, quite serious. My cause is quite serious. My attitude is more “Why so serious.” Whatever gets you through the night.

So we’ve got several thousand southwestern young’uns shoulder-to-shoulder, in weather-appropriate dress (the southwest in late June demands less clothing), jumping up and down and shouting and screaming and cheering and carrying on, maskless, as though they were at the Titanic of high school pep rallies. As the Jefferson Airplane said back in my day, “bless their pointed little heads.”

Many of them think Covid-19 does not affect them because they are not old. Well, dig this kids: when all this plague stuff started, some Black people believed they couldn’t get it either. It was a big deal — a very big deal, until some of them folks started dying. Well, die and learn. Now we know that younger people are merely less likely to come down with Covid-19 than us old people who have little to lose but our memories.

Well, that’s America for you. This nation of ours is your go-to place if you want to age out of your own tribe.

Besides, our planet was overcrowded about five billion live-births ago. Soylent Green does not have to be made out of old dead bodies. I’ll bet the young dead bodies taste better.

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #065: Grinding My Gears

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #065: Grinding My Gears

I recognize that having column inches such as I do grants me a public space to air my grievances. A place, in plain sight, to shoot straight and vent with hope in finding sympathetic ears. Such as it were, we all have these spaces — take the social media platform of choice, and let loose. But here, on Pop Culture Squad, I’m given a bit more leeway to stretch a would-be status message and let it get some height. Normally I’d save my ire for something specifically in the pop culture space (#relevancy), but, here I am stuck in quarantine — a nebulous vacuum of pop culture at present. So, I’m detailing several things in my life that are at very least pop culture adjacent that have been grinding my gears. Hopefully with a little venting, this tightening in my chest might relieve itself a bit. On with the ranting!

1. Virtual Events

With remote learning, and businesses needing to flock to tele-meeting spaces like Zoom, Facebook rooms, Skype, and the like… the population is tired of virtual fraternization. Save perhaps the concerts being put on by various musical artists who all happen to have sophisticated recording equipment in their homes… Zoom and the like are fast becoming tiresome. Yes, we all get it. You throw on a normal shirt, and keep the pajamas on under the gaze of your web cam. Ha ha. Woo. But every virtual event remains the same. We speak over one another, or have dueling monologues. Our kids crash in, and suddenly we’re juggling staying engaged, and remembering we’d literally like to be anywhere else. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #065: Grinding My Gears”

Brainiac On Banjo #086: We Can Be Heroes

Brainiac On Banjo #086: We Can Be Heroes

There goes my hero / Watch him as he goes / There goes my hero / He’s ordinary — “My Hero,” written by Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel and Pat Smear, 1995.

Memorial Day, which we celebrate today because usually more gasoline is sold over three-day weekends, was still called Decoration Day when I was a child. It didn’t become a federal holiday until 1971, even though Decoration Day became a thing after the first U.S. Civil War. According to History.com, one of the earliest Memorial Day remembrances was organized by a group of freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.

In recent years, the definition of Memorial Day has grown to include all of those whose lives were sacrificed for the greater good. Today, we tend to call these people “heroes” and that would be okay had our definition of hero not been allowed to expand to those who do what all humans are supposed to do: help out those in need. That’s where I get a bit cynical. I’ll go along with the hero thing as long as we come up with an equally descriptive term for those who could but maliciously refuse to help out those in need.

I think you know the people I’m talking about.

Yesterday, the New York Times ran the front page I reproduced above. The story, of course, was continued on interior pages but I’m sure you get the point. This was one of the most appropriate front pages I’ve seen, and I’m the type of history freak that reads old newspapers for fun. I rarely go out of my way to praise the NYT, but fair is fair. It would take the effort of a much better writer than I to make the point any sharper.

Yesterday, I had an online conversation with a friend who is a veteran of our recent middle eastern activities, who, by the way, was wounded in the war. I don’t think he is a hero for having been wounded. I think he’s a hero for having been there in the first place.

Be that as it may, we discussed the Times’ use of the word “incalculable.” Obviously, if there’s a list, the number is calculable. That’s true, but I don’t think that was the point. I said it was the loss itself that was incalculable and not simply the number who have died thus far. For every name listed, there are an incalculable number of people who are severely impacted: friends, co-workers, family, online correspondents, vendors dependent upon their business, brothers and sisters in arms, teachers, nurses and physicians and others who have been there in your support system for years, and so on. The impact is truly overwhelming, particularly as it’s all been within the past ten weeks or so.

His initial thought was significant: we should be specific in our rhetoric. Damn near everybody has suffered a loss in this pandemic, and most of those who haven’t probably will before it’s all over. We bitch about our inconveniences, but we are still here to complain. In no way does that make the rest of us heroes. We are survivors, and we should be proud of that. Or, at the very least, appreciative.

We are living through a history we will tell our grandchildren about. My maternal grandfather died of the Spanish influenza that followed World War I, when my mother was about three years old. It took me quite a while to piece together that story. Today, history is no longer written by the winners — history is written every moment of every day, in print and online, with audio and video to flesh out the static pictures and provide a more accurate view, in the aggregate, for future generations.

I am fond of quoting philosopher George Santayana’s well-known aphorism “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I say “well-known,” but I remain amazed by how often I read the words of people in power who simply do not get that. I can’t understand why. Maybe power tends to erode reason.

Maybe it’s more the quest for power that erodes reason, particularly when that power is defined by money.

Yesterday, the New York Times made Memorial Day all the more memorable. Maybe we can’t avoid such disaster, but there is a great, great deal we can do to minimize the damage.

True to the present name for this holiday, we must never forget.

Weird Scenes #089: Suicide Is Painless

Weird Scenes #089: Suicide Is Painless

That game of life is hard to play / I’m gonna lose it anyway / The losing card I’ll someday lay / So this is all I have to say / Suicide is painless / It brings on many changes / And I can take or leave it if I please — Suicide Is Painless (theme for movie M*A*S*H), written by Johnny Mandel, 1970

As tempting as it is, we just cannot go around saying “100% of us believe…” or “everybody feels…” We know that’s ridiculous; there are 7.8 billion people on this planet as of this writing, and most of us couldn’t agree on where to go for lunch.

So I will not state “100% are stir-crazy and would gnaw our right arms off to leave the house and go to…” whatever. However, I would not be the least bit surprised if 99% of us felt that way. Maybe we can get together and T-P the houses of that other 1%.

No. Wait. Is there still a toilet paper shortage? I wouldn’t know. I haven’t been permitted to enter any building other than my own for… jeez, about 10 weeks now. I did drive around the neighborhood last week, just to give my car some reassurance, and I was surprised at how little had changed. But I was more surprised at how few cars were on the road, how empty the parking lots were, and how easy it would be to park at the train station.

I’m also surprised at how clean the air seems. This figures — with fewer people driving, we have less ground dinosaur bits clogging our atmosphere. This latter fact frightens the crap out of the oil and gas industry, which has been hell-bent on choking us to death in the name of dividend checks and nine figure annual employment packages. Some of these greed-driven killers are down to their last 50 million bucks.

I have little doubt that this is one of the chief reasons we are being pushed over the brink of insanity with constant reminders of how wonderful it will be to get out of the house and go to restaurants, sports events, family reunions, and, I dunno, maybe orgies. Don’t forget your condoms; you wouldn’t want to catch a disease, would you? Continue reading “Weird Scenes #089: Suicide Is Painless”

Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Writer Joe Harris

Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Writer Joe Harris

Welcome back to another spotlight interview. In this session, we spoke with award-winning comics creator and screenwriter Joe Harris.

Joe has a written a new comic, Disaster, Inc., debuting this week from AfterShock Comics. It is drawn and colored by Sebastián Piriz and lettered by Carlos Mangual.

He has written for Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, and Storm King Comics, among others. He is well known for shepherding the return of The X-Files to comics at IDW beginning in 2013. Some of his other titles include: Great Pacific, Snowfall, Rockstars, Slingers, and Surviving Nuclear Attack.

Harris also wrote the screenplay to Sony Pictures’ Darkness Falls. His style is very character centered and his creator owned work tends to cling to the horror or speculative fiction genres.

We were excited to get a chance to talk to him about his writing process and also how he is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic while living in New York City.

You can find the audio recording of our discussion below, and we transcribed a big portion of it for you as well.

We hope you enjoy the conversation.

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Pop Culture Squad: So, thanks for doing this. Before we get into anything, how are you feeling?

Joe Harris: I feel good. I’m looking into getting an antibody test soon. So, I can know, one way or another, if I have had COVID-19 or not. I was symptomatic a few weeks ago. I think you remember. So, who knows.

PCS: Well, I am pretty confident that you had it based on the symptoms you were describing. You documented the illness while you were in isolation, and then you sort of disappeared for a day. It’s scary, and it is a scary time for everyone. For all those people who are down playing the seriousness of it, people are dying. You live in the center of the worst of it.
What’s that like being in New York right now?

JH: Um, Kind of surreal. I mean, at this point, it’s kind of shocking at how normal everything has become… There are things you’ll probably get angry about this stuff no matter where you go. You probably see somebody not wearing masks. You’ll see people that aren’t keeping adequate distance, but for the most part New York, I think, by and large, considering how big it is, has done a decent job.

I don’t know how that comes out in the wash when you think about the amount of dead and the number of infected, but it seems like at least for a stretch the city was doing what it could. It is a little less desolate now though. I can hear more people out on the street. I don’t hear as many ambulances.

Which makes sense considering, that the emergency rooms aren’t has overrun as they apparently were. I don’t know when we come out of this. It’s been a little surreal. So, it’s hard to imagine how everything goes right back to normal. That much I don’t see; I don’t know what would looks like or what that will feel like. The city just kind of adapts. I haven’t been down in the subway in months, and I expect it will be sometime before I am again.

PCS: Let’s get into some comic stuff. We know that Disaster, Inc. is the first book that Aftershock is going to be shipping through Diamond when the restart happens on May 20th. So, what do you want to tell people about the book? Continue reading “Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Writer Joe Harris”

‘New Mutants’ Movie Has A New Release Date Set for August

‘New Mutants’ Movie Has A New Release Date Set for August

This is not a drill!!! The New Mutants film will finally see the light of day, unless it doesn’t. According to Variety, Disney has added The New Mutants back to its release calendar with a “theatrical” debut on August 28, 2020.

Maisie Williams, Henry Zaga, Blu Hunt, Charlie Heaton and Anya Taylor-Joy in “The New Mutants.”

The former Fox film was originally set for release in 2018, but has been beset by numerous delays. When Disney set the April release and started showing some amazing trailers and set photos, fans of the comic book team began to get excited that they would actually get to see Magik, Dani Moonstar, Cannonball, and Wolfsbane on the screen.

However, the nationwide shutdown of movie theaters in response to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in Disney removing the film from the schedule. While the new date for release it at the end of August, we are still hoping that theaters will be open by then and there will not be any additional delays with this ill-fated film.

Here is the trailer for those that haven’t seen it or those that need to see it again!!!!

Source: ‘New Mutants’ New Release Date Set for August – Variety

With Further Ado #94: Those Good Old Days… That We’re All Hating

With Further Ado #94: Those Good Old Days… That We’re All Hating

How much longer will this lockdown last?  The “snow day”-ness of it is getting old. I’m definitely ZOOMed out (even though I think these remote meetings are here to stay).  I can see the fatigue bubble up with debates about when to open up local economies for business. And I’ve also learned about the “epistemic dissidents” – those contrarians who choose to ignore established facts, and instead rely on fringe ideas and crackpot conspiracies.  If that sounds hard, it’s meant to be.  I am losing patience with these knuckleheads.

Recently, I pulled up to one local comic shop, Ithaca’s Comics For Collectors for some curbside comics.  Although the store is officially closed, I was invited in to browse a bit. I kind of felt like rock star who gets to shop privately when no one else is in the store.  Kudos to the owner who set it up so the experience was super- safe – social distancing, sanitizer, gloves and masks.  (Masks make sense for comic shops too, of course.)  I snagged the comics from my pull list, a few recent favorites, and even rescued some treasures from the bargain box.

It was a treat to get the VIP treatment from that store…but we’re all so tired of the pause. I don’t think I’ll ever fondly remember that private shopping trip.

There are other ways to support local stores. I’ve reached out to a few other retailers and purchased comics online or gift cards. I have been so impressed that in every case, these shops have sent me extra stuff with each order.  These acts of kindness, when the “other guy” is suffering, will not be soon forgotten.

Getting to Know the Publishers

During quarantine, I feel like I’m getting to know comics publishers better too. Continue reading “With Further Ado #94: Those Good Old Days… That We’re All Hating”

Weird Scenes #087: Reason? This Is The Day!

Weird Scenes #087: Reason? This Is The Day!

“I got some groceries, some peanut butter, / To last a couple of days / But I ain’t got no speakers, ain’t got no / Headphones, ain’t got no records to play” — Life During Wartime, written by David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, and Tina Weymouth, 1979.

If you have any media coming into your safe-house, you’ve probably heard all sorts of stuff about this outbreak that’s plaguing the world right now. “I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?” “Take hydroxychloroquine, what have you got to lose?” “Coronavirus would weaken when we get into April.” “Anybody who needs a test gets a test.” “There’s only 15 cases and next week that’ll be down to zero.” “Health insurance companies agreed to waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments, and to prevent surprise medical billing.” “Protesters (who) oppose social distancing were doing social distancing themselves and were all six feet apart.”

Those statements, slightly edited for space, all came out of the mouth of one single man, a profoundly orange idiot whose every word appears to be held as sacrosanct by upwards of 60,000,000 of his fellow Americans. Oy, vey ist mir!

What we need right now is the voice of reason. Coincidentally, today — May 7th — is the day for it.

Four very optimistic members of the House Freethought Caucus introduced House Bill H.R. 947, which, according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (yes, if you read it you may burn in hell next to Ron Reagan) would designate today, May 7, as a “National Day of Reason” and recognize the “central importance of reason in the betterment of humanity.”

Now, before you go apeshit because you find it impossible to believe that freedom OF religion requires freedom FROM religion, here’s what the bill says, in total:

Whereas the application of reason has been the essential precondition for humanity’s extraordinary scientific, medical, technological, and social progress since the modern Enlightenment;

Whereas reason provides vital hope today for confronting the environmental crises of our day, including the civilizational emergency of climate change, and for cultivating the rule of law, democratic institutions, justice, and peace among nations;

Whereas irrationality, magical thinking, and superstition have undermined the national effort to combat the COVID–19 pandemic, and reason is fundamental to creating an effective coordinated response to beat the virus involving the Federal Government, the States, and the scientific and medical communities;

Whereas America’s Founders insisted upon the primacy of reason and knowledge in public life, and drafted the Constitution to prevent official establishment of religion and to protect freedom of thought, speech, and inquiry in civil society;

Whereas James Madison, author of the First Amendment and fourth President of the United States, stated that “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty”, and “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives”; and

Whereas, May 7, 2020, would be an appropriate date to designate as a “National Day of Reason”: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives —

(1) supports the designation of a “National Day of Reason”; and

(2) encourages all citizens, residents, and visitors to join in observing this day and focusing on the central importance of reason, critical thought, the scientific method, and free inquiry to resolving social problems and promoting the welfare of humankind.

Yup. You’re got it. A national day of reason. What the hell is wrong with that? Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?

I’ll bet the guy who said that will be remembered long after that moron who should be buried in a jar of Orange Tang.

Weird Scenes #086: Speculative Reality

Weird Scenes #086: Speculative Reality

“If I could dig down deep in my heart / Feelings would flood on the page / Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya / Would ya think the boy’s insane? He’s insane / I said I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it” – It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll, written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, 1974.

Back in the hallowed days of nascent hippiedom, our popular culture evolved as young people began to develop a more political worldview. For better and for worse, these sentiments touched upon all aspects of the arts, and the world of science fiction was just sitting there in the center of the target. A lot of great stuff came out of that, material that continues impacting upon society to this day.

People began deploying the term “speculative fiction” to differentiate the contemporary stuff from the traditional space opera, although that epithet was used in similar vein by Robert Heinlein back in 1947. Be that as it may, the concepts associated with speculative fiction go back to the roots of storytelling and was well-deployed by writers such as Euripides and Shakespeare. Out of this movement came many of the 1960s generation of S-F A-listers: Judith Merril, Harlan Ellison, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Norman Spinrad, and many, many others.

Of course, such labels never truly work. Using music as my reference point, can you cleanly define the differences between the various forms of American roots music — blues, country, folk, bluegrass, jazz, rock and roll? Really? Then where does Ray Charles fall into that mix? Similarly, there are many labels on the foreheads of the sundry strands of science fiction: fantasy, horror, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, horror, blah blah blah. I know. It’s only rock and roll to me.

These days, the term “speculative fiction” has become a warning. Here’s what we know for certain about COVID-19:

1) As of April 29th, it has affected over three and one-quarter million people worldwide — that we know about. If we actually tested people in the United States, that number would be much higher. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #086: Speculative Reality”