365 T-shirts - the reasoning

This blog should be sub-titled: a journal of my life in geek.

I get my geek on with things about which I am geeky: comic books, Baseball, Ultimate, science fiction, my favorite bands, books I have read and loved, and Jungian psychology to name some of the most frequently traversed subjects.

I began this project simply as a way to count my T-shirts. I own a lot of T-shirts. But how many do I have? Do I have 365? We shall find out.

When I started this blog, I thought about how each T-shirt means something to me. I bought it for a reason, after all. I set myself the task to post an entry about a new T-shirt every day as a way to simply write something every day, a warm up for writing fiction, which is my passion. Writing is like exercise. Warm ups are good for exercise. But after completing a month of blogging about T-shirts, I have learned that this blog serves as a journal; it documents my life in geek, sort of a tour of my interests in pop culture. The blog serves as a tool for self-inventory, for assessment and analysis of self and the origins of self, for stepping through the process of individuation in catalogues, lists, and ranks.

The blog also made me aware that I have some serious gaps in my T-shirt ownership, and I am in the process of collecting some new T-shirts for several of the great popular culture icons that I truly love. Stay tuned.

I was also a bit surprised that people checked out my blog and continue to check it, read it, and even comment on it. I am very appreciative of this readership. Please feel free to share your thoughts in my comments section. I will respond.

Also, please note that I have moved the original introductory text to the side bar. And now, I present to you the most recent entry of 365 T-shirts: a journal of my life in geek. Thank you for reading.
(Second Update - 1310.24. First Update - 1306.05 Originally Posted - 1304.25.)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

T-shirt #163: Everything But The Girl

T-shirt #163: Everything But The Girl

Lots of videos today! I know you live for videos and for music, either that's new to you or with which you need to reconnect after a long hiatus. I tried to keep the videos to just a few, so if nine is a few, then I made it!

Today I want to share about one of my favorite all time bands, definitely in my top ten, the great and wonderful EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL.

This is a great gift I bestow, especially if you have never heard this band before. EBTG has been a sustaining and emotionally rich source of inspiration and solace in my life for almost 30 years. I hope you find the band just as healing and beautiful as I do, or you re-discover how amazing it is by re-connecting today on my blog.

EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL and its two amazing musicians, Ms. Tracey Thorne and Mr. Ben Watt, has been one of my most consistent companions since my discovery of them in 1985 after I found their guest spot on the Style Council's album Café Bleu. Intrigued by Tracey's beautiful voice, I investigated and discovered this beautiful British jazzy band called Everything But The Girl.

I quickly began buying all their albums (LP records to start) and later CDs. I even tracked down imports, such as the UK only released Eden, which contained twice as many tracks as the equivalent U.S. release. I would not track down 1985's Love Not Money until years later and only on CD. But in 1986, my love for the band reached new heights with its gorgeous orchestral album Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. By the time, Idlewild was released in 1988 and the band's "Apron Strings" was featured in the film She's Having a Baby (one of my all-time favorite films), I was a die-hard fan.

One of the things I love about doing this blog is what I learn that I did not know about my favorite things.
I always wondered how Everything But the Girl got its name. Apparently, the duo adopted its name from a Hull (technically Kingston Upon Hull, Yorkshire, England) furniture shop called Turner's, which used to advertise that "for your bedroom needs, we sell everything but the girl." See the EBTG WIKI for this and more information.

I knew that Ben and Tracey were a couple, married, with children, but in reading the Wiki, I am not surprised at how private they are, which I respect.

It is extremely difficult for me to select a top ten favorite EBTG list of songs or to rank their albums. I can say that I prefer the older stuff. Though my favorite song, "We Walk the Same Line," appears on their next to last release Walking Wounded (1996). I did not much care for the final release, Tempermental (1999), but "not caring for" one EBTG release over another is like a chocolate lover claiming preference for the almond and sea salt chocolate bar over the ginger one. Both are loved as chocolate is loved. But one is preferred.

I cannot write about EBTG without letting you know, dear reader, that Tracey Thorn has been enjoying a very prolific and popular (at least in England) solo career in recent years. Her 2007 solo Out of the Woods has become one of my favorite albums of all time and rivals anything produced by EBTG. That album appeared in my top twenty most listened to albums of all time and may soon break in to the top ten, arguably. I wrote about these rankings here in T-shirt #97.

EBTG are best known for the song "Missing" from the 1994 album Amplified Heart, which the band produced after Ben Watts was diagnosed with Churg-Strauss Syndrome, an autoimmune disease, which surely inspired the next album as well, The Walking Wounded, and my favorite song "We Walk the Same Line."

EBTG stopped recording and touring after Temperamental (1999). Ben Watts continues to write and produce. He produced for another favorite of mine, Beth Orton, and recently (August 2013) performed his first solo work in 30 years.

I had the pleasure of seeing EBTG live in 1996. I remember this time in my life vividly. Indulge me in a little reflection. Around the time of the concert, July of 1996, I was going through a break up with a woman I had been involved with for almost a year and with whom I was very much in love. Though I spent the next year trying to get her back, in July of 1996, she and I were breaking up, and so she was unwilling (and possibly unable as she was doing contract work in southern Indiana) to attend the EBTG concert with me in Royal Oak.

I don't remember how it happened, but I ended up taking an ex-girlfriend to the concert, one with whom I had broken up seven years before. I suspect that I called her because I knew she loved EBTG, and I was trying to stay in touch with her because I valued her as a person and considered her a close friend. She agreed to go with me, and we had a really nice time. We ate at a restaurant on the main drag in Royal Oak that has "crab" in the name, I think, a place that serves various kinds of raw oysters.

The show was magnificent, and I remember that I cried when they played "We Walk The Same Line."

 That's all I remember other than fragments and scraps, none of which would be vivid or interesting enough to add here.

 I am not going to share lyrics for all the songs I am sharing via video, but for my favorite song, I want to share lyrics because the song has been an anthem for me over the years. It's never meant more to me than it has in recent weeks. As I have written before, and I will write again, I am so lucky to have such a great community of people around me, near and far, who love me and whom I love, especially my immediate my family: my wife, my kids, my parents, my sister, my cousins.

We all do.

We walk the same line.

- everything but the girl

If you lose your faith, babe
You can have mine
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line

Now I don't have to tell you
How slow the night can go
I know you've watched for the light

And I bet you could tell me
How slowly four follows three
And you're most forlorn just before dawn

So if you lose your faith, babe
You can have mine
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line

When it's dark, baby
There's a light I'll shine
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line

And I don't need reminding
How loud the phone can ring
When you're waiting for news

And that big old moon
Lights every corner of the room
Your back aches from lying
And your head aches from crying

So if you lose your faith, babe
You can have mine
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line

When it's dark, baby
There's a light I'll shine
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line

And if these troubles
Should vanish like rain at midday
Well, I've no doubt there'll be more

And we can't run and we can't cheat
'Cause baby, when we meet, what we're afraid of
We find out what we're made of

So if you lose your faith, babe
You can have mine
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line

When it's dark, baby
There's a light I'll shine
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line

And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line
Walk the same line
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line

Lost I'm right behind
We walk the same line
Walk the same line

Okay, now A LOT OF VIDEOS. And I do mean A LARGE number but not too many. Don't want to go crazy.

My favorite EBTG song is definitely, without equivocation or ties or haggling, "We Walk The Same Line," from the 1996 release Walking Wounded.


Usually when I share about a favorite musical artist or band, I will only share the band's or artist's music performed by them, him, or her not someone else's cover of the band's music. But searching for my favorite EBTG song, I found this cover version by Von Grey who have done a series of cover videos in the backseat of a mini-van, which is kind of an unique idea in and of itself. The band is a group of young girls out of Atlanta who employ such beautiful harmonies and instrumentation that they drew the attention of Paste Magazine after their performance at SXSW that drew a sizeable crowd. Update - the video was removed by You Tube. Updated 1803.19

Backseat Cover Series, Episode #5 - We Walk the Same Line by Everything But the Girl




EBTG "Each And Everyone" + Lyrics




Page from my ticket book with the EBTG ticket and others 



Notice that the Back Log is smaller as I have cleared more of it lately by devoting myself more to rest and comic book reading.

Ultimate Spider-Man edges Aquaman for top spot this week simply because the events of the former are a bit more cliff-hangery than the events in the latter, or so it seems to my addled and muddled mind.

In other words, I am a little more interested in the position in which Bendis left Spider-Man than in the position of Aquaman right at this moment. These things can change. But likely I will read at least the top three comics tonight (I was writing this Friday not today, which is Saturday) before I go to sleep, and if I am not super sleepy, and since I will be listening to the Tigers game, I could get through the first six or even seven.

(Update: final count = four, though I started the fifth and didn't finish it as the Tigers went into a rain delay and I was sleepy).

Those of you who read me often (and especially my comic pals at Fanfare) will be happy to see that not only is FF resurrected out of my back log, but it jumps to seventh place.

In fact, if there were fewer comics or fewer that I am loving right now out this week, FF would be even higher. I read three or four issues of FF last night (Thursday) and LOVED them. This is often what happens to the back log. It's not a back log of comics I don't like. Often it's a back log of comics that I love, but they stack up for some reason (and often not a good reason).

 If not for Ultimate Spider-Man and Aquaman, Captain America would take the top slot. I am very much loving this story line as I described in grand detail in T-shirt #106. It looks like the Dimension Z story line ends with this issue, so I am curious to see how Remender plans to conclude and bring Cap back into continuity. (OH MY!!! I will write about this later... but for now, WOW OH WOW.)

  Young Avengers and New Avengers stay highly rated with the former just edging the latter, mainly because I am LOVING Jamie McKelvie's art. (Sorry Kieron, the story is good, too). Okay... I know that's cute, and though I follow both Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie on Twitter, I doubt either reads my blog. But I have more grease to wax on Gillen's board (does that make sense?) because of his most excellent comic Uber from Avatar Press. More later.

Justice League drops far down to tenth out of twenty-two comics that I purchased today (that came out Wednesday) because as I wrote about last week in T-shirt #156, I am not impressed with the DC Trinity War story very much at all, which is a little sad because I want to be loving it.

Thor drops because the God Butcher story has ended, and the issue looks like a filler with a guest artist.

Tom Strong stays strong in 11th place because I liked the first issue a lot: Thank you Chris Sprouse. And even though, I love the Titans, the book has not been very good lately. But this is not an exact science. There's whim at work here. Because I have been really loving Flash and Mind the Gap. Occasionally, I do move up books that I originally rated too low. These two issues look like candidates for move up.

Ultimate Spider-Man #26
Aquaman #23
Captain America #010
Young Avengers #009
New Avengers #009
Lazarus #3
FF #011
Avengers Arena #014
Batman/Superman #3
Justice League #23
Tom Strong and the Planet of Peril #2 of 6
Uncanny X-Men #011
Uncanny Avengers #011
Thor - God of Thunder #012
Flash #23
Mind the Gap #13
Teen Titans #23
Catwoman #23

Max Brooks - The Extinction Parade #2
Superman #23
Secret Avengers #008
Mister X - Eviction #3 of 3

POSTSCRIPT: UPDATE: Is the Legion of Super Heroes not really over?  So, I struck up a conversation with Bill Artis in Fanfare today because I know he's a huge Legion of Super Heroes, like me.

I asked him what he thought of the last issue and the cancelling of the book as I reported in T-shirt #156.

Hey, I am a comic book geek, but my memory sucks, and I am reading the comics more as relaxation and a way for my mind to drift and not as works that I study closely.

Then again, if I worked in a comic shop, my memory for Mark Waid's run on Legion and other specifics like that would be better.

 However, Bill pointed out to me that the Legion that DC ended in that comic was the Earth Two Legion because of the explanation that Steppenwolf had killed Superman.

I also noticed that at some time, and I did not know when (neither did Bill), Star Boy had been killed. HUH?

So maybe the Legion, our Legion, Earth One Legion, will be back sooner than we think... :-)

  - chris tower - 1308.31 - 14:01

Friday, August 30, 2013

T-shirt #162: Pleasantview School

T-shirt #162: Pleasantview School and the Six Million Dollar Man

Kind of a random day today.

And a short one. Not because Grading Robot is at full power. Weekly deadline met this morning. But because from time to time, the entries must be short so that I can work ahead, which is today's goal.

Also, writing fragments.

Feel a bit fragmented, so the content is coming out in partials.

Dribs and drabs.


Go figure.

In the photo, I am wearing my Pleasantview School T-shirt and clutching my Six Million Dollar Man vintage toy, simply because of randomness. The toy was sitting atop a stack of books. I wanted to get him in the blog, and I have no other way to do it than this way (no Lee Majors, Steve Austin, Six Million Dollar Man T-shirts).

Pleasantview School is in Hastings, Michigan. In the 1990s and the early 2000s, I participated in program called CREATIVE WRITERS IN THE SCHOOLS (CWIS), in which schools would apply for grants to host a visiting writer for up to two weeks. After teaching the usual college semester, I would spend April-June at various schools making enough money to help me get through the summer without teaching a full load or without supplementing my income in other ways.

I first wrote about my work in CWIS in T-shirt #105: Ultimate Spider-Man, in which I also included my first ever You Tube video of me performing the "Spider-Man poem" as I did at every school, including Pleasantview School.

I was very impressed with Pleasantview School and the galvanic principal (whose name I have forgotten). I refined much of  my technique for the CWIS job at Pleasantview School, including my fill-in-the-blank and other guided poetry writing exercises for grades 2-6. I am including my best example here on the blog with the poem "Seven Ways of Looking at Teachers," which is modeled after Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."

I loved the CWIS. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I was a bit of a rock star. I would swoop in to these class rooms, and turn the kids up to 11. My blend of humor and goofiness usually met with resounding success as the kids were excited and turned out some great poems or stories. It was at Pleasantview School that I learned that I had to use assemblies, or I would be reciting the Spider-Man poem about 30 times a week for up to six weeks, a totally insane prospect. So, I devised a plan. I would host an assembly to start and introduce myself to the kids. I would do the Spider-Man poem one time, and I would perform one magic trick. Then, if the students wrote and did what was expected of them over the next two weeks, they could earn the right to attend the final assembly in which I would do a full length magic show and recite the Spider-Man poem for the final time. It was a bit stressful practicing and getting in the mode of performing magic again. But much of the magic I do is stand-up comedy with some easy manipulation or misdirection. I use a lot of gimmicks. But it's still stressful.

"Hey, you know that play you were in 20 years ago, do your entire role right now. Go." This is what I hear when someone asks me to do a magic trick.

Oh yeah, the Six Million Dollar man. Working in CWIS made me feel like the Six Million Dollar man. I wanted to share this toy on the blog because it's such a cool toy. The tennis shoes are rubber and removable. The right arm has peel back skin to expose the bionics. The left eye can be looked through from the back of the head to simulate the bionic, telescoping vision of his machined eye.

Bionic the Wiki


Seven Ways of Looking at Teachers
-- By Chris Tower

  1. There are 13,000 teachers in the world, and I have collected them all in tiny, purple bottles.
  2. In the light of the full moon, the teachers look like vampire bats.
  3. In the summer, the teachers transform themselves into children. They play, dance, sing, and complete numerous homework assignments to determine their merits.
  4. Once a year, the 13,000 teachers gather in caves deep below the earth and discuss more efficient ways of torturing students.
  5. Once upon a time, the teachers learned of a school without teachers. They swooped to the rescue. They loved and educated the students helping them to be the best students ever.
  6. Though the teachers look like vampire bats, when I smile, they look like angels.
  7. No one knows that teachers can fly, breathe underwater, lift skyscrapers over their heads, and secretly they tell the President of the United States what to do.

Last thing today.

Remember in T-shirt #155 in which I said that my friend Jeremy Welter looks like Captain Marvel?

Well, he does.

And now I have the picture to prove it.

Check this out.

Jeremy and his lovely wife Deanna just announced that they are having a baby and posted this cute picture to share the great news with all of Facebook. It's a good picture to show that Jeremy indeed looks JUST LIKE Captain Marvel (especially Alex Ross' Captain Marvel).

Congratulations Deanna and Jeremy Welter!! Can't wait to welcome your little tike to the world.

Everyone have a great Friday and a great holiday weekend. I will be back tomorrow, but I know that many of you may not.

- chris tower - 1308.30 - 10:29

Thursday, August 29, 2013

T-shirt #161 - Blue In Sport

T-shirt #161 - "Blue, Blue, Electric Blue, that's the Color of my room, where I will live..."

"Blue Blue."

Immortal words by David Bowie from "Sound and Vision" a track off his 1977 album Low part of the Berlin trilogy. Arguably, his best album. Definitely, the one I find that I keep coming back to and listening to again the most over the years; it was produced by Brian Eno.

When Bowie released his boxed set career retrospective, he called it Sound and Vision. He also named his 1990 tour "Sound and Vision," a greatest hits tour in which he intended to play his hits for the last time and then retire them. This has not happened, strictly speaking.

All of which I have shared because this shirt is blue.

Just a blue shirt made by InSport. Wicks moisture.

No logo or design. (Well, there is one on the sleeve but I decided to leave it off the picture.)

"Don't you wonder sometime about sound and vision?"

I spend a lot of time thinking.

This may surprise some people, but I am more introvert than extrovert.

It's true.

I can play the part of an "extravert" (to use Carl Jung's spelling), but it's playing a part, and it can cause me enormous anxiety. My base line state of existence, my preference, my natural state is solitude and quiet.

For example, for many years, I took solo vacations up north at the Neahtawanta Inn (as described best in T-shirt #85: Up North). Though sometimes I had a guest with me for a short time, the majority of the time I was alone. I would read, write, run, bike, swim, eat great food, and go see movies at night (sometimes two in one night). These vacations were just what I needed to recharge and prepare for the assault of another Fall-Winter college school semester of teaching classes.

Another example, I like to go to bed early and read. This is something that my wife likes to do as well. Though last night, I had the Tigers game plugged into one ear, for the most part, we had quiet, reading time in bed with each other and the puppy. I could have gone to the KUDL draft, but I was not feeling well, still not fully recovered, and I needed time at home, time alone with my wife and dog. This is what introverts need.

For me, time alone is crucial. My blogging all began during what I used to call "Bloggy Friday" when my parents would leave for my mother's beauty shop appointment (back when I lived them and later when I was there helping out while Liesel was at work) and I would have the house to myself. Peace and quiet and solitude so that I could do whatever I fancied. I liked this time best around the holidays when I could turn on all the lights on the Christmas decorations as the sunlight outside faded away.

I can be a social creature. I am actually a bit more of a social creature than my wife. But I crave alone time, and if I do not get enough of it every week, I start to go a bit bonkers.

Why am I writing about alone time and introversion?

Well, last night after dinner, my wife asked me to watch some videos with her. They are TED talk videos. If you have not heard of the TED conference and the TED Talks video podcasts, this is something very much worth your time. Do some exploring on YouTube. Or better yet, start with these three videos included farther below.

First, we watched neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor's talk on what she learned about the brain after the stroke she suffered, and the message she has for all of us about our brains. Later, we watched a second video by Jill Bolte Taylor on brain development and the teenage brain, but first, we watched a wonderful talk by Susan Cain on the power of introverts.

I am including all three videos here on today's blog, plus a video for "Sound and Vision" by David Bowie, as my blog always needs more music. I give my wife credit for finding the videos and sharing them with me. My wife is remarkable. This is also further proof that she is perfect for me.

All three videos are extraordinary and very enlightening. However, I was deeply touched by the Susan Cain video about introversion.

Blue seems the right color for quiet time and introverts. Susan Cain's video touched me deeply because I always feel that I am a misunderstood introvert. At one time, my wife teasingly called me "Mr. Aloha" because of my propensity to chat with cashiers or food vendors. But I am an introvert as my previous examples should illustrate. I prefer quiet time, and, out of my element, I tend to keep to myself. But I do like to spread the sunshine. I think that "farting around" and making connections with the people in our community is an important part of each day, or at least that's what I learned from Kurt Vonnegut.

The Jill Bolte Taylor stuff is fantastic for understanding the brain, especially the "Stroke of Insight" video with her description of the gap between right and left brain functions and the world of peace and tranquility she discovered when her left brain shut down.

Grading Robot is in full swing today and thinking a lot about brains and introversion.

I hope you have time watch these videos and think about these things, too.

If so, PLEASE share comments. I would love to have discussions about these ideas.

Jill Bolte Taylor's stroke of insight

Susan Cain: The power of introverts

JBT TEDxYouthIndy


- chris tower - 1308.29 - 8:18

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

T-shirt #160 - THB Paul Pope

T-shirt #160 - THB, Paul Pope, and why my wife is perfect for me


IMPETUS: Now that the cat is out of the box, with or without the poison, dead or alive, depends on when you look, I am being open about being a cancer survivor. Looks like this is the new term for my continued existence on this planet.

celebratory drinks following post-op appointment
1308.26 at Food Dance
I was diagnosed with cancer on March 13th. One week later (March 20), my Son of Satan shirt arrived with my weekly order at Fanfare, reminding me again of my idea to do a T-shirt blog, which, after learning I had cancer, did not seem nearly so narcissistic or self-involved. Or rather, I just didn't care. I needed to be self-involved. And the blog is something I needed to do. I started it two days later after the usual weekly work Grading Robot deadlines were met.

ON MOMENTUM: Since March, there has been an urgency to life and to the blog. Rationally and consciously, I knew that once I chose a date for the surgery (there was quite a bit of discussion on this point) that I would have the prostate out, that the cancer would then be out of me, and I would be fine. But deeper, in my unconscious and quite irrational mind, I came to realize that the surgery felt like a huge ending. I started doing bucket list things, like riding the Kal Haven trail (T-shirt #136) and going to what I thought was the Abbott's Magic Get Together (and now I know better) (T-shirt #134). I reveled in nostalgia, which is a theme that runs through the whole blog; check out the nostalgia categories. And I struggled with growing up/change (T-shirt #128) and the pervasive and intrusive spectre of my own narcissism (T-shirt #77).

After some analysis, I realized that I was motivated by this feeling that my life would be over after the surgery, that if I did not do something before the surgery, then I would not be able to do it after. I know this is silly. But like I wrote, this is what was going on in my unconscious mind, clearly an expression of my fear and anxiety, which I was refusing to deal with. I really did not think very much about the surgery. In fact, since I kept being told that I might go home from the hospital the day after, I thought I would be completely fine. I did not even consider how much pain I would have, and no one prepared me for the pain. Not that the pain was all that awful, really. I am sure some people have much worse and debilitating pain. But given that I was not expecting any pain at all, I was a little surprised.

Okay, so, there was all this momentum, driven by fear and anxiety, herding me toward the surgery. And then...? And now...? I don't know.

My life did not end. I am getting back to normal. My wife and I decided to go to Hawaii. We leave in exactly one month. We never went on a honeymoon, and since we got married four years ago, our longest trip together was a two day stint. This will be our longest trip together since before we got married when we spent a week in Oregon for Liesel's step-father's wedding.

The surgery is over, and there has been a shift. The urgency and momentum I experienced that drove me forward for the first 147 entries has changed. The urgency has evaporated, and the momentum consists of a different flavor.

But I am not throwing in the towel. My towel is with me. After all, a towel is a required item for traveling the galaxy. Forward and onward. I am nearing the halfway mark. T-shirt #183 (182.5 actually) will mark the halfway point in this year of T-shirts. Eventually, I will exhaust my collection of cool T-shirts, and will probably just feature one old Ultimate shirt after another just writing about whatever strikes my fancy.

Until then, I have lots to share and several more really cool T-shirts. Like today's shirt.

MY WIFE LOVES THIS SHIRT: The fact that my wife loves this shirt is further proof that she is perfect for me. I kind of think of this shirt as a depiction of my wife in aspect and spirit. She is H.R. Watson from Paul Pope's THB.

This shirt features art from Paul Pope's THB.

I met Paul Pope in 1995 at the Ohio Comic Book convention in Columbus, where he was living at the time. He had just started publishing his THB series via his own company, Horse Press. I was working with a local company, Chiasmus Publishing, to promote various comic books created by others and eventually to launch my own series (which never saw print) called Night People (expect a future blog post on this topic).

Paul Pope is a kindred spirit. He and I liked the same music. We both had an interest in manga, surrealism, and art with a European flair. I did not get to know him well, and we did not strike up an enduring friendship, but our conversations at the convention were stimulating. I became a huge fan of his work.

Independent comic publishing was booming in the mid-1990s. The move of key comic creators to form Image Comics inspired legions of mini-comic creators and comic book hopefuls to start their own companies and self-publish. Distribution consolidated and became easier as computers became useful and the Internet began to be used prolifically by many to communicate and market (and even place orders).

I was impressed with Paul Pope's aesthetic. I do not have access to my original THB issues here (they are stored elsewhere), but I liked that he added extra material to his comics, such as playlists of music that he listened to while creating. I owe Paul Pope for discovering Nick Cave, the Birthday Party, and the great song "Release The Bats" (see video to follow below).

Paul Pope is a creative juggernaut, and his work is very exciting. In the mid-1990s, as a new age of comics dawned, his work showed me what was possible with story telling in comics. Lessons that still resonate with me today. I did a few mini-comics during that period, from which I will share some art work eventually. Paul Pope had taken a look at my stuff and liked it. I was honored.

Recently, Pope republished through Image Comics some of his earliest works in a volume entitled The One Trick Rip Off and Deep Cuts, which features an introduction by CBLDF executive director Charles Brownstein. He described Pope's works as such that "lean into poetry and employ almost painterly expressions of landscape." He heralded THB as a unique work that did not fit into the landscape of the 1990s independent comic world with things like Cerebus and Bone (both of which have already been featured in this blog: (T-shirt #158 plus shirts 24 and 82 respectively). Brownstein  described THB as "unusual even by the standards of creative diversity that were being set by Sim (Cerebus) and his compatriots. THB was a science fiction series set on Mars that explored the adventures of teenage heiress H.R. Watson. The setting gave Pope a massive canvas for world-building where he could freely mesh influences ranging from comics to pulp fiction to economics in a holistic and adventurous way."

His pen and ink tip and brush work was unlike anything being produced in comics at the time and had roots in fine art and poster illustration.

The stuff is just fucking brilliant.

And my wife can quickly spot what is truly brilliant and amazing and laud it with her interest and praise.

THB qualifies.

A few cool links...


AIN'T IT COOL - thb comic from mars #1

CBR: Paul Pope on new THB and other stuff


The Birthday Party - Release The Bats 1981

Okay, as promised, here's my list.

  1. Optic Nerve - Adrian Tomine (all the collected editions)
  2. Marvels - Busiek/Ross (for those wishing an introduction to super-heroes)
  3. Bone - Jeff Smith
  4. Concrete - Paul Chadwick (all collected editions)
  5. THB - Paul Pope (all collected editions)
  6. Fables - Willingham/Buckingham/others
  7. Tale of One Bad Rat - Bryan Talbot
  8. Ed the Happy Clown and all the other books by Chester Brown
  9. Blankets - Craig Thompson
  10. Maus - Art Spiegelman
  11. Jar of Fools and Berlin - Jason Lutes
  12. Planetary - Warren Ellis/John Cassady
  13. V for Vendetta - Alan Moore/David Lloyd
  14. Cerebus - Dave Sim (first three volumes to start: Cerebus, High Society, Church and State)
  15. Y the Last Man - Brian K. Vaughan/Pia Guerra
Honorable mentions: Phonogram (Gillen/McKelvie), Watchmen - Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons, From Hell - Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell, Box Office Poison - Alex Robinson, Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi, Sandman - Neil Gaiman and various, Black Hole - Charles Burns. UPDATE 1311.30: I think Honorable mention should be given, also, to Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which I would rank ahead of almost all the comics in the honorable mention list except The Watchmen and Black Hole.

Added 1401.11: Madman Comics and all various work by MIKE ALLRED, especially Red Rocket 7.

The list above has many obvious omissions, many of which I did not add to the honorable mention list either. It's my list. It's hardly THE DEFINITIVE list. And the recommendations would have to be tailored to each individual and what the individual wants from sampling the comic book world. If the person is interested in superheroes, I would start her with Marvels. But if the person specifically is interested in Batman, I might suggest Batman: Year One to start followed by Batman Earth One and then The Dark Knight Returns and Hush. If the person is a fan of horror, I might recommend The Walking Dead, which did not even make my list this time around. Fantasy lovers would hear me suggest Bone and Fables. Those with more science fiction interests should start with Planetary and Y The Last Man. Alt-kids and those with fine art and/or a European bent should sample THB, Optic Nerve, and the work of Chester Brown first. Some of these comics just would not work for some readers. I know my wife would love Bone and Fables much more than Optic Nerve or Blankets.

I would welcome suggestions for comic books that should be on this list and are not.

Today, I will close with a Paul Pope image gallery. Enjoy.


- chris tower - 1308.28 - 11:50

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

T-shirt #159: Save Smut! CBLD shirt one

T-shirt #159: Save Smut! CBLD shirt one

I need help with today's shirt. I cannot place the artist. If you're a regular reader, or even an irregular one, you can help me make the blog better.

An exhaustive Internet search has failed.

I bought this shirt long enough ago that I have have forgotten the name of the artist.

Shameful that I do not know this artist.

Help me make the blog more accurate and thorough. If you recognize the art on this shirt, leave me a comment. What is this thing? Who drew it?

I own several shirts produced to raise funds for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Though I have not yet become a CBLDF member (though I am going to do so as soon as I balance my checkbook), I have often bought the shirts when solicited. I own a signed Frank Miller print that matches one of my shirts, which is one of the few pieces of comic art on my office walls not yet featured on the blog.

In the first photo, you see me reading Chester Brown's book Paying For It, which is an excellent graphic novel on Brown's experience as a "john," a customer of sex workers. It's a beautiful and compelling book with review quotes from Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Robert Crumb (who wrote the introduction), Sasha, and Tracy Quan. It has an extensive afterword and appendix filled with notes, essays, and various content on issues related to sex work and legality. I give this book one of my highest recommendations. It is surely a book that would (and has) come under fire and needs the CBLDF to defend it. More on Chester Brown in a future blog.

I already featured one CBLDF T-shirt without realizing it. T-shirt #63: Comics Code Authority was produced by the CBLDF.

I already explored some of these issues with banned comics and censorship, especially as related to EC Comics in T-shirt #156 as well as T-shirt #63: Comics Code Authority.

If I have not made my position clear yet, I am very opposed to censorship in any form. Censorship is a slippery slope. Though being unequivocally against it may put me in shark-infested waters when it comes to some materials involving children or small animals, in general, I would rather uphold a strong anti-censorship stance to uphold the rights of everyone because there are far more products that others find objectionable--and are happy to censor or burn-- that I do not.

Check out these stories on CBLDF

Obscenity Case Files: Is a book store owner responsible for all the content in her shop?

New Zealand Library refuses to carry Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls.

On the recent ban in Japan of the manga Barefoot Gen

And, another thing, I like smut.



(There are six parts in all and this is great reading!!)


Digital Commons Case Study on CBLDF

- chris tower - 1308.27 - 9:58

Monday, August 26, 2013

T-shirt #158: Bone - Stupid, Stupid Rat Creatures

T-shirt #158: Bone and the "Stupid, stupid rat creatures"

This blog is a major commitment. Never fear. I am not throwing in the towel. But I am constantly evaluating what I am doing, why I am doing it, and what form it will take.

It's all part of a theme that will culminate in a blog post in the near future, something that came from an interview with Joss Whedon (okay, there's a big hint at the subject).

"The thing I brought to the other shows is the thing I still try to do: Have a different reason to tell a story every week and not just have a different story" (EW, #1274, August, 30 2013, pg. 30).

This quote resonated with me. Joss managed to sum up one of my main goals with this blog. BE DIFFERENT. Different reason, not just different stories. There's always going to be T-shirts here on this blog (that's the theme) and there's lots of comic books (because that's the main T-shirt supply source), but the reasons for the entries should vary, so that if you're reading, you should have a real buffet of choices from week to week and month to month.

I cannot write gargantuan posts everyday.

Heck, you cannot read them.

And the research? It can seem a bit crushing in its weight.

And, I need new reasons to give meaning to the posts otherwise I am just spinning my wheels and wasting your time. I have tried to connect to a variety of subjects. I think I need to spread out my tendrils and infect a greater area of the environment with my evil influence.

So, here I present a T-shirt dedicated to Jeff Smith's Bone, which has nothing to do with evil or influence or infection and then again it does. Luckily, I own another Bone T-shirt, so I still have time to re-read Bone, which may be a worthy project to tackle during the last few weeks of my recovery (though I am doing just fine, now, and almost back to normal in most major ways). At the very least, I do not have to deliver the entire Bone love letter in this entry.

Time Magazine called the Bone series as "sweeping as the Lord of the Rings cycle, but much funnier." (Read more at the Bone Wiki).

You can see I was enough of fan to buy the Fone Bone plush toy. I have several other Bone items as well as various volumes of collected editions and all the comics individually.

The photo below shows my single volume Bone collection.

Most savvy comic book fans (and many non-fans) have heard of Bone.

If you have NOT heard of Bone, stop reading this post right now. Get in the car and drive to your local comic shop, which should have at least either volume one or the complete collected edition seen in the picture above. Do not pass go. Do not stop to collect $200.

Of course, you might find it in a good library or bookstore. And there's always Amazon. Though if you want, you should just go straight to BONEVILLE, Jeff Smith's own store and skip the middle man.

Oh boy... why did I look at the Boneville store. If you look, you will see how many Bone T-shirts there are that I do not own. Oh geez.

Anyway, Bone is another "go to" comic worth recommending to non-comic book readers interested in exploring the genre. Again, despite the excellence of Neil Gaiman's work, I would put Bone ahead of Sandman as a recommendation to curious non-comic book readers, and girls, along with things like Optic Nerve (T-shirt #98), Marvels (T-shirt #155), and Concrete (I tried to buy the Concrete shirt I never owned; I found one via Etsy that sold in 2011 but even so it was the wrong size). Do you sense a list coming on? Well, not today, but I sense that sometime in the near future I am going to have to make a LIST OF COMIC BOOKS FOR NON-COMIC BOOK PEOPLE. Just writing that out makes me think about what to put on it. New comics like Saga deserve to be on that list but maybe I should stick to completed runs of stories. Sorry, just thinking out loud.

Obviously, the recommendations for non-comic fans will have to be tailored to the person's interests and/or what type of comics she wishes to explore. However, I would be surprised if Bone's beauty and simplicity, its roots in the great works of Walt Kelly (Pogo) and Carl Barks (Scrooge McDuck), its blend of humor, love, and epic fantasy on a Lord of the Rings scale will not have something for every reader, and every open minded reader should adore it.

Bone won many of the highest awards in comic books. Jeff Smith produced the comic on a semi-regular basis (because it's hard to run a comic business and create the comic all by yourself or even with your wife once you convince her to quit her job and helm your business) between 1991 and 2004.

Surely, it would make a top 100 best comics of all time list. I am inclined to say it would easily be in a top fifty as well. Top twenty? Yes, definitely. Top ten? Well, it's surely good enough to be in a top ten, but I am afraid to make such a claim without some more serious thought. So I am not yet ready to make that list.

Bone just celebrated it's 20th anniversary: NERDIST ARTICLE FOR THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY.

I am not inclined to render even a partial explanation or plot summary of the comic at this time. If I have inspired you to read it, or if you have had that "oh yeah, I have been meaning to get to this one" reaction, then just go get the thing and plow in.

Let me know what you think.

"Lord of the Rings but funnier."

That's good enough, really.

The original black and white work has been all colored now, so you have a choice of reading in the original black and white or the new all one color edition either in multiple volumes or all in one (however, warning, the all in one color volume is $150).

The Bone comics have been reprinted in Disney comic books in case that might deter some of you. It shouldn't.

One parent in Minnesota sought to have the comic removed from the local school library because of references to smoking, drinking, and gambling in the stories. Luckily, the school board in that town ruled against her wishes and Bone remained on the shelves.

Though various projects have been in the works to either bring Bone to television or to the big screen, finally, the rights ended up with Warner Brothers, who are planning three separate computer-animated 3D films. The first was originally to be released this year (2013), but this date has been pushed back to 2014 though it's currently logged as TBA. Obviously, when the movies start coming out, Bone will get more national attention than ever, so now is a good time to read it and then pass it along to a loved one, a child, a friend, and spread the good word.

One last thing about the rat creatures.

Fone Bone's line shown in the panel here occurred during a chase scene in which the rat creatures were trying to catch Fone Bone to eat him. He hopped onto a tiny, slim branch, clinging by a a slim root to the cliff side thinking that the branch was too insubstantial to hold all three of them and the rat creatures would not be stupid enough to jump onto the branch as well, dooming all three of them to fall. As you can see in the panel, this was not the case. Luckily, the cliff runs alongside a waterfall with a river below, so when they all fall, they land in water and swim to shore. These events all take place in issue #2 or in the collected as chapter two, entitled "Thorn," of Book One: "Out from Boneville."

The phrase "stupid, stupid rat creatures" should become part of our lexicon for the unbelievable, for when people do something INCREDIBLY stupid like what the rat creatures do here. I have been trying to say it a lot, but it will probably not catch on as a common phrase until the movie (I hope) makes it famous.

For years, I have also been trying make famous "Help me Spock" as a cry for aid when overwhelmed with disbelief for all kinds of ridiculous situations. The phrase comes from Star Trek - The Original Series and the episode called "The Savage Curtain." I use the phrase when someone says something stupid, when someone does something stupid, or when facing a difficult situation. Basically, any situation you can think of in which someone would call for Spock's aid. But I have not been able to get this phrase to catch on either.

I will keep trying.

"Stupid, stupid rat creatures."

"Help me, Spock!"

Just squeezing (heh) in this image below which came to me via Facebook because it seems so wonderful and true. Liesel removed my catheter on Friday. Thank you, honey. I could not have gotten through this experience without you. I am so fucking lucky.

And for those you who had never heard of or maybe never seen a Pogo strip, here's a good one.

- chris tower - 1308.26 - 9:04