Argo See It For Yourself — by Greg


     It’s really difficult to think of a handsome, famous, millionaire as an underdog, but until recently I think it is safe to have referred to Ben Affleck as just that. Some seriously bad career choices and a tabloid persona that seemed at odds with the seriousness he appeared to possess had turned him into something of a joke. There were many who thought his career was over and done.
     Certainly, if you had said a few years ago that Ben Affleck was your favorite actor, you would have received some cock-eyed stares. And if you had said Affleck was your favorite director, well, that surely would have been tantamount to saying Air Supply was your favorite rock band.
     But, guess what? Ben Affleck is one of my favorite directors. There, I said it. Okay, so maybe not of all time. But at this very moment in time ... there’s no doubt. I can certainly say that his name on any project going forward will have my immediate attention. He’s that good.
     As will come as no surprise, I saw Argo this week. And, yes, it is as spectacular as every critic has already declared. Not perfect. Not my favorite movie of the year. (And Affleck loses a couple of geek cred points for two missed opportunities in the movie — one involving perhaps the greatest comic book artist of all time). But after having just watched The Town a few weeks ago for the first time, there is just no denying that this dude has chops.
     And it makes me happy. Affleck has always struck me as someone with a pretty solid head on his shoulders, smart but also a little self-effacing. The fact that Argo’s second-funniest line comes at his personal expense only goes to further that perception. (Believe me, you’ll know it when you hear it).
     From a creative standpoint, I think an artist can look at Affleck’s recent career turnaround and be heartened by the fact that, even when it seems like your career is knocked cold and the ref is giving you the standing eight-count, it’s still possible to get back on your feet and win the fight (How’s that for a strained metaphor?) I have no idea what kind of reaction Hollywood offered when Affleck first made his directing intentions known. What I can guess is that behind his back there was a lot of snickering. “Oh, great, the pretty boy from Gigli is gonna direct a movie. Bet that’ll be good!”
     And when his first movie did in fact turn out to be pretty damned good, I’m sure many cynical critics and actors and writers and directors called it a fluke. And then when he made another great movie, the protestations dimmed and a creeping anxiety set in that someone they had recently ridiculed might turn out to have more talent than his detractors.
     And now with Argo, a man whom many dismissed as washed up a few years ago as an actor stands a very good chance of winning an Oscar for best director and if nothing else the movie is a shoe-in to be nominated for best picture.
     The point being this: every day artists face this uphill battle. Whether a writer or painter or poet or musician, there is always someone who is more than happy to point out to you — loudly — why the project you are currently working on is doomed to fail. And why you will fail. Sadly, that critic is sometimes no further than the mirror. After all, no one can demoralize an artist faster and more effectively than him or herself.
     How we shut out those internal negative voices is certainly something that could fill volumes (and a lot of psychiatrists’ notebooks) but how we shut out the voices of other people is different. We as artists can simply never, ever, listen to the voices of those who would tear us down. If we are going to fail, fine. No shame in that. But we have to do it on our own terms. Not someone else’s.
     Every great band has been told they were crap, hang it up. Every great book, especially from a first-time writer, was met with agents who thought nothing of it and publishing houses that wouldn’t give it the time of day. Truth is, if you want to create great art (of any kind) you have to run a gauntlet. And that gauntlet is comprised primarily of people who want you to fail for the simple reason that it makes them feel better about themselves.
     As I walked out of Argo, one of my initial reactions was, “well, that oughtta shut some folks up for good.” Of course, that isn’t entirely possible. No matter how great a piece of art, there’s always someone to whisper, “It stinks.” But it remains up to the artist to rise above those dark and corrosive whispers.
     I saw Affleck as part of a panel on a talk show last week and his demeanor had changed a bit since I had seen him last. He was still self-effacing. Still smart without being smug. But there was a different light in his eye. The light of an artist appreciating every second of the accolades now pouring in while his naysayers are sitting at home, cursing gently to an empty room.

The Hero's Journey — by Greg


We are shaped by so many things beyond our control — our parents, our environment, our socio-economic status and, certainly, to some degree the times in which we are raised.
In a world that daily seems on the verge of chaos, it sometimes seems peculiar to be optimistic. And, yet, for the most part that is how I would describe myself. Sure, I have my moments of despair (usually after seeing a commercial for Here Comes Honey Boo Boo) but, by and large, I’m a firm believer in a better tomorrow.
And while I can absolutely attribute that feeling of optimism to my parents (loving), environment (stable) and socio-economic status (middle class), no question the historical events of my youth played a significant factor. One, in particular, well above the rest.
Neil Armstrong’s fateful first step on the moon.
Now, let us remember that 1969 was not exactly the happiest of days in the United States. The Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the aftermath of the King and Kennedy assassinations ... it was maelstrom of unrest.
But that glorious moment in July, well, it was simply transcendent. A crystalline monument to man’s better impulses. It was, quite literally, out of this world!
With Neil Armstrong’s passing on August 25, there has been an unavoidable void left behind. A gulf as wide and dark as the space between the earth and moon itself.
The Apollo Program (like the Mercury and Gemini programs that came before) was a constant, daily reminder that we could do better. That we could strive for the impossible and will it into being through hard work and sacrifice.
And the whole world gathered to watch.
Try to think. When was the last time you watched the nightly news and felt good afterward? Felt uplifted and optimistic about the future and filled with wonder and excitement. Sadly, for many people (like my children), the answer is never. But for us decrepit old dinosaurs, we remember it well. And we long for it desperately again. Ache for it.
What’s truly amazing to consider when looking back on the extraordinary life of Neil Armstrong, is that it’s entirely possible that walking on the moon was just the beginning of what he had to teach us. His walk through the chalky dust of the moon made him a hero, but the way he behaved after returning from his journey made him a legend.
I earlier referenced Honey Boo Boo not just for an easy joke (although, come on, have you seen these people?) but to illustrate what this generation is constantly assaulted with. The Kardashians and Lohans and Hiltons and, yes, Honey Freakin’ Boo Boos. People who have done nothing, offer nothing and yet we exalt them, follow them, throw money at them. A society where people will do absolutely anything for a shot at fame (or infamy). Where being humble is a punch line. Where intelligent, rationale conversation will get you cancelled in a day in favor of a new show filled with vapid, plastic housewives slapping each other.
For a generation such as this, it’s probably impossible for them to comprehend what Armstrong did, and how he behaved, when he was once again captured in earth’s gravity. Here he was, the most famous man on the planet, and he could have done anything. Endorsements. Television deals. Scandalous, irresponsible behavior for which the adoring public would gladly have forgiven him. The public’s adulation could have lined his pockets forever.
But, the man who showed unshakable nerves when Gemini 8 went into high-speed gyrations (nearly causing the crew to black out) and the man whose veins dripped ice when he landed the lunar module on the moon with only 30 seconds of fuel remaining, was heroic in more ways than one. He was a hero for bravely and calmly helping usher mankind into a new era and he was perhaps even more a hero for insisting we not idolize him for it.
When asked later in life why he shied away from being labeled a hero, his stoic response with this: “We all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks but for the ledger of our daily work.” In other words, one act of greatness does not necessarily make you great. But living a noble and dignified life in its entirety does.
Armstrong was also acutely aware (and discussed it often) that his trip to the moon was the work of multitudes of other people. He may have been the man to take that soft, slow-motion descent to the moon’s surface but he was very well aware that he was standing on the shoulders of thousands of other people’s efforts and hard work. And he really didn’t think it fair that the spotlight should shine so heavily upon him, just one piece of a glorious machine. Just a guy, he felt, who was doing his job.
We live in a culture filled with athletes who demand we worship them because they can catch a ball, and rappers dripping in almost comical self-importance (and diamonds!) hoping to distract us from the fact that they have no real discernible talent, and reality ‘stars’ who ... well, you get the idea.  All of these fools are paraded in front of us 24/7, and the one person who actually deserves our accolades, is uncomfortable with the attention.
So how best to honor such a man? Simple. By blatantly ignoring his wishes when it comes to celebrity worship. Neal Armstrong was a man who did not want to be considered a hero. And I couldn’t respect him more for that. But — here’s the thing — he was a hero! And we should be shouting his accomplishments from the rooftops. As well as his fellow travelers Aldrin and Collins and the scores of grand thinkers at NASA who made the whole thing possible.
When Armstrong passed away, I awaited in-depth retrospectives on his life, emotional outpourings of what he meant to the world. Instead, his passing was met with ... indifference. Yes, it was reported in the news but certainly not with the breathless immediacy of Whitney Houston’s death or even Lindsay Lohan’s latest traffic accident. Some short mentions on the cable news networks and then on to the next scandal. I scoured the magazine racks the week after his death, and ONE magazine had it on their front cover. It was in the top corner, a small photo, far outstripped by the magazine’s main story — Prince Harry caught naked in Las Vegas.
Sigh.
Now, I’m not nearly naive enough to believe our celebrity culture will ever stop idolizing people who clearly do not deserve adulation, but is it too much to ask that along with the athletes, actors and rock stars, we also save some hero worship for the scientists, educators, explorers and philanthropists who seriously work toward moving us out of the dark ages of ignorance and bigotry and toward a better tomorrow.
So, yes, July 20th should be a national holiday. A day in which young people are encouraged to think about the future. Think about their place in the world. And, most importantly, think about how they are going to make this planet better for us all. It will be a day for dreams — dreams that some day may become reality. Just like the once-crazy notion that man would walk upon our faraway lunar neighbor, smiling down at us from the night sky.
People like Neil Armstrong don’t want recognition for their greatness but it’s up to us to make certain that they get it. For, thanks to him and the dreamers at NASA, my generation was forged in an age of wonder. For us, the skies were not the limit.

The School of Night — by Greg


There are pivotal moments in Louis Bayard’s glorious novel, The School Of Night, that hinge on the archaic, pitch-dark machinations of alchemy. No small wonder, I suppose, as Bayard is himself a bit of an alchemist (perhaps conjurer is a more suitable term), capable of transporting readers to foregone ages with an almost supernatural deftness.
     I first became aware of Bayard’s work with 2003’s Mr. Timothy, an incandescently beautiful (and heart-wrenching) book detailing the later-day exploits of Dickens’ Tiny Tim. Bayard’s next two books, stunning both, are The Pale, Blue Eye (which follows a young Edgar Allen Poe solving an arcane and terrible mystery while attending West Point) and The Black Tower (in which Restoration era Paris is brought vividly to life as the fate of Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI’s long-lost son is relentlessly pursued).
     The School Of Night employs a two-tier narrative: one thread takes place in modern times following a group of Elizabethan collectors and scholars as they try to piece together a mystery involving an invaluable long-lost letter, a hidden treasure and the legacy of a secret cabal of luminaries called the School of Night. The other plot line unspools in 1603 as one of the School’s founding members, Thomas Harriot, a genius whose name has been almost forgotten in the mists of history, dabbles in matters both scientific and of the heart. Bayard does much to resurrect Harriot and his legacy, along the way providing a powerful love story that, through interweaving chapters, crashes headfirst into the story’s modern-day plot lines.
To discuss more of the plot would be a terrible disservice. Best to let readers simply revel in one twist and turn after another. Know that Bayard handles the modern tale masterfully, believably and with a level of humor sadly missing from most thrillers. And what of Bayard’s Elizabethan passages, the ones involving Harriot? They are, simply put, transcendent. Bayard displays not a single weakness as a writer, but if he has one strength that shines above the others (and just about any other modern writer I can think of) it is this: His ability to summon long-lost historical time periods with uncanny immediacy. From the pitch-perfect cadence of the dialogue to every sparkling flourish of sight, sound and smell, Bayard is able to almost corporally transport readers through the veils of time. You are there. You feel it.
Perhaps there is no better example than late in the book (after most of the plot threads have already been woven tightly together) when Bayard, by way of the lovelorn Harriot, leads us on a journey through a plague-choked London that is as harrowing as anything he has ever written. Grim, disturbing, and ultimately poignant, the scene — like all of Bayard’s output — is a virtuosic performance.
The School of Night — thrilling, funny, touching and sometimes heartbreaking — firmly cements Bayard’s status among our finest novelists.

The Interminable Wait Is Over



The glorious day has finally arrived. The day for which all peace-loving peoples from around the world have anxiously awaited!!
Yes, the first comic from Kaleidoscope is finally available to order.
You can now be the envy of everyone on your block by being the first of your friends to read our Dark and Stormy Night / Pandemonium Flip Book. This beautiful comic magazine features 6 stories, every one as spine-chilling as the last.
The Dark and Stormy Night side of the flipbook contains four stories sure to raise the hair on the back of your neck.
Red Light Blues” by Rafael Nieves and Andrew Dimitt follows the violent (and very surprising) aftermath of a carjacking gone wrong.
It Has To Be True” by Gary Reed and Aaron Pittman is a sad and disturbing tale of love that turns to obsession.
Pig Money” by Mike Oliveri and Jorge Fornes follows a happy family on an innocent road trip that unravels quickly into something much darker than any of them could have expected.
Starstruck” by Greg Kishbaugh and Dan Dougherty watches as an amoral writer (is there any other kind?) retreats to a lonesome cabin in the woods to escape a deranged pursuer.
The Pandemonium side of the flipbook contains two tales of monstrous terror.
Hell Oh Dolly” by Donna Kishbaugh and Michael Reidy tells the tale of a sweet little old lady who wants to find a home for her antique doll, which just might happen to be possessed.
Hungry Eyes” by Greg Kishbaugh and Josh Gowdy is the story of a family torn apart by murder, mayhem and possibly a tad bit of cannibalism.
Everyone who reads comics has become accustomed to the unbridled hyperbole used to market a publisher’s latest efforts. But make no mistake. This really is a one-of-a-kind collectible. Not only will K-Scope not be producing any more flipbooks like the one you are about to hold in your hot little hands, we also will not be running any additional printings of this title. The flipbook will be sold at a couple more upcoming conventions and we will fulfill the orders we get through the web site and then ... GONE. Off the market forever.
So buy a copy today, won’t you. Heck, why not buy TWO? You can read one and lock the other away in your attic for safekeeping. When your grandkids discover it fifty years from now, still in pristine condition, your small investment just might allow them to buy their own private jet or their very own tropical island. At the very least it’ll buy ’em a cup of coffee and that’s more than they ever did for you, the ungrateful rugrats.



Waiting For A Trade — by Greg


     Let it be known right up front that I love comic book trade shows. Were there a way to freeze them in time and remain forever in their warm glow (provided I had a never-ending wad of cold cash in my pocket), I would gladly do so.
     But, of course, it’s their very transience that is part of their appeal.
     Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of attending live theater can tell you one of its primary allures — something that separates it from all other forms of pop culture — is its impermanence. See a play once, and you can never see it again. Ever. Nor can anyone else. Sure, you can see the same play with the same actors, same director, same sets, on a different night. But it will not be the exact same performance you witnessed the night before. Sometimes in nothing more than very subtle ways, but no two performances of any play are ever the same. And with that impermanence comes an overwhelming power. As you are consumed in watching a play, at the back of your mind, you are constantly reminding yourself … enjoy this while you can. It’s never going to happen again.
     In many ways, the experience of a comic book show echoes those same feelings.
The people you meet, the interactions you experience, the million odd and delightful things you see and do ... they are all fleeting. And even though you can return to the same show year after year, it will never be the same experience. Not exactly. And that’s why I try to cherish each one.
     Sure, they can be stressful at times. And very, very tiring. But there’s also nothing quite so wonderful in the world as being surrounded by people who love comics and pop culture, whose very souls are enlivened by beautifully told stories and gorgeously rendered art. Nor anything as invigorating as talking shop with other (much more talented) writers, nor watching over the shoulder as an artist you admire pencils and inks his/her latest creation right before your spellbound eyes.
     So, did I enjoy the recent Chicago Comic Con, you ask? Let me put it this way. On the drive home, late at night on Sunday after fours days of comic goodness, my family and I had really only one topic of conversation: We simply couldn’t wait to go back next year.
 
No, Brad Pitt and George Clooney did not make a surprise appearance at Chicago Comic Con. It’s Rafael Nieves and Greg Kishbaugh proudly displaying the first-ever comic from Kaleidoscope Entertainment.

Ready To Launch


     An exciting week ahead for Kaleidoscope as we officially launch at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, August 9-12! Naturally, you’ve seen the non-stop coverage on the major news networks and across the Web. If it weren’t for the Olympics, the launch of Kaleidoscope would surely be the only thing people were talking about.
     Well, the time is finally here. We are thrilled to be offering an absolutely spectacular Issue Zero flip book, with A Dark and Stormy Night on one side and Pandemonium on the other, with art and stories from Andrew Dimitt, Dan Dougherty, Jorge Fornes, Mike Oliveri, Aaron Pitman, Gary Reed, Josh Gowdy, Donna Kishbaugh, Michael Reidy, and two guys named Rafael Nieves and Greg Kishbaugh riding on the coattails of these other great creators, including the fine lettering work of Joseph Allen Black.


     We will be greeting our adoring fans in booths 4051 and 4053, so if you are at the show we humbly ask, nay, demand that you come by to stroke our fragile egos and tell us what an amazing job we’ve all done.
     Hope to see you there.           

 www.wizardworld.com

What's a Picture Worth — by Greg


In the last couple blogs, we discussed the current slate of superhero movies setting the summer box office ablaze and the inability of comic publishers to take advantage of this massive interest and of their seeming unwillingness to provide heroes in comics (like they do on screen) that are worth cheering for.
I mentioned my own experience with seeing the Avengers movie and walking out, surrounded by groups of wildly enthusiastic kids, bristling with energy and excitement, and how cool it would be if there were COMICS waiting in the lobby for them to clamor over.
A few days ago my friend Tara Pontani Schad posted a photo of her twin boys leaving an early morning showing of the Avengers in NYC. When I saw it, I about fell outta my seat. Well, as the old saying goes ... a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case it was like the entire theme of what we were discussing in the past couple of posts had literally come to life right before my eyes.
And so ... say hello to Kasey and Jackson, seconds after walking out of the Avengers movie.

As a comic book (and super hero) fan, this is perhaps the single coolest photo I’ve ever seen. I mean, come on. This photo encapsulates everything about why we all fell in love with superheroes in the first place. Check these two awesome guys out. Proudly wearing their Hulk and Captain America shirts, grinning ear to ear, ready to take on the world. Filled with absolute, unwavering JOY from watching their heroes kick some serious bad guy butt.
Think these two guys would benefit from some Avengers comics to look at in the lobby? Maybe a Captain America or Iron Man trade?
And furthermore, don’t you think the Schad boys (and the comic industry) would benefit from there being more superhero comics that tap into this sense of glee and empowerment that the Avengers movie did?
Tara said she is already experiencing frustration in trying to supply her boys with the superhero goodness they crave. There are comics made for little kids and then, bam, right into the blood, gore and gloom. There’s no middle ground. Again, no one is making the argument that there shouldn’t be the typical dark, depressing, fatalistic offerings that exist now. It’s just that there has to be an alternative. There has to be something else.
What the publishers of superhero comics (and ancillary properties) are doing now is tantamount to the classic sales technique of Bait and Switch. The superhero comics aimed at kids (the ones that are supposed to turn them into life-long comics readers) clearly demonstrate the classic archetypes of a hero, showing how they put the lives of others above their own, how they fight for what is right and good without any further explanation needed, and how they are honorable and noble and would never take another life, even those of the bad guys, thereby instantly turning themselves from jury to executioner.
And then, after selling kids this ideal for years ... surprise, the comics aimed for an older reading audience pull a terrible ‘switch’ by turning all those sensibilities on their heads. Sorry kids, heroes aren’t really heroic. They are psychopaths who smash, kill, maim and never smile or find joy in anything. Hope you have fun reading all about them!
Anyway, I’m done. Leave it to a writer to say a picture is worth a thousand words ... and then go on to spew words, words, and more words. Besides, there’s nothing else to say. Kasey and Jackson have said all that needs to be said in that photo. They want their heroes. And, you know what? They deserve them. The comics industry owes it to them.
So, if you are involved in the comic industry at all (or just love it), look at the photo again. No industry could ask for better emissaries than Kasey and Jackson. The industry should be honored to have them as (very enthusiastic) fans and it should be doing everything it can to cater to them. To keep them enthusiastic.
Feed them nothing but hopelessness and despair and you are going to lose them. Give them something to cheer about, something to hope and dream about, well, then, it might just be a better future for us all.

Lobbying For Comics — by Greg


So we’ve already established my crazy love for the Avengers movie. Fun, action-filled, strong character development and the final 45 minutes are, well, they’re almost impossible to be put into words. As I mentioned, several times I had to fight the urge to jump from my seat and cheer. And with that perfect final shot, I didn’t even try to restrain myself ... I let out a cheer and began to applaud. Sure, this went against my normally calm and restrained demeanor but what the hell, I’ve waited 40 years for a movie like this so I figured the deranged three-year-old behind me kicking my seat would forgive me the outburst.
When I left the theatre I was pumped, no question, as were a swarm of enthusiastic kids all around me. Buzzing. Talking excitedly about the movie. And the Avengers! At that moment, those kids were thinking of nothing else. Captain America! Thor! Iron Man! And the freakin’ Hulk!! As great as the movie was, these kids wanted more.
I’m sure they would have gladly dug the very last, grime-covered penny from their pockets to buy an Avengers-related item at that moment. Anything! Like, for instance, ... a comic book.
Yea, that’s right ... a comic. Those paper pamphlets that have been the inspiration for movies and television shows that have now generated tens of billions of dollars. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. Because, sadly, most of those kids haven’t.
That’s right. All over the world, there are people paying their hard-earned money to watch Batman Begins, and Spider-Man, and X-Men First Class and Superman Returns and The Avengers and Men in Black 3, all without having any idea that these movies are based on characters, situations and stories generated from COMICS.
And what better time to educate them than when they are a captive audience. How about one-minute films that run just before or after the previews that explain how comics are made — the writing, artwork, coloring, etc. How cool would that be? The answer is: Very! And more importantly, these films can explain that as soon as everyone leaves the theater, they can purchase these cool comics that will allow them to further thrill to the adventures of the characters they’ve enjoyed so much on screen.
And where can they find these comics? Well, for starters ... how about in the movie theater lobby?! Those amped up kids leaving the Avengers movie ... how much do you think they would have loved to be able to pick up an Avengers title right at that moment? Or a Captain America solo book? And how is it possible that this has not yet happened?
Comic books are the only mass media I can think of that has actually become more difficult to purchase over the years instead of easier. I can hop in my car and drive to at least 10 different stores within three miles from me that sell DVDs, 10 different stores that sell books and magazines, as well as a movie theater with 17 screens. But the closest place to buy comics is nearly a thirty-minute drive — a small comic shop on the south side of town.
We won’t get into a long discussion of the direct market right now, but, seriously, what kind of business model removes a product from stores where 90 percent of the population does its shopping and places them in remote, exclusive stores that only diehard fans visit? (Please don’t answer; I’m just being rhetorical).
When these youngsters are dumped back into the lobby after watching the Avengers, (or the Amazing Spider-Man, etc.) you can bet they’re not going to ask mom and dad to take them to the local comic shop. Because 99 percent of them don’t even know where the local comics shop is! But if there were comics right there in the lobby, perhaps they would buy them, take them home and read them ... and it would turn into a life-long love affair with comics as happened to all of us.
And then they would seek out the comic shop.           
Let’s do some quick math, ‘cause math is fun. Avengers has sold approximately $1.4 billion in movie tickets. If we use $10 per ticket as an average, then 140 million individual tickets were sold. Now, if just one person in ten purchased a single $3 comic in the lobby after the show, it would come to $42 million in revenue! Not bad for a struggling industry.
During a recent visit to my local Barnes and Noble, I was happy to see an entire display table devoted to the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, due, obviously, to the new movie just released. I was not nearly as happy when I saw that the table, devoted to one of the greatest characters ever created in comic books ... didn’t have any comic books on it! Yep, the table had a Spider-Man monopoly game, some toy web-shooters, coffee mugs, journals, sticker books, and even some Spider-Man bobble heads. But no comics, either in pamphlet or trade form.
This is what can only be described as a missed opportunity. And a huge one. Naturally, the Big Two comic publishers are owned by movie studios. We all get that. But why would you promote the movies so heavily without at least giving a little love to the comics that make the movies possible? Again, a group of teens passing by this table after having seen the Spider-Man movie would be left cold.
But if they were to miraculously discover a beautiful trade paperback at their local bookstore, or the latest issue of Iron Man or Batman in the lobby of their theater, no telling what that could create downstream.
Perhaps it would create the one true thing that can help the industry thrive: a passionate, life-long fan of comics.

Holding Out For A Hero — by Greg


Like many life-long comic readers, my introduction to the medium came through my early love of superhero comics, in my case, primarily from Marvel’s Silver and Bronze Age. The appeal of superheroes does not require any deep analytical insight. What I loved, and continue to love, to this day about them is this: they are, wait for it ... heroic.
They are exemplars of humanity and they are clear wish-fulfillment fantasies, playing upon what we like to think we would do if we were imbued with superpowers. We’d fight the good fight. Protect the innocent. Destroy evil. Uphold justice.
But superheroes, in comics anyway, have been struggling of late. Superhero comic readership is way down, and one of the reasons for this does not seem to be particularly complicated. Many of today’s superheroes are no longer, wait for it again ... heroic. In far too many cases, they’re dull, hyper-violent, self-serious and so casually cruel that they are quite often difficult to distinguish from the villains.
Blame it on Watchmen, if you like. But no question since that seminal tale was published, superhero comics have never fully recovered. “Dark and gritty” completely usurped the superhero output of the major publishers.
Watchmen was a brilliant re-imagining of a superhero universe, no question. But the entire reason for the success of Watchmen was that it was different. It was a revisionist look at superheroes, turning the conventions of the genre on their heads, much like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven did with the standard myths of the Old West.
But the thing about revisionism is that when it suddenly becomes the norm, it’s no longer revisionist. It’s now the new stereotype. The new hackneyed storytelling. You’ve now completely and utterly subverted everything that your reading audience loved about the stories in the first place.
And understand that I’m not talking about all the series you’re running through your head right now to counter the argument. Yes, those are all great superhero comics, written by terrific writers and drawn by terrifically talented artists. I’m talking about the other 90% of superhero comics. The brutal, excessively violent, hopelessly dark series. And also please take note that I am specifically talking about superhero comics. Not romance comics, or talking animal comics, or science fiction comics. And certainly not horror comics. After all, the fine folks at Kaleidoscope are certainly going to be putting out some horrifying comics, but that’s exactly what they are: horror comics. The audience understands what it is getting itself in for.
But many of today’s superhero comics are like advertising a Walt Disney movie playing at the local theatre, only to switch it last minute to the latest Quentin Tarantino flick once all the little kids are in their seats.
Much has been made in the press about the massive global haul of Joss Whedon’s glorious Avengers movie, but neither I nor any of my many comic loving, superhero worshipping friends, were the least surprised by its success. Why? Because it’s fun, dammit! Remember fun? If not, go see the Avengers again for a reminder. Because while Whedon injected enough character tension and dramatic frisson to satisfy anyone, he remembered to add plenty of the most important element of any good superhero tale, characters that are — after all is said and done — HEROES!
The various members of the Avengers fight, bicker, argue amongst one another ... but they do not debate for one second what it means to be a hero and whether or not they should battle the evil elements they are confronted with. Hell, yea, they are going to battle evil. Know why? ‘Cause they are the good guys.
The final battle scene is the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater in a decade. It’s spectacular on a million different levels and I truthfully cannot wait to see it again. And I won’t lie, there were actually a couple moments where I had to fight the urge to leap from my seat and cheer. Seriously! I was a kid again, and every complexity in the world could once again be boiled down to the crystalline beauty of good defeating evil.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love complex, multi-dimensional characters as much as the next guy and I’m certainly not arguing for a return to the one-note stories of comic’s Golden Age. But I don’t think complex characterization and heroes that behave like heroes are mutually exclusive.
The Marvel Silver Age proved there was ample room for complexity in our heroes without losing sight of their nobility. Let’s not forget — Peter Parker had money and girl problems, and Tony Stark’s very life was threatened every second by the shrapnel hovering over his heart, and the Thing was enraged over the monster he had become, and Captain America lived with the constant pain and guilt for having lost Bucky ... but they were not defined by these emotional traumas. What made them special is that they rose above their problems.
No matter what was thrown at them, they were still heroes.
And isn’t that exactly the same characteristics we look for in our real-life heroes? People who do not succumb to adversity, but rise above it. People who are faced with a seemingly endless succession of obstacles, but who never give up, never back down.
So much of today’s superhero output is about nothing but the adversity without any of the payoff. Just endless suffering and drudgery. Extreme, bone-crushing, blood-spewing violence, brutality, cynicism. By their very definition superhero stories are morality tales. We should be uplifted by them. Instead of feeling like you need a shower after reading them.
The comic industry has wrung its hands for years over the fact that it is not attracting new readers. But it doesn’t take a great deal of mental gymnastics to figure out some of the cause. Sure, the twisted continuity is an issue. But, even worse, is the twisted images splashed through much of the superhero books.
When I was 12, 13, 14 years old, superheroes inspired and entertained me. Dare I say it, but they actually taught me much of the moral code I stand by to this day. I’m afraid a teenager reading many of today’s superhero books would be thrown into a deadening despair even greater than that caused by his own swirling hormones.
Sadly, one of the reasons for the prevalence of the new ‘anti-hero’ mentality is based on nothing more than storytelling laziness. Truth is, writing a moving, inspirational superhero piece is much harder, and takes a greater skill as a writer, than producing the ‘gritty’ tales that have taken over the industry. Hey, when in doubt, have someone’s arm ripped off. Stuck on a plot point, why not have someone pull out a gun and put a bullet through someone’s head. It’s shock simply for the sake of shock.
And as to the argument that goody-goody superheroes are boring (yea, I know what some of you cynical misanthropes are thinking) I’ll point you to yet another medium: television.
My family and I recently finished watching the entire run of Smallville on DVD and you know what, it was pretty amazing. Not perfect, mind you. But a really great show, all in all. And here’s the thing, through 10 seasons (that’s right, 10 seasons!), the character of Clark Kent never wavered. He was always good. Always kind. Always tried to do the right thing. Sure, there were a couple red Kryptonite episodes, but those only went to remind us what a terrific young man Clark was to begin with.
And, yet, despite Clark’s unfettered goody goodiness, the show was practically overflowing with angst and melodrama. It was quite literally a soap opera, only with super powers. Lots of complicated characters, many of whom changed allegiances, and our budding Superman has some serious girl troubles from day one, but in his pursuit to understand what it is to be a hero, he remains steadfast. He wants to do good. He wants to help people. That is his motivation and we as viewers, and as lovers of the character of Superman, don’t need anything more than that. The only angst comes from him wondering if he is being hero enough.
So, will the success of the Avengers translate back into a change in the comics and characters that originally inspired the movie? It’s a strange predicament, for sure. That the industry that launched these heroes in the first place has lost the thread to the point that another industry — Hollywood, no less — needs to get it back on track.
The Avengers’ monster box office proves unequivocally that moviegoers — and comic readers — need more than just doom and gloom. Sure, audiences are still going to flock to the darker and more brooding Dark Knight Rises when it is released, but well over a BILLION dollars in box office receipts proves that we want something more. Another option to the despair.
We want our heroes back! Strong-chinned and morally unwavering. We want them to reflect what we feel inside. That we still live in a world where good can squash bad, where heroic men or women can still make a difference.
It’s guaranteed that Hollywood will heed its audiences’ wishes. Will our beloved comic industry do the same?

Live Forever! — by Greg


Truth is, I have been too despondent, too ravaged by sadness and regret, to even formalize my thoughts into words over the past week. The world’s greatest writer is dead and it feels like a hole has been blasted into the center of the universe. And me. I feel empty. Like a part of me has been scooped away. And, of course, it has.
Ray Bradbury is a part of me. His stories and passion and love and morality and joy are a part of my very being. We are all influenced by artists, musicians, writers. And there is simply no other human being on earth who moved me in quite the same way as did Mr. Bradbury. Who thrilled me, made me wonder, opened my eyes to the universe and stuffed my young mind full of stars.
Last Wednesday morning, I did the most curious thing: I went up into my bedroom on the second story of our house and sat in a chair by an open window and simply stared outside. For nearly an hour. Something I have never done before in eight years of living in this house. Never. Not once.
And while I stared out the window I remembered back to my bedroom as a child when I would stare out the second-story window of a very different house (my childhood home!) and filter through all the emotions that reading Bradbury’s stories raised within me. A Bradbury story was a link to another world. Not just those in outer space, but those within yourself as well. That was part of his magic. It was like every story was being filtered directly through you, as if Ray had written each and every one in an effort to enlighten you, make you a better person.
It was while looking out my bedroom window last week that my wife came up, tears in her eyes. “Did you hear the news?” she said, stifling her sobs. “Is that why you are up here?”
“No,” I said. “I just needed time to myself. But, you don’t need to say anything. It’s Ray, isn’t it? He’s gone.”
“How did you know?” my wife asked.
And you know what, I have no idea. But, I did. I knew.  Part of me, the glimmering, ever-hopeful part of my soul that Ray Bradbury had nurtured for so long ... it knew. That the world’s greatest writer. One of the most joyous souls to ever grace this earth. Was gone.
There are a million things I could say if I had the words. A million gushing remembrances. But they all sound a bit flat right now. So perhaps the best thing I can do right now is to share the first thing I ever wrote to Ray, the first time I ever corresponded with him. It required a little editing, but here it is, my first letter to Ray back in April 2005, telling him what I had waited a lifetime to tell him.

                                  ________________________________

Dear Mr. Bradbury,

What a wonderful evening I had last Monday in Chicago, attending the Ray Bradbury Day events at the Chicago Public Library, and hearing your joyful voice booming down from the speakers overhead!
I have wanted to be a writer since my seventh grade teacher read aloud the compelling sequel I penned to King Kong (sadly, this great work of American literature has been lost to the ages, but rest assured it contained all the requisite dinosaur battles and far-flung intrigue one would expect). There are two writers that began to fuel my imagination from a very young age, and I returned to them time and again. The first was Edgar Rice Burroughs. (A shame the man only wrote 64 books; I believe I got through them all in one summer, devouring them whole). The second writer, a man who has mystified me throughout the years with his ideas and his poetry, his heart and his humanity, is Ray Bradbury.
I was a tutor at Columbia College Chicago for quite some time and the students with whom I worked were from the inner city and were all products of the Chicago Public School system. Most of them had only a basic level of reading and none of them felt at all comfortable with writing. In fact, many of their teachers had given up on them; that is why they were seeing me. But then, I would read them “The Fog Horn.” The transformation in these young people was amazing, both heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time. For the first time they saw how words could be used to chip away at so many emotional truths. They saw how the fantastic can open our minds to the every day. But, most of all, it motivated them. I read many different pieces to them — from Steinbeck to T.C. Boyle — but it was always your work that resonated most. You opened up a piece of their soul they were not even aware they had.
And that is how it was for me.
One of my most cherished memories is discovering your work for the first time. I was ten or eleven and the story was “Kaleidoscope.” After reading it, I lay in bed half the night, staring up at the night sky through my window, gently crying. The way I looked at reading, writing and storytelling was forever changed.
Since then, I have gone on every journey with you. The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, The October Country, Green Shadows, White Whale, From the Dust Returned, Golden Apples Of The Sun, A Graveyard For Lunatics, Driving Blind, The Cat’s Pajamas, Let’s All Kill Constance. And all the rest. Each new release is another reason to celebrate the work of the man who so stoked my imagination as a child. The man who made me believe in the impossible.

Until this week, I thought perhaps you were done teaching me lessons. I was very much mistaken. Thanks to your wonderful biography, The Bradbury Chronicles, I feel like a student at your feet once again. Your words about writing, about life, about love, have all struck such a chord with me. How rare that a childhood hero stands the test of time. Even rarer is the childhood hero who actually grows in esteem.
Your biography is the first I can remember where I had more respect for its subject after reading it than I did before. Truly a testament to the life you have led, and your attitude toward love and happiness.
All of this is an extremely long-winded way to say thank you! For showing me the beauty of poetry, for demonstrating the power of imagination. Every day, I dream of changing the world just a little bit with my words. It is a desire that has been handed down from you. I know you have influenced hundreds, thousands — millions — of writers throughout the years. I count myself among the proud many.
During your telephone interview on Monday night in Chicago, you were asked to define love. Your answer was that you should consider all the things you couldn’t live without — all the things that would sadden and crush you if they did not exist. With that definition, there can be no question then that I love you.
A world without Ray Bradbury. It is too much to imagine.

All the best,

Greg Kishbaugh


And here is dear Ray’s response:


Dear Greg,

Thank you for your wonderful letter. It is one of the finest I’ve ever received in my life. It brought tears to my eyes.
How wonderful to know that my stories touched you at a young age and opened you up to life. Many of the things that you mention in your letter occurred in my own life. THE FOG HORN is a pivotal story. In February 1953 I sent a copy of my book, THE GOLDEN APPLES OF THE SUN, to London to put it in the hands of John Huston, little realizing that that gesture would change my life. In August, John Huston showed up in Los Angeles and offered me the screenplay of MOBY DICK. Six months later, in Ireland, one night I asked John why he had chosen me to be the screen writer, when nobody in the world knew that I existed. He said, ‘It was that book of yours, THE GOLDEN APPLES OF THE SUN. When I read THE FOG HORN, I felt I had discovered the soul of Herman Melville.’ So you see, all of our lives our joined in mysterious ways.
Thank God I fell in love with dinosaurs when I was five and continued my love, when I was thirteen, with King Kong. One of the first stories I wrote in high school was a direct plagiarism of the screenplay of King Kong. My teacher didn’t know where the idea had come from, but at the top of my script she wrote in red pencil, ‘I don’t know what this is all about but you write very well.’ She remained my friend for life.
You mention some of the same ideas in your letter and the interest you had in Edgar Rice Burroughs, who started me on my journey to Mars, and the comic strip Buck Rogers, who came into the world in October 1929 and caused me to move into the future and never want to return.
So you see, you and I are joined at the hip and the brow. We’re a clan of people whose loves are strange and wild and wonderful.
I will keep your letter always, Greg, and I hope some day to meet you.

I send you much love,

Ray Bradbury

                                   ________________________________


Mr. Bradbury and I corresponded from that moment on, about a number of things, but nothing can replicate the magic of hearing from him that first time. It was transcendent.
I suppose the difficulty of this past week is in trying to figure out the proper way to say goodbye to my literary idol. But I know now that I’ve been thinking about it all wrong. You don’t say goodbye to someone that is a part of you. You don’t say goodbye to someone who has left such a rich legacy. After all, since his passing, I’ve already reread several of his stories, and most movingly have had two of his stories read to me by my 13-year-old daughter.
So, I won’t say goodbye to Ray. Simply, until next time. In a different place and time.
I will continue to read his work and he will continue to move and entertain me and chaperone me to the ends of the universe.
Last night I looked up to the stars, twinkling bright in the distant blackness, and I could have sworn they formed the outline of a face. A face I would know anywhere. And he was smiling.
What else could I do but smile back.

You Are What You Read — by Greg


     For reasons unknown (perhaps it was the copious amounts of cold medicine I consumed), I was struck suddenly yesterday by the many different ways in which I read. Let me explain: I tend to read things differently depending upon the function I am serving at the time. For instance, as an ‘editor’ I read things critically, with a jeweler’s eye, looking for ways in which the story can be improved, the characters can be enlivened, the dialogue can be punched up. Each story is a puzzle, a rubic’s cube. In what way can the story elements be twisted and angled so that it is better than before?
     But if I plan to review the book I am reading, my brain clicks, unsurprisingly, into ‘reviewer’ gear. I’m no longer concerned with improving the story (too late, the sucker is already in my hands!). Now I want to know why the story works (or doesn’t). I want to understand how the writer breathed life into the characters and made them three-dimensional people that I care about. I pay attention to how the varying plot elements fall into place, and how the author toys with suspense, action and narrative.
     Other times, I read books as a ‘writer.’ This is when I am ready to be schooled. To be mentored by writers far more talented than I. There are many writers (several of them currently writing stories for Kaleidoscope) whose writing astounds me to such a degree that it can take me 10 minutes to read a single page as I re-read sentences, paragraphs, entire sections over and over again, hoping some of their genius will later seep into my own writing, even if on some cosmic, subconscious level.
     And, lastly, when the need to shut off all deep critical thinking wins out and I want to be taken away by a book or story, I read simply as a, ya know, ‘reader.’ I want to be entertained. To be enlightened. To be caught up in the story to such a degree that the minutes and hours slide away as I am engulfed in the world the writer has created.
     Truth be told, I don’t enjoy one role — or method — of reading more than the other. They all serve their purpose and they all reward me in different ways.
     As an editor, I love putting the story under the microscope and finding its imperfections and the ways to make the story better. Of polishing it until it gleams. Maybe it needs a different ending. A new setting. Maybe the main character shouldn’t be hit by a bus in the first chapter.
     As a reviewer, I like the analytical position I’m forced into, thinking past questions like does this story work to why does it work?
     As a writer, it is wonderful and strangely satisfying to be humbled at the feet of the masters. To be a student of the art form. To learn from writers whose talents vastly outstrip your  own.
     And, of course, as a reader, nothing matches the joy of being taken away completely by a great tale, to become utterly lost in the pages. To succumbing fully to the power of great writing.

Gods of Gotham — by Greg


     New York City in 1845 is a dirty, violent powderkeg, a nasty undercurrent of racism and fear threatening to topple the great metropolis into chaos. Timothy Wilde, left scarred and penniless after a fire ravages much of lower Manhattan, is pressed into service on the newly launched, and much reviled, New York City police force. Days into the job, when the bodies of slaughtered and violated children are discovered, his life is forever changed as he slowly grows into not just a fine policeman but also the city’s first true investigator.
     Lyndsay Faye’s extraordinary new book “The Gods of Gotham”, is quite rightly pegged by most reviewers as an “historical mystery.” But like all great literature, “Gods of Gotham” works on a multitude of different levels as Faye deftly weaves the complex interplay of plot, character and a palpable, dynamic setting.
     The first challenge of historical fiction is, unsurprisingly, the history. Great science fiction is always recognized for the spectacular world-building at play in its greatest works. It’s a highwire act, creating a city, country, planet, universe, that is at once fantastical but also completely believable.
     But what of writers who spin yarns that take place in bygone days? Of stories that take place in the real world of historical record? In some ways, this is an even more daunting highwire act, one that removes the net entirely. Because not only must the ‘historical novelist’ re-create a world that is believable, the world must also be entirely accurate and faithful to history. No small feat.
     The mid-19th century New York that Faye has (re)created for us is vibrant and alive, thrumming with the bustle of the growing metropolis. Faye not only immerses us in the ground-level grit and dirt of the era but also lets us feel the cultural undercurrents at play, namely the hatred and bigotry that can lead a people to disdain their fellow countrymen and the ever present politics that regrettably often stoke those fears.
      One of “Gotham’s” many powerful insights is the way in which, by examining discrimination of two centuries ago, the reader is left to reconcile that the same bigotry and hatred still exist in the world, just with new targets. And Faye makes compelling use of this uncomfortable reality.
     Faye is one of those rare writers for whom language is a musical instrument, a magical talisman. What I’m saying is this young lady can write. Her prose burns.
     And even more impressive is that she uses her prose chops in service of an elegantly plotted work that is humane and moving, in no small part due to her masterful characterization. Her sprawling and boisterous New York teems with an array of fascinating characters, all woven into the clockwork of the book’s central mystery: Who is killing all these children? And why?
     The work hinges on the troika of the honorable Timothy Wilde, the love of his life Mercy Underhill and Wilde’s salacious, drug-addled older brother Valentine. There are many emotional payoffs throughout “Gods of Gotham” and they are hard-earned. Faye has revealed these characters in layers, and when we think we have learned all there is to know about them, she shows us another facet, another angle, and we are riveted to see where these characters will go from here. I was truthfully haunted as I flipped the last page closed, wondering what next was in store for Tim, Mercy and Valentine. For Faye has miraculously managed to make “Gotham’s” ending both uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time.
     Thankfully, there is a “Gods of Gotham” sequel on the way. I for one will be front and center when it is released, anxious to see what adventures next await the wonderful Wilde brothers.



Do These Panels Make My Butt Look Big — by Raf

     As the de facto art wrangler for Kaleidoscope, I have the thrilling but terrifying task of finding the right illustrators for the many wonderful stories being produced for our two anthologies.
     While the process may seem easy (“I’ve got a new script, who wants to draw it?”), it is, in fact, an art; one I hope to perfect, and fast!
     I am, for those who dont know, a student of comics as well as a writer of same; I grew up reading every title imaginable, back when one could buy 10 comic books for a dollar. My brother was an avid collector as well, so on any particular afternoon, you could find me reading, in no particular order, Casper, Archie, Spider-Man, Li’l Dot Polka, Batman, Creepy, Our World At War... you get the idea. One of the most fascinating things was seeing that perfect marriage between word and picture. I can’t imagine, for example, the O’Neill/Adams Batman stories with any other team, or their Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories, for that matter.
     Trying to picture anyone other than Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson on Manhunter boggles the mind. I just don’t see it. I think it takes a certain simpatico, a symbiotic relationship between writer and artist, blending their skills to create not just works of fiction, but works of art.
     Here at Kaleidoscope HQ, I see my job as trying to replicate the magic that can only happen when the right mixture of story and art are blended together to create something wondrous. See what I mean? Daunting.
     Each person brings to the table his or her own unique and substantial gift. But that doesn’t mean you can arbitrarily mix and match. I’m reminded of an issue of, I think it was X-Men, where one legendary comic artist inked over the pencils of another legendary artist. I mean, neither one of these cats could ever be considered a slouch, right? Had either of them tackled the story solo, it would have been incredible. But the combination, for me, at any rate, was oddly clashing and discordant. And yes, I know, I’m talking about writer and artist, but my example is penciler and inker. I’m riffing here, kids. I think ya’ll get my point.
     Some of the writers doing stories for us are first-timers, and some are first-timers to comics, but well established prose authors. My job is to pair that creator to a more established artist. Some writers tend to be caption and dialogue-heavy, so we need to find an artist who can give me the same information with fewer lines, to open up the panel and allow the words to breathe.
      In the same vein, some of the artists we have are from other countries, and English is not their first language. I have to make sure that the integrity of the story doesn’t suffer because of some confusion in the translation.
     Oh, yeah, and I’m doing this while trying to write my own scripts. Yikes!
     I have to say, though, that, tough as the process is, I do so enjoy it. Taking all these different skill sets and piecing together a cohesive, exciting, overall  enjoyable experience for the reader. Kind of like putting together a puzzle. Or, given our name, it’s like viewing all these disciplines and twisting them around, looking at them in a different way, from different angles. You know, like a kaleidoscope.

I Love You, Tomorrow — by Greg


“The bank bailout — that sum of money is greater than the 50-year running budget of NASA. And so when someone says we don’t have enough money for [space exploration], I’m asking, “No it’s not that you don’t have enough money, it’s that the distribution of money you’re spending is warped in some way that you are removing the only thing that gives people something to dream about tomorrow”. You remember the 60s and 70s, you didn’t have to go more than a week before there’s an article in LIFE magazine, “The Home of Tomorrow”, “The City of Tomorrow”, “Transportation of Tomorrow”. All that ended in the 1970s. When we stopped going to the moon, it all ended. We stopped dreaming. And so I worry that decisions Congress makes doesn’t factor in the consequences of those decisions on tomorrow.”
This meme (from a television appearance by the downright wonderful Neil deGrasse Tyson) enjoyed an all-too brief life on the social networking sites a few months ago before fading quickly from view.
For too long now I have been searching (and struggling) for just the right words to encapsulate what we seem, as a people, to be missing right now.
That it took a man light years ahead of me on an intellectual level to find those words should come as no great surprise. I’m just happy he did.
Every generation — once it reaches a certain collective age — invariably feels the world is crashing down around their ears. “Kids these days, they don’t have no respect, I tell ya ….”
The truth is, any quick perusal of history — both modern and ancient — presents a world that seems endlessly and forever on the verge of utter chaos and ruin. Yet, despite this, the human race’s most admirable and redeeming quality has always been this: the ability to look forward. To dream.
But more than that, to put those dreams into motion. And perhaps nothing better encapsulates mankind’s drive to conquer insurmountable odds than the space race of the 1960s.
Of all the images I’ve seen in my life — both terrible (the Twin Towers) and great (the fall of the Berlin Wall), none filled me with the giddy, beautiful, transcendent feeling that anything is possible more than the sight of those two lone men standing in the lifeless air of a faraway rock.
In the early 60s, when President Kennedy challenged us to reach the moon by the end of the decade it seemed little more than a pipe dream.
And yet, despite the inevitable political wrangling, we as a nation took up the gauntlet. We not only accepted the challenge but we embraced Gene Krantz’ mission control mantra that “failure is not an option.”
More to Tyson’s point — when did we stop thinking (and dreaming) about tomorrow? As a child of the 60s and 70s, I clearly (and dearly) remember what Tyson refers to. In no small part due to the dizzying effects of our string of impossible successes in the Space Race, children in my generation were somewhat in awe of what the future would bring. One thing was certain: it was going to be spectacular.
Tyson is right: magazines were flooded with articles about the homes of tomorrow. And spaceflight of the future. And technology of tomorrow.
So, the questions, remains: What happened to tomorrow? Tyson postulates that political and corporate expedience has all but killed it. Every decision is based on the perilous idea of what most benefits a politician or corporation RIGHT NOW. No consideration whatsoever as to what it might mean five or ten years down the road.
But by removing the consideration of a better tomorrow, we remove one of the most powerful motivators known to our species. For what greater goal is there than to strive for a tomorrow that is better than today?
At the risk of veering dangerously close to Pollyanna territory (look it up, kids), optimism — cautious or otherwise — seems to be a fundamental thread of our culture’s evolution. And it’s high time to start talking about it again. To start dreaming. To start building a bridge in the sky.
What are some of the things that we all yearn for? A cure for cancer? An end to war? A world in which no child goes hungry?
But, you say, those things are all impossible. Really? Any more so than launching three men into the heavens with about a hundredth of the technology you currently have in your phone?
If these things really do appear impossible, maybe that’s all the more reason we should commit to doing them.
For those eternal footprints in the dust of our celestial neighbor are testament to the idea that sometimes the only difference between impossibility and reality is our strengths of will.
And an undying determination that better days await.

Life is Like a Box O' Comics — by Greg


I have mentioned before that when I was 12, I was the recipient of the fabled “box-of-comics-that-big-brother-leaves-behind-when-he-goes-to-college”. My feeble brain sometimes has a difficult time conjuring up what happened yesterday afternoon (I think it may have involved a cup of tea and a nap), but I remember opening that box as vividly as any memory I possess.
It was in my upstairs bedroom, the one overlooking the glowing lamppost in the center of the cul-de-sac, and it was late at night. I am not quite sure how the box came into my possession (Did my mom drop it there for me to go through? Did my brother wish to demonstrate his move to adulthood by foregoing the comics he loved in his youth?). No matter, I suppose. This is how hobbies (and obsessions) many times begin. Simply and without warning, the results often far outstripping the original intent.
It may have been a simple cardboard to most onlookers, but to me it was nothing short of a treasure chest straight out of 1001 Arabian Nights. Treasures greater than jewels or pearls.
I honestly do not remember every single comic I pulled out of the box that night but (on my way to becoming a complete Silver and Bronze Age Marvel zombie) I clearly recall that the box contained Captain America 107, Hulk 107, Captain Marvel 8, and Shield 6. I have every single one of them to this day and will most likely be clutching them in my withered claw when I throw this mortal coil. They are more than comics to me; they are totems. Powerful and magical and infused with all that I love about storytelling. Those four titles helped fuel a life-long love of superheroes (particularly those whom act, you know, heroic).
But there was more in that glorious old treasure chest disguised as an old box. Items that would help propel another life-long obsession: That being monsters! Ghouls. Vampires, Frankenstein’s Creature, Ghosts, Goblins. Just about anything that went bump in the night. For underneath that stack of superhero goodness, there were also reams and reams of old Creepy and Eerie magazines from Warren Publishing.
And, oh, the glories held within. Tales of grave robbers and werewolves, demons and darkness, unfolding in gorgeous black and white. It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to draw a straight line from those Warren mags to Kaleidoscope’s current roster of “A Dark And Stormy Night” and “Pandemonium”. One would not exist without the other.
Which all goes toward the idea that one needs to be open to the wonderful accidents in life, the ones that change your path in a positive direction. No question that discarded box of comics changed my life. One wonders what would have become of me had it been instead filled with Harlequin Romances?