Archive for ‘November, 2011’
FIRST: If you’re confused by today’s comic, it’s probably because you didn’t realize there were 4 pages of comics in my first post on Halloween. Don’t worry, it happened to people even smarter than you. I believe I fixed it so this won’t happen again, so go to the Johnny Zombie Archives and read what you missed. I’ll wait right here.
Okay? Great. Now…
When I first started looking into this inscrutable internet-thing, I got excellent guidance and advice from Erika Moen, Dylan Meconis, and Trixie Biltmore— all of whom speak “web” fluently, while I’m lucky to mumble it with a thick, analog accent. Steve Lieber—professional, patient, and pithy— helped me over hurdles big and small, directly and indirectly. Even my good pal and web comic newbie Ron Randall showed me a trick or two! My nephew Nicholas Reyna helped me start hammering the site into shape— until I hammered too hard and it broke! Enter Ken Westfall— Nick’s old roommate, a professional web designer, and (thank God!) comics fan. I can safely say that without the Herculean help of St. Ken this site would look more like something from 1995 Compuserve. If that.
Carmine Di Giandomenico is a great artist and even greater guy. Earlier this year he did a Johnny Zombie poster for me, which I used as the “Under Construction” image here before Mad Genius officially launched. It’s a wonderful piece, and sets a very high bar for all future Johnny Zombie artists.
David Hahn cleared that bar, easy. He was my first and only choice to draw this Johnny Zombie story. I’ve always loved his art, and knew it would be edgy enough for a zombie story while still open enough for a Christmas tale. And I’ve always wanted to ink him, another huge plus. Not to mention the equal-sized horizontal panel layout was something David came up with and I wanted to, um… “borrow” for Johnny Zombie, so I kinda owed him the right of first refusal. Made my day when he said yes.
I was lucky enough to have Grace Allison color Carmine’s JZ poster earlier this year, so she was the natural choice for this story. She’s also a damn fine cartoonist, and I knew I had to grab her before bigger and better offers came her way. Which they will.
Thank you, each and every one.
Also: Big Thanks to every single person reading this. Your response to Mad Genius and Johnny Zombie has been amazing and uplifting. I’d keep writing and drawing anyway, but it means a lot knowing there are other people who get a kick out of these comics, too.
Last but far from least…
Thanks most of all to my wife Myrna. She puts up with me, encourages me, inspires me. She listens to all my crazy comics ideas, and has an amazing, instinctive sense of story— what does and doesn’t work. I am better in every way because of her. She has given me the kind of life I’ve always wanted, and I try very hard to return the favor. The best day of my life was our wedding day. Except for every day since. Thank you. Love you. Love my life with you.
Monday: Why Zombies?
Let’s define terms. By “zombie” I mean Romero zombie— slow-moving and operating on little more than reptilian instinct with maybe— maybe— a few fogged memories. We all love Bub from Day of the Dead, but he’s the exception, not the rule. Don’t get me started on Land of the Dead. And zombies don’t eat brains per se— although that’s a funny idea— they eat flesh, and you destroy their brain to destroy them.
First time I saw Night of the Living Dead— a midnight showing in the late ’70s— I left before it ended, it creeped me out so much. A few years later I saw Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead opening weekend— sold-out , so I had to sit in the front row. I’m happy to say those experiences scarred me for life.
Zombies are the only monsters that still scare me. When I’m over-worked, I stress-dream about zombies. If I see someone coming down the street, I never think “that could be a vampire,” but I often think “that could be a zombie.” It’s a stroke of simple genius (based on budgetary limits, I’m sure) that Romero’s zombies look like normal people— almost. Zombies aren’t scary because they’re different from us— they’re scary because they’re so similar to us. It’s as if with a small nudge, our world could become their world.
Worst of all: there’s no safe place. Zombies are on the prowl 24/7, night and day. Even if you’re somewhere that zombies can’t get you, they can still get you because by Romero’s Rules everyone who dies— bit or not— becomes a zombie! This idea of “infection” drives me crazy. No— this is The New State of Things. You die— you’re a zombie. You’ll note Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead wisely follows Romero’s Rules.
Zombies have been on my mind for decades. Then, suddenly, everyone was interested in the living dead. And I’ve got a theory about that…
Thursday: Why Zombies Now?
Zombies have always been a second-tier terror. Even the modern Romero-style zombies have had, at best, cult status. But in the last 10 years the living dead have clawed their way into the collective consciousness with surprising speed and insistence. What happened? What changed?
All monsters worth their salt work as analogies and metaphors for any number of things, and zombies are no exception. But 9/11 thrust them into their most resonant role yet. Zombies became the perfect monster-metaphor for terrorism. Think of what zombies and terrorists have in common:
- They may look like your neighbor, your cousin, the person sitting next to you on an airplane— but they’re really one of them.
- They want to kill us. Violently.
- We can’t quite understand why they want to kill us, they just do.
- They are unrelenting and remorseless.
- There is no reasoning with them; no changing their minds.
- They could be anywhere, any time. There is no safe place.
- Take out one, more take its place. Many more.
And as well as the classic Romero zombie syncs with terrorism, the 21st century Speed Zombie has the added inference of quick and sudden death— like a plane diving out of the sky, or an IED.
I’m not saying these feelings are right, but they’re the fears that have given zombies their current cultural power. And I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.
If you’re ever invited to the Portland Comic Book Show, go. Not just because Richard Finn puts together a nice show and treats his guests right, but because the Saturday night before the November show, Richard and some of the guests come to my house and I cook dinner for them. Richard kindly foots the bill for the evening, and I get to meet and hang out with some very cool people.
Last Saturday, November 12th, It was my great pleasure to cook for Mike Royer, Kurt Busiek, Pete Woods, Paul and Anina Guinan, Brandon Jerwa, Stephen Sadowski, Jason Gorder, and their wives/girlfriends/significant others. I always have a great time at these gatherings, and it seems like others do, too.
This time around, we had a Southern-inspired menu:
- Appetizers: Spiced Pecans, Pickled Shrimp
- Fall Salad with Blue Cheese, Pumpkin Seed Brittle, and Sherry Vinaigrette
- Pork Loin Roast Stuffed with Onions and Bacon, a Carrot-Ginger Sauce on the side
- Sautéed Kale and Collard Greens with Caramelized Shallots and an Apple Cider Gastrique
- Savannah Red Rice
- Skillet Corn Bread with Maple Butter
- Dessert: Apple Crisp with Brandy-Soaked Currants, Pear Chocolate Upside-Down Cake, Vanilla Ice Cream
I’d never made the Pork Loin before, so the sauce was a fall-back in case it turned out dry— which it didn’t. But the sauce was still a nice extra layer of flavor, and the bright orange color looked good on the plate. The Big Hit of the evening, however, was the salad’s Pumpkin Seed Brittle: nutty and sweet with just the right touch of cayenne heat. It’s addictive!
I enjoy cooking almost as much as I love cartooning, and certainly enjoy that people like to eat what I make, but I’m no “chef.” What I am is a fairly solid cook, and a really good follower-of-recipes. It’s like anything else: if you like it, and do it, you get better at it.
Last thing: Someone needs to write Mike Royer’s biography. The man’s seen it all, has an amazing memory, and tells some of the best stories I’ve even heard. And I’m not saying that just ’cause he signed my page of Kirby Jimmy Olsen original art.
I guess I’m more of a Spine-Fry kind of guy, myself. Then again, who could pass up Chest Chops and Mutton Kola? As David Hahn said “That is clearly a zombie-friendly restaurant. I didn’t know Mumbai was so progressive.”
This photo was taken by a friend who is spending 15 month traveling throughout Southeast Asia. Read all about it at Miss Q’s Big Adventure.
With the Portland Comic Book Show dinner behind me and Thanksgiving around the corner, I’m thinking a lot about cooking right now. I’ll sort through endless recipes trying to figure out the perfect balance of flavors for a meal, but when it comes to dessert the first place I turn— and usually the only place I need to look— is Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. There is no better dessert cookbook out there. Period.
This is a book filled with cobblers, crisps, pies, buckles, pandowdies, slumps, and such. The kind of simple, soul-satisfying sweets that our moms probably never really made, but we all like to think they did. Nothing fancy, but everything fantastically flavorful. I’ve made well over half the recipes— with my sights set on making every single one— and all have been wonderful, with most absolute Crowd Pleasers. I’m talking eyes-roll-back-when-you-take-a-bite. (Okay— the dreaded Jam Cake didn’t come out either time I made it, but that’s ’cause I didn’t have a bundt pan. I do now. So next time: different story.) The book’s divided by season— so you can use fruit at its most flavorful— and lists ingredients by volume and weight— essential when it comes to the science of baking. Just thinking of the Stone Fruit Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake… MMMMM— !
The topper— for me, at least— is that the two authors are Portland locals. Cory Schreiber founded Wildwood— one of the leading Portland restaurants the last 20 years— and Julie Richardson runs Baker and Spice— a bakery that started as a booth at the downtown Farmer’s Market. Portland’s a great food town, and these two are only the tip of the iceberg as to why.
We have friends coming over for dinner this weekend, and I think I’ll let them eat cake. That’s right: Jam Cake…
It seems odd — yet oddly appropriate— to talk about food next to a zombie comic, but Thanksgiving is without a doubt the biggest holiday in our house. Myrna’s family comes over and they are gracious enough to let me plan the meal and do 99% of the cooking. (When we adopt, I’ve asked my East Coast family to come out for Thanksgiving, not Christmas, to be with the Little One; that’s how important T-day is to us.) This year we’re expecting somewhere between 17 and 21 at our table. And on and around that table will be:
- Appetizer: Cranberry Salsa with Corn Chips
- Arugula Salad with Pecans, Oven-Dried Grapes, and a Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette
- Hawaiian-Portuguese Smoked Turkey
- Boatloads of gravy, of course
- Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Pancetta
- New York Salt Potatoes
- Roasted Medley of Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, and Broccoli
- Roasted Parsnips with Bacon and Rosemary
- Gingered Sweet Potato Streusel
- Buttermilk Biscuits (Plus Spiced Pumpkin and Parmesan-Black Pepper variations)
- Desserts: Pumpkin Cheesecake, Bacon Baklava (must be tasted to be believed!), Fruit Pie from Myrna’s mom Betty, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (store-bought), Oatmeal-Cranberry Cookie Ice Cream (home-made)
Most of these are tried-and-true, crowd-pleasing recipes— what have become, over the years, part of our Thanksgiving traditions— with a few new dishes thrown in to keep things interesting.
Happy Thanksgiving. Here’s hoping that yours, like ours, is filled with good food, family and friends, traditions, and a surprise twist or two.