A Bird On Mallways

Posted: December 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

So, I mentioned a few days ago that I’d found an artist for Mallways, the webcomic I came up with back in the hospital in May. Well, having just spent two hours chatting with her, I’d like to actually talk a little about it here. (Particularly since it’s been taking up a good bit of my creative time and energy to get started. Which is, of course, my way of backasswardsly mentioning that I’m behind on Nine Dead Suns.)

I met Hannah (who goes by “Bird” professionally… and man, is that going to save time-consuming keystrokes!) back in November during Nanowrimo. She was one of the people who reacted positively to my “I just wrote a sentence I loved” post, and so I added her as a Nano writing buddy (as I had very few and wanted people to pace myself against.) As y’all know, I didn’t make it over the finish line, but I had enjoyed her forum posts and added her on Facebook. Well, when I posted my Holiday Plea about Matt’s store, she was one of the people who responded, asking about Tick comics. She had also posted some kind of status update about her working on comics, and I thought, “Hey, maybe she’d be interested in doing a webcomic… being that I’ve got one in need of an artist.”

Then I went and checked out her stuff. (You can too, if you want, at http://www.behance.net/birdtheword) The few pieces she had up were stylistically diverse and I particularly liked her face work. And her influences? Alphonse Mucha and Dave McKean? Damn.

So, quite impressed, I made the offer and after blathering at her for a while (and showing her the original proposal) she fell for it agreed!

As I said, we had a nice long talk today to get ourselves on the same page, and I’m more excited coming out of the chat than I was going in. We talked style, character design, legal crap… and despite chatting online, her grammar and punctuation were perfect.

So what is Mallways, I hear you ask. “This wasn’t on your project list that you blathered about back in August!” Well, it sort of was, but at the time I was operating under the delusion that I could teach myself enough art to scribble out something almost as good as Corwin’s art. But now, with a real artist, it seems so much less like a creative diversion and more like a legitimate outlet for my writing and Bird’s art.

Imagine Mallways as a cross between Mallrats and Lost. Our hero, Nick, finds himself trapped in the strange pandimensional mall known as Mallways. There he must find a new life and discover what the heck is going on there. It has Viking girls, monkeys, sexy librarian chicks, MMORPGs, the Pirate Queen of the Mall and absolutely no cowboy hats. I promised.

Obviously, this will take a little time to get up and going, what with having to write scripts, get them drawn, etc. We’re aiming for a weekly rollout, probably Q2 2011. We still have little details like hosting and creating and web designing to get hashed out…

But dude… Webcomic!


Tomorrow: Wednesday. I immerse myself in non-web-comicage.


Did I mention that I loved Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys? I think I’ll do it again, because aside from being true and heartfelt, it is apparently BLOG GOLD! I mean, when I was at my clever, self-improving bloggiest best, I was lucky if I got fifty hits. But invoke the power of Comics Toons ‘N’ Toys and I come in six times that. Twice.

They also discount all new comics by 10% and take an additional $1 off every $10 you order.

And this morning there was a flock of parrots in the trees outside. A flock of parrots.

Now I bet you really want to shop there, huh?

Actually, it’s kind of heartening that the post (which for some reason everyone calls an “article”) was so well received. The most important goal in writing is to communicate emotion, and from all the feedback, I think I must have been pretty successful at sharing how I feel. So thanks to all of you who read it. And even more thanks to those who contacted me or the store and placed an order for books. I didn’t get all my work done today because I was having so much fun picking things for people. I got to recommend some of my favorite comics and spread their wonderfulness to new readers, which is kind of like being a drug pusher, but you don’t go to hell for it.

In other Dougly news, since up to fifty of you might actually be reading this for that… well, several bits of good news over the last few weeks that I can share with you.

1. Christmas shopping is done. Now I can stop doing that and pound the heck out of draft two of Nine Dead Suns. I have a self-deadline of 12/31 for that, so I can send it to my dad so he can red pen the living soul out of it before visiting at the end of January.

2. I have an artist for the webcomic I’ve mentioned before! Her name is Hannah, and I ran across her during Nanowrimo this year. She appreciated my line about the space dildo, I appreciated the fact that two of her major influences are two of my favorite artists ever: Mucha and McKean. I haven’t actually told her I’m going to mention her here, so everyone be on your best behavior. More on this as we cement details… but look for Mallways in 2011.

3. I’m still two people short for the Top Ten Eleven reading group… we’re all hanging out over on Facebook divulging our favorite books and threatening to inflict one of them on the others. There’s still time for you to join the fun! All you need to do is (a) pick your favorite ten books you’ve ever read, (b) tell me you’re willing to reread them in 2011 and answer discussion questions, and (c) whatever else we decide in our literary madness to do.

Anyway, thanks again to everyone who’s been helping out on the Holiday Plea, your efforts and attentions have been greatly appreciated.

Tonight I sang the words “space monkey mafia,” and realized that Billy Joel has left untapped perhaps the greatest simian space crime story ever told.


Tomorrow: Space Monkey Mafia! How can that NOT be the greatest thing, like, ever? Seriously!

A Holiday Plea

Posted: December 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

If you love comics, and especially local comic stores, please read this (even if you don’t know me.)


Everybody has a happy place.

For some people, it’s Disneyland (“The Happiest Place on EarthTM.”) For others, it’s the Great Outdoors. Some people have a quiet place in their mind, someplace to meditate themselves to when the world gets too hard. Even a messy bedroom full of memories and your favorite things can be your happy place.

My happy place is a comic book store in Tustin, CA called Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys.

For over ten years I’ve worked there as an employee. For eight of those, I’ve driven over three hours a day round trip for the privilege of working there. Part-time. When I was in the hospital for six months in 2005, the owner called me every week to walk down the wall and title by title read me what came out so he could box it up for friends to deliver to me. During this time, he didn’t even charge me, knowing that there were more important stresses in my life and that there would be time for that when I was better.

When I lived nearby–and even some times when I didn’t–and life became too stressful, too hard, too loud, too much… I would go to the store. Even late at night, store closed, I could use my key to get inside and find my peace, a privilege never taken away even though I was no longer close enough to be useful opening or closing the store. I wake up every week at five in the morning because that gets me to the store in time to have a half an hour or so to myself, centering my week browsing comics all alone.

The owner of Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys is a man named Matt Powers. He runs the store with one goal in mind: to make his customers happy. He’s not an obsessive comic geek like some (his passion is music, with a touch of Jack Kirby and ’60s spy television thrown in.) He’s not a speculator (variant covers go to customers at absurdly low prices no matter how much we employees beg him to gouge.) He’s not a skeevy Comic Book Guy full of disdain and impatience with stupid people (that’s, uh, the rest of us who work there; Matt is incorrigibly kind and pleasant to even the irredeemably annoying.) He’s not a bottom line only businessman (he’d rather buy twenty too many copies of a book so that someday he won’t disappoint a customer if they come in looking for it six months later.) No matter what stereotype you can think of to fit the phrase ‘comic store owner,’ Matt is not that. He’s a generous, kind man who wants to make people happy, and the store is how he does it.

As my wife would say, the comic store is Matt’s ministry.

Which brings us to today, and the reason for this piece.

Today I got a message from Matt that the store is in trouble. Now, one thing I didn’t mention about Matt above is that he doesn’t complain. Ever. If he were on fire, and you were standing there with a hose in one hand and a phone in the other, he’d wait until you were done with your call before asking politely if you had a spare bit of water. We all know the economy has been sucking, and while there is some hope that things will recover, it isn’t happening quickly and it isn’t happening hard. It’s also happening at Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys.

It’s not my place to go into the details, but there’s serious possibility that in a year or two, the double-storefront on Newport Blvd. won’t be there when you go by. And that would be such a shame; not just because I love it or because Matt deserves to do what he loves until the day after the earth falls into the sun, but because Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys is THE BEST DAMN COMIC STORE EVER. You know me (or maybe you don’t but pretend for a minute.) I’ve been to every comic store I’ve ever seen, heard of, or smelt. I have particular demands that run to the eclectic, the indie, the mainstream, the obscure and the verbose. In all my forty years of going to great comic stores (Alternate Worlds of Cockeysville, MD in the late 1980’s, I’m lookin’ at you!) there has never been a store with as much breadth, depth and selection as Comics Toons ‘N’ Toys.

DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, IDW… all the biggies? There. In quantities large enough to get what you need two months after Rich Johnston hypes it on bleedingcool.com. Trades? Hardcovers? Kept in stock until they go out of print (except the ones I forget to write down on Matt’s reorder list.) Obscure indies? Dude, just this week Matt got in 2000AD, Big Questions, Northern Guard, Proof, The Tick… and more that even I don’t recognize on the invoice. Manga? We call the second storefront the “manga room.” I have pictures. And all of this is accented with toys, statues, figures, games, and anything that he thinks “someone might want that.” I am proud to live in a time when “someone might want that” is the shopping motto of my Local Comic Store.

“So,” I hear you ask, “what can I, <your name here> do?”

I’m glad you asked.

There’s this holiday thing this month I heard about, and it sounds like a keen reason to bring your December shopping money to Comics Toons ‘N’ Toys. I know you might not think that you can find something for anyone on your list at a mere “comic store,” but let me tell you from experience, I have successfully shopped for every single person I know there. Including my mom. My *mom*, I tell you, beloved without a comic-y bone in her body! How strongly do I believe this? So strongly that I–broke that I am–will PAY YOUR GAS MONEY if you go there and can’t find something. (Don’t tell Kay.)

I also offer my services, free of charge, as your personal shopper liaison to Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys. If you email me with a list of people you need presents for and a sentence or two about their interests, I will find something they will like. Kids? Inlaws? There’s something for each of them. They don’t need to care anything for superheroes or action or anything. I offer forty years of thinking about nothing but comics to you. You will be surprised at what the medium, and in connection, the store has for even the most pretentious literati or the least readin’ dude in your poker group.

Don’t live anywhere near Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys? No problem. Myself or one of the employees will MAIL YOUR PURCHASE TO YOU if you’ll pay the shipping. Free of handling. We all care that much. In fact, I know we do, because I haven’t even asked them about doing it, but I know they will. Matt accepts all credit cards, debit cards, we can even work something out if you want to use Paypal.

Obviously, if you’re shopping for me, well, just ask Matt what I’ve got in the back tying up his well-needed liquid assets, and he’ll find something for any price range. But honestly, it’d be enough of a present for me if you just spent your money there period.

Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys can be found at:

13542 Newport Blvd

Tustin, CA 92780

(714) 730-2117

There are some great reviews and other information I might’ve forgotten on the Yelp page: http://www.yelp.com/biz/comics-toons-and-toys-tustin. I mean, 49 reviews and still 5 stars?

Finally, of course, if you have any questions, suggestions, or orders you’d like me to place/listen to/pick up for you, I can be reached at blackflak@aol.com. I like to think I don’t ask for much, but for Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys–and especially Matt Powers–I’ll ask anything and anyone. I’ll even type out the whole name, “Comics, Toons ‘N’ Toys,” with all those apostrophes every time I mention it in this message. It means that much, and it’s just that damn good.

Douglass Barré

Writer of Defiance and Mythstalkers (Image) and creator of http://www.chimericalcomics.com.

Today’s Squirrel

Posted: November 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

I find it ironic that the dog in Up! who is easily distracted by squirrels is named Dug.

Those of you who know me know that I’m, ah, how best to put it… easily distracted.

So, right on the heels of quitting Nanowrimo, it’s vaguely embarrassing that I immediately came upon a squirrel.

I mean, my whole rationale was that I was going to be able to dedicate this writing time to finishing Nine Dead Suns, right? I said that, like, two blogs ago! And then this whole thing with the Top Ten Eleven Book Club, and today, while watching Tower Prep with the fam, I opened a spreadsheet and started making a game. It was an idea that came to me yesterday on my drive home from the comic shop (a prime creative time for me, actually) and almost fully-formed.

No, I’m not going to waste all my time on it, and yes, it’s actually pretty cool and worth doing… but still. I feel like squirrels keep running by me.

More importantly, though… squirrel!


Tomorrow: One day I’m going to actually not have something else to say and get around to talking about Jen’s thing! I promise, Jen!

Book Club Update

Posted: November 17, 2010 in Uncategorized

So far we’ve got a few foolish victims valiant literanauts already signed up for the Top Ten Eleven, but there are still slots remaining! I know there are those of you out there who like to read your favorite books… it’s tautological!

I’ve winnowed my top ten favorite books down to twelve so far. Man, this is harder than I thought… if you’re planning on doing the club, start thinking about your list now!

Today was one of those days where people annoyed me. Even hearing Kay tell stories about people is making me annoyed at them. There comes a point where I can no longer hear the opinions of stupid people without my head exploding, just like in Scanners.

There. Blog. Sleep now.


Tomorrow: I have forgotten… something.


So, I have this plan.

For a few months now, I’ve had a few books sitting in my bedside to-read pile that aren’t new. They’re old favorites that it’s been a little too long since I’ve last read them. When I noticed a week or two ago that the number of favorite books queuing up  had climbed to three, it occurred to me that I should just take a few months and go back and take a new look at a whole bunch of books that I’ve read and loved.

Those of you used to the way I think here on Agenda Forty know that this year (the year I turned forty,) I’ve been trying to look with new eyes at life, how I live it, what my priorities are, blah blah blah life change blah introspection blah blah. Well, since I spent 2010 getting myself into a wide range of new books, taking 2011 to review the books that formed my literary tastes sounded, well… fun. (Okay, fun and easy. Reading books I’ve read a gajillion times before? Score!)

Then I started making the list of my ten favorite books. So far it’s about sixteen books long. Must work on that. Still, it’s an enjoyable process… and it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, other people might enjoy the process as well.

Since I am not one to do things by halves (except, y’know, by only doing half of something, which I do all the time) I decided that I’d offer to share the madness by inviting ten other people to band together and protect a world that fears and hates them. Of course, it was pointed out to me that that had nothing to do with reading, so I changed plans instead to inviting ten people to join me in an online reading group.

Here’s the pitch:

Each person in the Top Ten Eleven Reading Club would be responsible for reading their ten favorite books over the course of 2011. Each person would also select one book from their list to share with the group. That book would get put onto a communal reading list, which everyone in the club would read. Total reading burden: 20 books. (Your ten favorites, and the suggested favorite of each of the other ten members.) To keep things orderly, as group facilitator, I’d assign a month to each person’s book, thus getting us done in eleven months (leaving December free to recover!)

Since, of course, reading is a fairly solitary activity, I thought that it might actually be fun to then share some of our feelings about revisiting these old favorites… Each week, I would post a question, direction or theme to discuss, which we could do on a separate page of this blog. Nothing too difficult, just something to get discussion rolling. Also, if people wanted to put together questions of their own for their selected book, that would be cool too.

So why am I blogging all about this at such length without my usual digressions and verbal witticisms? Because getting such a club together in time to start January 1, 2011, is going to take a little bit of planning. I’ve got a few people in mind that I’d like to invite, but I also want to see who’d be interested in such a thing. So, I’m posting the whole enchilada here to see who bites. If you’re interested in joining the Top Ten Eleven project, either reply here or send me an email at blackflak@aol.com. I’ll combine the people who express interest with the people I hope to draft and put together a good group of eleven with eclectic backgrounds and literary tastes. (Caveat: if you want to do it and don’t make the cut, it has nothing to do with you personally. It just means I lost your email. Really. It’s just other people who I didn’t pick for substantive reasons.)

So… start thinking about your top ten books and if you’re up for a literary adventure in 2011!


Tomorrow: I tell you all about the Top Ten Eleven book club idea I have. (I’m writing this yesterday, so this goes up tomorrow. Which is today. Damn time paradoxes!)

A Pyrrhic Defeat

Posted: November 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

So, despite getting a good 2,500 words out on Friday, it’s become clear that this is not the year for Nanowrimo.

It’s not a lack of quantity of writing time, which I’ve actually found it easier than expected to sneak away for… but it’s the quality of the time. Most of the time I’ve seized has been of the “boys, go to quiet time and let me be” type. Which somehow they parse as “boys, go to quiet time for a few minutes before thinking of something to come in and bug me about.” And one thing that I’m learning through this return to writing is that interrupted writing time isn’t good writing time.

I’ve been diagnosed before with sleep apnea, and they found this by doing a sleep study. Normal people sleep in a cycle that brings them to microconsciousness about five to seven times a night, allowing their sleep to build a good head of momentum. I woke up about two thousand times in the course of a night. Similarly, apparently writing requires me to get that momentum going without constant distraction (and you know, Readers, I am easily distracted… squirrel!)

The other time I used to write successfully was at night, when everyone’s asleep. Unfortunately, nowadays, I’m actually kind of tired (if not physically, then emotionally) by the time I get to 9pm. Nightttime writing wasn’t doing nearly as well as afternoon writing.

Soooo… when this weekend turned out not to be the time haven I had hoped, it cemented the growing sense I had that Nanowrimoing this month wasn’t the best use of my time and energy. (It also turned out that the planned 50k novel I was working on was turning into a 200k novel, so even sticking with it for November wouldn’t have left me with a complete manuscript, further delaying Nine Dead Suns rewrite and my start on the CCC novel.)

Does this mean that I’m not going to keep writing? No. The Nano charts are up for all of November, and I thought I could use that to track my progress on the NDS rewrite, which is going to require a lot more sui generis writing than I had expected back at the beginning of October. It’s also going to take a little pressure off of my 12/31/10 NDS deadline.

But whence Ace Archer? I mean, I’ve got 75 pages of writing done on him already, and he’s not even in space yet! Well, I’m certainly not going to give up on him. I did find, happily, that the concept retained its excitement for me, even if the actual section I was working on wasn’t coming together. I also realized that I don’t want to write him in the barrel-through method of Nanowrimo. I actually want to go back as things occur to me and fix the early parts of the book, rather than come back at a complete but damaged manuscript once all is done. When will I get back to it? Don’t know. Possibly in conjunction with writing CCC, or as a vacationy alternate to whatever I’m writing. I can read 200 comic series monthly and keep track of them, I can surely write two things and keep track, right? Squirrel!

It’ll also mean that I’m not stressing Kay out (who’s already going through her own stressy period) by operating at half-efficiency around the house and through school. Now, come January, you can all remind her of my sacrifice and guilt me up some good writing time then.

So, while 2010 turns out to be another Nano defeat, it’s not entirely a bad one. Keep watching my Nano page for word counts and nagging me about getting stuff done.


Tomorrow (or whenever): I want to tell you about my next reading project and invite others to join a little cabal I have in mind… (and I still owe Jen a shout-out, which I promise I will get to!)