Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Very Special Issue of Superboy

This isn't a comics blog, mainly because there are a thousand of those on the web, if not more, and most of those people are better at reviewing, poking fun at, or giving serious thought to comic books than I am. Since I read comics, though, and I like to talk about myself, they're bound to come up from time to time, especially when I'm walking through the comic store and see something like this on the top of the 50 cent bin:

Superboy #189 (1)

What the hell? This is the cover of a code-approved comic written for children? And what's actually going on in the story? Why is Jonathan Kent dead? Why do the Kents have holes in their walls with slats visible? Did he hang himself? Was it because he tried to watch "Smallville: The Complete Seventh Season" in one sitting, and/or while sober? And why did the editor think it was a great idea to juxtapose the hanging body imagery with the headline for the delightful "Adventures of Super-Baby" backup feature?

I had to know, so I pulled Superboy #189 out of the 50 cent bin and carried it to the register with my other purchases. I could have flipped through it right there, I guess, but it's a store, not a library, and Mike, the owner, has to eat, too. When I walked up with it on top of my pile, he smirked.

"I knew if I put that on top of the bin someone would buy it."

"I just want to know what's going on. I mean, look at it! I have like a billion questions!"

"And for only fifty cents, you can have answers!"

Fifty cents won't even buy me a candy bar, but it can buy me the strangled corpse of Jonathan Kent. When I got home, I still had questions, so I set about finding answers.

Our story opens, as so many stories do, with Superboy showing his parents a gift from friendly aliens. It's the kind of present that fits in every home and decor: a metal bust of Superboy with glowing red eyes that shoots telepathic beams of unknown radiation into nearby people.

Superboy #189 (2)

I wonder if Superboy #190 is the equally special issue where his mom's brain explodes.

Anyway, like all people with telepathic metal busts of themselves, Superboy immediately uses it to remind his mom to get some dinner on the table, because the whole Women's Lib movement hasn't caught on yet. While we're looking at that picture, I'm also kind of confused by his mother's updo. Where's all that hair going? It's not pulled into a bun or a twist or a knot or anything. It just seems to be "up". Maybe it's just standing on end from too many doses of telepathic alien rays.

Before Superboy can use the telepathic metal bust of himself to order his dad to give him the car keys and some money for a pack of smokes, there's a knocking at the door, and when Jonathan Kent answers a magic noose flies out of nowhere, wraps around his neck, and tries to strangle him before Superboy saves him. In most houses, a disembodied flying rope trying to strangle the patriarch would be kind of a problem, but Jonathan calmly explains that it's just the Kent Family Strangling Curse:

Superboy #189 (3)

That last guy, if you didn't click the picture to check, was strangled BY HAIR. That's a pretty determined, pissed off ghost they're dealing with, and Superboy responds in the best possible way: by flying off to another, more important emergency. Twice. Rather than staying home to guard his dad, who is promptly half strangled by a tree branch, a garden hose, and a piece of industrial cable from a giant spool that just happens to be laying around the neighborhood. Smallville is a booming center of industry, you know, what with the general store and the bank and all.

Superboy makes it back to save his father each time, to the point that you kind of wonder if maybe he's letting his dad get choked a little on purpose. I mean, that roast beef dinner he wanted still isn't on the table, and fear is a great motivator. Really, though, he's just figuring out that they're not fighting a vengeful ghost, but rather than vengeful disembodied spirits of the Phantom Zone criminals, who were trapped in a hellish bodiless existence for all eternity by Superboy's birth father.

And what are they using to enact their revenge?

Superboy #189 (4)

You got it: the telepathic metal alien bust of Superboy with glowing red eyes, which Superboy must then destroy to save his father from alien criminals imprisoned in another dimension by his other father.

And this is why Superboy can't have nice things.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pretty Flowers and Ugly Trucks

Yesterday was supposed to be my "go to the office for a little while" day and today was supposed to be my "go have fun and run errands" day, but yesterday someone above me had a water line leak and water was coming out of my ceiling lights in the kitchen. There wasn't any damage to my apartment since I'm on the bottom and it was several floors above, but I spend about four hours waiting, mopping, and keeping the lights off while maintenance worked their way down. That meant that everything I usually do over the course of the weekend got condensed to today only, and some stuff got dropped.

The trip I would have taken today was one of those things, but to make up for it I squeezed in an hour of walking around the university gardens between going to the office and going to the comic store. Last time I went it was raining, but it was much sunnier today, and I got some pretty shots:


I love that zoom way in setting.


pink flower

striped leaves


I also saw some strange, waxy berries:

ripening berries

They looked like they were made of plastic, so I touched them while no one was looking and confirmed that they were real. I'm pretty sure they don't actually use plastic flowers at the gardens, but you never know.

I am also super proud of this picture:

flower with fly

I was sure the fly would buzz away before I could get all the way in and get focused, but for some reason he stayed put, and there it is. That's probably one of my best shots ever, and definitely one of the best ones I've taken at the gardens.

After the gardens I went to the comic store, and then was on my way to the grocery store when I saw this in the old K-Mart parking lot:

religious panel truck (2)

I turned in to the Taco Bell to loop back around so fast I'm surprised my tires didn't squeal.

"Did that truck say 'homosexual thieves'?"

Not quite, but close.

A few brief notes for the religious panel truck developers:

1) That's way too many words on the side of a truck for a four lane road. People drive fast on that street, and everybody doesn't have the time or inclination to turn around and see what your truck actually says. I got two words off of that, so you might want to trim your message down to that size. I suggest "SIN = BAD!" It's short and easy to read while I'm scanning the road.

2) Location is important! That parking lot is huge, and now that the bank and K-Mart are both closed, mostly empty. Park that thing up by the corner, so that people stuck at the light can read your huge block of text.

3) Spelling and grammar are important.

religious panel truck

"Adultry" is not a word, but "adultery" is. If you want to appear to be an authority, appearing educated enhances your credibility. Also, does that part at the bottom say "Hatred is Murder, Abortion" or "Hatred is Murderabortion"? Do the murder and the abortion even have anything to do with each other, or are they two messages with poor spacing between them?

4) Think about your imagery. I didn't even realize that was Jesus on the front side until I'd gotten out of the car, and he looks pretty rough there. Satan, on the other hand, looks like he just got done working his pecs in Hell's Weightroom. If I'm reading this correctly, the truck is trying to tell me that Jesus equals sweaty, screaming agony, and Satan equals Contestant Number Five at the West Hollywood Halloween Party. Mr. Red Abs and McSteamy Facial Hair is not the way to make homosexuality look unattractive.

I'm probably not that truck's target market, anyway, but still, that's my advice.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Through Conformity

Like millions of other Americans, yesterday I celebrated our independence from colonial rule by gathering en masse to watch fireworks and eat overpriced food. Winging a plan, I met Bryan downtown for early dinner, and then we met up with Jess at the World's Fair Park.

sunsphere with flag

A good time was had by all, and, of course, there were explosions:

fireworks (1)

fireworks (2)

fireworks (3)

Yay for America!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Escape from Parrot Mountain

My day yesterday didn't go quite like I thought it would. I had planned to go have a touristy adventure of the World's Largest Ten Commandments type, giggly and sneery and kind of cute all at the same time, but for some reason it didn't quite happen.

My plan seemed to be off to a good start. My friend Bryan agreed to go with me, imagining a day of wacky tourist fun, and we hit the road only ten minutes late and following our plan. To start, we had a world's largest,in this case the World's Largest As Seen on TV Store:

largest as seen on tv store

Yes, just when you thought Pigeon Forge couldn't get more awful it still manages to surprise you. They're also currently building a Titanic "museum and attraction" that's actually shaped like the Titanic. It already looks like the kind of over the top tacky that makes you wonder why people come to Pigeon Forge at all, and I can't wait to get a picture of it. I might even visit.

After driving past the World's Largest something, we also had breakfast at a pancake house:

the Little House of Pancakes

This is what you do when you visit Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg. You pick a pancake house and pull in for a pancake buffet, and once that's over, you head for your wacky adventure. Our planned destination was Parrot Mountain.

Parrot Mountain stumbled onto my tourist radar once before, and managed to fall off again without being visited. Last year when my friend Lauren and I went to Dollywood we noticed this sign high above the parking area:

parrot mountain?

Lauren had never heard of it, and I kept meaning to look into it, but never got much further than, "It's a bird place, like a zoo." Zoos don't have signs like that, though. Homemade Americana tourist attractions have signs like that, and I love those places. Like I said, though, I never got around to looking into it because I got busy and I sort of forgot about it until someone left a comment on my photo last week:

"Parrot Mountain is beautiful.It has all kinds of Parrots"

This intrigued me, so I went to look at their website. I was promised baby birds, lots of parrots, and a prayer garden with a replica of Jesus' tomb.

"Wait, what?" Bryan asked.

"It's a religious themed bird sanctuary!" I explained excitedly. "Look! Look at the coupon I found!"

expiration date

"We are totally going on Friday, as long as Jesus doesn't come back by then!"

See, I was expecting a homemade extravaganza full of snake handlers, but with parrots instead of snakes. That's not quite what we got, but you couldn't tell at first from the entrance:

Parrot Mountain

Angel statues and the sounds of shrieking birds greeted us after a sketchy uphill drive through the backwoods, but once we paid and got inside, we found birds. Lots of birds:


gray parrot

red parrots

The birds seemed well cared for, and had perches and cages and educational signs. We learned about habitats and tourism and what they ate and whether or not they were endangered, and we kind of forgot that we were looking for cheesy and possibly deeply religious tourism. Even when we actually did wander into the prayer garden, it was kind of peaceful:

Jesus in the Smokies

So, planned or otherwise, we did actually learn about birds. For one thing, we learned that they bite:

birds will bite

In the absence of fingers, they will also bite the hell out of signs:

ripped sign

We learned that toucans:

toucan pair

another toucan


will eat insects, amphibians, small lizards, and other birds. This carnivorous fact has never, ever been shared on the side of a Fruit Loops box, but now that I know the truth I can never look Toucan Sam in the eye again.

We also learned that birds are just a Hitchcock movie waiting to happen. I was innocently watching the Sun Conures groom each other:

sun conures

When suddenly one flew up to the front of the cage:

sun conure attack

Then another:

sun conure attack (2)

And then they were swarming!

sun conure attack (3)

sun conure attack (3)

They were biting and clawing at the cage and I swear one of them wanted me to put my fingers inside!

Amused and disturbed, we wandered away to the rest of the garden:


yellow crest

red closeup


sleeping yellow birds

It was while we were wandering the garden that this one talked to me:


He said "Hello", so I said "Hello", and then I was reading the sign explaining that Parrot Mountain is also a sanctuary for birds that have been abused, neglected, or whose owners can no longer care for them, and I realized the parrot knew how to say "Hello" because he used to be somebody's parrot and he had a home and a family and now he was all alone at Parrot Mountain with all the other parrots saying hi to random people who maybe reminded him of his lost family and I was stuffing a dollar into the donation box and somehow I stopped being a sneering tourist and I turned into a bleeding heart parrot saver and I'm not sure how that happened or what happened in between.

But the birds sure were pretty:

mottled green bird

Thank God I got out before I accidentally bought one.