Loose Cannon: Issue #30

Fri, August 10th, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Larry Young, Columnist

LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP

Apparently, the entire world has gone mental.

I used to think it was just the comic book industry, but now I'm pretty sure there isn't enough common sense left in the United States to fill a bathtub.

Here are a few things that just leave me shaking my head:

I follow football, during the season. I'm one of the only guys I know who actually likes Dennis Miller providing color on Monday Night Football (on an out-of-bounds tackle: "That hit was later than Godot."), and I go to a couple of Niners games every year.

I read the papers.

[Raiders]This past week, Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Darrell Russell (who, I will note, has been a Pro Bowler for two of his four years as a professional ballplayer) was suspended for four games because he violated the NFL's politically-correctly-termed "substance abuse policy."

Now, I've seen a little of how the world works, and I know this has to be his second offense, because the first only carries a fine, but I sort of wondered as I read the news what Russell was thinking. I mean, the NFL has bagged you on a drug violation once, and now you're in their crosshairs forever. A player has to submit to drug tests both during playing months and in the off-season. That's it, so you better get used to it.

So you'd have to be mental to have so much as a Tylenol without clearing it with your team doctor, or you'd end up suspended for fully one-quarter of the season.

Now, I was having a bit of a disconnect with this one, because Russell certainly seemed like he was walking the straight and narrow. He's playing superior ball in one of the world's most punishing sports for a team known for its brutality on the field. A guy lighting up like Jeff Spicoli just isn't going to be playing at the top of his game on Sunday. Russell's a team leader; has the respect of the local sports media. Has his own charitable foundation, even.

So what happened?

Seems this guy is getting screwed out of twenty-five per cent of his paycheck because he didn't return a phone message fast enough.

Apparently, he wasn't home when the NFL brownshirts called to arrange the drug testing, and then went to practice at his job, figuring they'd sort it at the field. After all, he's passed hundreds of drug tests since his initial violation…

Boom. Sit down for four games, pal.

Of course there's more to the story; there always is. But you know what Trace Armstrong, president of the damn player's own union said, when asked for his take on Russell's plight?

"A policy is a policy. The guys know the rules."

That sort of shit drives me crazy; the fall-back position of "Hey, those are the rules… I can't do anything." How about this? How about looking at the big picture? If the guy's got bottles of steroids falling out of his pockets, or looks like he's re-enacting the last twenty minutes of Scarface, sure, sit him down. But failing to return a phone call fast enough?

I just hope there's more to this one, is all, because that's just stupid.

[Boy Scouts]Another story that just had me shaking my head is the latest siege that Berkeley, California's mayor and city council brought on themselves, by refusing to meet with a group of visiting Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts from Berkeley's sister city of Sakai, in Japan.

Of course, the decision to refuse to meet these travelling innocents and show them gracious American hospitality was made because of an abstract protest against the American Boy Scout's ban on homosexuals.

Japanese Scouts have no policy on homosexuals, but, according to a story in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle, since the troop would be accompanied by Berkeley Scouts, the mayor and a city councilman took the opportunity to play up the fact that they just weren't meeting with any group who discriminates against anyone.

Which, this time, of course, proved nothing except to make the mayor and the city council look like idiots to the Pacific Rim.

And this is in the People's Republic of Berkeley, mind you, which styles itself as a haven for all. It's unbelievable.

So politicians trying to make political hay at the expense of innocents is a bad thing; check. Which the mayor and the city council might have realized had they used a bit of common sense.

This last one is a head-scratcher, too.

[Ministry of Space #1]I'm a big fan of Warren Ellis and Chris Weston and Laura dePuy and Mike Heisler's Ministry of Space, and I'd love to get a copy of the first issue for my dad to read, but it's been sold out since the first week it came out. The fact that it's unavailable absolutely stuns me.

Now, like the Darrell Russell story above, I'm sure there's a lot more to the tale than what is immediately obvious to comic book industry observers, but with a dash of common sense and just a pinch of think-it-through, we could have all enjoyed as much Ministry of Space as we could have handled.

Now, most of you know that Image Central is more of a co-op than a publisher, yes? So once the first printing sells out, in order to do another printing, the creators would have to front the cash for it… and that's a little self-defeating, as then Ellis and Weston and dePuy and Heisler would become de facto self-publishers. And since there is no publisher, per se, the company can't put up for printing bill. So it's rock-and-a-hard place time. First issue and its overprint sold out; that's great. But there's also an unfilled, waiting demand for more.

Believe me when I tell you there were a whole lot of retailers who misjudged the interest in that book, and who probably could have sold another 100% of their initial order on a second printing.

All Image had to do was solicit Ministry of Space #1 again, and the economic hit would have been shifted to the retailers, who, this time, actually wouldn't have minded bearing the brunt of it because they knew they had a waiting audience for the product. It could have been solicited in Diamond Dateline, like that dead Princess Diana thing Topps did back when she wasn't yet cold in her grave. Second prints of Ministry of Space could have been in shops in six to eight weeks, because all of your pre-press is already done, and Image could have got another cut of the book, and the creators would have extra cash, and the retailers would be heroes for putting a sought-after book into their customers' hands.

Just a big bag of money sitting there, unclaimed.

Why do people not use common sense? Has the whole world gone mental?

LARRY'S NON-SUBTLE EXHORTATION THIS WEEK TO THOSE READING: "This one's not about football, or homosexuals, or Image Comics, so save your ire. The point of this one is: next time you have a decision to make, apply some common sense. That's all."

For the storyteller, certain character archetypes are indispensable tools of the trade. You can't tell stories without larry@comicbookresources.com

Air out any tales you have about people dropping the common sense ball at the Loose Cannon Message Board

Award-winning author Warren Ellis will be making his only U. S. personal appearance this year, no doubt regaling the crowds and making his mark in available copies of Transmetropolitan and Come in Alone, at Comic Relief, on September 8th from 3 pm – 6 pm. Hit the website for more info.

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