Poplife: Issue #8

Thu, March 28th, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Matt Fraction, Columnist

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FRENCH MORTUARY PHONECALLS

I hate Los Angeles.

No, really.

I hate Los Angeles even more when I'm there as a part of Los Angeles. When I'm there for the industry. This is more of that charming "I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member" thing that I should seek therapy for.

Ben, Tim, and myself were supposed to be on this trip. We were going to meet with... umm... you know, I don't know if I'm allowed to say, actually. We'll call them Bad Clams. Simultaneously, I am to meet with SCIFI channel about turning MK12's short film MAN OF ACTION! into an animated series. Bad Clams are waiting on word from their higher-ups, and Ben decided to stay home. So it's Tim and I. We're going to hit SCIFI, and probably hang with the Bad Clams guys to meet, shake hands, grab a bite and hypothetically address the project we may or may not be working on, then turn around and leave again.

Okay.

So, I just moved. All my shit's still in boxes. I fell asleep on the couch last night and not in my bed. Not that that matters, as my bed is covered with shit anyway. Shit in boxes. I'm now officially a God Of Air Travel, so none of this deters me. I am packed and ready to go in fifteen minutes.

I am growing a beard that I have decided is ill conceived. I will not shave it.

Off we go.

We stay at a castle in Santa Monica. This is hideously inconvenient for each and every meeting we have to take, but it amuses us to do so, so we do so. It sparkles pretty at night and the ocean is right there.

Leaning over the balcony, we watch the cops shake down some bums five stories below. I offer Timmy ten bucks to go up to one of the bums and say "Hey, is this a bad time?"

He declines.

Last time I was here, last summer, it felt different. This feels weird, odd. It feels exhausted. I feel exhausted. There's no adrenaline, there's no fear, there's no perverse curiosity or energy. I'm tired and I want to sleep and fuck television and who cares.

I want to sit on the beach and write.

I'm not in the best mindsets to be here, no sir.

[Suparawk.]
Suparawk.
We have most of a day to kill, waiting for meetings tomorrow. So we call Charlie Chu. Charlie, recently laid off from his job, decides to ditch one of the precious few working days he has left and hang out with us. He makes the trek out to Santa Monica and thus begins his role as an aXian Virgil to our bohunk Dantes. We get the requisite Fatburger and sit outside, making fun of stuff.

We should get paid for it. Is there a grant for snark out there somewhere?

He takes us around the Promenade. I don't give a fuck if it's in California or Kentucky, it's a goddamn strip-mall. There's a toy store that sells a rubber band Gatling Gun, as well as complete sets of Lil Homiez , which Kelly Sue and I are currently obsessed with collecting. We have a few fistfuls sitting in a glass vase. More remarkable than seeing Hollywood in all his tiny plastic glory, however, are the Little Naked Babies. I don't know how to describe them better than that: there was a little bucket full of little, rubber, anatomically-correct, naked babies.

I shoulda bought, like, a hundred dollars' worth. I'd keep them in my pockets at all times and give them away to everyone I meet.

We stagger on to a few bookstores and a comics shop, the name of which escapes me.

"You come to LA and you want to go look at comics?" Chu derides, "You nerd."

Drive, bitch. Drive.

Getting coffee. The subject of ARTBOMB comes up. Before I quit writing for SAVANT waybackwhen, Charlie and I had several conversations about the idea of a Cahier du Cinema for comics. I had sorta burned out doing what I was doing, and the only idea that interested me anymore was to do a publication equally about theory and practice. Intelligent parsing of great comics, articles on theory and ideas, backed with comics produced by the people writing the articles. Something made by the up-and-coming, by kids like me hungry and scratching at doors with new thoughts and new styles and voices-a collected work journal, if you will, from the new wave: a catalogue of energy, a manifesto of creative joy.

There are a myriad of reasons why it never came to be, all of which too depressing to actually talk about, but I think both Charlie and I agree there's still use for such a thing.

I suppose, now that I think about it, The Comics Journal is coming close to that idea. They've started putting out a quarterly coffee-table compendium edition; the first contained tons of interviews, features, and exclusive comics done especially (if I understand correctly) for the volume. Quite an impressive accomplishment, the closest thing to what was in my head when I'd think about a Cahier for comics.

Most times, me and Charlie just talk about boobies.

We collate the MOA! bible on our hotel-room floor, staggering Charlie with our professionalism. We take it to Kinko's to get it bound; there are few things more depressing in Los Angeles than any Kinko's after nightfall.

Buying cigarettes, Charlie makes fun of my wallet. Which is actually a wallet I stole from Kelly Sue, a black leather thing with red flames on it, attached to my waist by a chain.

"What are you, a thirteen year old boy," he demands.

[Randolph Mantooth.]
Randolph Mantooth.
Defending the wallet as belonging to my girl doesn't help my case.

We hook up with my pal Jeff Drake. Y'all know Jeff Drake. He's the guy who was house-sitting for Randolph Mantooth once upon a phone call and thus the inspiration for me ripping off the name for Double Take. We catch up, tell funny stories. The four of us end up eating about seventy pounds of sushi at some strange restaurant.

I bring this up for no other reason than GODDAMN that was some good sushi. I think I can eat my own body-weight in eel. Who knew?

SCIFI meeting the next morning. We take a cab driven by a wind-weathered beach bum who refused to pick us up until he was done getting high. He asks what we're doing in town, I tell him about the pitch, and about the show idea. He says it sounds great, as long as Steve (the hero) sleeps with all the women and we don't 'turn him into one of those fag-boys.'

On our way from a little Mexican bakery to the meeting, we pass a giant cemetery.

The sign reads HOLLYWOOD FOREVER.

Creepy.

"Is it wrong that I'm not nervous about this?" I ask Tim. Tim doesn't think so; after all, this is all found money and found opportunity to us. We're doing okay without it, and we'll do okay with it either way.

The meeting goes as well as can be expected. Rick, the SCIFI guy, I feel an immediate kinship with, if for no other reason than he starts swearing before I do. We watch the tape, along with some co-horts of his. They seem to like the short, they like the idea, but Rick zeroes in on the problems he's going to have selling the show to his bosses.

Namely, no one learns and no one hugs. MOA! Is about as nihilistic as you can get: it's about fast crap, stuff sploding, dudes getting kicked, and the hero sleeping with all the women. Same appeal as James Bond, really, but this isn't what SCIFI are looking for, really.

We talk about doing some other work for them as a company, though, so either way it wasn't a waste of time. And while it went as well as can be expected, I pretty much knew it wasn't going to happen as we were leaving. It was fun, though, pretending for a little bit.

I'm in remarkably high spirits about the whole thing as we start walking towards Studio City for the meeting with the Bad Clams guys.

LA is not designed for walking. I mean, there are sidewalks there, ostensibly for walking on the side of things, but these appear to be used as passing lanes for skate trash and sleeping lanes for the homeless. Tim and I walking down a weird, ghetto strip of THE HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME is a bit like going for a stroll on Mars, I think. Of course we're tourists. We're not driving.

John Ford's star is outside of a luggage repair shop, by the way.

The Bad Clams meeting is fun. A STAR TREK documentary of some sort is being shot in the next office, so we're strangely quiet while talking, so much so that it becomes a distraction.

The main guy we're meeting with is a filmmaker named Mark Osborne. You may have seen his Academy Award-nominated short-film MORE, or if you go to film festivals his first feature, DROPPING OUT.

Funny thing is that we of MK12 saw DROPPING OUT (and Mark, for that matter) at South By Southwest a few years back. When he called us about working with him, we asked "Is this THE Mark Osborne?"

Apparently, Mark's not used to that.

For a guy that does lots of stop-motion animation, and makes strange little black comedies about suicide and documentaries, Mark Osborne is a startlingly good-looking guy. I don't know what it means that I'm saying this, but I was struck by this fact as he picked us up.

Well, actually, I was REALLY struck by the fact that I had just seen Cheech Marin and his daughter walk by me.

But yeah. Mark's a handsome guy. Not the kind of fella you think of when you think "stop-motion animator."

We hit it off with him and his producer Nick quite well, and have a blast talking about the project that may or may not happen. And after the meeting, he takes Tim and I back to our castle on the beach via Mulholland Drive, a winding and careening road far above Los Angeles.

Los Angeles almost looks good from up there.

[Chicken.  Waffles.]
Chicken. Waffles.
With less than twelve hours left, me, Tim, and Charlie do what any sensible folk would do. We round up a posse and go to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. First, we pick up Han. Han greets me by passing along a gift for my girl.

It's a Joey Fatone bobble-head thing. Apparently, Fatone is in a boy band, and my girl has some strange obsession with him. At least enough to where Han knew that giving this to her would alternately delight her and enrage me. Which it did.

Han, you horrible fucker. I want that thing out of my house.

Dan Evans is waiting for us at Roscoe's, as is CBR head honcho Jonah Weiland. Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles serves-get ready-chicken, and waffles. All of us order food like we've not eaten in weeks and tear into it, the whole time enduring loving admonishments from our waitress 'Momma'.

No, seriously, it said that on her name tag. Momma had a problem with people putting their elbows on the table, and kept threatening to give the bill to whomever had their elbows on last.

At one point, talking to Dan, I freeze and jerk my elbows up. Sure enough, Momma is there behind me, looking like she's going to throw a shoe at me.

Jonah says that POPLIFE has generated more negative mail-and, at the same time, more positive mail-to him than any other CBR column. So… thanks?

Chicken. Waffles. Sassy matronly waitresses that lecture you on table manners. Roscoe's is really just about perfect.

We go to Meltdown Comics, which just might be the best comic book store I've ever been to. It's certainly in the top three, that's for sure. I gather about eight million dollars worth of stuff; Tim, about sixteen million. Jonah begs out, and we proceed to the Hustler store. Tim wants to get a t-shirt for himself, and I'll get a BARELY LEGAL shirt for Kel.

While Tim wanders around, Dan, Han, Charlie, and myself sit down in the coffee shop part of the Hustler store-I know-and somehow the subject of fisting comes up. Charlie does his Seymore Butts Fisting demo. I bring up the Annie Sprinkle ten fingers/ten girls show.

"God," I say, "it would suck to be, like, Finger #4." We laugh.

"Well," says Dan, "I don't think you'd be too worried about that if you were ever actually in that situation."

"Jeez," I say facetiously, "I'm gonna get really claustrophobic if someone doesn't blow me soon."

There's more laughter, and just as it dies down, Han pipes up with:

"I'm gonna say that the next time I'm in an elevator. "

I almost shoot coffee out of my nose.

Dan Evans works in animation. He tells us a story at a bar later that night about leaving work to go to Toys R Us to find the figures for whatever show it was he was working on at the time. The only thing is that he refers to "Toys R Us" as 'T.R.U.'

T.R.U.

If Dan Evans wasn't already married, my telling you this would insure that he'd never get laid again.

Amazingly, Charlie takes us back to Santa Monica. His car will die on the way home when a timing belt breaks. We're at LAX the next morning, surrounded by shrimp-pink tourists on their way back home and women with Betty Page haircuts and weak white-girl chins. We have to be back at the office by seven that night, as we're hosting some sort of design guild open house thing that I don't really understand. All I know is that there's a presentation of some sort involved that we're going to have to make up as we go along. Then it's home to sleep, back to work the next day, and off to New York the following morning.

God, I'm tired.

Fraction + LA = Ha Ha Ha.
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