Poplife: Issue #37

Thu, October 24th, 2002 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Matt Fraction, Columnist

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BITCHING OUT

POPLIFE is a collection of excerpts from my work journal. There is no specific form or function the column serves other than to allow the reader to see what my experience in my first year as a comics-writer is like. Some weeks I get work done, so I talk about work. Some weeks I don't get any work done, so I ramble incoherently. POPLIFE's purpose is to provide a glimpse behind the curtain of my specific process.

Kieron Dwyer is coming to town soon to take part in a comic convention and to hang out. I'm excited. We've never met, and as he's drawing my first OGN (that's LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS, if you've forgotten), it'll be nice to sit down with him and chew the fat for a while. Ostensibly, I'm a guest at that show, too, which will be a first for me. I bet I get a nametag and everything. More on that next week, I guess.

I'm prepping to shoot those spots for SHONext, finally; that goes on the end of next week. MK12 continue to revise our bigass pitch, which is gobbling up every ounce of time around it, apparently.

But I've been thinking about TV a lot lately. I don't know so much about it, really. I mean, there are shows out there that I know and watch but the world of cable-- ostensibly our big client now, cable networks-- are a bit of a mystery. So, in the name of Researching Shit All Scientific-Like, I took a stroll around the dial, recording my thoughts, learning the broadcast spectrum as I went.

I went in search of wisdom.

O2- The Adopt A Pet Channel. Here is a woman holding a puppy at the camera, inviting me to adopt him. I like this channel. I like puppies. I like women.

03- Our local CBS affiliate. Today, we are being told about tornados.

04- Public Access, maybe? This is a very lo-fi show with a preacher talking. It looks like it was filmed in 1982. The giveaway that it was not in fact recorded in 1982 is the text at the bottom, EMAIL: JENIKCMO@AOL.COM. It of course occurs to me that this may indeed be a broadcast originally taped and aired in 1982, perhaps this program is called PULPIT CLASSICS and the email address is a post-internet addendum. Or maybe it was shot with a shitty camera.

05- The Fireworks Channel. This appears to be all information about fireworks. Can't argue with giving people what they want.

06- The Crest Toothpaste Channel. Evidentially, Crest removes stains and whitens teeth. Here is a channel to prove it. Laboriously.

07- ABC. They are showing golf. The logo is at the bottom right of the corner. ABC.

08- The Young Warren Beatty Channel. Is this THE PARALLAX VIEW? I think it might be. It is! It is THE PARALLAX VIEW!

09- Shop at Home Network.

10- The They Might Be Lesbians Channel. Here are two women sitting on a blanket in the woods talking to one another. There seems to be more going on than what they're talking about. A subtext. A palpable Sapphic subtext. I think one of them is a lesbian. The other is not, but is probably thinking really hard about trying it. Right on.

11- The Little Mister Dandy Channel. A series of oil paintings of a little boy in a little outfit, dissolving slowly between one another. Very classy. Someone is talking, but I am not listening as I am now wondering where I may purchase a frilly lace cravat of my very own.

12- The Terrible Local Baseball Team Channel. We have a Terrible Local Baseball Team, and on channel 12 they remind us of this. Even though their year is over, here they are, error-ing and losing their way through another dumbass season. I swear to god, this team sucks so bad as to be biblical. Perhaps our Terrible Local Baseball Team's stadium was built over an ancient Indian burial ground.

13- The Trees and Sky Channel. This appears to be a channel focusing on long, slow shots of trees and the sky. Truth in advertising, that's what I say.

14- The Superstation! There's the logo. Steven Segal is talking on a phone in a hushed, angry tone. It now occurs to me that he always sounds like that. I imagine he could read The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufock and sound hushed and angry. "Do I dare… dissssturb the universssssse" and whatnot.

15- WGN. How odd. I turned the channel, and WGN flashed its logo five times at me. WGN, WGN, WGN, WGN, WGN! YOW!

16- The Prank Spray Channel. You know Prank Spray. It's that spray that you spray on unwanted or unliked body hair and then wipe it away (and off of your body, ostensibly) with a towel. Men even use it on their back and chest hair. This is probably the most terrifying thing to ever spring forth from the mind of man. We call it Prank Spray.

17- The Gentle Shots of Old Churches Channel. The camera pans to and fro across the detailed trelliswork of an elaborate old church. The trelliswork is so detailed as to include sculpted figures. I think I am looking at the apostles, perhaps. There's a string concerto playing, but I don't recognize it. You know that song 'A Fifth of Beethoven'? That's a funny song.

18- The Earth Channel. This is really fascinating. This appears to be pictures of the earth from various satellites in her orbit. The shots last several minutes, and then a title card comes up, telling the viewer what satellite is about to provide images, and then what those images are. Like STS-99 EARTH VIEWS: NTS19091: PACIFIC OCEAN. No sound, no music. It makes me realize how small we all are, and how insignificant, to have a television station devoted to showing us what our planet looks like from outer space.

19- Nothing.

20- The Actual TV Guide Channel. This is a channel that you watch on your TV that tells you what else you could be watching. The top half is 'programming' of some sort. What's odd is that the Actual TV Guide Channel lists itself amongst its listings, describing the content of its top half. The only thing that would make any of this any better would be if the top-half content were to show a TV Critic talking about the good and the bad of The Actual TV Guide channel. All this self-recursive bullshit is giving me a headache.

21- Nothing.

22- Nothing.

23- The Home Shopping Network.

24- The Screaming Kids Channel. Here are-- oh, it's MTV.

25- The Facelift Without Surgery Channel. I don't know what this is, but I turned the channel and it said that in big letters. How creepy is that? It is very creepy. There is a spray, a magic spray, I don't know.

26- The Everybody's Speakin' in Spanish Channel. Quite possibly the greatest thing I have ever seen. Look at all those shiny suits!

27- The Shopping TV Home Shopping Shop TV channel channel.

28- The Shoptastic TV Television TV Network Shopamaniac TV Superduperstation of all the Television Channels Channel.

29- The Science Fiction Workout Channel. Here are people wearing strange science fiction-type workout wear, on a bizarre brushed metal faux-industrial set speaking about muscle fitness-- and the future thereof. Sorta creepy, sorta hot.

30- CNN-SI. There's a logo. Whew! Otherwise, I might not have known that I was watching sports-centric news.

31- The Weather Channel. Why do people need a TV channel telling them what the weather is like? Do these people not have windows and doors? Ohh! Perhaps it is intended primarily for prison inmates.

32- The Creepy John Travolta Channel. Here is a movie with John Travolta, a young Travolta, with a mullet. He is trying to 'score' with a 'chick' in the back seat of his 'hot rod'. It is 'creepy'. Oh, okay, it's CARRIE; I've seen CARRIE before. She is saying "I hate Carrie White," and slinking under the dashboard. The girl is starting to 'fellate' him. Look-- Travolta is now 'acting'.

33- The… oh. I was going to make a snarky comment, but it's a sports channel of some sort and someone has just been hurt. It looks like a Strong Man competition. The man in question was injured while walking… hm, how to explain this. Okay-- there's a bucket filled to the brim with big heavy logs. The bucket is attached to a jib arm, the challenge is to carry the bucket-- and bucket implies something small, when this is in fact something very large, the size of a coal cart, like the one Indiana Jones got away in at the end of Temple of Doom-- around in a circle, which is monitored and regulated by the jib arm. And the man's knee exploded. He fell and hit his head on the bucket. His wife ran over. She was very sad. He was in a lot of pain. Because his knee exploded. Because his future as a Strong Man is now doubt. Strong Men need knees that do not explode. Almost-Strong Men cannot bring home the bacon. She will find love in the arms of another.

34- ESPN. Prodigious logo placements here. Wait a minute-- they're showing a ball game of some sort from 1999. What the shit? Are there no other actual real live happening-right-now sports to cover? What about sumo? Rodeo? Sumo-Rodeo? I wonder if I can talk someone into betting on this game with me. I will not tell them it is old. I will look up who won the game, whatever this game is, on the Internet. I will find my mark, and bet with them, and make a fortune. I am a criminal mastermind.

35- The Old Basketball Game Channel. Here is an old basketball game from some time in the mid-eighties, rebroadcast now exactly as it was then. Look at how the coaches are dressed! They look like circus pimps.

36- VH1. Here is BEHIND THE MUSIC, and they are talking about a band called CREED. I would like to talk to you about CREED. CREED are a horrible band and a horrible batch of human beings. Don't even get me started on whether or not CREED have had a career worthy talking about on TV. I worry about the kids these days. What are they listening to, if not weird rape-o thrash rock? They are listening to the Gigantic Pussy Rock of CREED, that's what. CREED must have gotten on the horn to some pussy physicists at MIT to figure out how to make their music even more pussy than it was before. Certainly the music could get no pussier than what it was, everyone agreed. And yet, here are CREED proving me wrong, gleefully. Look, they are singing, we talked to that Nobel Prize-winning pussy physicist, and he made a pussy-rock supercollider, and we have thus created rock music so pussy as to be a modern marvel. Jesus.

37- The Singing Lady Channel. Man, she's really belting that sombitch out.

38- The Explosions and Running Channel. Explosions, and people running through explosions. Oh, wait-- it's Arena Football. Man, they've really spruced it up since I last watched.

39- The Robert Redford Channel. He looks old and weird. He looks like leather with hair. Sentient Beef Jerky in modest leisurewear. This is not to speak ill of his talents (which are many and various), but maybe now is the time for Bob to hang out behind the camera exclusively.

40- The Anti-Bear Suit Channel. Here is a channel devoted to a man named Troy and his quest to build a bear-proof suit. I don't think he wants to fight the bears, which is what I would do if I had a bear-proof suit. Bears would kick my ass.

41- The Former Death Row Inmate Channel. Here is man named Michael Graham who, we are told, is a former death row inmate from 1987-2000. But he is not there anymore, and if he's talking he cannot be dead. Therefore he must have been freed, freed because he was wrongly incarcerated. How shitty is that? I wonder if he used to watch The Weather Channel in-between meetings with his lawyers.

42- The Widows of Steve Allen Channel. Here is Jayne Meadows, Widow of Entertainer Steve Allen. Ahh, spotted the logo: Book TV, CSPAN-2. What the fuck? Book TV? Am I the only one that sees this? Maybe I am going crazy.

43- Headline News. Jesus lord FUCK, who thought this design was a good idea?

44- CNN. There are many problems in the world, many people dying horribly. Also, Americans appear to be enjoying the program FRIENDS.

45- The Things That Move Other Things Like Very Large Boats Channel. This appears to be a channel devoted to things that move other things, specifically very large boats. They look like little robots under there-- five or six of them with a big huge boat resting on top of them. It's a little odd, seeing a boat on the land. Like seeing a bird in a car.

46- The Fop Channel. Look! Fops!

47- The Serial Killer Channel. A large text graphic alerts me to three full hours of Evil Sons, or some such. Three! Full! Hours! That's a lot of evil sons out there. I wonder sometimes if my mom thinks of me as evil. I don't think she does, but it would certainly hurt if she ever did. I think I would stop doing just about anything I was doing if my Mom told me doing it was evil. I really do. How shitty do you have to be for your own mom to call you 'evil'? Pretty shitty, that's how shitty.

48- The Binoculars Channel. If watching people looking at things through binoculars is your bag, then this channel is the... bag... master.

49- The Tightly-Sweatered Girls Putting Things in Their Lockers Channel. Here are attractive young girls in tight sweaters, putting things in their lockers. Of course there's an audience for this. Hell, I watched it for about six hours before moving on.

50- The Old Train Channel. I have been thinking about investing in a train set for my father next Christmas. A good one; a big one. He had a set when he was a kid, a set that was by all accounts pretty nice. He built on it over the years and it was the only 'toy' that he held onto from his childhood. He brought it with him when he and my mom (and me, but I was too young to remember any of this, and thus this whole anecdote falls into the realm of the category of Unremembered Legendary Ephemera, which all families seem to have) moved to Chicago. Kept in a storage facility outside of our apartment building, one day my dad's trains were stolen along with a bunch of other stuff kept there. To this day, on occasion, my dad laments losing his train set. So maybe he'd like a new train set. He could set it up in the spare room, the new spare room, a whole little town built around a chugging little train. They sell those, you know. Little town pieces, little buildings, little streetlights, little people. However, these fuckers are expensive. Mom and I may have to go in together on it. I don't know. Trains are neat. Hey, dad, if you're reading this, I'm just fucking around. You're not getting any trains for Christmas. You're getting hams. Lots and lots of hams.

51- The Winter Cotillion Channel. Look at all the rich people drinking.

52- The Screaming, Cooking Man Channel. He screams! He cooks! Why is he screaming? What is he cooking? But more importantly, why is he SCREAMING?

53- The New AOL 8.0 Channel! Isn't it great?

54- The House Channel. If you're tuning into a TV show to learn how to build a house, then building a house is the LAST of your problems.

55- The Inky Blackness Channel. Maybe a sister station to The Earth Channel. Maybe for space aficionados who want more space and less planet.

56- The He Started Hitting Me on my Body Channel. A girl said "He started hitting me on my body," and I quickly changed back to the Inky Blackness Channel and awaited the hinky feeling caused by The He Started Hitting Me on my Body Channel to pass.

57- The Lemur Channel. Look! A lemur! Peeking at me! Hello lemur! Lemur lemur lemur!

58- Cartoon Network. If I had this channel and the Earth Channel when I was in high school, I would be high right now and living on my parent's couch, working part time at Taco Bell. I would weigh 300 pounds and call my pot 'cheeba,' a little thing I'd have picked up from my years and years of being a subscriber to HIGH TIMES.

59- The Analysis Channel. It said ANALYSIS right as I turned it. I got bored before I figured out what the hell they were analyzing. Maybe they were talking about me.

60- The Talking Raccoon Channel. Self-explanatory.

61- The Beautiful Skin Guaranteed Channel. A split-screen of a woman's face, a woman looks vaguely like Florence Henderson, and one side is before, the other is after the application of some sort of magic spray. Probably connected to the Facelift Without Surgery Channel, on 25, and thus connected ostensibly to the Prank Spray Channel on 16. What's really important is the split-screen. The woman looks no different on either side, just less oiled on the left. She does look like Florence Henderson, though.

62- The Applause Channel. This is great! People just clapping. A real boost to the old self-esteem. If only they'd play some Queen.

63- The Old Man and Little Boys Channel. I don't mean that to sound all NAMBLA. It's an old man and a little boy, talking. There's some sort of relationship between the two of them. Oh no! The old man has a ponytail. Major uncool, grandpa.

64- The A-Team Channel. I could've cured cancer by now for all the episodes of A-Team I've watched.

65- The Lets Throw Things At One Another Channel. Pretty people throwing things at one another. Usually accompanied by screams, and then crying. Then someone storms off. If you were watching this channel Close Captioned, it may read like this: Crash! Smash! Weep! Slam!

66- The Golf People Are Talking Channel. Here are a bunch of golfers, talking math and science about golf. How very strange, to apply math and science to such an endeavor. Shouldn't one simply hit the hell out of the ball? Why do we need all this math and science? And what good does all that math and science do you if you don't hit the hell out of the ball? A magic golf club is just a magic stick in the hands of someone who cannot golf well, that's what I think. Unless it's really magical, in which case, take THAT, math and science.

67- The Strange European Animation Channel. Have you ever noticed that European animation is immediately identifiable as being European? When I was in Europe, I saw my first real life machine gun, held by soldier people, who were running willy-nilly around the airport. Kinda creepy. Man, am I totally off-topic. This channel sucks.

68- The Smoochers Channel. The channel for smoochers. For they whom smooch and are smooched. For they whom smooching is the name of the game. Smooch central. Knock Knock. Who's there? Smoochers. Then come in and let's kiss.

69- The Science People Drawing Things on a Chalkboard, Cross-Cut with Military People Planning Things to do with Science Channel. Man, I wonder if the scientists and the military people are in cahoots? Maybe they are planning on building giant robots. That would be great. Hell, I'd join the army if I could get my hands on a giant warmongering robot.

70- The Dogs In Cars Channel. Here's a happy dog, a setter of the Irish persuasion, hanging his head out of a nice old truck that's red and rusty. I had an idea once for a calendar that I wanted to sell to Hallmark and make a million dollars. It would be the Dogs In Cars Calendar: 12 months of full color photos of all sorts of breeds of dogs hanging their heads out of cars, ears flopping in the wind, tongue all a-wag in automotive dogstacy. Probably a little too cute and too precious an idea to really hit huge with the youth market, but at the same time only an ogre could not smile at the site of a dog hanging his head out of a window at sixty miles an hour. Dogs in Cars make me smile, always. Usually I will point them out, audibly. Makes me think fondly of the Adopt-A-Pet Channel and lament ruefully my uncounted (and unearned) millions.

71- The Widescreen Channel. Everything looks much more serious in widescreen.

72- The Sweet Sweet Love Channel. For you smoochers a little too hot to cool down, here's The Sweet Sweet Love Channel, where lovers make sweet sweet love under tastefully-placed sheets while gentle, swaying orchestral pieces accompanies their every lovelorn sigh. And just look at that lighting-- it says 'classy' and 'love' in the same breathless... um... breath. Not as dirty as The Scrambled Porn Channel, not as prurient as The Tightly-Sweatered Girls Putting Things In Lockers Channel, and hotter than The Smoocher Channel.

73- The Headbanger Guys Tour The Stadium With You Channel. Two headbanger guys are wandering beneath a labyrinthian stadium, pointing out to us, the viewers, what room is what, and what musician is behind what doors. You can hear R A W K being played above them, even though it is muted and echoe-y, here in the bowels of the stadium. There goes a man on a golf cart! Maybe he is driving to the Golf People Are Talking Channel to tell them about how science had perfected golf.

74- The Scrambled Porn Channel. This is probably an actual porn channel, and is scrambled only because I am not paying for it, but if I ran a cable company I would actually start a Scrambled Porn Channel. On The Scrambled Porn Channel, I would broadcast porn that was pre-scrambled and broadcast with just enough clarity to make the viewer feels as though they were getting away with something naughty.

Now I am a goddamned TV Genius. My psychographic research has made me great. I am now better armed to fix television. You may thank me later.

And speaking of thanking me later, THE ANNOTATED MANTOOTH! is solicited in the current PREVIEWS. This collects the three MANTOOTH! stories from Funk-O-Tron's DOUBLE IMAGE series as done by me, Andy Kuhn, and Timmy Fisher. Aside from the stories, all gussied up and perfected, it's got an Introduction bv Warren Ellis, a Preface by Joe Casey, and a Publisher's Note by Larry Young, and some other surprises in there from marketable names you may have heard of. It's got the scripts and annotations to those scripts and all sorts of dumbass behind-the-scenes sort of things. It's got a pinup gallery featuring Jeremy Love, Carla Speed McNeil, Steven Sanders and more. And it's got a new-ass cover by Hector Casanova. It's 96 pages of Rex Mantooth Awesomenicity, available for preorder now with the following magic number: OCT022287. It's $12.95, and will lull you into a gentle state of alpha-level hypnosis, leaving you energized and revitalized.

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