Flogging A Dead Horse

Wed, May 17th, 2006 at 7:00am PDT

Comic Books
Paul Jenkins, Staff Writer

Nigh Perfect and I spent more than three months cleaning up our old house after the damage caused by the tornado. No one had told us it was going to be like this. In the meantime, while I was recovering from another knee surgery, poor Nigh Perfect had to have that pesky gall bladder removed. The result was pure comedy genius, if you ask me.

I know, chums… I know. You have all been extremely worried about me since there was no episode of Flogging last week. I am sure the internet was buzzing with news of my mysterious disappearance. At least it would have been if anybody gave a rat’s ass.

Alas, these are trying times indeed. I have been trying to stay ahead of schedule, my dogs keep trying to escape from the huge, tornado-induced hole through the middle of the fence, and my Insurance Company has been trying to settle our claim for five dollars and a 50% coupon to IHOP. I might soon be found trying to break into their national headquarters in search of their head claims adjuster for a discussion on the relative merits of Paying People What You Owe Them.

There is a lot of small print, I have found, in the rules and regulations of an insurance policy. There is also a lot of small print on the business end of a shovel, written inside that little warning label sticker that essentially says, “Do not hit people over the head with this item.” I noticed it one time as I was taking a break from my endeavors in the back yard. On a completely random and unrelated note, does anyone know the correct burial dimensions for, say, a six-foot tall insurance adjuster? If anyone asks, you never heard a thing and besides, you’re pretty sure I was in Cleveland last weekend.

Since last we caught up, there have been developments. I have been working in LA on film related stuff, I have been writing Civil War and conceiving new video games and promoting the Darkness at E3…

… and Nigh Perfect has had surgery on her gall bladder. I know all you Nigh Perfect Fan Club members are legion (and unpredictable), so I urge you all to stay calm. She is fine… maybe a little bruised and annoyed. She sends her love and urges you to reciprocate with cards and flowers. And money.

But the point is, it is sheer madness around here. I don't know about you, chums, but I often feel as though my mind is the pilot and my body is the Hindenberg. Don’t believe me? Then check out the insanity in a little spot I like to call…

When Podcasts Go Bad

It was a dark and dreary Friday.

That day, my lovely wife was scheduled for her surgery at precisely 7.30 AM. Since I am a bit of a night owl, I had gone to bed at precisely 6.45 AM, so you can see the obvious plot device in this equation. Yes indeed, I was utterly shattered as I handed Baby Torak off to his Perfect grandparents and swerved through Atlanta traffic towards our favorite hospital. I noted with somewhat sleepy interest that people kept driving off the road whenever I veered towards them. Strangely, everyone seemed to be driving the wrong way on the highway. Sometimes I despair at the craziness of Atlanta drivers.

The usual gang was there to greet us at the hospital--all of our old doctor mates who are happily putting their kids through college at the expense of my right knee, Nigh Perfect’s gall bladder, and Baby Torak’s birth. Doctor Williams had my favorite gown at the ready, and Nurse Cooper had gone to the liberty of preparing my usual batch of hydrating fluids. She tried to draw on my knee with a Sharpie to remind the doctor not to cut open the wrong leg. Sadly, it was my duty to inform her that I would not be in surgery today as it would be Nigh Perfect’s turn. Nurse Cooper glowered at me and went off into a corner to sulk and run her fingers over a scalpel.

Nigh Perfect, meanwhile, was enjoying the attention. At least, she was enjoying the medicine that goes with it.

The most hilarious part (and there are many) about watching my wife undergo surgery is her reaction to the Molotov cocktail of hallucinatory drugs she is administered in order to render her unconscious. Most people go to sleep; Nigh Perfect, on the other hand, likes to chat to anyone within earshot. She also happen to think that “within earshot” means anywhere in the entire hospital.

She began to yell platitudes at the people in the next room, one of whom was undergoing a vasectomy. “Never mind,” she yelled. “You can still have fun even if you’re shooting blanks.” Having successfully alienated everyone in the hospital she called a local chat radio host to complain about her hotel room, and then leaned out of the window and began swearing at all the cars on Interstate 400. Finally, mercifully, she fell fast asleep on the pillow.

The doctors looked at me, panicked. I told them not to worry. I also told them that whatever dosage they had planned to administer, they had probably better triple it, just to be on the safe side. They wheeled her away, looking wary.

Now if I am the Hindenburg, as mentioned above, then my everyday life is the very hard and solid ground that lurks some fifty yards below. I will admit that I lead an interesting existence, what with the crazy job and the fan attention, and so on. One of the odd things about my week is that I am often called upon to do promotional work. On this particular day, I was scheduled to do a big retailer conference thingy, which would later be made available for a podcast on the Marvel website. As you know, I was fresh off my disastrous NPR appearance from the week before, so I felt confident that at the very least I couldn’t fuck things up any worse. Nope… not even if I conspired with Slobodan Milosevic’s public relations advisors to announce my candidacy for President of the Known Universe. I was in the clear for a change: the retailer sales call was scheduled for 3.30 and Nigh Perfect was scheduled to be out of surgery at around 12.30, so obviously there was nothing for me to worry about, right?

Wrong.

At around 2.00 PM I began to fret. I was still sitting in the waiting room, with no sign of my wife except for the occasional burst of epithets emanating from the recovery room, or a flustered nurse rushing down the hallway with a syringe stuck in her bum. I called my editor, Cory Sedlmeier, and asked if we could put the thing off for an hour. No such luck, I was informed. Ever since I appeared in New Avengers #7 there have been numerous copyright and trademark issues. As a compromise, I have agreed to become the sole property of Marvel Enterprises for exploitation in all English speaking territories. (I still think I got the better half of that deal, though… last time I was in New York I stole some sugar packets from the coffee room near the Bullpen.)

At 3.00 PM, I was allowed into the room, where Nigh Perfect was speaking in Latin and levitating ten inches above her mattress. Things did not look good.

“How are you feeling, babe? Does it hurt?”

“Bow before us, mortal. We have your woman in thrall… for we are the nameless ones whose name shall not be spoken aloud, lest the universe be rent asunder at the very mention of our name.”

“Uh-huh. Did they fill out your painkiller prescription?

“Yes… but the name is incorrect. For I am Bela’al, Devourer of Small Children and Animals.”

“Okay. We’ll go by CVS, then.”

“Tell your priests I require human flesh, not Tylenol with codeine—”

I was told to get the car, which was parked in a lot some half a mile away. Out on 400, traffic was beginning to snarl. By the time I drove up to the front, Nigh Perfect was catatonic and the retailer conference was only two minutes away. I turned onto the highway… wall to wall traffic!

According to the reports, some idiot had been driving the wrong way along the interstate and traffic had been a mess ever since. Who could have done such a thing, I wondered.

I settled in behind a large, slow moving truck full of farm animals and dialed the number for the conference call. And what should pull in behind me but a police car. Moments later, I found myself on the phone with a number of Marvel’s closest retailer friends, all of whom had very interesting and difficult questions for me. The traffic closed in and Nigh Perfect began to snore. Just as with my NPR experience from the week before I was expected to be clever and interesting under extreme duress. But I had learned from my previous mistakes. This time, I was prepared for the unexpected.

Yeah… for about twelve seconds.

One of the retailers asked me if I could elaborate on exactly how the Front Lines series would be timed to coincide with Mark Millar’s Civil War book. At that exact same moment, some idiot redneck in a beaten up Chevy truck decided to drive me off the road.

“You fucking moron!”

Nervous silence. Maybe they didn't catch it on their microphones.

“Uhh… I meant to say we’re coordinating it carefully. Besides, Mark is Scottish--his opinion doesn’t count.”

Everyone laughed. Dodged a bullet. The next retailer asked me how I was going to make sure I presented a balanced account of both sides in the dispute, and it was at this exact moment that the demon Bela’al sleeping next to me decided to wake up.

“Hmm… who’re you talkin’ to?”

“Ssh! I’m on a conference call with some Marvel retailers!”

“It’s a girl. You’re on the phone with some girl! What’s her name?”

I tried to put my hand over the receiver. Now, none of the retailers could hear what I was saying. This was probably just as well.

The retailers, naturally, wanted to know what was going on. Tom Brevoort, sensing I was floundering, tried to cover for me.

“Uh, what Paul means to say is, we’ve been very careful to present a, uh… balanced view—“

“He’s mine, you slut! You hear me, you hussy? Mine, I said!”

“--uh… and did I mention he was on NPR last week?”

Bela’al alternated between yelling at nearby vehicles and poking me in the ribs to get my attention.

“It’s retailers, babe: retailers! This is a sales call… it’s kind of important--“

“Oh… tell ‘em I said hello! Hi retailers! I love everyone! Except Klingons.”

“I’ll tell them—“

But it was too late. She had unbuckled her seatbelt and was now slipping precariously towards the floor, unconscious. The cop behind me was making ready to put on his lights. I waved, thinking that was the last thing one of those neo-Nazi escaped convicts from America’s Most Wanted would be likely to do. The lights and siren went on…

… and the cop shot past me to pull over the truck full of farm animals.

I have almost no memory of anything I said after that. Between struggling with my semi-conscious and demonically possessed wife, wrestling with a steering wheel through the obstacle course that is four o-clock Atlanta traffic, and trying to stop my beating heart from exploding my lungs out of my mouth and onto the windshield, I think I can be forgiven for this minor infraction.

I finally pulled into Bela’al’s parents’ house just as the retailer conference call was coming to a close. Now I should point out that you can listen to a highly edited version of the actual question and answer session at:

http://www.marvel.com/news/comicstories.433

But if you listen carefully as someone asks me if I have any closing thoughts -- and knowing what you now know -- you can hear the absolute loss of self-control creeping into my voice. I believe I am saying something like, "Front Lines matters… please order lots of copies.”

What I am thinking, on the other hand, is “Why me, Lord? Why me?”

Final Random Episode

I was minding my own business this week, with Bela’al recuperating at her parents’ house, when the telephone rang.

I am one of those people who always picks up the phone if I hear it, even if it is a telemarketer. The call was from Scholastic Books, who I have been considering doing a project for. I picked it up.

“Hello… can I speak to Jack, please?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I’d like to speak to Jack Jenkins, please.”

I considered telling him for, like, a second. But the comedic possibilities far outweighed my urge to tell the truth.

“Okay… I’ll go get him.”

I fetched my son, who had been sitting in his bouncy chair, gurgling and, presumably, waiting for a phone call. I put the receiver to his ear.

Silence. Maybe Jack was feeling shy. I decided to help the conversation along by speaking in a high voice.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Jack? This is Irwin Jackson with Scholastic Books. Right now we’re having an early Summer special on all of our most popular items.”

Well, this went on for a while. Irwin seemed to be getting agitated because of my son’s complete lack of a coherent response (although he did try to chew on the edge of the receiver). After a minute or so of climbing over himself Irwin put the phone down. I put Jack back in his bouncer, where he fell asleep.

Life’s lesson #1: always be a dick to telemarketers. That’s my boy!

Telemarketers, this potential customer has his wallet at the ready and anxiously awaits your call!

TAGS:  flogging a dead horse, paul jenkins, civil war

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