The Austin Chronicle

Bedside Manner: Return to Bed Station Alpha

By Jason Stout, December 12, 2011, 7:49am, Under the Covers

Top Floor: A recent subscription to The New Yorker was based on a life-long love of the cartoons published therein, collected volumes of which got me through the long winter days at my grandparents’ house in Okay, OK.

Turns out, there’s a great deal of writing in The New Yorker, much of which is interesting. Who knew? They’re topped off by the most recent B&H video/audio/photo catalog, which is essentially gear porn.

The Yard: It’s hard to be impatient for the next volume of Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto, especially when you see the hours the average manga artist puts in. But this epic adventure is so completely rewarding, the characters and world so masterfully crafted, that it is very hard to wait 4 months between books: I love this story dearly. Underneath that is Fantastic Four #600, surprisingly fantastic for junk food, and Kick Ass 2 #5, which makes me wonder if I even have the stomach for #6. Kudos to Mark Millar, though, for writing an un-filmable sequel. Next comes the Stack of Things I Was Supposed to Have Already Reviewed This Year: Meta Maus by Art Spiegelman: Too much is not enough with this fascinating, comprehensive look at the making of one of the most important comics of the 20th century, if not the most important as far as proving the legitimacy of the medium. This collection of interviews, photos, scans, and audio is well worth it. Next is Eye of the Majestic Creature, the first collection of semi-autobiographical comics from Leslie Stein. The independent comic biography, huge in the 90’s, was a genre I had long since come to be bored to tears with, if not flat-out angered by, mired as it was in as pointless Canadian navel-gazing. But Stein’s breezy, whimsical-yet-poignant tales of a girl and her talking guitar make reality refreshing.  It really is wonderful to watch her pointillist style become more and more refined while reading along; checking out her new work on her site proves that her style is only getting tighter.  Finally, the fifth volume of Fantagraphic Comics’ gorgeous collections of E.C. Segar’s Popeye comics. I’ve loved Thimble Theater since my grandparents got me the Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics when a was a wee lad, and reading this master’s strips is like relaxing on a hand-crafted rocking chair that is too well-made to ever fall apart. There’s a Frank Miller book at the bottom of this stack, but you know what? Fuck that guy.

The Bunker: Finally, shrouded in darkness, the “real” books. See that copy of Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon on top there? Yeah, I haven’t gotten any further. I’m looking forward to starting Eoin Colfer’s Plugged during my holiday travels; I love his YA work, particularly the Artemis Fowl series. This is supposed to be for adults, but that’s usually a bullshit distinction, like, there’s cursing or something. One Hundred Years of Solitude is a life-long enjoyment for me.  I read it every ten years or so, it seems. Someday, I’ll draw an epic-fantasy style map of Macondo and the surrounding area, with a cutaway detail of the Buendía property: this is where Jose Arcadio was chained to the tree; here is Melquiades' lab; X marks where Rebecca liked to eat dirt – that kind of thing.  If there is a blog of maps for novels without maps, please point me to it. I don’t want to talk about how good Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is, because that is well-mapped territory.  Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion is another novel I like, yet I keep getting pulled away from. Maybe this time I’ll make it to the end and find out what happens with that Stamper clan. Finally, a collection of Robert E. Howard’s original Conan stories: I’ve never read them before, so I honestly never got it. Frank Frazetta is the only one who has ever translated the raw nature of these pulp classics to a visual medium; the movies and TV shows are just silly. But I have to admit, these 80-year old yarns are a helluva lot of fun, and by Crom, really well-written.

There are no communications from Bathroom Station Beta, but intel strongly suggests it's probably just more New Yorkers, old Defenders comics, and a rotation of Kurt Vonnegut novels. Bag Station Omega, the Secret Mobile Command Post from which all other stations are fed, is off the grid. Bed Station Alpha out.

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