103 Days of Peace, Love, and Comics
What's happening in Raf's world.
Hi everyone. It’s Rafael here. It’s been a while since I wrote anything proper for the Substack, so I’m long overdue for something. We recently hit a milestone, 90 days of PLC (in fact, as the title suggests, we’re past the 100 day mark also). A blog was something I only dreamed about writing for a while, but never felt I’d ever realistically have one. We don’t have a huge audience (yet), but for all of you who are subscribed and reading, know that all of this is only possible because of you. I’m grateful for every one of you for being a part of this. You all keep me motivated to keep writing, even when I may lose some steam for it.
Right now I’ve been in a bit of slump when it comes to writing more PLC content. We’re three interviews into my small press features, and I’ve been sitting on another interview I had far too long ago that I still haven’t written. Excuses aside, I’m going to get that finished and done next week and move on for more interviews. John Dudas, the boss at Carol and John’s, is still working to get me in touch with more of his industry contacts. I’m curious to see what sort of interviews I can line up and where I can go with the contacts I’ve made in the comics industry. There’s a few small press companies that I think are way under the radar, and I’d love to learn more about them. And maybe a few creators I’d like to see if I could get a hold of too. I’m not sure the entire future of these small press articles, but I’d like to see how far we can go.
So what have I been up to in this time? Reading for sure! In fact, right now, I’m reading a book that has no pictures in it (“Whaaaaaaat?!?!?!”). I read a lot of comics, it is my job after all, but in the past few years I’ve been trying to read more novels. I love fiction and storytelling, and I tend to plan out what books I want to read well in advance. So far this year, I’ve gotten through two different books. I finished the William Gibson Sprawl Trilogy with Mona Lisa Overdrive and also read the fifth Dune book with Heretics of Dune (it’s probably my favorite of the series). For each series, I’ve been reading about one book a year from each. I try not to burn myself out by binging and trying to read whole series all at once. That’s what happened to me and the Hannibal Lector series; I rushed into the third book Hannibal after finishing The Silence of the Lambs, and 100 pages in I was spent (but the other John at CNJs, John Shearer, assures me that I’m not missing anything. He HATES that third book). So what the hell am I reading now? MOBY-DICK.
I couldn’t tell you exactly where the inspiration came from for that. I thought The Hobbit was going to be my next novel this summer, but my girlfriend Amber and I went to Barnes and Noble one day for her to do homework and I went and grabbed myself a copy of Moby-Dick. Did you know this book is more than 170 years old? I fucking didn’t. It is written ye olde timey like, but thanks to the Gibson Sprawl Trilogy, which can read a lot like cyberpunk poetry, I’ve been able to get into it. It’s a longer book, 758 pages, and Captain Ahab doesn’t even show up until about 200 in, but I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been joking with the guys at the shop (Ben is waiting to see if I actually finish it first) about doing a short three to five minute video when I’m done that is my SparkNotes retelling of Moby-Dick. I think that’d be pretty funny. If you know me, you know I’m not a great verbal storyteller, so that’d be interesting to see my under the clock and try to recap the whole book in a single take or something. I used to be like my dad and just watch the movie versions if I had to read a book for school, or I could’ve been like Jake Taylor and just read the comic book, but I’m pretty impressed with myself for diving into the full book just for funsies.
But while I don’t binge read novels, I certainly can binge read the shit out of manga, and my latest one was pretty intense. For Christmas this year, John Shearer got me volumes 1 and 2 of Gantz. I’d maybe heard of it, but didn’t know anything about the series. I put those books aside for a while so I could read other things I was into at the moment, but then one morning last month while I was pooping (TMI), I grabbed both volumes and decided to just jump in without any clues as to what I was getting into. Just see what this shit’s all about. I finished those and was quickly upset with Shearer because I liked it so much and then found out it was 37 volumes (!), and that is just for the main series also. Even worse, all of those volumes were out of stock. But I did manage to find they had omnibus versions that are 3-in-1’s (three volumes in one collection) and there were 8 of those available and in print that’d get me to volume 26 in the series. So for the next 2 or 3 weeks, that’s exactly what I bought and read.
Gantz is a brutal, fast-paced series that follows people who awake in a mysterious room after they have died where they partake in a “game” of hunting and killing different alien targets. There’s a mysterious black sphere in this room, the Gantz sphere, that gives them directions, guns and suits, and points after each mission completed. It’s Suicide Squad meets Blair Witch Project meets Men In Black. It’s violent, it’s grotesque, and not very polite, but it’s super addicting and I’m excited to see how the series ends. I’ve got another 12 volumes to read, and the stakes have really ramped up now with the Gantz team no longer a secret and the aliens becoming larger and more deadly. There are a lot of character deaths in this series, so if you start reading it, I wouldn’t get too attached to anybody.
I do need breaks from reading every now and then though, I’m not a complete nerd :). I don’t watch a whole lot of TV shows or new movies, and neither does Amber, but I have been enjoying Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynastry on HBO and have even got Amber to watch it now too. (It’s co-written and executive produced by Rodney Barnes, writer of Image’s Killadelphia also.)
She doesn’t sport, but she loves history and other documentaries, and while Winning Time is not a documentary or entirely accurate (Jerry West in particular will tell you that), it’s entertaining enough to catch her attention. Plus I always make a habit to throw on my Lakers shorts or Lakers warmup jacket while watching to really get into it LOL. They were actually really helpful when first explaining to Amber that the NBA logo is the silhouette of this angry guy from the show who thinks Paul Westhead coaching the team after Jake McKinney had his awful bike accident was “Hamlet on the sideline looking for his fucking dick.” It’s a lot easier for me to keep up with a show when it’s only one episode a week, and on HBO too. No, I have not seen any of the Disney+ Marvel or Star Wars shows, but I have been rewatching The Batman at home plenty. Because of course I have. I’m ready for Season Three of Barry to start up also.
I’ve been watching A LOT of NBA playoff basketball too. Even if the Cavs didn’t make it (we’ve got a lot of great, young talent and just need to stay healthy and play better defensively next year), I’m still very much invested in the season. I’m no expert, but my pick is Golden State vs. Milwaukee in the finals, Bucks in 6 if Khris Middleton comes back strong from his MCL sprain. But also, I don’t really care who wins, I just want to watch great basketball.
Also did you hear that G4 TV is back!? This was my childhood and early teens growing up, and while I’m busy working, I’ve been throwing on the channel for Lily to keep her company while I’m gone. Adam Sessler and Kevin Pereira are back, along with X-Play and Attack of the Show, and there’s some new and familiar content as well that brings back fond memories. They have original Ninja Warrior on again, but also Takeshi’s Castle. It’s basically Indonesia’s Ninja Warrior, but narrated by a sarcastic British dude and is not unlike MXC. It’s Amber’s favorite. When she’s got student teaching early in Cleveland and she’s getting ready in the morning, I’ll turn it on while I’m making breakfast and we’ll sit and watch a few minutes together before her day starts. It’s pretty comforting to have such a beloved part of my adolescence back again, and able to share it.
On top of all that, I also recently got into Brazilian jiu jitsu. Before the pandemic, I was working out a fair amount at the office gym where I worked, but since then I don’t have a gym anymore and lost a lot of the motivation and ease of access to get back into it. But when the new year started, I knew I needed to do something, even if it wasn’t lifting weights again in the gym. One day though one of our file customers named Craig came in to the shop with a Black Lotus BJJ sweatshirt and I just asked if it was a cool place, and he simply said “uhhh yeah?” And since then he’s brought me around and introduced me to Black Lotus in Fairview Park and I’ve been rolling with everybody and getting my ass kicked. I used to do taekwondo when I was younger, I was a black belt at 7, but even if I remembered any of it, it wouldn’t help me any in jiu jitsu. It’s been a humbling experience, but I’m enjoying learning something new and practical and getting active again. So if you see any new bruises on me, you’ll know what’s up.
So in short, that’s what all I’ve been up to instead of writing more for you guys and PLC. Thanks for the patience and continued support, I hope to have more for you guys soon. Thanks again.