I’ve been reviewing horror comics for six years for HorrorTalk. I now run a horror comics podcast called Funny Book Splatter. During this time, I have grown to truly appreciate the horror genre and a good scare. Nothing in that time, nor my entire existence on this planet, holds a candle to what I experienced this morning. That was pure, unbridled terror.
This morning, as with every weekday morning, I was ushering my kids out the door to take them to day care. I have this checklist in my head that I run down to make sure we have everything. The kids each decided to bring a blanket into the car with them this time. I open the door and we head out in the driveway. Parker lags behind just a bit, but that’s not unusual. I get to the car and open the back door on the driver’s side where Parker’s car seat is and toss the kids’ bags into the back seat. I turn around and Oliver is right there, but Parker is not. I then see his head bobbing up the driveway through the car windows. He’s running for the road.
My driveway is not very long. It can comfortably fit four cars in a two-by-two formation. By the time I saw Parker making a beeline for the street, he was halfway there. I immediately darted around the car, screaming his name. It was at this point that I heard an engine rev to my left. A car was coming around the corner as my not-quite-two-year-old was getting closer and closer to the road.
A million things ran through my head at this second. Will he stop on his own? Will I be fast enough to catch him? What happens if he gets into the street? Will the car see him? What happens if the car doesn’t see him? How will I tell Monica that I let our toddler get hit by a car? All of these questions and more were throttling through my mind at once as my feet pounded the pavement. All the while, Parker is gleefully running towards the end of the driveway, blanket in one hand and a smile on his face.
I scooped him up in my arms just as he reached the driveway’s edge. It was at that moment that the car, revealed to be a senior citizen bus, came into full view and stopped short right in front of my house, just past the driveway. If I was a second later, Parker would have been under that bus.
I held Parker close, hugging him to my chest. He was completely unaware of how close he’d come to horrific injury or even death. His big eyes were looking all around and he was smiling up at me. I touched his head and told him how scared I was and how he should never run into the road because he could get hurt. I didn’t yell. I didn’t even raise my voice. I was just relieved that he was okay. My heart was beating out of my chest, but he was fine. The trip to daycare went like normal, although I didn’t say a word the whole way. Neither did the kids. It’s like they knew I was going through this all in my head. My hands were shaking.
Now, I’m sure I’m not the only parent to ever lose control of their kid or have them run off like that. I’m sure I won’t be the last either. Hell, I’m sure that one or both of my kids will scare me just as much at least a few more times over the course of their lives. I can say with confidence that during those few seconds, as I was running towards my child, I have never been more scared. Not clowns, not monsters, not home invasion. Nothing has ever terrified me as much as those few footsteps. I hugged both Oliver and Parker extra tight when I dropped them off at day care, thankful that this morning we ended up there instead of in a hospital. I’ll be hugging them just as tight when I pick them up today too.
I’ve always loved comics. I was into them as a kid and bought up a ton of them, although I didn’t read all of them. Somewhere in my early teens, I fell out of the medium. I got back into comics during my sophomore year in college thanks to my roommate, Anthony. One weekend, I binged every book he had picked up during that semester and then set up my own pull list. This grew to a $50-$60 a week habit before I quit cold turkey about five years later. I got back in once I started writing for HorrorTalk. During these three phases, I had different levels of appreciation for comics. Now I wonder where it will go next because I don’t see the fun in the output of the Big Two publishers that I once did.
This isn’t meant to be a doom and gloom post about the downfall of the comic book industry. It’s also not meant to be a Simpsons Comic Book Guy type rant about how super hero books are for kids. With my decades of exposure to comics, I’ve developed a few observations. Most recently, I’ve noticed that there really isn’t much in the way of character development when it comes to any of the major characters of Marvel or DC. There are some exceptions to this rule and I’ll get to them in a moment, but stay with me for a second.
Let’s start with Batman. Aside from his revolving door of sidekicks (who have progressed far more than he ever has), is Batman really all that different today than he was 5 years ago? What about 10 years ago? 25? 50? 75? The core principles remain, of course. He’s fighting a never-ending war on crime to avenge the death of his parents. But, has he changed or developed as a character? No, he hasn’t. He’s still the same, gruff loner that he’s always been. Although talented creators have told incredible stories featuring the Dark Knight, he hasn’t learned anything in his 75+ years of existence. He still makes the same mistakes. He still doesn’t let anyone in (which also leads to the same mistakes). His war on crime might as well be America’s war on drugs or war on terror. It’s never going to end and there’s no way to win it.
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t read every single Batman comic. There may be stories out there that show real character development for the world’s greatest detective. I would argue that those are exceptions to the rule and/or momentary tangents from the main storyline. To put it in NASCAR terms for a moment, those are pit stops along a racetrack. He’s going around and around, occasionally stopping to refuel.
I have a glimmer of hope with some of the titles spinning out of DC Rebirth, the linewide relaunch, primarily Detective Comics, written by James Tynion IV with artwork from various artists. It focuses on a Batman who is building a team around him including Batwoman, Red Robin, Clayface, Orphan (Cassandra Cain), Spoiler, and later Bat Wing and Azrael. He recognizes that he can’t fight this war alone and begins training the next generation of heroes to protect Gotham City. Despite this awesome premise and a terrific cast, Batman still succumbs to the same pitfalls he always does, especially with how he handles loss. Spoiler alert: NOT WELL. When a member of his team “dies,” he retreats inward, thinking that he has to fight and train harder to prevent anyone from ever getting hurt ever again. He shoulders the entire responsibility, turning his grief into a burden he must bear to protect not only this city, but anyone he cares about. This pushes everyone away, even though they’re also in mourning. The one person they can turn to who has been through this on several occasions (with his parents and Jason Todd to name a few), is emotionally absent and actively shuns them. There is no shoulder to cry on here. There is no grief counselor to help you get through it. Instead, there’s just Batman who won’t even look at you.
The main Batman title, written by Tom King, while incredible, is more of the same with a smaller supporting cast. Again, I want to clarify that I love both of these titles. If I still had a pull list, they would both be on there. I’ve been fortunate that DC Comics has started sending review copies out of their books so I’ve been able to catch up a bit between those and recent ComiXology sales. It’s just that after reading hundreds and hundreds of comics from publishers big and small, I want to see these characters grow and change. Most importantly, I want to see them learn from their mistakes, not make the same ones time and time again.
I think this is one of the many reasons why I loved Logan so much. It showed an ending for a super hero character that is incredibly rare. It was fitting and showed real growth. If you look at Wolverine in the first X-Men movie and look at him in Logan, that is a changed man in more ways than one. You can see how he went from X-Men to Logan. Granted, this is a different medium and Hollywood has some luxuries that comics do not, but I believe the same principles can apply.
Warner Brothers owns Batman. They can do whatever they want with the character. Why not show an ending? Why not show where Bruce Wayne’s life will end up? Then you can reboot it anyway. It’s not like there isn’t precedent for something like this. Archie Comics did it a few years ago with Life with Archie, showing a future versions of the character where he married Betty or Veronica. This depicted the adult lives of the signature characters as they went through common struggles. It ultimately led to Archie’s death and people LOVED it. Then Archie got rebooted and it’s one of my favorite books on the stands right now. It can be done. Take the chance and see what happens.
This ended up longer than I thought it would. I’m going to break this up into another post with the next one showing a recent example of a DC character that has changed and in a really awesome way: Superman.
Since Monica’s morning commute is longer than mine, the task of dropping off and picking up the children from day care falls to me. I’ve got the routine down to a science aided in no small part by the television and the gate that locks the kids into the family room. The second to last step in the process of getting them out the door in the morning is brushing their teeth. By this point, I’ve already gotten them dressed, fed the cats, cleaned the litter box, gotten their bags together, packed my lunch, and brushed my own teeth. It is at this time that I turn the TV off and usher them upstairs. On Monday, we ran into a bit of an issue.
It started out normal, with Parker running upstairs and disappearing into the kitchen. Oliver’s response to my request to go brush his teeth was to collapse on the floor. I picked him up while he made angry faces at me. He was playing and quickly broke and laughed as he made each subsequent face. Once I got him to the living room, I put him down because he’s almost four and he can walk. He collapsed once again.
I took this opportunity to nab Parker and bring him upstairs. On the way, I made sure to point out to Oliver that I would just brush Parker’s teeth first. That got him moving, although not all that fast. By the time he made it up to the bathroom, I had positioned Parker on the counter next to the sink. Oliver insisted on opening the door to the bathroom and turning on the light even though those things were already done, so he shut the light off and closed the door. Being that I’m petty and I sometimes do things to mess with my children, I turned the light back on before he could open the door. Oliver saw this and turned it off again just so he can turn it on. These are the kinds of things you get to deal with when you have children.
I was now getting Parker’s toothbrush ready. Oliver was annoyed because Parker was sitting in his spot. He climbed on his step stool positioned between the counter and the toilet, then the toilet, then tried to squeeze his way onto the counter next to Parker. I told him that there was not enough room for both of them and that he should wait his turn. This fell on deaf ears.
I then started to brush Parker’s teeth by grabbing the kid in a sort of headlock so he’ll stay still enough for me to do the job. While I’m doing this, Parker looks straight ahead into the mirror and in one fluid motion, pushes his brother clean off the counter. It happened so fast. One second Oliver was sitting there and the next he simply wasn’t.
It’s times like these that I’m faced with an internal struggle. On the one hand, my son just fell and hurt himself. He’s crying. As his father, I should comfort him. On the other hand, that was hilarious. So now I have to make him feel better while holding back my laughter which is no easy task. I did make sure to point out that if he just listened to me in the first place and waited his turn, he would not be in this predicament.
As 2016 came to a much needed close, I had every intention of writing a blog post a day in 2017, akin to what I did in 2008, however this time they would be about my kids. Each post would feature something they did or said that amused or annoyed me as a way to chronicle their lives. Here I am writing this on January 4th, having already failed at this task. Instead, maybe I’ll try to do this every week to have a bit more of a flexible goal. I’d like to write more here because I greatly enjoy doing so and people seem to like it when I write about the weird and funny things my kids do, so I will continue to exploit them for my own personal gain. Speaking of which, be sure to check out our Loot Crate unboxing videos over at HorrorTalk.
So what have my kids been up to? Mainly it’s been playing with the variety of toys they got for Christmas. Oliver’s favorites include his blue lightsaber (although he’s also partial to his brother’s red one), which he’s been whipping open repeatedly. It’s only a matter of time before that flies out of his hands and breaks something. Who knows? Maybe it’ll go out a window after all. He’s also partial to the toy microphone that Monica’s parents got him. It records and plays back your voice, so he’s been saying “Poop” into it over and over again so he can hear himself say it. That’s my boy.
Parker has been somewhat indifferent to the toys, picking up things here or there to play with them when he feels like it. He takes cues from his brother, often following him around or grabbing a toy that Oliver has put down. This become problematic when Oliver realizes Parker has taken something he was recently playing with and demands it back. They’ll figure out how to share sooner or later, I guess. Or not at all and they’ll just continue fighting. He’s been obsessed with the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? lately. Our copy has these little windows that slide out to reveal the next animal. He’s been all over that book.
As mentioned on a recent episode of Raging Nerdon, Christmas is now all about my children. I don’t really need or want anything aside from maybe an Amazon gift card. Instead, I’m focused on my kids and what they want for the holiday. While Parker is still too young to ask for anything, Oliver is now at the age where he can create something resembling a wishlist. This is fortunate as we struggled for a bit as to what to get him this year. At one point I had him go through the Toys R Us book to pick out things that he wanted. This backfired because he went page by page, circling at least one thing on each one. After circling an Xbox One controller, I asked him what that was and he had no idea. He was just circling things that looked interesting.
There was one item that he asked for non-stop. Every time we asked Oliver what he wanted for Christmas, the one and only answer was a blue lightsaber. For months he’d roll up a piece of paper or pick up a stick and call it a lightsaber. I have no earthly idea how he became so obsessed with the Jedi weapon as the boy has never seen Star Wars or any of the spinoff TV shows. His knowledge probably comes from other kids at day care talking about it…or the Force is strong in this one.
I actually tried to show him Episode IV a few weeks back. He made it about forty minutes in before throwing in the towel. The entire time he was asking where Darth Vader was. He did pick up a working knowledge of most of the main characters, including Princess Leia, whom he brought to day care for show-and-tell for the letter L.
With the lightsaber a safe bet for a Christmas gift, I ordered him one from Amazon, along with a red one for Parker. I realize that I’m almost to the point where I’ll have to buy two of everything. That will probably come next year. The lightsabers arrived and we hid them away safely where the kids wouldn’t stumble upon them. Oliver even went to see Santa and told the big man himself that he wanted a blue lightsaber. Everything looked good.
Then, out of the blue, the color changed. After playing with one at Target, Oliver proclaimed that he now wanted a green lightsaber. This panicked me because I didn’t want a blow up or something on Christmas morning after I had already secured a blue one. I asked Oliver what he would do if he got a blue lightsaber, given that he told Santa that’s what he wanted. His reply? “I’ll throw it out a window.” That’s right. My kid does not mince words. He wanted a green one and that was that.
Fortunately, this green phase passed a week or two before Christmas. He frantically opened all his presents that morning except for the lightsaber. I had hid that one to save it for last. I wanted him and Parker to open them at the same time, but Parker was lagging behind in the present opening and Oliver was starting to mope a bit thinking he had opened everything and didn’t get a lightsaber. I took out the gift and he’s been swinging the thing around ever since. He’s basically popping the lightsaber open, collapsing it again, and then repeating the process over and over again. What’s the over / under of him losing his grip on it and sending it through the window after all?
Oliver has officially entered pre-school and with it comes new challenges and obstacles. He’s fully potty trained (THANK GOD) and learning to write his name. Once a week, he gets to bring something into class for show and tell. There’s a catch though. Every week is a specific letter so he has to bring in something that starts with that letter. Being that he’s my son, I’ve encouraged him to bring in nerdy stuff instead of your average items. For B, he brought in a bat Halloween decoration that flapped its wings. For C, he went in with a C is for Cthulhu plush and book, much to the dismay of his teachers who struggled to pronounce anything in it.
Each week, Monica and I frantically search for options for Oliver to bring in. Show and Tell is on Tuesdays so we really have one night to really think about it. Sure, we could plan this farther in advance, but who does that? (The answer to that question is Monica. She does that and we’ll get to that in a bit.) This week’s letter was I. We struggled with this one. Ice cream? Iceman? I got nothing. In desperation, I went downstairs to look through a box of my old action figures the kids have taken over. I take one quick glance down and realize how stupid we’ve been. I shout up to Monica “We’re idiots.” She replies “That starts with I!” Grimacing, I point out that we had forgotten the most popular super hero that starts with the letter I. Iron Man. How could we forget this? Oliver dressed up as Iron Man for Halloween a couple weeks ago. I’m disappointed in myself.
Anyway, I pulled out a few Iron Man toys and Oliver picked one out to bring with him, specifically the Hulk Buster Iron Man. I have about six different versions from the incredibly cheesy 1994 cartoon. We also told Oliver that if he was good, he could wear his Iron Man costume to school. So, the next morning, I drop Oliver off and the other kids stood there, mouths agape. How come he got to wear his costume? Why couldn’t I wear my costume? It was then I realized that I’m the cool parent. I let my kid wear his Halloween costume to school, albeit with a tie-in to show and tell. Oliver wore the thing the entire day. He was still wearing it when I picked him up later that day too.
It’s 4 AM when I’m awoken by a familiar sound: the creak of Oliver’s door slowly opening. Yes, this is a creepy noise to hear in the middle of the night, but as it’s one I hear frequently, I’ve grown used to it. I close my eyes and hope that he’s just going to use the bathroom. No such luck on that front as I then hear the pitter-patter of his small feet as he makes his way into my bedroom. Again, I have a small hope that maybe he just wants to come into bed with us and then we can all go back to sleep. After all, I’d already been up frequently with Parker so maybe, just maybe, we could all just get a few more winks in. Again, I’m nowhere near that lucky. Instead, I’m told something that I can honestly say I’ve never heard uttered by another human being. I could be weird and say that my three year old son was speaking in tongues or something along those lines. No, the truth is strange on its own and far more humorous.
“I can’t find my pants.”
That’s right. At 4 AM, my young son woke up and came into my bedroom to tell me that he’s lost his pants. I’m immediately filled with questions. How did he lose his pants? Where could they have gone? When did he lose them? Why did he take them off in the first place? I ask him one of these questions.
“Oliver. It’s 4 o’clock in the morning. How did you lose your pants?”
“I can’t find my pants.”
With a deep sigh, I get up out of bed and walk him back to his room. He’s clad in his t-shirt and underwear. Once we’re back in his bedroom, I pick up the flashlight on his dresser and shine it around to quickly find the missing pants, wedged between his bed and the wall. I help him put them back on, tuck him in, turn the flashlight off, and then walk back to my room. Fortunately, he went right back to sleep and stayed that way for another hour or two.
Being a parent is weird and I’m sure I’ll be faced with tough questions as my two kids get older. I’ll have to explain death and the birds & the bees. For now, I can be satisfied knowing that when my son loses his pants, I can solve that mystery.
I’m not burying the lead with this blog post. We’re going to get right into it because there’s no other way to tell this story than by starting with that headline. The other day, I almost peed on my son, specifically Parker, the one year old. First, some background information for you. Since Monica and I have had our own place, I have peed with the door open. It’s my house and it’s my bathroom, so that’s it. I can’t explain why I feel so entitled as to urinate with an open door. It doesn’t make me feel special or anything. It’s not as if the act of closing the door behind me is cumbersome or difficult. Before you ask, yes, I close the door when company is around.
This habit was only slightly curtailed when I had kids and then only when they started moving around on their own. Plus, it helped a bit when Oliver was potty training (which is an entire other blog post) to understand that everyone else used the toilet. I could sneak off for a minute to go take a leak while Oliver was otherwise occupied in the next room with toys or the TV. I do not have that luxury with Parker. If Oliver was a handful, Parker is a dump truck of mischief. The kid gets into anything and everything and he’s friggin’ fast. He’s climbing on stuff and crawling / walking every where. He also seems interested in stuff that Oliver never was, such as the toilet.
This brings us back to the subject of this blog post. The other day I get home with the kids. They’re playing upstairs. I’ve got a gate up to prevent Parker from falling down the stairs. This allows the kids to play in either or both of their rooms freely. I go into the bathroom through my bedroom and leave the door open behind me. This is something I’ve done a million times. Just as I start peeing, Parker is closing in quick. He’s crawling in his little Gollum style, with his left leg up and his right leg down in the traditional crawl pose. I’m in mid stream when he’s suddenly between my legs, grasping the edge of the toilet to pull himself to a standing position. By this point I’m screaming “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!” and trying to tuck my junk back in my pants while also avoiding peeing on my young son’s head. This is easier said than done but I’m happy to report that he got away dry. I then picked up him, put him outside the bathroom, closed the door, and finished my business. I’m sure I’ll receive a therapy bill for this traumatic experience some time in the future. Sorry kid. I guess I’ll start closing the door more often.
I’ve written before about my battles with the groundhog in our backyard. I thought I had chased him away two years ago, but like a bad penny, he’s returned. This time he brought friends. I’ve spotted two separate groundhogs out in the yard and they’ve got two different hideouts. The first and most notable of the two is under the shed attached to the back of the house. I’ve caught them out of the burrow a few times and chased them off. I then filled in the hole with rocks and dirt. The next day — and sometimes even within the hour — the hole would be dug out again. Monica even looked it up online and read that groundhogs hate the smell of dryer sheets so we shoved a bunch in there, but to no avail.
The other groundhog hideout is less of a concern. It’s a hollowed out stump on the edge of the yard near the stream. They can have that. The shed hold is unacceptable. It’s an eye sore and I’m concerned about the foundation of the shed itself. After filling in the hole for what felt like the millionth time, I called a professional. Over the weekend, a guy came and set up a trap to catch one of the groundhogs. It’s a lethal trap which I’m fine with. It’s personal now. He explained that he has to kill them either way due to the law. They’re considered a nuisance or something so he can’t just set them free. The choice would be a lethal trap to kill the thing right there or a non-lethal one that he’d then catch and drown or something elsewhere. Why make the extra work? Lethal it is.
While he was setting the trap, this guy (who was incredibly nice and very knowledgable) explained that sometimes the animal will try to run through the trap. This means that it will spring and only catch their hind legs. He told me that if this happens, just pick up one of the nearby rocks and bash its head in. You know, like you do.
After he set the trap and left, I had to go visit some family. When I got back, my neighbor — whom I don’t care for — was having a small barbeque in their backyard with some friends. Instantly I thought of a scene where the groundhog was stuck in the trap, half dead. I’d find it there and realize what had to be done. I would make casual conversation with the neighbors, waving courteously with a smile. “Beautiful day today, huh?” Meanwhile, I’m picking up a large rock. “Can you believe this weather?” THUNK! The rock lands. Blood splatters. “It’s a shame to go back inside.” THUNK! One more just to make sure it’s dead. I never once mention what I’m doing or why. Then I wave once again and head inside. The sheer thought of this had me hysterical laughing. Unfortunately, the opportunity to do this did not present itself.
Monica came home from work today and reported that the trap had sprung and one groundhog had been caught. He lays there, lifeless, head first in the trap as I type this. The trapper guy is coming to dispose of the body and re-set the trap so we can catch the other one. James: 1, Groundhog: 0. Once the other one is gone, I’ll have to fill in the hole with some extra reinforcement to ensure no other critters make their homes in there. These are the things you have to do when you own a house.
UPDATE: The trapper came and reset everything. The next morning we had caught the other groundhog. The trap was reset once more, but nothing else has come through so I think we’re groundhog-free now. I consider this a victory against large rodents.
My youngest son Parker is now 9 months old. Between him and Oliver I’ve cleaned up my fair share of urine, feces, vomit, and more snot than should be possible to come out of a child’s nose. The most disgusting of these bodily fluids by far is drool. It’s unlike any of the others in that it’s almost impossible to entirely get rid of it. A drip of the stuff can get on your hand or shirt and it just won’t go away even if you wipe away at it countless times. There have been several instances where I’ll get to work hours after dropping my kids off at day care only to look down and find that there’s an obvious drool stain on my shirt. It’s par for the course really.
The consistency of drool is what makes it so nasty. It’s almost oily in texture, allowing it to slide freely from surface to surface, without you noticing at first. No amount of tissues, bibs, and burp cloths can keep the tide at bay. Speaking of bibs, they are a must-have at this point in Parker’s life. He needs to be in one at all times because the drool just keeps coming. If I forget to put on one, his chest is drenched within minutes. Even when he’s wearing a bib, that thing gets soaked so quickly. I’ll pick him up and suddenly get slapped with a piece of wet cloth…only it’s not wet from water…it’s wet with the saliva of my infant son.
You basically just have to try to keep up with the waterfall of spit that’s coming out of the kid’s mouth. Bibs help that. Having tissues nearby is a good backup plan. We were out today and I had neither so I sort of used his arm to wipe it up, like an older person would do. Just use your sleeve, right? He didn’t mind.
In related news, I’ve found that Parker really loves it when I toss him up in the air. I was always cautious of this with Oliver because I thought I’d break him or something. That caution is all but gone with the second kid. I haven’t dropped him or anything, but I’ve definitely been throwing him up in the air a lot more. He’s got a huge smile on his face the entire time too. You might see where this story is going. One evening I was sitting in my reclining chair, casually tossing the kid up and catching him. He’s giggling and smiling. Everything is great. Then I toss him up once more. I catch him and at that moment, the drool breaks free from the dam that is his mouth. Gravity pulls it towards the earth, straight down…and into my mouth.
Despite my instant revulsion, I didn’t just throw my infant son across the room. I immediately moved him to the side and started spitting into a nearby burp cloth. It was gross. It was the grossest encounter with baby bodily fluids I’d ever had at that point. (I’ve since had a worse one, but that’s a story for another day.) That hasn’t stopped me from playing with my kids though, nor should it. This kind of stuff is just part of being a parent. It’s something that someone — a doctor, an elder, anyone really — should tell you about. There’s a good chance your kid is going to drool right into your mouth. You’re going to get poop on your hands. You’ll get peed on. Boogers will be wiped all over you. Just hope none of them puke in your mouth / face. I’ve managed to avoid that up until now.