Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Wonderful, Wonderful Cat

Felix the Cat, the wide-eyed black feline who was the star of the silent cartoon era of the 1920s was first featured in 1919's Feline Follies produced by Pat Sullivan Studios. While "Master Tom" was a prototype for Felix, everything that is unique to Felix is presented in Feline Follies.

Feline Follies proved to be popular so "Master Tom" was showcased in the the next cartoon, The Musical Mews (1919) and was given his moniker Felix in the third cartoon The Adventures of Felix the Cat (1919). There are three versions about how the name "Felix" came about but the most common is that the name comes from the Latin words for cat (felis) and luck (felix). What remains in constant dispute is who created Felix.

Pat Sullivan immigrated to the United States in 1914 and became a noted animation producer, creating cartoon featuring Charlie Chaplin as his Tramp character. These cartoons would actually feature some of the same animation and visual gags used the future Felix cartoons. Sullivan always stated while he was alive that he created Felix and created a cartoon in 1917 called The Tail of Thomas Cat which features a non-anthropomorphic cat. Sullivan proved to be Felix's downfall in the late 1920s when most cartoons were moving to sound, Sullivan refused to convert Felix and the last silent Felix cartoon premiered in 1930 and was considered a flop. In March of 1932, Sullivan's wife fell out of a seven story window to her death and Sullivan, who had always been a drinker, lapsed into acute alcoholism and died of pneumonia in February of 1933.

Otto Messmer was the lead animator for Pat Sullivan Studios and many people credit him with creating Felix the Cat because, well, it was well known that the animators actually did most of the creating (Ub Iwerks actually created Mickey Mouse, for example). Messmer continued working on Felix long after Sullivan had died and worked on the comic strips and comic books and with Joe Oriolo, who created the popular 1950s television series. Oriolo, who was once one of Messmer's assistants and the creator of Casper, the Friendly Ghost, made sure that Messmer was given credit as the creator of Felix. Messmer continued working on Felix until his death in 1983.

The Felix the Cat comic strip started in 1923, which was the year Felix reached the peak of his popularity, but was either re-inked strips from a newspaper in England or re-inked animation drawings stuck together to create a story. In 1931, Messmer took over writing and drawing details and the comic strip became original. The comic strip continued until 1967 although Messmer would leave it in 1955. Felix would return to the comic strip world in 1987 in Betty Boop and Felix but in 1988, Felix would be taken out of the strip. Betty Boop and Friends would be canceled in 1990.

Here are a few Felix the Cat comic strips from the 1920s and 1930s. The strip was distributed by King Features Syndicate and are displayed at

From 1924. Felix attempts to get a job catching mice but is instead horribly abused and yelled at. What I find interesting is that Felix is apparently just going around to random houses and asking for work as a normal cat.

From 1925. Felix gives poor children a Christmas miracle.

From 1931. Felix eats too many hot dogs which results in an acid trip.

From 1931. Felix endangers a man's life in order to build a plane and win $60,000.

Everyone should know the Felix the Cat television series that aired on Saturday mornings from 1958 to 1961 but Felix was also a television star from the very beginning. A wooden image of Felix was used in 1931 by NBC to test picture quality from New York all the way to Los Angeles in the very early days of television. Felix was placed on a turntable that spun around but, due to falling off the turntable one too many times, the Felix statue was retired and replaced with a statue of Mickey Mouse.

Felix would go on to star in a theatrical film in 1988 but the movie would not be released in the United States until 1991. The film was premiered in Los Angeles in 1989 but would never been shown in theaters. It came out on VHS in 1991 and has not seen an official DVD release in America yet. The movie, while not really noteworthy, was one of the first movies to use computer animation.

The following are a few stories from the comic books.
Felix the Cat #23 (Sept. 1951) Toby Press, Inc.
Written by unknown
Drawn by Otto Messmer

All characters owned by Felix Comics, Inc. (C)1951.

Felix the Cat #85 (July 1957) Harvey Comics
Written and drawn by unknown (possibly Joe Oriolo and Otto Messmer)
All characters owned by Felix Comics, Inc. Published by Harvey Comics (C)1957.

Don't worry, Felix gets out of this predicament (as he always does). Felix gets trapped in a suit of armor and is forced to steal gold bricks from Fort Knox. He ends up using a blowtorch to heat the gold bars thus burning the criminals hands and causing the Fort Knox guards to arrest them all--except Felix.

Felix the Cat Big Book #1 (Sept. 1992) Harvey Comics
Written by Joe Oriolo
Drawn by Otto Messmer

All characters owned by Felix Comics, Inc.; Published by Harvey Comics. (C)1992.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Divide, Or Die

I was thinking the other day about which lunatic fringe of the right I find the most ignorant or embarrassing. I've decided that the birthers are more of an embarrassment because of their stubborn ignorance about what constitutes proof of birth and blatant racism. I would honestly respect you and your decision more if you would just admit that you don't like President Obama because he's black. Although I would then counter with "It's 2010 and there are plenty more reasons now to hate Obama besides the color of his skin."

The comic is based on the Benjamin Franklin cartoon Join, Or Die from 1754 which urged the colonies (but ironically not Delaware or Georgia) to join together or be defeated by the British. This comic is in reference to the small group of racists who are part of the Tea Party group and how the Tea Party needs to separate themselves from this group or they will not be taken seriously. I find it hard to take them seriously when people from the Tea Party say "I want my country back." What does that mean? In order to progress as a country we need to move forward and not stay rooted in the past.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Harter Union: Part Five; Chapter 10

After Kathryn’s visitation, four employees, Darrell, me and an attorney all came back to Baldwin and gathered in my office to read something from Kathryn. The four employees were Melissa, Nathan, Alyson, and Wendy.

“Now, Ms. Zurich wrote these a few months ago and asked that we all gather at the Union and read them out loud,” said the attorney, handing out the envelopes. “Ms. Zurich also gave specific instructions that Mr. Franklin read his last but anyone else my start.”

Wendy opened her envelope and began reading. “’Wendy, you were always a fine cook and I think you have enough experience and talent to take my place and have sent in the necessary paperwork to Darrell and Human Resources for you to begin immediately. Your quiet demeanor was a Godsend in a place where no one seemed to know when to shut up. Thank you for your quiet obedience. It will be missed.’” Wendy sniffed and folded the paper back up. “Quiet obedience. I’m a dog now,” she sniffed.

Nathan opened his envelope and started reading, “’Nathan, every time you smiled it seemed like you were guilty of something. You always made me suspicious but you also made me smile. You helped me discover a side of myself that had remained dormant for many years—to live life to the fullest. Thank you and good luck.’” Nathan chuckled and wiped his nose. “All I said was that she needed to get laid.”

“’Alyson, you never listened and I had to get after you several times to get anything done. You were a major thorn in my side but the reason I kept requesting you to work for me was because you reminded me of myself at that age and that helped make the night go by faster.’” Alyson wiped away a tear. “Oh, great! I’m Kathryn, Junior.”

“’Melissa, you started off as my assistant but became my friend. Granted, the stories you would tell of your boyfriends got tiring but I was glad that you brought me into your world. Thank you.’”

I slowly opened my envelope and unfolded the paper. I took a breath and began reading. “’Jeff, you were a good sparring partner and I tip my glass to you. You aggravated me to no end with your back talk and blasphemous independence but you helped keep me going and you taught me a few things. You, too, could also make me smile. I’ve always said you were going to be the death of me. Well, don’t flatter yourself, you had no bearing on my passing. Don’t ever change.’” I wiped my eyes and folded the paper up and laid it on my desk.

“And now if Mr. Franklin would read this last note,” the attorney handed me a piece of paper and I cleared my throat and read.

“’If you are reading this, you are all finished reading your own personal notes. Again, thank you all and you can do what you wish with them. Through all the aggravation and distress, you kept me young and that’s something I could never pay back. You were more than co-workers and employees, you were friends and I hope to see you all wherever it is I am now.’”

There was not a dry eye in the office save for the attorney who closed his briefcase and left.

I was standing in Kathryn’s office, lit by a stain-glass lamp, looking at her odd African decorations that adorned her office. I had never been in her office before and it kind of creeped me out.

“Are you okay?” asked Melissa, making up behind me.

“I guess. I’m not really sure. I think I’m taking this harder than I should but I treated her like garbage and I never got to apologize or tell her how I really felt.”

“I think she knew, Jeff,” Melissa said, putting her arms around me.

“I know but for some reason I am still going to miss her,” I took my keys out of my pocket and stepped out of Kathryn’s office. I put my car key against her name plate and began chipping it off the wall until it finally fell to the floor. I picked it up, grabbed Melissa’s arm and bolted for the door.

Part Six begins and the Union is remodeled.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

#219: We Treat Our Authors the Old-Fashioned Way....

On October 3, 2005, I signed my first book, Harter Union, away and while I wouldn't regret it at first, or even two years from then, I now regret it as does a good percentage of other authors signed by PublishAmerica. My book, which I feel could have actually made it with a publisher--even a small one, with some editing and expert input, was hastily manhandled into production by PublishAmerica and myself. I have to slightly blame myself because I know how publishing worked and am wondering how I let something like this happen to me but I've seen far smarter people taken in by PA's shenanigans.

But I am not just an upset author who is mad at himself for not having a book on some sort of bestseller list, I am just one of many tired of PA's deceptive half-truths. Even their own message board is beginning to turn against them. If you're lucky to have your post get past Infocenter and not be banned from posting then you can air your grievances all you want but more than likely any post bashing PA or making them look stupid will be deleted and the poster probably banned. Luckily, the good people at Absolute Write try to grab those posts from the message board before they are deleted. It's a tedious job and kind of depressing because the "I'm not happy with PA" posts don't just cover one thread. They cover three. The main complaint people seem to have with PA is not receiving what they ordered which brings me to the barrage of emails PA coaxing their own authors to purchase copies of their own books. 20% off here, 45% there. Another one is 60% as long as you purchase X number of books. Keep in mind that you are not obligated to buy your own books, and I never have because I know how publishing works. Books should be sold to readers--not authors.

Lately, the wheels seem to falling off of PA's wagon. The emails to buy your own books have become a daily nuisance as opposed to a monthly or weekly one. Infocenter seems to be getting more testy and PA has created an imprint called Independence Books, apparently to shed the stigma of the PublishAmerica name. All the same rules apply though. PA or Independence Books will still accept just about anything as long as they haven't reached their quota for the day and your manuscript doesn't include any outright or subtle references to PublishAmerica or the Three Stooges (Willem Meiners, Larry Clopper and Miranda Prather) who run the company. One of the things that was brought to my attention was that PA uses stock images for their covers and that they are prone, now more than ever, to using the same cover--just resizing and recoloring it. I was lucky that my cover looks pretty normal for what my book is about (although the original draft had a bikini-clad blond girl sitting on the word "Union"). But some people weren't so lucky. Consider the novel Night Travels of the Elven Vampire by Lavern Ross. The cover features a horribly pixelated and differently colored photo of Orlando Bloom portraying Legolas from The Lord of the Rings with cherry lollipop-colored "fangs". From what I read, Orlando Bloom's people had some things to say about using this picture. PA then swapped it with another picture of generic tombstones in a cemetery but the story inside is still just as awful.

But it's not the author's fault that her book has been a sort of Internet meme. It's PA's fault because any legitimate publisher would either not publish the book, say "revise and resubmit" or tell the author to get an agent and the agent would either accept the market the book to a publish or say "revise and resubmit". I know my book could use a sixth, seventh and possibly eighth rewrite, maybe more. PA has in its stable of 50,000 authors a few decent books--books that could've actually been accepted by a true publisher if they just had some professional editing input. But the Stooges just want your money. They themselves are failed authors who have become bitter and terrible human beings.

PublishAmerica was founded by Willem Meiners and Larry Clopper in 1999 although there have been incorporation papers saying Meiners and someone else started the company. The current executive director (and Infocenter matron) is Miranda Prather, who was accused of faking a hate crime at the Eastern University of New Mexico in 1997 although she would accept a plea bargain and receive no jail time. Meiners has recently left PublishAmerica to engage himself in his hobbies of sailing a yacht and flying a helicopter. Miranda apparently has a stable of horses and I don't know what hobbies Clopper has but I am sure they are expensive too. It's sad the way these three make money. PA authors only receive a royalty statement of 8% per book but they do not receive royalties on books they purchase themselves (unless there is a special offer). Since my time with PA, I have made a whopping $14 or so. My largest royalty check being my first at about $8. I've received three royalty checks and one email saying I have made nothing in royalties. As of March 2010 I should have received eight royalty checks (or email equivalents). Whether or not, PA has my current email or mailing address is out of my hands. I sent them the information to change it but they never got back to me or confirmed it.

My contract with PublishAmerica expires on October 5, 2012 and I don't plan on renewing. I plan on writing a newer and better book and using my experience to help others caught in PA's trap.

Until next time, I remain...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

#218: Prairie City & 87

The former location of Prairie City.
Just southwest of Baldwin City, at the intersection of a diagonal road and the railroad tracks once stood Prairie City, Kansas. It was never a big town and when Baldwin grew to the west, Prairie City quickly lost its identity. I remember when I was going to school in Baldwin, Prairie City was well-marked with a huge white sign indicating how long Prairie City was around, a redwood sign placed in what used to be the center of town boasting about the Heber Institute and another white sign pointing the direction to the Catholic Church ruins. Today, the only remnant of Prairie City is the cemetery, the church ruins and a couple of houses. Originally, I couldn't care less about Prairie City until I was shown an old, abandoned house that had two graves on the property.

Prairie City was founded in 1855 after an argument between Dr. I.F. Graham and Henry Barricklowe. A post office was soon started in 1856 and the Heber Institute was scheduled to open but never did. The building soon became Prairie City School (District No. 1) but nothing remains of it now. My interest of Prairie City began when a few of my friends, back in high school took me to an old house that had been long abandoned. No one knew what this house was called, who once occupied or when the house was built. All we knew was that no one lived in it and that it had two children buried on the property.

The house was nicknamed "87", for what reason, I don't know. The graves are of Ignace and George X. Meunier (or Miller) who died in 1872 and 1865, respectively, who were two of George and Margret Miller's eight children. George Miller was born in St. Lawrence County, New York but was educated in Canada. George came to Kansas in 1858 and settled in Lecompton where he met Margret Lowery. They married in 1859 and their first child, Adela, was born in 1860. In 1861, the Millers moved to Prairie City, Kansas where George, being a stonemason, built a house atop of a hill. The Millers stayed in Prairie City even after it ceased to be. George, Margret, their youngest daughter Julia and third youngest son Robert are buried in nearby Prairie City Cemetery. The house became abandoned sometime in the 1970s and has remained that way since.

The house is near the ruins of the Catholic Church, which is located on Liberty Hill, reported to be the highest point in Douglas County. The church, originally a mission, was built in 1857 and was in use until 1893 when a new church was built in Baldwin at the corner of South and Miami. Located about the same distance from the church as 87 but in the other direction is another house that I discovered while playing around on Bing Maps.

I explored this house with my person-in-crime, Randy, but we didn't really discover anything amazing about the house except that the property is being used for storage (as is 87) and that I need to go back and get more information on this place.

Today, Prairie City is not well-marked anymore. The cemetery is the only lasting vestige of the town where Horace Greeley once stayed, where John Brown stayed before initiating the Battle of Black Jack and what used to be called the Italy of Kansas. The historic Midland Railway currently goes through what used to the be the center of town and a sign points out where the post office, store and depot used to be.I am in the process of doing massive research about Prairie City, the Millers and the county in general for a book I want to write because I think it would tell a good story.

The Miller House is very dilapidated. The landowner had someone out who estimated it would cost about a million dollars to fix up the house and actually make it livable because the northeast corner of the house has settled into the basement, the floors need to be worked on and the entire house needs to be updated. The Miller family obviously used an outhouse (which is now lying splintered in the backyard) because the bathroom is small and trashed beyond repair. The kitchen, while updated, has only been updated to the 1970s although it still looks really nice. As much as I hate to say it, the house is not worth saving if you plan on living in it. If it could be turned into a museum then it might work out but Baldwin already has a museum and a small town like Baldwin should really only have one museum. I actually think the land would do good as something in agritourism. While I think the land is not useful to actually plant crops on, it could be a museum to the history of farm equipment or something. I know that sounds lame but I've never started a museum before.

I hope the house can be saved because it's a nice house and possibly one of the oldest still standing in the Baldwin City area. The fact that there are graves on the property make this an even rarer and important area of history. But that's just my opinion and we all know how much that is worth.

Until next time, I remain...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Harter Union: Part Five; Chapters 8 & 9

I was working silently in the Dish Room and had hardly seen Melissa all night. She spent most of the time at work in the Private Dining Room with Heather so I immediately thought the worst. Neither Melissa nor Heather would tell me what was wrong so with the bad mood the speech last night put me in and possibly losing Melissa, I was not very happy. I was carrying out a rack of cups and ran into Heather. “Hey, Heather,” I said quietly and pushed past her.

“Jeff, I know what you’re thinking and you’re wrong. What Melissa is going through has nothing to do with you,” Heather said, looking up at me.

“So she’s not going to break up with me?” I asked with a little hope.

“Of course not. She’s learned from her mistakes and she loves you way too much to break up with you.”

I smiled at Heather, who quickly hugged me, and went back to the Dish Room. “How come that doesn’t make me feel better?” I asked softly and the hope then vanished. I resumed my post at Dish 3 but soon the dish machine clunked to a halt.

“Something’s stuck,” Nathan pointed out.

I walked over to the machine and opened the first door to see where the object was stuck. It wasn’t stuck behind the first door so I looked behind the second. A blue rack was stuck and stuck good. I tried pushing it out but it was really in there. I moved to the dish machine exit and started pulling. It still wouldn’t budge so I pulled harder until it finally gave. It flew out of the machine, splashing hot water on my face, smashing my hand into a rack of dishes nearby, shattering several plates. My head and back twisted halfway around as I let go of the dislodged rack, slipped on the wet floor and fell, hitting my head on the bottom shelf of Dish 3 and then everything went black.

I awoke in the PDR with my head resting on Melissa’s lap. I slowly got up and rubbed the back of my head which, along with my neck and hand, really hurt.

“You’re finally up,” Melissa said helping me sit up.

“How long was I out?” I groaned.

“Almost thirty minutes. Are you all right?”

“My head and neck hurt like a son of a bitch but other than that…”

“Yeah, you snapped your neck around pretty good and hit your head hard. You also sliced up your hand on some dishes.”

I looked at the blood-stained dish rag wrapped around my left hand. “Nice. And I see you all were worried enough to call 9-1-1.”

“We decided that if you didn’t wake up in thirty minutes, then we would call.”

“I’m sorry, Pussycat. The Bible verse I read last night got me upset and thinking so I needed some air. I should’ve been here with you—like a true boyfriend,” I stood up and rubbed my neck.

“Don’t be sorry. You are a wonderful person and you deserve a lot better than I can give you. You’re one of a kind, Jeff and you have always been there for me and I love you for it,” Melissa stood up and hugged me. It caught me by surprise but I did the same.

“I love you, too,” I said softly in her ear.

Heather and Nathan were peering in from the door and slowly closed it. “So what was Melissa crying about all evening?” Nathan asked.

“I can’t say. She made me promise that it would stay between us until she tells Jefferson.”

“Oh,” Nathan looked back at the door of the PDR and smiled.

Melissa and I were parked at Signal Oak in the back of my Jimmy. I was on top of her and we both had our shirts off. We continuously kissed and pawed at each other. I stopped and rolled off of her and pulled the fresh dish rag off my left hand and we both looked at it in the moonlight.

“I hope it doesn’t scar,” Melissa said, reaching up and kissing the bigger wound.

“I hope it does. That’d be cool,” I said, grinning big.

“No, you have such beautiful, delicate hands and it’d be a shame if they were scarred for life because of one silly incident,” she said and softly rubbed my hand. “You need to stop chewing your nails, though.”

“Are we gonna have sex or not?” I said, hiding my left hand from view and rolling onto my side to look at Melissa.

“Well, I’m not done with you yet,” Melissa pushed me onto my back and clamped her mouth down onto mine. I ran my right hand through her hair and moved my left hand up and down her naked back. “I never should’ve let you go…” she whispered as she undid my pants and pulled them off a little to wrap her cool, soft hand around me. “Do you like that?”

“Of course,” I said softly. She rolled off of me and undid her pants. I removed my pants and kneeled over her and Melissa removed her pants. We looked into each other’s eyes.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked.

“I’m thinking of getting a cat. I think me and Heather need a pet around the house.”

“Shut up,” Melissa ran on hand through my hair, being careful at the back of my head, and the hand took a hold of my penis and placed it inside her. “Oh, God,” Melissa moaned. “I was worried about you and I never want to lose you again.”

Chapter Nine
A month had passed and everything was looking brighter. Darrell ordered new soda fountains along with a new coffee machine, juice machine and several hand-washing stations throughout the kitchen and Dish Room. Another major difference was Jason, who, for awhile, would come to work but distance himself from the rest of the staff and after a couple of weeks, stopped showing up.

“Jeff?” Nathan came into my office and sat down. “Can you come with me and talk to Jason?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“I don’t know. He stays up all night and drinks and listens to music in the basement so I figured he’s depressed about Chrissy being gone and living with that Jesse guy so I thought that since you’ve been screwed over by many women…”


“…that you could offer some advice to him.”

I stood up and headed to the door. “I’m glad when you think of ‘depressed sociopath’, you think of me.”

We arrived at Nathan’s house and hurried downstairs to the basement where I hit my forehead on the low-hanging door jamb. The basement was completely dark and silent except for the radio playing softly. Nathan reached over and turned on the light.

Jason bolted up from the bed, throwing the covers on the floor. “What are you doing here?” he shrieked.

“Just wondering if you’re coming to work today,” I said looking around at all the clothes strewn around and at Jason who had a full beard and was completely naked. “Oh, God.”

“I haven’t been to work in over a week…” Jason said walking over to us, “why start now?”

“Because we’re all worried about you,” I said trying not to stare at his genitals but finding myself compelled to. “Gaah! I can’t do it! It’s like looking into a lava lamp. You talk to him, Nate,” I turned away and walked over to a workbench off to the side.

“Look, Jason, we’ve all been dumped by someone at some time and we all got over it and you’ll get over this, too.”

“No matter how much you don’t want to,” I said picking up a piece of cardboard that was painted gray. I turned it toward the light and looked at Jason. “What’s this, Jason?” I angled it so Nathan could see.

“My child’s tombstone. It’s the only memory I have left.”

Nathan and I looked uneasily at each other. “Is this what this is about? The abortion?” I laid the faux stone down and walked over to Jason. “Why didn’t you just tell Chrissy you didn’t want her to have an abortion?”

“No, we needed to get it but I didn’t even think of the damage that the abortion might’ve caused. Knowing what I know now, I would’ve given it a second thought,” he explained.

“I’m sorry all this happened, Jason but you can either stay down here and wallow or you can join us in the real world. Hopefully you’ll make the right decision,” I turned around and started to leave. “Come on, Nathan, we got to get to work. Maybe I’ll see you around, Jason. And put on some damn pants.”

I finished making my salad and sat down next to Heather. Melissa came in, sat down next to me and slammed a yellow piece of paper down in front of me. “Is something wrong?” I asked.

“I’m being evicted! They’re turning my apartment complex into an assisted living facility,” Melissa said.

“Hey, everybody, look at what I found,” Alyson hollered, coming through the front doors on roller-skates. “Can I wear these on the Line, Jeff?”

Aaron came in from the Line talking with Kepler. “So I found out why my girlfriend hasn’t been talking to me lately. She was kicked by a horse and broke her hip. And I was just about to break up with her.”
Wanda’s foot was on the table and she was picking at a patch of dry skin while talking to Emily. “Malachi has been the only guy whose name I’ve screamed in a long time. It felt good and it made him feel special.”

“I’m not a screamer, more of a moaner. Besides that, I’m pretty quiet,” Emily replied.

“Hey, Nathan? Jeff? Can one of you look at this pimple on my butt?” asked Katie.

“I don’t want to move,” complained Melissa. “I was there first! Those old people can all go to hell!”

“I thought I got rid of my skates when I moved but they were in a shoebox with my vibrator—but I shouldn’t have told you that,” Alyson giggled.

“I’m gonna have to live the park like a hobo!” whined Melissa.

“No you won’t Pussycat, Baldwin hoboes live near the railroad tracks,” I smiled and hugged her. Over by the soft serve machine, Katie had her pants partly down and Nathan was examining her pimple.

“Why doesn’t she live with us?” asked Heather.

“Wanda, please take your feet off the table. What do you mean live with us?” I asked.

“Why do you need a vibrator when you have Nathan?” Stephanie asked Alyson.

“It was for before Nathan. I haven’t used it since I lost my virginity,” Alyson explained.

“I mean, Melissa moves in with us and she becomes our roommate,” Heather dumbed-down.

“We don’t have room,” I said.

“She’d stay with you in your room and from what I saw, she doesn’t own very much.”

“She broke a hip? I thought that was something only old people did,” Kepler laughed.

“She was kicked by a horse, that’d break anyone’s hip,” Aaron argued.

“I guess she could. I just don’t want it to ruin our relationship. Maybe it could be like an episode of Three’s Company,” I joked.

“It better not!” Melissa said.

“Hey, Jeff,” Nathan and Katie came back over to the group and Nathan stood next to me. “I bought this role-playing game the other day and I wondered if you would want to help play. You could be the storyteller.”

“Sure, I guess I could try it out. Honestly, I suck at role-playing games. I was playing Dungeons and Dragons one time and I sucked all the fun out of it,” I said.

“You’ll be the storyteller so you will be able to suck all the fun out from an entirely different level. We can get a small group together—Aaron, Kepler, want to play this game with us?”

“Sure,” Kepler answered.

“Yeah, I guess,” Aaron remarked.

“Great! We can play it after work, downstairs and between shifts,” Nathan seemed enthusiastic about it.

“Alright, we’ll start tonight. Let’s get to work, people!” I shouted.

Aaron, Alyson, Kepler, Melissa, Heather, Nathan, and I were in the game room of the Union. Melissa and Heather were watching TV while the rest of us were setting up the role-playing game: Vampire: En Masse. “To make it easy,” Nathan said, passing out player sheets, “everyone will be 11th Generation but you can choose your own clan and demeanor.”

“This is confusing,” said Alyson. “How do you decide what abilities you have?”

“You roll the dice and sort out the total number between the several abilities,” Nathan exclaimed.

“That doesn’t seem fair,” Alyson complained. “Someone could roll a 16 and someone else roll a five.”

“Yep. It’s a game of chance and luck,” I said.

“Well, that sucks,” she huffed.

I rolled my eyes and laid the book on the table. “I’ve marked the pages of clans and demeanors so look it through and pick what you want.”

“What can we have for names?” asked Kepler.

“Pretty much anything,” I said.

“Can I have Kepler?” he asked with a lot of enthusiasm.

“Uh, I guess that’d be okay,” I looked at Nathan and shrugged.

“Blast,” Aaron said suddenly.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“That’s what I’m gonna name my character. Blast,” Aaron revealed.

“Blast? Interesting name for a vampire,” I said, trying to keep a straight face. “Anyone else have a name?”

“I want Alexandria but this is all so confusing and stupid,” Alyson whined.

“Here,” Nathan spun the book in front of Alyson and started flipping through the clans. “Which clan do you want?”

He ended up on the Lasombra, which featured a tall, thin, raven-haired goddess in a black spaghetti-string dress and big breasts. “This one,” Alyson pointed, smiling.

I rolled my eyes again as Nathan filled out the pertinent information of Alyson’s sheet. Aaron chose the clan Brujah, which had a tall, muscular vampire carrying a big gun and Kepler chose Grengel. Nathan named his character Calthor and the clan Followers of Set while I chose the name Dahrkron and the clan Toreador. We finally got down to rolling the dice and figuring out the attributes, abilities and advantages. Unfortunately, we were all ready to start when Alyson got bored so we decided to call it quits and head home.

"Are you coming home with us?” I asked Melissa, pointing to Heather.

“Yeah,” Melissa smiled. “I think I should get used to living with the both of you.”

It was about three in the morning and I was stumbling through the hallway to the phone. “If this is a wrong number, I am going to jump through the phone and strangle somebody,” I growled. I picked up the receiver and answered, “Someone better be dead!”

“Who is it, Jefferson?” asked Heather, who, with Melissa, was standing in the hallway still half-asleep.

“Sorry, Darrell, I…” I stopped and my eyes widened as I turned toward the girl. “Oh my God. Well, thank you for calling. I appreciate it. I’ll see you at work. Bye,” I hung up the phone, walked over to the girls and hugged them both.

“What’s wrong, Jeff? What’d Darrell want?” asked Melissa.

“Uh, Kathryn passed away earlier this evening. She had a heart attack while watching TV,” I explained.

“That’s horrible.”

“I’m actually going to miss the Red-Haired Dragon. When’s the funeral?” asked Heather.

“Next week in Wisconsin but they’re having a visitation in Lawrence if we want to go. Darrell will give us more info at work tomorrow. I’m going back to bed,” I pushed past Melissa but kissed her on the temple and went back in the bedroom.

“Jefferson seemed more depressed then he really should be…” Heather said to Melissa.

Kathryn's legacy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Death of Superman

I remember years ago, my cousin and I saw the cover to Superman #213. It showed Superman lying dead on the ground holding a quill (!) and scrawling "THIS VAULT TO BE OPENED ONLY IN THE EVENT OF MY DEATH!! Superman" on parchment apparently from the 1770s. We always wondered what was in the vault Superman said is to be opened only in the event of his death. I found the comic for $12 at a comic convention or something and I had to buy it to discover what is in the vault.

Superman #213, January 1969
Written by: unknown
Penciled by: Curt Swan
Inked by: unknown
Cover by: unknown

All characters and stories are trademark and copyright (c)1969 DC Comics.