September 2013

Recently I found a CD-ROM I’d burned a bunch of old pulp novels onto years back for research for a thing I stopped writing once I got a real job. Anyway, this inspired me to read a few, which in turn inspired me to write a bit from a novel-within-a-novel for the aforementioned thing on Facebook.  Here is what I wrote, preserved for posterity.


“We’re going to break into that building. The Potassium Airstone will be ours.”

“You’re crazy!”

“Crazy like a PELICAN.”

“Don’t you know who lives in that building?”

“I dunno. Some dork with a tan?”

“Haven’t you heard of Dr. Dire? His story is legend.”

“Legends are stupid, and wrong also.”

“They say his parents sent him away at birth and had him trained to be the world’s
greatest scientist by an ancient order of monks.”

“Those sound like really terrible parents. And how can monks make you a doctor?”

“NO ONE KNOWS. But worse than that, he’s got this team, the Superfly Runnin’ Crew. There’s a pilot and an explosives expert and a telegraph specialist and a cab driver and also an accountant. They’ve all got black belts in tae kwon do and they’re pretty bad, ‘bad’ meaning ‘good.'”

“Reputations are like snowballs — stupid.”

“I don’t want no part of this, man. I would rather drink paint than risk going up against him. I would rather eat a cheese sandwich that had been lying in the sun for an indeterminate period of time. I would rather a large dump truck, drive to the neighboring counties, gather up all the fire ants I could find, create a giant pit full of fire ants — I suppose I’d also need a steam shovel, to scoop up the ants, and to dig the pit — then cover myself in barbecue sauce and dive in screaming, ‘come and get it!’ than face Dr. Dire.”

“You cannot believe everything you read in the newspapers. One day they will be dead, and people will get accurate news from safe, reliable electronic sources.”

“Well, this headline is pretty clear: THING HAPPENING. And when Dr. Dire does a thing, let me tell you: It’s a thing.”

“Let me assure YOU: This thing will be a thing that Dr. Dire will wish was a thing that he had never had. The thing. I mean.”

“Okay, I’m in. But just to warn you: We get caught, he’s mad into delicate brain operations. They make you not evil, and also stare at walls singing showtunes.”

“We’re only going to be singing one showtune tonight, my friend. The showtune of DEATH!”



“Superfly Runnin’ Crew roll call! State your name, your specialty, and your code name.”

“Pinkerton Schlafly, professional aeronaut. Code name: Propeller.”

“Aloysius Bartram Clydesdale Dunkirk Eustace Farrington-Gomez, renowned explosives connoisseur. Code name: Al.”

“Rodney Q. Pants, expert at Morse Code, telegraph service and speed-typing. Code name: Word-Sling.”

“Dangelo Lorenzo DeFilippis-Bologna, undercover checker cab driver and ear for street chat/underworld gossip, along with actual checker cab driver. Code name: Checks.”

“Melvin Peebles, accountant. Code name: Other Dude.”

“And I, of course, am Dr. Archimedes H. Dire, E.O.A.E. Code name: Dr. Archimedes H. Dire, E.O.A.E., or ‘Dr. Dire’ for short. Now – “

“Um. Question.”

“Yes, Other Dude?”

“What’s an E.O.A.E.?”

“Expert on Almost Everything. Now –“

“Do you have to have the doctor part and the title part in your name?”

“Yes, Other Dude.”

“Um, okay. Hey, sorry. One more question.”

“All right.”

“What AREN’T you an expert on?”

“Women. Also pancakes.”


“Moving on. It is my deepest regret to inform you that the criminal mastermind Colonel Dexter Poindexter, aka ‘The Stereotype,’ has set his sights on Dire Dynamics’ latest experiment. Poindexter, as you all know, can do bad imitations of anyone from any country, a M.O. that’s proven surprisingly effective with rookie policemen and several areas in the South. Checks, your report?”

“Yes, sir. Word out of the bingo parlors is that he’s capable of doing a French accent, a German accent, and even a Bronx accent, within the same conversation. He’s even developed an utterly baffling secret code. I gotta go now, I’m picking up a fare at the airport.”

“Very good, Checks. I understand we’ve intercepted one of these notes, which was cunningly concealed inside a hollow cookie at a restaurant. Word-Sling, report your findings.”

“Thank you, Doctor. Now, we haven’t figured out the encryption key, but so far, what we have reads: ‘Ancient proverb say: He who pats himself on back too hard may fall flat on his face. Lucky numbers: 16 8 23 42.’”

“Diabolical. Well, keep working to crack that.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Finally, some bad news: My unicorn-breeding plans have had yet another setback, with subjects exhibiting extreme aggression, along with a curious tendency to breathe fire and grow bat wings. Results are currently being analyzed as we move forward. On a positive note, all senior Dire Dynamics employees will receive a special bonus this month consisting of five pounds of unicorn steaks.”

“And good news, sir! They’ll be completely tax-deductible!”

“Splendid, Other Dude! Now if you’ll excuse me, I must work on my trilling. I’m this close to perfecting my imitation of a South Pacific Purple Crumb-Snatcher. Any other business?”

“Propeller here, sir – it looks like there’s an army of zombie catfish attacking the Dire Building.”

“NOT AGAIN! Everyone! To the gyro-copter!”

“Uh, I still have to pick up my fare.”

“Everyone except Checks! To the gryo-copter!”



“Arise, Large-Eyeball-With-Many-Tentacles…arise as I speak the words of power…Doan-War-E-Bee-Hah-Pee….Doan-War-E-Bee-Hah-Pee…”


“Dr. Dire! The Man with the Tan™!”

“You’re surrounded, Poindexter! Two dirigibles and umpteen airplanes are buzzing this
building as we speak! My crew is all situated with air rifles and steampunk goggles!”

“You cannot put the kibosh on the resurrection, Dire! The followers of Yoggoth-Soggoth shall open the gateway to the higher realms, by chanting and wearing robes and stuff!”

“Your mamma they will!”

“Your arrogance astounds me, Dire! Just because you successfully removed your own gall bladder and claim to have invented waffles –“

“Time travel was involved.”

“—doesn’t mean that you are, as you proclaim, ‘The Sterling Fist of Justice!™’ There are forces beyond your control, beyond the veil of whatever, that will bring about the utter subjugation of humanity by the giant eyeballs! And men like me who helped them out will get cool cars and jazz!”

“You sadden me, Poindexter. You’ll never know the joy of doing right with a smile, being considerate of your neighborhood, or constantly striving to make yourself better through performing delicate brain operations and practicing tropical bird calls!”

“Spanking Solomon! You’re like white rice with plain yogurt – disgusting! No wonder you never get any chicks!”

“That’s merely an unfortunate consequence of being trained to be the greatest scientist on Earth by an ancient order of monks! Even their limitless knowledge has limits. But I believe one day I’ll find a lady who understands she can only be a mistress to my first loves – science and bird calls – and accompany me for a cartoon double feature and a refreshing strawberry phosphate.”

“Your words are as stupid as your haircut! Behold! The ritual is nearly complete! Soon, the demon/alien/whatever shall dominate the nightmares of the general populace!”

“Bushwah! Your plan is as illogical as fluoridated drinking water! I’ll prove you as wrong as when I proved the Thousand-Winged Dragon of Arkansas was just a combination of Swiss cheese, copper plumbing and floodlights!”

“Really! Ah-ha-ha-ha! See now what arises from the pit!”


“You like that, Dire?!”

“…Bother. I’m going to need some serious bird-calls for this.”



THE FINAL INSTALLMENT (because I gots stuff to do):


“Madame Sauvage – an Archimedies Dire is here to see you.”

“Archie! Hey! How are ya?”

“Greetings, Meg. Sorry I’ve been out of touch.”

“Oh, it’s okay. Hey, saw you defeated that giant eyeball. Cool beans.”

“Thank you. And I assure you it’s completely reformed. Performing a delicate brain operation on an eye wasn’t easy, but I’ll have a research paper ready in a few weeks.”

“…I can’t wait. So, what brings you to Tacarembo La Tumbe Del Fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas La Junta Del Sol Y Cruz?”

“I got the blues.”

“Aw! What’s the buzz?”

“You’re the closest I’ve got to an equal, Meg. And I don’t just mean because Father
intended for us to marry until it was determined we were actually first cousins instead of

“Yeah, Uncle Abednego was kind of messed up.”

“Parents try so hard. I don’t know if I could ever have children myself – that knowledge that you’ve created something that you kind of have to make not die.”

“That’s why I stick to plastic houseplants.”

“I understand things in ways others cannot. I’ve seen beauty, chaos, underground troll-civilizations with buildings carved entirely from rare fungus.”

“Sorry I missed that.”

“Yet somehow…the sum total of my experience feels less like knowledge than…a bunch of weird stuff that no one cares about.”

“Look Archie, you have a lot going for you. You’re smart, financially stable, and you look pretty good for a guy your age –“

“Sleeping in a vacuum-bag chamber will do that. I have an extra if you need one.”

“Thanks but no. You have a job you love, and you do cool stuff all the time, but sometimes you have to understand why people like stuff that’s not your stuff.”

“I’m confused.”

“I mean like – look, every time you finish an adventure, where do you go?”

“To the Alone-Dome in the Arctic to work on my inventions and bird-trilling.”

“Right, see – you can’t just sit around trilling with yourself all the time.”

“Hmm. Perhaps I should pursue this line of reasoning. I could pretend to be a hobo, or attend a class on how to pick up chicks.”

“Baby steps, cuz. Maybe just throw a cookout or something.”

“I do have a surplus of unicorn steaks.”

“You won’t see the results you want right away, but life isn’t science. It’s like Uncle Abednego always said – ‘Save the world, and it’ll pay you back, by still being around and junk.’”

“I feel infinitely better, Meg. I’m glad our family’s forced-eugenics program produced you.”

“Back atcha. Look, you need a break from this emotion biz. You wanna go hunt some manticores with wet noodles?”

“I’ll go get the chloroform!”



As anyone who knows me knows, I’m sort of a sociopathic fan of Cartoon Network’s series ADVENTURE TIME.  It represents something truly imaginative, inventive and spontaneous — not to mention fun!

Having recently gotten to do AN ACTUAL ADVENTURE TIME STORY for issue #20 of the KaBOOM! ADVENTURE TIME comic (order it here!) , I thought I’d share with you some of the best pieces from my collection of ADVENTURE TIME art.  My full collection is online in this gallery.

Here are some of the best pieces, with commentary.

First, I’ve been lucky enough to get some art from many of the talented people who work on the show, including creator Pendleton Ward…

Jake, Finn and Lumpy Space Princess by Pen Ward

,,,Andy Ristaino, who’s done many of the character designs and now writes for the show….

Tart Toter

…and a couple pieces by Jesse Moynihan, who’s written/storyboarded many of the most surreal episodes and does the FORMING webcomic.  Here’s a piece Jesse did of the Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant, one of my favorite one-off characters from the show.

War Elephant

I also did a trade with Jesse for one of the most unique pieces in my collection.  With each new episode that airs, the writers/artists on the show do a unique drawing they post on the show’s Tumblr that relates to the events of the episode.  This is from “Reign of Gunters” (originally “Gunthers”) showing Finn reading the pick-up artist book “Mind Games” by “J.T. Dawgzone” (later changed to “Jay T. Doggzone.”  This includes the only known appearance of “Dawgzone” to date, on the book’s back cover.

Reign of Gunters

And here is Marceline the Vampire Queen by Rebecca Sugar, who wrote/storyboarded many of the best Marceline episodes (“It Came From the Nightosphere,” “What was Missing,” “I Remember You,” “Simon and Marcy”) and also wrote many of Marceline’s songs.  Sugar has left the series to do her own show, the upcoming STEVEN UNIVERSE, but it was a great thrill to get a piece from one of the creators who helped define this character and created some of the show’s most emotional moments.  This is also signed by Olivia Olson, the voice of Marceline.

Rebecca Sugar Marceline

Marceline has been one of the characters artists most want to draw from the show.  One of the first pieces I got for my collection was a drawing of her by Kate Beaton, the genius cartoonist behind HARK! A VAGRANT.  It is also signed by Olivia Olson.

Beaton Olson Marceline

Here’s a walnut-ink commission of Marceline by Ethan Nicolle, creator of the webcomic and animated series AXE COP.

Marceline Nicolle

And here’s Marceline by Brandon Graham of Image Comics’ PROPHET and such surreal SF delights as KING CITY and MULTIPLE WARHEADS.

Brandon Graham

A very nice piece of Marceline and Jake by Nathasha Allgeri, who created Fionna and Cake for ADVENTURE TIME and did the amazing short BEE AND PUPPYCAT for Cartoon Hangover on YouTube.


Natasha Marceline

And I just got this stunning commission by Robbi Rodriguez, where Marceline rocks out big time.


In addition, it’s been great fun getting artists with a wide variety of styles to bring those styles to the different characters from the show.

For example, Chester Brown, whose tales often deal with very, very dysfunctional looks at relationships, did a dynamite job with this melancholy Ice King.

Chester Brown Ice King

Brown’s good friend and contemporary Seth, who beautifully captures a wintry sense of melancholy in his work, brought a nice dignity to Ice King’s human alter ego, Simon Petrikov.


James Harren, who does more horror/fantasy type work, blew me away with this terrifying take on Marceline’s Dad, Hunson Abadeer.

James Harren Marceline's Dad

Ramon Perez did an unforgettably gross variation on Ricardio, the Heart Guy.

Ramon Perez Ricardio

Here’s a wry Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant by Jennifer Hayden…

Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant by Jennifer Hayden

…and a super-adorable Buff Baby Finn by Katie Cook, who writes the MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC comic.

Buff Baby Finn by Katie Cook

Becky Dreistadt, who does the amazing TINY KITTEN TEETH comic, did this beautiful Fionna and Cake, and has gone on to do a number of stories and covers for the AT comic.


And Lucy Knisley, who’s done some Fionna and Cake comics, did this very sweet piece.

Lucy Knisley

Jeffrey Brown did this take on BMO “playing with itself”…

Jeffrey Brown Beemo

…while Andy Runton of OWLY did this piece of BMO playing with Jake and Lady Rainicorn’s offspring.  PUPPIES!

Andy Runton BMO

Tom Fowler, who does all sorts of surreal fantasy characters, did a hulking take on Billy the hero.

Tom Fowler Billy

And Jeremy Bastian of CURSED PIRATE GIRL did this nasty Ice Queen, which was colored by Beck Seashols.

Ice Queen

Janet K. Lee of RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN brought her dapper style to Peppermint Butler, her favorite character from the show.

Dapper Peppermint Butler by Janet Lee

And Pen Ward himself praised this piece of the Earl of Lemongrab by Jeff Lemire, who did a most ACCEPTABLE! job.

Earl of Lemongrab by Jeff Lemire

The Lich (or the Lich King, as originally pitched), is very popular with creators who have a more horror-based style, as his countenance of PURE EVIL really lets them do some nightmarish work.

This is by Charles P. Wilson III of THE STUFF OF LEGEND.

LItch King by Charles Paul Wilson III

This one is by Nathan Fox, and hews closer to the character’s animated design.

Nthan Fox Lich King

Duncan Fegredo, who’s done many of the Hellboy comics with Mike Mignola, combined a few different looks for this grayscale commission.

Fegredo Litch King

And Ted Naifeh of COURTNEY CRUMRIN did one with its roots in classic mythology — there’s sort of a folktale, Middle Ages quality to this one.

Ted Naifeh Lich King

And finally, here’s Finn and Jake themselves by the Spanish cartoonist Liniers.  This just makes me happy!


I’ve gotten a lot of great pieces, though I might stop soon — my personal goal is 200 different artists, and I’m already up to about 180! (there’s a few repeat artists and a couple updated/colored pieces in my gallery)

Again, you can check out my full collection of stuff here!

The first season of NBC’s Hannibal, the adaptation/reimagining of the classic cannibal created by Thomas Harris for Red DragonSilence of the Lambs and other novels, is out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week.

As it happens, I did some Hannibal press stuff at San Diego Comic-Con for a website that promptly decided not to employ me any more a week after the show.  With the material still handy, I thought I’d share this interview with Hugh Dancy, whose portrayal of Hannibal’s friend/victim/eventual pursuer Will Graham provides the center and emotional arc of the show.

This was part of a group press event with about five other journalists sitting at the table.  Stuff I asked specifically is marked with a (Z).

All photos are copyright NBC.

Will in the Nuthouse

(Z) Have you enjoyed the con, or have you actually had a chance to be on the convention floor?

No, I haven’t yet.  I got in this morning and went straight into this stuff, in the peripheral buildings.  So I haven’t gone into the beating heart of it yet.

The question I have to ask is: What was it like throwing up an ear?

You know, I knew that was coming.  Bryan (Fuller) explained to me that this was where the story was going, so for me, it was kind of an iconic thing – “I want to throw up the ear, I want to throw up the ear.” (laughs)  Because that was when we got into the endgame, and it was just so gross and brilliant.  So I was very hyped.  And it was good!

Are you going vegetarian after the show?

No, I love meat.  (laughs)

(Z) I was curious about how you played the role of Will Graham.  I saw you in Adam several years ago, and given how you portrayed a character with Asperger syndrome there, I wondered if that carried over into how you portrayed Will.

I think so.  And I’ll tell you why: There’s a moment in the first episode when Laurence (Fishburne)’s character and my character first meet on screen, and he goes, “Where are you on the spectrum?”  Something like that.  And I think there might even be a mention of Asperger’s, I can’t remember.

For me, that was misdirection.  I definitely do not think Will has Asperger syndrome.  In fact, what I think he is is almost the polar opposite of someone with Asperger syndrome.  The way I think about it is, if there is a spectrum with autism on one end, people who can’t read anything of another person, and with most of us somewhere down here (gestures with hand), then there’s a spectrum extending to the other side with people who have no control over the information that they receive, and have no floodgates at all.

That’s where Will is.  And the way he protects himself is, he’s deliberately and consciously adopted some of the mannerisms of a person with Asperger’s.

(Z) He’s faking it, in a way.

Kind of.  He’s chosen to block eye contact.  He’s chosen to become kind of antisocial and not engage.

(Z) Kind of autistic by choice.

Right, but socially.  Not in the way his mind works, but in how he carries himself.


What kind of research did you do – did you observe anyone like Will?

Well, I don’t know anybody like Will.  I don’t know that there is anybody like Will, really.  Just as there’s nobody really like Hannibal Lecter.

I hope.

They’re fictional creations.  But that said – obviously, I read Thomas Harris’ novels, that’s the best place to start.  But then after that,  I read some of the stuff by people that Harris had spoken to, some people that work in behavioral science, who work in profiling serial killers.  And they all have this strange combination of science meeting intuition meeting detective work.  So Will is like that character, but pushed a little bit further.

Hannibal is a daring show for network television – are you surprised by the content of it?

Well, I think what you’re saying when you ask that, is about the blood and the bodies and all that, are they daring, and that’s unquestionably the case.  But what I found to be more daring about it, certainly more interesting, and also daring for a network, for NBC, was the format.

It’s an hour-long, psychological, pretty complex grown-up series with limited episodes. And the blood and guts of it – other than being intrinsic to the genre – served all that other stuff, served your understanding of who Will was, of his relationship with Hannibal, and why Will is so messed up, because he carries that stuff around with him.

I think that’s why, in part, we got away with it, because it has context.  It’s designed to be part of the aesthetic of the show, and not just, “Shit, we ran out of story, let’s kill somebody.”

(question a bit hard to hear; sounds like “do you feel the TV is an artistic compromise vs. doing movies?)

I don’t look at it that way.  I mean, there’s no guarantee a movie is going to come your way.  And I chose to do it, insofar as you can tell – I talked to Bryan, and he described to me Year One, Year Two, Year Three, Year Four, Year Five, and it was very rich and different and I thought, “Okay, I’m very happy to sign that contract.  I think I will be interested and enthusiastic five years from now.”  I mean, maybe I won’t be, but I made that guess.

So I’m absolutely positive about it.  I can’t wait to go back.  I was very invested in the show, I really thought we were doing something good as we were going along, and the audience was teetering, and now they’re starting to grow, and I really care about it.  So I’m delighted.

Hannibal - Season 1

So you knew Will would end the season inside of a cell. 

I did.

So there was never any concern for you like, “Is my part going to be smaller in Season Two?”  Because you know the master plan for the show…

No, I didn’t have that concern.  I just, you know…(laughs) I think you could have a show entirely based around Hannibal, but it would be tricky.  He needs a foil.  And if that balance change a bit in Season Two, I’m good with that as well.  I think we’ve set it up for a very interesting and very different trajectory in the second season.

(Z) Without getting too spoilery, what are you most looking forward to playing in Will’s journey in this upcoming season?

Well, I feel that Will, albeit in a pretty unpleasant way, has had the scales completely removed from his eyes, and in a funny sense, is possibly stronger now than he has ever been before, because he’s not only aware of the situation outside of him, with Hannibal and his identity and who he really is.  He’s also much clearer about who he himself is.

(Z) Several critics were calling that last scene in the finale “the birth of a hero.”

(laughs) There is something to that.  I think that – it’s funny, I hadn’t read that, but I do think that in a very shorthand kind of way, the second season kind of allows Will to take ownership of his powers, right?

He has these strange abilities/challenges with empathy, and in the first season, he’s at the mercy of that.  Jack is using him to some extent to get the job done, and Hannibal is certainly leaning on that part of his brain.  And now those people are away from him, and he’s stuck in a cell on his own, and he can begin to take control of his environment, and start fighting.

In the first season, Will tries experimenting with relationships – maybe a friendship with Hannibal, a romantic relationship, maybe being a father figure to Abigail – do you think Will is capable of having a true, fulfilled relationship of any sort?

I think that’s an excellent question.  In the relationship with Alana, the question was, “How the hell would someone like Will go about instigating, and certainly maintaining, any kind of romantic or intimate relationship?”

And I mean obviously, the most intimate relationship he has with anybody is with Hannibal.  It doesn’t help that by the time he kisses Alana, he’s suffering from encephalitis and is losing his mind.  (laughs)  That’s never a good thing.

If you know the books, you know that in Red Dragon, you know Will is in a relationship when Jack comes to pull him back in, to work in Behavioral Science. And that relationship is tested – again, the question is there even in that book: “Is Will capable of sustaining a relationship in a grown-up, in a normal way?”

And the honest answer is, I don’t know.  He has his dogs – had his dogs.  It seems to me like the best situation Will could possibly be in was the situation he was in in Episode One – he was teaching, going home, doing some good, pursuing his interest in fishing, looking after dogs.  Anything other than that is going to be very difficult for him.

Hannibal DVD

It’s pretty amazing how in less than 13 weeks, Hannibal has built this incredible fan base online.

Yeah. You always hope for the best, and I thought (laughs) if there was any upside to the fact that we were struggling to get an audience in terms of numbers of TV viewers, it was that we had this entire other audience that came out of it who were not only watching the show but actively supporting it and spreading the word.

That’s a great feeling.  It’s a really, really nice feeling to be supported, because for me, this really felt like we were doing something different.  It’s very fresh.  And I’d be delighted to hear someone say, “Oh, X million people watch your show on Thursday!”  It’s a guarantee that we get to go on for a while.

But when I see these people invest so much time and energy in their fandom of the show, it’s just great.  It’s really great.

(Another question I couldn’t hear well – basically, it seems to ask about how there are other procedural shows on TV, and how Hannibal is different)

Well, I think that the procedural element to our show – which I suspect will change a just a little bit in Season Two because I’m in jail – was mostly there in Season One in support of the overarching story.  You know, the individual crimes are thematically relevant (to that arc) and are designed to help push it forward.

That’s why I like it – and it allows you to invest those situations with some emotional.  As an actor, I don’t have to go, “Oh, we’re in the morgue again.  Oh look, he had his foot cut off.”  To find a way that, for the character, that means something, and resonates beyond that one scene, is good.

(we’re told it’s the last question): I wanted to ask about Homeland — do you watch Homeland? (Dancy’s wife Claire Danes stars on the series)

Yes, I do.  Yes.

So are you ready for the next season?

Well, I’m reading it. (laughs)  They’re filming it right now, so I’m reading the episodes as they come in.  So I know everything.

Do you and Clare compare notes for the Hannibal scripts too?

Well, we both ended our first seasons institutionalized, so…(laughs)


Hannibal: Season One is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.






Glob be praised!  I have ANOTHER comic book story out this month, following up my tale in REGULAR SHOW #3 with “Grocery Time” in ADVENTURE TIME #20!

You can advance-order it on comiXology here in e-form, or from KaBOOM!’s website.

Here are some fun facts about this tale!

1) It was written nearly a year before “Sombrero World,” my REGULAR SHOW story, but got held up because KaBOOM! didn’t know Cartoon Network had approved it already.

2) It was one of 10 pitches I made to KaBOOM! for ADVENTURE TIME stories.  Coincidentally, it was also the pitch I had developed the least.

3) The pitch was, “in a tale told in hard-rock narration, Billy goes to the Grocery Kingdom to get stuff for a party, but finds himself pitted against the Notorious Ham-Pire and his Avocadobots.”  I had no idea who the Ham-Pire and the Avocadobots were when I pitched that.  They were just weird names I’d written down in my file of ideas that sounded like ADVENTURE TIME characters.

4) When writing the script, I had to come up with a quick way of explaining the Ham-Pire.  After debating whether he should be an adorable pig with fangs and a Dracula cape, I hit on a very quick explanation: AN EXPIRED HAM BACK FROM THE GRAVE.  

Here’s the design by Brad McGinty:

Ham Pire Design



5) Ryan North, the regular writer on the ADVENTURE TIME comic, joked that Ham-Pire should be the new Big Bad of the series.  I of course jumped WAAAAYYYY too hard on this and came up with a backstory for him, which I share EXCLUSIVELY here:

BIOGRAPHY: The Notorious Ham-Pire was once a delicious glazed ham in the Grocery Kingdom, who due to poor shelving and a ham surplus, found itself freezer-burned and moldy.  Tossed away with other expired foods, the ham was accidentally exposed to a faulty, non-functioning batch of Candy Kingdom serum that was mistakenly thrown in the same bin.  The molds and glaze mutated the serum, causing it to reanimate the ham as an undead creature of PURE EVIL.
The Ham-Pire discovered that it needed to drain sugars and artificial preservatives from other creatures in Ooo in order to survive.  Hence, it regularly haunted the remote aisles of the Grocery Kingdom, sustaining itself on various snack products and food-beings unfortunate enough to cross its path.  Members of the Candy Kingdom were particularly in peril from the creature; its cloven (well, clove) teeth could drain the Candy Life from their bodies, reducing them to non-living-but-still-delicious consumables, though they had been on the ground and you probably shouldn’t touch them.
In addition to its various supernatural powers, including flight, clove-breath and super-strong ham-fists, the Ham-Pire possessed a great deal of scientific knowledge it used to create minions to carry out its misguided objective of making sure that “ALL WILL BE HAM.” 
In one of its most fiendish moves, it resurrected an army of dud avocados with cyber-parts to create “Avacadobots” it used in an attempt to conquer the Grocery Kingdom’s Ice Cream Peninsula.  Its ploy would have succeeded had the hero Billy not needed to pick up some ice cream for a party, and even then the great legend nearly got mad-walloped until he used a robo-controller toy from a box of cereal to turn the Ham-Pire’s Avacadobots against it.
The current whereabouts of the Ham-Pire are unknown, though there are rumors that it is entombed somewhere in a remote area of the Candy Kingdom, withered but still “alive.”  Should it ever escape, the Land of Ooo would be in great danger, as they will never see it coming…though they will smell it.  Hoo boy, will they smell it.
POWERS/ABILITIES: Aside from being a technical genius on the level of Princess Bubblegum, the Ham-Pire can hover/fly (necessary as it lacks feet), possesses enough strength to let it throw down on Billy in his prime, possesses incapacitating “Clove-Breath” and can drain the life force from most artificially-animated food products. Non-food-beings bitten by the Ham-Pire are vulnerable to the food poisoning contained in its fangs, and might possibly turn into hams themselves, though that might just be something someone said on the Internet somewhere.
AFFILIATIONS: The Ham-Pire has been known to use a number of hench-things, usually made from rotting, expired food fused with robot parts to make them CYBORG FOOD ZOMBIES.  It also had a self-declared “Ham Kingdom” consisting of a number of spiral-cut hams it “liberated” from the Grocery Kingdom, but was oblivious to the fact that none of them could actually move/speak/do anything other than sit there being ham.
ENEMIES: Pretty much everything food-related in Ooo is food for the Ham-Pire.  It resents most non-food organic beings for not being made of ham, and regards them as “Wrong-Meat” enemies.  It’d be pretty much indifferent to BMO.
WEAKNESSES: The Ham-Pire cannot drain the life force from purely organic products that are not expired, as they are not infused with the Candy Life formula.  It is particularly avoidant of the Wildberry Kingdom, as its inhabitants are not only immune to its bite, but are meat-hungry enough to not care that it’s expired.  In addition, despite its technical expertise, the Ham-Pire’s plans are usually flawed due to the fact that even Ice King has declared it “totally ‘nanners.”
There are also rumors that the Ham-Pire could be destroyed forever by a steak through its heart.  That is not a misspelling. 
NOTE THE FIRST: The Ham-Pire is not a vampire, it is a ham-pire.  It’s different from a vampire the way a Why-Wolf is different from a Werewolf or a Hug Wolf.  A lot of people make that mistake.  There were rumors that it once tried to declare itself the Vampire King to Marceline, but that didn’t end well for it.

NOTE THE SECOND: It is also rumored that in its pre-ham state, the Ham-Pire was an ancestor of Mr. Pig.  It was not.  That’s just based on the ignorant belief that all pigs know each other.  Do all humans know each other?  Don’t think so.  Don’t you feel bad now? 
NOTE THE THIRD: To clear up any additional rumors: No, it was not the father of Gunter’s kitten.  They may have dated briefly, but that’s none of our business.
So, you know, you can use that for your fanfic or whatever.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: Brad McGinty and I came up excuses for about two dozen cameos by ADVENTURE TIME characters and items in this story.  Some of these make no sense in the chronology of the series, but it’s an out-of-continuity comic book and for fun, so shut up.
We are trying to pitch some more stories, including ideas for a miniseries about Billy and some other AT characters, including Lemongrab, Joshua and Lumpy Space Princess.  If anything happens, we’ll let you know, but  bugging KaBOOM! or whatever might be something.
Anyway: GROCERY TIME!  Out Wednesday! 
I have absolutely no projects to follow this up with, but wait a year.
In the meantime, check out my insanely extensive ADVENTURE TIME art collection!  I just added pieces by BONE’s Jeff Smith, PALOOKAVILLE’s Seth, and many many others!

I have been writing this post since the end of March — yet another look at some odd children’s books I read in my youth, or that I’ve found out about more recently.

I’ve just been pasting info/covers in here once in a while, so here’s the final post.  It’s not hugely long.

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet: My elementary school library had a number of books dating back to the 1950s.  One series I read that it turned out my dad had also read as a kid was THE WONDERFUL FLIGHT TO THE MUSHROOM PLANET by Eleanor Cameron, which had a premise no kid could resist — a couple of boys are given instructions to build a rocketship and journey to a bizarre fungi-based world hidden from Earth.


I enjoyed a lot of those light-hearted SF books of that era, the sort that had a matter-of-fact, “Hey kids!  Here’s some cool SF thing introduced to your everyday life by a wacky scientist person.  Check it out!”

There were a number of other books in the series, though I lost interest after the second one, STOWAWAY TO THE MUSHROOM PLANET.  Here’s a look at it and the illustrations — I love that sort of cartoony pen-and-ink style from a lot of books of that era.  I’m very big on pure black-and-white drawings without tones, which I encountered in a lot of kids’  books growing up.

Elanor Cameron didn’t do a lot of other books outside the series that I know of, though she was a well-known critic who actually got the illustrations in CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY changed after complaining abuot their racist looks, resulting in some exchanges between her and Roald Dahl.  Here’s a chronicle of Cameron vs. Dahl.

The original book was last in print with some revised illustrations as of 1988 — that edition you can order from the publisher.

Amy’s Eyes by Richard Kennedy:  Was putting some old action figures up on my bookshelf and noticed this book I’ve had since I was a kid — I read it in 1988 or so (based on films I remember being out at the time), and at nearly 500 pages, it was the longest book I’d read at that time!

It was also quite weird.  Here’s a review from the Times.

Amy's Eyes

I shared that review with a friend, who replied that he thought the book sounded made-up.

It had that effect.  Flipping through it, I was reminded that it had a lot of puns, and strange characters, and some unsettling bit — there’s one where they’re looking for a treasure, and Amy has turned into a doll, so they snip off her button eyes with scissors (!), put them in a bottle, and put the bottle on a string so she can “see” underwater and tell them where the treasure is.
That FREAKED me out.

I was strangely compelled by the idea of turning into a doll, though I suspect that was just social anxiety and stuff.

A while back at a used bookstore, I saw another book by the same author that had a WEEEIIIIRDDDD cover.


I don’t know much about it, but here’s some details:

The Boxcar at the Center of the Universe

I’m sort of obsessed with the idea of a boxcar barreling through a wormhole, though that doesn’t seem what the book is about.

Chicken Trek by Stephen Manes

This was a book that my teacher in third or fourth grade read the class.  It was about a boy who had to eat at every franchise of a fried-chicken chain for a contest.  The premise kind of turned my stomach, but it was one of those great “funny-weird” books.

Chicken Trek

The author, Stephen Manes, had quite a career as a technology reporter in the 1980s and 1990s.  He did another of my favorites growing up, BE A PERFECT PERSON IN JUST THREE DAYS!, which was adapted to an episode of WONDERWORKS on PBS, one of my favorite anthologies.

Suzuki Beane: You can read the full version of this oddball “tiny beatnik” book at the link — I didn’t know about it until a year or two ago.  It was apparently a parody of ELOISE, but it had some considerable charm to it, and illustrations by Louise Fitzhugh, who went on to do HARRIET THE SPY.

Suzuki Beane

It also inspired a TV pilot, some scenes from which are on YouTube.

The Abandoned: This is one of those NY Review of Books reprints that I’d never heard of before, and  is about a boy who turns into a cat.
the abandoned
This is one of those premises that freaks me out.  For some reason, “people cursed into animal form to learn a lesson” really, really messes with my head.
I Googled the author, Paul Gallico —  he had an oddball career, including writing the MRS. ‘ARRIS novels, and also the book that became the movie THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE!
He also wrote a book called THE SNOW GOOSE that is considered a children’s classic in England, but sounds depressing as hell.
There was a TV-film of it in 1971 with Richard Harris and Jenny Agutter that won some awards.  Here is is on YouTube!
The Brave Little Toaster: Thomas M. Disch, author of several of my favorite SF and horror novels (including 334, CAMP CONCERNTRATION and the “Supernatural Minnesota” series with THE MD, THE BUSINESSMAN and more) actually wrote a couple of children’s stories.  THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER, about abandoned appliances seeking their owner, was printed in F&SF and released as a book, but it’s long out of print and is better known for an animated version that has long been a mainstay of cable.  I actually got an animation cell from it cheap years ago.
I found the original story in a “Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror” paperback, but the book version with illustrations goes for a bit on eBay.  I did find an illustration by Karen Schmidt from it that is quite charming — also the cover to the sequel THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER GOES TO MARS, which I do have in book form and is oddly relevant (machines rebel against “Planned Obsolescence  and start a revolt in their own kingdom on Mars).
I just remember seeing that book in a bookstore as a kid and being infatuated with that cover and title, but it took me years to get the first story.  Odd that the books have been so long out of print, as the animated film and its sequels have been mainstays of DVD.
The Watchers of Space and The Crystal City  by Nancy Etchemendy — very trippy young-reader SF novels.  The first is about a boy on a generation ship from the destroyed Earth trying to head to a new planet who must help his people with aid from cosmic beings based on on the constellations.  The second is a sequel set on the new planet where the boy’s sister befriends the native species, giant spiders who travel around in bubbles. It was one of the first times I read a story that had major characters dying and explored the ideas that there were more than absolute good and evil in people.  I found my copies of these while moving some stuff out of my childhood house a few years back and wrote Etchemendy an email, mentioning how I was traumatized by a character’s death as a kid but appreciated it — she wrote back she’d gotten a lot of mails like that!
Watchers of space
The Trick Books by Scott Corbett:  I don’t know how well these hold up, as the premise is sort of disturbing by today’s standards.  Basically, this mischievous kid helps this nice old lady who’s sort of witchy, and she gives him a “Feats O’Magic Chemistry Set,” and he winds up, often inadvertently  creating magic potions that help him out or cause chaos.  The first one is called THE LEMONADE TRICK, and he mixes up a random formula that makes naughty kids good and good kids mean, and it gets in some lemonade and stuff happens.  In the age of Rohypnol, this is kinda not cool.
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles: This is by Julie Andrews — yes, THAT Julie Andrews — under her married name of Julie Andrews Edwards.  It’s about some kids who join up with an old professor to journey into a land accessed by imagination to find a rare creature.  It has quite a fun, vivid fantasy landscape and would have made a nice film, and encourages kids to use their imaginations to see the world in a different way.
The Polaris Patrol:  As I get down this massive, horrifyingly long list, I realize a good part of my childhood was shaped by my elementary school library not throwing out a wide number of titles dating back to the 1950s and 1960s.  One was MUTINY IN THE TIME MACHINE, about some scouts who find, yes, a lost time machine, and use it to have adventures, even recruiting into their number a hairless kid from the future and a Spartan.  Google turns up that the original stories are on Google Books for free:
Time Machine
William Pene du Bois — he did the excellent Newberry winner THE TWENTY-ONE BALLOONS, which I’m surprised hasn’t been turned into a lousy CGI cartoon yet, and there were several others he wrote that were in my school library,.  PETER GRAVES (no relation to the actor) is about a kid who meets an inventor with an anti-gravity substance, and PORKO VON POPBUTTON is about an obese kid sent to boarding school who becomes the goalie for the hockey team.  More on his various books on Wikipedia!
Peter Graves
PETER GRAVES also has one of my favorite throwaway lines, describing the title character:
“His teachers described him as ‘intelligent…quick-thinking…most able…terribly lazy!’  His friends could find little wrong with him.”
All right, I’ve written enough.  If this has unearthed any repressed memories for you or has inspired you to look something up you missed, please let me know.  Also, if you wrote any of these.  That always makes me happy.

One of the shows I religiously watched growing up in the 1980s was SQUARE ONE TV, a math variation on SESAME STREET on PBS.


I probably learned more about math from that than I did in actual class.
My favorite segment was “Mathnet” a DRAGNET parody involving math.  I actually saw this before I saw DRAGNET reruns — one of the many examples of how I encountered parody before the original material.
Mathnet would be serialized across each week, with the five episodes telling one story over five segments.
The first one involved a gorilla committing crimes, which turned out to be a criminal named “Janos Prokedzian.”  Here’s the full story:
(yes, that’s Yeardley Smith from THE SIMPSONS as “Jane Rice Burroughs,” and yes, she’s using her Lisa Simpson voice)
That name always stuck with me as a great supervillain name.  I used it several times over the years in stories I wrote.
Well, I just found out where that name came from.
Mathnet would often do parodies of different bits of popular culture.  For example, one story involved a rock star clearly modeled on Bruce Springsteen who was kidnapped by a marching band leader named for John Philip Sousa.  Another involved the production of a Broadway show called “Anything Went,” which actually taught me a lot about how Broadway shows are produced, and how expensive it is to make one and make back the money on it.
Tonight, I was watching some inane sitcom on TV when I saw this odd credit: “Janos Prohaska as the gorilla.”
Opening Closing for  Dusty's Trail   Flop 70s sitcom with Bob Denver  - YouTube
A quick Google turned up that Prohaska was an actor who typically played animals in suits in different TV shows.  In fact, he was a couple  of the monsters on the original STAR TREK!
And here’s the man without the monkey:
A very crazy bit: In the 1980s, when comics creator Howard Chaykin rebooted the 1940s-era character Blackhawk, he revealed the character’s real name was…Janos Prohaska!
According to Wikipedia, this was in tribute, but I need to email Chaykin to confirm.
So Blackhawk was named for a guy in a monkey suit.
It’s pretty amazing what boredom and Google can turn up.
I need to get some real work done now.