On writing: Both sides of the Dream Divide

April 17th, 2017

On Writing: Both Sides of the Dream Divide.


April 13-16, 2017

On writing: Both sides of the Dream Divide.

Part 1 of 3 ~ The Dream Side

April 13, 2017

Woke up from a crazy dream today. -One where Jenny Mysterious stopped by. That rarely happens and it always makes me happy, so I thought I’d share.

-So I’m hanging out with a Very Good Friend, -but the dream kind, where when you wake up, you can’t remember who it was. (I have dozens of friends like that in Dream Land.)

And Jenny’s there! And it’s her! And she’s SO cool. And the three of us are hanging out and just talking about stuff. Then the nameless friend, (I can picture her hair and some of what she looks like, but I don’t think I could draw her).., anyway, she’s not super-powered. She’s just a regular, nice person. But she’s looking between Jenny and me and listening quietly to the fairly intense stuff we’re trying to sort out between us, and then announces…

“That’s it! I’m Carpe Dieming!”

“What?” (blink)

“I’m TAKING this Rabbit car!”

-And sure enough, we’ve been leaning against this super-cute little car which is shaped and painted like a rabbit.

“But it’s not yours.”

“That’s right! I’m STEALING it! Get in! You’re Driving, Mark!”

Very Good Friend pretty much shoves me and Jenny into this teeny Rabbit car, and suddenly I’m an automotive thief. Jenny is no help at all. She just shrugs and hunkers down in the back seat.

And then I’m trying to drive a runaway rabbit car down a huge hill through town without getting caught or hitting anything. -It’s hardly even a real car. It has wheels only slightly more evolved than those on your average shopping cart. But it does have a rudimentary brake system, and I’m able to guide it safely into hiding.

“Why do you even want this thing?” I ask.

It’s a fine day. Spring and bright, and we’re all laughing and grinning in spite of ourselves.

“For my Summer Job! I’m turning this thing into a Hot Dog Stand.”

I woke up thinking that I need to get out more. Also, that a hot dog sold from a rabbit car would hit the spot just right!


Part 2 of 3 ~ The Passing Through

April 15, 2017

You never know just what is going to clickety-click into the keyboard when it’s scripting time.

God, I love writing! I’m surprised and elated nearly every time I sit down to hammer out new stories!

-At its easiest, when you’re not worrying about broad strokes and big ideas, you just start with what must happen, and then ask yourself, “Okay. I just tipped over that domino. What happens next?” -Then you write that and say, “Okay, that makes sense. So what happens after that?

And so on… -But with chaos driving random reactions at every step. Things can often logically go in a dozen different directions. Pick one.

By the third or fourth line, I am often SO far away from what I might have originally envisioned, so charmed by the unexpected shapes and forms emerging, that I am reminded… writing is more like exploring than creating. It’s like mapping new fractal maths as they unfold. Intricate and fantastic, you can only know what the final form will be by getting right down there into the crunch of it. Revealing each line as it happens.

Trying to *plan* ahead, trying to push that stuff around..? No way! You have to learn how to dance with the unexpected, to lead and to follow and lead again.

I mean.., I had NO idea that I would be writing the following line when I started tonight’s scripting exercise…

Jenny [indignant]: “Hey! Burt Reynolds isn’t a ‘washed up actor from the 70’s’! He’s retired! -And that’s only here in the future. Have some respect, kid!”


Part 3 of 3 ~ The Real World

April 16, 2017

Whoa. I just learned a bit more about the area of Toronto where/when Tammy and Jenny grew up.

It’s a tough section of town. -I mean, I *knew* that, planned for it, but had sort of forgotten in the time it took to draw my way through the first Jenny Mysterious graphic novel. -I just spent some time chatting with a woman who grew up around Regent Park, Parliament, Cabbage Town…

I might pull some writer-fu and shift some of Jenny and Tammy’s jr. high experiences a dozen subway stops up the map so I can write from personal experience rather than a couple of steps removed. North York had a whole different tone to it. That strange over-lapping ravine system changed the energy of the region in huge ways I don’t think people quite realized… But there was still plenty of opportunity for teenagers to go out of their minds with the problems of artificial social containment. -Think RUSH’s “Subdivisions” versus… I don’t know. Something with more social depression and anger. Maybe The Clash..? Modern cities always struggle to provide for our young selves needing to be warriors…

Though, Jenny is one of those people who tends to bend reality around her and not the other way. She probably wouldn’t fit in very well no matter where she was, and while maybe being a little confused and sad about being left out of her peer group, also had enough stuff going on in her own personal dramas to also fail to really notice. Tammy would have been a strong influence on her, probably pulling her off into a series of nerdy after-school activities and summer camps and such. Then when the Time Loop starts, all bets are off and Jenny becomes her own thing entirely.

Research, research…

There was a lot of fun stuff and adventure to be had as a kid in the 80’s parceled in with the harder aspects. A lot to love crammed in with the danger, tempering the edges. Lots to think about here as I crack my knuckles and squint at my keyboard…


Mark Oakley
Wolfville, NS
April 16,2017 Early in the morning…

Ghost in the Shell – A teacher slides away…

April 2nd, 2017

Ghost in the Shell – A Teacher Slides Away…


April 02, 2017

It’s funny how movie reviewers have to use the words “Manga” and “Anime” when telling us what they thought about Ghost in the Shell. -There is a decided discomfort and lack of knowing as to how to really deal with that alien-feeling black sheep media style from Japan.

Anime is like looking into a bird’s eyes. The plumage is beautiful, complex and wondrous, but… My friend and bookshop guru Hilary Drummond described the chickens in her backyard in this way and it stuck with me;

“You look into its eyes and realize that you’re truly seeing the Other. A mind completely different from your own. You’re looking into the eyes of a dinosaur.”

Now.., that’s not to say Japanese culture is a dinosaur. God, no! But its differences are always sliding sideways from our casual Western understandings, and I am sure, this is felt in kind.

The original animated Ghost in the Shell film, which came out.., long ago now, was… okay. Mostly a mood piece trying to be Blade Runner -minus Harrison Ford and a compelling story. But it was very cleverly animated with some neat ideas. Maybe. I think…

I have this love/hate thing going with Masamune Shirow. (The original manga artist.) His early work is one of the reasons I got into comics! I learned how to draw by replicating some of his pages. So this kinda cuts home for me…

Shirow was one of those brilliant comics guys who drew fabulous worlds, invented new ways of thinking about design. -That’s rare! To come up with new design ideas? That just doesn’t happen very often, and when it does, it changes the world. Heck, Apple Computers owes him a creative debt I think.

But then.., he failed to put any focus where it was truly needed: On his Characters…

A story is about the people. The people! -Sure, you need to have interesting world mechanics BUT if you don’t care what happens to the people.., if you don’t hope they find happiness in the end, if you don’t hope they grow and learn grace.., then you don’t have a story. -You have a gamer’s role-playing manual. (And not even that, I would argue, in Shirow’s case).

One of Shirow’s best works, “Appleseed” offered probably the closest thing to a real cast of characters. They were interesting people, full of promise and vibrancy. -I still remember their names! But as the story progressed, they slipped away and more and more became strangers only glimpsed from afar. Not even casual acquaintances.., just people you might recognize in a crowd. -Always running around on confusing, violent adventures -and this is the most disconcerting part… Their world and all their personal discussion was propelled by obtuse, socio-political hot air jargon which I’m almost 95% convinced existed for the sole purpose of distracting readers from the fact that all Shirow really wanted to draw was naked girls and robots. -Which he did extremely well. No question. But jeez, dude! We have tons of guys drawing soft porn and machine guns. Why you? What a damned waste!

It’s sad/funny because it was a decades-long career curve he was on. As his art skills grew, it was like his soul slipped away. I followed his progress through comics and graphic novels, watching as his psychology shifted. He went from character focused stories, and drifted further and further into pure design and sex. He lost me completely with his later stuff as he drowned in the sensual. Too bad. And to hell with him! He had art skills and career fortune which could have been spun into amazing things.., but instead…

Well, “Ghost in the Shell” happened about half-way down that slide.

A sexy robo-chick has an identity crisis in a flat, friendless and depressing Blade Runner world of hyper sense stimulation.

I wonder if that is an accurate reflection of Shirow’s mental landscape?

Bleh. I’ve already written too much about this now.

Sorry folks.

It’s like a beloved teacher lost his mind.

At least I can say I’ve learned one last lesson from him. -What I do NOT want to become.


Mark Oakley
Wolfville, NS
April 02,2017

Jenny’s House…

February 26th, 2017

Drawing Jenny’s House


February 26, 2017

Jenny’s house is really cool to picture in the imagination but actually bringing it into reality is making me a bit cross-eyed. It’s a serious pain in the neck to draw!

It’s also one of those environments where important scenes take place not infrequently, and where it’s all entirely made up from mental imagery. -Where what I really need is a 3D model, or failing that, to fly back to Toronto and find a suitable house and photograph it from every conceivable angle a dozen times.

The observant reader will notice that Jenny’s front steps undergo constant subtle architectural changes throughout the course of the story.

Life would be so much easier with a Gerhard in it. Probably.

Stardrop Book III – In Previews Now!

January 30th, 2017

Stardrop Book 3 – In FEB Previews Now!


January 30th, 2017

Check it out! Stuff’s getting real!

There’s a TON of added material only seen in the books!

For those not in the biz… This magazine is distributed to comic shop retail business owners. It lists all the new comics and graphic novels and similar items being published in the coming cycle. Orders will be collected from this magazine (the February issue of Diamond’s “Previews”), and then sent to each publisher.

When I get those figures, I’ll send the Stardrop materials off to press. The book ought to be out in mid-late April!

Then ya’ll will know it’s Spring!

All three books are being offered again, and the first volume will be going into its second printing.

The Cover of the brand new book, “Stardrop, Home In Time”…

Diamond order code: FEB171728

Visit the Diamond order page.

The first two volumes are also being offered again!

Do you have parents and girls asking for suitable books?

Stardrop is the one for them! You can recommend these GN’s with 100% confidence! Order some copies and I promise you’ll be proud to see customers walk out the door with them! (And you can expect them back for the rest, too!)

Diamond order code: FEB171729

Diamond order code: FEB171730

Jenny Mysterious ~ Book II

January 29th, 2017

Jenny Mysterious, Book II


January 29th, 2017

Over the last week, I’ve been penciling the opening chapter of Jenny Mysterious, Book II.

Book TWO! -That crept up fast! This is going to be a paper-dense year, 2017. I ought to be able to have the first Jenny GN out by Christmas. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet…

So, I need to explain…

See, I’ve been drawing *old* script for ages now; stuff I’d first begun noodling around with back in 2009 or so. -Since there was no hard deadline and nobody even really knew I was working on it, I was able to craft things and sketch and re-write and re-think to a point where I felt everything was properly ready. To get the background all sorted, to figure out who this ‘Jenny’ person was. (There was a time when she didn’t exist, not even as an idea. Consider that! Pulling an entire person out of.., nowhere? That’s kind of strange to consider.)

Anyway, while that level of concentrated effort is nice and all, -and indeed quite necessary for certain kinds of narrative, the really fun stuff only happens when you’re working in the Now. Ideas which have been boiling around in your brain but to which you’ve been saying “Later!”, (and more often than not, simply forgetting about and outgrowing), are now allowed to Happen in Real Time.

That’s when things start to pop! It’s a bit like the difference between art restoration and.., public performance.

So.., that’s where I am now. I’m penciling New Stuff, and some of it is really sweet and hilarious and cool. Just really.., good! -Well, it *feels* good to make, that is. You’ll have to judge the actual quality for yourselves, but I’m seriously looking forward to sharing!

The New Fascism

January 1st, 2017

The New Fascism


December 31st, 2016

I have a sneaking suspicion that the New Fascism will be coming from the Left this time around.

Nobody seems to see it coming and who can blame them? It’s unexpected. It’s in a brand new form.

Well.., I see it coming, but who am I? Just a guy who may look forward to being hauled in front of some star chamber for not going along with the popular chorus.

Don’t laugh. It happened to thousands of nobodies during the McCarthy reign. People don’t seem to realize how close we all are again.

If you don’t happen to believe the hysterical claims about Russian interference in the U.S. election… (I sure don’t. Still no evidence is forthcoming. If there was something to it, you *know* I’d be all over it; I don’t have any loyalties other than to the Human Race. But I looked, without my bias glasses, and there ain’t nothin’ there, folks. Just a bunch of hearsay and self-important people agreeing with themselves, but providing no actual evidence of any kind. -At least Colin Powell had a little vial of white powder to shake in front of the UN when he was peddling the pretend Iraqi WMD threat. I tell ya, standards have slipped at the Ministry of Make-Believe!)

I’m currently reading a biographical work by Carl Bernstein. -You may remember the name; he was one of the two reporters who broke the Watergate story. Dustin Hoffman played him in “All the President’s Men”. He’s a top notch writer and very smart man with all his morals tightly in place. Very pro-human.

Anyway, he grew up during the communist witch hunt period. His father was deeply involved in the union movement in the 30’s and 40’s, and when the anti-communism thing got rolling, his life, along with thousands of others, was put under enormous pressure. Years of surveillance and hounding by the FBI, questioning in front of courts where he was not allowed a defense lawyer.

The amazing part is that, according to Carl’s interviews long after the fact, the political establishment knew, -they knew– there was no real communist threat to the American government.

That needs to sink in.

Even during the cold war, the idea that there was a plague of Russian spies infiltrating the U.S. government was considered nonsense by the actual powers. It was a useful fiction, one that the public could grasp and be inflamed by so that insane laws could be passed.

See.., at the time, unions were becoming strong. Civil rights were a problem. Blacks allowed to sit in restaurants? Equal pay for equal work? That shit had to be put down!

The way it was done was under the guise of catching communists.

Anybody involved in union activity was painted with the commie brush and their lives destroyed, regardless of any affiliation or not with the communist party. (Usually not.)

It was a coup. What a great way for industry to win! And win they did.

And guess what?

We’re seeing the same thing happening again today.

Back during Truman’s presidency, public sentiment was easily whipped up using simple, but emotionally direct stories about the communist threat. -And it got to be so that in order to maintain his presidency, Truman had to capitulate to the public demand that “Something Be Done!”

Executive Order #9835, the so-called “Loyalty Order” was passed. -A piece of law designed to purge the government of supposed communists. It allowed any of the million+ employees of the government to be accused, -anonymously- of being Un-American. You couldn’t face your accuser. You didn’t even get a lawyer.

This was dark, dark stuff. It was indeed, fascist.

Even if not convicted, the accusation alone destroyed lives. Thousands of them. This was followed closely by the McCarthy trials which went after not just government employees, but anybody. (Go watch “Trumbo” to get some idea of what it was like in Hollywood).

And guess what?

It’s happening again. The same ingredients (and similar) are being pulled off the shelves. It’s really creepy to see my liberal friends, -who are for the most part genuinely smart and caring people, posting such dangerous anti-human stuff like it’s some sort of game.

Reading through Bernstein’s book provides more than enough grist to see the parallels between then and now. The atmosphere is smelling the same.


“Fake News” has led to the passing, like days ago, of a law with eerily vague definitions designed to “Fight Propaganda”.

Shoot, guys! This is happening under our noses. It is conceivable that *this* very post could cross some make-believe line and get me in trouble.

Here’s the quick of it:

Hillary lost and Trump won and he is scary.

That’s reality.

But clinging to fairy tales about the Russian boogeyman dispensing fake news, (most of which comes from garden variety trolls, click-harvesters as well as actual news agencies with political biases. A recent example here),

-Well, clinging to such fairy tales because they support the claims Hillary was making, isn’t the smart or right way to go about dealing with reality.

If fascism comes to the West again in such an overt manner as we have seen, if thousands of people are accused and investigated, their lives destroyed, (think “punitive tax audit” but where you could wind up tried for treason), it will be thanks to those who allowed themselves to be duped. Again.

Some of you are people I’ve known for a long time. People I care about, who in an effort to help are being re-routed into the exact thing they want to defend against. Why? Because the CIA (and similar groups) are smarter and better trained than they are. Because my friends have real lives and actual things to do with their time; they haven’t devoted all of their energies and resources to learning how to Mess With People’s Heads. They are sitting ducks.

And the irony will be that when the dark shit comes, it will be courtesy not of Trump or his minions, but the people frightened of the very beast they most want to avoid.

Don’t be a part of the problem.

(BTW, “Shaming” people into obeying a set of dictates or beliefs, is fundamentally a fascist act. Food for thought.)

Tribes and Reality

December 22nd, 2016

Tribes and Reality


December 22nd, 2016

“Question Everything.”

We’ve all heard that before. Many of us accept this advice as confirmed wisdom. It sounds good.

And it is good…

But woe unto those who question the wrong things!

See.., there are two types of belief.

Tribal Beliefs, and Beliefs in Reality.

When the two line up, all is well with the world. But when they do not…

Tribal belief is powerful. People love it! It soothes. It makes people part of something larger than themselves. They belong!

The cost of not belonging is severe. Survival instincts know that the good bet is to be part of a team. -To have the crowd at your back, having this security, the knowledge that the people around you are all part of the same huge organism, that your weakness is outweighed by collective strength. To be part of something is survival. To be cast out, is death.

This understanding is baked into the animal psyche, deep beneath any new cognitive mechanisms. Beneath the workings of the New Brain. -It is hardwired right at the top of the spinal column, solidly grown like a tree beneath that other bit of gray matter, that remarkable, miraculous Neo Cortex, grown like a fruit at the crest of history’s great accomplishment; those brain structures which only human beings have.

“Neo” means simply “New”. New, because it is new. Evolution, or whatever mechanisms bring novel biological transformations into being, in planetary terms, only very recently provided this new arrangement of grey matter for the creatures of this world to experience. And what an arrangement! These new brain structures allow us cognitive abilities which make us extraordinarily different and powerful when compared to the rest of the creatures struggling through the biosphere. Humans are new on this planet. And we rule it!

However, we remain plugged into the old system. Evolution in this case is keeping one foot planted on solid ground while probing forward. Perhaps the New Brain is just a passing fad? Maybe it will fail. Maybe in terms of survival, it will ultimately prove unworthy. It must justify itself! -But if it fails, that’s okay. The old brain is still there to be fallen back upon should everything go SNAFU.

Those old brain structures are tested and true. Dependable. They work. They’ve kept countless species around for eons, successfully reproducing and living. We can always abandon the ability to think creatively and abstractly, to measure and question and go back to the old system. -Of tooth and claw, of killing and hiding from killers. Of the perpetual hunt. -Sure, there will be no galaxy-class starships to be had, but damn it, that old shit works!

And we feel the presence of that system every day. We experience it as an ever-present series of choices. The old brain takes input from the world around us, does so faster by orders of magnitude than the new brain, and it instantly provides courses of action to any given situation, sometimes very strongly; “Do the thing which brings you closer to killing rather than being killed, mating rather than not mating, comfort over discomfort. Do that thing! Do it now!”

The New Brain, the Human alternative, provides us with something else, that something which other creatures do not have, (or have in very prototypical terms; Elephants and dogs and cats and primates and a few others display compassion and reason in vestiges), the ability to put a pin in the Old Brain’s advice and instead, pause before acting. -To subject the incoming stimulus to an extra and more complex level of processing, allowing us to decide to do something other than bite and claw and fuck. Because maybe survival and biological success includes something more. A higher dimension of reality is granted access to us.

“Question Everything”

This is the summons from the New Brain. “Maybe there is something more. Look. Decide.”

And it must win against the Old Way.

Tribalism is what we call “herding” when we are not looking at Humans. When we are counting sheep. It is called “pack mentality” when we look at groups of hunting animals.

And herds and packs survive! There is strength in the Tribe.

But the tribe is still more; it uses the old systems but tries to include the new cognitive range inherent in the human animal. The concept of belief. It takes that advanced ability to understand reality, that fabulous new power, and like a monkey using a laptop to crack open a walnut, it does the best it can with it.., but really doesn’t get it so well. Tribalism understands first and foremost that all the members have to act as one in order to survive, and thus the members of the tribe must all carry the same beliefs. And this isn’t even wrong.

The problem is that the tribal mind gets the priority levels all mixed up. It places far less importance on the factual accuracy of those beliefs than it does on it simply being collectively the same in all members. The social binding power it understands as critical comes from differentiating between Member of the Tribe and.., Other.

This is the source of friction we all experience when we question tribal beliefs.

Try it sometime:

Question climate change, human-made or no? (The Environment we live in.)

Question food, carbs or fats? (The Fuel which sustains life.)

Question medicine, vaccinations or no? (The way we deal with life-destroying disease.)

Question sexuality and reproduction. Is gay okay? (The way we keep life going.)

There is a reason these create such storms of outrage when questioned. The Old Brain doesn’t want to mess around with something tried and true. These are the pillars of survival! It wants solid answers, no mucking about. Mistakes can mean the end of a species!

Just considering that list, I bet some of you are feeling heat in the chest, pupils dilating in readiness to defend or attack.

Using the powers of the neo cortex, we have come to advanced understandings of these subjects. We have adopted new norms of understanding, and once settled upon, for right or wrong, our old brains seize upon them and make them iron clad. It happens faster than we might think, but once set, the mind rebels against any change, and it does so using the only system it has at its disposal. Pain and Pleasure.

Once a piece of belief has been settled upon as the Right Way, it hurts, -actually- hurts (you can measure it on brain scan equipment) to make choices which run in opposition. -To even entertain opposing ideas as possibilities. The Old Brain cries out, “NO! Have some Pain!”

And when you relent and say, “Sorry. No. Sorry. Here is a way of thinking which allows me to keep doing the thing we previously believe in,” we are rewarded, again measurably, with pleasure.

New Thinking is painful. That’s simply how it is.

The outcry in society over challenged notions, the protest rallies, the lynch mobs, these are expressions of this process unfolding across whole cultures. -Groups will attack the dissenting voice, spurred on by the Old Brain. Savagery is a programmed response, stemming from the survival instinct. And it is rewarded. It feels good to kill that which challenges the tribal belief. The hunger to kill the Other feels good.

We’ve all seen this process.

In an outraged crowd or movement, certain individuals particularly attuned to seeking this form of pleasure, become very good at the kill. The kill becomes more important than the reason for the kill. As with any form of pleasure-seeking, some people focus on certain types of pleasure more than others, seek to attain it with more skill and determination.

It is this unspoken driving force from which fascism arises, from which movements originally built from genuine concerns are redirected, re-purposed to the fulfillment of the new goal. The bloodlust to destroy becomes a primary motivational force, with the ideology itself being merely incidental. The Nazis turned on each other at the end. Who isn’t Sieg Heiling with enough snap in their posture? There’s the next meal.

I remember once while reading about gay rights, about the history of that grand experiment, from somewhere deep in the middle of all the arguments and activism, one member paused to voice up from a sea of anger and frustration, from the mine field of legal questions and political stances, he said.., “Do you remember, years ago, when being part of the gay community was, you know, a lot more fun..? I remember it being a lot more fun.”

That’s just one example.

Now the thing I’m currently interested in questioning has been the Western stance on Russia.

What could be more tribal than War?

It is the fifth pillar! -Along with Food and Sex.

Survival isn’t just eating and sleeping, it is also about not getting killed by predators, by predating first. It is about recognizing and strategizing against the Other.

It’s important in the Jungle. And so doing it well is paramount in the Old Brain. So it creates a hunger for it. And, once again, it is rewarded in the only ways it knows how.

It feels good to create an other. And to kill it.

The problem is that with the expanded powers afforded to the Human animal, when we decide to create an other and to kill it as a group, the resulting scene isn’t just played out in nature as it is between lions and hyenas battling on the veldt. When Humans go to war, the world literally threatens to shake apart.

Where winning meant survival in the animal kingdom, in the Human world, those same impulses can produce the opposite effects, limiting our growth as a species; anti-survival. The very systems bourn from the need to continue viability in life instead drive us to suppress the creative expression of whole nations, of entire peoples. To even risk extinction in nuclear fire.

Sure, there are winners and losers in the old system, spoils of war, and all that. Raping armies seeding their “successful” genes across new lands, while plundering resources and riches. That’s the old way. And sure, it works. But it seems to me that the Human species is probably doing itself a disservice by sticking to the old ways.

The Neo Cortex, in providing all of this power to re-shape the world, also provides the solution to these problems.

Maybe we ought to trust more in the process of questioning. Maybe the pain of being wrong is one we ought to embrace rather than deny. A little pain in the brain from facing difficult questions inevitably leads to bright awakenings. New truths revealed. New possibilities. -Even if it is just to confirm existing beliefs, (it happens). -It leads to cognitive strength, as beliefs slowly fall into line with objective reality. And that is the goal. To get our beliefs to line up with objective reality. To believe in truth over lies.

The person who knows reality as it truly is can navigate successfully through it, doesn’t have to run into brick walls and then pretend it was somebody else’s fault. There is a reason we watch in awe the grace of those YouTube parkour runners as they dance across seas of rooftops, making even Spiderman’s CGI acrobatics seem a little unimaginative by comparison. Those same human-attainable super powers can be achieved in all areas of life, but only if we learn to respect the objective reality of walls and rooftops and obstacles rather than pretend they are something different, or not there at all, -or there when they are not.

What’s Up With All The Russia-Phobia Today?

December 17th, 2016

What’s Up With all the Russia-Phobia?


December 17th, 2016

I was wondering about the base reasons behind all the Russo-phobia being seen today.

The reason I care is that I have zero desire to see a return to the fear-filled days where they teach kids how to duck and cover from nuclear blasts under their school desks.

-And the commie hunting paranoia which drove politics and persecuted everybody and dampened the creative impulse in every sector of life. (Go watch “Trumbo” for an example). -And all for sketchy reasons which, of course, benefited only the super-wealthy.

So yeah, I care when I see the same sentiments rising again in otherwise smart people, and I want to look at it.


What the hell, man?

Two nations, half a planet away from one another, with no physical connection worth speaking of… Why is the U.S. so consistently knicker-twisted over Russia? This has been going on for decades!

Russia was a vital partner in the fight against Hitler, and indeed poured millions of more lives into that fight than America or Europe combined, but before the last shell casings had even cooled, European and American leaders were racing around to set up Russia as the New Foe. I never understood that as a kid. It just didn’t track. Clearly, there was some burning but under-the-radar motivation.

The conflict has been sold as primarily ideological, and I’d agree with that to some degree. (Though, I’ve also read that Marxism was a Western funded initiative imported into the Russian political scene with the specific intention of creating an unworkable socialist disaster fit for pointing bayonets at. -An early version of the ever-popular regime destabilizing tactic of the Western powers. -But that’s another whole discussion).

But really… to the average normal person regardless of nationality, the prime motivation in life is just to eat well, have a warm place to sleep and the time and energy to enjoy family and friends. Does Joe Blow or Ivan Blowski really give two hoots about what people are thinking on the other side of the planet? I’d argue.., no. I certainly don’t care. Not without a LOT of sustained media whipping up.

So I really don’t buy the ideological excuse for sustained war. Not today with Islam, and not yesterday with radical socialism. And *especially* not today, when Russia is pursuing a capitalist democratic model, there’s literally no excuse for the current fervor. So what really gives?

I posted the following in another thread response dealing with the so-called Russian email hacks (which despite the media hysteria and the Clinton disappointees, has yet to be proven as anything more than make-believe wooo) and the value of Russian media, specifically, RT. I thought it would be relevant here to post on its own…

When looking at a news source, like CNN or RT, there’s the motivation behind a national voice to consider.

Breaking things down into a very simple “What does the nation really want?” question…

Central Europe and Asia are all part of one big continent, where establishing internal trade and internal natural resource management would seem to be a natural objective. How does it make sense to ship your corn and widgets half way around the globe on a giant boat when you could just drive them to the border? Russia, coming back from a collapse state, appears to be interested in re-establishing an industrial base and logical trade routes. Their national character and voice reflects this.

The Western continent, however, has no logical part in that. The U.S. is an ocean away with their own land and natural geographic trading partners readily available. And yet they have their fingers all over oil and mineral interests on the other side of the planet. -And indeed, labor and manufacturing, playing Panem to the rest of the world. This is the goal of the American Hegemonic ambition; to maintain military muscle in order to keep the slaves working the fields and all the best resources flowing West. -In fact, especially with regards to oil and closely following, money/debt holders, the U.S. powers are addicted to maintaining this status.

I would argue that this is why Russia, a big consumer and organizational center capable of mass industrial activity, always seems to register in Western hysteria; they haven’t been brought to heel like the rest of Europe, and they don’t serve the U.S. -and in fact, threaten the comfy flow of goods and energies to the West simply by existing in a healthy national state.

A strong Russia, Asia and Europe simply doesn’t need America. The reverse is not true, not with the Western level of consumption. And this is what scares the U.S. powers. That’s the bottom of it all. Skip ‘freedom’ and ‘fighting tyranny’ and all that other fabricated nonsense. It’s about making sure the world pays its protection money. And Russia, the other big kid on the block, has been holding out. That is why America hates Russia; projects their paranoid fantasies on them.

The West dearly wants to see their policy of “Regime Change” executed on Russia so as to gain control there. This, I think, is the base source of all the fear and loathing we are seeing bubbling up today in the media.

The character of a national voice is going to reflect these ambitions.

So U.S. News sources, beneath all the details and bluster, are riding on a carrier wave propagandizing the continued enslavement of the rest of the world, while recent Russian news sources are riding a carrier wave propagandizing industrial re-establishment, self-reliance and relations with natural geographic trading partners.

When you know the base psychology of the two, you can subtract for bias and see which is more likely to be bending data or outright lying in a given instance. When it comes to war policy, it becomes doubly so.

Terrorist groups used to control oil nations are useful to the U.S., which is why they are created, funded, and not-bombed. But for Russia, they represent an impediment to growth, which is why ISIS is actually being systematically wiped out by Russian forces where the Bush and Obama administrations were only paying lip service to this, but not actually doing anything.

The natural pull of cultural and economic forces would lead to best case efficiency, internal trade and internal control of resources, so there is less need to stretch reality through information warfare and military muscle to shape the world the way you want -if you happen to be Russia. The U.S. has to maintain a much larger lie in order to pretend honor in what they are doing.

My suggestion:

We have a whole continent! The New World. Can we just focus on our own business? Maybe get off slavery and build our own stuff? The U.S. already produces more fossil fuels than anybody else on the planet. Efficiency, man!

Let’s rebuild our infrastructure. Let’s build some high speed rail systems. Let’s invest in green energy. Let’s stop wasting money on bullying everybody else on the globe.

I bet we could all be a lot merrier if we would stop complaining that “Putin hacked Hillary’s email!”.

Moving Again ~ How to get rid of 1000 Books

November 19th, 2016

Moving Again – How to get rid of 1000 Books?


November 19th, 2016

I have a lot of books.

You might think, “Yeah, I know what you mean. After all, there’s no such thing as too many books! Just too few shelves. Ha ha!”


How do I put this…

Unless you run a comic shop or a book store, (or a publishing company), then you’re probably in a different weight class from me. Literally.

When I moved from Ontario to Nova Scotia 13 years ago, I was worried about being pulled out of traffic by the Truck Cops to weigh my big rental moving vehicle. I was fairly certain that I was over the limit since the wheel well frames were weighted down so that they were almost scraping the tops of the tires. The limits are measured in tons. And come to think of it.., I don’t really understand where this practice came from or why. They actually have giant scales on the side of the road and you roll your truck right onto them and the border people weigh you. Until I was worried about breaking Truck Law, these weigh sites had always been invisible to me.

But there I was, idling in a line of other trucks beside a giant truck scale wondering if the man with the reflective jacket and authority hat was going to signal me over for a friendly freight-weighing. (He didn’t. I guess having the words “Budget Rental” on the side of your ride puts you beneath their concern. It’s not like I had 18 wheels under me.)


I have to move soon because.., rent hikes are a reality. Mine is about to double, bringing it into line with the rest of the town. I’ve been living on borrowed time, it seems, and Wolfville has in the years since I moved here become a rising star, its shine attracting money and people with money to limited housing options so that rents are now about the same as one would find in a major metropolitan center. I can’t afford this town anymore.

I don’t know yet how far away I’ll be going, but my options are severely limited by the raw tonnage of books I have in my life.

Oh…! If I could only walk away from them all, then these sorts of challenges would be easy!

-Well, *easier*, anyway. I’m not quite duffel bag guy, (I’d LOVE to be duffel bag guy!!! I could go anywhere! I could use my new passport and go somewhere else entirely! I want to do that!) but I’m not duffel bag guy. I could probably get by with just a large car trunk and back seat. The only things I’d really need to take with me are some clothes, some bits of computer gear and a couple of huge and heavy boxes of old artwork, (which I’d also kind of like to leave on a doorstep some days, to be perfectly honest. Who knew being a cartoonist would make me feel ankle-chained?)

But I need to be realistic. Making comic books is what I do, and there are penalties you just have to live with. I accept this. Just not all of it!

Now, a lot of the books I hauled from Ontario are gone. That’s pretty good for a publisher to be able to say. I moved here with about 120 boxes (at a little over 20 kg each, making for approximately 2.5 metric tons), and today I only have about 40 of those original boxes left. Keen. -And most of *those* are T&K Volume #4, which I heavily over-printed. All of the earlier books are either gone or down to the last hundred copies.

-Which was an alarming state of affairs. I wasn’t financially able to go back to press old copies. With this concern in mind, when I pressed Volume #5 of Thieves & Kings, I decided to waaaaay over print. It’s a lot cheaper to print an extra one or two thousand copies than it is to go back for a second printing. You save thousands of dollars that way. So.., I waaaaaay over printed.

Today, including Stardrop and other projects, I look around me and realize that I *still* own approximately 2.5 metric tons of books! Dammit. -And half of them are #5’s, -which are pretty much dead weight until I get T&K all finished up, and even then…

So the point of this post is this: I’ve decided that I need to get rid of about a ton of books!

It’s sad, because one day I’m sure I’ll be looking back and thinking, “Dammit, Mark! You’re nearly out of volume #5 and you could really use that extra 1000 copies you pulped!” But that day is not today, and I need to lighten up and move and fit into wherever I find myself.

I looked up the paper recycling plant. If I can truck my books over there, they’ll take them off my hands for 7.7 cents per kg. So I’ll spend about $80 un-printing a book in order to shed weight. That’s one solution. And I still probably need to rent a van or get somebody with a pick-up truck to help.

If anybody out there can think of another, better way to move 1000 copies of a 5th book in a series -a way which doesn’t cost anything, I’d love to hear it. (Shipping or mailing that many books would be a multi-hundred dollar expense, so any donations or similar solutions need to be pick-up/drop-off only. -Or, I suppose, where somebody else is excited enough by the idea to want to pay for shipping. 1000 books would cost around $300-$500 to send via ground courier.)


Any ideas?

Also… where should I move next? I have a few months to think about it…

Any provinces, cities or towns out there want a resident cartoonist? I bring a lot to a community!

I just need an affordable space to fit myself. Me and my books!

Connect with me on FaceBook to leave a comment.

Infinity Train ~ Creative Ether…

November 6th, 2016

Infinity Train Pilot from the Creative Ether


November 6th, 2016


This idea has been kicking around the creative thought-ether for years, since around 2002 or so. -That is, every now and then, I’d meet a writer who had independently come up with a vision of a train where each car was a separate world and characters were trapped on it, journeying between cars.

Even I spent a couple of days scripting some stuff for it. I put it aside, though; I had too many other things I was working on. I’m glad to see somebody has decided to invest energy in it. How exciting!

The ‘end boss’ stuff involves a combat/chase sequence on the top of the train. There’s lots of cool things which can be done with this story.

I think people who are deep in the creative arts and who are of a certain frequency of spirit are automatically signed up for the “Cool Stuff” newsletter from beyond.

There’s a dark side newsletter, as well. I sometimes see a crumpled copy blow past me on the street. I think it might have wider distribution and better funding.