The Smell of Old Books and Rubber Flooring

When I was a kid, we’d go to the library once a week, as a family; me, my older sister (for awhile, both of my sisters before the oldest got too old to think it was cool), and both my parents. It was something I looked forward to intensely, this weekly pilgrimage en masse; no matter what else might have been going on in my life, it was always a highlight of the week — a chance to find new things, new words and new worlds, and new thoughts to go inside my head.

I had favorite books I’d return to time after time, of course, but more than that, I had favorite areas of the library where I’d find new things every single week; even though I’ve not been there for more than 30 years, I could still draw you a detailed map of where you could find books about movies and TV shows — making-of type things, that I was obsessed with — or the books about art, whether it was art history or how-tos. I could take you to the exact shelf where Jonathan Carroll’s books were, which I returned to time after time; I could tell you where the music section was, and even more than that, where you could find the cool and weird music if you really wanted it.

(A sudden reminder how old I am; I can remember when the music section was primarily made up of vinyl. Not even cassettes — vinyl.)

I was in love with that library. It was one of my favorite places in the world when I lived in my hometown, somewhere that felt safe and exciting at once; somewhere that I felt safe to be myself, even when I didn’t know who that was. I loved it so much that, when I was back in my hometown last year, I went all the way to the walkway leading to the library, but daren’t walk up to the doors themselves. I knew that it would have changed from the way it was when I was a kid — it should, that was more than three decades ago — and, at the same time, I knew that it would break my heart to see it any different, even after all this time.

Reviewing the

The older I get, the more I realize that my long-term memory is very keyed off of sense memory and instants, rather than any coherent narrative. I’m not sure if this is the way that things work for everyone else or if I’m the odd one out, but I remember a chain of events as if it’s something I’ve read or been told, even when they’ve happened to me — something that I shorthandedly think of as flattening events into a straight line — while I can remember absolutely everything about very specific, seemingly meaningless, instants or seconds that just nonetheless feel fully immersive as soon as I even nod in their general direction.

I was thinking about this lately as I prepped for this year’s Emerald City Comic Con. I offhandedly tried to remember what the weather was like the year before, so I could think about what clothes to pack, and instead of any coherent “well, on the Thursday of the show, it was like this” response, my brain immediately flashed back to running from the hotel to the convention center on the first day, trying not to think too much about the rain as I listened to “Reviewing the Situation” by Sandie Shaw.

I remembered crossing the roads, the precise path I took and the sense of, Well, this year’s show needs me to do X, Y, and Z as I did so, listing off that day’s to-dos to make sure that I didn’t forget anything important. (I did, but I remembered before it was too late.) I remembered the coffee shop I passed, thinking, maybe I should get something now while I have the chance and then convincing myself that I should be responsible and get it done after my first work for the day. (A bad decision; work took over and suddenly it was lunchtime and I was starving.)

I remembered everything with such clarity and detail, even though it was this minor moment on the way to a show. But when I try to think, well, what happened on the Thursday of the show last year, it’s as if I’m reciting a list to myself instead of anything so detailed. I can’t work out if this is a gift, a curse, or simply the way everyone’s memory works… and if I think about it too much, I just end up derailed on another odd sense memory from years ago…

The Perils of the Season, Again

Because I am a responsible adult who, very importantly, doesn’t want to get in trouble with anyone thank you very much, I spent part of the last weekend doing my taxes. It’s a chore that has become the most depressing second nature imaginable in the many years that I’ve been living in the U.S., and one that without fail leaves me in a melancholy mood with one simple question: Why don’t I have more money?

Not in the sense of, why don’t I earn more money generally, because that’s a thought that I keep to myself during the work week, especially on those more stressful times; instead, it’s when I do the math about how much income I get, and how much I spend to pay rent, pay bills, etc., I’m always left thinking, surely I should have more in my bank account for the two minutes before I remember things like groceries and eating.

This year was worse than usual, because of the multiple international trips I took, and the dent they made in my bank balance. (On the one hand, yes, the flights were paid for my work, but once I was there, I paid for the majority of my accommodation and all of my domestic travel, and that really piles up when you’re there for two or three weeks at a time and criss-crossing around the country all the time.) I added up all the incoming money I had, looked at the outgoing and then… took a quiet moment to myself.

The other thing that traditionally happens when I do my taxes is that I promise myself that this is the year I’ll be better with money, that I’ll save more, that I will be conscious of everything I could and should be doing to prepare for my future. This year, thankfully, I put that to the side; I’m old enough now to accept that shit will happen no matter what I plan, whether it’s pet medical expenses, family medical expenses, or, you know, global pandemics dramatically impacting my ability to make a living. The best you can hope for is… well, the best you can hope for.

Tax season is a time of year where you come to terms with how powerless you are about your own finances, or else you want to stare out a window wordlessly for a few hours.

The quiet hum of a city outside your hotel room window

I’m trying to work out how best to describe the recent Seattle trip for this year’s Emerald City Comic Con. It was a particularly odd one, for all number of reasons — having almost no sleep the first night because the dinner I had that night not agreeing with me, and then feeling exhausting and increasingly out-of-it the next day to the point where I was asleep by 8:30pm set a very strange tone for what proved to be a very strange trip, in the end — and one that felt perpetually out of whack for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on, entirely.

Something that only added to the feeling of disconnection was the fact that, even more so than most Emerald City Comic Cons, on this particular trip I didn’t really exist anywhere that wasn’t the hotel or the convention center. It was a combination of having a busier than usual schedule — breakfast meetings! Evening panels! — and the weather being impressively bad, with freezing temperatures and enough rain that I didn’t particularly want to wander through the streets in the early morning, as I’ve done in the past; instead, I worked a lot, and as such, I existed at either the convention center or in my hotel room. The rest of Seattle didn’t really exist, for all intents and purposes.

It’s a lonely way to be, which is ironic, given that I was definitely at my most social that I’ve been for a long time at the show; I got to see a lot of friends and almost-friends, and I got to have a lot of good conversations, but in a strange way, that underscored how strange it felt to be working at 10pm in the hotel room and sitting in bed afterwards, my brain still turning over and feeling the silence surround me almost tangibly after failing to find anything to watch on TV, knowing I wasn’t ready for sleep just yet, but I also wasn’t up for anything else, either.

On the final day, one of the people I work with said something along the lines about the whole thing having felt like it had happened out of order, with that last day feeling like the first. The days weren’t the same for me, but I knew what she meant; the entire trip felt like it was jumbled, collapsed in on itself and rebuilt in a hurry. Even a week later, I’m unsure whether or not I enjoyed it or not.

The Movies of February 2024

February really didn’t start well in terms of movies, thanks to going to see Argylle for work — it’s really not a particularly good movie, although I’d argue it’s also not as bad as some made out to be; it’s simply “fine and dull and overly glossy,” which feels like the very worst thing a movie like that could be. Thankfully, I made up for it elsewhere in the month, with rewatches for Out of Sight and M, the latter of which I hadn’t seen in decades and appreciated in an all-new way this time out. It really might be close to a perfect movie in so many ways — it’s visually stunning at multiple points, fast-moving for the most part, and morally ambiguous in a way that feels thoroughly contemporary when watched today. It left me wanting to rewatch Citizen Kane again, which feels like the most appropriate comparison, but I haven’t gotten around to that yet. Hopefully soon.

Anyway: here are the movies I watched in February.

The Comics of February 2024

What was behind the re-read of Marvel’s Thunderbolts, you might ask? Was it the movie that’s due out next year? Honestly, no; instead, I just remembered that I hadn’t read that much of the original series past that first year, and was in the mood for a solid, B-level superhero comic read after binging Louise Simonson’s New Mutants run. Thankfully, those Thunderbolts stories really hit the spot, even if they’re objectively rarely any better than “good.” There really is a comfort food quality of unspectacular, but good-enough superhero comics, isn’t there…?

Also on the list below: I read through basically all of the Massive-Verse, Image Comics’ creator-owned superhero universe run by Kyle Higgins, thanks to a Humble Bundle purchase, and it remains a fun take on a lot of classic superhero tropes… and something that led me into re-reading a lot of recent Green Lantern comics, as well; one of the strange things about reading quite the volume that I do is that you can overlook how solid something is until you binge-read, which is what I think happened here: the current state of DC’s two Green Lantern books is far, far healthier than I think I’d realized…

  1. Dial H for Hero (2019) #s 4-6
  2. Jennifer Blood #s 1-6
  3. Jennifer Blood #s 7-12
  4. Dial H for Hero (2019) #s 7-8
  5. Dial H for Hero (2019) #s 9-12
  6. Green Lantern (1960) #s 193-200
  7. Rom Spaceknight (1979) #s 1-4
  8. Infinity Inc. (1984) #s 3-4
  9. 2000 AD Progs 2368-2369
  10. Green Lantern (1960) #s 78-82
  11. Green Lantern (1960) #s 83-87,89
  12. Marvel Zombies: Resurrection (2019) #1
  13. Marvel Zombies: Resurrection (2020) #s 1-4
  14. Jennifer Blood #s 13-24
  15. The Ninjettes #s 1-6
  16. Rom Spaceknight (1979) #s 5-8
  17. Ultimate Universe #1
  18. Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #1
  19. X-Men (2021) #28
  20. The Avengers (2023) #7
  21. Doctor Strange (2023) #s 8-9
  22. Scarlet Witch (2023) #s 9-10
  23. Rom Spaceknight (1979) #s 9-13
  24. Venom (2021) #27
  25. Magneto (2023) #s 1-4
  26. The New Mutants (1983) #s 54-61
  27. Green Arrow (2023) #9
  28. The Flash #217-219, 226 (Green Lantern back-ups only)
  29. Green Lantern (1960) #s 90-91
  30. The New Mutants (1983) #s 62-67
  31. Spellbound #4
  32. The New Mutants (1983) #s 68-75
  33. Batman: The Brave and The Bold (2023) #10
  34. Amazons Attack (2023) #5
  35. The Penguin (2023) #7
  36. Jay Garrick: The Flash #s 1-5
  37. Green Lantern (1960) #s 92-93
  38. The New Mutants Annual (1984) #4
  39. The New Mutants (1983) #s 76-77
  40. Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #s 5, 16, 23
  41. Green Lantern (1960) #s 94-95
  42. World’s Finest Comics (1941) #s 301-302
  43. 2000 AD Prog 2370
  44. World’s Finest Comics (1941) #s 294-297
  45. The New Mutants (1983) #s 78-86
  46. Infinity Inc. (1984) #s 5-10
  47. Green Lantern (1960) #s 96-100
  48. The New Mutants Annual (1984) #5
  49. Dark Ride #s 5-8
  50. Thunderbolts (1997) #s 13-18
  51. Superboy (1949) #s 222-227
  52. Thunderbolts (1997) #s 19-22
  53. Avengers (1998) #12
  54. Thunderbolts (1997) #s 0, 23-25
  55. Superboy (1949) #s 228-230
  56. DC’s How to Lose a Guy Gardner in 10 Days #1
  57. X-Men Red (2022) #17
  58. X-Force (2019) #46
  59. Thanos (2023) #1
  60. The Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #37
  61. G.O.D.S. #2
  62. Punisher (2023) #1
  63. Thunderbolts (1997) #s 26-30
  64. Future Quest #s 1-3
  65. Thunderbolts (1997) #s 31-37
  66. Fielder #1
  67. Marvel Two-In-One (1974) #s 83-84
  68. Thunderbolts (1997) #s 38-49
  69. Green Lantern (1960) #101
  70. Thunderbolts (1997) #s 50-52
  71. Thunderbolts: Life Sentences #1
  72. Thunderbolts Annual (1997) #1
  73. Thunderbolts (1997) #s 53-59
  74. COWL #s 1-5
  75. Thunderbolts Annual (2000) #1
  76. Thunderbolts (1997) #s 60-66
  77. Thunderbolts (1997) #s 67-75
  78. Avengers/Thunderbolts ## 1-6
  79. Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 1
  80. What If…? (1989) #108
  81. New Thunderbolts #1
  82. COWL #s 7-11
  83. Teen Titans: Earth One Vol. 1
  84. 2000 AD Prog 2371
  85. Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2
  86. New Thunderbolts #s 2-3
  87. The Invisibles (1994) #s 1-4
  88. New Thunderbolts #s 4-18
  89. Thunderbolts (2006) #100
  90. Batman (2016) #145
  91. Birds of Prey (2023) #7
  92. Shazam (2023) #9
  93. The Invisibles (1994) #s 5-12
  94. Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #s 1-12
  95. Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 3
  96. Alpha Flight (2023) #4
  97. Children of the Vault #4
  98. The Immortal Thor #4
  99. Uncanny Avengers (2023) #4
  100. Fantastic Four (2022) #13
  101. Green Lantern: Earth One Vol. 1
  102. Green Lantern: Earth One Vol. 2
  103. Amazons Attack (2023) #s 2-5
  104. Wonder Woman (2016) #759-769 (Mariko Tamaki run)
  105. Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #s 1-6
  106. Superior Spider-Man (2023) #1
  107. Daredevil (2023) #s 2-3
  108. Jean Grey (2023) #s 2-4
  109. Dark X-Men #s 1-4
  110. Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #s 13-24
  111. Knight Terrors: First Blood #1
  112. Knight Terrors #s 1-4
  113. Knight Terrors: Night’s End #1
  114. DC Universe: Lazarus Planet Alpha #1
  115. Titans: Beast World #1
  116. Justice League of America (1960) #147
  117. 2000 AD Prog 2372
  118. Justice League of America (1960) #148
  119. DC Universe: Lazarus Planet Omega #1
  120. Titans: Beast World #s 2-6
  121. Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #25
  122. Action Comics #1063
  123. Suicide Squad: Dream Team #1
  124. Batman/Dylan Dog #1
  125. Green Lantern (2023) #9
  126. DC Ape-Ril Special #1
  127. Green Lantern Corps (2006) #s 29
  128. Detective Comics (1935) #425
  129. Green Lantern (2023) #s 1-8
  130. Duke #3
  131. Cobra Commander #2
  132. Radiant Black #s 1-6
  133. Radiant Black #s 2-12
  134. Radiant Red #s 1-5
  135. Inferno Girl Red Book One #s 1-3
  136. Supermassive 2022 #1
  137. Judge Dredd: A Better World 
  138. Conan the Barbarian (2023) #s 1-4
  139. The Cull #s 1-5
  140. Rogue Sun #s 1-6
  141. Radiant Black #s 13-18
  142. Radiant Pink #s 1-5
  143. Radiant Black #s 19-24
  144. Supermassive 2023 #1
  145. Radiant Black #s 25-26, 26.5
  146. JLA/Avengers #1
  147. Green Lantern: War Journal #s 1-6
  148. Green Lantern (2021) #s 1-4
  149. Immortal X-Men #17
  150. Wolverine (2019) #39
  151. Invincible Iron Man (2022) #12
  152. Incredible Hulk (2023) #6
  153. Avengers Inc. #3
  154. Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars: Battleworld #1
  155. It’s Jeff! #31
  156. Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #38
  157. JLA/Avengers #2
  158. Titans (2023) #9
  159. Justice Society of America (2022) #9
  160. Wonder Woman (2023) #9
  161. Green Lantern (2021) #s 5-9
  162. Green Lantern Annual 2021 #1
  163. Green Lantern (2021) #s 10-12
  164. John Stewart: The Emerald Knight #1
  165. JLA/Avengers #3
  166. The Great British Bump-Off #s 1-4
  167. Brilliant #1
  168. Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #s 39-41
  169. Amazing Spider-Man: Gang War #1
  170. Luke Cage: Gang War #s 1-2
  171. Alan Scott: The Green Lantern #s 1-4
  172. Nightwing (2016) #112
  173. The Flash (2023) #s 1-6
  174. Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #s 1-2
  175. Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #s 3-5
  176. Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #s 6-8
  177. Big Game #s 1-3
  178. TMNT: The Last Ronin II #1
  179. Big Game #s 4-5