Monday, April 16, 2007 

Flickadaweek: The Wild Bunch

There aren't many more famous images in cinema than the one that kicks off The Wild Bunch. It's just after the turn of the twentieth century, and we're in a tiny Texas border town. A bunch of kids are giggling at something in the street, and the camera pans in to see what it is: an enormous, venomous scorpion being overrun by hundreds of tiny ants.

You don't need to be a film critic to see the metaphor at work here.

The Wild Bunch is the kind of major-studio picture that can't be made anymore. We don't have the actors, we don't have the attention span, we don't have the studio will to get this kind of unsettling tale made any longer. We need happy endings now, or violence so far detached from our reality that we can keep it at a distance. The Wild Bunch has neither.

It's the story of a group of aging bank robbers on the run from bounty hunters, trying desperately to bargain their way out of the end that they know is imminent. You've got crusty guys like William Holden and Ernest Borgnine, guys who don't know how to live life within shouting distance of the law. They watch as one of their number, the young, impassioned Angel, methodically gets everything stripped from him-wealth, dignity, his girlfriend-with a kind of sad detachment. They know that time's a bitch, and as they look at the wreckage of their lives, you can't help but look at your own history in the same way.

I'm not enough of a film scholar to talk in more than the vaguest terms about this, but this sort of apocalyptic ennui runs through a lot of the films of the late '60s and early '70s-Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, Bonnie & Clyde...hell, even Planet of the Apes has this kind of end-of-the-world vibe to it. Maybe it was the specter of Vietnam, the end of American invincibility, the end of JFK's Camelot, Nixon's betrayal of the American people...whatever it was, this was a seriously dark period for movies. (Star Wars stopped that movement dead in its tracks, and we'll never recover from the big-budget excess it inspired.)

Like many of the films of the era, The Wild Bunch these days works more as metaphor than as story; there are too many fits, starts, and pregnant pauses for contemporary audiences to digest easily. But it's still a worthwhile film, one with ambition and meaning. Well worth seeing.

Thursday, April 12, 2007 

POSTCARDS: True Stories That Never Happened

Cool picture, huh? That's an image from a story I contributed to POSTCARDS, a kick-ass new comics anthology that's coming out in June from Random House and Eximious Press. This thing's a work of art -- my own contribution notwithstanding -- and you're going to want to get your hands on a copy. I'll tell you how in a moment.

Some background info: POSTCARDS is the brainchild of Jason Rodriguez, a longtime friend whom I've only actually met once. (God bless the Internet.) A few years back, Jason and I met on a messageboard commiserating over the state of a Marvel Comics initiative to bring new writers into the fold. (It was a good idea but mishandled from the get-go.) Jason's not content with the traditional pitch-pray-bitch route of the wannabe comics writer; he worked his way into a job editing the late, lamented Western Tales of Terror anthology, then developed an entire website devoted to making comics better, and now is putting his money where his mouth is by creating one hell of a good anthology.

The basic premise of POSTCARDS stems from some postcards Jason found while antique shopping with his girlfriend--surely the one instance in all of recorded history that a guy dragged along on a shopping trip ended up with something rewarding. Each of the weathered postcards he found contained some cryptic note about war, quarantine, lost love, hopes, dreams, fears, you name it. It was fertile ground for storytelling, and Jason decided to see who he could bring aboard to help him tell the "stories" behind these postcards. He recruited some serious heavyweights in the industry, and it's to his everlasting credit that he didn't forget his friends, bringing aboard me and some other relatively inexperienced types as well.

I may be the Christian Laettner on this Dream Team, but thanks to my artist, Tony Fleecs, I've got a pretty damn good entry in the anthology, if I do say so myself. It's called "Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland," and it stars the two young ladies pictured above. I don't want to give anything away, but it's absolutely unlike anything else I've ever written in my life. No strippers, no wiseass gunplay, no explosions...just a story of missed opportunities and prayers for forgiveness. The quote at left is a line from the original postcard that inspired the entire story.

So, how do you get POSTCARDS? Best way to do it is order it through your local comic book shop. If that's not an option, go to Amazon through this link and pick yourself up a copy. Trust me, it's going to be some rewarding stuff.

Click on the banner below to visit the POSTCARDS site and learn about all the other cats who've made this book so great:

Then Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland...or I'll hunt you down and kick your ass.


Jay Busbee runs Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR Blog From The Marbles, Atlanta Magazine's Atlanta sports blog Right Down Peachtree, and the Southern sports/humor blog Sports Gone South. He also writes for damn near anybody who'll throw him a buck and a byline, and he's at work on the books The Quiet Dynasty: The History Of The Atlanta Braves' Championship Run (2009, Sports Publishing LLC) and God Is A Bulldog: Georgia, Florida, And The Greatest Play In College Football History (2010, Sports Publishing LLC). Click below for more info on his novels, articles, and comics.
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