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Bat Fan vs Fat Ban by Mike Baron

BAT FAN V. FAT BAN

By Mike Baron

This was it. Ragnarok, Armageddon, and Doomsday rolled into one. This was the premier of Batman: The Killer Croc’s Revenge, the latest installment in the greatest movie franchise of all time. Christian Bale as Batman. Gary Oldman as Chief Gordon. Lindsay Lohan as Rachel Dawes. And Sean Penn as Killer Croc.

Wayne Callard stood in line with 1500 other Bat Fans waiting for the Cinegrande Cineplex to open its doors. Wayne had been waiting in line for nineteen hours. He’d camped out on the sidewalk the previous night, swathing his bulk in two double-sized down-filled sleeping bags on a foam mattress. Wayne was five feet seven and weighed 350 lbs. He’d been born Cicero Wayne Callard.

“Man,” said Manny Ramirez standing next to Wayne and blowing on his hands, “I hope they open the doors soon! I could use a tube steak!” Manny wore Bat sneakers and a Batpack.

“Haven’t you heard?” Wayne said. “They pulled all the hot dogs. The fat content was too high.”

Manny regarded Wayne dubiously. “You’re shittin’ me.”

“No sir. The mayor signed the executive order yesterday. He doubled the food tax on all fast food items and mandated the removal of such items as hot dogs, French fries, jalapeno poppers, and deep fried cheese curds.”

“You gotta be shittin’ me!” Manny wailed. “What kind of dumb fuck would do that?”

“An overreaching municipal, state, and federal government that seeks to control all aspects of our lives and treat us like children.”

“I been thinkin’ about that hot dog all night! It’s the only thing that kept me going!”

“Hang, bro,” Wayne said. “I got you covered.”

A shout. A huzzah rose up the line. They had opened the doors. It was ten-thirty in the morning. Excitement was palpable among the faithful, overwhelmingly comprised of adolescent boys with a few sullen adults shepherding their cubs and hapless girlfriends in tow.

Two security guards met them at the door. “Please deposit all liquids, foods, and recording devices here. Sir, would you mind opening your coat?”

Wayne dutifully spread wide his bulky pea coat revealing a round mound covered with a nicely pilled argyle sweater that had belonged to his grandfather. The guard looked away and waved him through.

“Sir, would you mind opening your backpack?” the guard said to Manny.

Manny slipped it off and flipped open the lid. “It’s a Batpack.”

Tickets were nine dollars for the eleven o’clock matinee, twelve dollars for shows after noon. Wayne got his ticket and waited for Manny in the lobby where the snack counter was doing a brisk business in popcorn made with sunflower oil and available with virgin olive oil, tofu on a stick, and fruit smoothies.

Manny entered the lobby. “Ahmina get a Coke and some buttered popcorn, okay?”

“There is no buttered popcorn. It’s available with sunflower oil and olive oil.”

Manny’s jaw crushed a toe. He looked toward the refreshment counters which resembled festival seating at a Who concert. He resigned himself to water. Wayne took off at flank speed. It was imperative to GET YOUR SEATS FIRST and fish for food second. By the time Wayne and Manny gained the theater, the plum rows eight through twelve were taken with sniveling, squirming, texting, snarfing boys and men in a state of perpetual shiftiness emitting a low rumble of conversation punctuated by invective.

Wayne took the third seat in the 13th row except it was labeled the 14th to avoid the onus of superstition. Manny sat on the aisle. The big screen showed a ruddy, cheerful Santa Claus in coitus with a reindeer, guzzling Coke and shouting, “Shake, it Prancer, you hot bitch!” It was a Very Special Christmas.

During the trailer for Punisher IV, Marvel 0, a flat top and his date, who look4ed like Betty from Betty & Veronica, entered the aisle causing Manny to swing his legs to the side. Wayne had to stand and even then it was like squeezing by a mattress stuck in the doorway.

“Do you smell McDonald’s” Betty whispered to her date.

“Shhh!” Wayne shushed. Dude gave him the stink eye but Wayne ignored him. The troublesome couple sat three seats away. They watched a trailer for Zits, the new Will Ferrell comedy in which he plays a child/man forced to grow up when he takes over the family summer camp. They watched a trailer for Grits, the new Adam Sandler comedy in which he plays a child/man forced to grow up when he takes over the family plantation. They watched a trailer for Pits, the new Ben Stiller comedy about black holes.

Finally, after ads for plastic surgery and whole grain crust chicken and sun-dried tomato pizza, the lights lowered and the feature began. Manny stared at the screen in fascination until the smell of a Big Mac got his attention. Wayne nudged him and passed over a Big Mac.

“What? How?” Manny said, pleased and delighted.

Wayne reached down and pulled a portion of his belly away from himself like a lid. “Prosthetic belly,” he whispered. “Costume store. Got the Big Macs last night in Jersey. Kept ‘em warm with body heat.”

“Shhhh!” Betty shushed harshly.

I know what you’re thinkin’, Wayne thought to himself. In all the confusion, did he pull out two burgers, or three? The question you’ve got to ask yourself, lady, is do you feel lucky?

Batman had a utility belt. Wayne had a prosthetic belly.

Wayne and Manny ate their burgers. Dude immediately in front of Wayne turned in his seat. He had a buzz cut and a ring in one ear and through his nose. “Dude, like that burger you’re eating is totally horrendous. Take it outside, why don’tcha?”

Other young men swiveled to see the object of wrath. Wayne deftly tucked the rest of the Big Mac into his cavernous maw, chewed and swallowed. Reaching into an inside pocket of his pea coat he withdrew a canned Coke, popped the lid and drank copiously. He belched like the Mother of All Bullfrogs. He rolled it out like a black furry carpet. It just kept on rolling. The belch caromed off the ceiling frieze and tumbled ‘round the room.

Onscreen, Batman foiled an attempt by the Punisher to crash his movie.

Buzz Cut jabbed a finger at Wayne. “Why don’t you get up off your fat ass and go sit somewhere else?”

“Yeah!” said his sidekick, Li’l BC.

With a sigh Wayne heaved himself to his feet and motioned for Manny to do likewise. He had not come to rumble with Nazis. He had come to see the movie. He and Manny moved further upslope until they found two seats in the narrow aisle next to the wall.

Onscreen, terrorists had taken over Gotham Tower and were jamming all radio, internet, and short wave transmissions. In the theater, a gang of twenty-something boys sitting behind Wayne and Manny had seized control of the 18th row and jammed transmissions from the screen by hooting, making noises, and throwing Junior Mints.

A Junior Mint bounced off the back of Wayne’s basketball-sized head. Wayne slowly swiveled with a steely glare. The obstreperous ones studiously watched the screen on which Bruce Wayne was fending off Poison Ivy’s attentions.

Another Junior Mint sailed past. Giggles emanated from the 18th row. Wayne didn’t bother to turn and look. With a sigh of resignation, he gripped his arm rests and heaved himself from his seat. My city bleeds, he thought. He ponderously made his way up the aisle toward the 18th row.

“Oh oh,” they joked. “Look out now, here he comes!”

“Beware the Fat Fury!”

Wayne wondered if the benighted ones were even familiar with Herbie Popnecker. Without looking at them Wayne reached the 19th row and turned in. He sat behind what he took to be the ringleader, a dude in an Oakland hoodie, pants down his ass and BKs on the back of the seats in front of him as if he weren’t the issue of wealthy white mandarins on the Upper West Side.

“You smell something?” the White Negro said.

“Yeah,” said one of his minions. “Something stinks.”

The White Negro turned to confront Wayne, whose knees were up against the back of the seat. “Whassup, you fat faggot? Why don’tcha move your bulk somewhere else, know what I’m sayin’?”

Wayne reached into his belly prosthetic and brought forth a halogen flashlight and a water pistol filled with dog urine. “Please turn around and enjoy the movie for which you paid nine dollars.”

Onscreen, Batman confronted a crazed Killer Croc in the act of planting a bomb.

Offscreen, the White Negro said, “Or what? You gonna make me?”

Wayne turned the flashlight on the White Negro’s face. He squirted dog urine on the White Negro’s shirt.

“There,” Wayne said. “Now you have a smell to complain about.”

The White Negro heaved himself over the back of his seat and attacked Wayne with both hands, delivering blow after blow to Wayne’s prosthetic belly. The White Negro’s fist penetrated several of the twelve thumbtacks Wayne and pushed through the front of his sweater. Stinking of dog urine, the White Negro stared in horror at his bleeding fists.

The manager, a pale young man with a ponytail, came up the stairs with his own flashlight which he shined on the whole sorry scene. He sniffed. “Okay, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you all to leave. Your ticket money will be refunded out front in the lobby. Let’s go.”

The White Negro turned on him in wounded innocence. “But we didn’t do anything! This fat fuck started messing with us!”

Wayne remained seated. “They threw Junior Mints at the back of my head. I’m sure a police search will reveal the Mints.”

“What’s that smell?” the manager said.

“Smells like dog piss,” one of the minions said. He had the makings of a fine detective.

“All right, that’s it,” said the manager with newly found authority. “Out of here right now or I’ll stop the film, turn up the lights and call the cops.”

There was some grumbling but when two more ushers appeared with flashlights on the landing below the White Negro resignedly got to his feet and led his minions out the door. “It sucks anyway.”

The manager turned his flashlight on Wayne. Wayne turned his flashlight on the manager. “You too,” the manager said.

“Moi?” Wayne said. “I have troubled no one. I have thrown Junior Mints at no one. I merely seek to watch the movie which is ruined for me now, ruined I say because of incessant interruptions and the obstreperous and contumacious nature of your clientele.”

“Let’s go,” the manager said. “You can get a refund in the lobby.”

Wayne rose with dignity. “Fine,” he said and waddled down the stairs, pausing only to glance at Manny, who dutifully joined him. The two lads soon found themselves nine dollars richer individually and out on the street.

“Now what do we do?” Manny said.

Gazing at a poster for The Bourne Natural Killers, Wayne deduced their next move. “Come on. We’ll make our own movie. We’ll shoot it on my phone.”

How to change a tire by Mike Baron

HOW TO CHANGE A TIRE

I ain’t the handiest guy in the world, but I know how to change a tire. A lot of new cars don’t come with a spare. If you get a flat, you’re shit outta luck. Better have one of those plug-in tire repair kits so you can hobble to the next service station. I also know how to drive a stick shift. Growing up on the flat eastern plains of South Dakota, my friends and I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel, so much so, that we would routinely “borrow” our parents’ cars late at night to get the hang of it.

It was a car culture. My best friend’s dad always had copies of Road & Track and Car And Driver in his clinic office. He was a successful doctor who also owned several hot cars including a Ferrari, which he let me drive once.

“I think eighty is fast enough, Mike.”

Doctor Delaney also had a Mercedes 300 and a humongous Dodge with a hemi.

I love shifting the gears, matching revs on downshifts, feeling the engine hit its torque curve. It’s a joy to feel part of the mechanical apparatus that moves you through the countryside, and the joy is greater when you ride a motorcycle, because instead of being sealed off from the land in an enclosed steel cage, you are part of the countryside.

I love the smell of gas.

These days, most cars have automatic transmissions, rear view cameras, devices that correct the steering if you nod off and fail to notice you’re about to rear end a semi. People refer to manual transmissions as millennial anti-theft devices, and there’s some truth there. A lot of kids are leery of driving and in no hurry to get their licenses, partly because of stupid propaganda demonizing internal combustion engines. All progress comes at a price. The internal combustion engine has been one of the greatest boons to mankind since the invention of the wheel. For every person who dies in a car crash, a thousand have been transported swiftly and safely to hospital emergency rooms for everything from pregnancy to heart attacks. Fresh water and medicine travel to disaster areas via internal combustion engines.

Those who want us to emulate Europe with mass transit don’t understand what makes America unique. Part of it is freedom. The freedom to hop on your bike, or into your car, and go wherever the hell you please. America is a huge country with vast distances, especially out here in the West. Mass transit works great in dense urban areas, not so much in the West.

Today’s risk-adverse yoot are not buying motorcycles. Scary! There used to be numerous monthly general purpose motorcycle magazines. Now there are two quarterlies, Motorcyclist and Cycle World, and neither has anything of interest. Motorcycle manufacturers don’t vomit forth dozens of new models each year as they did in the past.

But like the horse and comic books, motorcycles will never disappear because they have their enthusiasts. I hope they will make a comeback.

To change a flat tire, you loosen the lug nuts before you apply the jack. Jack the wheel off the ground, replace it, gently screw in the lug nuts, then lower the car back to the ground. Once it is on its full weight, you tighten the lug nuts.

Mike Baron, The Survey

THE SURVEY

Every company is desperate for positive feedback. Every company employs some firm to conduct surveys on its behalf.

Use SurveyMonkey to drive your business forward by using our free online survey tool to capture the voices and opinions of the people who matter most to you.

School district issuing surveys to complete picture about home, classroom, technology use.

Online surveys are part of the broader family of self-administered surveys (Internet, by post, etc.), as opposed to administered surveys (face to face, telephone). By taking the time to give your opinion, you are providing input for the development of a product or service. In fact, the quality of an online survey depends on the reliability of the information you provide.

The information collected from surveys reaches clients, but will always conceal individual identity. Survey results are aggregated by combining responses with those provided by other participants who have also completed the online survey. This data is stored in a database that can be analyzed by clients, but personal data will never be revealed, sold or traded without your permission.

My own experience is that they are intrusive and irritating. Automatic calls are the most irritating, as they do not work on your schedule. A prerecorded voice says, “Your feedback is important to us. Please take a few minutes to answer this survey about your recent experience with Veeblefetzer Orthodontics.”

But it’s not a few minutes. They phrase the questions so that the can provide neat statistics to their employer. There is seldom room for personal experience. “On a scale of one to ten, one being least satisfactory, ten being most satisfactory…”

And the questions go on and on. I usually hang up after five minutes. Online surveys are nearly as irritating. Don’t we get enough spam? In days of yore, businesses knew they were on the right track by repeat customers and personal testimonials. I’m happy to give a personal testimonial. I write glowing reviews for the Better Business Bureau. But this survey business is out of hand. I went through McDonald’s the other day and by the time I got to the second window, the survey was waiting.

Testing Black Belt, Mike Baron

Notes for Testing Black Belts, Summer 2018

Combinations:

Main thoughts for combinations are to make sure your strikes are complete and clear. Combinations need to flow in order to be useful, but don’t go so fast that we can’t tell what kind of kicks you are throwing.

Kicks need to fold and retract. (3rd degrees are weakest at this.)

Point foot on round kicks.

If a combination says “double side kick” it is meant to have both kicks middle height, not lo-hi. It will say “lo-hi” if that is the intention. (3rd degree #6a has double side kick)

Pay attention to when you are supposed to step back, usually on a #2 combo with a step back spin hook kick or spin backfist.

Know when to step and when to skip, and when NOT to.

2nd degrees #2a slide side kick is different from a skip kick.

(Take corrections to heart, but don’t hurt yourselves trying to do something that doesn’t work for your body!)

One-steps: Samar be more aware of your distance, you tend to be too far away. Will, sometimes your kicks were not clear. Looked like you were doing round kicks for #2.

Everyone, just be aware of proper distance to make the techniques work optimally.

Same for Grab defenses. Know when to step in or step back to make your defenses work better (esp 1st degrees)

Know what things work for you, and consider who your partner is, in how you do some things (careful with the take-downs)

Knife defense: Control that knife hand! Don’t forget to use your strikes.

Club defense: Mostly good, find ways to get inside the swing.

Ground defense and choke defense: Keep good awareness, to recognize things early so you can defend it early.

Sticks: On 11-count form, be sure to complete moves. #7 thrust sometimes gets lost.

3rd degrees: On hi-forehand, hi-backhand, hi-forehand/sombrada drill, be sure you show the change of distance.

Targets: Hand targets—make sure 1 and 2 punches extend; target-holders be careful not to meet the puncher’s punch so much that they can’t extend.

For all of the targets work, be sure you listen carefully to the instructions. Sometimes people were doing the wrong drill or wrong techniques. Be sure to hold the targets properly for your partner. The test is on holding as well as on the striking. Be a good partner.

Forms:

General: Full preparations; retract kicks. Stances. Timing hands with feet. Focus on the techniques. Be self-aware, self-correcting. Always aim for better.

Bal Sae – counts 6,7,8 be sure to twist body and make both arms move fully.

Sang Kee – Timing of the yell on #1 is when you step back and R arm drops down to block. Remember all of the other yells (esp. both on #9 and #11). Head height stays low when changing from horse stance to back stance (#17-18). Count 22 is open downward block in back stance. Then shift to front stance.

Koryo 1 – count 6 is single knife hand block (L hand pulled back by hip), and #7 is reverse punch, staying in back stance. Dbl outward block #11 is in front stance. Knife hand blocks #1 and #14 are with both hands open

Koryo 2 – remember the sequence. Some of you had occasions when you left out parts. Double outward block #13 is in front stance, #15 is in back stance.

Kan Ku Dai – try to cross all of the knife-hand preparations; yells are on #9, #25, & #40

Ge Baek – mountain blocks are palms-facing-in; niner block is a square position; yells on #1, #14, #18, #30

Under-belt forms: Knife-hand blocks with fist on chest in KM forms except KM Oh Dan; PA Sah Dan line toward the back in 3 double-attacks and a knee; PA Yi Dan remember to do full prep for sideward punch counts 3 & 6.

Weapons Forms:

Full motions—one arm is straight in all strikes with bo. Be clean on vertical line, horizontal line, diagonal line Universal bo – Be sure the diagonal strikes when you are on your knee actually go out diagonally.

Universal kamas – Be aware of where the chambered hand is. Be sure that both arms move when doing forward cut in back stance and backward cut in front stance. Keep clean stances. The front stances tend to get short and sloppy.

Specials – Looks like we have a nice variety of performances. Keep practicing, get comfortable with facing the audience, explaining something about your choice, and moving smoothly through whatever it is that you are doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abject Squalor by Mike Baron

ABJECT SQUALOR

My late wife chose the house in which we live. When we moved in, the front and back yards were perfect, watered regularly by an underground, automated watering system. If you want to have a lawn in Colorado, this is what you do. Because most of Colorado is a desert. And the rest is mountains. Yet everyone has a lawn. And the city’s lawns are the most glorious of all, because they don’t care how much they spend. Many a time I’ve driven past city water sprinklers during a heavy rain storm as they direct their stream to the middle of the road. I once notified the Parks Department that their sprinklers were falling on asphalt. Nothing has changed.

The West is all about the water, who owns it, who controls it. Now you might think nobody owns the water. You would be wrong. Certain land rights carry water rights, grandfathered from the days of the Conestoga wagon, if the land contains a stream or river. Some states (not Colorado) have outlawed the collection of rain water in barrels.

Lawns are reasonable for the Upper Midwest and the South, where rain falls steadily. They make little sense in a desert. You want to solve Los Angeles’ water problem? Tell all those stars to stop watering their lawns. And build some more dams!

But their problems are not my problems. My problems are the dogs.

Enter Freddie. One day I heard Freddie laughing and barking in the back yard. He was tearing up the underground watering system. Not a nip here and there, no. He ripped up entire sections and chewed them to suet. The other dogs. Soon there was nothing left of my backyard watering system. I could do what I do in the front yard, which has its own problems. Drag the sprinklers out twice a week and water.

Then came the rabbits. Their urine destroyed the front lawn, and if the front lawn isn’t nice, the home owners’ association sends a SWAT squad. I carefully scraped up the dead spots, applied gypsum, seed, and covered it with fresh topsoil. It rained for three days straight. I watered every day for a week. The result? A desultory handful of blades. I am waiting. I am watching. And when the time is right, I shall try again. Not for me the terraforming and chemicals of the modern professional lawn grower! No. If I can’t raise it itself, it doesn’t deserve to live.

The Corner Pocket by Mike Baron

THE CORNER POCKET

Mike Baron

I was a fat and cowardly child. Growing up in South Dakota, I feared everything from the boys in the locker room to big dogs. I bullied and was bullied. It’s a mystery to me how I managed to hang on to some of my childhood friends, but here we are, fifty years later, tighter than ever.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, I moved to Boston to work on weekly “alternative” papers. I ended up in a basement apartment in Brighton, a half block from the Ja Shin Do Academy, a storefront karate school. Every day on my way to the MTA, I passed that school. I would stare through the mist-covered windows at students moving around the hardwood floor, hearing their thumps and kiais. Like most young men, I was fascinated by karate. One day I said fuck it, and went inside to talk to the teacher Andy Bauman. Andy acquired his black belt while stationed in Korea. He could punch through a wall.

I trained at the Ja Shin Do Academy under Andy, Joe Demusz, and Jane West. It was very traditional, very hard. I can’t believe some of the things we did. Thousand kick night was a regular event, as was picking up a teammate in a fireman’s carry and running around the park.

One day a lanky young man came in, went up the makiwara screwed to the wall, and punched it, breaking his hand. He never returned.

When I returned to Madison in ‘77, I resumed training at Choi’s Karate, under Jim Henry. Jim was a charmless thug, but he knew his stuff. I trained with Vince O’Hern, founder and publisher of Isthmus, Madison’s “alternative” weekly, for which I was music editor. Amazingly, Isthmus is still with us, following the collapse of ninety per cent of the alternative weeklies in the country, due mostly to the rise of the internet. I was about to test for black belt when Choi’s went belly-up. Vince and I continued to train together, sometimes at the UW Natatorium or at Lathrop Hall. Lathrop was a beautiful old brick building with a pool in the basement. It’s gone now, like so much of the classic campus, replaced by an ugly building.

I let training slide for years, working out in the basement of my house in Fitchburg. I designed, built the house, and paid it off. It had an in-ground pool. But I made bad choices and ended up losing it and moving to Colorado.

But before then, I found a group of fighters training in the basement of a community center under John Fehling, who’d trained with Danny Inosanto. It was my first exposure to stick fighting. Not that I love stick fighting! Who needs it? It was interesting.

I picked up my first comic in South Dakota, Uncle Scrooge. At UW, some friends turned me onto Steranko and Neal Adams. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I couldn’t believe people could draw like that. I was hooked.

I lived in Boston when the first Master of Kung Fu came out. I bought multiple copies. It was only twenty-five cents. Steve Englehart wrote and Jim Starlin drew it. Doug Moench Gulacy took over. It took Gulacy a few issues to find his stride, but when he did, it was explosive. He took Steranko one step further. But even then, looking at the beautiful drawing of Shan-Chi throwing a flying sidekick. I sensed something wasn’t right. We didn’t see any fighting.

When Hulk waves his fist and five thugs fly off-panel head first, we don’t really see what happened. We get the comic book rush and understand the story. But it’s not like looking at a real fight.

These comics, Master of Kung Fu, Richard Dragon, Iron Fist, purportedly about martial arts, had very little. Only Denny O’Neil, who created Richard Dragon, understood something of the fighting arts. I wanted to show martial arts in a comic like a Jackie Chan film. I wanted to see the techniques unfold so that we understand how Shang-Chi ends up on his back. Comics are no competition to film. Film has many advantages including sound, controlling the pace, and choreographers who understand that the audience wants to see the kung fu. Those magnificent, highly choreographed fights you see in Enter the Dragon, Drunken Master, or Ip Man aren’t realistic, in the sense that the brawl in Treasure of the Sierra Madre is. But they are masterful action entertainment and you know you are seeing real kung fu, even if every move is carefully choreographed. Jackie Chan routinely shot scenes hundreds of times to get one perfect take. Comics only need to draw it correctly from panel to panel.

Comics have one big advantage. They can legitimize story material that would be laughed off any sound stage. You will believe a man can fly.

I was working at an insurance agency when one day I got a call from a friend who was an editor at an “alternative” newspaper that erupted due to a union dispute. “There’s some guy down here trying to sell us his drawings,” he said, “and he draws just like you.”

I met Steve Rude on the steps of the Student Union. Until then, I’d been trying to draw. I met the Dude on summer afternoon, he opened his portfolio there on the veranda, and I stopped drawing. Once Capital City picked up Nexus, I proposed a comic about a Druid wizard, cuz that’s what Jeff Butler wanted to draw. Milton Griepp said, “Give us a costumed crime-fighter.”

Why would anyone put on a costume and fight crime? They’d have to be crazy. Thus was Badger born, and the forum in which to showcase martial arts. I urge anyone wishing to understand what I mean to get Badger #9, “Hot August Night,” and look at the fight scene between Badger and Cobra Crisp. Using some photo ref, as well as my childish drawings, Bill Reinhold nailed it. I choreographed every fight scene, usually by drawing it out by hand.

I wrote Kato for Now, first with Brent Anderson, then with Val Mayerik. Val is an accomplished martial artist as well as one of the finest painters of his generation. Go to www.valmayerik.com. We took pains with Bruce Lee to make the fights not just realistic, but in keeping with The Little Dragon’s philosophy.

Q-Ball popped into my head. A stick fighting pool hustler. Some people say, “If he’s Q-Ball, why isn’t he bald?” Wait. Q-Ball is on a journey of discovery. We have big surprises and epic fights.

The friends you meet in martial arts are true friends. Www.karatewestinc.com

Q-Ball, New Comic Book by Mike Baron

Q-Ball

When Bruce Lee burst on the scene, I was ready. I started taking karate and haunting the local newsstand for the next issue of Master of Kung Fu. Paul Gulacy’s art ripped off the top of my head. At long last someone had picked up the gauntlet thrown by Steranko. That was the most amazing art I’d ever seen. But even then, I knew right away the martial arts weren’t right. They were just poses copied from movie stills. I wanted to see the technique as it unfolded. Comics are a visual medium. There’s no reason they can’t do that.

I got my chance with Badger, which appeared in 1983, and reached a peak in Badger #9, “Hot August Night,” with Bill Reinhold’s unbelievable depiction of the fight between Badger and Cobra Crisp.

I worked with Brent Anderson and Val Mayerik on Kato, and Val and I worked on the Bruce Lee comic. An accomplished martial artist, Val’s fight drawings were spot on. Next year you’ll see his latest Badger.

I wanted to do a balls-to-the-wall martial arts comic. I saw Barry McClain’s work and rung him up. Not only is Barry one of the most exciting new artists to break into comics, he’s the hardest working man in the biz. Can’t say for sure, but I think he pencils several pages a day.

Barry was up for it. I liked the name Q-Ball.

Detroit homeboy Curtis Ball joined the Merchant Marine and ended up managing a warehouse in Manila. Curtis wanted only two things out of life: to see the world and study Kali/Escrima. But when a pack of tuxedoed sharks muscle their way into his warehouse, Curtis learns the hard way that it’s not always smart to mind your own business.
The spooks are looking for Donna Wing, a beautiful Chinese blogger, forced to flee due to her exposes of human rights abuse. Now Curtis and Donna are on the run—from the Chinese government, the tongs, and a group of international cutthroats who will stop at nothing to stop them from reaching the United States and spilling their guts.
Sometimes you have to spill some guts to spill your guts.

I go through back issues of Black Belt and Kung Fu looking for photo how-tos, which show six to eight pictures on a page of a technique as it actually happens. In slomo. That’s what we want to do with the comic, break down the techniques so you can study every move and see how it works.

Of course this is a comic, and as Chuck Dixon puts it, comics are opera. So expect big gestures and the occasional anatomical impossibility. Trust us. We know kung fu.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2053015196/q-ball-1-martial-arts-thriller-by-baron-and-mcclai?ref=thanks_share

 

Two Kingdoms by Mike Baron

TWO KINGDOMS

Animal Kingdom is about a family of high-end robbers ruled by a domineering mother. They go to unbelievable lengths pulling off risky heists to avoid honest labor. Kingdom is about a family of mixed martial artists ruled by a domineering dad. They go to unbelievable lengths to protect one another. Both feature a young man named Jay.

Both are gripping drama. In Animal Kingdom, the mother teaches her son how to shoot. In Kingdom, the son teaches his mother how to shoot. The characters in both seem real and sympathetic, although Kingdom is realer, and has less melodramatic flair. Animal Kingdom incorporates the usual post-Breaking Bad tropes—the criminal underworld and the border, drug kingpins, graphic violence. What makes it unique is Ellen Burstyn’s portrayal of Smurf, the ultimate love/hate mother who wields guilt like a scalpel.

Unfortunately, Ms. Barkin takes to Twitter. “Donald Trump has a small penis. That is a fact.”

And she said, “‘C’mon #Isaac! Wash every pro-life, anti-education, anti-woman, xenophobic, gay-bashing, racist SOB right into the ocean! #RNC.

Why does she do this? Doesn’t she understand her program has many conservative fans? Why do celebrities go out of their way to insult half their base? Nevertheless, I will keep watching.

The cast of Kingdom does not spew obnoxious opinions.

Wascally Wabbits by Mike Baron

WASCALLY WABBITS

My front lawn is piebald. When we moved in, front and back lawns were perfect, drenched every other day by the underground watering system, which is de rigeur out here on the high plains. Then came the dogs. They ripped up the underground watering system and chewed all the tubes. So forget the back yard. It looks like the Eastern Front in 1944. Strange patches appeared in the front yard. This spring, I dug them all out and planted fresh seed, watering copiously. Within two weeks, the desert bloomed! But two weeks after that, every patch I planted had reverted to dead grass.

I consulted Doug, who worked for the Dept. of Agriculture and has a green thumb. He pointed to the rabbit turds. “There’s your problem. These rabbits are pissing all over your yard.”

At first I didn’t believe him. But then I noticed every time I went out in the morning, rabbits. Rabbits, rabbits, everywhere. I bought a box of rabbit repellent at Walmart and spread it around the lawn. The rabbits laughed!

I went online and looked up natural rabbit repellent: garlic powder and ground cayenne pepper. I spread it liberally over the lawn as if it were a steak. The rabbits laughed! I screamed at them. The rabbits laughed like I was Sam Kinison! I will get them. Fall is almost here. I will cook up such a concoction of anti-rabbit stew they will take a wide detour around my lawn! I will order coyote urine off the internet! I will dig a foxhole and pop up with my BB gun! This I swear.

Be vewy, vewy quiet.

Best Dam Store by Mike Baron

BEST DAM STORE

On Friday Kim and I rode down the Front Range to Lyons, up 36 to Estes Park, and down Big Thompson Canyon back to town. The back road to Lyons goes by reservoirs, farms, ranches, and a half dozen upscale gated communities with names like Whispering Pines and Red Rocks Redoubt, by several estates over ten thousand square feet. Kim, who weighs 145 lbs., rides a Valkyrie. I ride a Shadow 750. The ride from Lyons to Estes Park was chock-a-block with bikers and families in enormous motor homes towing Jeeps. The higher we rode, the cooler we got. I was glad I’d brought a sweatshirt.

Estes Park was jammed. Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, it features dozens of galleries, beaneries, haberdasheries and knick-knack stores. Antelope and buffalo jerky are big sellers. We rolled down the Big Thompson, which had only reopened this year following a devastating flood in 2015. Houses and parks were wiped out. They’re planning to shift the whole road ten feet higher onto enormous concrete stanchions, an ambitious program that will take years. The canyon winds through several mountain communities, rustic cabins hard-by the road except for the lucky few that found flat places on the far side of the river. You can’t raft the Big Thompson, it’s too rough and there are several dams.

Suddenly my engine stopped. I pulled to the side of the road, fiddled with the ignition, and it started again. Then it stopped for good in the worst possible place, in the narrows, with barely enough room for a two-lane highway, river on one side and a sheer thousand foot cliff on the other. I pulled over as far as I dared, just short of falling off into the scree at the base of the cliff, got on Kim’s bike, and we rode a quarter mile to the Dam Store, “The Best Dam Store By A Dam Site.” I had passed it dozens of times but never before entered.

Kim dropped me off. He had classes to teach. The store people loaned me their phone (there is no cell service in the canyon) and I called Aces Motorcycles, which is just up the street from me. Mark the Mechanic told me he’d phone Scott’s Towing right away. The phone calls were going fast and furious. The Dam Store was irked. So I said, “Give me a trash bag, I’ll clean up the parking lot.”

I picked up every cigarette butt, discarded fast food wrapper and plastic cup. That lot hadn’t been cleaned in years. Now the Dam Store loves me.