Friday

The Dream of Poor Bazin

Jerry Stratton

What if the Three Musketeers were journalists in Washington, DC? What if journalists were swashbuckling, swaggering, hard-drinking warriors of truth? Find out in Jerry Stratton’s The Dream of Poor Bazin.

Arthur slept in the stairwell that night, beneath the Bayside Terrace. Some Elves had an orgy there that night, overlooking the bay. He’d always assumed Elves were better at orgies. At least, he’d had that read to him in Peter Pan. These Elves were giving away free comics and eating potato chops. They occasionally had music but no dancing. Arthur liked to dance, he even pretended to dance with Voniece (Fisher had to help Voniece).

This music wasn’t particularly danceable, however. The air had cooled and dried. He fell asleep listening to the music, and Voniece fell asleep watching him sleep. In the morning the air was hot and sticky again. He and Voniece snuck into a bathroom and cleaned themselves. In the bathroom he overheard someone say that “Black Eye” was the most successful company at the convention, even more than DC. So he decided to sell his Ronin #1 to Black Eye. He was getting tired of all this and just wanted to make his money and go home to the Shopping Cart Graveyard.

He walked all over the convention floor. He had his picture taken with women’s breasts hanging over his head. He picked up all sorts of free stuff that he could use in the Graveyard for sleeping on. He had his picture taken with someone dressed up like a Qualcomm employee—cell phone and all. He stole nacho chips from the dining area. But he couldn’t find Black Eye anywhere. He caught sight of his newspaperman leaving for lunch at the Field and pushed his entourage in front of the newspaperman’s path.

“Hey kid, what’s up?” said the newspaperman. “Where’s the gun?”

“A security guard stole it,” he pouted. “But I’m trying to sell my comic book to Black Eye.”

“You can’t do that,” said the newspaperman. “They’re too successful.”

“But where are they?” asked Arthur. “I’ve been all over looking for them. If they’re so successful why can’t I find them?”

The newspaperman took a deep breath.

“You see, everyone’s trying to be like Marvel Comics. Marvel Comics is, or was, almost out of business. Black Eye is out of business. That’s more like Marvel than Marvel, and much more like Marvel than DC can ever hope to be. So you see, they’re too successful to buy your comic.”

Arthur thought about that. He cupped his chin in his hands. It hurt to think so much.

“So, to be successful, I need to go out of business?”

“Exactly,” said the newspaperman. “Everyone’s trying it, few are successes. Most just can’t manage their final step into insolvency.”

So Arthur borrowed a cigarette lighter from the newspaperman. (“Bring that back right away,” said the newspaperman, “I need to use it regularly.”) Arthur brought his Ronin #1 up to the balcony overlooking the entire exhibition floor. And he set his Ronin #1 on fire and held it up as it burned.

Everyone in the convention center felt a change rushing through the air. One person saw Arthur and his burning comic, and pointed. All talking ceased in the exhibition area. Some onlookers screamed. Others hid their faces in fear. At least one crawled underneath a table full of sixties zodiac signs.

But slowly, a whisper began to fill the room.

“Burn,” said the whisper, a thousand voices, quiet but powerful.

They repeated it, a little louder.

“Burn.”

The chant grew from a whisper to a roar. Everyone (or at least everyone who smoked) pulled a new comic book and lit it on fire. There were not a few copies of Ronin, and Dead Supermen, and revamped Vampires and Spider-men. Flames leapt from every booth and corner of the exhibit area. Comics that burned, screamed in pain, comics that were safe begged for mercy. The collectors would hear none of it. Smoke filled the hall, set off the sprinkler system, and put the fires out.

Immediately Arthur was offered $1,000 for his mostly burnt “Ronin”.

“It’s a collectors’ item,” they said. “There’s only one like it.”

“Actually, everyone on the floor has one just like it,” said Arthur.

“Yes, but yours is the original,” they said.

The next Comics Price Guide listed Arthur’s unique Burning Ronin at $758. After the frenzy died, so did the demand. “Second printings,” as the Guide listed the other burnt comics, went for $412 for Ronins, and $152 for other random comics, such as Action #1. Marvel and DC’s creators and editors decried the wanton destruction; Marvel and DC’s marketing department immediately announced that each comic published in the future would have a ‘burnt’ variant cover.

Arthur took his money and his friends out to the streets of downtown San Diego and treated them to lunch at an Indian restaurant that had Flying Horses. Arthur asked for a Flying Horse but the waiter wouldn’t give him one because “you have to be 21 to get a Flying Horse”. Arthur argued that in California you only had to be 14 to drive, but the waiter countered by pointing out that Arthur wasn’t 14 either. So he settled for a dog, but the dog ended up trying to hump his leg all night. This made Voniece jealous, so Arthur ditched the dog at the Greyhound bus station (“this is its home,” said Arthur, “these are its people”) and took her to a bar up past the Greyhound station. He still couldn’t get anything to eat or drink, but he could hide underneath the tables and steal fries from people coming in from Burger King. The newspaperman showed up along with five hundred of his friends. One of the friends started casing the joint to see if he could steal the neon signs.

It was a very religious experience. One man came into the bar with four crutches, left them at the bar, and then fell over himself when he tried to take them back on leaving.

Arthur fell asleep to the sound of Billy Holiday on the jukebox, but woke up again at 1:30 AM. More people had arrived, and people who walk into the Piccadilly at one in the morning do not have good taste in music. They’re really looking for ways to spend their money faster than they can drink it. Arthur, Fisher, and Voniece left from under the table.

“It’s good to get drunk and talk with fucking Americans,” said the first man he met outside of the bar.

So the night ended.

Arthur’s Pal Jerry Stratton

Donna Barr was dragged all over San Diego yesterday by not one but two odd women. It was her birthday, and she didn’t let anyone forget it.

Jessica Abel discovered her inner Italian and hoped for really good, really cheap pasta in San Diego’s mostly ignored Little Italy. She settled for Café India instead.

Glenn and I enjoyed the Big Kitchen in Golden Hill and discussed our militia-like preparations for Year 2000.

Jon Lewis is writing a lot of books in collaboration with other artists. He is also going to move from the serial format to two big, 100-page books a year.

Modern Comics had a booth but no one to man it. Just a bunch of stacks of comics and a sign that said “Every comic $2”. So I took every comic and left two dollars.

“My lawyer Adrian said your letter was fine.”

David Lasky’s Urban Hipster is set to topple the whole “superhero thing”. It’s hip. It’s about hip young people who live in cities. Includes body piercing.

Sketchbooks flew across the tables at Star of India and the Piccadilly Sports Bar. There should be a comic coming out of it, even if Matt Guest did draw in the wrong direction. What do you expect after Red Wolf?

Jeff Mason has a desire to stroke sideburns in cheap sports bars.

If you’re interested in a period diary, see http://members.aol.com/sakrug/ preferably while AOL’s member computer is connected to the rest of the net, which it apparently not as I write this.

We started out with 27 people looking for dinner. With no reservations it didn’t go very well. As we wandered along the less dedicated defected until we had 10 people left, which Café India was able to make room for. They were especially nice with the complimentary snacks, although they forgot “complimentary” when the bill arrived. Jeff Mason did a Herculean job of calculating the bill. That is, he opened up the stables and let the river Styx in.