Consequences of Logic

Inference:  a conclusion or opinion that is formed because of known facts or evidence; the act of passing from statistical sample data to generalizations (as of the value of population parameters) usually with calculated degrees of certainty; the act of passing from one proposition, statement, or judgment considered as true to another whose truth is believed to follow from that of the former.

A few days ago, i mentioned the notion of powerful ideas emerging from a series of ‘logical conclusions.’  Have you ever read, seen, or experienced something so uniquely similar to something you yourself daydreamed about, possibly years prior to the attention-grabbing simulacrum that sparked your memory in the first place?  Maybe heard an observational joke so akin to a specific situation you’d been involved in, it elicits a deeper kind of laughter?  That’s just one example.  By the time you reach the end of this, a few more may come to mind.

There is a short story i read years and years ago.  i want to say the author was H.P. Lovecraft but i’m not certain about that.  That being said, the likelihood he’s the writer takes a nosedive.  My guesses are almost always incorrect.  For instance i might be desperately struggling to recall a name or title.

“i want to say it starts with ‘R.'” i offer a helpful insight.  It’s on the tip of my tongue!

Canvendish!” Exclaimed with gusto.  You can almost see the lightbulb over their head.

“i don’t know where i got ‘R’ from.”  What a goof.  Starts with an ‘R.’  Where’d that come from?!

Anyway, in the story, a man had an uncanny ability.  When someone spoke, he could trace their thought processes backwards to the original thought that led to the spoken word.  Sort of like super-psychic deduction.  Mind-reading, in a sense.  Popular as a parlor trick from what i recall, and if Lovecraft is the author, probably a pinch of cosmic insanity as well.   i think he could elaborate on what they would think next as well.

Perhaps passe given a predilection to provide, sometimes push, our perspective on the population.

Advertising employs this sort of technique to get us to buy stuff.  Criticism is leveled at advertisers often enough that it’s designed to make us buy stuff we don’t need.  On the one hand, the humor here is, well…duh!  There’s not a laundry list of things we do need.

In another sense, is it fair to put that on the advertisers of things?  At the very least, they’re people too and subject to the same forces.  What’s interesting to me is the interaction of consumers and advertisers vis-a-vis…livre and other social media.  All the shared ideas are just floating around out there for makers to get their take by making what the takers take.  Ads aren’t always necessarily telling us what we want – we do our fair share of telling them what we want too.  Proper analysis of our likes and dislikes leads to some logical conclusions and reveals a whole lot about what appeals to us.

In fact, just yesterday i saw one of those TV commercials that leaves you wondering “what was that commercial for?” The gist was that we’re all unique individuals with a myriad of interests and opinions, so why should products be targeted to the lowest common denominator?  If i recall correct, it wound up an advertisement for IBM Global Business Services.  At the end, they flash the Watson logo to let you know there’s a supercomputer doing the work for you – no messy human involvement.

There’s a DC Comics supervillain called Major Disaster.  At least i think he’s the one i’m thinking of; i want to say it starts with a ‘D.’  If that’s the guy on my mind, it’s from a fuzzy memory of a comic that begins with the ne’er-do-well on a rooftop, praising himself in grandiose fashion via thought balloons.  Satisfied and sufficiently self-deluded, he leans over the edge and drops a coin down to the street below.  A Rube Goldberg-like series of events ensues, resulting in a terrible accident.  Possibly it’s an Aquaman comic, post-Underworld Unleashed, but i can’t be sure.

At the risk of over-simplifying a Faustian cross-over comics event that augmented the abilities of no small number of villains – and a handful of heroes too – wasn’t Paul Booker basically doing the same thing as our mysterious short story antagonist?

“If I drop this coin, right here and now, it will make that jogger stumble, and the car will slam on the brakes, and yadda yadda yadda the airplane will crash into the submarine and everyone onboard both will be killed.  That’ll show the King of the Seven Seas!”

Why you gotta mess with Arthur Curry, man?  Let leave the man and his fish be.

Always comes back to comics, doesn’t it?

How about science fiction for some logical consequences?  Specifically, sci-fi of the 60’s and 70’s.  Even more specifically, Philip K. Dick.

i can’t tell you how many times i’ve been creeped out reading about visions of the future as written half a century ago.  Virtual worlds will exist for the sole purpose of collected demographic data.  Identities lost from the memory of even those you know when you’re information is erased from the grid.  A population of workers who exist only to manufacture robotic servants and mechanical or electronic conveniences for the elite few.  Arrests made in advance of any actual wrong-doing, based on assumptions garnered through observation.

Madness!

Okay, that first one there isn’t PKD, but it’s an appropriate inclusion.  These authors of fiction, more than a few of whom suffered from multiple mental disorders, nevertheless imagined a futuristic world not altogether unlike the era we’re now living.  The seeds of ideas that technology could lead to dystopia have been germinating in the air for more than a few decades.

(Unless you were Gene Roddenberry, in which case you were in a <still> relatively small group of people who see a hopeful, utopian world down the road thanks to technology.)

The same sort of reasoning probably manifested back when Gutenberg dropped his signature device on the world back in the 15th century.  And just think – if he hadn’t, the cover inlay on this 1977 progressive rock album would have been meticulously hand-written on each one.  Considering it went platinum, that’s a lot of quills dipped in a lot of inkwells.

THE STORY OF THE RISE OF THE MACHINE AND THE DECLINE OF MAN, WHICH PARADOXICALLY COINCIDED WITH HIS DISCOVERY OF THE WHEEL…AND A WARNING THAT HIS BRIEF DOMINANCE OF THIS PLANET WILL PROBABLY END, BECAUSE MAN TRIED TO CREATE ROBOT IN HIS OWN IMAGE

In the past, i touched on the idea of futurism.  And by touched i mean tangentially suggested some of the underlying principles of movement.

***Spoiler alert – expect an expansion on that in, naturally, the future***

Nowadays, whenever i think of ideas floating around in the air, it strikes me that they are quite literally floating around all about us.  They surround us, penetrate us, and bind the galaxy together…

…Wait, that’s not right.  Or is it?

As early as 1881, innovations in communication technology have put signals into the ether as mankind sought to increase the power to connect with one another over space.  Here we are, more than a decade into the 21st century, continuously pelted by information traveling invisibly through the air, across the electromagnetic spectrum, bouncing off satellites, and passing through us.  If it stopped for even a brief moment, the world as we’ve come to know it would…well i don’t want to say crumble, but stress fracture?  Maybe a little.  In light of that, i’d say it qualifies as a binding agent.

Maybe that’s a factor in the increase in these ‘logical conclusions.’  Just as the printing press changed the world in so many ways, so has the communication technology that we’ve seen grow so rapidly that it can no longer be reliably calculated.  And thanks to technology, now the information is literally all around us, saturating our very physical selves.  If an idea is a ‘thing’ – could it leave part of itself behind, inside of us?

Due to the exponential growth rate of technology, the 21st century is predicted to experience the equivalent of 20,000 years of progress over its 100 year span.  Given that, i think it’s safe to say the world in 100 years is effectively unimaginable to us right now.  Say what you will, but at least Philip K. Dick, Buck Rogers, and Tex Avery’s speculations were recognizable.

Science fiction writers and futurists of today probably have a difficult time themselves conceiving of what lies ahead.  By the time their remarkable thought constructs reach an audience, existing technology will likely surpass whatever they could imagine.  On the other hand, there’s already a correlation between science fiction and fact.

Did you know that several of today’s technological advancements came about as a result of Star Trek?  It’s true!  More than a few kids who marveled at the adventures of Captain Kirk and crew became inspired by the fantasy, and their paths in life were defined by the inspiration to bring what they saw into the real world.  And, while that article about the franchise’s contributions to technology is enlightening, you can disregard the advice to “forget about a transporter” – there are breakthroughs on that as well.

Heck, even replicators aren’t too far off.

If there’s one inherent flaw in this analysis it’s this – these logical consequences are really only recognizable in retrospect.  How any single idea will play out, or if it catches on at all, is up in the air.  Or floating around in it.  No human mind can accurately predict with certainty what will develop out of a thought or concept.  There’s simply too many variables involved.

But curiously, the human mind has devised the ever-increasingly powerful computer to which we turn as a nigh-reflex reaction in just about every situation.  Where to eat, where to shop, what movie to see, what was the name of that actor again?

Possibly, the answer to this question of conclusions lies in the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy.  What we think of this today was cemented into the social conscious in 1949 by sociologist Robert K. Merton.  In his book Social Theory and Social Structure, he distilled the ages-old concept into a simple idea – that whether positive or negative, a strongly held belief may sufficiently influence people so their reactions ultimately fulfill the once-false prophecy.  Even more simply, as his predecessor in the field theorized…

“If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”

Usually, this concept is invoked in a negative way.  A self-fulfilling prophecy typically serves as a parable, or cautionary tale, to avoid causing an event through overly strong belief in the undesirable result.  What intrigues me is the power of positivism included in the definition.  For example, studies have shown that a teacher who instills confidence in students and regularly reinforces the idea that they are intelligent and capable of success has a direct effect on performance.  Students who are told they have the ability to accomplish course goals tend to meet those goals.

That’s pretty cool.

i enjoy encountering those moments in life that occur as logical consequences.  Sometimes it’s stumbling across Jim Mahfood’s pre-Fight Club social anarchy comic.  Other times seeing Leonardo DiCaprio swipe my tagline for The Aviator.

One time i was talking with a friend about logical consequences.  A few days later i started writing about it.  My thoughts turned to advertising, and how we contribute to the industry through our Maslow-like need to share ourselves and connect with others.  Then i saw a commercial for an ultra-powerful computer that uses our pro-offered divulgence to aid advertisers.  And why not?  It’s simply a logical consequence.

*     *     *     *     *

That’s it for me this week.  Note – i consider Sunday the last day of the week, not the first.  Kinda like how it’s not the next day until you go to sleep and wake up again.

That being said, i’m looking forward to this coming week because i’ve got another brain-picking session lined up.  This time around, i get to speak with a type of person i’ve long found to be thoroughly fascinating – the stand-up comedian.  As the ultimate disdainers of 9 to 5 grinds, i can’t help but consider their lifestyle appealing.  Travel, autonomy, and your job is to make people laugh.  Yeah, yeah, yeah – i know it’s super difficult, and risky, and fraught with challenges and at least a dash of darkness.  But hey, that’s life.  Might as well laugh at it.

Thanks for reading!

Jim Mahfood’s Weird World

Weird: of, relating to, or caused by the supernatural; of strange or extraordinary character; fate, destiny.

My first encounter with stellar artist Jim Mahfood occurred at the laundromat across the street from the Kent State University campus in 1998.  Actually, it was in the cigar shop next door to the laundromat.  Every Wednesday i had deemed to be laundry day.  But not only because the college house i shared with seven others was so filthy that i would neither walk on the ground floor sans shoes nor believe placing my clothes in the “washing” machine would result in cleanliness (my domicile was the top floor, with friend Brad, where nary a stray partier would venture).  The cigar shop also sold comic books.  A convenient location adjacent to “the other laundromat” – not the snazzy new one that had a full bar, fried food, TVs, and billiards – meant that it was a cob-webby, forgotten relic of spin cycles past little used by townies or students.  Essentially the perfect place to gobble up that week’s trove in relative peace and quiet.

So, in case you were thinking i ran into Mahfood folding our mutual garb, sadly, no.  But i did immediately snatch up a comic that frankly screamed “I’m different – pick me!”

Generation X Underground Special might not have possessed the same kind of punch if it had been a Dark Horse book, or a Malibu book.  This was a Marvel Comics book, and Marvel Comics typically don’t look like that.  Thick cardstock cover in black and white with only a blue and yellow palette, B&W interior, and starring the team from one of my then-current must-haves – Generation X.  Of course i thumbed through it at the rack.  No supervillains.  Recognizable ones anyway.  The heroes?  Yeah…they were battling each other for Space Invaders supremacy, introspectively walking the streets of NYC, and employing Hostess snacks to thwart the world-threatening plans of time-displaced Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg’s Giant Espresso Cannon.  And fighting killer robot pimps.

Damn!  This was some seriously funky stuff.  Heavily into graffiti at the time (the form – i’m too chickenshit to actually do it) this book looked like someone broke into the Marvel Comics studios and bombed the place.  It was, and still is, one of my favorite single issues of comics ever.  No disrespect to Jim though – i did sell it as part of the collection for a 2001 zany adventure.  i have since replaced the copy which now occupies a spot with the pared-down, intimate accumulation of meaningful comics.  Actually, it doesn’t occupy the spot right now.  It’s sitting on the desk in front of me.  Looks so cool sitting there…i’ll be back in a moment.

Good stuff.  Jubilee would be a Cibo Matto fan, wouldn’t she?  Wonder why my copy of the book has a different scrapbook page than this one?  Also wonder if Mahfood was at the Lizard Lounge show on March 29, 1996?    That was one of the questions i had planned to ask Food One hisself when he agreed that it was cool to call him for an interview earlier this week.  Alas, that query didn’t make the final cut.  But oddly enough, seeing as how the man is an artist, the interview did start off with a talk about music.

Just the other day, Mahfood posted online about the Judgment Night OST, proclaiming its merit as a truly kick ass album.  Myself a longtime fan of the rock-rap collaborative work, and only recently digging it up and rediscovering it, i wondered what Jim’s favorite track from the album is.  And secretly, i’ll admit i wondered if it was the same as mine.  Then i could say “i’ve got the same favorite song as a famous artist.”  Incidentally, and i don’t know if the numbers and figures support this, but the soundtrack is so much better than the film.  True, it had a good cast including one of my favorite comedians Denis Leary.  But i’d rather listen to the album than re-watch that movie any day.

“I really like the very first track, the Helmet and House of Pain one. <Just Another Victim> is one of my favorites,” Mahfood said after a cordial greeting.  After going back to listen to the audio from our talk, i realize i never even introduced myself or told him my name.

It went something like this.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Jim?”

“Yeah…?”  <suspiciously…was i a bill collector?>

“Hey, what’s up?”

“What’s up, man?  How you doing?”

“I’m doing really good.  How about you?”

“Great, great.”

By the way, my name is Doug, and i write The Long Shot.  i wrote you to ask about interviewing you for it.  We are now engaged in that interview.  Hi!

He offered to talk slowly for me, in case I was writing things down.  Dude – this is the 21st century.  Digital recorders are like impulse buys at Target.  In retrospect, for all he knew i was some dim-witted Internet dweller with his phone number and possibly nefarious agenda.  So thanks for the offer, Jim.

Anyway, the album.  While he led off with track 1 for favorite, i could tell his real favorite is track 2 – Fallin’.  And why not?  It’s clearly the superior feel-good track on the album.

“De La Soul and Teenage Fanclub is fantastic,” Mahfood said.  “That’s a good one to put on mix tapes for people.

“That record came out in ’93 when I was a freshman in art school.  It’s a pretty distinct memory for me.  Being in the studio and listening to that non-stop with my friends.  Back then, it was a really big deal to buy a CD for me, because we were all really poor, in art school.  So if you went out and actually spent your money on a new album it had to be a really good, really important record.  You listened to every track, over and over again.  That one in particular stands out to me because of the time I got it in.”

I’ve followed Jim Mahfood’s career pretty much since that book got published in 1998.  Not in a weird, stalker-y way – i just dig the guy’s style and like seeing what he puts out there.  And it has been a lot since then.

One of the more noteworthy things about Mahfood’s career is that, despite his body of work in the comics field, for big publishers like Marvel, DC, and Image, to indie publishers like Oni Press, and others, to comic strips in Phoenix New Times, he has managed not to become type cast as a “comic book artist.”  He’s just an artist, and part of what he does is comics.  That seems like it could be a challenge as an artist, not to be defined so much by what you’ve done, especially if it is primarily in a particular genre.

“I consciously went out of my way to do other things,” Mahfood said.  “Originally I just wanted to do comics, and my career was just comics in the very beginning, when I broke in.

“I realized right away that having a weird, unique style I wasn’t going to be getting lots of work – high-paying work.  Being interested in music, I naturally started doing flyers and album covers.  All in a very underground status.  That led to commercial work, and getting recognized by bigger companies.

“I kinda realized that the style being weird is sort of a negative thing for me in the comics industry, but it’s a positive thing for me in almost all other genres because it stands out.  The client, whether it’s Bed Head, or Nissan, or Ziggy Marley, sees it and thinks it could work.  They just let me do my thing.  They want uniqueness.  They want the weirdness.

“That’s one way of looking at it.  The other way is I’m just really interested in doing lots of different things.  I love doing comic books.  It’s one of the greatest art forms ever.  I’ll always have one foot in that genre.  The other part of me loves seeing my stuff in other avenues.”

Mahfood’s career path flips the script on the auto-biographical comic –> back-up story with big publisher –> series artist –> creator-owned paradigm; the tried-and-true road travelled by your Joe Quesada’s, Frank Quitely’s, Brian Michael Bendis’s, and countless others.  His first professional work began as writer, penciler, inker, and letter for Marvel Comics Generation X Underground Special, a gig he landed while still a senior at the Kansas City Art Institute.

“The last semester of school I got this gig with Marvel and I was like ‘if this pans out, then I’m gonna be set,’” Mahfood said.  “It was weird having to be in class and take assignments when I’m going home at night and working on a Marvel book.  Getting paid what for me was huge money at the time.

“Living poor for four years and then suddenly right before graduation I’m working for Marvel, I was sorta like ‘fuck school.  Fuck everybody!  I’m doing my dream.’  This was either going to lead to other work, or this is a one-time fluke thing and I’ll be back to looking for a job when it’s over.”

Fast forward fifteen years and as it turns out – it was no fluke.

“It was good timing in the late 90s,” Mahfood said.  “There was this weird cross-over with indie guys working for the mainstream companies.  A lot of that had to do with Brian Michael Bendis becoming like the hottest writer at Marvel.

“He started doing Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, and it was his idea to have all these weirdo artists come along and do different issues, and that led to me getting more work at Marvel.  I got to do Spider-Man, which is a childhood dream come true, and get a decent paycheck from Marvel, then spend the next two or three months working on my own independent project, where I didn’t know if there’d be money or not.  I was just able to put out work.”

After finishing school, Mahfood immediately moved to Arizona.  As a native Clevelander, his “cuz I wanted to get out of the Midwest” required no further explanation.  With Gen X in the bag, or possible harder substance container – I didn’t inquire as to the material construction of his portfolio – Mahfood showed his as-yet-unpublished Underground Special pages to Kevin Smith and Bob Schreck at the San Diego Comic Con.

The two were there scouting talent for the Clerks comic book produced by Schreck’s new-at-the-time Oni Press.  They loved it, and called Mahfood a couple of weeks later asking for sketches and concept drawings.

“I got lucky,” Mahfood said.  “And the Gen X book was such a weird thing.  It just went in under the radar and I don’t think they would ever publish a book like that again.

“I’m really happy with it, man.  When I look back on it now, I think it’s funny, and weird, and its own unique thing.”

Mahfood’s career has evolved into a world-renowned reputation for edgy, experimental, and extraordinary mass media artwork that fuses his sensibility, personality, and energy.  It is wild and alive.

And sometimes even live.

“When I get a new offer, I’ll talk to the art director right away and ask them how much freedom can I have?” Mahfood said.  “”How much of me can I bring to the project?  How weird can we get?  I want to know that stuff right off the bat.  Before I say yes.  Before I make a commitment.

“The big corporate jobs I’ve done like Nissan, and Colt 45, and Bed Head – all three of them, all the art directors were really cool and immediately off the bat said ‘we want you to be you, and we want you to just do your thing.’  That’s the best thing I can hear. 

“If you look at those jobs, there’s still some stylish, crazy, trippy, weird stuff in there.  You can’t really…you can’t ever with a job like that get political, or religious – there’s no room for your political agenda in there.  You can’t do drawings of cops getting stabbed, you know what I mean?  It’s just out of the question.  There had to be some level where you take your personal ideas out of it.  But you still make it yours.  You still make it funky.”

That funkiness is a powerful theme in Mahfood creator-owned comic work on projects like Stupid Comics and 40oz. Comics.  Whether it’s a pastiche of Charlie’s Angels from the Gen X book, or the urban culture saturated Grrl Scouts, or a revitalization of Tank Girl, or the visual journal Los Angeles Ink Stains, his work is embedded with a kind of cosmic convalescence of art and music and the unconventional way it all clicks together.

“I’ve always had a disdain for authority,” Mahfood said.  “I think most artists do.  We just want to be.  We want to be free.  It’s a very simple idea.  Any symbol of authority, it’s like the artist’s natural inclination to rebel again that.  I think that’s ingrained in art and music.  It’s like all the people I like the most – artists, musicians – they all had an anti-establishment sensibility.  It just comes through.”

And when it slips under the radar, Mahfood couldn’t be happier.  For quite some time, I’ve had a strong suspicion that powerful ideas sometimes form through a series of ‘logical conclusions.’  I’ll spare you a long-winding explanation of that.  Wait – scratch that.  I’ll save that explanation to share with you here at the Long Shot another time.

Anyway, I was surprised to come across and then confirm via Wikipedia that Jim Mahfood contributed to the phenomenal 1999 film Fight Club.  See, Mahfood wrote and drew a comic strip called Stupid Comics while he was living in Arizona.  By his own two-dimensional admission, he started the strip in 1997 when he realized of the Sunday funnies “how fucking horrible they were.”

“None of them were funny,” the penciled-and-inked creator said.  “They were literally ‘stupid comics.’”

One of the weekly strips, titled “Riot!” was a tongue-in-cheek advert aimed at young urbanites fed up with a meaningless consumer existence.  This was back when it was cool to be an un-overly concerned young person, for you youngsters.  Don’t judge us – we didn’t have the Internet.

In the mock ad, a group of young urban warriors clash with police and vandalize a corporate coffee shop.  Sound familiar?  I checked with Jim to see if he’d read Chuck Palahniuk’s book ahead of time.  He had not.  Blowing up Starbucks?  It was just one of those logical conclusions.

“Me and my friends at the time saw the movie,” Mahfood said.  “We were all looking at each other in the theater like ‘first of all I can’t believe a major corporation put this movie out, and second of all half the shit that’s happening in this movie is shit that we’ve all talked about.  It was one of those weird things.

“It’s a reminder of how ridiculous the culture is that we live in.  But it makes the corporations so much money, that they’re just like ‘yeah, fuck it.  You guys can just write whatever you want.  We’ll put it on TV.’

“But the older you get, if you want to make a living off your talent, you will sometimes find yourself working for people that you really never thought you’d be working with.  The key thing is you don’t sell your soul.  You don’t compromise.  And if they allow you to do what you want and get away with it, you have to go for it.

“My goal is, man – I don’t want to work a regular job.  I don’t want to have a nine to five job.  I want to be able to get by on my skills.”

Those skills evolved once Mahfood relocated to Los Angeles in the very beginning of 2003.   Not only had his super tight, thick lined drawing style taken a toll on his drawing arm, he was also exposed to a bunch of new art and artists.

“I got looser,” Mahfood said.  “I loosened up physically, holding the pen less tight.  And I started doing live art in the nightclubs out here.”

Up until that point, whenever Mahfood’s work included self-referential material, his audience found him at the art table, surrounded by music, munchies, and multiple projects keeping him steadily busy and frequently stressed about deadlines or his ability to keep up with the demands of a burgeoning career.

His work, his style, and his life were changing.  Comic strip panels showed the black-and-white comic version of Mahfood creating art on floor-to-ceiling canvases.  The line work became more fluid, carefree, and organic.

“It was a really interesting cultural shift for me to come out here,” Mahfood said.  “Everyone was really welcoming and open-minded and I was surprised by that.  It did cause a shift in what I was doing.  And it’s still going on even to this day.  There are so many people out here doing creative stuff.  Each year you encounter new artists and new influences.

“I like that.  I like always wanting that change.  To evolve.”

While Mahfood’s career continues to metamorphose, he looks to the influences of his own past to keep him motivated and keep his eye on the prize.  Arguably the greatest inspiration comes from the hardest working man in show business.

“James Brown,” Mahfood said with reverence.  “And the whole aesthetic of funk music and funk attitude.  And James – a total self-made man.  Just said ‘I’m gonna do it my way.’  I’ve always admired that kind of attitude in artists.

“Whether it was James, or Jean-Michel Basquiat.  Guys that have their own unique style.  Their own unique look.  Jack KirbyJamie HewlettRalph Stedman.

“Just those really, really, you know really unique guys.  The guys that their stuff just stands out all on its own, as a living thing.  That’s what I aspire to.  Turn the art into its own brand.”

It was in the midst of a heavy James Brown period that Mahfood created a dedication to the Godfather of Soul when his comic creation Smoke Dog, in what was his first appearance if I’m not mistaken, emerges, sets a boom box on the ground, and proceeds to bug out to some sweet soul music.

“I go through phases where I’ll listen to just one artist for a week straight,” Mahfood said.  “I just decided to put it down in physical form, in a comic.”

Mahfood’s current project is, not shockingly, music-tinged as well.

“It’s called Disco Destroyer,” Mahfood said.  “It’s me and Scott Mosier, and Joe Casey.  We’ve been working on this show for MTV’s re-launch of Liquid Television.

“It’s the first time I’ve been able to see my stuff fully animated, fully moving.  It’s exciting.  It’s very time consuming, and we’re involved in every phase of the show, from recording the voices to picking the music to art directing, and I think what we have is pretty bad ass.  I think people are going to freak out when they see it.”

The details of the project have remained top secret, but judging by the sneak peeks they’ve shown, as well as the Mahfood’s penchant for dynamic, energetic visuals and fun and funky storytelling, is certainly something i’m already looking forward to.

“I definitely want to see…I want my own show,” Mahfood admitted.  “I want a series because seeing the style translate to animation is really amazing.  It works really well.

Titmouse Animation Studios is animating them.  Those guys do brilliant work.  They do Venture Brothers, and Black Dynamite, and a bunch of other stuff.”

Wait – i thought Mahfood was involved with the Clerks: The Animated Series?   The two episode ABC mega-series beloved by audiences for the strict adherence to continuity?

“They did all that in-house at Disney,” Mahfood said.  “It was one of those weird things, the style being used or influencing something and me not being directly involved.  But that happens.  That’s like <that ‘P’ sound you make, like a cross between a sigh and a deflating tire>.

“That’s another reason I changed up my style.  What I was doing in the late 90s and early 2000s was a very flat, graphic, kinda simple style to copy.  After a while I got…I wanted to evolve into something, some form of art that you couldn’t steal from.  My own language.  I think I’ve kinda gotten there at this point.  It’s its own thing.  Hard to replicate.”

Life & End Times Of Bram & Ben Cover

By this, I take it Mahfood intends to say through his art work “try and copy that, m-f’er!”  The artist agrees, clarifying that he doesn’t intend that in an arrogant way.

“I’m off on my own shit,” Mahfood said.  “If you want to be inspired by it, you should just take the example to do your own thing.  Don’t be afraid to get weird with it.”  Titmouse

The exponential growth of social media in the last decade has expanded the definition of what it means to do one’s own thing.  By empowering creators to connect directly with their fans and audiences, opportunities for creative success are increased by putting that power in their hands.

“It’s a huge role,” Mahfood said.  “Putting work out there, promoting projects, and having it available to the whole world – it opens things up tremendously.

“It all comes down to how big of a hustler you are.  If you’re hustling your ass off and promoting your stuff, and getting it in front of people, people will know and it will be beneficial.  The only downside of all that is there’s so much out there now.  It’s distracting.  You’ve got to plow through all the bad shit to get to the good stuff.

“But I would say it’s been more positive than negative, for sure.”

That positivity is something readily apparent in Mahfood’s attitude.  Underneath the anti-establishment ideologies, counter culture sensibility, and rebellious personality, there’s an artist who sees that the world is full of cool stuff that often goes unnoticed or glossed over by the veil of societal norms that we’ve come to know as the day-to-day.

At one time, a younger Jim Mahfood may have seemed disheartened by what he saw as a lack of appreciation for really living life – being a part of it – if his early, more personal work in comics is any indication.

Occasionally even distraught by it, that younger version in 2001 published a Stupid Comics installment titled “Please Get Me The Fuck Off This Rock!!!”  In it, he revealed that, on a daily basis, he prayed for alien abduction.  Like any reflective person, from time to time one can’t help but look at the state of affairs and wonder what the hell is going on?  Where did we go wrong?

These days, Mahfood concentrates more on his work, than on the never-ending stream of the unchanging political spectrum, and no longer yearns to be forcibly removed from the planet.

“Only when I pay attention to current events,” Mahfood said.  “I don’t watch the news.  I didn’t pay attention to the election.  I just want to be on my own thing and do my art.  It’s bad for your brain.  Crazy shit out there.

“You know how it is.  I have friends that are completely freaked out.  Stressed out.  I’m not necessarily ignorant, I just don’t pay attention.

“I just recently re-watched Oliver Stone’s movie Nixon.  The presidential debate speech that Nixon gives is the exact same one Obama gave in 2008.  Health care, ending the war, everything.  I couldn’t believe it.  They say the same things over and over.

“The older you get, the more you wise up to this shit.  I think I’d rather just go make art.”

*     *     *     *     *

So…yeah.  Talking with Jim Mahfood was a really awesome experience.  i enjoyed it too.

As i suspected, Jim is a super cool dude as well as fantastic artist.  Before i made the call, Jim wrote to apologize in advance for only having 20-30 minutes available to speak.  As i told him, five minutes would have been awesome.  As it was, we shot the breeze for about 45 minutes.  The way i figured it, he had a nice safety net to say “well, I gotta run!” if it turned out i was some kook.  But i managed to fool the guy and keep him on the phone for a little while longer than expected.  Still…i only got to about half the questions i had ready.  And that list was half as big as it had been earlier in the day.  You got off light, Mahfood.

If i’m honest though, it was a great honor to get to pick the brain of someone i’ve looked up to for quite some time.  A guy who never questioned whether or not he was going to pursue his own goals and who, like pretty much anyone i’ve ever seen talk about their enjoyable career, did not want to grind away at a typical 9 to 5.

He has achieved autonomy – the Holy Grail of creative and artistic people everywhere (and probably all sorts of people but that’s not what i’m writing about).

The great conceit of my interviews here at the Long Shot is the opportunity to learn from people like Jim, and get inspired by their example, and i hope you do too.  Whatever your “thing” is in life, you really ought to be focused on that and making it happen for yourself because while it may be difficult and fraught with challenge, so is all of life.  You might as well go for the gold and enjoy what you do along the way.

Thanks for visiting!

An award, for me? Aww, shucks…

Reader Appreciation Award: a quasi-chain letter of positivity amongst bloggers to showcase one’s favorites, share them with your audience, and foster interwebs community.


Imagine my surprise and complete humility this morning to do my usual round of checking in with all the media outlets and finding little ol’ Long Shot included on the list of another bloggers list of noteworthy blogs.  Big ups to Longbox Graveyard once again.  More details about this prestigious award can be found at the just-provided link, and right here just a couple of grafs ahead.

Aside from being honored by inclusion, it’s also a handy impetus to do some fresh writing today.  And here my plans for the day only included working on a story idea that germinated over the weekend.  The plate is filling up pretty quickly, and thank goodness for that.  Idle hands and whatnot.

Acceptance of the award comes with a few rules and regulations.  “There’s always a catch,” i bet you’re thinking.  Well, yeah i guess.  But these are good ones.  So let’s get through those first.

1.  Gratitude to your nominator and a link to their blog, in the Long Shot’s case Longbox Graveyard.  Thanks, Paul!

2.  Choose 10 or so blogs that inspire, entertain, or interest you and provide links to them.  By doing so, you nominate them for the selfsame honorific.  Definitely dig that.  Here’s my list, in no particular order:

1. Longbox Graveyard, of course.
Some of these are more prolific than others, but all are worth a look-see if you ask me which, in a sense, you did by nominating me for Reader’s Appreciation.  So nyah nyah.
3.  Answer ten questions posed by the blogger who included you on their nomination list.  Ooh!  i love answering questions.  Let’s do that, shall we?  They’re comics-related questions too.  Every time i try to get away, they pull me back in!
1. DC, Marvel, or other?  Which comics publisher is your favorite?
Excellent question, and a terrific opener to get the proper frame of mind for the rest of them.  Had to think long and hard on this one for sure.  My first inclination is to go with Marvel.  Growing up, they formed the bulk of my comics reading habit, primarily through the influence of my older brother’s collection.  To this day, pound for pound i probably read more Marvel stuff than anything else.  The characters always came off as more grounded to me, more visceral and relatable.  On the other hand, and this is apparent in my Top Ten Favorites examination, DC heroes figure prominently.  And then there are The Rest, publishers whose works might not abound in my history of fanboy-dom but nevertheless put out great stuff that hold special places in my heart.  i’m looking at you, Dark Horse, Oni Press, and AAA Pop!.  Now, the big moment.  Envelope, please.
Obligatory drum roll…
DC Comics.  And here’s why.  While it’s true that Marvel’s heroes have that relative semblance of realism that i enjoy on a day-to-day basis, the fact is that there’s simply more DC stories that stand elevated above the rest.  More than likely it’s because of, rather than despite, their characters’ status as larger-than-life heroes.  The best of DC stories take these mythic, god-like heroes and put them in situations where all their power amounts to very little in the context of a grand saga.  Marvel characters are accustomed to facing personal adversity, and regularly have to overcome their faults and foibles as well as whatever baddie giving them grief.  For the most part, when i’m reading DC stuff it’s mostly a matter of when the hero is going to triumph, rather than if.  But the stories i like the most turn that paradigm on its ear and leave you wondering if this is going to be curtains for the star of the show.
2.  Who is your favorite writer or artist currently working?
Wow…another toughie!  How does one go about answering this?  Comics creators are as varied as the costumed creatures whose worlds they define.  Right off the bat i’m going to split the decision asunder and narrow the field to artists.  If i may invite controversy, i’ve always held to the notion that the artist part of the team is more vital to the medium.  After all, without the art, a comic is essentially a short story.  How dare i, as a writer, trivialize the writers’ impact on a comic book?!  Hey – i didn’t say it wasn’t important, but if you ask me, an artist can make a meh story into a great read, while a subpar graphic representation can turn what may be a profound tale into a chore to muddle through.
That certainly doesn’t make the choice any easier.
Mike Allred.  There, i said it.
Why?  Because they guy’s work is just plain fun and strikes at what the heart of comics is – colorful, exciting, and a visual treat.  He’s given me a great time over the years and continues to this day with his work on Fantastic Four.  Thanks for staying so ginchy!
3.  Who is your favorite writer or artist from the past?
Jack Kirby.  ‘Nuff said.
4.  What superhero do you think makes the best team player?
In my head, i’m chuckling while considering Moon Knight.  i’ve been working my way through a terrific run by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, who brought one of my favorite runs of all time with their work on Daredevil.  Their too-short take on the Fist of Khonshu had his fractured psyche having hallucinations of Captain America, Wolverine, and Spider-Man giving him advice and Moonie co-opting their costumes and gear in a wonky war against the new Kingpin of Los Angeles.  How’s that for team player?
All that aside though, i gotta give this one to Spidey.  For crying out loud, he was the star of Marvel Team-Up for nearly 15 years, appearing in 141 out of 150 issues.  As the everyman of the Marvel Universe, he provides that perspective in so many situations whether it be global intrigue or cosmic threats to all reality, and is the guy who’s still in awe of his place in the pantheon of heroes.
5.  Whose superhero costume do you hate the most, and why?
Can i say all of them?  More than once here at the Long Shot i’ve mentioned my inability to fathom the leap in logic from gaining extraordinary powers or abilities to donning garish costumes to fight crime at night.  Granted, some make more sense than others, but that disconnect will forever niggle at me.
If i have to say just one though?  Hmmm…
A mutant and thief, why he dons a pink and black body suit with cowl and metallic shin guards i’ll never know.
6.  If you could bring one title back from comic book limbo what would it be?
This one is easy – Mister Miracle.  Scott Free wriggled his way to the #9 spot of my Top Ten Favorites list for his superb costume (one of the exceptions to my usual dislike of them), fun adventures with his wife, and general rebellious attitude and humor.
7.  What’s the best comic book cover you’ve ever seen?
Another easy one.
Red Rocket 7
8.  Comic book action figures – way cool, or a step too far?
Given that dichotomy, i have no choice but to say “way cool.”  And why not?  i’d be lying if i said i didn’t have oodles of them as a child.  Heck, the first time i had my own apartment, the living room decor featured wall display racks with comics and a handful of figures.
Yeah, i had the Doom Roller. And the Turbo Cycle.  And all the figures too.
9.  What was the best comic book single issue that you read in the last 2 months?
The Question #1
Crusading journalist and philosopher and urban shaman who communicates with cities.  Sign me up.
10.  Finally, the age old question: if you were writing, who would win a fight between Superman and Hulk?  What’s your logic?
 Superman vs. Hulk
You know, a friend and i were literally just discussing this a few days ago.  The geekiness comes full circle.  Lots of what ifs on both sides of the battlefield here.
On one side, the most powerful hero on earth, hands down (unless facing a mortal with Kryptonite gauntlets and a serious chip on his shoulder).
On the other, the strongest one there is, whose alter-ego once put a bullet in his mouth in an attempt to end his own life and, thereby, the monster he becomes.  The monster spat the bullet out.
Both my friend and i decided that ol’ Jade Jaws would be the victor in this particular match-up.  It’s well documented that the angrier he gets, the stronger he gets, and you know what makes Hulk angry?  Pretty much everything.  Some dude whose credo is fighting the never-ending battle is going to have his hands full living up to that with everyone’s favorite gamma-irradiated rage beast.  Never-ending is the key here – Hulk would not give up, go down, or weaken as the fight progressed.  Quite the opposite.  Heat vision, freezing breath, and supersonic punches would only fuel his strength and endurance and prolong the fight.  We’re talking Doomsday style combat here, and we all know how that turned out the the Big Blue Boy Scout.
After a fight that could go on for days, my money is on a defeated Superman.  When the smoke clears and the dust settles on the decimated remains of whatever locale the fight ends at, Supes is down for the count and an exhausted Bruce Banner kneels over the inert form of the Man of Steel left wondering why he couldn’t just leave the big guy alone.
4.  Ask ten questions for my nominees to answer.  Fair enough, i’ve developed quite a penchant for asking questions through my journalism education, Long Shot interviews, and a general curiosity about…everything. Ready, nominees?  Here you go:
1.  What’s the one thing you most enjoy, that most clearly defines your interests in life?
2.  What was your biggest accomplishment in 2012?
3.  What’s your biggest goal in 2013?
4.  Work for yourself or work for an established, reliable company – what’s your preference?
5.  You are transported to a fantasy realm (think Middle Earth) via a magical amusement park ride – do you quest to return home or remain in this land of swords, sorcery, and good vs. evil?
6.  When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
7.  Social media – brings society together or isolates us behind computer screens?
8.  Man’s reach – exceeding its grasp, technologically speaking?
9.  The future – moving towards dystopia or utopia?
10.  Name one of the following, your choice.  Favorite and why: movie, song, book/comic book, city, TV show, stand-up comedian?
5.  Include the Reader’s Appreciation Award logo on my site.  See top of page
 
6.  Contact my nominees to inform them of the great honor they’ve received, and invite them to keep the flame burning by making their own nominations.  Great, something else to do today.  Just kidding – it’s my pleasure and the least i can do for the folks whose work i enjoy.  Keep it up everyone!
*     *     *     *     *
That was a lot of fun, and thanks again to Paul O’Connor of Longbox Graveyard fame for including me.  The blogosphere is fairly new to me, but i’m enjoying the hell out of it so far.  It’s given me the opportunity to connect with a lot of really cool people all over the world, and feeds my ego to put my meager writings out there and see that people actually read them.
Now let’s see what else i’ve got on the agenda today.  Work on that story i mentioned earlier and…oh yeah – my next interview is tonight.  i’ve remained clammed up about this one for a while, because i didn’t want to jinx it.  And even now i’m pretty hesitant to mention it because it hasn’t taken place yet.  But i’ve been keeping in touch with the interviewee and it’s planned to go down this evening.
i am incredibly super-stoked to let you know that i’ll be speaking with someone i’ve been a fan of for 15 years now – Jim Mahfood!
When i made my list of folks i’d like to interview for the Long Shot, i put his name on the list as, well, a long shot.  Figuring that someday, down the road when i had established myself as a reliable and respected journalist/writer/blogger, i’d hit him up.  Instead, i decided to shoot for the moon and Jim was totally cool about it.
Even as i wrote that last paragraph, i was overcome with a bit of dread.  What if i just jinxed myself and the interview falls through?!  You know what, sometimes you gotta say what the f**k.  i’m excited and i wanted to tell you about it.  Sue me.

Thanks for visiting!