By Beau Smith

Well, my Christmas and New Year vacation is over. I’m sober. I’m hungry and the most important thing is? I’m back.

I’m sure durin’ the week I was gone some of ya slipped off the manly wagon and found yourselves listenin’ to Usher CDs and watchin’ the Gilmore Girls or Sex And The City.

I’m back, so stop it.

I thought my last manly tale of mayhem with Scot Eaton would hold most of ya for the week I was in a Christmas coma. Like cattle I guess I gotta expect to have to herd some strays in now and then. Consider yourself back in the herd.

Christmas went really good for me. I got lots of manly DVDs, CDs and books. Hell, Billy Tucci even got me an original World War II Commando knife. I used it to open my gifts and ward off anyone that even looked at my plate of food. Sometimes ya just can’t trust family when it comes to a slab of hot ham and green beans.

While takin’ some time off I was goin’ over files on my computer and found a hidden gem. It was all the notes and answers that I had compiled when I went out to Los Angeles to talk to writer Mark Waid a few months ago. I hauled it all out and put it together. I figured y’all might wanna hear how it went when me and human brain trust took a few minutes to throw words at each other.

Before I drag your corn fed butt into the latest adventure I thought I’d fill the few of ya that are rarely sober in on the man they call Mark Waid. Most of this info was provided by the nice folks at Dragon Con.

Mark Waid was born on March 21, 1962 in Hueytown, Alabama. He bought his first comic, Batman #180, at age four and has never once since entertained the notion of not buying comics. He lived all over the Deep South through his formative teenage years, though you couldn’t tell it by his accent, that’s too bad. Everybody should talk like me.

In his early twenties, granted only the writing skills one absorbs by living life as a copious reader, Waid began freelance reporting for the comic book trade publications Amazing Heroes and Comic Buyer’s Guide. This led to a brief staff position in the mid-1980s as editor of Amazing Heroes, followed by a longer editorial tenure at DC Comics (1987-1989), where he edited Legion of Super-Heroes, Secret Origins, Doom Patrol and a host of one-shot titles. With writer Brian Augustyn, Waid co-created DC’s extremely successful franchise of “Elseworld” stories with Gotham By Gaslight, a tale of what Batman’s career might have been like had he been active during the days of Jack the Ripper.

Waid left staff in 1989 to pursue a full-time freelance career. Since then, he has written stories for every major comics publisher, including Marvel Comics (X-Men, Captain America), Archie Comics (where he served briefly as their cover-gag editor), Dark Horse Comics and DC Comics, under whose banner Waid produces most of his work. In years past, he has written every major comics character from Superman to Batman to Spider-Man. Waid’s current credits include The Flash, whirlwind adventures of the Fastest Man Alive; Impulse, chronicling the exploits of Flash’s teenage cousin; Ka-Zar for Marvel Comics as well as so many comics it makes my head hurt to think about it.

Though he can name only 38 states, Waid possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of comics history and trivia and also serves as DC Comics’ unofficial historian. Each working day, he routinely fields phone calls from DC’s other writers and editors, all of whom ask questions as diverse (just to pick two from one day) as “What’s the date on the giant penny in the Batcave?” (1947) and “What are the names of Lois Lane’s parents?” (Sam and Ella)

It is also rumored that ya never wanna insult or place your hands on Mark in a hotel bar during a comic convention. Word in the cornfield is that one guy of foreign origins tried this and soon found his non-American ass on the floor. Ya also don’t wanna bug Mark when he is thumbin’ through a comic long box at a convention. You can figure he’s on his own time and feedin’ that big ol’ brain of his some more important comic book information. I’m sure he’ll be nice enough to ya if ya do stop and say “hi,” but make it quick. It’s not good to mess with his brain when he’s downloadin’ data.

Ya gotta love background info like that. My sources are always on the money? after they sober up. And? unlike Rich Johnston’s, mine speak real English, not that tea sippin’ lingo that his snitches toss out of their dentally challenged, British mouths.

Mark and I have known each other for quite a few years. He has always been a good guy and very pleasant. Our mutual friends have always had good things to say about Mark. That goes a long way with me. I’ve even seen Mark escortin’ some very nice lookin’ ladies around the hotels late at night. That kinda news goes even further with a guy like me.

Getting’ back to my trip to L.A. I was to meet Mark in a bar called The Cortex. Supposed to be a pretty high-tech bar where the real thinkers drink. I showed up at the place and sure enough it was very different from any other bar I had ever been in.

The place was dark, but not too dark. Really cool reading lamps lined the bar and the tables. The joint was made up in stainless steel and leather. Most places I go in have beer signs and posters of hot babes on the wall. Here it was lined with book shelves that were filled with leather bound editions of anything you would ever wanna read. The barmaids, waitresses and hostess were all class. They looked like Victoria Secret models that were dressed in business jackets skirts and high heels. Just tight enough to let ya know they were 100% hot babe under all that fine material. Most all of em’ wore glasses and had their long hair pulled back or up. They made ya feel smart by the way they smiled at ya. I could use a lot of smiles like that.

The blonde hostess in the navy blue skirt asked me if I was meeting anyone. I told her that I was lookin’ for Mark. She smiled and had me follow her to a section of the bar they called The Think Tank. There was Mark at a booth with a cold beer and a hottie of major proportions? and I do mean major proportions. Mark stood, we shook hands, (yep, his grip was manly) and he introduced me to Victoria. It seems Victoria is Mark’s personal research assistant for anything that deals with comic books and pop culture. She had just delivered a couple of thick files to Mark. I noticed there were photos in both files. I also noticed that I recognized the two guys in the photos. They were Kurt Busiek and Peter David.

Victoria pardoned herself and told us that she had to check on some other details on Mark’s next convention appearance. I noticed that Victoria had an accent that I couldn’t quite figure out. It sounded European, yet it also had an Asian tone to it. I also noticed that she had one of sexiest walks I had ever seen in my life. Mark was amused as he could see me jam my squinty eyes back into their sockets. I asked Mark what kind of accent Victoria had. He smiled and replied, “Sexual.”

Mark issued a quick wave and within seconds a beautiful beer was brought to me by an even more beautiful woman. I lifted the beer to my lips and stopped. It had a scent that my nose knew well. One I hadn’t inhaled in quite some time.

It was Grizzly Beer.

Mark smiled and told me that he had done his research. He not only told me what year Grizzly Beer went into business and what year they stopped, but he also told me what year I had my first one and what bar I had it in. He was right. I was impressed, but not surprised. I had also done my research. I knew that Mark was known through out the comic book industry by a series of nicknames. Names such as: “The Brain”, “The Mastermind”, “Brainiac”, “The Mad Thinker” and “Modok”. All these names were spoken in reverence, respect and most of all fear. Ever since I’ve known Mark I have always sensed a tightly kept temper coiled underneath is calm exterior. Much like Bruce Banner, there was a Hulk just below the surface awaiting his next chance to run amok. I’ve seen guys like Mark in many a bar brawl. Mark looks like the guy next door. The guy sittin’ across from ya on a train ride. The guy that gives ya a loan at the bank. The guy that the drunken bully in the bar decides will be his first victim.

That’s the bully’s first mistake.

Guys like Mark always give the bully the first chance to save face. The first opportunity to change his mind and let him buy them a beer. When the bully fails to hear opportunity knockin’ at the door Mark is the guy that then extracts more dental work from the bully’s mouth than five trips to the dentist. Guys like Mark have the first three moves made before the Bully has time to even ponder his first. By then it’s much too late. The thinkin’ is over. The hurtin’ has begun.

When the numbers ain’t on my side I like havin’ a guy like Mark at my back. I know that we can walk out of the joint under our own power and that he will also know the best lawyer to call to keep us outta jail. When a guy like Mark taps your name into his PDA of pain you know it’s gonna hurt.

I took a long pull from my Grizzly beer. I then hauled out my recorder. It was time for Mark to ponder on my Five Manly Questions. He looked ready. The guy likes to think. It shows.

Beau: What annoyin’ celebrity would ya like to smack in the head with a shovel or stab in the eye with a rusty fork?

Mark: Y’know, honestly, truly, while this isn’t the manliest answer in the world to give, there’s just not one. Oh, believe me, there are celebs that make my aneurysm throb–but after years and years and years of being on the receiving end of some of the most absurd, vicious internet “fan” sniping you can imagine, I’ve mellowed heavily into a “live and let live” attitude when it comes to celebrity rage. Life’s too short, I figure, to waste a perfectly good truckload of righteous indignation on some Flavor Of The Moment pretty boy who’ll be lucky to be on Hollywood Squares in five years. Better to spend that wrath on the Republican administration.

“I think I heard that answer on an episode of Kung Fu once?not really sure,” I mused to myself. But it was time for the next question?

Beau: Okay, Mark? other than your girlfriend, name some of the sexiest babes on the planet.

Mark: I would absolutely crawl through broken glass for Jennifer Garner, and Kate Beckinsale makes me break into a big, dehydrating cartoon sweat, particularly the Kate Beckinsale from UNDERWORLD and VAN HELSING. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t have an overwhelming need to be manhandled–but something about a tuff girl who can clearly handle herself gets my pulse a-racing. Turning our attention to the music scene, I would eat bees for Liz Phair, not that she’s ever asked me to. Also, and I know you’ll back me on this ’cause we’re close enough in age and have seen her at enough shows–Erin Gray still has it, and has it in space-spades.

For about five minutes last year, I would have said Lindsay Lohan, but that was before I did the quick mental math. The problem isn’t that she’d think I was old. It’s that, if she took my age and subtracted HER age, she’d STILL think I was old. Ah, well?

Beau: I know what ya mean about Erin Gray. I was lucky enough to sit beside her at a couple of cons. She is great. Really classy and polite and she still looks good enough to make me dress up as Buck Rogers. Name some manly movies that every real man should see if he wants to rev up his testosterone.

Mark: Anything with Steve McQueen, but particularly BULLITT and THE GETAWAY. I would let you take from my right hand the finger of your choice if I could ever hope to be even half as cool as McQueen in his prime.

Beau: We’d all be missin’ some digits to be as cool as Steve McQueen, amigo. You are so right. What CDs are on your manly play list right now?

Mark: Jet’s Get Born. Barenaked Ladies’ Christmas Album, which is brilliant, and the Donnas’ Gold Medal, which is less so and not as good as Spend The Night, but still hot. Been re-cycling through the Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe tracks, and both Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company and Johnny Cash’s American IV: The Man Comes Around keep me belting tunes out karaoke-style as I slog through L.A. traffic.

Beau: Good choices, Mark. Here’s your last manly question. Name your latest and upcoming manly work in comics and entertainment so my manly readers can steal the money from their mom’s purse to buy it. Name the publisher as well.

Mark: HUNTER-KILLER, my new book from Top Cow co-created with Marc Silvestri, is–as you can imagine from the title and publisher–a fountain of testosterone.LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES from DC, with Barry Kitson, less so, but I’m still pumped about it, as I am my upcoming work with Mike Wieringo, about which I can’t speak. And I’m still as proud of SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT (now in hardcover, kids!) with Leinil Yu as I am of anything I’ve ever written. You want to see Superman cast in a light other than that of a big, blue boy scout? Read BIRTHRIGHT.

Beau: Thanks, Mark. I’m sure my readers will follow your subtle commands. Buy em’ a beer or two and they’ll buy your entire backlog of work.

I flipped the recorder off and thanked the babe in glasses for my latest beer. I then glanced back at the thick files that were sittin’ in front of Mark. I told him that couldn’t help but notice that those files had photos of Peter David and Kurt Busiek in them. I asked him what that was all about.

Mark’s face took a serious turn. He took the files and flipped through them with an intentional manner. I could’ve swore some of those papers had FBI and CIA stamps on em’. Mark told me that occasionally he was called upon to participate in comic book/pop culture trivia showdowns during comic book conventions. He mentioned that he has always tried to retain his modesty when it came to his knowledge of comics and pop culture. He found that those that bragged and flaunted their data of comics and pop culture were vulgar. He said that there was no place for vulgarity in comics.

He proceeded to tell me that he had an upcoming trivia challenge with Kurt Busiek and Peter David and that he and Victoria had been doing a bit of background research on his upcoming foes. These files were the results of that research. Then the conversation went as follows:

Mark: Beau, from your years in boxing and brawls would you say you have a good knowledge of the human body? Meaning what points of the human structure would be the most advantageous to pummel for maximum damage.

Beau: Yep. You could say that.

Mark: Well, when I’m engaged in a mental brawl with a person I also like to be aware of opponent’s weakest points so that I can deconstruct them in the most efficient fashion.

Beau: That makes sense.

Mark: By studying these files I am able to know what makes Kurt whimper like a small schoolgirl when he plays Shirts and Skins and he learns he is on the Skins team.

With these files I can devour the knowledge that Peter David still quivers in fear when someone utters the words “Get your gym shorts on and let’s play some dodgeball!”

Beau: [It was all becoming as clear as piss three days after a drunken binge.] I see what ya mean, Mark.

Mark: I thought you would. Let us just say that I like to be prepared to win at all costs. It makes no sense to enter a fight with no intention of winning.

Beau: [I raised my beer and loudly said] Hell yeah! Now you’re talkin’.

Mark: [With a very serious tone] I do not like to lose? ever.

Part of what Mark said sent a cold chill down my spine. The other part of me filed that feeling away. I might need to remember that one day. Just like the Civil War, ya never know when the guy across the table from ya buyin’ ya a beer might be your enemy on the battlefield another day.

I don’t like to lose either.

I thanked Mark for all the Grizzly beer and told him I had a plane to catch. It was about that same time that Victoria came back with a smile and another file. I caught a quick glance as she slid the file over to Mark. I thought for a second that I saw MY name on that file folder.

I tucked that thought away. I shook Mark’s hand and said I’d be seein’ him soon. Both he and Victoria gave me a funny smile? almost a smirk and said “Yes, I would.”

I walked out of the bar with my eye in the mirror watchin’ Mark and Victoria as they whispered something to each other. I learned a lot more than Mark’s answers to my Five Manly Questions that day.

A lot more.

I hope ya enjoyed that little hidden gem from the vault here at the Flying Fist Ranch. If you’re wantin’ to read more about Mark I suggest ya buy his comics or see him at a convention. He doesn’t have a website. I think that’s on purpose. I think the guy has secrets he don’t want you and me knowin’.

Me?? I got no secrets. I’m an open book with large easy to read print. I’m also not hard to find. Go to my website. Read and see all kinds of brand new stuff. Photos, art, and much more. I’ve got a daily blog thing where I tell ya what to do. Be there.

Your amigo,

Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch
P.O. Box 706
Ceredo, WV. 25507
http://www.flyingfistranch.com


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About The Author

Beau Smith

Beau Smith is a writer for Comics Bulletin