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Well, those of you who are long-time readers – yeah, like I have any of those! – or have known me for more that ten minutes, will know of my somewhat eccentric upbringing and untrusting relationship with my father.
Ah, my dad:
The man who taught me Mumbly Peg – a “game” where opponents throw a knife at each others feet – at the tender age of six.
The man who is solely and directly responsible for my crippling fear of heights.
The man whose idea of an April Fool’s joke was to tie me to my bed in the middle of the night and wake me up in the morning by dripping water on my head. In China, I believe that’s called torture.
I could go on for hours.
Anyway, over the past several years, my father and I have grown closer and have started having actual adult conversations. It may have something to do with the fact that I moved a hundred and fifty miles from home, close to ten years ago.
We’ve compared favorite movies and argued over who has better taste in cinema. (It’s me, by the way.) We’ve talked about my job working customer service in a small urban library that’s located next door to a home for the mentally ill. We’ve discussed my books and my attempts to get them published. I’ve explained to him how I write a script: act breaks, action beats, character arcs, plot points, realistic dialogue.
So I called my dad last night, as I usually do on my day off, to tell him that I just received a couple of new pages from Dave, my artist on Punch-Up. I described to him how amazing they looked and then relayed a conversation between Dave and I from the previous night, where I said that these new pages looked so good that I hated to cover them up with my ugly words and asked if it was too late to make Punch-Up a completely silent book. Dave and I had the same thought at the same time.
Why couldn’t we do a completely silent book together? It would challenge me, as a writer, to come up with a story that can keep the reader’s interest, without any dialogue, caption boxes or thought balloons. And it would strengthen Dave, as an artist, to have to carry the weight of the story through action, facial expressions and hand gestures.
“So what are you going to do?” my dad asked.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“If Dave’s going to draw the book – and there’s not going to be any words – there’s not going to be anything for you to do.”
“Well,” I said. “I still have to write the script, you know. Even if there’s no dialogue, I still have to write plot and panel descriptions and all.”
“Oh.” my dad said.
“What do you mean, ‘oh’?”
“Nothing,” he started. “I just thought you put the words in the little balloons.”
Ninety percent of the time, whenever I tell people who aren’t in the comic industry that I write comics and graphic novels, I get the same response: “So you’re the guy who puts words in those little balloons?”
As you can no doubt imagine, this pisses me off to no end; almost as much as it pisses me off when I tell people that I work in a library and they ask “So you just sit around and read books all day?”
For the first time in my life, I thought my dad got me. I thought he finally understood who I am and what I’m trying to do with my life.
But, just like every March 31st, when I thought that maybe this I wouldn’t wake up tied to my bed, maybe this year the outside handle of my bedroom door wouldn’t be tied to the outside handle of my sister’s bedroom door, so that neither of us would be able to open our doors when we pulled on the handles, I was wrong.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go put words in little balloons and cry myself to sleep.
Working for the weekend (and to pay off my massive therapy bills),
Just a quick note to let you all know that there are going to be some changes coming. Very soon, in fact.
For the past four or five years, I’ve been writing, blogging, and publishing under the alias Boom Boom Storm Cloud. (My friend and former coworker, Scott Woods, gave me the nickname several years ago because I had never seen the Lord of the Rings movies; something about how I rain down negativity or how I’m loud but pretty much harmless, like a lightning storm, or something like that. You’ll have to ask him.)
Anyway, I dug the nickname. It stuck. It conveyed everything I wanted to say about my work to my readers: it’s going to be something different, it’s going to be fun, funny, something you won’t read anywhere else, negativity will rain down… or something like that.
I started seriously using the BBSC pseudonym when I started writing for Tastes Like Chicken, a now-defunct underground humor/entertainment/arts magazine where all of the writers and artists involved used aliases. From there, I started to alter all of my online wheelings and dealings to suit my BBSC mask; my Myspace profile was suddenly renamed, a new email account was started, ol’ Boom Boom got a blog (Y’know, the one you’re reading right now.), a Deviant Art and Twitter account.
And it was good.
And then something horrible happened — something so terrible and unspeakable that I’m ashamed to even utter the words: I grew up.
I know. I know. I’m ashamed, too.
But I decided that, since I’m seriously trying to break into the comic book industry, that I should stop hiding behind a nom de plume (Especially, on as silly-sounding as Boom Boom Storm Cloud.) and start using my real name.
And so the Great Frank Rebranding of 2009 has officially begun!
In fact, it’s kind of already started. If you look around the blog, you’ll see more “Franks” around the blog than you will “Boom Booms”. That sounds kind of dirty, actually. Anyway, I’ll be changing the blog, email address, and Twitter addresses, and so on and so forth to reflect the rebranding.
I’m hiring talented artist and friend, Michael Harris, to design a new Frank-specific logo. The old BBSC logo is a work of art but and things must change and it’s time for it to go into retirement.
Also retiring soon is my sign-off line “Your friend (and part-time lover).” “Part-time Lover” has served me well through the years it feels too BBSC-specific and so it too shall be put to an end. I’ve been racking my brains over the past few months trying to come up with a suitable replacement line but have thus far been unsuccessful.
That’s where you come in!
Let’s have a little contest, shall we? At the bottom, where it says “Post a comment”, tell me what my new sign-off line should be. We’ll let a few weeks go by before the judging. Winner will get some brand new art work that I’m going to force Mr. Harris to make. Just kidding. No idea what the prize will be. Probably an original sketch by yours truly or a short story written in your honor or something equally lame.
Hmm. Maybe we should have a contest to determine what the contest prizes should be, first…
Be sure to enter the rebranding contest and keep your eyes here in the coming weeks and months for all sorts of changes and updates!
Your friend (and part-time lover, albeit not for much longer),
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Mike Nelson for Tastes Like Chicken Magazine. Wasn’t sure how much longer the site was going to be around and I wanted a lasting record of my first (and possibly only) celebrity interview. So here it is.
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000’S MIKE NELSON
Interview by Boom Boom Storm Cloud
Illustration by Frank Michael Cvetkovic
Boom Boom Storm Cloud: So, Mike Nelson–
Mike Nelson: Yes, that is me.
BBSC: Do you prefer Mike? Michael? Mr. Nelson? Master Nelson?
MN: Mike is perfectly fine.
BBSC: Mike is fine. Good. So, first off, I just want to say that you were on probably one of the most boring documentaries ever. I mean, you’re in space, you have robots, and all you do is watch movies.
MN: (laughs) Yeah.
BBSC: Okay, so you’re doing a show here at Shadowbox Cabaret in Easton Town Center [in Columbus, Ohio].
BBSC: Are you doing a tour? A series of shows?
MN: No, this is it. This is a special gig just for Shadowbox.
BBSC: What prompted this?
MN: They called me a while back because they were doing some of the pieces from my book. They had adapted some for the stage, and they wanted to have me come and look at the shows. I just thought it’d be fun to come out and meet these guys. They said they wanted to talk about a proposal, so I came out, saw the show, and I really liked it. So they asked me if I’d be a part of it.
BBSC: And how does it translate?
MN: Well, the whole experience of it is pretty similar to Saturday Night Live, where they have their whole gig going, and then they bring in somebody, and everybody kinda dances around me and tries to make me look good. It seems to work.
BBSC: Nice. Well, speaking of your books, you’ve written three that I know of: Mike Nelson’s Movie Megacheese, Mike Nelson’s Mind Over Matters, and Mike Nelson’s Death Rat.
MN: There are a couple more. There’s Happy Kitty Bunny Pony, which is an art book, actually. And Goth-Icky is also out. It’s a series of books. So, those are the first two, and I think there are two more.
BBSC: Are you going to be writing more, or is this it for the foreseeable future?
MN: Hopefully, if the series goes well, there’s… we’re just ahead of it, ahead of the game now. There’s four of them done and two of them are out, so I probably won’t start on another one for a year.
BBSC: Are these novels?
MN: No, they’re more… uh, gosh. What would you compare these to? It’s kind of… well, it’s sort of a gift book. It’s got this great color art that’s like the Happy Kitty Bunny Pony. It’s the cutest art. It’s found art that they then sort of jazz up. It’s the design company that does the art, and then it’s just my commentary underneath all of that, so it sort of ties it all together and makes it funny and fun to read.
BBSC: A friend of mine loved Death Rat, and he was wondering if you were going to do more novels.
MN: I may. It’s sort of a tough thing to do. You kinda got to write it first and then sell it, and my career’s a little busy right now for that. All of my writing is for projects that I’m currently doing, so it’s hard to set aside time for such a large thing that is on spec. I mean, [John] Grisham can sell a novel before he writes it. I can’t. Most people can’t. You have to write a whole lot of it first.
BBSC: Yeah, Grisham can go in and say, “Yeah, I got one about… um, uh… a court case… and a lawyer!”
BBSC: And they’re like, “Yeah–
MN: “Yeah, sure, write it down. Here’s a check.” (laughs)
BBSC: Yeah. “Here’s some money.” So, you said your career is pretty busy with other stuff. What kind of other things are you doing?
MN: I just did some hosting bits. I just came off of it, so I did a lot of writing for that. I write and host things for the Starz Network, and also for Encore.
BBSC: I heard about that. It’s sort of a “Midnight Movies” type of thing.
MN: Yeah. And I’m working on some videos with The Film Crew, who are Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett, and I, and we come together to do any film-related stuff. We’re doing some DVDs for Rhino Video, who also released our Mystery Science Theater collection. So I’m working on that, and I’m working on an animated movie that’s kind of in the early stages. I don’t want to go into any detail, but….
BBSC: Fair enough.
MN: Just a lot of different projects.
BBSC: Is it something that you’re writing? The animated movie?
MN: Yes, I’m just doing the writing. We got artists who are doing the design.
BBSC: I can’t wait for that. Okay, so you are best known, it’s safe to say, for Mystery Science Theater 3000. What kind of stuff did you do before MST3K?
MN: Music. I was a musician. Not a professional one, but I studied music in college. It was like college band stuff. And then I also did theater. I always thought I’d do something in music or theater. But with standup comedy during the Eighties, you could actually make money at it. So I tried it out and kind of went from there. And then I met the guys from Mystery Science, who were also– almost all of them– standup comedians.
BBSC: Did you do standup for a while?
MN: Yeah. About a year and a half.
BBSC: So, how did MST3K come about?
MN: The first host, Joel Hodgson, was approached by the producer, who was working at a local TV station. He said, “We have all of this gear that we can use for side projects. Do you have any ideas?” And Joel came up with a little sketch of some robots and said, “Maybe we could host a movie or something.” So it started as a hosted movie thing, and they weren’t even going to sit in the theater. And then they thought, “Well, we have some comedians here, so let’s let them sit through it.” So that’s how it came to be. I came aboard when they sold it to The Comedy Channel, as it was called at the time.
BBSC: And you were a writer for that [MST3K] for about five years before switching to host.
BBSC: Any funny stories about being with MST3K?
MN: Oh, man.
BBSC: Dirty robot jokes?
MN: (laughs) No. I can tell you a secret, though, about the danger of working with robots.
BBSC: I love secrets.
MN: (laughs) Crow had Ping-Pong balls for eyes– in case that wasn’t obvious– and we often did fire and smoke effects. And, about half the time, his eyes would burst into flames.
MN: Yeah. And Ping-Pong balls burn really well.
BBSC: Oh, wow.
MN: So there are these takes where Crow’s eyes would be shooting flames.
BBSC: I would love to see a blooper reel of that. That’s got to be amazing.
MN: Yeah. We got a little bold with fire sometimes.
MN: It was so fun to burn and blow up puppets.
BBSC: Very cool. So, after MST3K now, what is your life like? You’ve written some books, you’re doing a movie–
MN: Yeah. I love the variety of it. I still get to work with the people that I love, like doing this gig, and I speak at colleges.
BBSC: That’s great.
MN: So it’s that variety that makes it fun, you know?
BBSC: Okay, I have another weird question about MST3K. This comes from a co-worker of mine.
BBSC: I did a little asking around. You know, like a “What questions would you ask Mike Nelson?” quick survey thing.
BBSC: This is the best one that I got: “What is Gypsy really like? She seems really tall.”
MN: (laughs) She would be tall, yeah. The theory was that she was so smart that she had no computer ability left for speaking, so she sounded kind of dumb. But she was the smartest one. But she was also supposed to be a tube that snaked throughout the whole ship. The effect didn’t really quite pull off that way. It just looked like some drainage hose, which… which it was.
MN: But that was the theory.
BBSC: So, in MST3K you watch old bad movies and make jokes of them. How do bad movies from yesteryear differ from bad movies of today? It seems like with movies from the Sixties or Seventies, you can watch these movies and make fun of them, and it’s fun and funny to watch them. But bad movies of today seem just really bad and unwatchable.
MN: Yeah. I think, for instance, this goes back a little ways, but what was it? Armageddon? The movie?
MN: It’s just unwatchable. It’s just so loud and punishing and brutal. I don’t know what it was. The people who made B-movies, like Roger Corman, I don’t think they took it too seriously. They knew what they were doing. They were trying to entertain the audience. In the Fifties and Sixties, movies were fairly innocent.
MN: As the Sixties turned into the Seventies, we noticed that bad movies– which in every other way were pretty decent for our purposes– suddenly there’d be some horrible graphic violence or something that we had to deal with, and that just wasn’t the spirit of our show. So it just took this turn at some point.
BBSC: Do you think that it’s just a matter of time? Like, twenty years from now will The Chronicles Of Riddick be hilarious to watch?
MN: I think age has something to do with it. You know, the looking back at an era. What did I see? I saw a little bit of St. Elmo’s Fire, which is a timepiece from the Eighties. It was quite amusing to me– having grown up pretty much in the Eighties– to see that.
BBSC: So what is going on with the Encore Channel and the “Midnight Movies” type of show?
MN: Well, there were three days that we hosted movies. Since we shot them all at the same time, I don’t know how they spread them out. But I think there’s supposed to be one or two more dates. We just wrapped a bunch of movies with little skits– that’s The Film Crew thing. But I don’t know when they’re airing, I’m afraid.
BBSC: Do you ever go home at night and say, “Damn movies!” and just wish you never had to see another movie again? Or do you just really love movies?
MN: (laughs) I’d say that I’m an average to slightly-above-average fan of movies. I think there was a mistake in assumption from a lot of people that we at Mystery Science were all B-movie fanatics, and that wasn’t the case so much. We were all comedians, and this was our chance to really do the best comedy we could do. We actually ticked off some people who actually like some of those movies. People always think that I know a ton about movies, but I really don’t. I’m more of a comedian and writer, and movies happen to be what I’m known for.
BBSC: Alright then. Finally, tastes like chicken has had this long-running dispute that goes back seven or eight years, and it’s a question that became a tradition to ask everyone interviewed for the magazine.
BBSC: In your professional opinion, do dogs have lips?
MN: Yes, they do.
MN: Oh, I think very definitely.
BBSC: Cool. So, with having been with MST3K for ten years, in your professional opinion, do robots have lips?
MN: Uh… not so much. No.
BBSC: No? Alright, Mr. Smartie I-Have-An-Answer-For-Everything.
BBSC: Would robot dogs have lips?
MN: Yes, they would.
BBSC: Fair enough.
MN: Now I’ve settled it for you. (laughs)
(You can find the original interview at TLChicken.com.)