Archive for October 6, 2014

FUNERAL FOR A FRIENDSHIP, or “yes, nerds have always taken comic books too seriously”

I wrote this up for a forum a while back. But it’s such a little-known gem of internet insanity, I want to record it here too (with exclusive blog-only additions!) Please enjoy my summary of

FUNERAL FOR A FRIENDSHIP,

or
Could Everyone Check Under Their Sofa Cushions For Kurt Busiek’s Sanity?
By Darren “John Jones/Doc Nebula” Madigan

One day I hope to be this amazing at graphic design.

Now for the origin story of our heroes: Kurt Busiek, successful comic book writer, and Darren Madigan, blogger and somewhat less-successful writer, went to college together in the early 80s. At the time neither had broken into the industry; according to Madigan they collaborated on several comics together and also brainstormed some of Kurt’s later work.

It was around that time that the pair befriended Ann, a “truly lovely girl” who Darren was infatuated with. The three drifted apart after college so it came as a shock to Darren to learn that, 10 years later, Ann was marrying Kurt(!!)

I’d called and we had had a somewhat strained but still hours-long and mostly cordial phone conversation, which had ended on a bad note when I’d asked him to say hello to Annie for me, and he’d abruptly become cold and borderline hostile and very nearly hung up the phone in my ear. (And explain that to me, if you will. I loved her and courted her for years while he was barely aware she existed; she told me I was her bestest bestest friend and the big brother she’d never had for years — yeah… I know… but she was sweet about using the classic blow off line, and for a few years, she seemed to mean it, too — while being barely aware he was alive; somehow, a decade down the road, he’s marrying her, I ask him to say hello to her for me, at the end of a long, chatty, civil, even cordial conversation, and he nearly breaks the phone slamming it down. I mean, what’s UP with that? Is this some guy thing they gave us a class on in high school when I was out with mono, or what?)

Believe it or not, he didn’t get an invite to the wedding. :(

Many years later, Kurt’s comic career was booming. Darren emailed his old friend with congratulations.

I alleged many hilarious things about his (to me) new and astonishingly corpulent physique, among them that continental drift must surely be a slow way for him to travel to conventions, that it seemed certain to me he must be haunted by snotty fans at con panels calling out in bad Scottish accents “Captain Kurt, the floorboards canna stand the strain!”, and that, in point of fact, if he wanted to learn from Peter David, that was fine, but a sane person would have stopped short of adopting Mr. David’s techniques for inhaling entire all-you-can-eat pasta bars at one sitting.

Kurt failed to see the “ironic satire” in the message (Darren being a self-admitted landwhale) and never responded. Nor did he respond to the ensuing years of emails, so Darren resorted to writing in under fake names to get replies. Like an obsessed fangirl, he read everything Kurt-related, including interviews and introductions to his comics. Believe it or not, that asshole Kurt never once mentions Darren in any of them!

In December 2000, after Darren posted on a comic forum accusing Kurt of ripping off literally every superhero comic ever made, Kurt finally acknowledged his existence.

Don’t worry, he’s not trying to engender intelligent discussion. This is a man, after all, who recently wrote to the Comics Journal to gripe about how a woman who’s been dead for almost a decade now was unpleasant to him one night almost twenty years ago. “John Jones” is a guy I went to college with, who had ambitions to become a comics writer. After I broke in, his correspondence became increasing angry and bitter, critical of everything from how bad the new comics were to how bad the new movies were to how bad the new TV shows were to how bad all of my co-workers were and how rotten the comics industry was — all of them expressing bitterness that I, a freelance writer who was getting so little work at the time that I was rolling up debt and occasionally sleeping on friends’ couches for weeks at a time, couldn’t somehow roll out the red carpet for him and get him into the industry, despite the fact that (a) I could barely get me into the industry, and (b) I’m not aware of his ever actually submitting a proposal to a publisher.

All of my attempts to tell him that these gouts of hostility and bitterness were not my idea of enjoyable correspondence were met with “You’re my friend — you should be supporting me!” responses. Finally, the tide of negativity was so great — and was starting to worry my wife, who he had a thing for in college — that I told him I wouldn’t be responding any more, that there just wasn’t anything to talk about.

The letters kept coming, and eventually dwindled to a halt, which was a relief to my wife and me, and we hoped that he’d found something to do with his life other than focus on his anger at the world not having treated him as well as he’d like it to.

But then I got online, and shortly thereafter, the rambling, bitter, insult-filled e-mails started to come — all of them also expressing his ire that I didn’t get him into the business, that I was blowing off old friends and didn’t care about anyone but myself. When he started sending these e-mails to my wife, as well, we blocked him from our e-mail accounts — it was the same thing as it had been before, at a higher volume.

He changed e-mail addresses and started sending them again. We blocked them again.

Recently, he took to establishing new e-mail accounts and sending me e-mail as if from a fan, though within a few messages he’d be back to spewing bile.

And most recently, through the apenation site, he sent me a long and nasty e-mail excoriating me for establishing a point of continuity in AVENGERS FOREVER that he didn’t think was sufficiently respectful to Steve Englehart, despite the fact that this bit he hated so much had been established AVENGERS history for over ten years by the time it turned up in FOREVER. And he started sending my wife e-mail again, complaining that maybe I apparently had formed an irrational dislike of him, but he hoped she’d respond.

And now he’s here.

Frankly, while I can take bad reviews in stride, and can ignore venomous e-mails, I’m starting to think it might be a good idea to find out what the statutes about cyber-stalking are, since my wife is pretty upset about all this.

Darren, we were in college almost twenty years ago now. Whatever friendship we had back then, you’ve scorched to ash, and had done so before 1990. And you’re scaring Ann — if you have any regard left for her, please, cut this out.

I don’t know what you’re doing with your life, but you’ve got to be approaching forty, since I’m already there. I hope you have a job you like, or can find one. I hope there’s love in your life. I hope there’s something you can focus on positively, instead of this constant rage toward someone who had the ill luck to become successful at what you wanted to do, and the poor manners to get tired of unremitting negativity after several years of it. I hope this not just because I’d like you to stop this, but because I’d like you to be happy, to have something to build your life around besides this seething hatred of me.

And if you do have something positive and happy in your life, and still find it necessary to make these insane drive-bys, I hope you’ll find someday that it’s better to focus on the good stuff than keep poking at whatever you’re disappointed by until it festers into this.

Now I’m sure you’re all dying to know: what happened next?! After the line-by-line rebuttal of Kurt’s post (because of course there was a line-by-line rebuttal), Darren apparently calms down some. Kurt’s name pops up on his blogs a few times over the next several years, but never with the same vitriol seen in Funeral.

Every girl crazy 'bout...

But that’s not all! Darren has since published a number of books. I purchased and read one of them because, you know, I figured I owed the guy a few bucks for the hours of entertainment, and how bad could it possibly be?

What I found was a story so gleefully vile it rivals Comfort Girls for top billing in my “11 books everyone is forced to read in Hell” listicle. I plan to write a full post documenting the worst (best) content in “Harvest Night: An American Horror Story”, but here’s a teaser because I am just so damn excited to share it with you all:

Please don’t. Please don’t. School Jenny doesn’t like it. Slut Jenny likes it. Please don’t. School Jenny doesn’t want to. Please don’t. Slut Jenny wants to. Do it to Slut Jenny. Please.

Poor Ann. She just doesn’t know what she’s missing out on.