Friday, October 29, 2010
Normally, when you hear that a comic book is being adapted into a movie or a TV show, your mind goes right to the boys who wear their undies on the outside of their pants...Superman, Spider-Man, Batman and the like. Though in the Modern Era they certainly update the costumes (Thank You, God of Superhero Movies) when necessary and eliminate most of the cheese and most of the time these days you get some pretty great movies.
But there have been some pretty great movies based on comic books that you might not have even realized started OUT as comic books.
And when I say 'YOU' I mean most of the readers of this blog. Which is composed, I believe, primarily of those parents who have children with 'special needs' issues ranging from Infantile Spasms/Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, Leukemia, Autism, PDD-NOS, Fragile-X Syndrome, Stroke and so many other life-altering disorders.
Anybody else who came along for the ride from my 'old days' on the Internet...well, you probably know all about this shit.
Movies like Men in Black, V for Vendetta, Jonah Hex or The League of Extraordinary Gentleman...all based on comic books. Remember in the 80's that movie called Weird Science? Comic book, an old EC Comics title, I believe. By the way, EC Comics used to make a BUNCH of horror comics...like Tales from the Crypt, which, yup...became a TV Show. Ever see the awesome movie From Hell with Johnny Depp about Jack the Ripper? Comic book. What about Wanted with the super sexy Angelina Jolie as an assassin? Comic book.
And the one that I always get people with is this one. Road to Perdition with Tom Hanks? Great movie. Great comic book first.
Which brings me to The Walking Dead.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that a day would come that a comic book about a Zombie Apocalypse would be turned into a television series. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that a television series about a Zombie Apocalypse would be produced by Gale Ann Hurd (Terminator, Aliens) and the pilot directed by Frank Darabont. If you do not know who Frank Darabont is, shame on you. SHAME.
Frank Darabont is responsible for two of the three greatest prison films of all time. The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. He is a director, screenwriter and producer who has been nominated for three Academy Awards and a Golden Globe. He directed an episode of The Shield, for cryin' out loud.
This...this thing is gonna be GREAT. Set your DVR's folks, if you get AMC, for Halloween night. This series will be great, I just feel it. If you don't believe me, just watch the trailer. You wanna know why I know it will be good? The music. Whoever chose the music understands how to put together a television series.
But not just ANY television series. A ZOMBIE television series.
I have no idea why, but I love good, quality Zombie Apocalypse stories. I only know of one person who was more excited than I was when news of this series first broke, and that was Eddie Wires. And since you don't really know that Road to Perdition was a comic, you probably don't really know much about my friend Eddie either, even though, in my old circles, he's a celebrity.
In fact I know you don't know, because if I recall I re-ran an article about him from one of the Palisades blogs in the Spring and I think nobody responded at all. Let me go pull that up and check and see. Yeah. There weren't any comments.
Not that it was a knock on Eddie. It was just an indicator. Most of the stragglers from the old days had been there, done that. Most of the new readers, the SNP's (Special Needs Parents) were like 'WTF?'
Man, that article takes me back. I just re-read it again. I go back to it from time to time. I always smile when I think of that Toys McCoy Indiana Jones. That boy liked to have shit his pants the day I actually sent him one out of the blue. I was making good money at the time and wanted to shock him to the core.
Nowadays 12-inch Indiana Jones dolls are everywhere. But then, yeah, the only one was from Toys McCoy, and I tracked one down for around 900 dollars on eBay. Can you believe that shit? I just wanted to. But that's kind of the way things are when you have a friend like Eddie. He goes out of his way for EVERYBODY.
He does something for you and you feel this compulsion to one-up him. Besides, he was constantly 'doing' for me...all the time. Me and everybody else. He almost never left a window for me to have a chance to do for him. So when I saw an opportunity like that I took it. The photo below is from someone else's collection, for your reference. I couldn't afford the horse, it was pricey too. The other photo is of the packaging, which was AWESOME. That's also from someone else's stash.
But back to The Walking Dead thing, because yeah, while Eddie can certainly be described as a giving guy all day long, his love of all things Undead can be talked about much longer.
And we often did talk about just that, as thankfully we found many opportunities (excuses) to converse about work (zombies) throughout the course of 2009 since, as fate would have it, the year saw the birth of Bennett's seizures, but also the birth of me back to work in the business again full-time, which meant more exposure to Eddie.
We were still in touch even outside the boundaries of work, we'd crossed that border years before, but the projects gave us renewed vigor.
Interesting when you consider that there are only about 3-4 people who EVER call me regularly on the phone. He's one of them. But for the whole year I was fortunate enough to have Eddie as a lifeline during some of the darkest times, often doing nothing more than just sitting there painting and listening while I talked about that which I was most afraid of.
That's what good friends do.
They don't bother with the fact that you're voice is raw because you just spent the last two hours doing most of the talking. They listen. They confirm. They validate.
But they also tell you things honestly. They don't sugar coat. Eddie said two things to me over the past eight years that I will never, ever forget.
The first was an answer to a question. I once asked him, if there actually was a Zombie Apocalypse and he was making his way through the desolate streets, looking for food and shelter, and he saw me, bloodied and moaning and slowly shambling in his direction, what would he do?
'Ohhhh...dude...I don't know. I hate to have to say it but...I think I'd hesitate for a few seconds. Yeah I'd hesitate. But then I'd have to blow you away. Sorry brother.'
In Bro-Speak, that's like saying 'I Love You'. I'll cherish it always.
The other thing he said was quite different. See, one of the very strange oddities about life, and one of the things I find quite unfair about it, is here you have this man, so giving, so noble and loving and married to such a great woman and all they wanted to do was BE parents. They tried for years to have kids. And they kept having trouble conceiving.
To tell you how bad Eddie felt for his wife when he would tell me about the tremendous losses they suffered would be the understatement of the decade. The weight of his words were just...staggering sometimes. So heavy. He was so...burdened for her. For himself too, but mostly for her. That was his style. It was during times like these where I would do the listening, and he would do the talking.
It wasn't fair.
It never is.
What was it that he said to me? That other thing I will never forget? One day while I was talking about the difficulties we were having with Bennett, and this was pre-surgery when things were REALLY at their peak of bad, so it was while Bennett was still having seizures, and Eddie said 'Dude, I'd trade places with you.'
Now, to some of you, that might seem shocking, or even cruel. It shouldn't. NOt these days, anyway. You need to understand he has the right to talk like that to me, he's been given it.
Though at the time, admittedly, I was taken aback a little. Into complete silence honestly. I felt, for a moment, as if I had been slapped all the way from Georgia. And he even sensed it, because he immediately went on to say 'Oh man, that didn't come out the way I meant it to.'
But he said exactly what I needed to hear. And in the end we both agreed that it came out EXACTLY how he meant it to. Because it WAS how he felt. He wanted so badly to be a father, and the truth was that he WOULD trade places with me. In a heartbeat. And he was honest with me and cared enough for me to remind me of a Truth that I have, ever since that day, held very close to my heart and will always try to remember as one of those Truth with a capital 'T' type statements.
Never, ever forget that no matter how bad you think you have it, there will always be someone out there, and it could be someone whom you would never suspect, who would be happy to trade places with you.
I remember how much more alive I felt after that particular conversation. That's how I felt after most conversations with Eddie. Invigorated. Re-animated. Eddie always has this way of bringing...well, in some weird way, in bringing life to the lifelessness. No wonder the guy has such a love for zombies now that I think about it. It's almost a mirror image of who he is...minus the lust for the consumption of human flesh of course.
Even when you look at his career choice there's almost an eerie parallel...he takes the pieces of a prototype you give him, all dull and grey and dead...and does what he does so effortlessly. He breathes life into each and every part, creating a masterpiece of pigment and binder.
'Wow, you really are crazy dude.'
I can almost hear him saying it now, reading this and thinking I reach WAY too far for analogies and connections and parallels and all that crazy shit. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Yeah, that's probably true.
But I don't think I'm reaching too far with this...
I was, for lack of a better term, for most of this past summer, a zombie.
Living, but not alive. Dead, but not gone. Everything in my world was pushing me down so much, it felt as if I were just shambling around like any other member of the Walking Dead.
We'd all been struggling with one of our own who is battling Cancer as much as one possibly can, but everybody sees where it is headed and everyone is very unhappy about it. It started affecting me when I began to realize that Bennett may never get a chance to know this person, and I think that is a real crime. This person is a remarkable, amazing human being.
I was having a very hard time with losing my job and feelings of total and complete career failure. I lost my job officially in December of 2009, but I actually still thought it was coming back around...it was not until some events occurred in early summer that I realized it was truly over.
Now, I was faced with a very real fear about what I could do next. Let's face it...my skill sets are not easily matched to a job, certainly not locally. Had I made a huge error in judgment about my entire career? What will I do? Am I too old to choose a different path?
I had problems with my weight again, and it kept going back up. My blood pressure kept rising, my back issues were attacking me with a vengeance, so much so that I was in some fairly severe pain most of the summer. Physically I was a real mess, and the side effects of all the medications I was taking did not help at all.
Living a sloth-like, sedentary existence did not help, nor did losing myself in the world of the X-Box like I mentioned earlier this week, often playing more of the game than even speaking with my family, even committing virtual suicide. I didn't attend many of the family gatherings, and those I did attend I barely 'attended' at all. I spoke very little (not that I'm hugely chatty in crowds, but this was different) and spent most of my time figuring out ways to leave.
My wife? I said it before, I was virtually ignoring her in every way possible. We'd chat, we didn't outright fight that much, I just was not being her husband. I stopped doing the big things because of the medication, but I stopped doing the little things too. I was not much help to her and she was really starting to get affected by the distance I was creating between me and her and everybody.
Carter had to be taken out of the Peer Program at Bennett's school, something else I never really talked about. We were spending all our days together here at the house and really clashing with each other. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity to try to re-connect with my son who was feeling left out because of Bennett's condition, I isolated myself from him, saying to Jen that he was just too hard to manage all day. Now in addition to everything else, I was becoming a parental failure. Or at least I felt like it.
And then, of course, there was Bennett. Little, sweet Bennett, who was making some progress but not the progress I wanted, and certainly not at the speed with which I was expecting or hoping. He was so hard to connect with, his disabilities so hard to...accept. And yet, there were positives, I just focused so much on the negatives that even though I was seeing the positives I wasn't letting them comfort me, I wasn't allowing them to do any kind of good within me.
I think partially this is why on August 11th, Jennifer decided to take Bennett and Carter up to her sister's house and she would take Bennett to his one year follow up appointments on the 12th and 13th alone, while I stayed here. She said at the time she just didn't think I needed the added stress, but as I look back I think she just wanted to be away from me for a while as I was not someone who was much fun to be around.
I should have insisted, but of course I didn't, I stayed home, because that was becoming my new Modus Operandi.
Don't leave the house.
Exist within myself.
Of all the things about this summer and my descent into total disconnect, this is the one complete regret that I have for which I offer no excuse or rationale or even ask for forgiveness. The fact that I had led us both to a place where I was not in attendance at these appointments is, frankly, unforgivable. I can only cop to that as one in the loss column, learn from it, and move on.
This was not yet, however, the straw that would break the camel's back. I had not yet hit rock bottom. That was coming.
I got a phone call from another very good friend of mine, who took it upon himself to do something he knew would be difficult. He knew the news that was to be delivered was going to shake me to my very core, but he wanted to call me and get to me first to soften the blow and he wanted me to hear this particular piece of news from a person who I would know deep-down cared about me.
He also knew this news would travel fast. It is the Internet age after all.
I have yet to thank this person properly for taking on this burden, but I will figure out a way to do so, in some way in the future, because it was a tremendous act of kindness, compassion and friendship. And I know it was damn hard.
He got right to the point, his voice shaky, and this is one guy who doesn't HAVE a shaky voice.
'I don't know how to say it so let me just say it. Eddie Wires died.'
It was August 12th. He'd had a heart attack. He died in his studio, doing what he loved doing. Painting a prototype. Eddie was only 38 years old I think, I know he was a few years younger than me but like most dudes I never kept track of his actual age or his birthday and stuff, though I think it was in June. The point is...this was not something that you expect to hear about your friend.
Until you do.
Eddie was a special human being. I hate saying something so...ordinary about someone so extraordinary and so unique. It's as big an understatement as I've maybe ever written. A nicer, more generous, more open, more lovable guy you could not ever possibly meet. I've only, in the 9 years or so I've known him, heard him say anything negative about someone MAYBE twice. Three tops.
About a week or two prior to the 12th, Eddie called me about a box.
He'd found a couple of things in his monstrous piles of boxes that he had been looking for on my behalf FOR THREE YEARS and some Minimates and he was going to send them, and of course the conversation quickly degenerated into us talking about what technically 'qualifies' as a true 'Zombie Apocalypse', how many seasons would The Walking Dead actually last, some strategies about some money he needed to collect on, and whether or not he would maybe at least TRY to look into Chantix (yes, he indeed was a smoker).
Oh yeah, and The Mist, which he had recommended and I had just watched and he wanted my review, which I was just about to get to that part when...
He got a call that came in that he had to take (clients ALWAYS took precedent, and I always understood that, and I wasn't a client that day) and he said 'Lemme call you right back buddy...'
And that was the last time I ever heard his voice.
Getting the news at that time was like getting hit in the teeth with a mallet. Jennifer was gone, in Cleveland, with the kids, attending appointments at the Cleveland Clinic I should have been there for, and Eddie was dead. It was a monumentally difficult morning.
Something...broke inside me.
I began to sob, then I fell tried to go over to the sofa but I fell and I cried in a way I had not probably since the night of Bennett's surgery when I got back to the hotel room by myself and was alone. It's the kind of crying you see in movies and hope you never have to experience. The kind that sometimes you don't even make sounds during.
I felt totally helpless. Utterly hopeless, and just sat there, in shock. Tears. It was not pretty. And I would be lying to you if I didn't admit that, for a moment, I didn't consider, if only FOR a moment, putting an end to it right then and there.
It was that bad. I don't recall so many different things being so wrong all at the same time, and I didn't know how to cope with it all.
Later that day, I had to get out of the house, that was all that I could do. I kept thinking that if I stay here, alone, it will be bad. I had to leave.
Months before that day Eddie and I had been talking about the new Hasbro Imperial Walker that was coming out, which happened to, coincidentally, been released that very week. He had said long ago that if I picked him up one and sent it to him he would go over it and give it some battle damage and snow effects and stuff and really make it squeal. The stickers and shit they give you for most of the mainstream vehicles and the paltry attempt to add any paint to them by the manufacturer usually sucks ass.
So I went to ToysRUs that afternoon and bought one. It was sort of surreal, cause I was in a sort of tunnel (I really wish I could describe that day adequately, but I can't), and I must have looked freshly beaten up in the face. I barely noticed anyone around me. They looked like apparitions.
I didn't just go to TRU...I went to Target and a few other places, just looking at toys, reminiscing in my own mind about conversations Eddie and I previously had about the industry as a whole, and how different toy shopping was today compared to even a few short years ago. For some reason, as long as I kept moving, thinking and buying, I kept myself together.
I went home, assembled the AT-AT, tears in my eyes but not losing it, and then played with it a while. I messed around with the legs looking for a good pose, seeing what action figures might look best around it and in it and all that. I then took it upstairs and put it on my shelf above my computer, where it sits right now.
It felt good to do, but there wasn't any doubt in my mind that I had officially reached a point that I could call rock bottom for real. I was so...exhausted from my life, and had no real energy left to live it.
For the next week, I remained in this state of un-being. Undead. Miserable. Dejected. Distant. I was very, very sad. And yet...something was brewing. Something...better.
A fog was lifting, thoughts within me that up until that point had only been at the fringe of my consciousness were starting to become clearer. And finally, after a week of these thoughts jumping around in my head, I wrote about them in the post called Black & White, where I essentially admitted that I had reached a very bad place and felt like more of a liability to my family than anything good or helpful.
Though even now, looking at that post, you can see what I am about to finalize here...the influence is there. The clarity was finalizing. I knew what I had to do, I could feel something started to shift, it was just a matter of doing something about it. Or, as Tennessee puts it in another of Eddie's (and mine) favorite Zombie films, Zombieland...it was 'Time to nut up or shut up.'
After reading and tweaking the post a few times, I waffled about publishing it. It was hardcore in its admissions, and I wasn't sure I should be so open about how I was really feeling. I read some other blogs that were very vulnerable that day, and I decided to publish it. I did, and read it again once it was live. I do that usually anyway just to check for spelling mistakes and grammar. I'm anal like that.
But then I read it again. And again. And then again.
I'm glad I did, because if there was doubt before that, it quickly dissipated, as I was overcome with a clearness of focus I had not experienced in a long time, a sense of purpose I had not known in what felt like forever, and the sudden and unexplainable realization I that if I didn't do something, and fast, that I would lose everything in my life that I considered valuable.
And just like that, I could hear Eddie's words in my head as if he were speaking them right next to me.
'Dude, I'd trade places with you.'
Eddie was gone. But he made me understand what I needed to do and do QUICKLY. I owed it to his memory, to my wife, to my kids, to everyone in my entire life that mattered to me. It is not enough just be alive, but I have to LIVE MY LIFE.
Survival isn't enough.
Getting by isn't enough.
There has to be more to it than that.
It's what we loved, LOVED, about the original comic book concept behind The Walking Dead in the first place, and what separates it from most other tales of a Zombie Apocalypse, certainly from the Romero classics.
In this story, there is a potential cure.
And even years ago, when we would talk about a potential television series about zombies (long before the comic book even existed), we agreed that the one thing you would need to make it work would be a light at the end of the tunnel, a possible cure for the plague, because without it, you end up with nothing to propel your characters toward the light, you end up with no Earth for the Battlestar Galactica to find. No One-Armed Man to finally catch up to.
And I had forgotten that. I had forgotten that there has to be something to hope for when you are trapped in your Apocalypse. That there is a possible antidote, somewhere, hidden away in some long-abandoned bunker, somewhere.
And while there really isn't, in truth, an all-out 'cure' for Bennett's condition, that is, in and of itself, irrelevant, because there is always advancement, improvement, growth, learning and most importantly there is a CURE FOR HOW I BUILD A RELATIONSHIP WITH MY SON AND WITH MY FAMILY FROM WITHIN AND NOT WITHSTANDING THE FRAMEWORK OF THIS DISORDER. There are things to be inspired by, things to motivate my daily life. There are goals to reach for. People to reach out to for help and to seek help from along the way.
You have to celebrate the small victories. Cheer them. And you have to step back from time to time to have a few laughs and a few drinks (on Eddie) along the way. It isn't always going to be a fight for your life, trapped in a boarded up house, conserving ammo and fighting off the Undead hordes.
Those will exist, but there will be good times to.
And it was there, armed with that strength of mind, that conviction of consciousness, that new breath of renewed life and vitality, given to me in the most tragic of circumstances by the death of a dear friend, that I was able to begin an entirely new phase of this journey through our post-apocalyptic landscape.
As it turned out, I did have a major battle to fight, right out of the gate, as Jen finally pulled the trigger on the suggestion of a separation a few days after these revelations, which I have mentioned before. But we persevered. I survived. Together we endured. I had the strength to fight it and overcome it. To grow, evolve and learn from it. In fact, I've had more than a few people write me and say that even from the outside looking in that lately things just seem...different about me.
I have Eddie to thank for that. I think, under any other circumstances, I might have thrown in the towel.
But when I slip...when I get all wrapped up in emotion and let my darker feelings get the better of me, when I get bogged down in the negative and feel that things are at their absolute worst, I remember Eddie and other friends who have always been there for me, and those memories are always warm.
They are always peaceful.
They inspire me to always be thankful for the good things that I have. They instill in me a humility of self I strive to maintain as much as I possibly can. And when I do think of Eddie, and the kind, gentle, caring, unique soul he carried with him, I try so very hard to re-ignite my faith, because I want so much to believe I will see him again someday and thank him for...for just being him.
And to find out what he thought of The Walking Dead, of course.
You take care of yourself Eddie, wherever you are. I don't know when I will be able to take your picture off my header image. I haven't been able to bring myself to do it yet. I don't know when I will stop checking your Facebook page to see if you have responded to any of the messages people send you. I don't know if I will ever have my heart NOT skip a beat when your name comes up when I scroll through my phone on the Caller ID, or if I will ever have the courage to remove it from the phone entirely.
Hell, I don't even know what will happen Sunday...will I be more riveted by the actual show, or will I be in tears most of the time, thinking of how much worse off the world is without you in it, but how blessed I was to have known you for the time that I did?
I really don't know. I only know this for certain. If somehow, in my life, I can ever be one/tenth of the man you were, then I will be a great man, and get through all of this just fine.
Thank you for being there for me pal, I miss you like crazy, you know. There are days. Holy shit, dude...there are days.
And to be honest? I know you're gone now, but before that? If we really did have a Zombie Apocalypse? Yeah...I'd have hesitated also. Probably much longer than I should have. But then I'd have to blow you away too.
I love you, Eddie.